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Archive for the ‘fennel’ Category

Being a busy and sometimes flustered new puppy owner, ahem, I’ve been limiting my cooking to the realm of Quick and Easy. While juggling work deadlines, puppy feeding and copious sweeping, mopping and tidying of floors and fur I’ve had little energy left for elaborate and fussy dinners and lunches. And while I’m looking forward to the day I’m back at the fuss and elaborations, for the moment I’m quite content to pull a dinner together from that which lurks at the back of the pantry. This tomato soup is a perfect compromise of needing to embrace a fresher palate for the wonderful, warm Spring weather we’ve been having and a no fuss, quick-as-you-like dinner, taking 15 minutes from can opener to toast dunk. This is a perfect amount for two, so double up if you want left overs for lunch or to feed more people.

Tomato Soup with Fennel Seed and Basil

1 Tbsp or so vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds, whole
2 Tbsp tomato paste
½ 28oz can whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, with juice
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
handful fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan or parmigiana shavings

– heat oil in a medium saucepan. Gently saute garlic until fragrant, then add herbs, fennel and tomato paste, saute for about a minute.

– add tomatoes, juice and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 or 6 minutes before seasoning to taste.

– Remove from heat and blend until smooth.

– Just before serving, stir in basil (keeping some for garnish)

– top with parmesan shavings and sere with olive oil coated toast

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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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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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Cucumber soup

It’s been hot and muggy in Toronto. A thick, heated, soggy air permeates the city, getting into every nook, cranny and corridor. Something cool and refreshing was in order for dinner, and when I pulled out what was in the fridge it was obvious there was only one thing to make. Chilled cucumber soup. About a year ago, when we first moved to Toronto, Mr P and I had dinner at a fellow expat’s house and she served cucumber soup. New to the idea, I was eager to try a bit and ended up going back for seconds and having to restrain myself, for the manners’ sake, from having thirds and fourths and ruining my appetite for the main meal, a cedar barbequed salmon which smelled divine. Needless to say I was in raptures over the soup, making a mental note to find a recipe and remembering always how it cooled all our temperaments on that hot and sticky Saturday evening.

This one I made using fresh mint and fennel with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cucumber Soupfennel.jpg

1 English Cucumber
½ cup soy milk (or regular if you prefer)
½ cup plain yoghurt
juice of ½ lemon
few sprigs fresh fennel
few sprigs fresh mint
salt and pepper
2 ice cubes

– in a blender, blend cucumber, milk, yoghurt and lemon.
Season gently with salt and pepper.

– when smooth, add herbs and blend for a few seconds.
With motor running, add ice cubes one at a time.

-serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready. Garnish with a tablespoon of yoghurt.

cucumber-mash.jpg

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