Category Archives: Savoury

Orange is the new black…

 

Everything is Orange.  Or gold.  Or turning orangey-gold.  The sun is shining, and setting fire to every rust and russet that shimmers in the breeze, clinging without real hope to sleepy trees.  The frost adds a certain magical sparkle to anything that doesn’t quite meet my glittery requirements. Pumpkins of various hues adorn every doorstep in the neighbourhood, and the twinkle of fairy lights are slowly becoming ‘de rigueur’.  It is official . . . winter is coming.  My nose is red and my cheeks are more so, I blend well with the colours of autumn and the Michelin style oversized down jacket has made its’ annual reappearance.  Carmex and Coffee are not a winning pairing, I note, as my first sips of morning Americano are tainted by the scent and slick of menthol lipsalve.  But a little frozen hand is thrust in my spare one, and I make a decision. I like November in Seattle.  I like it very much.

Though feeling hopelessly romantic about this particularly pretty moment, I know that imminently I will be plunged into 50 shades of grey depression, brought on by short gloomy days.  Too cold and wet to venture outside, except to pick up and drop off damp grumpy children.  Meals become larger, heavier, and wetter too, often echoing the colours of outside in an effort to bring some colour into the kitchen.  But, god help me, I am bored of squash. I cannot bear the thought of one more Butternut soup, Pumpkin Pie, roasted Spaghetti or Delicata.  I am ‘pumpkined’ out and I haven’t even started thinking about Thanksgiving – and the ubiquitous pie that cannot be avoided.  I think I shall be serving pumpkin ice cream with crunchy amaretti biscuits and a little shot of Theo’s Chocolate hot cocoa.  Anyone got any better ideas?

I have not given up on everything orange, though.  Well, not quite.  Carrots are still abundant at the farmers market and deliver all the earthy notes and smoky sweetness that I crave at this time of year, without the sugary, creamy richness of its rounder second cousin.  Throw it in an oven that is just a little too hot, with plenty of garlic and spices, and you have something robust and hearty enough to take centre stage at the table, not simply stand humbly beside the main event.

In this recipe the combination of hot, caramelized (even slightly burnt) roasted carrots and a cool, creamy, tangy cheese is one I find refreshing.  The clash of textures awakens the palate, and hails perhaps just a hint of Spring on the distant horizon with the perky, clean additions of fresh coriander/cilantro and tart, rich cheese.

My guilt about berating the Butternut will undoubtedly ensure an imminent recipe.  Watch this space…

Dukkah

The ingredients below are relatively numerous, but don’t be put off. Make a batch of Dukkah and you won’t be disappointed – it can be used in so many ways; a crust for fish or poultry, an addition to vegetables, dip a hard boiled egg in it or just serve it with warm, crusty bread and a slosh of very good olive oil when supper isn’t quite ready and you need to keep your guests at bay!

I like to use the stunning organic rainbow carrots grown in California, paired specifically with Yarmuth Farm’s French Creek Cheese; a bloomy, creamy cheese with a distinct tart kick – I believe they are still at the University District and Ballard Farmers’ Markets throughout the winter.  However, any tangy creamy cheese will strike a good balance – use your favourite and get creative!

Ingredients For Dukkah

50g flaked almonds
20g pistachio nut meats
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dry green peppercorns (or white, as an alternative)
3 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp Sea salt flakes
1 tsp Za’atar
1 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of sumac 

 

Dukkah Method

Gently roast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds in a hot cast iron pan until they start to pop – this will take about 30 seconds. Remove and put into pestle and mortar. Turn off the heat and allow pan to cool a little, then tip in the nigella and sesame seeds, constantly stirring, and remove when the sesame starts to turn golden. Add them to the seeds. Lightly crush until coarsely ground with the peppercorns.

Finely chop the almonds and pistachios and add to the mix with the final ingredients. You should end up with a coarse, dry, well combined mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Maple Roasted Carrots with Dukkah and Goat’s Brie

Roasted Carrots

15 medium sized carrots, halved or quartered if larger
2 TBSPs Good Olive Oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 TBSP coriander seed
1 TBSP cumin seed
1 TBSP fresh lemon zest
2 TBSPS Maple Syrup
2 TBSPs Dukkah
a large handful of fresh coriander/cilantro
One small, ripe, Goat’s Brie, or similar

 

The Dressing

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Olive oil
S & P
1 tsp maple syrup

 

Method

Pre heat oven to 450F

carrots on a tray ready for roastingGrind the coriander and cumin seed with a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, lemon zest and maple syrup and slowly add the olive oil as you continue to grind to a loose paste. Toss the carrots in the paste with your hands in a large bowl, ensuring all are evenly covered in the mixture and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet/oven tray.

Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots take on really good colour, even becoming a little burnt around the edges. Remove and drizzle over the dressing, allowing to cool slightly, before composing the dish. Pile the carrots jauntily, adding coriander/cilantro leaves and fat slices of the brie as you layer them slowly upwards. Sprinkle liberally with Dukkah and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Filed under Everything!, Savoury, Winter

In an effort to be interesting…

Yet again, I am at a dinner party and asked what my favourite food is.  I take a deep breath and try, as ever, to conjure from the ether a scintillating response.  None come.  My most recent acquaintance probes harder; “well . . . can’t you at least tell me what ‘sort of food’ you like to cook?”

When people find out that you cook, they seem instantaneously to want to categorise you.  Are you a Pastry Chef? You are a girl, so you probably bake cakes, don’t you?  It is true, I love to bake, and have mixed success in this area.  Indeed there are some baked items that I am famous for (well, at least amongst a very select few), and there are some things that I pride myself on having invented or improved upon . . . until I am told otherwise, of course.

There are recipes that I have been given over the years that just work.  A rare find in fact.  One, and only one, I admit to unashamedly stealing, which at the time caused the originators chef a sort of pride infused amusement.  But the recipe has long since been updated and reincarnated, and the chef it once belonged to is currently serving serious time.  So I don’t feel too bad.  I also secretly like to think that this particular recipe’s connection with someone more than a little on the dark side, has somehow added depth to it’s already wicked and bitter dark chocolate self.  Plus, I later found out, he in fact nicked it from someone else.

I try to answer honestly, and yet always seem to give a different answer.  I can’t bear pretentiousness and try so hard to avoid the obvious.  It would be so easy to say “Oh . . .  I do love truffles and foie gras, and I won’t eat anything other than Poilâne Bread with sweet French Farmhouse butter”.   But it is rubbish, I much prefer a burnt Pagnotta and English salty butter, and though it might placate my interviewer, I just can’t bring myself to say it.

I see the disappointment when my response is honest.  It is pizza.  “Seriously? Pizza”?  Yes, I respond; “Why? Have you had a good one recently in Singapore?”  And then the conversation begins.  Pizza is not just pizza.  The difference between a seriously good pizza and the kind you buy in the freezer section of the supermarket is incomparable.

And there it is.  I start sounding all pretentious again.  But it is true.  I have only had one serious Pizza in Singapore made for me by Osvaldo Forlino at Osvaldo’s before he left to set up No Menu with his family.  I have not been back to Osvaldo’s (now renamed L’Angolo) and he doesn’t make pizza at No Menu. I cannot begrudge him this . . . his wife and daughters have conjured an Italian menu virtually impossible to find fault with, in a truly charming shophouse setting.

Mario Batali does a pretty damn good one at The Marina Bay Sands, but these days you wait twenty minutes for the table you booked, twenty minutes for a menu, and then get told it might take forty five minutes to arrive!  A wood- fired oven can cook a pizza in less than 3 minutes, and the more I think about this the more annoyed I get, though it is hard to fault with Nancy Silverton’s pizza dough recipe which they use.  But I use the same recipe at home, and have done for years,  and I can have my pizza in a lot less time.

But I digress.  The truth is;  I wish I had a slightly more exciting answer for next time than ‘pizza’.

And then, this summer, there it was.  “You’ll never guess what it is in Grumpy’s garden”! I was greeted with this shouted query on our arrival at my parents’ home in the rolling English Somerset countryside.  “He has been saving them . . . Your favourites . . . Courgette flowers”.

It is true.  They are indeed my absolute favourite thing in the world (well, as well as hot crusty bread and cold, hard butter; artichokes in all their forms; white asparagus with blood orange hollandaise; Butterscotch Angel Delight;  Burnt Caramel ice cream from Island Creamery sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt and cheese in pretty much all forms and . . . well  obviously . . . pizza).  Why, oh why can I never think of these things when confronted by foodie interrogators?

Courgette flowers are special.  They are only around for a few weeks of the year, and though very easy to grow, (in fact often a discarded or ignored by-product of growing courgettes) they are incredibly fragile and delicate in texture and flavour.

They are my perfect answer.  They are rare and difficult to find, so not your average response, yet utterly unpretentious as easy to grow and often absolutely free . . . unless of course, you live in Singapore.

I have just been given a small box of these perfect, delicate blooms.  In England, for me, they trumpet the first sign of Summer, though Spring is barely in evidence I understand.  I am standing in a cold storage container unit on Singapore’s west coast and I daren’t ask where they come from.  I squirrel away my tiny stash of guilty pleasures knowing they have probably clocked up more airmiles than my husband.

But now . . . what to do with them?  I bought some freshly made ravioli at Marylebone’s farmer’s market last summer, billed as ‘Ricotta and Zucchini Flower’.  Pretentious.  But I couldn’t resist.  Sadly they were a little disappointing; you certainly couldn’t taste the courgette flower and the ricotta was bland and grainy. I couldn’t even really manage to revive the rather flaccid rectangles with a wonderful (though rather wasted) nutty Olive Oil and a heavy hand with the S &P.

Having got my bounty home I decided to stick to my mantra: “if you have great ingredients; don’t mess with them”.  Well, sort of.  I have, I hope, at least partly learnt my lesson from an aborted attempt at fritters last year.  I had made a light batter using my father’s delicious home made cider (using ingredients from the same region; ‘terroir’ and all that) and was rather smug about what I felt sure the result would be.  I was wrong.  The cider turned bitter in the heat, and totally overpowered the taste of the flowers.  I swallowed.  My flowers, and my pride.

This time I would try to keep it simple.  No fancy batter or pretentious stuffing ingredients.  Just heaven.

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini/Courgette Flowers

 Batter:

¼ cup plain flour

1 egg

1/3 cup soda water

large pinch of salt and good grind of pepper

Ricotta stuffing:

ideally use ‘Galbani’ ricotta; it holds together really well

250g ricotta

1 tsp sea salt flakes

½ tsp lemon juice

1 TBSP grated parmesan

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

Method

To make the stuffing simply combine all the ingredients well and then use a small spoon to help distribute the stuffing evenly into the very core of the trumpet.  You only need about a teaspoonful in each, taking care not to bruise the flower as you work.  Gently bring the feathery ends to a close and place on greaseproof paper in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

To make the batter; place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Crack the egg into the well.  Using a fork, begin to mix the egg into the flour and dribble in the soda water to help loosen the mixture as you go.  Once the mixture is a uniform, thick cream consistency (no lumps!), slowly pour in the rest of the soda water, stirring all the time.  Set it to one side.

Take a large, non stick frying pan and place three or four TBSPs of canola or vegetable oil, and one TBSP of olive oil into the pan.  The oil should cover the base of the pan well but not be at all deep.  Bring the pan up to a medium heat and splatter in some batter to check that it is ready – the batter should gently go golden and bubble a little – not spit too much or burn.  When ready, generously dip your flowers in the batter, ensuring they are completely submerged before removing and placing in the frying pan.  A little excess batter is welcome – don’t try to shake off all the excess drips!  Turn after about 30 seconds or when the underside has become the desired colour and cook the other side. 

Remove, and drain on paper towel.  Sprinkle with Maldon Sea Salt and eat immediately, ideally with a cold glass of white wine or a light beer.

Eat immediately . . .

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Everything!, Recipes, Savoury, Summer