Shakshuka

shakshuka

This is an amazingly satisfying dish to knock up for breakfast or brunch. It’s happily made in my kitchen to soothe any woes on the weekend. I made this recently with some ridiculously easy to make savory pop-ups (think breakfast muffins crossed with Yorkshire puddings) to mop up the saucy sauce. There are anchovies in this, so omit them if you would like this to be veggie. Serves 4 generously.

Shakshuka:
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
150 ml rapeseed oil or light veg oil
2-3 banana shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 long sweet peppers (1 red & 1 yellow), thinly sliced
4 tsp dark muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp coriander, finely chopped (plus extra to garnish)
6 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4-6 anchovy fillets (the salty oil preserved kind)
1 tsp saffron threads
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of dried chillies
Salt & pepper
Approx. 250 ml water
6-8 eggs

Get a large skillet to medium-high heat. Once hot, dry roast the cumin seeds for a minute or so until they smell fragrant. Add your oil and sauté your shallots for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook them for about a minute, careful they don’t burn. The peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme and coriander go in next for about 5-10 minutes. Until they turn a lovely colour.

Now add your tomatoes, anchovies, saffron, cayenne, chillies and a bit of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the thickness and consistency, you want this like a thick pasta sauce so add your water gradually throughout the cooking process to keep it at the right level of sauciness. Once this is ready check your seasonings, it should be really flavoursome.

Heat at low. Remove the bay leaves from the pan. Use a wooden spoon the make craters in the pepper and tomato mixture and gently crack an egg into each of the holes. Sprinkle with some more salt and pepper and get a pan lid on. Gently cook the eggs for around 10 minutes. I like to watch this part obsessively as I want to keep my yolks runny. When the eggs are *just* set and even still a little bit raw in the egg whites I like to take the skillet off the heat and serve the whole pan on the table ready for eating. The remaining heat of the shakshuka will perfectly cook the eggs. Sprinkle with and bit of the remaining coriander and eat!

It’s worthwhile noting that this is an easily changeable dish depending on what you have left over in the fridge. Bit of gravy from the night before? Whack it in. Fetta? Preserved lemons? Get them in! Left over bit’s and pieces are so easily used up in this beautiful breakfast stew.

Vietnamese Grilled Aubergine with Nouc Cham Sauce

vietnamese grilled aubergineIt’s been too hot in my flat. So all I want to cook of late is dips, salads and wraps. Oh Vietnamese food, you have so many dishes I adore under this category…

Aubergines are in season and this dish is one of my favourite and simplest dishes to rustle up with said veg. But mostly its the delicious nouc cham that I love, so crack open an empty jam jar and make a load of this addictive sauce.

Nouc Cham Sauce:
100 ml fish sauce
100 ml of water
125 g brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic - minced
4 bird's eye chillies - deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 carrot - finely shredded

Mix up the fish sauce, sugar and water. Add to this the garlic, chilli, lime juice and shredded carrot. Thoroughly stir it all up and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Now you’re ready to grill your aubergine.

Grilled  Aubergine:
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp nouc cham sauce
Handful of peanuts - toasted
1 tbsp spring onions - finely chopped
Some coriander to garnish

Get the grill on high. Pierce your aubergine near the leafy bits a could of time to stop the Exploding Aubergine from happening (this has happened to me twice…I had to scrape the oven clean of the perfectly cooked bits of veggie shrapnel). Put the whole aubergine in whole and just keep an eye on it, turn it ever so often and the skin doesn’t burn beyond the nice charred flavour. Depending on your oven and grill it should take about 20-40 minutes. If you want to can oven roast it first at around 200°C then finish it off on the grill. Once it soft and sagging you’re ready!

Place the aubergine on a dish and slice it open. Add to this the nouc cham sauce, the toasted peanuts, coriander and spring onions.

Seafood, Fennel and Lime Salad

This is a straight up Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve followed almost to the letter. More herbs more lime more prawns. But it’s *basically* to the letter. It’s not often I follow a recipe so closely, but it’s so reliant on fresh flavours that you really can’t go wrong. I cooked this for a friend recently and had to buy clean and prepare baby squid for the first time. Exciting stuff. I’ve adjusted it so it’s a starter that feeds 2. Oh! And before I go into a bit of a rant. Get proper big and raw tiger prawns. And by tiger prawns, I mean proper prawns, not pre cooked tiny little shrimps. There is a big difference between prawns and shrimp. The end.

Seafood, Fennel and Lime Salad:
1 small fennel bulb - thinly sliced
1/2 a small red onion - thinly sliced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp fresh dill - chopped
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley - chopped
1 mild chilli - de-seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined
170 g cleaned baby squid
1 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp chopped coriander
Sea salt
Pomegranate seeds to garnish

Top and tail the fennel and slice it widthwise super thinly through a mandolin into a large bowl. Thinly slice your red onion and toss them in. Whack in the lime zest, juice, garlic, parsley, chilli, one tablespoon of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Mix it all up. Set aside.

Get a griddle pan on the stove and get it smoking hot. Mix the prawns and squid in a bowl with the other tablespoon of oil and a pitch of salt. Grill these in small batches and turn them over once. The squid should take 1-2 mins each side and the prawns 2-3 mins. You want the nice grill lines so don’t move them around in the pan.

Once they’re done, slice up the squid and toss the seafood in with your salad. You can serve this warm or a leave it in the fridge for up to 1 day. When serving, sprinkle over your sumac and coriander, taste, adjust seasoning, maybe squeeze more lime, and liberally garnish with the pomegranate seeds. EAT.

Incidentally, cleaning squid is quite fun. Carefully pull out the tentacles. Chop off the eyes and beak. Remove the flat soft bone from the hood(?) and rinse out any bits inside that. I found sacks of eggs in a couple of mine. This made me fleetingly sad for a moment, before I remembered how tasty grilled squid was.

squid prep

Salsify: The Poor Man’s Oyster?

There was a very interesting addition in my veg box recently. Wrapped carefully in brown paper were what looked like four 10 inch branches of a tree covered in a layer of dried mud. “…” I thought, as I washed them clean and guessed at burdock. Only to discover (after ferreting out my receipt) that I’d actually received some salsify. I have never eaten salsify before although I vaguely remember reading some recipe recommending making chips out of them. How boring.

A quick search on the inter webs today informed me that the salsify root is also known as the ‘oyster plant’ as it tastes a bit like those delicious morsels of the sea. I absolutely adore oysters and after peeling a bit of root and tasting it raw and then quickly blanching and tasting another piece, I can report that these oyster allusions are pure: lies. What it does taste like however, is a cross between lotus root, water chestnuts and coconut flesh. Which instantly made me think of my Aunty Ann’s lotus root fritters and that I really must learn how to make next time I’m back in Hong Kong…anyway. Fritters. Salsify fritters. Let’s go:

Salsify Fritter Ingredients:
Approx. 300 g salsify cleaned of mud - pre peeled weight
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp minced lemon grass
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or one small red chilli - diced)
3 tbsp coriander - roughly chopped (save some to garnish)
1 egg - lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
Sea salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Peel and coarsely grate your salsify, once those roots become too fragile to peel, chop them up to match the grated bits. Add a tablespoon of butter into a frying pan at medium heat and sauté the salsify until tender. Transfer into a bowl and mix well with the garlic, lemongrass, chilli, paprika, coriander, egg and flour. Basically mix every except the butter and olive oil. Generously season with the salt and pepper.

Frying pan back on the stove at medium heat and put the remaining tablespoon of butter in with the olive oil. This helps your butter reach a higher heating point without it burning.

Get a tray, coat it with some flour. Dust your hands in that flour and quickly form a fritter with your dusty hands – once moulded rest it in the flour tray. Dust. Form. Dust. Form. You should make around 5-6 fritters.

When the oil and butter mixture is hot enough to sizzle. Fry the fritters until golden brown on each side. About 5 minutes each. When done, place them on a paper towel to drain them.

Serve up and garnish with some extra coriander leaves. I served these tasty fritters with poached egg, a slice of lime, and an easy salad of romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. The salad was dressed with an Asian dressing made up of sesame oil, rice vinegar, light soy and a mix of sesame seeds. I quickly made this to taste…but if I were to guess my proportions I’d say 1 tbsp of each liquid with 1 tsp of the seeds. Squeeze that lime over your fritters and consume!

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