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Archive for the ‘mediteranean’ Category

spanish-stack2

I know that Stacked Food is oh, so very five seasons ago and since then the uber chefs of the world have moved on and through many other fancies and fads.  We’ve had Fusion illusion, Tasting Menus and Tapa’s everything and now we’re looking at 100 mile menu’s and locavore, seasonal, home style cooking.  All of which I’ve loved and lavished my attentions upon in turn in as much as I love food in it’s myriad of forms.  The simple truth is that I  am honestly as happy eating beans on toast in a greasy spoon as I am sampling the delicacies of the best sushi houses with the manicured and be-sequined.  But there’s something about the stack that I keep coming back to.  I think that at the end of the day, for a generally competent home cook, it’s such a simple technique that usually leaves me looking far more accomplished than I ever could be in front of a table of hungry guests.  I love the way it leaves space on the plate for sides and sauces and I love that it’s obvious that the various layers where thought about and meant to be eaten together, to compliment each other; instead of a random selection of cooked things from what I happened to have in the cupboard at the time.

* note: I served this with Polenta at the base of the stack, cooked with water and a teaspoon of rosemary , finished with some Spanish goat cheese for a bit of cheesy zing.  I’m not giving you the recipe for that as it’s pretty straight forward, non? There was a fresh salad of greens on the side and watercress as a garnish.

**you may be tempted to use a nasty wine in the dish; try not to.  Use what ever you’re drinking at the table, you’ll taste the difference.

spanish-stack1

Spanish Stack with Chorizo

Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
100 – 150g Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
100ml dry red wine
½ large (or 1 small) red pepper, thickly sliced
1 Chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
pinch nutmeg
½tsp dried Rosemary
salt to taste

1 med head broccoli, florets only
1 medium shallot
2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste

– heat olive oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan or skillet.

– gently cook the mushrooms with the onion and until soft.  Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute to caramalise.

– deglaze with the wine then add the pepper and chorizo, then the spices and herbs.  Simmer until the peppers are soft, about 10 mins.

– in a food processor, process the broccoli florets with the shallot until finely chopped (or chop by hand)

– heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the broccoli/shallot with the sesame seeds for just a few minutes, until tender but still bright green.  Season to taste with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

-Layer your stack starting with the polenta, topped with the chorizo melange and ending with the broccoli.  The watercress garnish worked very well with all those richer flavours.

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tomato-tart-1

Every couple has it’s story; the telling of which makes them look somewhat coyly at each other and smile knowingly and that raise, once again, all those fluttery, buttery feelings of l’amour. The dashing Mr P and I met in a gorgeous little restaurant serving fabulous little meals, and if that wasn’t an omen for a happy future, I couldn’t tell you what would be.  The speciality of that restaurant, the dish we would in the future, on numerous special occasions re-order and be delighted with every time, was, as so many brilliant signature dishes are, a simple, homely affair prepared to simple perfection.  A tomato tart, to tomatoey, so tarty that it seemed, surely, a cinch to whip up at home.  Time and again we’d order that tart, savouring each bite, meditating over each flavour and then I’d go home and try to recreate this seemingly simple delight.  To no avail.  No amount of research, no pugnacious attempt at different ingredients, different temperatures and different seasonings brought that tart out of my oven.  Well, to each chef his secret, and the chef of that lover’s treat will sink his ship with the recipe on board.

However.  That’s not to say I won’t stop trying, and while I’ll have to satisfy myself with the thought that the original tomato tart sits safely in it’s intended home, I’ll keep on whipping up versions of my own.  None of which have come as close, if not in adherence to what the original seemed to be, at least in overall effect to that perfect tomato tart as this one has.  Perhaps it’s the concentrated flavours of the cherry tomatoes, or perhaps it’s the mixture between the sheep’s milk and parmigiana cheeses, which in truth I used simply because I wanted to finish up the last bit of an excellent chunk of sheep’s milk cheese I had lying around in the fridge.  Or perhaps it had to do with the teff flour in the pastry, of which the original surely had none.  Truth is I just don’t know.  I do know, however, that this tomato tart was a dream, a reminiscence, a revival of old memories and caused one or two coy glances on the parts of Mr P and myself.

*note: I made the pastry using teff pastry, which worked brilliantly, but if you want a blander crust use plain flour one to one for the teff.

tomato-tart-combo-1

Super Delicious Tomato Tarts

For the pastry:
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup plain flour

¼ cup teff flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ cup / 1 stick cold butter, unsalted, cubed
¼- ⅓ cup iced water

for the tart:
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 punnet (about 300g) baby cherry tomatoes, halved on the equator
50 grams hard sheep’s milk cheese, like a percorino, finely grated
50 grams parmigiano regano, finely grated
1 cup basil leaves, washed
black pepper

make the pastry:
– combine all the dry ingredients, mixing well.

– rub the cold butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture resembling oats porridge.

– add just enough water so that a dough just starts to form.  As soon as it all starts coming together, stop mixing.  Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it a bit, cover it in cling film and refrigerate for about 40 mins.

– in a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, garlic, shallot, vinegar and oil.  Let mixture rest at room temperature while the pastry chills

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– divide the dough disc into two.  Roll each piece to form a long rectangular shape, about 20cm by 30 cm

– spread half the tomato paste mixture on each rectangle, to withing 1½ inches, 4cm, of the edge

– combine the two cheeses and sprinkle half the mixture over each base on top of the tomato mix.

– now top each base with the basil leaves and then finish off with the tomato halves, skin side down, still keeping that 1½ half edge of raw pastry.  Give each tart a generous grinding of black pepper.

– fold the bare edges of pastry up and over the side of each tart, folding and crimping as you go to secure.  Don’t worry if it looks a little messy, that’s half the charm.

– bake for 25 minutes and then leave to rest outside the oven for about 5 minutes before eating.


tomato-tart-2


tomato-tart-4

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snapper-w-sun-dried-tomato

A nice big fish is something I will eternally associate with Summer chez moi.  I have brilliant, sparkly memories as a child of going on summer holiday to the ocean and over dosing on good sea food.  South Africa has, if you ask me, some of the best sea food in the world and I look forward with glee to a trip back to my birth country and a seat over looking a pounding surf with a plate of fresh fish and chips.

One of my favourite fish to cook at home is a snapper, preferably whole.  Now, bear in mind that this is a bony little sucker, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommended it as a first date type affair. There’ll be plenty of sucking and plucking and chucking with this on the plate.  But a whole fish is still a great way to go for a barbecue, or in the oven, as convenience allows.

Getting your fish from a fish monger is the beat way to go, if you can.  You can pick the best fish and have it cleaned and descaled while you wait.  Fish doesn’t last, even in the fridge, so either freeze the sucker or eat it same day.

snapper-w-sun-dried-tomato-21

Preheat the oven to 400˚F

Start by rinsing the fish, inside and out, and pat dry with a paper towel.  Rub a little olive oil on the skin and season with a bit of salt.

Lay a piece of parchment paper large enough to completely wrap the fish in on the counter.

Slice up a large onion and place half of it on the middle of the parchment.

Chop up 5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes and throw these on top of the onions.

Now grab a handful of fresh herbs, what ever you have.  I used a big bunch of parsley, some basil and tarragon.  Mince a big clove of garlic, chop the herbs up, mix the two and put half of this on the onion tomato base.

Put the snapper on top of this mix and repeat the layer: onion, tomato and herbs. Drizzle the whole shebang with olive oil.

Wrap the fish up in the parchment, securing with some string, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the flesh is just flaky.  Let the fish sit for a couple of minutes before serving with a good garden salad.

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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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Pizza rustica 1

Hello? Why, Hello! It’s been such a while since I last saw you, have you changed your hair? Yes, as you’ve no doubt guessed, life has been busy. But when isn’t it, and is that ever excuse enough for complete and utter neglect? I think not. Be that as it may, I have been somewhat distracted by other tasks, though here I am again, cooking it up and sharing what I can. Right! Lets get this year on the road! Lets finally, three weeks in, Whoop it up for 2008. Hope it’s cooking.

As a little make-up kiss, I give you a dish that sets my mouth to watering every time I think about it. It’s a dish that’s rich and warm and comforting and the perfect meal for that lazy, hazy, feet on the couch time between Christmas Feasting and New Year Bashing. Also, note to self for next year, would be perfect as a New Year Day Bash Recovery Unit. The recipe is from that Matron of the Mixing Bowl, Nigella, though I tinkered here and adapted there to come up with something better suited to a Dutch Father-in-law and a bacon-loving Mother-in-law. Also, I might add with a pat on my own back, I had enough foresight to pre-make the pastry during my initial Christmas Baking Bonanza in mid-December, which took a lot of the effort out on the day. Handy when you’re trying to keep guests vaguely entertained at the same time as cook up a brunch.

*Use a 23cm Springform Pan to make the pie.

Pizza rustica 2

Pizza Rustica a la Paesi Bassi

For the Pastry:
250g plain flour
1 stick (125g) butter, cold, cut into 1cm pieces
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp iced water
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbsp caster sugar

For the filling:
75g Luganega (Italian Pork Sausage)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
250g ricotta, drained
50g smoked provolone, diced
125g dutch Gouda, diced
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Italian Parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
100g mortadello, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
2Tbsp milk

large pinch fleur de sel

Make the pastry:
– put the flour and butter in a dish in the freezer for 10 minutes. While this is chilling, mix the egg yolks, water and salt in a small bowl.

– When the butter is thoroughly chilled, add the sugar to the bowl and rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles something between damp sand and oats porridge. Little lumps of butter are a good thing, you don’t want to overwork the butter into the flour.

– Add the egg/water mix and gently mix with your hands until the dough just comes together. It should still be a somewhat loose and crumble.

– Tip the pastry out and work it together with your hands to form one lump, more or less. Divide the dough into two parts: one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate.

Make the filling:
– Place a baking tray in the oven and pre-heat it to 400˚F

– Skin the Luganega, heat the oil in a skillet and fry the sausage meat for about 5 minutes, breaking it up as you cook it. Allow to cool

– Mix all the ingredients, including luganega, except the bread crumbs in a large bowl until well combined.

Assemble:
– Roll out the larger of the pastries to line the bottom and sides of your greased springform pan, allowing for an overhang. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry wit the dried bread crumbs, then add the rest of the filling mixture.

– Roll out the smaller pastry large enough to cover the tin with an overhang. Roll up the two overhangs to seal the pie and press with prongs of a fork.

– glaze with the eggy milk mix and stab here and there with a fork to make air vents. Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel.

– bake for 10 minutes at 400˚F, then turn the oven down to 180˚F and bake for a further 45 minutes.

– Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before serving, although it’s excellent cold as well.

Pizza rustica 3
 

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Tomato Medley with Shitake and Marrows

A tomato is a tomato. Or is it? I’ve been doing some reading, which if I remember, I’ll tell you about later, and I’ve learned a thing or two about tomato’s. Turns out that the baskets and baskets of fresh Field Tomatoes we’re seeing in the supermarkets and food markets this time of year are quite probably the most watery, least flavourful tomatoes one can buy. Other than middle of February, shipped from Australia or some such Tomatoes, that is. The reasons have a lot to do with the industrialisation of food growing over the last 50 or so years and the scientific “improvements” catastrophe’d upon this once exotic fruit to insure a crop which grows fast, large and resists things like bugs and weather. Large yields equals large profit for the farmer. I found out the truth of this first hand by buying various tomatoes from various sources and the bulk-available, large, red ones were by far the blandest.

I’ve made a promise to myself to only buy tomatoes from the Organic Farmers Market and make them last as long through the week as they can. And what a difference! Each bite packs a punch of plenitude. Raw, cooked, sliced, diced and just pooped straight in the mouth. Yum. Now I fully understand why Ms R, a friend living in the Cornwall countryside of Ontario, has pledged to eat nothing but her own tomatoes, out of her garden. I remember an email from her last year where she was impatiently looking forward to her lunch, which was going to be her first tomato of the season sliced, with salt and pepper, on fresh bread. And what a lunch it would have been, no doubt, after so many months without a fresh tomato! I remember from many years ago when I lived in Ottawa as a student for a year, she would send through frozen tubs of home made pasta sauces to cook up for dinners. Delicious! Over the Summer, as her garden produced more tomatoes, peppers, marrows than the family could consume, Ms R cooked up large batched of sauces; Ragu, primavera and so on, to be frozen and used through the long Winter months of snow and cold and on until the next seasons produce were plump in the garden again. How I wish I had my own little patch of garden delights to tend!

Three Tomatoes

Tomato Medley with Shitake, Marrow and Polenta

Golden cherry tomatoes, halved, to make up a cup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
good grinding of fresh black pepper
chopped basil, to make about ¼ cup
2 or 3 small yellow tomatoes (I used the low acid Peach Delight), sliced
2 or 3 small red tomatoes, sliced
cubed white cheese, I used a Basque sheeps milk cheese called Etorki, to make about ⅓ cup
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ tsp dried thyme
pinch ground sage
10 – 12 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 marrow or zucchini, cut in half; 1 half grated coarsely, 1 half cut in half lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper
Parmigiano or parmesan to finish

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– in a small bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt pepper and 2 Tbsp of the basil, mix well. Add cherry tomatoes and mix.

– in a foil lined tin, bake the tomato mix for 40 mins, basting with the juice after 20 mins

– in a Saute pan, gently heat the butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onions and saute for 1 min until the garlic becomes fragrant

– add the mushrooms, herbs, salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add marrow or zucchini and bring to a low simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid on while you prepare the polenta.

– make the polenta according to the manufacturer’s instruction. I prefer to make mine with water, not milk, and I add 1 tsp ground mustard while it’s cooking and finish it off with a little dollop of butter and about 2 Tbsp Parmigiano.

– arrange the sliced tomatoes around the plate, top with the sheeps cheese and baked cherry tomatoes; reserving the juice and oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.

– dish up the polenta, topped with the shitake marrow mix. Drizzle the juice and oil from the tomatoes over the dish and salad. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmigiano.

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Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream

I love a dinner party. We used to host them quite frequently back home and loved getting return invites to others’ houses, whether it was for a long slaved over butternut and sage risotto with home baked bread and butter pudding or a heat and eat from Woolies with Magnum sticks for dessert. We all loved the food, but the evening was made truly special not so much by the cuisine as the friends and the laughs and the celebration of friendships. Isn’t that why we eat in any case? Since moving to these Northern Climes, we’ve not had much opportunity to host our own parties but have, from time to time, enjoyed the hospitality of some wonderful new friends in their homes. We were invited last night to a somewhat unusual dinner party by some good friends, Ms M and her lovely Mr S. The theme? Orange! The meals were split by course over the guests with the only proviso being that the food had to be orange! We all wore orange, drank orange and felt decidedly Sunny the whole evening.

What luck that in season right now are a fabulous selection of orange fruit and veg, or we might all have had to resort to slipping drops of Moir’s food colouring into everything! We started off with an orange salsa made from bright orange tomatoes and a dash of Cilantro, sliced orange peppers and Beamster cheese , a mature, hard cheese with little lumps of salt in it, part of the Gouda family. We drank Tangerine Martini’s, expertly prepared by our host, and less successful cocktails of Malibu with fresh peaches (my decision and one I don’t think I’ll repeat). For the mains our honourable hosts prepared a sunset coloured feast of spicy pepper pasta with orange tomatoes and peppers in a superbly tasty olive oil and garlic, with a side salad of fresh orange tomatoes and Mimolette cheese, which, incidentally, is favoured by Charles de Gualles, and I can see why. Thanks to Ms M and Ms B, our other Orang-er, for introducing us to two fabulous new cheeses! I’m always so excited to meet a new tasty treat!

Dessert was my contribution to the meal. After messing around with a few radical ideas involving all sorts of freezing and moulding, I went with something a bit easier to transport in the summer heat: an open peach tart flavoured with almonds and Saffron. I’m having a little love affair with Saffron, it’s delicate, subtle flavour fills the mouth and transports one to exotic places. Also, it helped turn the dessert a more pleasing shade of orange than the pale almond cream on its own.

For the pastry, I used half vegetable shortening, which I don’t often do (in fact the only time I usually allow hard veg fats is in mince pies at Christmas time) but wanted a pie a little more delicate to suite the saffron. Acidity in the Grapefruit juice also adds to the tender crumble of the crust.

Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 2

Peach Tart with Almond and Saffron Cream

for the pastry:Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 3

1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp Fleur de Sel
small pinch plain salt
½ Tbsp Sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces, chilled
¼ cup vegetable shortening, cut in to small pieces
2 Tbsp Grapefruit juice in about ¼ cup chilled water

for the almond saffron cream:

pinch saffron strands
2 Tbsp just boiled water
⅓ cup ground almonds
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar

2 or 3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced

2 or 3 Tbsp sugar

– preheat your oven to 400˚F

– make the pastry:

– combine all dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and work with your fingers gently until mix resembles oats porridge. OR place dry ingredients ands fats into your food processor and blitz a couple times to form porridge texture.

– add liquid, half at a time, until dough just begins to form. Heap onto a sheet of cling film, cover and form into a disc. Refrigerate, covered in plastic, for about half an hour.

– when dough is chilled, roll out on a floured surface and line a greased and floured pie dish (about 10 – 12 inches). Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 mins.

– blind bake the tart shell for 10 – 15 mins until just firm (to blind bake pastry: cover the raw pastry with a piece of baking parchment, cover with dry beans or rice to weight the paper down and bake for a few minutes. This stops the crust turning soggy once the filling is added)

– make the almond cream:

– in a little bowl (a soy sauce sushi bowl is perfect) soak the saffron strands in the hot water for about 10 mins

– beat together the ground almond, egg and sugar. Add the saffron water and one or two strands. mix well and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm the cream a bit

-pour chilled cream into tart shell, arrange peach slices on top, bake 30 – 35 minutes in your hot oven until the peaches are bubbling slightly and the pastry is a golden brown.

-Allow to cool to room temperature

-Just before serving, sprinkly top with sugar and caramelise using a blow torch or under a hot grill for afew minutes. Be careful not to burn the pastry!

– serve with a little dulce de leche or caramel sauce. We used a Butterscotch sauce with Jamacian Rum for something a bit more sophisticated. 🙂

*thanks to Jane for the use of her camera and some lovely pictures taken by herself

Peaches

Orange Dinner 1

Orange Dinner 2

 

 

Orange Dinner 3

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