Spice Health Heros

Spice Health Heros. My first proper job after having my first child and starting work again after maternity leave. It was quite a big job to take on, and shooting a book can be very stressful at the best of times, let alone when you are sleep deprived and caring for a baby. But the end result just makes me so super proud! Many of the images are so stunning and definitely some of my very best work. I’m really excited to tell you a bit more about the background thoughts of my work on Spice Health Heros and to be sharing a few of my very favorite recipes from it.

Spice Health Heros by Natasha MacAller, published in UK, US, Aus & NZ by Jacqui Small Oct 2016.

When Natasha first came to me with her spice recipes, it was really only an idea for a book proposal for a followup to her Vanilla Table. Originally we put togethether 10 images for a book about pepper, but quickly the idea grew, and finally we were asked to create a stunner of a book about spices and their many health properties, including pepper. Initially I was quite keen on a very moody book where all the colour would come from the food and the spices themselves, but the publisher thought it might all get a bit dark, and asked me to re-think it. Finally I ended up adding a few lighter and a few more colourful backgrounds, which I think has really lifted the whole book, and brought it to life as you flick through the pages.

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I just looove this smoothie. It reminds me of tropical beaches, a light breeze and a relaxing daze in a hammic in the sun. It makes me happy both summer and winter! Turmeric was a spice I’ve never really used before, but after being introduced to it by Natasha, it has now found a regular space in my fruit and vegebowl, ready for juices and smoothies. The pepper adds some wonderful heat to compliment the sweetness and should not be left out. (MW)

TROPICAL TURMERIC SMOOTHIE
serves 1

The combination of fruit and spice and rich-but-healthy coconut milk is a favourite before a workout or just as a get-to-work beverage! If you prefer, you can use papaya instead of mango and add three leaves of coriander (cilantro). For a thicker smoothie, freeze the coconut milk in cubes before blending. (NM)

85g pineapple
115g fresh frozen mango
2.5 x 5cm strip orange peel
5cm piece turmeric root,
or 1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1⁄4 tsp cardamom seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
240ml (1 cup) coconut milk
4–6 ice cubes
1 tsp chia seeds

Put all the ingredients except the chia seeds into a high-speed single-serve blender-juicer and blend until smooth. Sprinkle chia seeds on top and serve.

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The 3 images above are part of the concept for the chapter openers in Spice Health Heros. I’ve always loved coming up with the concept of the chapter openers for a book. As a natural break between all the recipes, they make up an important part of the look and feel of a book.

The hard part is usually coming up with something I haven’t seen or done before, as some of the criteria are set in stone. Usually it has to be a double page spread, and there needs to be negative space for the chapter title. For Spice Health Heros, the chapter openers would also create the intro to each class of spices, so they needed to be informative as well as beautiful and inspiring. I chose a neutral background, and a flat lay concept to keep in line with the trend of Scandi cool, which was part of the general brief for Spice Health Heros.

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Shooting a lot of food for books and magazines, I’ve become somewhat immune to a lot of food.
It takes a lot to impress me these days, but every once in a while, I’ll shoot something that really blows my mind. Taste wise I mean. Anne’s Pork Chile Verde, is one of these dishes. It just knocked my socks off. You’d think I would have known what a Chile Verde is, having worked as a food photographer for so many years, but admittedly this was my first. It’s just amazing! The right amount of heat, spice and umami, to make you just want more and more. This is one of those dishes that has truly become the fooodphtographers favorite. Thank you Anne! (MW)

PORK CHILE VERDE
By Anne Conness
serves 4

‘I can’t speak for the scientifc connection between spice and health, but what I do know is that eating spicy things makes me feel happy and satisfied. And when I feel happy, I feel less stressed, and that makes my doctor happy!’(AC)

1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1⁄2 tsp cloves
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
1.6kg (3.5lb.) pork shoulder, cut into 2cm (3⁄4in.) cubes, most of fat removed
1.2 litres (5 cups) chicken stock

For the corn:
3 ears of corn
2 tbsp butter
30g (1oz./1⁄4 cup) grated Monterey Jack or mild Cheddar cheese

For the sauce:
1 tomatillo, halved and stem removed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 jalapeños, halved and stems removed
2 Anaheim chilies, halved and stems removed
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
60ml (1⁄4 cup) canola oil
2 tbsp lime juice
11⁄2 bunches coriander (cilantro)
2 tsp cumin
1⁄2 tsp cloves
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika
1⁄4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
350ml (11⁄2 cups) reserved cooking jus (see method)

To serve:
1 tbsp sauce from chilies in adobo or chipotle paste mixed with
115g (4oz./1⁄2 cup) sour cream
1 dash Tajin (a classic Mexican dry seasoning of dried lime juice, chili powder and salt)
4 lime wedges
150g (51⁄2oz./1 cup) pico de gallo (Mexican fresh tomato salsa)
small handful micro-coriander (cilantro) leaves

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4).

Toast the whole spices, cool, then grind to a powder. Stir in the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika and salt. Toss the pork in the spice mixture and put in a roasting pan. Pour over the chicken stock, cover tightly with foil, put in the oven and cook until tender, about 11⁄2 hours. Strain the jus, skimming off the fat, and reserve 350ml (11⁄2 cups) for the sauce. Break up the meat if necessary.

Char the sweetcorn: Shuck the corn and remove the silks. Place the corn cobs on a baking tray on the top shelf of the oven or under the grill (broiler) on a high heat until charred. Leave to cool then place the corn cob in a cereal bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob in a downward motion; the kernels will collect in the bowl. Set aside.

For the sauce, toss the tomatillo, onion, jalapeños and Anaheim chilies and garlic in a bowl with the oil. Spread out on two baking trays and roast until caramelized, about 30 minutes at a medium–high heat. Leave to cool.

Blend the caramelized veggies in batches with the lime juice, coriander (cilantro), spices and strained cooking jus. Check the avour and season to taste.

Put the pork in a pan with this sauce and heat up.

Melt the butter in a hot ovenproof pan then add the charred corn. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese on top and put in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

To serve, put the pork on a plate and top with the corn. Garnish with the chipotle cream, a sprinkle of Tajin, a lime wedge and some pico de gallo. Finish with the coriander (cilantro).

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This ice cream is both refreshing and surprising. I love the combination of cinnamon and basil, and it kinda fits perfectly as a Christmas dessert in the warm weather here in New Zealand, if anyone dares to swap out the pavlova! (MW)

CINNAMON BASIL ICE CREAM
By Mindy Segal

makes 1 litre

‘This ice cream was inspired by some beautifully roasted peaches that I bought one year at the farmers’ market for a special dessert. I decided that it needed a little of the garden in the ice cream I served them with so I steeped fresh basil in my cinnamon ice cream. Eureka – delicious! It’s also good served with poached berries. Indonesian (Ceylon) cinnamon is a milder, softer avoured cinnamon also known as true cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is also fine to use but as the flavour is stronger, the basil-cinnamon balance will have a stronger cinnamon taste when using the cassia variety.’ (MS)

4–6 fresh Indonesian cinnamon sticks
475ml (2 cups) double (heavy) cream
475ml (2 cups) full-fat (whole) milk
13 large egg yolks
225g (8oz./1 cup) cane sugar
leaves from 1 bunch (70g/21⁄2oz.) cinnamon basil, regular basil or Thai basil, finely chopped
1⁄2 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1⁄4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Put the cinnamon sticks on a baking tray and toast in the oven until hot to touch. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the cream and milk to a simmer. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the oven and crush into pieces. Put the pieces into the warm milk and cream mixture and leave to steep for 1 hour.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a 2-litre (2-quart) bowl, whisk thoroughly and set aside. Strain the cinnamon sticks from the milk and cream mixture and discard them. Return the liquid to the pan and bring to the boil, then pour the liquid over the eggs and sugar, mixing thoroughly.
Pour back into the pan and cook over medium–low heat, stirring constantly until the custard coats the back of a spoon (nappe). Pour the hot custard into a bowl and set over an ice bath.

Steep the chopped basil in the hot custard until cool. Add the ground cinnamon and salt and mix thoroughly. When cool, strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer then whisk in the vanilla extract.
Freeze the custard in an ice-cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Spice Heros

© Spice Health Heros, available at your local bookstore (in UK, US, Aus & NZ) and online from Amazon
Recipes © Natasha MacAller
Photos © Manja Wachsmuth

Pizza on the Weber BBQ

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Summer has officially arrived in New Zealand! One thing I love the most about summer is cooking on the BBQ. Last year I discovered cooking pizza on the BBQ, and when you’ve tried it once, it’ll be the only way you’ll ever want to cook pizza again. Pizza on the BBQ is the fool proof way of getting a moist and delishious filling and above all a super crispy base, which you can never seem to get in the oven, regardless of the temperature or quality of pizza stone.

The majority of Kiwis (and probably Ozzies and Americans) swear by th gas BBQ’s and most pizza BBQ recipes will tell you to cook your pizza on a gas BBQ, where you can control the temperature and monitor it 100%, but there is another way. Personally I prefer a coal BBQ any day. This is how it was when I was a kid and the ritural of lighting a fire (or drinking a glass of ice cold chardonnay, while watching your husband lighting a fire) – you just can’t beat it. The smokey flavour of cooking over coals, just adds an extra element to the pizzas and everyone will be coming back for more.

The tricky thing is obviously getting the temperature right, so you don’t burn your base, so you gotta watch your pizza like a hawk. And also you MUST use a pizza stone. But once you’ve tried it a few times, you will master it, and be eating pizza’s with friends and family all summer!

I’m providing you with the recipe for a great pizza dough, that’s my updated version of a pizza recipe I shot for Dish Magazine back in 2010, for their Italian issue. I’ve used wholemeal, stoneground flour for added nutritional benefits, and it is how I prefer my pizza base. Of course you can use plain flour or 00 flour if you like.

Pizza dough
Makes two pizzas, 4-6 serves

1 cup of plain flour or 00 flour
1 cup of stoneground, wholemeal flour
½ teaspoon of sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of lukewarm water
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Mix the water and oil together in a separate bowl or jug. Gradually add the water to the dry ingredients, little by little, mixing the dough with your hands or a wooden spoon. Be careful not to make the dough too wet and sticky, nor too dry. Once roughly combined turn the dough out on a lightly floured benchtop and knead for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky and springy. Place it in a lightly floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set aside in a warm place and let rise for 1 – 1½ hour.

Mastering the BBQ & making your pizza

About 10-15  minutes before your dough is ready, start up your BBQ using choal or briquettes. If using briquettes, you might want to get them started around half an hour before the dough is ready. The coal is quicker to start up, but also burns out faster. The briquettes take longer to get ready for cooking, but will hold the heat a lot longer. We usually use coals when it’s just the two of us, and briquettes when cooking for more people.

Once doubled in size, split the dough into two portions and roll out thinly on a lightly floured bench top. Place the pizza base on a piece of baking paper, and fill with your favorite filling. I’ve used:

Organic tomato paste
1 whole zucchini sliced sideways with a potato peeler
Red onion, thinly sliced
Cherry tomatoes (from the Curious Croppers)
Prosciutto
Buffalo mozzarella
Homemade pesto
Salt & pepper

Once the coals or briquettes have settled down, and turned to embers, place your pizza stone on the BBQ about 5 minutes before you’re ready to cook it, to let the stone heat up properly. Then transfer your pizza, with the baking paper underneath, to the pizza stone, and cover your BBQ with the lid. Make sure to have the air vents open, to keep the air circulating around the pizza and ensure even cooking of the base and the top. Depending on the amount of heat in your BBQ, your pizza will cook in 15-20 min. Keep an eye on it every 5-10 minutes, making sure the base doesn’t burn. If the base colours too quickly the BBQ is too hot, and you should wait a little while longer, next time, to let the coal settle a bit more. Once the base has firmed up, you can remove the baking paper. When the base is crispy and the cheese on top slightly melted, garnish with fresh basil. Your pizza is ready to serve!

ENJOY!

Don’t drink and fry!

Red Basil Pesto

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I’ve noticed when I make pesto, like the one I did the other day, the basil tends to go brown, after a while. After advice from Annabel Langbein and a bit of reserch on the internet, it seems that blanching the leaves beforehand is the answer to ever delicious looking pesto. So here is an updated version of my pesto recipe that will work just as well with red basil pesto as with green. This time I’ve used pecan nuts, which I think work well with the more bitter flavour of the red basil, but you can use pine nuts as in traditional pesto, if you prefer.

 Red Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves, green or red
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup pecan nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Toast the pecan nuts lightly over medium heat until golden. Be careful not to burn. Leave to cool. Blanch the basil leaves for just a few seconds in plenty of boiling water, then rinse and cool in an icebath. Dab the leaves dry on a clean teatowel. They don’t need to be superdry, just not soaking wet, so they water out the pesto. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the basil pesto to clean glass jars, and pour over a little olive oil to cover, then seal. The pesto will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Semi Dried Tomatoes

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All this talk about tomatoes, I thought maybe a recipe was in order. Just at the end of the season, if you aren’t growing tomatoes yourself, it should be easy to get loads of them for cheap. Use this easy recipe to intesify and store their beautiful flavour.

Semi Dried Tomatoes
Makes 2 jars

3 kg small tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
Olive oil, for cooking
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups of olive oil
Fresh basil (or any other preferred herb)
5 cloves of garlic

Half the tomatoes, spread them on a roasting pan, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar, and then put them in the oven and bake for 10-12 hours at 100 degrees – preferably overnight. Keep an eye on them towards the end of the cooking time. You don’t want them to be completely dried, but still soft and plump.

Once done to your liking, leave to cool. Place the semi dried tomatoes in glass jars with basil (or any other preferred herb), whole garlic and cover with olive oil.  Seal and place them in the refrigerator. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of months. You can also bake capsicums and chilli to mix in with the tomatoes. Great on toast with goats cheese and basil pesto.

Homemade Basil Pesto

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On the deck of the studio, I’ve always got a selection of herbs growing. They are great to have handy for shoots, and off course they look nice as well. At the moment, I’ve got more basil than I can eat, so I decided to make some of it into pesto. Here’s a quick and easy recipe:

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil, plus a little extra for storage
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Toast the pine nuts lightly over medium heat until golden. Be careful not to burn. Leave to cool. Place all ingredients in the blender and mix until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the basil pesto to clean glass jars, and pour over about 1/2 cm of olive oil to cover, then seal. The oil will prevent the pesto from browning. The pesto will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.