Chinese Fermented Chili Peppers

My dear friend Echo, who is originally from China, is a constant source of inspiration for my various culinary projets. She is a wonderful cook and knows her stuff in Chinese cookery. This recipe was adapted from hers.

I was surprised to learn that Chinese rice wine is quite strong, and Echo suggests using vodka !!! in its place should you not have any. That is exactly what I use each time, with great results. If you have chili peppers of various colours even prettier.

The chili peppers are finely chopped, along with the garlic and ginger. Keep the size of the all the ingredient similar for a nice consistent finish. You can use a food processor or chopper as well, if you are careful not to blitz to a purée.

All ingredients are then stirred together and put into a clean jar. Easy as that ! This sauce keeps for ages (like up to a year) in the fridge. The scent of this simple sauce is gorgeous !

Chinese Fermented Chilis

You may find yourself serving this spicy, sweet, flavourful sauce with everything. Its great with rice or noodle dishes, a dip for all deep fried things, eggs, grilled or roased veg, stirred into mayonnaise or to top a tomato or cucumber salad.

  • 2 cups finely chopped hot chili peppers – mix up the colours and leave in as many seeds as you like depending on your heat tolerance 😉
  • 1/4 cup white rice wine or vodka
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I use a bit less)
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons good quality salt

Wash the chili peppers and dry them well. Chop finely by hand or in a food processor. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and then transfer to a clean jar and seal. After 2 – 3 days at room temperature, store in the fridge. If you use a clean spoon and avoid contamination with water or oil, the sauce will last months.

Merci to Echo and PS: she runs an amazing guest house in south west France if you are ever in the neighbourhood 😉

Bon appétit !

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Fresh Fig Chutney

It’s that time of year when (for those of us in the countryside) our neighbour pops round with a big bowl of fresh figs ! I’m not a fan of fig jam, but thought I’d try chutney this year. I have just made a batch of this recipe and its delish 🙂

Merci David Lebovitz ! I replaced some of the figs with a diced (also freshly picked) apple and added a hot chili from my garden. The recipe should make 2 jam jars, but my batch made 3, so lucky me !

Bon Appetit !

Gazpacho & toppings

gaspacho

Peak tomato season is the best time to blitz up some delicious cool gazpacho. This is the type of recipe I think is best made without a recipe 😉

tomatesconserve

There are so many methods and recipes out there, I prefer to just start with whizzing up deliciously ripe tomatoes and then go from there, tasting as you go. If you go for 3 parts tomatoes to 1 part other veg you should be happy.

gaspacho1

Here are some things I usually or sometimes add:

  • Peeled cucumber
  • Red or Yellow peppers, cooked or raw
  • Garlic (not too much)
  • Good olive oil (a few good glugs or to taste)
  • Sherry or apple cider vinegar (add slowly to taste)
  • Basil, parsley or coriander
  • Water if needed to achieve the desired thickness
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper . . . THIS is usually where I stop but you could carry on experimenting with the following ingredients:
  • Bread soaked in water (often used in Andalucia, Spain)
  • Melon, peach, watermelon or other summer fruit to add a bit of sweetness (very nice !)
  • Red onion
  • Chili’s
  • Smoked paprika or pimenton

Toppings are the fun but optional:

  • Croutons
  • Cubed cucumber
  • Cubed melon or watermelon
  • Cubed raw peppers
  • Chopped hard boiled egg (a personal fave)
  • More olive oil

To be made ahead and eaten very cold

Bon appetit !

Labneh with Zaatar & Olives

Labne olives zaatar

Beautiful silky strained thick yogurt … That’s all it is ! Total revelation the first time you try it. Like a homemade cream cheese.

It all starts with these beauties… 🙂 Jessica the super farmer and her Jersey cows. Don’t panic, keep reading ! This is how I do it, but Labneh can be made much more simply using shop bought whole milk yogurt. If you live in the south west of France, don’t miss Jessica’s mom Véronique at the local markets. The butter will change your life 🙂

Jessica & the Girls

In the spring the milk is extra rich with all the new green grass they are eating. The amount of creamy milk fat floating on the top of the is crazy.

Raw Milk

Then my lovely husband makes delicious yogurt.

Next step is to stir a bit of good salt into your yogurt. The fun begins finding the best way to strain it using a cheese cloth. If your fridge shelves are racks you can tie the cheese cloth onto the rack over a bowl. I place my cheese cloth over a large canning jar and shut the lid to hold the yogurt suspended in the jar. Empty out the whey after a few hours (my chickens get that 😉 ) so the ball of soon to be labneh is not sitting in liquid. The idea here is to get most of the liquid out of the yogurt leaving you with a thick spreadable yogurt “cheese”.

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Labneh

  • 600g whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cheese cloth or étamine

Stir the yogurt with salt and place it into the center of your cloth. Leave to strain over a bowl or large jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours. Check from time to time to make sure it is not dipping in its own liquid. Once well strained you are done ! The labneh can be stored for almost a week in the fridge.

Then what ?

  • Sprinkle with olive oil, Zaatar and olives to make a dip or spread
  • Top with roasted veg such as leeks or asparagus
  • Play around with replacing cheesecake in a recipe
  • On toast with smashed peas or broad beans
  • Top with good olive oil and eat with a spoon 😉

Bon Appetît !

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Its amazing how many different ways of cooking this dish that you will find! To parboil or not? Hot oven or moderate heat? Spice rub or just salt & fat? Olive oil or butter ? (I like both 😉 )

A lovely way to serve cauliflower for guests and easy enough to make for yourself and family. I served this version with a chickpea and chorizo salad, so added a bit of the rendered fat from the chorizo to the rub. Waste not …. 😉 Placing a dish of water in the very bottom of the oven seems to help cooking to the core.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Serve this punchy flavoured cauliflower with a chickpea and herb salad, Labné (strained yogurt) or thick yogurt, a tahini sauce or a green or chili sauce of your choice.

  • 1 medium sized cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika or Spanish Pimenton powder
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon (or more if you like the heat) Harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped coriander leaves to serve

Trim the cauliflower taking care to leave it intact. In a large pot of boiling salted water, parboil the cauliflower with the stalk facing up. Don’t worry if its not totally submerged. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.Remove the cauliflower using a spider or large spoon and carefully place it to drain (still upside down) in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place a baking pan of water on the floor of the oven. To prepare the spice rub, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Place the cauliflower into a baking dish (not too big) with the core facing down. Using your hands or a brush, rub the mixture all over the cauliflower and place it into the oven. Bake, basting and turning once at the halfway point, for 40 to 60 minutes or until it is knife tender.

Serve at the table, sprinkled generously with coriander, cut into wedges.

Bon Appetît !

For the love of green sauces

Wild Garlic Pesto

Originally inspired by perking up the “January detox” brown rice bowls I have been making an unprecedented amount of green sauces these past few years. When spring and summer finally arrives, there are even more nice green leafy herbs to play with. I have a running stock of some of the below recipes that keep well in the fridge and some are best to be used immediately.

A great way to use up bunches of herbs you may have on hand for other recipes but don’t use them up fast enough. These lovely homemade condiments are starting to take over my fridge space. Beware… they are addictive 🙂

A great great way to add zing to, well…. anything !

  • dress up eggs on toast
  • or avocado’s on toast
  • the always delicious grain bowl
  • plopped into a bowl of soup (hot or cold)
  • on a tomato salad
  • on a sesame noodle salad (Scallion ginger sauce)
  • on a lovely piece of meat (Gremolata for example)
  • add flavour to a stir-fry
  • next to any curry recipe (green chutney for example)

Here are a few of my favourites:

Bushy Basil

Pesto Obviously !  You’ll find loads of recipes online…  I like mostly basil, but some parsley.  I use a really hard sheeps cheese, because that’s my regional cheese 😉  I never use pine nuts as they cost a fortune and usually come from China (a bit far), but walnuts, pumpkin seeds etc…  work great.  I like to make mine in a mini chopper or food processor, not a blender (and too lazy for the pestle and mortar).  I freeze portions during peak basil season.  Here’s my version using local wild garlic…

Salsa Verde is so versatile. Delicious on meat or fish. A great boost in flavour. Use the best tinned anchovies you can find.

Trinidadian chili sauce (quite hot)  This keeps well in the fridge for months.

Indian green chutney  So fresh with heaps of fresh mint and coriander (aka cilantro)

Caribbean seasoning sauce

Caribbean seasoning sauce (a bit on the hot side)  This keeps well in the fridge for about a year ! scent of it makes me think of Jerk Chicken Mmmmmm.

Gremolata  Parsley, garlic & lemon.  I find this best when chopped by hand.

Shatta (Middle Eastern Hot Sauce)   I made this with walnuts.  My latest favourite 🙂

Scallion ginger sauce One of my perfect simple meals…  Hot bowl of rice, some Kimchi or sautéed greens, a fried egg with a good spoonful of this on top. A bit of Echo’s Chili sauce (see recipe below) would be good too.

Echo's Chinese Preserved Chili's in Vodka

Love this one inspired by a recipe from my friend Echo. This keeps forever in the fridge. Absolutely delicious and just spicy enough. Great in noodle or rice dishes. I learned from Echo that Vodka is a pretty good substitute for Chinese rice wine.

  • 2 cups chopped hot chili peppers (a mix of colours is fine, but try to chop fairly evenly.
  • 1/4 cup vodka (or chinese rice wine)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (add a bit more if you prefer it sweeter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • Chunk of ginger about the size of your thumb
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. Let sit at room temp for 2 days and then its ready to eat. Store in the fridge for AGES !

The key to keeping sauces a long time in the fridge (this goes for store bought ones too, is to not “contaminate”. Meaning always use a clean and totally dry spoon to scoop out your sauce or paste to avoid mold.

Do you have any favourites to add to this list ! I’m always looking for more ideas. Share in the comments 🙂

Low sugar Blueberry muffins

muffinslowsugar

I always try to have low sugar snacks in the freezer for an afternoon bit of delight with a cuppa tea.  I have a rotating list of favourites such as my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins, but THIS, my friends is my current CHOSEN ONE !  Extremely moist, absolutely sweet enough and have a delightful squidgy yet fluffy texture.  You know what I mean 😉

I usually use locally produced flour made from an ancient wheat variety but in my last batch I used half organic Chestnut flour.  EVEN BETTER !  Chestnut flour is full of loads of vitamins and minerals and tons of fiber. I enjoy playing around with different flours, and this recipe has, so far, been very forgiving.

If you have access to a blueberry farm, they freeze well, popped directly into a bag and back into the freezer.  I always have a stock for baking, porridge and smoothies.

Low Sugar Blueberry Muffins

  • 1 3/4 (219g) cups whole wheat flour (used half chestnut flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or another spice that you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup (45g) olive oil (or Ghee)
  • 1/2 cup (150g) maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup 250g plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (170g) blueberries (fresh or frozen)

In a large bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup and mix well using a whisk. Add the eggs and mix well, then the yogurt and vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4 or 350°F). Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin, greasing if needed.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix using a wooden spoon (a few lumps are ok). Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. The mixture will be quite thick.

Divide the batter between the 12 cups (I use a soup spoon). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave to cool before removing them from the tin.

These keep well for 2 days at room temperature in a airtight container. They also freeze really well.

Bon Appetit !