A sharing thing

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Cooking Connections at Yarraville Community Centre, part of the Care To Share Project

CTS missed the first, Vietnamese outing of the Care To Share Project’s Cooking Connections program, but was very happy to make the weekend pairing as host.

Thanks to the Care To Share crew for granting me the opportunity (see link below for more information).

Thanks, too, to the punters – many from the west but more than a few from all over Melbourne.

But most of all, warm thanks to the families and individuals who shared their cooking and food with us.

There will be photos and comments about the food in this post, but really they’re only part of the story …

First up on the Saturday were Jamshid from Afghanistan, Sara from Iran and the family of Ebi, Roya and Marianne, also from Iran.

All these folks are on bridging visas.

 

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Marrianne did a fine job of splitting the dates and inserting walnuts in them for the Persian sweet rangenak.

 

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But in the digital age, some things are universal with young folks.

 

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The guests lost no time in leaving their chosen seats to talk to the asylum-seeking cooks.

Jamshid was busy making korme koftas, chicken biryani and Afghan pulao.

 

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Along with a stack of finely chopped greens – spinach, coriander, dill – dried limes went into the ghormeh sabzi prepared by Roya and Ebi.

 

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Jamshid’s lamb meatballs and Afghan pulao were fab …

 

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The ghormeh sabzi – with its greens, potato, lamb and red beans – was piquantly amazing.

 

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Everyone thought so!

 

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The walnut-stuffed dates were drizzled with pan-roasted flour mixed with oil and, finally, coconut for a suave “grown-up” post-meal sweet treat.

 

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On the Sunday, it was time for Rosa, her mum Nigest and niece Betty to present their Ethiopian cuisine.

The guests were split about 50/50 between those who had tried Ethiopian food and injera and those who had not.

The dishes cooked were lamb dishes key wat and tibs, and the cabbage, potato and carrot of key wat.

 

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Having long admired and respected the fresh zing with which our African cooks imbue their salads-on-the-side, I was tickled to discover how one family at least does it – marinating sliced green chillies in lemon juice and using it as a dressing.

 

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Once again, the guests lost no time in getting up close and personal with the cooks and the dishes they were cooking.

 

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For more information on the Care To Share Project, check out their website here and “like” their Facebook page here.

 

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Lentils, rice, yum …

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Indian rice ‘n’ lentil khichdi

There are variations on this dish scattered through our various Indian cookbooks.

But I’ve never felt inspired to give any of them a go, mostly because they all seem quite complex.

Then I found this recipe at the wonderful blog Peri’s Spice Ladle, which I would describe as contemporary Indian with some American touches.

This khichdi is much more to our taste, more like the simple dals we prefer, very easy and enjoyable to make, and super healthy.

According to Peri, the consistency of this dish varies across India, but I already knew how we were going to like it … sloppy.

Like a very wet risotto.

Or a very thick congee.

Or like grits minus the monumental boredom factor.

And I reckon this would work wonders with young children normally suspicious of anything Indian, let alone anything even a little weird.

The range of vegetables you can add is pretty much unlimited, but add things such as potato or carrot real early on and things such as our peas very late.

We halved the recipe for just us two – double up on everything for the full deal.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup basmati rice

1/2 cup moong dal

canola oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 garlic cloves

1 inch piece ginger

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 cup frozen peas

METHOD

1. Rinse and soak lentils and rice together in 3 1/2 cups of water.

2. Finely chop garlic, grate ginger and pound or whizz them together into a wet paste.

4. Heat oil then fry paste, cumin seeds and turmeric for about a minute. Watch they don’t stick!

5. Add lentils, rice and water.

6. Mix together and bring to boil.

7. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

8. Stir briskly a couple of times near the end of cooking time.

9. Add peas, salt and butter fives minutes before end of cooking time.

10. Eat.

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Chick pea ‘n’ bean salad with smoked paprika

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This was inspired by a dip I bought for an at-desk work lunch.

I quite liked the oily tomato-based dip with harissa and smashed beans and chick peas.

But it had a nasty edge – as so many store-bought dips do.

So my immediate thought was: “OK, I can do better than this at home.”

So I did.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup of cannellini beans and 1/2 cup of chick peas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender.

ripe tomatoes – quantity equal to the combined pulses. If you don’t have very ripe tomatoes, make something else, as the tom juice is crucial.

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped.

salt.

pepper.

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. Don’t spoil the salad by overdoing it.

heaps of extra virgin olive oil.

juice of one lemon.

METHOD

1. Combine all ingredients in the order listed. It should be really gloopy – almost like a really thick soup. And if some of the pulses get smashed in the process, so much the better.

2. Let sit for  couple of hours.

3. Gently re-mix and add even more olive oil

4. Eat.

We had this by itself as a light dinner with lavash bread.

But I reckon it’d be good with snags or grilled meat or fish.

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Very Spicy, Delicious Chickpeas

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Efforts in recent years to create a great chick pea curry in our kitchen have been uniformly desultory.

The results have been watery, pallid and unappetising.

And none of my current crop of Indian cookbooks have been much use.

Then I recalled that I had cooked a winning chick pea curry regularly in another time and another place.

I even recalled the author’s name and the book involved.

So I went looking and found it first time.

The Madhur Jaffrey book from which the recipe comes is still available and is now on my wish list!

So what makes this a success when other recent attempts have failed?

Well, it’s heavily seasoned for starters – so much so that the ground spices, including both roasted and unroasted cumin, actually help make the sticky gravy.

The tanginess comes from roasted cumin, lemon juice and amchoor (powder made from sour, unripe mangoes).

It really does have the lusty depth of flavour that goes with the chick peas I eat when out and about on Indian adventures.

It will keep real well for a few days, too, and maybe even improve with age.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups dried chick peas, soaked overnight and cooked until tnder

oil or ghee

2 medium onions, finely chopped

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp coriander seeds, finely ground

2 tsp cumin seeds, finely ground

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 can chopped tomatoes

2 tsp roasted cumin seeds, finely ground

1 tbsp amchoor powder

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp salt

juice of 1 lemon

1 green chilli, chopped

2 tsp finely grated ginger

METHOD

1. Fry onions and garlic over medium heat until browned.

2. Turn heat to medium-low and add coriander, unroasted cumin, chilli powder and turmeric.

3. Add tomatoes and stir into spices and onion/garlic mix. Cook for a few minutes until well combined and sticky.

4. Add drained chick peas and 1 cup of water

5. Add roasted cumin, amchoor, paprika, garam masala, salt, lemon juice. Stir to combine and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

6. Add grated ginger and chopped chill and cook for another minute.

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Uncooked puttanesca sauce with short pasta

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This recipe is a simple, quick and cheap winner for summer – or for your typical heatwave!

And it’s another we’ve adapted from Michele Scicolone’s 1,000 Italian Recipes.

Vary the quantities to suit yourself.

We have it warm, with the tomatoes slightly cooked from interaction with the hot, moist pasta.

On this occasion, we used one punnet of tomatoes, a BIG handful of parsley, three fat anchovies, a single fat garlic clove and no capers.

Whatever you do, though, don’t be stingy with the olive oil!

The book lists salt, but we find the anchovies the care of that.

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INGREDIENTS

Cheery tomatoes

Anchovies

Flat-leaf parsley

Capers (optional)

Dried oregano

Extra virgin olive oil

Red chilli or dried red pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

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METHOD

1. Halve tomatoes and place in bowl.

2. Add to bowl finely chopped garlic and anchovies, oregano, chopped chilli and black pepper.

3. Mix.

4. Add hefty doses of extra virgin olive oil.

5. Mix again.

6. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour.

7. Cook pasta, then drain while reserving some of the cooking water.

8. Add pasta to tomato concoction, then mix all ingredients together.

9. Add some of the cooking water if pasta is too dry.

10. Let sit for another five minutes so flavours can blend.

10. Serve.

Bennie’s Kitchen Rules

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Chick pea, lentil and chorizo soup

Efforts are being made to extend Bennie’s involvement with affairs in the kitchen beyond eating and doing the dishes.

This seems to be having beneficial and laudable effects.

He certainly seems to more at one with breakfasts of yogurt, fresh fruit and muesli now that the latter is largely a product of his own hands and effort.

When let off the brekkie leash, he gets his own toast and jam (“No butter!” he proclaims).

He has a way with eggs.

And he’s an expert at instant noodles.

What’s next?

Soup!

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Bennie has developed a deep fondness for the Iraqi red lentil soup shortbat adas that has become a routine fixture in our home – he certainly prefers it to the various Indian-style pulse stews and soups I regularly knock together.

So I’m hoping to combine something of that vibe with a soup that also involves the kid-friendly tantalisation of fried chorizo and one that will also hopefully nudge him back towards the fondness for chick peas he once possessed.

I’ve soaked a cup of chick peas overnight and have cooked them prior to us starting the soup proper.

As I’m seeking a sort-of South American or even Middle Eastern feel through lemon juice and cumin, we’ll be using capsicum rather than carrot.

We’re using good quality Istra chorizo, but it’s soft so Bennie struggles a bit in finding the right cutting motion to slice it into nice, even discs.

He does much better with the celery, once I show him what’s required in terms of fineness of dicing.

Still, for a parent it’s nerve-racking watching a child – even one as generally capable and always smart as this one – handling very sharp blades.

He also oversees the roasting and mortar-and-pestle grinding of a 1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds.

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And he really, really digs what is the key moment, the most headily intoxicating part of making this dish and many like it – when the diced vegetables hit the hot, fragrant oil that is a mixture of olive oil and grease from the sausage.

Oh my!

It’s in this phase of the cooking process that my boy shows that he may have just the right stuff to make a good home cook: As he’s stirring the vegetable/oil/sausage mixture, he simply and intuitively assumes “the cook’s prerogative” – without asking his father’s permission – and nonchalantly gobs a couple of pieces of fried chorizo.

The resultant soup is perfectly fine, but I am somewhat disappointed – it simply doesn’t have the depth or richness of texture and flavour for which I have been hoping.

Bennie?

Oh man, he loves it to pieces.

Now we’re cooking!

Later in the night he asks me: “Dad, am I going to take over the blog when you’re gone?”

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Books For Cooks

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Books For Cooks, 233-235 Gertrude St, Fitzroy. Phone: 8415 1415

As someone who has come to love the online ease with which I can get my hands on music and books, and the information about them on which to base my buying, I have lamented the lack of bricks and mortar businesses in Melbourne that cater to my specific interests.

I have learned to live without them, though.

But in the form of Tim, at the splendid Fitzroy emporium Books For Cooks, I get a superb example of just why local, homegrown businesses should be encouraged whenever possible.

As well as looking to do a story for Consider The Sauce, I have driven across town with the notional purpose of buying a Lebanese or other Middle Eastern cookbook to fill a gap in my modest home collection.

I mention to Tim a particular book, one that is listed on the shop’s website but is not in stock.

He knows the book well. He informs me of its background and its virtues and drawbacks.

He’s not trying to dissuade me from buying it as such; it’s more like he’s trying to steer me towards a purchase that will suit my needs.

We go through the same routine with another book, this one covering Persian cooking.

In the end, and somewhat to my surprise, I end up buying The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos.

This makes all kinds of sense.

The book is the same size and in the same format, using the same typefaces, as Charmaine Solomon’s equivalent Asian tome.

As such, it will no doubt become a cherished asset and dependable companion in our home, and duly become dog-eared, sauce-spattered and loved a lot.

As well, my new book’s concept of “Middle East” stretches from Greece at one end to Afghanistan at the other.

So there you go – I’ve ended up with a book I can use and use often, and Tim has adroitly manoeuvred me away from the allure of those that had been seducing me with flash.

“We don’t aim to sell the book with the highest mark-up as a priority,” says Tim. “We want people to have a rewarding experience with the books they buy here.”

Helping me buy a book turns out to be just a small part of an engrossing hour of conversation as Tim gives generously of his time and insights.

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Books For Cooks is in its 13th year, Tim and partner Amanda having bought the name and “some stock” from a couple of dears for whom it was a sideline to their Malvern East travel agency.

“We saw a tiny ad in The Age and ended up being the only ones interested in buying it,” Tim says. “There was no research … we bought it on credit cards – and then did a business plan.”

The seems scarcely believable to me, such is the detail Tim provides me on running the shop, the various inequities of the international postal system, the effects of the internet, the ongoing subject of a GST on online imports and much more.

He tells me about 10 per cent of the shops turnover is online but that 40 per cent comes from the custom of professional cooks.

For some reason this surprises me.

The current best-sellers are three books by Israeli-born, London-based Yotam Ottolengh – Ottolengh: The Coobook, Plenty and Jerusalem.

The shop will often stock two or three copies of a book – perhaps one will be secondhand, or another may be printed using a particular font.

Books For Cooks sources books from about 650 suppliers in England, the US, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore, Japan, Canada and more.

There are at least two incoming shipments a week each from the US and the UK.

The main trade, of course, is in recipe books of many different kinds, vintages, sizes, styles, genres and nationalities.

But Books For Cooks also carries titles that cover biographies, history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, food science, humour, fiction, kitchen design, implements, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, health, etiquette and table settings.

And no doubt several more categories!

We even get around to discussing the merits (mostly Tim) and otherwise (mostly me) of MasterChef and its various offshoots.

But we end up in pretty much the same place anyway.

“Mostly I like peasant food,” Tim says. “It’s almost always brown …”

He definitely says that as if he believes it’s a good thing.

And which is why, within a few hours of getting it home, my new cookbook is prickly with stickies denoting my interest in recipes that are overwhelmingly to do with cabbage rolls, pulses of all sorts, hearty stews and simple salads.

Check out the Books For Cooks website here.

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Our Top 10 for 2012

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Mighty thanks to our many visitors, eating companions, leavers of comments and providers of tips!

Remember, it’s only a list.

If I did it on another day, it’d likely be different.

And there’s lots of other places and people we like.

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1. COFFEE

We love the vibe at Cup & Bean in Kingsville – welcoming and cool without trying too hard.

We love, too, the simple, nifty $5 ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches Tim knocks us up for cheap lunches.

And every cup of coffee is perfection.

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2. TOP NEWS STORY

The opening of super ritzy grocery A.Bongiovanni & Son in Seddon really had tongues wagging.

We’re happy to report we’ve become regular customers.

And not just for specialty items, either. More than often than not we’re in there for regular fresh produce and groceries.

The arrival in the west of a food truck, White Guy Cooks Thai, was hot news, as well.

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3. SURROUNDED BY INDIANS

Is there any doubt the western suburbs – especially the inner west – have become Indian Central for Melbourne?

Especially at affordable prices?

We have no particular favourite – we do, however, have particular favourites at specific restaurants.

It’s been a matter of horses for courses and all that for wonderful meals we’ve had at Yummy India, Biryani House, Salaam Namaste Dosa Hut, Pandu’s, Vanakkam, Indi Chutneys and Mishra’s Kitchen.

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4. BURGERS/F&C

Rockfish at Edgewater is proving a grand regular for us when we’re in the mood for burgers and/or fish and chips – old-school, good service, table seating both indoors and out, tasty food.

We dig Dappa Snappa Fish Cafe in Williamstown, too!

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5. A TOAST TO THE ROASTS

The old-fashioned charms of a roast meal really kicked in for us in 2012.

The incredible $10 Sunday roast deal at the Spottiswoode Hotel was a highlight, but we loved our dinners at Bruno’s Coffee Lounge and the Famous Blue Raincoat, too.

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6. BEST NON-WESTERN SUBURBS JOINT

Abbout Falafel House in Sydney Rd, Coburg, serves thoroughly wonderful, delicious, fresh and cheap Lebanese food.

Some days we’re pretty sure it’s the best restaurant in Melbourne.

And there’s times, too, we’re convinced it’s the best eats emporium in the known universe …

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7. BEST FRANCHISE FAST FOOD

We’ve been back Guzman Y Gomez Mexican Taqueria at Highpoint several times and always enjoy it.

The food may not match it in terms of presentation and zing of your more high-falutin’ Mexican places, but it’s cheap and we like it.

8. MOST “OUT THERE” ADVENTURE

Some musing on the nature of “crab sticks” saw me visiting Austrimi Seafoods in North Geelong for a tour of their surimi factory.

I’ve watched with bemusement as the original post has become a regular, daily Google go-to story for searches such as “is there tripe in seafood extender” and “what are crab sticks made of”.

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9. FAVOURITE RESTAURANT

It’s a tie!

We only made it to Safari in Ascot Vale once this year, but we continue to hold the establishment, its fabulous Somalian food and the welcome in the very highest of regards.

Ace Japanese place Ajitoya in Seddon has become a regular for refined comfort food – even if that is a contradictory term.

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10. BEST SANDWICH

We adore La Morenita in Sunshine every which way, even if Bennie has gone off having cold empanadas in his school lunches.

All the sandwiches are good, but we especially love the chacarero of steak, cheese, tomato, mayo, greens beans and hot green chilli.

The beans squeak!

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11. TOP MEAL

Such a simple, earthy pleasure – chicken curry with a fresh baguette roll at Xuan Xinh, a rather anonymous St Albans cafe.

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This rustic Italian vegetable stew would go real swell served cold with fish, chicken or sausages at a barbecue, but we only ever have it as a light main meal when we’re a little weary of heavier, richer fare.

This is based on a recipe found in Michele Scicolone’s 1,000 Italian Recipes.

Her recipe calls for one red and one yellow capsicum.

For this brew, I went with two red, as the yellows at the place where I did the shopping were more than $12 a kilogram and looking a bit sad on it.

I used kipfler potatoes, thinking the discs would go just right with the other vegetables, but they took too long to cook, so we’ll stick to our usual desiree in the future.

This is so simple and easy to cook – it basically takes care of itself.

And the way the tomatoes and – to some extent, the eggplant – break down to form a terrifically unctuous sauce that soaks into the spuds is fabulous.

In fact, it makes even a muddling, middling cook such as myself think I’m pretty hot sh… stuff.

While it was cooking, I went looking for other recipes, and was surprised – I don’t know why – to find Scicolone has a blog.

And as she says on it: “I’m always amazed at how good it turns out.”

She lists a few other additions and variations – green beans, courgettes, more elaborate seasonings, cheese or eggs or basil at the end and so on.

But once you start talking about courgettes, I start thinking ratatouille.

No surprise then that further sleuthing revealed there’s little or no difference between the two dishes.

Goes great as leftovers gently warmed up or as sandwich stuffing.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion

4 plum tomatoes

2 potatoes

1 medium eggplant

2 red capsicums, or 1 red and 1 yellow

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

METHOD

1. Roughly chop onion and cook in olive oil on low-medium heat until soft.

2. While the onion is cooking, chop remaining vegetables into bite-size pieces.

3. Add vegetables to cooked onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook covered on low heat for about 40 minutes – or no longer than when the potatoes start falling apart a bit. Gently stir occasionally, as potato pieces can stick.

4. Eat.

Relish of Indian pickle with tomato (Anba wa tamata))

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OK, here’s another recipe from Delights From The Garden Of Eden, the Iraqi cookbook by Nawal Nasrallah – and a simpler recipe you’ll never find.

Seems obvious, too, now that I’ve tried it.

I wonder if Indians use pickles in this way?

We use commercial Indian pickles at home sparingly on our Indian cooking. But this relish takes such products to a whole new level of usefulness.

Gosh, I reckon it’d go great in sandwiches, along with curries and rice and all sorts of things.

I reckon, too, it’ll keep in the fridge but I suspect fresh is best with this.

Nawal’s recipe uses mango pickle but I used what we had – a tangy lime and ginger pickle.

I had it slathered on bread as a snack while I was cooking something else.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup store-bought Indian pickle of your choice

1/2 cup chopped ripe tomatoes.

METHOD

1. Mix both ingredients together gent;y.

2. Eat.

Best eats to snack on while cooking

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1. Corn chips and taramasalata.

2. Olives.

3. Indian snacks bought from Barkly St, West Footscray.

4. Parmesan shavings.

5. Pickled onions.

6. Sour pickled gherkins.

7. End nubs of really excellent sourdough bread dipped in VOO.

What are yours?

Do you, like me, often spoil enjoyment of the finished dish by snacking too much while cooking?

Indian fruit salad

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Sometimes after a big lunch day, we back off for the night-time meal with a simple fruit salad.

Most often that means the chopped fruit with a dollop of yogurt on top.

But every now and then we take the time to make this delicious variant.

I found this in a book of vegetarian Indian cooking I used a lot when I first started cooking Indian food.

The book is long gone, but this recipe remains its legacy.

I’ve never heard, read or seen anything like it any other cookbook or Indian eatery.

For this particular effort, we had a particularly tropical line-up of fruit goodies – two small blood oranges, a large and very ripe mango and a punnet of strawberries, bulked out a little by the everyday-exotica of a couple of bananas.

INGREDIENTS

Fruit – whatever you have on hand, desire or can afford.

Salt – to taste

Freshly ground black pepper – to taste

Freshly roasted and ground cumin seeds – to taste

Chilli powder – to taste

Lemon juice – to taste

METHOD

1. Chop fruit into bowl.

2. Gently mix fruit

3. Add seasonings.

4. Gently mix seasonings into fruit.

5. Serve.

Chilli con carne

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After enjoying a good bowl of chilli con carne at Liquid Yarraville, I resolve to make some myself.

I may have done so some time in the faded past, but if so I cannot recall.

My only Mexican recipe book has no recipe for same, but that’s no surprise as it’s not exactly a top-shelf publication, if you get my drift.

As well, I suspect there’s very little Mexican about chilli con carne in terms of how most of us think of it – it’s more like your south-west US thing.

This recipe is the result of scanning a half-dozen or so versions found in Louisiana community cookbooks River Road Recipes and Talk About Good!

For such an easy, “knock together” recipe, the result is surprisingly, gratifyingly delicious and deep of flavour.

I reckon I can do better, though, in terms of tweaking the seasoning, and I know Bennie’ll love it.

We hardly ever use mince in our joint, but that could change …

Maybe a little less sugar, more chilli and some oregano? Maybe more cumin, roasted and ground?

Smoked paprika?

Any tips?

(I used red capsicum instead of green, because I had a good one in the fridge; and I used red onion because of ditto …)

INGREDIENTS

olive or other oil

1 can red beans

1 can tomato puree

1/2 red capsicum, chopped

1 onion, chopped

450g minced beef

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon chill powder

3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup water

METHOD

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat.

2. When hot, cook meat, capsicum and onion for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add seasonings and tomato puree.

4. Cook over medium heart for about 10 minutes.

5. Add drained beans and cook on Very Low Heat for at least an hour and a half.

Makhlama bil poteita (Iraqi omelette with potatoes and herbs)

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Yes, here’s another one from Delights From The Garden Of Eden by Nawal Nasrallah, although I’m guessing my version only approximated what the author was intending.

That’s because I made some changes.

Used five eggs instead of the full half dozen.

Had no dill or mint, so went gangbusters with the parsley.

Used two diced spuds instead of the slightly greater quantities of two cups of diced spuds.

And used most of a large green chilli.

So maybe my pan was too wide for the lesser amount of total ingredients.

Only about half of it lifted from the pan in the form of a coherent omelette; but that was OK, too.

It was a messy, delicious jumble – I ate it with pita bread, which I used like or injera, or the pita when eating scrambled eggs at Al-Alamy.

And the leftovers were cool eaten the same way cold the next day at work, and would be good in sandwiches, too.

INGREDIENTS

2 spuds

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 medium tomato, chopped

3/4 cup parsley, chopped

5 eggs

METHOD

1. Pre-heat oven to about 220C.

2. Chop spuds into small dice, place on a foil-lined tray, spray with oil and place in hot oven. Should take about 15-20 minutes to cook. Turn potato bits over halfway through cooking.

3. While they’re getting nice and brown, fry onion over medium heat with turmeric and curry powder.

4. After about seven minutes, add the potato, tomato, parsley, pepper and salt. Mix well and cook for a few minutes more.

5. Flatten vegetable mix with wooden spoon then create spaces four the eggs.

6. Lower heat to medium low.

7. Break eggs into the holes made for them. Fry gently until cooked as is, or run a knife through the eggs to disperse the yolks through the vegetables.

8. Serve with sides, condiments and accessories as you desire.

 

Zalatat shuwander (beet salad)

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This lovely salad is another recipe from my latest toy, the marvellous Iraqi cookbook-and-more, Delights from the Garden of Eden, by Nawal Nasrallah.

But really, it could just as easily come from any of my Italian cookbooks.

The simplicity of the seasonings lets the earthy flavour of the beets be the hero.

Nawal lists yogurt or sour cream as a garnish, but I reckon if you want to use either of them it’d be better done at table – that way leftovers will retain their dark colouring and not become a compromised pink!

INGREDIENTS

3 mediums beets

extra virgin olive oil

juice of one lemon

salt

pepper

parsley

METHOD

1. Pre-heat over to 225C.

2. Wash beets but don’t trim.

3. Wrap beets well in foil and put in oven for an hour.

4. Let cool.

5. Peel beets by hand or using a peeler or knife. If you’re a little fussy about getting your hands dyed, use rubber gloves.

6. Dice beets into small cubes.

7. Toss with remaining ingredients.

8. Refrigerate for at least half an hour before eating.

Zaalouk (mashed eggplant and tomato salad)

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This zingy salad from Morocco is, of course, a close relative of baba ghanouj.

Instead of tahini and/or yogurt, the recipe uses roughly cooked-to-a-pulp tomatoes.

This is a slightly tweaked version of the dish found in Claudia Roden’s Arabesque – I throttled back some on the cumin and garlic, didn’t feel like leaving the house just to get a bunch of coriander, and didn’t think a garnish of black olives sounded that hot.

And I never peel tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS

2 medium eggplants

juice 1/2 fleshy lemon

2 medium large tomatoes

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped.

extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

chilli powder to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup approximately chopped flat-leaf parsley

METHOD

1. Prick eggplants several times to stop ‘em exploding and place in a very hot (225C) pre-heated over for about 45 minutes until wrinkly all over.

3. When they’re done, let cool.

4. When cool enough to handle comfortably, scoop pulp into a bowl and discard skins.

5. Roughly chop the tomatoes and cook in olive oil with some salt until pulpy and not quite a sauce.

6. While the tomatoes are cooking, smash up the eggplant into a rough mash. Don’t get too carried away – a rough texture is what is desired for the finished salad.

7. Into the eggplant pulp put the cumin, paprika, chilli powder, garlic and parsley.

8. Into this mix add the tomatoes and some more lemon juice and a dash more olive oil.

9. Set salad aside for at least an hour or so before  eating.

Keeps well!

Good in sandwiches!

Pasta and broccoli

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This has long been a mid-week standby for us.

Of course, it’s a close relative of pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino, so the same rules apply.

As with wok cooking, everything needs to be chopped, diced and prepared before the real action starts.

And timing is everything.

I suspect we have more broccoli than you’d the ratio you’d find in an authentic Italian version. But I figure it’s a good way of getting kids – such as Bennie and myself – to eat more vegetables.

This particular batch was turbocharged – a new bottle of anchovies, four of them instead of three, heaps of garlic and chilli.

It tasted bloody amazing!

I know that various, regular CTS visitors will have their own versions of this recipe, so I’m looking forward to hearing about all the different variations.

This recipe is for two people – adjust quantities for more.

Because of the anchovies, there’s no seasoning need other than that listed below.

And of course when it comes to making your home smell grouse, this can’t be beat!

INGREDIENTS

1 head of broccoli

1 packet short pasta

virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic

3-4 anchovies

chilli flakes

parsley (optional)

METHOD

1. Get a big pot of water going on the stove.

2. While it’s coming to the boil, chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

3. The chop the garlic finely and add to the required amount of chilli flakes (fresh red chilli can be used).

4. Finely chop the anchovies and add to the garlic/chilli mix.

5. Add pasta to boiling water.

6. Put a heap of olive oil in pan and warm it up with very low heat.

7. When pasta is about 3-4 minutes from being done, throw in the broccoli, mix with pasta and turn up heat until water is boiling again.

8. Just after adding the broccoli to the pasta, turn olive oil pan up to medium high and throw in the garlic/anchovy/chilli mix.

9. Stir frequently so anchovies breaks up and all flavours integrate.

10. Drain pasta/broccoli, add to pan and turn heat to very low.

11. Mix pasta/broccoli with pasta really well. I don’t mind a bit of sizzle here, with the pasta and seasonings getting a bit crispiness going on.

12. Add parsley and mix in well.

13. Serve in bowls and drizzle each bowl with a little more virgin olive oil.

14. Inhale.

Shorbat adas

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Based on numerous comments on previous posts, I know there are pulse fans among the regular visitors to Consider The Sauce.

And among those, there are those who have their favourite uses for red lentils – be they dals or soups.

Well listen up – I hope you all try this killer recipe.

It may not supplant your favourite recipe(s), but it’ll impress everyone for sure.

Like everything I’m cooking at the moment, this recipe – slightly customised – comes from Nawal Nasrallah’s awesome Irqai cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.

She calls this lentil brew “the mother of all soups”, and it’s the bestest, tastiest lentil soup recipe I’ve ever cooked.

Funny thing – I used to be a bit sniffy about using curry powder. Too many lingering memories from childhood (sausages and sultanas), I suppose.

These days, I’m much more relaxed about using good-quality curry powders sourced from any of the many Indian grocers in our world.

In this case, the small amount of powder used means the soup does not taste of curry – or curry powder.

Rather, in combination with the other seasonings, it imparts a deep, rich and rather mysterious earthiness.

The addition of flour after frying the onions is the direct opposite of what I’m used to when cooking New Orleans or cajun dishes, in which a usually very dark roux is made and the vegetables then added.

No matter – the effect is similar, although that step could be omitted entirely as not a lot of flour is used.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups red lentils

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 noodle nests or equivalent amount of broken-up pasta

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 heaping teaspoon plain or wholemeal flour

1/4 cup lemon juice

chopped parsley

METHOD

1. Wash lentils and place in pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to boil and cook until done – about 30-45 minutes. Don’t worry, it’s pretty much impossible to overcook them – you’ll just end up with a different texture, that’s all.

2. When lentils are close to fully cooked, heat oil to low-medium and fry onions until a deep golden brown. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently.

3. As onions are cooking, add to the lentils the pepper, salt, tomato paste, turmeric and curry powder. Keep on a very low heat and stir gently until the paste and seasonings are well integrated.

4. Also crunch/crumble noodle nests into the soup – doing this feels really cool!

5. Cook soup for about another 15 minutes or until noodles are soft.

6. About five minutes before noodles are soft, add flour to onions and continue to cook over a low-medium heat, stirring often. Cook for about five minutes or until flour is the same golden colour as the onions.

7. Slop a couple of ladles of soup mixture into onion pan, swirl around to loosen all the flour and return pan contents to soup.

8. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. Add lemon juice, mix in.

10. Place soup in bowls, garnish with parsley.

11. Inhale.

Baba ghanouj

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For a year or more, Bennie has been getting cranky about the tiresome state of his school lunches and more particularly the regular inclusion of rolls of various kinds stuffed with all sorts.

Can’t say I blame him – I find them tiresome, too.

So for the best part of this year, I’ve been including dips and pita bread.

I fell out of the habit of making dips a long time ago, so we’ve been shamelessly buying them. That’s down to laziness mostly, but also we’re blenderless.

Our bought dips – hummus and baba ghanouj mainly – have ranged from good to barely passable to really nasty.

Interestingly, the quality of the dip seems to have had little to do with how much or how little we pay for them.

But this pre-bought dip routine is stopping – right here, right now.

It’s ridiculous.

Besides, you don’t need a blender – in fact, in the case of baba ghanouj, you really want that chunky, unblended texture.

And getting back in to the routine of dip-making fits right in with our current fascination with Middle Eastern food.

This recipe – with a few minor tweaks – is straight from the pages of Nawal Nasrallah’s fabulous Iraqi cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.

It’s easy and hassle-free!

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup yogurt

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 medium garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

METHOD

1. Pre-heat oven to a hot 225C.

2. Pre-heat skillet under low heat.

3. Puncture eggplant all over several times, so steam can escape and it doesn’t explode.

4. Place eggplant on a foil-lined oven tray and put in hot oven for about 45 minutes.

5. Gently roast cumin seeds in skillet until a deep tan, then grind to a fine powder in mortar and pestle.

6. When eggplant is done – it’ll be all wrinkly – turn off oven and let eggplant cool.

7. When cool enough to handle, discard skin and place pulp in a colander so it can drain.

8. Place eggplant pulp in a bowl and mash with a  fork.

9. Mix in tahini and yogurt.

10. Mix in salt and ground cumin.

11. Mix in lemon juice.

12. Finely grate garlic cloves and mix into baba ghanouj.

13. Store in fridge for at least an hour before using.

Pan-toasted ham and cheese sandwich

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Because toasted sandwiches are merely an irregular snack/meal for us, when we do them we like to do them right.

That usually means a good loaf of bread – most commonly some sort of ciabatta loaf.

Good cheddar, too, and ham – but not too good of either.

We tart ours up with onion rings and Dijon mustard, but others’ mileage will vary.

We’ve tried other ingredients, such as tomato, but enough is enough. The tomato was a soggy overload.

In this case, we used a Zeally Bay hightop loaf.

So because the rectangular slices had less surface area than we’re familiar with AND because these sandwiches were going to be the mainstay of our evening meal, I sliced the bread quite thick.

The pan heat is a very variable matter and all down to the kind of bread, its thickness and the depth and number of ingredients.

You want it hot enough to cook your sangers a toasty brown and melt the cheese to goo without taking all night about it.

And without burning the bread.

It’s a balancing act.

Such is life …

Because we don’t have one of those fancy toasted-sanger machines, and we actually like doing them by hand, the layering process becomes important – cheese on last so it gets the heat treatment first.

These sandwiches were a lot more filling than they looked.

 INGREDIENTS

1 loaf of good bread

2 slices of good ham per sandwich

good cheddar

onion slices (optional)

Dijon or other mustard (optional)

METHOD

1. Pre-heat pan on low-medium heat.

2. Slice four slices of bread.

3. Arrange ham on two slices, then the onion slices.

4. Slather mustard on the other slices.

5. Place cheese slices on the onion.

6. Place mustard-slathered bread on the cheese.

7. Butter top of sandwiches.

8. Holding sandwiches firmly so innards don’t cascade to the floor, put them in the pre-hated pan buttered side down.

9. Toast sandwiches, checking regularly to make sure they’re not burning.

10. When nice and toasty on the bottom, butter the top slices of bread and flip the sandwiches with care.

11. Cook and check until done, giving them a blast of higher heat right at the end.

12. Cut sandwiches in half and serve with garnish such as pickled onion, pickled cucumbers or olives.