Tajine Malsouka, بسطيلة, Pastilla, nope not Chicken, Confit Partridge, and some Catalan Spinach!

Photo 10-11-2018, 12 33 51I have been taking a break from the blog and cooking in general to recharge the culinary batteries, and try and seek new inspiration from a number of foodie sources including books, cookery competitions on T.V. and researching produce and concepts.

I will apologise upfront, this is not a simple or quick recipe, it was prepared over nearly 3 days but, broken down in stages the amount of time actually spent in the kitchen is only a few hours!Photo 10-11-2018, 11 41 27This dish is inspired by an entry in the book NOPI, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. Its a gorgeous book, full of dishes from the restaurant of the same name but subtly simplified to make them more accessible, but nonetheless they are still complicated.

Having read the recipe, description and processes my mind started to wander and think about my interpretation of what seemed a very tasty, but complex Filo Pie, with its origins from Morocco and the Savoury/Sweet Pastilla.Photo 10-11-2018, 12 10 40Our family LOVES game, especially Partridge and a recent trip to our local meat supplier Casey Fields Farm Shop in Ashampstead had allowed the purchase of a few birds which were really fantastic value for money. The plan was to section the birds, roast the carcass, make a Partridge Stock and confit the meat. Photo 10-11-2018, 12 29 57The work was planned to start on a Friday evening, but due to over running work wise I started on the Saturday morning, I have done some butchery over the years so the sectioning was done pretty quickly and I soon had a pile of breasts and legs which were placed in a dish with Garlic (about 3 chopped cloves), Juniper Berries (about 10, crushed), Maldon Salt (2 Tablespoons) and Selim Pepper (from Steenbergs), and some Fresh Thyme and covered with cling film before sticking the in the fridge until the following Morning.Photo 10-11-2018, 12 01 40.jpgThe carcass’s were placed in a roasting dish, treated with Olive oil, Fresh Thyme and Maldon Sea Salt, before placing in a 160 degree (fan) over for about 2 hours to cook. After 75 minutes I put a halved red Onion in as the birds finished roasting.Photo 10-11-2018, 23 41 12Once the roasting was complete, the carcass’s were put in a large pot along with the aromats and about 5 litres of water. I looked at the recipe for guidance as to flavours, it used Chicken Stock so I added some dried Porcini Mushrooms, Tomatoes, the roast Onion, Peppercorns, Star Anise and a ‘faggot’ of herbs, Bay, Parsley and Coriander. I didn’t add Salt until later, and to taste, and then sieved the stock removing all the solids, that was the Partridge Stock done!Photo 11-11-2018, 10 02 41First thing on the following Sunday morning I was up early and got the Partridge Breasts and Legs cooking, after washing off the Salt and marinade ingredients, at about 115-120 degrees, in plain oil.  Ovens differ so you want to see the ‘occasional’ bubble rising to the surface and may need to adjust the above temperature a bit.Photo 11-11-2018, 12 28 56I let the meat cool down in the Oil for about an hour before removing, covering and sticking in the fridge whilst other stages were completed. The original recipe called for a layer of ‘Catalan Spinach’, which needed some Pine Nuts to be roasted and coated in Smoked Paprika, which only took a few minutes. There was also a Sweet/Sharp component made from some currants, steeped in warm Sherry Vinegar and Brandy until plump.

Photo 11-11-2018, 10 25 59photo-11-11-2018-10-16-19.jpg

As you can see, there is quite a lot to do, a number of processes to complete and some great flavours being developed with the home made stock and various elements of the dish.Photo 11-11-2018, 13 24 29The stock was just the base for the intense and complex flavoured sauce that the Confit meat was going to be added to. Caramelised Onions and various other flavours were added to a pan and cooked down before adding some of the stock, which was then left to simmer for about an hour or so! If you want the recipe then the book NOPI is where to get it from , it’s a great investment for any keen cook. I used the recipe as a guide as I wasn’t using Chicken, so missed some of the stages that were not needed.Photo 11-11-2018, 14 23 50The second layer of the Pastilla was the “Catalan Spinach’, a creamy cooked down delicious combination of the Pine Nuts and Currants, Garlic along with Spinach and Double Cream. You need to ensure the mix is not too wet, otherwise the final result may make the dish soggy. Photo 11-11-2018, 15 27 27So, we have sectioned some Partridge, Roast the carcass’s and made a tasty stock, salted and marinaded the Legs and Breasts, and then done the confit treatment. Prepared the various ingredients for the Catalan Spinach and started to make the final sauce for the meat. Give yourself a MASSIVE pat on the back and SMILE, I certainly did!!Photo 11-11-2018, 15 33 20Again I did not follow the recipe and strained the sauce, then reduced it added salt and kept tasting until I felt it was rich and velvety. I picked the meat off the legs and pulled the breast apart into small pieces and then added the sauce to coat, not drench the meat.photo-11-11-2018-15-46-30.jpgWe are almost done, and now its Filo time! I have two ‘favourite’ pan’s, from Netherton Foundry in Shropshire, they are made of spun iron, very robust and made to last. The ‘Prospector’ pan was to be my cooking vessel for the Pastilla (I used my Netherton frying pan to complete the sauce) so started by brushing some melted Ghee on the base (to help crisp the pastry), before layering several sheets of Filo pastry at 180 degrees to each other, slathering more Ghee on each layer as you can see above. Its quite delicate so be gentle with your brush as it can tear!photo-11-11-2018-15-50-17.jpgI used about 8 sheets of Filo for the size of pan I was using, overlapping each time to create overhangs that could be played back over, and then filled with the Partridge layer, you can see from the picture above that the mixture is not too wet, but the meat is well coated nonetheless. The Spinach layer was added on top of this.photo-11-11-2018-15-52-37.jpgFinally, lay a sheet in the middle of the Pastilla and gentle tuck the sides all around your pan, as you can see above. Your tucking in a blanket before gently bring the outer layers back over the top, brushing Ghee on each layer as its sealed, and you should end up with something similar to the picture below. Give yourself ANOTHER pat on the back!Photo 11-11-2018, 15 55 17Breaking down the dish into various stages slightly simplifies the cooking but it’s still a challenging dish to make and to be honest, I was pretty tired after what was a 2 day cooking event! I made things more difficult but choosing to use a Partridge Confit and kept double checking the processes to make sure nothing was missed, and where adjustments were made, everything was on track. The Pastilla needs to cook in the over for about 45 mins to 1 hour.photo-11-11-2018-17-12-06.jpgPastilla is a Sweet/Savoury dish so needs finishing with a coating of icing sugar after it has been turned out of the pan (so the bottom is on the top). What was it like, my chief taster was very sceptical and was not sure that it was going to be any good, dead wrong, it was absolutely delicious and quite a surprise. We had some Harissa roasted Butternut Squash and a Cous Cous Salad with Feta, Pomegranate and Herbs and felt very satisfied.Photo 11-11-2018, 17 16 24So here is my Confit Partridge Pastilla, yes its a bit of work but break into stages and even I managed it, take a leap of faith and have a go yourself.

I’m off to Argentina in a few weeks for a trip with my employer and if there is anything good food wise to write about, it will get posted shortly after.

 

………………………..Until next time L8ers……………………………

 

 

Mirepoix (Not the Place), Tasty Stuff & January’s Foodie Experiments

Photo 17-01-2018, 20 02 51January has been very difficult, Flu has been the significant event and I think I have seen Floyd cooking in India, The Far East, France, Italy and South Africa to name but a few! There is a common thread in many of the recipes he shows, the Mirepoix.

I am starting to get a bit more adventerous in my approach to cooking in that I am looking for ‘guidance’ when attempting something and then veering off-piste and seeing where I end up!

The Pie is one such example, cooked well they are a thing of beauty but make a mistake and yuch, and unless you can find a pie brand you really like going it alone and making your own is definitely the way to go.

I decided to use a home made rough-puff pastry using a Michel Roux recipe, it’s brilliant and only takes a few minutes to make if you follow the link HERE. I scaled down the amount as I was making a small(ish) Pie and went for 125g each of flour and butter.

The filling was Beef Mince and Peas, but the flavour started with a Mirepoix of Onion Carrot and Celery cut Brunoise (small dice), this was to feature a lot in Januarys cooking experiments. You just sweat the vegetables gently and not brown them, if you then add tomato pureé as I did, it becomes a pincage! I did add some finely chopped bacon before this stage to build on the flavour layers which adds a smoky element. Don’t forget to Season to taste at this stage.Photo 17-01-2018, 18 55 10To shape the Pie I used one of those White Enamel tins, lined with some cling film after I had rubbed some oil over the surface, the Pastry was then laid into the dish on the film, add the (cooled) filling and cover. The Pie can then be (gently) lifted out, inverted and the edges sealed with a fork, It worked a treat as you can see above adding an Egg Wash to brown before cooking.

So back to our Mirepoix again, this time with a dish inspired from more distant shores, but first some mise en place.Photo 06-01-2018, 18 42 43Stuffed Mediterranean Vegetables are another one of those dishes that can be ergh, nice or amazing. I’ve done them a few times but decided to see what could be done with some refinement and playing with flavours. Previously I have only done a Pepper version as they are easy, just cut the top off and bake with a filling, job done.Photo 06-01-2018, 16 47 41Let’s introduce the Aubergine into the recipe and look at the process of baking and using the centre as part of the stuffing. I used the paring (small) knife to gently cut around the edge of the Aubergine about 1 cm in, you can see in the top right picture, then carefully cutting a criss-cross pattern using the larger knife, remembering the shape and altering the depth as you cut, the middle is deeper than the edge! Photo 06-01-2018, 17 44 32Brushing liberally with Olive or Rapeseed Oil and seasoning with Salt and Pepper they were baked for about 30 minutes at 180 degrees. I turned them over flat side down and gave them another 15 minutes after another brushing of Oil as the top did not seem cooked, you can see the final result below. You then need to carefully scrape out the cooked centre and chop, ready to add to the filling later.Photo 06-01-2018, 17 45 23So we now start with the Mirepoix again, this time I swapped an Onion for a large Shallot, which is a bit sweeter. Add the Lamb and brown, some Garlic to taste, the chopped Aubergine, some Tomato Paste. Going for a Middle Eastern angle further enhancements included Rose Harissa, Coriander, Cumin and Preserved Lemon finely sliced and some chopped Mint and Coriander Leaf. Texture came with some toasted Pine Nuts.

I have not included quantities as I tasted as I went, so for example Cumin is quite Pungent, so I used less then Coriander Powder. Don’t forget to season with Salt and Pepper before moving onto the next stage.Photo 27-01-2018, 12 45 05The lamb mixture can then be used to fill the hollowed out Aubergine and in my case Red Pepper’s with the tops and pith/seeds removed, then baked in the over for about 35-40 minutes. Photo 06-01-2018, 17 26 47.jpgServed with some Greek Yoghurt with added Rose Harissa and chopped Mint its absolutely delicious and worthy of any dinner table as you can see below.Photo 06-01-2018, 19 45 11A new book came through the letterbox and hit the floor over Christmas, ‘Comfort’ by John Waite it’s a great addition to the bookshelf although it’s spent more time in my hands thumbing through the pages seeking more cooking inspiration.

I was looking for something different to try one Saturday and had Fish and Potato on my mind, remembering a recipe I found it in John’s book, but not having all the ingredients I slipped off-piste again and here is how it went!Photo 19-01-2018, 19 20 31Firstly, a baked Potato which I always start by piercing all over with a fork, and then rubbing butter all over the skin to ensure a crisp finish, followed by a sprinkling of Sea  Salt.Photo 19-01-2018, 18 11 42.jpgI had some red Romano Peppers in the Organic Veg Box so started to think about a nice Piquant Sauce to make, so popped one in the oven to roast for about 15 minutes, this makes removing the hard indigestible skin easy and heightens their sweetness.

The Mirepoix was again the starting point, this time the humble Leek was also finely chopped and added to the rest of the sweating vegetables. I also added some Plum Tomato’s from a tin, but removing the seeds by hand first so only the flesh went into the saucepan. Finally I added the roasted pepper which had been chopped up first.Photo 19-01-2018, 18 42 23.jpgA couple of pieces Cod had been removed from the Freezer earlier and popped in the Microwave to cook, not ideal but time meant that it was the easiest thing to do and as the Fish was going to be mixed with Potato it was the way I went on this occasion. Once cooked it was mixed in with the scooped out potato and Ras-Al-Hanut spice added along with Salt and Pepper to season.Photo 19-01-2018, 18 22 40Once the Mirepoix/Pepper/Tomato mix was cooked it went into the Ninja processor and got a good whiz as you can seen above.

I wanted to add some more texture so used some old Sour Dough Bread to make Breadcrumbs, added grated Grana Padano Cheese and mixed in some Rapeseed Oil.Photo 19-01-2018, 19 01 18The Potato Skins were fried to make them crispy again, and then filled with the Potato?fish mixture before being topped with the Breadcrumbs/Cheese and going in the oven to finish. The sweet (piquant is more appropriate) Pepper Sauce was gently warmed on the hob and we were soon ready to serve.Photo 19-01-2018, 18 41 46So what started out as a John Waite dish (which I do intent to make), turned out as my own version with a quite spicy Sweet Pepper Sauce, with the crispy Potato and Fish filled skins it tasted delicious.

Next time I will cover off Mexican experiment and see where it took me and the Ox Cheeks, I hope you enjoy the January efforts and please feel free to let me know if there is anything you would like to me have a go at.

 

……………………………Until next time…………………….L8ers………………

 

بهارات‎ (Bahārāt) and Squash!! More Middle Eastern Delight’s to Amaze You!

2016-03-19 13.22.22

This dish started life many months ago when I got hold of the cookery book ‘Persiana’, by Sabrina Ghayour (voted best new cookbook 2014). Thumbing through the pages there were lots of delicious looking recipes but one took my eye, Butternut Squash with Pistachio, Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate! It was apparently a firm favourite amongst the supper club attendees, so must be not too bad at all!

I have been trying to get this dish on the table but numerous times failed due to things like “I don’t fancy that” (not me but someone else!), “have you got time” (again not me!), “in hospital” (that WAS me)!

At last the stars must have been aligned, or Saturn congruent with a passing comet for a nano second and it finally happened, and what a spectacular event it was too! You need to read the WHOLE post as there are several processes needed to complete the dish, each with their own list of ingredients.

2016-03-19 14.25.06

My version does differ from Sabrinas, not that I did not think it wasn’t an excellent recipe (who am I to judge anyway), but I craved some protein, meat in fact, Lamb, I (we) both love Lamb.

So off to research some ideas and I decided to make a Bahārāt from scratch. Bahārāt is Arabic for ‘Spices’, and can be a heady mixture to take any dish to mars and beyond,  and for this recipe (for 2 people), you will need the following;

  1. 1/2 Tsp Allspice
  2. 2 Tsp Black Peppercorns
  3. 1/2 Teaspoon Cardamon Seeds (after outer green pods removed)
  4. 4″ Cassia Bark (like Cinnamon but less sweet)
  5. 1 1/2 Tsp Whole Cloves
  6. 2 Tsp Coriander Seeds
  7. 1 1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  8. 1 Tsp Nutmeg (Fresh Grated if possible)
  9. 3 Tsp Aleppo Chilli
  10. 1 Tsp Rose Petals (The cooking variety!)
  11. 1/2 Tsp Ground Iranian Lime

Most of the spices are cupboard items (I always recommend Steenbergs wherever possible as the quality is SO good, and nothing like shop bought brands, which often are more expensive and have less flavour and character), the Iranian Lime and Rose Petals came from Ottolenghi’s, Aleppo Chilli from The Spicery.

2016-03-19 14.30.34

All the whole spices need dry roasting until they fill the kitchen with heady aromas. Be careful not to use too much heat and burn the spices as they will become very bitter and unpleasant. Then add the dried spices and whizz up in a blender to a powder, but don’t go as far as dust, we want some texture and character. You can see my result in the picture above.

2016-03-19 14.37.50

The Bahārāt is used to marinade 500 grms lamb shoulder, I left mine for about 2 hours using 5 heaped Tsp of the Bahārāt mixture which will leave you some left for another day.

2016-03-19 15.59.29After marinating, the Lamb is browned in a frying pan in some olive oil, and put into a dish with 250 mls of HOT Vegetable Stock mixed with 2 tsp of tomato puree then into a 130 deg (centigrade) fan oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours! I covered mine with tinfoil for the first couple of hours, and removed the foil allowing the stock to reduce for the last hour or so. You will need to keep and eye on it and stir from time to time to make sure things don’t dry out.

A quick interlude whilst the Lamb is doing its stuff. I was rushed into hospital a few weeks back, diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and now doing what many thousands of people have to do, inject Insulin daily and sample my blood 4 times a day!

I had a 1 day course booked at Bertinet’s Cookery School in Bath some time ago, with Ghalid Assyb (he partnered with Yotam Ottolenghi to open the 1st of the Ottolengi eateries in London), bl@@dy Macaroon’s as well, so two weeks after release from those lovely people dressed in white and green with a limited/no sugar diet, I was whisking, mixing and piping all sorts of sweet delights full of sugar.2016-02-27 15.02.22The 1 day session was awesome, we all learnt loads and despite my fears of piping and making a complete fool of myself, the end results were really very good (according to wife and family who can consume more sugar in a day than I can in a month)! Some of the end product are pictured above, I managed a couple all day!

I would recommend any of the Bertinet courses, I am taking my nine year old on a children’s one in July, and I am booked on a 1 day Bread in April and have a day with Mark Hix, the well known restaurateur in October! I am not a share holder and don’t get freebies, they are just good so I am happy to say so.

2016-03-19 16.32.15

So we are back with the next process and a Pesto, no Pine Nuts in sight, or Basil! This one is made with Coriander, Parsley and Mints leaves, this is a variation from Sabrinas which uses Dill instead of Mint ( I am not a Dill fan and thought the Mint and Lamb would match nicely).

For 2 people I used 50 grms Pistachio nuts, about 30 grms of Gran Padano cheese which are whizzed up with some Olive Oil to slacken, then add the ‘leaves’ of a bunch of Parsley and Coriander (I left the stalks behind). The Mint was added in stages, so as to not overpower the Pesto, you just want a hint as its very strong. You will need to add some more Olive Oil to get the consistency loose enough.

2016-03-19 17.01.42I am not sure how the Lime managed to get into the picture earlier, you need to add Lemon Juice to taste, a good squeeze or two and for salt, I used some Hebridean ‘Smoked’ Sea Salt, it is a really good product and brings another dimension to the Pesto, test the flavour and adjust as necessary to your liking. You can see what mine looked like above.

2016-03-19 18.23.41

We are nearly done prep wise, You need a nice Butternut Squash, to be honest I suspect any will do but the nice ‘hole’ where the seeds normally reside was to be my ‘bowl’ for the spiced Lamb. Cut to about 1c.m. thick, brush both sides with Olive Oil and season with Salt (unsmoked!) and Pepper, and into a 165 centigrade (fan) oven for about 45-50 mins, turning over halfway through the cooking. You need to time this process in line with the Lamb cooking so they both complete at the same time (roughly).

2016-03-19 18.29.40

Here we go, another variation on a fantastic recipe, sorry Sabrina. So I wanted another textural component and a flavour “whack”, sorry seems better than a hit under the circumstances, cook this and you will see why.

We are going to coat some more Pistachios with Ras Al Hanut, and Salt using Olive Oil. Warm the pan, add some Olive Oil, you want heat but not enough to burn so if you are not confident, just try a couple of nuts until you get it right. Add the Nuts, warm a bit add the Salt (Maldon Sea Salt rubbed between fingers), then the Ras Al Hanut, shake the pan, leave for 15 seconds and add some more Ras Al Hanut. We are talking a couple of decent pinches, no spoons involved, that’s it. This is a finishing touch and adds a great texture and flavour element to the final dish.

2016-03-19 19.36.27

I said you would need to read the whole post to get the complete recipe, forgot the Feta and Pomegranate, its an integral and important part of the finished delight.

The picture above should give you enough detail, if not, leave me a message and I will answer any questions as soon as I can.

Take a warm plate, lay the squash, fill the hole in the Squash with the Spiced Lamb. Dot ‘blobs’ of the Pesto with a teaspoon around the plate and on the Squash, lay pieces of broken Feta into the Pesto. Scatter the plate with Pomegranate seeds, then the spiced Pistachios and a ‘few’ Rose Leaves, which will warm and give a floral hint.

This dish is delicious (the boss said so), I think so too, its amazing. The original is probably also amazing but I have not tried that version yet, I had the craving for some protein and ’embelished’ the dish a little bit changing Dill to Mint, adding the spiced nuts and the home made Bahārāt with exotic spices.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Until next time…………………………….L8ers…………………………

کوفته, κεφτές, chiftea, कोफ़्ता, Meat Balls, Nah Köfte, Something Really Tasty & Full of Eastern Promise!

WP_20150804_15_24_36_Pro[1]You should notice the picture quality has been resumed, thanks to my trusty Nokia 1020 Camera Phone. The weather has been pretty variable recently and by the time it comes to eat, the kitchen is too hot and I am, well, just not up to it. Recently, Rick Stein had a new book published to join a T.V. series, From Venice to Istanbul. I pre-ordered mine several months ago and it arrived on the day the book was released, the 1st episode starts on Friday 7th at 9:30 and I can’t wait to follow his foodie travels.

Thinking about the weather situation and thumbing through the pages I came across an interesting looking recipe that could be prepared in advance, and cooked last minute, Lamb and Pistachio Kofte, which would be served with Cacik and and a simple salad of Red Onion and Tomato.WP_20150804_15_46_09_Pro__highres[1]Cacik is a really nice side dish that you can adjust to suit your palate, and consists of mostly Yoghurt and Cucumber, in fact for two people I went for half a large cucumber, peeled and the seeds removed. It’s wise to add some salt (1/2 tsp) to the grated Cucumber to try and extract as much moisture as you can, I left mine for about 15 minutes before using a metal sieve and large metal spoon to push the remaining juice out. Half a tub of Greek Yoghurt made the bulk of the Cacik, added the drained Cucumber and mixing well.  You also need a clove of crushed Garlic, chopped Fresh Dill and Mint and some Cumin, and I also added some Lemon Zest, along with a teaspoon of Juice. You can adjust the herbs so suit, as I did. WP_20150804_16_06_43_Pro[1]To Finish the Cacik off, I dusted the surface with Sumac and drizzled some Olive Oil before covering with cling film and popping in the fridge until needed. The original recipe in Rick’s book called for 1.2kg of minced Lamb, but that was to make 8 – 10 Köfte so I went for a standard pack of 500 grams. This is where things might get contentious as I did not change the other quantities of herbs and spices. I am convinced Chefs sometimes reduce the flavour impact in their recipes and I had cooked other dishes from well known chefs and to be honest, the food has been bland. So be brave and go the whole hog if you decide to have a go, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds, 1 tsp Coriander seeds did it for me from my favourite spice supplier Steenbergs. I make no apology for keep mentioning them, their products are top quality, Organic and sometimes Fair Trade too and compared to most of the stuff you get in the shops, there is just no comparison in the flavour quality.WP_20150804_16_17_54_ProSomething else I did differently was to dry roast the spices in a frying pan 1st, until I could smell the lovely aromas fill the kitchen before pounding in a pestle and mortar and adding to the minced lamb along with a grated large clove of Garlic.

Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper comes from Turkey and Syria and is easily obtainable mail order from The Spicery one of my other suppliers, you need a teaspoon. The Pistachio’s need crushing gently, I used about 40 grams worth and some chopped Parsley, Mint and a little Salt and Black Pepper for seasoning along with the Juice of 1/2 and Lemon (and some grated zest too). Something not in the recipe was Sumac, I love the stuff so about 1/2 tsp went in, it has citrus notes and adds to counteract the fat content of the Lamb, the mixture is bound together with some beaten egg. The book says 2 and if the mixture is too wet add some flour. I took one beaten egg and added it slowly, no flour needed at all. At this point you could take a small amount of the mixed and fry up to test the flavours if you want too. Cover and put in the fridge until ready.WP_20150804_20_17_04_ProI was planning to make some bread but in the end went for some shop bought Pitta (Lame excuse but I have been off sick so shouldn’t over do it!), The next step was a simple salad, 3 Tomatoes chopped into chunks, 1/2 Red Onion thinly sliced, 1/2 a Green Chilli de-seeded and finely chopped, some chopped Parsley (or Coriander) and a dressing of Olive Oil and Lemon (add before serving), then season with Salt and Pepper. The Lamb is shaped into Sausages (to fit the Pittas), and fried gently until cooked. In the book they are shaped onto flat metal skewers but I did not have any to hand so just did it as you can see above.WP_20150804_20_34_45_Pro[1]The Pittas were damped with water and the top surface was brushed with some butter before putting in an oven on full to heat up, the result was better than normal and the Pittas did not end up like cardboard! Once cooked, put some of the salad inside the Pitta, add the Köfte then some more salad, add a good helping of Cacik and sprinkle some chopped Parsley over the top, add a slice of Lemon and serve.

The verdict, wowser, absolutely yummy. The boss said they were the best I had aver done which was nice. To me, the thing that stood out was that no ingredient was dominant and that it was like a flavour wave riding around your mouth. These are NOT spicy, just full of flavour, so if you fancy having a go, invest in Ricks new book as it is very good indeed.

……………………………Until next time……………………………L8ers

 

 

Grousing Around – Winter Fare and Organic Birds!!

WP_20150118_16_52_45_ProChristmas seems a distant memory and January is almost over, its been an absolutely manic month and minimal time has been spent in the kitchen. I’ve been toying with the idea of trying some new proteins, and some I have not had for many years. A trip to Casey Fields Farm Shop just before christmas provided the opportunity to invest in some Organic Game Birds such as Partridge, Grouse, Pheasant and Pigeon which quickly found their way into the shopping basket!

I wanted to introduce some different flavours into the dish, not going down a traditional route tends to mean I will use Middle Eastern or Far Eastern influences for a more vibrant and mouth tingling experience.

Beware – Pictures of Spatchcocked Grouse Lay Ahead

Ploughing through various ‘traditional’ cookery books, birds like Grouse appear to be served with either a fruit based sauce, or a reduced game & veal stock, and game ‘chips’ or ‘Pomme Gaufrettes’ as they are known in France, Potato that has been cut by a waffle blade on a mandolin which creates a criss-cross pattern.

Nope, not for me and I decided to look at some different options with influences from Bethany Kehdy and Sabrina Ghayour, and the books Jewelled Kitchen and Persiana.

For this recipe, Middle Eastern Grouse with Royal Freekeh you will need the following ingredients for 1 person.

  1. 1 Grouse (Check whether the Heart and Liver are still in the cavity, mine were!)
  2. 1 small Onion
  3. 1/2 Preserved Lemon (readily available, I made my own a year ago, it’s easy to do)
  4. 2 Cloves Garlic
  5. 75 g Freekeh
  6. 50 g Butter
  7. 1-2 Tsp Harissa
  8. 1/4 Tsp Aleppo Pepper
  9. 1/2 Tsp Anardana (Ground Pomegranate Seeds)
  10. 1/2 Tsp Za’atar
  11. 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
  12. A few strands Afhgan Saffron (Steenberg’s stock this, its amazing!)
  13. 1 Tsp ground Coriander
  14. 1/2 Tsp ground Cumin
  15. 1/2 Tsp Allspice
  16. A handful of Pistachio’s
  17. A handful of Pine Nuts
  18. 3 -4 Green Cardamom Pods
  19. a ‘Slurp’ of Pomegranate Molasses
  20. A handful of Almonds
  21. A handful of Barberries
  22. Bunch Fresh Coriander
  23. 500 ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock

WP_20150118_17_15_01_ProIf you don’t fancy spatchcocking your Grouse, your butcher will do it for you, I have shown how to do it on a previous post with a Chicken, you are just removing the backbone and pushing down on the breasts to flatten.

The Grouse is marinaded by the Butter, Harissa, 1 Clove Garlic grated (I used a fine Microban) and 1/4 of the Preserved Lemon, very thinly sliced. Its needs at least a hour, and could be done a day in advance and left overnight in the fridge.

WP_20150118_17_34_19_ProGrouse is one of the Game Birds I had not eaten before, so this was going to be a interesting experiment to see if I could get everything to work in harmony, apparently Grouse is quite a ‘gamey’ meat with strong flavour so whatever I served with it needed to be ‘gutsy’.

WP_20150118_18_26_16_ProThe ‘Royal’ in the dish is my slant on ‘bejewelling’ Rice, but in my case the lesser know Freekeh. Freekeh, Frikeh or Farik is made from Green Wheat, its great at absorbing flavours, has a really good texture, slightly chewy and its good for you! The Jewel components are Pine Nuts, Pistachio Nuts and Almonds which have all been toasted, along with a good handful of Barberries.

Freekeh is available online from a number of suppliers including ‘The Sous Chef’, ‘Ottolenghi’s’, BUT BE CAREFUL and check the cooking instructions on the packet. Whole Freekeh takes a lot longer to cook than crushed or cracked Freekeh!

WP_20150118_19_17_34_ProTiming for this dish is quite important, as I found out! I made the mistake of not checking the Freekeh I was using, and ended up with a Grouse that was ready 30 – 40 Min’s before the Freekeh!

Anyhow, its still tasted really good so you need to finely chop the onion and fry in Olive Oil and Butter for a good 20 minutes, you are looking for the colour above. Don’t be tempted to rush this stage, the smell and flavour even at this stage is lip smacking.

WP_20150118_19_21_20_ProNext, add the Anardana, Za’atar, Coriander and Cumin Powder, Aleppo Pepper, Allspice, Saffron, Cardamom Pods (lightly crushed), Cinnamon a continue to cook out the spices, then add the Freekeh and coat the grains thoroughly. Add the Chicken or Vegetable stock according to the instructions on the packet.

WP_20150118_19_22_05_ProIf you are using whole Freekeh it needs about 45 minutes to cook, timing the cooking of the Grouse is really important because you DO NOT want to overcook it, it WILL be tough and nowhere near as good if cooked for the correct time and left to rest.

Searching a number of books and Internet resources i went for the following method.

WP_20150118_19_28_05_ProSet you oven on 200 degrees and allow to heat up, then, get a frying pan hot add a small amount of Olive Oil and Butter, and place the Grouse Breast(buttered) side down into the Pan and Leave for 5 minutes.

After 5 Minutes, put the bird in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove, and leave to rest for 5 minutes covered with foil and thats it! So you need to allow 20 Minutes for the Grouse to cook and ensure your Freekeh is good to go at the same time, something I managed to royally mess up ;-).

WP_20150118_19_52_22_ProI sometimes think of Bejewelling as similar to tempering a Dhal! You have a base of Rice or Grains (or Lentils in the case of Dhal), and add some punchy fresh flavours at the last minute. So a minute or so before you are going to serve up, add the other 1/4 thinly sliced Preserved Lemon, the other Garlic Clove, Grated, and the toasted Nuts and Barberries, you are just warning them all through at the last minute. Finally stir in a handful of fresh coriander leaf, finely chopped and a good drizzle of Pomegranate Molasses.

WP_20150118_20_33_34_ProDespite messing up the Freekeh timings, the dish was hearty, wholesome and delicious. There was a hint of fruit, but also some freshness from the Preserved Lemon and Pomegranate Molasses, I am really chuffed with my first attempt at Grouse, the Middle Eastern influence was something quite special.

Not sure in which direction my cooking is heading next, but as the new year settles down, I hope to get some more time in the kitchen soon.

Until next time……………L8ers……………….

 

 

 

3 Interesting months and Braised Red Cabbage

WP_20141120_11_54_42_ProA series of unforseen circumstances and events, and its been 3 months since my last post. Acute Bronchitis, infected leg after an amazing trip to Tunisia, and a health scare with the Mrs knocked my mojo for six. Things started to get better after a work event in late November, driving tanks in wet muddy fields, it was awesome, the antibiotics also had started to do their thing!

WP_20141224_11_28_29_ProSo my last post of 2014 is a twist on the Christmas staple of Braised Red Cabbage.  This is a dish I always cook at least one day in advance as the flavours develop when left to rest in the fridge, well covered in cling film and foil. This year, I added some more unusual additions in the form of Ras Al Hanut spice mix (I use the Steenbergs variant which is awesome), some Ginger, and Pomegranate Molasses, along with some Kirsch soaked Barberries at the end, which definitely added an extra ‘Christmas’ element to the dish and Middle Eastern influence.

The Ingredients

  • 1 Red Cabbage thinly sliced
  • 2 Onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 Apples (Cox’s work well), randomly cut to form different sized pieces!
  • 30g butter
  • 1 Orange (or 2 Satsumas), juiced
  • 150 ml Port
  • 3 Tbsp Moscatel Vinegar (Red wine will do but its sharper)
  • 3 Star Anise
  • 1 5cm Cinnamon Stick
  • 3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 2 Tsp Ral Al Hanut
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Ginger
  • 1/4 Grated Fresh Nutmeg
  • 50 g Barberries steeped in Kirsh for 24 Hours
  • 2 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses

Thinly shred the Cabbage, Onion and slice the Apple into pieces about 3-4 mm thick, we want them to retain some texture during the cooking process and not break up and go mushy.

Put some butter and Oil into a Dutch Oven or decent sized oven proof pot, and heat on the hob, adding the Onion first, then the Cabbage and stir for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the Barberries and Kirsch),  and keep stirring ensuring all the ingredients are well mixed.

I put a layer of foil on the Dutch oven before adding the lid and placing in a pre-heated oven at approximately 130 degrees (fan). Cook for about 2 hours, stirring every 1/2 hour.

After the 2 hours, remove from the oven, stir once more, replace the lid and let cool, before transferring to a dish that will fit in your fridge, covered with cling film, and then tin foil.

The dish just needs to be reheated on Christmas day (or whenever you decide to have a go!), and add the soaked Barberries for the last ten minutes, which add the occasional ‘zing’ of Christmas spice.

Hope you all had a great Christmas and Happy New Year.

See you in 2015…………..L8ers……………..

Sardine or Pilchard, I don’t really mind!

WP_20140622_12_20_04_ProI usually have a couple of tins of Sardines in the larder just for emergencies, or when I am not sure what I fancy to eat. Coupled with a Bertinet Caramelised Onion, Cumin and Cheese Bread, you have the makings of one hell of a delicious snack, brunch or light tea at any time of the day, month or year!

I adore Bread, but cannot eat the usual stuff in the Supermarkets, half the ingredients are un-recognisable (and un-necessary), and the speed of production, thanks to the Chorleywood Bread process makes for something my stomach cannot stand. The same goes for the Burger Buns used in well known chains, can’t stand them either, within 30 minutes of consumption I feel ill, bilious and erghh so it was a real treat when a well known Artisan Bread Genius, Richard Bertinet, struck a deal with Waitrose and  I can now get PROPER Bread again.

WP_20140622_12_29_33_ProThis recipe/construction job is dead easy to do, but relies on the best ingredients. A Marmande Tomato (available from Waitrose), Aleppo Chilli flakes (available from Ottolenghi online), Ras al-Hanut (available from Steenbergs), GOOD tinned Sardines such as Parmentier (Waitrose again), Garlic, Olive Oil, Tomato Puree and Sea Salt.

The Sardines need to be gently drained, halved lengthways and their central bone and any Roe removed. If you can’t get a Bertinet loaf, any good quality Artisan Bread will do (for me, decent Bread only has Flour, Yeast, Salt and Water, plus any flavours such as Onions, Cheese, Cumin etc). Before you start, set the oven to 200 degrees and put the kettle on (for a cup of tea!).

WP_20140622_12_39_53_ProTake 2 – 3 slices of Bread (depending on size!) and liberally coat both side with Olive Oil, place on a baking tray and put in the oven until lightly crisp and brown on both sides. This will depend on the Bread so just check it after 5 Minutes and then every 1-2 minutes until done (drink some tea in-between!).

Once the Bread is nicely toasted, take a clove of Garlic cut in half and rub on the Bread, it will impart a subtle flavour. Then lightly spread some tomato paste on top, you can see this above. Its job is to give the Tomato an even more rich and punchy flavour.

WP_20140622_12_41_19_ProThinly slice the Marmande Tomato and place on top of the Bread, then sprinkle with Aleppo Chilli Flakes, Ras al-Hanut and Sea Salt, then some more Olive Oil. Place the Sardine fillets on top and put back into the oven for about 10 minutes. Again, you will need to check as the cooking speed will depend on the size of your Sardine’s and oven.

WP_20140622_12_56_00_ProTo finish you can add something acidic, I took some more of the Marmande Tomato, some Red Onion, White Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil, as you can see on the finished dish above.

Delish……..

Until next time…………..L8ers..

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan meets Japan in the Middle East!

I am just about to book this years cooking vacation, my original plans have had to be suspended due to local challenges and I will be heading off to Gramont, in Gascony in early June for a weeks course and some r&r. The bad news is a clash with FBC2014, the international food bloggers convention which is taking place in London at the same time!

I was driving up to the fave farm shop to buy some meat recently, and my mind was thinking of what to cook over the weekend. With the rubbish weather we have been having, and the boss being full of cold for several weeks something tasty and wholesome had to be on the cards.

WP_20140302_10_12_00_Pro

The wholesome is a blend of three grains Quinoa, Maftoul, a Palestinian Cous Cous, and Freekeh; two of these grains are regarded as super foods so this has to be good for you! The protein is a half (or whole) shoulder of lamb that is marinaded for at least 8 hours in a mixture of Yoghurt, Coriander, Chilli’s,  Mint, AnardanaSumac, All Spice and Garlic, and then slow cooked for about 4 hours until tender.

WP_20140302_10_19_44_Pro

This recipe uses a considerable amount of fresh Coriander and Mint so if you have a oriental supermarket near you, its probably best to buy from them,  I got a massive bunch of Coriander for 70p, the supermarket equivalent would have been at least a fiver!

The following ingredients are needed to create this dish, ideally start the day before you cook to allow the meat to soak up all the marinade flavours.

Marinade

  1. 500g  Natural Organic Yoghurt
  2. 1 Big Bunch fresh Coriander
  3. 1 Big Bunch fresh Mint
  4. 4 cloves Garlic
  5. 1 Red Chilli
  6. 1 Green Chilli
  7. 1 Tsp Anardana
  8. 1 Tsp Sumac
  9. 1 Tsp All Spice

This mixture is an adaption of Sindhi Lamb Biryani, a dish I learnt to cook on the Pakistani cookery course I attended last year and the Pakistan element of the title above, with some subtle Middle Eastern influence. Place it all in a food processor or blender and whizz till smooth and blended it should look like this.

WP_20140302_10_21_02_Pro

Take your half/shoulder of lamb and pierce with a sharp thin knife to enable the marinade to penetrate into the meat, pour some of the marinade into a suitable bowl, put the lamb in and pour the rest over the top making sure its well coated. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight. Its worth turning the meat over every few hours just to make sure the marinade is doing its stuff.

WP_20140302_10_23_14_Pro

This is how mine looked before the final marinade was added to cover the exposed lamb shoulder.

For the next step you will need the following;

Pakistan Meets Japan In the Middle East

  1. 1 Red Onion finely sliced
  2. Vegetable Stock
  3. 2 cloves Garlic, crushed
  4. 2 Star Anise
  5. 1 Tbls Coriander seed
  6. 8 Green Cardamon (crushed)
  7. 1 Black Cardamon
  8. 2 Tsp Pomegranate Molasses
  9. 100g Maftoul
  10. 100g Freekeh
  11. 75g Quinoa

When the lamb is marinated, place in a roasting dish and cover with tin foil, stick in an oven set to 130 deg (fan) 150 deg (convection) and cook for 4 hours till meltingly tender. An hour before the lamb is finished cooking you can start to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Check the cooking instructions on each of the grains, the Maftoul can either be boiled or steamed, the other grains are usually boiled until just tender.

I cooked the Maftoul (9 minutes) in Vegetable stock and 2 Tsp Pomegranate Molasses, the Freekeh (40 minutes) in Vegetable stock and Quinoa (20 mins and 10 to rest) in plain water.

The Onion and hard spices need frying until tender, adding the garlic towards the end so it does not burn, it should look like the picture below at this stage. The Onion/Spices are gentle mixed with the grains when both are cooked removing the Cardamon and Star Anise to prevent tooth issues!

WP_20140302_18_59_26_Pro

To complete the dish and introduce the Japanese element,a modified Ponzu dressing is used that has had some Rapeseed oil and Grape Molasses added, and used in conjunction with some thinly sliced red onion.

The Finishing Touch

  1. 1/2 Red Onion, fried until brown and crispy
  2. 1/2 Red Onion finely sliced
  3. 3 Tbls Rice Wine Vinegar
  4. 2 1/2 Tbls Mirin
  5. 2 Tbls Yuzu
  6. 3 Tbls Soy Sauce
  7. 2 Tsp Grape Molasses
  8. 1 Pomegranate (seeded)
  9. 25 g Toasted Almonds and/or Pistachios to finish

WP_20140302_19_56_56_Pro

This recipe developed over several hours, and tasting each stage to make sure the balance was right. The final touches need you to mix the Rice Wine Vinegar, Mirin, Soy Sauce (to taste) and Grape Molasses. One 1/2 of the finely chopped Onion is added to the mixture and set aside in the fridge for an hour or so. The other 1/2 of the Onion is fried until crispy and stirred into the final dish. You will notice in the heading picture some Feta cheese, I forgot to add it at the end, DOH.

WP_20140302_20_05_51_Pro

So here you have it, a nutritious and tasty meal that is full of goodness and a flavor punch to match. Just finish off with the Nuts and Pomegranate. It takes a bit of effort but as the boss said, scrummerlicious.

This dish was influenced by Bethany Kehdy, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sumayya Jamil who continue to inspire my food direction. Spices from Otolenghi’s and Steenbergs, and the meat from Vicars Games @ Casey Fields Farm Shop.

Go on, have a go, its worth it.

L8ers…..

وفته kufteh In Search of the perfect………….Kebab!

I love a Kebab, the only issue I have is that they are typical a bit bland, covered in a ‘not very nice’ tasting Tomato Chili sauce and the meat origin is suspect. This is a generalization as I have had some awesome Kebabs, but whilst dining in a half decent restaurant. This post is the result of some creative I have been working on over the past few months, and uses some unusual and exotic spices to create an amazing flavour. I cannot repeat/print what the boss said last night as we were munching our way through them but it was highly commendable 😉

WP_20140126_16_59_19_Pro

For me, food is about what you see, smell, taste and FEEL. Texture is important when eating, and this version of the popular take-away will have you wondering why you did not make them yourself before. I will start with the ingredients, you may need to invest in some of them as they are not found in your typical supermarket, but are readily available from my favourite suppliers such as Ottolenghi’s and Steenbergs, once you have tried this dish, you can experiment with other Middle Eastern Delights!

For the Kebab

  1.  500 grms Lamb Mince
  2. 1 Red Onion
  3. 1 Clove Garlic
  4. 1/2 tsp. Anardana
  5. 1 tsp. Sumac
  6.  1 tsp. Aleppo Pepper
  7. 1/2 tsp. ground Cumin
  8. 1 tbsp. ground Coriander powder
  9. 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  10. 1 tsp. Thyme
  11. 1 tsp. Peppermint
  12. 1 tbsp. Dukkah
  13. 1 tsp. Pomegranate Molasses
  14. Zest of 1 lime
  15. 2 tbsp. dried Barberries

For the Red Onion Relish

  1. 1 Red Onion
  2. 2 tbsp. White Wine Vinegar
  3. 2 tbsp. Castor Sugar
  4. 60 ml Rapeseed Oil
  5. 1 tbsp. Poppy Seeds

For the Mint Yoghurt Dressing

  1. 250ml Greek Yoghurt
  2. 2 tbsp. Dried Mint
  3. 1 tsp. Sumac

To Serve

  1. 1 Baby Gem Lettuce, Leaves separated and halved lengthways
  2. 2 Tomatoes, sliced and sprinkled with some Sea Salt,  covered in 1/2 small bunch Chopped Coriander
  3. Pitta’s Grilled and Cut width ways to form pockets

WP_20140126_16_51_10_Pro

Part of the secret of this dish (it’s probably not a secret really, but the phrase sounded good at the time of writing!), is to cook the Onion and Garlic/Spice mix first, and add It to the meat when cooled, to marinade. So cut the Onion finely and cook in some Butter and Oil (or Ghee), on a lowish heat for at least 15-20 minutes, then add a splash of water and continue to cook, until the Onions are soft, melting and sweet, about another 15-20 mins. Crush a clove of Garlic and add to the Onions cooking for 2-3 mins then add all the other herbs and spices, fry for 2 minutes more then take off the heat, add the dried barberries, Lime Zest, Pomegranate Molasses, stir and leave too cool.

WP_20140126_17_26_37_ProWhen the mixture has cooled, mix well into the Lamb mince, cover and pop into the fridge for at least a couple of hours, half way through, take out and mix again, making sure the Onion/Spice is well distributed.

The accompaniments make this special, a simple dressing of Yoghurt and lots of dried Mint, with some Sumac sprinkled on top, and for me, a killer Onion Relish which is dead easy to make, and comes from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s salad recipes which I have posted before. Thinly slice the Onion and place in a bowl. Dissolve the Sugar in the White Wine Vinegar and add to the onion, mixing well, then add the Rapeseed Oil, using your fingers to blend everything together, then finish by adding the Poppy Seeds and set aside for at least an hour (in the fridge).

The Lamb Kebabs need to be gently fried, about 3-4 minutes each side. To Serve, take a halved Pitta, opening up the large end, pop in 2-3 pieces of lettuce, some of the Onion Relish, some of the Tomato and Coriander Slices, pop in a Kebab and spoon on some Yoghurt Mint dressing.

WP_20140126_20_03_23_Pro

A simple dish to make but packed with flavor and texture, its well worth investing in some new and unique spices to make this dish. I started my culinary journey when I was seven, but only really discovered the delights of Middle Eastern flavours in recent years, and I am so glad I did. Using Cold, Hot, Piquant and Spicy really makes this dish stand out, its not Chili Hot, so you experience waves of flavor, and texture.

Till next time.

L8ers…….

Pistachio Cardamom & Polenta Cake – Cooking for Coeliac’s (Gluten Intolerance)

2014 has arrived and there is much excitement in my world. Last year I drove miles, thousands of them and it meant having to stay away more often than I preferred, which reduced both family and kitchen time. This year I am looking after a another team based in the south, so less travelling and some more excuses to adventure with food (and spend time with the family!).

WP_20140115_17_29_25_Pro

I met the southern team last week, and decided to treat them to some home made baking, BUT one of them is a Coeliac which is an intolerance to Gluten. The only known treatment for this is a Gluten-free diet which is a bit of a challenge, if you check the packets of many ingredients the number that claim Gluten free is not massive especially if baking cakes and desserts!

I did some research and found a suitable replacement for flour was Polenta, which is Maize (Corn) ground into a meal (course Flour). Its not the same as conventional Flour so baking with Polenta requires some thinking. You have to be careful with other ingredients too, Baking Powder which is used as as raising agent can contain Gluten so check your packets 1st before embarking on this particular cake.

I made this in between customer meetings and conference calls so apologies as there are not too many photographs in this particular post (2 to be precise)!

I decided to bake a Pistachio and Cardamom Polenta Cake with a hint of Rose Water & Lime Butter Frosting, Middle Eastern inspired and something which was an ongoing development during the cooking process, here’s the final version, which was AMAZING, your will need the following ingredients!

Cake Ingredients

  1. 8 cardamom pods, seeds only
  2. 150g pistachios, shelled
  3. 100g ground almonds
  4. 1 tsp rose water
  5. 175g polenta
  6. 1¼ tsp baking powder
  7. 300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  8. 325g caster sugar
  9. 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  10. 1 unwaxed lime, grated zest, plus ½ lime juice
  11. ½ tsp vanilla EXTRACT

Soaking Syrup

  1. 120g Castor Sugar (Mine has Vanilla Pods in it to infuse)
  2. 1tsp Rose Water
  3. 80ml Lemon Juice
  4. 30ml Lime Juice
  5. 1tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (This is critical as it provides a unique Middle Eastern Flavour)

The basis of the recipe were a couple of cakes I found on the Internet which had Semolina as the base and quite a lot of Rose Water, but could not be used as Semolina contains Gluten, hence the Polenta replacement.

I was a bit nervous about introducing too much Rose Water into the cake, as I think its definitely an acquired taste. I decided to add some further adaptions and significantly reduced the Rose Water component, but introduced some more Middle Eastern flavour in the form of Pomegranate Molasses. I also increased the Cardamon and added Lime reducing the quantity of Lemon, which I prefer……….. YUMMMMMM…!

Lime Butter Frosting

  1. 250g Unsalted Butter
  2. 256g Icing Sugar
  3. 2 Limes Zested
  4. ½ Lime Juice

The Cake Process

  1. Grease a round, 23cm, loose-bottomed cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3 (If using a FAN oven, drop the temperature a bit).
  3. Extract the Cardamom seeds from their pods and grind to a powder in a pestle & Mortar.
  4. Put Pistachios in a food processor and grind for a few seconds, you don’t want a powder but pieces around 2-3mm so there is still texture.
  5. Add the ground Almonds, Cardamom, Polenta, Baking Powder and 2/3rds of the Pistachios and mix briefly. The remaining Pistachios are sprinkled on the Lime Butter Frosting to finish.
  6. Beat the Butter and Sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the Egg in small amounts, incorporating it well. (A Kenwood is good for this with the beater).
  7. Fold in the mixed dry ingredients, then the Lime Zest and Juice, Rose Water and Vanilla extract.
  8. Put it into the lined tin, level and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until a skewer comes out oily but dry. (Mine took slightly longer, about 1 hr 10 mins)

The trusty Kenwood Chef was used to beat the Sugar/Butter, and also used to mix in the eggs. You might find the mixtures splits during this process, adding a small amount of Polenta will bring it all together.

WP_20140115_17_59_49_Pro

Put all the ingredients for the Syrup in a small saucepan; bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat.Remove the cake from the oven; while it is still hot, spoon the Syrup over the cake, I used about 4 Tbsp, judge with the eye.

Allow the cake to cool, then take out of the tin. Coat the top of the cake with the frosting, sprinkle with the remaining Pistachios and gentle press in to fix.

I had one challenge whilst trying to find the Polenta in the shops, a large chain had some Corn Meal, but looking on the side of the Packet, there was the label ‘May Contain Traces of Gluten’. This brand was very cheap and obviously processed in a factory grinding flour and other Gluten laden products. Another higher end shop had Polenta, but it was Organic and very expensive. Eventually I gambled and went for Polenta Express, Gluten Free but apparently the dry grains had been pre-cooked in some way, it still looked and felt like flour/meal and worked a treat.

The cake is quite (well very actually) moist and sticky,  great on its own (as my new friends found out), but also goes really well with a serving of Crème Fraiche or Double Cream.

Feedback from my new team was VERY encouraging, a couple of them have vowed to make it themselves, they loved it so much. Its definitely an ADULT cake, the Pomegranate Molasses used in the Syrup really adds an amazing flavour dimension, the Rose Water is very subtle, and tends to stimulate the nose rather than the taste buds which is what I was hoping for. The Lime Butter Frosting adds another texture and all the flavours work together really well.

Pomegranate Molasses and Rose Water is readily available, I use Steenbergs and Ottolenghi’s to source mine along with the Cardamom.

So there we go, if you know someone with a Gluten Intolerance, and Dairy is not an issue, have a go at this, you will be pleased you did.

L8ers……