Za'atar

2020-03-10 13:33:21

Za’atar spice refers to a mixture of herbs and spices such as ground thyme, oregano, sumac and savory and often toasted sesame seeds and salt. It is traditionally used as a condiment in Middle Eastern cuisine where it is mixed with olive oil and spread onto pita bread but it can also be used as a seasoning for vegetables, salads and meat dishes. 

The ingredients of za’atar contain many essential vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, E and K. Oregano, thyme, sumac, savory and sesame seeds all contain anti-oxidants which help to repair cellular damage, preventing a wide range of conditions such as atherosclerosis and cancer. Sesame seeds are also a good source of fibre and contain healthy fats and protein as well as many essential vitamins and minerals. 

Za’atar grilled chicken 

Serves 4 

Ingredients

40ml olive oil 

2 tablespoons za’atar

2 tablespoons lemon juice 

1 teaspoon lemon zest 

1 teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon pepper 

4 skinless chicken thighs

Method 

  • Whisk together oil, za’atar, lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat.
  • Preheat grill to medium (180° to 220°). Grill chicken, skin side down, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Turn chicken and grill until cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  • Find za’atar in the spice aisle of well-stocked grocery stores 

Tips: Chicken can be swapped for fish fillet of choice. For vegetarian alternative, one of my favourite snacks or salad toppings is roasted chickpeas. Canned chickpeas (drained) can be grilled with olive oil and za’atar until brown and slightly crispy. 

White Pepper

2020-01-31 12:04:39

white pepper recipe

White peppercorns, like black peppercorns are berries from the piper nigrum plant.  They are however distinctly different to black peppercorns as a result of being differently processed. For white pepper, fully ripe berries are soaked in water, the outer fruit layer is then removed, and the seeds are then dried. This process removes some of the volatile oil and piperine compounds that gives black pepper its specific heat component, aroma and health properties. The flavor of white pepper is thus less complex, lighter, and more earthy but it still has health benefits including anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and may also improve digestion. 

White pepper preserves the uniform appearance in food and is therefore often used in lighter coloured dishes like white sauces, mayonnaise, potato and noodle dishes. It has been used as a common spice for at least 3000 years in European and Asian cuisine featuring in hot and sour soups, marinades, poultry and spicier stir fries. It is often advised to add white pepper after the dish has been cooked, as overheating can release a bitter flavor.

By making your own salt mix (2 cups salt mixed with 2 teaspoons white pepper), and then using this cooking, you can get a ‘full body taste’ and thus cut back on salt. 

Mashed potato

Serves 8

Ingredients

1.5 kg potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 bay leaves

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup hot milk

1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks OR 45 ml olive oil

Method

  • Place potatoes and bay leaves in a saucepan. Add water to cover. Bring to boil. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and return potatoes to saucepan. 
  • Remove bay leaves. Add salt and white pepper. 
  • Mash with a potato masher, gradually adding milk and then butter. 
  • Serve immediately.  

Ring the changes: 

Use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water to cook the potatoes and/or replacing half the potato with cannellini beans .

Tips

Whole peppercorns retain their flavor much longer so best to grind peppercorns just before using. Pepper is also best stored in a tightly sealed container away from light. The peppercorns store longer as ground may lose flavor after about 3 months

Vanilla

2019-11-27 10:55:31

Vanilla

Vanilla, native to Mexico, is the only edible member of the orchid family. This aromatic is widely used in both food and cosmetic applications. With demand outstripping supply, it is an expensive spice and as a result there are a number of imitation vanilla extracts available. Historically it was used in the treatment of conditions ranging from increasing virility and fertility to treating hysterics and depression and as a nerve stimulant. More recently, over 200 phytonutrients (bioactive plant compounds) have been identified and investigation into their healing properties is ongoing. Vanillin, the main constituent, may offer a promising role in the prevention and treatment of cancer as well as in the treatment of sickle cell anemia, where it is shown to reduce the number of sickle-shaped red blood cells which cause symptoms of pain and fatigue. It is grown in islands of the Indian Ocean such as Madagascar, in Mexico, Indonesia, Tahiti and West India and is available in the form of a dried whole pod or bean from which seeds are extracted or as an extract.   Although imitation extracts mimic the flavour of vanilla, they contain no vanillin. 

Vanilla’s sweet flavour adapts well to deserts and ice cream, but it can also be used in savoury recipes such as sauces to accompany shellfish, butter sauces featuring fish or chicken and to balance out stronger flavours in salsas, chutney and curries. It can also be used in salad dressings, vinaigrettes and savoury rubs for meat or chicken.

Aromatic Vanilla Rub for meat or chicken

This slightly sweet, aromatic rub can be rubbed on meat, chicken or fish and lightly brushed with oil. Allow to marinate for 3-6 hours before grilling, pan frying or roasting.

Ingredients

¾ (8-10cm) of a vanilla bean pod (seeds removed) OR 2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp salt flakes

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Method

Mix up all ingredients and store in an airtight container. 

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