Wandering mind

WanderersSoup3

So. It appears I quite like eating biscuits from the package. Not such a low, as it surprised me nearly gleefully. Who knew I’d soon be in the checkout line at the grocery store with only a semi-carefully selected chocolate bar in hand. It’s best to say I’m celebrating the time, and the time calls for this. My own version of Moroccan mint tea steeping, a packaged sweet, be it biscuit or chocolate unraveled nearby, and under the pressing glare of three lamps light. I have been nose deep in a crash course in what is Moorish cuisine. November has been a grave month for cooking but full of imagery.

Saffron infused rice. (Goodness, and it may stay an image until I can just go on with it and buy a few pinches!) Almonds, garlic and stale bread blitzed until becoming a creamy Ajo Blanco and then dotted with bursting muscat grapes. Sunset pink sherry vinegar both sweet and sour doused on lightly cooked white flakey fish. Pomegranate molasses spread upon dark braises and roasts, perhaps duck! Spices like sweet and smoky paprika, citrusy and earthy cumin and peppery caraway. Dried citrus and apricots pridefully standing on a serving platter or stirred into Asure (barley pudding). Ground almonds, cane sugar, nose curling cinnamon bound with pork lard baked into a humble batch of cookies known as Polvorones.

I’ve felt completely in awe of every dish. The Moors have cultivated an elaborate peasants cuisine. Every ingredient comes from the fruits of their own, or their neighbors labor. The food is balanced, dotted with delicacies, loving and humble. Resulting in the most satisfying meal, I’m partial to think. There is an emphasis on spices, fruits and herbs. And as the summer became fall and fall is becoming winter, the juicy crunch of a fruit is still at foot.  Paired with a warming spice or sharp herb my metabolism is radiating. I can still wear a dress and slippers about the house, the only thing  different is warming foods.

As I read
I daydream
As if I were there
An assistant to the director
We conjure magic and read minds

And then of course it being read

Being a cookbook

It’s us at the table, but every recipe looks good!
It’s a big table

Closed the book, picked up a few magic tricks
And please won’t you come for dinner?

It’s December now and I cooked my first two Moorish dishes. Wanderers Soup and a Quince Jello Jelly, recipes from le grand duo, Sam and Sam Clark. The couple and talented chefs wrote two cookbooks based upon their documentations through Moorish villages populating Southern Spain, Northern Africa and Morocco. And then thirdly, this one, Moro East. Dedicated to the Manor Garden Allotment in East London. Where the two learned to grow variety crops (from peas and salad greens, to artichokes, sorrel and bundles of herbs) amongst the help and knowing hands of their British, Greek, Turkish, West Indian, Kurdish, Polish and Italian-born neighbors. This book is dedicated to the people of the allotment, the allotments itself, and the British grown vegetables and fruits which have sprouted there and lavish every dish.

I can’t help but think of Mary, when the robin bird helps her find the way into The Secret Garden. Tending and then without realizing, blooming herself too.  

WanderersSoup

Wanderers Soup

today I’m in my mother’s wooden sole brown clogs.
cooking her soup.

When I picked up the chorizo for this dish, it came in a nice ring, like a hoop earring or a fine christmas ornament. Good for fun, not good for you if there are dogs.

serves 4

  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium potato, or six smaller ones (about 600g) peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 or 2 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 800ml chicken stock
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • 4 handfuls (about 200g) or foraged greens (a mixture of sorrel, rocket, dandelion, parsley), I used spinach or pea shoots from the farmers market, washed and chopped
  • 150g cooking chorizo, diced small (the best part if I may say, of the dish!)

In a large heavy pot, melt the butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with a four fingered pinch of salt and soften, cooking for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally! Done when the onion is golden. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the potatoes, garlic, and bay leaves along with another pinch of salt. Place the lid atop and allow to cook gently, for about 25 minutes. Or until the potatoes are tender. And again, stirring every so often, to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the potatoes are tender and glossy, plump with butter and olive oil, add the stock and a few grates of nutmeg. Now bring to a boil, and then a simmer for 5-10 minutes. It is almost lunch time! Turn the heat off, remove the bay leaves and whizz with a handheld blender, (a processor will do finely as well) until very smooth. At this point stir in your leafy greens. Meanwhile fry your chorizo in the remaining tbsp of olive oil, until crispy in parts and cooked through all over. Check the soup for seasoning, dot into bowls and spoon the chorizo and it’s spitting red oil dressed atop.

WanderersSoup2

QuinceJelly

Quince Jelly

serves 4

  • 2 medium quince (about 400g)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 125 g sugar
  • 4cm cinnamon stick
  • 700ml water
  • 12g leaf gelatin

Peel the quince and with a sharp knife cut each into 8 long wedges, coring from each wedge. Toss the slices in lemon juice as you go in the saucepan you will used to keep them from turning brown. When all are done, top up the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, sugar and water. Covering with a tight fitting lid, place over a simmer, the lowest heat possible, and stew gently for the next 2 ½ hours. When the quince is done the liquid will be a rosy pink, the quince will have matured a number of shades and be tender to the bite. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the wedges into a jelly mold or a favorite bowl. Strain the liquid, measuring out 500ml, discarding the rest (or saving for soon to discover clever use as I like to do). Soak the gelatin in cold water for about three minutes, squeeze dry and stir into the hot syrup until completely melted. Pour over the quince wedges and leave to cool, followed by refrigerating overnight. Serve in the bowl or allow to stand in hot water for a few seconds before turning out onto a plate. I serve mine by the great spoonful with softly whipped cream.

QuinceJelly2

there once was a pear tree which who turned water into honey
thankful for the gifts the villagers brought her roses
in which
she gave them a quince

 

Duck, duck, soup!

BeansMozzarellaSoup1

What’s in the fridge! That nice jar of dijon mustard. An indulgent buy of well salted capers imported from Sicily. The tin of anchovies which seemingly keeps on lasting. They are, preserves aren’t they? And that bouncing ball of mozzarella which was meant for something…but it’s lost on me now. Ah, and of course the rocket!

Received from a farm which sets up a stand nearby on the weekends. When I came about the tangled bunch, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the Italian rocket I’ve read about before. Wild and untamed. One rocket leaf, spun out from the bunch, unruly in formality and lengthy as my forearm. I can already smell the spice, similar to a juicy radish. After a sort of coiling, it’s in my mouth and I’m sure it’s leaning on the air of an herbs vanity.  Proud to be rocket! It’s lovely and I buy a big bag.

How charmingly simple this recipe could be. A peasants fare indeed, as I did no shopping. My bag of rocket was priorly enjoyed on its own, well dressed in olive oil and flaky salt. Until a morning, flipping through cookbooks, a recipe found for my bouncing ball of nearly forgotten mozzarella. And perhaps, my prideful rocket.

Mozzarella, Borlotti, and Wild Garlic Green Sauce, as says Ducksoup.
Mozzarella, Kanderly Yellow Eye, Rocket Green Sauce, I say.
It’s what I have. And it’s close enough.

Mozzarella, beans and herb sauce soup

  • 125g cooked beans, I had on hand Kanderly Yellow Eye
  • Handful of herbs, mine being rocket, not quite an herb but this one is nearly (others might be parsley, mint, wild garlic or a combination of the bunch)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • ½ tsp capers
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • Small garlic clove, grated
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 mozzarella ball, about 150g
  • Flaky salt and black pepper

Warm the beans and their cooking liquid in a pan over low heat. Put the chopped herbs, anchovies, lemon zest, capers, mustard, and garlic into a large bowl with extra virgin olive oil and bind everything together, with a good stir. Stir your now green sauce into the beans and warm through, only taking a minute. Pour into your lunch bowl, placing a torn ball of mozzarella atop. Drizzle with more olive oil, flaky salt and black pepper. Serve with a soup spoon!

BeansMozzarellaSoup2

 

when it faded
she grasped dearly
it’s shape missing

without a hand to hold
hands cold

and through the window the sun
stroked her cheek
warm, there
and it’s growing
a sparkling glimmer in her eye

a little spot inside of her
warm, right there
and it’s glowing

without a hand to hold
a little spot inside of her
warm

Ribollita for winter and summer

Ribeooohllittah, ribeooohllittah! I hum as I energetically dice my soffritto (a marriage of vegetables creating a base, most often, red onion, carrot and celery). The first time I had ribollita soup was probably at a high school football game. Odd I know, but our winter sports games had soups available at the concession. At the time, there was an Italian theme going, and soup was always available. I’ve cycled through them all, ultimately deciding the Italian wedding would be my go to order. Yes, at a football game. Anyway, the ribollita, well, wasn’t very memorable. Except in the sense I decided I didn’t very much like the soup. Being sort of a lip staining tomato water mixed with pre-cooked vegetables and tufts of bread. And so, that was the last time I’ve ordered ribollita.

Until it was bestowed upon me. I was working at a flour mill, when the chef, mostly nose deep in his own creations, handed me a small bowl of soup. Claiming it to be “Ribbeeohllittah”! And it was magic. The single best spoonful of soup I’ve ever had. I stopped what I was doing and gobbled up my five spoonfuls more. I asked him to show me how to make it, and ever since it’s been the soup I continuously crave and fix at any flicker of a crisp wind.

It wasn’t until recently, at a lovely cookery bookstore, that I came across two interesting books.  The food being from a foreign land, but the ratios of ingredients and method of cooking, seemed strangely familiar. I bought both books in haste. Now another cuisine I was fascinated by! With some reading later on, I learned that the authors, Sam & Sam Clark, began their chef training at the helm of The River Cafe in London. (A fiercely influential seasonal restaurant, open now for 30 years now, that draws inspiration from regional Italian cuisine.) The familiarity of the two books I stumbled upon contained honest, humble, and fulfilling recipes from a land that I didn’t have much knowledge about before, (and still have much to learn, but a sense of incentive now) but after flipping through, I not only felt a little bit closer to the true cuinse of the Moorish villages in Spain, North Africa and Morocco, but also little deeper understanding of the people too. This style of cooking, showcased in fine dining restaurants swept the world, thanks to people like Ruthie Rogers and Rose Gray, Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli.

Sam and Sam Clark shared their recipe for summer ribollita. And it was right then, as quickly as I sent my eyes left to right making sense of their recipe, that I internally revolutionized that a cook has the power to make a cuisine of their own, a storyline, from all they have met and then applies.

I can’t deny a thick soup, full of warm vegetables, beans and bread to fill me up when the air gets crisp, or maybe in San Francisco, where even the summer nights might ask for a sweater. So here are two recipes for ribollita, the one I learned at the flour mill. And Sam and Sam Clarks of Casa Moro in London.

Ribollita

  • soffritto (very, very finely diced and equal parts, 1 1/2 red onion, 4 medium carrots and 4 celery stalks, perhaps 3 cups per vegetable)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 28oz canned peeled tomatoes, preferably the san marzano variety
  • garlic clove
  • white wine, a forgotten, opened bottle from the back of your fridge
  • a small bunch of lacinato kale, also known as tuscan kale, stemmed and shredded roughly
  • 16 oz canned borlotti beans
  • black pepper
  • 28 oz canned cannellini beans
  • block of parmesan with rind on, nutty and buttery in flavor.
  • a few days old loaf of sourdough bread, preferably one made from a cold fermentation process, more flavor!
  • a glug and a drizzle from your nice bottle of extra virgin olive oil

Soffritto! Finely dice red onion, carrots and celery, as small as you can go, involve yourself! This is an important step because it will lead to a, I mean it, luxurious mouthfeel. Scoop up your vegetables, and place in a wide and heavy pot. Drench with nice, but not too nice, extra virgin olive oil, about two cups worth. Followed by and a four fingered pinch of salt. Let cook at a medium low temperature, uncovered, slowly the water contained in the vegetable will steam out and and be replaced by luscious olive oil. Stir regularly. If the pot becomes suspiciously dry, and you start to hear sizzling, dig out that opened, almost forgotten, bottle of white wine hiding in the fridge. Using just a few drops and a few scapes at a time to deglaze and lift the sucs forming below your mountain of vegetables. Continue this process until the vegetables are plump with olive oil, and completely tender. About 30 minutes.

Add a garlic clove that has been crushed with the side of your knife, and the tin of tomatoes, using a whisk, sort of crush the tomatoes right in the pot. When the tomatoes smell roasted, add a good pour of that wine wine, about 1 cup, followed by handfuls of stemmed and torn lacinato kale. Sir together for a minute or three and then fill up your tomato tin with water and pour into the pot. Let simmer and bubble for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make a borlotti bean puree, by placing entire can, bean cooking liquid and all, into a blender along with lots of black pepper and a hefty pinch of salt. While blending, stream in olive oil, about ½ a cup. Pour this into the simmering pot along with the whole cannellini beans, spooning in some of the cannellini beans cooking liquid too. Depending on how much liquid you want to add. Ribollita is about intuition! Chuck in your parmesan rind. This gives off a nutty undertone note to your soup,(and to be honest I kind of love gnawing at it if I do find it bendy and melting in my soup bowl). Begin tearing bread, using mostly crumb, some crust too, adding to the pot by the handful. Stir and squish the bread with the back of your wooden spoon against the pot. The goal is to attempt to liquefy the bread, Cook along, stir along, press the bread against the rim along. When all is married and soft, lacinato kale, so tender giving no resistance back when you chew, the bread – liquified, and the soup thick. Don’t hesitate to add a cup of water or bean cooking liquid, more or less if you think, “too thick”! About 30 minutes.

Finish with a light glug of your nicer bottle of olive oil, cranks of more than you might expect of black pepper and a blanket of shredded parmesan. Stir and voila! Ladle into shallow bowls, with a dusting more of olive oil, black pepper and parmesan.