Tahini and Blood Oranges Brownies on International Women’s Day

Firstly, I would like to wish you a happy International Women’s Day! I must admit I felt a sense of joy this morning, as I was exchanging text message greetings with my friends in Croatia. A feeling of sisterhood, if you like! :)

This day used to be widely celebrated in Croatia, in the days of communism, so yes, probably all over the former Yugoslavia. The 8 of March. Everybody knew the date, everybody knew what it was. I remember there being shows put on for mums in my primary school, and I remember shopping for presents for my mum and gifting her. One year when I was 7, I had to dress as a peacock and perform in my primary school, in front of all the mums, teachers and other kids. The costume painstakingly sown together by my mum, of course.

The fact that the day was widely celebrated doesn’t, unfortunately, mean there is no discrimination of women in my home country. Croatia is still in large parts a patriarchal society, it pains me to say. Now that we’re a Catholic country, we no longer celebrate the 8th of March. There’s Mother’s Day (in May?), but Women’s Day is not celebrated in the same way.

I remember a particular scene from Ugo Betti’s poignant play ‘Il delitto all’isola delle capre’ (‘The Crime on the Goats’ Island’) where a daughter tells her mother how perfect she thought she was, how strong, standing there proud and tall, with the sun rays in her hair. (It sounds much better in Italian, I promise, though I can’t remember the exact quote now.) And the mother responds by asking whether she ever wondered how she really felt, what she really thought, standing there, proud and tall, with the sun rays in her hair. Mothers are women, too, no? People. Humans. Not defined by this one thing only.

So happy Women’s Day! And if you’re a woman, don’t let anyone anywhere ever tell you that you are inferior to a man because you’re a woman.

Tahini brownies

As soon as I saw tahini brownies over at Joumana’s, I just had to make them! And I did, within minutes of seeing the recipe. This is probably the fastest I’ve ever made a recipe after seeing it! Seen, made, eaten, photographed. A personal record. :D

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While photographing these brownies, I discovered that my under cupboard lights are perfect for food photography, soft and warm. It was like having a mini-studio! These were also the first food photos I shot in the fully manual mode, so a little milestone for me! Previously, I used aperture priority control, but this is much better! That’s my red splash back that you can see in the background in the photo below.

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And what were they like? Perfect! Fudgy and crumbly, with a haunting nutty sesame flavour. The recipe calls for orange juice, and I used the juice of blood oranges, which have an ever-so slightly bitter, berry like flavour, less acidic than regular oranges. It worked a treat, and the end result had a fairly complex, bewitching flavour and gorgeously soft and fudgy texture. And did you know they are vegan?!

 

Tahini & Blood Orange Brownies

 

SOURCE: Maryline via Joumana

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 20 min

CUISINE: Unknown

SERVES: 6 – 8

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100 g of good quality dark chocolate, preferably 70% cocoa
  • 150 g of tahini (don’t forget to stir the jar before pouring)
  • 150 g of plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp of baking powder
  • 120 – 150 g of icing sugar (150 makes it fairly sweet, it’s up to you!)
  • 150 g of freshly squeezed juice of blood oranges, around 3 medium but juicy oranges. (Joumana says you can also use a combination of rum and orange juice)
  • Pinch of salt (optional, but I like adding it to cakes)
  • Baking parchment for lining the tin (Joumana recommends it, and I agree. The brownies are very sticky!)

 

METHOD:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C, cut the baking parchment to fit your tin. I used a round, 25 cm tin.
  2. Break the chocolate into small, even pieces and put it in a large pyrex bow. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, or over a bowl  of hot water. Either way, use low heat.
  3. Mix in the tahini and orange juice, add the icing sugar, and combine thoroughly.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold thoroughly.
  5. Line your baking tin with parchment, and pour the batter, spreading it as evenly as possible with a spatula. Bake the brownies for 20 min. Serve warm or cold, and enjoy!

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NOTES: They are gorgeous! Possibly even better than my previous Spedilicious Brownies!

Next time, I’ll use less sugar, as 150 g was a bit too sweet for me. Also, I’ll try using different nut butters. Almond springs to mind! Hey, we can even try using white chocolate instead! How about white chocolate, almond butter and lemon juice (diluted with water), with pistachios? The creative possibilities are endless!

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I know there’s not much difference between the these two photos, but I just couldn’t decide which one I prefer. What you think?

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Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry

We’re continuing on the fragrant Sri Lankan curry leaf trail. Next stop: a gorgeous pineapple curry. Hot, sweet and sour, permeated with the addictive fragrance of curry leaves.

The trick is to cut pineapple into medium chunks, and warm them through gently, taking care not to overcook them. In this way, as you bite into the pineapple pieces, fresh juice oozes out, delicious and tart.

The photo below was taken by my friend A.

 Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry

Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry

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SOURCE: Jasmine

PREPARATION TIME: about 15 min

COOKING TIME: 3- 5 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish

 

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced OR two small shallots, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

a handful of curry leaves

1 dsp Sri Lankan chilli powder (or less if you prefer less heat)

1/2 large pineapple, chopped into 2 cm chunks

 

METHOD:

1. Prepare your ingredients first, as the cooking happens in quick succession. Chop the pineapple, slice the onions, get everything ready.

2. Time to start cooking! Heat some oil, in a wok or a wide pan, on medium high heat. Add mustard seeds to hot oil, and when they pop, the onion and the curry leaves. Cook until the onion is soft.

3. Next, add the chilli powder, and fry for about 30 s or so.

4. Add the pineapple, and stir fry for a few minutes, taking care not to overcook it. You just want to heat the pineapple through and coat it with the spicy mixture.

Serve this side dish as a part of a larger meal, Sri Lankan, or even Indian. I even served it with a Thai red curry once, and it worked really well.

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 More Sri Lankan Food at Maninas: 

 The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut (V)

Sri Lankan coconut dhal (V)

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

Sri Lankan Fish Curry (Meen kulambu)

 

 

 Weekend Herb Blogging 

This is my entry for this week’s WHB, hosted by Huan from Eat.Read.Live.

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Broccoli and basil pesto with capers, red chilli & anchovies pasta

Some of my most creative creations come from – clearing out the fridge! When there’s not much in it, and I’m forced to get the best out of what we’ve got. On this occasion, I came up with a delicious pesto of basil and pine nuts with capers, red chilli and anchovies! You’ll notice there’s no cheese in this pesto – we certainly didn’t miss it. The sauce was tossed with steamed broccoli and pasta. I think it would have worked really well with braised kale or cavolo nero, too.

It was loosely inspired by Italian anchovy and caper combination, and by our great love of pesto!

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This is a pretty flexible recipe, and I’m giving he quantities more as guidelines than gospel! If you like it nuttier and creamier, add more pine nuts. If you want it herbier, more basil. The consistency will depend on how much olive oil you put in, etc. You can also omit the chilli if you wish, but I like the little extra kick.

This sauce takes no time to make, and it’s a fantastic weekly dinner. WHB 4 years.jpg

This week I’m hosting WHB, and this is my entry: broccoli and basil pesto with capers and anchovies pasta!

 

 

 

.This is the photo from the current header, btw:

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broccoli and basil pesto with capers

 and anchovies pasta!

 

SOURCE:  Own recipe

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: 10 – 15 min (depending on pasta)

CUISINE: Italian-inspired

SERVES: 2

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the pesto:

A good handful of basil

a pinch of coarse sea salt

2 – 3 tbsp pine nuts

1 small garlic clove (optional)

1 small red chilli

1 tbsp capers

1 – 2 anchovies

extra virgin olive oil

For the pasta:

1/2 head of large broccoli (or more if you really like broccoli!)

enough pasta for two

 

METHOD:

1. Boil a large pot of water and add pasta. I put a Chinese steamer on top of the same pot and the broccoli in it, but you can cook the broccoli as you prefer – in another pot, in the microwave, etc.

2. While the pasta and the broccoli is cooking, I make my pesto. Toast the pine nuts in a medium hot pan until they start getting a little oily and golden, tossing them in the pan, or stirring. Watch them, they burn easily. When they’re done, take them out of the pan and put them in a bowl. This is important, they’ll burn if you leave them in the pan while you get a start with the basil.

3. Put the salt and the basil in your pestle and mortar if you’re using one (the coarse salt helps crush the basil, but it’s not essential, of course). Make a paste out of the basil, and then add the other ingredients, one by one. Add the capers and the anchovies towards the end, so you can adjust quantities, and add more if you wish. Olive oil comes last – add as much as you want to achieve a desired consistency.

4. Toss the pasta with the pesto, and then mix in the broccoli. Enjoy!

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Celeriac soup

Eating seasonally, and especially shopping at my favourite farmers’ market, has opened up to me new horizons when it comes to varieties of fruit and veg available here in Britain. It would have been so easy sticking to my favourites. And oh so dull! I would have never fallen in love with kale, or got into the whole pumpkin thing. But I ventured out of my vegetable comfort zone and decided to challenge my tastes and explore the seasons. This is how I faced this delicious monster – the celeriac, or celery root (which is basically what it is). I don’t have a picture, but take a look here, or here and you’ll see what I mean. It certainly wouldn’t win the vegetable beauty contest, to put it charitably. Some say ‘ugly duckling of the vegetable world’, but it’s more of a Quasimodo of the vegetable world, if you ask me. Nevertheless, this hideous exterior hides delicately flavoured and silky interior very similar to fennel in flavour, but slightly nuttier. It can be eaten raw, roasted, mashed or turned into a soup. Its crunchy silky flesh is excellent in salads, for example. I even sautéed it with garlic and olive oil, and had it with pasta, sprinkled with some parmesan. Delicious, I tell you! But still, my favourite way so far is a celeriac soup. That’s actually how I had it one of the first times I tried it. It was in a lovely delicate soup that I’ve since wanted to recreate at home. And I did. Tonight. So here’s the recipe, and my entry for Eating with the Seasons: February.

 

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 Celeriac Soup

 

 SOURCE:  inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: about 20 min

CUISINE: British?

SERVES: 3 – 4

 

 INGREDIENTS:

1 celeriac, peeled and chopped, weighing about 1 kg

chicken stock, enough to cover the celeriac

1 bay leaf

1 bouquet garni (or a few sprigs of thyme)

1 tsp olive oil

one tsp butter

a handful of almonds and hazelnuts

2 leeks, chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

150 ml of crème fraiche, or to taste

1/2 tsp chili powder, optional

a handful of grated parmesan

a pinch of nutmeg, optional

 

METHOD:

I. First, bring the celeriac to boil with the stock and the herbs. Cook until soft.

II. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a pan, and add the nuts, garlic and leek. Sauté until the leeks are soft, and the nuts are starting to brown a bit. Remove from the heat when done.

III. Puree the celeriac and the leek mixture until silky and smooth. Add the chili powder and nutmeg, if using, and the crème fraiche. I’d start by adding a few tablespoons at a time and then tasting it to see what it’s like. Stop when you think it’s enough. I like it mildly sour from the crème fraiche, but still with the strong celeriac flavour.  Just before serving, mix in some grated parmesan and stir. Put a bit more on top, for a good measure, and enjoy with some lovely bread.

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Other soup recipes at Maninas:

Creamy carrot soup with rose harissa

Dalmatian fish soup

Fragrant and aromatic salmon soup with noodles

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Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut

This gorgeous Sri Lankan vegetable side dish is the dish that made me love both leek and cabbage! It magically transforms the everyday common leek and cabbage a real star of a dish. The vegetables are gently stir-fried with onion, chilies and curry leaves, tossed with fresh or desiccated grated coconut, and livened up with a squeeze of lime. Quick to make and utterly delicious! I love it!

Any green veg can be used in this dish (e.g. spring onion, baby leek, other types of cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower), except for spinach and pak choi and other vegetables with high water content. This dish goes really well with fish, or with coconut dal (recipe coming soon) for a vegetarian version.

Even if you can’t find curry leaves, it’s worth giving this dish a go as the flavour combinations are so good. Enjoy!

This my entry for the Eating with the Seasons: January

 

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Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and

leek with coconut

 

SOURCEJasmine’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish

 

INGREDIENTS:

a little vegetable oil

1/2 medium to large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 – 3 green chilies (Jasmine uses finger chilies)

a handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

a little salt

1 tsp tempering spices (a mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

a pinch of turmeric

2 medium leeks, shredded finely

a handful of desiccated  coconut

fresh lime juice to taste

1/2 medium cabbage, shredded finely

 

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok (or frying pan) and add onion, chilies curry leaves and a little salt. Stir and cook until the onion is soft.
  • Now add the tempering spices and turmeric. Stir.
  • Add cabbage and leek and stir for a few minutes, until the cabbage is slightly soft but still crunchy. Do not overcook the vegetables! That’s the secret behind this dish.
  • When the veg is done, add desiccated coconut and stir for a minute or so.
  • Just before serving, add lime juice and some salt if needed. Enjoy!

 

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My other posts on Sri Lankan cooking:

The aroma of curry leaves. Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

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