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Sour Grape Juice

3 Aug

Verjuice (English), Verjus (French), Agresto ( Italian), Gur (Persian), Hisrim (Arabic) is the juice made from unripe grapes (sometimes with the addition of other sour ingredients such as sour apples or acidic herbs) which was used throughout Europe, Persia and the Arabic world during the Middle Ages. It was used as a souring agent as you would use citrus juice or vinegar. 

To make verjuice simply take a bunch of unripe grapes and squeeze the juice out of them with your hands. Strain and its ready to use. The juice was traditionally preserved by adding salt, nowadays it is easy to preserve, by freezing in an ice cube tray to make usable portions of, this delicious condiment.

Use verjus to season fried courgettes Italian style see Fried Courgette Salad


Salad Dressings

8 Sep

Salad dressings are all about responding to the raw or freshly cooked ingredients in the bowl and therefore should be open to experiment, these are just a few of the dressings we use most often, to give some ideas to expand on.

Oil & Lemon 
This is the simplest dressing you can make, I like to give it an extra citrus zing with finely grated zest. I would use this combination on freshly cooked spring vegetables such as asparagus simply add it to the pan once the vegetable has been drained and give it a toss around to coat.
6 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp lemon Juice
pinch of ground sea salt

1/2 tsp zest of half lemon, finely grated. (optional)

Balsamic and Garlic 
This is the combination we use most often on our leafy salads. We just add the ingredients directly to the salad, starting with the oil and ending with the vinegar, the salad is then mixed to coat.
Olive oil
One or two cloves of garlic
crushed sea salt
balsamic vinegar
Basic French Vinaigrette Our home made red wine vinegar, which we started 3 years ago became ready this year. It is deep and almost sweet and makes the most delicious dressing. Simply beat the ingredients together.
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
cracked black pepper and crushed sea salt
French mustard to taste
5-8 tbsp Olive Oil 
Honey & Lemon  A nice fresh tasting dressing lovely when a touch of sweetness is needed.
grated zest of half lemon
1/2 tsp honey
juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
Variations: add 1/2 tsp dijon mustard Mix all the ingredients together.

Orange Dressing This is a very light dressing excellent for freshly boiled beetroot. Add the dressing when the beets are still warm just after being peeled.
 Juice of 2 oranges
 Zest of 1 orange
 large pinch of salt to taste
 Mix the ingredients together until the salt dissolves.

Citrus Dressing
Juice of 1 Orange
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive Oil
orange thyme

Walnut & Mustard Dressing Walnut oil has a distinct flavour and is best teamed with a lightly flavoured acid. It works very well with bitter leaves and salads.
4 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar or white balsamic
Dijon Mustard
 salt & black pepper

Korean Style Dressing Use this dressing on lightly cooked or steamed green vegetables such as spinach, mizuna, mustard green or choy sum.
2 tsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

Thai Style salad Dressing This salad dressing has no oil content is great with cucumbers, grated root vegetables, shredded leaves, beansrouts, crisp iceberg lettuce.
 Rice Vinegar or lime juice
 Fish sauce
 Sugar Soy sauce
 Chilli flakes
 Crushed garlic

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce or Salad dressing) This is an intense hot, sour, salty, sweet dressing for use on noodle salads.
1-2 clove garlic, minced
2 to 3 red chillis (Thai bird, cayenne, jalapeño or serrano chile) de-seeded, and minced
10 tbsp hot water
2-4 tbsp sugar
2-4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and fresh chiles to a paste. (Or mince them together with a knife.) Mix together the garlic, chilli, hot water, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Leave to sit for at least 15 min. before using. NB this sauce can be kept in the fridge for about a month. The sauce is put on the table for each person to add to their taste.

Delias Vinaigrette This is Delia Smith’s herby vinaigrette
1 heaped tablespoon roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 heaped tablespoon salted capers, rinsed and drained
grated zest and juice 1 lime
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil salt and freshly milled black pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat until just warmed through. Serve over grilled meat, fish(tuna), halloumi on a salad bed.

originally posted on Mas du Diable 29/3/2007

Crunchy Coconut Relish

6 May

Coconut relish is one of the classic Indian relishes, particularly in the South. I make quite a few different coconut relishes, chutnies or pachadis. This one is quite dry and crunchy; a delicous blend of cool coconut, hot chillis with fried spices and crunchy lentils stirred in at the last moment.  It is a perfect accompaniment to vegetable curries, dals and Indian breads.

  • 100g desiccated coconut or half a fresh coconut grated
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 dried red chillies, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp very hot chilli powder (I use lemon drop) optional or to taste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable, coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp urid dal
  • 1tsp brown or yellow mustard seeds
  • 16 dried curry leaves, crumbled or small sprig fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • pinch asafoetida

If desiccated coconut is used, sprinkle it with 3 tablespoons water or coconut milk and mix well to moisten. Stir in the lime juice, chilli powder and salt to taste. Heat oil in a small pan and fry the mustard seeds and dhal until the seeds pop and the dhal is golden. Add the the dried chilli curry leaves wait until the chilli darkens then add the nigella and asafoetida and turn off the heat immediately, pour over the coconut and mix well leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving. It will keep for 3 or 4 days in the fridge.

Note if you can get fresh coconut then fantastic – use it – the grated flesh of fresh coconut tastes so much better. You can also make a smoother chutney by adding a little more liquid and grinding the whole lot to a smooth paste but I personally like the crunchy texture of it made this way. I sometimes add crumbled dried red chillis instead of the fresh or powdered and that is wonderful too
Gardeners Note If there is one thing I wish I could grow in my garden and I can’t it is a coconut. I love it but there is no hope, it is early May here and it has been raining for days and the temperatures feel like they have gone back to winter.
Recipe Source The original recipe came from Rafi Fernandez’s ‘Thenga Chutney’  p 82 in Cooking of Southern India. I have adapted it over time to my taste so it is a quite different and this is my version of her wonderful recipe.

Preserved Lemons

12 Jan

This is one of those ingredients that can transform a dish. Indispensable in North African cooking salt pickled lemons are easy to make and last for ages.

Heres how I make them.

  • 6 lemons
  • Juice of 3-4 lemons
  • 1 tsp salt for each lemon+1 tbsp salt
  • boiled water

Choose small perfect lemons wash each lemon in hot water and leave to dry fully before using. Meanwhile sterilize a large jar that will hold 6 whole lemons, I find kilner jars are perfect for this pickle. Put a tbsp of salt in the bottom of the jar along with the lemon juice and give it a good shake. Now prepare the lemons; remove the tip of the branch end and with a sharp knife cut a slit vertically through the lemon, but not all the way through, then make a second slit vertically to make a cross keeping the bottom end intact. Put a spoon of salt into the centre of each cut lemon and place in the jar, push the lemons down as you go until the jar is full. Add more lemons if there is room. Cover with boiled water that has been left to cool, close the lid and give the jar a good shake then set aside to mature for 4 weeks. Give the jar a shake every day.

Salted Radish Preserves

15 Oct

Salted radishes are commonly found in East Asian cuisine and would normally be made with mooli, the long tapering white root also called chinese radish, but it can also be made with French breakfast radishes, white turnip, black winter radish or regular red radishes. Serve as a side pickle, as an appetiser or use as an ingredient in soups or noodle dishes such as Pad Thai


Quick Salted Pickle
Simply wash (peel if necessary) and remove the top leaves. Slice the roots thinly put into a bowl and sprinkle with salt, toss with your hands to coat and leave to mature for an hour or two for a quick salted radish or 1 – 4 days for more robust flavour. It will keep well for a couple of weeks in the fridge. I haven’t experimented yet with preserving for longer as we tend to eat the salted radishes too quickly but the process would be the same as for other lactic preserves.

Lactic Fermented
Prepare the radishes as above and on the 4th day, once the initial salting is over, pack into sterilised jars, cover with a brine solution (1 tbsp of salt per litre of spring water brought to the boil and left to cool) and seal. Store in a cool dark place and will be ready to eat in about 1 month.

Lactic Fermentation II 
Wash the radishes and slice lengthwise into chunks. Pack into a sterilised jar, weight down with a clean stone and cover with brine (2 tbsp of salt to 1 litre of spring water brought to the boil then cooled). Seal the jar and keep in a cool dark place for 1 month when it will be ready to start eating. Remove small amounts from the jar and top up with brine if necessary to keep the radishes covered.

Variations If serving as an appetiser with drinks, sprinkle with a little rice vinegar or other sour agent such as lemon or lime juice, verjus, or cider vinegar before serving on the end of a cocktail stick.

Basil Oil

5 Oct

Here is another preserving job to do in autumn to capture the flavours of summer before the first frost. Basil is a delicate herb, it does not freeze well and it does not keep its flavour when dried, it goes slimy if left too long in oil so the best way is to infuse oil with its aromatic flavours and then strain it. The infused oil is a great treat through the winter months on salads or drizzled over soups.

You don’t really want to wash the basil so its best to be careful when you pick it. Pick the basil a day or so after a good rain in the morning of a dry sunny day. Bring the basil into the kitchen and roughly shred it, or bruise it slightly in a large mortar and pestle to release the oil. Pack the basil into a large sterilised glass jar, fill the jar to over half way and pour oil over to fill to the top. Push down and make sure there are no are bubbles. Seal and leave the jar to infuse for 2-3 weeks before straining into clean jars.

TIPI find the best way to strain the oil is to use a coffee filter paper set in a funnel. It takes some time to drip through but just keep topping it up. Bottle immediately and store in a dark place.

Chilli & Paprika Powders

5 Oct

Make your own chilli powder so you can blend it to get just the right amount of heat and flavour to suit your taste. It tastes so much better and fresher than the shop bought stuff and it is so easy just dry some chillies then grind them to a powder.

Drying Chillis
Collect mature chillies on a dry day. Spread out on a large metal surface (the heat of the metal speeds drying in the sun) or basket where air can circulate. If you’ve no sun stack on top of a radiator to dry. Once the chillis are dry store in an airtight container until ready to use.

I make small batches of powders from the dried chillies as I need it because once it is ground it will start to lose its flavour. The dried chilli I use the most for grinding is a Cayenne, it is hot and can be made hotter still if you grind the whole pepper, seeds and all.

Mild Cayenne
Slit the dried peppers and remove everything but the red outer shell. Grind to a fine to medium powder in a coffee grinder. Nice medium to hot heat and good flavour.

Hot Cayenne
Remove the stalks from the peppers break into pieces and put everything into a coffee grinder, including the pith and seeds, grind to a fine to medium texture. The resulting powder will be more orange than red and VERY hot.

Chilli Flakes or Kirmizi Biber
Kirmizi Biber is the kind of chilli flakes you would find in a Turkish food store and is one of the most useful spices in the kitchen mild enough to go in salad dressings but with plenty of flavour. The flakes are rubbed with olive oil to help preserve both the colour and flavour. Use a medium heat but flavoursome variety of chilli such as Acri Sivri or milder to suit your taste. Use a mixture to get a more complex flavour. Slit the dried peppers and remove everything but the red outer shell. Grind to a course powder or flakes in a coffee grinder and add a tiny drop of oil on the last wizz to coat the flakes. Pour into a bowl and rub adding a little more oil if necessary to coat the flakes pour into clean glass jars and store.

Once ground store chillis powders in airtight glass jars, away from light, to preserve its colour and flavour.

This recipe was originally posted on  

Chilli Sauce

1 Oct

This delicious fruity chilli sauce is a great way of preserving fresh chillis and making the most delicious condiment for the table.
Cooking time 20-30 minutes Shelf-life 1 year
*chillis, de-seeded
*onion, roughly chopped
*tart green apples, cored*sugar
*white vinegar
*salt to taste

Measure out an equal volume of each of the main ingredients or thereabouts. If you have a food processor bung the whole lot in it and give it a blitz or just chop everything up. Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly then blend the sauce with an electric blender, a hand mouli or pass it through a sieve to get a smooth sauce with a pouring consistency. While it is still warm pour the sauce into sterilised bottles and seal.

Note If you grow your own chillis then you can really experiment with the heat levels and flavours using this basic recipe as a guide. Each type or combination of chillis will give a different character to the sauce. Originally posted 28/10/2008 updated and re-posted here
Chilli Harvest 2008

from left Thai Red, Relleno Jaun, ‘Kashmir’ red and green, Satan’s Kiss, Jalapeño, Exploding Ember, Cayenne, Peach Habanero.

Chilli Paste (Harissa)

28 Sep

This is a thick sauce type of harissa, the kind you can serve with everything, even spread it on bread. It is  hot, but not REALLY hot, made with fleshy red peppers and chillis. I came up with this Harissa because our friend Graham, who came over here a few summers ago, wanted to know if I had a recipe for the harissa we all ate one morning at a local market because he’d been dreaming of it and wanted to make some back home in Australia. So I started experimenting and came up with this which I think, is even better than the one we ate in the market.

  • 500g red pepper puree (fresh peppers ground and sieved)
  • 3-5 fresh hot red chillis (to taste)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp dried mint leaves, crumbled finely

Make the puree
To make red pepper puree choose thick fleshed peppers; sweet, hot and medium heat if you can, to give a more complex flavour. Wash the peppers, cut in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Put the peppers in a food processor and grind to a paste. Put the paste in a pan and cook for 15 minutes or so. Leave to cool. Press the pepper paste through a sieve, or use a vegetable mouli, to make a smooth paste and to get rid of the skins and any loose seeds.

After sieving I ended up with about 500g of pure pepper puree, which I put back into a clean pan. Dry roast the cumin and caraway, cool and grind with the fennel to a powder. Add the spice powder along with the remaining ingredients and cook until the mixture thickens. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. For storage; heat process the jars in a water bath, for 20 minutes. It should keep for a year or more. If you don’t want to keep it that long it will store in the fridge, for a month or more, in a clean jar, topped with oil to exclude air.
Note on the Heat
I used a mixture of sweet peppers and medium heat paprika peppers; Doux D’Espagne, Nardello, Paprika, Pimento de Barcelona, Pepperoncini, Buran, Satans Kiss and Anatohl. If you use only sweet peppers for the paste add more chilli peppers to increase the heat to taste. For the hot peppers I used cayennes & jalapenos .
Note on Texture
If you don’t want to go to the bother of sieving the pepper paste and don’t mind eating the skins by all means leave this step out. I had to do it because one variety of paprika peppers I grew had such tough skins they really indigestible and little bits can get stuck in your throat.

This recipe was originally posted on  13/10/2008

Turkish Red Pepper Paste

28 Sep

Red pepper paste is a Turkish speciality one of the most useful ingredients in my pantry, great for adding a dash of colour and flavour to any dish. I make plenty of it and usually several versions in the autumn ready for the dark days of winter. Traditionally the peppers are pounded with only salt and laid out in the sun to dry to form a thick paste. But as we can’t always rely on a hot dry sun in autumn which is our rainy season I usually make this paste on top of a stove or slowly roasted in the oven.

Mild Sweet

This recipe makes a sweet pepper paste with only a hint of heat but you can easily make a hotter version by adding more chilli.

*2.5 kg Sweet red peppers
*2 fresh cayenne chilli peppers
*3 tbsp sea salt

Spicy Paprika

This is a mildly hot and spicy version made using paprika peppers, sweet peppers and chillis.

*2.5 kg red paprika and sweet peppers
*3-6 red chilli peppers
*3 tbsp sea salt
*1 tbsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
*1 tbsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
*4 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground
*olive oil

Wash and dry the peppers, remove the core and seeds and roughly chop. Put into a food processor and mince along with the seasonings.

Cooking Method 1
Tip the whole lot into a large preserving pan and bring to the boil lower the heat and cook slowly for 35-45 mins if the peppers are quite dry. It can take up to 2 hours depending on how juicy the peppers are. The paste is ready when you have a paste consistency with no thin liquid surfacing.
Cooking Method 2
Alternatively pour the paste into a wide oven dish, stir in a dash of olive oil and bake slowly at 150c for 40-60 minutes or until the paste darkens and becomes thick. Spoon the hot paste into warm sterilised jars, cover with 1cm of olive oil to form an inner seal then screw on the lids. This paste will keep for several years that I know of.

My x-partners mum used to make huge batches of pepper paste each summer and the stuff was like gold when she sent it over from Turkey, hers was quite hot and had a complex flavour which included cumin and mint.
Gardener’s Tip
If you grow a variety of peppers you can make all kinds of pastes with varying intensities.
This recipe was originally posted on  10/10/2007 revised to include new versions