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Posts Tagged ‘Tomatoes’

A couple of days ago my tomatoes still looked like this.

 

 

And the plants are showing no signs of slowing growth or flowers despite the fact that its almost winter. I was convinced I was going to be eating tomatoes at Christmas.

And then this morning, I was greeted by this sunny sight.

Yipee! I am not completely inept at growing my own vegetables and we might only be eating tomatoes until Guy Fawkes at this rate.

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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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Its almost winter and the summer fruit and vegetables are disappearing from the supermarket shelves. This brings on the urge to cook with them as much as possible before they disappear completely and one is faced with nothing but squashes and brassicas. I do love the comfort and earthiness of winter veg but I will get plenty of time to enjoy cooking with them so I might as well make hay while the sun shines.

I bookmarked this recipe as soon as the update appeared in my inbox and it turned out to be just as good as Deb made it sound on her blog.  Its a little more fiddly than opening a tin of plum tomatoes but there’s something very therapeutic about peeling and de-seeding tomatoes with your bare hands and if tomatoes are in season then the fresh flavour is worth the extra effort.

Use the best tomatoes you can otherwise you wont get as much flavour from the final dish and dont ask me why, but infusing the olive oil with the garlic, chilli and basil and adding it at the end instead of putting it into the sauce base does somehow add something special.

If you don’t like the thought of squishing tomatoes between your fingers and you have children (and you don’t mind cleaning your kitchen from top to bottom) then you could always outsource this job but why should someone else have all the fun.

The smitten kitchen recipe recommends using a potato masher to break down the tomatoes while they are cooking which is a clever approach if you don’t have any other tools to hand but I found I had to use an immersion blender to get the fine texture I wanted and I think it makes the sauce that much more velvety. Make sure you cook the sauce for long enough too so that the tomatoes get nice and concentrated otherwise it will be too watery and wont cling to your pasta properly (as Deb says you can always add some water from the pasta if you find you’ve gone too far).

Unfortunately I’m feeding a man who thinks I’ve failed as cook if I try to make him eat something that doesn’t have any meat in it so I served the sauce and pasta with meatballs I had tucked away in the freezer (just pan fried, not added to the sauce to keep the flavours separate) but if you’re not pandering to a carnivore then there’s no need. The recipe is about the tomatoes and adding meat just unnecessary. The beauty is the simplicity.

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This was going to be a post about Sicilian desserts, to finish off my holiday scribblings and pass on the heavenly sweet that is Cannoli to the uninitiated.

And then any warm and fuzzy, Jamie Oliver-esque feelings left by the afterglow of my successful food travels, disappeared faster than blue sky over Scotland.

I realise the point of a food blog is usually to inspire others and pass on recipes that actually work but if anyone is suffering a crisis of confidence in the kitchen then a few minutes reliving my week can only serve to improve your mood and its so tragic its almost laughable.

I developed an unhealthy addiction to Cannoli while on our honeymoon and I was so horrified at the thought of going without until I could get back to Sicily that as soon as I had an afternoon to spare I armed myself with a set of Cannoli moulds and a bottle of Passito, thinking I would be writing now and munching contentedly on a second batch… not so I’m afraid. Turns out I’m very good at making edible drain pipes.

I did try various methods of frying and baking the dough but no joy. Not deterred, I decided to come back to Cannoli another day and moved on to the Marsala mousse recipe I was determined to re-create from our last supper.  What at first bite was perfectly light and fluffy, turned out to be hiding an offputting little puddle of sweet wine that was lurking in the bottom of the cup instead of behaving itself in the mousse as planned. Not being able to face making another batch I abandoned that one as well.

Next followed honey and cinnamon cupcakes and then blueberry muffins in an attempt to lift my spirits (not all in one day I should point out) but neither of them turned out to be drop-what-you’re-doing blog worthy creations. In fact the muffins are currently lining the bottom of my dustbin… you know its bad when you feel compelled to throw out cake.

By the weekend I was pretty dejected and my daily wine consumption was nearing dangerous levels.  So who knows why but with what in hindsight seems suicidal determination, I decided to try and make Calzone on Saturday night. I can make a decent pizza but I’ve never had much luck with Calzone as my dough always lands up soggy in the middle and the fillings not quite as good as they do when they get to toast themselves directly under a hot grill.

This time however, pizza was my prozac. The food gods must have taken pity on my hitherto pathetic week because I was slightly obsessive about making sure all my ingredients were moisture free but other than that I did the same things as usual and instead of doughy misery I was rewarded with cheesy happiness. Crispy, chewy, salty, creamy Calzone and Pizza all in one. Even with the  best of both calzone and pizza combined it might not sound like  much of a nirvana but sometimes a simple success is the perfect comfort food.

So for those of you in need of cheering up I recommend the following recipe. I owe the pizza dough recipe to Tessa Kiros and the rest to the food gods.

Home-made Calzone-Pizza

Pizza dough from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros.

  • 500g plain flour plus extra for dusting
  • 370ml warm water
  • 12g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 onion

Toppings

  • 2 smoked bacon rashers, finely chopped
  • large handful baby spinach leaves, steamed and drained
  • 100g ricotta
  • 1 cup grated mozarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1/4 cup pitted and halved black olives (kalamata are best)
  • 1 birdseye chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Combine the yeast, honey, water and 150g of the flour in a large bowl and whisk well. Leave to stand for 15-30 min until the yeast begins to activate. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and the salt and then the remaining flour. Mix using an electric mixer with a dough hook or by hand, adding more four if required, until the dough is smooth and elastic but not too dry. Place in a clean oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for 1-1/2 hours until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, chop the onion and garlic in a blender.  Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the onion mixture for 5-10 min until soft. Add the rosemary and then the tinned tomatoes and simmer for about 40 min until all the moisture is removed. You want to get from this…

To this…

Take the tomato slush off the heat and leave to cool. In another pan, fry the chopped bacon until very crispy and drain on kitchen towel. Make sure the spinach is completely drained by squashing it against a sieve with a metal spoon before roughly chopping. Drain the anchovies on kitchen towel as well. Prepare the other toppings while the dough is rising. When ready, preheat the oven to 245°C. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in two. Freeze one half for use another time and roll the other out on a baking sheet into a large rectangle, rolling it thinner on one side than the other. Place a few teaspoons of tomato followed by the spinach, bacon, half the ricotta and a sprinkle of mozzarella on the thinner half, leaving a 2-3 inch gap around the edge.

Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges to seal. Spread the remaining half with tomato (freeze whatever is left) and top with the anchovies, olives and chilli. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and the parmesan over the top and finally the oregano.

Place in the oven 15 min until the cheese and edges are golden (I don’t have a pizza stone but I did place my baking sheet with an air pocket in it on the oven rack to provide extra heat from below). Either slice the pizza and calzone separately if people prefer one or the other or cut across so that you get a strip of each with every slice.

 

Grab a napkin and apply to face.

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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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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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