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...


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Roasted aubergine with a miso glaze

Aren’t aubergines just one of the most tasty and versatile things ever? Time to really make the most of them as we come to the end of the season and they get expensive again.

I started working on this recipe after I made the roasted halves of aubergine for the aubergine and walnut salsa recipe, and I think it is my new favourite way to cook them. This isn’t the traditional Japanese nasu dengaku as I haven’t used any sugar, but sweetened it with mirin and agave nectar. The end result isn’t as caramelised, but I think it is still really tasty. This also isn't a replacement recipe for my previous Korean-style aubergines poached in miso, it is just different.
  • 1 medium aubergine, sliced in half lengthways right through the stalk. (Use smaller aubergines for this recipe, as the bigger ones won’t cook properly all the way through before the top burns. I think the smaller ones also get a bit sweeter and juicier.)
  • Flavourless oil
  • Course sea/rock salt (I grind pink Himalayan salt rocks in a mortar and pestle) and freshly ground black pepper
  •  1 tbsp white (pale yellow) miso
  • ½ tbsp mirin
  • ½ tbsp sake (or use more mirin)
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  •  Sesame seeds
  • Spring onions, green and white parts finely sliced into rounds

The oven I was using doesn’t have exact temperatures, so I’m no sure exactly what temperature I have been making this at, other than ‘hot’. Probably stick your oven on 190-200 centigrade and I think that would be ok.

Score the aubergine halves in a narrow criss-cross pattern – ending up with diamond shapes with roughly 1 – 1.5 cm sides. You can make them smaller than that if you want to, just be careful that the knife doesn’t pierce the skin out the back of the aubergine half. Brush them with oil and sprinkle with the salt and grind some pepper over them. Roast the aubergines (cut side up) for 30-45 minutes, until they are cooked through, the diamond shapes have separated out, and the flesh is a dark golden colour. Take them out of the oven but keep the oven on for the next stage.

While the aubergines are in the oven, mix the miso with the mirin, sake, agave, sesame oil and rice vinegar with a tablespoon of hot water until fully incorporated. You could, I suppose warm everything together in a saucepan without having to use hot water, but to be honest I can rarely be bothered to get another pan dirty if I don’t have to.

Spoon the miso sauce over the cut surface of the aubergines after they have finished roasting. Do it generously enough that it fills the grooves around the diamonds, but not so that it is completely swamped. Sprinkle the surface with sesame seeds, and put the whole thing back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Serve this scattered with spring onions, and with warm sushi or jasmine rice, and any remaining sauce for drizzling.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cauliflower and Stilton Soup

Inspired by Claudie

I really love September. It is a time for renewal, and new intentions.

Rosh Hashanna (Jewish New Year) was a few weeks ago, and for the past three years I have celebrated, and participated with an incredible community called Grassroots Jews. Grassroots Jews is a temporary community that comes together for the High Holy days (Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement) to create an inclusive spiritual environment, focused around the ideals of inclusivity, participation and co-creation. Observing the days with the Grassroots community has also been the first time I have ever felt any real spiritual connection to this incredibly significant part of the Jewish year.

At Rosh Hashanna I always make some resolutions. They are more ‘intentions’ than ‘resolutions’, and I use them to give a bit of purpose to the year ahead – as opposed to the traditional sort of resolution that seems to exist only to be broken. For example, three years ago I set the intention of having more adventures and putting my creativity into the world – and that is how this blog was born.

Every year some of my intentions are profound, and some are more prosaic. This Rosh Hashanna my intentions included ‘keeping things simple’ and ‘eat more cauliflower’.

This soup is, obviously, born of both of those intentions. It is amazing how you can take so few ingredients and create something with such depth of flavour. It is rich and creamy; perfect comfort food for when the weather starts to get miserable. A bowl would probably be in a meal in itself, so serve small portions if you want to eat more food as well.

Serves 6-8 with a bit left over

1 large cauliflower, finely slice the stalk and separate the top into florets
1 large potato, diced (you don’t need to bother peeling it)
1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube dissolved in 1 litre of hot water
Approx 75g blue Stilton, cut into little lumps (more or less according to your taste)
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and fry the onion until lightly browned. Add the diced potato, and fry for another 5 minutes or so until the onions are a little more caramelised and the potatoes have taken on a little colour too.

Add the sliced cauliflower stalks, stock, and a big pinch of salt, and bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the cauliflower, put a lid on the saucepan and bring it to a simmer – you can add another 250ml of hot water if you want the soup a little thinner – but don’t add much more than that.

Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes from when the cauliflower florets go in. When it is ready and the veggies are soft, blitz with an immersion blender. Add the Stilton, and blitz a little more. The soup should be really thick and creamy so make an effort to blitz out all the lumps. The cheese is salty so don’t add any more salt until it has been blended in – but make sure you taste and season once it has.

Goes very well with garlic-y croutons.

Here is a nice thing to do with your leftover Stilton: Butternut Squash, Sage and Hazelnut Risotto with Blue Cheese.

Inside the Grassroots Ohel (tent) - I was very impressed by their use of the pomegranate motif,  although I felt like I couldn't associate it with eroticism in the same way as normal pomegranates....

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Red berry granola

Hello folks, happy autumn. How was your summer?

I know that ‘how was your summer’ can be a pretty loaded question. Summer is that magical time where you are supposed to have adventures, and yet somehow expectations and reality never seem to match up. Well, for me at least. Maybe things are turning around though, because this year I actually had a really brilliant summer, and seeing as I didn’t even go on holiday, I think that is quite an achievement.

In mid-August, I went away with a group of 18 friends to a yurt camp in an organic farm in Cirencester, and I think it was one of the best weekends away I have ever had.

What I loved was how we all came together to create incredible food for the whole weekend. With an epic roast chicken Friday night dinner feast, and Becky’s incredible shakshouka with eggs from the farm, and baba ganoush with aubergines roasted in the campfire. One of the best experiences for me was a moment on Saturday night, where we had all forgotten to make dinner before it got dark. Standing in the field kitchen as curry genius Gavin’s sous-chef, stirring two giant pots with a headlamp and two boys hanging out of a tree above my head dangling lanterns over the stove, was definitely surreal, but absolutely brilliant – I felt like the kitchen queen.

One of my contributions to the weekend was granola that I made for breakfast time. I had never made granola before, although I have it for breakfast for most days. I was amazed at how much better homemade granola is – it was a revelation. Served with almond milk (uht and perfect for camping), it went down really well.

When we went to the yurts, I made the granola using gluten-free large rolled oats, and it was perfect – the oats stayed separate, perfectly crunchy and it didn’t go stale despite making it a week before. I’m sure it would have lasted another week, had we not finished it so quickly. When I came back, I made another batch using regular rolled oats (Quaker brand), and it didn’t work at all – the oats lost their shape and clumped together – it didn’t stay as crunchy and went stale very fast. I’m not sure if it was the gluten-free-ness of the first lot of oats that made them so perfect, or just the fact that they were better quality.

Makes a big box-full

450g large rolled oats (gluten-free if you can get them)

1 cup blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¾ cup apple and raspberry juice
(I used Coppela brand)
¾ cup maple syrup
90 ml coconut oil

1 level tsp ground cinnamon

1 level tsp fine sea salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried apricots (diced)

Preheat oven to 160C. (150 with fan)
Combine the oats, nuts and seeds in a big bowl (save the fruit for later).

Put the apple and raspberry juice, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon, sea salt and black pepper in a small saucepan. Gently heat until coconut oil is liquefied, and the salt is dissolved. Don’t let it boil.

Pour the warmed liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and quickly stir it all together. Spread the mixture evenly in a flat layer over two baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, take the granola out of the oven and stir everything around. Put back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, take out and stir again.

Depending on the heat of your oven, you will need to bake the granola for another 10-15 minutes after that, but you should be able to judge how quickly it is toasting after the second round of 15 minutes. So in all, the granola will take 40-45 minutes until it is golden and toasted, and all the moisture is gone.

Let the granola cool completely in the trays before you box it. It will become crunchier as it sits. Stir in the dried fruit when completely cool. Store in an airtight container for a few weeks. Serve with milk or yogurt, or use to crumble over desserts.

Of course I have my eyes closed...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Lemon and lime ice cream pavlova

Here is another recipe adapted from Evelyn Rose, this time from ‘New Jewish Cuisine’ – new as in written in 1988.  She is a bit like the ‘Delia Smith of Jewish cooking’ not necessarily all that interesting, but the recipes always work. One of my earliest posts is one of her recipes – A chicken pie to unify and lead the Jewish people, and I wrote then that I didn’t get on with her writing style and found the recipe difficult to follow. This time I definitely found it easier – maybe I have leant more about cooking and following recipes in the two years since that post, or maybe I am just more intuitively tuned to desserts. Probably a bit of both to be honest.

As long as I can remember, this dessert (originally known as lemon shaum) has been on of the ultimate special occasion desserts, made by both my Mum and Grandmother, and loved by all. As I have said previously, I am so blessed and privileged to come from such a rich food heritage: most of my earliest memories are of the dishes cooked by my grandmothers and great-grandparents – roasted duck, fried fish, split pea soup, chicken soup with kneidelach, lemon meringue pie, apple pie, and the best chocolate mousse on the planet. So when the family came together to celebrate my maternal grandparents’ diamond wedding anniversary, I really wanted to make them a special dessert.
I’m the one in the top right hand corner flashing their knickers – as my Mum said ‘see, even then you were an exhibitionist.’
The pavlova is incredibly light, with an almost foamy or marshmallowy texture in the middle. Originally this recipe is just with lemon, but we tried it with lime too once, and never looked back.
It is very sweet, but the lemon and lime cut through it and make it incredibly refreshing and not stodgy at all. It is great dish for any kind of dinner party as it can be made well in advance, and its rectangular shape means that it is easier to slice and portion than a traditional round pavlova.

If you are celebrating Rosh Hashanna (Jewish New Year) this week, this would make an ideal dessert at a festive meal, especially due to the hot weather forecasted.

Special thanks go to my Mum, both for teaching me how to cook, and for helping me with this dessert and providing the freezer space.


For the meringue:

4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
225g (1 cup) caster sugar
2 level tsp cornflour (mix the cornflour into the caster sugar)
(I know this seems like a high number of ingredients for a meringue, but don’t skip any out. The meringue needs to be really sturdy to survive the freezer intact)

For the ice cream:

4 egg yolks
125g (½ cup) caster sugar
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 lime
275ml (½ pint) double cream or 225ml non-dairy cream


I don’t mean to sound like a GSCE exam invigilator, but really do read all the steps before getting started. Be aware that you will need a lot of freezer space, and it is probably a massive pain in the arse to make if you don’t have access to a freestanding mixer. Sorry about the quality of the photos.

Preheat the oven to 150 c with fan. Line 2 baking trays with grease-proof/baking paper, each piece marked on the reverse with a rectangle drawn 28cm long and 12cm wide. This may seem tedious, but this is a centrepiece dessert, and so really worth making sure that the layers are the same size.

To make the meringue layers:

Whisk the egg whites, sprinkled with the cream of tartar, until they hold stiff, glossy peaks.

Mix together the caster sugar and the cornflour and then add it to the egg white mix, 1 tablespoonful at a time, whisking until stiff again after every addition.

Use a tiny amount of the meringue to 'stick' the baking paper onto the baking tray. Spoon the meringue equally into the two rectangles, and use a fork to even it out.

Put the meringues in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 140c and bake for an hour until the meringues are crisp to the touch and will lift off the paper easily (be very careful when you do this, it is fragile).

To make the ice cream filling:

Start this as soon as the meringue goes into the oven.

Put the yolks and sugar into a saucepan – stir until creamy, and then add the citrus juices and zest. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Take it off the heat and stir for a further minute, and then pour it into a bowl and refrigerate until completely cool. This will take about half an hour.

Whisk the cream until it stands in soft peaks, and then beat in the cold lemon custard/curd, one tablespoon at a time until completely amalgamated into the cream.

On a tray, spread out a piece of foil large enough to cover the entire pavlova. Place one rectangle of meringue on it, spread the filling evenly over the whole thing, and then lay the second meringue on top. Freeze uncovered until solid, and then wrap carefully in foil and keep in the freezer.

Take it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving – it should be served semi-frozen, so that the lemon-lime filling has the texture of soft ice cream. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 1 month.