Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

My favourite books to read while I’m on holiday are written by chefs about their lives, using a mixture of narrative and recipes to tell the story. I can actually quite happily read a normal cookbook like a novel but I’d have to bring a small library to keep me busy for two weeks so these keep me occupied a little longer and give me a few recipe ideas if I happen to need them.

My latest read is Dear Francesca by Mary Contini, the co-owner of the famous Italian delicatessen Valvona & Crolla. Its addressed to her daughter, telling the story of their family and how they came to Edinburgh from Italy. Strangely its the first one of her books Ive read but I loved it and Ive been plowing my way through the recipes since I got back home. There are some benefits to the Scottish climate… its cold enough to eat soup!

Besides a freezer full of soup, I finally got around to trying tomato risotto. I thought Nonna Marietta’s risotto al pomodoro was a pretty good recipe to start with. I intended originally to stick to the recipe but I had some mature scottish cheddar in the fridge and thought it would be an interesting alternative to Mary’s suggestion of adding chunks of fontina to the finished dish which melt into stringy pockets as they sit in the risotto. I thought since the book combines dishes from both countries, I wouldn’t be frowned upon by the author if she knew what I was up to.

The experiment didn’t disappoint and I am imagining all kinds of variations on my normal risotto recipes that I want to try with different base flavours and cheeses. This could turn into a very fattening winter (yes in case you are still telling yourself summer might turn up before we hit snow again, I hate to break it to you…its not coming).

Tomato Risotto with Smoked Pancetta and Mature Cheddar

I’ve written out Mary’s recipe with only a couple of small tweaks as I couldnt find a copy on the net but I wholly recommend you buy her book yourself so that you get the Italian mothering and instruction that my version is lacking.

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 75g butter
  • 1 shallot peeled and finely chopped
  • 150g smoked pancetta (the original recipe uses 200g but with the cheddar the smoked pancetta is very rich so a little less pares it back a bit)
  • 200g risotto rice (I normally use 100g per person due to a paranoid fear of having too little but Mary’s original recipe uses 300g to serve 4)
  • 200g Italian plum tomatoes, sieved (half a 400g tin)
  • about 1-1.25 litre hot chicken stock (1 litre is enough for 200g rice)
  • a handful of cubed mature cheddar

Heat the oil and 50g of the butter in a saucepan. Sauté the shallot until softened and transparent. Sauté the pancetta a little and then add the rice and stir around to let it toast. Add the sieved tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Slowly start to stir in the stock, one ladle at a time. Stir everything and cook for about 20 minutes. When the rice is cooked stir in the remaining butter and divide between two bowls. Sprinkle over the cheddar cubes and gently push them into the rice so that they melt. You could also garnish with fresh herbs such as basil.

Serious comfort food! ♥

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Food will follow soon

Audrey and Seymour

I’m officially home again. The last few weeks have been a whirl wind of unpacking boxes and getting our home somewhere near normal followed by  a very sad patch for us which I wont go into here but unlike the weather… things are starting to look up.

I had a brilliant dinner with the Total Food Geeks this week that really cheered me up. The story of that and some summer recipes will be up on the TFGE site soon but I can recommend Monteith’s on the Royal Mile for a decent meal in a very “miserable weather” proof venue and having met a new handful of great foodies I’m even more of a fan of  the Geeks than before! I’ve been writing for the site all evening so I’m just checking in here on my own little pad before I log off to say I’m back online again. Ive been taking full advantage of getting all my kitchenalia back so actual food will follow soon too.

I’ll leave the new house photos for facebook and those that will be interested in such things but on the food end of things, I thought I’d post the equivalent of a new house photo of  my “kids” who made it safely across the city and into their new home and appear to be settling in happily. No sign of tomatoes yet but I havent managed to kill them either which is, far as I am concerned, a success. Fingers crossed.

Right, bed calls so I must be off but I promise to be back soon with something worthy of your reading. Thanks for waiting while I moved house x

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Good things come to those who wait…

Slow food is good food. Tomatoes left to ripen on the vine… spices gently simmered to release their warmth… flavours left to mingle in a pot.

One of my fellow bloggers in Scotland is running a slow cooking competition this week on her blog Tinned Tomatoes,  so I decided to use the opportunity to come up with a recipe that uses time to best effect.

Most dishes that you would make in a slow cooker sit happily in the category of comfort food but tend to be quite rich and often stodgy. I wanted to maximise the benefits of slow and gentle cooking but balanced with the refreshing bite of vegetables that have already had plenty of time to reach perfection and need no further fiddling to get the best out of them. Immediately I thought of lentil curry.

The lentils are tenderly simmered in spices, white wine and stock, encouraging them to soak up all these grand flavours. Once they have swelled and softened into something with a little more body, Greek yoghurt is stirred into the sauce for a velvety finish and then mixed with juicy vine tomatoes, cucumber and coriander leaves. Served with an extra dollop of yoghurt and plenty of mango chutney, this curry gives you the hot and spicy hit and the cooling antidote all in one mouthful. Its also so healthy you can get away with eating the whole packet of poppadoms at the same time without so much as a pang (although having done just that, I’m having to balance my little laptop on a rather bulging stomach while I write this post so do exercise some caution).

So on to the recipe… I adapted this from an earlier lentil curry I created but I have adjusted the ingredients and the approach to get the best out of the cooking method and I have to say I think this one is a keeper. I’ve added two secret ingredients that add an extra zing – a splash of red wine vinegar and a good squeeze of lime juice, added right at the end. If you taste it before and after you’ll see how they lift it.

Jac’s challenge was also specifically to create a recipe to be made in a slow cooker but unfortunately I dont own said appliance so I made mine in a normal pot with shorter cooking times. I’ve written the recipe for both but I haven’t been able to test the times and volumes of liquid with a slow cooker so this version comes with a slight warning (just keep an eye on it if you are making for the first time). Now if someone would just give me a Flavour Savour… 😉

Slow Cooked Lentil Curry

Serves 4-6 (served with brown chapatis or rice and poppadoms).

  • 250g (or 1 heaped cup) dried green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions
  • bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 chillies, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice from about half a lime

Chop the tomatoes, spring onions and coriander and set aside in the fridge.

Heat the oil in a large pan/slow cooker and toast the spices in the oil for about a minute. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and gently fry for another 2-3 min. Add the wine, turn up the heat and cook off, about 5 min.

In a normal pan

Add the stock and an extra cup of water. Add the lentils and simmer for about 30 min until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the tinned tomatoes and continue to simmer for a further 10 min or until the lentils are soft, adding a splash more water if it gets too dry. Finally add the vinegar and lime juice and stir. Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the yoghurt (somewhere I heard that stirring only in one direction helps to stop the sauce splitting, no idea if its fact or fiction but I do it now anyway). Mix in the fresh tomato, cucumber, spring onions and coriander and serve.

In a slow cooker

Add the stock and an extra 3 cups of water. Add the lentils and tinned tomatoes and simmer for 2-3 hours until most of the liquid is absorbed (as above add more water if its too dry). Finally add the vinegar and lime juice and stir. Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the yoghurt. Mix in the fresh tomato, cucumber, spring onions and coriander and serve.


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Anyone who knows me wont be surprised that my Christmas tree has been up for a week already. I haven’t always been this obsessed with Christmas. I think it started when I moved to Scotland because in South Africa its usually too hot to contemplate the effort required to wiggle your lilo over to the edge of the swimming pool for another drink, never mind trying to eat a tableful of turkey and all the trimmings.

I’m sure the novelty will eventually wear off but until it does I’ll spend every November and December getting slightly over excited about tree decorations, wrapping presents and most importantly, delicious food with a festive theme. I am making Christmas lunch this year for the family and for the first time so I’m a little more maniacal than usual, trying out different elements before the day to make sure they work (so far there don’t seem to be any complaints from Ross who is ‘forced’ to eat them all).

To celebrate the start of Christmas in our house I cooked this chilli glazed gammon with braised red cabbage and crunchy roast potatoes and it turned out to be a recipe worth sharing. Since you probably arent as over eager as I am in the tree department you can still probably use it to celebrate the occasion as well if the flavours appeal to your taste buds. Otherwise its a nice twist on the classic Christmas gammon if you havent chosen your menu yet.

The chilli is chilli jam rather than fresh chilli and it gives a lovely sweet hot flavour to the glaze and a bit of kick to the red cabbage without clashing or overpowering. You could make any veg you feel like to go with it but the cabbage goes perfectly and is suitably festive in colour and the crunch of the roast potatoes balances the other softer textures. Hope you like it.

P.s. I am planning to make another gammon this week because I’ve gone a bit gammon crazy at the moment so if you have any different ideas for a glaze or side dishes please let me know!

Chilli Glazed Gammon

Serves 4.

  • 900g unsmoked gammon
  • 2-3 strips of orange skin
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick (you can re-use this for the cabbage as well)
  • 1 onion halved (I used 2 shallots instead because I had some left over)
  • 1 bay leaf


  • 2 tbsp chilli jam
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp english mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 20 cloves (or enough to stud the gammon)

Put the gammon into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, drain and rinse under the tap (this is to remove the saltiness, alternatively you can soak overnight but this is much quicker).

Put the gammon back in the saucepan and cover with cold water again. Add all the other ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. If your gammon is smaller or bigger, calculate the cooking time as 20 min per 450g plus 20 min and half this for the boiling time. When ready, drain the ham and cool enough to handle. You can keep the stock for making soup instead of throwing it away.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the gammon in a roasting pan lined with foil, slice off the top layer of fat, score with a knife in a diamond pattern and stud with cloves. Put the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until you have a sticky glaze that is thick enough not to slide straight off into the pan. Drizzle this over the gammon, covering the fat and place in the oven for 30 min (or the other half of your cooking time) to crisp up the fat and heat through.  If you have cooked a larger gammon and/or let it cool completely then you may need to start on a lower heat and cook for longer. Just turn up the oven for the last 30 min if you do to crisp the fat.

Festive Braised Red Cabbage

  • 1 red cabbage, core removed and shredded
  • 75g butter
  • 275 ml red wine or 200ml chicken stock
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 2 tbsp cherry jam
  • 3 tbsp chilli jam
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the cabbage and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the red wine or stock, bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly. Add the other ingredients, bring back to a simmer, cover and cook for 40-50min until tender.

Remove the lid and cook for 5-10 min over a high heat until the liquid has evapourated.


Crispy Roast Potatoes

  • 5 roasting potatoes
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp semolina

Preheat the ovewn to 250°C. Pour about 1 cm of vegetable oil into a roasting pan and place it in the oven to heat up for at least 10 min. In the meantime, par boil the potatoes for 5 min, drain and bash around in the pan to break up the edges. Sprinkle over the semolina, toss to coat and place carefully into the roasting pan. Turn to coat with oil and place in the oven for 40-50 min, turning over half way through. When ready, remove from the oven onto kitchen towel to absorb the oil and then serve. Keep in the oven until you are ready to serve to keep them crispy.

If you are making these dishes together then carry out the steps in this order:

  • prepare the gammon and then boil it with the infusing ingredients
  • prepare it for the oven and set aside
  • prepare the cabbage and put it on to simmer for 45 min (pre heat the oven for the potatoes)
  • par boil the potatoes and put them in the oven for 50min
  • with 30min to go, turn the oven down to 220°C and put the gammon in
  • if you turn down the heat on the cabbage after 40min it will bubble away fine for another 10 min if the gammon and potatoes are still in the ovwn and you will just have less juices to cook off at the end
  • Finally cook off the cabbage juices while you get the gammon out of the oven
  • Let the gammon rest for 5-10 min while you are getting the potatoes out and then carve into slices and serve everything

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    I made these ricotta stuffed tomatoes today for lunch from Aimee Lee’s blog “Cooking my way thin” and they were delicious! It was cold and grey outside and I was working from home while the joiners came to start renovating our kitchen so I decided to make something hot for lunch.

    I didn’t have any beef tomatoes and I was cooking for one so I made two baby ones without the corn and courgettes and had them on toasted ciabatta drizzled with balsamic syrup. They look just like little red and white baubles so I think I’ll keep the recipe to use again as a starter at Christmas time!

    Today is the last time I’ll be able to cook this week as tomorrow the sink and oven will be ripped out so as a final treat I’m making Bunny Chows for dinner tonight.  A Bunny Chow is essentially curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread and is a South African fast food staple (if you want to know more about the history you can read this Wikipedia article). The magic thing about a bunny is that the bread doubles as a bowl for the curry and your side dish. You just pull bits of bread off and dunk them in the curry as you go, functional and delicious!

    I’m not attempting to make the bread tonight because most of my cooking utensils are packed away but this is the one I was going to use from Barefoot Kitchen Witch. I made it with soup a few weeks ago and its perfect – soft but strong enough to hold the curry and you can make it ahead of time (thank you BKW!).

    I’ve included two curry recipes that I’ve written: Chicken and Lentil. I’m making the lentil one tonight but they’re both just as nice.

    Cooking in a building site

    Chicken Curry

    This is a rich creamy curry but you can make it slightly lighter by replacing the coconut milk with extra yoghurt at the end. Serves 2-4 people depending on the size of your tummy!

    • 2 large chicken breasts, cubed
    • 1 medium white onion, chopped
    • 1 chilli, chopped
    • 2 tbsp ginger, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk
    • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt (or double if you aren’t using coconut milk)
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp curry powder
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric
    • bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

    Gently heat the oil in a large pan and toast the spices for 1 min. Add the onion, ginger and chilli and fry for 2 min. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the chicken and fry for 4 min, then add the wine, cook off and turn down the heat. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 15 min. Turn off the heat, stir in the coriander and yoghurt and serve (stir the yoghurt in carefully otherwise it will curdle).

    Lentil Curry

    This is quite a light curry, especially with the fresh tomato and spring onions tossed through at the end. Serves 2-3.

    • 150g brown lentils
    • 3-4 fresh tomatoes
    • 2 spring onions
    • 1 medium red onion, chopped
    • bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
    • 1 chilli, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 1/2 cup wine (white although I use red if that’s all I have and it works fine)
    • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
    • 1 tbsp curry powder
    • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
    • 1 chicken stock cube
    • 1 tbsp tomato purée
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • pinch of salt

    Chop 2 of the tomatoes, the spring onions and the coriander and set aside. Boil the lentils for about 20 min until soft but not mushy. In the meantime toast the spices in the oil and then fry the onion and chilli for 5 min. Add the tomato puree and fry for another 2 min. Add the wine and cook off. Add the remaining chopped tomato, the stock cube and half a cup of water. Add the drained lentils and simmer for 20 min. Turn off the heat and stir in the yoghurt. Finally mix in the fresh tomato, spring onions and coriander and serve.

    Bunny Chow

    • 1 small loaf of bread (or half a loaf per person)
    • Curry of your choice

    Cut the loaf of bread in half and hollow out the middle. Put the core to one side.  Spoon hot curry into the middle of the loaf and put the core back in the top. Serve on its own or with chutney and sambals.

      I’ve just eaten mine and I’m stuffed! Enjoy x

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