Maltese Tuna Ftira

DSC_0662If you’re Maltese or have visited Malta, it’s very likely that you would have tried the Maltese Tuna Ftira  – a sandwich consisting of Maltese bread called Ftira, filled with all things Mediterranean. During my visits home to Malta, I always fit one in.

Now back in London, I was hoping to make myself another one just because it takes me back to my holiday mood. Most ingredients I could source pretty much anywhere, but one thing was certain – I wasn’t going to find any Maltese bread or Ftira. My mum solved that problem for me, by insisting on me packing a loaf on my way back.

Well, it wasn’t a bad idea at all, because the bread seems to be made for the filling, which needs to slightly soak into the bread. You also don’t want a loaf too thick, otherwise, it will be spilling out at your first bite and all you’ll taste is bread.

Another ingredient which I had to replace is kunserva, a tomato paste that is sweeter than the versions you find in the UK. I find it does make a difference to the overall flavour but you’re not going to radically change the flavour if you don’t have it.

Lastly, I like many others, like to add ġbejna – a variety of goat’s cheese we produce on the islands. This is also not something you can source in the UK but you can probably get away with a crumbly goat’s cheese or feta if you will.

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Makes: 4 sandwiches

Difficulty: Very Easy

Time: 10 minutes

*I N G R E D I E N T S*

  • 2 cans of tuna
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green olives
  • a handful of shredded mint
  • 4 sliced salad onions
  • 200g of goats cheese
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 3 large tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 gem lettuce

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*M E T H O D*

  1. Mix the tuna, olives, capers, salad onions, tomatoes, mint, cheese, cannellini beans and seasons with pepper.
  2. Slice your loaf in half and spread tomato paste generously. Add a drizzle of oil and continue to spread.
  3. Spread the mixture on one side of the bread and top with some lettuce.

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Hello everyone!

I’ve recently discovered what could be one of my favourite veg dishes: Grilled Miso Aubergine. I came across it for the first time when I visited Machiya, London.

Eating the Grilled Miso Aubergine was like a revelation. The aubergine was so ridiculously creamy that you could scoop the flesh away from the skin. They also topped the aubergine with shichimi togarashi — a popular Japanese spice mixture containing ground red chilli pepper and Japanese pepper (sanshō), roasted orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, hemp and poppy seeds, ground ginger and seaweed (nori). And they also sprinkled walnuts, for a bit of a crunch. 

I was surprised I hadn’t discovered this during my visit to Japan but I’m so glad that discovery happened anyway! 

I did my research on how to make grilled miso aubergine and it seemed simple enough. I was going to make it the same way Machiya does, but then I thought about doing things slightly differently.

I recently make dukkah (duqqa), an Egyptian condiment consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices. It is typically used as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables, but you can also add it to cooked vegetables. In fact, I recently followed a recipe by Rita Serano from her book Vegan in 7, where I oven-baked slice of cabbage and topped these with dukkah. 

Long story short, I thought ‘why not make grilled miso aubergine with dukkah instead?’ And so I did. It turned out not too different from Machiya’s but nevertheless a variation and I love it! 

I’d be curious to know of more variations that I can make with grilled aubergine. If you have any ideas, do post in the comments section below. 

Till next time!

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Serves: 2

Time:  45 minutes

Level: Easy

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 4 tsp miso paste
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 scallions, green stalks sliced
  • 2 tsp shichimi togarashi
  • dukkah (75g walnuts, 25g white sesame seeds, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp cumin seeds – ground together to a rough crumble)
  • 120g rice (optional), cooked and sprinkled with shichimi and scallions

M E T H O D 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, in fan mode.
  2. Slice the two aubergines lengthwise. That would leave you with four halves.
  3. Score the flesh in a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut through the skin.
  4. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and lay the aubergines on top, cut sides up.
  5. Mix the miso, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic with 1-2 tablespoons of water to make a smooth paste.
  6. Brush over the aubergine flesh and roast for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and soft.
  7. In the meantime, prepare the dukkah. Mix all the ingredients together and using pestle and mortar, grind to a rough crumble. You can also use a blender.
  8. Sprinkle with the dukkah, sliced scallions, shichimi and serve with a side of rice.

If you’ve read The Great Steak Post (where I don’t only talk about steak), you’ll hear about Yerba Mate — the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. It is known to have antioxidant properties, is caffeinated and is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee.

When I was visiting Argentina, I would pass by dozens of passerby drinking yerba mate from the traditional gourd known as guampaporongo or mate in Spanish, through a metal straw called bombilla in Spanish. It is also not uncommon to see the guampa being shared amongst friends, with constant refilling from a thermos. The Yerba Mate ‘kit’ can be found in any traditional store, marketplace or souvenir shops.

I myself am a big fan of tea and for that reason, I love to find ways to use it in baking, marinades, smoothies and cocktails. I was lucky enough to come across Love Tea, a Maltese Tea company that stocks a wonderful variety of quality teas. I was super, SUPER excited to find their product Green Yerba Mate Matcha in powder form because I’ve only ever come across Yerba Mate as tea leaves.

I thought hard what it would pair well with.  Eventually, I settled on the idea that citrus flavours would balance the essence of yerba mate nicely, due to their acidic sweetness. As we can’t get enough of blood oranges at home, I thought that it would be a fine contender for my bundt cake.  And the good news is, I had leftover Green Yerba Mate Matcha for a cuppa or my morning smoothie.

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Serves:  12 large pieces

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

For the Cake Mix

  • 400g flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. yerba mate powder
  • 100g coconut oil, softened
  • 170g butter, softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 eggs
  • 170g greek yoghurt
  • Juice of one small blood orange
  • a little butter and flour for the pan

For the Icing

  • 1 small blood orange, juiced
  • 200g icing sugar

***M E T H O D***

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and flour a bundt pan
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt and yerba mate.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the softened butter and the coconut oil with a mixer until well combined and then add the sugar and cream together, until the mixture is fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, juice of blood orange and eggs and stir to combine until mixture is homogenous.
  5. Alternately add the yoghurt and flour in batches and combine after each addition and mix until the dough is smooth.
  6. Fill the prepared bundt tin and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until an inserted stick comes out clean.
  7. As the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Add the juice of blood orange to the icing sugar and mix well.
  8. Once the cake is baked, leave to cool for about half an hour before turning the cake out onto a plate and adding the icing.

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I’m a big fan of open-faced sandwiches because a) I love that you can make it up as you go and b) because it’s a great way to clean up the fridge (if you have a busy fridge like me).  Open-faced sandwiches are also ideal when you have guests because you simply have to prepare a few toppings in advance.

I have already posted a recipe for an open faced sandwich or Smørrebrød as the Danish call it. My recipe, which can be found via this link, was inspired by Scandinavian Kitchen’s Pickled herring and egg with beetroot Smørrebrød.

This time I made a variety of open-faced sandwiches based on what I had in the fridge, with the exception on the pickled herring itself, as that’s not something I would stock commonly. Also, I was out of my home-made pickled cucumbers but they do go really well with the salmon sandwich described below. For the pickled cucumbers recipe, check out the recipe for my patty-less shrimp burger.

And remember, do not be afraid to think of creative uses for leftovers as that is the point of a good Smørrebrød. For the purists (I suspect you may be Danish) – do forgive me for not including butter.

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Serves:  12 pieces

Time30 Minutes

Difficulty: Very Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 6 slices rye bread, sliced in half
  • 3 eggs, boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 2 small radishes, sliced thinly
  • 4 slices of ham
  • 4 tsp of horseradish
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced and grilled
  • 4 slices of smoked salmon
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 avocado, seasoned with salt and pepper and mashed
  • 4 pieces of jarred pickled herring
  • 1 cooked betroot, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • bunch of salad cress (optional)
  • roe (optional)

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***M E T  H O D***

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C on grill. Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Lay the sliced bell pepper and allow the peppers to grill for 20 minutes.
  2. Prepare a pot with cold water. Add three eggs and hard boil them for 12 minutes.
  3.  Whilst the eggs cook, slice four slices of rye bread in hal to make 8 pieces and proceed to slice the radishes, and onion into thin slices.
  4. In a food processor combine the beetroot, mustard, sour cream and olive oil. Process until creamy and smooth.
  5. Once the eggs have been cooked, drain the boiling water and refill with cold water. Let cool so that you can peel and slice the eggs easily.
  6. Assemble the sandwiches in the following order. For the four ham sandwiches, spread horseradish on the rye bread, add a slice of grilled bell pepper and top with ham and sliced radish. For the four salmon sandwiches, spread the seasoned, mashed avocado on the rye bread and top with salmon, egg slices and capers. Add roe for that extra punch of flavour but it’s not necessary. For the four herring sandwiches, spread the beet mixture and top with a pickled herring, egg and sliced radish. Sprinkle all with salad cress.

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With the run-up to Easter, my aunt asked whether or not I’d be making traditional Maltese Lent biscuits, called Kwareżimal.  And what a brilliant idea that was because I absolutely LOVE kwareżimal and I think I’ve managed to convert a few others since I made these.
The word ‘kwareżimal’ is derived from the latin word quaresima referring to the 40 days of Lent. It reminds me very much of childhood as it was pretty much the only sweet treat I was allowed to have during the fasting period. As kids, we were asked to make a ‘sacrifice’ and in my case, it was to give up chocolate. On the plus side, I really did like kwareżimal, so it could have been worse.
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These Lenten biscuits are almond based, with aromatic spices and even cocoa powder. It is also dairy free although there are versions that use eggs. These biscuits are topped with Maltese honey or thyme honey and sprinkled with nuts.
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Makes: 8 Kwareżimal

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 200 gr ground almond
  • 200 gr plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 100 gr caster sugar
  • Juice of an orange plus approx 50 ml water
  • 1 mandarin, zest
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1tsp orange blossom water
  • 2 – 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp crushed pistachios
  • 1 tbsp ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional)
***M E T H O D***
  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C/ 355 °F
  2. In a bowl mix together ground almond, flour, cinnamon, clove, sugar, zest of 1 orange, 1 mandarin and 1 lemon
  3. Add 120ml of water, orange juice and orange blossom water and mix
  4. Knead into a stiff dough, add more water if too dry but just one tsp at a time
  5. Take small pieces of dough and form the dough into balls and then form rectangular shapes
  6. Bake for 20 min or until slightly brown, not too long as they get very dry quickly
  7. In a small bowl combine crushed pistachio, ground almonds and the desiccated coconut
  8. While still warm, spread syrup on top of the biscuits and top the biscuits with the nut mixture.

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Marzipan has always been something I’ve associated to travel. I have two distinct memories: one related to when I had my first Mozart Chocolate truffle which I remain devout to (and bought swats of in Vienna); and another associated with Brussels, because it’s not uncommon to come across marzipan chocolate cigars.

Whilst my experience has been somewhat limited, I’m still a huge fan of the sweet, almond paste. And you couldn’t have imagined my excitement when I discovered how easy it is to make.

Makes: 24

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 50 ml maple syrup
  • 40 ml amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon zest form an unwaxed lemon
  • 175 g dark chocolate
  • topping such as crushed, almond flakes, lemon zest, melted white chocolate (optional)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Mix the ground almond with the lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. Mix amaretto and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  3. On a clean surface, empty the ground almond mixture onto the surface and create a well. Slowly add the liquid to the almond mixture and begin to knead. Once all the liquid has been combined with the almond mixture, knead until compact. Wrap in a piece of cling film and chill in the fridge.
  4. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt it gently over a bowl of boiling water (bain marie). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl with chocolate.
  5. Take the marzipan out of the fridge. Pinch small pieces of marzipan and roll them into equal size balls. They should weigh around 15g each before dipped into the chocolate.
  6. Dip the marzipan balls in melted chocolate and place them on a drying rack for the chocolate to dry. Place in the fridge if you want to speed up the drying process.
  7. Add the toppings before the chocolate dries. If you are adding melted chocolate, wait for the dark chocolate to set first.

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I have many fond memories of Christmas thanks to my loved ones. I always find myself thanking my lucky stars for the wonderful people that surround me.
The Maltese Christmas log symbolises the start of Christmas celebrations as I remember I wasn’t allowed to eat any until my mum decided it was near enough to Christmas. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve broken the rules a few times and have made my own Maltese Christmas Log earlier than I should have. I’m talking beginning of December so I don’t think my mum would be too disappointed in me.
The beauty of the Maltese Christmas Log is that it takes very little time to make. It doesn’t require any baking but you would need to let it set in fridge overnight. You can also get creative with the filling. I omitted on having too much dried fruit and added chestnuts instead. You can either buy the chestnuts fresh and cook them or you can buy them prepared as I did.
It’s deliciously nutty, fruity, with a hint of booze (which is optional). I would choose this over Christmas pudding or mince pies any day.
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INGREDIENTS
  • 800 grams condensed milk
  • 2 packets tea biscuits
  • 200 grams mixed nuts. I used chopped hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts
  • 200 grams chopped glaced cherries
  • 100 grams chopped dates
  • 100 grams of cooked chestnuts (you can buy these already prepared)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur of choice (I prefer bourbon or whiskey)
  • ½ bar chocolate grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • One packet of cooking milk or dark chocolate to cover the Christmas logs
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Finely crush one packet of biscuits in a food processor.
  2. With the other packet of biscuits just roughly crush by emptying the biscuits in a plastic bag using a rolling pin to break them apart.
  3. In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together except for the condensed milk and the packet of cooking chocolate which will be used to cover the logs.
  4. Now pour over the condensed milk and using your hands mix with all the other ingredients.
  5. Now divide the mixture into 5 parts and form each into a round cylindrical log shapes.
  6. Cover in cling film and place into the refrigerator overnight or at least twelve hours.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and cover with melted chocolate. Decorate as you wish or leave as is.
  8. Wait until the chocolate has set and then serve by cutting into slices.

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One lunch break, I came across a Vegan Burger joint at KERB Kings Cross. There was a stall serving jackfruit burgers and I had absolutely no idea what jackfruit was.

I decided not to ponder for a second longer, so I ordered it. And I was pleasantly surprised as it wasn’t very different in flavour and texture to meat.

After this discovery, I set off to find myself some jackfruit. And once I sourced it, it sat in my cupboard for months. Until I had the bright idea of making jackfruit burritos.

As jackfruit is a fleshy fruit and very mild in flavour so you can dress it as you want. Most commonly, it is used as a replacement for pulled pork due to its texture and ability to shred. You can buy the fruit fresh although they are hard to come by. Most buy jackfruit in cans and that’s what I did.

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Serves:4

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 1 can of jackfruit
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1/2 cup rice (I used brown)
  • Guacamole (click for recipe)
  • 4 tortillas (I used corn tortillas)
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 ground cumin
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1 cup stock

***M E T H O D***

  1. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion until golden.
  2. in the meantime, put the jackfruit in a bowl and season with cayenne pepper, paprika and chilli powder.
  3. Add the 70g of rice to the pan and cook until golden.  Sprinkle rice with salt and cumin powder.
  4. Add half a cup stock to the rice and cook until fully absorbed. This should take around 20 minutes
  5. Whilst the rice is cooking, prepare the guacamole.
  6. Once the rice is done, add to the pan, the can of black beans, the seasoned jackfruit and the corn. Mix and season with salt and pepper for 10 minutes
  7. Put another pan on the hob, one large enough to fit in your tortilla wrap. Heat the wraps on the pan, one by one.
  8. Cut four rectangular pieces of foil and place each tortilla on top. Layer one side of each tortilla with guacamole and top with the jackfruit filling. Be careful not to overfill the tortilla as you won’t be able to close it.
  9. Carefully wrap both ends of the tortillas to close the filling from coming out and fold the finished tortillas in foil.

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Yes, yes. I know what you’re all wondering. No, this isn’t THE hash cake as we know it. The only thing you’ll be OD’ing on is pistachios.  At least it’s green. And makes you happy. 

Inspired by The Barbary’s Hash cake, this cake is not too different to a frangipani – an almond-based pastry filling, except this recipe, favours pistachios. Atypical I know, but green does win.  

Did you know that pistachios grow in clusters, similar to grapes?

However, unlike vines, they grow on bushy branches atop a narrow trunk. Whilst pistachios grew favourably in Central Asia, they had been introduced to Europe. You can find a concentration of pistachio trees in eastern Sicily, (the western slopes of Mount Etna volcano). The Sicilian districts known for their pistachio cultivation are called Bronte and Adrano (Catania Province).

Although not ABSOLUTELY necessary, I used 100% pure pistachio paste from Bronte (no, I wasn’t frolicking under the pistachio trees in Bronte – I purchased this online). The rest is pretty straightforward in terms of ingredients. The pastry and the filling together only amount to six ingredients: Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, almonds and pistachios. Baking this is going to be a piece of cake! Enjoy! 

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Serves:12

Time: 1hr 30 minutes, plus 1 hr resting time 

Difficulty: Easy

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***I N G R E D I E N T S***

 Pastry

  • 125g of butter
  • 75g of sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 25g of ground almonds
  • 200g of plain flour, sifted

Filling

  • 200g of butter
  • 150g of brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 75g of pistachio nuts, blitzed
  • 50g whole pistachios
  • 75g of ground almonds or 25g pure almond paste 
  • 75g pure pistachio paste (this would contain no extra sugar)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out (or equivalent in vanilla paste)

Decoration 

  • Icing sugar, sprinkled 
  • A dollop of cream (Optional)

***M E T H O D*** 

    1. To make the pastry, place the butter (cold) and sugar in a mixer and cream together. Mix in the eggs, then slowly add the flour and ground almonds, mixing slowly until it comes together into a thick crumb – do not over mix
    1. Tip out onto a work surface and lightly bring together into a dough with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour
    1. Meanwhile, make the pistachio filling. Beat the butter and sugar together until light in colour, then beat in the eggs. Add the blitzed pistachios, paste, almonds and  vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate until needed
    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
    1. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out until big enough to line the loose based tin. Carefully lay the rolled-out pastry over the tart ring and gently press into the edges, leaving a slight overhang of pastry all the way around. Any leftovers can be wrapped and stored in the freezer for 3 months
    1. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, line with a sheet of baking parchment and add a layer of baking beans. Blind bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes, then remove the parchment and baking beans and place back in the oven for a further 6 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 160°C. Take out and trim the excess pastry from the edges.
    1. Add the pistachio filling, filling only half the tin, spreading out evenly with a palette knife or spatula. Add a layer of pistachios and top with the rest of the pistachio filling. Make sure to even it out. 
  1. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until just cooked, then remove and allow to cool. Remove from the ring. Serve with sprinkled icing sugar and a dollop of cream. 

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I’ve made a Makhani-style curry, Makhani being a Hindustani word meaning “with butter”. Makhani is used in many Punjabi dishes, one familiar dish being the popular Butter Chicken. There are many variations which include paneer (a cheese common in South Asia) or lentils and beans. Although the word Makhani makes reference to butter, butter is not a major ingredient of the recipe, as the curry is usually made up of pureed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, red chili powder and cream.

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Serves: 4

Time: 50 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

INGREDIENTS:

    • 2 tbsp butter or ghee
    • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs,  cut into 2 inch cubes
    • 5 green cardamom pods, seeds removed
    • 4 bay leaves
    • 4 cloves
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
    • 1½ tbsp whole cumin seeds
    • 2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 tsp nutmeg
    • several dried chilis (you can use hot chili powder and the mild Kashmiri chili powder which imparts more color than the heat.
    • 2 large onions, chopped
    • 3 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (you can buy these separately to control better the qualities of garlic versus ginger)
    • 5 large tomatoes, chopped
    • sea salt, to taste
  • fresh coriander (to garnish)
  • 240g basmati rice, steamed in 350 ml vegetable stock with 2 bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, 2 cardamom pods, 4 cloves and mixed with a knob of butter once cooked

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METHOD:
    1. Start by toasting the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan. Toast until lightly toasted and very fragrant. Grind with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Set aside.
    1. Heat the butter or ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium-heat, and add the cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon sticks and chilli until they start to crackle and release their flavors. Add the onion and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions begin to caramelize slightly, then add the ginger and garlic pastes, followed by the freshly ground coriander and cumin powders.
  1. Add in the chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste and the chicken. Turn the heat to high. Allow the curry to cook on high heat for about 15 minutes or so and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes on medium heat. The chicken should be juicy and tender – but not pink, so be sure to check before serving. Garnish it with fresh coriander, and serve with steamed basmati rice and/or naan.

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After tasting Shrimpy’s delicious patty-free prawn burger, I thought to myself, what can I make that’s not too different.

Because I love a good old challenge, I decided to make an octopus burger. The challenge – well, I had never cooked an octopus before, let alone make a burger out of it.

 

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In the end, I was pretty satisfied. As I wanted the burger to look very much like an octopus burger, I let the tentacles hang out of the bun. I also decorated the burger with a caper berry and one fried okra to give it that extra flavour punch.

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Serves: 2

Time: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: Medium

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Ingredients:

  • 1 kg octopus
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 2 bread buns
  • knob of butter

Fried Okra

  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 okra
  • 400ml buttermilk
  • 250g fine yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Smoked Paprika Aioli

  • 100g mayonnaise
  • 60g fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tbsp each smoked paprika and ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic

Tomato Salsa

  • 1 tsp olive tapenade
  • Bunch of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 large diced tomato
  • 1 tsp diced jalapeno 
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tsp capers
  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

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Method:

  1. Prepare the octopus. You can buy it fresh or frozen. If frozen, make sure you defrost it in the fridge the night before. If fresh, make sure to clean it, gut it and have the beak removed. To gradually temper the octopus, prepare a pot of salted water to boil and dip the octopus up to four times in the boiling water. You will notice the tentacles begin to curl. After the fourth time, drop the octopus in the pot of boiling water. Reduce the heat immediately and simmer gently for 45–60 minutes. It’s important that the water is turned down to a gentle simmer once the octopus is in the pan. Cooking it too quickly will result in a rubbery texture. From time to time, you might need to turn the octopus upside down to ensure that it’s all cooked evenly. Check tenderness with a knife. Once the octopus is tender, leave to cool at room temperature.
  2. As the octopus is cooking, prepare the aioli and salsa. These can also be prepared the night before. To make the aioli, mix together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lime juice, smoked paprika, minced garlic, cumin, and salt in a small bowl. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.The taste of this sauce will improve as it sits and the flavours meld. If possible, prepare it several hours or a day in advance.
  3. To make the salsa, finely chop the tomato, jalapeno, parsley and shallot. Mix in the capers and olive tapenade and add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Next up is the fried okra. For this, you need to place buttermilk in a shallow dish, and place cornmeal in another shallow dish. Stir desired amount of salt and pepper into buttermilk and cornmeal. Dip okra in buttermilk; dredge in cornmeal, shaking off excess. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a large Dutch oven or skillet; heat to 350° – you can test this with a thermometer or use your best guess. Fry okra, in pairs, 2 to 3 minutes or until brown and crisp, turning once. Remove okra, using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Once the octopus has cooled, begin to cut it into rough chunks saving some tentacles for decoration. Alternatively, you could slice the octopus horizontally to stack slices neatly on top of each other. Once that is done, add pieces to a bowl and season with a dash of olive oil, parsley, crushed garlic and salt and pepper. Heat up the grill and place the octopus pieces on the grill once very hot. Once the octopus begins to brown remove and place the grilled pieces back into the bowl.
  6. In the meantime, butter up the sliced buns and place firmly on the grill for a couple of minutes on both sides after removing the octopus.
  7. Now the burger is ready to be prepared. Spread a generous amount of paprika aioli on one side of the bun. Top with tomato salsa. Add the octopus and two fried okras. Drizzle with more aioli sauce and place top bun. As an option, serve with an okra and caper berry by driving a toothpick into the centre of the bun.

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I first tried quail at a restaurant called Nopi (review here). Whilst you could argue quail is no more than a tiny chicken, it is more gamey in flavour and requires little time to cook in comparison to a chicken, due to its size. Typically hard to find, you will have to make an order at your local butcher or source at a local market. Make sure that you order it boned (i.e. with the bones removed) as this will save you a lot of trouble.

Due to their size you would serve one as a platter or two as a main. Whilst Nopi’s dish served the quail in pieces, I decided to keep the bird whole as I wanted to have a go at stuffing it. I wanted the stuffing to be meat based with a menage of nuts, fruits and spices. The spices I use in this recipe are: sumac, a reddish-purple powder used to add a tart, lemony taste, largely used in the Middle East and berber spice, a fiery, earthy spice mixture, a staple in Ethiopia, which includes coriander, fenugreek, allspice, cardamom, cloves, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and more.  I also use harissa, a North African  chilli pepper paste, to marinate the chicory. I think the chicory is an ideal vegetable, being slightly bitter, to balance out the sweetness of the prunes. Make sure you chose chicory that has crisp, fresh-looking leaves that are springy to the touch.

I went to the Sunday farmer’s market and they happened to be selling Bronze Turkey mince which I thought would work well with quail. As quail has a delicate taste you wouldn’t want to overpower it with other flavours. I find turkey to be quite delicate and the bronze turkey, which has a slightly darker meat, is known to be the tastier of the two.

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Serves: 4 (as starter)

Time: 1.5 hour

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 4 quails (boned)

For the seasoning:

  • knob of butter
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 2 tsp berber spice
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground pepper

For the stuffing:

  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 150g minced bronze turkey (or regular turkey mince)
  • 6 prunes, chopped
  • 10 macadamia nuts, crushed
  • 50g bulgar
  • 120ml vegetable stock
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp sumac

For the chicory:

  • 2 red chicory (leaves separated)
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste
  • 150 ml vegetable stock
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground pepper

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Method:

  1. First marinate the birds. Melt the butter in a bowl and mix in the salt, pepper,  berber spice and sumac. Pour over the quails and massage inside and out. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a medium pan. When very hot, add the mince and brown over high heat, stirring from time to time, for five minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the bulgar,  stock, prunes, the sumac, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for five minutes. The bulgar should absorb all the liquid. Add the crushed macadamia nuts and mix. Remove from the hob and leave to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Wash the chicory and separate the leaves. Put the chicory, cut-side up, in an ovenproof dish. Mix the harissa paste in the stock and splash over the chicory. Season with black pepper and a little salt, then cover with foil. Cook for 20-25 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until really tender.
  4. Next you need to stuff the quail, sear it and put it into the oven. Spoon the stuffing in the quail and tie the legs with string. Add a knob of butter in a pan and sear the quails one by one on either side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Place the quail in the oven and roast until cooked through and juices run clear, about 10 – 15 minutes. If you time it right, you will be putting the quail in the oven when you’re about to remove the foil from the chicory. Baste the quail every few minutes with a little stock from the braised chicory to keep the quail moist.
  5. Remove both the quails and the chicory from the oven and serve.

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