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Archive for the ‘beetroot’ Category

French Lentils

We haven’t had a housewarming, per se yet. But we decided last week that something was needed to make our house feel like home. And I also needed something to kick start the kitchen a little. A Winter Dinner was quickly put together, some friends asked around and the fire was lit in the hearth. With Winter having arrived a little earlier than I think we were expecting, the meal was warm and comforting, with loads of winter veg and a little bit of chocolatey goodness to help it all along the way. We started off with a Chestnut and Onion Soup, which is a traditional French soup and neither too hearty not too brothy; followed by a main course of Filo baskets filled with Beetroot, Butternut and Onion, topped with a Broccoli and Pepita pesto and accompanied with a variation of the divine Deb’s Curried Lentils and Sweet potatoes and some fresh Cherry Tomatoes. But my favourite bit was, of-course, dessert, as it so very often is. Le Dessert was a miniaturised variation of Nigella’s Nutella cake, topped with a precious marron glacè and swathed in a white chocolate and saffron ganache. Oh, yum. The little cakes were warm from the oven and slightly sticky on the inside. Chocolate heaven. Mmmmm.

An no, I’m afraid I’m not going to give you the recipe’s this time. I have Christmas Stuff to do! My, it’s busy this time of year. Instead, here are some temptingly yummy pictures to water your mouth over a little.

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 3

 

 

 

 

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Beetroot and bluecheese tart

I have a confession: I love beetroot. I steam them whole, peel them and eat them like an apple. I love them raw, grated or chopped into a salad. I love them hot, cold, salted, honeyed, mashed, sliced, boiled, grilled, red, golden, candy striped and even pickled in a summer salad. My Mr P, though, as wonderful as he is, is no big fan of the beet. Thus, in my sneaky, sly way, I have to disguise them as something other than a beet-plucked-from-the-ground if I’m going to get (a) him to eat them and thereby (b) have them for my own dinner too.

We had friends over for dinner last night, an occasion that happens far too infrequently in my opinion, and I found out that one of the guests has a slight aversion to beets as well. Digging deeper I found that the reason for this is because he thinks back on beets as the dish served with coleslaw in dodgy take away restaurants. Now, is that a challenge or what? How could I not try to win over two people with one tart? It’s so much better on the beet side of life. Oh my, well personally I loved this tart. I have no idea if the other oh-my-gosh’s were genuine or subtly faked, but I didn’t really care. The crust was thin and super crisp and the fennel and caraway popped up now and then to mingle with the stronger cheese and beet flavours. The walnuts warmed the whole thing up in the mouth and I think this is one to make again, serve hot, cold or maybe ,because the crust is so light, on a baguette the next day.

The pastry is made with oil, not butter, so has a great, light flavour. I’ve been wanting to make an oil pastry for a while now. They’re all the rage, don’t you know. I’ve yet to try a sweet one.

*the trick with this rather crumbly pastry is to roll it out on one of those thin, flexible, plastic surface protectors (or a well held down piece of parchment) and then put the pie dish upside down on the rolled pastry, flip and voila.

Beetroot and bluecheese tart 2

Beetroot, Bluecheese and Walnut Tart

for the pastry:
⅓ cup quinoa flour
⅔ cup plain white flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
pinch salt
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
½ tsp caraway seeds, also crushed
⅓ cup walnut oil
1 egg white

4 medium beets
1 large red onion
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or veg oil)
80 g blue cheese (I used Bleu d’Auverne)
⅓ cup walnuts, coursely chopped

Make the pastry:
– combine all the dry ingredients and blend well

– add oil and egg white and mix until a dough just forms.

– wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for a half hour

– pre heat oven to 350˚ F ; roll out (on a loose board, see note above recipe) and line a 9″ tart tin

– cover with parchment, fill with beans or rice and blind bake at 350˚ F for 15 mins. Let cool.

Make the filling:
– steam the beets for about 20 mins. When cool enough to handle, remove skins and slice thinly

– peel and thinly slice the onion. Heat oil on a medium to low heat and saute the onion gently until soft and caramelised ; about 20 – 30 mins ; allow to cool a bit

– spread onion over base of tart ; dot with bits of cheese ; arrange beets on top ; add remaining cheese and walnuts

– bake for 20 mins at 350˚F

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Quinoa Crepes with Beetroot and blue cheese sauce

I grew up on the Highveld, where the Summer Thunderstorm reigns supreme over all weather. They are mighty and godly storms which seem to make the earth tremble at their power and lash gallons of watery bullets at us mere mortals. They don’t last longer, usually, than an hour or so, but their intensity leaves the earth looking and smelling freshly scrubbed and sparkling clean. They arrive from November onwards, two or three times a week, late in the afternoon, when the days heat as built up a lethargic haze around everything and mirages shimmer down the end of the street. Their first big, plopping drops turn to steam on the tarmac and create a low, foggy haze for a few minutes before the real water arrives. I loved where I lived because you could always see the approach of the storm long before it arrived, the enormous, billowing clouds almost black with vengeance and the tell tale white anvil pointing the way high above the drama. A few minutes before the rain arrived to interrupt a Summer swim or drench you on your walk home from school, ruining your squelching school shoes (much to Mum’s horror), there was the squall. The strong, warm wind smelling of earth and wet and Summer. I loved it. I would stop my intrepid walk, turn my face to the wind and breath in Africa. I miss that now. I live on the 10th floor with a view towards the weather and I see the threatening clouds of rain sweeping in from the west, but somehow nothing lives up to the power of an South African Highveld Thunderstorm.

Rain on a school day, however, meant more than just drenched shoes and less swimming time. It meant crepes. My Gran, who lived with us, would be timeously putting the first ladle of batter onto a hot, buttered skillet as my brother and I came through the door, laden with wet jerseys and soaked books. Sugar and cinnamon, with just a dash of fresh lemon were the flavour of choice. In fact, up until early adulthood no other flavour even existed in my world-du-crepe, and it’s still a classic I love to bits. But up we grow and flavours a fancy we will find, so here’s something a little more substantial for a light dinner:

Quinoa Crepes with Beetroot and blue cheese sauce 2

Quinoa Crepes with Beetroot and Bluecheese Sauce (served with a peach, corn and pistachio salad)

for the crepes:
1 cup Quinoa flour
1 tsp dried thyme
pinch salt
2 eggs
1½ cups soy milk
2 Tbsp olive oil

for the filling:
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
grated beetroot, to make about a cup (I used 7 small Italian beets)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

for the sauce:
½ cup water
2 tsp cornflour
2 Tbsp cream
about 50g semi hard blue cheese of your choice
salt and pepper to taste

first make the crepe batter:
– mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl

– beat the egg with the soy milk

– add the egg to the dry mix and beat until smooth.

– add the olive oil and mix well. The batter should be quite thin and runny. Add more milk if needed. Let stand while you make the filling

make the filling:
– heat the oil and garlic in a saucepan. Add the onion and saute for 5 mins. Add the beetroot and maple syrup. Season and let simmer gently on a low heat with the lid on for about 10 mins while you make the sauce and crepes.

make the sauce:
– heat the water in a small saucepa.
– mix the cornflour with a little cold water to make a paste. Add to the warm water, stirring continuously until thickened. Add the cream and cheese and season to taste.

cook the crepes:
– put your oven on its lowest setting and the rack as low as it can. Put a plate in the oven to keep warm.

– heat a heavy bottomed, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add a couple drops of grapeseed or other high burning point oil if desired. Using a soup ladle, put one ladle of batter into the hot pan, quickly swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly.

– as soon as bubbles pop on the surface (just a few seconds) flip the pancake and cook a few seconds on the other side before removing to the plate in the oven.

Assemble:
– when all crepes are cooked, spread a spoon of filling over the crepe, to taste, and roll up. Cover with sauce.

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salad with hers and fava beens

When it’s hot outside, all I seem to want for lunch is something light and fresh and low in energy-producing carbohydrates. But why stick with ye olde faithful lettuce tomato and Cucumber, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when you can have a mixture of fresh herbs, like Cilantro, fennel, basil, parsley, tarragon, chives and thyme with baby root veg like beets and carrots. Add some freshly steamed fava beans, sprinkle with sesame seeds and, Voila!

ps/ the dressing is a mixtrue of a crushed clove of garlic, a Tbsp on tarragon infused Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon and a good measure of extra virgin olive oil.

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 2

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 3

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Thai Summer Salad

We were blessed, this weekend, with extraordinarily good weather on our portage trip. Which meant a clear, deep, warm blue sky bereft of clouds, temperatures perfect for swimming and lounging on rocks like lizards and no need to ever use the gas burners to cook our food on. All meals were prepared over an open wood fire from start to sweet, gooey, smorsey end. Now, usually after 4 or so days in the bush eating what you managed to drag with you leaves one craving some or other comfort food from home, not to mention ones own mattress and a hot soapy bath. On this trip, however, the wonder-woman in charge managed to organise meals of such fabulous diversity and succulence that ne’er a soul hankered after anything for their belly that wasn’t somehow already there. No dehydrated-rehydrated pea passed the lips. No thirst went without quenching by beer or wine or cold, fresh water. And, thanks to our (rather belated) discovery of a little thing called the Thermarest, no ache graced a bone in my back through the nights. All said and done, it was a trip which bordered on the sublime and trembled dangerously near perfection.

And after a long, long weekend of, in one team member’s words, Ghetto Gourmet, what better way to get back on the bright side of health and digestion than a salad made from the sweetest, most succulent of Summer’s wares? After a trip to the farmer’s market on our return, I picked up a selection of crisp, freshly picked goods for a dinner filled with all the flavours of a gorgeous season. Due to the abundance of things like garlic, Shitake mushrooms and Cilantro (coriander leaf) I opted for a somewhat Thai inspired arrangement.

 

summer bounty

Thai Summer Salad with Sweet Corn and Watermelon Beetroot

for the topping
¼ cup pine-nuts, toasted

1Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil (or other veg oil)
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
about 1 cup Shitake mushrooms, sliced

for the saladwatermelon beetroot
small bunch of lettuce, torn
1 big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 big bunch Cilantro leaves, torn
a dozen or so golden cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed
2 new carrots, julienned
2 watermelon beetroot, scrubbed and thinly sliced
⅓ garden cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 spring onions, thickly sliced

for the dressinglettuce
1½ Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime

– combine all dressing ingredients and leave to infuse.
This dressing is particularly good made a day ahead.

– keep toasted pine-nuts to one side

– in a skillet, heat oils. saute onions until they just start to brown slightly. Add mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

– when cool, add pine-nuts and mix. Set aside.

– combine all salad ingredients, top with mushroom pine-nut mix and dress only when ready to serve.

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Chicken with Tarragon and Walnuts

For some reason, I never really discovered tarragon before.  My Mom had a bunch of different herbs growing the in kitchen garden: sage and chives and mint and thyme and rosemary, but never tarragon.  And yet, after doing some reading, it turns out to be a quintessential herb, an old and trusted favourite in many a European and particularly French recipe.  I thought I should give it a go.  After all, there’s French blood in me, isn’t there?

*Note: I had a problem with my oven while cooking the meal, the darn thing decided to go on strike, and so ended up having to have the thing on Grill with a loose sheaf of foil over the meat to protect it from burning.  So I can’t really say for sure just how long you aught to cook this dish, though my gut feeling is for 20 mins at 400˚F and  another 20 – 30 at 350˚F.  Just check it persistantly to make sure you’re not over cooking drying out the flesh.

 

Chicken with Tarragon and Walnuts 2

Chicken with Tarragon and Walnut Crust
with Baby Beet and Herb Salad

for the Chicken:
2 large chicken breasts on the bone, with skin
½ cup loosely packed tarragon leaves
¼ cup thyme leaves
5 cloves garlic
1 shallot
½ cup shelled walnut halves
Fleur de sel
Olive oil
Peel of half a lemon, ½ cut into strips and ½ zested
2 Potatoes
butter (about 1 Tbsp)

for the salad:
3 or 4 baby beets, peeled and finely grated
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped
⅓ cup fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped Chives
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Walnut oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

– If you have the time, prepare the chicken a few hours beforehand so the flavours develop well.
run the tarragon, thyme, garlic, shallot and walnuts in a processor until fine.  Add a pinch of Fleur de sel and mix.

– rinse the chicken and pat dry with some paper towel.  With the skin side up, loosen the skin from the flesh: if you break a small hole in the membrane between the two you should  be able to lift the skin to form a pocket.

– take small amounts of the herb and nut mix at a time and push it under the skin, using about half the mixture.  Put a small dollop of butter and a strip of lemon peel under the skin as well and refrigerate, covered, for as long as you can.

– when ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge, rub with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

– slice the potatoes thinly and arrange on the bottom of a buttered ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle with lemon zest.

– Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the potatoes.  Pack the rest of the herb and nut mix on top.  Bake, see note above*

– For the salad, mix all ingredients and let sit at room temperature for a while, while the chicken cooks.

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