Tag Archives: Vegetables

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Until I tried this recipe, I used to think of fennel as strictly a summer vegetable, well, proved wrong again.  I love fennel, even raw in salads, and I’ve always roasted it, but along with other vegetables to add to warm salads mostly.  But there’s something about this way of preparing it that opens a whole other world of possibilities.  For example, this fennel is delicious on the side of roast chicken, and you can cook it while your chicken is in the oven too.  I think it’s something to do with the use of a bit of butter and the cheese – that’s what makes this dish warming in the winter and soothing in the summer.

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

The Recipe

Preparation Time:  25 minutes
Baking Time:  20 minutes
Serves:  4 to 6

Ingredients

About 1.5kg / 3.3lb fennel bulbs (normally this is about 4 or 5) – halved, stalks removed.  Keep back the green feathery frons for dressing.
4 x tbsp unsalted butter
2 x tbsp Niolly Prat (Optional – I only use it if I have it in the house, I don’t go out and buy it specially for this recipe.  You can also use white wine or vermouth, or exclude the alcohol altogether.)
50gr / 1.5oz. freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Method

  1. Cook the fennel in a large pan of boiling salted water until softened, but not mushy. This should take about 20 minutes, it depends on the size of your bulbs.
  2. Whilst the fennel is boiling, set your oven to 200°C/400°F and use about a third of the butter to grease a roasting tray.
  3. Once boiled, drain the fennel and then cut each piece lengthways into 2 or 3 thick slices. Lay out in the roasting tray.
  4. Drizzle the Noilly Prat over your fennel (if you’re using it), dot the rest of the butter over and sprinkle the cheese. Give a few grinds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt (not too much, the water for your fennel will impart a little salt and pecorino is a salty cheese).
  5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese and butter have become golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle over the fresh fennel frons before serving.

 Tips and Variations

  • An excellent side dish to fish or chicken.

Baked Fennel and Pecorino

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Before I say anything else, please, please don’t be put off by the list of ingredients for the curry.  It’s mostly just spices, and in no way means that this is a complicated recipe, in fact it is pretty simple.

Ok, now that’s out of the way I can tell you that as a confirmed meat eater this is a really satisfying dish.  I’ve said (sorry if I’m beginning to repeat myself) that there is only one place I could consider being vegetarian, and that’s Sicily.  Well, I have to eat my words (and believe me, if it were possible I would) and tell you that India could also persuade me to give up meat.

It’s the spice I think that does it, it charms and disarms the carnivore and before you know it you realise that you’re not even looking at the ‘non-veg’ options on their menu’s.  Of course it’s got something to do with the environment you’re in, the culture, the climate, I know how that can affect eating habits, but even after coming home I found myself eating less meat and turning more and more to spice.

Although I love meat, I don’t eat a huge amount and one of the many things I learnt in India was that I wanted to eat even less.  So, if you feel like cutting down a little too, but not giving up on the flavour or enjoyment of your food, this could be a really great place to start.

South Indian Vegetable Curry

Preparation Time:  25 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Serves 4 to 6
For the Curry Paste
1 x tsp of fennel seeds
2 x tsp of cumin seeds
2 x tsp of coriander powder
2 x tsp turmeric
2 x tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1 x tsp cinnamon
½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
6 x tbsp. of desiccated coconut
3 x red chilies, stalks removed and halved
4 x large garlic cloves
2 x medium tomatoes, quartered
1 x red onion, quartered
1 x tbsp. of tomato puree
4 x tbsp. of water

For the Vegetables
2 x tbsp. of vegetable oil (I normally use sunflower)
1 red onion sliced thinly
700gr / 1.5lb cauliflower florets (a small cauly will do).  Cut or tear the florets into quite small,  bite sized sections.
1 x aubergine (eggplant), diced
2 x red peppers with the seeds and stalks removed and then diced
200gr / 7oz. x green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 2cm / 1 in. pieces
1 x tbsp. of honey
1 x tbsp. of red wine vinegar (or other vinegar if you don’t have the red wine variety)
Salt to taste

To Serve
Some natural yogurt and fresh coriander leaves.

Method

  1. Grind the fennel and cumin seeds. If you are feeling particularly worthy or in need of some exercise you can do this by hand with a pestle and mortar, but, if like me you just want your dinner, do it in a little electric spice or coffee grinder.  Oh, but if you use a coffee grinder, keep it for spices only.
  2. Place the ground fennel and cumin with the rest of the ingredients listed under the heading ‘for the curry paste’ in a blender and whizz up until you get a smooth puree. If it is not blending as smooth as you want it, add a little more water to loosen up the mix.
  3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom soup or stew pan and add the sliced red onion, frying on a medium high heat until it browns.
  4. Add the curry paste, a little salt, the vinegar and honey, stir through and cook at a medium simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper, stir through, cover with a close fitting lid and cook for about 7 minutes. Check after a minute to make sure your temperature is correct, it should be simmering gently.
  6. Then add the cauliflower and aubergine (eggplant), again stir through to cover it in your curry paste, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Then it’s the beans, cook for a further 7 to 10 minutes.  The curry is ready when the vegetables have softened but still retain a little bite.
  7. This curry should be quite thick, but because of all the vegetables and depending on how much water you added to blend your paste, it may be thinner than you wish. To thicken, remove the lid from the pan, turn up the heat and allow to reduce for a minute or two.
  8. Check your curry for seasoning, you may need to add some more salt or you may want a little more heat in the form of fresh or powdered chili. You can even add more sweetness with an extra squeeze of honey.

Tips and Variations

  • You can vary the combination of vegetables as much as you wish – it’s a really handy recipe for using up veggies lurking in the back of the fridge that are perhaps past their best. Just remember different vegetables have different cooking times – you don’t want it turning to mush.
  • Try this mix with peppers (red and green) and tofu, this is one of my favourite variations.
  • Asafoetida is a powder that you will find in some specialist shops or Indian deli’s. It’s derived from a root and is often used in Southern Indian vegetable dishes and has an earthy, oniony flavour.  It’s not to everyone’s taste and can take a bit of getting used to.  To be honest I tend not to use it as I find at home I really don’t enjoy it the way I did when travelling in India.
  • This curry is a bit of a mix of a Goa style and Kerala curry. You can see the Goa influence with the addition of a little bit of vinegar – this came from the time when the area was colonized by the Portuguese.  And of course no Kerala curry would be complete without the use of coconuts.

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Preserved Red Peppers

Preserved Red Peppers

Sunshine in a jar ready for you whenever you feel the need of a little burst of flavour.

Preserved Red Peppers:

It’s time for the next round in the red pepper relay!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, I got a bit carried away recently with a great deal on red peppers and ended up buying 10 kilos of them.  The good news is not only that I got a bargain, but lots of new recipes.  I’ve been consulting cookbooks, friends and letting my imagination run around with this ingredient and have come up with some really tasty ideas.

In the past, I’ve bought countless jars of preserved red peppers, but have always been disappointed.  There was something about the flavour that jarred with me – I think maybe it’s to do with vinegar levels, of which there is none in this recipe.  Here, I’ve concentrated on bringing out the sweetness of the pepper and I reckon I’ve succeeded.  This simple recipe has hit the right note for me.  The sun dried tomatoes add a depth and a bit of zing whilst the garlic pushes flavour from behind the scenes.

They’ve become unmissable, I’ve been adding them to sauces, salads, pastas, and am going absolutely crazy for them over goat’s cheese.  When I made the peppers I have to admit to thinking maybe I’d made too much, but, now down to my last half jar I’ve hidden it in the cupboard to keep them to myself.

Preserved Red Peppers

Place the sun dried tomatoes on top of the garlic to protect it from burning during roasting.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

You’ll need some sterilised jars for this recipe.

Ingredients

8 x red peppers, seeds and stalk removed and cut length ways into thirds or quarters depending on the size.
8 to 10 large garlic cloves sliced thinly
150gr / 5.3 oz sundried tomatoes (in oil) chopped finely
3 x tbsps of olive oil to cook the peppers
Around 500ml / 1pt. US / 0.8pt. UK  olive oil cover the peppers in their jars – the amount will depend on the size of the jars and how densely you pack your peppers.
Salt

Preserved Red Peppers

Served on crispy toasted slices of baguette.

Method 

  1. Heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Place the peppers in a roasting tray, skin side down then put one or two slices of garlic on each and about half a teaspoon of sundried tomato. Drizzle over the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and put in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes or until they are soft and have taken some colour here and there.  Be careful not to burn the garlic, you can place the tomato on top to protect it.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven and sprinkle with some salt, allow to cool and layer them in your jars. Cover the peppers with oil and seal.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve as tapas or antipasto. Or, as a topping for bruschetta and I really like to chop them roughly and sprinkle over salads.
  • You can add the peppers to soups and sauces.
  • The peppers will keep for quite some time, certainly a couple of months. I prefer to store them outside the fridge as the cold makes the olive oil solid.
Preserved Red Peppers

Serve with tapas or antipasti.

 

Spinach with Garlic

Spinach and Garlic

Spinach With Garlic :

Until recently I hardly ever made spinach this way, I hardly ever used nice big wild spinach leaves.  Mostly I’d use the baby leaves in salads with roast vegetables and cous cous, or, I’d use the frozen variety.  I still use both of these, especially the frozen type of spinach, it’s just so handy to drop into sauces, stews or soups.  I’ve noticed that although a lot of people tell me they love spinach, so many don’t cook it, or, they do the boiling thing – yeeeuuucchh!

I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to this recipe and go through loads of spinach this way each week.  But, I suppose there could be worse addictions, right?  I’ve been eating it so much I even started to think my body might be deficient in some vitamins or minerals, but then, that doesn’t explain my constant chocolate and ice-cream cravings – or does it?

Preparation Time: Less than 10 minutes
Cooking Time: Less than 5 minutes

Serves 4
1 x tbsp olive oil
4 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
500gr /  1.1 lb wild spinach, washed and woody stems removed.  Chop roughly.
½ a nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Method 

  1. Dry off the spinach with a clean tea towel to remove most of the excess water after washing.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, or you can do this in a larger soup/stock pan that will hold the spinach. The heat should be medium high.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about 20 seconds (don’t let it colour and certainly not burn), then add as much spinach as you can and toss it in the garlic until it starts to wilt. Keep adding the spinach until it has all wilted.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, grate over the nutmeg add salt and pepper to taste, stir through and serve immediately.

Tips and Variations

  • It is important to toss the spinach in your garlic and oil so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Alternatively you can add the garlic after the spinach, but I prefer it before as I like to cook the rawness out of the garlic.
  • I like to add some fresh or dried chili flakes to the oil and garlic, anchovies work well too. A spritz of lemon juice over the spinach before serving is also nice especially if you serve with chicken or fish.
  • This is a great side dish to so many meats, I love it with fish and chicken but goes equally well with pork or beef too.

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken Soup

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken Soup

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken Soup

I plan my meals, all of them, a week in advance.  Yeah, I know it makes me sound like some sort of control freak but I have good reason.  I am incapable of making decisions (sensible, normal ones) about food when I’m hungry, tired or just too busy.   And I HATE shopping for food, I love to eat, and to cook, but shopping, no, not my thing.  And, I just don’t have time to shop more than once a week.  If I want to eat tasty meals, I need to plan, so there it is.  Although, it doesn’t mean that I’m inflexible, I can be talked into eating out very, very easily.  I swap meals and mix it up a bit, so I do divert from my plans, practically every week.  But that’s OK, the only rule I have for myself is that I really do try not to waste food (which, is another benefit of planning).

This recipe was born out of my plans going a little off piste last Saturday.   I was planning to make a chicken soup, but my original idea was to make it British broth style.  The only thing was though, I didn’t know at the time that I’d end up having a few drinks on the Friday night which lead to me feeling, hmm, what can I say, a little ‘tired’ on the Saturday.  When I’m in that state I very often crave Chinese takeaway, but I knew that I’d be much better off cooking something for myself instead of overloading on whatever it is they put in those meals.  But I still wanted that sweet, sour, salty and tangy flavour.  So this is what happened – my conclusion?  I should go out more often for a few cheeky drinks on a Friday.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6
1 x tbsp sunflower oil
1 x large onion chopped finely
2 x red peppers, de-seeded and cut into strips
1 x large carrot, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler
1 x liter of chicken stock (good quality – no cubes please!)
4 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
4 x boneless chicken thighs, skins removed, sliced in thin strips
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes (400gr / 14 oz.)
4 x spring onions ( chopped into 2.5cm / 1 x in. pieces)
1 x tsp paprika powder
1 x tsp 5 spice
3 x tbsp light soy sauce
4 x tbsp Chinese rice vinegar
2 x tbsp honey
50ml of tomato ketchup
Fresh black pepper
Juice of a lime

To Dress (optional)
Sliced cucumber, fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped red chili’s

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a high sided pan and add the onion, garlic and pepper. Stir through, add the stock, tin of tomatoes, paprika powder, 5 spice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, ketchup and a few grinds of some fresh black pepper.
  2. Allow the broth to come to a simmer and add the chicken. Cover and cook letting the soup bubble gently for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken has cooked.
  3. Add the spring onions (scallions) and carrot. Cover and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the lime juice, stir through, check for seasoning and balance of flavours and adjust to your taste before serving.

Tips and Variations

  • If you use less stock and reduce the soup, you will get a thicker result which you can serve over rice.
  • Try lots of different vegetables in this soup – it’s a great way to use up veggies.