Shakespeare Exam tomorrow! Forsooth! I actually reeeally enjoy Shakespeare and will miss incorporating him into my blog in the vague hope that everything-is-learning (in the same way that Mum and I watched Amelie when I was studying for French in high school.)
Boring as it is to begin with weather, it needs to be said that it has been horrible lately in Wellington – humid and windy, (so your hair goes both frizzy and knotty) blustery, damp and generally miserable. What happened to the sunny days of last week, and the week before? In spite of this, Tim, Kieran and I schlepped down to the vege market and I ended up with all sorts of cheering goodies – another tray of free range eggs, a fennel bulb, rhubarb, beetroot, brocolli, coriander, chillies, kaffir lime leaves, strawbs ($1.50 a punnet!) bananas, celery, and red capsicums, all for very cheap.
For dinner tonight I made Nigella’s Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Harissa from How To Eat. I wish I’d thought to make it sooner on in the year because it is very easy and relatively inexpensive. It does require forward planning; the chickpeas I soaked, earth-motherlike, in a bowl overnight, and the harissa I made this afternoon.
Above: The ingredients for the harissa, which I arranged artfully on this board before realising that now I had to veeery carefully chop the chillies and garlic without disturbing the mound of salt.
Harissa is – from experience – a sort of paste of chillies, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, caraway, vinegar and olive oil. I personally can’t deal with much chilli but find this mixture completely addictive. I only used one chilli, and made the whole thing in my pestle and mortar that I got from Mum and Dad for Christmas a few years back. I dry-fried a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and caraway seeds, then ground them into dust in the P&M. In this goes the chopped chilli, garlic, and sea salt, plus a little vinegar and enough olive oil to amalgamate the lot.
Above: Harissa. I can eat it by the spoonful…
It is worth pointing out that I cooked the chickpeas while this was happening. I then assembled the chicken stew which involved nothing more arduous than putting a whole lot of stuff in a pan, covering it with water, and bringing it to the boil. The harissa gets stirred in too, which is why it needs making first. You can, of course, buy harissa, but I guess it is in my nature to want to make this sort of thing from scratch.
Above: The chicken was so tender after its hour or so simmering away that it fell to pieces at the mere prod of a wooden spoon. Considering it was freezer-burned chicken that I’d found buried under the frozen peas and forty half-bags of mixed veges, I was Very Impressed. I served this with bulghur wheat, and it was really, seriously delicious and comforting.
The rest of the chickpeas that I’d cooked up went into – of all things – a chocolate cake. I found a recipe from Nigella.com for this gluten-free creation, based on chickpeas as opposed to the usual ground almonds. Intrigued by its simplicity and the positive review that the person who posted it gave, I decided to make it.
Above: Good grief! It’s fantastic! It is chocolately, moist, and has a somehow puffy yet dense texture.
Emma, our resident gluten-shunner is happy as most cakes suitable for her involve hundreds of dollars worth of ground almonds, or are seriously rich – it has to be said that celiac cakes tend to be very puddingy, rather than tasting of homespun baking. In fact I’m so taken with it that here is the recipe. I used orange juice squeezed from oranges that Stefan’s dad sent him from the Hawke’s Bay – acerbic and heavy with juice.
Gluten Free Chocolate Chick Pea Cake (okay, that title is awful, sorry)
Whizz up the chickpeas in a food processor, till very smooth. Add the other ingredients, whizz till incorporated, pour into a baking paper lined tin (I used 22cm) and bake at 180 for 50 minutes till a skewer comes out clean. If there are any remaining lumps of chickpea in the cooked cake – just tell people its walnuts.
PS – sorry bout the squint-making incongruity in paragraph size/spacing etc – try as I might, I haven’t managed to figure out how to make it uniform. In other words, it’s the computer, not me!