Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Moroccan Spiced Pumpkin Hummus

Autumn is my favourite time of the year here in El Al-Gharb. It´s not just that the air is crisper and the temperatures are refreshingly cooler after a sweltering summer, but also for the bounty of gorgeous produce that is so plentiful. Every market stand proudly displays gorgeous apples, mangoes,cabbage, sweet potatoes,pomegranates,quince and mountains of pumpkins and butternut squash crying out to be taken home and enjoyed.I´ve made jam and vats of soup but what better way to enjoy a pumpkin than using it to make a Moorish hummus.
This one with pumpkin is my new favourite. The pumpkin is such a nice departure from your typical hummus and I really love the flavour of the roasted garlic and chilli squash.It looks like autumn and its fragrant spices and great flavours with deep earthy tones certainly say so.Whatever you do do not be tempted by canned pumpkin, this recipe must have fresh pumpkin or squash.

Moroccan Spiced Pumpkin Hummus
This colourful and spice-happy take on hummus will turn your halloween head and give your taste buds a wake up call.  If you prefer great flavor without the heat, just leave out the chilli. Serve with soft rustic bread,bruschetta or ideally regañás, pipas or other artesan Spanish biscuits.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 dried red chillies crumbled 
1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds2 large garlic cloves, kept whole and unpeeled
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked pimenton (paprika)
1 400g can chickpeas
2 cups  fresh roasted butternut squash or pumpkin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios, for garnish(optional)

Bash the coriander seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar. Put the cubed squash and garlic cloves unpeeled, in a bowl then sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil. season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the coriander chilli mix over the squash and turn well to coat.Tip into a small roasting tray and cover with a dampened piece of parchment paper. Roast for 45 minutes at 200C. Remove the paper and leave to cool.When cool squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the squash and discard the skins. Mash the garlic and squash together.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and sugar and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the chickpeas, then remove from the heat.  Stir in the roasted garlic and pumpkin, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle the pistachios on top.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed. The flavour improves if it is allowed to sit for a few hours or even better overnight.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Take 4 ingredients - an autumn twist on a summer classic

Halloween´s coming and the Portuguese pumpkins are getting plump.This recipe is all over the worldwide web and has pinterested itself all over Portugal, but I have to say I am going to flag it up again because its a classic.There are no rules that say you can only eat frozen yogurt in the summer. With the addition of pumpkin, it comfortably transports to the next season.Frozen yogurt is the perfect sweet trick and treat no matter what time of the year. This version is lightly-flavoured with fresh pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt. If you don't have an ice cream maker don't worry,you can put all the ingredients in a freezable container, put it in the freezer and give it a good stir and smoosh it around every half hour until you reach the desired consistency. Healthy, easy, and if you are American or someone who celebrates Thanksgiving, a delicious and perfect light finale to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Homemade Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

1 cup greek yogurt, strained

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl until completely combined. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker for a few minutes until it is a smooth, cool consistency. Alternatively, place the bowl in the freezer and stir mixture every half hour until it reaches desired consistency.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Kedgeree, kitcherie, kitchari, kidgeree, kedgaree, or kichiri? An Anglo-Indian mash-up

The first dish we see Mrs. Patmore prepare for the Granthams in Downton Abbey is Kedgeree( khishri), a traditional English breakfast dish brought back to England by the British Colonials. It was probably the first dish I ever cooked.Some might say this Anglo Indian classic has not always been an indulgence for toffs. It was originally made with rice and lentils and its old Bengali name is kichiri.But for some mysterious and unexplained reason it was the Brits who first added smoked fish and eggs to the equation.It may not be the most obvious candidate for a breakfast dish,but historically it was served in the wee small hours after long,decadent parties in officers´messes or colonial clubs.Quite why also remains a mystery,but it must have been a tonic for exhausted guests,much in the same way that a stop off at the all night kebab shop might revive a jaded clubber.( now why do I know that).
So when Mrs. Patmore places that first wonderful silver dish into the hands of the footmen to take upstairs, I had to be sure about what was in that dish and where it came from.Was it the much loved country house recipe that my mother followed?-I am pretty certain it would have beeen.
The Brits do love their Indian cuisine, as we all know. It is a practical dish which, before refrigeration, allowed cooks to use leftovers (like it already)from the night before to make into a hearty and appealing breakfast dish. Essentially the ingredients are boiled rice, chopped hard-boiled egg, flaked fish,and flavoured with curry spices.Nowadays it is more often served as a fashionable brunch dish. It is simple to make (maybe its appeal) and more importantly tastes amazing.
Like many dishes in my repertoire, this is one I constantly play around with, each time thinking I have cracked the code and come up with the definitive version.But then I think of yet another twist.Whatever twist you put on it aficianados of the quintessential kedgeree like myself will always insist that it should be made with natural smoked haddock.Having said that my mother used to make a delicious version with salmon, not haddock and certainly not smoked-I feel I owe my affiliation to kedgeree to my mother bringing us up on this much loved dish from her  repertoire.
My latest interpretation of the dish could not be further removed from that comforting homely dish prepared by my mother.I have replaced its Indian rooted flavours with some sharper flavours from South East Asia. My brief was to come up with a lunch menu for a party of expats here in Portugal.The order of the day was finger food and fork buffet so here was the perfect chance for me to introduce my new twist on Kedgeree.There were to be Portuguese guests at the party so I put my thinking cap on and I don´t know why but Kedgeree came up. Portugal has so many variations on rice dishes with fish, but somehow despite Vasco De Gamas endeavours bringing spices back from the east to Portugal nothing bearing a resemblance to kedgeree has yet found a place on the Portuguese culinary map.Here was My chance.

As this is essentially a very simple dish with tons of variations, I have chosen the classic country house recipe that my mother used ( I am more than sure that this is the recipe that Mrs Patmore would have served) and brought it into modern day Portugal with the addition of Thai flavours.The key to a successful Kedgeree is the balance between eggs and rice.The texture whether you choose a creamy rather than a dry dish is up to the individual.

Thai flavoured Kedgeree
Serves 6
500ml milk for poaching the fish
750g/7oz natural smoked haddock
1 large onion chopped finely
50g unsalted butter
olive oil
250g Basmati rice
2 Kaffir lime leaves
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
4 eggs,boiled for 6 minutes then chopped
4 tablespoons chopped coriander
juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
fish sauce(Nam pla) to taste
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or 1/4 pint whipping cream
generous pinch each of nutmeg and cayenne

Heat the milk.Place the smoked haddock in a shallow pan and pour the hot milk over it.Cover with a lid. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.Strain the liquid into a jug and reserve for later. Flake the fish.
meanwhile boil the eggs for exactly 6 minutes.Melt the butter in a wide heavy saucepan.Add some oil to prevent the butter from burning.Soften the onion in the pan, add the kaffir lime leaves and spices.Continue cooking until the onion is translucent but not coloured but giving off a delicate perfume from the spices.Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until it is well coated.Pour in the reserved liquid from the jug and stir in well before covering with a lid and cooling gently over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.When the rice is tender turn off the heat and remove the lid.Stir in the flaked fish,chopped eggs,coriander,lime juice and a drop or two of fish sauce.When amalgamated stir in the creme fraiche or cream until you achieve a creamy texture.Decant into a large serving dish and serve immediately garnished with another handful of fresh coriander.

Thai flavoured Kedgeree wraps
Makes 12 bite size pieces per wrap when cut
Use the same method as above but halve the quantities and increase the quantities of cream and lime juice as you will want a more moist consistency.
Cut one 12 inch tortilla wrap in half.Warm it on a hotplate or in the oven for 2 minutes.Using your hands carefully make a mound of the kedgeree one inch in from the straight edge of the wrap.With both hands firmly holding the wrap, carefully roll the straight edge over the mixture and continue rolling until a fat cigar shape is achieved.Moisten the exposed edge with a little warm water to bind the wrap:press the edges together to secure.tuck in the ends with your fingers to seal.Roll the wrap over so the sealed side rests down ward on a dish or in a tupperware container.This will help hold the wrap together until you are ready to cut it into pieces.Set aside and cover with a damp tea towel so you´re wraps do not dry out..When you are ready to serve,with a very sharp knife cut each wrap on the diagonal into six pieces.the wraps wil be better if made the day before and left over night in the fridge.
Keep a finger bowl of warm water on your work surface throughout the whole process.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Murgh Badami - an almond curry

I would never until recently have considered  using almonds in a savoury dish.In a pesto yes, but I never dreamed that I would put it in a curry.Read any Spanish cookery book and you will find they use almonds as a thickener for sauces, along with bread and biscuits, and of course as the main player in Ajo blanco, the infusion of garlic milk heavily impregnated with garlic that has a kick like a mule.
Back to the curry though. I took my inspiration from a recipe in Rick Steins book Spain -   Chicken in a mildly spiced saffron, pine nut and almond sauce (Pollo en pepitoria).Having just harvested our almonds  I thought I would try applying them in a savoury capacity, and curry was the first thing that came to mind.
The Portuguese have a secret passion for curry that goes back to Vasco da Gama´s voyages of discovery when they they opened up trade routes.They brought back new spices and Portugal dominated for the best part of a century.Initially used in small quantities due to cost,curry in modern Portuguese recipes is used with a sprinkling of jolly impulsiveness.
Unlike the usual red, orange and yellow hued Indian curries, this recipe  belongs to one of those not so often talked about “korma” or “shahi” curries. Laden with spices, nuts, cream and almond milk  this category of  recipes have overwhelming influences  of the Mughals, who once invaded India and introduced their love for good food and heavy use of nuts and dry fruits in their cooking.
You may think this recipe sounds rich but it is light and relatively easy and quick to make compared to some of its other siblings. The flavours are prominent and pleasing yet subtle and delicate.
Some recipes use a lot of yogurt or coconut milk, or both together. I used none, but cooked this with a whole lot of almonds to make the silky curry base.
The main flavours of the curry come from whole spices toasted in the skillet, lightly browned onions, almonds and very importantly the green hot peppers.If you cannot tolerate the spicy heat, remove the seeds and the membranes of the hot peppers, but please do not compromise on the peppers. The fresh flavors of the peppers, along with the ground almond is vital for this dish. If you want a richer version, feel free to use cream.

Murgh Badami: Curried Chicken in Almond Sauce
(serves 2 generous portions)
    2 lbs skinless chicken breasts, (with or without bones and you can use any kind of chicken part, you choose) – cut into 1.5 -2 inch pieces
    2 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 teaspoon red chili powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoon sour cream or thick Greek yoghurt
    1.5 teaspoon garam masala
    5 tablespoon ghee or oil
    a pinch of sugar
    1 -2 large onions; depending on the size –  thinly sliced in half moons
    6-8 small green cardamom
    2 inch cinnamon
    8 cloves
    2  large fresh bay leaves
    2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
    3/4 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
    1/2 cup almond, soaked overnight and peeled
    8-10 hot green chili peppers (if you do not like spicy, remove the seeds and membrane; use gloves!. The flavour of the fresh pepper is vital here.Do not skimp.
    1/2 cup almond milk (if you want a rich dish, use cream)
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    salt to taste
    Fistful of fresh coriander to garnish
    Slivered and lightly toasted flaked almond for garnish
            Note: Paneer may be used in place of meat or make this a vegetarian dish.
    Clean, cut and wash chicken. Pat dry with a paper towel.Place chicken in a non reactive bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt and red chili powder and toss well making sure the meat pieces are well coated. Allow it to sit for about half an hour.
    Whisk yogurt and garam masala powder. Add it to the chicken in the bowl and toss well. Refrigerate and let it marinate overnight if possible (try a long marination time if you can; it gets the meat tender and reduces cooking time).
    Pound the whole spices to break them up. Do not powder them.
    Place a large heavy bottomed pan on the stove and add the pounded spices. Allow them to heat up until they get fragrant. You cannot miss the aroma. Add the oil/ghee. The oil/ghee will heat up soon as the pan is already hot. Add the bay leaf. Add the sliced onions and the pinch of sugar; cook at medium to high heat until the onions soften and start to get golden/light brown. It will take about 15 minutes or a little bit more depending on the heat and the water content in the onion.
    Now add the ginger and garlic paste. Toss everything and cook for two more minutes.
    Remove chicken from the marinade and add to the pan. Add salt.
    Save the marinade. Cook the chicken tossing  frequently so that it is in contact with the pan. The sides of the chicken should start browning /turning golden in about 15 minutes.  The chicken should have a light brown hue on all sides and there should be no liquid left in the pan. The onion and the spice mix will start to stick to the pan. Scrape it off to avoid burning the spice mix. The colour of the spice mix should not be allowed to turn dark brown.
    While the chicken  browns, peel the almonds and make a paste with the almonds, milk, the saved marinade and green chili pepper.
    Once the chicken is browned, add the almond puree  and the nutmeg to the pan, toss well for it to combine well with the content in the pan. Add two  to three cups of warm/hot water to the pan (or as much as you would need to make more or less sauce), lower the heat and cover it. Allow it to cook/simmer until the chicken softens and the oil/ghee starts to come up on the top and leave the sides of the pan.
    Garnish with fresh herbs and almond flakes if you wish. Serve hot with  hot buttered Naan/or any flat bread or with steamed basmati rice.

    Preparation Time: 20 minutes

    Standing/Marination Time: a few hours to overnight

    Cooking Time: 1 hour

    Level of Difficulty: Moderate