Tag Archives: potatoes

O’Gourmet Food Hall Vegetarian Tartiflette

22 Apr

Sometimes, inspiration comes from the most surprising sources. I was wandering the halls of O’Gourmet recently, wondering what I could make for a tantalising, delectable meal. I saw M. Seb (the cheese and wine maestro) … and stopped to have a chat. We walked into the cheese cave, and I started asking him to tell me about his favourite dishes – something that I (as a vegetarian) could make and enjoy. “Tartiflette!” he said, with great enthusiasm and excitement. This traditional Savoie dish is a layered potato gratin, given unctuousness and warmth from Reblochon cheese, cream, onions and lardons. Hmmmm. Lardons are pork fat, fried until crisp on the outside and melting on the inside .. and decidedly un-vegetarian! (But M. Seb is French, so I forgive him for being confused!) … However, Reblochon is a gorgeous, creamy raw-milk soft cheese made from the day’s second milking (when the milk is said to be creamier and richer). It is nutty and velvety, and has a soft lusciousness that is hauntingly beautiful.

So, I was definitely interested, and I decided to try and think of a new take on tartiflette that would keep all that rich depth of flavour, and at the same time elevate it to new heights. I had some black truffles (also from O’Gourmet) that I decided to use in place of the lardons, and instead of onions (which would overwhelm the truffles), I used delicate and yet sturdy leeks. This is not a vegan dish – it just cannotย be – but it is warming, full of love, easy to make, and joyous. You should serve it with a sharp green salad – arugula or young spinach – simply dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. You need the balance of something clean and bright to offset the richness of this meal. But oh, its worth it. Smooth and comforting, imbued with the scent of truffles, this vegetarian tartiflette is an instant classic.

Its as good cold as it is warm, and can easily be assembled the day before, covered, refrigerated and baked a few hours before you want to serve it. Do try and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before serving – this allows the bubbling cream and cheese to solidify a bit and sink into the potatoes. Bake in a large ceramic ramekin or pot, and enjoy. It soothes the soul while pleasuring the senses. Such a wonderful combination!

Serves 6 – 8 (and wonderful as leftovers!)

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced thinly (white and light green stalk only)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 4 – 6 large waxy potatoes
  • 1 Reblochon cheese, refrigerated (or even frozen for a few minutes), rind removed
  • 2 – 3 black truffles, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Salt and pepper

You can prepare the leeks up to two days in advance. In a large frying pan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Slice the leeks thinly, and rinse them under running water to remove any grit. Saute the leeks in the melted butter until they just begin to sweat and soften. Pour over the 1/4 cup white wine, and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Allow the leeks to simmer / saute, stirring every so often, until they just begin to colour. Raise the heat to medium high, and brown the leeks for a few minutes. Transfer the leeks to a small bowl, and allow to come to room temperature. You can refrigerate the leeks, covered for up to two days.

Peel the potatoes, and slice thinly. Submerge in water as you work so the potatoes do not brown. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and quickly drain the potatoes from their water bath, and tip into the boiling water. Allow the potatoes to soften (but not fully cook) – about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain, and let cool for a few minutes.

If you are baking the tartiflette immediately, preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F, and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Place your large ceramic ramekin or pot on top of the baking sheet (this will protect your oven should the cheese/cream bubble over – and it will!). Whisk the creme fraiche and cream together, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Ladle about a tablespoon or two of the cream mixture into the bottom of the ramekin. Place a layer of potatoes over this, a scattering of sliced truffles, a few thin slices of Reblochon cheese, and a sprinkling of leeks. Over all, spoon about 2 tablespoons of cream. Repeat these layers until you run out of ingredients – or reach the top of the ramekin – whichever comes first! Reserve about 5 – 6 thin slices of Reblochon to scatter over the top of the dish.

Do note that you can cover the ramekin at this point and refrigerate up to 24 hours. I would highly suggest that you bake the tartiflette at least 2 hours before serving. This will give it sufficient time to set up.

Bake the tartiflette in the hot oven for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 1/2 hours. The tartiflette is ready when the top is bronzed and bubbling, and the potatoes are soft and yielding to a knife. Do not be alarmed if there seems to be an inordinate amount of liquid and cream bubbling up. Remove the tartiflette from the oven, and allow to rest for about 20 minutes (and even up to an hour) before serving. The cream and cheese will settle, and you will have a wonderfully solid potato gratin.

Serve with a bright, sharp salad for a wonderful and loving meal.

Truffle Potato Salad

6 Feb

For a Party!Recently, I cooked for my dearest friend Jobby’s baby shower. I wanted to create dishes that would be easy to eat, tasty and also a little decadent to mark the celebration. When AngelKitten and I were talking about the menu, potato salad popped up into the radar, and we put it on the list as a may be. But then, a few weeks later, I found that I was in possession of a divine truffle. And I suddenly thought of that potato salad again.

I knew I was going to be feeding at least 50 – 60 people, so a singular truffle on its own was not going to do much. But add it to the mix of a potato salad (and add some truffle oil to enhance and intensify), and you get something very familiar with a wonderfully luxurious edge to it. The inimitable scent of truffle permeates this entire dish, teasing and seductive. Its lush, and gorgeous, and a wonderful way to celebrate your love for your friends.

If you dont have a truffle (and yes, I know theyre expensive!) use truffle oil in place of the olive oil as well. If you can, prepare early and make home made aioli, which is very very delicious. However, given that I was making the salad for a baby shower (and pregnant women should not eat raw eggs), I decided to use best quality prepared mayonnaise.ย This potato salad can be made the evening before serving, and refrigerated. And of course, this makes a lot of potato salad! You can easily feed 30 people with this salad as a side dish – and depending on how many other dishes there are, you could feed many many more. Do feel free to halve this recipe if youre not cooking for hordes!

Serves approximately 30 + people

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 truffle
  • 2 kg waxy potatoes (I used Australian chat potatoes)
  • 1/4 cup truffle oil
  • 4 – 6 tbsp very good, very old balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mixed dried Italian herbs
  • 2 – 3 tbsp mustard seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 – 6 tbsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 – 3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 – 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup aioli or mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme) – optional

Before you start cooking, ensure that the truffle really infuses into the oil. Place the oilive oil into a small bowl. Grate (I used a Microplane lemon zester) the truffle directly into olive oil and stir well. Set aside while you prepare the potatoes.

Fill a large stock pot or saucepan with water, and a pinch of salt. Place on stovetop, on medium high heat, and allow to come to the boil.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with cold water, and begin to prepare the potatoes. Use only waxy potatoes for a potato salad, as they hold themselves together well. Starchy potatoes will just fall apart. Wash the potatoes under running water, and chop into large chunks. I keep the skins on because I love the flavour and extra texture, but if you really want to peel, go right ahead! Place prepped potatoes in the cold water as you work.

Once all the potatoes are ready, drain well, and place all the potatoes in to the boiling water. Stir well, and allow to simmer until done. This can take upwards of 30 minutes (though its usually more like 20). Taste test every 10 minutes or so just to make sure.

While you are waiting for the potatoes to be done, prepare the vinaigrette that will receive the potatoes. Wipe the large bowl you used earlier down, and pour in the reserved olive oil and truffle oil. Make sure you get every last bit of truffle, and have a whiff of that amazing scent! Whisk in the truffle oil and old balsamic vinegar. The mixture will probably (especially if you use high quality ingredients) emulsify in such a way that it becomes almost gel-like. Whisk in the herbs and mustard seeds and a a good pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, cream and mayonnaise. Taste and adjust seasonings if you like. Set aside.

Once the potatoes are done to your liking, drain well, and immediately toss in the set aside vinaigrette. Mix extremely well. The heat of the potatoes will ensure that the vinaigrette is soaked up well, and incorporated into the flesh of the potatoes. Taste, and add the reserved mayonnaise mix. Stir again and adjust for salt and pepper (or in fact any other ingredient that you feel needs a little additional boost).

Let the salad cool to room temperature, and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Just before serving, mix in about half a cup of freshly chopped herbs if you desire.

Enjoy!

A Meal to Remember @ Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

13 Dec

Sometimes a meal is a symphony of taste and texture and colour … and sometimes, its even more than that. A divine merging of friends and loved ones, family and comfort, intermingled with sublime food, cooked by an artist, with a sense of love and presence and drama. Last Friday night at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio was like that – just pure joy. With Adi, Goddess, GoddessSpouse, AngelKitten, GoldenOro and Bubby, and MsTina… laughter flowed around us, wrapped us in warmth and happiness, and the food was a beautiful counterpoint to the joy in the room.

You cannot plan that kind of a night, you cant buy it or make it happen by force of will. It is an alchemical merging of all that is good and joyous. Thank you to Goddess + GoddessSpouse for hosting us. And thank you for Nathalie for welcoming us, yet again, with open arms and brilliant skill. We will be back next month! Meanwhile, feast on our memories ๐Ÿ™‚

Joy

A potato galette with sauteed mushrooms, and a porcini foam. Simple, sensuous, lively flavours. Not too much, not too little. Just right to start with. This was the vegetarian choice and it made me happy.

A new take on duck liver with brioche – the brioche made into an apple tart tatin. A clever merging of two very French tastes.

Tuna Tartare with blini and chive cream… and a fresh green salad.

Snail napoleon – earthy, rich, beautifully presented. I tasted the accompanying sauces, and they were beautiful. Balanced, imbued with vegetable essence, gorgeous.

The vegetarian main course. Home made egg tagliatelle with green capsicum and a perfect parmesan porcini foam. Subtle and luxurious, elegant and beautiful. Incredibly satisfying.

The duck main course. According to those who ate it, it tasted truly of duck … gamey and wild and delicious. Served with a stunning hazelnut polenta and a blueberry stuffing. Clever and thoughtful all in one go.

Steak. Apparently, it was perfectly cooked. With a stuffed potato on the side. I like how this looks, the juxtaposition of the meat and the potato… Smart.

An intense caramel custard creme brulee – perfectly burnt crispy sugar crust, with a lime and thyme sorbet. What an interesting combination.

Trio of desserts – a pineapple foam, an incandescently good salted caramel macaroon, and a vanilla spoon biscuit, holding chocolate mousse, and a chocolate truffle. Mine!

Frozen chocolate mousse “gift” with a liquid river of raspberries running through it. So so so good. I could have buried myself in this plate and just whuffled.

A dramatic and architectural Mont Blanc – pureed chestnuts, whipped cream and crisp meringue. So beautiful!

Dried fruit croquant – crisp, caramelised, sticky, delectable.

Comfort Food

5 Dec

Angel Kitten has taken a 1 month vow of vegetarianism. I am so proud of her, I just cant even begin to tell you. She was so moved by information she found on the PETA website, that she took a pledge to be a vegetarian for a month. I think thats amazing, and I truly believe she will feel wonderful after that month is over – so much so, that may be it will inspire her to eat vegetarian once a week or so. We have had several discussions about the choice to live a vegetarian life. I dont really try and “convert” people, but I do strongly believe that living a life of love and gentleness often includes making a choice not to eat animals.

However, I also believe strongly that if one chooses a carnivorous life, then thats OK too — especially if the choices about what meats one eats are made with care and forethought. For example, choosing to eat at the Golden Arches or the like, where the meat and chicken have lived largely painful lives, and been processed in a way that is wholesale, rather than respectful, is very different from choosing to occasionally eat meat that is free range and fed organic, non steriod, non hormone food. I would posit that the latter is much more delicious, even if much more expensive. I think if one wants to or has to eat a carnivorous diet, the logical, kind and respectful choice is to eat meat that has been treated with kindness and respect. May be not as often as highly processed meats and chickens, unless one is rich beyond the need to consider such things, but with much more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Anyway, thats me off my hobbyhorse ๐Ÿ˜‰ As part of my support of AngelKitten’s choice, I really wanted to make her food that will encourage her to see how satisfying eating a vegetarian diet is. This meal is one of her all time favourites, and we often order it in restaurants together, as a conglomeration of side dishes which we share. It could be completely vegan if you mashed the potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream… but I leave that choice to you ๐Ÿ˜‰ For us, we used organic cream and butter and were very happy with that choice.

For dinner last night, we had sauteed spinach and french beans with garlic, roasted broccoli with soy and balsamic (which Ezril said tasted meaty and immensely satisfying), and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. It was sublime. So simple, so easy, so delicious. It was ultimate comfort food for us, and got me to thinking about what comfort food really is. Its not fancy, overly thought through, complex food. Rather, its simple, well cooked, well sourced ingredients that are cooked so their essential deliciousness shines through. We used organic spinach, french beans and broccoli – and organic milk and cream in the potatoes. If you wanted more protein in this meal, you could add some toasted almonds to the vegetables, but I dont think its necessary. I think that if you eat a balance of food through a week or so, high in protein sometimes, high in greens others, youre fine. Balance is as much about listening to what your body wants and needs at a given time as following strictures and formulas.

And by the way, these are not so much recipes, as memories of what we ate that night, in celebration of AngelKitten’s pledge. We love the juxtaposition of the clean bright freshness of the spinach and beans, the roasted dark stickiness of the broccoli, and the pure decadence of the potatoes. Its all about balance isnt it? ๐Ÿ™‚ย So here are the three recipes we put together for our comfort dinner. I am glad to say that AngelKitten took the leftovers home, and hopefully, they will nurture her and feed her for a few days more to come ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4 – 6 people (with leftovers of the potatoes, most definitely)

with Garlic!

Sauteed Spinach and French Beans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (or additional olive oil for vegan)
  • 3 + 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups washed, topped and tailed and chopped French beans
  • 2 – 3 cups washed and roughly chopped spinach

In a large saucepan or frying pan, over medium low heat, combine the olive oil and butter, and gently heat until the butter melts. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, and cook, stirring gently, until the garlic releases its unique scent, and goes glossy and soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the garlic, and toss in your prepared French beans.

Stir the beans until completely coated with garlic and oil, and continue cooking until the beans change colour – they will go bright green. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Throw in the spinach. Its OK if a little water still clings to the leaves, but you dont want the spinach to be soaking wet. I usually squeeze it to dry it, then chop it and add it to the pan.

Stir until the spinach wilts and turns bright green, which should finish cooking the beans perfectly. Add the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic, stir and taste for salt and pepper.

Place in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Its even delicious, in large spoonfuls, straight from the fridge.

Mmmmmmm

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs or herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cloves from 3 heads of garlic (about 30 – 35 cloves)
  • 8 – 10 large potatoes (I usually use a mix)
  • 1 stick of butter (or 4 – 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Place olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper to taste and garlic cloves in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Place the garlic on the baking sheet in a single layer, and pour over any remaining liquid.

Roast the garlic in the oven until it is soft, burnt, glossy and slightly caramelised, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes roughly. Place in a large saucepan or pot, and just cover with water. Over medium high heat, bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Depending on your potatoes, and how small the chop is, this will take between 20 – 40 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and place back in the pot. Slice butter over the potatoes, and pour over cream. Using a hand masher, ricer, or immersion blender (as I do), mash the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust.

Add all the garlic, and mash into the potatoes. Use a spoon or spatula to combine thoroughly, and taste and adjust for seasonings.

This can be prepared a few hours ahead, and reheated over a very low flame. It can keep warm, covered for an hour or two.

Sticky Green Goodness

Roasted Broccoli

  • 3 – 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil (or olive oil if you dont have it)
  • Pepper (and salt if you wish to taste, but the soy should make it salty enough)
  • 1 head of broccoli, broken down into small florets, with the larger stalk peeled and chopped into batons – about 3 – 4 cups total

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Combine the soy, balsamic, oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss in the prepared broccoli, and using your hands, toss well to combine. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings if you wish.

Place the broccoli in an even layer on the baking sheet and reserve any additional liquid for later. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, and flip each piece of broccoli over, dipping the broccoli in the remaining liquid. Pour over any additional liquid and continue roasting in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the broccoli is sticky, browny-green and delicious.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Vegetable Soup with Matzoh Balls

19 Sep

With Matzoh Balls!My sister and I caught the Baby Queen Z’s cold, so we are all a tad miserable. Even though its a gorgeous day outside, colds and flus almost demand a good, homemade vegetable soup. When we were little, it used to be a chicken soup with matzoh balls, so I decided to make them and add them to the vegetable soup. Matzoh balls are a supremely comforting Jewish tradition – matzoh cracker meal, combined with salt, egg and a bit of soup stock to make dumplings. Eating them feels like being enveloped in a pure cashmere blanket. And when youre ill, they are very nourishing.

I went vegetarian with the matzoh balls, though I did find good vegan recipes here and here. To be honest, I just wasnt up to trying the vegan version … not feeling focused or well enough to pay attention to multiple ingredients. But the soup is vegan – and I made it creamy and thick by whizzing it up with my immersion blender. Literally less than a minute and all those amazing veggies were pureed in a silken mass. I made the matzoh balls and boiled them in the soup pot (with the soup safely stored in a heatproof bowl) and then when they were done, introduced them to the soup.

Good, healthy, nourishing and full of vegetable love. Sure to make us all better in a jiffy!

Vegetable Soup

This makes 1 big potful. Adjust the vegetables to what you have in the fridge, but note that I almost always use onion or leek or both, carrot, and a can of plum tomatoes. Everything else comes and goes, but those are the constants ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, topped and tailed, and roughly chopped (leave the skin on)
  • 1 zucchini, roughly chopped (skin on)
  • 1 can plum tomatoes in their juice
  • 1 cup potatoes, chopped (skin on)
  • 1/2 head of rapini or broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and leek until they go soft and slightly melty, and a little browned along the edges. This is quite important as they form the basis of the soup, so you want to cook them long enough to caramelise a bit. This can take up to ten minutes depending on heat source.

Add the carrots, stir to combine, and let them soften, about three to four minutes.

Add the zucchini, stir to combine and let it soften, about two to three minutes.

Open a can of plum tomatoes in their juice, and pour over the soup base. I usually use one hand to hold and pour the tomatoes, and the other hand to catch the tomatoes as they fall into the soup and lightly crush them.

Fill the can with water twice, and add to the soup pot. Stir everything to combine.

Taste and lightly salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes, rapini and spinach, and lower the heat to a soft simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. If there isnt, top it up.

Adjust salt and pepper.

You can eat the soup just as it is – broth and wonderful chunks of vegetables. But when I am ill, I like a smooth soup, so I take it off the heat, and use my immersion blender to make a really thick silky soup. The choice is up to you.

Matzoh balls

To be honest, you could use just about any cracker in this soup – saltines or oyster or water biscuits would all do. But if you have matzoh, use it – there is something very particular about this delicious taste that owes itself to the matzoh meal. Also, if you use salted crackers, adjust salt accordingly.

This will make for quite a salty unboiled mixture. Dont worry. A lot of the salt will boil out in the pot.

  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp soup stock

To make the matzoh meal, take a matzoh cracker or two, break it up into smallish pieces, and place in a sturdy ziploc plastic bag. Using a wine bottle, rolling pin or other hard, heavy implement, smash the matzoh cracker until it is dust! Very therapeutic ๐Ÿ˜‰

In a small bowl, combine the matzoh meal and the salt. In a separate small cup or bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and soup stock until combined well. Pour the egg mixture over the matzoh meal, and stir lightly to combine. It will be quite sticky and soft.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To boil the matzoh balls, transfer the soup into a large heatproof bowl. Its okay if a bit of soup remains – this will enrich the boiling liquid for the matzoh balls.

Fill the pot with water, and bring to the boil.

Take the matzoh mixture out of the fridge, and using your hands, make small balls (about 1 inch in diametre) and drop them in the boiling water. Remember that matzoh balls expand to more than twice their size, so dont make huge balls!

Boil for 20 – 30 minutes, or until cooked through. You will know when they are completely cooked when you cut through one and it is light and fluffy all the way through, having absorbed enough water to cook the insides.

Transfer the cooked matzoh balls to the soup, drain and rinse the pot, and transfer soup and matzoh balls back. Reheat gently. Eat and feel better!

Rendang Potatoes!

4 Sep

DelectableI have long mourned the loss of rendang from my life as a vegetarian. My sister, too, says that the one thing she might consider eating meat for again is rendang. For those of you who dont know this food of the Goddesses, here is the definition of rendang from Wikipedia:

Rendang is made from beef (or occasionally chicken, mutton, water buffalo, duck, or vegetables like jackfruit or cassava) slowly cooked in coconut milk, spices and sometimes kerisik (toasted coconut paste) for several hours until almost all the liquid is gone, allowing the meat to absorb the spicy condiments. The cooking process changes from boiling to frying as the liquid evaporates. The slow cooking process allows the meat to absorb all the spices and to become tender. The spices may include ginger, galangal, turmeric leaf, lemon grass and chillies.

Its as good an explanation as any … rendang is difficult to explain, because its kind of curried, but not really. But once you eat it, it can become obsessional. Each state in Malaysia has a different kind of rendang, and we grew up eating Rendang Tok from our Dad’s home state of Perak. We of course consider that the height of rendang. But to be honest, since we both became complete vegetarians, any kind of rendang would be most welcome.

One of the reasons I love cooking is that inspiration comes from strange places. I have often wondered how to translate rendang into a vegetarian dish that was easily accessible. Jackfruit and cassava are not available here in the US, at least not easily, and so … I was looking at the potato gratin I made the other night, and marveling at the alchemy which turned the milk and cheese into a gooey sticky lovely binding for the potatoes, and suddenly, I thought, oooh. What if I put a rendang sauce together with boiled potatoes and roasted the whole thing in a high oven? I think I might be on to something…

So today, when I had quite a bit of time to potter about the kitchen, I decided to make rendang potatoes. I served them with rice and a beautiful mixed vegetable curry, which got quite a bit of sweetness from sugar beets and artichoke hearts and stems. The potatoes were spicy, salty, crispy and gooey with rendang paste. They were phenomenally good.

If you have access to a great market, try and make your rendang sauce from scratch. I give you below a basic recipe for rendang sauce that you can then treat as I do to prep it for the potatoes. If you dont have access to a good market, do as I did. Buy rendang sauce, jazz it up a bit, and boil it down until it is very very dark and very syrupy. Mix it with boiled potatoes, add a bit of olive oil or peanut oil, and roast until the rendang sauce becomes a paste, coating and loving those gorgeous crispy potatoes. Heaven.

For rendang sauce

I used 1/2 bottle of Rendang Sauce from World Market. I mixed it with:

  • 1/2 can thick coconut milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp grated fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, smashed

Boil this concoction in a saucepan over medium high heat for at least 30 minutes, mixing often. You might need up to an hour. The mixture will turn from light brown to a deep dark chocolate brown, and will reduce by up to 3/4ths. This is very very good. Taste and adjust seasonings. Once it is ready, fish out the lemongrass stalk, and set aside and prepare your potatoes.

If you are cooking the rendang sauce from scratch, you will need:

  • 2 – 5 fresh red chilis, seeded and chopped
  • 3 dry red chilis
  • 2 inches galangal root (a type of Asian ginger), peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped (or 3 shallots, chopped)
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled
  • 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, smashed
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric

Create a paste from these ingredients in a food processor. Add a tiny bit of water if you need it, but you shouldnt really. Set aside.

  • 4 -5 tbsp olive oil mixed with peanut or toasted sesame oil (about 50/50)
  • Spice paste as above
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tbsp tamarind pulp (mixed with water and deseeded)
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, smashed
  • 7 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 – 2 tsp light brown sugar, or palm sugar if you can get it, to taste
  • 2 cups thick coconut milk
  • 1 – 2 cups dried grated coconut, toasted

In a large saucepan, over medium high heat, heat the oil, and fry the spice paste until it becomes fragrant, and begins to separate from the oil. Add the rest of the spices, sugar and coconut milk . Mix well, and allow the mixture to boil until it is reduced by at least half. This can take up to an hour, and should be done on medium heat. Drain out the spices, and return the mixture to the heat. Add the toasted coconut, and continue to simmer the mixture until it is very thick and dark glossy brown, probably a further 30 – 40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if need be. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Assembly

  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 3 kg) potatoes, sliced. I used fingerling potatoes, and left the skin on.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Rendang sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200 C

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are just soft. A fork should be able to pierce one with little effort. Drain, and tumble the potatoes into a casserole dish that should fit them quite evenly. Its okay if they are crowded, but you dont want them in big layers – they will steam rather than roast.

Pour the reserved rendang sauce over, and stir to cover. Make sure every last potato has been totally glazed in the sauce. This is important, so take your time. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Pour over the olive oil, and roast in the oven for at least 30 – 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are quite crisp, and the rendang sauce has reduced further to a thick dark brown paste.

Serve and get ready for people to go into paroxysms of joy.

Potato Gratin with Artichoke, Mushroom + Spinach

2 Sep

With VegetablesToday was full on all the time. It never let up and it never stopped. M came home at 6, after a crazy work day, and the beautiful baby Z was done. M went up to put her to bed, and I knew that she would be downstairs within an hour, ready to eat something before falling into bed herself. I wanted to cook something that would be simple, warm and most of all, give us all some comfort. I came up with this potato gratin, using baby fingerling potatoes, with artichoke hearts, mushroom and spinach. It was good and simple, easy going down, and felt like a big hug.

Just note that if you want, you can use coconut milk or almond milk, though Im not too positive that they will be great substitutions for a vegan diet. I read in a book the O sisters gave me for my birthday about whizzing up raw cashews and using their milky goodness in place of cream, but to be honest, tonight was one of those nights where I just couldnt think of vegan … we needed the proteins from the milk and cheese, and I needed to be able to pull it all together in under an hour.

I put no spices, garlic, onions or flavourings into this dish. I wanted the vegetables to speak for themselves, and I wanted it to be a calming, tasty but not aggressive dish, because sometimes, during very tiring days, we just want softness and stillness.

I succeeded, and the best compliment was my sister, hugging me, and telling me how happy she was to come back, from such a hard day, and have a home cooked meal waiting for her. This is what cooking is about – loving and supporting and comforting your family and friends, in a way that is fleeting but whose sayang is always remembered.

This will serve 4 as a main course. Leftovers are really good the next day, chopped up, pan fried and served with an egg for breakfast!

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes (I used baby fingerlings), chopped
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (I used 1 large portobello), peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, sliced fine
  • 1 cup milk (I used low fat)
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts (or asparagus or peas – something green is good)
  • 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup grated parmesan (or other cheese to your liking)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Slice the potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, add salt, and bring to the boil. Keep simmering until the potatoes break when crushed by the times of a fork – about 25 – 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are simmering, heat the oils in a frying pan, and saute the mushroom until it starts to colour a bit and burn around the edges. Add the spinach all at once, and allow it to wilt. Once the spinach has softened, add the milk, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes, or until the milk has just thickened a bit. Add the artichoke hearts and mix well, and then add 1/4 cup parmesan. Set aside.

Once the potatoes are done, drain them, and then tumble them into a small baking pan. Pour in the sauce and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust.Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over.

Bake in oven for at least 10 – 15 minutes. You will see the liquid becoming absorbed by the potatoes. Switch your oven to broil, and allow the gratin to brown for a few minutes before serving.

Enjoy the love and hug of this complete comfort meal.

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. ย 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. ย 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.

Memories of a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

23 Jun

A Thanksgiving for everyone – even the turkey!

M + I cooking together, for Z’s first Thanksgiving…

  • Honey glazed carrots
  • Green beans with crispy friend onions
  • Cornbread stuffing with jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, kale, and dried cranberries
  • Cranberry honey whiskey sauce
  • Puff pastry roll with mushrooms and pine nuts
  • Garlic mash potatoes
  • Red wine onion gravy
  • Roasted butternut and sweet potato with a maple glaze
  • Berry crumble
  • Pecan pie
  • Red wine and honey poached pears dipped in bittersweet chocolate with vanilla ice cream

… and there are only 4 of us sitting down to dinner!

This was the first Thanksgiving I celebrated in my sister, M’s house in Washington DC. I was there helping to look after Z, my beloved niece. My sister is vegetarian too, and with the advent of her daughter, we found that she was pretty intolerant to milk and dairy products. So we held back on layering the butter everywhere, though we didn’t completely do without it. It was a sumptuous meal, redolent of the most beautiful produce of the season. The colors where phenomenal, and M’s non-vegetarian BSA and our TBH didn’t even miss the turkey!

One of these days, I will try and recreate it and post the recipes. But the menu itself is pretty phenomenal!

Caramelised Onion Jam + Truffled Garlic Mash + Sauteed Mushrooms

21 Jun

When everyone else is eating meat, this is an incredibly rich, delicious, celebratory addition to the meal which you can share (if you really love them) with the carnivores.

Caramelised Onion Jam

(adapted from Softly Simmered Onions from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook)

These are so delicious. They can be added to so many things – mixed with a bit of cream in a pasta sauce, whizzed with vegetable broth for an amazing onion soup, on toast rounds with feta for an astounding bruschetta, or mixed with savoury custard in a brilliant tart / quiche. I like them as they are, tumbled over some creamy dreamy mash, with a few sauteed mushrooms for extra “meatiness”

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 8 cups sliced white and yellow onions
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over low heat. While the butter is melting, prepare the onions: peel, cut in half lengthwise, and slice in thin half-rings. It helps if you keep the root intact, as an anchor.
Add the onions to the melted butter and stir well. Add all the wine, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and salt and mix to combine. Cover and cook slowly over low heat, stirring every 10 minutes or so, about 1 hour.
Remove the cover and cook 2 hours longer, stirring occasionally. You can decide how long you want to cook it – the onions will become thicker and jammier as you go. Just make sure you stir well through the bottom of the pan because it can burn. Makes about 4 cups, which will keep for at least 1 week, covered in the fridge.

Truffled Garlic Mash

Serves 8, though you can adjust as needed. The garlic will soften and sweeten when boiled with the potatoes and will add a whisp of fragrance and scent to this amazing creamy mix.
  • 9 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Teaspoon or so jarred, canned or fresh truffles (you could use truffle oil in a pinch)
  • Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, over high heat, boil enough water to just cover the potatoes. Once the water is at a roiling boil, add all the potatoes and garlic at once. They should take about 10 – 15 minutes to cook through. You want to be able to put the tip of a cutting knife through a slice of potato without any resistance.

While the potatoes are boiling, combine butter, milk, cream, truffles, and salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and set aside to enable the truffle to infuse the butter and milk mixture with its heady scent.

When the potatoes have been cooked through, drain thoroughly, and place in serving bowl. Using a handheld masher, mash the potatoes, while adding the butter-milk-cream-truffle mixture. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

Sauteed Mushrooms

For each person, use 1 – 2 very large portobello mushrooms, depending on what else you are serving

  • 2 portobello mushrooms, peeled and sliced thickly
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil or truffle oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or port wine or red wine)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You want to ensure the mushrooms are seared and not soggy. To do this, heat butter and olive oil in a large frying pan until quite hot, on high heat. Add the mushrooms, and stir to coat with butter. As the mushrooms start to let off some juice, add vinegar and then soy sauce. This will encourage some caramelisation and cause the mushrooms to sear against the heat of the pan. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve each lucky vegetarian a large scoop of mash, topped with the caramelised onion jam, and sauteed mushrooms. Yum.