Tag Archives: tasty

The Humble Sprout + A Recipe

The humble sprout is much maligned but it’s a delicious vegetable  (if cooked properly) and as one of the ‘cruciferous’ group of vegetables (along with, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli)  may help to protect the body from cancer.  I can’t stress this enough: The key is to not overcook them.  If you’ve had bad experiences with them, the chances are that an inexperienced cook has ‘nuked’ them within an inch of their lives, rendering them limp and a slightly yellowy green colour.  In this state they take on a nasty bitterness and are very unpleasant to eat.  Cooked correctly however they should be soft but still retain some of their ‘oomph’ (my technical term, roughly translated to mean ‘some of their body and structure’) and will still appear green.  

To prepare them for cooking: Remove the tougher and loose outer leaves (usually only one or two in number) and rinse in cold water.  I know opinion is divided nowadays but I still like to cut a little cross in the base of them because I find it helps to cook them evenly and quickly.  I then cook mine in one of those foldaway steamer baskets, placed in the bottom of a pan with a little bubbling water underneath, lid on, for 8 – 10 minutes.  Timing depends on the size of the sprouts so do keep an eye on them and check for readiness by poking them with the tip of a sharp knife.  If you prefer, you can of course boil them for an equal amount of time.

To serve: Again, I’m a fan of these little veggies so for me, serving them steaming hot with freshly cracked black pepper is all that I need, but non die-hard sprout fans might also like a knob of butter!

If I still haven’t quite convinced you, here is a very nice recipe for sprouts with a little extra crunch, nuttiness and interest – perfect for Christmas and Thanksgiving lunch and dinners.

CRISP-TOPPED SPROUTS

Serves 8 people    Preparation time: 15 minutes    Cooking time:    15 minutes

 Ingredients

1 kg / 2 lb 4 oz Brussels sprouts

50g / 2 oz white bread, preferably ciabatta

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for serving

25g / 1 oz flaked almonds

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

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Remove any tough leaves and trim sprouts, then steam for 10 minutes until tender. 

Tear the bread into crumbs.  Heat a large frying pan and pour in the olive oil.  Add the bread and fry until just crisp.

Tip in the flaked almonds, garlic and lemon zest, then cook gently until everything is golden (be careful not to burn the garlic).

Place the sprouts in a serving dish, season, then toss with the crumbs etc. You can, if you wish, add a little extra olive oil to finish.

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These can be prepared ahead:  Cook the sprouts the day before to the ‘al dente’ stage (in other words, until almost but not quite cooked).  Remove from the heat and then cool quickly by draining and then plunging into a bowl of iced water.  Drain and set aside in the fridge.  You can also make the topping a day in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  To serve: Microwave the sprouts for 1-2 minutes or cook in boiling water to re-heat (being careful not to overdo it).  Warm the topping mix then toss with the topping as above.

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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.

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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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Sausages with salami and lentils

Le CreusetThis is a hearty, comforting and full-of-flavour rustic meal – perfect for cold winter nights.  Easy to make, and the ingredients won’t burn a hole in your pocket.  What more could you ask?

Sausages with salami and lentils

Serves 4  / Prep: 20 mins  / Cooking time: 45 mins

Ingredients:

2 onions – peel, cut in half then cut each half into four or five pieces, cutting from root to tip

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves

200g salami (or chorizo), in one piece

8 fat sausages (about 1 kg)

500g chopped / crushed tomatoes or tomato passata

150g green or brown lentils

500ml water

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (= about a tablespoon of fresh leaves or a teaspoon of dried)***

Crushed black pepper

***Rosemary is a herb that I love and goes very well with pork so I tend to put in a little more than this.  The amount I’ve noted above is a suggestion that won’t be overpowering – add more next time if, like me, you feel you’d prefer it.

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Method:

Put the oil in a heavy-based casserole and brown the sausages.  You want them to colour on the outside; they will do most of their cooking once they are in the sauce.  Remove and set aside.

Add the onion slices to the pan and let them cook over a moderate heat until tender.

Meanwhile, peel the garlic, slice it thinly and add it to the onions.  You’ll need to stir them regularly so that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Peel the thin skin from the salami and cut the inside into fat matchsticks.  Add this to the softening onions and leave for a couple of minutes, during which time the salami will darken slightly.

Tip the crushed tomatoes (or passata) into the onions, add the washed lentils and stir in 500ml water.  Bring to the boil.  Tuck the sausages into the casserole, together with the sprigs of rosemary.

Cover the pot with a lid and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour, until the lentils are tender.  Stir the lentils and seaso0n with black pepper.  You may find it needs little or no salt.

(This is one of those very forgiving dishes where timing is not crucial.  You can leave this very gently bubbling on the stove for a little longer – just keep the pot covered and keep an eye on it to be sure that it isn’t drying out).

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Slow cooked root vegetable soup

This is honestly one of the tastiest soups I have ever eaten with the added bonus that it is low in fat. The slow cooking of the vegetables intensifies their flavour and fills the kitchen with the most wonderful aroma.  Soup in all its varieties is a good and cheap way of getting the family to take in more health-giving vegetables and I defy anyone not to like this one.  Make a meal of it on a cold Winter’s night with some crusty bread and some cheese.

This is from the doyenne of home cooking here in the U.K. – Delia Smith.

Slow cooked root vegetable soup

Serves 6

Vegetable quantities are prepared weights

8oz (225g) peeled carrots, cut into 2 inch (5cm) lengths

8oz (225g) peeled celeriac (celery root), cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces

8 oz (225g) trimmed and washed leeks, halved and cut into 2 inch / 5 cm lengths

8 oz (225g) peeled swede (rutabaga / yellow turnip), cut into 2 inch (5cm) lengths

1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2-1/2 pints (1.5 litres) stock, made with Marigold Swiss Bouillon vegetable powder

3 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

To serve (optional): 6 teaspoons of fat free Greek yogurt and a few fresh chives

You will also need a large, lidded flame-proof casserole (capacity of 6 pints or 3.5 litres)

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Pre-heat the oven to 275F / 140C / gas mark 1 

This is such a simple soup to make once you have all your ingredients peeled, cut and prepared. All you do is place everything in the casserole and bring it up to a gentle simmer, then put the lid on.  Transfer the casserole to the lowest part of the oven and leave it there for 3 hours, by which time the vegetables will be meltingly tender and sweet and the aroma emanating from your kitchen just divine!

Remove the bay leaves and process or liquidise the soup in several batches to a puree.  (I find a hand blender is brilliant for things like this).

Gently re-heat and serve in soup bowls with a teaspoon of Greek yogurt swirled into each and garnished with fresh chopped chives.

(This recipe can be found on-line at deliaonline.com and is also printed in her book ‘How to Cook, Book Two, The Delia Collection’, Delia Smith, ISBN  056338431X)

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