onion

Parsley soup

parsley soup 2.jpg

I was watching Rick Stein on one of his long weekends in Bordeaux over Christmas. He was gushing about French markets selling huge bunches of herbs and how that didn’t really happen in the UK. But the following week I went into my local greengrocers (Fred Hallam in Beeston, Nottingham) and low and behold they were selling enormous bunches of locally grown parsley just like the Bordeaux market.

I couldn’t resist buying lots of it. I added parsley to everything that week but still had plenty left over. I then remembered this soup recipe where parsley is the main ingredient (which coincidentally is a Rick Stein one). It is one of my all time favourite soups and the perfect lunch for a cold, wet January day when one is trying to be a little more healthy after all that Christmas indulgence.

You do however need a good, cheap parsley supply – it would cost a fortune if you had to make it with those measly 30g bags from the supermarket.

Parsley soup

  • 2 large leeks or 2 small onions
  • A huge bunch of parsley (curly or flat leaf) approximately 200g
  • 75g of butter (you can use less if you’re watching your fat content, I use about half this amount and it still has a nice velvety texture)
  • 275g of floury potatoes, chopped into small cubes (I don’t bother peeling them)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock (home-made is best but stock cubes or pots are fine)
  • You can add double cream if you like (the original Rick Stein recipe uses 50ml) but I don’t think this is necessary

If using leeks then discard the darker green tops and chop roughly, alternatively roughly chop the onion.

Roughly chop the parsley stalks and leaves, reserving a handful of the bright green leaves for later.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the parsley and leeks/onion and soften gently for about 5 minutes.

Now add the potatoes and chicken stock then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Blitz the whole lot in a food processor along with the handful of uncooked parsley leaves until very smooth.

Return to the pan and season with salt and pepper (and add the double cream if you like).

Classic quiche Lorraine

quiche
It is difficult to make this dish look appetising as this photo demonstrates.

When you work in an office with a high percentage of women (as I have done) you often have to listen to tedious conversations about dieting. And many times I have overheard diet bores slapping themselves on the back because they have had “just a little bit of quiche and salad” for lunch. This is pretty funny because there are few dishes which contain quite so much fat (pastry, eggs, bacon, cream!!!). But for some reason quiche seems to retain an image of ‘lightness’ and ‘femininity’.

Calories aside, I have never bee a fan of quiche because I think eggs and cheese mixed together is the devil’s work. Even the smell makes me want to vomit. And memories of being forced to eat my primary school’s ghastly ‘cheese and egg flan’ have never quite left me.

I recently read however that a classic Quiche Lorraine should never have cheese in it (yes, yes, it was Elizabeth David again but I’m not obsessed, honest). Hurrah I thought and quickly googled for a recipe without cheese.

The filling for this recipe is very straight forward and comes from Felicity Cloake (attempting to create the ‘perfect’ quiche Lorraine for the Guardian). The shortcrust pastry recipe is from my trusty Be-Ro book. I couldn’t help myself and added a little caramelised onion to the mix – but this is not ‘the done thing’ – Elizabeth would not approve.

I found that I could happily eat quiche made this way. And my husband, who has a very feminine palate, (he loves cappuccinos, chocolate and yoghurt) thought it was wonderful.

Classic quiche Lorraine

Serves 10-12

For the pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g margarine
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of cold milk

For the filling

  • 200g smoked back bacon, finely chopped
  • 320ml double cream
  • 4 whole eggs and two yolks (reserve the white for brushing the pastry bottom)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (OPTIONAL)

To make the pastry measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the margarine and then rub together with the flour until you have a mix the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the 3 tablespoons of milk and with a knife stir until well incorporated. Then, using your hands, bring the mixture together lightly to form a ball. Knead very gently a couple of times until smooth. Press the ball down roughly to form a thick flat circle, place in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190oC.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out with a rolling pin until it is big enough to line a 23 cm tart tin. Prick the bottom with a fork all over and trim the edges. You need to make sure there are no cracks in your pastry (because otherwise the filling will seep out) but if you have some don’t worry – just patch up the holes/cracks with pastry left over from trimming the edges. Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy. Put a square of baking parchment over the surface of the pastry and fill with baking beads.

Bake the pastry case in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beads and the baking paper and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Finally brush the bottom with a thin layer of egg white (apparently this helps to avoid a soggy bottom) and pop back in the oven for another 3 minutes. Set the case aside while you prepare the filling.

OPTIONAL: Fry a large onion (or two smaller ones) gently in a little olive oil or butter for about 15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Spread over the base.

Fry the bacon until browned but not too crisp. Drain on kitchen towel and spread half over the onion or (if you’re not using onion) over the base.

Put the cream and the eggs and yolks into a large bowl with a generous pinch of salt and some pepper. Beat together slowly until combined and then give the mix a fast whisk until frothy. Pour over the base to fill and then sprinkle over the rest of the bacon.

Bake for 20 minutes. The centre should still be a little bit wobbly if you like a creamy texture. If you prefer a denser texture then cook for 5-10 minutes longer.

Serve warm or at room temperature (but not piping hot or fridge cold – both of these dampen down the flavour).

A giant cabbage pasty

cabbagepasty

Trust me this is much nicer than it sounds.

I love cabbage. I’m thrilled that we currently have a glut that needs eating quickly before it bolts and goes to seed. I will quite happily eat a whole bowl full on its own (just stir fried with a little garlic or simply raw with a Japanese style dressing) but I’ve been trying to find recipes that  make this humble vegetable a meal in itself – not just a side dish. I’m also after recipes that will win over my husband and children.

This recipe (by Melissa Clarke for NYT food online) is brilliant and seemed to go down well. The real winner is the pastry which is very sturdy and easy to make. I can’t wait to try using it with other fillings. Potato and wild garlic perhaps, or maybe sausage and onion.

If you prefer learning by watching then there’s a helpful video here (by Melissa, not me).

Melissa Clarke’s Cabbage and Onion Torta

(in my own words – with some amendments – and converted from US cup measurements)

Serves 6-8

For the pastry

  • 475g of plain flour
  • 60g wholemeal flour
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 170g of butter
  • Cold water (no more than 350 ml)

For the filling

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 680g of cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar (or more to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 70g of dry bread crumbs
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of dried or fresh thyme
  • 225g of cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and red Leicester but Melissa uses fontina)
  • 1 large egg yolk, to glaze

Measure the butter and place in the freezer for 1 hour to harden up a bit. In a large bowl measure out the flour and the salt. Remove the butter from the freezer and grate it into the bowl. Mix with a knife until well incorporated. Add enough cold water (a couple of tablespoons at a time) until the mixture comes together – you may not need the whole 350ml. Use your hands to bring everything together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in heavy based pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (around 10 minutes).

Add another tablespoon of oil and stir in the cabbage, a handful at a time, waiting for each addition to wilt before adding more. Cook until the cabbage is tender (about 7-10 minutes). Stir in the vinegar and salt and cook for a few minutes scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add more salt and vinegar to taste if you think it’s needed.

Add the final tablespoon oil into the pan and stir in the breadcrumbs, garlic and thyme. Cook until the breadcrumbs turn golden (about 1 minute). Set aside.

Heat your oven to 220oC and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

On a floured surface, roll out your dough into a 17-by-12-inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, spread half the bread crumbs evenly over half of the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Top with half the cheese, then half the cabbage, then the remaining cheese, followed by cabbage and finally breadcrumbs.

Dab the edges of the dough with water. Fold half the dough over the filling and use the prongs of a fork to seal edges. Brush the crust with a beaten egg yolk.

Using a knife, cut several slits in the centre of the crust. Transfer the pie to your prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown (about 45 minutes).

Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

cabbagepasty3

Pasta with caramelised onions and yoghurt

pasta with onions

This recipe sounds a bit weird but I promise you it’s absolutely delicious.

The first time I made it I had a rather strange conversation via twitter with the writer Diana Henry.

@DianaHenryFood Help please! Part way through your pasta with onions recipe but have realised I forgot to buy dill. What else could I use?

@DianaHenryFood PS. I also realise that this is a long shot – sure you have much better things to do on a Thursday night. I’ll go away now.

@Shelton_Zoe is that the Turkish one?

@DianaHenryFood Yes. Thanks for the reply (couldn’t fit the whole title in). 5 minutes from serving up.

@Shelton_Zoe oh dear. Too late. Not at all the same but parsley would do, or thyme. For future ref 😉

@DianaHenryFood amazing dish even without dill – thanks for the recipe. I’ll try thyme next as it’s in my garden.

@Shelton_Zoe get dill!

@DianaHenryFood Yes, of course. Golden rule – always follow the original recipe exactly first BEFORE tinkering. I’ll leave you in peace now.

I hasten to add that the next time I cooked this dish I bought dill. It was nice without, but even nicer with.

It was kind of Diana Henry to answer my stupid question but why on earth was she on twitter on a Thursday evening?

But then again why was I?

Diana Henry’s pasta with caramelised onions and yoghurt

Serves 2

  • 425g onions (about 4 medium ones), very finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A 5 cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 145g tagliatelle (I probably used more than this because I’m greedy. If you want to make your own tagliatelle, here’s my tried and tested recipe)
  • 50g Greek yogurt
  • 1½ tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh dill, chopped (or thyme, or parsley, or nothing)
  • 15g butter
  • ¼ teaspoons of ground cayenne
  • finely crumbled feta to serve (I didn’t bother with this because I don’t like feta)

Put the onions in a heavy-based pan with the olive oil, bay and cinnamon. Cook over a medium heat, stirring the onions, until they start to turn golden. Then add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes.

Add a splash of water, cover the pan, turn the heat right down and leave until the onions are almost caramelised (about 35 minutes). Open the lid to check them every so often and add a little more water if they look dry.

When the onions are cooked, uncover, season with salt and pepper and boil away any excess liquid.

Cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions. Drain and toss it into the pot with the onions and stir in the yogurt, milk and dill.

Very quickly melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the cayenne. Cook for about 20 seconds.

Serve the pasta with the spiced butter drizzled on top (and, if you like, the feta on the side).

Lamb flatbreads (Lahmacun)

Lahmacun

Lamb flatbreads (or Turkish pizza as they are sometimes called) are my new obsession. They are aromatic but not too spicy and great if you love pizza but can’t eat diary like my two sisters Gemma and Laura.

So this recipe, my lovely sisters, is for you. PS. That means that you’ve got to try it (said in a bossy older sister voice).

A little lamb mince goes a very long way in this recipe ,which is good because it’s very expensive these days (said in my best old lady’s voice).

Lamb flatbreads

Makes 4 flatbreads, roughly 28 cm square, to feed 2-6 adults (depending on appetite)

Base

  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Water to mix (200 – 250ml)
  • A sprinkling of semolina

Topping

  • 300g of lean minced lamb (buy the best quality you can)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 2 tinned plum tomatoes, drained and finely chopped, or use two fresh ones
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 4 small green chillies, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • lemon wedges to serve

To prepare the topping simply add all the topping ingredients into a bowl and mush up with your hands until everything is incorporated. I like to leave the mixture for a few hours to allow the flavours to mingle but you don’t have to do this.

For the pizza base put the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil in a mixing bowl and add the water gradually mixing with your fingers. You want to bring the mixture together into a fairly wet dough – you may not need the whole 250ml. If you add too much, and the dough is too sticky to work with just sprinkle on a little more flour.

Tip the dough on to the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Ideally you should knead for 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and rest for 2 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the flatbreads first set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place a flat, square tray into the oven to heat up.

Take your dough and give it a good punch to knock out the air. Transfer to the work surface, knead lightly for a few seconds and divide into four.
Roll the first portion of dough out as thinly as you can without getting holes (this will be somewhere between 25 and 30 cm square).

Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Transfer your rolled out dough to the baking sheet and spread a couple of handfuls of the lamb mixture thinly over the base with your hands as evenly as you can.

Bake the flatbreads for 6-8 minutes until the edges are brown and crispy.

Remove from the oven sprinkle over some sea salt and serve with wedges of lemon to be squeezed over the top just before eating.

Repeat the process with the other 3 portions (this is where you feel a bit like a pizza slave but I assure you it’s worth it).

NOTE: An Iraqi friend of mine made me something similar using ready-made tortillas so this is an option if you don’t have the time or the inclination to make pizza dough from scratch.

You will probably find that you have a handful of topping left over. It’s not really worth scaling down the quantities so you can make it into little meat balls or fry up with some left over rice and an egg which is especially delicious and a winner with my children.

my sisters copy

My sisters.

Things with holes – bagels and onion rings

onion rings and bagels copy

Here are two recipes for things to eat with holes in the middle. There is no other reason for putting them in the same blog post except that they’re both fun to make.

One day I’ll try making doughnuts.

Onion rings

I’ve tried several recipes for onion rings but for me this one is the simplest and the best.

Makes 1 large bowl of onion rings

  • 1 large onion
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 210ml sparkling water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ground nut oil for frying

Peel and cut your onion into slices just under 1 cm thick (8mm). Separate into rings and discard the two tiny ones in the centre (you can save these for another use).

Measure the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and add the sparkling water gradually until you have a batter the consistency of double cream.

Now heat your oil. It’s best if you use a large saucepan and fill to about half way. The oil is ready for frying when a tiny drop of batter hisses immediately on entering the pan.

Put your onion rings into the batter and shake them a little to remove any excess batter before carefully dropping them into the oil. You can fry 4 or 5 at a time, or more if you’re short of time and you don’t mind if they stick together a bit.

Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain well on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt (optional if you don’t like to eat too much salt) before serving.

Bagels

This is a basic recipe and I’m sure bread experts will scoff but the result is a very respectable bagel which is much nicer than the dry old ones you can buy at Tesco Express.

These make a perfect Sunday brunch with scrambled eggs and chorizo or smoked salmon and cream cheese.

  • 400g strong bread flour
  • 225ml warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of dried instant action yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Seeds or salt flakes for the top

For fresh bagels in the morning start the process in the evening. Take a large mixing bowl and measure out the flour, yeast, salt and caster sugar.

Tip in the water and stir into a firm dough with your hands.

Now follow this schedule (this takes about 1 hour from start to finish, you’ll need a timer or a stop watch)

Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 30 minutes

Now divide the dough into 6 equal portions and shape into balls, place on a tray, cover with a cloth and leave for another 20 minutes.

Now shape your bagels. Make a hole in the middle with the end of a wooden spoon and then stretch the dough outwards with your fingers. The hole needs to be quite large (about 4 cm) as it will close up as it cooks.

Cover a chopping board or tray with lightly oiled cling film then place the bagels on the tray and cover loosely with another piece of lightly oiled cling film. Place in the fridge to rise slowly overnight.

In the morning preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Take a large pan and boil some water with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar added. Drop each bagel into the boiling water and poach for just 5 seconds on each side.

Place the poached bagels on an oiled baking tray, sprinkle with seeds or salt and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Frugal cooking – Dhal with a sort of ‘naan’ bread

Dhal 2

This is one of the savoury dishes that I first learnt to cook (spaghetti bolognese being the obvious other). My home economics teacher was so surprised that I even knew what lentils were, let alone how to cook them, that she gave me a special achievement award at the end of term! That was the kind of school I went to – learning to spell was less important.

It was actually quite a challenge to write this recipe down because I cook it from instinct. I’ve listed the ingredients in terms of what is essential and what is optional, just in case you don’t have any of the later in your cupboard. This is because dhal is an excellent standby for when you’ve not had a chance to go shopping, or when you’re on a really tight budget, and I don’t want to put you off making it just because you don’t have one of the spices or some fresh coriander.

This is another recipe for my daughter Elizabeth who has been eating dhal with gusto since she was 4 months old.

Dhal

Serves 2 with leftovers for the children

Essential

  • 250g split red lentils
  • ½ litre of cold water
  • 2 dessert spoons of ghee (you can use less if you’re being good)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped or sliced finely
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (I use at least 1 teaspoon but then I love salt)

Optional

  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • ½ tin of tomatoes
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Begin by cooking the lentils. I like to rinse them first (I find this reduces their wind inducing capacity). Put them in a medium size pan and top with cold water. Swirl the water around with your hands and then drain. Do this about 3 times or until the water is a lot less cloudy when you swirl. Add the ½ litre of cold water to the pan and bring to the boil.

Simmer on a low heat until the lentils are soft and have absorbed most of the water (this should take about 30 minutes), you don’t need to drain them. Add the tomatoes (if using) in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic with the salt and dry spices (turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander).

Heat half the ghee in a frying pan until smoking hot. Add the onions and fry until well coloured. Then add the dry spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes stirring well. Finally, add the remaining ghee and when the mix is really hot add to the lentils. Stir until everything is well mixed and check the seasoning. Add most of the chopped coriander and then ladle into bowls.

Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve with a naan style flat bread (as below) or rice.

NOTE: You can cook the lentils in advance but it’s best not to add the hot spice and ghee mix until just before serving. This is because lentils have a strange quality that absorbs all flavour and dulls it down so you’ll just end up having to add more salt and spices later to get the taste back.

A naan style flat bread

I’ve tried several different recipes for naan and they have all come out tasting like a dry flat scone –just not right at all. Bizarrely the recipe below is the most naan-like even though it’s just a regular bread mix rolled flat and cooked in a dry frying pan. Because of the addition of yeast the texture is lovely and soft. You could brush them with ghee once cooked if you wanted a more authentic taste.

Makes 4

  • 275g strong white bread flour
  • 3g yeast
  • 5g salt
  • 175ml of tepid water (you may not need all this amount)

Mix together all the dry ingredients then add the water a little at a time until the mix comes together in a soft dough.

Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Cover and set aside to prove for at least an hour (although 2 is better).

Divide the dough into four portions and roll each out with a rolling pin to form a thin disc. You will need to flour your work surface and pin liberally to stop the dough from sticking.

Heat a frying pan until it is very hot and then cook the flat bread for about 4 minutes on each side until golden. Don’t worry if it catches a little and don’t add any oil to the pan. Once cooked keep warm under a tea towel while you continue the process with the remaining three portions.

NOTE: I find that using an old frying pan where the non-stick has come off works a treat for flat breads.