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Home Fried Potato Hoops with Parmesan, Cumin and Chilli, Nominated for the Red Woman of the Year & Kate Bush, Before the Dawn

Home fried potato hoops with parmesan, cumin & chilli.

Home fried potato hoops with parmesan, cumin & chilli.

Well, this week has been pretty good. I was nominated for the Red Woman of the Year yesterday. It was my second time being nominated, and I was really honoured to be included among such brilliant and inspiring women. It was awarded last night to a very deserving Deliciously Ella in the blogger category. Ella has achieved so much at the tender age of 23, and all in an effort to manage a debilitating illness. The result? Success (she no longer requires her medication as the result of her very healthy diet), a beautiful health food blog, a recipe app and a book on the way. She is self taught too. Thomasina Miers, food writer and restaurateur (Wahaca) and Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism, two women that I hugely admire, were recognised too. Good on Red for recognising these women, and also for illustrating their achievements so that they can inspire those coming behind them. You can see all of the winners on the Red website, and in the magazine soon too, I am sure.

I spent last night at Kate Bush’s new mesmerising show, Before the Dawn. You got tickets?! Yes, I was one of the lucky few to secure tickets, I made sure I wouldn’t miss out, and had 2 friends try for me (one succeeded so I am going twice!). I myself had two browsers and five tabs open in each, so I managed to get some too. She, too, is an inspiration. I am a lifelong fan (I heard Wuthering Heights when I was 3, and have been hooked since) and I was so thrilled to be there. The whole audience was so engaged and committed to her every note and move and she got several standing ovations throughout the show. It was the best gig of my life, but so much more. It was theatre, it was drama, it was fantasy, it was powerful and tender. It was all encompassing. After 3 hours, I didn’t want it to end. If you can at all, go. [Read more]

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Kimchee, Kale & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

Kale, Kimchi & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

Kale, Kimchi & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

I started to write this morning, but it was so moany and so dull, I had to stop myself. I mean, who wants to read that? I had fallen into a little pit of self pity. Woe is me, I couldn’t sleep last night, my tum was so poorly, I still have some of my book to do (panic! stress!) and so much work to finish. I am SO-VERY-TIRED.

And then I thought, pull yourself together, life is very short, and it isn’t much fun down this tiny shallow pit of not even proper despair, now is it? Especially when you are despairing because you are busy doing what you love to do? I don’t understand myself sometimes.

Right.

So I dragged my carcass to the kitchen and made myself a banana, raw honey and bee pollen smoothie (all whizzed with milk & a little yogurt, simple as that). Very worthy and I hoped, redeeming. I sipped away and thought, right! Lets get on with it.

I have an extensive cookbook collection – nay, huge – one that has got me into trouble because it becomes invasive, but I adore it and so I will fight for it. My favourites at the moment are Indian, Mexican and Italian books. Those cuisines remind me of summer, passionate places that make brilliant food (the secret ingredient is love, etc!). I particularly can’t get enough of three of the Grand Dames of cuisine – Diane Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden. Such a pleasure to read, I don’t even need to go into my kitchen. I savour every bite with every word.

Today, I thought I would make use of my impulse purchased wildly expensive courgette flowers (zucchini blossoms if you are in the US), and make Diane Kennedy’s quesadillas containing them. Yes, definitely. I even contemplated making some queso blanco to go with them. I lined up a recipe, then binned that, before I thought about going to Peckham to buy some from the Gringa Dairy (it is very good). Then I got a hold of myself and told myself to calm down and get on with it. I was deep in procrastination now too.[Read more]

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Brazilian Pastel with Beef & Cheese (In Association with Magimix)

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

I was more surprised than anyone when I started getting very involved with the World Cup Columbia vs Brazil match last weekend. I was out with some friends and when one spotted it she yelled “Niamh, what the hell is going on?!”.

I didn’t know.

I figured that this must be a very good game if it had managed to suck me into it. Or I was having a mini stroke? You see, I don’t really get football, nor do I watch it, normally. I never have. That goes for most sports. There are exceptions – the Olympics, for example, especially when they were on in London, limited amounts of tennis, that kind of thing – but when everyone you know is watching the World Cup, you want to be involved, right? Somehow? Well, we can do the snacks!

4200XL Satin 18434Magimix challenged me to come up with a Brazilian recipe using their kit (a Magimix 4200XL), so that was a good start. I already have a Magimix, battered from love and use and melted on the side as I placed it too near the cookers gas flames when I moved flat, but it still chugs away perfectly, and is one of my most treasured pieces of kitchen equipment. It is compact and speedy and it chops, grates, slices and kneads. Essentially, it does everything that I don’t want to do or can’t do when I am rushing. Which is a lot. I quite like the serenity of chopping and slicing and kneading when I have time, but more often than not Mr Magimix does it. It is more patient with kneading than I am, and it makes great pastry, as my super warm hands destroy it when I allow my paws to do it (I believe that that might be my super crap super power).

Ok! A snack challenge. The game was on for me. A game I could enjoy, finally!

I have never been to Brazil – a big black mark right there – but I know food, and I am already familiar with a lot of Brazilian specialities. I wanted something that would be a great snack, that would taste great, and that would have the right amount of challenge to be different and delicious, but not be too challenging to prepare. I whittled it down to about five things, the others will probably appear here in the near future.

I opted for home made (from scratch, natch) pastels with beef and cheese. Pastels appear to be the Brazilian version of the empanada. Maybe it is the other way around? I don’t know which came first, most South American countries have something similar. It seems fitting that the Brazilian snack that you cook for the final could also double as an Argentinian snack (sorry Brazil, I wanted you to win too). You can pretend, or to be authentic change the filling a little (no cheese, add eggs and olives to approximate my favourite empanadas from Mendoza, still one of the best things that I have ever eaten), and use lard in the pastry in place of oil. Remove the vodka too.

I always try to make wrappers myself, whether for pastel, empanada, dumplings, spring rolls or any other little parcel of gorgeousness wrapped in something crisp or steamed. It is always worth the effort, as you get a far superior result and lots more satisfaction. I love the geekery of it, getting down to the nitty gritty and understanding where the recipe came from. Also, it is not always possible to source wrappers if you don’t live in an urban centre, or a particular country, so I always like to provide a recipe for those of you that can’t, as well as for myself.

[Read more]

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Recipe: Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Dip (Because We Must)

Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe)

Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe)

Some days demand chicken wings. Today is one. The best bit of the chicken for snacking on, the skin to flesh ratio being somewhere in the region of can-solve-most-of-lifes-problems, chicken wings are also very reasonable. Even in my local posh butcher, a kilo of lovely free range wings costs just over £5.

Everyone should have a recipe for hot wings in their repertoire. So easy and so gorgeous, spiked hot crisp wings dipped into a soothing cool blue cheese dip is all that you have ever wanted after a bad day. Or any day. Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce is what makes the wings sing, you could make your own, and it is the kind of thing that I often do, but in this case, truly, Frank’s have done all the work and made a great sauce. So, like every other hot wing fanatic on the planet, I use that.

They take little work. I roast the wings until the skin is just crisp, prepare the hot sauce which takes, oh, 2 minutes, then douse the wings in the sauce before returning to the oven for a little bit. Then I prepare the dip, which again is very complicated, ridiculously easy, a mish mash of strong blue cheese with natural yogurt, blended until they yield, and embrace each other.

Easy, and perfect for January blues, right? Enjoy.

Recipe: Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce[Read more]

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Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings

Bajan pepper sauce chicken wings

Bajan pepper sauce chicken wings

So, you’ve made some Bajan pepper sauce, and you really like it. What next?

So many things! It takes a little work to make but lasts for ages and it is so flavour packed that it is the perfect base for lots of marinades and sauces. I have come with several recipes which I will share with you. Starting today, with Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings.

Chicken wings are fantastic. Boney, yes, but who cares? Those bones bring moisture and flavour. The ratio of skin to meat is deliciously high, and when cooked those wings are so crisp and juicy. They are relatively cheap too, even from the best organic free range birds.

I baked these ones. Baking them is healthier, you still get lovely moist flesh and crisp skin, although it won’t be as crisp as fried. They are still lovely though, I have just eaten a big bowl of them and I want more.

The marinade is very simple: Bajan Pepper Sauce (homemade, of course), natural thick yogurt (with no sugar), 2 cloves of peeled chopped garlic and the juice of a fresh lime. That is it. Marinade overnight for best flavour. I use one third pepper sauce to yogurt so that the heat is present but gentle and then use half and half for a more firey dipping sauce. Feel free to adjust to your taste if you want it punchier.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings[Read more]

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Recipe: Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter

Chipotle Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter Brioche Toast

Chipotle Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter

It is an indulgent time of year, and this recipe is at the pinnacle of indulgence. Despite the bacon, it is a sweet, and is wonderful on pancakes or simply on brioche toast as I have done here. I also fancy some with some eggy bread.

A nod to Bill Granger first. The first time I had honeycomb butter was with his ricotta hotcakes at one of his cafés in Sydney about 6 years ago. I was captured by it. Searches for honeycomb recipes at the time failed, and I was not happy with the alternative of chopping a crunchie and putting it in my butter.

I researched further and figured out it was a simple combination of sugar, brought to temperature and bicarb to make it aerate. I played around with sugar and golden syrup combinations until I got the perfect chewy crisp honeycomb. Too little golden syrup and it is dull and too fragile, too much and you will lose your fillings. I also add a little cider vinegar to boost the bicarb and I add water, as this makes it less likely to fail in the early minutes when it is very easy to scorch the sugar.

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Lovely!

Next is my candied bacon, one of my many recipes for it. This is a recent favourite, a simple light brown sugar and chipotle blend. The bacon is smothered in it, and it is baked until the sugar is approaching toffee. You are left with a wonderful sweet, smoky, hot and savoury candied bacon that is wonderful on its own or – honestly – most things.

Chipotle & Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

Chipotle & Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

Combine the two and mash them into butter? Divine. Just be careful, as in my enthusiasm to devour it, I injured the top of my mouth (slightly) with the sharp honeycomb. Totally worth it though.

Enjoy! It is a cracker. Ban the brandy butter and bring on the bacon and honeycomb butter.

Notes on the recipe: if you can’t get chipotle, substitute chilli. If you don’t want the heat, just omit it.

RECIPE: CHIPOTLE & BROWN SUGAR CANDIED BACON AND HONEYCOMB BUTTER

Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

250g bacon chopped into strips or bacon lardons, I prefer smoked
100g light brown sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of chipotle powder or blitzed dried chipotles

Combine the bacon, sugar and chipotle, insuring every bit of the bacon is covered. Spread on one layer on a buttered greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake at 180 deg C for 15 – 20 minutes until the sugar is dark and glossy like toffee. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Put 300g white sugar, 150g golden syrup, 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar and 100ml water in a pan with high sides – a stockpot for example.

Bring to the hard crack stage over a medium heat – 140 to 150 deg C (and do use a thermometer) – take off the heat and add the 2 tbsp of fresh bicarbonate of soda (it loses potency), ensuring there are no lumps in the bicarb. Stir through, the honeycomb will puff up.

Add two thirds of the candied bacon and stir through. Pour into a dish lined with buttered greaseproof paper. Leave to cool.

Making the butter

Take a palm sized amount of the honeycomb and smash it up in a sandwich bag with a rolling pin or something similar, until it is in small chunks (not powder). Combine well with 250g butter and the rest of the bacon. And you’re done.

Store the rest of the honeycomb for future use in a an airtight container, dip it in tempered chocolate to make homemade bacon crunchies.

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Recipe: Chicken Liver Pate for the Soul

Chicken Liver Paté

Chicken Liver Paté

As the nights close in and the days get colder, I increasingly reach for comfort. I want something rich and delicious and I want it fast. Some treats in the fridge, whether delicious cheeses or spreads that welcome toast, are perfect winter fodder.

Over the last few years I have become a little obsessed with duck and chicken liver parfaits and pates. Duck liver parfait is one of my favourite things in the world. Regular doses of it spread liberally on some bread or just from a spoon at times that required it, powered me through the intensity that was writing my book. I am going to share a recipe for that too, but for now I want to start with Chicken Liver Paté.

Easy, cheap, rich and delicious. That spells recession Christmas to me. People are afraid of chicken livers. Why? Liver in general gets a bad press because it is often served over cooked and rubbery. It is associated with times of deprivation, when those little chicken livers are so luxurious when cooked just right. Liver needs to be underdone to get the tenderness that it deserves, and that you deserve as you eat it.

Chicken Liver Paté

Chicken Liver Paté

My chicken liver pate is basically a butter rich chicken liver spread with some onions and spices, cooked gently, blitzed until smooth and then – if you want super smooth paté this is essential – pushed through a sieve. I also like to add cream for some extra luxury. In my current role as Spice Santa, with my giant jars of spices carted back from Grenada, I gently infused some cream with some whole bright red mace, like a mini jaded octopus, and some lovely bay. I also used rum, but really, it is barely detectable as this is about the spices and the liver, so feel free to substitute some brandy if that is what you have.

I think that this is perfect for Christmas, and you can make it in advance. I serve mine in little bright espresso cups, which I love.

Ps. this really is cheap. 400g of organic chicken livers set me back £2.50.

RECIPE: Chicken Liver Paté

Ingredients

400g chicken livers
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
200g butter
100ml cream
100ml good rum or brandy
1 bay leaf
1 whole piece of mace of a pinch of mace powder
sea salt

ramekins or little cups for serving

Method

Bring the cream to just before the boil (take care not to boil it) with the bay leaf and mace and leave to cool and infuse for 1 – 2 hours. The longer the better.

Melt 125g of the butter and sauté the onions until soft but not brown. Add the chicken livers and sauté over a medium heat, turning frequently to ensure that they are evenly cooked for 4 – 5 minutes until brown but still soft, and therefore pink inside. Add the garlic for the final minute.

Blitz the liver mixture in a blender until it is as smooth as you can get it. Add the rum / brandy to the pan and reduce by half. Take the bay leaf and the mace out of the cream and add to the alcohol before adding to the livers and blitzing again. Taste and season with sea salt to your liking.

For super smooth paté, pass it through a sieve. If you can’t be bothered it will still taste great, but you will get a better texture if you do.

Divide the mixture between your ramekins / cups and leave in the fridge to set to cool. This will take about a half an hour. Then melt the remaining butter and pour on top of the little pots of paté to seal them.

Cool until the butter is set and you are ready to go. Or you can save for later.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Kale chips. You are starting to worry now aren’t you? You are remembering that I have recently been to the west coast of Canada (British Columbia), and now you are worried that I have gone all – well, west coast – on you?

Don’t worry, I haven’t. You can still expect to see lots of pork belly, Iberico lard, and all lovely, tasty, and yes, fatty things here. For, we are embracing of all things food.

And that includes kale chips.

Kale chips! What am I talking about? Raw food people love them. They dehydrate kale for hours so that they are left with crispy dry kale. I don’t have a dehydrator so I came up with a way of doing these in the oven. They are a fabulous (and quick) sulphurous little snack.

To make these crispy treats, I dress a single layer of kale with a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil. I then sprinkle them with sea salt and smoked Spanish paprika and roast them in a hot oven until crisp. Don’t neglect the salt, they just don’t taste good without it.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips

Ingredients

Kale, as much as you want to make chips from – washed, dried & cut into strips
smoked paprika
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Spread the kale in a single layer on a large oven tray. Don’t be tempted to put more as it just won’t crisp evenly.

Coat in the olive oil, a couple of tablespoons should do it.

Sprinkle with the paprika and sea salt and toss. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Roast until crisp – this will take 10 – 12 minutes. Watch carefully as they will burn.

You’re done. Now it is time to eat them. They eat really well hot or cold.

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Recipe: Fried Spanish Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta and Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Are you ready? For a molten hot slightly spiced delight? With spiced sweet sausage and gorgeous bright green olives? Stuffed with homemade ricotta, some punchy sweet spicy sobrasada and some earthy sage?

I think you are ready.

These are good. This recipe is based loosely on Ascolane Olives, stuffed olives from the Ascole region in Italy, and usually stuffed with the likes of pork, veal, lard and parmesan. Spuntino in London do a lovely version with anchovies, parmesan and sage. In fact there is a lovely recipe for these in the Polpo Cookbook (a lovely book, and one I would heartily recommend for Italian food fans).

Mine are different. From my previous post you will have seen that I was in Spain last week, with the Olives from Spain folks. We visited olive groves in the sunshine and tasted many varieties from the large queen olives to the very small.

That, combined with a trip to the market in Sevilla the next day was exciting and inspiring. Ideas flooded as I hopped from stall to stall, wanting to buy far more than I could ever take home. As I stood there with some Spanish queen olives in my hand and eyed the sobrasada (in the UK you can buy it from Brindisa too), I decided to make a Spanish version of the Ascolane when I got home.

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Home made ricotta is something that I make regularly. The recipe is in my book and I include a version below. Why make it at home? It is so delicious, rich and creamy. It is ridiculously easy too. Just try it, and you will keep making it too.

The light creaminess of the cheese with the rich sauciness of the sobrasada (and I mean saucy in the bold way), all held together with some earthy sage, makes a terrific stuffing for the lovely delicate queen olive.

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Enjoy! And do let me know how you get on with it.

Note: use fine dry breadcrumbs, if making your own be sure to toast them in a medium oven for about 10 minutes. Dry breadcrumbs stick and clump less. Feel free to substitute (good) shop bought ricotta if you can’t be bothered. The ricotta recipe will make more than you need but you won’t be sad about that.

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

RECIPE: Fried Spanish Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage

Ingredients

Homemade Ricotta

1 litre full fat milk
250ml cream
pinch of sea salt
juice of 2 lemons
muslin to drain the cheese and a colander

Stuffed Olives

16 large pitted green olives – mine are Spanish queen ones from Brindisa
100g ricotta
50g sobrasada
12 large sage leaves and extra to serve
pinch sea salt
3 bowls containing: one containing 1 egg, beaten; one containing plain flour; one containing breadcrumbs
oil to fry the olives, I actually used Iberico lard but this is hard to come by

Method

Make your ricotta by bringing your milk and cream with the salt to 90 deg C (just before it boils if you have no thermometer). Take off the heat and add the lemon juice. The curds and whey will split (if not add more lemon juice). Strain through a muslin lined colander and leave to sit for a couple of hours to drain.

Weigh out 100g and mash with the sobrasada and shredded sage leaves. Season with sea salt and fill each olive. The easiest way is with a syringe. I used the end of a small teaspoon. This is fiddly but take your time, it is worth doing properly.

Breadcrumb by dipping the stuffed olives in the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. If the breadcrumbs aren’t fully coating the olive, dip in the egg and breadcrumbs again.

Heat enough oil / lard to cover the olives and when a piece of bread starts to fizz and brown on addition, add the olives and fry for a minute or two until golden brown. Drain on kitchen roll. Add the extra sage leaves for 30 seconds or so until they crisp. So delicious! Use these to decorate (and eat).

Serve hot and be careful not to burn yourself as the filling can sometimes escape through the bottom.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Naughty But Nice N’Duja Devilled Eggs

N'Duja Devilled Eggs

What, what, what? N’duja devilled eggs! What are those pray tell?

Well, dear reader, I think the devilled egg is much maligned. I love it in every form from the most simple, to one that’s been pimped with anything from spices to pork (or pork and spices), as I have done with this n’duja one.

I have written about n’duja many times, I even have an n’duja pig. It’s a spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria in Italy and is so utterly addictive, that I worry what is in it. This week, I have been working on some recipes that use it as an ingredient as I want to enter a competition (you know how I love them). So it’s been an n’duja kind of week.

I had a little left over at the end of my n’duja frenzy, and fancied something brunch-like and snack-like, so I pimped my devilled egg. This is simple, spicy and meaty, and is in an egg. What’s not to love?

Eggs love chilli and spices (egg curry, huevos rancheros), pork and eggs are a dream team (bacon and eggs etc.). I kept this simple, working with the strengths of the n’duja, the spiciness and richness, adding a little red wine vinegar to cut through the richness, a little fresh oregano to lift it and a fresh juicy seasonal English tomato, to give it some fruitiness.

It’s easy, quick and a little different for a weekend brunch. I think some little quail ones would make a lovely pre dinner canapé too.

Notes on the recipe:

    N’duja is widely available through Waitrose and good Italian delis.

    If in a rush you can substitute a tbsp of tomato puree for the tomato, but be sure to cook it through. A fresh tomato in season is fruitier though and will give better, lighter results.

    To peel the tomato, cut a cross through the skin at the bottom and pour boiling water over for 15 seconds or until you see the skin at he cross start to pull away.

    I think oregano works really well here but parsley would be a decent substitute.

Recipe: Naughty But Nice N’Duja Devilled Eggs

Serves approx 4 – they are quite rich

Ingredients

6 eggs
50g n’duja sausage
1 good tomato, peeled deseeded & diced
1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano leaves
1 tsp good red wine vinegar

Method

Sauté the diced tomato gently for about 10 minutes in a little olive oil until soft.

Chop or tear the n’duja and add it to the tomato. Stir thoroughly and let it sit over a low heat.

Add the oregano and vinegar, stir and taste, adding more vinegar if necessary (that depends on your n’duja and tomato).

Boil the eggs until hard boiled (about 6 – 7 minutes from room temperature with boiling water from the kettle to start).

Cool by submerging in cold water (they will continue to cook otherwise). Peel , half, scoop out the yolk and mix with the n’duja mixture. Season to taste although you may not need any.

Put a teaspoon of the egg yolk and n’duja mixture back in each egg. Leftovers are chefs spoils.

Serve cold. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Argentina: Rabbit Empanadas

Rabbit Empanadas at the Fierro Hotel, Buenos Aires

Rabbit Empanadas! I loved them. You loved the idea of them. I couldn’t just sit there and scoff them while tweeting the pictures then blogging about it so you could covet them, now could I? Well, I could but I didn’t think that fair. So, I asked the chef at Fierro Hotel – Hernán Gipponi – if he wouldn’t mind sharing, and very generously he did, and in English too. Thanks so much Hernán.

I read the recipe and thought, but of course! Rabbit confit, that explains why they were so rich and delicious. The wonton wrappers give a crisp, light and delicious shell. And the piquant little bites of apple, the sweet onion and the crunch of the pecan nuts. Well, I have to stop typing as I now want to order them again.

Make them, do! They’re gorgeous.

Rabbit Empanadas Recipe

Ingredients
1 Rabbit (clean, about 2kg)
rosemary (to taste)
garlic (to taste)
Olive Oil (enough to cover the rabbit)

2 Granny smith apple
2 onions, finely diced
50 grs pecan nuts

Wonton dough (8cm x 8cm)

1 egg (beaten)

Preheat the oven to 90 C. In a deep oven tray place the rabbit, crushed garlic and rosemary. Cover with plenty of olive oil. Confit for 45 minutes per kg of rabbit (about 90 minutes for a 2kg rabbit).

Clean the rabbit and shred the meat (taking care of not leaving any bones)

Saute the onions in a little olive oil. In a bowl mix the shredded rabbit meat with the apples, onions and pecan nuts (all finely chopped).  Season to taste with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Place the mix with a spoon in a wonton dough square and paint the edges with egg. Fold in the middle forming a pocket and squeeze tightly so the empanadas won’t open while cooking.

Deep fry or bake the empanadas until golden brown.

Serve with a sweet & sour sauce dip of your choice. (we use a Hoisin / Worcestershire mix)

This makes about 60 empanadas, that can be kept in the freezer.

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Festive snack: Toasted Pita with Mozarella, Tomato, Onion & Roast Tomato Dressing

I expect that I am not the only tail chaser this close to Xmas. Running around, doing last minute laundry, frantically packing suitcases, checking presents. Have I everything? Yes-I-think-so. I do, don’t I?

Time for a snack! I am about to embark on an epic overnight trip to Ireland. Train to Holyhead, ferry to Dublin, and then train to Waterford, followed by an hour car drive home. Long, eh? And you thought Ireland was close to England, didn’t you?!It’s as close as you make it, and with all of my recent trips home, a budget jaunt was called for. So, the ferry it is.

What to have? Not much in the fridge, so I slipped and slided to the shop, along the shiny reflective river of glass that my street had become. I contemplated and tried not to fall. Something light is required, for I am not a good traveller. I will also be awake through the night. I quite fancy some mozarella, and I do have slow roasted pulped tomatoes with a nice pinch of chilli which would make a fruity dressing, with something bold like parsley, and maybe some pomegranate molasses for sweetness and umami, and sumac for sourness to balance the sweetness. Done.

I spy some pretty, sweet and perfectly ripe baby plum tomatoes, pita breads and some buffalo mozarela bocconcini. I slip-slide home, cargo in hand and starving.

Quick, delicious and light and a festive red and green into the bargain. I feel healthier for it. A perfect quick snack which works very well with some rocket on the side. The pepperiness and texture is a good addition.

I wish you all well on your journeys home this Christmas, if you’re making them. I am off to embark on mine, wish me luck and see you on the other side!

Ingredients (per person):

1 pita bread, toasted and opened
4 baby plum tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, quartered
Some red onion, sliced finely
3 buffalo mozarella bocconicini (or 1 normal ball)
some flat leat parsley to garnish

Dressing (enough for 4/5):

3 tbsp roasted tomatoes or the equivalent in small juicy ones
a glug of extra virgin olive oil
a handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
a pinch of sumac
S&P to taste

Method:

Make your dressing by mashing everything together. Blend if necessary but only lightly.
Arrange the mozarella, red onion and tomato on one half of the open pita and drizzle with the dressing. Grill until the mozarella is starting to melt. Just a minute or so.
Serve with a garnish of parsley while still warm.

Enjoy!

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Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast

Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast

Seasonal eating is all the more fun and exciting, when you can forage and get the food for free. The ultimate bargain, and usually something that’s quite hard to find to buy. Wild Garlic is the perfect example of this. I’ve not had time to go to any food markets, and had no idea where I could forage it. I’ve looked around the local parks to no avail, and tried on twitter, coaxing friends and followers to reveal their secret stash with the promise that I would not tell anyone. I got some tips  but there was no time to investigate. I was resigned to a wild garlic free week, when fellow blooger Danny (@fooodurchin on twitter and blogging at food urchin) revealed that his garden was teeming with it, and offered to bring me in my very own wild garlic plant.

Excitement! I couldn’t wait. I popped down to Borough to meet him, we had a great chat, and I left with a large blossoming and lovely plant. I couldn’t resist devouring a leaf or two there and then, although I am not sure I would advise this as it’s a little astringent raw. I enjoyed it but will not be responsible for this should you try it.

Wild Garlic Plant

What to do with it? Well, to start try and keep it alive, so far so good. The flowers are delicious and gorgeous in salads, the leaves great in pestos and mayonnaise, soups and salads. I had a vegetarian friend over for dinner and thought it might be nice to start with something quick and light, that could be done in minutes and free up time for chatting and wine, the most important part of the evening after all!

Wild Garlic can be a little sour, so I wanted to balance it with something sweet, and smooth out the flavour with something light. I decided on tomatoes and cream cheese with a little chilli to lift the flavours. So, I blanched about eight wild garlic leaves for 20 seconds or so, rosted some nice tomatoes from Borough market with a little balsamic vinegar for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, chopped a dried red chilli very finely, and mixed these with about 4 tablespoons of cream cheese. I griddled some good fresh bread, lightly brushed with some olive oil and liberally spread the veggie pate. It was fragrant and light and a nice little stop gap. I’ll be adding it to my repertoire for future quick dishes!

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Cosy, quick and healthy snacking

Toasted tortilla with manchego and tomato
Sometimes, with food, instant gratification is called for. As close to instant as is possible in any case. I am not talking about reaching for the haribo (although, that has been known to happen), but something flavoursome, healthy, crispy and super quick.

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind and am not about to tout the health benefits of leftover pork belly or a bag of crisps. Tasty: yes. Healthy: not so much. The snack I am about to describe, is colourful, pretty and delicious and so easy, it’s ridiculous.

Take one tortilla (corn or flour), add a handful of chopped tomatoes, the best you can get, I like sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes. Top with some grated manchego (or similar cheese) and put in a preheated oven (180 degrees celsius should do it) on a lightly oiled tray. Toast for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on top and season with salt & pepper. Serve with a handful of greens as a garnish, I used pea shoots but rocket would be good too.

Sit back, briefly admire your handiwork, for it will be pretty, and eat. Run back into the kitchen and prep another as you’ll probably want one. I almost always do.

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GOOD Oil & good food, a great combination

Pea & Pecorino Crostini

Pea & Pecorino Crostini

This food blogger cares about her health, it may not be obvious with my clear overindulgence in staples like chorizo and pork belly, but I do care about what I eat, I want to be and to feel healthy, and as a consequence, I do try to maintain a balanced diet. This is increasingly difficult in these busy times but I think I do ok.

Recently, I was invited to try GOOD Oil, a hempseed oil, at a dinner party in West London with a group of fellow bloggers (Alex from Epicurienne,  Melanie from Fake Plastic Noodles, Helen from Food Stories, Lizzie from Hollow Legs, Chris from Londonist) and hosted by the lovely couple that have dedicated the last 8 years of their lives to perfecting this oil, Henry & Glynis, and their son and cook for the evening, Ben. It seemed like a really good opportunity to broaden my culinary horizons and have an all round nice evening with some of my blogger friends.

I always feel like I need to say in these posts, and I’ll say it again, that I will not tout a product because it’s been given to me or promote something that I would not run out to the shop to buy. I feel passionately about the integrity of what I do and I’ll stick by it, even if it offends, it’s important. GOOD Oil impressed me on many levels so I want to share the experience with you and a recipe from that night for you to try at home.

Cheeseboard

Cheeseboard

So, hempseed oil, what’s that? Well, it’s oil that’s made from hempseed…simple really! Henry Braham and Glynis Murray, cinematographer and film producer respectively, bought a farm in Devon almost a decade ago with a view to producing a sustainable crop, and settled on hemp. We all know that hemp is used for fibre (e.g. clothing) but it’s also highly nutritious and contains Omega 3, 6 and 9. Scientific studies have shown that it’s good for arthritis, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, skin, hair and for us ladies, PMT. The only hemp oil available at the time tasted unpleasant, so Henry & Glynis decided to press it like an olive oil with a view to producing something healthy and tasty using traditional methods to get the best from the seed.

They’ve struggled and persevered and I admire them for that. They believed in sustainable agriculture and chose hemp for that reason, they could have gone the traditional route and used hemp for fibre but they felt passionately in the oil, and spent many years perfecting it. They could have used modern less expensive pressing techniques but they wanted the best quality and strove for it. They wanted GOOD Oil. They survived the foot & mouth crisis and even fended off some trips from the police wondering what exactly was this hemp that they were growing! That particular bit, I found very funny!

What’s the result of all this struggle? Was it worth it? YES! GOOD Oil is nutty and rich and healthy, a really pleasant flavour that works well with different foods like mash and ice cream (yes, really, it’s lovely drizzled on vanilla ice cream – I am told it was Jamie Oliver’s idea). In fact, I would substitute it anywhere I would use extra virgin oil and I’ve a few things I want to experiment with using this oil. I want to use it to make nice and healthy winter soups, I really want to try some nice and different salad dressings, and, to use it in super healthy spelt and pearl barley salads. That’s just the start, a new ingredient is always so exciting.

So, GOOD Oil, is good! Give it a go. For now, I’ll leave you with the recipe for the starter that we had that night – pea and pecorino crostini – give it a go, and let me know what you think! I thought it was fresh and lively, and the GOOD Oil worked really well with the nutty pecorino. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

150g shelled peas
75g grated pecorino
Juice of half a lemon
4 slices of sourdough bread
Drizzle of GOOD Oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Cook the peas until bright green and tender by boiling in water, only a few minutes. Refresh with ice cold water to stop the cooking process and preserve that lovely colour.
Mash the peas with the pecorino and some of the oil, aiming for a guacamole like texture.
Brush the sourdough on both sides with the oil and bake in the oven until crisp. Shouldn’t take anymore than 5 minutes.
Spoon the pea and pecorino mix on top. Shaving of pecorino make a nice garnish.

More info and recipes at http://www.goodwebsite.co.uk/

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Beetroot Latkes with Goat’s Cheese

It hasn’t been so long since I made latke’s, I know. Initially, I had planned to put a larger gap between blogging the potato and beet latke recipes, but then, I made them, and they were so good I just had to share.

The recipe is based on one I found in a new cookbook of mine, Jewish Food: The World at Table. I found it while browsing in an independent bookshop that I love to visit when I have time. I can spend hours idling in bookshops and libraries, it’s a favourite past time. I’ve had to restrict it as I was hoarding too many books, something which became very obvious when I moved! I spotted the beet latkes recipe, and decided I’d buy it. That recipe aside, it’s a fascinating book, with loads of background information, and great recipes for Jewish food as varied as Ashkenazi food to Jewish Indian food.

So, back to the latkes. It’s basically the same as a potato latke, except that you substititute raw beetroot for raw potato, and instead of serving with sour cream and apple sauce, use goat’s cheese, which, when the latkes are hot, melts into them. I used a brie-like goats cheese that I brought back from Ireland, Gortnamona (a soft mould ripened Irish goats cheese), I love it and always bring some back from my trips home. You could use chevre, or any goats cheese really. Beetroot and Goat’s cheese go so well together, lovely paired in salads and tarts and now latkes also.

These latkes are a little more straightforward than potato ones, in that you don’t need to wring out excess moisture, the grated beetroot is good to go once grated. However, peeling and grating them was a nightmare, especially as I grated my knuckle, but that’s user error so you don’t need to worry about that. I dont’ have a food processor at the moment so I had to grate by hand which took forever, and half way through I was cursing that I’d even begun, but the result was worth all the pain. Once the grating is over, it’s so easy, you just mix everything. The kitchen did look like I’d killed someone after, with beetroot bits and splashes of pink everywhere. My jeans will never be redeemed, but I think it was worth it.

So, this recipe is adapted to metric measurements, and I’ve increased the amount of onion, which is a personal preference. It makes 6 large or 8 smaller latkes. I was making them for one (well, one + lunch), however, I think this recipe suffices for two people.

[Read more]

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Israeli Couscous with onion squash, haricot beans and pumpkin seeds

I am using pumpkin alot lately, I know. They’re in season, so I like to make the most of them. I love everything about them, the way they look and taste, their bright orange colour, I (clearly) just can’t get enough. I love just having them on my kitchen windsill, brightening the place up. Yes, sad, I know.

I try to bring a homemade lunch to work every day but, lately, I’ve been lax. I find the change in seasons breaks my routine, which is no bad thing, but it’s time to get my house in order again. Often, it’s leftovers from dinner the night before but, sometimes, I make something especially for lunch as the repetition can get tedious.

Anna Pickard recently made a suggested dish of mine in her “Out of my box” post on the Word of Mouth blog, and I laughed so hard at her description of it, as it’s so true of how I eat in November:

The rest was dedicated to Niamheen and her
Rice and Chorizo and Squash thing. I’m sure the proper term is not ‘thing’, but it was very yummy. And possibly the most filling thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Seriously, it was like eating insulation. But in a good way.

It’s the perfect description, and really, it’s amazing that I am not shaped like a ball. I think that I eat this way, as, when I was vegetarian (for 11 years), I was extremely conscious of nutrition and ensuring that I had a balanced diet that I often mixed grains, pulses and veg. I still do, only now I stick meat in also.

So, I thought that I might attempt a lighter, lunch friendly version without the chorizo. Israeli couscous is great, larger than normal couscous and more tender, like eating little rubber balls, even though that doesn’t sound remotely appetising, it is! You can get it in the kosher section of supermarkets or middle eastern shops usually. If you can’t get any, you could replace with cracked wheat, bulgar or brown rice. I like to add a contrast, usually seeds or nuts, and lots of flavour as it’s quite bland, so some spices, in this instance spanish paprika. I cooked off a batch of haricot beans at the weekend so have had them every day this week (can’t look at one for at least a month now), so I included these, but other white beans will do well here, cannelini or butter beans, for example. Also, the onion squash is not absolutely necessary, any pumpkin/squash would fit. Eats well hot or cold.

The quantities are a bit vague, as I was using left over bits of squash and handfuls of this and that, use this just as a guide and add more of whatever you prefer, I might add more beans if I was making it again. but then, we are heading into insulation territory…[Read more]

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Moutabal

I love Lebanese food. The flavours are so fresh and lively, and the meze style eating is varied and so sociable. London is awash with great Lebanese restaurants, particularly around the Edgware Rd area.  They’re great places to bring vegetarian friends as there is plenty to satisfy everyone from the vegan to the carnivore.

The Maroush chain of restaurants in London have a deli on the Edgware Rd, where I used to treat myself to moutabal when I lived in nearby Kilburn, a smoky aubergine dip, not unlike baba ghanoush from Egypt. I frequently make dips like guacamole, hummus and pesto but infrequently moutabal as I didn’t have a gas cooker in my last flat, so I decided that now that I have,  I should make it last weekend.

To make moutabal you need to grill some aubergines over a gas flame until the skin is burned and the flesh is hot. The aubergine will be very hot so, take care, and ensure you don’t burn yourself as I did. I have previously made this by roasting the whole aubergine in the oven, so do it this way if you don’t have gas. The results will be good but you won’t get the smoky flavour that you get using the gas flame. Take care not to use too much tahini as it can dominate the dish, I add 2 tbsp usually, but taste as you go, as sometimes it needs a bit more or less. Some recipes use garlic but traditional ones I’ve spied often don’t, so I made it without. I think I would add a clove next time as I love the taste of garlic. Anyone know if it should be in there or not?

Serve with toasted flatbread or pita bread.[Read more]

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Samphire Tabbouleh

Following on from yesterdays post -Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes, I have another samphire post. This one is vegetarian and is based on the salad recipe from yesterdays post. I was looking at the 100g of samphire that I had left and wondering what I could do with it that would be tasty and suitable for lunch the next day. A quick fumble in the cupboard revealed a forgotten bag of organic bulgur. Bulgur is very healthy, it’s more nutritious than rice or cous cous so I always have a bag to hand next to the quinoa. There’s lots of forgotten random bits in my cupboards, it’s like a bunker in there! I have promised myself that I will empty them over the coming months and base my recipes on what’s in there so it should be interesting.

For the samphire, I decided on a chunky samphire tabbouleh. I love tabbouleh, it’s so light and fragrant but can take really robust flavours. I decided that I would use the samphire in place of the herbs and rather than finely chopping the tomatoes, leave them in quarters as the tomatoes I have at the moment deserve prominence in this dish. This is very quick (except for double podding the broad beans but you could probably substitute with peas if you’re in a rush). The bulgur that I used was the medium type but you could use fine if you have it. My favourite tabboulehs are ones that have only the smallest amount of bulgur and are mainly green, like a lebanese tabbouleh, so I was aiming to recreate this. This one was new so there was a little bit of trial and error in the proportions.

Here’s the recipe:
[Read more]

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Chargrilled peach & speck salad

This is a spectacular summer salad devised by Yotam Ottolenghi of Ottolenghi’s in London and published in the Summer BBQ series in the Guardian on Saturdays. I had wanted to make it since it was published (2 weeks ago?) but I didn’t have the orange blossom water required nor had I the time to go source it. I spotted it on a trip to Borough Market on Saturday and with that purchase was all set. I went to the farmers market in Queen’s Park on Sunday to get the leaves but the leaves specified in the recipe weren’t available so I bought mizuna & mustard leaves instead of baby chard, endives & watercress. These worked really well and I think, really, you could use rocket, it would counter the sweetness of the peach nicely and is readily available.

Speck is a meat that I only discovered 4 years ago when I started working in the Kings Cross area and started shopping in the italian deli, KC Continental Stores on Caledonian Rd. It’s a dry-cured smoked Italian ham from the Alto Adige region of Italy. We use it in the place of prosciutto regularly, it has a really strong smoky flavour and works well in dishes like carbonara, or wrapped around asparagus. The combination with peach is inspired and it’s one I plan to experiment with a bit more. The orange blossom water isvery sweet but is countered by the balsamic vinegar and works well with the richness of the speck.

The recipe doesn’t appear to be published on the Guardian website so I’ll reproduce it here. I haven’t tried any of the other Ottolenghi recipes but plan to try more and await his cookbook which will be published in Spring 2008. The Guardian Weekend Magazine publishes a vegetarian Ottolenghi recipe every Saturday. For now, I’ll continue to eat at one of his café’s in Islington or Notting Hill, one handy for work & the other handy for home :)

For more info on Ottolenghi visit their site.

Chargrilled peaches

I’ll write the recipe as it was in the Guardian as the only changes I made are to the leaves. [Read more]