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Posts Tagged ‘walnuts’

From the earliest time that I can remember, my parents have always had a fruit bowl out in the open where we could pick and choose something to eat at any given point. I can remember it was always full of apples and bananas if nothing else, and other seasonal produce…ok, I’m not THAT old but when I was a kid, you didn’t get the all year-round fruit choice that we have nowadays!

I wasn’t a big fruit lover as a child, it was more of a chore but my father always pushed me to eat with the same mantra all the time. Fruit is good for you, it will make your skin shine, will make your hair shine and I was always rather skeptical of this and therefore ate as little as possible!

One fruit that I did really like and enjoy though, was an unfamiliar round object that my grandmother would bring over on her trips to England from Iran. She would have a bag of them in her suitcase (something that would in no way be allowed now!) and she would pop them in the fridge until we were all together.

When we finally were, she would bring them out with a huge chopping board and cut them into large pieces and I remember dark red juices flowing onto the board while she portioned them on plates for us all to eat. The ‘Anar’ as we knew it was a delicious sweet yet tangy treat that we would only have when grandma was here. We even had different ways of eating it. My father would crush the fruit without breaking the skin and when he was satisfied it was soft enough, he would bite out a bit of the skin and drink from it! My mother would take all the little jewel like bits from the inside, separate them from the pith and place them into a bowl, sprinkle salt or sugar (depending on her mood) over it and eat it all with a spoon. For my untrained hands, I would just bite the whole thing spitting out bits of peel and getting very red in the process!

*The beautiful Pomegranate is said to be native to Persia since ancient times and cultivated in surrounding areas such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and North India. It was also introduced to Latin America and California in the late 1700’s. Nowadays we can find Pomegranates in most supermarkets and in a variety of different ways. You can find cartons of juice and also fruit packs that contain a handful of little ‘arils’ (the tiny jewel like fruit pieces of the pomegranate).
 
Indeed we now know more about the medicinal benefits of the Pomegranate, for example, the juice provides 16% of an adults daily vitamin C requirement and also is a good source of vitamin B5. It is also said to have antioxidant properties but proof is yet to be found regarding this. Perhaps it really does make your hair shine!!
 
Another tradition in Iran when having guests around is to serve a drink upon their arrival. After travelling in the hot sun for hours (getting from one side of the city to the other in Tehran traffic can take well over an hour!) you want something cool and refreshing to strip away the heat. Strangely enough, hot tea is served alongside tall glasses of ice cold juice made from a thick syrupy concentrate of either lemon or pomegranate as well as other varieties.
 
At the moment, the concentrate is not imported into the U.K but you can find Pomegranate puree in most Asian stores around the country which will do the trick. A tiny amount in a tall glass with water and ice topped with a sprig of mint gives a very refreshing taste on a hot summers day.
 
It is also widely used in Persian cooking. The arils can be used in soups and salads or the more popular dish of Khoresh e Fesenjoun. This is an extremely thick casserole of chicken in a very tangy sauce of pomegranate puree and crushed walnuts. My personal favourite however is the Northern Iranian dish called Gilasheh. Chicken livers sauteed with onions in a sauce of tomato and pomegranate purees and demerera sugar. For an added extra, you can sprinkle in a teaspoon of cinammon and serve with Iranian flatbread (nan e lavash) or the Arabic Khoubz (again, both found in most Asian stores).
 
I have added the recipe here for Khoresh e Fesenjoun. Be warned that this is a very time consuming dish and not for everyone’s palate. Definitely not one to try with younger children as they may not appreciate the sweet and sour taste this dish exudes. You should end up with a very dark, thick casserole of almost a dark purple colour.
 
Khoresh e Fesenjoun (image to come soon)
 
Ingredients:
Serves 4-6 people
 
2 medium onions, diced
8 tbsp vegetable oil
500g finely crushed walnuts
1/2 pint water
800g chicken breast, diced
150ml pomegranate puree
salt to taste
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ – ½ cup sugar (to taste)
 
 
1. Sauté in 4 tablespoon vegetable oil until golden brown. Take extra precaution to not burn the onion or have the edges black. Once complete, strain onion from the oil. Discard oil.
 
2. Mix the finely crushed walnuts and water together. If it is too thick, add a little more water until the consistency is ‘runny’.
 
3. In a large casserole pot, over medium-high heat, bring the walnut mixture to a gentle boil- constantly stirring to prevent settling of the walnut on the bottom of the pot and also to prevent the mixture from boiling over. Again, add cold water to the mixture if needed to create a runny consistency. Bring the heat down low and continue to stir for an hour.
 
4. Add onions to the mixture and continue to stir.
 
5. Add ½ tsp. salt and pomegranate puree to the walnut mixture and continue to simmer over low heat. Again continue to stir every thirty minutes to prevent settling of the walnut at the bottom of the pot. Allow mixture to boil for 3 hours to allow the walnuts to exude its natural oil. The finished consistency should be similar to runny porridge; if not, add cold water to the mix until a runny consistency is achieved. If the mixture has too much liquid, continue to boil until the excess liquid evaporates.
 
6. Add sugar (to taste) to the mixture and continue to simmer.
 
7. Meanwhile, in the same frying pan, heat remaining oil and lightly brown chicken pieces. Sprinkle turmeric and remaining salt. Do not fully cook pieces.
 
8. Add chicken and all of the juices and oil to the walnut mixture and continue to cook for another hour.
 
9. Taste the walnut mixture and add more salt or sugar to taste.
 
Serve with white rice and/or pitta or khoubz bread and slices of fresh onion to complement.
 
*Taken from various sources on the internet.
 
 

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I have to admit that as a child, I barely ate any vegetables. Peas, potatoes and salad veg were about all I would have without a fight and I certainly wouldn’t entertain anything slightly more exotic, like a carrot for example…

Fast forward to many, MANY years later, and yes, I will pretty much eat most vegetables. My taste has matured and I have even been eating broccoli and brussel sprouts for the last eight years or so. I am still however, slightly wary of some vegetables and when I was approached to take on the Think you know Beetroot challenge, I had to be honest and let them know that as a child I absolutely totally DID NOT LIKE beetroot. Since then, I haven’t touched it either, even though my parents are huge advocates of this very dark purple fleshy vegetable!

I took delivery of this stunning box of three different types of beetroot. Cooked natural beetroot, vacuum packed with no added flavours, cooked beetroot in mild vinegar and last but certainly not least, the fiery Sweetfire beetroot, baby beetroot cooked and infused with a marinade of chilli, oil and white wine vinegar! There are plenty of ideas on the LOVE BEETROOT website which show an incredible versatility of this contender.

 

After much deliberation, I decided to give the Beetroot a slight Middle Eastern/Mediterranean kick and used some of my favourite ingredients to mix up with it. I am pleasantly surprised by just exactly what you can prepare with beetroot and even in ancient times, it was used as a medicine to treat conditions such as headaches and toothache – for those of you who know I suffer with toothache constantly, this is a bonus! For the ladies, it is also low in calories and rich in folate!

For my first experiment I added three chopped Sweetfire beetroot to 250g strained greek yogurt, mixed in one tablespoon of honey and topped it with pumpkin seeds and more chopped beetroot. Served with flat bread, this was a tantalising taste on the tongue of the chilli mixed with the honey and the natural sweetness of the beetroot. I thoroughly enjoyed the taste and found I wasn’t shying away from eating more and more of this fresh and tingly dip.

I then decided to use a bit more of the Sweetfire beetroot as it immediately became my favourite, with a homemade chunky hummus.

For this dip you need:

1 tin of cooked chick peas

2 tbsp tahina (sesame seed paste like mix found in most eastern/asian stores)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 whole walnuts, crushed, or a handful of pistachios, shelled and crushed

salt to taste

Blend the above ingredients just enough to leave a few chick pea bits to make the hummus chunky. Add 3 chopped Sweetfire beetroot topped with crushed walnuts or pistachio and serve with crudites or chips.

Finally, to end the insanely hot week of summer at the end of september, I chose to make a salad, using the cooked beetroot in mild vinegar.

For the salad, you need:

A few handfuls of watercress (to line the bottom of the plate)

One small yellow pepper chopped into medium chunks

Half a tin of broad beans, skin on

5 beetroot cooked in mild vinegar

Olive oil

Toss the salad ingredients together, drizzle with olive oil and chill for an hour before serving.

If you want an extra zing for this salad, just add an extra capful of vinegar over it before chilling. I have certainly had fun trying out the Beetroot and have a couple more recipes to share with you in part two coming later in the week. Don’t forget you can go to the website at Love Beetroot and enjoy creating all the fabulous recipes they have there from burgers to cupcakes! You can also follow them on Twitter @LoveBeetroot and make sure you use the hashtag #Thinkyouknowbeetroot to say HI to the gang and spread the word!!

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