Archives for posts with tag: chilli

A shadowIt’s funny sometimes how priorities change, stack up against each other, as if the different tasks and obligations one has are in competition with each other rather than with the time manager. This is how I feel sometimes, out of touch as everything seems to change around me, so I sit back and see what happens, see how the priorities rearrange themselves.
CauliflowerReady to roastAn eggplant
I realise, obviously, that how duties, assignments and relationships are prioritised and juggled is directed by me. There is not a universal power calling the shots telling me where to be, what to bring, who to email, who to call, what to read, what to write, how to eat well – though God, sometimes I wish there was. I’m a bit of a worry wart, an over-thinker. Some days my worries about things like climate change, recycling, the media, the food industry, the future, travel, careers, money (the list goes on) I find stimulating and motivating. But then there are days, as there have been recently, where I crave to be reckless, to be irresponsible, to live dangerously for a night – staying awake past midnight would be a good start.
ChoppedIn sunSlater like
At the moment, the best it gets is when I have to abandon everything I’m currently working on, leave the computer, put down the pen, and take care of the fruit and vegetables in my kitchen rapidly nearing the end of their life. There were peaches that needed doctoring earlier this week. Beautifully ripe, flavoursome and meaty golden queens, but with soft, brown spots dotting their velvet skins. I pan-roasted thin slices with butter, honey and cinnamon until the fruit was browned at the edges, golden of a different sort. All I had to take care of were those peaches.
LeekHalf rounds
Food – real food, good food – is my outlet, my down time. I like the quiet that settles over me when I look into the fridge or open the cupboard and know that soup can be made, a salad can be tossed and a cake can be baked. When I am in the kitchen everything else falls by the wayside and the desire to be nourished and to provide takes over – I like it most when this becomes priority number one.
RoastedGreen chilli
That is how we came to have this soup the other night, this earthy red, fiery, richly flavoured soup. With vegetables on hand I found myself there, in the kitchen, present in that moment, chopping carrots and an eggplant, de-seeding a red capsicum, dicing cauliflower florets and peeling cloves of garlic. When tossed with oil, salt, pepper and then baked, vegetables will always soften, sweeten. When soft, sweet roasted vegetables are added to a pot of spicy, lemony cooked leeks with vegetable stock and seasoning, well, there’s no going wrong.
Soup oneSoup two
Like most soups and stews, the flavours need a little time to develop. But after a day, or two, the lemon comes through and the chilli adds a heftiness, coating your mouth and stinging your lips. “Wake up!” it says. You can taste the vegetables, every one if you feel your way – the carrots are earthy and the capsicum is sweet, while the eggplant adds a smooth richness and the cauliflower is present in a “sturdy guy at the back” kind of way. The slow cooked vegetables, allowed to soften and crisp in equal measure, give the soup substance and make a hot bowlfull the right meal, the right answer to whatever is on your mind.

Spicy Roast Vegetable Soup
The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of my favourite food blogs, Food Loves Writing. Like Shanna says, it’s more method than recipe when it comes to making soup like this. My soup was on the thicker end of the soup-consistency spectrum and I thought this would be perfect to slump over some hot brown rice or other cooked grain.

Take a bunch of vegetables, chop them into roughly the same size, toss with a good glug of oil and seasoning then roast for at least an hour at 180°C until tender and golden.

While the vegetables cook take a leek or a large onion, chop into half rounds and cook in a large pot with a splash of oil and knob of butter, with chopped up chillis, garlic, ginger, lemon peel and any other spices you like. Once soften remove from heat and leave to sit.

Once the vegetables are cooked, return the onion pot to the heat and add the roasted vegetables with enough stock to just about cover and the juice of a whole lemon. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for a few minutes then purée.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or spiced yoghurt.


Quinoa Everything Salad + Roasted Carrot Chilli SaladThere is a beauty in a salad that you will never find in a roasted leg of lamb, or a chicken curry, or a pasta dish no matter how good and how well made they are. There is a freedom of spirit in a salad. You can free wheel in the kitchen. Salads can be immensely satisfying – a meal in their own right.
fresh herbs - coriander, basil and mint
A roasted carrot salad has been brewing in my mind for a while now. I first fell in love with roasted carrots while living in France. Often at the local market a 2 kilogram bag of carrots would be a euro or two. I would eat raw carrots like a rabbit, only turning to other carrot recipes when, alarmingly, my finger tips began to look like I had rubbed them in tumeric. I made carrot soup sweetened with braised leeks or fresh orange juice or, alternatively bulked up with potatoes. And then, when I reached the the end of my tether for carrot and orange soup – who knew there was such a tether? roasting became the way to go.
Carrots in long wedges
Cut into long strips the carrots char slightly at the thinner edges while the thicker end near the top of the carrots maintain their soft bite. Roasted carrots, while not the prettiest roast vegetable to look at all withered and wrinkly, they are perhaps the best to eat. They are sweet and if well seasoned with good oil and salt and pepper take on a buttery, salty-sweet flavour. In France I would eat them simply straight from the roasting dish, pulling each long wedge from the soft tangle of burnt orange. Or I would pulse them into hummus with a pinch of cayenne and paprika, then slather it on fresh, crusty bread with sliced tomato.

It wasn’t until this winter with bags of carrots seeming to outnumber potatoes, pumpkin and other roastable vegetables that I rediscovered the roasted carrot. I like the shape of a roasted carrot, long and slender. A carrot roasted to tenderness and vibrant orange seems quite different and elegant lying next to round, pale golden potatoes. The inspiration for this carrot salad came from a Ruth Pretty recipe I have always been fond of. The carrots are tender, boiled perhaps as they are less caramel tasting and more mellow, but are zinged up with plenty of chilli, olives, and coriander. I love the heat of the chilli, the acidity of the olives and the freshness of the coriander.
Roasted carrot salad with chilli, olives and coriander
For my salad I roasted everything together – beginning with a whole pan laden with chopped carrots and whole garlic cloves, then twice opening the oven to toss in chopped red chilli and Kalamata olives. Next time I might toss in almonds to roast for the last few minutes to add a bit of crunch.
Asparagus and fresh herbsRed and yellow capsicumQuinoa Salad with shaved Parmesan
The quinoa salad is more of an everything salad; endlessly versatile. Start with a base of cooked quinoa – I used a red, black and white mix – and add whatever you have on hand. Sautéed asparagus with lemon, feta, sundried tomatoes, red and yellow capsicum finely diced, sunflower seeds, fresh mint, chopped tomatoes and zuchini rounds cooked until soft and floppy together with fresh basil leaves. The extra bits and pieces nestle well in the tiny fronds of the quinoa and their soft nutty flavour is the ideal vehicle for stronger tastes and textures. Go wild.

Roasted Carrot Salad

A large amount of carrots, say a kilo or so.
4 cloves garlic
2 small red chilli
a handful of black olives
salt and pepper
olive oil
a small bunch of fresh coriander

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Chop carrots in half lengthwise then into quarters lengthwise until you have long strips. Place the carrots and the peeled garlic cloves in a roasting pan with a generous slug of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes then add the finely diced chilli. After another 10 minutes add the olives and continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander.

So those hands you see up there peeling garlic belong to the man about the house, so to speak. He likes sushi, no avocado though, bread, potatoes any which way, and chilli, hot and fiery.

Perrin loves the movement of cooking – the chopping of onions and other vegetables – feeling the sharp knife move swiftly; or with the flick of a wrist feeling the frying pan fly through a loosened grip to toss our breakfast or dinner; a grind of salt or pepper is sometimes a whole body movement combining a stride from one side of the kitchen to the other. Perrin moves in the kitchen with a calm but deliberate force. I like to watch him in the kitchen.

Earlier this week Perrin and I had a night off. I said let’s cook dinner. He replied, how about chicken salad, stir fry or a beef tomato stew? Or prawn pasta? I snapped on the prawn pasta – yes please! We walked through the streets on our way to the supermarket in the mid afternoon sun. It was almost hot and there was a calm in the wild winds we have been having. Tell me about this prawn pasta, I said.

Well, cook your fettuccine first, he said. Toss with oil when it’s cooked and then make the buttery prawn sauce. A little bit of oil just to get started and then cook – in quite a bit of butter – a small onion or shallot, garlic and chilli. He turned to look at me with a cheeky grin, I do love butter. Oh, so do I.

Back in Perrin’s kitchen (one devoid of natural light so excuse the yellow-tinged photographs), I sat with my laptop and a glass of wine and looked on, taking notes and asking questions. The meal is quick to prepare – snappy and intense – but there are things to notice here. The sizzle and spit of the pan; an undercurrant beneath the roaring of the extractor fan. As the prawns are flicked and tossed they pink with the heat and the chilli, while the onion and garlic, soft and translucent, is a buttery yellow in comparison. Once the lemon zest and white wine have been added the smell is rich and inviting – there is the sweetness of the prawns, the zing of lemon and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and the warm scent of onions cooking in butter.

Tossing is important, says Perrin. You must allow everything to bind with the butter – the crux and muscles of the dish, I guess. The dish needs muscle to carry the chilli because heck it’s hot. I sat there enjoying every tendril of fettuccine slicked with butter, garlic and sweet onion and each succulent prawn I picked out of the nest of noodles and ate with my fingers but throughout the whole meal my eyes watered and my nose ran with the heat of the chilli. After I placed my knife and fork together I was out of breath and fanning my burning mouth. Perrin poured me a glass of milk. Romance was high during this meal, believe you me.

Spicy Prawn Fettuccine
Adjust heat to your liking. Maybe one red chilli would suffice. Saffron or smoked paprika could add to the sunset pink colour but lend more of a mild flavour. Serves 2.

200 grams fettuccine
1 tablespoon oil (plus extra for pasta)
a decent knob of butter – 20 or so grams
1 small onion or shallot
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
red chilli
300 grams raw prawns
1 lemon – zest and juice
1 generous glass of white wine
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta until al dente. Strain and toss with a glug of oil to prevent sticking.

To a frying pan add the tablespoon of oil and butter. Once melted and slightly bubbling cook the onions and garlic and until soft. Add the chilli and cook for a further two minutes. Increase the heat then add the prawns, tossing for a couple of minutes to partially cook. Add the lemon zest and juice, the wine, salt and pepper then the cooked pasta continuing to toss for a further three or so minutes.

Once the pasta has heated through serve on to plates and scatter across finely chopped parsley, or another herb.

I once read that food writing should really be called writing about eating. The food is only one part of what is the overall eating experience. It is the people we are with, the weather, the location, the sense of occasion, or lack thereof. It is our frame of mind; what, in that moment, or evening, or hurried lunch break, do we really crave.

Sometimes the circumstances of a meal are just as delightful or enjoyable, or odd as the food itself. This week I have particularly enjoyed a Thai beef rice salad: chopped tomatoes, cucumber and capsicum, finely sliced green chilli, nutty brown rice and perfectly medium rare steak. However, eating this salad while on a school trip with 70 or so kids at Titahi Bay to learn about beach safety is slightly less kosher.

Would this salad have tasted so fresh and clean, so wholesome and so lightly spiced with chilli heat if I hadn’t been eating it from a plastic container at a plastic table in the sandy and slightly damp Titahi Bay surf lifesaving club? If I hadn’t been wearing jandals, trackpants and an oversized polar fleece jersey of my father’s? The club room was full of damp and sandy children. I overheard a few jokes about SAND-wiches, jam beginning to dribble from their slightly squished cheese rolls.

Fog and drizzle rolled across the beach, almost following the waves, and Mana Island became hazy and blurry in the distance. On the beach the remains of a sand castle building competition were starting to collapse, wet sand creeping out from their carefully constructed forms – survivor island, volcano island, a two-headed sea turtle and an orange road cone covered in sand and twigs.

As I ate my salad and looked out over the water – the colour of slate – I wondered if this salad would have tasted any less delicious on a warm summer evening, perhaps sitting outside wearing a sun dress, drinking a cold beer and the Thai beef brown rice salad served on a lovely platter? Probably not.

Thai Beef Brown Rice Salad
Serves 2-3

2 beef steaks (I used porterhouse)
2 cups of cooked brown rice, warm
1-2 chopped tomatoes
handful diced cucumber
handful diced red capsicum
1 small green chilli sliced very finely
1-2 finely sliced spring onions.

juice of 1 lemon or lime
splash of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper
the remaining meat juices

Cook the steaks for 3 minutes each side. Wrap in tin foil and leave to sit for 10 or so minutes. Place the cooked brown rice and chopped tomato, cucumber, capsicum, spring onions and chilli on a platter.

To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients together, except the meat juices. Leave to rest for several minutes, if not longer, to let the flavours develop.

After the meat has rested, pour the meat juices which have gathered in the tin foil parcel into the dressing. Mix well.

Place the steaks on a board and slice. Arrange the slices of steak on the rice and pour over the dressing.

Great for lunches at the beach or a light meal outdoors in the sun.

It has been a while since I studied and I have forgotten how to do it. (Though, past exam results would question if I have ever known how to do it.) Instead of re-reading and re-writing notes on topics I will possibly never ever contemplate again, even in the deep, dark recesses of my brain, I find myself pondering the deeper questions of life… what to get my sister for Christmas? Why didn’t I buy that lovely biscuit tin in France? Why did my mother not have me learn French In-vitro? What would I do if I won Lotto? What to cook for dinner? Coffee or tea?

And today’s question: could I make tomato chutney from canned tomatoes, a cheater’s tomato chutney of sorts? Could I? Is this a dangerous thought to be thinking right now? I am having wondrous visions of my business communication notes splattered delightfully in a sweet, red, juicy sauce…

A tomato chutney, I feel, is one of life’s staple ingredients. If made with the right ratio of brown sugar to vinegar to spices it really is the most versatile of condiments. A good tomato chutney can liven any dish. Take the corn fritters I had for lunch: palm sized, crisp edged, buttery yellow fritters with hints of coriander and pieces of red capsicum, well seasoned and kindly re-heated in the oven, rather than the microwave which makes all the difference. They were everything a corn fritter should have been. But, I couldn’t help thinking a sweet tomato chutney with traces of spice and ginger could have made these fritters truly exceptional.

This chutney, this chutney, you will be eating from the jar with a teaspoon. It is more like a jam, but don’t let that hinder its versatility. I think I will eat this on toast with a generous spreading of butter, or in rice dishes, or stirred through cream cheese for a dip, or atop baked potatoes, or as an omelette flavouring, or in any egg dish for that matter, or with cold roast chicken in a sandwich, or simply with cheese and a cracker.

This chutney-jam is very easy to make. Just mix everything in the pot until it reaches jam-like consistency. As it shimmers and simmers away the colours begin to change to richer and darker hues, the colour of ripe chillies, or smashed berries.

Ideal for dramatic note-staining. Or eating by the spoonful.

Tomato Chutney-Jam

Adapted from this recipe and this recipe.

1 800g tin of whole peeled tomatoes in juice plus 1 400g tin.
330-ish ml of white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar, or just plain white vinegar)
1 cinnamon quill
4-5 whole cloves
1 head garlic, finely diced
1 piece of ginger about the size of your thumb, finely diced
handful raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
generous pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Pour the tins of tomatoes into a medium-large pot. Chop roughly with a knife. Using the 400g tin, fill 3/4 of the way up with vinegar, swirl to gather left over tomato juice. Pour into pot. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave uncovered for 90minutes, or until liquid has reduced and the consistency is thicker.

Take 2 preserving jars and sterilise in hot water or the oven. When jam has finished cooking, pour into jars and place lid tightly on top. Leave to cool. The jar lid should make a ‘pop’ sound as it seals itself.

If you plan on eating the chutney within 2-3 weeks, preserving jars are not necessary, simply place in fridge.

N.B If you would like a less sweet jam reduce the white sugar content to only half a cup.