Archive for the 'Greg and Lucy Malouf' Category

Almond and prawn risotto

February 6, 2010

This is another of those cross-cultural reinterpretations of a dish; in this case, a Lebanese pilaf with toasted almonds, crumbled vermicelli and sweet spices, mish-mashed into a traditionally made Italian risotto. It works, I think – the almonds add a bit of crunch to the creamy rice, the cinnamon and pasta emphasise the comforting qualities of a big plate of oozing starch.

I added the prawns for a bit of contrast and extra protein, but I wished I had used scallops because I think the combination of scallops and almonds is so suited. (It would have been a bit beige, though.)

Anyway, the scope here is broad, since you could add almost anything that you’d put into either a risotto or a pilaf, that is almost anything at all. Chorizo, or merguez sausage. Chicken, chickpeas, broad beans, artichoke hearts, you get the idea.

Almond and prawn risotto  Serves 2

Because I put prawns in my risotto, I omitted the parmesan. You might want to add cheese for a non-fishy variation (stir it in towards the end).

50g flaked almonds
1-2 tbsp olive oil
25g vermicelli nest, crumbled into short strands
1/2 small onion
150g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
500ml chicken stock
1 tbsp celery leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1 packet prawns, about 140g, peeled
1 clove garlic
1 dried bird’s eye chilli, crumbled, or 1/4 tsp chilli flakes

Finely chop the garlic and crush it into a paste with a sprinkle of salt and the flat of your knife. Smear this over the prawns with the chilli, mixing with your hands, and set aside while you make the risotto.

Toast the almonds in a large dry frying pan until golden brown and then tip out and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the pan. Halve the onion and stir the onion quarters in the oil for a few minutes to flavour it, then take out the onion and discard. Add the crumbled vermicelli to the pan and fry until it turns brown and crunchy. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with oil – add  the extra tbsp if necessary. Have the chicken stock at a simmer in a separate pan.

Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and stir constantly until the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding stock a ladleful at a time, stirring, until the rice is tender and creamy. Stop just before it’s done to the consistency you want. (You may need to add more stock, or just boiling water, if you run out). This should take around 20 minutes, but I won’t be too prescriptive as everyone has their own way of making risotto: I like it soft, not al dente, with a gentle ooze but not runny.

Stir through the celery leaves, almonds and spices with the last ladle of stock and cook for a few minutes. Add the prawns in right at the end – if they’re cooked, you just need to warm them through. If your prawns are raw, cook until they turn pink all over.

Adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s ‘Arabesque’.

Slow cooked salmon with Arabic spices

February 3, 2010

It might seem a bit odd to deliberately cook for a long time something that can be done in a couple of minutes, but really I often prefer a long build up. Things like stir fries, where everything has to come together right on time, make me nervous. I like the sort of food that is non-attention seeking, that will sit on a back hob and simmer away to itself while I wander off and make a salad dressing or chop some greens (though somehow, I never ever make time to tidy as I go – did I learn nothing in Home Economics?)

If you ever come to mine for dinner, you’re likely to get a stew or a tart or something roasted, in other words, something I can pull out of the oven ready prepared, all “here’s one I made earlier”. I could pretend that that’s because I want to spend more time with you and less in the kitchen, but given the size of our flat, spending time in the kitchen is the same thing as spending time with you. It’s actually because co-ordinating cooking times AND having to make conversation AND people watching me stresses me out. Given that I harbour dreams of cooking professionally, this may be something I have to get over.

So, maybe you’re a far less neurotic cook than me and you’ll happily carry on grilling or griddling your salmon and have done with it. I could try and convince you by telling you that this way, the salmon ends up softer and juicier, almost poached in texture, which it does, but it’s not better than grilled salmon, just different. Maybe it’s just nice to have options sometimes.

Slow-cooked salmon with Arabic spices  Serves 2

A quick note on ingredients: this recipe calls for za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice mixture. I always understood it as a mix of dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds, though I’ve read that varieties can differ. It’s quite easy to get hold of now – Bart’s do a version, which I got from Waitrose. Otherwise, of course, if you have dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds you can just blend your own. Use a couple of tablespoons of thyme and sesame, a couple of teaspoons of sumac. I usually add salt, too.

1 tbsp za’atar
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 salmon fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to its lowest possible heat (probably about 100c). Brush the salmon generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix the sumac, za’atar and thyme together and smear it over the fish, covering the surface (you may not need all of it, but I’ve given full quantities as the half measures I used were a bit sparse). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the salmon on top.

Cook the salmon in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, then check to see that it’s not cooking too fast – the telltale sign is milky liquid oozing out of the fillets. In this case, leave the oven door open for the remainder of the cooking time. Otherwise, close the door and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes. The salmon flesh should be opaque when it’s done.

Serve with your choice of accompaniment. I made a broad bean pilaf with fried onions, basmati rice and frozen baby broad beans cooked in vegetable stock, garlic and lemon juice stirred in at the end.

Adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s ‘Arabesque’.

Southern baked chicken

February 2, 2010

I’ve been wondering what to call this. In the book, it’s Southern Fried Chicken with Eastern Spices, but that’s a bit of a mouthful, and anyway, I baked mine rather than frying it. I happen to live with someone who would honestly be happy if my idea of a night off was arriving home with a bucket of Colonel Sanders’ finest, but as it’s really not, this is a sort of compromise.

We’ll still in the East this week, with Arabesque – not the Claudia Roden version, which I also have, but a book of the same name by Australian chef and writing partners Greg and Lucy Malouf. It’s organised by  ingredient, all key Middle Eastern flavours, but rather than using them to recreate classic recipes they’ve adapted and borrowed from other cuisines to inspire new dishes. It’s not quite fusion cooking, which I’m a bit distrustful of, more looking at tradition with a contemporary eye. Hence this first recipe, in which chicken pieces are coated in cornmeal, buttermilk and a whole long list of warm spices to create a delicious gnawable crust. I really liked the spice mixture here: the fennel and sugar for sweetness, the cayenne and pepper for heat, the toasting for complexity and the low notes of cumin and coriander seeds. As soon as the smell wafts up from the grinder, you know it’s going to be good.  

So, South-East Baked Chicken? Eastern Baked Chicken? Whatever you call it, sweet potato wedges and a big green salad are called for. Or I suppose you could serve it with corn-on-the-cob and baked beans. You could even put it in a bucket, if you really want.

Southern Baked Chicken  Serves 4

You could do this with chicken pieces, but it’s better value to buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself (saying that, I had someone much more knife-competent than me to do the heavy work). Then you can make stock from the carcass, and if there’s only two of you you’ve got a great packed lunch for the next day.

1 chicken (free-range, but that goes without saying)
6 pods cardamom
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar (I used muscovado)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
100g cornflour
50g fine cornmeal or fine semolina
2 eggs
200ml buttermilk

Joint the chicken into eight pieces: 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings and 2 breasts. Or, get a responsible adult to do it for you. If you want to be really healthy, remove the skin.

Heat the oven to 200c. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and toast the cardamom pods, peppercorns, fennel seeds, salt and sugar, shuffling them in the pan every so often until they start to darken. Remove from the pan and grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. They should smell warm and fragrant. Pick out the cardamom husks, leaving the black seeds behind.

Combine the toasted spice mix with the other spices and mix into the flours. Whisk the eggs into the buttermilk.

Dip the chicken pieces into the flour, then the buttermilk, then back into the flour. Place them on an oiled baking tray, turning to coat, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If you want to fry them, do this first in hot oil until golden brown and bake for only 20 minutes.

Adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s ‘Arabesque’.