Crunchy Fried Calamari with Tahini Remoulade

Saha, by Greg and Lufy Malouf.
Saha, by Greg and Lufy Malouf.

It was a lucky find. I was cleaning out the freezer in anticipation of the bounty that late Spring and Summer provides, when I found a small packet of frozen calamari. This buried treasure was still within the realms of short term memory, unlike many of the other odd frozen parcels, which became treats for ‘el chooks’¬† (the chickens).

As the rest of the ingredients were on hand, it was time to attempt Greg Malouf’s¬†Crunchy Fried Calamari and Tahini Remoulade from the cookbook Saha.

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Although the total recipe appears to have a long list of ingredients, it is really quite simple. The recipe is divided into steps: make the spice mix, then the remoulade, then the crunchy topping and finally the quick fry of the calamari. The Golden Spice Mix comes from the first chapter of Malouf’¬†s Saha with recipes for cumin salt, fragrant salt, paprika oil, taklia – a garlicky spicy topping- baharat, and a spicy marinade.

Golden Spice Mix.

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 tablespoon chilli

Mix together and store in a jar for up to 6 months.

Tahini Remoulade.

  • 150 g plain yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini, well stirred
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat¬†leafed parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped gherkins
  • 1 teaspoon chopped capers

Combine the yoghurt, tahini, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Crunchy Coating

  • 3 tablespoons cornflour¬†( cornstarch)
  • 3 tablespoons fine polenta
  • 3 tablespoons fine semolina
  • 1 tablespoon of golden spice mix ( see above)

The Calamari, Cooking and Assembling.

  • 8 small calamari, quartered
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil for shallow frying
  • lemon wedges
  • fresh garden leaves to serve

Prepare the crunchy coating by sieving all the ingredients together. Season the calamari pieces then dunk them into the crunchy coating mixture. Put the calamari pieces into the sieve to shake off any extra coating. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until nearly smoking. Add the calamari pieces in batches, shaking the pan to coat them with the oil and to colour them evenly. They should take less than a minute to cook. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Serve them piping hot with lemon wedges and the Tahini Remoulade.

My Notes

*I used larger calamari and cut them into small  pieces. This would work well with any shape you decide to cut. I also used the tentacles.

* The coating would be handy for many other small fry, although a sticking agent, such as a beaten egg or some milk, would help the coating adhere to flathead fillets. Calamari has enough of its own ‘glue’.

* The tahini remoulade is a winner. This sauce is far more appealing than the common place tartar based on mayonnaise. I will be using this in future. I used more capers than suggested in the recipe.

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Thanks Leah, of the Cookbook Guru, for encouraging me and others to cook from a nominated cookbook, taking us away from our comfort zone!

 

 

 

Italian Wholemeal and Honey Bread / Pane Integrale

Simply annointed with young olive oil, the best  you can afford.
Italian bread, simply anointed with young olive oil, the best you can afford.

Bread has played a central role in the history of La Cucina Italiana and everyday life.: this is reflected in the endless array of expressions concerning Pane (bread) . Consider just a few of these,

  • Senza il pane tutto diventa orfano– without bread, everyone becomes an orphan.
  • Uscire di pane duro– to leave behind hard bread or to have a change for the better.
  • Essere pan e cacio- to be like bread and cheese, ie thick as thieves.
  • churigo come il pane, medico come il vino. Look for a surgeon who is like bread ( ie young) and a doctor like wine ( ie old).
  • E‚Äô buono come un pezzo di pane. He’ s like bread,¬†He‚Äôs a good person.
  • L‚Äôho comprato per un tozzo di pane.¬†I bought it for a piece of bread, (a bargain)
  • pane al pane e vino al vino¬†, to call a spade a spade.

But wait there’s more. I’ll spare you the rest.

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My most recent loaf, a wholesome, nutty Pane Integrale con Miele¬† ( wholemeal with honey) reminds me of a crusty loaf I bought years ago in a small Umbrian hill town. The crust is crunchy and dark, but not too much so, and the open textured bread is easy to digest, which is surprising for a loaf made of 100% wholemeal flour. I’ll admit that when it first emerged from the oven, I was a little concerned. Nothing worse than pane duro, hard bread.

Pane Integrale con Miele
Pane Integrale con Miele
Or with tomatoes and garlic, a simple bruschetta.
With tomatoes, garlic, and oregano, a simple bruschetta.

The secret is the long slow rising ‘biga’ or starter, made especially for this loaf, and the addition of honey. The recipe comes from my favourite cookbook, The Italian Baker, by Carol Field, and I offer this bread recipe to Leah, of the Cookbook Guru as further proof of this book’s worth.

Pane Integrale con Miele– Wholemeal Bread with honey. ( Ingredients are listed in grams, ounces, cups )

Starter

  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 160g/5.6 oz/2/3 cup warm water
  • 200 g/7 oz/1 1/2 cups minus 1 Tb unbleached white flour

Stir the yeast into the water in a mixing bowl and leave for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour with 100 strokes of a wooden spoon. Let rise, covered, for 6 to 24 hours.  Measure 1.4 cup of this starter and throw away the rest. ( NB. I used the rest in another recipe!)

Dough

  • 5 g/0.2 oz/13/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 35 g /1.2 oz/1 1/2 T of honey
  • 360 g/12oz/1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 500 g/17. 5 oz/3/3/4 cups whole wheat/wholemeal flour
  • 7.5 g/0.3 oz/1 1/2 t of salt

Method by stand mixer.

Stir the yeast and honey into the water in a mixer bow: let stand for about 10 minutes. Break up the starter and add to the bowl. Stir with the paddle until the stater is in shreds. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Change to a dough hook and knead for 2 minutes at low speed and 2 minutes at medium speed. The dough should be fairly smooth and have lost most of its stickiness. Finish kneading by hand on a floured board.

dough after kneading
dough after kneading

First Rise. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 2 hours or until doubled.

dough after first rise
dough after first rise

Shaping and second rise. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and shape into a round loaf without punching the dough down. Place the loaf on a slightly oiled baking sheet or a peel sprinkled with cornmeal . Cover with waxed paper or a towel and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, around 45 minutes to one hour.

Baking. Preheat oven to 230 c/450 F. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the oven three times with water. Reduce the temperature to 200c/400F and bake 25 minutes longer. Cool completely on rack.

My notes. My dough spread quite widely and looked like a cartwheel loaf one buys in Italy. I slashed the top of mine in a tic-tac-toe pattern, causing some deflation before it entered the oven: next time, no slashing to see what happens.  I used course semolina on the trays. No need to waste the left over biga Рuse it in another loaf while the oven is hot. The book also gives instructions for making the loaf by hand or with a food processor. I have listed the method by kitchen stand mixer only.

Or workman style with a simple red wine, and a hunk of cheese.
A workman’s lunch. Pane e Vino.

 

Kitchen Reality, Broccoli and Neil Perry.

The sad part about returning home after a long journey is the absence of decent ‘hired help’. Where’s the menu? Who will make my bed? Reality is slowly setting in as the mess, the half unpacked suitcase, and the washing pile begin to annoy me. The weeds in the garden can wait.¬†It’s 3 degrees celsius outside and the blanketing fog looks like it has set in for the day.

On the other hand, there’s the tempting stash of DVDs from Bali, bundles of TV series to lure me to the couch, as well as a big stack of new books, some purchased, others from the library, winter’s little helpers and further reason to remain in holiday mode by the fire. Some of my friends are still loitering in Ubud, Bali and all I can say is, life is tough!

Winter Garden Produce
Winter Garden Produce

I am attempting to revitalise my interest in cooking by borrowing some cookbooks from the library. One of these is Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love‘ which is featured on Leah’s The¬†Cookbook Guru this month. I was hoping to be coaxed away from my indolence. Instead it has turned out to be another great read, in bed and on the couch. ¬†Most of the food is simple and non chefy, Mod Oz Mediterranean, and homely. For example, the breakfast section looks at Bircher Meusli, ¬†fruit smoothies and various classic egg dishes. The pasta pages list¬†the usual suspects. The fish chapter along with the”Sauces and More” chapter are both excellent and I wish someone would deliver some nice flathead. Better still, ¬†just deliver Neil Perry.

all home grown
all home grown

What makes the book a good read is that Perry, a renowned Australian chef, considers quality ingredients as his major inspiration for cooking as well as sound technique. ¬†In the opening chapter, Neil mentions his commitment to “sourcing the finest ingredients”, the importance of “mise en place” ( as discussed by Leah earlier) and seasoning.

“By seasoning I mean salting……… When seasoning, think about this: salting heightens the natural flavours of food. If I¬†salt a dish at the beginning of cooking, the food end up tasting of its natural self rather than if I add it at the end, when it tastes like salt on the food”

Neil also has a preference for white peppercorn and discusses the difference in flavour and drying techniques. It is more intense in flavour. Most Asian cuisines use white pepper and I have the same preference since cooking with Banardi in Java last January.  When buying spices, Neil advises,

“buy only a small quantity at a time and use it quickly. Spices taste the strongest when they are fresh. Also buy from a spice merchant, you won’t believe the difference in quality”

All very sensible and a reason not to buy that monster bag of turmeric or garam masala on special in the Asian groceries for $2.00.

As we have an abundance of broccoli in the garden, I am listing this simple little recipe to mark my re- entry into the world of cooking.  Neil has used Broccolini, although Cima di Rapa would work very well too.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Broccolini ( or Broccoli) with Garlic and Chilli.

Ingredients

  • two small, very fresh broccoli heads, cut into narrow trees. ( see pic above)
  • sea salt
  • EV olive oil
  • chilli flakes
  • minced garlic

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add enough sea salt to make it taste like the sea, and cook the broccoli at a rapid boil for two minutes. Drain and add to a saute pan with the oil, sea salt, chilli flakes and toss about for 1 minute, then add the garlic and toss for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This makes a bright and robust contorno or side dish to go with fish.  Today I am serving it with my favourite smoked fish cakes for lunch. Leftovers might be tossed about with some orecchiette this evening ( along with added anchovies) or enclosed in a simple omelette.

Now, back to those books by the fire.

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Super Smoky Babaghanouj

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Just as Autumn begins to turn cold and hints at what’s to come, we light our first wood fire and the family menu begins to change. Stock¬†simmers¬†gently on the stove, Anzac biscuits are made, hearty lentil dishes¬†re-¬†appear and eggplants dishes are back on the menu. During the eggplant ( aubergine) season, when they are large, cheap and white fleshed, I am secretly pleased to find a morning fire that is almost¬†spent-¬†save a few red coals and ash. The eggplants are thrown straight onto the¬†coals-¬†and the door to the wood heater is left open.This works equally well in a corner of an open fire. ¬†After some time, I return and flip them over. Super smoky¬†Babaghanouj¬†is on the way.

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After retrieving the charred, blistered eggplants from the fire, slit them open and place in a colander over a bowl to drain. Lunch is some hours away but the flavour base is ready. Image

Today’s¬†Babaghaouj¬†recipe is adapted from Claudia¬†Roden’s¬†‘Arabesque’.¬†Leah, from the Cookbook Guru,¬†is highlighting Claudia¬†Roden’s¬†recipes this month, in particular, those from the A New Book of ¬†Middle Eastern Food. I have been making it this way for so long now: I have experimented with the addition of yoghurt and other flavours but have settled on this smoky dairy free version, with lots of garlic. I recommend that you give Leah’s a go too, especially if you are not into a strong smoky taste and you like the velvety texture that yoghurt brings.

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The Recipe

  • 2 small eggplants or 1 large one.( weight¬†650g)
  • 3 Tablespoons¬†Tahini
  • juice of two large lemons
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed.
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly ground cumin.
  • EV Olive Oil
  • Parsley

After charring the eggplants in your left over fire, (as above), slit them open, drain them, and peel. Remove all the flesh, place in a food processor with the garlic,briefly process, then add tahini paste, process, then the lemon juice and salt to taste. In the meantime, heat a small pan, toast the cumin seeds, then grind them in a mortar. Add to the mixture. Taste. adjust salt or lemon. Swirl out flat on a plate and serve with falafel and other salads. Drizzle with a little EV Olive Oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

A couple of notes.

The Arabic term , Baba Ghanoush, means “pampered papa” or “coy daddy”, perhaps with reference to its supposed invention by a member of a royal harem.¬†

It really is worthwhile grinding fresh spices, if you use them. For me, it’s a chance to break out my baby mortar and pestle.

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Kisir: Peppery Bulgur Salad

In Melbourne, Brunswick is the home of Middle Eastern food, with numerous Lebanese and Turkish restaurants lining the northern end of Sydney Road. Along with Persian sweet shops, the emerging Shisha ( hookah) bars as well as some notorious Middle Eastern bread shops and grocery stores, a visit to Sydney Road, Brunswick is an exciting and inexpensive trip to another world. I can highly recommend a tram ride on Route number 19 to North Coburg, via Lebanon,Turkey and Iran.

I have been cooking food from this region for many years. The salads are vibrant and fresh with herbs used in abundance. The little mezze or starters make wonderful lunches, and the colourful and earthy dips made from fresh vegetables and pulses are so quick to throw together. It is also naturally vegetarian, apart from kebabs, with so much to choose from.

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Today, as part of this month’s ¬†‘The¬†¬†Cookbook Guru’s¬†‘¬†focus on Claudia¬†Roden’s¬†‘The New Middle Eastern Cookbook,’ I am heading straight to Turkey. This little side dish,¬†Kisir, is simple to make and would be an exciting foil to many other¬†Mezze. The recipe comes from Claudia’s ‘Arabesque’ as I was unable to obtain the original classic, but I am sure some recipes remain the same.

Kisir ( serves 6)

  • 200 g fine-ground¬†bulgur
  • 125 g boiling water
  • 1¬†Tbles¬†tomato paste
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 5¬†Tbles¬†extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh red or green chilli , finely chopped
  • salt
  • 5-¬†7 spring onions
  • 300 g tomatoes, diced
  • bunch of flat leafed parsley, (¬†50g) chopped
  • bunch of mint ( 25 g) chopped
  • To serve – 2 baby Cos or Little Gem Lettuces

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  1. Put the¬†bulgur¬†into a bowl, pour¬†the¬†boiling water over it, stir and leave for¬†15-¬†20 minutes until the grain is tender. Don’t be tempted to add more water since the juice from the lemons and tomatoes will soften it further.
  2. Add the tomato paste, juice, and oil, the chilli, salt and mix thoroughly. Trim the green tops of the spring onions, then slice them finely. Add them and the diced tomatoes to the bulgur mix, together with the parsley and mint.
  3. Serve with the small lettuce around the edge of the salad. Another way is to roll the bulgur mixture into balls the size of a small egg and to place one in the hollow of a baby lettuce leaf.

Variation. Add 1- 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses to the dressing.

My Notes.

I had to add more boiling water in step one. Despite Claudia’s warning, I found this to be necessary.

I used the pomegranate molasses and enjoyed this extra dimension.

I notice that Ottolenghi also has this recipe in ‘Plenty’. Claudia’s version of this classic is so delightfully simple.

Below- Sydney Road, Melbourne 3056. Catch a tram or walk, it’s always stimulating.

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