Thursday, 27 August 2009

Easy Strawberry Ice Cream: a taste of my childhood

Easy Strawberry Ice Cream: a taste of my childhood
The taste of home-made strawberry icecream can bring bring tears to my eyes, because it is such a sweet reminder of my childhood.

The heavenly frozen mixture of mashed, sweet strawberries, fresh cream and a zip of lemon juice is so much more than the sum of its parts: it has another taste, which is all its own. Every time I eat this I think of sitting, bare-legged, under the blossoming syringa trees that overhung our farm swimming pool.

The problem with making ice cream at home is that (unless you have an ice-cream machine), you have to keep beating the stuff every half an hour, as it freezes, to break up the ice crystals. With this mixture, you can get away with just two beatings during the freezing process, and although it might not taste as silken as shop ice cream, and may even have a few crunchy flakes, I promise you it will taste delicious.

This recipe uses shop-bought custard because I can't be bothered to make my own. You can use long-life custard, but you'll get a better result if you use a proper egg custard, such as Woolworths ready-made vanilla custard.

Strawberries have come into season in South Africa, and you can buy several punnets for a very good price at local greengrocers. The only important thing here is to use really tasty, perfumed strawberries: a gigantic, deep-crimson strawberry is of no use if it tastes like bath water. Really ripe, flavoursome strawberries have a distinctive, sweet, almost dusty fragrance.

Easy Strawberry Ice Cream

about 30 ripe, small strawberries, or 25 big ones
½ cup (125 ml) white granulated sugar (or more, if you like a really sweet ice cream)
1 cup (250 ml) ready-made custard, chilled
2/3 cup (160 ml) fresh cream
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

If you don't have an ice-cream maker, put a big metal bowl into your deep freeze. Pull or slice the green tops off the strawberries and cut them in half. Put them in a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and set aside for three-quarters of an hour, stirring once or twice. Put the strawberries and the syrup that has formed into the goblet of a liquidiser, or into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process to a fine purée.

(If you'd like some fruity chunks in your icecream, reserve a few halved strawberries for dicing and adding to the mixture just before you freeze it). Add the custard and the cream and blitz until well combined (but don't over-beat the mixture). Squeeze in just enough lemon juice - a teaspoon or so - to give the mixture a slight zip.

Pour the mixture into an icecream maker and process in the normal way. If you don't have such a gadget, tip the mixture into the chilled metal bowl and place in the deep freeze. Freeze for three to five hours (depending on how arctic your freezer is), whisking the mixture every hour - or more often - during that time.

Serve soon; this is best eaten on the day it's made.

Eat, straight from the dish, bare-legged, in the sun.

Serves 6 - 8

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Leg of Lamb with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Stuffing

The idea for roasting lamb this way comes from a photograph I cut out from a foodie magazine. Foolishly, I didn't keep the recipe; nor did I make a note of which magazine I took it from, so I had to make up the ingredients for the stuffing using classic lamb flavourings: lemon, garlic, rosemary, oregano and anchovies. If this is your recipe, thank you very much: I love it.

I slashed the lamb crossways, instead of lengthways (as it was cut in the picture I had), thinking this would make carving a breeze, which it did. Next time I make this, though, I am going to make the slashes shallower, because I found that the stuffing that was resting close to the bone was rather mushy and sticky. Another mistake (and this is what comes from not having a recipe to hand): I undercooked the lamb, presuming it would need a shorter cooking time due to the slashes. I was wrong, so I had to put it, half-carved, back into the oven to finish roasting.

My suggestion: use a meat thermometer to test for doneness or, if you don't have one, turn the cooked lamb over, cut a deep slit into its underside, and peek inside to make sure that the meat close to the bone is not raw and bloody, but very hot to the touch and a pale rosy pink (or a brown, depending on how you like your lamb done).

This would be very nice with a deboned, butterflied leg of lamb, but you will need to reduce the cooking time accordingly: ask your butcher.

Finally, please don't be hesitant about adding the anchovies, even if you loathe them. You will not detect a single fishy whiff in the stuffing: instead, there will a deep savoury note that will make your visitors cry out: 'But, darling, what did you put in this delicious stuffing?'

Leg of Lamb with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Stuffing

1 large leg of lamb (2.5- 3 kg)
3 slices day-old bread
1 10-cm sprig fresh rosemary
1 10-cm sprig fresh oregano (or 30 ml dried)
grated zest of a lemon
3 T (45 ml) olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely choppped
salt and milled black pepper
2 carrots, sliced
a whole onion, sliced, skin and all, into 1 cm slices
the juice of a large lemon
a glass of white wine

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Wipe the lamb with a clean, damp cloth and cut off any large chunks of fat. Using a very sharp knife, make a series of crossways slashes about 6-7 cm deep. Put the bread into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to crumbs. Add 1 T (15 ml) fresh rosemary needles and the same amount of fresh oregano leaves and whizz until the herbs are finely chopped. Tip into a bowl and add the lemon zest, 1 T (15ml) olive oil, the mashed anchovies and the chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Using your fingers, mix the stuffing so that it just holds together (like the mixture you'd stuff a chicken with). If it seems too dry and crumbly, add a little more olive oil or some lemon juice. Press the mixture loosely into the slashes you made in the lamb, and then tie up the joint with individual lengths of string, as shown in the picture. Don't worry if a little crumbly stuffing pokes out: it will cook to a lovely golden crunch.

Sprinkle the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice over the joint and season with salt and pepper. Arrange a small bed of sliced carrots and onions in a roasting tray and top with the rosemary and oregano twigs. Place the lamb on top and pour the wine around the lamb. Roast at 200°C for 35-40 minutes (or until it is beginning to crisp and brown on top), then reduce to 180°C and roast for a further hour and a half, or longer (see my notes, above, about doneness). Top up with a little white wine and/or lemon juice every now and then, so that there is always a little liquid in the pan. Remove from the oven. Place the joint in a ceramic dish, cover loosely with tin foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a platter in the still-warm oven. Snip off the strings. Carve the roast: first, holding your knife blade parallel to the leg bone and starting at the thick end of the leg, make a long sideways cut to separate the entire top section from the bone. Now make vertical cuts to separate the slices. Do the same on either side of the bone (a little reckless hacking may be called for here). Arrange the lamb on a platter and pour the pan juices over. Or use the pan juices to make a gravy (instructions below)

Lovely with a plain green salad and crispy roast potatoes.

Serves 6

To make a gravy:

Put the roasting pan, vegetables and all, on the hob and turn the heat onto high. Sprinkle 4 t (20 ml) flour into the pan and stir well, scraping to dislodge any golden residue. Cook for two or so minutes, or until the mixture is golden brown. Now pour in a cup of stock or stock/wine combination, and, using a whisk, stir vigorously until the sauce thickens and bubbles alarmingly. Thin the gravy with more stock, water or wine to the desired consistency (I know it's old-fashioned, but I like a thickish gravy), whisking hard. Turn down the heat to very low and and allow to bubble gently for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and strain into a gravy boat, pressing down on the roasted vegetables with the back of a soup ladle. If the gravy seems a bit pale add a dash of soy sauce or liquid gravy browning. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Spring Salad of Edamame Beans, Fennel, Avocado and Pancetta

I was intrigued to pick up a packet of edamame beans at my local Woolworths yesterday and, never having seen such a bean sold in the snowy tundras of South Africa, let alone tasted one, I bought them, chomped on them on the way home in the car, and hurried to my desk to Google them.

To my surprise, Google couldn't product a single decent description of them, until I realised I was ignorantly searching for 'endamame' with an N.

Once I'd amended my keyword to 'edamame', I learned that this beautiful jade-green beanlet is a green soybean, picked young in its pod.

The Woolworths package label told me that the beans are delicious quickly sautéed in butter, but I really liked the taste of them raw, so I made them into this salad, which has fennel for an aniseed crunch, avocado for silkiness, and a crumbling of frizzled pancetta for salty crispiness. If you can't find edamame beans, try this salad with shelled fresh peas. (And if you can't find pancetta, use streaky bacon instead.)

You can dress this salad with anything you like, but a light dressing of lemon juice and olive oil with a little garlic and a whisper of soy sauce was just right for me.

At the last minute I added a handful of young mustard greens (grown, tenderly, from seed, by my daughter in her little vegetable patch). Have you tried growing your own mustard greens? They sprout like weeds, mature quickly and have a lovely mustardy zing. The ones in the picture are the Florida Broadleaf variety.

This salad is delicious, but very filling, and very fart-producing: if you're serving this to friends, give them just a teacup each.

Spring Salad of Edamame Beans, Fennel, Avocado and Pancetta, with Lemon and Garlic Dressing

6 rashers of pancetta (or streaky bacon)
2 young bulbs of fresh fennel, plus a few of the feathery fennel leaves
1½ cups (375 ml) edamame beans (or fresh peas from the pod)
2 spring onions, white parts only, finely sliced
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 perfectly ripe, firm avocado
mustard greens [optional]

For the dressing:1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
3 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
100 ml olive oil
a pinch of white sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First prepare the pancetta. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high flame. When the pan is really hot, add a lick of oil and add the pancetta or bacon strips. Allow them to fry, undisturbed, until brown on the underneath. Flip them over, and cook for another minute or so, until they are brown and crisp. Remove from the pan, drain on a piece of kitchen paper, crumble into pieces and set aside.

Now make the dressing: whisk all the dressing ingredients together and set aside while you make the salad.

For the salad: Slice the fennel bulbs away from their stalks and peel off the tough outer leaves. Slice the bulbs in half, lengthways, and chip out the fibrous core, if there is one. Slice finely, as if you are slicing a leek. Finely chop one or two of the feathery fennel fronds. Put the fennel slices and chopped leaves into a bowl and add the edamame beans, chopped spring onions and chopped parsley.

Peel the avocado, remove the pip and peel, slice into neat cubes and add to the bowl along with the mustard greens. Tip over just enough dressing to coat all the ingredients and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle over the crumbled pancetta and add the mustard greens. Check the seasoning (this salad needs more salt than you would imagine).

Serve immediately.

Serves 4, as a starter or side dish.

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Friday, 21 August 2009

A wild craving finds its cure: Beetroot, Cumin and Garlic Dip

I don't often feel like plunging my face into a bowl of food and inhaling it like a starving piglet, but when I tasted the glorious scarletness of this beetroot dip for the first time, the taste pathways in my brain went beserk. There were sighs, there were low moans of pleasure, and there were showers of cortical sparks.

I don't know why my tastebuds (and my brain) were so excited and astonished by this addictive combination of earthy blood-red baby beetroot, warming ground cumin, crème fraîche and garlic, but what I can say is that this is the best dip I've tasted in many years, and that I intend to eat it every day - spread on toast, or over a baked potato, dobbled over a soup, or spooned directly from the bowl - until my body says it's had enough, and it's time to turn to horseradish or bitter chocolate or orange peel, or whatever my brain's flavour-du-jour is.

I first tasted this dip in Hout Bay, Cape Town, last week, when my sister Sophie casually whipped it up as a starter to be served before a delicious Cape-Malay style chicken curry made in advance by her nanny/au pair.

Sophie gave me the basic ingredients, although she couldn't, off-hand, remember the quantities.

So here is my version. If you don't feel like buying and baking fresh beetroot, use pre-prepared cooked fresh beetroot chunks, available in South Africa from Woolworths. But please, don't use pickled or canned beetroot, which tends to be so vinegary. This dish is best with freshly ground, toasted cumin seeds, but you can use pre-powdered cumin if it is very fresh.

Beetroot, Cumin and Garlic Dip

4 small fresh beetroot [or a pack of Woolworths beetroots chunks]
1 t (5 ml) cumin seeds
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and finely crushed
4 T (60 ml) crème fraîche, or sour cream or Greek yoghurt, or a combination
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Trim the leafy tops off the beetroot (but don't peel, or cut into, the bulbs), wrap tightly into a parcel of tin foil (or put in a lidded ceramic dish) place in the oven for an hour, or until completely tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Remove the parcel from the oven and allow to cool for half an hour. In the meantime, put the cumin seeds in a frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. Toss the cumin seeds until they are just warmed through and toasty, and then grind them to a fine powder in a mortar or coffee grinder.

Rub the skin off the beetroot with your fingers, cut off the tops and tails, chop roughly and place in a liquidizer or blender. Add the toasted cumin powder, the garlic, the crème fraîche (or yoghurt) and the olive oil and process to a fine puree (or a chunky one, depending on your preference). Taste the mixture: if it seems bland, add a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper.

Tip the mixture into a bowl and top with a shower of cumin, a lick of olive oil and perhaps a little yoghurt.

Serves 6, as a snack Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Slow-cooking with a wonderful Wonderbag: easy Chilli Beef Tacos

The Wonderbag amazed me.
I am bowled over by the Wonderbag: a simple, brilliant, energy-saving South African innovation.

I'd heard of this product but never managed to get my sticky paws on one. When I carried my bag - which looks like a bean bag with a drawstring - home, I couldn't help but feel sceptical. Although it's a beautiful thing (my bag is covered in gorgeous navy Shweshwe cloth; see left and below), it seemed improbable to me that a polycotton bag stuffed with little polystyrene beads would hold food at a sufficiently high temperature for long periods. How wrong I was.

I was astonished, the first time I used the bag, to discover that the pot handles were so hot (after it had nestled in the bag for a full six hours) that I needed oven gloves to lift it out. What's more, every single dish I've tried in it has turned out perfectly, except for a pot of rice, which I foolishly left in the bag for two hours (oh me of little faith!). When I took it out, it was so overcooked I could have plastered a wall with it. (Instructions for cooking rice, quinoa and pap properly here.)

You can read all about the bag, its incredible energy-saving capacity and its potential to alleviate grinding rural poverty, here.

The Wonderbag is one of Africa’s first projects to be registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project. In a nutshell, this means that means that for every wonderbag sold, verified carbon offsets will be traded on the international market.

From a cooking point of view, a Wonderbag can do exactly what a conventional slow cooker (or very low oven) can do, but it uses a fraction of the electricity. There are two stages to cooking a meal in a Wonderbag: first, you bring your pot of food to the boil on a conventional hot plate or hob. When it reaches boiling point, you clamp on a tight-fitting lid, let it simmer for a few more minutes, then transfer it immediately to the bag. A little cushion fits snugly on top, and a sturdy drawstring pulls up the edges of the bag to form a perfectly insulated container. The contents of the pot remain at a whisper below boiling point for hour after hour, making the bag perfect for slow-cooked stews, curries, soups, casseroles and even potroasts.

Some important tips: if you open the bag before the end of the cooking time, the temperature will drop. If you can't resist the temptation to peek, make sure to bring the contents of the pot back up to a boil before you replace it in the bag.

Second, never put a warm or lukewarm pot in the bag, because bacteria will burst forth and multiply. (With two exceptions: the Wonderbag is ideal for making yoghurt, and I have used it with great success to hold delicate hollandaise and Béarnaise sauces at the correct temperature for up to an hour.)

Third, you will get best results if your pot is almost full (it's vital to choose the correct-sized pot for the amount of ingredients it holds).

Fourth, make sure that there is enough liquid just to cover the ingredients. Finally, it pays to give the bag a gentle shake every hour or so - without opening it - to ensure that the ingredients are well mingled during the cooking process.

Here is a quick beef chilli I made for the kids last night. I will never make chilli or a bolognaise sauce on top of the stove again. You can serve this in tacos, or wraps, or on its own in a bowl, topped with all the lovely crunchy bits. (It was this very dish that persuaded my teens to start loving salad when they were kids.)

Note, 5 August 2013: I've updated and amended this blog post to repair the broken links so they point you to the new Wonderbag site.

Wonderbag Chilli Beef Tacos

3 Tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 kg lean minced (ground) beef
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large red or green pepper (capsicum), chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 x 200 g tin chopped Italian tomatoes, or tomato-and-onion mix
½ cup (125 ml) white wine
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) coriander powder
1 tsp (5 ml) red chilli flakes[optional, and to taste]
2 tsp  (10 ml) dried oregano
1 x 200 g tin kidney beans and its liquid
salt and freshly milled black pepper, to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot (it needs to be a pot with its own tight-fitting lid). Brown the minced beef, over a high heat, in two or three batches. Tip the cooked beef into a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot, turn the heat down to medium, add the onion and pepper and fry until just softened (about 4 minutes). Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for exactly one more minute, without allowing the garlic to brown.  Return the beef mince to the pot and add in all the remaining ingredients.

The liquid should just cover the mince; if there is not enough liquid, add a little water, wine or stock.

Bring to the boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook at over a medium flame for about 4 minutes, or until the pot is very hot and puffs of steam are escaping from under the lid. (The lid should feel very hot to the touch - too hot for you to place your hand on it - before you proceed with the next step.)

Open the Wonderbag, remove the cushion and place the bag next to the hob. Transfer the pot to the bag and immediately cover it with its cushion. Draw the string up tightly and tie a secure bow.

Leave the pot in the Wonderbag for at least two hours, without opening the bag. This mixture is lovely after four hours, and heavenly after eight.

Serve with taco shells, sour cream (or Greek yoghurt whisked with lemon juice, a clove of crushed fresh garlic and a few tablespoons of mayonnaise), grated cheese, avocado, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and coriander, and a shower of shredded lettuce.

Serves 4-6

Wonderbag picture courtesy of Natural Balance.

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Muriel's Pecan Pie

My friend and co-blogger Muriel has written one of her ever-sparkling pieces on our shared blog, Salmagundi, about teaching her wine-maker pal Dean how to make a pecan pie. Now, I haven't tasted this pie, but if it's Muriel's, it's bound to be toothsome, because she's a fine cook. (Okay, that's enough mutual backslapping for today.)

Muriel has asked me to post the recipe here, and this is what she has to say about it:

'I’ve always loved pecan pie, but it’s always seemed to me to be one of those exotic desserts you could never conjure up at home. (A Chinese friend recalls how Three Cup Chicken seemed ‘a restaurant dish’, and was astonished when she learnt – at school – how easy it was to make; this is my Western version of that.) But then pecan season came around and there were loads of fresh pecans in the local co-op, and I thought I should at least give it a try. I looked for several recipes but none came out how I remembered pecan pie from when I was a teenager (which was the first time I had it). Through a bit of trial and error (all the results were edible, although some didn’t look so good), we came up with this one. It’s fabulously decadent, fun and easy to make (someone can help you while dinner is on), and so successful that now we make two at a time: one isn’t enough.'

Muriel's Pecan Pie

For the pastry:
1 cup (250 ml)cake flour
a pinch of salt
100 g cold butter
2 t (10 ml) caster sugar
1 egg
4 t (20 ml) ice-cold wter
1 t (5 ml) lemon juice
a little fresh lemon zest (optional)

For the filling:
130 g pecan nuts
about 60 g butter, melted
200 ml (just under a cup) brown sugar (treacle sugar if you’re feeling particularly decadent)
3 eggs, beaten
100 ml golden syrup
5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla essence

1. Sift the flour and salt. Cut the butter into the flour, then rub it in with cold fingertips until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, water, lemon juice and zest. Add to the flour and butter and mix quickly and lightly into a dough (the less you handle it, the better). Wrap in clingwrap and put in the fridge for about 30 mins. Take it out, roll it quickly and lightly into a circle, and use it to line a pie dish. Bake the case at 200 C for about 10 minutes (don’t let the edges brown).

2. Take the pastry case out of the oven and arrange the pecans over it in a single dense layer.

3. Beat the melted butter, sugar and beaten eggs together until foamy. Continue beating while adding the syrup. Add the vanilla essence.

4. Pour the syrup mixture carefully over the nuts (they will float to the top). Bake at 180 C for about 40 minutes. When you take the pie out the oven, it will still look runny – leave it for about 20 minutes to set.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Monday, 3 August 2009

Smoky Aubergine and Hummous Dip and other Mediterranean delights

I try not to begin a recipe with an excuse or a complaint, so I won't (although I am sorely tempted. After all, I have a bloody good reason* for having neglected this blog).

Here is a lovely, easy and quite delicious party dip I made last Thursday for an impromptu celebratory party with my dearest friends. The whole arrangement was very last minute (we were celebrating the Bloody Good Reason*) and as I didn't have time to plot, plan or do an in-depth shopping spree , I used what I had in the fridge and cupboard to produce an array of little snacky things and hors d'oeuvres ( or what my sister calls 'Horse der Ervrays').

It took just over two hours to get the Horse der Ervrays ready: a record time for me, although I admit I did get grumpy, and emitteda few rumbling and mewing noises.

Here's what I made:

* Marinated green and Calamata olives (drain the brine off the olives and soak them, in a warm or sunny place, for two hours, in olive oil spiked with crushed fresh garlic, dried red chillies, fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano, grated lemon zest, a few crushed coriander seeds and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). A similar recipe here.

* Ten-minute phyllo pastry cases with blue cheese, caramelised leeks and cherry tomatoes, topped with fresh rocket and a dash of olive oil and lemon juice. So quick and easy to make: recipe here.

* Oven-baked pork chipolatas with hot English mustard and a creamy wasabi dip (half Hellmann's mayonnaise, half thick Greek yoghurt, a squeeze of lemon juice and wasabi paste to taste).  Or try my Whipped Mustard Sauce

* Spicy, crunchy potato wedges with a roasted red-pepper dip (recipe here)

* Smoked Brinjal and Hoummous Dip (recipe below)

* Shop-bought tubs of pale-pink, creamy taramasolata and a punchy tapenade

* Fresh red and yellow cherry tomatoes with marinated mozzarella, a garlic-basil dressing and fresh basil leaves

* Fresh, shop-bought ciabatta bread, rye bread and little salty crackers (Salticrax, they're known here in South Africa)

* Umami Tomato Soup with croutons, Greek yoghurt, chives and Tabasco sauce. Recipe here.

Smoky Aubergine and Hummous Dip

I used home-made hoummous in this recipe (see notes at end of this post), but a good commercial hoummous will do just as well, provided that it is suitably lemony, zingy and garlicky. If your shop-bought hoummous seems to be punching below its weight stir in some extra fresh lemon juice, cumin and garlic (see Cook's Notes, below).

2 very large, shining aubergines (brinjals or eggplant), or three medium-sized ones
200 ml good hoummous (see note below)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
the juice of half a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered cumin
salt and freshly milled black pepper
extra cumin and/or cayenne pepper, to top

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Rinse and dry the aubergines and place them, whole, on the hot oven racks (put a baking sheet underneath them to catch any drips). Bake the aubergines for 35-45 minutes, or until they blistered, collapsed, and soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Put the aubergines on a big chopping board and open them out by slitting their skins. Using the back of knife, scrape out all the pulp (it doesn't matter if a few flecks of black skin remain) ) and put it into a sieve set over a bowl. Allow the pulp to drain for a few minutes, but don't discard the drained liquid.

Put the aubergine pulp into a liquidiser or food processor fitted with a metal blade and add the hoummous, olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon juice and cumin. Process at a medium speed until you have a well amalgamated though slightly rough mixture. If the mixture is too stiff to allow the blades to turn, add a little of the reserved drained liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip the dip into a bowl and top with a generous splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of cumin and/or cayenne pepper.

Makes about 600 ml dip.

* Bloody Good Reason is this: our family is moving back to Cape Town, after 17 years in Johannesburg. My dearly beloved has just started a new job in the fairest Cape of them all, and I - and the three kids - will move down to join him at the end of November. This involves all sorts of time-gobbling administrative tasks - sell house, find new house, pack old house, find schools for kids, get son through Matric, and so on. And we won't mention the extreme annoyance of having to spruce up one's house so it is ready for a show day. How come you never notice the grimy, grungy bits of a house until you see it through the eyes of someone who (you hope) wants to buy it?

Cook's Notes: tips for home-made hoummous

1. Use tinned chickpeas if you're in a hurry. For a smoother result, drain the tinned chickpeas and simmer them in water or stock for 30 minutes.

2. If you're making your hoummous from scratch, I suggest that you use less tahina (sesame paste) than specified in the recipe. I find that too much tahina in a hoummous makes it sticky, bitter and slightly peanut-buttery. And make sure the tahina is fresh: this ingredient doesn't have a good shelf life, once opened. Good tahina has a mild, nutty smell and taste. It should never taste stale or rancid.

3. Add a pinch of citric acid to your hoummous. I don't normally recommend additives, but I think a good hoummous needs to have a really zingy, lemony flavour. You can certainly achieve this by adding a lot of fresh lemon juice, but this will make your hoummous unpleasantly sloppy. A whisper of citric acid (available in the baking section of most supermarkets) really does the trick. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly