Tag Archives: pomegranate molasses

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

3 Apr

My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up.  A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses.  When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs.  As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs.  There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams.   I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence.   In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.

 

I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light.  I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

I was 16.   There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends.  The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home.  My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose.  I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.

I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.

I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.

Ingredients

225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks

100g fine asparagus tips

350g potatoes

½ tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses

1 ½ full bulbs of garlic

4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

3-4 cardamom pods

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

225ml water

Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.

Method

  1. Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
  4. Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours.  Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5.  Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice.

What’s in My Gift Hamper

5 Dec

I love giving personalised gifts of food; I love exploring for atypical flavours or decadent ingredients; I love presenting smells that socialise attractively in the basket; I love the wafts of ideas as a heap of newness comes together and I smile-sigh harmoniously as I love that each of them is recommended by me and will give lasting memory. I love the surprised expressions that unravel the edible delights and I love that I have conjured up inspiration in the receiver. 

Of course it’s not all totally altruistic, I am always beamingly proud with my assembly of treasures and I always like the sharing of food and travel stories that I know will ensue.  And hopefully they will cook up some meals for me too, check out the gift hamper.

Black Garlic; Black garlic surprises with a fruity, molasses flavour that enhances the familiar taste of garlic. Confused? You have to try it to believe it. The garlicky taste is not nearly as strong as raw garlic – black garlic is fermented and gives a dried fruit like twist. In fact, the texture is a bit jelly like as well.
I like black garlic tossed into some pasta with fresh herbs and cheese. I just heat some olive oil, add soft slithers ofblack garlic and chili and just toss it together, no need to cook it down. Throw in the pasta, herbs and some lovely hard cheese (I use a vegetarian parmesan style cheese) and eat.
I also like black garlic with some broad beans, whizzed together as a dip. I add a kick of chili (I have to, maybe that’s the Indian in me?) and even on a pizza (but small pieces).
 
 

 

 

Pomegranate Molasses; It feels as though this syrupy ingredient is quite trendy at the moment.  Increasingly popularised, pomegranate molasses have a sweet, sexy flavour and a little of this flirty and fragrant stuff goes a long way. In Indian cooking, I often use tamarind. Nowadays I have been using this sticky and tangy pomegranate molasses in some dishes to keep it interesting and add a Middle Eastern flavour.

I sometimes use pomegranate molasses to spruce up a stew or a bake. Just a little. Recently I did a bean stew with north African spices and I added a little of this molasses before topping it with crushed new potato, spring onion and ricotta stuffed baby sweet peppers, which I then put in the oven. My goodness the  sensual smells…

Orange Blossom Water; This is used in African and Middle Eastern cooking and has a distinctive fragrant orange flavour from the distilled orange blossom, but it’s also floral and sweet smelling. As with many good things, there is no need to pour this in.  Use it to flavour some cream or yogurt to accompany your dessert, or toss some salad through it.  You could add to your favourite hot drink, yes, even coffee.  I use a few drops in shrikhand, which is a thickened and sweetened yogurt dessert or even in a vegetable stew, just at the end of cooking. Sometimes, I marinade some tofu in it before quickly shallow frying.
 
Ral-el-Hanout; Recently I’ve been having a real love-affair with North African spices. Musky and punchy, they’re balanced with a gentle floral touch that makes for mysterious fun when using this wonderful spice mix. I love the stuff, it’s not strong enough to become bitter when used raw, and at the same time aromatic enough to really bring seemingly humble ingredients to life. 
Roasted Garlic Infused Oil; Yes it is lazy, but it does taste good. Dip some nice warm and fresh bread in it, or spike it with chili and dip delicious Indian rice-flour dough (khichi) in it. Drizzle it on mezze, make a dip from roasted aubergine flesh and yogurt. I’m sure you’ll find many more uses for this aromatic oil.
 

 

Stuffed Vine or stuffed Cabbage leaves; 
Dolmades are moist and lip-smackingly gorgeous little greek delights.  My favourite vegetarian variety is when stuffed with rice, lots of herbs, black olives and sundried tomatoes. They really get me in a holiday mood and are actually quite filling. I love them with mezze and lashings of hoummos. Plum Chutney; Now this I would rather see in my hamper than biscuits, for sure. Wonderful with a melted hunk of goats cheese, or in a sandwich. Or even, layered with vegetables and wrapped in some pastry. I must admit I have been known to steal spoonfuls of the stuff, but it’s no surprise really.
Chaat Masala; Don’t smell it before you buy it, just trust me on this one. The association with flatulence is limited only to the smell! Chaat masala is a great example of odd smelling things tasting incredible. It’s a blend of dried mango powder, cumin, black salt, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper asafoetida and chili powder. Chaat is street food in India and very much bar-snack food in Indian restaurants in the UK. Crunchy rice puffs and puri’s set against potatoes and chickpea sponginess, with tamarind and chili chutney zing – and often soothing yogurt all combine like a sensory cocktail, punching up a cornucopia of flavours like a fruit machine. That’s the point of a chaat for me.  Chaat masala gives a chaat it’s distinctive accent of salt-and-pepper-ness.
Boil some potatoes, add the contents of a can of chickpeas, add some onion (my particular favourite is red onions), something crispy like Indian rice puffs and then add some mung-bean shoots or mixed sprouts and some freshly chopped coriander. Sprinkle in the chaat masala to your taste. It’s great as a side salad.
 

Lavender Sugar; Well for one, little jars of the stuff do look very pretty. And when you open the jar, it’s like summer just spilling into the room. Are you smiling already? Good, well that’s definitely part of the point of a gift and this looks very cute, traditional, attractive and I really like the taste of it when sprinkled on freshly baked biscuits (even when they have chocolate in them, or better still pistachio!)  You could even warm some berries up, and run some of this perfumed sugar through.

 

Chick-pea Spaghetti; I remember that when I first tasted chickpea spaghetti, I expected it to taste more like spaghetti and less chickpea than it later transpired to be. Ah. It needs to be cooked in a rich, flavoursome, bulky vegetable and tomato, curry-style Indian base. This sort of base really compliments the depth of chick-pea spaghetti and really helps to infiltrate it with juiciness. 

I really like this sort of food at this time of year because it’s warming, filling and deep but not stodgy and heavy. I feel less bad about curling up on the sofa with my blanket for a couple of hours when I’m eating a scrumptious bowl of this funky and colourful spaghetti. Word of caution for those who like to suck up their spaghetti though – doesn’t work so well with this variety!  

Star anise; I am still surprised at the number of star anise-virgins amongst us. Not only does it look beautiful in all it’s flower/star shaped glory, but it has a sweet aniseed flavour that permeates fruits, stews and curries beautifully. Stick it in a pear and bake it, simmer down summer berries with star anise inside, or in a curry.

 Most of these ingredients are available in good food halls and supermarkets or even on the web!
   

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