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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

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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

*Radishes
*Salt

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.

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

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

Verdurette (Vegetable Stock)

1 Jan

Verdurette is an old French way of making vegetable stock by preserving ground aromatic vegetables and herbs in salt. It is very handy stuff to have in the cupboard. Throw a spoonful into soup, stock, sauce, bouillon or casseroles, basically use it instead of a stock cube, to add flavour or at the end of cooking to add flavour and texture. You can even add it raw to salad dressings or sandwiches. I often make several versions so that I have a range of different flavours to hands, but the one I find the most useful is this combination of leek and celery. It is very quick and easy to make particularly if you have a food processor.

  • 450g Leeks
  • 450g Celery stalks & leaves
  • 150g Sea salt (ratio 1 part to 6 parts veg.)

Wash the vegetables thoroughly and remove the outer leaves. Chop finely or grind the ingredients in a food processor then empty into a large bowl, add the salt and mix well. Cover the bowl and set aside overnight. The next day give it another good stir and pack into sterilised jars (either 1 large 1litre jar or 5 small 250ml jars) and seal. Store in a cool dark place. The mixture will keep for up to 3 years.

Notes Be aware that Verdurette has a high salt content so it is best not to add any other salt to dishes in which it is used.
VariationUse any of the following: Leeks, celery, parsley, chervil, spring onions, carrots, celeriac, turnips, onions, tomatoes, chard ribs, nasturtium leaves, tarragon. Any combination can be used according to taste or what is available but keep the ratio of salt to vegetables roughly the same i.e 1 part salt to 6 parts vegetable. Alternatively you could try and make it with a lower salt ratio (I have not tried that).

This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.com  4/12/2006