Sunday, March 15, 2015


Hello. It's been a while. It feels like the gaps just keep getting longer... And the more they stretch out, the harder it is to get back on the horse. I had originally intended to write about the following recipe back in January. But the world fell apart, and it didn't seem like the right time to press 'publish'. It's now halfway through March.

To be honest, it kind of seems more appropriate to wish you all a happy new year now: the end of this month will mark the sixth blogiversary of A Foodie's Quest; and just around the corner is Spring, which has always felt more like the actual start of the year to me, as opposed to mid-Winter January. So happy new year to you all! May the Spring Equinox bring you good cheer and great fortune! It is supposed to be a fabulous one.

I am not really one for new year's resolutions: no sooner is one uttered that it gets broken. Don't get me wrong, I am far from being above tweaks and corrections, I just don't want to think about them on the official first day of the year. Out with the old, in with the new, and all that jazz... But, if there ever was one resolution I could stick to, it would be to eat more kale. In fact, I am considering buying the t-shirt. After the over-indulgence that was Christmas 2014, I felt a rare need to eat an inordinate amount of raw foods, especially kale and cabbage. Strange, I know, in the midst of a chilly winter, there I was chomping away at huge plates of raw food, both at home and at work.

Kale has long been touted as the most super-duper of superfoods, and for good reasons. More importantly though, it actually tastes nice. Even raw. Much nicer, in fact, than white or red cabbage. Though raw savoy cabbage and Brussels sprouts are close runner-ups. It might be a texture thing: the crinkly-ness of the leaves renders them less squeaky than smooth-leaved cabbage. I have a thing about squeaky foods... That's why I dislike celery and water chestnuts.

My intense affair with raw food fizzled out after a few weeks, but the kale stuck around for the long haul. I've only just recently weaned myself off of kale because it's no longer available at my local supermarket. However, this salad does not rely on kale alone: the all-important dressing can be drizzled over bog standard cabbage -in fact, the tough-looking outer layers of savoy cabbage are a great substitute for its pricier cousin kale- or even sturdy winter greens such as endive, escarole, and Brussels sprouts. I may even be persuaded to consume raw chard if it were doused with this fabulous vinaigrette.

Alas, pictures of the actual January salad have not survived the long hiatus, so you'll have to use your imagination. Keep in mind that the main purpose of said salad was to detox after I overindulged during the holidays. Hence, while some ingredients may seem a tad incongruous, they contribute a great deal towards well-being and flavour. So, do give the full recipe a try before adjusting it to taste.

Detox Vinaigrette
Yields 125ml/½ cup

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced or grated
3cm/1" piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
2 tsp ground turmeric
freshly ground black pepper 
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sugar, or other sweetener such as honey
45ml/ 3Tbs soya sauce
60ml/ 4Tbs cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1 organic or unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
60ml/ 4Tbs toasted sesame oil
90ml/ 6Tbs olive oil
3 tsp sesame seeds

In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except for the cumin and sesame seeds.
Heat a dry pan until piping hot, and toast the cumin and sesame seeds. Remove from the heat when the cumin embalms the kitchen.
Add the seeds to the dressing, give it a whirl, and adjust the seasoning.

The vinaigrette will keep for a week in the refrigerator, use on salads or as a marinade for fish, meat or firm tofu. Better yet, drizzle straight onto an industrial amount of shredded kale, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or any other sturdy greens. Throw in some cooked chickpeas or sprouted beans; pomegranate kernels; dried cranberries or sour cherries. Leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes before tucking in.

Any left-overs can be served as is, but will benefit from the addition of orange or grapefruit segments, a few slivered green onions. If you still have left-overs on the third day, jazz them up with some couscous, bulgur wheat, sprouted (or not) grains, some chopped basil or coriander, and add a drizzle of fresh dressing. Should the salad see yet another day, finish it off with some dukkah.

Bon app'!

Friday, February 20, 2015

#SaveThe Arctic

Last year, Greenpeace ran a campaign to get Lego to cut promotional ties with Shell Global. The campaign was a success: Lego officially announced that they were cutting ties with the petroleum multinational just before the holiday season. However, the fight to save the Arctic is ongoing. Even though it may still feel like winter where you are, things are not as they should be in the North Pole: Shell and other oil companies are trying to get a larger footprint in the Arctic.  This video is a little cheeky reminder of what is inevitable if we continue to turn a blind eye to the threats of climate change.

I've been told that there were too many political rants on A Foodie's Quest, that a food blog should be about food, and nothing but the food. They had entirely missed the point of my quest: this foodie is looking for beautiful, sustainable, and clean ways to feed a growing population. To eat IS a political act. One cannot truly enjoy a sumptuous plateful, and turn a blind eye to the impact caused by the act of feeding 7 billion humans. To do so would be unconscientious. To grossly paraphrase something I heard in a BBC interview: food and politics are Siamese twin... as food-lovers, we must not only feed but also prevent situations that could impede our feeding of others.

Bon app'!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Now or Never

It's the time of the year to bottle up summer in a jar. Grab the first bushel of luscious, ripe, red peppers you can get your hands on folks! The spirit of summer can well be preserved in a jar of thick tomato sauce, but roasting a tray of red peppers will also preserve summer without taking too much of your time. Although you can buy roasted peppers, they are easy to make, and the flavour will definitely be better. Any pepper can be roasted, including chilli peppers, but do try to avoid green peppers, as roasting them will intensify their bitterness instead of enhancing their non-existent sweetness.

Roasted Peppers

Ripe bell peppers
vegetable oil, for cooking
olive oil, for preserving
1 peeled garlic clove for each pepper, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 250 °C/500°F.
Line a baking tray with foil, and pile on the peppers. 
If using garlic, cut a slit into each pepper, and stuff with a clove.
Drizzle with oil.
When the oven is nice and hot, turn on the upper grill, and place the tray of peppers just above the middle of your oven.
Roast until the peppers become charred and begin to blister, about 5 minutes. 
Using tongs, turn the peppers over, and roast until they are more or less blackened on all sides. It will take about 25 to 40 minutes.
Transfer the peppers to a heat-proof bowl, and cover with cling film or a lid. 
Set aside until the peppers are completely cooled.
Once cooled, the charred skin should slip off easily. Discard the tail and the seeds. 
Keep the garlic cloves.

The peppers will keep in a jar, covered with olive oil, for at least two weeks. However, for long term preservation, it is best to freeze the peppers. To really extend the summer warmth, try the following recipes: Romesco sauce, or a luscious mayonnaise. For something less ordinary, whip up a batch of Muhammara, a regular on North African and Middle Eastern mezze platters. You might have met it under different guises -and with a different name- all over the Mediterranean. In fact, the Spanish Romesco may well be a descendant of the Moors' muhammara...

Yields about 250ml/1 cup

6 roasted red peppers
3 cloves of garlic, roasted if possible
100g/1 cup shelled walnuts
1 dried chili
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 Tbs pomegranate molasses, optional
2 Tbs bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste 
olive oil

In a dry pan, toast the spices individually until they are fragrant. The seeds should be a few shades darker, and the chili should be pliable (no longer brittle). Grind the spices in a mortar or a food processor.
Add the garlic, and reduce to a paste. The walnuts are added next, and roughly crushed.
Roughly chop the peppers. Mix in with the other ingredients, and reduce to a chunky purée.
Season with salt, pepper and the pomegranate molasses, if using.
Add just enough breadcrumbs to make a sturdy, but not overly stiff, mix.
Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Serve muhammara with fresh or crisp pita wedges, along with some babaghanouj, hummus and perhaps a sprinkle of dukkah. Muhammara is lovely instead of tomatoes on pasta or a pizza base, and is wonderful dolloped over new potatoes -instant potato salad! It will keep for about a week in the fridge, or 3 months in the freezer. If the breadcrumbs are an issue, add a few more handfuls of walnuts to keep the muhammara nice and thick. Although the pomegranate molasses is not an essential ingredient to this recipe, it does lend a pleasing sweet-tartness, but it can be left out if sourcing is difficult.

Bon app'!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

As Good As It Gets

Something happens to the air in August: summer is far from over, the sun still beats down on you with great vigour, but as soon as night dims the light, a chill just settles in. The windows are no longer kept wide open throughout the evening, cardigans are dug out from the back of the closet...I'm still in denial of the imminent demise, and I have found the culinary equivalent of that too short summer dress I wear over leggings just to feel like Summer and I are still hanging out.

It's called dukkah. Hailing from Egypt, this condiment has several different spellings, and can take all sorts of forms, but it is essentially crushed nuts with spices. It is traditionally served with bread and olive oil, but it has infinite uses. It can be sprinkled over any and all matter of foods that need a kick of exoticism, or simply a bit of added crunch. The nuttiness twined with spiced warmth feels like a lazy summer day, and we can all use more of those!

Although, I've only recently been introduced to dukkah, it's been all the rage in Australia and New Zealand for a while and has greatly evolved from its original incarnation made with hazelnuts. The version below combines a few different nuts and seeds, but you can play around with the ingredients and proportions to suit your taste and cupboard content.

Yields 250g or about 1cup

50g/ ¼cup each blanched almonds, pistachios, cashews, and white sesame seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp back peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 clove garlic
2 lemons, preferably unwaxed or organic

Heat a frying pan until nearly smoking, and dry toast the seeds and nuts individually. Alternatively, the seeds and nuts can be toasted in a hot oven until golden brown.
Using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, crush the toasted nuts until most are reduced to a fine dust and others are still coarse chunks.
Crush the toasted spices along with the salt until fairly fine. Leave the sesame seeds whole.
Zest the two lemons, and grate the garlic clove. 
Mix all the ingredients together.

Sprinkle over anything immediately, or keep in an airtight jar indefinitely -if it actually hangs around for that long. Dukkah is great for jazzing up hummus that is a little too blah, or adding a hint of nuttiness to a salad. But I think my favourite thing so far is to have dukkah simply sprinkled over a tomato. Divine!

Bon app'!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Salt of the Earth


Have you noticed any changes lately? It was so subtle at first that some of you may have missed it.... Yeah, I thought so, nothing gets past you! The days are getting shorter. It was hardly noticeable at first: one day, you're puttering about the garden until ten; the next, you slink out of work and it's pitch-black. And yet, August is far from being the end of Summer. For those of you who live in places where the night sky still offers unfettered views of the stars, there are the Perseids to look forward to on  August 12th. Can there be a better excuse for organising a midnight picnic? I don't think so.

I would normally suggest that a late night nosh be kept simple -more along the lines of liquid nourishment...-but if you need something a tad more substantial to sink your teeth into, how about a quick pickle to munch on? This pickle was inspired by a summer snack my mum often dishes out: cucumber sticks and miso. Instead of eating some gloopy, creamy dip with crudités, we would get a salty, savoury hit with each bite of cucumber. It is rather addictive.

Any miso paste can be used for these pickles, however, if you are a bit of miso novice, start with white miso. It tends to be sweeter and milder than the darker miso. In fact, I would stay away from the really dark miso (such as buckwheat) for this recipe, as their pungency may overpower the other flavours. While I normally use lemons for this pickle, you can play around with other citrus such as yuzu for a more authentic twist or even grapfruit.

Misozuke Pickles
Yields about 2cups/500ml

100g/4oz radishes
½ a cucumber
3 Tbs miso paste
1 lemon

Top and  tail the readishes, and cut in half.
Quarter the cucumber lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Chop into chunks more or less the same size as the halved radishes.
Zest and juice the lemon.
Mix all the ingredients together.

The pickles are ready to eat right away, but are best if they are allowed to rest for at least 20 minutes before being eaten. They will keep in the refrigerator for about three days. Serve these pickles alongside any Asian themed meal, or as an accompaniment for drinks.

 Bon app'!

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