Thursday 29 August 2013

Spinach-Chickpea Burgers

From Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, Lukas Volger, Wakefield Press, 2010.
When the author states that this is one of his favourite burgers then you must give it a go to see whether it also suits you.

It was an easy burger to make. Firstly, a teaspoon cumin seeds went into a pan with hot olive oil. They were followed by a goodly amount of baby spinach leaves (about 5 cups). When the spinach had wilted it was taken off the heat and let cool. It was now squeezed tightly to remove as much liquid as possible. The spinach was then chopped.

In the blender a can of chickpeas, drained, 2 eggs, salt and the juice of half a lemon were churned until blended and reasonably smooth. They went into a bowl and the spinach mixture was added. Now besan (chickpea flour) was added a tablespoon at a time until the mixture was a consistency that was sticky but held together reasonably well.
It still felt a bit loose to me so it went into the frying pan a heaped tablespoon at a time and was formed into rough burger shapes as it was cooking. It was fried for a couple of minutes on each side and then went into the oven (180ºC) for about 15 minutes more.
I served it with baked vegetables rather than in a bun. Perhaps it would have been better in a bun with a good sauce, some mayo and salads. As it was it was dry and not overly tasty. I do find that whenever besan is used as a thickening agent in burgers that the result does tend to come out like this. The besan appears to soak up the juices and flatten out the result. I may try these again but use a different ingredient. I suspect that breadcrumbs would have worked much better.
Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔ 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Potage cressonnière à la crème (Cream of watercress and potato soup)

From Elizabeth David On Vegetables, Elizabeth David, Quadrille Publishing, 2013.
Elizabeth David is precise about how things ought to be cooked. There are no short cuts if you are to follow her procedures. She says ‘even so elementary a dish as potato soup is all the better for attention to the small details’. This is one of those, I guess, elementary dishes.

Firstly I picked the leaves off a bunch of watercress until I had a cupful of them. The stalks went into a pot with 500g potatoes, peeled and cut into not too small pieces. Into the pot also went 2.5 litres salted water. This was brought to the boil and then simmered for 25 minutes. This mixture was now sieved.
Now a little of the liquid was mixed with a tablespoon rice flour. This was mixed into the potato mixture and the liquid now went back into the saucepan and was simmered for another 25 minutes. This mixture was now sieved again, this time through a finer sieve.
Back into the saucepan went the soup. Now it was tested for seasoning, some salt and pepper added and a touch of freshly grated nutmeg. The watercress leaves were chopped and added with about ¼ cup cream. The soup was ready.
David comments that this was the type of cooking that firstly attracted her into French cooking. It was certainly a finely made soup but for tastes that have been influenced largely nowadays by Asian and Middle Eastern cooking from the influx of different cultures into Australia this had a subtlety of flavour that, while admired, I would see as a bit bland.  It was enjoyed but, for me, not one I would take the trouble to make again. I did, however, learn techniques that would be used again.
Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔ 

Haloumi with Raita and Witlof Salad on Crispy Poppadoms

From The Modern Vegetarian, Maria Elia, Kyle Cathie, 2009.
I love to eat haloumi so when I find a recipe that includes it I usually want to make it.
There were many parts to this recipe. The first and the easiest was to slice the haloumi and to fry it quickly until it was golden on both sides. It was then put aside while a spicy mix was made.

The spice mixture was made by mixing together 2 tablespoons mango chutney, a touch of grated fresh ginger, a pinch each of ground turmeric, paprika, cumin and coriander, a goodly amount of chopped fresh coriander and some salt and pepper. This mixture was spread onto the haloumi and when the dish was ready to be assembled this was placed in the oven to heat through.
I needed a poppadum for each person and these proved the most difficult part of the dish. The instructions said that they were best fried until they puffed up. They certainly puffed up but they also rolled up. So I tried the other method of using the microwave. This was better though not perfect by any means but I did get enough to use.

A raita had to be made by mixing together 3 tablespoons Greek yoghurt, a small amount of cucumber peeled and deseeded and cut into fine dice, ½ Granny Smith apple diced, a tablespoon finely chopped red onion, a little grated fresh ginger, a pinch each of ground coriander and garam masala, chopped coriander, and the juice of ½ lime. I really liked the addition of the apple to add its tart sweetness to the raita.
The salad greens were prepared by slicing a witlof finely, a small amount of fennel sliced, 2 dates sliced, shredded mint, chopped coriander and some watercress. These were all carefully mixed together and dressed with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, a touch of white wine vinegar and salt and pepper.
The dish was arranged by placing a poppadum on each plate. On top of this went a helping of the salad greens, some raita, and finally the warmed haloumi with its spice mix.
This was quite a lot of work to prepare all of the pieces so I don’t think it was worth all the effort. It was tasty, brimming with a mix of tastes, but I think that they were somehow lost when it all came together. It was also not the easiest to eat as the poppadum underneath slipped around the plate. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it. 
Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔

Saturday 24 August 2013

Pumpkin & Pistachio Risotto

From Perfect Risotto, Hermes House, 2004.
I had a little butternut pumpkin left over so decided to use it in this risotto dish.
Firstly I put a saucepan of vegetable stock on to warm up and into it I dropped a pinch of saffron.

An onion and a garlic clove, both chopped, were cooked gently in olive oil in a large frying pan. After about 5 minutes they had softened and 225g Arborio rice was stirred in until it was well coated with the oil. Now 450g pumpkin cut into 2cm dice joined the rice and was cooked for a couple of minutes more. About ¼ cup white wine was added and cooked until it was almost gone. Now began the addition of the stock a ladle at a time until it had been absorbed.

When the rice and pumpkin were cooked about ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese was added, the heat turned off and the pan covered for about 5 more minutes.
Before serving, 25g pistachios were added with a little chopped fresh oregano and seasoning to taste.
This was a useful way in which to finish off the little pumpkin that was left. It was an okay risotto.If you are a pumpkin fan then it's a great risotto.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Mushroom Gratin with Eggs & Parmesan

From Coles Magazine, August 2013.
How often do you purchase goods for one particular dish and then, through circumstances, don’t use them? Every so often I find myself with ingredients and need to go searching for a recipe to use them up. I had mushrooms and found this recipe to use them.

I took a large frying pan and heated up some olive oil. Into it went a mixture of mushrooms cut into slices. They were sautéed for about 10 minutes. I then added a chopped onion and continued the cooking for another 3 minutes. Next into the pan went  2 chopped garlic cloves and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. After 2 more minutes I added a couple of dashes of red wine vinegar and cooked it further until this had evaporated. Now I stirred in two large tablespoons mascarpone (the recipe called for cream) and about a dessertspoon butter. Once these had been fully incorporated into the mushrooms the mixture was tipped into a casserole dish.
In a separate bowl 2 eggs were beaten with about ½ cup grated parmesan cheese and a lot of chopped parsley. This mixture was poured over the mushrooms and they went into a 200ºC oven until cooked. It took about 10 minutes.
If you have the mushrooms and you enjoy them, then this dish should please. It’s a useful way to use up mushrooms though it’s not anything spectacular. It makes a good middle-of-the-week-and-you-can’t-think-of-anything-to-make dish. With some greens and a heap of mashed potato it will go down well.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔