Thursday 29 November 2012

Spicy Courgette Koftas

From Classic Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Julie Sahni, Doubleday, 1987.

I was in a mood for Indian food so went to the bookcase and took down this book that I have not used for some time. When I have used it before I have always been satisfied with the results.

I decided on making these koftas as appetisers. It was a simple matter of putting all the ingredients into a bowl and mixing them together, then forming them into ball shapes and deep-frying them.

They were made with 3 grated zucchini, half a grated onion, about 45g of chick pea flour (besan), some ground coriander, a large pinch of paprika, 2 chopped red chillies, some chopped fresh coriander and a pinch of baking powder, with salt added to taste.

These turned out to be wonderfully crisp on the outside and soft inside. They were spicy and hot and quite moreish.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

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

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Paneer and Cucumber in Black Pepper-Lemon Dressing

From Classic Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Julie Sahni, Doubleday, 1987.

This is the easiest salad to make—and it’s truly refreshing and tasty.

I took about 150g of paneer and with a fork crumbled it. Then I dribbled on about a teaspoon of honey and gently mixed it in.

Next a small cucumber was peeled and grated. Lemon juice was mixed in to taste and some salt and quite a bit of freshly grated black pepper.

The grated cucumber was spread on a small plate and the paneer piled in the centre.

The slight sweetness of the paneer highlighted the bland flavour of the cheese and with the sour lemon and pepper worked extremely well with the cucumber. A salad to be made more often.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Monday 26 November 2012

Zucchini Parmigiana

While the pupils in the Rome cooking class made meatballs I was able to make these ramekin dishes.

Zucchini were sliced thinly and grilled on both sides.

A tomato sauce was made for the meatballs and this was also used for the zucchini dish. It was basically a matter of chopping tomatoes and frying them with a chopped clove of garlic and an onion until they had become slushy (about 15 minutes). They then had ricotta cheese stirred in and some seasoning. I’m not sure that I really would make a creamy sauce again. It is a bit too rich.

The ramekins were then put together. Some zucchini went on the bottom, then some sauce, a slice of mozzarella and a sprinkling of grated parmesan. The layers were repeated and the dish went into the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheeses had melted and the dish was heated through.

If you have the ingredients handy this is a simple dish to make as an accompaniment. It has plenty of flavour and a slight crunch from the zucchini.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Zucchini Flowers with Mozzarella and Eggplant

When in Rome recently I attended a cookery class. It was quite different, to say the least. There were fourteen of us all told, comprised of 2 Australians, 2 Malaysians, 7 Americans 1 Hungarian and the Italian chef and his assistant. We had our lessons in a kitchen that seemed to be no bigger than the one I have at home which feels crowded when it has two people in it. So we were all crushed in this space trying to have lessons and to cook.

The chef, as he taught, gave different people different tasks to do. We did not all do the same things together. Consequently, while you were carrying out your allocated task you missed out on other instructions. I came away with a hazy idea of how to make the four-course meal though I was quite strong on slicing and grilling zucchinis (my task).

Despite my reserve about the lessons and the cramped kitchen the day was quite a lot of fun with a generally friendly and accommodating group of people. We ended with a big lunch of all that we had cooked.

So back home it was time now, I felt, to try out what I had learned. We had been emailed the instructions so I thought it would be easy enough to fill in on what I had missed.

We had used large pumpkin flowers rather than zucchini in our lessons and while I enjoyed the dipping sauce and the crunch of the batter there was a tang to them that was for me a bit harsh in the flowers themselves. I was hoping that the zucchini flowers would prove to be better.

The first task was the dipping sauce. We made it with cherry tomatoes but I had plain tomatoes in the kitchen so I substituted. It was a matter of placing in the blender all of the ingredients and giving them a burst until they were ready. The recipe did not supply quantities so I guessed and added tomatoes, walnuts (we had used them in the class but the recipe stated almonds), garlic, salt, olive oil and basil leaves. I managed to get a reasonable dipping sauce though it didn’t seem to be quite like we had in class.

The zucchini had their pistils removed and a slice of eggplant and a slice of mozzarella added and they were ready for the batter.

The batter was made by mixing a cup of plain flour with chilled beer. When this was smooth some chilled sparkling mineral water was added with a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. The zucchini were dipped and deep-fried until crisp.

The resulting crunchy flowers were fun to eat even though I still get a slightly odd tang from them. It’s not something I would make often though they do make a different start to a meal.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Sunday 25 November 2012

Spicy Red Pepper Humus with Coriander Seed Flat Bread

From The Accidental Vegetarian, Simon Rimmer, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.

The humus for this was easily made. A can of chick peas was drained, rinsed and placed in a blender with 3 garlic cloves (3 rather than 4 in the recipe), the juice of 1½ lemons (rather than 3 in the recipe), 3 tablespoons of tahini paste, and 100g of red peppers from a jar of roasted peppers. These were all blended to make a paste. Some olive oil was now mixed in to soften the mixture that was a little thick. It was now seasoned with salt and pepper.

For the bread I dry-fried a teaspoon of coriander seeds and then pounded them in a mortar and pestle until they were broken up.

250g of yoghurt was placed in a bowl with about two teaspoons of dried yeast. Into this was mixed 100g of water brought to the boil with the coriander seeds in it. Though the recipe didn’t say to let the water cool down a little I did before I mixed it into the yoghurt and yeast.

Into this mixture went 200g of plain flour. It was stirred in well and then left for half an hour to prove. Now it was turned out on to a floured bench top and another 250g of flour mixed in with a little olive oil and some salt. This was all given a good kneading and was placed aside for another hour.

The dough was now divided into six portions and each one rolled out to a thin round. It was then fried on a griddle on both sides.

This all turned out to be a good casual dish to eat with the chick pea harira. The humus was a little different from the usual. It was a little strong on its lemony tang even when cut back a little and the flavour of the red peppers seemed to have disappeared, only serving to colour the humus. Nevertheless it was still an acceptable change to the normal humus.

The bread was quite light though perhaps if I make it again I will double the quantity of the coriander for it was a little too subtle, especially when taken with the strongly flavoured humus.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Saturday 24 November 2012

Chick Pea Harira

From Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookery, David Scott, Rider, 1981.

I had decided on a Middle Eastern style meal so wanted to start with a soup and chose this one which is apparently used to break the fast of Ramadan. Though there were several variations of harira I chose this one because I like chick peas.

I used a little over 100g of chick peas which, after having been soaked over night, were placed in a pan with half a chopped onion, a little olive oil, a couple of handfuls of chopped parsley (stalks and all), half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and about the same amount of turmeric. After a few minutes to bring out the flavours a little, a litre and a half of water was added. The mixture was brought to the boil then turned down to a simmer until the chick peas had cooked.

After seasoning the soup, about 50g of rice was added and the soup simmered again for another 15 minutes. Now a heaped tablespoon of flour was mixed with a little water and added to the soup. It was stirred until the soup was boiling again, then turned down to simmer for another 15 minutes. It was now a reasonably thick soup and it was tasted again for seasoning. It was taken off the heat and the juice of half a lemon added. It could have had a beaten egg added but I felt that it was all now quite satisfactorily thick.

While this was an acceptable soup it’s not one that I would make again. The flavours were rather subtle and a bit bland over all. I think it would have been improved if I had possibly added some garlic or chilli to give it a little more ‘bite’.

The book I used is an old one but I find it a valuable one for it has a rich selection of recipes from the Middle East together with little pieces of information on the types of different styles of cooking. It has no photographs at all, usually de rigueur in cookery books nowadays, though it does have occasional line illustrations. Oddly, I like this book more than many of the over produced volumes you find in the bookstores.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Citrus Sparkler

From Moroccan, The Australian Women’s Weekly, ACP Books, 2011.

This was a simple and refreshing fruit drink.

I squeezed juice from one lemon, one orange and one grapefruit. About a quarter of a cup of caster sugar was stirred in until it had dissolved. A half teaspoon of orange blossom water was added together with a handful of mint leaves and some sliced ruby red grapefruit. Sparkling mineral water was then added at serving time.

Easy to make and a healthy change from cordial.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday 22 November 2012

Traditional French Onion Soup

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

When I read the introduction Ruhlman made to this soup I had to make it to try it out. He went into a long explanation of how the French onion soups that people make are not the true one, that stocks should not be used as they make a different soup from the one which uses only water. He had searched out the true peasant source of the soup in France and this recipe was close to it.

Firstly I peeled and sliced thinly 5 Spanish onions. I know this type of onion as the red ones though later checking on Google it seems that there is considerable doubt as to whether the Spanish ones are the red or the brown. Anyway, I know them as red and this is what I used. If I make the recipe again I think I might use brown.

The onions were put into a saucepan with a little butter and a teaspoon of salt. The lid went on and on a medium heat they were cooked until steaming began. The temperature was now turned down to low and the lid removed. The onions cooked for about three hours until they had caramelised. Three cups of water were added and it was brought to the boil. It was now turned down again to low and a little sherry was added. It was tasted and a little pepper was added but it seemed salty enough. The soup was quite sweet so I added a little red wine vinegar.

Slices of bread from a baguette were put in the oven on a very low temperature until they had become quite hard. The soup was dished into bowls, the bread placed on top and then grated Emmenthaler cheese on top of that. It went under the grill until the cheese had melted. It was now ready.

The soup was really full of flavour. It still had a slight sweetness that was totally pleasant with the savoury cheese. The dried out bread had soaked up oodles of the soup juices while the crusts remained crunchy. A very satisfying dish.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔  It’s not a difficult dish to make but takes time and attention.

Eggs in Sweet and Spicy Sauce (Kai Look Koey)

From The Vegetarian Table: Thailand, Jacki Passmore, Chronicle Books, 1997.

I was making a green papaya salad and wanted something to accompany it so settled on these eggs.

I first hard-boiled six eggs and left them to cool. While they were cooling I mixed up the batter in which to fry them. This was made with a half cup of plain flour and a half cup of rice flour. A half cup of coconut milk was added and the mixture stirred to make the batter. It was a little thick so water was added until it felt just right.

I then made up the sauce before I fried the eggs. This was made with a tablespoon of brown sugar, 1½ tablespoons of kecap manis, 3 tablespoons of pineapple juice (have you ever noticed how difficult it is nowadays to get a plain fruit juice instead of mixed fruits?), 2 teaspoons of burnt chilli sambal which I made the day before when making a spinach sambal tempeh, and one crushed garlic clove. This was heated on the stove until it had thickened slightly and it was ready.

Now the eggs were shelled and cut in half before being dipped in the batter and deep-fried until golden. They were served on a lettuce leaf and the sauce spooned over. They were topped with finely chopped red chilli and some crisp-fried shallots.

This is definitely a dish to make again. The crisp batter on the eggs gave a little crunch and the sauce was a wonderful mix of flavours. They make a great appetiser.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔