Lamb with hummus, salad, and tahini

18 September 2019

For the last days of summer, a few more weeks of tomatoes and, with luck, another dinner or two outside.

I am incapable of meal planning; rather the opposite. I rarely know in the morning what we will have for dinner tonight, and who can possibly know on a Sunday what they will want to eat on Wednesday? I realize it makes much organizational sense, but food here is not so much a practical matter as an impulse and a craving, even within the confines and limits of the daily humdrum of cooking for six.

And so the necessity for fast food. One could of course have made the hummus and the flatbreads oneself, but that hasn’t so far fitted into the picture of having dinner ready in twenty minutes.

It’s a family favourite, through the ages. We make it often, while tomatoes last.

Lamb with hummus, salad, and tahini
I’ve not made hummus in a long time, though I’ve had a fantastic recipe for years, which I must eventually share

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and flat leaf parsley
Red onion (optional)
*
Light tahini (sesame paste)
Fresh lemon juice
Water
*
Onions (about half an onion per person)
Garlic (one small clove per person)
Olive oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Minced lamb (about 100g per person)
Cumin and fennel seeds, ground in a mortar
*
Hummus (home made or good store bought)
*
Warm flatbread or other good bread to serve

For the tahini sauce: Put a few tablespoonfuls of tahini paste into a bowl, pour a little lemon juice, and stir. Incrementally add lemon juice and a little water, until the tahini has achieved a desired, runny consistency and just the right amount of acidity. **The tahini will initially thicken before it becomes runny with added liquid.**

For the salad: Wash and chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley into a salad. Very thinly slice the red onion, if using. Lightly season with olive oil and lemon juice.

For the lamb:
Peel and chop the onions. Smash, peel, and roughly chop the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Brown the onions over medium heat until just beyond deep golden, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or two until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and set aside.

Turn up the heat to high and brown the meat, in batches if necessary. **The meat will release some liquid and start to stew rather than brown if the pan is too crowded.**drizzle

Mix the onions and garlic into the meat and season with cumin, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper.

To serve:

Slather the plate with one or two tablespoons of hummus. Place the spiced lamb over the hummus, then the salad, and, finally, drizzle some tahini. Serve with warm pita or toasted bread.

 

 

Cooking from cookbooks | Anja Dunk’s Bay and lemon baked cod

13 June 2019

There is a deep-rootedness in Anja Dunk’s book Strudel, Noodles, and Dumplings: The New Taste of German Cooking, which comes through in this recipe — it is deceptively simple and very good. It is basic — and I mean this as the utmost compliment — and German (also high praise!). Unlike the French afterthought of a single bay leaf tucked within a bouquet garni to flavour a dish, this recipe uses bay as a prime ingredient. It also makes good use of butter, which resonates through a recent comment in which Anja described her German grandmother and great-grandmother’s influence like this: ‘they’re still the greatest force in our kitchen, cooking beside me, nudging my arm to the butter dish, always.’

There was something revelatory about the use of butter here, and I was the first to be surprised, since I don’t usually shy away from butter. But for some reason I’ve always cooked fish with olive oil, cream, or even toasted sesame oil — not butter. Sometimes the most obvious things need to be spelled out, and the German in me coaxed forth.

Which brings me to my recent decision, triggered by a happenstance conversation with a friend, to cook at least one dish every week faithfully from a recipe. Somewhere along the way I’ve stopped following recipes, but I’ve have grown weary of minute tweaks to well worn meals, devised, usually with the season at hand and the food on the shelves, as time-efficient ways to feed the family. It lacks excitement. Therefore this resolution, which has faltered a bit due to unexpected family-related trips abroad, but has just as quickly reaped good results.

This stripped down recipe, lithely anchored in the roots of a nation’s food culture, has already triggered a mini revolution in my kitchen: using bay leaf as a main flavour rather than a supporting cast member, and fish with butter. Of course!

Anja Dunk’s Bay and Lemon Baked Cod from Strudel, Noodles, and Dumplings: The New Taste of German Cooking
This is possibly the least likely recipe to be singled out from the book. In fact, it is just half the dish (!) as the full recipe pairs the fish with addictive-sounding paprika potatoes. But the story here is about this ‘half’ recipe. Imagine what the rest of the book can do!

Olive oil
8 bay leaves
4 x 200g cod or haddock fillets
1 Tbsp butter (I may have used a little more…)
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 unwaxed thinly sliced lemon

Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Sprinkle a little olive oil in an ovenproof dish large enough to fit the fish comfortably. Place the bay leaves in the dish and lay the fish, skin side down, over the bay. Drizzle the fish with a little more olive oil and dots of butter. Season with salt and pepper and place the lemon slices on top.

Bake the fish in the oven for about 15 minutes, until it is just cooked through.

The full recipe in the book pairs this fish with paprika potatoes, for which I didn’t have the time when I made it, unfortunately.

Notes from the kitchen | Spring ‘Croque’

6 March 2019

My ‘croque’ is not really a croque at all: it isn’t a sandwich, since there is only one slice of bread, and has no béchamel, in case that is what distinguishes a croque from a toastie. My croque is a grilled tartine; a quick Sunday lunch when it is nearly two pm, there are four children to feed, and this is what can be found in the fridge.

The secret weapon here is a bunch of early wild garlic. I have nothing against plain ham and cheese, but will always try to add something: tomatoes roasted with garlic (even better than fresh), grilled fennel, kimchi (!!) if I had any.

Add an egg and it becomes ‘Madame’ — I have always found the rationale for this nomenclature slightly dubious, but the egg does make it better, and more of a complete lunch. Twenty minutes tops.

Spring croque recipe
Quantities to be multiplied as needed

Slice of bread
Strong mustard
Ham, cooked or dry-cured
Olive oil
A few leaves of wild garlic
Cheese, preferably Gruyère
Egg (optional)

Turn on the oven grill.

Toast the bread (I used a toaster, but this can also be done in the oven). Smear a very thin layer of mustard over the bread, place a slice of ham on top.

In a small frying pan, briefly ‘wilt’ the wild garlic in a drop of oil.

Place the cooked wild garlic over the ham. Scatter generously with grated cheese.

Place under the grill in the oven and cook until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.

Optionally, fry an egg in the pan in which you cooked the garlic, until the white is just set and crispy at the edges, yolk still runny. Slide the egg on top of the melted cheese.

Serve immediately with a green salad.

Kiwi, lemon, and grapefruit jam

2 March 2019

My grandmother had a pair of kiwi trees slendering across the walls of her house near Paris (female kiwis need a male pollinator to bear fruit). In the winter, when they ripened — typically around November, after which they keep for weeks if properly stored — she made jars of jam from the glut of small, elongated fuzzy fruit. Ever since, I’ve ruminated over the idea.

This year, like each year, the darkest winter months brought an urge to make jam. While usually there are mostly citrus: all manner of oranges, grapefruits, and clementines, which lend themselves to proper, protracted, labour-of-love marmalade weekends, or quick ones ‘in an instant‘, this time I also had a few too many kiwis, a little past their best. The occasion seemed propitious. Irresistably, one lone grapefruit called from the fridge, to add its acerbic touch. As usual I improvised.

I like this combination a lot. Is it kiwi jam with grapefruit, or grapefruit jam with kiwi? Neither takes precedence, lemon creates the balance. They dance together as distinct individuals, in step.

1 untreated grapefruit (about 300g)
400g ripe kiwis
1 untreated lemon
700g sugar

Place the grapefruit in a small saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about one hour. Remove the grapefruit from the saucepan, place on a board to cool.

Peel the kiwi, remove the woody bit at one end, and cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Cut each half again, and each quarter crossways into chunks.

Wash the lemon, cut it in half, remove the pips, cut each half into thirds lengthwise, and then each wedge into very thin strips crosswise.

Once the grapefruit has cooled enough to handle, cut it in half, remove any pips, then cut each half again into thin wedges, and these crosswise into thin chunks.

Place the fruit and sugar in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 20 minutes to half an hour. Check whether the jam is ‘gelling’ by placing a  small amount in the fridge to see whether it sets once cooled.

Meanwhile, sterilize some jars by boiling in water for 5 minutes.

Fill the jars immediately and seal chut.

Jam always settles into itself after a few weeks so it is best to wait, if possible, before opening a jar.

Blood orange and clementine salad

13 February 2019

Sunday 10 February. Old friends are coming for brunch and I’ve changed my mind at the last minute. I was planning to make green shakshuka, which I had recently at Honey & Co, and which has serendipitously just been published in the Observer 20 Best Egg Recipes. To say I organized brunch just to make this dish is barely an exaggeration.

Woken up at dawn by a toddling gobelin, Sunday morning rolls in with a dinner-party induced sleep deficit, and rather than setting out to trim and wash kilos of leeks, spinach, and herbs (who ever thought of making shakshuka for twelve?), I’ve gone back to bed.

Now brunch will be the easily assembled kind: soft-boiled eggs, ham and cheeses, a spare jar of chicken liver mousse I ingeniously hid from the children. I have some good sourdough and homemade jams. — Of course, the cook in me feels guilty. I harbor a fantasy of being the kind of person who bakes cinnamon buns for her friends on the weekend. My reality is orange clementine salad. Our spread lacked something sweet, and the season called out.

I hadn’t made this salad in such a long time. It is a classic which bears remembering.

Blood orange and clementine salad with dates and mint

Blood oranges and clementines (easy peelers)
2 or 3 dates
A few sprigs of fresh mint
Orange flower water

To peel the oranges and clementines: cut off a thin slice at each extremity, place on one of the cut sides, then slice off the peel in strips, from top to bottom, making sure to remove all the white pith. Once peeled, cut each citrus into slices crosswise. Make sure to save the juice that escapes while cutting the oranges and clementines, and pour it onto the salad as you go.

Place the orange and clementine slices on a serving dish.

Pit the dates, cut in half and slice very thinly lengthwise. Scatter over the citrus.

Wash the mint, cut off the leaves, and slice thinly. Scatter over the salad.

Sprinkle a few drops of orange flower water evenly over the salad, no more than about one teaspoon for eight to ten oranges and clementines — the orange flower water should be quite subtle and bring out the citrus flavor without being overpowering.

 

 


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