Sunday, 29 July 2012

Harira - Warming food for erm, July

Proper Summer food...(English summer)
Well last week was glorious and full of sunshine and barbies, but as I watch the men's beach volleyball in the rain (from the safety of my dry sofa) it's time for a reality check, and something hot and lovely for supper. Officially a soup from Morocco, harira is a divine slow cooked one pot wonder that is big on flavour, meat and pulsey goodness. It's cheap, using the thriftiest of cuts of lamb and bulked out with chickpeas and lentils, making it rather good for you (watch out for a bit of bum trumpet action later though). Make it in bulk so you have something gorgeous to call on from the freezer as you trudge home from work in the rain. In July. Again. This dish almost has me hoping for miserable weather as it's just that good. Thank you Moro cookbook, once again.

Soft and melty meat
You will need approx 350g lamb, use neck (fillet chopped up into large chunks or use neck chops) or shank. Put the meat into a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Skim off the manky scum which appears. Throw in a finely chopped onion, 3 finely chopped celery sticks, a pinch of saffron, 1/2 a tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1tsp ground ginger, a large bunch of coriander, chopped and 5 grates of fresh nutmeg. Give it a good season and simmer for 30 minutes. Now add 100g small green lentils and 120g cooked chickpeas (you can add more if you want to stretch the soup out a bit) and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove the meat and shred it up, removing any nasty membrane/fat and taking everything of off the bones, if there are any. Return the meat to the pan with a decent squirt of tomato puree. Mix 3 tbsp flour with 50g water and add that along with the juice of a lemon (this gives the harira a wonderful tang). Taste for seasoning, it can take a fair bit of salt, and keep cooking until the lentils are really soft. Melt in a few knobs of butter, scatter over another bunch of chopped coriander and serve with a wedge of lemon. 

Dig in, eat way too much and laugh at The Boyfriend, who now can't move as he thought he needed cous cous with it. You don't.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Home-made Harissa (this changed my life a bit)

Fiery jar of North African genius

This stuff is amazing, make it now. One zillion times tastier than the stuff you buy in the shops, and if you have a trusty whizzer, it's easy as pie to make. This North African paste/condiment is amazing slathered onto almost anything. Works really well with eggs (The Boyfriend texted me to say it was ace with scrambled eggs) and was great when I rubbed half a jar over a chicken before roasting. Recipes seem to differ quite a lot but I used Moro's and see no need to change it. If it ain't broke...

Makes enough to fill one jam jar (to the brim). Roast one halved and de-seeded red bell pepper in the oven for about half an hour, turning every now and again. While doing this get the rest of the ingredients ready. Roughly grind 3 tsp each of caraway seeds and cumin seeds. Halve and de-seed 250g long red chillies (yeah I know that's LOADS, I used a couple of little hot red birds eye ones and about 8 of those fat, quite hot 5 inch ones that Waitrose sells). Chop them roughly and add to a whizzer along with half the ground spices. Skin your now roasted bell pepper and chop roughly, add to the whizzer with a pinch of salt and 4 garlic cloves. Get it nice and smooth. Now mix in 1 tbsp tomato puree, the rest of the ground spices, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika and a very very generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. 

Keep it in the fridge for up to a month. It may not last that long. You may need to make a double batch. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Fishcakes: not rocket science

Stodge-free zone
How many times have you ordered delicious sounding fish cakes whilst eating out somewhere, only to be faced with tasteless, potato-laden lumps of stodge, that have a nice habit of sticking to the roof of your mouth? Well I get that a lot. Mostly because even though I have never eaten a decent fish cake whilst dining out somewhere; it appears I am  on some sort of pilgrimage to find a good one. Oh the disappointment is terrible and soul destroying, as are the comments of disbelief from The Boyfriend: 'WHY did you order fish cakes again? You NEVER like them!' The thing is, it's not hard to make a delicious fish cake or ten, I would say that a rule of thumb is not to make them too wet, and as long as the mixture tastes good before it's made into little cakes, then you can't really go wrong (obviously you can't eat raw mixture, if using raw fish, then fry a little bit up to taste it).Anyway, this is how I make basic fish cakes, and I really like them.

Makes 4 decent fish cakes, enough for 2 people. Roast 2 seasoned salmon fillets in the oven at 170c for about 15 minutes. While this is happening take a fork and roughly mash some cooked potatoes in a bowl, you want approx one medium potato to your two pieces of salmon. Once the fish is cooked, let it cool a little and flake it into the bowl with the spuds (don't completely mush it, you want some texture). Make sure no bones or skin get in. Now add a small handful of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of chopped capers (optional, The Boyfriend hates them and he noticed when I snuck them in), juice of half a lemon, a tsp Tabasco (not essential but it is really) and a decent amount of salt and pepper. Combine gently and taste for seasoning. I made these at half ten the other night, knackered from a long day at work, so I simply shaped them into cakes and fried them in a non-stick pan in a splash of olive oil. If you are eating at a slightly more normal time, I would thoroughly recommend dipping in egg and then breadcrumbs for the ultimate crust. Fry until golden brown and heated all the way through.

These are delish, but if you can't be bothered you could always eat out, order the fish cakes and whinge about how crap they are.

Controversial Baking - Rosemary & Polenta Biscuits

Not for everyone, but I liked it!
It's very rare that I bake but these biscuits sounded interesting, a sort of Italian shortbread. Another recipe I found in the Metro. I made them yesterday morning, kind of by accident, it was so simple that before I knew it I'd made them before breakfast. Much to the Boyfriend's disapproval, prompting pathetic cries of 'I know a lovely bacon and egg sandwich recipe if you want one...'

Makes 6 pudding sized biscuits. In a bowl, mix 150g plain flour, 30g fine polenta and 60g caster sugar with a pinch of salt. Add 3 sprigs finely chopped rosemary and 90ml olive oil (not extra virgin) and mix well. You will have a crumbly dry-ish mixture. Scoop the mixture out onto a baking paper lined baking tray and pat down into a round flat shape approx 1/2cm thick. Or use a loose-bottomed cake tin. Put in the fridge for an hour then bake for 40 mins (until very lightly coloured) at 150c. Remove and leave on the tray for 5 minutes then cool properly on a cooling rack. I cut it into wedges and served with berries and vanilla ice cream to a mixed response. Sister really wasn't sure. The Boyfriend didn't even try it, I liked it in a curious way, and my friend Hannah and sister's boyfriend wolfed it down. Out of politeness or genuine enthusiasm I will never know...