Category Archives: savory

Little Green Tomato Fail :-(

In keeping up with the current theme of using what’s left over in the garden (and it may be nearly January, but thanks to this rather mild late autumn we were having, for which I have been extremely grateful, whilst remembering sitting outside of businesses in my car in -7 degree weather waiting for interviews last year… ahem, there’s still a little bit of life in there), we finally made the decision / realisation a few weeks ago, that it was time to finish off the tomatoes.

Now, we had an insane number of tomato plants this year – tumbling ones.  Entirely due to my mother-in-law.  Not sure if I should thank her and encourage this again…  I did attempt to rear 25 plants one year – it was the first of the really wet summers, however, and I got tomato rot and didn’t get a single one 😦

That aside, after picking off all the tomatoes, this is what we were left with:

Actually, we had three bowls, but you get the idea – this is a salad bowl, incidentally…

At first, I thought I’d just try to eat them as they were – never really tried it before, but they’re not part of the nightshade family or anything, and other people have cooked with them and survived, so I gave it a go.  They were fantastic on the first day – just popped them in my mouth as a snack – straight.  Tried it again the next day, thinking I’d fallen upon an exceptionally healthy, free snack.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.  Too much acid in the tomatoes to really eat them this way.  My tummy and I were not particularly pleased with the result.

So then I thought I might ripen them a bit.  so they went like this for a week:

Great use for rather old apples…

That worked reasonably well – certainly more red and yellow in there than green by the week’s end.

So on the weekend, after considering a number of potential recipe ideas, I decided to be brave and use them in a savory dish.  We love our pies, and I figured, after Hester at Alchemy in the Kitchen posted a lovely green tomato and gooseberry pie (http://www.alchemyinthekitchen.ie/), that I would give it a try.

I asked Hester if it would be okay to just go all tomato, as my husband has a fear of gooseberries (something to do with his childhood – I think it’s best not to ask…), and she wisely advised me that something was needed to temper the flavour.  Indeed, as I was popping them into my mouth raw, I thought they would have been amazing with plenty of mozzarella or a queso fresco (not widely available in the UK…).  So I thought I would kind of go there.

Realising quite how tart the tomatoes were, I figured I would roast them first, to bring out the sweetness – and not skimp on the oil (for a change).  They did smell divine whilst cooking – alas, smell and flavour disconnect again…

As ever, this came together on a bit of a spur of the moment day, so I went with what I had in my kitchen, as opposed to what would have tasted best.  So here’s a recipe not to try – take my word on it.

Sour Green Tomato Tart

Ingredients:

For the crust:

250 g fine cornmeal
125g cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg yolk
a bit of cold water as necessary

Method:

  • Grease tart or cake tin (I used a springform pan as this is what I had)
  • Add cornmeal and butter into a bowl and rub together until fine crumbs form
  • Add egg and continue to mix until a dough forms – add water slowly to help form the dough as necessary
  • Knead dough briefly if possible.  Cornmeal doesn’t work like a flour, so it may be a bit crumbly
  • Put dough into pan and press out to form a crust – the cornmeal will not roll out.  Use a heavy glass to smooth into corners and avoid an overly thick crust.
  • Prick the base with a fork and leave to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Cover in baking paper and add ceramic beans and bake for 20 minutes at 200C
  • Leave to cool slightly before adding filling

Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 cups of cherry tomatoes – green
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • 3 yellow peppers, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1/2 c cheese
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C, if not already warm from crust
  2. Mix tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper and oil in zip loc bag and toss about to combine flavours
  3. Spread tomatoes onto roasting pan and roast for about 20 minutes
  4. Whilst tomatoes are cooking, soften onion and pepper by placing in the microwave, covered, for 5 minutes
  5. Add tomatoes to pepper and onion, then add eggs and milk and mix well.
  6. Pour into crust
  7. Top with cheese
  8. Bake at 200C for 20-25 minutes, until filling is set
  9. Slice and wince.

Things I would do differently:

  1. Obviously, far fewer green tomatoes – a few might have added a nice punch, but not sooo many.  This would have been really nice with red tomatoes or anything else really – lesson learned!
  2. The cornmeal crust was nice, but a bit too crumbly – I think it could have used another egg to help it bind, and probably been a bit wetter – would maybe cook it as polenta first
  3. More cheese – I just used what I had to hand, and that was all we had – more cheese would have helped temper the flavour a bit more

Winding down the garden – Chard-fest 2011

I got the nicest e-mail this morning.  It seems an old business colleague who has wronged me would like to make financial restitution to me whilst lying on his death bed.  As the dollar signs flashed before my eyes, I though, do people really fall for these things?  I can kind of understand spam e-mails eliciting more favourable responses (for the scam-er) maybe 10 years ago, but now, not so much.  That said, they can be quite amusing.  My favourite one I’ve gotten lately is from someone who desperately wants to give me an extremely well paid job, and all I need to do is guarantee money laundering.  Brilliant!

As I know that, although I regularly play my Publisher’s Clearing House games, because it’s free, and you know the old saying, you’ve got to play to win… I know that, in reality, it’s probably never going to happen.  So in this belt tightening era (which seems to have been going on for an awful long time now…), I’m very grateful to be in a position to grow some of our own fruit and veg.  That said, it’s getting to the end of the growing season (we’ve had an awfully mild November, so it’s probably gone on a lot longer than it should have!), and it’s time to finish what we can, and get things ready for next year.

Enter chard, which I haven’t been regularly picking, (so we have lots), and which will usually over-winter (so we’ll have again next year).  Time to use it.  So I did.

And it was good.

Chard and sausage saute with home grown mash

Chard

  • 2tsp (or to taste) each minced ginger and garlic
  • 1c white wine
  • 1 stock pot/cube
  • 1tbspn dijon mustard
  • 2-3 pork sausages per person (this was for planned leftovers, so I used 6), could easily use soy/quornsliced into rounds
  • 6c chard leaves, chopped, stalks and leaves separated
  • 3 trimmed leeks, chopped
  • 200g grapes (I prefer red)
  • 400g tin black-eyed peas
  • 0.25c yoghurt or cream
  1. In large pot / dutch oven, bring wine, garlic, ginger, stock pot and mustard to boil
  2. Add sausages and cook for a few minutes until it starts to look less pink
  3. Add leeks, and stalks of chard and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring infrequently.  Add water if it looks dry (or more wine)
  4. Add grapes and stir in
  5. Add beans and stir in
  6. Add chard leaves in bunches (it’s an awful lot of chard, but cooks down to so little!), adding more as the last batch shrinks to provide more room!
  7. Cook for another 5 minutes to ensure everything is cooked through, then add yoghurt, mix through and heat for another minute.
  8. Serve over/or with (I’m one of those people who kind of doesn’t like food to touch too much…) mash or grain of choice.

   Mash

  • About three medium to small floury potatoes per head, sliced into large chunks
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 0.5 – 1c yoghurt – depending on how floury your spuds are
  1. Boil potatoes (peeled or not – I like them peeled, husband prefers skins on) in plenty of salted water for 15-20 minutes – this will depend on the variety of potato  (as these are some sort of home-grown heritage variety, they were done in under 15 minutes, which is really odd…) in a large pot with lid
  2. Drain potatoes using lid on pot to act as strainer, keeping some of the water with the potatoes
  3. Mash with potato masher to desired consistency (I like a bit of chunk in there…)
  4. Add salt and plenty of pepper
  5. Add yoghurt to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Serve alongside chard.

Tips, tricks, mistakes, etc:

  • I always try to work with slightly frozen sausages.  After 15 years of vegetarianism, I still have trouble touching meat products, so try to handle them as little as possible.  Sausage is no exception.  It’s way less oogie to cut into bits if it’s still a little frozen.
  • I dropped a bit of agave nectar in the pot whilst cooking this, to counteract any bitterness in the chard.  It came out a bit too sweet with the grapes, so I have omitted above.  That said, the chard was buttery goodness.  I think that was all the chard though…

Macho, macho Duck – he is a winning sensation

When I’m driving to work in the wee hours of the morning (I leave the house at 5:20 am – well before day-light – I dream of the day this will change…), I pop my radio on to BBC Radio 1 (because I want to pretend I’m young and hip).  The DJ is a bloke called Dev, and I’ve enjoyed listening to him for the past few years now.  At about 6am, he’s got this feature called “I’m here all week” (I think?) where a member of the public gets to play DJ for the week, and picks one song a day to a particular theme.  Thursday is First Bought Thursday.  I think most people fudge this to make them sound a bit cooler, because I don’t think anyone’s first record is really going to be Take That, or Metallica or whatever.  I like to pretend that the first record/tape I bought was The Pretender’s Learning to Crawl.  That may be true in that it’s one of the earliest real music albums I requested to be purchased for me, but there were certainly others before that. 

My first album I remember having was a Disney album.  All the characters had their own songs, and I remember singing and dancing along.  The one I most remember, however, was Donald Duck’s song – Macho Macho Duck – sung, you guessed it, to the tune of Macho Macho Man.  And whenever I have anything remotely Mexican flavoured (which, in our current place of abode, must be home made – very sad place to live sometimes…) makes me want to sing “Nacho, Nacho Duck!”- Sometimes I do, out loud, if no one else is around.

So after a long day at work, knowing that I was hungry, and Husband was likely to be hungry too, and needing something quick, easy and relatively healthy, I polished off my quacking shoes and got on with this simple dinner (many thanks to The Kitchen Noob for the inspiration / reminder! http://thekitchennoob.blogspot.com/2011/11/beans-n-rice-rice-n-beans.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FBGBQn+%28The+Kitchen+Noob%29):

No Nacho Chicken Bowl

  • 400 g chicken breast (or whatever protein you want – could omit if you wanted a no-chicken bowl…)
  • 400 g tin black eyed peas, drained
  • 400 g tin red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 bag boil in a bag rice (I have issues with rice – don’t ask…)
  • 1 200g jar salsa
  • 1 400 g carton chopped tomatoes
  • As much hot sauce as you can handle (I used Fat Cat brand – see below)
  • 2 stock cubes
  • for serving:  shredded cheese, avocado, nacho chips (if you wanted a Nacho chicken bowl!), sour cream/yoghurt, etc
  1. Add stock cubes to large pot of boiling water and leave to dissolve
  2. When stock is dissolved, add chicken breasts to stock to boiling stock to poach for as long as you like (I tend to leave mine for about 20 minutes, but have done longer – poaching leaves it tender no matter how long it’s in there – unless you go overboard)
  3. Once chicken is cooked, set aside, and add rice to boiling stock
  4. In a separate bowl, mix beans, tomato and salsa.
  5. When chicken is cool enough to handle, chop and add to bean mix
  6. Cover bean mix and microwave for about 5 minutes, until heated through (or the English equivalent – Piping hot!)
  7. Season to taste with hot sauce.
  8. When rice is done cooking, dish up into bowls, top with warm bean mix and toppings of choice.
  9. Dinner is served.

Tony Chachere is my Hero

Around 2001, on a trip home, I discovered something which was to have a major impact on my cooking, and to a degree, improve my quality of life.  Enter Tony Chachere’s:Apologies for the rubbish picture – maybe the BlackBerry phone camera wasn’t the way to go with that one, huh?

I’m a spicy food fan – my mom used to slip hot peppers into our salads growing up.  My dad has fond memories of growing up with something called schoog (which I found is both a hot chili paste and a sweet drink – there are some Hebrew words that I’ve never quite come to terms with – imagine asking for one and getting the other.  Um, no.)

My husband is not.  But as we’ve been together for nearly a decade now (where does the time go – oh yeah.  There), he’s learning to love it.

Enter Tony’s – salty and spicy.  Perfection in a shaker as far as I’m concerned.  And the uses!!!

  • mix it with Parmesan cheese over pasta – yum
  • use it to season a pot of black bean, sweet potato and pepper stew – yum
  • shake some on top of chicken or veg when roasting
  • soups, stews, roasted meats and veg (great on potatoes) you want it spicy and a bit salty (I do love my salt), add Tony’s

Tony’s Roasted Courgette/Zucchini sticks

Ingredients:

  • Two large or four medium courgettes – cut into batons
  • spoon full of oil of you choice
  • generous shaking(s) of Tony’s to taste
  1. Put courgette into a zip loc bag
  2. Add oil, then Tony’s to bag
  3. Zip closed
  4. Shake, shake, shake
  5. Pour into roasting dish
  6. Pop in an oven (doesn’t really need to pre-heat) and turn it to about 400F/200C and roast to your liking (I like mine a bit dark, so left it in there fore about 45 minutes)Things I would do differently
  • Make more – so good.  Can’t wait to restock on my Tony’s in January!

Curry in a hurry (cheesey, but true)

Every Friday night, after finishing work, we try to start the weekend right by having a family meal.  This either means going to “The Dinner Store” (bless my little girl), or me cooking something nice/easy at home.  One of my staple Friday night dishes is a quick curry which uses pretty much whatever you have on hand, plus a few quick ingredients.  If it’s spicy, Monks has something different.  This Friday was a spicy one, so Monks happily had her favourite dinner:

We didn’t go for the Charlie and Lola book giveaway this time though.  Maybe next time.

We did use this as an opportunity to learn about ingredients.  She especially liked the turnips because they are partly purple, and you can make turnip flowers on them. Sometimes…

All good things, anyway…

Husband and I had the curry.

My curry recipe is fairly standard, and all surrounds a good curry paste.  Find one you like, and you can have a lovely curry up in no time.  Try different ones too – there’s so many to choose from!

We normally go for Fern’s, which I get from a local market in Oxford.  It rocks my socks…

Unfortunately, we’ve not had the chance to visit said local Oxford market for some time, and Patak’s curry pastes were on sale at the Sainsboring’s, so I thought I’d try something new.  Here’s the result:

Basic curry in a hurry

  • one stock cube or gel stock tub
  • about 1 litre of water
  • about 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • about 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • a good .5 or more cups of curry paste of choice (more or less to taste – used to be able to get away with a few tablespoons, alas, no longer – I tend to use 0.25 to 0.5 of a jar each time)
  • protein of choice (I used black eyed peas and borlotti beans and used the water from the tins instead of adding all the water above)
  • your choice of veg to feed as many as you need (I used one head of cauliflower, four trimmed leeks, two aubergines and one box of chopped tomatoes – my favourite mix is with sweet potato or butternut squash, potato and cauliflower)
  1. Prepare your vegetables in a good sized dice (I like chunks!)
  2. Heat up a dutch oven / large pot over medium heat
  3. Add about 0.25- 0.5 cups of water to pot, then stock, curry paste, garlic and ginger.  Cook whilst stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes – until it looks like you need more water or it will start to stick
  4. Add you basics – onion or leeks, and another 0.5 c of water.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, and cook for another 3 minutes or so.
  5. Add in your beans and remaining veg (hold off on the tomato, if using, until after your veg has softened up lest they pickle in the tomato juice!), and enough water to not quite cover (depending on how dry a curry you like).
  6. Pop the lid on your pot, turn the heat to medium low, and let simmer until veg is soft.
  7. Eat

I will say that this curry paste was rather on the spicy side (more so than usual!), so a bit of yoghurt really went a long way here.  Probably should have served it with a bit of grain as well, (cous-cous would have indeed been quick), but we all learn from our mistakes, right!  Monks tried it too and said it was yum.  But then she was under strict orders not to spit her food out lest she not be allowed to have dinner with mummy and daddy again.  Perhaps she was biased?

Pumpkin patch kids

I know Halloween has long since gone, but it’s just my absolute favourite, and as I can’t do Thanksgiving here per se, I do try to pretend Halloween lasts a little longer than one night.

One of the main ingredients for a proper Halloween, in my opinion anyway, aside from ghosts, spiders, etc, are pumpkins!

I sort of went all out with them this year – we had these three, and two more:

 

 

 

The stickers are courtesy of the Monkey-moo – Hello Kitty goes well with ghosts, right?!

We also did this:

Twice.  Once with just salt and a bit of oil, the second with a bit of oil, cinnamon, ginger and agave nectar (which I recently found and wanted to try).  I’ve never roasted my own pumpkin seeds, but will definitely be doing it again and again (will be trying butternut squash seeds next).  So easy, apart from the cleaning part, and they do take a while to dry, so I sort of oven-dried them first (low oven) before tossing the seeds, oil and seasoning in a zip lock bag and tossing it around.  Then I plonked them onto a lined baking tray.  I will definitely use greaseproof paper instead of the foil next time (I did one and one).  The sweet ones came off much better with the greaseproof paper than the foil!

For the insides of the pumpkins (the smaller ones – the bigger ones just got gutted and binned) – we have this:

Or rather, this is what’s left over.  I didn’t really grow up with pumpkin (my folks are not American – and this is not a food from either of their childhoods!), so didn’t really know what to do with it, but I just treated it like a general winter squash, and the love is certainly growing.  Roasting 6 pumpkin halves at once in the oven was also a good idea – bish bash bosh, as my husband would say (and lots of other people!).

I’ve seen plenty of recipes floating around for what to do with the rest of it, and I’ll let you know if I get around to trying one!  (Time’s been a bit tight of late)

I’ve also managed to snag this:

A present from my brother and SIL.  Very kind of them to fly it over for me!  I’m almost afraid to open the tin as I don’t know how long it will be before I can get another tin, and I expect it would cost me about GBP 7 to get one here (I love how you have to pay for the tin’s flight over when you’ve buying some foreign products…).  I’ve seen far too many good things to do with it as well.  Again, once I am brave enough, I will let you know.

I think I need to teach my daughter about Thanksgiving this year…  Let the pumpkins live on!

Grape expectations

The brilliant Stacey at Stacey Snacks did it again for me with sausages and grapes (http://www.staceysnacksonline.com/2011/10/salsiccia-alluva-sausages-w-roasted.html).  I love the idea of roasting grapes, and the thought of grapes and sausages together just sounded perfect – so I gave it a go with some minor alterations.  Stacey served her sausages over a cauliflower purée, I just didn’t want to do that many dishes, so I added it to the dish, along with some other things – so here it goes:

Roasted Sausages with grapes and mixed veg

Serves 2

  • 4 sausages of choice
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • two handfuls of grapes
  • 1 small bulb of fennel, cut into chunks
  • two handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • one large red onion, cut into large dice
  • one tbsp oil (I used rice bran oil)
  • one tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • dash of worcester sauce
  • salt and pepper

Method:

Toss vegetables together in a large zip lock bag, and add seasonings. Toss to mix.

Put mixed veg in a prepared roasting tin (I usually just put a wee bit of oil and some sea salt in the bottom of mine to keep things from sticking and add flavour).

Top with sausages.

Bake at 180C / about 350F for 40 minutes or so (depending on how browned you like your sausages / veg)

Eat!

Am I the only person out there who still thinks of snausages when you say sausages – it was dog food, I think???