Tag Archives: Lunch

Silverbeet & feta quiche

It’s that weird inbetween season where the winter vegetables are coming to the tail end of their season, but the summer vegetables haven’t yet made an appearance.  Well, that’s not quite true – I saw courgettes at Nosh yesterday… priced at a casual $19 a kg.  I love courgettes, but not quite that much.  Silverbeet, however, seems to be in season all year round here.  From what I understand it grows wonderfully in the climate here, well, here in northern NZ anyway.  I think it’s called different things in different places, so this is what I mean by silverbeet:

Silverbeet

This whole always-in-season thing is rather marvellous because I love silverbeet.  Well, specifically the stems, which I will post about later.  I’m sort of doing this backwards, I should really post about the stalks first and why I love them so much (clue: there’s cheese involved).  But instead, I’m going to talk about the leaves.  They’re super bitter, so I wouldn’t eat them raw, but when it comes to cooking them, you can generally use them interchangeably with spinach.

Silverbeet leaves

I had a bunch of silverbeet leaves to use up, so I decided to throw them into a quiche with some feta.  Quiches are the best way to use up leftovers or ingredients loitering in the fridge.  Throw some ingredients together, beat together a couple of eggs and some crème fraîche, throw them all together in a pastry-lined tart tin, and boom, a fancy-pants vehicle for leftovers that’s actually insanely easy to prepare.

Silverbeet & feta quiche 1

AlphaBakesBonus: any leftover quiche can be eaten cold for lunch (or warm for lunch, that works, too).  Basically, quiche is a winner.  This silverbeet and feta quiche is definitely a winner.  It’s pretty light, perfect for lunch or a starter.  Since it’s not totally filled with eggy mixture, the silverbeet leaves on the top go all crispy in the oven.  Scrumptious!  I’m submitting this quiche to September’s AlphaBakes, where the special letter is “Q.”  The challenge is being hosted by Caroline Makes this month.

Silverbeet & feta quiche 2

Silverbeet & feta quiche

Serves 4-6 as a starter, 3 as a main course
Recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

This would work equally well with spinach leaves, and feel free to throw in some toasted pine nuts if you have some (unfortunately I didn’t).  This quiche is delicious either warm out of the oven, or cooled down to room temperature and makes an excellent light meal or starter.  If you want a more filling quiche, add more feta and silverbeet leaves, or add another egg and some more crème fraîche.  This recipe is pretty flexible, so knock yourself out (not literally, please).

Ingredients

1 quantity of quiche pastry of your choice (I used this recipe)
200g silverbeet leaves
3 cloves garlic
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
250g feta
3 eggs
175g crème fraîche
Salt and pepper

Directions

1.  Butter and flour a 24cm fluted tart tin.  Make your pastry, roll it out and line the tart tin with it.  Prick the pastry with a fork.  Refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

2.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

3.  Wash the silverbeet leaves, pat them dry and slice them widthways in about 1cm strips (it doesn’t have to be perfect, we’re making quiche here).  Peel and finely mince the garlic cloves.

4.  Heat a drizzle of oil in large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 mins.  Then add the silverbeet leaves.  I generally add half the leaves and allow them to wilt for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining leaves to the pan.  This helps to prevent silverbeet overflow.  Cook until thoroughly wilted and reduced.  Set aside to cool a little.

5.  Remove the pastry from the fridge.  Spread the mustard thinly over the base, then evenly crumble the feta over the top.  Evenly spread the garlicky spinach over the top of the feta.  In a medium bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, then whisk in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper (you won’t need much salt since feta is usually quite salty).  Pour over the top of the spinach.

6.  Bake for 50 mins to 1h, until golden and cooked through.  Allow to cool in the tin for about ten mins before serving or transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

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Warm cauliflower, feta & almond salad

Nestled within my lengthy list of first world irritations and peeves is one which frequently shoots right up the list when I’m baking or cooking: measuring dry ingredients in terms of volume.  I’m looking at you, USA.  New Zealand and Australia, you’re guilty, too, though admittedly a little less so.  Things like caster sugar and flour I can deal with (I still think it’s ridiculous, but at least it’s easy enough to convert to a weight).  It’s when we get to things like raisins, nuts, chocolate chips that it starts to be an issue.  Things that it makes no sense to measure as a volume.  And then we get to the truly ridiculous.  Exhibit A: “3 cups of bite-size pieces of cauliflower.”

“3 cups of bite-size pieces of cauliflower” doesn’t help me a great deal when I’m doing my shopping and cauliflower comes in whole heads, not bite-sized pieces.  Perhaps some people have the magical ability of looking at produce and being able to accurately estimate what volume it will take up when chopped up.  I do not have this magical ability.  This isn’t helped by the fact that I suck at anything that involves estimating.  In fact, I nearly didn’t try this warm cauliflower, feta and almond salad out, solely on account of the specified 3 cups of bite-sized pieces of cauliflower.

Luckily I did though, because this salad is truly delicious, both warm or cooled to room temperature.  It’s super versatile as well, and works on its own as a light meal, as a side dish or as a more substantial meal when mixed with couscous or pasta.  I’m a little on-the-fence about cauliflower – I like it in gratin form with a béchamel sauce and covered in cheese, but other than that I usually find it a little bland and boring.  I was more attracted by the rest of the salad’s ingredients – red onion, lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, feta, almonds – than the cauliflower.  But I actually think that cauliflower works wonderfully here.  It adds a lovely crunch (a cooked crunch though, not a raw crunch), and since most of the other ingredients are quite flavourful, it helps mellow that out and balance them all together.  This is one of my new favourite warm salads.  Not only is it scrumptious, it’s easy enough to prepare and is entirely “from scratch.”  As a result, I’m submitting it to this week’s Made With Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I found 3 cups of bite-sized pieces of cauliflower to be just a little less than one cauliflower.  I measured it out of interest whilst I was preparing the salad.

Warm cauliflower, feta & almond salad

Serves 3-4 as a light meal or starter
Adapted from Dish, August-September 2012

This salad is an incredibly versatile dish.  It works as a light salad on its own or can be used as a side dish (the original recipe serves it with chicken).  It can also be turned into a more substantial meal by adding couscous or pasta, which is great for a packed lunch, since it’s delicious whether served warm or cooled.  As with any salad, the ingredient quantities are really more guidelines than set in stone.

Ingredients

1 cauliflower
2-3 tbsp organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 large red onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 unwaxed lemon
90 ml white wine
½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of chilli flakes
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes
Small handful parsley leaves stripped from the stems
Handful roasted skin-on almonds
2 tbsp capers, drained
150g feta

Directions

1.  Chop the cauliflower up into bite-sized pieces.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  Add the cauliflower once hot with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until coloured in places.  Add 2 tbsp of water to the pan, cover and cook for a further 2 mins, occasionally shaking the pan.  The cauliflower should still be a little crunchy.  Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

2.  Whilst the cauliflower is cooking, dice the onion and set aside.  Return the pan to the heat, add a little more oil if required, add the onion and cook until soft but not brown.  As the onion is cooking, finely dice the garlic, and zest and juice the lemon.  Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, wine, ground cumin and chilli flakes and 85 ml of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 mins.

3.  Meanwhile, finely slice the sun-dried tomatoes and chop the parsley.  Roughly chop the almonds and set aside, ready for serving.  Once the onion mixture is ready, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, capers and most of the parsley, followed by the cauliflower, and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Mix well, remove from the heat and split the cauliflower mixture evenly between plates (or in a large serving bowl), crumble the feta over the top, followed by the roughly chopped almonds and any remaining parsley.

Enjoy!

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Just bear with me whilst I wax lyrical about Auckland’s public libraries

I mentioned in this post that I’d requested a copy of the River Cottage Veg Every Day! book from my local library.  I requested it back in April, but apparently half of Auckland had the same idea (ok, a slight exaggeration perhaps…) so there was quite a waiting list for it.  Of course, I could have just gone and bought it rather than wait, but I’ve resolved not to buy any more books (cookbooks or otherwise) if I can borrow them from the library because A) books from the library are generally free, B) books from the library only temporarily eat up valuable and limited bookshelf space, C) library books won’t take up expensive box space when I next move country, D) if I detest a book I can just give it back rather than being annoyed that I spent good money on it when I could have used said money to buy butter or gin, and E) if I love a book so much that I know I will definitely read it again or realistically cook more than ten recipes from it, I can then go out and buy it, knowing that it will be a worthwhile investment.  Basically, it’s like test-driving books.  Particularly when it comes to cookery books (so should that be test-cooking?).

This plan only works because the Auckland public library system is brilliant.  All the public libraries across Auckland are managed by the council (apparently this is a relatively recent development and only happened in the last couple of years) and all linked up to the same computer system.  So when I request a book, it will come from whichever library has it available, it’ll be delivered to the library of my choice, and, most importantly, there aren’t any inter-library loan charges involved.  To me this seems the most blatantly logical way to run a network of libraries, but apparently it doesn’t work like that in, say, Edinburgh.  Since this system covers 55 libraries (yes, 55!), you won’t be too surprised to hear that the selection of books is very comprehensive and includes the latest releases (albeit often accompanied by long waiting lists).  This was something that I was extremely pleased, and indeed impressed, to discover.

So anyway, back to River Cottage Veg Every Day!, which is what this post was actually supposed to be about, rather than my over-enthusiasm for Auckland’s public libraries.  I finally made it to the top of the waiting list and was able to pick up a copy about a fortnight ago.  Flicking through it randomly, there were plenty of recipes that I wanted to try and I couldn’t choose what to try out.  I decided to be logical and start reading from the beginning and pick out one recipe to start with.  I got as far as the second recipe, chachouka, a North African dish which I’d never heard of but looked pretty damn delicious in the accompanying photo.  It’s a spiced (but not spicy) and flavourful sort of stew that consists of peppers, onions and tomatoes, topped with baked eggs.  It’s perfect for a lunch or light dinner, and I loved it!  The egg means that the leftovers don’t reheat all that well, so I’ll be keeping this one bookmarked for when I have guests over.

Chachouka

Serves 4
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Every Day!

Be warned that this dish does take a wee while to cook, but it isn’t difficult to prepare and doesn’t take too much effort.  This is best eaten as soon as it is prepared, accompanied by a simple green salad and bread to mop up the egg yolk.  This dish doesn’t really make for great leftovers – unsurprisingly, the egg yolks cooked completely when I reheated the leftovers for lunch the next day, so I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as when freshly cooked, although the pepper and onion mixture was still delicious.

Ingredients

3 tbsp organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
1 red peper
1 yellow pepper
¾ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of saffron
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
4 eggs

Directions

1.  Pell and finely slice the onion.  Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan (use an ovenproof one if you have one) and add the onions.  Cook over a medium heat for 8-10 mins, stirring frequently until soft and golden.

2.  Meanwhile, deseed the peppers and finely slice them (I’d suggest slicing more finely than I did in the photos),  Feel and finely chop the garlic cloves.  When the onion is ready, turn the heat down to low and add the peppers and garlic to the pan.  Cook for at least 20 mins, stirring frequently, until the peppers are softened.  Add the spices about 10 mins in.

3.  Add the tin of tomatoes, including the juice, and season with salt and pepper.  Continue to cook over a low heat for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally.

4.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

5.  Adjust the seasoning of the pepper mixture if necessary.  If your frying pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to an ovenproof baking dish.  Make four hollows in the mixture and carefully break an egg into each one.  Bake for 10-12 mins, until the egg white is cooked, but the yolk is still runny (it can be a little difficult to tell if the egg yolk is still runny, but basically remove it from the oven as soon as the egg white is cooked).  Serve accompanied by bread and a green salad.

Enjoy!

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Roast figs with honey & goat’s cheese

My mum is currently on holiday, which means that I’ve been left to fend for myself for two weeks.  I managed to fend for myself, feed myself, and generally survive during my four years of university, so this isn’t exactly a challenge.  Far from it, in fact.  Since I don’t have any essays or deadlines to worry about, I can play around with food-related ideas without having to feel guilty because I should actually be reading papers or pulling my hair out analysing data.  Not that that ever really stopped me anyway…  In theory, I could try out recipes and churn out a batch of cupcakes or macarons or cookies every day.  There’s just one teeny tiny little problem…  I have nobody to share all these theoretical baked goods with, and there’s no way I could eat an entire batch every single day without making myself feel sick (plus, I already don’t go to the gym nearly as often as I’d like, so eating a batch of baked goods every day probably wouldn’t help matters.  And I’d also like to avoid diabetes for a little longer, thanks).

In St Andrews, it was easy to find eager recipients for baked goods – I suspect that a large proportion of my friends were only friends with me because they wanted cake.  In Edinburgh, I have a grand total of one friend (actually that’s a lie, I managed to bump the total up to two yesterday.  Oh the achievement.  Actually, it’s not even much of an achievement – I already knew them, I just didn’t know they were currently studying in Edinburgh).  So I can’t really try a new muffin/cookie/macaron flavour every day and share the results.  But I still want to try out new recipes, particularly since I currently have the time.  The obvious solution is to experiment with savoury recipes, because even if I don’t want to eat a batch of cupcakes every day, I’ll definitely be eating lunch and dinner, thanks very much.  And breakfast, too, obviously, though I’m usually not too keen on having to put a significant amount of effort into breakfast before I can sit down and actually eat it (muffins baked the night before though, no problem).  I’ve cooked quite a few delicious dinners or lunches that I would have liked to share, but haven’t been happy with the photos.  I find it quite difficult to make savoury foods look really appetising in photos and I would also quite like to eat my dinner warm.  I think I just need more practice in styling food brilliantly and quickly.  A lot of practice.  Ideally, I’d also like a proper camera, but my little five-year old point-and-shoot camera usually manages alright with cupcakes and macarons, so I don’t think my camera is really the problem…  (Any tips on photographing savoury food appetisingly are definitely welcome!)

Anyway, you well wonder where all this rambling is going (I may or may not be wondering the same thing).  My original point was that I’m currently on my own, which means that if a particular food experiment fails miserably doesn’t quite work, having toast and pâté for dinner is a totally acceptable back-up plan.  I’m not sure that my mum would agree, so I’ve been trying a few ideas out.  Ideas of the I’ve-no-idea-what-I’m-doing-so-I’ll-just-make-this-up-as-I-go-along-but-I’m-sure-it’ll-be-fine variety.  When I was in Waitrose a few days ago, I saw they were selling fresh figs at half price, and since it’s getting to the end of fig season, and they were in really good condition and just looked so tempting, I bought a packet (I’m like a retailer’s dream customer sometimes – ooo it looks pretty, ooo it’s half price, yes please!).  When I got home, I remembered that I don’t really like fresh figs.  I know, I know.  But they looked so beautiful…  Anyway, I decided that roasting them with honey would probably make them a delicious dessert, because honey makes everything better.  Then I had a moment of inspiration yesterday, and I decided to make them savoury by adding walnuts, goat’s cheese and rosemary and have them for dinner.  My theory was that the goat’s cheese and rosemary would make it savoury enough to work as a dinner, even with the honey (back-up plan: toast).  And you know what?  It totally worked!  The dish turned out to be ridiculously easy to throw together (except that I couldn’t find our stash of rosemary, so I had to use thyme instead), and it turns out that I love roasted figs.  Now, excuse me whilst I go see if Waitrose have any beautiful half-price fresh figs left…

Roast figs with honey & goat’s cheese

Serves 2 as a starter, 1 as a light meal
From my imagination

I’d originally planned to use rosemary, but our supply appears to have run away, so I used thyme instead – both work really well, so just use whichever you prefer or have available.  This recipe is super easy and quick to throw together, so it would make a delicious but easy starter or quick lunch.  The ingredient quantities are more guidelines than anything else.

Ingredients

Handful of walnut halves
4 fresh figs
4 tbsp of runny honey
Several sprigs thyme or rosemary (or about 1 tbsp if using dried herbs)
70g crumbly goat’s cheese

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

2.  In a small frying pan, lightly toast the walnut halves for a few minutes, until they start to release their smell (make sure not to let them burn).  Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little and roughly chop (depending on how large you want the pieces to be).

3.  Cut a cross in the top of the figs to about half way down the fig so that they open up a bit if gently squeezed at the bottom (I cut a little too close to the bottom on mine so they opened right up when roasted) and place in a small roasting tin.  Sprinkle the chopped toasted walnuts into the opened figs, dividing evenly between the four.  Drizzle about 1 tbsp per fig of honey over the walnuts (don’t worry if some of the honey spills out of the figs).  Finely chop the thyme or rosemary and sprinkle over the honey (or add a large pinch of dried herbs to each fig), followed by the crumbled goat’s cheese (don’t worry if some falls out of the fig), finished off with some roughly ground or cracked black pepper.

4.  Roast in the oven for 10-12 mins, until the goat’s cheese begins to melt and just turn golden.  Serve immediately on a bed of salad (peppery rocket works really well) with the juices from the roasting tin drizzled over the top.

Enjoy!

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How to cause disruption in the quiet carriage whilst enjoying your lunch

Last Friday I went down to Oxford as part of a surprise birthday celebration for one of my best friends from school, Keely.  Around mid-afternoon on Thursday I suddenly realised that I’d be travelling on the train during lunch-time and that I’d forgotten to plan for lunch.  I didn’t especially fancy over-priced, probably-not-so-great train food, which meant that I had to find something that I could make with the ingredients we had at home because it was pouring with rain (for a change), so I didn’t feel like trekking out to the supermarket.  I came across a recipe for parmesan and walnut mini loaves.  We had all the required ingredients, and mini loaves are practical to transport as well as easy to eat on a train without creating a huge mess – perfect!

Once on the train, I realised that I’d forgotten to take photos of the mini loaves at home, so if I wanted to share the recipe here, I was going to have to take photos of my lunch on the train.  Which would have been totally fine if my camera didn’t double-beep very loudly whenever it focusses and if I hadn’t booked myself into the quiet carriage…  I felt awfully disruptive, but I braved the glares and judgement of my fellow passengers and did a mini photo-shoot of my lunch.  The mini loaves were rather delicious though, so I ignored the very pointed throat-clearing started from somewhere behind me after about two photos, until I’d taken a grand total of five photos.  I know, I know, such a rebel in the quiet carriage.

I probably wouldn’t have felt so guilty if I’d known that my weekend would also involve practically breaking into Keely’s house to bake her a cake and madeleines as part of the surprise, making several terrible first impressions on her new housemates that she hadn’t even met yet (she’d moved into her new house the day before) and setting off their smoke alarm by accidentally lighting (indoor) sparklers directly underneath it.  A beeping camera in the quiet carriage seems rather tame in comparison, doesn’t it?  I realise that it sounds like we probably ruined Keely’s life for the near future, but she loved the surprise and thoroughly enjoyed her birthday – hurrah!  For my part, I had a lovely weekend seeing some friends that I hadn’t seen since I left school four years ago, and (most importantly for this blog post) I had an excellent lunch on my way down.  Win!

Parmesan & walnut mini loaves

Makes 6-8 mini loaves
Adapted from Mini cakes

These mini loaves are great for picnics as their shape and size makes them really easy to wrap up individually and transport, and they’re deceptively filling.  It also helps that they don’t create a total mess when you eat them.  They can get a little dry if left for a few days, but slicing them thinly and spreading butter on each slice sorts that out.  To make a large, single loaf of 26 cm in length, apparently you can add an additional ¼ of the ingredients and an extra egg, and cook for a little longer.

Ingredients

190g parmesan
140g all-purpose flour
30g chopped walnuts
2 eggs
70ml olive oil
70ml milk
1 heaped tsp baking powder (equivalent to 5.5g or ½ a French sachet)

Directions

1.  Butter and lightly flour the mini loaf tins, or set out silicone moulds.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Coarsely grate 140g of the parmesan into a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the remaining 50g of parmesan into small chunks using a knife, adding it to the bowl, but reserving about ⅓ of the chunks (for sprinkling on top of the mini loaves.  This is optional, and you can just add all the parmesan to the bowl).  Add the flour and chopped walnuts to the parmesan bowl, add some ground black pepper and mix together.

3.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs together with the oil and milk.  Add the dry ingredients, and mix together, taking care not to over-mix (it’s fine if it’s a bit lumpy).  Gently fold in the the baking powder.

4.  As soon as the baking powder has been mixed in, divide the batter between the loaf tins.  Sprinkle the reserved little parmesan chunks over the tops of each mini loaf and bake for about 30 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 mins in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

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