an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...

urm..?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Greek yogurt with condensed milk and oranges

This recipe comes from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros, a great book that focuses on memory and recipes from childhood, that was given to me by T.O.M for my birthday 5 years ago. The reason why Apples for Jam is such a lovely lovely book is that the chapters are arranged according to colour.  This just makes me so happy (and I know someone who it would make me even happier) – I seem to forget it’s arrangement every time, and when I open the book up I smile.  I mean, generally when I am looking for something to cook I am looking for ‘starters’ or ‘things to make tofu more interesting’ and not ‘yellow’ or ‘mulitcoloured stripes’. But it is all just so beautiful that its forgiven – sometimes I think that the world might be a happier place if more people started grouping things in their own special ways.

This recipe is from the chapter ‘orange.’ The more I think about it, orange seems to really sum up how I am feeling at the moment.  Its like being on the edge of a precipice and not really sure what is going to happen – are you going to stop or go? It tells you to get ready, but not necessarily what for. For me it signifies uncertainty and change. My brilliant flatmate Hannah pointed out that orange is possibly the colour that signifies how colour can have meaning, because of its excessive use and multiple meanings. And I think that is just beautiful.

Now this isn’t the most mind-blowing or involved dessert I have ever made, but sometimes a bit of simplicity is a good thing.  The yogurty-pudding base is rich and creamy, the perfect foil for the oranges.  I think that if I was to make this again I would add a little ground cardamom and saffron possibly to give it just the slightest hint of a shrikand (possibly my most favourite dessert ever).

Ingredients
2 whole oranges/ blood oranges – zest one of them
100ml sweetened condensed milk (this is only a small amount of a can – I now have a mug-full of condensed milk in the fridge and no idea what to do with it – all suggestions welcome
300g Greek-style natural yogurt
Serves 4

Cut away the skin from the oranges leaving no pith behind, slice them into substantial wheels and then in half.  Put the slices in a bowl to collect the juices, trying to save as much as possibly that it now currently rolling around the chopping board.  At this point Tessa suggests that you add some sugar to the oranges if they are not sweet enough – I say don’t, the condensed milk is sweet enough and actually a slightly sour orange would probably work better here. 

Put the condensed milk, half the orange zest and the orange juice that has collected under the slices (hopefully about 3 tablespoons-ish) into a jug, and slowly mix with the yogurt.  Cover the mixture and leave it in the fridge for a few hours so that it can settle and become thick and creamy.

Serve artfully in individual glassed layered with the orange slices, and a little of the remaining zest sprinkled over the top.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Aw, you are such a schnitzel!

So this is exciting, its very rare that I cook meat voluntarily, and not on a Shabbat, but this was pretty much an exception, and it was totally worth it. Schnitzels are one of those things that I have always known in theory how to cook, but only actually attempted this one time. 

When I was a teenager and involved in youth movements and other optimistic, wholesome activities, the people who I admired pretty much more than anyone else were my madrichim (counselors). They were like my older siblings, sort of, they were cool and loving and seemingly so secure in their Judaism and future plans. Of course I have since reached and passed their ages myself and I know that this wasn’t true, they just knew how to hide it better. Anyway, one of my madrachot used schnitzel as a term of endearment. If something was cute, she would say something like ‘oh schnitzel’. Since then, I have always associated the two, and schnitzels are cute and comforting.

Apparently in real life they are supposed to be veal, but in my world it is always chicken or turkey. I asked the butcher for turkey escalopes and he carved them for me specially, so they were thin enough.  If yours aren’t, give them a bash to flatten them a bit, or cut them in half lengthways almost the whole way through, and then flatten in a butterfly way.

For 4 decent sized turkey schnitzels you will need:

1 cup flour (or something equivalent during passover)
1-2 eggs, beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs (or matza meal – I used the pre-flavoured garlic breadcrumbs that you can buy in crouton-shakers from kosher shops, and they worked really well)
flavourless cooking oil (not olive!)
salt and pepper
other spices of your choosing

1 very big heavy frying pan
3 dinner plates / wide shallow bowls

1 lemon

Put the flour in one plate, the beaten eggs on another, and the breadcrumbs on the third.  Season the flour with salt and pepper, and add a few other spices depending on what you fancy – I used a bit of sweet paprika and a small amount of chili powder.

Pour oil into the pan about 1cm or so deep and put on to heat – don’t put the schnitzels in until you are sure its really really hot.  You can test this safely by adding in a few crumbs and seeing how quickly they start to sizzle.

Coat each escalope first in the flour, then egg and then crumbs, making sure there is an even coating.  I strongly recommend making these at least half an hour or so in advance so that you can put them in the fridge at this point.  This allows them to firm up, so that the coating is less likely to fall off when you put them in the hot oil. Add them to the pan carefully making sure that they don’t splash oil.  Fry on each side until its golden brown, about 5 minutes or so.  I like a few crunchy parts, but I leave that to your judgement. When they are done to your liking, remove them from the pan and leave on some kitchen paper or equivalent so that the excess oil can soak away.  If you are not serving them immediately, they will stay relatively crisp if you put them on tray in a medium hot oven for a little bit.  Serve with lemon wedges. And chips. 
Yum.





Saturday, 22 October 2011

Lime and coconut lentil curry

I learnt to really love lentils in university, when my fantastic housemate Simon showed me how to properly cook them, and the many, magical ways that such a simple and cheap ingredient could be used. We would make massive vats of them and eat nothing but lentils for days. They seem to have the ability to soak up so many different kinds of flavours.  This recipe may seem a bit more involved than others, but believe me its worth it. And really do roast and grind the spices, the difference in taste from ready-ground is massive. If you can eat them, and have the time, it really is worth adding the eggs, delicious and perfect protein hit.

Ingredients

100g green lentils
1 can coconut milk, with water added to make up 1 pint of liquid
1 rounded tsp lime pickle, lumps chopped up
juice and zest of ½ a fresh lime
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
2.5 cm piece of ginger, grated/chopped finely
veg oil

3 cardamom pods
1 level tsp cumin seeds
1 level tsp fennel seeds
1 level dessertspoon coriander seeds
1 rounded tsp turmeric powder
1 level tsp fenugreek powder
salt

4 eggs

large heavy-bottomed frying pan with a lid

heat the frying pan and when hot add the whole spices and dry-roast for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time.  As soon as they start to jump/colour remove from the heat and tip into a mortar and grind.

Put the oil in the pan and heat, when very hot and add the onions and let sizzle and brown at the edges for about 4 minutes, then turn the heat down and add the chilli, ginger, garlic and lime pickle, along with the turmeric and fenugreek powders.  Then add the ground roasted spices and give a good stir.

Next add the lentils, lime zest and coconut liquid, stir and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down.  Put the lid on and allow to simmer as gently as possible for 45 minutes.  Check from time to time and see if it needs a little more water.

10 minutes before its ready, boil the eggs for 6-7 minutes and peel.  Then the curry is ready, season and add lime juice, stick the peeled eggs and leave everything to cook through for a couple more minutes with the lid on.

Panzanella

An Italian tomato and bread salad

After a little hiatus, I am back again with another guest blogger, my amazing Mum. As you will notice, I have been sitting on this for a while, for no other reason than my disorganization.  This was made in the middle of our lovely little heatwave in September, just nearing the end of the tomato and pepper season.  One of the things that I am so incredibly grateful for is that my parents always have interesting things growing in the garden, teaching me from an early age the importance of seasonality, and how much better things taste when you grow them yourself. Every year there always seems to be one thing that grows really well, and we find ourselves scratching our heads trying to work out with the bounty, and sending every guest home with a bag of some home grown veg. this year we had incredible tomatoes and peppers, and this recipe is the perfect showcase for them.  Even though the key ingredients aren’t in season anymore this salad is sooo good – I’m going to recommend that you make it anyway, right now.

Panzanella for me seems to symbolize summertime.  I have noticed over the past few years that over the summer every tv chef will do a recipe for a panzanella, and yet it was only this year that I tried it for myself.  What is so wonderful about it is its simplicity – Nikki Segnit suggests a version with brussel sprouts – shudder and walk away slowly.  Wikipedia describes it as “a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. The 16th-century artist and poet Bronzino sings the praises of onions with oil and vinegar served with toast and, and is often interpreted as a description of panzanella.

And so now for the recipe, thanks Mum.

I was pondering what to make for supper when I remembered having made this salad fairly recently and thought it would be good for dinner. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I had done, but of course Miriam the gastronaut did. So I duly bought the ingredients that I didn’t already have, even braving Asda on a Sunday afternoon, such was my craving.
This is a particularly great dish for this time of the year (mid-September) as having had a very bountiful season in the greenhouse I have loads of delicious home grown tomatoes and peppers.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)

* The equivalent of one smallish loaf of bread, (stale is fine, good way of using up old bread)
* 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
* 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
* 6-8 tomatoes (the better the tomatoes, the better the salad!)
* 2 small or 1 large pepper any colour except green
* 2 crushed cloves of garlic
* A generous scattering of black olives
* A handful of drained and rinsed capers
* A well-drained can of anchovies, separated into fillets
* Handful of basil, preferably just picked from the plant on the windowsill

Cut up the bread into chunks, if it isn’t stale toast it in a hot oven for 10 mins or so. Don’t walk away and leave it as I did and nearly destroyed it! Put the dry bread into a flat dish large enough to take it in one layer. Mix the garlic with the oil and vinegar and sprinkle this concoction over the bread. Season to taste and toss it all gently together.

Blanch the tomatoes with boiling water and then remove the skins. Take out the seeds and put these together with any juices running all over your chopping board on the bread. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put in another bowl. Grill the peppers under a high heat to make the skins blacken and blister, turn them regularly to ensure an all over char. When they are done put them in a bag and leave them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, the skins should easily peel off. Then cut open the peppers, discard the seeds and slice them up. Make sure you capture any juices and tip these on to the bread. The peppers can then go into the same bowl as the tomatoes.

Then gently mix the bread and everything else (not the basil). Depending on how organised/hungry you are now cling film it and leave it for an hour to marinate at room temperature. I am waging war against people who serve this sort of thing straight from the fridge - don’t it kills the flavour. Put the basil on just before you eat it. Enjoy!
By the way used up the leftovers the following day, broke an egg on the top and nuked it in the microwave until the egg was just set. Yummy, like an instant shakshuka.

Produce from the Lewis garden 2011 - peppers, tomatoes and chillis

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Roasted butternut squash stuffed with almonds and raisins

So this was a bit of an experiment - it turned out really well though. Most of the time I tend to over-complicate things, but i think the reason why this worked so well was that i really kept it simple. It is based on a recipe I saw in a magazine once where the cavity of the squash was stuffed with a date couscous. I'm sure it was ok, but probably all a bit much.

Take a butternut squash and cut it in half lengthways, and scoop the seeds out of the middle sections of each half.  Score crisscross sections in the main body, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, paprika and salt. Roast in a medium/ hot oven, about 180-200 for 45-1 hr.  while it is cooking, dice a smallish onion and fry in olive oil until soft and scorched/brown at the edges.  Then add roughly chopped blanched almonds, a handful of raisins and a bunch of chopped fresh parsley, with a squeeze of lemon juice, and fry for a few minutes more.  Serve the squash whole with the fruit and nut mixture in the cavity, and anywhere else you feel like. Someone with a bit more finesse might have cut the squash into wedges and served it elegantly, but I quite liked the rustic effect of serving it whole at the table with a few spoons for people to dig in to it with.

I didnt take a photo, so here is a little drawing showing what it looked like:














Version with quinoa added to the stuffing mix - served with feta flavoured with sumac, zatar, olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Squashed Cupcake Truffles


Ever make or buy more cake than you can get through?? A few years ago I made about a quadruple batch of the chocolate cherry cupcakes.  I left about a third of them un-iced because I had this bright idea that as they had so much chocolate in them, they could be zapped in the microwave and turn into molten chocolate thingies (also because I ran out of glace cherries).  This sort of worked, but I was left with a whole load of cupcakes that were going a bit stale.  Anyway, I typed ‘stale cake recipe’ into google and found a fantastic idea for squashed cake truffles.  This is how I modified it for the chocolate cherry cupcakes.

Crumble up the cake into a big bowl, and add a handful of dried sour cherries, and a slug of some sort of chocolate-y cherry-y booze (I used cherry brandy).  Mix it all together and make small balls out of the goo – about the size of a walnut.  Dip the balls in melted chocolate (dark, or a mixture of dark and milk), and leave them to set on some foil or something else that wont stick.  Double-dipping in chocolate would be good too.  Now I don’t quite know what happens but inside that chocolate shell, magic happens and the whole thing tastes like something totally new, and really, really amazing.  Its actually worth making too much cake.

*For Passover* This would work really well with the prepackaged chocolate 'cake' that you can buy at Passover-time.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Also known as the ‘Plumptious Beauties’

So this post is a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess.’  Her books are fantastic, incredibly well written with just the right mix of story, memory, interesting recipes and photos.  I do find that the portion-control is a little off though, as are some of the quantities and timings.  I can’t really make my mind up about Nigella.  My feminist self basically gets into a bit of a knot about the whole thing.  Do modern women want to be seen as domestic goddesses? What does a domestic goddess even mean in this day and age?  I have spent most of my life with various people telling me that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – as if this is the main reason why I should be really pushing myself with my cooking. Nigella pouting suggestively at the camera while plunging half a cut lemon into an overly-phallic juicer doesn’t really help.  My new mantra will probably by WWCMD? (what would Caitlin Moran do).

I’m not sure what my feminist-self would say about the outfit I put on specifically to bake these cupcakes.  I got a bit carried away really.  It all started with a new cookbook – The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree.  This is one of the best things I have spent money on in a long time.  It is an incredibly beautiful book, with great recipes and really cute little touches like invitation stencils, fascinator making, how to get your victory curls perfect and tie headscarf, 1950s style.  So for my day of baking I decided that a headscarf was probably a good idea (all for the sake of hygiene of course), as was a proper apron.  Then I had to put my pearl necklace on, and then the whole ensemble looked really half-done without the addition of red lipstick.  So there I was, dressed up and feeling a bit silly as a stepford wife, baking.  AND I LOVED IT.  Now what would Caitlin say to that??

And now for the recipe.  These were in fact the first cupcakes I ever made, in my house in Dawlish Road when I was in the second year of university in Birmingham.  I over-filled the cases and they mushroomed over the top, in a style known affectionately as ‘Hiroshima cupcakes.’  According to Niki Segnit’s Flavour Thesaurus (love love) cherry and chocolate is a ‘winning combination’ and she even refers to this recipe as an example of how well they work together! Due to the melted chocolate and jam these cupcakes are much denser than regular ones, but they are really yummy.  Nigella says that this makes 12 – she must be using gigantic cupcake cases or something, because I made about 28 cakes from 1 of these batches!  You could of course make them in a muffin tin – but they are quite rich and unless you are a major chocaholic, it might be a bit much.

For the cupcakes
125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
300g morello cherry jam (I usually use the Tiptree black cherry jam, but this time I used Sainsburys special selection red cherry jam, which was a little more sharp and gave a really nice flavour).
150g caster sugar (or a bit less, depending on how sweet the jam you are using is)
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten (usually I just use a fork, but I think the next time I try this I will use a whisk, and try to properly aerate them, might make the cupcakes a bit lighter)
150g self-raising flour

for the topping
150g dark chocolate
100ml double cream (I never have any cream, and tend to just use a blob of butter, about 20g worth I reckon)
glace cherries – some shops stock natural coloured glace cherries, which are incredibly classy (or, as classy as a glace cherry can be) the lurid pink of the normal kind is pretty perfect for a cupcake though.

Preheat the oven to 180c, or about 160-170 if using a fan oven (recommend).

Put the butter in a saucepan or large microwave-safe bowl and melt.  When melted, take off the heat and stir in the broken up chocolate.  There will be enough residual heat to perfectly melt the chocolate without it seizing (chocolate melts at exactly body heat – isn’t that good to know??).  Once the chocolate is melted add the jam, sugar, salt and eggs.  Stir it all up and when its amalgamated add in the flour, and combine.

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases to about 2 thirds full.  This is possibly the best tasting cake batter ever – so make sure you lick the bowl.  Now I know that I’m not 6 anymore, but that is definitely the best part of baking, possibly the only reason to bake in the first place.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  These cakes will be a little wobbly when they first come out of the oven, because of all the chocolate, but they will harden up as they cool.

When they are cool melt the chocolate with the cream or butter, and generously coat the top of each cake, and top with a cherry.






Monday, 12 September 2011

Yasai Itameru

Stir fried tofu with mixed vegetables, noodles and coconut ginger sauce

This recipe comes from the Wagamama Cookbook.  It’s a really great book, with all the greats from the restaurant as well as many others.  I have cooked a few things from this book and they always turn out just right – with the Amai Udon (udon noodles with peanuts and leeks in a tamarind sauce - without prawns) turns out exactly as it does in the restaurant. 

For Hannah’s birthday at the beginning of the summer I said that I would make her dinner, and she picked this recipe.  It did seem much more involved than stir fries that I usually make, but it really was worth it.  I was lucky enough to have the wonderful Alli helping out in the kitchen – especially when I grated off my fingertip with the microplane. 

Serves 2.

150g rice noodles (we used udon noodles, as well as being squishy and delicious, they also come in handy serving-sized packets)
approx. 3 tbsp vegetable oil (or other flavourless oil)
1 tbsp garlic paste (homemade or bought)
1 red chilli, trimmed, deseeded and finely chopped
200g firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 pak choi, halved lengthways
1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
5 spring onions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
1 small sweet potato, peeled and julienned
2 handfuls of beansprouts
1 tsp salt (we did not use anywhere near this much)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
250ml coconut ginger sauce (see below)
handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

Cook the noodles in a large pan of water for 2-3 minutes (if necessary), drain and refresh under cold running water to prevent them from overcooking.  Leave them in cold water until you are ready for them.

Heat a wok (or medium frying pan, or like us in one which was way too small, leading to stir frying being done in batches) over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until completely hot and almost smoking, and then add the vegetable oil.  Stir in the garlic paste and chilli, cook for 10 seconds and then add the tofu, pak choi, red onion, spring onions, sweet potato and beansprouts and stir fry for about 5 minutes.

Add the salt, sugar and soy sauce and stir fry for 4-5 minutes until tender.  Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle over the sesame oil, stirring to combine.

In a separate pan, mix the coconut ginger sauce into the noodles and warm through on a low heat.  Divide between 2 bowls (or however many you are using) and top with the stir fry, coriander and lime wedges.

Coconut ginger sauce

Makes about 500ml
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 inch piece of fresh galangal, peeled and grated
4 lemongrass sticks, outer leaves removed and finely chopped
500ml hot water
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
200g can coconut milk
3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a low heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, galangal and lemongrass.  Sauté over a moderate heat for 6-8 minutes, until softened and fragrant but not coloured.  Add the hot water, bring to the boil, add the sugar and salt.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, until reduced by about half.  Then stir in the coconut milk, heat for a further 2 minutes, remove from the heat and add the coriander.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Can't cook without a decent sunset over the sea right?




The finished dish - delicious!



Lemon and Caper Vinaigrette

So I have started cooking again.  I vanished from the world and am now back with a vengeance (and a silly new blog profile picture – watch this space).

I made this dressing last week to accompany some simply roasted whole Sea Bream – see Sea Bream post for method.  Its incredibly easy and really yummy.  Serve it with any kind of plain fish or chicken (or somesuch) and everyone will be really happy.  The dressing is kind of like a salsa verde, but without the same degree of pungence, and also much easier to make.  It reminds me of summer holidays, and those trips to seaside places where you get incredible fish with nothing but a little punchy dressing.

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
Big handful of capers, rinsed and roughly chopped, with some of the little ones left whole
½ teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon mustard, wholegrain or Dijon
Lots of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix everything together.  You may also want to add a splash or 2 of water.  Make this a few hours before you want to serve it for the flavours to mingle and settle – don’t refrigerate it if you can help it though.

Here are some photos of sea bream with the vinaigrette – I didn’t manage to take any photos the last time I cooked bream – as you can see, one of the fishies lost a bit of skin when I was turning it in the oven, and so I gave it a little ‘coat’ made out of foil – ahhhh.




Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Olive oil, rosemary and dark chocolate spelt cake

After a summer hiatus, the blog is back with another guest blogger - my wonderful housemate Hannah.  I have hardly cooked at all this summer, as i spent most of it sulking, and have really been inspired by Hannah's experimentation and general cheer.  She was cooking up a storm while I was stomping around eating yogurt.  I know this recipe sounds a bit odd at first, but it really was delicious - as I'm sure everyone who tried them will agree.  It was complex and perplexing, both sweet and savoury in a mind and tongue-bending sort of way.  And due to the use of spelt, also a little smug, but in that really great way.
 
and now I introduce Hannah:
 
Our kitchen has two chefs. The professional and the wacky. As flatmates for the past year, our kitchen personalities have clearly rubbed off on each other. I for one will now only make coleslaw using a Julienne, I grind my own spices with a Pestle and Motar, and will only use sharp knives at whatever risk to my limbs. In turn Miri finds inspiration in my the-weirder-it-sounds-the-more-I-want-to-try-it attitude. To push me on this she bought me the perfect book entitled 'Good to the Grain' Baking with Whole-Grain flours. Flicking through the book from the back (as all left handers do) the first recipe that caught my attention was 'Olive oil Cake Muffins'. The combination of bitter sweet chocolate, rosemary, spelt flour and olive oil, was my idea of cake fantasy. 


If cake baking was a Sesame Street theme it would be brought to you by the letters W & D and the number 2. 
Because to make cake loaf - in one bowl you sift the dry ingredients in the other you mix the wet ingredients. Then fold the wet into the dry, gently mixed until combined, pour into the cake tin and bake it. 


So now here is that again with the ingredients (NB Measurements are in American cups)

Olive Oil Cake

Prep: Position a baking tray in middle rack of oven and preheat to 180 degrees celcius. 


Dry bowl:  sift together 3/4 cup Spelt Flour, 1 1/2 cups Plain flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt. 

Wet bowl: whisk three eggs, then add -1 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup milk, 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped and mix. 


Mixing: Fold wet into dry mixture

The best bit: Take a packet of really good chocolate like Lindt 75% and cut into small pieces and mix in to batter. 

Bake: Pour into cake tin or muffin tins and bake for 40 minutes. 

And there you have it - one wacky recipe. 

The results - well you must ask the professional.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

West African style sweet potato and peanut stew

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of co-hosting a Friday night for Wandering Jews.  Wandering Jews is a groups organized by the amazing Jo and Jude, with the simple premise of getting together once a month with old friends and new and sharing in delicious vegetarian potluck in a different venue each month.  As my housemate Hannah and I are pretty new to the scene, we decided to give the evening a theme of Shehechiyanu, or newness.  The translation of the prayer blesses our g-d for having ‘granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.’  I like to think of it as a way not to take life for granted, to see the excitement in every day and to, as often as you can, really push yourself to trying something new.

I wanted to bring this emphasis on newness into my cooking with the event.  I needed something vegan and warming, which could feed a lot of people.  My fall-back dish for this kind of thing would be some kind of red and yellow dahl, but I wanted to break out of my comfort zone.  I started looking into West African recipes as I knew from various cookery programmes (mainly the hairy bikers I think) and friends’ travel experiences that it was a style of cooking which would incorporate all the things I wanted: vegan, protein, complexity of flavour, and warmth.  The following is the recipe for the dish I made, which is an amalgamation of many different peanut stews that I found online.

Feeds a lot of people

2 - 3 very large white flesh sweet potato –with purple skin, peeled and cut into large-ish chunks
3 - 4 yellow flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into slightly smaller chunks
a couple of carrots, if you happen to have them, peeled and sliced
1-2 aubergines, diced
2 red peppers, diced into quite large chunks
1 onion, cut into large chunks
1 onion, diced very fine
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 can/tetra-pack of sieved tomatoes
approximately 4 tablespoons of peanut butter (depending on how much you have), smooth or chunky depending on personal preference
1 inch lump of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 fresh chilis (I used 1 red and 1 green) deseeded if you want, finely diced.
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 heaped teaspoons cumin
1 heaped teaspoon coriander
salt
a packet of roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
the juice of 1-2 limes
big bunch of fresh parsley, washed and chopped.

You can also add in a can of chick peas for some additional bulk.

In a microwaveable bowl or small saucepan, combine the small diced onion, ginger, garic, chili and peanut butter with 1 can of tomatoes and a little water.  Cook, stirring from time to time until the peanut butter has amalgamated with the other ingredients and created a sauce. 

Add the sauce and all remaining ingredients except for the peanuts, lime and parsley to a large pot.  Top up with water – just a little, add more if it looks a little dry halfway through cooking – and cook for about 40 minutes-1 hour, until everything is cooked but not falling apart.  Just before serving, add the lime juice, parsley and peanuts, adjust the seasoning and warm through.

Peanut Butter Fudge

This is a Sophie Dahl recipe, its absolutely fantastic, and easily adaptable to vegan. This recipe was on her bbc tv series, called something wonderful like ‘Miss Dahl’s voluptuous delights’ and I actually really enjoyed it, such a nice change from Nigella, and Jamie, who’s later shows have them becoming almost parodies of themselves.  Sophie’s cookbook is pretty great too.  Although the recipes aren’t exactly earth-shattering, it is a really lovely read.  This fudge recipe isn’t in the book, but it is available online.


I have made this a few times and it is pretty foolproof.  Just make sure that you are really patient with boiling the sugar and milk, and give it the time it needs.  While it does seem like a lot of sugar, it does make a lot of fudge.  In the past I have made it with a layer of chocolate on the top (melt the chocolate with a bit of butter or cream to stop it from hardening too solid and snapping when you cut the fudge), which is great, but it is equally delicious without it.

Ingredients
                  125g/4½oz butter/ vegan margarine 
                  500g/1lb 2oz dark brown sugar
                  120ml/4fl oz milk / soy milk
                  250g/9oz crunchy peanut butter
                  1 vanilla pod, seeds only (I didn’t bother with this)
                  300g/10½oz icing sugar

.                 Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
.                 Stir in the brown sugar and milk, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, without stirring.
.                 Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla seeds if using.
.                 Place the icing sugar in a large bowl, and pour the hot butter and sugar mixture on top. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until smooth (careful not to burn yourself).
.                 Pour into a 20cm/8in square baking tray, and set aside to cool slightly, then place in the fridge to chill completely.
Cut the fudge into squares and store in an airtight container.

recipe and image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/peanutbutterfudge_93630

Butternut Squash Soup with mango powder

As some of you know I have a somewhat odd obsession with very big, very sharp kitchen knives.  A few weeks ago I managed to freak out quite a few of my friends by getting slightly more enthusiastic than normal over a knife sharpener.  Of course, there is no prescribed level of normalness when it comes to knife-sharpening enthusiasm, I think the strangeness was mainly due to the fact that I don’t tend to get enthusiastic about stuff.  Of course I know that really appreciating sharp knives isn’t odd, actually perfectly sensible. Try and chop a butternut squash with a small vegetable knife that isn’t sharp anymore and you will know what I mean.  Having the correct knife that is sharp enough is actually safer as you need much less force behind it.  Once you get over the fact that they might look a bit scary, you will never go back.  About 4 or 5 years ago I was making sushi with a friend at their house and asked for a very sharp knife, and was given some global brand ones to use, and my life was never the same again. 

I’m never very good at buying ginger, despite really knowing better. I always accidentally let it go moldy and have to throw it away (which is really stupid of me – fresh ginger freezes really well).  When you buy ginger go for the fattest chunk you can find.  In general in the ginger box in the supermarket/shop, there are massive hand-sized roots, and tiny little broken blobs.  It isn’t widely known, but it is perfectly acceptable to break a chunk off a big root to get the piece you want the most (although I still tend to do this quite subtley, in case I get into trouble).  The little broken bits are thinner and you have no idea how long they have been separated from the main root, slowly drying out.  This soup really does need ginger, I didn’t have any and so borrowed some of my housemate’s slightly odd-looking ginger she found in the amazing Indian supermarket in Kingsbury.  The ginger was so odd in fact, that it was turmeric.  If you want to know what fresh turmeric looks like, see here.  My hands were yellow for the rest of the day.

These quantities are pretty vague, and this soup will make one big pot full.  The veggies can be increased pretty much exponentially depending on how many people you need to feed.

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Leek, thoroughly washed and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion, diced
about 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and diced or grated
1 or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
flavourless oil
1 can of coconut milk
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt
Amchoor powder – this is dried sour mango, ground to a powder.  It is used in parts of India as a souring flavour, like lemon juice, especially in places that don’t necessarily have fridges.  I bought it in an Indian supermarket in Kenton and its really fantastic, tasting a bit like sherbet! I think it is pretty easily available, if you know where to look!  

Fry the onions on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, and then add the garlic and ginger.  After 2 or 3 minutes add the spice powders and fry for a few more minutes.  Then add the veggies and stir to coat in the spicey onion mixture.  Add the coconut milk and another can-full of hot water.  You want the liquid to come up almost as high as the veggies, but not covering them entirely.  Leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until everything is cooked through.  Leave to cool slightly and then blitz with a hand blender.  Season the soup and reheat as required.  Serve with the mango powder sprinkled on the top, maybe with a little dollop of yogurt and some dried chili flakes too if you want.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Potato salad redux


More things should be called redux.  According to Wikipedia it is a post-positive adjective to describe bringing things back.  It probably doesn’t really apply to potato salad and just makes me sound like a bit of an idiot.  Who am I to say whether or not potato salad was ever ‘out’ to begin with? Or if my variations even have that potential?  All I know is that potato salad drenched in mayonnaise is just depressing, especially when it has those tiny, soggy pickled cucumber pieces in it.  Sometimes its really watery and taints everything else on your plate, sometimes with that horrible slightly split look like the potatoes were mixed in when they were too hot, mainly its just boring.  Here are 3 alternatives which I really like. 

For each salad buy nice quality salad potatoes of equal sizes, and boil them in their skins in salted water until done but not disintegrated.  Peel their skins off (or not) when they are just cool enough to touch and toss them in their dressings while still warm.

Harissa potato salad

Incredibly simple.  Mix the potatoes with a big spoonful of harissa paste.  That’s it and its delicious.  You could dress it up with some chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts and orange zest (as I have done in the past) but actually, it doesn’t really need it.

Pesto potato salad

Mix together pesto with a little lemon juice until you have the consistency of salad dressing.  Toss with the potatoes.  When the potatoes are cooled add rocket leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds.  This is also very good with cooked broccoli and peas added in too.  Some halved cherry tomatoes would also make a lovely addition.

Grain mustard and sundried tomato potato salad

Make vinaigrette with 2 parts olive oil, 1 part cider/white wine vinegar, a spoonful of wholegrain mustard and a few drops of water.  Shake well and dress the potatoes.  Add some sundried tomatoes (chopped depending on their size) and finely sliced spring onions.  This salad is one of the staples of my family’s Shabbat table in the summertime, and so I cannot recommend any extras, it would just be wrong.

Salmon with spicy tomato sauce and sweet potato chips

This didn’t start as a blog post.  Like the multi-coloured spicy rice recipe, I was staring into the fridge wondering what to eat, and this just sort of evolved out of the different ingredients I managed to find.  And I really do mean evolve – sometimes if I start cooking when I am really tired I forget what I was planning on making halfway through and do something completely different.  Usually this really doesn’t work, in a ‘that Friends episode with the shepherd’s pie trifle’ kind of way, but this time it really did.  I have never combined fresh tomatoes with ginger in this way before, and I really love the way that it turned out.  Having such few key ingredients means that the flavour is really defined and punchy.  If I was really pretentious I would call the sauce a tomato-ginger reduction or something, I probably also wouldn’t have cooked it in the microwave.

Variation: A few days later I made a vegetarian version using cubes of aubergine and tofu instead of salmon and sweet potatoes and it was really fantastic.  I started roasting the aubergine and tofu cubes with just a little oil for about 20 minutes before I added the sauce, so they went slightly firm and crispy, as opposed to turning into a ratatouille-kind of mush.

Serves 2 people time: 30 or so mins difficulty: 3/5 taste: 4/5

Ingredients
2 salmon fillets, with skin (cooking times will depend on how big the fillets are, or if they are still a little frozen in the middle, like mine were – use your judgement)
2 or 3 sweet potatoes, depending on how large they are, peeled and cut into wedges or chunks (sized according to the approximate cooking time of the salmon)
1 onion, cut into wedges (a tasty but optional extra – brings gooey, caramelised and burnt edges, irresistible)
Flavourless cooking oil or spray
salt

For the sauce:
2 or 3 large-ish ripe Tomatoes, diced (blanched and skinned if you can be bothered, but it doesn’t really matter for this dish)
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1 ½ times the size as the garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
1 tbsp kecap manis (this is one of my new favourite things, its an Indonesian soy sauce that has been thickened with copious sugar.  Ottolenghi features a lot of recipes that call for this – it’s a really useful addition to your spice/condiment cupboard.  Essentially its like teriyaki sauce in a handy squeezy bottle, very cheap and available at your local oriental/South-East Asian supermarket.  Oh and kecap means sauce in Malay – ketchup, gettit??)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 dessertspoonful sake
1 dessertspoonful ketchup

Preheat the oven to 190-200 c.  Make a few slashed in the salmon skin and arrange the fillets skin side up in a tray with the sweet potatoes and onion wedges all around in a snug, single layer.  Drizzle with a small amount of oil or spray, shake a little salt over and put in the oven to roast.  The idea is that the sauce gets added halfway through the cooking, to allow the fish and veggies to crisp up, and to stop the sauce from burning.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a microwave-friendly bowl and cook on full for about a minute, until it is hot and looks amalgamated and a little bit mushy.  You could also warm the ingredients up in a pan.  When the salmon and sweet potatoes have had about 10-15 minutes, spoon the tomato sauce on the tray in blobs over it, so that there are bits covered in sauce, and bits that are not, and to continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until the salmon and sweet potatoes are cooked, hopefully with some crispy salmon skin.

Monday, 6 June 2011

'Sexy' Peanut Sauce

This is so exciting, my first ever guest blogger, Alli.  I first tried this incredible sauce on my first ever Shabbat in Willesden, which was also the day I met Alli.  Vegan Canadian Thanksgiving was a bit of a drop in the deep-end, but it was brilliant.  I learnt all about poutine, the Québécois accent (thanks Danny) and the Canadian National Anthem ‘Oh Canada…’ Best of all I got to meet Alli, and try her amazing cooking.  And this sauce really is sexy.  I know it might seem like an odd combination but it totally works.  I spent most of my student mealtimes experimenting with peanut butter on noodles in one form or another, but this one really nails it – and the alternative version is really good too.  Its great on noodles, as a spoonful in a stir fry, or simply as a dip.  Big thanks also to the wonderful Amanda – who needs to come and visit again soon!

If anyone wants to be featured as a guest blogger on The Great Cookery Adventure then all you have to do is cook me something amazing :) 

And now I proudly introduce the wonderful Alli:

When I started University, I wasn't able to cook-- which led to me depending on the kindness of my friend more often then not. One day, my friend Amanda (who is obsessed-- to put it lightly-- with peanut butter) taught me her favourite recipe for pasta: Peanut Noodles. Miri decided that this sauce is sexy, and voila: Sexy Peaunt Noodles!

6 TB of each of the following:
- Rice Vinegar
- Sugar
- Soya Sauce
- Oil (I like to use Sesame oil, but vegetable oil will suffice).
1/2- 3/4 cup of Peanut Butter (depending on how much you love peanut butter). I prefer crunchy, as then you get the chunks that you get in a Pad Thai sauce, but creamy is delicious as well.

Put together over heat until you can no longer see or feel the sugar or peanut butter (5-7 minutes on a good flame). Serve hot on noodles, or use as a dip.

ALTERANTIVE VERSION
Slightly less sexy, but here you go!
I was cooking for a friend who doesn't like peanut butter, but had few ingredients (or little time) to make him his own separate dish. So instead, I mixed the following:

6 TB of Rice Vinegar (note: I ran out of Rice Vinegar (I make this a lot!) so I used half regular vinegar and half rice vinegar)
5 TB of Sugar (I was cooking for "health conscious" people)
6 TB of Soya Sauce
6 TB of Vegetable Oil (I was cooking for someone who hated Sesame Oil-- my friends are picky!)
1/4 cup of Peanut Butter

I cooked them the same way I normally do, and I served them on noodles-- lovely dish, got lots of praise! 

Enjoy :)

Monday, 30 May 2011

Thai green chicken salad

This is a really lovely salad, perfect for summer lunches.  Its light and refreshing and really delicious.  Serve it on a large plate with the chicken all in one layer, making the whole thing look beautiful and easy for people to help themselves.

Time: 45 mins difficulty: 3/5 Taste 4/5

Approx 5 chicken breasts
2 limes, zested
2cm square piece of ginger (and some galangal if you can get it) peeled and finely chopped/grated
1-2 sticks lemongrass, bashed very hard with a heavy knife and sliced up a little bit if soft enough
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Half an onion, or 3-4 shallots, finely diced
Large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Small handful mint, roughly chopped
3 cardamom pods, split
2 small green chilies, with the seeds removed from one of them (or both, or neither, depending on how hot you like it) and finely sliced
1 can of coconut milk (if you vigorously shake the can before you open it, the solids at the top will integrate with the  liquid below, saving you much work mixing it up with a spoon later)

for the salad:
1 packet of rocket
2 spring onions, finely sliced
small handful fresh coriander, chopped
1 handful cashew nuts, split in half

To make the marinade for the chicken, mix together the lime zest, coriander, shallots, ginger, garlic, mint, cardamom and chilies in a large, shallow non-metallic dish.  Add the sticks of lemon grass and (shaken) coconut milk, stir together and add the chicken, making sure each piece is completely coated in the mixture.  Leave to marinade for a few hours.

About 15 minutes before you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 180c (or turn the grill on to medium/high).  Squeeze the juice from 1 of the zested limes into the marinating chicken.  When the oven is hot, arrange the chicken in a roasting dish in a single layer with a little bit of the marinade spooned on top.  Cook for about 25 minutes and check to see if its cooked, and give it another 5 minutes if needed.  Chicken breasts really shouldn’t need more than 30 minutes to cook, unless they are really thick.

You can make the salad with the chicken more or less straight after the oven, or keep the cooked chicken in the fridge until ready to make the salad.  When ready to serve, scatter the serving dish with the rocket.  Slice the chicken and arrange on the plate in a single layer (with the big lumps or marinade goo scraped off), and top with the spring onions, coriander, cashew nuts, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Serve, maybe with some cold noodles or sticky rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A warm salad of kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes

A friend was recently describing the life-changing transcendence and clarity of a psychotropic experience, and I sat there and realized that the only thing I have been experimenting with lately is kale.  And while initially I felt incredibly frustrated at the boringness of this, after researching a little bit into kale (thank you Wikipedia, reason I passed my masters) I realized that while it might not have any actual psychedelic properties, it is pretty rad.  Yeah, rad.

This is some of what Wikipedia has to say about kale.  If you stare at it for long enough, things really do start spinning in a trippy kind of way…(not really). 

Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties; is it an anti-inflammatory and is very high in lovely things like beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium.  As well as other brassicas, kale contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties.

Until the end of the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. Curly leafed varieties of cabbage already existed along with flat leafed varieties in Greece in the fourth century BC. The leaf colours range from light green through green, dark green and violet-green to violet-brown. Russian kale was introduced into Canada (and then into the U.S.) by Russian traders in the 19th century.  During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign. The vegetable was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet because of rationing.[6]

Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavourful after being exposed to a frost.
Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other such strongly flavoured ingredients as dry-roasted peanuts, tamari-roasted almonds, red pepper flakes, or an Asian-style dressing.

Kale seems to be massively popular all across the world, so maybe it’s a little weird that we don’t cook so much of it here.  To be honest I only picked it up because I was craving something spinachey and the kale was 50p cheaper…

In Ireland kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the traditional dish colcannon.
A traditional Portuguese soup, caldo verde, combines pureed potatoes, diced kale, olive oil, broth, and, generally, sliced cooked spicy sausage. Under the name of couve, kale is also popular in Brazil, in caldo verde, or as a vegetable dish, often cooked with carne seca (shredded dried beef). When chopped and stir-fried, couve accompanies Brazil's national dish, feijoada.
In East Africa, it is an essential ingredient in making a stew for ugali, which is almost always eaten with kale. Kale is also eaten throughout southeastern Africa, where it is typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanuts and is served with rice or boiled cornmeal.
A whole culture around kale has developed in north-western Germany around the towns of Bremen, Oldenburg and Hannover. There, most social clubs of any kind will have a Grünkohlfahrt ("kale tour") sometime between October and February, visiting a country inn to consume large quantities of boiled kale, Kassler, Mettwurst and schnapps. Most communities in the area have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a "kale king" (or queen).
Curly kale is used in Denmark and Halland, Sweden, to make (grøn-)langkål, an obligatory dish on the julbord in the region, and is commonly served together with the Christmas ham (Sweden, Halland).
In Scotland, kale provided such a base for a traditional diet that the word in dialect Scots is synonymous with food. To be "off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat.
In Montenegro collards, locally known as rashtan is a favorite vegetable. It is particularly popular in winter, cooked with smoked mutton (kastradina) and potatoes.

Ingredients

Makes a large portion time: 40 mins difficulty: 2/5 taste: 3.5/5

I bag of kale
2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice, no more than 1 inch square
1 large broccoli, separated into florets
Large handful of pumpkin seeds (or nuts)
Sage (fresh or dried)
Paprika
Chilli powder
Salt
Olive oil
Lemon juice

You will need a large frying pan with a lid.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees before you chop the sweet potatoes.  Toss the cubes with 1 glug of olive oil, sage, paprika and a smallish pinch of chili powder.  Arrange in single layers on a couple of oven trays and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes.  When there are about 10-15 minutes left, add the broccoli in with the sweet potatoes (they cook better if they are slightly damp).

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, toast the pumpkin seeds in a very hot frying pan until they all start puffing up and popping.  This should take a few minutes, and use the time to get the kale thoroughly washed in a colander.  Once the seeds are done transfer them to a large bowl.  Add the dripping kale straight to the hot pan, turn the heat down slightly and clamp the lid on.  Let it steam for about 5 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid to stir the greens around.

When the kale is cooked, drain all the liquid from the frying pan and rinse the kale a few times in cold water to stop it overcooking.  Make sure that you squeeze out as much water as possible before adding it to the large bowl.  Finally add the broccoli and sweet potatoes, and mix everything together with the juice of about half a lemon.

So you may not see any swirly colours of higher truths, but it is yummy and leaves you with that lovely smug feeling you get after eating something really wholesome.