All 9 entries tagged Vegetable
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September 30, 2012
I aim to post a blog entry once a month. You wouldn't think that it would be a difficult task. However, this is the month of September and I feel like I'm running as hard as I can on an upward inclining treadmill, which is about to spit me off because of the amount of work and time required to prepare for the start of an academic year at university, both at work and in the residential life team. I guess, the feeling is intensified this September because I had to move into a new flat, learning the ropes of a new role and area with my promotion to the role of deputy warden, meeting a new team of tutors, looming work deadlines... I'm going to stop trying to explain now because it's beginning to sound like I'm whinging.
Besides, amidst all the change and chaos, I decided to take a two weeks holiday to Jordan. A luxury, I admit, in September.
So, as the rain beats down against the window of my new study/dressing room, I'm thinking, 'was it really only a fortnight ago, that I was eating breakfast on a balcony in 30°c, listening to the tannoy of the scrap metal truck making it's way around the neighbourhood, looking forward to my first arabic cookery lesson?' I want to go back to that morning, when I made my way to the apartment, drinking in the sun and lingering slowly past the jasmine flowers that seem to overhang the walls on every street corner, so that I could inhale their fragrance one extra breath.
I guess the best thing to do in my case then, is to make some Ouzi.
On holiday, I learned that Jordanian women love FOOD. I had tremendous fun interacting with them whilst eating together, sharing cakes, talking flavours and recipes, helping with cooking. Maybe this is the same for all Arab cultures? I hesitate to generalise. One really interesting cultural food fact that I learned is, that the smaller you dice the tomatoes and cucumber that go into your salad, demonstrates how much you care for your guests. More effort goes into cutting up your salad veg finely, you see. I'd never thought of it in that way before!
The opportunity to cook together with Ola came out of a conversation Ola and I were having about okra! I smile as I remember this because I was telling her that I really don't like the slimeyness of cooked okra, which prompted her to share a recipe with me. I still remember the arabic for okra (bamieh). Oh my random memory! When Ola mentioned how nice it would be to cook together, I seized on the opportunity - yes please! I'm only here for a fortnight, but I love learning new dishes! My British friends, also asked whether they could join in too. We'd agreed to keep okra for another event and settled on making Ouzi, which is a traditional Jordanian rice dish, that can be served as a rice dish or rice stuffed filo parcels. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that every Jordanian mother has their own family recipe for Ouzi, like the Brits do with roast dinners?
We met at Ola's mum's house. What a privilege and because we were there, I experienced baking with an arabic oven! What did I learn?
- Arabic mixed spice is entirely different from UK mixed spice. More savoury rather than sweet. Shall I post a recipe for one later?
- An arabic oven automatically has a grill function, by design.
- Arabic curry powder is different from UK curry powder, but I don't know how, so I'm going to use the british stuff for the timebeing.
I'm going to write this recipe a bit differently. It's in 3 distinct bits and I thought about writing the ingredients list for each separately. I've seen a number of recipes laid out like that. However, I think that in this case, it would be annoying NOT to have the whole list of ingredients at the beginning because there are so many spices that go into each stage.
Please don't let the long list of ingredients put you off making this delicious dish. I've written down the recipe as Ola's mum taught me; would it help you to imagine that most Jordanian women would add their own variation of spices to this?
To give you an idea of the flexibility of flavouring in Ouzi, I'll let Ola interject: "you can add more spices other than cinnamon to the meat (first step) if you like. but even if you don't it won't matter because all the flavours will blend at the end, so every spice will add to the flavour regardless of the step at which you add it."
So, what ingredientsdoes one need to make Ouzi for about 8-10 people?
- 454g/1lb ground beef or finely diced steak
- ground cinnamon
- curry powder
- chicken or vegetable stock
- ground green cardamon
- ground cumin
- arabic mixed spice or bokharat
- ground black pepper
- 400g frozen peas
- 600g or 4 cups of dry basmati rice
- raw, blanched almond slices/halves
- 16 sheets of filo pastry
- ghee or melted butter
- sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1tbsp of freshly chopped parsley
You'll also need:
- 2 large baking tins, preferably roasting tins.
- A soup bowl or ramekin, which you will use to help you shape and stuff your filo pastry sheets with rice.
I think that once you have everything out and ready, then it's pretty easy to cook and assemble. So, let's begin.
Cooking the meat
Ingredientsfor the meat part:
- 454g or 1lb of beef mince, or finely diced beef steak
- ½tsp cinnamon
- 1tsp salt
1. Brown the beef in a frying pan or the stock pan that you're planning on using for the rice. As the meat is browning, add the cinnamon and the salt. Once the meat is browned, empty it onto a dish.
Cooking the rice and vegetables
Ingredients for the rice:
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 400g frozen peas, defrosted in cold water and drained.
- 600g or 4 cups of basmati rice, rinsed and soaking in cold water
- 1tsp ground cardamon
- 1tsp cumin
- 2tsp arabic mixed spice
- 1tsp curry powder
- pinch of cinnamon
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 3 stock cubes
- boiling water
- 3 handfuls of raw, blanched almond slices
1. Put the sunflower oil in the stock pan and add the peas and 1tbsp of salt. Do this on a medium-high heat. Cover the pan to allow the peas to steam for about 5 minutes.
2. Now, comes the fun part of adding all the spices to the peas. Give it a good stir. Break up the stock cubes and add them to the peas as well. You can add a cup of water at this stage, if you think that the peas are starting to burn a bit.
3. Boil the water. Meanwhile, drain the rice and add it to the stock pan. Cover the rice with enough boiling water so that it the rice will steam cook at the end. I'm not very good at measuring out water for this, but I believe it's something like 1 cup of rice:1¼ cups of water?
4. Bring the water to boil, then cover the rice and peas in the pan with a lid and leave it for 10-15 minutes on a very low heat, until the rice is cooked. Test it - it should be light and fluffy. No al dente nonsense.
5. Heat 1tbsp of sunflower oil in a frying pan and on a medium heat, fry 3 handfuls of the almonds until they brown. Leave to one side until the rice is ready.
6. On a big serving dish, put out half of the rice, then half of the meat. Mix it up. Then repeat until you have used up as much rice and meat as you'd like. Ola's mum said to us that we can put the rice and meat together in whatever proportion we like, according to taste. Now at this stage, you can add the almonds and eat it just like this. That's what I did when I made ouzi by myself after my cooking lesson. See below. If you tilt your head, there's thank you (shukran) written with almonds in arabic.
Or.... you can also wrap up the rice in filo pastry, which is what Ola and her mum taught us to do.
Assembling the filo parcels
- The fried almonds
- The ouzi rice, cooled.
- 16 sheets of filo pastry
- ghee or melted butter
- sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
You'll also need the baking trays/roasting tins and ramekin/soup bowl at this point
1. So, you need to leave the rice to cool completely now before adding it to the filo pastry. Otherwise, Ola's mum shared that from her experience, the filo pastry will break when you come to wrap up the rice with them. She advised preparing the rice part in the morning when making Ouzi for dinner, in order to give the rice sufficient time to cool down. However, if you have left it too late or are impatient, you can speed up the cooling process by laying the rice out as a thin layer on a BIG serving dish so that the rice is exposed to as much cold air as possible. If you want to use warm rice, then on your heads, be it!
2. While you're waiting for the rice, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 you could fry the almonds and prepare the baking trays by generously greasing them with oil. When the rice is ready, get your ramekin or soup bowl out, the almonds and the filo pastry sheets. (For the sake of ease, from this point forward, let's call the ramekin or soup bowl, a bowl.) Cut the sheet so that it's 2½-3 times the size of the dish that you're using. It's possible to cut away extra pastry, so err on the larger size when you first begin.
3. It's assembly time :) Flour the bowl if you want to doubly make sure that the pastry won't stick to the sides. Gently place one sheet of filo pastry on top of the bowl, so that the centre of the pastry sheet is in the bowl and the sides of the filo sheet are comfortably overhanging over the edges of the bowl. When we assembled them, Ola used 2 sheets because the pastry broke when we only used one. It's worth experimenting to find out what will work, but don't use anymore than 2 filo sheets per parcel. Press the pastry to the sides of the bowl.
4. Add a tablespoon of almonds and then use a large spoon to add the rice until it reaches the top of the dish. Fold the layers of the filo pastry over the top, so that it begins to look like a parcel. You want to have enough pastry on the top so that when you invert the bowl, there will be enough there to form a firm base. Tear away any spare pastry from the top and store it, just in case you need to patch anything up!
5. With one hand on top of the folded sheets, carefully invert the dish and hopefully you'll get the satisfaction of seeing an unbroken filo parcel appear. Lay the parcel, folded sheets down, carefully on the greased baking tray and move onto the next one. If you find that the filo sheet has torn, gently take it apart and use an additional filo sheet to assemble your parcel again. When lots of them appear on a baking tray, I think that they look like perfect white pillows.
6. When they are all assembled, brush them with ghee or melted butter, and cook them in the oven for 3-5 mins, until the parcel bottoms are browned. Check by lifting them up with a spatula. Then take it out and put them under the grill for an additional 2 minutes to brown the tops of the pastry. Essentially, we're making sure that the pastry is cooked.
7. When the tops are brown, take them out the oven and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Et, voila - your ouzi parcels are ready to be served. Ola's mum served them with laban, which is thick natural yoghurt which as slightly soured, and baked chicken.
Do you know what makes this really more-ish? The almonds. The nuts add texture, taste and totally complete the dish. When I made ouzi the next day for 13 friends, I made a slight variation of the recipe and missed out the wrapping in parcels bit, in the interests of time. Also, I burnt the almonds and I could have added a bit more salt. Even then, the resounding verdict from the lunch guests was 'Zaki' (Tasty). In conclusion, this seems to be a pretty fail-safe recipe.
Thank you Ola and Ola's mum.
July 19, 2012
My sister and her husband are coming to Warwick next week and their imminent arrival reminds me, amongst other things, of the beetroot they left me with the previous summer.
First of all. Whoever came up with the idea of adding beetroot in chocolate cake deserves a medal. You saved me from letting the vegetable go to waste. Let me take you back to my summer last year (when we had a summer!)
Oh dear...What was I thinking?
Everytime I open the fridge door, I have been glared at by the beetroot that has been discarded in the corner. I can't believe that after I discovered my dislike of its flavour, I went ahead and bought some more beetroot.
I know that it's silly, but there's a wee bit of me that believes that beetroot will eventually taste alright if I eat enough of it. However - I just can't face another savoury beetroot meal (see the entry on the fuschia beetroot risotto). So, I have decided that for the timebeing the best place for beetroot is in a cake and I've been baking this Chocolate and Beetroot cake from Delicious magazine. It's main attraction is using raw beetroot, as opposed to the cooked stuff.
Top Tip: Use kitchen gloves when handling and grating beetroot to prevent the juices staining your hands. They'll also protect your nails and fingers from being accidentally grated.
But first, I'll answer the question: why bother adding beetroot to chocolate cake?
Answer: Mostly for the moistness it adds to chocolate cake, and moistness is an essential quality in a goodchocolate cake. It's alright. Not everyone tastes the "secret ingredient" in this cake. Nonetheless, I think that the beetroot flavour comes through. Not at all in an overpowering way; I would describe it as a hint of earthiness. Somehow the beetroot marries nicely to the chocolate, in an earthy kind of way. I'm going to stop before I try to make the chocolate-beetroot combination into a sexy one.
The first time I made it, I baked them as 12 muffins for a friend's picnic and there was enough mixture left over for a small loaf cake for my work colleagues to sample. I made a chocolate buttercream icing to go on top and finished it off with some slivered almonds. That was in the September with the first lot of beetroot given to me. Then with this second lot of beetroot, which I bought (silly me) I recently made three little cakes as a dessert, and a 20cm cake for another friend's dinner do. This time round, I finished them off with the chocolate sour cream icing detailed in Delicious's recipe. I've never been very interested in making icing (or as the Americans call it, 'frosting') as I'm not very fond of it. So, I'm pleased that I pushed myself on to learn something new.
What I like about this recipe is the end result: a scrummy, moist and very indulgently chocolate-y cake. Interestingly, the sponge in the muffins had wee air holes in it, like a wispa bar; the cake was a denser texture. If you like chocolate fudge cake, then I'd recommend you the cake version, especially with the chocolate sour cream icing. There's no fooling yourself that it's healthy, however, as there's an awful lot of chocolate that goes into it. Even on the basis that there is a vegetable in it. (Although surely if you ate enough of it, you could add it as a portion of your daily fruit and veg..?)
So, stock up on your dark chocolate before you bake this because you'll use a lot.
Ingredients for the Chocolate and Beetroot cake, adapted from Delicious Magazine's Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.
- 250g plain chocolate
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 150g light muscovado sugar
- 100ml sunflower oil
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 50g ground almonds
- 250g raw grated beetroot
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 and grease a 22cm round loose-bottomed cake tin* (see above for variations). Line the bottom of the tin with baking paper.
2. Slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave in short blasts. The second time round, my pyrex bowl was indisposed because of Herman (more about him earlier). So, I carefully melted the chocolate in a saucepan on a low heat and took the pan off the heat, the moment the chocolate at the bottom started melting, so that I didn't burn it. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool.
3. Peel and grate the beetroot using a normal cheese grater (see top tip about handling beetroot). Put the grated beetroot into a sieve over a sink and squeeze out the excess moisture. Leave it in the sieve whilst you get on with the next steps.
4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl for 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract.
5. In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and ground almonds. I'd recommend sifting the flour and bicarb of soda because you don't want to be eating ucky lumps of bicarbonate of soda in the baked cake. Then add them to the wet ingredients and fold it in with a spatula.
6. Now, add in the grated beetroot and pour in the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly. The mixture should be a dark violet colour.
7. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 50-60 minutes in the middle of the oven. Mine needed the full hour. Check after 30 minutes and if the top seems to be browning too quickly, then cover the top with baking paper or foil. If you bake them as muffins, you'll need 14-20 minutes. The cake is done when your cake tester comes out clean inserted in the middle.
8. Let the cake cool in its tin for a few minutes, then take it out of its tin and let it cool on a wire rack.
I made the chocolate sour cream icing the following morning, but you don't have to wait that long.
Ingredients for chocolate sour cream icing
- 150g dark chocolate
- 100g sour cream
- 100g icing sugar
Melt the dark chocolate gently in a pan, or in the microwave. Allow to cool, then add to the melted chocolate, the icing sugar and the sour cream and beat until you have a thick, spreadable chocolate gooey icing.
Spread it over the cake, et voila!
September 13, 2011
Do you remember how I said that I don't care much for the taste of beetroot. Well... I take it back somewhat with this beetroot and goats cheese salad. It turns out that I can't resist anything with a goats cheese and balsamic syrup combination, even when beetroot is added to the mix. I'd make the salad again but tweak it slightly next time.
As I liked it the taste of it so much, I thought I'd make a feature out of this salad: I found it tucked away in the corner of the BBC good food recipe for the beetroot risotto that I made, labelled as another dish that I could TRY out. So I nicked a few beetroot quarters and rustled up this salad as a lunchtime warm up for my piece de resistance - the fuschia risotto. I won't say it here, but you can imagine what all this beetroot eating did to my insides!
I've added some notes to myself in italics. You could try them out as well, if you fancy, or not. Roasted Beetroot and Goats Cheese Salad, adapted from BBC Good Food - serves 2.
- 250g raw beetroot - about 3 medium sized beetroots.
- 2 plates of salad leaves. I had rocket, lambs lettuce and some other lettuce leave (i've looked it up - it's oak leaf lettuce).
- 100g goats cheese
- Balsamic Syrup/Glaze
- 2 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil to
- 1 part Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tin with foil.
2. Wash, peel, cut and quarter the beetroot*. Coat them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast for 45 mins. Add some extra flavours - could try a herb like rosemary or thyme; honey; balsamic vinegar
*I've read that you can peel the skin off a beetroot quite easily once it's been roasted but I've yet to try that method.
3. Wash and dry some fresh salad leaves. Make a dressing from 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper but don't add it just yet. I'd also be keen to try some pumpkin or walnut oil on this salad, just to see what it tastes like with it.
4. When 40 minutes of beetroot roasting time has passed, place a hefty slice of goats cheese on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof or baking paper (makes getting the goats cheese off much easier) and pop it into the oven for 7 mins.
5. Take the beetroot and goats cheese out the oven. Arrange the roasted beetroot on top (I chose the ones that looked a bit more crisp and caramelised) of the salad leaves. Drizzle the dressing on top. Then, slide the bubbling goats cheese on top. Scatter some nuts on top - maybe some walnuts or pine nuts.
6. Scoosh some lovely balsamic syrup around the salad and... Ta Da! Absolutely delicious.
My tip to you - Don't miss out the balsamic syrup: it completes the dish by bringing all the flavours together.
September 07, 2011
My sister gave me 1kg of homegrown beetroot at the end of July and I have almost used them all up. Beetroot ticks the box of 'unfamiliar ingredient' that normally puts me off making a recipe. I've experimented with sweet and savoury recipes provided by BBC good food and delicious magazine and it's taken away some of my unease about cooking with beetroot. My learning points:
- Always wear an apron. Beetroot stains are devilish to get out!
- Kitchen gloves are a godsend when you need to grate beetroot. It prevents a) bits of fingernail or thumb grated in and b) very pink stained hands.
Sadly, however, my main discovery has been... I really don't like the taste of beetroot. It makes me purse my lips in a funny way as I eat it because I'm not keen on the flavour. Then, it sits rather uneasily in my stomach. So, there you go. I've finally admitted it. In fact, if I was the b-list celebrity being interviewed by James Martin on Saturday Morning Kitchen, I would say that my food hate is beetroot. It has even trumped my previous food hate of congealed cheese.
Which is a bit sad really, because I'd like to like this vegetable. It is so very interesting and colourful. I love how it adds a bright fuschia colour to the dish. Besides, everyone seems to like eating beetroot. In fact, I've only ever come across one other person who doesn't like the taste of it.
You'll notice I've written italicised notes to myself next to parts in the method, with my ideas of how I could adapt this recipe so that it will suit my palate. The thing is, this has had lots of rave reviews on the BBC good food website. I bet they all liked beetroot to start off with. I mean, which silly person, who doesn't really like beetroot, chooses to make a dish that's all about beetroot?
Anyway, that is just me and my tastebuds. My friends, Emily and JCT came round to help finish off the beetroot risotto the next day. They liked the flavour and especially the colour. And you know what? I'd love to serve it as a prima plata at a dinner party, because it would serve as such a great conversation starter! So for all of your beetroot lovers, let me tell you about how I made beetroot risotto, adapted from BBC Good Food.
List of Ingredients
- 500g raw beetroot, washed peeled and cut into quarters. 500g is about 5 or 6 small-medium sized beetroots.
- 25g butter
- 1 onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 250g risotto rice
- a large glass of white wine
- 750ml hot vegetable stock (or chicken stock, you're not vegetarian)
- 2 handfuls of parmesan (about 75g).
- To serve: natural yoghurt or creme fraiche and sprigs of dill, or a slice of goats cheese, balsamic syrup and a scattering of fresh thyme leaves.
1. Prepare your beetroot to roast in the oven. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking pan with foil. I guess this prevents the beetroot staining the tin. Clean, peel (wear the kitchen gloves!) and quarter the beetroot. Coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven to bake for 45 mins.* I'd like to bring out more of the beetroot's sweetness. So, next time, I think I'll add balsamic vinegar or honey and maybe some sprigs of thyme.
*I roasted these at lunchtime, so that I could use some beetroot for a lunchtime roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad. The recipe recommended it as a 'you could also do...', so I did. But, if you wanted to save on time, you could choose to start on the risotto.
2. Melt the butter in an large oven proof pan that has a lid (if it doesn't have a lid, then use cover with tin foil). I decided to test out the oven-proofness of my largest sized Judge saucepan for this recipe. (It passed the test.)
3. Chop the onions and garlic and fry them at a moderate heat until soft. Add the rice and give it a good stir so that every bit of rice is coated.
4. Now, my favourite bit - add that glass of wine. Mmmm... Stir the rice some more. Once most of the wine has disappered in the pan, add ALL of that hot stock. Bring to boil for 5 mins, stir, cover with a lid and then pop it into the oven for about 15 mins. Or until the rice is cooked, but slightly al dente.
5. When the beetroot is done, take a quarter of them and puree them. I put them in a blender and they failed to puree. Hmmm.... Cut the remainder of the roasted beetroot into small chunks. Okay, so a few options here. Next time, cut the remaining beetroot into very small chunks, say the size of a 1cm cube. Better still, if I can figure it out, puree the whole lot!
6. Grate the parmesan.
7. Take the risotto out of the oven, once the rice is ready. There should still be a bit of liquid in there. Stir in a handful of the parmesan and the beetroot puree and chunks. Watch the risotto gradually transform into a vibrant shade of PINK, as you stir and the beetroot colour bleeds into the rice. I loved watching this bit.
8. Serve immediately with more parmesan cheese and a contrasting white colour. The first time, I had a dollop of yoghurt, as I didn't have any creme fraiche, and a scattering of dill. Sadly, I only had dried dill but I could taste the life that herb brought to the dish. I'd definitely use the fresh stuff next time though. I love fresh dill. The second day, I had a hunk of goats cheese and a squirt of balsamic syrup. Definitely use fresh dill another time but if I've used thyme in the roasting process, then how about a few fresh thyme leaves instead of the dill?
August 10, 2011
I fell in love with antipasti when I holidayed in the north-western tip of Sicily last September. In the past, I'd completely avoided antipasti: the magazine diet pages advise against eating antipasti for their hidden calories. I'm not entirely sure what changed my mind, but I had definitely ditched that notion of avoiding antipasti by the time I went on holiday. And I'm glad I did, because it certainly made for a glorious gastronomical adventure.
On our final night we stopped by the beautiful seaside town of Castellammare del Golfo, which was dressing itself up for a feria. Sarah and I both love good food so we wanted to finish our holiday with a delicious italian meal. We chanced upon this newly-opened restaurant and entered on the recommendation of an italian man (who was also a chef!) we bumped into at the corner of the street. He spoke english, having worked in England for a few years, and he was holidaying with his family in the area. I do love those serendipitous moments. I think of them as God showing me favour. Others might call them fortune or chance. I absolutely recommend this restaurant to you, but I'm not sure where it is. Maybe the photo will help you find it. We were served a delicious menu del dia. However, truth be told, I was full after the antipasti. I was ever so apologetic to the chef for leaving food on my subsequent platas.
Before we left the beautiful island, with the aquamarine shoreline, I began to dream up an time when we could eat sunny, sicilian food in the backdrop of a wet, grumpy, english winter. The occasion presented itself when I arranged a sicilian evening with my friends Helen and John, who had been to Sicily earlier in the year. Helen and I decided that we'd only serve antipasti, bread and dessert. We didn't plan a main course. The benefit of hindsight from our holidays.
Helen made tasty parma ham rolls stuffed with cream cheese and mango and a flavourful french bean, sundried tomato and feta cheese salad. My contribution to the evening: homemade caponata and sicilian bread. (I'll write about my tentative endeavours into bread making another day.)
Caponata isn't much to look at; it tastes spectacular. How do I describe the flavour? Sweet, tangy, a bit crunchy, moreish. Perhaps, one would bluntly call it an aubergine chutney, but that doesn't sound very appealing to me. The juices from the vegetables makes a beautiful sauce and the aubergines soak it up. Yum. It was one of the antipasti that was constantly served to us when I was out there.
When I found this Antonio Carluccio recipe(which is in his Italia cookbook), one of the things that almost put me off making this dishis the looooong list of ingredients. But then I remembered my resolution to push my culinary self. Besides, I realised that I had most of the ingredients and I only needed to buy capers and olives... and celery and aubergines and tomatoes.. It really does taste pretty special and it is a very simple dish to make. Admittedly the list of ingredients is on the long side. There's just quite a bit of prepping and chopping at the start.
The recipe recommended you want the pale violet aubergine that is native to Italy. I found it tricky to source in Coventry so I satisfied myself with the deep violet variety.
Oh, and something else to note. Use a really large, deep frying pan, or a large wok. I started out with a frying pan, then swapped it for a stock pan because of the quantity of the ingredients.
- 600g aubergines (about 3 medium sized aubergines), cut into 1 inch cubes
- 6-8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or just olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery hearts, cut into little chunks
- 500g ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 100g pitted green olives
- 60g salted capers, rinsed
- 100g slivered almonds
- 2 ripe but firm pears, cored, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 50g caster sugar
- 50ml white wine vinegar
1. In a large bowl, immerse the cubed aubergine in salted water for 1 hour. Then drain and press down firmly on the aubergines in order to squeeze as much water out. Transfer the aubergine onto a clean tea towel and pat the aubergine cubes dry. Prepare a plate with a few sheets of kitchen paper.
2. Heat most of the extra virgin olive oil in the frying pan, or stock pan and fry the aubergine cubes until it's a golden colour, rather than a bit burnt like mine. Transfer the fried aubergine onto the plate with the kitchen paper, so that as much oil is absorbed. Leave to one side.
3. Add more oil, if necessary, and fry the onion until soft. Add in all the other ingredients, except the caster sugar and white wine vinegar (really important you leave these out for now). So, that's the celery, tomatoes, olives, capers, almonds, pears, cinnamon and cloves. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. Add the aubergines to the pan, with the sugar and white wine vinegar. Season with salt, if required. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool down.
Caponata can be eaten warm, and believe me, I couldn't resist a wee taste of it. But it is, oh so delicious, when served cold.
This made A LOT. I had loads leftover from the sicilian evening. I took it to a friend's birthday party later that week, by which time the flavours had matured and we kept going back for some more. I gave some to a sicilian student, I stirred it through pasta to make packed lunches, and finally finished it off with a friend of mine with some bread and salad. It's really handy to have a few jars of this in the fridge for a delicious lunch, or a contribution to a dinner.
November 30, 2010
It's starting to snow again on campus, as I finish writing up this entry. They look like beautiful, soft flakes and remind me of my birthday in January when there was lots of snow! Maybe it's the snow which is helping me get into the swing of Christmas this year. I started wrapping my Christmas presents on Saturday - a previously unheard of phenonemon for the queen of last-minute. But then again, Saturday was the first day of snow and also the BBC Good Food Show, so undoubtedly I was going to be excited. My highlights were of the day:
- Buying my amazing Titan peeler (see photo below) and later making a courgette, garlic, basil and parmesan pasta dish for dinner with it.
- Chatting to Alan Rosenthal, who has written a cook book called Stewed, about his business. I think the timing of the book launch is perfect for these dark nights.
- Having a fun day out with my former housemates, Claire and Sarah and tasting muchos good food. Mmmm...
Well, it has inspired me to write about a cake that we can indulge in guilt-free. I think it's a handy one to have in mind for after Christmas. I was hooked the instant I saw this on Kitchenist's blog, 'And I'm Telling You: No-Butter Apricot and Almond Cake'. The title read like some sort of guarantee in a shop and drowned out the voice of guilt that says, "A moment on your lips, a lifetime on the hips". (Actually at times, the voice of guilt likes to take on the unwelcome guise of various human beings - what is with that?!) But the real hook for me was to bake with a butternut squash. Who can resist one of those golden, odd shaped bad boys?
The original recipe is in Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache. There's an amazon package sitting in the corner of my room, and I'm hoping my brother has sent me this recipe book as my Christmas present. I'll let you know after Christmas.
When it came to trying out this recipe, I didn't have any almond essence. And after staring at a bottle of almond essence in the shop for 5 minutes, I decided to not to purchase it but to substitute it with Amaretto (an almond liqueor) instead, which I had already.
I think that the hardest part of the this cake is peeling away at the hard skin of the butternut squash. The best advice I can give you is to invest in a good quality, sharp vegetable peeler. I didn't have one both times that I made this cake, so I attacked said butternut squash with a knife.
Remember how I mentioned that I have now bought an amazing Titan peeler? It's my newest kitchen purchase and I love it. It peels just about anything. I want to buy all sorts of root vegetables just so that I can peel them. I'm a bit ridiculous, aren't I, for being so excited about a peeler. *v* Did I mention already that I love it?
So, here are the Ingredients for my adapted version of Butternut Squash and Apricot Cake:
- 16 dried apricots
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1tbsp of apricot brandy (optional)
- 3 large eggs
- 90g caster sugar
- 200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash *see top tip
- 1tbsp amaretto
- 60g plain flour
- 200g ground almonds
- 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- icing sugar (to serve)
Top Tip: Weigh out the butternut squash before you peel and grate it. If you go over that's fine. You'll lose some of the weight when peeling it. Oh, and double check the weight once you've done the difficult part.
1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Line the baking tin with baking paper. In her blog, Kitchenist, Ele insists that this is a really important step and musn't be overlooked because the cake has a tendency to stick to the tin as no butter is being added to the recipe. So, I obeyed.
2. In a small heatproof bowl, soak the dried apricots by barely covering them in boiling water and adding 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. For extra apricot-loveliness, try adding some apricot brandy to it, as I did the second time I made the cake. 1 tbsp of apricot brandy seemed a good amount for me.
3. Measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl - the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt
4. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until it's light and fluffy. Use an electric whisk if you have one. Otherwise, it's a good workout for your arms.
5. Add in the grated butternut squash, amaretto, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and combine well.
6. Add in the dry ingredients in 3. to the wet mixture and give it a good mix so that the mixture is well combined. It should feel quite gloopy but thick.
7. Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Drain the apricots that were soaking and place them on top of the cake.
8. Bake the cake for between 35-45 minutes in the middle of the oven, or until the tester/knife comes out clean. The top of the cake should be springy and golden in colour. Let it cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then on a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar, just before serving.
Verdict? I think that the butternut squash adds a beautiful moistness to the cake, rather than a distinct flavour. The almond and mixed spice make it a truly delectable cake to eat.
So the combination of: no butter easing the guilt + butternut squash and apricot contributing towards your 5-a-day + amaretto and apricot brandy adding a sweet naughtiness to it = the perfect cake to feel good about whilst eating it. I baked it for my work colleagues on my birthday and, on another occastion, as my contribution to my church's ladies day. Each time, it received good reviews. Mmmmm...
August 25, 2010
This is a cake recipe that I adapted out of a “not enough of” so “how about” moment. Have you had any of those moments? I had quite a few of those “uh-oh” moments on a summer’s evening last year. Sarah, my then-housemate, and I had a baking evening in the midst of the bumper courgette season. Oh, we laughed A LOT…
and somehow ended up… with a yummy cake.
This is the original List of Ingredients for Zucchini and Walnut Cake. I’ve included it so that you know what the original plan was. If you’d like to, why not try them both out and tell me what the differences you come across. A year on, during another bumper courgette harvest, I’ve finally gotten round to baking the original recipe (below in italics) with a few modifications below. At the end, I’ve written a wee note about the differences I came across between each of the recipes – but the cause of yummy cake is not lost in either one.
245g walnuts (separated into 185g walnut pieces / 60g walnut halves)
500g zucchini – grated (500g is about 2 medium sized courgettes)
250ml canola oil – I couldn’t find this in Sainsburys so used sunflower oil
330g raw sugar – I halved it to 170g demerara sugar
310g self-raising flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
I mean, who normally has canola oil, and what is raw sugar? I had no idea until I saw it in this recipe. My google search tells me that demerara sugar is one type. Ah… a sigh of relief. I have some of that. But not enough walnuts, or self-raising flour… ho hum.
So, here’s my List of Ingredients for my ‘Don’t-have-enough-of-so-how-about’ Courgette and Walnut Cake. Oh, I might as well write courgette instead of zucchini, since I’ve changed so many of the ingredients already.
245g mixture of walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts and hazelnuts
500g courgette, grated
250ml vegetable oil (lighter than olive oil)
170g demerara sugar
310g wholemeal self-raising flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
a splash of milk, if necessary
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3
- Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
- Weigh out 185g of the nuts, saving 60g of the other nuts to decorate on top of the cake mixture later.
- I grated the courgettes in a food processor that had the grater option and finished the end bits by hand. It’s the easiest way to get through 500g.
- Mix together courgettes, oil, sugar, eggs so they look like this
- Add the chopped nuts.
- Gradually add the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg to this mixture.
- Add a splash of milk to the mixture to add a bit more wetness to the mixture. If the mixture looks and feels gloopy once you’ve mixed it, then it’s right.
- Pour the mixture into the tin and use the remaining nuts to decorate the top of the cake.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes, until a cake tester (or knife) comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
NB. If you bake them as muffins, then they need 30-35 minutes, but check them with a skewer to ensure that they are done.)
Top Tip: Check on the cake at 55 minutes. If the nuts look very brown as if they’re likely to burn, then cover the top with a sheet of baking or greaseproof paper.
- Let the cake cool in the tin.
- Enjoy and smile as you ask those around you to guess the mystery ingredient :)
So, what are the differences?
When I was used white flour, I had too much mixture for my 2lb loaf tin. Therefore, I also made 5 muffins, which I then decorated with chocolate frosting and finished it off with a walnut. I’ll be enjoying them as a treat with my mum later. As for the verdict on the flavour? Both cakes have a lovely nutty, spiced taste because of the nutmeg, cinnamon and nuts. The wholemeal version somehow, just tastes… more wholesome. I like it. My photos of the wholemeal cake are currently stored on Sarah’s camera, so I’ll add them on at a later date.
p.s. I discovered that this cake freezes well. This is entering a new territory in baking for me because I had never frozen a cake before. What I did was double wrap it with foil, once the cake had completely cooled down. Then wrapped it again in a plastic bag before popping it into the freezer. I defrosted it simply by putting it out on the side. The cake was yummy to eat.
Happy Courgette Season!
September 27, 2009
Once upon a time, when I lived with two very lovely former housemates in my previous abode, we liked to discover ways of cooking with ‘new’ vegetables. Actually you could either blame one of my housemate – or give credit to her – for why I got sidetracked from my ultimate chocolate brownie recipe quest. She told me that she had abandoned some beetroot in the fridge when she went away. So I decided to bake a cake with them.
When I was younger, I didn’t know that beetroot could come in any other way than sitting in a jar of pickle. And I wasn’t very keen on it. Now, i’ve tried it roasted and crisped (i love the latter) but making a cake with it? I was in a very adventurous mood when I set my mind to it. The only two criteria that it had to meet was that it was a Good Food Channel recipe (so that I could enter their photo competition) and I had the ingredients in my cupboard. Here’s the result!
Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake adapted from the Good Food Channel
I’ve adapted the recipe slightly. I use less sugar and made my own judgements where the recipe was a bit vague about what flour to use and what to do with the beetroot. Also, I didn’t have any apricot jam so I couldn’t glaze the cake as the recipe suggested. It was yum yum.
200ml vegetable oil
150g golden caster sugar
150g raw beetroot, grated
100g chopped walnuts, plus extra for decoration
100g chopped toasted hazelnuts
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
3 tsp milk (I used unsweetened soya milk)
200g plain flour
- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a 20cm cake tin.
- Grate the beetroot into a large bowl. Be careful not to stain anything. Beetroot juice is very red. At one point, I wondered whether the redness on my hands was blood or juice when I accidently grated my thumb.
- Add the oil, sugar, walnuts, hazelnuts, egg yolks, baking powder and mixed spice to the beetroot and mix it well.
- Mix in the milk and plain flour.
- In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks.
- Fold the whisked egg whites to the beetroot mixture.
- Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and decorate with the nuts. (it looks very very pink!)
- Bake in the oven for 30 mins (or until the tester skewer comes out clean).
- Leave to cool for 5 mins in the cake tin and then take it out to cool on a wire rack.
Verdict? This was such a moist cake (courtesy of the beetroot) and once the beetroot was grated, it was a really simple cake to put together and bake. Colleagues at work enjoyed eating this. But it generated a fair bit of controversy… tee hee. If I bake another beetroot cake, I’d like to partner beetroot with chocolate. I think that it’ll be a killer combo!
ps. I’m so excited. On the Good Food Channel website, you can see my photo for this recipe. The competition was probably their ploy of increasing their range of food photographs!
August 31, 2009
So, there’s an overabundance of courgettes growing in our garden at the moment. Before baking this cake, we’d eaten courgette lasagne, lemon and courgette risotto, pasta with courgettes, boiled courgettes… (we’re still eating our daily portion of courgettes). I was desperate to do some baking – so why not a courgette cake? One of my housemates has Nigella’s ‘Domestic Goddess’ cookbook and I’d seen this cake before but I’d been put off by it because it looked a bit tricky and… well… it’s a courgette cake! It caused a bit of controversy when I facebooked it. Some people really don’t like the idea of mixing vegetables in cakes!
So, in my desperation to do something creative with the courgettes, I read Mouthful’s of Heaven’s entry about Courgette and Lime Cake, was encouraged by how replicable it looked, dug out Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ and started grating the darling courgettes…
So, this is Flora’s famous Courgette Cake adapted by yours truly.
You’ll need to pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and grease and line 2 cake tins.Ingredients
Weigh 250g of courgettes (250g doesn’t really make much of a dent in the courgette harvest) – weigh them before you grate them and if you go a bit over then that’s fine.
60g sultanas (soaked in warm water)
2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
75g caster sugar (the original recipe says 150g but I halved the sugar because recipes generally don’t need so much sugar as it says)
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Actually the sultanas are optional but I love them so I put them in to soak in warm water to make them lovely and juicy.
2. Grate the courgettes using a normal cheese grater and then put them in a sieve over the sink to remove excess water.
3. Cream the eggs, sugar and oil together in a bowl.
4. Sieve the flour, bicarb of soda and baking powder together in another bowl and then add to the creamed mixture.
5. Stir in the courgettes, then add the drained sultanas.
6. Pour the mixture into the cake tins.
7. Bake for about 30 mins (test it with a skewer and it should come out clean – I use a metal chopstick)
8. Let it cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins, find a cooling rack then take the cakes out to cool on the racks.
Next up is the filling and icing. I’ve never made lime curd, or any curd for that matter, before and had a jar of the shop-bought stuff waiting in the fridge. However, this is what I loved about reading Mouthful’s of Heaven’s blog – she said that it was easy to make lime curd, so i took her at her word and gave it a shot. Indeed it is easy peasy limey squeasy! On another tangent, one of my friend’s mum washes fruit with fairy liquid before she eats them and I laughed when I heard it. Then I found myself doing it when I wanted to use lime for this cake recipe. Funny that… (but it really does work in getting the wax off.)
So for lime curd, melt 75g of butter on a low heat, add in
3 large eggs
75g of caster sugar
125ml lime juice (use the real deal, if you can)
zest of 1 lime
As you can see, my attempt at cream cheese icing was really, really runny. It was somewhat comforting that the same thing happened when a colleague of mine made it too. The one thing that we both did differently from the recipe was to use reduced fat cream cheese. I’m not convinced that this makes the world of difference… but the results would say otherwise! I even put the icing in the fridge for a few hours to firm up (does this work?) but to no avail. I have to admit though that this lime cream cheese icing kicks ass!
So, cream cheese icing with attitude!
Beat 200g of cream cheese until smooth,
Add 100g of sieved icing sugar and combine really well,
Add in juice of one lime.
So the final bit is in the assembling. I left the cakes and lime curd overnight to cool completely. Spread plenty of lime curd on top of one cake, place the second cake on top and then I poured the icing on top and finished it off by sprinkling chopped pistachio nuts on top. I had leftover icing, which my friends used as extra cream :)The verdict? Fingerlinkin’ delish!