I’m back. I’ve missed you.
2015 has been an interesting year, and although I took a break from blogging, I didn’t stop cooking, or eating, or buying cookbooks, or obsessing about food basically all the time.
I’ve been trying to think about what my food highlights of 2015 were, and its tricky because it was a very good year, but they definitely included:
1. My first ever proper thanksgiving dinner courtesy of my brilliant family in the US, including a whole smoked turkey which was absolutely the most delicious turkey I have ever eaten. I also experienced my first ever turkey-coma, which is a thing.
2. Growing my very own tomatoes for the first time
3. Coming second in a cookery competition at my workplace, with bona fide proper foodie Oliver Peyton actually eating food that I had made.
So yeah, second place! Pretty great right? For the competition I got to wear whites and cook in a large restaurant kitchen, with all of my ingredients portioned out in little plastic tubs like on the telly. I absolutely loved it – all shiny metal surfaces, massive pots and big knives. I won a copy of the National Gallery Cookbook, which is a really lovely combination of beautiful art and tasty recipes, and a whole load of Peyton and Byrne vouchers, which is very handy. Seeing as asides from food I absolutely love going to art galleries, this was a pretty excellent prize.
For the competition I chose to cook a vegan meal, as I don’t eat non-kosher meat and I thought that the chances of me overcooking fish in the pressure of a competition was too high. Once I was cooking vegetarian, the jump to vegan wasn’t actually that difficult, as most of what I wanted to make was vegan anyway. I also thought it was important to demonstrate that it is possible to create filling and delicious meals that don’t have animal products in it.
For the competition we had to make a savoury main, and my dish was:
Celeriac and artichoke sofrito with roasted cauliflower, dukkah and a pomegranate herb salad.
I’ve made the celeriac dish many times before and you can see the recipe for it here, all I changed was adding frozen artichokes and canned chickpeas instead of potatoes. I chose it because a. it is bright yellow and yellow makes people happy b. it is really delicious c. it cooks surprisingly quickly for something so hearty.
I’ve blogged about cauliflower with tahini before, but this was a bit different – its all competitiony and fancy. It is more complicated, but definitely worth it if you want to impress a bit more than usual. And it is really, really tasty. Reserve the cauliflower off-cuts to use in something else, like soup, mash or cauliflower ‘rice’ (which sounds gross).
Shana introduced me to the joys of dukkah. It is like a middle-eastern crunchy rubble – the soggy crumbs that I have started seeing on top of some brands of humous does definitely not count. Dukkah is delicious on its own with bread and olive oil (in little bowls for alternate dipping), sprinkled over scrambled eggs, garnishing dhal, or with practically anything else.
Cauliflower, cut into steaks about ½-2/3 inch thick
Salt and pepper
For the tahini sauce:
(this will probably make more than you need, but always useful to have some in the fridge)
3 tbsp tahini (don’t use organic tahini as it is like cement).
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
For the dukkah:
2 tbsp Coriander seeds
2 tbsp Cumin seeds
2/3 cup Hazelnuts (or almonds)
1 tbsp Nigella seeds
2/3 cup Sesame seeds
1 tsp Sea salt
To make the dukkah, toast the seeds and nuts separately, either in a dry frying pan or in the oven. Rub off hazelnut skins (or buy blanched). Roughly smash/grind in a mortar and pestle with the salt. End result should be rubble, as opposed to paste.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Fry the cauliflower steaks in olive oil over a medium heat, about 5 minutes each side, seasoning as you turn, until golden. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes to ensure that they are cooked through.
To make tahini sauce, put a few tablespoons of tahini in a bowl and add a little water and most of the lemon juice. When you start stirring, the mixture will seize and become grainy, but don’t worry this is normal. Continue adding water and mixing until the sauce becomes creamy. Add more lemon juice to taste along with a little salt, and some garlic or garlic powder (optional).
To serve, drizzle the cauliflower artfully with the date syrup and tahini, and scatter dukkah over the top.