Sunday, 27 July 2008

Worthy of a Restaurant

The great thing about food writing is that you are taken on little adventures all the time. As I wrote a review of Feast Bazaar, a page about Argan oil caught my imagination. Forest of Argan trees cover large areas in the Essouira region (Morocco), where the Berber community and my maternal ancestors settled.
The fruit which is a hard nut, the size of a plum contains one to three kernels, 100kg of seed yield 1 to 2 kg of oil, which make it the caviar of oils.
Though this oil has a plethora of benefits being rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid, see below for full composition, it reduces cholesterol & containing large amounts of vitamin E, what impressed me most was the production which is done entirely by hand mostly by community of women.

After some research, I obtain a bottle from Belazu, a company which seems to have its heart at the right place, reinvesting money in good causes such as building a school in a village they work with. They import North-African / Mediterranean top quality products, have hit "fame" with their rose harissa. Argan oil has a deep golden tint to it, as soon as you open the bottle the aroma jumps out like the Genie tickling your nostrils with nuttiness and "spiciness" Anxious to try straight away I chose to simple recipe, the result was heavenly, the nutty flavour of the oil really makes it gold. I am so taken that I am considering a visit to the land of my ancestors.

CHICKEN & MANGO SALAD WITH ARGAN OIL VINAIGRETTE
here is the recipe, The secret of a good vinaigrette is "use a fork"

In a bowl beat a tablespoon full of mustard, salt and pepper, season well with salt and pepper keep stirring, add a couple of dashes of vinegar, here you will need a non-obstructive kind, wine vinegar for example, add 2 tbs of Argan oil, one of vegetable oil, one spoon at the time, stirring the entire time. The consistency remains thick, if it gets thin top up the mustard.

For the salad: in a bowl mix 1 cooked and cubed chicken breast without the skin, 1/2 mango cubed, as much green salad as you can fit in the bowl, toss all this add the vinaigrette, serve

recipe adapted from "the sauna club" below is the fatty composition of argan oil
Saturated fatty acids 16-20 %
Palmitic acid 12 %
Stearic acid 6 %
Monounsaturated fatty acids 45-50 %
Oleic acid 42.8 %
Polyunstaturated fatty acids 32-40 %
Linoleic acid 36.8 %
Alpha linolenic acid

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Marblellous Cake


Did you know that the origin of the word "cake" can be traced back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word. Medieval European bakers often made fruitcakes and gingerbread, but it is only in the latter part of the 19th century that "Marble Cakes" appeared.
According to the recent ---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, in Victorian times when impact was of the utmost importance, the marble cake was a novelty which had to be seen on the American tables, it was also the logical extension of the American fascination with cake color. "When marble cake first appeared, its dark swirls were produced through the addition of molasses, spice, and, in some recipes, raisins or currants. The simpler recipes were prepared using a single whole-egg batter, half of it darkened, but more ambitious recipes produced a more dramatic effect by making use of separate silver and gold batters, the latter darkened. Other bi colored cakes soon entered the scene. Hard-money cake was made by swirling silver and gold batters."
May be we should give the Marble Cake a 21st century make-over so if anyone fancies playing with their food, here is your opportunity to have a slice of fun, just replace the chocolate powder/milk with any artificial/natural lurid coloring for psychedelic effect and send me the pictures for all to see.
recipe mostly from the one the Baker by Leanne Kitchen
Marble CakeServes 10

Ingredients
185g (61/2 oz) butter , softened
230g (8 oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
280g (10 oz) self-raising flour
185ml (6fl oz) milk
1 tsp natural vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons warm milk, extra (for the chocolate powder)

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Lightly grease a 25cm loaf (bar) tin and line the bottom with greaseproof (baking) paper.
If you want to make life easy, simply put all the ingredients (except the cocoa powder) into a food processor and whizz for 1-2 mins until smooth. If you prefer to mix by hand, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
If you are using the vanilla bean, split it down the middle and scrape the seeds into a bowl. Alternatively, put the vanilla in the bowl, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Sift the flour and fold it in, alternating with the milk until the mixture is smooth.
Divide the mixture between 2 bowls. Stir the cocoa powder and the extra milk into the mixture in one of the bowls.
Take 2 spoons and use them to dollop the chocolate and vanilla cake mixes into the tin alternately. When all the mixture has been used up , tap the bottom on your work surface to ensure that there aren't any air bubbles. Take a skewer and swirl it around the mixture in the tin a few times to create a marbled effect.
Bake the cake for 50-60 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to 6 weeks.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

The Baker by Leanne Kitchen


As I was writing the title, I was transported back in time, reminding me of the poetry sessions at primary school. Do you remember them? When you stood up by your desk trying not to shuffle your feet, declaiming title and verse, not really understanding what it was all about, all the time knowing that you were saying something beautiful. It was not an easy exercise, but the important thing was that you were learning, and some of us, many years later, might still read poetry.
The Baker is a bit like that: an ode to baking. Everything is in there, information on ingredients, equipment, techniques, etymology, history, even a trouble-shooting section. This sounds more like a handy reference guide than a book of poems, and it could easily have been, if it was not for the fantastic recipes and their beautifully styled photographs worthy of the best coffee-table compilation. If you have a present to give, either to yourself (especially to yourself) or to somebody else, with this book you will make someone very happy.
Now for the scientific bit: Leanne Kitchen trained as a chef, her career in food spanning some fourteen years. This book contains 100 recipes divided into chapters on Quickbreads, Yeast, Cakes, Biscuits, Pies and Tarts, Batters, Desserts and Puddings.
And for the poetry, here is one I prepared earlier: Jam drops.
I was so pleased with the taste that I had a go at another:

Mango and Passion Fruit Pies




Ingredients:
400g plain flour
165g icing sugar
200g cold unsalted butter
2 egg yolks mixed with 2 tablespoons iced water
1 egg, lightly beaten
Icing sugar for dusting
Filling:
60 ml passion fruit pulp
1 tablespoon custard powder or instant vanilla pudding mix
3 ripe mangoes peeled, sliced, and chopped
80 g caster sugar

Method:Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the center, then add the egg yolks to the well. Mix using a flat-bladed knife until a rough dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, then gently press together into a ball. Form into a flat disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Grease a round pie dish ( the recipe indicates six fluted loose-based flan tins).
Roll out 2/3 of the chilled pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 3 mm thick.

Cut out the shape of your tin. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (375F/Gas 5).
To make the filling, in a small saucepan stir the custard powder and the passionfruit pulp until thick - will take a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the mango and sugar.
Fit pastry in the tin(s), add the filling, roll out top pastry and fit over tins, and then brush with beaten egg. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Food from Canada


is a brilliant initiative from Jasmine. She and a friend called for a round up to gather recipes from Canada. The submissions seemed to have come from every corner and the end product is inspiring.
Just as French President Nicolas Sarkozy is asking the UN to award French cuisine Unesco humanity heritage status, previous winners in this field have included a Belgian carnival and the royal ballet of Cambodia, should we look at our respective national cuisine as immoveable heritage or melting pot in evolution?

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