Legacy

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For my first “Forever Nigellachallenge, I knew exactly the dish I wanted to make. Not for nothing it features in Nigella’s Legacy episode of her Nigella Bites series. This month’s theme is “nostalgia” and for me, this dish is full of nostalgic evocations. Granny Lawson’s pie is surprisingly similar to the empanadas that are such common fare in Argentina, where I come from. I have tweaked the recipe a bit to make it just so. I also noticed when watching the video that Nigella is not quite deft at making repulgue (the border which is twisted in order to prevent the filling from leaking) but I forgive her. So I’ve made it my way.

Yak and onion stuffed bread

Yak and onion stuffed bread

Instead of making it square, I’ve made it round, the way I’ve seen it done in the Himalayas (in photos only, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been there). Really, this dish seems to be universal and with good reason. Bon appétit!

Granny Lawson’s Lunch Dish (source: Food Network)

Ingredients

For the pastry

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, preferable Italian 00
Scant ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
Approximately 4 tablespoons chilled, lightly salted water
1 egg beaten with pinch of salt, for brushing
2 to 3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces) or same amount of drained, chopped, canned ones
2 small onions
2 eggs, hard-boiled
4 ounces pitted black olives
2 tablespoons olive oil, not extra-virgin
9 ounces organic ground beef
Fat pinch allspice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the pastry

Measure the flour into a dish that will fit into the freezer (it doesn’t need to have a lid) and cut the shortening and butter into small – approximately 1/2-inch dice and toss them in the flour. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

I tend to make pastry in my stand mixer, but a processor’s fine too. In whatever contraption – fitted with the flat paddle in the one, with the double-bladed knife in the other – mix until you have a mixture that resembles coarse uncooked oatmeal. Now, dribble in the chilled salted water, slowly, with the motor still running, until the dough looks as if it’s about to cohere, but stopped short of its actually clumping totally. Turn out of the processor (though you could still do this in the bowl of the mixer) and squidge together with your hands until all the pastry forms a cohesive ball. Dribble in a little more water if you feel it needs it. Divide into 2 pieces of equal size and form it into fat disks. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. And this can be done a good day or 2 in advance if it helps.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water from the kettle and leave for 5 minutes. Drain, run under the cold tap, then peel, seed and chop roughly (or use canned tomatoes, chopped and drained). Peel and chop the onions, hard-boiled eggs and olives, too.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the chopped onions until softened and beginning to colour, turning the flame down to low if they look as if they’re sticking. Turn the heat back to medium and add the chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring for a minute or so before adding the beef. Stir well, breaking up the clumps of meat with your wooden spoon as you go, then when the meat’s browned, stir in the chopped eggs and olives and season with the allspice and salt and pepper. Cook over gentle heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Get a baking sheet out, and flour a surface and rolling pin. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and roll out 1 of the disks until you have a thin, but not exaggeratedly so, rough square that will fit on the baking sheet, then place it on the baking sheet. Now roll out the second disk and leave it there while you cover the layer on the baking sheet with the ground beef mixture, leaving a margin of about 1-inch all around. With a bit of cold water and your fingers, dampen this edge. Place the second square of pastry on top and press the edges together to seal. Now, roll these edges back on themselves once or twice, then get a fork and press it, the tines curved side down, against this rolled border. Prong the top of the pastry to make air holes and then beat the egg with a generous sprinkling of salt and brush the top and edges of the pie with it to glaze.

Put it into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, by which time the pastry will be golden and cooked. Slice it into fat oblongs and eat warm with a vegetable or salad, or cold, wrapped in a napkin and without ceremony or cutlery.

 

My changes: I added the boiled egg and the black olives as I was assembling the pie and not before. I think there’s no need to cook the olives or the egg any more than they already are (plus, you’re going to cook them even further, inside the pastry). I substituted fresh tomatoes with sun-dried tomatoes, simply because that’s what I had. And, as I mentioned before, I did my own repulgue. I also dispensed with the shortening and used just butter for the pastry. Other than that, it’s Nigella’s recipe.

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You can also make them as individual empanadas if you feel like it.

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And then there was… ‘The Shining’

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Researching  on info for this post, I was delighted to find out that Stephen is working on a sequel to ‘The Shining’, the only book that kept me awake at night.

I discovered Stephen King as many do, as an adolescent, through a school friend, who was a real nerd and conscientious as hell when it came down to studying. Dear Dora was the oracle we all turned to when we didn’t input the same dedication to the day’s study topic…

Her only vice was… reading Stephen King so she promptly introduced me. First, she lent me ‘Pet Sematary’ with its delightful introduction of a skull-exposed bulging brain (I was so disappointed when the film didn’t feature it). And then there was ‘The Shining’. I absolutely swallowed that book… on a couple of week nights. We were going to school in the morning so we had to be up really, (I mean REALLY) early. One particular night I was absolutely engrossed with Jack Torrance’s adventures but even I like some caution. It was 2 am and I correctly guessed it would be extremely unpleasant (if not downright impossible) to get up in 4 hours’ time. So, I finished the chapter I was reading and turned off the lights… Except it was the famous chapter where… you know, the door sequence with that unforgettable cinematic quote from (another) Jack? So, I stayed up, eyes wide open… for a full minute, until I threw caution to the winds and decided I’d better read the next chapter if I wanted to get some sleep at all. It was THAT good.

So yes, I have Stephen to thank for some of the scariest moments of my life (somehow reading and leaving things to your imagination can be so much more scary than having it all cooked up for you).

Now, it seems I also have to thank him for this Transylvanian stew, dark and Gothic, as befitting of him as the iron bats and gargoyles on the gates of his Maine house.

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Stephen King’s Transylvanian Goulasch

This is what he wrote back in the 1980’s

Dear Ms Campbell,

                 Thank you for thinking of me in connection with your cookbook project. My specialty is Franco-American Spaghetti with hamburger –my kids love it- but I don’t think it would appeal to most people. The following recipe was culled from Family Circle magazine –it is probably more what people would expect of me. It is really called Transylvanian Cabbage Gulyas, I didn’t make that up.

Transylvanian Cabbage Gulyas

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons paprika (Hungarian, if available)

2 pounds lean boneless pork, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon caraway seeds

2 cups warm water

2 pounds fresh or canned sauerkraut (I used canned)

½ pound kielbasa (I used two kinds of Polish sausage, one of them made with garlic…)

1 container (8 ounces) dairy sour cream

at room temperature*

1.       Heat the oil and bacon in Dutch oven until bacon has rendered most of its fat. Saute onion and garlic in fat until soft (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in paprika. Add pork to pan, stirring to coat with paprika.

2.       Return pan to heat; cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring constantly so paprika does not burn.  Mix in salt, pepper, caraway and water.

Cover; simmer 45 minutes.

3.       While meat is cooking, wash sauerkraut under cold, running water. Squeeze dry. Cut sausages into ¼ inch slices.

4.       When meat is tender, stir in sauerkraut and sausage. Cook 15 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in sour cream just before serving. *This dish is best prepared a day before serving. Do not add sour cream until meat has been reheated.

 

I hope this recipe will help. Best of luck with your book. It sounds like a good idea.

                                                                                      Sincerely,

                                                                                Stephen King


Now I also know why I am such a big ‘Lost’ fan…

Bella Notte

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I am really into Scandinavian culture and this is how I discovered that on Christmas Eve in Sweden, watching Disney cartoons is as much a part of the Christmas celebration as the Christmas tree, the presents, the tomten (Christmas elves) and the ham. This is something that, like the Lucia tradition, seems to be uniquely Swedish but let me tell you something. I grew up on Disney cartoons at a time when there was no internet, no skype, no you tube (hey! I am not that old!!!). I probably watched the Christmas special “From all of us to all of you” several times when I was little because when I re-watched it on you tube, out of curiosity on Christmas Day (I remembered too late, of course) I found I remembered most of the clips. When I was very little, the big day out for me would be to go to the cinema and watch a Disney film. So much was I into Disney that I firmly believed that all the stories like Cinderella, Snow white, Sleeping Beauty, even Alice in Wonderland were his own, that he had not only animated them but also written them and was very crossed (and disappointed) when I discovered otherwise. This took none of the charm off the fairy tales anyway and for me, the Disney weekly show (shown on Sunday evenings at around 20.00hs in Argentina) was my big treat and a wonderful way of finishing my weekend before I had to face another day at school. I also remember it was the no-cook day so instead of a proper dinner I would have all the things I couldn’t normally have during the week: cold cuts, variety of cheeses but my favourite were, of course, junk food such as crisps, coke and other snacks. So yes, I guess I can empathise with the Swedes and their strong willingness to watch this cartoon every Christmas Eve, all the generations sitting together for it doesn’t matter if you’ve watched the same show a million times, that’s precisely the point as I believe is the point of having the same Christmas turkey with exactly the same trimmings year after year. It is a sign of reassurance, a sign that no matter what the future brings some things will not change. And that, I think, is a beautiful thing.

Spaghetti col polpettini

 This is one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve ever made… or eaten. I believe that Lady is very lucky to have such a gentleman with her who rolls the last tasty morsel for her with the tip of his snout.

 For the polpettini

 500g beef mince (you can use 50% beef and 50% pork if you wish)

Milk, as needed

2 or 3 slices white bread

1 egg

Chopped garlic, to taste

Fresh, chopped parsley, to taste

Flour, as needed

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 red hot chilli pepper (pepperoncino), deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slug of white wine

 

For the pasta:

 100g spaghetti per person

 

Tomato sauce (use the recipe you like best)

 

To serve:

 Parmesan cheese, to taste

 

Soak the bread in the milk and leave for a few seconds. Squeeze it a little to get rid of excess milk.

Mix the mince, the soaked milk, parsley, garlic and egg. If you like them spicy, add the pepperoncino at this point. Or you can add it to your tomato sauce if you prefer.

With wet hands, form meatballs the size of a golf ball.

Roll in flour and place on a tray. You can also do this in a cup if it makes things easier for you. Just place a little bit of flour in a cup, add the meatball and shake the cup until the meatball is covered in flour. This will also keep the meatball with the minimum amount of flour.

Place the tray in the fridge for the meatballs to firm up until ready to cook them.   

 Meanwhile make your tomato sauce. When it’s almost ready, cook your pasta.

 In a separate pan, boil a good amount of water. It will always depend on the amount of pasta you’re cooking but you want the pasta to float freely, not get stuck. You can add a slug of oil to the water (this is a bone of contention, if you excuse the pun, as some chefs say there’s no point in adding the oil to the water when the pasta is cooking as it won’t prevent it from sticking. Gordon does it, so I follow his example). The really important bit (and here everyone agrees) is to salt the pasta water otherwise the resulting spaghetti will be bland and horrible. Bring the water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Cook it until al dente.

In a big pan heat a little bit of oil and fry the meatballs. It does not matter much if they are cold for they will finish cooking slowly in the tomato sauce. You don’t want to cook them here, just give them a bit of colour and make them more interesting as you don’t want to just boil them in the sauce. Once they begin to colour, cover the pan with a lid and leave for 1 minute.

Drizzle with the white wine but don’t touch the meatballs. Leave it for a few minutes until the wine evaporates. Add them to the tomato sauce and cover the pan. Leave the sauce until it finishes cooking.

Drain the pasta but reserve a little bit of the pasta cooking water. Put it in a pan and add the tomato sauce. Heat it up with the remaining pasta water shaking the pan if you know how to!

 Place it on a serving dish and finish off with a good amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Juicy bits:

 

The spaghetti and meatballs sequence, when Lady and Tramp accidentally kiss over sharing a strand of spaghetti is considered an iconic scene in American film.
Film: ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (1955) produced by Walt Disney

Jubilee picnic food

 

 

Everybody seems to be in Jubilee picnic food mode. Nigella has come up with a whole bunch of Jubilee-themed ideas and so has Jamie.

I didn’t want to be any less (as if…) so I decided to make my humble contribution to the festivities…

Even though the weather is not with us this weekend apparently (translation: it is v. wet and rather chilly today) we can still celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee with some tasty food.

 

Croquetitas de pollo © Gabriela R.

This is so typically Spanish, I am not even translating the title. It is a traditional component of the tapas where you would get a selection of both hot and cold nibbles. A relative of that would be what we in Argentina know as picada.

 

Ingredients:

 ¾ cup leftover roast chicken, chopped as finely as you can

½ cup thick béchamel sauce

1 tbsp grated onion

1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped very finely

1 tbsp. red pepper, chopped very finely (optional)

1 egg yolk

Salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste

 

To coat:

 flour

1 or 2 eggs, whisked

Breadcrumbs, sifted

Vegetable oil for frying

 

 

Mix everything and shape them into small (golf sized) balls. Dust in flour, making sure to get rid of the excess, dunk them in the egg and roll them in the breadcrumbs. Put them on a tray and place them in the fridge until you’re ready to fry them. That way, you minimize the risk of them falling apart as they fry.

Fry them in hot oil and drain them on kitchen paper before you eat them. Nice hot or cold.

Scotch eggs © Gabriela R.

 

Scotch eggs are ideal for picnics as portable food. They are also a lot more interesting than a plain boiled egg, of which I have fond memories of eating at the beach in Miramar (if the weather was particularly windy, we would always invariably have it with a rather unwanted and sandy seasoning!). In Britain, it is traditionally made with sausage meat which is shop-bought (even Jamie uses it so if he condones it, it’s fine by me). In Argentina, however, this product is not commercially available (and I would be mad to make it from scratch just for this recipe).  I had, however, leftover mixture from the croquetitas (see above). So instead of turning the whole batch into croquetas, I had an eureka moment and wondered how it would taste if I used it in lieu of the sausage meat for an impromptu snack with a British vibe. It was spot on.

 

Ingredients:

 

Boiled eggs, as needed

Leftover chicken croquetitas mixture

 

To coat:

 

Flour

Egg, whisked

Breadcrumbs

 

 

Poach the eggs in boiling water for 5 or 6   minutes. You want them quite soft as this stage because they will continue to cook as they fry and cool down. The egg white has to be firm enough for you to be able to peel them but the yolk has to be very runny. That way, you will still get a runny yolk at the end.

Peel them under cold, running water and, once cold, wrap them in the chicken mixture. I simply used my hands to do this but a very handy trick can be to put the mixture on a piece of clingfilm and place it inside a cup (bigger than the egg, obviously). Then place the boiled egg inside and, using the clingfilm to help you, wrap the meat around it. It must cover it completely. Peel the clingfilm, dust each egg in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then fry in vegetable oil.

 

 

French tomato salad © Gabriela R.

This is so simple it’s not even a recipe. I was told, however, that the traditional way of serving tomato salad in France is with some fresh, chopped garlic.

 Slice beef tomatoes into fine slices and arrange them nicely however you want. Chop some garlic and scatter it on top. You can finish it off with some fresh chopped parsley.

 


My first catering event!

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Well, OK, it´s not technically my first one, having done big catering events for music festivals and all but it was the first catering event I ran on my own, designed the menu, etc. I loved the adrenaline and, most importantly, how smoothly it all went.

I had initially decided on a starter of figs wrapped in prosciutto with a blue cheese filling as I thought that was easy enough and, most importantly, could be done in advance. All very nice in theory… except it isn’t the season for figs here in Argentina. So, I went for plan B. The hostess had suggested Cantaloupe melon wrapped in prosciutto but I thought that would be baby stuff to do and not really challenging so I suggested a scallop starter. Boy! Was that a wonder! And it looked just beautiful (and very elegant) on the plate. Unfortunately, due to the speed I was cooking with (and the hungry guests that were waiting) I couldn´t immortalise it for posterity… which means I may have to do this dish again… Oh, well…

For the main dish, I adapted a wonderful Nigella recipe for Teriyaki salmon I found here, mainly in that I used my well-tested Teriyaki sauce for marinating the salmon and I also marinated the salmon for longer. Let me tell you, if you leave it overnight, like an ordinary marinade, it will turn into this glossy, thick, caramel you won´t believe you´re eating. They were four children having dinner that night and they all ended up licking their fingers. It is also a breeze to cook for an event if you have the sushi rice prepared (and covered with tinfoil) beforehand.  I had a few unexpected situations, such as being presented with this wonderful (whole) salmon which I had to manually pin-bone with a pair of stolen tweezers but if you ask your fishmonger to do it for you before you take it home, it should be easy peasy, reallly.

For dessert, I chose a classic,  crème brûlée, for two reasons: it is both very elegant to serve and it is very easy to make AND have it prepared beforehand in the fridge. You can even do it the night before. This is the dish I was the least concerned about and the first one I made. Once dessert was out of the way, I could concentrate on my fish. When I suggested this dessert, the hostess said that although she didn´t have a torch, she did have an iron burner which she was confident could be used for caramelising the surface… All I can say is, whatever you do, do NOT attempt this dish if you don´t have a blow torch. Failing that, forget the sugar and serve it in individual pots. I did neither which resulted in a technical fault in the middle of service, but the hostess was very gracious about it. Now I know.

So, if you are tempted to do some professional catering, the moral of the story is… make things easy for yourself, choose dishes that could be done in advance, at least in part (especially if you are feeding a large number of people), dishes that can be finished off quickly, and, most important of all, expect the unexpected, be a problem-solver and be prepared to improvise because more often than not, some things will just not turn out the way you thought.

Scallops and endives with orange sauce – adapted from a recipe by Narda Lepes

Ingredients

Bacon, cut into a very small brunoise,  100  g
Scallops  200  g
Endives,  4
Butter, as needed
Sea salt, as needed
Orange, as needed
Lemon, as needed
Coriander flowers, to garnish (I used edible Monks cress flowers, fresh from

the garden)

How to make:

Fry the bacon in its own fat. Set aside and in the same pan seal the scallops. Do NOT touch them too much. For best results, turn them over with a pair of small tongues. Failing that, tumble them over with your index finger. They cook extremely fast, just a couple of minutes each side. If you overcook them, they become rubbery so you really need to watch what you´re doing.

At the same time, in a big, flat pan sautee the endives, previously cut into long strips (into quarters really) in butter. Add the sea salt and the orange juice (if you use freshly-squeezed orange juice it will taste divine). Let it reduce a bit.

To serve: Put some endives on the plate, scatter some bacon cubes and place about 5 scallops on top. Garnish with the edible flowers and drizzle with some of the orange sauce. You can also add a lemon wedge and some orange peel cut into strips.

Mirin-glazed salmon  (adapted from Nigella Express)

Ingredients

  • 60ml mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 4 x 125g pieces salmon, cut from the thick part of the fillet so that they are narrow but tall rather than wide and flat
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1-2 spring onions, halved and shredded into fine strips

Method

Serves: 4

1.      Mix the mirin, brown sugar and soy sauce in a shallow dish that will take all 4 pieces of salmon, and marinate the salmon in it for 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second. Meanwhile heat a large non-stick frying pan on the hob.

2.      Cook the salmon in the hot, dry pan for 2 minutes and then turn the salmon over, add the marinade and cook for another 2 minutes.

3.      Remove the salmon to whatever plate you’re serving it on, add the rice vinegar to the hot pan, and warm through.

4.      Pour the dark, sweet, salty glaze over the salmon and top with the spring onion strips.

5.      Serve with rice or noodles as you wish, and consider putting some sushi ginger on the table, too.

For the sushi rice

Gohan – © Gabriela R.

Wash 1 kg of sushi rice 3 or 4 times, then rinse for approximately 30 more minutes. Place the rice in a big pan and cover with 1000 cc water. Cook until it boils, WITHOUT stirring, lower the heat to its lowest setting, cover the pan and leave it like that until the rice has absorbed all the water (about 20 minutes). Do NOT lift the lid of the pan during cooking. Turn the heat off and leave to rest, covered, 10 more minutes.

For the sushi vinegar :

Heat 150cc sushi vinegar, 1 tsp. salt and 150g sugar in a pan. Stir until everything is combined and the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.

Place the warm sushi rice in a plastic or wooden bowl. Add the sushi vinegar and stir it in, making sure all the rice has some vinegar. Keep warm.

Note : If you are using this rice for sushi, leave it to cool completely. Spread it out on a flat surface if you are in a hurry. That way, it will cool down quicker.

Crème brûlée

  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • Approx.6 tablespoons demerara sugar

Method

Serves: 6-8

1.      Put a pie dish of about 20cm diameter in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Half-fill the sink with cold water. This is just a precaution in case the custard looks as if it’s about to split, in which case you should plunge the pan into the water and whisk the custard. I’m not saying it will – with so many egg yolks in the rich cream, it thickens quickly and easily enough – but I always feel better if I’ve done this.

2.      Put the cream and vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring to boiling point, but do not let boil. Beat the eggs and caster sugar together in a bowl, and, still beating, pour the flavoured cream over it, pod and all. Rinse and dry the pan and pour the custard mix back in. Cook over medium heat (or low, if you’re scared) until the custard thickens: about 10 minutes should do it. You do want this to be a good, voluptuous crème, so don’t err on the side of runny caution. Remember, you’ve got your sinkful of cold water to plunge the pan into should it really look as if it’s about to split.

3.      When the cream’s thick enough, take out the vanilla pod, retrieve the pie dish and pour this crème into the severely chilled container. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge till truly cold. Sprinkle with demerara sugar, spoonful by spoonful, and burn with a blowtorch till you have a blistered tortoiseshell covering on top.

4.      Put back in the fridge if you want, but remember to take it out a good 20 minutes before serving. At which stage, put the bowl on the table and, with a large spoon and unchecked greed, crack through the sugary carapace and delve into the satin-velvet, vanilla-speckled cream beneath. No more talking: just eat.

Stockholm!

 

I finally (FINALLY) went to Stockholm!

I have been wanting to go for years and years and I’m as pleased as punch that I did.

You know, living in London I guess I’m not that far away (not as far as if I  was living in Argentina in any case) but somehow I never got round to going there.

I suppose I can tick that off my ‘to do’ list now.

I only stayed for a few days but I managed to get a nice look around the city. And it tried as many Swedish specialities as I possibly could too!

 

One of the things they have was Toast Skagen or Skagen mix sandwich (you can see it in all its glory in the photo). The Swedes certainly love their fish! As they should because Stockholm is a city built on 14 islands so it’s surrounded by sea everywhere. I just fell in love with the city and I wouldn’t mind it in the least if life ever got me there and I had to live there for a while…

Skagen Mix is a classic Swedish recipe: a mayo-based sauce with shrimp and dill, “invented” by Tore Wretman who is one of the most famous Swedish chefs. He served it with toast, as in a Toast Skagen. This is found on menus all over Sweden (including as a baguette filling in many cafes), it’s an eternal classic appetizer.

His original recipe only had cooked shrimp, home-made mayonnaise and dill.

The name is something of a mystery. Skagen is the northern coast of Denmark’s largest island – and has nothing to do with Sweden.

This recipe comes via Anne’s blog, a Swedish girl through whom I learnt a lot about Sweden and Swedish food.

 

Skagen Mix
Two generous portions

3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp creme fraiche (low-fat is fine)
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
50 g bleak roe
500 g shrimp, unpeeled but cooked
½ red onion, finely diced
freshly ground white pepper

Peel the shrimp, and roughly chop them if you want to. (This is not the time to use jumbo shrimp, small ones will be better here.) Stir together the mayo and the creme fraiche or sour cream. Add the dill, roe, onion and white pepper. Add the shrimp. Mix well. Voila – you’re done! Serve with anything you’d like – it goes very well on toast, perfect in a ciabatta or in a baguette, excellent with baked potatoes or avocado.

The sandwich of the photo is a somewhat deconstructed version of it. Simply mayonnaise with boiled egg sliced and topped with a generous amount of cooked shrimp, red pepper rings, gherkins and some greens.

A special Christmas Day

No exaggeration, this was the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. And I ate it the Moroccan way too, that is, the chicken was placed in the middle of the table and everyone took their bit (no cutlery). I think it is an excellent way of breaking the ice and ingraining a deep sense of community since early on. Moroccan food philosophy is about sharing, about everyone doing things for everyone, not just oneself. And I think that’s brilliant.

Last year I had the priviledge of spending Christmas Day with my friend Amal and her Moroccan parents and they treated me to this among other delicacies. Through her I was introduced to Moroccan culture (and cuisine) and I became fascinated with it ever since.

I managed to learn a few Moroccan recipes along the way which I will be sharing with you.

Maybe it’s the fact that the chicken has to be cooked twice, first on the hob and then in the oven, the thing is, it just melts in the mouth. No disrespect to the other excellent chicken dishes I’ve had during the years but this one was outstanding and I never miss an opportunity of telling Amal to congratulate her mum on my behalf for it. I will literally be eternally grateful to her for sharing her chicken (and her recipe) with me.


Moroccan chicken


1 chicken (weighing about 1.5 kg)

3 onions, finely sliced

¼ glass of oil

4 garlic cloves, mashed

Salt and pepper

½ tsp. ginger (powder)

A few saffron strands

Water

1 tbsp. parsley and coriander, chopped


Decoration:


100g olives

Some lemon confit strands


Wash the chicken with the water and salt and then take out the innards, should it have any. On a medium heat seal the chicken in a pan together with the chopped onions, the oil, the garlic and the salt. Don’t overcook as you only need to colour them. Add the spices and continue to colour them until the chicken is golden on all sides.

Add one litre of water, put the lid and leave to cook for 30 minutes. Check if the chicken is well cooked, and then place the pan in the oven and cook at 220 C. Keep the sauce.

Place the olives in the pan together with the confit of lemon, the chopped parsley and coriander and reduce the sauce.

Serve the chicken with the sauce, decorated with the olives and the confit of lemon.