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Coconut Dal (spicy lentils)

20 Aug

A simple soupy lentil dal flavoured with coconut milk, chilli, garlic and curry leaves. I love all kinds of dal or dhal and this one is a particular favourite with a soft rounded flavour sweet with coconut and warming subtle spices. Serve with rice or Indian breads such as chapati, some pickles and a dry meat or vegetable curry.

  • 1 cup split hulled orange lentils
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 green chilli
  • 4 cups water

Wash the lentils and cook in a roomy pan with the turmeric chilli and water. When the lentils are soft, about 30-40 mins, add coconut milk and season to taste.

final fry

  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  • Half an onion
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 3 small hot dred red chillis or sliced large ones
  • 2-3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 12 curry leaves

In a small frying pan heat some vegetable oil or ghee and throw in the onion when it begins to colour add the garlic and when it starts to colour finally throw in the dry chillis and curry leaves fry for a minute then pour the hot oil and spices into the lentils, stir quickly, cover and let the flavours infuse before serving. Stir in a handful of fresh coriander leaf and serve scattered with a little extra fresh coriander leaf or shavings of fresh coconut.

How to Preserve by Heat Processing

15 Mar
Heat processing is a form of preserving foods by putting hot, warm or cold foods into a container and heating until any bacteria that might be within the food or container is killed and a vacum is achieved. It is a very useful technique for the kitchen gardener, no glut of produce need ever go to waste and can be stored for times when there are less fruit and vegetables available fresh from the garden or market.
HEAT PROCESSING
The simplest way to achieve this on a domestic scale is to use glass jars, with lids and heat the jars and their contents in boiling water, the ‘hot bath method’.
Preparing the food
Food can be processed from cold or hot. I only use the hot method, cooking the fruit of vegetables before bottling, as this is the most reliable way to ensure food does not spoil and can be stored safely.
Jars 
You need to use jars that can be heat processed such as; ‘mason’ jars which come with a two piece lid, a domed cap that fits tightly on the neck of the jar and a screwband which fits over the cap and is screwed down onto the jar, kilner type jars which have a clamp down glass lid sealed with a rubber ring, or simple glass jars with special lids. I buy 250g jars from our local agricultural store that sell different types of lids including those for heat processing. The jars can be re-used as many times as they remain sound. Jars must be scrupulously clean and without any flaws, cracks or chips as any flaw could result in the galss shattering while being heated.
Lids
The lids are the important bit, when heat processing the lids need to allow for the expansion of air and liquids and then the function to tighten or lock to seal and make a vacum.  The basic lids are those with a circular dimple which become depressed during the process indicating that a vacuum has been achieved. There are also 2 part lids and clamp lids. It is essential to purchase new lids or seals for each use.
Filling Jars
Pour the hot food e.g. tomato sauce, passata, salsa, cherry compot whatever it is into the prepared jars, leaving a 1cm gap at the top, screw the lids on well but not too tight.

Equipment
There are special heat processing pans available but I find using a pasta pan with a draining insert works just as well particularly if  I am only processing small batches. The pan I have was not expensive, I bought it in Ikea at least 10 years ago, and it will fit 5 x 250g jars comfortably.
Heating
Carefully place the jars in a single layer around the sieve part of the pan then lower into the outer pan. Fill with hot water to 2 inches bellow the lids, and bring to the boil. Once boiling cover with a well fitting lid and set a timer for 15-20 minutes. When the timer goes off raise the draining insert and set down with the jars inside. Use a towl to protect your hands from the heat, tighten all the jars. If used kilner type jars adjust to final lock down position. Set aside to cool. The airlocks in the lids should all depress as they cool which indicates a full seal. If any do not depress repeat the process.
Store
Label and store the jars in a cool dark place. They will keep for several years
Warning
If dimples in the lids rise again this is a sign that air has entered the jar and the food may have spoiled. Do not consume as there could be a risk of botulism.
Note Make sure you follow the instructions that come with the type of jars you have purchased, as each jar type will have its own sealing mechanism.

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

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.

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

1 Oct

It is October, the quince trees are laden and it is time to make Membrillo, the famous Spanish sweet meat. A thick paste of sieved quince and sugar boiled down, poured into moulds and set in blocks. A favourite treat for winter pantry, delicious served with cheese such as Manchego and cured hams.

Makes about 1.5Kg (4lb)
*1Kg (2lb) ripe quinces
*juice of half a lemon
*a little water
*600-800g sugar (approx)

Wash and chop the quinces.  Place in a large pan with the lemon juice and just enough water to cover the fruit, simmer uncovered until the fruit is very soft. Push the quince through a metal sieve or vegetable mouli to get a smooth pulp. Weigh the pulp and put it back into a clean pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook gently until the paste is thick. You will need to keep a constant eye on it and stir regularly to prevent catching on the bottom. The paste is ready to pour into moulds when it is thick. My test for being ready, for all cheeses, is when a spoon is drawn through the mixture and it takes a few seconds for the paste to fall back into the cleared line of the spoon – a parting of the seas moment you could say. Pour into lightly oiled moulds that are still warm from being sterilized, cover the top lightly with a piece of grease proof paper, and leave overnight to set. Once set wrap or cover tightly with a lid or cling film/tin foil. You are supposed to store membrillo for 3 months before using but I have never found this necessary. Turn the cheese out and serve in slices with sweet or savoury dishes. Membrillo will keep 2 years or more in the fridge in a covered container.

Note most membrillo recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit pulp but I find that too sweet and prefer to add less sugar. At a ratio of 60% sugar non of the preserving qualities are lost.
Variation for a more pronounced citrus flavour simmer the quince with lemon or orange peel before sieving.
TIP Quince are very dense so I use a food processor to whizz them into small pieces because it saves on cooking time.

Originally posted onmas du diable  31/10/2007

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 www.masdudiable.com  13/10/2008

Passata (Tomato Paste)

28 Sep


Of all my kitchen garden preserves passata, or sieved tomatoes, is one of the most useful. I grow large numbers of tomatoes just so that I can bottle them for use all through the year. There are two ways to make passata and I thought I’d write about them here.

There are 3 Steps to making passata 

1. Clean and prepare tomatoes

2. Cook

3. Sieve or pass through a passata machine


CLEAN & PREPARE

Wash the tomatoes, cut off any bruises or bad bits and cut in half or into rough chunks.

COOKING METHODS
Boiling  Simply put tomatoes into a large pan with 1 tsp of salt per 500g and bring to the boil, simmer until the tomatoes are soft, about 15-30mins.

Baking Baking the tomatoes adds a deeper, sweeter flavour and reduces the liquid which makes a thicker stronger tasting passata. This is the best method for poorer flavoured tomatoes or those that are a little too watery. Cut the tomatoes in half and spread out on a large baking tray season generously well with sea salt and bake in a low oven for 1 hour.

SIEVING

There is a special machine for processing tomatoes to remove the skins and seeds called a passata machine.  I got myself one last year from Seeds of Italy and it really does make the job easier, particularly if you are processing large quantities.

Other wise you can use a sieve, a spoon and some elbow grease. Spoon batches of cooked tomatoes into the sieve, stir and press with the back of a spoon to push the pulp through the sieve, leaving the skin and seeds behind.

PRESERVE

The passata is now ready to use or preserve. My prefered method is to bottle while hot and heat process.

See How to Preserve by Heat Processing

If you don’t want to heat process you can also freeze the sieved paste in cartons or bags instead. I don’t do much of this anymore after an accident with our electricity supply and our freezer and I lost the entire years harvest. The old method of bottling and heat processing just seems more reliable to me.

See How to Preserve Tomatoes for other ways of preserving tomatoes. 

Salted Parsley Preserve

28 Sep

Salting parsley makes a great long-keeping preserve that remains remarkably fresh tasting and keeps its deep rich colour well. I collect and preserve parsley in late spring and early autumn.


*300g parsley, washed and dried
*1 bulb green garlic, peeled (optional)
*5 heaped tsp rock salt

Grind the ingredients together, empty into a clean bowl cover with a plate and leave for 24 hours. Next day stir the mixture well and spoon into sterilised jars, loosely cover and leave for 2 days. After 2 days seal tightly and store. Use this preserve as a seasoning ingredient for soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. Use it by the spoonful straight from the jar, but do beware of adding any other salt to dishes if you are using this preserve as it is very salty. This method of preservation works remarkably well and will keep for at least a year, that I know of, in jars in the fridge.

Garden Note
In May, before last years parsley starts to go to seed and in October before the first frost we have a plentiful supply of parsley leaves to preserve. I make this or freeze it. I use the Italian flat leaf parsley.

Collecting the parsley 
The parsley must be very dry with no moisture clinging to the leaves of the condiment will spoil. It is best gathered when dry after a light rain or first washed and dried fully before using.


This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.com  06/05/2008

Walnut & Parsley Pesto

28 Sep
In late September the walnuts start to drop and can be gathered throughout October. This is one of the sauces I make with our walnuts.

*1 part shelled nuts
*1-2 parts parsley (to taste)
*Orange or lemon zest
*1 part garlic Salt
*Olive oil
Pound the pesto ingredients together very finely and add enough oil to make a smooth paste. Use fresh on pasta and in soups.

Walnut & Parsley Pesto Preserve

This recipe comes from the excellent book on old world techniques of preserving garden produce Keeping Food Fresh by Terre Vivante. Use it as you would pesto for seasoning pastas and soups.
*1 part shelled nuts
*1-2 parts parsley (to taste)
*1 part garlic & onion (mix to taste)
*a little vinegar
*A few anchovies (optional)
*Salt
*Olive oil

Grind all the non liquid ingredients together very finely. Add the vinegar, put the mixture in jars and seal with oil before capping.

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.

Variations
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 www.masdudiable.com  10/10/2007 revised to include new versions