Tuesday 31 July 2012

Fresh Tomato Salsa

From Mexican Food Made Simple, Thomasina Miers, Hodder & Stoughton, 2010.

I needed a salsa as an ingredient for making Ortega burgers so decided I would try this one from Mexican Food Made Simple. The salsa was easily made; it was simply a matter of chopping the ingredients and mixing them together.

The tomatoes were deseeded before chopping so that they would not be too watery. To them were added chopped coriander, red onion and jalapeños. Now some olive oil went into the mix with lime juice, a little brown sugar and salt and pepper. It was tasted to see that it was right and adjustments were made: a little more salt and some more lime juice. It was now left for about half and hour for the flavours to meld.

As a salsa this one was quick to make and worked well.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Monday 30 July 2012

Red Pepper Soup with Cheese and Herb Floats

From The Inspired Vegetarian, Louise Pickford, Stewart Tabori and Chang, 1992.

This soup attracted me by the fact that it was made with roasted red capsicums and it had cheesy floats to go in the soup. There was strong appeal here for me.

Two capsicums (peppers) were placed under a grill and cooked until the skins were blackened. They were then placed in a plastic bag and left to steam.

Meanwhile a red onion and garlic were sautéed in a pan until soft. A potato cut into pieces and some chopped parsley and sage were now added and sautéed for a further few minutes. About a quart of water was now added with a chopped tomato (the recipe called for tomato juice but I decided on just using a tomato), a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch (large) of cayenne pepper. They were brought to the boil and simmered for about half an hour.

By now the capsicums were cool enough to handle so they were peeled and the seeds discarded, though as much of the juice as possible was retained. The capsicums and juice went into the blender with the soup and it was pureed. Before reheating to serve a little cream was added.

For the cheese floats a mixture of about 2 tablespoons of ricotta, 1 tablespoon of grated pecorino cheese, 2 tablespoons of semolina, 1 tablespoon of mixed chopped herbs, a small pinch of nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice were mixed together with half a beaten egg. This was seasoned to taste.

When it was serving time, a pot of salted water was brought to the boil and the float mixture was dropped in a teaspoonful at a time. I didn’t manage to make mine into oval shapes as they were not of a texture conducive to this. But they cooked all right despite their shape. The soup was served in bowls with some floats.

The soup had a wonderfully rich smoky flavour from the roasted peppers. It was a smooth rather silky texture. The disappointment was the floats. These were doughy and somehow had missed out on the flavours of both the cheeses and the herbs.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Baked Eggplant and Ricotta Rolls

From Vegetarian Bible, Margaret Barca, Penguin Books, 2008.

I have often seen recipes for rolls made of eggplant but have never attempted them as I was dubious about whether they would really work. Finally I took action and tried them. They do work.

Firstly the eggplant had to be cut into thin slices lengthwise. These were fried in a little olive oil until lightly browned and softened.

A mixture was now made of three cheeses: ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. Into this went some currants, chopped parsley and seasonings.

The eggplant slices were now laid out and on one end was placed about a tablespoon of the mixture and they were rolled up. They actually rolled very easily and held together quite well. Some passata was spread on the bottom of a casserole. Each roll was placed on the passata in the casserole, seam side down.

To complete the dish passata was spread over the rolls and a mixture of parmesan, parsley and breadcrumbs was sprinkled over the top. They were placed in the oven, aluminium foil covered, for about half an hour. Towards the end of this time, the foil was removed to let the cheese brown up a little.

The recipe says that the dish is good cold as well as hot. It didn’t last long enough to try what it was like cold.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Sunday 29 July 2012

Pumpkin Soup

From A Month in Marrakesh, Andy Harris, Hardie Grant Books, 2011.

Just about every second cookery book that I look at seems to have a recipe for pumpkin soup—and I, naturally, have to try them all.

For this one, which like all pumpkin soups was relatively easy to make, I fried onion and garlic in olive oil until they had softened. Then the pumpkin, chopped into pieces, a couple of bay leaves, about of teaspoon of ground cumin and cumin seeds were added to the frying pan with some chopped parsley and coriander. These were fried at a moderate heat for a few minutes. Then a little saffron, about two-thirds of a can of chickpeas and a litre of stock were added to the pan. They were seasoned and left to cook until the pumpkin was well done. The mixture was now pureed and it was ready.

While the soup was cooking the remainder of the chickpeas from the can were mixed with harissa, olive oil and lemon juice. It was difficult to restrain from eating all of these right then but I did manage to hold off.

The soup was served in bowls with olive oil drizzled over the top and the spicy chickpeas alongside.

I’ve had a few thin and rather tasteless pumpkin soups over time but this one was far from that. The spices had bumped up the flavour and the chickpeas had assisted in satisfactorily thickening the mixture. And then there were the spiced chickpeas on the side with the burst of flavour from the harissa. This one comes higher on my pumpkin soup list.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday 26 July 2012

Pappardelle con Funghi (Pappardelle with Mushrooms)

From Italian Food Safari, Maeve O-Meara with Guy Grossi, Hardie Grant Books, 2010.

I had read somewhere that real chefs prefer to make their pasta by hand rather than use a pasta machine as they claim to be able to distinguish a metallic taste from the machine. My palate is not anywhere near that good to be able to recognise such a subtle difference. However, I do find the claim somewhat specious as such a lot of kitchen equipment is metal you would think that all foods cooked would have a metallic taste. Nevertheless I decided that for the pappardelle I would I would not use the machine. I thought that my pasta was really thin when I rolled it out but when it was cooked it turned out to be not thin at all. Back to the machine next time.

I used the recipe from Italian Food Safari just as a basis to follow for I did not have the wild mushrooms that it needed. I had some button mushrooms to use up.

I fried chopped garlic, sage and marjoram in  a pan for a few minutes and then added the mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt to cook for a few minutes more.

The pasta was added to a pot of boiling salted water.

I now added some white wine to the mushrooms and continued to cook them to let the wine reduce. A nob of butter was added and when the seasoning was checked it was ready for the pasta. This was drained and added to the pan with a little of its water. And it was time to eat—with some Parmesan cheese grated over it.

Apart from the fact that my pappardelle was thick this was quick and easy to prepare and tasty. A good quick comfort dish.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Roasted Tomato, Goat’s Cheese and Asparagus Salad

From Pure Vegetarian, Paul Gayler, Kyle Cathie Ltd, 2006.

This simple warm salad called for some lavender oil to be made but the thought of lavender does not gel well in my mind to go with savoury food. It is too reminiscent of toilet soap and bathrooms. I didn’t include it in the dish.

I first made a thin basil puree by blitzing in the blender some basil leaves with a clove of garlic and some olive oil.

Tomatoes were cut in half and sprinkled with salt, pepper, a little sugar and some thyme leaves. The two halves of the tomatoes were then placed back together with a slice of goat’s cheese in between.

Asparagus and olives were placed on a baking dish and a little olive oil drizzled over them. They were put in the oven for about 5 minutes. The tomatoes were then added to the baking dish and a drizzle of red wine vinegar and also of balsamic vinegar added. They were cooked for a few minutes more. They were then served with a basil puree and the juices from the pan.

An easily made salad that went well as an accompaniment to pasta with mushrooms. I don’t think it missed the lavender oil.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Raw Zucchini Salad

From Ruhlman’s Twenty, Michael Ruhlman, Chronicle Books, 2011.

I can’t wait to have more time to examine this book and try out some of the techniques in it. It is a book of techniques that Ruhlman claims the mastery of which will give a person a solid foundation for their cooking. Some of the techniques sound to be more like ingredients as areas covered are such as salt, onions and sugar. Others are clearly techniques: poaching, braising and grilling. And then there are a couple of unusual ones: thinking and water. They all make perfect sense as techniques when you examine them closer under Ruhlman’s eye. Each of the techniques comes with recipes which illustrate the use of the particular technique.

I began my lessons with Ruhlman by trying out the raw zucchini salad to see the effect of salt.

Two zucchini were cut into julienne strips and placed in a colander. They were sprinkled with a teaspoon of salt (a lot I thought). They were tossed and then given another teaspoon of salt (seemed like heaps too much). They were left to stand for 20 minutes.

While the zucchini were standing a type of dressing was made from finely chopped shallot, finely chopped garlic and lemon juice.

The zucchini were now given a shake in the colander to remove any moisture which has formed. I had a taste of a strip and it was a bit on the salty side so they were given a very quick rinse and then patted dry. They were placed in a bowl, some olive oil was added together with the lemon mixture. The salad was tossed and garnished with chopped walnuts and a little chopped basil.

The salt, to my amazement, had given the zucchini a different texture. They had become somewhat limp but retained a crunch to them. The flavour of the salt and the lemon were refreshing. I would never normally eat zucchini raw but the salt soak had brought about a change that made them totally edible. I will certainly go back to having them this way as a salad vegetable.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday 22 July 2012

Leek and Wasabi Mash with Oyster Mushrooms and Choi in Coconut Tamarind Sauce

From For the Love of Food, Denis Cotter, Collins, 2011.

One of the selling points for me in this book was that it had a whole section of recipes for mash. And these mashes were all of somewhat exotic sounding names, like this particular one for leek and wasabi mash and accompaniments. I could not resist a book which had such a variety of mash dishes.

To begin the leek was chopped and sautéed in butter until tender. One teaspoon of wasabi powder was mixed to a paste in a little milk. The potatoes were steamed and mashed with warmed milk and melted butter. Then in went the leeks and the wasabi paste. That was the mash done.

For the accompaniment part of the recipe some tamarind pulp was soaked in a little boiling water. It was left to soak and then pushed through a strainer to separate the pulp from the liquid. The tamarind water was kept and the pulp binned.

Oyster mushrooms were now fried in butter for a couple of minutes. In went some bok choi cut into quarters and a very small amount of grated ginger. These were fried until the bok choi were tender. To finish, the tamarind water was added with coconut milk and a little soy sauce.

It was served in pasta bowls with the vegetable mixture alongside the mash.

I found that this did not come together totally as a whole dish. The flavours did not meld well for my palate. It would seem from the short introduction to the dish that Cotter was trying to make a mix work. I don’t feel that it was completely successful. Using an Asian noodle dish and then substituting mash for the noodles did not really work despite Cotter’s efforts to make the mash and sweetness of the coconut milk meld by the addition of the sourness of tamarind. It was quite edible but not something that I would make again. Better luck with the next mash dish I try.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Thursday 19 July 2012

Crispy Fried Okra and Chillies with Pepper Vinegar

From a recipe by Anne Quatrano in Great Chefs Cook Vegan, Linda Long, Gibbs Smith, 2008.

What a heat feast this was! We ended up laughing at our burning mouths and turning to the refrigerator for a drink of milk.

One ingredient for this dish needed chillies standing in vinegar for at least 3 weeks. I wanted to have the dish that evening so I made up my pepper vinegar by blending some bottled chillies in white vinegar. It made a not-too-bad dipping sauce.

For the okra, a small quantity was cut into centimetre rounds and placed in a strainer over a bowl. Boiling water was poured over the okra. The liquid was let cool.

A mixture of flour (half a cup) and cornflour (about a tablespoon) and salt and pepper were placed in a bowl, next to the okra juice. The okra to be fried were now cut in half lengthwise, dipped in the okra juice and then into the flour mix. The okra was now deep fried.

Alongside the okra frying in the pan were placed a mixture of chillies. These were fried until they had wrinkled somewhat.

The okra and chillies were now placed on a plate together with a bowl of the pepper vinegar dipping sauce.

The okra were wonderfully crisp and crunchy to eat alongside the fried chillies that, depending on the variety, packed a heat punch. I had not thought of frying chillies and serving them whole but it’s something I must try more often.

I am looking forward to trying more of the recipes in this book which has recipes for three- or four-course meals from some of America's top chefs such as Thomas Keller, Anne Quatrano, Charlie Trotter and Suzanne Goin. There are some recipes which I would not attempt after reading the instructions because they are well out of the league of me and my home cooking, but there are others that I am keen to have a go at.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Pommes Lyonnaise (Sautéed Potatoes with Caramelised Onions)

From Bistro: Great French Food, David Bransgrove, New Holland Publishers, 2011.

I tend to want to try any potato recipe that I find. For this one the potatoes were boiled with their skins on for about a quarter of an hour and then peeled when they were cool enough to be handled. They were then left to cool and cut into slices. These were then fried in butter until golden. They were now put aside while the onions were cooked.

Sliced onions were added to the pan and fried until they had browned. The potato slices were now added and cooked with the onions until they were heated through. All was seasoned and it was time to eat.

These, naturally, were wonderful comfort food, buttery and savoury. I tended to overcook the onions a little so that were on the black side rather than golden but that added a dimension to the flavour that I enjoyed.

Heading for France in a couple of months time has me looking at French cooking so this book was an obvious one to delve into. It's a handsomely produced book with a range of what appear to be standard classics of French cuisine.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Omelette in Tomato Sauce

From Gourmet Cooking without Meat, Paul Southey, Michael Cavendish Editions, 1980.

The tomato sauce had to be made first for this recipe. I was a little uncertain about the concept of an omelette with tomato sauce but was prepared to give it a go.

An onion was chopped and cooked in melted butter until softened and transparent. Towards the end of this process a chopped garlic clove was added. A tablespoon of flour was now sprinkled in and stirred in with salt and pepper. Two large tomatoes were chopped and added to this mix and also stirred in and cooked for a few more minutes. About a cup of red wine was the last ingredient to add to the mixture. It was stirred in and stirring was kept going until the tomato sauce had thickened. It was now left to simmer while I got going on the omelette.

A simple omelette was made and when it was cooked it was cut into strips. These were laid on a serving plate. The tomato sauce was strained and poured over the omelette. Chopped basil was sprinkled over.

This actually turned out to be much more enjoyable than I had imagined it would be. While there are other ways to serve omelettes that I prefer, it was a good change—for a once-off try.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Ginger Asparagus with Cashews

From Easy Vegetarian, Ryland Peters and Small, 2007.

When I needed an accompanying vegetable dish, I turned to this quick stiry-fry.

The asparagus was cut in half and a little ginger was cut into fine sticks. These were stir-fried for a few minutes. Then some chopped roasted cashews were added with a little orange zest, some soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil. It only needed about a minute for this to heat through and it was ready.

While the orange zest added a nice contrast I found that the soy sauce and sesame oil were a little too strong for the more delicate flavour of the asparagus. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and such a quick dish to make.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Ale and Puff Pastry Pie

From New Vegetarian Society in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, Kyle Books, 2011.

To me, a pie has a pastry case bottom and top. These pies only had pastry tops. While they are called pies they just don’t figure properly in my mind as pies. I have no name for them but ‘pies’ is not it.

The recipe called for two bunches of spring onions to be chopped. I used a shallot. This was fried in olive oil until soft, when chopped mushrooms were added to the frying pan. When they were cooked they were taken from the heat and a tablespoon of cornflour was sprinkled on top. The mixture was returned to the heat. A teaspoon of vegemite was added as well as about a cup and a half of pale ale. This was cooked until it had thickened.

The mixture was then placed in small casserole dishes and a puff pastry lid placed on. It was brushed with milk and a hole cut in the middle for steam to escape. It was then baked at 200°C until the pastry was done.

Not being a great fan of ales I found the flavour of the drink somewhat overpowering for the mushrooms. However it was a reasonable pie—if pie it was.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Monday 16 July 2012

Choux de bruxelles à l’auvergnate (Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts)

From Bistro: Great French Food, David Bransgrove, New Holland Publishers, 2011.

Another recipe for Brussels sprouts found so another one to try. It had to be modified for it was a French recipe and they always seem to have some meaty element to them. This one had bacon strips in it. I just left them out, using olive oil for the frying and a little extra salt to gain that saltiness that the bacon would have given.

The sprouts were boiled in salted water until tender. While they were cooking chopped shallots and garlic were fried in olive oil and butter until soft. Cooked chestnuts were added to these with some sliced sage leaves. When they were heated through, the sprouts were added and mixed with the other ingredients. Seasonings were added and they were ready.

It would have been better to have roasted the chestnuts as the recipe stated but the chestnuts had already been cooked in water. They thus became more of a chestnut paste as they were fried. It all tasted quite good though—and I always enjoy Brussels sprouts.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday 15 July 2012

Mixed Vegetable Tagine

From The Slow Cook Book, Heather Whinney, Dorling Kindersley, 2011.

Cookbooks on slow cooking seem to be appearing in increased numbers on the shelves of bookshops. This particular one is interesting in that it includes on each page the method for slow cooking as well as the method for making the same dish in the traditional method—a very sensible solution for you don’t always have time to allow for slow cooking but would like to make that particular recipe.

The book is not a vegetarian cookery book but it does include a reasonable number of dishes that are vegetarian. There is also a ‘chooser’ page which lists all of the vegetarian recipes in the book so that you don’t have to search through page by page.

I used the traditional method for making the tagine. An onion was chopped and fried in oil in the tagine base until it was soft. Seasoning was then added together with a little chopped fresh ginger, a couple of chopped garlic cloves, ground spices (turmeric and coriander, a teaspoon of each), a pinch of saffron, and about half a teaspoon of cumin seeds. These were all cooked for a few minutes until the fragrances were released.

The vegetables went in next: potatoes, carrots and one fennel. These were all cut into fairly large chunks. They were all stirred into the spice mix and fried for a few minutes more before the chopped tomatoes were added. I just used sufficient vegetables in this to suit what I had and what I liked. There were more potatoes than any other ingredient. The tomatoes were what I had in the kitchen. Stock was now added to just cover the ingredients in the tagine. The lid was added and it was all simmered for about half an hour.

Now some olives were added and some chopped preserved lemon peel. The seasoning was checked and it was ready. I cooked it a little longer with the lid off to let some of the liquid thicken a bit. Chopped coriander was sprinkled over when it was served.

A tasty and satisfying winter dish, easy to make and one that can be simply varied to suit whatever is in the pantry.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday 14 July 2012

Elisabeth Bond’s Kohlrabi

From Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, Penguin Books, 1980.

When I am looking for ideas for a particular vegetable I usually turn to Jane Grigson’s marvellous book. It includes a section on the vegetable with its history together with many other interesting titbits of information. All is told in the author’s friendly and humorous style which always finds me delving further into the book than I usually intend.

When I turned to Kohlrabi and began to read, Grigson’s style was evident from the start: ‘There are better vegetables than kohlrabi. And worse.” She is not particularly fond of this vegetable it seems. However she gives it a full commentary and then includes information on preparation of it together with several recipes.

The recipe I chose was one which apparently turned Grigson’s dislike for the kohlrabi ‘into muted enthusiasm’. This seemed to me to be the one to use.

The kohlrabi was halved and sliced thinly. Butter and olive oil were heated in a pan and a tablespoon of sugar added. This was stirred until it had browned slightly into a caramel. The vegetable was added and stirred around, then left to cook with the lid on. A dessertspoon of flour was now stirred in and enough stock to make a sauce of the liquid in the pan. With seasoning added the vegetable was ready.

The kohlrabi still was crunchy enough to be enjoyable and the sweet sauce blended well with it. It was a reasonable accompanying dish.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Brussels Sprouts with Almonds

From The New Vegetarian, Colin Spencer, Elm Tree Books, 1986.

I know that not everyone loves Brussels sprouts but I am very fond of them. I am always on the lookout for recipes that feature them, especially as an accompaniment. This was a simple variation.

The sprouts were boiled until cooked, then tossed in a frying pan with melted butter, flaked almonds and seasoning. They were then stir-fried until they were ready.

The almonds together with the butter went well with this splendid green vegetable. They became a good accompaniment to mushroom vol-au-vents and kohlrabi.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Friday 13 July 2012

Turkish Flat Bread

From À la Grecque, Pam Talimanidis, Hardie Grant Books, 2009.

In the need for some bread to have with a tagine I turned to this Turkish flat bread. It’s quick and easy to make and goes well with juicy meals.

It was simply a matter of mixing together 250 g of plain flour with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and sufficient cold water to hold it all together. I kneaded it for 2 or 3 minutes and then covered it with plastic film and placed it in the refrigerator for about an hour while I got on with the other meal.

When it was time, a flat griddle was placed on the stove to heat up while I divided the dough into four pieces and rolled them out into a rough circle. They only took a couple of minutes on each side on the griddle and they were ready.

I’ve turned to this recipe a couple of times and have always found that it works out, despite the fact that I do make little changes to the basic recipe, such as increasing the amount of vinegar.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday 7 July 2012

Mushroom Vol-au-Vents

From The Vegan Diet, David Scott and Claire Golding, Rider, 1985.

Occasionally I like to go back to look into an old cookbook. It’s like a sort of time machine for you get transported immediately to another era just by looking at the food that was eaten then. When I turned to this book I opened and found vol-au-vents that I don’t think I’ve seen for some time. Were they from the 70s or 80s? I do know they had their time and they do seem to have been relegated to a back seat. I knew I had to make them.

The puff pastry side was only a matter of preparing the two different pieces for the case. Once put together the cases were baked in a hot oven for 30 minutes. They puffed up well, though some of mine went lopsided, puffing up more on one side that the other.

The filling was made by chopping mushrooms and cooking them in oil and a little lemon juice. When they were approaching cooked a tablespoon of flour was added, stirred in and cooked for a couple of minutes. A little milk was added with some soya sauce and stirred until thickened. The mixture was tasted and seasoning added. Mushrooms always seem to need more salt.

The filling was added to the vol-au-vent cases and it was all ready.

This was a fun sort of dish. It was good to make and try, though I don’t think I can see myself making them again. Basically it’s a party dish to be handed around like canapés.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

As some of these books may be out of print if anyone would like a particular recipe, email me (alfcooksvege@ozemail.com.au) and I’ll send an abbreviated version. Of course, the whole book would be better; it’s loaded with other goodies.