An Autumn Sunday, a walk in the woods (or the park) and a lovely crumble waiting to be enjoyed when you get home, smothered in creamy custard to take the chill out of your bones. Apple and blackberry are bang in season at this time of year, and though of course there is merit in rhubarb for the crumble, the apple and blackberry pairing just sums up English sweets for us. This recipe uses our cinnamon sugar blend in the crumble, and our vanilla sugar for the custard, just for extra luxury.
Before we start, a disclaimer – someone somewhere (probably an Italian) will dispute that this ragu is actually a true Bolognese, and I dare say they'd be correct, technically. Oh mamma mia, mushrooms??? Whatever, but this is the way I learned it from my Mama (who was from Newcastle rather than Napoli) and it's worked for me for 40 years. If it ain't broke, as they say..
Anyway, however you like it Bolognese is among the most elemental of comfort foods, especially when smothering a big pile of butter coated spaghetti, and crowned with a healthy shake of Parmesan. Make extra and you will have left over the base for a lasagne, a moussaka, a chilli or even a (slightly flash) Shepherd's pie. Apart from the ingredients, the secret is in the cooking time – this should not be cooked for a second less than three hours, and four is better. Also, go easy on the liquid as you can always add a little more should it be needed.
Every Greek holiday will feature at least one helping of one of the country's national dishes, the aromatic, gently spiced beef stew known as Stifado. Its presence is a given on any taverna menu, alongside moussaka and souvlaki, and when made well is a surefire winner. The stew is cooked slowly, and features a triumvirate of aromatic spices which give the dish its distinct character, these being cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Stifado from anywhere in Greece will always include these three, but in some areas a small amount of cumin is also used. This recipe is one we learned on the island of Zakynthos, and the result is guaranteed every time as the cooking method is so simple. One important point – don't brown your meat as you would in most recipes. The result depends on the meat being able to absorb all the flavour of the sauce, and becoming meltingly tender. The recipe makes plenty of stifado, but it freezes really well so not a problem!
This unique curry features the star of this month's newsletter, beetroot, and though the idea of beetroot in a curry at first may sound a bit left-field, it works really, really well. The sweetness and earthiness of the beetroot stands out and balances the spice, and the beetroot holds its form and shape well, leaving lovely big chunks of it to enjoy. Different, for sure, but this curry has become one of our favourites! This recipe makes quite a bit of curry, but don't worry as it freezes really well. We like it served with basmati rice, and plenty of raitha (yoghurt sauce).
As we have said many times before, at Spice Mountain we love aubergines! And this is one of our favourite preparations, a recipe from Sicily which (like many Sicilian recipes) is heavily influenced by North African cooking. We have tweaked the classic recipe slightly by adding a little of our new Tunisian Tabil blend, which obviously makes the dish even more North African. If you prefer to leave this out of your dish, it will be just as delicious. Caponata is lovely served as a light supper with some bruschetta, it will go down well as a starter for pretty much any meal, and it can even be used as a pasta sauce.
This burger recipe brings Southeast Asia to the barbecue, minced pork spiced up with fragrant lemon grass, ginger and chilli then finished off with our own Satay blend. The burgers can be made as hot (or not) as you like, just adjust the amount of chilli you add. As said the burgers make an exotic addition to the array of delights on a barbie, but equally, they can be enjoyed for a lunch or supper. And leaving the bun out, they are great just served with green veg and rice, topped with a bit of satay sauce.
The cherry is very much in season at the moment, and we love just to grab a bag and eat them wherever we happen to be! But there are many interesting things one can do with a cherry, among them this lovely pickled cherry recipe, which will mean you have the flavour of these little beauties long after the season has finished. The pickled cherries go so well with charcuterie and especially smoked duck, and they certainly earn a starting place on the cheeseboard. If you leave the stones in the cherries, make sure you let your guests know before they partake!
There are many deliciously addictive Indian streetfood stars around, but this lovely dish must be near the top of the list! A bashed up samosa, drenched in a chickpea gravy then adorned with a selection of pickles and relishes to create a crunchy explosion of flavour – what could be better? The Indians will always use a balance of relishes – one sweet & sour (usually a tamarind sauce), one fresh and vibrant (often a spicy mint sauce) and one hot and spicy (either chilli sauce or chopped fresh chilli). They will then add sev (the crunchy bit in Bombay mix) and raw onion, pomegranate and more chilli to finish it off. Wonderful. Once you make this for the first time, you will be back again and again! If you have some samosas in the freezer and some of the chickpea gravy handy in the fridge this makes the ultimate snack, as it is quick and easy to put together. Just a note on the samosas – use whichever is your favourite, by all means, but we find the Shan brand Punjabi samosas perfect (find them in the frozen food section of most large supermarkets).
This recipe stars the wonderful tomato, discussed at more length in this month's feature. Here we use cherry tomatoes seasoned with spices and smoked garlic to make a delicious puff pastry tart. The spices used are chosen to bring out the best in the tomatoes rather than to dominate, so it's best to use them in moderation. You will end up with a light tart which is packed full of summer flavour, perfect for a Saturday lunch alongside a crisp salad, or part of a buffet. Of course you can make your own puff pastry if you choose, but using frozen saves an awful lot of time. Choose a good one however.
A long-term favourite for picking up from the deli counter, there are as many recipes for hummus as
there are chickpeas in a sack, but we make no apology for stating that this recipe is the best! The
reason for the variety in recipes is that hummus is a staple in most of the countries surrounding the
eastern Mediterranean and into the Middle East, all of which have their own little foibles when it
comes to seasoning the hummus. Our take is based on the Israeli version, which is always served
with a blob of harissa-style hot sauce in the middle – this procedure is highly recommended. Tinned
chickpeas are far and away the easiest (and fortunately the best) to use for the recipe.