Archive for ‘Feta’

April 25, 2013

Spring pickings

Finally (whisper it) it looks like spring has arrived. Time then, for a round-up of some of the better vegetarian recipes that have featured in recent weekend supplements and more.

Quinoa Salad with Mint and Mango

As soon as light nights come around I’m all for leaving aside the root vegetables and spicy stews of winter and marching into the warmer weather with a light supper. This ‘salad’ from Paul Rankin over at the BBC could work, I suppose, as an accompaniment to a heartier dish – Rankin suggests grilled halloumi – but on a warm evening, or at lunchtime, the mix of zingy flavours and protein from the quinoa would do just fine on its own. The recipe is here.

Chard open omelette

Feta and greens is a favourite combination over at ETP Towers, so this ‘open’ omelette from chef Bill Granger over at the Independent is a winner for us. It shouts ‘lunch’ of course, but some hushed sweet nothings could tempt me to turn this into a brunch dish, especially with a little drizzle of chilli sauce. The recipe is here.

Japanese asparagus and duck’s egg omelette

Also over at the Indy is this rolled up omelette that gives us all something different to do with asparagus this season – the sweet and nutty spears chopped finely with spring onion. Not everyone will find the Nanami Togarashi chilli flakes that chef Mark Hix suggests, but I’m sure your common or garden chilli flak will suffice. The recipe is here.

Asparagus with pastry wafers and butter sauce recipe

Sticking with asparagus, this recipe from Rose Prince at the Telegraph keeps it simple, highlighting that ‘Best of British’ asparagus, while adding a more substantial, even luxurious, touch to a light lunch. It’s rare I’ll eat puff pastry. It’s equally rare that I’d complain about having to. And here it is, a precious airy pillow on which those asparagus spears can rest. The recipe is here.

Vegetarian mezze

Have you noticed how cauliflower seems to be making a comeback? Regular readers of Earth to Plate will know we love it here, but it’s good to see this often overlooked vegetable getting tome respect. It features here as one of three ‘small-plate’ mezze dishes by Yotam Ottolenghi: Fried Cauliflower with Pine Nuts, Capers and Chilli is followed by Honey Roasted Carrots with Tahini Yoghurt and Aubergine and Parsley Pesto. Just pass me some warmed pitta. The recipes are here.

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November 7, 2012

Yesterday’s Lunch: Our Fattoush

Fattoush is basically a bread salad from the Levant made from toasted or fried pieces of (stale) pitta bread. Added to it are herbs – flat leaf parsley and mint – and fresh vegetables including tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and even radishes. It’s often seasoned with sumac.

Sometimes peppers, feta cheese, olives, carrot and lettuce are added. Really it’s up to you, but choose good fresh ingredients that are in season.

You’ll notice that ours has some chickpeas in it. You’ll often notice that on ETP. It’s not quite trad in Fattoush recipes, but not really a heresy either.

We lightly fry the pitta. Don’t blacken it. It will also continue to crisp up once you take it from the frying pan to cool, so don’t overdo it. The rest is chopping and assemblage. Don’t cut the vegetables too finely – you’re not making tabbouleh.

That’s it really: a combination of fresh flavours and pleasing textures. A great lunch or light supper. Oh, and yes, we often have feta in ours. This one didn’t.

November 1, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Fig, feta and butter bean salad

We’re a little behind on recipe posts this autumn – I do apologise – which means that the best of this year’s figs might have come and gone. If you can nab some, especially the Turkish ones, go get!

We made this salad by combining some classic fig-related ingredients and adding another one, butter beans. Figs and feta? Of course. Honey roasted figs? Naturally. A little mint with that? Oh go on then. But butter beans? Really?

Well, take out the figs and the butter beans fit this recipe fairly obviously. So, we threw them all together. To begin, quarter the fresh figs, drizzle with a little runny hunny and ‘roast’ in the oven on an oven tray for around 15 minutes on a medium heat until the flesh has warmed and softened and begun to caramelise on the surface with the help of the honey.

In the meantime, add a little olive oil to a wide frying pan, add two tins of drained organic butter beans and cook them gently for a few minutes until their skins begin to turn a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat.

In a large, shallow salad bowl, combine the roasted figs and butter beans. Crumble in a block of feta cheese and a small handful each of chopped fresh mint and flat leaf parsley.

And that’s it. Eat just warm or at room temperature. It’s like a ray of sunshine from the middle east cutting through a British autumn mist.

October 15, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Spaghetti squash with saffron infused stew of chickpeas and courgette, oven dried tomatoes and feta

Real-world followers will know this isn’t last night’s dinner but the dinner of 24 September. We had received a variety of squash in our weekly veg box that I didn’t recognise. Spaghetti squash, I thought, I bet it’s spaghetti squash. I was right.

Spaghetti squash is so called because when it is cooked its flesh comes apart in strands rather than chunks or a straightforwardly mashed texture. Which is all very well, but what to do with it?

First things first, I wanted to have some piquancy in the dish: half some cherry tomatoes, place them on a baking tray and cook them in the oven at a very, very low heat for anywhere between 2-3 hours. In fact don’t cook them so much as warm them, wither them, dry them out. With the moisture gone they are going to provide an incredible hit of tomato flavour. Promise.

Right, onto the main event. Half the squash and scrape out the seeds with a metal spoon. Place the squash, cut side up, in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and rub in a teaspoon of ground cumin to the surface of the flesh. Roast in the oven at 190 degrees celsius for 30-40 minutes or until the flesh is soft when you prod it with a fork. At this point remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes so the squash can be handled. Then, with a fork, start lifting the flesh from the skin, pulling it away gently. Those spaghetti like strands should start to appear. Spread the flesh loosely over the bottom of a baking/casserole dish.

While the squash is cooking, sautee an onion in a little olive oil in a deep frying pan. When it has softened, after five minutes or so, add a chopped courgette and a chopped fresh red chilli. Stir and cook for another five minutes. Then add two tins of chickpeas. Stir again.

Take a small pinch of saffron strands and infuse them in 500ml of vegetable stock for five minutes (you’ll need to ensure the stock is hot). Add the saffron stock to the chickpeas, onion and courgette. Sprinkle a level teaspoon of ground cinnamon into the pan and a teaspoon of ground cumin. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes. If the mixture completely dries out, add a splash of water to loosen it.

When done, spoon the chickpea mix over the spaghetti squash in the casserole dish, letting the juices soak into the squash. Dot the oven dried tomatoes into the topping and break some small pieces of feta into the mix too.

Bake in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes.

July 4, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Enchiladas with sweet potato, beans, greens and feta

Prepping the enchilada for the oven…

The finished article…

We’ve never made enchiladas before but Jeannie Macaroni we’ll make them again. Why? Because these were a feast of flavours and really packed a punch. We love stuffing tortillas with chilli infused fillings, so why oh why have we not done this before?

The basics are that you take corn or wheat tortilla flatbreads, stuff them with some lovely, er, stuff, and then bake them in the oven, topped with a little sauce and cheese. The authentic variables often involve meat but of course you’ll find none of that here. So, what to stuff your tortilla with?

Our filling is a fairly tried and tested mixture: sweet potatoes, cubed and lightly roasted in a little olive oil; borlotti beans (or other medium sized beans), cooked at home or from a can, to add protein; wilted greens (we used curly kale) to contrast the sweetness of the potato; and feta cheese to bring a sharpness that cuts through the other flavours.

When cooked, bring all these together in a bowl – add a little freshly squeezed lime juice too if you like, and some chopped coriander leaf.

Next for the sauce and, really, any chilli–tomato sauce will do. For ours, I finely chopped an onion, sweated it in a little olive oil for a few minutes, added some finely chopped red chilli, a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin, a little paprika and a can of chopped tomatoes. Mix well, add a little water and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the tomatoes have cooked down and the flavours have all combined. Set aside.

Now, back to the tortillas. To prep them for the oven, first warm each tortilla you’re using in a dry frying pan on a medium heat, splashed with a tiny sprinkling of water. Warm them for around 30 seconds a side, making sure they don’t stick.

Take a serving-spoonful of the tortilla filling and place it in the middle of each tortilla. Fold over two opposite sides of the tortilla slightly, then roll up the other ones to make a sealed cylinder – or something approximating one. These need to be transferred to a lightly oiled baking dish – so make sure they’re rolled up tightly enough to be able to transfer them. Be careful!

When your tortillas are sat snug in the baking dish, cover them with your chilli–tomato sauce. Bake for 15 minutes, then take them out of the oven, grate some cheese over the top (cheddar or gouda will be fine) and return to the oven for 5 more minutes until it melts.

Serve hot with some salad. Oh and be careful when lifting them out of the baking dish – they’re liable to fall apart.

April 17, 2012

Recipes for nettles

This is perhaps a point at which foraging for food becomes a prickly subject. All those features and TV cookery programmes that see chefs scouring wild landscapes for sea buckthorn or roaming the woods to find edible funghi… all that foraged food can seem ever so exotic, fit for a restaurant such as Noma in Copenhagen or one of its many followers. And yet, there’s a much more common ingredient, which grows in abundance, and which is probably due a revival, and which great so many kinds of recipes. It is, of course, the humble nettle. Why aren’t we all out there picking them?

Down the trail near our house nettles are shooting up all over the place at the moment: their fresh young leaves so green – not like the old deep green and tough-looking leaves found later in the year. But it’s not just about being in the countryside – I used to see nettles peeking through railings and rising up at the edges of the parks and canals of urban East London.

I’ve never picked any, though. Have you? Is it just me that’s been missing out? I had a lovely bowl of nettle soup once, at Petersham Nurseries. It was something of a revelation in its delicate greenness. And then it was forgotten again.

But when this damn rain stops I’m going to head out with some thick gloves and pick some nettles. And I’m going to make something with them. Watch this space.

In the meantime, here are a few ideas that might convince you to do the same.

For those of you who might want to make your own fresh pasta, try Blanche Vaughan’s nettle ravioli here. The Guardian feature is worth a read in any case, to put your mind at rest about how to treat nettles and their avoid their stings.

More recently in the Guardian is Hugh FW and his recipes for a nettle soup, a risotto and a nettle and feta filo pie. They’re here.

Happy foraging. Let us know how it goes!

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 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.

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.

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.