RSS Feed

a February 14th, 2014

  1. Spice 2 – Sumac – with homemade cream cheese

    February 14, 2014 by sarah

    When I envisioned this blog project, I was going to try to stick to well know spices mostly, in order to explore their potential in new ways. But I was in the supermarket the other day, and found myself staring at the spice section ticking off which spices I had and which I didn’t have. Sumac was the only spice I knew I didn’t have in my cupboard so I just had to have it! And then when I got it home, I realised I knew nothing about it or how to use or even what it tasted of. The packet unhelpfully suggested ‘add to Middle Eastern dishes’. Luckily my new cook book arrived last week and Sophie Grigson’s ‘Spices’ helped me find the potential of this unusual spice.

    Sumac is made of  the dried berries of Rhus coriaria and used in the cuisines of the Middle East, North Africa and Sicily. It tends to be sprinkled on hummus or yogurt, added to salads and along with thyme and sesame seeds is an ingredient in za’atar seasoning used for dipping of olive oil soaked bread. Tasting it neat, it has a zing citrus like tang but no other aromatic tenancies. I was a little under whelmed tasting it but I think it is probably more suited to lovely sunny days, BBQs and salads than the rainy, windy weather we are having at present. I will do more experimentation if the weather improves and add another recipe for this spice.


    Homemade cream cheese (lebneh) with sumac

    500g/ml pot of yogurt, preferably full fat Greek type
    1/4 tsp salt
    extra-virgin olive oil
    bread to serve, preferably homemade sourdough
    Stir the salt into the yogurt in its pot. Place a plastic sieve over a glass bowl and line the sieve with muslin that has been sterilised by pouring boiling water over it. Tip the yogurt into the muslin lined sieve and cover the whole lot with cling film. Place the bowl in the fridge and leave for about 24 hours so that the whey drains out of the yogurt.
    Serve the cheese sprinkled with sumac and drizzled with the olive oil. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds; the sweet burst of the seeds make a pleasing contrast to the creamy yogurt and slightly sour tang of the sumac. Eat within a day as this is a fresh cheese and does not last.

  2. Fee, Fi, Pho, fum – Vietnamese Duck soup

    February 14, 2014 by sarah

    I love food travelling; in other words, making a dish or meal that transports you to somewhere else. That is what this soup does for me. One sniff and one taste, I am back to Hanoi in Vietnam. Making these travel inspired dishes is also a whole lot cheaper than going there, even if it only lasts for the duration of the soup supping!

    DSC_5243 DSCF1154













    Please feel free to alter the vegetables to whatever you have or what ever is on offer at the time. The garnishes are also personal preference too. In Vietnam, they arrive on a dish separate from the soup and it is up to the diner to add which and what and how much to give a personalised soup.

    Vit Phô – Vietnamese Duck Soup

    Serves 2-4, depending how greedy and if a main dish or snack/lunch dish

     1 duck carcass (left over from the Sunday night roast duck)
    spice mix (1/2 a cinnamon stock, 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds, 3-4 star anise, 2 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves)
    2″ knob of ginger, don’t bother to peel, just cut or slice roughly
    1 or 2 red chilis, depending how hot they are and how hot you like it (I only had dried)
    1 tbsp fish sauce
    1 large onion, do not peel but roughly cut into wedges
    1 nest/layer of vermicelli rice noodles per person (I added 2 which was enough for 3 servings)
    mix of vegetables e.g. bok choi, mangetout, mini sweetcorn
    To Serve-
    thinly sliced red chili
    limes cut into wedges
    bean sprouts
    fresh coriander herb
    sweet chili sauce (my personal favourite)
    To make the pho broth, in a large pan that will hold the duck carcass fully submerged and has a tight fitting lid, put the duck carcass, the whole spices, ginger, chili, fish sauce and onion (and fresh coriander stalks if you have any). Add enough fresh water until the carcass is just submerged. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for at least an hour, and ideally 2-3 hours.
    Remove the duck carcass from the broth and leave to cool on a plate. When cooled enough to handle, pick off the meat (and skin – it is traditional) and reserve the meat and throw away the bones.
    Strain the broth through a sieve into a clean pan, taste and adjust salt levels if necessary. Bring back to a simmer and add the noodles, vegetables and reserved meat; simmer for a minute or two then ladle into bowls and serve with the accompaniments, which are essential not optional.