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...


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

West African Style Kale, Pineapple & Peanut Stew

I made this dish about a month or so ago, and I have to say that it was one of the most surprising things have ever made. The dinner where it debuted was an interesting event, kind of an African-themed hamster wake. It was a great evening and a good time was had by all I think, and it was a very decent send-off for Coco the hamster.

African food is pretty new to me (apart from North Africa and South African Braai), but after a few of my friends have travelled there and raved about it, I looked into it a bit more. I found this recipe online after searching for kale based, vegan, West-African recipes, and it sounded so so weird and a little bit disgusting, I just had to try it. I was looking for kale recipes as I had discovered on a previous investigation that it is very popular in a range of dishes throughout the world. The recipe is from Mollie Katzen, so not exactly authentic – but as she is the author of one of my first and most beloved cookbooks The Moosewood Cookbook – I knew that it would be worth a try. And I was so right. Now I was really dubious, even as it was cooking I thought that it would be horrible. But then I tasted it, and it was incredible – DELICIOUS!!! sweet, savoury and spicy - flavour combinations that work so well together, in an earthy, hearty and totally new kind of way. This recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, I found it on the website

Serves 4 – very easy. Serve on rice, or couscous, or with flatbread.

1 onion, diced not that small

2 garlic cloves, crushed
Vegetable or other flavourless oil, approx 1 tbsp
1 bunch of kale or Swiss chard (4 cups sliced)
 - I used about 1 and a bit bags of kale from Sainsburys – they are really large but once all the stalks had been picked out, it wasn’t as much as it seemed. Also remember that it cooks down a lot.
2 cups undrained canned crushed pineapple (20-ounce can)
- I used one regular sized can
½ cup peanut butter
- use a few tbsp of hot water to melt it
Generous shakes of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
 - you need to be able to taste the spice, as it balances the sweetness of the pineapple
handful chopped fresh coriander

salt to taste

big handful crushed skinless peanuts (if using salted peanuts then put less salt in the main dish)
2 or 3 sliced spring onions
(including the green parts)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions for about 10 minutes adding the garlic about halfway, stirring frequently, they are lightly browned. While the onions and garlic are frying, wash the kale carefully, discarding large stems and any blemished leaves. Of the leaves are whole shred them into 1inch slices.

Add the pineapple and its juice to the onions in the pan along with a tablespoon or 2 of hot water, and bring it to a simmer. Stir in the kale, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until just tender. Mix in the peanut butter, Tabasco and coriander and simmer for a couple more minutes. Season and serve topped with crushed peanuts, chopped spring onions, fresh coriander and a wedge of lime.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sweet and Sour Onions

This recipe comes from a fantastic book called ‘Jewish Traditions Cookbook’ by Marlena Spieler. While it may not have the beautiful prose and history of Claudia Roden’s book (officially one of the best cookbooks ever) it is concise with pictures on ever page, and recipes from all over the world. Marlena writes that this recipe originates from Sicily, and spread to Italy, Greece, Turkey and France when the Spanish took over Sicily and the Jews had to flee. I really do find it incredibly interesting how recipes and flavour combinations have travelled through the world as a result of Jewish history. Claudia herself has a fantastic story about Tunisian Jewish flavours linking back to Portugal and Livorno in Italy, by way of pirates, of course.

As this dish is best served at room temperature, it makes for an incredibly useful side dish – although I reckon it is probably even better when eaten simply with crusty bread and cheese, with little regard for table manners. Also apologies for some of the quantities given, I scaled up the recipe due to the fact that the little onions I found (Sainsburys shallots) come in 400g packs. It makes a fairly decent amount, one large panful. When peeling the onions, various sources recommend blanching them in a similar manner to tomatoes to get the skins off easily, but I just peeled them the regular way and it didn’t seem like so much hassle.

800g small onions or shallots, peeled but whole
80ml or so wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar as I didn’t have any)
70ml or so olive oil
60g caster sugar (this is less than the recipe suggested, but you can add a little more if you have a sweeter tooth, for me though it was plenty.
5 tbsp tomato puree
2 pinches each of cinnamon and allspice (I didn’t have any allspice)
2 bay leaves
4 parsley sprigs (I didn’t have any fresh parsley so used some dried instead)
100g (ish) raisins or sultanas
salt and pepper

It really is this easy…
Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 45 mins or so, until the onions are soft and the liquid has thickened and reduced considerably. Remove the bay leaves and parsley sprigs, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Oat, Apple and Cinnamon Cookies

My beautiful friends. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love you. Even if I have never met you before, please know that this is true. I haven’t written here for a while, and I cannot believe how much has changed since then.

I’ve had a pretty crazy few months. Any of you who read my last post way back in November will know that I was feeling quite on edge and uncertain. In fact, I had just been dumped, but in possibly the loveliest way imaginable, leading to a little emotional craziness, or pardon the expression, a ‘mindfuck.’  And then a few weeks later, I was getting soaped up and whipped in a Turkish bath by a hot guy I didn’t know very well!!  Reflecting on the past year and my first post about trying to be less shy and more proactive, my ‘bath’ gained symbolic significance.

And then there was the accident…

It has been 3 weeks and I guess I’m halfway through the physical healing process. Time stopped and I have had to lie low on the adventures for a bit, but I have never felt more loved or more fearless in my life.  About a month or so ago I made these cookies as a thank you for two very special people who gave me some fantastic advice. As the recipient, it was not necessarily my right to chose the currency for services provided, but then, that isn’t how a gift economy works – or so I have been told. And now I am sharing them with you.

These cookies are a little bit like brandy-snaps – lace-like, crunchy caramel with little chunks of chewy apple. And as with my other cookies recipes you really need some silicone paper or some other sort of super non-stick tray. The recipe is from the Jamie Oliver magazine, and they suggest sandwiching two together with a maple buttercream. I think that it would be complete overkill and possibly also ruin the crunch of the cookies. Send me an email if you would like the quantities for the maple buttercream.

Makes approx 25-30, depending on how big you make them, I tend to make double batches

100g butter, at room temperature
100g sugar
50g golden syrup
50g self-raising flour
125g rolled oats/porridge
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g dried apple, chopped (I used the Sainsburys semi-dried stuff, makes them more interesting)
1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tbsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 180c (or 170 if using a fan oven) and line 2-3 baking trays – you will probably have to bake the cookies in batches.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a small pan over a low heat and add to the dry ingredients. Stir well and add the yolk mixture, stirring again. Leave to cool slightly.

Spoon teaspoons of the mixture on to the tray leaving plenty of room, and bake them for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Please be aware that like brandy snaps they will be soft when they come out of the oven, but will harden up as they cool down. It is best to get them on to a wire rack as soon as they are cool/hard enough to be peeled off the silicone paper/tray. And put the kettle on.