Tag Archives: starter

Roasted Peppers and Garlic

24 Jun
Two of my favourite things together – a marriage made in heaven! Roasted peppers are so sexy somehow. Slippery and sweet, tangy and juicy. The garlic adds a hint of muskiness and that scentsational aroma is mouthwatering. I often serve these as a starter – but you could add them to sandwiches, salads, soups, pasta. They are a wonderful standby to have in the fridge. A jar of these can take you to wonderful culinary heights! I made them for a dinner the other week, and they were lapped up by the hungry hoards. They are satisfying, easy to make (fun too if you like playing with fire), and their taste is much more complex and deep then the rather minimal effort expended.
  • 4 – 6 red peppers
  • 1 or 2 green peppers
  • Paper bag
  • Tongs
  • Fire source
  • Cloves of garlic
  • Good olive oil (Extra Virgin if you have it)
  • A dash of balsamico if you have it
  • Fresh oregano or rosemary or thyme
  • Sea salt

Make sure you have access to a paper bag.

Basically you want to take the peppers, and char them over a heat source (I usually do this on the stove top) until they are completely blackened and burnt.

Use the tongs to rotate the peppers over the flame source. BE CAREFUL. They will pop and fizz and spit. Keep watch over them at all times.

When they are completely blackened, pop them in the paper bag, and twist the opening to ensure a good seal. When I made this recipe, I used a paper shopping bag and just folded over the top a couple of times. The peppers will steam in the paper bags and soften. After about 20 – 30 minutes, the peppers will be ready for the next step.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to approximately 180 C.

Put your garlic cloves in a small baking tray, and sprinkle liberally with olive oil and sea salt. Pop them in the oven and roast until caramelized, about 15 – 30 minutes depending on your oven.

Once the peppers are lukewarm, take them out from the paper bag, one at a time. Peel the peppers. The blackened skin should come straight off, but if you have problems, use a little strip of paper towel to rub off any pesky bits.

You should have some intensely deeply coloured smokey peppers ready for anything you want to throw at them!

Once your peppers have been peeled, core them, throw away the seeds, and cut away the stringy inner bits, and slice them in thin strips.

Put the sliced peppers in a bowl, and slick over with as much olive oil as your preference dictates. They will go all shiny and blood red or emerald green. A few drops of aged balsamico wont hurt either. Add a couple of teaspoons of fresh or a shake of dry herbs over this mixture.

Once the garlic has been roasted to your satisfaction (about 15 minutes or so – it will start to smell like roasted garlic) and is golden and soft, let it cool, slice it and add to the bowl. Don’t waste the olive oil either! Its been imbued with soft golden garlic scent and tastes – add this to your bowl of deliciousness too!

This keeps brilliantly in the fridge and is a magical addition to salads, sandwiches and pasta.

If youre serving as is, make sure you bring the mixture to room temperature before serving. The juice at the bottom of the bowl is phenomenal.

Photo copyright U-en Ng

Hummus and Pita Chips

22 Jun

So easy to make, its sinful. And an incredible edible shot of protein for any meal. Best be careful though, people cannot stop eating this. You will be asked to make it again and again.

Hummus

  • 4 cups chickpeas (3 x 400 g cans or you can use fresh if you really want to – I do not see any appreciable difference between canned and fresh for this menu)
  • ½ cup – 1 cup water (use the water the chickpeas came in)
  • ½ cup tahini (sesame) paste
  • ¼ – ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ – ½ cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 5 – 7 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • Fresh parsley (optional)
This is so bloody easy its difficult to call it a recipe. Its important though that you try and use best quality ingredients – if canned, make sure the chickpeas are organic. If youre using fresh, stick the chickpeas in a pot of water overnight, and they will soften sufficiently so that when you boil them, it will be quick and easy.
Once all your ingredients are assembled, toss everything into the food processor. If you dont have one (and really, you should, to make this and wonderful things like pesto), you could use a handheld masher. I usually use the lower amount of everything, and then adjust accordingly.
Pulse (or mash). Taste. Adjust. Repeat as needed.
I like my hummus slightly rough – I love the texture of chunks of chickpea in this silken paste – but feel free to process until completely smooth. Its totally up to your sense of taste and pleasure.
Store in the fridge, in covered containers, with a thin film of olive oil on top. Please make this at least 1 day ahead (and up to 3) to enable all the amazing flavours to meld and ripen.
Bring to room temperature before you serve. Taste again and adjust lemon, salt and olive oil.
Serve sprinkled with some bright green parsley if you have some.

Pita Chips

Really simple to make, and so so so more-ish. One of my favourite things to make – and much better for you than any store bought chip because there are no additives of stabilizers or any of that crap.

  • 10 pita pockets (try and find local baked ones)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Bowl + brush
  • Scissors

Preheat oven to about 180 C

Using your scissors, cut the pita into eigths – big triangles – though if you prefer a modern art version, by all means cut them up randomly! If the pita bread is a pocket bread, you will need to split it as you cut it.

Pread into one layer over a baking pan. You will have to do this in batches so you might want to use 2 pans to allow one to go into the oven as the other gets prepped.

In a bowl, mix together extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, mixing well with your brush. The sea salt wont get completely absorbed by the oil, but you want it mixed well. (Note: you could add garlic, or parmesan if you want to get fancy, but honestly, I love the pure simple taste of olive oil and sea salt and pita).

Brush oil mixture over the chips gently.

Bake in the oven for a max of ten minutes. Keep watch as they burn quickly. They will be golden, crisp and delicious.

These keep for up to a week in an airtight container, but I have never gotten that far – they just get eaten!

All photos copyright U-en Ng


Vegetables a la Greque a la Karo

22 Jun

This is from a good friend of mine who has the same philosophy of cooking with love and passion, and as little harm as possible. She sent it to me as below, and I love her words, so I will let them be …

The original recipe is in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” – and I think it’s volume 1.

It’s a one-pot method of turning your beautiful raw vegetables, which might otherwise become cloudy and dull in the fridge as you wait for another idea/opportunity to do something with them, into delectable little appetisers or salady thingies.

You can do it with any vegetable that has firm texture and flavour, as long as it does not need to be cooked before being eaten raw like potatoes and aubergines do. I find it a much more forgiving method than oven-roasting or grilling for cold salad veg.

I have used: courgettes, mushrooms, asparagus, pepper, celery, green beans, beetroot. Must do firm small tomatoes next.

Take your fresh and good vegetables and prepare them as if for salad – cut them cleanly and decoratively and uniformly.

Take a pot and put in it a scanty pint of water, the juices of one or two lemons, a cup of good olive oil, good salt, pepper, and garlic cloves finely chopped. Add any good herbs that you have to flavour your court-bouillon; bay, parsley, thyme, tarragon, fennel … I have added lemon rind too.

Bring to the boil and simmer your vegetables within until tender but still holding their firmness. Mushrooms will be tender in 5 minutes or less (depending on your slicing of them); celery could take 20.

Remove your vegetables, and leave to cool on a plate.

You could now poach another set of vegetables in the same pot. Or proceed:

Strain the court-bouillon and put it back to reduce by at least half. It will become a lovely flavoured smooth light emulsion.

Then cool it down and bathe your vegetables with it. And then eat as they are at room-temperature or cold from the fridge later. And consider dressing them further by adding garlic or fresh herbs or more garlic or more whatever to them.

(Last weekend, I had a cold hors d’oeuvre which included mushrooms with no added seasoning, green beans with lots of extra lemon and garlic, courgettes with chopped parsley and lemon )