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Ate, Cook, Made

A Sunday In September.

Nigel Slater's Sticky Fig Chutney

If I were to take December and its connotations of Christmas out of the equation, September would be unequivocally my favourite month of the year. I’ve always had more of an affinity with the colder months, I put it down to the fact I was born in a snowstorm. September is the month that bridges the gap between the final days of summer and the undoubtedly soggy October that lies ahead. There’s a fresh nip to the mornings but a blazing sunlight to the afternoons. The light manages to hold on until the early evening as the mornings slowly but very surely get that little bit darker with each passing day. We all know it’s coming, but September breaks it to us gently.

Ultimately autumn is about comfort. Spending entire days in doors, hiding out from the showers and keeping warm. Catching up on all those little things you’ve been meaning to do all summer but haven’t quite got round to yet. Those books you never got round to reading, or the film you keep saying you’ll watch but never seem to be able to settle enough to put it on. The term ‘hygge’ seems to be a little too commonly used of late, but nonetheless belongs in these time of the year. Find something to do, take it slowly and most importantly, enjoy it.

Nigel Slater's Sticky Fig Chutney

And so to chutney. September is fig season, potentially the best of all the fruit seasons. For those of you who have more important issues than to spend a Sunday contemplating your favourite fruit harvest, I can assure you it’s a good one. Figs find their way to my toast and onto my granola, grilled with honey and almonds and served with coconut yoghurt, caramelised with balsamic vinegar and tossed into a salad; in short, I can find a home for them just about anywhere. Nothing is quite as satisfying as making a warm sticky fig chutney however.

There’s something so peaceful about chopping onions I find. My eyes have become so accustomed to it now I don’t even emit a sniffle, let alone a tear. Chopping the onions and layering them beneath mounds of sliced figs, dolling out lashings of all spice and gently smashing peppercorns to pieces for the final flourish before dousing the whole thing in vinegar – it’s a Sunday well spent.

Sticky Fig Chutney

As a child my Grandma had to hide the bottle of vinegar in the highest of cupboards, I was known to try and drink it. Yes, I’m aware it’s quite bizarre, but even now as a pool of balsamic vinegar sits at the bottom of my salad bowl, I know I could drink up every last drop if I wanted to. That sweet, spicy smell of the vinegar mingles with the all spice and juicy sultanas to result in the most comforting of September feelings. It’s not quite the baking of the Christmas cake, but it’s a very close second.

I always turn to a Nigel Slater recipe for my fig chutney, taken from potentially my favourite cookbook of all, The Kitchen Diaries II. Whilst several blogs have chosen to write up the Sticky Fig Chutney recipe, I can’t help but feel that isn’t right? If you’d like to make it the recipe is easily Google-able; my only amendment to the genius of the original recipe is to throw in some bay leaves. If you don’t have the book – I whole heatedly recommend it.

Sticky Fig ChutneyAutumn Fig Chutney

The jars are now neatly lined up on my the shelves awaiting some kind of minimalist labelling technique that I’ve yet to fathom. I recommend sloshing it on crusty sourdough, topped with goat’s cheese.

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Ate, Cook, Food, Recipe

Zatar Roasted Carrot & Garlic Hummus.

There was a time when a tub of hummus and a stack of toasted pita breads constituted an evening meal for me. I’m rather glad to say those days are gone and I have moved on to a much more balanced diet, however, that being said… I could absolutely still do exactly that. I love hummus. In almost all of its guises, I love it. Most days it serves as a prelude to my desk lunch, with a pile of carrots serving as the vehicle for it’s salty, lemony tang.

In my quest of the perfect hummus recipe – something I have absolutely yet to find I might add – I’ve explored the world of alternative versions, with varying success. There’s thus far been everything from puy lentil editions to creamy butterbean variants. This roasted carrot version is one I shall certainly be returning to although I might add, it’s absolutely never going to replace the chickpea variety.

Roasting the carrots with the zatar spiked oil really brings out their sweet nature whilst adding a spark of flavour to the proceedings. I find also roasted the garlic in the same way produces a much more mellow tasting hummus, adding it in raw can leave a rather acrid taste in my experience, so I tend to always roast the garlic first. Serve it with some toasted pita chips (gluten free pitas will do just as well, don’t worry) and some fresh crudités like celery or chicory.

 

Ingredients

  • 8 carrots, cleaned and sliced in half
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, with more to serve
  • 2 garlic cloves, pealed
  • 1 tsp zatar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp of tahini

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Start by scrubbing the carrots thoroughly, you don’t need to peel them, just make sure they’re well and truly clean before slicing them in half.  

Add the carrots to a mixing bowl along with the two pealed cloves of garlic and drizzle over 2 tablespoons of your olive oil.

Next sprinkle over a pinch of salt and your teaspoon of zatar and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, give it all a good toss to make sure every piece of carrot is nicely coated and then arrange on your baking tray in a pleasantly hazard manor.

Remove the two cloves of garlic and keep to one side for now, they aren’t going to need as long to roast as the carrots. If any of the oil mix remains in the bowl, just pour this onto the carrots. 

Pop into the oven and leave to roast for around 15 minutes, at this point check on them and add the garlic to your baking tray. Pop back in the over for a further 10-15 minutes until everything looks caramelized and delectable before removing from the oven. Leave to one side to cool.

Once the carrots and garlic have cooled add them to your food processor with your lemon juice, tahini and remaining olive oil. Give it all a whizz until nice and blended, you might at this point need to add in some more olive oil if you feel the hummus is too thick. Give it a taste and season accordingly. If it’s a little sweet for you simply try adding a few further drops of lemon juice.

To serve, spoon into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil before adding a final sprinkling of zatar.

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Ate, Cook

Bitter Sweet Orange.

I like to cook dinner for people, it just makes me inexplicably happy. I enjoy a culinary challenge even more. For a number of years now my mum hasn’t been able to wheat; not a welcome ailment for someone with a sweet tooth. When she visits I like to try and cook something she won’t have had before, or at least something she won’t have had in quite some time.

This weekend my head was filled with the promise of spring, a curious thing amidst the snow and biting cold. Perhaps its simply optimism that spring is on the way or maybe it’s just because I bought myself some tulips for the dining table, but either way my head was firmly in the next season. For dessert I wanted to serve something fresh and citrusy, maybe even a little sharp. Over the Christmas period we seem to spend so long eating rich, complex flavours I felt I wanted the total opposite of for this week’s Sunday lunch.

Step forward bitter Seville orange tart. With a few adjustments to a recipe I’d bookmarked with a receipt sometime ago in Simply Nigella, the tart was made wholly appropriate for a celiac with a fondness for dessert. In lieu of a pastry crust there’s a ginger spiced biscuit crust, extra thick for a bit of texture against the creamy curd of the filling. There’s little denying that this is not one the healthier options I’ve cooked. Butter, sugar and a large quantity of eggs feature even if wheat and gluten are entirely missing. I’m not going to claim to have bettered Nigella’s recipe but I definitely don’t feel she’d scoff at the altered rendition. Short, sharp and filled with the promise of a warm spring day, the tart was swiftly demolished by all involved.

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Ate, Cook, Food

Clementines & Ginger.

The real reason I decided to play around with the idea of a ginger and clementine cake came from the fact I stumbled across some miniature bundt tins whilst wandering around a store last week.

As soon I saw them I knew something festive would evolve from their presence in my kitchen.

The cake itself has a darkly spiced flavour due to a blend of ginger, cinnamon and the all together not too healthy addition of Golden Syrup. The drizzle icing and candied peal on top deliver a sharper kick of clementine. Again, the sugar doesn’t exactly render this all that healthy however I’m convinced a more virtuous iteration of it can be discovered.

Bear with me. I’m working on it.

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