Saturday, June 30, 2012

Harissa 3

I have found a delicious harissa, called Alfez. It has all the heat you could want, but is tangy as well: the flavours of the spices and of the acidic ingredients come through.

According to the ingredients list, chillis account for only about 15% of the total mixture.

Here, loosely based on the Alfez formula, is a version I made. I measured by desert spoonfuls. But of course larger or small measures would be fine.

1dstsp cumin seeds
1dstsp coriander seeds
1dstsp caraway seeds
1.5dstsp tomato puree
2dstsp dried chillis
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2tsp cayenne pepper
1/2tsp sugar
2dstsp olive oil
1dstsp white wine vinegar
1dstsp lime juice

Toast the cumin, coriander, and caraway in a dry saucepan over a gentle heat. Grind in a mortar.

Put the spices, with all the other ingredients, into a small blender, and whizz. Add a little more lime juice, or water, if you need to loosen the texture.

Keep the mixture in a clean jar in the fridge, with a layer of oil covering the surface.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Carrot hummus

This is delicious. Try it, and you may abandon the chick pea version for a while.

The recipe is a scaled-down adaptation of one by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian. But I’ve added spices, along the lines of a carrot dip recipe of his from a couple of years ago. In other respects, his newer version appears to be an improvement, because the roasted carrots have a stronger, sweeter flavour than do the boiled ones.

4 carrots, peeled and cut into fork-sized chunks
1 clove garlic
1tbsp olive oil

1dstp tahini paste*
1tsp coriander seeds
1/2tsp caraway seeds
Cayenne pepper to taste
1tbsp orange juice

Put the carrots and garlic in an oven dish, and toss with the oil and salt. Bake, uncovered, at gas mark 6/200C, tossing the ingredients again after 20 minutes. The carrots may need longer to soften than the 30-35 minutes that Fearnley-Whittingstall specifies.

Toast the coriander and caraway over a low heat in a small saucepan. Grind in a mortar.
Slipping the garlic from its skin first, tip the contents of the oven dish into a food processor or small electric mill. Add the tahini, coriander and caraway, cayenne, and orange juice. Whizz. Add a little more juice if you need to loosen the texture.

*Apologies to those who read this recipe when I first posted it: I forgot this vital ingredient.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


This dish comes from a 1990 BBC book, Italian Regional Cookery by Valentina Harris, and must be related to the Flemish and French carbonnade, which is often made with beer. Harris says that the Italian version is “absolutely typical” of the Aosta Valley in the north west. She specifies a “very heavy, strong red wine”; I used a nero d’avola, from Sicily.

The technique Harris gives appears to resemble that for a risotto: you add the liquid - wine, in this case - in stages. I write “appears” because she does not tell you whether to cover the casserole, instead saying that you simmer the stew until the wine “has been absorbed”, before adding more. But absorption is not what happens: meat as it cooks expels liquid rather than absorbing it. Rather, the wine evaporates. So my conclusion is that you need to cook the stew in an uncovered dish.

The problem is that, because the meat has not been entirely submerged in liquid for the two hours’ cooking time, it may still be tough. At this point, I moistened the stew with a little stock, and put it in the oven, covered, for a further hour.

The flour creates another problem, thickening the liquid and causing it to stick as it simmers. You need to stir the stew regularly.

I tend not to put flour in stews. The next time I cook carbonata, I shall leave it out, but include another onion or two. I’ll let the winey sauce evaporate until it thickens with the onions, before putting the stew into the oven for the last hour.

In the following recipe, the technique for searing the meat and the oven cooking both differ from Harris’s version. The star anise is my idea, too.

800g chuck steak, cubed
3tbsp flour
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 bottle red wine
½ star anise
Stock or water

In a bowl, toss the steak with the flour. Then toss it with the oil, adding a little more if you need it to coat all the chunks of meat.

Get a ridged grill pan very hot. Brown the meat on it in batches, turning once. Return the meat to the bowl when done.

In a heavy casserole and over a low heat, soften the onion in just enough butter to prevent pieces of onion from sticking and catching. Adding a little oil may help.

Tip the meat, with any juices, into the casserole, add salt and star anise, and pour in enough wine just to cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and cook in the uncovered casserole over a gentle heat, stirring regularly. As the liquid diminishes, add more wine.

Continue for two hours, allowing the liquid to reduce down at the end. Add just enough stock or water to create as much sauce as you’d like, and put the casserole into a gas mark S/130C oven for a further hour.

Harris says that you might serve this dish with polenta or with jacket potatoes. I chose rice.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Potatoes in olive oil

This is from a recipe I found in the Week, for squid and potatoes. The magazine took it from Canal House Cooking by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.

The recipe gives 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into approx 5cm slices; 1 onion, sliced; 125ml olive oil; and 125ml of water.

The first thing you notice is the 5cm instruction: 5cm is not a slice, it’s a chunk. The second is that 125ml is an awful lot of oil. The third is that the recipe tells you to put all the ingredients in a heavy frying pan over a medium heat, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. A medium setting on your hob will almost certainly get these ingredients bubbling too fiercely; and 30 minutes is almost certainly longer than they will take to cook.

In spite of my doubts, I gave the recipe a try, but with less oil and more potatoes, cut into 1cm slices; I also added salt, which the recipe does not mention. You’ll need a waxy variety of potato: piled up in the pan, sitting above the liquid and with unequal access to the steam, they cook unevenly, and maincrop varieties will collapse under the treatment - especially if you need to lift the lid at the end and turn up the heat to evaporate the remaining liquid. I thought that even my Jerseys were more beaten up than ideal. But, having absorbed a good deal of oil, they were flavoursome.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Coronation chicken - an alternative

Easier than coronation chicken, and just as nice.

1.5kg chicken, roasted and shredded
170g Greek yoghurt
2tbsp mayonnaise
2tsp harissa, or other hot sauce, or pesto
1 clove garlic, chopped and crushed with a little salt
Salt and pepper

Mix the chicken with the other ingredients.