Archive for November, 2009

November ‘Meanderings’ …

Pictured (top to bottom)
Yorkshire Oatmeal Parkin
Chicken Gumbo
Bajan Style Lamb Stew
Basic Recipe: Yoghurt side dish -Tzatsiki/Cacik/Raita

100_9018 Parkin

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With the nights really closing in and a nip in the air the month started with a ‘bang’ on 5th November with the annual marking of fireworks night.  In early November I always try to make a batch of Yorkshire Oatmeal Parkin: its gingery warmth tastes just right at this time of the year.  I have also made some scrumptious Ginger Biscuits from a much used family recipe: ‘Jolly’ Ginger Biscuits will be posted in the next few days.  Why Jolly?  Wait and see, but there is no doubt that they are ‘jolly’ good!

100_4159  Chicken-Turkey Gumbo

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We now have plenty of chutney and pickles to take us through the winter.  Some of the new ones I included last month were so successful (ie. finished up) that I went on to make a second batch.  The Christmas Chutney made just a few days ago will be included shortly.  Its a very spicy mixture with splashes of red and green which will be just right with the cold meats at tea time on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.    

100_7992 Bajan style Lamb Stew

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Many of the recipes I have included this month have an overseas influence.  I finally finished watching Gary Rhodes’ culinary visits to the Islands of the Caribbean in his television series Rhodes around the Caribbean.  The documentary parts were really interesting and most of the food not especially difficult to make, particularly if you are fortunate to have a wonderful array of local ethnic shops which stock almost all the key ingredients.  The series left me wanting more, though, but I am sure there are plenty of books available.  I have included recipes for Bajan Style Lamb Stew after Gary Rhodes’ recipe, Rice & Peas from a book on my shelf, plus Fried Plantain and Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes, both from recipes given by friends.  There are also instructions for Chicken Gumbo based on a recipe originating from the Southern States of the USA.    

100_5701 Tzatziki

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As well as recipes I have reviewed Apricots on the Nile: A memoir with recipes by Collette Rossant which led me to try her recipe for Grilled Chicken with Sumac & Roasted Banana.  I served this with a traditional yoghurt side dish which I have also included: Basic Recipe: Yoghurt side dish -Tzatsiki/Cacik/Raita.  This gives variations for Greek/Turkish/Middle Eastern/Indian yoghurt side dishes, all of which seem similar yet are slightly different.   

For a full list of postings since my October Meanderings see below. (Recipes already posted have been highlighted and the others will appear in coming weeks.)   

November Recipes …

Bajan Style Lamb Stew
Chicken Gumbo
Fried Plantain
Grilled Chicken with Sumac & Roasted Banana
Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes
Pear Dappy
Rice & Peas
Yorkshire Oatmeal Parkin  

Back to basics:
Basic Recipe: Yoghurt side dish -Tzatsiki/Cacik/Raita  

Book review:
Apricots on the Nile – Collette Rossant   

Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months   

‘For what we are about to receive…’ December 2009 and beyond

Food for the mind…  

Non Fiction Food book
Not sure I will have time for much non-recipe book reading this month.  Perhaps a New Year resolution to finish the couple of books mentioned in previous months.  

Recipe books I’ll be looking through…   

Delia Smith’s Christmas (I have the old one but I see she has written a new Christmas book!)
Nigella Lawson: Feast and any number of Christmas sections in the other books I own, plus magazine pull outs.  So much to choose from!   

… and for the December table …   

We are now in the season of Advent and looking forward to the coming of Christmas so my thoughts have been turning to seasonal food.  I don’t have to cook the turkey this year, or the pudding, but I have already made my Christmas cake using the family recipe passed down from my Nana.  The jury is still out on how I will finish it.  For the last couple of years I have turned our cake into a Dundee cake topped with circles of cherries and almonds rather than the traditional Marzipan, icing and ‘kitsch’ figures.  This year I have seen an idea for a Florentine topping which I think I will be trying out, so watch this space.  Among other treats I am also thinking of making are StollenLebkuchen (if I can decide which online recipe to try as I don’t have one in a book), some homemade Cranberry & Orange Relish and a lovely sounding dessert from a Sainsbury instore recipe card which combines clementines and ginger.  When I eventually make it and if it is successful, it will certainly appear here.   

Christmas in our house is a time for family and friends, but most of all we celebrate the reason for Christmas: the coming of Jesus Christ, the baby born in Bethlehem who shows us the way back to God.  I hope you will enjoy this lovely animated film telling of the first Christmas.

May you know God’s blessing & peace this Christmas…

…and Happy Eating!

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Gumbo is a dish from the southern states of the USA, in particular Louisiana. When I first started to collect recipes I pasted or copied them into a file and about twenty years ago I wrote down a recipe for Chicken Gumbo featured on the BBC Food & Drink programme, which I made not long after.   It can also be made with seafood, in particular shrimp.

Chicken (or Turkey) Gumbo has since become a regular family favourite, especially as it is fairly quick and easy to make.  The original recipe, which I think was a basic ‘no frills’ version, has been slightly adapted down the years, augmented with extra ingredients as I have come across variations in different recipe books. My recipe is probably not absolutely authentic, I know, but we like it!  Broadly, however, it  remains the same: sometimes using chicken and sometimes using turkey, but always using okra, making sure I do not over cook it.  We like our okra slightly crisp, with the sticky juices just starting to seep out to thicken the stew: some versions of gumbo are thickened in other ways.  Using diced chicken breast meat is a quick cook version and it should not be overcooked as it will toughen.  Chicken thighs, as in my original recipe, are a cheaper alternative and will benefit from a longer and slower cooking.  Sometimes smoked pork sausage is used in authentic gumbo recipes.  If you wish, some sliced or diced sausage can be added at the same time and in place of some of the chicken.  I serve my Gumbo with warm corn bread or with rice and sweetcorn or corn fritters.

100_4159  Chicken-Turkey Gumbo
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Chicken Gumbo
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large Onion, halved and finely sliced
1 large clove Garlic, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
4ozs button mushrooms, sliced (optional)
½tsp mixed herbs
¼tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper
500g/1lb skinned chicken breasts, in large bite sized pieces or boned chicken thighs, left whole
400g/14oz tin of plum tomatoes
150ml/¼pt water, more if necessary
large pinch of sugar
1 large Green Pepper, sliced
125g/4ozs Okra, stem ends removed and cut into ½inch/2cm lengths.
Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Gently fry the onion, garlic, celery and mushroom for 5-10minutes but do not let it brown. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them so they start to colour. Put on the pan lid and cook on a medium heat for 5-10minutes. Stir in the mixed herbs and chilli powder/cayenne pepper.

2. Chop the contents of the tin of tomatoes and add to the pan with the sugar and water. Stew gently for another 10minutes for chicken breast pieces and 15-20minutes  for chicken thighs. If the mixture starts to dry out then add a little more water.

3. Mix in the green pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes.

4. Finally, 10-15 minutes before serving the gumbo, add the okra pieces, stir well and cook over a medium heat until the juices start to thicken the stew.  Season to taste.  We like our okra when it is still an attractive green colour and retaining some crispness and it needs to be checked regularly as it overcooks very quickly.  Once it is cooked the gumbo needs to be served immediately as it will continue to cook in the pan.

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I learned how to make fried plantain by following instructions given by a friend from the Caribbean.  It’s such an easy recipe you might wonder why it is here, nevertheless I think it is worth recording.  Plantain is still fairly new and may be unfamiliar to some people: I had to find out how to cook it!  Although they are the same family, Plantain differ from the yellow dessert bananas usually found in the fruit bowl.  

Plantain can be bought from Caribbean food stockists and can also be found in larger supermarkets.  They are usually best bought while still green, without too many brown spots, so they can be stored in the fridge for a few days if necessary.  The skins can be a little difficult to remove. When you are about to cook them, using a sharp knife carefull slit the skin lengthwise and then carefully peel away the skin.

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Fried Plantain
(Serves 4)

2 large plantain
A knob of butter
Sunflower oil

1. Cut the plantain into 1cm/½ inch pieces, either straight or diagonally.

2. Heat the butter and oil together in a frying pan.

3. Reduce temperature and gently cook pieces of plantain in batches, turning as necessary until golden brown on both sides. Be careful as the sugar content will make the plantain pieces caramelise and burn quickly.

4. As each piece is browned lift out and place on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Keep warm until all pieces are cooked.

5. Serve as a side dish for Caribbean dishes.  A parsley garnish looks pretty!

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I have eaten lots of Caribbean Salt Fish Cakes but my friend Hyacinth, originally from Jamaica, definitely makes the very best Salt Fish Cakes in E17!  They always ‘go like hot (fish) cakes’ when she brings them to church shared lunches.  One thing that makes them particularly good are that they are crispy outside, soft inside and most importantly, unlike some I have tried, they are never ever greasy!  I managed to get her recipe and I share it with you here…

The quantities given on the original recipe were approximate, so could be slightly increased to feed another person by adding a little more flour and another egg.  The original recipe called for 8ozs flour and 2 eggs.  I misread the original hand written recipe and I added finely chopped green pepper, but we liked the flavour and colour so I decided to keep it in.  I also decided to slightly pre-cook and cool the onion and pepper, so it is properly cooked, as the eventual cooking time for the dish is not long.  A squeeze of lemon juice, if you wish, helps enhance the flavour.  Do not be tempted to add any more salt!

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Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes
(Serves 2-3 or 4+ as a starter)

5ozs/150g pack of boneless, skinless salt fish pieces (usually Pollack or Cod)
4ozs/125g Self Raising Flour
1 egg
1 small onion, very finely chopped
½ green pepper, very finely chopped (optional)
1tbsp tomato purée
Black pepper
1tsp lemon juice (optional)
Oil for frying

1.  At least 1hour before you are going to make the fish cakes, place the salt fish in a bowl and cover with cold water.  Change the water immediately and cover fish again with water.  Leave for about one hour, changing the water once more. 

2.  If you have a microwave oven then place the finely chopped onion and green pepper together in a small bowl and cook, covered, for 1minute.  Alternatively, cook together in a small saucepan with a little water over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.  Do not let the onion and pepper start to colour.  Put to one side and do not use until it has cooled – it can go in the fridge once it is no longer hot.

3.  Drain the fish in a colander or sieve. As much water as possible should be squeezed out before the fish is used.  Chop the fish as finely as possible, checking that there are no bones and removing them if necessary.

4.  Break the egg into a large bowl and whip.  Mix in the flour.  Stir in the fish, tomato purée, onion, pepper, plus lemon juice if using, until well mixed.  Draw the mixture together into a ball.  If it is a little sticky then add some more flour if needed. 

5.  Form the mixture into 8 or 9 equal sized flattened cakes: 2 or 3 per person – depends on how many people you are feeding.  If serving as a starter then divide mixture into smaller cakes.

6.  Place in the fridge for 10 minutes or until ready to cook. 

7.  Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the cakes very gently until golden brown on both sides.  Each cake will stick slightly but once it is set it can be turned easily.  Allow the cakes to seal on one side before you turn them to avoid them breaking up.  Keep warm under a gentle grill until needed.

8.  Serve with Rice & Peas and Fried Plantain and a few green peas or some salad leaves.

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This traditional dish from the Caribbean is a combination of rice and red kidney beans, which are are usually called peas, rather than green peas.  The mixture is cooked in coconut milk making it slightly sweet and fragrant.  It is lovely served with any foods from the Caribbean.  I always serve it with Salt Fish Cakes, which I make using a recipe given by our friend Hyacinth, Fried Plantain and a few green peas or some salad leaves. 

The original recipe, which was very successful but results in a dish with a fairly sticky consistency, comes from A Sainsbury Cookbook: The Cooking of the Caribbean by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz.  The only ingredient changes I made were to substitute a tin of red kidney beans in place of dried beans, to use creamed coconut (readily available in block form) dissolved in water in place of coconut milk and some adjustments to the ingredient proportions.  After making Rice and Peas in a pan using the original recipe I successfully adapted the recipe for my rice cooker, using the same ingredients.  The resulting rice was much less sticky.  Try it both ways if you have access to a rice cooker and see which you prefer: both methods are given below.

Stove top method - 'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Rice Cooker Method - 'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Rice & Peas
(Serves 6)

2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped or ½tsp chilli powder
50g/2ozs creamed coconut
400ml/14fl ozs hot water
½ tsp dried thyme
350g/12ozs long grain white rice
1 x 400g/14oz tin Red Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt & pepper to taste

Stove top method:
1.  Heat the oil and gently fry the onion until golden.  Stir in the chilli, thyme and rice.

2.  Thoroughly dissolve the creamed coconut in the hot water and mix in.  Bring to the boil and cook over a very gentle heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to check that it is not sticking.  Before the liquid is completely dissolved stir in the drained and rinsed kidney beans, adding a small amount of additional water if necessary.  Continue to cook until the rice and peas are tender, the liquid is absorbed and the beans are heated through.

3.  Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture does not stick to the pan.  As the higher sugar content of the mixture means it could stick and burn it should be served almost immediately.   Rice and peas can be kept warm for a short time, but cooked rice should not be stored at room temperature for a prolonged period.

Rice cooker method:
1.  Place the rice, onion, chilli, thyme and oil in the cooker pan.  Thoroughly dissolve the creamed coconut in the hot water and pour over the rice. 

2.  Set to rice cooker to cook.  Before the liquid is completely dissolved stir in the drained and rinsed kidney beans, adding a small amount of additional water if necessary which will give a stickier consistency to the finished dish.  Stir occasionally to make sure the rice and peas do not begin to stick to the pan. Continue to cook until the rice and peas are tender, the liquid is absorbed and the beans are heated through. 

3.  It is not possible to use the usual keep warm facility in the rice cooker, apart for a very short period.  As the higher sugar content of the mixture means it could stick to the bottom of the pan and burn it should be served almost immediately.  Rice and peas can be kept warm for a short time, but cooked rice should not be stored at room temperature for a prolonged period.

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I have finally finished watching Gary Rhodes’ series of programmes exploring the food of the Caribbean. This dish, from Barbados, tasted as good as it looked on television and it was not too difficult to make.  I have cooked with beetroot as a vegetable in a stew with success and found some lovely lamb fillet in the supermarket.  The recipe needed the Bajan green seasoning (otherwise it would not be Bajan style) but it was not too difficult to make.  I made a half quantity and as I was trying just a small quantity of stew have frozen half for another occasion.  Another time I would make the full quantity but would recommend storing the remainder in the freezer, unless it will be used very quickly.  The recipe required green bananas, which are always available in specialist food shops but sometimes they can be found in the supermarket or even on the local street market, especially in the colder months.  Both the Bajan Seasoning and the Banana added a distinctive flavour to the dish that I would definitely not want to omit.

Here is a link to the original recipe for Gary Rhodes’ dish, called Blackbelly Lamb Stew and also the recipe for Bajan Seasoning.  The recipes come from Rhodes around the Caribbean, which was first shown on the UKTV Good Food Channel.

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Bajan Style Lamb Stew
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb Lamb, from the shoulder, cut into 4cm pieces (I used lamb fillet)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
sprig Thyme, leaves picked (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
sprig Marjoram, leaves picked (or ½ tsp dried marjoram)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 sticks Celery, finely sliced
1 tbsp Bajan Seasoning, (see separate recipe below)
dash of pepper sauce, or Tabasco (I used ½tsp chilli powder)
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
25g/1oz Butter
½ tbsp Plain Flour
1 Carrot, peeled and diced
1 large raw Beetroot, peeled and diced
3 small green Bananas, cut into 3cm chunks
1 Bouquet Garni, (Bay Leaf, Thyme, Marjoram)
½ Oxo Beef Stock cube (used on television, but not online ingredient list)

1.  Wash and dry the lamb.  Toss with the garlic, herbs, crumbled half stock cube, onion, celery, Bajun seasoning and pepper sauce.

2.  Heat a dry pan and add the sugar. Cook briefly and when it caramelises, add the lamb mixture, stir and fry very gently for a few minutes.  (The cooking of the sugar should be very brief and it needs to darken but must not burn, otherwise the dish will have a bitter flavour.)

3.  Add the butter and flour into the pan and mix in well. Add the carrot, beetroot, green bananas and bouquet garni (or bay leaf and a teaspoon each of dried thyme and marjoram).

4.  Pour over enough boiling water to cover all the ingredients and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until meat is tender, topping up the pan with a little more water during cooking if necessary.

5.   Serve with rice.  Sprinkle with a little parsley if you wish.

Bajan Green Seasoning

1 Onion, chopped
small bunch Spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 red Chilli, seeds and stem removed (Scotch Bonnet/Habanero if available)
1 tbsp Thyme, leaves
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
1 tbsp chopped Marjoram
100ml/4 fl ozs White Wine Vinegar
1 Lime, juice only
1 tsp Curry powder
pinch ground Allspice
pinch ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp Salt

1.  Chop the onion, spring onions, garlic and chilli together finely.  Use a food processor if available.

2.  Add the herbs, vinegar and lime juice and mix in very well. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

3.  Cover and store.  Ideally Bajan seasoning should be stored in the fridge for a week before use so that the flavours can mature.  It will keep in the refrigerator for six months or can be frozen in a plastic lined ice cube tray and stored in the freezer.

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Some years ago the BBC Food and Drink television programme featured a dining club in the Cotswold region of the UK, where the diners sampled and then voted on a huge variety of desserts and puddings.  The Pudding Club, as it is called, is still going strong and has published two books, both of which I own. 

Apple Dappy was the first recipe I made from book one: The Pudding Club Book by Keith & Jean Turner and it is one of our favourites.  This recipe for Pear Dappy is my adapted version of the same dish, which was very successful.  If you have someone coming to dinner who finds apples rather acidic then pear is a perfect alternative, but if you want to make the original apple version then substitute the same amount of a cooking apple, such as Bramley seedling.  You could add a few sultanas to the mix as well, if you wish. My one mistake in making this pear version was to try to be extra generous with the filling as the original did not seem enough.  This made the dough difficult to roll and hold together.  In future when I want to increase the amount of filling I will poke a few additional chopped pieces of fruit into the dough rolls once they are laid in the baking dish.  Don’t worry too much about the seemingly large quantity of liquid in the dish when you put it into the oven.  Almost all of it will evaporate, leaving a lovely syrup: the the whole dish will be moist, sweet and lemony.

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Pear Dappy
(Serves 4-6)

Lemon Syrup
1 Lemon
1tbsp Golden Syrup
15g/½oz butter or margerine
120g/4ozs sugar
200ml/7fl ozs water

240g/8ozs self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
60g/2ozs butter or margerine
150ml/¼pt milk
480g/1lb Conference pears (not too ripe) peeled, cored & chopped
1tbsp Demerara sugar
½tsp powdered cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 190oC/375oF/Gas 5. Grease a fairly deep 1.1litre/2pint square or oblong dish. You will have to fit in 8 or 9 pieces of dough, although if you are careful you can manage to make 12 pieces. (The dish works best when the pieces are fairly tightly packed together.) 

2. Make the lemon syrup. Wash the lemon and remove the peel as thinly as possible without removing any white pith: use a potato peeler or lemon zester.  Squeeze: a quick burst in the microwave helps increase the yield of juice. Put the zest, juice into a pan with the other syrup ingredients and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Put to one side for later.

3. Peel, core and chop the pears and place them in a bowl of lightly salted water so they do not go brown. They should be very well drained with any excess water absorbed by some kitchen paper just before use.

4. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter or margerine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix to a dough with the milk. The original recipe suggests this dough is rolled out onto a floured board to about 20cm/8inches square and about 5mm/¼inch thick. I roll out an oblong piece about 25cm/10inches x 15cm/6inches so I can cut 12 slices, although it will not be such a tight roll.

5. Spread the well drained pear pieces onto the dough and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the dough (along the wide side if you have an oblong) just like a swiss roll.

6. Cut into 2.5cm/1inch slices and lay in the greased dish. I try to have enough to arrange 3×3 or 3×4, filling the dish to the edges. Once you have arranged the slices you can poke in a few extra pieces of pear if you wish.

7. Remove the pieces of peel from the lemon syrup and pour over the slices. If it is very full then place the dish inside another to catch any overflow!

8. Bake for 30-45 minutes until it puffs up, is golden brown and the syrup is mostly absorbed.

9. Serve with custard or home-made vanilla ice-cream.

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Versions of this yoghurt mixture are part of the cuisine of a number of cultures, each of which has its own name: Cacik (Turkey), Tzatziki (Greece), Raita (India), Tarator (Eastern Europe), Mast-o-khiar (Iran/Persia)are just some.  The recipes all differ slightly and each cook would have their own version as well, but these are the mixtures I use.  All have two basic ingredients in common: Greek style yoghurt and cucumber. My versions of Tzatziki, Cacik and Raita can be found below. I have not made Tarator, but understand that its ingredients, as well as yoghurt and cucumber, include garlic, dill and walnuts. Mast-o-Khiar – Persian Yogurt & Cucumber Dip is a simple combination which also includes mint.  Sumac, a rusty red powder which has a slightly astringent citrus flavour, is widely used in middle eastern cooking and is available from some ethnic grocers.  I found some in our local Turkish food shop.

100_5701 Tzatziki

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(Quantity as appropriate to number of diners. Serve as a side dish or dip)

Greek style yoghurt
Pinch of salt

For Tzatziki add:
Chopped fresh (not dried) mint (plus a sprig to decorate)
Lemon juice (and a little zest if you wish)
Olive oil (drizzle over to serve)
Garlic (Rub container with a cut clove. Use fine chopped for a stronger flavour)

For Cacik add:
Chopped fresh (not dried) mint (plus a sprig to decorate)
Sumac powder
Olive oil (drizzle over to serve)
Garlic (Rub container with a cut clove – for a stronger flavour use finely chopped garlic)

For Raita add:
Cumin powder, to taste
Chilli powder, to taste
or ½-1 very finely chopped fresh green chilli
Chopped fresh (not dried) mint (plus a sprig to decorate)
or Finely chopped fresh coriander (plus a sprig to decorate)

1.  Finely chop the cucumber (sometimes the cucumber in raita is grated) and mix with the yoghurt and other flavours as in the individual ingredient lists above.  Store in the fridge, covered, until needed.

2.  Stir again, especially if made in advance, and decorate with a dusting of spice and a mint sprig just before serving. Add a drizzle of olive oil for Tzatziki and Cacik.

3.  Serve as an accompaniment or a dip: Tzatziki with Greek food, Cacik with Turkish & Middle Eastern food, Raita with food from the Indian sub-continent.

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I was intrigued by the rusty red powder which was liberally sprinkled over our dinner in our local Turkish restaurant.  After enquiring, the waitress told us it was Sumac (sometimes spelled Somak) and I realised that I had read about this middle-eastern seasoning not long before in foodie biography set mainly in Egypt.  When I got home I did some more research and realised that this powder was not obtained from the Sumac tree which has such beautiful foliage in our back garden each autumn but from a closely related plant.  This link gives a little more information.  We are fortunate to have many ethnic shops in our little corner of London, which is a wonderful multi-cultural melting pot of peoples and their foodstuffs.  Sure enough I found Sumac powder easily in the local Turkish supermarket and managed to borrow the book from the library again.  The recipe I remembered was for a simple marinade for chicken and was originally designed for using on whole small chickens and served with roasted bananas.  I used the same marinade ingredients with skinned chicken thighs or breasts and adapted it for cooking indoors rather than on the barbecue, using either a conventional oven or a ‘George Foreman’ style grill.  It was delicious and I will definitely be making it again.  It is an ideal dish for summer visitors when you want to spend minimal time in a hot kitchen: perfect accompanied with rice, salad and a spoonful of Cacik (a yoghurt, mint & cucumber mixture – see Basic Recipe: Yoghurt side dish -Tzatsiki/Cacik/Raita) served on the side, plus of course, the grilled/roasted banana recommended in the original recipe. (Grilled Courgette and Aubergine are a tasty addition as well.)  Versions of the yoghurt mixture are part of the cuisine of a number of cultures, each of which has its own name: Cacik (Turkey), Tzatziki (Greece), Raita (India), Tarator (Eastern Europe) are just some.  Sprinkle a little more rusty coloured Sumac powder over the dish before serving.  Sumac has a slightly astringent citrus flavour.

This dish was taken from Apricots on the Nile by Collette Rossant.  I have adapted the idea for using individual chicken portions, usually skinless thighs.  For a special occasion use one skinless chicken breast per person.  If you have a charcoal grill the chicken can be barbequed as suggested in the original recipe.

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Grilled Chicken with Sumac
(Serves 4)

1 or 2 Chicken thighs per person depending on size (or other joints)
Small bananas (about 10cm/4″ long, if available) for grilling/roasting
Courgette or Aubergine, in slices, for grilling/roasting – optional

1 medium onion, very finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp sumac powder
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
Salt & pepper

1.  Start the recipe the day before, or at least in the morning before an evening meal. Remove the bones from chicken thighs, wash and dry them.  Skin them if you wish.

2.  Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large glass bowl.  Mix the chicken pieces well so they are coated with the mixture and leave in the fridge to infuse.

3.  In advance of cooking, lift the chicken pieces from the marinade and remove any excess mixture. Place the bananas in the marinade mixture whilst the chicken is cooking.  Courgette and/or aubergine slices can also be placed in the marinade if you wish.

4.  Grill the chicken pieces under a low grill.  Make sure they are thoroughly cooked by piercing with a knife in the thickest section so that any juices run out clear. 

5.  Set the chicken aside to keep warm.  Remove the bananas and vegetables, if using, from the marinade  Remove any excess mixture and briefly grill until very slightly browned.

6.  If you have a George Foreman grill de-boned and flattened chicken pieces should be cooked according to the grill instructions.  Once the chicken is cooked the bananas can be briefly grilled on the same machine, but not for too long as they soften very quickly.  Courgette and aubergine slices can be flash grilled at the same time.

7.  Serve the chicken and grilled banana (plus courgette and/or aubergine slices) sprinkled with a little more sumac, along with rice, green salad and a spoonful of cacik.

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Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes
Colette Rossant
Pub: Bloomsburypbks

Collette Rossant recounts in memoir and in recipes a snapshot of her early life.  In 1937, aged five, she arrived in Cairo from Paris with her Egyptian/Jewish father and French mother. On the death of her father, her mother returned to France and Collette remained with her wealthy grandparents. At age fifteen she was summoned to Paris to join her mother, never to see her grandparents again. Before going to Cairo, even as a very young child, she loved the Parisien kitchen, but her maternal grandmother thought it was no place for her to spend time: “Une jeune fille de bonne famille ne fréquente pas la cuisine!” (A young girl of good breeding does not go into the kitchen!)  In Cairo entering the kitchen was not a problem. Collette recounts tales of the happy and seemingly carefree lifestyle of her childhood: the welcoming kitchen, where she learned so much from Ahmet the cook and her grandmother, the sights and sounds of shopping in the bazaar and the sumptuous meals she remembers. 

The final chapter of Apricots on the Nile tells how Collette, thirty years later and a journalist and food writer, retraces her steps.  She rediscovers the Egypt of her past, trying to find again the places with their remembered sights, smells and tastes. 

I loved this book with its honest account of Collette Rossant’s unusual childhood before and around the time of World War II, the sadnesses as well as the happy times, giving a window onto a world now gone for ever.   I loved too the unusual recipes, both Egyptian and French.  One in particular, Grilled Chicken with Sumac & Roasted Banana, we thoroughly enjoyed and my variation the recipe is included on this site.  There are many other delicious sounding recipes, including: Semit (soft sesame seed covered pastries) and Sambusaks (cheese filled pastries), Ta’miyya (like Felafel), Babaghanou (roasted aubergine puree, served as a dip), Stuffed Vine Leaves (filled with rice, lamb and cumin), Chickpea Purée and Traditional Hummus, Lentils and Beetroot with Swiss Chard, Fricasée of Fennel, Bean Soup and Apricot Pudding (a rich dessert of baked pureed dried apricots), plus from Collette’s time at the convent school, Soeur Leila’s Red Lentil Stew and Lentil Soup.

According to the Bloomsbury website, Collette Rossant has written two further ‘memoirs with food’, neither of which I have read, but I will try to track them down as I hope they are equally as enjoyable.
Return to Paris
Madeleines in Manhatten
I have also found reference to a book on Collette Rossant’s own website, supposedly the third in her series, called A World in my Kitchen: The Adventures of a (Mostly) French Woman in New York.   It is not clear whether this is Madeleines in Manhatten under a different title, or a new book.  Collette is also the author of several cookbooks, on a variety of subjects including Kosher Cooking, Japanese Cuisine and Slim Cuisine.

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