IT’S that time of year when ghoulish figures tempt us with oversweet treats, and black jeans and hats get an airing for the Cork Jazz Festival. This week I am taking you on a journey of discovery of black foods to serve for Halloween parties or quick bites between house or music visits — that take little effort to use.
I scoured Cork for black ingredients, ignoring the obvious soya, oyster sauce, grapes, and wine, and found quite a lot to tempt in the English Market. To jazz up any dish, a sprinkling here and there, a side dish of something black with orange from delicious roasted cubes of butternut squash sprinkled with olive oil and cinnamon is a treat (Yotam Ottolenghi’s idea).
Black foods often have commendable health properties. The obvious being the anthocyanins packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Black seeds are on trend and on my August visit to Takashi Miyazaki in the newly Michelin-starred Ichigo Ichie I saw black sesame in a superb dish of taro potato, with buckwheat seeds and a dressing of yuzu (citrus fruit) and miso (soya-based seasoning). Add squid ink to risotto for drama (and saltiness) or with scallops and cauliflower as another new Michelin-starred chef, Rob Krawczyk, does in the Chestnut in Ballydehob.
Get in a stock of our Top 8 this week and have ghoulish and jazzy fun
These four peppers from Mexico will liven up any stew and give it depth and richness to show the best of South American cooking. Quite mild, the flavour is deeper than simply hot and one chilli goes a long way. Put on some Latin jazz to accompany. I bought in Mr Bells, English Market, Cork.
Not many people have the courage to make sushi, but it’s as simple as cooking short grain rice (ideally sushi rice, but rice for risotto is good too). Just add rice vinegar, salt and sugar. Spread out on a sheet of this seaweed and sprinkle with a little smoked salmon and/or avocado (for Halloween colours). There are plenty of instructions on line. An impressive, light, interesting starter with lots of protein and minerals. I bought in Mr Bells, English Market, Cork.
This mix of dillisk, wakame, sugar kelp, Nori and sea lettuce can be chopped into soups and stews for the benefits of immune-boosting vitamins A and C and calcium for bone health and even weight loss. Seaweed spaghetti from the same range adds great substance and a ghoulish look to salads, especially with peas and chopped roasted butternut squash. Stylish too. From: wildirishseaweeds.com and fish and speciality food shops.
Liquorice is rich in glycyrrhizic acid which is naturally 50 times sweeter than sugar, and contains a decent amount of iron. As sweets go, it has some benefits, including as an anti-inflammatory. Made from the root of the plant, black strap molasses provides a relatively pure form of 42% sugars, but avoid higher sugar content in other brands. I bought in The Good Food Shop, English Market, Cork.
Seeds should be dry fried (tossed in a frying pan with no oil) or soaked (like beans) to get rid of toxins and this version is ready toasted. Rich in calcium and B vitamins, I like these sprinkled on seasonal, hot, roasted vegetables. Add protein and flavour to breads as you warm them with a generous teaspoon pressed in. You could even smear the top of a glass with a little agave or pomegranate syrup and dip in these for a ghoulish aperitif.
Black beans are treated in the same way as any other beans, and need to be soaked for eight hours before being boiled for at least an hour. Mix with roasted or steamed vegetables for a ghoulish stir fry, and top with more black in the form of black sesame or poppy seeds. Good as a filling for pancakes. Drizzle with red, bloodlike pomegranate molasses. I bought in Mr Bells, English Market, Cork.
So small, they resemble beluga caviar, the name is good for a stylish, jazzy, vegetarian dinner party. As with Puy lentils, you can go Italian/ Spanish with tomatoes, onions, garlic, or Eastern by adding fried, warm spices such as turmeric, cinnamon and cumin to cooked lentils. Fresh turmeric is delicious grated into them. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or on the side with fish.
Himalayan salt is fashionable these days, and it’s only a matter of time before the black version is even more so. Rich in iron and trace minerals from its volcanic source in the mountains, it can be mixed with herbs and seeds for seasoning. An aid to digestion, it is lower in sodium than table salt, but it is still best to keep consumption of salt under a teaspoon a day, including what we find in processed foods. Jazz up your weekend breakfast eggs with a sprinkle.