The phase of slow cooking. We’re home, with time on our hands enabling us to make complicated things that take days…. like bread, or a slow cooked tagine.
But isolation is also quite busy! So while it's great to have something simmering away for hours on some days while you beaver away at conference calls or zoom pilates, it's also helpful to have some easy whizzed up pastes and chutneys in the fridge to help make otherwise simple meals more satisfying.
Here are three green but entirely different condiments to have on hand. The first is a woody and chunky pistou of sage and pistachio nuts. The next, a fresh and cool coriander and coconut chutney, and the third, a garlicky salsa verde so punchy it will ward off the vampires. All you’ll need for these sauces apart from only a few ingredients, is a kitchen blender.
Pistou of Sage and Pistachios
Here’s a lovely rustic sauce to heap beside a juicy burger fresh off the grill, to dollop on a lamb chop or simply elevate a pile of roasted vegetables. Swirl a spoonful into a simple veggie soup just before serving for extra depth and flavour. You can substitute fresh sage leaves with basil of course, but if you do, toasted pine nuts are best with basil leaves. Sage pistou is particularly good paired with meat or veggies.
2 packed cups of fresh sage leaves without stems
1 cup shelled pistachio nuts with as much of the husk discarded as possible.
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (optional)
2 cloves garlic
A generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Throw the leaves, parmesan cheese, and peeled garlic pods in the blender with about ¼ cup olive oil and give it a quick whizz.
Add the pistachio nuts, and add more oil, a little at a time until the consistency is that of a loose and chunky peanut butter.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
De-cant the mixture into a clean airtight jar, top with more oil (just to cover the surface).
This should keep for about 6 days. Best served at room temperature for a fullsome woody flavour.
Chilled Coriander and Coconut Chutney
Here’s a chutney from my childhood. Perfect accompaniment for a samosa/empanada/sausage roll, or if preparing a subcontinental dinner of fragrant pilaf, dhal, crispy papadams and meat curry, this chutney is essential as a side dish. It provides a fresh zing to slow cooked dishes laden with complex flavours. The chutney is textured, and cool on the tongue, fresh with herbs and made mild with the coconut.
When using coconut cream instead of yoghurt, the chutney is also vegan. You can also top pieces of a firm fish like blue eyed cod with a generous dollop of this paste, wrap into banana leaf or kitchen paper parcels, and bake. Heavenly.
1 cup dried shredded coconut. Fresh of course if you have it.
2 cups lightly packed coriander leaves without stems
1 - 2 roughly chopped fresh green chillies, depending on your tolerance
1 tablespoon roughly chopped and peeled fresh ginger
½ cup plain yogurt or thick coconut cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
2-3 dried whole red chillies
Place the coriander leaves, coconut, ginger and chillies in a blender with the olive oil.
As the ingredients start to blend, add the yoghurt or coconut cream.
Keep the belder running and add one tablespoon of water at a time until a consistency of a thick paste is achieved.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Empty into a bowl. Covered tightly, this will keep for three days.
Heat vegetable oil in a shallow pan.
Throw in the mustard seeds and gently shake the pan until the seeds pop.
Add the curry leaves and dried chillies and stir.
After a quick minute, remove from the stove and pour this fragrant mix over the coriander chutney and serve immediately.
Salsa Verde a la Cucina Fresca
I discovered salsa verde decades ago within the pages of the cook book Cucina Fresca, sitting on a bookshelf in bachelor Michael’s Adams Morgan apartment in Washington DC. Two Californian girls had brought authentic Italian cooking into American households in a fun and easy to handle way. Evan Kleiman is a cooking legend in Los Angeles, and when many years later we lived there ourselves, it was a supreme delight getting to know her, and eating at her famed Angeli Caffe. Klieman sometimes catered for parties at our home in Santa Monica where I was always torn between hanging out with her in my kitchen and being with our guests. I can't think of this favourite killer green sauce without thinking of her: generous hearted, with an infectious laugh and a powerful magic touch in the kitchen. You can listen to Evan on her long running Good Food show on KCRW.
This piquant sauce is great for dipping freshly peeled prawns into. It's good to smear on toasted baguette and then layer with sardines and chopped boiled eggs. And it is incredibly fantastic when you use it as a marinade on a butterflied lamb shoulder. Marinated overnight preferably, and then cooked very slow in a low oven, on a rack sitting in a tray half filled with water. The bits of marinade that drop off the meat while cooking mix with the water bath, eventually forming a delicious gravy to spoon over the fall-off-the bone lamb. To-die-for.
1 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped
2-4 canned flat anchovy fillets, minced
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup fruity olive oil
In a small bowl, mix together the parsley, garlic, capers and enough minced anchovy to give the sauce a salted punch. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one week.
Note: I put all the ingredients in a blender together instead of mincing each separately. Also I kick it up a notch by adding 3 or four cloves of garlic, and using all four anchovy fillets. As I mentioned earlier: vampire repelling sauce!