Sunday, 30 January 2011

Calamari Salad with Broad Beans, Lemon and Crushed Tellicherry Pepper

Calamari Salad with Broad Beans, Lemon and Tellicherry PepperI've mentioned the name of the black pepper I used in the title of this recipe because it's quite simply the best pepper I've ever tasted. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I have a great love of pepper, so I was delighted when my friend Claire gave me a pouch of Woolworths' excellent crushed Tellicherry peppercorns. With their pungent, warm, nutmeggy, wood-resiny aroma, they're so good that I've been sprinkling them on everything bar the cat.

Wikipedia tells me that Tellicherry pepper is the highest grade of pepper, made from the largest, ripest  of fruits from Malabar plants grown on Mount Tellicherry. This site says that only the largest ten per cent of fruits may bear the name 'Tellicherry'.

Calamari Salad with Broad Beans, Lemon and Tellicherry Pepper
In this salad of tender calamari tubes and fresh little broad beans, I've combined the peppercorns with lemon zest and chilli flakes to make a sparky dressing that will definitely give your tastebuds a jolt. If you can't find fresh, small broad beans, use peas, or tinned, drained cannellini beans. I wouldn't bother using older broad beans for this salad, because I'd have to peel them, and that sounds like hard work to me.

Any small green leaves will do in this salad (apart from rocket, perhaps, which may distract from the pepper); it's particularly good with fresh watercress. Here, I've used baby beetroot and young mustard-green leaves, which I grow in pots on my veranda.

The success of this salad depends on the quality of the calamari you use. Fresh calamari tubes are sometimes available from fishmongers and from Woolworths; you can also buy them frozen, but be sure to buy the smallest, most delicate tubes you can find. Don't overcook the calamari, as it turns to rubber in seconds.

I often add a teaspoon or two of Kikkoman soy sauce to salad dressings, as it has an almost magical ability to round out the flavours and prevent dressings from becoming too astringent. If you don't have Kikkoman brand, leave the soy sauce out.

Calamari Salad with Broad Beans, Lemon and Tellicherry Pepper
800 g small calamari tubes, washed
1 tsp (5ml) salt
300 g small, fresh broad beans, or tinned white beans, drained
a large packet of mixed baby salad greens

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp (10 ml) crushed black peppercorns
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) dried red chilli flakes
1 tsp (5 ml) Hot English mustard powder
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
the finely grated zest of a large lemon
the juice of two large lemons
160 ml olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and sunflower oil
salt, if necessary

To top:
4 slices white bread, crusts removed
sunflower oil for frying

First make the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Season with salt, if necessary (the soy sauce is quite salty, so taste the dressing before you add salt).

Rinse the calamari under cold water. Trim the purplish bits off the narrow ends of the tubes and slice them on the diagonal into 1-cm rings (or leave whole, if they are tiny). Fill a large pot with water, add the salt and bring to a rolling ball. Cook the rings in two batches. Throw the first batch into the water  and cook for exactly a minute and a half. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and place in a colander. Repeat with the second batch (don't throw out the water). Now add the broad beans to the boiling water and cook for a minute. If they are large broad beans, you may need to leave them in a little longer. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Add to the colander containing the calamari and leave to drain for a few minutes.

Put the beans and calamari in a big bowl and pour over the dressing. Toss well, and set aside for an hour or two to marinate (don't leave it too long, or the dressing will lose its sparkle).

Now make the fried bread. Heat the oil, to a depth of a few millimetres, in a small pot. Tear the bread slices into little tatters and fry until golden brown and crunchy. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt.

Just before serving, arrange the leaves on a platter. Tip the calamari and beans, and their dressing, over the leaves, and top with the fried bread.

Serve immediately, with plenty of crusty bread for mopping up the juices.

Serves 8 as a starter or side salad.

Calamari Salad with Broad Beans, Lemon and Tellicherry Pepper
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Monday, 24 January 2011

Easy Crustless Courgette, Mint and Feta Tart

Flavoured with mint, dill and lemon, this light, easy crustless tart is inspired by the sunny flavours of Greek cuisine.

Crustless Courgette, Mint and Feta Tart
Easy Crustless Courgette, Mint and Feta Tart
This recipe is easily doubled, and excellent served warm for brunch, with a leafy salad and a dollop of extra-garlicky tzatziki. If you'd like a bit of extra crunch, sprinkle the top of the tart with poppy seeds just before it goes into the oven.

If you're not mad about dill - my family has a disappointingly iffy attitude to it - leave it out, or add some finely chopped parsley. But don't omit the fresh mint, which adds a lovely sparkle to this dish.

Crustless Courgette, Mint and Feta Tart
The grated courgettes are quickly fried, until slightly wilted.

Here are three more courgette dishes you may enjoy:

Feta, Blue Cheese, Herb & Toasted-Walnut Pesto with Griddled Courgettes

Crispy Courgette 'Fritters' with a Gingery Lemon Dressing

Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta Wheels

Easy Crustless Courgette, Mint and Feta Tart

12 courgettes, topped and tailed
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
4 extra-large free-range eggs
½ cup (125 ml) natural yoghurt
½ cup (125 ml) cream
3 Tbsp (45ml) finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh dill
1½ cups (375 ml) crumbled feta cheese
the finely grated zest of half a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
salt and milled black pepper, to taste

To top:
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely grated Parmesan or 2 tsp (10 ml) poppy seeds [both optional]

Set the oven to 180 ºC. Grate the courgettes on the coarse side of a cheese grater. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan, add the courgettes and cook over a fairly high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the courgette has wilted slightly and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the garlic and lemon juice, cook for another minute, then tip into a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs, yoghurt and cream. Pour this mixture over the courgettes, along with all the remaining filling ingredients. Stir well to combine. Tip the mixture into a well-greased ceramic or metal tart dish. Press the cherry-tomato halves into the filling, cut side up. Bake at 180 ºC for 30-40 minutes, or until slightly puffed and golden, and just set in the middle.

Serves 6

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Friday, 14 January 2011

Coronation Chicken and New-Potato Salad

I've seen Coronation Chicken twice recently - once being made on TV, and once served at a lunch party - and I'm so encouraged to see this splendid classic of the Fifties getting the attention it deserves.

Soft, succulent chicken breasts and new potatoes in an aromatic,
creamy sauce. 
Late last year, my friend Michael Olivier made this dish on the Expresso show on SABC TV3, and did so with great affection and gusto (as he would, being an Older Person who remembers a time before sushi, pesto and Balsamic vinegar swept all the good old classics off the culinary map).

Then, just before Christmas, I went to a lunch party where a dish of perfect Coronation Chicken was contributed by my friend Emily. There were many glorious salads on the table, but it was her delicately spiced chicken that had me going back for seconds (and, okay, for thirds). I couldn't help feeling a bit envious, because I thought her version of Coronation Chicken, with its lovely tangy creaminess, was better than mine.

When I interrogated Emily, she told me she'd added some sour cream to the mayonnaise. In my 21st Century Coronation Chicken with Mango (February 2009), I used natural yoghurt to lighten and brighten the mayonnaisey sauce; clearly, sour cream is also needed if my version is to achieve Emily's heights of perfection.

And that's why you'll find a little sour cream in the recipe below. Leave it out and use the same quantity of yoghurt, if you're watching calories.

The inspiration for this salad comes from the delicious Bombay Potato Salad that I often buy at Giovanni's, Cape Town's best delicatessen. I've tried several times to reproduce this recipe, but I haven't been able to crack their special formula. The next best thing, I figured, was to use my own recipe for Coronation Chicken (with added sour cream!) and create an entirely new dish.

For reasons of economy and flavour, this recipe uses a whole chicken, which is cooked in a little flavoured liquid in the oven. You can use cooked deboned chicken breasts, if you like, but they won't have the same flavour and succulence.
If you must use chicken breasts, I suggest that you oven-poach them using this method.

The first time I made (and photographed) this dish, I topped it with a salsa of matchsticked red apple, granadilla pulp, lemon juice and red chilli. It tasted nice enough, but the salsa really wasn't necessary, so I've left it out of the recipe below. (You might want to give the salsa a bash, but why gild the lily?)

I've added a number of whole spices to the initial fry-up for the mayonnaise mix (and to the whole chicken) to give the dish a more complex, layered taste. If you're in a hurry, you can leave these out: the only thing needed for an authentic Fifties Coronation Chicken taste is a good, fresh, generic curry powder: I always use the Rajah brand (medium strength). Please resist the temptation to add fresh or dried chillies to this mixture: Constance Spry, one of the inventors of this dish, would turn in her grave.

Coronation Chicken and Potato Salad
I topped my salad with a  salsa made with apple sticks,
passion-fruit pulp and chilli, which was interesting, but not necessary.

Coronation Chicken and Potato Salad

For the chicken:
a large free-range chicken, trimmed of all excess fat
salt and pepper
half a large, unskinned onion
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
a lemon
boiling water

For the salad:
30 new potatoes
3 Tbsp (45 ml) vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 ml) black mustard seeds
a thumb-length stick of cinnamon
2 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped or coarsely grated
a large clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) grated fresh ginger
2 bay leaves
2 slices of lemon, skin on
4 tsp (20 ml) tomato paste
4 Tbsp (60 ml) white wine
3 Tbsp (45 ml) apricot jam, or sweet, fruity chutney
4 Tbsp (60 ml) chicken stock (from the pan you used to cook the chicken)
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
1 Tbsp (15 ml) medium curry powder
1 cup (250 ml) good home-made mayonnaise, or Hellman's mayonnaise
½ cup (125 ml) plain white full-fat yoghurt
½ cup (125 ml) sour cream
the juice of a lemon
salt and milled black pepper

To serve:
fresh parsley or coriander [cilantro]
a dusting of paprika

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC. Put the chicken into a large, deep roasting pan, and season well with salt and pepper, inside and out. Push the onion, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom pods and garlic into the cavity of the chicken. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze it over the chicken. Place one of the squeezed-out lemon halves into the cavity. Pour boiling water into the bottom of the roasting pan to a depth of three centimetres. Cover tightly with tin foil, and place in the hot oven.

Bake at 180º C for an hour and ten minutes, or until the chicken is cooked right through. Remove from the oven and set aside, still covered.

In the meantime, place the new potatoes in a pot of salted cold water, bring to the boil and cook until just tender (about 20-25 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.

Now make the dressing. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Fry, over a high heat, until the mustard seeds begin to pop and crackle. Now add the onion, garlic and ginger, turn down the heat a little and cook gently for two to three minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the bay leaves, lemon slices, tomato paste, white wine, apricot jam (or chutney) and chicken stock. Allow the mixture to cook at a brisk bubble for five to seven minutes, or until it has reduced slightly. You should have a slightly thickened, shiny spice paste. Stir in the cumin, turmeric and curry powder and cook for another minute.

Remove from the heat, fish out the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Strip the chicken from the bones and discard any skin, sinew or fat. Cut or tear into strips. Slice the new potatoes in half, crossways.

Put the mayonnaise, yoghurt and sour cream into a large bowl and whisk well. Add the cooled spiced paste, a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture tastes right for you. I like a quite strongly flavoured dressing, but you might prefer a milder mix. (Any remaining spice paste can be refrigerated for use in a future curry.)

Stir in the lemon juice, along with the chicken and the halved new potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss gently and thoroughly to combine.

Tip into a pretty salad bowl, and chill for at least an hour (but not more than two). Scatter with freshly chopped parsley or coriander and dust with a little paprika.

Serves 8.

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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Easy Duck Rillettes: a real quacker of a recipe

I like duck very much, but I don't buy or cook it often because it's shriekingly expensive, and also because (look, I know this is heresy, coming from a cook) I have a soft spot for ducks. But there's no denying that duck has a deep savouriness that just cannot be found in a supermarket chicken or turkey. And sometimes my craving for that wonderful unctuous duckiness overcomes any sentimental feelings I may have about little fluffy yellow ducklings.

Easy Duck Rillettes
Succulent Duck Rillettes with my sister's Beetroot & Cranberry Preserve.
Plate by David Walters, my uncle, who made us each a name-stamped
side plate as a Christmas present. 
One of the best ways to appreciate the special deliciousness of duck is try confit duck leg. I always order this when I see it on restaurant menus, even though I know that this sublime dish - slow-seethed in its own fat until it melts into heart-stopping tenderness - will most likely shorten my life by several years.

Just before Christmas, I was pleased to find a fine locally produced duck (from Joostenbergvlakte) at a Chinese supermarket in Ottery for a paltry R80 (my local Spar sells them for around R125), so I seized it and took it home to cook.

A duck, even a good-sized one, doesn't have enough meat on it to give more than three or four people a square meal, so I decided to try to take off the legs (and the breasts, for good measure) and confit them, something I've never tried before. I scoured my cookbooks for an easy home recipe, and finally, after much page-flipping and head-scratching, followed the instructions given by Rick Stein in his recipe for Duck Confit with Braised Red Cabbage (from Rick Stein's French Odyssey; BBC Books, 2006)

The duck legs and breasts, post-confit, turned out beautifully, but were so modestly sized (puny, to be exact) that I decided to strip the flesh from the bones and turn them into rillettes.

'Rillettes' is a French word describing any fatty meat (usually pork and duck) that is slow-cooked to a tender shreddiness and packed, with a few judicious flavourings such as mace, pepper and thyme, into small dishes.  This may sound very Frenchified, but the method of packing meat into dishes is a very old English tradition: read more about this in my post about Potted Pork Belly with Mace and Pepper.

Now, you may be shaking your head and thinking: 'Duck confit? Not for me.'  Well, I concede that confit duck rillettes sounds like the sort of dish that only the ponciest and cheffiest chef would make, but I an assure you that this dish is not poncy at all. It may appear to be expensive too, considering that you don't get much more than two ramekins-full of rillettes from a whole duck, but - if you follow my instructions - you will end up with two fantastic by-products: a  delicious rich duck stock that you can freeze for future use in sauces and stews, and  lots of duck fat, which you can use to make excellent roast potatoes.

Most recipes for confit duck ask you for additional duck or goose fat, but as these aren't readily available in Cape Town, I've tailored this recipe to use the fat that comes out of your duck.

These duck rillettes are best served slightly cold (and by that, I mean that you take them out of the fridge half an hour before you serve them) with hot, crisp triangles of toast. A sharp, fruity preserve perfectly offsets the fattiness of the duck: I served these on Christmas Eve with a bottle of my sister Sophie's Beetroot and Cranberry Preserve (a Nigella recipe that she's promised to email me).

Easy Duck Rillettes
1 large duck, with plenty of fat, thawed
1 cup coarse (Kosher) salt
one large onion, quartered, skin and all
1 stick celery
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
a few large sprigs of fresh thyme
a few peppercorns
a little powdered mace, or finely grated nutmeg
milled black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Wipe the duck with a damp cloth and remove the giblets, if there are any (set these aside in the fridge to use in your stock). Cut the legs and the breasts off the duck as follows: place the duck, breast-side up, on a chopping board. With a very sharp knife, held parallel to the breastbone, slice off the breasts, skin and all, on both sides. Use long, sweeping strokes, and don't worry if you need to hack a little - you'd going to shred them after cooking anyway.  Turn the duck over, pull out the legs, and cut them off at the point where the thigh meets the backbone.  Here are some good instructions, with pictures, for cutting up a duck.

Trim every bit of visible cream-coloured fat off the legs and breasts, leaving the skin (and the fat under it) on, and set the pieces of fat aside. Sprinkle a little of the coarse salt in the bottom of a shallow dish that's just big enough to hold the two breasts and two legs in one tightly packed layer. Place the breasts and legs on the salt layer, skin-side up, and cover with the remaining salt, pressing it lightly into the skin. Put a saucer and a small weight on top and place in the fridge for six hours (but no longer, says Rick Stein, or the duck will be too salty).

In the meantime, roast the duck carcass to render its fat.  Arrange the onion, celery, carrot, one of the cloves of garlic and the sprigs of thyme in a bed on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the duck carcass on top, and to the pan add the pieces of duck fat you trimmed from the legs and breast. Cover the pan tightly with tin foil and bake at 160ºC for an hour and ten minutes. Now remove the tin foil and roast, uncovered, for another twenty minutes. Remove from the oven. Tilt the pan and, using a deep spoon or soup ladle, scoop the clear fat into a bowl: you should have between one and one-and-a-half cups of fat. Reserve a few tablespoons of the pan juices. (Don't throw out the duck carcass and vegetables: cover them with water, add all the usual stock ingredients, plus the reserved giblets, and simmer for an hour and a half. Strain, then refrigerate or freeze.)

Easy Duck Rillettes
Wipe the salt off the duck legs and breasts and rinse them quickly under cold running water to remove all the salt. Pat them dry and put them back into the dish. Pour the warm duck fat over them, pressing down so that they are completely submerged. Tuck another sprig of thyme, the remaining clove of garlic and the peppercorns inbetween the pieces.

Cover the dish with foil and bake at 160ºC for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and chill for 24 hours. Remove the duck legs and breasts from their fat. If the fat has started to solidify in the fridge, heat the dish gently in the microwave (or over a low flame) until it is just liquid.  Remove the duck pieces, and strain the fat in to a clean bowl. Keep the fat in a jar, in the fridge, for making roast potatoes.

Tear the skin off the duck pieces and discard. Pull the meat off the bones and place it in a heap on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, chop it into small pieces (or shred it, if you like). Season with milled black pepper, a little mace or nutmeg and, if you like, some fresh thyme leaves.  How highly, and with what, you flavour your rillettes is up to you: I think a whisper of mace and a bit of pepper is enough. You shouldn't need to add any salt.  Pack the duck into two ramekin dishes, and moisten with a few teaspoons of the pan juices you set aside earlier. Now spoon a little warm duck fat over each dish, so that the duck is just submerged. Press a sprig of thyme onto the top of the dish (I added some pretty fresh-sage flowers), cover with clingfilm and refrigerate.

Makes 2 ramekins; serves 4-6 as a snack.  Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday, 2 January 2011

My uncle's Smoked Franschhoek Trout with Hot Sesame Oil

I enjoyed many scrumptious feasts over the festive season, but none so splendid as this dish of smoked trout with hot sesame oil. It's not often you taste something so delicious that you feel giddy after the first bite, but here's a dish that made my mouth (and my knees) water. If you like sushi, you'll luurrve this.

My uncle's Smoked Franschhoek Trout with Hot Sesame Oil
My uncle David Walters insisted, on Christmas Eve, that I nip into his kitchen and watch him making what has become his signature dish, and I'm glad I did, because this is a real smasher of a recipe. I begged him to let me share it with you, and he kindly obliged.

Actually, it's such a simple idea that it can hardly be called a recipe. David, who is a master potter, and whose beautiful dinnerware I often feature on this blog, says he got the idea of pouring very hot sesame oil over smoked trout from his friend, chef Reuben Riffel, whose award-winning restaurant is a stone's throw from Dave's house and gallery in Franschhoek. The picture on the left shows Reuben with some of David's bespoke dinnerware.

(Note: Reuben's original recipe for Sesame and Olive Oil Seared Salmon appears in his book Reuben Cooks; Quivertree Press, 2008.)

David borrowed Reuben's idea and added his own clever embellishments, which you'll find listed below.

For this dish, David uses superb locally smoked trout - sometimes called 'salmon trout', and with the texture of excellent smoked salmon - but you could easily use any similar good quality smoked salmon.

Reuben RiffelThis recipe contains a large amount of red and black 'caviar', or lumpfish roe. Please don't be put off by either the ingredient or the quantity you see in the picture. Two members of my family who've never tried roe - and who swore they never would -  ate it with relish, and enjoyed the lovely popping of the little fish eggs so much that they're already demanding more. (You can, of course, leave it out if you face a family mutiny. But please trust me on this!)

I can't give you exact quantities, as I haven't made the dish myself, but here's how David did it.

Cut some good smoked salmon or trout (David used about 500 grams) into strips. David offers some specific instructions: 'You must use lightly smoked Three Streams trout from Franschhoek. Choose thick-cut pieces, without any white fatty streaks. Cut the trout at an angle, so you get long, wide ribbons. Arrange them on a platter made by David Walters. This is not optional!'

My uncle's Smoked Franschhoek Trout with Hot Sesame Oil
If you don't have a plate by David Walters, use a large, flat dish.

Now make your miso mix. Mix a little miso paste or concentrate (available at Oriental shops and at good delicatessans) in about 80 ml water. Consult the package for dilution instructions, or simply mix it to taste. If you can't find miso paste, leave it out.

Fill a metal soup ladle to about three quarters with sesame oil. Place the ladle directly over a gas flame, and heat until the oil is very, very hot, but not yet smoking furiously. (In other words, the oil will be shimmering and swirling, and just about to send up a wisp of smoke.)

If you don't have a gas hob, heat the oil in a small saucepan.

Trickle the hot oil all over the salmon; it will sizzle as it hits the surface of the fish, ever so slightly searing its surface.

Now, artistically please, add the following toppings to the salmon:
  • Miso diluted with a little water (see above)
  • A few tablespoons of Kikkoman soy sauce
  • Some very finely grated fresh ginger (about 4 tsp/20 ml, I would guess)
  • A little finely grated fresh garlic (two or three small cloves)
  • A little showering of black sesame seeds (use toasted white ones if you can't find black)
  • A handful of caperberries, or good capers
  • Large dollops of red lumpfish roe
  • Large dollops of black lumpfish roe
  • A good squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper, to taste (but go easy on the salt, as there's plenty of it in the miso and the soy sauce)
If you have some home-made mayonnaise (and I hope you do!), put little dabs of it all the way round the edge of the platter. David's home-made mayonnaise is flavoured with paprika.

Serve immediately, or allow to stand for up to an hour, at room temperature. This is lovely with a little side dish of pickled ginger and wasabi paste.  

Serves 6 as a generous starter; 8 as part of a buffet
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