Monday, 18 December 2017

Brussels Sprouts "Spanako"pita

I am referring to this as a spanakopita, which means "spinach bread" in Greek. Since it is made with Brussels sprouts instead of spinach I don't even want to tell you what it should actually be called, mostly because I can't. Fortunately the culinary substitution is much easier than the translation.

This is my usual spanakopita recipe, only I've removed a kilo (yes, really!) of spinach and replaced it with about half as much Brussels sprouts. They don't shrink down like spinach does though.

Unless you make this about a month ago - good luck with that - the odds of fresh herbs being around at the same time as Brussels sprouts are not particularly good. Dried ones do well enough, but if you do have some fresh ones, 2 tablespoons of each, well minced, will be about right.

8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Brussels Sprouts Spanokopita

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
1 large leek
2 tablespoons olive oil
250 grams (1/2 pound) feta cheese
1 to 2 teaspoon dry dill
1 to 2 teaspoon dry mint
250 grams (1/2 pound) feta cheese
a few good grates of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 large eggs

8 to 12 sheets of filo pastry
1/4 cup olive oil (about)

Don't forget that frozen filo pastry will need to thaw for 2 or 3 hours on the counter, or overnight in the fridge.

Wash, trim and chop the Brussels sprouts fairly well. Wash, trim, and chop (slice) the leek reasonably finely also.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the Brussels sprouts. Cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until wilted and softened. You may wish to add a tablespoon or so of water to help them along. They should be dry though, by the time you are ready to transfer them to a mixing bowl.

Heat a little more oil in the same skillet and add the leek. Again, cook until softened and wilted down, for 5 or 10 minutes, with a little water if necessary. Add them to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Crumble the feta cheese into the vegetables. Add the seasonings and mix well. When the vegetables are cool enough that they will not cook the eggs, break the eggs in and mix very well.

Have your filo unwrapped and standing by. Have the oil in a small bowl. Brush a 9" x 13" lasagne pan lightly with oil, then fold a sheet of filo in half and line the bottom of the pan. Brush it with oil, using a pastry brush. Add 3 or 4 more sheets in the same way, folding and brushing with oil.

Spread the vegetable mixture over the prepared filo pastry. Fold and layer another sheet of filo on top, and brush it with oil. Continue folding, covering and brushing with oil for another 3 or 4 more sheets. Finish the top with a good brush of oil.

Bake the finished dish for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. Let set for 20 or 30 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Vegetarian Sausage.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

This is an adaptation of a classic Czech Christmas cookie, originally published in a book of Christmas cookie recipes by Maria Janku-Sandtnerova almost 100 years ago. After I made them it occurred to me to check and see what other versions were out there, and I discovered that Martha Stewart posted a recipe for chocolate pretzels probably adapted from the same original, and that an awful lot of people really hated it, saying it lacked flavour, and was dry, and crumbly, and not sweet enough.

It's true this is not a very sweet cookie. That's one of the things that appealed to me about it. If it is dry, you have over-baked it, (and you should watch them, because they are so thin I expect that's easy to do) although it has to plead guilty to crumbling easily. I found the texture very shortbread-like.

I put mint extract into mine, but I would use vanilla, orange extract, almond extract, or strong coffee flavouring as Martha did. I would think they would also be excellent dipped into a chocolate coating, and maybe next time I will make them a little bigger and do that instead of using the sanding sugar. However I am very happy with how these turned out and expect them to disappear rapidly when introduced to the family. Until then, they are going to have to be hidden.

Oh - one last advantage to these cookies: I made an awful lot of cookies that call for egg whites only, so this was a great opportunity to get rid of a couple of egg yolks.

Makes 24 or 32
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

1 cup soft unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon flavouring extract
1/4 cup coarse sanding sugar

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and cocoa (sift it into the bowl) in a mixing bowl. Line a couple of large baking pans with parchment paper.

Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or a couple of knives. When it is well worked in, add the egg yolks and the flavouring extract. Stir well - one of the forks will be best until it begins to come together. This is a dry enough dough that I find it needs to be pressed together by hand, a bit like pie pastry.

Once you have it in a good, smooth ball, start working on the pretzels at once. The longer the dough sits, the harder it gets to work. To keep the pretzel sizes even, it is convenient if you have a kitchen scale and can weigh each piece as you divide it. Otherwise you will just have to eye-ball it.  Divide the dough in half, and each half in half again, etc, until you have 32 even pieces. To make 24 slightly larger pretzels, once you have 8 portions, divide each one into 3 even pieces instead of 4.

Take each piece of dough and roll it out into a thin, even rope about 6" or 7" long (or 8" for the larger ones). Take an end and pinch it onto the rope just a little on the far side of the halfway point. At the same time, have the other end crossing over it and pinching into itself at the mirror-image spot to the other one... or to put it another way, form it into a pretzel.

Have the sanding sugar standing by in a shallow dish. Drop your pretzel (gently!) face-down in it and press it in evenly, then lift it out and place it face-up on the prepared baking tray. Congratulations! One down, 31 (or 23) left to go.

This is the time to preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Moving briskly along, make the remaining pretzels. Give the dish of sugar a little shake after each pretzel to level the sugar. If the dough gets crumbly, warm it in your hands for a moment or two before forming the rope, then just pinch it back together if they want to break. After a few you will get the knack of it

Bake the pretzels for 10 to 12 minutes, a minute or two longer if larger, and by larger I mean thicker. If you have just rolled them longer, then no. Let cool and store carefully in a tin in a cool, dark place. Can be frozen if made more than a few days in advance.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Spinach Dip.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Curry Roasted Squash

It doesn't get any simpler than this; perfect for a week night dinner if you can afford the wait for it to roast. You could have the squash cut up in the morning which would mean you just have to toss and roast it in the evening, and which would speed up the proceedings ever so slightly.

The big question is what kind of curry powder to use? I used my Madras blend, but Jamaican would work well too. In that case I would think you would need to add hot element for sure! But maybe that's just me. Malaysian is my other curry powder option. You'll note I'm not recommending buying curry powder any more. I used to like it just fine, but they ("they") have fiddled with the formula, and I haven't been able to find any I consider usable, never mind good, for a few years now.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

1/2 of a medium butternut squash (about 750 grams; 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a little hot cayenne or other chile powder, if indicated

Preheat the oven to 350°F. While it heats, cut the squash in half. Remove and discard the seeds and pulp. Peel the squash and cut it into largish bite-sized slices. Put them in a 9" x 13" shallow baking dish, or similar.

Toss the squash with the oil. Spread them out and sprinkle them with the seasonings, toss gently, and spread out again, as close to a single layer as you can get them.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until the squash is tender and browning a little at the edges. 

Last year at this time I made Ham & Leek Quiche.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Fruitcake Cookies

Fruitcake cookies are a popular Christmas cookie. In fact, Mom and I both chose the same day to make some Christmas cookies, and when we were done we went to do a cookie exchange... and we had both made a version of them. Here's mine.

As I so often do, I've cut back on sugar (but thanks to all the add-ins they still have lots) and upped the spicing. My nuts were hazelnuts, which I think are best if toasted for 10 minutes at 375°F then rubbed in a towel to remove as much as the skin as is reasonable. Other than that, what is listed below is what I put in, but it's quite flexible. As long as you keep the same proportions, you can add whatever dry/preserved fruit-type things you like. You can see my love of candied ginger shining through, and I think I'll make a batch at some point where I replace the raisins with chocolate chips. If I'm out of sherry, I've been known to use rum.

60 cookies
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Fruitcake Cookies

Mix the Fruit:
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup raisins
2 cups mixed chopped peel
1 cup chopped preserved ginger
1 cup slivered almonds OR other nuts of your choice
1/2 cup sherry

You will need to chop the ginger and possibly the nuts; otherwise, put them in a large mixing bowl and mix 'em, finishing up by pouring the sherry over them. I've taken to doing this the night before, except for the nuts, to give them a chance to really soak and to break up the work.

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
3 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon allspice berries, ground
3 or 4 pods (1/4 teaspoon) green cardamom, ground

Measure everything but the allspice and cardamom out into a smaller bowl and mix well. Grind the allspice and cardamom (remove and discard the papery green hulls) finely and add the bowl. Mix well.

Make the Cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Cream the butter in mixing bowl, and work in the sugar. Work until light and creamy. Break in the eggs, one at a time, and mix them in. It will separate but that's okay. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts.

Mix a little of the flour into the wet mixture, just to pull it together again. Dump the rest over the dried fruit along with any unabsorbed sherry and mix it in. Then begin mixing portions of the dried fruit and flour into the wet ingredients; say about a quarter at a time, until it is all in and well mixed.

This is a large bowl of dough, and ends up quite thick and sturdy. I find I have to stop mixing with a spoon and use my hands to get it to come together into a dough. If it really won't, you can add a few drops of milk to help work it together, but go very lightly with that and really, if you are mixing by hand it shouldn't be necessary.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 3 large baking trays with parchment paper.

Form the dough into large cookies - I used a quarter cup measuring cup to scoop out dough, then divided it into 4 equal cookies; a standard disher also works well. Roll them slightly in your palms to keep them neat. If possible, I suggest "tucking in" any bits of fruit that are sticking noticeably out of the dough. Space them out on prepared pans.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm and just showing some colour. Let cool and store in a tin in a cool, dark place. They do improve with a bit of sitting, and should keep for a couple of weeks.

Last year at this time I made Super Seedy Rye Crackers.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Sweet Potato Rotis

They look very pale, don't they? That's because I used a Georgia Jet sweet potato and they are pale. The more usual orange-fleshed sweet potatoes should yield oranger results. Soft, chewy, and tasty flatbreads either way though. I was really taken with these and plan to make them again soon.

I've gone into a lot of detail in the instructions. This is mostly a simple and flexible recipe, but it's bread and bread has its little ways. The amount of flour will fluctuate with the moistness of the sweet potato, and that will fluctuate with, hm, quite a number of factors. Don't worry about the amount of extra flour that gets absorbed; the important thing is to get the dough texture right then avoid having it stick to everything. I had a lifter to turn them and take them out of the pan, and I also used a thin metal pie-lifter to help get the rotis off the counter and to scrape up any sticky matter.

I've seen a number of flours called for to make these, and most recipes don't call for oil or baking powder, although I thought they would be a good idea. You can also add finely chopped herbs or spices, according to taste or availability.

6 rotis
30 minutes prep time once the sweet potato is cooked
which will admittedly take the better part of 1 1/2 hours

Sweet Potato Rotis

1 large sweet potato (1 cup when cooked and mashed)
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hard unbleached OR whole wheat flour; plus more to roll out
1 teaspoon baking powder
a little mild vegetable oil to cook

Bake the sweet potato until quite soft, then let cool. (Leftover? Why, soitenly!) Peel and mash the sweet potato thoroughly. Measure it out, and mix it in a smallish mixing bowl with the oil and salt.

Measure the flour and mix the baking powder into it. Stir it into the sweet potato and turn the mixture out onto a clean counter or board to work. Knead the dough, sprinkling both the dough and the board with flour as required, until you have a smooth, soft, but not excessively sticky dough. Cut it into 6 equal portions, and put a large skillet on to heat over medium-high heat.

Take one portion and pat it out as thin and round as is easy by hand, again sprinkling it and the board with flour as needed to prevent sticking. At this point, apply the rolling pin to roll it quite thin; as thin as you can get it, unless you are an old hand at making phyllo in which case, no; not that thin. Tortilla thickness, basically.

Brush the pan with oil - I pour a little into a small bowl and use a bit of paper towel to brush it - just a thin film. Carefully lay the rolled roti in the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until firm, dry, and lightly browned in spots. If you can't slide the lifter under it without it wanting to wrinkle up, it isn't done. They go pretty quickly though.

You should have just about enough time while the first roti cooks to roll out the second roti as above. Again, use regular sprinklings of flour to prevent sticking. I found it necessary to scrape the counter with a thin blade every second roti to prevent a faint build-up of dough from wreaking havoc. Brush the pan with another smear of oil every time you change rotis.

As the rotis cook, lay them on a plate and keep covered with a clean tea-towel. This will keep them steamy and a little warm, which helps keep them soft. Once they are all done, they can be served. If made in advance, they can be heated briefly in the skillet. Lay in two at a time and flip them when the bottom one is warm. They will both warm up nicely that way. Send them to the table wrapped in their towel.

Last year at this time I made Spumoni Cookies.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Creamy Turkey Soup with Wild Rice & Mushrooms

Okay, it's turkey time, or just about! I always think the best thing about turkey is the leftovers, and I know I am not alone in that. Here are some pretty deeelightful and soignée leftovers. Wild rice! Mushrooms! Cream! Hot dawg!

I mean, no hot dogs. C'mon; you know what I mean. Anyway, here is a lovely, easy (supposing you have cooked a turkey), and really quite substantial soup. Maybe some Stuffing Bread is all you need to make it a meal.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour assorted futzing to prepare rice and stock
1 hour to finish the soup

Creamy Turkey Soup with Wild Rice & Mushrooms

Advance Preparation - Cook the Wild Rice:
1/2 cup wild rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
prepare 6 cups turkey stock, and 1 to 2 cups cooked turkey

As ever, it's easiest to cook that wild rice in the rice cooker: put in rice, salt, and water and turn it on. Take it out once the machine turns off. Or, do it the hard way: put said ingredients in an appropriate pot and bring to a boil on the stove. As soon as it boils, turn it down to very low and cook until the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

This soup presupposes you have the remains of a cooked turkey, and have covered the carcass thereof with water, and added bay leaves and veggie scraps, and simmered until there was stock. Likewise, a reasonable amount of cooked turkey was set aside for this purpose. Failing that you had better buy a turkey thigh and put it in water and simmer as above, until you have stock and cooked turkey. Strain the stock, being careful that it's the bones, etc, that are disposed of, and dice your cooked turkey into soup-sized pieces. Keep them separately in the fridge until needed.

All of this should certainly be done the day before. 

Finish the Soup:
1 or 2 stalks of celery (1 cup finely diced celeriac)
1 large leek
200 grams (1/2 pound) mushrooms
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons turkey or bacon fat
3 tablespoons flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
2/3 cup sour cream

Put your pot of stock on to come up to a simmer again.

Wash, trim, and chop the celery. Wash, trim, and chop the leek. Clean, trim and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the fat in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Cook the celery and leeks in it until softened; about 5 minutes, with some stirring. Add the mushrooms and cook them down until reduced and softened, then add the garlic. Stir in well then sprinkle the flour and seasonings over the vegetables.

Mix that in and continue cooking until there are no signs of raw flour. Ladle in a bit of broth and mix it in to deglaze the pan (remove anything inclined to stick to it). Swish it all back into the pot of soup. Add the wild rice and the chopped turkey.

Simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the soup is slightly thickened. Add the sour cream and bring the soup back  up to steaming hot but do not let it simmer or it will curdle. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Rolled Spice Cookies.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Pistachio-Coconut Macaroons, with an Almond-Poppyseed Variation

I made these for my mother's 80th birthday party. Actually, I made them as a trial run first, and they disappeared so quickly and thoroughly that I had to make them again. I'm thinking I might make them again for Christmas too. Awfully good; yes.

They have a delightful combination of crispy-nutty and chewy textures. If you roll them in the icing sugar, they acquire a crackly outer texture, and are a little sweeter. Mom liked them better without the icing sugar, though. I liked them both about equally. I am sure other people will prefer the icing sugar...

To make the Almond-Poppyseed variation, replace the pistachios with 2 cups (200 grams) finely ground almonds, and the coconut with 1/2 cup (75 grams) of poppyseeds, which ideally should be ground. 

36 to 42 cookies
1 hour working time plus 1 or 2 hours chilling time

Pistachio-Coconut Macaroons, and Almond-Poppyseed Macaroons

2 cups (225 g) whole but shelled pistachios
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (100g) unsweetened dessicated coconut, very fine
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 to 1/3 cup icing sugar (optional)

Put the pistachios in a food processor or dry blender (Vitamix) and grind until fine and floury. You should do this in several batches. Add some of the 1/2 cup of sugar to each batch. Put the pistachios in a mixing bowl. Add the coconut, grinding it up as well if it is not quite fine and floury. Mix in the salt.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, adding the sugar and cream of tartar as you go. Gently fold the pistachio and coconut mixture into the egg whites. Cover the dough and refrigerate it for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 1 or 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Using a small disher or a tablespoon, scoop out cookies. You can leave them plain, or roll them in the icing sugar, whichever you prefer. Set them out on the baking tray, giving them some space. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until puffed and mostly set. They should have just a little colour on the bottom.

Let cool and store in a well-sealed tin in a cool spot.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Brussels Sprouts with Sour Cream & Horseradish

This idea turned up on a site I was reading where someone asked for Brussels sprout recipe suggestions. I thought it was a very good one and I have written it up as a recipe, but honestly; you cook the amount of Brussels sprouts you think you will eat, in the manner that seems good to you, then add appropriate amounts of sour cream and horseradish to taste.

I will chime in to say that this would be good on cabbage too, and I'd like to try it with cauliflower or broccoli. And as ever the advice to start by adding a little - especially of the horseradish - then assessing the situation and adding more as required applies here. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. That's my mantra. (Motto? Meme? Thing I say a lot, anyway.)

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

500 grams (1 pound) Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish or a bit more
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. You can cut a fairly deep "X" in the bottom of each, or chop them a bit coarsely. Mine were home-grown and so uneven in size there was nothing to but chop. It does assure even cooking, assuming you chop reasonably evenly.

Steam or boil the sprouts until done to your liking. For me, that's about 6 minutes. Your boiling may vary.

Drain them very well - press them a bit in fact - then toss them with the sour cream and the horseradish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I thought the horseradish would render those redundant, but in fact a little of each was a good idea. Transfer to a serving dish and, er, serve. We're done here.

Last year at this time I made Turkey Tourtière.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Broiled Mushrooms

Oh, so delicious! I would eat a vulgarly large portion - like, all of them - over polenta but I had not in fact made polenta and also had to share them with Mr. Ferdzy. Pity.

I bought black oyster mushrooms for this on a whim and they were delicious but I think button mushrooms or any other firm meaty but not too large mushroom would also work well.

Besides polenta I can see these going very well with steak, chicken, veal, or salmon. Yeah; meat. But for vegetarians (and everyone else), in addition to the polenta I can see tossing them with a little buttered pasta and serving them as a starter course in a fancy dinner. Or even on toast and serving them as bruschetta. Mmm...

2 to 4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Broiled Black Oyster Mushrooms

 Make the Sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme, oregano, or savory
OR 1/4 teaspoon dry rubbed thyme, oregano, or savory
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Put the butter in a small heat-proof bowl. Peel and mince the garlic, and add it. Wash, dry, and mince the herb of choice (if fresh) and add it, or just add it if using dry. Measure in the vinegar and soy sauce. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 20 to 40 seconds,  until the butter is melted. Or, put it in the oven as the broiler heats until the butter is melted. 

Finish the Mushrooms:
2 tablespoons cracker or bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
115 to 125 grams (1/4 pound) fresh mushrooms

For this small amount of crumbs it was easiest to just pound 2 fairly standard crackers with my mortar and pestle. You could bash 'em with a rolling pin too. Mix the crumbs with the cheese in a small bowl.

Clean and pick over the mushrooms, removing any tough stems or bad bits. Use oyster mushrooms, button mushroom, shiitake, or a mixture of mushrooms. If using shiitake, be generous with them as the stems are all tough and must be removed.

Arrange the top oven rack so that it is about 4" from the broiler. (For me, one slot down from the top.) Preheat the broiler.

Toss the mushrooms with the sauce in a shallow pan that can go under the broiler. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over them. Broil until done, about 3 to 6 minutes depending on the size of the mushrooms and the distance from the broiler. Watch them carefully after the first couple of minutes in other words; they can go pretty fast.

Last year at this time I made Leek, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Soup and Turkey Tourtière.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Honey, Lemon & Ginger Squash

When I had the idea for this I was a bit nervous. I was afraid it might turn out a bit too reminiscent of  my favourite winter cold treatment. I decided I would go ahead and try it; I really do love that combination of flavours.

I'm happy to report that it works very well as a dish. The flavours are intense, and I would not serve this with just anything - its fellow-dishes must be selected carefully. I can really see this with broiled salmon, but white fish or chicken would be good too. All fairly plainly cooked; this dish won't brook competition. Likewise a fairly plain green vegetable or simple salad would be the best choice; maybe with lemon juice as the acidic element in the dressing.

4 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Honey, Lemon & Ginger Squash

600 to 900 grams (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) butternut squash
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
the zest of 1 medium lemon
the juice of 1 medium lemon
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the butternut squash in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy bits from the seed cavity. Peel the squash and cut it into pieces for roasting; slices of about 1/2" thick and manageable with a fork. Put them in a shallow roasting pan that will hold them snugly in a single layer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the butter in a small pot or microwaveable bowl. Wash and dry the lemon and grate in the zest. Juice the lemon and add the lemon juice. Peel and grate the ginger and add it. Add the honey. Heat the mixture until the butter is melted, and toss the squash in it.

Roast the squash until it is tender and the marinade has been thickened and absorbed into a sauce. Stir the squash once or twice as it roasts. I found it took closer to an hour and a half than to an hour and a quarter, but that should be about the range.

Last year at this time I made Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing

Friday, 24 November 2017

Cabbage with Leeks & Mushrooms

I always think leeks are good enough to serve as the star of, if not the show, at least their own particular dish. There is no question, though, that they do extremely well as a supporting player. Here they are with cabbage and mushrooms, and very nice too.

Not too much to be said about this; it's a quick and easy vegetable side dish - the kind of thing that makes me very happy. 

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Cabbage with Leeks & Mushrooms

6 to 8 large button mushrooms
2 medium leeks
2 to 3 cups finely chopped cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms thickly; if the mushrooms are large, cut them across the middle the other way as well. Wash and trim the leeks, then wash them well again. Cut them once lengthwise then into slices across. Wash and trim the cabbage, and chop it finely.

Heat the butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and leeks, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the leeks brown. Once they begin to cook down a bit, add the cabbage and a quarter cup of the chicken stock; that is, half of it. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is cooked almost to your liking and the stock is absorbed or evaporated. Mix the starch into the remaining stock. Season the vegetables with the salt, pepper, and savory. Mix in the stock with the starch and cook, stirring constantly, for just a minute more until the sauce thickens. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Pear Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Spanish Beef & Turnip Stew

This is based on a recipe from 13th century Spain. As such, it is more "Moorish" than Spanish. It was made by Medieval Spanish Chef, which is where I first saw it. The Anonymous Andalusian Cook Book of the 13th Century is available on-line in translation, but I can't find this recipe there even though that is where it is supposed to have come from, so I have adapted this from Medieval Spanish Chef's version.

I used our lovely little Goldana turnips, which are probably fairly different from what was actually used. No complaints though; they're delicious. If you can't get them, I would suggest using rutabaga. I did not add the large quantity of puréed cilantro called for, as there is none right now. I did manage to rescue a "bouquet" of parsley before it sn*wed, so it was there to add a little colour. The spices should be as finely ground as you can get them. I did not do a good job and the texture of them was a bit distracting. I have laid them on with a much heavier hand than Medieval Spanish Chef did, and more vegetables too. I was very happy with the results. 

The original recipe called for "meat". It would certainly not have been pork, but beef, lamb, or goat would all be appropriate. Lamb and goat often come on the bone, and in that case I would use twice as much by weight.

4 servings
1 hour prep time

13th Century Spanish Beef & Turnip Stew

2 medium onions
500 grams (1 pound) boneless stewing beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground white pepper (black is okay)
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock (or water)
4 or 5 small turnips
OR 2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
1/4 cup finely minced or puréed cilantro, if available

Peel the onions and chop them coarsely. 

Check that your beef is trimmed of fat and gristle, and is in reasonably sized chunks. It should also be dry, so if it is very juicy pat it dry. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and brown the beef on both sides. Add the onions and mix in well. Season with the salt and pepper, taking into account the beef stock. Unsalted beef stock may require up to 3/4 teaspoon; commercial salted beef stock may not need any at all. Continue cooking for another few minutes until the onions are softened and slightly browned. Stir regularly. While they cook, grind the coriander and cumin seeds finely and add them.

Add the beef stock and bay leaves, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the turnips or rutabaga and cut into about 1" cubes. Cook them in a separate pot with about 1 cup of water until tender; about 10 minutes. Add the turnips, with or without their cooking water as you like. Let simmer together for another 10 minutes or so.

Like most stews, this is better made a day in advance and reheated before serving. There should not be a great deal of liquid left by the time you serve it.

Last year at this time I made "Chicken Soup" Pasta.