food for thought

by michelle

fermented hot sauce

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The technique of fermentation preserves food that might otherwise spoil and in the past all hot chilli sauces were fermented. Many of the world’s most popular sauces, like Tabasco and sriracha, are still prepared using this method. The bacteria that grows during fermentation is not only good for you but it also gives the hot sauce its unique and vibrant flavour.

Thomas made this hot sauce with his home-grown Scotch Bonnet chillies, garlic, carrot, bay leaf and pepper.

Remove the tops from the chillies and split them in half lengthwise. Pack them tightly into a large clean jar along with garlic cloves (about 6 per 1kg or 2 lbs), slices of carrot and bay leaves (perhaps 2 for the same amount of chillies) and leave some space at the top. To make the brine dissolve 3 tablespoons of fine sea salt in 4 cups warm water. When the salt is dissolved, pour the brine into the jar and weigh the ingredients down to make sure they’re submerged (a Ziploc bag filled with more brine works well). Ideally you need to allow the carbon dioxide that builds up during fermentation to escape without letting oxygen in (this can foster the growth of mould). If you don’t have a jar with an airlock make sure to open the jar regularly. The chillies will need to ferment for at least two weeks or until they smell and taste pleasantly sour. Strain the brine and reserve it. Discard the bay leaves and transfer the rest to a high-speed blender with a little of the brine. Process to a smooth, fine consistency, adding extra brine as needed. Strain the pulp through a fine-mesh sieve and bottle. At this stage you can add extra flavouring – Thomas added some ground allspice and thyme (traditional spices in Jerk seasoning).  

The sauce is now ready to use but will continue to ferment. Keep it refrigerated to slow this process down and it should keep for up to a year.

*Thomas used this as a guide.

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Written by michelle picker

October 16, 2019 at 12:12 am

frittata with fresh ricotta

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Really fresh ricotta has a great texture and taste so I like to keep it unadulterated. This frittata is a lovely way to enjoy it in a quick and simple meal.

Wash and trim a bunch of spinach and blanch it in boiling salted water until just wilted. Drain and cool it under cold running water then squeeze out the excess water. Chop the spinach roughly and set aside in a large bowl. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry 1 sliced onion and 1 sliced red pepper over moderate heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic and cook just a little longer. Add the onions and peppers to the bowl of spinach and combine with 4- 6 eggs, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Wipe your pan clean and heat some more olive oil. Pour in the egg mixture and cook over low heat. When the eggs have cooked halfway up, dot the fresh ricotta over everything and top with pine nuts and finely grated pecorino or parmesan. Place under a hot grill until the egg is firm and the pine nuts are golden brown. Serve from the pan.

Written by michelle picker

October 9, 2019 at 12:13 am

Posted in cheese, eggs

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lamb meatballs in hot yoghurt sauce

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Fragrant with Middle Eastern spices, swimming in tangy yoghurt sauce and topped with fresh herbs. An absolutely delicious combination.

Normally, these meatballs would contain some breadcrumbs and eggs but this is a low-carb version. From 450g (1 lb) of minced lamb, remove ¼ and blend in a small food processor until fine and sticky. This will be enough to stick the ingredients together. If you don’t have a small food processor you can achieve the same result by massaging the meat with 1 teaspoon of salt until the meat is sticky. Now add the rest of the ingredients: ½ a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, ½ a cup of finely diced red onion, 1 teaspoon of toasted ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of toasted ground coriander, ¼ of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Using wet hands, break off walnut-sized pieces of lamb mixture, roll into spheres and set aside on a baking sheet. This recipe will make about 20 small meatballs. Heat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF). In a large frypan heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in one layer and brown for 2 minutes a side. Work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan. Transfer to a baking sheet and finish them in the oven while you make the sauce. Pour off any excess oil from the pan and turn the heat to high. Add ¾ of a cup of stock and bring to a simmer. Make a slurry of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2  tablespoons of water. In a bowl whisk ¾ of a cup of Greek-style yogurt with a little salt, an egg and the cornstarch slurry. Pour the yogurt mixture into the hot broth, whisking constantly. Turn the heat down and continue whisking until the yogurt is just heated through and slightly thickened. Do not boil as it will split. Place the meatballs in a serving dish and pour the hot yogurt sauce over them. Sprinkle with some sumac, crushed red pepper and some pinches of turmeric. Top with a generous amount of chopped mint, dill and coriander (cilantro).

*adapted from this recipe

 

Written by michelle picker

October 2, 2019 at 3:45 am

Posted in meat

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pistachio and fennel amaretti

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Full of pistachios and fragrant with fennel, these Italian biscuits (cookies) are usually either hard and dry or quite soft. This version is somewhere in between with a crisp outer layer and a satisfyingly chewy centre.

Preheat your oven to 160°C (320ºF). Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. In a small dry frypan toast 3 teaspoons of fennels seeds until fragrant. Place them in a food processor with 320g (11¼ oz) of pistachios and process until finely ground. Add ¾ of a cup of plain flour, a scant cup of caster sugar and a pinch of salt and process very briefly, just to combine the ingredients. In a bowl, whisk 2-3 egg whites until frothy then add the dry ingredients and combine well. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll them into balls. Sift some pure icing sugar into a bowl and toss each ball until it is generously coated. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking trays and flatten them into rounds. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool before serving.

*Adapted from this recipe

Written by michelle picker

September 25, 2019 at 12:13 am

Posted in cakes & desserts

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roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce + tomato salad

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Cauliflower has found new popularity for good reason. Here it’s roasted, leaves and all, with Middle Eastern flavours and served with tahini sauce.

Wash and cut your cauliflower into quarters. Place them in a lightly oiled oven tray and drizzle with olive oil, rubbing it all over every surface. Sprinkle with salt, ground cumin, sumac and cayenne pepper to taste. Roast in a hot oven for 45 – 60 minutes until the cauliflower is just soft enough to eat and charred around the edges. Meanwhile combine some tahini with lemon juice, a little salt, a clove of crushed garlic and enough water to make a good sauce consistency. Serve hot.

This tomato salad, adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, makes a good accompaniment.

Peel and slice 1 large shallot into rounds and combine it in a small bowl with ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt, 1½ tablespoons of sumac and 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar. Mix together with your hands so the sumac gets massaged into the shallots and set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare your tomatoes. Mine were all one size but if you have a good mixture of tomatoes cut them into similar sizes and put them in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 15g of dill leaves, ⅓ of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Toss gently to combine. Now toast 25g or more of pine nuts until just golden and set aside. When you’re ready to serve arrange the tomatoes in your serving dish and spread the shallots over the top. Scatter with pine nuts and garnish with more fresh dill.

Written by michelle picker

September 18, 2019 at 5:22 am

salmon poached in a herb broth

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Salmon poached in a herb broth with lovely sweet vegetables. A quick, easy and light one-pot meal.

In a saucepan combine a handful each of fresh tarragon, chives and parsley. Add 3 cups of water, 1 cup of dry white wine, 3 roughly chopped spring onions, 3 roughly chopped celery ribs, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 teaspoon each of coriander seeds and black peppercorns, a strip of lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. If you want to speed up this process and get the most out of the herbs you can cook this in a pressure cooker for 7 minutes. Strain the broth into a wide skillet, discarding the solids. Bring the broth back to a simmer. Now add finely diced carrot and fennel to the stock and cook for 2 minutes. Meanwhile season 4-6 skinless pieces of salmon with salt, ground fennel and white pepper. Add them to the stock with the side that has been skinned facing up. Allow the broth to come back to a low simmer and cook the salmon for 3 minutes. Turn the fillets and add finely diced zucchini and fresh or frozen peas. Cook for approximately 4 minutes more or until the salmon is just cooked and the vegetables are not too soft. Check the seasoning. Serve in shallow bowls with a good grind of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil over the top. 

*adapted from this recipe

Written by michelle picker

September 11, 2019 at 12:11 am

Posted in fish & seafood

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flourless chocolate cake

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This cake has a great chocolate flavour and is fudgy with a satisfyingly chewy crust.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) or 160ºC (320ºF) for fan-forced. Butter and line a 20cm (8)” spring form pan. Melt 120g (4¼ oz) of butter and 200g (7 oz) of good quality dark chocolate pieces in a microwave, stirring often. Add 165g (5.8 oz) of white sugar, 3 large room temperature eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and whisk well until combined. Finally, with a spoon, fold in ¼ of a cup of cocoa powder, ½ a teaspoon of baking powder and 190g (6¾ oz) of almond meal until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin and bake for 45 minutes until there is a crust on top and a skewer comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes in the tin before removing to a cake rack.

*recipe from recipetineats

Written by michelle picker

September 4, 2019 at 11:07 am

Posted in cakes & desserts

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