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Cover: The Gourmet Garden

May, 2012

31May 12

Cream of Courgette Soup

Cream of Courgette SoupI really like eating soup, and this Cream of Courgette Soup recipe has got to be one of my all time top-five!  It has a lot more than just courgettes in it, so I guess it’s not technically a simple cream of courgette, but I find that the celery provides a nice tangy contrast while the carrots and potato give it a bit more depth.  And the nutmeg, well, that’s probably the whole secret to this incredibly tasty soup!

I strongly suggest leaving the skin on the courgettes, mostly because that’s where a lot of the nutrients are, but also because it gives a nice green colour.  I’ve also used cornflour rather than cheese or cream to thicken the mix in order to make it vegan-friendly, but if you prefer, you can go ahead and use those as you would in any other creamy broth (such as this roasted fennel and somerset cider soup).

What you’re going to need:

  • 4 medium size courgettes, washed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2 medium potatoes, washed and peeled
  • 4 celery ribs
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp dry parsley
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1.5 tsp water
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • fresh coriander to garnish

What you have to do:

  1. Chop all the vegetables into medium sized chunks (the size isn’t very important since they’re going to be puréed anyway).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat until it’s hot but not smoking.
  3. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the courgettes, carrots, celery and potatoes and sauté for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir often so it doesn’t burn or stick.
  6. Add the vegetable stock, parsley, nutmeg, bay leaves, black pepper and salt.
  7. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
  8. Remove from heat and remove the bay leaves.
  9. Purée the soup with a hand blender or in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
  10. Mix the cornflour with the water to a make a thick paste.
  11. Add the cornflour paste to the soup and mix it in well.
  12. Garnish with a few coriander leaves and a dash of nutmeg and serve.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

Difficulty: Medium


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28May 12

Potato and Gruyère Cakes

Potato and Gruyère Cakes

These potato and Gruyère cakes are a satisfyingly filling starter that are sure to delight the whole family, young and old alike.  The tangy crème fraîche offsets the earthy flavour of the potatoes in just the right way, making for a true taste sensation.  For a sweeter presentation, try serving them with an added dollop of raspberry jam, or any other jam you like.  These were initially intended as an appetiser, but I have found they make for a great breakfast too.

If you are a fan of Indian food, you might want to try out this Malai Kofta recipe as well. They are special potato dumplings with cheese in a special gravy. The texture isn’t as delightfully crunchy as with my cakes, but the flavour of the gravy is amazing!

Potato and Gruyère Cakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 900g potatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, washed and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2tsp minced garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2tbsp Crème Fraîche plus extra to garnish
  • 100g Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1.5tbsp flour
  • Oil for the frying pan
Instructions
  1. Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until they are tender but not quite completely cooked, about 25 minutes.
  3. Drain and set aside to cool.
  4. When cool, peel and grate using a coarse hand grater, or a food processor.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan and add the leeks and a few pinches of both salt and pepper.
  6. Cook over medium heat until the leeks start to get soft, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a little water if necessary to avoid having the leeks stick to the pan.
  8. In a mixing bowl, combine the leeks, potatoes, ½ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.
  9. Beat the eggs and crème fraîche together in a separate bowl and then mix into the potato mixture.
  10. Mix in the cheese and flour and stir well.
  11. Form the mixture into little cakes about 7 to 10 cm in diamater and about 1 cm thick.
  12. Cook in a well-oiled frying pan over medium heat until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes per side.
  13. Serve immediately with a dollop of crème fraîche.

 

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18May 12

Baked Fennel with Tomato Gratin

Baked Fennel with Tomato GratinThere’s something very comforting about au gratin dishes; somehow the melted cheese and breadcrumbs seem to make all your troubles just fade away while you’re eating them!  This baked fennel with tomato gratin is no exception, and the Italian cheeses and whole-wheat bread crumbs seem to hit that special place in your belly that warms your body and soul.   (Fennel also goes well with bell peppers in this pancetta, fennel and sweet pepper tart.)

Fennel is one of my favourite veggies, and its subtle anise flavour makes the perfect bed for the gratin, especially after the baking brings out its natural sweetness.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 4 young fennel bulbs
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 110g Ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 85g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 65g whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

What you have to do:              

  1. Preheat the oven to 205ºC.
  2. Trim the fennel and quarter lengthwise.
  3. Cut the core out of each piece without removing the leaves.
  4. Chop up the tender leaves and set aside.
  5. Bring 2 litres of water with 1/2tsp of salt to the boil.
  6. Add the fennel quarters to the boiling water and blanch for 6 minutes, then submerge in cold water and drain thoroughly.
  7. Remove the cores from the tomatoes.
  8. Plunge the cored tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds and then transfer to cold water to loosen the peels. Remove the peels, cut into quarters and dice finely.
  9. Wash the parsley and finely chop the leaves.
  10. Trim the green onions, then wash thoroughly and cut into fine rings, including the tender green part.
  11. Peel the garlic and mince.
  12. Combine the Ricotta cheese with the tomatoes, flat-leaf parsley, fennel leaves, garlic, green onions, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and olive oil and mix thoroughly.
  13. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
  14. Place the fennel quarters in a baking dish.
  15. Spread the tomato gratin over the top.
  16. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the gratin is nicely browned.
  17. Serve hot.

 

Preparation Time:  35 minutes

Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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10May 12

Russian Rye Bread

Russian Rye Bread

When I was a young girl, a friend of mine’s grandmother always used to invite us in for a slice of warm fresh rye bread with butter after playing.  I remember instantly loving the nutty flavour and chewy texture the first time I bit into a slice.  My friend’s grandmother was Ukrainian, but this Russian rye bread recipe is the closest thing I’ve found so far to what I remember.  The recipe takes a fair bit of work and waiting for the dough to rise, but when you bite into a nice warm slice, it’s always worth the wait! (I also recommend this rosemary focaccia bread.)

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 4.5tsp active dry yeast
  • 250ml warm water (40 – 45°C)
  • 85ml dark corn syrup
  • 1.15 to 1.45 litres dark rye flour
  • 2tsp salt

What you have to do:

 

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  2. Stir in the corn syrup and set aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast mixture foams. If after 5 minutes the yeast mixture has not started to foam, discard the mixture and try again.
  3. Add 625ml of rye flour to the yeast mixture, a little at a time, and beat with a spoon until smooth.
  4. Stir in the salt.
  5. Set the bowl in a warm place, cover with a cloth towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  6. When the dough has risen, add 500ml to 750ml more of flour, about 150ml at a time, stirring after each addition.
  7. When the dough becomes difficult to stir, turn out onto a floured surface and knead in flour with your hands until the dough is stiff but still slightly sticky.
  8. Form the dough into a ball.
  9. Wash and dry the bowl. Place dough back in the bowl, cover with a cloth towel, and set in a warm place. Let it rise again for 2.5 to 3 hours, or until the dough almost doubles in size.
  10. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, with floured hands, form into a loaf.
  11. Place loaf in a well-greased 23cm x 13cm loaf pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and return to a warm place to rise for 1 more hour.
  12. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  13. Bake the loaf for 30 to 35 minutes. (Bread will not brown much.)

 

Preparation Time:  45 minutes plus 4.5 hours rising

Cooking Time: 30-35 minutes

Serves:  Makes 1 loaf

Difficulty: Medium

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07May 12

Basic Seitan Recipe

Basic Seitan RecipeSometimes I like to vary from using tofu because a lot of my non-vegetarian friends claim that it can be quite bland and sometimes has a strange texture (although this really depends on whether you know how to cook it properly). They also say that it doesn’t resemble meat in taste or in texture.

 

On the other hand, I’ve never heard anyone make similar complaints about seitan, also known as “Wheat-Meat“, which is nice and chewy and really does resemble meat a bit.  The price, however, is a bit abusive if you buy it at the shop, so here’s a basic seitan recipe which will make about four times as much for the same price.

I personally like using seitan in hearty seitan stewstir-fries, or even fried and eaten in a bun like a hamburger.  It’s very filling and really not all that hard to make, and once you get the hang of it, you can try other spices to make your own personalised flavour.

What you’re going to need:

  • 250ml wheat gluten
  • 180ml vegetable broth for the seitan mix.
  • 30ml soy sauce
  • 5ml ginger powder
  • 5ml garlic powder
  • 1.5 litres vegetable broth for cooking
  • 4 onion slices
  • 3 slices fresh ginger

What you have to do:

  1. Mix together the wheat gluten, ginger powder and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix the soy sauce and 180 ml of vegetable broth in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the soy sauce mixture to the gluten and spice mixture, stirring gently with a spoon and then with your hands until they are well blended.
  4. Kneed the dough gently10-15 times on a flat, clean surface.
  5. Let the dough set for 5 minutes, then kneed again 4 more times.
  6. Separate the dough into 4 chunks and stretch into 2 cm thick cutlets.
  7. Bring the cooking broth to a boil in a large stockpot with the onion and ginger slices.
  8. Add the cutlets to the broth and simmer slowly, covered, for 60 minutes.
  9. When the cutlets are expanded and firm, they’re ready.
  10. Place the cutlets in plastic containers and fill up with broth.
  11. The seitan can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 8

Difficulty: Medium

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01May 12

Feta Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

Feta Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

 

It’s funny how life is. I remember when I was a kid, I used to absolutely loathe baked tomatoes, to the point where I would actually get so angry with my mother when she prepared them that I wouldn’t speak to her for days afterwords!  Nowadays I just can’t seem to get enough of them. Sorry about all that trouble, Mum!

These feta cheese stuffed tomatoes are a real pleasure to make and even more of a pleasure to eat.  I’m a huge fan of feta cheese anyway; it’s the best thing the Greeks ever invented, well, aside from philosophy, astronomy and all of that, of course!  I particularly love the way the baked tomato and cheese just melts in your mouth when you bite into it.

It’s very important to use the ripest tomatoes you can find; they should be a nice deep red colour, not orange or green. If your tomatoes aren’t ripe enough yet, put them in a paper bag in a dark place like a cupboard for a day or two, and they should ripen up quite quickly.

Tomatoes have all types of sizes and flavours. If you prefer bite-sized treats to serve at a party, I recommend these pesto filled cherry tomatoes.

What you’re going to need:

  • 4 medium-sized, very ripe red tomatoes
  • 2tbsp finely chopped scallions
  • 2tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 125g finely crumbled feta cheese
  • 65g bread crumbs
  • 3tbsp olive oil

 

What you have to do:

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  2. Carefully cut the tops off of the tomatoes.  Use a very sharp knife; if not, you’ll probably end up destroying the tomatoes.
  3. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the pulp and the seeds.
  4. Save the pulp and throw the seeds away.
  5. Coarsely chop the tomato pulp.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the tomato pulp with the scallions, flat-leaf parsley, feta cheese, bread crumbs and olive oil. Mix well.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes, filling them until the filling is level with the top of the tomato.
  8. Place the tomatoes right side up in a 20cm square baking dish and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven.
  9. Serve the stuffed tomatoes steaming hot.

 

Preparation Time:  35 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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