Tomato Chickpea Salad with Celery

Tomato, Chickpea Salad with CeleryI’ve gotten into a good habit of late. After I drop Layla off at school, I come home and make lunch or however much of lunch can be made ahead of time. A recent favourite is Camargue rice with black beans loosely based on this Bon Appetit recipe. Another is a mung bean noodle salad with lots of lime juice, fish sauce, roast peanuts and herbs from my balcony.  And then there is this one.  A pasta salad, where the pasta makes up about a fifth of the whole deal.

You take a couple of small shallots or a red onion, or even the white part of 3 spring onions (but not a yellow onion) and you douse them in white vinegar.  Probably about 4 tablespoons.  I don’t measure my dressing.  I taste it.  If there is some left over, I use it the next day or get creative with it in the evening.  It’s only a problem when there isn’t enough.  A healthy pinch of salt goes in and then I leave it in the fridge until just before I dress the salad, when I add roughly the same volume of olive oil.  Keeping in mind that I will be liberally glugging more olive oil over the rest of the salad.Tomato chickpea salad Read more of this post

Berlin Cooking Club & Smoky Spicy Cold Tomato Soup

Kelsie and Mel of Travels with My Fork Supper Club have come up with a genius proposition: a cooking club for Berlin.Genius because with 6 different people doing their utmost to impress each other and the guests outside, there is bound to be some good stuff to eat.

And there was.  Rene served up a tousled plate of noodles with gambas and sauce chien.  Stefan made a chilli chutney  so punchy and addictive, I spooned it on top of everything!  You hear that Stefan?  You need to bottle that stuff up and sell it. Jill surprised me with a raw sweet potato salad.  (Who knew you could eat sweet potato raw?) Mel’s Jambalaya had 3 different kind of sausages.  I had two servings and kicked myself for not bringing along a container to take some home.  Caroline, of the wonderful Thyme Supper Club, made a spiced chocolate bread pudding.The theme is different every time.  Saturday night it was Cajun / Creole food served up in the cute cafe that is The Dairy in Prenzlauerberg. Read more of this post

Cous Cous – All in!

I almost threw away the left over cous cous from our first dinner party but then something stopped me – rather one of the guests just decided to wrap it up in cling film and put it in the fridge.  Thank you E!  It meant that when I walked by auf die hand (the pretty but expensive cafe downstairs) a couple of days ago and saw a painfully hip chic eating a tabouleh salad I thought…

…”Mmm, that salad looks good.  I wish I was eating it, I wish I had her sandals (and while I am busy wishing) – I wish I had her legs!  I don’t know about those last two but…Wait a moment!  Don’t I have some cous cous, boiled up and ready to go in the fridge?”

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Spaghetti al crudo

I am already missing the Guardian’s food supplements.  Luckily I got my fix for the month when my very thoughtful sister-in-law sent me the Summer Recipes: Seafood supplement by post.  It kind of made me feel all warm inside to see the buxom Nigella Lawson on the cover.  I haven’t really managed to read through it-but a quick flip through with little L tugging my dress, and I quickly saw a recipe I wanted to try!

It’s called  Spaghetti al crudo and is submitted by Giorgio Locatelli.  It’s a little bit like a tame Puttanesca (in that it’s uses the same ingredients minus the garlic, chili and is raw).  It’s full of things people who don’t like food don’t like, namely capers, olives and “ewwwwww” anchovies.  My taste buds think it’s a marriage made in heaven.  You have sweet tomatoes, meaty anchovies, salty olives and perky briny capers.  Then a healthy helping of basil to make the whole thing a little more elegant. 

Giorgio recommends that you dish out some money on the pasta for this recipe.  Why spring for more expensive pasta?  It’s just flour and water right?  Yes, sure but it’s all in the making you see…  In the pricey stuff, they use copper molds (which are expensive and wear down faster) which make the spaghetti surface imperfect.  This imperfection is the key to you slurping up every last one of those noodles because it helps the sauce cling to the strand.  The spaghetti is also allowed to air dry rather than being heated quickly and artificially.  Not convinced?  Give it a shot once and see.  

Spaghetti al crudo - serves 1 greedy person – ME!

1 tbsp capers (baby ones, if possible)

2 tbsp black olives, pitted (I urge you not to throw them in whole, because then you will never get the perfect mouthful, instead you will be to busy extracting the pits.  It is tedious but just trust me when I tell you it’s worth it.)

3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 large tomato (the best quality you can find), finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

150g spaghetti

1/4  bunch basil

glug of extra-virgin olive oil

Parmesan

Method:

1. Put all the ingredients except the spaghetti, basil and half of the oil in a sauté pan and mix together, but don’t heat. Taste and season.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil add salt, drop in the pasta. Now this is important, before you drain the pasta, take out half a cup of salty, starchy cooking water and put it to one side.  I saw this in Genoa and have been doing it ever since.  It ensures that you can serve pasta that is deliciously moist and does not stick together.  

3. While the pasta is cooking, put the sauté pan containing the ingredients for the sauce over the top of the pasta pan, so the steam just warms everything up a little and the flavours start to infuse (Giorgio’s idea, not mine – I actually didn’t do this).

4. Remove the pasta a whole minute before the packet tells you to.  It will absorb a little more liquid from the sauce and continue cooking.  

5. When the pasta is cooked but still al dente, drain. Add the pasta to the sauté pan and toss through, adding a little of the cooking water to loosen. Add the rest of the oil (I say at least two tablespoons!) and toss through again. Tear the basil leaves, scatter over and toss through again.  Add some shaved Parmesan and serve straight away.

Dakos – Greek Bruschetta

Last weekend in Athens.  For lunch today I had dakos.  Dakos is a light meal that originates in Crete.  Good tomatoes are essential for this dish.  They need to be really fleshy on the inside, not all water and seeds.   

To serve two.  Take 3 medium to large tomatoes.  Remove the stem and then grate the tomatoes on the largest holes of a grater.  Discarding the skin.  At this point I find it helps to season the tomato pulp with some sherry vinegar (use white wine vinegar if you don’t have sherry), white pepper and salt.  

Turn your cold water tap on to a dribble and pass the rusks under the stream a couple of times.  Arrange three rusks per person on a plate.  Heap on the seasoned tomato pulp, followed by some grated feta (in Crete they would use aged myzithra), a liberal sprinkling of oregano and lastly a few good glugs of virgin olive oil.  It’s the only lunch I can imagine eating on a sweltering day (that or wedges of wonderful watermelon). 

I leave you with a picture of little L playing in the sea.  Tomorrow we are flying to Berlin, our new home, so this post is finally going to start living up to its name!  

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