Archive | September, 2011

Martinique Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Aubergine and Pineapple

29 Sep Martinique Sweet Potato Curry

The inspiration for this recipe came from watching a farmer harvesting his sweet potatoes. They look really beautiful coming out of the ground, their terracotta skin mirroring the colour of the soil, lying there baking in the warmth of the sun.

Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, is part of the French Caribbean.  The first European to encounter the island was Christopher Columbus in 1502. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Créole Martiniquais. Continue reading

Pumpkin, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Tart

28 Sep pumpkin-tart-top-small

It is officially pumpkin time. These little babies that I have been watching grow while walking the dog have now been harvested and are sitting in big crates waiting to go to the market.

The Washer Up bought some pastry home from the restaurant saying it was the best pastry he’d ever made. It was an Austrian pastry recipe he used for a Viennese menu they had on Wednesday, he made a gorgeous quiche and had some pastry left over so he told me I had to use it because it was amazing. Continue reading

Green Bean, Lentil and Potato Curry with Green Chilli and Mint

23 Sep Green Bean & Lentil Curry

Watching these green beans growing in the fields where I walk the dog made me think about using them in a dish as the main ingredient. We eat quite a lot of green beans but always as a side vegetable. I wanted to give them the chance to be the star.

I found a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for Green Lentils with Green Beans & Fresh Coriander in another magazine clipping The Washer Up’s dad, Jim had sent to me. I used that as a base to work from and added a lot more spices and some of my homegrown green chillis.

I had some new potatoes in my fridge so I added those and I used mint instead of coriander because that was what I had. The mint works really well with the beans and the potatoes and gives the whole dish a lovely freshness as well as being a cool partner to the fiery chilli.

This is surprisingly delicious, by that I mean that humble everyday ingredients can be brought together with a bit of spice and chilli heat to create something really special. And you don’t need to serve anything with it, so less washing up!

Green Bean Lentil & Potato Curry with Green Chilli & Mint

Serves 3-4 vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Curry Easy by Madhur Jaffrey

  • 250 gr green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 200 gr dried lentils
  • 750 ml water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 425 gr new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp Punchpooran (An Indian whole spice mix that includes: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds and onion seeds) Available from East End Foods.
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, then crushed in a mortar & pestle
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic
  • 2 green chillis, finely chopped (deseeded if you like it milder)
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 500 ml veg stock (maybe more)
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes
  • salt & black pepper
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves, (about 15) finely chopped plus some sprigs for garnish

Put the lentils and water in a medium pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes until the lentils are nearly cooked and most of the water has been absorbed. Then season with salt & black pepper.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid over a medium heat. Add the punchpooran, cumin, mustard and crushed coriander seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add the onion cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic, ginger, chillies and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add in the quartered potatoes, turmeric and garam masala and season well with salt & pepper. Stir to coat the potatoes in the spices then add the stock and tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Next add in the beans and cook for another 5 minutes with the lid on (If it is dry you may want to add some more stock). Then add in the cooked lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes. By this time the potatoes should be cooked, if not add a bit more stock and give them another 5 minutes.

Squeeze over the lemon and stir in the chopped mint. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with the mint sprigs.

This is actually really good served cold/room temperature as a salad for lunch the next day too.

Have a great weekend…

Golden Jasmine Martini

22 Sep Golden Jasmine Martini

I walk past this beautiful jasmine plant every morning with the dog and brush past it to release it’s exotic perfume.

I’ve been thinking about what I could make with jasmine. I have jasmine green tea that I drink every morning and was exploring ideas around that. I thought about making a Jasmine Tiramisu (or tea -ramisu) because The Washer Up made an amazing Tiramisu with Darjeeling tea when we had a special menu from the region of Darjeeling in India. I still might do that but it is a lot of work (and calories).

I was flicking through some newspaper cuttings The Washer Up’s dad had sent me. He cuts out anything to do with food and sends it to me along with any classic books he may have picked up in a charity shop, thanks Jim for keeping my brain functioning and furthering my literary education!!

In one of the clippings there was a recipe for a Rose & Lychee Martini. This got me thinking about a Jasmine Martini, an alcoholic iced tea, a Mar-tea-ni if you like. I love the golden colour it’s very elegant & expensive-looking.

Golden Jasmine Martini

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1 heaped teaspoon jasmine green tea
  • boiling water
  • 3 or 4 ice cubes
  • 2 measures vodka (or gin) be as generous as you’re feeling, about 100 ml should do it
  • 1 tbsp 15 ml sugar syrup or honey
  • jasmine flowers to garnish

Put your martini glasses in the freezer to chill for as long as you can. Half an hour is good.

Make a cup of jasmine tea with boiling water and leave it to steep for a few minutes. Add the honey or sugar syrup and stir to dissolve it.

Put the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and pour the tea, through a strainer (to catch any tea leaves) into the shaker and add the vodka or gin. Shake well until ice-cold and strain into the frozen glasses. Garnish with jasmine petals and enjoy.

Serve this as an aperitif before a fragrant Asian meal or with canapes to people you’d like to impress….

Cheers!!

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit and Nut Rice Pilaf

21 Sep squash side close

I made some of this Jerk marinade/sauce to use up some of the hundreds of scotch bonnet chilli peppers I have at the moment. The plant/bush has actually flowered again and is now producing even more.

I also made another batch of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce …..

The first thing I made with the jerk marinade was Jerk Baked Feta. I don’t have any pictures of it because I made it at night and we ate it all, sorry (not sorry really), but I will definitely do it again, it tasted amazing.

All you do is put the 200 gr block of Feta onto a large rectangle of foil, spoon over 3 or 4 tbsp of the jerk marinade and coat it well. Wrap up the feta in a foil packet and bake it for 10-15 minutes at 180 C. Unwrap your fragrant cheesy parcel and dive in with some  good pita or roti bread.

A customer at the restaurant, Norman, gave us a bag full of these beautiful squash. In my new guise as “Jerk Addict” I knew I was going to give it the jerk treatment. The sweet butteryness of the squash is enhanced by the spicy, zingy jerk marinade, they are made for each other, seriously.

I served this with a Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf I found in my new Caribbean cookbook. Spice It Up by Levi Roots and drizzled it with some of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce mixed with some Greek yoghurt to tone it down slightly.

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

For the jerk roasted squash:

  • 1 bunch/handful fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, then crushed
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns, then crushed
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tsp allspice berries, then crushed
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 scotch bonnet chillies (mine are small) use 4 large deseeded
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 limes, zest of 1, juice of 2
  • 140 ml olive oil
  • 1 medium squash

Put all the ingredients for the jerk marinade (not the squash) in a processor and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a sterilised jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed. This makes about 200 ml.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Wash the squash and slice off  a little of the top and bottom. Leave the skin on. Slice the narrow end into 1-2cm discs (see picture above). Then cut the fatter end in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and slice each half into 1-2 cm half moons.

Line 2 baking sheets with foil and place the squash circles on one tray and the half moons on the other. Drop about a teaspoon of the jerk marinade onto each disc and swirl it around to coat the top. Turn the disc over and do the same on the other side. Do the same with the half moons. Drizzle both sets of squash with a little olive oil and put both trays in the oven. The discs on the top shelf and the half moons on the middle shelf.

Cook for 30 -40 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices. The half moons will be ready before the discs. You want them to be really soft when you test them with a knife.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf.

For the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf:

Serves 3, vegan, gluten free. Adapted from Spice it Up by Levi Roots

  • 150 gr long grain rice, I used a wild rice mix
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 50 gr sultanas (or dried tropical fruit mix)
  • 25 gr almonds, roughly chopped
  • 350 ml veg stock
  • the juice of 1/2 lime or orange
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & black pepper

Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear and leave to drain. Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes.

Next add the rice to the pan, stir to coat in the oil and spices then add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Season well with salt & black pepper and boil hard for a minute. Then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a lid. Leave to cook for about 15 minutes until tender, try not to stir but make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Check seasoning and serve immediately garnished with some fresh thyme.

Serve the dish drizzled with some Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce if you like it fiery. Or mix it with some greek yoghurt for a more manageable heat.

This jerk marinade is amazing. You can use it for chicken, fish or pork but try the foil baked feta and squash too. You may surprise even the most stubborn carnivores with this recipe.

I also used it as a salad dressing with some more olive oil and lime juice. I used some of the leftover roasted squash, chopped up with some chickpeas and mixed it into a salad with the jerk dressing and a splash of hot pepper sauce. Really good lunch dish..

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

 The Eucalyptus trees are starting to shed their bark, covering the ground with cinnamon- like curls….

It reminds me of a programme I saw about the cinnamon producers in Sri Lanka. Strips of  bark from the cinnamon tree are layered together, one curl inside another and then it is expertly rolled into the cinnamon sticks we buy and use for cooking. Amazing to watch….

It is one of the few signs of autumn we get here, and the first nod towards the changing season…..

Hello Autumn!

Chinese Chilli Aubergine with Rice Noodles

17 Sep Chinese Aubergine

This is the third and final recipe in the Aubergine series for this season. Designed to convert even the most stubborn of aubergine haters out there. The previous two recipes were Berenjenas con Miel (Andalucian Fried Aubergines with Cane Honey) and Curried Aubergine with Chickpeas & Tomato.

I have to admit that I have saved the best for last. I first saw this recipe on Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes Across China series. He visited  many different regions in China cooking their signature dishes. At the end of the series he cooked a banquet showcasing all of his favourite Chinese recipes. This was one of his favourites. It was from Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province.

“It is said that ‘China is the place for food, but Sichuan is the place for flavour’. Food from the region is famously spicy, and girls from the capital Chengdu are reputed to be the most beautiful in the country as the chillies purge their skin of impurities.

Sichuan is as large as France with a population that is almost twice the size of Britain’s. Bordered by the snow-capped Himalayas, the inaccessible region has developed a unique culture and distinct cooking style. Most local people ascribe the spiciness of Sichuan cooking to the muggy climate. The best way to drive out the cold and moisture is with a kick of chilli heat.”
 
Not surprisingly I love Sichuan food. As you may have noticed I am partial to a bit of chilli and I also love the fragrant, tingly, numbing heat given out by the Sichuan peppercorn. This dish doesn’t contain Sichuan peppercorns but it has reminded me how much I loved a Sichuan spicy peanut noodle dish we served at the restaurant. It made your lips go numb, in a good way. I’m definitely going to hunt down that recipe and share it with you.
 
Chinese Chilli Aubergine with Rice Noodles
 
serves 2-3, vegan gluten-free. Adapted from Gary Rhodes Across China
  • 225-250 gr rice noodles (I used medium)
  • 1 large aubergine (about 450 gr)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 2 tbsp chilli bean paste
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (pickled chilli sauce)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped, green & white parts separated
  • a handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves separated and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 200 ml veg stock
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or kecap manis)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 -3 tsp brown sugar
  •  1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp corn flour (corn starch) mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • sesame seeds

Peel the aubergine by cutting off the top and bottom and peeling with a knife from top to bottom. Cut in half lengthways and then cut into “chips” about 5cm x 1.5cm x 1.5cm.

Meanwhile cook the noodles in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet, drain in a colander and rinse under the cold tap to stop them cooking and sticking together. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan until hot. Deep-fry the aubergine chips in about 3 batches until soft and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Carefully pour away all but 1 tbsp of the hot oil into a heat proof bowl and leave to cool before discarding. Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in the wok and add in the chilli bean paste, sambal oelek, ginger, garlic, coriander stalks and the white parts of the chopped spring onion. Stir fry for about 30 seconds

Pour in the rice wine/sherry and stock, bring to the boil and reduce for 2-3 minutes. Then put the aubergine back into the sauce.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Taste for sweetness, it should be sweet, tangy and hot. Add more sugar, soy sauce or vinegar if necessary. Dissolve the cornflour in the water and add to the sauce, stir until thickened slightly.

Stir through the cooked noodles and reheat.

Serve in warm bowls garnished with the green parts of the spring onion, chopped coriander leaves and sprinkle over some sesame seeds.

This really is the best aubergine recipe out there. It converted me and I was a hater. Because the aubergine is peeled it melts right into the spicy sauce coating the noodles in beautiful deliciousness.

Try it!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

These beautiful hot pink flowers. I don’t know what they are but they look like bright pink feathery fans. The kind they use for Burlesque dancing…..

And these dying sunflowers look like those gorgeous big shower heads. I want…

Enjoy the rest of your weekend….

Caribbean Chilli Stuffed Peppers

16 Sep peppers sdie close

As you know I get most of my food inspiration from the fruit & vegetables I see growing in the fields where I walk with the dog in the morning.  There are hundreds of these peppers everywhere.

This time of year there is always a glut of tomatoes. So much so that they are basically being given away or left to rot on the ground.

This whole field of corn is being left to dry out completely. The corn was ripe about a month ago but has not been harvested. I don’t know why, I’m hoping that they are going to use it to make corn flour or something. It seems such a waste.

My scotch bonnet chilli pepper plant is still producing more chillis. I have 3 large tubs already in the freezer and it has just flowered again which means another crop.

I have just been back to England for a few days for my mum’s birthday. As usual I had to buy another cookbook while I was there. This time I decided to go for something Caribbean as I have so many Scotch Bonnets to use. The book is Spice it Up by Levi Roots.

There are lots of recipes I’m eager to try but his Caribbean chilli was the first one because it used a lot of stuff I had to finish up in my fridge. I love recipes like this It’s so versatile. I added the sweetcorn and used lentils instead of kidney beans as  that is what I had.

I also have a really healthy thyme plant on my terrace. It’s not woody at all so you can use the whole sprigs for seasoning as well as the leaves. Fresh thyme is used a lot in Caribbean food.

So you can kind of see how my brain works. The stuff I see growing while walking the dog stays in my head. It gets added to the things I have on my roof terrace and inspiration from books brings it all together somehow.  It’s this creativity that I love and that keeps me cooking and writing this blog.

So I made the chilli which was delicious on its own with some rice or cornbread and then used the rest to stuff into the green peppers for lunch the next day. A sprinkling of grated cheese before roasting gives it that something extra and takes it in a slightly more Mexican direction.

For that late summer vibe you can’t beat a bit of Caribbean spice. So if it’s rainy where you are, bring on the sunshine, get creative and start cooking.

Caribbean Chilli Stuffed Peppers

Serves 4 as chilli, 6 for stuffed peppers, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free.

Adapted from Spice it Up by Levi Roots

For the Caribbean chilli:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely sliced
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • salt & black pepper
  • a bunch of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and roughly diced
  • 2 small long green peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 250 gr mushrooms, quartered or sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped (or 1 x 400 gr tin)
  • 1 or 2 red chilli (ideally scotch bonnet) I used 4 of my small ones
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 tin/jar cooked lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tin/jar cooked kidney beans/white beans, rinsed
  • 1 ear of corn, silk removed and kernels sliced off into a bowl
  • 2 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree/ketchup)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 or 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 a lime juiced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, leek, celery, carrot & garlic and cook for about 5-8 minutes until softened.

Season well with salt & pepper and add the cumin, allspice and fresh thyme leaves, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Next add in the  peppers, cook for 2 minutes then add in the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the chopped tomatoes, chillis, sweetcorn, lentils & beans and stir well. Then add the tomato puree, sugar & soy sauce.

Lower the heat, cover and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, add more salt, sugar or cayenne pepper if not hot enough for you. Stir in the chopped coriander and squeeze over the juice of 1/2 a lime.

Serve straight away with plain boiled rice or some cornbread or use to stuff peppers.

For the Stuffed Peppers:

  • 1 large long green pepper per person
  • Caribbean chilli (see above)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • dried chilli flakes
  • grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the peppers in half lengthways and remove the seeds and core. Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the peppers on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, thyme leaves and chilli flakes, toss to coat.

Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, you can do this while your chilli is cooking if you like. When the peppers are cooked spoon the cooked chilli into the peppers and sprinkle over the grated cheese. Put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes for the cheese to melt. Cook for 15-2o minutes if the filling is cold.

Serve on their own or with a simple green salad.

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

My best friend Tara, who I miss a lot, made dinner for me when I was back in England. I’ve never seen her cook before so I was very honoured!!

Especially as she made my White Bean Dip  as well as a Blue Cheese, Pear & Walnut Salad, Nachos and some delicious Spicy Roasted Potatoes. It was  far too much food for the two of us but we still managed to polish off some Baklava and a bottle of pink champagne.

She has two gorgeous Chihuahuas, a boy & a girl called Rocky and Coco. Rocky is the white one and Coco is brown. I don’t usually like little yappy- type dogs but they are so cute.

Thanks T, I miss you. Come and see me soon!!

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