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Archive for the ‘November’ Category

Winter has definitely arrived in full force and although the prospect of snow is always exciting, the first few frosty mornings always take some getting used to. Coupled with the tube strike this morning, I opted to work from home today. When lunchtime rolled around, I still wasn’t brave enough to venture out, so I had to make do with what I could find in the fridge and pantry for lunch.

I am loving bulgur wheat at the moment; it’s got a subtle nutty flavour and great texture which is far superior to couscous. However, like couscous, it is already par-boiled and dried when you buy it, so it only needs to be covered in boiling water and left until all the liquid has been absorbed before it’s ready to serve – so easy! But the best thing about bulgur wheat is its fabulous nutritional content, it’s is high in protein and a slow releasing form of carbohydrate so again it’s a much better alternative to rice or couscous. Bulgur wheat is common in Middle Eastern cuisine and most people will have had it or at least heard of it in the form of tabbouleh.

So back to my ‘scrounge around the pantry’ lunch. I had a half-opened packet of bulgur wheat, I found a small tin of salmon, a stick of celery, one last spring onion, some parsley, half an avocado and a lone mushroom. Enough to make something with.

To prepare the bulgur wheat, I placed half a cup in a heat proof bowl, poured over some boiled water until the bulgur was just covered and then covered the bowl with cling film and let it stand until all the water was absorbed which took between 10-15 minutes.

While the bulgur was doing its thing, I chopped up all the aforementioned vegetables and herbs and set them aside. I then made up a very simple dressing. In a glass I added two tablespoons each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sea salt, cracked black pepper and half a teaspoon of mustard. I gave it a good stir to combine, making sure the salt was dissolved and the mustard was well mixed in. When I tasted it, it was a little on the oily side, so I gave it another swig of vinegar and set that aside as well.

Once the bulgur was done (soft but still with a good bite to it) and all the water had been absorbed, I drizzled over the dressing and mixed it through. Then I drained the tin of salmon and added that to the bulgur along with all the other chopped ingredients. I also added a handful of rocket leaves which I found lurking in the back of the fridge and mixed these through, before tasting one last time and seasoning a tiny bit more with salt and pepper.

What a tasty, nutritious and filling meal for one. The dressing gave it a wonderful fresh and tangy zing and the bulgur wheat added a nice slightly crunchy texture.

Bulgur Wheat Salad

Of course, you can use whatever you can find in your fridge and pantry. A can of tuna or some leftover cooked chicken or grilled lamb would be delicious. Or add some halved cherry tomatoes, feta or goats cheese, basil or mint, fresh or frozen peas or broad beans and even some pumpkin or sunflower seeds. If you could be bothered, toasting off a handful of pine nuts by dry roasting until starting to colour in a fry pan would be a great addition as well. Of course, if you had couscous you could use that, following the exact same instructions as above.

I wonder how many different combinations I could come up with so I don’t have to venture outside for the rest of the week…

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Mushrooms are in abundance at the moment and although living in the middle of London doesn’t allow for the fun of picking them ourselves, it’s no reason not to indulge in eating them as much as possible while they’re at their best.

Prompted by a recent outing to Peter Gordon’s Tapa Room in Marylebone, where I had scrummy wild mushrooms with a poached egg on sourdough, I thought I’d recreate the memory at home with some inspiration from Yotam Ottolengi’s new cookbook Plenty which I’m using a lot at the moment. This pimped up version of standard mushrooms on toast does take slightly more time than just throwing some mushies in a pan with a bit of oil and butter, so keep it up your sleeve for a lazy Sunday when you’ve got some time on your hands.

Mushrooms with poached egg on sourdough

mushrooms and poached egg on sourdough

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients (for 2):
– handful of dried porcini mushrooms (or any other wild variety)
–  300ml water
– 300g fresh mushrooms (any kind, a mixture is fine)
– olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, crushed
– 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced
– 1-2 celery sticks, sliced
– 1/4 cup white wine
– a few fresh thyme sprigs
– 2-4 eggs (depends how many you want!)
– splash of vinegar
– 1/4 cup sour cream
– good handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
– salt and cracked black pepper
– fresh sourdough for toasting (or any bread you have on hand)

Before you begin, chop/slice all the veges as above. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl, pour over 100ml of the water and leave to soak for half an hour.

There’s no need to peel or wash the mushrooms, but do brush them lightly or wipe gently with a clean cloth or absorbent kitchen towel to remove any dirt. Cut some in half, some in quarters and some sliced for a bit of variety.

Put a medium fry pan on a medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and add the mushrooms to the pan. You don’t want to crowd the mushrooms as they will stew so do in batches if necessary. Leave the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes when you first put them in the pan to allow them to brown nicely. Then turn over and brown on the other side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat if doing in batches until all the fresh mushrooms have been browned.

Next, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the onion, carrot and celery. Saute for 5 minutes or until softened, stirring all the time to keep from browning. Once softened, add the white wine; it will bubble and steam, giving off a lovely aroma. Let it simmer away for 1-2 minutes.

Using your hands, remove the porcini from the water and squeeze out any excess water. Strain the leftover liquid through a fine sieve straight into the pan. Add the remaining 200ml water, the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat slightly and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes or until you have reduced the liquid to about 100ml. 

Once the stock has reduced, strain through the sieve, keeping the liquid and discarding the leftover veges. Then return the stock to the pan (with the heat off) while you poach the eggs and toast the sourdough.

Get all your toasted sourdough through the toaster (or under the grill with a drizzle of olive oil). Then get on with poaching your eggs.

To poach the eggs, fill a saucepan with a couple of inches of water (enough for a whole egg to cook in). Add a splash of vinegar and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, add your eggs. The easiest way to do this, is crack each into a small cup first and then pour gently into the water. As soon as you’ve added all the eggs to the water, turn off the heat and leave for 6 minutes. This is Yotam’s tip for getting perfectly poached eggs and it works! After 6 minutes, remove the eggs from the pan and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

While the eggs are poaching, heat up the stock again, add all the mushrooms, the parsley, sour cream and salt and pepper. Stir to combine, taste and adjust the seasoning if required. Once the mushrooms have heated up, pile them on top of the toasted sourdough and then top with a poached egg or two. Sprinkle with some extra parsley and serve with the Sunday papers!

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My friend H told me last week that one of the most annoying thing about trying out new recipes is that quite often she’s not sure what else she could do with the ingredients that will inevitably be left over, after having to buy a whole pumpkin for example but the recipe only calls for half. So I’m going to try from now on to keep this in mind and where I can (read ‘have time!’) I will suggest a couple of other easy things you can do to use up leftover ingredients. This I hope will make shopping easier and less wasteful and planning what to eat more enjoyable!

To get the ball rolling, I thought I’d add another courgette recipe to follow on from the Courgette Ribbons I posted previously. This recipe is a bit of a mash-up of two very tasty warm salads from Yotam Ottolengi’s latest cookbook Plenty (thank you Kirsty W – I use this all the time!).

 I’ve called it Warm Courgette & Couscous Salad and while it proved to be a very tasty and healthy option for dinner (especially with some grilled lamb, chicken or fish), it would also make a great lunch or side salad.

Warm Courgette & Couscous Salad
Warm Courgette Couscous Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients (for 2):
– sunflower oil (olive oil is fine but if you have a lighter tasting oil like vegetable or rapeseed that’s a better option)
– 1 medium courgette, sliced
– 1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
– 1 cup frozen peas
– handful roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
– handful roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
– 30ml olive oil
– half a cup of couscous
– boiling water
– couple of handfuls of rocket or watercress leaves
– 1 tablespoon capers
– grated zest of half a lemon (keep the lemon in case the juice is required to balance the seasoning at the end)
– 100g feta cheese
– sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a medium fry pan and fry the courgette slices for a couple of minutes until they’ve browned nicely then turn over and fry until golden brown on the other side (only turn once). Don’t crowd the pan as the courgettes will stew rather than fry, which you don’t want so do them in batches if need be. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl. Pour the vinegar over the courgettes and set aside.

Boil your jug for the couscous and the peas. Place the couscous in a heat proof bowl, pour the boiling water over until the couscous is just covered, give a quick stir with a fork then cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

In another heat proof bowl, place the frozen peas and pour boiling water over these too until they’re covered. Leave to blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh by running under cold water for 10 seconds. Set aside to dry.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, parsley, salt and pepper and oil until you’ve got a smooth paste. Add more oil if necessary.

Once the couscous is ready, give it a good fluff up with a fork and place in a serving bowl big enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add the peas, courgettes and vinegar, the basil and parsley paste, capers, lemon zest, feta and rocket or watercress leaves. Mix everything together gently, taste and season with salt and pepper. Taste again and add a squeeze of lemon juice if you feel it needs a bit more acidity. Fresh, light and very healthy!

You can of course substitute the peas for broad beans or edamame (soya beans). The feta can be replaced by goats cheese for a milder taste or leave out altogether if you’d prefer.

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