Friday, January 22, 2010

Beans glorious beans

This is going to have to be a short one... Busy seems to be my default setting at the moment.

This is not the sort of salad that you just throw together while the pasta's boiling as a cursory nod to health, greenery and convincing your mother you're eating well. With sweet, golden roasted baby carrots and earthy beetroot and it's more serious, wholesome and interesting than that. It's the sort of salad that you can pack up and take to work with you for lunch all week, and rather than getting soggy, it will actually improve.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I picked up at Heidi's 101 cookbooks - I've made it a couple of times now with slightly different variations on the herbs, veggies and beans used, I'm pretty sure this one though is my favourite - although get back to me in a week or two and I may very well have a new favourite - after all, with bean salad, it never pays to be closed minded.

Carrot, Beetroot and Cannellini salad

1 bunch baby carrots
3 small/medium sized beetroots
2 cans cannellini beans - drained and rinsed
1/2 bunch of fresh parsley or dill - washed and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion - quartered and finely sliced
1tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
Juice half a lemon
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 200c

Wrap the beetroots tightly in silver-foil, place on a baking tray and pop in the oven for about an hour (or until a knife goes in easily)

Meanwhile scrub the baby carrots and trim off the leafy bits

Pop these in a roasting tray or baking dish and toss with 1tbs of olive oil and the balsamic - these go in the oven too for about 30mins or until just tender and golden.

Place the beans in a large fry pan or pot with a splash of oil and some salt and heat gently until warm.

Remove beetroot and carrots from the oven

Chop beetroot into approx 1cm chunks and carrots in simliar sized rounds

Quickly throw all ingredients (while still warm) into a bowl and toss well with the remaining oil and lemon juice.

Serve immediately with a savoury ricotta tart or on its own for a healthy, beany and satisfying lunch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holey crumpet!

I know I promised salad recipes, and salad you will get, but let’s be honest, who wants salad when you can have crumpets?! Yes, you heard me – moist, fluffy, crunchy, buttery, melty HOMEMADE crumpets. Oh yeah.

I don’t know if you’ve bought crumpets recently, but it seems like the only ones available at the supermarket are made by Tip Top (urgh) and have that slightly sour, smelly chemical taste that characterises all highly processed supermarket bread – no wonder I never really liked crumpets and always picked an English Muffin over its holey cousin the crumpet. My years of crumpet-avoiding is a shame, because crumpets should be a delicious thing, and if you take a little time and effort and follow this recipe you too can be converted, or even better, if you already like crumpets, you’ll be in soft crumpety heaven.

These delightful little jam and butter vessels (because let’s be honest – the reason a crumpet has holes in it is so it can suck up more butter and jam than toast ever could) are not your everyday sort of breakfast food, not just because of aforementioned butter-sucking, but also because they use yeast, and therefore, take a serious time commitment.

Being uncharacteristically well organised and forward thinking – these crumpets were started the night before, and instead of leaving the mixture to rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, it was stuck in the fridge overnight for about 12 (we were on holidays and doing a lot of sleeping, ok!?) and then pulled out in the morning, finished off and cooked. Unless you want to be eating breakfast at least 2 hours after you start cooking, I can highly recommend this overnight method.

These crumpets were enjoyed in the perfect setting, on my parents’ deck, watching the sea, where, like the crumpet, life is slow, and watching a container ship move across the horizon is sufficient for a morning’s entertainment.

1tbs caster sugar
7g/1 sachet dried yeast
250ml warm milk
250ml warm water
2 cups plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour (I ran out of plain flour and substituted wholemeal – I think it really added something to the crumpets, but it’s totally optional)
1tsp salt
250ml water
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
Butter to grease
Butter, honey, jam etc to serve

Combine warm milk and water in a medium sized bowl.

Dissolve sugar and yeast into the liquid – put aside for about 10mins until the mixture starts to bubble and froth.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.

Make a well in the center and gradually add the milk/yeast mixture – stir until well combined.

Cover with plastic wrap and either a) leave for 1 hour or until doubled in size or b) chuck it in the fridge and go to bed – when you get up, pull it out of the fridge, let it warm up to room temperature and then continue with the recipe.

Combine extra water and bicarb soda in a jug and slowly add to the mixture, beating well until smooth. The mixture should be pourable - if not, add some extra water.

Cover batter and leave to rest for 30mins.

Heat a large non-stick fry pan and melt in a knob of butter over medium heat.

Grease as many egg rings as you have and place them in a pan.

Turn down heat to medium-low and pour about ¼ cup of mixture into each ring.

Allow each crumpet to cook for about 7mins or until it looks dry and bubbled on the top.

Use tongs to remove the egg rings and flip the crumpets.

Cook an extra 30secs to 1min on to brown up the other side.

Enjoy a well deserved breakfast of butter-sucking fresh crumpets.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The quiche that wasn't

Ok, so I’ve been fairly slack lately with the whole blogging thing. What, with all the Christmasing, camping, beaching, beering and sleeping, there’s been little time for computers. Luckily though, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been slack on the cooking, in fact, I’ve got quite a backlog of photos and recipes to share with you guys, which is also lucky, because the last couple of days have brought the sort of weather that makes you want to run screaming from the kitchen and eat cold watermelon for breakfast, lunch and dinner – which although delicious, does not make for particularly interesting blog material!

One of these backlogged recipes is a savoury ricotta tart. I feel a bit silly calling it a “savoury ricotta tart” – considering it’s made up of eggs, cheese, herbs and a bit of asparagus in pastry, it’s probably more suiting to call it quiche, but the thing is, I hate quiche, and I love this! Well, I don’t flat out hate quiche – as a kid I used to eat it fairly frequently as part of Sunday lunch at my grandparent’s farm and I used to really enjoy picking off the pastry crust and eating it with tomato sauce – it was just the gluggy, eggy middle bit that turned me off. Luckily quiche was always served with at least three different salads at my grandparents’ – a green, a coleslaw and a brown rice salad, I was hardly deprived, starving child, forced to pick at quiche crusts for lunch.

Anyway, I digress – the point is that this tart is really delicious! It’s a bit rustic, light, fresh and even works beautifully when you slip into holiday laziness and use (gulp) bought pastry. I think the thing that really distinguishes it is that the majority of the filling is beaten ricotta, rather than eggs, the eggs are really just used to hold the whole mess together, this makes for a much lighter filling, both in flavour and texture.

This is the perfect sort of food for summer, it’s quick to make, doesn’t require the oven to be on for too long and tastes even better eaten cold the next day, so if you’re sweltering in summer heat, get to it!

Savoury Ricotta Tart

Also, I should say, feel free to be imaginative with the herbs and veggies that you put in this. The first time I made it was with spring onion and fresh thyme and a sprinkle of dried oregano, which was very good, but simpler than the recipe given here. I think I’ll be making this again a far bit and will be experimenting with throwing in some spinach and dill, and maybe some peas and fresh mint in the future – really, the possibilities are endless.

1 sheet/1 quantity shortcrust pastry*
200gm ricotta cheese (preferably not from the tub)
150gm soft goats cheese**
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 bunch spring onions – finely chopped
¼ cup flat leaf parsley – finely chopped
1 bunch asparagus - trimmed
1tsp dried thyme or a couple of springs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped, stems discarded
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c

Line a 24cm tart tin (or springform cake tin) with the pastry and blind bake (quick refresher – blind baking is when you pop the raw pastry in the tin, then a sheet of baking paper over the top and fill the tin with raw rice or beans/chickpeas and bake for 10mins or so, then remove from oven, take out weights and paper and pop it back in the oven for 5mins. This cooks the pastry through a bit before filling and stops it from getting too soggy or puffing up too much.)

Bring a pot of water to the simmer, salt well and drop in the asparagus. Pull them out again after just 30 seconds and refresh in cold water.

Beat together all remaining ingredients with a fork.

Chop the asparagus into 2cm pieces.

Pour half the cheese mixture into the pastry crust.

Throw the asparagus on top of this – try and create an even-ish layer

Pour remaining cheese mixture into the crust

Pop the whole thing in the oven for 25-30mins or until it’s brown on top and just set in the middle – so it will still jiggle a bit.

Serve warm with some delicious salads (recipes to come soon) for a light summer dinner, or cold, from the esky, in the car on the way to a music festival the next day.

* As I mentioned, I was lazy and used bought shortcrust pastry - it actually worked really well, but if I was feeling more energetic I would use this pastry recipe, without the sugar.
** You could substitute a number of things for the goats cheese here, cream cheese or some grated aged pecorino. I'd love to get really decadent and use Meredith marinated feta in this - YUM!