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Cover: The Gourmet Garden

Side dishes

29Jul 12

Fennel and Parsley Salad

Fennel and Parsley SaladAn often forgotten vegetable in many homes, fennel has got to be one of my personal favourite comfort-foods, and this fennel and parsley salad is no exception!  The slight licorice aroma of the fennel bulbs is a truly delightful sensation for the taste buds and stomach alike.  Fennel is known for its soothing effects on the stomach, so I find it’s the perfect thing when you’re not feeling 100%, whether that be due to the flu or an overly excessive night on the town.

If you are looking for a more subtle fennel flavour, try this mushroom risotto recipe.

Some people suggest that fennel should be cooked just until it’s al dente, but I personally strongly disagree with this.  I believe it should be nice and tender, as this is when its true flavour really shines through.  I like to serve this salad on a bed of rocket and topped with some Parmesan cheese shavings, as suggested in the recipe, but you can go ahead and leave this out if you prefer, or substitute it for any other lettuce and cheese combination.  As usual, let your taste-buds be your guide!

 

Fennel and Parsley Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, sprigs and leaves
  • 1tsp minced lemon zest
  • 1tsp minced tangerine zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1tbsp fresh tangerine juice
  • 100g rocket lettuce
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, shaved
Instructions
  1. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, cut out the cores and remove any bruised outer leaves.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, cut the fennel halves crosswise, as thin as you can.
  3. Transfer the fennel to a medium-sized bowl and toss with the parsley, lemon zest, tangerine zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper and the olive oil.
  4. Add the lemon juice and the tangerine juice and toss again.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Arrange a bed of rocket lettuce on each plate and nestle the salad on top.
  7. Place a few shavings of Parmesan cheese on top and serve.

 

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26Jul 12

Couscous Salad

Couscous saladAnother Middle-Eastern inspired dish, this couscous salad is a light yet satisfying little treat.  Let the subtle blend of flavours contained in every mouthful transport you in your imagination to the star-filled sky of the Sahara desert or the shores of the Mediterranean sea. (Also try this rice salad with spinach and avocado.)

The recipe itself is deceptively simple. The only thing you need to be careful about is the roasting of the pine nuts – just one second of distraction, and it can all go wrong before you realise what’s happened!  The recipe suggests toasting the nuts in a pan on the stove-top, but alternatively this can be done in the oven.  Just spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, bake at around 190ºc for about 5 minutes, shake the tray, and bake another few minutes until they smell nice and nutty.  You still have to be very careful not to burn them though, so don’t let your guard down!

Couscous Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 180g instant couscous
  • 1tsp minced lemon zest
  • 250ml water
  • 2tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1tbsp Champagne vinegar
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • ¾tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 150g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Instructions
  1. Pour the instant couscous into a small baking dish.
  2. Combine the water, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Pour the liquid over the couscous and stir lightly.
  4. Cover the dish and set aside for 20 minutes.
  5. Heat a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan over low heat.
  6. When the pan is good and hot, add the pine nuts and toast until they start to smell intensely nutty, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  7. Shake the pan frequently while toasting, and be very careful not to burn the nuts, as they will go from perfect to burnt and ruined in a heartbeat.
  8. When they're ready, transfer immediately to a dish to cool.
  9. When the couscous is ready, fluff it up gently with a fork to separate the grains.
  10. Transfer to a serving bowl and toss with the lemon zest and the rest of the ingredients.

 

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23Jul 12

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo
is a typical Mexican garnish, or salsa, traditionally served with fajitas, tacos, burritos, and anything made with flour tortillas.  My recipe is a slight variation on the classic Mexican version which was given to me by a Mexican amigo.

I’ve reduced the number of chilli peppers by half compared to the original recipe, as I found it was almost too hot for my taste (and I like it HOT!), and definitely too hot for most of my friends and family.  If you’re particularly adverse to spicy food, you can go ahead and halve the amount again, or even cut out the jalapeños completely, although this will take away slightly from the authenticity of the dish.   If you’re a fire-eater, you can double it back up again to 4 or more jalapeños.

If you don’t have or can’t get fresh limes, lemons make a decent substitution. It won’t be quite as good, but it’ll work in a pinch.  The same thing goes for the fresh coriander. You could substitute it with fresh Italian parsley (they’re from the same family), but again, it won’t taste quite like it should.  Lastly, if you can’t get fresh jalapeño peppers, you could substitute any other fresh hot peppers.  If none are available, then you should use the dried variety, or dried pepper flakes.

This recipe doesn’t keep very well, so you should try to use it the same day as you make it. Why not try it with my vegetarian burritos?

Pico de Gallo
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiment
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
A typical Mexican garnish
Ingredients
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped (about 450g)
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium-size bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, coriander, jalapeños and lime juice.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. For best results, serve the same day.
  5. Makes about 500ml.

 

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23Jul 12

Spinach and Warm Veggie Salad

Spinach and Warm Veggie SaladThis spinach and warm veggie salad recipe, smothered in a delicious creamy mustard sauce, makes a great starter or side dish for any occasion.  The warm vegetables make a welcome change to a typical cold salad and provide the perfect contrast to the bed of tender fresh spinach leaves.

If you have more of an appetite, you could also try this pita bread with fried vegetables, coriander and ricotta cheese. The extra carbs will give you an energy boost.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 medium-sized red onions
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 110g fresh tender spinach  leaves
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread
  • 65ml vegetable stock
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tsp grainy mustard
  • 2tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of ground coriander

What you have to do:

 

  1. Chop the red onions.
  2. Trim the fennel, wash and cut into eighths lengthwise.
  3. Wash and trim the spinach. Remove the thick stems, and wash thoroughly in cold standing water. Allow to drain thoroughly and transfer to plates.
  4. Wash the lemon with hot water, remove a thin layer of zest, and chop finely. Squeeze out the juice and set aside.
  5. Wash the parsley and finely chop the leaves.
  6. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley leaves over top of the spinach.
  7. Soak the bread in the vegetable stock.
  8.  In a blender, finely purée the bread with the extra virgin olive oil.
  9. Mix in the grainy mustard and crème fraîche and season to taste with 1.5 tablespoons of the lemon juice, along with the salt, pepper, and coriander.
  10. In a wide pot, bring about 5cm of salted water to the boil for the vegetables.
  11. Cover and cook the vegetables 5 minutes, or until they are tender and crisp.
  12. Drain the excess water from the vegetables and arrange them on top of the spinach leaves.
  13. Pour the mustard cream over the salad or mix it all together so that the entire dish is coated with the dressing.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

Preparation Time:  20

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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13Jul 12

Asparagus in Tofu Hollandaise Sauce

Asparagus in Tofu Hollandaise SauceThis asparagus in tofu Hollandaise sauce uses soft tofu instead of double cream and is therefore considerably less fattening than the traditional version.  The tender asparagus drizzled with the rich and creamy sauce make a great starter for any meal and can even be used as a tasty, if somewhat messy, hors d’oeuvre at a party. (Also try these steamed spring vegetables with pine nuts.)

Asparagus is a very healthy vegetable which is high in antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C and is also very useful for cleansing your system. So go ahead and eat as much as you like without feeling guilty!

 

What you’re going to need:

For the sauce:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 250g soft silken tofu
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread, or canola oil

For the asparagus:

  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 450g asparagus, ends trimmed off

What you have to do:

 

  1. First, prepare the sauce:  Blend the egg yolks, tofu, lemon juice, and xanthan gum in an electric blender for a few minutes, until they get light and fluffy.
  2. Pour the mixture into the top of a double saucepan that sits over, but does not touch, simmering, not boiling, water.
  3. Add the butter, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, adding 1 tablespoon or more of hot water until it easily pours from a spoon.
  4. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the salt, mustard, cayenne, and pepper. Keep warm over simmering water while cooking the asparagus, up to about 30 minutes.  (If it starts to separate or thicken too much, add a teaspoon of boiling water and whisk briskly until it easily pours from a spoon.)
  5. While the sauce is simmering in the double saucepan, prepare the asparagus.  Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on their size.
  6. Remove from the water, drain, and pat dry with kitchen towels. Drizzle the sauce over the top of the asparagus and serve immediately.

 

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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11Jul 12

Crispy Potato Wedges

Crispy Potato WedgesAlthough these crispy potato wedges require several steps to prepare, the wonderfully crunchy end result makes it well worth the effort.  The white rice flour gives them an amazing texture when fried, while the cayenne pepper and other herbs provide a subtle spiciness that just can’t be beat.  They taste great on their own, but for best results, I recommend serving them with a freshly made sour cream and chive dip.

For another recipe with fried potatoes, I suggest these Aloo Bonda Snacks. They are an Indian fried potato ball – definitely worth a try!

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 large potatoes cut in ½ cm wedges
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 70g (½ cup) cornflour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 250g white rice flour
  • Canola oil or peanut oil, for frying
  • Additional salt to taste

What you have to do:

  1. Place the potato wedges in a large microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Whisk together the salt, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the spices over the potatoes and toss until the potatoes are thoroughly coated.
  4. Lay a sheet of crumpled non-stick baking  paper over the bowl, and cook on high power for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are almost, but not quite done. Let the potatoes cool slightly.
  5. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornflour, baking soda, egg, and lemon juice, adding water if necessary until you reach a thin consistency.
  6. Place the white rice flour in a second shallow bowl.
  7. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep heavy pot to 185°C.
  8. Dip the potatoes in the rice flour, then in the egg mixture, and then again in the rice flour.
  9. Immediately fry the potatoes in batches until they are browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
  10. Add more salt to taste.  Serve the wedges immediately on their own or with your favourite dipping sauce.

 

Preparation Time:  15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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05Jul 12

Broccoli in Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Broccoli in Cheddar Cheese SauceAlthough broccoli is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet  due to its high content of calcium, vitamin C, folic acid and iron, it can be quite difficult at times to get your kids to eat it, regardless of how much you threaten them with chores or no dessert!

Luckily, almost all kids love Cheddar cheese, so this broccoli in cheddar cheese sauce may just be the perfect way to finally get them to eat something green and healthy for once.  I know it worked for me when I was a kid!

You can really use any kind of cheese you prefer for this dish, but I find the bright orange colour of the cheddar looks really nice with the dark green of the broccoli and helps make this into an attractive and delicious side dish. (If you prefer a main dish, I recommend this pasta salad with broccoli and bacon – without the bacon, of course!)

What you’re going to need:

  • 315ml milk (or soy or other milk)
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 100g (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese or cheese alternative
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 500g broccoli, cut into 2 to 3 cm florets

 

What you have to do:

 

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together about 65ml of the milk and the cornflour until smooth and lump-free.
  2. Add the rest of the milk and the garlic and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly.
  3.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cheese. Keep stirring until all the cheese melts.
  4. Add salt and cayenne pepper and taste.  Add more if desired.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and reduce the heat as low as possible in order to keep the sauce warm while the broccoli is cooking.
  6. Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the size of the florets.
  7. Remove the broccoli from the water, drain, and pat dry with kitchen towels.
  8. Drizzle the cheese sauce over the cooked broccoli and serve immediately.

 

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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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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28Jun 12

Oven Baked Falafel

Oven Baked Falafel
I’ve always loved falafel, but I’ve never really been very big on deep frying, so I decided to try baking them in the oven instead.  The result was this oven baked falafel recipe, which tastes even better than the classic fried version, if I do say so myself!

Traditionally, falafel is served wrapped in unleavened bread and garnished with lettuce, cucumber, onions, tomatoes and a littler tahini (sesame seed paste)  sauce, or arranged on a plate with the same ingredients.  Personally, I usually just eat them along with whatever salad I have at hand. For a more filling meal, eat them with rice, like this Indian-style brown rice.

 

Oven Baked Falafel
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 500g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in abundant water
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 medium onions, peeled and halved
  • 15g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped very fine
  • 15g fresh coriander, chopped very fine
  • 2tsp salt
  • 2tbsp flour
  • ½tsp paprika
  • ½tsp baking soda
  • ½tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½tsp ground cumin
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 250ml water
Instructions
  1. Using an electric blender or food processor, blend the onion and garlic together to form a paste.
  2. Mix the chopped fresh coriander and flat-leaf parsley into the onion and garlic paste.
  3. Add the prepared chickpeas to the mixture and blend again with the food processor or blender. The final consistency should be a little bit lumpy.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the paprika, baking soda, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon and baking soda.
  5. Add the spice mixture to the chickpea mixture and stir well, making sure the spices are evenly distributed throughout the mix.
  6. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to set for at least an hour and a half.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  8. Grease a baking sheet with a little olive oil or vegetable oil.
  9. Drop tablespoonful-sized balls of the chickpea mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving a few centimetres between each ball and also between the balls and the edge of the tray.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top sides of the falafel balls have turned golden.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for 5 minutes.
  12. Transfer the falafel balls to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter.
  13. Serve on a bed of your favourite salad.

 

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06Jun 12

Aubergine Purée with Cumin Pitta Bread

Aubergine Purée with Cumin Pitta Bread

This aubergine purée with cumin pitta bread is about as close as you can get to everyone’s favourite Greek restaurant aubergine purée.  It is intended to be an appetiser, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it hard to stop eating it and end up ruining your appetite for the rest of the meal.  So either make only half of the recipe, or make sure you’ve got plenty of guests to share it with.  Alternatively, just make a whole lot of it and eat it as your main course – you’ll only need a little salad and some black olives to complete the meal!

If you love aubergine like I do, I also recommend this baked aubergine parmesan with tofu pesto.

To make it pretty, I like garnishing it with black olives, lemon and a bit of red pepper. You can present the dip any way you´d like, or not at all. It´s all up to you.

 

Aubergine Purée with Cumin Pitta Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large aubergine, washed
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped very fine
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • 6 pieces of pitta bread
  • Extra olive oil for brushing the bread
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
  2. Baste the aubergine in olive oil and roast it in the preheated oven until it is deeply golden, about 40 minutes.
  3. Leaving the skin on, blend the aubergine adding the olive oil a tablespoon at a time as you blend. The mixture will expand quite a bit.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, lemon juice and cayenne and blend again until the mixture turns light and creamy.
  5. Stir in the chopped herbs by hand.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and place in the centre of a round serving plate.
  7. Cut the pitta bread into quarters and brush both sides with olive oil.
  8. Arrange on a non-stick baking tray.
  9. Sprinkle the cumin seeds over the oiled pitta bread quarters.
  10. Bake in the oven for 5 or six minutes or until golden brown. Keep a close watch to make sure they don't burn.
  11. Serve immediately while the bread is still warm.
  12. Eat by dunking the bread into the purée.

 

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