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I’m always on the look out for recipes in new places and I found a great selection in a novel called ‘the Legend of Liz and Joe’ by John Murray. We read the book in my readers/writers group and we all agreed that the book was slightly strange (the writer has been compared to Flann O’Brien), but that the recipes sounded amazing. The Joe of the title runs a vegetarian gourmet guest house (with strange admittance policies), and the writer gives a wonderful account of the food he serves.
His menu for a South American banquet includes this Nicaraguan aubergine casserole, which is pretty simple (although it involves a lot of washing up!), but certainly lives up the gourmet billing. In future I would add a little more than the ‘discreet’ amount of allspice as I couldn’t really taste it, but I loved it with the organic red leicester cheese I used, as I was short of queso! I used a mix of aubergines (eggplant) and courgettes (zucchini) as that’s what I had in, and served the casserole on a bed of millet grain, which was a delicious combination.
Cacerola de Berenjana by John Murray
‘Nicaraguan aubergine casserole. Fried aubergines soaked in an incendiary and very rich sauce and covered with cheese. For the sauce green peppers, onion and garlic are fried together, an incontinent quantity of diluted tomato puree added, together with chilli peppers and a discreet dash of that top-heavy vandal of a spice, allspice. Place aubergines and sauce in alternating layers in a casserole, top with a copious blanket of pungent queso, then bake it till it sizzles, rasps and sings at you.’
My friend Sylvie found this recipe on a french website, Le Journal des Femmes, after I mentioned that I was looking for ways to use chestnut flour. Chestnuts are low in fat and gluten free, so the flour can play a useful part in a healthy diet. The flour does have quite a strong flavour – tasters will wonder what spices you used in this cake! But it is moist and went down very well with my select group of tasters!
Chestnut Cake by Amelle Ferre
3 cups chestnut flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup creme fraiche (I used low-fat)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4. Line a 1lb loaf tin with oiled greaseproof paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder, oil, creme fraiche and sugar. Add in the eggs and mix well. Pour into the loaf tin.
Cook for 45 – 50 minutes. Keep an eye on the cake and cover with tin foil if it browns before being thoroughly cooked. Test with a clean knife or skewer to see if it is cooked through before taking out of the oven.
It’s Easter, so here’s a chocolate recipe! I adapted this from a recipe in Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes by Martine Hilton called Javanese Ginger Squares – I made a gluten free version and halved the quantities, which seemed to make plenty! These are delicious and dangerously moreish…
Chocolate Ginger Squares
200g/7oz dark chocolate broken into pieces
60g/2oz unsalted butter
half 425ml tin condensed milk
125g/5oz trufree (gluten free) digestive biscuits, crushed
125g/5oz crystallized ginger, chopped
40g/2oz dessicated coconut
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water. When melted, stir in the butter and condensed milk.
Set a quarter of the ginger aside and stir in the remainder with the crushed biscuits and the coconut. Mix well.
Spoon the mixture into a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Level the surface and dot with the remaining ginger pieces, pressing them into the chocolate.
Chill overnight before lifting out with the paper and cutting into small squares.