5 Essentials – Spices

Our aim is to get everyone eating delicious, well-cooked food cheaply; not exactly easy when you require an enormous range of spices to bring a zing to your dishes in the cold winter months (or a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi). We’ve thought about the 5 essentials you need for your dishes but also where you should go to buy them. Our three top tips when it comes to spices are:

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Not as glamorous as the markets of Morocco but just as cheap

– Go to local markets and ‘ethnic’ grocers to buy spices instead of supermarkets. We would be bankrupt if it wasn’t for Aziz Cash and Carry on Electric Avenue in Brixton.
– Buy in bulk when you can so long as you can store it. Old jam jars are ideal and if you start to expand your range of spices this will be obligatory for the more obscure things you use.
– Buy a pestle and mortar: there is no point to buying two set of the same spice – just grind one up yourself and you have saved space and (most importantly) money.

Cumin seed

69p/100g
Mexican or Indian – there could not be a clearer front runner for the first essential spice on our list. Buying cumin in seed form allows you the most flexibility when cooking. You can bash it up in your pestle and mortar or fry it off with onions to add some tang to a daal. Equally important for middle eastern recipes as well, you dare not be without this somewhere in your kitchen.

Ground Ginger
69p/100g
Great as a good alternative to fall back on when you have none fresh in the house, ground ginger is also good for adding to dishes that would otherwise be a little bland and you want to spread a little warmth throughout. We’ve added them to canned tuna fish cakes with salad and a little sweet chilli sauce to brighten up dinner.

Coriander seed
69p/100g
We add so much coriander to our cooking as a herb but sometimes neglect the seeds as well which also serve to perk up your cooking with a fresh flavour. Ground in a pestle and mortar it brightens a chilli no end along with lime and chopped coriander. You can also lightly crush the seeds to rub into chicken and pork to be grilled for a quick dinner with a little extra flavour.

Chilli powder
69p/100g
Possibly the biggest essential of all, yet there are so many varieties it’s hard to choose what one to go for. From your concentrated extract of scotch bonnet to the sweetest, most inoffensive variety, all chilli powders have their own qualities and flavours. As an essential though, the old motto applies: ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out the kitchen.’

Paprika
69p/100g
Paprika is made from the dried fruits of the chilli family so can often have the same qualities as chilli but often has a lot more depth and a certain smokiness, because of this it is used more to season dished rather giving them a kick.  One of the highest naturally occurring sources of vitamin C, we often use paprika in salads dressings. Try with a little virgin olive oil or unrefined sunflower oil over the top of some halloumi and rocket leaves – ideal for a summer lunch with crusty bread and gazpacho.

All prices taken from Aziz Cash and Carry on Electric Avenue, Brixton, SW9

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Our first ‘brunch’ of recipes 

Sweet potato, egg and Morcilla bake

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Who knew that black pudding, one of the most divisive elements of the traditional fry up, has become the ‘healthy’ option reaching new heights as a ‘superfood’? Inspired to go in search of the black pudding, we settled on a variety we had for brunch at The Abbeville Kitchen (now called May the Fifteenth), a fantastic local restaurant on Abbeville road.

Morcilla, the Spanish version of black pudding, is spiced with cumin and often has a smoother texture compared to its English counterpart, leaving out the grain. Morcilla can be found in Moen and Sons on The Pavement in Clapham, a short stroll from Abbeville road and Clapham Common tube station, and you can buy it online quite cheaply.  If you can’t get your hands on Morcilla use regular black pudding but add another tsp of cumin to the recipe to compensate. Also equally good as a one-dish dinner.

Sweet potato, egg and Morcilla bake

Serves 4

Time 40 mins

Ingredients

3 sweet potatoes

2 green pepper sliced

6 eggs

400g Morcilla (Spanish black pudding)

2 tsp cumin seeds

olive oil

salt

black pepper

Serve with rocket

 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Peel and cut the sweet potato into 1 cm chunks and toss in a baking tray with a splash of olive oil, salt & pepper and 2 tsp of lightly crushed cumin seeds then bake for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, slice the green peppers and cut the Morcilla in to 1cm rounds (don’t worry if it breaks apart – it will do this in the oven)

Remove the potato from the oven and add the peppers and Morcilla and return to the oven for a further 10 mins.

Once the sweet potato is cooked crack six eggs on top of the bake and return for 5 – 7 mins till the egg whites are set.

Serve immediately.


 

Menemen

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Menemen is a baked egg dish incorporating tomatoes and peppers, ideal for recovering from any heavy Saturday night or having a few friends over for a lazy Sunday. Despite baking, the dish should be quite moist and still have the same consistency as scrambled eggs. If you want to ‘go native’, try it with small cups of black tea – anyone who has seen the sunrise over Istanbul or ventured from their resort to sample true Turkish cuisine will become instantly nostalgic.

Menemen

Serves 4

Time 20 mins

Ingredients: 

8 eggs, beaten

4 tomatoes

2 red peppers or, if you can find them, 3 long thin green peppers

a teaspoon of pul biber (or alternatively 1/2 a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes)

sugar and salt to season

Fresh bread to serve

 

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Dice the tomatoes place in an oven suitable sauté pan with a swig of olive oil on a medium heat and cover to keep them moist. Once they have started to soften, season with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt.

While the tomatoes are softening in the pan, deseed the peppers and remove the pith. If you have managed to find the long thin sweet green peppers normally used in Turkey as supposed to the bright green bitter peppers we find in the supermarket, cut them lengthwise and then into half moon slices about a centimetre and half across. If you are using red peppers then dice into chunks of about 2 centimetres. Place in the sauté pan with the tomatoes, cover again and cook till soft.

Once the tomatoes and peppers are cooked, add the pul biber and mix in. Add the eggs and stir thoroughly so that the eggs, tomatoes and peppers are all combined. Season the eggs while they are still runny with salt and pepper and stir over a low heat.

As the eggs begin to start forming soft clumps, but are still very runny, place in the oven for 5 minutes making sure that it they are smooth on top. The eggs should not get too brown but only become lightly golden and should only be a lightly scrambled texture throughout.

Remove from the oven and place on a heatproof mat. Scatter any remaining pul biber on top of the menemen and serve with slices of fresh crusty white bread.


Omlette soufflé with smoked salmon

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Soufflé. Two syllables that still inspire fear in the heartiest of cooks. And before you run away, it is ludicrously easy. Adapted from a recipe by Rachel Khoo, Omlette soufflé is impressive (if that’s what you’re looking for) as well as simple, light and filling. Combined with smoked salmon, it is also a healthy option packed with protein to set you up for the day.

Omlette soufflé with smoked salmon

Serves 4

Time  20 mins

Ingredients: 

4 eggs

3 sprigs of dill

5g butter

salt and black pepper

smoked salmon to serve

 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and put in a small oven dish to warm up. Chop the dill and put to one side.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large mixing bowl and the yolks into a small mixing bowl. Put a pinch of salt into the bowl with the whites and whip to stiff peaks. Add the chopped dill and enough fresh ground black pepper to the yolk and beat for one minute till the yolks start to look thicker and slightly creamy. Add a third of the beaten whites to the yolks and fold in with a metal spoon. Fold in the combined yolk and whites into the remaining whites.

Remove the dish from the oven and melt the butter, rolling it around the sides of the dish and covering the base. Spoon the soufflé mix into the dish making sure the bottom is completely covered. Continue to spoon the mixture in until full.

Place in the oven for ten minutes. When set, remove from the oven and serve with smoked salmon, more freshly ground black pepper and a slice of lemon.

 

Enjoy

 

h&h

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings

Hello and welcome to howellandharte.com, a new blog from Will Howell and Conor Harte. We live and cook in Clapham, London, and our main goal is to teach others how to eat in a way that is affordable and healthy but, above all, tasty.

Some might ask how this blog is going to differ from anything else that is out there on the endless oceans of the world wide web in a market flooded with opinions, fad diets and never ending lists of super foods (black pudding is the latest food stuff tipped for the top if you haven’t been following ‘food news’ lately). For the most part food blogs look at the latest trends and, simply put, how to stuff yourself rotten or focus on a range of incredibly specific dietary requirements.

This is not our focus, although there will certainly be a number of coeliac friendly and over-indulgent recipes along the way. We want to teach others to approach food in a more thoughtful way rather than settling for compulsive consumption. We want to encourage people to eat seasonally using simple recipes that don’t necessarily require half the kitchen equipment and a plethora of ingredients to make.

We want to encourage people to think about where their food comes from, encouraging people to avoid eating cheap meat every evening and opting for better quality meat, less often. By the same token we also want to show people how to eat more vegetarian meals mid-week.

So with that in mind you can expect to see the following posts over the next few weeks: we will be launching the first of our ‘Shopping Basket’ features, giving you a week’s worth of seasonal recipes from basket to bin giving you a taster of what is to come; we will be working on the first of our vlogs, the macaroni challenge, where we pit our recipe against some of the greats already out there; we will be posting what we think are the various essentials for your kitchen if you are a new cook just starting out; finally, we will be talking to our own circle of cooks to come up with a list of top seasonal dishes for you to work into your own repertoire.

To make sure you don’t miss any of these you can follow us on twitter (@howellandharte) and facebook (Howell&harte). You can also follow our YouTube account ready for our vlog post at the start of February.

h&h