I Can’t Believe It Is Garlic Butter

 It feels a little cheeky to suggest a recipe for garlic butter.  In my defence, I would like to say:

  1. In the same way that Yogi is smarter than the average bear, this garlic butter is tastier than the average garlic butter.
  2. It’s fabulous stuff to have in the fridge.  Garlic bread, chicken kiev, sauteed greens etc can be made with no fuss whatsoever.
  3. I’m really tired.

Garlic Butter

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tblspn fresh parsley, chopped finely

Salt and pepper

1 large bulb of garlic

1 extra clove of garlic, crushed

  • Heat an oven to 180oc.  Break up the garlic bulb and place in small baking tray.  Drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and roast for 20 mins or until the cloves are soft to the touch.
  • Squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins and chop roughly. 
  • Mix roasted garlic, crushed garlic and parsley with butter.  Season to taste.
  • Place garlic butter mixture on to a sheet of clingflim (what do you North Americans call this again?  Some kind of wrap? It’s the clear plasticky stuff).  Fold cling film and mould mixture into a sausage shape.  Wrap tightly and store in the fridge.

Rosemary, Lentil and Tomato Soup

Can winter have crept up on me already?  Suddenly I need to put on a bobble hat to pop round to the local shop.  Suddenly it’s dark enough to light candles at 4pm.  And this afternoon I was sleepy enough to have a wee nap on the sofa under an orange woolly blanket.  Sounds like winter to me.

My garden is also entering hibernation mode.  With only a few leeks remaining in the ground, I have covered most of my vegetable patch with a thick layer of horse poop and left the ground to recover from a busy summer.  Only my hardy herbs will see me through the coldest months.  Hardy herbs like the revitalizingly fragrant rosemary. 

Now, it’s easy to overpower a dish with rosemary but it’s also easy to be so scared of overdoing it that the flavour is lost completely.  Inspired by a dish eaten in The Falls of Dochart Inn in Killen, Perthshire, the following recipe does not shy away from its rosemary base.  A hearty, invigorating soup perfect for a dark November afternoon.

Rosemary, Lentil and Tomato Soup

1 tblspn olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1.5 tblspn fresh rosemary, chopped

150g red lentils

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

500ml vegetable stock

Seasoning

  • Gently fry the onion, rosemary and garlic until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  • Add the lentils and stir.  Add the tomatoes and stock.  Stir.
  • Bring to the boil then reduce the heat.  Simmer for 30 mins.
  • Season carefully, adding extra rosemary if you like.

Grains – Part 2

 

After an experiment with familiar and homely barley I wanted my next grain experience to be rather more exotic.  I had heard of neither farro nor amaranth nor wheatberries until this year and thus all three were tempting me with their mysterious allure.  Which would be next?  I considered researching each and making an informed choice but in the end I settled on the wheatberry because it has an exceptionally cute name.  🙂

After hours (minutes) searching the shelves of my local health food store, I started to worry that wheatberries were so very exotic they weren’t available up here in the Highlands.  How wrong could I be?  After asking the shop assistant for some assistance, I discovered this grain has been with me my whole life.  It seems that wheatberry’s less adorable name is wheatgrain and it’s just wheat.   Refined, most folk consume it daily in breads and cakes and beers; unrefined, it is the same stuff that I chew on whilst walking through fields.  So much for exotica!

I’m not complaining though.  I adored this grain! Wheatberries are chewy, they’re nutty, they’re nutritious and they are ridiculously filling.  

I usually use the following spices in a couscous dish but found that the light, tangy flavours balanced the heaviness of the wheatgrain really well.

Spiced Wheatberry Salad

(serves 4 as a side)

250g wheatberries, soaked for at least four hours

2 tblpsn olive oil

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp paprika

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 green chilli, finely chopped

4 spring onions, chopped

Handful of coriander, chopped

  • Cook the wheatberries in plenty of salted, boiling water until they plump up (anywhere between 1 and 3 hours).
  • Heat oil gently in a pan.  Add cumin, coriander, paprika and garlic.  Cook gently for two minutes.
  • Add the cooked wheatberries and all other ingredients to the spices.  Combine well.
  • Serve at room temperature.

I did take a picture of the above salad but appear to have deleted it.  Will leave you instead with this picture of the flowers D brought me this week because I wasn’t feeling well.  Don’t you think the front-left one looks like a cabbage?  Well, I did and moments after being presented with the bouquet I bit a chunk out of it.  It wasn’t a cabbage and didn’t taste very nice.  Also, by the horrified look on D’s face, I shouldn’t expect flowers again any time soon. 

Culinate Interview

Culinate is an American online food magazine.  It was launched in early 2007 and has the rather admirable aim of helping people to eat with more awareness.  I discovered the site just a couple of weeks ago when one of its columists, Liz Crain, asked if she could interview me for the the Blogfeed section of the site.  A terribly flattered me agreed to this request and the following is the result.  🙂

Click here for Culinate interview

P.S. We had our first sea-level snow today.  Very excited!

No Effort Irish Stew

I had absolutely no intention of blogging tonight.  Tired, grumpy and feeling a bit ill, I couldn’t be bothered cooking the Irish Stew planned for this evening.  Nor could I be bothered going to the shops and buying something else for dinner.  Solved this dilemma by throwing everything into a pot, adding some water and leaving it alone for a couple of hours.  And do you know what?  It was fantastic!

No meat browning, no stock making, no bouquet garni  and yet easily the best Irish Stew I’ve made.  Hurrah!  This had to be shared.  🙂

 No Effort Irish Stew

500g lamb leg steaks, cut into large chunks

4 medium potatoes, cut into large chunks

3 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces

3 celery sticks, peeled and cut into large pieces

2 handfuls of barley

  • Throw everything in a pan and just cover with water.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat.  Season and leave to simmer for 2 hours.

Grains – Part 1

 I’ve been using lots of whole grains in my cooking recently.  This is partly due to continuing efforts to eat a healthy, balanced diet*, but mostly it’s out of plain curiousity.  Barley, oats, millet, wheat, farro, bulgar…  There are so many to try in so many different ways.

Some, I know, will not be for me.  Quinoa, for example, is not something I eat very often.  It tastes fine but those little spirals that form in the centre of the grains when they are fully cooked make me think of ringworm.  Not an appetite inducing thought.  Barley, on the other hand, I love.  It looks fluffy and soft when cooked and it reminds me of eating my Nana’s rib-sticking soups when I was a child.

On several occasions over the last few months I’ve come across the idea of using barley rather than rice in risotto.  As a humongous risotto fan, I was rather excited about trying it out and did so this week. 

Usually, I love to add butter or extra cheese or cream to my risottos and watch them ooze (which is why the dish is generally a weekend treat in my house) but barley risotto struck me as a virtuous thing and so I kept substances-that-ooze to a minimum.  There was no loss of taste or texture.  The starch in the barley along with a comparatively small amount of cheese created a surprisingly creamy risotto. 

Looking forward to eating this again. 🙂

 Barley Risotto with Pesto 

(for 2)

1 tblspn olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Glug of wine

250g pearl barley

750ml hot vegetable stock

Handful of parmesan

2/3 tblspns basil pesto

Seasoning

Handful of chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

  • As with normal risottos, gently saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft.
  • Add the barley and stir.  Increase the heat.  Add the wine and cook off the alcohol.
  • Ladle by ladle, add the hot stock to the barley stirring until absorbed.  Continue for approximately 30 mins or until the barley is soft but chewy (it will not become as soft as risotto rice).
  • Stir in the pesto, parmesan and season carefully.
  • Top with chopped nuts.

*  Feel compelled to admit admit I was eating Nutella from the jar whilst writing this post.  :-S