Baked beetroot

There are some great fresh beetroot in the shops at the moment, UK-grown. I’ve been trying out a few recipes, and found this one in ‘Full Throttle’ by the two Fat Ladies.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Raw beetroot
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh mint
  • Sour cream

METHOD:

  • Put the beetroot into a roasting tin, coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, much as you would do for baked potatoes.
  • Bake in a hot oven 200C for at least one hour, until they are tender when pierced with a knife.
  • Split open and serve with sour cream and chopped mint.

Vegetables with spices and coconut

I went to the co-op on the way home from work, with the express intent to see what I could buy in the reduced section before it was discarded. I bought a pack of mixed prepared vegetables, which included a cooked potato, some carrots and some broccoli. This recipe could use peas, carrots, kohl rabi, cauliflower, all sorts of lovely things. I added some more potato.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 carrot, chopped (or peas)
  • 1 small cauliflower, chopped (or broccoli or kohl rabi)
  • 3 small potatoes, chopped into quarters
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillies, or green tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp grated creamed coconut
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, if available.

METHOD:

  • Chop the potatoes into quarters. Chop the vegetables into florets, 2cm dice, all a similar size.
  • In a large pan, wok or karhai, heat the oil, and when it is hot, add the asafoetida and mustard seeds.
  • As the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves, and then the potatoes, along with the chillies, turmeric, salt and sugar, and stir for a couple of minutes
  • Add 50ml water, cover, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Check regularly and add more water if the mixture looks too dry.
  • Add the rest of the vegetables, stir into the mixture along with a little more water, and cook for a further five minutes.
  • Sprinkle over the grated coconut and coriander, before serving.

Green beans in a tomato sauce

I have been thinking about how I buy vegetables. I prioritise local and homegrown, but at this time of year, I buy a lot from the local shops, trying to stick to Scottish produce wherever I can.

I also like to buy the reduced vegetables, to avoid the shops having to throw these away, reducing food waste. So, here comes the first of a series of recipes inspired by ingredients rescued from the reduced section.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 packs of fresh green beans
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Trim the beans and chop into 2 cm lengths
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan, and when it is hot, fry the garlic for 30 seconds.
  • Add the thinly sliced onion, and lower the heat a bit, cooking the onion until it is wilting. Do not let the onion start to turn brown. This should take around three minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper, and a cup of boiling water.
  • Bring the mixture to the boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • At the end, take off the lid and boil off any liquid, so that a thick tomato sauce coats the beans. Check the seasoning.

I served this with couscous, but rice would also be a really good option.

Tomato sauce

I need to add this recipe because it is used in so many other things. I’m just about to add some recipes for meatballs and this is a prerequisite.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small chilli, finely chopped, or one dried chilli, crumbled
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tins of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 handful of basil, roughly chopped (I have made this without, when none in the shops)
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • In a large pan, gently fry the garlic in the olive oil.
  • Add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Don’t break the tomatoes up if possible, leave them whole. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, checking every 10 minutes or so. If it is looking dry, add water.
  • Add the vinegar, and break up the tomatoes, stirring well. Add basil leaves, salt and pepper. A bit of very good olive oil can be added at this stage.

This makes a good quantity of tomato sauce, enough for one meatball recipe, and enough to serve six people.

Braised red cabbage with apples and spices

The best recipe. There are many others. It is worth following this Delia Smith recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 kg red cabbage, chopped
  • 500g onions, finely chopped
  • 500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 nutmeg, grated
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 15g butter
  • salt and black pepper

METHOD:

  • Put the oven to 150C
  • In a large casserole dish, arrange a layer of shredded cabbage, then salt and pepper, then a layer of onions and apples, sprinkled with garlic sugar and spice. Continue to repeat these layers until everything is in the dish.
  • Pour over the vinegar, and dot the butter over the top.
  • Cover the dish tightly and put it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Stir and check a couple of times.

This dish reheats well, and it also freezes OK. We usually only have this at Christmas, with ham.

Parmesan-baked parsnips

This is another recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas but I serve this all-year round. I keep the pre-prepared flour and parmesan in the freezer for when I need it.

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 kg parsnips
  • 150g plain flour
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil and butter

METHOD:

  • Combine the flour, parmesan, salt and pepper.
  • Peel the parsnips, and quarter them lengthways, then cut each length in half.
  • Boil the parsnips for around 3 minutes and drain.
  • As soon as you drain them, when they are still damp and sticky, roll each parsnip in the flour mixture. They can be stored like this until you are ready to put them in the oven.
  • Heat the oven to 200C.
  • Grease a roasting tin with vegetable oil and add a knob of butter for more flavour. Heat in the oven until the fat is hot.
  • Add the parsnips and roll them around in the hot fat, before putting the tray in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn and continue to roast until all crips and golden, for another 15 minutes.

Turnip Soup

I have lots of turnips still standing in the garden, the last of the winter vegetables. They are fantastic things, yellow and spicy and fresh after a long winter. My only gripe about turnips is finding ways to cook them. Usually I mash them with potatoes, or, more recently, I have been dicing them and roasting them for 20 minutes in olive oil and pepper. Tonight I discovered why I had found so little in the way of recipes in my books and on the web: the English think they are swedes, and the French and the Americans seem to think they are called Rutabagas. Anyway, no matter what they are called, tonight I tried out this soup. It is from Lindsey Bareham’s incomparable recipe book, ‘A Celebration of Soup’.

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 75g organic butter
  • 2-3 shallots, finely chopped,
  • A bunch of parsley
  • 450g diced turnip (about one large, or 2 small), home grown
  • salt and pepper
  • 1.1 litres of rich stock (I used some game stock, but ‘Marigold’ stock is fine
  • A pinch of saffron, if available (optional)
  • 100ml double cream

Method:

  • Heat the butter in a large pan, and soften the shallots in the butter for about five minutes
  • Add the parsley stalks (or dried herbs, if fresh parsley is scarce) and the turnip along with a pinch of salt. Stir, and make sure everything gets well coated in butter.
  • Cover the pan and simmer on low for about fifteen minutes.
  • At this stage, the turnip is tender and sweet and could be served as a vegetable dish in its own right.
  • For to make the soup, add the stock and saffron, bring to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Blend the soup with a soup wand, and reheat.
  • To serve, whisk the cream with the finely chopped parsley, and swirl into the soup.

I served it with brown toast. However, you could make croutons, and the book suggests polenta chips: small slivers of cooked polenta, coated in oil and grilled to create a crunchy exterior. Very good indeed.

Delia Smith’s Parsnip and Cheese Roulade with Sage and Onion Stuffing.

We had the big family Christmas this year, twenty people with five vegetarians. I made this for Christmas Day, and served it as an alternative for turkey et al. It was delicious, but it took quite a bit to find a corner to make it in while all the turkey and trimmings were being prepared. I used the recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas – a very fine book indeed.

INGREDIENTS:

For the stuffing:

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 75g panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper

For the roulade:

  • 100g grated hard cheese
  • 50g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 275ml cold milk
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 40g chopped and toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

For the parsnip filling

  • 3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper

You will also need a clean tea-towel, greaseproof paper or tin foil, and a swiss roll tin, or similar baking tray.

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C gas 6
  • Make the stuffing layer first. Melt the butter in a small pan, and fry the chopped onions for around five to six minutes, until translucent.
  • Add the herbs, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and stir together.
  • Meanwhile, line the swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper, silicon paper or greased tin foil.
  • Make a thin layer of the stuffing in the swiss roll tin.
  • Next, make the cheese layer. Put the butter, milk and flour together in a saucepan. Heat this on a medium heat, stirring until thickened, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook on a low heat for a couple more minutes.
  • Put the sauce aside to cool. Separate the eggs, making sure the egg whites are in a grease-free bowl. Add the egg-yolks to the white sauce, and whisk them in. Next, add the grated hard cheese, and stir until it is melted in. Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large bowl and clean whisk, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. (I got my sister to do this.)
  • Fold the cheese mixture into the egg-white: Start by adding a little of the egg-white mixture to the cheese sauce and then add the cheese sauce to the egg-whites, fold a spoon at a time until well mixed. Take care to ensure that the mixture retains as much air as possible.
  • Pour the cheese mixture over the stuffing and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until set. It should be springy and feel firm.
  • Last layer: make the parsnip filling. Boil the chopped parsnips for at least 15 minutes, until soft.
  • Mix the cooked parsnips with butter, double cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Have a really good go at this to make smooth paste.
  • Assembly: Put the tea-towel on the table and sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts.
  • Turn out the stuffing/cheese layer onto the hazelnuts. Spread the parsnips onto the stuffing layer, and then roll up the roulade along the longest side, using the teatowel to ensure it ends up as a round shape.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

I found this to need a bit of reheating at the end to ensure it was hot enough to serve with the turkey. Turn the oven down to 180C, cover the roulade with tin foil, and heat through for around 20 minutes.

Aubergine and Yoghurt Dip

This is a very easy Persian version of a common middle-eastern dip. Be prepared to get a bit messy for the best results. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 tbsp very good quality olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 200ml plain full-fat greek yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Rinse the aubergines and prick them with a fork in a few places. Put them in the centre of the oven on a rack with a baking tray underneath. Bake for one hour. 
  • Remove the aubergines from the oven, let them cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh. 
  • Put all the chopped aubergine into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. I used my bare hands to squish the aubergine well, before beating with a fork. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  • Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with saffron water, a tablespoonful of plain yoghurt and mint leaves. 
  • This recipe is best made 24 hours in advance, and stored in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. This is good served with bread. 

Yoghurt and Cucumber Salad

Some of you will know that I spent some time living in Teheran when I was a child. Zara used to work for our family as a housekeeper, and she used to cook wonderful Persian home-cooking for us. Our favourite was a dish called Loubia Pollow, made with rice, beans, tomatoes and lamb. We also used to eat the most delicious barbari bread and thick plain yoghurt sold in blue earthenware bowls. 

I have sought to recreate the flavours of the food we ate there, and have never managed to get it quite right. Persian food is very complex and sophisticated, from ancient civilisations, combining the herbs and spices of east and west. 

There are a few sites online where you can look up Persian recipes, but the flavours and end-results are unfamiliar to most. I have one recipe book, A Taste of Persia which is aimed at the US market, and has all the ingredients in cups. I’ve been working my way through the recipes and re-jigging them to suit local ingredients and UK directions. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 500g tub of full-fat plain Greek Yoghurt
  • A bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill or fennel leaf, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • Garnish of fresh mint, rose petals, dill leaf, chive flowers, chopped walnuts, chopped radishes etcetera

METHOD:

  • Combine all the ingredients, mix well and adjust the seasoning. 
  • Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to four hours before serving. Take out of the fridge ten minutes before serving and garnish.