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.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Cheesy Brussels Sprout Bread Pudding

With all the eggs and cheese, this is really a main dish and not a side dish, unless you are into highly luxurious side dishes.  In fact it is really a complete meal in itself. I served it with a a sliced tomato which was more of a garnish than a salad, and that was fine.

I used a mixture of old Cheddar and smoked mozzarella, which happened to be on sale last week. However, this will be pretty flexible about the cheese as long as it has lots of flavour and works with the Brussels sprouts. Friulano would be good, or Havarti, or all kinds of things. I wouldn't normally recommend mozzarella as it doesn't have enough oomph, but smoked and mixed with Cheddar it was okay.

Sorry for the terrible picture. Alas, we have reached the time of year where if I make something for the evening, there isn't enough light to take a good picture. For some strange reason most of my Brussels sprouts pictures seem to suffer...

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 30 minutes prep time

Cheesy Brussels Sprout Bread Pudding

300 grams (10 ounces) Brussels sprouts
2 medium leeks
4 to 5 shallots
4 to 5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups finely cubed stale bread
2 1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons rubbed mint
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 grams (10 ounces) firm, strong cheese

Wash, trim and shred the Brussels sprouts. Wash, trim, and chop the leeks. Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the leeks and shallots. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Mix in the garlic and cook for a minute or so then mix in the Brussels sprouts. They should be well drained but with just a bit of moisture clinging to them. Mix them in and cook, stirring occasionally until well wilted down and bright green. Season with the salt and pepper. If they get too dry and look like scorching, add a tablespoon or so of water. Once done, remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil or butter an 8" x 10" shallow baking pan.

Cube the bread and put it in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and mix well, until the bread is completely saturated in it. Mix in the eggs and the seasonings.

Grate the cheese and set aside about 1/4 of it. Mix the remainder in with the bread, etc. Mix the vegetables in as well.

Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking pan and smooth it out. Sprinkle the set-aside cheese evenly over the top. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the pudding is firm and the cheese on top is lightly browned and bubbling. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Pumpkin French Toast.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Balkan Sour Vegetable Soup

It's another simple vegetable soup, with a little something sour to sharpen it up. Vinegar, yes; but tart yogurt or sour cream to give it a delicate tang. The egg yolk mellows it a bit. As usual with soups that have dairy products added at the end, you must be sure not to let it get too hot or it will curdle.

This is a lovely soup as a starter course, or it will pair up with a sandwich to make a very good lunch.

You can use whatever vegetables are in season. I had onions which had not died down properly, so I put in about the equivalent of one better onion, and added the chopped green tops with the cabbage. A little parsley would give the same nice touch of green if you had some.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes prep time

Balkan Sour Vegetable Soup

1 medium onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery OR 1/2 cup peeled diced celeriac
1 medium leek
1 medium carrot
1 medium potato
1 medium turnip OR 1 cup peeled diced rutabaga
1 tablespoon chicken or bacon fat, or mild vegetable oil
2 or 3 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups finely chopped cabbage

1/2 cup rich yogurt or sour cream
1 egg yolk

Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim and finely chop the celery. Wash, trim, and chop the leek. Peel and dice the carrot. Wash, trim, and dice the potato. Peel and dice the turnip or rutabaga.

Heat the fat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the leek, potato, turnip, and bay leaves, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until everything is softened and impregnated with the fat. Season with the salt, pepper, and savory as it cooks.

Add the stock and vinegar, and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes and turnip are just about tender. Add the cabbage and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Mix the yogurt or sour cream with the egg yolk. Thin it with a couple ladle-fulls of the soup, then mix it well into the soup. Turn off the heat, but let it stay on the stove for a couple of minutes.

Last year at this time I made Kohlrabies au Gratin.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cranberry Meringue Pie

I came across this quite old recipe for Bogberry Pudding and thought it looked interesting. Bogberries, of course, are cranberries. I was a little worried that it might be too much like cranberry sauce in a pie crust, but it wasn't at all. The spicing made it quite different and very appealing.

Since it called for egg yolks I decided to use the egg whites to make a meringue topping, which I think really contributed to the success of this dish. I was a bit dubious about it being thick enough with just egg yolks to thicken it, and rightly so as it turned out. I added some potato starch but not quite enough - I have called for twice as much as I actually used. You can see in the photo it did not set completely and was a bit runny. Part of that was because it needed more starch but I have to admit that at least part of the problem was that I did not wait long enough to cut it. The leftovers were set much better.

Apart from that minor problem, we really liked this. Mr Ferdzy is encouraging me to make it again soon, to be sure that I now have the starch amount exactly right. Because he is very concerned about that.

The flavour is quite intense and I suggest cutting it into 8 portions because of that.

6 to 8 servings
2 1/2 hours to make; 4 hours to overnight to cool

Cranberry Meringue Pie

Make the Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups soft unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup (about) buttermilk

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, then cut in the cold butter until the size of peas or smaller. Mix in the oil and buttermilk. Stir with a fork until well mixed then form it into a ball. If it is still too dry to form a cohesive ball, dribble in a little more buttermilk and mix again.

Wrap the dough loosely in parchment paper or a clean damp tea towel and set it aside while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. While the cranberry purée cools, roll out the dough on the parchment paper or a floured board, and use it to line a 9" pie plate. Flute the edges, and poke the crust all over with a fork. Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes until it looks dry all over. Set aside while you finish the filling, but leave the oven on.

Make the Filling: 
340 grams (11 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cup apple cider and/or cranberry juice
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon or orange
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a few scrapes of nutmeg
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sweet sherry
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons potato starch

Wash and pick over the cranberries and put them in a pot with the cider or juice and bring them to a simmer. While they simmer, grate in the orange or lemon zest and add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer the cranberries until all have popped and are quite soft, then press them through a sieve. Discard the skins and seeds which won't go through; there should be about a quarter cup of them.

Add the sugar and butter right away, stirring to dissolve them, but wait until the cranberry purée has cooled enough that it will not cook them to add the egg yolks. Measure the sherry and mix in the vanilla and potato starch. Mix this in with the cranberry purée. Pour it into the prepared pie crust and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the surface has puffed all over. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and let the pie cool slightly while you make the meringue.

Make the Meringue & Finish the Pie:
3 large egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Put the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler (or metal bowl that will fit over a pan of boiling water) and turn on the heat to medium-high. Give it 3 or 4 minutes to warm up, then begin beating it all with an electric mixer. Beat for about 5 or 6 minutes, until the egg whites are very light and begin to pile up behind the blades of the mixer as you beat them. Remove from the heat at once (using oven mitts!) and scrape out the meringue onto the top of the pie. Spread it over the pie from edge to edge, mounded slightly in the centre. Return the pie to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the meringue is set and just lightly browned.

The pie must be cooled completely before being cut; it is probably a good idea to make it the day before you plan to eat it. 

Last year at this time I made Roasted Beets & Pears.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Roasted Potatoes Manti Style

When we were in Turkey, we ate manti at various times. These are the most darling tiny dumplings, filled with meat. They exist to be delicious and to make clear that the labour of women isn't worth squat. Not too surprisingly people have come up with various "cheats" to make them, or in this case just serve potatoes with the sauces that go on manti and call it good. No argument from me! I love a good potato and the sauces are half the pleasure anyway, but a long long way from half the work.

My original source for this boiled then quickly sautéed the potatoes to give them a little colour. Roasting them takes longer but is even easier.

In Turkey I suspect these would be served noticeably warmer than room temperature but not exactly hot. I remember in one tiny restaurant we asked the proprietor if she could heat up our food before we ate it. She was plainly a bit baffled and suspicious - was she looking for the film crew to jump out and shout CANDID CAMERA, even? - but once she decided we were serious she did it for us. We remember it as one of the best meals on that trip just because it was hot. So go ahead and serve these hot if that's what you want! We foreigners are weird, what can I say?

2 to 4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Roasted Potatoes in the Style of Turkish Dumplings

Roast the Potatoes & Make the Yogurt Sauce:
750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup yogurt

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well and spread them in a shallow baking tray that holds them snugly, but in a single layer. I used my 8" x 10" lasagne pan. Toss them with the oil and sprinkle them with salt.

Preheat the oven to 375°F while the potatoes are boiling, and once they are drained, oiled, and salted put them in and roast for 1 hour. Stir at the half-way point.

To make the yogurt sauce, peel and mince the garlic very finely, and mix it with the yogurt. Set it aside in a cool spot (the fridge is fine but cover it unless you want everything in there to come out with garlic breath) until wanted.

Make the Tomato Sauce & Finish:
1 teaspoon rubbed dry mint
1 teaspoon rubbed dry savory OR thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup water

Mix the seasonings in a small bowl.

About 5 minutes before the potatoes are done, heat the butter and tomato paste in a very small skillet or saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let cook for just a minute or two then dump in the seasonings. Mix in well, and let them be absorbed. Begin thinning the sauce with water, a spoonful at a time and mixing it in well, until you have achieved a sauce that will dribble off the spoon nicely. Let it simmer for a minute more then remove it from the heat.

When the potatoes are done, warm the yogurt sauce a little - 20 seconds or so in the microwave should do it, or have it sitting on the back of the stove while you make the tomato sauce.

Drizzle the yogurt sauce over the potatoes, then drizzle the tomato sauce over. Serve at once or let cool slightly first in the true Turkish style.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Lentil, Carrot, & Parsley Salad

If there is anything in the garden that is still really thriving in tip-top condition, it's the parsley. We haven't had a hard freeze or even more than one really light freeze, and that one wasn't even a freeze, really; it was just a bit of snow that didn't last. Consequently, the parsley is bushier and perkier than it has been all summer. This won't last much longer though, I don't think!

The parsley will overwinter, of course. But next spring it will supply a few sprigs, then get down to the serious business of producing seeds, and the flavour and texture will suffer accordingly. Seeing that it took all summer to achieve its current state of magnificence, I couldn't say good-bye to it without using some of it in something.

This is a very simple salad, if a bit time-consuming. Most of that time, though, is just waiting for cooking to happen, so it isn't particularly a lot of work.

It should keep in the fridge for a day or two as well, although if you expect that to happen you may want to leave the parsley out of it and just add it in proportion to the bit that is expected to be eaten within a short period of time.

4 to 8 servings
1 hour prep time, plus 1 hour to cook the lentils

Lentil, Carrot, & Parsley Salad

Cook the Lentils:
1 cup dry brown or green lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves

You know the routine: put it all in the rice cooker and turn it on. Or, put them in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil, then reduce to as low a simmer as possible. Let cook until the water is absorbed and the lentils are tender; about 45 minutes. You will need to watch them closely at the end.

Let the lentils cool. They can be cooked up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge 'til needed.

Make the Salad:
6 to 8 shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium carrots
1 to 2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup (from 1/2 large) lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the grated zest of 1/4 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish or Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot

Peel the shallots and cut them in half lengthwise then in thin slices across. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook them, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden brown. If they show signs of browning much before then, reduce the heat.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots. Add them to the prepared lentils and mix well. Wash, dry, and finely chop the parsley, and mix it in. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

At about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking of the shallots, grate in the lemon zest. Just before the shallots are done, grind the cumin seed and add it to the shallots. Add the paprika to the shallots as well, and mix in. Let cook for just a minute or so, then mix the shallots in with the salad, along with all their cooking oil. Let the salad rest for 10 minutes or so to allow the shallots to cool before serving; it can also be made up to several hours ahead and kept refrigerated until just before serving time.

Last year at this time I made Pumpkin Waffles.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dad's Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad

I have been going through a couple of old scrapbooks that Dad put together starting in 1974. In them he wrote down recipes (or notes, at least) for things he had made, and collected magazine clippings of recipes that interested him. I see I was already sticking my oar in, as a number of things are in my handwriting, at least until I left home.

I don't imagine that the clippings got made often, if ever, but if it was written in by (his) hand he had made it. This one was made for a party in November of 1990; one of the later additions as he pretty much stopped cooking by the mid '90s.

This is just a simple variation on the classic Waldorf salad, but it's a good one. I'm sure he used a bottled dressing, but it doesn't take long to put together a home-made one, and hey! I have a very fine recipe.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time, including the dressing

Dad's Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad

1/2 recipe Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
8 or 12 lettuce leaves
2 large apples
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 stalks of celery
1/3 cup whole or chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

Make the dressing and set it aside.

Wash the lettuce and drain it very well. Arrange it divided on individual salad plates or lining a salad bowl, depending on how you are serving the salad.

Wash and peel the apples and cut them in quarters. Slice the quarters thinly, and toss them with the lemon juice.

Wash and trim the celery, and cut it in thin slices. Toss it with the apples.

Chop the hazelnuts roughly if they are whole, and mix them in with the apples and celery.

Mix in the salad dressing and arrange it over the lettuce leaves. Crumble the last bit of blue cheese over the salad(s) and perhaps sprinkle with a few reserved whole hazelnuts if you have them and are so inclined.

Last year at this time I made White Beans with Celery & Cream.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Onion Caraway Soup

Caraway soups are popular in central Europe, and range from the simple and almost medicinal, to the fairly complex. They are usually fairly light though, and do better as an introductory course than the main event.

Between the onions and the caraway this is a mild, almost sweet soup. Celery fills it out a bit, and as ever I like the toasted barley flour for adding a little colour and body to soup, along with another layer of flavour. You could thicken it with plain wheat flour though.

One recipe I read suggested cooking the caraway seeds in the butter for best flavour, which is what I did, but many recipes suggest keeping them in a spice-ball (tea-ball) so they can be taken out before the soup is served. It depends if you want flavour or refinement I guess... as ever, I went for flavour. I have to admit though, the last few tablespoons of soup in the pot were mostly caraway seeds, in spite of the fact that quite a lot were spooned up and eaten.

4 servings
1 1/2 hours prep time

Onion Caraway Soup

3 cups sliced onions
1 or 2 stalks celery (1 cup sliced)
4 tablespoons barley flour or unbleached wheat flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Peel and cut the onions in half from top to bottom. Cut in half again if they are large, then cut into slices to form half-moon shapes. Wash, trim, and chop the celery.

If using barley flour, toast it to the colour of a brown paper bag in a dry skillet - stir frequently. Turn it out on a plate to cool.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the caraway seeds, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, then the onions and celery. Cook for about half an hour to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are quite soft but not browned.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix it in well. Let it cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until well amalgamated with them. Slowly stir in the water or stock to form a lump-free soup. Simmer for another 15 or 20 minutes, stirring regularly, then season with the sherry and Worcestershire sauce. Adjust the seasonings generally, then serve. 

Last year at this time I made Carrot, Dried Tomato, & Herb Whole Wheat Biscuits. They would go well with this!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Trout & Spinach au gratin

This takes about 15 minutes longer than slapping some fish into an oiled pan and baking it, but comes across as much more sophisticated, never mind that it also solves the problem of what to have as a vegetable with it. We had ours with some Oven Baked Polenta, which was convenient because said oven was thus already on, but potatoes or rice would have rounded out the meal nicely too.  On the other hand, the polenta takes an hour to bake so I had a few minute breather after it went in then started preparing the fish. The timing works very well, is what I'm saying.

You could use a white-fleshed fish instead of the (pink fleshed) trout that I used, in which case I would be inclined to throw a few sliced mushrooms in to cook with shallots. You could do that anyway, I guess.

2 servings
50 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Trout & Spinach au gratin

Make the au gratin Topping:
1 stale roll (2 stale dinner rolls)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed savoury

Slice the roll(s) thinly in one direction then thinly across in the other direction. Crumble the bits up into a small mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until well distributed, then rub in the flour and seasonings. 

Finish the Dish:
3 or 4 shallots
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 to 8 cups loosely packed cleaned spinach leaves
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons flour
3/4 cup 10% cream
400 grams (scant pound) skinless, boneless trout or salmon fillet

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel and slice the shallots. If you have a casserole dish that can start on the stove then go to the oven, use that; other wise start them in a skillet and transfer to a shallow ovenproof dish at the appropriate time. Heat the butter in the pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened and translucent.

Meanwhile, shred the spinach somewhat coarsely. Once the shallots are ready, start adding it to the pan by handfuls, and stir it in until well wilted. (Transfer to ovenproof dish now.)

Mix the salt, pepper, and flour into the cream. Pour it over the spinach and shallots. You can leave the fish fillet whole or cut it into 4 or 5 equalish pieces, which will make it easier to arrange over the spinach; in any case arrange it over the spinach. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the fish. Bake at 350°F until the cream is bubbling around the edges and the crumb topping is lightly browned; about 30 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

German Leek Salad

This is a good thing to do if you are cooking leeks for some other purpose; do a few extra then set them aside for salad the next day.

Not too surprisingly this is a good thing to serve with typically meaty German dishes. I can really see it with pork, or duck. Turkey would be good too, though, or even salmon.

4 servings
30 minutes to cook the leeks
15 minutes to assemble the salad

German Leek Salad

6 to 8 medium leeks
2 tablespoons leek cooking water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim and wash the leeks. Put them in a shallow pan with water to just cover them, and bring them to a boil. Boil gently for 10 minutes, then allow to cool. Drain the leeks very well, but keep a small amount of the cooking liquid. This can be done up to a day ahead.

Mix the leek cooking water, vinegar, sour cream, mustard, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a small salad bowl.

Drain the leeks again - they can be gently pressed to extract excess liquid - then cut them into 1" slices. You will need a very sharp knife. Mix them into the salad dressing, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Blanquette de Veau and Pear & Apple Torte with Ginger & Cranberries; yes I have decided on a name for it.