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5 Unusual Ingredients You May Have Never Used

April 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 136

Creative cooking can be something that drops to the back-burner when your tired and just plain hungry.

How about experimenting with some delicious new ingredients that you may have never used? They're affordable, versatile and generally easy to find.

Here are some of my favourites:

Rosewater

I was converted to the joys of rosewater from the moment I tasted my first rose lassi at my local Indian restaurant. Think a chilled, creamy yoghurt drink flavoured with rosewater and rose petals. Yes, rose petals! There's something about chewing those soft little petals that just topped the drink off perfectly. You can keep your mango lassi anyday!

I add a generous dash of rosewater to my breakfast smoothies. I marinated peeled mandarins in sugar syrup, rosewater and a cinnamon clove for about 3 weeks. They were perfect for topping desserts or with a dash of ricotta or mascarpone for a quick and easy dessert.

When I have visitors over I like to make my own non-alcoholic punch. I just get a big jug and throw in a selection of whatever fruit, juice, soda water or herbed tea I have around. A good couple of dashes of rosewater provides the perfect finish. Rosewater also works well in alcohol cocktails. Just beware it can become overpowering if you add too much.

Rosewater is also fabulous with savoury dishes. A number of Persian and Moroccan cuisines use rosewater. How about rose-scented biryani? Just add 50ml of rosewater to 250g of rice. Add your other ingredients and voila! There's a fabulous recipe called Ravioli con polpo di caponne (ravioli made with capon breast) which includes rosewater with the ravioli flour.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are a nut that's very easy to buy, but I suspect sits a little towards the back of the shelf and gets left behind by the more prominent nuts like peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts. I've only recently discovered joy in hazelnuts and have developed a new found respect for the wee nuts.

Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat. They're also very low in cholesterol and sodium, and a good source of Vitamin E and Vitamin B6 (and other types of B vitamins).

I fell in love with hazelnuts when I discovered a recipe for chicken with crushed hazelnuts, saffron, honey and rosewater topping. D-E-V-I-N-E. It was an absolute hit and one I've repeated which is quite rare for me! So many fabulous recipes, so limited cooking time!

I also add hazelnuts to my smoothies for a bit of extra protein. They're great toasted and roughly cut, then tossed into a salad. You can make your own dukkah with hazelnuts or add them to a korma. You can roast them and make a celeriac and hazelnut soup. Add them to your muesli. Grind them up and use them in place of almond meal in your baking. A world full of possibilities!

Fresh figs

I was always a fan of dried figs but finally getting to taste fresh ones was a revelation! Where had I been all these years? I guess the answer was not constantly in the shop, as fresh figs only have something like a 2 week window of ripeness. That's unless you have the absolute joy of having your own tree. One day I'll plant my own.

My first taste was the most simple dessert of ripe figs, topped with a spoon of ricotta, and drizzled with honey. Simple and completely delicious. I was totally hooked!

For my next taste I made a fig, pecorino and rocket salad, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and honey. I was at a shared dinner and had to quickly grab my own serving because it all disappeared so fast. The perfect combination of flavours and its success made the fact that I'd paid $2 per fig worth it. The reality is I only needed four figs to make the whole salad.

Figs are perfect with goats cheese, pecans and bacon if that's your taste. Unfortunately I avoid goats cheese like the plague! I had fabulous figs wrapped just in bacon and roasted which were absolutely divine. You can bake with them and make something like an upside down Italian tart, although I do think it's a bit sacrilegious to cook fresh figs.

Tahini

If you've never tried making your own hummus now is the time. Simply get yourself a jar of tahini (which is purely crushed sesame seeds). Open a tin of chickpeas or soak or cook your own. Add the chickpeas, a tablespoon of tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, some crushed garlic, and olive oil. Whizz up, drizzling more oil to get the right consistency. Instant hummus - no additives and a gluten-free delight.

But don't limit your jar of tahini to just hummus making. It makes a fabulous peanut sauce substitute which is perfect for those with nut allergies. A couple of tablespoons of tahini, a teaspoon of dried vegetable stock, and enough boiling water to create a peanut-style consistency creates the prefect sauce. Fantastic in a stirfry or on over vegetables like fresh asparagus.

Spread tahini on a hamburger bun. Make your own baba ganoush (a dip made from eggplant and tahini) or make a broccoli and tahini dip (steam the broccoli, then add tahini, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, and cayenne, then whizz up). Add some goodness to your toast by using it instead of butter, then top with some avocado sliced tomato or feta and rocket. I've even heard of chocolate and tahini pudding!

Pomegranate molasses

For those in the culinary know, pomegranate molasses is the perfect kitchen accompaniment. You may well have tasted it but never known what it was.

Pomegranate molasses is a traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking and is perfect to get creative with. It's made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar. The molasses is a fabulous combination of very sweet and very tart (is that possible?). It's thick, deep red colour and smell makes it instantly appealing to the taste buds.

It makes a fabulous substitute for aged balsamic vinegar whose price-tag may well prevent its use on regular occasions. Pomegranate molasses on the other hand only tops the $5 mark at my store. Or you can make your own from pomegranate juice and some sugar.

Try drizzling it over your roast chicken before you pop it in the oven. How about using it to marinate your ribs or lamb chops or fresh salmon? Make a superb dressing with pomegranate molasses, white wine vinegar, olive oil, whole grain mustard, and salt and pepper.

You can even drizzle the molasses on bread with walnuts and feta for a Persian treat. Who needs muesli when you have create something infinitely more exciting for breakfast?

Creative cooking can be something that drops to the back-burner when your tired and just plain hungry.

How about experimenting with some delicious new ingredients that you may have never used? They're affordable, versatile and generally easy to find.

Here are some of my favourites:

Rosewater

I was converted to the joys of rosewater from the moment I tasted my first rose lassi at my local Indian restaurant. Think a chilled, creamy yoghurt drink flavoured with rosewater and rose petals. Yes, rose petals! There's something about chewing those soft little petals that just topped the drink off perfectly. You can keep your mango lassi anyday!

I add a generous dash of rosewater to my breakfast smoothies. I marinated peeled mandarins in sugar syrup, rosewater and a cinnamon clove for about 3 weeks. They were perfect for topping desserts or with a dash of ricotta or mascarpone for a quick and easy dessert.

When I have visitors over I like to make my own non-alcoholic punch. I just get a big jug and throw in a selection of whatever fruit, juice, soda water or herbed tea I have around. A good couple of dashes of rosewater provides the perfect finish. Rosewater also works well in alcohol cocktails. Just beware it can become overpowering if you add too much.

Rosewater is also fabulous with savoury dishes. A number of Persian and Moroccan cuisines use rosewater. How about rose-scented biryani? Just add 50ml of rosewater to 250g of rice. Add your other ingredients and voila! There's a fabulous recipe called Ravioli con polpo di caponne (ravioli made with capon breast) which includes rosewater with the ravioli flour.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are a nut that's very easy to buy, but I suspect sits a little towards the back of the shelf and gets left behind by the more prominent nuts like peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts. I've only recently discovered joy in hazelnuts and have developed a new found respect for the wee nuts.

Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat. They're also very low in cholesterol and sodium, and a good source of Vitamin E and Vitamin B6 (and other types of B vitamins).

I fell in love with hazelnuts when I discovered a recipe for chicken with crushed hazelnuts, saffron, honey and rosewater topping. D-E-V-I-N-E. It was an absolute hit and one I've repeated which is quite rare for me! So many fabulous recipes, so limited cooking time!

I also add hazelnuts to my smoothies for a bit of extra protein. They're great toasted and roughly cut, then tossed into a salad. You can make your own dukkah with hazelnuts or add them to a korma. You can roast them and make a celeriac and hazelnut soup. Add them to your muesli. Grind them up and use them in place of almond meal in your baking. A world full of possibilities!

Fresh figs

I was always a fan of dried figs but finally getting to taste fresh ones was a revelation! Where had I been all these years? I guess the answer was not constantly in the shop, as fresh figs only have something like a 2 week window of ripeness. That's unless you have the absolute joy of having your own tree. One day I'll plant my own.

My first taste was the most simple dessert of ripe figs, topped with a spoon of ricotta, and drizzled with honey. Simple and completely delicious. I was totally hooked!

For my next taste I made a fig, pecorino and rocket salad, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and honey. I was at a shared dinner and had to quickly grab my own serving because it all disappeared so fast. The perfect combination of flavours and its success made the fact that I'd paid $2 per fig worth it. The reality is I only needed four figs to make the whole salad.

Figs are perfect with goats cheese, pecans and bacon if that's your taste. Unfortunately I avoid goats cheese like the plague! I had fabulous figs wrapped just in bacon and roasted which were absolutely divine. You can bake with them and make something like an upside down Italian tart, although I do think it's a bit sacrilegious to cook fresh figs.

Tahini

If you've never tried making your own hummus now is the time. Simply get yourself a jar of tahini (which is purely crushed sesame seeds). Open a tin of chickpeas or soak or cook your own. Add the chickpeas, a tablespoon of tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, some crushed garlic, and olive oil. Whizz up, drizzling more oil to get the right consistency. Instant hummus - no additives and a gluten-free delight.

But don't limit your jar of tahini to just hummus making. It makes a fabulous peanut sauce substitute which is perfect for those with nut allergies. A couple of tablespoons of tahini, a teaspoon of dried vegetable stock, and enough boiling water to create a peanut-style consistency creates the prefect sauce. Fantastic in a stirfry or on over vegetables like fresh asparagus.

Spread tahini on a hamburger bun. Make your own baba ganoush (a dip made from eggplant and tahini) or make a broccoli and tahini dip (steam the broccoli, then add tahini, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, and cayenne, then whizz up). Add some goodness to your toast by using it instead of butter, then top with some avocado sliced tomato or feta and rocket. I've even heard of chocolate and tahini pudding!

Pomegranate molasses

For those in the culinary know, pomegranate molasses is the perfect kitchen accompaniment. You may well have tasted it but never known what it was.

Pomegranate molasses is a traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking and is perfect to get creative with. It's made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar. The molasses is a fabulous combination of very sweet and very tart (is that possible?). It's thick, deep red colour and smell makes it instantly appealing to the taste buds.

It makes a fabulous substitute for aged balsamic vinegar whose price-tag may well prevent its use on regular occasions. Pomegranate molasses on the other hand only tops the $5 mark at my store. Or you can make your own from pomegranate juice and some sugar.

Try drizzling it over your roast chicken before you pop it in the oven. How about using it to marinate your ribs or lamb chops or fresh salmon? Make a superb dressing with pomegranate molasses, white wine vinegar, olive oil, whole grain mustard, and salt and pepper.

You can even drizzle the molasses on bread with walnuts and feta for a Persian treat. Who needs muesli when you have create something infinitely more exciting for breakfast?

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Rochelle_Stewart-Allen

Article Source: http://www.essencearticles.com/a/13774
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