Tag Archives: Cookery

Mama’s Minestrone

Minestrone1Minestrone is such a wonderful soup.  It’s low calorie yet jam-packed with flavour and vitamin goodness and is so easy to make.  Below is my recipe – not authentic but utterly delicious.  The use of Spanish chorizo gives a delicious, rich smokey undertone that I personally love.  (This would make a good vegetarian supper – just leave out the chorizo – the beans, of course, providing a good source of protein).  That’s the beauty of this soup – make it your own with your own combination of favourite Summertime herbs and vegetables and don’t get too strung out on amounts.  If you over enthusiastically end up with a little too much veg in the pot, just add more stock to compensate.

One word of advice before we begin – try to chop the veg consistently quite small (cm cubes should do it).  It’s not a deal breaker but the finished product will look so much prettier.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 )

50g Spanish chorizo, cubed

2-3 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium carrots (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

4 new potatoes (about 170g or 6 oz), chopped

85g / 3 oz  petit pois (baby peas)

85g / 3 oz French green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin (14 oz) cannellini or white haricot beans

1 tsp fresh thyme

1.5 litres (6 cups) good vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve (optional): fresh, grated Parmesan cheese and maybe a drizzle of olive oil

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and toss in the chorizo and then the onion.  Allow to fry gently for 2-3 minutes and then add the carrots, potatoes, celery, peas and beans.  Stir and continue to fry gently for another 2-3 mins, just to let the vegetables begin to ‘sweat’.  Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, thyme, vegetable stock and black pepper.  (I would only add extra salt, if needed, at the end of cooking because most commercially prepared stocks already contain a lot of salt).  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, partially cover the pan and allow the soup to simmer gently for 30 minutes.  At the end of this time check how the hardest vegetables are doing – they should be yielding but not mushy – and taste to check the seasoning.  If needed, leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.

To serve, you can sprinkle this soup with a little fresh, grated parmesan cheese and/or a drizzle of extra virgin olive  oil.  This soup is very nice served with warm, crusty French bread.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille VegIn late Summer/early Autumn shops here are full of peppers, herbs, onions, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini).  They’re just crying out to be put together for a lovely fresh bowl of Ratatouille.  This would make a lovely light meal on its own, maybe with some crusty French bread on the side to mop up the juices.  If you’re vegetarian and want to add some extra protein then I have occasionally added a tin of ready cooked white haricot or borlotti beans in the last 10 minutes, just to heat through.  Alternatively take the original Ratatouille mix and put it in a shallow, oven proof dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and flash under a hot grill until the cheese starts to brown (very satisfying on a chilly evening).  This dish is absolutely bursting with Mediterranean flavour and goodness – olive oil, brightly coloured veg and garlic – just what the doctor ordered.

Before we begin, let me just say that you should keep the vegetable chunks quite large and stir very gently, otherwise the mix can all too easily lose all texture.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

2 large aubergines (eggplants), roughly chopped

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

150ml / 1/4 pint / 2/3 cup olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 large yellow peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

sprig of fresh rosemary

sprig of fresh thyme

5ml / 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

8 basil leaves, torn

salt and freshly ground black pepper

sprigs of parsley or basil, to garnish

Method

Aubergines (eggplants) nowadays shouldn’t need salting but if you know you are using an old-fashioned variety: place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, pop a plate and then a weight on top and leave for 30 minutes for the bitter juice to run out.

Otherwise, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until just softened.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you had salted the aubergine (eggplant) rinse it and pat dry with a clean dish towel.  Add the aubergine to the pan with the red and yellow peppers, increase the heat and saute until the peppers are just turning brown.

Add the rosemary, thyme and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook very gently for 40 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook gently for a further 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not too mushy.  Remove the sprigs of rosemary and thyme.  Stir in the torn basil leaves and check seasoning.  Leave to cool slightly and serve warm or cold, garnished with sprigs of parsley.

Ratatouille

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Pilaf Rice

A simple and foolproof method for cooking rice that produces a moist and tasty result.

Ingredients

25g (1 oz) butter

1 small onion (about 125g / 4 1/2 oz), peeled and chopped

300g (11 oz) basmati rice

750 ml (1-1/4 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F), gas mark 3.

Melt the butter in a casserole or saucepan that is large enough to accommodate all the rice (bearing in mind that it will swell).  Add the onion and season.  Cover and cook over a low heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes until it crackles, then add the stock and some salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil then transfer to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the rice is just cooked so that it is slightly al dente and all the liquid absorbed.

Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

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Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds

DahlSomeone asked me for this recipe recently so I thought I’d post it here.

Tried and trusted, it gives the most delicious result, making for a light but nutritious vegetarian meal, rich and full of flavour (although mild, rather than mind-blowingly hot).

Serve it with some warm naan bread and maybe some cool, refreshing natural yoghurt.

Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds

Serves 4

Ingredients

*As usual, my suggested substitutes for the ingredients have been included and have worked well when the original are unavailable (or you can’t be bothered with peeling and de-seeding tomatoes!).

30ml / 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 carrot, diced

10ml / 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (*sub: same quantity of grainy mustard)

2.5 cm / 1 inch piece root ginger, grated

10 ml / 2 tsp ground turmeric

5 ml / 1 tsp mild chilli powder

5 ml / 1 tsp garam masala

225g / 8 oz / 1 cup split red lentils

400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 cups water

400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 coconut milk

5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (*sub: 400g tin chopped tomatoes, drained)

Juice of 2 limes

60 ml / 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g / 1 oz / 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted, to serve

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Method

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan.  Sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic, carrot, cumin, mustard seeds and ginger.  Cook for 5 minutes until the seeds begin to pop and the carrot softens slightly.

Stir in the ground turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala, and cook for 1 minute or until the flavours begin to mingle, stirring to prevent the spices burning.

Add the lentils, water, coconut milk and tomatoes and season well.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking.

Stir in the lime juice and 45 ml / 3 tbsp of the fresh coriander, then check the seasoning.  Cook for a further 15 minutes until the lentils soften and become tender.

To serve: Sprinkle with the remaining coriander and the flaked almonds.

………………………………………………………………………………………

From: ‘Vegetarian’ The Greatest Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, publisher LORENZ BOOKS, ISBN 0 7548 0090 3

Nutrition notes:

Spices have long been recognised for their medicinal qualities, from curing flatulence (useful when added to a pulse dish) to warding off colds and flu.

Lentils are a useful source of low-fat protein.  They contain good amounts of B vitamins and provide a rich source of zinc and iron.

You need to eat food rich in vitamin C at the same meal to improve absorption of iron.  Limes are a good source, but you could also serve a fresh fruit dessert containing apples, kiwi fruit and oranges.

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Jersey Royals

jersey-royalsI bought my first batch of this year’s Jersey Royal Potatoes yesterday, from a little roadside stall that sells crops grown in their own south-facing cotils (a Jersey word for fields that slope on a hillside).   This shop was way out west in the wilds of St Ouens and trade was brisk, with bags of tatties being bought and taken away almost as soon as they were put out.

Jersey Royals are sold worldwide now and if you’ve tried them you’ll know that they are simply the best new potatoes you can buy.  Sadly however, unless you live in the UK you won’t have tasted what I’d call the ‘genuine’ article, i.e. those that are actually grown here in the island, because I do believe these are the finest tasting.  This is probably because of a combination of the Jersey soil which is traditionally fertilised by the addition of vraic (a Jersey word for seaweed) and the simple fact that like most veggies they are at their best when freshly dug.  Incidentally, here in the island harvesting is also often done by hand because those steep cotils are too difficult for modern machinery to cope with.

They are easy to prepare and cook:  Simply rub off the thin, flaky skin. Rinse and place in a pan of water that is already boiling (this seals in the flavour).  Boil gently for 12-15 minutes.  The length of time needed depends on the size of the potatoes.  Adding salt and even a sprig of fresh mint to the water is up to personal taste and preference.

These potatoes are tasty enough to enjoy just with a knob of butter melting over the top but if you’d like more recipe ideas, and for the history of this crop plus nutritional facts etc. please visit the official site here

You can also read more about my island home of Jersey by visiting my other site here.

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Oh no

Following on from yesterday’s discovery of a recipe for French Fry and Spam Casserole, (yum yum), a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this site which refers to a recipe for Olives in Dr Pepper aspic.  I kid you not.  Are there no culinary depths to which we will not sink? 

Barf making

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Chocolate Tart

choc-eggsThis tart is perfect to celebrate Easter but when it comes to chocolate I think most of us agree that anytime is the right time to eat this! 

This recipe (only very slightly adaped) is from Rachel Allen’s excellent book ‘Bake’.

INGREDIENTS

For the sweet pastry:

200g (7oz) plain flour, sifted

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

100g (3-1/2 oz) chilled butter, cubed

1/2 – 1 medium egg, beaten

For the tart:

1 x quantity of sweet pastry (using the above)

175 ml (6 fl oz) double cream

125 ml (4 fl oz) milk

125g (4 -1/2 oz) milk chocolate, chopped

175g (6 oz) good quality dark chocolate, chopped

2 eggs, well beaten

Optional decoration (for Easter) …

250g (9 oz) sugar-coated chocolate eggs, to decorate

Otherwise … a handful of toasted almonds or chopped pecan or pistachio nuts.  

..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..

You will also need a 23cm (9 in) diameter tart tin

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Method:

First, make the pastry …  Place the flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor and whiz briefly.  Add half the beaten egg and continue to whiz.  You can add a little more egg, but not too much as the mixture should be just moist enough to come together.  (If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then using your hands, add just enough egg to bring it together).

Then, with your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is about 2cm (3/4 in) thick.  Wrap it in cling film or place in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  (‘Resting’ the pastry like this is important because it stops it becoming too sticky and reduces shrinking during cooking).

Once the pastry is rested, preheat the oven to 180C  / 350F / Gas mark 4.  Roll out the pastry to no more than 1/4 inch thick (Rachel recommends placing the pastry between two sheets of cling film to do this) making it big enough to line the tart tin.  Bake the tart blind at the above temperature for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry feels dry.

To make the filling …

1.  Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan to boiling point then immediately take off the heat and stir in the chocolate to melt.  Allow to cool slightly for a few minutes, then stir in the beaten eggs.

2.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the baked pastry case and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until just softly set.

3.  Allow the tart to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the tin.

If serving at Easter time, you can decorate with sugar-coated chocolate eggs.  Alternatively at other times of the year add a handful of toasted hazlenuts to the chocolate mixture and bake as step 2.

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