Archives for the month of: January, 2011

You know how Audrey Hepburn likes to stand outside Tiffany’s having a croissant when she has the ‘mean reds’ because nothing could ever go wrong there? I have a similar thing with health food shops. I find just being inside them makes me feel better about myself. All that organic, non-processed, vitamin-stuffed, vegan-friendly goodness works its hypothetical magic in my brain and I inevitably spend tons of money in gratitude at the escape from psychological embattlement by aisles of Tesco junk.

So last time I went into Uhuru, my Cowley Road sanctuary, I picked up a jar of a sort of raw cacao and nut spread which seemed to me like an inherently great idea, because I love nutella and yet know that despite what the adverts claim (“10 hazelnuts in every jar!” Erm, yeah, and what’s in the rest of it?) it’s sadly not really very good for you. And then I forced myself to put the jar down, because the little voice that pops up in my head on such occasions murmured, “You could make that yourself! And save money!”

So I did.

Chocolate-nut spread

Makes 1 very large jar

I used almonds, because that’s what I had most of, but obviously for a more Nutella-ish vibe hazelnuts would be appropriate. The one in the shop used a mix of nuts, of which Brazil is the only one I can remember. It occurred to me later that maybe toasting the nuts would be nice, too. Agave nectar is a low-GI sweetener obtained from the Mexican plant which tequila comes from, but you could of course use a different sweetener.

160g 100% pure cacao e.g. Willie’s, available in Waitrose
300g almonds or nuts of your choice
3 tbsp or more agave nectar, to taste
water or oil to blend

Chop the cacao roughly and blend in food processor with the nuts (skins on is OK). Keep blending until the mixture forms a paste. This will take quite a while, so you may prefer to do it in batches (or reduce the quantities) to avoid stressing out your food processor. Add agave nectar until it’s as sweet as you want it, and water/oil to thin out the texture if needed.

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I feel that when it’s cold and wintry and uninviting outside, you can seek solace in your kitchen in one of two ways: you can retreat into the traditionally warming stews, pies and puddings, or you can look to balmier climes for inspiration. I don’t mean salads, that would unquestionably be a bad idea, but when I made this tagine it struck me that it was the perfect uplifting food for a grey day: hearty, cooked in one pot (more or less), brightly spiced and warming on two counts, if you include the liberal addition of stingingly hot harissa. Plus, the chance to use one of my tagines (yes, I have more than one) always makes me feel happier.

I used a recipe from the first Moro book, but the basics could be altered at will, using different vegetables, making a vegetarian version with chickpeas or using another type of meaty protein. The important component here is the chermoula, which is what will make you want to keep on eating mouthful after cold-fighting mouthful.

Fish tagine with potatoes, tomatoes and olives

Serves 4

4 white fish fillets (hake is good)
20 small, waxy potatoes e.g. Charlotte
3 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
15 cherry tomatoes, halved / 1 x tin chopped tomatoes
4 green peppers
a handful of black olives, preferably the small, oily type
100ml water
salt and pepper

For the chermoula:
2 garlic cloves
1 level tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

Firstly, make the chermoula. The Moro recipe wants you to do this in a pestle and mortar, but mine is tiny, and even if it weren’t I doubt I would have bothered. Sorry. It still tastes pretty darn great if you just chuck all the ingredients in the blender. Anyway, once you’re done rub two-thirds of it into your fish fillets and leave them in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes and a maximum of 2 hours.

Meanwhile, grill or roast the peppers until the skin blackens and will peel away easily. Scrape out any seeds and slice them into strips. While you do this you might reflect on how rarely a recipe actually calls for green peppers. And yet you always seem to end up with them.

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in salty water for 10-15 minutes, or until just cooked. Drain and slice in half.

In a medium saucepan heat 2 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic until light brown. Add the tomatoes and allow to soften for a couple of minutes. Stir in the green peppers and leftover chermoula and check the seasoning. Now you can get out your tagine, if you have one, and spread the potatoes over the bottom. Dollop three quarters of the tomato and pepper mixture over this, then the chermoula-marinated fish, then the rest of the tomato/pepper mix and the olives. Pour over the water and remaining tbsp of olive oil, put the lid on, and cook over a medium-high heat for 10-15 mins, or until the fish is cooked through. If you don’t have a tagine, just use a lidded saucepan or frying pan. Also note that some tagines are a little delicate, so if you’re wary of putting yours over direct heat you could use a heat diffuser mat and cook the dish for longer. Although I gave up doing this because I’m impatient, and so far no harm has come to mine.

From ‘Moro: The Cookbook’, Sam & Sam Clark