Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pkhali - Georgian answer to hommous (ფხალი)


hiz together in a blender:
  1. A can of red beans (although my Mom would also use nearly anything veggie-like: boiled cabbage leaves, freshly boiled spinach, cooked beet roots, fried aubergines, etc.)
  2. A handful of walnuts.
  3. 1-3 cloves of garlic.
  4. Half a handful of coarsely chopped parsley or coriander leaves.
  5. A glug of olive oil.
  6. Some salt (as I do, I use fish sauce)
  7. A generous sprinkle of khmeli-suneli (ხმელი სუნელი), an indispensable Georgian mix of dried herbs, which is best made at home as supermarket versions are invariably inferior. Simply mix equal shares of dried mint, basil, marjoram, parsley, oregano as well as bay leaf powder, ground coriander seeds and black pepper. If you can get hold of dried hyssop and fenugreek leaves, by all means add those too.
Spread some on grilled bread and decorate with a sprinkle of pomegranate sauce (sold in Turkish shops as nar ekşisi) and finely chopped coriander leaves.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to cook bulots (whelks) the French way

 have always bought bulots (whelks) in France. Farmed mainly in Normandy, these gastropods are well-fed, lush and always sold cooked - or so I thought as I had never bought them outside France. Until one late London afternoon I stumbled upon them in Brixton Market. Just when I lined up baguette, mayonnaise and white wine and got ready to eat them, quelle horreur, they turned out to be raw!

So, I had to add another survival skill to my collection: cooking whelks. This is how you do it.
  1. First of all, soak your whelks in cold water for at least an hour. Tht way they will release their droppings into the water so you won't have to eat them.
  2. For half a kilo of raw whelks you will need two litres of water, 50 g of salt, one bay leaf, a prig of thyme, a teaspoonful of white vinegar and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool down in the resulting court bouillon.
  5. Serve, just as I did, with home-made mayonnaise, baguette and white wine. This time I flavoured my mayonnaise with a paste made out of crushed anchovies, garlic and walnuts mixed with some Modena vinegar. A Parisian would hyperventilate and swoon but my Languedoc brethren and sistren will sure understand me!

How to improve hommous

 am not that dedicated to make hommous from scratch. However, the supermarket variety is just too dull and basic, the price of becoming Britain's favourite cupboard commodity.

A few add-ons I came up with never fail to land me adoration from my lunch/dinner guests. I am going to share my little secrets with you today. This is what I add to hummus to give it the extra zing-boom-bang:
  • 1 tbsp of za'atar (Levantine thyme)
  • a dash of Persian lime powder (failing that, lime juice)
  • a glug of extra vrigin olive oil
  • a sprinkle of garlic powder
  • a wee tad of fish sauce for the naturally occurring MSG.
The quantities indicated are not precise because you need to arrage everything to your own heart's content. Good luck!

Samphire (also okra, fern and bamboo shoots) kimchi

he only reason why Koreans do not make kimchi out of  samphire is because samphire only grows in North-Western Europe. Should it favour East Asia too, I have no doubt it would have long been part of the gorgeous sanchae or sansai, wild vegetables commonly used to make pickles in Korea and Japan.

Last month I decided to correct this Mother Nature's oversight and made kimchi out of Norfolk samphire. Fresh, crunchy and naturally briny, it is perfectly complemented by ginger and pepper. Depending on how much you make, the amount of  ingredients will vary, so I will rather give proportions than exact quantities. You should make enough kimchi base paste to smother the main ingredient comfortably.

Kimchi base ingredients:
  1. equal quantities of minced garlic and minced onion.  
  2. double quantities of rice porridge and gochugaru (hot pepper flakes, can be substituted with gochujang)
  3. quarter quantity of minced ginger and fish sauce. 
  1. Rinse samphire well and remove the woody parts. Cut into equal pieces.
  2. Mix the kimchi base ingredients. Fold the samphire into the mixture.
  3. Cover with a lid and leave to ferment at a room temperature for 24 hours. When bubbles start showing, the process has kicked off. Give it all a good stir, move to a cold place, ideally a few degrees above zero degree centigrade. A few days is normally enough to complete the fermentation: keep checking until you are satisfied with the taste.
P.S. I also use bamboo shoots, okra, string beans, turnip, daikon (mooli) and fiddlehead fern (warabi or gosari) for my kimchi preserves. Bean sprouts are rather delicate in texture so they can be simply mixed with the excess of juice from already made kimchi and left overnight in the fridge. Kimchi out of bean sprouts and samphire do not hold long, so finish yours within a week or so.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Turkish viagra: nuts and honey

erhaps, I should not have taken the assurances of vendors at Istanbul's Spice Market that what they sold as "Turkish viagra" actually lived up to its name, with such a huge pinch of salt. Well, it just did not seem likely that assorted nuts smothered in honey could have any effect but satisfying one's sweet-tooth craving. How wrong was I, indeed.

I never meant for the mix of brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and white sesame seeds with my Uncle's home-made organic honey more to accompany a cup of breakfast coffee. The description of what ensued and took the rest of that day will definitely not make it past Blogger/Google censorship, so I rather leave it to your imagination. Next time I will have some of that again.