Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

I’m not joking around here.  This asparagus and tomato frittata is fast and it is healthy (unless you make it mostly cheese, then it’s just cheese isn’t it?).  It’s pretty much my take-to-work-breakfast staple.  And lunch, and dinner in the summer when it’s hot and all your body wants is salad, vegetables and ice pops.  It’s vegetables and protein, what’s not to love? 

The silicone baking pan makes all the difference for me, I literally throw everything in, RAW, and shove it in the oven.  That’s it.  If silicone wonder-pan is occupied with other goodies I’ll pop a wax paper/baking paper liner in the bottom of the pan so I can just turf it out when it’s done.  I can’t think of one person who enjoys scraping off burnt egg.  Fact.

cherry tomatoes with asparagus and spring onions for frittataI. could. not. stop. eating. the. tomatoes.  I must have a deficiency only satisfied by tomatoes.  I eat a lot of them. (With too much salt and soaked in vinagery salad dressing. Ahem.)

Raw asparagus and tomatoes ready for frittata

There really aren’t a lot of ingredients for this.

1 bunch of asparagus – about 15 slim spears
10 cherry tomatoes – halved and quatered
5 spring onions – chopped
12 eggs

What you see is what you get.  I snapped the asparagus into two with my hands and cut the tomatoes into either halves or quarters so some could sneak through the asparagus.

But asparagus is woody, you say?  Nah.  The trick to getting rid of the woody end is it to hold the spear in both hands.  One hand on the end and the other hand half way to the tip of the spear, bend it and it will snap where the woody part ends and the stalk becomes softer.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WOODY ENDS!  Keep a plastic bag in the freezer (or tupperware box if you have space, I don’t – little kitchen!) with vegetable odds and ends to make stock.  I’m serious!  Onion peelings (yes! the papery skins!), mushroom stalks, celery ends, unwanted herb stalks – but why you wouldn’t use those I’ll never know – any bits of vegetable, it all makes flavour.  It’s so much nicer than using those nasty nasty MSG filled stock cubes (except Kallo, y’all know I love ’em).  There will be a separate post where I’m going to use many exclamation marks to get my point across about this, just you wait.

tomatoes-and-asparagus-with-spring-onions-frittata

Anyway! Next add in the chopped up spring onions, raw again.  Everything will cook just enough in the oven with the eggs.  Who wants soggy vegetable frittata?  Bleugh!  Don’t be afraid to jam pack the pan with vegetables, they’ll all float about and have a swim in the egg custard when it’s poured in anyway.

Parmesan grated into egg custard for frittata

My favourite – a big soft heaping of grated parmesan.  Salty deliciousness. I’ve got about 12 eggs in there.  Yes. Twelve, we need that protein!  I just grated about a handful in, I didn’t want it too cheesy cause I’m trying to get my weight down (hah, never happen).  I also added a pinch of salt, a little black pepper (’cause, y’know, eggs) and about a dessert spoon of truffle oil, just for a background savoury flavour.  Absolutely not necessary or required, I just couldn’t help myself.

parmesan-egg-custard-frittata-2

That’s it!  Mix it up and pour it all in.  Bake it at about 180 C and keep checking on it after 25 minutes until it’s not too wobbly and is cooked through in the centre.  Turn it out quite soon after it’s done so you can drain away any liquid that may have been released by the vegetables, I poured off about a tablespoon but still.. we don’t want it soggy!

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A Mention in The Telegraph for Our Supper Club Little Portuguese Kitchen!

I haven’t been resting on my laurels, I promise.  I wish I was!  I found out – four days late – that the Little Portuguese Kitchen supper club Isabel and I run was included in The Telegraph’s article about the rise in popularity of Portuguese food in the UK and how it might be one of the next big food trends.

Portuguese feast: a range of dishes at Nuno Mendes's new restaurant, Taberna do Mercado Photo: Joe Woodhouse
Portuguese feast: a range of dishes at Nuno Mendes’s new restaurant, Taberna do Mercado Photo: Joe Woodhouse – Taken from The Telegraph

And also in the Portuguese Observador!

From the Portuguese Observador. David Silverman/Getty Images.
From the Portuguese Observador. David Silverman/Getty Images.

I’ve also spent four days in the stunning city of Edinburgh with the Partner in Crime.  We ate and drank everything, can y’all tell from my Instagram feed? I feel no shame! it was wonderful, but then it was straight back into work.

So, what do you guys think?  Is Portuguese food set to be a new thing?  How do you feel about food trends as it is?  Personally I think they’re good for introducing me to things I might not know about, as long as I can recreate them with seasonal ingredients that haven’t flown half way around the world.  Any thoughts guys?..

Parsley Gnocchi – The End of The Bunch

baked_marabel_potatoes_for_gnocchi

The end of The Parsley Trilogy!  Am I sick of parsley?  Not one little bit, I actually bought the same sized bunch again today (along with all of the food) to go in some Minestrone (I’ll tell you about it later) and maybe some tabouleh but probably not as the weather is pretty grim here up North.

I had never eaten gnocchi.  Truth.  I do indeed love food, you’re right.  I absolutely love to eat, right again! But whenever I had seen gnocchi on the menu it’s just seemed too much, y’get me?  A plate full of what are essentially small potato dumplings sound like a food baby waiting to happen.  As I’ve eaten my way through them (and I have, greedily, covered in parsley & walnut pesto with truffle oil, mostly at midnight after work, in pyjamas watching old episodes of QI) I’ve realised that they are perfect in small doses.

sieving_marabel_potatoes_for_gnocchi

Were they a hassle to make? Nope.  Were they messy?  Only the fun kind.  The dough created is so soft and light I felt like a kid in the kitchen again.  They actually kept quite well in the fridge for a few days too,  I didn’t even cover them in oil.  Yeah, they stuck together ever so slightly but I’d rather pluck them apart a bit then coat them in oil (when I reheated them they were in oily pesto, I didn’t want double oil).

parsley_gnocchi_dough

The recipe I “followed” was this (The Parsley Gnocchi With Goat’s Curd and Hazelnuts about a third the way down the page – can you tell I was looking for inspiration?!) I’ve adapted it slightly.  The most important change being not to boil them for 5 minutes.  Madness.  If you don’t whip them out shortly after they float you will have nothing but lumpy potato water-broth-soup and have to start boiling water all over again.  Bleurgh.

freshly_cut_parsley_gnocchi

Would I change anything next time?  Absolutely.  Whilst they were delicious soft pillows of delight they were slightly sweet because the potatoes had been baked.  I should have known better. Next time I’ll be boiling the potatoes in their skins (minimises water absorption) in salty water.  They’d be perfect with a really sharp piquant sauce but I wasn’t expecting it.

This made enough for about six people for a light supper, about 72 pieces approximately.

1kg Marabel potatoes – I used Marabel because they have a butteryness I love
Large bunch of parsley, blitzed to a paste in a blender (I didn’t blanch it) – makes them green! Yay for green food!
1 beaten egg
300g plain flour
50g butter
Salt & pepper

I stabbed my potatoes four times with a knife and baked them at 200 for an hour.
I let them cool for about twenty minutes until I could hold them.
One by one I split them in two and turfed out their potato fluff into a sieve – I don’t own a potato ricer, got one? crack on – and pressed it through with the back of a spoon. Leave the potatoes in their skins until you’re ready to smoosh so they don’t dry out.
Add the parsley mush, butter, seasoning and flour.
Very gently bring all of this together, do not overwork the flour or the dough will be gluey and tough (the lightest muffins and fluffiest pancakes don’t have their batters beaten to death now, do they?).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn out the dough. I did it in four batches.
Keep the dough dusted with flour so it doesn’t stick, it’s very delicate.
Gently roll it into a rope about 1″-1.5″ wide. With a blunt knife bravely chop it into pieces, dusting the knife with flour if it begins to tear the dough.  Lightly coat them with flour so they don’t stick together. I pressed mine gently with a fork on an angle which is why they look like fatty ovals! Pop your pieces of gnocchi onto a plate.

I chopped half of my ropes at a time and then cooked them so I didn’t overcrowd my pan.  Use your judgement here with your pan size.  Tip the gnocchi off the plate and into the boiling water.  Whilst I waited for them to come to the surface – about 2-3 minutes – I chopped and plated the remaining half of the rope.  When they were floating around I used a sieve to lift them out onto a different plate and left them to cool for a couple of minutes, carefully draining any excess water.

I repeated this for all of the dough and piled them all onto one plate once they were cool.  They firmed up and were a little tacky but as long as I was gentle none of them broke or ripped apart.

That was it!  I covered them with cling film and kept them happily in the fridge.  They’ve been a good little stand by that’s quick to reheat, I’d probably feel healthier if I had them on a bed of spinach/rocket/chard but they were pretty tasty nonetheless.  I think next time I’ll hit up some butternut squash with sage, parmesan and a little chilli!

parsley_gnocchi

Parsley and Walnut Pesto

parsley_and_walnut_pesto

The Great Parsley Trilogy Part Deux.  This was the real super star when it came to actually using up the bulk of the parsley.  It takes a lot of it, I’m not gonna lie, but it wouldn’t be parsley pesto with only a token amount now, would it.

I’m afraid I didn’t use or record measurements.  It was very much a go as you feel happening.  That’s ok every now and then, right?  It was basically all of the things I needed to use up.  The parmesan, all the parsley and some walnuts which had been lurking in the baking cupboard for almost too long.

ingredients_for_parsley_and_walnut_pesto

Aglio_e_olio_ingredients

This made two small jars, or two mugs full.. maybe two US cups.

Approximately 400ml of really good quality olive oil.  The best you can afford, it’s a main flavour here so you’ll taste the difference!
Two handfuls of finely chopped parsley
One sliced clove of garlic – but there are two in the photos? Yep.  It was way too much, even for me
A handful of finely grated parmesan
100g walnuts (I know the weight only because the packet said so, heh)
A big squeeze of lemon juice, about 1 tbsp
Truffle oil to serve

Now, I made the mistake of doing this in a blender. No way. If you have a food processor you use that baby! I’d rather bash it in a bowl with a rolling pin than deal with it in a blender again.
Parsley and oil first, to get things on the move.
Then walnuts, garlic and parmesan.
Add the lemon juice bit by bit to your liking.
So far whenever I’ve cooked with this I’ve drizzled truffle oil over the top. Truffles and walnuts? Absolute winner.

Aglio e Olio

aglio_e_olio

I had promised myself that by the end of Thursday the parsley would be all used up.  I got home from work absolutely famished (I’ve started to try out walking to and from work – less pennies, hopefully less inches too). Cue aglio e olio!  So simple, so amazing and so delicious.  Simple always is, isn’t it?  I really shouldn’t act so surprised.

I think perhaps the only thing I did differently was to keep my garlic quite sharp, I only let it take on a mere hint of colour around the edges (sounds awfully pretentious, no?).  I like it with a bit of bite.

This time I was only cooking for one.  Something I’m not very good at, I think I’m always under the illusion that I’m feeding twelve.

100g spaghetti – I grab it out of the packet so that the spaghetti fits between my thumb and first finger when I put the tip of my thumb to my second knuckle.. if that makes any sense to any one!
1 clove garlic – sliced thinly
2 tbsp good quality olive oil – it really makes a difference, particularly as this is a minimal dish
bunch of parsley chopped – mine was about a small handful
grated parmesan – again, about a small handful

Boil up your spaghetti in salty water, I always remember our Italian customers (and now chefs on telly) saying you should cook your pasta in water as salty as the sea.
While that’s going on, gently warm up the olive oil and sling in the garlic. I pretty much just heated my garlic through. Letting it sizzle gently for about four minutes on the lowest heat. Most other folks seem to go for a light browning. Go wild, just don’t burn it.  Burnt garlic is bitter and nasty.
Again, at this stage people talk about adding chilli flakes – if I had had any, I surely would.
Drain the pasta when it’s al dente but don’t drain all the liquid off, keep about two tablespoons in with the pasta.
Chuck in the garlic and oil and coat everything, then the parsley and parmesan. Mix everything around, the parmesan along with the starchy cooking liquor make a beautiful emulsion so everything clings together.
Shove it in a bowl or eat it straight from the pan, no one’s looking!

lemon_for_aglio_e_olio
What I did do when I was almost finished was sling it a little bit of lemon juice, no more than a teaspoon maybe, just to brighten things up a little bit.

Of course you can embellish it with capers; olives; seafood; sundried tomatoes; wilted greens (chard!) etc. etc., but it’s nice to know that something simple and cheap can be wonderful without other ingredients.

The Beginning of The Great Parsley Trilogy

Featured_parsley_bunchAlso known as “How the hell am I going to use up all that parsley without buying a ton of ingredients?”.  I needed some parsley for a lentil moussaka and this is what came home with me.  A mega Italian flat leaf monster!  I could not and would not let it go to waste.  I also wanted to use it up by incorporating things I already had.  Yeah, I could have made salsa verde for steak but there’s an extra (delicious) spend right there.  This girl is on a budget.

The crazy part of my life is still ongoing.  Little Portuguese Kitchen was an enormous success.  Demands were made for another event as soon as possible so we’re trying to find five minutes in which to pour over our diaries and select another two dates.

Throughout all of this, and other extra curricular life bull hockey, I’ve still been stuffing my face.  My own kitchen has taken a little bit of a back seat though.  There have still been the best meatballs ever (I’ll tell you about them, one day); a deeply savoury lentil moussaka; three different incarnations of saag paneer; my childhood gumbo soup and so much more.  For now though, I think the parsley trilogy is a good way to ease back in.

Coming over the next few days – also known as “When I make the time to write them up”..

aglio_e_olioAglio e Olio – Yep.  Apparently everyone knew about this but me.  Easy and awesome.

parsley_and_walnut_pesto Parsley and Walnut Pesto – With a little bit of truffle oil.  Maybe my new favourite thing.

parsley_gnocchiParsley Gnocchi – This stuff is incredible, my first attempt at making gnocchi and my first eating of it too.

And all of them are simple as.  Promise.

Börek – Delicious Savoury Turkish Pastries

borek-ingredients

I’m living the crazy life at the minute.  No, really.  For me, it’s C R A Z Y.  I’m in panic-organising mode.  Next week I’m hosting a Birthday dinner for twelve.  During the day of this I-can-do-anything offering I’m over preparing for our first supper club as Little Portuguese Kitchen which takes place the day after Birthday dinner.  Isabel and I are cooking for twelve strangers, a set Portuguese menu.  And whilst we are super able and capable and organised and have both worked in the industry for a long time – we’re getting a little nervous! milk-oil-wash-borek-pastry

Needless to say I’ve not had a lot of space for leisurely cooking at home, or even I-desperately-need-to-eat-something-which-isn’t-takeaway-and-actually-has-the-things-my-body-needs-to-keep-running-at-mental-speed cooking at home.

I’ve been visiting a wonderful teeny tiny Turkish cafe/food place in the market in town.  They do pretty awesome wraps, full of salad with slivers of smoked sausage and delicately spiced lamb kofta.  They’re keeping me going, don’t worry!  They also happen to sell delicious börek.  Layers of filo pastry stuffed with soft spinach, salty feta, a little parsley and dill.  Bloody marvellous.  I eat far too many, particularly as my custom is so regular that they will often give me and the partner in crime one for free.  Spinach-for-borek

I woke up.. Tuesday?  Yes, Tuesday.  With a need for börek.  I ran around to the supermarket and filled up the basket (also with a lot of unnecessary things)  But no filo pastry.  Not even in the frozen section.  I came home in a sulk at my snobby outburst and slightly resentful at the package of puff pastry.  I am an idiot.  Of course the puff pastry, when rolled to about 3mm thick did a marvelous job.  thin-puff-pastry-for-borek

It actually didn’t take that long to make.  Truly.  Oven on, sweat onions and spinach while making pastry thin.  Squeeze, mix, fill, top and bake.  Done.  With a sharp lemony salad?  Amazing. squeezed-borek-filling

borek

Maybe too much cheese to spinach?  Nah.  Never too much cheese.borek-before-baking

There we have it.  If we hadn’t been so greedy this would have served six for lunch with a salad no problem.  I think next time however I really will use filo pastry but I’ll make individual ones, rolled up like sausage rolls or really obese cigars.  Sesame seeds are a must.

2 tbsp olive oil
550g spinach
1 onion
Small bunch of parsley
2 tbsp olive oil (yes, more)
1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt
salt & pepper
1 egg
2 egg yolks
400g feta cheese
1 package room temperature/slightly chill puff pastry (or sheets of filo – better)
2 tbsp sesame seeds

I had my oven at about 170 – it’s a fan oven which doesn’t run as hot as normal so 180 should be fine for ovens which are true.

So.  Oven on.
Olive oil and onions into a pan on a low-medium heat to turn translucent and brown ever so slightly. When the onions are looking likely, turf in all the washed spinach. Yes. All of it. Mix it about to get it to begin to wilt. When it’s an intense green and less than half the volume it began, slap a lid on and turn off the heat.
Cut off a chunk of puff pastry. For the size of my dish I cut off between 40% and 45% and the same for the lid – I know it’s an awkward way to phrase this but it’s true. I was left with a slice of unused puff pastry about as thick as my finger. I don’t got sausage fingers.
Anyway, roll out the pastry to it’s big enough to fit the dish and is as thin as you can get it. Brush with whisked olive oil, milk/yogurt and seasoning.
If using filo, keep the sheets not being used under a towel to stop them from drying out. Whisk up the olive oil, milk/yogurt and seasoning. Lay one sheet of filo and brush with this mixture (I would be tempted to put a bare sprinkle of sesame between these layers I feel). Repeat for three or four layers. This is the base pastry. If you’re making individuals you can leave it at that for parceling or rolling up. Or cut the size down if you want them smaller. Your choice.
Put your spinach mix into a strainer or a clean tea towel. Do it in batches if you need to, just get all that liquid out. Make it dry.
Break up the feta and mix in with the spinach. Only add extra salt if your feta is lacking or you like to live dangerously.
Pile this into the pastry lined dish, or arrange on the pastry to wrap up how you wish.
Roll out your other piece just as thinly if using puff. Make another three/four layers of filo washed with the oil/dairy mix if it’s not puff.
Mush up the two egg yolks with a brush or your fingers and slather it on top of the pie. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pop her in the oven. I baked mine for about 35 minutes and turned once cause my old banger of an oven has hot spots!finished-borek
I shouldn’t have eaten it when it wasn’t piping hot. But I did and it was delicious. Go for it, Spring is coming – we’re allowed to crack out the pasty/quiche and salad routine.

Book Review: New York Cult Recipes from Marc Grossman

New York Cult Recipes

Beautiful, ain’t it?  My Partner in Crime bought this on a whim after I “Ooohed” and “Aahhed” over it in Waterstones.  We’d nipped in for a cuppa cause we like to be surrounded by books (nerds!) and their cafe is near the cooking section (natch!).   I pulled a bunch of exciting looking tomes from the shelves and flipped through them while we slurped and did the crossword.  I don’t remember which ones I grabbed because they weren’t what I was looking for.  This one was the only book that really interested me.NY-cult-recipes-inside-cover

I can be a little bit of a food snob, I admit it, but at the end of it all food for me is a connector.  We all need to eat to live, let’s enjoy it and try to be a bit responsible with it.  It’s been a sociable event throughout the ages.  It brings people together in all kinds of ways and it can be a source of comfort when things go pear shaped.
So, for me, I like a book that has it’s feet firmly on the ground.  Engaging to read with ingredients I am able to purchase and can do so without breaking the bank or flying half way around the world – let’s face it that last bit is pretty much done for us, I have access to an amazing array of foodstuffs and whilst I realise it comes at a carbon price I am very grateful, so is my tummy!NY-cult-recipes-chapter-page

This book has only made it to bed once (I like to read food in bed, I know you do too) but even so it’s a gem that I just can’t stop flicking through, pawing at and seeking inspiration from.  Right now I don’t have a lot of spare time so the bagels will have to wait.  But there are many recipes which aren’t so time consuming and they’re really good solid recipes built on flavour bases with depth which makes all the difference in the end (it’s the “Brown food tastes better” theme).  NY-cult-recipes-hash-browns

The way it’s laid out is a little odd, and perhaps not entirely intuitive for me but that’s only because I don’t tend to eat donuts for breakfast or have a filled bagel for elevenses.  Doesn’t matter.  NY-cult-recipes-inside-back-cover

It’s also really interesting to see what counts as New York cult food from someone as passionate about food as they are about New York.  These recipes are life glue, they’ll fuel your body for day to day life and become comforting family favourites.  NY-cult-recipes-back-cover

I don’t buy a lot of cook books – they’re expensive and the internet is an amazing resource – BUT I am sooo glad this one came home.

I might be quiet but I’m still eating..

Tea and Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I’m in that stage of being almost ill, where body is tired and head stuffy.  The weather, too, is struggling to launch itself into Springtime, the sun is shining at the minute but it’s still quite cold.  And windy!  It’s a wonder the snowdrops have kept their heads.

This morning, well.. it’s just after eleven a.m. here and I’m still in my ‘jamas.  I sleepily stuffed in that slab of Smitten Kitchen’s excellent Double Chocolate Banana Bread pictured up there and my tea is half drunk and now cold.  I am apparently unable to complete a cup of tea before the temperature plummets.

Dinner on Wednesday night was built on a desire to have one of the Pasta’n’Sauce packets without actually having to eat it.  No MSG for me thank-you-very-much.  Instead it was baked pasta with cauliflower, kale and leeks with a roasted broccoli cheese sauce.  Sounds complicated but from turning on the oven to washing up the dishes while it baked it wasn’t longer than 35 minutes – including time for the oven to heat up!

Parmesan roasted broccoli

There have also been meatballs with marinara and a plain but still awesome banana bread, soups and many instances of velvety scrambled or poached eggs with piquant avocado on sour dough.

Poached egg on avocado with sourdough toast

Phew! Just got the weekend to get through!