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Healthy


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Halve, smear with olive oil and salt and grill for twenty minutes to half an hour until squishy…

samphire

Quoted in King Lear, samphire is not a seaweed but a sea plant, that smells strongly of the ocean and is also known as the poor man’s asparagus. On a pilgrimage lunch to Moro in London, samphire with a garlic aioli and sea trout and other delights involving lentils proved more then worth the Euro-Star ticket. Amazing. So I seek out this vibrant green sea creature at the fish-mongers or wherever they are selling fish and grab a handful.

Buy as you need , it does not keep.

Making

Steam for about 5 – 10 minutes depending on your taste and before serving toss in a hot pan with a little melted butter and chopped garlic.

roasted_salmon

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Following up on Sunday’s flat bread dough.…use it also to make a healthy pizza. Once you’ve made  your dough and are ready to roll, brush the edges of the rolled out dough with maple syrup or honey or agave syrup should you have some on hand.

Blanch some fresh broccoli in a little boiling water with some fresh coriander leaves and chopped garlic for a few minutes until cooked but crisp. Let it cool.

Sprinkle the dough liberally with chopped tomatoes, feta, the cooled broccoli and some zaatar and black pepper. Bake in a hot oven for about 15-20 minutes. Done.

I’ve loved parsnips since I was little. They came only a close second to my beloved turnip. Turnip and white pepper evokes Sunday roasts at my grandmother’s and even as a little girl sneezing her way through clouds of the ubiquitous white pepper that she liked to use on all root vegetables passing through her care, I knew these flavours would stay with me.
parsnips

Knobbly, pale, if not a little sad looking, these carrot cousins are the best friend of Parmesan, garlic and all things spicy. Parsnips make great soup and elsewhere on these pages you’ll find a curried parsnip soup that’s pretty good. They’re also good as a parmesan chip, see this recipe for roasted parmesan baked parsnips from the great Delia…

Eaten since ancient times and referred to in Greek and Roman literature, parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac by the Romans. They’re sweet, high in fiber, a good source of potassium, folate, starch and low in fat. So don’t wait; get out the fashionable Microplane peeler you got for Christmas out and start peeling, chopping and par-boiling.

Frost is necessary for parsnips to grow well so they don’t grow much in hot climates. They’re a trusted winter roast food, a Sunday lunch staple and the best “peas & carrots” substitute when you’ve run out of peas… parsnip mash.jpg

This parsnip mash is easy.

Take several parsnips – you’ll need quite a few per person as they lose a bit in the peeling. Peel them and chop them before bringing to the boil and simmering until cooked. You can eat them al dente or squishy as you wish. They can also be eaten raw but that’s just going too far. Drain them of their cooking water before they get mushy and add a half teaspoon of crushed garlic. Mix well and mash until chunky but not quite purée. Mix in, while still over the heat, plenty of black pepper, a little salt and lots of grated parmesan and serve as is or as a side. So good on a wintry evening.

Use a good parmesan reggiano, as it makes all the difference with it’s salty bite makes a good contrast for the slightly sweet soft parsnip.

I tackled fresh squid recently, on a whim, after work, passing by the fish guy’s. While he didn’t have the seiche (cuttlefish) I was looking for, he offered me a couple of fillets of his best encornet.

Squid is easy to clean, easy to cook and easy to ruin, but I managed to get it right somehow using a hot pan, a little water and about three minutes for each side. I left them whole and stuffed them with a rough home made basil and ricotta pesto with rocket and cherry tomatoes. The quinoa gave a good body to the stuffing and with a little walnut oil it was great on the side. My love affair with this south American grain may never end…

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Ingredients

2 squid

150gr pine nuts

handful of baby tomatoes

150gr fresh ricotta

rocket leaves

2 cups quinoa

5 tablespoons walnut oil (olive oil will do too)

some fresh basil leaves

Making

If the fishmonger as gutted the squid (ask him to) then all you need to do is remove the membrane like skin from each piece of squid, leaving the tentacles if you wish. Rinse well under running water. Before you cook the squid heat a pan and add the quinoa with a little oil. Once the quinoa is nicely toasted add 2 cups cold water and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat and leave to simmer. The quinoa will be cooked once it has absorbed all the water.

Then make your pesto. In a dry pan lightly toast your pine nuts and set aside. Then in a pestle and mortar crush the basil leaves with the ricotta and pine nuts and some of the rocket with the walnut oil.

To cook the squid, heat a little oil in a pan and cook the squid on each side for several minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water to prevent it from drying out. Be careful not to overcook. The squid should not take more then a few minutes on each side becoming opaque but not tough or chewy.

Serve stuffed with a little pesto and quinoa.

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There is something about roasted fennel. Usually served raw with oranges, the flavour that emerges from soft slightly crispy, almost see through slow roasted fennel makes for something a little different. Turkey, chicken, crab meat, tofu would also work well.

Ingredients

3 sweet ripe oranges
fresh lettuce leaves
2 bulbs fennel
2 turkey breasts
salt, pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons walnut oil (or olive oil)

Making

DSC_0579The key to this is to make sure the fennel is nicely thinly sliced before roasting, too thick and it doesn’t get that delicious slow cooked translucent caramelized quality.

Adding cinnamon to the oranges when chopped into pieces brings out their flavour. Served alone, this is also a quick and easy Moroccan inspired salad or dessert.

Cook the turkey in a hot skillet with a little oil and a little cinnamon. Set aside. Once the fennel is done remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled toss the orange, turkey and fennel together drizzle with the rest of the oil and cinnamon and serve on the lettuce. Also works well in a soft tortilla wrap or  cold the next day.

Feta in this is good but it’s not quite right. A good goat cheese and less of it is better, or perhaps a nice crumbly ricotta. Nonetheless, a good combination. Slightly sweet, salty, soft and crunchy, the combination works. A little honey goes a long way cooked into the quinoa and complements the beet and the cheese. Gomasio, the nutty sesame salt owes its roots to Japan and is addictive and delicious with beetroot.  On the subject of flavoured salt, I recently made a nice discovery in the form of Goumanyat on 3 Rue Charles François Dupuis near the Marais. You have to ring the buzzer to be let into this épicerie fine for reasons unbeknown to me. Apparently to sell fine spices, saffron and good wine these days you need to vet your potential clientèle before they can be allowed to enter the premises. Anyway, they sell a wide range of flavoured sea salts among other delights. I bought a lightly smoked salt with sweet piment. It’s like adding a few drops of an evening of Andalusian tapas, more specifically, a good chorizo without actually consuming any, to your cooking…..

DSC_0548Ingredients

1 small chopped cooked beetroot
(either precooked or already roasted, as you wish)
1 cup quinoa

2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon gomasio

3 tablespoons goat cheese

1 tablespoon honey
1 quarter clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds for sprinkling

Making

If using pre-cooked beetroot then ensure it’s chopped or sliced finely and put it in the oven for the time it takes to cook the quinoa. About 15 or 20 minutes. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and slowly toss around the chopped garlic. Don’t let it burn, keep the heat low. Then toss in the quinoa and quickly stir so it doesn’t stick. Allow the grains to toast a little and savour the nutty smell. Add the honey making a well in the center of the quinoa so the honey hits the hot pan and dissolves coating the grains and absorbing the garlic. Continue to stir over the heat for a few minutes. Then add 2 cups of cold water. Stir and bring to a boil then bring down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Once most of the water is absorbed, take the quinoa off the heat, take the beetroot out of the oven and grab  a small round bowl and a plate. Spoon some cheese over the bottom of the bowl packing it in, then layer it with beetroot finishing with the quinoa. Quickly up end the bowl onto the plate, remove the bowl and serve sprinkled with gomasio and black sesame seeds.
(Note : This really only serves one person)

The season starts around now and culminates with a jeweled flourish in January. A great source of vitamin C, the pomegranate is worthy of being designated a Pomegranitessuper food, a symbol of fertility and a pretty sweet contribution to cooking. From the city of Granada in Spain, renamed by the Moors to Botticelli’s ‘Our lady of the Pomegranate’ painting, the pomegranate has a rich and varied history around the world and plays a part in the symbolism and liturgy of the worlds main religions. The legends and myths surrounding the seeds are endless and too detailed to go into here. The seeds are perfect for salads and soups and the juice is perfect for cocktails and sauces for poultry and game. Pomegranate molasses are used in many sauces including muhammara. To make the juice, cut the pomegranate in half and sink the fruit into a bowl of water. Remove the seeds while the fruit is submerged so the peel and membrane float to the top to be discarded. Then press the seeds either in a food processor or an old fashioned juice press. To make molasses, just bring the juice to the boil on your stove with lemon juice and sugar simmering until you get the required consistency.

On a recent trip to the south west of China, our hosts in the Shaxi valley offered us pomegranates after dinner each night which we consumed while engrossed in incomprehensible soap operas. They were fresh, crunchy and reminded me that I wanted to experiment with them in the kitchen once I got back to Paris.

Pomegranate sauce

This simple sauce with yogurt and garlic and a touch of mint goes well with grilled lamb, green beans or perhaps as a dip. Otherwise, add the seeds to couscous, to rice, quinoa and to salads.DSC_0526

Ingredients

the seeds of 2 pomegranates
1 half of a clove of garlic
some roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
150 gr Greek or plain yogurt

Making

De-seed the pomegranates by cutting in half and freeing the seeds from the membrane
chop the garlic into a paste with a little salt and add to the yogurt, add the seeds and the mint, roughly mashing the seeds a little to release the juices.

Serve chilled.

Afterthought of the day.

Pomegranate “Pilav” : chop a little garlic and add to a hot pan, then add the seeds of one pomegranate with a little water (a tablespoon), stir quickly at a high heat for a few minutes, add a little turmeric and brown sugar (1 tablespoon), then add one cup of quinoa.

Bring to the boil, then simmer until the quinoa is cooked. Serve with a little crème fraiche stirred in while piping hot and 1 tablepoon of shoyu or tamari sauce.

Delicious all in a bowl supper, use rice, millet, couscous or any other grain you prefer and adjust cooking times accordingly.

DSC_1058Socca on the Côte d’Azur, Farinata on the Ligurian coast, and something fast to do with the chickpea flour in the kitchen…..It had escaped my attention for so long, chickpeas have a certain quality and their flour a certain flavour (falafel anyone?) and so I wanted to do something with it. I tried making empanadas once with it and failed miserably. Crumbly empanadas just don’t really work, on any level. I forgot how difficult it can be to bake with only a gluten free flour. Inspired by a New York times article on socca and flatbreads, I decided to go more for an Indian take and left out the olive oil. These spicy crepes have become a constant evening meal. Chickpea flour is also a staple in Indian snacks and desserts, known more commonly as besan or garam flour. There are so many other fun recipes and ways to use it in both sweet and savoury dishes so this is but a first post where chickpea flour takes the lead role.
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The trick with the Ligurian farinata and the socca is the olive oil in the mix. A good olive oil. Then it’s served hot with lots of black pepper. Amazing.

These pancakes are more simple and the focus is on the spices and the coriander.

A tablespoon or two of pouring cream or plain yoghurt in the batter is a nice way to add a little flavour.

Ingredients (makes about 3 to 4 decent sized crepes, adjust as necessary)

2 cups of chickpea flour
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
some chopped fresh coriander

1-2 cups water – use enough to make a smooth batter

Optional – a little fresh pouring cream or plain or Greek yoghurt – just to be crazy.

Note – experiment with different spices.
Also add some chopped banana instead of the spices with a tablespoon of raw cane sugar to make a great breakfast pancake

Making

In a bowl mix the flour and spices, then slowly add the water stirring well as it forms a paste. Continue to add a little more water as you mix, add the coriander and keep stirring until you have a smooth batter. Add the cream if using.

Set aside or refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Heat a pan with a little oil and or butter. When very hot put a tiny spoon of the batter onto the hot pan and let it spread. This is your pan tester! As the golden rule and sacred saying of pancake making says – the first one is always a disaster but it sets up your pan for the rest!

So, use this first dollop to soak up the extra oil in your pan and then scrape it off. Now your pan is ready.

Chickpea flour is a pain to bake with, no gluten and while it’s great for pancakes, it can take more cooking time to form a strong pancake. So pour a decent dollop of the batter on the pan and spread around, keep the heat fairly high. then let it sit for a while…when the batter starts to bubble see if you can flip it easily, then do the other side.

Serve immediately – alone or with a curry, with some yoghurt, in pieces as aperitif or…..

DSC_1018The lentil, a super food. With maybe less then a glamorous reputation. The lentil suffers often from a reputation as being only suitable for vegans who have no choice but to survive on pulses and grains. Think again. As mentioned last week, a recent trip to Syria was a fantastic food experience and in one particular restaurant, Naranj at the Bab Sharqi, they served a cold lentil mezze that was really amazing and I still think about it. It was cold with coriander, caramelized onions, a lot of garlic and maybe saffron… I had to go back and order it again. Anyway, easy enough to recreate a version of it but I don’t think I could ever capture the taste.

Contrary to popular belief, (particularly in France), lentils don’t need to be cooked to death. This is really a very important point. Overcooking is probably why so many people are put off eating lentils. There is an assumption that they take hours to cook and in the end are just a gooey mushy dark mess. It is not so. 10-15 minutes of simmering will render your red or yellow lentils crunchy and perfect. Some brands and varieties need longer and making a lentil soup requires more cooking time but otherwise don’t allow them to just sit there stewing. This is a fast filling alternative to a bowl of pasta and is full of iron and fiber and all kinds of ridiculous scientifically proven health benefits which won’t get detailed here. Suffice to say they can take on all kinds of great flavours eaten as a salad or still hot.

These spicy lentils absorb the spices well and have roughly the same cooking time as quinoa so often I add a cup to the mix too.

Ingredients

1 teaspoon each of the following:
turmeric
hot curry powder
cumin powder


half a teaspoon:
brown mustard seeds
cinnamon
butter
white pepper

1 clove garlic crushed
1 inch root ginger chopped finely
some fresh coriander
handful of raisins
1 cup yellow lentils

Greek yogurt – enough for one serving or as you wish
1 cup Quinoa (optional)

Making

Heat some oil in a pan until very hot and throw in the garlic, onion and ginger. Toss for a few seconds then immediately turn down the heat. Add the different spices one at a time stirring quickly so nothing burns. Add the raisins and the butter. To the paste add your lentils still stirring. Let the lentils absorb some of the spicy paste. The quinoa could be added here too.

Add 2 cups of cold water and bring to the boil. Then turn down heat to quite low and simmer for no longer then 15 minutes. The water should be more or less absorbed by the lentils.

Serve hot with fresh coriander and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

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