It is hot. It is muggy. I know we aren’t supposed to complain, but hey, I have no air con and I work from home. I do love the bright light and long evenings, and firing up the BBQ, though. For the first time in 12 / 13 years in London, I have a little garden (same one as last year, but I am still rejoicing in it).
Summer has been busy, in a good way. I have had work related travel, travel related work, and lots of recipe development to get on with. Project Bacon is nearly there. I had forgotten how traumatic writing a book can be, or I thought that the second would be easier. Right now, I am the bottleneck and I have to finish it and let it go. I have a fabulous team who are waiting for me too, and have other projects that they are juggling.
Project: Bacon means a lot to me. It is a very personal project that will be a limited edition, firstly. So, it is special. There will be a digital one but right now the only hardback versions are available for pre-orders only (I need to get Shopstarter to change the date but you can still order there, if you want to). I love cooking, especially for friends and I want this book to inspire you to do the same. I want it to be different, brilliant and fun and I want it to send you rushing to your kitchens. I aspire for your faces to be joyful when you taste the results, and for you to want to share everything. Bacon is the ultimate seasoning, and while amazing on its own, it really brings some cakes, drinks and sweets to life too. It also contains a whole selection of bacon condiments, which are fun and utter flavour bombs too.
Even though I am nearly finished, such lofty aims now fill me with terror. But that is the creative process when working on A-BIG-PROJECT. Excitement – nervousness – sheer terror – fear – excitement – more terror – sleepless nights – talking yourself down – [repeat the last 6 steps ad infinitum] finishing – letting go – releasing to the wild – relief and excitement again. Enjoy it for a little while. Ideas start to ferment. It is time then to start planning the next book. And repeat.
So, what to do? Sometimes, it is important to get some perspective, down tools and just try and let go for a bit. To make a nice heat beating summer dinner that can be prepared in advance, too.
If you can’t have shellfish or don’t like prawns, substitute any firm fish that you prefer, and chop it into large chunks at least an inch square before marinading. Use fresh whole spices if you can. Spices go stale, dry and flavourless over time. I sometimes use whole cinnamon which tastes better but cinnamon powder was easier on a muggy evening like the ones we have now.
Ras El Hanout Prawn Kebabs with Cous Cous & Tomato Chilli Sauce
for 2 people
18 raw prawns, deveined and heads and shells removed. Defrosted frozen prawns are fine.
6 small kebab sticks, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes (so that they don’t burn)
Ras El Hanout Marinade
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
seeds from 8 cardamom pods
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp dried rose petals (optional)
1 tbsp sea salt
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp flavourless oil like groundnut or sunflower
Tomato & Chilli Sauce
as feisty as you like it – I like it hot
1 x 400g tin of good tomatoes
2 x fresh habaneros or 1 scotch bonnet – IF you like it hot, 1 milder chilli if you don’t
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a pinch of sea salt
flavourless oil for frying
150g cous cous
half a cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 spring onions, finely chopped
a handful of fresh coriander, shredded
sea salt to season
a splash of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon to dress it
Start with your ras el hanout. Toast everything, excluding the rose petals, lemon, oil and salt, in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until fragrant. No more than a couple of minutes, usually. Then grind them to a powder with the rose petals and salt in a spice grinder, or pestle and mortar. Combine with the oil and lemon, then coat the prawns in it, massaging in gently. Leave in the fridge, covered, until you need them.
Make your sauce by sautéeing the garlic and chilli in a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Add the tomatoes, honey, cider vinegar, and half the tomato tin of water (approx 200 mls), bring to the boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer for half an hour. Season to taste and leave to the side, simmering gently.
Prepare your cous cous. Place the cous cous in a large bowl or pot and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl / pot with cling film or a lid and leave to sit for up to 10 minutes, until the cous cous has absorbed all the water. Fluff with a firk and add the remaining ingredients. Taste and dress with the lemon and evoo before seasoning.
Finally, prepare your kebabs by putting them on your kebab sticks. I cooked mine on a chargrill pan but a bbq would be great too. Prawns cook really quickly, mine only needed a few minutes on each side.
Serve the cous cous with the prawns on top, and the sauce on top of that.