Tuesday 25 September 2012

Turtle Bean Soup with Plantain Fritters and Avocado Lime Salsa

From Terre à Terre: The Vegetarian Cookbook, Amanda Powley with Philip Taylor, Absolute Press, 2009.

I always get a kick out of making something from this book. The recipes are fun to make and the resulting dish is just as much fun to eat as it is packed with flavour.

I had to leave one of the elements, a sorbet, because guavas were unavailable. But I set to work on the turtle bean soup early. A mix of dried chillies were soaked in boiling water for about half an hour. The chilli mix I used was chipotles, guajillos and arbols. I added the arbols for heat as dried habaneros were not available.

The turtle beans had been soaking so they were drained, put in a pot with cold water, brought to the boil and kept on the boil for about 10 minutes. They were now drained again.

The chillies were drained with the water kept, deseeded and chopped finely. I gathered together a teaspoon of cumin seeds and about the same amount of coriander seeds, a bay leaf and a large pinch of dried thyme. All of these elements went in a saucepan with olive oil for about a minute until the herbs released their aromas. Into this mix went a chopped carrot, a finely chopped celery stalk and half a red capsicum, chopped. The lid was placed on and the vegetables left for about 10 minutes to release their juices. Now in went the beans, about a litre of water and the water from the soaked chillies. This was all brought to the boil and simmered until the beans were soft, about an hour and a half. When the beans were soft the soup was puréed in a blender, strained and left until ready to be served.

The salsa was simple a matter of chopping up the ingredients finely, mixing them together and putting them in a covered basin in the fridge until time to serve. While the recipe called for four garlic cloves I only used half of one. That seemed to be adequate when I tasted the salsa.

The plantain fritters were made by peeling a plantain, cutting it into 3cm lengths and then frying them until they were soft enough for a knife point to go into them easily. They were then pressed between two sheets of baking paper to make the fritter shapes. Just before serving they were deep fried until crisp and sprinkled with a dust made from grinding in a mortar roasted cumin seeds, salt, smoked paprika and black pepper seeds.
As usual with Terre à Terre recipes this was an absolute pleasure to eat. The soup was richly savoury and chilli hot, the salsa a mix of fresh vegetables enhanced by lime and cumin seeds, and the plantain fritters perfect scoops for the salsa. Interestingly we had some salsa left and finished it off by using commercial corn chips. The difference between fresh flavours and commercial, probably chemical ones, was marked.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Monday 24 September 2012

Bucatini with Mozzarella and Aubergine

From The Silver Spoon: Pasta, Phaidon, 2009.

I found some bucatini in the supermarket so thought I’d like to try it out.

An aubergine was cut into slices and then cross cut into julienne strips. It was placed in a colander and sprinkled with salt. After half an hour I rinsed it and dried it. It was then fried in a little olive oil until it had browned slightly. It was then left while I went ahead with the sauce.

 Four tomatoes were peeled and chopped. The recipe called for them to be seeded but the seeds never worry me so I just ignored this. I also left out the bacon that was included in the recipe. So the tomatoes went into a saucepan with a little olive oil, some chopped chilli and salt and pepper. It was brought to the boil and then turned to a simmer.

A pot full of salted water was put on to boil. When it was ready the bucatini was added and cooked until al dente. At this stage the aubergine went into the tomato sauce and was brought up to simmer again.

The bucatini was drained and added to plates. Chopped mozzarella cheese was stirred into the sauce and the sauce was spooned over the pasta. A chopped boiled egg was sprinkled over the top.

I enjoyed the bucatini. I rather like the hollow straws which take in more of the sauce than solid spaghetti does. The sauce was flavoursome, the aubergine by now having disintegrated into the tomato mixture. And there was the added joy of pieces of stringy mozzarella being met on some mouthfuls.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday 23 September 2012

Sarah’s Mango, Strawberry and Toffeed Macadamia Pavlova

From MasteerChef Australia, Volume Two: The Cookbook, HarperCollins, 2010.

Never having made a pavlova before and having four egg whites left over from another dish I thought it was time to give it a go.

The four egg whites went into the beater and were whisked until thick. A cup of caster sugar was now added and it was all beaten until well mixed and thick. Now in went two tablespoons of cornflour and two teaspoons of white vinegar. Again it was whisked. It was now quite thick and glossy.

I lay some baking paper on an oven tray and marked out a circle by tracing around a bread-and-butter plate. It was now a simple matter to pour the mixture onto this and mould it into cake shape.

It went into a 150° oven which was then turned down to 120°. After an hour and twenty minutes the oven was turned off and the pavlova remained in there until it had completely cooled. When I eventually took it out it felt good. It had a firm crust.

It was the wrong time of the year for mangoes so I used a can. The slices were placed on an oven tray, topped with half a cup of chopped macadamia nuts and sprinkled over with about two tablespoons of brown sugar. They went in the oven until the grill until the sugar had caramelised. It was left to get cool.

At serving time a small carton of cream was whisked until thick with about a teaspoon of vanilla paste. It was spread over the top of the pavlova. On the top of this went the mango mixture, some strawberries and blueberries. The recipe called for raspberries but I already had strawberries on hand.

Well, it all turned out to be quite a success and didn’t take long to scoff it all down. The crunchy macadamias were great with the sweet fruits. The pavlova had a firm outside which cracked open to reveal the soft chewy interior. A sweet delight. I think I’ll certainly be making more of these. And I would think it would be even better in mango season.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Onion Tart

A recipe by Lauraine Jacobs from Winter + Food, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2008.

I compare this handout from 2008 that came with the newspaper with handouts (for $2) that came with newspapers recently. They were reduced pages from popular chefs’ books. The only problem was that the reductions had made the books unreadable. The illustrations were fine but the text had become minute. How ridiculous can it be, printing material that is only a frustration for the readers! After one sample that was the end for us. The ones published back in 2008 were carefully prepared and I still have them.

Making the pastry was the first task. It was made of 180g 00 flour, 90g butter and a little warm water. There was supposed to be an egg yolk in this but I just poured in a little cream, not the same, of course, but with four egg yolks needed in the filling I didn’t want to use another for the case. Once mixed and kneaded the case was wrapped and placed in the fridge while the filling was made.

Six onions were sliced thinly and slowly cooked in a pan with olive oil and a little butter. This took about half an hour. They were then left to cool down.

The oven was heated to 200°. The pastry was rolled out and placed in s flan tin. Four egg yolks were beaten with 250ml of cream, some ground nutmeg, and salt and pepper. The onions then went into this mix and it was placed in the pastry case. It took about half an hour to be cooked.

The tart was creamy and savoury. The slow cooked onions had broken down to become smooth and soft and their sugars had become more predominant  adding an underlay of sweetness to the flavour. A rich and somewhat indulgent tart.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Provençal Vegetable Soup

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

Everywhere you look lately in the cookery sections of bookstores you find cookery books for slow cooking. They are multiplying rapidly.

For this book of slow cooking recipes the author has sensibly included two versions for each dish: one for slow cooking and one for the traditional method. I chose the slow for this soup.

There was a little traditional cooking to be done before it all went into the cooker however. A chopped onion had to be cooked for a few minutes in a pan before three chopped garlic cloves and a couple of finely diced celery stalks were added. These were cooked for a further few minutes before two diced carrots, a couple of sprigs of rosemary and some dried tarragon (fresh was not available) were added and cooked for a few minutes.

It all went into the slow cooker now and a can of chopped tomatoes was added. The recipe called for them to be puréed but I prefer them lumpy. A litre of stock was added and the cooker turned to slow to cook for eight hours.

In the last half hour three potatoes, cut into bite sizes, were added. Though the recipe suggested this timing I found that the potatoes did not fully cook. I left out the green beans that the recipe suggested.

The soup was served with Parmesan cheese grated over it.

This was a flavoursome soup, very enjoyable. And it came up, like many soups, much better the following day.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday 22 September 2012

Corn and Pea Samosas

From Great Vegetarian Food, The Australian Women’s Weekly, ACP Publishing, 2001.

To begin this dish I made the pastry. One and a half cups of flour went into a bowl and about a tablespoon of butter was added cut into cubes. The recipe called for ghee but I only had butter. This was rubbed into the flour until it had become like breadcrumbs. At this stage about half a cup of warm water was added a little at a time until a dough had formed. It was then kneaded until it had become beautifully smooth. I wrapped it in clingwrap and placed it in the refrigerator while the filling was made.

Firstly half a chopped onion was placed in a saucepan with a little oil and placed on a low heat while I added the other ingredients: a chopped garlic clove; a little ginger grated; teaspoons of coriander seed, cumin seed and garam marsala; a little turmeric; and a little chilli powder. Once the onion had softened half a cup of corn, half a cup of peas and about a third of a cup of coconut cream were added and brought to the boil. It was then left to cool.

The pastry was rolled out thinly and cut into 8 cm rounds. A teaspoon of the filling was placed on and the circle folded over to make a semi-circular samosa. These were fried in hot oil and served.

The recipe made quite a large number of samosas so I only cooked half of them and froze the remainder for a later date.

The Women’s Weekly publish numerous paperback cookery books which you find in nearly every newsagents you walk into. I have always found that you can trust their recipes. This particular book which I have had for some time now I bought for the fact that it had a section of recipes which they call ‘almost vegetarian’. The recipe is totally vegetarian but they have additions that can be added to the dish near the end so that you can add some flesh for those who want it.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Sweet-Sour Onions

From Best-Ever Vegetable Cookbook, Hermes House, 2000.

I had a few shallots in the cupboard so thought I would use them up with this recipe for an antipasto dish. The recipe called for pickling onions but I thought I could just as easily use the shallots.

I could not follow the recipe exactly for amounts as I had an odd few shallots so I went by guess. I added about a tablespoon butter to a small saucepan and when it had melted I added about the same amount of sugar and kept stirring until it had dissolved. In went the onions, some white wine vinegar (sufficient to half cove them) and about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. I stirred them around and added some salt and grindings of black pepper. The mix was brought to the boil and then brought down to a simmer until the onions were soft enough to be pierced with a knife. This took about 15 minutes.

The onions were served warm. They went down quickly, eaten with fresh samosas. I had in my mind that I could have the remainder the next day in a cheese sandwich but they tasted so delicious that they all went in the one sitting.

This small book was picked up cheaply from a stand somewhere and had never been actually used. This is so often the case when browsing you find something that’s going cheaply and so you pick it up and after a few days forget you have it. I intend to investigate this little book further. I think the title is clearly an exaggeration (like many titles) but the contents look worthy of trying.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Scrambled Eggs in a Tortilla

From Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, Deborah Madison, Broadway Books, 2005.

I had made an adobo de guajillo and there was plenty to spare so I settled on using it up with this simple scrambled eggs recipe. I must confess to a hesitation about the combination of eggs and adobe but headed towards finding out.

I first heated up a couple of tortillas and put them in the oven to keep warm. Then the eggs were scrambled, some chopped up coriander and crumbled feta added and they were ready. The eggs went into the tortillas and adobe was spooned over. It was rolled up and soon eaten. I had it with fresh tomato salsa libanesa as an accompaniment.

I still have a little adobe left so I think I’ll use it up in a cheese quesadilla.

The egg tortillas were a great success. I had not imagined that they would be so good. That’s another for my list of Mexican dishes.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Adobo de Guajillo

From Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

To make the adobo I took 6 guajillo chillies, split them and deseeded and deveined them. They were then dry roasted in a pan for a few minutes until the odours came through. As I did this I turned them frequently and pressed them down to make sure as much of the chilli as possible made contact with the pan. They were then soaked in water until soft, about half an hour.

Into the blender went the softened chillies together with a peeled garlic clove, salt, sugar, ground cumin, a splash of cider vinegar and about 1/3 cup of water. This was churned until smooth. It turned out to be a wonderfully red sauce, thick and well-flavoured.

I used it to make scrambled egg tortillas, and then, because it looked and tasted so good, I used it to marinate some chicken pieces for my partner who is not vegetarian.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Parsley, Mint and Olive Oil (Salsa Libanesa)

From Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

I enjoyed this variation on the straight tomato salsa. It was easy to make and had the kick that I always enjoy in a salsa, and the occasional bits of mint were pleasing.

I cut up two tomatoes, removing the seeds. Also into the mix went about a third of a red onion, some olive oil, lime juice, sherry vinegar, chopped parsley, chopped mint leaves, sugar, cayenne pepper (in place of the Arbol Chile Powder which I did not have), salt, and a pinch of dried oregano. This was left for about an hour to let the flavours infuse and it was ready.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday 20 September 2012

Pumpkin and White Bean Curry

From Vegetarian Stir-Fries, The Australian Women’s Weekly, ACP Publishing, 2002.

Having a piece of pumpkin left from another recipe I decided to use it up in this stir-fry.

The pumpkin had first to be cut into cubes and roasted in a hot oven. Once browned and cooked it was removed and left to cool.

Into the wok went an onion cut into narrow wedges, a garlic clove sliced, a little grated ginger and a small amount of caraway seeds. Once the onion had softened asparagus was added with a tablespoon of korma curry paste. The asparagus had first been cut into 3 cm long pieces. After a couple of minutes in went the pumpkin pieces, coconut milk, half a can of cannellini beans, some baby spinach leaves cut in half and a few leaves of basil thinly sliced. Once this was all heated through the dish was ready. It was eaten with rice.

Once the pumpkin is roasted this is a fast meal to prepare. While no culinary masterpiece it is well flavoured and makes a satisfying weeknight meal.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Roasted Butternut Pumpkin and Goat’s Cheese Risotto

From Pure Vegetarian, Paul Gayler, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2008.

I’ll always try a different risotto. This one turned out to be not quite what one would expect. I suppose I should have been more suspicious before I began as while the recipe was called ‘roasted butternut squash’ there was no mention anywhere in the recipe itself about roasting the pumpkin. All it said (and this was in the list of ingredients) was that the pumpkin was to be peeled and cut into large dice. Anyway, taking my cue from the title, I roasted mine.

 A stock was put on to simmer and in was placed a few sage leaves, a cinnamon stick and a bay leaf. They were taken out after a few minutes and the stock left on to simmer very gently.

In a large frying pan I sautéed a finely diced shallot in olive oil until it had softened. I then added Arborio rice and stirred it around until it was well coated with the oil, at which stage the roasted pumpkin was added. White wine went in now and it was cooked until nearly all had been absorbed. Now the stock was added a ladleful at a time until it had been taken up by the rice.

When the rice was cooked a little cream was added along with a slice of butter and some crumbled goat’s cheese. This was folded in and it was ready to serve.

A crumble was made by placing a few amaretti biscuits with a slice of unsalted butter and a little cinnamon into a blender. They were mixed until they formed into crumbly lumps. This was sprinkled over the risotto when it was served in bowls.

This was an odd risotto. The moment the cream was added it suddenly began to look like a rice pudding. And then with the sweet amaretti crumble on top and the sweet butternut pumpkin it started to taste like a rice pudding. The first few mouthfuls were confusing. What was I eating? I adjusted to it after a while but I didn’t really take to it. The author claims it is his favourite risotto recipe; I put it at the bottom of the ones I have eaten.

Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Crème Vichyssoise Glacée (Chilled leek and potato soup)

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

With a visit to France in the offing I thought I’d better do a little bit of French cooking. And with a sudden burst of warm weather after winter I decided on a chilled soup.

Two leeks finely sliced (white part only) and a chopped onion were cooked over a low heat in a little butter. The lid was placed on the saucepan and the cooking continued until the vegetables were soft. Now a couple of potatoes were added with a cup and a half of water and cooked until soft. The mixture went through the blender. When it was puréed two cups of milk were added and it went back in the saucepan to be brought to the boil again. The soup was then put through a sieve and left to cool.

Now the soup had a cup of cream added, or was supposed to have a cup but I cut it back a little. It went through the sieve again, was seasoned and was placed in the refrigerator to chill. At serving time it was placed in chilled glasses and some chopped chives were added as garnish.

I must say I was not overly impressed. I realise it’s a famous dish but for me it was a bit like drinking a glass of oniony-flavoured cream. A day later the flavour seemed to have developed a little better and I enjoyed it somewhat more. On the third day the last of it tasted the best of all—or I was adjusting to it. I think I prefer simple leek and potato soup left with a few lumps in it and served hot.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔