Surprising Success (lentils and greens)

 

 I’m off on holiday tomorrow.  First stop Karlstad, Sweden then onto Turku, Finland with a quick stop in my beloved Stockholm enroute.  It’s always exhilarating to go overseas but this trip is extra exciting as I get to spend lots of time with some very good friends who I haven’t seen in a long time.  Hurrah!

 Shamed by Brianna’s good example of using up everything in her fridge before leaving Japan, I have tried my best to do the same.  The result was really very good indeed: a sort of pilaf with green lentils rather than rice.

 Spiced Lentils and Greens

(for one, very rough quantities!)

75g  puy lentils

1 cardamon pod

1 cinnamon stick

1 clove

2 peppercorns

1 tblspn ground nut oil

1 small onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tspn ginger, finely chopped

1/4 tspn turmeric

1/2 tspn garam masala

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp chilli powder

1 courgette, quartered lengthways then cut into chunks

Handful of broad beans

Two handfuls of spinach

Fresh coriander and yogurt to serve

  • Cook the lentils along with the cinnamon, cardamon, peppercorns and bay leaf according to instructions.  Drain and remove the spices.
  • Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil until just brown.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and cook for two more minutes.
  • Add the spices and stir.  Fry for one minute.
  • Add the courgettes and broadbeans and cook until courgettes start to brown and are just cooked though.
  • Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
  • Add the lentils and combine gentle until heated through. 
  • Serve topped with yogurt and fresh coriander.

Yogurt Cheese with Dill (and blatant procrastination)

 

 Despite having more than two weeks of my summer holidays left, last night I lay awake for hours planning lessons in my head.  It wasn’t intentional.  Indeed, I tried very hard to switch off and drift into oblivion, but I simply couldn’t stop thinking about how much there was to do in the coming term and how unprepared I was for it all.  Was also very aware that the next two weeks are chockablock full of fun things, leaving me perhaps only one weekday free to head up to school and get organised.

Hence, on this windy Sunday afternoon I am sitting on my sofa drinking coffees surrounded by a self made fort of novels(Millions for my third years and Fat Boy Swim for the seconds years); essays (another child who thinks Steinbeck wrote a story called Of Mince and Men); old teaching diaries (not sure why though – my writing is totally illegible) and scrumpled up pieces of paper (arranging seating plans can be sooooo frustrating – those of you who have planned a wedding will probably know what I mean).  Playing in the background is Polanski’s MacBethGoodness, it’s gruesome!  The seniors are going to love it.

Meanwhile, dripping away slowly in the kitchen sink is tomorrow’s breakfast.  Inspired by my ricotta making success, I began investigating other types of cheese which could be easily made and discovered yogurt cheese.  Almost entirely effortless, yogurt cheese is lovely and light, and takes very well to being mixed with herbs and spices.  The following recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s rather daunting Eastern Vegetarian Cooking.  There is just so much in this cookery book, though I’ve had it for several years now, I have barely scratched the surface of its promise.

 Yogurt Cheese with Dill

500g natural yogurt (I used fat free and it worked well – not as creamy obviously)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tblspn fresh dill, chopped finely

  • Line a colander with three layers of muslin or cheesecloth.
  • Add the yogurt and salt.  Tie corners of material together to make a loose parcel.
  • Hang from a kitchen tap and let drip for 6 – 9 hours.
  • Place yogurt cheese in a bowl and mix with the dill. 
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Edinburgh Therapy

Edinburgh is adored by almost all who visit it.  It’s an elegant, exciting, young city with lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and yet up until quite recently, I did not care for the city at all.  I felt it pretentious and without heart, much preferring the grittier, friendlier shopper’s paradise that is Glasgow.  This has all changed though.  Still love Glasgow, but in the last few years I’ve spent more and more time in our capital city and it has wholeheartedly won me over. 

No surprise then that this visit to Edinburgh was utterly delightful and succeeded  in getting me over my Rosie-less blues (almost – there was an embarrassing sleepwalking incident involving me looking for Rosie in the middle of the night).

Just arrived back and am pooped so will let the pictures do the talking.  :)

Edinburgh Castle (such a lovely welcome to the city);

 

 

A walk out to Crammond Island at low tide;

 

Followed by a cold pint in the local pub;

Walked off those beers the next day down by the Water of Leith;

Shopped in Stockbridge (dahling!);

Marvelled at Picasso’s work and life;

Waited (not so patiently) for the creepy Millennium Clock to chime;

A picnic in Princes Street gardens; 

And then home.  Tired but happy.  :)

Saag Aloo

 

 A quick post tonight. 

Though I usually relish time alone to cook and read and dig and cycle and generally potter, this week I am not enjoying my solitude at all.  Still got the Rosie blues, I think!  Rather than brood, I’m buggering off to visit friends in Edinburgh for a few days.   Looking forward to a picnic in Princes Street Gardens, a visit to the current Picasso exhibit, shopping in White Stuff, blethering over pints in the pub and sharing a big Indian meal with my chums.  :)

Adore Indian food.  When I read Jenn’s post today sharing her first curry cooking experience with us, I knew what I wanted to blog about this evening.  The following recipe is a firm favourite of mine.  If you’ve got ghee, use it; it makes all the difference.  Still delicious using butter or a vegetable oil though. 

Saag Aloo (Indian style potatoes with spinach) 

(serves 4 with leftovers)

750g new potatoes, halved

Salt

500g spinach

5 tblspn ghee, or other cooking oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 onion, sliced thinly

3 cloves of garlic, grated

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

More salt

  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until just cooked and no more.  Drain and cool.
  • Wilt the spinach in a large pot with 2 tablespoons of water.  Leave to cool then squeeze out all the moisture.  Chop roughly.
  • In a large frying pan heat the ghee over a medium heat.  Add the mustard seed.  When they begin to pop, add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Fry for 4-5 minutes until the ingredients have browned slightly and combined flavours.
  • Add the spinach and stir.  Cook for 10 more minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, salt, garam marsala and the cayenne pepper

In Need of Comfort – Hazlenut and Fennel Risotto

I’m miserable.  Rosie left this afternoon and D’s still in New Zealand.  The house feels dead.  I’m not a happy bunny at all.

 

Serious blues call for serious comfort food (and, of course, wine) and comfort food to me is risotto.  There is something very soothing about both the risotto making process and the creamy, oozing result.  As I’ve mentioned before, I usually make risotto bianco and top it with salty Parma ham and peppery rocket.  But I have a new favourite and this is it. 

 

Though I happily munch it on its own, it might be a little simple for some people’s tastes.  Try topping it with a seasoned field mushroom, grilled until juicy all the way through.  Or, if you’re a meat-eater, sliced, rare steak or venison or lamb would be great too.

 

 

Hazlenut and Fennel Risotto

(Serves 4)

 

1 tblspn of butter + extra knob

Tblspn olive oil

Fennel bulb, chopped finely

Onion, chopped finely

1 clove of garlic, chopped finely

300g risotto rice

75g sweetcorn (frozen is good)

Handful of hazlenuts, bashed

1 litre stock (veg or chicken), heated

Seasoning

  • Saute onion, fennel and garlic in the butter and oil over a low heat. 
  • When the vegetables are soft increase the heat and add the rice.  Stir briefly until rice becomes translucent.
  • Add the sweetcorn and stir.
  • Ladle by ladle add the hot stock to the rice and stir slowly but firmly until the stock is absorbed. 
  • Continue adding the stock ladle by ladle until the rice is almost soft.
  • Remove from the heat.  Add a knob of butter and some seasoning.  Put the lid on the pot and leave to rest for 5 mins.
  • Remove lid and stir in the crushed hazlenuts.

Mystery Vegetable

A loud weekend.  Niece, nephew, puppy and parents in the house.  After a week with just the two of us, Rosie and I are wondering where our tranquil oasis has gone! 

Obviously, the invasion does not leave me much time to write.  I do have something I want to ask though.  Last weekend when I was visiting my parents I noticed an odd looking plant in Dad’s vegetable garden.  I asked him about them and he wasn’t very sure!  He thinks they may be called Welsh onions, maybe.  Can anyone shed any light on:

a) What they are

and

b) What we do with them

and

c) Which parts we do it with

Cheers!

 

Raspberry Vinegar & the Real Rosie

 

 After a tiring morning of chewing fallen crab-apples and chasing fuzzy bees around the lawn, an exhausted Rosie (puppy) climbed up onto my lap as I sat on the garden bench and fell asleep in my arms, cradled like a baby.  She looked so beautifully serene and felt so wonderfully soft all I could do was gaze at her lovingly and wonder how I would ever manage to let her go home next week.  The sun was shining (for what seems like the first time this summer), my garden was growing and I was feeling amazingly content.  As I was blissfully gazing down at my slumbering, golden spaniel she slowly opened her eyes.  Looking up at me, she blinked a little, stretched out her furry wee legs and then bit me hard on the nose. 

Little bugger.

With a swollen nose-tip I headed in doors muttering furiously and followed by an annoyingly jaunty puppy.  No way she was getting any of my raspberry vinegar.  No way she would want it either, but that was not the point!

When I first decided to make raspberry vinegar I expected the colour to be intense but for the fruity flavour to be subtle.  In fact, both the colour and the raspberry flavour are pronounced.  Not entirely sure what I’ll be using this for other than dressing green salads but I am extremely glad I made it.

 Raspberry Vinegar

250 ml vinegar

2 punnets of raspberries (i.e. quite a lot)

Peel of half a lemon

A big jar

  • Pour the vinegar into a jar.  Add lots of raspberries and the lemon peel. 
  • Use a spoon to crush up the berries.  Leave for two days, shaking occasionally (not sure this is necessary but it’s fun).
  • Remove raspberries with a slotted spoon and add more. 
  • Again use a spoon to crush the berries and leave for 3 days.
  • Pour berry liquid through a sieve (or strain through muslin or cheesecloth a couple of time if you want a clear vinegar – I liked the cloudiness).
  • Store in an air tight container (e.g. jar, bottle). 

This should keep for up to a year.  The strained version definitely will.  Wondering if the sediment in my preferred cloudy version will affect the shelf life?  Any ideas?

P.S. Just discovered how difficult photographing glass is!