Tag Archives: main course

O’Gourmet Food Hall Sauteed Zucchini + Gratin

9 Feb

Sometimes, you read a recipe, or a friend sends you some ideas, and you immediately want to make it, bake it, taste it, create it. Other times, the idea is welcomed, is intriguing… but it sits in the memory banks awaiting a moment of inspiration and action. My friend Karo sent me an email about her version of Julia Childs’ sauteed zucchini, and how it can be transformed into a gorgeous gratin. I liked her email so much that I posted it here. And I kept the recipe in my head, waiting for a moment to be inspired.

That moment came earlier this week, when I saw the most luscious, green and gorgeous zucchini (courgettes) at O’Gourmet Food Hall. Zucchinis are a member of the squash family – and they are not actually vegetables, but fruit… the swollen ovaries of the zucchini flower. Quite sexy actually, and absolutely delicious. The specimens at O’Gourmet were lovely – crisp and bright green, a nice size and shape. My initial instinct was to bake zucchini bread. I still may do that, but Karo’s Julia inspired letter bubbled to the front of my mind. The key to the recipe is grating the zucchini – it turns it into a totally different vegetable and tastes … of pure green and sunshine.

I love the fact that Karo was inspired by Julia, and she in turn inspired me. Each version is made and remade into the cook’s own style. And each version is dependent upon the quality of ingredients, season and inspiration. Recipes are like stories – they are personal and reflect the cook’s personality and joy. Recipes like this – based on the genius of Julia Child, and her innate ability to bring the best out of simple, classic ingredients – can be deeply personalised, and joyfully shared.

This is actually a double recipe … and it is incredibly adaptable and forgiving. Use the sauteed zucchini as a wonderful side dish – or add a few tomatoes or mushrooms, and serve with rice or pasta as a main course. The gratin takes the sauteed zucchini and gilds them with cheese and cream and egg – bake this concoction, and you create a lovely crustless quiche that is satisfying and delicious. You could of course, pour the whole thing into a crust – or even saute thinly sliced rounds or stops of zucchini and create a firmer base. You could add more cheese on top – or breadcrumbs – or pine nuts. You could dot the whole thing with roasted tomatoes or mushrooms. The limits are you imagination. I do think that the gratin is best eaten at room temperature or even cold. The heat tends to flatten out the delicacy of flavour and texture.

Green Goodness

Sauteed Zucchini

Serves 4 (may be less if greedy, or served as a main course)

  • 3 – 4 medium – large zucchini (courgettes) – about 2 – 3 cups grated
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp butter (or use all olive oil if you wish it to be vegan)
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion (or shallots or leeks), finely minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • Few tablespoons of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • White pepper

Set a strainer over a medium sized bowl. Wash the zucchini well, and top and tail them. Grate directly into the strainer. I grated half the zucchini very fine and half the zucchini quite rough – I like the contrast in texture, but do with it what you prefer. Add a pinch of salt, and allow the zucchini to drain for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tsp of butter together with 1 tsp of olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic, and saute for at least five minutes or so, or until transparent. If you are using white wine for added flavour, add it now, and allow to bubble into the onions and garlic, and cook away. Season with herbs, salt and pepper.

Squeeze the zucchini in the strainer to remove as much liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid if you are making a gratin. Add the extra butter and olive oil, and add the zucchini to the hot pan. Spread it out in the pan so it cooks, and bring the heat up to high. Saute for five minutes or so, or until just the edges of the zucchini strands are starting to brown. You want to keep the bright green colour, but you also want to make sure that it does not taste raw.

Serve, hot or at room temperature.

Zucchini Gratin

  • Sauteed zucchini as above
  • 1/2 cup milk (or cream, coconut milk, oat milk etc)
  • About 3/4 cup reserved zucchini liquid
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pecorino plus extra for topping if you like – I used a Pecorino Sardo
  • 1 tsp mixed dried or fresh Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • About 1/2 cup melting cheese – I used a gorgeous Raclette from O’Gourmet – delicate enough not to overwhelm the dish. You could use a Gruyere, Emmental, even a light Brie.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Have a baking pan ready. I used a round glass baking dish.

Spread the sauteed zucchini across the bottom of the pan, ensuring that it covers the entire dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, zucchini liquid, salt and pepper, eggs, 1/2 cup pecorino, herbs and mustard. Set aside for a moment.

Chop the raclette into small chunks and dot all over the sauteed zucchini. Pour over the cream mixture, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until puffed and browned. It will just wobble, but be firm as well. About five minutes before time is up, sprinkle some extra cheese over the top if you really want to be decadent.

Serve at room temperature or even cold, with a crisp bitter side salad.

Enjoy!

Quick French Onion Soup

18 Nov

Quick French OnionI am sick today. There seems to be a bug going around, and somehow, I caught it. I coughed all of yesterday – miserable, tight-chested, and painful. I slept for ages this morning, woke up and decided I needed some soup. But when I went to the kitchen, all I had was 3 onions … ┬áA very sad state of affairs, but I was planning on shopping today! And instead, I am sick!

So I decided to make a French Onion soup. This is not a fancy one, with toasted bread rubbed with garlic, and gruyere cheese. Its basic, simple, warming and deeply comforting. If you have cheese, grate some over your toast, but if you want to keep it vegan, dont add any cheese (or butter in the beginning) at all. It will still taste delicious, and reach all those cold miserable places.

This makes about 4 servings of soup. You could easily double it for a dinner party, and toast a baguette, and pile over some stringy gruyere. Broiled in the oven, its a decadent feast – but when youre sick, as I am today, its just too much effort. I toasted a really lovely dark brown slice of bread, placed it in the bottom of the bowl, and grated some parmesan and cheddar over – its what I had. I then ladled the soup over, and allowed the bread and cheese and hot oniony soup to meld and interact. Beautiful. Comforting.

Definitely feeling a little bit better ­čÖé

Serves 4. Doubles easily.

  • 3 large onions (about 1/2 kg) sliced very fine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (or an additional tbsp olive oil if youre keeping it vegan)
  • 1 heaping tbsp flour
  • 4 cups of hot vegetable stock – I used 1 organic vegetable stock cube dissolved in 4 cups of boiling water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 slice dark brown bread, well toasted, per serving
  • A bit of parmesan, cheddar or gruyere, grated

Peel the onions of their brown skin, and slice really fine. I used a mandolin for this job, and it was fast, easy and really exact. If you dont have one, use a sharp knife and try and get the onion slices as fine as possible.

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, and warm the olive oil and butter (or just olive oil) until the butter has melted. Add all the onions, and stir to coat the onions with the oil/butter mixture. Turn heat down to medium low and saute the onions until well browned for at least 20 minutes or so. This is the ultimate trick to this soup – you need to be really patient with the onions. They need to cook and cook and cook until they are deeply brown because this is the basis of the flavour and strength of the soup.

They will let go of some liquid, this is fine, and then they will get glossy and soft. Keep at it. They will start to turn golden, stir a little and let cook further. You want a deep dark brown – teak or coffee with a touch of milk colour. If you prefer a lighter soup, obviously, you can let the onions go only to light golden, but you will miss the deep layered flavours that you would get if you keep your nerve and just keep cooking them. Without letting them burn!

And you dont have to stir all the time. The occasional stir is fine, whilst you make yourself a cup of tea, play with the cat or take some vitamins. Let the onions do their own job. Just keep the heat low and steady, and stir sometimes to make sure nothing is burning.

Once the onions are cooked to your liking, sprinkle over the flour and stir well. Cook for a few minutes to allow the flour to amalgamate with the onions and fat. This will ensure a creamy thick soup without a raw flour flavour.

Pour over hot vegetable stock, stir well, semi cover the pot and allow to simmer for about half an hour. Taste, add some pepper and a touch of salt.

YumMeanwhile, toast your bread till quite dark. Place in a soup bowl (you might have to shove it in there, this is fine), and grate some cheese over. Not too much as it can be overwhelming, but enough to add flavour and interest to the soup.

Ladle hot soup over the toast and cheese just to cover, and allow to sit for a minute so that the soup and toast and cheese get firmly acquainted.

Serve to those needing comfort.

Roasted Butternut and Pesto Lasagne

2 Jul

I was expecting quite a few people tonight to watch the Brasil – Netherlands game (was that a surprise or what?!) and so decided to make a lasagne. But I didnt want to do one which was rich in tomato sauce (though I do have a wonderful sauce that has a secret ingredient… oh wait, I will leave that for another time!). I decided I wanted to do a lighter version of lasagne, so I thought of butternut (orange for the Dutch) and pesto (green for the Brasilians). Instead of a bechamel or thick cheese sauce, I decided to do a mix of ricotta, light cottage cheese and sour cream. Not traditional, I know, but it made the lasagne very edible especially when watching such a nailbiting game! It wasnt heavy or overwhelming, but really scrumptious and pleasurable.

This is really easy to make, especially if you do the pesto the day before. This is recommended anyway to ensure that the sauce deepens in flavour and complexity. The rest is a matter of mixing a few things together, and roasting the butternut, and it really can do that all by itself!

This recipe will fill a very large roasting pan – serving probably 10 – 12 hungry people (or 6 with double leftovers, which isnt half bad!)

Roasted Butternut

Butternut is extraordinary. Its sweet and roasts, bakes, stews, steams and purees like a dream. It has a vibrant colour, and its just an amazingly beautiful texture and taste. You really dont have to do anything to it for it to taste good. Just let it be, and thank it for being. ­čÖé

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 1/2 large butternuts (probably about 5 – 6 cups chopped)
  • Seasoned salt and white pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C. Peel, deseed and chop your butternuts roughly. Tumble the butternuts onto a cookie sheet in one layer. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, some seasoned salt if you have it (if not regular salt is fine), and white pepper. Using your hands, mix all well, and pop into the oven. This will roast very quickly – you probably dont need more than 20 – 30 minutes. You will know its done when the butternut starts to caramelise and brown on the edges, and its soft through. Gorgeous. Leave to cool while assembling the rest.

By the way, the butternut is superb just like this, served as a side dish, or as the basis of a wonderful soup (whiz it up with some yogurt or a little bit of vegetable stock), or even as a cold salad, tossed with some rocket and balsamico and parmesan. Can you tell I adore butternut? ­čÖé

“White Sauce”

This is not your traditional bechamel. Its much lighter, and yet ensures that the lasagne stays moist and tastes very rich. Its easy to make because it takes no cooking. Just a little beating together and you have alchemy.

The egg just adds lightness and helps everything cook. If you dont have one, or dont want to add one, then forego it.

You will need:

  • 500 g light cottage cheese (curds or smooth, your choice, though I like curds)
  • 500 g ricotta (full fat or light, again your choice)
  • 250 g light sour cream or about 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • Handful of parmesan
  • Salt and pepper (just a little)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, and set aside until assembly.

May I just make one note here? I had a beautiful bowl of cottage cheese, ricotta and parmesan and I broke the egg straight into it. And the egg was bad. The smell was terrible, and I was heartbroken. All that good food gone to waste, simply because of my laziness. Please do remember to make sure that when you are adding egg to a recipe, always break it open in a separate container and then add it to your main ingredients. You will save yourself an extra expense and trip to the grocery store. I know, from experience!

Assembly

For this lasagne, you will need:

  • Panful of roasted butternut
  • “White sauce”
  • Pesto
  • About 1 1/2 cups pecorino or parmesan, grated
  • 500 g box of dry lasagne pasta or fresh, if you can get it!
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of Italian parsley to finish

Preheat your oven to 180C.

If you are using dry pasta, fill a pan with hot water, add a few drops of olive oil, and put the pasta in. This will hydrate it a little, which will help in the baking process. You dont cook this lasagne for long, and it does not have a thick saucey component that will cook the pasta during baking. Hot tap water is fine, or a kettle that has been boiled and left for 15 minutes or so. You should be able to touch the water. Leave the pasta in for about ten minutes.

Oil the bottom of a very large roasting tin with a little olive oil. Spread about 1/3rd of the butternut over the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a little bit of parmesan over, and drop about 1/2 cup of white sauce over this. Cover entirely with pasta. Spoon about a cup of white sauce over this (or more – you want to cover the pasta entirely but not thickly), and spoon tablespoons of pesto on top. You want a white base, with beautiful bright green blobs. Cover entirely with pasta. As you cover it, you will see the pesto spread – this is good. Do another butternut layer, another pesto, and a final butternut layer. Cover with a final layer of pasta, and pour the rest of the white sauce over all, and sprinkle the remainder of your cheese over. You should have a pretty full pan, and five layers of lasagne.

Bake in hot oven for about half an hour, or until heated throughout, the pasta is soft, and the top is brown and crispy. Let rest for a few minutes when you take it out of the oven, and chop up a handful of Italian parsley to sprinkle over.

Serve with a refreshing salad. And watch your team win! Or lose ­čśë

Glamorgan Sausages ÔÇô┬áMy┬áFavourite!

30 Jun

Glamorgan sausages are a simple, easy Welsh specialty. These vegetarian sausages were born out of poverty — a way to make readily available ingredients stand in for more expensive meat. Amazingly, I have had non-vegetarians try this, and they swear I have given them meat sausages! They are filling and rich, and incredibly forgiving. You can add or subtract ingredients as available. Though the base of breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese and onions should stay, if you have some lovely saut├ęed mushrooms, or a few shreds of ruby red sun dried tomato, or some deep green saut├ęed spinach or kale — by all means add!

I try and use leeks (for their Welsh-ness, and for their soft nuttiness when braised in butter) instead of an onion, but if I don’t find any leeks in the shops, an onion – red, white, yellow, or even spring – will do. I use cheddar here, but if you want, substitute it with Caerphilly or another kind of melting cheese. Parmesan gives it a sharp richness, feta makes a thicker smoother mouth feel. Try changing the breadcrumbs – from white to sourdough to nutty brown, and see how the taste (and texture) changes. White bread adds lightness, while brown makes these sausages much more dense and thick.

These sausages are amazingly flexible as they can take on the identity of many different ethnic cooking — feta and olives or spinach with the basic recipe makes them Greek; sun dried tomatoes and parmesan delivers a sunny taste of Italy; sesame seeds and oil, a teaspoon of miso paste, some soy and seaweed elevate these to an Asian favorite.

I serve these almost exclusively for dinner, but they would be fantastic as a Sunday brunch, with fried or scrambled eggs, mushrooms, and some home-made baked beans. A Sunday fry-up beyond compare!

These are the version of Glamorgan sausages that I make all the time. I add portobello mushrooms for a meaty texture and taste. They don’t really stand out, but the sausages taste better for them. I make the base ahead of time, a day or so, and store it in my very hardworking fridge! This enables the flavors to meld. I also make my own breadcrumbs – ridiculously easy, and store them in the freezer, or an airtight container.

I know it seems like a lot of work, but if you do things in stages, and a few things ahead of time, its a simple matter of assembling all the ingredients and frying the sausages up. I cannot tell you how delicious these are – the cheese melts through the sausages, making them stick to the pan and burn a little. Oh the joys of burnt cheese! And their hearty, meaty texture is a filling and fulfilling meal.

This recipe feeds about 12 people +/- so feel free to halve it if you are not dealing with hoards. It doubles well too!  Makes approximately 48 sausages.

Base

  • 2 cups leeks, white tips only, quartered, sliced, and washed in salted water
  • 2 cups portobello mushrooms, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon or so of aged syrupy balsamic vinegar, if you have it – if not, you could use a glugg of wine
  • Approximately 1/2 cup heavy cream

Prepare the leeks and mushrooms. Wash the leeks well in salted water, and let them stand for a minute while you peel the mushrooms and chop the mushrooms. I always chop and stem the mushrooms. My sister once had a terrible reaction to a mushroom dish because they weren’t cleaned well enough – I would rather go through the process of peeling off the top layer then not cleaning them well enough. Good mushrooms always come with dirt!

Over a medium heat, in a medium to large saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil together. Once hot, add the leeks all at once. If you’ve washed them and left them standing, they will still have water clinging to them. This is good! The leeks will almost braise in the pan, the water mixing with the butter and oil. Cook until the leeks are glossy and shining. Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook, mixing well, until the mushrooms let go of their liquid. Add the garlic and stir well.

You don’t want everything to cook down to a mush as you will be cooking again when you fry the sausages, so this is a very quick process.

Once everything is combined well, add salt and pepper, and a bit of balsamic vinegar if you have it. The balsamic will deepen the taste of both the leeks and the mushrooms without insisting that you acknowledge it ÔÇô very loving and supportive. Its addition gives the other flavors an added dimension.

Combine everything well, and add a couple big glugs of heavy cream (or if you don’t have any, add milk). Incorporate well, and let it bubble and thicken for a minute or so, melding the juices of the leeks and mushrooms with the cream., and then take off the heat. If you are making the sausages the next day, let cool, and then store in the fridge, covered.

By the by, this makes a phenomenal base for a leek and mushroom soup or pie. If you are making soup, blitz in blender with milk and/or vegetable stock, and reheat, adding herbs to taste. If you are making a pie, use bigger cuts of both the leeks and mushrooms. Yummy either way!

Breadcrumbs

  • 2 loaves of bread – at least 2 days old. I usually use a mix of brown and white. I used a Swiss egg bread and a German brown sourdough for this recipe, but you can use whatever you want!
  • 2 croissants (for richness – very optional!)

Tear the bread in to large pieces, and toast, for about ten minutes, in a low (100 C) oven. You want it to be crisp, not colored or burnt. This deepens the flavor of the bread, and makes sure its very dry. Dry bread sucks up the flavors of the leeks, cheese and mushrooms really well. Allow the bread to cool once it has been toasted.

Pulse in food processor until bread has become breadcrumbs. Store in an airtight container, or the freezer until needed.

This makes much more than you will need, but breadcrumbs are a wonderful resource to have. You can use them for a stuffing, for a cake in lieu of flour if you don’t have any, to thicken sauces, as a coating when frying. The possibilities are endless.

Also, obviously, you can make this with storebought breadcrumbs – I have used a mix of breadcrumbs and panko and its been superb!

Assembly

  • 6 – 7 eggs, ┬ábeaten
  • Base of leeks & mushrooms
  • 6 – 8 cups of breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups of grated cheddar
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan
  • ┬Ż cup washed chopped Italian parsley

In a large bowl, whip the eggs together. Add all the leek & mushroom base, and beat together well. Take off all your rings! Add 6 cups of breadcrumbs and mix well with your hands. Taste for salt.

Wash your hands well, and grate the cheeses over this mixture. Then, using your hands again, mix thoroughly. Taste. You may need more breadcrumbs if its too cheesy. You can also add a little cream or milk to make the mixture come together. Mix in the chopped parsley.

Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Heat your oven at its lowest possible temperature. Take a baking tin, and put a cookie rack on top of the tin. You will put your sausages here as you fry them to keep them warm.

Take another baking tin and line it with baking paper.  Take the sausage mixture out of the fridge, and with wet hands, form sausages. You can make round ones, though I prefer the traditional sausage shape. Probably about 4 inches x 2 inches wide. Line the sausages up on the baking tin lined with paper. As the tin fills up, cover the layer of sausages with more baking paper, and continue.

Frying

  • About ┬╝ cup olive oil
  • A non stick pan
  • A few teaspoons of Fleur de sel or Maldon salt to finish

Up to 2 hours before serving, start frying your sausages.  Ensure that your olive oil is in a pouring measuring cup and use it very sparingly.  A little drizzle is all you need, and a medium hot flame. If you have a large pan, you should be able to get 9 sausages at once. I try and flip each sausage three times, so I usually get a sausage chain going, concentrating on 3 sausages at a time, letting the other 6 brown up.

You will see the sausages brown on the outside, and cook firm inside. The cheese will melt out and  brown. The scent is superlative!

As the sausages are cooked, blot the oil off on paper towels, and transfer to the baking tin cookie rack in the oven. Sprinkle over some Fleur de sel if you have it, or Maldon salt.  Remember to keep sprinkling sausages with a tiny bit of salt as you add them to the oven.

The frying process should take 40 minutes to an hour for approximately 48 ÔÇô 50 sausages.

Photo copyright U-En Ng

Mushroom and Chili Pasta

27 Jun

Angel Kitten asked if we could have some chili in the food (I think I might make a veg curry soon…) It made me think about why I havent made a lot of spicy chili dishes. I think its because when I was quite small, I was in the kitchen with my Kak Gee. She was preparing a meal for an embassy function, and she had some sesame seeds next to the chopping board where she was preparing the chili. I was sneaking finger-fulls of the sesame seeds, and of course accidentally consumed some chili seeds as well. Oh my good goddess, they were so bloody hot! I cried my 5 year old eyes out! I think I have been nervous about cooking with chili ever since! But I decided today I was going to face my fears (unlike the England team), so AngelKitten and I had a chat and dreamed up a pasta we wanted.

We thought up a mushroom, chili and blue cheese pasta, because we were so enamoured with the blue cheese bread pudding from the other night. However, once we started cooking, the blue cheese just didnt go with the chili and mushrooms, so we left it out. This is an example of cooking on the fly ­čśë If we had stuck with our initial daydream pasta, it would have tasted totally crap (kind of like England’s play) so we adjusted, and it was yummilicious.

This follows a basic pasta outline that I have used before. Infused oils, seared mushrooms, sauce, and quick mixing with angel hair. Mainly its what you do with your similar ingredients which changes the taste, flavour and texture.

For 6 people you will need:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tbsp for cooking
  • 4 red chilis (NOT chili api)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 – 12 portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter
  • Red wine
  • 1 packet or less angel hair pasta

Put olive oil in a clean small bowl. Clean your chilis, and cut off tops, and (depending on the heat you prefer) clean inside – split chili in half and clean out chili seeds and stringy bits with the tip of a butter knife. Be careful here because the chili seeds are the most hot part of the chili and you could do harm to yourself if you rub your eyes or mouth while doing this job. The more chili seeds you leave, the hotter the finished dish will be. Dice the chili finely and put into the olive oil to infuse.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add minced garlic. Let it soften. Clean and chop the mushrooms roughly. Add about half to the hot oil (the garlic should be sizzling) and sear it – mixing it well in the oil and making sure that it burns a bit. Add the sugar to encourage caramelisation. As the mushrooms burn slightly, add the rest. This will encourage the mushrooms to let go of their juices. Add a few splashes of red wine and a couple small slices of butter to the top of this mushroom mixture, and a wonderful rich sauce will start pooling at the bottom of the pan. Add all the chili and olive oil and mix through for richness and heat. Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasoning.

If you want it creamy, feel free to add milk or cream, but it really doesnt need it.

Prepare 3/4 packet or so of angel hair pasta. Drain. Add pasta to pan with tongs and mix well. Enjoy your comfort food even if your team does crap ­čśŤ

Spinach + Blue Cheese Bread Pudding (Unplanned)

25 Jun

AngelKitten + N came over tonight to watch the Brasilians and the Portuguese play a very boring final match of their group stage, and I had promised them beans on toast! One of my favourite easy dishes that you dont really have to think about. I thought of jazzing it up with a poached egg on top. Going all out! Well, when I checked my cupboard, all those cans sitting so certainly in the cupboard were soup – no beans! Oh no! What to do?! From this moment of panic, delicious dishes are born. I did a quick once over of what I had in the fridge and freezer, and decided to make a savoury bread pudding. I had eggs, milk, cream, blue cheese, onions, garlic, old good bread, and a packet of flash frozen spinach. It took about 10 minutes to assemble, 30 minutes to bake, and it was REALLY good. Much better then the second half that we watched!

This dish can serve about 6 greedy or 8 polite people. I baked it in a cake tin, so you could cut it like a quiche (or cake!) and it was perfection.

  • 1/2 cup half and half (or 1/4 cup milk + 1/4 cup cream, which is what I used)
  • 5 eggs
  • 12 – 16 slices days old bread
  • Blue Cheese (I used that Irish classic Cashel Blue – rich, creamy and sublter than most blues)
  • Packet of frozen spinach
  • Tiny bit of butter + small glugg of olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • Oregano
  • Salt + pepper
  • Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 180C.

In a shallow bowl or container, beat half and half with eggs, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Toast your bread, if you can. I didnt and it made a very unctuous bread pudding, but if you like the deeper flavours of toasted bread, and if you have the time (I was trying to get it done quick quick), then by all means toast away!

Make some blue cheese sandwiches: divide your bread in half, and lay one set on your working surface. Finely slice the blue cheese (I tried to get the creamier bits as I didnt want to be overwhelmed with the blue flavour, but do as you like best) and layer sparingly over one set of bread. Cover with second set, and trim off the crusts. Poke fine holes in the sandwiches with the tip of your knife, and lay them in the cream and egg mixture. Set aside to soak up.

Defrost your spinach. I dont believe in microwave ovens, so I dont have one, and obviously, if you can get fresh spinach, this would be best, but hey, I was working on instinct here! I used a large frying pan, and about 1/2 cup of water, and slowly defrosted over medium heat. When the spinach is fully defrosted, drain, saving the water. It will be spinach-y and delicious.

Use a little bit of butter and olive oil in the same pan, and over low heat slowly soften the onions and garlic. Season with oregano and salt and pepper. Once the onions and garlic are glossy, add the spinach, just to heat through.

Butter or spray olive oil in a large cake tin. Using your hands, take the eggy sandwiches, and tear about half of them into smaller chunks, lining the bottom of the tin. Layer about half of the spinach mixture on top, and repeat, ending with spinach. Pour about 1/4 cup of the spinach water into the remainder of the egg and half and half mixture, and pour all over the top of your bread pudding. Grate a bit of cheddar cheese (or other browning/melting cheese like parmesan) over the top, and pop in the oven for about half an hour. The bread pudding should puff up and get brown and golden on top.

Serve immediately, though Ezril tells me its delicious cold too!

Enjoy!

Asparagus Pesto

23 Jun

Astonishing, divine, food of the Goddesses. Bright green and tasting like spring. You can eat this right out of the bowl (my sister, M’s preferred consumption method), or spoon it over toast rounds for bruschetta, in a sandwich, or over pasta or couscous. Its so extremely good, it needs no accessories. This is one of my favourite meals because who knew that asparagus could be made into pesto – and who knew that this taste combination existed and was soooooooo goood?!

You will need (for about 3 – 4 cups):

  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 600 – 700 gms) asparagus
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 5 – 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt

First prepare your asparagus. Ensure that the tough woody bits have been snapped off – the asparagus will do the work for you if you just hold it and snap it near the bottom end. It will naturally break where the tough bit is – discard this. Chop the asparagus very roughly – 2 – 3 sections per asparagus. In a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water, blanch the asparagus till bright green. They need to be cooked, but not soft. Probably about 5 minutes or less. Just before you drain the asparagus, put a coffee mug in the boiling water, and remove a mugful, and keep aside. Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a shallow frying pan, toast the pine nuts (no oil or anything added) until golden and slightly browned. Use a spatula and keep stirring the nuts. Keep a watch – these go from light golden to toasted to burnt in a blink of an eye and you cant really save them when they burn. Set aside to cool.

Put all the asparagus and garlic into your food processor, and pulsing gently, start the machine. Add about half the olive oil in a steady stream. Add all the pine nuts, and pulse again, adding the rest of the olive oil. Add the parmesan and lemon and pulse again. If at any point the mixture gets too thick, add a little of the water you kept from the asparagus. Taste and adjust seasoning. You might need more oil or salt, or even parmesan.

I usually keep aside a few asparagus tips and serve this combined with angel hair pasta, with the tips for prettiness. Its delicious. And very good for you!!!