Archive for November 2011

Italian Stuffed Squid (AoL Lifestyle)

November 29th, 2011 — 6:11pm

We can thank squid for evolving into a shape that just begs for a good stuffing. Don’t let them down now, it would be terribly disrespectful; mosey on over to AoL Lifestyle for the recipe.

2 comments » | AoL Lifestyle, Fish and Seafood, Main Dishes

Baghdad Eggs

November 27th, 2011 — 8:33pm

I first came across a recipe for Baghdad eggs in one of my favourite cook books, Jake Tilson’s ‘A Tale of 12 Kitchens’ (from which I also cooked a mummified chicken). Tilson discovered the recipe in the book ‘Medieval Arab Cookery‘, which describes eggs on a bed of spiced celery; my version however is more akin to modern recipes I’ve seen.

An egg is fried gently on a bed of softened onions, sizzled with lemon juice, sprinkled with cumin and paprika then slicked with melted butter. The whole lot is served on top of toasted pitta, which softens in places under the oozy egg. A dollop of yoghurt and a flurry of chopped mint contrast the richness.

This is quite indulgent considering the aforementioned butter, which is why it’s my new favourite Sunday brunch, Middle Eastern style.

Baghdad Eggs (serves 2)

1 medium onion, diced
2 eggs
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 good generous knobs of butter
Hot paprika
Mint, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 toasted pittas

Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and cook the onions gently until they start to soften. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, then crack in the eggs.

Dust each egg with a little cumin and paprika (use your fingers to do this and be conservative – you don’t want huge clumps of spice in there), plus some salt and pepper then put a lid on and let cook until the eggs are just set. Toast your pitta breads then split them apart and toast the er, untoasted side under the grill.

In a separate small pan, melt another knob of butter and sprinkle a little extra cumin and paprika into it. Leave this on a low heat to get a little brown and nutty.

When the eggs are cooked, cut up the pitta and arrange on a plate. Put an egg on top, making sure to get plenty of the onions too. Drizzle with some of the extra melted butter and garnish with a dollop of yoghurt and some mint.

30 comments » | Breakfast, Brunch, Eggs, Food From The Rye

Ham Hock and White Bean Soup (AoL Lifestyle)

November 22nd, 2011 — 9:26am

I’m very much into cooking with ham hocks (or knuckles) again after the pibil, so I’ve made a porky white bean broth for AoL Lifestyle, super-charged with a salsa verde-like green sauce. Find the recipe over on AoL.

10 comments » | AoL Lifestyle, Lunchbox, Main Dishes, Meat, Pulses, Soups

Pork Knuckle Pibil

November 18th, 2011 — 9:39am

A couple of weeks ago I did a stall selling my new Peckham Jerk Marinade at Ms. Marmite Lover’s Underground Farmer’s Market and found myself pitched up next to the Capsicana Chilli Company. Like a kid in a sweet shop I stocked up on loads of Mexican chillies and as I was packing up I heard a ‘psst’ from behind me; I swung around to find the chilli guy, Ben, offering me a pouch of achiote powder like it was illegal drugs, “hard to find in the UK” he whispered, “have a little play around with that.”

Achiote (annatto) is the seed of the achiote tree and is an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisine; I had a little ‘aha!’ moment when I first mixed it up into a paste – it smelled instantly familiar even though I’d never cooked with it before. It has a curious smell, almost like a cross between chilli and citrus. This was the flavour I was always trying to identify when I ate ‘proper’ Mexican food like Buen Provecho’s tacos.

I turned to Diana Kennedy’s classic tome, ‘The Essential Cuisines of Mexico’ for this pibil recipe, which calls for a pork shoulder to be smothered in the prepared achiote paste, wrapped in banana leaves, cooked for a torturous eternity and then doused in an incredibly fiery sauce. My butcher had no pork shoulder so I bought pork knuckles instead, allowing a bit of extra weight for the additional bones.

To make achiote paste I mixed the achiote powder, oregano, cumin, allspice and water to a thick red sludge which I smeared all over the pork as directed, having sliced it here and there to let the flavour get deep inside and given it an initial bath in salt and orange juice. There’s some garlic and ground piquin chillies in there too. The knuckles were wrapped in banana leaves, which Diana insists imparts a particular flavour; I have to say I didn’t notice it, but then I didn’t know what I was looking for and wrapping things in banana leaves is still fun. You can obviously use foil instead.

They were in the oven for 6 hours by which time I was going clinically insane with anticipation. I unwrapped the parcel and found the meat just slipping off the bone; there’s a lot more meat on a pork knuckle than I realised. The meat shredded easily and the achiote powder gave it an earthy flavour that is impossible to substitute. A word of warning to potential pibil cooks though: make sure that package is tightly sealed. I lost about half the juices when I turned the pork midway through cooking which was very traumatic; protect that precious cargo! Still, I had enough to play with and there’s a fantastic separate accompanying sauce, too.

It is hot, consisting as it does of orange juice, red onion and THREE WHOLE SCOTCH BONNETS. I wimped out and settled on two which was enough. The acidity of the orange juice does cook the chillies a little though, taming their ferocity somewhat.

We made big, messy tacos, piling the meat on with our hands and topping with creamy guac and a spoon of that orange-chilli sauce. I almost cried when I took the last bite of the last taco and wiped the final bit of sauce from my food flecked face. One to firmly embed in the repertoire.

If you liked this you may also like the look of my pork cheek tacos with blood orange and chipotle or chipotles en adobo

Pork Knuckle Pibil Tacos

3 pork knuckles
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground piquin chillies or other dried chillies, ground (Diana says you should use powdered ‘chilli seco yucateco’ or paprika)
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons lime juice

Banana leaves, for wrapping (you’ll need foil as well and you can leave out the leaves if you can’t get hold of them; they’re cheap in Peckham but can be expensive in shops elsewhere. If you do use leaves you’ll probably need to clean them with a damp cloth and make them more flexible by heating slightly over a flame)

For the achiote paste

2 tablespoons achiote powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch black pepper
6 whole allspice
1.5 tablespoons water

Make deep cuts in the pork knuckles with a long knife then rub it all over with the salt followed by the orange and lime juice.

Make the achiote paste by combining crushing the allspice berries to a powder and mixing with all the other ingredients. Crush the garlic with the piquin (or other dried chillies), 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons orange juice, then mix with the achiote paste. Smother this all over the knuckles, rubbing well in. Make a parcel by first layering tin foil, then banana leaves and placing the knuckles in the centre; fold the package to seal it and wrap with foil. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the pork from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it and preheat the oven to 165C. Get a big roasting tin and put a rack inside it (I just put a cooling rack in a tin) then put 125ml water in the bottom. Place the pork package on top of the rack and cover it tightly with foil. Cook for 4 hours then turn the knuckles over and baste them. Cook for a further 3 hours or until the meat falls easily from the bone.

Carefully remove the knuckles from the parcel, taking care to save those precious juices. Tip the juices into a bowl and set aside. Shred the meat from the knuckles and set aside in a bowl then pour the juices over and give it a good mix. This is now ready to serve with the sauce and guacamole.

For the sauce

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
3 scotch bonnets, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
165ml orange juice

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside for 2 hours.

For the tacos

I always cheat and buy ready made corn tortillas then cut circles from them and warm them through in a dry pan.

33 comments » | Main Dishes, Meat, Mexican Food

Wild Mushroom Risotto Recipe for AoL Lifestyle

November 16th, 2011 — 8:11am

Nothing says “hello autumn!” like a big bowl of carbs with some mushrooms in it. I’ve made a comforting wild mushroom risotto laced with lots of garlic and white wine for AoL Lifestyle. Head to the site to find the recipe.

5 comments » | AoL Lifestyle, Main Dishes

Book Review: Veggiestan by Sally Butcher

November 13th, 2011 — 8:01pm

Sally Butcher, the shop-keeper, proud Peckhamite and author of the award-winning ‘Persia in Peckham‘ has gone and written another fantastic cookery book, this time entirely vegetarian. There’s quite a trend for veggie recipe books at the moment (which seemed to surge when people started swooning over Ottolenghi) but I  beg of you to consider chucking your money at something a little less mainstream. Go off the beaten track and take the first side road to Veggiestan.

Veggiestan is of course a fictional place, invented by Sally to reflect the position of vegetables in the Middle Eastern diet. Meat usually takes a back seat and is either optional or reserved entirely for special occasions. We could do with adopting this attitude a little more in the West, I say. I mean, some people still don’t think they’re having a meal unless it’s got meat in it. Now, this may come as a shock to my readers, but I don’t eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner; in reality it’s about once a week (or maybe twice, not including Meat Liquor visits or bacon sandwiches) that I cook those big hunks of pork, beef and lamb and increasingly I find myself eating more fish and vegetables. There is something rather vulgar, I think, about eating  meat every day, not to mention the fact that is isn’t particularly sustainable or indeed terribly good for you.

Veggiestan is a visual carnival of a book; the cover bold and tactile, zig-zagged with fabric like fuzzy felts (remember them?) Bright patterns and photos are abundant throughout; presumably the budget shot up on the back of the first book’s success. The structure runs thus: bread and pastries; herbs and salads; dairy and eggs; soups, legumes and pulses; rice and grains; vegetables; recipes with fruit; sauces, pickles and preserves and of course, sweet things to finish.

I like to make at least 3 recipes from a book before I write about it. In fact, I started before it was even published as Sally asked me to test a recipe (yes she’s a friend – disclosure); this was how I found myself cooled by a silky, chilled yoghurt soup (above), a lifeline on a sticky summer evening. Hard to imagine eating it right now, I realise, but there’s a hot yoghurt soup recipe in the book too, for all your yoghurt soup needs. Yoghurt is one of the things Iranians are really into you see, as am I.

We see eye to eye on other ingredients too, herbs for example. Lots and lots of herbs. A plate of mixed fresh herbs (sabzi) are eaten like salad leaves at the beginning of a meal to stimulate the appetite; different herbs are believed to have various health-boosting properties. The Iranians also get right on down with mixing sweet and salty flavours, like the dates and feta in this salad (Salata Jamr wa Jubnat Feta) – one of my favourite recipes from the book. The textures are glorious too; squidgy dates against crisp fried chips of khobez flat bread.

I also loved this pomegranate salsa; sweet, ruby pops of pomegranate stud a ballsy salsa. I actually ate this with grilled meat but we’ll gloss swiftly over that.

Finally, more of a winter warmer: an Afghan carrot hotpot (Qorma-e-Zardak), which made me remember just how darn good carrots are when made the centre of a dish rather than an afterthought on the side ‘for a bit of colour’. The spicing is very well judged too, so the flavours remain distinct. I often think of lentils as something I eat when I’m skint but this felt like a treat on a cold Monday evening, especially with the hum of a scotch bonnet singing through (hello, Peckham influence) and a good hunk of fluffy bread for a bit of dippage.

One of the most impressive things about the book is the sheer amount of work that has gone into it; you’re drawn into the story of each dish as Sally delves into the etymology of recipe names and the anthropological background. She tries to tell me this is ‘purely the result of procrastination’ but whatever the motivation, the book is all the more richer for it.

There are still so many recipes I want to cook: fig jam with nibbed pistachios; Yemeni ‘fire relish'; Iranian aubergine pickle; baked stuffed quinces; pumpkin kibbeh. I think I’d better stop there. Some ingredients may be unfamiliar, but Sally makes them entirely accessible; her warmth, wit and complete down to Earth-ness are the key. This is exactly what Sally is like in real life by the way, but you don’t need to take my word for it – get yourself down to her shop. She’s the lady with the cheery “hello!” and the big red hair. Oh and ask her to sign the book while you’re there, it could be worth a few bob one day.

Afghan Carrot Hotpot (serves 4)

2 medium onions, chopped
oil, for frying
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli, finely chopped
1cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cloves
600g baby carrots or the equivalent of grown up carrots, cut into wedges
300g yellow split peas
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons sour grape juice or 2 teaspoons vinegar
About 500ml veg stock (I found I needed a little more to cover mine but then I did have very beasty carrots)

Fry the onions in a littl eoil in the bottom of a big saucepan and add in the garlic, chilli and ginger. When the onions have started to soften, add in the spices, carrots and split peas, followed a couple of minutes later by the tomato paste and fresh tomato chunks. Add some salt, then either the vinegar or sour grape juice, and then just enough stock to cover all the ingredients. Bring to the boil and set to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the carrots and peas are cooked through.

Serve over plain white rice or with bread and most definitely with yoghurt. I added a good handful of fresh mixed herbs too.

Sally also gives a recipe for a ‘Salaata’ which sounds like a very nice accompaniment:

3 small continental cucumbers (or half a regular one)
3 tomatoes
3-4 spring onions
Half a bunch of coriander, trimmed
Handful fresh mint, trimmed
1 small regular onion
2 small, hot green chillies (optional)
Juice 1-2 lemons

Just chop all the ingredients together – bigger than a salsa but much smaller than a regular chunk. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with lemon then cover and pop in the fridge for about half an hour to let the flavours mingle.

Sally’s book is currently worth £25 but you can buy it for the frankly outrageous price of £15.54 on Amazon

Sally also writes a Veggiestan blog, a Persepolis blog and does the occasional Persian pop-up at Anderson’s in Peckham. She also runs Persepolis, the shop, with her husband Jamshid. Phew!



29 comments » | Books, Food From The Rye, Peckham

Shakshuka for AoL Lifestyle

November 11th, 2011 — 8:00am

I’ve written a Peckham-influenced shakshuka recipe for my column on AoL Lifestyle. Shakshuka is a classic Middle Eastern dish of peppers, onions and poached eggs – it’s pretty intensely flavoured when it comes down to it, especially super-charged Peckham-style with scotch bonnet chilli and thyme. This is one of my favourite weekend brunches; head over to Lifestyle for the recipe.

15 comments » | AoL Lifestyle, Breakfast, Brunch, Eggs, Vegetables

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