Warm Chicken Noodle Salad with a Spicy Tahini Sauce

warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauceThis time last week, I was getting ready to meet fellow blogger, Elaine Boddy of foodbod at Borough Market. We hadn’t met before but within minutes of meeting I felt that I had always known her. She asked a young woman to take a photo of us, cautioning her not to run off with her phone – I just knew we would get on! We had  a cuppa and a natter to begin with and then started our meander round the market, stopping to take pictures and exclaim over the produce. We sampled and tasted all sorts of delicious morsels, had a cheese tasting at Neal’s Yard Dairy and then shared a delicious Indian dosa and spicy chickpeas from Horn OK Please and also a fantastic Lebanese mezze from The Arabica Food and Spice Company. All the while we did not stop talking! It was a wonderful day and I can’t wait to do it again – very soon. warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauce   warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauce After Elaine left to catch her train home, I suddenly realised that I did not have anything for dinner. I went back  in and bought a lovely chicken which I roasted with potatoes and parsnips knowing full well that there would be lovely left overs for later in the week. The sauce for this Warm Chicken Noodle Salad is absolutely gorgeous! It is nutty, spicy, sour, sweet and so moreish! Please do adjust the piquancy of the sauce to your palate. If tahini is not something you buy, use peanut butter in its place but do make a note to get a jar – it is a fabulous ingredient.

warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauce

Spicy Tahini Sauce

This would also work well with other types of oriental noodles like soba, udon, rice and vermicelli. Just please, don’t overcook them. You could also boost the vegetable content of the salad by including shredded carrots and finely sliced green beans. warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauce If you don’t have any cooked chicken knocking about,  poach a couple of chicken breasts in a vaguely oriental stock – add things like a dash of soy sauce, a star anise, a few slices of ginger etc to the water to infuse a little extra flavour into the chicken. The trick to poaching is not to let the water boil once the protein is in it- keep it barely simmering. Check the breasts after ten minutes by slicing the thickest part with a sharp knife. Pop it back in if it needs a few more minutes otherwise, shred when cool enough to handle. (Sliced or shredded poached chicken breasts are great to have in the freezer to speed up after work/school meals. Just sayin’…) warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauce

Warm Chicken Noodle Salad with a Spicy Tahini Sauce

  • Servings: two generously
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Easy Cold Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken by Yasmin Fahr on Serious Eats INGREDIENTS

  • 400g fresh egg noodles
  • 300g cooked, shredded chicken (or lower a couple of chicken breasts into a pan of simmering water to which you have added some star anise, a few slices of ginger and a dash of soy sauce;  poach for 10 minutes in barely simmering water. Drain, let cool slightly and shred)
  • 100g shredded cabbage (not Savoy or the red ones – you can use Chinese, Bok Choy, Sweetheart etc.)
  • 50g bean sprouts
  • 6 stalks of chopped coriander leaves
  • 6 stalks of chopped mint leaves
  • a handful of roasted and salted peanuts
  • 2 lime wedges

For the sauce

  • ¼ c tahini sauce (mix it up really well if has separated in the jar, before measuring out)
  • 2 Tbsp soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar/white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sweet chilli dipping sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (I used pumpkin seed oil)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Put the kettle on to boil.
  2. If you are poaching chicken, now is the time to do it.
  3. Make the sauce by whisking all the ingredients together. Taste and adjust the sweet, savoury, salty, spicy and sour balance to to your taste. Taste it again before you serve as the flavours develop a little as it sits.
  4. Crush the peanuts coarsely (in a pestle and mortar; or place on a chopping board; cover with baking paper/cling film and go over with a rolling pin; or place in a plastic bag and bash gently with a rolling pin or bottom of a sturdy glass).
  5. Pour the water from the kettle into a saucepan and let it come to the boil again. Add a little salt to the water and drop in the shredded cabbage. Blanch for one minute then add the egg noodles for one minute. Set a timer – there’s nothing worse than soggy noodles!
  6. Drain the noodles and the cabbage and mix with the bean sprouts and the shredded chicken.
  7. Arrange on two plates. Top with 2 or 3 spoonfuls of the sauce; sprinkle over the coriander and mint leaves and finish with a spoonful of crushed peanuts.
  8. Squeeze over the lime wedges and eat immediately. Keep the sauce to hand and pass round as needed – you will want more!

Copyright – © Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

warm-chicken-noodle-salad-with-spicy-tahini-sauce

Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Rosemary

chicken-mac-n-cheeseI suffered with fairly severe eczema and asthma as a child and of course, it was ALL triggered by food. The list of foods I could not eat included ice-cream (the cold set off my wheezing – imagine living in Nairobi and not being able to enjoy the icy creations from  Snow Queen!), cold drinks, fish, shellfish, oranges and passion fruit. I am not sure how scientific any of this was but it was what my mother and I felt set off a bout of up-all-night-wheezing or scratching. While she sat up with me holding my hand through another breathless night, we would discuss what I had eaten that could have triggered it off.  The list grew quite lengthy. For some reason, left-overs were deemed to be a culprit too, so all my food was freshly prepared.

Today, left-overs are something that I practically plan for – they speed up after-work cooking and stretch the food budget without any hint of parsimony. My favourite is left-over roast chicken. No matter how I have cooked it, I always strip what is left on the carcass while it is still warm as this yields the most flesh. I also break up the bones for a simple stock that I start for an hour or two on the Sunday evening or pop the bones into a freezer bag for another time. And I save all the cooking juices, gravy and vegetables. Favourite left-over chicken meals include risotto with any left-overs being made into oven baked  arancini the following day which we have with a spicy tomato sauce and a rocket salad; there are pot pies in the winter and pasta salads in the summer, also soups, green curries and stir fries. Left over roast chicken is one of my favourite ingredients!!  (And just in case you are wondering – when we moved to Winnipeg all my allergies disappeared completely, only to return when I moved to London. Today if anything flares up it is usually due to stress or damp.)

chicken-mac-n-cheese

At the weekend I made my version of this braised spatchcock chicken which left me with a lot of gorgeous pan  juices as well as about half a chicken. For quite some time, I have been meaning to try  this chicken lasagne recipe. But when I read it through again, it seemed very heavy on the cheese and in any case, I didn’t have any lasagne sheets but I did have a packet of macaroni pasta. So my Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese evolved and I have to say that it was absolutely lovely; total comfort food with not too much fuss.

chicken-mac-n-cheese

If you are starting from scratch, without any pre-cooked chicken or pan juices, I would suggest braise roasting  3 or 4 chicken thighs while you make the béchamel. All instructions below.

chicken-mac-n-cheese

Chicken Mac 'n' Cheese with Rosemary

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the braise roasted chicken:

  • 3 or 4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 2 banana shallots
  • 4 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • ¼ c of  black olives – I leave the pits in and warn everyone
  • 150ml of a dry white wine
  • 250ml stock or water with a stock cube mixed in (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Or if you are using left-overs:

  • 250 g cooked and shredded chicken
  • 200 ml of pan juices  

Plus:

  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 250 g macaroni or elbow pasta
  • 20g grated parmesan cheese.

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • 60g butter
  • 60 g flour
  • 700ml/3 cups milk
  • ⅓ of a nutmeg
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 heaped Tbsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • 200g grated cheddar cheese separated into 150g and 50g – just eyeball it!
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.

MAKE THE BRAISE ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS

  1. Slice shallots into long half moons and sauté gently in a pan with a little olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the whole garlic cloves, the chicken thighs, the anchovies and the olives; stir it around, letting it all get a little caramelised – about 7 or 8 minutes. The anchovies will dissolve and add a deep savoury note to the pan juices. Remove the chicken to a plate. Deglaze pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom.
  2. Place rosemary stalks in a snug fitting roasting dish and scrape in the savoury shallot/garlic/anchovy/olive mix over them. Nestle the chicken thighs on top and squeeze over the lemon juice and pour round the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove rosemary stalks and discard. Remove chicken from the pan juices and leave on plate until cool enough to handle; shred the meat and mix it back into the pan juices.

MAKE THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

  1. Make béchamel by melting the butter over a medium heat. Sprinkle over the chopped rosemary and the flour and cook, stirring madly for about 5 minutes.
  2. Take off the heat and slowly add in the first cup of milk, stirring all the time to avoid lumps and then add the other two cups, stirring well after each one. Pop in the bay leaf and grate in the nutmeg.
  3. Let this just come to the boil (scald) and then turn down the heat and keep it on a low flame, to thicken which should take about 5-10 minutes. You will have to keep stirring to stop the bottom from catching.
  4. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stir in 150g of the cheddar cheese and the mustard.
  5. Take it off the heat and set aside to cool a little, stirring occasionally to stop a skin from forming – it will thicken even more as it cools.

COOK THE PASTA

  1. Cook the macaroni pasta in lots of boiling salted water for 4 minutes. It will carry on cooking in the sauce in the oven so resist the urge to cook it any further otherwise you will end up with pasta the texture of baby food in the finished dish.

ASSEMBLE THE DISH

  1. Place the cooked chicken, the pan juices, including the shallots, garlic and olives; the spinach and peas in a mixing bowl (or even the dish you are going to bake this in) and mix well to combine. Check on the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, ladle the pasta and some of the water that will be clinging to it, into the chicken mix. Stir in just over half the béchamel and mix well. It will be quite sloppy which is what you need to finish cooking the pasta. Check on the seasoning and adjust.
  3. Spread the pasta mixture out evenly in your baking dish.
  4. Using a tablespoon, dot the remaining béchamel evenly over the pasta mix and smooth out.
  5. Scatter over the grated cheddar and  parmesan and bake in the oven for about 30 – 40 min. It should be bubbly and golden when it is ready.
  6. Leave it to rest and settle for about 10minutes before digging in.

Perfect with a salad.

Kale and Chickpea Soup with Lemon

kale-and-chickpea-soup-with-lemonAfter all the feasting and merriment comes the overwhelming urge to eat lightly and healthfully. I picked up a bag of kale and thought to make some sort of virtuous salad from it. But outside, it’s blowing a gale and a salad just doesn’t cut it – I wanted something warm and filling. Just not rich. A quick inspection of my cupboards revealed a tin of chickpeas and a soup was born. Warm, filling, with a slight bite and a sharp edge.  I don’t like using too many ingredients in a pureed vegetable soup as it sort of muddies the flavour. I suppose you could swirl in a spoonful of creme fraiche or a little double cream but I don’t think it needs it. The blitzed chickpeas makes it quite creamy in any case. This Kale and Chickpea Soup with Lemon is perfect to take to work in a flask or spill proof container to heat up in the microwave for lunch. Delicious, virtuous and thrifty!

Thrilled to stay that his recipe is a Community Pick over on Food52!     http://food52.com/recipes/25867-kale-and-chickpea-soup-with-lemon

 

kale-and-chickpea-soup-with-lemonYou could substitute other beans like butter beans or cannellini beans too. You could also use thyme leaves instead of the rosemary and omit the chilli flakes and use freshly ground pepper instead. This is one of those recipes that you can use as a base – use half the stock to make it more of a thick puree than a soup and serve with a nice thick slice of oven roasted (responsibly sourced) cod or halibut atop for instance…

Kale and Chickpea Soup with Lemon

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Prep time 15 minutes. Cook time 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 banana shallots (or one onion)
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 2 stalks of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp of chilli flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 410g tin of chickpeas drained and throughly rinsed
  • 200g bag of chopped kale
  • 800ml hot stock (a cube or powder is fine – I used a combination of Marigold powder and vegetable stock)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt to taste

To Serve:

  • Paper thin lemon slices
  • Grated parmesan cheese (omit if vegan)
  • Toasted crusty bread (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Set a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, pour in the olive oil.
  2. Finely dice the shallots and add to the pan, stirring to coat with the oil.
  3. Make 4 or 5 long horizontal slices in the celery stalk and dice. Add this to the pan and stir.
  4. Finely chop the rosemary leaves and stir into the pan together with the bay leaf and the chilli flakes.
  5. Peel the garlic clove and using the flat of your knife and the heel of your hand, crush so that it is still whole and add to pan.
  6. Add the chickpeas and the kale and stir. Pour in the hot stock, let it come to a boil and turn down the heat.
  7. Let it simmer for 20 minutes until the kale is tender. Squeeze in  the juice of half a lemon. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste. You might want more lemon or salt – it all depends on what you have used for the stock.
  8. Working in batches or in the pan itself if you have a stick blender, blitz until you have the texture you like. I like mine to still have a few chickpeas and pieces of kale through it so I set aside a couple of ladlefuls and used a stick blender to blitz the rest.
  9. Serve hot, floating a couple of slices of lemon on top of each serving and pass round the parmesan cheese for everyone to help themselves. Lovely with toasted crusty bread.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

kale-and-chickpea-soup-with-lemon

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika DressingRoasting broccoli is a revelation – it intensifies the sweetness and gives it a little more earthiness. It is really delicious and my new favourite way to cook this superfood! From what I can make out, Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) brought this method to the attention of the general public with this lovely recipe for Parmesan Roasted Broccoli . The recipe that I have made has a more tapas feel about it, thanks to the tangy, smoky paprika dressing and some crunchy golden toasted almond flakes. My version cuts back on the oil to boost the flavour of both the broccoli and the dressing.

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Dressing – heat the oil in a small pan; add garlic and smoked paprika and take off heat to infuse

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Cut the broccoli florets into bite sized pieces.

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Roasted broccoli and toasted almond flakes

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Whisk the infused oil into the vinegar, leaving behind much of the solids

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Pile roasted broccoli in a serving dish

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

 

I am entering this recipe in the Spice Trail Challenge, hosted by Bangers and Mash.  for January as it features Paprika – there are some wonderful recipes on there so do go and take a look at the entries.

spice-trail-badge-square

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

  • Servings: 4 side servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Slightly adapted from a recipe on Food52

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • A little olive oil to drizzle
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 Tbsp flaked almonds

Dressing:

  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (sherry for authenticity but cider or wine vinegars will be fine as well)
  • Good pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Get the dressing started as the longer it steeps the more flavourful it will be;  heat the oil in a small pan for about 2 or 3 minutes. When the oil is warm (but not smoking as that will burn the garlic) add the crushed garlic and stir in the smoked paprika and take it off the heat. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes or as long as you can leave it.
  3. In the meantime, divide broccoli into bite sized florets, toss in a little olive oil and place on an oven tray. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender and with a few browned bits. Keep checking after 15 minutes to make sure that the florets are not burning to a crisp. Scatter over  the almond flakes for the last 3 or 4 minutes to toast.
  4. When you are ready to serve, place the vinegar and salt in a small bowl and whisk in the flavoured oil, trying to leave behind as much of the solids as possible.
  5. Pile the florets and almond flakes into a serving dish and drizzle over the dressing. You will not need all of it. I used approximately 1Tbsp to dress one medium head of broccoli.

Left over dressing is a great marinade for chicken or fish and can also be used to perk up potatoes.

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and a Smoky Paprika Dressing

Steamed Sea Bream “al Cartoccio”

Steamed Sea Bream "al Cartoccio"

Steaming fillets of delicate white fish in a paper parcel is such a quick and easy way to cook them and this recipe for Steamed Sea Bream al Cartoccio is no exception. The most difficult thing was making sure that the top of the parcel was well sealed! I got distracted after I had made the parcel (my friend had arrived and the first glass of wine had been poured…) and forgot to take a photo but you can see what the sealed parcel should look like here. We had this with the Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree which I posted yesterday and a green salad with a sharp mustardy dressing (salt, pepper, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp cider vinegar and 3 tsp EVOO)

A local Italian restaurant serves a seafood linguine al cartoccio and it is very easy to do as long as you undercook the pasta before it is parcelled.

Steamed Sea Bream "al Cartoccio"

Lay out the bream fillets on the prepared foil and parchment paper and season with salt, pepper and rosemary

Steamed Sea Bream "al Cartoccio"

Add the garlic, a little oil and butter before folding up into a parcel

As far as flavours go, you could use tarragon instead of rosemary and a little sprinkle of crushed toasted coriander seeds would also be lovely.  A little infused saffron would be delicious with rosemary and a mix of seafood. You could use other types of fish and seafood too but you may need more liquid and a little longer cooking time if the fish is thick.  If you are making these for more than two people or for a dinner party (and this is a fantastic template for a dinner party recipe as you can prepare the parcels beforehand and then cook them 10 minutes before you want to eat) then, parcel up the fish individually.

Steamed Sea Bream al Cartoccio

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 fillets of sea bream or other white fish
  • 3 or 4 cloves of Garlic Confit or roasted garlic – don’t use raw garlic as the flavour will be overpowering.
  • 1 tsp of the garlic flavoured oil if you are using garlic confit – optional
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp dry white wine
  • Lemon wedges to serve

You will also need 60cm pieces of foil and parchment paper to make the parcel

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220C/425F. Put a roasting tray or sheet in to pre heat as well.
  2. Make the cartoccio by placing the foil on the worktop, shiny side down. Lay the parchment paper on top and turn over the edges to seal the two together.
  3. Lay the fish fillets in the middle of the paper.
  4. Season fillets with salt and pepper, scatter over the rosemary needles and garlic. Drizzle the garlic flavoured oil over the fish and top with the butter.
  5. Bring the short ends of the paper together over the top of the fillets and roll/fold up as tightly as you can manage so that steam cannot escape. There shouldn’t be too much space inside the parcel so make it as small as you can without crushing the fillets.
  6. Then, fold up one of the sides, again, as tightly as you can. Press down on the foil to help seal it.
  7. Tip up the open parcel slightly and pour in the wine. Seal this side tightly as well. You should have a small domed parcel that is a little larger than the fish inside.
  8. Place the parcel on the pre-heated tin and cook for 10 minutes. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before opening the parcel.
  9. The wine, oil and butter will have combined to make a small amount of delicious sauce that should be spooned over the fish when you serve it.
  10. Serve with lemon wedges.

Delicious with Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree and a green salad with a sharp dressing.

Roast Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree

Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Bean PureeI have been wanting to make this Roast Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree for some time now and last night, which was as cold and gusty as an angry witch’s furious gasps, seemed the perfect time to make it. Moreso as a friend was coming round for a catch-up and a glass of wine…

Marcella Hazan introduced me to the many delights of white beans when I first started cooking in the mid eighties. She has a recipe for “Zuppa di cannellini con aglio e prezzemolo” (Bean soup with parsley and garlic)  in her Classic Italian Cookbook that is simply superb. Sadly this brilliant book is out of print now but can still be bought second hand though I am shocked that anyone would ever part with it!

There are many recipes for white bean purees and this particular recipe has been inspired by a post in Food52 that I saw recently. The dish will not win any beauty contests but it tastes absolutely amazing and is perfect with a roast or a simply cooked piece of fish which is what we had it with last night.

The depth and complexity of flavours depends on cooking the ingredients fully and carefully before pureeing so don’t skimp on turning the fennel pieces over 3 or 4 times and watch the frying garlic as it goes from perfectly golden to burnt in a few seconds especially as it continues to cook in the hot oil when you take it off the heat. I have to say that the roasted fennel is absolutely delicious on it own too so feel free to make more that is needed for the puree if you want to have it as a vegetable side.

Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree

Fennel, quartered and seasoned in roasting dish with the unpeeled garlic cloves

Caramelised fennel and garlic

Caramelised fennel and garlic

Gently frying the chopped garlic and rosemary

Gently fry the chopped garlic and rosemary in olive oil

Adding the beans to the garlic and rosemary and heating through

Add the beans to the garlic and rosemary and heat through

Mixing in the roasted fennel and garlic cloves before blitzing with a stick blender

Mix in the roasted fennel and garlic cloves before blitzing with a stick blender

Scrape out mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with chilli flakes and fennel seeds before sprinkling on the remaining parmesan cheese.

Scrape out mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with chilli flakes and fennel seeds before sprinkling on the remaining parmesan cheese.

Delicious and ready to eat if not winning any beauty contests!

Delicious and ready to eat if not winning any beauty contests!

Roast Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree

  • Servings: 4 side servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Inspired by a post on Food52 for Roast Fennel and White Bean Dip 

INGREDIENTS

Roast Fennel:

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into quarters. They will fall apart but that is okay.
  • 1-2  Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large unpeeled garlic cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pepper

Cannellini Beans:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tin of cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • branch of vine cherry tomatoes as long as they are tasty!

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F
  2. Closely trim the bottom of the fennel and trim the ends off the tops as well. Halve and then quarter the pieces, bearing in mind that they will fall apart. Place in a roasting tin with the unpeeled cloves of garlic and dribble over the oil. Using your hands, gently toss the fennel in the oil so that it is all coated. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven, for 30-40 minutes, checking every ten minutes to turn the pieces over. I find a that a timer helps here. Stop when the pieces are soft and  golden. Cooking it this way drives out a lot of the moisture, concentrating that aniseed flavour and you will find that they shrink down quite a lot.
  3. In the meantime start the cannellini beans; pour the oil into a saucepan and heat gently. Add the chopped garlic and cook until nicely coloured. Watch it like a hawk as you get near the end as it will catch really easily, burning and turning bitter. Add the rosemary and then stir in the cannellini beans and the lemon juice and let it heat through. Take off the heat and set aside until the fennel is ready.
  4. Once the fennel is cooked turn the oven up to 220c/425F and stir fennel and peeled garlic cloves into the bean mixture along with the lemon juice and most of the parmesan cheese – reserve 2 or 3 Tbsp of cheese for the topping.  I used a stick  blender to puree the mixture but you could also use a food processor. Taste the puree and adjust the seasoning  to your taste. If it is too thick, add a little water to loosen it up remembering that the texture should be like mashed potatoes.
  5. Scrape it into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the chilli flakes, fennel seeds and remaining parmesan cheese. Place the vine tomatoes on top if using. Dribble a little oil around the edges too. Cook for 15 minutes and serve immediatley.

Enriched Milk and Butter Loaf topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

I am in Cape Town, staying with my friends A and R who really make the most of this beautiful city they call home. They live in a gorgeous Victorian villa in Sea Point, perched high on the slopes of Signal Hill with a panoramic view of the suburb below and the Atlantic Ocean.

View from the deck

View from the deck

As you may imagine, the sunsets have been simply stunning.

Sunset over Sea Point

Sunset over Sea Point

Sunset from the deck

Sunset from the deck

The people I have met on this visit have been so friendly and so sociable and seem to pack so much into their days. The magnificent landscape probably has a lot to do with this as well as not having to waste hours commuting on a packed train to and from work.  The days and evenings have been spent  meeting up with or hosting friends in that warm, hospitable Capetonian manner, enjoying the gorgeous wines and eating beautiful food. There is an incredible food scene here about which I will post more another time.

Sundowner on the deck

Sundowners on the deck

We spent last weekend at their stunning holiday home in Greyton where R cooked up a storm.

The garden at Greyton and Lily the springer spaniel

The garden at Greyton and Lily the springer spaniel

Saturday was spent walking their adorable dogs, wandering around the Saturday market in Greyton, lunching at Searle’s and then back to the house for a marathon cooking session.

Searle's

Searle’s

Searle's

Searle’s

A stunning cake was baked and iced.

THAT cake!

THAT cake!

Bread was baked (recipe below), fillet was stuffed and trussed and salads were made. For dinner that night, a group of us feasted on the braaied (barbecued) fillet and boerewors, potato wedges, salad with flowers from the garden, palm hearts dressed with white balsamic and parmesan cheese, tomato and mint couscous, the bread and finished off with a slice of that cake.

Feasting at Greyton

Feasting at Greyton

This bread needs a little elbow grease but is completely worth it.

Dough before second proofing

Dough before second proving

Dough after second proving

Dough after second proving

Bread before topping

Bread before topping

Topping with floppy onions

Topping with floppy onions

Topping with cheese

Topping with cheese

Ta da!

Ta da!

Enriched Milk and Butter Loaf topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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INGREDIENTS

  • 500g bread flour
  • 10g instant yeast (10ml)
  • 10g salt
  • 350ml tepid milk
  • 50g softened butter

Topping:

  • 1/2 a large white onion sliced in half moons and one clove of chopped garlic, fried in a little olive oil until translucent but not caramelised
  • 100 g grated cheddar cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the flour yeast and salt in a bowl and slowly pour in the tepid milk, 100 ml at a time. The milk must not be too hot as it can kill off the yeast. (24-28 degrees)
  2. Stir with your fingers until it comes together. You may not need all the milk so don’t pour it all in.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly  floured surface and start to knead, incorporating the butter, one spoonful at a time. Or, if your butter isn’t quite soft enough, cube it and add it in a few cubes at a time. Knead until the dough is elastic, smooth and glossy – this may take up to 20 minutes. It is quite a wet dough so it does take some time to come together. The dough should be fairly firm and not sticky to touch.
  4. Oil a bowl and place dough in it turning it around in the oil and cover with tea towel or cling film ad leave it to rise until doubled. Knock back (deflate) and then weigh dough. Slice off approximately 100g lumps of dough and roll and shape each one by placing on your worktop (you should not need any flour) Cup your hand over it and start work in a circular motion, tucking with with your thumb and fingers – the finished ball will have a smooth top with the crease underneath.
  5. Place in a round tin – we used a non-stick one, cover and leave to rise again for about an hour. It should double in size, filling in any gaps.
  6. Bake in a oven preheated to 230 C /450 F for 1/2 an hour. Scatter over the floppy onions and then the grated cheese and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so. Cool on a rack for about 5 mins and then turn it out of the tin.
  7. The bread is ready when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you rap the base with your knuckles.

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Beetroot and Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese FrostingA friend of mine has been planning to make a Chocolate and Beetroot Cake all spring and then all summer but circumstances conspired against him and he didn’t get a chance to make one.

Beetroot and Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese FrostingSo when he organised an intimate drinks party round his to celebrate his birthday earlier this week, I knew what I was going to make for him – Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcakes… He cooks the most delicious food, always beautifully presented and outdid himself with the gorgeous canapés that kept on coming that night. We rounded off the evening with a cupcake each and I was so pleased that they were just what he had been craving for the better part of this year!

Beetroot and Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese FrostingThe beetroot keeps the cake moist and gives it a lovely deep red colour. I made another  batch of these today and took then as a reward for my friends who were cold water swimming at Tooting Bec Lido this morning and managed to convert someone’s husband who apparently can’t even look at beetroot. Admittedly he had no idea what he was eating until it was too late – he looked absolutely horrified at the thought of having eaten beetroot but then decided that it wasn’t so bad after all. You really cannot taste the beetroot.

Beetroot and Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese FrostingThe cream cheese frosting is one I have developed – it is not too sweet but nice and tangy which is as it should be.

Beetroot and Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I am entering this recipe in the Family Foodies January Challenge – Hidden Goodies. If you want to see how other clever parents are  hiding and incorporating nutrient dense vegetables, nuts and pulses in their children’s meals then  read all about it on the Bangers and Mash blog by clicking on the link.  Eat Your Veg is another great resource for feeding your children the good stuff, so do go over and take a look at what is happening there.

family-foodies1

I am linking this recipe to the Tasty Tuesdays Valentine’s Party hosted by the Anyonita Nibbles – go over and take a look at her amazing blog!

– See more at: http://www.anyonita-nibbles.co.uk/2014/01/tasty-tuesdays-valentines.html#sthash.H0CR8tWe.dpuf

Chocolate and Beetroot Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 120g flour
  • 60g cacao powder sifted
  • 170g golden caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 170g cooked beetroot (not pickled!)
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 140ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 200g cold cream cheese
  • 100g soft butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g caster sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F and line 12 muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. Place a large mixing bowl directly on the scales and set the scales to zero.  One spoonful at a time, measure out the cacao powder into a sieve and sift it straight into the mixing bowl. Keep an eye the weight – 60g is usually about 4 tablespoonfuls. Then re-set the scales to zero and add the flour and then do the same for the sugar. Measure in the baking powder and salt then give everything a really good whisk to mix it well an also aerate it.
  3. Place the beetroot in a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds or so. Scrape down the sides and add in the eggs and vanilla paste/extract and blitz again for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides again and with the motor running, pour in the oil and process for about one minute.
  4. Scrape out the beet mix onto the top of the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until it is just blended – do not overwork the batter.
  5. Evenly spoon the batter between the 12 paper cases.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the tray around half way through if you oven has hot spots like mine does. To check that it is done, poke a toothpick or wooden skewer into the centre of one of the middle cakes – it should not have any batter clinging to it. If it does, pop it back in for another 5 minutes and check again.
  7. FROSTING : Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy – probably 5 minutes or so. Add the vanilla and beat again. Finally add the cream cheese an beat until just combined. Do not over-beat the cream cheese as this will make the frosting runny.
  8. Spoon into a piping bag and frost the cakes or just smear it on with a spoon and knife.

Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto

Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto This recipe for Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto, comes by way of my dear friend C who has a largely vegetarian diet and like everything that she makes, is really full of flavour and utterly delicious. The peppers get slightly charred in the oven, the tomatoes become juicy and intensify their flavour through roasting face down in the pesto and the feta adds a salty, lemony and creamy note. Whenever I need to cut back on the calories, I make these peppers (with a little less cheese) to layer in my lunchbox with lots of salad leaves and also some green lentils which I cook in stock with some chilli flakes and thyme. The juices from the lentils and the peppers means that a dressing is not needed. It is so full of flavour and releases energy slowly so that I don’t feel hungry or unsatisfied.  The peppers are also gorgeous warm with some roast salmon or chicken or as a side to a stew. These are really quick and effortless to make also scaling up easily to make more servings… Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto Prepare the peppersSweet Red Peppers with Feta and PestoSmear with pestoSweet Red Peppers with Feta and PestoFill with halved cherry tomatoes Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto Top with feta cheese, trickle over some EVOO and place in the oven.Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto

Sweet Red Peppers with Feta and Pesto

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 long sweet red peppers (they are sometimes called ‘pointed’)
  • 4 generous tsp pesto
  • 8-10 cherry or mini plum tomatoes
  • 100 g feta cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C/350 F.
  2. Before slicing the peppers in half, take a look at them to determine the most sensible side to do this from – they need to sit flat on the tray. Pointed peppers tend to be sort of flat and wide – they have a narrower side which is where they are best sliced from. I find that if I lay one down so that it lies flat and then give it a quarter turn, that is the best place to slice them in half – it gives me two fairly stable and wide halves. After you have sliced them in half, remove the seeds and the white membrane but try and leave the stems on as they look rather pretty. If there are any rogue seeds, hold the pepper half over the sink, cut side facing down and give it a little tap or two with the flat of the knife and the seeds should fly out. Nestle the prepared peppers in a baking dish which will hold them snugly. The tin that I use is 7″ x 10″ (which is 26cm x 17cm) and comfortably holds 4 halves.
  3. Smear 1 generous teaspoon of pesto into each half. Slice the tomatoes in half and nestle, cut side down into the pesto – put in as many as you can squeeze in. When I can find them I also use a few yellow cherry tomatoes.
  4. Slice the feta into cubes and divide this evenly over the tomatoes.
  5. Trickle over a little EVOO and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve warm as a side with a roast or stew or cold in a lunch box with a salad. This is delicious with a lentil salad and also on toasted slices of baguette…

SUBSTITUTIONS
I have made these with green pointed peppers which went down well despite my not liking the flavour of green peppers in general. They can be topped with grated parmesan cheese instead of the feta. Adding a few slices of anchovy filets, red onion and black olives would be rather lovely.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to

A Green Tapenade

IMG_4199I was a serious bookaholic from a very young age. On Saturdays, my mum would make the rounds of the butchers, the green grocers and the bakery in Westlands Shopping Centre leaving my little brother and me to squabble as we waited  fractiously in the car. We were always careful not to carry  on in front of her as she to and froed followed by shop assistants laden with bags for the boot because our reward for waiting patiently (hah!) was a visit to Lavington Green Shopping Centre. Mum would take my brother off to the sweet shop probably via the fishmongers as I browsed the wonderful books in the bookshop trying to decide which ones I should spend all my pocket money on. As I came to read more challenging books, I would usually have a dictionary by my side to look up words that I didn’t know and couldn’t make sense of. One day I realised that these definitions included a little note on the origin of the word – many hours were spent trawling through the dictionary and marvelling at where our words came from.

I have always been fascinated by provenance. What is the history behind things/people/ideas/languages/recipes? On a recent Bank Holiday Monday, I found myself sitting up at the bar in Polpo at lunch time in what can only be described as “continuing” birthday celebrations for my dear friend C which had started on the Thursday prior. Polpo model themselves on a Venetian “bàcaro” which literally translates as House of Bacchus – Bacchus being the Roman God of wine . A bàcaro is a small Venetian bar which serves local wines and little plates of cicchetti – tidbits of delicious food – predating the more well known Spanish custom of tapas by a few centuries. Polpo had run out of a couple of items on the menu (annoying) but had whipped up some replacements (laudable) one of which was an utterly delicious green olive tapenade crostini. As C and I discussed the ingredients in a tapenade, I found myself curious as to why something so intrinsically Provencal was being served somewhere which prides itself on its (utterly delicious) Venetian roots. Turns out that olive tapenades with anchovies can be found in ancient Roman cookbooks dating back to thousands of years before the appearance of the French word tapenade, or indeed the French language itself. The earliest known tapenade recipe, Olivarum conditurae, appears in Columella’s De re Rustica, written in the first century AD… So much lovely provenance in this story!

IMG_4196There are many recipes for tapenade but they all have the same basic ingredients – olives (usually black), capers, garlic, anchovies, lemon/vinegar and olive oil – in varying amounts. This is my take on it inspired by our visit to Polpo.

A Green Tapenade

  • Servings: just fills a 250g jar
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 200g green olives (pitted weight) or thereabouts
  • 3 cloves of skinned garlic confit or 1 fat clove of raw garlic chopped
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 to 2 anchovies
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp sundried tomato paste or red pesto
  • Olive oil
  • A squeeze or two of lemon

PREPARATION

  1. You can either finely chop the first five ingredients for a more rustic texture or blitz them in a food processor for a minute or two. Either way, then stir in the sun-dried tomato paste and drizzle in some olive oil.
  2. Taste.
  3. Give the mixture a squeeze of lemon and taste it again. Adjust the flavours to your liking bearing in mind that they mellow as time goes on. Salt shouldn’t be necessary as there is plenty in the olives, capers and anchovies.
  4. Store it in an scrupulously  clean jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. It should keep for at least a week in the fridge.

USES

  • Spread on grilled or toasted slices of ciabatta or baguette and enjoy with a glass of something suitable
  • Spread a couple of tablespoons under the skin of a chicken before roasting
  • Make a slit in the side of a thick fillet of cod/haddock and spread a little of the tapenade inside before cooking
  • Top a thinner fillet of fish with a smear of tapenade before cooking
  • Mix a couple of tablespoons into an oil and vinegar dressing and spoon over just boiled new potatoes

IMG_4198

IMG_4197

Garlic Confit

Tomato tartines with garlic confit

Tomato tartines with garlic confit

Food matters. Where it comes from, what is in it and how it tastes. We don’t need to eat copious amounts of it neither do we need to throw away as much as we do – it is all about shopping wisely. I love finding new producers, makers and markets and when the chance came up to help with publicising our local food festival, I volunteered and I am so glad that I did. I met some wonderful local people and producers as well as the talented husband and wife team behind The Elephant Bakehouse. They ran a workshop as well as a stall and I am happy to say that the stall sold out well before the festival was over. They produce the most delicious varieties of artisan sourdough bread using local (as much as possible)  organic flour.

Scarum Mount Wholemeal Bread

Scarum Mount Wholemeal Bread from The Elephant Bakehouse

I bought a loaf of Sun and Flowers which was delicious with poached eggs from my favourite supplier at our weekly farmers market and the Sarum Mount which is a triple wholemeal. They also produce a Wellfield Rye made with white and rye flours and a Hazy Raisin.  The flavours are complex and the texture dense, chewy and so, so satisfying – no comparison can be made to the flabby mass produced sliced loaves which have never been touched by human hand. Duncan makes the bread himself and his wife looks after the rest of the business – they are both really passionate about their bread and with every reason. They are having trouble finding local premises (everything they have seen has had mould issues – not great for a bakehouse as this would kill off the starter) but I am hoping that their overwhelming success at the festival is a sign that the stars are lining up for them!

Update Summer 2014 – Elephant Bakehouse have found premises in Gleneldon Mews in Streatham from where theyhave built a loyal following and can also be found at the weekly Streatham Food Market on Saturday.

Scarum Mount from The Elephant Bakehouse

Scarum Mount from The Elephant Bakehouse

We only have the Sarum Mount left and I am slicing that thinner than Fagin in order to make it last. A recent rummage on-line led me to a tomato tartine for which this gorgeous bread is the perfect vehicle. A tartine is essentially an open faced sandwich and is lovely for lunch or a light supper at this time of year.

Garlic confit

Garlic confit

The star of the show, however, is this garlic confit – spread it on a toasted slice of good bread or squash it into a salad dressing; melt it into a tomato sauce – it lends a mellow savoury depth that belies it’s origin. The resultant oil can be used where you might want a more subtle hint of garlic. It only takes about 15 – 20 minutes from start to finish, giving off a gorgeous aroma to boot.

Garlic cloves

Garlic cloves

Poke a sharp knife or a toothpick into the bases of unpeeled cloves from a couple of heads of garlic – this prevents them from exploding.

Simmering the garlic cloves

Simmering the garlic cloves

Place in a small pan with a few sprigs of rosemary and cover with olive oil and simmer for 10-20 minutes. Cool, decant into a clean jar and refrigerate. That’s it. You now have a jar of umami which will add an evocative depth to your savoury concoctions.

Variety of tomatoes from the Farmers Market

Variety of tomatoes from the Farmers Market

Tomatoes steeping in dressing

Tomatoes steeping in dressing

For the delicious tomato tartines, make a dressing using olive oil,  pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar), salt and pepper. Slice up some tomatoes and chop some herbs and let these steep in the dressing while you get on with the rest.

Garlic confit on toasted bread

Garlic confit on toasted bread

Squeeze out the soft garlic confit from its skin and slather over a couple of slices of toasted bread.

Tomatoes steeping in dressing

Tomatoes steeping in dressing

Top with the herby tangy sliced tomatoes and drizzle over some of the dressing. Pour yourself a little glass of rose and you could be in the South of France!

Tomato tartines with garlic confit

Tomato tartines with garlic confit

Garlic Confit

Barely adapted from Food52

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • olive oil to cover (not virgin)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Break apart the heads of garlic and make a small slit or poke a hole into the bases of the unpeeled cloves to stop them from exploding.
  2. Place in a small pan with a few sprigs of rosemary and just cover with olive oil.
  3. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat very low, letting this putter away for 10 – 20 minutes depending on how thick the cloves are.
  4. They are ready when they yield easily to a knifepoint.
  5. Let cool and decant into a clean jar and refrigerate.

If you want to have more flavoured oil for dressings and drizzling, top up the jar with some extra virgin olive oil.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.