Monday, 30 December 2019

Roasted Chick Pea & Carrot Salad

It's my favourite kind of dish: something that looks fancy, but is really no more difficult to put together than any other salad. The extra requirement is simply a little roasting time. This would be a good dish for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, when lots of people eat beans for good luck. They represent little coins, perhaps, and the carrot slices will reinforce that idea very well.

You could serve a simple protein dish with this salad, but some nice crusty bread would make it a meal in itself.

If you can only get pumpkin seeds that are already roasted and salted, don't add them in to the vegetables to be roasted, but put them in with the lettuce. I'd cut the salt back quite a bit too, in that case. 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Roasted Chick Pea & Carrot Salad

Roast the Vegetables:
1 540 ml (19 ounce) chick peas
250 grams (1/2 pound) medium sized but thin carrots
3 or 4 shallots
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons sunflower OR olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Rinse and drain the chick peas well. Scrub or peel the carrots, trim them, and cut them into slices not too much larger than the chick peas. Peel and sliver the shallots. Toss them all on a large baking tray with the raw pumpkin seeds and the oil.

Grind the cumin with the salt then mix in the pepper and Aleppo pepper. Sprinkle over the vegetables and toss again.

Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once in the middle, until done to your liking. Put the tray on a rack and let them cool for another 15 minutes.

Finish the Salad:
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
1 tablespoon sunflower OR olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
half a bunch of greenhouse lettuce OR 2 cups pea or sunflower greens
  OR 1/2 cup chopped parsley and other herbs

Juice the lemon and mix it with the oil and mustard while the vegetables are roasting. As they cool, mix the dressing in with them.

Wash and dry the lettuce, and chop it fairly finely. Toss it with the cooled vegetables and transfer everything to a serving platter. Serve at once.

Lettuce could be replaced with pea or sunflower micro-greens, or if making this in the spring, with parsley and a touch of chives, cilantro, dill, or mint.

Last year at this time I made Oyster Mushroom Chowder with Saffron

Friday, 27 December 2019

Pumpkin Seed & Bean Purée with Roasted Lamb Chops & Oil-Poached Garlic

I've always been a bit dismayed by recipes that combined to types of protein; beans and meat. I was raised in the era of nutritionists assuring everyone that while we need protein, too much is not good. Furthermore, I spent my early adulthood seriously lacking in money. Serving multiple types of protein at once not only seemed a bit profligate, but was generally beyond my means.

Now that I'm trying to eat more protein and fewer carbs I have to re-think this whole attitude. I'm trying to keep my meat consumption at about what it was before, since when it comes to meat, the too much is not good idea still holds a fair bit of water. Essentially that means upping my bean consumption.

Long story short, here's some lamb chops on a bean purée. Very good too, if a bit fancy for everyday. However, as usual, nothing difficult and lots that can be done in advance. The bean purée is essentially a hummus, and if you don't serve it all, the leftovers can be treated as such, and served with chips or crudités. I'm likely to make it again for just that purpose. The garlic and garlic oil too, will have other uses, which is good, since you will only use about 1/4 of them in this recipe. The oil, if put in a very clean jar should last well, but I would try to use the garlic up within a week or so. Keep refrigerated.

4 servings
to make Oil-Poached Garlic - 1 hour - 20 minutes prep time
to make Pumpkin Seed & Bean Purée - 15 minutes prep time,
    not including cooking beans or toasting pumpkin seeds
to roast the lamb chops - 25 minutes - 5 minutes prep time

Make the Oil Poached Garlic: 
3 to 4 heads of garlic
1 cup mild vegetable oil

Peel the garlic and trim the root ends off. Put them in the top of double boiler with the oil. Bring the double boiler up to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly so that it is boiling at a slow but steady clip. Cook the garlic for 45to 50 minutes, until soft but not mushy. The oil can show small streams of bubbles, but should not be hotter than that. Check that the water level does not drop too low.

Strain the garlic from the oil, and put each in suitable separate storage containers, as you will have a fair bit of each left over. 

Make the Pumpkin Seed & Bean Purée:
1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, toasted
4 to 6 oil-poached cloves of garlic
2 to 3 cloves raw garlic
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons garlic-flavoured oil (from poaching)
the juice of 1 large lemon
2 cups cooked white beans (1 cup raw)
salt if required

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet until lightly browned if they are not already roasted and salted, and let them cool on a plate.

Put the pumpkin seeds, cooked and raw garlic, paprika, pepper, and oil into a food processor and process until very finely chopped; puréed is what you are aiming for but I don't think you are going to achieve it quite yet. Stop and scrape the sides down several times. When the mixture is very fine, add the lemon juice and process some more.

When the lemon juice is in well and you cannot see any flecks of pumpkin seed, begin adding the white beans and blend thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

I used this right away and it was good, but we both agreed that the leftovers were better, so if you can make this from several hours to the day before, that will be good.

Roast the Lamb Chops:
8 (900 grams; 2 pounds) lamb chops
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Have your skillet or grill in the oven to pre-heat too. If using a roasting pan, put a little water in the bottom of it to prevent the drippings from smoking.

The lamb chops should be removed from the fridge to come to room temperature before cooking them.Season the chops on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the chops in the pre-heated cast iron skillet or roasting pan, on their edges with the fatty sides down. Cover loosely with foil. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil from the chops and continue roasting for another 5 to 7 minutes. Let sit in the pan for another 5 or 6 minutes to rest.

The beans should be heated while the lamb is in the oven; grease a shallow pan into which they will fit, and put it in the oven while the lamb cooks. The exact time will vary according to the depth of the pan and the temperature of the beans to start with. My beans were just warm and spread fairly shallow, and were hot within 10 minutes. Otherwise, they may take longer. It wouldn't hurt to cover them with foil too, and they will need a good stir once they come out as they will crust over a little.

Serve Up:
Put a good dollop (1/4) of the warm bean purée on each plate. Top with 2 of the cooked lamb chops. Slice or mince a clove of the poached garlic over each plate to garnish. Serve at once.  

Friday, 20 December 2019

Rye Spaetzle with Caraway

This was the final dish of a menu consisting of Broiled Muscovy Duck Breast, Braised Belgian Endive, and the spaetzle. It looks a little plain - it's noodles, basically - but I have to say this is the dish that is going to stick in my memory, and which I intend to make again regularly. I am late to discovering how fast and easily spaetzle can be made, and I regret it. All those wasted years! But now I know. It helped, I think, to have a colander with fairly large holes that work well for forming the little dumplings, but I have to admit I have purchased a spaetzle maker for the next batch. This is an unusual one, which doubles as a perforated pot lid.

The rye flour worked perfectly. The caraway seeds, in my opinion were what really made these special, and the tang of the buttermilk added to the joy.

Mr. Ferdzy must have really liked them too. I was planning various things to do with the leftovers - sautéed with vegetables and sprinkled with cheese; fried with bacon, put in vegetable soup as noodles - but the quantity of leftovers is just pitiful. I guess I could throw them in some soup but it hardly seems worth the effort. They may disappear as someone's midnight snack anyway.

And as is traditional around now, it's time to step away from the computer and go spend time with the family. I hope all my readers have happy holidays, and may we all have an excellent New Year.

4 to 6 servings
15 minutes prep time plus some wait time

Rye Spaetzle with Caraway

2 cups whole rye flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, OPTIONAL
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large chicken eggs OR 2 large duck eggs
about 1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Mix the flour, caraway seeds, and salt in a mixing bowl. Break in the eggs, and whisk about 1 cup of the buttermilk in with them, then stir it all together to form a smooth batter. Let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour if you can, before you cook the spaetzle, although it is not absolutely required.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Check the consistency of the batter - it should be like a thick pancake batter. I needed to add another 1/4 cup of buttermilk, but be prepared for it to vary slightly. When the water boils - which should be about 5 minutes before you are ready to serve dinner, because these little jobbies cook amazingly fast - transfer the batter to a colander (or spaetzle maker, if you have one) and press the batter through the colander using a spatula. Obviously, you want to hold the colander over the boiling water while the batter goes into it. Your third arm will come in extremely handy here - in this case attached to Mr. Ferdzy. Seriously, I am at a bit of a loss to see how this can be done by one person alone. I mean it could be, if you didn't mind a quarter of the batter all over the place, but I do.

Anyway, once all the batter is in, in little squiggles, or at least as much of it as you are going to get in, let it cook in the rapidly boiling water until they all float. This will be just about enough time to quickly wash the colander so you can use it to drain them - 3 or 4 minutes is all they will take. Serve 'em hot, with a pat of butter if nothing else, but creamy cheeses, gravy drenched meats, or saucy vegetables will all be appropriate ladled over them.

Last year at this time I made Curried Parsnips Roasted with Apples & Shallots and also Oslo Kringle.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Braised Belgian Endive in a Ginger Clementine Sauce

Clementines are not local, but they are certainly a familiar fruit of the season. They make a great sweet and tangy sauce for slightly bitter Belgian endives. Later in the winter you could use other oranges to supply the juice - most of those will be big enough that one will do.

This is a very quick and easy recipe, but it does require several minutes of very concentrated attention right at the end, as you cook the sauce down.

4 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

4 medium-large Belgian endives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 clementines
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Wash and trim the endives, and cut them in half. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it begins to sizzle, add the endive halves, round side down. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan to help cook them. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes then turn them over.

Meanwhile, juice the clementines. Leave the juice in the lemon juicer, but remove any seeds. Peel and grate the ginger and add it to the juice. Add the honey and soy sauce to the juice.

When the endives are turned over, pour in the clementine juice, etc. Continue to cook the endives over medium heat until quite tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer them to a serving dish using a slotted spoon, then turn up the heat and cook the remaining sauce in the pan for a few minutes until thickened. Watch it carefully; it can turn just a shade brown but that is the signal to remove it from the stove and pour it over the endives at once. Serve as soon as the sauce is put on.

Ha, ha! Oh look - last year at this time I made Endive, Walnut, Cranberry & Blue Cheese Salad.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Broiled Muscovy Duck Breast

I actually made this before I made the Braised Muscovy Duck that I posted a while back. Once I had the duck broken down and the stock cooking, I decided we should make a start on eating the duck that night. It was a big duck - just shy of 9 pounds - and I figured we might as well get going. I won't get into the details of cutting up the duck here; you can refer to the Braised Duck recipe.

My Mom came over to help us eat it, and there was still enough left over for a good serving. Muscovies are big ducks. They are not even the same species as other ducks, and their meat is very beef-like. However, the breast meat is still best served quite rare.

This is basically the technique from this recipe at Epicurious, although my duck breasts must have been almost twice the size of the ones they called for. They did need more time to cook, but not twice as long, because not all the increase (or perhaps even that much of it) was in the thickness.

Since I was serving it with the Rye Caraway Spaetzle and Braised Belgian Endive with Ginger-Clementine Sauce I felt there were already plenty of flavours going on, and it did not need a sauce. Duck generally goes with robust fruity flavours and acidity to help balance out the richness of the meat, or the drippings under the pan could be used to make gravy, although I just added them to the duck stock.

3 to 4 servings
30 minutes 10 minutes prep

Broiled Muscovy Duck Breast

1 breast from 1/2 of a 4 to 5 kilo (8 to 10 pound) Muscovy duck
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Take the duck breast from the refrigerator 20 minutes to half an hour before you cook it. About 5 minutes before you cook it, put enough water into the bottom of a broiler pan to cover it, and put it in the oven about 4" or 5" from the broiler (not that you will have much choice; hopefully this is the distance when using the top rack.) Preheat the broiler and pan.

Meanwhile, pat the duck breast dry with a paper towel and cut a diamond grid into the skin. You don't need to cut it completely through in every place, and you should avoid cutting into the meat as much as possible. The cuts should be about 1/2" apart.

When the broiler pan is hot remove it from the oven - I suggest you have some trivets set up to receive it as the odds are good your stove-top is fully occupied at this time - and place the prepared duck breast on it skin side down.

Cook the duck for 8 to 10 minutes under the broiler... make sure your fan is running on high. Move the pan to the trivets again and turn the duck breast over with a large spatula, checking that it is loosened completely before turning it. Season it generously with salt and pepper and return it to the oven for a further 8 to 10 minutes. Exact times will vary depending on how thick the duck breast is and how rare you like it. If you wanted it only just pink though, I would give it another 2 or 3 minutes on each side.

When the duck comes out of the oven after being cooked on both sides, cover it loosely with some foil and let it rest for 5 to 6 minutes before carving. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts Zeytinyagli.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Savory Leek & Dried Tomato Cheesecake in a Rye Crust

I'm on a rye kick (I think the leeks go without saying). Most of the bread I eat is now rye, and the more I have it the more I like it. It works quite well for pastry, although I can't see it going with everything. Savory applications are probably the best, and it worked very well with this cheesecake.

I made one large cheesecake and we ate it as our main course, but I can see this doing very well made into muffin-sized mini cheesecakes and used as an appetizer or as part of a holiday buffet. I got some mascarpone on half price which is what inspired me to make this, but I have to say that while it was delicious it was insanely rich. I think next time I would use ricotta. A combination of the 2 might be good, but then you would have leftovers of each. Either way a good crunchy green salad is the perfect thing to have with this, to balance out all the rich cheese and buttery rye crust.

6 to 16 servings
2 hours 30 minutes - 1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Savory Leek & Dried Tomato Cheesecake in a Rye Crust

Make the Crust:
1 1/2 cups whole (dark) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
6 or 7 tablespoons ice-cold water

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in the salt and baking powder. Grate in the butter. I drop the butter into the flour to coat it before I start, and repeat every time I get about a quarter of it grated. Stir the grated butter gently into the flour each time. Once all the butter is in, cut it in some more with a pastry cutter until it is in small pea-sized bits.

Add about 5 tablespoons of the water and stir it in with a fork. Add a little more water as needed until you can work the mixture into a smooth, fairly dry dough. Try not to add too much water, in other words. Once the mixture is in a smooth ball, put it back in the bowl and cover it with a cloth. Let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Line the bottom of a 9" spring-form pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan (don't put it into the ring yet). Let it be a little thicker in the inch around the outside. Then, put on the ring and close the clip. Press the extra dough around the edges up the sides a little, about half an inch or so. Make sure the dough is even, then prick it all over with a fork. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes at 375°F until the dough is dry and slightly puffed.

This can be done in advance. If you are continuing right away, reduce the oven to 325°F.

Make the Filling & Bake the Cheesecake:
1/2 cup dried tomatoes
3 large leeks (3 cups when sliced)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few grates of nutmeg
2 large eggs
475 grams (1 tub) mascarpone OR ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons rich milk, light cream, buttermilk, OR yogurt
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put the dried tomatoes into a sturdy bowl and cover them with boiling water. Cover the bowl and let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain them well. Chop them up if they are too large - they should be about 1/2" in any direction at most.

Trim the leeks, discarding the roots and dark green parts of the leaves. Cut each leek in half lengthwise, then in short slices across. Put them in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly. Drain well.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the well-drained leeks and cook them for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. They should soften up quite a lot, but not be permitted to get brown.

Heat the oven to 325°F, if it is not there already. 

Mix the leeks and tomatoes in a mixing bowl. When they are cool enough that they will not cook them, break in the eggs and mix well. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the soft cheese  about 1/3 at a time, and mix it in well. Mix in the cream (or whatever) and the grated Parmesan.

Scrape the mixture 0nto the baked crust. Spread it out evenly. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 10 or 15 minutes until lightly browned and firm in the middle. Let it cool. Serve barely warm or at room temperature. If made in advance and refrigerated, it should be brought back to room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Matcha-White Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Christmas is Coming

Christmas is coming! The geese are as fat as they are going to get, I imagine, and more to the point the turkeys are too. I thought I would round up links to some holiday-appropriate dishes (cooookkkiiieeesss) most of which I am not going to make this year, since we will be going to Windsor in accordance with our new custom. But maybe you could! There's a ton more things that are appropriate for holiday fare that I couldn't squeeze in here, so don't forget to check the side headings. Also, you will find most of my recipes organized as photos at my Pinterest board.

Appetizers and Other Tidbits:

Louise's Emergency Salsa Dip

It may have been born during an "emergency" but it's fast, and it's easy,  and it uses things you may already have, so now it's a regular feature.

Carrot Dip or Spread

An early example of the now ubiquitous vegetable based "hummus" dips, and as such a little healthier than some holiday fare.

Sunflower Vegetable Paté

I've been leaving out the potato for a little chick pea flour and seasoning it with poultry seasoning to make a low-carb stuffing (dressing) substitute. But it's really good in its original form, too!

Soups & Salads:

Curried Roasted Parsnip & Apple Soup

You will need to make the curry powder for this, since it is now next to impossible to buy a decent one, but the link is there and this soup is faaaaabulous!

Cream of Rutabaga Soup

Rutabaga...? you say; and I say, YES! It makes a really good soup! A traditional winter vegetable, and not too heavy to start a big holiday meal.

Spinach, Avocado, & Mango Salad

Not very local or seasonal but once in a while it's good to splash out a bit... and this salad is what I consider to be the platonic ideal of salads.

Strawberry Cucumber Salad

I made this in early summer, but now strawberries, cucumbers, and lettuce are all available in the winter from greenhouses, making this a rare salad that can be made from local produce in December.

Main Events:

Vegan "Turkey" Roast

Turkey for people who don't eat turkey, and maybe even for people who do eat turkey.

Duck Terrine Roasted in the Duck Skin

A little time consuming, but an extremely good way to make a small duck go further, and really tasty too.

Braised Turkey

A better way to cook turkey for best quality light AND dark meat. Most of the carving is done in advance, too, for less stress at serving time. 

Roasting a Stuffed Free-Range Turkey

Which cooks a little differently than the factory farmed ones, something to be aware of if that's what you get.

Side Dishes:

Brussels Sprouts au gratin

A special treatment for a special treat. I have to say, I really love Brussels sprouts cooked this way.

Brussels Sprouts, Leeks & Carrots

If you are looking for a lighter treatment for the sprouts, this one is an excellent choice.

Braised Red Cabbage & Onion with Goat Cheese

Red cabbage is a must if you have duck, and even if you don't this is an amazing way to serve red cabbage. Make more than you think anyone will eat, because they will.

Rum & Raisin Sweet Potatoes

A dish that plays up the sweetness of sweet potatoes, without resorting to *gag* marshmallows.

Wild Rice Pilaf

A slightly luxurious classic; the perfect combination for holidays.

Cakes & Puddings:

Carrot Pudding - An Old Canadian Recipe

Many people have fond memories of this once ubiquitous pudding. It seems to be having something of a revival, and why not? It's good! Don't forget the Hard Sauce!

Christmas Plum Pudding

This is a more classic Plum Pudding, but if you are going to have it you had better get cracking. Don't forget the Hard Sauce!

Light Fruitcake:

Can't have Christmas without fruitcake! This is the traditional family version, i.e. I think it came out of a Better Homes & Gardens cook books from 1960 (wedding present to my parents).


Oh how I love this stuff! I think it's off the table for me now, though. Have some for me.

Cookies & Bars:

Rolled Spice Cookies (Lebkuchen, really)

My favourite cookie of all time? Could be! They get better and better the longer they sit, so make them now! Just the thing if you are sending cookies to someone for a present.


These are also realllly good, and they are a particularly good cookie to make with children, because the more the dough is handled the better the outcome. No eggs or dairy makes them vegan, too.

Friesian Thumbs

Another rolled, spiced cookie. I do love them! All of these are good keepers. I have lots more cookies suitable for Christmas so maybe check out my Pinterest board.

Rum Balls Made with Cake Crumbs

The ultimate rum balls, so far as I am concerned. Yes, you have to make the cake first, but a nice cocoa sponge cake is a good thing to have in your repertoire too.

Aunt Alethea's FAMOUS Squares

The ultimate baked square, full of candied ginger and dates. More bars and squares at my Pinterest board.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Leek & Oyster Mushroom Lasagne

I think I'm on a bit of a lasagne kick. There is a lot of filling in proportion to the pasta which is a good thing on several levels, as far as I am concerned. And oh, look! It's leeks and mushrooms; two of my favourite things. (And pasta. And creamy cheese. I mean. This is a winner.) Admittedly it's also a bit luxurious, but after all, there are a number of holidays coming up, for which this would be very suitable.

8 servings
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Leek & Oyster Mushroom Lasagne

Prepare the Vegetables:
3 large leeks
450 grams (1 pound) oyster mushrooms
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons rubbed thyme OR savory

Trim and wash the leeks, and cut in half lengthwise. Cut into slices, rinse, and drain well. Trim the oyster mushrooms - they should need very little; they may be just a little woody around the roots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Put half the butter in a large skillet and heat it over medium heat until melted and bubbling. Add the drained leeks and cook, stirring regularly, until they are softened and reduced in volume but do not let them brown. Add the garlic, mix in and cook for another minute, then transfer to a bowl.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet and add the mushrooms. They can get a little hotter and  brown a little, to which end stir them regularly but let them sit long enough to brown before turning them. Sprinkle them with the salt and seasoning. When they have softened and browned, but are not thoroughly cooked, add them to the leeks and mix them in.

Make the White Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups whole milk OR light cream

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and seasonings and mix them in well. When there is no visible flour and everything is well amalgamated start whisking in the milk, a little at a time. Add more as the sauce thickens. When it is all in and the mixture is smooth and has thickened remove it from the heat.

Assemble & Bake the Lasagne:
650 grams (1 1/2 pounds) ricotta cheese
250 grams (1/2 pound) mozzarella cheese, grated
about 12 lasagne noodles
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Grate the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Spoon about 1/4 of the white sauce into a  9" x 13" shallow baking (lasagne) pan. Lay 4 lasagne noodles (or in fact, enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a continuous single layer) over it. Spread them with 1/4 of the ricotta cheese then 1/3 of the vegetables. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the grated mozzarella.

Repeat twice with another layer of noodles, white sauce, ricotta, vegetables, and mozzarella in that order. Finish off by spreading the final 1/4 of the white sauce and ricotta cheese over the top of the lasagne. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top. Cover the lasagne loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes at 375°F. Remove the foil and bake for a further 40 to 50 minutes until it is well browned and bubbling. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Celeriac Soup

Friday, 6 December 2019

Flourless Sweet Potato & Chocolate Cake

This isn't exactly a cake. It's a bit too solid and pudding-y, but it's round and it cuts and it's full of chocolate. It's a bit like sweet potato pone meets that famous flourless chocolate cake from the '80s. Definitely delicious, and I'll take it.

As is now usual, I've kept the sugar down as much as I think reasonably possible. You could add more, I'm sure, although it seemed sweet enough for me, what with the sweet potatoes as well as the sugar. Mind you, I have definitely adjusted to having things much less sweet than I used to.

I used half sugar and half erythritol-monkfruit blend for the sugar. I've been experimenting a bit with similar artificial sweeteners, but when they run out I think I will just go back to using sugar. From my reading, it seems that although they have no calories, they still affect your blood sugar as if you had eaten sugar, and that's what leads to weight gain and diabetes, more than the actual calories. This would certainly explain why the widespread availability of artificial sweeteners has done nothing to prevent these things.

But enough about that! Have some marvelous, delicious, healthy cake! 

12 servings
1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to roast the potatoes
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time to make the cake

Roast & Mash the Sweet Potatoes:
1 kilogram (2 1/4 pounds; 3 or 4 large) sweet potatoes

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wash the sweet potatoes and poke them in several places with a fork. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, until soft. Let cool.

Peel and mash the sweet potatoes very thoroughly, discarding the skins. For best results press them through a coarse sieve, potato ricer, or food mill.

This can be done up to a day in advance, and the sweet potato purée covered and kept refrigerated until needed.

Make the Cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
125 grams (1/4 pound) unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rum OR orange juice
a little finely grated orange zest, OPTIONAL
4 large eggs

Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed, largish pot - a soup pot is excellent. The batter will be mixed right in the pot. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the sweet potatoes and the eggs. Heat gently until the butter and chocolate are melted. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 9" spring-form pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides.

When everything is melted and smoothly amalgamated, remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the sweet potato purée until well blended. Break in the eggs, one at a time, and beat them in well.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly. Bake for 1 hour at 350°F. Let cool and set completely before serving, preferably overnight.

Last year at this time I made Winter Hodge-Podge.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Rutabaga, Carrot, & Leek Soup

This cheerfully orange soup is basically a thick vegetable purée with seasonings. In other words, it's easy, healthy, substantial, and delicious. Just the thing for what looks like being an old-fashioned winter, and a good choice to balance out some of the richer fare floating around at this time of year.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes prep time

 Rutabaga, Carrot, & Leek Soup

2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
2 cups peeled, diced carrots
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
2 medium-large leeks (4 cups when chopped)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 tablespoons barley flour, toasted
4 cups chicken OR vegetable stock, or a little more
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
a dollop of sour cream to serve, optional

Peel and dice the rutabaga. Peel and dice the carrots. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the rutabaga and carrots, and mix in to coat them in the butter. Let them cook slowly, stirring regularly, for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile clean, trim, and slice the leeks. Rinse them again and drain well. Add them to the vegetables in the pot as soon as they are ready - you want them to cook in the butter for about half an hour. Season with the salt, pepper, rosemary, and sage.

Toast the barley flour in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring regularly. When it has toasted to the shade of a brown paper bag, turn it out onto a plate to cool. When the vegetables have cooked for 45 minutes, sprinkle it over them and stir it in until it disappears. Pour over the chicken stock and vinegar. Simmer for a further 30 to 40 minutes until the rutabaga is tender, stirring occasionally. Keep the pot covered and try not to let it evaporate too much, but if it does add a bit more stock.

Purée the soup (after removing the bay leaf) until smooth. Reheat to serve. Be careful! The thick soup is prone to splattering.  A dollop of sour cream makes a nice garnish, if you are so inclined.

Last year at this time I made Fondant Potatoes & Turnips.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes & Shallots

Here is a festive take on a typical salad around here; I've done lots of quinoa and other grain-based salads, and lots of salads with roasted vegetables, and lots of salads with fruits and nuts. This one has them all, plus some pretty lively seasonings. 

It was made for a large family gathering, but it's not too fancy to be what's for dinner, and I would think leftovers would hold fairly well. Not that we found out, of course.

6 servings
allow 1 hour 20 minutes for advance cooking
allow 30 minutes to cool vegetables
allow 10 minutes to finish assembling the salad

Cook the Quinoa:
1 cup raw quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put the ingredients into the rice cooker; turn on and cook. Let cool.

Roast the Vegetables:
500 grams (1 generous pound; probably 2) sweet potatoes
6 to 8 large shallots
300 grams (10 ounces) Brussels sprouts
3 or 4 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into bite-sized chunks. Put them into a large shallow baking tray and toss them with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Put them into the oven to roast.

Meanwhile, peel and trim the shallots, and cut them into fairly large slivers. When the sweet potatoes have roasted for about 10 minutes, toss them into the sweet potatoes along with another tablespoon of oil.

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts, and cut them in halves or quarters according to size. Toss them into the roasting vegetables when the sweet potatoes have been roasting for about 20 minutes (i.e. 10 minutes after adding the shallots). Season generously with salt and pepper and continue roasting the vegetables for another 30 to 40 minutes until they are done to your liking - it is a good idea to stir them at least once in the middle of that time.

When the vegetables are roasted, allow them to cool to somewhere between slightly warm and room temperature.

Make the Dressing:
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine hot red chile flakes
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
the juice of 1 1/2 large limes

Measure the oils and seasonings into a jam jar or small bowl. Peel and mince the garlic finely, and add it. Juice the limes and add the juice to the other ingredients. Mix well or shake together until well blended.

Assemble the Salad:
2/3 cup roasted salted peanuts
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Loosen and break up the cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add the roasted vegetables and toss to combine. Mix in the roasted peanuts and dried cranberries. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat it in the dressing. Transfer the salad to a large serving bowl and serve.

Last year at this time I made Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts & Parmesan