Sunday, 31 October 2010

Lemony Parsnip and leek soup

I think I've mentioned before that I really like Jane Grigsons Classic 'curried parsnip soup'. It is always the first parsnip recipe to cross my mind, especially when parsnips are in season. But as much as I enjoy making and eating this soup, I wanted something a bit little more smooth and soothing.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, will know that I like to expand my culinary repertoire. Last year I made Parsnip and wild rice mulligatawny soup; and today it is this Lemony Parsnip and leek soup. This soup is both citric and sweet designed to be enjoyed on those damp evenings when your taste buds need waking up.
As I sipped the soup from my spoon, I could detect the hint of lemon in the background. Maybe it was just my imagination, but the subtle citrus kick just felt like it was doing me good, just like good medicine to keep the sneezy cold at bay.
Lemony Parsnip and Leek soup
Serves 4 - 5
2 tablespoons of olive oil
500g parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 medium to large leeks, sliced
1 3/4pints vegetable stock
grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
In a wide pan, gently heat the oil. Add the parsnips and leeks and cook covered for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, grated lemon rind and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Cool a little, remove the bay leaf and add the lemon juice. Puree thoroughly in a liquidiser until smooth. Taste for seasoning and reheat, but do not boil. Adapted from New Covent Garden Soup Co. Soup and Beyond.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Honeydew Melon Chilli Jammy Jelly

This was a foodie experiment of mine to capture a little bit of Sunshine in a jar. So when the dark clouds are looming outside I can look at the golden colours and smile, and remember the warmers days. If this experiment did not work it would be fine as a viscous liquid would serve as syrup, much in the same way as the chilli and blackberry syrup. Good for pouring over pancakes and ice-cream. This concoction can only be described as a cross between the rosehip jelly and the honeydew melon cake. This was the result – amber jelly.
Amber is fossilized tree resin which has been appreciated for centuries for its deep honeydew colour and natural organic beauty. Amber is often used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewellery. Well mine is not truly amber, but it has the qualities that make me admire its beauty. The gold gloss gleams, it shimmers and sparkles just like the colours on my wedding dress. This cleverly leads me to share with you, that today is also my wedding anniversary.

As amber exudes a soft, sticky tree resin, you will find some containing air pockets, leggy insects or plant extracts. With this in mind, of course I had to meddle with the pure amber nectar colour, and add a dash of colour of my own.
I love the way the red chilli flecks are suspended in the jar as if by magic. I am rather pleased with myself. A preserve I can truly call my own invention. *If your not keen on the chilli flakes, keep it pure and simple or think about substituting it with star anise, dried mint or even ... well you decide. Just remember you want the flavours to love each other, not fight – just like a happy marriage.
This Chilli-Melon jelly jam is versatile. It is both sweet and lightly spiced. Not only will it be perfect on toast, pancakes and waffles, it will be good folded into yoghurt as well.
Honeydew Melon Chilli Jelly Jam
Makes: about 5 – 6 x 245 ml jars
1 honeydew melon, remove the skin, then chop into even sized chunks. Okay to include the seeds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 kg cooking apples, peeled, roughly chopped, including cores and pips
Optional ½ teaspoon chilli flakes*
Caster sugar
In a large preserving pan, put in the melon and apple pieces with the lemon juice, cover with just enough water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until soft. Mash thoroughly to extract as much juice as possible. Strain through a jelly bag or muslin-lined nylon sieve, set over a large bowl. Do not press the fruit or squeeze the bag as this will make the jelly cloudy. Leave until the dripping stops. This may take several hours or even overnight. Next, measure the liquid and return it to the pan along with 450g sugar for each 600 ml (1 pint) of liquid. Stir well over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chilli flakes. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 10 -15 minutes. Test your jam for a set — setting point is 105C (220F). If necessary, boil for longer and keep testing, until the jelly has reached setting point. Remove the pan from the heat, skim off any scum and allow to cool briefly. Carefully pour into hot, sterilised jars. Seal the jars and allow the jelly to cool completely before labelling and storing.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Curried cauliflower soup

Some men bring home bunches of flowers, a box of chocolates or maybe even a surprise puppy -not my husband. A little while ago, D had brought home a cauliflower. I raise my eyebrows whenever he picks up excess veg. I often have the working weeks menu worked out in my head, and then he goes and adds another vegetable to the list with no idea what to do with it. It is then, of course left to madam here to be creative with them.

Well this medium sized creamy cauliflower was starting to blacken a little in places, and I know that is enough for some people to throw it away, or put it into the compost bin. Not me, just a little scraping to the coal dust bits and its all worth eating. But that wasn’t the only problem, it was going a little soft too, not as fresh or crunchy as it should be. So I decided throw it all into a big pot and make soup.
One of my favourite soup recipes ever is Jane Grigson's 'Curried Parsnip soup'. Last year I created a version of my own using Swede - a rather large turnip. This time though it was the turn of the cauliflower.
Curried cauliflower and chickpea soup
Serves 4 – 6
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder or garam masala
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon of chilli (optional)
3 cups water
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 medium head of cauliflower, florets only
1 x 400g can of cooked chickpeas, drained
In a wide pan, cook the onions and garlic in the oil until the begin to soften. Add the ginger, curry powder or garam masala, chilli if using and salt and sauté for a minute or so, stirring constantly so the spices don’t burn. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, before adding in the cauliflower and water, cover and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce the heat and cover and simmer until the cauliflower is tender. When the cauliflower is done, add in the chickpeas and simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove from the heat. Puree some of the soup in a blender and stir it back into the pot. Reheat, and then serve in bowls.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Savoury Mushroom and Leek Pudding

My mother-in-law, and late father-in-law often checked out my blog. It was their way of keeping an eye on our antics and our occasional travels around Scotland. Neither of them are that fussed about eating vegetables or interested in foodie trends like pasta, pizza or polenta. Like many people of there generation, they are very old fashioned in their eating habits. The dinner plate has to consist of meat and two vegetables. But saying that, since travelling overseas and sampling different 'ethnic' cuisines, my father-in-law had become a lot more adventurous in his eating, enjoying Greek spanakopita and Turkish pizza Lamucan. Anyway, when they saw these savoury leek puddings on my blog early this year, they were both on the telephone telling us how good they looked: traditional and hearty. In fact, my mother-in-law said something that sounded to my ears 'we are drooling over your vegetarian suet puddings'. This secretly pleased me - a vegetable based dish of mine they liked the look of. Success.

Well the time has come, to start making these savoury puddings again. Its rich in flavour, filling , warming and Perfect for wintery days. These puddings are made with vegetarian suet. The brand I used is suitable for vegans too.

Mushroom and Leek Savoury PuddingsYou will need 5 -6 mini pudding basins with lids*
Serves 5 - 6
For the Suet Pudding300g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste
100g vegetarian suet (make sure it is suitable for vegans too, as not all are)
Cold water
For the filling2 large leeks, sliced
250- 300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
MethodFor the fillingHeat the olive oil, add the leeks and sweat on a low heat for about 20 minutes, until soft. Then add the mushrooms and vegetable bouillon powder and cook for a further 10 minutes, when they have softened. Season well and turn of the heat.
For the suet puddingMix all the dry ingredients and the herbs in a large bowl. Mix in enough cold water to make a firm dough. Divide the dough into 5, roll the pastry out on a well-floured work surface, to about 3mm thick circles that are big enough to fill the pudding basin with a small overhand. Line the pudding bowls with the pastry, gently easing it round the sides for a snug fit. Divide the filling between the pudding basins. The filling should be 1cm below the rim. Take each pudding in turn and with a sharp knife trim off the excess pastry level with the rim. Re-roll this excess pastry and cut out 5 circles big enough to cover the tops. Place the pastry tops on top of the filling and press the edges together to make a firm seal. Trim off any excess. *My pudding basins have lids, but if yours do not, cover with foil and tie with a jute string. Then place the puddings into a large steamer. Cover with the lid and steam for for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then ease a small knife around each pudding and turn them out.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Simple Apple and sultana cake

When I made this apple cake, D said something that struck a chord with me.
He said ‘If I saw this apple cake on the menu at a café or restaurant, I would never choose it, simply because it sounds plain and boring. But I have to admit this is one of the best apple cakes I’ve eaten in a long time’.

He's right, even I turn my nose at a cake option that includes apples or fruit, going for the obvious chocolate flavoured ones. This needs to change.
The apple and sultana cake was moist from the grated apples. It really was lovely.
Simple Apple and sultana cake
Makes 1 x 7 inch cake
225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
115g butter
115g caster sugar
225 dessert apples, peeled and grated
85g sultanas
1 medium egg
100ml milk
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
Heat oven to gas mark 4. Grease a deep 7 inch cake tin. Sift the flour with the baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, apples and sultanas and mix thoroughly. Mix together the egg and milk and add to the mixture. Turn into the prepared tin. Sprinkle over the Demerara sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Updated 31/10/2010: Millie D of MillieBead made a version of this cake. Please click here. I think the crunchy topping looks fantastic.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Spiced Mushroom Pastry Roll

The flavours of this delicately spiced mushroom roll actually reminded me a little of the South Asian street snack: samosa. Other than that, there was nothing else about it that was samosa like, as this included mashed potatoes and was baked in the oven to puff up, whereas, samosas have cubes of potato and are traditionally deep fried. Saying that, this spiced mushroom pastry roll also reminded me of these Caribbean Aloo pies which are made with mashed potatoes and is deep fried.
This is not a hand-held pie either. It is made like a vegetable wellington, but roly poly style. One that needs to be sliced, plated up and shared. Saying that for ease you could slice it like pinwheels.
This is really a good recipe and one I’d encourage you to try when you are looking for some comfort food.
This spicy mushroom pastry roll is good eaten at room temperature too.
Spiced Mushroom Pastry Roll
Serves 6
Ingredients400g mashed potato
2 tablespoon oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 red chilli, minced or ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala2 spring onions, sliced
300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or coriander
375g ready rolled Puff pastry
Milk or soy milk to glaze
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
MethodHeat oil in a wide pan and gently fry the garlic, chilli and onion. Cook until the onion is soft, add the garam masala, mushrooms and spring onions and cook for about 5 minutes until just soft. Remove from the heat. To the pan, stir in the mashed potatoes, parsley and combine well. Season to taste. Roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle about 30 x 40cm. Place the pastry on a greased tray. Spread the mix over the pastry, leaving a margin around the edges, then roll up like a roulade and turn it over so that the seem side is down. Glaze with milk, sprinkle with the seeds and bake on Gas mark 6 for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and risen. Leave for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a green salad and a minted sauce. Idea inspired by Another Dinner is Possible: More than just a vegan cookbook.

This recipe was made by fellow blogger at Please Do Not Feed the Animals. Please do go check out this link and this lovely blog.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A vegan Ponkie – Ghanaian Pumpkin

No, this is not a derogatory term to describe my vegan friends, this is my interpretation of a Ghanaian dish known as Ponkie.

So what is Ponkie? Ponkie is the Ghanaian word for pumpkin. The dish is traditionally made with beef. I substituted the beef with textured vegetable (TVP) protein also known as soya mince.

I know the name will set of little ones in fits of giggles and maybe some grown ups too. I chose to make it for two reasons, pumpkins are everywhere at the moment. I’d like to say pumpkins are everywhere because it the season, but the other than the butternut squash, once Halloween is over, you’ll be lucky to find a pumpkin here. Therefore, I recommend you make the most of it now, even if it is for soup. The other reason this recipe appealed were the ingredients, some of which reminded me of a kind of vegetarian chilli bean dish but without the kidney beans.
In my previous job, I had a good Ghanaian friend HA. He had these cat like whisker scars on his face. When I first met him I was fascinated by them and thought I’ll ask him the significance later, but as time passed. I no longer saw the scars on his face, it was just another feature, so never got round to knowing the reason. I’m guessing it had spiritual meaning as well as being a tribal mark to identify the family. I’d ask him, but he moved away and we lost contact. Anyway, I digress I think he would be disappointed at me for subbing the beef with TVP (textured vegetable protein) aka soya granules. HA is like my brothers, he loves eating his meat. Whenever we lunched together, he would often add ‘I could never be vegetarian. I so love my meat’. I wonder though if I could tempt him with this version of Ponkie. I wonder what he would say?!

This is a dry dish, similar to the okra salan. Traditionally ponkie is served with boiled yam and flat bread. It also goes well with other grains such as rice, couscous and even tortilla wraps, just please don’t tell HA. I think he will roll his eyes even more.
Ponkie: Ghanaian pumpkin
Serves 4 - 6
4 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 – 2 fresh red chilli, minced or 1 - 2 Teaspoon Chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste
250g TVP or soya mince dehydrated
1 green pepper, chopped
400g tin of tomatoes, chopped
400g Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 Aubergine, diced
Heat oil in pan and saute the onion until soft and translucent, then add in the spices and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes for the spices to combine. Add in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or so before adding in the soya mince, pepper and pumpkin pieces. Cook for 10 minutes before adding in the aubergine. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. This particular recipe is adapted from Oxfam Fairworld Cookbook which acknowledges the original coming from Ola Olaore s book Traditional African Cookery.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Marinated Cauliflower Salad

I was introduced to Moosewood Collective of cookbooks by my best friend in America (whom I met at University). In 2000, I went over to visit her in the States and got to see a little of San Fran, Oakland and Berkeley. I also got to have a nosy of her bookshelf. She had two cook books that I wanted on my bookshelf too. One I purchased whilst there: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and the other was Sundays at Moosewood: Ethnic and Regional Recipes. It was only when I came back home to the U.K, that I purchased that one, then another and another from the Moosewood Collective.

What excited me about the Moosewood Collective was its emphasis on other vegetarian world cuisines such as Armenian, Chilean, Jewish, Mexican, North African and many more. It introduced me to many new dishes and enhanced my new culinary curiosity.

What’s funny though, other than making the dish the book is named after: Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Szechwan Tofu Triangles in Pepper Sauce, my Moosewood Collection of books have hardly been used, until recently that is. I’ve been flicking though them looking for some inspiration and here is another.
Marinated Cauliflower Salad
Serves 3 – 4
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, minced
1 bay leaves
300g mushrooms, sliced
2-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
75ml white wine vinegar
125ml water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium cauliflower, cut or broken into 1 inch florets
Heat the olive oil in a wide pan. Add onions, dried herbs, bay leaves and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and sauté for a couple of minutes before stirring in the tomato paste water. Add the cauliflower and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down. Cook until the cauliflower is just tender. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Adapted from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pumpkin Polenta Pizza

A little bit of sunshine on my plate.
Of course this is not strictly a pizza, as its base is made up of polenta and it is not smothered in a tomato sauce, but I did not know what else to call it.
A good thing about this pizza is you can make it pretty much all in advance. In this case, just don’t melt the cheese until your ready to eat.

I created this for Charley who has just harvested a colourful array of pumpkin and squashes. I hope she likes. D did not mind it, he thought it could have benefited from a little bit of red sauce (not from a bottle).
The green in the polenta comes from the coriander pesto. I only added it because I had some in the fridge from this meal. If you don’t want to include it whilst the polenta is cooking, you can also smear this on top of the polenta when it resting; or you can omit it all together if you wish. If you don’t like coriander, use a different herb, sage would work well too. Same with the cheese, if you don’t like goats cheese, substitute either with fontina, grated mozzarella, or a vegan alternative.

Upon baking the polenta base acquires a soft-crisp texture, whereas the herbs and pumpkin slices delicately flavour. The colours perked me up considering it was rather grey outside. This pumpkin polenta pizza is suitable for those on a gluten free diet.
It is rather pretty at this stage like pantomime fiery flames against the herb flecked polenta. Its good when cooked too.

Pumpkin Polenta Pizza
Serves 2 or 4 with accompaniments such as a light peppery salad
For the polenta base
125g quick cook polenta
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2 tablespoon of coriander pesto. Recipe here.
Method for the polenta base
Make the polenta first according to your packet instructions. Mine read to 125g polenta add ½ litre water. As soon as it starts to thicken, add in the pesto stir quickly to combine then pour into a round non-stick or greased flan tin measuring about 91/2 inch. Adjust polenta if your flan tin is bigger.
With the back of a spoon spread the mix evenly and leave to set. When firm, tip out carefully onto a lightly oiled pizza tray. Optional: If you have not stirred the coriander pesto into the polenta, you can smear the polenta top with coriander pesto.
Ingredients for the topping
1 small squash or a good wedge (quarter) of a medium pumpkin
Olive oil
4 round slices from a goats cheese log
Optional: chilli flakes
Now either use your mandolin; or a knife and carefully slice the pumpkin thinly as possible.
Layer the polenta evenly with the pumpkin slices, coating each layer with a little olive oil. Do between two to three layers. Season with salt and pepper and optional: chilli flakes. Bake in oven for 10 – 25 minutes until the pumpkin slices can be pierced with a fork. Then top with cheese and bake for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. Then slice and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Broccoli meets Buckwheat

This bowl of cooked grains does look a little beige, bland and boring. I’d like to say don’t judge it by the way it looks as it tastes much better than it looks, but I cannot - I can't get that excited about it and can only say for me it was just okay.

The texture of the buckwheat for me was a cross between barley and brown rice. The flavour could be described as a nutty. I think this dish woudl be good to eat as a cold salad. Well it was, as I actually got to take the leftovers in to work as a healthy salad. This does not mean I won’t try buckwheat again. Of course I will, it just means I’ll have to try some other buckwheat recipes. I’m sure I’ll eventually find one I rather like and then you won’t stop hearing me raving about it.

The author Mollie Katzen calls this dish as ‘Broccoli and Buckwheat Godunov’. I was not familiar with it and assumed Godunov was a classic Russian dish. It was only upon researching I noted there was no such dish of this name. I think for some reason Mollie may have just named it in honour of the Russian Czar Boris Godunav, but I don’t know for certain, maybe someone can shed more light.
The recipe advises topping the dish with hard boiled egg, but for some reason D does not like this idea of grated hard boiled eggs, so this was omitted.
Broccoli and Buckwheat
Serves 4
325ml water
200g buckwheat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
½ teaspoon salt
200g button or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
250g broccoli, florets cut into half
1 tablespoon dried chervil
Lemon juice to taste
Place the water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil Add in the buckwheat, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and let it stand for a few minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pan, add onion and salt and sauté over medium heat until the onion begins to soften. Add the broccoli and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the mushrooms and chervil. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes or until the broccoli is tender. Stir in the fluffed up buckwheat, along with the lemon juice. Stir until well combined. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Adapted from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Enchanted Purple Broccoli Forest

We had a rather lazy weekend.
The most active I got was walking through the park and wading through the golden, crisp autumnal leafy path.
Now and again, I spotted a mushroom carpet that only reminded me of beautifully drawn illustrations found in fairytale books.
I thought it was only fitting that I went home and made something ‘enchanting’. I remembered a dish I made many years ago called 'The Enchanted Broccoli Forest'. This dish comes to mind whenever I actually see trees that do look like broccoli florets, unlike these of course, but its about the spirit and memories they conjure up.
This recipe is described as ‘Broccoli trees planted in an herbed rice pilaf’. It makes a good oven to table dish.
So what else would we find in this edible not-so-purple broccoli forest?
I don’t have the ankle biters, rug-rats aka my nephews and nieces around to amuse and play with me, so now and again have to find silly ways of entertain myself. I hope you don’t mind playing along. And remember please don’t eat the animals!
D didn't want to play and said it looked 'like a nativity scene with blasted trees'. My response like a precocious teenager ‘Whatever!’. I think he's right though, just don't tell him.
Enchanted Purple Broccoli Forest
Serves 4
Cooked brown or white rice enough for 4 people. Set aside.
250g sprouting purple or green broccoli florets with stalks (trim a little if you wish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne to taste
2 tablespoons fresh mint
Handful of fresh parsley, minced
50g toasted sunflower seeds
Cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
Preheat oven to gas mark x Steam the broccoli until just tender. Drain well and set aside. Heat the oil in a large, deep pan. Add the onion, garlic and sauté over medium heat for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add lemon juice and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in the rice, season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne, the herbs. Spread into the pan. Scatter over the sunflower seeds and the cheese if using. Now arrange the broccoli upright in the rice. Cover loosely with foil, and bake until just heated through (about 15 – 20 minutes). Serve right away. Adapted from Moosewoods the Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Red Chilli Spiced Pumpkin Chutney

I have been wanting to make a pumpkin chutney since I tasted some on an oat biscuit last year at some food event. Most of the pumpkin chutney recipes however are a bit plain for me. I wanted one that had a little bit of warmth. Whilst flicking through my cookbooks for inspiration, I came across one from the Women’s Institute. It is such a slender and skinny booklet that you’d miss it amongst the other chubbier books. I found a pumpkin chutney recipe in there with flavours that appealed. So that is what, I made with a few little tweaks of my own of course.

I am so sorry that I did not get a photograph of the ingredients raw in the pot, as the colours were just beautiful. The gold from the pumpkin nuggets, the alluring bright red from the chilli, ruby jewelled red from the cranberries, tart apple pieces offset jet studs of raisins and sultanas. Once cooked down the colours in the jar just echoed of Autumnal leaves drifting in the breeze.

Whilst cooking, I tasted the chutney for flavour as I went along. But I want to get D’s opinion about the spices too, especially the kick of the chilli. I had decision to make, whether to keep the red chilli pods whole or mince them in. I called him into the kitchen. As he walked in, I saw the expression on his face change as he was hit by the acidic smell of the bubbling vinegar. On tasting a teaspoon, he said the flavours were 'spot on' and left me again.
An hour later, after having just filled the jars and screwing the on the lids, D comes back into the kitchen, peering into the empty pot ‘Are there no leftovers? I fancy eating some chutney and cheese’. This pumpkin chutney has to mature for two months before consuming. I pointed him in the direction of the fridge and reminded him that we still have some tomato and celery chutney from last year, and if he did not want that, there was also some unopened spiced plum chutney in the cupboard.
Alternative: if you don’t want the chilli heat, you can omit both the chillies and the mustard seeds. The chutney will still be excellent.
Red Chilli Pumpkin chutney
Makes 8 x 245ml jars
680g prepared pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and cut into small chunks.
450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
2 large onions, chopped
100g dried cranberry
75g raisins and sultanas
2 teaspoons salt
60g fresh root ginger, shredded finely
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons black, brown or yellow mustard seeds
4 – 5 fresh fat red chillies, pierced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pint malt vinegar
450g granulated sugar
Put all ingredients, except the sugar in a large pan and mix well. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the contents are very soft. Optional: either leave whole or take out the whole chillies and mince. Then return to pan with the sugar until dissolved. Continue to simmer, uncovered for about 1 – 1 ½ hours or until the chutney is very thick and there is no liquid left on the surface. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. Store for 2 months before use. Adapted from the Best kept secrets from the Women’s Institute Jams, Pickles and Chutney's by Midge Thomas.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Sweet potato chips with coriander pesto

I’ve been a rather naughty girl this week, digressing from the path of local, regional or British grown vegetables. First it was D with his request of okra. Although imported okra is available all year round, the okra peak season is the summer which we just missed of course. Now its my turn with the sweet potato. Even though Autumn sees the start of sweet potato season, this vegetable is not mass produced in the U.K, much of it is imported from the States. I decided I was not going to miss out on this seasonal import, the way I had just missed out on the sweet juicy mango.

One of my favourite ways to eat sweet potato is as oven baked chips. These were introduced to me by the innovative vegetarian cook Nadine Abensur. Not literally of course, but through her cookbooks. In 2000, her recipes, cookbooks and way of cooking introduced me to a new way of cooking, eating and enjoying vegetables. Nadine Abensur style of cooking also introduced me to other world flavours such as sumac, za’atar, ras el hanout and tahini, the way Yotom Ottolenghi does now, 10 years on.
Nadines sweet potato chips are made quite simply with just a light seasoning of sea salt and freshly ground pepper and served with a coriander pesto which I've enjoyed many times, but the ones I enjoyed earlier today were spiced up a notch. The heat warmth was welcomed after being bish bashed a little by the blustery wind outside.

I think this spice coating would work well with slathered over sliced pumpkin and squash too. So for those of you have some, why not give it a go.
Spiced Sweet potato chips with coriander pesto
Serves 2 greedy people or 4 with accompaniments
500g sweet potatoes
For the spice paste
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
8 black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large wedges. Put all the dry ingredients for the spice paste into a mortar and grind together as fine as you can get. Then add the oil and lemon juice and mix well. Toss the sweet potatoes in the spice paste, making sure they are well coated. Spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve these either with chilli jam or coriander pesto (recipe below).
Coriander pesto

About 160g coriander, leaves only
2 tablespoons whole almonds (I used almond flakes as that’s all I had)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
2 green chillies, chopped
Salt to taste
Chop the coriander with a very sharp knife. Pound the almonds in a pestle and mortar or chop in a food processor. Mix these two ingredients with the garlic and then add the remaining ingredients and a pinch of salt. Adapted from the Cranks Fast Food.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Classic Rosehip Jelly

Rose hips ripe and ready for the picking.

A couple of days ago, I went into work much earlier with plans to pick fresh rose hips from the bush. Unfortunately, as feared many of the fat pink hued globe baubles were just too mish mash. Others were frankly rotten by recent heavy downpours. However, I did manage to pick just under 500g and this is what I did with them: make my first jars of rose hip jelly.
I am looking forward to spreading it on some waffles and pancakes in the coming months, and tasting its wonderful zingy flavour.
I have to admit that I found making the jelly a bit of a palaver. I don’t have strainer or a jelly bag, so had to start of using my colander first lined with muslin. I don’t have this gadget in the house, so had to be a little inventive. This was made even more difficult as I also did not have any stools, so I ended up upturning one of my nesting table and the muslin cloth was tied to my Turkish rolling pin. My husband laughed at my contraption. I responded, well it works.
Very slowly it dripped.
I had a taste, it tastes rather zingy at this stage. Another thing I noted, because its called rose you assume the colour is going to be a rosy-pink. This is not the case. I looked at the juices, it was more faint orange. I looked at the photographs of other peoples rose hip jelly and noted a similar shade, so felt much better. The greedy and impatient person in me thought ‘All that work and I only managed to get 1 pint of rose hip juice’. But this recipe did exactly what it said, makes 3 x 225ml jars, except my jars were a touch larger 245ml.
Classic Rose hip jelly from WI
Makes: about 3 x 225 ml jars
Prep: 45 minutes, plus straining overnight
500 g ripe rose hips, stray leaves, stems and flowers removed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 kg crab or cooking apples, roughly chopped, including cores, pips, skin
Caster sugar
Wash and drain the rose hips. Chop roughly and put into a preserving pan with the lemon juice, apples and enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until soft. Mash thoroughly to extract as much juice as possible. Strain through a jelly bag or muslin-lined nylon sieve, set over a large bowl. Do not press the fruit or squeeze the bag as this will make the jelly cloudy. Leave until the dripping stops. This may take several hours or even overnight.
Next, measure the liquid and return it to the pan along with 450 g (1 lb) sugar for each pint (600 ml) of liquid. Stir well over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 5–10 minutes. Test your jam for a set — setting point is 105C (220F). If necessary, boil for a further minute then test again. Continue testing at one-minute intervals, as necessary, until the jelly has reached setting point. Remove the pan from the heat, skim off any scum and allow to cool briefly. Carefully pour into hot, sterilised jars. Seal the jars and allow the jelly to cool completely before labelling and storing. This classic Rose hip jelly comes from the Women’s Institute Book of Preserves, but I got the recipe from here.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

When Fennel met Chard

I realise that I have not up-dated you on my tiny garden plot recently. The weather has been extremely dreich (a Scottish dialect for dreary) and miserable.
Every time we make plans to work our little bit of land, it doesn’t just rain – it literally pours - buckets full too. So garden work has been postponed a number of times. But I have managed to pick some veg.
A handful of runner beans
last of the kohlrabi, a bunch of bolted chard and two of these fennels. This year I’ve grown the fennel in pots, they’ve done really well
The beauty of growing your own fennel is you get the glamorous green feather fronds. They are pretty for the table, but good for garnishing too. You can mince a tablespoon and scatter over this dish if you wish too.
Once ladled over the rice, this Black eyed bean dish with fennel and chard was soupy like. For me it was one to eat with a spoon, but D was happy with his knife and fork. The fennel flavour is faint in the background, not dominating the dish too much. It was also very light, leaving room for something sweet later.
Chard and Fennel with Black – eyed beans
Serves 2 - 4
2 bulbs of fennel
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tomatoes, chopped
½ - 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
300ml vegetable stock
1 x 400g tin of black-eyed beans, drained and rinsed
160g Swiss chard, leaves only, washed and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 tablespoon fronds from the fennel, minced OR a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Trim the roots from the fennel and remove and discard the outer leaves. Slice the fennel thinly.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fennel and fry over low heat for about 10 minutes until very soft and lightly coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 1 further minute. Stir in the coriander, tomatoes, fennel seeds, stock and cooked beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Partially cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the greens and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, until slightly reduced and well flavoured. Stir in optional minced fennel fronds or coriander. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Ochre okra in masala

The Okra has many wonderful names, bhindi, bamia, gumbo and lady fingers.
But the thought of eating them, does not excite everyone including me. Although rather elegant on the outside, once pierced or sliced you note the texture, rather slimy like snot. And this itself is completely off putting. For them to pass my mouth, they have to be completely transformed. This dish is known as Masala Bhindi is one way I have come to eat okra.
Here they are sliced - I know some people will disapprove of me cutting them this way, as they like to keep okra whole when cooking. But okra cooked whole for me retains what I dislike about okra - its viscous glue like texture. Upon cutting you will see the tiny white seeds and the slimy texture will ooze out a little and touch your fingers. But don’t worry so much, let me assure you upon cooking the okra this way, the okras glutinous juice thickens sauce and completely leaves the okra rather silky and rather tasty.

I also think it looks rather pretty like this: a bowl of spiced green stars. Now that’s a good way to get your little ones to try them, just go easy on the spices.
Well to make this dry okra salan (curry) was not my idea. A couple of days ago, we went into KRK Continental Grocers, (a Pakistani owned grocery store) just near my old University to pick up some spices. D then saw these long green elongated lady fingers tempting him. He looked at me and said ‘I wouldn’t mind having some okra this week’. I know we’ve just missed the okra season and its not locally grown either, but its not often he makes these requests, so of course we did. Sometimes, you got to treat yourself, that’s of course if you see okra as a treat and D obviously does.

Traditionally you would eat it with a roti aka chapatti, but I think tortilla wraps work just as well. I know as I've eaten it that way.
Okra Salan or Masal Bhindi
Serves 4
150g full fat butter or ghee
2 medium onions, minced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 inch of ginger, grated or minced
1 teaspoon of salt or to taste
1 teaspoon chilli powder or to taste
½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
Optional: 2 fresh chillies, sliced
4 fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
250g – 300g okra, topped, tailed and sliced
In a large wide pan, melt butter then add the minced onions and garlic and cook until transparent, add the spices, ginger and the optional fresh chillies and cook until the fat of the butter separates, by this I mean comes to the surface. Add the tomatoes and cook until well integrated (mash in if you wish). Be patient and allow the butter to come to the surface again. When this happens, then add in the okra. Stir in, let the okra simmer on high heat in the buttery tomato sauce for a couple of minutes, before turning the heat down and allowing the vegetables to cook through (about 20 - 25 minutes). During this cooking process, stir from time to time to stop the vegetables from sticking to the pan. The butter will clarify (rise to the surface) for a final time, this for me is an indication that the dish is nearly ready. Make sure the vegetables are tender and serve immediately as a dry salan. Eat this dish warm and quick, as its not particularly nice cold. Serve with rice, roti, chapatti or tortilla wraps.