China

For Friday evening’s iftari we decided to have Chinese. We kept it simple after so many days of what felt like heavy food (I think its more because we aren’t really able to burn the calories between iftari and sehri) so opted for a simple vegetable stir fry: lots of crunchy carrots, peppers and bean sprouts seasoned with the obvious suspects: garlic, ginger and a little chilli, lastly a good dash of tamari sauce, sesame oil and a sprinkle of spring onions and coriander.

To accompany it I made mussels in a ginger and black bean paste. Actually it was really easy to cook. In ideal world I think I would have given the mussels a miss (one less thing to cook) but I’ve been diagnosed with low iodine and my doctor has actually told me to eat shell fish, so who am I to say no? I had intended to go and
buy fresh ones from the fish monger but I’ve reached the point whereby I feel absolutely shattered so opted to jazz up a frozen packet. None the less it was still super easy and very tasty.

Mussels with ginger and black bean

500g of frozen garlic mussels
An inch of Ginger
1 clove Garlic
1 teaspoon black bean paste
½ a red chilli
A sprinkle of coriander

Fry the ginger and garlic in teaspoon of oil, once they begin to release they perfume, add the black bean paste and stir then put in the frozen mussels. Put the lid on and leave to cook according to the instructions on the packet. When cooked top with the chilli and coriander.

We served the stir fry and mussels with plain white rice with some prawn crackers on the side it felt like a veritable banquet!

For dessert nothing felt more Chinese than banana fritters. I dipped chunky sliced banana and cherries in a simple cake batter and then shallow fried them. It really gave the required sugar rush. If we had wanted more of a contrast they would have tasted great with ice cream but to be honest the fritters were great on their own.

Napoleon Pancake Cake

Last night saw us eat Italian, we had spaghetti bolognaise (I had mine with rice noodles as it twirls better than gluten free spaghetti which nearly always clumps) with garlic bread unfortunately in my haste (and hunger) my photographs turned out extremely blurred! Alhumdulilah, my photograph of the Napoleon pancake cake turned out perfectly.

A Napoleon may also be known as a mille feuille (a thousand sheets), a pastry stacked with layers of fruit and cream. Traditionally made with filo pastry, however in the modern world anything stacked can be known as a Napoleon.

Prepare the pancakes in advance. Use gluten free flour using a normal recipe if you are coeliac. Allow the pancakes to cool before attempting to stack them.

I sandwiched the pancakes together using freshly whipped double cream mixed with about half the amount of mascarpone cheese and then leave in the fridge to set slightly before using. The mascarpone cheese will help the cream hold the pancakes for longer. Use any fruit you like, I used a combination of fresh and tinned cherries. Then sandwich using the cream. Cover the top of the Napoleon with cream decorate with fruit and dust with a little chocolate.

Dulce de Leche Cakes

Dule de Leche is now world famous. Everyone knows the story, the gauchos would be out moving cattle and wanted something sweet to have. So they would boil a tin of condensed milk, wait until it had cooled and then devour the sugar sweet milky caramel.

When it came to think of a dessert to have with our Argentine meal I wanted to create something which represented what the gauchos had. Often they were out in the wilderness but more often than not they returned to rich farms where dairy products were in abundance hence the use of the cheeses.

These little cakes are soft, creamy and slightly cheesey. The dulce de leche in the centre makes a pleasant surprise. Best of all they are quite quick and easy to make.

Ingredients – makes 6 cakes
2 eggs
50g caster sugar
125g ricotta
125g mascarpone
75g Doves Farm Plain Flour
¼ tin of Dulce de Leche

1. Place the eggs, caster sugar, ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese, and flour in a bowl and mix together.
2. Line a 6 hole metal muffin tin with individual sheets of grease proof paper. Make sure each sheet is slightly bigger than the hole.
3. Put approximately one tablespoon of mixture into each hole. Try and flatten it slightly.
4. Place ¼ teaspoon of dulce de leche on top of each cake, in the middle.
5. Now place another tablespoon of mixture on top of the dolce de leche

6. Flatten the mix slightly, push down any spikes with a clean, wet finger.
7. Place the muffin tin into a larger oven proof dish and fill the larger dish with water so that it comes up halfway to the muffin tin.
8. Place this in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes until the cakes are slightly puffed and risen.

9. Remove the cakes with their paper on and leave to cool on a wire rack until cool
10. Remove the paper and place a tablespoon of dolce de leche on each cake

Chimichurri Sauce and Farina

When we normally think of Argentina we tend to think about the people dancing the Tango, wearing red and black and perhaps holding a rose between their teeth. When I think about the rooms where these Tango scenes are played out they are always filmed in dinning rooms laden with food. However searching in to Argentina’s food, away from the posh lifestyle of the Argentine elite is the world of the gaucho, the Cowboy. The cowboy has a special place in Argentina’s culinary history after all they are the ones who worked on the land and provided the food.

A lot of Gaucho food is based on the concept of grilled meat with traditional sides. The gem, however, seems to be the Chimichurri sauce served alongside. Legend has it that a Scotsman was trying to say, “give me curry” (che me curry), some say it was British prisoners asking their Spanish jailers for a condiment to have on the side of their meal “Che mi salsa” which later became corrupted.

I have to say that while making this sauce, my mother was in the kitchen with me and looked rather unimpressed with the list of ingredients. On a couple of occasions she did suggest that we add some more things but I refused! The end result is garlic-y and rather like the green Beurre de Paris sometimes served with steak in France.

Farina, Socca, Basin bread are all pretty much the same: chickpea flour mixed with water, left to stand and then shallow fried in a frying pan or dry fried on a griddle

Our meal consisted of grilled lamb, grilled chicken, sautéed baked potatoes, a plain salad, chimichurri sauce and a slice of farina.

Chimichurri Sauce

Ingredients

1 bunch Fresh Coriander
4 cloves of Garlic
2 Spring Onions
Salt
A pinch of Red Chilli Flakes
Olive Oil
Vinegar

Use a food processor to blitz the spring onions and garlic until coarse. Then add in the coriander (leaves and stems), if the mix is unable to move in the processor because it is too dry add a little water. Blitz again with the salt and red chilli flakes. Finally pour enough olive oil while the mixer is moving and a couple of drops of vinegar to allow the olive oil to emulsify.

Farina
.
Ingredients
Chickpea Flour (basin)
Water
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix the chickpea flour and baking powder with the water until you have a thick batter. Leave to stand for approximately 10 -20 minutes. Spray spray-oil on to a non stick frying pan and pour on the batter. Check to see if the underside has cooked, then flip over and cook the other side. Repeat the process.

Plantation Banana Custard

This dish goes back to colonial day and while that time has gone so of those dishes live on and this is one of those. Again, this has been done by Keith Floyd and many others. There is very little to say about this dish other than enjoy.

Ingredients – serves 6

3 eggs yolks
25g Doves Farm Plain Flour
25g Brown sugar
¾ cup of milk
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 bananas

1. Mix together the egg yolks, flour, brown sugar together is a bowl
2. Heat the milk and the vanilla bean paste to allow the vanilla to infuse into the milk
3. Slowly add the hot milk to the flour. Do this a tablespoon at a time. If you do this quickly the eggs will cook too soon. Whisk all the while until the milk is fully incorporated
4. Line a metal muffin tin with silicone muffin/cupcake cases.
5. Lay slices of banana at the bottom of each muffin case
6. Pour on the custard mix until ¾ full
7. Then top each custard with some more banana slices
8. Put in the oven at 200 degrees. At 10 minutes in, top with a little brown sugar and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes.
9. Eat as they are or

Tongabezi Chicken Curry

When deciding to cover foods from different continents for Ramadan this year, I have to say that while I felt I was well informed about food in general, I really didn’t know what to expect about non Arab African food. I was familiar with North Africa food and as a coeliac I now know to remind any waiter not to put any free bread over or under my food. I just really didn’t know what to expect with Africa let alone Zambia.

I found this recipe in Floyd on Africa and pretty much all recipes of Tonzabezi Chicken Curry are variations of his. I have, however, made alterations to suit my palate. I’m sure the late Keith Floyd won’t mind. I’ve put the butternut squash in with the chicken as it adds taste and texture to the chicken. I can’t abide the taste of ‘curry’ powder and never use. I also feel that if you are cooking meat on the bone there really is no need to use stock. The chicken, as they cook, will create their own stock from real bones. I’ve also added cumin seeds because the dish lacked a certain je ne sais quoi until this was added. Finally a sprinkle of fresh coriander makes this perfect.

This dish is soothing, comforting and the dish that you just want to come home to. It really is. Serve with white rice, and the sautéed sweet potato on the side. With plantation banana custard for dessert this was simply perfect. Alhumdulilah.

Ingredients – Serves 4
2 sweet potatoes
1 butternut squash
4 pieces of chicken (I used legs)
2 onions
½ a tin of tomatoes
2 inch ginger
2 garlic cloves
6 cardamon pods
½ teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
4 teaspoons dried lemongrass or 2 whole bruised lemongrass
2 large red chillies chopped
4 tablespoon of yoghurt
Water
1 tablespoon fresh corriander

1. Chop the butternut squash in to quarters and remove any seeds. Parboil the sweet potatoes whole, with the quartered butternut squash. When you can put a knife through the butternut squash and sweet potato remove from the pan but keep the water. Peel the butternut squash and cut into bit sized cubes. Leave the sweet potato whole.
2. Dice the onions and slowly cook in a pan until translucent before adding the ginger and garlic
3. Add the cumin, tumeric, lemongrass, salt and peppercorns. For the cardamom pods bruise before adding to pan.
4. Allow the spices to toast slightly, stir the spices for about a minute under a medium heat before adding the chicken to the pan and turning the chicken in the spices
5. Add enough water to cover the chicken
6. Add the tomatoes and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes on a medium heat.
7. Add the chopped chillies
8. Add a cup of the sweet potato/butternut squash cooking water to the chicken, along with the cubed butternut squash for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the butternut squash is soft but still holds its shape.
9. Peel and slice the sweet potato and sautee in pan with a little oil until the sweet potato is slightly crunchy
10. Just before you are ready to serve (ie just before you heat the food for iftari) mix in the yoghurt and heat gently, do not allow to boil otherwise the yoghurt will split. It will still be fine to eat but the sauce will look as if it has bits in.
11. Top with coriander
12. Serve with fresh rice and the sautéed sweet potato along side.

Halva and Mini Pooris

When I was little my mum and dad would sometimes make Halva Poori on a Sunday morning, normally when they had their university friends over to visit. My mum would make the pooris and my dad would make the halva. He would start early in the morning and allow no one in the kitchen except for me. I’d sit up on the worktop next to the cooker (no health and safety issues back then!) and I’d watch him stirring and mixing, making a halva that would melt in your mouth.

Before I knew it he was gone, and so had the recipe. I had no one to ask how to make it, as no one was ever allowed into the kitchen. Any time anyone would make me halva it was not remotely like his halva. It would be oily, gritting, the wrong colour, lumpy, every negative adjective under the sun. I yearned for that halva.

Finally last year after tasting a particularly bad gluten free halva (halva is normally made with semolina) I set myself up with the challenge of making a halva which was both gluten free and met my memories.

Halva
50g Basin/ Ground Chickpea Flour
50g Fine Corn Meal
50g Juvela White Mix
50g Unsalted Butter
50g sugar
1 cardamom pod

1. Boil ½ pint of water with sugar until the sugar dissolves
2. Lower the heat
3. Strip the cardamom pod of its husk and place the seeds and butter into the sugar water
4. Allow the butter to melt
5. Mix the flours together in a bowl and slowly pour into the water
6. Whisk the flour and water with a whisk. Keep the flour moving.
7. Once the mix begins to go sticky, use a spatula to bring it together so that it starts to look more like a dough
8. Using the spatula keep moving the dough, flattening it, moving it to remove any remaining lumps. This process will cook out the flour. Do this for about 5 -7 mins until the halva in cooked
9. Place the halva in a bowl and use the spatula to smooth out the surface.
10. Serve with hot pooris

Mini Pooris
These pooris won’t fluff up like real gluten pooris, however they will have some air pockets making them the closest thing to a poori that I have had since being coeliac.

200g Doves Farm Plain Flour
2 tablespoons ispughul seeds with the husk removed
Water

1. Mix the seeds and flour together
2. Slowly mix in some water until the flour forms a dough
3. Make golf ball sized balls from the dough
4. Roll out on a floured surface, using a clean rolling pin, I prefer to roll them all out at once as it makes it easier to fry. Don’t make them too thin.
5. Half fill a frying pan with oil and heat up the oil and then shallow fry the pooris in there. Cook for about 2-3 mins each side until or until crunchy.