Ah, Nigella Lawson. When I saw her new cookbook
at the library I had to pick it up. I was shocked at it's weight, promptly ran home, and set it on my kitchen scale. 3 lbs, 12 oz. (1710 g.) of reading material, kitchen preferences, and generally good photography awaited me. I actually like reading Nigella, since she seems to be a person who writes exactly as she thinks, not pondering too long over the usage of particular words since she's hungry and wants to get to the point. I tend to like the ideas in her cookbooks as well, many of them are highly adaptable and quick since she famously loves to eat well but not too involved.
Reading through the introduction and her "batterie de cuisine" one night before bed, I couldn't help but notice the differences she and I share. She dislikes cast iron for it's heft (calling herself a "lazy wimp"), I grow to love it more every day. She sings the praises of her local canola oil (which - I'll bite, she makes me want to try - calling it's flavor "gorgeously mustardy and nutty"), I have been using olive or coconut oil religiously for over a year. But peppered in among the differences are the things that I also can't live without: the cast iron enameled Dutch oven, the bottle of vermouth, the box of vinyl gloves that protect my sensitive skin from such kitchen demons as lemon juice, chile pepper residue, raw corn and potato believe it or not...
Reading a detailed list of what people like and why is actually one of my favorite things to do. It highlights exactly why I like someone or why I should continue reading their book to get to the recipes. It lets me know why the book will be valuable to me as a resource long before I ever get to the one thing that is indispensable to me, the one thing in the book that I'll be addicted to for a long time, maybe even forever.
Early on in the book, under the heading of Easy Does It, comes a recipe for Jumbo Chili Sauce. Calling for red peppers and 3 1/2 cups of cilantro leaves, it piqued my interest. If there is one out of season thing I buy regularly all Winter and Spring long it's cilantro. Trucked in cilantro never lasts as long as the stuff grown steps from the kitchen, or picked up at a farm market, yet it beguiles me every time I stand amongst the produce thinking about what looks good, what's the cheapest, and what I have a taste for. Cilantro it seems, no matter the cost, always makes the cut.
It goes without saying then that I usually have some that needs using up, when the leaves around the edges start turning yellow 48 hours after their arrival home, reminding me always of the brevity of life. I am hopelessly addicted to this fermented raisin cilantro chutney
, which I just made another small batch of the last time I was in this predicament, so I thought I'd try lacto-fermenting up some Nigella-style sauce. I cut the recipe in half, using all the half bunch of cilantro clamoring for my attention on the counter. I also blended the sauce on the well-combined side, masking all the bright red of last year's red peppers. It may not be the prettiest thing I've ever made, but the flavor is indeed it's saving grace.
I used already roasted, seeded and peeled red peppers that I had in my freezer, you can use canned or roast some up fresh yourself. You can play around with proportions to what suits you - after all that is the way of Nigella. I only let the ferment go about 24 hours, but when I make it again (and make a larger batch), I'll let it go 3 days at room temperature before transferring to cold storage. You can also blend it more on the chunky side, it may be a more attractive red instead of a muddied mustard yellow...
Nigella-Style Lacto-Ferment Salsa
(adapted from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Kitchen book)
- 6 oz. roasted red peppers
- half small bunch cilantro, thick stems removed but some stems ok
- half a lime, plus half a lime's zest
- 3 chiles de arbol, rehydrated in boiling hot water for 10 minutes or so to soften
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 T. whey
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 small garlic clove
Blend everything except cilantro in a blender or food processor until as smooth or chunky as you like it. Add in cilantro, and blend (pulse) until chopped or blended to desired consistency. Pack into a clean jar (I left too much headspace in the photo above, but didn't worry about it since I knew I was going to eat it all right away!), and let sit at room temperature for 3 days in a more appropriately-sized container to ferment before transferring to cold storage.
Eat it on everything.
In classic Nigella fashion, I began thinking of all the stuff I could eat as a vehicle for this condiment. Yesterday, I had to pack a lunch for the Boy-O and I to eat at the museum we were going to after I picked him up from school. I knew I needed this sauce, and at the same time eyed a leftover half block of silken tofu in the fridge. I used an immersion blender to mix a heavy few tablespoons of my new favorite thing, the tofu, and some cashews for thickening and delicious sandwich filling was born. I wished I had some fresh sprouts to go with it, but made do with the butter lettuce that also called my name last time I shopped. The spread was so good, I could also see making some pasta and adding some height of the season cherry tomato halves, but sadly I'll have to wait awhile for that.dip/sandwich spread.
I love kitchen projects for things like condiments. It allows me to eat the way I want to, without subjecting the boys to super spicy and fermented flavors if they should choose against it. I've been known to make a leftover lunch for myself using up spoonfuls of numerous half-filled jars with minuscule amounts of whatever I ate for dinner the night before. I like to hoard things I love with the best of them, but for some reason, I don't find it necessary with condiments. The next batch will taste different, and be as addicting I'm sure. I may even add more chiles, and it could then be worthy of scrambled eggs.