Tag Archives: Onion

Wonderfully wintery parsnip & ginger soup

Yesterday was the winter solstice.  Shortest day of the year, and rather cold to boot.  That said, our 9°C and intermittent downpours was rather paltry in comparison to a large part of the rest of the country which was either snowed under or being battered by truly ferocious winds (or both).  Given the large swathes of the country that are (still) cut off or without power, I can hardly complain.  Instead, I think we can all just agree that 9°C is excellent soup weather.

Parsnip & ginger soup 1

Random RecipesFor this month’s Random Recipes challenge, Dom chose the theme of “healthy & happy” – poor Dom has had a bit of a rough time of it lately, so healthy recipes are the order of the day over at Belleau Kitchen at the moment.  I plucked my copy of River Cottage Veg Everyday! off the shelf on the basis that vegetables = healthy  (I would obviously make an excellent nutritionist), followed the instructions of the random number button on my calculator and landed on on page 157: parsnip and ginger soup.  Excellent choice, calculator – soup certainly makes me happy in this weather, and ginger is full of health benefits, so that’s both bases covered.  Sure, there’s milk and a wee bit of cream in it, but I’m all about dairy products, so that makes me happy, too.  And calcium is important, right?

I love creamy, velvety soups, so this one was definitely right up my street.  The ginger is really what makes this soup – it adds a fiery dimension, and is definitely warming.  I had more ginger in the cupboard than specified in the recipe and decided to throw it all in, which was slightly too keen – it may have blown my socks off, but I guess at least it cleared my sinuses.  So I’ve given the quantities specified in the original recipe, not the ones I used.

Parsnip & ginger soup 2

Parsnip & ginger soup

Serves 4-6
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday!

The ginger is quite fiery (and thus warming – excellent for winter!), so the amount you should add will depend on your taste.  If you want to freeze the soup, do so at the end of step 3, before adding the milk.  You can add either unsweetened yoghurt or double cream to serve – I personally preferred the yoghurt option as I found it cut through the fieriness of the ginger rather nicely.

Ingredients

500g parsnips
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
4-5 cm piece of ginger
Extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp Cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
500ml vegetable stock
200ml whole milk
2-3 tbsp flaked almonds, to serve
1-2 tbsp thick unsweetened yoghurt or double cream, to serve

Directions

1.  Prepare the vegetables.  Peel the parsnips and chop into roughly 1cm cubes, set aside.  Peel and finely chop the onion, set aside.  Finally, peel and finely chop the garlic and ginger (top tip for peeling ginger: use a teaspoon.  Sounds really odd, I know, but it works wonderfully), set aside.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat.  Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent.  Add the garlic, ginger and spices, and stir for a few minutes before adding the parsnips.  Stir to coat the parsnips with the spices.  Add the stock and 300ml of water, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 15 mins until the parsnips are very soft.

3.  Remove the soup from the heat and blend either in a food processor or using a stick blender, until smooth and velvety.

4.  Return the soup to a low heat, add the milk and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Whilst the soup is warming, toast the flaked almonds in a small frying pan, until just golden.

5.  Serve immediately, adding a drizzle of cream or yoghurt to each bowl, and topping with the toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

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Keftas with raisin & almond couscous

One of the things I love about New Zealand is the lamb.  The lamb here tastes wonderful.  So I was rather pleased when a lamb recipe was thrown my way by this month’s Random Recipes challenge.  The theme for this month was “random birthday number” – we had to use our birth date to pick our book – in my case, the 14th book on the shelf, which was Guide de cuisine de l’Étudiant, a French student cook book which was a gift from my French aunt and uncle.  It’s a good book because it has a range of straightforward recipes for one, two and groups of people, so covers all sorts of occasions.  The random number button on my calculator directed me to page 147, which is a recipe for keftas, or North African lamb meatballs.

Now, the original recipe calls for ras-el-hanout, but I couldn’t find any – I have seen some here, but I can’t remember where, which is obviously super helpful.  So I had to make up a substitution based on various articles online.  Thankfully it worked out and the meatballs were actually fantastically delicious, although perhaps a little too oniony, so I’ve reduced the amount of onion in the recipe here.  What I also love about these meatballs is that they can be fried or baked (I personally preferred baked), and they’d probably work wonderfully on the BBQ as well.  I served the keftas with a side of raisin and almond couscous, which is easy to prepare whilst the meatballs are cooking.  I’m also submitting these keftas to this month’s Simple and in Season over at Fabulicious Food! since lamb is in season here, and this recipe is definitely super simple to prepare!

Keftas with raisin & almond couscous

Serves 3-4
Keftas adapted from Guide de cuisine de l’Étudiant
Couscous recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

I thought there was a little too much onion when I made these, so I’ve reduced the quantity in the recipe given here (so yours won’t look quite as oniony as the photos in the post).  Don’t be put off by the number of spices in the recipe – if you’re missing one you can probably get away with leaving it out, particularly if it’s a spice that you don’t often (or ever) use.  The skewers are optional, but fun.  I’ve read that you should soak skewers in water before using them so that they don’t burn when cooking, but I forgot to do this and didn’t have a problem with burnt skewers.

Ingredients

For the keftas:
½ tsp Cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp turmeric
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
500g minced lamb
1 medium onion
Bamboo skewers (optional)
1½ tsp olive oil (if frying)

For the couscous:
75g raisins
½ tbsp olive oil
150g wholemeal couscous
50g flaked almonds
Knob of butter
Salt & freshly ground pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Fresh parsley, to serve

Directions

1.  Place the raisins for the couscous in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water.  Leave to soak whilst preparing the rest of the meal.

To make the keftas:
2.  If cooking the meatballs in the oven, pre-heat to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.

3.  Add the spices to a large bowl and stir together.  Add the lamb to the bowl and mix well with your hands so that the spices are evenly distributed.

4.  Finely chop the onion and mix it in with the lamb.  Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls, slightly flattening them.  Slide the meatballs onto the skewers (this is optional, particularly if baking the keftas, but recommended if frying them or cooking them on the BBQ).

5.  If baking the meatballs then place them in an oven-proof dish and bake for about 25 mins until browned all over and cooked through.  If frying them, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  Add the meatballs and fry for 7 mins before turning them over and frying a further 7 mins.  If BBQing, you’ll have to figure it out yourself.

To make the couscous:
6.  Meanwhile, prepare the accompanying couscous.  Drain the raisins and pour the soaking water into a measuring jug. Set the raisins aside.  Top the raisin soaking liquid up to 175 ml with water and to a saucepan.  Add the olive oil and bring to the boil.  As soon as it begins to boil, add the couscous, stir, cover and remove from the heat.  Allow the couscous to soak up the liquid (this should take about 10 mins).

7.  Toast the flaked almonds until fragrant in a frying pan over a medium heat, taking care not to let them burn.  Once the couscous is ready, add a knob of butter and fluff up the grains with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper and add the ground cinnamon, raisins and almonds and stir through.  Cover to keep warm until the keftas are ready.

8.  Serve the keftas immediately, accompanied by the couscous, sprinkled with chopped fresh 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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Pumpkin, caramelised onion, black olive & feta tart

I’m still a little seasonally-confused.  I thought that by now I’d have settled into the whole winter-in-June/July/August thing, but I guess not.  I think part of the problem is that for a fairly large proportion of the winter so far, we’ve actually had better weather and similar temperatures (at least during the day) to the summers that I’ve spent in Scotland.  A bit depressing for anybody in Scotland, but also not very helpful for my poor little brain.  My flat is on a street lined with deciduous trees, so seeing their bare branches helps to remind me that it’s winter, but there are also plenty of evergreen trees around, NZ species that aren’t fir trees.  I’m not familiar with them and their greenness sometimes throws me.  At least it’s pretty difficult not to notice the fairly short winter days with night falling at around 17:30, since it means that I walk home in the dark every day.  That’s my failsafe reminder that it’s winter.  That and the fact that our lab is significantly colder than it was during the tail-end of summer when I arrived, and I’m starting to seriously consider having a “lab blanket.”

Another great way of telling the season is by what fruit and vegetables are available.  Thank goodness for the Farmers’ Market because at first glance, supermarkets aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to seasonal food.  I saw cherries the other day and got all excited that cherry season had started because I temporarily forgot I’m in the Southern hemisphere and it’s most definitely not cherry season.  Then I saw that they were imported from the US.  Oh yeah, it’s winter here.  No cherries for me.  For the most part, they’re very good here at labelling where fruit and veg are from (which is great!), so I’ve been working on the assumption that if it’s from NZ, it’s most probably in season.  So if there’s an overabundance of NZ-grown apples, it must be autumn, even though it’s April.  NZ apricots?  It must be summer, even though it’s February.  NZ pumpkins?  It must be autumn or winter, even though it’s June.  You get the idea.  Obviously this only works for fruit and vegetables that I’m familiar with, but I think it works pretty well.

Since it’s winter, there are plenty of pumpkins and squashes around at the moment.  I love pumpkin and I’ve got plenty of bookmarked pumpkin recipes, but I often get put off because I don’t like to waste the seeds but separating them out and cleaning them can be a really time drain.  Plus pumpkins tend to be quite big, and as much as I love them, I try to vary my diet and not eat the same thing for a whole week.  Luckily I discovered that you can buy half pumpkins that are already de-seeded, which solves both problems.  Genius!  So I dug out a recipe that I’ve had my eye on for a while: pumpkin, caramelised onion, olive & feta tart.  It turned out to be quite a time-consuming recipe, but luckily I’d anticipated this and prepared the caramelised onions the evening before whilst I was cooking something else.  It might be time-consuming, but it’s not a work-heavy recipe (as long as you don’t have to de-seed the pumpkin) since the caramelised onions more or less do their own thing, as does the pumpkin and then you mix it all together, pop it into the pastry case (ok, so you have to make the pastry, but it’s not particularly difficult) and it bakes away by itself.  So you can get other things done whilst the oven/frying pan takes care of the rest.  And the end result is definitely worth it.  The sweetness of the roasted pumpkin and caramelised onions balances out the sharpness of the feta and the flavour of the olives.  Actually, I don’t think that this recipe really helped my seasonal-confusion because the olives and feta make me think of the Mediterranean, which I associate with warmth and sunshine and summer.  Despite that, since pumpkin is in season (and delicious), I’m submitting it to Simple and in Season, a blog event started by Ren at Fabulicious Food and guest hosted by Laura at How to Cook Good Food this month.

Pumpkin, caramelised onion, black olive & feta tart

Serves 6-8 as a starter, 3-4 as a main course
Adapted from Two Spoons

The caramelised onions take quite a while as it’s important to cook them over a low heat (resist the temptation to turn the heat up!), so if you’re a little tight on time, you can make them in advance (such as the night before) and store them in the fridge for a couple of days until required.  You could substitute sweet potato instead of pumpkin.  If you’d rather make a more quiche-like version of this, just add an extra egg and 3-4 extra tbsp of crème fraîche.  This tart is delicious both warm and cold, served with a dressed green salad on the side.

Ingredients

For the caramelised onions:
3 medium onions
Drizzle tsp rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1½ tbsp light brown sugar
1½-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp chopped dried thyme

For the rest of the tart:
Quiche/tart pastry (click for recipe or use your favourite)
400g pumpkin (weight with seeds removed)
Drizzle of rapeseed oil (canola oil)
100g pitted black olives
150g feta cheese
1 egg
3 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
½ tsp chopped dried thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional, but brings out the flavours)

Directions

For the caramelised onions:
1.  Finely slice the onions.  Add to a large lidded frying pan or saucepan, along with a drizzle of oil and the brown sugar and melt over a low heat, covered, stirring every 5 mins or so.

2.  Once the onions are golden brown (don’t worry if they’re sticking a little to the pan), add the balsamic vinegar and thyme, stir and cover, once again stirring until every 5 mins or so.  Once they are dark brown (but not burnt!), remove from the heat and let sit in their pan, uncovered.  If making in advance, allow to cool, then store in the fridge in an airtight container until required.

To assemble the tart:
3.  Butter a 24cm fluted tart tin and dust with flour.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

4.  Prepare your pastry, roll out to a 3 or 4 mm thickness and line the prepared tart tin.  Trim the edges and prick with a fork.  Refrigerate for 30 mins.

5.  Meanwhile, prepare the pumpkin.  Remove the skin, dice into about 1.5 cm cubes, and place in a roasting tin.  Drizzle with oil and toss to coat.  Bake for about 20 mins on the top rack of the oven, until softened and the edges are slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and switch the rack to the centre of the oven.

6.  Line the tart pastry with baking paper and cover with baking beans.  Blind-bake for 15 mins, remove the baking paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 mins.  Once removed, lower the oven’s heat to 190°C/170°C.

7.  Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  Halve the pitted olives and dice the feta into about 1cm cubes.  In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork.  Add the crème fraîche and mix together.  Add the caramelised onions, roasted pumpkin, olives, feta thyme and season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir together.

8.  Spread the mustard over the blind-baked tart pastry (optional, but it helps to enhance the flavours in the tart) then add the filling and evenly spread around the tart.  Bake for about 30 mins until the tart is golden and the eggs and cream are cooked.  Allow to cool on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before serving (or allow to cool fully) with a dressed green salad.

Enjoy!

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Random Recipe #10: Celeriac soup

Here in the Northern hemisphere, it’s definitely soup season.  So it’s very apt that for this month’s Random Recipe challenge, Dom has teemed up with Jac from Tinned Tomatoes who runs the No Croutons Required blog challenge, which involves sharing a vegetarian soup or salad recipe.  The rules for the joint challenge were simple: we had to randomly choose a soup (or salad – but I’m very definitely sticking to soup for this one) from our cookery books, and then make it.  Oh, and the soup also had to be vegetarian.  Easy-peasy.  Or so I thought…  Most of my cookery books are oriented towards desserts and baking, or specific foodstuffs like muffins or macarons, so it turns out that soup recipes are rather few and far between.  But I have a fair amount of soup recipes that I’ve collected from magazines or blogs, so I decided to randomly choose one of those instead.  A random number generator directed me to a rather delicious-sounding pear soup with pancetta and blue cheese soup, and I was looking forward to trying it out.  Until I noticed that one of the main ingredients is pancetta (I know, it’s in the title of the recipe – how did I not notice??), which makes it very much not vegetarian.  I randomly chose a further three recipes, none of which were vegetarian either (who knew there were so many non-vegetarian soups?!) and was starting to get rather frustrated at this point.  So I switched tactics, and randomly picked a recipe from my mum’s folder of recipes (it’s still a randomly chosen recipe, so I’m not breaking the rules or anything… right?).

The recipe I chose was for celeriac soup, and was definitely vegetarian.  Success!  It’s a recipe that my mum had quickly noted down whilst watching a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cookery programme a while ago.  Up until we made the soup, I’d always thought that celeriac and celery were the same thing (namely celery sticks), and were maybe just an American/British vocabulary difference or something.  Turns out they’re not the same thing at all.  Well, I mean they’re both from the same plant, but they are different parts.  As my mum put it, celeriac tends to get a bit neglected because it’s ugly (it’s the big round thing that isn’t an onion or a potato in the photo above) and people don’t necessarily know what to do with it.  Or know that it exists, if you’re me.  I don’t really know how I’d describe the taste.  I was sort of expecting it to taste a bit like celery sticks or something.  Thankfully it doesn’t (since they taste of approximately nothing), but it doesn’t have a particularly strong taste.  The soup was good, but I wouldn’t say it was ground-breaking.  Because I’d never really had celeriac soup before, it was different, but ultimately, it was a bit on the bland side, and I’m not sure what I’d add to bring the flavours out better.  But it hasn’t put me off from trying other celeriac soup recipes.  In fact, I’m rather determined to find a delicious one!  Not by the challenge deadline though, so this will have to do for now…

Celeriac soup

Serves 4-5
Adapted from a Hugh F-W recipe in my mum’s folder of recipes

Whilst this soup is good, it is a bit bland on the bland side and needs something to lift the flavour, though I’m not sure quite what (not very helpful, I know – suggestions on a postcard in the comments welcome).  The original recipe called for vegetable stock rather than water, but we felt that the flavour of the stock might over-power the fairly mild taste of the celeriac.  Perhaps we were wrong and the vegetable stock would have improved the soup.

Ingredients

1 small leek
1 celeriac
1 potato
2 small onions
1 garlic clove
Ground nutmeg, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Slice the leek and peel and dice the celeriac, potato, onions and garlic (none of these have to be diced or sliced perfectly evenly – it’s all going to be blended at the end…).

2.  Melt some butter in a large pot on a medium-low heat, add the vegetables to soften for about 10 mins, stirring frequently so that the vegetables don’t colour.

3.  Add just over 1 litre of water to the pot (the amount of water that you add depends on how thick you want your soup.  Make sure that there is enough to cover the vegetables though – we used about 1.1 litre), cover and simmer for about 30-35 mins until the vegetables are cooked and tender.

4.  Remove from the heat, season and either pour into a blender or use a hand-held immersion blender to blend until smooth.  Return the blended soup to the heat until heated through and serve immediately, with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and fresh bread on the side.

Enjoy!

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Random Recipe #8: Three-cheese summer vegetable bake

I have a minor confession: I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to food magazines.  There are worse things to be addicted to though, so it’s all good (flawless logic).  Also, I’m not addicted to any-and-every food magazine out there, oh no, I’m quite picky – it has to be well laid-out and intelligently written, have lots of mouth-watering photos, contain a majority of recipes that I’m actually likely to make and I have to be confident that the recipes will work.  For this month’s Random Recipe challenge, we had to randomly pick a recipe from our collection of magazines or recipe cuttings (we all have them!).  My recipe cuttings are in several different folders and I have some saved on my laptop and some still saved on my old laptop because I haven’t quite got round to transferring them, making randomly choosing a recipe rather impractical.  So I decided to go for the magazine option.

I may or may not have slightly flouted the rules and not picked my magazine randomly.  All with good reason though.  See, to justify my food magazine habit, I’ve made a rule for myself: if I buy a food magazine, I have to try at least two recipes from it (though nothing happens if I don’t).  So I picked out the September 2011 issue of delicious. because A) I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet and B) we’re in September so it should have seasonal recipes in it (if I’d had September issues from previous years, I’d have mixed them all up and chosen one randomly).  Out came the trusty calculator with its random number generator which pointed me to page 19: a mouth-watering photo of a three-cheese summer vegetable bake.  Sounds yummy to me!

It turned out to be very yummy indeed, although there seemed to be an issue with the stated cooking times because they were certainly not long enough to cook all the vegetables (especially the potatoes) through.  Which disappointed me somewhat I’ve never had an issue with the recipes in delicious. before.  Have I just been lucky up until now?  It was hardly a disaster though – on taking the bake out of the oven to remove the foil and scatter the cheese over the top, it was quite obvious that the vegetables weren’t nearly cooked enough, so it went back in the oven for a little while.  No biggie.  Except that we had lunch (which we eat as our main meal, French-style) rather later than planned.  Once it came out of the oven properly cooked, it was rather delicious, filling but not too heavy, which is always a good thing!  Since the recipe uses seasonal vegetables, I’m also submitting it to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event over at Fabulicious Food.

Three-cheese summer vegetable bake

Serves 4
Adapted from delicious. (September 2011)

I love the combination of vegetables in this dish – I don’t really tend to use fennel much, so it’s something a little different.  I also really liked that this dish was filling, but not too heavy.  I had to increase the cooking times quite significantly to the ones given here so that the vegetables (particularly the potatoes) were cooked through, so do be aware of that, and if you don’t think it’s quite cooked enough, don’t be afraid to pop it back in the oven for another 10 mins or so!

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb
2 large potatoes
1 courgette
1 red pepper
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
Handful fresh parsley
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
100g smoked ham
100g ricotta
250g mozzarella ball
50g parmesan

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Finely slice the fennel bulb, potatoes, courgette and de-seeded red pepper and finely chop the onion, garlic cloves and fresh parsley.  Mix them all together in a bowl with the flour and season well.

3.  Place a third of the vegetable mix in a large ovenproof dish.  Tear the ham into pieces and scatter half of it over the vegetables.  Scatter half of the ricotta and a third of the torn mozzarella over the top of the ham.  Cover with half the remaining vegetable mix, followed by the remaining ham, remaining ricotta and half the remaining mozzarella.  Evenly scatter the remaining vegetable mix over the top.  Set the left over mozzarella aside for later.

4.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour, before removing the foil and scattering the grated parmesan and remaining mozzarella.  Bake for a further 30-35 mins until golden.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Attempting to make summer appear with an aubergine & lamb gratin

I try to eat seasonal (and locally-produced) foods as much as possible – not only is it better for the environment, but produce that is grown in season quite simply tastes better.  During the dark and rainy depths of winter, I sometimes find it a bit difficult to stick to seasonal foods when I’d really like a bit of sunshine in my life and there are some lovely, bright-looking red peppers and courgettes staring me in the face in Tesco’s.  During the summer, however, eating seasonally is pretty easy-peasy.  There are just so many seasonal vegetables and fruit that suddenly we’re all spoilt for choice for a few months (sounds awful, doesn’t it?).

Although it is technically summer at the moment, the weather appears to be completely unaware of this, and a few days ago Edinburgh was subject to some serious thunder and lightning accompanied by torrential rain that was more akin to a tropical rainstorm than anything else (although significantly colder).  Clearly it’s not just during the depths of winter that there’s a distinct lack of sunshine here in Scotland.  At least all the summery vegetables are actually in season at the moment, which helps to bring a little bit of sunshine into the kitchen at least, so when we happened across a recipe for a summery aubergine and lamb gratin the other day, we decided to test it out, partly hoping that it would inspire the sun to make an appearance…  It didn’t, but the recipe was super easy to prepare and turned out to be rather yummy – it would be great if you’re having people over for a summery dinner since it can be prepared in advance and bake away by itself whilst people arrive or the starters are served.  Although we used lamb mince, it’s also a great way to use up any left-over mince, which is always a bonus.  Since aubergines and lamb are both in season at the moment I’m submitting this recipe to the July Simple and in Season blog event over at Fabulicious Food.

Aubergine & lamb gratin

Serves 2
Adapted from my mum’s folder of random recipes

Although we used lamb mince, this would also work with beef mince, and is a great way to use up any left-over mince.  We tried splitting the aubergines into two layers with the beef in the middle, but this resulted in some slightly dry aubergine slices in the top layer, so next time I make this I’ll put all the aubergine slices on the bottom, and I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect this.  This works as an entire course by itself, but if you feel you need more, it would be lovely with couscous.

Ingredients

1 big aubergine
1 onion
1 clove garlic
200g lean lamb mince
Handful fresh parsley
½ tin of chopped tomatoes or 2 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 tbsp breadcrumbs
10g unsalted butter

Directions

1.  Cut the aubergine into 5mm slices, place them in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave them to sit and drain for about an hour.  Pat dry with kitchen roll.  Chop the onions and finely chop the garlic.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Heat some oil in a large frying pan and sauté the aubergine slices until just golden.

3.  In another frying pan, heat some oil and add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 mins.  Add the meat, cook until browned, then add the chopped tomatoes (or tomato paste), finely chopped parsley and seasoning, and fry for a further 5 mins.

4.  Layer the aubergine slices in an oven-proof dish, followed by the meat, onion and tomato mixture.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top to cover, and add a few tiny cubes of butter.

5.  Bake in the oven for 45mins and serve hot.

Enjoy!

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A first adventure at the St Andrews Farmers’ Market

The Farmers’ Market in St Andrews takes place on the first Saturday morning of every month.  I’ve never quite managed to make it – either I’ve forgotten that it’s happening and made other plans, been put off by foul weather or accidentally overslept.  But after living in St Andrews for 3 ½ years, I finally got my act together, and went with Craig on Saturday.  Ya, I know, 3 ½ years – about time!  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of produce!  I could happily have bought about half the market, but luckily managed to restrict myself to a jar of Mojito jelly, some Feta-stuffed red peppers and two types of cheddar.  This was obviously due to my brilliant self-control and had nothing to do with forgetting to check that I had enough cash with me (because I would never be that supremely disorganised, nope, not me).  The stuffed peppers went into a salad for lunch, but I haven’t made any specific plans for the jelly yet – I’ll blog about it when I do.  For today though, I would really just like to share my love for the cheddar with you.

The Isle of Arran Cheese Shop had a stand with different flavoured cheddars, including herbed ones (chives, etc.), a mustard cheddar, a smoked oak one and even a chilli flake cheddar.  But the two that caught my eye were the Arran whisky cheddar and the claret cheddar.  I’ve tried their “normal” cheddar before and liked it, so I would probably have bought them anyway, but we were able to taste them and they turned out to be even more marvellous than I’d expected.  There was no way I was leaving the stand empty-handed (thank goodness Craig lent me some money or this could have been a bit of an issue) and I ended up taking three cheddars (one whisky and two clarets) home with me…

On Sunday, Kat and Craig came over to do some data analysis for one of our modules, but since we’re practically incapable of doing anything that doesn’t involve food, it made sense for us to start off with lunch.  This was obviously the perfect occasion to share some of my newly-acquired Farmers’ Market cheddar in the form of a claret cheddar and onion quiche.  Oh yes.  It turned out rather delicious.  That’s really all there is to say about it, ha ha.  I wish I could take all the credit for it, but when you use good quality, super-tasty ingredients, it’s difficult to go wrong with them (unless you burn them, obviously, or do something really weird).

Cheddar & onion quiche

Serves 6-8 as a starter, 4 as a main course
Recipe from my imagination

This quiche works as a starter, lunch or light dinner, and can be served warm or cold.  Whether you choose to use a flavoured cheddar or not, make sure you pick one that has taste!  I added rosemary because I had some sprigs in the freezer (it freezes well) and it goes with my chosen cheddar, but if you’re using a different flavoured cheddar, make sure to change the herbs to match it.

Ingredients

Quiche pastry (click for recipe)
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
4 tbsp crème fraîche
2 long sprigs of fresh rosemary (about 2 tbsp of stripped fresh leaves)
250g of cheddar, grated
2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)

Directions

1.  Roll out the pastry to about 3-4mm thickness and line a well-buttered 24 or 26cm tarte tin with it.  Trim the edges and prick the pastry with a fork.  Leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins whilst you prepare the quiche filling.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

2.  Roughly dice the onion and chop the garlic cloves.  Sauté them in some oil until softened and just golden.

3.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the crème fraîche, the stripped rosemary leaves (I was a bit short on time, so I didn’t chop the leaves, but you can if you’re really motivated) and some pepper and mix well.  Add 200g of the grated cheddar and the (fairly) cooled onions and garlic and mix well.  Add a little more crème fraîche if you feel this is necessary.

4.  Remove the tarte tin from the fridge, spread the mustard thinly over the base (this is optional, but it helps to bring out the flavours in the quiche), pour the cheddar and onion mix over the top and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining grated cheddar over the top.

5.  Cook for 30-40mins, until the pastry is golden and a toothpick comes out clean (if the top is getting a little too brown, cover with tin foil).  Serve hot or cold with a simple salad on the side.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Ramblings, Recipes, Savoury Foods

What to do if you have 3.5kg of salmon tails residing in your freezer

Over the summer, I worked in one of the University research labs, for a professor who is looking into changes in the condition of Scottish wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations and how this may be tied to climate change.  I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, we processed a lot of salmon in the lab this summer.  44 salmon if I remember correctly. Most of each fish was used for research, with the exception of the tail section, and we didn’t want it to go to waste.  Since the fish were chopped up in an ouside shed rather than in the lab (thus avoiding any potential chemical contamination), the meat was perfectly fine for human consumption, so we shared the tails out amongst the lab members.  Consequently, guess who ended up with about 3.5kg of salmon sitting in her freezer by the end of the summer?  (And that’s not counting the salmon that had already been eaten!)

So I ended up with a load of salmon – what’s the big deal?  Firstly, wild salmon is just so flavourful.  Unfortunately, farmed salmon just doesn’t compare.  Not even remotely.  Secondly, we got the tails for free.  Wild Scottish salmon retails at minimum £20 per kg (depending on your fishmonger).  As a student, that’s a whole achievement in itself!

Now, 3.5kg is a lot of tasty salmon (an entire freezer drawer actually) – what does one do with all those tasty tails?  I can scientifically gut and dissect a fish, I can slice through a fish’s brain and find the otoliths for you, but I’m no fishmonger – I can’t presentably fillet a fish and the tails make rather tiny slices.  So no salmon fillets/steaks for us.  How about… quiche!  The great thing about quiche in this particular case is that the salmon doesn’t have to be perfectly sliced or anything, so it can be steamed and then just flaked off the bones (so much easier than trying to fillet it before steaming).  These wild salmon had so much taste in them that the quiche didn’t really need additional flavours so I only added an onion and some garlic, but quiche recipes are always flexible and with less flavourful salmon you could add wilted spinach or cooked broccoli.

I defrosted the last of the salmon for Burns Night (it seemed an apt occasion – and yes, due to deadlines, this is a delayed post).  I’d made salmon quiche so many times over the summer and last semester that I really thought my friends would be a bit fed up of it.  I was trying to think of something else to do for a starter, perhaps salmon mousse, but they actually requested quiche.  So I made “lab salmon” quiche one last time…  I was really touched when they told me they’d been looking forward to it all day (thanks guys – I hope it lived up to your expectations!)  This time we accompanied it with Pieropan Soave Pieropan 2009 (Italy), but we’ve previously enjoyed it with Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris 2009 (Chile) and Crazy by Nature Shotberry Chardonnay 2008 (New Zealand).

Salmon quiche

Serves 6-8 as a starter, 4 as a main course
Recipe from my imagination

This quiche works as a starter, lunch or light dinner, and can be served warm or cold.  The salmon has to be cooked beforehand – I marinated it in some olive oil, pepper and herbes de Provence for at least 15 mins before steaming it in my pressure cooker.  If you do likewise, reserve the marinade oil to sauté the onions in.

Ingredients

Quiche pastry (click for recipe)
300g of cooked salmon, flaked (skinned and de-boned if necessary)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
5 tbsp crème fraîche
5 tsp herbes de Provence (at least!)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)

Directions

1.  Roll out the pastry to about 3-4mm thickness and line a well-buttered 24 or 26cm tarte tin with it.  Trim the edges and prick the pastry with a fork.  Leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins whilst you prepare the quiche filling.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

2.  Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic cloves.  Sauté them in some olive oil (or the reserved oil from the salmon marinade) until softened and golden.

3.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the crème fraîche, the herbs and some pepper and mix well.  Add the flaked salmon and the (fairly) cooled onions and garlic and mix well.  Add a little more crème fraîche if you feel this is necessary.

4.  Remove the tarte tin from the fridge, spread the mustard thinly over the base (this is optional, but it helps to bring out the flavours in the quiche), pour the salmon mix over the top and spread it evenly.

5.  Cook for 30-40mins, until the pastry is golden and a toothpick comes out clean (if the top is getting a little too brown, cover with tin foil).  Serve hot or cold with a simple salad on the side (oak leaf salad and walnut oil vinaigrette both go really well with salmon).

Enjoy!

PS – Uhm, ya, I really did put the scientific name for Atlantic salmon up there in that first paragraph.  I left it in because it amused me that I didn’t initially notice.  What can I say?  I’m in the middle of writing a review essay for my dissertation – it’s kind of automatic.  You’re lucky I haven’t thrown in any references.

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Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods, Student Life