I’ve had a weird time in the kitchen of late.
We’ll begin with Friday night, shall we?
Planned: a sophisticated stove-top potato dish using the last of the mouth-puckeringly tart sorrel, painstakingly sheltered through the long, hot summer and lovingly watered whenever there was a little extra cooking water to spare. I even made a rich, roasted vegetable stock in which to cook the thing. Instead? A lumpy, bumpy, flavourless pile of mash, streaked with khaki green.
Saturday: A hot southern Indian curry of coconut, cashews and pumpkin. This was in fact quite a fine thing, beautiful to behold. Then I paired it with an incredibly lovely raita that tasted so right, but was so wrong – it too starred coconut. Having made ANZAC biscuits in the morning, I realized that I had gone through more than half a kilo of desiccated coconut in one day.
My teeth are still full of tiny shreds of the stuff.
Sunday: Post book shop work, an awful dinner in a restaurant chosen as a last resort because all the good places were fully-booked. Why do some restaurants think that it’s okay to serve your main meal within seconds, literally, of the starter being whipped away? And as for the piano (weird) and waiter who sang (very, very badly)…I may not eat out again for some time.
What went wrong?
Who knows? But things are back on track now.
Brussels sprouts are nearly at the end of their season. I often braise them with cream to make a rich, unctuous dish, but this dairy-free way shows off their versatility and charisma. Choose your sprouts wisely. Look for tightly budded, small heads no bigger than an un-shelled walnut for preference, and peel away any blemished leaves ruthlessly.
These are good picked at cold the next day, though not quite as lively. To make a more substantial meal, add triangles of tofu, marinated in tamari and toasted sesame oil before heavily crusting in sesame seeds and oven roasting or pan frying to crispness. Make sure you have everything ready by the stove, as this takes but a few minutes of work.
Adapted from a Colin Spencer recipe
1 tablespoon of light olive oil
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Zest and juice of 1 orange
½ teaspoon of sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon of Cointreau (or similar orange liqueur)
3 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
Finely chopped parsley
Take your sprouts and peel away any blemished leaves. Trim the base and quarter each one lengthways.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a fierce flame. Add the ginger, orange zest and sprouts and stir-fry over this high heat for about 2 minutes.
Add the orange juice, continuing to stir and fry until the juice almost evaporates (a fraction less than a minute).
Tip in the sugar, salt and the Cointreau, stir well to coat everything, and add the spring onions. Toss about for a moment or two and serve sprinkled with the parsley.