To put it simply, this book is amazing. I bought The Complete Cook’s Encyclopedia of Spices by Sallie Morris and Lesley Mackley for a whole $10 at a Readings Bargain sale. I got all my money’s worth and then some. Not only does it have a great selection of recipes, but it also contains, as advertised, an encyclopaedia (there, spelt it correctly) of spices, a bit of history about them (oldest recorded usage, brought to the West by, etc), cultivation facts, preparation styles (dried, ground, whole), medicinal uses(if any), etc.
I changed the cooking method for the chicken dish to suit the implements I had available, and I’ll record that in the notes after the recipe. Otherwise the recipes were straightforward, and surprisingly easy. The ingredients for the recipes I chose were not hard to source (in fact I had most of them at home already). Overall, the dish voted most tasty were the Mexican Tortilla Parcels.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 lemon
- Fresh Rosemary sprigs
- 1.5 – 1.75kg chicken
- 4 – 5 heads of garlic
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- salt and ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190C. Place the lemon half and the rosemary sprigs in the chicken. Separate 3 – 4 of the garlic heads into cloves and remove the papery husks, but do not peel. Slice the top off the other garlic head.
- Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the chicken, turning it in the hot oil to coat the skin completely. Season with the salt and pepper and add all the garlic.
- Cover the casserole with a sheet of foil, then the lid to seal in the steam and the flavour. Cook for 1 – 1/4 hours until the chicken is cooked. Serve the chicken with the garlic.
Notes on this recipe:
- It is so simple, the biggest impost is having 40 cloves of garlic sitting around and not doing much. Thankfully in my case I had harvested a third of my garlic crop a couple of weeks ago, and had plenty of garlic drying.
- So I didn’t cook this as per the instructions, mostly because I don’t have a large flameproof casserole dish, or indeed any flameproof casserole dish. I cooked this in my Romatopf clay oven. This reduced the oil required for the recipe to none, and also meant that the dish went into a cool oven in order to avoid cracking the soaked clay oven. Cooking time, about 90 minutes.
- Result – deliciously tender chicken, soft roasted garlic, no additional fat, garlic infused chicken stock (which I used for another dinner).
Roasted Root Vegetables with Whole Spice Seeds
- 3 parsnips, peeled
- 3 carrots, peeled
- 3 potatoes, peeled
- 3 sweet potatoes, peeled
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 8 shallots, peeled
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 teaspoons white mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190C. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Cut the parnsips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots into chunks. Add them to the pan and bring the water back to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain the vegetables thoroughly.
- Pour the olive oil into a large heavy roasting tin and place over a moderate heat. Add the vegetables, shallots, and garlic. Fry, tossing the vegetables over the heat until they are pale golden at the edges.
- Add the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and bay leaves. Cook for 1 minute, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer the roasting tin to the oven and roast for 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are crips and golden and cooked through.
Notes on this recipe:
- I fried the vegetables in a non-stick electric frying pan first as I was planning to roast them in a pyrex roasting dish because I already had the Romatopf in the oven and was running out of room. This worked fine.
- I didn’t realise I didn’t have any white mustard seeds, so I ended up using brown mustard seeds. This was fine and it turned out deliciously.
Mexican Tortilla Parcels
- 675g tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 fresh green chillies, seeded and chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 200g can sweetcorn, drained
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 115g (1 cup) grated cheddar cheese
- 8 wheatflour tortillas
- Coriander leaves, shredded lettuce, and sour cream to serve
- Peel the tomatoes, place them in a heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover and leave for 1 minute. Lift out with a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water. Leave for 1 minute, then drain. Slip the skins off the tomatoes and chop the flesh.
- Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions with the garlic and cumin seeds for 5 minutes, until the onion softens. Add the chillies and tomatoes, then stir in the tomato puree. Crumble the stock cube over, stir well and cook gently for 5 minutes, until the chilli is soft but the tomato has not completely broken down. Stir in the sweetcorn and fresh coriander and heat gently to warm through. Keep warm.
- Sprinkle grated cheese in the middle of each tortilla. Spoon some tomato mixture over the cheese. Fold over one edge of the tortilla, then the sides and finally the remaining edge, to enclose the filling completely.
- Heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan and fry the filled tortillas for 1 – 2 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Serve with coriander, shredded lettuce and soured cream.
Notes on this recipe:
- The folding instructions are really important. As you fold them, immediately fry them because otherwise they will unfold on you. Start frying them fold side down so that they don’t unroll when you turn them over.
- I couldn’t find tortilla packs of 8 (6 or 10), nor 200g tins of corn – so we made 10 and used up a 300g (or so) tin of corn. This wasn’t really a problem.
Caribbean Bananas with Ground Allspice and Ginger
- 25g butter
- 8 firm ripe bananas
- juice of 1 lime
- 75g (1/2 cup) soft dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- seeds from 6 cardamom pods, crushed
- 2 tbsp rum
- pared lime rind, to decorate
- creme fraiche, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Use a little of the butter to grease a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the bananas snugly in a single layer. Peel the bananas and cut them in half lengthways. Arrange the bananas in the dish and pour over the lime juice.
- Mix the sugar, allspice, ginger and cardamom in a bowl. Scatter the mixture over the bananas. Dot with remaining butter. Bake, basting once, for 15 minutes, or until the bananas are soft.
- Remove the dish from the oven. Warm the rum in a small pan or metal soup ladle, pour it over the bananas and set it alight. As soon as the flames die down, decorate the dessert with the pared lime rind and serve each portion with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Notes on this recipe:
- It’s quite tasty, and I hate the taste of alcohol (of course burning it off means that the alcohol bit that I don’t like wasn’t there) and it didn’t bother me.