Celeriac Soup with Goats Cheese Cream and a Walnut and Green Pepper Salsa

Celeriac Soup

Soup? In the summer? Are you mad?

Well no – but whilst looking through the fridge for left over ingredients from last week’s book, I saw that I had some leeks and a whole celeriac.

Denis Cotter has a recipe for Celeriac Soup in his book ‘For the Love of Food’ and it is pretty simple. I had all the ingredients – so why not ! All I lacked was the white wine – which I again ‘borrowed’ from Freya’s mum.

This soup also has a goat’s cheese cream and a green pepper and walnut salsa. Without it I’d have said this would have been bland. But these two additions really make the dish special.

For the soup, you fry some leeks and some garlic until soft, add a whole celeriac (diced) and a potato (also diced), and start the boil with 100ml of white wine.

Once that’s absorbed, add some vegetable stock and cook until the vegetables are tender. Took 30 minutes for me.

Blitz the soup in your favourite blitzer. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve. Easy!

The best bit though is the toppings:

Soup Toppings

For the cream, mash some goats cheese with some double cream. Simple

For the salsa, chop a green pepper really small, do the same with walnuts, and add in some olive oil and parsley. Just as simple.

We loved this. We ate it whilst watching ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, feeling we had earned a deserved rest after packing up all our stuff for the boat.

We ate the leftovers the next day cold – and to be honest it was just as nice cold. Soup’s don’t have to be hot you know.

Tonight we unofficially move onto the boat. Officially that will be at the weekend!

Spiced Halloumi on a Warm Puy Lentil, Spinach and Beetroot Salad

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Catchy title huh!

I love this recipe from Denis Cotter’s ‘For the Love of Food’. I’ve made it before. And it is consistently good – mainly because it is so simple. There’s very little ‘doing’ in this recipe – most of the time is spent roasting the beetroot!

I feel a little bit like Old Mother Hubbard this week. All my cupboards are bare. Everything is packed ready for the move onto the boat – and basic ingredients like flour are nowhere to be seen! Pretty frustrating – but fortunately I had all the ingredients for this dish in the fridge (except 100ml of red wine which I pinched from Freya’s mum!) I say pinched – I did pay for the wine with a serving of the dinner – so it was a fair trade.

The hardest part of this recipe is peeling a beetroot and slicing it into wedges. You just can’t keep your hands clean unless you wear some latex gloves.

Anyway – to make this you peel and wedge a beetroot – toss in some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil and roast (I did mine in my only remaining oven – the Halogen oven) until they begin to caramelise. It took about 30 mins.

While you’re waiting, cook some lentils in red wine and stock (with some garlic and thyme) until they are cooked and the liquid is absorbed.

While you’re waiting for this, crush some red chilli with some cumin seeds and lime zest/juice; slice some Halloumi, and chop a spring onion or two.

When everything is ready, add the beetroot and the spring onion to the the lentils – and allow to start cooling.

Then fry your Halloumi until it is golden and rub some of your chilli rub into it. Then serve the lentils on a bed of spinach and add the halloumi on top.

This is incredibly easy – and tastes amazing. It’s one of my top five dishes. Consistently good. You can’t get it wrong and it is a very well balanced meal.

 

Braised Broad Beans with Lemon and Dill

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Some dishes just aren’t work the effort. And in hindsight I was very foolish with this dish.

I’ve been looking forward to cooking with Fresh Broad Beans for months. I was naive to assume that you could buy them podded. I was even more naive to assume that podding was quick. Top of the naivety pile was that podding wasn’t the end of it – you have to peel them as well.

It took Freya and myself almost 2 hours to pod and peel two bags of Broad Beans. 1.5 kilograms of broad beans ended up as less than 350g of podded and peeled broad beans. In that time we watched Kill Bill Volume 2. It took that long.

Suffice to say that by the end of it all there was very little enthusiasm to eat. It was just too late – and I felt I knew each broad bean too personally to then cook and eat them!

Anyway back to the recipe: don’t bother – go hungry and save yourself two hours. You’ll lose weight too and your fingers won’t be sore!

But seriously: once you’ve podded the peas, add them to some softened garlic, red onion, sugar and sea salt. Add some stock and cook for 20 minutes – until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in some dill and lemon juice and serve.

This recipe looks so quick and simple when you are flicking through a cookbook – but getting stung with pea podding and peeling (how many times have I whinged about this now?) means it’ll take you a good couple of hours (and that’s if you have a willing partner who will suffer with you while you pod).

I’ll try this recipe again with frozen and defrosted broad beans. It will probably be fine. But this isn’t a recipe that sets my world on fire. It just didn’t have the excitement and the flavour I was expecting.

Sorry Maria, this is one recipe from ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ that I just didn’t enjoy making.

 

 

 

Rosemary Popcorn

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Is popcorn cooking? probably not. Although you can burn it and it might not pop if you do it wrong!

This recipe came from Maria Ella’s – The Modern Vegetarian. It’s not really a recipe when you say ‘pop some corn’ – much like another cookbook I have where they tell you how to make a shandy by pouring lemonade onto a beer.

We have bucket loads of popcorn kernels. When you visit a health food shop and see ‘Buy one get one half price’ you really do believe that ‘yeh I will eat that much popcorn’. Trust me you won’t!

A 1 kilogram bag of popcorn will feed a small country for about 20 years. So be prepared to have your spare bag of popcorn move house with you – much like the unused ‘fenugreek seeds’ and all the other Bart spices that you thought were a good idea at the time!

True story: when Freya moved in with me in Gamlingay, we sorted through my kitchen supplies and she found a Schwartz tub of Hot Chilli Powder that was older than she was! I bought it from Costco when I moved out of home in the 80s – thinking giant tubs of spices were great value for money – and it has taken up space in my kitchen cupboards for over 20 years!

Anyway – back to the popcorn! All you have to do here is melt some butter, or oil in a pan with some chopped up small rosemary. It’s probably a good idea to have a lid on your pan or you’ll be making a bit of a mess. It’s also a good idea to have a heavy based pan or it’s going to blacken and burn. I have cast iron Le Creuset pans – which are more than heavy enough !

Get the pan hot – add a layer of popcorn kernels (which really isn’t a lot at all) and put the lid on. It’ll pop in less than a minute. Once the popping abates turn off the heat – and let the remaining kernels pop. Take then out of the pan – put them in a bag with some sea salt and shake it. Job done!

Whatever you do – don’t be impatient. Take that lid off too early and those kernels are gonna be all over your floor.

I made three pans worth – about the size of a large freezer bag – and we couldn’t eat it all. I ended up feeding the left overs to the ducks!

Textures of Beetroot

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Anyone that follows what I eat knows that I eat a lot of beetroot. I love the stuff. Not that awful prepackaged stuff – or the stuff that comes in a jar pickled in vinegar – but proper raw beetroot.

Roast it yourself (I always do mine in a halogen oven) and all the flavour just comes out – yummy. The books always tell you to wrap them in tin foil but I never do. They seem to come out just as well whether you wrap them up or not.

One big issue with this though is your cooking time – and the time it takes to get the food on the plate is increased by at least an hour. You can’t really roast a raw beetroot in less than an hour – and once you’ve waited for it to cool down so that you can peel the skin off, you are looking at 90 minutes before you’ve even started with the fun stuff.

Thinking a little outside the box I’ve started roasting my beetroots in the morning. Just stick them in the halogen oven for an hour and the oven turns itself off, the beetroots go cold while you’re at work – and presto – you come home and you’ve saved yourself 90 minutes!

Maria Ella presents four beetroot recipes in her book ‘The Modern Vegetarian’. They can all be served together ‘meze’ style and they go together beautifully. The four dishes are:

  • Beetroot Tsatsizi
  • Spiced Caramelised Onion and Bulgar Wheat Pilau
  • Beetroot Keftedes
  • Greek Beetroot Salad

All are pretty simple. All I’ll discuss in separate posts.

The first time I made this I spattered the pages with oil – resulting in a ghastly PDF once I’d despined and scanned the book!

I’ve made this many times since, but computer screens are far more wipe free than the pages of a book – so no further incidents have occurred.

As a complete meal I can thoroughly recommend these four dishes together. It looks beautiful (my photo doesn’t do the meal justice) and there are such variety of textures and flavours. All from one purple root vegetable!

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

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Now here’s a wonderful find. I don’t think I’d have been drawn to these if it weren’t for the really good photo that accompanied the recipe in ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ by Maria Ella. Basically the chips were arranged in a kind of Jenga tower and they looked very impressive. As you can see I didn’t copy that presentation!

I’ve decided that keeping a packet of polenta in the cupboard is a good thing! I’ve only ever made one thing with polenta – Polenta and Sage Pizza – but this is far cooler. I think I could even convince my six year old daughter to eat these – she’d never know they weren’t potatoes.

Making these is pretty easy – but not necessarily quick. There’s not a lot of cooking time – just a lot of waiting time for things to cool.

Firstly you dice some butternut squash very small and boil it with some rosemary. Then you add polenta – and when it thickens you pour it out into a greased tray (or one lined with parchment) and allow it to cool. You really need to season polenta well as it is broadly tasteless. I pressed a load of sea salt and pepper into the top of my slab.

When it is cool enough to put it in the fridge, do so – or do what I did and whack it in the freezer. As you all know by now I eat at stupid o’clock most evenings – we ate these past 10pm again – so the freezer was the quickest way to get this nice and solid.

Once it’s set – turn it out. It’ll look like this:

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Cut it into chip sized errr chips, dust them lightly in plain flour and fry them.

I did mine in two different ways – in a halogen oven – and in a frying pan. It’s pretty hard to take a picture of the excitement inside a halogen oven – so here’s a picture of a frying pan!

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I have to say the crispier chips came from the halogen oven. And they stayed hotter for a lot longer.

Once they are nice and golden and done, take them out and roll them in some very finely grated parmesan cheese. If you have one of those fancy microplanes like I do this really does the trick beautifully.

I served Freya’s chips with mayonnaise and my own with ketchup. I think mayonnaise was the better option!

The book suggests swapping out the butternut squash for either peas or sweetcorn. Both of which I plan to try. I have to say I couldn’t taste the butternut squash, nor the rosemary. I think it would be better not to add the rosemary to the butternut squash when you are boiling it – I just think it ruins the herbs. It might be better to add it in when you are stirring the polenta – just to keep it fresher!

I really liked these – I could eat a bowl of these anytime – even if they are really just a side. The slab was big – so we had these again the next day as a ‘starter’ while I cooked up our next dinner!

Denis Cotter – For the Love of Food

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I wasn’t really successful getting through all the recipes of ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ – mainly due to some very long days at the boat, and lots of packing distractions for Freya’s parents. I was also a bit of a muppet and got excessively enthusiastic about packing – and packed all the food in the larder into a box and took it to the boat – rendering a lot of the recipes impossible to make!

That said, I’ve made most of the stuff I said I would – I just haven’t blogged it yet! I will – soon – promise!

So this weeks book I’ve decided not to find myself 10 recipes but limit myself to say six! If I get them all done I’ll pick some more.

The book is Denis Cotter’s ‘For the Love of Food’. This is a totally vegetarian cookbook. The Guardian say he’s ‘the best vegetarian chef in the British Isles’. Fair praise!

I love this book. I’ve cooked from it before and lots of the recipes are nice and simple. Many of them are very similar – especially the salads – but the slight differences between them make them very unique.

There are some challenging recipes in this book – I just haven’t chosen any of them for the coming week. I’ve got way too much stuff to do. And it’s Fathers Day on Sunday – where I’ll be out most of the day at Paradise Park in Hertfordshire with my six year old daughter.

For the coming week I am making:

  • spiced sweet potato pancakes
  • spiced halloumi on a warm puy lentil, spinach and beetroot salad
  • couscous salad with fresh apricots, broccoli, feta and a minted tomato dressing
  • sugar snaps with garlic, cherry tomatoes, shallots and basil
  • salad of roasted courgette, green beans and puy lentils with coriander mint and yoghurt dressing
  • salad of leeks, hazelnuts, fennel and watercress with a blackcurrant balsamic dressing
  • celeriac soup with walnut and green pepper salsa and goats cheese cream

Don’t they all just roll off the tongue. Denis doesn’t come up with pretty names for his dishes – he just tells you what’s in the dish!

This was one of the books that really inspired me to get into cooking again. Check it out – I think you’ll find the same.