Monday, 16 January 2017

Baked Potato Skins with Samosa Stuffing

Here's another dish made with left-over, or pre-baked if you prefer that term, vegetables. In this case it's potatoes. These are much simpler than real samosas; very easy to put together. I used a slightly heavy hand with the butter and did not regret it... after all, there's no pastry. So yummy! Everybody liked these a lot.

4 servings
1 hour to bake the potatoes
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time - to bake the second time

Baked Potato Skins with Samosa Stuffing

Bake the Potatoes:
4 medium-large baking (Russet) potatoes

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wash the potatoes, poke them a couple of times with a fork, and bake them until soft but still with structural integrity. This will likely take about an hour and can be done a day in advance. 

Mix the Spices:
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
3 pods green cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon salt

Toast the cumin, coriander, and fennel lightly in a dry skillet. Let them cool and grind them with the cardamom. (Remove the green papery husks once they are broken.) Mix the ground spices with the cayenne, turmeric and salt in a small dish. Set aside. 

Finish the Potatoes:
3 large shallots
1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen peas

Peel the shallots and chop them finely. Peel and mince the ginger and the garlic.

Cut the cooled potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a thin, sharpish spoon to within a quarter of an inch of the skins. Arrange the skins in a single layer in a snug baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Heat the butter in a large skillet, and cook the shallots in it gently until softened. Add the spices once they have cooked for a minute or two. While they cook, chop the scooped out potato flesh into smallish dice. Once it is chopped, add it to the pan with the shallots, and continue cooking, stirring frequently. Once the potatoes are hot through and slightly cooked down, add the garlic and ginger and mix in well; cook for another minute or two.

Turn off the heat and mix in the peas. Divide the potato mixture evenly between the prepared potato skins, mounding up a little to get it all in. Bake the potato skins for about 45 minutes, until hot through.

Last year at this time I made Beet, Carrot, & Pineapple Salad.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Cheesy Double-Baked Acorn Squash

If you are looking for acorn squash at this time of year you will likely need to go to a farmers market. They are not long-keeping squash, and their time is coming to an end. Of course, that means I have to use up the half-bushel still sitting in my laundry room...

Mine are those delightful little Gill's Golden Pippins which are actually not bad keepers for acorn squash. Any other variety is likely to supply squash about twice the size of these so one should be sufficient. You probably want to cut such a squash into 4 wedges to start with, for the first baking.

Also, this is an excellent thing to do with left-over, or at least planned-over squash. 

4 servings
1 hour to bake the squash
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time - to stuff and rebake

Cheesy Double-Baked Acorn Squash

2 small acorn squash
OR 1 medium acorn squash
a little mild vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons light cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon rosemary, ground
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the acorn squash in half from stem to stern, and scoop out the seeds. Save them - clean them, toss them with a little oil, season to taste and roast them for 20 to 30 minutes to eat as a little snack, but that has nothing to do with this recipe.

Ahem. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rub the cut surfaces of the squash with a little oil, and put them in a shallow baking dish. Roast until tender, about 1 hour. This can be done a day ahead.

When the squash are cool (enough to handle) return the oven to 375°F. Scoop out the flesh of the squash as close to the skin as you can get, but be VERY careful not to break through the skin. Mash the flesh thoroughly, and break in the eggs. Mix well. Mix in the cream and the seasonings, as well as the 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Divide the mixture evenly between the squash shells. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the squash. Bake them for 45 minutes, until hot and set, and the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Bubble & Squeak.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Hamburger Soup

Here is something I have not made for quite a while! Hamburger soup is a depression-era classic that was also a mainstay for me in my poor student days. Fortunately, in addition to being budget-friendly and easy, it's also very tasty. Bonus: it's made in one pot. I don't know why it fell off the roster for so long.

Like most soups made with pasta, leftovers don't keep well. I think next time I would make and divide the soup into 2 portions before I added the pasta, and then just add (half) the pasta as the portions are to be eaten.

This will serve 4, as a definite meal; you may like to serve it with some garlic bread or follow it with a baked pudding, but you may not wish to either. It depends, probably, on whether you are still a growing student who walks 10 miles a day or not.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Hamburger Soup

1 medium onion
1 cup finely chopped or grated peeled celeriac
OR 2 stalks of celery
1 medium carrot
6 to 8 white mushrooms
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
500 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
a little mild vegetable oil if needed
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
4 cups chopped tinned tomatoes
2 to 4 cups water
2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
1 teaspoon rubbed basil OR oregano
100 grams (4 ounces) small pasta

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and chop the celeriac or celery. Peel and dice the carrot. Clean and chop the mushrooms. Peel and mince the garlic (set it aside separately).

If your ground beef is very lean, put a tablespoon or so of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. If it isn't, put the beef into the soup pot and cook it until it renders a little fat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook, stirring regularly until the vegetables are softened and reduced a little in volume. Add the beef, if it is not in already, and cook it too, crumbling it into small chunks. Season the beef with salt and pepper as it cooks, and add the bay leaves. Mix in the mushrooms. Let this mixture simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are quite soft and the beef is cooked through and slightly browned. Add the garlic and let it cook in for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, being sure they are chopped into bite-sized pieces. You can use chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce in a pinch although I prefer something more like bits of tomato; whatever you have, or in the old days, whatever was on sale. Add water, the exact amount to depend on how soupy you would like your soup, and also how much water the pasta soaks up. Start with the smaller amount. You can add more later if you think it needs it.

When the soup is simmering again, add the basil or oregano and cabbage, and bring back up to a slow boil. Add the pasta, and cook for the amount of time suggested on the package for the pasta (or until it is in fact cooked as desired) and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Red Cabbage with Cranberries & Lemon

Monday, 9 January 2017

Creamy Spaghetti with Leeks & Smoked Salmon

I have to admit it's probably hard to find leeks at this time of year. Not for me - my fridge is absolutely full of them. It was also impressively full of Christmas leftovers, which is why I've been slow of the mark to get posting again. We had to eat some space in the fridge. Since the smoked salmon was one of the leftovers this is actually part of that process.

This was lovely; simple and delicious. I wish I had had a sprinkle of chives, but that's January for you. Even dried ones would do, though.

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Creamy Spaghetti with Leeks & Smoked Salmon

1 large or 2 small leeks
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
150 grams (5 ounces) spaghetti
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
salt to taste
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
100 grams (4 ounces) smoked salmon
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
minced chives or parsley, if available

Trim the leeks, and if they are sufficiently long cut them into 2 sections. Cut each section in half lengthwise, and cut each half into 3 or 4 sections to form long, thin pieces to mimic the shape of the spaghetti. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put a pot of salted water on for the spaghetti, and cook it - adding the leeks to the pot just before the spaghetti goes in - for HALF the suggested cooking time. Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a boil in another, larger, pot.

Cream the butter with the flour, pepper, salt, and lemon zest. Mix in the minced garlic. Cut the smoked salmon into thin strips.

When the spaghetti has cooked for half the suggested cooking time, drain the leeks and spaghetti and add them to the pot of chicken stock. Cook for the remaining suggested cooking time for the pasta.

Two minutes before the pasta is cooked, scrape the butter and flour mixture into the pot. Mix in until completely dissolved. Add the smoked salmon, cut into thin strips. When the timer goes off, mix in the heavy cream and lemon juice. Let simmer for just another minute more. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat the spaghetti. Serve sprinkled with a little minced chives or parsley, should they be available.

Last year at this time I made Gluten-Free Pan-Fried Chicken Fingers.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Ground Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff

The last time I made Beef Stroganov (or Stroganoff, if you prefer) it was a budget effort. Still, that was a definite party or special occasion dish. This on the other hand is frankly workaday. Versions of it made with canned mushroom soup abound, but there is no need to abrade your tongue with that much salty muck. I don't think this is any slower to do than the versions with canned soup, since it can still be made in about the time it takes to bring a pot of water to a boil and cook some noodles. You are probably just chopping a few more mushrooms and spending a little more for the ingredients - a good investment in good food.

Dill or Russian tarragon pickles often show up in Stroganoff, and a very good addition they are too. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Ground Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff

375 grams (12 ounces) egg noodles
2 medium onions
2 medium shallots
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
300 grams (10 ounces) button mushrooms
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
500 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
3 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 medium dill pickle, diced
3/4 cup sour cream

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the noodles. Cook them according to the package instructions.

As soon as the water is on the stove, peel and slice the onions. Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic, and set it aside. Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is melted add the onions and shallots, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes until you see some signs of browning. At this point, add the crumbled ground beef, the garlic, the salt and pepper, the mustard, and the thyme or savory. Mix in well, and cook until the ground beef is done. Stir regularly.

Sprinkle the mixture with the flour, mix in, and cook for another few minutes. Add the beef or chicken broth and simmer until thickened; about 5 minutes. Dice the dill pickle and add half of it. Mix in the sour cream.

Serve the Stroganoff tossed with the cooked, drained noodles, or on top of them. Garnish with the remainder of the dill pickle sprinkled over top.

Mixing the Stroganoff with the noodles keeps the noodles from sticking to each other but creates a homelier dish. Speaking of homely, I would be as inclined to serve this over toast just as much as noodles, and that might be a good way to serve any leftovers.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Apple & Rutabaga Soup

This was a very nice soup, with subtle but slightly surprising flavours. I used Empire apples but really, you can use whatever kind you like for this.

I just mashed mine and left it fairly rustic, but if you want something more suave, you can run it through the food processor with a teaspoon of starch, and reheat it until thickened. Just remember to remove the allspice and star anise first. 

4 servings
50 minutes prep time

Apple & Rutabaga Soup

2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
2 or 3 allspice berries
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small onion (1/2 cup chopped)
1 medium carrot (1/2 cup chopped)
1/2 cup peeled, chopped celeriac OR 1 stalk celery
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium apples (2 cups diced)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sherry (optional)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Peel and dice the rutabaga. Put it in a soup pot with the chicken stock, allspice, star anise, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil an simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, covered. If the chicken stock reduces too much, top it up with a bit of water.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Peel and chop the carrot. Peel and chop the celeriac, or trim and chop the celery.

Heat the butter in a mid-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, carrot, and celeriac until softened and reduced. While they cook, wash the apples and chop them into dice, discarding the cores. You may peel them or not as you like - I left mine on and did not find them distracting. Add them to the pan of vegetables when ready and cook until they too are softened and reduced in volume.

When the rutabaga has simmered for 25 to 30 minutes, add the vegetables from the pan. Season with the vinegar, sherry, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Remove the allspice and star anise, and mash well or purée before serving.

Last year at this time I made Celeriac Dip.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Beet, Apple & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad

I'm always such a sucker for a fancy presentation. There's no question, it can be very nice! I will also admit that such presentations usually take extra time and fiddling on the part of the cook, and tend to make things harder to eat. This one certainly fits that pattern.

The stacks consist of layers of firm (beets), crunchy (apples), and smooshy (cheese). This is a slightly tricky combination to cut, and I suggest you supply each diner with a steak knife to best approach these.

There is also a lot of "waste" from these, because you will have the trimmings from the stacks themselves, as well as bits of the apple and beets which were not suitable for cutting into 2" or larger rings. Don't throw that away! Chop it all up a bit and toss it together with any leftover cheese and marinade; put it back in the fridge and serve it in little scoops on mixed greens tomorrow as a more informal salad. Of course, if you can't be bothered with cutting your salad into fancy stacks at all, you could do that with the whole lot in the first place.

And now it's time to take a break for Christmas... we are up to 11 here this year so it will be a very full house and lots to do. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. I hope all my readers have good holidays, and best wishes to you all for a happy new year.  

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time
 - not including cooking or marinating the beets

Beet, Apple & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad

Cook & Marinate the Beets:
2 to 3 large beets (about 500 grams; 1 pound)
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
the juice of 1 large orange, minus 3 tablespoons set aside

Cook the beets in plenty of water to cover until tender; given that you want to use quite large beets expect it to take somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour. Drain and cool enough to handle. Peel them and slice them a scant 1/4" thick.

Mix the ground rosemary, orange zest and orange juice in a coverable container. Add the beet slices, gently moving them to be as covered in orange juice as possible. Cover them and set them aside for an hour. They can also be put in the refrigerator and kept until the next day.

Make the Salad:
150 grams (5 ounces) soft goat cheese (chèvre)
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rich milk or light cream
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 or 2 large apples (same diameter as the beets)
about 2 cups mixed salad greens
parsley or walnut halves to garnish

Put the goat cheese in a small mixing bowl, and mix in the orange juice and cream to make a light, spreadable but not runny mixture. Mix in the rosemary, orange juice, salt, and pepper.

Wash the apple(s) and cut into scant 1/4" slices. Cut out the cores.

Stack the slices of beet and apple, spreading about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture into a 2" circle in the middle of each slice as you go. I found 3 slices of beet with 2 slices of apple worked well. You should start and finish with a slice of beet - the apple is inclined to break when cut, so it's better inside. Don't spread cheese on the top slice.

Cut the finished stacks with a good sturdy, sharp, 2" biscuit cutter. Be sure to centre it well and press down gently and evenly. When the biscuit cutter has made it down to the cutting board all around, use a knife to trim away the cut off bits. Lift the stack, with the cutter still around the base, and press gently up to remove it from the cutter. Place it on a bed of salad greens, either on a serving platter or on individual serving dishes. Garnish with a sprig of parsley or a walnut half held in place with a dab of cheese. Repeat with the remaining slices of beet and apple, and the cheese.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies

Oh, here is that stray cookie recipe that almost got away! These are a traditional Italian cookie, and they are like glamorous and much more interesting Fig Newtons. The instructions are a bit detailed but really, they are probably easier than rolled and cut cookies. Make the filling, make the dough, wrap, slice, bake, eat. Perfect! They seem to be keeping pretty well too.

These are not the sweetest cookies ever. Some people brush a little glaze over them. I didn't but if you wanted to, just thin 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and about a tablespoon of milk. Brush it on with a pastry brush, adding a little more milk if it stiffens up before you can get it onto them - that's a hint; you should work quickly.

72 cookies
1 hour 30 minutes prep time - plus1 hour chill time

Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies

Make the Filling:
1 cup chopped figs
1 cup raisins
1 cup mixed candied peel
the finely grated zest of 1 large navel orange
the juice of 1 large navel orange (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup rum or brandy
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Trim the stems from the figs, and chop the figs. Put them in a pot with the remaining filling ingredients, and bring them to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed - check carefully during the last few minutes. Let cool.

Put the filling into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped and cohesive. Turn out into a bowl and set aside until needed.

Make the Dough:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups soft  (pastry) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract.

Mix the soda into the flour, then stir it into the butter and egg mixture. The dough will be quite stiff; at some point I find it easiest to abandon my spoon and mix the dough with my hands. Do not over-knead it, however. 

Wrap the dough in parchment or plastic and chill it for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough evenly into 3 parts. Roll out each section on parchment paper, to form a rectangle about the size of a piece of paper (8.5" x 11"). Trim and patch the dough to make it as neat a rectangle as possible. The dough is very putty-like, and will patch together nicely. When you have your rectangle, cut it in half across the longest way, to form 2 sections of about 4" x 11".

Divide the filling equally into 6 parts. Using wet hands, form one part into a long rope, the length of one of the pieces of dough, that is, 11". I do this on the parchment paper next to the rectangle of dough. I then use a thin metal icing spatula to loosen it and lift it onto the centre of the strip of dough. Use the spatula to loosen the dough from the parchment as well. Fold up the sides of the dough to form a tube around the filling, and transfer it to one of the prepared pans, seam-side down. Cut the filled tube of dough into 12 equal sections and spread them out, at least an inch apart in every direction.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, forming 6 filled tubes of dough in total. If the dough gets warm and sticky as you roll it out, you can sprinkle it and the rolling pin with a little icing sugar to help keep it dry. However, if it is too soft and warm for that to work you may need to return the dough to the fridge for a few minutes.

When you have half the cookies prepared and laid out on one of the baking sheets, bake them for 12 to 15 minutes until very lightly browned and firm. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Let cool and store in a tightly covered tin, in a cool spot.

Last year at this time I made Chai Honey Butter

Friday, 16 December 2016

Vegetarian Sausage

We always have a vegetarian at the table for Christmas dinner, so I always have to come up with at least one dish that is reasonably festive and suitable for them. And of course, everyone else will want to try it too.

Wheat gluten, sold as vital wheat gluten or gluten flour, is the protein part of wheat with the starch removed. In the old days you had to rinse it out yourself and it was a bit of a chore. Now, you can buy it ready to go. Like bread, the sausage mixture should be kneaded until the gluten forms strands and becomes smooth and a bit rubbery; it's these strands that give the result a meat-like texture. It can be hard to cook these gluten based mixtures so they aren't dry; a lot of recipes add beans, tofu, or vegetables to keep them moist. Good tasting yeast is often added because it has a distinctly chicken-like flavour, especially when combined with the right herbs.

It's both a nuisance and a benefit that these are best cooked in advance, then fried to reheat them and put a nice crisp finish on them. It makes them a bit of a project, but the final cooking is fast and easy and not too much work at the last moment.

It took me a couple of tries to get these satisfactory, and we have been enjoying them cut up into slices, fried and then put in tomato sauce, and served over pasta. I tried forming some into cutlets, which gives you lots of crispy surface but the soft, sausagey interior seems odd that way. We prefer them sausage shaped. Patties might be more convincing, and would be good on a bun.

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 40 minutes prep time - plus 15 minutes to fry
 - but not including 1 hour to soak the lentils

Vegetarian Sausage

1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
boiling water
1 cup grated carrot
2 cups grated (raw) beets
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup good tasting yeast
1/3 cup chick pea flour
4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup gluten flour

Put the red lentils, dried tomatoes, and salt into a glass or ceramic mixing bowl (which will hold the heat better than metal or plastic) and pour boiling water over them to cover generously. Cover the bowl and let sit for 1 hour.

Wash, peel, and trim the carrots and beets. Grate and measure them into the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients except the gluten flour, and process until well blended. Add the drained lentils and tomatoes, and process again. The mixture should be fairly smooth but with some texture to it; quite a bit like actual sausage meat.

Turn the mixture out into a mixing bowl, and stir the gluten flour in by hand. Turn the mixture out onto a clean, dry counter top or sheet of parchment and knead for a few minutes. It will be fairly sticky, but should form a soft but cohesive ball.

Cut the mixture into 8 to 12 equal portions. Form them into "sausages" and roll them up in pieces of parchment paper, folding over the ends to make a neat packet. Steam them for 40 to 45 minutes, until firm to the touch.

To serve, fry the sausages in oil until brown on all sides and serve hot.

These can be frozen, or will keep in the fridge for up to a week before being fried.

Last year at this time I made Fresh Raw Cranberry Orange Relish.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Leek & Spinach Dip

Leeks again! We had a fabulous harvest of them this year, and there are a couple of dozen in the fridge still waiting to be used. Of course, at this time of year the spinach will have to be frozen. I try not to call for too many frozen vegetables in my recipes because it seems like cheating, somehow; but the reality is that we use a lot of frozen vegetables over the winter. That's much of the purpose of having a very large garden.

This is a pretty classic dip, but none the worse for that. Onions are more usual, and you could replace the leek with a couple of medium ones, but the leek is to my mind both more subtle and more interesting. 

8 to 16 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Leek & Spinach Dip

4 - 6 cloves of garlic
1 large leek
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried dillweed
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
a good grind of black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
150 grams (5 ounces) cooked (frozen) spinach, thawed

Peel and mince the garlic. Trim the leek, chop it finely, rinse it and drain it very well. Heat the butter in a small skillet and cook the leek in it gently for 5 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Don't let it brown; it should just soften and cook down as it sizzles slightly. Add the garlic and dry spices for the last few minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, mix all the other ingredients except the spinach. Chop the spinach very finely - mince it , really - and add it as well.

Add the leeks and garlic, and mix the dip thoroughly. Spoon it into a serving bowl and keep chilled until ready to serve; allow at least an hour for the flavours to develop and meld. Serve with chips or crackers. It also makes a fine topping for baked potatoes.

Last year at this time I made Squash & Chevre Strata

Monday, 12 December 2016

Ham & Leek Quiche

Here is a very classic combination and one I really love. Ham, leeks, cheese, pastry... ohhhh yesssss. So good. And easy, and something that can be made in advance, and suitable for a work-day lunch or a Christmas buffet.

Much as I love the combination of ham and cheese, I am obliged to admit that this could be made suitable for vegetarians by leaving it out and replacing it with a cup of diced, fried mushrooms (2 cups when raw). 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
plus some time to cool

Ham & Leek Quiche

pastry for single 9" pie crust

3 cups sliced leeks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soft unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
a grating of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1 cup 10% cream
100 grams (4 ounces) old Cheddar cheese
100 grams (4 ounces) diced smoked ham
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Make your pastry, or use a frozen pie shell. Half of this one; or half of this one would work well. At any rate it should be baked at 450°F for 10 minutes once it has been rolled and fitted to the pie plate, and pricked with a fork to prevent bubbling. Let it cool slightly.

Wash and trim the leeks. Cut them once down the middle lengthwise, then into slices of about 1/4". Rinse them again and drain them very well.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and add the leeks once it is melted and beginning to bubble. Cook, stirring regularly, until quite soft but not browned; about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the flour for the last couple of minutes, mixing it in well until there are no signs of it left, other than a slight stickiness.

Preheat (or reduce) the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the eggs, cream, and seasonings together. Dice the Cheddar and the ham, and grate the Parmesan.

Layer the cooked leeks, the Cheddar and the ham in the prepared pie crust, adding two tablespoonfuls of the Parmesan to the middle. Slowly pour the egg and cream mixture over the leeks, ham, and cheese, allowing it to percolate through the the bottom as you go. Once it is all in, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top.

Bake for 40 minutes until puffed and slightly browned. Let cool to just warm or to room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes & Shallots

Friday, 9 December 2016

Super Seedy Rye Crackers

Another (upcoming) Christmas, another round of crackers. Yes I know I promised cookies, but you are getting crackers. You can't complain; they're SUPER SEEDY! And also delicious. My experience is that most crackers benefit from being made at least a week or 2 in advance of the time wanted, so that's something to keep in mind.

36 crackers
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

1 cup whole rye flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon caraway seed
3/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1/3 cup sunflower seed oil
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 to 2 teaspoon sea salt to top

Measure the rye flour, flax meal, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds into a mixing bowl. Measure the sunflower seeds and pepitas and chop them coarsely, either with a large knife on a cutting board or in a food processor. Add them to the mixing bowl, along with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Coarsely grind the caraway and cumin seeds and add them as well. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Drizzle the oil and water over the dry ingredients and mix well. It should form a stiff but cohesive dough; if necessary you can add another teaspoon or two of water.

Pat and roll the dough out into as thin and neat a rectangle as you can, on the parchment paper. Cut it with a pizza cutter into 36 crackers (or whatever number you like, really - 36 gives a fairly standard cracker size). Bake the crackers for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and dry-crisp. They will continue to harden as they cool. Break them apart and store them in an airtight tin until wanted.

Last year at this time I made Pad Thai.