Marrakshi chicken with preserved lemon

Sam is getting more adventurous with his cooking, and wanted to try a Moroccan-inspired dish. This is what he made – heavily influenced by the chicken tagine served at Leon.

Serves 4

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic puree (or smoked garlic puree if you can find it)
  • 1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
  • 8 small chicken joints, on the bone for preference (thighs are perfect for this, or you can buy a whole chicken and joint it yourself – there’ll be plenty of meat left over on the carcass to make  stew or soup)
  • a few strands of saffron (optional)
  • half a litre of chicken stock
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 large preserved lemons or 8 really small ones, enough for about 60g of rinds
  • 50g green olives, stoned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • salt and black pepper

Peel and chop the onion into thin half-moon slices.  Heat the oil in a large saute pan or casserole dish, and saute the onion in the oil over a medium heat until it is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic puree and the ras-el-hanout, stir it about and enjoy the lovely aromas of the spices as they heat up.  Put in the chicken pieces – you should really take the skin off .  Then add the chickpeas, the saffron and the stock and let it come to a simmer. Leave it simmering for about ten minutes.

Take the preserved lemons and cut them in half. Scoop out the flesh and pips and discard them, then slice up the rinds and add them to the pan along with the chopped olives.  Keep the pan simmering for another ten minutes.

Finish off the dish by adding the creme fraiche. Stir it in and then turn up the heat a bit to reduce the liquid a little – this should take another ten to fifteen minutes.

Incidentally if you use big chicken breast fillets or larger joints, you will need to increase the cooking time to ensure the chicken is cooked through.  Chicken should never be pink!

When you are ready to serve, season it with salt and pepper (it may not need salt because of the stock and the olives) and garnish with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro to our friends across the Atlantic).  This dish can be served with couscous or rice, and it goes well with dark green vegetables such as broccoli or wilted spinach.  You could also try a mixture of traditional Moroccan braised vegetables such as carrots, courgettes, squash, aubergine and green cabbage.

 

bloody brilliant piccalilli

img_20161107_222829-1So named by family friend Eric, who is renowned for his taciturnity. However, he got very animated about this piccalilli, and declared it to be bloody brilliant. High praise indeed, from a man of few words.

  • 1kg mixed vegetables, washed and peeled as necessary. Essentials are cauliflower (white or romanesco), green beans, and shallots or small silverskin onions. The rest can be made up of sweetcorn, fresh peas, red peppers, courgettes, carrots, green tomatoes. The  more colourful the mixture, the better.
  • 50g fine salt
  • 30g cornflour
  • 10g ground turmeric
  • 10g English mustard powder
  • 15g yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 200g granulated sugar

The most time consuming part of making piccalilli is cutting up the vegetables. You need to make sure that the pieces are quite small and of an even size. Once you’ve got your kilo of chopped veg, put them in a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt.  Mix it in well and leave the bowl, covered in a cloth, overnight. This will help to ensure that the vegetable pieces stay crunchy.  The next day, rinse the veg in ice-cold water to get rid of the salt, and drain as much of the water off as you can.  The veg need to be quite dry or the resulting sauce will be watery. Put the cornflour, turmeric, and all the other spices in a big jug and mix them to a smooth-ish paste with some of the vinegar.  The rest of the vinegar goes into a large saucepan to be heated up with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the vinegar and sugar mixture to the boil, then pour some of it over the spice paste and mix it well, then pour the spice paste and vinegar mixture back into the pan and bring to the boil again.  Keep stirring it until it thickens. This should take about five minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, and then you’re ready to mix in the drained vegetables.  Stir all the vegetables around until they are all coated with the spicy sauce, then pack them into sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets.  Seal the jars with wax paper discs to cover, and acid-proof screw-on lids.  This piccalilli can be eaten straight away but improves after about 4  weeks maturing in a dark cupboard.  It’s excellent with cheese, cured meats, pork pies, roast beef, sandwiches, anything that benefits from a mustardy, crunchy hit. I have been known to eat it from the jar with a spoon.  It’s also vegan, containing no animal products (but it tasts so good WITH animal products…!).

Sam’s mackerel paté

pateSam wanted to learn how to make paté, but we couldn’t find any chicken livers in the supermarket.  So we made this instead.

  • 200g smoked mackerel fillets
  • 100g unsalted labneh (yogurt cheese: see previous labneh recipe) – or you could use low fat cream cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pepper to taste

Skin the mackerel fillets, and remove any really big bones that are still left in the mackerel flesh.  Break the fillets up a bit and put them in food processor. Add the yogurt cheese, and most of the lemon juice, and blitz for about 2o seconds. You don’t need to do it for too long or it will go completely smooth; it’s nicer with a bit of texture.  Season with freshly ground black pepper, and spoon it into a nice serving dish or pot.  Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge.

Cheese and onion bread

I got a heart-shaped terracotta bread form as a Christmas present, so here is its first outing!

  • 300g strong white bread flourIMG_20151230_214705
  • 200g strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 sachet fast action yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100g hard cheese, finely grated
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • a knob of butter for greasing the bowl

Tip the flours into a large bowl. Put the salt on one side and the yeast on the other, and sprinkle the sugar over the top.  Add about 370ml warm water and the olive oil, then the chopped spring onions, and mix to a dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it for ten minutes. Put it into a greased bowl and cover with greased clingfilm. Leave it in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This should take about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.  “Knock back” the dough and split it into eight or nine balls.  Put the balls into the breadform with a bit of space between them, then set it to prove in a warm place for another 20 minutes or so.  Then sprinkle the cheese (and any chopped spring onion you have left) over the top of the bread, and bake in the oven for 20  minutes until it’s slightly golden, and sounds hollow if you tap the base of the bread.

Cheat’s pea and ham soup

A quick recipe for using up leftover ham.

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 large carrots, chopped finely
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 200g baked ham, chopped
  • 300g tin “chip shop” mushy peas
  • 1 ham stock cube dissolved in 1 litre boiling water
  • 1 bayleaf
  • white pepper

 

Put all the finely chopped veg in a large pan with the bayleaf and the oil, and heat gently, with a lid on the pan. This is called sweating your vegetables.  After about 15 minutes the onions will be softened and transparent.  At this point you can add the ham and the stock. Bring to the boil and turn down to simmering point.  Then empty the tin of mushy peas into the pan and give it a stir.  It’s ready when it’s all heated through.  If it’s not thick enough for your liking, you can add some leftover cooked potatoes (if you want to add raw potato, peel one large potato and chop it finely and sweat it with the other veg right at the beginning).  Season to taste with white pepper.  Remove the bayleaf before serving.

This is the kind of soup which is very accommodating and will accept all manner of leftover cooked veg – although green cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts should be avoided as they stink when overcooked!  If you have leftover veg you want to add, put them in at the same time as the peas.

Hangover cure

IMG_20151212_092045[1]Well not really, and not really a recipe, but it certainly helps you feel more human.  It’s another Dutch speciality, uitsmijter, which literally means “thrower-out”, or bouncer.  It’s traditionally served at the very end of a party as an untypically Dutch way of being polite and telling people to go home.

You will need:

  • Some nice sliced bread – typically white sliced but I like Vogel‘s sunflower & barley bread
  • Eggs – usually 2 per person, but depends on the size of your bread
  • A slice of ham
  • A slice of Gouda cheese (any hard cheese will do, including Cheddar or Edam, but young Gouda is the more authentic choice)
  • A bit of butter
  • A dessertspoonful of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan

Heat up the frying pan with the oil in it.  Lay the bread on a plate – you can butter it but it’s not usual to do this in Holland, that would be a bit too profligate…  Put the ham on the bread first, then the slice of cheese. It has to be this way round so that the hot egg can melt the cheese a bit.  Crack the eggs into the frying pan and let them cook until they go brown and frilly round the edge.  You can baste the yolks with the oil to get them to set slightly.  When they are done to your satisfaction, lift them out of the pan with a fish slice and drain them on some kitchen paper before placing on the cheese/ham/bread you’ve already prepared.  This is best accompanied by a large mug of koffie verkeerd and two paracetamol.

Spanish puttanesca pasta

IMG_20150912_145640[1]A success from the “oh no there’s nothing in the fridge” school of cooking.  Feeds 4 – ish.

  • 300g wholewheat spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chorizo ring
  • handful of black olives, chopped
  • a splash of red wine, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever’s around along those lines
  • black pepper
  • grated parmesan

Put the spaghetti into a large pan of boiling water with the olive oil and pinch of salt. Meantime, chop up the chorizo into slices about the width of a pound coin and then cut the slices in half.  Add them to a frying pan (no need for oil) on a medium heat, moving them about so they don’t stick and start releasing the oil.  After a few minutes add the handful of black olives and empty the tin of tomatoes into the pan, stirring everything about.  After a few minutes more taste the sauce and add red wine, or balsamic vinegar, or a pinch of sugar, or whatever you think it might need to brighten up the flavour a bit.  Turn down the heat and let it all simmer together.  Add some black pepper.  Meantime test the pasta.  Wholewheat normally takes about 10 minutes.  When the pasta is ready, take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and mix into your sauce.  Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan with the sauce in it and mix it all together so all the pasta is coated with the sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan to sprinkle over the top.

Oriental salad dressing – and Oriental coleslaw

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon “lazy” garlic puree
  • 1 tablespoon “lazy” ginger puree
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake it all about until the honey is dissolved.  We like this so much we normally make double or triple quantities and leave the jar in the fridge as a ready-made salad dressing. It’s great on any kind of robust or peppery salad leaves. Originally it was for coleslaw, from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for Asian coleslaw – our take on it is below.

  • Half a small head of red cabbage
  • 2 large carrots, cleaned
  • 6 radishes
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • half a lime
  • bunch of coriander leaves

Chop the spring onions finely, and grate the cabbage, carrots and radishes on a coarse setting.  You may have more success in cutting the cabbage finely with a really sharp knife as it does need to be a bit crunchy.  Mix all the veg together in a bowl and squeeze over the juice of half a lime. Leave to relax for a bit then pour over the dressing above when you’re ready to serve, and garnish with a good handful of chopped coriander leaves. Or if you can’t stand coriander (there are some people who swear it tastes of soap…), just leave it out.

The salad dressing is vegetarian, and if you use maple or agave syrup instead of honey it is vegan.

chickpea chips

OK these may not be entirely healthy (deep-frying anything is usually a bad idea), but if you’re craving something crispy, hot, salty and satisfying, then these are slightly healthier than deep fried potatoes and require no peeling!

Gram flour is also known as besan, or chickpea flour, and can be found in most big supermarkets in the “World Foods” aisle.  If you’re lucky enough to live near an Asian supermarket you’re sure to find it there.

Mix one mugful of gram flour with two mugs of cold water in a saucepan. Stir it over a low heat until it turns into a kind of thick custardy paste (a bit like polenta).  Pour it into a 7 inch square cake tin lined with greaseproof paper, and level it off. You’re looking to get the paste to a thickness of about 1cm.  Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature and cut it into chip shapes – experiment with different thicknesses.  When we did this, there was a 50/50 split between those who liked the fat chips and those who liked the thinner fries.

Heat some neutral tasting oil (sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut) in a deep pan so that the oil is about 5cm deep and there’s at least double that of empty space in the pan above the surface of the oil.  Deep frying is dangerous so you need to minimise the effects of hot oil splashing around.  Carefully lower a few of the chickpea chips into the hot oil – if it bubbles vigorously then it’s the right temperature.  Fry the chips until they take on a golden brown tinge. Don’t overload the pan as this will lower the oil temperature and the chips will absorb more oil.  It’s better to do this in a few batches.  Use a slotted spoon to fish out the cooked chips and drain them really well on kitchen paper. A sprinkle of salt and pepper is really all you need, but you could gild the lily by offering a spicy dip on the side!

These chips, made as above, are vegan. Gram flour is normally gluten-free, and has a higher proportion of protein than other flours.

The link below has nothing to do with gram flour or chips but will feed your soul.

GNU Terry Pratchett

Bob’s fruity brown sauce

Digital CameraMy brother-in-law asked for some of this sauce for his birthday so I’ve renamed it in his honour.  I’ve made several versions of this in the past few years and have a “bung it in” attitude to the spices and dried fruits, which has led to some interesting variations in colour and heat.  This latest batch is a bit pink, and a tad more heavy on the chili than previously, because you can never guess how hot a chili is until it’s in there… This makes the equivalent of about 4 x1lb jamjars.

  • 500g fresh rhubarb (I’ve also used tinned rhubarb occasionally – in which case drain it well, and cut down a bit on the demerara sugar)
  • 250g red onions
  • 1 long red chili, deseeded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 200g cooking apple, peeled and grated
  • 20g (about 2cm) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 heaped teaspons ground ginger
  • 1 dessertspoon paprika
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g dried cherries or dried cranberries or dried dates
  • 200ml red wine vinegar
  • 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 dessertspoon salt
  • 500g demerara sugar

Trim and chop the rhubarb finely.  Peel and chop the onions into small dice.  Deseed the chili and chop that finely too, making sure you protect your hands with rubber gloves to avoid any chili juice being inadvertently rubbed in your eye (or worse…). Peel and grate the apple, and do the same with the fresh ginger. The ginger needs to be grated very finely so that it’s a mush because it’s very fibrous, and the texture of the finished sauce won’t be smooth if there are clumps of ginger in there.  Put all of the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pan and put on to simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Give it a stir occasionally.

The texture of the sauce when it’s cooked will be like runny chutney.  Take off the heat, leave to cool for a bit then put in a food processor (usually in two or three batches) and process until smooth.  Put into warmed sterilised jars or bottles and make sure you use vinegar-proof lids to seal.

The picture shows the latest batch – I think the cranberries and the particularly dark red onions I used have given it a rather nice pink tinge!  The bottles were from an online store which supplies all kinds of empty jars and bottles for home preservers – Wares of Knutsford.  You can visit their shop too – very nice people!