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

Cauliflower

April 10, 2009

Hi everyone,

This week all the selections have Cauliflower a variety which, in this country anyway, most people don’t rate, probably due to our traditional cooking technique (many long hours of boiling and the possible addition of cheese “sauce”) which renders it mushy and flavourless.
Nutritionwise, it is definitely worth including in a healthy diet as it is high in fibre, follate (helps the blood work more efficiently and is essential for tissue growth) and Vitamin C – just 3 Florets give you 67% of your daily Vitamin C requirements (but remember that the Vitamin C content is lowered by cooking so a light steaming is the recommended is the best way to retain nutrients).
The trick with Cauliflower is to cook it until just tender. A whole cauliflower should take no more than 8-10 minutes, while florets take between 6-8 minutes (but start checking with a skewer after 6) . After that, one of the simplest and nicest ways to eat it is with some Olive Oil, Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper. You can top this with some grated Parmesan and finish it off under the grill but if cooked properly, Cauliflower really doesn’t need anything else. Romanesco is just a green form of cauliflower and works well in these recipes.
If you want to complicate things (but not too much) the following recipes are pretty quick.

Fast Cauliflower Cheese
Instead of faffing around with Béchamel try a mix of Mascarpone and Cheese.

You’ll need:
1 Cauliflower
200gr Mascarpone
120gr Mature Cheddar or Gruyere
1 Teaspoon wholegrain mustard
2 Tablespoons Breadcrumbs

Break up your cauliflower into even(ish) sized florets and cook until just tender.
Gently heat the Mascarpone in a saucepan. Grate your cheese and add it then heat gently until just melted. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground Black Pepper and add the Wholegrain Mustard.
Drain Cauliflower and put into an ovenproof dish. Pour the Cheese sauce over the top and sprinkle with the Breadcrumbs. Grill until golden.

Want to try something a bit different?

Cauliflower, Tomato and Caper Gratin with a Parmesan Crust

1/2 Onion
Olive Oil
1 Tin chopped Tomatoes
1 Cauliflower
2 Tablespoons Capers
Grated Parmesan

Start with the sauce by slicing the Onion finely and sautéing in about 2 tablespoons Olive Oil. When the onion has softened (about 10 minutes) add the tin chopped Tomatoes along with a generous pinch Salt and 1 teaspoon Sugar to kill any bitterness in the Tomatoes. Cook at a medium heat until tomato has reduced to a thick paste (about 20 minutes) and then check sauce for bitterness adding more sugar if needed.
While the sauce is cooking prepare the Cauliflower – This time instead of breaking the Cauliflower into florets cut it in four and then slice it into pieces about 1/2 cm thick. As before, cook until just tender (this should take about 4-5 minutes as pieces aren’t as thick) and drain.
To finish, combine the Cauliflower, Tomato sauce and the Capers (soak these in a glass of water to remove some of the salt while cooking the sauce then drain before adding). Top with grated Parmesan and grill until golden.

Hope you enjoy these recipes,
Have a great long weekend,
Sarah

Spinach

April 6, 2009

Hi everyone,

This week our bags have lovely Spinach which is a great fast food. After a thorough wash (it can be very gritty), you destem the leaves then pack them in a pot and steam them in the water left clinging to the leaves. Cooking will take about 2-3 minutes then you can serve it straight up with a knob of Butter or a drizzle of Olive Oil. For a really delicious sidedish sauté a few chopped cloves of Garlic in Butter then throw on the Spinach, mix everything together well and serve. For a maincourse add some cream and Parmesan and you’ve got a very quick pasta sauce. This week’s recipe is a pasta dish but without the cream as I’m sure that we’d all like to hit the beach at some stage this year…………..

spinach

spinach

Pasta with Spinach, Garlic and Black Olives (for 3-4 people)

You’ll need:

250-300gr Spinach (about what you have in your bag this week)
5 Cloves Garlic
Butter
Olive oil
Handful of stoned Black Olives roughly chopped
Pasta (whatever you like)
Parmesan Cheese

First of all stick on the kettle for the pasta (this dish is fast) Wash and destem your spinach then roughly shred it. Stem the leaves as described above then wring out any water with your hands as soon as it cools down.
While the Spinach is cooling stick on the pasta.
Chop the Garlic then gently sauté it in a large knob of Butter and some Olive Oil. When the Garlic has softened (don’t let it change colour as it’ll start to burn very quickly after that) add the Spinach and toss well to make sure it all gets coated in Butter and Garlic. When the pasta is cooked drain it and mix into the pasta adding some more Butter and Olive Oil aswell as a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan and the Olives.
Season with Salt and Pepper and serve immediately.

Spinach is, of course, fab in all kinds of salads and sambos.Try it with sundried Tomatoes, toasted Pinenuts and Goat’s Cheese or with Walnuts and Feta. Dress with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and serve with a simple Omelette or some fish.

Hope you enjoy these recipes,
Have a great week,
Sarah

Hi everyone,

Courgettes, as you know, are a summer staple; not even all the wind and rain can hold them back. Nice as they are, at this time of year “Courgette fatigue” starts to set in. There are only so many Courgette pastas you can eat…. Salads are the way forward especially with vinegar as it brings up their flavour so well. Then to bulk things out and make a larger meal you can add Herbs, Cheese (Goat’s and Feta are especially good), Pinenuts, Tomatoes and Cous Cous. Below are a few of the many salads we’ve eaten over the summer months and for those of you fed up pretending it’s summer right at the end there’s a gratin and pasta recipe.

For one of the best Courgette salads just chargrill or griddle Courgette rounds (see below for details) then add a dressing of Olive Oil and Red Wine vinegar (4:1) along with a little Salt and Sugar. Add some torn Basil or Mint leaves if you have them and set aside for at least 20 minutes so all the flavours have a chance to soften and mingle. Serve with Cheeses, Hummus, Cous Cous, Green Salad and Olives for lunch or as part of a main course with grilled fish.

If you want something a little more filling try an extended version of this by adding Lettuce (or any salad leaves you have) Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Black Olives. Because the Courgettes are cooked, this salad feels like a meal and really needs nothing more than good bread for a perfect lunch……..

Chargrilled Courgette Salad with Lettuce, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta and Olives

You’ll need:

  • 2 Medium Courgettes
  • 1/2 Head Lettuce
  • 300gr Cherry Tomatoes
  • A handful Black Olives
  • 100gr Feta
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar

Begin by preparing your Courgettes. Either cut them into rounds about 1/2 cm thick or slice them into lengths (about 5 cms is perfect) of the same thickness. Heat your grill or griddle pan and when it’s ready place the Courgettes on it then cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until the slices start to char (if you’re using a griddle pan you’ll get those snazzy stripes). When they’re done take them off the pan and put them in a bowl. Cover with a plate so the heat from the Courgettes generates some steam which continues the cooking process and leaves them lovely and tender.

While the Courgettes are steaming, wash and quarter about 300gr Cherry Vine Tomatoes (or chop 2- 3 regular sized ones) and make a dressing using 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar and 4 of Olive Oil, a little pinch of Sugar (takes any bitterness out of the Courgettes) and a pinch of Salt.
Mix the Tomatoes, Courgettes and dressing together and and leave aside for at least 20 minutes. If you’re preparing in advance this could be done up to 6 hours before.
To put the salad together, wash and dry half a head of Lettuce then tear the leaves into manageable sized pieces with your fingers. In a salad bowl, mix the Courgettes, Tomatoes, Lettuce Leaves, Feta Cheese (crumbled) and the Olives. Toss together, check the seasoning adding more vinegar if necessary and serve.

Another Very Simple Courgette Salad

You’ll need:

  • 2 Medium Courgettes
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Basil Leaves

Slice your Courgettes and gently sauté in Olive Oil. Just before they start to change colour add 3 or 4 finely chopped cloves Garlic and continue to sauté until the Garlic has softened and the Courgettes are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool before dressing with Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar (about 4:1 should be fine but you may need to adjust) mixed with pinches of Sugar and Salt. Add some torn Basil leaves and leave for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to soften and mingle. Serve with cheeses or perhaps a simple omelette and a green salad.

Warm Courgette salad with Pine Nuts and Goat’s Cheese (for 2)

You’ll need:

  • 2 Medium Courgettes
  • A handful Pinenuts
  • 1/2 Head Lettuce (or enough Rocket for 2)
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 150gr Soft Goat’s Cheese (Chevre rounds are ideal)

Once again, slice and sauté the Courgettes until golden brown but this time leave out the Garlic. When done, allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Begin by toasting a handful Pinenuts. To do this, place them on a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat until they start to change colour.

Wash and dry about 1/2 Lettuce.

Make a dressing by mixing Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (again about 4:1 should do it) with pinches of Salt and Sugar.

To put everything together, toss the Lettuce leaves (tear them first if they’re too big) and Pinenuts with the dressing and put on a plate or platter. Scatter the Courgette slices and small rounds of Goat’s Cheese (Ricotta would also be lovely) on the Lettuce leaves and serve.

And if you fancy something more substantial try…

Courgette Gratin with Tomato and Parmesan (for 2)

You’ll need:

  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 3 Medium Courgettes
  • 80gr freshly grated Parmesan
  • Basil Leaves

Make a Tomato sauce by sautéing a medium Onion in Olive Oil over a lowish heat until soft and beginning to change colour (this will take about 15 minutes). Add a 3-4 roughly chopped cloves Garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes until the Garlic has softened. Add a tin of chopped Tomatoes, a teaspoon Sugar and a generous pinch Salt. Continue cooking over a low to medium heat until the Tomato has reduced by at least half. Check your seasoning adding more Salt if necessary and a little more Sugar if the sauce seems bitter. Cook for a further 5 minutes then remove from heat.
While the Tomatoes are cooking, slice and sauté the Courgettes till golden brown.

To finish the dish, put a little Tomato Sauce on the base of a small ceramic gratin dish followed by a layer of Courgettes, some grated Parmesan and a few torn Basil Leaves if you have them. Continue layering the Courgettes, Tomato and Parmesan until everything has been used ending with a layer of Parmesan. Grill until golden and eat hot, warm or cold.

Pasta with Garlic, Courgettes and Chilli (for 2)

You’ll need:

  • 2 Medium Courgettes
  • 1/2 Fresh Red Chilli
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic
  • freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Enough Pasta for 2


Slice and begin frying your Courgettes along with 1/2 fresh Chilli in a generous dash of Olive Oil. While the Courgettes are cooking put on enough pasta for 2 (any kind works fine). When the Courgettes start to change colour add 2-3 cloves Garlic finely chopped. Be sure to keep moving the Courgettes and Garlic on the pan so the Garlic doesn’t burn.

When the pasta and Courgettes are ready mix together adding plenty of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, Salt, Black Pepper and a little more oil if necessary. Serve immediately.

Variation: Instead of the Chilli you could throw in a handful of Capers at the end.