Wednesday 31 July 2013

Baked Farfalle with Vegetables (Farfalle gratinate dell’ ortolano)

From Pasta: 222 Easy Recipes, Academia Barilla, VMB Publishers, 2012.
Cold winter needs comforting foods and a rich creamy baked pasta seems just right. This particular one had to be made in several stages that eventually were brought together to make the final dish.

Firstly the vegetables had to be julienned: a carrot, a red capsicum, a turnip and a tomato, peeled and seeded. These were sautéed in a pan for a few minutes until softened.

The next stage was to make a béchamel sauce with 40g butter, 40g plain flour and two cups milk. This was seasoned and a little nutmeg added. Half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese and half a cup of grated pecorino cheese were added to the sauce and stirred in.

A large pot of salted water was brought to the boil and about 250g farfalle pasta added until almost cooked but not quite. It was then drained and added to the white sauce along with the vegetables.
A large eggplant was now sliced finely and the slices fried. These were used to line the bottom and sides of a casserole dish and the pasta mixture poured into the middle of this. The dish now went into a 180ºC oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through and the top nicely browned.
This was exactly what I imaged it would be: satisfying, creamy and cheesy with hints of smokiness from the eggplant. It went down really well with a green salad.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Vegetables in Modern Yellow Mole

From Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
This recipe was really for lamb to be cooked in the mole but I thought I could readily make the mole separately and serve it with vegetables for myself and with the lamb for my partner. This is the method I followed for my vegetable dish.

I took 2 guajillo chillies, sliced them in half and took out the seeds and veins. They were then put in a bowl and covered with water to soak for about half an hour.
In the meantime I took 2 dried arbol chillies and toasted them in a hot pan until they had changed colour and developed the odd black spot.

The guajillos and the arbols them went into the blender with 3 tomatillos (I used tinned as fresh were unobtainable), a good half cup of chopped coriander, ¼ cup masa harina, 2 garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon aniseed, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 6 black peppercorns, 2 cloves and ½ teaspoon salt. A cup of vegetable stock was added (the recipe called for the liquid from the braising lamb but I used stock instead). The mixture was churned until it was smooth and then put through a sieve.
I used half of this sauce in the lamb that was braising but the other half was for my vegetable dish. I added a carrot cut into pieces and a medium-sized potato peeled and cut into pieces. The mixture was brought to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. I now added a zucchini cut into pieces and ½ cup peas to cook for another 10 minutes. I checked for seasoning and added a little salt.
I found this was a very acceptable vegetable dish. The rich velvety sauce of a mixture of spices and chillies served the vegetables really well. I had it with warmed tortillas rolled up and dipped into the sauce. There was enough left for the next evening when it was eaten with Mexican white rice. Now that I have tried this easier mole I’m ready to try some more involved ones and see where it leads me.
Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Minted Spring Vegetables

From 101 Veggie Dishes, BBC Worldwide, 2003.
It was not spring but winter, however the vegetables for this dish were readily available—except for baby onions. To make up for this I bought a jar of pickled onions. I rather fancied the idea of using them.

To begin, I heated some butter and olive oil in a pan and when it was ready I added some pickled onions and let them warm through for a couple of minutes. Then I poured in a little white wine and also added a leek finely sliced, brought it all to the boil and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

A cup of frozen peas was now added and let simmer for a few minutes more. Then a baby cos lettuce was cut into slices and added, stirring until it had wilted. It was let cook for 2 more minutes after which 2 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche were stirred in with a tablespoon each of chopped fresh mint and parsley. When it had all heated through it was served over some soaked and warmed bulghar wheat.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would. The flavour of the vegetables came through, the sweetness of the peas popped through the bitter lettuce leaves and the pickled onions worked really well to give a spicy crunchy contrast. The bulghar wheat was wrong though. Indeed, I think it would have worked much better as just a plate of creamy mixed green vegetables.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Gratin Dauphinois

From The New Vegetarian, Colin Spencer, Elm Tree Books, 1987.
Colin Spencer states that if he were a condemned criminal this would be his last meal. While it’s high on my list of favourite dishes, I wouldn’t go so far as to make it my last one.

Potatoes were sliced finely on a mandolin and then soaked in cold water for a little over half an hour while the oven was turned on and heated up to 170ºC. The potatoes were now drained and dried and laid in a casserole dish. As each layer went in they were lightly salted, peppered and given a little grating of nutmeg. Cream was now poured in. I didn’t measure this as I hadn’t weighed the potatoes. It was a matter of going by looks. It came up almost to the top of the potatoes but not quite. Now butter was dotted over the top of the potatoes and the cassserole went into the oven to bake for about 2 hours, when it had become browned and crispy on the top.
This is such a richly amazing dish with simple ingredients cooked simply yet delivering an amazing result. One to indulge in on rare occasions for it’s packed with over-the-top no-nos.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Monday 29 July 2013

Curry-Laced Tomato Lentil Broth

From Classic Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Julie Sahni, Doubleday, 1987.
When I read that this was the most famous soup of Madras I thought I’d have to try it.
First off I had to cook some lentils which I did in the morning so that I’d be ready later on to make the soup. Lentils done, it was easy to go ahead.

I took 5 tomatoes and blanched them to be able to peel them easily. They were then cut in half and the seeds and inside pulp removed. The shells were put aside. The seed material was put in the blender and pureed.

Now the cooked lentils were put in a saucepan and 300ml water added. Also into the pot went the pureed tomato pulp, 2 teaspoons ground cumin and ground coriander, about ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, a clove of chopped garlic, about ¼ onion finely chopped and a teaspoon salt. This was all brought to the boil then reduced to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Now the tomato shells were added and the juice of ½ lemon. The lid was placed back on and the soup was left to stand while the spice butter was prepared.
A tablespoon ghee was heated in a pan until hot. Now a teaspoon black mustard seeds were added while I held the saucepan lid handy because the seeds began to pop. When they had finished some curry leaves were added and the heat was turned off. The butter was poured into the soup and it was ready to eat.
This was an enjoyable soup with lots of spice and the different textures of lentils and tomato shells.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔