Archive for ‘Spinach’

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.

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October 3, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Spiced halloumi with a warm Puy lentil, spinach and beetroot salad

Warm salads are the perfect choice for months when the seasons are changing. Maybe it’s the ability to take some veg from one season and lighten it up, or load it down, with some from the next.

This salad – I say salad, though it’s almost a stew, is a Denis Cotter recipe from For the Love of Food – a book we’ve used a few times in this blog. See it here, it’s great. Oh, and go and visit Denis’s restaurant in Cork – it won’t let you down. Have a look, here.

So, I won’t give the recipe in full but, basically… the slices of halloumi are marinated briefly in chillis, cumin and lime zest; the beetroot roasted, with a sprinkle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar; the lentils cooked with sprigs of thyme and garlic; serve with lentils on a bed of spinach with the halloumi on top.

And can you spot our variation? Yep, we had no spinach so we steamed some greens and ran them through the lentils. Twas fine indeed.

June 26, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Broccoli, Squash and Goat’s Cheese Salad

Friday 10 June

Something of a ‘superfood’ salad this, and a fallback for us on many an occasion. Oh and yes, you’re right, there’s a beetroot version of this somewhere in the lush green hinterland of this blog. Search it out.

We roast small chunks of butternut squash, lightly steam some broccoli, let it all cool and mix together with leaves, goat’s cheese and some toasted seeds. Or you could toast some walnuts or almonds instead. Oh and add a little olive oil, garlic and lemon juice dressing. That’s it. Go, make.

June 7, 2011

Sweet pea season

Fresh peas, picked from the garden, breaking open the pod, scraping out the peas, stuffing them in your mouth, chewing he sweet juice from the pod… nothing better.

Too often bagged supermarket fresh peas are old and bitter and, while they’re okay for Muttar Paneer, frozen peas just aren’t the same taste of early summer.

I don’t think many people would associate London-based chef and restaurateur Mark Hix with lovely spring veg – I mean, he might cook it, but only alongside the meaty surf and turf that he normally dishes up. And yet, there he is in the Independent with some rather lovely recipes for chilled pea and fennel soup, an amazing sounding deep-fried pea pods with minted pea mayonnaise, and a must-try pea and spinach curry. Go see here. And if you try it out, let us know how it goes.

June 2, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Asparagus, Egg and Chilli Tomato

Tuesday 17 May

English asparagus at this time of the year is the best proof possible that eating vegetables in season makes sublime sense. Steam it and serve with some Jersey Royal new potatoes and a little butter – perfect. Then there’s the Jamie Oliver inspired chargrilled asparagus and parmesan salads that became popular a few years ago. We also like asparagus with a poached egg on top. But what else to do with this handsome stem?

This easy supper brought two dishes together – the complementary pairings of asparagus and egg, and egg in a setting of a spicy, tangy, chilli-infused tomato sauce or jam.

The chilli tomato here was literally a large handful of halved cherry tomatoes, softened ever so slightly in a little olive oil with the addition of some chilli flakes. The tomato ‘sauce’ is poured over a halved soft-boiled egg, which sits atop some spears of griddled asparagus, which sits atop some roughly chopped watercress (spinach or gem lettuce would be fine). And yep, we sprinkled some parmesan shavings on top at the end. Easy.

April 12, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Spring risotto

Monday 4 April

I was inspired by a feature at rufusguide.wordpress.com to make a risotto and, what with it being Spring, some light, fresh greens seemed the thing to add. I love a risotto with in-season British asparagus and peas – all just al dente so you get a little crunch among the nutty grains of rice and oozing, savoury sauciness. I added some baby spinach leaves to this risotto, too. Rufus gives a pretty good assessment of how to make a good risotto here. I’ll just add that no one wants a risotto the texture of rice pudding, so don’t overcook it. Neither should it be claggy – please don’t bake your risotto as Delia Smith does. The grains should be loose but still have, I think, the tiniest bit of bite to them and, while creamy, it shouldn’t be sweet – think savoury and season accordingly but carefully. A rich flavour needs develop in the liquor that thickly surrounds the grains – this will usually be a combination of olive oil, butter and parmesan, added as the rice settles after cooking. And lastly, in most cases, don’t add all your vegetables (whether asparagus or mushrooms or tomatoes, among many) as the rice starts to cook. Greens can be added near the end; mushrooms – for a mushroom risotto – can be pan fried first and scattered on top to serve, as long as you cook the rice in a stock made with dried mushrooms; tomatoes too can be run through the rice at a late stage – so roast them perhaps, with thyme or rosemary, or make a small tomato sauce to stir in. The options are endless. And lastly, for the love of food, please use proper risotto rice. Long grain rices and paella rices are all very wonderful, but no use whatsoever for risotto.