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...


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Courgettes with Sumac, Pine-nuts and Raisins

And here is another one from Claudia, same book as before. Sumac is my new favourite thing – its getting much easier to find too.  If you are the kind of person who puts lemon juice and black pepper on everything, this will be your favourite thing too. Because she is brilliant and knows me so well, Suzy brought me back a big baggie full of the stuff from Israel. This dish is quick and easy, infinitely multipliable and seriously delicious. One to turn even the most staunch courgette-hater. Believe me I should know, I have only been eating them happily for the past 2 years.

This is more than enough for 4-6 people as a salad or veggie side dish.

3 courgettes sliced into rings between 1cm- 5mm thick. Don’t use the really massive ones as they aren’t as tasty.
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp sumac
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
Lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and when hot, add the courgettes (medium/hot flame).  Don’t move them around too much, as you want them to colour. When they start to take on a little colour, add the sumac, pine nuts and raisins. After about another 5 minutes, add the garlic. It is done when the courgettes have taken on a lovely charred colour in parts, the raisins are plump and the pine nuts are toasted. Make sure that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Take off the heat and add a little salt. Serve at room temperature, with a little lemon juice squeezed on just before serving.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Green Herb Eggah

Hands down, I think that Claudia Roden is the best food writer out there. What I love is the importance she places on history, nostalgia and cultural memory. My mother just bought her new book The Food of Spain and so far I have only had a little flick through it, but it looks pretty amazing. This recipe is from the New Book of Middle Eastern Food (1985). I made this to form part of the appetizer mezze for an Arabic-themed dinner that I co-hosted recently with some pretty special people. They are also some of the best cooks I have ever had the pleasure to work with, and am trying to convince them to contribute something to this blog.

This is what Claudia has to say about Middle-Eastern eggs:

“Egg dishes are very popular throughout the Middle East. Beid, as they are called, received the full Oriental treatment. Hard-boiled and coloured yellow or brown, flavoured with cumin, coriander or cinnamon, they are sold in the streets with little cornets of rolled-up newspaper filled with seasoning to dip them in. Fried or scrambled, they are enhanced with flavourings of garlic, onions and tomatoes, lemon, vinegar or yogurt. The Arab omelette, eggah, is more like a cake. Thick and rich, it is not unlike the Spanish tortilla to which it is undoubtedly related through the Moorish conquerors of Spain. Did the Moriscos introduce the omelette to Spain, or did they bring it back to North Africa after the Reconquista? It does not appear in early Arab culinary literature, so its origin is still a matter for speculation.”

In Persia, this dish is called Kuku, and the first time I tried it was at a Persian feast a few months ago, made by Becky. It can be eaten hot or cold, and can be made in advance and warmed up again, which makes it very advantageous when cooking for a lot of people in advance, or going on a picnic. It is though, of course, much nicer on the day it is made, still a little crispy from the grill.

Here are the quantities that I used for mine, and it made enough for about 25 little squares.  Of course it does all come down to how big your frying pan is, you want the Eggah to be at least an inch thick, and bursting with filling, so that it is almost emerald green when you slice it.

12 eggs
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch coriander
½ bunch mint
5 spring onions
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil, or clarified butter
½ cup milk (optional)
1 tbsp flour (optional)

Preheat the grill.

Wash and finely chop up all of the herbs, and finely slice the spring onions, using the green tops as well as the white parts. Break the eggs in a large bowl and whisk up until frothy. At this point you could whisk in the milk and flour if using. Mix in the herbs, and season.
Heat the oil in the frying pan, and add the fantastically green egg mixture when hot. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs have set up the sides. Put the frying pan under the grill (leaving the door open is fine) and cook for another 4-6 minutes, checking every 2 minutes. When it is done it should be burnished and crisp, and slightly springy.

Serve cut into wedges or squares.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Aubergines poached in Miso

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to be a volunteer at Gefiltefest, the Jewish Food Festival. Now in its third year, the festival encompasses all things Jewish and foodie; it is multi-denominational with an ethical/ sustainable ethos. Through the course of volunteering I met some incredible people, including an 87-year-old camp survivor with buckets of energy who spends her time creating food redistribution networks, and a guy who brews his own booze to barter with people for scrap at building sites.  

I also co-presented a session about Ruchot Community Café – a non-profit kosher, vegetarian café, based around ethical food choices and sustainability, run entirely by volunteers. I am normally pretty shy so this was a massive deal for me, but it went really well. My main pitch went something along the lines of the Jewish mother concept of ‘FOOD=LOVE’ or rather, “I will feed you because I love you, and if you love me you had better eat.” Somehow I think a lot of us have lost sight of the LOVE, and having a grassroots community where the people are empowered to take ownership of the source of their food and what they are going to do with it, is a really good place to start. Please message me if you are interested in learning more about Ruchot Community Café, or want to get involved (grassroots communities exist for those who take part).

The logo of Gefiltefest is an aubergine. I’m not really sure how, but aubergines have become as firmly entrenched in Jewish food culture as chicken soup and latkes – somehow if you don’t know at least 100 ways to cook them, you aren’t really a Jewish cook.  I am sure that someone with a better knowledge of Jewish law/history could come up with something about the aubergine’s versatility, or the way it has travelled throughout the world, but I am more concerned with this – they are TASTY!

This dish is a variation on the Korean aubergine recipe mentioned in my previous post in the section about the Madhur Jaffrey vegetarian cookbook. I had forgotten about how nice it was until I started flicking through the book again. The original recipe was quite involved, and so in my typical lazy style I have simplified it – still really delicious though.

Serves 2 or 3 as a side dish, multiply as needed

1 aubergine, cut into whatever shape takes your fancy (mine were rectangles about 4cm by 1.5cm)
1 onion, preferably red, sliced into thin rings
1 clove garlic, crushed quite finely
100ml hot water
2 heaped tsp miso paste (it doesn’t seem like a lot but miso is powerful stuff and the taste really comes through. I used a golden yellow one – the dark brown ones tend to be stronger, so use your own judgement for quantities)
2 tsp soy sauce           
2 tsp sake (dry rice wine)
2 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Flavourless cooking oil

Heat the oil in a large frying pan (that has a lid) and start frying the onion and aubergine pieces on a medium-ish heat, turning every now and again to make sure that the onions aren’t sticking and everything is getting a good colour. After 5-10 minutes, add the garlic.

While the aubergine is frying combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl or jug and mix well.

After the garlic has been in the pan for a couple of minutes, add the sauce. Give everything a stir, put the lid on and turn the heat down to a simmer. Let this cook down for at least 30 minutes, stirring every now and again. It is ready when it has cooked right down, the sauce is thickened and the aubergines are gloriously silky and sweet.