Food


Gill Fothergill
Food Editor


A Seasonal Feasting:  Indulgence and Nurture


I felt there was an expectation that I would encourage everyone to discard their knives and chopping boards and replace them with ready meals and disposable packaging to liberate us from the shackles of food preparation. It’s been suggested to me that reclaiming the inner slut entails leaving the kitchen behind.​

Our second issue of WOJO is entitled Good Girls and Sluts. In it we look at the choices and conditioning that inform women’s behaviour. This threw up an interesting dilemma for me. Cooking is often looked down on as menial work, unless you’re a celebrity and  very often a male, chef. It is mostly low paid if you choose to do it for a living, otherwise, if you’re providing sustenance for yourself and your family daily, it’s entirely unpaid.
 
I felt there was an expectation that I would encourage everyone to discard their knives and chopping boards and replace them with ready meals and disposable packaging, to liberate us from the shackles of food preparation. It’s been suggested to me that reclaiming the inner slut entails leaving the kitchen behind.


Whilst I’m no more enamoured with the daily grind of sustaining our bodies’ relentless need for sustenance and nutritional input than the next person, I’m afraid I still simply cannot extole the virtues of  so called ready meals.

Infact, I’d have to go so far as to ask whether these ‘meals’ do much in the way of actually feeding us at all? And I’m almost certain they aren’t doing small scale local food growers and farmers, or our planet any favours.

Embracing Choice and Vibrancy


So after much soul searching I’ve decided that whilst some of my sisters may feel I’m letting them down here, the bottom line is that I’m unapologetically incapable of advising that we all lock the kitchen door and throw away the key. Home made food just tastes so much better and has so much more life and vibrancy in it than most (dare I suggest all?) ready meals. I’m more than happy to embrace my slut in other areas of my life but for me cooking is truly a choice and I’m happy with this choice because it’s just that, a choice rather than an obligation (most of the time).

If you agree with me or are looking for some inspiration in between bouts of locking up your kitchen then read on...


From Root to Stem:  A Feast To Celebrate the Season

The days are lengthening and in celebration I find my tastebuds brightening ready to move from the deep earthy flavours of Winter into the fresher vibrant tones of Spring and early Summer. Our food begins to lift and lighten, it moves from root to stem, bringing our energy with it, dragging us up from semi hibernation into the fresh brightness of these longed for, longer days.


For this edition of WOJO I’ve put together some recipes which will, in their entirety, provide you with the most splendid of feasts for a gathering or celebration for 8-10 people.  A few of the dishes mixed and matched will provide you with some lovely meal ideas for late Spring and Summer; do with them as you will, pick and choose, but most importantly take the time to enjoy their creation and deliciousness. They will truly allow you to connect with your inner slut, that part of you which is about indulging and nurturing yourself for the sake of yourself.


If you are inspired, and I hope you are, to create a feast, as always, bear in mind that cooking takes time. Start planning at least a good few days ahead, preferably a week, and maybe share these recipes with others invited to the feast,  to divvy out the dishes, so that everyone contributes.


If cooking a big feast really isn’t your thing, then buy some of it: many of the components or similar dishes are available to purchase. For example, you could replace the socca with flatbreads or pitta and the smoked aubergine labneh with baba ganoush; le Puy lentils are available ready cooked in pouches (just add smoked paprika and garlic leaves when you re-heat) and you could get some gourmet pickled onions.

If your feast is for more than 10 people, supplement these dishes with complimentary extras such as hummus, roast artichokes, a salad of tasty sliced tomatoes and fresh coriander leaves, some toasted pine nuts.
Omit the lamb dish and you’ll still have a veritable vegetarian feast.


To make it vegan serve a baba ganoush instead of the smoked aubergine labneh and, of course, omit the lamb.
I have also included two dessert recipes both of which use quite a few eggs, that symbol of Spring’s fertility. They will compliment the feasting menu if you wish to include dessert, or they will do for another day when a treat is necessary.


There’s a recipe for a truly fabulous Chocolate Mousse and one for a deliciously moist Hazelnut Cardamom Cake, these can be served together or on entirely different occasions but do give them a try.

All recipes are gluten free.


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I have also included two dessert recipes both of which use quite a few eggs, that symbol of Spring’s fertility. They will compliment the feasting menu if you wish to include dessert, or they will do for another day when a treat is necessary. There’s a recipe for a truly fabulous Chocolate Mousse and one for a deliciously moist Hazelnut Cardamom Cake, these can be served together or on entirely different occasions but do give them a try.​
Spring Feasting Menu


​Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb, Middle Eastern Spice

Le Puy Lentils, Wild Garlic Leaves, Smoked Paprika


Socca with Spring Onions


Charred Chicory


Smoked Aubergine Labneh


Balsamic Roast Beetroot & New Season Asparagus


Leaves; Watercress and Rocket


Red Onions, lightly pickled


Harissa


Fresh Radishes


Pomegranate Molasses


Pickled Guindilla Peppers or Jalapenos


Chocolate Mousse

Hazlenut Cardamom Cake

All recipes are gluten free, see intro for vegetarian and vegan ideas.

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Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb, Middle Eastern Spice

Ideally you need to start this dish the evening before, it won’t take long, you’ll just be rubbing in the marinating spices. Also bear in mind that this dish takes 4-5 hours to cook so plan accordingly.

This recipe is so worth the small amount of effort required, mostly really it looks after itself whilst the finished result gives the impression of lots of time and effort invested, it’s so unctuous and luscious, I absolutely love it.


Serves 8-10
1 whole shoulder of lamb, bone in, 2.5-3 kg in weight
50ml smoked rapeseed oil or olive oil
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed (you can use ground if you prefer)
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, ground if you prefer
6-8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the spices, garlic, salt, pepper and oil together. Place the lamb shoulder on a large sheet of foil (big enough to wrap it) in a roasting dish. Score the fat with a sharp knife into a rough grid pattern and rub the oil and spice mix all over the shoulder, wrap in the foil and leave in the ‘fridge overnight.

When you are ready to cook the lamb pre heat your oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Place on the middle shelf and cook for about 3 hours then open everything up and see how it’s doing. When the meat is fully cooked it should be so tender that you can pull it from the bone and apart with a couple of forks. If it is not quite at this point cover it again and carry on cooking for another 30-60 minutes until it’s reached this point.

Once it’s cooked leave it to rest for 30-40 minutes before pulling all of the meat from the bone. Place the meat in a warm serving dish along with any cooking juices and keep warm until required.




Le Puy Lentils with Wild Garlic Leaves and Smoked Paprika

Le Puy lentils hold their shape and texture when cooked and offer some bite in this tasty dish.

Wild garlic grows profusely in woodland during Spring, it has broad green leaves and pretty white allium flower heads, if you aren’t sure you’ve got the right thing crush a leaf with your fingers - the smell is unmistakably garlic. Garlic leaves are delicious added to all manner of dishes and are particularly nice added to a green leafy salad. Substitute with the finely sliced green part of spring onions if you can’t find wild garlic.
( I believe wild garlic is available in shops nowadays, as an alternative to picking your own)

Serves 12 as part of a larger meal, easily halved

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300g le Puy lentils (or use brown)
1 litre vegetable or meat stock or water
4-6 teaspoons smoked paprika
15 wild garlic leaves, stems removed plus a few extra to garnish
2-4 wild garlic flowers if the garlic is in flower, optional but very pretty.

Cook the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until tender, try not to colour them too much, turning the heat down if necessary. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the lentils and stock or water to cover, some salt and 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika. Stir well and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down a little, put a lid on the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked but not too soft. Drain off any excess liquid if necessary and taste adding more salt and paprika if necessary with a good grind of black pepper.

Finally, add the torn or chopped garlic leaves, they will wilt in the heat.

Serve sprinkled with a little more paprika and a few garlic leaves. If you were lucky enough to get flowers as well use these as a final garnish (they are also edible).




Socca with Spring Onions

Socca is also known as farinata or cecina and is made with chickpea (gram) flour, it is very easy to make and delicious. It also has the added benefit of being gluten free and I often use it as a pizza base.

Traditionally it is sprinkled with coarse salt and rosemary and drizzled with olive oil once cooked. Spring onions are the flavour here but you can use your imagination, any savoury flavour will do; finely sliced olives, a few dried chillies, a little crushed garlic…

I give two ways of cooking the socca; as pancakes allows for them to be very thin whilst the oven method is the most straight forward.

Makes 2 x shallow oven trays or 12 pancakes, easily halved

300g chickpea (gram) flour
500ml water
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a little olive oil for cooking

Oven method;
Heat the oven to 200C, grease 2 shallow baking trays liberally with olive oil.
Put the flour, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl, gradually beat the water into the flour, taking care at first to ensure the mix does not form lumps. You want a runny batter. Stir in the spring onion.
Pour the batter into the trays and cook for 10 - 15 minutes until it is golden.
Cut into rough triangles and remove from the tray, serve whilst still warm.

Pancake method;
Heat a small frying pan and pour in about 1 tsp of olive oil. Pour in enough batter to thinly coat the pan and cook until it looks set on the top, carefully turn the pancake using a spatula or pallet knife and brown on the other side. Place on a plate in a warm oven whilst you repeat to make the rest of the socca.




Charred Red and White Chicory

I love the bitterness of chicory and it works well as a component of a rich feast, helping to cut through the other flavours and keep the palette clean. When I say chicory I mean the tight heads that are about two thirds white with either red or pale green tips. If you can’t get both red and white chicory one type will do just as well.

Serves 8-10

2 heads red chicory
2 heads white chicory
A little olive oil for brushing

Ideally you’ll need a ridged stove top griddle for this dish as it will give you lovely charred stripes along your chicory but a grill will also do.
Quarter the chicory heads without removing any stem as this will hold the quarters together. Lightly brush them with a little olive oil and place on a very hot griddle, after about 2 minutes once the first side has lovely charred ridges along it turn using wooden tongs. Char the next two sides in the same way. Once they are charred on all sides remove to a warmed serving dish.
Serve as is for a lovely mildly bitter bite to the meal.






Smoked Aubergine Labneh

Labneh is a fresh, young cheese made very simply by straining yoghurt.
This recipe makes a delicious side dish but would also do as a meal in itself served with the socca, flatbreads or pittas and a fresh, leafy salad.
I’ve included the making of the labneh in this recipe, it’s tremendously straight forward, but you could buy it or substitute with a thick Greek style yoghurt.

Serves 12 as a side dish


For the labneh;
600ml sheep’s milk yoghurt, you can use goat’s or cow’s milk yoghurt if you prefer.
½ teaspoon fine sea salt


Mix the salt into the yoghurt. All you now need to do is strain this for somewhere between 4 hours and overnight it in a cool place. I do this by placing a muslin cloth in a sieve suspended over a deep bowl. Place the yoghurt into the muslin draped sieve and fold the muslin to cover it.


Leave to strain for at least 4 hours ensuring the liquid level doesn’t reach the bottom of the sieve. Most of the liquid will drain out pretty quickly and the longer you leave it the firmer your labneh will become. Draining time also depends upon how thick your yoghurt was to begin with. How firm you want your labneh is a matter of taste, in this dish I think it’s nice to have a creamier rather than firmer texture.

Keep the whey left in the bowl to use in baking, kefir making or to make a refreshing naturally fermented lemonade.




Smoked Aubergine Labneh


2 large aubergines
300g labneh or thick Greek style yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish


First of all scorch the whole aubergines using a naked flame on a gas hob or a heated grill. If using the hob stick a fork into one aubergine and hold it near to the flame, turning as necessary until it is scorched all over, repeat with the second one. If using the grill place both aubergines under the grill turning until scorched all over.


Ensure the aubergines are also cooked through and slightly collapsing in on themselves, this should happen as a by product of the charring process but if they still seem a little firm bake them in the oven (180c/350f/gas 4) for a while.

Cool the aubergines and then peel them. Place the flesh into a food processor with the garlic and seasoning. Blitz until smooth, add the labneh and blitz again, taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

You should have a lovely, smoky, creamy mix.

Keeps well for 3-4 days refrigerated.
Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves.




Balsamic Roast Beetroot with New Season Asparagus

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

1kg small beetroots, I used chioggia but any variety or a mix will do
250g fine asparagus spears
50g butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas 5

Give the beetroot a good scrub, removing any leaves (taking care to not cut them too close to the beetroot). Place the beetroot in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until softening on the outside.

If the leaves are young and lovely wash them and use in your leaf salad.

Drain the cooked beetroot and cool until you can handle them. Peel and quarter them and place on a roasting tray, mix them with the butter, oil and some seasoning and roast for 10 minutes. Give them a good stir, sprinkle on the balsamic and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are soft. Remove from the oven and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus bring enough water to submerge it to the boil. Add the asparagus and simmer for two minutes if your asparagus truly is young and fine, a bit longer if it is a little bigger. As soon as it is al dente drain it and plunge straight into cold water. When the asparagus is cold drain it thoroughly.

When you are ready to serve your meal scatter the spears over the still hot roast beetroot.




Harissa

Harissa is a pungent paste which is used as a condiment and flavouring in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. It is readily available to buy but, as always, homemade just tastes so good. 

It is one of those condiments where there are as many recipes as households making it so feel free to adjust the spices/garlic/chillies to taste.
This recipe will keep well for 2-3 weeks, refrigerated.

Serves 12

2 red romano peppers or 1 large red pepper
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½  teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-4 medium red chillies depending upon how hot you like your harissa, seeded & roughly chopped
1 dessertspoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons sea salt

Char the peppers all over on a gas flame or under the grill, place in a bowl and cover until cooled. Once cool peel, deseed and roughly quarter.

In a heavy frying pan dry roast the coriander and cumin for a couple of minutes until it smells lovely and toasty, taking care not to overdo it. Turn them into a pestle and mortar and grind with the salt until you have  a fine powder (alternatively you could use an electric spice grinder).

In the pan heat the olive oil and fry the onion, garlic and chillies until they are nicely golden brown.

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend to a paste.

Store in a clean glass jar.





Lightly Pickled Red Onions

This is so simple and very pretty.

2 small or 1 medium red onion
Red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon clear honey, optional
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Slice the onions as thinly as you possibly can, place them in a glass jar and pour on the vinegar until just covered. Leave for an hour or so. They will keep well for a week or two in the fridge.





Side dishes and salads

Radishes, you’ll need 2-3 radishes/person.
Give the radishes a good wash and serve whole, halved or sliced.

Leaves; Watercress and Rocket, you’ll need 200-300g for 10 people.
Wash if necessary, dry thoroughly and serve as is. We have a tendency to automatically dress leaves without considering whether it’s really necessary, in this case I don’t think it is. There are a lot of rich components to this feast and some undressed, peppery leaves are a perfect compliment simply served as they are.

Pickled Guindilla Peppers, 120-150g for 10 people
I really like the guindilla peppers as an accompaniment here. They are readily available in jars of brine. Fragata are a popular brand but any pickled green chilli or sliced pickled jalapenos will do. Drain before serving.

Pomegranate Molasses, 150-200ml for 10 people
This sweet and tart condiment is readily available nowadays and is a delicious compliment to the the slow roast lamb. Try to find one which is 100% molasses and thus has been boiled down from pomegranates rather than other versions which tend to be full of sugar and are sickly syrupy. Use sparingly.

                                                                         Chocolate Mousse



Chocolate is definitely one of my favorite things, and I love it made into mousse - it allows the chocolate to shine through and adds a lovely velvety texture.

Generally I avoid sugar and am a fan of cacao (raw chocolate) for it’s health benefits but when it comes to chocolate mousse I have to admit that I’m a puritan. I’ve tried many of the newer recipes which use cacao powder with dates and/or avocadoes and whilst this makes a delicious and nutritious dessert I’m afraid it just isn’t chocolate mousse for me.

My opinion is that if you’re going to have chocolate mousse then have it, you’re likely to only eat it occasionally as a special treat so have the real thing and enjoy it. Having said that I do use less sugar than in traditional recipes.
Serves 6, easily doubled
200g dark chocolate, preferably 70% cocoa solids, broken into chunks
50ml double cream
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
15g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Place the chocolate and cream in a bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water (ensure the base of the bowl is not sitting in the water) and gently melt. Cool a little.
Separate your eggs ensuring that no yolk gets into the whites as they won’t whisk up if you do.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, continue to whisk whilst gradually adding in the sugar until the whites are glossy and fairly stiff.
Add the yolks and vanilla to the melted chocolate and give it a good stir. Add a dollop of the egg white and stir through to soften the mix a little. Add ½ of the remaining egg white and carefully fold in, you’re aiming to retain as much ‘fluff’ as possible, add the remainder and repeat. Try to ensure you don’t have any trapped bits of white and that everything is beautifully smooth whilst not over stirring and thus flattening the mousse.

Pour into a serving bowl or individual glasses, cover and refrigerate until set. This will likely take 2 hours in individual glasses or 4 hours in a bowl.

This mousse doesn’t need much in the way of extras; it speaks for itself, a bowl of lightly whipped double cream should do the trick and maybe some fresh primroses to pretty it up a little, if you don’t have primroses simply grate a little dark chocolate onto the mousse or lightly dust with cocoa powder.
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​This can easily be made a day or two before and kept well covered in the ‘fridge.

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Hazelnut Cardamom Cake

This cake is delicious in its simplicity, is beautifully moist and is excellent with a steaming cup of black coffee. Alternatively a slice goes very well with the chocolate mousse.
If, however, you are serving it alone you could offer a bowl of lightly whipped double cream alongside.
Serves 10-14
300g hazelnuts, toasted *see below
100g ground almonds
5 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
100g butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 lemon, zest of, finely grated
You’ll need a well buttered 22cm loose bottomed cake tin and to preheat your oven to 170c/325f/gas 3.
Blitz the hazelnuts until fairly finely ground.
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk them until they are pale with some volume.
Put the whites in a separate, spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until quite firm.
Add the ground cardamom and lemon zest to the yolks along with a dollop of egg white, gently fold in until well mixed.

Add half of the remaining whites & half of the ground hazelnuts and fold again, finally, add the last of the egg whites, the remaining ground hazelnuts, the ground almonds and the melted butter. Fold until well mixed but with plenty of air remaining.

Carefully pour into the cake tin tilting the mix to reach the edges.
Bake for 25 minutes until cooked through. Cool in the tin and then carefully turn out onto a serving plate.


*To toast hazelnuts; place them in a baking tray and toast in a preheated oven 180c/350f/gas 4 for 5 - 10 minutes until they begin to darken, their skins crack and they smell toasty. Cool until you can handle them and then tip them onto a clean tea towel, bring the edges together and rub the nuts. This will bring the majority of the skins off and leave you with toasted hazelnuts ready for your cake.​