Quinoa Salad

My love affair with quinoa continues and it’s not just about the amino acids (it has them all – unheard of unless you’re talking animal/fish protein). No, the attraction lies in the texture (crunchy yet tender ), the nutty flavour, the versatility (it does everything cous cous can plus it’s not wheat) and of course the simplicity of the cooking (20 minutes, not much stirring or attention and it always works out). If you haven’t had it I urge you to give it a go. It can be hard to track down but a good deli or your local healthfood shop should have it or you can have it delivered with your veggies from Home Organics.

My latest favourite quinoa dish is a salad with slow-cooked leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta with a lemon balsamic dressing which you can serve warm or at room temperature . It seems to go with everything – falafel, fish, meat especially lamb, tortilla, roasted veg, hummus, guacamole and of course any salad but it’s particularly good with a beetroot one I’ve been making recently with blood orange and toasted hazelnuts, ….. basically it has slotted right into easy midweek eating. I make double quantities of the recipe below, we have half for dinner then the rest is on standby for the next day’s lunch, dinner and general munchies.

Quinoa salad with caramelized leeks, toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese with a lemon balsamic dressing

You’ll need:

1 cup quinoa

1 bunch leeks (about 3 or 4 decent size ones) trimmed of roots and tougher dark green bits

100gr feta cheese

A handful pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

The juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

Maldon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

I cook quinoa the same way I do cous cous – lightly toast it on a dry pan then add water and allow it to cook. The toasting adds flavour and colour. It takes longer to cook than cous cous – about 20 minutes or so but unlike cous cous you don’t really have to watch it so it kind of takes care of itself allowing you to get on with the rest of the meal.

Cooked quinoa

For this dish I like the leeks super- tender and almost at melting point and you’ll need about 20 minutes for this. Wash them carefully as they can be quite gritty – I usually cut down the centre a few inches then swish them around in cold water before I chop them in discs.

Chopped Leeks

So, first of all start toasting the quinoa on a dry pan over a medium heat. Within about 2 minutes the grains will start to change colour and take on a golden hue. When this happens, turn down the heat slightly and add 3 cups of hot but not boiling water and a generous pinch of salt. Stir everything then leave things gently bubbling while you get on with the rest.

Heat a generous glug olive oil on another pan and add the leeks. Toss so the leeks are all coated in oil adding a generous pinch of salt as you go.  Heatwise you want things hot enough for the leeks to cook and soften but not so hot that they start to darken and burn unless you are constantly stirring them.

With the leeks and quinoa cooking, take (yet another pan) and toast the pumpkin seeds til golden then set aside. Make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar with some crushed Maldon together.

Quinoa salad dressing

When the quinoa is ready (tender with the little “tails” sprouted) take it off the heat and stir in the leeks. Allow things to cool a bit then add the pumpkin seeds and dressing. Taste then add more lemon juice/vinegar and/or salt along with a very generous grinding of coarsely ground black pepper. Crumble in the feta, mix once more and serve.

Marketwatch

It’s Seville orange season and we’ll be getting a delivery in next week. If you’d like to make marmalede or cake (that tang works so well with almonds and/or dark chocolate) be sure and give us a shout and we’ll you name on a few kilos. They’re €3.50 per kilo.

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

Oliver Kelly gave us a buzz last week to see if we’d take some of his Axona spuds. Yes please. Axona are a great all rounder. Brilliant just boiled up ( with the liberal addition of salty butter of course) they’re also great in mash and fried.
Last week was very busy at ours, we are STILL chasing wires, grouting and doing all kinds of little bits to finish off the kitchen. The weekend sunshine was a perfect end to the week and there was much lazing with papers. So, I haven’t had much of a chance to come up with anything earthshattering but I do think it will definitely hit the spot. Perfect for a Monday evening, this is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods – Leek mash which I usually serve with baked feta cheese. This part couldn’t be easier –  wrap a slab of feta topped with a drizzle of olive oil and some chilli in tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes.
Baked Feta
 A rocket salad completes the plate. For me it’s the dinner equivalent of a big hug until of course I remember that there’s still some tiling to finish ……….urgh!!!
Leek Mash

You’ll need:

5oogr leeks washed and trimmed

Butter

Olive oil

1k potatoes

A little milk or cream

Salt and pepper

After washing, slice the leeks and sauté in butter (with a drop of olive oil to stop the butter burning) until completely tender and caramelized. This is what makes the dish so be sure and do it nice and gently. It’ll probably take about 25 minutes.

Sauteed leeks

While the leeks are cooking, peel and boil about 1k potatoes. When they’re cooked, mash the spuds and season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper adding a generous knob of butter and a little milk or cream to get the right consistency. Add the leeks, mix everything together well and serve.

A Variation: put the mash in a dish and add some slices of Chevre and toast under the grill until golden then serve with a simple tomato salad dressed in olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Another variation: serve with some pan-fried chorizo and greens

There’s a piece of ginger in all our bags this week. Mince it up with garlic and fresh chilli and add it for stir fries or use it to make a tea that’s brilliant if you’re feeling coldy which a lot of people seem to be at the moment despite all the nice weather – cut a knob about the size of your little finger into 4 or 5 pieces, bring to the boil then simmer for 5-10 minutes then drink with honey. Ginger tea is also brill for sick tummies by the way.

Next week we’ll have the first of this year’s Wicklow rhubarb in all our bags and I think ginger might come in useful for that too. Haven’t figured out how exactly but I have a feeling.

Have a great week,

Sarah

Leek and potato gratin

As I’m sure most of you could have predicted, our kitchen still isn’t finished. It was supposed to take a day (!!!!)……..I know, I know, it was NEVER going to take a day. 5 days later it’s still complete chaos plus those colours I chose don’t look like I imagined. Paul says it’s the stadium style lighting we have going on at the moment and it will all look great when things are finished but I have a feeling that’s just him doing what he does to get me out the door when we’re heading out for the night. “It (could be an amazing new frock or…..a binbag) looks amazing …………….let’s go!” The boy will say whatever it takes and any hint of a repaint is just not getting a look in as far as he’s concerned. I get it.

On the cooking front, there hasn’t been a whole lot going on this week so this week’s recipes are oldies (but goodies!!!) We have leeks in all the Home Organics bags this week which, as you probably know, are a member of the onion family. Although they have a similar flavour, unlike onions, leeks are rarely, if ever, eaten raw as they tend to be just too hardcore. They are best cooked slowly – roasted, sautéed or braised as this brings out all their sweet juiciness. Use them in casseroles, soups, pies and quiches or keep it simple as I’ve done in the recipes below and pair them with just one or two other ingredients so you can fully taste their fantastic flavour. Like all onions they go very well with potatoes, butter, eggs, cheese, bacon and cream.

When preparing them, discard the tougher green leaves and use only the white and pale green parts. Dirt often lodges in between the many layers so they can be a pain to clean. To make this job easier, halve them lengthways to loosen all the layers then rinse under running water to dislodge the dirt.

My first recipe is an old favourite and very easy to prepare. Leeks are cooked in the oven in stock topped with Parmesan and when they’re done all the stock is absorbed so you are left with juicy leeks with crunchy Parmesan. Lovely served with just toast this also works really well with any roast or fish.

Leeks braised in stock with a Parmesan crust

You’ll need:

500gr leeks

100 ml. vegetable stock (as usual I use Marigold)

A generous knob of butter

Prepare your leeks as described above and cut into 2 or 3 inch lengths. Make sure the pieces are of similar thickness – very slender leeks can be cooked whole without halving while other thicker ones may need to be halved or even quartered. Closely pack the leeks in a small casserole dish. Add the stock and butter. Cover with a lid or some tinfoil and bake at Gas Mark 5 for 40 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle some freshly ground Parmesan cheese and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with grilled fish, roast lamb or chicken, a potato dish or just some crusty bread

Next up is a gratin – when the weather is so horrible (again) it’s one of my favourite things to eat. If I have any old root veg hanging about I parboil it and throw it in the oven too with a drizzle of olive oil and that pretty much takes care of dinner (and makes my kitchen toasty too!).

A leek and potato gratin with goat’s cheese

You’ll need:

500gr leeks Butter Olive Oil

1k potatoes (what you have in this week’s bag)

Salt and pepper

200ml cream

200gr goat’s cheese log cut into rounds about 1 cm thick

 Begin by preparing your leeks as the slower you cook them, the better they’ll taste. Clean them first then slice into discs of about 1/2 cm thickness. Melt a generous knob of butter with a drop of olive oil (this will stop your butter burning) and gently sauté the leeks over a low heat until soft and lightly golden – this should take at least 30 minutes. When the leeks are on, wash, peel and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible and drop into boiling salted water and cook until just tender. If the potatoes and the leeks are ready at the same time so much the better. To achieve this, the potatoes should probably go on about 20 minutes after the leeks. To finish the dish, mix the potatoes with the leeks and season with salt (be generous the cream really sweetens the dish)and lots of freshly ground pepper. Add the cream then top with the goat’s cheese rounds and bake until golden. This will take about 30-40 minutes in a medium oven. Serve immediately. This is lovely with a simple green salad – this week’s lettuce and say, a handful of walnuts is perfect.

Hope you enjoy the recipes,

Have a great week,

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!!!

I was going to make soup with the carrots and leeks I got yesterday. Roast them up first to really get the flavours nice and sweet  then maybe some chilli and coconut milk  but then Margaret suggested using the roasted veggies for a risotto and I about-turned (am I that suggestible?) and made that instead. I didn’t regret it. After all the roasting then cooking with the rice and stock ,the leek just melted away adding lots of flavour to the dish while the carrots were beautifully caramelized and almost treacley. To offset the sweetness and give the dish some tang I added goat’s cheese. Remember that roast chicken I made during the snow? Well, I still had a batch of stock from it in the freezer and this really pulled the whole thing together. I didn’t quite have enough so I topped it up with Marigold. I didn’t add the usual glass of white to things but it certainly wouldn’t be out of place – just be sure you do it early on and turn up the heat for a minute to burn off the alcohol. As always I say – don’t be afraid of risotto. It’s not the work everyone goes on about. Yes, you do have to stir the stock as you add it in but  not every single minute. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to pour yourself a glass of wine……….

Caramelized Leek and Carrot Risotto with Goat’s Cheese (for 2)

You’ll need:

600gr Leeks

500gr Carrots

Olive Oil

Butter

200gr Risotto rice – I usually use Arborio

750ml stock – chicken or veg

75gr Hard Goat’s Cheese grated

A little Parmesan freshly grated

First of all prepare the veg for roasting. Trim down the leeks so you are left with the white bottoms and a little of the pale green. Cut these into lengths about 2 inches long then halve them. Peel the carrots, again cut them into 2 inch lengths then quarter each one. Place in an oiled roasting tin, sprinkle with a little fine salt, drizzle with a little olive oil, cover with tinfoil then roast at Gas Mark 5.  Give them a turn after about half an hour then after another half hour uncover and roast for a further 20 minutes . Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down a bit then chop up the leeks removing any hard or papery outside layers. Dice  the carrots and set aside separately (these go in later).

Heat a generous knob of butter on the pan, add the leeks and saute for about 2 minutes. While the leeks are starting ,heat up the stock in a pot so it’s ready to go. Add the rice to the leeks and cook for a couple of minutes stirring well so each grain gets coated in the butter and olive oil from the leeks. Now you are ready to start adding the stock. Make sure the pan is on a medium heat. Too hot and all the stock will vanish without actually doing its job which is to cook the rice. Too slow and it will sit there for ages and take forever to absorb. You want to keep things moving but not so fast you can’t turn away from the pan for a moment. Ok, so start with a cup, stir it in and as it disappears add another and so on. After a few cups of stock you can throw in the carrots. Continue on until the rice is cooked i.e. al dente but not hard. There should still be some liquid so turn off the heat even if  things are  a bit runny. The heat from the rice means that liquid will continue to evaporate and you should be left with a dish that is creamy but not runny. Plus bear in mind that the cheese will take some of the liquid. Stir that in, reserving the Parmesan for the table, along with lots of freshly ground black pepper and a little more salt if you think it needs it. Italians would add a ton of butter at this stage but I don’t think you have to. Before serving allow the risotto to sit for about 2 minutes then  eat from warm plates if possible.

We’ve got some of those amazing Ramiro Peppers this week. These guys are made for roasting and really take on a lovely smoky flavour.I’ll be eating mine in burrito or maybe as a salad with just a splash of red wine vinegar.

In case you were wondering……….

The leaves I have this week are called Purslane which is basically……… a weed but an extremely nutritious one. It’s got more Omega 3 than any other greens. Try it in a salad with some roasted ramiro pepper, a handful of toasted pinenuts and maybe some Parmesan shavings. Well, that’s tomorrow’s lunch sorted then..