Monday, 14 November 2011

I know a boy who bakes...

I know a boy who bakes...

His technique honed over many a long Georgian winter

Strong Organic White Flour; Easy-blend Yeast;
Rock Salt; Table Salt; Demerara Sugar

He adds water, at body temperature to the dry mix...

Then kneads the dough:

Kneaded, he adds some water, again wetting the dough...

And, while we drink Coffee, rises it warm

The dough, risen to more than double its original size,

is scooped from the bowl, cut into three,

briefly kneaded by folding,

placed on a baking tray, 



...and proven a second time

...while we hunt for Mushrooms to adorn our breakfast

On our return, the bread is baked, left a moment to cool,

then eaten with Baked Eggs and Ham, a plate of Mushrooms,
a Sunday morning...

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Chillies- Harissa, Zhoug, Chilli Jam... and Roasted Peppers

Utterly unseasonal with the skies outside sitting grey on the land, the land thick with fallen leaves.  Chillies ache of Summer heat, of Mediterranean, Asian, Caribbean flavours and sit strongly in contrast with an English Autumn. 

But, I have been meaning to write about these fiery fruits Summer long, and recently those friends in Kabul found themselves in the ‘midst of a Chilli glut and sent the following question:.  Is there any chance you know what type of chilis these are in the first photo? we're going to try doing osmething with them because we have too many and they'll go to waste but not sure if theyll make good chili powder or good pickles.

A succinct response from Tweeter @Rhizowen of Radixpequin type C. annuum

Produce from a home in Kabul

So it was, yesterday I set to work with a pile of Chillies to try out some recipes:  Harissa, Zhoug, Chilli Jam.


Harissa is a Moroccan Chilli Paste.  Used in Tajines, Couscous, for marinades etc, it can also just be served as a spicy accompaniment to a meal.  There are a multitude of recipes, it can be raw or cooked, contain tomatoes, peppers or neither.  I briefly noted some Harissa recipes to accompany a Lamb and Fig Tagine here.  To my mind Harissa has to be very hot, very salty and full of Cumin.

Yesterday’s Recipe went thus:

Grill three small Red Peppers (or one large), twelve very small Plum Tomatoes (or equivalent), six cloves Garlic.  The Peppers should be turned, so they are charred on all sides, the Tomatoes just bursting and the Garlic's skin browning.  Meanwhile toast one and a bit tablespoons of Cumin Seed in a dry pan.  Peel the Peppers and remove seeds and stalks.  Pop the soft Garlic out of its skins.  Grind 2/3 of the Cumin in a Pestle and Mortar.  Blend Peppers, Tomatoes, Garlic.  Finely chop chillies (the amount of which has to be played about with to get the suitable heat).  I used two or three Scotch Bonnets and one long red Chilli. Put the whole lot, including the ground Cumin in a pan, bring to heat and simmer until nearly a dry paste.  Remove from heat and allow to cool, add remainder of whole toasted Cumin Seed, two teaspoons of Salt, douse with Olive Oil.  Stir the lot and taste, it should be very salty, slightly sweet, with a palpable texture.

Mine made yesterday was sublime.  Grilling or roasting the ingredients gives it a nutty sweet flavour behind the Chilli heat – I could eat it by the spoonful.  



Zhoug is a Green Chilli and Coriander paste from Yemen.  I made it a couple of years ago on Clare Island according to a recipe I found I thinking The Gate vegetarian cookbook.  Or, perhaps Denis Cotter’s sumptuous Café Paradiso cookbooks.  Either way, I couldn’t find same online yesterday, so went for a mishmash.  

Toast one tsp Cumin, one tsp Coriander seed, one Cardamon pod, one tsp Caraway seed.  Grind with a few Peppercorns in Pestle and Mortar.  Add three cloves of Garlic, grind.  Add this blend to a large bunch of Coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all, a few sprigs of Parsley, Two Chillies (or according to taste) and juice of one Lemon.  I used Red Chilies as had no Green to hand.  Blend the lot.  Return to Pestle and Mortar, grind again adding coarse Salt and Olive Oil to taste.  Eat immediately – I smothered this zesty Chilli Coriander paste on my poached eggs this morning – a great kickstart to the day!  Whilst best eaten with Flatbreads, Olives and Yogurts, Hummus and Falafel, drinking sweet shots of Coffee, this paste can also serve as a base for spicy green dishes. 

If you wish to keep the Zhoug, it is best kept short-term in the fridge or for larger amounts, frozen.  Otherwise, keeping salt and oil content high, pop in sterilised jars cover with a layer of Olive Oil, store in a cool, dark place, and it should keep several months.


Chilli Jam

I had long planned to make a Chilli Jam recipe I had espied on An English Kitchen blog.  But, the day came and the recipe, blog, the lot, had vanished.  I was directed by a kindly Kentish Kitchen to another recipe here: Saladclub.  Altered it as is my tendency, and made Chilli Jam according to the following method:

Blend 1lb peeled Tomatoes, 3 Scotch Bonnets, 2 Red Chillis, 3 small red Peppers, 1 large Orange Pepper, 12 cloves Garlic, 4 in Ginger.  Put lot in Maslin pan, adding 4 tbsp Fish Sauce, 16oz Sugar, 300ml Red Wine Vinegar, and 1lb raw chopped Tomatoes.  Bring to boil, stirring occasionally.  When jammy pot in sterilised jars.

Mine is very hot indeed, you might want to reduce the Scotch Bonnets.  I am retaining half of the batch at that heat and adding another 1lb of Tomatoes to the rest to make a gentler jam.  But, delicious it is, sweet, with a thick jammy texture and the obvious Chilli kick.

A bite of sweet Chilli joy for coming winter days.


Chillies can also be dried against a sunny wall or window, then kept in a jar for when needed.  When dry they can also be rehydrated in warm water.  

Another, and very luxurious way, of storing vegetables is in the Italian manner by roasting or grilling them and jarring in oil.  Courgettes, Aubergines, Peppers and Chillis store very well this way.  I made a pot of grilled Peppers this Summer – see the pictures below.

N.B.  I have used Scotch Bonnets in these recipes, I was likely lured by their beauty.  They have a real biting heat that comes at the end of the mouthful.  If you find Chilli difficult  I would replace these with something milder.


Rumour has it that the Kabul Kitchen might soon commence blogging its own cooking ventures... with a mere scrape of ingredients, how to live it up in an ex-pat kitchen in Kabul... I'll keep you posted.  - Indeed it has already, see: Kabul Kitchen - The unlikely adventures of a war photographer in Kabul with no weighing scales...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Mutton and Quince Tagine

Partly inspired, I have to admit, by Hugh FW’s Lamb and Quince Salad, which featured in The Guardian a fortnight ago, I endeavoured last week to concoct a Mutton and Quince Tajine.

It was a feast of medieval charm.  The meat falling off the shoulder of Mutton, the Quince a fragrant, if slightly tart companion to the meat.  Spicing the dish Morroccan style gave it an edge, cutting through ingredients that might otherwise have verged on stodgy.

The recipe I concocted was as follows:


Toast 1 tbsp Cumin Seed, 1 tbsp Coriander Seed, crush.  Chop 2 Chillis.  Slice 1 Lemon.  Crush and peel 1 head of Garlic with the back of a knife.  Mix the lot in Olive Oil, adding a sprinkle of Salt, lots of Black Pepper, 1 tsp Paprika.  Rub into the shoulder of Mutton and leave to marinade for two to three hours.

Mutton in Marinade

Meanwhile cut 1 large Quince into 8 slices.  Poach very gently in water with a sprig of Rosemary, 2 tbsp of Honey for about 20 minutes.  (Normally I wouldn’t cook the veg prior to placing it in the Tagine, but Quince being such a stubborn fruit, I decided to do so.)  Remove Quince, saving liquid and mix it into Marinade with Mutton.

While these are marinating prepare the Bread Dough
I use a Nigella recipe, which I adapt only slightly.  500g White Flour (mixture Strong White and French) sprinkled with 1tsp Yeast.  Mix.  Mix 2 tbsp Yogurt with 2 tbsp Olive Oil and add a touch of warm water.  Add this to Flour mix, adding more warm water, stirring with a wooden spoon into a dough.  Knead gently.  Leave ten minutes.  Knead again.  Rise in a warm place covered in a plastic bag.


A couple of hours before eating layer 1 large Onion, or in my case several Torpedo Shallots, in the bottom of the Tagine.  Follow this with some large slices of Pumpkin.  Seal the shoulder of Mutton.  If your Tagine is not large enough cut part of the meat off to bake separately.   Place the Quince and Mutton in the Tagine with a handful of Olives and Chillies.  Pour on the remainder of the Marinade and bring to heat.  Once the Tagine is hot, pour on the liquid saved from the Quince, adding more water if necessary to bring to reach the edges of the Tagine base.   Lid, bring to the boil, then simmer very slowly for one to two hours.


The bread should be punched down, salted one hour before eating.  It is stretched on an oiled baking tray in a warm place to prove for twenty minutes.  Then cooked at heat for 20-40 minutes until browning and bubbling.  Wrap in a tea-towel when removing from the oven to keep the crust soft.

Mutton and Quince Tagine for dinner

Serve the Tagine with Bread, a simple Cucumber Yogurt.  If necessary pour off some of the juice from the Tagine at the last minute and reduce with Rosemary to make a jus.  Serve baking hot, don’t be afraid to eat with the hands, and extra Harissa.


The Following day

A Mutton and Chilli Sandwich in Flatbread, leftovers were packed up for lunch-break working at the bookshop.


For other Quince Recipes, see my Pheasant Roast with Autumn Fruits and my Quince Brandy.  For another Tagine see:  Lamb and Fig Tagine

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Brunch - Shaggy Inkcaps on Toast

 In the fields this morning Amelia came across a huddle of Shaggy Inkcaps, Coprinus Comatus.  

 Eat Shaggy Inkcaps when young and white; as they turn red to black and the rims curl up, the flavour becomes unpleasant.

 The Shaggy Inkcap is also known as the Lawyer's Wig.  Not to be confused with the Common Inkcap, Coprinus atrementarius, poisonous when mixed with alcohol.


Mushrooms on Toast 

- Is it not quite the best way to eat Mushrooms?  Fried with Butter and Garlic, served on toast for a late Autumnal breakfast.

 Chop the Mushrooms and fry in a touch of Butter, a tonne of Garlic, a sprinkling of Salt and Pepper.

Serve on Sourdough Toast, scattered with Parsley.

With their delicate flavour rising through the garlic... keen to breakfast on these again!


A-foraging Mushrooms with Willow... (background)


For more on Mushrooms see: Notes: on Forage, Mushrooms and the Noma Cookbook.

Une Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin

This Summer, ‘midst Apple natter, the Lord and Master of Sparham House was, it seems, imbued with an idea.  From the mists of the past appeared to him a Tarte Tatin as eaten once-upon-a-time at Les Augères, Vernou-en-Sologne.  The idea was to emulate said Tarte in Sparham House.

Before long, a handwritten note: 

“Tarte Tatin, Recipe from Jacqueline, as cooked at Les Augères.

“Apples:  Reine de Reinettes, Reinette du Canada, Golden Delicious.  [Bramley was suggested as a possible alternative].

“200g Butter spread in medium-sized saucepan, then same thickness of sugar.  Cut the apples in half, and stand them upright all the way round.  When cooked underneath, turn the apples.  Do this for at least an hour, continually making the caramel.  Then cover with pastry and cook for about a quarter of an hour.”

On the back, in postscript:

“The original is said to have been an accident-made-good in the kitchen of the Demoiselles Tatin, who ran an hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron.”

Autumn came, the garden, the orchards, the shed and kitchen abrim with Apples.  It was eventually, a pair of Norfolk Beefing in my hands, time to attempt replicating said Tarte.  At same time, Freddie (Cultural Concubine), who had been party to many a conversation regarding the Tarte, happened to be staying.  So it was that, proffering the Apples, I left the preparation of the Tarte to her, and returned to encourage and applaud the later stages of cooking!

La demoiselle in the kitchen at Sparham House
The Apples:  Bramley and Norfolk Beefing
turned and amalgamated with Caramel.

There is, you will notice, no recipe for Pastry included, so dear Freddie rifled through various cookbooks of the French Châteaux until she came across one that seemed suitable.

The Pastry was a mixture of 250g Flour, 25g Butter, 1 tbsp Cream… 

So it was, the Sparham Tarte Tatin was born...
Requiring only inversion onto a plate of appropriate size

In an act of the deftest gymnastics Freddie flipped the Tarte

...and it was black! Gasps of horror from the Demoiselles.  But delight otherwise, for that indeed was the colour of Jacqueline's famed Tarte Tatin.  

Obliged to eat the whole before it turned to solid Caramel, we three gorged on Tarte Tatin washing it down with only the best of French Wines suitable for a Tarte of such preparation, procrastination and stature. 

The Tarte Tatin did indeed occur in error chez Les Demoiselles de Tatin.  It is said that one of the spinster sisters forgot to put the pastry in her Tarte aux Pommes, and instead placed the pastry on top and inversed the Tarte after cooking.  The recipe was such a success it hailed the birth of today’s Tarte Tatin.


I now discover that Freddie has written beautifully on same Tarte Tatin here:  Stuck and Sticky.
...and...a note from the Master of the house:
The dark finish is authentic, see the photograph of the tarte Tatin as cooked at La Ferté Saint-Aubin, in Gilles and Bleuzen du Pontavice, La cuisine des châteaux de la Loire, and accompanying commentary.