Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Recipe: Bill Granger’s flatbread with red onion and chard

We have got some chard in the kitchen at the moment so will probably be tempted to make this light supper. The prospect of making your own flatbread is always rather exciting and, given that it doesn’t need to rise very much (although it does use yeast and need to prove), it’s rather more fail-safe than proper, full-on, up-to-the-elbows-in-flour bread making.

I haven’t kept up to date with the style of food Australian chef and restaurateur Bill Granger makes. I interviewed him once, by email, and he sent back a well-written, considered and quite passionate response to the questions, so he’s remained in ETP’s ‘good books’ since. But back then his big thing was luscious Aussie-American breakfasts at his waterfront cafe – this recipe is distinctly more European.

The recipe is from the Independent, here.

Advertisements
August 21, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Marrow, Tomato and Chickpea Massala

Tuesday 9 August

What to do with a marrow, those overgrown courgettes of delicate flesh and almost no flavour. Hmmm. We’d never cooked one before but inherited one from our neighbour. An internet search brought up a Southeast Asian recipe from Simon Hopkinson. It’s made with cherry tomatoes. Yeah, it shouldn’t work, should it?! But it does.

Except, we added some chickpeas and a little chilli. But apart from that followed the recipe, here.

It’s really good: the marrow flesh falling-apart soft, the tomatoes tangy and a warm zip of spices. It’s not often we make something that’s basically, er, ‘Indian’, but that isn’t like anything we’ve tasted before. And it really didn’t sound promising.

Nice one Simon.

August 21, 2011

“Too much veg!”

“There’s simply too much veg in the allotment at the moment,” said our lovely neighbours. “We can’t get through it all ourselves, so take this.”

“Thank you, that’s so kind,” I replied.

“You do like vegetables?”

“Well, funnily enough…”

…and so we gratefully accepted beans of all shapes, sizes and colours, courgettes large and small, beetroot, rhubarb and, more recently, some fragrant and juicy tomatoes with the promise of cavolo nero and cabbage to come. Wow, do we feel lucky. And don’t worry, it’ll all get eaten.

Growing up in the countryside, one half of the ETP team often had veg land in the back garden from over the wall. If the neighbour had too many spuds, we got them. The same went for cabbages, carrots, lettuce, anything.

But central London could also spring some neighbourly charm. At ETP Towers’ former residence we received fruit, veg and even chocolates from those living next door or down the corridor. Not home-grown, perhaps, but given with just the same sentiment.

It’s nice bein’ nice, innit.

August 16, 2011

Recipe: Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

Yes, you read right. We were looking for a quick pasta and courgette dish, given my earlier comments regarding the abundance of those deep green, erm, truncheons at this time of year. First up on the internet came a recipe from our old friend Yotam Ottolenghi, although from a not very local source, namely the New York Times.

The recipe, which in a British translation is for Penne with Courgette and Mozzarella, is here and very good it looks too.

August 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Puy Lentils with Roast Courgettes, Green Beans and Parsely

Sunday 7 August

Courgettes are everywhere in early August and, I confess, it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve really taken to eating them. Earlier this year we tried them as fritters, rather like the corn ones in the post before this. The courgette fritter recipe is here.

This Sunday we wanted a fairly hearty supper with some summery flavours to boot and this was a simple solution.

First, for two people, slice 2-3 medium courgettes into thumb-sized batons. (What? Okay, halve the courgettes lengthways, then halve them across their middles, then halve them lengthways again.)

Place the courgette batons in an ovenproof dish, lightly toss them with some olive oil and some salt and pepper and place them in a preheated oven until they’re golden of flesh but not completely browned.

While you’re doing this, in a large saucepan boil around 2 cups of puy lentils in vegetable stock until they’re tender – about 25 minutes. Also, very finely slice a large onion and fry until translucent in a little olive oil.

Next, roughly chop some fresh green beans – we had a mix of runner and french beans (okay, and some yellow and black skinned beans too) – and steam them for 4 minutes before refreshing them under a cold tap.

When the lentils are cooked (drain them if there is much water left and return to the pan), add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, stir and leave for 2 minutes. Then stir in the onion. Next stir in the courgettes.

Finally, stir in the chopped fresh parsley, season if needed, and eat.

August 10, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Sweetcorn ‘brunch’ fritters

Sunday 7 August

Sunday brunch is a fine thing. Think of it as a good old-fashioned weekend breakfast that’s been off and travelled the world a bit, tasted different cultures and arrived back with tales of how life could be, if only everyone lived ‘there’, not ‘here’.

Sunday brunch at ETP Towers sometimes nods to New York or or even Asia. I’m not sure where these fritters lie on the map (Mexico?), but they’re easy (if you have a few leisurely minutes to spare) and damn tasty. Corn at breakfast? Hell yeah! Ours came from the lovely huge pile of corn on the cob found at Cansdale Ross & Co, around the corner from us (and as previously mentioned in this blog).

Our serving for each person consists of two fritters. For each serving you’ll need one corn on the cob, two spring onions, a small amount of fresh chopped green chilli, a couple of sprigs of coriander, an egg and around two level dessert spoons of flour (plain white or wholemeal is fine, but I like to use gram flour – the chickpea flour used to make bhajis – and also gluten free).

The recipe below is for one serving, but it will be easier to mix when you double or treble, or quadruple it up, depending on how many people are eating.

First, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the whole corn on the cob (any leaves and stringy bits removed), return to the boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Remove the cob from the water, let it cool slightly and then, standing the corn on its end, slice off the kernels with a sharp, sturdy knife.

Chop the spring onion and add it to a mixing bowl with the chilli, flour and the egg (lightly beaten), season with salt and pepper. Mix for 30 seconds, then add the sweetcorn kernels. Chop and add the coriander and mix all the ingredients well until the kernels are coated with the batter.

Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, drop a large serving spoon-sized scoop of the sweetcorn and batter mixture into the oil. It should sizzle slightly. With a spatula, gently prompt, push and pull the mixture into a vaguely rounded disc shape. After 4 minutes the bottom of the fritter should be set and golden. Turn it over and cook the other side for another 4 minutes. Done.

We served the fritters with a tomato salsa that Ella made: chopped tomato, a tiny bit of finely sliced red onion, chopped fresh chilli, a dash of wine vinegar and a splash of olive oil.

The fritters are light, moreish and, somehow, a perfect start to the day.

A wholely different kind of sweetcorn fritter recipe was published in the Guardian newspaper the day after we made this. You can see it here.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s sweetcorn fritters recipe is here.

But try ours first, and try it for brunch.

August 9, 2011

Love your local shop

Cansdale Ross & Co is the epitome of a local shop, no doubt facing all the concerns that small, independent businesses face when they haven’t the buying power of the big boys. How do we help them? Use them!

This, our new little local greengrocer in Wivenhoe, has already helped us out for vital ingredients on more than a few occasions. Local produce abounds – where possible – and everything tastes like fruit and veg should. Nothing has been over-chilled (frozen, even), so stone fruits don’t turn to mush the minute they reach room temperature like supermarket peaches, nectarines and plums so often do. Peppers are red and green of flesh and don’t spit water at you when you slice them. Tomatoes are bursting with summery goodness. Onions are the essence of savouriness. Herbs are green and fresh. The eggs are from happy hens on a local farm.

And they stock our favourite chilli sauce.

It’s pretty cheap too. So what’s not to like? I know some people will complain that occasionally the stocks are low or that ‘you can’t get everything there’. Well, of course. It’s a little, local shop, not a supermarket, and buying fresh produce there is all the more pleasurable for it.

My favourite purchase so far? Four juicy ears of corn from a wicker basket piled high with it. Delicious!

August 8, 2011

Recipe: Brown rice, courgettes and mint

On first glance I thought this recipe, here, for brown rice, courgettes and mint had two things going against it.

First, as you might have realised, I don’t always trust Nigel Slater’s cooking. Amongst other things, I often feel he misses a trick and rejects obvious ways to pep up his food in favour of his own nostalgia-filled peccadilloes.

Second, I firmly believe anything you might want to call ‘risotto’ should be made with a proper risotto rice.

So, this recipe fails twice before we’re even off. But… it looks rather nice. Nutty, summery, rustic, with a hint of old-skool veggie health food that suddenly looks almost vogueish. I think we’ll try it.

August 8, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Roast tomato and pepper broth with potato, butter beans and greens

(Our last home-cooked meal in London)

Believe it or not this hearty yet summery supper came about as a way of emptying our fridge and store cupboard before our impending move from the city. It’s typical that we would have a couple of peppers, some tomatoes, a few old spuds and half a cabbage (or similar) lying around. It’s also typical that this is the kind of thing we’d end up making with those ingredients.

The first job was to roast a red and a yellow pepper, just coated with a little olive oil, along with a couple of chillis and three cloves of garlic, still in their skins. Also into the oven went a small tray of halved tomatoes, skin side down, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. They both need to roast at around 190 degrees for 25 minutes or maybe a little longer. The tomatoes should be starting to collapse and the peppers’ skins almost blackened in parts.

When done, drop the peppers into a plastic bag, tie it and leave to cool/steam for a few minutes – this will help loosen the skins a little. Leave the tomatoes to cool a little, in their roasting tray.

After 5 minutes or so, take the peppers from the bag, slice them open, deseed them and peel as much skins from them as you can (but don’t worry too much if some skin remains). Slip the garlic cloves from their skins and chop the stalks off the chillis. Tip all the roasted veg into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Next, pour the roast veg sauce into a large saucepan/stockpot and add 400ml of water or vegetable stock. Heat until it comes to a boil and then leave on a slow simmer. It should look like a rustic tomato soup.

Now, take your potatoes and boil them until just tender and steam whatever greens you have (dark green cabbage, kale or cavolo nero), stalks removed, for around four minutes or, again, until just tender.

Tip the potatoes and greens into the soup along with a tin of butter bins (other white beans would be fine here but the size of the butter beans is good with this) and simmer for five minutes.

Serve, if you like, with crusty bread.

Depending on the exact amount of ingredients this will turn out more like a stew or more like a soup. I don’t think it really matters. What counts most of all is the deep, rich flavour and aroma of that roast tomato and pepper broth.

One final thing: we’ve described this as summery. Why? Well, because ripe summer tomatoes and the ‘new’ potatoes we used seem to shout of that season. But this is a dish that translates to autumn or winter too. I’d try to make it more ‘stewy’, less ‘brothy’ for those darker months.

August 4, 2011

Last night’s Dinner: Greek salad

Wednesday 3 August

…yesterday’s lunch, actually, and in contrast to this very wet morning, yesterday the sun was wilting the leaves of the hydrangea we brought from London with us and the skies above the Colne were an unbroken blue. What better for lunch than a Greek salad al fresco?

I’m sure everyone has their own way with a Greek salad. Even we make better ones and worse ones. It really depends on the quality of the ingredients. Ours, here, benefited from a mix of perfectly ripe little cherry, sungold and plum tomatoes from Cansdale Ross & Co, up the road in Wivenhoe. The very essence of a summer lunch.

I halved the smaller tomatoes and kept the larger ones variously chunky to add some range to the look and feel of the salad. Red onion? Yep – slice it finely and soak it for 10 minutes or more in a little red wine vinegar to take the sting from it. I didn’t use olives but did add a few shredded leaves of a little gem lettuce (‘Heresy’ I here you cry). Cucumber should be roughly diced and then all the ingredients mixed together ready to be topped with some large chunks of feta cheese (you can break it up with your fork as you eat). I’ve seen some people add fresh mint to a Greek salad and, don’t get me wrong, mint and feta are a good match, but it feels a somewhat contrived concoction and surely the best – and most traditional – herb to add at the end is a small scattering of dried oregano. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

On such a hot and sunny day we could easily have accompanied this with a refreshing glass of Vinho Verde from the Village Delicatessen (which I saw temptingly described as a good ‘lunchtime wine’). But we had work to do and the wine had to wait.

Need more inspiration? There’s a good account of Greek salads in the Guardian, here.