Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Roasted fennel with yoghurt dip

  1.  Cut a fennel bulb lenghtwise in four and baste with some olive oil.
  2. Heat a ribbed skillet and slowly fry the fennel on both sides.
  3. In the meantime, crush three cloves of garlic, mix with a few tablespoonfuls of full-fat Turkish yoghurt, and season with black pepper, salt or fish sauce, and a generous amount of chopped mint or parsley.

  4. Serve as the main for lunch, a starter for dinner, or an entry for a tapas feast.

Mole con chocolate y chipotle: Mexican chocolate and chipotle stew recipe

I am not entirely sure how I came up with this. I knew of the chocolate stew, the concept pops up here and there in Mexican cookbooks and food blogs. But then when it came down to cooking it, adding the tangy, smoky pepper known as chipotle, just seemed like the most natural thing to do. After all, both are Mexico's gifts to the world. My gut did not lie. The stew came out luscious and scrumptious, definitely chocolatey, yet savoury and spicy.

So here goes the recipe:
  1. Briefly marinate bite-size chunks of organic free-range beef in freshly ground black pepper and fish sauce. Pat the beef dry with kitchen rolls and fry in a cast-iron pot with a bit of oil. Do it in batches, if necessary, to make sure that the meat gets nicely browned, instead of getting steamed in its own juice. Remove to a plate once done.
  2. Slowly sautee crushed garlic, finely chopped onions and celery in the oil until golden brown.
  3. Add the meat, red wine to cover, bring to a boil and let simmer until tender. 
  4. Add a nice chunk of good quality chocolate (or pure cocoa powder) and some chipotle peppers to taste, as spicy as you prefer. Let bubble away slowly for another 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve on top of steamed rice and beans, with red wine to wash it all down. As with all stews, it tastes better the next day, but also benefits from sitting an hour or so on the counter before being served.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nettle soup, done well

It's again this time of the year when foodies and those aligned with them start cooking foraged weeds. What used to be (really) poor man's grub, these days is a social marker of the educated classes. Now, I've seen and tried and number of nettle soups this year and, I hate to say that, people you need to get a grip. Just boiling leaves with random veggies does not do the trick, or any trick for that matter. That's what my 85-year-old farmer uncle cooks for his piglets, literally. Nettle has its own special flavour that, if served to humans, needs to be cherished, flaunted and taken proper care of.

So here I will share the proper nettle soup recipe, as it's been cooked in my family for at least three generations.
  1. Pick a bunch of young nettle leaves, they need to be light green and with no flowers forming.
  2. Remove the stems and rinse well in cold water.
  3. Sautee in butter on a low heat.
  4. Add chopped shallots or onions. Cook until soft.
  5. Add a can or two of chopped tomatoes with juice. If too thick, add water.
  6. Beat a nice large biodynamic egg and add into the boiling soup, as you stir it, making sure it comes out stringy, not cloudy.
  7. Let it bubble away for a little while to let the tastes mingle.
  8. Salt and pepper in moderation. Sprinkle a few drops of fish sauce to enhance the flavour.
This recipe balances the sourness from the tomatoes and the sweetness of sauteed onions to give the nettle a proper stage to show off its zing.

Old wives' tales (that are quite likely true):  
  • Nettles are supposed to stimulate your liver to cleanse blood. 
  • It is not recommend to eat too much nettle soup, not more than 2-3 times a year, naturally in the spring.