One of the more curious offerings in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook – this recipe was potentially the dud in the book. I remember making practically everything in one of Ottolenghi’s books once and then tried something with Verjus and it make me think ‘well you can’t always get it right’. This recipe for me could have been that recipe.
But it wasn’t – it was very good indeed. Freya looked puzzled – and a little cautious but she liked it too.
We ate quite late today having gone to the gym after work – I didn’t start making it till 8:30pm and it is quite time consuming. Fortunately we were watching the film ‘Locke’ – another film I thoroughly recommend you watching. It only has one person in it and he drives a car from Birmingham to London for the duration of the film. Curious!? Give it a go!
To make this you top and tail some big onions (leave them in their skins) and roast them on a bed of oil, thyme and sea salt until they caramelise. The you add bay leaves, and garlic, wrap in foil and bake for even longer this time until they are tender. This took about an hour.
Take the onions out and keep them warm. Add stock to the herbs and oil and then make a porridge as you usually would – stirring for about 10 minutes, checking the seasoning along the way. While the porridge is cooking, toast some hazelnuts and chop a little parsley.
Then you’re done. Just serve the porridge with a couple of onion halves, a few crushed hazelnuts and the parsley.
It’s very much like a risotto. Quite creamy despite there being no dairy. Much like the ‘actual’ risotto I made the other day it feels like it’s got cream in it but it hasn’t at all.
This really was better than I expected and I would probably make it again if I was having someone round just to see them raise their eyebrows in disbelief. If it were just for me I would probably give it a miss as it takes too long to make and I much prefer the oven baked risotto I made the other day.
That said. How often do you only have onions and porridge in your cupboards! Pretty sure it could be an emergency meal!
First rule of cooking things from a recipe book is to remember not to leave the cookery book on your desk at work! Oh well. Hemsley Hemsley will have to wait until tomorrow.
Another impromptu dish then is this Chickpea and Sweet Potato stew which I’ve grabbed from the ladies at Honestly Healthy. This is from their first book and I chose it because I already had all the ingredients in the cupboard (apart from the aubergine which I popped out and bought).
This is a pretty basic stew. And it kind of looks after itself once you’ve done all the prep.
Quite simply this is sliced red onion and garlic softened, with some diced sweet potato, quartered vine tomatoes and a little water which you cook for a while until it starts to break down and the sauce starts to thicken. Oh – during this stage you also add some cumin, cayenne, a red chilli and some bay leaves.
You then add a couple of tins of chick peas, some diced aubergine, some more water and let it cook for around 30 minutes.
At the recipe’s suggestion – and because I quite fancied having enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, I cooked some brown rice to accompany the stew.
Once your stew is ready, stir in some chopped coriander and serve with the rice.
We quite liked this although it did feel like it was missing something. That something was something unhealthy (obviously) because when you look at the ingredients this couldn’t be any lower in fat. I tasted like a low fat meal.
Also, don’t eat low fat food when you are watching 22 contestants making desserts on Australian Masterchef. You’re just going to feel like you’re missing out on something!.
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?
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.
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!
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.