Roast Cauliflower and other vegetables

Roast Cauliflower 2

I heard something absolutely extraordinary last week.  Whilst tucking into tea, my daughter stated the previously unimaginable “I love kale”.  I stopped talking and sat slack jawed in amazement.  This is the child that will shy away from vegetables apart from a grudging tolerance for peas and cooked carrots.  This the child who would normally show wide eyed panic in the face of anything cabbagy and try distracting tactics when I am dishing out.  Yet here she was and here it was – kale.   Now kale is one of the tougher and if we are honest more bitter winter leaves and so this particular entente was all the more surprising.  What was the magic, what was the secret alchemy you ask.  One of the oldest tricks in the book, a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a brief sojourn in a hot oven.  That is all it takes to transform these frilly green leaves into a salty, savoury snack comparable (if not better) to the finest potato crisps.

The thing is I really want my children to like vegetables, I don’t want those stand off scenarios where I insist that vegetables are good for them while they will sit, mulish and resistant, eyeing me as one who wishes to enforce horror.  So I make it my goal to make their veggies more palatable, whatever it takes, I will keep trying different sauces, salsas and cooking methods until I have cracked it.

Roast Cauliflower

Cauliflower along with cous cous were two things my son had asked me, in all honesty, why God had invented.  He couldn’t bear either of them, couldn’t see their point and so some time ago having tried all other routes I thought to roast cauliflower.  What do you know they will now clamour over the last little floret and I can’t blame them, the oil, salt and hot oven trick turns these innocent little white sprigs into gold singed, roasty delicious mouthfuls.

These are not just something I serve to children and in fact the cauliflower in this form with the dipping sauce is a great choice to put on the table at the beginning of supper or to add to a tapas style spread.  The green sauce is my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013).

Roast Cauliflower

The addition of some chilli flakes to the cauliflower before roasting gives a lovely pop of heat but I generally don’t add them when doing this for children.  I have previously given the recipe for kale crisps, essentially just tear the leaves into mouthful size, turn in a little olive oil, spread out onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and cook at 200 for about 7-10 minutes, turning once or twice and eyeing them like a hawk so they don’t burn.

1 medium size cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the cauliflower , break into small florets and spread onto a baking sheet.  Pour over the oil and turn the cauliflower really well making sure every bit is coated in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-25 minutes until it is just turning golden brown and catching slightly at the edges.  Cool for a minute or two and taste, you might want a tiny bit more salt then serve with the green herby sauce.

Roast Cauliflower 3

 

 

Roast Butternut with Cheese, Leeks and Parsley

Barbers 1883 Butternut

This has to be a contender for the ultimate comfort food – sweet, roasted, caramelised butternut with a hint of chilli filled with melty leeks, strong tangy cheddar and a final flourish of fresh, verdant parsley.  The molten, almost fondue like, cheese combines so well with the squash;  cosy, heart and soul warming food – a veritable hug on a cold and rainy day.

These are all ingredients I keep to hand at this time of year and if I wasn’t going to go the above route (although why I wouldn’t, I can’t think…) I have another idea for you.  Roast chunks of butternut in the oven, meanwhile soften leeks in a large pan with a splash of oil and a knob of butter.  When the butternut is soft add to the leeks with a litre of vegetable or chicken stock, a splash of dry sherry and a pinch of chilli flakes.  Whizz with a hand held blender and serve with a swirl of cream and a slice or two of cheese on toast.

Two choices, which way to go…..

Roast Butternut with Cheese, Leeks and Parsley

1 butternut

Pinch of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 large leek (or 2 small) washed and sliced

80g strong cheddar, I used Barbers 1833

1 tablespoon cream

10g parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.  Cut the butternut in half, scoop out the seeds and then brush the cut surface with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and roast for an hour or until soft and caramelised.  Meanwhile melt the remaining oil and the butter in a pan and cook the onion and leek gently until soft.   Add the grated cheese, cream, parsley and season to taste.  When the butternut is done remove from the oven, divide the leek mixture between the two halves, sprinkle with a little extra cheddar if you want and then return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling.  This would serve two for lunch with some quick pickled onions (August 2014) and a salad or four as a side if you halved each half.

Barbers very kindly gave me some of their Vintage Reserve Cheddar and this is what I used for this recipe.

 

Onion Tart

Onion Tart_

As a child in Yorkshire we seemed to go to a lot of point-to-points.  I’m not sure why but it was definitely a feature of the winter months.  Parked in a field somewhere, there were always other children I knew to muck about with and best of all, the row upon row of open car boots which signalled the picnics, an obvious highlight.  Always hot sausages wrapped in a tinfoil parcel, soup of some description and of course the quiche.  My mother made a cracking quiche which was transported from the Aga into the back of the car so as to be still warm for lunch.  Crisp pastry, wobbly creamy custard and salty bacon, lovely.

Fast forward a couple of decades and maddeningly my children are not so keen on the old quiche, too much wobbly stuff in the middle apparently.  What they are mad about however is this onion tart, probably because it is very much an onion tart as opposed to an onion quiche.  I’m not sure it could hold its head up in the South of France as a pissaladiere but it is along those lines.  Slow cooked melting onions with salty savoury anchovies on crisp pastry.  Add black olives if you like, I sometimes do and sometimes don’t but I insist on the criss crossed anchovies even if it seems a little dated and similar may well have graced a 1970’s cooking article.

So, this is a tart I make all the time, whatever the weather.  It comes into play for lunch with a big salad, it has been on picnics (though no point-to-points yet) and has even made a star turn as a vegetarian main.  Where I find it most useful though is cut into small squares and served before lunch or supper – let me tell you, it goes down a storm.

I served this recently before Sunday lunch and couldn’t believe the speed with which all the children hoovered it up, seeking out the bits with the most anchovy which surprised me.   It may be one of the easiest warm canapés to serve with drinks too as you can make it ahead and then cook it just prior to serving – I promise your guests will love it.

Onion Tart 2

Onion Tart

As my family love the saltiness of the anchovies I boost this flavour by spreading a thin layer of anchovy paste on the pastry before putting the onions on top.  This addition is of course entirely up to you, the tart is delicious without it.  Either make your own pastry using a 200g flour to 100g fat ratio, or use ready made – half a 500g pack is about right.

2 large onions, or 4-5 normal size ones, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 egg, well beaten

2 tablespoons creme fraiche (or double cream if that is all you have)

250g (approx) shortcrust pastry, see introduction

Anchovy paste, optional, see introduction.

Preheat the oven to 200 and put a baking tray in the oven to heat up, this is to put the tart in its tin onto – the immediate heat will crisp the base.  Melt the butter with the oil in a medium size pan, add the chopped onions and the salt and cook gently until soft but not coloured which will take about half an hour.  Meanwhile roll out the pastry thinly and line a tin, around 18x30cm and put this into the fridge.  When the onions are a soft sludge put them into a bowl to cool for 10 minutes then mix in the egg and creme fraiche along with some black pepper.  If you are going to use the anchovy paste now is the time to spread a thin layer over the pastry then pour the onion mixture onto the pastry, level the surface and put in the oven (on the preheated baking tray) for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before carefully tipping onto a board and cutting up.  Makes about 24 small squares but really this is up to you.

Onion Tart 3

 

 

 

Pea Soup with Cheese and Chive Scones

Pea Soup and Cheese Scones

I love a bit of thrift, nothing more satisfying than using up bits and pieces that might otherwise find their way into the bin.   So it was with my pea soup here.  We had a baked ham for supper and whilst there wasn’t enough to make another supper for four there was a small chunk left plus the water I cooked it in.  I always intend to use this liquor for some useful purpose but must confess it often sits in the pan on the back of the hob until it has to be thrown away.  Today I was determined however and with the addition of a bag of frozen peas and a couple of spring onions sautéed in butter it has made a delicious soup, just the warming ticket for a breezy day.   You could add a swirl of cream, something I rarely turn down with soup, but here I’ve used a few little bits of the leftover ham.

Wanting to jazz this frugal lunch up a bit, but not wanting to go shopping I decided to make some scones.  There is always flour and cheese around and I happened to have bought some buttermilk the other day to make a cake with.  I split my usual scone recipe between cheese and chive to go with the soup and the other half sweet, sugar topped ones to greet the children with when they get back from school this afternoon.  The left over cheese scones will be filled with the last of the ham for their packed lunches tomorrow.  I hope this doesn’t sound hideously smug but – hurrah, everything used up and stretched further than I had anticipated.  Good stuff.

Pea Soup

This is barely a recipe however,  I sautéed two chopped spring onions in a teaspoonful of butter until soft then added a 400g bag of frozen peas.  I added a litre of the leftover ham poaching liquor and heated until the peas were just cooked.  Whizzed with a hand held blender until smooth and served with some chopped ham.

Buttermilk Scones

I often have a carton of buttermilk in the fridge, it has a great shelf life and works a treat in many bakes or, of course, soda bread (Seedy Soda Bread, April 2013).  The recipe that follows is my usual (sweet) scone one.  As mentioned I split the recipe and added 60g of grated strong cheddar and a small bunch of chopped chives to one half.  To the other I added 40g golden caster sugar.  Both I brushed with milk before baking and sprinkled a little more sugar over the sweet ones.

450g self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

100g cold butter

85g caster sugar

1 carton buttermilk ( they are either 284 or 250ml, if the latter you may need an extra splash of milk)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Sift the flour and salt together and rub the butter into it until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Then add the sugar and buttermilk and mix together until it just holds as a dough but don’t handle it more than you have to.  Form into a round and pat or roll out until about one inch thick.  Cut out and put onto a floured baking sheet, brush with milk if you want and scatter over a little extra sugar.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and well risen.

 

 

Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

Herby Ricotta 1

Despite a few cool, misty mornings we have been enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer recently, my children were swimming in the sea three times last week (and even I joined them on one occasion…) and there are still shorts and summer dresses being sported in the playground.  We expect (and hope) July and August will be hot for the school holidays but September heralds a return to work so to have fabulous balmy weather always feels like a treat, a bonus, a little extra.

As such I like to eke out the summer feeling with barbeques and eating in the garden whenever possible.  If, however, you’ve had enough of those leafy green salads then try this for your lunch – smooth, creamy herb flecked ricotta which is unbelievably quick and easy to make (yes make yourself!) accompanied by sweet and sour crunchy cucumber.  The latter is a riff on my quick pickled onion and you could of course use that instead.

I like the ricotta spread on slices of baguette, topped with the tangy fresh cucumber slices, a little more substantial than lunches in the height of a hot summer but not yet a headlong dive into the autumnal soups yet to come.

Herby Ricotta 2

Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

You can use whichever soft herbs you like, I use parsley, chives and dill because that is a combination I love.  The dill along with the pickled cucumber give a bit of Scandanavian vibe and go together perfectly.   The ricotta would also be fabulous on little crispy toasts topped with chopped cucumber as a canapé and of course, prior to the herbing this ricotta is perfect for any other sweet or savoury recipe you have up your sleeve (so much better than supermarket ricotta and I struggle to find fresh around here).

300ml pot single cream (you can use double if that is what you have)

600ml whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

A handful of chopped herbs of your choice

Put the cream into a pan and fill the empty pot twice with milk and mix this into the cream along with the salt.  Bring to the boil and them remove from the heat and add the vinegar and give it a stir.  You will see the mixture separate, pour into a muslin lined colander and leave to drain for an hour or so until you have a crumbly creamy cheese.  Mix in the herbs and check the seasoning, you may need a little more salt and some pepper.  Heavenly.

Pickled Cucumber

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt

Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.

This amount would serve two for lunch or more along side other dishes.

Quick Pickled Onions

Quick Pickled Onions 4

To paraphrase Cilla, I bake a lorra lorra cakes.  Probably about 20 a week of various types, Ginger Cakes, Raspberry and Almond Cakes, the mighty Chocolate Victoria, Lemon Yogurt Cakes, Gluten Free Dairy Free Sugar Free Beetroot and Chocolate, you name it I bake it and that is before we get on to the Flapjacks, Brownies, Cupcakes etc….   What has this got to do with pickled onions?  Well, surrounded by all this sweet, fudgy and sticky confection what I really crave is something savoury and what could fit the bill more fittingly than pickled onions.  Mouth puckering, sharp, crunchy, sour and even a little sweet (can’t help myself).

These are this Summers new best friend.  Yes I know pickled onions are hardly new but these fabulous, Schiaparelli pink, super quick ones are.  We have had them on hamburgers where their tangy crunch was literally the icing on the cake (see, really can’t help myself), with both regular cheese sandwiches and with cheese on toast.  A barbecued butterflied leg of lamb was taken to fabulous new heights with a generous scattering of this pink confetti and chicken and pita kebabs sported these crimson crescents to great effect.

Too effusive?  Honestly I can’t rave enough, they take a couple of minutes to make and will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of days.  I keep mine in a jam jar which is then ready to be taken on a picnic at a moments notice.   I suggest you make some very soon.

Quick Pickled Onions

1 red onion, size of snooker ball

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Put the sugar, vinegar and salt into a shallow bowl and stir to dissolve.  Peel the onion, cut into quarters and slice thinly and add to the bowl and give it all a good stir.  These will be ready to eat within 20 minutes but will just as delicious 2 or 3 days later.

By the way, if you want to sample any of the cakes I mentioned or many other delicious creations be sure to visit Soulshine Cafe in South Street, Bridport, a fabulous, happy and funky place not to be missed.

Quick Pickled Onions 5

 

 

 

Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses

Roasted Veg Salad 3

I went into the larder yesterday and a pile of vegetables were gazing balefully at me.  I had bought them for the weekend but we had done other things and my menu plans had gone awry.  As I am going away I knew they needed to be eaten up, there is nothing worse than having to throw something away which was fine one minute and gone off the next.  So, courgettes, peppers, aubergine and onions all jostling for the top spot.  Aubergine curry, a provencal tian, soup – lots of things crossed my mind but it is hot and I wanted a salad.

I used to make a salad like this all the time in the 90’s – I can see myself now, in the kitchen of my flat, Oasis blaring and a vat of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon on stand by.  It was great then and I’ve made derivations of it ever since but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  I roasted all the vegetables and made a dressing with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.  The fruity tang was just the thing to bring this up to date, both sharp and fruity and along with some crushed garlic made the perfect dressing.  I’m not very keen on couscous, it always seems a bit pappy and, for me anyway, still has a whiff of school semolina about it.  Bulgar wheat however has bite and texture so that is what I used.  Piles of fresh herbs, the mint being one of the few things the fat slugs haven’t scoffed in the garden, and some rocket completed the picture.

If I’d planned this earlier I would have made some labne, strained Greek yogurt which I could have blobbed over the salad but some garlicky regular yogurt was an excellent alternative.  I had forgotten how much I adore this salad, roasted, sweet and slightly charred vegetables, the nutty bulghar, masses of verdant herbs and the lip smacking dressing.  This would go down a storm with barbecued meat or fish but is substantial enough to have for lunch on its own.  Truly a winner, I will be making this all summer and beyond.  Back in couple of weeks!

Roasted Veg Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bulghar and Pomegranate Molasses

The following vegetables are what I had but use an equivalent amount of whatever you like.  Should I be overwhelmed with courgettes later in the summer (if the slugs don’t eat those too) I will make this with those and perhaps throw in some feta and chives.

2 red peppers

1 aubergine

2 courgettes

3 onions

Olive oil

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 large handfuls rocket

100g bulghar wheat

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the vegetables into small and similar size pieces, turn in some olive oil, put onto baking sheets and cook for about 30 minutes turning occasionally until soft and just catching at the edges.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Put the bulghar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm above, leave to soak for 15 minutes then drain.  Mix the garlic, oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper to taste.  In a large  bowl, toss the vegetables, bulghar, herbs, rocket and dressing, stir to combine and have taste, a squeeze of lemon will probably be all you need.  Serves 2 on its own or 4 as an accompaniment.

Roasted Veg Salad 2

 

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Feta

Green Bean Salad

I am very keen on the whole family eating together and of course eating the same thing,  I might have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of “kid’s food” and who needs it. Be adventurous, there are so many delicious things to try and honestly who wants the headache of cooking lots of different dishes?  That said, it is not always plain sailing to keep the customers happy.  One of my children is currently off pasta, rice (except Paella – how does that work?) and sausages, neither like mashed potato and the other doesn’t really go a bundle on many vegetables.  I am nothing if not determined however and this salad suits everyone.

The crisp beans with sweet tomatoes and salty feta go together unbelievably well. I can’t quite say perfect marriage, too many contenders but that sort of thing.   My daughter loves the beans because of the garlicky dressing and the feta (but not the tomatoes), my son loves the beans and tomatoes (but not the feta) and I love it because the bowl is always empty.  I often serve this with roast chicken or lamb and it is one of the sides I am most likely to make to go with a barbecue.   It is a perfect solitary lunch or supper, quick, easy (so simple I am almost embarrassed to put it up as a recipe) and cheap too.

A twist on this and particularly good with chicken or fish is to lose the feta and have loads of garlic, lemon (zest and juice) and parsley or dill along with some black olives.  I do alter the components depending on who is eating the salad and would usually add olives the version you see in the photograph.

I served this, as you can see in the picture, with some focaccia which is simply the wild garlic one I wrote about in May but now that the wild garlic is over I use a regular good olive oil on its own but you could easily whizz up some other herbs if you like.

Green Bean Salad 4

 

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Feta

250-300g green beans, topped and tailed

A large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

75g feta, cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, crushed

Cook the beans until just tender.  Mix the oil, vinegar and garlic in a bowl with a little salt (remember the feta is salty) and pepper then add the beans and turn them well in the dressing, put in the tomatoes and feta and mix gently until just coated.  Taste, you may want to add a little more seasoning.  Serves 4.

Roast Asparagus with Parmesan, and Banting

Asparagus with parmesan

Are you Banting?  No I’m not being weird or misspelling, it refers to HFLC –  the high fat, low carb way of eating.  When we were in South Africa recently everyone was talking about Tim Noakes and his Real Meal Revolution book.  The night we arrived we had supper with friends, a fabulous carb free supper incidentally and were introduced to the idea, among others, of avocado, anchovies and cream cheese for breakfast.  I tried it, totally delicious and not as peculiar as you might think.  This way of eating is all the rage there, tout le monde was either talking about it or doing it and by the way, losing weight on it.   To the point that the book was sold out in most places and I was lucky to find a copy.  The day we flew out I saw a new magazine based on the philosophy at the airport – this is big over there.

Fundamentally you eat fats in their original, purest form i.e. regular milk or yogurt rather than messed around with low fat versions.  Good fats fill you up so you can eat less of them, what you need to keep a beady eye on are those carbs as that sugar can play havoc.  Chicken to be eaten with its delicious, crispy skin, bacon, avocados, cheese…. and you can lose weight.  Sounds like a dream no? It isn’t a pink ticket to go crazy though, vegetables are a huge part of the regime and the recipe section of the book is sensational.

Whilst I can’t tell you I am following this idea, I am interested in something that has gained such a huge following and I will read the book cover to cover.  In the spirit of it however, this weeks’ recipe is something I cook every year when asparagus is in season.  The roasting intensifies the asparagus flavour and the parmesan adds a gorgeous, salty savoury finish.   Quick, make it before the asparagus is over for another year.

Roast Asparagus with Parmesan

1 bunch of asparagus

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated – as much as you would like

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the bottom of the asparagus, either just snap them off where they ‘give’ or peel the bottom third.  Put them on a baking tray, pour over a little olive oil and turn the spears in it.  Season well with salt and pepper and roast for 10 minutes until just singeing at the edges.  Grate some parmesan over them and return to the oven for a further 2-3 minutes until the cheese has just melted and then tuck in.  I sometimes have this for lunch on my own or it could serve two as a light starter (or just do two bunches for a proper size starter!)   A drop of good balsamic is a nice finishing touch.

 

Chorizo and Potatoes

Chorizo and Potatoes 3

Is there anything that doesn’t taste better with a bit of chorizo in it?  I love that rich, spicy flavour and the way it imparts its sunny personality into other ingredients.   Chorizo has great shelf life and is fantastic to have in the fridge for those inevitable moments when you have empty beaks to feed and the cupboard is bare.

This is one of my children’s favourites, unbelievably quick and only uses 5 ingredients.  If you don’t have any potatoes, make Chorizo and Beans (365 things to eat, June 2013) or for a more summery feel, Chorizo, Tomatoes and Green Beans (September 2013).

Chorizo and Potatoes

 

Chorizo with Potatoes

I use the Goikoa Spanish chorizo which I buy in Waitrose, it comes in a 260g horseshoe but any other cooking chorizo would be fine too.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 ‘horseshoe’ Chorizo

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 medium new/waxy potoates

Small tin chopped tomatoes, approx 227g

Small handful parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat, slice the chorizo and add it to the pan.  Meanwhile slice the potatoes and cook until tender then drain.  When the chorizo is beginning to colour on both sides, add the garlic and cook for a minute followed by the tomatoes.  Let this simmer for 3-4 minutes then put the drained potatoes into the pan, turn them so they are coated with the tomato sauce, finally sprinkle over the parsley.  This serves 2 but is easily doubled, just use the whole horseshoe of chorizo and a normal 400g tin of tomatoes.

Chorizo and Potatoes 2