Parsley

Spaghetti with green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

I feel like I’ve been away from this blog for a long time and it’s nice to be back.

I think I might have over-egged the custard when I said at the end of my last post that my local library had reopened with a “stunning array of cookbooks”.

On closer inspection the bulk seems to be by new celebrity chefs such as Kirsty Allsop and Fearne Cotton (seriously!!!) and the old guard – Nigella, Mary, James, Jamie, Rick etc. But hidden amongst these largely style-over-content tomes there are a few more interesting books that I’ve never seen before. One called ‘The Good Carbs Cookbook’ seemed to speak to my rebellious, carb-loving self and this recipe, which promised to use up some of the green tomatoes currently refusing to ripen in my greenhouse, caught my eye.

It’s a good recipe that takes just as long to prepare as it does to cook a pan of spaghetti (about 10 minutes). So it’s perfect if you’re short of time on a midweek evening.

It’s not dissimilar to a regular herby pesto with the acidity of the green tomatoes taking the place of the usual lemon. It’s not a dish that’s going to blow you away with its complex flavours but the result is a perfectly tasty bowl of pasta that will make you feel virtuous and happy that those green tomatoes haven’t gone to waste.

Below it is the only other green tomato recipe I know – a chutney by good old Delia. It is wonderful (one of the best chutneys I’ve ever tasted) but in contrast with the pasta recipe it takes a great deal of time and effort to make and needs to mature for at least a year (preferably longer) before it’s at its very best. Not a great one then for the impatient. It’s sometimes difficult to see the advantages in putting the effort in now if the rewards are not to be enjoyed for such a long time.

Pasta with green tomatoes and fresh herbs

Adapted from ‘The Good Carbs Cookbook’ – Dr Alan Barclay, Kate McGhie & Philippa Sandall

Serves 2 greedy people or 4 normal ones

  • 6 medium green tomatoes
  • A generous handful of mint
  • A generous handful of basil
  • A generous handful of parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Half a pack of spaghetti or linguine (250g)
  • 50-100g of ricotta (I think 50g between two is more than enough)
  • A light olive oil (not extra virgin) – between 50 – 125 ml (the original recipe uses the full 125ml but I think this is too much personally)

Roughly chop the tomatoes, mint, basil and parsley and place in a food processer with the olive oil and crushed garlic. Pulse for a few seconds until you have a chunky mixture.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water until done to your liking. Purists would say it should be al dente but I prefer it a little more cooked than that. Drain but reserve a ladle full of the salty cooking water for the sauce.

Return the pasta to the pan over a low heat and add the tomato mixture. Tip in the reserved water and give everything a good stir to combine. Season well with salt and pepper to your own personal taste. I refrain from giving exact measures because I like a lot of salt and you may not.

Serve immediately with blobs of ricotta on top to be stirred in when eating.

NOTE: I think some green chilli would also be a good addition and you can play around with the quantities of herbs and oil depending on your personal taste.

Green tomato pasta

Delia Smith’s Green Tomato Chutney

Makes 8 x 450g jars

  • 1kg of green tomatoes
  • 1kg of cooking apples
  • 900g of onions
  • 6 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450g of raisins
  • 625g of soft brown sugar
  • 25g of pickling spice
  • ½ tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 level dessertspoons of ground ginger
  • ½ tablespoon of salt
  • 1.75 litres of malt vinegar

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into quarters.

Peel and quarter the onions.

Peel and core the apples – keeping them in water so that they don’t go brown.

Mince the tomatoes, onions, raisins and apples and place them in a very large pan. Now I don’t have a mincer and I don’t know of anyone that does these days. An alternative is to use a food processor and this is what I do.

Now add the garlic, cayenne, salt, ginger and sugar and mix everything together thoroughly.

Tie the pickling spice in a piece of cloth and attach the string to the handle of the pan so that it dangles down into the mix.

Now pour in the vinegar and bring to a simmer, removing any scum from the surface.

Simmer very gently for 3.5 hours without covering, stirring now and then to prevent sticking.

It is ready when the vinegar is absorbed and the chutney has thickened to a smooth consistency. The chutney should leave a trail on a metal spoon when it’s done.

Pour the chutney into 8 sterile 450g jars, filling them as full as possible.

Cover with wax sealing discs and seal with a tight lid immediately.

Store in a dark, cool place and leave for at least 3 months before eating. I have found though that this chutney is best when left for at least a year and the very best when left for 3 years!

 

Advertisements

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).

Soup and a roll

soup and a roll

If you’ve been reading the papers this week, you’ll probably have seen the story that Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (the wife of Nick Clegg) has a secret food blog (http://www.mumandsons.com/).

Surprisingly the blog is an amateurish affair (just like mine) and not at all slick (unlike the politicians vying for power in next week’s election). But it’s rather sweet and the recipes do seem genuine – like she really does cook them, in her very own kitchen, with her very own children.

And Miriam’s milk bun recipe (below), which I tried this week, is very good and pretty straight forward. It won’t persuade me to vote Lib Dem but then I don’t think it’s meant to.

Politically I sit very much on the fence and I had thought about asking Samantha and Justine for their favourite recipe and then voting according to which of the three was best. But then that’s just a bit silly. Instead I’ll most probably abstain or vote for ‘Justice for Men and Boys’ (even sillier).

And to go with the buns, here’s one of my favourite soup recipes, which uses possibly my most hated vegetable. Sounds twisted and it is – horrid swede, turned into nectar in soup form. The recipe is based on one in Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Celebration of Soup’.

Miriam’s milk buns

Makes 10

  • 500g plain flour (I used strong bread flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 9g fast action yeast
  • 90g butter (room temperature)
  • A good pinch of salt

Warm 100ml of milk. Mix the yeast, 100g of flour and the warmed milk and let it rest for half an hour until it gets frothy.

Then mix this with all the other ingredients. The easiest way to do this is in a food processor with the kneading hook for around 8-10 minutes. (I don’t have a food processor and the mixture is quite sloppy so I attempted to use the dough hook on my hand mixer but then ended up kneading by hand).

Once kneaded, put it all into a glass bowl (greased with a tiny bit of sunflower oil) and let it rest for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough to get rid of the air. Then divide the dough into 10 parts. Shape each one like a ball, or give them an oval shape.

Put them on a tray lined with baking paper (I needed two trays, with 5 on each). Cover the buns with cling film (I used a tea towel) and wait for another 35-45 minutes until they rise again.

Preheat the oven at 220 degrees. Cut the buns (if you like that shape) and ‘paint them’ with beaten egg (I didn’t bother with the egg glaze (a waste of a valuable egg) but sprinkled with poppy seeds instead).

Put them into the oven, lower the temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 15 minutes (mine needed an extra 5 minutes).

Lindsey’s swede soup

  • One swede weighing about 450g, peeled and chopped into dice about 1cm square
  • 2 or 3 shallots, or half a regular onion, chopped
  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 75g of butter (although I can never bring myself to use this much and generally use half this amount)
  • 1 litre of good stock (homemade would be best but I generally use a Knorr beef stock pot)
  • Salt and pepper

Take a large sauce pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the onion, swede and parsley stalks to the pan and stir well so that the vegetables are nicely covered with butter. Put a lid on and allow everything to sweat in the pan for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After this time, pour on the stock, bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Put the mixture into a blender, along with the parsley leaves and puree until really smooth.

Return to the pan and check the seasoning before serving.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic 2

It’s half term and we’ve been in Scarborough eating lots of gluttonous seaside food. Amazing fish & chips at the Magpie Cafe and giant ice cream sundaes at the Harbour Bar, but also things I’m a bit ashamed of, like ready-made pizzas from Sainsburys Local and my first McDonald’s hamburger in about five years (which, after a fair amount of rose wine, I declared was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten!!!).

So for most of the week I’ve entered the kitchen only to turn on the oven and remove packaging. And on our return yesterday I was still in holiday  ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ mode but we had to have something for dinner so I made this super quick pasta dish.

I tried the recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a staple in our house. It’s easy to make but a bit different to your usual pasta and sauce.

The original recipe (by Olia Hercules for the Guardian) is made with spaetzle (tiny egg dumplings that you make by pushing batter through a colander) but these are a faff to make and I’m not a huge fan of the texture so I make it with linguine instead.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

For two

  • 200-300g of linguine (depending on appetite)
  • 70g of hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a little sea salt
  • 50g of parmesan cheese, grated
  • Two good handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Some sea salt

First toast the hazelnuts in an oven heated to 180oC for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. I buy my hazelnuts unblanched from Lidl (where they’re cheapest) and find that once roasted the skins come off really easily.

Put the nuts, garlic, parsley, oil and parmesan in a large bowl and mix.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir until well coated. Serve immediately with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top and a good sprinkling of  sea salt (although these are optional and can be left out if you’re watching your fat/salt content).

Serve with a green salad on the side if you’re worried about the absence of greens, and a large glass of crisp, white wine if you like.

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.

Lamb kofta

kofta version 2

I’ve eaten kofta or kofte in Greek restaurants, in Indian restaurants, in the home of my Lebanese friend and as Qofte in Albania. There seem to be so many versions of this dish around the world but considering that the word just means balls of ground meat with spices this is perhaps not surprising.

This is my tried and tested spice mix for lamb kofta and it has become a favourite at summer barbeques and mezze style dinner parties. I’m not sure in which corner of the globe these kofta sit best and this goes in their favour and makes them very versatile. Serve with cous cous and raita for a Moroccan twist, or rolled inside flat breads with tzatziki and hummus for a more Greek style affair. They are also good with rice as in the photo above.

Kofta are best cooked on a charcoal barbeque but as that’s just not possible at this wet and windy time of year it is fine to grill them as long as you preheat your grill to its hottest setting. It’s definitely worth buying decent quality lean lamb mince and you could use beef if you prefer.

PS. Sorry for the disturbing photo – I don’t think I’m going to win any guardian food photography awards with this one.

Lamb kofta

Makes 18 sausage sized koftas

  • 750g minced lamb
  • 1 small onion
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • A handful of fresh coriander

½ teaspoon of:

  • Ground cumin
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried mint
  • Cardamom, husks removed and crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • Black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

In a large bowl combine the lamb mince with all the spices in the list above and mix well with your hands. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge.

Leave for the flavours to mingle for at least an hour. I tend to do this part in the morning ready for dinner in the evening.

Shape into sausages. It helps if your hands are slightly wet.

kofta raw

These are best cooked on the BBQ but are also good grilled under a high heat for about 10 minutes. Turn the kofta regularly so that they colour well on all sides.

Serve with either rice (see my post Nice Rice), or flat breads (see my post Frugal cooking – Dhal with a sort of ‘naan’ bread).

An easy mid-week recipe

Chorizo and butter beans 2

I’m not sure what I’d do without this recipe adapted from Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’. It involves a couple of tins from the cupboard, a little chorizo and some herbs from the garden (or spice rack). It’s what we cook when we’ve got very little in and when we really can’t be bothered. Chorizo* is always in our fridge as it’s so versatile and can easily spice up many dishes.

Rick soaks and cooks his beans for this dish but I just use a tin. If you haven’t got butter beans, then cannelloni, haricot or (at a push) chickpeas work fine.

*Not the posh deli sort which is rather pricey, but the one they sell as a ring, pre-packed in the supermarket – not great uncooked but just fine in cooking.

Rick Stein’s chorizo and bean stew (slightly adapted for regular folk)

Serves 2 greedy adults with leftovers for 2 children

  • A regular tin of butter beans
  • 125g bog standard chorizo (this recipe is nicest with a good amount of chorizo but if you don’t have this much to spare because you’re on a budget, or on a diet, then you can add less)
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
  • 100ml red wine (I buy the cheapest possible red from the supermarket for cooking with, I’m afraid that I don’t agree with the “if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it” motto)
  • A regular tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of thyme (fresh is better but dried is OK)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (this really does liven up the dish but if you don’t have any fresh parsley available then just leave it out as dried parsley is horrid)
  • Salt

Cut the chorizo sausage up. I like to cut half into thick slices and half into small cubes. Put the olive oil and garlic into a pan and heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. And the chorizo and cook until the edges start to brown, then add the onion and cook until the onion has softened.

Add the red wine and leave to bubble away until it is reduced to almost nothing. Then add the tomatoes, thyme, beans and a good pinch of salt. Simmer for 15 minutes without a lid until the sauce thickens up.

Just before serving stir in the parsley.

I like this with saffron rice. (see my post ‘Nice Rice’).