Caraway seeds-an Easter weekend lunch April 2012
Caraway seeds have that taste about them that reminds you of all sorts of delicious times in your life.
Dark rye breads topped with smoked salmon springs to mind instantly but I have to admit to having quite thing for the warm sweetness that caraway possess and I add it in to many dishes that make others exclaim ...What?!"
So caraway is a biennial that produces a seed pod where our warm, earthy, robust little seeds spring from that have tones of fennel, anise, orange peel followed by a lingering nuttiness with even hints of eucalyptus. It has a brightness whilst being warm and nutty-beguiling!
One of the oldest used spices, it has been found in the remains of food dating back to 3000 BC. The Egyptians were fond of it enough to bury their dead with it, and the Greeks and Romans appreciated it's medicinal qualities.
Widely used in the Middle Ages due to it’s use in sweets and breads up to the time, Shakespeare even wrote about it hinting more toward the changes in culinary trends of England at the time as it had become a quite accepted spice in the English repertoire.
Said to keep your man at home or at least stop him from straying, caraway had a lot of live up to. Pigeons were feed breads spiced with caraway to keep them coming back to roost but Im not sure if the same success was had with men.
Indigenous to Europe where all parts of the plant are eaten from its wispy fennel like leaves to it’s carrot like tapered root, it is said to have come from Asia, India and North Africa well before that which in my mind makes sense when you think of the flavours that it bears.
Dutch caraway is said to be the best but it is commercially grown around the globe making it rather a success story in the spice world were so much is grown in such remote or limited areas.
Naturally that rather wonderfully medicinal taste is used for all sorts of things from liqueurs to mouthwash believe it or not.
Most would say caraway is over powering an requires a platform of it’s own to strut its stuff. Think Dutch cheeses with caraway embedded in it’s creamy carrying device, think breads and sweets. But it does partner well with apples, pork, cabbage and other brassicas-theres a meal right there!-and one of the most well known roles it plays is in harissa. That super fiery and complex of pastes originating in Tunisia. The caraway plays a refreshing game of chase with the chilli, the earthiness of cumin and the acidic tang of the garlic and that lovely warmth of paprika.
I break all rules so I add caraway to my stroganoff (shame on me!) but I add all sorts to it anyway so it bears no resemblance at all it the classic format other than possibly being meat in saucey stuff.
My latest love affair is with lamb though and Easter weekend cooking has lead me to rework something I had been working on which was more Chinese in origin. This is a weird mix of all sorts being partially Indian, partially North African, almost Mexican, sort of all sort s of yum thing I like mashed together to make Easter weekend lunch
Cumin Caraway Lamb Wraps
I used a champagne cut lamb leg which has no waste at all -just great tender lamb all the way through to the knuckle. You can use a butterfly lamb leg or a bone in lamb leg , lamb rump would be wonderful too ...really anything at all.
1 T each of rock salt, black freshly ground pepper, caraway seed, cumin seed
Mix together well and sprinkle over the top of your well oiled lamb
Place in preheated oven and cook to suit your cut.
Allow to rest well before cutting into nice even thin slices .
Tomato Coriander Salsa
So..this is all about making something that is juicy and squishy and tangy and sweet and bright and runs down your wrist as you bite in. It bring some needed wetness to the whole affair. I don't get rid of the tomato seeds as Im not that sort of super fussy person. I think too they really help with the sloppy arm licking enjoyment of this and with out them you would need another saucey creation. I also like to hand shred the herbs rather than chopping them as it makes for a more textured salsa.
4-5 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
fist full fresh coriander leaves, hand shredded
fist full fresh mint leaves, hand shredded
1/2 t salt
1 t sesame oil
1/2 t mango pickle-not a sweet syrupy nasty one but a massive evil as really trad Indian one that is tart and shocking
2 t fragrant oil I keep in the fridge (see below)
Mix all together well and allow to sit for 10 mins at least before serving.
Naan bread-you can make your own if you are insane or have time or visit your local INdian supply store for some mango pickle, naan bread, fresh as caraway seeds and cumin seeds. They will cost ya all of $3 for a pack of 4 freshly baked that morning and even on a good day I cant make them that good.
I halve them or you could make one massive roll that folds over if you wish.
I platter it all up-lamb slices, sliced cucumber, the salsa and my naan bread and quite a few hand towels to soak up the dribble with.
If you want to make a fragrant fridge Oil as I like to call it, it is way handy to have on hand and can be sued to add into noodles, stir fries, top soupy noodle mid week dinner dishes with, add to Asian salads...almost anything actually and Im sure my husband could use it to perfect his Asian inspired bloody marys. The work to get it into the jar is worth it and you keep adding in more oil every time you use any and allow to sit back and chill out in your fridge getting more yum.
2-3 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
ginger, 3-4 slices, peeled and as above
2-3 chillies, either remove seeds for less intense shocking heat or removed
1 t fennel seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 cinnamon quill, halved
1 star anise
Place the peeled shallots, garlic and ginger in a fry pan and cover with grape seed oil.
Over a low to medium heat allow them too cook gently and brown but not burn!
Once well browned and really fragrant and in the chilli and spices.
Allow to cook gently again for 3-4 mins
Remove from the heat and allow to cool before pouring all into a jar with a screw top lid and storing the fridge for at least 2 weeks before using. Every time you use some add more fresh grape seed oil, shake well and return to fridge. Grape seed is ideal being flavourless and odorless so it is all about the taste of the ingredients. It also will not solidify in your fridge.
After a while it generates great subtle heat that has a nice lip tingle making it ideal for dishes as above.