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...


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Beetroot two-ways with goats cheese, honey and thyme

I bet that some of you have noticed the lack of an apostrophe in the ‘goats cheese’ in the title of this blog post. And I bet that it really annoyed some of you. That’s the funny thing about grammar and punctuation – they make people go crazy.

When I was writing this post I wasn’t sure where to put the apostrophe in ‘goats cheese’. Like any other normal person, I was pretty sure that I would find the answer easily on Google, and that would be the end of it. And then I could write another perfectly pleasant blog post about the many joys of my local Farmers’ Market. I had no idea that can of worms it would unleash. It seems that there is no consensus on the placement of the apostrophe: on the BBC website it is goat’s cheese and on UKTV Food it is goats’ cheese. On Twitter I asked Xanthe Clay and Felicity Cloake and they both said Goat’s Cheese, but I wasn’t convinced.

This is what happened on Facebook to my question of goat’s cheese or goats’ cheese?
- Goat cheese. Problem solved!
- That may be good enough for Americans, but it isn't English!

- Capric cheese.

- The Cheese of goats?

- If the cheese belonged to the goat, then it would be goat's... If it was made from a goat but didn't belong to it, it would be goats'... Right????
- if the single cheese was made from a single goat it would definitely be goat's cheese. Other than that I have no idea.
- I'd go with goats' cheese as you can't guarantee its the cheese from a single goat

- I'd say goats' cheese!
- Not sure why but I find this thread really funny!
- Depends, do you want to give it back to them?
- I would have thought *goats cheese*. Have just looked in the fridge to find Goats milk yoghurt and Goat's Cheese. Maybe there isn't just one answer??

- Once had a long conversation with my in-laws in a restaurant over what the menu meant by "a small goat's cheese salad"

- Goat's cheese. Cheese of the goat species. Or just be pretentious and say 'chèvre'.                 
- The cheese doesn't belong to the goat. The milk did, so that would be goat's milk or goats' milk. Now it's turned into cheese, the goat in question is an adjective rather than a genitive noun. Therefore I would go with goat cheese or goats cheese but wouldn't put an apostrophe.
- Neither, as the goat in question does not posses the cheese. It’s not spring's water or olive's oil, is it? Ergo, it is Goat Cheese.

I decided to go with goats cheese. If you disagree, please let me know. But to be honest, I would much rather talk about food than grammar. And I would much rather eat goats cheese then think about how to punctuate it.


100g creamy goats cheese
2 beetroots – golden if you can get hold of them
Olive oil
Rocket leaves
Fresh spinach – or similar sweet, dark green leaf, like winter purslane
2 tsp. honey
3 sprigs fresh thyme, lemon thyme or a mixture
2 tsp. white wine or cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180c

Beetroot 1: Rinse the beetroot and scrub off any dirt, but don’t peel. Slice it into 4 or 6 wedges running lengthways. Drizzle lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the wedges loosely in foil and bake for about 40 minutes, until soft. Slice each of these wedges in half again once cooked. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Beetroot 2: Peel one of the beetroots and slice it as thinly as possible – use a mandolin if you have one. Make sure that your slices are going horizontally, so that you get a beautiful ring of colour in every slice. Put the slices in a bowl and toss with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Dressing: In a small bowl, mix the honey with a little bit of boiling water to loosen it, and add the thyme leaves to steep. When cool, mix in the vinegar.

Goats cheese: Depending on the consistency of the cheese, either crumble or cut into small squares.

Leaves: Wash in cold water and dry – use a salad spinner if you have one.

Assemble: Build salad in this order – Large flat plate, leaves, beetroot 2, goats cheese, beetroot 1, dressing.

Vietnamese style mango slaw

This recipe doesn’t have the purity or authenticity of my previous mango salad recipe. It is however, just as delicious. It is sweet, spicy, fresh and crunchy. While the other one works best with absolutely rock-solid mangoes, this one is for slightly riper mangoes and is substantial enough for an appetiser, potluck or part of a big meal. This salad has become one of my signature dishes. It is so simple to make but just a little bit different. It may not make a lot of sense, but personally I only buy tropical fruit in the winter - stuff that is imported all year round - so that I can stick to locally grown fruit in the summer and autumn. 

Mangoes, cashews and honey all are considered to be 'tree foods', i.e. things from trees. And while that doesn't seem especially significant to most of us, it is actually significantly important. Tree foods are a vital source of nutrition for families in the drylands of Africa. Every two minutes, a child dies from hunger and malnutrition, which kills more people every year than AIDS, TB and Malaria combined. Trees provide a direct answer to hunger, and the lifeline families so desperately need.

Trees help lift people out of extreme poverty and hunger, and protect the environment

Trees provide produce like fruits, nuts and honey, shea butter and mangoes which villagers grow to eat and to sell, paying for their children’s healthcare and education. Trees can survive drought even when other crops fail.
Trees make the land more fertile by keeping the top soil in place and putting important nutrients back into the ground. Their roots stabilise the ground preventing it from being washed away during the annual rains. Trees mean:
  • food, vitamins and nutrients all year round, even when other crops fail
  • money from selling tree products to buy food, education and health
  • health as some trees can be used in natural medicines
  • enriched soil, making the land more fertile for crops to grow
  • shade from the scorching heat for people, wildlife and for the crops
  • tools and shelter made from bark and fallen wood

With TREE AID, trees are helping people create thriving, sustainable communities in remote and isolated areas of Africa. Our approach is sustainable and cost-effective. We provide:

  • trees and seedlings to grow food, improve the environment and much more
  • training to grow and care for trees, set up tree nurseries, and earn an income sustainably
  • tools such as buckets, pestles, mortars, wheelbarrows and even bicycles!
Read more:

These are the vegetables I like with it, you could also add beansprouts, courgette, red pepper, daikon, mangetout, or whatever crunchy vegetable takes your fancy. 

Serves 6 as a side salad or small appetiser

2 mangoes – not rock solid, but not completely ripe. Peel, slice and cut into thin strips
½ white or red cabbage, shredded
2 sticks celery, finely sliced (crossways – lengthways is too stringy)
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 or 2 large carrots, julienned
2 spring onions, finely sliced duck pancake style, whites and green parts
20g fresh mint, shredded
50g fresh coriander, shredded
1 fresh red chilli, cut in half and finely sliced (take the seeds out if you don’t want it too hot)
Handful roasted, salted cashews or peanuts, roughly chopped
Handful crunchy fried onions (you can make these yourself by frying sliced shallots or smallish onions in coconut oil or veg oil with at least 1/2 tsp salt added - the salt draws the moisture out of the onions and gets them all crunchy)

For the dressing

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
A blob of coconut oil (optional)
1 - 2 tbsp lime juice
½ tbsp honey, or agave nectar
2 tsp. fish sauce (vegetarian/vegan option: 1 tbsp miso paste, or 1 tbsp rice vinegar, adjust to your taste)
1 - 2 inch square of fresh ginger, finely minced

If making the salad in advance keep the dressing, and mango separate until you are ready to serve.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Gently toss together all of the salad ingredients and mix with the dressing. Serve with the crunchy onions scattered on the top. Eat immediately.

This Christmas, you can help families in Africa grow their own tree foods by supporting the Grow Hope appeal. TREE AID are asking people to support the appeal by fundraising or making a donation. To find out more and make a donation visit the TREE AID website.

Read more:

Monday, 22 April 2013

Giant couscous salad with butternut squash and preserved lemons

I love giant (also known as Israeli) couscous – it genuinely makes things interesting, unlike regular couscous which can like a bit of a cop-out unless it is done properly. It is readily available, and I tend to use the Merchant Gourmet brand, because they stock it in my local supermarket and it comes in both regular and whole-wheat – I use whole-wheat.

This salad is fantastic – fresh, sweet and sour, kind of like the big brother of my favourite fruity couscous recipe here. I found it on the brilliant foodie website Epicurious, and I fell in love with the recipe because it includes the instructions for how to scale it up to 50 portions. And this definitely is a good recipe for mass-catering, or potlucks. The original recipe can be seen here

Serves 4-6

200g giant (Israeli) couscous
1 small butternut squash (or half a large one) peeled and diced into cubes no bigger than 1 inch
1 tsp cumin seeds
Olive oil
2 preserved lemons
Handful pine nuts or flaked almonds (or both) toasted until golden brown
Handful golden raisins or sultanas
Half a bunch of fresh parsley – washed and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

Rinse the lemons and halve them. Scoop out flesh, keeping both flesh and peel. Cut the peel into smallish dice. Put lemon flesh in a sieve over a bowl and squash with back of a spoon to extract the juice.

Toss the squash with 1 tbsp oil, cumin seeds and salt in a large oven tray and spread in 1 layer. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, or until it is tender and browned in parts.

While the squash is roasting, cook couscous in a large pot of boiling water according to package instructions, and drain in a colander (do not rinse).

Empty the couscous into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, plus the juice reserved from the lemons, the roasted squash (plus any tray-scrapings) and another tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Roasted Sea Bass with sumac and za’atar

Hi everyone sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. This is a slightly different take on my last whole roasted fish recipe but the basic principles and sentiments about eating whole fish and buying it remain the same.Whole roasted or grilled fish is just about my favourite kind of meal. For me it tastes like summer holidays. Its not that it is difficult to make, in fact it is super easy, but it is still a treat. This can be made with sea bass or bream. Versions of this recipe can be seen in most Middle-Eastern cookbooks, and it really is brilliant. Tahini and pomegranate may seem like odd accompaniments if you haven’t tried it before – but believe me, once you try it you will never want to eat fish any other way again. 
Buying fish has become a lot harder lately, but there are some handy websites that you can use to ensure that the fish you are buying has been sustainably sourced. This heightened need for sustainability has led to better labelling of fish and seafood which is a good thing, and most fishmongers should be able to answer all of your questions about where the fish is from – if they can’t, don’t buy from them. Sea bass farmed in the UK is rated ‘1’ according to the Good Fish Guide, associated with the most sustainably produced seafood. Sea bream, which is a good alternative for this dish, can also be bought from sustainable sources. 
In my last post I wrote some advice about buying whole fish, and that advice still stands, I just need to add a little specific to sea bass. Sea Bass have a series of very sharp spikes along their dorsal fins. These spikes will contain anaerobic bacteria – bacteria that doesn’t need oxygen to breathe – and will therefore be much more likely to cause a nasty infection if you stab yourself with one of these spikes. This happened to my mum once – her hand pretty much turned green and she had to get antibiotics from the doctor. So when you are buying them, make sure to ask the fishmonger to cut all of the spikes off for you. Even if buying from a wet fish counter in a supermarket from the confused teenager behind the counter – you have to insist on this. This happened to me once and they called their supervisor over who said ‘of course we should do this’ and then taught said confused young person how to properly trim the fish. If buying the fish pre-packaged (ie from Costco) put some rubber gloves on when you take the fish out of the packet and cut them off yourself before you cook it.
This is not a dish for making earlier and keeping warm – you do not want to cook the fish for any longer than it needs, so make sure that everything else you are planning on making for the meal is ready when the fish is done.
Whole Seas bass – some are small and so 1 per person, others are larger and can feed more. Sometimes I roast a whole load and put them on a platter for a larger group of people. In those kind of situations, people tend to take a little less and so it can stretch further. You can also use Sea Bream.
1 tsp. Sumac
1 tsp. Za’atar

1 tbsp. Olive oil
Pinch salt – Maldon sea salt if you have it.
 To serve:
Tahini sauce (made with olive oil and lemon juice, see recipe here)
Fresh parsley, well washed and finely chopped
Pomegranate molasses
Pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until golden brown and fragrant
Fresh pomegranate seeds (if you have them)
Use an oven tray with risen edges, so that the juices don’t spill out into the oven – I tend to put foil on the tray too.
Preheat the oven to 200 if using smaller fish, 180 is using larger fish.
Give the fish a rinse under the tap and check that the middle section has been properly cleaned through – you may have to pull out a few little veiny things. Using a sharp knife, carefully make 3 -4 slashes on both sides of the fish, being careful not to cut through the bone (or slice off a finger).
In a bowl, mix the olive oil with the sumac and za’atar. Put the fish on the tray, coat generously with the spiced oil and sprinkle with salt. Make sure that a little goes into the cuts you have made in the sides of the fish. When using small fish I tend not to flip them during cooking and so only put the seasonings on the top. If using a bigger fish, put the seasonings on both sides. If using a small fish roast for 15 minutes – bigger ones will need around 25, flipping halfway during cooking. Don’t overcook!
Toast the pine nuts and make up the tahini sauce while the fish is cooking, and mix in the chopped parsley. Pour the parsley tahini sauce into a serving dish and top with a little pomegranate molasses and the pine nuts.
Many recipes recommend dressing the whole fish with the tahini and pomegranate seeds, but this doesn’t really work for me. The tahini sauce can cancel out the crispness of the skin on the fish, and the coverings make it much harder to identify any stray bones. I would recommend serving the tahini sauce on the side, with the pomegranate seeds in another bowl for people to help themselves to. Whatever you do, please don’t cut the head off the fish before serving – its just not right.