While my lovely northern hemisphere readers are all huddled into their woolly sweaters, enjoying belly-warming soups and casseroles and sipping steaming mugs of hot chocolate we are cooking in an altogether different fashion down here in the wide brown land. This summer started off hot and fiery early in the season and shows no signs of changing it’s colours. There are terrifyingly huge fires burning in many regions of the country at the moment and hundreds of people have already lost their homes. Here in South Australia we have endured some scorching days of late, including one that went up to 45C last week – that’s over 110F in northern hemisphere-speak !
Needless to say, salads have been the only things to come out of my kitchen (once again) over the last week or two. These were initially augmented with the Christmas ham leftovers, cooked free-range chooks from the shop and seared flesh from the barbecue, but in 45C weather it is way too hot to be standing over a flame flicking sausages. However, there is only so many times I can get away with the regular repertoire that the family deems acceptable, so I’m always scratching around looking for something newish.
The hunt took on an added urgency a couple of weeks back when I invited my vegetarian friend Jennifer, from Delicieux, and her family over for a barbecue while they were visiting Adelaide. Now, I’m a resourceful cook and can churn out any number of respectable veggoe dishes, but this meal was going to be heavy on the meat – not least because Jennifer’s husband has two hungry boys! In light of that, I was very keen to find a dish that would be delicious and nutritionally balanced enough to pass the scrutiny of both a gourmet vegetarian and a bunch of blokes! I had a memory lingering in the back of my mind of a particularly good chick pea (garbanzo’s to you chilly northerners) salad that another friend of mine made for a group meal early in December. A quick email, a few tweaks and I was happy!
Using canned chick peas (not the imported ones, folks – pay the extra for the Australian grown) makes this a fabulously quick and simple salad – the spices make it a stand out one! I think this dish is truly embodies what I love about sharing food – a salad developed from a recipe by my friend Liz and made for my friend Jennifer. Perfect!
Moroccan Chick Pea Salad
- 2 400 gm cans chick peas garbanzos drained, rinsed & strained
- 6 spring onions finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1 preserved lemon rind only, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 fresh lemon
- 200 ml olive oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbs paprika
- 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
- Baby spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 200-300 gms Greek-style yoghurt
- Pomegranate molasses
- Combine chick peas, onions, garlic, currants, preserved lemon, spices and olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce in a large bowl. Mix and leave to marinate for several hours. The salad should look rich and red from the paprika.
- To serve, line a shallow dish with baby spinach leaves, pile the chick peas on the leaves, then dollop the yoghurt on top. Drizzle generously with pomegranate molasses (or honey) then sprinkle with parsley.
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I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel a little over the last few years. As we bid farewell to school fees (one more year, but who’s counting), school books, uniform costs, dependent offspring and their associated expenses, both The Husband and I hope to be able to do include quite a bit more of it in our future. If I assume we won’t be winning the lottery any time soon, I don’t suppose I’ll ever get to all the places I want to see, but I intend to prioritise and Morocco is going to be very high on that list.
I have long had a passion for the flavours of Moroccan and Middle Eastern food, neither of which is a cuisine commonly found locally to me. Thanks to some excellent sources of supply for the requisite spices, I like to think I do a pretty fair job of preparing my favourite dishes at home, but I long for the opportunity to lie around on some sort of cushioned arrangement, in a gloriously tiled courtyard, wearing something loose, drapey and flattering, listening to the gentle splash of a small fountain, while sipping freshly made, sweet mint tea and enjoying authentic Moroccan food. As you can probably tell, I’ve got the complete fantasy worked out – the whole lying around aspect is very attractive to this lazy woman.
Moroccan food is not difficult to make if you have the right spices – and they are readily available these days. Try to avoid buying the supermarket spices if you can – their flavours are often not really very good. I buy mine online or at gourmet stores and it is well worth the small extra expense. This delicious chicken tagine, served with steaming piles of golden couscous, is quite simple to make and so wonderfully fragrant that you will be very impressed with yourself – even my ungrateful teens enjoyed this meal and took the leftovers to school the next day for lunch.
One tip for the couscous – the boxed stuff is pretty ordinary, but will absorb surprising amounts of liquid and will reward you handsomely if you spend a little more time over it. Traditionally couscous is steamed three times (being rubbed between each stage) over the cooking stew and, in reality, that’s easily enough done if you have the right equipment. But if not, try this method. Place 2 cups of couscous in a wide, shallow dish with an equivalent amount of very hot (or boiling) stock, give it a stir with a fork, then cover for 5-10 minutes. Remove cover, melt 100 gms of butter, pour it over the couscous then, with clean (or gloved) hands, gently rub the couscous through your fingers to separate it, making sure the butter is distributed evenly. Cover again for 5 minutes, then fluff up with a fork (or fingers) before serving.
Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potato, Prunes & Orange
- 700 gms chicken thighs on the bone if possible
- 2 medium sweet potatoes cut into large cubes
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 Tbs Ras el Hanout
- 50 gms butter
- 30 ml olive oil
- 1 litre chicken or veg stock
- 1 can chick peas drained
- 3/4 cup prunes stones removed
- zest of 1 orange cut into strips
- orange blossom water
- 1/4 cup flaked almonds
- Melt butter and oil together in a heavy based saucepan over moderate heat. Add Ras el Hanout and cook gently for a minute or two, until fragrant.
- Add chicken to spiced oil and brown quickly. Set aside.
- Add onions to spiced oil and cook over moderate heat until softened and golden.
- Return chicken to pot, add the sweet potato and stock to cover, stir to combine. Cover, bring to boil, then turn heat down to a slow simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
- Add chick peas and prunes and simmer for 10 minutes more, then stir in orange zest and simmer a further 5 minutes.
- Serve on couscous, drizzling with a splash of orange blossom water and sprinkled with almonds.
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This weekly post is aimed at offering some simple recipe suggestions to the subscribers of Adelaide Food Connect weekly fresh produce boxes. It can be a challenge to deal with the same seasonal produce week after week and I hope to help inspire with fresh ideas. The link to the contents of the boxes this week is here.
Icy days up here on the hill with the temperature struggling to make it up to double digits. This weather is very bad for my waistline as I cook up rich, hearty casseroles, vats of soup served with crusty bread and butter, hot chocolates and, with the slow combustion stove quietly humming along, the urge to bake is simply overpowering.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a particular fondness for Moroccan and Middle Eastern food. There is something about the fragrance of the spices used in these cuisines that really sings to me so I am always on the lookout for new (to me, at least) ways to incorporate them into my own cooking. This week I found myself with an over-abundance of organic onions from past Adelaide Food Connect boxes at the same time as I serendipitously saw a Moroccan recipe using copious amounts of the same. This dish, Chicken Mezgueldi, is a chicken tagine flavoured with ginger, preserved lemon, saffron and turmeric and served with fragrant caramelised onions spiced with more ginger, cumin, cinnamon and sweet paprika. Don’t be put off by the amount of ingredients as it is really quite simple to make. I cooked up a pile of the onions the day before I made the dish and refried them a little, just before serving, to give them more of a browned caramelised finish and they were just perfect served on top of the slowly cooked, aromatic chook.
This week’s spinach recipe comes to you from Tessa Kiros’ lovely book “Falling Cloudberries“, a record of some of the recipes she grew up with and others shared by friends and family. It is another simple recipe that can be tarted up in loads of different ways if you wish. This would make quite a lot of rice, so I would probably halve these amounts to serve as a side dish.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 30 gms butter
- 120 gms spring onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1.2 kg spinach, chopped
- 300 gms long grain rice
- Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and saute the spring onion until softened. Add the garlic and stir for another moment, then add spinach and mix through.
- Add the rice, stir through and season with salt and pepper. Pour in 700 mls of water, bring to the boil, lower the heat and cover pan with a lid. Cook for about 15 minutes until the water is evaporated.
- Remove from heat, fluff the rice with a fork and cover the pan with a clean cloth and allow to steam for a few minutes more before serving.
I would be very tempted to add any or all of the following to this – chopped preserved lemon, currants, toasted slithered almonds or pine nuts. I would also stir through a good slurp of olive oil or melted butter before serving – but then that’s probably what gave me my “full” figure…
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6