Archive for ‘Veg in season’

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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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.

December 19, 2012

Recipe: Poricini and Cavolo Nero Risotto

Cavolo Nero. How I love it. There are other leaves and, maybe even elsewhere on ETP, I’ve lauded their many charms. But that was then. This is now. It’s December. Midwinter. The nights are cold and dark. Cavolo Nero, black kale, is the leaf for today.

We’ve done greens in risotto before, but I do like the look of this one from the Independent newspaper – with the addition of porcini. What a midweek wintery treat this is.

The recipe? Here.

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.

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.

September 24, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Vegetable tagine

I wish our photograph did this dinner justice. (My excuse: steam rising into the camera and not being sure whether I was focusing on the plate of food or the mortar of fiery chilli sauce.) Oh well.

But in many ways the half-thought-through snap reflects the nature of this day’s eating. I didn’t get to the shop and didn’t know what we were going to eat until late in the day. Dinner, it seemed, was going to be a ramshackle affair.

And so, indecision produced this, a tagine – made, as it happens, in a big old tagine cooking pot, from which of course the recipe gets its name. We do sometimes cook a ‘tagine’ in a normal saucepan but there’s something rather nice about the way a tagine cooks the food inside it – all that steam rolling around in there to produce a dish that softens up to the point of falling apart in no time at all. Something happens with the flavours. I’m not sure how it happens but I like it.

In any case, this was cobbled together so quickly: a rummage around the kitchen cupboard and fridge produced an onion, a piece of marrow and a courgette, some peppers, a carrot, a potato, a couple of tomatoes, a tin of chickpeas… you get the idea: all the stuff we hadn’t quite made use of but nothing that shouted “use me, base your meal around me”. Hence: a stew. A north African stew, perhaps, but a stew nonetheless.

Special ingredients? Well, I also discovered some dried apricots and some toasted almonds. Perfect. And, literally, everything got chopped and put into the bowl of the tagine with a few teaspoons of ground cumin and cinnamon, plus a little vegetable stock. It was then cooked until the vegetables were soft and served with some cous cous and that fiery chilli sauce (a few chillis, a clove of garlic and a little olive oil bashed up in that there mortar).

As summer turns to autumn, a stew like this, using up the end of the season’s veg, is really rather delightful. Not bad for a ramshackle affair.

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.

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 17, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Asparagus and Parmesan Frittata

Every year, without fail, the local asparagus season surprises me. I know what it tastes like and I know how I like to eat it, so why should it catch me unawares? I think the answer is that I also end up eating asparagus at other times of the year. Sometimes it’s in restaurants that claim they build their recipes around local, seasonal produce. But asparagus in London in November? I think not. Then it appears in stir fries and risottos: thin, woody, tasteless stalks from Peru or Thailand. Pah! Sometimes, like a fool, I even buy it myself.

So, every year, when the really good stuff comes around in May, I’m taken aback all over again at how fresh, juicy and earthily green, local in-season asparagus can be. The problem is that after a few meals of it I can get bored. I know the season will be over soon, but I’m tired and I don’t want another risotto, or another plate of steamed asparagus with new potatoes, or the stalks chargrilled with a grating of parmesan… etc etc. So, each year I come up with something new. Last year it was asparagus egg and chilli tomato. This year, a quick lunch of an asparagus-based fritatta. (Look carefully and you’ll notice that we kept the winning combination of the veg, eggs and cheese and simply reformulated it). So easy it hardly needs a recipe, we made this as a man from the phone company was fixing our broadband. Amounts, and the size of the pan, will depend on how many you want to feed… I’ll leave it up to you.

First, finely slice a red onion and begin to fry it gently in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Cook until it has softened – around 8 minutes. While it’s cooking, roughly chop the asparagus stalks. If they’re thick, halve them lengthways too so that they don’t take too long to cook through. Add them to the pan and cook for a further 8-10 minutes. Beat some eggs and season with a black pepper. Next, grate a handful or so of parmesan and mix it into the eggs. Add to the pan. Stir a little, coating the asparagus and onion – try to distribute the veg evenly through the egg mixture. Leave to cook on a low heat. Turn on your grill to high. When the edges of the frittata begin to crisp and turn gold but the top is still not quite set, take the pan off the heat and hold under the grill to set the top. When it’s gold, you’re done.

Serve hot, warm or cold.

May 8, 2012

Recipe: Mark Hix’s Asparagus, Radish and Fennel Salad

Yes, it’s been quiet over here at ETP Towers. Actually, scrub that: it’s been busy. Day jobs and gatherings with family and old friends have taken us away from the kitchen rather a lot recently.

One thing we haven’t missed out on, however, is new season asparagus. A trip to the Cotswolds brought us almost to the Vale of Evesham, where some of the UK’s best asparagus is grown. We had some and my was it good.

If you’re bored of steaming, boiling and grilling those sweet green stalks then (generally meaty) chef Mark Hix has another way of getting your fix: eating asparagus raw. It also marks a second appearance of radishes on this blog. Yippee!

The recipe is utterly simple, totally tempting and over here.