Day into night at home / 08

A dose of celebration for cooking at home!

 

This week I write you from Puerto Rico. Having recently emerged from quarantine, I am now free to roam judiciously. I’m staying with my mom and thus using her ancient Kitchen Aid for all my baking. Whenever I’ve used this mixer over the years, I’ve noticed that the air takes on the scent of butter and sugar. (This also happens with the one I have at home, but not quite in the same heady way.) I don’t know if it’s the bowl in this mixer, which is slightly taller and narrower than the ones made in the last forty years, or if it’s the humidity in Puerto Rico that suspends the scent longer, but the air is filled with an irresistible creamy sweetness that makes me want to bake and bake. While taste may ultimately outshine all the other senses in the kitchen, scent is what entices us to come to the table. Not only is the smell of something delicious seductive and alluring, but our sense of smell is constantly, gently guiding us as we chop, brown, simmer, and bake. 

 

January always feels like a tricky month foodwise. What to eat when you’ve indulged so much that those things feel momentarily unappealing, and you simultaneously crave deeply comforting food? A veggie tagine is a soothing, nourishing dish—soft vegetables, brothy couscous, and warming spices are really lovely this time of year. For your main course this week you have two options—you can go the vegetarian route and do a butternut squash tagine with chickpeas and spices, or you can make the same dish but as a lamb stew. Both are great, but the lamb, of course, is a bit heartier. If you are making the lamb this whole menu will take about 3 hours to make and if not about two.

 

To start, a salad of halloumi, cucumbers, green grapes, and parsley. I could eat this any time of day—the salty cheese, crunchy cukes, herbaceous parsley, and tangy grapes are very complementary. If you can’t find halloumi, a cheese that can sometimes be elusive, queso fresco will work in a pinch.

 

For dessert, a tigernut flour sticky-toffee pudding. If you’ve never had sticky toffee before: it may be called a pudding, but it’s in essence a date cake with toffee sauce. You may have noticed I love tigernut flour—it’s nutritious, a prebiotic, and full of flavor. All-purpose flour is a workhorse. It’s the blank canvas of pastry, and I adore it, but when it makes sense I also like using different flours for the flavor and nutrition they bring to the table. Tigernut flour’s slightly spicy (think more cinnamon than chili), caramel taste really compliments the ginger, cardamom, and toffee in this pudding. That said, if you don’t want to source it you can make this cake with all-purpose flour as well; just substitute equal amounts of all-purpose for tigernut.  

 

A few final notes: I’ve been using a couscous brand called M’hamsa, which I order from Natoora in NY, but you can also find it online. This couscous, made in Tunisia, is really special. Each semolina grain is hand-rolled. This is the traditional way of making couscous and it makes for a fluffier, chewier grain. If you get some, you’ll never want to eat any other couscous again. 

 

Also, this dish would be just as tasty over rice if you can’t have gluten.

 

Buen provecho, Ana xx

 

 

 

 

Here’s your breakdown of the steps to make the menu:

 

  • soak your chickpeas the night before

  • next day pull lamb out from the fridge, if using, and the eggs and butter for the cake

  • salt the meat and let it loose its chill

  • chop your onion 

  • cook the onion in butter with spices

  • brown your lamb, if using. If not going on the chickpeas

  • make the sticky-toffee pudding

  • make the toffee sauce

  • peel, seed, and slice the squash—toss with oil, sprinkle with salt

  • clean up a little

  • cook the chickpeas if making lamb

  • roast the butternut squash

  • slice the cucumber and grapes

  • chop the pistachios

  • pick the parsley leaves   

  • make the couscous

  • grill the halloumi 

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