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

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Chicken with spinach

Absolutely everyone loves a curry. It’s weird -people who won’t eat local food in places like Spain and Portugal will all eat curry. In our house anything curried goes down a storm even with the kids who moan about the tiniest bit of ginger making their juice “too spicy!”. And it doesn’t have to be fancy either. Got loads of random stuff at the back of the fridge and don’t fancy soup? Make curry instead. Now, I’m no expert and most of my curries are, shall we say, on the not very authentic side but somehow they always seem turn out ok.

From some cooking I did alongside an Indian girl in Barcelona I know that a good way to start is with lots of slowcooked onions which is pretty much how I start most dishes. I sweat these in plenty of rapeseed or coconut oil over a low heat til they start to go mushy then throw in lots of garlic (not only because it tastes good but because it’s so good for you). Keeping cooking until the garlic softens then add a pre-mixed curry powder (I’m currently working my way through a tin of Madras but it’s whatever you fancy) along with a little chilli for extra fire. Normally I then throw in a few chopped tomatoes (a tin will also work fine) and cook these down a bit before adding some coconut milk (told you this wasn’t kosher!)

While all this is going on, I’m furiously peeling and chopping what, in any other dish would be a waaaay too random selection of veg – parsnip, carrot,cabbage (red, white and green) celery, fennel, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, spuds……pretty much anything works. In they go and I’m onto rinsing a tin of chickpeas. These get thrown in with some water or stock then it’s sit back and let things cook. If I’m using greens, they go in at the end as do courgettes and broccoli (they go to mush otherwise) and I’m also partial to a handful of sultanas at this stage. Serve with rice and some chutney and pickles – we’re enjoying a lime one from M&S at the moment that one of you recommended (thanks Penelope). Easy, peasy, lasts well in the fridge and it rocks the next day for lunch with flatbread.

When it comes to the real thing, I’ve always found Indian food to be such a complex mix of spices and flavours that unless I pay very close attention to a recipe book I usually don’t have a clue where to start so I tend not to bother with it unless I’ve got lots of time (so that means never at the moment). Plus, there are usually so many spices required that I’m frustrated before I start (when I’m ready to cook, I’m ready to cook). Paul is the one with the patience/OCD tendencies for all that assembling of ingredients and precision grinding of spices. He also does a mean matchstick of pretty much any root veg but I warn you – bring snacks because dinner’s at midnight.

Recently, Indian cooking guru MadhurJaffrey completely changed this for good when she brought out Curry Easy, a book that seeks to do the previously unthinkable – simplify and speed up Indian cooking. She says herself that over the years (she’s now in her seventies) her cooking had changed and that some of the processes she’d previously considered essential she has recently discovered can be done in different ways. So, instead of cooking for hours  there’s lots of marinating to really let the flavours sink in before you even start. There are also fewer spices (well, usually 6 or 7 but not the 10 -15 that you find in her other books) so there’s less faffing around. I feel like I’m starting to understand how to build Indian flavours without a recipe and I find myself using more in other cooking.

We’ve been cooking our way through this book for a while and everything we’ve made has been amazing. First of all, we tried the Chicken Karhai with Mint which involved marinating everything overnight then simply frying it up and it was superb. We served it alongside Aubergines with Tomatoes which were also great. After that we were hooked. Standouts so far have been Chicken with apricots, Masala fish steaks and the green lamb curry.

spinach leaves

I have earmarked this week’s spinach in from Denis Healy in Wicklow for one our favourite dishes from the book which I’m going to share with you –  Chicken with spinach.  I haven’t changed anything except lower the quantity of oil used. It’s very quick and fantastically moreish.This recipe feeds 2 with leftovers.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken with Spinach

3 chicken legs separated into drumsticks and thighs weighing about 1k in total

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion roughly chopped

2.5cm/1 inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 tablespoon sweet red paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive/ rapeseed oil

1 x 5cm/2 inch cinnamon

4 cardamom pods

150g/ 5 oz spinach, chopped

Spread out the chicken pieces and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and lots of black pepper on both sides

Put the onions, garlic, ginger, paprika and cayenne in the food processor and chop all the ingredients as finely as possible taking care not to allow things to go to mush.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Add the cinnamon and cardamon letting them sizzle for a few seconds before adding as much of the chicken as will fit in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides then remove to a bowl leaving the spices behind. When all the chicken is cooked add the onion mix to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated taking care to stir as you go so thing don’t stick and burn. Add the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the chicken, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 12oml/4 fl oz water. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Any excess fat can be removed before serving with boiled basmati and nan bread

Enjoy!

This week  there’s also celery in our selections and I notice how Guardian columnist Yotan Ottolenghi has been using the leaves and inner tender stalks for salads a lot recently. Last Saturday’s Avocado, radish and celery salad with spiced croutons and lime is on my to-make list for this week – sounds fab right? Our larger bags have radishes from the Healys and I’m hoping to secure enough for all our bags next week.

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah

Noodles salad

I just can’t seem to get enough of Japanese style dressings these days especially with noodles. Almost every day I tweak and play around with my mix of rice wine vinegars, mirin, soy (or tamari), sugar, toasted sesame oil…. Often, but not always, there’s some grated ginger in there. Lime juice and coriander, though not Japanese,  make very regular appearances (so much so that recently I’ve been trying to hold back and  force myself to mix it up a bit more). Then there are  finely chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds and, recently, black sesame seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds….  Endless variations and combinations and they all seem to taste so good.

If there’s nothing in the fridge or I’m on the run, I might just add some chopped scallions but usually I throw in lots of greens. Last week it was very finely shredded kale and broccoli florets while this week I’ve got spinach in from Marc Michel so that was the starting point today at lunchtime. Garden peas in from Denis Healy’s farm went in next along with some scallions I had lurking at the back of the fridge. Soba noodles took 4 minutes to cook then I rinsed them with lots of cold water to get rid of any stickiness, drained and tossed them in a little oil to avoid any clumping.

The dressing was a mix of equal parts tamari, brown (a recent discovery – so much mellower than white) rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil, a little mirin (this is a Japanese rice wine and you’ll get it in the Asian market or your local health food shop), brown sugar, some finely grated ginger and a very generous handful of chopped peanuts. I  had meant to use an avocado but I forgot all about it when I was putting the dish together. I thought I’d serve the salad with lime wedges but didn’t have any. All this didn’t matter at all. The dressing is light and refreshing as it is and there’s lots going on in the salad without the avocado. If you want to turn this into a proper dinner dish just add some pan-fried tofu or maybe a handful of prawns tossed with chilli and a little garlic. However you do it, this salad always seems to hit the spot.

Noodle salad with spinach and fresh peas with an Asian peanut dressing

You’ll need:

200gr Soba (or whichever kind you prefer) noodles

100gr (about 2/3 of what’s in this week’s bag) spinach, washed and shredded

250gr peas, podded

1 bunch scallions, chopped (you can leave out the really dark green tougher ends)

A large handful salted peanuts chopped

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons mirin

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1 tablespoon brown sugar

A very small amount (about 2 cm long) of fresh red chilli finely chopped

Combine all the dressing ingredients, mix well then set aside. Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling water as per the instructions on the packet. Rinse in lots of cold water then drain and toss with a drizzle of light olive oil. Combine the noodles with the scallions, spinach, peas and peanuts. Using your hands mix everything together well. Add the dressing and mix again then serve topped with a few chopped peanuts.

This salad keeps well for a day or two in the fridge and is brilliant for lunch boxes.

This week’s peas are also brilliant for superfast pasta dishes.Try them with feta and chilli oil. Your spinach is good for so many dishes cooked and uncooked. Given the changeable weather we’ve been having a  gratin with chickpeas and creme fraiche topped with crispy Parmesan breadcrumbs might be just the thing…..

Have a great weekend,

Sarah

As usual I’m a little slow off the mark with the whole new year new life  detox recipes. I’ll blame it on the snow and cold weather and with more on the way I think a nice comforting bake is the way forward for the weekend. This recipe isn’t new. It’s one of the most popular on this blog but for those of you who haven’t seen it I thought it would be a good time to repost (plus it gets me off the hook on very busy week!).
It’s basically a rich gutsy tomato stew with chickpeas and spinach dotted with some lush dollops of creme fraiche then topped with Parmesan breadcrumbs. A bowl of rice – brown shortgrain, will not only add a gorgeous nuttiness to things but is so healthy that you won’t feel too guilty about postponing the detox (again).  Next week will be all about the healthy options – I promise!!!
 
Spinach and chickpea gratin with creme fraiche topped with crispy Parmesan breadcrumbs
 
You’ll need:
 
3 medium onions roughly chopped
Olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1/2 red chilli (with some or all of the seeds removed  depending on how hot you like things) finely chopped
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 generous teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
200gr spinach
1 tin chickpeas
3 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2  tablespoons breadcrumbs
2/3 tub Creme Fraiche
Start by making the tomato sauce. Cook the onions in a generous glug of olive oil over a lowish heat until soft and beginning to change colour. While this is going on you can also put on your brown rice as it takes between 30 – 40 minutes although soaking it first will bring this down to about 20 minutes and makes it easier to digest.  When the onions are ready add the garlic and chilli and keep cooking until everything is nice and soft (another 5-10 minutes) then add the tomatoes and sugar. Give things a good stir then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until everything has reduced by at least half and is a gorgeous rich, dark red. While the tomato is cooking get on with the other ingredients…

Prepare your spinach by removing any thick stalks and washing it well. Wilt it in a pot or pan. There’s no need to add any water for this as there’s enough with what is left clinging to the leaves after you wash it. When it has wilted (this will take no longer than 1-2 minutes) put it in a colander so as much water as possible can drain off. Drain the chickpeas and rinse in plenty of cold water.          

To put the dish together, add the chickpeas to the  tomato sauce then pour all this into a medium sized ovenproof dish.  Squeeze any excess water from the spinach and arrange on the tomato stew in clumps the size of small dumplings.  Dot with Crème Fraiche  then top the lot with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Bake in a hottish oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

We have  beetroot this week and it’s one of the best varieties for detoxing after Christmas – try juicing it with apples and carrots and your insides (and energy levels) will thank you. There are lots more ideas in the post I did at the beginning of last year. Just follow this link http://wp.me/p7YZu-1y

This one was a complete accident and really should have been a disaster. I was making lunch for some friends a few Sundays ago and managed to  leave the beetroot I was roasting  in the oven way too long. I thought the whole thing would be a write off but instead, the beets had turned all chewy and extra sweet. They went down a storm. And so, a star was born. They should have come out of the oven after about an hour and a quarter which is what it usually takes to roast them nicely. However, my tiny kitchen was so messy and crowded I had nowhere to put them so I turned the temperature down, stuck them back in thinking I’d get back to them in a minute. Of course I got caught up in the usual chaos that goes with getting everything ready for when people come over – sorry to disappoint anyone who thought it might be oh so effortless at my house, it’s actually probably a lot worse than at yours.  I forgot them for at least another 45 minutes, basically until I began to smell  them from my bedroom upstairs. I was sure that was it. I rushed down and found they had shrunk to about half their original size and gone all wrinkled. Disaster!!!! But, when I tried one I realised that  this was not going to be a problem. Far from it. Supersweet and concentrated with nice bit of chew they’d morphed into a kind of kid’s sweet. Very delicious and  maybe even better than the kind I usually do. Thank you cooking gods!!!!

If you’re organised enough to be thinking about Christmas dinner/lunch this salad would make a fantastic starter. Everyone loves it. It’s light enough so you’re ready for all the main course action and most importantly, all of it bar the toasted goat’s cheese part, can be prepared well ahead of time…

Balsamic roasted chewy beets with seasonal leaves, walnuts and toasted goat’s cheese (for 2)

You’ll need:

500gr beetroot (about 3 or 4 pieces)

2 decent handfuls of seasonal leaves – I used spinach but lettuce, rocket and lamb’s lettuce all work

About 10 walnuts

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

2 rounds of goat’s cheese (chevre) about 1 1 /2 cm thick

2 slices of very thin toast about the size of the cheese – ciabatta is ideal

The dressing:

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

First off, bring the beets to the boil and then keep them simmering  for about 50 minutes or until they’re just about tender. When they’re ready, drain and allow to cool down a bit. Peel either by rubbing them (the skin will lift easily but you will end up with very pink hands) or use a sharp peeling knife. Cut each beetroot into eighths then toss in olive oil on a baking tray. Put in the oven for about 50 minutes at Gas mark 5/180 degrees turning about halfway through. When the 50 minutes are up, add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar and give the baking tray a good shake to ensure all the beets get some vinegar.  Return to the oven for another 45 minutes or so or until the beets have started to shrivel slightly.

To put the salad together, whisk the dressing ingredients together and set aside. Toss the salad leaves, beets and walnuts together with the dressing. Set the cheese on top of the toasts then put under a hot grill until golden. To serve lay the cheese alongside or on top of the salad. Eat immediately!!!

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…………..

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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

Sweet Potato and Spinach

January 23, 2009

Hi everyone,

This week our selections all feature the makings of a lovely vegetarian Thai curry- Sweet Potato (very similar to Butternut Squash and can be baked or boiled and mashed like a regular spud if you don’t fancy the curry idea) and Spinach.

If you’re worried that this recipe might be a bit longwinded don’t be. Thai curries are relatively fast to put together and don’t require nearly as much cooking as many Indian curries you might have tried. Basically, you prepare  your ingredients (in this case this involves boiling or steaming the Sweet Poato, washing and chopping the Spinach and finally, frying up cubes of Tofu) beforehand then throwing them into some Coconut Milk mixed with Green Curry Paste (this you can buy in any of the Asian markets), cooking  the lot for about 5 minutes and hey presto dinner ready and it’s soooooooo tasty (I sent out this recipe a couple of years ago and have rarely had so much positive feedback about a dish)

Thai Green Curry with Sweet Potato, Spinach and Tofu (serves 3-4)

What you’ll need:

500gr Tofu

600gr Sweet Potato (about what you have in your bag this week)

400gr Spinach (about what you have in your bag this week)

Thai Green Curry Paste

400 ml Coconut Milk

2 Limes

Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)  or Salt if you’re veggie

1-2 cups Vegetable Stock or Water

Rice

I’ve divided the instructions into stages so it’s as clear as possible.

1. Rice – Get it done at the beginning so it’s not a big panic later. I use Thai Jasmine Rice but it’s up to you.

3. Tofu – Most people I know don’t rate Tofu at all and I think it’s because it’s very rarely prepared properly. Tofu is like a sponge – it doesn’t really taste of anything but is brilliant at soaking up other flavours so it’s great in this kind of dish. When you buy Tofu it comes packaged in water and is quite waterlogged (that weird silken stuff in a box is not what I’m talking about so steer clear) so you need to squeeze some of this out to make room for the other flavours. To do this, cut the Tofu into sheets about 1 inch thick and place them on a chopping board. Cover the Tofu with another chopping board wh then put something heavy like a big pan of of water on top of this so the Tofu gets pressed and some of the water is forced out. If possible, tilt the bottom board slightly by putting a folded cloth under one side so the water can run off. Leave for about 30 minutes, then get rid of all the water that’s been squeezed out and chop the Tofu into cubes. Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan and fry the cubes until golden.

3. Sweet Potato – while the Tofu is draining peel and chop the Sweet Potato into bitesize pieces,  bring to the boil in salted water then simmer until cooked. When it’s done drain and set aside.

4. Spinach – When all the above has been set up and is cooking or draining prepare the Spinach by removing the stems, washing and roughly shredding it.

5. Putting it all together

Once you’ve got all the ingredients sorted heat a dash of Oil in a wok or pan then add 2 Tablespoons (or 2.5 if you really like it hot but please, please ignore any instructions on the packaging that says you’ll need about 3 times that amount because believe me it’ll end in tears) of Thai Green Curry Paste. Stirfry the paste in the Oil for a moment then add 400ml Coconut Milk gradually allowing the Paste and Milk to mix properly together. To this you can add the grated zest of a lime and then the Sweet Potato, Tofu and Spinach.Sesaon with a little Salt or a dash of Fish sauce iof you aren’t vegetarian. Stir for about 5 minutes until the Spinach has fully wilted adding a cup or 2 of vegetable stock or water if things start to dry up. To serve add a squeezing of Lime and eat with the Rice. Yummy!!!!!!!!!!!

Market Watch

Loads of you are planning to make Marmalade so we’ll be getting in more Seville Oranges next week. They cost 3.20E per kilo. If you’d like some just let us know. I’m not  a marmalade maker myself  but my friend Margaret who makes amazing preserves will be giving me recipes which I’ll post on the blog https://homeorganics.wordpress.com/over the next few days.

Hope you enjoy the curry,

Have a fantastic weekend,

Sarah