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...


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. 

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.


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

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.


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