food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

roasted vegetable and lentil patties

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Here’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables. My vegetables were a very Mediterranean mix of eggplant, zucchini, onion and red pepper but this will work just as well with other vegetables.

First cook some red lentils in water. Don’t add too much water and try to drain the lentil while they still have some bite to them. Meanwhile, finely chop the roast vegetables. If your vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes or pumpkin you can mash these. When the lentils are cooked combine the vegetables with the lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add some fresh herbs. As my vegetables were not starchy, I added eggs to bind the mixture. If you have starchy vegetables in your mix you may not need eggs. If the mixture is quite firm, shape it into patties and fry them in oil until cooked. As my patty mix was quite wet, I spooned the mixture into egg rings, removing them as I flipped the patties. I garnished the patties with feta cheese and fresh parsley and served them with a tahini sauce. If your vegetables are less Mediterranean in flavour, try them with tomato sauce, ketchup or chutney.

Written by michelle picker

May 13, 2020 at 12:07 am

prawn and butternut curry

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The acidity of tomatoes and the sweetness of butternut pumpkin (squash) lend a great balance to this prawn (shrimp) curry. If you’re looking for a way to impress, use the outside of the pumpkin as a serving dish.

In a heavy saucepan, melt some ghee or vegetable oil and add a finely diced onion, 3 cloves of finely minced garlic, an equal amount of finely minced fresh ginger, 2 minced fresh red chillies and 10 or more curry leaves. Cook over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and ½ a teaspoon of ground fennel. Cook for a few minutes then add 2-4 chopped tomatoes (depending on their size) and 450g (1 lb) of diced butternut pumpkin. Cover and cook over low heat until the pumpkin is just soft enough to eat. Add 315g (¾ lb) shelled, de-veined and de-headed prawns. Cook just until the prawns are opaque. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and serve with basmati rice or roti.

Written by michelle picker

April 15, 2020 at 12:03 am

three sichuan salads

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More cold dishes from The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop: “A Sichuan feast always begins with a teasing spread of cold dishes to arouse the senses and set the mood for the meal to come.” These three salads are all easy to make and delectable.

Spicy steamed eggplant (aubergine) salad. For this salad, cut 800g (1¾ lbs) of eggplants in half. Place them in a bowl in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and allow to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized pieces – the original recipe says to discard the skin and seeds and tear the flesh but I chose to leave them intact as I like the skin and the eggplants I buy are not bitter or seedy. Place in a serving dish. For the sauce combine 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of Chinkiang vinegar, 1 teaspoon of caster sugar, 2 tablespoons of chilli oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a few pinches of roasted ground Sichuan peppercorns. Pour over the eggplant, stirring a little and garnish with some thinly sliced spring onion greens.

Spiced cucumber salad. Cut a large cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seedy part. Now cut the cucumber into 5cm (2″) lengths and into strips. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with ½ a teaspoon of salt and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Drain the cucumbers and shake them dry. Now snip 8-10 long dried chillies into shorter lengths, shaking out the seeds as much as possible. Heat a wok over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and add the chillies and 1 teaspoon of whole Sichuan peppercorns. Stir-fry until the chillies become darker but not burnt. Add the cucumbers briefly, just to heat the surface and combine the flavours. Remove from the heat, add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and turn out into a serving dish.

Sour and hot wood-ear salad. Wood-ear fungus, (AKA cloud ear fungus, black fungus, black Chinese fungus (or mushroom), wood fungus, ear fungus, or tree ear fungus) is a type of fungus which grows on trees and is ear-shaped, hence it’s name. It’s texture is both smooth and crunchy, and it provides great textural contrast in many Chinese dishes. To make this salad, soak 20g (¾ oz) of wood-ear fungus either in boiling water for at least 30 minutes or in cold water for several hours or overnight. Tear them into bite-size pieces discarding any hard bits. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil and blanch the pieces of wood-ear for 10 – 20 seconds then refresh under cold water. Drain them well and place them in a serving bowl. In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of thinly sliced fresh red chillies, ¼ of a teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of white rice vinegar. Stir well and add to the fungus along with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, a handful of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves and 1½ teaspoons of sesame oil. Season with more salt if necessary and toss well before serving.

Written by michelle picker

February 26, 2020 at 12:14 am

vegetarian moussaka

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This classic Greek dish is usually made with layers of eggplant and minced lamb, topped with a bechamel sauce. In this version mushrooms take the place of meat. It’s both satisfying and delicious.

Slice 1.5kg (3.3 lbs) of eggplants (aubergines) into 1cm (less than ½”) slices. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and cook on a griddle or bbq until soft and a little charred. Set aside. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 finely sliced large onion and 1 cup each of finely diced carrots and celery. Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Add 4 minced cloves of garlic and 340g (12 oz) of chopped portobello mushrooms. Sauté until the juices evaporate then add 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1 can of diced tomatoes and ¼ of a cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley. Cook for at least 10 minutes until the mixture thickens a little. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. To assemble, oil a lasagna baking dish and arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single layer. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the eggplant. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, tomato mixture and more cheese. In a heavy saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in 7 tablespoons of all purpose flour. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in 3½ cups of whole milk. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Whisk in ½ a cup of grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk 4 large egg yolks in a bowl and then gradually whisk them into the hot sauce. Finally, pour the sauce over the moussaka and sprinkle with another ¼ of a cup of cheese. Bake the moussaka for approximately 45 minutes or until heated through and golden brown on top. Cool 15 minutes before serving. .

*Adapted from this recipe.

Written by michelle picker

February 5, 2020 at 12:07 am

two cooked salads

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These two Middle Eastern style salads make an excellent accompaniment for fried halloumi cheese, or grilled meat, chicken or fish. You could also serve them as part of a mezze (appetiser) first course.

In this salad the combination of sweet onions and peas is balanced by salty preserved lemon.

Heat some olive oil in a small saucepan and fry 1 large chopped onion until it is soft and translucent. Add frozen baby peas and 2 quarters of finely diced preserved lemon rind. Continue to cook until the peas are just soft. Turn off the heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of yoghurt, 1 crushed clove of garlic and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with a little sumac. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The recipe for this salad of leeks and carrots is from Turkish Cooking by Gülseren Ramazanoglu, an invaluable cookbook I bought many years ago from the Australia-Turkish Friendship Society.

Wash and cut 1-2 leeks into 4cm (1½”) lengths. Trim and cut 2-3 carrots into diagonal slices. Heat some olive oil in a heavy saucepan until very hot. Add the carrots and leeks and cook them for a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of long grain rice, some salt and a little sugar. If your carrots are very sweet just a pinch of sugar will do. Continue to cook and toss in the hot oil for a few more minutes before adding 1 – 1½ cups of boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover and allow to cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the leeks are quite soft. Transfer the salad to a serving dish, sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley and allow to cool. When cooled a little, add lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Written by michelle picker

January 29, 2020 at 12:08 am

pepper steak

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This has been my go-to steak recipe for many years. From the Margaret Fulton Cookbook, it’s cooked in a searing hot dry pan, has plenty of pepper, some tabasco for extra kick and a sauce made from the pan juices and added extras.

Press a generous amount of coarsely cracked black pepper into each side of the steak and allow it to come to room temperature. Have ready these ingredients: Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, half a lemon, some chopped parsley, butter, brandy and cream or sour cream. Sprinkle some salt into a heavy pan and heat the pan until the salt is starting to brown. Now cook the steak for a few minutes on each side. The heat and time of cooking will vary depending on the thickness of the steak and on your preference. I like mine medium-rare. For rarer steak use very high heat, for more cooked steak turn the heat down a little. You can tell how well your steak is cooked by pressing it or you can use an instant-read thermometer to measure the internal temperature: medium-rare 55-60℃ (130-135℉); medium 60-65℃ (140-145℉); medium-well 65-70℃ (150-155℉). Before the steak is finished add 1-2 teaspoons of butter, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, some tabasco sauce to taste, and some lemon juice. Warm 1 tablespoon of brandy, light it and pour it over the steak. Add some cream or sour cream to make a sauce and swirl everything around. Finally, sprinkle the steak with parsley and serve.

I served mine with vegetables grilled on the barbecue – pumpkin, cauliflower and okra – tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and sweet paprika.

Written by michelle picker

January 22, 2020 at 12:23 am

Posted in meat, vegetables

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ayam taliwang + asinan

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This recipe, from Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia by Eleanor Ford, hails from Lombok and definitely lives up to being “everything you could hope for in grilled chicken”. Despite a few substitutions, the marinade, which also becomes the sauce, had flavour and heat from garlic and many chillies; sourness from lemon; fragrance from curry and lime leaf; depth of flavour from shrimp paste, oyster sauce and soy sauce and a great texture from coconut milk and almonds.

You need a flattened chicken for this recipe. Lay the chicken on it’s breast, cut down either side of the backbone and remove it. Flip the chicken over again and press it flat. Rub it with a little oil, season it with salt and allow it to come to room temperature.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce heat some oil in a frypan and add 5 large red chillies (cut in half lengthwise and seeded), 2 birdseye chillies, 2 whole dried chillies, a few slices of galangal (or ginger if you don’t have galangal), 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste, 10 whole cloves of garlic and 10 blanched almonds. Cook until the garlic begins to brown then remove everything to a blender, add a pinch of salt and some water (up to 1 cup) and process to a smooth consistency. Return to the pan with 2 kaffir lime leaves and 10 curry leaves and cook until the sauce thickens. Turn the heat down and add 2 tablespoons each of oyster sauce, soy sauce and coconut milk. Simmer for a few minutes more then remove from the heat. Place ¾ of the sauce in a serving bowl, adding the juice of half a lemon. To the pan add some more oil to make a marinade for the chicken. Paint the marinade on the chicken and cook on a barbecue, turning and basting, until the juices run clear when you insert a knife into the thickest part of the chicken or when the internal temperature reaches 74ºC (165ºF). Allow the chicken to rest before serving with the extra sauce.

As a side dish I served Asinan, an Indonesian raw vegetable salad which hails from Jakarta and is related to the popular Thai salad Som Tam. Like its counterpart it’s sometimes made with fresh green papaya but I made my version with what was in my fridge. The recipe is from the cookbook South East Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden.

Finely shred carrots, cucumber and cabbage and refrigerate them to keep them crisp. Meanwhile, for the dressing heat 1 tablespoon of sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until the sugar is dissolved and then allow it to cool. Soak 1½ tablespoons of dried shrimp in hot water for a minute. Drain the shrimp and together with 2 small sliced red chillies pound or blend them to a rough paste. Add the sugar water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, salt to taste and enough water to make a good consistency. Toss the dressing through the salad. Just before serving add 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped roasted peanuts.

Written by michelle picker

January 1, 2020 at 12:02 am