Category: Vegetables


Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnets

September 26th, 2014 — 8:08am

Pickled Corn

I have adored pickles since I was a little girl. Apparently, at one of my birthday parties I refused to join in with anything because I wanted to hide on the stairs and concentrate on consuming a jar of pickled onions. I didn’t want anyone else to have any. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure too many other 6 year olds were that into them.

Back then I remember only pickled onions, beetroot, cucumbers and red cabbage being widely available in the UK, but nowadays pickling is fashionable. We preserve everything from carrots to American-style watermelon rinds. Corn is particularly good as a pickle. In my recipe there’s a whack around the chops from the scotch bonnet chillies, but they’ve been crucially mellowed by the vinegar, and I can’t wait to finely chop them to use as a garnish. Spring onions and coriander went in too. This pickle is great straight from the jar but I’m going to try it on breakfast tacos. Recipe soon.

Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnets and Spring Onions  (Fills 3 x 1 litre jars)

6 ears of corn, 4 sliced into chunks, 2 shaved of the kernels
1 scotch bonnet chilli, de-seeded and sliced
2 spring onions, sliced into large pieces
Handful coriander
75ml lime juice
15 peppercorns
500ml distilled white vinegar
4 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar

Simmer the corn chunks for 4 minutes, then plunge into ice water (leave the shaved corn raw). In a pan, heat the vinegar, sugar and salt until boiling. *See note below if using old style Kilner jars.

Divide the lime juice, chilli slices, coriander, spring onions and peppercorns between sterilised jars. Add the corn and divide the pickling liquid between them. Top up with water if necessary.

Seal the jars and leave for a few days before trying.

* A note about Kilner jars: the new ones have clip seals but if you’re using the old style, it suggests you heat your liquid to 82C rather than boiling, before pouring it into your jars. You then put the round disc on top and screw on the outside bit. The instructions say that a vacuum will be formed inside, and the top will be pressed down and sealed (not popped up so you can press it down with your fingers). What no-one tells you, is that this doesn’t always happen straight away, sometimes it takes a few hours. This is pretty obvious when you think about it. Maybe I was just being a bit dense.

8 comments » | Pickles, Vegetables

Courgettes with Yoghurt and Chilli

August 8th, 2014 — 4:14pm

Courgette Meze

I go through 1kg tubs of yoghurt at an alarming rate. I love its cool creamy blandness, which can take on many other flavours, be they salty, spicy or sweet. It’s no wonder it’s so important to so many cuisines. One of the reasons I love Turkish food so much for example, is that every meal is accompanied by yoghurt based dishes; cucumber, purslane or celeriac are my favourites, swathed in thick, whippy clouds. They beg to be dunked into with too much fluffy bread. It would be impossible to do a no-carb diet in Turkey unless you have some seriously steely willpower. I put on about half a stone in the week we were there, which just goes further towards proving that bread should be considered as the One True Evil if you are ever trying lose any weight. It obviously had nothing to do with the all the kebabs and künefe I was scarfing three times a day. 

I can’t believe this tastes so good, because it has only a few ingredients: courgettes, chilli, yoghurt, salt and an optional squeeze of lemon. The key really is in the method. The courgettes must be salted and allowed to drain their liquid, otherwise you’ll have a soupy disaster on your hands. If you want to take this in a slightly different direction, with more of an Iranian bent, then a little chopped mint would be lovely.

Courgette Meze

Courgettes with Yoghurt and Chilli (serves 4 with other dishes)

450g courgettes, young if possible (different colours make it look extra pretty)
1-2 red chillies, seeded and finely sliced or chopped
Enough natural Greek style yoghurt to combine (about 5 tablespoons or so)
Salt
Squeeze of lemon (optional)
Bread, to serve

Grate the courgettes (most easily done in a food processor with grating attachment). Put them in a colander then sprinkle with about a level teaspoon of good salt and toss well. Set over a bowl or the sink for about half an hour, to drain their liquid.

Put the yoghurt in a bowl and beat it a bit with a fork until smooth. Put the courgettes in a separate bowl and add the chilli then gradually add some yoghurt until it’s all nicely bound together. Taste for seasoning, it will probably be salty enough. Add the lemon if you like. Scoff with bread and kebabs.

13 comments » | Barbecue, Dips, Gluten-free, Healthy, Nibbles, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Turkey, Vegetables

Battle of The Borek

November 14th, 2013 — 11:37am

Final batch of borek

The Turkish Food Centre in Camberwell sells a really mean spinach and cheese borek. It’s a snazzy swirly number which has been making a regular appearance in my face of a Saturday morning. Last week though, one just wasn’t enough. With hindsight, it would have been easier to nip down to the TFC and buy another one, because I basically spent the entire weekend battling with the pastry recipe.

It came from my mate, but it’s not his fault I ballsed it up to be fair; he was working when I asked him for it, and I got drip fed bits in Turkish whispers over the space of a two day period. The first batch were um, pretty interesting. ‘Oh, isn’t it weird that there’s no folding of the pastry after I’ve brushed it with butter?’ I thought to myself. Weird that, considering I’m trying to get it flaky. How will it do that without any layers? So in realising that mistake, in engaging with the culinary knowledge I have built up over a number of years, I decided promptly to just carry on regardless like a complete and utter tool. The pastry was shit, and everyone on Twitter laughed at me, saying the resulting borek looked like turds. THANKS YOU GUYS.

Borek or turds?

So I tried again. Goddam it’s hard to roll that pastry out really thin; it’s just flour and water, and the fat is brushed on in the form of melted butter between the folds. I even bought a special skinny rolling pin in not one, but two different lengths, so I have a reeeeeally long one specially reserved for that time when I need to make a borek the size of the Starship Enterprise. That’s big, right? I hate Star Trek. I think.

I used a spiced butter – actually the niter kibbeh from this recipe but think about it, nigella seeds totally work in borek – and I folded and rested and rolled and made a right royal mess and in the end they looked…well, they looked a lot better than the first batch. The flakes were there but the pastry was nowhere near as plainly and obviously rammed with delicious butter like the TFC version, which is rubbish, because it was. After two days and 30 odd borek I declared temporary defeat. The next day my mate came around, had a look at my efforts and said all they needed was a bit longer in the oven. Arse. “Other than that” he said, “totally nailed it!” and he knows his shit in the borek department. So in your faces Twitter followers! Behold my tasty pastry turds!! (top picture by the way). Bottom line is that the recipe below is a sound one, so knock yerselves out. What do you mean I’ve put you off trying?

Spinach and Cheese Borek (makes 12)

325g Turkish flour (I bought mine from the TFC and I knew it was the right one because it said ‘borek’ on the front. Genius)
175ml water
1.5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Spiced butter (recipe here)
600g spinach, roughly chopped
175g Tulum cheese (or use feta)
Half an onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten

A skinny rolling pin helps here. I bought mine from – you’ve guessed it – the TFC.

Mix the flour and water together then knead until lovely and smooth. I did this in a Kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook. Let the dough rest under a wet cloth for about 30 minutes.

Make the filling by washing the spinach and then putting it straight into a large saucepan, lid on, low heat, until it is all wilted down. Allow to cool then squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop finely. Gently cook the onion in a little olive oil until soft but not coloured. Allow to cool then mix with the spinach. Stir in the cheese. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Separate the dough into balls, each weighing approximately 45g. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball out as thinly as you can, into a circle shape. You should be able to see through the dough when it is thin enough. Brush the pastry with the spiced butter, then fold it in half and keep folding until you have a small square of pastry (about 4 folds). Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll each ball out again as thin as you can, in a circle shape. Add a thin snake shape of filling around the bottom half of the circle and then roll up into a cigar shape. Curl the cigar around into a snail shape. Brush each with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes or until a lovely golden brown colour.

23 comments » | Cheese, Pastry, Vegetables

Marrow, Courgette Flower and Basil Frittata

September 6th, 2013 — 2:30pm

A proper late summer job, this. Everyone is trying to find something to do with marrows, because they’re everywhere and they’re massive and people are passing them around frantically lest they be eating marrow for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I’ve brought you a marrow!”

“Oh GOOD!”

*frantically hides 10 other gifted marrows*

Actually this year I’ve only been given the one, and it is splendid. I wanted to do something with it that ACTUALLY TASTED NICE though, you know? I just didn’t think it was possible, actually, which is why I defaulted, like I do every single year, to the idea of making marrow rum. Yes, you can make rum from marrows. I decided to ask Twitter what it was like, and then I remembered, I know someone who has actually made it. I would ask him. He made the below video in response.

And so yeah I decided not to make it *cough* this year. It would have to go into my lunch and dinner and so I made this frittata, which I wasn’t even going to bother telling anyone about but bloody hell it was delicious. The key I think is to cook the marrow so that it still has some bite, i.e. don’t let it go soft or worse, mushy or even worse, watery. The courgette flowers look gorgeous of course but when used like this rather than deep fried you can actually taste them. They have a really pleasant peppery flavour that is not really discernible when they’ve been stuffed with cheese and deep fried, even though of course I do like things that are stuffed with cheese and deep fried because I am NORMAL. The basil is, well it’s basil and you know all about that – tasty, innit. So it’s all very high summer, yah? And I didn’t even pay for the courgette flowers like a knob this time! My friend Tai grew them in her garden.

So there is a way to cook a marrow that isn’t a) stuffing it or b) making a watery curry or stew or something.

I still have about 3 feet of it left of course. Any other bright ideas?

Marrow, Courgette Flower and Basil Frittata

1/3 marrow, diced (not too small, about the size of a er, dice, actually)
1 large onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 or so courgette flowers, cleaned (wash them gently, pick out the stamens from inside and pluck off the hairy stalks)
Small handful basil leaves
6 eggs
Piece of cheddar that was lurking in the fridge that is about 2/3 the size of a playing card? Sorry. It’s cheese, don’t worry about it.
Olive oil
Sprinkle of Turkish chilli (optional)

In a frying pan (I use a skillet for this), heat a little olive oil and fry the onions, marrow and pepper quite vigorously to start off with to get a bit of colour on the veg then turn the heat down and cook until the marrow is beginning to soften but still has a nice bite. Add the garlic now and let it cook out for 5 mins or so, stirring often.

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork so they break up. Grate in the cheese, add salt and pepper (generous amount – eggs need it) and the Turkish chilli if using and mix well.

Flatten out your veg in the frying pan and make sure all is evenly distributed. Pour the eggy mixture over evenly and press everything down so it is covered. Press the courgette flowers on top. Do the same with the basil leaves. Turn the heat right down, cover and cook until the frittata has set.

7 comments » | Brunch, Edible flowers, Eggs, Flowers, Vegetables

‘Dirty’ BBQ Veg with Queso Fresco

July 26th, 2013 — 8:37am

 

‘Dirty veg’. This isn’t some new dude food trend, but a pretty shit hot way of cooking vegetables on a BBQ. Cooking something ‘dirty’ basically means cooking it directly on the coals. I found this on a blog called Country Wood Smoke, which is written by a guy down in Devon who appears to be married to his BBQ. Actually I have many friends like that. Hang on, actually I’m a bit like that…

Anyway, the idea is simple and brilliant; nothing ground breaking but a real trick up the sleeve nonetheless. Basically, man-down-in-Devon (real name – Marcus) is saying, ‘what the hell y’all doing slinging your vegetables on dat grill when you could be charring em directly in the coals you bunch of absolute fookin’ numpties?’ because in my head Marcus has an accent which is a cross between Southern American, gangsta and Scottish. Wouldn’t that be a thing. Weirdy hybrid accents are cool. I met a man recently who had an accent which was a cross between Georgian (ex-Soviet state Georgian), and cockney. That was hilarious. I really liked him. He didn’t like me because I laughed every time he said something.

Anyhow. Get yourself some hardy-ish veg like peppers and courgettes and some onions, oil them up, salt and pepper them, then stick them directly in the coals once they’re ready for cooking (ie when the flames have died down and they are white/grey). Turn them occasionally until they’re charred in places all over. You think the courgette won’t cook, but it will. It’s also nice to do some more delicate veg, so once you’ve taken peppers et al off the coals and put them aside, get your er, BBQ wok (a wok with holes in) or, if like me, you don’t have one, a metal colander, and put that directly in the coals. Oil and season up some cherry toms and also some baby corn and put them in, tossing them about quite often, until they’re charred in places too. When all veg are done, chop them finely; the smoke and char flavour is just wonderful. What difference does it make cooking them in the coals rather than on the grill? Well they taste smokier, they cook in about 2 minutes flat and above anything else, it’s just really FUN.

Not quite cock rocket veg arrangement

Makeshift BBQ wok. Probably should warn you I can’t really get all the burnt bits off the bottom…

When you first put the vegetables in the coals you will think, ‘I can’t eat it that! It’s all dirty!’ That of course is stupid. They don’t come out covered in ash, just nicely charred and tasting amazing. Woman up.

We ate them wrapped with salsa, and some queso fresco, which is a Mexican cheese in case you don’t know. The idea that you might not know it will sound ridiculous to any American or, indeed, Mexican readers (sure I have loads), but it’s really not a cheese that is available here. And now someone is making it in Peckham. I know. Gringa Dairy is under an arch on the Old Kent Road. This means there are now like, 3 reasons to love the Old Kent Road! There’s Gringa and Shu Castle and also the fireman in the window – you’ll know what the last reference is all about if you know the Old Kent Road. I can hear at least two of you shouting, ‘I know the fireman in the window!’

The cheese is a bit like feta, but less salty, more creamy and a little less crumbly. You could slice it, for example. It’s apparently a right ball-ache to get the cheese tasting the way it does in Mexico due to issues of climate and method. I can’t say I’ve tasted the original to compare but by gum it tastes just perfect with a bit of dirty veg of a summer’s eve. Give it a whirl. We also splodged on some sour cream plus green chillies (note to self – CHAR THOSE TOO). A squeeze of lime caramelised on the grill…

I don’t want to make some cliche about this being the best vegetarian BBQ food as if there’s nothing good for vegetarians to eat from the BBQ. It is, though.

Dirty BBQ Veg  (two of us managed to plough through this – disgraceful)

2 peppers
1 courgette
2 large red onions, peeled and quartered
Handful baby corn
Handful cherry toms
Handful garlic cloves, unpeeled
Green chillies
Olive oil

Oil up the veg and season with salt and pepper. As I said the peppers, courgette and onions can go directly in the coals, just move them around a bit – this is proper instinctive cooking you cavewoman, you. Once done, set aside then do the baby corn, chillies, tomatoes and garlic in a metal colander or BBQ wok, if you’re well organised and er, have one. Move them frequently. When all veg are charred, chop them up. They should still have nice crisp, charred bits on the outside, but will be soft inside.

Serve with tortillas/tacos, sour cream, salsa, queso fresco…wrap em up. The possibilities for variations on garnish are obviously many.

19 comments » | Barbecue, Cheese, Mexican Food, Vegetables

Date, Feta, Pomegranate and Marigold Salad

June 7th, 2013 — 10:37am

When moving to a new flat recently I envisaged the shiny new, mahoosive balcony as a lush urban garden, flourishing verdant green with bush upon bushy bushel of salad leaves, herbs, courgettes, beans, basically anything I could get to grow vertically; anything that would crawl, climb or thrive in a pot. The only flowers I’d allow would be my favourite sweet peas, the odd geranium, a clematis or four and and…okay so I wanted everything.

I’ve managed to cultivate the sweet peas, the geraniums (already here) and a dying clematis. Some herbs are flourishing, albeit left field ones, like wormwood (absinthe) which is bitter but rather tasty in many things including, surprisingly, hollandaise. The vegetables, well, not so much action on that front. Some lettuces are doing well. Ummmm. Hmmm. So as I sat pondering this state of affairs from my makeshift office/boot camp (I’m currently working 12 + hour days – get the tiny violins out), it struck me that there was one more thing that could be eaten – the marigolds. I was damn well going to get a meal out of this balcony.

The basis of this salad is herbs. Recently I’ve been taking the approach to herb usage seen in countries such as Iran and Georgia, by which I mean I’ve been using them basically like salad leaves. See below a salad of mint, parsley and dill with asparagus. We ate it with lamb chops rubbed with za’atar, Turkish chilli and garlic, sprinkled with radishes.

For the marigold salad I used mint and parsley, tossed with pieces of fried flat bread, red onion slivers, sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and feta. The marigold petals have a slight peppery heat, but mainly they just look gorgeous. It’s a festival of sweetness from the fruit, against salty feta. The dressing has it going on too – olive oil mixed with viscous date syrup, balanced with acidity. It’s a lesson in the power of contrasts basically, and darn if it doesn’t look purdy.

Date, Feta, Pomegranate and Marigold Salad (serves 4 as a side salad, 2 as a main)

1 handful of mint leaves, picked, although leave some in sprigs
1 handful parsley leaves, picked,  same as above
A few crunchy lettuce leaves like little gem or romaine, shredded roughly
150g feta cheese (proper feta cheese)
8 dates, pitted and each cut into a few pieces
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 small pomegranate, seeds removed (the easiest way to do this is to halve it, then smack each half on the skin side with a wooden spoon, working your way around until the seeds come out. Wear an apron. Pick out any white pithy bits)
1 flatbread, or one large pitta bread or similar
The petals from 1 marigold (optional, obviously), picked and really, really thoroughly washed (the bugs LOVE them)

For the dressing

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons date syrup
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Cut the flatbread into squares and fry it gently in a little oil until crisp. Set aside on kitchen paper.

On a large serving plate arrange the lettuce, mint and parsley leaves. In another bowl, combine the dates, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese and red onion. Add the flatbread pieces and mix well.

Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the cheesy fruit mixture on top of the herbs, and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle over the marigold petals, and serve.

17 comments » | Cheese, Edible flowers, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Yoghurt Love and Labneh

May 21st, 2013 — 2:02pm

In his excellent book, ‘The Yoghurt Cookbook‘, Arto der Haroutunian talks about the health promoting properties of the white stuff, and its supposedly life lengthening power. By my reckoning I should live until at least 180, providing the yoghurt can counteract a history of fags, booze and fast livin’.

Cultures which consume a lot of yoghurt, such as the Georgians, are huge believers in its supposed powers, and have used it as a cure for…well, pretty much everything actually, for centuries. I can’t vouch for the validity of those claims, but I can vouch for the taste, and its hangover curing properties. This buffalo yoghurt made in a traditional clay pot brought me back from the brink; I’m talking nausea, shakes, the creeping doom…not a whisker of it after I’d gobbled this lot down at the side of a rocky road in Georgia.

Yoghurt in Georgia 

The yoghurt I tried in Ethiopia recently was a little more…challenging. I asked the lady we were visiting how she made it, and she replied ‘well I just put the milk in this bucket (straight from the cow in the back yard) and leave it on the shelf for three days.’ That’s one approach, although it is of course really just curdled milk and not ‘proper’ yoghurt. The taste was very sour and it had a loose wobbly texture. The Ethiopians often mix it with chilli powder and drink the whole glass like a shot, and I can see why. I spent the next three hours concerned about potential gastrointestinal payback.

Yoghurt in Ethiopia

Mixed with chilli powder

Labneh, then, is basically yoghurt that’s been strained of its whey. Of course I adore it because, well it’s like yoghurt to the power of ten. Once strained, the resulting substance is more akin to cream cheese, but with the obvious tartness of yoghurt; that sour freshness that yoghurt-lovers crave.

I’ve found that the best brand by far for making yoghurt is Total. It’s even better than the mega expensive stuff I bought from the farmers’ market, which relinquished hardly any liquid. It is thick and creamy before straining  which is a good thing if you’re eating it straight up, but with labneh you want some residual sourness.

To make labneh, mix the yoghurt with a large pinch of salt, then wrap in muslin, or as I have done, a clean/brand new dishcloth. Hang in the fridge (to be honest I used to just hang it in a cool place but now I have a very hot kitchen so the fridge it is) and allow the whey to strain away for about 5 to 6 hours. The longer the strain, the thicker the labneh, obviously.

After this time it is ready, and can be used or preserved in a number of ways.

Try rolling in herbs and preserving in olive oil…it’s then lovely just spread on bread. It’s also delicious rolled in dukkah, or za’atar. Straight up it’s best topped with punchy flavours like anchovy and chilli, or dolloped onto salads as you would use a goat’s curd for example.

My favourite way to use it right now however is to stuff it into Turkish peppers before slinging them on the BBQ. They are lovely when wrapped up inside a flat bread with a kebab, oozing their creamy centres against the sizzling meat. If you’re up for it, you fly bastards, stuff some green chillies instead.

Labneh Stuffed Peppers

1 x 500g tub Total yoghurt
Large pinch of salt
About 5 mild green Turkish pepper for stuffing (you could also use the long red Romero peppers if you can’t find the Turkish ones)
Oil
Muslin or a dishcloth for straining

In a bowl mix the yoghurt with the salt. Line a bowl with the muslin or cloth and scrape the yoghurt into it. Tie the top with string or whatever you have and suspend it from something. I used to use a cupboard handle but now I have a very sun filled, hot kitchen and so I hung it in the fridge. Set a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Leave for 5 or so hours. It will be usable but soft after 3. If you want to make balls with it and preserve them in oil then the longer the better as the labneh will need to be fairly firm for rolling.

Cut the tops off the peppers and de-seed them without cutting the sides. Stuff with labneh. Rub with oil, salt and pepper and either grill on a BBQ or underneath a hot grill until charred in places and soft. Serve either in kebabs, or on toast, in pittas…

38 comments » | Barbecue, Cheese, Uncategorized, Vegetables

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