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.

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Courgette Flower Fritters



Years ago I used to live outside of Nice, one morning I got up really early and took the bus into Nice to watch the flower market (yes I do mean watch). I remember wandering the freshly washed streets with the warmth of the sun streaming down. I wandered around Cours Saleya for ages that morning just watching and drinking in the view of all the beautiful flowers and then another smell got my attention, the smell of something frying. Despite it being early a stall holder was dipping beautiful yellowy orange closed mouth flowers in a batter and frying them. They emerged from the hot oil, golden. Biting in is always pleasurable, slightly gooey and slightly crunchy.

Since then I make it a point to plant courgettes in my garden if for nothing more than the pure indulgence of courgettes flower fritters. If you are lucky enough to have courgette flowers in your garden use those that have flowered for a day to ensure pollination to produce courgettes. Once the flowers have flowered their mouths will close again. Pick the male flowers (those that don’t have fruit attached) complete with a stem. Please feel free to alter the spices to suit your palette, but try not to increase the chilli as too much chilli can be over bearing on the delicate courgette flower. There are plenty of recipes out there and this mine.

4 one day old Courgette flowers
5 heaped tablespoons of Chick pea (Basin) flour
1 teaspoon of garlic ginger paste
½ a teaspoon of: whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds,
¼ of red chilli flakes, salt, coarsely ground black pepper
Water
Rapeseed Oil for frying

1. Wash and dry the courgette flowers.
2. Put the flour and spices in a bowl and gradually mix in the water until you reach the consistency of a batter.
3. Set aside for 10 mins.
4. Check the batter, it should be thick enough for stay on your finger and starts to drop, but not so thin that it falls off immediately.
5. Snip the stalk off the courgette flower leaving enough to hold on to the end of the courgette flower.

Courgette flowers can be deep fried but there really isn’t any need. The flowers are so delicate they cook in seconds. Instead I suggest shallow frying them.

6. Heat approximately 1cm of rapeseed oil in a frying pan
7. Hold on to the end of the stalk and drag the courgette flower through the batter, on the one side and then the other.
7. Fry each side until golden brown
8. Devour without delay!

Basin Bread


I frequently suffer from bouts of very low iron so am constantly thinking about high iron meals. One of my favourites is basin bread with sardines. It’s a meal which is quick and easy to make.

Chick peas are a whole grain (friendly for coeliacs and diabetics) which means that it releases energy slowly making it ideal for sehri (minus the salt and chilli). Iron wise they are very high in iron for a non heme (meat) source of iron 7mg per 100mg!

Basin Bread

8oz of basin / ground chick pea flour
Ground spices ½ a teaspoon of each: garlic, ginger, coriander, garam masala, cumin, chilli, salt
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 sliced onion
Fresh sliced green chilli to taste ( I used 1)
Fresh coriander leaves (optional)
Water to mix

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix in the water to make a batter slightly thinner than a pancake batter.
Mix in the sliced onion, chilli and coriander if using it.
Leave in the fridge for 30 mins to rest.
Heat up a small frying pan
Spray ‘spray oil’ in to a frying pan and then pour in the batter. Cook on one side before turning over to cook the other.
You can either cook the entire batch in one go or you can leave the batter in the fridge for up to a week and cook as you need them. If you do this, remember the batter will get spicier as time goes on.

I served mine with tinned sardines with a little squeezed lemon juice (vitamin C helps non-heme iron absorb into the body) with a little sliced spring onion.