The dark days are over with a bit of walnut bashing and a cheeky winter salad

Have to say that after a dark, wintry week at work, bashing a few walnuts with a rolling pin was pretty satisfying.

A work colleague mentioned a beetroot, mushroom and walnut salad – three ingredients I had in abundance. So here it is – a made up recipe based on a made up recipe based on something somebody ate in a restaurant once.

salad

Ingredients: 4 medium sized beetroot; 200 grams small to medium size mushrooms (ours were some sort of button/field hybrid either would work quite well); 8 slices of prosciutto;  250 grams baby spinach; 1 medium red onion; 150-200 grams soft goat cheese; balsamic vinegar; olive oil; approximately 8 walnuts broken into pieces.

To roast the beetroot: Heat oven to 200 degrees; chop the stalks and tails off the beetroot then wash and pat dry with paper towel; lightly brush with olive oil; wrap in foil; roast in oven for 35 minutes; remove from oven and peel (you will need to let them cool down a bit first); slice beetroot into centimetre thick slices.

To roast the mushrooms: While the beetroot is roasting slice mushrooms into 10 millimetre thick slices; line an oven tray with baking paper and lightly brush the paper with olive oil (or use olive oil spray for an easier healthier option); lay out mushrooms and lightly brush (or spray) with olive oil; season; pop into the oven in the last 15 minutes of cooking the beetroot; turn mushrooms once half way through cooking time.

To crisp the prosciutto: Line an oven tray with baking paper; lay out prosciutto slices on the paper; pop in the oven during last five minutes of cooking beetroot; remove when the prosciutto is crispy.

To make the salad: Finely slice onion and combine in a bowl with baby spinach and crumbled goats cheese; in a separate bowl mix 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper then taste to make sure you are happy with the balance between oil and vinegar; add dressing to salad mixture and combine.

Putting it all together: Assemble individual serves by placing 2 good size tong-fulls of salad mixture on a dinner plate followed by some beetroot and mushroom slices then prosciutto and walnuts.

Could not resist a gratuitous walnut photo – they are home grown, hand picked and looking disturbing but interesting in a posh bowl after all.

walnuts

 

 

Big red cabbage

Whole cabbages just seem to go on and on for ages and never end. It is like some horrible, boring magic. If you do have a whole red cabbage, ‘slaw’ (as the cool kids seem to call it these days) is your friend. This slaw recipe uses half a cabbage (though somehow there still seems to be a lot of cabbage left). I served the slaw with an Asian-style omelette (recipe a bit further below).

cabbage salad

Winter slaw (serves four as a side)

To make the slaw:

Ingredients: 1/2 a red cabbage, sliced finely; 1 bunch of coriander; 2-3 oranges peeled and chopped into largish chunks.

Combine these ingredients in a bowl. I thought about adding some ginger or spring onion – either would probably be quite nice for some extra zing.

To make the slaw dressing:

Ingredients: Juice of two limes; 1 teaspoon of soy sauce; 1 tablespoon of sesame oil; 3 tablespoons of olive oil; dash of honey (to taste); 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (though I just used chili oil)

Combine and pour over salad. Toast some black sesame seeds in a pan over a low heat. Sprinkle over the top.

Omelette  (should serve 4 but is really a feast for 2)

This is one of those recipes that feels like it won’t work but actually does.

Ingredients: 12 eggs; 2 tablespoons of fish sauce; 2 teaspoons oyster sauce (plus 2 tablespoons extra); handful of coriander; 4 spring onions finely chopped; 1/3 cup olive oil; sesame oil; chives.

Combine eggs, fish sauce and oyster sauce in a bowl or jug. Add coriander and spring onions. Combine a bit more.

Heat a quarter of the oil in a wok. When the oil is hot add a quarter of the egg mixture. Use a slotted spoon to push the cooked mixture inwards repeatedly until the omelette starts to set. Turn temperature to low. Allow to cook for forty seconds, then fold in half and leave for another forty seconds. Remove and keep warm. Repeat three more times until all of the mixture is cooked.

Sprinkle with chives and pour over mixture of oyster sauce and sesame oil.

I borrowed ideas from here and there to come up with this – vegetable omelette (Women’s Weekly Modern Asian Cookbook) and winter slaw (Ottolenghi).

If you still have a lot of red cabbage left you might also like to make fish tacos.

We shall by morning / Inherit the earth / Our foot’s in the door

Sylvia Plath really summed it up. Mushrooms really are freaky strange if you think about them in an abstract way.

But less ephemerally, cooking the little guys up on a medium to low heat in olive oil, butter and garlic and stirring them through risotto is the business!

Yum !

Ingredients :

500 grams mushrooms sliced;  2 cloves garlic crushed; butter; olive oil; 1 brown onion diced finely (or equivalent amount of any other type of oniony vegetable); 2 cups arborio rice; 1 cup white wine;  500 mls vegetable or chicken stock; 1 cup water; 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley; parmesan

Method:

Melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add garlic and onion just before the butter is melted. Cook until onion is softened. Add the mushrooms (plus salt and cracked pepper) and cook until liquid is coming out of the mushrooms. Set mushroom mixture (including liquid) to one side in a bowl.

Bring stock and water to the boil together in a saucepan. Keep liquid simmering on a medium heat.

Melt a teaspoon of butter and a big dash of olive oil in the saucepan you used to cook the mushrooms. On a medium heat, add the arborio rice and stir until it is coated with the butter and olive oil. Add the white wine and stir as needed to keep the rice from sticking until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Repeat the same steps with the stock mixture. Adding about 3/4 of a cup of liquid at a time and stirring to stop the rice from sticking.

Continue this process until the rice is on the firm side of al dente. Do not panic if you are running out of stock before the rice is ready – just boil some water in the kettle and use that.

Turn off the stove but leave the saucepan on the hot plate. Add the mushroom mixture (including the black liquid) and parsley. Season and combine. Remove from heat. then serve with grated parmesan on top.

You can stir through sour cream after removing the risotto from the heat if you like a creamier style risotto or add dried porcini mushrooms to the stock mixture if you like a mushroomier one!

Serves 4. The mushroom mixture can also be served on its own as a side dish.

Bee

 

Brown paper bags can be reused to store your mushrooms. If mushrooms go slimy this un-slimes them!

 

Coping with broccoli

Broccoli attacks are an inevitable part of vegetable co-op life. Broccoli tends to lurk, hiding amongst other friendlier green produce, and then leap out threatening the horrors of broccoli soup.  Thankfully the good people of Southern Italy taught me how to get the better of broccoli with this much loved, very old school pasta recipe.

broccoli

BeeStore your parmesan cheese wrapped in baking paper.

Ingredients:

500 grams of short pasta (I use wholemeal penne)

2 heads of broccoli cut into florets

2-4 cloves of garlic (depending on howmuch you like it!) crushed or finely chopped

1 red chili finely chopped (with seeds)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Parmesan

Instructions:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.

Add pasta and cook as per packet instructions. Add broccoli in the last five minutes of cooking time.

In the meantime heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and soften the chili and garlic.

Drain pasta and broccoli mixture and return to the saucepan. Add the oil, chili and garlic. Season to taste. Combine and serve with grated parmesan.

For a more substantial dish you can toast pine nuts and sprinkle them over the top.

Serves two hungry people!

 

 

Zapping some vegetables with Ottolenghi’s cookbook

A fellow vegetable-lover recently popped a copy of Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi under my nose. Ottolenghi really is all about his vegetables!

Ottolenghi

Founded in his Israeli heritage, Ottolenghi’s cooking takes inspiration from family, friends and travels.

The book is lovely – mostly because the recipes are very thoughtful about how the different vegetables that make up the dish should be prepared. They are a unique take on how vegetables can be combined together to make interesting flavours and textures.

So far I have tried the Surprise Tatin …

suprise tatin

My surprise Tatin came with extra surprise – I had some dirty big potatoes and roma tomatoes from the last co-op shop that I decided to use up. I sliced the tomatoes into segments and then halved each wedge to make the size roughly equivalent to half a cherry tomato and it worked fine. Admittedly my more rustic take was not as pretty as Ottolenghi’s but it still tasted yummy!

And then my life changed after making the pasta and fried zucchini salad…

zuchini

Ok it looks pretty humble but it is freakin’ delicious.

Due to supply constraints I used frozen broad beans instead of frozen edamame (but fresh broad beans would be the best Australian option) and bocconcini instead of buffalo mozzarella. Still trying to come up with a new describing word equivalent to amazing to give proper recognition to how yummy this pasta was. It was a bloody good way to use up three zucchinis !

Big ups to Ottolenghi for keeping the inspirational fires burning but there are a few challenges… There are things in ounces, the degrees are in farenheit and some of the instructions are vague (eg cooking time only but no description on how big or how cooked vegetable should be – this can be hard given one type of vegetable can come in different shapes and sizes). I found this a bit frustrating at first but realised in the end that precision was not all that important for these recipes – if you err on the side of underdone for your vegetables it is pretty hard to go wrong!

Now to plan what to make out of the book with my next round of vegetables … something with eggplant I think!

Lemony Snippet – an unusual use for lemons

Our downstairs neighbour gifted us a rather sad looking brass pot when she moved overseas. It has been mouldering in the laundry ever since looking lost and alone. Here is what the poor thing looked like before its makeover ..

potbefore

As you can see the pot has a bit of an 80s Copper Art vibe. This vibe is shared with our bathroom  (picture brown floor tiles and a tinted glass shower screen) so last weekend I decided to go the whole hog and go the maiden hair fern brass pot in bathroom look circa 1982 ie:

1980sbathroom

(this is not a picture of our actual bathroom btw but it is reminiscent as our bathroom actually has brown wooden roof beams)

Bracing myself for a walk up to the shops to spend $8 on a bottle of Brasso I decided to google household tips for cleaning brass. Very happy to report that you can clean brass with a couple of lemons and some salt! Here is how …

Cut the lemons in half and tip a teaspoon or two of salt into a saucer. Then dip the lemon in the salt and rub it on the brass. The salt acts a bit like a facial scrub and ‘exfoliates’ the brass.

lemoninaction

When the lemon starts to lose its lemony-ness you can cut off the top layer and redip in the salt. You can also cut the lemon into smaller pieces to clean tricky to reach places (I did this to clean around the handles).

Once you have finished cleaning you should wipe the surface down with a damp cloth (I actually just rinsed the pot under the tap – it is pretty cactus!)

Here is the pot all shiny and ferned …

the finished product

Felt like a winner. A chemical free miracle that saved $8 and used up two lemons to make a pot very happy.

Probably a good idea to do a test patch somewhere unobtrusive if you are cleaning something special or delicate!

Eliminating eggplant (easy baba)

Eggplant – the ubiquitous vegie co-op vegetable. Ever present in the fortnightly shop, most recipes require a soak in salt and then a batch by batch fry-up in buckets of olive oil. Not this baba! Based on a recipe published on another great blog, Straight from the Farm (http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com), this baba recipe purees pesky eggplants into submission.

To make the baba, pre-heat the oven to about 200 degrees. Brush the outside of each eggplant with olive oil (I use a pastry brush or a bit of paper towel dipped in olive oil). Pierce each eggplant a few times with a knife or a fork. MAKE SURE YOU PIERCE THE EGGPLANT! Bad bad things happen to the inside of your oven if you don’t do this. I learnt this the hard way – the force of the explosion blew the oven door open.

Place the eggplants on an oven tray and cook them until they look sunken – this usually takes about 30 mins but will vary depending on the size of the eggplant. Remove them from the oven when they look like this …

Image

Once the eggplants have cooled down, cut the skin length ways and use a spoon to scoop out the pulpy insides. Place these eggplant innards in a bowl and add a squeeze or two of lemon juice, a clove or two of garlic, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil. Use your mushing up tool of choice – a fork, food processor, blender or bar mix will all work – combine the ingredients into a pulp. I like my baba a little rough around the edges so I leave it a bit chunky but you can go super smooth if you are after something a bit more refined. Give it a taste and then adjust seasoning or add more lemon juice if you think it needs it and then you are all done.

My most recent batch is pictured below with some friend-gifted, picturesque looking, locally grown garlic.

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