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.

‘Gluten Sensitive’ & Buttermilk Free: Spicy Tomato Cornbread

cornbread

I was really struggling with the title for this post. But essentially this is a gluten sensitive bread baked with cornmeal and spelt flour, it’s at this point that I should add that if you’re a celiac or very sensitive to gluten you should probably replace this with a gluten-free flour of your desire (rice flour works well). Anyway, I’ve always loved cornbread, but maybe because I’m a bit greedy, I have always preferred the loaded variety. So within the bread you’ll find kernels or corn, bits of chilli, oven dried tomatoes and waves of cumin. This is also a buttermilk free recipe and I’ve substituted it with almond milk, mostly because buttermilk is just so damn hard to find (read: it wasn’t in any of my local shops with in a 100 metre walking radius to my flat)…and I really just wanted to eat warmed slices of this bread with butter and Vegemite dammit! Would also work quite well with plain yogurt instead of the almond milk if you want it to be richer.

It’s a fast bread to make (bonus) and bakes in a large 9 inch bread tin, but I split it into 2 tins just in case it rose too much.

Spicy Tomato Cornbread:
2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cups spelt or gluten free flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
1.5 cups almond milk
2 large eggs
70 g butter - melted
handful cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
1 small red onion - diced
3-5 birds eye chillies - diced
1 cup corn kernels

First get the oven to 200 °C and prep your baking tins with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and place them on a lined baking tray, evenly space each of the quarters out. Liberally sprinkle with the cumin seeds and paprika with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper to season. Place the tomatoes in the oven and wait for them to cook down, maybe 20 minutes. While that’s cooking, melt the butter and set aside. Get the cornmeal, flour, teaspoon of salt, baking powder, sugar into a stand mixer (or mix by hand if you’d like, you must have strong arms) on medium speed until well combined. In a separate jug, mix the eggs, butter, almond milk and honey. Poor this mixture in with the dry ingredients slowly until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the tomatoes and all the spices (slide everything off that baking sheet), then add the onion, chilli and corn until everything is gently but evenly dispersed.

Put the mixture into you prepped baking tins and bake for at least 40 minutes. But keep checking with a skewer to see if your bread’s done. It should be golden brown on the top and the skewer should come out clean. Turn out of tins and cool.

I couldn’t resist eating a couple of slices of this hot out of the oven with some butter and said Vegemite. It was a craving that just had to be done. Also had some with Marmite. Just as good. Later in the evening I had this with chicken stew…you know it’s just so damn tasty…

Polenta Pizza

Guys! Guys! Guys! So I’ve not posted savoury food for a while, not because I haven’t been eating (obviously) but because I hadn’t cooked anything that I thought was inspired enough to wax lyrical about. But by the exclamation mark count at a massive three already – here is me waxing lyrical.

Yesterday after what would rank up there as the most Relaxing Sunday Ever where myself and a significant person went for an all day wander through a park which culminated in an impromptu coffee with a friend, said significant person and I decided to make some homemade pizza for dinner. Only what with me not eating gluten we decided to make a polenta pizza and it was so flipping good! Honestly, you don’t even have to be gluten intolerant to enjoy this. Other massive bonus. It can be relatively easy to knock up as you don’t have to wait for the dough to prove. Essentially you’re cooking up some polenta in the traditional manner, but making it as thick as possible so it sets quicker and has a bit more structure post bake. Toppings wise we just went classic with a bit of tomato sauce (but made with plum vine tomatoes), mozzarella, and some slices of cured Spanish ham.

Polenta Pizza Base:
700 ml vegetable stock
170 g polenta, coarse type favoured
100 g grated parmesan
Pizza Toppings:
125 g mozzarella
200 g approx. tomato sauce
6 slices of cured ham - lomo in this case
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to finnish
crushed black paper and sea salt

Oil a non stock pan big enough for your pizza.

In a saucepan at medium heat, bring your stock to a boil and while whisking furiously in one direction only (to avoid clumps) add your polenta in a fine stream. Keep stirring at all times to avoid your polenta from sticking to the pan and get this mixture nice and thick and reduced. You want to get it so thick that when you whisk it barely settles back in the pan. At this stage, probably 15-20 minutes down the line (read: strong arms), you want to add the grated parmesan.

Quickly pour your polenta on the previously prepped pan and use the bake of a metal spoon spread out a pizza base shape, complete with slightly raised crust along the edge. Work fast, this will set quickly. Set this aside to cool.

While this is cooling get that oven to 220°C. Make your tomato sauce and prep your toppings. Once your oven is to temperature and your polenta is sufficiently set (cool to the touch and has a nice bounce to it), quickly dress the pizza. Save the olive oil, salt and pepper for when it’s fresh out of the oven. Whack your pizza in and bake it until it’s nice and browned on the crust and the cheese is bubbling. Ours took approximately 20 minutes.

Carefully use a spatula to loosen the pizza from the pan, you should know that the bake is good because it will be crispy on the bottom. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and drizzle that olive oil. Eat immediately.

I cannot express the sheer amount of pleasure this dish produced, if you’re talking about a great dish of soul food, this is certainly up there and resulted in me doing a happy food dance before I chowed down.

Mini Caprese Stacks

I made these recently as part of a four course meal. Look! It’s a Caprese salad in bite sized form! Not only are they super easy to make, but they’re also perfect little morsels to kick start a meal. Antipasto. You clever Italians you. The only thing you need to get right for this is amazing ingredients, so go for the best tomatoes and cheese you can get your grubby little mitts on. I went with piccolos and an organic mozzarella.

Mini Caprese Stacks:
Cherry tomatoes
Mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Carefully shave the top and tail of each cherry tomato before you halve them, this gives them a flat base to sit on so they stand properly. Trim the stem off the end of each basil leaf. Arrange your tomatoes on a plate, add a leaf, rip a bit of cheese. Leaf. Cheese. Leaf. Cheese. Leaf. Cheese. Drizzle with a bit of oil. Bit of salt and black pepper. Done.

Basic Tomato Sauce

I go to Polpo. A lot. I like the chilled atmosphere and nice little martini bar downstairs. I love their little sharable dishes and tiny tumblers to drink wine and espressos out of…but mostly I like the small proportions because I get to eat more things. Anyway, they have a cookbook now and as well as giving away their secrets, it’s beautifully bound, filled with great pics and is fun to read. They have a good Basic Tomato Sauce recipe in it. Do you by a bottle of tomato sauce for your pasta? Why do you do that? This is much, much nicer. I’ve reduced the final amount, added booze, and more spices to this. But that’s what a good basic recipe should be: adaptable. Make this on a lazy Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week. Makes just under a litre.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed
1/2 tbsp salt - scant
A good cracking of black pepper
1 small red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes
375g fresh tomatoes - really ripe and sweet
1.5 tins/cartons of crushed  tomato - about 600g
1 small handful of oregano - fresh or 1 tbsp dried
1 bay leaf
A good glug of red wine
A bit of sugar - if you want, I didn't add this

Sauce pan on stove at medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. When at heat add your garlic, onion, chilli (fresh and dried), bay leaf, black pepper and dried oregano if you’re not using fresh. Stir and sweat ’em out. When the onions are glossy and translucent, get your fresh tomatoes in with the other tablespoon of oil. Cook for 15 mins.

Now add the crushed tomatoes and glug that wine in. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, lid on, leave for an hour. In the final moments, if you’re using fresh oregano (I mean, how hard is this stuff to find? Grow some in a kitchen pot for a constant supply), roughly chop it up and stir it all in. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add a bit of sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet enough.

Pan off heat. Transfer into a blender or use a stick blender to whiz it all up. Done! You can strain this mixture further and add a bit more water to make a pasata if you fancy it.

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