Tag Archives: lunch

Frittata!

18 Aug

Ahhhhh… here I am in my “other” home, with my beloved M + Z + B + the AuPairNation of Essia + Julia. And of course, the King, Raai. Its wonderful to be back, and I am blissfully babied out. It was a 24 hour journey to get here, so I let myself off one day of blogging. But today, I cooked and so I thought it would be a good idea to start to blog again … I find that if I let anything go for more than a day, it becomes a habit NOT to do it!

I love cooking in my sister’s kitchen. Its large, airy, comfortable. Everything is so well organised, and its totally open plan. I love her knives, her pots and pans, and particularly, I love the contents of her fridge! There is always something interesting in there that will challenge me to create something delicious. Today, I was cooking for 6 people for lunch, so I decided on a frittata. Its a really simple open omelette, with the fillings added before the eggs. Its fluffy, and is finished in the oven, so that the cheese melts and browns a bit. Delicious – and it can contract and expand to take on whatever is in the fridge! Plus, its wonderfully easy to feed a hoard of people.

Along with the frittata, I made an apple berry crumble, and for dinner a very simple vegetarian curry with brown rice. The remains of the frittata were delicious sliced with dinner. Meals at my sisters are like this… I cook, and we always find ways to incorporate the previous meal into the current one. Simple food, cooked with organic and local ingredients. So much joy … And she has a huge basil plant, her own tomatoes, and a fig tree that is positively laden with swollen purple fruit. I think I am going to have fun here!

I am giving you the approximate ingredients for my frittata today. Use what you have in the fridge – and be experimental. But make sure you use your own judgement about what you mix together into the frittata. I wouldnt add blue cheese, but feta makes a wonderfully salty counterpoint to just about anything. Onions, peas and carrots go well with lots of things, but olives are quite a specific taste and might not meld well with parmesan, for example. Think about what youre putting together into the frittata, and then give yourself permission to experiment! Also be logical. I used 3 different kinds of cheeses because my sister had that in the fridge – but if you only have one cheese, then use that and dont go out and buy extra!

This is a wonderful dish to serve for lunch or breakfast, and its as tasty cold as it is hot, so its fantastic to serve at a picnic or in hot weather 🙂

This will serve six

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • salt and pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • splash of port wine
  • 1/4 cup water (about)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 2 small carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed baby tomatoes (roma and plum), sliced
  • 4 vegetarian sausages, crumbled
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 cup feta, grated
  • 4 tbsp hummus (optional, but it added lots of protein and it was delicious!)
  • 1/4 cup cheddar, grated

In a large, oven proof frying pan, heat the olive oil, over medium heat, and fry the onions and garlic until glossy and soft. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar and wine, and let the onions colour and burn just a little bit. Pour a bit of water into the pan, and scrape up the juices and burnt bits if any.

Add the vegetables, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. You dont want it too salty as the cheeses will add salt too. Crumble in the sausages and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, parmesan and feta. When the vegetables and vegetarian sausage have been combined to your liking, arrange them evenly over the bottom of the frying pan. Lower the heat, and pour over the egg mixture. Using a wooden spoon, move the egg mixture around gently in the pan to encourage it to cook about half way through. DONT mix it though – you just want to kind of poke holes in the bottom that will be filled by uncooked eggs!

Spoon the hummus over, if using. Switch the oven broiler on, and sprinkle over the cheddar.

Slide the frittata in the oven for maximum 5 minutes. It will cook through, puff up a little, and the cheese on top will melt and brown a bit.

Serve immediately with fresh brown bread. Or wait a while, till its cooled, refrigerate and serve it sliced, for a summer meal that it light, and delicious.

Tomato Water

10 Aug

Tomato WaterYes, it seems I have tomatoes on the brain. When they are in season, local, bright red, juicy and fresh, there is absolutely nothing better. This fruit, which is commonly treated like a vegetable, is the base of so many gorgeous dishes. I love tomatoes, and I would have them every day, in so many different ways, if I could. But I have always been fascinated with one tomato preparation. A soup of a sort, tomato water, clear and lightly yellow in colour, but completely imbued with the scent and taste of tomato. You can serve this cold or hot, as a clear vegetarian consomme. You can also use it as a drink, adding it to gin and vermouth in a dirty martini, or with vodka, for a bloodless Mary!

I have always been fascinated by the science of this preparation. You use egg whites as a filter – boiling the egg whites with tomato puree. The egg whites become thick and pink, and suck up all the colour in the tomato puree while at the same time leaving behind all the flavour. When making the tomato water, I used the egg yolks to make a phenomenal garlic aioli which I used as a base for an open faced grilled cheese sandwich. Suddenly, grilled cheese and tomato soup have a whole new presentation – and its amazing! Your taste buds recognise what you are eating, and enjoy it, but this is not your old school dish. Its new, and fresh, and totally delicious.

This takes only a few minutes to put together. Its really fun to do with young people because they are very pleased with the alchemy and magic of the cooking. Easy, and haute. A perfect synergy 🙂

For about 2 – 3 cups of tomato water, you will need:

  • About 3 lbs / 1.2 kg / 6 – 7 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a mixture of ripe roma and plum) – seeds and skins and all
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 egg whites, beaten a little

Chop your tomatoes well, and then puree them, using your food processor, immersion blender, or blender.

Place the tomatoes, salt and egg whites in a medium saucepan. Over medium high heat, whisk the egg white – tomato mixture until it all comes to a boil.

Immediately reduce the heat to low, and allow to simmer for five minutes. Dont touch it, mix it, stir it or annoy it in any way.

While the tomato mixture is simmering, prepare a bowl, with a sieve over it. Line the sieve with very fine damp cheese cloth.

After about five minutes of simmering, you will see a thick, foamy, white crust over the water. Pour everything into the sieve, and allow to drain for at least 15 – 30 minutes.

You will have a perfectly clear tomato consomme. Delicious, healthy and a joy to present to those you love.

Make a fantastic grilled cheese and tomato soup that will blow people’s minds!

The tomato water will keep for up to 1 week, covered, in the fridge.

Potato, Sweet Potato and Beet Gratin

7 Aug

potato, sweet potato and beet gratinTonight, I was lazy. I wanted to spend the entire evening in bed, watching videos, but of course, I needed to cook! I have made a promise to myself to post one recipe or musing every day, and so I wandered into the kitchen to be inspired. I had beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes sitting on the counter waiting for a rosti which I want to make for Ezril. I had loads of little baking paper packages of cheese bits, all wrapped up, and needing to be used. And I had some cream and milk and garlic. Okay then, instead of a rosti, which would take lots of work over the stove, I decided on a gratin. And a gratin with beets! I needed to think this through before jumping in.

I think sometimes that cooking is about inspiration, but equally, it is about preparation. Even if you dont have a clear recipe, and want to be inspired by your ingredients, always, always take five minutes to think about how you are going to put everything together.  If you dont, even in your head, have a clear work progress plan, you will definitely forget something or an important step. Trust me! Ive done it before, with disastrous results!

Beets are gorgeous creatures, but they have one flaw (or wonderful attribute depending on your way of looking at things) – they make everything they touch turn pink! I wanted to incorporate beets into this gratin because I thought they would add an earthy unique flavour, highlighting the creaminess of the potatoes and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. A good counterbalance. But I really needed to sit and think for a while about how I was going to keep them separate but together. So I decided to prep them all the same way, but in different bowls, and layer them instead of mix them all up. The milk/cream would bind them all together, and the cheese would act as a barrier between the beets and potatoes so they wouldnt completely bleed into each other.

I think this gratin turned out gorgeously. The garlic scented the milk, but you can still taste each individual ingredient. I love love love crusty burnt bits of cheese on anything, and this gratin gave me acres of it. And silky, creamy, rich potatoes. This is a wonderful side dish for a big group, or you can cut down on the amounts, and bake a small pan for just two. Its fantastic the next day, served for breakfast, cold, or sliced and slightly fried, with an egg. Its also great, served with a very tart (arugula) salad for lunch. Its comfort food, from the heart, without a huge amount of effort. Love it!

For a large gratin dish or casserole, you will need:

  • About 3 – 4 cups potatoes
  • 1 – 2 cup sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup beets
  • Boiling water
  • 3 + 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 tbsp butter (optional – I only use butter if I am not using cream)
  • 2 – 3 cups milk and/or cream (I used a mixture)

The preparation is all important in this recipe. You will need to keep your beets and potato mixture separate until you are ready to bake.

Peel and thinly slice your potatoes and sweet potatoes, and immerse them in cold water in a bowl. Peel and thinly slice your beets, and immerse them in cold water in a bowl. Allow the potatoes and beets to sit for at least 10 minutes. This will encourage some of the starch to come out.

Boil some water, drain the cold water from your potatoes, put them back in the bowl, and slice 3 cloves of garlic over. Cover the potatoes completely with boiling water.  Do the same for your beets, slicing 2 cloves of garlic over. Leave in the boiling water for 15 minutes or so. They will not cook, but they will get a little bit softer. This is what you want.

Meanwhile, grate about 2 – 3 cups of cheese. I used a mix of cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and pecorino. This was what I had in left over bits in the fridge, and what was available. Swiss cheese, like Gruyere, is more traditional, but I like the process of using up left over bits and pieces.

Drain the potatoes and beets and place back in their individual bowls.

Preheat your oven to 180C

Lightly butter a large baking dish. I use my high casserole dish, because I like layers in my gratin!

Layer a thin layer of beets, salt and pepper them, dot with a bit of butter if you are using, and cover with some cheese. Layer some potatoes, salt and pepper them, and cover with cheese. Continue like this until you have used up all your ingredients. I usually end up with 4 – 6 layers, always trying to end with potatoes. Add a final layering of cheese over the top.

Pour in about 2 cups milk/cream mixture until 2/3rd of the way up to the top layer of cheese. It will vary depending on your dish. Push everything down a bit into the cream. Bake in the oven for at least an 1 hour, possibly up to 2, checking every now and then that you dont need extra milk/cream (you really shouldnt, but add more if you think it needs it). Check to see if the gratin is done by forking a bit of potato – it should be tender, and break under very little pressure.

Take out of the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Sour Cream Almond Coffee Cake

31 Jul

Sour Cream Coffee CakeThis weekend is rainy and damp – the perfect time for baking. Cakes and cookies, the scent of warm cinnamon and chocolate – all these are, to me, the ultimate comfort. A slice of cake, be it carrot, coffee or chocolate, is a welcoming gift to present a visitor, and they pack wonderfully for on-the-go presents. I love cake – the beautiful crumb, the creamy icings, the melding of flavor and texture. Baking a cake is immensely satisfying – the finished product is an act of magic, bringing together simple ingredients and creating a stunning finished product. I dont trust people who dont like cake 😉

And oh, this cake. A humble coffee cake, something you could whip together in half an hour or so, even though it has a filling, topping and batter. Its a simple cake, and it bakes up beautifully – fluffy, cinnamon specked, cream-cheesy interior, with little specs of baked apple, streusel topping. Its surprisingly balanced, and not over-the-top sweet. A wonderful snack, and a delightful breakfast with a cup of hot coffee. My idea of the perfect thing to have in the fridge at all times 🙂

This cake is adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis from her Kitchen Classics book. She got the recipe from her assistant, who got it from her Auntie Fei. So this recipe has been handed down and redrafted at least four times – which is one of the things I love about cooking. You can tell someone how you made a dish, you can even write out a recipe for them. As soon as they get it home, look in the fridge and realise they have raisins rather than an apple, or creme fraiche rather than sour cream, they substitute and change around and add. Its human nature, but its also what makes cooking so personal. As soon as you have any confidence in the kitchen, you know what you like, and you adapt things to that sense of taste and artistry. Its why I love eating other people’s cooking so much. They expose their sense of taste, colour, texture, flavour and fun through what they cook, and how they cook it.

And I must admit something here. This cake actually has nuts in it! I usually dont go for cake with nuts. Ever. I took the nuts out of the sublime carrot cake from yesterday. I would never make anything chocolate with nuts. I love nuts, but not with sweet, except in this cake (well, may be I would use almond meal in a cake in place of flour in a pinch, but thats another story). Here, the nuts act as the texture component, and elevate the coffee cake with their smoky crunchy bite. They also cut the creaminess of the cake well – its made with sour cream, and layered with cream cheese, so its very rich. The nuts help that richness stay balanced. I use almonds because I find them the least offensive of nuts in sweet things, but you could use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or even macadamias if you like.

Making this cake is not hard, but I would certainly make the filling and topping first, before making the batter. That way, the final assembly is quick and easy. Also, you can make it in a bundt pan, but I didnt want to, so I made it in a cake tin. Cooking time is about 10 – 15 minutes less in a bundt pan so watch for that.

Eat this at breakfast or during a coffee break, for a tea time snack or as dessert. Its delicious any which way, but I particularly like it warm from the oven.

Filling

  • 3/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Please make sure you get a good cream cheese. That Philadelphia stuff is full of stabilisers, gums and other chemicals. If you can find a natural, organic or locally made cream cheese, get that. The difference is huge.

Beat all ingredients together till light and creamy, and set aside.

Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds, divided (note: you can use any nut you like)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium to large frying pan, toast the almonds (or other nuts) until they become light golden. Divide into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup. Set the smaller amount aside to use with the filling, and place the 3/4 cup of almonds in a bowl along with the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter, add the vanilla extract to the melted butter, and mix into the almond-flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Set aside.

Cake

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200 ml (about 1 cup) sour cream (you can substitute creme fraiche if you like)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream and vanilla.

Beat the dry ingredients and sour cream into the butter-sugar-egg mixture bit by bit – I usually mix in a couple tablespoons flour, then a couple tablespoons sour cream, etc, until you have a smooth batter.

Assembly

  • Cake batter
  • 1 large apple (I used a Fuji apple) peeled, cored, and diced (you could use dried cranberries, raisins, or any other fruit you like)
  • 1/4 cup reserved almonds
  • Filling
  • Topping

Preheat oven to 180C.

Butter a cake pan, or  a bundt pan with removable sides, well. I usually put some baking paper on the bottom of my cake tin, and butter that as well, just to make removal a bit easier.

Pour about half of the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin, and smooth. Sprinkle on the diced apple, and then the reserved almonds. Spoon over the cream cheese filling, making sure you get it smeared up against the sides, and dropped throughout the interior of the pan. Top with the remaining cake batter. Smooth the top, and sprinkle over the filling. Using a fork or spoon, fold over a little batter so that you have spots of batter peaking through the filling.

Bake for 55 – 65 minutes depending on your pan, or until a cake tester comes out with crumbs.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 – 30 minutes before unmolding, cutting and devouring.

Enjoy with friends.

Butternut and Spinach Tart with a Parmesan or Pecorino Crust

24 Jul

goldorange perfectionI am really in a tarty mood these days. Not sure why. Must be something to do with the moon 😉 I must admit that tarts and pies have always fascinated me. I love the idea of a pastry enveloping delightful fillings – and I have always believed that the pastry should be as good as the interior, if not better. I made a raspberry curd tart the other day, and now I am trying my hand at a savoury one. I love butternut and spinach together – their colours, green and orangegold are so complementary, and, more importantly, they taste so good together. Roasted butternut and lightly sauteed spinach are a knockout taste combination. But what would happen, I wondered, if you made them both very smooth and creamy, a touch of herbs and garlic, and combined them together, side by side. May be some shards of very salty, briney, goats cheese. That would stand up to the spinach and butternut. And a crust that had a hint of pecorino in it, so it too was a taste explosion.

So I set out to make this tart of my dreams … and I must admit it is a process. I made it over one evening, and an afternoon. This is a tart for a family gathering or celebration, a picnic or a birthday. I have to say that the actual cooking processes are easy, and really not focus consuming at all – you just need to be around as things get roasted and sauteed, and you need to let the crust rest, and then prebake it. Its a doddle if you break it down into smaller components (much like life) and then tackle each individual piece slowly and with great enjoyment. I roasted my butternut and prepared my tart dough the night before while watching tv. The actual work time was about 15 – 20 minutes, and the rest was allowing the ingredients to do their magic.

What I adore about this particular tart is that it is layer up on layer of perfection. When you serve it, it looks like a spinach tart, which in and of itself, is pretty damn delicious. Underneath the bronzed deep green spinach, is the goldenorange perfection of butternut, and nuggets of melted goats cheese. What an astounding mixture, what a brilliant taste sensation, what delightful surprises hidden within that beautiful crust.

Tarts are wonderful things because they can feed many people, in great style. They accommodate fillings pretty much at your whim and desire, and can be savoury or sweet at your discretion. A slice of tart will almost never go unaccepted – and when youre in the mood for just a bite, a sliver of tart can hit the spot perfectly. Plus they are so beautifully dramatic to present. Such a wide expanse of pretty colours and melting goodness. And you can serve them warm from the oven (but never hot), or cold from the fridge the next day (if there’s any left!).

If you decide to make this tart, do think about timing. If you make it all in one afternoon, roast the butternut first, make the dough and put it in the freezer while the butternut is in the oven, then cool the butternut, then make the spinach, etc. You will need to give each element time to rest, cool and intensify their flavours and textures, so be aware of what you make and when.

And just a note, I used pecorino in this recipe, but you could just as easily use parmesan. I love pecorino because its a more tangy version of parmesan, and its made with ewe’s milk so it goes easily with the goat’s cheese.

Pecorino Pastry

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup pecorino, grated
  • 1/2 cup / 110 g / 8 tbsp butter, frozen and grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp oregano or sage or rosemary

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and parmesan. Grate the frozen butter over, sifting it into the flour with the tips of your fingers. I pause and do this twice as I grate.

Beat the egg, dijon, oregano (or other herb) and salt together, and pour over the flour-parmesan-butter mixture. Bring the dough together with the tips of your fingers and let it rest in the fridge for about half an hour or up to two days.

When you are ready to use the pastry, roll out on a floured board. Drape over your rolling pin, and centre it in your tart pan. Prick with your fork, line with aluminum foil, fill with beans, and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. Take out the foil and beans, prick again with the fork, and bake for about 5 – 10 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool a bit before filling with butternut and spinach.

Roasted butternut (and a garlic head!)

  • 3 – 4 cups butternut (about 700 g), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp or less olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 tbsp light sour cream
  • 2 eggs + 3 yolks, beaten well together

Preheat your oven to about 220C. Prepare a baking tin with greaseproof paper.

Skin and chop the butternut, and arrange it in one layer on the baking tin. Using your hands, lightly coat the butternut with some olive oil. When I say lightly coat, I really mean lightly – you dont want the butternut swimming in oil because it will most definitely steam in the oil rather than roast and slightly char. You want that caramelised burnt butternut flavour, and a tiny bit of olive oil will really help with that. Too much will be a hindrance.

Using a sharp knife, cut about 1/4th inch off the top of a head of garlic, skins intact.

Place the garlic on the baking tin, and pour olive oil into the cloves.

Salt and pepper everything liberally.

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the butternut is soft, and slightly burnt around the edges.

At this point, you can refrigerate the butternut, covered, for up to two days. Take the cloves of garlic out of their skins, cut away any very burnt bits (they can be bitter), and store in the fridge too, covered with olive oil. If you are serving the tart that day, go on to the next step.

Using an immersion blender, combine the butternut and 3 tbsp of sour cream.

Beat 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks together until light and frothy. Use 2/3rd of this in the butternut mixture, and reserve the rest for the spinach. Fold the eggs lightly into the butternut.

Set aside.

Spinach

  • 120 g of baby spinach, washed
  • 3 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 3 tbsp roasted garlic olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash a packet of baby spinach well in salted water. Let it sit for a minute in the water while you heat 3 tbsp of olive oil that has been sitting with the roasted garlic cloves, along with three of the cloves, in a large frying pan over high heat. You can mash the cloves into the olive oil.

With your hands, lift the baby spinach out of the water, allowing some water to cling to the leaves. Fry in the very hot oil until it is bright green and soft, about 3 – 5 minutes only. You dont want to over cook the spinach, but you do want it to be wilted completely. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Transfer the hot spinach to a mixing bowl. Add 3 tbsp sour cream, and using your immersion blender, make sure the spinach has been completely pureed.

Fold in 1/3rd of the egg mixture from the butternut into the spinach and set aside.

Assembly

  • Baked tart crust
  • Butternut mixture
  • Goats cheese – about 3 – 5 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • Spinach mixture

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Pour the butternut mixture into the tart crust. Sprinkle the goats cheese all over the butternut, and then pour the spinach mixture over all, using a spatula to smooth the top completely.

Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

tart heavenLet rest for 10 minutes or so before cutting into wedges and serving.

Perfection can be hard work, but it is so bloody satisfying when it comes off!

Veggie Burger

15 Jul

Veggie Burger HeavenI was having tea today with Goddessmoments and her Spouse. As we were chatting about food, he said something that made me think about what I miss most about being a carnivore. I think its a great juicy burger, with melted cheddar on top, in a beautiful bun and may be some slices of avo or tomato. Pure heaven. All those different tastes and textures, the satisfaction of a handheld meal, juices dripping everywhere. But I dont eat meat, and so I wont ever have that kind of burger again. But, this veggie burger more than makes up for any sense of loss I might have!

This is scrummy yummy. It can be vegan if you leave out the cheese (or use soy cheese) and its so full of wonderful, healthy vegetables and grains. I use quinoa in this recipe – the wonder grain! It has the most complete proteins of any grain, and it is full of vitamins and minerals – from iron to vitamin e to amino acids. And it tastes wonderful too! Nutty and creamy at the same time.Its a really useful tool for a vegan diet because it adds protein from a surprising source, and its extremely well tolerated, even by those who cannot eat wheat. I love it. I even use it in place of couscous and rice on occasion.

While your quinoa is cooking, you roast a few aubergines, garlic and some nuts. Fry up some mushrooms. I usually throw everything in one large bowl, and mince with my immersion blender (oh how I love thee, let me count the ways!). It comes out tasting really “meaty” in a good way, and its incredibly satisfying. Because everything is cooked or prepped before being formed into patties, the final fry up is really to create a lovely burnt sticky caramelised crust. You could probably do this in the oven as well, though I have never tried. These freeze really well, by the way. Layer in greaseproof paper, and pack away in a plastic container, and use within 6 months.

For about 8 – 10 burger patties, you will need:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup water plus extra to soak
  • salt
  • 5 baby aubergines (or 1 medium – 1/2 large), sliced in half
  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • Small packet shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed, and sliced
  • 6 – 7 medium portobello mushrooms (250 g packet), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Italian mixed herbs (or herbes de Provence or any other herb that you like – basil, rosemary, thyme)
  • truffle oil (optional)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
  • Handful of fresh herbs, minced fine (optional – use what you like – basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, parsley, mint even)
  • Soy (optional to taste)
  • pepper

To serve, you will need hamburger buns, cheese (optional), lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion (your choice of any or all or none!), some mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickle… you get the drift!

Preheat your oven to about 220C.

First start off by soaking the quinoa. In a medium saucepan, cover the quinoa with water, and let stand for 15 minutes or so. This softens the grain, and also encourages the hard outer casing to split. A good thing!

Meanwhile, split your baby aubergines (or slice your medium/large one), and arrange, skin side down, on a baking tin that has been lined with baking paper. Slice the top of a head of garlic, and place on tin. Lightly oil and salt the aubergines and garlic and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. About 3 – 4 minutes before they are done, flip them over, and sprinkle the cashew nuts onto the baking tin. You want the cashew nuts to toast lightly, but not really to burn.

When your quinoa has stood for 15 minutes, drain, put back into saucepan, and add 1 1/2 cups of water, and a bit of salt. Cover the pan, and bring to the boil over high heat, and then lower heat and simmer the quinoa, covered, for about 15 minutes. You will know when its done when most of the water has boiled off, and the quinoa has fluffed up and doubled in size. Take off heat, and leave covered for at least five minutes.

Once your aubergines, garlic and cashews have been taken out of the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, add sunflower and sesame seeds to a large mixing bowl, and grate in the carrot. Add the cooled aubergines, the garlic cloves (pop them out of their papery casing), and the cashew nuts.

Go back to your quinoa, fluff it up a bit, and measure out 1 1/2 – 2 cups. If there is any left over, it freezes well and is a wonderful addition to any soup. Add the measured quinoa to the large mixing bowl.

Prepare your mushrooms. Pour a little olive oil into a medium – large frying pan, and add the shiitake mushrooms. I was taught that shiitake mushrooms need quite a while to cook. You need to slice them thinly (I also de-stem them) and leave them over low heat to brown around the edges. They will melt, and get soft, and reduce in size. Dont mix them in the pan too much, just let the heat and the oil and the mushrooms do what they know how to do. It should take about 10 minutes or so.

Once the shiitakes have been well browned, add the portobello mushrooms (still on low heat), and stir to combine. If you want, sprinkle a little truffle oil over, and let cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring every now and then. Add some balsamic vinegar, the tomato paste and Dijon mustard, and stir to combine. The portobellos should have browned a little and reduced in size. Add the mushrooms to the mixing bowl.

Grate the cheese into the bowl if you are using.

With your immersion blender, process everything in the mixing bowl. Do it in short sharp bursts because you want to make sure you combine and chop most everything very fine without pureeing it into complete oblivion. You can use a food processor if you like. Again, short sharp bursts.

Once everything has been combined to your liking, taste. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Add the minced herbs, if you like. I often add some soy sauce for deeper darker flavour.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours.

About fifteen to twenty minutes before you are ready to eat, heat a little olive oil in a shallow non stick frying pan over low heat. Take the burger mix out of the fridge, and form thin (about half an inch to an inch maximum) patties with your hands. Fry up to three patties at a time, flipping only once or twice. It should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to get a glistening dark brown exterior. You wont need much oil. A few minutes before you are serving, flip a final time and slice some old mature cheddar (or not) over the burger, and let it melt a bit.

Toast your hamburger buns, add the fixins – mayo, ketchup, mustard, fresh veg. Eat with your hands, and mop up any fallen bits and juices with your bread. Its that good.

Cold Avocado Sesame Noodles

13 Jul

Avocado Sesame NoodlesSomething simple, cool, very tasty and delicious. Its dinner time and I really dont want to go to too much effort. I want something that is toothsome, filling and tasty. I still have a few avocados left from the taco night, so I thought hmmmm. Avocados and sesame go together really well. I could do a Japanese style sesame dressing, some cold noodles, and slices of rich very good for you avo. Purrrrfection. And then I looked into my bounty bag from the organic delivery, and decided to roast some mustard greens (otherwise known as sawi hijau) to top it all off.

I feel like I need simple, non complex meal, because today was a massive cooking day – but not for me! My cats, who are obligate carnivores, have been seeing a TCVM (traditional Chinese veterinary medicine) doctor for the last couple of weeks – she is wonderful! She suggested that I make a chicken stew for them to supplement their over processed kibbles and canned diet. Thank goodness I had help, because as a vegetarian there was no way I would have been able to do this myself. So chicken stew it was, and if youre looking for a great traditional Chinese medicine vet who does acupuncture, please visit Dr Susanna’s website!

Anyway, on to the meal! This is a bit of a puttering around the kitchen dinner. Good for a hot humid night (every night in KL!) and fantabulous as a make ahead for a picnic. You need to give the noodles and sauce a little time to get acquainted in the fridge (hence the roasted greens) and for the flavours to really shine through.

Please use your own sense of taste for the dressing. I like mine sweet sour salty – but you may prefer a sweeter or saltier version. Dont get too tied down by the recipe, just go with what you like, dip your finger in and taste, and adjust accordingly.

This will make a meal for four.

  • 1 package Japanese noodles (or instant Chinese egg noodles)
  • 2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise (or Vegannaise if youre vegan)
  • 1 + 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sushi vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Ginger, grated (about the size of your pinkie)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • Juice of 2 small limes
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • 2 avocados

First, follow the directions on the packet, and cook the noodles. Mine were about 5 minutes on the boil. As soon as they are al dente (still firm to the bite, but cooked through), drain and run under cold water to cool. Set aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, 1 tbsp of sesame seeds, peanut butter, roasted sesame oil, soy sauce, sushi vinegar, honey and olive oil. Grate the garlic and ginger over, and squeeze a few limes into the mix. Beat well with a fork, and taste. Adjust to your liking – your honey may be much sweeter than mine – if so use less, or add a touch more soy to add more salt. You want a shiny bowl of sesame scented sweetsoursalty sauce.

Pour all the sauce into a serving bowl, or even the cooking saucepan that you made the noodles in. Handful by handful, add the noodles into the sauce, tossing with each handful. You could use tongs for this, but to be honest, I prefer using my hands! You want the noodles coated with the sauce, without being overwhelmed by it. You also dont want so many noodles that the sauce fades into insignificance. This is an equal partnership! Taste as you go, you will know when you have a good balance.

Cut a handful of fresh basil into the bowl (or parsley if you dont have basil, or even some gorgeous mint, or coriander if you like it). Mix well, and put in the fridge for at least half an hour.

When it comes time to serve, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. If you have roasted the mustard greens, arrange them prettily around the side of your bowl. Slice a couple of avocados over, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with extra lime and soy to sprinkle over, and chopsticks!

You could gild the lily and add a few chopped tomatoes to this, but I personally love the cool green nature of this dish.

Perfect for a hot summers night.