Cockle Tempura

Cockle tempura
Inspired the original and utterly wonderful cockled popcorn on a recent visit to No 1 Cromer, I decided to try recreating it at home with successful results! I can’t justify stealing No 1 Cromer’s fabulous name, though, so renamed it the rather more prosaic cockle tempura. If you’re ever in Cromer, visit No 1 Cromer; they make brilliant seafood dishes. I also had a particularly tasty crab salad.

I adapted a tempura recipe from http://glutenfreerecipebox.com/gluten-free-tempura. As the Gluten-free Recipe Box explains, the secret to good tempura is cold ingredients, hence the rather unusual start to the beginning of this recipe. Of course, you can simply plan ahead (which I didn’t) and put the flour and water in the fridge for an hour or so instead.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

50g rice flour

30g cornflour

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

80 ml sparkling water

sunflower oil for deep-fat frying

200g cockles

Method

Mix the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda together, and place in the freezer for 10 minutes, along the water.

When they’re cold, whisk them together. Heat 2 inches of oil in a saucepan to 190°C.

Add the cockles in batches to the batter, because it’s best not to crowd to the pan when you come to cook them (I divided them into three batches).

Mix well, then use a metal slotted spoon to remove them, placing them in a separate bowl (I found this helped me with the next stage).

Drop the battered cockles carefully in the hot oil using the metal slotted spoon, trying to separate them as they go in, otherwise they will clump together.

Fry for 30-60 seconds, then remove them using the slotted spoon and place them on a plate covered with a paper towel.

Tempura cockles

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Zhoug (green chilli sauce)

Zhoug green chilli sauce Zhoug (pronounced ‘shug’, as in the first syllable of sugar) is a green herb chilli paste from Israel and a perfect accompaniment to my wild garlic falafel. The first time I tried zhoug I was hooked, spreading it on toast, to replace olive oil for a Spanish pan con tomate, stirring it through couscous or bulgar wheat or adding a dollop to tomato soup.

It’s important to use good-quality coriander, not the flaccid kind you find in growing in pots in the supermarket. If you see a good bunch of coriander but don’t have time to make zhoug immediately, wrap the bunch in some dampened kitchen roll and keep it in a bag in the fridge to stop it wilting (this method works well with parsley too).

Zhoug is supposed to be fiery, so use the seeds if your chillies aren’t particularly hot.

If you don’t use it straight away, zhoug will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks – if you can resist eating it, of course!

Ingredients

50g fresh coriander, including stalks

2 green chillies, seeds left in

1 garlic clove, crushed

1½ tsp cumin

1/8 tsp salt

4 tbsp olive oil

Method

Finely chop the coriander, green chillies and crushed garlic; it’s worth using a mezzaluna for this if you have one. (I prefer the texture of zhoug chopped by hand rather than using a food processor, which can make the end result rather mushy.)

Add the cumin, salt and olive oil.

zhoug with falafel

Taramasalata

 

TaramasalataEver since I discovered Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s tarama recipe in his comprehensive Fish book, I have been creating permutations of it. This is the adapted latest but by no means final resulting recipe, using much less oil than his recipe but still equally moreish.

White sourdough is the best bread to use here, both as an ingredient and to serve with the dip. Alternatively, use good quality bread with some texture, such as ciabatta, or scoop it up with warmed flatbread or pitta.

Apparently it’s traditional in Greece to eat taramasalata on the first day of Lent, or Shrove Monday, which is why I’m publishing this today!

Ingredients

200g smoked cod’s roe

1 garlic clove, crushed

75g day-old white bread, crusts removed

140 ml milk

25ml olive oil

25ml sunflower oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

Chopped flat-leaf parsley and paprika to serve

Serves 4

Smoked cod's roeMethod

Break the bread up and soak it in milk for a few minutes. Scrape the roe from the skin, add the garlic and mix with a fork.

Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and mash thoroughly with the roe using a fork until you get an evenly coloured mixture (I prefer doing this by hand rather than a food processor as it results in a better texture).

Add the oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with the parsley and paprika and add an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Taramasalata

Gluten-free muhammara

Muhammara I first had muhammara, a delicious Syrian red pepper and walnut dip, at my favourite restaurant, Frome’s wonderful High Pavement Evening Café. They specialise in Middle Eastern and Spanish dishes; I’ve had many a fine meal there and can recommend it wholeheartedly. (Make sure you sample a manzanilla or oloroso on the brilliant sherry menu too.)

It took me ages to remember the name muhammara but once I did, I became slightly obsessed with recreating its intense flavour. The first time I made it I used Turkish red pepper paste, which I bought in Bristol’s Sweetmart. Last weekend I’d planned a Middle Eastern mezze spread but Bristol is a long way to go from Frome for a jar of pepper paste, so I thought I’d have a go at making it with roasted red peppers. But if you can buy a jar of red pepper paste, it does save time, as does using shelled walnuts, although the flavour isn’t nearly as good.

Unlike the traditional version, which uses breadcrumbs or bulgur wheat, I decided to make a gluten-free muhammara, and serve it with bread on the side for dipping. I made the easy yet delicious Eastern-style focaccia recipe from Sabrina Ghayour’s gorgeous Persiana book, cut into fingers, and za’atar pitta bread triangles (see below). If you can’t get any za’atar you can use a sprinkling of smoked paprika and cumin instead, or just brush the triangles with olive oil. You could also serve it with plain pitta bread, flatbread or sourdough.

Ingredients

Muhammara

10 red peppers

200g walnuts

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp chilli flakes (Aleppo ones are the most authentic)

6 tsp cumin

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve

Za’atar pitta triangles

1 packet of 6 white pitta breads

3 tsp za’atar

150 ml extra-virgin olive oil

Serves 8-10 as part of a mezze spread

Method

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. This takes about 20 minutes. If you’re doing them on the hob or under the grill, turn them regularly.

Roast the red peppers preferably on an open flame on a gas hob, or under a grill or in a hot oven (220ºC, 200ºC fan, gas mark 7) until the skin turns black and blisters. Turn them a few times during the 20 minutes or so it takes for them to blister.roasted red peppers

Meanwhile shell the walnuts (if necessary) and roughly chop them.walnuts

Slice open each pitta bread carefully so you have two ovals. Then halve each oval and cut each half into rough triangles. Mix the olive oil with the za’atar and brush onto the triangles, laying them out on to some baking trays so they’re in one layer.pitta bread

pitta bread trianglesWhen the peppers are done take them out and turn the oven down (200ºC, 180ºC fan, gas mark 6). Put the peppers in a sieve or colander with a plate over the top, and place it over a bowl to drain.

Put the pitta triangles into the oven (which should be slightly cooler now) and put a timer on for 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, remove the seeds and roughly chop them.

Keep an eye on the pitta breads to make sure they don’t burn, giving them a shake after 5 minutes.za'atar pitta triangles

Put everything except the walnuts in a food processor and blend to a rough paste (I prefer muhammara with a bit of texture), or use a blender or stick blender. Add the walnuts and blend again briefly. Taste and add more spices or salt if needed.

Take the pitta breads out when they’re lightly toasted and put on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on the muhammara.muhummara gluten-free dip

As this recipe is feel-good healthy and has a spicy kick to it, I’m entering it for the current Spice Challenge, with the theme Temple Food.Spice Trail