Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

2011 leftovers: blackberry and apple pie

Over the years I have been known to wax lyrical (which is surely another way of saying ‘bored people rigid’) about childhood autumns spent blackberry picking – the huge buckets of blackberries that our family would bring back and the freezer full of blackberry and apple pies and crumbles. It’s a story seen through purple-tinted shades.

We did go blackberry picking, sometimes as a family, often my dad on his own. And I did love those home-baked pies and crumbles – the taste of autumn. In fact I loved them so much that shop-bought blackberries and blackberry-based desserts seemed a heresy. Only recently have I bought blackberries from the supermarket. Huge fat ones, not the smallish, round, neat little berries of subtle joy that I remember.

But this autumn, freshly settled into our new abode in the (almost) wilds of north Essex, a-blackberry-picking we did go (see our blog from the beginning of November). Not long after, a blackberry and apple pie was made.

We used shop-bought pastry as I was feeling lazy that weekend, blind baking the pie bottom before adding some slices of bramley apple, the blackberries, sprinkling over some sugar, encasing with the pie top and baking for 20 minutes.

The result? Well it wasn’t quite the great pie of antiquity, but then nothing was ever going to match the sublime taste of my berry nostalgia. However, it disappeared very quickly one wintery Saturday evening. And yes, it still delivered that true taste of autumn. Can’t wait till next year!

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December 30, 2011

Where’s the pasta?

WordPress informs me that there are now well over 100 entries on this Earth to Plate blog, brimful with recipes, cooking tips, serving suggestions, reviews and more – all, of course, meat-free.

But so far there’s also one other ingredient that is almost as absent from the blog as meat/fish. This one, however, will come as more of a surprise to many vegetarian cooks. Can you guess what it is?

Pasta. Yep. It seems only one entry has a recipe for pasta (check by searching the ingredients list to the right of the page). But isn’t pasta a veggie staple? Well, as we claimed on the ‘About this blog’ page (here), we don’t do much pasta. It looks like that our first year of blogging has proved that to be true.

December 30, 2011

2011 leftovers: Chilli and parmesan polenta recipe

Before we made this, a couple of months ago, I think I had eaten polenta about twice in my life. Each time it was bland and distinctly, well, horrible. I never wanted to go near t again. I’d see it on a menu and think “Ha, well they’re trying to be clever, but it won’t work,” or see it cooked on TV and think “They’re gonna taste it and say it’s nice, but they’ll be lying”.

Polenta. Italian peasant food. But I kept on seeing it and some of my favourite cooks feature a polenta recipe every time they release a new recipe book. So what was my problem?

Well, blandness and texture were the big things and, fortunately, they could be sorted. I wanted a polenta that was rich with flavour and didn’t feel like gritty mush in the mouth. Actually, it’s easy to achieve and, typing this up, I’d like some more of it now.

We cooked 250 grams of ‘coarse maize’ polenta in around a litre of simmering vegetable stock until it was soft, stirring regularly. I think that took about 20 minutes (to remove the granularity) but I could be wrong – so keep checking. We then stirred in some chopped birds eye chillis and a handful of grated parmesan/pecorino cheese, gave it a good mix and spread into an oiled shallow baked tray. After about 20 minutes, the polenta is cool and set firm. We could then cut it into triangles and grill/griddle it. This would work well on a barbecue, though it’s too chilly to be thinking about that at the moment.

We served our polenta wedges with greens and peppers – thinking of it as the carb on the plate in place of potato, pasta or rice. And it was really tasty. Honest. Consider me converted.

December 29, 2011

2011 leftovers: Homemade parathas recipe

I thought we should end the year with some of the recipes and dinner ideas that never quite made it to the blog when they were initially intended.

First of these is a recipe for parathas, the shallow-fried bread that is a great accompaniment to Indian food. We made them, or should I say Ella made them, a couple of months ago. We compared and contrasted a couple of different recipes before beginning, mainly because the wording wasn’t always clear, especially as to the rolling out of the dough.

The general idea is that you make your dough, divide it into individual portions, roll it out, add a little oil, and then bring in the ends to the middle (using one method or another) to create a kind of folded sack that traps air inside. The dough then gets rolled out again before being shallow fried.

With the shallow frying, don’t leave them to get too crisp, the finished bread needs to be soft and doughy.

There’s a recipe here, and another here. Okay, and another here.

It’s worth taking a look at as many as you can before commencing, but really, once you get the idea, they’re incredibly simply and a something of a treat.

December 15, 2011

The perfect nut roast

…also in the Guardian newspaper this week, and with Christmas in mind, a fairly enlightening feature about the many variations of nut roast and recipe/serving suggestions. Time to revisit this old chestnut? Take a look here.

December 15, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Yotam Ottolenghi’s roasted aubergine with fried onion and chopped lemon

About half way through the afternoon Ella and I discussed ideas for dinner and realised we didn’t havethe faintest notion what to cook. Then I remembered this Ottolenghi recipe from the weekend’s paper. It doesn’t look ‘all that’ in the accompanying photo, but a look at the ingredients told me it would be warming and smoky, but also light and fresh with a real citrus kick. It proved, indeed, to be all of those things. With bells on.

I do have to get round to discussing Ottolenghi in more depth at some point, as we ate at his restaurant this autumn and, while it was enjoyable, we left somewhat underwhelmed. We’ve made (and loved – and I mean really loved) so much of his food at home that our expectations were high. But that’s for another time.

For now, and as an antidote to all the stodgy British midwinter we’re bound to get stuck into over the coming weeks, here‘s the recipe. We served it with a big old leafy salad, dressed heartily.

December 7, 2011

Recipe: Angela Hartnett’s wild mushrooms and fried egg on toast

We know Angela Hartnett can do posh nosh, but it’s rather nice when she does cheap and cheerful too. Good ingredients are probably key with her breakfast/brunch/snack/litebite plate of mushrooms, eggs and bread. And there’s nothing exceptional about her recipe, published in the Guardian newspaper today… except that it makes me want to eat it. Now.

It’s here.

December 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Stuffed tomatoes and quinoa

I must admit that stuffed vegetables rarely inspire me. Ella makes a fine, chilli-enlivened stuffed pepper (with tomatoes and mozzarella), but too often stuffed veg means simply a bit of veg with some other veg piled on top. In my book that’s not good enough.

However, for some reason, I fancied stuffing some veg the other day. I wanted a tomatoey dish, sweet and tangy, but for other flavours and textures to be involved too. Something hearty and warming perhaps.

Some Puy lentils seemed like a good idea, cooked until tender, with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar, and added to the halved and hollowed out tomatoes. These were then baked in the oven on a low temperature – around 120C – so that the tomatoes almost dry out and intensify in flavour rather than cooking to a mush. Timings are approximate here: 1 hour? At the end of the process we added some crumbled feta cheese on top and served on a bed of quinoa. And very tasty it was too.