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Cover: The Gourmet Garden

April, 2012

30Apr 12

Cabbage and Barley Soup

Cabbage and Barley SoupOne of the most underrated vegetables in modern cooking has got to be cabbage.  It’s got a lot of vitamin C, and even though it is quite filling, it is very low in calories. Even more importantly, it tastes absolutely wonderful, even if the smell while cooking can be a little off-putting to some people!  In any case, yesterday I found a head of green cabbage buried at the bottom of my refrigerator and decided to make this barley and cabbage soup recipe. (Also try this Danish red cabbage.)

The pearl barley adds a nice chewy touch to the soup and is also full of lots of essential amino acids and apparently even helps to regulate blood-sugar levels.  All in all, this is a very healthy soup, although I suppose the sour cream might take away from that a little bit, so you can omit it if you’re dieting or lactose intolerant.

What you’re going to need:

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • 125g pearl barley
  • 1 small leek, washed and finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, washed and finely diced
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 65ml dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10g parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 65ml sour cream

 

What you have to do:

  1. Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core. Wash, dry and cut into thin strips. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the barley well and then dry.  Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  4. Add the leek, carrot, and celery, and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
  5. Add the barley and sauté for about 2 more minutes.
  6. Add the wine and continue cooking until most of it has evaporated.
  7. Stir in the cabbage.
  8. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  9. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 60-75 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Wash the chives and cut them up into fine rings.
  12. Garnish the soup with a tablespoon of sour cream and sprinkle some of the chives and parsley on top.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 90 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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20Apr 12

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Red lentil and sweet potato soupIt’s funny, as a kid growing up, I always hated sweet potatoes (and pumpkin for that matter, as they’re virtually the same when cooked), and it was all my mother could do to get me to eat even the tiniest mouthful.  However, somewhere along the way, I developed a taste for them, especially when they’re mixed with other veggies or pulses that I like more.  I invented this Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup one day when I had some sweet potatoes I needed to use up before they went bad, and the result was an instant success both for me and my family.

The soup is very filling and the sweet potato provides lots of dietary fibre, beta carotene and vitamin C.  As I mentioned before, cooked sweet potato and cooked pumpkin are virtually identical in taste, so if you want, you can go ahead and substitute an equal quantity of pumpkin for the sweet potato to create a tasty pumpkin soup.

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, washed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 500g red lentils
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tsp curry powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 tsps salt (to taste)
  • 3 tbsps fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Spanish Sherry Vinegar

What you have to do:

  1. In a large stockpot, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the onion turns translucent.
  2. Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes and lentils and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the salt, curry powder, ground coriander, black pepper and bay leaf and sauté for another minute.
  4. Add the water and stir well, make sure you get any spices that may have stuck to the bottom.
  5. Cover the pot, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes and sweet potatoes are nice and soft, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher to make a slightly chunky purée.
  7. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with a teaspoon of fresh coriander and a splash of sherry vinegar.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty:  Easy

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18Apr 12

Pumpkin Ravioli

Pumpkin RavioliI made this pumpkin ravioli last weekend when I had some friends over for lunch, and the verdict was unanimously positive – everyone loved it!  Which was a good thing too, because it definitely took a bit of work to prepare.  The baked garlic and sun-dried tomatoes provide a great counterpoint to the sweet pumpkin, and the filling just melts in your mouth when you bite into it.  The recipe calls for a pasta machine, but if you don’t have one, you can roll out the dough by hand.  It takes a bit more time but won’t make any difference to the taste; just make sure you get the dough as thin as you can.  About 3mm is thin enough.

Filling your pasta is a great way to add flavour to the dish. For more variations, try this scrumptious tortelli piacentini recipe.

What you’re going to need:

For the pasta:

  • 250g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 4 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 400g pumpkin, peeled and seeded
  • 120ml cottage cheese
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

What you have to do:

For the pasta:

  1. Place the flour, eggs and salt in an electric mixer and blend into smooth dough.
  2. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
  3. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and let it set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll them out lightly to half a centimetre thick.
  5. Pass the pieces through a pasta machine on the thinnest setting.
  6. Let the pasta dry for 10 minutes on a clean cloth.
  7. Use a drinking glass about 7cm in diameter to cut the pasta into circles.

For the filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC.
  2. Bake the unpeeled garlic on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until soft.
  3. Steam the pumpkin for 6-8 minutes or until tender.
  4. Drain well.
  5. Peel the garlic and add to the pumpkin.  Mash well with a potato masher.
  6. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, cottage cheese, salt and pepper.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Place a heaping teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture in the centre of half the pasta circles.
  9. Wet the edges of the pasta with a little water on the tip of your finger and fold in half in a semi-circle.  Press down firmly on the edges to seal the ravioli.
  10. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the ravioli.
  11. Boil for 4 minutes.
  12. Drain well and serve plain or with your favourite pasta sauce or cheese. I personally like sprinkling a bit of Feta cheese on top.

Preparation Time:  45 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:  6

Difficulty:  Hard

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16Apr 12

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

This rich, creamy potato and leek soup is a classic French dish which can be served either hot or cold.  When served cold, the French call it vichyssoise, which certainly sounds a lot better than cold leek soup!  In any case, it’s equally delicious either way, even if the whipped cream, butter and milk probably do make it somewhat fattening.  If you’re on a diet, you can substitute the whipped cream for evaporated skim milk and either eliminate the butter or replace it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

It’s very important to make sure you don’t boil the soup after adding the cream, as this will cause it to curdle.  The same precaution needs to be taken when reheating.  This rule applies of course to any recipe with cream or milk.  For a vegan-friendly version, I imagine you can substitute the cream, butter and milk for soy or rice versions of the same, although I’ve never tried this, so I can’t guarantee the results.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium-sized leeks, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced (do not use the tough, dark green part)
  • 1 litre vegetable broth
  • 300ml cold water
  • 125ml whipping cream (add up to an  extra 125ml of milk if you like your soup thin)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • chopped chives to garnish

What you have to do:       

 

  1. Combine the potatoes, leeks, vegetable broth, and water in a large heavy pot or saucepan.
  2. Cover the pot and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Without draining off the broth, mash the vegetables in the pan with a vegetable (potato) masher until they are fairly smooth. (If they do not mash easily, the soup has not cooked long enough. In this case, let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes longer.)
  5. Add the cream, butter, salt, and pepper.
  6. Heat the soup just to the boiling point, but don’t let it boil.
  7. Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with the chopped chives.

Note: If you want a bit of spice in your soup, try this pumpkin soup with curry and Garam Masala.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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14Apr 12

Spinach and Bell Pepper Potato Salad

Spinach and bell pepper potato saladFull of colour, slightly spicy and a bit tangy, this spinach and bell pepper potato salad makes for a great side salad to go with your main course, or can easily be set up on some Melba toast as a unique hors d’oeuvre for your next party.  In fact, I did just that for a party at my house a few months ago, and the verdict was a unanimous thumbs up from all my guests!  (For a lighter side without potatoes, try this roasted pepper and goat’s cheese salad.)

The original recipe also called for two hard-boiled eggs, but I’ve never really been a fan and decided to leave them out in my version.  However, if you prefer, you can go ahead and crumble some into the mix.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 600g potatoes
  • 75g fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 2tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 65ml olive oil
  • 1tbsp small capers

 

What you have to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 245ºC.
  2.  Wash the bell peppers, cut in half and trim the white part and seeds.
  3.  Place the pepper halves on a baking sheet with the cut sides down.
  4.  Peel the onion, cut in half, and place on the baking sheet with the cut sides down.
  5. Bake the vegetables 20 minutes in the oven until the skin on the peppers blisters. Let the peppers stand briefly, then peel, and cut into strips. Also cut the onion into thin strips.
  6. While the vegetables are cooking, wash the potatoes, and cook covered over medium heat 20-30 minutes in a little water. Don’t let them get too tender.
  7. Drain, wait until they’re cool enough to handle, peel, and dice.
  8. Trim the spinach well and wash thoroughly in cold water. Allow to drain very thoroughly or spin dry.
  9. Wash the basil and break the leaves into smaller pieces.
  10.  Combine the lemon juice with the salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Vigorously beat in the oil.
  11.  Combine the potatoes, bell pepper strips, onion strips, dressing, and basil. Add seasoning if necessary. Lay out the spinach leaves on a serving dish or four plates. Arrange the potato salad on top, sprinkle with capers, and serve.

 

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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10Apr 12

Asparagus and Cheese Pudding

Asparagus and Cheese PuddingThis creamy and savoury asparagus and cheese pudding is a great way to make use of yesterday’s leftover bread and impress even the most demanding gourmands at the same time.  I usually use ciabatta, but any rustic style bread will work just as well. (Also try this Asparagus Risotto.)

What you’re going to need:

  • 450g ciabatta bread, at least a day old, cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 375ml milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp pepper
  • 450g asparagus, tough stems removed, cut into 5cm sticks
  • 250g grated Manchego cheese
  • 250g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

 

What you have to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
  2. Lay the bread along the bottom of a large shallow dish and cover with the milk.
  3. Set aside and let the bread absorb the milk, about 30 minutes.
  4. Bring 3 litres of salted water to the boil in a large pot.
  5. While you wait for the water to boil, butter a 2 litre baking dish and set aside.
  6. Combine the double cream, eggs, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl and whisk together.  Set aside.
  7. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it just turns tender.
  8. Drain and rinse under cold water then set aside to drain again.
  9. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.
  10. Place a third of the milk-soaked bread on the bottom of the buttered baking dish.
  11. Lay half of the asparagus over the bread, sprinkle with a third of the cheese mixture and half of the herbs.
  12. Lay another third of the bread on top, cover with more asparagus, herbs and half of the remaining cheese.
  13. Cover with the rest of the bread and the cheese, placing the remaining asparagus on top.
  14. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the top.
  15. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.
  16. Use a knife to check if it’s done.  The egg and cream mixture should be set and the knife should come out clean when inserted into the centre of the pudding.
  17. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Preparation Time:  35 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Serves:  6-8

Difficulty: Difficult

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06Apr 12

Crepes Stuffed with Ricotta and Courgette

Crepes stuffed with ricotta and courgetteThey’re cheesy, chewy and delicious, and you’re going to love them.  What more can I say?! Prefer fruit over vegetables? Try these crepes suzette with oranges.

What you’re going to need:

For the crepes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 100g flour

For the filling:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium-sized courgettes, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
  • 25g butter
  • 25g flour
  • 300ml milk, heated with 1 bay leaf, 1/2tsp ground nutmeg and 3tbsp diced onion
  • 2tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 200g Ricotta cheese
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • 300ml vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter to grease the  baking dish

What you have to do:

For the crepes:

  1. Beat together the eggs and milk with an electric blender for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the flour and continue mixing for about a minute or until the mixture is smooth and thick.
  3. Let set for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat a bit of butter or oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  5. Drop about two tablespoons of batter onto the frying pan and fry for 1 minute, flip over and fry 1 minute more.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the batter.  You should end up with around 10 crepes.

For the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the courgette and garlic for a few minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.
  3. Drain off any excess oil with kitchen towel and set aside.
  4. Heat the butter in a saucepot over low heat, add the flour and stir well to form a smooth paste.
  5. Add about a third of the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly until the sauce is nice and smooth.
  6. Add the rest of the milk mixture while continuing to stir; keep at it until smooth.
  7. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
  8. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  9. Add the courgette and garlic to the sauce along with the ricotta and half the Parmesan.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Fill the crepes with the filling, using a spoon.
  11. Roll them up and lay them out on a buttered baking sheet/dish.
  12. Pour the vegetable broth over the top and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan.
  13. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes.
  14. Serve hot.

Preparation Time:  30 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:  4-6

Difficulty: Hard

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04Apr 12

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring RollsDelicious and healthy vegetarian Vietnamese spring rolls!  Goes great with peanut hoi sin dipping sauce, which I also posted on my blog. If you like Asian cooking, you should also try these Indian vegetable samosas.

What you’re going to need:

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 400g firm tofu, cut into 1cm thick slices, brushed with 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and sliced (about 70ml)
  • 1tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 350ml)
  • ½ small jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 350ml)
  • 1 medium red pepper, cut into matchsticks (about 350ml)
  • 2 or 3 jalapeño chillies, seeded and thinly sliced (about 85ml)
  • 2 scallions, both green and white parts, sliced diagonally and very thin
  • 1/2tbsp hoi sin sauce
  • 16 Vietnamese rice spring roll wrappers
  • 2 heads Chinese leaf lettuce, separated and washed
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, leaves only
  • 1 bunch of coriander, small sprigs only

What you have to do:

  1. Heat vegetable oil about 1.5cm deep in a frying pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  2. Fry the tofu until crisp on the outside, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Drain the tofu on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Let cool and then slice thinly.  Set aside.
  5. Put the frying pan over the heat again and fry the shallots until crisp and golden.
  6. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice thinly and set aside.
  7. Heat 1tsp vegetable oil in a sauté pan and add the carrots, jicama, peppers and 1/4tsp of salt and cook over high heat for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
  8. Add the chillies and a tablespoon of water to keep the veggies from sticking.
  9. Cook until the vegetables start to get tender, about 2 minutes.
  10. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and mix in the scallions, shallots and hoi sin sauce.
  11. Soak one rice wrapper in cold water until it starts to turn soft, no more than 8-10 seconds.
  12. Place the damp wrapper on a clean working surface and lay a lettuce leaf or two on top.
  13. Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture across the centre, top with a few slices of tofu, a few mint leaves and a few coriander sprigs.
  14. Roll the wrapper gently but snugly over the filling, tucking in the ends as you go.
  15. Repeat for the rest of the wrappers.

Preparation Time:  30-40 minutes

Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves:  4-6

Difficulty: Hard

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02Apr 12

Red Lentil and Potato Bake

Red Lentil and Potato BakeWith winter now in full swing, what better way to warm up after coming in from the cold than with a piping hot dish of red split lentils and potatoes, fresh out of the oven?! Although I also enjoy a hearty bowl of lentil soup, this Red Lentil and Potato Bake, seasoned with thyme and rosemary, is just the thing to warm your bones and satisfy your belly, all without putting too much of a dent in your pocketbook!

As with most recipes that use potatoes, you’ll notice that I suggest just washing them, not peeling.  This a trick I picked up from a Canadian friend who assures me that’s the only way to eat potatoes, and the truth is, I have to agree with her!  Not only do the potato skins add depth of flavour to the dish, they also contain lots of nutrients and help to keep the nutrients of the potatoes themselves from leaking out as they tend to do during cooking.

What you’re going to need:

  • 3 medium potatoes, washed, sliced or chopped
  • 500g dried split red lentils
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 litre of water

What you have to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add the celery and continue frying and stirring for another minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper for 2 more minutes.
  6. Add the lentils and the water and bring to a boil.
  7. Cover the frying pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Place all the ingredients except for the potatoes in a 2 litre baking dish.
  9. Carefully lay the potatoes on top of the lentil mixture with their edges overlapping.
  10. Splash a little olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle on a little thyme and salt.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven on the bottom shelf for 70 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  12. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Prep Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour

Serves: 4-6

Difficulty: Easy

 

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01Apr 12

Spanish Potato Omelette

Spanish OmeletteI learned how to make this delicious Spanish Potato Omelette many years ago when living with some Spaniards in North London. The difficult part about this omelette is the flip. It may take you a few tries to get it right, but the result is well worth the effort!

For desserts you could try one of my favourite Spanish treats – a turrón mousse, inspired by the typical Spanish dessert served only at the holidays.

What you’re going to need:

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 6 eggs, well beaten

What you have to do:

  1. Heat 6 tbsp of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is nice and hot, but before it starts to smoke, add the potatoes, onions and salt.
  3. Fry for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the potatoes and onions are golden.
  4. Remove from heat and drain off the oil in a colander.
  5. Wipe the frying pan with a paper towel to remove the used oil and put back on medium heat with new olive oil (2 tbsp).
  6. In a large bowl, mix the beaten eggs with a pinch of salt; add the potato and onions and mix well.
  7. When the oil is hot but not smoking, pour in the egg, potato and onion mixture.
  8. Move the pan over the burner in a circular fashion so that the omelette rotates in the pan and doesn’t stick.
  9. When the egg on the bottom starts to set, reduce the heat to medium-low.
  10. Keep cooking for about 3 more minutes (4 minutes total).
  11. Now for the hard part, flipping the omelette:
    1. Place a large plate (at least a little bit bigger than the frying pan) upside down over the top of the frying pan.
    2. Lift the pan upwards and flip it over at the same time so that the omelette falls onto the plate.
    3. Put the frying pan back onto the burner and slide the omelette back in with the uncooked side facing down.
  12. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for another 3-4 minutes.
  13. When the omelette is ready, it should be golden brown on both sides, and the egg in the centre should still be just a little bit runny.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 2-4

Difficulty: Medium

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