Thursday, 28 July 2011

What do I do with...cauliflower?

I suspect that, for most people, the knee jerk thing to do with cauliflower is to serve it with cheese sauce. But, my very earliest childhood memory of cauliflower is fishing it out of the bottle of pickled veg before my Dad got to it. They were his favourites, too, so competition was hot!

From this, you will deduce that you can pickle it very successfully.

It can also be eaten raw, chopped up into small pieces in a salad or larger pieces to serve with a dip.
It works very well in a stew. You should pop it in fairly late, though, because it contains high levels of water and could go a bit mushy otherwise. Mind you, some people like it like that. In fact, if you cook it long enough to go fairly soft (don't destroy it!), you can mash it up with potatoes.

Served as a veg in its own right, it can be steamed or boiled (I prefer steamed, you won't be astonished to hear). If you fancy adding the cheese sauce, or even just white sauce, you go right ahead, but don't be misled into thinking that this is the only option and that cauliflower is off the menu if you've run out of milk and/or cheese.

I once ate a cream of cauliflower soup that was absolutely delicious and was astonished to discover how easy it was to make. Here's one example, but there are many others. I have also found that a cream of cauliflower-and-butternut soup works very well, and you can make it by following the cream of cauliflower recipe, and just adding some cooked butternut at the blending stage. As far as I'm concerned, butternut and cauliflower were made for each other (a bit like Forrest Gump's peas 'n keerits).

If you like a bit of bite to your food, try this cauliflower curry. Veggies may like this chickpea and cauliflower curry, which adds the protein source.

Image by Ian Britton.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What do I do with... carrots?

When I was a child, my grandfather had a vegetable garden in which he grew carrots. My grandparents' home was where we spent our Christmas holidays (which were in the height of summer, remember), as did all the rest of family: my mother's siblings and their spouses and - in due course - children. The cousins all played in the garden. When we got thirsty, we drank water straight out of the garden tap. If there was a hosepipe attached to the tap, we drank straight out of that. It didn't occur to us to do anything else. When we felt peckish, we dug up a carrot or pilfered some beans.

I still remember the taste of a just-washed carrot straight from the garden.

So, yes. You can eat them raw. Just like that, or dipped in houmous or sour cream and chive dip. You can also grate them up and pop them in a salad.

And before I go getting all sensible, they make a wonderful cake ingredient (but the icing absolutely has to be cream cheese icing!).
They can also be steamed or boiled (I prefer steaming) until just soft to serve as a vegetable. If you're not accustomed to cooking carrots, it is better to err on the side of raw rather than slushy and completely overcooked. If you saw Forrest Gump, you will know that 'peas 'n keerets' are a very good combination!

You could mash them together with potato and swedes, which is very popular in Sweden (although they don't call swedes by that name there, as you might expect).

Carrots can also be roasted. Just pop them in with your parsnips and/or beetroot next time.

And there is an endless supply of soup recipes involving carrots to one degree or another. Too many for me to even start trying to link to them all.

One really great thing about carrots is that you can grate them up into mince dishes while cooking (a) to make the dish go a bit further and (b) to get some veg down the neck of your picky eaters without their even noticing.

Image by kumarnm

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes

My boss's husband is a keen gardener, and he has been collecting up the seeds from the many poppies in his garden, ready for next year's crop. I decided to put some of them to culinary use. I genuinely had every single ingredient in the cupboard, so I was able to make these without spending any... what's that stuff called again?

Every second person you speak to has a recipe for these, it seems. This is the one I used. I reckon (predictably enough) that they'd be even better with lime!

Oven temperature

275g caster sugar
200g butter, left at room temperature for a couple of hours to soften
540ml self raising flour
4 eggs, separated
Juice and grated zest of 3 small lemons
2.5ml vanilla extract
Poppy seeds (some)
Cupcake cases (about 18ish)

250ml icing sugar
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
Little water

  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
  • Sift in the flour and mix well.
  • Add lemon juice, lemon zest, about 10ml of poppy seeds and vanilla and beat some more.
  • Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with clean blades and then fold into the main mixture.
  • Place your cupcake cases into muffin pans and spoon in the mixture. The cases should be about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for about 20-25 minutes until done (test one or two with a skewer).
  • Cool in the muffin pan for a little while before placing them on a cooling rack.
  • Ice as follows: mix together the lemon juice, zest and icing sugar. If it is a little stiff, add just a bit of water.
  • Plop a dollop on top of each cooled cupcake and then sprinkle with some of the poppy seeds.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

What do I do with...cabbage?

I find it surprising how many of the people in those healthy eating type programmes, where the person's diet is given a makeover, don't recognise a cabbage, let alone know what to do with it. It strikes me as being one of the most commonplace of vegetables. However, just in case you're not familiar with it, here are some ideas as to what to do with this versatile vegetable.
When I was a child, I loathed cabbage... except for my Gran's pickled red cabbage (note: the link doesn't go to my Gran's recipe, that is lost to the grave, more's the pity), but then I was pickle-mad, it has to be said - I had been known to eat an entire bottle of gherkins in a sitting, and then drink the vinegar!

This iffy relationship was not improved when I went to boarding school and was regularly served a grey-ish substance that had once been cabbage, until the life was boiled out of it.

My relationship with cabbage now could hardly be further from that. And the same is true of my family. In fact, it is a miracle that my husband still has all ten fingers, because he regularly steals raw cabbage as I'm chopping it, and eats it straight into his mouth with a look of sheer bliss. Nor have I ever had to put up with the whinging my mother used to get at the dinner table: both my sons have happily eaten cabbage from the get go.

Until I moved to the UK, I only knew one kind of cabbage (other than red), and that was the sort that is known as green cabbage, here. There are also white cabbages which (as the name implies) are almost white, and very tightly packed. The leaves are much firmer and more brittle. But I think my favourite must be savoy cabbage. It is much darker, with curly leaves and has a stronger taste, somewhere along the road to Brussels sprouts, but not quite that strong.

Cabbage can be eaten raw in salads. There are scores of recipes out there for salads that involve cabbage. In the UK, the most popular is coleslaw. When I was a child, my Mom used to make a salad she (perhaps unimaginatively) called 'cabby appy' for family barbecues: cabbage and apple salad. This involved chopped cabbage and apple with raisins (and sometimes roast peanuts), all mixed up with mayonnaise.

All cabbages can also be steamed or boiled, but take care not to destroy the stuff completely until you're left with a barely identifiable, watery mass. I tend to steam mine and I like to add caraway or cumin seeds.

You can also use finely sliced cabbage very successfully in a stirfry with carrots, onions, bean sprouts, bell peppers, baby corn and sugar snap peas (and meat, if you like).

Cabbage is absolutely delicious in soups and stews, and it features heavily in a great many traditional European dishes, some of which I have even shared on this site, such as kåldolmar.

Cabbage is also the main ingredient of sauerkraut. You could make your own, or buy it from the supermarket and then use it in Polish bigos.

In researching this post, I have come across some fabulous sites offering cabbage recipes. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has some great ideas for red cabbage, while Cherie Stihler has dedicated an entire page to cabbages in general.

Image by richcd.

Monday, 11 July 2011

You may notice some service interruptions

For personal reasons I won't lay at your doorstep, I am going to have to reduce the frequency of my posts on this blog for a while.
I have tried to avoid having it come to this, but reality got in the way, as it does. I toyed with the idea of posting recipes without photos, but thought better of it. I like to provide you with evidence that the recipe I'm posting works with current ingredients and equipment. For example, I have noticed that my older recipes call for far more salt than more modern recipes, and I want to give you an accurate run down of what I actually use, not what the original recipes ask for.

I hope that you will continue to swing by as and when I am able to share recipes. I will keep posting links on Twitter and Facebook, so that you are still notified when there is something new to try.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Lime drizzle cupcakes

I recently made these for my neighbours' 58th wedding anniversary. I promise to make something far more splendiferous for their diamond anniversary in a couple of years' time.

Oven temperature

100g butter, kept in a warm place for a couple of hours to soften it slightly
125ml caster sugar
1 large egg, separated
5ml vanilla extract
175ml plain flour, sifted
10ml finely grated lime zest (or you could use lemon)
5ml baking powder
60ml milk
juice of half a lime

25ml lime juice
60ml icing sugar

  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Whisk in the egg yolk and vanilla.
  • Add the sifted flour, zest and baking powder and beat until it is all blended together.
  • Add the milk and beat a little before adding the lime juice and beating a bit more for good measure.
  • In a separate bowl (with clean blades) whisk the egg white until it forms peaks.
  • Fold egg-whites into the rest of the mixture.
  • Grease your cupcake pan, or pop a paper cupcake case into each hollow.
  • Divide the mixture among about 8-10 cupcake spaces and spread it evenly.
  • Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Cool in the baking tin for a few minutes, then remove and place in a huddle on a flat plate. Poke a few holes in their tops
  • Whisk the juice and icing sugar together, then drizzle over the cupcakes.
  • Pop the cupcakes onto a cooling rack until cooled. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

What do I do with....parsnips?

Parsnips something look like anaemic carrots. In fact, in Afrikaans, parsnips are called 'witwortels' (white roots) to distinguish them from 'geelwortels' (yellow roots). Because the yellow roots are more common, they are usually simply referred to as 'roots' (wortels).

However, they have a very different taste. I can remember being surprised to find them so sweet and not even slightly turnip/swede like in taste.

I have previously shared a recipe for roast parsnips, which is my favourite thing to do with them, but you can also:
  • Roast them with honey a la Jamie Oliver (who also seems to like them with cumin)
  • Add them to a salad
  • Boil/steam them as you would carrots. In fact, you could mix them together with carrots for a bit of interest
  • Use them in a soup as an additional ingredient - just grate some into your existing recipe
  • Use them as the main ingredient of a soup (or even this)
  • Make them into chips (which you can also do with carrots and beetroot, by the way)
In fact, in my research for this post, I came across an entire site dedicated to parsnip recipes. So I shall leave you with a link to said site and urge you to go off on a parsnip-fuelled adventure.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Cardamom babka

This is a variation on Tessa Kiros's recipe for 'Bobba's babka' from her book Falling Cloudberries. Kiros is one of my favourite favourites. She has a mixed heritage, has lived in various parts of the world, and loves preparing food for people. What a brilliant combination!

Her beautifully presented books are what inspired me to attach a little back story to each of my recipes on this blog. You can curl up and read them even if you're not in the mood for cooking that day... mind you, chances are that you soon will be.

This recipe is quite time consuming, but there are long periods when you can get on with other things while it looks after itself in a warm place.

I made this on Saturday to take to church on Sunday, but it didn't quite work out as planned, due to a rookie mistake on my part. Does it serve to encourage you to learn that I also make rookie mistakes, or does it cause you to lose confidence in my recipes? I'm going to take a chance. I shall reveal the rookie mistake at the appropriate moment.

I used a bread maker to mix up the dough, because yeast is my nemesis. Before I got my bread maker, I never produced a successful yeast-including product. Since I got my bread maker, I have never failed to produce a successful yeast-including product. Simple as.

I am going to share the recipe as per the original (non-bread maker) instructions, and then explain what I did differently.

Oven temperature
180C (adjust for fan assisted ovens)

625g plain (cake) flour
5ml salt
80ml caster sugar
15g dried yeast
250ml tepid milk
60ml vegetable oil (plus a little extra for brushing)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

15ml ground cardamom (Kiros calls for cinnamon)
100g dark brown sugar
60g butter, softened

1 egg yolk
10ml milk
30g soft brown sugar

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix together the yeast, milk and oil and leave for 10 minutes to let the yeast  start to do it's thang.
  • Scrape out the yeast mixture into the larger bowl (make sure you get it all - it tends to be reluctant) and mix well.
  • Add the eggs and mix some more.
  • Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it well for about ten minutes.
OR... bung all the above ingredients into a bread maker and set it to 'dough' then proceed as below.
  • Brush the top with oil and pop it oily side down into a large, clean bowl. Brush the surface that is now on top with oil, too.
  • Cover with cling film (Saran wrap) and leave in a warm place for about an hour and a half to rise... and it will rise. It should now be about twice the size it was.
  • Split the dough in half and roll out one half on a floured surface. You need to get it about .5cm thick. It should preferably be a roughly rectangular shape of about 25x45cm, but don't panic if the shape isn't perfect.
  • Mix the cardamom with the butter and brown sugar and spread half of this over the rolled dough. Spread it well and evenly.
  • Roll the dough into a sausage along its longest edge and set aside, while you repeat this process with the rest of the dough.
  • Now lay the two sausages side by side and sort of twist/braid them together. Pinch the ends together well. When you've entwined them, give them a few extra twists, to tighten up the loaf.
  • Pop them into a greased 30cm loaf tin (and this is where my rookie mistake came in. I forgot to grease the loaf tin. I mean... really???) and leave in a warm place for another hour or so, to rise some more.
  • Mix together the egg yolk and milk and brush the top of the loaf. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when you poke it right in the middle.
  • If the ends are cooking too quickly, and the middle too slowly, Kiros recommends you cover the ends of the loaf with foil.
  • Cool for a few minutes in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack. For those of us who have made rookie mistakes, this is the moment when half the loaf empties out and the other half stays behind in the tin. It tastes, just as good, mind... it just doesn't look good enough to serve to guests.
  • Serve slightly warm or totally cooled (if it lasts that long) with or without butter.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Chicken madras

Since I appear to have deleted my photos of this dish, I have opted to use a photo of coriander leaves/cilantro. Image by beglib.

The Indian foods I have eaten since moving to the UK have been so very different from the Indian foods I used to get in Durban, South Africa. It makes one realise what a large, multicultural country India is.

The Indian descendants living in South Africa are largely Tamils, whose forebears hailed from from the southern parts of India. The food they now eat in South Africa has of course been adapted over the generations based on the ingredients available to them.

It didn't occur to me at the time, but I never ate at an 'Indian' restaurant all the years I lived in Durban. I don't even remember seeing one. I guess it would be a bit like having an Italian restaurant in Rome, since Durban is often referred to as 'the capital of India', boasting over a million people of Indian heritage (possibly the largest in the world outside of India itself).

Nevertheless, while I was teaching at a performing arts school in the Indian sector of town, I got to know all the take-away places and greasy spoons nearby. My students, to whose parents a white teacher at the school was still something of a novelty, used to bring me Tupperware dishes of this or that "my mother made for you, mem." Sadly, I never got the recipes of all these wonders. In many cases, I didn't even get the names. But, as a struggling student, I was enormously grateful for the free meals!

I always knew when there had been a wedding in the family, because then I'd get burfi or jalebi. Maybe both! My housemates used to love that!

The Indian foods on offer in England usually owe their heritage to Kashmiri or Punjabi traditions. So it's naan bread instead of roti, more meat, less beans... and in general the food is more aromatic. Oh, and I haven't seen a chilli bite in aaaaages!

There are of course, 'Indian' dishes which have been invented in both England and South Africa, just as macaroni cheese is an American dish with a nod to Italian roots. But even those tend to follow the patterns of the cultural heritage of the local populations.

Over the years, my palate has become less hardy, and there is no way I could eat the fiery hot samoosas I used to scoff after the final class on my way to a singing gig 'back in the day'.

Today's dish has a bit of bite to it, but is still within what I would consider a reasonable range. It's one I learned to make in the UK, even though it hails from the more southerly parts of India (Chennai).

800g chicken, skinned and cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onions, finely chopped
6 tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 small green chillies (adjust to taste), chopped
2.5cm piece of ginger root, peeled and grated (or just use the 'very lazy' kind in a tube)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
5ml chilli powder
2.5ml ground cumin
2.5ml ground coriander seeds
5ml turmeric
5ml nutmeg
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods
Garam masala (some)
Bunch coriander (cilantro) leaves
Pinch salt
75ml oil

  • Heat the oil over a moderate heat in a heavy-based saucepan. Pop in the cloves and cardamom pods.
  • Add the onions and fry them well. Not just to the translucent stage you may be used to, but until they are well browned.
  • Stir in the green chillies, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir for a couple of minutes.
  • Season with a pinch of salt and stir some more.
  • Add the chicken and stir for about 3 minutes to seal it. If it sticks a bit, add just a little water (no more than 50ml).
  • Add the nutmeg and tomatoes and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes over a medium heat.
  • Sprinkle with garam masala and fresh coriander leaves to serve.
  • Serve with rice, naan bread, roti....or whatever starch your little heart desires.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Granny juice (aka lemon squash)

When my kids were little, they both had a tendency to wheeze when given any commercially available squashes. We eventually identified the culprit as sulphur dioxide, a commonly used preservative in South Africa in those days, especially in fruit products.

So we avoided them. Since pure fruit juices, while abundant and richly varied in South Africa, were beyond our budget on any grand scale, this meant that the kids' liquid intake was somewhat restricted.

Fortunately, John's Mom used to make lemon squash - which the boys dubbed 'granny juice' - in vast quantities. It was delicious and refreshing. And, yes, it contained a lot of sugar, but absolutely nothing else nefarious.

And of course, it works just as well with limes... or a combination of the two.

12 unwaxed lemons, thoroughly washed
1kg sugar
2l (2,000ml) water

  • If you're feeling dedicated, use a grater to grate off the zest of about half the lemons. Otherwise, use a vegetable peeler, but be careful not to get any of the pith.
  • Place the zest, water and sugar into a saucepan (not an aluminium one!) over a low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. The liquid should be a yellow shade and smell of lemons.
  • Strain out the zest and set the liquid to one side.
  • Squeeze the juice out of the lemons and add to the liquid (which will have cooled down a bit by now). It is very important not to boil the juice, or even to heat it up too much, because that will destroy the vitamin C (apparently).
  • Bottle and keep until needed. Make sure the bottles are well sealed.
  • To drink, dilute just as you would any other squash to get the strength you require.
Oh... and the photo is my own. Just so you know ;o)

Friday, 1 July 2011

Risotto with an eastern twist

This is based on another recipe from my 200 veggie feasts book. In the original version were ingredients of the sort not found in the average kitchen (most people I know have never even heard of mirin, for example... and Blogger's spellchecker certain doesn't seem to know what it is!) and I was not about to send you on wild goose chase for the sake of a few mls of this (30mls in the case of the mirin, for example) and a dash of that.

So I adapted.

As you would expect.

1200ml of veg stock (alright, you can use chicken if you must!)
15ml soy sauce
30ml white wine (or use sake or mirin if you have it)
60ml sunflower or olive oil (or replace 15mls with sesame oil, if you have some)
A few spring onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5cm piece of root ginger, peeled and grated (or a tablespoon of the 'very lazy' kind in a tube or bottle - don't use dried ground ginger if you can avoid it - it's nowhere near as nice)
375g arborio/paella rice (or bog standard rice, if it's all you have)
4 kaffir lime leaves, ripped up, or the grated zest of 1 lime
250g mushrooms (shiitake if you can get them, otherwise - you know - whatever), sliced
About 30ml chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves with a few extras for garnish

  • Warm up the stock, wine and soy sauce, but don't let it boil.
  • Heat 45ml of the oil in a saucepan or large frying pan and throw in the spring onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry on high for about a minute.
  • Lower the heat and add the rice and the lime leaves. Stir for about a minute until all the grains of rice are coated.
  • Add about 150ml of stock and stir until absorbed. Keep stirring and adding stock until you have about half a cupful left in the jug. You might like to turn the heat off on the rice while you do this next bit.
  • Use the remaining oil in a different panto fry the mushrooms for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the coriander and mushrooms to the rice, with the remaining stock. If you turned the heat off before, turn it back on now, but keep it low.
  • Stir until the liquid is pretty much absorbed.
  • Garnish with a few bits of fresh coriander leaf.