Archive for ‘Potatoes’

January 2, 2013

Last Night’s Dinner: Brussels Sprouts with Gnocchi, Roasted Shallots and a Blue Cheese Sauce

Brussels Sprouts gnocchi and shallots

Oh Brussels sprouts! Every Christmas it’s the same isn’t it? Everyone has them, everyone hates them.

Well, actually, here at ETP Towers we rather like them. Recently, in fact, we’ve been eating them with pasta. For New Year’s Eve, Ella decided to make this rather rich dish from goodly Cork chef Denis Cotter of Cafe Paradiso fame. The problem was, we were both rather ill and the heady combination of greens, blue cheese, roasted onion and soft, cheesy gnocchi felt too much for us. After doing half the prepping we called time and put the ingredients aside.

Luckily we were feeling better the following day and carried on where we left off. It’s a great recipe and the combination of potatoes, greens and a cheese sauce, while hardly revolutionary, takes on some extra nuances through the choice and ways of cooking the ingredients.

You want the recipe? Well, it’s not ours, it’s Den’s, so you’ll need to look here.

Or you could have a go yourself. A creamy blue cheese sauce? A five-minute job. Roasted shallots? Get the oven on. Cheesy potato gnocchi? If you haven’t tried making gnocchi, look it up, it’s easy. And the sprouts? Just remember not to boil them.

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August 1, 2012

Last night’s dinner: a Moroccan chickpea stew

I’ve touched on this story before, but a few years ago Ella and I were in Marseille for my birthday. For lunch we headed to an authentic (read ‘basic’) little Moroccan restaurant near the old port. We’d heard rumours that their chickpea stew was rather excellent and it was prominent on the menu. Ella chose it and wished she hadn’t. Down in the rich depths of spicy sauce was something unpleasant: a large lump of lamb. It wasn’t the most fortuitous of days for Ella: a harbourside gull also gifted her a ‘lucky’ present on her head.

Thankfully, the experience hasn’t scarred her and we’ve not been put off chickpea stews. But then, how could we be? We make variations on them every few months. Indeed, there’s one we tried earlier here. That was my version. This is Ella’s and it bears much closer comparison with the heady, rich, deeply flavoured and rather unctuous bowl served up in Marseille – minus the ropey ruminant. In my book, Ella’s is better than my own version, though some might prefer the lighter one we featured earlier. Try this though, it’s lovely.

So, to the stove:

For a couple of big portions: finely chop one medium onion and fry in a little olive oil on a medium heat in a large stockpot or saucepan. As the onion starts to turn golden, add 2 small or 1 large bell peppers, cut into strips no wider than 1cm.

When the onions and peppers have softened add the dried spices: a dessert spoonful of cinnamon, a teaspoonful of paprika, a little ground chilli, and a dessert spoon of ground cumin. It might sound like a lot of spices, but it’ll take it.

Stir in the spices to coat the veg. As they soak into the softened veg and oil they will create a kind of paste. To this add a good squeeze of tomato puree. Stir again and ‘cook out’ the paste, heating it through in the pan for another five minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn.

Next, add a large handful of small waxy potatoes, halved or quartered so that they’re chestnut sized. Then add two tins of chickpeas. Stir in the potatoes and chickpeas and then add around 750ml of vegetable stock – enough that the liquid comes a couple of centimetres or so above the vegetables. Bring the stew to a boil then simmer for around 30 minutes until it has reduced and thickened a little. The longer you cook it the better it will get, so leave it longer if you like but don’t let it get too thick.

As it’s cooking, add a good dessert spoonful of dried mint. Season with salt and pepper and add some more cinnamon, cumin and mint if you think it needs it. Remember, a richly aromatic, deeply spiced stew is the intention.

And that’s it – except for for the vital topping of chilli sauce: with a large mortar and pestle grind up a clove of garlic, a few fresh red chillis and a dash of cinnamon together with a little olive oil until you create a fiery sauce. Serve this at the table alongside the soup and add as much as you dare.

I could eat this every day and the world would be a little bit of a better place.

April 10, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Denis Cotter’s roast garlic and fennel mash with lemon-braised chickpeas and aubergine

Wow. Denis Cotter claims this is an autumnal dish. We had it on a dark April day when a bowl of filling, warming loveliness was called for. The garlic and fennel mash was sublime and a tangy topping of chickpeas was the perfect complement. We made a little too much and still scraped our bowls clean. The recipe is in Cotter’s book For the Love of Food, here. I know we plug this book intermittently, but it’s with good reason. So, no recipe here – go buy!

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.

January 10, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Ella’s Shepherdess Pie

Well, it might have been last night’s dinner; it certainly was recently and no doubt it soon will be again. When winter is here, a plate of filling, hot comfort food is a must. Ella’s go-to recipe is this Shepherdess Pie, which our friend over at rather non-veggie The Chilli Source site might call “a plate of sense”.

Sherpherdess Pie? A Shepherd’s Pie without the meat, of course. Over the years we’ve tried many savoury vegetarian options under the pillow of mashed potato and I think Ella’s recipe with Puy lentils is the best.

First, bring a pan of water or, preferably, vegetable stock to the boil and simmer enough Puy lentils to make a inch-deep layer in your oven dish/pie tin when cooked (they’ll take around 20-30 minutes and should retain a little nutty bite). As they’re simmering, finely chop a large onion and fry it in a little olive oil for 10 minutes.

Along with onion, we like to pimp the savouriness of the lentil base by adding a little bit of vegetable variation. So, dice a carrot, or a red pepper, or some button mushrooms – or all three and, like the onion, lightly fry in olive oil for 10 minutes.

Actually, you have some options here: the veg can be fried separately as above (best), or added in with the onion (okay) or you can even skip the frying bit and dump it in with the simmering lentils (lazy). They will all work, but the first option will provide the greatest differentiation between flavours.

When the lentils and veg are cooked, drain the lentils and mix them all together in the pan before spreading into the oven dish. Set aside.

Now for the mash. Do I need to explain mash? I hope not. But keep don’t make it too soggy or buttery – this isn’t a Michelin-star-abused side-dish.

Spread the mash over the lentil base and rough up the top slightly with a fork. Bake in the oven at 190 degrees for 40 minutes and, if you like, grate some Cheddar or Gruyere cheese over the top before returning to the oven for a final 10 minutes. The trick is to get a crisp, almost crusty top to the potato. It’s a texture thing.

Serve with seasonal greens.

November 12, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Baked mushrooms with parsnip mash and onion jam

The title of this recipe almost does the job of explaining the recipe – it’s that simple.

Onion jam, or onion marmalade, or onion sauce, as you prefer – cook some thinly sliced red onions for longer than normal, say 20 minutes, with some red wine vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of caster sugar. They need to be soft, sweet, caramelised.

The parsnip mash is actually a mix of mashed potato and parsnip (ie, a slightly more interesting mash. Make it as you’d make normal mashed potato. One tip though, cut the core from the parsnips before boiling – they can be a bit stringy. No one wants stringy mash.

And the mushrooms? Make a little herb butter by mixing some chopped thyme leaves into some softish butter. Oregano or marjoram will also work. Spread the butter over the underside of some field mushrooms. Bake the mushrooms, butter side up, in the oven at 190 degrees for around 10 minutes.

Told you it was easy. Great plate of comfort food though.

September 7, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Gratin of greens with pink fir apple potatoes

Sunday 21 August

Having picked up some lovely pink fir apple potatoes (surely the most potatoey of small potato?) at the farmer’s market, and it being a Sunday, we decided to keep it simple for dinner. Now, here at ETP Towers we could quite easily eat variations on spuds and cabbage every day. Maybe that’s some Celtic/Northern/Peasant heritage creeping in, but a plate of potatoes and greens suits us just fine. Today however, Ella offered to ‘pimp her greens’ (cavolo nero and purple kale, but Savoy cabbage would be fine) by making a gratin of them.

Let’s not delay by recounting recipes in detail. If you want to make a proper cheese sauce, compare methods on the internet and go for it. You’ll need butter, plain flour, milk and cheese – unless you want a special variation (like our previous ‘cheat’ method, here).

At home we’ve discussed at length how to get a cheese sauce the right consistency – not to gloopy, not too watery – at the end of the gratin’s baking time. Sometimes a perfectly good sauce on the hob transforms itself into something less than perfect in the oven. Should you cover it, have less or more sauce, make it thicker or thinner on the hob? Does the type of cheese you use affect the outcome? Well, maybe they all do. Comparing notes, the ETP team would recommend not using too much sauce and perhaps not having it too hot in the oven. But that’s not a guarantee.

After all that, the rest of the method is easy. You make a cheese sauce, lightly steam some greens for 3-4 minutes, lightly fry a sliced onion and then add ’em all to an oven-proof dish. Bake until golden and bubbling. Serve with them lovely spuds.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: A ‘kind of’ Caldo Verde

Sunday 14 August

Caldo Verde is the Portugeuse soup of potato, onion and kale. Recipes vary for it, sometimes meat is added to it, sometimes garlic, and probably loads of other things too. But the essential items are the greens of the leaves and the whites of the potatoes and onion.

We had a huge bunch of kale in the kitchen and Ella suggested doing something stew-like with it and a a Caldo Verde was kind of the way to go. Kind of. My issue with with straightforward Caldo Verde is that a loose soup of greens and potato can lack punch. Cabbage soup: low on the wow factor. So I like to toughen it up slightly. Garlic is a good addition, as is a hearty stock. But my main addition is beans (butter beans, haricot beans, borlotti beans – anything really, as long as they’re basically a white bean). The beans add substance and protein, as well as providing a different texture and just that little extra thing going on to make it less plain. And I think of it as a stew, not a soup. So…

In a large stockpot, fry a sliced onion in olive oil for five minutes, then add a clove of finely chopped garlic and cook for a further three minutes. Next, add some halved new potatoes, or quartered potatoes if they’re larger. Floury potatoes are good here as when they start to break up they’ll thicken the sauce. Then add some roughly chopped kale, any thick stalks removed, a tin of white beans of your choice and a level dessert spoon of paprika. Finally add some vegetable stock, which should come up about level with the top of all the veg. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft you might want to crush a few of them in the pan and then stir – it’ll thicken the sauce a little. Serve with crusty bread and a final drizzle of olive oil.

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.

July 9, 2011

Recipe: Yotam Ottolenghi’s summer minestrone with basil cream recipe

…and while we’re on the subject of summery soups infused with basil, here’s a light little number from Yotam Ottolenghi in the Guardian today.