Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chickpea and cauliflower salad with olive-anchovy dressing

I invented this on the weekend. It's a bit of a weird salad, and I wasn't sure if I should post it. It's not often one sees cauliflower in a salad, and I think there's a good reason for that — if you cook it too long, it's going to be mushy, and you don't want anything mushy in a salad! (Except avocado, perhaps.)

In any case, this wasn't the most amazing salad I've ever had, but it wasn't bad. It wasn't bad at all. I think the combination of olives and cauliflower is highly underrated. And croutons are just great in any salad.

What do you think? Does this seem appetising, or a bit ... meh?

Don't hold back. I can handle the truth.

Chickpea and cauliflower salad with olive-anchovy dressing

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
Half a loaf of ciabatta (sourdough/bread made with olive oil), crust removed and torn into chunks
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
3 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup black olives, drained and finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 handfuls rocket

1. Lightly steam the cauliflower until just cooked (but still very firm), then plunge into icy water to prevent further cooking.
2. Arrange the bread chunks on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast until golden.
3. In a pestle and mortar, mash the anchovy and garlic until you have a paste. Add the lemon juice, zest and a good glug olive oil, and whisk to create a dressing. Season to taste.
4. In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, chickpeas, olives and dressing, and stir so everything's nicely coated.
5. Arrange the rocket on a platter and top with the cauliflower and chickpeas. Sprinkle with the croutons, drizzle over any remaining dressing and serve.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Radio Koek: Pesto Lentil Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella

I must have had a childhood accident that rewired something in my head, and from then on my brain accidentally intercepted airwaves from music radio stations... I believe this because almost every morning I wake up with a different song in my head — a song so random and irrelevant to my life that this is the only explanation I can come up with. One morning it’ll be Rock the Casbah. The next, On the Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady. The next, a jingle I heard on The Simpsons years ago.

Life is a mystery.

I like Jack Handey’s take on mankind’s little idiosyncrasies: 'Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words: "mank" and "ind". What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that is why so is mankind.'

The song running through my head today is Funky Cold Medina... actually now it’s Rock the Casbah because I just remembered it a minute ago when I was typing up this post. Damnation! If history repeats itself, if memory serves, this particular ditty stuck around in my head for about five days.

'What’s all this got to do with Pesto Lentil Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella?' you might be wondering. Well done. Excellent question. The link is subtle, but if you really think about it, it’s actually quite obvious.

This salad is very nice, by the way. It's gorgeous as an antipasti with some salami, as a side to chicken or fish, or on its own with some crusty bread. I don’t need a reason to eat buffalo mozzarella, but if I did, this salad would be it.

BM is just about one of the most gorgeous foods known to mankind (ahem). It’s got a clean, light taste that totally disassociates itself from the cow’s milk variety. It’s like the scent of fresh sweat on someone you’re really, really attracted to. Okay, so now I’ve probably put you off it for life, but I promise, it's worth trying — and you’ll see what I mean (in a good way).

God, it’s always a struggle not to end a post with the words 'Bon appetite!' You know, in a clichéd, ironic, post-modern Julia Child rip-off kind of way. Is it just me?

Pesto Lentil Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella
Serves 2

1 cup lentils
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 large handful basil leaves
1 fat clove garlic
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
Juice of half a lemon
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
2 balls buffalo mozzarella
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Toss the tomatoes in a little sea salt, and allow to sit for 10 minutes so that the salt can draw out some of the tomato juices. I find this doubles the flavour of the tomato (could it just be the salt?), but also, the tomato juices get mixed in with the dressing when it finally joins the rest of the salad, and this is a very, very good thing.
2. Simmer the lentils in the chicken stock until they are cooked, but still have a little bite. Drain and allow to cool a little.
3. In the meantime, chop the basil roughly, then bash it up in a pestle and mortar with the garlic and a third of the pine nuts, till it's nice and pasty. This isn’t proper pesto, but Parmesan doesn’t have a place in this dish (proper pesto usually includes Parmesan, as you well know).
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the warm (but not hot) lentils, tomato, pesto and chilli. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Add the lemon juice, a good glug of olive oil (about 3 tbsp — okay, it’s more like 5, but I like to drown my salads in olive oil) and stir until the whole mixture is fragrant, glistening and evenly flecked with emerald.
5. Tear the mozzarella into chucks. (Resist the urge to pop a piece into your mouth just yet — it is nearly impossible to stop yourself devouring the whole lot before it’s even joined the salad. Or perhaps that’s just me... Better to err on the side of caution, don’t you think?)
6. Arrange the chunks on plates and spoon over the lentil salad. Top with a final drizzle of olive oil (you heard me) and serve.

The shareeeeef don’t like it... ROCK the casbah, ROCK the casbah...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cardamom ice cream

Dearhearts, this is going to be a short post. When visiting my parents in Calitzdorp recently, my father brought out a tub of this homemade ice cream after dinner. You just have to try it to believe it.


Cardamom ice cream
For 6

500ml milk
1 tbsp cardamom seeds (about 2/3 cup cardamom pods), ground in a pestle and mortar
8 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
250ml double cream

1. Bring the milk to the boil in a pan and add the cardamom.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until foamy, then gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly.
3. Pour the mixture into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, and cook, stirring, until it begins to thicken.
4. Add the double cream, mix well, then transfer to an ice-cream maker and freeze. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into a shallow bowl and place in the freezer for about one hour, until it is beginning to solidify around the edges. Whisk it well with a fork, then return to the freezer. Repeat this process three times and then freeze until firm.
5. Serve with fresh mint, if you like.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chickpea soup forever

I think I’ve met The One. The one that might even replace the River Café’s ribollita as my hands-down favourite soup recipe. And that’s saying a lot, because what I feel for ribollita is almost Biblical.

I’ve always had a crush on chickpeas. What is it about them that’s just so damned good? They’re not sophisticated or posh — in fact they conjure images in my mind of hardship and rural life (though probably not very accurate ones).

There’s something so romantically rustic about these plain beige grains. There’s no mistaking their honest, earthy flavour, and I have explored many, many chickpea recipes.
I like hummus, but I don’t love it. And while I had a brief, torrid affair with Orangette’s chickpea salad with lemon and Parmesan, and a fairly serious fling with Jamie Oliver’s summer chickpea salad, I have fallen irrevocably, head-over-heals in love with this gorgeous, chunky soup.

It’s easy enough to make, but the flavour is unbelievable — there’s the somewhat bland but reassuring flavour of chickpeas, but also a deeply savoury element which hits that umami button, and then hits it again. It’s not an elaborate or upmarket recipe (Italian peasant food at its best, in my opinion), but it will make your taste buds scream ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ ... and then ‘More’. The culinary equivalent of the headboard knocking against the wall. Ahem.

You don’t actually need to add the sausage — it imparts an extra something that only fried pork can impart — but the soup is plenty tasty without it. You could grate a little Parmesan on top instead if you like. Don’t skip the drizzle of olive oil at the end, though (so long as its virginity is intact). Trust me. Serve it with buttered slices of fresh crusty bread (I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I like to serve just about everything with buttered slices of fresh crusty bread) and a good red wine.

Do I take this recipe to be my dinner, to slurp and to scoff, until I’m so stuffed and giddy I can’t remember my own name?

I do.

Chickpea soup
Serves 4 (very hungry people)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
1 litre chicken stock (or water)
3 x 400g cans chickpeas
200g small pasta, such as ditalini or conchigliette
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
150g spinach, roughly chopped
4 pork sausages

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and rosemary. Cook on a very low heat until the vegetables are soft and the onion translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes (you want them to take as long as possible to go soft, without letting them brown — this is the secret to bringing out their flavour).
2. Add half the stock (500ml) to the pot, as well as half the chickpeas and all of the pasta. Allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked.
3. In the meantime, warm the remaining stock and chickpeas together in a separate pot, then liquidise using a handheld blender. Pour this into the main pot, as well as the tomato paste and chilli, and stir to combine.
4. Add the spinach and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. While the soup is simmering, squeeze out the pork sausage filling into a non-stick frying pan and fry until nicely browned. Break up the pork mince into chunks (consistency doesn’t really matter; I like to have a combination of chunks and lots of little golden pork crumbs).
6. If the soup is too thick, add a little water or stock until it reaches a desirable consistency — you don’t want it to be watery, but you don’t want it to be stodgy, either. Season to taste.
7. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, top with the pork and serve.