14 November 2014

Zingy Veggie Bolognese

This is a quick and very tasty veggie alternative to the usual mincemeat-based Bolognese which goes well with pasta as well as providing a good lasagne filling.

What you need

  • 1 medium sized shallot or onion, finely chopped
  • 2 + cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp Tandoori spice mix or paste
  • 1 medium-sized parsnip, chopped brunoise size (very small like mince)
  • 1 carrot chopped brunoise size
  • 1 small fennel, chopped brunoise size
  • 150 ml good red wine
  • 1-2 veggie stock cubes
  • 300-400 ml tomato passata
  • salt and pepper
  • a handful of mushrooms, chopped brunoise size
  • 1 handful of walnuts, chopped brunoise size

What you do

  1. When you put on the water for the pasta, sauté the onions and the garlic in the olive oil with the tandoori spices.
  2. Add the vegetables brunoise and sauté a little longer.
  3. Add the wine and the veggie stock cubes. Allow the wine to soak into the veggies.
  4. Mix in passata and the stock cubes and leave to simmer until the pasta is ready.
  5. If using, add the mushrooms and the walnuts about five minutes before serving and season to taste.
  6. Place the pasta on a pre-warmed plate, sprinkle liberally with parmesan or pecorino romano, cover with a goodly portion of Bolognese. On the top, as is tradition, place a small knob of butter.

21 September 2014

My Basic Tomato Sauce

At the moment we have a bit of a glut of tomatoes from plants that Caroline grew from seed. They are a relatively mealy kind and therefore better in a sauce than in a salad. This sauce can be (and is) made in bulk and can easily be frozen for later use. It works well on its own with a bit of freshly chopped basil added before serving or as a base for any other sauce using tomatoes (including a pizza topping!).

What you need

  • 2 – 3 kilos of tomatoes, quartered or grated (helps to get rid of the tough skins)
  • olive oil to cover the bottom of a heavy pan
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3+ cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp tandoori masala or paste (bhalti masala/paste works well too)
  • 1 tbsp “oriental” spice mix (see below)
  • 2 cubes/2 tbps vegetable stock
  • 150-200 ml white wine
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • sea salt to taste

What you do

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and when it is hot, fry the onions, the garlic and the tandoori mix/paste.
  2. Add the quartered or grated tomatoes and the white wine and simmer until the tomatoes disintegrate (at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better), stirring occasionally.
  3. With a fork, pick out the floating tomato peels.
  4. Add the honey and blend with a mixer; you may want to add the garlic now (or add more garlic now, if you want the flavour more pronounced.
  5. Allow to cool make portions and freeze the sauce.

The oriental spice mix could contain such spices as coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, curcuma, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seed, chili, sea salt etc.; some of these are also found in a curry masala like tandoori. If you are not really into these kinds of flavours, leave the tandoori or the oriental spice mix out.

11 September 2014

Risotto sort of "Caprese"

One of my favourite dishes is “insalata caprese”, this perfect mixture of flavours and textures that in my view is so typical of Italian cuisine. A few weeks ago, in summer, I was in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, where the cherry tomatoes were ripe and fresh off the bush, and I came across this dish, which I have tried to recreate. It combines elements of insalata caprese with a rich risotto.
A former neighbour of ours was Italian and she once made a risotto in a high-walled frying pan at 11:30 pm, as a midnight snack. I was amazed at how little time this took. In this recipe I have used one too, partly because it works well for the final cooking part…

What you need

  • 350 g risotto rice (for example Arborio)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion finely chopped
  • 100 ml of good white wine
  • vegetable broth
  • 2+ cloves of garlic
  • grated parmesan cheese to taste (not pictured)
  • about 20 ripe cherry tomatoes (or thickly sliced marzano tomatoes as I had no cherries)
  • 200 g buffalo mozzarella, finely sliced
  • 2 good sprigs of basil cut into fine stripes
  • a drizzle of dry sherry (optional)
  • Cheese spice mix (optional)

What you do

  1. Sauté the onions in olive oil, then add the rice and stir until it looks glassy. (Do not let it brown!)
  2. Add the wine and stir, then slowly add the broth as and when needed. If you like a creamy risotto, stir as much as you can; if you prefer a more grainy one, stir as little as possible.
  3. Just before the end of the cooking period (when the rice grains are not hard in the centre anymore), press in the garlic; this way it retains its pungency.
  4. When the risotto is done, dent the surface and put a cherry tomato into each dent.
  5. Distribute the mozzarella over the top and season with the cheese spice mix (if using).
  6. Put under the grill until the mozzarella has melted or even browned ever so slightly.
  7. Drizzle the sherry over the bits of rice that are still visible if it has dried out under the grill.
  8. At the very last minute before serving, add the basil leaves. 

04 August 2014

Fifty-Minute Wholemeal Bread

Near where we live there is a flour mill with a small shop attached to it. The man who runs it is a miller, heart and soul, and, unsurprisingly, very knowledgeable. He developed a bread mix, named after his wife, which can be baked into a tasty bread in 45 minutes, but the only indication of what it is composed of is on the mandatory list of ingredients (without amounts). On that basis and with a bit of experimentation, here is my take on this delicious quick-fix bread.

What you need

  • 400 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 100 g buckwheat or wheat flour, ideally homeground
  • 240 g mixed seeds (sesame, linseed, sunflower)
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 level tbsp. salt, possibly slightly less
  • 1 cube yeast (enough for a kilo of flour)
  • 500 ml lukewarm water

What you do

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.
  2. Mix all the ingredients and knead or beat with a spatula to get air into the mixture.
  3. Grease a baking tin very thoroughly and pour (yes, it will be that liquid!) the dough mix in.
  4. Place in a cold oven and set the temperature to 200°.
  5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, shake out of the baking tin and put back for a few more minutes.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

31 July 2014

Summer Berries Pie

We have a glut of soft fruit in our garden at the moment. I experimented with this and must admit that the pie that came out of it tastes very nice indeed but some things will need tweaking, in particular the amount of Agar Agar in the berry mix as this is rather acidic, which interferes a little with Agar Agar’s ability for jellification. The amount given below should be about right.

The recipe for the dough is loosely based on a recipe that I found in my Grandmother’s finishing school cookery book, a fascinating document about how eligible young women were meant to cook for their future husbands and family. Interesting reading, to say the least.

What you need

  • 150 g soft butter
  • 150 g sugar (brown)
  • 1-2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tblsp cocoa poweder
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 200 g ground almonds
  • 250 g flour
  • 400-500 gr mixed berries (raspberries, blue berries, gooseberries, red or black currants)
  • sugar to taste
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 small glass of fruit schnapps
  • 16 g (about) Agar Agar
  • optionally some of the egg from above for glazing

What you do

  1. To make the dough, stir the sugar and soft butter into a creamy mixture, fold in all the other ingredients (eggs to almonds in the list above) and lastly sift the flower in. The dough will probably be a little sticky.
  2. Put in the fridge to cool down for at least 30 minutes
  3. Soak the Agar Agar in water, about a finger deep and allow to stand for about 20 minutes. Then simmer it gently for about 2 minutes until it clears.
  4. In the meantime, place the berries into a pan with some sugar and heat gently. Once the mixture becomes juicy add more sugar, the lemon juice and the schnapps.
  5. Simmer gently until the fruit is pretty soft, then blend. (If you like, but through a sieve to remove pips.)
  6. Allow to cool down, then stir in the agar agar. The mixture should have a consistency like fairly solid jam. The alternative is, of course, to use jam or to add sugar at about 75% of the weight and cook until it is like jam. However the problem is that the filling loses the fruity sharpness that is special to this pie.
  7. Butter a round cake dish, divide the dough into three roughly equal pieces, two of which are rolled out between two sheets of greaseproof paper to a round of about 4 mm; the third is to be formed into a long sausage. If the dough gets too soft or sticky, refrigerate again.
  8. Place the first round into the bottom of the cake form (28 cm diameter) then create a rim with the sausage.
  9. Pour in the berry mixture and close with the second round. Glaze with leftover egg if you like.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at about 200° for 30 to 40 minutes.
It tastes best a day after baking and keeps well in the fridge

09 June 2014

Quick Whole Grain Rice and Veggie Dinner

Many people shy away from using whole grain rice because it seems to take forever to get it done – and they miss out on its nutty flavour and its lovely al dente bite. But there is an easy trick which means it will take no longer to do a whole rice dish than if you used any “normal” kind of rice: the use a pressure cooker.

What you need

  • 320g  whole grain rice per person (80 g per person and 200 ml water)
  • 800 ml water 
  • 2 sachets saffron disolved in a little white wine, sherry or white port
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (not pictured)
  • 3 spring onions (or shallots), roughly chopped
  • 2+ cloves of garlic, finely sliced or puréed
  • 3 medium sized carrots sliced thinly
  • ½ to 1 fennel, sliced (or whatever else you happen to have in the fridge or the veggie patch) 
  • 1 handful of black olives, de-pipped and rinsed
  • 1 capsicum pepper, cubed
  • 150 ml white wine or, even better dry sherry or white port 
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • about 4 cherry tomatoes per person, whole or halved
  • 1 tbsp red pepper corns (optional)

What you do

  1. For the rice, put the water and the rice into the pressure cooker and build up steam (some say no salt and no wine, but I have done both and it has worked out.
  2. Leave to simmer for 15 minutes, then allow to cool down (about 5 minutes) so you can open the pressure cooker. 
  3. Sprinkle the saffron into a small glass of wine, sherry or port and stir into the rice-vegetable mix. 
  4. In the meantime sauté the onions and the garlic, then add the carrots and the fennel, stirring to prevent browning.
  5. Add the wine, sherry or port and reduce a little.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add a little veggie broth if it gets too dry.
  7. Add the cooked rice, the olives, the pepper, the red pepper and, lastly, the tomatoes and mix gently, only letting the last veggies get warm – don’t cook them or they are no longer crunchy.