Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Candied Ginger & Coconut Beets

This is a lovely, simple dish, if a little on the rich side. The final preparation to serve the dish is minimal; it's cooking the beets in the first place that takes the time. It can be done in advance though.

I have visions of cutting the beets with a tiny heart-shaped cookie cutter and serving this at Valentine's day, but I try to ruthlessly suppress the urge for such forays into twee-ness, so it is unlikely to happen. Still, this would be a good thing for Valentine's day.

On the other hand you will need to be a bit careful about what else is served with it. This is a dish that will not, in spite of - or perhaps because of - how sweet and charming it is, get along with many other dishes. We agreed plain chicken or fish with a green vegetable, or perhaps the other direction altogether - I think this would be surprisingly good with a nice curry.

I can see the cold leftovers being incorporated into a salad - tossed with hydroponic lettuce and sliced greenhouse strawberries, and tossed with light lemon vinaigrette. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
(final prep is about 20 minutes)

Candied Ginger & Coconut Beets

500 grams (1 pound; 3 or 4 medium) beets
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup coarse unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
2 to 3 tablespoons light cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash the beets and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring to a boil and boil steadily until tender; 40 minutes to an hour. Let cool. This can be done the day before.

Alternatively, wash them and wrap them in foil, and roast them at 375°F for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.

This can be done the day before.

Peel the beets and dice them. Meanwhile, put the butter into a medium-sized skillet with the dessicated coconut. Add the beets once they are prepared. Let everything cook together until hot through, stirring regularly - 5 to 10 minutes.

Chop the candied ginger and add it to the beets. Dribble in a little cream, stirring to coat the beets. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until the cream is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Lumpiang Hubad - Naked Springrolls.

Monday, 29 January 2018

8th Annual Seed Catalogue Review

I'm finding this year a big temptation on the seed ordering front! We are supposed to be cutting back and consolidating but I see sooo many new things I want to try. Mr Fredzy and I are just going to have to fight it out!

There are more seed companies listed here than ever before. I don't know that any of them are just hatched; it's more I managed to miss them before.

I'm not really seeing any distinctive new trends emerging, but the directions of the last few years continue. If anything, I am noticing a lot of herbs this year but I'm not sure if that's a trend or if I am just noticing them. My attention certainly does bounce around.

As ever, don't forget to check Seeds of Diversity's  Seed Catalogue Index if you are looking for something specific (and, in fact, if you are just browsing too).

Friday, 26 January 2018

Apples Baked in Lemon-Anise Custard

I'm not quite sure where the idea for this one came from except that I was reading a whole lot of old cook books again. I think I saw apples baked in custard somewhere, and lemon and anise used a flavouring somewhere else, and and had them meld in my mind. And in my baking pan too.

This was impressively lively and intense in flavour in spite of the fairly simple list of ingredients, and we enjoyed it very much. Another time I might omit the apples and pour the custard over bread, for a bread pudding. I have used this combination of flavours before, in Three Seed Cake, but the cake was a bit more subtle. Sometimes I like subtle and sometimes I like something like this, much more emphatic.

As I suspected the apples did take a fair bit longer to bake than the custard, so do get them going in advance. They should be starting to soften by the time you add the custard.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 40 minutes prep time

Apples Baked in Lemon-Anise Custard

Infuse the Milk:
1/2 cup maple syrup
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon anise seeds, bruised
1 1/2 cups milk or light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Measure all the above ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot and heat them over low heat until steaming; about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Prepare the Apples & Finish:
1 teaspoon butter
4 large apples
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour

 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Peel the apples, core them and slice them. Use the butter to grease an 8" x 10" shallow baking pan and arrange the apples over the bottom of it. Toss them with the lemon juice and sprinkle them with the sugar. Put the apples in the oven and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk in the flour. When the milk is cool enough not to set the eggs, strain it into the eggs. Press the debris to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard it - debris, not liquid. Whisk the milk into the eggs.

Pour the custard over the apples and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, until set. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Dutch Slavinken

This popular Dutch dish was apparently invented in 1952, by a butcher who made them up and sold them ready-to-cook. The name translates literally to lettuce-finch, but is supposed to be a contraction of slager's vink which is to say butcher's finch. All clear?

The dish itself is simply a fairly basic elongated meatball, wrapped in bacon and pan-fried. You can then use the drippings to make a quick gravy, or not, as you like. I'm putting this as an all-year-round dish, as I think it would do very well cooked on the grill. We did them the traditional pan-fried way and scoffed them down. Extras were frozen, and will make a couple of quick meals later on. This amount is about double the traditional recipe, but now that households are smaller than they used to be, good luck finding ground meats sold in a package much smaller than 500 grams. You used to be able to. On the other hand the frozen extras really will be handy.

6 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Dutch Slavinken

Make the Slavinken:
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup beef broth
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 large shallots
1/4 cup very finely minced parsley, if in season
500 grams lean ground beef
500 grams lean ground pork
1 large egg
1 teaspoon rubbed sage OR savory
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
12 to 16 slices of bacon, preferably fairly thin

Grate or grind the bread crumbs finely and soak them in the broth in a large mixing bowl for 10 minutes or so. Use this time to peel and mince the garlic and shallots, and mince the parsley if you have it. Add these seasonings to the bowl.

Add the ground beef and pork, break in the egg, and add the rest of the seasonings. Using your (clean) hands, mix everything together until thoroughly blended. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, and divide each portion into 3 or 4 smaller equal portions.

Shape each portion into a small log, about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, and wrap each one in the bacon, starting at one end and going in a spiral along the log. Repeat with the remaining portions and slices of bacon.

Wrap any Slavinken you don't intend to cook right away in plastic wrap, individually or in pairs, and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, with as much air squeezed out as possible. Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking (or move them there first thing in the morning for an evening meal.

Once they are thawed or for the ones you intend to eat at once, just proceed...

Cook the Slavinken and Make Gravy (Optional):
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

The ingredients above are in a proportion that assumes you are cooking 4 to 6 Slavinken. It is not necessary to make the pan gravy at all, in which case simply space them out in a hot skillet (over medium heat) and cook them for 3 or 4 minutes per side. Since they are logs, they don't really have sides, but assume 4 sides so a total of 12 to 16 minutes cooking. Let them rest 5 minutes before serving. Leave them in the pan to rest if you are not making gravy, but remove them to a serving dish if you are.

To make the gravy, mix the flour and mustard into the beef broth. Keep the pan in which the Slavinken were cooked over the heat when they are removed, and pour in the mixture at once. Stir constantly, and scrape up any browned bits from the pan. As soon as it thickens - just a couple of minutes - transfer it to a gravy boat and pass it with the Slavinken.

Last year at this time I made Papas (Patatas) Bravas.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Zweibelkuchen - German Onion Tart

Variations of this onion tart seem to be popular all over Germany (and beyond) and it runs the gamut from deep and quiche-like with a pastry crust, to thin and pizza-like with a yeast-raised crust to match. I've leaned harder in the direction of pizza, myself; with a yeast-raised dough and thinly spread topping.

The constants to this dish seem to be the onions (no duh), bacon, and sour cream custard, although vegetarians do make their own versions, omitting the bacon. Some mushrooms might make a good substitute.

I used a mixture of whole wheat and unbleached flour, which worked fine. Actually, I had a certain amount of cognitive pizza dissonance with this -it looks like pizza, it cuts like pizza, but then the crust is much richer and biscuit-like, and that eggy sour cream custard is like nothing you'll ever find on a pizza. Also caraway! Once I got over that, though I found it very good.

Some green salad or sautéed cabbage will make this a complete meal. 

6 to 8 servings
allow 2 hours for the crust - 30 minutes working
allow another 1 hour to finish - 30 minutes working
allow some time for it to cool

Zweibelkuchen - German Onion Tart

Make the Crust:
1 1/2 cups hard whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups hard unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg

Mix the flours with the salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Warm half the milk until it feels just warm, then add the yeast and let it sit in a warmish spot for 10 minutes, until foamy.

Warm the other half of the milk with the butter, until the butter is just melted. When it has cooled to room temperature, whisk in the egg, and the milk and yeast mixture.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the milk mixture. Stir to form a rough dough and turn it all out on a clean board or counter. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until you  have a smooth, elastic dough. Sprinkle the board with flour as required to keep it from sticking; it's okay to let the dough absorb a bit more if it needs it.

Put the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Let rise until doubled, about an hour to an hour and a half. 

Make the Filling & Bake:
250 grams (1/2 pound) bacon
900 grams  (2 pounds) yellow or pink cooking onions
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon caraway, fennel, OR cumin seeds
250 grams sour cream
4 large eggs
a good scrape of nutmeg

When the dough has almost doubled in size, chop the bacon fairly fine and fry it until on the crisp side. Lift out the bacon, leaving any fat in the pan.

While the bacon cooks, peel and slice the onions into rings, fairly wide (about 1/2 cm). When the bacon comes out, add the onions to the pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently but gently. The rings should separate but mostly stay whole. If necessary, add a little more bacon fat (if you have it) or oil to the pan to keep them from sticking.

When they are done, add them to the bacon, and season with the salt, pepper, and caraway. Toss to combine. The amount of salt will depend very much on how salty the bacon is, so check.

Whisk the sour cream with the eggs, and season with a bit of nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roll or pat the dough out to fit a large pizza pan or rectangular baking pan. Try to keep a bit of a rim of dough around the outside to keep the filling from running out - as you can see I was not really successful at that myself. Spread the onions and bacon evenly over it. Drizzle the sour cream and eggs evenly over the onions and bacon.

Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes, until the custard is set. Let cool to warm or room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Bean & Salsa Soup.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Sweet Potato, Lentil, & Feta Salad

I really hate making other peoples' recipes. Sure I will take inspiration from things I see out there, but then I want to get my own mitts all over it, and tweak it this way and that way, and make it mine.

Of course I have changed this but that has more with my inability to follow the bloody directions than with making it my own. This one is still Tesco's recipe. Yes, I said Tesco. English supermarket food, who would have thought!?

Mine wasn't as pretty because I am no food stylist and also there is no arugula (they are calling it rocket) here in January. Hence the sprouts, which were very nice. I would make this again in the spring once the arugula is up though, and use it then. Moreover our most productive sweet potato is Georgia Jet, which claims to be orange but which is in fact a muddy yellow at best. Fortunately it tastes just fine.

I served it all up between us and thought I would make the usual cheery claim that we ate it all, but in fact it is a mighty substantial salad and we gave up two-thirds of the way through. Even if you are serving 4 people with this you will not need to serve much else.

I thought it could have used just a touch more spice. Maybe a little cumin and coriander in with the roasted veg, or perhaps a little rosemary, but we did enjoy it very much as it was. They say 30 minutes to roast the vegetables; I say, ha-ha good luck with that.

3 to 4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Sweet Potato, Lentil, & Feta Salad

Cook the Lentils:
3/4 cup green or brown lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups water

Put it all in your rice-cooker; turn on; cook.

OR you can do it on the stove if you really must, but why? Get a rice-cooker already.

Put it all in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover; simmer very gently until cooked - about 45 minutes. Check water level regularly.

Roast the Vegetables:
2 medium-large sweet potatoes
2 medium carrots
1 large red or pink onion
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Start preheating the oven to 400°F.

Wash, trim, and cut the sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Peel and cut the carrots ditto; just a little smaller. Peel and sliver the onion.

Toss these in a 9" x 13" shallow roasting pan (large lasagne pan) with the oil and the seasonings. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once in the middle. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Finish the Salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
75 grams (3 ounces) feta cheese
1 cup (60 grams; 2 ounces) sprouts or other microgreens
OR arugula (rocket) 

Mix the still-warm lentils in with the still-warm roasted vegetables, and drizzle with the oil and vinegar. Toss well.

Crumble the feta cheese over the salad, and mix in gently. Wash and dry the sprouts well, chopping them a little if they are large. Pull them apart (if required) and mix them into the salad as well. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Parsnip & Carrot Kugel.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Carrot, Apple, & Belgian Endive Salad

There are some strong flavours in this elaborated version of the good old Waldorf salad. I lost the celery (it is long over, alas) and replaced it with carrot and Belgian endive. With the cranberries and nuts these make for a pretty intense interplay between sweet and bitter elements. I found I needed to add more salt than I would normally put in a salad of this size to balance them out.

The anise is an unusual touch. It's one of those spices I think should be used much more often than it is, but if you can't get it (or don't want it) a bit of fennel will substitute it reasonably well. Note that grated apples will be a fair bit juicier than chopped ones, and will likely need a little less sour cream but as ever, adjust the quantity you use to the exact volume of your ingredients and to your taste.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Carrot, Apple, & Belgian Endive Salad

2 medium carrots
1 large apple
1 or 2 large head Belgian endive
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts
1/4 to 1/3 cup sour cream
the juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon anise seed, finely ground

Wash, trim, and grate the carrots. You can peel the apple, or not. You can core and chop the apple, or grate it. If you choose to grate it, use the lower quantity of sour cream - you will need a bit more if you chop it. Put these in your salad bowl.

Wash, trim, and cut the endive in half lengthwise. If it has a pithy core, cut it out. Slice them thinly across the width and add to the salad.

Add the cranberries and nuts to the salad. Mix the sour cream with the lemon juice, and put it in. Season with salt, pepper, and the ground anise seed. Mix well.

Last year at this time I made Baked Potato Skins with Samosa Stuffing.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Chicken In Goat Cheese, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Sauce

It seems to me a sauce this rich and thick is calling out for noodles or rice to mop it up, but good crusty bread would work well too. Mashed potatoes, maybe.

This is a party-quality dish, but it goes together in week-night time. 

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Chicken In Goat Cheese, Mushroom, & Dried Tomato Sauce

Make the Sauce:
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
2 teaspoons rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
2 to 3 shallots
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch

Grind the rosemary a little if it is in coarse needles, and mix it with all the other seasonings (up to and including the black pepper) in a small bowl.

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and chop the shallots. These will be puréed so they need not be done too beautifully.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until lightly browned; stir frequently. Add the garlic and seasonings and cook for another minute or so. Add the dried tomatoes and immediately add the 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock.

Simmer for 10 minutes. While it simmers, mix the starch into the remaining chicken stock and set aside. Once the mixture has simmered for 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes. Process it in a food processor until fairly smooth. Leave it there until required.

Cook the Chicken & Finish:
150 grams button or other mushrooms
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts (600 grams; 1 1/2 scant pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
150 grams soft goat cheese (chevre)
3 to 4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces or smallish fingers.

Heat the butter in the same skillet in which the sauce was cooked, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and sear all over. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have browned and begin to let off some juice.

Scrape the sauce into the pan with the chicken and mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium, and crumble in the cheese. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the cheese has dissolved and the sauce is bubbling, and the chicken is cooked. Stir in some of the Parmesan, reserving a little to sprinkle on top. Mix in the remaining chicken stock and starch, and cook until thickened, just a minute or 2 more. Transfer chicken and sauce to a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over it.

Last year at this time I made Cheesy Double-Baked Acorn Squash.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Leek & Carrot Soup

Here is another soup, looking very plain, as soups so often do, but a particularly delicious combination.

This is actually a sauce I made quite early in the history of this blog, thinned into a soup. It is a bit more intensely flavoured as a sauce, but it is very good as a soup as well. I've added a bit more shallot and also some garlic to the soup, and I wonder about adding a little shot of sherry too next time. Maybe not though; we really liked it as it was. The leeks and carrots meld into a combination that is a little hard to pin down as one vegetable or the other, but which is just so tasty.

The proportion of leeks to carrots should be not quite equal; say about 60% leeks once chopped, compared to 40% chopped carrots.

I made this a good few days back, so I hope you can still get Ontario leeks, but they may be hard to find at this point. In theory they are available until February but in practice they seem pretty scarce by now. 

6 to 8 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Leek & Carrot Soup

1 large or 2 medium leeks
1 medium carrot
2 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet or hot paprika
salt & pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup sour cream

Wash and trim the leeks, and cut in thin slices. Rinse them again, and drain well. Peel and dice the carrot and the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, and add all the vegetables except the garlic. Cook gently over low heat, stirring regularly until the vegetables are fairly soft but not browned; about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with the garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper, and mix in well.

Add half of the chicken stock and simmer for a further 10 or 15 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor.

At this point you can proceed at once, or keep the soup covered and refrigerate until wanted.

Re-heat the soup and add the sour cream. The soup should be hot through, but do not let it boil.

Last year at this time I made the much heartier Hamburger Soup

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Beef Stuffed Onions in Barbecue Sauce

This is a popular camping dish, brought back indoors. By all means, make them to be wrapped in foil packets and cooked in the campfire during the appropriate season, but they do pretty well baked in the oven and served right now.

You will need something to soak up that sauce - rice, noodles, toast, potatoes... whatever seems right to you.

I have to say, barbecue sauce is pretty much a tour of the back of the fridge door. All that's missing is the mayonnaise, dill pickles and jam. I make no guarantees if you  decide to put those in too.

It took me an onion to get the knack of slicing and emptying them to be shells. The secret is to get the middle out first. Then you can push the layers inwards to get them apart. If you try to pull them outwards, they will want to break. If all else fails, cut the onions in half and "glue" them back together. Of course, then you will need to be very gentle during the turning and basting process. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Beef Stuffed Onions in Barbecue Sauce

Make the Barbecue Sauce:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
chile-garlic sauce to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup beef broth

Mix the ketchup, honey, mustard, paprika, and chile-garlic sauce in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Once they are well combined, stir in the vinegar, and then the beef broth. Set aside.

Make the Stuffed Onions:
1 cup finely crumbled fresh (stale!) bread crumbs
1/4 cup beef broth
500 grams (1 pound) ground beef
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo or other mildly hot chile
4 to 6 large (750 grams; 1 1/2 pounds) yellow cooking onions
1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil
the innards of 1 or 2 of the onions

Crumb the bread and put it in a larger mixing bowl; moisten it with the broth. Add the ground beef, the egg, and the seasonings.

Cut the top and bottom from one of the onions. Set it upright on the cutting board and cut through to the middle of the onion from top to bottom. Gently remove the middle third of the of the onion without breaking the outer layers. There should be 4 to 6 layers left. Gently separate them into 2 sets of onion shells of 2 or 3 layers each. Repeat with the remaining onions.

Put a pot of water on to boil. 

Take the centres from one or two onions, which are otherwise to be discarded from this recipe, and chop them finely. Heat the oil in a small skillet and cook the chopped onion until softened and translucent. Give them a few minutes to cool, then add them to the bowl of ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Meanwhile, blanch the onion shells for 2 minutes in the boiling water, then transfer them to a bowl of cold water until cool. Drain well. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Take the appropriate amount of meat filling and press it into each hollowed out onion shell. Some will be bigger than others; that's okay. Press the onion shells closed around the meat into their original shape. Place them in a roasting pan, which will hold them snugly in a single layer. Pour the barbecue sauce over them, wetting them all.

Cover the onions and bake for 30 minutes. Gently turn and baste them, then bake for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Gently turn and baste them, then remove the cover and bake for a final 30 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Creamy Spaghetti with Leeks & Smoked Salmon.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Chickpea & Cabbage Salad with Tahini - Za'atar Dressing

Usually when I make a "bean salad" it's a meal in itself. This one does better as a side salad, but if you wanted to eat it as a main course you can add the chickpeas with a heavier hand, by which I basically mean the whole tin instead of just half. What I would like to see it on-side with is some nice Falafels, but chicken, fish, or even a hamburger would be pretty good too.

The dressing is intense, so apply it carefully, and in the usual spirit that more can be added, but too much is too much. 

Let the dressing sit for 15 minutes before you adjust any seasonings. I put in 1/4 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper, tasted it once and declared it bland. I put in another 1/4 teaspoon and when I went to put it on the salad 20 minutes later it made my hair stand on end. Well not quite, and it was fine once it was diluted by the salad, but keep that in mind.

4 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Chickpea & Cabbage Salad with Tahini - Za'atar Dressing

Make the Dressing:
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon ground sumac
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted)
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons tahini
the finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1 large lemon
a little water

Measure the salt, pepper, herbs, Aleppo pepper, and sumac into a small mixing bowl. Toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Watch them carefully and shake or stir often. Add them to the bowl.

Peel and finely mince the garlic, and add it with the tahini. Grate in the lemon zest and mix well. Slowly stir in the lemon juice to keep a smooth paste. If it is very thick when done, thin it with a tablespoon or so of water - it should be about the texture of mayonnaise.

Make the Salad:
3 cups shredded cabbage, green and/or red
2 cups torn hydroponic lettuce (about 1/2 head)
1 medium-large carrot
1 to 2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas

Wash, trim and shred the cabbage. Wash, drain, and chop or tear up the lettuce. Peel and grate the carrot. Mix all these in a salad bowl with the chickpeas.

Toss the salad with some of the dressing - the salad should be thoroughly, evenly, but lightly coated.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Apple Praline Cake

Can you face a cake so soon after Christmas? This is one I have been fiddling around with off and on all fall. I first made it about 20 years ago and thought it was the best apple cake I  had ever had. When I tried it again, I had a lot of trouble with it. No matter how long I baked it, it came out soggy and "under done" in the middle, even when I baked it until the edges were positively dry. As I've posted this recipe, it calls for a lot longer baking time than the original but hopefully not long enough to over-do the edges.

The other thing I did this time was stop trying to use Cortland apples. Every attempt with Cortland apples failed  (which is really too bad because we bought a bushel of them). I'm pretty sure the apples I used that first time were Mutzu, but I have not seen them around lately and Mum suggested I try Royal Gala. I hated to buy more apples when I still have a vegetable drawer full of them, but I did it. This final cake has the Royal Gala apples in it, and I'm happy to report that although the middle had a faint hint of dampness, it was by no means soggy and I'm going to call this a win. However if anyone tries this with Mutzu or other apples I would really like to hear how they work out as this is plainly a recipe where the apples matter. I can say I would not use Macintosh, as they are well known for turning to complete mush when baked. Northern Spy is another one I would be willing to try, or maybe Empire.

8 to 12 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Apple Praline Cake

Make the Cake:
1 3/4 cups soft unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 to 6 medium apples, see notes above

Measure the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt.

Cream the butter and beat in the Sucanat. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract. It will look rather curdled. That's okay.

Line the bottom of an 8" springform pan with parchment paper, and butter the bottom and sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a bowl big enough to hold the apples. Peel, core, and slice the apples and toss them with the cinnamon sugar.

Mix the flour into the butter and eggs. It will form a fairly stiff dough, and pull away from the sides of the bowl into a ball. Scrape it all out into the prepared pan. Wet your hand in cold water and pat it out evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Stick the apple slices into the cake, standing upright. Start around the outer edge and work your way into the middle. It's probably best to leave a little spot in the middle that is apple-free, but in general the apple pieces can be pretty tightly packed. Press them down slightly to be an even height, but about 2/3 of apple will still be above the level of the cake. This too is okay.

Bake the cake for 1 hour. Check that it looks well set in the middle before proceeding; if necessary give it up to 10 minutes more baking.

Make the Praline Topping: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg

About 15 minutes before the cake has baked for 1 hour, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg.

When the cake is baked as described above, take it out of the oven but do not turn the oven off. Drizzle the topping all over the top of the cake. It will want to be in big glops, but even this is okay - it will spread and settle in the heat of the oven. Return the cake to the oven and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes,  until the topping is lightly browned all over.

Let the cake cool on a rack before attempting to remove it from the pan.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Coconut Creamed Cabbage

Here is a rich and creamy dish full of sprightly flavours. As usual with this kind of thing it is probably best with something a little on the plain side to allow it to shine without argument.

If you can't get the makrut lime leaves, leave them out - they are good but not vital to the dish. You may know them better by the term kaffir lime leaves; I do. But the name is quite offensive in many places, so there is a campaign on to change it. Makrut is the name of it in Thailand and seems to be the popular alternative choice.

Speaking of getting rid of offensive terms I do wish we in Ontario could have a campaign against the use of the term Huron (as in, Huron Indians). It's a lot more ingrained and will be harder to get rid of, but it needs to go. I always thought it was a native term until about 15 years ago when I discovered it is in fact French, and means a dirty person. Quite apart from the fact that 17th century Frenchmen had one hell of a nerve calling anyone else dirty, their actual name was the Wendat people. Let's use that.

Digression over - let's have some tasty cabbage! 

30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time
4 to 6 servings

Coconut Creamed Cabbage

2 cloves of garlic
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
4 to 6 cups finely shredded green or Savoy cabbage
1 medium carrot
1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 or 3 makrut lime leaves, dry or fresh
200 ml (1/2 tin) coconut milk

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the shallot. Peel and grate the ginger. Set them aside together in a small bowl.

Wash, trim, and shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrot.

 Heat the oil in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the garlic, shallot, and ginger and cook, stirring for just a minute or so. Add the cabbage and carrot and mix in well. Pour over 3 or 4 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring regularly, until it is evaporated. While it is cooking, add the salt, pepper, and makrut lime leaves.

When the water is gone - the cabbage should be done about halfway to your liking at this point - add the coconut milk. Continue to simmer and stir the cabbage for another 6 to 8 minutes until the coconut milk has thickened sufficiently to coat the cabbage.Serve at once.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Squash, Leek & Goat Cheese Galette

There are versions of this all over the place, probably all harking back to this one at Epicurious.  Hmm, I just now see they seasoned it with sage, which I didn't mention as a possibility mostly because most of my eaters are not big fans. (Dad hated it, but I don't have to worry about him any more.) But you could.

I also used my favourite biscuity crust, which may be a bit too crumbly for galette purposes and may explain the difficulties I had in forming it (see instructions). However it's still my favourite and I would rather eat it than a better-behaved one.

I'm also calling for all kinds of variations because this strikes me as extremely flexible, within the framework of squash-allium-cheese. In fact I am wondering about replacing the squash with sweet potato.

Pretty much all the recipes I looked at called for roasting the squash in advance. If you had some already roasted that would probably be ideal, but I had a chunk of raw squash I wanted to use up and I just grated it. It worked quite well so that is definitely a thing you can do. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including roasting the squash,
and you should let it cool a bit before serving

Squash, Leek & Goat Cheese Galette

Make the Pastry:
2 cups soft unbleached flour (I used half whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk

Measure the flour and put it in a mixing bowl; stir in the baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter (or grate it in, if it's cold). Mix in the oil and buttermilk. Mix enough to form a smooth, stiff dough. I find it easiest to dump it out onto a piece of parchment paper and work it a bit. It is pastry though, so the less you can work it the better. As soon as it has come together, wrap it up in the parchment and set it aside as you make the filling.

Make the Filling & Finish:
500 grams (a generous pound) peeled and diced butternut squash, roasted
OR 450 grams (1 pound) peeled and grated butternut squash
1 large leek
OR 2 large onions, OR 6 to 8 shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter OR mild vegetable  oil
1 teaspoon savory, thyme, OR basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
flour to roll pastry
150 grams chevre (soft goat cheese) OR other cheese to taste

This is a good way to use up chunks of already roasted squash, aka left-overs (or plan-overs). If you are starting with raw squash - which is what I did - peel and grate it.

Wash, trim, and thinly slice the leek or other alliums of your choice. Put the butter in a medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Gently cook the leeks (etc) until softened and reduced in volume; if leeks do not let them brown; if onions or shallots they can brown a bit. Season with the herb of your choice and the salt and pepper. Add the leeks(etc) to the squash and mix in.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll the pastry out - on its sheet of parchment - into a neat circle. Dust it with plenty of flour  Place it on a large baking try.

Pile the vegetables in the middle of the pastry, layering them with slices of your cheese. If you opt to use a firmer cheese than the chevre, it may make sense to grate it and mix it with the vegetables, although I would reserve a few slices to put on the top.

At this point, and to make a true galette, you should neatly fold the edges up over the filling, leaving a bit of a gap in the middle. I have not made galette before, because I looked at pictures of other people's beautifully formed pastry, and said "Uh huh."


When it looked like working about as well as I expected (i.e. not) I hastily transferred it, parchment and all, to a 10" pie plate. There I was able to fold up the edges acceptably if not beautifully, and therein I baked the pie galette. I suppose I could have transferred it back the baking tray to let it go properly flat. Whatever.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 350°F. If you use already roasted squash I suspect the lower figure is the one to aim for; raw squash will take the full hour.

Last year at this time I made Ground Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff.