Category Archives: One pot wonders

Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.

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The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.

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Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.

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We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.

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The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.

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The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.

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Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper

water

a handful of parsley

 

Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!

 

 

 


Quinoa, Butternut and Cauliflower Pilaf with Almond Sauce

I’ve been reading about alkaline diets recently , and even though we think we eat quite healthily, mostly gluten-free and vegetarian, there always seems to be an extra step – another reason to improve our diets. I invited some alkaline friends to dinner and played around with  a pilaf using quinoa instead of rice or bulgur. I wanted  to make something that was as delicious as the  original recipe but using alkaline ingredients.

I was worried the quinoa would be pappy and wet so I fried it with onions and celery and then cooked it for only 10 minutes and left it to relax. It was served it with roasted cauliflower and butternut with almond sauce drizzled over. The pilaf was perfect, a very slight nuttiness to the quiona and the roasted almonds gave a bonus crunch.

The almond butter sauce was alkaline riff on tahini sauce.  Tahini doesn’t seem to be on the alkaline list but the almond butter was delicious and worked just as well.

Quinoa, Butternut and Cauliflower Pilaf with Almond Sauce

 

1 medium cauliflower

1 lemon

olive oil to drizzle

125g blanched almonds

1tsp cumin seeds

salt

 

about 500g butternut squash or pumpkin

half a cinnamon stick

olive oil to drizzle

salt

 

2 onions

2 stems celery

olive oil to cover bottom of pan

a pinch of saffron, soaked in warm water

300g quinoa

half tsp ground allspice

450mls water or veg stock including the saffron infused water

a handful chopped coriander

 

2 cloves garlic

juice 1 lemon

1 heaped tbs almond butter

salt

water to thin

 

Heat the oven 200c

 

Put the saffron into a small jug or glass and cover with hot water. Leave aside to infuse

 

Cut the butternut into 1cm slices, peel and cut each piece into 2 or 3.

Put into a large bowl, drizzle with oil oil, season with a little salt and toss well. Break the cinnamon stick into 2, lengthwise then toss with the pumpkin. Tip into a roasting tray and put in the oven.. Shake very 15 minutes until cooked, roughly 3 times

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Wash the cauliflower, shake dry and break into florets. The bigger florets will need dividing. Put them into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, Zest the lemon, finely, over the cauliflower. Season with a salt and toss everything well together. Drizzle over a little more olive oil if needed. Tip the cauliflower into a roasting tray and spread out evenly. Put the almonds into the bowl and toss them in the residue of the oil then scatter on top of the cauliflower. Put into the oven and roast for 30 mins. Shake after 15.

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Peel and chop the onions. Heat a large skillet with a lid or a saucepan. Add a little olive oil and the onions. Cook on medium heat.

Cut the celery into 3 or 4 lengthwise then dice into half cm pieces. Add to the onion. Season with a little salt. Increase the heat so it’s all sizzling and then cook for five minutes without letting them brown.

Stir in the quinoa and the ground allspice and cook for couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Add 450mls liquid. This needs to be the saffron infused water plus water or vegetable stock to bring it up to the 450ml mark. Bring to the boil, add a little salt if you used only water, cover with a lid and turn the lowest simmer for 10 minutes. Take off of the heat but do not open the lid. Very important, no peeking as the quinoa needs to relax and absorb the steam.

Leave fro 5-10 minutes. When the veg are cooked, stir in the cauliflower and arrange the butternut on top.

Sprinkle a little chopped coriander over the top.

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To make the Almond Sauce

Put the juice of one lemon, 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and a big spoonful of almond butter into a bowl with a pich of salt and mix well. It will thickens as it mixes so have some cold water handy to thin it out. Thin with a little water at a time until you have a thick cream pouring consistency.

Serve alongside the pilaf to drizzle over.

Yum!

 

 

 


Spring Asparagus

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April and May, the garden shoots up. Everything that over wintered and that we have picked and enjoyed for so long is bolting. The spinach, chard and kales are shooting for the sky. They’ve done their job and are going to seed. We have baby stand-ins ready to take their place, they’ve been very shy about growing with the cold weather but as soon as there’s a bit of heat they will spring into action.

The baby salad leaves and rocket are shooting up too and being greedily enjoyed.

It’s also asparagus season, not that we have asparagus in our garden any more. We tried to grow it but never succeeded in growing more than enough for one persons dinner at a time. It would shoot up like an alien overnight and stand alone in the veg patch. We eventually dug it up in frustration.

However the West Cork asparagus is arriving, you’ll find it in the farmers markets. The short growing season and limited supply means a premium price but it is worth it and if you are lucky enough to buy some you’ll enjoy the flavour so much that you’ll never be impressed by the well-travelled version again.

Asparagus is best cooked simply.

One of our favourite ways to eat it is to trim the asparagus – I do this with a sharp knife, lightly running the blade across the asparagus spear until there is no resistance and the knife cuts through. Discard the tough end of the stems and toss the spears with olive oil, salt and black pepper. We then cook them on a hot grill pan, turning every couple of minutes until lightly charred. The same method would work under a grill.

Eat them as they are, with a mound of salad or dunked in butter, vinaigrette or hollandaise, it’s always a treat.

We came in from work last night, hungry and not keen to cook but there was a bunch of asparagus winking at me on the counter so I cooked up pasta with asparagus. It didn’t take too much effort and I shared a glass of wine whilst cooking – one for me, and one for the pot!

The result was delicious so here’s the recipe and another quick way to use asparagus.

Put a large pot of water to boil when you begin cooking this recipe so that you can co-ordinate cooking the pasta. Read the pasta package for the cooking time as this differs with the different varieties. We used a corn, quinoa and rice linguine – gluten free and very tasty – just don’t overcook it.

 

 

Asparagus with Linguine

Serves 2

 

1 bunch asparagus

1 small onion

20g butter

20mls olive oil

a small glass white wine

200mls cream

250g linguine – you could use spaghetti or tagliatelle

freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

 

Peel and finely chop the onion.

Heat a pan then add the butter, olive oil and onion. When the onions are sizzling season with a little salt then turn the heat to mediumWash the asparagus, shake off any excess water, and trim the ends of each spear by gently running a sharp knife across until there is no resistance and the knife cuts through. Do this to each spear and discard the tough bits. Chop the stems into 1cm pieces but keep roughly 10cm at the tip. Cook the 1cm pieces in with the onion for a few minutes then add the tips.

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Increase the heat and cook quickly for a minute or two but don’t allow it to burn. Add the white wine and allow the alcohol to bubble off then stir in the cream.

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Bring to the boil then cook without boiling over for a few minutes to thicken. Take off the heat and toss together with the pasta. If the sauce is ready before the pasta don’t keep cooking, just leave it aside until you are ready otherwise the asparagus will overcook.

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Spring Stinging Nettle Frittata

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Spring is here and the nettles are back!

Like most edibles that grow we are most enthusiastic when they first arrive. One minute we’re scrabbling around searching for the baby plants, the next there is a veritable jungle standing three feet high.

They are a bonus in the kitchen but a curse for gardeners. In my case it’s a perk to be able to use something so pesky.

Young nettles are tasty and tender. The part of the plant that needs to be picked is the tip – a bit like picking tea. If you are careful they won’t sting you but if you’re in a hurry or in doubt wear a pair of gloves. Either way use a pair of scissors to snip the tips from the plants.

Nettles are a specialty of the Northern hemisphere, they don’t grow in Australia nor anywhere that isn’t fertile and wet which rules out quite a lot of the world. Their prolific growth in Ireland proves they are very happy in this climate. If you have a nettle patch that bugs you or is getting out of control just keep cutting it back and it’ll eventually get exhausted and give up.

Before you do that, and whilst they are young and tender you might enjoy this months recipe. Each year we seem to have some kind of nettle culinary craze. We’ve made pestos, herby Greek pies, smoothies and soups and this year we’re on nettle and herb frittata with local buffalo ricotta cheese. I put in fennel weed, parsley and chives, which are growing in our garden. Use whatever herbs you can get your hands on, soft green ones are best – parsley, chervil, basil, mint or chives…… Wild garlic would be good too if you could make it down to the woods.

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Nettle, Herb and Ricotta Frittata

1 onion

25mls olive oil

6 eggs

1litre of young nettle tips

a big handful of any herbs – fennel, parsley, basil, chives etc

150g buffalo ricotta

salt and pepper

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a small non-stick pan and add enough olive oil to barely cover the bottom and then add the chopped onion. Turn the heat to medium and gently cook the onion until it softens. Season with a little salt. Stir in the nettles, keep the heat on medium and cook gently until the nettles wilt and soften.

Chop any green herbs that you are using.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper whisk them to mix then stir in the chopped herbs and wilted nettles. Break the ricotta into clumps and gently stir in, don’t over mix, you need a little lumpiness.

Put the pan back on the heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the pan is hot pour in the nettle and egg mix then turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook gently for three to four minutes. The frittata should be setting. Put the grill on hot and pop the frittata under to finish. Don’t leave it to go too golden, just a little. It’s better a little soft than overdone as it’ll continue cooking off the heat the heat.

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borlotti and tomatoes

I had this notion to make a tomato and mascarpone risotto. We had one last year amidst our bounty of delicious tomatoes and it’s an enjoyable memory. Memory didn’t help much though when it came to finding the recipe. I searched in my books then resorted to google – tomato, risotto, mascarpone – google came up with all sorts but not the recipe I remembered, then I thought River Cafe, tomato, risotto etc and hey presto there it was – Rosemary Risotto. Funny that. My predominate memory was tomato.

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I thought it would be delicious to eat this risotto with borlotti beans heaped on top.

We’ve an interesting harvest of beans in the garden, I’m particularly fond of the cannelini and borlotti beans which we grow in our tunnel. They are such a treat, the lovely velvet texture of these fresh beans are definitely a notch above dried beans in consistency and flavour.

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I have discovered a new way to cook them this year. First I heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, then gently cook a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and then add the beans. Give them a good bathe in the olive oil then add stock and cook for about twenty minutes.As soon as they are tender drain the beans, reserve the liquid to use as stock, and tip the beans back into the pot. Dress with a little olive oil, salt and black pepper.

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It’s my tastiest method yet. The beans can be used in anything- soups, salads, under grilled prawns,the possibilities are endless.
They were delicious on the tomato risotto with a drizzle of extra reserve balsamic snaking over the top.

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Cinnamon Noodles

This is a very surprising recipe that I learnt in Bangkok with May Kaidee. Cinnamon with noodles didn’t sound attractive to me so I was very impressed with the result
It’s just the business for a cold day and a very warming and a fast lunch

It’s a very simple recipe and it’s also quite flexible – I’ve already changed it as I didn’t have all the original ingredients – and it still tastes just as good.
Here’s my ‘Irished’ home version. The original recipe used mushroom sauce and soya bean sauce – this keeps it vegetarian – but I didn’t have either in the house so I used a mix of sweet soya, tamari and a little bit of shrimp paste to give it some body.

This is my take on the dish but feel free to play around!

1tbs coriander seeds bashed up in the mortar and pestle
3 fatty cloves garlic
1 hot red chilli
1 stem lemongrass
all roughly chopped then added to the mortar and pestle and ground to a paste.

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1 tsp ground black pepper
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
stirred into the paste

1 carrot, sliced thinly.
a little chopped cabbage
a handful of chopped mushrooms
the centre of a head of celery – the fronds bit, chopped
a handful of chopped spring onions
700mls vegetable stock

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1tbs sweet soya sauce
1tbs tamari sauce
1 tsp shrimp paste

a handful of rice stick noodles soaked in tepid water for five minutes

Heat a table spoon on oil in the wok then stir in the spice mix and cook on medium heat for a few minutes.
Stir in the vegetable stock, add the carrots, mushroom and tofu and bring to the boil.
Cook for 3-4 minutes then stir sweet soya sauce, tamari and shrimp paste. Next add the cabbage followed by the noodles. Cook for a couple of minutes more, take off the heat and stir in the chopped celery and spring onions.

Ladle into bowls and serve with crushed roasted peanuts and wedges of lime on the side.

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Yuzana on a Beach

We’ve discovered a delicious new salad. It’s known as  Yuzana- a salad from Burma,

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It’s an intriguing kind of upscale cole slaw with lots of different dimensions. Super skinny slices red and green cabbage,  julienne of carrot, Honey toasted cashew nuts, peanuts and sesame seeds. chunks of tomato, garlic and chilli, crispy fried chickpeas and  split dal and then there’s something else. It tasted quite earthy, a little fermented. I thought it might be some kind of mushroom.

We asked the lady of the house and she said she didn’t know what this ingredient was called, just that it was Burmese, so we asked her if we could have a look and she came out of the kitchen with a sachet on a plate. It was very dark, soft and  a little bit stringy and we were none the wiser until we got back to our hammocks and googled Yuzana.

Yuzana are a Burmese company that pickle tea leaves. The chilli seasoned tea leaves are pickled then buried underground where they ferment. No wonder there’s such a flavour impact. There have been some dodgy write ups about their ethics and ingredients – the dye used was banned everywhere that knew about it and it would be difficult if not impossible to get in Ireland so I was thinking ‘pickled kombu’. I think that would deliver that intense umami that a little bit of Yuzana does.

It’s definitely one to try when we get home.

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Here’s a run down of the ingredients that I noted. I’m sure it would be a delicious combo whichever way you interpret it.

Red cabbage – very finely sliced

green cabbage – very finely sliced

carrot – super skinny julienne

tomato – a few meaty chunks

green chill chopped pretty small

garlic- thinly sliced

a handful of toasted peanut, sesame seeds and cashews

deep fried legumes – chickpeas, split peas, fava beans

lime juice, olive oil and salt

about 1 tbs of the mysterious pickled tea leaves

Put on a big bowl and toss everything together.