Archive for January 2013


Whole Cauli Tagine

January 22nd, 2013 — 2:38pm

Diet? January? Pah! I’m sorry but we need insulation during this snowy month and I’m all about blubbering up. Okay I’m actually going to join the gym as soon as I get paid. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks eating things like langos, an Italian feast and my own bodyweight in melted cheese at Forza Winter. Oh and after Forza Winter I ordered a pizza at 2am. And then finished it for breakfast. And then and then and then and theeeeen. So you see I need to cut down on the cheese intake and up it on the veg side of things, which is how this cauli tagine came about.

The cauli is one of my favourite vegetables, and the once poor, unloved brassica is now apparently back in favour. I’ve wanted to steam one whole for ages and it seemed perfect for the tagine; it would cook gently inside, picking up all the spiced aromas over and hour or so. It would also look pretty snazzy on zee table.

I streaked the top of the brain-like cauli with saffron steeped in water; a flavour I used to hate with a passion. I found it soapy and unpleasant. The most expensive spice in the world? Didn’t get it. Well, I did; it’s very laborious to harvest of course but still. I’ve come to like it through cooking Iranian food and although I still wouldn’t count it among my favourite flavours, it sure does look purdy and I find it fragrant when used with appropriate modesty.

The cauli was cooked in a rich, thick sauce of onions, garlic, tomatoes and a few dried apricots, with a dried lime for a sour note; dried limes are amazing, when plucked from the bag they smell like lime sherbet. Spices went in, whole and ground; the onions taking on a beautiful amber hue from the turmeric.

It took rather longer to cook than I’d imagined, which has been my experience with the tagine thus far. I predicted an hour – it was more like one and a half. We ate it with a minty cous cous and a yoghurty drizzle effort which was basically yog mixed with diced pickled lemon and some garlic, briefly simmered to take the fiery edge off.

A seriously satisfying dish and, all importantly, insulating. I felt sufficiently sleepy, particularly when curled up with a glass of red and some Attenborough on the laptop. In bed by half past nine. Result.

Whole Cauli Tagine (serves 4, I’d say)

1 whole cauliflower
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 large onions, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods (I like cardamom, a lot)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 scant teaspoon ground turmeric
1 dried red chilli
Pinch saffron (optional and like, totally not necessary)
1 dried lime
Handful dried apricots (preferably Persian)

Start by heating up the tagine slowly. Add some oil, then sling in the onions. Let them cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, then crush in a pestle and mortar with the dried chilli. Add to the tagine with the other spices and the garlic. Continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes and dried lime, plus the apricots. Let the sauce cook down for 20-30 minutes until it’s starting to look all thick and gooey and lush. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Remove all the leaves from the cauliflower then trim down the base so it’s all nice and neat. Place the cauli on top of the sauce. If you want to use the saffron, steep it in a little boiling water for 5 minutes then steak across the top of the cauli. Put the lid on and cook on a gentle heat for about 1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on the size of your cauli. When it’s tender, it’s cooked.

Serve with herby cous cous (I used mint and parsley) and yoghurt with chopped preserved lemons and garlic which has been simmered to take the edge off, then crushed.

26 comments » | African food, Tagines, Vegetables

Super Sized Lemon

January 21st, 2013 — 2:07pm

Sometimes life just throws you a bone. In fact, I think life must just be throwing me whole skeletons because I am one lucky lady when I sit back and actually think about it. The amount of really cool, properly geeky food people I know is just awesome. Florian is one of these people. I believe we first met over dinner at The Ten Bells. We then proceeded to organise a food tour of South London together in which we took 21 people (some coming all the way from Germany) to see the best of Peckham, Camberwell and Brixton. We did a restaurant crawl, cooked a meal together using ingredients we’d bought at Brockley Market, Persepolis and on Rye Lane. We lunched at Frog on The Green, visited the Brickhouse Bakery and had a tour of Brixton Market. Phew!

So anyway now Florian is involved with a company called wearethesauce.com, importing some incredible produce from around the world; at present, Campania (I WANT HIS JOB). He proposed we cook an Italian feast with the ingredients from one of the boxes and so of course I said yes please let me at it now now now now NOW.

We started with mozzarella in carozza, which didn’t quite work because I couldn’t bring myself to use shitty plastic bread with the awesome mozz. I know, I never usually have a problem with these things, right? Should have trusted my instincts. Good quality bread is way too sturdy and the mozz wasn’t able to melt inside. Still, bread and cheese, innit. Pretty tasty. I made a thinly sliced courgette salad (very seasonal, ahem), topped with chilli, basil, olive oil and the most incredible ricotta I’ve ever tasted. It had a slight smoky flavour and was rich and creamy; a far cry from that thin tasting shite we get in supermarkets.

We ate slices of cured meats alongside. A salsiccia spiced with fennel and a soppressata with an amazing core of pure milky white neck fat. Florian told me that he ‘almost cried with joy’ when he first cut into it.

Then, pasta with bagnoli truffles, mushrooms and shitloads of butter. Healthy. The truffles are different to more familiar truffs and are likely to divide palates. Raw, they smell like petrol and need cooking to mellow them down. We beefed the dish with portabella mushrooms. Intense.

Grilled sea bream for the main course, baked in the oven with spring onions, lemon and herbs, salsa verde and fennel on the side. For dessert, a lemon and ricotta tart with more of that incredible cheese and the juice and candied rind of fragrant Amalfi lemons; they really are famous for a reason. We burnt the top of the tart but hey, it was fluffily gorgeous underneath. I’d love to make an Amalfi lemon sorbet in the summer.

We ate and drank and ate and drank and laughed and chatted until late (Ish. Look, it was a school night, okay?). Good friends are the ones who bring you boxes of stunning ingredients from Italy, no? Oh, and let us not forget THE LARGEST LEMON IN THE WORLD*

* It is called a procida lemon and can be used to make BOOZE! The pith can also be eaten in salads! It’s a beautiful freak to be sure.

Visit wearethesauce.com to get your very own box of hard to obtain and truly exciting ingredients.

Courgette Salad with Ricotta and Chilli

2 young slender courgettes
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
Approx 200g ricotta di bufala
Handful basil leaves, finely sliced
Lemon juice (preferably Amalfi), about half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Slice the courgettes very thinly and lay out on a plate. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle the courgettes with coarse salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the chilli. Crumble over the ricotta. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle over basil leaves. Serve.

26 comments » | Food Events, Food From The Rye

Langos: Hungarian Street Food

January 8th, 2013 — 9:26pm

So I’m having dinner with my Hungarian friend Gergely and he’s waving his arms excitedly in the air, getting all nostalgic for langos. During the conversation I get the impression very quickly that Hungarian food is all about insulating; it’s cold there in the winter, innit. Although apparently they eat it on the beach too so er, yeah. Basically a lot of the food seems to be rib sticking, fatty, carb loaded and in this case, deep fried. I am instantly all over it like a particularly vicious rash. It’s always good to talk about unpleasant physical complaints when describing one’s enthusiasm for food, don’t you think?

So on Sunday Gergely came to my house and taught me how to make langos and it was brilliant. He freaked me out by managing to get the dough to rise super fast in my rather cold kitchen, then we made sort of cow pat (sorry) sized discs of dough and plunged them into hot oil. A couple of minutes each side and they emerged golden and sizzling; is there anything more appealing than freshly fried dough? No, no there is not.

We’re not done yet though, because here comes the most important thing about langos – garlic water. The garlic water makes the langos special. It’s officially my new favourite thing and I have a lot of favourite things on the go right now. Basically you just get an absolute shit load of garlic and whack it in a jar with, you’ve guessed it, some water. Oh and a little bit of oil. You mix it together and the garlic kind of mellows but at the same time stays er, really strong. Yeah, that makes sense. Anyway so you brush the freshly fried langos with the garlic water and the intensity of perfume created by the heat meeting the garlic is incredible.

Then it’s time to smear that dough with sour cream. I am assured that Hungarian sour cream is far superior and now of course I long for it. I had to make do with some regular stuff from Tesco Metro. Still, sour cream it was. To finish the langos, grated cheese. Yep. Oh and it absolutely has to be the shittiest cheapest most poorly produced ready grated cheese you can find, apparently. Gergely was very adamant about this. We bought some kind of basic stuff from Tesco and he instantly pronounced it ‘too good’.

Unsurprisingly I instantly fell in love with langos. It’s deep fried dough covered in garlic, sour cream and cheese FFS. We washed it down with Unicum which is like Hungarian Fernet Branca. I’d planned dinner afterwards. It didn’t happen. Gergely and his girlfriend rather impressively went straight on to dinner at Koffman’s. Respect.

Langos is the kind of food we should all be eating in January. Sod the diet, it’s cold and the Hungarians really know how to do food that keeps you warm.

You will however stink of garlic for 2 days.

Langos (makes loads)

1kg flour
2 sachets instant yeast
1 pint luke warm water
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix the sugar, yeast and water in a jug. Wait 5 minutes or so until the top is frothy, then mix with the flour to make a semi soft dough. Gergely did this with his hands. The dough should be really sloppy.

When the dough has doubled in size, oil a piece of foil, then add a drizzle of oil around the edges, which makes the dough come out of the bowl really easily (it is very sticky and won’t come out otherwise). Turn it out onto the foil, cut pieces and make little rounds, which are thinner in the middle.

Deep fry the fuckers.

For the garlic water and to assemble:

Mix about 10 cloves of garlic with a jam jar of water and a splash of oil. Leave for a couple of hours to infuse.

Thin the sour cream by whipping it with a bit of water.

To assemble, douse the langos with the garlic water, spread on sour cream and top with shitty grated cheese.

We did some crazy pimping with a bit of smoked salt and some fennel seeds, admittedly after we’d started on the Unicum.

52 comments » | Bread, Guilty Pleasures, Street Food

Peckham Goat Tagine

January 2nd, 2013 — 2:54pm

Tagines have always been something I’ve viewed as having great potential to be really tasty, but I’ve never eaten a good one. What I imagined in my head to be a thick, rich, aromatic stew with complex flavours always arrived as a thin, watery bowlful bearing way too much dried fruit.

Because I am a spoiled and lucky girl, I received a magnificent tagine for chrimbo; a chance to turn things around and make the tadge I’ve always wanted, Pecknam stylee.

The tagine is heated on a little metal thing that looks like a ping pong bat with dimples in it, which helps to distribute the heat evenly across the base. It’s important that the tagine is heated slowly, otherwise it will crack and spoil all your fun before you’ve started.

The base was thickly covered with a bed of onions, the idea being that they would cook down, becoming silken and lush and absorbent of everything above. This being Peckham (bruv), the meat had to be goat, which is very easy to come by here. Its ballsy mutton like flavor is perfect (you could obviously substitute mutton if you can find goat) and it loves long cooking to become properly tender. For veg, some of those little white baby aubergines, which also need a good simmering into submission (they remain stubbornly bitter otherwise) and some small turnips, diced.

For the fruit, which for me is potentially the making but most commonly the breaking of a good tagine, I bought dried fruits from Persepolis, ending up with a kind of Moroccan/Persian hybrid recipe. There are many similarities between the cuisines. In went a dried lime, which the Iranians add mostly to stews where they bob about, gradually releasing a flavor which is like a lime essential oil, emerging at the end shriveled and spent. Apricots went in too, but not those horrible overly sweet and sulphurous supermarket ones but fragrant perfumed Persian fruits. A few scarlet barberries flecked the top, adding sourness, like tart cranberries.

For heat, I couldn’t help whacking a scotch bonnet in. I’m sorry. If I didn’t I’d be betraying Peckham. It was left whole though and just pierced, to contain heat but leach flavour. Having impulse bought a bag of African hot peppers, a couple of those went into a spice paste with loads of garlic, two types of paprika and a shed load of ras el hanout. It could have blown our heads off but didn’t; a bit on the hot side for a tagine, but with an enjoyable slow build.

After three hours of simmering and steaming what emerged was the tadge I’d always wanted; deep and complex, sweet then spicy then sour, lips were sticky from slow cooked onions and goat fat. A scattering of mint and spring onion freshened things up at the end.

This is, as you would imagine, even better the next day and again the day after that. I served it with flat bread and Sally Butcher’s Borani-ye Esfanaj (spinach with yoghurt – from Persia in Peckham), which is one of my favourite yoghurty arrangements of all time.

Peckham Goat Tagine (serves 6)

500g diced goat meat (or mutton)
4 small turnips, peeled and cut to the same size as the aubergines
6 small white aubergines, halved
3 onions, sliced
1 scotch bonnet chilli, left whole but pierced
250ml water
1 dried lime
5 dried apricots
1 scant tablespoon barberries
Mint leaves, finely sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced

For the paste

5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 African hot pepper dried chillies (optional)
2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (smoky paps)
1 tablespoon water

Ideally I would have marinated the goat overnight in the paste then added it straight to the tagine without browning. I didn’t because I wasn’t organised enough so I’ve set out the method below as I cooked it.

Start by heating the tagine slowly. Add some olive oil, the onions and scotch bonnet chilli. Let the onions cook down gently while you brown the meat.

Cover a plate with flour and season it with salt and pepper. Dust each cube of the goat meat in it. Heat a frying pan and add some oil. Brown the meat on all sides. This will need to be done in several batches. Add this to the tagine, followed by all the other ingredients, including the paste. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a lowish heat for three hours, stirring every now and then after the first hour or so. After two hours, I’d advise you pick out the scotch bonnet chilli, because it’s only a matter of time before it bursts and you get a lot more heat than you bargained for.

Scatter over the mint and spring onion and serve with plenty of flat bread for dipping.

30 comments » | Food From The Rye, Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Stews, Tagines

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