30/04/2017

Red Cross Foodie Fest dinner

A while ago now, I saw an ad for the Red Cross Foodie Fest. You send them a text, they send you a spice pack, with recipes, place mats, and information. Win! (It’s finished now, but keep an eye out for future events.)

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Explore a world of flavour with our unique world food tasting experience

This summer, we are inviting you to bring your friends together and host an evening of culinary curiosity. Travel the world with five authentic international recipes, put together to take you all on an exotic adventure within the comfort of your own home.

Foodie Fest for Friends is a recipe for making funds. All we ask in return is for guests attending your dinner party to make a small donation to help fund our life saving work.

I feel fairly helpless a lot of the time, and more than a bit overwhelmed with all the things going on in the world. I try and donate where and when I can, but with this…if I could feed my friends, and in turn help feed many others, too? That worked for me on quite a few levels.

I got the pack, read the recipes, and realised that of the people I wanted to invite, 3 were vegetarian, so I decided to turn the whole thing veggie. I didn’t cook all of the recipes provided, but chose two. Ground crayfish in the jollof rice mix probably wouldn’t count as vegetarian…

I possibly slightly overdid the shopping, too. (Not the things on the shelves.) But hey ho, nothing went to waste!

Shopping

The kibbeh recipe in the pack is usually made with lamb, but I went with carrots to mimic the sweetness of lamb, and cashews to add texture. I’d also had a craving for caramelised carrots for a while. I will say now, though, next time I will make probably double the filling.

Kibbeh dough

500g fine or medium bulghur wheat

500ml warm water

1/2 tsp salt

Mix the salt into the bulgur, then add all the water. Cover and leave aside to soak. You can just leave it to get on with itself while you make the filling.

Cashew and pistachio paste

250g cashews

100g pistachio slivers

olive oil

1/2 – 1 tsp baharat spice

Spread all the nuts on a baking tray, and roast at 180C until they darken, and give off a good smell. Keep a close watch!

Set aside to cool for 20 minutes, then tip them all into a food processor.

Add the baharat spice and 1 tbs olive oil to start.

Process on medium speed for a good 5-10 minutes.

You will need to scrape the sides down halfway through.

Keep processing for much longer than you think, as eventually the oils from the nuts will be released as they warm, and the paste will become more smooth.

You will have to stop your friends from eating this out of the processor bowl.

Caramelised Carrot Filling

700g carrots, chopped in the food processor til fine, or coarsely grated (I would use more next time, probably nearer to 1kg)

1 tsp light brown sugar

1 oz butter

2 tbs olive oil

1 spring onion

2 tsp baharat spice

Melt the butter and the sugar gently, then stir in the carrots.

Mix in the spice.

Keep cooking them on a low heat until the carrot has completely softened, and started to catch around the edges.

This will take FAR longer than you think. I reckon it took about an hour for me, with occasional stirring.

When it’s softened, mix in half the nut paste, some extra pistachio slivers, and the chopped green part of a spring onion.

Leave that aside to cool off. It should look quite jammy.

 

Carrot and nut paste mix

Assembly

Mix the other half of the nut paste into the bulgur wheat. I just got in there with my hands, then added in:

A handful of salted pistachios

4 tsp sesame seeds

2-3 tbs olive oil

Mix it all together really well. It should hold together if you squeeze it into a ball.

Cashews

Cashew paste

Bulghur and paste

Press half of it into an oiled baking tray with sides.  I used one that was 10” x 14” x 1”, but I’d probably use a smaller one next time, to make the bake a bit deeper.

Press it down a lot, into all the corners.

Dollop the carrot filling onto the dough. It is very sticky, so use a wetted knife to spread it.

Add the rest of the dough, pressing it down again.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, pressing them down a bit.

Mark into sections with a spatula, then drizzle with olive oil, making sure it goes into the marks. Don’t be scared of the oil, it will probably absorb it all, and it’s part of the flavouring.

Bake at 170C for 40 minutes until golden on top.

Mine was a bit crumbly around the edges, but it all got eaten, and actually fought over!

Edit: I have since discovered that you must knead the bulghur mixture a LOT, until it forms an actual dough. I’ll know for next time!

Kibbeh

 

Tarkari Vegetable Curry

Vegetable oil and butter

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 large aubergine, cut into chunks

2 bags of baby spinach leaves

2 large white onions, sliced into half rings

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

3 heaped tsp ground ginger (I had no fresh, squirrels ran off with it, long story.)

1 heaped tsp cumin powder

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ajwain seeds (from the spice pack)

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 cartons of sieved passata (or use fresh tomatoes, but one of our guests was allergic to tomato seeds.)

6 cups of chopped mixed veg (I used cubed butternut squash, aubergine and 3 cans of chick peas)

Heat the oil and butter together.

Add the onions and cook down until they start to turn golden at the edges, then add the garlic.

Once the garlic has softened a little, add in all your spices, stir and mix well.

Add a couple of tbs of water, then cook until the oil starts to separate. Do that twice more – it strengthens the flavour.

After about 5 minutes of letting the spices cook out, add in the veg, and stir well to coat everything in the spices.

Add the passata so the veg is covered. (Squash takes a goodly while to cook.)

I left it to simmer, covered, on a very low heat for at least an hour, then stirred in 1 tbs of masala paste, as the tomatoes had reduced the intensity of the flavour a little.

Cooked for a few more minutes, then tipped in the two bags of spinach.

Sprinkle the spinach with a little salt, put the lid back on and leave to wilt, them stir it in.

This was served over plain basmati rice, with nigella seeds in, and plain yoghurt on the side. Some people did put everything in the bowl at once…

Tarkari and kibbeh

And the leftovers the next day were GLORIOUS.

Tarkari curry

18/04/2017

Spring has Sprung, and it's emerald green.

Spring is one of my favourite times. It speaks of renewed hope - and let's face it, we need all that we can get at the moment - and it calls to us as the soil warms again and the sap rises.

One of the joys of seasonal eating is that you get to enjoy things at their best, eaten when they should be, not forced under glass or ripened with gases. I am well aware that these things have to happen in order to feed our booming and blossoming peoples but there are some things that I prefer to eat only that once a year. I can wait, I will be patient.

Asparagus and Jersey Royals are two of the main things I will wait for. Jerseys, with their delicately papery skin, need no more than a little steam, or a simmer,  and butter. I don't even add mint to their water, there's no need.

As for asparagus, with its short season, that has to be kept as simple as possible. I used to steam it, but then I found a mix of griddling and steaming worked better, for me.

At Easter, as we were on the way down to Bexhill, we passed a farm shop that I love. Ringden Hall farm makes and sells the most beautiful apple juices, bottled by variety. Thankfully my local farm shop in Brentwood stocks them too, so we are never more than ten minutes away from the sharp/sweet and sweet/dry of their juices. Discovery apples make the best, I think, and we have that one the most.

This particular day, as we drove, we saw a sign for fresh asparagus. There was no way at all I was going to pass that up, so in we went.  Great bunches of it lay on the counter, alongside some freshly laid eggs. Spring at a glance. The freshness of the greenery, and the symbolism of eggs, are just something that I will always cook.

Lunch that day was a simple affair, and it made us very happy indeed.

Take 1 large frying pan.
Add in a goodly amount of decent olive oil, then pop in the spears.
I use enough oil so that each spear is coated.
Up the heat, and as soon they start to spit, add 1/2 tbs of water and put a lid on, lowering the heat to medium.
As you put the lid on, heat more oil in another pan, so you can fry your eggs. Have your eggs how you like, it's your lunch, I fry mine on a high heat to try and crisp the edges a little.
The asparagus will steam through in about 5 minutes, and then you take the lid off, and cook uncovered to evaporate any extra water.
All I do after that is add a sprinkle of sea salt, and serve it all with bread so that the olive oil doesn't go to waste. I cannot bear wasting any of that.

Quick to cook, and oh so satisfying to eat.

Ringden Hall Farm eggs and asparagus