Archive for February 2008

Celeriac Soup with Parsley Oil and Lancashire Cheese Toasts

February 19th, 2008 — 4:17pm

Celeriac soup, lancashire toasts, parsley oil

I’m making a lot of soups at the moment, partly because it’s winter and I need comfort food and partly because I seem to end up with a lot of odds and sods that need using up. The tangy cheese is a great foil here for the creamy soup. I added a little leftover Gruyere to mine too, still hanging around from the French onion soup I made recently.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that the celeriac ‘can last three to four months if stored between 0° and 5° C and if not allowed to dry out’ – can you believe that?! What a trooper! I can imagine it now, every time the fridge is opened the celeriac is still sitting there, unblemished by time, begging to be eaten – until someone says, ‘we really should be doing something with that knobbly thing in the fridge’ Although there are a hundred different things to do with the humble root, think remoulade, gratin, mash, rosti, chips etc etc, I think the good old soup is something I’ll keep coming back to.


Celeriac Soup with Parsley Oil and Lancashire Cheese Toasts (Serves 4)

1 smallish celeriac
2 small carrots
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 pints good quality vegetable stock
3-4 tablespoons single cream
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
A knob of butter
Salt and pepper

For the Oil

1 small bunch flatleaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
Olive oil, extra virgin or not is up to you (I wouldn’t be tempted to use very-strong flavoured extra virgin here, it will overpower the parsley too much)

For the toasts

8 slices baguette or similar bread, cut on a slight diagonal
Grated Lancashire cheese

– Chop the celeriac and carrots into cubes and roughly dice the onion.
– Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter to a pan and gently cook the veggies until they just start to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
– Add the stock, bay leaf and some seasoning, give everything a good stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, put a lid on and simmer for around 20 minutes until the veggies are soft.
– Meanwhile, make the parsley oil by chopping the parsley and adding enough oil to make it into a loose sauce.
– Lightly toast the bread on one side, then turn over, add the cheese and toast again until golden and bubbling.
– Remove the bay leaf from the soup and puree until smooth.
– Add 3-4 tablespoons of single cream, check the seasoning, ladle into bowls and drizzle the parsley oil on top.
– Serve with the Lancashire toasts.

7 comments » | Blogging Events, Soups, Starters, Vegetables

Some Recipes for Valentine’s Day

February 16th, 2008 — 7:03pm

French Onion Soup

I think most people would argue that cooking French onion soup for Valentine’s Day is not a good idea. Stinky onion breath anyone? The thing is, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day so we don’t care. Well, at least I thought I didn’t care. I can’t complain because I am the one who said it was all a load of rubbish, designed to make people spend money. I could have made Chris his favourite, individual beef Wellingtons like these that I made for my friend last week. I served them with a black salsify, spinach and gruyere gratin, my favourite way of cooking such an interesting vegetable.

Beef Wellington and Salsify Gratin

Black salsify is such a joy to cook with as it is so odd! I really enjoy it’s earthy, nutty flavour but I do sympathise because of its rather unfortunate looks, like a bunch of twigs lurking in the bottom of your vegetable box. Then you cut into it and realise that it behaves oddly too, oozing out a sticky goo (similar to okra) and then requiring instant cooking or submersion in water and lemon juice/vinegar to stop it turning brown at record speed. The smell of the salsify cooking in boiling water is good, you can smell nuttiness and I sometimes think a slight whiff of candyfloss (!) but that could have been a bit of spilled sugar burning on the stove….

Black Salsify, Spinach and Gruyere Gratin

30g of butter plus extra for greasing the gratin dish
450g black salsify, peeled or scrubbed (some like to scrub their salsify but I use a ‘Y-shaped’ potato peeler and find this works well)
250g baby spinach
300ml vegetable or chicken stock
300ml single cream
Gruyere cheese (no exact amounts here as it depends on how much cheesiness you like!)
White breadcrumbs, a couple of handfuls

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/Gas6/400F and butter the inside of your gratin dish.
– Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
– Peel the salsify and cut into the desired lengths, then drop straight into the boiling water. Cook until just tender (around 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salsify).
– Meanwhile, mix the stock and cream together and season.
– Place a layer of salsify in the bottom of the dish and then add a layer of spinach. Grate over some gruyere cheese then finish with the remaining salsify and spinach.
– Pour over the cream-stock mixture then mix the breadcrumbs with a generous amount of grated gruyere and sprinkle over the top of the gratin.
– Bake until golden and bubbling.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons and Parsley Oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
40g butter
700g onions sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A generous splash of brandy
250ml dry white wine
2 pints of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
A generous pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

For the croutons

2 cloves garlic, cut in half
A fat baguette or similar
Gruyere cheese
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil

– Heat the oil and butter and add the onions, garlic and sugar. Cook for a few minutes on a medium-high heat then reduce the heat to minimum until the bottom of the pan is coated with caramelised onion goo (around 45 minutes).
– Add the brandy and cook until you can smell that the alcohol has burnt off. Add the white wine, stock, bay leaf, seasoning and give everything a good stir.
– Bring up to simmering point and leave to cook for an hour to an hour and a half (on the lowest heat).
– In a bowl, combine the parsley and then add enough oil to loosen the mix.
– When the soup is almost ready, cut thick slices (on the diagonal) from the baguette and toast lightly on both sides before sprinkling over the gruyere and toasting again until bubbling. Drizzle some of the parsley oil over each crouton.
– Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the cheesy-herby croutons.


8 comments » | Blogging Events, Main Dishes, Meat, Soups, Starters, Vegetables

Cooking from Persia in Peckham and Moro East

February 14th, 2008 — 3:23pm

Orange salad no walnuts

These are easily my two favourite cookbooks of the moment. I’ve been meaning to make the Persepolitan Roast Chicken from Sally’s book for ages but what to eat with it? As I delved a little further into the combinations of Iranian cuisine I see feta pops up over and over. I have some feta in my fridge, left over from yesterday’s lunch. But how to use it? Hmmmmm, the wonderful blood oranges are in season right now. Feta and oranges, yum. A quick flick through Moro East turns up exactly what I vaguely remember seeing a couple of weeks back, a feta, chicory and orange salad. Ok, so there might be a lot going on flavour-wise with the chicken and now there’s a lot going on flavour-wise with the salad, but I’m in that kind of mood. And I’m not going to eat my bulgur plain either, oh no, I’m going to flip one page over from the chicory and orange salad to the delightful sounding bulgur, celery and pomegranate salad.

Bulgur celery and pomegranate salad

I usually put my flavourings for chicken under the skin but Sally says to cram the stuffing into the cavity of the bird. The stuffing is sweet but not overly so and I’m glad in the end that I made the sharp and tangy salads to contrast it. The saffron adds flavour as well as a striking colour, making the recipe seem quite indulgent.

The recipe says to steep ground saffron in water. I used a pinch of ‘normal’ saffron and steeped it in 100ml of water, just to ensure even distribution over the chicken. Sally also mentions that she never bothers to truss the chicken, she just folds over and ‘hopes for the best’. I was relieved to hear this as that is exactly what I do but it also represents one of the best things about the book; you can tell that she is a ‘real’ cook, a home cook. She may not perform every process to Michelin star standard, but she knows how to turn out great tasting grub.

Persepolitan Roast Chicken

I didn’t get to go to Persepolis again this weekend. It seems something is against this idea and other commitments intervene. I am absolutely determined to visit next week. Nothing will stand in my way. It’s better this way anyhow, as I’ll be able to talk to Sally about one of her recipes that I have actually made (if she is there, of course). I may even ask her to sign the book.

I made a couple of modifications to the recipe, substituting barberries for cranberries and omitting the almonds altogether in favour of more of my favourite pistachios. I’ll detail the recipe here as I made it. The original also includes some ‘chips’ which are cooked with the chicken for the last portion of it’s roasting time but as you can see, I had enough going on already! The recipe also requires you to soak the fruit but doesn’t specify how long you should do this for. After a bit of googling I found that ideally, the fruit should soak overnight. I soaked mine for a couple of hours and achieved a satisfactory plumpness.

Persepolitan Roast Stuffed Chicken
Adapted from Persia in Peckham by Sally Butcher

100g cranberries
50g prunes, soaked and pitted
50g dried apricots, soaked
50g walnuts
50g pistachios
50g sour cherries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt and pepper
1 plump chicken (mine was medium sized)
1 pinch saffron strands, steeped in 100ml boiling water
150g butter

-Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4/350F
-Pat the soaked fruit dry and roughly chop it. Roughly chop the walnuts.
-Melt 50g of the butter and fry all the fruit and nuts together for 6-7 minutes. Add the tomato puree, cinnamon and cardamom, cook for a minute and remove from the heat.
-Season the inside of the chicken, then cram the stuffing inside. Fold the skin of the chicken over the cavity or truss if you dare.
-Melt the rest of the butter, add the saffron mix and then pour over the bird.
-Cover with foil and roast for around 40 minutes.
-Remove the foil and continue to cook at 190 degrees C/gas 5/375 F, until the skin is crispy (this is when you put your potatoes in if you are using them).

Now, onto Moro East. For the bulgur salad, you need to juice the seeds from half a pomegranate and keep the seeds from the other half for the salad. But pomegranates are so tricksy aren’t they?! Firstly, I suggest concentrating so you don’t do what I did and cut the pom the wrong way across. This just makes things harder. As you can see from the picture, I then proceeded to butcher the pom in a totally unprofessional fashion.

Pomegranate Mess

I used twice the amount of bulgur as the recipe called for as I wanted to make this more of a grain-based dish. I also used a large head of celery. I actually reduced the amount of oil in the dressing from 6 tablespoons to 4 and although I had more grain, it was delicious and well dressed. Keep any of the young yellow leaves of the celery for garnish. Here is the salad as I made it.

Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad
Adapted from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark

200g bulgur
1 large head of celery, sliced
Seeds of half a large pomegranate
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped

Juice of half a large pomegranate (push the seeds through a sieve)
2 garlic cloves, crushed with a teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

- Whisk the dressing ingredients together, season, set aside.
– Cover the bulgur with boiling water and stand for 10 minutes, then drain any excess liquid and set aside
– Mix everything together in a serving bowl and add the dressing. Serve immediately (Sam and Sam recommend leaving the walnuts out until ready to serve as they can make the salad taste bitter if left for a while)

For the orange salad, I just amended the quantities to my taste and omitted the black olives as I had so much going on already. Sam and Sam suggest using blood oranges if they are in season, which they are, so I did and they look so pretty.

Orange salad with walnuts

Feta, Chicory and Orange Salad
Adapted from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark

3 blood oranges
2 large heads of chicory, leaves separated
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
1 teaspoon dried oregano (the original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh but I couldn’t get hold of any)
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
100g feta cheese
100g walnut halves

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality cider vinegar

-Whisk the dressing ingredients together, season and set aside
-Cut the rind and pith from the oranges and slice them into 1cm-ish rounds
-Arrange on a serving plate with the chicory, parsley, oregano and onion
-Pour over the dressing and gently mix. Then crumble over the feta and add the walnuts

Final Meal

8 comments » | Books, Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes and Slaw

February 7th, 2008 — 3:08pm

Coleslaw in Progress
This is my all time favourite winter slaw recipe. It’s healthy too, so I don’t feel guilty about eating half a tonne of mayonnaise afterwards and it can really stand up to strong flavours like the smoked mackerel I used in the fishcakes. The colours here are so cheering on a winter evening. I find that even if your red cabbage looks a little sorry for itself, you can simply peel off the outer leaves to reveal the shiniest, virgin specimen within. I finish the slaw with some coriander which gives it a nice earthiness. It’s great for lunch boxes too.

Fishcakes in Progress

About the fishcakes – I’ve started using polenta on the outside as it makes the crispiest crust and is totally foolproof. I don’t even bother to flour the cakes anymore, just dip them in the beaten egg and then coat them really well in polenta and they turn out great every time. The first time I made these I shaped 4 large fishcakes from this mixture, but I think it actually works better if you make 8 smaller ones. They are more manageable this way and look neater.

I like any recipes where you can get your hands dirty with mixing and shaping. I throw in a couple of tablespoons of creamed horseradish and some capers but the possibilities are endless. That’s what you need with a weeknight recipe that you can fall back on, one that can be mixed around with different flavour combinations so you don’t get bored of eating it but you don’t need to think about cooking it either…

Winter Slaw

1/2 medium sized red cabbage
2 medium sized carrots
1 large red onion
2 cloves garlic
3-4 table spoons of natural yoghurt ( I think full-fat yoghurt is the best here and I always use ‘Total’ Greek yoghurt).
2 table spoons cider vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard
1 generous handful of coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper

– Slice the onions and the red cabbage thinly (a mandolin would be useful but I don’t have one and it works fine).
– Grate the carrots and mix with the cabbage and onions.
– Crush the garlic really well with some salt and add this to the mix along with the natural yoghurt, cider vinegar, some pepper and the mustard. I start with 3 table spoons of yoghurt and add more if I think it needs it.
– Finally add the chopped coriander. I like to keep a little back for the final garnish..

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

250g potatoes (for mashing)
250g smoked mackerel (I used peppered)
4 spring onions
2 heaped tablespoons of creamed horseradish
A handful of small capers, rinsed
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
100g polenta (you may need extra)
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lemon wedges, to serve

– Cook the potatoes until they are only just cooked, then mash and set aside to cool.
– Meanwhile, flake the mackerel, chop the spring onions and mix everything together with the horseradish, capers and some seasoning. Remember the mackerel and the capers are salty and I used peppered mackerel so didn’t need any extra.
– When the potatoes are cooler, add them to the mix. Shape the mixture into 8 cakes and chill for 20 minutes.
– Spread the polenta out on a plate and have the eggs beaten in a bowl next to it so you can get a production line going. Dip each cake in egg and then into the polenta , making sure that they are really well coated.
– Heat enough oil to shallow-fry the fishcakes. Cook them for around 4 minutes on each side or until they are crispy and golden. Serve with the slaw and lemon wedges.


9 comments » | Barbecue, Fish, Gluten-free, Lunchbox, Main Dishes, Salads, Side Dishes, Starters, Vegetables

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