Category Archives: General foodie news

Bring on the Beans

fullsizeoutput_1199

The shorter, cooler days of November give me the opportunity to indulge my bean and lentil obsession. Beans and lentils grow where the climate is warm and sunny yet I’m inclined to eat them more often when it’s cold. A bowl of thick, creamy lentils or beans is an inexpensive source of protein which will slowly release energy to fuel your body and comfort your soul.

 

Dal Markhani is a recipe from the north of India, which uses both lentils and beans served in a sauce of fragrant spices. Markhani is a sauce of butter, tomato and cream but in order to slot this recipe into my ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes file I have used coconut milk and vegetable ghee/oil instead of the dairy but feel free to swop it back.

 

The original recipe also uses black urad dal, a type of black mung bean, which takes an overnight soaking and then three or for hours to cook. Healthy as urad dal might be it’s not really in synch with our fast paced lives so they have been dumped in my recipe in favour of black beluga lentils, which are one of the gems of the lentil family. Black, round and robust they cook in 20-25 minutes and keep their shape whilst doing so. No mealy mass even if you forget them and decide to walk the dog whilst cooking.

 

There’s a fast version and a slow version for this dish, both have their merits but I’m going for the fast version and opening a can of beans. The lentils I cook from scratch.

 

Dal Makhani

 

1 large onion

50g vegetable ghee or oil

25g fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

2 cardamom pods

3 cloves

2tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 can tomatoes

½ tsp salt

1 can kidney beans

200g beluga lentils

150mls coconut milk

chopped fresh coriander to serve

 

Put the lentils into a saucepan with three times the volume of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Put aside.

Peel the onion then chop finely.

Heat a medium saucepan then add the vegetable ghee or oil and the onions. Cook on a medium heat without browning until they soften.

Peel and chop the ginger and garlic then stir into the onions. Bash the cardamom pods with the back of a wooden spoon so they crack open then add to the pot together with the cloves. Cook gently for a couple of minutes then add the ground coriander, ground cumin and turmeric. Stir and gently cook for a few minutes more then stir in the tomatoes and salt. Allow the sauce to come to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Drain and rinse the kidney beans.

Add the beans, the beluga lentils and residual cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and most of the coconut milk then taste . It’ll probably need a little more salt. If it’s too thick thin with a little water

Serve with chopped coriander and a swirl of coconut milk to garnish.

Eat with rice or mop up with naan bread.


Aliens in the Vegetable Patch

fullsizeoutput_1130

Autumn is my favourite time for eating from the garden, there is such an abundance to choose from. The tomatoes in particular seem to have reached peak sweetness, perhaps it’s the long slow ripening on the vine. It is the reason we keep gardening as it’s impossible to buy this flavour.

We have harvested all our apples and potatoes and the beetroots are ready for eating. The beans and courgettes keep making a last ditch effort, everytime that the sun comes out they decide to have another go, so although we’re no longer picking bucketsful there’s plenty for dinner.

We have the best crop of pumpkins – almost ready- after the glorious summer. Pumpkins don’t like to grow below 18c and the prolonged heat this year really boosted them along. We’re delighted as this precious crop will store right through the winter.

The stars of the moment are the cauliflowers, which have appeared like aliens in the brassica patch. All at once! Which means there’s quite some cauliflower eating to be done so it goes without saying that this months recipe is with cauliflower.

I’ve combined the cauliflowers with pumpkin so it could also be a Halloween recipe.

The measurement for the pumpkin and cauliflower are guidelines as obviously cauliflowers don’t grow in half kilo units. They do not have to be exactly 500g, just roughly equal amounts of each. The amount of eggs also depends on the size so use two large eggs or three smaller ones.

I used salted ricotta for these fritters. Pecorino and Parmesan would also be good substitutes and who knows, maybe cheddar would work too but I have not tried this variation.

 

Cauliflower and Pumpkin fritters

 

500g pumpkin

500g cauliflower

2-3 eggs – lightly beaten

200g salted ricotta – grated

a large handful of parsley finely chopped

salt and pepper

oil for frying

 

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.

Peel the pumpkin and remove any seeds then chop into equal sized pieces of roughly 2cm each.

Wash the cauliflower well then cut into florets.

When the water is boiling add the pumpkin, as soon as the water returns to the boil turn the heat to medium /low because if the pumpkin is belting around in the pot the pumpkin will become fluffy. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until a knife will enter without resistance. Lift the pumpkin from the water then leave to drain in a colander.

Return the pot to the heat and add the cauliflower, cook for 4-5 minutes, just enough to take the edge off the rawness.  Drain into a colander and give it a good shake to remove excess water.

Gently mash the pumpkin and season with salt and pepper.

Put the cauliflower florets onto a chopping board and chop to small pieces paying particular attention to the stalks.

Put the pumpkin and cauliflower into a large bowl together with the beaten eggs and grated cheese and mix together with your hands.

Give the mix a good squish and it will hold together. Form the mix into golf ball sized pieces.

Heat a large frying pan and add enough oil to cover the bottom. Gently flatten the fritters and fry on a medium heat, flipping half way, until  golden on both sides.

 

These are best served with some kind of sauce/salsa. We ate ours with chopped tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic but when the tomatoes are gone we’ll move onto avocado salsa, yoghurt sauce or mayo.

 

 


If Apples be the Food of Love….

fullsizeoutput_10d6

If apples be the food of love we have an orgy on our hands. The apple trees in our garden are laden with fruit that has an age old reputation of desire and temptation..

Some of the apple trees are ancient, espaliered around the walls of the garden, others, that we have planted whilst living here, are more manageable, free standing dwarf varieties. There’s a huge variety of different shaped and sized apples. Crisp and juicy, gnarled and perfumed, sweet and floury and tart green cooking apples.

To be quite honest after our initial tart tatin frenzy it’s not raising so much desire as a ‘what the heck are we going to do with them all’ question. Our kitchen looks like an apple sorting station with rows of buckets waiting for attention.

Apart from the obvious just eating gazillions of apples, we are getting creative with the glut.

There’s apple cooked in cider, apple chutney, apples in the salad, with beans, apple tart tatin, crumbles, muffins, cakes…..

Here is a new recipe that we’re making for the shop

A spicy apple cake, which is easy to make, delicious and just happens to be vegan and gluten free. If you don’t want to faff around with several flours just replace the rice, oat and buckwheat flours with 120g regular white or wholemeal flour,

To make the apple puree simply peel, core and dice the apples evenly and quite small, and put into a saucepan with a tablespoon of water. Put the pan over a low heat and cover with a lid. Stir every few minutes until the apple breaks down. If it looks like it might stick add a little more water. It’s ready when you can fluff the apple into a smoothish puree. I beat mine with a wooden spoon.

Spicy Apple Cake

35g oat flour

50g rice flour

35g buckwheat flour

25g cornflour

1 level tsp baking soda

1/4tsp salt

1 level tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

75mls olive oil

120g sugar

350g apple puree

1 tsp vanilla

2-3 eating apples for the top

maple syrup to drizzle

 

oven 180c

Line a 20cm x 20cm  cake tin/brownie tray with parchment paper.

Whisk the sugar and olive together until smooth

Stir in the apple puree

Mix all the dry ingredients together then fold into the wet ingredients

Pour into a lined cake tin/brownie tray

Wash and quarter the eating apples then cut into quarters and remove the core. Slice into thin wedges

Arrange the apple slices on top of the cake in 3 lines

Bake for 25 mins, until a knife comes out clean then drizzle maple syrup over the apples. If you have a pastry brush gently brush the syrup over the apples – if you don’t, it’ll look after itself. Put the cake back into the oven for 5 more minutes.

Allow to cool before eating.

www.lettercollum.ie

 


Pasta Peas

On a recent holiday,  myself and my cycle buddy, travelled from South Tyrol, the land of Apfel Strudel and ice blue rivers, down to the sea.

IMG_0089

At the beginning, even though we were in Italy the language spoken was German, the trees and houses were alpine and the vegetables growing were small. As we travelled down toward the sea the language was Italian, the beautiful old cities oozed history and the vegetables increased in size enormously.

IMG_0107

Cycling is a great way to peep over fences and the vegetable gardens were a pretty picture. There were pristine rows of courgettes, peas, beans, salads and not a weed in sight – unlike our large unruly garden.

IMG_0288

I ate this month’s dish at a trattoria in Soave. It was on the lunch menu as ‘lasagnetti di piselli’ which I thought was going to be a little lasagne with peas. I got the pea bit right but the lasagnetti was in fact freshly made ribbon pasta. Totally simple but delicious.

fullsizeoutput_fa1

Now is the time to rush from the garden to the kitchen with freshly grown peas if you can find some. If you don’t have fresh peas, frozen ones are a brilliant substitute, they actually taste better than old pod   peas.

As there are so few ingredients involved in making this dish the quality is very important. Buy a good brand of pasta and use a tasty extra virgin olive oil.

Peas and Tagliatelle

1 small onion

75mls extra virgin olive oil

50g butter – diced

350g podded or frozen peas

1 glass white wine or water

100g grated Parmesan or Pecorino

300g tagliatelle – or gluten free pasta

 

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a pan and add a little olive oil and the chopped onion. Cook on a medium heat until the onion softens then add the peas, salt and pepper and a glass of white wine or water. Cook for 5 minutes if you’re using frozen peas, 8 minutes if the peas are fresh. Puree half the peas using a stick blender or food processor then put back in the pan with the peas.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan, with plenty of water and a big spoonful of salt, according to the instructions on the packet. Be careful not to overcook. Put a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water onto the peas then drain the pasta. I always drain my pasta over the serving bowl to heat it up, this way the past doesn’t cool too quickly, Reheat the peas, add the butter cubes and give it a swirl. Put the pasta and peas in the serving dish and toss together.

Serve with olive oil to drizzle over and plenty of grated Parmesan or pecorino.

Ready to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ˇ

 


Birthday Bean Feast

img_6048

Birthday cakes are obligatory in our household. When the kids were small they would pour over the ‘Special Occasions’ cookbook and request cakes in the shape of houses, robots  and trains. The trains involved swiss rolls which made excellent wheels. There was also the ’emergency’ cake which was an upended tub of ice cream embellished with chocolate buttons, smarties and candles – a guaranteed success  which was always eaten. The ingredients didn’t get  much scrutiny unlike today where we are super aware of what we eat. I now realise why all the kids were stuck to the walls at the parties – all that sugar and fizz….

The birthday boys request this time was for a cake with lots of different layers and flavours – you can tell our kids grew up in a restaurant, they are very good at ordering food – and with all the dietary restrictions of the gathered party people the cake needed to be gluten and dairy free.

Inspired by Emma Galloways black bean torte I  made a bean and lentil cake  Beginning with a black bean and chocolate sponge  followed by butter beans and beetroot for a pink layer and red lentils, turmeric and orange for a golden yellow layer.

img_6037

It worked a treat. The layers were sandwiched with coconut cream and chilled in the fridge

img_6044

– before being enrobed in Chocolate ganache.

img_6057

The cake looked like top hat and tasted delicious – everyone enjoyed it and there were no’ ughh’ lentils or beans comments, in fact it would have been difficult to name the ingredients

img_6074

A mighty cake!

 

 

 


Chilli Kale

I can happily munch away at bowls of stir fried chilli kale.

img_5842

It’s delicious  on the side of a dinner or piled on top. Last night I made a risotto with the last of the tomatoes and borlotti beans and piled some chilli kale on top.

img_5849

We grow a few different kinds of kale. My favourites are the Asparagus kale and Raggedy Jack or Red Russian as it’s also known. Both of these kales are more tender than curly kale or the more fashionable Cavalo de Nero but whatever you have got will work with the recipe below. Just cook a little longer if you are using curly or cavalo.

It’s quite a loose recipe – you need a big handful of kale for each serving as it cooks down considerably. Wash the kale, strip the central stem from each leaf then roll a few leaves together and cut finely.

img_5845

Heat a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom and then add half teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and a about a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.

img_5844

Keep the heat low whilst the flakes, seeds and garlic gently flavour the oil then raise the heat and stir in the kale. You might have to add the kale  in two stages, letting the first batch wilt down before adding the second. Keep stirring the kale , season with a little salt and after a few minutes add couple of table spoons of water. The steam created will help the kale to cook.

img_5846

Test for doneness. If you think the kale’s still too coarse add another couple of tablespoons of water and repeat the process then serve with whatever you’re having.

Absolutely yummy!

 


Up the Pumpkins!

img_5812

We went on holiday for ten days and when we got back I could have sworn the grass had grown by 10 inches! As always in this beautiful fertile island the grass keeps growing. The drop in temperature doesn’t mean that everything else is as keen to keep growing though. The spinach and chard are now on a go-slow and even the kale production has slowed down. Mind you they all get picked so hard for the kitchen at the shop that it’s hardly surprising that they need a break.

Luckily the pumpkins are ready to harvest. We grow the Crown Prince and Queensland Blue varieties.. They aren’t huge this year but they’re not going to grow any more now – in fact pumpkins don’t like the temperature to be below 18c so it’s a wonder that they grow at all.

For us it is a precious crop. Pumpkins store very well and are very versatile, we make them into pies, soups, cakes, hummus, curries, with pasta, pilafs…. The options are endless.

They also have many nutritional benefits, being high in antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.

Each 100g of pumpkin provides 26 calories, no saturated fat or cholesterol, plenty of vitamin A – great for eyesight, vitamin C and B

So all in all it’s a great vegetable to include in your diet.

It’s delicious simply roasted as a side vegetable but it’s also the beginning part of many recipes, which transform it into something more substantial.

To celebrate the pumpkin harvest and with Halloween arriving at the end of this month here’s a pumpkin recipe. This recipe for filo pie is inspired by our recent holiday in Greece where the bakers are the masters of filo pies.

Filo is very easy to use. Just go to your local shop or supermarket and pick up a packet and follow the instructions below. Don’t worry if it breaks up a bit , just patch it up. It’s quite forgiving.

This recipe is for the dense orange flesh type pumpkin. Halloween pumpkins are too watery for this recipe so if you can’t find the hard skinned blue/grey variety it’s best to substitute a butternut squash.

 

Pumpkin Filo Pie

 

750g pumpkin flesh

2 onions

200g feta cheese

2 eggs

half tsp ground cinnamon

about 200mls olive oil

salt and pepper

a packet of filo pastry – defrosted

 

Pre heat the oven to 180c.

Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into roughly 2cm cubes. Put the pumpkin onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle over the cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. It doesn’t need to brown nor go crispy. Leave aside to cool .

img_5790

Peel and chop the onions. Sautee gently in a little olive oil, until they soften and becomes translucent.

Crumble the feta onto the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together.

Stir in the cooked pumpkin and onion, giving it a bit of a mash as you go. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Oil a baking tray that is 20cm x 30xm and has about a 5cm rim. If you don’t have one of these try a large cake tin.

img_5791

Open the packet of filo and carefully unroll it. Take the first sheet and lay it in the tin leaving the excess to hang over the edge of the tin. Brush with olive oil. Turn the tin and lay the next sheet so that the overhang is on the other side.

img_5792

Brush with oil Repeat this 3 times – there will now be 6 layers of filo.

img_5795

Spread the pumpkin mix over the filo then cover with 4-5 sheets on top, brushing with olive oil between each sheet and tucking in some of the overhang as you go .

img_5797

This will make rough parcel. Brush the top with olive oil. Score the top of the pie down the middle with a sharp knife then cut each half into 4. This will ensure the tart can be sliced once baked.

img_5799

Cook in a pre-heated oven 180c for 40- 60 minutes or until golden on top. Allow to cool for fifteen minutes before eating..

img_5802