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Round Courgettes

2 Nov

I really think they look quite elegant. I decided against chopping them up and opted for stuffing them. The recipe I used is adapted from a Mireille Guiliano recipe; she used hers as a side dish but we happily ate it for our main meal along with a simple side salad.

Round Courgettes

It is only in the last few years that himself has ever so tentatively began eating courgettes. When we first met he proclaimed outright that he did not like them, along with aubergine, celery, melon and raw onion. Now, I agree with him on the raw onion issue, I cannot abide that either. Aubergine, I could live without. Melon is so sweet and succulent and outright tasty that I find it hard to comprehend his distaste for it. Celery is an absolute no go area. But, he has almost decided that he likes courgettes now, once they’re seasoned properly and mixed with a few other ingredients he’s happy. Win, win!

Stuffed Courgettes

So, back to the round courgettes. Cut your courgettes in half and scrape out the flesh and seeds leaving behind at least one cm of flesh attached to the skin. Season the insides with salt and pepper.

To make the stuffing the first thing you need to do is cook your rice (I always use a steamer), about 60g should do two courgettes. Then heat some olive oil and saute 1 clove of chopped garlic and half a large onions until soft. Add about 175g minced beef to this and gently brown in the pan. Remove, drain, and place in a mixing bowl.

Once it has cooled, add the rice, 2 tbsps of grated parmesan, an egg (I omitted this as I was out of eggs!), a half tin of chopped tomatoes and parsley (which I also left out as I can’t bare the taste of it). Mix to combine and season to taste. Gently fill your courgettes with the stuffing.

The original recipe calls for you to pour 115ml of tomato sauce into your baking dish and then place the courgettes on top of it – I left this part out as I didn’t want it too saucy, I wanted it the dish to be fairly solid. Sprinkle the courgettes with some more grated parmesan, bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes and enjoy!

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Not Forgetting the Savoury

3 Mar

Plenty. By Yotam Ottolenghi. I cannot recommend this book enough, it has quickly become one of my favourite cookbooks. I seem to have veered down the baking path of late so I really must return to some delicious dinners I’ve made from some new books recently.

The first recipe I chose to make from his book was Crunchy Papparadelle. It tasted so damn good, although the carnivore in me did appear when I announced that those mushrooms in it would be exceptional alongside a thick juicy steak! The marriage of the white wine, bay leaves and thyme with the mushrooms was exquisite.

I was unable to find papparadelle in the shops when I was making this so substituted it for tagliatelle. I also omitted the crushed garlic/lemon combination – I can’t abide the taste and texture of raw garlic!! Though I’ll eat it cooked any day. I did squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the meal before I served it.

I also couldn’t find sprouting broccoli in the shops, even though it was in season, but don’t let me go on a rant about the lack of seasonal vegetables in the shops because I just won’t stop. So, I used plain old regular broccoli.

The breadcrumbs also add a wonderful texture to the pasta which I would never have thought to add to the mix. It’s something I’ll definitely try with other pasta dishes.

I have made this dish a few times now and it was just as tasty each time and a really great meal to throw together midweek after a hectic working day.

You can find the recipe here.

Prawn Thai Curry

3 Apr

My big brother and his lovely wife were coming over for dinner and remembering that if was Good Friday –  Chicken Thai Curry quickly became Prawn Thai Curry.

Following the recipe from the Avoca book I made their Thai curry. The sauce was lovely and light and not hot hot but had a great kick to it. I thickened it slightly myself but I’m sure it would be great either way. It got four thumbs up and empty plates so I will most surely be making it again.

The curry paste was amazing and very easy to make once the ingredients had been gathered. Word of warning, when de-seeding and chopping the chillies use plastic gloves! I had meant to but was quite tired when I was cooking and it slipped my mind completely, resulting in tingly fingers and yes a red-eye for a time. Not one of my brighter evenings!

Mezze

14 Feb

My first Daring Cooks challenge was to make a Mezze. I couldn’t believe it; we absolutely adore this type of food! Particularly himself as he grew up in the Middle East. When I eventually contained my excitement we chose the extra dishes to make. The challenge stipulated that we must make the bread and the hummus according to  the given recipes exactly. Along with this I made taziki, chick pea, potato & tomato dish, courgette fritter, falafel and mint & lamb meatballs.

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.


The recipes were all easy to follow and very easy to make. The one thing I would recommend when cooking a mezze meal is to plan well; it’s a time-consuming task. I spent the majority of a Saturday preparing and cooking this meal and I have to say I actually thoroughly enjoyed every part of it, it was so rewarding when dish after dish turned at well.
The only thing I would alter again would be the hummous recipe. We found it had too much tahini in it which gave it an overpowering taste. We made a second version with less in it and more lemon juice than in the recipe.

You would also have to be a lover of garlic, it goes into everything!!

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

Directions:
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

The stages of the bread

The Bread

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

Directions:
1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Hummus

*Optional Recipe: Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes

1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.

*Optional Recipe: Falafels – Recipe from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com
Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)
tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying

Directions:
1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I sometimes prefer to bake these so I can avoid the deep frying. I bake them on a nonstick pad (silpat or the like) at 325F (160C), just until they’re firm, about 20 minutes.

Chickpea, Potato & Tomato

Chickpea & Potato Cassoulet: serves 4/5

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

4 medium potatoes, sliced thickly (I use baby potatoes halved)

400g can of tomatoes

1tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

300ml water

300g chickpeas (you can use a can but be sure to check the drained weight)

tbsp finely chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, garlic until soft. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Stir in the potato and cook until lightly browned. Pour in the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and water and gently simmer, covered for about 25 minutes or until your potatoes are tender. Add the (drained) chickpeas and coriander and stir until hot.

Courgette Fritters

Courgette (Zucchini) Fritters: makes about 6

2 courgettes, coarsely grated

half an onion, coarsely grated

30g flour

1 egg

1tbsp parsley

half  tbsp of mint

quarter tsp of black pepper

veg oil for shallow frying

Combine the courgette, onion, flour, egg, herbs and pepper in a bowl.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan, fry about quarter cup of the mixture in the hot oil until browned (you can make these into flat balls first if you like), flatten slightly and turn until browned on other side. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Lamb & Mint Meatballs

Lamb & Mint Meatballs: serves 4

1kg minced lamb

1 large onion chopped finely

quarter cup of chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsely (I left this out as I’m not crazy about it!)

2 tbsp finely grate lemon rind

1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

Using your hands combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll tsp sized balls from the mixture, place on a tray and cool in the fridge for 30 mins.

Cook the meatballs in batches on a heated oiled grill plan until browned and cooked through.

Lemon, Ginger & Lentil Soup

10 Feb

I am so glad I found this recipe. You can find the original recipe on the Irish Times website. It was my first attempt putting lentils in a soup and they give it a wonderful depth and texture. It has a deliciously refreshing taste and is jam packed with goodness. There is not fat in it aside from the four tablespoons of olive oil you sweat the veg in! I just feel better from having had it; and let me tell you, there’s eating and drinking in it! I’ve just finished a bowl of it and bloody hell am I full!!

You sweat the following chopped veg in olive oil: onion, garlic (claimed to help prevent heart disease), ginger (apparently good for colic, vomiting, spasms and other painful affections of the stomach), celery (rich in vitamin C), carrots (source of antioxidants). Stir in red lentils (high in protein, fibre and vitamin B) and yellow split peas (protein) along with 2 litres of vegetable stock. Blend it all when after about 40 minutes of simmering and squeeze in two lemons and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. You’ll feel great even making it!

Pot of Goodness

Working Lunch

Home Made Burgers

4 Feb

The before & after shot: Roast baby potatoes with rosemary & garlic

You really can’t beat a good burger. There’s nothing like sinking you teeth into one but recently myself and himself had burgers in a bar in town and I couldn’t finish mine. It was far too, oddly enough, meaty and left me feeling quite ill, the thoughts of it now still do.

These burgers which I made were nothing like that. They were so light to eat and not at all challenging. The texture was almost soft as they had been for the most part in the oven. I think a thick burger cooked in its entirety on a pan or under a grill gets tough and can almost be a chore to eat. Even if I were to bbq them I would, like these, seal them on the bbq and finish cooking them in the oven.

I have been so ridiculously tired this week and I can’t explain why. Well, not because I can’t, it’s just that I have no explanation for it! Yes, work is tiring but, for a change, that doesn’t explain it. Anyway, these burgers are so great to make when you’re not really in the mood for slaving in the kitchen. Simply come in from work and mix up you the pattie mix. Leave them to rest in the fridge for half an hour giving you the chance to change/put the washing out/have a cup of tea! Then once the oven is hot they take a mere 10-12 mins! Fantastic!

The recipe below made 4 decent sized burgers:

350g lean minced beef

25g breadcrumbs

25g grated cheese (I used a mature cheddar, parmesan would also be great)

1 dstp tomato ketchup (I used half this amount as I also through in about 4 chopped up sun dried tomatoes)

1 egg

seasoning

*you can also add chopped onion(not a fan of this!) or garlic and add herbs (parsley or thyme would taste well).

Put the mince into a mixing bowl. To this mix in the breadcrumbs, cheese, ketchup, seasoning and anything else you want to add. Add the egg (helps to bind everything) and mash it all together with your hands. Divide the mixture into four and roll into burger shapes about 1/2 inch thick. You can use some flour to help shape them. Place these on a plate and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Heat your pan/grill pan. Brush the burgers lightly with oil and place on the hot pan, they only need a few second on each side to brown and seal. Remove from the pan and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes. When you remove them from the oven cut one in the centre to make sure it is fully cooked.

To accompany this I sliced some baby potatoes in half, tossed them in some olive oil, seasoned well with salt and pepper and placed them in a baking tray. To this I added about 3 crushed cloves of garlic and a good few stalks of rosemary. Once placed in the oven (180), they took about 20 minutes to cook. The smell in the kitchen was almost edible!!

Ready to rest in the fridge

Sweet Potato Chips

28 Jan

I love sweet potatoes, especially the texture. Which is why I love them cut into chips – when they’re baked in the oven they give you a slightly crisp texture on the outside and when you bite into one they reveal that lovely soft velvety goodness.

Sweet Potato Chips

Two large sweet potatoes serves two people as an accompaniment to a main course:

Heat your oven to 180 degrees celcius. Peel and slice the potatoes into roughly 1.5cm chips. Toss in about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. I then sprinkle over some sea salt and some ground cumin and toss. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 mins, remembering to toss half way.

Alternative flavours: sea salt & pepper, chilli – I’ve found both work great but my favourite is the one above.

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