Monday, August 9, 2010

North African "Risotto"

Well I set out to make a risotto with a North African flair. Technically it isn't risotto unless you use rice, and I usually do. However today I decided to stick to the North African theme and try to make couscous using the standard risotto technique. By "risotto technique" I mean sauté the rice first, add a bit of wine, soak up the wine and then slowly add warm stock while stirring. Well just use your brain and think of couscous instead of rice for this.

I started with a blend of spices for a bit of flavor.

1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp each of: nutmeg, tumeric, cayenne, ginger

I put a few tablespoons of butter into a sauce pan and let it melt. In the meantime I got some chicken stock simmering, and chopped up:

1 clove garlic
1 white onion
dried apricots to taste.
drain and rinse a can of chickpeas

I gave the onions and garlic a quick cook, and added the spice mix along with another tablespoon of butter.

Add a cup of the couscous and give it a quick stir in the butter mixture. Add in a cup of wine and the apricots.

While stirring add a cup of the stock at a time. DON'T add anymore until the first cup seems absorbed. This is where I ran into trouble, couscous is technically a pasta, not a grain like rice. Therefor the couscous absorbed the chicken stock very quickly, and expanded to fill the pot. I quickly added the chickpeas and a handful of sunflower seeds before the pot overflowed.

To finish the dish, I topped it with some chopped scallions and rough cut parsley.

This was absolutly delicious, and the parsley was a great addition. The sunflower seeds added a nice layer of texture, and the the apricots added a wonderful sweetness that played nicely with the flavor of the spice blend. But alas, it was not the risotto that I set out to make. I'm calling it a failure for now, but only because it met a different goal than I set out to reach. I will be trying this again, just not with couscous. I'm thinking of some kind of grain, bulger wheat, barley or maybe millet. This stuff was good, it just more of a pilaf than a creamy bowl of risottoy goodness.


It's old, but delicious. Props to Trevor for the video work.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Foodie Fights time - Cucumber and Black Pepper

I recently moved, and am lacking a kitchen, well I had to do something. It took me a while, but my inner alcoholic/gin whore took over, best part is it's fairly easy. I made most of it at my desk What I've made today is essentially a Tom Collins made a bit differently. Cucumber juice instead of lemon juice and some other substitutions. The drink is simple:

1 part simple syrup (which I made not so simple)
1 part juice
1 part dry gin
club soda

For the syrup, I was shocked to discover that I didn't have any sugar, but what I did have was honey. I dissolved equal parts honey and water. To the solution I added six whole peppercorns for flavor. I nuked the solution in the microwave for five minutes, and let the syrup cool to room temperature. In the meantime I started with my juice.

I chopped my cuke as finely as possible, if I had a blender I would have used it. Then I simply squeezed the pulp through a cheese cloth into a glass.

The photo is the syrup and the cucumber juice in the glass before the rest is added. The color is from the honey, not the wooden desk.

Then add one shot.

Top off with:

And finally garnish with a nice slice of cucumber. I drank it with some lovely bread and butter pickles.

It's a nice refreshing summery drink with a great peppery aftertaste, but I can't help thinking that it needs more cucumber juice to cut the power of the gin. Give it a shot, I'll still take my regular Gin and Tonic first though, although with the improvements I mentioned I might change my mind. Cheers