I have been a great fan of Rick Stein’s varied food oriented travel series over the years. His curios nature and infectious passion for regional foods combined with simple cooking methods makes for compelling viewing that has you itching to get right into the kitchen and do some newly inspired cookery of your own.
His recipe for Sumac Roasted Chicken from Turkey appeared in Rick Stein, From Venice to Istanbul which aired in 2015. I have cooked similar recipes in the past (see here), but with a stash of Sumac and pomegranate molasses already on hand I was raring to give Rick’s recipe a try.
Sumac is a wild shrub that grows thought the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Sumac’s deep red berries are dried and ground into a powdered seasoning with an assertive citrus like flavor. Sumac is also combined with other herbs and seeds for another popular regional seasoning mix called za’atar (See here). Both are ideal seasonings for various salads, grilled vegetables, meats, poultry, soups, and stews. Also an ideal finishing flourish for hummus (see here) and muhamara (see here) that I like to serve along with this dish.
Sumac is available at Middle Eastern shops and online.
For the recipe that follows I have made a few adjustments that ramp up the flavors a bit, but otherwise true to the regional recipe. I like serving it with a simple cooked Bulgar wheat with fried onions and red peppers along with a side of zesty hummus or muhammara to compliment the chicken.
Sumac Roasted Chicken serves 4 to 5
For the chicken:
- 1 whole chicken or 5 skin on breasts
- olive oil for drizzling
- sesame seeds
Rinse the chicken well, remove the backbone, and cut the chicken into 10 pieces. If you are using chicken breasts, slice the breasts in half crosswise.
If you are using a whole chicken, rather than discarding the backbone and trimmings why not make a stock for cooking the bulgur and for the marinade.
Place the backbone and trimmings in a stock pot and fill with water. Add a chopped onion, 3 bay leaves, a teaspoon of whole peppercorns and a teaspoon of dried thyme. Simmer for about 1 hour or until the stock has reduced by a little more than half.
For the marinade:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons ground sumac
- 1 teaspoon pure ground red chile powder
- 1/3 teaspoon chile flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 1 or 2 tablespoons chicken stock
Combine all the marinade ingredients except the stock in a non-reactive bowl large enough to hold all the chicken. Stir until all the ingredients are completely combined. The consistency of the marinade will be quite thick and sticky. Ideally you want the marinade to stick to the chicken, but you might want to thin it out just a bit with a little chicken stock.
If you are squeamish you may want to use disposable plastic cloves for massaging the marinade into the chicken pieces, otherwise use your bare hands as I do. Take your time and press the marinade into each piece of chicken and patting it over the surface so it sticks to the flesh.
Once all the marinade coated chicken is in the bowl compress it so the marinade reaches every crevasse. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for at least 1 hour or ideally 2 hours at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400 f/ 205 c
Select a baking pan large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer without crowding. Lightly oil the dish and place the marinated chicken skin side up in the pan. Spoon any remaining marinade over the chicken and spread it out evenly. Scatter sesame seeds over the chicken and lightly drizzle with a little olive oil.
Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. The chicken and sesame seeds should be nicely colored and the chicken just done. If not, give it another 5 or 10 minutes depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil for 5 minutes before serving.
Transfer the chicken to a platter or several pieces of chicken onto each individual plate. Add a generous portion of warm bulgur and a good dollop of hummus or muhammara.
When cold weather comes around I really long for some simple hearty one pot meals like braised pork with cabbage and potatoes. It’s got its northern European roots, Poland comes to mind, but surprisingly it’s a combination you will find, with regional adaptations, in northern Asian countries as well.
With a recent cold snap, well relatively speaking that is here in northern Thailand, my mind was made up. I was having a braising pot of pork, cabbage and potatoes on the stove steaming up the windows by sundown.
The recipe that follows is decidedly Asian in flavor but otherwise much like a traditional western version in that it embodies the idea of hearty cold weather fare.
Fennel Spiced Braised Pork with Cabbage, and Potatoes serves 4
- 2.2 pounds/ 1 kilo pork tenderloin
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- water to cover
Place the salt, sugar, thyme, and bay leaves in a large non-reactive bowl. Fill the bowl about half full with warm water and stir until the salt and sugar has completely dissolved. Let the water cool to room temperature and then submerge the pork into the brine, adding more water if needed to completely cover the pork. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
Fennel seasoning mix
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
Combine the fennel seeds, peppercorns, and sea salt in a small mortar. Coarsely grind with a pestle and set aside to use later.
Braised pork, cabbage, and potatoes
Needed: a large braising pan or Dutch oven with lid
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 rashers bacon, thinly sliced
- brined pork loin, patted dry
- fennel seasoning mix
- 2 cups finely diced onions
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 4 large heads Chinese cabbage, trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced crosswise
- ½ cup Chinese Shao Hshing cooking wine (or white wine)
- 1 additional teaspoons fennel seasoning mix
- 2.2 pounds /1 kilo small gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into bite size wedges
- hot chicken stock or water
- sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c
Place a large braising pan or Dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat. When hot add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the bacon. Stir and turn the bacon frequently so the fat is rendered and the bacon is evenly lightly browned. Promptly remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a plate to use later. Lower the heat briefly while you season the pork.
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.
Generously rub the pork tenderloin with fennel seasoning mix, firmly pressing the seasoning mix into the surface of the pork on all sides, so it sticks to the flesh.
Turn the heat up to medium high. When the fat is hot add the seasoned pork and brown on all sides. When evenly browned remove the pork to a platter and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium low and add the onions and garlic to the pan. Stir frequently until the onions soften and become translucent, about 5 minutes.
Then begin adding the sliced cabbage by the hand full, stirring until it wilts before adding the next hand full. Continue adding the remaining cabbage until it is all in the pan and wilted. Stir in the Shao Hshing wine (or white wine) and the reserved cooked bacon. Fold the bacon into the cabbage until evenly distributed. Season the mixture with 1 additional teaspoons of the fennel seasoning and stir to combine.
Place the pork tenderloin loosely coiled over the cabbage in the center of the pan and tuck the potato wedges pushed in and around the edges and in between the pork loin. Add enough hot stock or water to reach the top of the contents in the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and transfer it to the oven and cook for 45 minutes.
Check the pan after 45 minutes and add more hot stock to again to reach the top of the contents in the pan. Cover and return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and remove the lid. The pork should be very tender and easily pulled apart with a fork. Taste the broth and season with more salt and pepper if needed and stir to combine.
Set the pot aside, covered, for 10 minutes.
Spoon the cabbage and potatoes onto individual plates. Using two forks pull chunks of the pork apart and place them in the center of the potatoes and cabbage. Generously spoon both over all and serve.
Come the Holiday season pumpkin pies are bound to be on many a holiday table. There are those who love pumpkin pie and those who don’t. I have to admit store bought pumpkin pies can often be pretty uninspiring. However, years ago I came upon Nancy Silverton’s pumpkin pie recipe in her Pastries from the La Brea Bakery cookbook and garnered new perspectives on how beguiling a pumpkin pie can actually be. All of Nancy Silverton’s cookbooks, and MOZZA in particular, are my favorite resources for some guidance or inspiration. Her taste is impeccable, her recipes are refined and exacting, and you can be confident that the results will deliver perfection.
Bear with me. This recipe is indeed more complicated than opening a can of pumpkin puree, tossing it together with a few spices and a couple of other ingredients, and popped into the oven in 10 minutes. Just to reassure you, this pumpkin pie really is worth all the extra effort invested. I’ve had rave reviews every time I’ve served it. This is a recipe you will be revisiting for beautiful finishing flourishes for your holiday meals for years to come.
I have adapted Nancy Silverton’s recipe with a few minor adjustments.
An Unforgettable Pumpkin Pie makes 1 10 inch pie
I would suggest roasting the yams and pumpkin, pureeing them both, and making the pastry dough the day before making the pie. Having all the ingredients readily at hand makes assembling the pie a whole lot easier on baking day.
The yams and pumpkin can be baked together. Preheat the oven to 400 f / 200 c. Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Remove the seeds and stringy membranes and place on a baking tray, skin side down, along with the yams. Brush all with olive oil and transfer to the oven. Both the pumpkin and the yams will take about 45 minutes. The pumpkin should be very tender and a deep orange. The yams should be very soft and almost bursting when finished. Remove the skins from both. Mash the yams and pumpkin separately and set aside to cool. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate.
Special item: 10 inch pie pan
For the dough:
- 4 oz/113 g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco), chilled
- 2¾ cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt (or flaked sea salt)
- ¼ cup ice water
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the well chilled cubed butter, shortening, and salt and mix on low for 2 to 3 minutes until softened. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix another 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low between each addition, until it is the consistency of a coarse meal. Begin adding small amounts of the ice water just until the dough begins to come together. You will probably will not need to use all the water and by all means do not over mix!
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed a few times to gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, flatten each into a disc and wrap in plastic film. Chill one of the discs for at least 2 hours or overnight. Freeze the remaining dough for another use.
When the dough is well chilled, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11 inch circle about ¼ inch thick, flouring the dough as necessary. Fold the dough into quarters and place the counterpoint in the middle of the pie pan. Unfold the dough and arrange it it evenly in the pan, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges. Trim the dough, leaving ½ inch of the dough hanging over the edge. Fold the ½ inch section of the dough underneath so it is even with the rim of the pan to create a thicker edge. Make a scalloped edge by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of the other hand. Continue around the entire edge of the dough. Chill until firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.
Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c
Lightly brush the entire interior of the pie shell with melted butter. Line the bottom and sides of the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or metal pie weights, making sure the beans or weights are pressed tightly into the corners of the dough. Bake for about 25 minutes until the top of the crust is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes. Then remove the beans or pie weights and carefully peel off the paper lining. If the bottom of the pie shell is not uniformly browned, return it unlined to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes until fully cooked and lightly browned.
While the pie shell is baking you can prepare the filling.
For the filling:
- 2 cups roasted yam puree
- ½ cup roasted pumpkin puree
- 2 oz/ 57 g unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
- 2 extra large organic eggs
- 1 extra large organic egg yolk
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tablespoon brandy (or rum)
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or flaked sea salt)
- 1 very small pinch of ground cloves
1 small pinch white pepper
Place the yam and pumpkin purees into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process until very smooth.
In a small sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of a knife scrape out the flesh and seeds and add to the butter along with the pod. Swirl the pan to insure the butter cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma. Promptly remove from the heat and set aside. Remove the vanilla pod and reserve it for another use. Once the butter is cooled and the black burned bits have settled to the bottom of the pan carefully pour the butter into the food processor leaving most of the black bits behind in the pan. If you are using Vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean, add it to the food processor along with the butter. Puree the ingredients in the processor until smooth.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, cream, milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, brandy or rum, ginger, allspice, salt, cloves, and pepper. Add the pumpkin yam mixture and whisk until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Pour the pie filling into the pie shell to about ¼ inch below the top edge. Giggle the pan to level the filling.
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 to 5 gratings fresh whole nutmeg
Lightly brush the scalloped rim of the blind baked pastry shell with milk.
Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the pie filling.
Place the pie in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour, checking the pie after 40 minutes. The filling should be just set without quivering. Do not be tempted to over bake as this will cause the surface of the pie to crack while cooling.
Cool the pie on a cooling rack until it is room temperature and ready to serve. If you intend serve the pie later, seal with plastic film and refrigerate. Be sure to ring the pie back to room temperature for serving.
Serving: Serve at room temperature with a lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with a small dash of vanilla extract.
I just love Spanish food and was recently watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekends; Cadiz (BBC TWO 2016). Cadiz, in western Andalusia, is a part of Spain I have not visited. I understand it is a little more difficult to get to so not inundated with tourists like the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The old city’s whitewashed buildings shimmer and the food and wines beckon. This is a cook’s dream and definitely on my list of must visits.
Andalusia is the southern most autonomous community of Spain. It lies south of the Iberian peninsula with a coastline fronting both the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean Sea. With Morocco just to the south, it is often refereed to as the gateway to Africa. Ancient Andalusian ports were established by the Phoenicians. They were later occupied by the Romans, and then ruled by the Moors for more than 800 years. Christopher Columbus sailed from the Andalusian port of Cadiz for his second voyage to the Americas in 1493 and returned to the Andalusian port of Sanlucar de Barrameda. Today Andalusia is not only famous for its rich cultural past, but for its spectacular seafood, its superb sherry production and of course…Flamenco! This is Spain!
Duly inspired, I just had to get into the kitchen and cook up something that brought some of the flavors of this region of Spain to life. Spanish food is remarkably direct, full of earthy flavors, and is as colorful and alive as the Spanish themselves. The next best thing to taking a trip to Cadiz!
Pisto is a more robust Spanish version of the French ratatouille, which always includes eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.For this recipe I have introduced the smoky flavor of Spanish red picante pimenton. I have also added meats, including pork, serrano ham, and Spanish chorizo if you like. Pisto is usually served as it is, but to my mind this pisto, or ragu if you like, makes a very robust and flavorsome sauce for pasta. A flourish of grated Monchego cheese finishes this pasta perfectly.
…or Serve as a tapa at room temperature with shaved Monchego.
Andalusian Pisto with Pasta Serves 4 to 6
- 3 tablespoons Spanish olive oil
- 375 g/ 13 oz ground pork
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and finely diced
- 150 g/5 ½ oz thinly sliced dry cured Serrano ham, cut into small pieces
- 1 large (or 2 small) eggplant, unpeeled, diced into ½ inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
- ½ teaspoon toasted coriander seeds, ground
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, crumbled
- 500 g/18 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons picante smoked Spanish paprika (El Avon or La Chinata brands)
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- water as needed to thin sauce
- 3 tablespoons dry Spanish sherry
- 50 g/1 ¾ oz thinly sliced Spanish Chorizo, halved (optional)
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced broad leaf parsley
- Manchego cheese (curado 6 months) for grating
- pasta of choice, cooked al dente
Heat a large skillet medium high heat. Add the olive oil and when it begins to smoke add the ground pork and cook until the pork begins to brown. Lower the heat to medium and using a slotted spoon transfer the pork to a bowl and set aside.
Promptly add the onions to the skillet and saute until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Then add the sliced peppers and the serrano ham and saute until the peppers are softened. Stir in the reserved browned ground pork until the ingredients are well combined,
Add the eggplant to the skillet and season with the cumin, coriander, and marjoram. Continue sauteing until the eggplant is slightly colored and softened.
Add the crushed tomatoes and bring the contents of the pan to a simmer. Season with Spanish paprika, salt, and ground pepper. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer. After about 15 minutes stir in the sherry and continue cooking another 10 minute or so. Add the chorizo if using and cook until the sauce is the right consistency, adding water to thin the sauce if needed .
While the pisto is simmering heat a large pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Add salt and the pasta and stir from time to time until the pasta is cooked al dente.
Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning to your liking.
When you are ready to serve drain the pasta and place it back into the pot and stir in some of the pisto to evenly coat the pasta. Transfer the pasta to individual pasta plates. Top the pasta with more pisto and scatter the parsley over each serving. Add a good grating of Manchego over each portion and serve.