May 12, 2011 § 17 Comments
Last week I started a Cheap&Cheerful category on Blushing Strawberries’ with these fritters, and thank you to everyone who gave me tips on making a more ‘attractive’ fritter. I’m looking forward to trying again tomorrow, once I buy corn at the farmer’s market.
Lately NB and I have been looking into the Paleo Diet and the Primal Blueprint diet. In the coming weeks I will share one or two in depth posts on the subject, but for now let’s just summarise them as eating the way a caveman would eat – if it does not run, fly or swim, or if it isn’t green, then don’t eat it. Of course that is a wild generalisation and there are many nuances to the theory, which that statement has denied. But basically it is about eliminating all carbohydrates, grains and legumes, all processed foods, most sugars and dairy (a little bit of fruit is ok).
Before NB and I make any grand statements about how ‘We soo, totally eat Paleo now’, I thought I should recap on my history of sticking to a diet:
B/S on Detoxing - “Remember that this diet is not meant to impinge on my sociability”
B/S on Vegetarianism - “I remember once when I was a teenager, maybe 13 or 14, I decided to become a vegetarian. The memory is sadly clear. At breakfast I declare myself vegetarian. Five hours later I smell my dad cooking bacon. I renounce my newfound diet.”
Not that NB can claim to be high and mighty: Do you think Cheerios or Cheetos are more Paleo?
But we are slowly trying to include meals that fall in line with this way of eating, at maybe a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio. Which brings me to last nights Cheap&Cheerful dinner – a primal blueprint salad.
Now while Paleo may seem a little extreme for beginners, the Primal Blueprint diet offers a little more leniency, and Mark’s Daily Apple is a great starting point if you are interested in more information. One of the ‘sensible vices‘ allowed under PB is cheese. Here is what Mark has to say:
“While we aren’t diehard fans of all dairy, “the power of the cheese” is right on. However, we do believe in skipping the weirdo processed stuff reminiscent of school lunches. Play it snooty and go for the good, aged stuff. Not only is aged cheese a fermented food, it contains little to no lactose. It’s also got good fat, essential nutrients, and a wallop of protein. But this will all be mere peripheral chatter once you’re actually enjoying. The satisfaction surpasses all of the above.”
Truer words were never spoken! The satisfied look on NB’s face when he bit in to a sesame-chilli goats cheese balls, and his following proclamation that this is the BEST healthy meal I have ever made, is enough to keep this chef satisfied all summer long. Because after all, why would we want to eat healthily if it doesn’t taste delicious?
Goats cheese salad with spinach stuffed chicken breast
The money-saver aspect in this dish comes from using whatever you have on hand in your crisper or your garden. By using up leftover spinach and tomatoes from the previous nights dinner, I was able to stuff the chicken and wrap them in bacon from the freezer. You might have some sundried tomatoes or mushrooms lying around, which would work a treat. Choose whatever herbs are in your pots, garden or fridge and buy the goats cheese from a deli, not the supermarket, to save money on packaging.
2 medium sized chicken breasts, halved crossways
2 tablespoon of pesto (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
large handful of english spinach, washed and roughly chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, thickly sliced
4 slices bacon or prosciutto
1/2 butternut pumpkin or acorn squash, diced into 3cm cubes and tossed with olive oil, thyme and salt
2 large handfuls of baby spinach or mixed mesclun
1/2 red apple, finely sliced into fans
Herb goats cheese balls
50g goats cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsely, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
Sesame Goats cheese balls
50g goats cheese
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chilli flakes
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds (optional) or poppyseeds
Preheat oven to 160C, 350F and roast pumpkin on a large baking tray.
Meanwhile, to stuff chicken, make a wide insertion into each half, making sure that the knife does not puncture through the breast. Rub 1/2 tablespoon of pesto inside each cavity. Heat 1tbl oil a large based frypan over medium heat and begin to saute garlic. Add in spinach and cook until just wilted. Allow to cool before stuffing each chicken cavity with 1/4 of the tomatoes, and spinach mixture. Wrap to enclose with bacon and secure with a toothpick.
For goats cheese balls, take a tablespoon of cheese and shape into a round using the palm of your hands. Coat half the balls in the herb mix and half in the sesame mix. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Serve chicken, pumpkin and goats cheese atop baby spinach, tossed with a dressing of equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Garnish with extra herbs and apple slices.
May 2, 2011 § 5 Comments
I have great news! The porch is ready!
Anyone that knows me will freely admit that I have a habit of creating jobs for myself. Not only is our kitchen table covered in To-Do-Lists for immediate jobs, but also to-do-lists for longer term jobs and to-do-lists for backup jobs that I could do if I ran out of jobs. Needless to say, I don’t understand free time.
For some reason I thought that the move to America would teach me to chill out a bit more. Perhaps even sit back and smell the roses. But then I realised – we had no roses to smell. Unfortunately for NB, this was the beginning of the end for our free weekends and not until two months later was the garden deemed finished.
Alas, this is not all. As I was standing outside in the early morning light, admiring our handy work and whispering sweet nothings to our darling little seedlings, I was struck by how grubby the back porch appeared in comparison. Oh dear. At this stage NB threw up his hands in despair and retreated to the safety of Family Guy reruns, and to be honest I can hardly blame him. Fortunately for me FoodieFresh was happy to don her painting shorts and a few weekends ago we made 5 hours of serious progress.
It was somewhere around here that the project stagnated. Admittedly the state was being ravaged by terrible storms, of which we were getting the tail end, and we were also busy with various eating engagements, but to be honest I think I had just run out of steam.
Saturday arrived and I was busy in the kitchen preparing for a little dinner soiree that night. We had some friends coming over who had lived in Sydney when we were there (they only returned to America a few months before we did) and NB and I thought it would be a good idea to relive the Thai scene that is so dominant back home. Lost as I was in marinating ribs, grating ginger and folding dumplings, that is was a couple of hours before I realised that I hadn’t heard a peep out of NB!
With a trail of shredded cabbage falling behind me, I went searching.
And wouldn’t you know it, there he was out on the porch finishing the painting. Hurrah!!
Ace of Spade’s delicious butter biscuit shortbread with strawberries and cream
That night, as I chinked my prosecco glass with our guests, I made a little promise to myself that next weekend we would relax…Do you believe me?
Sticky Asian Spare Ribs (the style that an Aussie girl can be proud to present in the South)
1.5kg (3 1/4 lb), or 16 American-style pork spare ribs
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbl grated ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime.
Bring a large crockpot of water to the boil and blanch ribs, rinsing and refreshing under cold water.
Mix marinade together in a large ceramic baking dish and toss ribs to coat. Cover and allow to marinate for 4+ hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 160C/ 280F and remove ribs from fridge, allowing to return to room temperature.
Leaving the baking dish covered with foil, cook ribs for 3 hours or until meat begins to flake off bone. Remove from oven and stand, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
For thicker sauce, drain some of the sauce from the baking dish into a saucepan and bring to the boil, whisking constantly until thick.
Serve with steamed rice.
April 14, 2011 § 6 Comments
Spring weather has officially arrived and I could not be happier! I love spring, mainly because I love seeing people shaking off their winter coats and spending afternoons sipping drinks in a beer garden, or long, lazy Sundays lounging in the park with the picnic basket, a couple of bottles of Proseco and a good book. It is a time of rebirth, renewal, regrowth and reconnection.
I have been bowled over with the beauty, and energy, that spring has brought here in Charlotte. Cherry blossoms and dogwoods were thick with blossom for most of March, and daffodils made blankets of yellow on the lawn of many homes. What I loved most was returning from our weekend in Pennsylvania and seeing that the city had exploded with a thousands shade of green. It was breathtaking and reminded me of growing up in the country, where after ten days away at the beach in September we would return and see that our garden had been coloured in with every green from bright apple to deep eucalyptus. I never experienced the same oomph during the change of seasons in Sydney, so this really was a sight for sore eyes.
NB and I have certainly felt ourselves energised and have taken on many projects to prepare our home for hosting spring parties. Weekends have been spent digging garden beds and planting seeds, trimming hedges and mowing lawns. To be honest I think NB was relieved when my lovely friend @ FoodieFresh came over to help me paint the porch on Sunday, and talk about women power! What a job! I also love that FF paints with the philosophy of a friend’s father – it is necessary to drink beers while painting as a form of time management. When you’ve had a sufficient amount to drink and can no longer climb up the ladder, it is time to call it a day!
The local farmers markets have also started, and we are fortunate enough to have two at the end of our rode, a stones throw away. Warm evenings and fresh produce call for keeping meals as simple as possible. One meal that ticks all the boxes is this Spring Meatball Salad. This meal was actually made by The Duck in my last two weeks in Australia and nearly all the salad ingredients were picked straight from our garden before we set the table. I simply love the nasturtium flowers
In winter, these meatballs are made and cooked in a tomato sauce made rich and delicious with cream and homemade stock. In the warmer months however they are perfect for a salad, a meatball sub or skewer them and have them as part of a cocktail party with garlic aioli. From the number of taste testings we have done on the recipe, this one is the winner!
The Duck’s Winning Meatballs:
500g or about 1 pound beef mince
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli (ditto!)
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs (make your own with day old bread in the food processor and freeze individual cup-portions in ziplock bags)
Any scraps of herbs from the crisper or garden
Any spice flavour that you like: e.g Moroccan, Cajun…
Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl with your hands. Form into small meatballs using the ‘Metro Method’, i.e. toss from hand to hand like a baseball player!
Put on a glad-wrap lined tray (=no washing!) and have a 2nd tray beside it. Once meatballs are all formed, have a pile of flour and lightly roll each one on it before setting on the 2nd tray.
To cook meatballs, heat a splash of olive oil in a large based fry pan over med-high heat. Once browned on one side, turn the meatballs over and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with foil and cook about 10 minutes until cooked through but still juicy inside (if using the meatballs for pasta, only cook 2/3 of the way through and finish cooking in sauce).
Sit meatballs aside while you toss together a salad (leaves, lebanese cucumber, cherry tomatoes, marinated artichokes, olives, red onion, cannelini beans etc). For dressing, combine some of the juice from the jar of artichokes with Greek yoghurt and garlic aioli.
(note: It is worth taking the extra time to roll the meatballs nice and small so they cook faster and stay juicy. To freeze meatballs, line a baking tray with paper and evenly layer the meatballs, repeat with another layer of paper on top if needed. When frozen you can toss the meatballs into a ziplock bag and freeze. To defrost, shake them back out on to a baking tray so they don’t get squashed, and thaw in the fridge overnight.)
March 28, 2011 § 4 Comments
We’re sitting on the cusp of changing seasons, which is messing with my wardrobe and messing with my menu plans. One day I will be dining on goats cheese salad and felafel on the outside terrace of 300 East with friends, and the next I am snuggled up in trackpants stirring pots of soup on the stove. In times like this you have to be prepared to change dinner plans, incase the morning sun belies a much cooler evening to come.
Last Thursday the temperature dropped from up in the 80s to 49 Fahrenheit, which made the poached egg and watercress salad I had been planning on suddenly seem wildly inappropriate. With a deadline looming for the magazine, dinner had to be thrown together with half a brain.
NB went out for lemons while I fried some chicken legs in a pan with onion, garlic, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms. I’m a fan of any meal that gives the excuse to open a bottle of pinot grigio, which I liberally splashed over the chicken with a few tablespoons of pesto and covered it on a low simmer for 10 minutes.
Served with mashed potatoes and crusty bread, this is cold night cooking at its best.
March 1, 2011 § 8 Comments
Rotisserie chicken is taking the flogosphere by storm with February seeing the resurgence of the ‘BBQ Chook’. The more I read here and here and here, the more guilty I felt for shunning the challenge. My hesitancy was linked to experience that it is always the simplest things in the kitchen that make the biggest disasters, like poaching an egg, frying a steak or grilling pita bread (don’t ask!)
Yet despite my guilt I still hadn’t cooked roast chicken. Enter intervention of the food Gods, who had been watching my dilly-dallying with great frustration.
The moment of truth came during the second mile of a 6 mile run that I was doing with my gal pal over at Foodie Fresh. She mentioned that she had turned Susie Homemaker and roasted her first chicken. If that wasn’t a giant sign from up above then I don’t know what is.
This is how I became pumped to roast a bird.
BUT NB was suddenly called away on a Top-Secret work mission to some distant land (where they served *ahem* cafeteria food…) and it really seemed rather gluttonous for me to roast an entire hen for myself. I mean we all know I can eat, but that would be in the league of these crazy people .
Even though my plans had been thwarted it wasn’t enough to deter me. NB had been home from his travels less than 48 hours and begged me for beef cooked with The Duck’s famous stirfry marinade (stay tuned folks), but being the hard ass I’ve had to become to get a chicken roasted, I said no. We were going to have a baked dinner.
With a borrowed recipe and a little help from Handicap 5 we were in business for beer can stuffed chicken. Yes! And wouldn’t you know it, the procrastination was the hardest part. Roasting a chicken with a beer up its tush is as simple as stuffing, sprinkling and sitting back to wait.
Tell me Blushers, what’s your procrastination recipe?
(I still made NB his Asian stirfry sides!)
Beer Can Chicken
Preheat oven to 375F (190C) Take a 4.8 pound chicken (c.2kg) and remove it’s innards before rinsing and patting dry. Rub the skin with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and any other seasoning of choice (we used a nice poultry rub based on cumin, coriander and paprika).
Open a can of beer and take a couple of large gulps. Insert the can into the chicken cavity, with the can mouth facing to the top.
Sit chicken in a roasting tray, bottoms up so the beer won’t spill (you might need to cradle it with ramekins either side).
Roast for 1hr 30 minutes or until the juices run clear from the thigh and breast. Remove from oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
February 25, 2011 § 11 Comments
Moving countries has the uncanny side-effect of reducing your social circle to one.
So the Strawberry Patch is pleased to announce that we have made girlfriends
Truth be told this could not have happened any sooner as I’m certain I was nearly arrested for loitering at the grocery checkout trying to pick up the female bag packers several times. Or even more inappropriately, staring at women in the gym in the vain hope that eye contact will plant the seed for friendship – I think that the YMCA has a ‘predator alert’ on me. Most of all, it will be good news for NB, whose ear I have talked off this past month and whom I was about to ask out for a day of nails, salads (dressing on the side) and dress shopping!!
One of my new gal-pals is a fellow blogger, who I asked out for a blind date one Saturday brunch. Fortunately Foodie Fresh decided that this wasn’t creepy and we met for eggs at The Dandelion Market…we then ran 6 miles, which is 9.6km, unless you do the conversion backwards and think you’re only running 3k – She’s super fit and stayed cool, calm and collected while I nearly died!
With a successful first date under our belt (should I start a dating site for single food-loving women??!) we planned a girls-night-in with the EBW of Thanksgiving ham-biscuit fame.
I tossed together a giant bowl of Bang Bang Chicken, one of The Duck’s clever inventions, but I used tofu and mushrooms because we were traveling the vege route that night.
You must try this one, it’s so easy, and apart from the protein everything is simply raw and julienned. Plus the nut butter is a great source of healthy fats, so we weren’t even tempted with dessert! Check out the photos.
Tell me Blushers, where is the oddest place you have ever picked up a friend?
Bang Bang Chicken
Shred 2 large poached chicken breasts, or finely slice and stirfry 450g tofu in 1/2 tbl peanut oil. Set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook enough soba noodles to suit your fancy, err on the side of extra! Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
- Spanish onion
- Lebanese cucumber
- 1 large red capsicum
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large celery sticks
- Handful snow peas
- 1 long red chilli
Toss in a bowl with a handful of baby spinach leaves and a handful of beansprouts. Add chicken and noodles.
- 2 tbl sesame oil
- 4 tbl natural peanut butter or almond butter
- 4 tbl sweet chilli sauce or sricacha
- 4 tbl Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s or Reduced Salt Soy Sauce
- 2 tbl rice wine vinegar
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime
Shake up everything in a jar and adjust to taste.
Toss dressing through the salad and top with sesame seeds, coriander (cilantro), cashews and extra chilli if you like it hot).
February 11, 2011 § 3 Comments
Last night’s dinner was Osso Bucco, I thought it would help stave away the freezing temperatures we’ve been having. But what seemed like a good idea turned into a treasure hunt, both time consuming and expensive. With only two butchers within reasonable traveling distance -the pricey New York Butcher Shoppe and the Halal Butcher – and an over representation of steak in the supermarket, I couldn’t for the life of me find the meat! (Apparently there is also a lamb drought, according to my fellow yogi in crime, but that’s another story…)
Finally I found my veal shanks at The Fresh Market, which would be a nice place to do all my shopping if I was rich, instead of being unemployed and living on the opposite side of the world! Do you remember in my previous Osso Bucco post, back in the days of Gluten Free eating, when I said:
“Osso bucco is a fantastic dish because this cut of the veal shank is usually quite inexpensive, which means you can spend the savings on two (or more?!) beautiful bottles of red – one for cooking, one for drinking”
Not so here, and $60 later I came out with 5 pieces. I mean, it’s veal shank, what?!?! Anyway, they were lovely meaty cuts from the hind leg, which is why I’m showing you photos of raw meat, and honestly it’s always worth the effort if the result is a yummy, cosy meal to share with your family and friends!
Tell me, what’s the most expensive ingredient you have paid for??
Blush. Eat. Sigh. Dream. Snuggle.
November 9, 2010 § 3 Comments
I’ve been wanting to make a duck salad since The Duck (oh dear!) and I visited Chinatown last month but the weather turned and the time hasn’t felt right. Fortunately last week saw a few sunny days before the rain set back in and I spent a lovely hour one afternoon creating a little thai-inspired banquet.
I always feel a bit sad when I see them hanging there…
Bargains at Paddys Markets
I love cooking Thai because the flavours are so clean and fresh, even NB commented on the super-healthy-factor! I also love that I can make a delicious dinner in under an hour that didn’t break the student budget! You know what this means Blushers?! There’s change to buy a crisp Margaret River semillon viognier and time to sit down and enjoy it!
The following meals evolved from one of those make-up as you go along kind of feelings, so take them as guidelines and feel free to makes changes at the whim of your belly and your crisper!
Shredded Duck Salad
Julienne 1 large carrot (I’m sticking with my carrot diet, I promise! This is just like a nicotine patch), 1 red capsicum and 1 large cucumber. Finely slice 1/4 chinese red cabbage, a large handful of snow peas and a bunch of asparagus. Toss in a large bowl with half a packet of bean sprouts, 1 bunch chopped coriander and 1/2 bunch chopped mint.
Shred 1/2 a BBQ’d chinese duck and add to salad (if you’ve been keeping the duck in the fridge, take it out at least 40 minutes before to come to room temperature. Optionally you can toss the meat in a wok over very high heat to warm through).
Make a dressing of equal parts lime juice (plus one extra lime to serve) and fish sauce, a dash of sesame oil and a spoonful of brown sugar. Add 1 long red chilli, sliced (deseeded for less heat) and 1 clove garlic, crushed.
Toss salad with dressing and serve with lime wedges.
Peel and devein 6 large green prawns, keeping the tail. In 3 separate bowls prepare:
1. 1/3 cup plain flour
2. 1 egg, lightly beaten
3. 1/2 cup shredded coconut
Dip prawns in flour, then egg, then coconut and thread onto skewers and place on a baking paper lined tray. Preheat oven to 180°C and cook prawns for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with a dipping sauce of sweet-chilli and lime.
Thai chicken drumsticks
In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons curry paste (red, green or yellow to your preference), 100ml coconut milk, 1/2 bunch coriander chopped , 1 clove garlic crushed and 1 small thumb of ginger grated. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime. Add 6 chicken drumsticks or lovely legs and marinate in the fridge for an hour. Remove chicken from marinade. Heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat and fry chicken skin side down until it begins to crisp. Turn heat to low, cover the pan with foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until cooked through.
October 18, 2010 § 9 Comments
I’m a 22 year-old Nanna. I usually prefer to stay home with a nice dinner and a movie rather than hit the clubs, pubs and parties that are frequented by the rest of my peers. My version of ‘going out’ is pretty tame – dinner at a restaurant or friend’s house with wine, instead of short skirts and tequila shots. There’s no denying it, no avoiding it, and by this time I fear little hope in changing it. What excites me though is when I make friends who are also keen for a quiet night in. My Friday night date girl, AB, is a great example, we’re like a crisp semillon with fresh, cold prawns. She’s just as content as I am with a homecooked meal and a quiet space, but will also whip me into heels and young-adult mode every now and again when there’s potential that the knitting needles have become a permanent fixture in my handbag (on one school excursion I knitted all the way from my hometown to Canberra – an 11 hour bus trip. I think it was around this time that the dye was set).
Friday night with a spring pasta of poached chicken, olives, sundried tomatoes and rocket.
Lemon zest, dill, parlsey, mint, garlic, olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic – fresh and aromatic.
Treat recipes like ideas, not gospel. This dish started in my head as Donna Hay’s spring meatballs.
Perfect poached chicken breast (medium sized breast): Bring saucepan of water to the boil. Carefully slide chicken breast into liquid and immediately reduce to a simmer – if you have bad electric hotplates you might need to transfer the saucepan to
another plate that you have been heating on very low. DO NOT LIFT LID. Simmer for 6 minutes. DO NOT LIFT LID. Remove saucepan from heat and leave to stand for 12 minutes. Remove chicken from liquid, wrap in foil and rest for 5-10 minutes.
How to pit olives. If you’re like me you probably don’t like the taste of pitted olives from the deli, they seem to absorb too much liquid and become either tangy and almost artificial or dry and bland. To easily remove pips from olives, squash olive with side of your knife blade and they slide right out. Too easy!
Add chopped chillies, chopped fresh tomatoes and a slug of white wine. Simmer, covered over a low heat while you sip your drink and have a slice of cheese.
Everything, including the pasta, can be cooked ahead and then reheat, adding the drained pasta into the sauce.
This means the final wash up is left to one saucepan as boards, knives, graters etc can be washed and dried before you finish cooking.
July 22, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I just saw Luke Mangan in the hairdresser!! We were in separate rooms but he walked past me when coming into the back for a wash and scalp massage. The curious thing is that shortly after he returned to his seat a bowl of coco pops were carried into that room…and an empty bowl retrieved after he had left…I wonder if the chef of Glass, Sydney is snacking on cereal in the cutting chair, maybe he likes his chocolate milkshake crunchy? Anyway I would have asked for a photograph except my camera was at home charging for tonight’s dinner, and I also would have felt like paparazzi – it’s bad enough that I’m stalking the poor guy during his beauty time and posting it here on Blushing Strawberries. Wanting to photograph chefs “without makeup” makes me fear that three years of journalism education are going down the basin with my chestnut highlights.
I also realised that whenever I’m at the hairdresser I turn into one of those girls who can’t think for themselves, making comments like: “umm I don’t know, what do you think?” It’s something about professionals that makes us doubt our own minds – this guy tells me he is a trained hairdresser and I suddenly forget that I stopped looking good with bangs in the early noughties and hit puberty. As a pilates instructor I have been on the influencing end as well, my clients will ask for advice on everything from hip flexor stretches to whether All Bran should be eaten everyday and whether or not I think dentist X-Rays are safe (no comment – see your doctor!) It’s something about the term professional that makes us think we should defer our better judgement to these people. How many times have you ordered the ‘chef’s recommendations’ from the menu? If you’ve ever watched Ryan Reynolds in Waiting you might think twice about asking advice from a waiter who has been instructed to sell the fish because it only has one good day left…oh the perils of eating out!
Of course asking for advice can often be rewarding. The highlight of my day was found in BWS (Beer Wine Spirits) on Oxford St where the shop assistant not only helped me choose a suitable white for a house-warming gift, but was divine enough to go downstairs to the storage room and find two promotional wine glasses to include in the package – and then told me to pop by tomorrow for a tasting of Taylors Promised Land between 4pm and 7pm. I came away with two bottles of wine, two glasses, a Friday afternoon planned and a smile on my face!
Now enough chatter and let’s hit the food run!
This week I cooked Lebanese for the first time, using the Food Safari cookbook that NB bought me for Christmas (if i could have any job in the world it would be Maeve O’Maera’s). It took me 3 hours from start to finish, plus overnight marinating time for Chicken Shwarma and soaking chickpeas, I also managed to burn half our lebanese pita breads and set off two smoke alarms – the first time I have shown a kitchen weakness infront of NB…oh the shame. BUT! In the end we ended up with enough food to leave us both round-bellied and I would like to say satisfied (we continued to eat for the whole duration of When Harry Met Sally so something must have gone right). Whether it’s worth a second run when we can so easily dine out at Almustafa or get tubs of hoummus and tabbouleh from the local deli this jury is still out. Why don’t you have a go and tell me what you think, love to here from you…
“Wherever you go in Lebanon, there is a waft of fragrant spices and fresh herbs…If you’re in a Lebanese home you will be treated like royalty. Two steps through the door you’ll be greeted by beautiful baking smells or the intense, fresh scent of parsley being carefully cut for tabbouleh – and it will be a miracle if you get any further without being offered food”
-Maeve O’Maera Food Safari
Hoummus makes about 4 cups
This traditional hoummus recipe is a lot more chickpea-ish than what you would usually buy, the following recipe is from Greg Malouf but you might like to tweak it with fewer chickpeas and more tahini, lemon and garlic.
The day before you wish to make the hoummus, place 500g dried chickpeas in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 10cm or more. Add 2 tbs bicarbonate soda and leave to soak overnight.
The next day, rinse the chickpeas, return them to the saucepan and cover with more water. Bring to the boil then simmer for approximately 1-2 hours, until the chickpeas are soft and shedding their skins.
Drain and allow to cool.
Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until soft and creamy. Add 1½ tbs tahini, 1 tbs lemon juice, 1-2 garlic cloves, 2 tsp salt and blend again until mixture is smooth. Scoop into a serving bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil into the well and sprinkle 1 tsp sweet paprika and finely chopped flat leaf parsley on top.
Before you use any Lebanese food, you make the sign of the cross over it and say “Bis mis Salib” (In the name of the Cross)
Tabbouleh Serves 4
Tightly bunch the parsley in your hand ready for a cutting is crucial, as is using a very sharp knife to help you shave the parsley as finely as possible.
Gather 1 bunch fresh parsley in a tight wad in your hand and finely shred the leaves with a very sharp knife, almost in a shaving action. Do the same with a handful of mint leaves. Wash the chopped herbs and drain well.
Squeeze juice of 1-2 lemons over 2tbs fine burghul and leave to soften for 10minutes.
Combine parsley and mint, softened burghul, 3-4 medium tomatoes (diced) and 4 spring onions (finely chopped) in a bowl.*
Season with salt and pepper, add olive oil and mix with your hands (Lebanese cooking is all about using your hands – feel the textures).
*Can be made ahead of time up to here but dress just before serving.
Respect the ingredients that you cook with – they are a gift and precious
Kafta Serves 10-12
Use the best quality mince you can find. If you don’t have metal skewers, do what I did and shape them into patties.
- 1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 500g minced lamb
- 500g minced beef
- 1 large onion, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Into a bowl and use your hands to combine and knead the mixture until smooth.
Dampen your hands with water and shape the mixture around metal skewers or into patties,
Barbecue until cooked though and golden brown.
To serve, split open some flatbread, fill with tabbouleh and top with kafta.
The flavours in Lebanese cooking are very simple so be exacting about your ingredients – find the best quality/freshest produce you can get your hands on to give yourself the highest chance of success.
Bis mis Salib.