Pear and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Quick Pickled Onions

pears

I love pickled stuff.  This salad was lunch a few days ago, the pears were so ripe I could smell them every time I walked past the fruit bowl.

This ‘salad’ really is just cutting stuff and arranging it on a plate – except for the pickle bit, which you can absolutely not bother with and it will still be delicious.

I thinly sliced two rings from a red onion, set them in a bowl and tossed them with about half a teaspoon of salt and set them to one side.  Next up, two small pears cut fairly thin and a couple of chunks from a roll of Kidderton Ash goat’s cheese, it’s delicate mould-fluff has speckles of black ash and it is delicious.  Of course other goat’s cheese would be just as lovely, so would some salty feta (although in this instance I would not pickle the onions), brie, halloumi, roquefort.. many cheeses.

By now the onions had left a little pink juice in the bowl.  I shook them off and plucked apart the rings to lay over the pears and cheese.  Drizzle over some honey, a little balsamic vinegar and crack some black pepper.  Finito!

pear-goats-cheese-pickled-red-onion-salad

Deep Dark Mushroom Barley Risotto

chestnut-portobello-mushrooms

Velvety and nutty textured this is the comfort that the creeping of Autumn is calling for.  It’s deeply savory, it’s salty and it’s brightened with parsley and a breath of lemon juice.  Let’s give rice a run for it’s money!

barley

Pearl barley.  It used to be an old world something food that Grandma’s put in their stews, now it has a new lease of life as the star of the show.  Salads are built around it (particularly good with grilled chicken, plums and basil), it’s soaked with flavour giving stock and stuffed into delicious things.  It makes a great sweet dessert (more on that later) and it’s a beautiful rice substitute.

Here, it is used exactly the same way you would for a normal risotto, except it is way less needy than rice.  It doesn’t need to be constantly stirred to give up a silky result.  As long as you’re on watch as the cooking time draws to a close, so you don’t add too much liquid, you’ll be left with a risotto that falls from the spoon the way it should.

parsley-lemon-parmesan

This makes enough for two of us for dinner

12g (ish) dried mushrooms – I had shiitake to hand
50g butter
1 medium/large onion, diced quite small
250g pearl barley
800ml chicken/mushroom/vegetable stock – I used one Kallo chicken and one Kallo mushroom stock cube
150g portobello mushrooms
350g chestnut mushrrooms
25g butter
ground black pepper
1 garlic clove minced/crushed/chopped
handful of chopped parsley
1-2 tsp lemon juice
handful of finely grated parmesan/grana padano

Pop the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover them with boiling water.
Into a deep saucepan add the butter and the onions on low. Cook until the mushrooms begin to go translucent but not brown.
Have the stock/s to hand. Tip in the pearl barley and stir to coat the grains with the butter. They will catch on the bottom of the pan as they absorb the butter, they don’t ‘fry’ in it, so once they’re coated pop in the stock and bring to a boil then turn to medium/low.
While this is bubbling away slice up your mushrooms and put them into a separate pan with the butter, pepper and garlic. Let the mushrooms cook and begin to wilt, they’ll give up quite a bit of water. Boil off most of this water but not all of it. This is concentrated mushroom stock, it is delicious savory flavour, it is UMAMI!
Turn the heat off under the mushrooms. Slap on a lid and they can just wait their turn.
Pour the dried mushrooms and all their liquid into the barley.
Check the barley, it should be approaching al dente. Nutty chewiness is good, a raw snap is not. If it’s approaching the delicious chewy stage but still has lots of water left, whack up the heat to boil it off but stir occasionally to prevent burning. Don’t worry, barley is resilient. On the flip side, if it’s not ready yet but seems to be drying out – add more water or stock. (If using stock cubes don’t add more than two! Just add more water or it will be too salty.. yes, there is such a thing as too much salt).
When it’s ready turn off the heat.  Add the cooked mushrooms and all their ‘resting juice’.  Add in the parmesan, parsley and lemon. Mix it through. Taste it to see if it needs any seasoning adjustment.

Like a risotto, slap on the lid and let it sit for five minutes. I’m sure you can find something else to do for that time. Toss the salad, soak the dishes, make sure everyone has wine cutlery or just go feed the cat.

Dish up and devour.  Salad goes really well, but so do wilted greens with a little lemon juice.  Savoy cabbage, broccoli.. whatever you fancy or have to hand.

Leftovers are also really good cold, eaten from a bowl with a spoon.  Just gonna put that out there..

Fresh Szechwan Steak Garden Rolls

szechwan-peppercorns-thai-basil

That photo, my friends, that one right there?  That is what tongue tingling flavour looks like.  Really!  I wanted something fresh and crunchy that didn’t mean deep-fried and heavy.  I would say that it was a desperate cling to summer and it’s fresh flavours but it’s not.  I like summer, don’t get me wrong but Autumn is my kind of time.  Breezy, fresh air whirling about, trees getting their Autumn/Winter wardrobe in, not to mention all the layering I can do!  Fine knits, deep jewel colours…Gah, I can’t wait!

herbs-steak-garden-rolls

You might need to have a little scout around for two of the ingredients in this.  Szechwan peppercorns and fresh Thai basil.  They are absolutely worth it though, really truly.  I would not lie to you about food.

The Thai basil is a bit more aniseed than Italian basil.. a little bit like tarragon too.  Tarragon and Italian basil put together, maybe?  But not spicy like star anise.. a clean aniseed, citrussy.  Ah hell just try it! It’s different and wonderful and combined with the Szechwan pepper will make your tongue tingle.  Szechwan pepper is different to black pepper.. it’s citrus and bright and doesn’t have the same heat.

If you can’t find either of them, no sweat!  Go for black peppercorn steak and coriander with the mint, just as fresh and bright and less of a shopping faff.

szechwan-peppercorn-steak

Smother your steak in a little sesame oil and crushed Szechwan pepper.  Sear it on a grill so it’s medium rare.  Sorry, I love the pink beef!

szechwan-peppercorn-steak-grilled

garden-rolls-steak

Let the steak rest whilst you faff about getting everything ready for wrapping.  Once you chop the two other items it’s really a very quick recipe.  And so full of flavour – or did I say that already?

rice-wrappers-and-fillings

The dipping sauce is minced garlic with a tablespoon of this that and the other.  Simple.  Fast.  Delicious.

szechwan-peppercorn-steak-garden-rolls

Yeah, rolling the rice wrappers is a little tricky but you quickly get the hang of it. As long as you use a clean damp cloth you’ll be fine.

This recipe gave me 10 rolls, or it would have done if I hadn’t eaten so many as I was making them.

250g good steak, rump is fine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Szechwan peppercorns
Vietnamese rice wrappers
Vermicelli rice noodles
Spring onion, cut into strips
Carrot, cut into strips
Fresh Thai basil
Fresh mint

Dipping sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed garlic

Cook the vermicelli noodles until al dente and rinse with cold water.
Rub the steak with sesame oil and press with the crushed Szechwan peppercorns. Sear the steak to your liking, mine was 2 minutes a side.
Let the steak rest.
Mix together the dipping sauce ingredients.
Get your rolling area ready. Lay down a damp clean cloth, get a bowl of water big enough for the rice wrappers and bring the fillings close to hand.
The rice wrappers can be a little tricky but you’ll get the hang of it. Dip it in the water and rub it until it becomes pliable and floppy.
Lay it onto the damp towel and begin to layer the fillings.
Place one Thai basil leaf and one leaf of mint down first, this way they’ll show through when you wrap them up.
Add a few strips of spring onion and one of carrot. One or two strips of beef, depending on their size and then a bundle of noodles. Fold over the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold in both sides and roll ‘er up.
It might take one or two goes to get the amount of filling right but they’ll all be good eating!

Blackberry Flaugnarde

image

Just in time for the weekend! This would be pretty amazeballs after a Sunday lunch. Apparently you’re not supposed to accompany a flaugnarde, not even a little cream.  In my mind though, it’s starting to get a little cold outside so some softly whipped cream would be a delight.

Most importantly though – this dessert is simple. S.I.M.P.L.E. You mix together four ingredients, pour it over fruit and the oven does the rest. That’s it. Done. Finito. Means you can get on with your weekend relaxing, lounging in pyjamas (can’t be just me, can it?) And still be rewarded!

image

I ended up using 450g blackberries cause they’re so damn delicious right now, but you could use cherries (which would turn this flaugnarde into a clafoutis!) or blueberries.. some raspberries.. Go for it.
image
So. This recipe really should sort out four of you.. especially if you’re taking me up on that cream offer.. but the two of us hungrily devoured it. Oops.

Four big tablespoons of plain flour (or 1/2 C)
Five big tablespoons of caster sugar (or 1/2 C) and some extra for dusting
3 eggs
1 capful of almond extract (I mean it’s lid.. not a cup, dear god!)
350ml milk
450g blackberries
Icing sugar for flinging on top whilst it’s hot

Set the oven to work, about 180c.
Grab your dish.. the flaugnarde will rise in the oven and then settle down so choose something that will hold all the fruit and have a little extra height.  Butter the dish and dust it with sugar.
Turf in the fruit.
Add the flour and sugar to a mixing bowl and stir it together. Add the three eggs and mix it well but quickly, overworked flour goes rubbery.
Add the almond extract and the milk.
stir it all together and pour over the fruit.
Into the oven for about 40 minutes but keep an eye on her.

flaugnard

Eat it hot, warm, cold.. just eat it. I’m off to make another one.

No. Really.

Kedgeree With Pinhead Oats

kedgeree-with-oatmeal

This is an absolute revelation.  I’ll probably never make kedgeree with rice again (but I love rice, so I probably will). Pinhead oats (also steel cut oats) may well be my new favourite thing.  I bought a bag from Mmm… in Grainger Market, they are absolutely amazing, if I need something that probably won’t be carried in the average supermarket they always save the day, utter foodie heaven.

I had intended to send this recipe for consideration to the Guardian for their weekly supplement Cook as they were calling for readers to submit recipes using oats, but I didn’t read that part of the article until 12 hours after the deadline.  Oops.  Next one is for noodles, I have a trick or two up my sleeve there!

Nevertheless, It’s the best food twist I’ve had all year and I demand you make it.  It goes a little something like this..

natural-smoked-haddock-fillets

Take two fillets of undyed smoked haddock and poach them in a mix of milk and water with peppercorns, half an onion and a bay leaf.  Everything goes in cold and when it begins to boil just turn off the heat and let it sit while you do other things.  Yes it will be cooked, no it will not be overcooked.

poached-smoked-haddock

Skin side up and this pan is just off the heat.  I do indeed love heavy pans, I don’t go to the gym so I may as well lift delicious things.

kedgeree-spiced-onions

In a separate pan you need one finely chopped onion, two heaped teaspoons of good quality curry powder, one bay leaf and about 50g of butter – calm it, this will serve four people.

barts-mild-curry-powder

Sorry.  I love the colour of curry powder.

sauteed-kedgeree-onions

Fire it up on medium and cook out the onions without colouring them.  The whole thing is a little on the sweet side so we don’t need to caramelise the onions.

adding-the-steelcut-oats-pinhead

Add in 220ml (ML) of pinhead oatmeal and make sure it all gets coated with the melted spicy butter – much like you would with risotto rice.  Add in 340ml of hot Kallo chicken stock (or fish/vegetable stock if you’re meat free) and turn it to low.  Stir it often to prevent it sticking.

kedgeree-with-oatmeal

Once pretty much all of the water has been absorbed you can peel the skin away from the haddock and flake it into the oats in big chunks, mixing the fish in will break it up further.

aromatics

Soft boil or poach an egg (or two) whilst you mix in some finely chopped parsley and a little lemon juice, these two give the earthy flavours a little lift.  Of course, use coriander instead by all means, I prefer parsley here.

kedgeree-with-pinhead-oats

Ta da!  This made me a happy girl.  Go get some happy!

Could serve four alongside a starter or dessert, or two ravenous people who like their eggs two at a time.

2 smoked haddock fillets – approximately 500g (could easily be less, 500g is a very generous amount of fish)
200ml milk + 200ml water
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small onion in chunks
1tsp peppercorns
220ml (yes ml, I.. um.. broke my scales..) pinhead oatmeal, not rolled/quick cook oats = mushy!
2 heaped tsp mild curry powder, I used Barts
50g butter
340ml chicken stock (other stocks are good, but not beef)
Bunch of parsley
1 lemon
soft boiled eggs to finish

Poach the fish in the milk + water mix with one of the bay leaves, the peppercorns and the small chunked onion.
Put it all in a pan and bring it to a boil, when this happens switch off the heat and leave it alone, sitting in the milk.
In another pan add the finely chopped onion, curry powder, last bay leaf and butter. Bring to a medium heat to soften the onions without colouring, give it maybe 5-7 minutes.
Add the pinhead oats and coat with the melted butter.
Add in 340ml of hot stock and stir everything together. Keep the heat on medium-low and stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Wait for the oats to absorb most of the stock, this took me about 10 minutes on low, may be longer or shorter for you – keep a watch out.
Finely chop the parsley, quarter a lemon.
Peel the skin away from the fish and add it to the spiced oats in large chunks now that the stock has been absorbed and the oats have separated slightly (don’t worry, it will never separate like fluffy rice, but this is ok).
Turn off the heat, add a squish of lemon juice and the parsley, mix everything around, trying to go gently on the fish.
That’s it, top off with soft boiled eggs and dig in!

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.