Posts tagged ‘dinner’

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!

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January 28, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup ‘Berbere’

What a cold winter’s night really needs, of course, is a warming bowl of nutritious soup. This one was made after a rummage through the fridge and kitchen cupboards. We had some sweet potato that wasn’t long for this world, a tin of chickpeas, an onion, spices… and that’s all you need.

Now, we’ve often made a sweet potato and chickpea soup, or a butternut squash and chickpea soup and, usually, we spice it up with a little chilli and some cumin. But I’m bored of it: the cumin so often overpowers if it’s the dominant spice… and this was the thought in my mind as my eyes set upon a tin of ready-mixed ‘Berbere’ spice (widely available, just like this here that we picked up in the supermarket).

Berbere refers to the Berber peoples of North Africa. I’ve always associated Berbere spices with Morocco, having visited that country, but a little research reveals that the mix of spices including chilli, cumin, coriander seed, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, plus varying others, as well as the term Berbere, is recognisable in Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali cuisines. The exact origin, and infinite variations, could no doubt be argued over for longer than it would take the IMF to do the right thing and cancel African debt, so let’s just say that it’s fiery, with some sweeter notes than you might get in Indian spice mixes.

To the soup: it’s one-pot stuff. In a large saucepan or stockpot, saute a finely chopped onion in a little olive oil for 5 minutes. Add a clove of finely chopped garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. While it’s cooking, peel two large-ish sweet potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks and add to the pot. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Next add one tin of chickpeas. Then add the Berbere spice mix. We added a heavily loaded dessert-spoonful. You might want to add less – it’ll be fine. Chilli addicts could also add one fresh red chilli. Stir in and then add around 500ml of vegetable stock – maybe a little more depending on the size of your potatoes. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the heat, leave to cool until lukewarm then blitz it with a hand blender. Don’t overdo it though, it’s best if the soup is a little coarse. Reheat, season with salt and pepper and serve, perhaps with some crusty bread.

It warms the cockles, this one.

January 12, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Beetroot risotto with lemon oil and goat’s cheese

Do you ever start to make a recipe and then realise you’re missing a vital ingredient? Only the other day I was busy assembling a meal of (Turkish vegetable casserole) Turlu Turlu when I remembered I had no tomatoes in the house in any shape or form. Which reminds me that ETP should feature that recipe at some point.

Well, this risotto recipe may look complete, but secreted within it is a similar story. It was meant to include elements of fennel (in the oil) and broad beans (adding colour and texture to the risotto). Oh dear. I can feel our old friend Denis Cotter, whose recipe we were stealing, shaking his head admonishingly.

But we persevered and, if you haven’t tried a beetroot risotto before, so should you. Here’s how:

The lemon oil was made by shaking olive oil with the zest and juice of a lemon in a jar. Easy – in effect a basic lemony dressing.

Beets are then boiled/simmered until tender (anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on size), drained, rinsed under cold water then peeled. They are then diced and roasted with a little olive oil and salt for 15 minutes. Don’t burn them – it’s easily done.

After 15 minutes, remove half the beets and, adding about a cup-full of vegetable stock or water, blend to a puree in a food processor and put it in a pan on the hob, adding enough extra stock to make the amount of risotto you’re cooking. Keep the stock hot. Continue to cook the remainder of the beets in the oven for 10 more minutes or so, until they begin to caramelise.

Now for the rice – and this really just becomes a standard risotto cooking method with a different type of stock. So, saute a couple of finely sliced shallots and 2 cloves of garlic in a little olive oil for 5 minutes. Add arborio risotto rice and ‘toast’ it in the pan for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add a small glass or red wine and cook for a further 5 minutes or so to ‘burn off’ the alcohol. Then start to add the beetroot stock, a ladle at a time. Keep going until the risotto is just tender. It should be pink too! When it’s done, stir in the caramelised beets and a little butter.

To serve, plate up the rice, scatter over some goats cheese and drizzle the lemon oil over.

Even if it wasn’t the recipe we had initially intended, it still worked – big flavours all round, from sweet beets to tangy goats cheese to perfumed lemon.

The prize goes to the best colour pink, along with the biggest flavours. The photo here doesn’t quite do ours justice – but I think another bash at the recipe could improve it. A magenta risotto, anyone?

January 11, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Cauliflower, green bean and tomato salad

After yesterday’s hearty plate of potato, something a little lighter – a nutritious, lightly warm winter salad.

I had the idea for this after half watching, and half remembering, a similar dish being made on a TV cookery programme. The essential ingredients are cauliflower and tomatoes, along with a warming dressing (for that read mustard). As a salad it felt right to add some greens – we added French beans. Broccoli could work, but might conflict in texture and shape with the cauliflower. Peppery rocket would make for a lighter, perhaps more summer salad. I could even be tempted to try some cucumber with this – especially in summer.

First step was to roughly chop some ripe tomatoes, season them with a little salt and pepper, and a splash of olive oil, and set aside.

Next, make a quick dressing with some olive oil, a little sherry vinegar (white wine vinegar or lemon juice will suffice), a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a clove of finely chopped garlic.

Break the cauliflower into florets and steam until just tender (don’t for the love of veg overdo it). While the cauli is steaming, plunge some green beans into boiling water for around 4-5 minutes. That should be enough to just about cook them but leave them a little crunchy.

In a large salad bowl combine the cauliflower, beans and tomatoes. Pour the dressing over and mix well – it’s important to do this while the cooked veg is still warm. Finally, add a small handful of chopped coriander, spring onion or flat-leaf parsley and serve.

Feel free to experiment with the recipe. Just remember that the finished salad should have a bit of a crunch and a slight spiciness – almost as if it wanted to mature to be a piccalilli.

We had a big bowl of this as a main course, but it would be a good accompaniment to all kinds of pies, quiches and pasties etc etc. Happy eating.

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.

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.

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 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Lettuce, pea and cucumber soup

Sunday 26 June

This is the second entry for the 26th of June, following on from the morning’s veggie sausages.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Cucumber, in a soup?’ Well yes, actually, and it really works by adding some substance to the light summer greens. I’m not sure how, but it does.

The recipe we took it from is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and includes the herb lovage. We couldn’t find any lovage and replaced it with flat-leaf parsely. It probably misses the point but hey, we’re all friends here. The soup was good. Go on, try it: the recipe’s here.

July 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Denis Cotter’s summer squash, borlotti bean and roasted pepper soup with basil chilli oil

Saturday 18 June

I know, we’re playing catch-up here, but we have an excuse. We’re moving house you see, and for the past few weeks I’ve been calling solicitors and estate agents every hour, every day. The good news? We’ve exchanged contracts and are looking forward to moving in a couple of weeks and starting to shop for our veg at the wonderful little local grocer’s.

Of course, we are still eating. Back in May, Ella got me Denis Cotter’s briliant new recipe book For the Love of Food. You can get it here.

This rich, rustic, wonderful soup is one of the first recipes we’ve tried from the book. As ever with Cotter, the trick is in assemblage. What? Well, Cotter’s talent is to see that you should treat each ingredient with the respect it deserves. If I’d invented this summery soup I’d have probably fried an onion, added some courgette and peppers, then added a tin of tomatoes and a tin of borlotti beans, some chopped chilli, a pint of stock, simmered, and then scattered some basil leaves over at the end. And, you know, fine. Seriously, it would be fine.

The Cotter factor? Roast the peppers first, cook the beans separately and add marjoram and the zest and juice of a lemon. Add some spring onion at the end. Blend wilted basil leaves with olive oil and chilli to make a fiery pesto. Et cetera, et cetera. The end result is a much deeper flavour and a soup that is truly respectful to the vegetables from which it is made. Glorious.

July 2, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Moroccan vegetable stew

Tuesday 12 June

I think you could change the vegetables for this – some of them at least – as long as you stick with the potatoes and chickpeas, which do a good job of soaking up some of the flavours and making it more stew-like and slightly less soup-like. However, at the risk of contradicting that last statement, the stew should be ‘loose’, watery, broth-like and not thickened, just reduced slightly to intensify the flavours in the broth.

This is a recreated version of a dish we first ate not in Morocco but in a local Moroccan restaurant in Marseille. Maybe there’s an Algerian influence, then, but I’m not sure. There was a sweetness to the broth that told us there was more going on in the spices than just cumin or coriander. It took us a while playing around with different mixes before we got this right – oh, and a trip to Morocco where we had the chance to talk to domestic cooks about the spices they used.

And so, our Moroccan spice blend is a mix of chilli powder, cumin, slightly less coriander, a touch of paprika… and then a dash of cinnamon, allspice, a clove or two and possibly even a couple of cardamom pods, seeded and crushed. You could even add some ground, dried rose petals. Bart, the spice company, does a tin of Berbere spice mixture that covers this off pretty well if you don’t want to mix your own. Have a look, here.

For this recipe, I’d suggest around 2 level dessert spoons of spices in total, but you might want to alter that depending on how spicy you like it and how spicy your chilli is in the mix.

And so to the cooking. For two people:

Peel and finely slice a large onion and soften it in a little olive oil for 5 minutes in a large frying pan until translucent. Deseed and roughly chop one bell pepper (any colour you like) and add to the pan. Next, take a handful of smallish new potatoes per person, wash ’em, peel ’em if you like, and chop ’em in half. Add to the pan and stir. Next, tip in a tin of chickpeas and stir again. Add a couple of chopped fresh chillis (go on, be a devil), then your spice mixture, then three medium fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped. Finally, add 500ml or so of water, season with a little salt and pepper, and simmer for around 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft (you should be able to break one with the back of a spoon).

So, to recount, what you’re aiming for is a loose stew of mixed vegetables and legumes in a fiery but fragrant, tomatoey broth. Hopefully you’ll get a bit of a sweat on while you eating it, but still want to lap up more of the sensitively spiced flavours. A couple of slices of Turkish-style bread would be good to mop up the broth. Phwoar.