Duck Pie with Pomegranate and Walnuts

Serves: 6

Wow.

On so many levels, this Middle Eastern pie is as amazing as it is unique.

Starting with the most obvious: it’s a duck pie! Duck pies are made of duck which means they are automatically amazing.

They’re also rare so this is a treat. (I’ve only typed up one other duck pie at the time of writing this one up.)

You’re cooking with Pomegranate Molasses, something I am confident you’ve never cooked with. It is also amazing.

You make a custard with the rich, reduced stock that you’ve spent the previous 2 hours infusing with saffron, walnuts and duck.

You’re shredding the moorish meat of 8 duck Marylands. The same cut you use in Duck Confit. Amazing right?!

And you’re cooking the pie in buttered filo.

This technique behind this pie is unique and definitely feels Middle Eastern.

Though the effect is awesome.

It is just beautiful and served as part of a Middle Eastern feast, this is luxury.

Not cheap, not quick, though like any duck dish, spend the time and eat like the Kings that no doubt ate this pie 400 years ago.

Ingredients

50ml olive oil, plus extra if needed
8 duck Marylands (about 2kg)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup roasted walnuts, rubbed in a cloth to remove skins, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
A pinch of saffron threads, lightly toasted and crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1.2 litres chicken stock
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coriander leaves, thinly sliced
9 filo pastry sheets
150gm melted clarified butter
30gm pure icing sugar, sifted with 1tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy casserole over a medium heat. Season duck and fry in two batches, skin side down first (6 – 8 minutes), then on the other side until golden (2 – 3 minutes). Drain fat leaving 2 tbsp in the casserole.
  2. Return all the duck to the casserole together with the onion, garlic, walnuts, ginger, saffron, cinnamon and cumin, stir to coat well, then adding the stock and pomegranate molasses. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer over a low heat for around 1 1/2 hours and when the duck can easily be pulled off the bone.
  3. Strain, reserving the stock and duck mixture separately. Set the duck aside to cool.
  4. Skim off the excess fat from the stock (place paper towels on the surface, then remove and discard).
  5. Coarsely shred the duck meat, discarding the skin and bones. Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan and reduce by two-thirds to about 400ml. Transfer half the reduced stock to a bowl and whisk in egg yolks. Return to the saucepan with the remaining reduced stock and stir over a low heat until creamy and nearly set, as you would for an egg custard (5 – 7 minutes).
  6. Stir in the parsley and coriander, season to taste and set aside to cool completely. Fold the duck meat into the cooled mixture, refrigerating if not using immediately.
  7. Lay one filo sheet on a work surface, (covering the remaining filo pastry sheets with a slightly damp tea towel) and brush with melted butter. Repeat with another filo sheet laying it on top of the first to form a cross. Repeat with another 4 sheets, laying them at varying angles to form a circle of filo.
  8. Line a 27cm-diameter deep-sided non-stick frying pan with the filo circle, pushing it into the sides. Add duck filling, spreading evenly and brush surrounding filo with melted butter. Brush remaining 3 filo sheets with butter, fold in half and place on top of filling to cover. Bring pastry sides over filo on top to enclose and brush with butter.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180c. Place the pie in the oven and bake until golden brown (30 – 35 minutes). Remove from the oven and carefully place a large plate upside-down over pie and invert onto the plate.
  10. Wipe the excess butter from the filo and sift icing sugar mixture over the pie. Place a metal skewer on a naked flame until red-hot, holding the skewer with a tea towel. Burn a trellis pattern into the filo. Serve.

Chicken skewers: Moroccan-style marinade

Makes: 12 skewers

For Nat’s birthday, we got an awesome, portable, charcoal grill from Everdure, a company Heston Blumenthal has been promoting.

The idea was inspired by some Phillipino pork skewers we had cooked over a traditional hibachi grill at a market a few weeks prior; though a sensible, all-in-one charcoal grill versus a not so sensible, not so portable hibachi grill steered us in the Heston direction.

Anyway, we have loved the grill and the many skewers we’ve made with the boys and friends.

There is something neat about cooking your own meat over a super hot grill. Cold beer, sizzling meat, some dipping sauces… doesn’t get much better.

This marinade we have done twice and it has been really popular.

Make it the day ahead and marinate the chicken in a big ziplock bag. When cutting the meat, keep it small and consistent. Small cubes, not big off cuts.

If you can find chicken thigh with the skin on, even better… though however you do it, get the surface chargrilled and enjoy the taste of charcoal BBQ.

Ingredients

1.2kg chicken thighs

Marinade

1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Cube the chicken into 2cm cubes, retaining the fat.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients with a few cracks of pepper. Marinate the chicken cubes with the marinate, ideally overnight, refrigerated.
  3. Soak bamboo skewers in a shallow dish of cold water for 30 minutes and then drain.
  4. Skewer the chicken tightly. Heat the grill on high. And cook those puppies, marinating with the remaining marinade as you go.

(Amazing) Moroccan Couscous

Serves: 4

Couscous is not something I have ever paid too much attention to when cooking a tagine or whatever it might be.

(The exception being Jamie Oliver’s Couscous Stuffed Roast Chicken where the couscous is the star of the show.)

My usual approach – couscous, olive oil, hot chicken stock, currants and maybe some slivered almonds – has been unceremoniously described by Nat – at its worst – as “glug”.

A criticism I’ve accepted because as I said, I’ve never paid too much attention to it: especially when a cracker of a tagine is ladled on-top.

This recipe affirmed what I have always known about couscous and that is that it can be so wonderful – even on its own – when shown the time. It can be much more than just a ho-hum base to a great tagine and it can certainly be much more than just glug.

To point, this couscous blew Nat away and she agreed it was tremendous.

In fact, I recall her saying something to the effect that it was the best couscous she had ever had.

Make the effort and do this. It is bloody amazing, light and wonderful tasting…. and turn-around your detractors in their steps.

Ingredients

450ml chicken stock
200gm couscous
½ red onion, finely diced
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
60gm dried currants
Handful whole almonds, roasted
80gm butter, diced
2 egg yolks, beaten
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Method

  1. Over a high heat, in a medium-sized pot, bring the stock to a boil.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and season well.
  3. When the stock is boiling, pour it over the couscous mixture, give it a stir and cover with glad wrap. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Uncover and gently run a fork through the couscous to fluff it up. Check your seasoning and serve.

Moroccan-style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

Serves: 6 – 8 lunches

We don’t buy our lunches at work.

Instead, we cook something big on Sunday night – a stew, a mince, a dahl – and that is lunch for the week.

Nat repeatedly makes the point that there is simply no point in wasting calories during the week. Or to the point, wasting calories, at work, at lunch. Better to reserve the pastas and pastry for the weekends when you can have a few wines and mop everything up with bread and more wines.

I don’t disagree.

Thus why you should consider this stew and making it for your next week of lunches.

Working backwards, it is a calorie blackhole. You’ll burn more calories eating it.

Secondly, it tastes just great.

Thirdly, thanks to the chickpeas, it is filling and you won’t be searching around for a Rivita before four.

Save the money, save the calories and save the weekend for the big chicken sandwiches.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 – 2 tsp chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 dates, pitted and chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped into 2 cm pieces
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
2 x 400gm cans of crushed tomatoes
3 cups of vegetable stock
1 yellow capsicum (pepper), stemmed and chopped into 2cm pieces
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
Salt and pepper
Couple handfuls of baby spinach
To serve: Greek yoghurt, coriander, lemon zest, brown rice

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onions, lower the heat and cook until softened. Add the spices and chilli flakes. Slowly saute until the onions are really soft.
  2. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add the dates, carrots and sweet potatoes. Season with the salt and pepper and mix. Add the tomatoes, stir and then the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced and thickening.
  3. Add the capsicum and chickpeas; check your seasoning. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the greens and cook for a final minute, adding olive oil, lemon zest and seasoning as need be.

Moroccan Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

Moroccan Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

Serves: 6 – 8

This stew isn’t likely from Morocco though who cares?

It is healthy, filling, tasty, full of pleasant heat and super simple to prep.

As a work lunch – something we had all last week – it ticks every box, served either hot or cold.

Add a dollop of yoghurt, coriander or a side of cous cous and the fact that this stew might not be strictly Moroccan really will be the last of your thoughts.

Yum!

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
Chilli flakes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 dates, pitted and chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 x 400gm cans crushed tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
1 yellow pepper, stemmed and chopped
2 cans cooked chickpeas
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A few handfuls of baby spinach

To serve:
Chopped flat leaf parsley/coriander
Finely grated lemon zest
Extra virgin olive oil
Cooked brown rice/quinoa/couscous

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, lower the heat and cook until soft. Add the cinnamon, cumin, coriander and a few pinches of chilli flakes. Cook slowly until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant: a minute or to. Add the chopped dates, carrots, sweet potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Stirring, add the tomatoes and then the stock.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sweet potatoes are just tender: 10 – 12 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped peppers and chickpeas and stir. Season again and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
  5. Stir through the spinach, check the seasoning and serve.

Moroccan kofte with spicy tomato sauce

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Seriously?!

Serves: 4

Oh wow this is awesome.

Admittedly, I made them after a rather reasonable lunch remit with a few wines. Though the flavour definitely wasn’t the wines talking, though I have been known to find cornflour pretty tasty late into a big night.

Though who hasn’t?

Lamb mince. Tick. Spice. Tick. Tomato. Tick. Yogurt, harissa and pine nuts. Tick.

It’s easy to prepare, easy to cook and healthy. It’s no revelation and instead, it’s the comfort, warmth and familiarity of it all.

Go out and have a big lunch, stumble home, pour another glass and knock this up. You could do a whole lot worse.

Ingredients

Lamb

500gm lamb mince
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chopped mint

Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomato
2 tsp harissa
1 tsp sugar
200gm tub Greek yogurt
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
Coriander, pittas and couscous to serve

Method

  1. If using wooden skewers, soak for at least 20 minutes to stop burning. Heat the grill.
  2. Using your hands, mix the meat in a bowl with the onion, coriander, mint and plenty of seasoning. Shape into 8 sausages, about 10cm long and then threat a bamboo skewer through the center of each.
  3. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic and briefly fry. Add tomatoes, harissa, sugar and seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes until sauce has thickened.
  4. Grill the kofte for 6 – 8 minutes, turning until they are nice browned. Spoon the sauce over a warm platter, drizzle with yogurt and put the kofte on top. Scatter with the pine nuts and serve with coriander, pittas and couscous.
  5. And more wine.

Fish tagine with saffron & almonds

Serves: 4

Nat cooked this number last week and it was awesome.

Low calorie – 299 per serve to be seriously precise – and packing so much flavour, we had it with cauliflower rice remit with toasted cumin and coriander: some currants mixed through – as Nat pointed out – would have sealed the deal.

To think you can eat dinner like this on the couch mid-week, with a glass of vino and some catch-up TV actually makes the weekday slog OK. These are the moments to look forward to.

There is nothing not to like about this one and plenty to love. Do a kilo of fish like we did and toast the goodness into lunch at work as well.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Good pinch, saffron
500ml hot fish or chicken stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Green chilli, sliced (de-seed if you don’t want it too hot)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato puree (passata)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp ground almond (almond meal)
Zest of 1 orange, juice of ½
1 tbsp honey
700gm white fish, cut into chunks (make it a kilo and call it lunch)
Small bunch coriander, chopped
Handful flaked almonds, toasted
Couscous and natural yogurt to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan; add the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Meanwhile, put the saffron in the hot stock and allow to steep.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the pan and cook for a few minutes more. Add the spices and tomato puree, stir for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes, ground almonds, orange zest and juice, honey and saffron-scented stock. Simmer until thickened a little and the tomatoes have broken down.
  3. Add the fish to the pan; stir in softly and cover with a lid; simmer for a few minutes until just cooked. Check the seasoning.
  4. Serve scattered with the chilli along with the couscous and a blob of yogurt. Or cauliflower rice if you are a genius like Nat.