Archive for ‘Artichokes’

September 12, 2012

So September has come and the days are suddenly a little cooler. Summer is gone – what we had of it. But between the rains of June and July and the collective moment of forgetting everyone took through the Olympics and Paralympics, there were some occasional sunny, warm days. Summer did happen. We have the evidence here in the shape of some pictures of a back garden barbecue.

But what do you cook for a vegetarian at a barbecue? Nothing? C’mon! Buy some frozen veggie burgers and heat them through? Ugh. Make them a salad? What, to soak up the beer and wine? Don’t invite them? Jeez.

It’s a shame that more people don’t realise how much can cooked on a barbecue. Grilling vegetables, fruit and even cheese is simple – much easier than cooking meat, from what I gather from watching others – and is pretty much a surefire way of welcoming non carnivores to the party.

My theory is that a barbecue involves two things: smoke and good quality ingredients – ones that you’d enjoy eating if they were cooked in another way. Simple.

For us at ETP Towers, that means grilling skewers of mixed vegetables over charcoal. Try florets of cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, artichoke and beetroot. Mix the veg with cubes of halloumi and fruit – my favourite, mango, or even a strawberry. We also grill flat mushrooms, strips of aubergine and courgette and, of course, corn on the cob, par-boiled for a few minutes first.

For a marinade we often use a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a herb – thyme maybe, or rosemary – and chilli maybe, too.

Ella’s fab veggie burgers, here, would also go down a treat.

There are more spectacular things to barbecue – aubergine rolls with all kinds of fillings, chilli polenta slices, for example – but some of the above is so easy, so quick, that the question of what to feed a vegetarian at a barbecue should never need be asked again.

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August 25, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer vegetable and goat’s cheese bruschetta

Until recently there hasn’t been much summer round these parts, which means we haven’t done what we usually do with our dinners at this time of year.

But… the sun has started making occasional appearances and thoughts have turned to lighter meals that make the most of delicate summer flavours and fragrances. And bruschetta – we haven’t made bruschetta in, well, ages. Certainly not since we moved from London last year.

Bruschetta. Stuff on toast. Wild mushrooms and thyme; roasted cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; sweet roasted peppers with chilli and parmesan; chargrilled aubergine, ricotta and pesto… all with a good hunk of lightly toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a good olive oil. Yum.

We had none of the variations above on this occasion. What we had was half a loaf of bread from the Village Deli in Wivenhoe (they do good bread, I try not to look at it as I pass – I’d eat little else), plus a few leftovers from our weekly veg box and recent trips to the supermarket. Which meant we had courgettes, beetroot, broad beans, a green pepper, some grilled globe artichoke hearts, a mild red chilli – and a nice block of crumbly-ish, creamy goat’s cheese (again, from the aforementioned Deli).

The only method with this is to treat each ingredient with respect: so, the peppers and beet are roasted separately, in a little olive oil, and chopped into chunks; the chilli goes with the pepper and is then sliced; courgettes get sliced and cooked on a griddle; broad beans are shelled, blanched for 4 minutes and slipped from their pithy skins; artichokes, already cooked, are ready to go.

When it’s all done, toast the bread, rub it with garlic while it’s still hot, and pile up the veg on top, attractively if possible, interspersed with the broken-up goat’s cheese. And then drizzle with a little olive oil.

Does bruschetta really require a recipe? I don’t know: it’s just toast with stuff on it. Nice stuff though. And nice toast. And a nice, light, summer’s evening meal.

June 18, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable casserole with artichokes, fennel, peas, broad beans and leeks

It’s sunny outside but the weather over this last week has been gloriously British: sunny and warm one minute, rainy and cold the next. Indeed just as I typed that, the sun that was filtering in through the ETP window disappeared. It’s now so dark I might need to turn a light on.

Changeable weather alters what you want to it. Late spring ingredients are currently in abundance, but what to do when the weather becomes inclement and a salad of those delicate greens just won’t do? Well, you could do worse than make a casserole of them, as this fab idea in the Independent newspaper demonstrates. Artichokes, fennel, peas, leeks and broad beans are all here, but in a slightly less summer setting. Read it http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/recipes/vegetable-casserole-with-artichokes-fennel-peas-broad-beans-and-leeks-2297784.html.

Pouring down again, dammit. And thundering.

May 11, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Spring vegetable paella

Friday 6 May

I think a lot of British people associate paella with being a seafoody dish, probably because of summer holidays on the Spanish coast. In fact it’s originally a regional dish from Valencia and, over time, has been made with almost anything that you can throw into a pot – snails, rats, pork, chicken and, yes, seafood, as well as a whole host of vegetables. Peppers, butter beans, artichokes and cauliflower are all popular additions to a paella. Ours tends to change with the seasons. In winter, a paella with cauliflower, peppers and butter beans is a fantastic thing. This spring, I threw the some of the contents of our seasonal veg box at it, plus a few other bits and pieces from the fridge. Not exactly traditional, perhaps, but then dishes like this can be varied ad infinitum.

A paella differs from a risotto in that, as the rice is cooking in its broth, you don’t stir it. There’s no sauciness to a paella, it’s a much drier dish than a risotto and so more closely resembles a biriani. Indeed, an authentic paella – especially one cooked outdoors over charcoal, will develop an almost crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pan. Oh, and you need to use either calasparra or bomba varieties of rice or it won’t work.

Our version this week? Sautee a finely sliced onion in olive oil in a wide, shallow pan until it is golden and soft. Add a thinly sliced bell pepper to the pan (seeds removed of course) plus a clove of garlic and cook for a further five minutes or so. Add the bomba or calasparra rice and coat in the olive oil. Add a generous glug of sherry or white wine, or a splash of sherry vinegar of white wine vinegar. Cook for three minutes. Now add a good pinch of saffron strands, a large teaspoon of paprika, a small teaspoon of smoked paprika and half a teaspoon of turmeric. Oh and a bay leaf. Stir in the spices to coat the grains of rice. Add hot water until it comes up a centimetre or so above the rice. Turn down the heat slightly and leave (really, don’t touch it!) until the broth has been absorbed. When it’s done the rice grains should have a pleasing sheen to them and be individual, separate, glistening grains and, while cooked, not puddingy. It will take about 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, lightly steam a few asparagus spears, refresh under cold water and set aside. Then blanche and shell some broad beans. As the rice nears the end of its cooking add the beans and some (tinned – they’ll be fine) artichoke hearts. Be careful not to move the rice around to much as you add the veg. They just need to be warmed through, that’s all.

When the rice is cooked add some quartered cherry tomatoes, wedges of lemon (squeeze them slightly into the dish) and place the asparagus spears on the top. Serve.

We always make too much of this and are quite happy to eat the remainder the following day. It works really well.

As for quantities, I’m going to talk about recipes and quantities soon, honest.

April 30, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Italian grilled vegetable salad

Thursday 28 April

A very simple thing this, made mainly because we had some globe artichokes, courgettes and an aubergine delivered to us in our weekly box of veg.

I’m lying ever so slightly, however, by calling it a grilled vegetable salad because in this instance we roasted the veg. Char-grilling would be better, but a barbecue isn’t possible here at ETP Towers at the moment. Whichever way you choose to cook – and sweeten up – the courgettes, aubergine and some peppers, the idea is to combine them with artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella like a big platter of vegetarian antipasti. Rocket and some torn basil leaves makes it a salad – perfect for a lemon and olive oil dressing. You could also add olives and maybe even some capers.

April 15, 2011

Recipe: Nigel Slater’s artichoke and rosemary tortilla

Does anyone else think that Nigel Slater’s TV programmes are a bit creepy? That huge, empty kitchen? The carefully tended but lonesome garden? The meals that always seem to be just for his own solitary soul? Where are Nigel’s friends and family? Surely food is about sharing, after all? Did I say creepy? Let me change that to sad.

I’m not usually a big fan of his food either. It seems caught between wanting to go all out for Nigella indulgence and yet is also as restrained as a Delia curry – not knowing whether it wants to be salt-of-the-Earth, make-do-and-mend 1950s, or sumptuous millennial decadence. Nigel, come out with it, please – tell us who you really are, tell us what you want from life. Show us your friends, we’re not going to snigger. And if you miss your mum, that’s okay too. Can we drop the pretence? You don’t seem very happy.

Having said all that, his artichoke and rosemary tortilla seems like a very good idea indeed. The recipe is here.

April 2, 2011

Jerusalem Artichokes, Cavolo Nero and Robiola

We got some Jerusalem artichokes in our veg box this week and I came across this recipe from Sky Gyngell which pairs them with cavolo nero and the mozarella-like cheese robiola. Now, even our central London Waitrose doesn’t stock robiola, so I guess that if you don’t want to hunt it out at a specialist supplier then you’re going to substitute it – as the recipe suggests. It’s quite a wintery recipe, but still okay for April, I reckon. As for Skye Gyngell, her restaurant, Petersham Nurseries Cafe (right in the middle of the garden centre), is expensive but really rather good.

Anyway, here’s the recipe: Jerusalem Artichokes, Cavolo Nero and Robiola.