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Cover: The Gourmet Garden

Meal for 4 people

02Jul 12

Spinach and Potato Gratin

Spinach and Potato GratinCheddar cheese, potatoes, cream, spinach and pine nuts, grilled to perfection au gratin, this spinach and potato gratin dish has quite literally every single one of my favourite comfort foods, all rolled together into one, big, brilliant recipe!  I make absolutely no claims as to the healthiness of this creation, but sometimes you just want to forget all about that and just eat something that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This dish definitely fits that bill!

Personally, I leave the skins on the potatoes, and since they’re supposed to be the healthy part anyway, I don’t feel too guilty about stuffing my face with this every once in a while. (Also try this potato au gratin with pesto and salmon steaks. Just take out the salmon to make it vegetarian, or perhaps you could replace it with tofu!)

 

Spinach and Potato Au Gratin
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
Ingredients
  • 450g potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 150ml double cream
  • 200ml milk
  • 225g frozen spinach, thawed
  • 80g cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 25g pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven, on grill setting, to 200ºC. Or alternatively, use the grill, if you have one.
  2. Spread the potato slices out evenly along the bottom of a large, deep, non-stick frying pan.
  3. Sprinkle the minced garlic and the sliced scallions over the top of the potato slices.
  4. Pour the double cream and the milk over the top of the potatoes and onions.
  5. Place the frying pan over medium heat, bring to the boil and then cover and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Using your hands, wring out the spinach until it is as dry as possible.
  7. Add the spinach to the potato mixture and stir gently to mix them in.
  8. Cover the pot and cook for another 2 minutes.
  9. Season to taste with the salt and fresh black pepper.
  10. Spread the mixture evenly along the bottom of a deep, oven-safe dish.
  11. Sprinkle the grated cheddar over the top of the potato mixture.
  12. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top of the cheese.
  13. Place the dish on the top shelf of the oven or on the grill and bake for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the topping is golden and bubbling.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

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29Jun 12

Falafel with Tomato Sauce

Chickpea meatballs with tomato sauceI remember loving the meatballs in tomato sauce that my mother used to make when I was growing up, so the other day I decided to try and make a vegetarian version.  This chickpea falafel with tomato sauce recipe was the result.  The texture is, of course, slightly different than the lamb-based or peri-peri meatballs my mother specialised in, but the lemon, garlic and Italian parsley give them a subtle flavour that  is offset nicely by the tomato and thyme sauce.  Enjoy!

What you’re going to need:

For the falafel:

  • 400g cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

  • 500g tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1tbsp pine nuts
  • 170ml crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What you have to do:

 

  1. Drain the chickpeas well.
  2. Peel and mince the onion and the garlic.
  3. Wash the parsley and finely chop the leaves.
  4. Place the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest in a food processor and blend to a paste.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes.
  7. Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls.
  8. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.
  9. Add the falafel and sauté for 10 minutes, shaking the pan at regular intervals so that they brown evenly.
  10. Remove the falafel from the pan and keep them warm in the oven at the lowest setting.
  11. While the falafel is frying, prepare the tomatoes for the sauce by removing the cores.
  12. Submerge the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds, then transfer to a bowl of cold water to loosen the skin.
  13. Remove the skin, cut into quarters, and chop finely.
  14. Wash the thyme and strip the leaves from the stems.
  15. Add the remaining oil to the pan.
  16. Add the pine nuts and thyme and sauté for 20 seconds.
  17. Add the tomatoes and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  18. Mix in the crème fraîche and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  19. Arrange the falafel on 4 plates. Pour the sauce over them and serve.

 

Preparation Time:  15 minutes + 30 minutes setting

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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19Jun 12

Spinach and Chickpeas

Spinach and ChickpeasThis spinach and chickpeas recipe makes for a great starter or can even be served as a main course if you accompany it with some oven-warmed French bread and a bit of salad. (If you want to stick with the chickpea theme, try this carrot, chickpea and orange salad.)  As always, I suggest using dried pulses and rehydrating them overnight, but if you don’t have time, you can go ahead and use the precooked canned or bottled ones.

What you’re going to need:

  • 300g chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 1 slice white bread
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4tsp paprika
  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

What you have to do:

  1. Drain the chickpeas and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them completely.
  2. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 1 hour or until the chickpeas are tender.
  4. Remove from heat and drain off the water.
  5. Heat 30ml of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the slice of bread until it’s golden brown.
  6. Set the fried bread aside on a plate.
  7. Sauté the onion in 15ml of olive oil over low heat until it’s translucent.
  8. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are dissolved.
  9. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  10. Add the paprika and sauté for 30 seconds.
  11. Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes until the spinach is tender.
  12. Add the mixture of tomatoes and onions to the spinach, mix well and add the chickpeas.
  13. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Put the fried bread and the garlic in a blender and mix to form a smooth paste.
  15. Add the bread and garlic paste to the spinach and chickpeas.
  16. Add 170ml of cold water and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  Add more water if necessary as you cook.
  17. Serve hot.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes + 8 hours soaking the chickpeas

Cooking Time: 55 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

 

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13Jun 12

Bean and Red peppers Burritos

Bean and red pepper burritosI love Mexican food, and it’s so easy to make it vegetarian!  These bean and red peppers burritos are my take on the classic Mexican burrito.  Even if you’re normally not a fan of beans and pulses, I think this dish will get your taste buds smiling. They’re fun to make and even more fun to eat! If you want to make it even more entertaining for your guests, place the bean mix in the centre of the table along with the garnishing and let them heap their own burritos!

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 x 400g tins red kidney beans, drained and mashed. (You can also use black beans.)
  • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 100g tomato purée
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 pack of 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • 200g mature cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • 150ml sour cream (optional)
  • Diced tomatoes, sliced Jalapeños or Mexican salsa (for garnish)

What you have to do:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it’s hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the onions and red pepper and sauté until the onions turn translucent (approx. 4 minutes).
  3. Remove the onions and peppers and set aside.
  4. Sauté the onions, cumin, black pepper and paprika for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
  5. Add the onions and peppers back into the mix along with the tomato paste and salt and mix well with the spices.
  6. Add the mashed kidney beans and mix well.  The mixture should be thick, not runny.  If it’s runny, cook a little longer to evaporate any excess water and add a tablespoon of  cornflour  to help thicken.
  7. Remove from heat and set aside.
  8. Remove the tortillas from their packaging and heat in the microwave on medium power for 1 minute to soften.
  9. Place two tablespoons of the bean mix on each tortilla, in a line a little off-centre to the left and running from the top to about 4 cm from the bottom.
  10. Place a slice of cheddar cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and a few jalapeños (if desired) on top.
  11. Wrap the burritos by first folding up the bottom, then the left-hand side and then the right-hand side to make a kind of envelope.
  12. Serve warm.
  13. If you really want to add to the “bean theme,” try serving this borlotti bean, celery and tomato salad on the side.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time:  20 minutes

Serves:  3-4

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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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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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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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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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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