14 October 2012

Peppers stuffed with curried lentils


It is getting a little late in the year but our garden still produces vegetables, most notably yellow peppers, courgettes and chillies. A few weeks ago we had my cousin Mitzi and her friend Sally staying with us and they cooked us peppers stuffed with lentils so this is my attempt to do what Sally did.

What you need

  • 1-2 peppers per person, deseeded and cut in half
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 200 g green lentils, cooked in 250 ml water and 150 ml red wine (20-25 mins)
  • 1 small courgette, diced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, mashed
  • ½ red chilli, deseeded if you don’t like your food too hot
  • 1 tsp jeera (ground cumin)
  • 1 tbsp madras curry powder
  •  ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée or 100g chopped tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • 150 g goats cheese in thin slices
  • ½ tub crème fraîche or double cream

What you do

  1. Stir fry the onions, garlic, chilli and the ginger in rape seed or sunflower oil.
  2. Add the ground spices and allow them to go slightly brown
  3. Add the carrots and the lentils, a splash of water and the tomato (purée or chopped).
  4. Simmer until the ingredients are well blended (about 5 mins), add more water if it gets too dry. Season with salt.
  5. Take off the head and stir in the courgettes. Spoon the mixture into the halved peppers.
  6. Lay a slice of goats cheese on the lentils and add a dollop of cream.
  7. Bake in the oven (200°) or under a grill until the cheese is melted and a light brown crust has formed, about ten minutes. 

08 October 2012

Polenta Slices with Chantarelles and Boletus in Port (and Cream) Sauce

This weekend I am looking after my Dad again. He likes his food, but a real compliment is when he says he’d like to lick the plate.
Polenta is not everyone’s favourite dish, partly because to make a good one is time consuming business, partly because some like it runny and others firm enough to form slabs, partly because there are so many different kinds of polenta meal, from something not unlike semolina to a fine flour. I have used the rough-ground type.

How to make polenta

Again, many different views exist, from simply using salted water, to a broth or even a broth with a shot of dry sherry or white wine. In the end, it is a matter of taste.
It is easy to freeze in handy portions, especially if you make a dry polenta. As it takes a fair bit of work, I tend to make enough for about three helpings (300 g to start with can go a long way).
Bring water or broth to the boil; it should be 4 parts liquid to 1 part of the polenta flour (200g would mean about 800 ml liquid). If you want a dry polenta, add little to no liquid later on…
Pour in the polenta flour and stir until the liquid has been absorbed. If you have a slow-cooker, put it in there for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If you haven’t, turn the heat all the way down and stir regularly for at the very least 30 minutes. The longer you heat it, the smother it becomes. Leave to stand for a bit.
For the slices spread the polenta on a wet wooden board, smoothing it with a wet wooden spatula or a knife, the leave it to cool.  

What you need

  • 2 polenta slices per person
  • 1 knob of butter and a dash of olive oil for frying the polenta
  • 1 knob of butter and a dash of olive oil for the fungi.
  • 300 g of chanterelles and boletus, cleaned with a (dry!) brush, sliced
  • 1 shallot finely cut
  • ½ red chilli diced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 100 ml Port (possibly mixed with red vermouth)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 100 ml double cream or 50% crème fraîche if you find the mixture with the port too sweet; for vegans, obviously leave this out.

What you do

  1. Fry the polenta slices with the butter and olive oil on a medium until they are golden and have a nice crust on the outside.
  2. Heat the oil and butter, add the shallots, then the garlic and last the chilli. Don’t let them take colour.
  3. Add the chanterelles and the boletus and sauté. Season with paprika, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour in the port, add the tomato purée and reduce till it is a bit thicker. You may want to remove the fungi before reducing and add them again before serving.
  5. Last, add the cream and reduce. (Put in the fungi again, warm up)
  6. Pour over the polenta slices and serve with a salad.

17 September 2012

Leek, Pear and Blue Cheese Pasties

At the moment we reap the benefits of Caroline’s careful cultivation of our leek bed. As happens so often with such a vegetable bed, you end up with a glut. This dish was one way of dealing with this. The pears, which don’t appear in the “What you need” photo, were Caroline’s afterthought to use up slightly overripe fruit, and an inspired one as it turned out.




What you need

  • 2 leeks sliced, including the green bits
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mixed spices (e.g. black pepper, cayenne pepper, hot paprika, ground coriander)
  • 1 tbsp instant vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp dried herbs (e.g. Greek oregano)
  • 100 ml dry sherry
  • 250 g mild blue cheese, Gorgonzola, bleu-de-Bresse or our very own Blaues Wunder
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry about 300g each
  • 1 or 2 pears, peeled and sliced (not pictured)
  • 1 egg, beaten

What you do

  1. Sauté the onions and the garlic, if using, with the mixed spices until the spices are a bit darkened.
  2. Add the leek and stir-fry until the leeks are wilted.
  3. Sprinkle with vegetable broth and dried herbs.
  4. Pour in the sherry and the blue cheese in small cubes. Stir until the cheese is melted.
  5. Finally, add the pieces of pear.
  6. Lay out one sheet of puff pastry, distribute the vegetable and cheese mix for the pasties. Brush the area where the pastry sheets are meant to stick together with part of the beaten egg.
  7. Cover with the second sheet of puff pastry and press together with a fork. Brush with the rest of the egg for a glazed finish.
  8. Bake in a hot oven (200°) for about 20 minutes – until the pasties are golden brown.

Served with a mixed salad this is a lightish meal.

15 September 2012

Damson Flan

What you need It is damson time and the neighbouring farms are almost giving them away. My Mother, who would have been 87 last Tuesday, used to make quiches and lovely fruit flans on Fridays, and at this time of year it was obviously done with damsons.This one is quite a quick one to make.

What you need: 

  • 300 g spelt flan dough spread to fill a 30 cm flan tin (100 g butter is rubbed into 200 g spelt wholemeal flour mixed with 1 level tsp salt and two tbsp vanilla sugar. Then work about 200 ml of water into the crumbs, adding water while kneading until the dough is firm and doesn’t stick to your hands; lazy alternative: buy it already spread. There is very good organic stuff around.)
  • 1 kg damsons, more if you have them, halved, stone removed
  • 2-3 generous tblsp ground almonds or hazelnuts,
  • 4 tbsp cane sugar
  • optionally 1 heaped tsp cinnamon powder
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • Optionally: whipped cream and plum schnapps for serving

What you do:

  1. Line a flan tin with greaseproof paper and then with spread dough, making sure it comes up the sides.
  2. Mix 2 tbsp of the cane sugar with the ground almonds or nuts (and the cinnamon, if using) and distribute evenly over the base.
  3. Lay the damson halves in concentric circles that should overlap on the base.
  4. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp of cane sugar and drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the damsons.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven at 200°, checking after 20 minutes.
  6. Serve hot or cold, if you like with a dollop whipped cream and optionally a light drizzling of plum schnapps.

05 September 2012

Greek-style Cracked Baby Potatoes

I had this when I was in Greece and loved it. It is utterly delicious with small new potatoes, which have a lot of surface area for the cooking “juices”; needless to say, you can also do it with slightly bigger ones. I cannot guarantee that this is like the traditional Greek recipe but I prefer taste to authenticity.

What you need

½ - 1 kg of small new potatoes
4-5 tbsp balsamico vinegar
olive oil for frying
1-2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek or fennel seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
sea salt to taste
fresh herbs, finely chopped (Greek basil, oregano, marjoram, flat-leaved parsley, coriander leaves, etc.)
zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed
optionally: capers and/or dried olives, finely chopped

What you do

  1. Crack the washed, unpealed potatoes with a kitchen hammer or under the flat blade of a large knife which you smack with your fist; the potatoes must only be cracked, not broken up!
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pan with a lid and add the potatoes in a single layer. Sauté with the lid on until they are a golden.
  3. In the meantime grind the spice seeds and the salt with mortar and pestle. 
  4. Add the balsamic vinegar and the spice mix and shake thoroughly. Add the capers and/or dried olives, if using.
  5. Cook with the lid on for about 15 min. until they are softened but still firm.
  6. Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and the garlic, warm once more briefly and serve with Tsatsiki and a Greek or other salad for a delicious, light meal. 

30 August 2012

Spicy Spelt Crispbread

I have just completed a 10-day fast during which I ate no solid food (but had lots of delicious broths and had wonderful juices), but now I'm looking forward to biting into something crispy. This recipe is derived from something I was given in Austria at the end of an earlier fast, but I have adapted and changed it considerably to make it into something that can be served together with an aperitif.
Although it is possible to make this with commercially available wholemeal spelt flour, the taste of the crispbread made with freshly ground spelt grains is incomparably better.





What you need

  • 250 g spelt grains, ground to the consistency of wholemeal flour (substitute up to 50g with buckwheat)
  • 200 ml water
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tblsp dried herbs
  • 1 tblsp spice mix (I use hot paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and a touch of ground coriander)
  • 1 tsp each of seeds (sesame seed, linseed, rapeseed)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • sesame or other seeds to cover (optional)

What you do

  1. Mix all the ingredients into a smooth dough and leave to rest, covered or wrapped in clingfilm for about 30 min to give the flour time to absorb the water.
  2. Roll out to about 2 mm (too thick and it tastes like cardboard).
  3. Sprinkle the sesame seed on top, going over them with a rolling pin to make sure they stick.
  4. Cut into the shape you fancy, put on a baking foil.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven at 200° for about 10 to 15 min, until they are completely dry and brittle.
Tastes nice with some of the toppings presented earlier.
Tip: Instead of mixing all the olive oil in at the beginning, roll out the dough roughly and spread some of it over the dough, then fold and repeat. This creates a bit of a puff pastry effect.

19 August 2012

Chickpea, Bean and Vegetable salad

This is a very tasty summer dish, which can be prepared in advance. In fact the longer the vegetables are allowed to sit in the dressing, the better this dish tastes.


What you need

  • 400 g of drained chickpeas (if you want to make them fresh, boil them in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes in plenty of water and a bit of oil and if you like a tsp of baking soda, then let the pressure drop by itself; saves soaking and all that)
  • 3 to 400 g of green beans, cut to a manageable size
  • 1 small fennel, cut in half, then sliced thinly
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 or 2 red chilies, without pips and cut into tiny pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
  • 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt, pepper, optionally cajun spice (see earlier recipes)
  • white balsamic vinegar, olive oil

What you do

  1. Heat the olive oil, add the onions and the fennel, stirfry briefly, then add the chickpeas and the green beans.
  2. Stir over a medium fire until the beans have softened a little, then add the yellow pepper.
  3. Keep stirring until the vegetables are soft but still have bite (about 15 min)
  4. Prepare the dressing: mix the garlic with the herbs, the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil; season to taste
  5. Mix the vegetables with the dressing and leave for at least one.
  6. Serve lukewarm or cold with some freshly baked bread.

11 August 2012

Chillied Cucumber Pickle

Our garden is producing at veritable flood of cucumbers. While trying to find some ways in which they can be used up, I remembered some tapas I had a few years ago in Barcelona. One of them was a kind of chilli pickle with slices of cucumber, which tasted delicious. Here is how I tried to recreate that dish.

What you need

  • 3 to 4 cucumbers, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • freshly ground pepper
  • one or two red chilies, without pips and cut into tiny pieces
  • white wine vinegar
  • sugar
  • one sprig of tarragon, one sprig of peppermint, chopped finely

What you do

Arrange the slices of cucumber on a plate or a flat serving dish and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave to stand for two hours.
In a sieve wash the salt off cucumbers and allow them to drain.
Grind fresh pepper over the cucumbers, add the chilies and the garlic and mix well.
Put in to a screw top jar and top up with white wine vinegar.
Add sugar until the sourness of the wine vinegar is neutralised.
Add the herbs, shake well and leave to stand overnight. The cucumbers are ready to eat the next day, the next week or the following month.

02 August 2012

"Riis und Pohr" (Leek Risotto from Uri)

A couple of remarks to begin with

It is just over a year now since I started writing this collection of recipes. It seems fitting to mark this event with the first recipe I learnt to cook from my Mum in the place where I cooked it for the first time: in the mountain hut which her father built in the central Swiss canton of Uri, where she grew up. What fits very nicely also is that this is a traditional Uri recipe reflecting both the simple fare the relatively poor farming population could afford and the Italian influence (“Pohr” coming from Italian porro for leek), which is the result of the proximity to Italian-speaking Ticino, but also the fact that the Gotthard train line and the complex series of tunnels that characterise it were largely built by Italian workers, poor and badly treated, a fact that is also reflected in the simplicity of the dish. It was originally served as a complete meal and works as such, but my Rwandan son Charles loves a bit of meat so it is accompanied by a robust, coarse-grained pork sausage in the picture.
To add a bit of atmosphere, there is also picture of hut and the weather conditions on the day I did the dish.   

What you need

  • 1 leek (large is good) with the green cleaned, cut into 5 mm strips
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 350 g risotto rice (Carnaroli, Riso Nostrano)
  • 200 ml white wine
  • 400 ml vegetable broth
  • (optionally 100 ml of cream)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • grated cheese (Bergkäse/Alpine cheese)

What you do

  1. Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the leek and the onions until the leek is soft (about 3 to 5 minutes).
  2. Add the rice and stir till it is glassy, then add the wine and reduce.
  3. Add the vegetable broth in portions always making sure that the rice is just about covered. You may need to stir to prevent sticking (the more you stir, the creamier the rice will become; if graininess is preferred, stir as little as possible).
  4. Stop adding broth when the rice is soft. At this point you may add salt and pepper and the cream (if you use it).
  5. Serve with cheese sprinkled over the top.