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
  • Print

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