Friday, 30 April 2010

'Wild garlic' wedges

Early in the week, I had to travel to Perth for work.
I would have loved to have played tourist there, but other than walking through the centre admiring some of the public art. I did not get time to see much of it.
Maybe next time I'll be able to explore it more.
This is what I call my lazy day food: peel it, chop it and then roast it.
However with these wedges, in the last 10 minutes of cooking I added in some minced 'wild garlic'. There are days when only crispy, roasted potato wedges will do.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Rhubarb and Ginger Loaves

Around this time last year I was able to 'force' some of my own rhubarb. It was incredibly delicious, but in the process of ‘forcing’ it, I think I may have killed my rhubarb plant. I actually grew it from seed and was so proud of it. Instead of being considerate and letting it get become strong and established, I greedily demanded it produce some luminous pink forced rhubarb. Early this year, when I went to check out its progress in the corner of my garden plot. I noticed my rhubarb plant was no more. Maybe it was me exerting so much pressure upon it, maybe it was the dingy corner it was in, or maybe it was just the cold weather. I have replaced it with a 'Timperly' variety, but I won’t be able to reap any of its benefits until next year.

Anyway, this year I have been patiently waiting for this seasons crop of rhubarb. It slow appearance at the grocery stores, farm shops and supermarkets has been blamed on the unusually cold weather which included a lot of snow. Those that had appeared on the shelves were of course imported, until early this week when I spotted some English rhubarb. Most of the rhubarb grown in England is grown in a small area of West Yorkshire between Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield famously dubbed as the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’. The Scottish ones have yet to grace the shelves. Maybe I’ll find some this weekend?!

Well as much as I tried to resist, I just could not walk by and ignore this English rhubarb. Its seaside sticker rock pink allured me and the thought of its sharp mouth-puckering goodness, well just tempted me.
Now that I had it in my bag, I wondered what to make with it. I could just make a crumble, a cake or even a tart, but with the weather being warmish, neither appealed to me. Instead I decided to make some simple 'rhubarb and ginger loaves'. These are really airy light muffins made in individual loaf tins. These are not overly sweet, instead allowing the flavour of the ginger came through and the rhubarb, ahhhh was just delightful on the tongue.
Rhubarb and ginger loaves
Makes 10
Ingredients
260g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
110g caster sugar
140g - 150g fresh rhubarb, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
284ml buttermilk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of crystallized or preserved ginger, cut into pieces
Method
Into a large bowl, sift the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt. The stir in the sugar and rhubarb. In another bowl, mix the egg, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix briefly until just combined. Spoon the batter into the loaf tins, or muffin cups, then sprinkle evenly with the crystallized ginger pieces. Bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until well risen and golden. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn into a wire rack. Best eaten on the day.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Savoury rice with 'Wild garlic' and peas

One of the good things I've learned about 'wild garlic', other than its versatility and taste, is that it keeps very well in the fridge. If you don't want your fridge smelling like a garlic keeper, just wrap the wild garlic gently in some newspaper. Its working well for me and its been there since Saturday.

I can't believe I still have so much of it. It really is one of those ingredients where a little goes a long way, just like this recipe.
This dish didn't work as well, not because it was a poor combination. No, that part was fine. What let it down, was me. I messed up slightly with the water ratio to the rice, adding a little too much. So instead of the rice separating like a good pilau/pilav, it was a little sticky like risotto. Still it was edible. The other thing I should mention, this dish did not taste overly garlicky, as the flavour of the wild garlic was somewhat lost in the cooking process. Therefore, if you do wish to make this dish, I would recommend stirring in some fresh minced wild garlic just before serving.
Savoury rice with wild garlic and peas
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 large green chilli, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of cloves (optional)
1/2 whole black pepper (optional)
300g Basmati rice, rinsed clear of starch
200g frozen peas
Handful of roughly chopped wild garlic
Salt to taste
600ml water or Vegetable stock
Method
In a pan that has a fitted lid heat the oil, then add the onions andchilli and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the spices then cook for a further 5 minutes until the spices have become aromatic and are starting to look dark in the pan,
Add the rice and cook for a minute, stirring well to coat the rice in the spiced oil.
Add the peas and stir for a couple of minutes, then add the wild garlic and salt to the pan. Pour in the liquid and stir well and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover with lid and cook for 25 minutes. Do not take the lid off or stir after this, as you want fluffy rice, not sticky rice. After 25 minutes check if the rice is cooked and the water absorbed. Give it another 5 minutes if necessary. Stir in additional minced wild garlic if you wish.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Curly Wurly Kale

For those of you who live in the U.K, the title may suggest a homage to a chewy toffee chocolate strip called Curly Wurly. So called because of the squiggly pattern you saw upon unwrapping the bar. It certainly was one of my favourite childhood chocolate treats. I recently learned that Curly Wurly was voted the best 'retro' chocolate bar in the U.K. Anyway, as much as I would like to share some of my childhood memories of eating this sweet, chewy, melty chocolate bar, I must not get distracted. Instead I shall focus on the much healthier vegetable that shares part of its name with the curly wurly, the green leaf known as curly kale.

Curly kale is a member of the same family as cabbage Brassica oleracea. Kale is such a robust crop and another good one to grow in if like me you live in a cold region as its pretty resistant to frost. It comes in purple and green, flat leaved, crinkly and curly. I personally prefer the taste of curly kale much more than Cavolo nero aka black kale. Kale is also a good alternative to cabbage or spinach and its quite versatile too. I was originally going to make a hearty curly kale and dal soup, but changed my mind as the weather seemed to be changing.
Instead I made this Sauteed mushrooms, kale and chickpea. For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, will know that I am slowly dipping my culinary toes into the Oriental larder. I am trying to become adventurous in my use of some of the bottled ingredients, namely sesame oil, peanut oil, Teriyaki and plum sauce which are all still relatively new to both my taste buds and nose.
Now I know what you see below cannot be claimed as Oriental cuisine, but the writer of the original recipe describes the dish as a stir fry, because it is cooked in that manner. I’d probably just describe it as fusion food. Anyway, I have to admit I really actually enjoyed the flavours in this dish. It was a welcome change as the past few days I have eaten a lot of dairy based dishes and this one was vegan.
Sauteed mushrooms, kale and chickpeas
Serve 2 - 3
Ingredients
2 tablespoon olive oil
250g chestnut mushroom, sliced
250g curly kale, pulled of the stalks
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoon sesame seeds
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of spicy chilli sauce (optional)
Method
Heat the olive oil in a wide pan, add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, until it starts oozing out its juices, then stir in the kale and cook for about 15 minutes until the kale begins to soften, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, before adding chickpeas, sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, pepper and optional chilli sauce. Cook on low heat for a further 5 minutes for the chickpeas to heat through and the flavours to infuse. Then serve with plain boiled rice. Adapted from Barbara Kafka Vegetable Love.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Molten brown gingerbread pancakes

The taste of the gingerbread cupcakes is still lingering, both in my head and on my tongue. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across a gingerbread pancake recipe in one of my cookbooks. So to pick up on this gingery journey, I made some Gingerbread pancakes for breakfast.

It takes a bit of practice to make these. I had trouble flipping them over in the frying pan. Then I realised I wasn't cooking the one side enough. It needed to bubble and firm up a little before flipping over. Also I had to ensure the heat was right, too hot and the pancakes would char, too low and they looked undercooked. But after making the first few, I finally got a hang of this skill.
These pancakes are more molten brown from the molasses and the dark spices. I especially liked the surprise hit of the freshly ground cloves. These pancakes were served with whipped cream, maple syrup and glace preserved ginger pieces for extra bite.
If you have any pancakes left over, just warm them in the oven and serve with vanilla ice-cream which is exactly what I'll be doing in a little while.
As this is an American recipe, the measurements come in cups rather than grams. If you think the quantity below is too much, you can always divide the quantity of the ingredients. My next ginger flavoured recipe is waffles!
Gingerbread Pancakes
Serves 4 - 6
Ingredients
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried ginger
¼ ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup sunflower oil
Method
Combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Combine the wet and dry mixing well.
Oil a medium frying pan and ladle about ¼ cup of batter onto the hot surface for each pancake. Let the first side cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Turn once and cook on the second side briefly to finish. From The Tassajara Recipe book.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

More vegetarian 'wild garlic' recipes

Funny, a few years ago I could not find wild garlic anywhere and now, without me even actively foraging for it, I'm finding it. I came across some more yesterday. Well, I could not walk away empty handed.

I would have been more than happy to have repeated some of the 'wild garlic' recipes I made early this month, such as Wild Garlic Potato Cakes, Wild Garlic, Potato, Feta and Pine-nuts QuicheWild Garlic frittata Muffins, Wild Garlic RisottoSavoury Rice with Wild Garlic and Peas, Wild Garlic WedgesWild Garlic and Walnut Pesto and finally Wild Garlic Soup, but the experimental home cook in me wanted to do something different with it this time.
So for brunch we had 'Wild Garlic Poached Eggs', but before steaming the eggs I had minced some wild garlic and added it to the pan before breaking the eggs in.
I think this could work well in those fancy egg coddlers too. Then all you have to do is dip in your wholemeal or white bread soldiers.
Next on the menu was a 'Wild Garlic Potato and Bean Salad'.
This recipe is vegan. Once the potatoes were cooked, I added a tin of mixed pulses, minced wild garlic, drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. This was a substantial meal, no accompaniment were necessary.

Finally a 'Wild Garlic Dip' served with pitta bread chips.
This 'Wild Garlic Dip' is made with a tablespoon or two of minced wild garlic stirred into Greek Yogurt, then seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Simple and delicious. For other wild garlic recipes on my blog, please follow this link.

A little gardening and a little farming

Yesterday was another busy day playing tourist in Scotland. Well why not, the sun was shining unlike today.

The first place was Greenbank Gardens. Greenbank Gardens is just over five miles south of Glasgow city centre. The Walled Garden was gifted to the Trust in 1976. It was originally designed to grow vegetables and fruit, but these days its mainly flowers and shrubbery. The garden hosts about 12 domestic sized beds, each focusing on a different theme. I liked them all, but for obvious reasons I liked the herb garden the most. All of the beds were divided by tall plants and ornamental hedging. The garden boasts over 3,700 plants depending on the season. These include spring bulbs, apple and cherry blossom, astilbe, dahlias, roses, azalea, rhododendron and many others that I have yet to learn. Again we took loads of colourful pictures, but had to be selective.
The sound of water leads you to this rather sexy looking Green water nymph. I apologise, I can't remember here official name, but she was originally displayed at the Empire Exhibition in 1938, an international exposition held in Glasgow before she found her final home here. She is rather elegant.
There are over 447 varieties of Narcissus in this garden, also known as daffodils to the likes of me. These are a few that charmed me. There was also one in a peachy colour.
Here are a few topiary animals: a rabbit, a snail and a wee Scottie dog (we think) unless its a terrier. All of them could do with a trim!
An old fashioned water pump. The greenhouse was closed so we couldn't see what was inside it.
Many of the benches here were dedicated to people who have passed away.
We spent a lot of time in the walled garden and even ate our sandwiches under the cherry blossom tree, only because we wanted to enjoy the blazing sunshine. But the history of Greenbank House is just as interesting. The house and its walled garden were originally built for a local man called Robert Allason in the 1760s. Before he set up with his brothers as traders and merchants in Port Glasgow, Robert was originally a baker. This later extended into land holdings, slavery and tobacco in the Caribbean. Of course, like those who participated in the Slave Trade, this made the Allasons very wealthy. It was from the profit of this, that Robert was able to return to his hometown and establish Greenbank House. There are a number of historic buildings in Scotland that have roots in slavery.
Anyway, after enjoying the sunshine and the beauty of the grounds. We drove to the National Museum of Rural Life. I had fun playing a butterfly. Now this is a costume I wouldn't mind wearing. I think its so much better than playing a princess.
The museum displays a number of farming artifacts from across Scotland including tractors. Here are some things that caught my interest. Some old fashioned milk bottles.
Original packaging for one of the Scottish Oatcake brands. One of these days, I must try and make some of my own. The depictions below were interesting.
1. An auction of a West Indian Pineapple in 1844 2. Frozen meat being unloaded from Australia 1881 3. Italian Warehouse, Campbeltown c1910 4. Scottish food exports. These days we are fortunate to be able to access fruit, vegetables and ingredients from all over the world. We have so much choice and have become more worldly through different cuisines. However the importing of affordable food, has had an impact on home-grown produce. Unfortunately, we Brits eat more fruit and vegetables from overseas and less of what is grown in the U.K. Why is that? I know the reason, sometimes an imported cauliflower is much cheaper than one produced locally.
After having a wander inside the Museum, we took a rather bumpy tractor ride described as 'the Doogly Shoogly' up to the 1950s style working farm and farmhouse. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the farm with its Ayrshire dairy cows, black face sheep and skippy lambs, Tamworth pigs and clucky hens.
A handsome Clydesdale horse gifted to the farm from someone who resided in the Isle of Arran. I think she was wondering where her sugar cubes were. I didn't have any to share.
The mill.
Inside the farmhouse, the lady informed us about some traditional thrifty crafts. This image shows the process of making a mat from recycled rags and a jute sack.
Some old fashioned cookie cutters. Now that is one straight ginger man, and a very tough looking boot.
Isn't that a classy looking toaster?!
Then into the vegetable patch. Not much growing at this time of year as you would expect, but you could see the blackcurrants, gooseberries and rhubarb.
These rhubarb forcers are wonderful. Last year when I forced my rhubarb, I used an upturned plastic bin. It may not have been very pretty to the eye, but it worked very well. Still I envy these sturdy rhubarb forcers. MMmmm can't wait to eat some seasonal rhubarb, sweet and sharp.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Ruby Chard 'Heart' Tart

A relatively quick and lazy evening meal today. Its been a long busy week at work and I just want to enjoy the rest of the evening. I can potter around a bit more in the kitchen this weekend, if I so wish.
This is the tender Ruby chard that I had picked up from the Pillars of Hercules early this week. The deep red blood like veins are really striking.
Recently, fellow blogger Alessandra commented on my blog about the taste of Swiss chard. I have to be honest and had not thought there was much difference in the taste from one chard to another, but actually the more I thought about it, I convinced myself there really was. I find the ruby chard flavour a bit earthy, almost like beetroot. The green variety like spinach, the silverline (white) chard a little like celery and the canary yellow - oh I can't remember.
Anyway, I decided to roll and shape the puff pastry into the shape of a heart. No romantic reasons behind - good job - after all who wants to cut a whole heart into pieces?! Certainly not me, my days of breaking hearts is well over. I have only one heart to hold close.
Ruby Chard Heart Tart
Serves 2
Ingredients
250g puff pastry, rolled out and cut into a heart shape if you so wish
100g - 150g ruby chard, cooked for 3 minutes in boiling water then drained and spread onto the pastry. Sprinkle with 75g - 100g feta cheese, crumbled. Season with pepper and bake in oven gas mark 6 for 25- 30 minutes.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Kingly cabbage

The January King cabbage is a magnificent vegetable and worthy of its royal title. The outer leaves of the heart are lightly crinkled and coloured in a purple-red hue that is just so glorious to the eyes. It kind of reminds me of a crown.

I actually found it really hard and heart breaking (well almost) cutting into this king of cabbages, but it had to be done. As admiring it in the vegetable rack was not going to stop my belly from rumbling. It was time for it to go into the cooking pot and feed me and my husband.
In the past and due to my naivety, I used to believe that January King was so called because it only grew in January, but of course that was not the case. Later I learned this cabbage earned its name because of its ability to remain hardy and hearty in cold environments. Its certainly a good variety to grow in Scotland (this one came from Fife) as not even severe frost seems to bother its leaves that look deceptively fragile.
In this recipe the cabbage is treated like tagliatelle and served with a creamy sauce with garlic and herbs. Unfortunately the beautiful purple tinge disappeared on cooking, but the cabbage itself was crisp, crunchy and flavourful.
Cabbage tagliatelle with cream cheese and mushroom sauce
Ingredients
Serves 2 - 3 with accompaniments
450g cabbage such as January King or sweetheart
125g button or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
90g Bouisin cream cheese with garlic and herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Method
Shred the cabbage into fine, long strips, like tagliatelle. Cook in boiling water, about four minutes or until done. Fry the mushrooms in the oil for about five minutes, until tender. Drain the cabbage and add to the pan wit the mushrooms. Stir in the Boursin and add to the pan with the mushrooms. Stir in the Boursin and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately with some potatoes. Recipe adapted from Rose Elliots Low Carb Vegetarian Diet.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Swiss chard and black olive Quiche

This is one of dishes I made with the vegetables I got at the weekend, Swiss chard and black olive quiche. It looks pretty good here as it had just come out of the oven, so its still glistening.
Whereas here, it is cold and looking exactly like what is: a cold quiche.
It was quite tasty though. When you bite into this pastry, the crust is quite delicate and crumbly. The Swiss chard being quite young and small, unlike those I am holding in my header picture (see above) tasted more like spinach. D said he liked the surprise hit of blue cheese. I didn't know quite what he meant then I remembered that I had just randomly dotted the cheese on the quiche as it was quite soft, so it had just melted where I had dropped it. This certainly is a flavourful quiche.
Swiss chard and black olive quiche
For the pastry
170g plain flour
A pinch of salt
30g solid vegetable fat
55g butter
Cold water to mix
Method
Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add a tablespoon water to the mixture. Mix to a firm dough. It may be necessary to add more water. Chill, wrapped for at least 30 minutes before using.
For the Filling
225g Swiss chard, washed and chopped
45g butter
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
90g St Agur cheese or other soft blue cheese,
1 whole egg,
1 egg yolk
150ml milk
150ml double cream
8 black olives, pitted and halved
Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 6. Roll out the pastry and use to line a 7 inch dish. Chill for 45 minutes, then back blind. Lower the oven to gas mark 4.
Melt the butter in pan, add the onion and fry over low heat until soft and golden. Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes, then stir in the chard, season with salt and pepper and fry briskly for a further five minutes. Spoon into the cooked pastry case. Dot the mixture evenly with the cheese. Whisk the egg and egg yolk together with the milk and cream. Pour into the pastry case. Scatter the olives on top and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes until the filling is just set and golden brown on top. Adapted from Leiths Vegetarian Bible.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Roasted Shallot and apricot salad with goats cheese

When I read this months No Croutons Required Challenge had to feature the allium family. I was quite excited as I don't often eat the allium as the focus of a dish. Its normally part of the sauce base or just as a garnish, so this really was a challenge. We could choose from onions, leeks, spring onions, garlic, chives and even wild garlic, but I decided to go with some British grown Echalion shallots which are quite long. Then the question was should it be a soup or a salad. Well with the sun shine hanging about. I went for the salad option.

This is not an everyday salad (thank goodness). I can't imagine me eating this at home that often. Its the kind of salad you'd find on a restaurant menu.
These long shallots are roasted with balsamic vinegar for an intensely sweet-sour flavour. The shallots partnered well with the sweetness of the apricots and twang of the cheese. You could also taste a hint of the rosemary (from my garden) in the background. All in all it was a generous salad, but not one I would make in a hurry at home as you do need to marinade the cheese overnight. This is definitely restaurant style food, not homely for this home girl!

I better hurry and put my cyber skates on as I am pushing it with the deadline which is right now. I may have to grovel to Jacqueline, she will be well within her right to say 'sorry mangocheeks, its just to late to be included', but I can just try. So I better go and submit it to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes right now. Jacqueline alternately hosts No Croutons Required with Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. Its a wonderful event where participants are encouraged to submit either a vegetarian soup or a salad. I'd encourage you to participate, if you haven't already. Just for the fun, plus its a great way to 'mingle' with other fellow bloggers.
Roasted shallot and apricot salad with goats cheese
Serves 2
Ingredients
1 goats cheese, halved cross ways
200g shallots, peeled
50ml balsamic vinegar
100g small beetroots, cooked and cut in wedges
For the marinade
100ml olive oil
1 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing
50ml orange juice or juice from 1 lemon
50g dried apricots, soaked in water for 2 hours and sliced
1 teaspoon walnuts, roughly chopped
Method
For the marinade: combine the ingredients in a bowl. Place the goats cheeses in a shallow dish and pour over the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, place the shallots in a roasting tin. Pour the marinade from the cheese over the shallots, set aside the cheese and cover. Stir om the balsamic vinegar. Bake at gas mark 6 for 45 minutes until the shallots are tender. Strain the juices left in the tin and reserve. Add the beetroot to the shallots and return tot the oven to keep warm.
Blend together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and add the strained juices from the shallots. Place the cheese on a baking sheet under a hot grill to warm through slightly, but do not let them melt. Place one portion of cheese on each plate and surround with the beetroot and shallots. Pour the dressing around the cheese and vegetables. Serve at room temperature. Adapted from Paul Gaylers Vegetarian Cookbook