Archive for February, 2012

February 21, 2012

Pancake perfection

Yes, it’s Pancake Day – or Shrove Tuesday, if you prefer. And if you’re struggling for that perfect batter recipe – have a lookee here. We’re gonna try it too!

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February 18, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Smoked garlic and cheese potato cakes with chilli greens

You might not guess it from the recipe title, but this was one of those meals inspired by using up some old veg and bits and pieces in the fridge. It can also be seen as mash and greens – with bells on.

For the potato cakes, steam some floury potatoes until tender (about 3 medium-sized potatoes per person), mash them and leave them to cool. While they’re cooling, saute some finely sliced shallots (1 per person) and some finely chopped smoked garlic (2 cloves per person) in a little olive oil for around 5 minutes, until soft but not browned. When the mash is cool, transfer it to a large mixing bowl and mix in the shallots and garlic. Add 1 finely chopped spring onion, per person, to the mash.

The mash now needs to be worked up into an almost doughy consistency and be flavoured with cheese. Break 1 egg per person into the mash and stir in. The mash will become slightly gooey. Now, grate 50g per person of parmesan into the mash and mix well. Next, a little at a time, sprinkle some plain flour into the bowl and mix in. Do this until the flour is absorbed and distributed evenly. It will dry the mix out a little. The idea is to create a consistency that can be easily formed into a cake or pattie – without being a slop, and without crumbling at all.

With your hands, shape the mash into patties/cakes about 3 inches across and an inch deep. Then fry them in a little olive oil in a wide frying pan on a medium heat, turning after around 5 minutes, until they become golden on both sides.

We served the cakes with some greens – blanching some sprouting broccoli and cavolo nero for 4 minutes in boiling water, then frying it in olive oil with a sprinkle of fresh red chilli and a chopped, deseeded tomato. A tangy, yoghurt-based sauce, or tomato salsa would also add a little something.

February 8, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Mushroom, chestnut and cavolo nero casserole

Casserole? Well, you could call it a stew. I was intending to cook this (mostly) in the oven, as you should with a casserole, but I didn’t. I was hungry. I cooked it on the hob. It was quicker. It was still good. There.

First, in a deep, wide saucepan or frying pan I fried a sliced onion in a little olive oil until it softened. I then added three sticks of celery, cut into 1-inch pieces. Then I added lots of mushrooms – a supermarket tub each of button, chestnut and oyster varieties, the larger ones being halved or even quartered. Don’t try and get them all the same size however; it’s nice to have them varied. Cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for 15 minutes while they release heir juices and then soak them back up again.

As the mushrooms are cooking, boil a cupful of green lentils (not Puy) until tender in a small pan of vegetable stock, with a bay leaf. When they have finished cooking, drain, removing the bay leaf, but retaining a little of the stock.

Now, take 150g or so of vacuum-packed or tinned, cooked chestnuts and chop them coarsely. Add to the mushroom mixture. Then add the lentils. Then pour in 100ml of sour cream and stir well. If the mixture could do with a little more liquid, top up with any reserved stock.

From here you can continue to cook on the hob for another 15 minutes. While you’re doing so, blanche a few handfuls of cavolo nero or savoy cabbage in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water.

When the mushrooms finish cooking, add the cavolo nero and another 100ml of sour cream. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Before serving, add a handful of chopped chives and a handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Serve with crusty bread and, if you like, an extra dollop of cream.

February 6, 2012

Veggie food on the radio!

BBC Radio 4 gave over an episode of its Food Programme to vegetarian cooking yesterday. Hear it here.

There’s some usual preconceptions, but also words from Earth To Plate regulars Yotam Ottolenghi and Denis Cotter. Has the programme been reading this blog?

February 6, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Sweetcorn and chickpea soup with greens and a chilli-soy salsa

Sweetcorn; chickpeas; kale. Should they go together? A chilli-soy salsa? It’s that last piece of description that gives away the some geography to this soup: it’s an Asian, perhaps Thai or Indonesian-influenced concoction and the background note under the combination of leaves, kernels and legumes is a spicy coconut broth. The salsa – well, though the word might shout Mexico and link to the sweetcorn, it’s a thoroughly Asian-influenced topping too. Let’s make it…

For the salsa we finely diced one red pepper, finely sliced two spring onions and a finely chopped red chilli (or two). Combine these together. Next, toast a handful of sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan for 5-10 minutes, tossing them occasionally and taking care not to burn them. When they’ve started to turn golden take them off the heat and splash some soy sauce over them. They’ll become slightly sticky. Leave to cool and then stir into the salsa. Finally roughly chop a handful of coriander leaves and add to the salsa.

The soup is something of a fusion of West and East but the ingredients complement each other perfectly and are often found together in varying combinations around the world. The kale could be Savoy cabbage, cavolo nero, spring greens, spinach or even pak choi. We had some kale left, so that’s what went in the pot – and it’s great with chickpeas.

First, make a ‘curry’ paste: grate a 1-inch piece of ginger, finely slice three cloves of garlic and three medium shallotts. Finely slice two green chillies (strength to your licking) and two sticks of fresh lemongrass. Place all these ingredients in the jug of a food processor/blender. Now add 2 teaspoons each of ground cumin and ground turmeric. Add half a cup of water and blend to get a smooth, thick sauce.

Heat a large saucepan, add a dash of sesame oil and add the curry sauce, cooking it for five minutes – you should smell the aromas. Then add a medium-sized tin of sweetcorn kernels, a tin of chickpeas and a tin of coconut milk. Stir. Then add 600ml of vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so then add some handfuls of roughly chopped greens. Cook for 5 minutes more if you’re using soft greens (spinach etc) or 10 minutes if you’re using tougher cabbage or kale etc.

Check the seasoning and serve, topping the bowl with a good spoonful of salsa and a squeeze of lime.

February 1, 2012

Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Ribollita

It’s such a cold day here in the south east, as I’m sure it is elsewhere in Britain today. East London was perishing at lunchtime and when I got back to Wivenhoe, old puddles at the side of the road hadn’t thawed.

The perfect day, then, for a chunky bowl of Italian peasant food. A classic Ribollita is a heartwarming soup of vegetables, beans and bread – used to thicken the soup to an almost stew-like consistency. Everyone will have their own favourite way to make it, but I do like this one from Jamie Oliver. And he’s right, it’ll taste even better tomorrow.

The recipe is here.