Posts tagged ‘cheese’

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.

Advertisements
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.

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.

March 29, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Tomato salad with basil and goat’s cheese

A starter that doesn’t really look like the recipe title suggests. Yes, it’s a bit ‘dinner party’ isn’t it? It’s also a refreshing ‘palate cleanser’ of a starter, perfect for the end of a warm spring or summer day. (If it had been a little warmer we’d have uncorked a bottle of pink.)

The recipe is based on one in Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option. The book is great for sides, starters, flans and such, but not so good on whole vegetarian meals, which is something of a shame. Have a look here. Hopkinson makes a tomato jelly, which would be great, but I chanced it with something simpler – a tomato salad – mainly because I couldn’t find any vegetarian gelatine in the local supermarket.

For the tomato salad I quartered and deseeded some cherry tomatoes, finely chopped a small amount of red onion, mixed them both with a splash of red wine vinegar, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a tiny amount of fresh red chilli, and set aside.

For the goat’s cheese you need a soft, creamy goat’s cheese with no rind. In a small bowl mix it with a spoonful of creme fraiche, soured cream or even plain yoghurt, season with a little pepper, stir in a little olive oil and mix t get a slightly softer, creamier ‘cheese’ that can be spooned easily into a glass. Chop some fresh basil very finely and mix into the cheese mixture.

Layer the cheese into a glass, carefully place some tomato salad on top and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

Quantities will vary, obviously, depending on how many portions you’re making, the size of glass, the size of tomatoes etc. I think a smallish portion works best, but not so small as an amuse bouche. Any variations? Let us know.

March 18, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: A warm purple sprouting broccoli, quinoa, chick pea, tomato and goat’s cheese salad

There are some of our favourite ingredients combined in a warm salad here, so, for us, what’s not to like? It’s a very simple thing that can define a mood, or short time of year (erm, March?) when winter is just about over and signs spring is about here – a time after the year’s first warmth from the sun but before the last frost. That’s the time when purple sprouting broccoli appears. Sometimes we have it in wintery stews, but here it almost nods to summer, in a just-warm, almost room-temperature salad, with fluffy grains of quinoa, oven-dried tomatoes and goat’s cheese that tell you summer is not far away.

The recipe is not much more than an assembly job. First, roast the tomatoes on a low heat for as long a time as you’ve got (around 45 minutes at least) – they should dry out a little rather than cook to mush. As they’re cooking, roughly chop and steam the spears of broccoli for 5 minutes or so and cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions in a light vegetable stock. Leave both to cool slightly. Scatter the quinoa into a wide salad bowl and stir in a tin of chick peas, then add the broccoli and, finally crumble in some goat’s cheese. C’est ca.

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.

December 30, 2011

2011 leftovers: Chilli and parmesan polenta recipe

Before we made this, a couple of months ago, I think I had eaten polenta about twice in my life. Each time it was bland and distinctly, well, horrible. I never wanted to go near t again. I’d see it on a menu and think “Ha, well they’re trying to be clever, but it won’t work,” or see it cooked on TV and think “They’re gonna taste it and say it’s nice, but they’ll be lying”.

Polenta. Italian peasant food. But I kept on seeing it and some of my favourite cooks feature a polenta recipe every time they release a new recipe book. So what was my problem?

Well, blandness and texture were the big things and, fortunately, they could be sorted. I wanted a polenta that was rich with flavour and didn’t feel like gritty mush in the mouth. Actually, it’s easy to achieve and, typing this up, I’d like some more of it now.

We cooked 250 grams of ‘coarse maize’ polenta in around a litre of simmering vegetable stock until it was soft, stirring regularly. I think that took about 20 minutes (to remove the granularity) but I could be wrong – so keep checking. We then stirred in some chopped birds eye chillis and a handful of grated parmesan/pecorino cheese, gave it a good mix and spread into an oiled shallow baked tray. After about 20 minutes, the polenta is cool and set firm. We could then cut it into triangles and grill/griddle it. This would work well on a barbecue, though it’s too chilly to be thinking about that at the moment.

We served our polenta wedges with greens and peppers – thinking of it as the carb on the plate in place of potato, pasta or rice. And it was really tasty. Honest. Consider me converted.

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.

October 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Pinto beans with slow-roast tomatoes and goats cheese

Thursday 15 September

Before the recipe, a quick word about trust and cooking, as it brings some influence to bear on our pinto beans with slow-roast tomatoes and goats cheese.

Trust in the food we eat is one of the most natural, early, primal, comforting, rewarding, continuing experiences we have in life. Hopefully. It’s learned, hopefully, as a baby, with the first food coming straight from our mothers themselves. Then we learn to trust again, as the foods we are provided with begin to vary and as we begin to choose from different options ourselves. Our palates, hopefully, develop in a comforting, safe environment – little wonder many people have a strong emotional attachment to the notion that their mum, grannie, dad, auntie, next door neighbour… whoever… could make food more comforting than anyone else. That’s not always true, of course, but it’s a widely held experience. Even if your childhood carers were useless cooks you will have found some way of trusting that the food you ate could do its job of nourishing you. It’s probably one of the reasons McDonalds et al like to get to kids early and give gifts with the meal – that equation of food plus treat plus fun plus comfort is a powerful one that will hold into adulthood.

We carry this into later life. A favourite restaurant? Probably a new variant of that McDonalds equation – a place you can go back to, where you can trust that the food will provide what you’re looking for, where you don’t have to worry, where you can relax. A favourite recipe book? It’ll be one you can turn to that has instructions you trust, where, miraculously, you can follow it step by step and what goes onto the plate bears comparison with the picture on the page and brings a smile to your friends or family.

It’s when you start going off piste, turning to a new recipe book, visiting a new restaurant with unfamiliar dishes and, specifically for us, making a recipe up for yourself, that trust often disappears and food becomes a little more fraught. Just as someone with a limited diet and palate might get nervous when presented with a plate of unusual ingredients, so a decent cook can lose the plot completely when asked to deviate from their usual repertoire.

So why all this preamble? Well, it’s to explain how a rather tasty and comforting dish like pinto beans with slow-roast tomatoes and goats cheese can come about, off the top of your head, without being scary. Let’s trace the genesis:

We wanted a dish of some savoury beans, because we like that kind of thing from time to time. A quick flick through some favourite recipe books brought no inspiration, for some reason. There were recipes for borlotti beans, butter beans, recipes we’d already tried… but nothing new or for pinto beans. No matter. Pinto beans are pretty much like borlotti beans and one recipe suggested (I think we’ve done it before) cooking the beans then grating the zest of a lemon into them to pep them up. So, okay let’s do that. Beans, cooked and drained, kept warm, plus lemon zest, hmm, a clove of crushed garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil? Well, oil plus garlic plus lemon is pretty much a vinaigrette, so that should work. Season. Add some parsley for a little freshness? Okay. And what about a chopped red chilli? Beans and chilli? That’s common. Okay. Done.

But what about the topping? Well, baked beans come in a tomato sauce, so what about tomato? Okay, but how do you make it a bit posher? Hmm, slow roast halved tomatoes on a very low heat for a couple of hours until they’re semi-dried. We’ve seen this done in another recipe somewhere, so okay, yes. And what about that third constituent ingredient that brings things all together? Well, who hasn’t sprinkled grated cheese on their baked beans? And goats cheese is great with tomatoes – and, since they’re in the oven we could put the goats cheese on top of the tomatoes…

And so… there’s nothing in this recipe that is strange, out of the ordinary or particularly unexpected. All of it is variants of other things we know and trust. And yet it was completely made up, from the top of our little hungry heads. And it tasted delicious.

Trust: bring it into the kitchen now. It’s a vital ingredient.