Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer. Finally.

It's finally warm! And as I was in Paris and then Milan for work last week, I got to see spring taking hold on the continent too. Paris was buzzing and full of lovers walking the boulevards. Milan was a mixed bag, with some thunder, lightning, and an occasional downpour, but they were the tempestuous Spring kind of showers, like the heated arguments of young Italian lovers; fiery yet short-lived.

Now we've had a week of lovely sunshine-filled days and the temperature has been steadily creeping up. Of course my mind has turned to summery things - cocktails, holidays, fresh seasonal foods. So with the warmest weekend on record this year beckoning us to go out and finally enjoy our garden last weekend, I rejoiced in the resurrection (don't know why I've used such epic language here, apologies - the sun must have gone to my head) of salads of all kinds and simple grilled meats, along with mezze-type foods that seem to work so much better in the climate they were born in.

One of my favourite restaurants serving mezze-style dishes, and lots more besides, is Moro in Exmouth Market. Sam and Sam Clark's first cookbook inspired by the food of the restaurant has some great recipes with an Andalusian/Northern Moroccan feel. For our rather 'Moorish' feast last weekend, I made pinchos morunos, substituting halal lamb from our great local Turkish shop for the pork the recipe calls for. Looking further East, recipes such as baba ganoush are stupidly easy yet still give off that 'I'm a worldy-wise chef' vibe to your guests. Finally, from the same 'mezze' section of the Moro cookbook, we tried out the carrot and cumin salad with coriander (with some chickpeas added for good measure). The results were pretty ace, even if I do say so myself...

Baba Ganoush (adapted from the Moro cookbook)

3 large aubergines (about 750g - 1kg in total)

2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 tsp salt

juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp tahini paste

4 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

Pierce skins of aubergines, and grill whole over hot barbecue, directly on naked flame of hob, or under the grill, until the skin is charred and flesh is very soft. Under our grill, 3 aubergines took about half an hour, turning regularly. Or place in a very hot oven (gas mark 7) for 45-60 mins until soft inside.

Remove from heat.
When cool enough to handle, discard tops and peel off skin, scraping flesh from back of skin if necessary. Place flesh and any juices in a large bowl, and either whisk or beat by hand until almost smooth (I beat by hand, to leave a bit of texture). Add garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil, stir and taste for seasoning. Serve with warm flat Turkish bread.

Carrot, Chickpea, Cumin & Coriander Salad

450g carrots – organic ones are fit.
400g tinned chickpeas, drained
2/3 tsp cumin seeds

1 garlic clove

juice of 3/4 lemon

1/3 tsp caster sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped

sea salt


Peel carrots and boil whole in salted water till tender. Drain, spread out to cook and dry before slicing them quite thinly.
 Pan fry the cumin seeds, then grind in a pestle and mortar (or just crush with a spoon), add garlic and 1/2 tsp salt and pound some more.

Mix lemon juice, sugar and olive oil into garlic mixture. Now toss carrots and chickpeas in the cumin dressing with the coriander. Serve at room temperature.

Pinchos Morunos

The cookbook calls for pork filet for this recipe, but we found that 500g of lamb chunks did very nicely instead.

500g lamb shoulder, diced
sea salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 heaped teaspoon each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds, all ground
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika 'pimenton dulce'
2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
a good pinch of Spanish saffron, infused in 2 tsp boiling water
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
a slosh of olive oil

Place lamb into a large mixing bowl and add the marinade ingredients. Mix thoroughly and add the olive oil and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to marry. Thread on skewers and grill on charcoal for best results (we haven't got a barbeque yet in this flat so we made do with a nice hot grill).

Serve with bread, natural or Greek yoghurt with cucumber and mint stirred through, your baba ganoush and salad. Sit back and enjoy the warmth. Sunglasses optional.

1 comment:

  1. The Moro cookbook is one of our cook bibles at home. The lentil soup with spinach has been a revelation this past winter. Last season it was the beetroot soup.
    Those Sam & Sam are really cook-dudes!