Flavoured salts, also known as finishing salts, are a great way of adding flavour during cooking and, of course, when finishing a dish.

Whilst it’s true that salt is salt, most commercially sold salt contains about 2% of something else and that 2% is enough to make a huge difference to flavour (not to mention texture). Table salt contains anti-caking agents, and may also contain iodide, and whilst these aren’t really detectable (to me) when it’s used in cooking, they certainly can be when salt is used to finish a dish. Even for reasons of texture alone, it’s nicer to sprinkle some crystallised salt over freshly sliced tomatoes than table salt.

Some natural salts contain traces of the earth from which they were mined, which can give earthy mineral flavours as well as affect their texture. Likewise, sea salt often retains other elements that were dissolved in the water.

It’s also becoming increasingly popular to mix in additional flavourings such as herbs, citrus peel, mushrooms, chilli and other spices. Smoked salt is also widely available.

Steenbergs Organic is a North Yorkshire-based family-run business committed to “providing organic spices and organic cooking ingredients packed with flavour, aroma and provenance”.

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Steenbergs sell a range of salts including (naturally occuring) coloured salts, sea salts and finishing salts and salt blends.

They sent me a selection of their range to try and are also offering these same seven salts (pictured above) as a prize to a Kavey Eats reader.

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So far I’ve tried the Happy Hippy Flower Salt, which looks beautiful sprinkled over a plate of fresh, sliced tomatoes. It also gives a lovely crunch and a delightful floral flavour.

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The Smoked Sea Salt is gorgeous for anything you think would benefit from a hint of smoke. I like it sprinkled over courgettes grilled on the barbecue or onto a tasty steak after it’s cooked and rested.

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The Salt & Herbs For Poultry brought our most recent roast chicken dinner to life. The mix is 83% salt with the balance made up of black pepper, chives, parsley and tarragon; a quick and delicious way to add a touch of flavour.

 

Of course, you can make your own salt blends, as many food bloggers have shown, and they also give great ideas for how to use such finishing salts in your kitchen.

Here are a selection of tips that particularly appeal to me:

  • Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums suggests sprinkling on chips and steamed vegetables, and incorporating in spreads, dips, sauces and dressings.
  • Jaden from Steamy Kitchen likes using colourful finishing salt not only on the food but also on the plate, where it’s shown off beautifully against white crockery.
  • Shaheen from Purple Foodie reckons they can be used to spruce up just about anything – soups, sandwiches, vegetables, seafood, side dishes, grilled meats and chips!
  • She Knows recommend using flavoured salts to season and finish grilled vegetables and meat.
  • Heidi from 101 Cookbooks agrees that flavoured salts are super on heirloom tomatoes. She also suggests using a citrus salt on home made sea salt caramels.
  • Lacey from Thyme On My Side likes to use flavoured salts to rim cocktail glasses. She also sprinkles her rosemary salt on fruit such as watermelon and on homemade chocolate truffles.
  • Ann from Eat Simply Eat Well uses her flavoured salts mixed with olive oil to flavour popcorn and also suggests using them in place of regular salt in chocolate chip cookies.
  • Debi from Life Currents sprinkles chilli salt over corn on the cob or over avocados for a simple and quick guacamole. She also likes it on fruit and sprinkled on eggs for breakfast.
  • Sue from The View From Great Island thinks finishing salts would be great on homemade focaccia bread. She also points out that using salt at the end means you may need less as you’ll taste it more directly.

 

COMPETITION

Steenbergs Organic is offering a set of seven salts to one Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite idea for using one of the Steenbergs Organic salts.

Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the
Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow
@Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a set of beautiful @Steenbergs Organics salts from Kavey
Eats! http://goo.gl/P65WHE #KaveyEatsSteenbergs
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And you don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 4th October 2013.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a set of seven Steenbergs Organic salts, as shown above, with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Steenbergs Organics.
  • If one or more of the salts is out of stock, Steenbergs reserve the right to substitute another salt from their range, of same or higher value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample set of salts from Steenbergs Organic.

 

When I set the latest Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream as herbs, I knew already that I wanted to do a lemon and limoncello sorbet with a herb.

I was recently sent a copy of The Flavour Thesaurus, in which I looked up herbs that might be a good match for lemon. The book was alright… To be honest, I already thought of the obvious pairings before I read it – lemon and thyme, lemon and lavender, lemon and mint, lemon and rosemary. Perhaps it’ll prove more useful when I’m trying to find matches for more unusual ingredients.

I fancied something with an element of savoury to it, so went for Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme.

All the lemon sorbet recipes I could find online are essentially a variation of the same technique (juice the lemons, make a sugar syrup, mix together and freeze) but with wildly differing ratios of each ingredient. So I made up my own recipe according to what felt and tasted right.

LemonThymeLimoncelloSorbet-5122

The basic recipe is a doddle so I’ll likely make it again to see how I like the other flavour pairings.

I like the idea of lime, mint and rum Mojito sorbet. And lemon and lavender could be lovely on a hot summer afternoon.

LemonThymeLimoncelloSorbet-5093

 

Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme Sorbet

Ingredients
250 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
150 grams sugar
200 ml water
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme. plus extra for garnish
50 ml limoncello liqueur

Note: I haven’t specified an exact number of lemons, since the amount of juice you’ll get from each will vary. My 6 small lemons gave me 250 ml of juice.

Method

  • Juice your lemons, reserving the discarded skins. (Tip: I find rolling the lemons firmly on a hard surface before cutting makes it easier to release the juice.)

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  • Gently heat the sugar, water and thyme together until the sugar is fully dissolved.

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  • Add the limoncello to the lemon juice.
  • Add your flavoured sugar syrup to the lemon juice in batches, and taste for sweetness as you go. If you’ve added all the syrup and your mixture is still too sharp, make up some more syrup using the same 3:4 ratio of sugar to water. (It’s hard to judge since some lemons are sweeter and some are much sharper).

LemonThymeLimoncelloSorbet-5103

  • If you are happy with the thyme flavour, remove the sprigs of thyme now. Otherwise, leave them in the mix and refrigerate to cool. (If it’s going to be quite some time before you can churn the mixture, you may wish to taste it now and again and remove the thyme when it has infused sufficiently for your tastes).
  • Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine. (Alternatively, you can freeze, removing from the freezer and mixing with a fork at regular intervals).

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  • In the meantime, use a pair of scissors to snip and scrape as much of the membranes from the lemon skins as possible and slice off the very tips to make a flat base so the halves can stand, like cups.

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  • Once the sorbet is churned, you may need to transfer to the freezer for it to solidify a little further.
  • I used the lemon peel cups to serve, with a sprig of fresh thyme as garnish.

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In the heat of my kitchen, it melted fast! But it was a great reward and I was very happy with how it came out.

This is my entry for the June July BSFIC challenge.

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You still have time to enter, so please do join in!

 

Since I started blogging a few years ago, I’ve not purchased many cookery books, as I’m fortunate to be sent new titles to review by several publishers. But I had a big sort out over the summer and gave several boxes of books, cookery ones included, to various charitable organisations.

After which I treated myself to a copy of Jekka’s Herb Cookbook (as well as Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built by Stuart Brown, still on the “To Read” pile).

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Jekka McVicar is the woman behind Jekka’s Herb Farm, a South Gloucestershire organic herbs nursery specialising in culinary, aromatic, decorative and medicinal herbs. The farm, which celebrated its silver jubilee this April, has over 650 varieties of rare, tropical and native species in its collection. Undoubtedly, Jekka McVicar is the queen of herbs and I’ve purchased some of her seeds for our garden over the years.

In this book she chooses fifty herbs that she loves to cook with and gives a description of each plant, advice for growing it, its history in cooking, any medicinal uses and of course, some recipes. The book doesn’t have any photographs; instead there are pretty illustrations are by her artistic daughter, Hannah McVicar.

Having flicked through when it arrived, it wasn’t until we visited my friend Monica for an August weekend of relaxing, cooking, eating and chatting that I had more time to devote to the book. I took a big bag of several books awaiting review, and popped this one in too as I was so keen to try some of the recipes.

In the end, we tried three recipes from the book over the weekend, and they were all fantastic.

I cooked Sea Bass with Chinese Garlic Chives. Except I couldn’t find any garlic chives so I bought regular chives, and not nearly the quantity specified in the recipe. Some of the pieces of fish broke up a little too much, with my clumsy pan skills, so it wasn’t a prettily presented dish. Nonetheless, the recipe was easy to make and we all really, really enjoyed it. The next time I see a large bunch of garlic chives on sale, I want to try this as Jekka envisaged it!

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Pete made Coriander, Mint and Pitta Salad, but instead of breaking our (freshly made) flatbreads up to add to the salad, he served then on the side. With soft tomatoes, crunchy cucumber, sweet sharp onion, the solidity of the chickpeas, my favourite green herb and a simple dressing, this was well balanced and tasty, and once again, very simple.

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And Monica made two loaves of Rosemary Bread. Fabulous, with a good crumb and lovely flavour from the rosemary, like the other two recipes, this is one that will be made again.

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Our experience with these three recipes gives me a strong faith in the rest of the book and there are many, many more dishes I want to try soon.

So much did we like these three recipes that we tweeted our delight (and photos of the dishes) to Jekka who responded with warm thanks for making her family recipes look so wonderful. (That was down to Monica’s camera skills, of course!)

And I was very happy to be able to give my thanks to Jekka in person when I visited her stall at the Abergavenny Food Festival.

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Photos by Kavey & Monica.

Jekka’s Herb Cookbook published by Ebury Press is currently available on Amazon UK for £17.50 (RRP £30).

 

ThermomixBasilPastaRagu-1064

Of course I’d heard of a Thermomix. Beloved of chefs everywhere and of many domestic cooks too, this machine comes up in conversations with foodie friends on a regular basis. But there are often gasps of shock when the £800 price tag comes up; that’s a hell of a lot for a single appliance!

So, what is a Thermomix, you might be wondering, and why do so many people swear by it, despite the price tag?

thermomix-functional
Thermomix with varoma steamer basket fixed above main jug; internal basket, whisk, spatula and measuring cup/ lid window to side

Well, it’s a bit of a multitasker – it blends, chops, grinds, whisks, kneads, weighs, cooks and steams!

On paper, it sounds as though this single machine could replace a number of others including a jug blender, a food processor, a mixer, a slow cooker, a steamer and a grinder. But what’s it like in practice? To help me find out, I was loaned a Thermomix to put through its paces for a few weeks.

I was invited to attend a demo first, and was impressed to see how quickly the Thermomix could grind a fine flour from rice or hard lentils. I also watched the demonstrator blend solid frozen chunks of fruit into a smooth sorbet and chop, cook and blend vegetables into a tasty soup.

The Thermomix comes with a cookery book called Fast and Easy Cooking which provides recipes specifically written for the Thermomix. That may sound obvious, but actually, we found that the speed settings and durations for the chopping, blending and grinding functions in particular very different from our experiences with our Magimix food processor. Likewise, we needed specifics on temperatures and times for cooking.

As well as full recipes, there’s also a section at the front that gives settings for common tasks such as grinding coffee, making icing sugar from granulated, melting chocolate, grinding grains and spices, making breadcrumbs, grating cheese, peeling and chopping garlic, mincing ginger, whisking egg whites. crushing ice, mincing meat and making almond, soya and rice milk.

For our first meal made using the Thermomix we made basil tagliatelle (using the pasta verde recipe) and ragu bolognese.

 

Thermomix Basil Tagliatelle

Ingredients

The original recipe calls for 300 grams of flour, 3 eggs and 50 grams of basil, enough to serve 6-8.

We scaled it down to a third and started with 100 grams of flour, 1 egg and 20 grams of basil.

Perhaps our flour differed wildly from the flour used by the author of the recipe, but we added almost 100 grams again to bring the mixture together into a dough, and even then it was wetter than ideal.

Method

  • The first instruction called us to blend the flour and basil for 30 seconds at Speed 10.The results remain one of the single most impressive feats of the Thermomix for me; the flour and leaves vanished to be replaced with a fine and evenly ground pale green powder; not even a hint of dark leaf matter was visible and I was genuinely gobsmacked and delighted!

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  • We added the egg and kneaded for 1.5 minutes on the dough setting.

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  • Be warned that the machine moves when it’s kneading and Pete held it down to stop it walking off the work surface! We added extra flour to bring the wet mixture together into a sticky dough and kneaded a little more to incorporate it.

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  • We wrapped the dough in clingfilm and left it in the fridge for a couple of hours before making the tagliatelle.

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  • We used the pasta attachments for our KitchenAid to make the tagliatelle, which we did just as the ragu bolognese was finishing its cooking time, so we could cook the tagliatelle as soon as it was cut.

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  • As with all fresh pasta, it cooked within minutes.

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Thermomix Ragu Bolognese

Ingredients
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3 pieces
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
50 grams olive oil
450 grams minced meat (ideally half beef and half pork)
50 grams dry white or red wine
400 grams tinned tomatoes or passata
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Small handful of torn basil leaves, washed and dried

Note: The recipe also calls for 80 grams of celery, but since I hate the stuff, we missed it out. We used 500 grams of beef mince, red wine and tinned tomatoes.

Method

  • Put the onion, carrot and garlic into the TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds at speed 7.

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  • Add the oil and cook for 3 minutes at 100 C on Speed setting Spoon using Reverse Blade Direction.

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  • Add the meat and cook for 10 minutes at Varoma temperature on Speed setting Spoon using Reverse Blade Direction.

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  • Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes at Varoma temperature on Speed setting Spoon using Reverse Blade Direction until the meat is tender and the sauce is reduced.

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I must admit, I didn’t believe for a moment that such a short overall cooking time would produce a decent result, as the ragu recipes I’ve made in the past have needed several hours of cooking.

But to my surprise, the ragu not only had a lovely and balanced flavour but it was perfectly cooked as well.

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It worked very well indeed with the basil tagliatelle and I thought the finished dish looked beautiful.

So far, so impressed. More posts on our experiments with the Thermomix coming soon.

 

Kavey Eats received a loan machine courtesy of Thermomix. (This is not a sponsored post).

 

Given how much I adored Saraban, I was really excited about getting my hands on the latest title from Greg & Lucky Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food.

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Whilst I was immediately taken by many of the recipes, one major problem with the book revealed itself very early on:

The typography and page layout may look modern and attractive but made the book very hard to read. With the exception of the recipe title and ingredients, the introduction and method are printed in pale grey on white paper. Combined with the small text size, this really had me struggling. I’ve not had this problem with any other recipe book, so it’s not a case of deteriorating eyesight.

Flicking through the book on the sofa, I tried to lift the book closer to my eyes, but it’s large size and weight made that impractical.

I can only suggest reading this one at the table, and making use of a sturdy book stand when in the kitchen. Or perhaps investing in a pair of magnifying reading glasses!

Reading problems aside, what about the book?

Whereas their previous books (Arabesque, Moorish, Saha, Turquoise and Saraban) are as much about sharing their journeys and creating, in words and pictures, a vivid mental image of the regions, peoples and traditions they experienced, this latest title is much more focused on food.

What you’ll find here is a compendium of over 300 Middle Eastern recipes, many of which have appeared in the Maloufs’ other books. There are also plenty of new recipes for fans who already have a Malouf library. I particularly like the larder section at the back which is a veritable encyclopaedia of recipes for spice blends and spice pastes, dressings, pickles, relishes, jams and preserves.

As is the Malouf style, the recipes in the book are not slavishly authentic but adapted to suit the modern global market which allows many of us to incorporate ingredients from all around the world into our cooking. So a recipe for a zucchini omelette includes provolone cheese, and a confit date ice cream uses Kahlua. As Greg explains in his introduction:

“My food would not be about reinventing classics – and nor, really, would it be about tradition. Instead, I was bursting with ideas for a new kind of Middle Eastern food: subjective and personal interpretations, yes, but dishes that would absolutely capture the essence of the Middle East, but express it in a fresher, more inventive – and even, perhaps, a more Western – manner.”

We chose to make two recipes: lamb kifta tagine with eggs and my favourite, kukiye sabzi (a soft herb omelette), which we’d made once before, as the recipe is also in Saraban, . By the way, the spectacular Persian Baked Yoghurt Rice with Chicken (Tahcheen-e morgh) that we so enjoyed previously is also included in this book.

Lamb Kifta Tagine With Eggs

This dish can best be described as lamb meatballs in a tomato-based sauce, with eggs baked on top.

Meatball ingredients
500 grams lamb, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
Sauce ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400 grams tinned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Other ingredients
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
6 free-range eggs
(optional) baby radish leaves and sage flowers to garnish

Note: We halved all amounts, above.
Note: We used regular salt instead of sea salt (since it was being used in a cooked dish).
Note: We used vegetable cooking oil instead of olive oil (for the same reason).
Note: We used chopped tinned tomatoes and included all the juices.

Method

  • To make meatballs, thoroughly mix all the ingredients, except for the oil, and with wet hands, form into walnut-sized balls. Heat the oil and brown the meatballs all over. Drain well on paper towel.

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  • For the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole dish and lightly sauté the onions and garlic until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Then add the water, stir again and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce, uncovered, for about thirty minutes, or until it has reduced to a very thick gravy.

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  • Add the meatballs to the sauce and continue cooking for a further 8 minutes. Stir in the parsley and coriander. Carefully break the eggs into the sauce, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the eggs are just set, which will take about 5 minutes.

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  • Serve at once, straight from the pot.

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  • Malouf suggests liberally garnishing with radish leaves and flowers, and serving with plenty of Arabic flatbread to mop up the runny egg yolks. Alternatively, he proposes accompanying the tagine with a dish of plain buttered couscous and a dollop of thick natural yoghurt.
  • He also adds a note that those who enjoy a more piquant dish may add one finely chopped bullet chilli whilst sautéing the onion and garlic.

We really enjoyed the dish, though found it a lot like a North Indian tomato-based curry in flavour. Reducing the volume of coriander leaves would probably alleviate this.

(Kuku-ye Sabzi) Soft Herb Omelette

Ingredients
2 tablespoons barberries, stems removed
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/2 cup chopped dill sprigs
1/2 cup snipped chives
50 ml olive oil
6-free range eggs
(optional) 2 tablespoons saffron liquid (a few strands of saffron soaked in a couple of tablespoons of boiling water)
1 tablespoon self-raising flour
(optional) 1/3 cup fenugreek leaves or 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Note: we omitted the barberries, saffron liquid and fenugreek.
Note:
We halved all amounts, above.

Method

The first time we made this, we used a small frying pan, which was better suited to the halved amounts. The second time, we used a much larger pan, which resulted in a flatter finished omelette with raised sides, reminiscent of a Yorkshire pudding. Both tasted great and had a good texture, but the one made in the smaller pan was more in line with what the dish should look like.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C. Soak the barberries in cold water for 2 minutes, then drain and dry. Toss the herbs together and use paper towel or a clean tea towel to pat out as much moisture as you can.
  • Pour the oil into a non-stick oven-proof frying pan and heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

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  • Whisk the eggs and saffron liquid, if using, until frothy. Whisk in the flour, fenugreek, salt and pepper, followed by the herbs and barberries.

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  • Pour the egg mixture into the hot oil. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until nearly set. Remove the cover and cook for a further 15 minutes to brown the surface.

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  • Cut into wedges and serve hot from the pan. Alternatively, drain on paper towel and cut into wedges when cold. Cold omelette is particularly good as a sandwich filling.

This dish became a favourite of mine at the now closed Aqua restaurant in North Finchley, so it’s great to have a simple, delicious recipe to make it at home.

With thanks to Hardie Grant for the review copy.


Published by Hardie Grant, New Middle Eastern Food by Greg & Lucy Malouf is currently available from Amazon for £19.84 (RRP £30).

 

This is a beautiful jelly, both in appearance and taste. The flavours of fruit and herb come through clearly, and a gentle aroma too.

As a preserving addict, I knew I wanted to make some apple jelly with the kilo of cooking apples from our allotment tree. We also had a small handful of Cox’ Orange Pippins left from the small tree we planted in the back garden last year. We’d enjoyed a few of these sweet, crisp, richly flavoured apples every night for some weeks after harvesting them, but the last few in the fruit bowl had started to wrinkle. To these we added 2 British apples from the supermarket, also past their best.

An interview with garden designer Robert Stoutsker, during a recent visit to London Syon Park hotel, resulted in his gifting me a generous bag of lemon verbena cuttings. A few of these Pete planted (and am pleased to see some of these growing successfully) but the rest I dried and stored in a bottle in my spice and herb rack.

I’ve been thinking of making mint jelly this way for the longest time, but the lemon verbena snuck in first.

Kavey’s Apple & Lemon Verbena Jelly

Ingredients
Apples
Sugar
Lemon verbena leaves
Water

Note: You won’t know how much sugar you need until you’ve cooked the apples down and strained the juice. For each litre of juice, you’ll need approximately 750 grams of sugar, adjusting to taste and according to how sharp your apples are.

Note: As apples are naturally high in pectin, an apple jelly doesn’t require any added pectin. If you adapt this recipe for other fruits you may need to add lemon juice or pectin to help achieve a set.

Method

  • Halve the smaller apples, chop the larger ones into quarters or eighths. You don’t need to peel or core them, as the skin and pips contain lots of pectin, which will help your jelly to set.

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  • Place chopped apples into a large pan and add water to about two thirds of the way up the apples.
  • Cook the apples on a medium heat until they disintegrate completely. Add more water if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
  • If some of the apples don’t break down, give them a helping hand. I used a potato masher towards the end of cooking, as some of the apples were firmer than the rest.
  • Pour the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or, as I did, place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.

AppleLemonVerbenaJelly-0865

  • To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid. *
  • Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
  • At this stage, if you think your juice may be too thin and watery, boil to reduce volume. Mine was a fairly thick but easy pouring juice, similar in consistency to single cream.
  • Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use 750 grams of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.
  • Add lemon verbena leaves. If using fresh, add a small scattering of leaves and taste after the first few minutes of boiling, adding more if the flavour isn’t coming through. I had previously dried my lemon verbena leaves, reducing their potency greatly, so ended up adding over 100 shrivelled leaves, in order to impart my desired level of flavour.
  • Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).
  • Test for set. I put a plate into the freezer before I start cooking the jelly. When I reach the required temperature, I put a teaspoon of jelly onto the plate and pop it back into the freezer for 20 seconds. After I get it back out, I push my finger through it to see if it wrinkles. If so, the jelly is done. If not, I cook for longer.
  • Pour your hot jelly through a strainer, to remove the lemon verbena leaves. I ladle mine into a heat-resistant Pyrex jug and then pour into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature.

AppleLemonVerbenaJelly-0871

As apples are high in pectin, the jelly achieved a great set and is a beautiful colour, with tiny flecks of lemon verbena leaves suspended throughout.

I’m looking forward to enjoying this on breakfast toast, but as it has a lovely herby flavour, I may also try it as an alternative to mint jelly next time I have roast lamb.

* I hate waste, so once the cooked apple had finished dripping through the muslin, I set the clear juice aside and then pressed and squeezed the remaining pulp to release quite a bit more juice. This was much cloudier than the rest, so I used it to make a second batch of jelly in a smaller pan. To this one I added very hot chilli powder instead of lemon verbena. Although the single jar of chilli jelly is not as clear as the lemon verbena, it’s perfectly attractive and tastes great.

 

Back in November, I enjoyed a convivial brunch date with a bunch of fellow food blogging ladies, at Village East. We girls chatted, laughed and ate and had a marvellous time!

I wanted to take along some food-related gifts but they had to be small and lightweight, as Pete and I were staying in a Central London hotel overnight and then spending a couple of hours walking around Borough Market, before the gathering. Whatever I chose, I needed to be able to carry it with me, and I’m not much of a packhorse!

My local Tiger shop came to the rescue with it’s huge selection of unusual spice and herb packs by Danish company, Hedebogård.

I picked a selection of different packs and wrapped them up in tissue paper, inserting a little note into each one, inviting my friends to create a recipe using their randomly assigned ingredient.

Here’s what the gang came up with; I am impressed!

spice challenge meeta

Meeta made pretty Lemon Pepper Hazelnut Macarons with Lemon Curd & Goat Cheese Cream

spice challenge jeanne

Jeanne cooked up this unctuous Prawn & Lemon Pepper Risotto

spice challenge michele

Michele’s dish didn’t work out but she bravely blogged On Things Not Going According to Plan anyway

spice challenge sarah

Sarah’s Rapid Ragu looks like a quick supper winter warmer

spice challenge jamie

Jamie made unusual Salty Savory Sweet Vegetable Macarons with Chili Chocolate Ganache

As you can see, not all of us got our act together in time for my suggested mid-January deadline, so I’ll post again soon to add the rest of the blog posts (including my own)!

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