Sunday, October 27, 2013

Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad with Tamarind Dressing & Pomegranate

Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad 2

Here's a post that's short and sweet
It's all about the humble beet
At IHCC, it's potluck week
A chance for the beet to meet a leek.
At Tasting Jerusalem** this month we're all about tamarind ...
When teamed with beet and leek, it's a match made in heaven
It's sweet and sour tang makes this dressing sing
From the man who may be rightfully called the "salad king".
Another triumph from my favourite cook
Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem, A Cookbook.

Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad 1

Ok, so I'm never going to win any prizes for my poetry.  But what I lack in literary skills, my favourite chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, more than makes up for with yet another winning salad.  This is, as is typical of so many of Ottolenghi's dishes, a triumph of tastes and textures and has become a regular in our household over the last few months.  The combination of earthy beetroot with sweet, delicate leeks, peppery rocket, and crunchy walnuts is great even before you douse it all in a bold, garlicky, tangy dressing and finish it off with pomegranate seeds that explode in your mouth with their tangy juice and crunch.  In the original recipe Ottolenghi describes the pomegranate seeds as being optional - I say if it is at all humanly possible for you to include them, then do so.  Their tangy, slightly sour flavour reinforces the sweet-sour tang of the tamarind in the dressing, and the extra texture they bring should not be overlooked, and if that's not enough to persuade you, just take a look ... don't they look like little jewels strewn all over your salad.  That jewel-like look seems to elevate such humble ingredients as beetroot and leeks into something quite special.

Cooks Tip:  Pomegranates are in season right now.  Buy three or four, remove all the seeds, spread them out on a baking sheet and pop in the freezer till frozen.  Remove sheet and put the seeds into a snaplock bag.  Return to the freezer.  You will have a supply of pomegranate seeds all year long - just take out a spoonful or two for a salad whenever you need them.

Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad 3

Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad
with Tamarind Dressing & Pomegranate Recipe
Adapted (slightly) from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves 3-4 as a side, or 2 as a light meal
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

3x medium beetroot
1x large leek
small handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
large handful rocket leaves (arugula)
seeds from half a pomegranate
generous handful of toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

2x garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

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

Wrap each of the beetroot in tin foil and bake in the preheated oven until tender - about 60 minutes.  Remove from the oven, unwrap foil and leave to cool.  Peel, cut into wedges, and set aside in a medium sized bowl.

Wash leek and cut into pieces about 6cm (2-1/2 in) long.  Put into a small saucepan, cover with water and a generous pinch of sea salt, and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, but not falling apart - about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain and refresh under cold water.  Once cooled, cut each piece into 2 or 3 smaller pieces, and set aside in a small bowl.

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together until well combined, and set aside for 10 minutes for the flavours to fully develop.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Pour dressing over the beetroot and leeks in their separate bowls and toss until vegetables are well covered with the dressing (you want to keep them in the separate bowls until after they have been dressed so that the beetroot doesn't stain the leeks).

To assemble the salad, arrange half of the beetroot on a serving platter.  Top with some of the rocket, a sprinkling of the coriander and walnuts and all of the leeks.  Arrange the remaining beetroot over the top.  Sprinkle over the remaining rocket, coriander and walnuts, and finish with the pomegranate seeds.

Roasted Beetroot, Leek & Walnut Salad 4

If you would like to see what else my friends have cooked up for Potluck Week, then do go and visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

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**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.

I'll also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo, hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, and at Food on Friday:Beetroot hosted by Carole at Carole's Chatter, at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollam, and at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Caramelised Banana Bread

Caramelised Banana Bread 3

I like bananas - I like them a lot - and bananas show up in my breakfast/brunch, in some form or another, on a fairly regular basis.  Maybe sliced over a bowlful of this Tropical Fruit Granola with a dollop of homemade Greek-style yoghurt and a slosh of almond milk;  sometimes in a simple banana and vanilla smoothie;  often in this Banana, Lemon & Passionfruit "Breakfast" Ice Cream;  and sometimes sliced over a thick slathering of peanut butter (absolutely must be Pic's and must be crunchy) atop a slice of this quick and easy wholemeal bread.

So when it came to choosing a Donna Hay dish for our "Up & At 'Em" (breakfast food) theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, there was a fairly good chance that bananas were going to figure in the recipe I would choose to start my day with.  A quick search of Donna's website turned up several recipes for banana bread, ranging from plain to fancy, and I knew this was the direction I wanted to head in.  Although some of the variations Donna offers sound wonderful, I was in the mood for plain and simple, so I opted for the Basic Banana Bread, though since we will be cooking with Donna Hay for several months yet I'm going to make it my mission to bake every one of the banana breads that she has on offer.  

I did ring a few minor changes to the recipe.  For a start, one thing you'll never find in my house is a fully ripe banana.  Not the ideal start for banana bread, I'll concede, but if there's one thing I can't stand it's a ripe banana - or a cooked one for that matter (no banana fritters for this girl).  No matter how I plan to eat my bananas, they must be slightly under-ripe - the skin still green tinged in places, the flesh still firm to the bite, and the sugars not yet fully developed.  So this doesn't exactly lend itself to mushing up bananas for banana bread or cake or muffins, so the technique I've developed over time is to slice up the bananas and use a small quantity of the recipe's butter and sugar to caramelise the bananas in a saute pan.  This way the bananas are cooked until they are soft enough to mash and mix into the bread/cake batter.  Now I must say that you don't get quite the intensity of banana flavour as you do with fully ripe fruit, but I prefer it that way, and the caramelising process brings some of those lovely "butterscotch" notes to the finished product.  The other change I made was substituting agave nectar for the golden syrup which was called for in the original recipe.

You could very easily trick this recipe up with any number of variations:  adding nuts or chocolate chunks, raspberries or blueberries, but plain and simple was what I was after this time around.

Caramelised Banana Bread 4

The final bread is deliciously moist and, although it doesn't need a good smeer of butter, it certainly tasted good with one.  I'm guessing that this will also taste great toasted in a couple of days time, if it lasts that long, in which case I reckon a slathering of Nutella might be called for.

Caramelised Banana Bread Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

125g (4.5 oz) room temperature butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
3x medium-sized bananas, sliced into rings
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2x eggs
13/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup agave nectar

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).

Lightly grease a 23cm x 13cm (9" x 5") loaf tin, and line with baking paper.

Measure out the butter and sugar, then melt one tablespoon of the butter in a medium sized skillet set over moderate heat.  Add banana to the pan, and sprinkle over one tablespoon of the sugar.  Saute, stirring often, until the bananas have softened to a "mashable" consistency, and become gooey and caramelised.  Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

Caramelised Bananas

Put the remaining butter and sugar, together with the vanilla, into the bowl of a food processor, and cream together until light and fluffy, stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add to the food processor, along with the agave nectar and caramelised bananas, and pulse a few times until everything is only just combined - take care not to over mix.

Spoon mixture into the prepared tin, and bake for 60-65 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Caramelised Banana Bread 5

 If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see what delicious breakfast dishes everyone else has created to kick-start their days, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, 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.  This month, Sweet New Zealand is hosted by Lucy at Lucy Eats.

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And, spreading the love around, I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, and at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chorizo with Chickpeas & Tomatoes

Chorizo with Chickpeas & Tomatoes 3

Our current IHCC chef, Donna Hay, is the self-confessed queen of the well-stocked pantry and, by her own admission, if there's a short-cut to be found for delivering maximum freshness and flavour to the plate with minimum effort, she's found it.

She's a woman after my own heart like that.  As most of you will know by now (since I bang on about it often enough) I love to make most things from scratch, for many reasons ... I like to know what I'm eating, I reduce my environmental impact by consuming more homemade food and less packaged goods, and perhaps most importantly for the sheer joy of doing so.

Now, don't for one moment be misled into thinking that I spend hours every day slavishly toiling over one dish or another.  I don't - a well-stocked pantry is an absolute God-send to me, and means that very rarely do I spend more than 30 minutes over preparing a meal.  Even dishes which are more complicated might be broken down into two or three stages and prepped in advance.

How do I achieve that?  When produce is in season, I spend a bit of time on the weekends creating many of those pantry staples such as pesto, harissa paste, pasta sauce, preserved lemons, hummus, jams, pickles and chutneys.  These all get stashed in the freezer or pantry in meal-size quantities.  I also occasionally cook up big batches of chickpeas and dried beans, rice and quinoa, and store by the cupful in the freezer - but to be honest, I don't always get around to that, and I don't have a very big freezer either, so I do often resort to canned chickpeas, canellini beans, borlotti beans, and so on.  Canned or frozen chickpeas or beans are ideal for creating a quick and easy meal.

Other staples I always have on hand include: rice - basmati, brown, arborio (for risotto), sushi, and calasparra (for paella);  oils - olive (both virgin and extra virgin), rice bran, sesame, avocado, coconut and walnut;   vinegars - white (for adding to egg poaching liquid), balsamic, white balsamic, and my new favourite, apple cider;  pasta - dried (usually De Cecco brand) in a variety of shapes, lengths and sizes (nearly always at least 6 packets on hand), and fresh homemade fettucine and ravioli (stored in individual portions in the freezer);  spices - I keep a fairly extensive selection on hand - they're a great flavour booster - most commonly used in my house is probably smoky paprika;  miscellaneous - pomegranate molasses, olives (green and black), mustard (grainy and Dijon) and cheeses - parmesan, pecorino, feta, mozzarella, cheddar;  Asian influenced - soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, mirin, Chinese cooking wine, nori sheets, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, miso paste, assorted curry pastes, and noodles (soba, ramen, udon, rice).  It doesn't take much more than a bit of fresh vegetables or protein to turn a few of these ingredients into a meal.

In case you haven't guessed where this is all headed, our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Pantry Magic - sharing something delicious inspired by the ingredients in our pantries.

This recipe for chorizo with chickpeas and tomatoes was one of the first that I bookmarked when I got my copy of Donna Hay's "Fast, Fresh, Simple".  Right there in the "Fast" chapter, using just a few ingredients that I always have on hand, I knew it wouldn't be long before this dish found it's way onto my table.  Chorizo is nearly always on hand in my house, and ditto the chickpeas.  Fresh cherry tomatoes, I picked up at the vegetable market last week, and were a bit of a hothouse indulgence at this time of year, since we are still a couple of months away from tomato season, though I could just as easily have used here some of the slow roasted tomatoes I have stashed in my freezer.   Fresh basil called for in the recipe is not really in season yet either, but I substituted by drizzling with some basil pesto from the freezer.  This made a light and delicious lunch (two servings), which could easily be multiplied to feed more people.  You could ring any number of changes to this - some kalamata olives and/or feta cheese would be great additions;  a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and/or some finely sliced preserved lemon would be a great flavour booster;  or serving over grilled sourdough toast with a poached egg on top would turn this into a sensational breakfast/brunch dish.

I'd love to know ... what are some of the things you always have on hand in your pantry?

Chorizo with Chickpeas & Tomatoes 2

Chorizo with Chickpeas & Tomatoes Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
Serves 2
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
olive oil
150g chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1x 400g (14 oz) can)
1/4 cup basil pesto
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Working over a small bowl, squeeze cherry tomatoes between your fingers - just enough to split the skins and start the juices running.  Set aside.

Set a skillet over medium heat and add a little olive oil to the pan.  You won't need very much as there will be a certain amount of fat will come out of the chorizo - probably 1-1/2 teaspoons will be plenty.  Once the oil is heated, add chorizo to the pan and saute until browned on both sides.

Add chickpeas and tomatoes, along with any of their accumulated juices, to the pan, and continue to cook until the chickpeas are warmed through, the tomatoes have softened a little, and the tomato juices have mingled with the oils in the pan and turned "syrupy".  You'll end up with something rather like a warm dressing.

Chorizo with Chickpeas & Tomatoes 1

Remove from heat.  Taste and season to your liking with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Finish with a generous drizzle of pesto.

Delicious served hot straight out of the pan, but just as good at room temperature the next day.

If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see what Pantry Magic everyone else has created, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

... or check out Fast, Fresh, Simple and Donna's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

                   Fast, Fresh, Simple

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Cook Your Books hosted by Joyce at Kitchen Flavours, and at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Harissa-Marinated Tarakihi with Lemony Couscous & Tzatziki

Harissa-Marinated Tarakihi with Lemony Couscous & Tzatziki

They say when one door closes, another one opens, and that is surely the case.  Last week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we somewhat sadly said farewell to Israeli-born, UK-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  Ottolenghi's unique brand of "Middle Eastern food with a western twist", was hugely inspirational to us all and introduced many of us to a whole range of new and interesting ingredients.

This week, we welcome in our new chef, leading Australian food editor and cookbook author, Donna Hay.  Donna, who publishes a top-selling bi-monthly magazine, and has 18 award-winning cookbooks to her credit, is probably best known for her simply prepared, basic ingredients, gorgeously styled and beautifully photographed.  As you can imagine, Donna is a busy woman, and like many of us doesn't have time to spend on complex dishes - instead her mantra is creating simple, elegant, flavourful dishes using a clever mix of store-bought and fresh ingredients - and who amongst us is not saying "hear, hear" to that?!

And the great news is that, in order to create those simple, yet excitingly flavourful dishes, Donna uses many of those ingredients that we've come to know through our now good friend Ottolenghi - ingredients such as sumac, pomegranate molasses, and harissa and tzatziki, which feature in today's recipe of Harissa Fish with Lemon Couscous from Fast, Fresh, Simple.

Now by all means use store-bought harissa and tzatziki if you choose - Donna would not only condone it, but in actual fact recommend it.  But for those of you who, like me, prefer to make things from scratch (time prevailing), I've offered instructions.  The tzatziki really only takes about two minutes to prepare, so hardly an arduous task.  The harissa does take a little more time, but I make it in big batches when peppers and chillies are at peak seasonality (which, for those of you in the northern hemisphere, is right now) and then store in the freezer.  Taking a packet out of the freezer throughout the year then becomes my equivalent of a "store-bought" ingredient.  You can find my recipe for harissa here.

Apart from making my tzatziki and using homemade harissa, the only other minor changes I made to the recipe were using preserved lemon (another one of my pantry staples, which I make plenty of when lemons are in season) instead of grated lemon zest in the couscous, and adjusting quantities to make lunch for one instead of serving two as per the recipe.  If you want to serve two people, simply double the couscous quantities and buy an extra fillet of fish - easy!

Verdict:  This was a delicious dish, that had plenty going on, both flavourwise and texturally.  The harissa packed a good punch of heat, but still managed not to overpower the fish, while the salty hits of preserved lemon were a great complement to both the fish and the couscous, and the cooling, tangy tzatziki brought it all together.  It's rare for me to have a cooked lunch, as I normally can't be bothered with too much effort in the middle of the day - a cup of soup or a couple of eggs on toast, maybe a simple salad, is normally par for the course, but this dish took really very little effort (less than 15 minutes max from start to finish) and I would definitely make this again, even for lunch.

Harissa-Marinated Tarakihi with Lemony Couscous & Tzatziki 2

Harissa-Marinated Tarakihi
with Lemony Couscous & Tzatziki Recipe
Adapted from recipe from Fast, Fresh, Simple
by Donna Hay
Makes 1 generous serving
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

Tzatziki (or use store-bought, no-one will judge):
1/4 cup natural, unsweetened Greek-style yoghurt
piece of cucumber about 6cm (2-1/2") long, peeled, deseeded & finely chopped
small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
generous pinch flaky sea salt

Lemony Couscous:
1/2 cup couscous
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin finely sliced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
generous handful of baby spinach leaves
freshly ground black pepper
Note:  If you don't have preserved lemon, use the grated zest of a lemon.  It won't pack quite the same flavour punch as the preserved lemon, but it will still taste great.

1x tarakihi fillet, skinned and boned
1-2 tablespoons harissa (see recipe here or use store-bought)
1 tablespoon olive oil

To serve:
1/2 a lemon

Begin by rubbing harissa all over both sides of the fish, and then set aside while you make the tzatziki and prepare the couscous.

To make the tzatziki, combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Set aside.

Now on to the couscous.  Bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Meanwhile, place the couscous, sliced preserved lemon, lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the boiling chicken stock over the couscous, cover with cling film and set aside to steam while you cook the fish.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add fish to the pan and cook through - it will probably take about 3 minutes on each side.

Remove cling film from the couscous and gently fluff up with a fork.  Taste.  You most likely won't need salt as the preserved lemon is quite salty, and the chicken stock should also be already seasoned.  However, if you substituted grated lemon zest instead of the preserved lemon, you may want to add a pinch of flaky sea salt or another squeeze of lemon juice.  Stir in the spinach leaves.

To serve, arrange lemony couscous and spinach on a plate, top with fish, and add a dollop of tzatziki and a lemon cheek on the side.

If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see what everyone has cooked up to say "G'day" to Donna, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized

... or check out Fast, Fresh, Simple and Donna's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

                   Fast, Fresh, Simple

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday, hosted by Designs by Gollam.

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