Pea and Pistachio Chelow Rice

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Lately, I have started to experiment with different ways of cooking rice. I’m in my thirties, so it seems like the right time. I can no longer get away with experimenting with blue hair, cocktails made from whatever bottles of drink were left behind from the last party or unsuitable romantic partners, so I have to make my own fun and embrace my sad hobbies. This chelow rice is a traditional Persian dish from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s beautiful book Saraban and it’s simply a foolproof way to cook perfect rice. There are quite a lot of instructions, and it’s a bit more complicated then your standard plain boil approach, or even Anna  Jones’ lovely ‘high heat, low heat, no heat’ method, but it is worth it for the fluffy but defined rice with the slightest bite that it yields. You can just use the method to make plain rice, with the butter and oil, and it will still be an outstanding dish.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 300g basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 350g peas
  • 70ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 bunch of dill, chopped
  • 100g pistachio nuts
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 strip of lemon peel
  • Neutral oil e.g. sunflower or rapeseed

Method

  • Wash the rice in cold running water, and then leave to soak for 30 minutes in a large bowl of lukewarm water, stirring occasionally with your hand to loosen the starch.
  • Strain the rice and rinse again with warm water.
  • Boil two litres of water in a large saucepan, add the salt and then the rice.
  • Boil, uncovered, for five minutes.
  • Quickly blanch the peas in boiling water in a separate pan for thirty seconds then drain.
  • You can test the rice by biting into it, it should be soft on the outside but still hard in the middle.
  • Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse with warm water, then shake and toss it a few times to try and drain as much water out as you can.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add two tablespoons of warm water.
  • Heat the saucepan again over a medium heat and add the oil and two teaspoons of water (be careful, it might spit a bit).
  • When the oil begins to sizzle, carefully spoon in a layer of rice to cover the base.
  • Quickly mix the peas with the remaining rice and then gradually, spoon by spoon, build a pyramid of rice over the base of rice in the saucepan.
  • Poke five or six holes into the pyramid using the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape.
  • Sit the garlic and lemon peel on top of the rice.
  • Drizzle the melted butter and water evenly over the rice.
  • Wrap the sauce pan lid in a tea towel, being careful to tuck it in so none of the towel ends up burning on your stove, and cover the pan with it.
  • Leave the rice on a high heat for two to three minutes until steam is escaping from the sides of the pan, then turn the heat to low and leave for 40 minutes without opening the lid to check on it.
  • Meanwhile, season the flour with salt and pepper, toss the onions in it, and fry in a tablespoon or two of neutral oil over a medium heat for 20-25 minute until golden brown and crispy.
  • When you are ready to serve, put the saucepan into a basin of cold water to separate the crispy rice from the pan.
  • Stir through most of the pistachios and  the chopped dill, saving a bit of both for the top.

 

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Smoky Sweet Potato Fries with Feta, Burnt Lemon and Wild Garlic Dip

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This recipe is inspired by two Dublin sister restaurants, JoBurger and Crackbird. JoBurger was the first place I ever tried sweet potato fries, and I’m pretty sure the first place that sold them in Dublin, back in the dark days at the end of the Celtic Tiger. It was a pioneer of the casual gourmet fast food scene. It was and is a place where the menu told you they had put a lot of care and attention into it, but it was served in a setting where the music, decor and nonchalant staff feel more at home in a club. A lot of places offer this now, but JoBurger to me remains the best for a very simple reason: they know their food (with a hat-tip to Bunsen, another Dublin burger place that keeps their food game on point).Dublin is rife with gourmet fast food places passing off frozen oven chips, supermarket burger buns and pulled pork slathered in hot sauce to disguise the lack of flavour who looked at the business model, but forgot to factor in the food knowledge. 

This recipe recreates the sweet potato fries from JoBurger with the whipped feta dip from Crackbird. The sweet potato fries are a little different, coated in polenta to keep the outside crispy, and smoked paprika and chilli to add a bit of heat. Feel free to add more paprika, I use even more than this when I’m making these for myself, but not everyone is as mad for it as I am.  If you can’t find wild garlic, you can substitute with a finely chopped clove of garlic.

Serves 4 as a generous side

Ingredients:

  • 2 x large sweet potatoes (about 1.5kg in weight)
  • 4 tablespoons polenta
  • 3-4 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons of chilli flakes (optional, I use mild pul biber flakes)
  • Neutral oil e.g. sunflower or rapeseed
  • 200g feta
  • 2-3 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 large lemon
  • Small bunch wild garlic (15-20 leaves)
  • A handful of spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 190C.
  • Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into finger sized wedges.
  • Mix the polenta and paprika together with a decent amount of salt and pepper.
  • Toss the sweet potato fries in a large bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil, then add in the polenta mix and toss well to coat the fries.
  • Lay them out on foil lined baking trays so that none of the sweet potato fries touch each other (you will need to do this in batches) and roast in the oven at 190C for about 20 minutes until the fries are crispy and browned on the outside, and soft in the middle, carefully turning them halfway through so they crisp evenly.
  • Meanwhile, burn the lemon half on a hot pan until blackened and completely soft on the cut side (you can also skip this step and use the lemon juice straight up).
  • Crumble the feta into a bowl with the yoghurt, wild garlic and spinach and blend with a stick blender until smooth.
  • Add the juice of the burnt lemon, and the honey to taste (I like things very citrusy, so I usually scape all the lemon flesh in, add it slowly until you get the taste you like).
  • Serve with the warm sweet potato fries.

Chickpeas and Kale

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I know, a recipe called chickpeas and kale is the kind of thing you will only click on in the depths of January guilt. It sounds bland, and unnecessarily wholesome. But bear with me. I had seen the recipe for chickpeas and spinach in the Moro cookbook dozens of times while leafing through it. And I had ignored it. Every single time. It sounded boring, it didn’t involve cheese or tahini and I worked off the logic that there were so many amazing recipes in there, there also had to be some duds. I was wrong. Every recipe Sam and Sam Clarke turn out is consistently wonderful, and often deceptively simple. When this recipe appeared on Food52’s Genius Recipes column, and again on Smitten Kitchen, my interest was finally piqued.

I’m trying to get back into the swing of cooking quick and easy work meals after a long Christmas break, and this recipe fit the bill. I adapted it extensively from the original, using a different spice combination, white wine vinegar instead of red, kale instead of spinach and added some tomato sauce (inspired by Smitten Kitchen). It’s easy, wholesome and inexpensive to make, which is perfect for January cooking. You can prepare the bread paste in the advance and keep it in the fridge, so the whole thing can be assembled in about ten minutes. When I first cooked this it was at the end of a twelve hour working day which had been followed by a cheeky pint. Every route to my house from work involves passing at least one chipper so I felt like I should get a medal for cooking this at 9:30pm.

I can’t properly articulate why this recipe is so good, because I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s some magical alchemy involved in the combination of the sharp vinegar, rich breadcrumbs, earthy chickpeas, mineral kale and the, well, garlicky garlic. This is a recipe I can see myself making again and again.

Makes two generous main course portions.

Ingredients

  • 75g slice of bread, torn into small cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mild chili flakes, like aleppo chili.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 200g kale washed, with the spines removed and leaves torn into small pieces
  • 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tablespoons ,of any basic tomato sauce, passata, or 2 teaspoons tomato puree mixed with two tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add the bread cubes and fry until golden, turning frequently.
  • Add the garlic Herbes de Provence and spices and cook for one minute more, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from the heat, and blend in a pestle and mortar, or with a stick blender together with one tablespoon vinegar to form a paste.
  • Wilt the kale in batches in a hot frying pan with a little bit of water  to prevent burning and a sprinkling of salt, then leave aside.
  • Add the bread paste to a frying pan together with the chickpeas and tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat to combine well.
  • Add the wilted kale and cook for a few minutes until heated through and well combined.
  • Top with smoked paprika and serve warm.

Crispy Spiced Chickpeas

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After many years as an atheist, I recently found myself at mass. Afterwards, I was struck by how automatically the responses and prayers came back to me and my similarly lapsed family after years of neglect, buried somewhere in a part of my brain that could be dedicated to more practical things. We have so many of these automatic responses in our head. If you ask any Irish person of my generation, they will be able to reel off, word for word, the instructions given to us in our end of school aural Irish exams. And if you tell someone that you don’t eat breakfast, they will automatically tell you that it is the most important meal of the day. I know this, because I have heard that phrase more times than I can count.

I have never warmed to breakfast. I don’t like eggs or milk or any of those healthy sensible things that people start their day with. No matter how many berries, spoonfuls of honey and sprinkles of cinnamon you put on porridge, it is still just dressed up cardboard paste to me. What I do like are breakfasts that are indistinguishable from lunch or dinner. After the amazing fatteh I had in Berlin, I started thinking about how I could adapt a meal like that into a healthy, portable work breakfast, and came up with the idea of oven roasted chickpeas.These chickpeas gave the crunch I liked in the fried bread from fatter but not the fatty heaviness. Topped with some greek yoghurt mixed with tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some torn up mint leaves, they make a simple breakfast. 

The trick is to get the plumpest chickpeas you can find, the ones that have been slightly overcooked so they are starting to split. Chickpeas from a jar are good for this, also the cheaper supermarket brands like Lidl. The plumper the chickpeas, the crispier the outside coating becomes, I can’t explain why. I like to make a big batch, which can be stored in an airtight container in a fridge for 5 days or so. This makes four breakfast servings, or you could mix them with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, fresh mint, dill and yoghurt dressing to make Morito’s famous crispy chickpea salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each any combination of: smoked paprika, turmeric, ground cumin, mixed spice, garam masala (about four teaspoons of spice in total)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Toss the chickpeas in oil, then the spices, salt and ground pepper.
  • Roast in the oven at 200C for 30-40 minutes until crisped and browned.
  • Keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Pea Guacamole Toast with Black Pudding

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Just what the internet needs, another toast recipe. I met up with an old friend, now living in San Francisco this week. Among many other things discussed over sunny pints, the topic of the tech booms transforming our cities and hipsterfication of everything came up. It reminded me of a story I heard on This America Life on the origin of the San Francisco artisan toast trend that seems to make up 50% of Instagram right now. You’re probably rolling your eyes right now, but the story is both inspirational and sad. It originated in a cafe called Trouble, which is run by Giulietta Carrelli, a woman who struggles with schizoaffective disorder. She set up her cafe as a lifeline, against all the odds, after years of living rough. It was a way to stay connected to her surroundings and to interact with people and have a support network. Everything she sells is something which has helped her through the worst moments of her illness in some way. She started selling toast because it represented comfort and home. You can read the whole story here which I’d strongly recommend doing rather than going on my very flawed summary. It’s a nice reminder that people are more than the sum of their troubles.

Black pudding is something that will always remind me of Ireland, and home, so I’ve included it here. You could also use chorizo, or just keep it veggie if the idea of blood sausage is too creepy. This recipe makes about a cereal bowl sized amount of pea guacamole, it’s an easy thing to whip up quickly to share with friends.

Ingredients

  • 250g frozen peas, cooked
  • 100g goats cheese or feta
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • Bread of your choice
  • Black pudding

Method

  • Blend all the ingredient 6 ingredients, and check seasoning. Add chilli flakes if using.
  • Fry some slices of black pudding, and serve the guacamole slathered on toasted bread with warm black pudding on top.

Pea Pancakes For All Your Christmas Leftovers

Pea Pancakes

These pancakes are adapted from a recipe by Domini Kemp and serve as the perfect base for turning Christmas leftovers into a nice brunch or light dinner. If your house is anything like ours, you are looking at a fridge filled with cold ham, turkey, stilton and smoked salmon guarded jealously by a cat. Christmas for us involves two Christmas dinners, one on actual Christmas hosted by my aunt and uncle, and another hosted by my family the next day. By the 27th I’m usually sick of the sight of Christmas leftovers and looking for a bit of a change. The pancakes are quick and easy to make up from ingredients you probably have around the kitchen. I made some blini sized ones with herbed whipped feta and iberico ham and brought them as canapes for pre-Christmas drinks with friends. I’ve also had them with goats cheese and leftover Christmas ham, and with turkey and stuffing as a light dinner.

Makes about 12 4-inch pancakes

For the pancakes

  • 225g frozen peas
  • 1 egg
  • 90g plain flour
  • 60ml milk
  • 65 ml cream
  • 1 large banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Cook the frozen peas for 1 minute or so in a pot of boiling water until soft.
  • Submerge in cold water to cool and stop cooking.
  • Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and whisk together to combine, seasoning well.
  • Add the cooled peas and blend with a stick blender.
  • It’s ok if some of the peas aren’t completely blended and have a bit of texture.
  • Heat some neutral oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
  • Drop tablespoons of the batter into the frying pan (it doesn’t spread out too much and keeps a nice shape)
  • Fry in batches.
  • Cook for 2 or so minutes on each side until they are golden brown.
  • Remove from the pan and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature with your topping of choice.

Summer Potato Salad

Summer Potato Salad

New potatoes seem to be a bit of a Danish obsession. When they first appear in May, they can sell for up to 1000kr (about €135 or $178) a kilo at auction, which seems a bit excessive to me. Now that it is July, we are swamped with them, and they are dirt cheap (pun intended). Ours usually come from Samsø , an island near Aarhus which is famous for being a model community of renewable energy, with 100% of its electricity coming from wind power. A number of Danish cities are moving towards becoming carbon neutral, and the community on Samsø is the model for this.

 I am perhaps not as fascinated by new potatoes as the Danes, I love a good potato salad, and I think this is the best I’ve made. I’m still struggling through the 5:2 diet, and make a modified, blander version of this on fasting days. For those not obsessively watching their calorie count with the kind of obsessive fear usually reserved for discovering you are in close proximity to a cranky looking bear, this is a great summer dish, full of fresh and sharp contrasting flavours.

Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • 500g potatoes
  • 200g peas, either freshly shelled or frozen
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 60g feta, crumbled
  • 60g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 50g low fat creme fraiche
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons of honey, to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Method

  • Boil the potatoes in salted water for approximately 20-25 minutes until soft.
  • If they are big, or of lots of different sizes, cut them into roughly even pieces to ensure they cook at the same time, but watch them carefully as this raises the chances of them being overcooked and mushy.
  • Remove them from the water when cooked and drain.
  • Add the peas to the water if using frozen ones and cook as per package instructions (usually 1-2 minutes).
  • When cooled but still a little warm, chop the potatoes into bite size chunks.
  • Mix the creme fraiche, mustard and honey together to make a dressing.
  • Put the potatoes and peas in a large bowl.
  • Toss with the dressing and add the remaining ingredients.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice over, check seasoning and serve.

Jerusalem Artichoke Salad with Feta, Hazelnuts and Pomegranate Seeds

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This is a rich and complex winter salad, perfect for accompanying grilled meat. Jerusalem artichokes are neither artichokes, nor from Jerusalem, so they probably win the prize for the world’s most confusing vegetable name. In America, they are called sunchokes, but to be honest that sounds more like the name of  Bond villain to me. Sunchoke could try to match Blofeld’s plans to destroy British crops by destroying the sun, and possibly be funded by some kind of shady neo-con climate change denial organisation. He would wear a lot of fake tan.

Clearly, I have very little to say about this salad, except that it really is lovely, and should the Ian Fleming Estate wish to contact me to commission a novel, my contact details are on the about page. I am sure I can give Sebastian Faulks a run for his money. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 400g Jerusalem artichokes
  • 75g feta
  • 75g hazelnuts
  • 50g Pomegranate seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
  • 100g baby salad leaves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon honey.

Method

  • Wash and trim the artichokes of all the weird nobbly bits.
  • Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil and roast at 190C for approx 30 minutes until tender inside.
  • Leave to cool.
  • Roast the hazelnuts in the oven on a baking sheet for 5 minutes (watch closely at the end, they go from nicely roasted to horribly burnt very very quickly).
  • Make the dressing by combining the final four ingredients.
  • Roughly chop the hazelnuts once cooled.
  • Put the washed salad leaves in the bottom of a large bowl.
  • Toss about 3/4’s of the dressing.
  • Add the artichokes, pomegranate seeds, crumbled feta and hazelnuts on top.
  • Pour over the remaining dressing.

Onion Jam

This is a recipe from Darina Allen’s ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ which she advises to make when you have a ‘glut of onions’. I’m not really sure when you would find yourself with a glut of onions, I certainly never have, but did have a glut of leftover cooking red wine (an equally rare occurence) and decided to use it on this.Onion jam is rich and savoury-sweet, great with pates or in sandwiches.

Hopeless suburbanite that I am (not exactly the target audience of the book) I ventured to the supermarket for the onions, which allowed me to observe two conflicting trust issues in Denmark that I can’t get my head around. Outside Danish supermarkets, regardless of weather, you will see a baby sleeping unattended in a pram. Inside supermarkets, you are required to hand over any bags of shopping you may have with you, in case you use them to conceal shoplifting. So while people are perfectly happy to trust strangers and the elements with their newborn’s wellbeing, they will not trust them to be let loose near a bag of sugar in case they knick it…

This recipe gave Darina 450ml of jam, and gave me around 800ml of jam…

Ingredients

  • 700g onions
  • 25g butter
  • 140g sugar
  • 7 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 250ml red wine

Method

  • Peel, slice and roughly chop the onions into 2cm (ish) pieces.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat and slowly cook until it turns brown (be careful, it takes a while for it to go brown, but once it does it can very quickly burn).
  • Add the onions and sugar, mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, covered with a lid, over a low heat for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the wine and sherry and cook for another 3o minutes without a lid, stirring frequently.
  • It won’t reduce too much, and should still be a bit liquid when put in the jars.
  • Sterilise the jars in an oven at 180C for 10 minutes, and fill while they are still hot.

Caesar Salad

Over the past month, I have been in a self-imposed study/job hunting hibernation. It turns out that finding a full-time job in a country where you do not speak the language, and do not live during a recession is not a walk in the park. The same goes for professional law exams. Shocking, I know. My world has largely shrunk to the four walls of my room, and I now consider the cast of the West Wing, the lecturers in the online courses I am taking, and my cat to be valued members of my social circle. This is all by way of explaining that grocery shopping and cooking have fallen far down the list of priorities, and my meals tend to consist of working around whatever is lying my parents house (who are kindly hosting my self-imposed exile) and needs using up.

Yesterday, it was lettuce and so it was Caesar salad for dinner. Traditionally Caesar salad should be made with crispy Romaine or Cos lettuce, but I am not a big fan of spiney lettuce, and so bog standard just labelled ‘lettuce’ was fine with me. This is a classic dish which has been horribly abused the world over, but it is very quick and easy to make your own. The recipe is slightly adapted from Alastair Little’s ‘Keep it Simple’ and that is what I did. I (yes, I know this is Caesar salad sacrilege) do not really like anchovies, so tend not to serve them on top, but might add a small amount of minced anchovy (1/2 teaspoon or so) to the dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cos or romaine lettce, washed and drained
  • 75g parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp olive oil (more if frying croutons)
  • 1/4  baguette or 2-3 thick slices of country bread
  • 1 tin anchovies

Method

  • To make the croutons, tear the bred into small 2-3cm cubes.
  • If you have the time, toss with 2 teaspoons of oil, place in a baking dish and bake at 160C for about 45 minutes or until crisp and golden on the outside.
  • If you are in a rush, you can fry them in oil.
  • Place the egg yolks in a bowl along with mashed anchovy,worcestershire sauce, garlic, water and lemon juice and whisk together.
  • Season.
  • Gradually add the oil bit by bit, whisking the whole time until it emulsifies.
  • Stir in half the grated parmesan.
  • Rip up lettuce into large pieces.
  • Toss  lettuce with the dressing and the croutons.
  • Top with anchovies if desired.
  • Serve the remaining parmesan in a bowl, so people can add as much or as little as they want (if give my way I would add an unwholesome quantity that I will not recommend here).