Couscous, Sweet Potato and Edamame Salad with a Citrus Basil Vinaigrette

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I know this blog is all about cooking recipes from cookery books, but I’ve also found that there are a wealth of great recipes to be found online or in supermarkets. They do tend to favour the meat eater but there are good vegetarian ones out there too if you look hard enough.

One particularly tasty dish from Ocado’s Vegetarian recipe section is ‘Couscous, Sweet Potato and Edamame Salad with Citrus Basil Vinaigrette

The recipe suggests boiling then frying the sweet potatoes, but I prefer the leave the skins on the sweet potatoes and roast them as they become much softer, sweeter and intense.

I also prefer to swap couscous for Quinoa cooked in bouillon as it is much higher in protein and gluten free; so ideal if you have vegans in your home. Bouillon really adds flavour to grains like quinoa, pearl barley and bulgar wheat.

Looks beautiful doesn’t it. Really colourful and inviting. And what’s more all the ingredients are readily available from your favourite online supermarket.

There are so many textures and flavours going on in this recipe. Quinoa, sweet potatoes, edamame beans, spring onions, basil and rosary ash goats cheese. The orange and basil dressing adds a lovely citrus hit and the goats cheese is incredibly creamy  – hmm its just so yummy and is very filling – and I know I’ll make this regularly.

You can eat this dish hot or cold, and it keeps really well too – so if you have leftovers you can take some to work the next day and have your work colleagues drooling as they eat their ready meals and sandwiches!

If you want to add a crunchy topping for the salad you could try roasting some pumpkin seeds in tamari soy sauce.  I made them in an earlier recipe. They are really intense. I like to make lots and graze on them during the day.

 

Barley and Pomegranate Salad

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This incredibly simple salad is lovely. Yotam Ottolenghi makes amazing salads – this is another one from Plenty.

Simply prepare some pearl barley (boil it until it is tender and has a little bite to it) and then drain and cool under the tap. When it is done throw in some pomegranate seeds, diced celery, coriander, dill and a dressing. Couldn’t be easier than that. If you buy untrimmed celery, keep the celery tops (the leaves) and add them at the end too.

You could probably make this in less than 30 minutes.

I knocked this up in next to no time and it really tastes so fresh, crunchy and filling.  I only made this to keep us going while I made something else – but turns out I needn’t have bothered. I was surprised at how full I was after only one bowl. Plenty of leftovers meant we had it for lunch at work the next day too.

As a child I thought pearl barley was something cheap you used to pad out a stew. How things have changed. It crops up in many of Ottolenghi’s dishes – and other Middle Eastern themed cookbooks.

It’s another great substitute for rice (much like freekeh) and has five times as much protein.

I usually have all the ingredients for this knocking about – so I’ll be sure to make this again

 

 

Freekeh Pilaf – and the meaning of a Dutch Oven

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I shortlisted this recipe as I finally found a Freekeh supplier. I think I had watched Yotam Ottolenghi on TV during the Jerusalem series – can’t be sure – and finally found it on souschef.co.uk. I’ve been meaning to make something with it ever since.

Freekeh is made from green wheat that goes through a roasting process in its production. It’s used a lot in Middle Eastern cooking. Freekeh has four times as much fibre as most other grains – which might explain something that happened the day after ! I put it down to the garlic soup – but now ‘my dear Watson – I deduce that it was the Freekeh’.

Changing the subject slightly (well not at all slightly), while we were working on the boat last weekend there was a repeat broadcast of the Radio 4 show ‘The Unbelievable Truth’. During the episode one of the contestants burst into laughter when Miles Jupp mentioned that the Dutch Oven is the State Cooking pot in Utah.

We both looked at each other and wondered why this was funny. Turns out ‘A Dutch Oven’ is urban slang for ‘breaking wind and then holding your spouse’s head under a duvet for her enjoyment’. After the Freekeh it was tempting!

When I read through the recipe I thought this would be a #FAIL. It is very basic. Caramelise some onions, add the freekeh, add stock and serve.  Sounds dull, but the addition of lots of herbs (mint and coriander) at the end, and the use of a very good stock made this an incredibly tasty meal. It’s got a very earth, molasses’y flavour.

The pine nuts on top, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt also complimented the dish.

You should really give Freekeh a try – if you can find it!

 

 

 

Garlic Soup – Or How to be antisocial to your work colleagues

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So how much garlic is too much garlic? 30 cloves? And as I’ve said before how big is an average garlic clove. And how strong. I used a combination of the Natoora Pink Garlic and the ‘Very Garlicky Garlic’ from Ocado – where you only get 5 cloves per bulb. So that’s 6 whole bulbs of garlic.

I kind of knew I might only ever make this recipe once. Prepping 6 bulbs of garlic is a faff in itself and it makes your hands stink. You just can’t wash the stuff off. Add to that theprepping of shallots and celery – and it all just takes a little bit too long.

30 garlic cloves finely sliced looks a bit like this… too much?

A Lot of Garlic

In fairness I started making this way too late in the evening so it’s my own fault. By the time it was ready there was no way I wanted to eat – so I went to bed and we had it for lunch the next day.

This Yotam Ottlenghi recipe is actually very tasty. The ‘stock’ has a good amount of white wine and it’s very easy to make. Well apart from all the prep. The key is to use a really good vegetable stock as there are so few ingredients so you want to get lots of alternate flavour to just Garlic!

You don’t cook it very long – you just bring it to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. The green stuff is Bay leaves and fresh thyme.

Garlic on the Boil

The recipe is accompanied by a home made Harissa paste. Although I had all the ingredients I just didn’t have to time so I used some pre-made Rose Harissa that I had in the fridge.

The serving suggestion is to stir in a spoonful of the Harissa paste and a dollop of Greek Yoghurt. In the top picture I’ve broken up some Sour Dough bread and thrown it in.

There were some very concerned looks in our shiny new work kitchen. I think people were checking their calendars hoping they weren’t in a meeting with me this afternoon! Even Freya only had one bowl – so I finished the rest up. I think it was just a bit too controversial for her!

It’s very tasty and I’m sure it’s good for you but garlic soup is garlic soup. Eating it in the office probably wasn’t the best idea. I probably should have thought about Tuesday being Rock n Roll night.

I guess no-one is going to ask me for a dance tonight!

 

Green Pancakes and the East End Gangster Cookery Show

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There’s a woman from the US who has a cookery show. We think she’s a fake – acting as an Italian gangster’s wife and she cooks everything in character. Her name is Nadia G. and her show is called Bitchin’ Kitchen. Hopefully it’s all tongue in cheek – I’ve never really watched it – but it got Freya to thinking; maybe I should record some YouTube videos and cook in the style of Bob Hoskins or another East End Gangster. She’s often mocking my accent – being born in Ilford there’s still a bit of Cock-er-knee in there sometimes!

You could imagine it couldn’t you – ‘ere we ave some nice apples and pears with a raspberry veloute – blindin’.

She seems quite keen for me to do it. Not sure I could keep a straight face! We shall see.

Anyway – this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi.

I like making this kind of pancake – and Ottolenghi has many variations on a style. I’ve made them with Sweet Potato and I think also with sweetcorn – and these with Spinach are equally nice.

The pancakes are quite small – and you can make lots of them – so you have enough to eat for now and snacks or seconds for later.

Essentially its just a pancake batter with spices – and then some cooked, squeezed and shredded spinach is added before frying them in olive oil. You’re supposed to use self raising flour but I didn’t have any – so I added 2 tablespoons of baking powder. You also fold in a ‘beaten to soft peaks egg white’ which made the pancakes quite fluffy.

I made the mistake of buying Natoora Spinach from Ocado. I usually just buy the baby spinach from Ocado, but Natoora do some amazing pomegranates, lemons and tomatoes – so I thought I’d give their spinach a go. Unfortunately, from a 400g bag of their spinach I only ended up with 200g after removing all the stalks. It was very stalky indeed !

I fried these two at a time in an omelette pan and ended up with 12 pancakes – perfect to stack in a pile of three – it doesn’t look like there is much spinach in them – but there is and you can certainly taste it.

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That said – when I make them again I’ll probably add even more spinach to them.

You eat these with a chilli and lime butter – which you make by creaming some butter, adding lime, coriander and chilli and then resetting it in the fridge in a sausage of cling film.

These are really nice. We had three each before going out to the Goth Club ‘Electrowerx’ in London to listen to Ivardensphere. And another three each when we got home at 1 in the morning. Yummy!

 

Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi

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When I first conceived of the idea of stripping, despining, scanning and tossing all my cookery books, the first book I stripped was this one. It just happened to be on the top of a pile of books that didn’t quite find their way onto the bookshelf due to lack of space.

Heartbreaking as it is to cut up books with a craft knife (and a little dangerous I might add) there really isn’t an optimum way of laying out a book and photographing the pages. You’ll always get shadows, and then of course you’ve got to OCR the pages to recognise the words. It’s a pain.

When I scan the pages into my Mac, I use ReadIris Pro to recognise the pages and format them to PDF. They are then searchable, making it easy to find recipes based on ingredients. Genius or what !

Anyway back to the book.

I couldn’t have chosen a better book to start with. I don’t think there are many recipes in this book that you’d leave out. First time round (before Christmas) I made maybe 15 recipes from this book. I just wasn’t blogging then. This time round I have chosen 10+ dishes that are different from last time. Hopefully I have photographs from the lap of the book; if I do I’ll share them with you.

For those of you that have not heard of Yotam Ottolenghi, he is the master of all things Middle Eastern. He has has a couple of TV series and has featured on Australian Masterchef, The Taste, and often writes in the Guardian. He’s not a vegetarian but his recipes clearly reflect his preferences towards eating less meat and more vegetables and pulses.

He uses lots of traditional Middle Eastern ingredients like dried limes, freekeh, sumac, za’atar, moghrabieh and pomegranate molasses. The ingredients aren’t always readily available from supermarkets but I didn’t have to look too hard to find most of them online. I was also lucky enough to get an Ottolenghi cook box for Christmas from Freya’s mum with lots of ingredients in it. Which kind of made it easier.

Nothing in this book takes long to make, and he always precedes each recipe with a tiny tidbit about how the recipe came into his hands and why he likes it. It’s a very special book – it was a shame to cut it up.

This week – I’ll try and make:

  • Dates and Turkish Ewes Cheese
  • Figs with Basil, Goats Curd and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • Freekeh Pilaf
  • Barley and Pomegranate Salad
  • Avocado, Quinoa and Broad Bean Salad
  • Asparagus, Fennel and Beetroot with Verjus
  • Green Pancakes with Lime Butter
  • Garlic Soup with Harissa
  • Black Pepper Tofu
  • Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Creme Fraiche
  • Spicy Moroccan Salad
  • Sweet Potato Cakes
  • Brocollini and Sweet Sesame Salad
  • Brussel Sprouts and Tofu

I hope they are as good as they look!

Thai Corn and Mango Salad with Pomegranate Relish

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Tuesday nights are Rock’n’Roll dancing nights. Our usual pack drill is we just go dancing straight from work and skip dinner – and this was the plan yesterday. Instead we left work earlier than usual and went home. We didn’t have time to make any dinner so going home was essentially a waste of time.

That said – I did have to pay Freya’s mum for my new knife (well ‘cleaver’) that she picked up for me from Grand Designs at the weekend. The new ‘cleaver’ is a Hammer Stahl 7 inch Asian Cleaver. It’s beautifully weighted and looks stunning. I’ve been a hardcore advocate of Global knives for years. My friend Brad got me on to them some time ago and I didn’t think I’d ever stray – but the Hammer Stahl is very well balanced. And it was a bargain too at £85. Amazing how cheap you can pick up stuff at these shows. Hopefully I can pick up some more if Flint and Flame are at the Stonor Food Fayre this year.

I used the Asian Cleaver to julienne the mango and the spring onions in the final dish I’m making from Honestly Healthy for Life. It is very sharp – and a pleasure to use.

Anyway! enough of the knife idolising.

We got home from dancing at 11pm and Freya was hungry so I decided to make this last dish. It can be done in less than 30 minutes and we needed to wind down so I put it together and we ate it before going to bed. It’s pretty much carb free so I don’t think it’ll affect the waistline.

You simply boil some corn on the cob, then slice it into 2cm slices and sear it in oil on a hot plate. While you’re waiting you mix together some rocket, pomegranate seeds, mango, spring onions, bamboo shoots (which I omitted because mine weren’t fresh enough) and toss in a dressing of sunflower oil, lime juice, garlic, ginger and pomegranate molasses.

Very simple, very quick, very yummy.

I adapted this dish a little for work the next day and added julienned cucumber and some leftover spinach – and a few shavings of parmesan. It wasn’t quite as colourful – lacking the pomegranate seeds – but it was still an eye turner.

I’m still not the master of stripping down a mango. There has to be a better way than my clumsy way. Any suggestions?

 

Citrus Seaweed Salad

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My penultimate dish from the shortlisted selection from Honestly Healthy for Life is this interestingly different dish.

Another incredibly basic dish that just requires a bit of preparation.

Segment a grapefruit and an orange, dice some cucumber, and toss together with Wakame seaweed, sesame seeds and an Asian dressing.

I bought my Wakame seaweed from souschef.co.uk but  I think you can get it in most Chinese Supermarkets and I’ve since found it on Amazon.

Wakame supposedly has a fat burning protein, although I’m not sure how much of it you’d have to eat – and how regularly – before it made any difference to your waistline!

Wakame is usually bought dry and you rehydrate it by soaking it in water for 20 minutes or so. It’s very tasty and it smells lovely too.

I kept picking at this dish all day while I was working away on the boat yesterday. Freya wasn’t as keen as I think the Asian dressing was a bit too spicy.

It’s always tricky when someone says ‘one teaspoon of red chilli’. What do they mean. Dried chilli? Chilli flakes? Fresh Chilli? And then which chilli? Mild, hot, extra hot? It’s tricky to get chilli right in a dish other than to suck it and see – modify and try again. For me it was perfect but I’m a chilli head and will eat insanely hot chilli. Freya isn’t really one for anything other than a mild one.

If we make this again I’ll tone down the chilli. It was tasty enough without it.

 

Spinach Pearl Barley Risotto

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Seems like Monday was a day for all things green.

  • Green Love Green Smoothie
  • We painted the hull of our boat Green (we thought it was blue but seems it’s green)
  • We had Spinach Pearl Barley Risotto for dinner

That was a lot of spinach to have in one day – but at least we’ve not done our usual ‘throw a bag of spinach away because we bought too much’.

This is one of the best risottos I’ve ever eaten. And it isn’t even made with rice.

Don’t let the green put you off. Green stuff (as I mentioned for the smoothie) always looks bit weird – especially when it is as vibrant as this green!

The recipe is pretty basic – as are all the recipes in Honestly Healthy for Life. Saute some red onions and garlic, add the pearl barley, add some bouillon, cook like a risotto – and at the end add the pureed spinach, some lemon juice and zest. Dead easy.

I found it pretty hard to puree spinach leave in a Vitamix so I added some of the bouillon to get it going – after that it was all plain sailing.

The flavours in this dish are so simple and all come together beautifully. Spinach, garlic and lemon are always amazing in a salad – and they flavours transfer beautifully into this risotto.

This took less that 40 minutes to make and was awesome. This is a definite keeper and probably now means I’ll never throw a bag of spinach away ever again. I usually have all the other ingredients knocking about anyway – so this will probably end up being one of my emergency dinners.

The book suggests that you can substitute the spinach for beetroot. I imagine you could substitute any pureeable (I know that’s not a word) vegetable that has lots of flavour. Maybe I’ll try that later in the week ( I have a few raw beetroot in the fridge).

I seem to have been cooking from this books forever; but it’s only been 10 days. I’ve only one recipe left to try from my shortlist – which contains pomegranate and sweetcorn. After that I’ll move on to something else.

The coming week I think I’ll be cooking from Ottolenghi’s books!

 

Green Smoothie – Green Love

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According to Honestly Healthy for Life ‘there is no better way to start the day than with an alkalising green smoothie’. I beg to differ – I can name several things; who doesn’t like a brew in the morning!

There’s something weird about drinking green stuff. Especially when that green stuff is spinach and parsley. In fairness it is also blended with mango, an apple, chia seeds and coconut water.

It’s very thick. I think it weirded Freya out – especially when I took a big gulp and it all got stuck in my beard and moustache! I guess you could add more coconut water to make it thinner!

You can certainly taste the parsley, and smell it.

I’ve already drunk mine and am on a second glass. It’s supposed to keep your blood sugar levels up – which is good to know!

There are four variations of smoothie in the book, five if you include swapping out the spinach in our one for kale. This one was called ‘Green Love’. They are all quite different. If I ever make them I’ll be sure to review them.

We think that a blob of creme fraiche, some parsley on top, ladled into a bowl, would make a lovely cold soup starter for a nice summer’s day dinner. Or to keep it vegan you could put a garlic and tahini dressing on top. Who knows!

We’re off to the boat today to get some finishing touches applied to a ‘fast approaching finished’ boat.

The sun is out, there’s no wind. There’s no chance of rain. The day is looking good. What’s more, my dizziness has gone so I can get back to normal and stop worrying about having a terminal illness. With all that spinach drink – third glass now – I’m sure to adopt some Popeye super powers in the next few hours.

Olive!