Friday, 30 May 2014

Spinach & Asparagus with Paneer

Well, we are about 3 weeks behind in getting things into the garden, so as usual for May there isn't much time to cook or post! Still, I have that big package of paneer in the fridge, and spinach and asparagus from the garden, and a ton of garlic left from last year to use here it goes, and very good too. You could serve this with rice, or pasta, or even on toast.

4 servings
1 hour prep time

Spinach & Asparagus with Paneer

1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 teaspoons coriander seed

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 bunch spinach (about 6 cups loosely packed)
250 grams ( 1/2 pound) asparagus
300 grams paneer
2 tablespoons mild vegtable oil
1 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch

Toast the cumin seed, coriander seed, and black peppercorns in a dry skillet until fragrant. Turn them into a dish to cool, then grind them. Mix them with the salt and Aleppo pepper and set aside.

Peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Wash the spinach, and pick it over, discarding any yellowed leaves or tough stems. Rinse again and drain it very well. Chop it roughly. Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Cut the paneer into bite-sized slices.

Use a little of the oil to grease a large, heavy skillet. Heat it over medium-high heat, then cook the paneer pieces for a few minutes on each side, until well browned. Remove them and set them aside.

Add the remaining oil (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) to the pan, and cook the asparagus until it just turns colour to a brighter green. Add the ginger, garlic, and spices, and mix in well, cooking for another minute or two. Add the very well drained spinach, and cook until it is completely wilted, turning it and mixing it to cook it evenly.

Mix the arrowroot into the yogurt, then mix it into the pan of vegetables. Mix in the paneer slices, and continue simmering and stirring occasionally very gently until everything is well amalgamated and looks done to your liking - at the very least, the cheese should be thoroughly hot again.

Last year at this time I made Poached Eggs & Asparagus on Grilled Cheese Toasts

Monday, 26 May 2014

Pasta with Green Onions & Cheese

Usually when I make pasta, I aim to get the sauce ready in about the same time that it takes to get a pot of water boiling and the pasta cooked. It's our fast, emergency dinner, after all! However, for this one I would get everything, or almost everything chopped up first before I even turned on the water - there's a lot of chopping here.

I really liked the mint in this. I have a big patch of mint and always think I should use it more than I do. I used paneer, since we went to Costco this week and I bought a big, big block of the stuff - so there will be more. 

2 to 3 servings
45 minutes prep time

Pasta with Green Onions & Cheese

4 cups finely chopped green onions
2 cups finely chopped spinach
1 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped green garlic
OR 3-4 cloves of garlic
250 grams (1/2 pound) dry pasta
300 grams (10 ounces) paneer, halloumi, or feta cheese
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon flaked Aleppo pepper

Wash, trim, and finely chop the green onions, spinach, mint, and parsley. Mince the green garlic, or peel and mince the garlic cloves. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Cut the cheese into bite-sized cubes; if you use feta cheese rinse and drain it well first.

When the pasta goes into the pot, heat  a large skillet, over medium-high heat. It should be lightly oiled, but just enough to keep the cheese from sticking. Add the paneer or halloumi cubes, and cook, turning after a few minutes, until lightly browned all over.

Add the remaining oil then add the green onions and cook them, stirring, until wilted. Add the spinach and mint, and continue cooking and stirring until they too are wilted. Add the garlic greens or garlic, and mix in well. Season with the salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the Aleppo or similar not too hot chile pepper - Korean pepper would be about right too. Continue to cook and stir the greens for the remaining few minutes until the pasta is done.

Drain the pasta, and add it to the pan of greens. Or, if it won't fit into the skillet, return it to the pot in which it was cook, and mix the greens into it. If you are using feta as your cheese, add it now. Either way, mix them until well combined, and serve it up.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Sorrel & Spinach Soup with Poached Eggs

Well, I have to admit this uses too damned many pots for a simple bowl of soup, but still, it's a very nice soup.

I am always so dubious when I pick my sorrel - it looks kind of tough and weedy, and the slugs have been at it. When you cook it, it turns kind of brownish, so it's best to mix it with spinach and/or onions as I did here, to keep the colour looking appetising. How can this be good? And yet it is! It's so sprightly, fresh and lemony, and tastes like spring in a bowl! I am on a mission to get people eating more sorrel. It's such an easy early spring green, and perennial too. It should be more widely available. But if you can't find it to buy, then maybe grow some yourself.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

2 large (450 grams; 1 pound) potatoes
4 cups packed fresh sorrel leaves
4 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
3 to 4 cups chopped green onions
4 to 6 spears of asparagus (optional)
4 to 6 small eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth or water
1 cup plain yogurt

Scrub the potatoes, and trim or peel them. Cut them into dice, and put them in a large pot with water to cover them generously.

Wash and pick over the sorrel and spinach. Soak them both in cold salted water if you think they may harbour insects. Drain them well and chop them roughly, keeping them separate. Clean and trim the green onions, and chop them roughly as well. Wash and trim the asparagus and cut each spear into 3 or 4 pieces, if you wish to garnish your soup with asparagus.

Bring the potatoes to a boil and boil them for 10 minutes. Break the eggs in gently with the potatoes to cook them to your liking - 3 to 4 minutes for a soft egg; 8 minutes for a hard egg, or somewhere in between. Throw the asparagus in to cook with the potatoes as well at the point where there are 2 to 4 minutes left of cooking, depending on how well-done you like your asparagus.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the green onions, and cook until wilted. Add the spinach and cook it until wilted. Mix well. Add the sorrel, and cook until it too is wilted.

Transfer the vegetables to a blender, and add the broth or water, and the yogurt. Blend until combined, but still retaining a little texture. Pour the soup back into the soup pot, and bring it back up to a simmer.

Lift the eggs and asparagus from the boiled potatoes, and set them aside. Drain the potatoes and add them to the soup; mash them in roughly if you like, or leave them in cubes. Serve up the soup, adding an egg and a few pieces of asparagus to the top of each bowl of soup.

Last year at this time I made Rhubarb Mousse Pie

Monday, 19 May 2014

Rhubarb - Orange Gelatine

It seems like the change from the dregs of the last year to the start of the next season happens in a twinkling. We are now picking rhubarb, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, green onions, chives, and sorrel from the garden. Or would be, if we had any time.

Dad has been a time-absorbing guest. He has a cowbell to summon aid, and it sounds at all hours of the night and day. Between his physical pain and his mental and emotional turmoil, we are all utterly exhausted. I'm typing this up as a Red Cross worker is here to help with his personal care. They come in for 20 minutes to half an hour twice a day, and they have seriously saved my sanity. On Tuesday morning he will go into the local nursing home and we look forward to being able to deal with other things in our lives - even his other disasters - and to visiting him as a pleasure again and not as a never-ending chore.

Meanwhile, this was a quick and easy dessert to make. The texture was more soft and pudding-like than jelly-like, but none the worse for that. Orange juice goes very well with rhubarb, sweetening and mellowing it.

6 servings
20 minutes prep time; 2 hours (at least) set time

Rhubarb - Orange Gelatine

4 cups diced raw rhubarb
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
another 1/2 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons granulated gelatine

Wash and trim the rhubarb, and cut it into short pieces. Put it in a large pot with 1 cup orange juice and the sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rhubarb disintegrates. Stir regularly.

Meanwhile, put the remaining orange juice into a quart bowl or mold. Sprinkle the gelatine evenly over it.

When the rhubarb is sufficiently cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Slowly stir the contents of the pot into the soaked gelatine in the bowl or jelly mold. Stir well to ensure the gelatine is completely dissolved.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then place it in the fridge until it is completely set; at least 2 hours, although overnight is best. Serve from the bowl, or unmold the gelatine by dipping the mold briefly into warm water to the brim (but don't get the jelly wet!) then flipping it onto a plate.

Last year at this time I made Carrot Soup with Dill & Chives, and The Strata of Montecristo.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I hope you can still find some local carrots. I have a bin full, because we dug our overwintered ones up just before everything went crazy.

These worked out really well. I often find things made with ground turkey can get awfully dry, but the toasted barley flour added a little depth to the flavour and kept them moist too. Serve them with mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice; we had ours with polenta and I really liked that a lot. 

6 servings
45 minutes prep time

1/2 cup barley flour
500 grams (1 pound) ground turkey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives or green onion
2 cups finely grated carrots
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 cups grated carrots (again!)
1 large onion
OPTIONAL 1/2 green or red pepper, OR a handful of mushrooms 
4 cups tomato sauce

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and put in the barley flour to toast. Stir it constantly until it is a light tan or buff colour. It will take a few minutes before anything starts to happen, and then it will toast quite quickly. As soon as it is a good even colour, dump it into a large mixing bowl right away to cool.

Add the ground turkey, break in the eggs, add the salt, oregano, paprika, chopped chives and finely grated carrots. Mix it all well, by hand or with a large wooden spoon, until thoroughly blended.

Form the mixture into 24 or 36 meatballs, putting them out on a large plate or a sheet of parchment paper as  you form them.

Grate the remaining carrots, and peel and chop the onion. Trim and chop the green or red pepper, or mushrooms, if you are using them. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs until they are evenly browned, turning them to achieve that. Remove them back to the plate or paper as they are browned. 

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Add the remaining grated carrots, and the chopped onion. Add the peppers or mushrooms if using. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened and slightly cooked down. Add the tomato sauce, then return the browned meatballs to the sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through - about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with polenta, rice, or pasta.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Oyster Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce

Here's a quick and simple little thing that came out of my experiments with the Steak and Mushroom Pie. This would make a great topping to steaks or chops, chicken or fish, tofu, rice or pasta. It's as fast and easy as can be, and once the mushrooms and garlic are prepared it will be cooked in under 5 minutes, so don't start cooking it until everything else is just about ready to go to the table.

Unlike this dish, life is pretty complicated around here at the moment. I'm fine; now it's Dad's partner who is having health problems. He's in the hospital with pneumonia and Guillain-Barré syndrome, so I was down at Dad's house for a week. Changes are coming to their lifestyle, ready or not - and unfortunately, they are mostly not ready. I begin a new career of herding cats, or at least Dad. Trevor is not going anywhere for a while. Unfortunately, I am a bad cat-herder, and Dad fell down stairs when I was supposed to be watching him. Nothing broken, but he is in a lot of pain. In short, posting is going to be intermittant around here again for a while.

2 servings
15 minutes prep time

200 grams (1/2 pound) oyster mushrooms
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Clean (but they should be quite clean) the mushrooms, and trim off the stems where they become tough and woody. Cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces if they are large. Peel and mince the garlic.

Just before you are ready to serve the rest of the meal, heat the butter in medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and stir them about and cook them for a minute or two. Add the garlic, and continue cooking and stirring for about 1 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, mix it in well, and continue cooking until the mushrooms look done to your liking. That will likely be just a minute or two more. That's it; serve them up!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Steak & Mushroom Pie

When I made Steak & Kidney Pie a couple weeks back, I thought I had better have a back-up, just in case somebody didn't eat kidneys. Somebody like Mr. Ferdzy, in fact. Sigh. So, I made a classic steak and mushroom pie to go with it. 

When I went to buy the mushrooms, my eyes were caught by some lovely oyster mushrooms. I have never really used them all that much for some reason, but I bought them, and liked them, and now I am on a tear! There's going to be more oyster mushroom recipes, is what I'm saying.

Even though oyster mushrooms really don't taste like oysters (I guess someone thought they looked a bit like them), oysters were a pretty traditional addition to steak pies back in the days when oysters were cheap and plentiful. Consequently, when it came time to add some seasonings to the pie, I thought oyster sauce would do very well, which it did!

6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Steak & Mushroom Pie

Make the Filling:
700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) round steak
450 grams (1 pound) oyster mushrooms
2 large shallots
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons savory
 freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 to 1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup tomato paste or thick tomato sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Cut the steak into bite-sized pieces, trimming off any bits of fat or gristle, and discarding any bone. Clean the mushrooms, and trim off the stems where they become tough and woody. If any are too large to be eaten in one piece, cut them up accordingly. Peel and chop the shallots, and peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the steak pieces on both sides, then add the mushrooms and continue cooking and mixing, until the mushrooms are softened and slightly browned as well. Add the shallots, and cook to soften them, then add the garlic.

Once the garlic has been in for a minute or two, add the flour, savory, and pepper. When they are sufficiently mixed in that no white can be seen from the flour, add 1 cup of the beef broth, the tomato paste, the vinegar, and the oyster sauce.

Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Add a little more broth if the mixture becomes too thick. Taste and add a little more salt or pepper, if you think it requires it.

Place the stewed beef mixture in a 10" pie plate, and spread it out evenly.

The stew can be made a day ahead, and the crust added and baked the next day if you like. In that case, keep it covered and refrigerated, and let it sit out for half an hour to warm a little before the crust goes on and it is baked.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the Crust: 
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

The butter should be very soft. Mix it with the oil and buttermilk. The butter can be in fairly large lumps.

Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour.

Mix the flour into the wet ingredients. Stir until everything is amalgamated. There should no longer be large lumps of butter, but small lumps or streaks are not only fine, but good.

Put the dough out on a piece of parchment or waxed paper a little larger than the pie plate, and roll out the dough until it will cover the pie plate.

When you are ready to cover the pie, lift the paper to the edge of the pie, and turn it over so the dough sits on top of it. Peel off the paper and discard it. Poke holes in the dough with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake the pie at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how warm (or not) it was when it went into the oven. The crust should be nicely browned and the filling hot and bubbling.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Egg Fu Yung

I have to say, I never order egg fu yung in a restaurant. If I'm in a Chinese (Canadian) restaurant, I'm always convinced there are much more interesting things to order. As a home-made dish though, this was good - really good! I'm going to make it a regular item in the rotation.

If, perchance, you don't wish to make the sauce, add a bit of salt to your eggs. Otherwise, - don't! Rice is the obvious thing to serve with this, but I thought it was a substantial enough meal without any. Of course, the two of us ate it all. I used 5 eggs for the two of us; to have it serve 4, add the extra egg and serve it with rice.

I had tofu to use up, but if you prefer it you could use a skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, likewise cut into smallish cubes and cooked ahead of the other ingredients. 

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Egg Fu Yung

Make the Sauce:
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Mix the arrowroot and water in a small bowl until well dissolved, then add the remaining ingredients, stirring after each addition. Set aside until needed.

Make the Egg Fu Yung:
200-225 grams (scant 1/2 pound) firm tofu
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
3 cups mung bean sprouts
3 to 4 green onions
1 to 2 cloves of garlic
OPTIONAL: 1/4 red or orange pepper,
1 stalk celery
OR 1 medium carrot
2 to 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
5 to 6 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the tofu into 1/2" to 3/4" cubes. Clean and quarter the mushrooms. Rinse and pick over the bean sprouts. Rinse, trim, and finely chop the green onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Optionally, chop up a quarter of a pepper, or clean and slice a stalk of celery, or peel and grate or julienne a medium carrot. Don't use all of these; one will be sufficient.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes, and cook them, turning occasionally, until they are lightly golden brown; this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Heat the pan on high now, and add the carrots, if using, along with a tablespoon of water, and cook, stirring around,  until the water is evaporated. Add the mushrooms, along with the celery or pepper is using, and continue cooking and stirring until the mushrooms are softened and slightly browned. Add the bean sprouts, and stir them in; continue cooking until they are just shiny and slightly wilted; about 1 minute. Next add the green onions, cooking again for just a minute or so. Finally, in goes the garlic and again, just mixed in and cooked for about a minute. Finally, add the tofu back into the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add a little more oil to the pan if you think the eggs will stick if added at this point.

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl, and add about a tablespoon of water to them. Pour them evenly over the pan of vegetables, season with a little pepper, and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until the eggs are set. For the last minute of cooking, turn the egg fu yung over if you can - ideally all of it at once, but just by the egg-lifterful if that's what you can do (raises hand.)

While the eggs are cooking, heat a very small skillet or pan with the sauce ingredients in it, until they come to a boil. Simmer until thickened and clear; just 1 or 2 minutes.

Serve the egg fu yung with rice, if you like, and with the sauce ladled over the top of it.

Last year at this time I made Potato & Sorrel Salad.