Posts Tagged ‘karen martini’

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The Vine Intervention, pt 1

February 19, 2010

Till now, my appreciation of Vitis vinifera has been limited to a lifelong (and let’s admit it, rather passionate) love affair with the grape. I’ve admired the leaves from afar – on the plant – but cooking with them has never appealed. I know everybody loves dolmades, for example, but their vineleaf wrapping has always been way too slimy for my liking. Frankly I’ve found eating dolmades too often to feel like popping a big fat slug in the mouth. So the idea of using those vine leaves packed in oil – ugh.

But joy of joys, these reservations are in the past, because this week I have discovered the joy of cooking with fresh vine leaves, and there ain’t no turning back. I love them. And now I’m plotting to somehow grow a vine here, for our own supply.

This new affair began when Mr & Ms Melba offered me some leaves from their gorgeously lush and laden vine, and mentioned a turkish vine leaf ‘pie’ Ms M had made. I had to check that out. And then the stars aligned, with Karen Martini’s incredible looking vine leaf recipes in last week’s Sun Herald.  Both these dishes are the business. I urge you to pluck a big handful of leaves next time you are in the vicinity of a vine, and try them. One other great thing about the leaves is, as I discovered by leaving a sealed plastic bag full of them in the fridge and then forgetting them for a whole two weeks, that they keep incredibly well. When I opened the bag it was as if they were picked minutes before. Amazing.

This post I’ll share the Karen Martini recipe, which I now understand is a variation on a traditional Greek dish (JMo, if you’re out there, can you confirm?), but was a revelation to me.  Next time, the pie.

Now the recipe below used packaged vine leaves, but was perfect with fresh. The only preparation I did was soak the leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and press dry in a tea towel, and cut out the hard stalk. We used nectarines in place of peach and it was delicious. Having never heard of saba, I used vin cotto as suggested. Di-vine.

Karen Martini’s vine-leaf wrapped haloumi with peach

1 large bulb garlic

olive oil

1 packet haloumi cheese, sliced into 8 pieces

8 vine leaves (rinsed, if packet, or fresh prepared as above)

2 ripe peaches (or nectarines), cut into wedges

1/2 lemon, juiced

3 tbsp saba, a grape must reduction (or vin cotto, or balsamic vinegar)

1. Cut the top off the garlic bulb, drizzle with oil, wrap in foil and roast in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or till soft. Allow to cool.

2. Smear each haloumi slice with the roasted garlic, then wrap tightly in a vine leaf.

3.  Heat 80ml olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook haloumi for 1 minute each side, till the cheese starts to melt, but not burning the leaf.

4. Arrange on a plate, scatter with the nectarine or peach and drizzle with the lemon juice and vin cotto / saba .

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Go nuts!

February 6, 2010

A couple of people have asked me for this recipe, which constituted one of the bits of our Christmas present to family & a few friends. These are totally delicious and very easy, even when I was making ten times the quantity.

It’s a Karen Martini recipe, from that second book, Cooking at Home, one of the better books in my collection (mind you, it may shortly be replaced in my affections by the fabulous-looking Bistro Cooking, by Patricia Wells, which the Empress just gave me!)

I used a mix of cashews, almonds and pecans but you could throw any raw nut in I reckon – these are very good with drinks. We made sure to spend lots of time with family over Christmas so we could eat theirs as well as ours. I packaged them up in cellophane bags and then threw them in the freezer, and just pulled out before giving them away.

Karen Martini’s Spanish-Inspired Spiced Almonds

40g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
400g large blanched almonds (or a mix of other nuts)
3 large cloves garlic, bruised with the back of a knife
4 tablespoons sea salt flakes
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons castor sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 pinches cayenne pepper
½ egg white, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celcius and line a baking tray with baking paper. Melt butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add almonds and garlic and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, discard garlic and put almonds in a large bowl.

Place salt and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind into a powder. Add the sugar and spices and mix well. Add the spice mix and egg white to almonds and toss together.

Spread almonds on baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely on the tray, then store in an airtight container for up to a week – or in the freezer forever.