adventures in Berbere

I arrived back from Ethiopia, last Saturday Dec 7th after a long and tiring journey from the South, but sadly my luggage didn’t make it back with me. It got lost in the bowels of Heathrow somewhere – I had landed in London in the midst of an ATC nightmare, where pretty much all of the south of England was at a standstill. After an exasperating few days trying to get through to British Airways lost luggage department in Heathrow and their conterparts in Dublin Serviseair, it transpired that the luggage had been forwarded to Dublin alright, but the paperwork had been mixed up with another set of luggage, and the people in either office didn’t seem to have the gumption to check the clearly labelled tag with my name, address and phone number printed on it in an attempt to reunite me with my possessions. Anyhow, last night it arrived, nearly six days later with everything intact. Thanks be.

One of the things in my luggage was a half kg of Berebere, the red chilli spice which is an essential part of Ethiopian cuisine. In an attempt to remember Ethiopia through my tastebuds, I’m going to try to recreate a sauce I had many times with injera, the sourdough flatbread which is both eating utensil and tablecloth. I’m going to leave the injera for another time/experiment because it’s made from a grain called teff which isn’t available here (I think).

So, 1st attempt:

1 medium onion chopped
1 large clove garlic minced
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 level tbsp berbers
1 cup red lentils washed
3 cups water
2 tbsp tomato puree

Result:

Yeah, not that exciting, spice is good, needs a bit of salt. A bit bland, it would be inedible if it weren’t for the Berbere. Must try harder.

2nd attempt:
as above except chop in some chorizo.

Result:

Much better, the smoky tones of the chorizo really come alive in the lentil stew.

Sweet potato

So this was supposed to be sweet potato with figs and spring onions, but I didn’t have any figs or spring onions so used apple ad asparagus instead. It was delicious.

Heat oven to 220C
Halve about 1kg sweet potatoes around their girth and then half again lengthways.
Slice each of these quarters into 4 or 5 wedges and chuck into a bowl along with 1/2 tsp caraway seed, 2 tbsp olive oil and a grind or two of sea salt. Mix thoroughly and then put into a baking tray into the oven.

Bake for 25 mins. Then chuck in a bunch of asparagus, halved lengthwise, bake for another 10. In the meantime chop an apple into thin slices and make a balsamic reduction by adding a dessert spoon of sugar to 40ml vinegar to a put and boil gently for a couple of minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a large white bowl and serve warm.

rice and vegetable salad

Here’s a delicious and healthy brown rice and vegetable salad.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of organic short grain brown rice
1 courgette sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 yellow pepper chopped
sprig of thyme
small piece of peeled ginger, finely chopped
rapeseed oil
white truffle oil
cider vinegar
Dijon mustard
light soy sauce

Method:
Rinse the rice thoroughly
Cook the rice slowly (45mins) in double its quantity of water
Splash a bit of rapeseed oil into a pan
Chuck in the garlic, courgette and fry
Chuck in the chopped pepper
Chuck in the ginger and thyme

Separately, mix together another splash of oil, a tsp mustard, half splash of vinegar and a half splash of soy and add to this a few drops of truffle oil.Use this with best stationary exercise bikes and you are set. Whisk together, then add the warm vegetables and finally the cooked rice. Turn over gently and coat everything in the dressing.

Serve warm.

food: on being a reconstructed hippy

I like my veg, I like my rice. I like my veg and rice together and here’s how it’s done using best electric pressure cooker

Ingredients:
11/2 cups of organic short grain brown rice
1 courgette sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 yellow pepper chopped
sprig of thyme
small piece of peeled ginger, finely chopped
rapeseed oil
white truffle oil
cider vinegar
Dijon mustard
light soy sauce

Method:
Rinse the rice thrice
Cook the rice slowly (45mins) in double its quantity of water
Splash a bit of rapeseed oil into a pan
Chuck in the garlic, courgette and fry
Chuck in the chopped pepper
Chuck in the ginger and thyme

Separately, mix together another splash of oil, a tsp mustard, half splash of vinegar and a half splash of soy and add to this a tincture of truffle oil. Whisk together, then add the warm vegetables and finally the cooked rice. Turn over gently and coat everything in the fecund dressing. Serve warm, preferably while wearing your three piece Afghan suit or flowers in your hair.

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Soused mackerel fillets

My friend Cormac Kinsella fed this to Shona and me a few weeks ago, a fantastic starter and very tasty.

Ingredients:
4 mackerel, filleted
small onion, thinly sliced
175ml tarragon vinegar
75ml vermouth
15 crushed juniper berries
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
10 white & 10 black peppecorns
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

Method:
Heat the oven to 180C. While it’s warming up, rinse the mackerel under the tap and check for obvious bones & remove with a tweezers. Put the fillets in a glass dish and the other ingredients into a pot and bring to the boil. When it has boiled, pour over the mackerel and top up with hot water just so that it just covers the fish. Cover the lot with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm with crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Image above from the Padstow Mussel Co, a Cornish Coastal Art Collection.


	            
	                
            

Christmas Prawns with Mango Salsa

These are called Christmas Prawns purely because we had them on Christmas Day, they could equally be called Tuesday Prawns but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it …

One of my favourite shops in Dublin is the Asia Market on Drury Street. I used to drag my kids in there until they complained of the smell of durian, but I still visit the place frequently. One of the delights in their freezer cabinet is prawns in various shapes and sizes and great value too. For this recipe I used farmed/shelled/deveined/uncooked prawns.

For this dish as a starter I allowed 4 prawns per person, but revise this upwards if you’re planning it as a main course or your guests look hungry.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large iceberg lettuce or similar
  • 2 mango(e)s, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 cucumbers – peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds scooped out
  • 15 mint leaves, chopped
  • large fistful coriander, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped root ginger
  • 1 fresh hot red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, shaved
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • bag of prawns defrosted

Method:

The trick with this is to do everything as last-minute as possible to keep the freshness of the dish intact.

Put a large pot of slightly salted water on to boil. If you don’t have a pot, use a pan! The trick is to heat a large volume of water.

Meanwhile, peel the cucumbers, scoop out the seeds and dice or slice, place into a non-reactive bowl. Peel the mango(e)s and chuck ’em in with the cucumbers. Ditto the pomegranate. Chop the mint and coriander and add to the above. In a jar, add the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chilli and ginger, screw on a lid and shake until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the other stuff and mix thoroughly.

Cook the prawns in the now boiling water for three minutes. Over-cook them and they will be tough, under-cook them and you might find yourself in the environs of a toilet for a day or two.

Presentation:

On each plate, place a lovingly detached leaf from your lettuce, pile on a generous scoop of your salsa and top off with prawns, stacked in whatever orientation best suits your guests’ demeanour.

I added a coriander dressing to this which was possibly overkill and not viscous enough, I was trying to be all Dylan McGrath all over the plate but it didn’t really work. Presentation isn’t my strong point.

Eat.

 

Spiced yoghurt

– 255ml/9fl oz natural unsweetened yoghurt
– 1 small Spanish onion, finely sliced
– 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
– 1 green finger chilli, finely chopped
– ¼ tsp salt
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– ¼ tsp brown or black mustard seeds
– 4 curry leaves
– 10 unsalted skinned peanuts (optional)

spicy chorizo and cannellini bean soup

My sister-in-law Ann mentioned chorizo soup yesterday and listed off a few ingredients. Here’s a stab at it without tasting. Proportions may need adjusting:

Ingredients:
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 level tsp each of coriander and fennel seed
1 level tsp chilli flakes
shredded zest of 1/4 small orange
1.5 chorizo sausages
2 cans tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans rinsed
3 cans (1.2l) stock

Just cook like you’d expect to.

OK, I’ve tasted it now …

The Verdict:

Tastes pretty good, nice and smokey/chorizoey. It could do with upping the bean proportion, so 2 cans of cannellinis. I used one can of cherry tomatoes and one of crushed, forget about the cherry toms and go straight for 2 of crushed. You’ll taste the fennel coming thorough and the occasional coriander seed which complements the orange zest nicely. Overall pretty good as a winter soup. Might be nice chilled for the summer, but we’ll just have to wait to see …

Caught on the hob

My sister-in-law Ann mentioned chorizo soup yesterday and listed off a few ingredients. Here’s a stab at it without tasting. Proportions may need adjusting:

Ingredients:
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 level tsp each of coriander and fennel seed
1 level tsp chilli flakes
shredded zest of 1/4 small orange
1.5 chorizo sausages
2 cans tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans rinsed
3 cans (1.2l) stock

Just cook like you’d expect to.

OK, I’ve tasted it now …

The Verdict:

Tastes pretty good, nice and smokey/chorizoey. It could do with upping the bean proportion, so 2 cans of cannellinis. I used one can of cherry tomatoes and one of crushed, forget about the cherry toms and go straight for 2 of crushed. You’ll taste the fennel coming thorough and the occasional coriander seed which complements the orange zest nicely. Overall pretty good as a winter soup. Might be nice chilled for the summer, but we’ll just have to wait to see …

Smoked red pepper pesto

We were having a cook-in the other night and I’d had a hankering after some red pepper pesto. Luckily for me, my daughter Kaytlin is pretty enthusiastic about getting involved in cooking and I got her to make a batch while I did some other stuff. It was fab.

This has a wonderfully nutty, slightly burnt flavour which will brighten up your darkest winter evening. Great with fish or flesh, with fantastic peppery, smoky notes and a robust colour which looks great spread across a white plate.

Ingredients:
3 large red peppers (capsicums), quartered
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 heaped tbsp pine nuts, toasted
50g Parmesan, grated
Best olive oil, a few splashes

Method:
Roast the quartered red peppers on a hot skillet until charred on both sides, especially the skin side. After a few minutes, put them in a plastic bag and seal, leave them cook a little longer in their own steam and ultimately cool off a bit. While this is happening, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan, being careful not to burn them, because they’re very easy to burn. Back to the peppers: peel/scrape off the skin and discard because it is somewhat indigestible. Put the flesh in a liquidiser, chuck in the pine seeds, garlic and cheese and liquidise, adding enough oil to lubricate the process but not so that it’s too runny. It needs to be thicker than cream but thinner than nutella.

Bottle up and refrigerate.

Some people recommend adding basil and walnuts, paprika and other spices, but I think it over-complicates the recipe. I think the fact that I have such a high percentage of toasted pine nuts is enough to satisfy the palette.You can find more of these on http://www.cookdinnerfaster.com