Kitchen Notes: Building flavour and a warm salad

Rosemary

I think of flavours in terms of tones, going from earthy and sweet to sour and light, and various grades in between. And I like my food to have a range of tones of flavours, be multidimensional. I know it may seem strange to talk of food in such terms, but somehow it makes sense. A garnish of certain fresh herbs on a meaty stew or curry.  A squeeze of lemon or lime or a drizzle of brightly-flavoured extra virgin oil on pasta or salad lift that dish to more interesting heights. I also often use fresh chillies to give that uplift. I mix raw and cooked, grains and brightly flavoured vegetables, add the afore mentioned flourishes in order to achieve these tastes. They rock my boat, they just do it for me.

I’m inspired by South East Asian soups and noodle dishes, and by Ottolenghi salads, and think of them in the above terms. Or perhaps I like them so much in the first place because they fit my bill.

Tonight, I set to building a warm salad and finishing off bits and pieces from my fridge and pantry. Some new potatoes, and yellow and orange carrots are on my counter. I remember how much I like rosemary with anchovy on pizza, and think I can approach those flavours with a combination of rosemary and tuna.

5 small new potatoes washed and cut up into chunks, 2 yellow and 2 orange carrots washed and peeled, cut up into chunks, 5 small shallots peeled and quartered – all drizzled with some olive oil, chilli flakes, pepper and salt, roasted for 20 min. They’re coked, but can take some more caramelisation. Then I deseed 2 long chillies, chop them into pieces and add them to the roasting tray in the oven. After a few minutes, they’re joined by two sliced cloves of garlic and 2 small sprigs of rosemary, chopped. I roast them for a few more minutes. (I like flavours of garlic and chilli with roasted or sautéed veg, and add them towards the end, as they burn quickly.) Then I take the dish out of the oven and mix in a can of butter beans and tinned tuna. I taste the dish, but something is missing. I need to go a little higher in tone. Parsley would be great but I have none left. Instead, a little more rosemary and a drizzle of brightly green flavoured extra virgin olive oil complete the dish. Now I’m happy. I have a great dinner, and an interesting lunch for work.

The best carrot soup ever!

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 Farmers’ market finds

 

Creamy. Gently spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Cooled with a hint of mint. Fired up with some spicy, garlicky rose harissa. – In short, the best carrot soup ever! 

The basic carrot soup recipes comes from the 1977 edition of ‘Mousewood Cookbook’ via Slashfood. I increased the amount of spices, and added the rose harissa and the cheese. Also, I used a mixture of butter and olive oil to cook the onions, because I really like the flavour of this combination. But it’s the harissa that’s the star of the show. It really does transfer the soup to another dimension and gives it soul! Gutsy, interesting, inviting soul. It makes it hot, garlicky, moreish. Rather funky for a carrot soup! I loved it!

Here is something you could do if you don’t have the harissa (I used the Belazu brand.). It’s basically a simple tarka or bhagar with garlic and chilies. Heat some oil and add dried red chilies. Fry for a 10 – 15 second, but be careful not to burn the chilies. Then add the chopped garlic. Remove from the heat and let sizzle. Stir into the soup. – Although it doesn’t reach the complexity of the flavour of a good quality rose harissa, the chili and garlic really do take the soup to an entirely different level.

I found this great website about British carrots. Check it out for some fantastic carrot recipes and fascinating facts.

This is my entry for Eating with the Seasons: DECEMBER. Join me and send me your seasonal recipes by 15 December!

These days, I have very little time to cook, or to take photographs. Or live for that matter! I miss my blog and reading other blogs… A couple of more weeks and I should be back to normal… Fingers crossed.

UPDATE 15/12/2008: I made it with pumkin tonight (and milk instead of yoghurt). It was lovely and creamy. It worked great, too!

And now the famous soup:  

 

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Creamy carrot soup with rose

 harissa

 

SOURCE: the basic carrot soup recipe is from ‘Mousewood Cookbook’ (1977), via

Slashfood

PREPARATION TIME:10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 30 – 40 min

CUISINE: ?

SERVES: 2 (generously)

 

INGREDIENTS:

0.5 kg carrots, peeled and chopped

water

chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tbsp butter

1/2 large yellow onion

3 small cloves of garlic

a small handful of almonds and cashews

1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp dried mint

75 ml single cream (or less, according to taste)*

2 tsp rose harissa

salt and pepper

a handful of grated cheese (I used Double Gloucester)

 

METHOD:

I. Cover the carrots with water and  stock and boil until tender.

II. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a pan, then add the onion and a pinch of  salt. (The salt will draw out the moisture from the onion and make it cook more quickly). Add chopped garlic and nuts and saute until the onion is soft. When the onion is soft, add nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 5 – 10 seconds to give time to the spices to release their flavours. Stir in the mint.

III. Put the onion mixture and carrots into the food processor and blend until smooth. (It’s easier to blend if you retain some cooking water and add it to the soup later on as necessary.)

IV. Return the vegetable puree to the pan, add cream and check for salt. Add water to achieve desired consistency. Stir in the rose harissa and the black pepper and heat through.

V. Fold in some cheese into the soup, and sprinkle the rest on top. Add another pinch of freshly ground black pepper and serve. Enjoy! 

Serves two generously for a hearty lunch or dinner.

 

 

Verdict

This is the best soup I’ve ever made, and one of the best ones I’ve ever had. How’s that for a verdict? :)

 

NOTES

*You can also use milk instead of cream. The soup is already rather rich because of the addition of nuts and cheese.

The soup lends itself to lots of variations. For example, you can use different types of nuts to add richness. Different dairy products instead of cream. You can also play with different spice combinations.

Also, I really like the idea of adding a tarka to perk up the flavours of soups! 

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Other soups at Maninas:

Dalmatian fish soup

Fragrant and aromatic salmon soup with noodles

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My Morrocan-inspired chickpeas

Addicted to chickpeas? Who me? No…. OK maybe a little bit…. OK maybe a bit more…. :)

Here’s a confession: I played with chickpeas and my spice rack once more! And let me tell you, it was delicious! positively yummilicious! Which is why I’m sharing the recipe with you! But let’s not waste time! Here’s the recipe!

 

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My Morrocan-inspired Chickpeas

 

SOURCE: momentary inspiration, own recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME:  30 – 45 min (not sure)

SERVES: 2 – 3

CUISINE: Morrocan-inspired

 

INGREDIENTS

 

1 tbsp cumin seeds 

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1.5 cm ginger

3 small carrots

2 tsp crushed red chilies

1 tbsp ghee (or vegetable oil)

 

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ras el hanout

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp cayenne pepper

40 g harissa

a little water

salt and pepper

 

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

 

2 cans of chickpeas (East End is my favourite brand at the moment)

 

a small handful of raisins

 

METHOD

 

1. First, toast the cumin seeds until they start to release their aroma. When done, take them out of the pan and leave to cool. Crush them with pestle and mortar and set aside.

2. Now melt the ghee and fry the onions until golden.

3. Add ginger, garlic and carrots. Continue frying until the onions are brown.

4. Add the spices, including half the cumin, and fry for a minute. Then, add the harissa and fry for a few minutes again. Add a little water if necessary.

5. Add the tomatoes and cook until the fat starts to separate, and little specks of ghee appear on the surface of the sauce. The onions will have almost melted, and you will get a thick spicy paste. At this stage, adjust the spices according to your taste. Add a bit more of what you think necessary.

6. Add the chickpeas to the mixture and stir, adding a little water if necessary.

At this stage, I put the rice to boil, so I must have cooked them for another 10 minutes at least.

7. 5 minutes before the end stir in the raisins. At the end, stir in the rest of crushed cumin seeds.

Serve with couscouos or rice.

 

 

Verdict

Loved it! And would make it again! It was spicy though (with all the cayenne, crushed chilies, harissa…), so adjust the level of heat according to how hot you like it/can take it! :) The lemon in the harissa gave it a lovely sour tang, which went well with the earthiness of the cumin stirred in at the end. Also, I loved the contrast between the structures of chickpeas, carrot and raisin. Speaking of carrots, I could have done with more carrot in the stew, so add some more if you wish. Add a bit more garlic, too.

I was going to serve it with a garnish of friend onions and garlic on top, but had no time. Try it, if you want!

You can have it as a vegetarian main course, and even as a side dish. Make loads and take leftover to work for lunch!

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Other chickpeas recipes at Maninas: Food Matters:

Chana Masala V

Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds  V – my addaptation of Melissa’s recipe

Another twist on Catalan Chickpeas V

 

Warm Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Goats’ Cheese

I am submitting this delicious Warm Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Goats’ Cheese for the next Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anna from Anna’s Cool Finds. This delicious salad is flavoured with thyme and bay leaf.  Both of these herbs are common in Croatian cooking.

Thyme grows wild in the small pine wood behind my house in Dalmatia. It is tiny, and has small pretty, purple flowers that have an amazing fragrance. That’s how I think of thyme. It’s called majcina dusica (pronounced ‘maytchina dushitsa’ in English), and it means  ‘mother’s little soul’, but it could be loosely (very loosely) translated as ‘mother’s little honey’. I’m not sure about the etymology of the name, and I couldn’t find anything about it one the Internet. The leaves are used in cooking, or for making tea. (I also know a wicked joke linked to majcina dusica, but I better give it a miss here! Anyhow, it doesn’t work very well in English.)  

This lovely salad can be served at buffets and parties, and it also makes a great lunch. IT can be made vegan by omitting the goats cheese. We had it for dinner with some crusty bread, and it was fantastic! Check the verdict section for more info on what we thought about it. The recipe is below!

IMG_6591
 

Warm Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Goats’ Cheese

 

SOURCE: Delia Smith’s Winter Collection

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 min

COOKING TIME: 20 – 30 min

SERVES: 4

Ingredients

8 oz (225 g) Puy lentils (green or brown variety will work just as well)
1½ oz (40 g) walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the dressing:

2 crottin goats’ cheese or 4 oz (110 g) of any other firm goats’ cheese
1 fat clove garlic, peeled
1 level teaspoon sea salt
1 rounded teaspoon powdered mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 oz (30 g) rocket leaves
freshly milled black pepper

METHOD

First you need to cook the lentils. To do this, heat the oil in a medium saucepan and when it’s hot, lightly fry the chopped walnuts for about 1 minute. Then remove them with a draining spoon to a plate and keep them aside for later.

Now to the oil left in the pan, add the onion and crushed garlic and let these cook and soften for about 5 minutes. After that, stir in the lentils, bay leaf and thyme and make sure they all get a good coating with oil. Next add 10 fl oz (275 ml) of boiling water, but don’t add any salt – just put a lid on, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and let the lentils cook for 30-40 minutes or until they’re tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. You really need to bite one to test if they’re done.

While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the dressing. Use a pestle and mortar and crush the garlic with the salt until it’s creamy, then add the mustard and work that into the garlic paste. After that, whisk in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the oils. Then season well with freshly milled black pepper.

As soon as the lentils are cooked, add salt to taste. Empty them into a warm serving bowl and while they’re still hot, pour the dressing over. Give everything a good toss and stir, then crumble the goats’ cheese all over and add the rocket leaves, torn in half. Give everything one more toss and stir, and serve straight away with the walnuts scattered over.

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Verdict

Delicious combination of different structures and flavours! Crunchy walnuts and salad leaves created a great contrast with creamy goats’ cheese and lentils. I loved the slightly sour notes of the balsamic vinegar combined with lentils, cheese and aromatic thyme and bay leaf. We will definitely have it again!

While the lentils were cooking, they were oozing delicious aromas. I tasted them, and they were gorgeous! We could have stopped cooking there and then, and had the lentils cooked with onion and herb only! I suggest you do the same!

We enjoyed the dressing, too, and we might use it again with different salads.

All in all, thumbs up for good old Delia! :)

Notes

We didn’t add rocket to the salad, but served the lentils on a bed of salad. Also, we used green lentils instead of Puy lentils, and soft goats’ cheese instead of hard goats’ cheese (hence the photos). This added extra creaminess to the structure, and the flavour of cheese permeated the whole salad. The result was very very rich in flavour. Next time we will try and use hard goats’ cheese, as suggested by Delia, to add more variety of flavour into different bites of the dish!

What I would do differently next time

This is only a tentative suggestion. I thought the walnuts were a little oily and turned out soft, and am thinking of either dry-roasting them next time, or not roasting them at all, to add more crunch to the texture. I will try frying them for less time, too. I think I might have done more than a minute this time.

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Random update:  have just realised this is my 50th post! :)

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Other lentil and goats’ cheese recipes in the blogosphere:

Donna Hay’s Lentil and goats’ cheese tarts at Other people’s food

Bulgur and Lentil Salad with Tarragon, Almonds, and Goat Cheese at Savoury and Sweet

Spinach Salad with Lentils and Crisp Warm Goat Cheese at Serious Eats

Lentil Salad with Mint and Goat Cheese at Better Bites

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Chana Masala

In a previous post I spoke about my food being connected to people I know, and the places I’ve been to. This is true for this Chana Masala, too. I ‘inheritted’ a box of chana masala spice mix of my friend Mary. Mary is an American artist embroiderer whom I had a pleasure to meet in Oxford, UK; her work and musings on art can be found in her blog Stabbed. Now Mary is not only responsible for introducing this masala into my kitchen, but she is also the person who encouraged me to start blogging. I’d been reading other blogs for a while, and toying with the idea, but it was Mary who swayed me in this direction. I guess all of this is her fault, he he!

Chana Masala or Chole Masala is a North Indian dish, especially popular in the Punjab region. It’s main ingredient is chana, or chickpeas, which is cooked with onions, garlic, chilies, ginger and tomatoes; and spiced with turmeric, coriander, garam masala and dried mango powder; it is also possible to buy ready-made spice mix. Chana masala is normally eaten with roti (chapati) or rice, and yogurt. In India, it is often accompanied with bhatura, or chole bhature , a type of fried bread.

To find out more about Punjabi cuisine, check Richa’s excellent post at As Dear As Salt. The post is a part of the Regional Cuisines of India (RCI) blogging event, which is hosted by Richa this month, and the theme is Punjabi cuisine. RCI was started by Lakshmi, to celebrate the rich and diverse cuisines of India, and is hosted by a different blogger each month. I think this event is a fantastic idea, because not only does it encourage us to explore the many varieties of regional Indian food, but the round-ups also provide excellent resources of information and recipes! Here is the list of events yet to come, and here is the list of the RCIs held up to date:

APRILTamil cuisineIntroduction & Round-up at Veggie Cuisine

MAY – Andhra cuisineIntroduction & Round-up at Masala Magic

JUNE – Maharastrian cuisineIntroduction & Round-up Part One (snacks and light meals, street food, and rustic ), Two (complete meals or jevan; spice mixes or masale; powders, chutneys or pickles; salads; dried or curried vegetables, beverages)  and Three (dals and beans, eggs and meat; breads; rice dishes; sweets) at One Hot Stove

JULY – Punjabi cuisineIntroduction & Round-up at As Dear As Salt

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Next month, RCI is featuring Oriya cuisine, hosted by Swapna.  (For more information on Oriya cuisine, look at Wikipedia, 123Orissa and Orissa Diary.)

This month, I’m also joining in in the exploration of regional Indian cuisine, and I’m submitting this post to Richa. If you’d alo like to take part, check this website for Punjabi recipes and inspiration!

Do try and make this delicious North Indian dish! If you don’t have the masala, you can still make this! Scroll down for a list of link to recipes that don’t use the masala.

I have no camera today, so there is no photo – for now. I’ll take a picture next time I make it, and upload it here.

 

Update 16 October 2007

Here is a photo of chana masala! Since this post, I made it a few times. One time, I added slices of fresh tomato to the cooked dish, which made it wonderfully fresh and tomatoy!

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Chana Masala

 

SOURCE: adapted from the recipe at the back of the MDH chana masala box

PREPARATION TIME: Less than 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 30 min

CUISINE: North Indian (Punjabi)

 

INGREDIENTS

ghee or vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic

2 green chilies

2 cm ginger

3 chopped tomatoes

1 can chick peas

20 g chana masala (I used MDH brand)

a little paprika

a pinch of cumin

 

METHOD

1. Fry the onions until they start turning golden. Then add garlic, chilies and ginger, and continue frying until the onions are brown.

2. Add tomatoes, the masala, and the other spices. Cook for a few minutes, and then add chickpeas. Cook for a further 10 min.

3. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice and yogurt. Say yuuuuuum!

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Verdict:

This dish was delicious, and very easy to make. I shall definitely be making it again! Thank you, Mary!

I served it with my first attempt at making chapati, which is nothing to write about! I shall have to work on perfecting my chapati technique (a lot), and then I’ll share it with you!

 

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Other chana masala recipes:

Nabeela’s Chana Masala without the shop bought spice mix

Chana masala from Lisa’s Kitchen

How to make your own chana masala powder

Mahanandi’s Chana Masala

Meena’s Chana Masala, and a lesson on legumes

Another Meena’s Chana Masala, garnished with a funny story

Barbara’s Channa Masala

Sailu’s Chole Masala with Puri

Anita’s Punjabi Chhole

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 Other recipes with chick peas at Maninas:

My version of Catalan chick peas with tomatoes and almonds . V

This is a must-try, with its delicious flavours of saffron, garlic, tomatoes, almonds and coriander!

My Moroccan-inspired chickpeas  V

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