Cumin and its place in my Tagine

IMG_7734Cumin is a spice that I’ve come to enjoy using.  It works fantastically with lamb, fish and so many other proteins.  Because it’s ground and kept in the pantry, it’s easily accessible, great for those times when you’re left with few ingredients to work with but you’re in the mood for comforting, honest food.

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The addition of Cumin to my quick fish Tagine really brings the soul of Morocco home.  Close your eyes and imagine the hustle and bustle of the bazaar… For me, Cumin has this fantastic aroma. As soon as it hits the pan I think back to India, Turkey and Mexico.  I’ve not yet experienced all that Cumin has to offer but I know that the journey is only just beginning.

As it happens, my mother-in-law is allergic to Cumin so I often have to think ahead to ensure this hasn’t made its way into my roast lamb, kofta or seafood tagine! Other than that, it’s a fail safe spice if you ask me. It compliments my fish Tagine dish perfectly and the bonus is the super quick injection of flavour. There are added pluses to this dish.  It’s fairly quick – quick enough for a midweek meal – it’s healthy and it’s tasty. Now, let’s cook!

Cumin Fish Tagine

Ingredients:

White fish fillets (I used Basa) cut into portions.  It’s cost effective and it freezes extremely well.

2 Roma tomatoes, diced.

Olive oil

2 Garlic gloves, peeled and diced

1.5 tsp Ground Cumin

3 Birdseye Chillies

Handful fresh Coriander, chopped finely

1 tin whole tomatoes

½ lemon

Salt & Pepper to taste

Equipment: Tagine

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Method:

Place your Tagine over the stove top.  On a medium-low heat warm the olive oil, cumin, chillies and garlic.  Careful not to burn the garlic as it will expel a bitter taste.  As your oil is heating, stir and add the diced tomato.  Allow the tomatoes to heat through before adding the tinned tomato.  Leave to simmer on a medium heat, with the lid on, for 8 minutes.  Open, add salt and pepper to taste.

During this time, cut up your fish and add it to the Tagine, being careful not to overcrowd your Tagine.  Lid back on, turn the heat up to medium high and leave to poach your fish, this should take a further 6-7 minutes depending on the heat of your Tagine and the portion of fish you’ve added.

Your fish is cooked when it turns a lovely porcelain colour.  Try not to overcook your fish, remember it will continue to cook in your aromatic Cumin sauce so switch the heat off, juice your lemon over the Tagine, sprinkle the fresh Coriander and let it rest for a minute or two.

When you’re ready transport the Tagine to the table for a bit of food theatre – opening the Tagine lid expels the wonderful Cumine & Garlic aroma and reveals the lovely orange red saucy feast! I’ve heard many gasps of excitement as a result of this trick and I never get tired of it.

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For a super quick accompaniment to my Fish Tagine I often serve it with a side of Cous Cous with fresh Parsely tossed through.

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Thyme saving chicken

Thyme, such a time saving herb…

Pardon the pun, Thyme is versatile herb which I’ve managed to incorporate into a time saving winner of a weeknight meal. All you need is a slow cooker. Now, if you are like me and a little stretched for cupboard space, believe me a slow cooker is a worthwhile investment. I embarked fairly recently on slow cooker adventures, after the prompting of friends, and I have to say, it’s been a welcome addition to my petite kitchen.

Recipe: Thyme saving chicken

If you are wondering how the involvement of Thyme results in a time saving meal, then read on. The convenience of this dish is that the slow cooker does all the work for you and because Thyme is such a hearty herb it really begins to sing in this dish. Fresh or dried Thyme can be used, making this dish even more handy!

Ingredients:

1.6kg whole chicken (free range is best)

1tbs dried thyme or 5 springs fresh thyme

3 cloves garlic (peeled)

Equipment:

Slow cooker.

Method:

Turn your slow cooker on. If you have a sear function, use that. Place the garlic into the chicken cavity with the Thyme. Brown the skin of the chicken in the slow cooker, turning every minute or so. Once the skin is browned to your liking switch the slow cooker to its low heat setting. Slow cook for 6.5 hours. No oil, no water, no stock is necessary.

After 6.5 hours your chicken should be cooked, succulent, soft and tender. There should be plenty of juices to make a gravy, if you wish, but I often serve this with a side salad or with buttered carrots.

Now given that you’ve not needed to do much to produce this wonderful chicken dish I hope you’ll agree that Thyme really is a time saving herb.

Eleven Madison Park, New York.

EMP;

Eleven Madison Park;

Fifth best restaurant in the world.

Whatever you want to call it, when your meal starts off with this:

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you know you’re in for a treat.

And what a treat it was…

Words don’t really do this experience justice.  The best way I can manage to describe this is the most intelligent operation I’ve seen.  The staff at EMP let the guests set the tone for their meal.  Engage and they will be receptive.  I won’t take you step by step through the delights we were offered, mainly because it’s a secret to good to share 🙂 I can, however, provide you with highlights such as boxed crackers, teapots, picnics and carrots so fresh they are grated at the table.  Let’s not forget the kitchen tour where we were treated with liquid nitrogen cocktails made especially for us, and the take home congratulatory chocolates.

Thank you to Chef Daniel for stopping to congratulate us on our honeymoon (such an honor) and to Chef Nina for the fantastic New Orleans restaurant recommendations.

Of all the dishes that were presented to us, a standout, in part to the theatrical nature of it, was the carrots.

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So, in celebration of the humble carrot, the star and staple of many weeknight meals in my apartment, is my quick butter carrots.

 Ingredients:

6 Carrots (peeled, topped and tailed). Select evenly sized carrots to assist with even cooking.

Vegetable stock

1 tbs butter

Method:

Start with a pan on low heat and add half your butter.  Allow the butter melt and continue cooking it until it reaches a soft brown colour. Add your carrots, tossing every so often.  Once your carrots are caramelised and slightly brown, add vegetable stock.  The purpose of the stock is to introduce enough liquid to cook your carrots through.  Allow the stock to gently simmer away before you add the remaining butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add rosemary if you wish.

Paris

Paris is the ultimate food destination.  It is no wonder why.  The French method of cooking is the fundamental concept which forms the basis of an innumerable amount of recipes, successful restaurants and happy diners.

For me, memories of Paris are conjured by the Croque Madame (or croque-à-cheval).  My latest food obsession is Rachel Khoo (rachelkhoo.com).  Her take on the Croque Madame, in the form of a Croque Madame Muffin worked a treat for me.

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You see, the Croque Madame is typically a lunch snack for the French, but I like it for its indulgence and what better time to serve it than on a lazy Sunday morning.

Rachel’s concept is fantastic one. She adopted the Croque Madame sandwich into a compact size by baking it a muffin case. For my version, I’ve used a mini cocotte.  I’ve also adapted the basic béchamel sauce through the addition of Gruyère cheese.  If you don’t have Gruyère available, try Emmenthaler.

Recipe: Croque Madame Cocotte

Ingredients:

2 small free range eggs

2 slices of ham off the bone

4 slices of white bread

3 tbs butter

¾ cup milk

1 tbs plain flour

¼ cup gruyère cheese – grated

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Method:

To start, pop 1 tbs of butter in a pan over a medium heat.  Let it melt. Add the flour and beat hard until you have a smooth paste. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 2 minutes, then gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Place the pan back over a medium heat, add the nutmeg, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to stop the sauce burning on the bottom of the pan. Once the sauce thickens take it off the heat. Add the Gruyère (keep a little for later) and taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk.

Heat your oven to 170ºc. Melt the rest of your butter and lightly coat the insides of your cocottes. Don’t use all your butter here, because you’ll need the rest for your bread.

Cut the crusts off your bread and coat each side with the remaining melted butter.  Once coated, squish 2 slices of bread into each cocotte.  You’re looking for a bread cup, in essence.

Line each bread cup with ham, a dollop of sauce and an egg. If your eggs are large they will likely completely fill your cocotte, and if so, discard of the some egg white (or remove before putting the egg into the cocotte).  Another dollop of sauce, some seasoning to taste, topped off with herbs of your choice (try dill or chives), a crowning of leftover grated Gruyère and you’re ready to cook!

Place your cocottes into the oven for 15 mins.  If you prefer a cooked yolk, 20 minutes should do the trick.