Moroccan parsnip soupThis 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

You’ll need:

1 medium onion

Olive oil

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

Olive oil

Begin by chopping the onion then throw it into a pot with a generous dash of olive oil. Sauté over a lowish heat and get on with dicing the carrots and parsnips. Throw these into the pot along with the bay leaves. Add a little more olive oil if you think things might burn,  then cook everything for about 5 minutes.  Add the  garlic and cumin seeds. Keep things cooking for another 5 minutes stirring well to make sure nothing burns. Add the stock, chickpeas (rinsed and drained), 2 teaspoons of Harissa paste and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil then cover and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes.
Just before you serve prepare the garlic breadcrumbs – fry a clove of garlic in some olive oil over a low heat for a couple of minutes, remove the garlic and add a handful of breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown over a low heat. Sprinkle on top of the soup and serve.
Variations: Most veg works in this kind of soup,  you could throw in some diced red pepper and fresh or tinned Tomatoes would be great as well. Some fresh parsley or coriander is lovely on top too.
Have a great weekend,
Sarah
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Butternuts for roasting

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

You’ll need:

Butternuts (of course!!!!)

Butter

Brown sugar

Sea salt

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.

Butternuts with sugar and cinnamon

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.

Roasted butternut

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)

You’ll need:

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.

Butternut soup

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.

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This dish is a current house favourite – It’s not just that the base notes never fail – coconut, lime ,coriander…… It’s the slurp factor – licensed! The kids will eat stuff in this dish that produce all kinds of agonies in other contexts.Aubergine? No problem! Scallions? Yay!!! It’s almost un-nerving…

I’m a huge fan of big warming Thai curries but during the summer it’s nice to lighten things up. Making a broth rather than a sauce keeps things lighter and keeping as many ingredients as possible uncooked really ups the freshness factor. In this dish the tofu is fresh –  cut into tiny cubes so it soaks up the flavour of the broth. Not frying really cuts down on time and heaviness. Fresh sweetcorn is next – it’s so good now full of milky sweetness. As with anything remotely Thai I’ve added loads of fresh coriander and some sliced scallion greens.

There’s aubergine but no, that isn’t raw it’s pan-fried in super healthy  coconut oil til it melts in the mouth. Delicious. When I was making this dish last night Lee had nearly snaffled half of it before I even got to put the dish together is how good it is.

I like to use rice noodles  but I imagine that buckwheat will start to feel like an option when things start to turn colder. It’s really up to you..

Seasonal Noodles with fresh corn, aubergine, tofu, coriander and lime in a coconut green curry broth (for 4)

You’ll need:

For the broth:

1 bunch scallions (white parts sliced, green parts set aside for later)

1/2 teaspoon green curry paste (more if you like things really firey)

2 kaffir lime leaves
2 teasoons Nam Pla (fish sauce)

3 teaspoon soy sauce

Coconut oil

1/2 tin coconut milk

1 litre stock veg or chicken

3 carrots finely sliced diagonally

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The rest:

1 Cob of Corn

1 Aubergine

1 slab tofu (pressed)

A decent sized bunch coriander

A couple of limes

Begin with the stock – finely slice the white part of the scallions and throw them in a wok or pot with some coconut oil and gently fry until soft and tender. Add the curry paste and fry for about 30 seconds before pouring in the coconut milk. Throw in the lime leaves, nam pla and soy sauce. Gently bring things to boil then add the stock and the carrots. Turn down the heat to a simmer.

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Prepare the tofu and veggies while the stock is cooking – Slice the corn off the cob and set that aside. Wipe the aubergine then dice into pieces about the diameter of 10 cent coin. Heat some coconut oil on the pan and fry the aubergine until golden and tender adding more oil if necessary as you go. Take off the pan and drain on some kitchen paper when they are done.

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While the aubergine is frying, stick on the kettle for the noodles and get them ready as per the instructions on the pack  (I use the ones that require soaking rather than boiling). Chop the coriander and slice the green tops of about half of your scallions (save the rest for something else)

To put the dish together – divide the stock between four large bowls, add the noodles, top with tofu, sweetcorn and aubergine then finally scallions and and a heap of coriander.  Yum!!!

Have a brilliant weekend,

Sarah

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Hi there,

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

You’ll need:

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)

Olive Oil

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.

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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,

Sarah

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This week we have more of Mick Gordon’s brilliant spring onions. In our house they’ve been working their way into pretty much everything we eat for the past few weeks – buckwheat noodles with tofu, coriander and peanuts for lunch yesterday. Another noodle salad with prawns, tons of  (Mick’s) spinach, coriander and a ponzu. rice wine vinegar and honey dressing a few nights earlier (no soy as we’d run out which I thought would be disaster but it turned out to be a blessing  as it made everything fantastically fresh and summery). Then today’s lunch of avocado with Marc Michel’s lovely lettuce, some leftover fish and yet another impromptu ponzu, honey dressing.

All I can say is, play around, don’t waste anything. Every bit can be used. Chop the green bits into any salad or use as a garnish (remember the darker the colour the better it is for you) and  the whites can be thrown into salads or minced into dressings. It goes without saying that a quiche or tart with these guys would be amazing. If you can’t bear the thought of dealing with pastry (or maybe I’m projecting) a fritatta is a good compromise as I suggested last week. Gruyere, goat’s cheese or a good cheddar are all good partners here……..

There are other ways to go……… our recent arctic temperatures had me looking for ways to get the oven on so I decided to roast up the onions and serve them with a sun-dried tomato and roasted hazelnut pesto. Yummmmmmmmmm! The pesto is beyond moreish and a cinch to make. Make a double quantity and keep in the fridge for sambos and dips. We brought a tub to Africa day yesterday and it kept everyone big and small happy.

After about 30 minutes in a hot oven the onions wilt to a soft, sweet luscious mess which is offset beautifully by the slightly spikey pesto. Serve with bread or wedges of polenta. Add some goat’s cheese and a green salad and you’ve got lunch or a light supper for two sorted.

Roasted Spring Onions with Sun-dried Tomato and toasted hazelnut pesto 

You’ll need:

1 bunch spring onions

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For the pesto

A handful toasted hazelnuts

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small handful parsley

1 clove garlic

A pinch of Maldon salt

Give the onions a clean then put on a baking tray, cover, drizzle with olive oil and place in a hot oven to roast for half an hour.

To make the pesto, roughly chop the garlic then blast with the other ingredients to a rough paste

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When the onions are ready, serve alongside the pesto with plenty of napkins for all the drips!

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah

A soup for every day

January 28, 2013

Lentil soup

This is the soup we eat right through the winter. It’s very tasty, easy to make, nutritiuous,  you can make vast quantites of it to freeze or stash in the fridge and very importantly it’s super, supercheap. So what goes into this wonder lunch/dinner/snack? Well, pretty much anything, especially the kind of stuff that’s in season at the moment (leeks, onions and roots… lots and lots of roots) The base is red lentils which take the same time to cook as most root veg (20mins) and then it’s whatever’s in the fridge really. Before you leap here’s a few ground rules

First stage 

Start by gently frying your onions or leeks when they’re soft you add lots of garlic and some chilli . A bay leaf in the pot is also very good at this stage.

If you’ve got a pepper or some fennel  they can go in with the onions as it’s good to cook these guys until they’re really, really tender and this won’t happen if you add them later.

Next step

The spices also go in here and these, my friends,are up to you.  Some quick ideas that will never fail you are:

  • cumin seeds and/or cracked coriander seeds
  • any curry masala you like will work
  • your basic fresh chilli and ginger mix is always good and perfect for warding off colds and flus right now
  • A spoonful of thai curry pastes are a great quick fix and nicely followed up with some coconut milk when you add stock and lime juice when you serve

Let these cook for a minute or two (especially the chill and ginger) and add any mix you fancy of the following:

Sweet Potatoes

Butternut

Turnip

Carrots

Jerusalem Artichokes

Celeriac

spuds

Cauliflower

To this then add well rinsed red lentils. As a rule of thumb the ratio I use is for every 4 cups of veg I add a cup of lentils. Finally add stock – about a litre (Marigold usually) for every 5 cups of veg and lentils (ie 4 veg + 1 lentils) . Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and leave for about 20 minutes.

Finished

When everything is tender,blast with your blender til smooth. Serve topped with yogurt and toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds or drizzle with chilli oil or lime juice – whatever you like. Feel warmer immediately !!

Apologies for being so remiss on the recipe front of late – we’ve been very busy with the 8 week Healthy Eating Programme. Now that we’ve got everything up and running and things are a bit more settled I’ll be resuming normal service.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

tomatillos

Now this is something you don’t expect when we talk about local seasonal eating in Ireland. Tomatillos. Usually found in (good) Mexican food, these guys are also called tomates verdes (green tomatoes) and they make rather brilliant salsa. There’s very little chopping involved it’s just all the tomatillos in this week’s delivery (250gr) peeled of their papery husks cut in two and tossed into the blender with a couple of cloves of garlic and 1/2 chilli (the whole one if you like things really hot), a pinch of salt. Blast til you have a coarse puree then add half an onion finely chopped, a handful chopped coriander  and the juice of half a lime. Taste and add more lime or salt if you think it needs it and you’re good to go.

Tomatillo salsa

A step up and the way I really like to go, especially if you decide to make the burritos, is to char-grill all the ingredients before you blast and it goes something like this…..

Char-grilled tomatillo salsa

You’ll need:

250gr tomatillos (husked)

1 red chilli – of course if you have any fancier Mexican ones this is the time to bring them forth

2 fat cloves of garlic with the skin left on

1/2 onion finely chopped

A handful coriander chopped

1 lime

Salt

Heat your grill as hot as it will go and place the tomatillos, garlic and chilli on a baking dish under it. Grill until the skins start to blacken turning to ensure everything cooks evenly. Let things cool down then remove the top of the chilli (it’ll add bitterness) and take the skin off the garlic cloves then blast everything with a pinch of salt to a coarse . Add purée the onion and the juice of half the lime. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary then top with the coriander and serve.

Good nachos and beers mean you’ve Friday  evening snacks sorted  but  if you’re looking for dinner you’ve also made a good start. The sour note you get from fresh tomatillos works really well with fatty things like pulled pork and indeed meat in general and I found that the char-grilled version really complemented the honeyed starchiness of this week’s sweet potatoes.  I roasted them for maximum flavour then mashed them up and used this as a base which I spread on each burrito  followed by some grated Knockdrinna Sheep’s cheese, a generous amount of salsa, a few dollops of sour cream and generous handful of lettuce. Yummmmmmmmmmmm! It was a big hit and I reckon would be brilliant for big groups.

Roast Sweet Potato burritos with chargrilled tomatillo salsa and  Knockdrinna cheese( for 2)

You’ll need:

500gr sweet potatoes

olive oil

1 quantity char-grilled tomatillo salsa (see above)

1 tub sour cream

1 head lettuce

150gr Knockdrinna Sheeps cheese grated (goats would also work well)

4 burritos warmed

Heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 degrees) .Cut the sweet potatoes lengthways, drizzle with olive oil and place cut side down on a roast tin and place in the oven and roast until tender (about 50-60 minutes). While the sweet potatoes are roasting get all the other stuff ready so you’ll be ready when they are. When the potatoes come out of the oven let them cool slightly before scooping them out of their skins and roughly mashing them. Everything else on the table? Beers out of the fridge? Dinner is served!

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah