Following the Levantine/Middle Eastern thread, we are back with another aubergine recipe. This time, we are using our beloved vegetables for a famous dip recipe, Baba Ganoush. While there can be variants, the classic recipe is very simple. This is the ideal dip to serve as a starter with crudities, a few toasted slices of your favourite sourdough, or your favourite home made pitta bread.
One of the best memories I have of my travels around Iran is buying bread in the morning, which was our breakfast meal with some fresh cheese and dates. We would get each ingredient from different vendors in the market and eat in one of the amazing squares. In each city we found different styles of bread, but it’s usually flat and cooked in a tandoor oven. Of course, reproducing a tandoor oven at home is not really possible, so the best way you can cook this flatbread is on a hot non-stick frying pan. This simple recipe, taken from the stunning book Saffron Tales, is not only an exotic exploration from the usual ways of making bread, but also a great solution for those midweek evenings when you don’t really have the time to go through the whole bread making process. Makes 16 flat breads, which must be consumed on the spot, so reduce your ingredients if you need less.
Very few meals are as simple as fried eggs. Anyone can make them in a matter of minutes, perfect for those midweek express meals. Sure as eggs, you would probably have a few ingredients at home to make your meal more special: potatoes, for example. Forget those frozen fries you find at the supermarket, I’m talking about those potatoes you forgot in the cupboard for a week already. We are going to turn those into homemade fries. For a different shape, slice them into thin round shapes, and fry them in extra virgin olive oil, which will add a special flavour to the crunch. This dish is very typical throughout Southern Europe, but in southern Spain especially, they use extra virgin olive oil for frying too, and that’s how I discovered this beautiful twist to the recipe. As you might notice from the images, I threw in also an aubergine that needed to be eaten, which made the dish even richer. Final tip: add a few slices of serrano ham when serving and this express meal is suddenly a dream come true.
For many years, Russian salad has been a mystery for me. In Italy we don’t consume it much, apart from the odd buffet-style dinner party so I never had too much curiosity about making it at home. In London, between my good Russian friend and my Spanish other half, I discovered the many faces of this salad. A favourite tapa in Spain, where they call it Ensaladilla: you will find it in all the menus around the land. A winter favourite in Russia: I got to learn, and taste, that they have meat versions and fish versions. Now that I’m in Singapore, the hot temperatures simply call for a refreshing dish that I can eat from the fridge at my convenience. So here is a recipe of Russian salad, as we make it in my household, Spanish style. It is only one of many versions, as this dish is so easy to change according to one’s taste and preference. The basic ingredients are mayo, potatoes and vegetables: you can then enrich it with your favourite herbs, favourite meat or fish, and add any extra ingredients you can think of.
Here comes another steamed recipe for this week – tofu with minced pork and mushrooms this time. This one can be served hot or cold, so is good for spring and summer. In a similar way to the aubergine and mushroom recipes from the previous weeks, the basis of the recipe is to steam the main ingredient for 10-15 minutes and then to pour the sauce on top.
I love this dish because it requires few ingredients and provides a lot of flavour. It is a great side dish to present at a dinner party – but I love it solo or with a naughty slice of cheese on top – just like how I’m making it today, with my favourite smoked provola sarda (which I’ve imported from home). I often use bell peppers for this, mixing all colours in, but this time I’m making it using these long red and green peppers, very sweet flavoured and comforting to the palate. This recipe makes enough for two.
Chinese New Year is approaching and you can definitely feel a seafood fever in the air when you go to the local wet markets in Singapore. Far from boasting any authority on the matter – I’ll leave this to the Chinese household of Blender&Basil – I’ll limit myself to show you how I cook fish, which is a rather common method used in Italy. The method is called al cartoccio, and it consists of cooking a whole fish (a sea bass, a sea bream, or like in this case, a mackerel) with its own steam inside a parcel made of aluminium foil. Continue reading “Fish al Cartoccio”