Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Pear, Celery & Arugula Salad with Spiced Apple Butter Dressing

I'm noticing that apples and pears have good flavour this year, but are definitely on the small side. The effect of all that heat and drought, no doubt. I actually used about 6 pears for this but they were amazingly tiny. I'm assuming yours are closer to a normal size, but this is a salad so really, use whatever proportions you like. 

Cardamom and ginger are unusual in a salad, but classic with pears. We really enjoyed this one. 

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time not including rest time for the dressing

Pear, Celery & Arugula Salad with Spiced Apple Butter Dressing

Make the Dressing:
4 pods green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons apple butter
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut OR hazelnut oil

Crush the cardamom pods sufficiently to remove the papery husks, then grind the remaining seeds. Mix them in a small bowl or jam jar with the ginger, salt, and pepper. Mix in the remaining ingredients and set aside  until the salad is made. It is not a bad idea to make the dressing an hour or two in advance to allow the flavours to develop.

Make the Salad:
4 cups loosely packed mixed lettuce OR lettuce and spinach
2 cups loosely packed arugula
2 or 3 stalks of celery
2 or 3 medium Bosc or Bartlett pears
1/3 cup dried cranberries OR raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts OR hazelnuts

Wash and pick over the lettuce, and cut or tear it into bite sized pieces, along with the spinach if available. Wash and pick over the arugula. Mix the greens and dry them well. Arrange them in a salad bowl.

Wash, trim, and slice the celery thinly. Scatter it over the greens. Peel, core and slice the pears, and arrange them over the salad. Sprinkle the cranberries and nuts over the salad, and drizzle the dressing over it. Toss the salad and serve.

Last year at this time I made Tomato & Celery Soup from 1908.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Potatoes with Swiss Chard or Kale

I used Pink Fir Apple potatoes for this; they worked very well. Any good potato amenable to sautéing will be fine, though.  If I had used kale, I would have chopped it a bit finer than I did the Swiss chard.

This was simple but very nice. Serve it with a simply cooked piece of chicken or fish, or pork chops, or really any kind of meat. If you prefer a vegetarian meal, it would be fine with poached eggs or an omelet. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Potatoes with Swiss Chard or Kale

450 grams (1 pound) potatoes, cut into small slices
4 cups coarsely shredded Swiss chard or kale
2 or 3 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider or balsamic vinegar

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized slices. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and boil them for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well.

Wash, trim and chop the Swiss chard or kale, discarding any tough stems and bad spots. Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the bacon fat or oil in a large skillet and cook the drained potatoes until lightly browned all over, stirring occasionally; this will take about 10 minutes. Add the shallots and continue cooking and stirring until they to are softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic, and stir for a minute or two more. Season with the salt and pepper.

Add the Swiss chard or kale, and mix it in well. Add the vinegar, and if you are using kale a tablespoon or two of water to help it cook down. Once the greens are wilted  in and cooked to your liking, remove everything to a serving dish.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Broccoli with Orange-Ginger Sauce

You would think between the list of ingredients and the technique that this would seem a bit like Chinese cooking, but I can't say that I think it does. Good though, and a nice change from steamed broccoli. Serve it with chicken, fish, beef, or really, with all kinds of things. It's surprisingly versatile. 

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Broccoli with Orange-Ginger Sauce

Make the Sauce:
about 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
the juice of 1 large Navel orange (about 2/3 to 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 large clove of garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Wash the orange, and grate a little of the zest into a small mixing bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients, making sure the starch is well dissolved. Set aside until needed.

Cook the Broccoli:
1 bunch (2 heads) broccoli
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 cup water

Cut the stems from the broccoli and use them for something else. Cut the remainder into bite-sized florets.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the prepared broccoli florets and the water. Cook for about 5 minutes until the broccoli changes colour to a bright green - stir often - and the water has evaporated. At this point, stir up the sauce well and pour it over the broccoli. Stir constantly as it cooks and thickens. Once it has thickened, about 2 minutes, transfer the broccoli and its sauce to a serving dish.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa & Feta Cheese

I've made this a couple of times this month for different people and both times it was inhaled. I was a little surprised as I thought it was in danger of being dull or bland with so little in the way of seasonings. It isn't though; it's just plain, in a good way. I think it's a bit better made with chicken stock rather than water, but you could also keep it vegetarian with vegetable broth if you wanted. I didn't have any and just went with water the second time, which was certainly fine.

I'm also calling for about twice as much parsley as I actually used. It looked like lots when I mixed it in, but it shrivelled up as it baked and was barely noticeable.

These were our delightful little Gill's Golden Pippin squashes, which really are little. If you use standard acorn squash you should have a fighting chance of getting all the filling into the squash.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Cook the Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or broth
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put the above into the rice cooker; cook.

Or you can cook it in a pot on the stove in which case, bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat as low as it will go and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. Allow about 20 minutes. But really, get a rice cooker already.

Bake, Stuff, & Bake (Again) the Squash:
2 medium acorn squashes
1 large carrot
1 large onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped parsley
200 grams feta cheese
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup water or broth

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half from stem to tip, and scrape out the seeds. (Save them! Roast them!) Rub the cut surfaces with a little oil and bake the squash for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Wash, dry well, and chop the parsley. Dice the feta cheese fairly finely.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the carrot an onion until softened, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for a minute or 2 more then mix in the cooked quinoa. Season generously with pepper.

Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the parsley and feta. When the squash have cooked for 45 minutes, fill them with the quinoa mixture. If there is more than will fit into the squash, arrange the extra evenly around the squash pieces. Drizzle the water or broth over the quinoa mixture as evenly as you can.

Return the squash to the oven for about 30 minutes.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Ginger & Dried Fruit Fruitcake

It's possible this looks quite a lot like our traditional family fruitcake that I make for Christmas, because it's possible I used that as a model. Well okay, I confess. I did! This version has a selection of lighter and perhaps more sprightly dried fruits rather than the traditional glacé fruits of the other. I also added lots of ginger and cardamom because I like them. The results are definitely more in line with modern tastes. I'm not sure I'd say I like this one better, but it's very good. If I had made them both, how would I ever choose? I couldn't. I'd have to eat both of them. It would be sad, if only for my waistline.

I am posting this now because if you want to have fruitcake for Christmas now is the time to make it. Hair-raising but true. Plum pudding ditto.

Ginger & Dried Fruit Fruitcake

Mix the Fruit: 
225 grams (1/2 pound) blanched almonds
225 grams (1/2 pound) dried apples
225 grams (1/2 pound) dried pears
225 grams (1/2 pound) dried apricots
225 grams (1/2 pound) dried cherries
225 grams (1/2 pound) golden raisins (sultanas)
1/3 cup soft unbleached flour

To blanch the almonds, drop them into boiling water to cover for one minute. Drain them, and pinch each one out of their papery skin as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Chop the apples, pears, and apricots into pieces about the size of the dried cherries. Mix all the fruit in a very large mixing bowl, then stir in the flour until the fruit is evenly coated with it.

Make the Batter: 
3 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh gingerroot
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3-4 pods green cardamom pods
1/2 cup good sherry
1/4 cup buttermilk or milk
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
generous quantities more of sherry for brushing

Measure the flour, and mix in the baking powder and salt. Set aside. Butter a 10" tube pan, and line the bottom with a circle of buttered parchment paper. Dust the cake pan with flour. Preheat the oven to 275°F.

Cream the butter, and beat in the sugar and the egg yolks, one or two at a time, until quite light and fluffy. (Put the whites aside in another mixing bowl.) Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in the sherry, then half the flour. Mix in the milk and the remaining flour.

Pour this batter over the fruit and mix them together.

Beat the egg whites, with the cream of tartar, until stiff. Fold about 1/3 of the egg whites gently into the cake, then fold in the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites.

Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing it out and taking care not to leave large gaps in the batter.

Bake the cake for about 2 1/2 hours, until done. You will need to cover it with foil after about an hour, when it will be mostly as brown as you would like it. I would start checking it for doneness at the 2 hour mark.

Allow the cake to cool, and remove it from the pan. Wrap it in cheesecloth, and brush it all over with sherry. Wrap it in foil and keep it in a cool, dark spot until wanted. You can take it out and brush it with more sherry whenever you feel so inclined; no-one will complain.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Sausage or Ham & Cheese Eggplant Casserole

This isn't the first time I've made an eggplant casserole with bits of bread in it; in fact this is basically the same thing as before with tomatoes taken out and sausage and peppers put in. The tomatoes are still there, just in the form of sauce now. In spite of the fact that this is an odd duck of a dish, it never fails to be popular. It's very rich which no doubt helps.

It makes a complete meal in itself, although if your sausage is spicy a cool pudding, jelly, or fresh fruit will make a gratefully received dessert. If you want something else with the casserole, a green salad would be ideal.

If you want ham instead of sausage, just dice it up but don't sauté it. Just plonk it in the baking dish, sauté your vegetables in the oil, and carry on from there. 

It's best the first time around but leftovers do heat up reasonably well.

6 servings
1 1/2 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Sausage or Ham & Cheese Eggplant Casserole

750 grams (1 2/3 pounds) eggplant
1 large onion
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 large red pepper, such as Red Shepherd or Chervena Chushka
1 small loaf baguette, preferably whole wheat but definitely stale
750 grams (1 2/3 pounds) spicy Italian sausage
sunflower or olive oil to sauté

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
a little cayenne or other red chile (optional)
1 cup chicken stock
200 grams (1/2 pound) cheese curds or grated Cheddar

2 cups tomato sauce, heated

Wash, trim, and cut the eggplants into bite-sized cubes. (Eggplants vary in size but you are likely to need 2 or 3). Salt them well and put them in a colander to strain, with a plate and a weight on top.

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Remove the seeds and stems, and chop the peppers fairly finely. Cut the baguette into bite-sized cubes.

Chop the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Cook it in a large pan until browned all over; you may or may not need to use a little oil to keep it from sticking. It depends on how much fat is in the sausage. Once it is well started, add the onion and cook until softened and slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute longer. Remove the sausage, onion, and garlic to a 9" x 13" shallow baking (lasagne) pan.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse and drain the eggplant very well. Add it to the pan in which the sausage was cooked; you will likely need to add a little oil first but it depends on how much the sausage has left behind. Hopefully your sausage is not so greasy that it has left lots, so add enough oil to have about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Cook the eggplant over medium heat, stirring and tossing frequently, until it is evenly softened and slightly browned in spots. You may need to do this in 2 batches and you will almost certainly need to add a bit more oil as it cooks. There is no stopping the eggplant from soaking it up, and the alternative is that it will scorch.

When it is ready, mix it in with the sausage etc, along with the cubes of baguette. Season with the salt and pepper, and the fennel and chile ONLY if your sausage is inadequately spiced. Spread the mixture out evenly. Pour the chicken stock as evenly over the mixture a you can and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and browning.

Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. Pass with the hot tomato sauce.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Chicken in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

The only thing wrong with this dish is that there isn't enough sauce. Yes, that chicken in the picture is awash in sauce, but never mind; I would cheerfully have eaten twice as much. This is a good, good sauce is what I am saying.

I am also saying that the peppers can be roasted a day ahead, but in fact they can be frozen so you can make this dish all winter. That almost resigns me to the fact that there wasn't enough sauce...

4 servings
45 minutes to roast the peppers
30 minutes to make the sauce and cook the chicken

Chicken in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Roast the Peppers:
500 grams (1 pound) red Shepherd or Chervena Chushka peppers

Wash the peppers and roast them for 30 minutes under the broiler in a single layer, turning them once at the 15 minute mark, until regularly charred on each side. Put them in a container with a lid and let them cool, then peel them and remove and discard the cores and stems. This can be done up to a day ahead.

Make the Sauce:
2 shallots
4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tablespoon chopped pickled or fresh Jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water or broth

Peel and roughly chop the shallots and garlic. Put them in a blender or food processor with the toasted pepitas. (If you purchased raw pepitas, toast them in a dry skillet, stirring frequently, until they begin to pop. Put them on a plate until cool.) Add the Jalapeño pepper, sunflower oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Process until quite smooth.

Remove the sauce to a dish or pot, and use the water or broth to swish out the blender or food processor. Add the water to the sauce. This could also be done up to a day ahead.

Cook the Chicken:
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
OR other single serving chicken pieces
(about 500 to 700 grams; or 1 to 1 1/2 pounds)

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and cook the chicken breasts over medium heat for 12 minutes; turn them at the 6 minute mark. (Bone-in chicken pieces will take pretty much twice as long to cook). When they are done, remove them to a serving plate (or individual plates) and pour the sauce into the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until hot through and thickened. Spoon it over the chicken and serve.

This is a thick sauce and you will need a good rubber (silicone I guess actually these days) spatula for your sauce scraping and transferring needs.

Last year at this time I made Cooked Oatmeal Waffles.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Alu Gobi

This is, I am told, a classic Punjabi dish, but it has travelled far and wide both in India and outside of it. It requires a fair bit of chopping (and grinding) and your undivided attention while it cooks, but it is not difficult. Serve it with chapatis, naan, or steamed rice.

Tomatoes and green chiles are not around for quite as long as cauliflower; if they are gone you can still make this using canned tomatoes and seasoning it with a little hot red chile powder.

Parboil the potatoes according to whether they are waxy or floury, and how soft you would like them to be. Waxy potatoes boiled for less time will maintain their identity, while starchy potatoes boiled longer will soften and lose their edges - which is best is a matter of personal taste. The amount of oil to use will vary a bit as well, as different potatoes will absorb different amounts - use enough to prevent sticking or scorching, but try not to add more than that.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Alu Gobi or Aloo Gobi; a cauliflower and potato curry

Mix the Spices:
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
5 or 6 pods green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a few good scrapes of nutmeg

Grind the cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, and fennel briefly. Fish out the bits of papery green husk from the cardamom, then grind the spices thoroughly. Mix in the remaining spices.

Make the Alu Gobi:
500 grams (1 pound) tomatoes OR 2 cups crushed tomato
generous 500 grams (1 pound) potatoes
scant 500 (1 pound) grams cauliflower
1 large onion
1 or 2 green Jalapeño or other hot chile peppers
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons peeled grated ginger
4 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
the juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Put a pot of water on to boil. Blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute, then remove them to cold water but keep the pot boiling. Have the potatoes ready; washed, trimmed, and cut into large dice. Put them into the water and boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and chop the tomatoes and put them aside. Wash, trim, and cut the cauliflower into florets a bit larger than the potato pieces. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, core, and finely chop the Jalapeño. Peel and mince the garlic and peel and grate the ginger - set those aside in the same bowl.

When the potatoes have boiled for 5 or 10 minutes, heat about half the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the well-drained potatoes, and fry for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until they begin to turn colour. Add the cauliflower pieces, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently; they can acquire a few brown spots. Then add the rest of the oil, followed by the chopped onion. Mix in well and cook for a minute or two, then add about 2/3 of the spice mixture and the garlic and ginger. Mix them in well and cook for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and mix in thoroughly. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. It's a good idea to keep it partially covered, and keep an eye on the moisture level - it should end up quite thick but if it looks like drying out, add a few tablespoons of water at a time to keep the sauce a sludge rather than a paste. Add the remaining 1/3 of the spices for the last few minutes of cooking. The vegetables should be tender and everything well amalgamated; and let the sauce thicken right up in the last few minutes of cooking.

Mix in the lime juice and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the washed, dried, and chopped cilantro.

Last year at this time I made Cauliflower with Mushrooms & Garlic

Friday, 7 October 2016

Branstonesque Pickle - A British Pickle in Apple Country

Branston pickle is a well-known British pickle, often served with bread and cheese as part of the classic plowman's lunch. There is no official recipe for it out in the wild, as it is actually a commercial product, but there are numerous versions reverse engineered from its list of ingredients. However, this is really not one of them.

It was not actually my goal to make this as much as the real Branston pickle as possible; I noted that it called for some apple ingredients and since here we are in apple country, I had mine call louder. I replaced the malt vinegar with apple cider vinegar and the tamarind with apple butter. I omitted a bunch of sugar and partially replaced it with more apple butter, and I was generous with the apples.

Raisins will maintain a certain integrity, while dates will dissolve into the sauce. Decide which you would prefer, or you could use half of each. The apples should be firm cooking apples that will hold their shape, such as Cortland, Empire, Mutsu or Northern Spy (which is the one I used). The zucchini should be just a tad over-mature; peel it well and discard the seedy centre. If you don't have such a thing at hand (it is pretty much available only to careless gardeners) just replace it with another 1/3 of a cup each of the rutabaga, carrots, and cauliflower.

Makes 8 125-ml jars
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Branston Pickle - classic with cheese

1 cup peeled, diced rutabaga
1 cup peeled, diced carrots
1 cup diced cauliflower, mostly stem
1 cup peeled, diced red OR yellow onion
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup peeled, diced zucchini
2 cups peeled, cored, and diced apple (2 medium)
1 1/2 cups raisins OR chopped dates
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple butter
1 tablespoon pickling salt
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon allspice berries, ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground Cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
the juice of 1 lemon

Put the jars into a canner and cover with water to an inch over the tops. Don't turn it on yet; give yourself a 20 minute head start on all that peeling and chopping. Put the vegetables into a large canning kettle or soup pot as you go.

Bring the water in the canner to a boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Put the lids and rims into another pot of water and prepare according to manufacturer's instructions (boil for 1 minute).

Meanwhile, continue to prepare the vegetables and add them to the pot. Measure and add the seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are fairly soft and the mixture is quite thick. Stir frequently.

Ladle the pickle into the drained jars and seal them with the prepared lids. Return them to the canner and boil them for 10 minutes. Remove from the canner, let cool, check for seals and label. Keep in a cool dark spot for up to 1 year; refrigerate once opened. 

Last year at this time I made Curtido.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


It's a good idea to cook the meat sauce a day in advance if you can; when you take it out of the fridge you can then remove and discard as much solidified fat as possible. Both the eggplant and the bechamel could also be cooked a day in advance if you like, and the whole thing assembled the next day just before baking. I heat up the meat sauce a little in the microwave, just enough to make it easier to work with, once the fat has come off.

I have listed preparing the eggplant after making the meat sauce, but in the interests of efficiency the eggplant should be sliced and salted before you start the meat sauce so it can drain while you do that. 

4 to 6 servings

3 hours - 2 1/4 hours prep time. Yeah; sorry -
and not including post baking rest time.

Getting Started

Prepare the Spices:
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
a good grind of black pepper

Just measure them out into a small bowl and set them aside until you need them. They go into the meat sauce.

Make the Meat Sauce:
4 to 5 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
500 grams (1 pound) ground lamb
2 cups chopped or crushed tomatoes

Peel, trim, and chop the garlic finely. Peel and chop the onion. Keep them separate.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and crumble in the lamb. As it begins to cook, mix in the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the lamb has lost all pinkness, the onions are soft and starting to brown, and the mixture is fairly dry; this may take a good 15 or 20 minutes if the lamb is moist. Mix in the prepared spices, then the garlic. Cook for a minute or two more, stirring as  you do, then add the tomatoes. Mix well, and simmer for another half hour to 40 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mixture is again quite thick and not juicy.

Cook the Eggplant:
1 kg (2 pounds) eggplant
salt ad lib
up to 1/4 cup olive oil

Trim, and at least partially peel the eggplant. Cut it into slices lengthwise, about 1/2" thick. Lay them on a plate, piling them up in layers, and salting each layer heavily. Top with another plate, and add a heavy weight on top. Let rest for about 1 hour.

Rinse and squeeze dry the slices of eggplant. Rub them with oil on both sides, then lay them in a single layer in a baking tray. Cook them under the broiler for about 10 minutes per side, until lightly browned and bubbling. Check them regularly, and move them around if necessary. You will almost certainly need to do this in 2 if not 3 batches.


Make the Bechamel & Assemble the Moussaka:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
a good grating of nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1 cup smooth ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the butter, flour, salt, and nutmeg in the bottom of a saucepan, and cook, stirring constantly, until well blended and hot and bubbling throughout. Slowly stir in the milk, a little at a time, and when it is all in and the sauce is thick and smooth remove it from the heat.

Let it cool for about 15 minutes, then beat in the egg and the ricotta cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a 9" x 11" casserole with half of the eggplant, in whole slices or cut into smaller chunks as you prefer. Cover the eggplant with half of the meat sauce, then repeat with the remaining eggplant and meat sauce. Pour the bechamel over the casserole and smooth it out. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Dirty Kasha

You need to be cooking some poultry in order to make this a thing to do; turkeys, chickens, and ducks generally all come with the giblets. Don't throw 'em away! Make dirty kasha.

This is, of course, the traditional Cajun recipe for dirty rice, minus the rice and with buckwheat instead. The robust nutty kasha really stands up to the flavour of the poultry giblets and makes an excellent substitute.

This doesn't make huge quantities. It would make a lunch dish for 2 along with a salad or cooked vegetable, or a side dish for 4 or more, especially if some of them turn up their noses at giblets... well, more for the rest of us.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cook the Kasha:
1/2 cup toasted buckwheat (kasha)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put 4 cups of water into a pot and bring it to a brisk boil. Add the toasted buckwheat kasha and the salt. Boil steadily for 15 minutes, then drain. 

Make the Dirty Kasha:
2 shallots
1 stalk of celery
1/4 of a red pepper
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons chicken, duck, turkey or bacon fat
1/2 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon good paprika; with a little heat or smoked if liked
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the giblets from 1 large turkey
OR 2 chickens OR 2 ducks

Meanwhile, peel and chop the shallots. Wash, trim and chop the celery. Core and chop the piece of red pepper. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the fat in a large skillet, and add the shallots, celery, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, until everything is softened and very slightly browned. Add the seasonings.

While the vegetables cook, chop the giblets finely. Use the heart and liver for sure, but decide how you feel about the crop - at the least it will have a tough, white side that must be cut off and discarded. If it seems soft it can be  used, but if it is at all hard to cut it will be unpleasantly tough - better to throw it in with bones when soup is made, and like a bone, discard it at the end.

Add the chopped meat to the pan when it is ready, and mix it in well. Let everything cook together, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through. Serve at once.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Roasted Red Pepper & Cheddar Dip

Pimento cheese is a classic of southern U.S. cooking, but it can be much improved by using good Cheddar cheese and freshly roasted peppers. Now's the time!

Actually, you could make the time last all winter if you roast red peppers now and freeze them. And of course, I am not a fan of red bell peppers; Red Shepherd, Chervena Chushka or other similar long pointed red roasters are the kind you are looking for.

about 2 cups dip
30 minutes to roast the peppers
30 minutes to finish the dip

Roast the Red Peppers:
4 medium red peppers

Cook the peppers under the broiler, turning them as the skin blackens, until they are roasted all over. Pile them up in a bowl, and cover them, until they cool. Then remove the stems and seeds, and peel them. Chop the flesh finely.

This can be done up to a day ahead.

Finish the Dip:
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/2 cup mayonnaise, light is fine
150 grams (5 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated

Peel and mince the garlic. Put it in a small shallow baking dish with the chopped red peppers, and mix them with the salt, paprika, and mayonnaise. Grate the cheddar and mix it in.

Move the oven rack so it is about 8" from the broiler, then put in the dip and broil at this distance until lightly browned and bubbling. This will not take much more than 5 minutes, so watch it carefully.