Food: Umami rice balls

So, recently I felt like absolute death and didn’t fancy cooking anything elaborate. But during a window of not feeling quite as bad I rattled together this little beauty with leftover rice.

You’ll need:

  • 300-500g of leftover cooked rice,
  • 1 medium onion, chopped,
  • A handful of spring greens,
  • 3-4 mushrooms,
  • 1 tsp tomato pureé,
  • 1 tbsp Suma mushroom pâté,
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary,
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs,
  • 2-3 aubergines slices (in oil), chopped,
  • Salt for sprinkling (I used Saltverk Birch smoked salt)

For the Tomato umami drizzle:

  • 1tbs Kecap manis
  • 1tsp tomato pureé
  • 1tbs tomato ketchup
  • Splash of water to thin

For the Rosemary, garlic & smoked paprika mayo:

  • 4tbs vegan mayo
  • 1tbs Pimentón
  • 1tsp dried Rosemary, ground
  • 2tsp garlic infused oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan) and chop all the ingredients that need chopping. Fry the onion lightly in a little oil until soft, add the mushrooms and spring greens and continue to fry gently until they’ve softened down. Add the tomato puree and the pate and stir through.

In a big bowl stir all of the ingredients including the herbs into the rice and bring together with your hands into balls (roughly tennis ball sized). Place the balls onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven until they’re crispy on the outside for 15 to 20 minutes.

Whilst they are in the oven, mix together the ingredients for the umami drizzle & the punchy mayo in bowls. Take the balls out of the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. To serve, place in a bowl/ plate and cover them with the drizzle, sprinkle them with salt and serve the mayo on the side.

Enjoy!

 

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Food: Jamaican Jills

Jamaican Jills has been one of Neath’s best kept secrets for some time. Now it’s migrated west to Swansea and taken up residence at the bottom of Wind St. You’d be forgiven for thinking Jills was a chain restaurant as the scale and the impact of the place screams success. Perhaps it helps that the previous residents left a shell that could easily be adapted, but it’s really the heart and soul of the cooking and the people who cook it that shines through.

 

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Using the Jamaican flag and the Caribbean as its decorative cornerstone the restaurant is bright and cozy, with splashes of Patois overhead and her signature hot wing challenge on the wall near the kitchens. The design lover in me also noticed the Artek A330S lights, designed by my favourite Architect and designer, Alvar Aalto. Probably a repro, to have something Finnish in the place, seems odd but the glow of the brass on the lights does suit the warmth of the place.

The whole place sings with its unique selling perspective – cosy, good value and gloriously Jamaican. Building on the reputation of its parent restaurant, this bright new light in Swansea’s culinary spectrum looks set to set many a tongue alight with its big flavours and great atmosphere.

 

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The menu sports the dishes one would expect of a Jamaican restaurant but I think, and I’d hope, that people would be brave enough to go off piste and try some lesser known delights. Standouts for me included the wonderfully tender and spicy goat curry, served with rice & pea, her Ackee and Saltfish is also deliciously moreish, served with gorgeous fried dumplings. Lunch menus and seasonal special menus are available too (like the recent one for Valentine’s Day) and are as varied and interesting as can be. Typically, the Jerk chicken is bold and punchy, the wings big and juicy. If you’re feeling brave you can try the Spicy Wing Challenge and get a t-shirt and your face on the wall. If you’re bold enough to sign the disclaimer then bragging rights come at the price of 7 hot wings in fifteen minutes with a 5 minute cool down – no drinks!

 

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Their bar is fully stocked with regular favourites (including Red Stripe, naturally) with a particular emphasis on cocktails for that Caribbean dimension. Two for one exists on most of the favourites with the Rum Punch being a particularly delicious and unique offering. They also offer a range of “smoking” cocktails served over dry ice for that added wow factor. The Children don’t get short shrift either, their meals echo the adult menu but come in Small Portions or Big Portions so you can gauge them by the appetite of your child. They also come with unlimited drinks and a dessert, which is a nice touch.

 

It’s so easy with new restaurants for them to have a muddy and confusing atmosphere, like they don’t know what they’re about, but that definitely isn’t the case with Jamaican Jills. From the bubbly staff to the slick management, Jills has hit the ground running and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. Locally grown successes like this should be sung from the rooftops and supported wherever possible, but when the food is this good it’s all the more satisfying to just go along and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

Food: Sweet potato moqueca

This recipe started as a way to use up some leftover sweet potato I had in the pantry. By now, it’s one of my weekly favourites. Its super tasty and simple to make!

You’ll need:

  • 4 Medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 Large red onions
  • Glug of vegetable oil
  • 2 Cloves of garlic
  • 1tsp Chilli flakes
  • 1 tbs Of palm oil
  • 2 Bell peppers (I used green & red)
  • 1tsp Of tomato pureé
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tsp Ground coriander
  • 1tsp Of dried parsley
  • 1 tin Of peeled tomatoes
  • 100ml Of water
  • 1/2 Of coconut milk
  • 1 Vegetable stock pot
  • Squeeze of lime luice
  • Handful of jalapeños, chopped

Coconut Rice:

  • 1 Cup of rice (per person)
  • 1/2 tin of coconut milk
  • Water
  • 1 Dried chilli pepper

Garnish:

  • Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped.

 

Peel the sweet potatoes & chop into thick chunks. Boil them until soft in a pan of salted water. Once done, drain and set aside.

In a cast-iron pot, fry the onions – cut into strips & 2 cloves of garlic (minced) until soft. Add in a green & red bell pepper cut into chunks. Once everything has lost its toughness add in 2 tsp ground coriander, a sprinkle of chilli flakes, a big dollop of tomato pureé and a generous amount of fresh coriander. Add 1 tin of peeled tomatoes (taken and chopped into thick chunks on a chopping board) with its juice.

Fill up the tomato tin with water and add to the mix, getting out all the tomatoey goodness.

Then add in half a tin of coconut milk, a squeeze of lime juice, a vegetable stock pot, a few jalapeños and a tbs of palm oil – or dendê- which you can get online. Thankfully my mum had some Carotina oil – which is sustainably sourced, cold-pressed red palm fruit oil.

Finally add in the vegetables and season to taste. Cook incredibly slow for 3 hours.

Finish with loads of freshly chopped parsley and coriander.

I served mine with coconut rice, which I made by cooking the rice in seasoned water, the other half of the coconut milk and a dried chilli until fully cooked. The result is somewhat fluffy, somewhat sticky- FULL ON comfort food

I served mine with some lime Lemonaids, but a Brazilian beer such as a Brahma, would pair really nicely!

 

Bom apetite!

Food: Armenian stuffed peppers (Dolma)

Having bought loads of peppers on double discount at work last week I had quite a few left to use up. What perfect way than with some stuffed peppers!

I had made a vegan version of Armenian peppers previously, for my Eurovision party- and it was a resounding success. This was surely the way forward.

The finished dish ends up feeding 2-3 people  (we were very full afterwards!)

To make you’ll need:

  • 5-6 medium/large red bell peppers, charred

For the filling:

  • 80g of cooked rice (per person)
  • 1/2 fried courgette, chopped finely  (I used some from an antipasti jar to save time)
  • 2 Lombardi peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

For the mince:

  • 100g green lentils
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped,
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1tbs tomato purée
  • 1tbs sun dried tomato paste,
  • 1tbs dried parsley
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1tsp bouillon
  • 1 cup red wine

For the sauce:

  • 1 carton/ jar of passata
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • A glug of olive oil
  • 1 (Heaped) tbs of pepper paste

Soy garlic yogurt mix

  • 2-3 tbs of soy yogurt (I used Alpro Go On. Which is a thicker Quark style yogurt)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic infused oil
  • A sprinkle of smoked paprika – to garnish

Start by making the mince.

I’d recommend doing this in advance so you have a batch ready for you to use.  We usually have big batches of lentil mince  in the freezer that Tom cooks up whilst I’m in work on a Sunday. It’s so versatile (if you remove the cayenne and mixed spice) and can be made into all manner of creations from pies, ragù, Chilli- you name it!

This batch i’ve included the extra spices as I knew this batch was only for making dolma.

In a small cast iron pot fry the chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add the paste and the purée and heat through. Pour in the lentils and stir until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Add the herbs, spice and bouillon with lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Cover with the water and put the lid on. Simmer for at last forty minutes, an hour won’t hurt – this will allow the lentils to truly swell and soak up all the liquid.

After an hour the mixture should be rich and just about ready. Stir in the wine until the mixture reconstitutes itself – allow to cook through for another twenty minutes until the wine has cooked out. Leave aside to cool slightly, or store overnight/ freeze*

*If using thawed/chilled mince, I’d recommend heating it through before stuffing.

Once your mince is ready the rest is simple and fairly quick to make!

When you’d like to make the dolma, simply put each pepper over an open flame ( I used my gas hob) until it begins to bubble and blacken. Once burnished and black, take off and leave to cool down.

PS: Be careful around open flames! The amount of times the pepper (now a ball of fire) fell off the ring- and I was wearing oven gloves!

As they are cooling I’d recommend cooking the other components.

Cook the rice as you would normally, remembering to cook slightly less than usual as you are stuffing it with a rice mixture rather than serving it with rice. Whilst it’s cooking start the sauce.

Heat up a saucepan and fry off the garlic with the olive oil until translucent. Next, add in the pepper paste and cook for another minute. Then add in the passata and let it simmer until the flavours start developing.

The rice should be done by this point. Set aside and leave to cool.

Return to the peppers and de-core & de seed them, making sure that you cut them close to the top so that you have a vessel to fill. Remember to keep the tops, though.

Grab the mince, empty it into a mixing bowl and combine it with the rice. Then, add in the lemon juice & zest, chopped peppers, courgette and parsley. season well.

Then pour the sauce into a baking dish and sit the peppers in the tomatoey-peppery bath. Fill the peppers up to the brim  with this aromatic mixture and re-hat them with their tops. Place into a preheated oven at 180°C for 10-15 minutes.

Once they are in the oven, you can make the topping. Combine all ingredients together, (except the paprika) until it becomes thick & glossy.

Take the peppers out of the oven and de-hat them once again ( no fear they’ll have their hats back on soon enough!) and smother with the  lemony-garlic yogurt. Top with the smoky, fiery paprika and return the tops on (see, I told you 😉 ). Serve with a side salad or on their own

Enjoy!