Saturday, 31 July 2010

Sunflower turning up to the skies

This is the first sunflower in my garden to open its little head. For the past two days I've been admiring and looking at it from the flat window.
Some apples hanging in on the tree. Still a long way from cooking with them.
Blueberries are fattening and beginning to ripen.
I've harvested all of the cauliflowers in the garden. Look they've begun to spurt. I should have harvested them a bit earlier, when I was boasting about them. Ah they'll still be edible in a soup or a bake.
Here's a 'Cauliflower and couscous roast' - an all in one dish. Not exactly cauliflower and cheese, but its packed with flavour from the capers, cheese and texture from the couscous and cauliflower. Although its creamy, its not claggy at all. Its actually quite light to eat.
Creamy cauliflower and couscous roast
Serves 4
Ingredients
500ml vegetable stock
700g cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 teaspoons mustard
25g butter
200g couscous
125g milk
100g light cream cheese
100g boursin cheese
2 tablespoon capers, rinsed
A handful of fresh chives, snipped
Salt
Cayenne pepper
Method
In a large saucepan add the florets along with the stock and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is just tender. Strain the cauliflower over a bowl, reserving the liquid, then beat the mustard and butter into the liquid. Put the couscous into another bowl, pour the liquid over the couscous and let soak for about 5 minutes. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer in an ovenproof dish.
Put the milk into a saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Beat in the cream cheese to form a thick sauce, then pour over the cauliflower.
Fluff up the soaked couscous with a fork, then stir in the capers, Gruyere and chives. Spoon the couscous mixture over the cauliflower, sprinkle with cayenne and bake in a preheated oven at Gas mark 6 for 30 – 40 minutes until golden. Serve immediately. Adapted from New Kitchen Garden by Adam Kaplin with recipes by Celia Brooks Brown.
To end, some of you will have heard me mentioning the menacing skies in Scotland. Well there are evening when the skies here are magnificent. Look at these.
Taken in my garden few days ago. Sometimes the magic in the skies just take my breath away. Hope your all having a lovely weekend.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Spiced green beans with Tamarind Tofu

Is that fish steaks on your plate?!

I agree, sure does look like that, but let me assure you its 100% vegan.
After making the broad beans in tamarind sauce, I decided to carry out an experiment with the tamarind concentrate: Baked Tamarind tofu. Despite how it looks, it worked out pretty good. The flavour of the thick tamarind sauce was sharp. You could call it a BBQ sauce I guess, I honestly wouldn't know as I've never had any, or made any in my entire life; and I am a woman of a certain age now. Nope, it was not part of my childhood, teenage or early adulthood days. The tamarind sauce actually reminded us both a little of Brown sauce, just a lot more zing and zang in the mouth. So I’ve reduced the tamarind a touch. Our only complaint with this dish was the tofu itself. Its the brand I use often, but this particular this slab of tofu was actually quite soft, instead of firm. This detracted a little of our enjoyment of the meal.

I served the tamarind tofu with some spiced potatoes and the remaining runner, green (and yellow) beans in my freezer from last year. These were good and a good way to use up frozen beans.
Tamarind Tofu
Serves 3 – 4
Ingredients (can be halved)500g firm tofu
2 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
1 chilli pepper, seeded and chopped
Pinch of salt
1 to 1½ tablespoon tamarind concentrate
100ml water
1 teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 6
Slice the tofu into ¼ inch slices, lightly fry in 1 tablespoon of oil and set aside
Saute the onions, garlic and chilli in the remaining oil, and blend with all the other ingredients until smooth.
Arrange the tofu slices on a lightly greased baking dish, pour the sauce over the tofu and bake for 15-25 minutes.
Spiced green beans with new potatoes
Serves 2 - 4 as an accompaniment
Ingredients200g new potatoes, steamed, halved and set aside
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of black mustard seeds
1 generous teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander, freshly ground
300g green beans, topped and tailed
Salt to taste
100ml water
Method
Heat the oil in a wide pan, when hot add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook until the cumin is dark and the mustard pops. Add the potatoes and green beans and cook for a few minutes, before adding the water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook gently for 10 minutes, or until the beans are tender, but still crunchy.
Uncover and turn up the heat. Stir in the ground coriander and seal to taste and cook rapidly for a few minutes until most of the water evaporates. Idea inspired by Stones Cookbook.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Celery pies with marinated cauliflower bean salad

More veggie pies.

I had picked up a bunch of celery stalks about a week and was reminded of its lovely presence, when I was looked in the fridge and thought hmmm I better use these up before they become too limp. I decided to make a bean salad, but thought why not add celery to some mashed potato. Then I thought, well why not use this celery-potato as a pie filling. So glad I did, it worked a treat.

So may I present to you another portable pie to take into work; and if you want to make more of a meal of this, why not accompany with a cold bean salad.
The cauliflowers in the garden are starting to spurt too, so I have had to harvest some of them. So what was just going to be a celery and bean salad, had a steamed cauliflower added to it. There is cauliflower in the salad honest, see the butter bean with the oregano leaf, follow it down and you will see a floret tucked there.
Celery, potato and Stilton pies
Makes 4
Ingredients
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ head of celery, about 6 stalks, peel the stringy outer skin of the celery with a potato peeler, wash and then thinly slice
6 shallots or 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
200g cold mashed potatoes,
Optional: 100g Stilton or blue cheese
Method
For the filling
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the celery and the shallots, over and cook over low heat until soft and translucent. Remove from the heat. Stir in the mashed potatoes with seasoning and combine well.
For hot water crust pastry see this recipe
Fill half of the pastry with the mashed potato filling. Top with optional cheese, then layer again with mashed potato topping. If not using cheese, just fill pastry shell with filling. Top with pastry lids and bake in oven until golden.
Marinated cauliflower, celery and bean salad
Serves 4 – 6 as an accompaniment
Ingredients
1 head of celery, about 6 stalks, peel the stringy outer skin of the celery with a potato peeler. Wash and cut into slices
1x400g butter beans, drained and rinsed
1x400g kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
Florets and stalks from 1 small head of cauliflower, steamed until tender. Set aside
For the dressing
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
2 tablespoons chopped fresh celery leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Method
In a large bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients and stir to combine well. Add the celery, beans, cauliflower and seasoning to taste. Stir well. Leave to marinate for at least an hour before serving.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

East neuk and crannies

Well on Monday work took me to the the East Neuk, or corner. So to combine work work a little pleasure, we took the tourist route up along the coast towards the East Neuk of Fife. East Neuk is one of the main tourist attractions of The Kingdom of Fife, Scotland. It is a stretch of beautiful coastline starting at St Andrews, followed by a number of fishing villages with working, yet idyllic harbours, such as Anstruther, Cellardyke, Colinsburgh, Crail, Elie, Largo, Lundin Links, Pittenweem, and St Monans.
First stop was St Andrews Beach and I couldn't stop inhaling the smell and taste of the sea salt in my throat.
Along the coast you will find stacked fishing creels or are they crails?! Almost look like works of art.
No woof woofing dogs allowed to run freely on this beach.
Whenever we seem to travel, the Scottish skies always seem to want to threaten to dampen us and make my wavy hair curly (which I secretly love).
This time though, it didn't rain heavy, so we walked slowly towards these collection of ruins that make up St Andrews Cathedral.
I enjoyed walking here, it was pretty quite. It was quite peaceful as there were not too many tourists like us about.
For the golfers amongst you, this is Tommy Morris's grave.
We couldn't leave St Andrew without our own trophy photograph of the world famous course (that's golf course, of course!).
as well as a quick visit to St Andrews University quadrant. I'm a little biased. I went to Glasgow University and think the quads there are just, if not even more impressive. Our next stop would have been Crail which has been described to many as having the most photographed harbour in Scotland, but it didn't happen as we missed our turning and continued onwards bound to Anstruther, prounounced an-struther. Locals call it enster. I read somewhere that in Gaelic Anstruther means ‘the little stream’, if this is wrong I am sure a Anstruther resident will let me know.
Well you've all heard the saying when in Rome, do as Romans do. Well when a tourist in Anstruther, do as tourists do - have yourself a fish supper, or if your a vegetarian or vegan 'a chippy'. The seafront is full of chip shops vying for your custom, the busiest of them all was Anstruther Fish Bar. Many of you will have heard of it has won numerous awards since 2000, namely for serving the Best Fish supper in Scotland and even the U.K. For those of you who live overseas. A fish supper in Scotland means a large portion of chips with two pieces of fish. In Scotland the fish traditionally served is haddock, whereas down South it was traditionally Cod.
Apparently the queues for its takeaway fish supper run for yards along the street at weekends, well this was a weekday and I couldn't see any sign of a queues, until of course we walked in. Oh my goodness it as busy for both the restaurant and the Take-away. I was happy to go elsewhere as there was not a shortage of other chippies on the street, including the Wee Chippy that is popular with the locals and was voted by the Observer last year as the best place in the world to eat fish and chips, but D's attitude was now that we were in the queue, we'd see if the chips were to our liking.
Before tucking in and admiring the view of the harbour opposite us, I insisted that D take a photograph of our rather generous portion of chips. Now onto the taste and flavour. I have to admit, though fresh, I actually was not keen on the potato, it tasted a little waxy for me and for this reason got a thumbs down from me - but hey that is my opinion, all those awards can't be wrong and its about the fish supper, not so much the chips. But before leaving Anstruther, I did get to eat some rather tasty chips (read on).
One of the impacts of having an Award winning eatery in a small place, whether a chippie, restaurant inspired the other places around it to 'raise their game too'. So yes, I have to admit I did get to enjoy some of the best chips I've ever eaten in Anstruther. In the evening, D and me went for a meal, well affordable pub grub. D of course this time had to have a fish supper and me more chips. Oh my goodness these were good and rather tasty. The potatoes were fluffy on the inside and the chips scuffed a little with a coating and so crisp. So where was this place. It was The Bank Bar and Kitchen. It didn't have much in the way of vegetarian options, but eck the chips were good.
Being once a fishing community, you could see traces of its history in the buildings. Just take a look at this weather vane in the shape of a fish.
Away from the harbour
to the streets of Anstruther
I was enchanted by these. Can you guess what it is, there a little aged, (click on image). Its a wall covered completely with shells. This wall is decorated in the design of diamonds and a heart.
Charming or what?!

For those of you this is the birthplace of Thomas Chalmers, one of Scotland's most famous sons. He was the leader of the Free Church of Scotland.
This place won't mean much to anyone but it does to me, it was my first visit to East Neuk. I used to work for an organisation that encouraged young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to access the outdoors, both for enjoyment and for therapy. One of these active trips involved practicing kayaking in this safe little spot.
Yesterday, after fulfilling work commitments it was homeward bound. We stopped briefly at Elie and Pittenweem where the High street looked rather festive in a summery kinda way, dressed colourful in bunting. Then finally in St Monan, from a distant we got attracted or should I say distracted by a rather unusual sight in Scotland, a windmill that we just had to have a closer peek, especially as I had never seen one up close. As I got out of the car once again I was inhaling sea salt. Within a few minutes of climbing up the spiral staircase to the top of the windmill, I learned a little more about St Monans Windmill, its background and its connection to the salt production industry.
Ah other than potato chips, I did get to see some healthy growing fruit. One of the largest ever pear trees in St Andrews laden, and I mean laden with pears. Sadly they were about a month away from ripening, so no free food or foraging for me.
I also saw these berries in Anstruther. I am convinced that they are wild cherries, in fact I tasted one (don't tell D, he's worried one of these days I'll poison myself) and I'm still here today. It was bitter. What do you think it is? Well even if they were cherries, they were not quite ripe. So another fruit that was not ready for my picking.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Wilted kale and chickpea pies

So here in a different guise are the tomatoes and kale that I picked up at the farmers market. Here they are transformed into compact, portable 'kale and chickpea pies'
I've been making hot water crust pastry for years now with various vegetarian: mosaic carrot and green bean pie, spinach and feta pies and vegan fillings: carrot and Brussels sprouts pie and basil - cauliflower pies. This time, I thought I'd pay a little more attention to the presentation of the outer shell too. As my previous efforts, although I love them and been rather proud of the way they've turned out, I have to admit they have been rather rustic. This time, the outer casing of the pies are rather elegant. Just look at those curves from the fluted tins. Groovy.

For individual pies, I actually found these pies rather big for me to eat in one go. I ate half and came back to the other much later, whereas D seemed to have performed some kind of magic disappearing act of the pie. One minute it was there on the plate, the next it was gone.
Although I have put an optional glaze suggestion in the recipe. I have to admit I did not glaze any of my pies and they tasted just fine. The only thing I would definitely do a little different is add a tomato to the filling, as the filling, namely the chickpeas were a little dry and would have benefited from a little moisture. Hence the reason I served it with a quick home-made tomato relish (above). But other than that it was really good. One to keep in mind for a day trip or a picnic.
Kale and Chickpea pie
Makes 4
Ingredients
For the filling
1 x 400g tin, cooked chickpeas, drained and set aside
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
3 large handfuls kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Method
Heat the olive oil in a wide pan and cook the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and kale and cook until the kale has wilted and the garlic soft. Add the chickpeas, optional: chopped tomato, seasoning to taste and a splash of water and cook a little further until well combined. Gently with a masher, press down some of the chickpeas. Set aside to cool. Note: If you don't mash the chickpeas, you will find when you bite into the pie or cut into it, some of the chickpeas will come skating out. Mashing them a little will encourage them to stick together.
For the hot water crust pastry
To line 4 tins x 5 inch by 1 1/2 inch deep or slightly smaller
Ingredients
350g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
100g solid vegetable fat, chopped (I use Trex)
100ml water
Olive oil or beaten egg to glaze (optional)
Method
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Melt the fat in the water and heat until about to boil.
Add the liquid to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed.
Now you have to work very quickly, as the dough will get cold and be tough to work with.
Divide the dough in four. With one quarter roll out the dough quickly and line the tin, pressing down so that it is snug to the tin and in its grooves. Then fill the tin with quarter of the cooled filling. Press gently down with a spoon. Cut of excess dough around the tin and roll out again so that it fits the top of the pie filling as a lid. It will overlap, just cut off the excess with a knife to make it look presentable. Place the lid over the filling, then gently press or pinch into the side of the pie so it seals or with a fork. Repeat with the remaining three.
Optional: Brush with egg wash or oil and make a small steam hole in each pie.
Bake in preheated oven Gas mark 6 for 25 to 35 minutes till golden. Serve warm or cold.
Original Hot water crust recipe can be found here.
Updated: 13/09/2011: A variation of these pies was made by Vintage Mom, please follow this link.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A different kind of Broccoli-Pasta Bake

When I saw this recipe and read the word 'Bake' I assumed it was going to be placed in the oven for the final crisping, but this is not that kind of pasta bake. Its made in a wide pan, a lot of turning of the ingredients so that the distinct flavours can be evenly distributed and the vegetables well coated. The breadcrumbs are crisp giving the effect you would get if it was baked in the oven. Its very filling.
It the kind of grub you can eat easily in front of the TV, but you don't want to sit in front of the TV eating. Sit at a table with a loved one, family or friends and make conversation. Its so much better than slouching over a plate.
Macaroni Bake with Broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and capers
Serves 2 - 4
Ingredients
250g macaroni or penne pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
100g dried bread crumbs
2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
Broccoli head, steamed
50g sun-dried tomato in oil, chopped
1 -2 tablespoons capers
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Method
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.
In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of oil over low heat. Stir in the bread crumbs. Cook, stirring until golden brown. Add the garlic, Saute for a minute before adding the broccoli, tomatoes and capers. Stir and cook until heated well. Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Stir in the remaining olive oil, parsley and basil. Mix well. Serve warm.
Adapted from Food for the Spirit

Quick lets cut the grass

the skies are blue.
Whilst D tended to the grass. I did a little work in the garden plot. I planted out some more climbing beans and up-potted some plants that are waiting for space to become available in the garden plot including Tuscan kale and some nine star perennial, a white broccoli that i did not get to harvest when I had the allotment plot.

I was disappointed to come across some of my brassicas had been damaged by the cabbage white butterfly. The white cabbage butterfly has been my main garden pest this year. I found a number of large holes in the leaves of brassica crops and some green caterpillars crawling (eek). I've been very protective of my crop, but somehow these little beast is getting to my plants. I see them often from the flat window fluttering their delicate little wings, and now they even had the cheek to torment me whilst I was there in person. Yes two of them flew by in a 'lovey dovey' way, and then to my surprise one of them landed on a leaf, I crept slowly towards it and then guess what?! I just didn't have the heart to catch it and send it to heaven. D was laughing at me and said the 'butterflies have found a little paradise in your tiny plot'. So be it I though, but I have no issue squishing its eggs as I find them under foliage. If left undetected these hatch into larvae first making small holes in the leaves as they start to feed, then becoming much bigger holes as the caterpillars start to feed more vigorously (see the kohlrabi leaf below).
Back to the growing. To utilize all the space I have in the plot, I planted three Olivia kohlrabi's beneath the climbing bean frame. This is one of them. All three of them are fattening up and so far free from slug damage. I don't want them to get too big, so will have to think about harvesting and eating them soon. One recipe that comes to mind immediately using kohlrabi is 'slaw' - there are so many variations of kohlrabi slaw that I'm sure it won't be hard for me to find the look of one I like.
The first of my dwarf purple Queen beans are starting to show.
I shared with you all the disappointment of my Cavalier peas last week. Although one plant seems to be still producing, I pulled out one of the constructed pea wigwams, as its space I'll need for the backlog of waiting plants.
But i had forgotten about the Beetroot Barabietola di Chioggia and Detroit 2 that I had planted under the wigwams. The leaves look extremely healthy (and I should cut them for a salad). However I'm not so confident about the beetroot bulb itself. I did scratch the soil a little, only to see a small root. I'm gonna pretend that I didn't peep and hope theres more down there than just root.
The Rainbow Chard, White Silver 2
Leaf Beet and Spinach Perpetual Spinach Beet all seem to be doing well and also ready for the picking.
My cauliflowers are screaming to be pulled too, they've all come up the same time. Here's one head that had to be chopped, the others may be able to wait a day or two. I also harvested my first Goldrush and di nizza courgette. I'm going to use the cauliflower in a marinated bean salad and the courgettes are going to be griddled and then doused in S&P, lemon and olive oil. Oh below are some vegetables we picked from the farmers market yesterday: Maris Bard potatoes, purple and green curly kale and some tomatoes.
We have three tomato plants in the garden, staked up against the fence, but were not optimistic. You really need a greenhouse to be growing tomatoes in Scotland.