Saturday, March 17, 2018

Wild garlic tzatziki

Since we started talking about wild garlic and those flaky flatbreads on my last post, let’s now move on to the serious stuff. Let’s talk about tzatziki; wild garlic tzatziki.

For those of you who don’t know what tzatziki is, it is a Greek sauce/dip that’s served alongside all sorts of meats and fish, as a mezes together with other small plates to dip your bread, pita or crunchy, fried vegetables in, and it is an integral part of souvlaki.

It is made with thick Greek yoghurt, garlic, cucumber, dill, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. That is all.
In Greece, by the way, what the rest of the world calls Greek yoghurt, we call strained yoghurt, which denotes its thickness in contrast to the other yoghurts we have in Greece. We have many kinds of yoghurt to choose from in my homecountry. ;)

It is one of my favorite sauces and one that I make almost every week to accompany my meals and I invariably use regular garlic to make it, but not this time; because this time I had my wild garlic find that I couldn’t wait to use in my tzatziki. And it was dreamy.

The wild garlic is a worthy substitute for the regular garlic cloves, adding a herby flavor and a more gentle garlic aftertaste without, however, being any less sharp or properly garlicky which is exactly what you seek when you crave tzatziki.

Wild garlic tzatziki

The amount of garlic you use is a matter of personal taste, some people like their tzatziki stronger than others, but tzatziki should have a garlic flavor, that’s the point, so don’t be prudent and follow my lead. You can always taste as you go and if you reach a point where you think it’s enough, just stop adding.

I used mainly the little stalks of the wild garlic in my tzatziki as they have the more pungent garlicky flavor but I added some wild garlic leaves as well that have a more herby flavor and that’s what made my tzatziki even more special.

Others will have you strain the cucumber before adding it to the tzatziki but I have never done that in my life and my tzatziki is always thick and proper. Yes, cucumber has a high water content and some of it will leak into your tzatziki making it a bit thinner, seeing, though, that real Greek tzatziki is made with thick Greek yoghurt, the cucumber liquid leakage, especially in the time it takes from making the tzatziki to serving it on the same day (I wouldn’t advise you to make it in advance, it’s best served the day of) is minimal. The yoghurt is thick enough to not really be affected by this negligible amount of cucumber liquid. What would be ideal, however, is if you scooped out the center of the cucumber where all the seeds and more liquid are, before using it.

Yield: enough for 4 people (or 2 if you’re anything like my boyfriend and me)

500 g Greek yoghurt, full-fat
10-12 wild garlic little stalks, finely chopped
4-5 wild garlic leaves, chopped
Small handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
70 g peeled and deseeded cucumber, cut into very small cubes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp red-wine vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper, 5-6 turns of the pepper mill
Salt, to taste

Olive oil and extra dill, for serving

I advise you to always prepare tzatziki right before or no more than 1 hour before you need it. It’s ridiculously easy to make and you can always prep the ingredients beforehand and put together the sauce at the last minute. Trust me, it’s the best way to go when it comes to tzatziki.

In a large bowl, empty the yoghurt and add the chopped wild garlic (both stalks and leaves), the cucumber, olive oil, vinegar, pepper and a little salt. Mix well with a spoon to combine all the ingredients and give it a taste. Add more salt if needed.

Transfer to a serving bowl/plate, drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle a little extra dill on top and serve.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wild garlic flaky flatbreads

The first thing I did the other day when I came home with a bunch of wild garlic that I found at the market, was munch on a few of them raw on the spot. I was intent on inhaling that grassy, herby, garlic flavor of these beauties that whispered in my ear that the arrival of spring is not too far away now.

I have never come across wild garlic anywhere before; I’m not the foraging kind and my local market doesn’t carry them, so by pure luck I bumped into them and couldn’t control myself with happiness. What a food geek am I, right?

By the way, on the same day, I decided to buy a hugely expensive bottle of 100% yuzu citrus juice (yuzu is a native Japanese citrus fruit that can only be found in Japan) and was ecstatic about that too, but that’s another post entirely.

Back to wild garlic. Thoughts and ideas were racing through my head about what to do with it, and I began to complicate things, as per usual, but then I thought to myself, hey, snap out of it, this is garlic, it’s garlic!, you know what to do with garlic, its’ the best thing in the world. Make wild garlic pesto, add it straight to salads, make tzatziki (I did! will share soon), make garlic butter and smear it on a nice, juicy piece of steak or toast, serve it with baked salmon (I did that too), oh there’s no limit to what wild garlic can do.

The first thing I did do with it, though, was use it to make these flatbreads, and they were incredible. Blistered and buttery, soooo flaky and deeply aromatic from the wild garlic, and for me, one of the best flatbreads I’ve ever tasted.

They’re thin and crispy yet bendy and a little chewy, thus perfect for souvlaki, buttery but light, with a rich flavor from the olive oil and the herby, grassy flavor of the wild garlic which is mellow rather than pungent. The leaves have a soft garlic flavor while the small stalks have a stronger, sharper, garlicky flavor that is reminiscent of spring onion, so essentially the flavor of wild garlic is to me like a cross between regular garlic and spring onion.

They’re the best accompaniment to soups and stews, helping you mop up all the juices from your plate, ideal served with grilled meats or fish, perfect to wrap your chicken or meat skewers around, to serve alongside huge salads and roasted vegetables of any kind, and to dip it into labneh or hummus.

I have to say that they’re quite addictive, you can’t possibly eat just one, so beware; don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wild garlic flaky flatbreads

I only used the leaves of the wild garlic, not the little stalks because they will tear through the delicate dough when you roll it out, so don’t be tempted to add that part either.

The wild garlic leaves I used were approximately 14 cm long each and I mention that because their size varies.

Wild garlic is also known as ramson or bear garlic.

Yield: 10 flatbreads

85 g unsalted butter
375 g 00 flour
Sea salt
175 ml water
16-18 wild garlic leaves, chopped

30 g melted and cooled unsalted butter, for brushing dough

Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing flatbreads and baking paper

Special equipment: stand mixer, plastic wrap, rolling pin (I use a thin rolling pin, the one I use to roll out phyllo dough), soft pastry brush, baking paper, cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed frying pan/skillet/griddle pan

Melt the 85 g of butter and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour and salt and whisk. Add the melted butter and with the dough hook attachment mix for a few seconds. Add the water gradually and knead the dough until you have a smooth, shiny and soft dough, for about 5 minutes. Shape it into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave dough to rest for 3 hours at room temperature.

Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 10 equal-sized pieces. I weighed them because I’m OCD. Roll them into balls and place them on a baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. The dough balls should be soft and pliable. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Before starting to roll them out, have a baking sheet and baking paper ready because you will stack the flatbreads between pieces of baking paper that you need to grease with olive oil so the flatbreads don’t stick on them.

Have your melted and cooled 30 g of butter ready, as well as the chopped wild garlic leaves.

Working on a clean surface (no flour needed), take one ball and using a rolling pin, roll it out to a 22-23 cm round (you don’t need to be too strict with the shape, it can be slightly oblong/oval shape).
Brush the top with melted and cooled butter (be aware that the amount of butter should last for all 10 flatbreads so eyeball it), scatter a few pieces of chopped wild garlic leaves and then sprinkle with some sea salt.

Roll the dough tightly up into a long and thin rope and then wind that rope to form a tight coil. Using your rolling pin, roll out that coil into a 23-25 cm round. Again, you don’t need to be too strict with the shape, it can be slightly oblong/oval, but you must be strict with how big it is; don’t roll them out bigger because they will be thinner and they will be more like crackers instead of flaky flatbreads.

Place the flatbread on a piece of baking paper that you have greased well with olive oil and cover it. You don’t want the flatbreads to dry up!
Continue preparing the rest of the flatbreads, keeping them stacked on top of each other, in between sheets of oiled baking paper.

Heat your cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed frying pan/skillet/griddle pan over a medium-high heat. When it heats up very good, turn heat down to medium and cook the flatbreads, one at a time, about 2 minutes per side, regulating the heat so they don’t burn. When you take the flatbread off the heat, immediately brush both sides with a little olive oil and serve.

They are best served warm but they are delicious when they cool as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dried barberry jam

While everyone is trying to capture the essence of citrus fruits and preserve it for the months to come with marmalades and jams, I am trying to capture the essence of barberries and the Middle East with a different kind of jam. One made with the dried fruit rather than the fresh —impossible to find fresh barberries here anyway—, that’s different than anything else I have ever tasted.

Quite sharp, intensely fruity and tangy, zingy and a bit sour and tart to the point where you think you can’t handle it, but then the sweetness kicks in to reassure your palate and bring balance. Flavored with saffron, cinnamon and cardamom, and sweetened by Demerara sugar which has a caramel sweetness that deepens the flavor of the jam, and having a lot of texture with a mixture of plump little barberries and wrinkly, crinkly ones.

It reminds me a bit of pomegranate molasses in terms of the effect it has on the palate, therefore, I think it would be great in stews, like a Persian stew, with this jam added instead of the pomegranate molasses.

It’s a jam not for the faint-hearted, nor for those who crave absolute sweetness, but for those who dream of a flavor combination that’s lively and unusual.

It’s the kind of jam that you’d thinly spread on top of a heavily buttered piece of toast to mellow out the tart, acidic tang of the jam, and one that I deeply enjoy paired with foie gras (duck or goose liver pâté) as its fattiness cuts through the sharpness of the jam (combo pictured in the photos below), or with pork rillettes (rough, rustic kind of pâté) and various charcuterie, or served as a side to seared, crispy-skinned duck breast, or a luscious duck leg confit.

Dried barberry jam
Slightly adapted from Sweet Middle East by Anissa Helou

It’s best if you keep it for 2-3 days in the fridge before you try it; the spices will have time to give more flavor to the jam and the sharpness of the fruit will mellow out a little bit.

Barberries are a very traditional Iranian dried fruit that’s acidic, quite tart and a tiny bit sweet. And if you want to use your barberries in more recipes, here is another one for Kuku sabzi, a Persian herb omelette with feta.

Yield: 1 large-ish jar

200 g dried barberries
380 ml unsweetened, pure apple juice
4 green cardamom pods, crushed lightly
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of saffron threads
170 g Demerara sugar

Rinse the barberries well under cold running water and place them in a large glass bowl. Add the apple juice and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and let the barberries soak in the apples juice for 14-15 hours.

In a large saucepan, add the barberries and the apple juice, cardamom pods, saffron and the cinnamon stick, and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula, and then add the sugar, without stopping stirring. Let boil for 4 minutes, still stirring constantly and then remove from the heat. Take out carefully the cinnamon stick and discard it and pour the jam into a sterilized glass jar (read here on how to sterilize glass jars). Put on the lid and turn the jar upside down.

Allow to cool completely and then store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days before opening and tasting it.

You can keep it in the fridge unopened for up to 3 months. Once opened, it keeps for 1 to 1½ month in the fridge.