Recipe 2/3/4 Bitings by the Fire....with your virtual friends?!!
These recipes go with the second The Bush Kitchen Video going live this week!
Our next recipe video assumes that you, like us, love nothing more than to sit by a fire, under the stars, gathering friends and listening to the incredible sounds of nature. We know the friends might not be possible right now, but if you are with your family or living with a friend and have a little garden space outside, why not create a little safe fire pit, collect some wood with the kids, light the fire and make these bitings to go with some nice cold beers. We have tried to make every Friday night in our household a special one: we are making bitings from all our leftovers - zero waste has NEVER felt so relevant and welcome, playing quiz games and having fun to mark the end of the work and schooling week.
If you are a cook in Kenya and you're trying to stay creative, don't forget that some of the most common ingredients like ugali, can end up being the centre piece of a meal if you add a little colour and flair. Don't be afraid to use traditional ingredients in a lodge environment, just reinvent it and make it your own! My colleagues were not sure whether ugali should be used in our kitchen, because they didn't think it was fancy enough. But my feeling is that the traditional diet in Kenya is one of the healthiest, freshest and most nutritional there is. Maize meal is so versatile and energy giving to those of us in active jobs, it's important to honour and celebrate Kenya's offerings in new ways, especially right now where movement is very limited and our budgets even more so...
Stay Safe, Stay Home.
(For Sourdough, there are a million and one resources on sourdough and I will not piggy back on to that one since so many incredible experts show us the way on line. What I will say is that my sourdough always comes into its own from day 30 of the starter, making more mature and flavoursome loaves when compared to the early days...check out Richard Bertinet on Youtube, he's the dough master. After that it's a case of experimenting and having fun with your dough and the process itself....). If you want us to write a sourdough/starter segment let us know, happy to help share what we have learnt over time.
Green Olive Tapenade with Sourdough garlic toast and homegrown Thyme.
(Our lodge stores were full and ready for the new season when Covid -19 hit the global scene. It meant that we are having to use store supplies before they expire with little hope of tourism guests in the near future. Luckily,there are plenty of mouths to feed here within the family and the team, so nothing is going to waste. But we are mindful of the difficulties many are facing in food security and availability. The spirit of these recipes are towards inspiration and also a bit of emphasis on zero waste. We are using what we have, using what needs to be eaten first and making everything from scratch including our sourdough starter as we are far from shops here and very much living off our gardens and pantry now as we have no income coming in.)
This one is most definitely a homage to my Mediterrean roots in the South of France. I spend much of my childhood summers in the Cevennes, in a traditional mountain community where food is life, gatherings on long summer evenings are commonplace and days are spent herding sheep over rocky crags to summer pastures. These traditional communities work together to ensure their ways of life and heritage survive: much of that is achieved through food and cooking.
Recipes like this one are typical of South of France and as soon as I start crushing thyme leaves and blending olives and garlic together, happy memories bloom inside of me of running down hillsides overload with wild thyme and yellow broom flowers...this recipe is child's play, super easy but can be made to look rather fancy if needed!
Don't spread the tapenade too early, in fact presenting it in a nice bowl, next to the garlicky toasts is the best solution for keeping it super fresh and informal.
100g green olives, fully drained of any brine
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 handful of thyme
1 clove of garlic
Freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
Zest of half a lemon (optional)
For the toast: loaf of sourdough bread or any dense bread that will hold its form. 1/2 clove of garlic for rubbing...you'll see!
Put all the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. I quite like my tapenade quite chunky so I stop the blending just before it becomes totally smooth, but up to you.
Cut up some soudourgh bread into small toasts, any shape or size is fine. Grill them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil or place them in a hot charcoal oven until crunchy melba style - sourdough is a great choice because it never crumbles. When they have hardened a little through cooking, grab the half clove of garlic and rub it all over the surface of the toast, so the lovely garlicky flavour infuses with the heat.
Spoon on the tapenade liberally so each toast gets a lovely thick layer spread on it.
If you're into embellishments you can decorate with black sesame seeds or chia seeds and an edible flower like borage if you have it like the photo? Otherwise a little fresh thyme leaf will do just fine, sometimes less is more. Let the flavours speak for themselves.
Grilled Ugali Bruschetta with home-grown tomato and basil
N.B. This recipe is also gluten-free as ugali is made from corn/maize meal and therefore carries no gluten, a great alternative to bread or toast usually used in this well known Italian recipe.
Ok, if you are not a gardener or a homesteader do not fear, any tomatoes will do and basil can be replaced by flatleaf parsley, coriander and it will still have the same look and freshness of flavour.
The key with this recipe is making the Ugali in advance so its nice and cool and firm, making slicing toast-like slices easy.
For anyone living outside of Kenya - what is Ugali? Ugali is a main stay of our diet in Kenya: pale, finely-ground maize meal (like polenta but not as yellow) that provides a serious carb load for any busy, active person! We eat it sometimes as a thick ball cut into slices or hunks, I personally love it- polenta style, really wet and creamy mixed with butter, salt, pepper and chopped spring onions....!
For this recipe, however the ugali is made beforehand in the traditional style and allowed to cool into a ball making it easy to slice into long, toast-like bases for the bruschetta.
For the Ugali:
400g of Ugali meal
650ml of water
Pinch of salt
For the Bruschetta mix:
200g of small tomatoes chopped into small pieces
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 large handful of fresh basil leaves
Pinch of salt/Pinch of sugar
Fresh ground black pepper
2 slugs of extra virgin olive oil
Photo: my poor tomatoes didn't do very well this year because they coincided with heavy rainfall for 3 weeks and cold nights. I managed to save over 3/4 of them though and ripened them in the sunny windowsill of our kitchen. Now tomatoes come in so many varieties including heirloom, the best bruschetta's have all sorts of colours and flavours to them...
(Edible Petals from a Calendula can be used for decorating bringing their gorgeous orange sunny colours to the table or even something like nasturtium flowers would work giving it a peppery bite...)
Starting with the ugali:
Bring the water to the boil, then lower the heat and begin adding the ugali, mixing continuously to prevent it sticking. Keep stirring for a low heat for approximately 10 minutes until it begins to become solid, add the pinch of salt and the butter and keep mixing. Taste the ugali and if it is no longer gritty to the teeth, but soft it's ready. Remove from the heat, put on the lid and let it solidify.
When completely cool and solid. Slice into 3cm thick 'toasts' ready for grilling.
Heat a grill pan - the heavier the better, I use a Le Creuset cast iron grill pan we were given for our wedding! When the pan gets nice and hot, pour 1 glue of olive oil and place the toasts side by side and press them down to start building the grill lines and crispy edges. Leave grilling for at least 10 minutes until nice and crispy. Leave to cool down a little.
Chop the tomatoes, basil and garlic and place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, sugar, pepper and olive oil. Mix together thoroughly with your hands so they all get completely coated ad the flavour builds.
Spoon this onto your grilled ugali toasts just before serving and you can edible petals or extra leaves for decoration if you like. Filling summery flavours to have with drinks by the fire....
Spring vegetable filo parcels with sweet and salty dipping sauce.
These crispy parcels are our children's absolute favourites. In fact Celeste, loves nothing more than to eat the crispy ends when no one is looking leaving the delicious green veggies spilling out messily...
The filling can really be anything, but for this recipe I'm using the latest harvest from my garden: so fennel fronds, red onion, cabbage and grated carrot.
Filo pastry is made of very fine leaves of pastry that make the perfect wrapping 'paper' for these little delights. The trick with filo is to only take out of the wrapping what you need and to work with it very quickly as it dries out quickly and crumbles if left for too long. To make it nice and crispy at cooking and also to create a 'glue' that sticks the ends together we use melted butter.
Ingredients for the filling:
100g thinly shaved cabbage leaves
1 carrot grated
handful of fennel fronds finely chopped
1 red onion thinly sliced
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
Take a hot frying pan and fry the onion and oil together, add the veggies and flash fry them i.e. sautéed them very quickly and not for more than 5 minutes. Sprinkle your salt as they cook. The key with these parcels is that the veggies should still have some crunch to them. Cook for too long and they lose their nutritional value, but also their flavour and colour.
I never cook for more than 5 minutes and often harvest my veggies a little young so they are ultra green and crunchy. Once the veggies are cooked set aside in a bowl with a spoon at the ready.
For the Filo. Filo pastry usually stays in the freezer, so make sure you defrost yours well ahead of time. I buy a ready made filo for all my cooking, you can make this from scratch but I find the bought version good enough and half the hassle and time!
Take off the wrapping and unroll just two larges leaves, that's all you will need to produce 20 of these thin cigarette style parcels. Roll up the rest of the filo, cover in plastic and leave in the fridge for another recipe to come...
Cut your filo into 3 by 4 inch rectangles and brush with melted butter to keep soft.
Starting at the bottom end of the rectangle, gently spoon your veggies in a horizontal line along the bottom end of the pastry rectangle. Then tuck both left and right sides in by folding and pressing flat. Brush a line of melted butter where the veggies meet the first roll - as a glue to help it stick together - and keep rolling the cigarette parcel shut, finally brush a last bit of butter to stick the pastry together at the end. You should roll each parcel over itself at least 3 times meaning the filo wrapping will be three times deep. Enough to withstand the final step of frying.
Make all twenty in this way and set aside.
Heat up 300 ml of cooking oil in a deep wok, when boiling hot drop each parcel in gently and turn as the filo sizzles and reaches a golden colour and crips up around the edges.
Place on a paper towel to absorb any excess fat, then you can play around with arrangements. We have these beautiful fire clay plates that lend so well to bitings, so I put the sauce in a bowl in the middle and fan the parcels out in a circle around the sauce...
For the dipping sauce, follow the same Recipe as 1 - Borage Leaves using soy and honey etc...
These three bitings can be combined and brought out together or used separately...so easy and simple really but always popular.