Friday, 12 September 2014

pump·kin ce·le·ri·ac soup

One of my favourite blogs, Cook Almost Anything, recently showed a wonderful recipe for Jap Pumpkin Soup with Curried Onions. I really can only begin to tell you what a clever idea I thought it was to have a fairly plain pumpkin soup (no offence Haalo!) punctuated with a wonderful relish of curried onions : the very onions and curry seasonings that would usually be blended with the pumpkin soup, kept separate to highlight all the elements - brilliant.

Whenever I need inspiration or a recipe I target the Food Blogs, both familiar and new. There is something trustworthy about a home cook documenting and photographing what they are cooking purely for their own, and others's, enjoyment. So tonight, with a verging-on-rotting pumpkin and a softening-a-bit-too-much celeriac (I know, I know, food waste - saved!) I knew just where to look for inspiration - a recently google-reader-ed recipe with a nice curried onion twist :
Pumpkin and Celeriac Soup with Curried Onions
Adapted from Cook Almost Anything's Jap Pumpkin Soup with Curried Onions
Serves 4

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic
300g pumpkin, any kind, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 medium celeriac, peeled and chopped
Chicken stock
1t butter
1 red onion, sliced
1t curry powder, or more to taste
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the garlic, pumpkin and celeriac. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften then add enough chicken stock
to almost cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until everything is cooked and tender.

Meanwhile, saute the red onion in the butter until soft then add the curry powder and continue cooking at a low heat until caramelised.

When the vegetables are cooked, blend with a stick blender or regular blender, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add enough cream to thin and enrich (to your taste) and reheat gently - not to a boil.

Pour the soup into warmed bowls and place a dollop of curried onions on top to complete the picture.

Evil Edna


One of the best times to have fresh bread is on a saturday morning : the crusts almost immediately with just fresh butter as a sneaky snack, then some more once it has cooled for a late breakfast/early lunch.

This is how I make sourdough :
Thursday night :
  1. Take the starter out of the fridge.
  2. Put half the sourdough starter into a big bowl.
  3. Feed both halves with the same amount of bread (strong) flour and water - so 1/3 starter 1/3 flour 1/3 water.
  4. Put the lid loosely on the starter and cover the bowl with a plate or damp teatowel.
  5. Leave both at room temperature with the jar on something in case it overflows.
Friday evening, as early as possible :
  1. Both the bowl and the jar should be bubbly and look alive.
  2. Put the starter in the fridge.
  3. Tothe bowl add 450g of strong bread flour, 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon of salt.
  4. Mix to a messy dough, adding a bit more water if necessary.
  5. Cover the bowl with a plate or damp teatowel.
  6. Leave at room temperature to prove until you are ready to shape the next day.
Saturday morning :

  1. The dough should be have bubble holes on the surface and look like a very soft dough, if this has not happened yet leave for few more hours since this will depend on the activity of your starter.
  2. Generously dust the bench with flour keeping a small pile for sprinkling nearby.
  3. Gently scrape the dough onto the floured bench.
  4. Pat into a rectangle and sprinkle with flour.
  5. Fold into 3 like a letter a couple of times to form a loaf, sprinkling flour as needed.
  6. Either place in a greased and floured loaf tin, place on a piece of baking paper or cut into rolls (but this will affect the baking time so trial and error here).
  7. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 2 hours or so to rise again.
  8. When you are 30 minutes from baking time turn the oven to 230°c and if doing a free form, not loaf, put a big cast iron pot with a lid in the oven at the same time to heat.
  9. When ready to bake either put the loaf tin in or put the free form loaf with the paper in the cast iron pot cover and bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Check and either bake longer as is, or for a darker crust remove from the tin or take off the lid and remove the paper and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  11. Leave to cool on a rack for at least an hour before slicing (except for sneaking the crusts which I don't think counts!).
How I look after the Starter :
  1. Don't screw the lid on tight, it needs to breathe!
  2. Keep in the fridge, but try to remove several hours or a day before using and feed (as Thursday above).
  3. Feed with a similar volume of flour and water.
  4. Try to feed once a week, but the odd two or so week wait will not matter, but a layer of alcohol (the sour) might be on top if left longer - either stir in or pour off.
  5. A sourdough starter is like a million pets in one little jar so be kind!

spic·y chips

Here's a Friday night idea for you : Spicy chips eaten with mushy peas and vinegar.
Spicy Chips

1 large potato per person, about 250g each
Olive oil
Cayenne pepper
White pepper
Black pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into fat chips. Put in a bowl of water in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 210°C, and put a large baking tray in to heat. Big enough to hold all chips in one layer. If there are more than two of you then you might need two trays.
Drain the potatoes and dry in a tea towel.
Toss in a dry bowl with enough olive oil to generously coat then toss to season with some cayenne, pepper and salt.
Spread out in one layer on the now hot baking tray and pop in the oven.
After 10 minutes turn the chips over. After another 10 they should be cooked, golden and delicious.
Serve with hot mushy peas and plenty of vinegar and relax . . .
These chips are reminiscent of the KFC beauties, a Friday night treat if ever there was one. Turn on the telly and enjoy!


Felafel are balls of chickpea goodness!

I make felafel on a regular basis. I think that part of their charm is that they take very little actual effort and that effort is best spread over several days ; however the finished product has the satisfaction of a more intense labour.

Felafel may be made from dried broad, or fava, beans or perhaps more commonly now, chickpeas. The most surprising thing about felafel is that the dried beans are soaked before use, but not cooked. I have made a recipe for felafel with cooked chickpeas and they fell apart terribly.

A felafel meal in our house includes pita, hummus, beetroot, garlic yoghurt, salad, pickled chilli and felafel.
Serves at least 6

Soak about 500g of dried chickpeas in cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda for at least 24 hours.
Drain, rinse and dry in a tea towel.
Put the now dry chickpeas in a food processor and process until very fine. Add a teaspoon of yeast and of baking powder, a teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and half a teaspoon of turmeric and some salt and pepper. Add a couple of cloves of garlic and if you like, some grated onion that you have squeezed dry and drained. Keep processing until a small amount sticks together when you press a pile together with your fingertips. This will take longer than you think, and if in doubt keep processing.
Leave the mixture to rest overnight, or at least a couple of hours.
Roll the mixture into walnut sized balls, rolling in sesame seeds if you want.
Arrange the balls on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200°C or until golden and delicious looking.

This will make approximately 36 felafel.

Tattie Scones

Better than bread, pancakes or toast!

So, what could be better than bread, pancakes or toast? For breakfast that is? Well the answer is all in the the title : Tattie Scones!

Tattie scones are Scotland's answer to the breakfast carbohydrate question. And there definitely is one!

How else can you use up left over potatoes be they mash or boiled?
How else can you prepare something tasty but with no last minute required attention?
How else can you make a very economical breakfast starch that is easy too?

Well I couldn´t improve on Tattie Scones!

Tattie Scones are perfect beside sausages, Lorne if you can get them or indeed make them, a slice of black pudding, a fried egg, beans and bacon.

You can make them ahead of time and freeze them, or just make the mixture and for maximum indulgence cook them in the bacon fat (if you do not need that for the eggs!).
Tattie Scones
makes 4 generous portions

450g left over mashed, boiled or baked potato flesh, or indeed freshly cooked
100g to 150g plain flour

Mix the potato with enough flour to make a dough that is easily handled, adding salt to taste. If the potatoes were mashed or cooked with salt then make sure you don´t add too much. Remember that the tattie scones will probably be served with fairly salty things (bacon, black pudding, sausages).
You can rest the dough at this stage in the fridge until you are ready to cook them if you want the scones freshly cooked.
Heat a heavy frying pan to medium.
Divide the dough into four, form into balls and roll out on a floured surface to a circle to fit your heavy frying pan.
Melt a small amount of butter in the pan and cook each scone for a few minutes until it is starting to turn golden and puffy. Turn and cook with another knob of butter until the other side is done.
Cut into quarters and either cool then freeze or place in a 120°C oven until ready to eat.
To reheat from frozen place the quarters in the oven to warm while you cook your sausages black pudding, eggs, beans and bacon.
This is what Saturday morning brunches are made for.

spin·ach ri·cot·ta can·nel·lo·ni

Pretty rolls of green red and white.

A good purposeful vegetarian dinner, packed full of vegetables and protein is what us omnivores need more often. By purposeful I mean made on purpose, not just a meat meal with substitutions. For me vegetarian pasta is infinitely preferable to a meat packed pasta feast - to the extent of removing the sauce without the meatballs. Sure, the flavour is there, but spaghetti and sauce is much better and more meatballs for those that want them - nobody is complaining!

So here is a flavour packed dinner, infinitely adaptable.
Ricotta Spinach Cannelloni
Serves 4

8 pieces of lasagna, approximately 10cm by 15cm
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
500g passata
100mL red winefresh majorum, chopped
250g Perfect Italiano Original Ricotta
12 black olives, preferably Kalamata, chopped
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and chopped
500g fresh spinach, washed well
Whole nutmeg
100g Parmesan, freshly grated
Salt and pepper
Cook the lasagna according to directions on the packet or if fresh until almost cooked. Drain and leave to cool on a tea towel.

Cook the spinach in a saucepan with just the water on the leaves, stirring often until well wilted. Drain and squeeze dry once cool enough to handle then chopped.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent, add half the garlic and cook for a few moments then add the red wine. Simmer for a few minutes then add the passata. Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes then add the majorum and salt and pepper to taste and turn off the heat.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Mix the Perfect Italiano Original Ricotta, olives, capers, spinach, a good grating of nutmeg, almost all of the Parmesan (reserving enough to sprinkle on the top before baking) and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour half the tomato sauce in an oven proof dish large enough to hold your rolled cannelloni in one layer.

Lay out the lasagna sheets and divide the ricotta mixture between them forming a sausage shape along the short end. Roll the cannelloni up, but not too tightly! Lay in the dish on the tomato sauce and pour the rest over the top. Sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes then rest for 5 minutes before enjoying, perhaps with a lovely green salad. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
This is a great meal, especially since it is easy to make a modified version for the children of the house. My 9 month old daughter had a version with the sauce and filling before the olives, capers salt and pepper were added. Pretty handy . . . but messy!