Bruschetta con Pomodori e Peperoni

Hi everyone, this weeks post is featuring a lovely Italian recipe called Bruschetta (pronounced – brew-skett-ah), which you’ve probably already heard of. This is the recipe that my family use when we make it, and it came from the Green, River Cafe Book, a brilliant, really posh recipe book by the way, and it is absolutely beautiful. It’s one of those simple, yet so fantastic dishes. Something that you’ll want to make again and again and again, like my Mum’s orzo salad recipe that I posted not long ago. Give it a go anyway and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your ideas for variations. One thing that I thought could be added to the recipe would be some really mild red and yellow chillies. I think they’d work very well. Anyway, have a great week this week and get yourself into the kitchen to give this a go, unless of course you’re reading this where it’s still winter and capsicums are shockingly expensive, then you should probably wait a while till Summer. Besides, vegetables always taste better when they’re in season anyway!

roma-tomato

Bruschetta con Pomodori e Peperoni – Serves 6
From the River Cafe Cook Book Green by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers)
 
Ingredients –
12 ripe, medium tomatoes
3 large ripe, rosy red peppers (capsicums)
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Decent extra-virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tbsp of fresh purple basil leaves, rough chopped (green leaves would also be fine)
6 slices of sourdough bread, or an equally suitable toasting bread about 1.5cm thick (0.6 in)

Method –

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.

Cut the peppers in half and then each half into thirds. Remove the seeds and any thick fibres from the inside. Place in an oven-proof dish, season generously with salt and pepper, then roast in the pre-heated oven for 15 mins. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil all over and dribble on some balsamic vinegar. Return to the oven and roast for a further 15 mins until the skin is crisp at the edges and the peppers soft.

In a separate small roasting tray, place the tomatoes and  garlic cloves. Pour over a little extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Roast in the oven ’til the flesh is soft and the skin burst, about 10 mins. Turn the tomatoes over in their juices, then add the basil and yet another tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Toast the bread and both sides, either in the oven or toaster, and rigorously rub over with a clove of garlic. Be very thorough. Drizzle with either extra-virgin olive oil (there’s a lot, I know!) or avocado oil and spoon on the peppers and tomatoes.

Serve hot either on its own or maybe accompanied with a few cheeses and a fresh salad. Have fun with it.

Note – This recipe freezes really well. I’d leave it in for absolutely no more than a year, I once tried one that was two and a half years old that we’d forgotten about and it tasted ok but I also couldn’t help thinking while eating it that it wasn’t a good idea.

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My Mum’s Orzo Salad

Hello there! New post this week on orzo salad, my Mum’s orzo salad actually – as the title suggests. This salad is simple and easy to make and is fantastic to take along to a friend’s party, an office lunch, a really posh schools shared lunch day, or you could have it be the salad you have to bring for your family’s Xmas dinner. The possibilities are limitless. It would also be very suitable for a picnic as well. It doesn’t matter whether it’s served warm or cold as it is lovely both ways.

My family make this quite a lot. It’s a very reliable recipe and there is little you need to do in the way of fixing seasonings, the dressing, etc which is great. Making the salad seasonal and using vegetables you have on hand is effortless with this recipe as well. Instead of pumpkin you could roast butternut squash for example. Maybe you could use courgettes instead of capsicums, or you could add more vegetables. Make it your own anyway. Go wild!

Mum's Orzo Salad

Recipe – My Mum’s Orzo Salad

Ingredients –
500g of pumpkin, cut into cubes
1 red onion and 2 red capsicums cut into wedges
1 tsp of crushed garlic
1 tsp of oregano
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup of orzo pasta
150g of cubed feta
Small handful of basil leaves
Dressing –
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 tsp of lemon pepper, or normal pepper and a good spritz of lemon juice
1 tsp of honey

Method –

Mix the vegetables with the garlic, oregano and oil in a roasting tray and roast at 180 degrees Celsius, 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3/4 of an hour, or until soft and cooked.

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl.

Cook the pasta and combine with the vegetables and dressing.

Arrange attractively and scatter basil leaves and cubed feta on top.

Serve at room temperature, but just as delicious the next day cold.

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Potatoes three ways

Agria potatoesMaris PipersPotatoes

This week I’m including three recipes in my post instead of one, all of which are very, very good. The first one I have is called Sookhe Aloo. Roughly transalted it means dry potatoes which isn’t a great description for them, but that doesn’t take anything away from their delicious flavour, smell and look – bright yellow. These potatoes would nicely compliment an Indian or Thai curry, like the Lamb and Spinach one that featured in my first post and would also be great for a dinner party banquet that you could throw for your family and friends. I’ll leave you to decide how you’d like to serve them but one thing’s certain and that is that you’ve got to try them. Note – If you find that you cannot get all of the spices for this dish at your local supermarket then look out for a good Indian spice shop. These places will have every spice you could possibly need and they generally turn out to be far cheaper than the ones in those tiny packets from the supermarket.

Sookhe Aloo(serves 4 comfortably)
This recipe comes from the fantastic “Madhur Jaffrey Cookbook”

Sookhe Aloo

Ingredients

7 medium sized potatoes
2-3 tbsp rice bran oil
1/8 tsp asafetida
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
12 whole fenugreek seeds
3 dried, hot, red birdseye chillies (optional)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)

Dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch thick cubes. Measure out your spices and let the oil in your wok heat up on high or medium heat.

When very, very hot, put in the asafetida and then five seconds later add the fennel and cumin seeds, then the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in quick succession (I find that if I measure out all of the spices first and put them in small pots it is easier and you can just drop the contents straight into the wok quickly).

As the seeds begin to change colour and pop, add the red peppers. As soon as the red peppers swell up and darken, add the diced potatoes, turmeric and salt.

Keep on the same heat and fry, turning often, but gently so as not to smash up the potatoes too much. Fry for 25-35 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Squeeze over lemon juice and add more salt if necessary. Serve in a pretty bowl or simply on the side of a plate.

Note – You can also do this recipe in an oven tray. Just use enough oil so that you can pool it over to one corner to cook your spices before you bang in the potatoes. Make sure that the oil is really, really hot.

Also, warn your guests not to eat the red peppers as they are extremely hot and spicy!

Roast Potatoes cooked in duck fat –
This is the same recipe from my how to video on “how to make the best roast potatoes”, but instead of cooking them in oil they are cooked in duck fat and turn out beautifully and the reason I prefer to cook with it is because it has a much higher roasting point and it lends a delicious flavour to the potatoes. It is very interesting though to see how people react to the word “fat” in a recipe. Duck fat is actually very good for you.

“Duck fat contains 35.7% saturates, 50.5% monounsaturates (high in linoleic acid) and 13.7% polyunsaturated fats.(Which contains Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential oils). This compares to olive oil which is: 75% monounsaturated fat (mostly oleic acid) 13% saturated fat and 10% Omega-6 linoleic acid and 2% Omega-3 linoleic acid. The main difference between chicken, turkey and duck is that duck contains more linoleic acid, which chicken and turkey contain a higher amount of polyunsaturated fats. It appears that duck and goose fat is more like olive oil than it is like butter or beef.”

Excerpted with thanks from – http://greenmarketrecipes.com/poultry/health_benefits_duck_fat.htm

“”All in all, duck fat is a good fat,” says Alejandro G. Marangoni, a professor in the department of food science at the University of Guelph. Good fat includes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and bad fats include saturated. “Duck fat is pretty high in monounsaturated fat, and thus not too high in saturates,” he says. “I actually have a jar of it in my fridge.” So consider ordering that duck confit next time you go out for a fancy dinner. As you can see from this breakdown of one tablespoon (15 mL), duck fat ranks between butter and olive oil.”

Excerpted with thanks from – http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/nutrition/is-duck-fat-actually-healthy-for-you.

Roast Potatoes cooked in duck fat –

(Serves 4, whenever I make potatoes I always do one for each person and then an extra for every four as this allows for good generous portions and extra in case anybody wants more)

Roast Potatoes

5 non-waxy roasting potatoes, e.g. agria, red jacket, maris piper, etc. 1 tbsp of duck fat 4 – 5 squashed and unpeeled garlic cloves 2 – 3 sprigs of rosemary Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 250 C/490 F/Gas mark 9 on fan bake. Peel and wash your potatoes. Turn them so they are lengthwise across then make one diagonal cut from the left to the centre and make another diagonal cut from the right. This way you should have three good sized potatoes with a maximum surface area. Now put them into an accomodating pot, fill with cold water and allow to boil. Once the water’s boiling, remove the lid and fast cook the potatoes for 5 – 8 mins or until they are soft around the edges and you can easily insert a fork. Drain them and then return the lid before shaking the potatoes till fluffy. Turn them out into an oven tray and leave to steam for about 3 mins. When the oven is heated, add the duck fat to the tray with your potatoes and put them into the oven. After about 30 mins, you need to take them out of the oven and turn them over a bit, and you should also add the garlic and rosemary sprigs, return to the oven and cook till the potatoes are golden brown and the garlic tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve to accompany your roast or whatever you may be having.

Gratin Dauphinoise – (serves 4 – 6)

These potatoes are gorgeous. They’re beautiful. They are a must try recipe. Well, all of these recipes are must tries but this one is great. This dish originated from the Dauphiné region in France and as expected, does contain cream but you could use normal milk as a substitute or farmhouse milk which would work well. Below is a simple and delicious recipe and is one that you will certainly want to try.

Ingredients

6 non-waxy potatoes, new potatoes would work well
Knob of butter to grease
1 garlic clove, crushed
Enough cream to just cover (less than 2 cups)
Generous handful of cheddar/tasty cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degress celsius/350 degrees fahrenheit/Gas mark 4. Peel potatoes and slice 1/8 inch thick. Quickly plunge in a large bowl of ice cold water and drain thoroughly ina colander. Rub your garlic clove around your oven dish and then grease with the butter. Layer the potatoes carefully in an attractive pattern, one resting on the other, etc. in lines maybe. Season with salt and pepper, add the nutmeg and then pour on the cream. Cook for 40 – 45 mins and then sprinkle over the cheese, switch the oven to grill and melt it till golden brown. Serve as a side dish to anything and it will be amazing!

New Herb and Veg Discoveries – Thai Basil

Thai Basil
Thai basil is one of those lovely aromatic and exotic herbs that you only hear people like Nigella Lawson talking about. It’s as easy to grow as regular basil, is delicious in salads and makes a nice addition to your everyday kitchen garden. Article will appear here soon….

New vegetable discoveries – beetroot

I would say that beetroot has to be one of the best vegetables out there. It is fantastic for your health, for its delicious taste and like many of the marvels of nature, it turns your wee pink.
Beetroot
I have only recently decided that I like beetroot and am very glad I did, it can be served with or in a multiple of things, like salad, sandwiches, to accompany roasts or (and this is my personal preference) served on its own with a sizeable lump of blue vein cheese and maybe a sprinkling of sesame seeds for interest. You will find the last recipe below.

As many beetroots as needed
Maple syrup (from trees not chemicals)
balsamic vinegar
scattering of sesame seeds

Pour the vinegar and maple syrup (about 9 tbsp of each) into an accomodating glass or metal oven dish, add the beetroots whole, you will not need to do anything to them, and cover with a sheet of tin foil. Put in an oven at about 180 degrees celsius / 350 degrees fahrenheit and slowly roast for a few hours till they’re terribly tender to the touch. It’s also a good idea to check on them every other hour and baste in the sticky syrup. When done, serve with blue vein cheese (I recommend Mainland special reserve blue or Galaxy blue vein, for NZ readers) and maybe a scattering of sesame seeds which is optional.

If you have any other ideas of what else you could do with them then do not hesitate to comment at the bottom of this page and constructive feedback for this blog would be welcome.

Below are a few other interesting recipes for beetroot which you might like to add to your
repertoire –

An interesting balsamic baked beetroot recipe from Gordon Ramsay; I would like to note that its accompanying picture is very bad – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2199/balsamic-beetroot-with-roquefort

A beetroot chutney. – http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/601/beetroot-chutney.aspx

Beetroot flavoured hummous which looks good – http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/985/beetroot-hummus.aspx

Beetroot and steak sandwich with honey and mustard dressing – http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk/recipes/detail.asp?ItemID=326

Next time – Thai basil, not actually a vegetable though so it might have to be called new fresh-herb discoveries. I think I might try to think of a better name. How does herbs from my garden sound?

New vegetable discoveries – Butternut

(The “New Vegetable Discoveries” column will appear fortnightly on the about sean’s food blog so be sure to look out for it!)
Butternut squash

Recently my Granddad discovered a lovely vegetable called buttternut and in my opinion it beats pumpkin by ten-fold. It’s sweet yet not overly so, it’s soft and not too chewy and for me it was an entirely new taste experience. We recently roasted it in the oven with a bit of red onion and some harissa paste smeared on it which was absolutely delicious, the particular harissa recipe in question being from Diana Henry in her cookbook Salt, Sugar, Smoke which I will soon be reviewing. We have also roasted it in the oven with potatoes in a bit of olive oil which also had very good results, but if you haven’t tried butternut before then make sure you pick some up next time you’re food shopping. And if you make it all the time then how do you do it?

Below is a link to the harissa paste recipe we used which is excellent on chicken thighs as well. Try this recipe and you’ll fall in love with it.

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/11/27/basic-homemade-harissa-recipe

Next vegetable – Beetroot