food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

cooking in the fire

leave a comment »

It’s winter here and when the wood-burning stove is going we take the opportunity to use it for cooking. Sadly, the previous owners who installed the stove didn’t buy one with a stovetop but cooking in coals is an age-old method and seasoned cast iron camp ovens (Dutch ovens) have been used for hundreds of years. To cook in the fireplace we placed the camp oven away from the flames and surrounded it with red-hot coals. It’s important not to have any of the coals underneath as the food will burn onto the bottom. It’s also important to turn the pot every 10 minutes or so.

We chose to make a chicken tagine as the cooking method is very similar. Simply start with a little olive oil and layer your ingredients – we used onion, leek and garlic on the bottom, then fennel and bone-in chicken thighs flavoured with fresh ginger, ground cumin, saffron and preserved lemon and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. On top, chopped fresh dill and coriander (cilantro) and another drizzle of olive oil. Depending on the heat of your fireplace this meal should cook in 30 – 40 minutes.

This method is also brilliant for roasted vegetables of any kind. They taste amazing and get a wonderful char. We included potatoes, pumpkin, red pepper and brussels sprouts. Simply toss the vegetables in some oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Advertisements

travelling and eating

leave a comment »

I love to travel the world and one of the pleasures or travelling is new food experiences. Amanda (who shares the same name as the head chef) recommended Dirt Candy, an innovative restaurant in New York serving tasting menus made entirely with vegetables. Beginning with a dirty corn martini we launched into the 10-course menu – an amazing experience. Many of the courses consisted of more than one dish and we could hardly fit in the savoury courses before the 3 desserts arrived. But there’s always room somewhere for dessert! The dishes included a tower of amuse-bouches (lettuce gazpacho; elderflower salad with black bean hummus; caramelised red onion over onion cream; popcorn on corn and avocado salsa and vegetable pops); spinach monkey bread with garlic butter; Korean fried broccoli; bagna càuda; tomato tart; portobello mushroom mousse served with truffle toast; long beans with almonds, Spanish smoked cheese and fermented yoghurt; a carrot slider in a cute little box; corn ravioli in a corn broth with corn harissa nuts; kohlrabi dumplings in broth with various brassicas; vegetarian Peking duck with pea tofu and tofu skin; cauliflower confetti cake; a coffee chocolate mushroom with mushroom cream; and finally, eggplant foster with basil anglais and eggplant chips.



 

Written by michelle picker

September 19, 2018 at 9:31 am

miso grilled tofu and vegetables

leave a comment »

Here’s a lovely way to eat tofu and should appeal to both vegetarians and omnivores.

You will need a firm tofu for this meal. For the vegetables I used butternut pumpkin (squash), zucchini (courgettes) and whole Swiss brown mushrooms but the choice of vegetables is flexible as long as they keep their shape reasonably well. Combine white miso paste with some sesame oil, a little brown sugar and enough water to make a paste which is thin enough to spread and thick enough to stick. The amount of ingredients here are flexible as miso paste varies quite a lot and you must taste this mixture to make sure it’s not too salty or too sweet. Cut the tofu and vegetables to the size you wish to serve and coat them all with vegetable oil. If you don’t have a griddle or barbecue you can roast the vegetables in the oven. Cook them first until they are a little brown and softening then brush them with miso paste and continue to cook until coated and delicious. Watch them carefully at this stage as the miso and sugar can burn quite easily. Serve garnished with finely sliced spring onion and toasted sesame seeds.

Written by michelle picker

June 13, 2018 at 12:04 am

spicy prawns + vegetables in coconut

leave a comment »

These two dishes use Belacan, a shrimp paste pressed into a block and sun-dried. It’s an essential ingredient in Malaysian cooking which adds a unique depth of flavour. Pre-roasting, a necessary step, reduces it’s very strong smell and flavour. Wrap a piece in foil and roast it over an open flame or in the oven until it has a pleasant roasted aroma. Now you can add it to your rempah, a paste which functions like a wet curry paste to begin your dish.

For the spicy prawns make a rempah of 1 onion, 6 dried chillies, 2 fresh chillies, 2 large cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of laos (galangal) powder, 1 teaspoon of belacan and 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. You can make this into a paste with a mortar and pestle, a small food processor or blender – add a little water if necessary. Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large pan or wok and fry the rempah until it’s fragrant then add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of sugar and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. Add 450g (1lb) of whole, unpeeled prawns, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the prawns are just cooked. Garnish with fresh coriander (cilantro).

Vegetables in coconut are a sweet and mild foil for the spicy prawns. Make a rempah of 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 or 2 fresh green chillies, ½ a teaspoon of belacan and ½ a teaspoon of ground turmeric. Fry the rempah in a little oil then add 1½ cups of coconut milk, 2 strips of lemon rind and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer then add 3 or 4 cups of thinly sliced vegetables (I used cabbage, carrots and bok choy) and cook until tender. Remove from the heat and add lemon juice to taste.

*Adapted from recipes in The Curry Cookbook by Charmaine and Reuben Solomon.

Written by michelle picker

May 16, 2018 at 12:12 am

stuffed mushrooms

leave a comment »

Whoever said life was too short to stuff a mushroom was wrong. I love mushrooms and this recipe uses 3 types of mushrooms to make a most delicious and satisfying vegetarian meal.

For this recipe use portobello mushrooms (these are large, mature button mushrooms) with a good edge to hold the filling. For the filling finely dice some brown shallots, the stems of the portobello mushrooms and some Swiss Brown mushrooms (these are more flavoursome than button mushrooms – they look similar with a darker and slightly mottled cap). Heat some oil in a pan and fry the shallots until just wilting. Add the mushrooms and some fresh thyme leaves as well as some porcini mushroom powder for extra mushroom flavour. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until the mushrooms are softening then remove them to a bowl to cool. Add 1 egg and a generous amount of soft goat’s cheese to the mushrooms. When you’re happy with the flavour spoon the mixture into the mushrooms and place them into an oiled baking dish. Top with some finely grated parmesan or pecorino and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in a moderate oven (along with some roasted vegetables for accompaniment) until nicely browned and well cooked.

Written by michelle picker

May 2, 2018 at 12:17 am

rack of lamb + peas with feta and mint + roasted red peppers

leave a comment »

Rack of lamb coated with mustard, garlic and rosemary and blushing inside – classic but still fabulous.

Season each rack generously with salt and allow it to permeate for at least an hour. Meanwhile, crush some garlic with a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor and add plenty of fresh rosemary, some mustard of your choice, freshly ground black pepper and a little oil to make a paste. When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 180º (350ºF). On the stovetop heat a large cast iron or heavy skillet, add some oil and brown the racks fat-side down for 5-10 minutes. Remove the racks to an oven tray with the browned surface facing up and coat all the meat with the mustard mixture. Roast for 15-20 minutes or, if you have a thermometer, until the temperature in the middle of the meat reaches 50ºC (120ºF). Remove the lamb from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. During this time the temperature should continue to rise to a perfect medium-rare 55ºC (130ºF). Cut and serve either single or double chops.

As a side dish try these peas with feta and mint. Cook the peas in salted water until just cooked. Drain, place them in a bowl and add crumbled feta, plenty of fresh mint, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of good quality olive oil;

And these roasted red peppers. Simply slice into long strips, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in a hot oven until slightly charred.

 

Written by michelle picker

April 25, 2018 at 12:10 am

shiitake mushrooms

leave a comment »

Shiitake mushrooms are used widely in Asian cuisines and considered to have many health benefits. They are widely available in their dried form but are a little harder to find fresh, although Asian stores are a good place to try. We decided to attempt to grow them. This a lengthy procedure with some inherent difficulties for those of us living in urban areas. The first problem was finding living branches from a suitable tree. This took some time but we finally found some fairly large oak branches without any signs of fungus or mould. Shiitake are grown by drilling holes into the branches and hammering in dowels impregnated with the mushroom spores – we ordered these online. The holes are covered with beeswax and the logs then need to be kept damp and in a nice semi-dark place, similar to a forest floor. We waited approximately 18 months before we induced the first crop by soaking the logs for a day and then dropping them to shock them into fruiting. This can be done in Spring, Summer or Autumn. Hopefully they will now fruit twice a year. Although our first crop wasn’t very large it was exciting to finally see the mushrooms growing and they tasted amazing!

This recipe for a Chinese-style omelette is perfect for featuring shiitake mushrooms. Begin by slicing some medium to firm tofu and fry it in a little vegetable oil. Season with soy sauce and honey and set aside. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (Shiitake stems don’t soften when you cook them) and slice the mushrooms. Heat a pan and add some finely shredded ginger into the dry pan until it is fragrant. Add some sesame oil and the mushrooms, season with a minimal amount of salt and cook them until they are just softening. Add the tofu to reheat it along with some spring onions. Keep this mixture warm while you make the omelette. Whisk 3-4 eggs with a little water and a drop of sesame oil, and season them with soy sauce and white pepper. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a wide frypan, add  the eggs and allow them to cook, without turning, until almost firm. Place the mushroom and tofu mix onto one half of the omelette and, using a wide turner, flip the other half over the top. When the omelette is cooked carefully slide it onto a serving plate and garnish with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Written by michelle picker

April 11, 2018 at 12:33 am