Archives for posts with tag: Yotam Ottolenghi

Without Scarlet Bennett and her Creative Challenge 52 Exploring Eating would be neglected. Without my fellow team members across the world in Australia I would not have the motivation to dash into the kitchen at least once a week and whip up something I might not otherwise have even considered.

For this week’s challenge I decided to make halva muffins inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s sesame  halva and walnut cake. This is a cake that bears no comparison, a cake so exquisite that you want to eat it everyday, it’s a cake that makes you forget that chocolate cake even exists. You would be right in wondering why anyone would even consider making something merely inspired by it, just make the real thing for goodness sake.

But I did try something inspired by it. I made two types of muffins one of which was inspired not only by Yottam’s cake but by my recent alternative milk tart experiments. There lies madness you might say. The woman has gone crazy. Version one: halva and dark chocolate. Version two: halva, rose extract and cardamom. muffins halva rose cardamom In fact I inadvertently made three types since I managed to get mixed up when I was assembling the layers. I was horrified when I realised what I’d done. I’d put chocolate into some of the rose and cardamom muffins. This was sure to be a disaster. I hate chocolate with cardamom AND I hate chocolate with rose. And worse  surely that was just one too many different flavours?

The minute the tray came out of the oven I tentatively tasted one of the version three muffins. Not bad. Rather nice in fact. Well I liked it but the kids were sure to hate them. Never mind, there were still plenty of the other two more restrained versions. I’d just have to eat the version three muffins myself.

The entire family was still in bed. It was only 6.15 am. I went to my computer to send Scarlet pictures of the fruits of my labours and while I was doing that I started to feel bad about  making sweet, fattening baked things for breakfast. Richard is trying to lose weight. All baked goods have been eliminated from his diet. What could I do that would make him feel catered to, too?

I dashed back to the kitchen and threw together a perfect paleo breakfast for Richard – mini baked fritatta flavoured with tarragon and lovage from the garden. I worried slightly about mixing those two herbs which grow so happily next to each other in the garden but thought what the hell, tarragon is perfect with eggs and I’m on a mission to find ways of using the lovage.

Maria appeared in the kitchen. ‘You’re up early. Have you been making something for breakfast or have you made another of your weird potions?’ she asked.

‘You’re in luck,’ I said, and pointed to versions one and two. ‘You’ll hate the others. They were a mistake.’

‘How can you be so sure?’ she asked. I replied that if there is one thing I’ve learnt about my children it’s that they don’t like my more unusual creations and that it was fine, I’d eat those muffins.

Being a self-respecting teenager Maria defiantly grabbed a version three muffin. I had a brief flashback to a four year  leaving a plate of biscuits each one with a perfect half-moon missing for the guests to eat. At least there weren’t any guests coming for breakfast.

‘Actually,’ said Maria, ‘it’s quite nice.’ And she popped the last of the muffin into her mouth. ‘Can I have another?’

Jamie was in complete agreement. The ‘failure’ was by far the best, he declared. Richard often says, ‘Failure is where the treasure is,’ and in this instance (if in no other) I have to acknowledge he’s right. That’s the recipe I’ll make again and the recipe you’ll find below.  A happy mistake. frittata swiss chard cheese tarragon lovage Then Richard appeared. ‘Mmm, those look good. What’s in them?’ he said pointing to the frittata. I did what I usually do when I’m scared to admit what the ingredients really are and said ‘Try them, guess, you tell me’. The tarragon and  lovage frittata were declared delicious so I encourage you to throw caution to the wind and  mix unexpected flavours. Within reason.

Halva, chocolate, cardamom and rose muffins

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 165 g demerara sugar – you can use ordinary brown sugar of course, I just wanted to use what I had
  • 2 extra large free range eggs
  • 200 ml Greek yoghurt
  • 4 teaspoons rose extract – I always use Kuhestan Damask Rose Extract from Magoebaskloof, Limpopo
  • 120g cake flour
  • 120g wholwheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5  teaspoon cinnamon
  • seeds from 12 green cardamom pods crushed fine in a pestle and mortar
  • pinch salt
  • 120 g halva – cut half of it into 24 small cubes and roughly crumble the balance
  • 80 g dark chocolate cut into 24 small pieces
  • Topping: mix together 30 g finely crumbled halva, 25 g rolled oats and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinamon

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the  melted butter, sugar, eggs, yoghurt and the  rose essence together in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl stir together all the dry ingredients and gently mix in the 60 g of crumbled halva.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine until just mixed.
  5. Line 12 half cup  (125 ml) muffin tins and divide half the batter into them.
  6. Scatter the halva and chocolate cubes over the batter and then top with the remaining batter.
  7. Sprinkle with the topping mix and bake for 20 minutes.

I based the muffin recipe on Ruby Tandoh’s raisin cinnamon muffins from The Guardian.

Baked mini  frittata 

Ingredients

  • olive oil for greasing
  • 3 rashers bacon chopped
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 young lovage stalk with its leaves, finely chopped
  • 80 g mixed cheese cut into cubes – I used a mix of goats milk haloumi and feta
  • 30 g shredded Swiss chard
  • 6 extra large free range eggs beaten well with black pepper and salt to taste
  • a couple of sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Put a few drops of olive oil into 12 (80 ml) muffin tins, add two tomatoes to each and divide the bacon and lovage between the twelve tins.
  3. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  4. Divide the cheese and Swiss chard between the 12 cups.
  5. Pour the egg and tarragon over the cheese, chard and tomato/bacon/lovage mix.
  6. Bake for ten minutes until the egg has puffed up and is cooked through.
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A late summer vegetable garden is not a pretty sight. Weeds take over, plants die down, platoons of snails munch their way through layers of leaves on young cabbages, beans dry on the plants, fruits rot on the ground and mutant courgettes abound. So it was with some trepidation that I stepped out into the vegetable garden last Friday with the sole aim of gathering enough produce to make a platter of snacks for an impromptu drinks party. A few minutes later I scampered back into the kitchen  and found myself frantically paging through a pile of recipe books looking for inspiration. There was more produce than I could possibly have imagined, although how to turn it into a platter of snacks would certainly be a bit of a challenge. Veg bowl march 2014

  • A giant butternut
  • Three large and three small aubergines
  • Rocket – more than we could imagine using
  • Basil – an abundance of  very large healthy leaves
  • Red, yellow and green peppers
  • Red and green cabbages
  • 56 granadillas
  • 3.5 kg tree tomatoes
  • Huge bunches of sage
  • Onions
  • Spring onions
  • Beetroot
  • String beans
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Chillies
  • Lemon grass
  • Three smallish and possibly inedible mealies – they turned out to be perfectly sweet  and lovely
  • Some mis-shapen courgettes

Well, between the garden produce, the still very full store cupboard and a trip or two to the Cheese Gourmet in Linden we have eaten very very well this  past week.

Friday night snacks:

  • Wraps (from the store cupboard) filled with hummus (home made the previous week), pesto made from basil and McGregor almonds, rocket, a drizzling of sweet chilli sauce and butternut roasted with z’atar
  • Lettuce  and Swiss chard leaves with a filling made of a tin of store cupboard cannellini beans with finely chopped lemon grass and fresh kaffir lime leaves with red pepper and mealie kernels.
  • Cheese served with tree tomato jam and tree tomato jelly flavoured with rose and vanilla (previously made)

Sunday night dinner party for a group of 80-something-year-olds

  • Borscht made with beetroot, onion and red and green cabbage
  • Buckwheat and spring onion blinis
  • Granadilla curd served with a dollop of yoghurt

Suppers:

  • Conchiglioni  and cannelloni filled with a butternut, red and yellow pepper, and sage filling baked on a bed of aubergine and tomato ‘jam’ x 2 suppers
  • Thai inspired Norwegian wild mushroom risotto with aubergine, string bean, courgette, chilli and basil cooked with lemon grass-infused coconut milk.
  • 100% pork, preservative free Peter James-Smith Italian Salsiccia and English Breakfast sausages from the Cheese Gourmet with a red cabbage, rocket, basil and red pepper salad.
  • Left-over borscht

Preserves:

  • Two huge jars of granadilla curd
  • Three jars of tree tomato jelly flavoured with bay leaves, star anise and rose water

Baking:

  • One loaf of Rosie’s bread
  • Bran rusks

And then to round it all off this Friday’s supper was a tofu stir fry loosely based on Yotam Ottolenghi’s  Brussels sprouts and tofu recipe. We substituted red cabbage for the Brussels sprouts, tree tomatoes for the mushrooms and basil for the coriander. And the whole family devoured it. A nice surprise.

Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, has been a failure in our garden. Or perhaps I should say we have failed Rheum rhabarbarum. After a very promising start when we grew six or eight plants from seed and watched them grow to maturity, we neglected to harvest any of the stalks and watched the plants die one by one for reasons we have never been able to determine.  I have keen to try growing rhubarb again but am too ashamed to mention this desire to Richard.

When I occasionally see rhubarb in our local greengrocer I sail past it without even thinking of  buying it and making something delicious with it. Rhubarb, after all, should be grown in the garden and not bought packaged in miserable polystyrene punnets.

However when I recently stumbled upon an enormous bunch of organic rhubarb in Haenertsberg in Limpopo I could not resist it.

Rhubarb

It was clear from the size of the bunch that there was far too much for just one dessert. What was I going to do with this rather large bunch of rhubarb? I can’t remember ever actually cooking rhubarb. I had liked the idea of cooking it, I had had little fantasies about walking down the garden path to pick the lovely pink stalks and making a tangy pie, but all I had done was kill the half dozen plants that were going to turn into potential pies.

Rhubarb

Naturally some online research was in order – and Google come up with the goods.

The first recipe that caught my eye was for rhubarb posset. I adore lemon posset.  Lemon posset has been a familiar food on our narrowboat trips since the year  my daughter first made it when she was drawn to a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe in The Guardian. 

I was aware that possets  have been around for centuries although not quite in the form familiar to us denizens of the 21st century. I got a little sidetracked reading up on the history of possets, learning that possets were both enjoyed as a dessert and used medicinally. In the process I found myself reading more than just a few posts on this engaging blog, British Food: A History. 

Rhubarb it seems has even more ancient roots than medieval posset. It was also used medicinally although in this instance in Tibet  – thousands of years ago. It was grown in China too,  but according to James Beard in Beard on Food, Siberia gave us the more common variety of rhubarb that we know and grow.

I was further sidetracked by the accounts of  growing rhubarb in the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle.

After spending a couple of hours in cyber space I realised time was ticking by so I put my mind to getting the rhubarb cooked. I was rather taken by a recipe for lamb cutlets cooked with rhubarb. We were planning to cook Gemsbok shanks that night and it seemed this very English lamb recipe was just begging to be translated into a hearty Limpopo supper particularly suited to a misty rainy day.

We cooked the Gemsbok shanks for about six hours in a very low oven on a bed of chopped  onions and rhubarb, flavoured with star anise and black pepper, with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar.

At the same time, although not for the six hours allotted to the shanks, we roasted the balance of the rhubarb with castor sugar.

In the end, it was hard for me to give up the idea of the posset.  I wasn’t sure we had the right cream so we made a rhubarb fool by folding the baked, cooled rhubarb into whipped cream which we poured into long-stemmed glasses and refrigerated overnight. It made the most unexpected yet exquisite and festive breakfast. Just the thing for a Monday morning.

I am now very keen to get back to Patience (and the UK) as soon as possible to get some of that perfectly pink forced Yorkshire rhubarb. The season I believe starts in December and ends in March. Very chilly weather to be cruising the canals, I think. But perhaps we’ll attempt growing rhubarb in our suburban Johannesburg garden again. As James Beard says, ‘ Rhubarb is one of our first and great garden delights. It should not be forgotten.’

I’m going to need a large and regular supply of rhubarb. Some of the must-make rhubarb recipes on my list are: