Freekeh Pilaf – and the meaning of a Dutch Oven

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I shortlisted this recipe as I finally found a Freekeh supplier. I think I had watched Yotam Ottolenghi on TV during the Jerusalem series – can’t be sure – and finally found it on souschef.co.uk. I’ve been meaning to make something with it ever since.

Freekeh is made from green wheat that goes through a roasting process in its production. It’s used a lot in Middle Eastern cooking. Freekeh has four times as much fibre as most other grains – which might explain something that happened the day after ! I put it down to the garlic soup – but now ‘my dear Watson – I deduce that it was the Freekeh’.

Changing the subject slightly (well not at all slightly), while we were working on the boat last weekend there was a repeat broadcast of the Radio 4 show ‘The Unbelievable Truth’. During the episode one of the contestants burst into laughter when Miles Jupp mentioned that the Dutch Oven is the State Cooking pot in Utah.

We both looked at each other and wondered why this was funny. Turns out ‘A Dutch Oven’ is urban slang for ‘breaking wind and then holding your spouse’s head under a duvet for her enjoyment’. After the Freekeh it was tempting!

When I read through the recipe I thought this would be a #FAIL. It is very basic. Caramelise some onions, add the freekeh, add stock and serve.  Sounds dull, but the addition of lots of herbs (mint and coriander) at the end, and the use of a very good stock made this an incredibly tasty meal. It’s got a very earth, molasses’y flavour.

The pine nuts on top, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt also complimented the dish.

You should really give Freekeh a try – if you can find it!

 

 

 

Garlic Soup – Or How to be antisocial to your work colleagues

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So how much garlic is too much garlic? 30 cloves? And as I’ve said before how big is an average garlic clove. And how strong. I used a combination of the Natoora Pink Garlic and the ‘Very Garlicky Garlic’ from Ocado – where you only get 5 cloves per bulb. So that’s 6 whole bulbs of garlic.

I kind of knew I might only ever make this recipe once. Prepping 6 bulbs of garlic is a faff in itself and it makes your hands stink. You just can’t wash the stuff off. Add to that theprepping of shallots and celery – and it all just takes a little bit too long.

30 garlic cloves finely sliced looks a bit like this… too much?

A Lot of Garlic

In fairness I started making this way too late in the evening so it’s my own fault. By the time it was ready there was no way I wanted to eat – so I went to bed and we had it for lunch the next day.

This Yotam Ottlenghi recipe is actually very tasty. The ‘stock’ has a good amount of white wine and it’s very easy to make. Well apart from all the prep. The key is to use a really good vegetable stock as there are so few ingredients so you want to get lots of alternate flavour to just Garlic!

You don’t cook it very long – you just bring it to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. The green stuff is Bay leaves and fresh thyme.

Garlic on the Boil

The recipe is accompanied by a home made Harissa paste. Although I had all the ingredients I just didn’t have to time so I used some pre-made Rose Harissa that I had in the fridge.

The serving suggestion is to stir in a spoonful of the Harissa paste and a dollop of Greek Yoghurt. In the top picture I’ve broken up some Sour Dough bread and thrown it in.

There were some very concerned looks in our shiny new work kitchen. I think people were checking their calendars hoping they weren’t in a meeting with me this afternoon! Even Freya only had one bowl – so I finished the rest up. I think it was just a bit too controversial for her!

It’s very tasty and I’m sure it’s good for you but garlic soup is garlic soup. Eating it in the office probably wasn’t the best idea. I probably should have thought about Tuesday being Rock n Roll night.

I guess no-one is going to ask me for a dance tonight!

 

Green Pancakes and the East End Gangster Cookery Show

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There’s a woman from the US who has a cookery show. We think she’s a fake – acting as an Italian gangster’s wife and she cooks everything in character. Her name is Nadia G. and her show is called Bitchin’ Kitchen. Hopefully it’s all tongue in cheek – I’ve never really watched it – but it got Freya to thinking; maybe I should record some YouTube videos and cook in the style of Bob Hoskins or another East End Gangster. She’s often mocking my accent – being born in Ilford there’s still a bit of Cock-er-knee in there sometimes!

You could imagine it couldn’t you – ‘ere we ave some nice apples and pears with a raspberry veloute – blindin’.

She seems quite keen for me to do it. Not sure I could keep a straight face! We shall see.

Anyway – this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi.

I like making this kind of pancake – and Ottolenghi has many variations on a style. I’ve made them with Sweet Potato and I think also with sweetcorn – and these with Spinach are equally nice.

The pancakes are quite small – and you can make lots of them – so you have enough to eat for now and snacks or seconds for later.

Essentially its just a pancake batter with spices – and then some cooked, squeezed and shredded spinach is added before frying them in olive oil. You’re supposed to use self raising flour but I didn’t have any – so I added 2 tablespoons of baking powder. You also fold in a ‘beaten to soft peaks egg white’ which made the pancakes quite fluffy.

I made the mistake of buying Natoora Spinach from Ocado. I usually just buy the baby spinach from Ocado, but Natoora do some amazing pomegranates, lemons and tomatoes – so I thought I’d give their spinach a go. Unfortunately, from a 400g bag of their spinach I only ended up with 200g after removing all the stalks. It was very stalky indeed !

I fried these two at a time in an omelette pan and ended up with 12 pancakes – perfect to stack in a pile of three – it doesn’t look like there is much spinach in them – but there is and you can certainly taste it.

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That said – when I make them again I’ll probably add even more spinach to them.

You eat these with a chilli and lime butter – which you make by creaming some butter, adding lime, coriander and chilli and then resetting it in the fridge in a sausage of cling film.

These are really nice. We had three each before going out to the Goth Club ‘Electrowerx’ in London to listen to Ivardensphere. And another three each when we got home at 1 in the morning. Yummy!

 

Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi

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When I first conceived of the idea of stripping, despining, scanning and tossing all my cookery books, the first book I stripped was this one. It just happened to be on the top of a pile of books that didn’t quite find their way onto the bookshelf due to lack of space.

Heartbreaking as it is to cut up books with a craft knife (and a little dangerous I might add) there really isn’t an optimum way of laying out a book and photographing the pages. You’ll always get shadows, and then of course you’ve got to OCR the pages to recognise the words. It’s a pain.

When I scan the pages into my Mac, I use ReadIris Pro to recognise the pages and format them to PDF. They are then searchable, making it easy to find recipes based on ingredients. Genius or what !

Anyway back to the book.

I couldn’t have chosen a better book to start with. I don’t think there are many recipes in this book that you’d leave out. First time round (before Christmas) I made maybe 15 recipes from this book. I just wasn’t blogging then. This time round I have chosen 10+ dishes that are different from last time. Hopefully I have photographs from the lap of the book; if I do I’ll share them with you.

For those of you that have not heard of Yotam Ottolenghi, he is the master of all things Middle Eastern. He has has a couple of TV series and has featured on Australian Masterchef, The Taste, and often writes in the Guardian. He’s not a vegetarian but his recipes clearly reflect his preferences towards eating less meat and more vegetables and pulses.

He uses lots of traditional Middle Eastern ingredients like dried limes, freekeh, sumac, za’atar, moghrabieh and pomegranate molasses. The ingredients aren’t always readily available from supermarkets but I didn’t have to look too hard to find most of them online. I was also lucky enough to get an Ottolenghi cook box for Christmas from Freya’s mum with lots of ingredients in it. Which kind of made it easier.

Nothing in this book takes long to make, and he always precedes each recipe with a tiny tidbit about how the recipe came into his hands and why he likes it. It’s a very special book – it was a shame to cut it up.

This week – I’ll try and make:

  • Dates and Turkish Ewes Cheese
  • Figs with Basil, Goats Curd and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • Freekeh Pilaf
  • Barley and Pomegranate Salad
  • Avocado, Quinoa and Broad Bean Salad
  • Asparagus, Fennel and Beetroot with Verjus
  • Green Pancakes with Lime Butter
  • Garlic Soup with Harissa
  • Black Pepper Tofu
  • Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Creme Fraiche
  • Spicy Moroccan Salad
  • Sweet Potato Cakes
  • Brocollini and Sweet Sesame Salad
  • Brussel Sprouts and Tofu

I hope they are as good as they look!

Roasted Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with a Caper Vinagrette

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We were in a rush to cook something quickly before going Rock’n’Roll dancing and I realised when we got home that I was pretty much one ingredient short on almost all the recipes I wanted to make.

Fortunately I had all the ingredients for this – Roasted Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes.

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to make it – so I had a choice – go dancing and not eat – or eat and not go dancing. Dancing won the day ! And it’s good we went everything seemed to fall into place and we started getting the moves right. Superwoman’s, flat hand pushes, and ‘the ladies rest’ all seemed to come together beautifully. Happy days. Now we have three moves – the sky’s the limit!

We got home around 11pm and I resumed the cooking – and finished it this morning – so we’re having it for lunch today.

Essentially you roast some parsnips, red onions and sweet potatoes in garlic, rosemary and thyme and towards the end throw in some cherry tomatoes. After a 90 minutes roast (from start to finish) you dress the roasted vegetables in lemon juice, olive oil and capers. It’s very easy – just takes time in the oven. Even the prep is easy as you don’t even need to peel the vegetables!

If you were a roast dinners kind of person this would be a very nice twist on some otherwise plainly roasted vegetables. I think it is a great dish in its own right – the lemon juice and capers really brings a whole new flavour to the vegetables.

You really can’t go wrong with Ottolenghi.

Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi

Plenty - Yotam Ottolenghi

Most people I know swear by Jamie Oliver for their quick easy recipes. I swear by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Why? Well Jamie does do a lot a good food but my personal opinion is you aren’t going to keep your weight down. He makes lots of things with pasta and potatoes – especially in his 30 minute meals book. Also – Jamie cooks mainly with meat. Not exclusively – just mainly.

We are by no means vegetarians – at least we weren’t! Freya (my fiance) probably won’t go back to the dark side. We just decided that the only way to get Freya’s vegetarian mum to eat better was to adorn her with lots of yummy vegetarian things that were easy to make – and hope that it rubbed off.

Plenty – one of the Holy Trinity of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks – is not exclusively vegetarian. That said – there are enough vegetarian recipes in this book that you won’t have to search for the Sides section and hope you can turn the dish into a main meal.

I’ve made almost every vegetarian recipe in this book and on the whole they are all incredibly easy, tasty and versatile. Only on a few occasions did I have to go to specialist shops for ingredients.

I can’t recommend this book enough. There is a lot of ‘foody talk’ in this book – and I generally don’t read the ‘blah blah blah’ – having been put off by Nigella’s half page introductions to almost every recipe. You will read this though. The man knows his stuff, he’s interesting, relevant, passionate and keeps things simple.