Archive | March, 2014

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

4 Mar

 

Cinnamon-chill onion, cashew Asparagus and cheddar filo rolls

 

Sticks and cheese

Spring, 1994

I enjoyed my business studies class at school. In anticipation of starting the class I got some books out on the subject during the summer holidays and learned about the concept of barter trade and achieving break-even point and what constitutes profit.  I started the class with sense of fluency and that made me feel good. One day my not-so-tall, dry pink cheeked, booming-voiced male teacher sat at his desk across from us and I knew from his frown and the way that his two, ear-side grey tufts of hair flounced that he was not in a good mood.

He asked some of us what we wanted to become. He, himself a father of three boys and a qualified accountant had for some reason turned into a secondary school teacher. He pointed at one of the clever lads at the back of the room. Thin, dark, thick-spectacled and he had unfortunately shaped teeth but was a lovely boy. ‘I want to be a pilot’ he beamed.

‘You will never be a pilot, look at the thickness of your glasses, you will probably get a mostly A’s and a few B’s and become an accountant.’

Next he turned to one of the understated beauties of the class. Not one of those permed-haired divas but one of those faces that you know will turn into a success drawing, friend winning, and a champion of happiness. She told him that she wanted to be a dancer and a business woman. He told her that she would get mostly B grade and C grade GCSE’s and may have a clerical job.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Once he quietened down and the student’s eyes were down into their books I went to him and told him that I had been pondering about what he was saying to everyone. He laughed at me having used the word, ‘pondering’. I asked him why he felt that he could tell people what their destiny will be and why he felt that his influential words should be thrown around; wasn’t he fearful that he would miss-shape, or erode the confidence of a young mind? Weren’t his predictions limiting, shouldn’t he just let the individual dream and at least try? My dad told me that I could do, or be anything I wanted to.

As he gurgled with fury at my perhaps loaded question I turned around and to walk away and I felt my pulse in my mouth as my pony tail was pulled back into his fist. He growled something about my insolence but I don’t remember any of that, I was just stunned and felt clear horror.

When my hair was released, I unobtrusively walked through the buildings; along echoing corridors and I looked out at playing fields through murky windows. My feet patted gently along the balcony and I listened to the sounds of a PE class beneath me and then I shuffled past silent art classes. I sat down, on the large grey, lightly-rough chair at reception and told them that I wanted to speak to the headmaster immediately and that I needed to call my dad.

I was full of conviction, self-assurance and compassion. I was just 14. No words from my teacher damaged me or swayed me, even when my teacher crouched down before me in reception and apologised…something about going through a stressful time. I let him talk. I had plump cheeks and eyes that were always moist and I listened. I asked him if he had a daughter, knowing full well that he hadn’t.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Winter 2010

I had gone from a ‘rising star’ to being unwanted. I replayed the words over and over and over and I believed them. I let the opinion of one person become my reality. Sticks and stones.

Winter 2014

I am learning from myself. You know, we often draw on examples from those we admire; those who have done things that we would like to do, or be the way that we would like to be. I have found that within myself I hold all the will, the strength, the courage and the conviction. I have done it before, I can do it again. I choose my words, both the ones I speak and the ones I listen to.

My sticks today are full of aroma. Cinnamon, chilli and onion work superbly together in a sweet, spicy, aromatic and fragrant glory. Silky onions work superbly with cashew nuts and there’s a light layer of mature cheese holding it all together with a spear of asparagus as the star of the show in a crisp filo shell. The tasters today told me that they are amazing. I have to agree.

Ingredients to make 5-7 rolls

7 sheets of filo pastry

3 medium onions, sliced

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

100g cashew nuts

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

7 asparagus spears

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. cooking oil or a generous nob of butter

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Trim the base off the asparagus spears and boil them gently in water for 4-5 minutes before draining them in cool water and leaving them to dry.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, caraway seeds and then let them sizzle, before stirring in the onions and the salt. Soften the onions on a medium flame until they start to grow golden in colour.
  3. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and chilli flakes and sauté for another minute on a more gentle flame before turning the heat down and adding the cashew nuts. Turn off the heat and move onto assembling the rolls.
  4. Take a sheet of filo and fold it in half. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese and then a couple of tbsp. of the onions and cashew nut mix.
  5. Place a spear of asparagus near the top, lengthways and leave the tip hanging outside. Fold it into a cigar and place each one onto a baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil on the filo and bake in the oven at 180 degrees until they are lightly browned.

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

1 Mar

 

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

I took my 24month old to the children’s library the other day; he adores books just like his mumma. After reading the same book a couple of times he mouths the words whilst I read the book. This always makes me smile within, I came in the top 5% of the county for my English A-level, many years ago now and this boy of mine is a little piece of me. Enough showing off, there is a point to this post that leads to a recipe and to the showing off itself.

So we have been walking down the road that leads to the library these days, because he insists on it. On the way we came across a couple of women with their kids, maybe 3-6 year olds. They stormed down the narrow path on their scooters and as they scoffed packets of crisps I heard their mother’s chuckle that they hadn’t had any breakfast. ‘Oi, how many fish fingers you having’ roared one of the mothers.

We seem always to bump into elderly ladies and I do like it when they smile at my boy chattering away. ‘Look at that lorry mumma, it’s incredible and amazing and HUge.’ Elderly lady asked him if he likes Lorries. ‘Yes, I like lorries and busses and planes and motorbikes’. Elderly lady told me that she has three children, one has moved to Australia, one relocated to Ireland where her husband is from for a better lifestyle with her children and one lives relatively locally. She told us about her grandchildren whom she sees some of the holidays but not all. I am always told before parting from old ladies to make the most of my boy’s childhood because it goes so fast. I am no teenager and I know that I must hold onto these rehearsed words every day.

When we got to the library, my little bullet darted around looking at dinosaur, alien, vehicle and animal themed books and we chose one from almost all of these finely selected categories. The woman who brings her child with a potty (she sits her on it in the actual children’s area) wasn’t there and I was mollified from not having to keep my child from running into a peeing toddler or her wet tights. We made small talk with the librarian on our way out before she proceeded to tell me how I should borrow some library books for myself as reading is important for adult education too and that it broadens the mind. She said that even if I read a few pages each day it is valuable. I tried to intervene to tell her, but she didn’t let me. She continued. I smiled. She spoke loudly and with eyebrows rising and I watched the fine whiskers on her upper lip tremble and she puffed her wisdom to me.

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

On the way I out I realised that the reason that the librarian had affected me was not because she didn’t let me tell her that I have a graduate and post-grad qualification or a professional background or that that I am food writer and that I keep a clean home with well- fed people in it and that we read and sing and grow flowers. It was because she had perhaps touched on a nerve.

I came home and made a loud, heaving, present and deep dish. Dill, smoky aubergines tomatoes and beans.  Simple yet chockfull. My favourite bit is the dip; smoky gujalio chillies with walnuts in crème fraiche. I am alive and I am still me.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two cans of black eyed beans, drained

Two medium aubergines

3 cloves of garlic

25g fresh dill, finely chopped

3 fresh tomatoes

One large red onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. cooking oil

2 tsp. smoked paprika

Salt to taste

A good pinch of black pepper

50g walnuts

2 Guajillo chillies

200m plain natural yoghurt

300ml hot water

Method

  1. Wash and coat the aubergines in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees until they shrivel. It should take roughly 30-40 minutes. Once the aubergines have cooled then remove the pulp from the aubergines and mash it lightly to separate it.
  2. Soak the guajillo chillies and walnuts in boiling water for 15 minutes before draining it and then blitzing it smooth.
  3. Skin the tomatoes by soaking them in hot water until the skins start to split before whipping the skins off before chopping them.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then add the red onion, salt and garlic to sauté until the onion has softened.
  5. Add the tomatoes, black-eyed beans and dill and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the aubergine pulp and cook for ten minutes.
  6. Mix the walnuts, guajillo and salt together and when you serve the beans with gorgeous breads, pasta or even rice then top with the guajillo, walnut and crème fraiche dip.
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