Blood Orange and Rosemary Simple Syrup (and what to do with it!)

Small jar of blood orange and simple syrup.

When blood oranges are in season I find ways to include them in all sorts of recipes. From salads to chicken dishes to desserts, their musky sweet taste is always welcome in my kitchen. However, it wasn’t until I was making a blood orange variation of Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake that I discovered how perfectly they lend themselves to a basic simple syrup. I had also just finished giving the rosemary bushes outside of my work a “haircut” so I had copious amounts of rosemary lurking in my fridge, and wouldn’t rosemary be the perfect compliment to the flavours of blood orange simple syrup? I have to admit, the entire time I was thinking about this recipe I had a gin cocktail in mind and rosemary just seemed like a natural accent to gin’s juniper berry bite. My very simple cocktail is as follows: 1 part gin + 1 Tbsp. simple syrup shaken over ice and then then topped with sparkling or tonic water, garnish with a sprig of rosemary. If you were feeling extravagant you could add champagne instead of the sparkling or tonic water, making an extra bright French 75.

 Blood Orange and Rosemary Cocktail

blood orange and rosemary simple syrup:

3 blood oranges, whole

About 4 cups of water

1 cup of sugar

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

  1. Place the blood oranges in a large pot and pour over the water. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2 hours over very low heat.
  2. Remove the oranges from the water and either discard or puree whole and freeze for future use in a variation on Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake.
  3. Add one cup of sugar  and the the sprig of rosemary to the blood orange water and boil for a few minutes to let the sugar dissolve completely. Remove from the heat and allow the rosemary to steep for several hours before removing. This simple syrup will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator, use in cocktails or pour over good vanilla ice cream.

Telegram was the first Bjork album I ever owned, I’m fairly positive my 14 year old self had no idea it was an album of Bjork remixes. iTunes created a “Bjork Remixed” playlist today and I realized that with the exception of two songs it was basically Telegram. I feel like this is cheating, but it did give me the chance to hear this version of I Miss You again.

Bjork – I Miss You


Savoury Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Mahon

Bowl of barley risotto with rosemary and Mahon cheese

This barley risotto is deeply savoury, but also woodsy tasting and earthy in its complexity of flavours. The rosemary adds just the right amount of piney substance and the mushrooms lend the perfect amount of umami (which is to say, great amounts of umami). You could certainly use a cheese like aged Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano if you can’t find Mahon for this recipe. If you can find Mahon then try and get your hands on an aged version (it’s often sold as Mahon Authentique in North America). Mahon is a firm cow’s milk cheese from Spain that is a buttery marigold colour; it smells like a cellar and a fresh cut lawn all at the same time. Its flavour is one of intense grassiness and dark earth – I could wax poetic on the subject forever, what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s an absolutely lovely table cheese to have on hand and a nice alternative to Manchego when you’re having company over for Spanish tapas. If I was making this meal for a dinner party I would serve it with a really bright salad full of shaved fennel and oranges, a plate of marinated olives, some pears that your guests can just help themselves to, and a bottle of something big, red, and spicy.

savoury barley risotto with mushrooms and mahon:

Scant cup of bread crumbs, homemade or panko crumbs work best

1 cup of pearl barley

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 large leek, cut into half moons

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

About 1 good sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

2 tsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

About 5 cups of vegetable stock

Thick shavings or gratings of Mahon Authentique cheese

  1. Begin with a large skillet. Over medium heat, toast the breadcrumbs first (this will happen within seconds, so stir constantly and transfer to a plate as soon as they’ve turned a dark golden brown colour).
  2. Next, toast the barley and almonds together while stirring frequently (but not constantly). As soon as they begin to turn golden transfer them to a large bowl.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat, adding the mushrooms, leek, garlic, and celery. Cook for several minutes until the ingredients begin to soften. Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for five more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and almonds back to the pan and stir to coat with the oil and vegetables. Pour in the vegetable stock, soy or tamarin sauce, and lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the stock has been absorbed by the barley. When it looks like it has the consistency of risotto try the barley to make sure it’s cooked, you want it to be soft but chewy.
  5. To serve the barley risotto ladle it into a shallow bowl and top with a handful of the toasted bread crumbs and a generous amount of shaved Mahon cheese.

Barley Risotto Mis En PlaceI recently added a whole bunch of music to my computer that I a)thought I had lost and b)forgot I even had (out of sight out of mind if stronger than I realize, especially considering I’ve seen The xx twice live and thought both shows were incredible). It was a combination “Oh yeahhhh!” and “Oh yayyy!” moment when I started listening to this album again, like a forgotten treasure I found in the backyard. So here you are, minimalism at its best and sexiest.

The xx  – Heart Skipped a Beat

Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Rosemary and Lemony Parsley Pesto

Chickpea soup

I promise that I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is one of the best soups I have ever made and also one of the easiest. In fact, its simplicity left me suspect after reading the original recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, my motivation for trying the recipe came from possessing the exact ingredients in my cupboards in addition to the knowledge that following day would be long and incondusive to hours of cooking time when I arrived home from work. I have further simplified the recipe by doing most of the work in a slowcooker, that way when you get home from work at the end of the day you walk into the most heavenly and woodsy aroma of  piney rosemary and buttery garlic – your postwork mood will shift immediately into one of comfort and warmth. When you get home all you need to do is take the rosemary cheesecloth sachet out along with any of the garlic cloves that have floated to the surface, puree 1 cup of the soup with the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and allow to simmer in the slowcooker for half an hour with the dried pasta, stir in the pesto (which you can make the night before) and you’re all set to eat. This soup has such aromatic depth of flavour that I suggest serving it with little more than a baguette with good salty butter or a green salad with some lemon juice, olive oil and kosher salt added haphazardly before eating – you don’t want anything that will compete with the richness of the chickpea and tomato soup, merely something that will provide a simple background of flavours and textures.

chickpea and tomato soup with rosemary:

3/4 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water and then rinsed

1.5 litres of chicken or deeply flavoured vegetable stock

3 sprigs of rosemary (I used fresh rosemary that I had placed in an ice cube tray covered in olive oil and frozen, in which case I used 3 of these cubes and omitted the oil called for below)

4 Tbsp. buttery olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, smashed with side of a knife with the skins removed

1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes with their juices

1/2 cup of small pasta, I frequently use small shells

1. Put the soaked chickpeas, stock, olive oil, rosemary cheesecloth sachet and bruised garlic in the slowcooker and set it for 8.5 hours on low (you could probably set it for a shorter amount of time on high but since I only make this soup on days when I’m at work I have yet to experiment with varying cooking times.)

2. When you get home take out the rosemary sachet and any of the bruised garlic that is floating on the surface, don’t worry if you think there is still garlic in the soup as its intensity will have completely vanished after cooking for such a long time.

3. Remove 1 cup of the soup from the slowcooker and place in a blender or food processor along with the diced tomatoes and blitz until smooth. Add back into the slowcooker and allow to simmer for half an hour, adding the pasta after 15 minutes. When you’re ready to eat stir a generous tablespoon of parsley and lemon pesto into each bowl of soup and eat with pleasure and in comfort. Alternatively, sprinkle some finely chopped parsley and finely grated Reggiano over the soup in place of the pesto.

lemony parsley pesto:

This pesto provides just the right amount of astringency from the parsley and lemon as well as a garlicky intensity that makes the smooth cohesion of flavours in the soup really come into their own. If you have leftover pesto either freeze in ice cube trays or keep stored in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil layered on top to prevent discolouration and use on linguine with extra cheese.

1 small bunch of flat-leafed parsley

3 Tbsp. raw pepita seeds

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/4 cup (roughly, add more or less to taste) of Parmigianno Reggiano or Grana Padano (the Reggiano will lend a slightly sharper and more pronounced flavour)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth, you may need to stop several times to scrape the sides down with a spatula as you blend.

Lately I have been listening to Zammuto’s self-titled album constantly, while cooking and while running and while getting ready for work in the morning. I’m hardly surprised that I’ve become such a fan considering the album is by Nick Zammuto, one half of The Books, another band that is heavily featured in any playlist I put together. This song is perfectly and aptly named; joyous, motivating and altogether yay.

Zammuto – Yay