Beautiful Greens

May 17, 2013

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Hey, How’s it going? We’re pretty busy with our new Summer Healthy Eating Programme detox and the longer days are definitely coming in handy but you couldn’t call it summer. This afternoon’s been lovely though…..

Vegwise, we’re still in the middle of what’s called the “hungry gap”  here in Ireland. It’s  the time just before all the summer varieties really kick in. The winter varieties are well and truly finished and there’s a slow trickle of new varieties starting to come through. We’ve already those gorgeous salad greens from Marc Michel and Denis Healy, amazing coriander from Mick Gordon last week and this week Mick brought us his fab spring onions.

Now the only question is what to do with them – champ? pad thai? fresh in salads? Slow roasted? Maybe dipped in romanesco (The Natural Sauce Company based here in Dublin do a great one) . Last night I made a lovely fritatta with the bulbs which I gently sautéed in butter. 20 minutes will get them gorgeously melting then some of your favourite cheese (I used  a Pecorino but it’s up to you). With the bunch in this week’s bag  you could use 6 eggs for the fritatta and feed up to 5 people. Add some spuds and you’d feed 8. Depends on how many come to dinner…. Also fritatta keeps well (but outside the fridge as cold does something strange to it) and makes fab sambos so you can never make enough in my book.

I used the rest of the onions i.e. the green stems to make a salad along with this week’s beautiful spinach and flat beans. Tempted as I was to toss those beans with chorizo after a light steaming they were so spanking fresh that it seemed a shame to waste their lovely nutiness so I used them raw for this salad and was very glad I did.

I’ve been playing around with nut dressings of late – roughly grinding them, then adding them to dressings so you end up with a paste more than a dressing. It’s great, really adds lots of crunch and flavour, aswell as all the amazing goodness that nuts and seeds have to offer. For this dressing I toasted sunflower seeds then stirred them into olive oil and lemon juice. To counteract any bite from the onions I added a little honey. Yum Yum. The whole thing works so well with the fritatta but try it with any veggie main, we’re addicted – Walnuts in a dressing for asparagus in particular is a match made in heaven.

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The Salad Recipe (if you can call it that)

You’ll need:

A couple of handfuls of spinach or any greens you like

A handful of flat beans topped and tailed then cut at an angle

A couple of spring onions (green part only)

For the dressing:

A handful sunflower seeds

Your best olive oil

1 Lemon

Runny honey

Prepare the dressing by toasting the sunflower seeds on a dry pan til just starting to change colour. Allow to cool slightly then grind in your blender to a coarse texture – a few bits don’t matter at all and you definitely don’t want anything powdery.

Combine about 5 tablespoons olive oil with the juice of a lemon adding a pinch of Maldon salt and a scant teaspoon of honey. Stir in the sunflower seeds and mix to a paste. If things seem too thick add a little more oil. You want the consistency of a good pesto.

To put the salad together, toss the spinach with the beans and onions. Spoon the dressing on top along with a scattering of seeds. Serve with ……..anything!

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

Poor Claire has been very unwell with the flu and without her we’re lost. Leek mash, baked feta and rocketAll the extra making up for her absence means I don’t have a new recipe for this week so I’m going to offer some suggestions from our blog.
This week’s lovely leeks from Oliver Kelly are gorgeous cooked down slowly in butter then folded into creamy mash with a side of baked feta especially with all wintery weather we’ve been having..
Or what about braised with a Parmesan crust? You could also roast them up with this week’s carrots and make risotto.

Risotto with Leeks and Carrots plus Ramiro Peppers

For those of you with rainbow chard I find that stir-fried with lemon and garlic is hard to beat and this would go beautifully with the leek mash (I’d leave out the chickpeas if serving it with spud though)

Rainbow chard on the panFritatta is also lovely and you could serve it with some slow roasted tomatoes  Roasted tomatoesand a salad with your purslane (the green leaves you might be wondering about).

And for dessert? Well, you won’t do much better than this week’s Osteen mango. They’re amazing with a gorgeous coconutty edge. Chopped up with some good vanilla ice-cream will make it go further (you might serve 4 this way) but straight up between 2 is really the way to go. The stone is the best part and this is where it gets a bit messy. Dan and Auggie fight over it and end up passing it back and forth each watching the other like a hawk in case anyone sucks too much of the gorgeous nectar. We also attack the skins so be sure and wash before you peel. This isn’t a first date approach to things (or is it?) but it really is the way to get the best out of it.

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

Blackberry Pancakes

Pancakes. Once you get the hang of them you can whip up a batch in about 5 minutes, less if you have a well trained child on the case. Auggie, my crazy 3 year old obedient in hardly any other situation, knows that the egg white must be whipped up to stiff peaks “like clouds” before I’ll add them, that all the blueberries in the freezer will not be going into 1 batch of pancakes (I buy when they’re cheap, freeze, then have a stash right through the winter months).

In the kitchen I rule – shame about everywhere else! He’s even getting the hang of folding – we’ve tried his way and the more leaden result was enough to convince him. Arts and crafts sessions often lead to meltdowns (mine not theirs) but in our house baking in is the way to get everyone on the same page. If you’ve got a kid (or 2) you’ll know this is no mean feat.

Anyways, back to breakfast. We make pancakes almost every weekend and I even made some last Thursday morning before school – pregnancy has me up at the most ungodly hours and instead of cruising websites I can’t afford I decided to make breakfast.

The basic recipe is simple – flour, baking powder, egg and milk but rather than just throwing them all in together a few tricks will give you results that beat most of what you’ll get served out and about (and charged a tenner for).
First of all, I am a firm believer in separating the egg despite what lots of recipes say. It really does make for a lighter result. I beat the white first til I get the “clouds” then separately beat the yolk with the milk, adding in the flour and baking powder. A pinch of salt is pretty essential and I’m recently converted to the addition of some cane sugar. These bring up the flavours and go in with the flour. Most recipes recommend you sieve the flour, salt and baking powder before you start and yeah, it certainly doesn’t hurt (adds more air which is always good) but if I’m in a hurry I don’t and things still work out fine. If I need to buy time with the kids while I wake myself up with coffee, clear space in the kitchen or whatever, I get Auggie on the case but to be honest, kids don’t really sieve so well so you kind of need to keep an eye on things or the whole kitchen gets a not so  light dusting…

When everything is fully mixed together, I fold in the egg white along with a large handful of berries – blueberries are the default, raspberries are gorgeous too and this week I used some of the blackberry booty we picked last weekend. These were amazing and just to take things up a notch I did some caramelized panfried apples aswell. A most autumnal breakfast if ever there was one….

Blackberry pancakes topped with caramelized apples

You’ll need:

150g or 1 cup of plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

A generous pinch fine salt

1 tablespoon cane sugar

1 egg

200ml milk

2 tablespoons of melted butter

A large handful berries (roughly a punnet) – I often use these straight from the freezer but you can of course take them out in advance

1 apple – I like cookers for bite but any will do.

A knob of butter

Apple syrup or runny honey

If you’re the kind of cook that can only deal with one pan at a time (and lots of us are first thing in the morning) do the apples first but they are pretty easy so if you might want to throw them on while the pancakes are cooking to save time. Peel and slice them then heat a little butter on the pan, throw the slices on and toss until they start to change colour. This will take about 2 minutes. To make the pancakes, if you can spare the extra minute, sieve the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside. Separate the egg and then beat the white to stiff peaks. Beat the yolk with the milk and when mixed, add the flour mix and the sugar then beat til smooth. Turn off the mixer and fold in the egg white and then the berries and finally the butter.

Heat some butter on a clean pan. Dollop a soup ladle of pancake mix onto the pan. You’ll fit 2 or 3 on a typical kitchen pan. Cook until golden then turn over (about 1-2 mins each side). Before you do the next batch, wipe the pan with some kitchen paper then heat another knob of butter. If you’re not sure your pancakes are fully cooked press down on them with a spatula. If some wet mix runs out leave them on for another bit. When the pancakes are ready, serve topped with the apples and generous knob of butter. A drizzle of apple or maple syrup or honey if you don’t have these will finish things off.

If you want take things further, a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side is lovely and of course no one ever says no to a couple of slices of crispy bacon…

This week sees the last of corn on the cob. The simplest way to go is to boil it up until tender then have it slathered with butter but it makes very good pancakes which are a cinch to make. Another thing you could try is a salad with this week’s ramiro pepper, chili and lime. This one was a revelation to me over the summer. So simple but bursting with flavour. Might even make you think it’s still summer….

Have a great weekend,
Sarah

spiced french toast with a plum compote

French toast is a big weekend favourite in this house. As well as being super quick and easy, it’s a brilliant way to bridge the sweet and savoury thing on those mornings when you just don’t know what you want.  It was invented to use up old bread and  it works better this way as dry bread soaks up more egg than fresh. I throw bits that are too far gone for toast into the freezer so I have a stash. The classic approach is maple syrup and maybe a few pieces of streaky bacon but fruit is also a great partner.

Plum season is really hitting its stride at the moment and what you may not know, is they are great cooked. Last year I did a gorgeous crumble with almonds which we ate all summer so it wasn’t too much of a leap to stew and serve them alongside rounds of lightly spiced french toast, a dollop of mascarpone and some toasted almond nibs. Now is that a recipe for a perfect brunch or what?

Spiced French toast with a plum compote, Mascarpone and toasted almonds (for 2)

You’ll need:

4-6 decent rounds of old bread or about 12 baguette rounds

3 large eggs

A generous dash of milk

1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon

The plum compote

300gr plums

A generous knob butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

50gr (2 tablepsoons) Mascarpone or Greek yogurt

1 heaped tablespoon flaked almonds or almond nibs lightly toasted on the pan (toasted hazelnuts would also be lovely)

Maple or apple syrup (optional)

Begin with the plums – wash them then cut in half, twist the halves off the stone then quarter each one. Heat the butter on a pan and add the plums. Toss for a minute then throw in the sugar and keep moving for another 2-3 minutes then take off the heat and set aside

Beat the eggs with the milk and cinnamon. Soak the bread in the egg mixture for a few minutes then fry in butter or a very light olive oil til golden on each side. Serve immediately with the plums, a dollop of Mascarpone topped with the almonds. Drizzle with a little syrup. Enjoy.

Sweetcorn fritters

I am a big fan of  Mexican food. The holy trinity of coriander, chilli and lime that is its cornerstone make so many ingredients sing. Take sweetcorn. Yes it’s sweet and juicy on its own but if you add the fire of a chilli, the freshness of lime then the oomph of coriander it really takes off.  Last night I made fritters with this week’s corn on the cob and they went down a storm with everyone so much so that we’ve just polished off another batch this morning for brunch.

There’s very little flour in this recipe, just enough to hold things together so you don’t get the doughiness you sometimes find with fritters. As well as chilli and coriander I added some of Marc Michel’s lovely scallions for a little extra bite. Fry them on the pan with a little oil then a spritz of lime and you’ve got a picky thing to have with beers or you can make up a quick salsa with this week’s tomatoes, maybe a little guacamole then serve on a bed of Marc Michel’s baby Asian salad leaves with dollop of sour cream and you’re sorted for brunch, lunch, a snack or starter. There is never a wrong time to eat this kind of thing. This is comfort food – summerstyle.

While there are several elements to it, this is actually a very easy dish to put together.  Prepare the salsa which involves nothing more than a bit of chopping and guacamole which you make by um …..mashing first, then the fritters take no more than10 minutes to pull together and you’re ready to go.

Sweetcorn fritters with coriander and chilli, guacamole, tomato salsa and sour cream

The Salsa

You’ll need:

2 ripe tomatoes chopped

1/2 large red chilli (take the seeds out if you don’t like things too hot

1/2 small onion chopped quite finely

1 lime

A small handful of fresh coriander chopped

Salt

Mix the tomatoes, chilli coriander and onion together. Add a tiny bit of salt then lime juice to taste. Set aside to let those lovely flavours mingle while you get on with things

The Guacamole

You’ll need:

1 perfectly ripe avocado

1/2 onion finely chopped

Salt

1 lime

Mash the avocado then mix in the onion. Season with salt and lime juice to taste. A trick is to leave the avocado stone in the dish buried in the guacamole to stop the avocado discolouring.

The Fritters

You’ll need:

1 corn on the cob or a small tin of corn kernels

3 scallions chopped

1/2 red chilli finely chopped

A handful coriander chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoons baking powder

60 ml milk

1 egg

Vegetable oil for frying

Corn on the cob

Begin by slicing the corn off the cob and set aside. Sift the flour and baking powder together then whisk with the egg and milk. Stir in the corn, scallions and chilli. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil in the pan. Drop dessertspoonfuls of fritter mix onto the pan when the oil is hot (you’ll get between 4 and 6 fritters depending how generous your spoonfuls are). Fry on each side til golden (about 1 and half minutes each side) then take off the pan.

Serve on a bed of salad leaves with the salsa, guacamole and some sour cream. Garnish with some coriander leaves. Brunch is served!

Scrambles eggs with chives

Baby spinach and chives from the Healy’s farm this week. Yum Yum. The spinach didn’t last long at all, wolfed for lunch with some pan-fried chorizo and a poached egg. I earmarked the chives for breakfast. A member of the onion family they have a beautifully delicate flavour that isn’t enough on its own but is a brilliant foil to things like cream, cheese and eggs. Especially eggs, chives really love eggs. Mucho. I’d forgotten how much. I kept  things very simple and gently scrambled 3 organic eggs with a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and the merest  soupçon of heavy cream (the luxe factor). The trick with scrambled eggs is to have everything ready to go before you scramble because they only take a minute , literally.  I toasted some good bread from our local Craft bakery, made a glass of juice from the last of our blood oranges, had a pot of coffee ready to go so when the eggs were ready so was I. Breakfast heaven.

Scrambled eggs with fresh Wicklow chives

You’ll need:

3 large organic eggs

1/2 small bunch chives finely chopped (this works out at about 1 heaped tablespoon)

A dash of cream (or milk)

Butter

Salt and pepper

Optional extras: 1 heaped tablespoon Parmesan. – really not necessary and some would say de trop but for cheese freaks like Dan this really made it.

As I said, make sure you have everything (toast, tea/coffee etc) ready before you start. Eggs ready for scramblingBreak the eggs into a bowl, add the chives, salt, pepper and cream. Gently beat with a fork or whisk. You don’t need to go too crazy, just enough to mix everything together. Melt a knob of butter in a small pan over a medium heat. Add the eggs, and stir until they start to set. When this happens turn off the heat immediately as they’ll keep cooking with just the heat of the pan. You want them cooked but creamy. It’s a delicate balance. Take them off too soon and you get that icky not cooked factor but too late and you get rubbery eggs. Keep a close eye on things and you should be alright. Serve immediately.

It’s a tough time of year for fruit. Yes there’s still great citrus and we’ll be getting a shipment of lovely Waterford apples I wasn’t expecting next week but apart from kiwis and bananas that’s it. Even the pears are finished unless you want them from Argentina which I really don’t ta.

For a bit of variety  we buy the odd exotic at this time of year just to break things up before the summer stuff starts coming through. This week I got a consignment of pineapple which were in all our mediterranean selections. Gorgeous fresh and really good in juice, pineapple is also really killer roasted in the oven. Paul has long been a big fan of barbecued pineapple but I always thought we hadn’t quite cracked it so I started playing around a while ago. We’d always  marinated the pineapple in a bit of rum before barbecuing so I started there but I’ve been adding  some of my new fav spice – star anise,plus a cinnamon stick and some pepper corns. Long story short, the way forward is to bring the spices and rum to the boil so the alcohol really gets infused with the spices, add some brown sugar , let the pineapple sit in that for between 1 hr and overnight (more is more) then roast up the pineapple til golden. Vanilla ice-cream is all you need after that. You’d think that nothing could beat fresh pineapple but I really think this does. Well worth a go.

Roasted Pineapple

Roasted Pineapple

You’ll need:

1 Pineapple – peeled and cut into chunks

200ml rum – doesn’t have to be anything fancy

5 star anise

1 cinnamon quill

10 peppercorns

3 tablespoons of light muscovado sugar

To prepare the pineapple cut off the top and bottom then slice off the skin as you would an orange. Pineapples have a hard core that runs through the centre. It’s a paler colour than the rest of the flesh so it’s easy to see. I usually halve then quarter the fruit from top to bottom then cut off the bit with the core from each quarter. After that you just cut each quarter into chunks.

To prepare the marinade, pop the spices in a pot with the rum. Bring all this to the boil,simmer for a minute then turn off the heat. Let the rum cool down then pour it over the pineapple. Cover with tinfoil and put into the fridge for at least an hour.

When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to Gas mark 6. Roast the pineapple covered first of all for half an hour then uncover, turn down the heat to gas mark 5 and continue cooking for another 20 – 25 minutes until the pineapple has turned golden brown and nearly all the liquid has evaporated leaving a light syrup on the fruit. Let things cool down a bit before you serve with some vanilla ice-cream. I have thought about adding a slice of toasted panetonne and even bought one but somehow the simplicity of just the fruit plus ice-cream seems enough but you might fancy giving it go.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

 

Today I have the last of the lovely leeks we’ve been eating over the past few months from Philip Draper’s farm in Birr Co. Offaly. This week’s  beetroot, carrots and spuds also hail from there too. I love leeks. Slow cooked (in butter of course!) so they almost melt in your mouth, a caramelized leek has to be one of life’s great pleasures. It cries out for eggs and cheese (ham is pretty amazing too). I wanted to make an eggy tart that was much more about the filling than the egg, with way more filling than you get in say, a typical quiche or omelette. The egg is really more to hold the whole thing together than the main feature. Pastry just seemed a step too far for a week night so I made a frittata  instead. Way faster and healthier to boot. Yay! A frittata, in case you don’t know, is an omelette but easier. You don’t have to flip it you just cook the top part under the grill. The good part about this is that you can melt cheese on top and needless to say, that was a temptation just too hard to resist for me. Some rounds of goat’s cheese added a lovely bite which really offset the juicy sweetness of the egg and leeks. I also added some crème fraiche to the eggs which made things really lush. Some slow roasted beets in a mustardy dressing tossed with a handful of walnuts plus some crusty bread completely the meal.

It’s not a difficult meal at all to put together but slow cooking does mean…um… slow cooking so it’ll take a while. Patience is a key ingredient but the one that adds all the sweetness to both the leeks and beets. Get the beetroot going a couple of hours before you plan to eat. I always boil them up whole for up to an hour (for big bulbs) before they go in the oven. This you can do way ahead of time even a day or two before. I boil them whole and unpeeled and after they’ve cooled down a bit I peel then cut them into quarters or eighths depending on the size. Toss them in olive oil then pop into a medium oven (Gas mark 5) for a good hour and a half. Move them around every so often and after the first hour or so you can add a dash of balsamic vinegar which will spike the sweetness beautifully. They’re done when slightly wrinkled on the outside and completely tender with a little chewiness. I let them cool a bit then toss with a handful of broken walnuts and dress in the following:

A mustardy dressing for  roast beetroot (enough for about 600gr roast beetroot)

You’ll need:

2 tablespoons walnut oil

2 tablespoons mild olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or sherry if you prefer)

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon honey

A pinch of crushed Maldon salt

The caramelized leek and goat’s cheese frittata (enough for 3- 4)

The frittata takes about 40 minutes but most of that is letting the leeks and butter do their thing over a slow heat on the pan. I’m planning on making this for brunch tomorrow and I reckon I’ll have plenty of time to read the papers while I “cook”. It sounds long but really you’re just waiting around keeping an eye on things hopefully drinking lattes and flicking through the style section if the kids cooperate (play quietly in a non life threatening fashion in the next room or further if I’m really lucky)

You’ll need:

700gr leeks

A very generous amount of butter for frying

Olive oil

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons crème fraiche

Salt and pepper

150gr soft goat’s log cut into 3 rounds

Trim the green part of the leeks and slice them into disks about 1 cm wide. Heat some butter along with a generous dash of olive oil and start to sauté over a lowish heat. They’ll take about 30 minutes to get the way you want them – supersoft and starting to caramelize. Keep an eye on things, turning them from time to time. You might even need to add more butter if things start to stick. When they’re ready, take off the heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs with the crème fraiche. Stir in the leeks then season with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Heat some olive oil in a small pan. Pour in the egg mixture and cook the frittata on one side over a lowish medium heat – you want the base to cook but not burn while the eggs get to a semiset stage. The best way to acheive this is in a good nonstick pan over a lowish heat. When you’re ready, take the pan off the heat and turn on your grill. Top the eggs with the rounds of goat’s cheese and grill until golden. Allow to sit for a minute or two before serving warm or at room temperature. Yummmmmmmmmy!!!