Flirting with Flavour


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Harissa and Honey Marinade

This past February I returned to the UK for three weeks to visit friends and clear my head. I am very lucky in that I was adopted into two wonderful families during my years living over there, both with mums whose skill in the kitchen is unparalleled. In fact, much of my cooking-coming-of-age took place in one of those inspiring kitchens, which had previously played host to the culinary explorations of Nigella Lawson! Or, at least, being that it was the previous home of Nigel Lawson, I like to tell myself that.

The Playhouse in the Garden

Every once in a while a flavour profile will leave you so captivated that you just must go back for seconds. And thirds. And perhaps fourths? I had sent a copy of Balaboosta to A as a Chanukkah/New Years gift and then received one myself for Christmas, but had yet to crack it open. Lucky for me, A’s mum had and a good number of the dishes we ate over the week I stayed with them were inspired by it. Everything was delicious. Having first been thoughtfully crafted by Einat Admony and then recreated by A’s mum, it couldn’t not be.

aubergine with harissa-honey chickpeas

But what was the dish that sparked a flood of inspiration? That would be the Harissa and Honey Hot Wings. A’s mum used the whole chicken and it worked just as well, serving it with crisped lacinato kale, which I now simply cannot imagine this dish without. The honey perfectly balances the heat of the harissa, which is much more subtle and full-bodied than the spice of a jalapeño. I, who rarely takes seconds, simply had to have another piece. This is huge for one who, in the past, has avoided all things spicy, because they tend to make my head explode. Rest assured those of you reading this who also struggle with spice. Yes, you may want to use a bit less harissa (I sometimes go a bit overboard, it’s just that good), but if you are working on embracing spice like I am, it will help turn your life around!

Upon my return to Philly, I had to find harissa and quick! Einat does give a recipe for making your own harissa, which I would like to try sometime, but for now I am happy using Les Moulins Mahjoub’s traditional harissa spread. I have used the harissa and honey marinade on anything and everything (but chicken!): chickpeas, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, all of these together, you name it. It works and it is delicious! And I almost always serve it on a bed of crisped lacinato kale. I suppose any kale would do, I just happen to be partial to this Italian variety. Most recently I have also started serving it with roasted aubergine, since it’s in season. Like I said, it’s a winning flavour profile, with which you really can’t go wrong!

ready to go in the oven

So enough chit chatting away, here is the recipe I know you’ve all been waiting for. I wouldn’t judge if you had even skipped straight to the bottom of the page… No, but really.

 

Harissa and Honey Marinade

Ingredients

½ cup honey

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp harissa

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp kosher salt

Method

Whisk together all the ingredients. Taste and, if you think you can take a little extra kick, add another dollop of harissa. I dare you.

* * *

And here is a recipe to use the marine to make my favourite quick dinner of roasted aubergine topped w/ harissa-honey chickpeas and mushrooms.  It makes enough to 2, or 1 with leftovers for lunch the next day!

Ingredients

1/2 recipe of Harissa and Honey Marinade

2 baby aubergines

1 can organic chickpeas (it really does make a difference to use organic)

10 baby bella mushrooms

8 leaves of Lacinato Kale with the ends cut off

Method

1. Preheat oven to 375F

2. Prepare the harissa and honey marinade.  Chop mushrooms into quarters and place in medium bowl.  Rinse chickpeas, combine with the quartered-mushrooms, and toss with the marinade.  Allow to sit for about 15 minutes.

3. After about 10 minutes, slice each aubergine in half lengthwise, leaving a thin layer of skin connecting the 2 halves on one side.  Score each half with a knife, making sure not to cut through the skin.  Place aubergine in an oven-proof pan, then pour the chickpea-mushroom mixture over them.

4. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, until the aubergine yields easily to a fork.

5. While the aubergine mixture is baking, crisp the kale in a cast-iron pan.  Drizzle 1 TBLS of olive oil in the pan and heat over medium-low heat then place a few leaves at a time in the pan and sprinkle with some sea salt.  Once crisp, but not burnt, remove from pan and continue until all leaves are done.  If you plan on having leftovers, I recommend only crisping the kale you will use in the moment.

6. Enjoy!!

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Berlin Brunch

Last weekend I took a break.   I decided I’d had enough of grey London and would head to grey Berlin instead.  A combination of school and social pressures were pushing down on me and I just needed to get put.  Plus, my friend S is working there until the 30th of November, so I figured I had a good excuse. 

When I finally traipsed up the stairs to her temporary Berlin home, I was greeted by the most beautiful sight – a full Saturday brunch.  Because S’s job was only a temporary gig, she has been living with her friend U (it pays to have friends all over the world!), for whom apparently this Saturday brunch is a tradition.  Boy did I feel lucky to be included!   And I will definitely be on the lookout for how to be invited back.  This was obviously a flat for one, but that was not going to stop U!  She had filled her small dining table with freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, various cheeses (sliced and creamy), multiple bowls of fruit, coffee, juice, and a delicious-perfectly-almost-undercooked-omelette, with more spilling over onto the coffee table next to us: fresh croissants, rolls, olive bread, and brioche.  Somehow she had even managed to fit plates and mugs for all six of us girls.  Having been up since 4:15am and eaten only a flaxseed energy bar and clementine, boy was this cornucopia a sight for sore eyes!  I undoubtedly ate more than my fair share, but S graciously matched me. 

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Looking across the street at Kunsthaus Tacheles

 

I should apologise now for the fact that, in an effort to be in the moment and not be hampered by my desire to take photos every five minutes, I left my camera in my suitcase almost the entire three days I was there.  This means, that I have no photos of food, other than those taken on my phone, which are far too low quality to be shared.  I can hear you all gasping in disbelief, and I know, I’m sorry!  Won’t happen again, I promise.

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Inside the Tacheles sculpture garden

Saturday afternoon we ambled around Neukölln, wandering in and out of cute galleries, cafes, and second-hand shops, working off brunch.  Naturally, we soon got hungry, so decided to take a snack break at Pizza a Pezzi, which we had noted in the Berlin Superguide.  We shared two pieces, though as each piece comes on its own breadboard it’s much more than a standard slice!  Pretty good value for money too, at under €5 each.  I got the aubergine pizza and S got one topped with rocket.  I must say she made the better choice.  Supposedly the pizza there is made in the thin-crusted Neapolitan style.  The rocket pizza most definitely was, and was delicious.  It was crispy and the dough had a nice flavour to it.  Best of all, it was simple.  Just tomatoes, cheese, and rocket.  The dough on mine was more like a flatbread, which is fine if that’s what you’re wanting, but when expecting crispy pizza dough, I wasn’t too thrilled.  The aubergine itself was nicely roasted and had a good flavour, but I found myself drizzling olive oil over the pizza to make it tastier; something I almost never do.  As S concluded, if you’re in Berlin and craving pizza, go to Italy!  But, when that’s not an option 😉 Pizza a Pezzi is could be a good halfway point to quench your craving.

Suffice it to say that, as usual, I had a deliciously food oriented weekend, that included roasted chestnuts and Moroccan lentil soup at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt, multiple indulgences in Ritter Sport (mmmm I still have some left and this is making me crave chocolate, might have to go indulge), popcorn with paprika sprinkled on top (if this is not a thing, it really should be!), topped off with a lovely last dinner at Toca Rouge in Mitte.  Good food, good company.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last night!

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Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstr

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Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstr

A quick note on Toca Rouge, since I’m sure you’re wondering.  Asian fusion is probably one of my favourite types of food.  Though, I will admit to saying that about a lot of cuisines… Although Toca Rouge is not the most inspired of the fusion restaurants I’ve been to, the food was perfectly executed and not too saucy.  I had the Crazy Orange Chicken, which I would highly recommend.  As my friends know, “clean food” is my favourite food.  Toca Rouge manages to invoke the delicious flavours of Chinese food, without the artery-clogging effects of too much MSG and sauce, thus being satisfactorily clean!  The ambience is soothing (though a bit annoying to sit on stools all night) and despite being very modern is quite cozy, due to its small size.  Yes, cozy, not cramped.

Off to find that leftover Ritter…

Tschüss!