Spices

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Slender young leeks are ideal for this dish, not the baby ones that resemble spring onions, and certainly not fat, mature ones with tough stalks. I usually buy a bunch of four or five organic leeks that are just so tender once cooked that you can eat most of the dark green stalk. Also, make sure that your walnuts are new or current season, and ideally crack them yourself, as the shell protects the nuts and keeps them fresh.

Ingredients

100 g walnuts
extra virgin olive oil
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch medium leeks, organic if possible, washed well
2 bunches or 2 big handfuls finger-thick asparagus, trimmed
Skordalia
250 ml milk
200 grams walnuts
4 cloves garlic, 3 sliced, 1 whole
salt flakes
80 grams crustless rye bread
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon allspice
5 grates whole nutmeg
20 ml white wine vinegar
Pickled onion
100 ml white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons currants
1 red onion, trimmed, cut in quarters and layers separated

Method

Preheat the oven to 160˚C fan-forced or 180˚C conventional.

For the pickled onion, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and about 50 ml of water to a simmer in a small pot. Add the currants and onion and bring back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, though longer is better, and an hour wouldn’t hurt.

Spread 100 grams of walnuts out on a baking tray and roast for around 15 minutes until golden and fragrant. Toss in oil and season. Set aside. Turn the oven up to 180˚C fan-forced or 200˚C conventional.

For the skordalia, bring the milk and 250 ml of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the walnuts, sliced garlic and a pinch of salt, and simmer for 10 minutes. Tear in the bread and simmer for 3 minutes. Strain, reserving a little of the liquid, and add to a blender. Add the allspice, nutmeg, vinegar, oil and a pinch of salt. Finely grate in a little garlic to taste and blend until smooth, adding a little cooking liquid if needed. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

Place the leeks on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, season and roast for 25 minutes or until tender. Toss the asparagus in oil, season and add to the tray for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

To plate, smear some of the skordalia on a serving plate, arrange the leeks and asparagus on top, dollop on a little more skordalia, scatter over the walnuts, onion and currants, drizzle with a little oil and serve.

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Spatchcock with spicy escabeche dressing

serves 4 mains
difficulty easy
prep time 30mins (approx.)
total time 1hr (approx.)
main ingredient(s) Tomatoes, chicken, spatchcock, saffron, paprika, cumin, Spices
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Escabeche is a classic Mediterranean marinade that is used to lightly pickle meat or fish, whilst infusing it with spice. Typically, freshly cooked fish, chicken or rabbit is doused in the pungent, sweet and sour dressing and will either be served straightaway or left to marinate overnight and served cold. This dish is best served warm or at room temperature.

Ingredients

12 golden shallots, unpeeled
2 bulbs garlic
100 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
2 large tomatoes, very ripe
2 punnets cherry tomatoes
2 pinches saffron threads
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon sweet smoky paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt flakes
freshly ground pepper
2 fresh bay leaves
120 ml sherry vinegar
2½ tablespoons brown sugar
½ bunch tarragon
4 poussin, size 5, ask your supplier to spatchcock the birds (remove the back bone)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced, 200°C conventional.

Cut the unpeeled shallots lengthways and toss into a roasting pan with the whole garlic bulbs. Drizzle with the extra oil and roast for 30 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Squeeze out the garlic pulp and peel the skins off the shallots. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C.

Boil a pot of water. Score a cross in the base of the large tomatoes and half the cherry tomatoes and drop them in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and refresh in cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Chop the large tomatoes, leaving the cherry tomatoes whole.

To make the sauce, in a large wide-based pot over medium heat add the 100ml of oil, the chopped tomatoes, the peeled and unpeeled cherry tomatoes, the shallots and garlic paste and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add the saffron, spices and bay leaf, season with a little salt and stir for another minute. Add the sherry vinegar and brown sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. Don’t over-reduce, the sauce should be quite loose and the cherry tomatoes should be still holding their shape. Take off the heat but keep warm.

Place a large frying pan over high heat. Season the birds with salt and pepper and lightly oil. Sear the flattened poussin, skin side down for 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a roasting tray and roast for 10-15 mins. When the birds are nearly cooked, gently warm the sauce, add the picked tarragon and check the seasoning.

Remove the birds from the oven and lay on a serving platter with any roasting juices, immediately pour over the warm dressing and rest for five to ten minutes before serving.

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Salt & Sichuan pepper squid

serves 6 starters
difficulty easy
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 30mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) squid, Sichuan pepper, five spice, chillies, Spices
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For lots of people this is a bit of a restaurant favourite, and it’s pretty simple to make at home too. For best results, use really fresh squid and make sure it is completely dry before you dust it for frying.

Ingredients

4½ tablespoons cornflour
4 tablespoons plain flour
2 heaped tablespoons crushed Sichuan peppercorns
4 teaspoons salt flakes
4 pinches Chinese five spice
750 grams squid
vegetable oil, for frying
½ iceburg lettuce, cut in wedges
2 small red chillies, finely sliced
3 handfuls basil leaves, fried in hot oil for 30 seconds and drained
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Method

Clean squid, retaining legs and wings. Cut tubes into rings with wings still attached. Cut tentacles into bite sized portions.

Heat vegetable oil in a large wok (5–8cm deep) until hot, there will be a haze above the oil when it is hot enough. Alternately heat a deep fryer to 190°C. Combine flours, peppercorns, salt and five spice in a large plastic bag. Place squid in the bag with the flour and toss to coat, then remove and shake off any excess.

Fry squid in batches for 2 minutes being careful not to crowd the fryer, drain on absorbent paper. To serve, pile squid onto a platter with lettuce wedges to the side, scatter over the chillies and basil leaves and serve with lemon wedges.

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Labna balls rolled in Tunisian dukkah

serves makes about 16 balls
difficulty easy
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 30mins (approx.) + 24hrs yoghurt hanging
main ingredient(s) yoghurt, pistachios, almonds, sesame seeds, Spices
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This Tunisian-style dukkah is divine, with a little warmth from the chilli powder and an intriguing twist from the saffron and turmeric. You’ll never buy dukkah again once you’ve made your own. It keeps well in an air-tight container in the fridge but it won’t last long once you start scattering it on everything from scrambled or poached eggs to freshly cooked vegetables and pan-seared fish!

Ingredients

Labna
500 grams thick plain yogurt
100 ml canola oil
100 ml olive oil
Tunisian dukkah
150 grams pistachio kernels, chopped
150 grams blanched almonds, toasted and crushed
40 grams sesame seeds
35 grams ground coriander
30 grams ground cumin
10 grams coriander seeds, lightly crushed
10 grams nigella seeds
10 grams caraway seeds
10 grams turmeric powder
5 grams chilli powder
5 grams ground black pepper
pinch ground cardamom
pinch saffron threads
To serve
flatbread, warmed
pickles
radishes
chillies

Method

Drain the yoghurt in a fine sieve lined with a clean kitchen cloth (such as Chux) for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Rub a little oil on your hands, and roll small spoonfuls of the yoghurt into balls about the size of a large marble. Place in a flat-sided dish. Mix the canola and olive oils then pour the oil over the labna.

Mix the dukkah ingredients in a bowl until well combined then place in an airtight container.

To serve the labna, lift balls from the oil and drain well. Roll in dukkah and serve with bread, pickles, radishes and chillies.

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Dahl

serves 4 mains
difficulty easy
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 1hr 15mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) lentils, kidney beans, Spices
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Serve the dahl with plain rice or with yoghurt and flatbread.

Ingredients

Dahl
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 cm piece fresh ginger, finely choppe
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 litres vegetable stock
350 grams red lentils, rinsed and picked over for any stones
1 green chilli, split
salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
400 gram tin kidney beans, drained
To serve
2 handfuls coriander leaves, chopped
plain yoghurt
1 lemon
flatbread

Method

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes then add spices and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Stirring constantly, add the stock, lentils, chilli and about 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover, and let the dahl simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender.

Stir in the tomato paste until well combined, then add the kidney beans. Cook several minutes more, or until the dahl is the desired temperature and consistency, adding more water if needed.

Turn into a large bowl and scatter with coriander. Serve with yoghurt, lemon wedges and flatbread.

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Kingfish kibbeh nayyeh with sumac & radish

serves 4-6 starters
difficulty easy
prep time 15mins (approx.)
total time 40mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) kingfish, freekah, sumac, radishes, Spices
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It’s important to keep the mixture cold at every stage, because you really don’t want it to cook at all. In this version, the herbs and caviar add brightness and freshness, making it especially lovely in spring.

Serve this dish as a starter in a grazing line up or spoon it onto bread.

Ingredients

Kibbeh
80 grams cracked freekah or fine cracked wheat (bulgur)
400 grams kingfish, no skin, bloodline or bone, finely chopped (salmon or ocean trout work well too)
1 large purple shallot, diced
1 heaped teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced or grated (such as on a Microplane)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 green chillies, finely chopped, seeds removed
1/2 lemon, finely zested (such as on a Microplane), and juiced
60 ml olive oil, plus a little extra
freshly ground black pepper
To serve
2 sprigs dill or mint, leaves picked
3 sprigs coriander, leaves only
6 radishes, finely sliced, optional
3 tablespoons salmon caviar
1 lemon, cut into wedges
flatbread or crispbread

Method

To make the kibbeh, start by simmering the freekah in salted water for 30 minutes, then drain and set aside to dry. (If using cracked wheat, simmer it for 2 minutes before draining and setting aside to dry.)

Chill a ceramic or glass bowl, then place in it the freekah and all other kibbeh ingredients. Combine to form a moist paste.

Pile the mixture onto a platter for serving. If not serving immediately, lightly oil the surface and cover with clingfilm, pressing it onto the fish, and chill for up to two hours.

To serve, mix the herbs and radish in a bowl. Scatter the herb mix over the fish and spoon over the caviar. Drizzle with olive oil and serve alongside extra lemon and the toasted flatbread.

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Kasundi relish

serves Makes approx. 3 cups
difficulty moderate
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 2hrs (approx.)
main ingredient(s) , vinegar, ginger, chillies, mango, Spices
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It has a lovely chilli warmth and a depth of flavour thanks to mustard seeds and garlic. Adding a little mango or apple adds a fruity tartness.

Once you’ve got kasundi in the fridge, you’ll never want to be without it. Eat it with any barbecued meats, on fried eggs or slathered on a cheddar sandwich. It’s also nice with aged gruyere on toast or even spooned over steaming rice with a good dollop of yoghurt and a large handful of freshly picked herbs or cresses.

Ingredients

250 ml apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
120 grams ginger, peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
30 ml olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons nigella seeds
4 cloves
1 teaspoon chilli powder
6 large fresh red chillies, split, deseeded and chopped
1 large brown onion, finely diced
2 x 400 gram tins crushed tomatoes
1 kg frozen mango cheeks, chopped, or 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
125 grams brown sugar
30 grams salt

Method

Warm the vinegar in a small saucepan and add the mustard seeds. Let sit for 15 minutes. Tip the vinegar and mustard seeds into a blender with the ginger and garlic and blend until quite smooth.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat for 1 minute. Take off the heat for a moment, then add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, nigella, cloves and chilli powder. Fry for 20 seconds then add the mustard seed mix, chillies and onion. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat then add the tomato, mango or apple, sugar and salt.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, then pour into clean jars.

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Meme's orange & fennel Easter biscuits

serves makes 30-55
difficulty easy
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 1hr 10mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) oranges, fennel seeds, flour, Spices
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Ingredients

4 oranges, zested and juiced
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 teaspoons aniseed
150 grams brown sugar
150 grams caster sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 egg, to brush
375 grams plain flour
125 grams self-raising flour
1 pinch salt
200 grams butter, softened

Method

In a small pot, combine orange zest and juice, fennel seeds and aniseed. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced to 2 cm depth. Transfer to a large mortar and pestle and grind the seeds in the liquid. Whisk the zest and seed mix with sugars and eggs.

In a large bowl sift the flours and salt, and then rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and pour in the combined egg, zest and seed mix. Bring it together to form a firm dough that is not too stiff and dry (if it is dry, add a dash of milk to soften).

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Oil your hands and roll walnut-size portions into crescent shapes. Lightly beat the extra egg to make an egg wash. Brush biscuits with egg wash and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

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The secret to a cabbage salad’s success is finely shaved cabbage – use a mandolin if possible. This recipe has a little bit of spice with the caraway and sweet notes from the apple. Cheese and cabbage can work really well together, here I’ve used parmesan for a salty, crumbly accent.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons yoghurt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or other wine vinegar
40 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon flaked salt
1/2 small red cabbage
1/4 small white cabbage
1 Granny Smith apple
1/2 white salad onion, finely diced
50 grams parmesan, finely grated
1/2 bunch mint, leaves picked and roughly torn

Method

Roughly grind the caraway seeds in a mortar and pestle then place in a large bowl. Mix in the yoghurt, vinegar, oil, sugar and salt.

Finely shave the red and white cabbage, and peel and coarsely grate the apple. Add cabbage, apple, onion, parmesan and mint to the yoghurt mixture. Mix and scrunch really well, then let sit for 15 minutes before serving to let the flavours and textures develop.

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Moroccan spicy eggplant dip

serves 8-10 as a side
difficulty moderate
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 2hrs (approx.)
main ingredient(s) eggplant, Tomatoes, cumin, caraway, harissa, mint, Spices
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Enjoy the dip with flatbread or as an accompaniment to grilled meats.

Ingredients

3 eggplants
10 ripe Roma tomatoes
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 teaspoons caraway seeds
salt
2 teaspoons harissa (or more if you like it hot)
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 bunch coriander, finely chopped
1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Rest whole eggplants over naked gas jets to blacken the skin, turning to blacken all over. This will take 3 to 5 minutes. Place blackened eggplants on a tray and roast for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven.

Remove and allow to cool slightly. Cut lengthways and scoop the flesh from the skin. Reserve the flesh and discard skin.

Turn oven down to 150°C.

Remove the tomato cores. Place the tomatoes, oil, garlic and eggplant flesh in a shallow baking dish. Roast for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes. Pull off the tomato skins and discard.

Spoon some of the roasting oil into a fresh pan over medium heat. Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle and add to the pan. Cook for 20 seconds or so, until they become fragrant, then stir in the eggplant and tomatoes, cooking to thicken the sauce. Season with salt, add the harissa, and allow to cool. Add a little more of the roasting oil if a thinner texture is desired. Tip the mixture into a bowl, then season with the lemon juice and stir through the herbs. Serve with warm flatbread.

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