Archive | September, 2012

Moroccan 7 Vegetable Couscous with Saffron and Moscatel Raisins

29 Sep 7 Vegetable Couscous

Apologies for the extended absence but the computer was being mended so I couldn’t blog or access any of my photos, so frustrating. On a positive note all this spare time afforded me a window of opportunity to join Pinterest.

Oh dear, it’s very addictive, I mean really, if you haven’t already got an account, give it a go. It’s a great way to organise all your favourite things from the internet onto different boards so you never lose or forget about that fantastic recipe, that amazing paint colour or that must-have pair of shoes. The Washer Up is threatening to leave me but said he would have to put it on my Pinterest feed or I wouldn’t even notice. No, really?

So if you want to see what I would like our lounge to look like when he has eventually finished re-rendering all the walls, what food I will be cooking, what food styling and photography inspires me and what shoes and bags I own in my dreams, then why not follow Cook Eat Live on Pinterest here. He just said “or you could try getting a life instead”, so rude!

I said in my previous post for  the Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia that I have been watching Moscatel grapes turn to raisins on the vine at one of the small farms that I run past with the dog in the mornings. This got me thinking about recipes including raisins.

At the same time one of our friends brought us some beautiful saffron all the way back from Afghanistan. He is another one of those men (like this pink watermelon martini loving guy) who would have to kill me if I told you his name. No, seriously he would. Apparently.

So, raisins and saffron take you in a certain direction gastronomically, and I had been wanting to try out a Moroccan restaurant in Malaga called Al- Yamal for a while. So, with my friend Caroline and my camera, I jumped on the bus and made a day of it. It being eating and drinking of course.

The restaurant is tiny, only about six tables, but comfortable and beautifully decorated so you are immediately transported to a Moroccan souk by the fabrics, lanterns, arches and delicious smells coming from the equally tiny kitchen. We were the only people in there when we arrived apart from the owner reading in the corner, his wife in the kitchen, his father with his grandson on another table and his son taking our order. A proper family business.

The food was lovely as was the service. We had the hummus with homemade pita bread, a roasted red pepper salad and the seven vegetable couscous to share. Caroline also ordered a lamb kebab which she said was delicious. The vegetable couscous comes to the table in a painted terracotta tagine. As the lid is removed you are drawn in by the warm scent of cinnamon, you see the different vegetables and chickpeas piled up the sides of the golden mound of couscous and the plump raisins and toasted almonds on top. You are also given a separate jug full of the spiced stock used to cook the vegetables to pour over as you wish. That was the best bit for me, I really enjoyed the whole dish and decided to try to recreate it when I got home.

Malaga continues to surprise every time I go. There is always something new to discover  food-wise, bar-wise or culture-wise which makes it my favourite city and one of Spain’s best kept secrets.

The seven vegetables you use can be whatever you have and whatever is in season but I would definitely use some root vegetables as they keep their shape with the cooking process. I used carrots, butternut squash, green beans, courgette, leek, green beans and red onion. Parsnips, turnips, potatoes or sweet potatoes would also be lovely.

Moroccan Seven Vegetable Couscous with saffron & raisins

Serves 6, vegan. Adapted from The Vegetarian Times

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, quartered & cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 leek, halved washed and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • a big pinch saffron
  • 1/4 tsp crushed chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 3 tomatoes, cored cut into 8 wedges (or 400ml tin chopped)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 500 -750 ml water
  • a small bunch parsley & coriander stalks
  • 1 courgette, quartered & cut into 2 inch batons
  • 250 gr carrots, peeled, halved (or quartered) and cut into 2 inch batons
  • 200 gr green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 350 gr butternut squash, peeled cut into 1 – 2 inch chunks
  • 1 tin 400 g cooked chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 100 g raisins (I used Moscatel raisins they are bigger and juicier)
  • 50 gr flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan until golden
  • 1 squidge of honey
  • 300 ml couscous
  • 300ml veg stock or water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a  big pinch of saffron
  • olive oil
  • fresh coriander and parsley, chopped

Cook the onions in the olive oil over a medium heat for about 15 minutes until softened and caramelising. Add the leeks, garlic,and ginger and cook for another 3 minutes. Add a splash of stock if it gets dry. Then add the saffron and the rest of the spices and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, adding a splash of stock if it gets too dry.

Add in the tomatoes, stock, 500 ml water and herb stalks. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the hard vegetables (carrots and  squash) and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the courgettes, beans, chickpeas, raisins and honey, season well with salt & black pepper and cook for 10 minutes more or until all vegetables are tender, you can some more water if you think it is too dry. Taste and add more honey, salt or even some lemon juice if required

Meanwhile make the couscous. Measure 300ml couscous into a measuring jug and then tip it into a large bowl. Measure the same amount of stock or water and heat it in a saucepan with the pinch of saffron and the ground cinnamon. When boiling, pour this over the couscous, season with salt & pepper, drizzle with some olive oil and quickly mix it in with a fork, not a spoon. Cover with clingfilm and leave to absorb for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, fluff the couscous up to separate the grains again, with a fork and taste for seasoning. Pile a mound of couscous onto each plate (or a large serving dish/tagine) and make a well in the middle. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to the well and arrange some around the edge of the couscous too. Ladle some of the cooking stock left in the pan over the dish and transfer the rest into a jug to serve alongside for everyone to help themselves to.

Top with some toasted almonds, chopped fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Buen Provecho!!

Grape and Fennel Seed Spelt Focaccia with Sea Salt and Basil

9 Sep Grape Focaccia

I see these grapes every day while running with the dog. They are hanging over a fence saying “steal me”. But I don’t. Even though the farmer on the other side of the fence is letting most of them turn to raisins on the vine. It’s all inspiration though because I have now started thinking about raisin recipes.

Grapes are kind of underused in cooking I think. There’s the Veronique thing with sole and they go very nicely on a cheese board of course. About the same time last year I made a White Grape & Manchego Cheese Tartlet that I sprinkled with fennel seeds and served with an elderflower syrup.

The combination of flavours work really well together. The herb should really be tarragon though, not basil,  to follow on with the anise fennel theme but our plant is on its way out so basil was my next choice. It’s an Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve adapted using spelt flour instead of normal and I added the sea salt and herbs. I like the scattering of sea salt on top to contrast with the sweetness of the sugar and fennel seed topping.

Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia Recipe

Makes a 20 x 30cm focaccia, vegan, wheat-free.

Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

For the starter:

  • 15g fresh yeast ( or 1 sachet dried)
  • 210ml bottled lukewarm water
  • 165g spelt flour (I used wholemeal)

Put the yeast and water in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour, stirring until you get a porridgy consistency. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours to double in size.

For the dough:

  • 165g spelt flour (wholemeal or white)
  • 1+1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
  • 1 +1/2 tsp sea salt plus extra to sprinkle

Mix the doubled in size starter (above) with the flour, sugar & olive oil in a bowl. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes then add the salt and knead it into the bread for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Brush the inside of a bowl with some olive oil put the dough in it and brush the surface with more oil. Cover with a damp cloth again and leave in a warm place for an hour until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and gently stretch it with your fingers into a rectangle. Fold one of the short edges of the rectangle into the middle, then fold the other short end over that so you get 3 layers. Brush the inside of a 20 x 30cm baking tin with oil and put the folded dough in it with the seam underneath. flatten it out with your fingers until it nearly fills the tin, cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour. Go back 3 or 4 times in the hour to press it out with your fingers to reach the edges. By the end it should fill the tin, have lots of finger bumps and be about 2cm thick.

For the topping:

  • 150g seedless grapes (I used a mix of red & white)
  • about a tbsp raw/brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • flaky sea salt
  • fresh tarragon leaves (or basil)

Preheat oven to 220C.  Halve the grapes lengthways and stud them all over the dough.  Mix the sugar and fennel seeds together and sprinkle this all over the top too.

Bake  for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 190C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until slightly browned & cooked through. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil while still hot and then sprinkle over some sea salt. When ready to serve strew or tear over some fresh tarragon or basil leaves.

This is lovely as a snack, supper or picnic with some mature cheese (like a Manchego or Parmesan) and a glass of wine. Or serve as part of a continental breakfast or brunch instead of croissants and pastries.

Enjoy!

Pink Lychee Bellini Cocktail

7 Sep Lychees

I had never tried fresh lychee before I bought these. I thought I didn’t like them because the ones I had tried out of a tin tasted, well like tin, and syrup. Not a good combination.

So I bought these because they were cheap mainly and because The Washer Up kept trying to persuade me that they were lovely. And he was right. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, that he was right I mean. He will be pleased.

It turns out that underneath that pink prehistoric armoured shell there is a delicately perfumed, lightly floral tasting, opalescent jewel of a fruit that is elegant, cool, sweet and delicious. Nothing at all like tin, which is nice.

I was going to make Lychee Martinis as that seems to be the lychee cocktail of choice but I saw Jamie Oliver doing Venice the other day and he was explaining the history of the Bellini that was invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice (something to do with the delicate peach colour resembling the golden glow in Bellini’s paintings) and he showed how to make an authentic one.

He used white peaches with their red skins still on (to get the light peachy colour) and he crushed the whole thing in his hand  through a sieve into a jug. He then mixed the pulp with Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and poured it into the glass.

I tried to crush a lychee through a sieve, (there’s a first time for everything) but it didn’t work so I just pureed the fruits (without the seeds) with a stick blender. The puree is a milky white froth that I poured into the bottom of each glass and I topped it up with pink rose cava (Spanish sparkling wine) because I wanted it to echo the beautiful colour of the lychee skins. You could use normal sparkling instead for a more frosty effect.

Salud!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Pretty Pickled Peppers Recipe

5 Sep Pickled Peppers

As in “Peter Piper picked a peck of…..”. A peck is a lot by the way, about 8 pints worth. I didn’t buy that many, I resisted from buying the whole crate of organic Pimientos Picante that were shining up at me from the floor of one of the stalls at the market on Sunday.

I bought quite few though, enough to think “What the hell..?” when I got home and realised that I already have a freezer full of our own homegrown red and green chillis and a scotch bonnet bush that is producing more than we can cope with at the moment.

I’m a sucker for them though, it didn’t even cross my mind, as I stuffed a few greedy handfuls into a bag, paid and left with a smile on my face and thoughts of pretty jars of pickled peppers on imaginary wooden shelves in a pantry that only exists in my dreams rushing through my brain. What can I say, it’s an addiction.

Pretty Pickled Peppers Recipe

Makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from David Lebowitz

  • about 350 g chilli peppers (mixed red & green)
  • 350 ml vinegar ( I used a mix of apple, sherry, rice and white wine vinegars)
  • 350 ml water
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp course salt Himalayan or kosher
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves

Pierce the peppers all over a few times with the tip of a knife and pack them into a sterilised jar. Put the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the entire contents of the pan into the jar with the peppers until they are all covered with the pickling liquid, seal with a lid and leave to cool. When cooled store in the fridge. You are supposed to leave them for at least a week but we couldn’t wait that long.

Apparently they get better the longer you leave them but we served them to our friends the next day and they were really good. Jeanne is now known as The Chilli Queen.

Enjoy!

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