Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Indian Spice-Crusted Grilled Sturgeon

Moderately high in fat content, Sturgeon has a mild, delicate flavour with lean flesh that is firm and meaty, similar in texture to chicken breast or veal. It takes well to marinades and dry rubs, like this delicious recipe for Indian Spice-Crusted Grilled Sturgeon. Coated in an aromatic mixture of coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon and fresh thyme, the filets are then sautéed quickly in a a little olive oil then roasted in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The rich succulent flesh turns white when cooked, becoming wonderfully crunchy on the surface and deliciously moist in the centre.   

Spice Crusted Grilled Sturgeon
Serves 2

3/4lb sturgeon fillet, cut into two pieces
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
2 cloves
2 green cardamon pods, seeds removed and kept, pods discarded
5 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 bunch of rapini, trimmed and washed
olive oil
1 lemon
fresh dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place the spices in a small food processor or spice grinder, and pulse until the mixture becomes a coarse powder, then pour onto a large plate. Brush the sturgeon filets in a little olive oil, then dredge the sturgeon, flesh side down, in the spices.

In a non-stick pan over a medium heat, add a little olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, place the sturgeon, spice side down and sear until the spices are golden, about 5 minutes. Flip the fish over, and place the pan into the oven. Turn the oven down to 350°F, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until the sturgeon is cooked all the way through.

While the sturgeon is cooking, steam the rapini over high heat until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are al dente, about 10 minutes. Once cooked, squeeze a little lemon juice over top and toss to combine.

To plate, place the rapini on a platter and top with sturgeon fillet, spice side up. Garnish with a little fresh dill and slices of fresh lemon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraîche

Light and creamy, this delicious Chilled Asparagus Soup 'shooter' is the perfect appetizer to start a summer meal. The intense flavour and vibrant green hue of fresh Ontario asparagus and fragrant leeks smells heavenly as they're sautéed in butter then simmered in an aromatic broth until tender. The soup is then puréed in a blender until it's silky smooth, then passed through a sieve for a more refined texture. Thick crème fraîche or heavy cream is then added to the soup, creating a delightfully rich and satisfying appetizer that can be showcased in shot glasses or small demi-tasse cups, garnished with a swirl of crème fraîche as a final flourish.

Chilled Asparagus Soup (Crème d'asperges)
Serves 8 as amuse-bouche

2 pounds green asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large leeks, white part only, sliced
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cook the leeks in 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring until softened. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper to taste, and cook stirring for 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Purée the soup in a blender, in batches until smooth, then return to the pan using a sieve, to ensure all solids are removed. Stir in the crème fraîche, adding more broth to thin soup if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter. To serve, pour the soup into small cups or shooter glasses, garnishing with the lemon juice and a swirl of crème fraîche or heavy cream. The soup can be made ahead and keeps, covered and chilled, for up to 2 days. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Seafood Salad with Celeriac Remoulade & Dill Sauce

A lovely light salad to make during the warm summer months is this easy and delicious poached seafood salad made with large shrimp, scallops, squid and a handful of salad shrimp for good luck. The large shrimp are shelled and deveined; the squid are cut into rings; and the scallops are cut in half, then all poached for a few minutes in a shallow pan of simmering water until just done; allow to cool about 10 minutes. The seafood is then tossed in a light lemon dill sauce and served with a wedge of fresh lemon. I served this seafood salad over a small bed of homemade celeriac remoulade for a light crunchy surprise at the bottom. Wonderfully light and delicate, this mixed seafood salad makes a lovely appetizer or a delicious entrée.

Mixed Seafood Salad with Celeriac Remoulade
Serves 2

10 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 large scallops
2 cleaned squid with tentacles
1 cup small salad shrimp
2 tbsp capers
1 lemon, for garnish

1 celeriac root
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp caraway seeds 
salt and white pepper to taste

Lemon Dill Cream Sauce:
1 cup sour cream
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp salt

Whisk the sour cream, lemon juice and chopped dill together in a small bowl. Season with salt and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Slice the squid into rings and cut tentacles in half. Slice the scallops in half. Set a medium size pan of water over med-high heat and once a few bubbles start to appear, lightly poach the shrimp, scallops and squid, one type at a time and set in a colander once done. Let cool for a few minutes then toss with 1/2 cup of lemon dill sauce and some capers.

For the remoulade, pare away the outer skin of the celeriac root with a vegetable peeler, then slice into thin matchsticks using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Half of the celeriac root should make about 1 cup of remoulade. Toss the 'matchsticks' in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to preserve the colour and prevent it from going brown. Then add some mayonnaise and toss to combine. Season with a few caraway seeds and some salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon some of the celeriac remoulade in the bottom of each serving bowl and top with some of the mixed seafood salad, and garnish with a lemon wedge. Easy and delicious!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tabbouleh Salad: An Eastern Mediterranean Meze

Healthy, delicious and low in carbs, Tabbouleh is an Eastern Mediterranean dish that's traditionally enjoyed as part of mezze, or appetizers, eaten before a meal. Originally from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, tabbouleh is one of the most popular salads in the Middle East, and comes from the Arabic word 'mtabeleh', which means ‘seasoned’, implying that the dish comes alive with the salad's flavourful seasonings. In Lebanon, regional and family recipes vary widely, but the consensus remains the same: if the salad isn't heavy on parsley, it's not tabbouleh. Characterized by the colours of the Lebanese flag – green, white and red — tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur, ripe tomatoes, zesty parsley and fresh mint, with a simply dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Low in fat and high in fibre, tabbouleh's primary ingredient is bulgur, which are wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed, and are available in various grinds: coarse, medium and fine. Like hummus, baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves and other delicious mezze of Arab cuisine.

Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 8

1 cup medium bulgar wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 cup scallions, with green ends, finely chopped
1 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 english cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgar wheat in a large bowl and add boiling water, lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature. Once the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, remainder of salt and the pepper. Season to taste, and serve at room temperature or chill for at least 1 hour then serve cold.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Caldeirada de Peixe: Portuguese Fish Stew

Portuguese Fish Stew, also known as Caldeirada de Peixe, is a rustic medley of magnificent mixed seafood, fish and fresh vegetables bathed in a luscious aromatic herb-infused tomato broth. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I first tried this fabulous low-fat recipe from The South Beach Diet Cookbook, an indispensable dietary bible penned by cardiologist Arthur Agatston and dietician Marie Almon, when I first tried to shed some unwanted pound a number of years ago. The South Beach Diet is relatively simple in principle. It replaces 'bad carbs' and 'bad fats' with 'good carbs and 'good fats. This delicious Seafood stew is an absolutely delicious recipe, whether you want to shed pounds or not!

Caldeirada de Peixe
Serves 6 

1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 bay leaves
8 canned and filleted anchovies
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp tobasco
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed, or 1 tsp Pernod
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
2 6.5 oz cans of clams, with juices
1 lb mussels
1/2 lb calamari, cleaned and cut into 1/8-inch rings
1 lb cod or halibut, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups whole fresh basil
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add anchovies, onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and tabasco; cook until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and cook a minute more.  Whisk together wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and add to onion mixture. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, fennel seeds, worcestershire and vinegar and let simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the clams and their juices; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mussels, cover the pan and let simmer 5 minutes. Add the fish, calamari and shrimp and simmer until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Discard any unopened mussels. Stir in the basil leaves just before serving.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Asian Inspired Chilled Sesame Spinach

Inspired by the delicious Chilled Sesame Spinach that we used to enjoy at Izakaya on Front Street, before it closed five years ago, this was one of the popular dishes that kept regulars coming back time after time. A quick and easy recipe that brings together the tangy flavours of soy sauce and rice vinegar along with nutty sesame seeds and vibrant steamed spinach, this chilled dish is highly nutritious, low-fat and extremely rich in antioxidant. At only 150 calories per serving, this elegant chilled salad makes a healthy, tasty and refreshing addition to any Asian-inspired summer menu.

Chilled Sesame Spinach
Serves 4

2 lb spinach stems trimmed, washed
1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp mirin rice wine
3 tbsp sesame seeds

Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain immediately in a colander and then plunge into the prepared ice bath. Let the spinach cool completely, about 30 seconds and drain again. Using your hands, squeeze the excess water out of the spinach, and transfer to a work surface. Coarsely chop the spinach, and place in a medium bowl then set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and mirin. Add the dressing and sesame seeds to the spinach and mix to combine. The spinach may be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cold Sesame Noodles with Spicy Red Curry Sauce

A simple dish with complex flavours, this Thai-inspired Cold Noodles with Spicy Red Curry & Peanut Sauce is the perfect thing for a hot summer evening. Cold noodles are unique to Asian cooking, and the mouth watering combination of peanut butter, red curry paste, rice vinegar, lime juice, cilantro and chopped scallions come together to create a thick and velvety spicy sauce. Topped with sesame seeds and chopped cilantro, these noodles are a flexible dish that can be eaten either warm or cold, and can also be adapted to your favourite noodle, from Japanese buckwheat soba noodles, Thai rice noodles or Chinese egg noodles to even fettuccine, linguine or spaghettini. The sauce is so delicious, it could even be used as a marinade or dipping sauce for grilled chicken, pork, fish or seafood.

Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles with Spicy Red Curry Sauce
Serves 4-6

12 oz fettuccine, Chinese egg noodles, or rice or soba noodles
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp red curry paste
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 lime, juiced 
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until chilled. Shake out the excess water and blot dry. Meanwhile, purée the peanut butter, curry paste, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, salt and red pepper flakes and water in a food processor or blender until smooth. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the peanut sauce and sliced green onions and mix well, until the noodles are well coated. Season to taste with salt and stir in some of the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta to loosen the sauce, if necessary. Serve the noodles in a decorative bowl or platter, and garnish with sesame seeds and more cilantro.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Crab & Avocado Salad with Mango and Ginger

Light, healthy and delicious, this tower of Crab & Avocado Salad with Mango and Ginger makes a stunning first course or light al fresco feast. Luscious layers of nutrition-rich diced avocado, neon-pink pickled ginger and sweet dense white crabmeat are set over a decorative round of thinly sliced cucumber and finished with a crown of sweet vitamin rich juicy mango and drizzled with a tangy Balsamic Fig Glaze, for an easy and impressive sensational summer salad. Taking advantage of pre-packaged tubs of premium crabmeat, makes indulging in this sweet and succulent crustacean a quick and easy treat. 

Crab & Avocado Salad with Mango and Ginger
Serves 4

1 lb crab meat, such as Phillips Crab Claw
6 tbsp mayonnaise
2 avocado, finely diced
1 ripe mango, diced
1 tbsp pickled ginger
1 english cucumber, finely sliced
1 tbsp vegetable oil

12 sprigs of fresh flowering chive
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp black and white sesame seeds
Balsamic & Fig Glaze

Combine the crab and mayonnaise in a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. To plate the dish, start with a round of sliced cucumber on each serving dish. Using a ramekin lightly brushed with vegetable oil, layer a portion of the crab, followed by a few slices of pickled ginger topped with chopped avocado and press down firmly to compact the mixture. Invert into the middle of the cucumber ring and top with a mound of chopped mango. Garnish with a flurry of finely chopped chives, some sesame seeds and finish with a drizzle of Balsamic Fig glaze. Top with sprigs of flowering chive and serve.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Classic Basil & Walnut Pesto

Italians have long used walnuts for pesto, as they lend a rich earthiness to the sauce. This foolproof recipe from my treasured dogeared copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, quips that this sauce is "more Mastroianni than DeNiro: suave, mellow, even elegant. Walnuts and heavy cream add sophistication to the basil-garlic duo — a pesto that is equally at home on pasta, fluffed into hot rice or stirred into homemade mayonnaise  as a sauce for cold poached fish or crudités".

Basil & Walnut Pesto 
Makes 2 cups
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

2 cups fresh basil leaves thoroughly washed and patted dry
4 good-size garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup best-quality olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmigiano 
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Romano
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in the bowl of food processor and chop. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Shut the motor off, add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, then scrape out into a bowl and cover with a thin film of olive oil on top, until ready to use; freezes well.

Pasta with Pesto
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 lb linguine or fettuccine
1 1/2 tbsp salt
4 quarts water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup homemade Basil & Walnut pesto
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated imported Parmigiano or Romano cheese, optional

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and when the water starts to boil again, add the pasta. Use a wooden spoon to stir the pasta until all the strands are under the water. Boil rapidly until done to taste. To test, occasionally  lift and bite a strand. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and the heavy cream into the pesto, then drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the pesto and toss well to combine. Serve immediately into warm pasta bowls. More fresh ground pepper is welcome, but additional cheese is not really necessary. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Momofuku Daishō: Creative Asian Fusion Cuisine

Chef David Chang's Momofuku empire has been taking the food world by storm ever since he opened his first restaurant in New York in 2004. Located on the third floor of the spectacular Momofuku glass cube complex adjacent to the luxury Shangri-La Hotel, Daishō specializes in shared plates and large format family-style feasts. Of all Chang's Momofuku Toronto concepts — which now include Noodle Bar, Nikai and Shōtō — Daishō has the most extensive menu which changes often, based on market availability and inspired by the diversity of Ontario's native ingredients and relationships with local vendors and suppliers, showcasing the best of Canadian farms from the east to west coast. Sleek and minimalist, with blond wood tables and completely encased in glass, the room’s vaulted ceiling is dominated by a grand finned structure made of white oak — suggestive of giant ramen noodles — not only brings warmth to the minimalistic space but serves as an elegant beacon along Toronto's University Avenue.

Seated at one of the smaller tables along the soaring 3-storey bank of windows overlooking University Avenue, we began with cocktails: a Vesper Martini and 'Surprise Me', which changes each night but this evening was made with orange syrup, Campari and Tio Pepe sherry, along with a complimentary plate of crunchy pickled cucumbers. We began with buttery Buttermilk Biscuits served with black pepper butter and a spicy chili honey, followed by Daishō's Soy Tea Egg with kimchi mayonnaise, furikake and chopped scallion, and BBQ Chicken Buns with mayonnaise and sweet pickle. New on the menu was the Agnolotti with asparagus, sheep’s milk ricotta and black truffle and Pea Shoots and Snap Peas with xo sauce. As an entrée we shared one of David Chang's signature dishes, Hanger Steak Ssäm served with kimchi, ginger spring onion sauce and Bibb lettuce — you can now buy Momofuku Ssäm sauce online! With its fabulous views, soft lighting, friendly professional service, creative wine and dinner menu, Daishō continues to be one of the most elegant, hip and enjoyable dining experiences in the city.

Daisho menu

The 'Vesper', made with gin, cocchi, vodka and peel of lemon 

Daisho 'Surprise Me!" made with orange syrup, Campari and Tio Pepe sherry

Daisho pickles

Buttermilk Biscuits served with black pepper butter and chili honey

Soy tea egg with kimchi mayonnaise, furikake and chopped scallion

BBQ Chicken Buns with mayonnaise and sweet pickle

Agnolotti with asparagus, sheep’s milk ricotta and black truffle

Hanger Steak Ssäm from McGee Farms in Ontario served with kimchi, 
ginger spring onion sauce and Bibb lettuce

A slice of steak with dollop of kimchi and ginger spring onion sauce are rolled up in Bibb lettuce and rolled up like a spingroll and enjoyed

Pea shoots and snap peas with xo sauce

Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Mint
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of David Chang; photo © Gabriele Stabile

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup Rice Krispies or other puffed rice cereal
1/4 tsp togarashi
Kosher salt
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small red chile, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped mint
4 cups roasted or boiled brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the Rice Krispies and togarashi and cook over high heat, stirring, until browned, about 30 seconds. Season with salt. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the skillet. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, water, sugar, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic and chile and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cilantro and mint. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until nearly smoking. Add the brussels sprouts; cook over high heat, stirring, until charred in spots and heated through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Just before serving, sprinkle the Rice Krispies on top and serve right away.

Hanger Steak Ssäm
Serves 6
Recipe and photo courtesy of David Chang

Hanger steak marinade:
2 cups apple juice 
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced 
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
1 tsp Asian sesame oil 
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
4 hanger steaks, about 8 oz each 

Ginger spring onion sauce: makes 3 cups
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions, greens and whites
1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
3/4 tsp sherry vinegar
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste

1 cup Napa cabbage kimchi, puréed 
1 cup ginger spring onion sauce 
2 cup short-grain rice, well-rinsed and cooked 
2-3 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, well washed, and spun dry 
Maldon salt, for garnish

To make the steak marinade, combine the apple juice, soy, onion, garlic, sesame oil and pepper in a large freezer bag, or another container that will snugly accommodate the steaks and marinade, and seal and shake, or stir or whisk to combine. Add the steaks, seal or cover tightly, and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

For the ginger onion sauce, mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Although it's best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it's stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. 

Preheat an outdoor grill to high. Remove the steaks from the marinade, and discard the marinade. Grill for 6-10 minutes total for medium-rare, taking care to first char the two flattest sides of the steaks, which should take about 2 minutes per side. Monitor the doneness closely after that – depending on how hot your fire is, they could be cooked in 6-8 minutes. When they’re ready, remove the steaks to a platter and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. More resting time won’t hurt: you can’t over-rest steak.

When ready to serve – sauces are made, lettuce is washed, etc – cut the steaks into 2-inch-thick slices, cutting on a slight bias, and serve flanked by the accompaniments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lamb Chops with Fingerling Potatoes, Mint & Arugula

Who can resist a lovely fresh, lean and tender New Zealand rack of lamb, simply seasoned and grilled with a handful of roast potatoes and a bright green salad? Inspired by a recipe from Nigella's most recent cookbook Nigellissima that I picked up at her book launch a few years ago, it's quick, easy, healthy and delicious. As she says, "If you put your halved baby potatoes on to steam before you get started on the lamb chops, you can fairly effortlessly rely on a proper meat-and-potato supper in around 20 minutes. Steaming the potatoes is, for me, an important stipulation: a steamed spud is a sweet spud; more than that, cooked this way, rather than by boiling, the potatoes are dry when done, which makes them easy to fry to crisp bronzedness". Bronzedness? I don't know if that's a word, but it's certainly a fabulous recipe, and one that I make over and over again, and sometimes just the spuds alone!

Rack of New Zealand Lamb cut into chops and seasoned

Fresh grown mint from my Mother-in-Law's garden

Wild organic arugula grown in our garden

Lovely fingerling potatoes

Sliced in half and steamed for 15 minutes

While the lamb is being grilled on the BBQ, the potatoes are sautéed in olive oil, celery seeds, salt and crushed red pepper flakes until golden

Lamb Chops with Fingerling Potatoes & Mint on Arugula
Serves 2
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson - Nigellissima

1 lb fingerling potatoes, washed and halved but not peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1 rack of New Zealand lamb, cut into single chops
3 1/2 oz wild arugula
1 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes & black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Shaved parmigiano, for garnish

Put the halved fingerling potatoes on to steam. Place the lamb chops in a dish that will fit them all in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn until well coated, and leave to marinate for 10 minutes. 

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high and grill the lamb chops about 3 minutes per side for medium rare, or longer for more well done. While the chops cook, check that the potatoes are tender, which they should be by now, in which case, turn the heat off under the steamer. 

Arrange the arugula on a large platter and when lamb is done, but still juicily pink, arrange on top of the greens. Meanwhile, tip the steamed potatoes into a large non stick pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, red pepper flakes, dried mint, celery seeds and salt, and fry for 3-4 minutes, then turn them over and fry for another 3 minutes, shaking the pan every now and again to make them tumble and turn in the hot oil. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the potatoes to the platter and season with a flurry of Maldon salt, pepper, and a garnish of mint and some shaved parmigiano — e tutti a tavola a mangier! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Achari Baingan: Spiced Mini Eggplant in Tomato Sauce

The Grand Trunk Road is one of South Asia's oldest and longest roads. For centuries, it's linked the eastern and western regions of the Indian subcontinent, running from Bengal, across north India, into Peshawar in Pakistan up to Afghanistan. Today it's still a major route, the axis of India's heavily populated north. The 'Food of the Grand Trunk Road: Recipes of rural India, from Bengal to the Punjab' cookbook is a fascinating look at the food, culture and traditions that have sprung up along this route, with recipes that reflect the eating traditions of the real India, and presents a beautifully illustrated history of the road since its emergence as India's first route for traders. The book follows Hardeep Singh Kohli's travels along this age-old route, starting in Calcutta, linking with Lucknow, Aligargh and Delhi before curling north into the Punjab region of northwest India, with recipes provided by Anirudh Arora, head chef at Moti Mahal in London, who has devoted his career to researching the long-forgotten recipes of rural India as found along the old Grand Trunk Road. This gorgeous recipe is based on the delicious Achari Baingan recipe from the book.

Food of the Grand Trunk Road: Recipes of rural India, 
from Bengal to the Punjab' cookbook 

Masala spice mix of fennel seeds, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, dried red chili and salt
pounded with mortar and pestle

Baby eggplant are quartered from the bottom leaving the top intact, and stuffed with the spice mixture

For the sauce, chopped red onions are sautéed in oil for about 15 minutes

After 15 minutes, the onions become very soft and jammy

Two teaspoons of spice mix are added to the onions...

...then cooked for 2 minutes

One large chopped tomato is added to the mixture with some sugar and salt

Covered and cooked for 15 minutes, the tomatoes become almost sauce-like

Julienned ginger and sprigs of cilantro are added to the sauce then cooked uncovered for 2-3 minutes

The sauce can be taken off the heat and set aside until the eggplant are cooked

The spice stuffed eggplant are set in a frying pan over medium heat with some vegetable oil and sautéed for about 20 minutes — 5 minutes per side

The eggplant have been turned over after 5 minutes

After 20 minutes, the eggplant are beautifully soft, squidgy and cooked through 

The cooked eggplant are then placed within the sauce and set on low heat for 30 minutes

Achari Baingan: Spiced Mini Eggplant in Tomato Sauce
Serves 2

6 baby eggplant, washed and dried
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 small piece of ginger, cut into julienne
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6-8 sprigs of fresh cilantro
2 tbsp vegetable oil 

For the masala spice mix:
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground dried red chili
1/4 tsp salt

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the fennel seeds until they become granular then add the other spices, mix to combine and set aside — this process can also be done in a small food processor.

Quarter the eggplant lengthwise making sure that they are not cut all the way through. They should still be attached together from the top. Take a generous amount of the spice mix and rub it in inside each of the eggplant, then set aside while you make the sauce.

In a sauce pan heat up a 2-3 teaspoons of vegetable oil over medium. Add the onions and cook until they become soft and jammy, about 15 minutes. Add 2 to 3 tsp of the spice mix and cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes and mix well. Add the salt and sugar, and cook covered on low for about five minutes or until the tomatoes are cooked through and form a sauce-like consistency. Mix in the ginger and cilantro and cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water if the mixture is too thick, however it should d be a thick sauce. Turn the heat off and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil and fry the eggplant on medium low for 20 minutes, until they are soft and cooked through, allowing about 5 minutes per side depending on the size of the aubergine. Once the eggplants are cooked, add them to the sauce so that they're covered nicely and set on low heat for about 30 minutes or until ready to serve, reheating the dish before serving.