Parsnips – they’re back! A Moroccan style soup with chickpeas and harissa topped with garlic scented toasted breadcrumbs
October 25, 2013
This week brings the first of this season’s parsnips which for me always mean autumn. A member of the carrot family, they are sweet with a gorgeous earthiness so they work really well with things like butter, garlic, parsley, potatoes, honey, curry, cinnamon and nutmeg. They can be boiled, pureed, mashed and deep-fried but I think roasting really brings up their lovely flavour and it really couldn’t be an easier way to go. Simply peel and cut them into even-sized chunks then heat some olive oil in a roasting tin. Toss in the parsnips and roast for about 45 minutes. As you’d expect, these are brilliant with an roast dinner but you can also use them with veggie meals like say, a spiced (try cumin, chilli and garlic) cous cous. My recipe this week is for a warming Moroccan style soup with cumin seeds, Harissa and lots of garlic (great for fighting oncoming colds as the weather starts to turn wintery). Harissa, if you haven’t had it before, is a thick spicy Moroccan chilli paste you get in Middle Eastern shops and good delis. This soup has heat but won’t blow your head off. We all had it for dinner last night and the kids ate it quite happily. If it’s more fire you’re after just add more Harissa.
Moroccan style soup with parsnips, chickpeas and Harissa served with garlic scented toasted breadcrumbs
1 medium onion
2 medium carrots (roughly 200gr)
2 medium parsnips (roughly 250-300gr)
2 bay leaves 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2L vegetable stock (Marigold as always unless you make your own)
1 tin chickpeas Harrissa To garnish;
A handful breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic
October 15, 2013
This week I’ve got the last of this season’s butternut squash. After this any of the stuff you see around is most likely to be from another hemisphere. I love butternut but not enough to have it make a journey from Argentina. If you haven’t cooked it before, butternut squash makes all kinds of wonderful soups, gratins and stews. It’s also great served on its own (roasted, boiled, steamed or fried) then dressed with a little sea salt, olive oil and the tiniest dash of balsamic vinegar.
Flavourwise, its earthy and quite sweet (which makes it a great weaning food for babies) and goes very well with garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, chiles, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley, sage and orange. Most recipes call for just the flesh and getting the skin off does look daunting but it’s not really. I find the best way is to quarter it first and then peel. After that, take out the seeds and stringy bits and cut the flesh as required. And what a lot of people don’t know is if you roast your butternut the skin ends up soft enough to eat which makes things even easier.
One of the simplest ways to cook butternut comes from a friend who reckons she got the recipe in New Zealand.You basically cut your butternut in half and stick in the oven so it really couldn’t be less labour intensive…..
Sweet roasted Butternut
Butternuts (of course!!!!)
Cinnamon or chili
Clean the skin and cut the butternut in half, then roast it softside up for 20 minutes. Turn it over and smear the flesh with butter, brown sugar, a generous pinch of sea salt and either a pinch of cinnamon or chili.
Return to the oven and roast for a further 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your squash or until the flash has caramelised.
This is fantastic served with lamb, pork or some baked feta cheese with a cous cous salad dressed with olive oil, toasted pine nuts and plenty of chopped rocket or flatleaf parsley.
With the weather so horrible it had to be soup today and I made one of my favourites – butternut, with Parmesan and thyme. It’s quite a simple recipe but it gives knockout results. I’ve served it on Christmas day it’s that good. The sharp salty tang of the cheese combines with the thyme to give an almost meaty flavour that’s incredibly moreish. There’s a little cream in there too which means it’s nicely filling aswell.
Butternut Soup with Parmesan and Thyme (for 2 as a lunch or 3 as a starter)
500gr peeled butternut
60ml olive oil
1 small onion chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
750ml vegetable stock (as usual I cheat and use Marigold)
2 tablespoons double cream
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan and some Parmesan shavings for garnish (make these with your veg peeler)
Sour cream for garnishing at the end – not absolutely crucial and some regular cream or yogurt will also do fine
Heat the olive oil in a pot over a lowish heat then very gently sweat the butternut for about 5 minutes then add the onion, garlic and thyme. Continue cooking gently for another 10 minutes. Turn up the heat a little and add the vegetable stock in 3 stages stirring well between each addition. Bring everything to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer, season with salt and pepper then cover and continue cooking for a further 25 minutes.
To finish the soup off add 2 tablespoons of double cream and the grated Parmesan. Check and correct the seasoning if necessary then cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending until smooth adding a little more stock if necessary to get the consistency you want. Before serving reheat and garnish with a drizzle of sour cream if you have it and some Parmesan shavings. Don’t forget that soup freezes really well so it’s worth making a double or triple quantity you can use spuds and/or carrots to make up any shortfall on the butternut front.
August 28, 2013
No, you aren’t seeing funny your potatoes really are blue! Well, purple actually. Deep purple. When you cook them they turn blue. I thought that apart from blueberries, blue food didn’t really exist except in Willy Wonka’s world. Turns out it’s very good for you – the blue part is a powerful antioxidant.
Over the weekend we boiled, mashed and fried them and here’s what we found…
Boiled and mashed – tasty but a lot of the colour leeches out and you’re left with a kind of grey. It’s a Farrow and Ball grey but that doesn’t really help at the dinner table……… To balance things out, I fried up some scallions in butter and stirred them through the mash and topped everything with cheddar and toasted the dish under the grill til golden which improved appearances a lot.
Fried – Way more successful colour-wise especially as I left the skin on so we got a 2 tone effect. These went down a storm with some fish on Friday evening then on Sunday I used some to flesh out a salad. I love fried things with salad and it’s perfect for late summer…
A Cashel Blue Salad with walnuts and a honey balsamic dressing topped with blue potato chips
A small head of lettuce
A couple of scallions finely chopped
A handful walnuts
75gr Cashel Blue (or any other blue cheese salad your prefer)
1 small pear chopped
3 Salad blue potatoes scrubbed and and thinly sliced ( 1 1/2 mm thick)
Oil for frying
For the dressing:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil for oil for frying the potatoes in a pan then add the potatoes then fry over a medium heat til golden (about ten minutes). While the potatoes are frying, wash and dry the lettuce. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and set aside. Add the scallions, pear, walnuts and blue cheese to the lettuce.
When the potatoes are ready, take off the pan and drain on some paper. Dress the salad. Top with the fried potatoes and serve immediately. Enjoy x
August 26, 2013
It’s that time when courgette fatigue starts to set in so I got to casting around for something different to fill our bags this week. Duncan Healy suggested a squash they’ve been growing which he reckoned were good for stuffing. They’re the Crooksneck variety so they look quite cool.
They have a lovely knobbliness on the outside plus the colour, as you can see, is pretty glorious….. As with all squashes you can eat the skin, which is of course packed with fibre, but you’ll need to par-bake without the filling first to get everything cooked to perfection. This procedure can be followed for pretty much any variety of squash and the stuffing is a movable feast so if you don’t have quinoa try brown rice or cous cous, instead of fennel a couple of good sized onions would do fine, pumpkin seeds will easily replace the walnuts and the goat’s cheese can be dismissed and replaced with feta. However…….. the combination below does work very nicely and the caramelized fennel leaves the filling lovely and moist and the lemon sounds a light summery note. The quinoa does its fluffy yet crunchy on top thing that I love and the goat’s cheese goes with everything as do the parsley and walnuts. Give it go – you can make it ahead of time as I did again today when I was doing some bread and reheat later, it doesn’t suffer for it.
Stuffed Crooksneck Squash with quinoa, caramelized fennel, walnuts and goat’s cheese
1 Crooksneck Squash
1/2 cup quinoa
1 medium sized fennel
A handful walnuts
100gr crumbly goat’s cheese
A handful parsley
Well ahead of time (at least an hour or two) soak the quinoa in 3 times or more it’s volume of water. This gets rid of any bitterness and also makes it faster to cook and easier for your body to digest.
When you’re ready to start cooking, cut the squash in two, slicing length-ways down the side. Using a spoon remove the seeds from the centre leaving a nice dip for you to stuff. Rub each half with oil inside and out then rub the inside with a little salt. Place in a baking tray. Pour in 1/4 inch of water and place in a hot oven (Gas mark 5) for 30 minutes and get on with making your filling.
Trim and finely dice your fennel. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a pan, add the fennel and gently sauté until golden and very tender. While the fennel is cooking, you can prepare the quinoa (if you have any leftovers in the fridge by all means bring them forward – you’ll need about 3/4 cup of the cooked stuff). Drain the quinoa and add 3/4 cup of fresh water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, lower to a simmer and cook gently until all the water has evaporated and the grains are soft and fluffy. This should take about 5 mins. When this is done, take the pot off the heat, stir and set aside to cool.
Roughly chop the walnuts and more finely chop the parsley. Add these both to the quinoa. Stir in the fennel. Grate in about half of the lemon rind taking care to avoid the pith. Squeeze in the juice of about half the lemon. Crumble the goat’s cheese and add that to the mix along with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a little salt.
When the squash is ready take it out of the oven and divide the stuffing between the 2 halves. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes.
Eat with a green salad – Marc Michel’s gorgeous lettuce or spinach and some toasted pumpkin seeds would be perfect. Lunch is served 🙂
Can’t find quinoa? We’ve got it and bring it with your veggies next week. Order here and this wonder grain(more amino acids than you can shake a stick at!) is yours.
Have a brilliant week,
August 9, 2013
High summer means basil and while sometimes our homegrown stuff doesn’t get enough sun to compete with its Italian cousins this year that’s not a problem – Yay!!! It’s hard to resist making pesto the first time I get basil each year(I hate the stuff in jars) so that’s what I did last night. To get over the pine-nuts costing more than gold problem, I used toasted sunflower seeds instead and they were just grand (and way more local as pine nuts usually seem to come from China which seems like a long way to me). Obviously pasta pesto makes a grand dinner in itself and it was hilarious watching not so baby (18 months already!!!!)Lee shoveling spaghetti into his mouth like a walrus last night but basil is a natural bedfellow for this season’s peaches so I couldn’t resist a salad as well.
I decided to use beet greens as a base and if you’re not familiar with these guys you’re in for a treat. You know the way beetroot is soooooooo good for you? Well, the leaves are actually better for you than the actual beets. Yes! But you have to get them fresh so use them today rather than than let them wilt as they will quite quickly. The colour is amazing – gorgeous ruby stems with dark green leaves so they make everything look fab. Throw them into any salad or juice as soon as you can – your body will thank you.
Back to our salad – I chopped up the leaves and stems pretty finely, tossed a handful of toasted sunflower seeds through them along with some goat’s cheese and chopped peach. The dressing was simple, olive oil and white wine vinegar (3:1) then a drizzle of honey over everything just before I served. Delicious.
Toasted sunflower seed pesto (this will make enough for the salad which serves 2 plus a decent size bowl of pasta for one)
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
a generous pinch coarse salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Begin by toasting the sunflower seeds till golden then set aside to cool down completely. Take the basil leaves off the stalks and put into a mortar along with the garlic, olive oil, salt and sunflower seeds. With a pestle pound to your desired consistency then stir in the cheese. Needless to say, normally I’d be using a hand blender for this sort of thing if I could but with this kind of quantity you don’t quite have enough to go electric so scale up if you can. Store in a jar under a layer of oil for up to 2 weeks (but it won’t last that long!)
A salad of Beet greens, peach, goat’s cheese and pesto and toasted sunflower seeds
1 Bunch beet greens
1 ripe peach
120gr goat’s cheese
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds lightly toasted
White wine vinegar
A generous dollop of pesto (as above)
Finely chop the beet greens and stems then wash and dry everything. Peel and chop your peach. Combine the seeds, greens, stems, and peach. Crumble in the cheese. Lightly dress with oil and vinegar. Top with the chopped peach and a generous dollop of pesto. Finally drizzle with a little honey and serve. Summer is served. 🙂
Have a brilliant weekend,
August 1, 2013
This week’s aubergines make great pastas. The trick is to cook them slowly so they sweeten up nicely and any bitterness dissipates. They end up achingly mellow and tender. Tomatoes are an obvious cohort and really you can’t go wrong with this combination. The sauce below takes a little time but it couldn’t be easier and you will be generously rewarded with a super moreish result especially if you track some basil leaves down and scatter over the finish dish for a final heady perfume. Yum yum yum!!!!!!!!!!!
I should also say, by the way, that this is stellar with any simple pan-fried fish or meat.
Aubergine and Basil Pasta
2 medium small onions
1/2 head garlic
300gr aubergines (about what you have in this week’s bag)
1-2 tins tomatoes (this is a moveable feast. 1 will make enough for 2-3 people and 2 will feed up to 6)
A handful of basil leaves
Roughly chop your onions and saute over a low heat in plenty of olive oil. Dice the aubergines add to the pan. Toss everything well adding more Olive Oil to stop things sticking. Keep things moving and when the aubergines start to soften and turn a golden brown you can throw in the garlic and a little more Oil if you think it needs it. Allow the garlic to completely soften then add the tomatoes, a generous pinch of sugar (takes away any bitterness that you might get from the tomatoes) and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat a little and cook for another 20 minutes (30 if you’re using 2 tins of tomatoes). Serve with the pasta of your choice and some Parmesan or Pecorino and some torn Basil leaves.
The gorgeous Red Russian Kale in your bags this week was grown for us by Mick Gordan and it’s absolutely packed full of nutrients. Have it steamed, stir-fried (with lots of garlic) or boiled. If you want to try something special, chorizo and kale are a match made in heaven and Nigella Lawson’s kale with chorizo topped with a poached egg is the perfect example. It’s lunch, dinner or tea in 10 minutes and it couldn’t be any moreish, a complete treat. The chorizo secretes its lovely spicy oil when gently fried and this is your sauce.You simply wash and shred your Kale, then slowly fry small slices of Chorizo in a teeny drop of oil for about 5 minutes releasing the oil. Poach an egg, toss the Kale with the chorizo in the pan then serve on a plate topped with the egg (runny yolk of course because adds lovely richness to the dish. Serve it straight up or with crusty bread.
In between the showers, this week’s peaches will be perfect on the barbecue – split them in half, barbecue then serve with some mascarpone whipped with cream and spiked with a little vanilla.
Have a brilliant long weekend,
June 28, 2013
With the years I find that rather than simply offering me produce more and more suppliers ask me what I want them to grow. What joy! The list is long and, and given our inclement climate, a little aspirational. Every year we try different things with varying degrees of success and slowly but surely the range of Irish organic varieties expands.
Kale is generally not a problem (although for some reason there was a national shortage this spring) but the coarse curly stuff has always left me non-plussed. It’s healthy. Sure. Actually it’s fantastically healthy – more antioxidants than you can shake a stick at. But it needs work to compensate for all that chewiness. I prefer its altogether more sophisticated (and just as healthy) cousin the Black Tuscan variety and our suppliers have been trying it out. Up first this year is Oliver Kelly’s.
It doesn’t disappoint. If you want to keep things simple toss it on the pan with some garlic and you’ve got a tasty side. Or, start with a couple of hunks of chorizo and top with a poached egg for the ultimate moreish yet pretty healthy supper. It can also be juiced but be warned – this is not for the faint hearted (although you can practically feel yourself getting younger as you drink it!).
This week’s recipe offers no such challenge -super- tasty and comforting it’s also easy peasy. Sautéed new potatoes tossed with a fiery mix of chorizo and sun-ripened tomatoes (it being summer and all) and wilted kale. It’s a dish that wouldn’t turn it’s nose up at a sprinkling of feta or a dollop of creme fraiche. You gotta balance out the juicing, right?
A dish of Oliver Kelly’s Black Tuscan Kale with new potatoes, vine tomatoes and chorizo
500gr new potatoes
A little chilli (as much as you like)
100gr chorizo, cut into half moons
4 fat cloves garlic
200gr black tuscan kale roughly shredded
Scrub the potatoes and cut them into large bite-size pieces. Bring to the boil then simmer til tender then drain. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the potatoes and saute over a medium heat til golden.
While the the potatoes are frying, heat a little olive oil in another pan. Add the garlic, toss for a minute then throw in the chorizo. After another couple of minute add the tomatoes and a pinch of Maldon. Toss everything over a brisk heat until the tomatoes have collapsed. Turn down the heat a little and let everything simmer for 2-3 minutes then turn the heat back up and throw in the kale. Allow the kale to wilt then turn off the heat.
At this stage the spuds should be done. Let these rest on some kitchen paper for a moment before mixing them with the tomatoes and kale. As I said a sprinkle of feta or a drizzle of creme fraiche or sour cream would be nice before you serve. Enjoy!!!