Monday, October 27, 2014

Espresso Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Espresso Chocolate Chip Pancakes 2

Today is a public holiday in New Zealand.  Not only does Labour Day commemorate the struggle for an eight-hour working day, but here it's also the day that really kicks off summer.  We are normally blessed with a hot sunny day on which everyone flocks to the beach and gets a nasty dose of sunburn, because somehow in our collective winter stupor we've forgotten about the great big hole in the ozone layer over New Zealand.  It's the day on which it is usually considered any risk of frost has passed and it is safe to plant tomatoes - we threw caution to the wind and planted ours last weekend.  No frost came, the sky didn't fall, the tomatoes appear to be thriving.

Unlike Labour Days passed, today is cool and breezy, low cloud is clinging to the hills around us, and rather than feeling the urge to flock to the beach, it felt more like a day for a late sleep-in, curl up on the sofa with a couple of movies, and enjoy a leisurely brunch.  A leisurely brunch in fact of espresso, chocolate chip pancakes, with a side of honey-roasted pineapple and yoghurt, and extra coffee.  Now I've got your attention, haven't I?!

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day, and I can now tell you that my assigned blogger this month was the lovely Emily at Life on Food.  Having been born in Iowa, grown up in Georgia and Maine, Emily now lives in Connecticut with her husband, who also shares her passion for food and cooking.  Emily has a major in economics and works as a building consultant with colleges and universities.

Until this morning I wasn't hundred percent sure which one of Emily's many dishes I was going to make.  Emily has been blogging since 2009, and churning out on average around 300 posts a year, she gives new meaning to the word prolific.  That's a whole lot of dishes to choose from - just settling on a short list was pretty hard, let alone choosing just one.  My short list included New England Clam Chowder (although I'm not sharing that with you today, I will definitely be making this sometime soon), Lamb Meatballs with Toasted Orzo (this just reminds me of sunshine and Greek holidays), Cinnamon Rolls, and Shrimp Thai Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

But in the end, today is unquestionably a day for pancakes, and I love the "grown-up-ness" of Emily's Coffee Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  These are pancakes you make for a couple of lazy adults who just want to swan around for the day, not the ones you whip up for the kids before they rush out the door to sports day.  Emily's pancakes used instant coffee powder, but as we never have instant coffee around here, I brewed a double shot of espresso instead.  I didn't have any chocolate chips on hand either, so I subbed in some cacao nibs.  I think the slightly "bitter" flavour is another element that elevates these pancakes to grown up status. The main "liquid" ingredient in the batter is yoghurt, but I found, once I'd mixed up my batter, that it was very thick - I think this was probably because I only have very thick Greek-style yoghurt rather than a more "runny" variety, so I ended up having to add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of milk to loosen the batter to the right consistency.  Use what you have and adjust accordingly.  The coffee flavour in these pancakes is not overt - it just adds that certain "je ne sais quoi" that gives a depth of flavour and leaves you wondering what it is.  Someone around here who hates coffee with a passion, thought they tasted pretty good - when he asked me what was in them, I said it was zucchini - never, ever would I let on that it was coffee.  Hopefully my secret is safe with all of you out there.

I served these pancakes with a side of this Honey Roasted Pineapple and a dollop of natural yoghurt.  It only takes a moment to prepare, and it takes care of itself in the oven while you cook the pancakes.  The vanilla and cinnamon perfumed honey and pineapple sauce hit just the right flavour notes drizzled over the pancakes, but if you just want the pancakes straight up maple syrup, or even just a generous knob of butter, would be perfect.

Espresso Chocolate Chip Pancakes 1

Espresso Chocolate Chip Pancakes Recipe
Adapted slightly from this recipe
from Life on Food

1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
double shot of freshly brewed espresso, cooled
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk, as necessary
1/3 cup cacao nibs (or chocolate chips)
extra butter for frying

Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium-sized bowl.  Add sugar and salt and mix to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together espresso, melted butter, egg and yoghurt, until everything is well combined.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.  Add the yoghurt mixture, and mix until only just combined.  Thin with milk if necessary.  Fold in the cacao nibs.

Place a non-stick frypan over medium heat and add a small knob of butter.  As soon as butter is sizzling, add spoonfuls of the batter to the pan.  Cook for two to three minutes before flipping, and cook for a further two to three minutes on the other side.  Remove to a warm place and continue until all the batter has been cooked.

Serve immediately.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and visit the links below to check out all the other great dishes my Secret Recipe Club friends made.

Secret Recipe Club is a way to not only find, but share new blogs.  Each month, one member is assigned to another member from their group "secretly" (hence the name).  That person selects a recipe (or more) to make, photograph, and then will draft up a blog post.  Everyone in the group posts on the same Monday together and gets to see who had their blog and what recipe(s) they chose.  It's such a fun experience and it's a great way to get new followers, too.  There are always new blogs to discover and our club has plenty to offer!  If you are a food blogger and interested in joining the Secret Recipe Club, be sure to check out the Join SRC page.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Salmon Tartare with Rye Crackers and Fennel & Citrus Salad

Salmon Tartare & Fennel & Citrus Salad 1

I don't know how things are in your household, but in mine we live on a pretty tight budget.  When you have a passion for food and "luxury" ingredients, that can be a bit challenging at times.  It doesn't mean, I believe, that you need to go without, you just need to be a bit creative about the ways in which you use those things.  In many ways this goes right to the heart of my whole philosophy about food.

Case in point ... chicken.  We only eat free range, organic chicken in our house - not just for ethical reasons, but because it also tastes a whole lot better than your average battery farmed chicken.  A free range chook will however set you back about twice as much as a cage raised bird.  With a little planning, however, we can usually manage to get three to four meals out of a chicken, and a batch of soup out of the carcass, which works out pretty budget friendly in the end.

This salmon tartare is another great way of making a luxury ingredient go a long way.  A small salmon fillet, which would normally be a single serving as a main meal, becomes a sumptuous lunch for two, or even an appetiser for four.

It's Pot Luck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, and we have the choice too cook with any one of our eleven IHCC chefs.  However, I'm still in the honeymoon phase of my relationship with our latest chef, Diana Henry, so I turned to Diana's book A Change of Appetite, where her Scandinavian inspired dish of Salmon Tartare with Pickled Cucumbers and Rye Crackers really caught my attention.

Salmon tartare is one of my favourite dishes, and I didn't make a great deal of changes to the recipe other than adding a slosh of vodka to the marinating salmon, because ... well ... just because, and leaving out the shallots as I didn't want anything to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the salmon.  A few snipped chives, had I had them, might have been nice.  In addition to the rye crackers, Diana serves this salmon tartare with a sweet and sour, pickled cucumber salad and dilled yoghurt.  I chose to make a refreshing fennel and citrus salad instead.

As far as the rye crackers go, I didn't make any changes to the recipe whatsoever, so I'm not going to reproduce the recipe in detail here for you - you'll just have to go get the book, and trust me when I tell you it is totally worth it.

These crackers are so easy to make, and so delicious, you will wonder why you've ever bought crackers in your life.  Not only that, whipping up a batch of these will run out to a fraction of the cost of buying crackers.

Rye flour, along with a little salt, sugar and baking powder are mixed with a little chilled butter until the mixture resembles damp sand, then mixed with milk to form a soft dough - using the food processor makes fast and easy work of this.

Break off golf ball sized chunks, roll in a light dusting of extra rye flour, and then roll out as thin as you possibly can into something vaguely resembling a circle.

Rye Crackers 1

Place crackers on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, prick all over with a fork, and bake in a hot oven for up to 10 minutes, until crisp and golden.  Cool on a wire rack.

Rye Crackers 2

These crackers are a wonderful accompaniment to the salmon, in both flavour and texture, and I think next time a little sprinkling of fennel seeds and sea salt over the crackers before baking might be a nice touch to echo the flavours in the salad.  These crackers also make a great vehicle for a variety of cheeses and chutneys.  A batch of these in your store cupboard won't last long I can promise you.

What tips do you have for stretching the budget to accommodate luxury ingredients?

Salmon Tartare & Fennel & Citrus Salad 2

Salmon Tartare Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from A Change of Appetite
Click here for the free recipe card

250g (8 oz) salmon, skin and bones removed
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
juice of 1x lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon vodka
freshly ground black pepper
generous handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Cut salmon into tiny dice, about .5cm (1/4 inch) in size, and place in a small bowl with the remaining ingredients.  Mix together gently, and chill while you make the crackers and salad, or for up to two hours.  Before serving, taste and adjust any of the seasonings according to your palate.

Fennel & Citrus Salad Recipe

1x orange, peel and all white pith removed
1x grapefruit, peel and all white pith removed
(if you can get pink grapefruit so much the better)
1x lemon, peel and all white pith removed
1x lime, peel and all white pith removed
1x fennel bulb
generous handful of fennel fronds, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place a sieve over a medium sized bowl.  Hold the peeled orange over the sieve to catch any pips and, using a sharp knife, cut down between the membrane and segment of fruit on each side to separate the fruit entirely from the membrane, and let the fruit segments fall into the bowl.  Squeeze the membrane over the bowl, extracting as much juice from it as you can.  Repeat with the grapefruit, the lemon and the lime, in each case also squeezing all of the juice out of the membrane.

Remove the tough outer "leaves" from the fennel bulb.  Cut it into quarters lengthwise and slice the fennel as thinly as you possibly can - a mandoline is the ideal tool for this job if you have one.

Add the shaved fennel to the citrus segments, along with the fennel fronds.  Season generously with flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Chill until you are ready to serve.

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links (who knows, you might even want to join the journey and cook along with us) ...

Diana Henry badge 1A

... or check out A Change of Appetite and Diana's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt 2

It's not that we're giving the gorgeous Diana Henry the cold shoulder so early in our relationship at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but we are giving her a bit of a frosty reception this week.  Yes, we're going "Icy Cold" and coming up with all manner of icy, chilled and frozen treats.

Now, I've told you before, I'm sure, that my dessert of choice pretty much any time of year is a frozen one, so I needed little encouragement to break the ice cream maker out of the cupboard and get churning.  Since I love ice cream, and Diana has loads of ice cream and sorbet recipes in her repertoire, making a bit of frozen magic together seemed inevitable.

My favourite new cookbook, A Change of Appetite, offered lots of gorgeous sorbets which have now been bookmarked, but it was the Greek yoghurt and apricot ice cream that took my fancy.

When apricots are at the height of the season, I usually roast them in batches with a little butter and brown sugar.  The butter and brown sugar more or less turns to caramel and the flavour of the apricots really intensifies.  Then I freeze them in batches to use in ice creams and smoothies all year long.

Roasted Apricot Gelato 2

In the original recipe Diana uses dried apricots and stews them in apple juice, before pureeing and mixing with the yoghurt.  With summer (and apricot season) just around the corner, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use up one of my remaining bags of roasted apricots.  Diana recommends straining the pureed apricots, to avoid getting "bits" in the ice cream, but I'm personally a bit of a fan of the bits - it reminds me that I'm eating something with real fruit in it - so my apricots got a simple blitz with the food processor only.

When I made this Roasted Apricot Gelato, way back when, I didn't really think it could be improved on.  But I can honestly say that this frozen yoghurt version is a distinct improvement.  I love the slight tartness of the yoghurt with the richness of the roasted apricots.  The yoghurt and creme fraiche provide all the creaminess you would normally get from a custard based ice cream, and is a whole lot quicker and easier to make.  I also like to think that this is a healthier option than a regular ice cream - that may possibly be deluded, but I like to believe it.

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt 1

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from A Change of Appetite
Click here for the free recipe card

6x medium-large fresh apricots
brown sugar

400g (14 oz) Greek yoghurt
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 tablespoons runny honey

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Cut apricots in half - remove and discard the stones.  Place apricots cut side up in an ovenproof dish that is just big enough to fit them quite snugly.  Sprinkle each apricot half with a little brown sugar, and top each with a small knob of butter.

Roasted Apricot Gelato 1

Place in hot oven and roast until the apricots have softened and started to collapse, and the sugar and butter have merged with the oozing fruit juices to become almost the consistency of caramel sauce.

This will take about 30 minutes, and it is helpful to baste the fruit with the juices half way through.  Allow to cool completely then, using a food processor or stick blender, blitz to a puree.

Add yoghurt and creme fraiche to the apricot puree and blitz again until combined.

Churn the mixture in a ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instruction.  Halfway through the churning process, drizzle in the honey.  Serve straight away or freeze for a few hours to firm up.

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt 3

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links (who knows, you might even want to join the journey and cook along with us) ...

Diana Henry badge 1A

... or check out A Change of Appetite and Diana's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Lesley at eat, etc ..., Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf

Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf 1

So far at I Heart Cooking Clubs we've cooked with some great chefs:  Nigella Lawson, Mark Bitman, Giada de Laurentiis, Jamie Oliver, Tessa Kiros, Rick Bayless, Madhur Jaffrey, Yotam Ottolenghi (my favourite), Donna Hay, and Nigel Slater.  I'm excited now to tell you that a new chef joins the line up this week - we will spend the next six months cooking with Diana Henry.

Raised in Northern Ireland, and now living in London, Diana started cooking when she was just six years old, and has never looked back.  She is not just a passionate and adventurous cook, but also a gifted food writer.  Diana has published eight stunning cookbooks, writes a regular column for The Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine and several other magazines, has her own website and appears on UKTV's Market Kitchen.

Diana talks a lot about the sense of connectedness that food and cooking gives her, something I relate to completely.  To welcome Diana this week to the IHCC fold I turned to her Date, Apricot & Walnut Loaf Cake from her latest book, A Change of Appetite.  In this book she turns towards lighter, fresher, healthier dishes (without any compromise in flavour) inspired often by dishes of the Middle East, Scandinavia, and the Far East.  There are some stunning recipes in this book, and I swear I want to make nearly everything.

I can imagine that if I could sit down in my kitchen for an afternoon with Diana, we would find a great deal to talk about.  Of course there would be coffee, and cake (there has to be cake), and this delicious loaf packed full of dried fruit, seeds and nuts would fit the bill perfectly.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe - don't I always?!  In the original recipe, Diana has you soften the fruit in apple juice and cook it down to a puree - I opted for an infusion of apricot tea and date syrup instead - but really you could use any fruit juice or even just water for that matter.  I cut down the amount of sugar just a little, and I used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.  In the original recipe, Diana uses a mixture of regular flour and malted brown flour (which is not available here) - I used all wholemeal flour instead.  Lastly, because thoughts of apricots and dates and date syrup always transport me to the Middle East, I used pistachios instead of walnuts.  Once again, you could really use any kind of nuts that you like.

An important note here - my loaf tin is a tiny bit bigger than that called for in the recipe, so I didn't get the nice big slices that I was hoping for.  It also took quite a bit less cooking than that specified in the recipe.  The recipe offers a cooking time of 1-1/4 hours, but I noticed that mine smelled like it was done after about 45 minutes - a quick check, and I found that it was indeed ready, in fact ever so slightly over-done.  This could have been because of my larger tin size, but my tin was not that much bigger that it would have taken half an hour off the cook time I don't think, so I suggest that you keep a close eye on the time.

This is a deliciously moist and flavourful loaf, so fragrant with spices that your house will smell like Christmas while it's baking.  Like anything of this nature, this is fabulous with a generous smear of butter (although entirely unnecessary), and I found that it kept well for a week.  The only reason it lasted so long around here is that someone else in the house is not fussed on apricots - in most normal households I would expect this to be gone in a few days!

Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from A Change of Appetite
Click here for the free recipe card

1 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup apricot tea
1 tablespoon date syrup
175g (6 oz) butter
130g (4.5 oz) brown sugar
grated zest of 1x orange
1x large free-range egg
225g (8 oz) wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
generous grating of fresh nutmeg
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
generous handful of pumpkin seeds, plus extra for the top
generous handful of sunflower seeds
sprinkling of sesame seeds

Put dates and apricots in a small saucepan with the apricot tea and date syrup.  Set over medium heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until softened to a thick puree - 10 to 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Also melt butter and leave it to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Grease a 22cm x 12cm x 6cm (8" x 4-3/4" x 3") loaf tin, and line the base with non-stick baking paper.

Add the cooled butter to the date and apricot mixture, along with the brown sugar, grated orange zest, and the egg.  Mix together well.

Place the flour in a large bowl with the baking powder, mixed spice, nutmeg, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Mix together well, then add the fruit mixture and mix until everything is just combined - don't over-mix.

Tip everything into the prepared baking tin, using a rubber spatula to even out the top.  Sprinkle over the extra pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.  Place tin in the preheated oven, and bake for up to 1-1/4 hours or until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links (who knows, you might even want to join the journey and cook along with us) ...

Diana Henry badge 1A

... or check out A Change of Appetite and Diana's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Lesley at eat, etc ..., Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

I'm also linking this post to Tea Time Treats, hosted by one of my favourite bloggers - the lovely Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and The HedgeCombers.  The theme this month is vegetables, and technically there's no vegetables in this recipe, but I've been wanting to join in here for ages, so I'm taking the creative leap that since this loaf contains pumpkin seeds that's near enough :-)

Tea Time Treats

Monday, October 6, 2014

Roasted Aubergine, Red Pepper & Garlic Dip

Roasted Aubergine, Red Pepper & Garlic Dip

This is always one of my favourite times of the month - Secret Recipe Club reveal day.  That day when I, along with all my fellow participants, get to reveal our assigned blog (that person we have been "cyber stalking" for the last month) and the dish we have made from their blog.

But I do have a confession to make.  You see, I have committed the worst possible SRC crime - yes, I was supposed to post this a couple of weeks ago, but made a total mix up of dates and left my assigned blog hanging - Amy, how will you ever forgive me?  Thankfully our host, Sarah, has allowed me to atone for my sins by putting up my post this week with a different group.

Anyways, enough about that.  My assigned blog this month was Fearless Homemaker, hosted as you are now aware by Amy.  Raised in Boston, and now living in Nashville, Amy is a self-described food and cocktail lover, enthusiastic entertainer, and crafty DIYer.  Amy has a masters degree in Positive Psychology, and works as a co-ordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair.  She is passionate about cultural exchange, and working with the American host families and their international au pairs to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

Amy had so many recipes I wanted to try (every one of them beautifully photographed), and a number of them have now been pinned for me to make at a later date, like this Slow-Cooker Chicken & Mushroom Farro Risotto, Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Tomatoes & Caramelised Fennel, and this Glazed Lemon Pound Cake.  Actually it was the lemon pound cake that I was intent on making, but with an aubergine hanging around in the veggie bin which was in dire need of being used up, it was Amy's Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper & Garlic Spread that won the day.

This was quick and easy to prepare, particularly using some ready roasted red peppers as I did - I roast loads of them during the season, and then bottle them in olive oil.  Just perfect for adding to salads, antipasto platters, casseroles, and pasta sauces throughout the rest of the year.  I skipped the onion, since we're not much fussed on it around here, and I added in a little bit of chilli paste for an extra kick, and a bit of paprika for it's lovely smokiness which I think is perfect with eggplant.

This dip is wonderful used, as Amy did, as a spread on fresh bread.  It would also be great served as a dip for other vegetables.  We used it as a rich, flavourful sauce for pasta, and would also be wonderful used as a pizza sauce - a great alternative for those who are sensitive to tomatoes.  This was so good, I made a second batch, which I've now stashed in the freezer ready for a quick mid-week meal.

Roasted Aubergine, Red Pepper & Garlic Dip
Adapted from this recipe at Fearless Homemaker
Click here for the free recipe card

1x medium sized aubergine, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes
olive oil
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3x roasted red peppers, preserved in olive oil, drained and roughly chopped
(or 2x fresh red peppers, deseeded and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks)
2x cloves garlic, unpeeled and left whole
2 teaspoons chilli paste
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste (leave this out if you are sensitive to tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F).

Toss eggplant cubes and garlic cloves with a generous slosh of olive oil, and a good seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  (If you're using fresh red peppers, toss them in as well.)

Line a shallow roasting tray with baking parchment and spread vegetables in a single layer over the tray.  Place tray in the oven and roast until tender and golden - about 20 to 30 minutes.  (Keep an eye on the garlic - it can burn quickly, so you may want to remove it half way through.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins, and add them to a food processor, along with the eggplant and peppers.  Blitz to a coarse paste.  Add the chilli paste, paprika, tomato paste, and a generous slosh of olive oil (I used the reserved oil from the roasted peppers).  Process until you reach a spreadable consistency.  Taste and season with extra sea salt and pepper if desired.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and visit the links below to check out all the other great dishes my Secret Recipe Club friends made.

Also shared at Hearth and Soul, hosted by the lovely April J. Harris.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Farewell Nigel, and a Round-up of My Favourites

If you've been following here for a while then you will most likely know that I am a regular participant and co-host at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where each six months our members elect a new chef with whom we will spend the ensuing six months cooking according to a variety of weekly themes.  You will also know that for the last six months we have been cooking with British cook, Nigel Slater, and this week is time to say our goodbyes.

This is always a bittersweet moment - a little hint of sadness as one journey comes to an end, tinged with the excitement and anticipation of welcoming in a new chef.  You'll find out more about that next week, but for now I wanted to share with you a round-up of my favourite Nigel Slater dishes of the last six months.

Warm Lentil, Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Roasted Tomatoes

Warm Lentil,Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Tomatoes 2

This dish was actually inspired by Nigel's "Lentil soup, with lemon, pancetta and mint".  It turned out to be one of those dishes which, in its entirety, was so much greater than the sum of its parts, and was not just every bit as good as I expected it to be, but in actual fact exceeded all my expectations.

Roasted Potato Salad with Black Olive & Roasted Garlic Gremolata

Roasted Potato Salad with Black Olive & Roasted Garlic Gremolata 2

This was a dish which not only drew inspiration from Nigel, but also from my friend Toby at Plate Fodder.  Potatoes are par-boiled, then smashed and oven roasted with rosemary and garlic.  That in itself is a pretty good thing, but then the crispy roasted potatoes are drizzled straight from the oven with a mustardy vinaigrette, and then topped with a gremolata of black olives, rosemary, garlic and lemon zest.  A taste sensation, and the perfect accompaniment to the Sunday night roast chook.

Curried Carrot, Lentil & Roasted Tomato Soup

Curried Carrot, Lentil & Roasted Tomato Soup 1.jpg

In many ways carrots are one of my least favourite vegetables, so I'd always been a bit dubious about carrot soup.  This stunning soup, loaded with red lentils, spicy curry powder, fragrant coconut milk and slow roasted tomatoes helped me overcome all my carrot soup fears!

Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones

Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones 2

Roasted Pumpkin Laksa

Roasted Pumpkin Laksa 3

This laksa is perfect for a cold winter evening.  The sweet, soft, nutty pumpkin, silky rice noodles, crispy bok choy and bean sprouts, all bathed in a gorgeously fragrant, coconut-rich broth, makes for a symphony of flavours and textures.

Gnocchi with Chorizo, Gorgonzola & Spinach

Gnocchi with chorizo, gorgonzola & spinach 2

This is the ultimate one-pan wonder.  A dish for those occasions when only a big helping of carbs, smothered in cream and cheese, and topped off with a bit of fried sausage, will satisfy, and just enough spinach to assuage the guilt - slightly!

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez Sausage & Black Olives

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez & Black Olives 3

This was easily my favourite Nigel Slater dish, and in fact one of my favourite dishes I've ever posted.  Chunks of steamed butternut pumpkin, spicy nuggets of merguez sausage, and black olives, are baked under a topping of cheesy, garlicky breadcrumbs.  Seriously, if you only ever try one dish from my blog, this would be a good place to start.

With that, it's time to say "Cheerio" to Nigel, and don't forget to come back next week to see who we'll be welcoming as our next IHCC chef.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Tender, Vol. 1 and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fricassee Salad

Fricassee Salad 1

Just when I was thinking he couldn't surprise me any longer, Yotam Ottolenghi comes along and damn nearly blew my mind.

I've been cooking and posting Ottolenghi dishes for the last four and a half years, when I first introduced him to you with this Baked Aubergine with Saffron Yoghurt Sauce and Pomegranate.  We often hear the term "genre-bending" applied to movies, novels, works of art, and pieces of music - I'm not sure if such a term can be applied to food and cooking, but if it can then I'm sure it certainly applies here.  That was a dish unlike anything I'd eaten or cooked before, and it was for me the beginning of a whole new food journey.

Over this time, I've been stunned by the wonderful flavour and texture combinations Ottolenghi pulls together.  He's introduced me to unique ingredients, which I had never previously heard of, and which have now become part of my every day pantry staples.

Yet, even though ingredients such as harissa paste, preserved lemons, pomegranate molasses, za'atar, dried Persian limes, rose petals, and orange flower water, have all now become almost "common place" in my kitchen, the flavour punch that these ingredients deliver is anything but.

So it should have come as no surprise that this dish, adapted from Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem, completely knocked my socks off, but I was still seriously "wowed" by it.

Fricassee Salad 2

In his preface to the recipe, Ottolenghi says that "This salad is a deconstruction of Tunisian fricassee - a fried bun stuffed with tuna, harissa, olives, anchovies, a spicy pumpkin relish, pickled lemon, cooked potato and hard boiled egg."  He remarks that the resemblance to the classic French Nicoise salad is no coincidence, "and is evidence of the interaction between French and Tunisian cuisines during the years of French occupation".

I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly for the sake of convenience.  Firstly, the original recipe called for fresh tuna to be gently poached in oil and then left to stand for 24 hours.  For ethical reasons, much as I love tuna, I choose not to eat it.  And, although, I thought this technique could just as readily be applied to a nice piece of salmon, I was after lunch in half an hour - not tomorrow.  Ottolenghi does suggest a good canned tuna as a substitute for the confiting process, but it turned out I had a nice piece of smoked mackerel on hand and decided that would make an acceptable alternative.  Ottolenghi's recipe also calls for boiling potatoes in water flavoured with plenty of turmeric, but again I was looking for something a little more instant.  Instead I brushed a flour tortilla (any flat bread would do) with a mixture of olive oil and turmeric, for that gorgeous golden colour, and sprinkled it with a little za'atar for good measure, then baked until crisp, and crumbled it into the salad.

I'm sure the original recipe is sensational, and I will definitely take the time to make it as written (subbing in some salmon for the tuna) very soon, but this shortcut version made a fast, flavourful lunch that ticked all the boxes for me.  The bold combination of harissa, anchovies, black olives, capers, and preserved lemons packed a flavour punch that delivered so much more than I expected.

If you own a copy of Jerusalem, you will know that every time you pick it up (constantly), there are a couple of recipes that you frequently tell yourself "I have to make that", and yet somehow it hasn't happened yet.  Our mandate this month at Tasting Jerusalem* group is to do just that.  I had a couple of recipes lined up and let me tell you this was not one of them.  This was one of the recipes that I've kind of just skimmed over so many times and, if it wasn't for the fact that I was looking for lunch and recognised that I had pretty much all the ingredients on hand, I probably would have done so again.  I'm ever so grateful that this recipe stopped me in my tracks - it's worth so much more than a fleeting glance, and has definitely been bookmarked by me now as one of the standout recipes in the book.  I hope you'll give this a try.

Fricassee Salad 3

Fricassee Salad
Makes one very generous meal, or two appetisers
Adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

150-200g (5-7 oz) smoked fish, flaked into bite sized chunks
1x flour tortilla
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
anchovies, as many as you like (I used four), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon harissa paste
capers, again as many as you like
1/4 of a preserved lemon, rind only (flesh discarded), thinly sliced
black olives, as many as you like
1x fresh lemon, zest and juice
1/2 roasted red pepper, cut into thin slices
1x boiled egg, shelled and quartered
2x generous handfuls salad greens (I used a mixture of baby spinach & cos)
1x generous handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Mix 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the turmeric together to make a paste, and brush over the surface of the flour tortilla.  Sprinkle liberally with za-atar. (If you don't have za'atar, try a sprinkling of dried thyme and sesame seeds instead.)  Place on a tray and bake in the preheated oven until puffed and crispy - this will only take a few minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  It will crisp up some more as it cools down.

Place anchovies, harissa paste, capers, black olives and preserved lemon rind in a small bowl.  Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a generous slosh of olive oil (I used the oil that the roasted peppers had been preserved in).  Toss together gently to combine.

Place salad greens, parsley, red peppers, and flakes of smoked fish in a large bowl.  Season with just a touch of flaky sea salt, and add the grated zest of the lemon, along with its juice.  Gently combine.

Now add the anchovy mixture to the salad bowl, and toss gently to combine everything well.  Place everything in a serving bowl.  Arrange boiled eggs over the top, and finish with another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Serve immediately.

If you're interested in more great food from Ottolenghi check out Jerusalem and his other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.

* Have a look also at what my "Tasting Jerusalem" friends have been doing - you'll find plenty of great inspiration. (“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”)