Monday 28 December 2009

Two Low-Carb Festive dips: Red Pepper & Cumin Dip, and Avocado, Crème Fraîche & Coriander Dip

 Chermoula-style Red Pepper & Cumin Dip, and
Avocado, Crème Fraîche & Coriander Dip
Two lovely low-carb festive dips: one cool, pale and creamy; the other a zippy rust-red zing of garlic, cumin and red pepper. Served together, they make a good contrasting pair, with finely chopped fresh coriander singing out as a common ingredient.

Something else these dips have in common: both recipes are the work of my two younger sisters, who magicked them, independently, from their kitchens during a week of feasting. (For the first time in three years my entire family - my mum, my three sisters, my three brothers-in-law, and many cousins - is assembled in Hout Bay, Cape Town, and we have spent the last few days happily shuttling between houses, shuffling cousins between beds, and filling ourselves with festive cheer).

I liked these dips so much that I disgraced myself by licking out the bowls. Then I went home and made them myself, but they were demolished by my teens before my tongue got within slurping distance.

Every flavour my tastebuds crave - the zing of lemon, the sting of garlic, the sweet smokiness of the roasted peppers, the stealthy warmth of cumin - is contained in these recipes, and I can't help being intrigued that all three of my sisters adore the same flavours. Is this genetic, I wonder? It can't be that we were raised in the same household: in the 60s and 70s, when we were kids, coriander, raw garlic and cumin and other newfangleds were neither available nor on the family menu.

The first recipe, which is reminiscent of a Moroccan chermoula mixture, uses Peppadews, which are small, mild-tasting bottled peppers. If you can't get these, use bottled red chillies, or any similar heat-producing agent, such as Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper, in quantities to suit your personal heat-meter. Please use very fresh powdered cumin and paprika (both spices start to taste dusty as they age) and remove all the stalks from the herbs before you chop them.

My sister served this in dollops over a bowl of creamy cold crème fraîche. (She says this paste is lovely with fresh fillets of fish: smear the paste on the skinless side of the fish and bake in a moderate oven until the fish is done and the topping just bubbling.)

The second dip is similar to a guacamole but fresher, lighter, zingier and made utterly delicious by a lot of crunchy fresh coriander.  It came about, says my (other) sister, because she had only one usable avocado to mix with a lot of crème fraîche and coriander. (I don't know what is going on with South Africa's usually bountiful avocado crop right now, but I can tell you that they cost a staggering R12 each right now, and that they are downright puny.)

Red Pepper, Cumin and Garlic Dip

6 ripe red peppers [capsicums or bell peppers]
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 bottled Peppadews, drained and sliced (or a bottled chilli pepper, or Tabasco sauce, to taste)
2½ tsp (12.5 ml) powdered cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) paprika
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
the juice of a lemon
the finely grated zest of half a lemon
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh coriander leaves [cilantro]
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the peppers, whole, on a baking sheet covered with a piece of tin foil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until they have collapsed and blistered. Turn off the heat and let them cool completely in the oven.

Bake the peppers until they're blistered and soft.
Remove the tray from the oven, slip the skins off the peppers, and remove the stalks and any seeds. Place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor or liquidiser.

Add the garlic, Peppadews, cumin, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice, and whizz to a paste. If the mixture is too thick to turn the blades, add a little water or lemon juice.

Now add the lemon zest and finely chopped coriander and parsley, and press the pulse button once or twice so that the mixture is just combined (the herbs should retain a crunch). Season with salt and pepper and decant into a pretty bowl.

Serves 6-8, as a snack 

Avocado, Crème Fraîche & Coriander Dip

1 large avocado
250 g (1 tub) crème fraîche
the juice of 1 small lemon
2/3 cup (125 ml) very finely chopped fresh coriander leaves [cilantro]
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Halve the avocado, remove the pip and scoop out the flesh. Place in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and add the crème fraîche and lemon juice.  Whizz to a smooth paste. Tip in the coriander leaves and pulse once or twice, or until the herbs are finely minced.  Season with salt and pepper and decant into a bowl.

Serve these dips with a bowl of olives, iced celery sticks, cucumber discs and feta cheese, if you're low-carbing, or with hot pita bread or toasted baguettes if you're not.

Serves 6-8, as a snack 

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Thursday 24 December 2009

Mango and Macadamia Turkey Stuffing with Sage and Sausage Meat

My husband likes a bit of stuffing (groan...but how could I not use that old chestnut?) and is very partial to one containing dried apricots, just like his mum used to make.  This year, though, I thought I'd go for something with more of a local flavour.

Mangos have just come into season here in South Africa, and my goodness they are good this year: big, juicy globes with perfect, perfumed flesh.  I've used dried mangos in this stuffing, and have chosen local macadamias for the nut component, because they are surely the crunchiest of all nuts. A little pork-sausage meat adds body to the stuffing, with sage and lemon rind adding a final burst of flavour.

I can't offer you a photograph of the finished turkey, because it hasn't gone into the oven.

I love the day before Christmas (many South Africans have a feast on Christmas Eve, rather than on the 25th, when it's usually just too hot to sit down to an enormous lunch with all the trimmings).

We' re expecting 26 relatives and friends for a big feast tonight, including my sister and her family who have come from Sydney. (No, this turkey won't feed 26 - my sister's also bringing turkeys, and my mum bought a ham so big I had to put a seatbelt on it to drive it home.)   My other sister's making a Black Forest trifle, and the other (I have lots of sisters!) a cold cucumber soup for starters.  In a few minutes a gang of over-excited cousins is arriving to decorate the Christmas table, and I am marching around in my apron shouting instructions:  'Peel the potatoes! (My husband). 'Carry chairs outside!'  (My teens). 'Go and have a rest!' (My daughter).  I am a teeny bit grumpy, but that's all part of the fun, isn't it?

This quantity is enough to stuff a 3.5 kg turkey.

Mango and Macadamia Turkey Stuffing with Sage and Sausage Meat

a little sunflower oil
1 large onion, peeled and very finely chopped
4 pork sausages (Eskort sausages are unbeatable)
2 cloves garlic,  very finely chopped
3/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/3 cup chopped, dried mango slices
10 slices day-old white or brown bread, torn
6 large sage leaves
1 large (thumb-length) sprig of thyme, leaves stripped
the finely grated zest of a small lemon
1 extra-large egg, or two small ones, lightly beaten
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan and add the onion.  Cook over a medium heat until just softened. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the sausages and add to the pan. Turn up the heat and cook briskly, using a fork to crumble the sausage meat.  When the meat begins to brown, add the garlic and cook for another two minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place the macadamia nuts and mango in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse until roughly chopped.   Remove and set aside.  Add the bread, sage, thyme and lemon zest to the food processor bowl and process until fine.  Tip into a large bowl, add the egg and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped mango and nuts. Using your fingers, combine the mixture well.  It should have a loose open texture and just hold together when you squeeze a little into a ball.

Now test the seasoning: heat some sunflower oil in the same pan in which you cooked the onions, and add a little piece of stuffing. Fry on both sides until lightly browned. Taste the mixture and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Stuff the mixture into the cavity and the neck area of your turkey, tie up the legs and cook the turkey according the the instructions on the packet.

Enough to stuff a 3.5 kg turkey. 
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Tuesday 22 December 2009

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke
'Brandy and Coke is something of a national institution among a certain stratum (and age group!) of the South African population,' comments my friend and fellow food blogger Jeanne Horak-Druiff.  "I would rather die of dehydration than order a brandy and Coke in a bar, but my father has had a brandy and Coke before dinner every Saturday night since I can remember."

She's right: this potent combination is practically compulsory if you own a) a pair of bollocks and b) a set of braai tongs.

Suiping of brandy and Coke reaches a peak just before rugby matches and during the December hols: you can be certain that, as we speak, South Africans are lounging around pools, braais, campsites and back yards knocking back Klippies (Klipdrift brandy) and Coke by the barrelful.

So what better combination, I thought, with which to glaze a Christmas gammon?

Coca-Cola makes an excellent glazing liquid because it cooks to a dark sticky glaze, and is so sweet and spicily zingy (do you know that the top-secret Coke formula is believed to contain vanilla, cinnamon and citrus?).

The gammon is boiled in a liquid that contains ginger ale, beer, the usual Christmassy spices and some whole star anise, which gives the meat a delicate aniseed flavour (entirely optional).

Christmas Gammon Glazed with Brandy and Coke

For the gammon:
One 2.5 kg uncooked gammon, bone out, skin on
330 ml (1 can) ginger ale
330 ml (1 can) beer
2 whole star anise
3 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 thumb-length quill of cinnamon
a blade of mace (or a grating of nutmeg)
15 ml (1 Tbsp) white peppercorns (black will do)
enough water to cover

For the glaze:
330 ml (1 can)  Coca-Cola
20 ml (4 tsp) Dijon mustard
5 ml (1 tsp) hot English mustard powder
100 ml brown sugar
15 ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
30 ml (2 Tbsp) brandy (Klipdrift, if you want to be authentic)
whole cloves

Put all the ingredients for the gammon in a large saucepan and add just enough water to cover the gammon. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for 20 minutes per 500 g (for a 2.5 kg piece, 1 hour and 40 minutes), topping up with liquid now and then if necessary. Turn off the heat and leave the gammon in the liquid to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Pour the Coca-Cola into a saucepan, turn on the heat and allow to bubble briskly until the liquid is reduced by half. Whisk in the mustard, mustard powder and the sugar, turn up the heat and boil rapidly for two minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and brandy.

Fish the gammon out of the cooking liquid, pat dry and place in a roasting pan. Carefully peel away the rind (using a knife to ease it off, if necessary) and discard. Use the tip of a sharp knife, or a craft knife, score deep diagonal lines across the fat, first one way, and then the other, to form a diamond pattern. Press a clove into the middle of each diamond.

Pour the glaze over the gammon and place in the hot oven. Baste every five minutes, scooping the glaze off the bottom of the pan and trickling it over the the top of the gammon (it will thicken and reduce as time goes on). Roast until the glaze is dark and sticky. Remove from the oven, trickle any glaze left on the bottom of the pan over the gammon and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Or cool completely and enjoy it cold.

Serves 10 as a buffet dish.

PS The two photos above were taken on my new veranda, and in my lovely new kitchen in Hout Bay. I'm sorry there's been such a long silence, but now that I'm unpacked and settled in I look forward to diving into the kitchen and cooking up a storm. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly