20 March 2016

Argentine Chimichurri Steak Sauce

Can you take the heat? Sure you can.


Now I've never been to Argentina, but while I was living in La Paz I was introduced to this amazing Argentine concept: a 'parrilla'. A 'parrilla' is Argentina's answer to a steakhouse. A gigantic open-flame grill serving up LOTS of meat to hungry eaters. They are popular all over Latin America, though especially in Argentina.

Argentina is actually the second-largest consumer of beef in the world! That's no surprise, given that they produce the best quality, free-grazing beef in the world. Superior quality yet so much cheaper compared to European standards! When I went to a parrilla in La Paz I would pick up a 'Lomo Argentino' - a foot-long flame-grilled sirloin steak sandwich - for just 3! It would come with a garland of french fries and this curiously green hot sauce...


The sauce, called 'chimichurri', is an incredibly fresh-tasting, hard-hitting, herbal hot sauce from Argentina. It uses the fresh grassiness of parsley and oregano, combined with sharp lemon juice and vinegar which amplify the natural sweetness of a juicy steak. Finally, it's rounded off with a punch of chilli to add a dazzling Latin heat! Like any traditional recipe, there are infinite family variations of chimichurri, but this one is the skeletal recipe. You can absolutely modify it to your taste: take out the chilli if you prefer, swap the lemon for lime juice or add some fresh mint to make a lamb-tailoured chimichurri! There's so much creativity at your fingertips with this one!


This sauce is ideal with with a thick, juicy sirloin steak straight off the grill, but there's no harm in eating it with some grilled chicken or roast lamb. I used some the day after to make ham & chimichurri sandwiches, which were marv! You could also turn leftovers into a zingy vinaigrette dressing - just add an extra tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar and olive oil until runny.


My recipe will make enough sauce to dress up two large steaks very nicely, with some spare for leftovers. It will last 3-4 days in an air-tight jar, intensifying in flavour and heat as it sits in the fridge.
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- What You'll Need -
+ 2 small bunches/packets of fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley +
+ 1 teaspoon of Dried Oregano +
+ 2 Spring Onions +
+ 2 Cloves of Garlic +
+ 1 Green Chilli +
+ Juice of a large Lemon (4 tablespoons) +
+ 1 tablespoon of Red Wine Vinegar +
+ 2-3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil +
+ 1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt +
+ 1/2 teaspoon of Black Pepper +
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1. Simply tear your parsley into handful-size clumps and tuck into a food processor/blender/NutriBullet.


Really cram it in - this will give the blades the best chance at shredding everything.

2. Let's get the knifework out of the way. There's not a lot of it really!


Peel the skin off the two cloves of garlic and cut the top and bottom from your 2 spring onions, so you're left with the white piece.


As for the green chilli. Cut the head off the chilli and cut the chilli in half. The heat lies in the seeds, and they are incredibly hot! I scrape out about 2/3 of the seeds and scrape the other 1/3 into the processor to add heat to the sauce. I consider this medium-spicy, if you want to be a badboy, add more seeds. Push it, badboy.

This is all the chopping you need to do! Simply throw your chilli, spring onions and garlic into your processor or blender to wait.

3. Into your processor or blender, add in the rest of the ingredients: red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, sea salt and black pepper.


Press everything down into the bottom of the blender, and now we're ready to blitz!

4. Blend until everything is a vibrant, green mulch, like below:


You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the container once or twice if you have any fly-away leaves of parsley!

5. Once you have your shocking green chimichurri, you're ready to start spreading it on things!


I recommend leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours first. That way the flavours intensify and the heat of the chilli really comes out to play!

Hope you enjoy!

Anthony :)

15 March 2016

Sun-Dried Tomato & Garlic Pitta Chips

Like potato chips, but BREAD. Can it get better? Hell yeah. Just keep reading.


These little morsels have been quite trendy on the snacking scene recently. For some reason, they seem to be marketed as a sort of health food.

Bollocks.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you about how much healthier and more virtuous an option these are compared to potato chips. This is delicious bread, chopped, soaked in oil and toasted under the grill - of course it isn't a light option, but who gives a damn? We want out carbs and we want them now.


These pitta chips are a total hack: super quick to make and you can dress them how you like. I've experimented with a few flavours and they're great every time - except salt & vinegar - that was a soggy disaster. The one flavour that has stuck by me through fat and thin is this one: sun-dried tomato & garlic.

Sun-dried tomatoes - you buy them in a jar, preserved in oil. You can keep them in the fridge for ages; they're great for adding richness to pasta sauces. They have an incredibly intense tomatoey flavour with a slight smokiness - it's almost haunting. Combined with garlic, it's a flavour extravaganza. They team up beautifully.

Altogether, these pitta chips are delicious just as they come, though I reckon a dollop of houmous on the side isn't a bad thing.


I reckon 2 pitta breads will serve one person nicely - have 3 if you're particularly greedy or if you're me.
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- What You'll Need: -
+ 2/3 Pitta Breads +
+ 2/3 Sundried Tomatoes (1 for each pitta) +
+ 1 clove of Garlic +
+ 1 teaspoon of Tomato Puree +
+ 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil +
+ Sprinkle of Black Pepper & Sea Salt +
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1. Preheat your oven/grill to high. These are much faster to make under a hot grill, but if you don't have one, it's perfectly fine to bake them.

2. Chop your pitta into little shapes. I prefer little triangles - they're better for dipping - but if you want to bust out the groovy shapes, by all means...



Once they're all cut up, place them off to one side while we make our marinade.

3. Take your sun-dried tomatoes and chop them as fine as you can. You could put these into a mini-processor or something really, but that's too much effort just for a snack. We want carbs NOW.


Once mulchy, tip them into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

4. Crush/grate a clove of garlic into the bowl of tomatoes.


Also add in your teaspoon of tomato puree along with your salt & pepper and 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Really, any oil will do, but extra virgin has a lovely Mediterranean flavour, I recommend it muchly.


Give everything a stir until you have a red-tinted, oily slick.


5. Add your pitta shards into their tomatoey marinade.


Give everything a light toss until every piece is fairly coated with the marinade.


6. Line a baking tray with foil. Arrange your pitta chips onto the sheet so they each have their on space. It's a bit like edible Tetris, but try and cram on as much as you can.


7. Toast your pitta chips for about 5 minutes until they're dry on top, but not burning. Keep an eye on them. If you're baking them in the oven, check them every minute to make sure they're not burning.


Once they have dried on top, turn each one over individually and then toast again for about 5 minutes until dried out.

And you're done!


I'd recommend you eat them straight away. They go great with shop-bought houmous. It's a great snack for watching light-night TV in your pyjamas with a whiskey cocktail. Why not? This is the new normal for us. I swear.

If you can think of any new flavours to try, let me know!

Enjoy!

Anthony :)


14 March 2016

Tunisian Orange Blossom & Almond Cake

A fragrant, citrus-sodden creation - and what's more, it's gluten-free!


This moist, almondy cake of Tunisia is the best way to summon the sunshine when you need it most. It is made with whole oranges, finely-ground almonds and given a fragrant blush of orange blossom water. Orange blossom water is a floral-fresh, edible aroma from North Africa. It is commonly used in desserts around Tunisia and allegedly soothes tummy aches!

You'll find orange blossom water in any big supermarket - the baking aisle or the world foods aisle.



This cake is dense and sweet, made so using juicy oranges and ground almonds - thus making it a gluten-free and dairy-free cake! If that's not moist enough for you, the cake is given a finishing slick of sour, fragrant orange flower syrup. This makes the cake incredibly succulent and also gives it that uplifting floral aroma that lures you into Spring with welcoming arms.


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- What You'll Need: -
+ 225g of Ground Almonds +
+ 1 large Orange (or 2 medium ones(or 3 small ones(or 4 even smaller ones!))) +
+ 5 medium Eggs, separated +
+ 200g Caster Sugar +
+ 1 cupful of Flaked Almonds to decorate +

- Orange Flower Syrup - 
+ 1 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water +
+ 1 Cardamom Pod +
+ 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice +
+ 4 tablespoons of Caster Sugar
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1. First step - and probably the most important - we need to tenderise our oranges. As lovely and flavourful as oranges are, they need to be gently stewed before being used in this cake. Stewing the orange removes any bitterness from the peel and helps the natural fibres in the fruit to relax. After all, we're using the whole fruit in this recipe: flesh, pith and peel - all of it!


You can stew the orange by simply cutting into segments, placing them in a saucepan and filling it with water until it's just about covered. Drop in a single cardamom pod and heat it up to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down very low and leave them for an hour to simmer.


I love a shortcut, but you cannot skip this part. If you do, the orange will make your cake very bitter and your friends and family will probably never speak to you ever again.

2. Once softened, place your orange into a processor or a blender. As for the water the orange stewed in - keep this! We're going to turn it into an easy orange flower syrup to glaze the cake at the end.


But for now, whiz the orange - skin, flesh, everything - in a blender/processor until you have a sunset yellow paste.


Leave this paste here to cool a bit while we make up our almondy cake batter and heat the oven.

3. Heat the oven to 180C/350F - let this baby warm up while we make our batter.

4. Separate the eggs and the yolks between two bowls. Place the bowl of whites out of the way while we dress up our yolks.


Whisk your eggs yolks with your 200g of caster sugar until you have a thick and creamy custard. It's easier to gradually add spoonfuls of sugar at a time to make the process a little smoother.


Once your sugar is mixed in, tip in your orange mush and whizz it throughout.


Finally, mix in your ground almonds until well-combined. The mixture will be pretty gritty and lumpy at this stage, but that's totally fine. Set this aside and we'll take care of the whites.


5. Simply whisk your egg whites on a high speed until you have velvety, soft peaks - a bit like hair mousse or shaving cream.


You can always whisk meringue by hand, but unless you want the nervous breakdown, an electric whisk is a lifesaver!

6. Slop a third of your egg whites into your bowl of almondy yolks. Mix it pretty roughly, don't worry about flattening air out of your egg whites. Adding a third of the egg whites like this will help to loosen the batter, so we can fold in the rest of the egg whites with much more ease.


Once combined, add in the rest of the egg whites, and now gently fold them into the batter. You can do this using an ordinary metal spoon and mixing in a gentle figure-of-8 motion. It takes a little time to mix into the batter this way, but it makes sure the batter is nice and airy - it really pays off!

Once there are no more streaks of egg white visible, the batter is complete!

7. Grease a cake tin or a pie dish with a drop of oil or some butter.


You can use any size tin, as long as the batter doesn't fill more than than 2-inches deep, or else it may take a bit longer to cook. You can afford to fill the dish/tin near to the brim too, as the cake will rise only gently, so you won't have any spillages in your oven.


Once your batter is poured into the dish, it's ready to bake!

8. Pop your cake into the middle shelf of the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes until gently golden on top and firm to the touch. If you use a narrower cake tin, it may take a bit longer - up to an hour. You can always test the centre with a knife - if the knife comes out clean, it's done.


9. Once your cake is nice and golden and beaming, it's perfectly good to eat.

But I reckon we can take it a step further - in Tunisia this cake is soaked in a thin, orangey syrup - which I will show you how to make.

To prepare the cake for soaking, simply take a knife and make little pricks around the top of the cake. This will let the syrup ooze into the cake later.


+Easy Orange Flower Syrup +

 Remember that water we stewed the orange in earlier? It's full of citrusy flavour, so it'd be a terrible shame to waste it.  Here I'll show you how to make a quick orange flower syrup to glaze and moisten the cake.


1. Scoop out about 150ml of that orangey water and add it to a fresh saucepan. Add in a tablespoon of lemon/orange juice and a teaspoon of orange blossom water. Go easy on the flower water; too much and it will smell like a 4th-century Arabian orgy.


Bring this fragrant liquid up to the boil.

2. Once boiling, turn the heat down very low and add in 4 tablespoons of caster sugar. Stir it all in until it dissolves, and leave the syrup to gently bubble on a low heat for about 10-15 minutes until it thickens.

The ideal consistency is like maple syrup - sticky, but not gloopy like honey.


3. Gently brush/spoon your hot syrup over the top of the cake. Don't be afraid to paint it on thick - this will make the cake fantastically moist and damp.


4. Once glazed, press on some flaked almonds to cover up all of the holes. And suddenly it's pretty!


Interestingly enough: this cake has a very good shelf life. Like most gluten-free cakes, it won't go stale if left out for a few of days. You can keep it in the fridge for up to a week, but let it come up to room temperature before eating it again so the flavours can wake up.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Let me know what you think. 

Anthony :)

11 March 2016

Tunisian Apricot Harissa Chicken

A sunshine-sweet chicken dinner with a touch of the desert heat.


As much as I love Moroccan food, I can't help but feel that nearby Tunisian, as small and unannouncing as it is, has a lot of underrated cuisine that needs to speak out to the world. You tend to find a lot of chilli and heat, yet everything is notably sweet - like it's been kissed by the sun. And there's a lot of sun to be kissed by in Tunisia.


This recipe is Tunisian-ified through one particular ingredient, the jewel in Tunisia's crown: harissa paste. A searing hot, hauntingly-pungent chilli paste. It's made from roasted chilli peppers, garlic, caraway and coriander seed. Very musky flavours!

Many people mistakenly think harissa is a Moroccan thing, and though it is becoming more prominent in Moroccan dishes, it's the pride and joy of Tunisia. Though it sounds very exotic and niche, harissa paste is pretty accessible nowadays. You can find it in every major supermarket. Even when I lived in the wilderness of rural Wales, the local supermarket supplied the stuff. You'll most likely find it in the world foods aisle or the sauces & dips aisle.


Onto the recipe - it's delicious and what's more it's SO easy! Like, deceptively easy. You fry some chicken, which is stewed right through on a low heat until it's incredibly tender. What's more, that succulent chicken is swathed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The heat comes from the aforementioned harissa paste, but the sweetness is lent from a very familiar ingredient: apricot jam! So easy to buy, and incredibly cheap at that. No need to buy fresh apricots, or even dried ones! Just two sloppy tablespoons of golden apricot jam brings tang and a caressing sweetness. It's such a hack, which makes this recipe an overall simple yet invigorating after-work supper for two.


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What You'll Need:
+ 8 plump, boneless/skinless Chicken Thighs +
+ 2 tablespoons of Apricot Jam +
+ 2 teaspoons of Harissa Paste +
+ 1/2 teaspoon of ground Black Pepper +
+ 1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt +
+ 1/4 teaspoon (Pinch) of Cinnamon +
+ 1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice +
+ Handful of Flaked Almonds +
+ Enough cous cous, rice or quinoa as you wish! +
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1. Firstly, let's get our chicken on the go!

Heat up a large and accommodating pan on medium/high heat. I used a wok. Add a tablespoon or so of oil - vegetable, sunflower, anything flavourless - and heat until it's runny.


Add your chicken thighs to the pan along with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Fry them about 5 minutes per side until fairly tanned on the outside. Don't panic too much about it being totally cooked right through, it will be definitely be cooked right through with the sauce later if not.

2. Once the chicken is sealed, turn the heat down and chop your peppers into little strips. As thick as you can handle, there's no strict criteria. If you want beasty, hefty chunks, go with that. Be true to who you are.


Tip your chopped peppers into your chicken and stir-fry everything for about a minute until coated in the oils.


3. Pour in your 250ml of chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, pinch of cinnamon, your 2 teaspoons of harissa paste and 2 glooping tablespoons of apricot jam.




The chicken stock adds a savoury base, while harissa adds spice and heat, and the apricot jam adds sweetness and stickiness. It's a marvellous superhero trio I reckon!

4. Bring your panful of fragrant chicken up to the boil, and then turn the heat right down low to simmer. Leave the pan like this for about 30 minutes until it thickens into a sticky, thin gravy.


5. Once the gravy is thickened and coats the back of a spoon well, it's good to serve. The chicken will definitely be cooked, but if you're OCD about this, there's no harm in cutting into a leg and checking just to put your mind at rest.


6. Serve this hot with some mildly-spiced cous cous, some basmati rice or even some quinoa. You have a world of grains to your disposal - I'm sure all of them could work with this.


Some extra class, add a sprinkling of flaked almonds for crunch!


I'll tell you: this tastes so much better as a packed lunch the next day!

I hope you enjoy this easy shortcut recipe! Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Anthony :)