September 5th, 2010


lazy and spicy

Another couple of Lazytown recipes that are on high rotation in my kitchen at the moment.

A new spice shop has opened near where I work - "Gewurzhaus" at 342 Lygon St for Melburnians. It has some whole spices but they also make their own mixes. I don't usually buy preground spice mixes but I made an exception to try their "Ras El Hanout" - a north African mix of 21 spices inc rosebuds and lavender and it is extraordinary. If you can get it, substitute it in the soup recipe for the cumin, coriander and nutmeg.

In the Eggplant dish I use Chinese Five Spice Salt. This is basically a 2:1 mix of Chinese Five Spice and salt ground together. You can use it as a rub on grilled meat and fish and it makes a great variation on salt and pepper squid.

Moroccan Chicken and Chickpea Soup

* Saute 2 medium diced onions and 2 chopped cloves garlic.

* Add 1 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, big pinch of nutmeg, 1/3 teaspoon of hot paprika. Or about 2 teaspoons of Ras El Hanout and the paprika.

* Add 1-2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind or a chopped piece of preserved lemon and juice of 1 lemon and stir making sure to up get any sticky bits on the bottom of the pan.

* Add half kilo strips of chicken breast and sauté for a moment or two.

* Add 1.5 litres of chicken stock, a couple of handfuls of diced pumpkin or sweet potato and a tin of chickpeas. If you want a hearty ‘meal in a bowl’ type soup, add quarter cup of giant couscous as well.

* Simmer for about 20 mins. Add salt to taste and a bit more lemon juice if needed. Topped with chopped fresh mint.

Nommy Eggplant
There's a lot of bad eggplant myths around. You don't need to salt it first and you don't need to cook it in a ton of oil. This dish is a showcase of the sinfully sensuous texture of well-cooked eggplant.

* Saute a diced onion, 3 diced cloves of garlic and a diced green chilli (more or less according to your taste) in a wok or big fry pan. I do use a little bit more oil here than normal - a generous slurp - plus a splodge of sesame oil. Don't use olive oil, its far to heavy for this dish.

* When the onion starts to get translucent, add a generous teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Salt and stir for a minute.

* Add two medium eggplants or one huge one that has been roughly chopped. Eggplant cooks down a lot, so don't cut it too small to start or it will cook down completely. You want to end up with these velvety cubes. Stir the eggplant through the sauteed ingredients.

* At this point you'll think the whole thing looks too dry to cook. But here's the beauty of it - pop a lid on it, and pretty soon the moisture in the eggplant will create steam and they'll start to cook down. Stir regularly and you'll see the magic happen!

* When they eggplant starts to soften and change colour, add the juice of a lemon and a slurp of soy or tamari. Resist the urge to do this too early - the eggplant won't absorb these flavours tills its starting to break down.

* After 15 mins or so the eggplant will be soft and dark. Adjust the seasonings - the earthiness of the eggplant will support quite a hit of chilli if you like it hot.

* Just before serving add a bunch of chopped spring onions, and a big handful of chopped green herbs - mint, coriander, Thai basil, Vietnamese mint - all or any! be bold!

Serve with rice or noodles, or as a side dish.

** for a more substantial meal add a bunch of bok choy or kang kong and some shitake mushrooms
** add something sweet like a handful of sultanas and serve with yoghurt for an African twist.