3 delicious recipes from Sabrina Gayhour’s cookbook Sirrocco – the best thing to happen to my kitchen for years!
It is an inescapable fact that we are all a product of our era. My mother, who in her heyday regularly hosted dinner parties for 18 (complete with choice of puddings) is very much a woman of her generation – now in her 80s she draws the line. Her cookbook collection – Robert Carrier, Fanny (titter) Craddock and good ole Dehlia – is a paean to her glory.
I view it all affectionately with understanding and a fondness for old school cheesecake. No problem, old dogs – new tricks. I get it. Not that I’m calling my mum an old dog you understand, perish the thought!
The thing is, I live in fear of the culinary rut. Of slavish devotion to the kitchen idols of my coming of age that blind me to the fact food has moved on. In the 90s I loved Peter Gordon and his Sugar Club ways with scallops and chillis. Lemongrass – hooray. We were all back from Thailand and reading The Beach. As food though, it was very much of its time and I wouldn’t want it to define me ad infinitum.
On the other hand, I’m not saying I throw myself in uncritical abandon at every foodie trend that emerges. A little trickle of the Nordic craze has permeated my cooking but I remain to be convinced that this Nomo-esque wizardry can be achieved by home cooks. I’ll let you know after my trip to Iceland in the summer….
I suppose for me it’s the balance that’s important. New cookbooks come out all the time. But books that genuinely expand my knowledge and experience of food are few and far between. When such books/cooks appear….well, frankly I get quite excited.
Saved from the Rut
Sirrocco by Sabrina Ghayour does this and more. Most recipe books are like albums – remember those, in days before we consumed our music in bitesize downloads? – albums were/are a mix of A and B-sides. Sirrocco is straight A-sides smash hit.
I had friends round for dinner and for the first time ever, every single recipe came from Sirrocco. It was a delicious meal and super easy to pull off as the pork just did its thing low and slow over six fabulous smelling hours. I made the pud and salads in advance, and accepted the offer from a guest to bring a starter. Job done.
Six-hour Eastern-spiced pork belly
Slow cooked pork belly is a marvel. So juicy and meltingly tender. The citrus and spices add depth and flavor as well as saving the dish from tipping over into an overly-rich confection. I’ve made this several times now, a couple of times as a Sunday roast stand in. I serve it on a carving board in the middle of the table that is picked clean – the crackling is outstanding.
1.5kg pork belly
4-5 tbsp garlic oil
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
5 green cardamom pods, cracked
3 black cardamom pods
1 finger-sized piece of cinnamon bark (not cinnamon sticks)
175ml cloudy apple juice
Juice of 2 oranges
3 heaped tsp sea salt flakes, crushed
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius/gas 2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Score the fat on the top of the pork belly in strips about 1cm apart. Rub the garlic oil all over
In a small bowl, combine the ground coriander, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric and work the spice rub all over the meat. Place the joint on to the prepared baking tray. Add the green and black cardamom pods and the cinnamon bark into the baking tray along with the apple and orange juices and half the crushed sea salt flakes, then pour in the 175ml of water up to where the fat begins (some pork bellies are taller than others so you may not need all the liquid). Sprinkle the remaining salt on top of the pork and rub it in. Roast, without basting, for five and a half hours (don’t be tempted to baste it, as you won’t get crispy crackling if you do). Top up with water if necessary.
Increase the oven temperature to 240 degrees Celsius/gas 9, and roast for a further 30 minutes or until the pork belly is deep brown and crispy. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with kitchen foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Warm Salad of Spiced Kale, Bulgar Wheat and Puy Lentils
I particularly enjoy serving hearty middle eastern salads with roast meat. They are a great accompaniment to rich feasting and look wonderfully exotic on the table. This one’s a corker. Sabrina calls it a warm salad but on this occasion I made it in advance and served it at room temperature. It was perfect, just as good as when I’ve eaten it warm.
Serves 6 as a side dish
100 g dried Puy lentils
100 g bulgar wheat
olive oil, for frying
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
6 fat garlic cloves, bashed and thinly sliced
2 long red chillies, thinly sliced
400 g kale, stalks removed, leaves roughly torn up
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons and juice of 1
2 – 3 generous handfuls of pumpkin seeds
100 g feta cheese, crumbled
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve
Boil the Puy lentils and bulgar wheat separately according to the packet instructions, then rinse immediately under cold water until cold. Drain well, then combine them in a large mixing bowl.
Set a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, drizzle in a little olive oil, then add the cumin seeds. Once the seeds begin to sizzle and pop, add the garlic and the chilli slices and stir well, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn. Meanwhile, wash the kale leaves and drain, without shaking off excess water (which will add moisture during the cooking process). Set aside.
When the garlic has sweated and is translucent, add the dry spices and lemon zest and stir well. Add a little more oil if the spices dry up too much. Add the slightly wet kale to the pan (it should sizzle) and stir for 1 minute to ensure the garlic and spice mixture coats the leaves well. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow the contents to steam for 2 minutes. Stir well again and take the pan off the heat. Replace the lid for another couple of minutes.
Lift off the saucepan lid and transfer the contents of the pan to the bowl containing the Puy lentil and bulgar wheat. Give the ingredients a good mix, pour in the lemon juice, season generously with salt and pepper and add a little extra drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, then stir in the pumpkin seeds.
Transfer to a large serving platter. Crumble the feta cheese over the top and serve with lemon wedges.
Date, Orange, Almond and Watercress Salad
Dates and oranges are a date made in heaven. If I were inclined to be camp I would say they are besties. Served with the pork the dates and almonds provide textural contrast, the oranges accentuate the citrus in the pork and watercress provides some welcome greenage.
Serves 6 as a side dish
150g Medjool dates, pitted and each sliced into 4
50g toasted almonds
For the dressing
2 tbsp clear honey
2tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
sea salt and ground black pepper
Use a sharp knife to peel the oranges. Cut a round disc of peel off the top and base of the orange. Then, working from the top of the fruit downwards, cut away the remaining peel and peel in strips until the entire orange is peeled. Cut the oranges in half across the middle and cut them into slices that are just less than 1cm thick – you’ll get roughly 5 slices per orange half.
Arrange the watercress, orange and dates on a plate and sprinkle over the toasted almonds. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, shake, drizzle over the salad and serve.
(The salad can be made a couple of hours in advance if covered. Uncover and drizzle the dressing immediately before serving).
Blackberry (or raspberry) Tart with Pistachio Frangipane
Quite honestly, as I type this I can still taste this pudding. It was one of the most delicious puddings I’ve ever eaten. The morning after found a couple of slices left, looking vulnerable and endangered, as my two boys, still in PJs, hovered over them with forks. I am not proud to say that I grabbed a fork too and went into battle over every last morsel on the plate. Btw. Her trick for making spray-on-skinny pastry is a revelation. I’ve been using it for everything from gingerbead biscuits to shortbread.
Makes 2 pastry cases and enough filling for 1 20cm tart.
Serves 6 – 8
For the pastry:
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
125g unsalted butter
30g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten together
For the filling:
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
75g caster sugar
70g pisatchio slivers or skinless kernels, finely ground
1 heaped tsp vanilla bean paste
12g plain flour
200g blackberries (or raspberries)
First, make the pastry: Put the flour, butter and sugar and salt into a mixing bowl (or food processor) and rub the ingredients to gather until the mixture has a sand-like consistency. (Or pulse in food processor). Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the beaten egg. Using a fork, work the sandy mixture in into the beaten egg until the mixture is even, then form into a ball.
Dust a clean surface with some flour and knead the pastry dough for about 1 minute. Halve the dough, wrap 1 portion in cling film and refrigerate or freeze to use another time. Place a large length of cling film on your work surface and position the remaining portion of dough in the centre. Loosely cover the pastry dough with another piece of cling film. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough between the layers of cling film until it is a little larger than a 20cm-diameter loose-based tart or flat tin. Peel away the top sheet of cling film. Place your hand under the cling film below the pastry dough, lift it gently and drape it into the tin.
Peel away the cling film and scrunch it up into a ball. Use this cling film ball to press the dough gently into the groves of the tart tin and smooth out the base. Repair any cracks or tears using any excess overhanging dough. Once the tin is lined, press a rolling pin over the top edge of the tin, which will neatly cut away any excess pastry, leaving perfectly levelled edges all around the shell. Refrigerate for 30 mins.
Meanwhile, make the pistachio frangipane. Mix all the ingredients together except the blackberries, in a bowl until smooth and set aside. Approximately 10 minutes before your pastry is ready pre-heat the oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4.
Remove the pastry case from the fridge and pour in the frangipane. Place the blackberries on the surface of the filling gently, without pushing them down into the frangipane. Bake for 45 mins or until golden brown on top.
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