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11Jun 12

Tomato and Basil Pie

Tomato and Basil PiePizza is a standard classic in my home, especially spinach, fresh tomato and blue cheese pizza. This tomato and basil pie recipe is a sort of variation on the traditional pizza, using pastry rather than leavened pizza dough.  The ingredients are simple but the taste is wonderful.  Basil, cheese and tomatoes work so well together that you just don’t need anything else, as the Italians have obviously known for years.  If you’re in a rush or just too tired to make the pastry yourself, go ahead and use any store-bought variety.

What you’re going to need:

For the crust:

  • 160g sifted white flour
  • 1/4tsp fine salt
  • 110g butter, chilled and diced
  • 60ml ice water

For the filling:

  • 100g fresh mozzarella, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 175g Parmesan cheese
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 5 medium tomatoes, washed and sliced 5mm thick
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp freshly ground black pepper

What you have to do:

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut into the butter using a pastry knife and add to the bowl. Do NOT use your hands.
  4. Stir in the ice water using a spoon, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms into a ball.
  5. Wrap the ball in plastic and chill for 4 hours.
  6. Roll out the ball into a flat crust about 30 cm in diameter.
  7. Press the crust firmly into the bottom and sides of a 26 cm pie dish.
  8. Using a fork, make some holes in the bottom of the crust.
  9. Cover the crust with parchment paper and fill with dry beans.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven, leaving the heat on.
  12. Remove and discard the beans and parchment paper.

To make the filling:

  1. Varnish the crust with a little olive oil or butter.
  2. Cover the bottom with the the fresh Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over with half of the fresh basil.
  3. Lay the tomato slices and Mozzarella on top of the Parmesan and sprinkle on the rest of the fresh basil.
  4. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and olive oil.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.  If the cheese exudes a lot of liquid during baking, remove from the oven and drain the excess liquid in order to keep the crust from getting soggy.

Preparation Time:  1 hour + 4 hours setting

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Serves:  6

Difficulty:  Medium

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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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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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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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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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