Posts tagged ‘onion’

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.

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February 1, 2012

Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Ribollita

It’s such a cold day here in the south east, as I’m sure it is elsewhere in Britain today. East London was perishing at lunchtime and when I got back to Wivenhoe, old puddles at the side of the road hadn’t thawed.

The perfect day, then, for a chunky bowl of Italian peasant food. A classic Ribollita is a heartwarming soup of vegetables, beans and bread – used to thicken the soup to an almost stew-like consistency. Everyone will have their own favourite way to make it, but I do like this one from Jamie Oliver. And he’s right, it’ll taste even better tomorrow.

The recipe is here.

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.

September 8, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Cheese and onion flan with tomato salad

Monday 22 August

I don’t know anyone who remembers school dinners with much fondness. I certainly don’t. I stopped having them as soon as I could and took packed lunches instead, then dinner money to spend down ‘the street’ where there was a bakers that did a nice old-fashioned cheese sandwich.

One thing I did like at school though was the sizzling hot trays of cheese flan, or cheese and onion flan, or cheese and tomato flan (it was a long time ago). Even in sixth form some of us used to nick into the refectory for a slice. It was so savoury and delicious.

I say flan – and I think I mean it. It wasn’t at all elegant, so ‘tarte’ is definitely wrong. And it wasn’t a quiche. In my mind, a quiche is light, the egg ‘custard’ fluffy and pale. You might eat quiche cold.

But a flan… a flan is unpretentious. There’s no milk added to the egg mixture, it’s not overly whisked, it’s just a plain old simple open pie. That’s what I set out to make, stuffing the pastry case with (in this instance) onion, tomato, eggs and cheese to approximate that old school dinner.

I bought the pastry for this one, rolled it out and flopped it into a 10-inch flan tin. Blind bake the pastry for around 15-20 minutes at 190/200 degrees (ie, cover it and weigh it down so it doesn’t rise, and cook until the pastry is just golden and not raw/soggy anymore). Finely chop and fry an onion. Spread that across the cooked base of the pastry case. Halve four medium tomatoes, take out the pips and finely chop the remaining flesh. Scatter that into the flan base too. Then, beat five eggs in a bowl, add some pepper and grate a fair amount of strong cheddar cheese into the bowl. It should be a cheesy-looking egg mixture, rather than simply beaten eggs with a spoonful of cheese.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on no more than 140 degrees – the lower temperature means the eggs will set without the pastry starting to burn (hopefully). When the egg/cheese mixture looks set, take the flan from the oven, grate some more cheese over the top and place a few thin slices of tomato across the top too. Put it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

It’s nice to serve this with new potatoes and a green salad, but on this occasion we had a beautiful punnet of mixed tomatoes that came in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, as well as regular tomato and ‘pear’ shapes. Gorgeous. Halve the tomatoes, place in a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper, add a dash of sherry vinegar and a splash of olive oil, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Job done.

August 31, 2011

Recipe: Bill Granger’s flatbread with red onion and chard

We have got some chard in the kitchen at the moment so will probably be tempted to make this light supper. The prospect of making your own flatbread is always rather exciting and, given that it doesn’t need to rise very much (although it does use yeast and need to prove), it’s rather more fail-safe than proper, full-on, up-to-the-elbows-in-flour bread making.

I haven’t kept up to date with the style of food Australian chef and restaurateur Bill Granger makes. I interviewed him once, by email, and he sent back a well-written, considered and quite passionate response to the questions, so he’s remained in ETP’s ‘good books’ since. But back then his big thing was luscious Aussie-American breakfasts at his waterfront cafe – this recipe is distinctly more European.

The recipe is from the Independent, here.

August 4, 2011

Last night’s Dinner: Greek salad

Wednesday 3 August

…yesterday’s lunch, actually, and in contrast to this very wet morning, yesterday the sun was wilting the leaves of the hydrangea we brought from London with us and the skies above the Colne were an unbroken blue. What better for lunch than a Greek salad al fresco?

I’m sure everyone has their own way with a Greek salad. Even we make better ones and worse ones. It really depends on the quality of the ingredients. Ours, here, benefited from a mix of perfectly ripe little cherry, sungold and plum tomatoes from Cansdale Ross & Co, up the road in Wivenhoe. The very essence of a summer lunch.

I halved the smaller tomatoes and kept the larger ones variously chunky to add some range to the look and feel of the salad. Red onion? Yep – slice it finely and soak it for 10 minutes or more in a little red wine vinegar to take the sting from it. I didn’t use olives but did add a few shredded leaves of a little gem lettuce (‘Heresy’ I here you cry). Cucumber should be roughly diced and then all the ingredients mixed together ready to be topped with some large chunks of feta cheese (you can break it up with your fork as you eat). I’ve seen some people add fresh mint to a Greek salad and, don’t get me wrong, mint and feta are a good match, but it feels a somewhat contrived concoction and surely the best – and most traditional – herb to add at the end is a small scattering of dried oregano. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

On such a hot and sunny day we could easily have accompanied this with a refreshing glass of Vinho Verde from the Village Delicatessen (which I saw temptingly described as a good ‘lunchtime wine’). But we had work to do and the wine had to wait.

Need more inspiration? There’s a good account of Greek salads in the Guardian, here.

May 23, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Beetroot, Carrot, Walnut, Quinoa, Red Onion, Goat’s Cheese Salad

Friday 13 May

Okay, are you ready? Here’s the recipe in simplified form.

Roast beetroot. Grate carrot. Marinate thinly sliced red onion in red wine vinegar. Toast and chop walnuts. Chop herbs of choice. Cook quinoa as per instructions. Crumble goats cheese. To quote a good friend, “a plate of sense”.

May 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Dhal with coconut cabbage

Wednesday 4 May

Feeling rather strapped for cash, I decided to see what I could rustle up without spending a single extra penny at the shop. So, there was a bag of yellow split peas in the cupboard, a couple of onions lying around, a tin of coconut milk and half a white cabbage that was almost on its way out. Plus spices. What to do? Indian of course.

We love a dhal at ETP Towers and they’re so easy. I made this after soaking the split peas for a few hours first. Then… chop an onion and fry in sunflower oil for 5 minutes. Rinse then add the split peas, plus 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp turmeric and some chilli powder (to your liking). Cover with boiling water – about an inch or so above the top of the split peas and simmer for about 45 minutes until the split peas are thoroughly soft and the consitency is that of a thick sauce. Then stir in a little tamarind paste and a couple of squirts of tomato puree. Chop three cloves of garlic, place it in a metal ladle with a small amount of sunflower oil and heat over the flame of a hob until it turns golden. Stir it into the dhal mix.

For the cabbage, slice an onion and half a white (or green, for that matter) cabbage and stir-fry both for a few minutes in a wok with some grated ginger, mustard seeds and a green chilli. Then add a tin of coconut milk and simmer until the cabbage softens and the milk has mostly evaporated.

Easy. And cheap.

By the way, there’s not much I could do with the photos of this. It’s not stylish food but it’s tasty and nutritious. I feel a mini-feature about food photography and its perils may be in order soon. Watch this space…

March 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Tuesday 8 March

Last night’s dinner really was last night’s dinner. We had plenty of our Savoy Cabbage, Chickpea and Fennel stew left over from Monday… so, what to do with it? Slice some new/salad potatoes into 5mm discs and sautee in olive oil until tender – you might need to put a lid on the pan so they half fry, half steam (BTW, potatoes and olive oil? Yes please!) Then add yesterday’s stew. The result was less loose than the previous day’s as the potatoes soak up the juices nicely. We’ve not tried this before but will do it again. A success.