how to: roast pepper hummus

The beginning of the year is always a hard time to get back into the swing of normalcy and even though we are almost a month into 2016, I am still finding it difficult to function.

The beauty of it being summer means that I can get away with running on 70% manpower; it’s easy and acceptable to focus dinners around salads, masses of raw vegetables and things easy to cook; like corn.

SAM_3649

I recently tried my hand at making hummus; it’s fun, it’s healthy, and because it doesn’t involve any cooking, its quick and stress-free to whip up and still elevates the flavour and vibrancy of even the simplest of dishes.

Here is the recipe I use; it’s the most basic of basic recipes and works as a great template for experimenting with a variety of flavours. I added slow roasted red bell pepper in these photos, but roasted eggplant, olives or even carrots could be used.

SAM_3646

Into the food processor we add: 400grams of chickpeas – that’s one can, 2teaspoons of tahini paste for a rich and nutty sesame flavour, a clove of garlic (or more!), ½ a teaspoon of salt, 3tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil and the juice of ½ a lemon. Top this off with whatever additions you choose and whiz it up until it’s smooth and creamy.

SAM_3647

Summer is the time for cheese boards and meze platters in the sun; a vibrantly coloured bowl of hummus makes a brilliant addition served alongside toasted pita chips, dotted on a pizza or even added to your favourite salad.

Advertisements

fifty shades of yellow

I have posted a recipe like this before, but this version is a little bit more decadent. I am going through a bit of a phase inspired by macarons (stay tuned!), not only the crunchy chewiness of them but also the sweet and savoury dichotomy that the ground almonds adds. And as we come into summer I begin craving all things Italian; pasta, tomatoes covered in olive oil, and polenta.

Vernazza - Liguria, Italy
Vernazza – Liguria, Italy

Polenta is one of those ingredients which a lot of people aren’t too fussed over. Rightly so, often it is not prepared in the most interesting of ways; needing to be cooked in milk or served with a lot of cheese to gain any memorability. This method of cooking is very heavy – the opposite of what you want in summer. In this recipe that I have borrowed from Nigella Lawson, polenta (along with ground almonds) is used as a substitute for flour, which makes for a lighter, less stodgy batter. The polenta balances the sweetness of the almonds and the lemoncello adds a bit of tartness, which never goes amiss.

SAM_2778

Nigella’s recipe calls just for lemon drizzle over top, while I served mine with cinnamon whipped cream for presentation. I know what you’re thinking; whipped cream, lemoncello and sweet almond meal batter – how decadent is this going to be?! That’s a fair enough thought, the lemoncello can be substituted for lemon juice, the whipped cream can be omitted and this cake is meant to be 16 servings, so small slices is key. Everything in moderation!

SAM_2769

Beat 200grams of butter with 200grams of sugar. If you don’t have a pair of kitchen scales (I seem to have misplaced mine), 200grams is just less than 1cup. Mix 200grams of ground almonds and 100grams of polenta, 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder is optional here. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter. Mix, add an egg, mix and repeat. All up that equals three eggs, but one egg can be swapped for half a banana although eggs will make a fluffier batter. I used one egg and one banana. Mix through the zest of one lemon, transfer to a cake tin and bake at 180°C for 40 minutes.

a lot of beige
a lot of beige

While your cake is baking, gently heat 125grams of sugar with 4tablespoons of lemoncello (or lemon juice) and a dash of vanilla (which can also be omitted if I am being too decadent for your tastebuds). Bring to the boil and simmer until your cake is done. Softly poke the top of your cake with a fork or toothpick and pour over the syrup. The syrup will infuse through the cake, making it moist with a lovely lemon zing.

I topped mine with whipped cream and some dried orange and lemon zest. Other options include candied fruit of freshly picked spring flowers.

SAM_2784

pimm’s coq-tail

You may have noticed that in part of my orange themed week, it is also a little bit Ottolenghi-themed. And this post is going to be no exception.

SAM_2672
tangelo and pimm’s roast chicken

I have liberally adapted this recipe to fall in line with some flavours and ingredients that I like, and also things that I had readily available at the time, so if you are thinking of making it, feel free to adapt it liberally also. The orginal recipe uses arak but because I am not actually in Israel, I used Pimm’s which worked well because the flavours of Pimm’s are well suited to combine with citrus.

There are two sections of this recipe, for the marinade you will need:
50ml of Pimm’s or other aperitif alcohol
a few spoonfuls of orange or lemon juice
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon of brown sugar, white sugar or honey
a large gulp of olive oil
salt
pepper
turmeric
cinnamon
thyme
crushed fennel and caraway seeds

Combine these ingredients with eight small sliced tangelos and then coat four chicken thighs or legs (bone and skin inclusive) and leave for as long as possible. If you are preparing this meal well in advance, like I did, freeze the marinated chicken.

SAM_2655

If you are preparing it they day-of, or have thawed the frozen chicken, move the mixture to a large roasting dish and add a handful of almonds and enough root vegetables for your dinner party. I used potatoes, but you can use fennel bulbs, onions, sweet potato or parsnips.

SAM_2666

Bake at 220°C for 45 minutes, the natural fruit sugar in the tangelos will have caramelized and given them a lovely sweet flavours, which will have been absorbed by the chicken and the vegetables, and because they are thinly sliced they will have crisped up beautifully.

Drain any juice that hasn’t evaporated or been absorbed and simmer in a pot until it reduces sufficiently. If there is a lot, mix a teaspoon of cornflour with a bit of water and add to the juice to thicken it up.

Garnish with chopped parsley and eat it hot or serve it cold at an afternoon or early evening picnic.

SAM_2678

five quarters of the orange

I have recently been reminiscing over all of the books I read in my formative years which initially attracted me to France. This, combined with my recent orange obsession, reminded me of Joanne Harris’ book, Five Quarters of the Orange. There is a scene where the little girl puts dried orange peel into the house’s heating vents and the house is filled with a sweet yet faint aroma of oranges. While this is her mother’s absolute nightmare, I can’t think of anything better.

Dried orange peel is something that is so easy to make and so useful for so many different ways of cooking.

Turn your oven up relatively high for this; about 250°C on fan bake. Peel a bunch of oranges; enough to fill a baking tray. For the peels to dry properly they need to be quite thin, so slice them lengthways to get as much of the pith off as you can. Bake the peel slices for about 30 minutes or until they are dry and brittle, you can make a judgement call on this based on the size of your pieces and the strength of your oven.

SAM_2653

This is such a versatile ingredient; add it to a stew or slow-cooked brisket or chuck steak for a subtle sweet tang, or simmer with some double cream or chocolate to add another dimension to your desserts. They will store for weeks and once cooked they develop a soft, candied texture and can be eaten as part of the dish.

saucy orange – orange sauce

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to become a bit more organised with my daily food preparation, I think it is so important, and yet so difficult to find the time to properly prepare an evening meal every day so I am trying to get into the habit of taking a Sunday afternoon and adding a bit of productivity into my live by preparing a bunch of meals which I can then freeze or refrigerate for the coming week. A little bit of organisation, probably a little bit of a fad… Anyway, here is a delicious orange sauce that works perfectly for this.

This recipe for orange paste is ideal to make while pottering around the kitchen as it essentially just involves leaving a pot of the stove to simmer.

Firstly, cut an orange into thin slices- flesh, skin, pith and all (well, not the pips). Line a small saucepan with the orange wedges, add a dash of vinegar- I used apple cider vinegar as I like the tart apple flavour it brings, 50grams of honey or sugar and half a teaspoon of saffron. If you don’t have saffron (which I didn’t), substitute it for a combination of cinnamon and turmeric. The cinnamon will give it a slightly similar flavour and the saffron’s colour is replicated by the turmeric. Cover with just enough water, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour while you potter about. You will be left with beautifully soft orange segments and a thick orange syrup.

SAM_2651

Leave it to cool slightly before blending the mixture into a thick, pulpy paste. You can store the paste in a jar in the fridge for up to a week and can be used as a salad dressing or a sauce with grilled chicken. I thinly sliced some chicken breast and marinated them with the paste. As part of my organisational plan, I froze the chicken to be defrosted during the week. This is a great idea to get really tender meat as it absorbs the flavours and juices while it is freezing and continues to do so while it is defrosting. You can then either pan-fry it and add to a salad or use as the base of an orange pasta sauce- a great summer idea and a nice comfort food for those colder nights.

fun with fruit: orange edition

To me, oranges are the penultimate sign of summer, nothing can beat a ripe, juicy orange for breakfast, an afternoon snack or an after dinner treat. The Spanish phrase for soul mate is ‘la media naranja’, which means ‘half of an orange’ which I take to mean that we should all be in love with oranges because they are everything.

SAM_2341
church in Olvera, Cadiz, Spain overlooking orange groves

The theme of my next few posts will be some ideas on how to incorporate orange elements into a variety of different dishes. Depending on where in the world you are located will determine the availability of oranges at this time of the year. If you are in New Zealand, oranges are at their last dash for the season; these recipes will supply you with some ways of prolonging the season and bringing a little bit of summer zing into the coming winter months. In Spain (where most of Europe’s oranges come from), the season is from the end of Spring to the beginning of Summer, so at this point in thee year, you will be looking for ideas for when the inevitable deluge of oranges begins.

These recipes are inspired by some recipes I found in the Ottolenghi book ‘Jerusalem’.
Dried orange peel
Orange sauce
Tangelo and Pimm’s chicken

IMG_20150106_194217[1]

I have been kind of obsessed with this book for a really long time, ever sine 101cookbooks posted their fattoush recipe and I have only just been able to justify buying it for myself, and I don’t regret it one bit!

SAM_2568
orange tree at La Aljafería, Zaragoza, Spain