Saturday, 29 August 2009

Peppers Stuffed with Pesto Rice

After spending two afternoons cooking, it seemed like a good idea to pull some of the creations together into a main course. With the right preparation, this can be a FastFeast - at least when it comes to throwing it together.

2 red peppers, halved and deseeded
2 yellow peppers, halved and deseeded
2 green peppers, halved and deseeded
whole grain rice
rocket pesto
12 small mushrooms, chopped quite small
2 sweet red chillis, halved, deseeded and sliced
sea salt

1. Season the inside of the peppers with a little salt.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the chillis for a minute or two, then push to the side and add the mushrooms. Fry the mushrooms at a high heat till they're brown taking care the chillis don't get burned. Mix both chillis and mushrooms and season with a touch of salt.

3. Meanwhile, mix the rice with some rocket pesto.

4. When the mushrooms are done, take of the heat, add the rice and mix well.

5. Spoon the mixture into the pepper halves, cover with tin foil and bake at gas mark 6-7/200°C for 45-60 minutes (our gas oven is kind of slow).

Serve as a vegetarian main course or as a side to fish/meat with a salad. I had a bit of that raw beetroot salad left from yesterday which made a colourful addition to the peppers.

Sterilising Jars

There are all sorts of ways to sterilise jars. The easiest one, I find, is to wash them in very hot soapy water, rinse the soap off, dry them and put them into the oven at a low setting, e. g. gas mark 2/100°C for 10 minutes.

My dishwasher has a sterilising programme. If I'm making larger quantities I run my jars through this programme.

Leave to cool if you're filling them with something cold such as pesto or marinated olives. Hot contents such as jams can be poured in straight away.

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

I never normally eat grapefruit. I mean who would voluntarily eat such a bitter fruit for breakfast?! But don't judge this citrus fruit too soon. Prepared in the right manner, it's actually not as bitter nor as acidic as you would think. The secret is to take the skin and the pith (that's the white stuff) off the segments, because that's what makes the fruit bitter. It's a bit time consuming but when you taste this salad, you'll know it's well worth the effort. As you can see from this photo, I inadvertently bought a pink grapefruit today.

I came up with this recipe ca. 1991 and was rather proud of it. Imagine my surprise when months later I walked past an Edinburgh vegetarian restaurant and browsing the menu for that week/month saw an avocado and grapefruit salad listed among the starters...

The following recipe serves 4.

2 ripe avocados
2 small or 1 large grapefruit
lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1-2tbsp sherry vinegar
1tsp mustard
1tbsp extra virgin or cold pressed sunflower oil

a few lettuce leaves, if available

1. Prepare the vinaigrette first by mixing pepper, salt, herbs, mustard with vinegar adding the oil last.

2, Peel grapefruit and divide into segments. Carefully remove the skin and pith from the segments and tear into bite-sized chunks.

3. Scatter lettuce leaves, if used, onto plates. Cut the avocados in halves, remove the stone and sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Arrange the grapefruit chunks and using a tea spoon remove the avocado from its skin in chunks adding it to the grapefruit.

4. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Rocket Pesto

There is some truly wild rocket growing in our garden. I planted it from seed using a packet of 'wild rocket' for the first time about 4 years ago and got a really good crop the first year. After it flowered, it self-seeded in a well-behaved manner in the first year, i. e. it just sprung up again in the same area. From then on, there was no containing it, which is partly my fault as I couldn't bear tearing it out from between the flagstones of the seating area. The last couple of years that wasn't so much of a problem as I harvested it continually and some of it got trampled by us and friends we had over for BBQs. But this year it's rained so much, we've hardly used the garden so it's been left to grow where it wants. I keep harvesting it but, to be honest, it's gone rampant. This afternoon, however, I felt a cull was really unavoidable. I gave my heart a push and started pulling the rocket plants out, roots and all. After cleaning it, I had 135 grams - some of which you'll see in the Grapefruit & Avocado Salad we had as a starter tonight. But approx. 100 grams went into a rocket pesto. This recipe is based on/inspired by the rocket pesto recipe from Sophie Grigson's 'Sunshine Food', one of my all time favourite cookbooks.

Alright, my blurb says that there'd be dishes I invented and here, for the second time in as many days I'm posting a recipe from a cookbook. Why? Because creating some recipes from scratch would be like reinventing the wheel. So why not take advantage of what's already out there and tweak if necessary? That's what I've done here. And, pardon the pun, I think this rocket pesto simply rocks ;)

100g wild rocket, roughly torn
60g toasted almonds, roughly chopped (I didn't blanch them but just left the skin on)
60g parmesan or pecorino, broken into chunks
2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
125-150ml extra virgin olive oil

Whiz all the ingredients in a food processor until you get a smooth pesto. Use what you need and transfer the remainder into a sterilised jar and top with olive oil to seal.

I only own an upright blender, which I use for my breakfast smoothies, and a hand-held blender and they're both really hard work, if not useless, as there is not much liquid to work with here. So I'm finally going to invest in food processor!

1. Use hazelnuts - as per Sophie Grigson's recipe.
2. A few weeks ago, I used toasted pine nuts but I have to admit that I prefer the pesto with almonds.
3. Use basil and toasted pine nuts to make a classic pesto.

Tips & Tricks: Rice for the week to come

Yesterday, I cooked a huge amount of rice, about 2 mugs of uncooked whole grain rice, so I can speed up cooking during the week. The trick is to cook the rice without salt. After it's cooled completely, it keeps in the fridge for a week. Neat, or what?

Incidentally, I use 1 part whole grain rice to 3.5 parts of COLD water. Turns out beautiful every time (though I'm useless at cooking basmati rice).

Raw Beetroot Salad

While I would normally publish only recipes I've invented myself, I'd like to share this find from Jamie Oliver's book 'jamie's dinners'. I'd never have thought of making a salad out of raw beetroot myself - and this is such a quick recipe. And it's amazing how this is a real salad despite the lack of oil or vinegar!

fresh beetroot
sea salt
freshly grated horseradish or hot horseradish out of a jar
freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

Wash the beetroot and peel using a speed peeler - I think that's the swivel style peeler - I used a knife, though, because I nearly chopped of my fingers trying to hold the slightly slippery beetroot.

Then, using the speed peeler cut the beetroot into very thin slices. Season with salt, add the horseradish and parsley and leave to marinate to soften the beetroot.

The picture above shows what the salad looked like after about an hour. I used up all the parsley yesterday and only had a jar of hot horseradish, which if you look closely has now taken on the colour of the beetroot.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Warm Salad of Beetroot Leaves and Caramelised Onions

I've made this recipe in the past with baby spinach but this week's organic box contained half a dozen small beetroots with all their leaves on. Amazing. And according to Jamie Oliver, my favourite chef, they are nicer than spinach or chard. :)

1 bunch of beetroot leaves, washed and roughly chopped, with some water still clinging to the leaves
stalks, chopped into 5mm long pieces
glug of red wine (white for spinach), if more liquid is required
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

1 large red or ordinary onion, halved and sliced
1 whole Chinese garlic bulb, cut into slivers
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

balsamic vinegar

1. Sauté the onion slices and garlic until they're nicely caramelised. Season to taste.

2. In another pan, heat some more olive oil and sauté the chopped stalks over a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until almost tender. Add the the beetroot leaves and wilt using just the water that's clinging to the leaves. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Check if they're tender. If not add a dash of red wine (white if using spinach) and cover. You may want to squeeze out any excess liquid but since I've added wine this time that would be a bit of a waste.

3. Place the beetroot leaves and onions in a bowl and mix using a fork. Add a little balsamic vinegar and serve warm or at room temperature.

Same as above but add some fennel seeds when the onions are almost caramalised. Add some veggie stock instead of wine. After removing from frying pan drizzle with fresh lemon juice.

Warm spinach salad with caramalised red onion, shallot and garlic.
I think some toasted pine nuts would be lovely with this.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Roasting Tray with Purple Cauliflower, Potato and Carrot Wedges

What I really could do with today are green tomatoes but they don't sell them here, not even in tins. Come to think of it, I've never seen green tinned tomatoes...Anyway, I digress. Why do I need green tomatoes? Well, today's organic box contained a purple cauliflower and I love roasting it in the oven with tomatoes or a tomato sauce but can't bear the colour clash.

If it was purple when it was raw, it was an even deeper blueish purple after I blanched it and almost aubergine coloured after roasting. So, I decided that in this autumnal weather a roasting tray wouldn't actually feel too wintry.

purple (or ordinary) cauliflower, cut into large florettes
carrots, cut into wedges
potatoes, cut into wedges
fresh thyme sprigs
garlic oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

1. Place the carrots and potato wedges into a roasting tray, season with pepper and salt and drizzle with garlic oil. Add the thyme sprigs and with your hands, mix everything until the veg are well coated with oil. Tuck in the thyme sprigs so they can develop their full flavour and don't burn. Place the tray into a preheated oven at gas mark 6-7/200-220°C for about 1 hour.

2. In the meantime, blanch the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes, drain and leave to sit until all the water has dried off.

3. When the carrots and potatoes are almost done, either add the cauliflower to the same tray or place it in a separate tray. Season with pepper and salt, drizzle with olive oil. Depending on the size of the florettes, the cauliflower probably only needs to be roasted for about 15 minutes.

Serve with crème fraîche, yoghurt, tsatsiki or any other salsa you fancy. We had this one with garlicky parsley yoghurt.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Stir-fried Pak Choi

This organic pak choi is so different from the puny stuff available in the supermarkets. This one probably weighed about half a kilo!

500g pak choi
a good thumb's length of fresh ginger, grated
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
soya sauce, optional
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1. Cut the pak choi into 1-2cm wide strips, wash and drain in a colander for a few minutes. Some of the water still clinging to the pak choi will help with the cooking process.

2. Heat the olive oil and add the pak choi, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry over a medium until the pak choi is starting to wilt. Season with pepper and salt and cover with a lid. Simmer for a few minutes until the pak choi is almost tender.

3. Remove the lid and increase the heat to dry off the liquid and lightly brown the the pak choi.

4. Add the sesame seeds and transfer into a serving dish.

Rocket Salad with Balsamic & Maple Syrup Dressing

freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
3tbsp balsamic vinegar
9tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3tsp maple syrup

wild rocket

This amount of dressing is probably enough for about 250 - 300g of rocket leaves.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Stuffed Beetroot

If you want to speed up this dish, use the pre-cooked beetroot available in the supermarkets. Just make sure there is no vinegar added. That way it probably classifies as a FastFeast ;)

2 large or several small beetroot, cooked in their skins
pepper, salt

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pointed red peppers, diced (ordinary red peppers will do as well)
3-4 handfuls fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2tbsp toasted pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 handfuls of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, coriander, etc.)

optionally cheese to top, e. g. mozzarella, grated parmesan, etc.

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add salt and pepper and cook the beetroot until it's tender. This can take 60-90 minutes. Remove from the water and leave to cool before removing their skins. Then, cut them in half and with a teaspoon scoop out the flesh to make room for the filling. Set the flesh aside and use in a salad or eat as is.

2. For the filling, heat some olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic at a low to medium heat. Add the chopped pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes. Season with pepper and salt.

3. Add the spinach and mix it in to let it wilt.

4. Lastly, add the pine nuts and fresh herbs.

5. Spoon the mixture into the beetroot halves and top with cheese if used. This dish is also lovely cold, if no cheese is used. Perfect for picnics and BBQs.

6. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at gas mark 7.

Serve with potato wedges. Without cheese, it's not only perfect for vegans but also a lovely side dish for fish or meat.

1. Use dried Herbes de Provence if no fresh herbs are at hand. In this case, add them to the pan while sautéing the onion and garlic.
2. Instead of red peppers you may also use roasted peppers out of a jar. Just chop them up and add them with the herbs and pine nuts.
3. Try it with Feta. Just crumble up the Feta and mix into the filling at the same time as the herbs and pine nuts.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Salad with Seeds and Quail Eggs

12 quail eggs, hard boiled
2-3tbsp of toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds
cherry plum tomatoes
2 little gem lettuces/ 1 Romaine or Cos lettuce
1 avocado, chunks scooped out
vinaigrette to taste

Boil the quail eggs as per packet instructions, i.e. place into boiling water, place the lid on the saucepan and simmer for 4 minutes. Drain and add cold water.

Arrange the salad ingredients on a deep platter or in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Little gem is quite a sturdy lettuce (but, to be honest, rather bland) as are Romaine and Cos lettuce, and can be dressed a little in advance. If using more delicate leaves, don't dress them until you're ready to serve the salad. Or place the bowl on the table and serve the dressing in a separate jug so everyone can help themselves. That way if there is any left over salad, it won't get wasted but can be put in the fridge for later.

Leafy Salad with Balsamic Dressing

This week's organic box contained a huge bag of the most amazing baby lettuce leaves with a couple of nasturtium blossoms and calendula petals for added colour. So I decided, not to use the usual vinaigrette dressing but something a little more delicate.

sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
6tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix and pour over the lettuce. Toss gently and serve immediately.

Cucumber and Radish Salad

1 cucumber, optionally peeled, deseeded and sliced
200g radishes (that's probably about 20-25 pieces), sliced
about a thumb's length of fresh ginger, grated
2tbsp sherry vinegar
1-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1/2tsp Dijon mustard

1. For the dressing, combine all the ingredients.
2. Place the cucumber and radish slices in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Mix well and leave to marinate at room temperature for 1/2-1 hour.

I've started to scoop out the seeds of shop bought cucumbers as they contain so much water but leave them in if using an organic one.

Baba Ghanoush

This makes about 400-450ml of Babaganoush, depending on the size of the aubergines.

2 aubergines
1tsp freshly ground cumin
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
freshly chopped coriander, optional

1. Pierce the aubergines all over with a fork (to prevent them from exploding) and place in a very hot oven (top setting) for 90 minutes.

2. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. You may split them in half to speed up the cooling process but be very careful as the aubergines are extremely hot.

3. Once cold, split the aubergines in half, scoop out the flesh and transfer into a food processor or the beaker of a hand-held blender.

4. Add all the other ingredients, except the fresh coriander, and purée. Mix in the coriander if used.

Use freshly ground coriander seeds instead of cumin. I think that's what is normally used but I prefer it with cumin.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Pan Panache #2: Rice in the Pan

I actually made twice the amount of the rice from this recipe so had enough left over for a quick meal for two a couple of days later. Sorry, there is no picture, we were too hungry ;)

rice for two
garlic flavoured extra virgin olive oil
350g mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch spring onions sliced - these were from the organic box and tasted fantastic!
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
fresh chopped herbs (basil, rocket, coriander)

Heat the oil a large frying pan and sauté the mushrooms in one half and the spring onions in the other. The spring onions were ready a little quicker than the mushrooms, so I pushed them away from the heat until the mushrooms had browned.

Stir mushrooms and spring onions together, season, add the rice and heat through.

At the end stir in the herbs and serve immediately.

Monday, 17 August 2009

What to do with left over tomato salad

Left over tomato salad usually goes soggy by the next day. It would be such a shame to throw it out, though. So just add it to a tomato sauce, for example the slow cooked tomato sauce - it's got the same ingredients already: tomatoes, oil, balsamic, garlic, pepper, salt. What can go wrong? ;)

Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber, optionally peeled and very finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
2tbsp sherry vinegar
1-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil (2tsp with yoghurt)
100-150ml cream, soured cream or yoghurt
fresh or dried dill
1/2tsp Dijon mustard

Combine all the seasoning into a dressing, pour over the cucumber slices and marinate for at least one hour in the fridge. Check the seasoning and serve.

Garlicky Tomato Salad

I didn't make this with red tomatoes, for a change, but with the amazing yellow tomatoes from the organic box - this salad tastes of summer.

500g tomatoes, roughly cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped or crushed
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Combine all the ingredients into a dressing and pour over the tomatoes. Gently mix and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, longer if possible.

Slow cooked tomato sauce

This sauce can be made in advance, for example over the weekend, and also freezes well. So preparing dinner on a Monday or any other weekday night won't take any time at all. Just cook some pasta or gnocchi, throw together a quick salad and you have a tasty meal. The sauce also goes well with grilled fish. Or use it to top grilled pork chops, add a slice of mozzarella and grill for a minute or two until the cheese is melting.

3x 440ml tins of chopped tomatoes in thick sauce - you can also use tinned tomatoes in tomato juice
2 onions, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh or dry bay leaves, rolled up and held together with a cocktail stick
120ml extra virgin olive oil
50ml red wine or 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 lightly heaped tsp brown sugar
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, e.g. Le Creuset, and gently fry the onions and garlic for approx. 5 minutes until tender but not browned.

2. Pour in the tomatoes and stir through.

3. Season with pepper and salt. Add the bay leaf, sugar and wine. Stir, cover and bring to the boil.

4. Turn the heat low and simmer gently for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours stirring occasionally.

5. About 15 minutes, before the end of the cooking time, take the lid off to let some of the liquid evaporate and thicken the sauce. Remove the bay leaves and check the seasoning before serving.

1. Use dried basil instead of bay leaves.
2. Add some sun dried tomatoes and/or black olives.
3. Add some fresh chilli to give the sauce a bit (or a lot of) heat.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Mushroom Pâté

500g mushrooms, ideally large flat Portobello mushrooms, chopped roughly
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
a few drops of Tabasco (optional)
100ml crème fraîche/Philadelphia or natural yoghurt

1. Sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil until brown but still fry. Transfer onto a plate lined with paper towel and leave to cool.

2. Blend all the ingredients incl. seasoning in a food processor or hand held blender. Transfer into a bowl and chill.

Serve with crusty bread, crackers/oat cakes or crudités.

Note: If using yoghurt, the pâté will remain more runny.

Stuffed Summer Squash

Another lovely find in the organic box: yellow summer squash. The following main course, being vegan, is incredibly tasty but not very filling, so you need quite a lot of it - one reason why eating vegan/vegetarian food is not exactly cheap. What you see on the photos was just about enough for two of us. Adding grated cheese to the rice and/or topping the dish with cheese, such as parmesan or pecorino, would help alleviate that :)

2-3 smallish summer squash, halved and flesh scooped out

Herby rice:

1/2 large mug of brown rice
1 1/1 large mugs of cold water
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
2tbsp shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
2-3tbsp fresh herbs, roughly chopped - here, I used equal amounts of basil, rocket and coriander
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Tomato salsa
250g cherry plum tomatoes, quartered
1 shallot, very finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
tabasco or chopped chilli, optional

1. Heat some olive oil in saucepan. Add the chilli, 2/3 of the garlic and onions and soften over a medium-low heat. Add the rice and stir until the rice is well coated with the mix. Pour in the water and add some coarse sea salt. Put the lid on and simmer until the rice is cooked.

2. Meanwhile, split the sqash in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Set aside.

3. Chop into small chunks. Heat some oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the squash with the remaining garlic over quite a high heat until browned all over. Season with black pepper (I didn't use any salt) and transfer into a bowl, if necessary lined with paper towel to drain of excessive oil.

4. Mix the cherry tomatoes, season with pepper (again I don't add salt) and tabasco/chilli if used. Leave to marinate.

5. Once the rice is cooked, drain off any remaining liquid. Season with pepper and add the pistachios, browned squash flesh and chopped herbs. Mix and check the seasoning.

6. Season the squash shells with pepper and salt and spoon to rice mixture into them.

7. Set on a lightly oiled oven proof dish, cover with tin foil and place in the middle of the oven at gas mark 6/200-220°C for about 40 minutes or until the squash are tender.

Serve with the tomato salsa and, optionally, a zesty salad.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Carrot Salad with Sesame Seeds

500g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
herb salt
freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed sunflower oil
2tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in the oven at a very high heat until golden
1tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)

Mix pepper, herb salt and vinegar, then add the oil. Pour over the carrots, mix well and leave to marinate for a couple of hours before serving. Add the toasted sesame seeds just before serving.

preparation time: 15 mins
marinating time: at least 1 hour

Spring Greens with Mozzarella

Another veg in the organic box was a lovely bundle of dark green spring greens. These, too, were given the sauté pan treatment.

500g spring greens, tough stems removed, washed and roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
sea salt
100-150ml dry white wine or vegetable stock
1 mozzarella ball, cut into cubes

Heat the olive oil and add the spring greens. Turn the heat down and move the veg around until completely covered with the oil and starting to brown. Pour in about 100ml of wine. Season with pepper and salt. Place a lid on the pan and gently simmer until the spring greens are tender adding more liquid if necessary. This can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Transfer into a warmed bowl and scatter with the mozzarella cubes.

Spinach with Soured Cream

Normally, I feel that it's a bit of a shame to steam baby spinach and prepare it raw as a salad. But this week, we ordered our first organic box and the spinach was a much larger leaved variety that was much more suitable to be turned into a vegetable side dish.

500g spinach, washed with some water still clinging to it to aid the cooking process and roughly chopped
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 generous tbsp soured cream
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
freshly ground nutmeg

Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add the spinach and mix the ingredients. Cook over a medium heat until the spinach is tender. Season with pepper and salt. Add the soured cream and mix. Transfer into a warmed serving bowl and grate a little nutmeg over the top.

Smoked Mackerel Pâté

200g smoked mackerel, skin removed and roughly broken up
2-3tbsp/75 ml natural yoghurt
freshly ground black pepper
a few drops of Tabasco
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put all the ingredient into a food processor or whizz up with a hand-held blender. Chill for 1-2 hours to set. Serve with crudités, hot toast/toasted baguette slices, oatcakes, fresh bread/baguette - whatever takes your fancy.

A great starter or amuse-gueule to get dinner party guests' mouths watering. I also have it for lunch on some chunky home baked bread.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Storing Mushrooms

Wrap them in newspaper!

Unfortunately, most supermarkets nowadays not only chill produce to death but also sell so many items pre-packaged in plastic baskets. Mushrooms really should not be stored in plastic at all, let alone be sealed with cling film. At least that's what I was tought when we went mushroom hunting when I was little...

The other day, I spotted a wee note on a packet that suggested to remove the cling film and to cover the mushrooms with kitchen paper. That sort of worked but I've found that wrapping the mushrooms incl. the basket in 2-3 sheets of newspaper (from a broadsheet) works even better.

If the mushrooms are super fresh, they last for days in the fridge. In fact, we finished some last night (Thursday) that we'd bought last Friday without chopping bits off, pealing them or throwing any away.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Easy BBQ and Oven Cleaning

Get yourself a packet of these little guys to clean the your barbecue and oven racks as well as the inside of the oven. Just add hot soapy water and you'll never again need elbow grease or nasty spray cleaners.

Potato Salad with Spring Onions

his is really quick and easy to do and so tasty!

1kg salad potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp sea salt
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced

1. Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water. I always add black pepper to prevent bloating, no matter whether I use new potatoes or not. That way I don't forget :) It may seem like a lot of salt but most of it will be drained with the water at the end of the cooking process, which takes about 20-25 minutes. But IMO, there is nothing worse than sweet tasting potatoes because that happens if you don't add any or too little salt.

2. Drain the cooked potatoes and transfer into a bowl to cool. Chop them roughly while they are still warm and douse with the vinaigrette. Toss gently.

3. When the potatoes have cooled completely sprinkle on the spring onions and mix them in.

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Black Olives

This is one of the variations of the basic green bean recipe using the following ingredients:

5 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
pitted black olives

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Ciabatta Pizza

This is supposed to be a quick meal but somehow I never manage to cook anything quick :) though using a ciabatta does cut the preparation time considerably. If I make a pizza dough in the breadmaker, the process still takes 90 minutes. So here are some ideas for toppings - all of which I had at hand tonight. I actually didn't use a ciabatta but a home-made baguette, that's why there are three pieces.

Tomato sauce:
1 440ml tin of chopped tomatoes in thick juice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped (optional)
1tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 bayleaf, fresh or dried, rolled up and fixed with a cocktail stick (this makes it easier to find in the sauce.

Topping Suggestions:
black olives
1 mozzarella, halved, then sliced
1 courgette, sliced and browned without oil in a non-stick pan
2 tomatoes, sliced and deseeded
sliced mushrooms
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 red pepper sliced
2 onions, sautéd with the following:
- freshly ground pepper
- fresh thyme (dried if fresh is not available)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 ciabatta, split lengthways

1. Tomato sauce
Heat the olive oil and add onion, garlic and red peppers (if used). Sauter until the veg is almost tender. Season with pepper. Add the tinned tomatoes, vinegar and bayleaf. Season with salt and simmer for 15-20 minutes over a lowish heat to infuse the sauce with all the flavours. Don't cover as this will cause condensation and prevent the sauce from being nice and dry. Set aside until ready to use.

2. Sautéd red onions

Heat a little olive oil and add the onions, garlic, thyme leaves and sauter over a high heat for a couple of minutes. Then cover and turn the heat down. Sweat until the onions are soft. If liquid has accumulated, take of the lid and turn up the heat until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside until ready to use.

3. Assembling your ciabatta pizza
Spread both ciabatta halves thickly with the tomato sauce. Put on a layer of mozzarella.

Top one half with the onions, chilli and a few black olives on top of and around the mozzarella.

Top the other half with a layer of all the other ingredients. Optionally drizzle the veggies with a tiny bit of oil and season with pepper.

Cook in a hot oven, approx. gas mark 7/220°C, until the cheese has melted and the raw veggies have browned. Serve immediately.

1. Feta instead of mozzarella with sautéd red onions. The sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the feta really complement each other.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Carrot Dip

As a pescatarian, I just love things like hummus so watch out for some lovely recipes for spreads, patés and dips over the next few weeks. I used call this one a mousse although it really is not a mousse as there is nothing to make it fluffy but it's not thick enough for a spread (though I eat it on bread for my lunch) or paté and so much more than a dip. Can't wait for lunch tomorrow!

Update February 2018: I have finally turned this into a mousse! You could whip up 3-4 of egg whites and fold them in but if you don't have any use for the egg whites that's not going to happen, is it? Well, I've discovered aquafaba, the liquor from tinned pulses (you can also make your own but since there are just two of us I prefer to use tins), which can be beaten into stiff peaks that don't taste "beany" and can be used instead of egg whites. So, if you want to turn the recipe below into an mousse, beat the liquor of a 400-g-tin of any pulses (approx. 120-150 ml) into stiff peaks and fold them into the cooled down carrot puree.

1kg carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3cm long pieces
1tsp freshly ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cook the carrots in as little water as possible with pepper and salt until soft. I managed to have less than a tablespoon of liquid left, tonight ;) Drain and leave to cool.

2. Put all the ingredients into a food processor or beaker for a hand-held blender and purer.

Serve with crudités, on bread, steamed or roasted veg, even fish. Delish!

Summer Squash and Pasta

As so often on a Monday night, cooking dinner is more of a chore than pleasure. So it's got to be something quick without compromising on taste and healthy ingredients. And we've still got an organic summer squash from last week as well as a couple of packets of fresh filled pasta in the fridge.

1 summer squash, roughly the size of a large grapefruit, cut into segments
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, to fry for the squash
balsamic glaze
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a couple of packets of fresh, filled pasta - any flavour will do
salted boiling water
about a dozen fresh sage leaves, cut lengthways into strips
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, to infuse with the sage leaves

1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the squash segments at a medium to high heat on both sides.

2. Season with pepper and salt. You could serve it now still slighlty raw but hot through and with a bite. Or, put on a lid and keep cooking until the squash is tender. Whichever you prefer, drizzle with a little balsamic glaze before serving.

3. Boil the pasta in salted water according to instructions. Most fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes.

4. Meanwhile heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the sage leaves. Stir for a minute at a low heat.

5. Drain the pasta, return to the saucepan and carefully mix in the sage and olive oil. If the pasta is quite rich, the sage will help make it seem less heavy.

Arrange on warmed plates and serve immediately. This is lovely with a fresh leafy salad.

If using other fresh pasta or dried, such as tagliatelle, rigatoni, etc., you could use a little butter to cook the sage in instead of olive oil. In Bologna, they even serve tortelloni with butter and sage and it's delicious.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Fruit and Flower Salad

After the torrential rain from this morning almost completely ruined my small crop of baby spinach leaves, I needed something to bulk up my salad bowl and decided to give nasturtiums a try at last. Here's the tasty result.

mixed baby lettuce leaves
1/2 large ripe nectarine, cut into segments
half a dozen fresh nasturtium blossoms

Dress with the trusty vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Blueberry and Banana Smoothie

All my smoothie recipes have the same base: 100% pineapple juice instead of ice cubes. And I rarely use dairy products. Does that make them fruit shakes instead?

This summer zinger for two is packed with anti-oxidants and Vitamin C and filling to boot.

250ml pineapple juice
150g fresh or frozen blueberries
1 (organic) banana

Blend. Pour. Drink immediately.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

BBQ'ed Paprika Potatoes

Boiled potatoes, halved
extra virgin olive oil
Hungarian paprika, preferably csemege (delicate) or csípös csemege (hot but delicate). Of course, at a pinch, Spanish paprika will do :)

Brush the potato halves with olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika.

Cook cut-side down on the BBQ, then turn. Serve immediately.

The mysterious aluminium package? That's the leftover pork skewers from yesterday. Wrap in foil and cook on the BBQ for 10 minutes until piping hot.

BBQ'ed Spring onions

Cut the roots of a couple of bunches of spring onions. Trim the tops. Wash and dry. Drizzle with oive oil. They don't really need any seasoning.

Place directly on the BBQ. Keep turning unitl they've got the tell-tale BBQ markings. Then, transfer to an aluminium BBQ tray and continue cooking until tender.