Sweetcorn Fritters with Pickled Salad

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Not much is better than a sweetcorn fritter. They can be made with several types of flour, although I prefer them made with either buckwheat or chickpea four, which add protein to the dish. The addition of onion and garlic gives a more savoury taste to balance the sweetness of the corn, and of course a little finely chopped fresh chilli goes well.


Per person

50 grams flour – buckwheat/chickpea/wheat

90 grams sweetcorn – either cut straight from the cob/ frozen/or tinned – keep any liquid from the tin

10 grams green pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

salt and freshly ground black pepper

oil for frying

Mix the flour with the sweetcorn, pumpkin seeds, and onion and garlic.

Add enough water, including any water from the tin if using tinned corn, gradually to make a thick but spreadable batter.

Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until quite hot then add a tablespoon of the batter to make a smallish fritter. I like to make a trail one to check that the batter is not too thick or thin. If the batter is a bit thin there is no problem adding a little extra flour at this stage to thicken it up. Likewise add a small amount more water if it seems too thick.

When you are happy with the consistency of the batter, go ahead and make several smallish fritters.

When the critters are brown and crispy on one side, turn over and cook the other side. Once done remove and drain excess oil onto kitchen paper.

Spicy Green Lentils & Fresh Apple Chutney

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This lentil dish is fragrantly spiced with a rich vegetable sauce, then the crisp apple chutney gives a tart and hot contrast to the softness of the lentils.

The lentils – Serves 4

250 grams Pardina or Puy lentils

vegetable stock – about 700 ml

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 courgette

1/2 Florence fennel

1/4 celeriac

1 large spring garlic

1 large spring onion

seeds of 10 green cardamoms

6 curry leaves

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon Maggi wurze

salt and freshly ground black pepper

chard or spinach leaves

Finely chop the garlic and onion

Cut the celeriac, courgette and fennel into about 1 cm dice.

Warm the oil in a large pan and fry the garlic and onion for two to three minutes

Add the vegetables and fry stirring from time to time until lightly browned.

Add the lentils and all the seasonings and then enough stock to cover.
Bring to a simmer, turn the heat down and gently cook until the lentils are tender and the vegetables have made a thickish sauce. Check the liquid level from time to time and add more stock if the dish is getting dry.

Check the seasoning of the lentils and add salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving stir in the spinach or chard cut into strips. Let cook a couple of minutes for the leaves to wilt and brighten. The lentils taste enven better if cooked the day before you want to serve, like all stews, but leave the addition of the leaves until the last moment again.

The fresh apple chutney

1 crisp slightly tart apple – cut into small dice

fresh green chilli – finely chopped

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

juice from 1/2 lime

Mix all the ingredients together adding the chilli gradually. You want the chutney quite spicy but not blow your head off. Leave to marinate for half an hour or so before serving.

Braised Lettuce & Peas

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A dish that is so simple but the combination of ingredients tastes better than you would imagine. This used to be a springtime dish that celebrated the first and sweetest peas and lettuce of the season, now with frozen tiny sweet peas and year round lettuce from this warm region of Spain it can be made any time of the year.


Per person

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or the same amount of butter

1 spring onion

1/2 spring garlic

1 small lettuce

150 ml small sweet peas

100 ml vegetable stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the onion and garlic in diagonal slices

Warm the oil or butter in a shallow pan that has a lid.

Add the onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until translucent.

Cut the lettuce into quarters and add to the pan then add the peas and the stock.

Cover and leave to cook on a low heat for 3-4 minutes.

Carefully turn over the lettuce to ensure even cooking.

Let cook a further 3-4 minutes, by which time the lettuce should be wilted but still with a bit of bite.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Mushroom Consommé – and making vegetable stock

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Making vegetable stock is easy especially if you have the tougher leaves from your own vegetables or buy them from a market where they are not trimmed down to the cleaner more tender parts. Don’t be rigid about what goes into the stock pot, pea and bean pods are fine, the tough stems of broccoli and cabbage, the sad vegetables in your bin at the end of the week including wrinkly tomatoes and peppers and, failing all that, one of those mixed stew packs will make good stock. I generally like to include onion and carrots, and then whatever else is available, the more variety the better.

The stock for this soup was made with –

the pods from some broad beans

the green tops of a bunch of spring onion and a bunch of spring garlic

the base and tough stems of one of those green cauliflowers with pyramids

the white stems of a bunch of Swiss card

the thick stem of a broccoli

a couple of soft carrots

Wash everything and scrub rather than peel the carrots. Trim dirty ends off then roughly chop everything and put in a large pan.

Pour in boiling water to just cover, bring to the boil then turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour.

Don’t add salt at this point as when you come to use the stock you may want to add salty flavourings or reduce the stock in which case you would end up with a dish that’s too salty.

Turn off the heat and leave to cool.

MUSHROOM CONSOMMÉ – three servings

1.2 litres vegetable stock

50 grams Fresh enoki mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon marmite

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

2 slices fresh ginger

finely chopped parsley

Put the cool stock in a pan and add the mushrooms and ginger.

Stir in the Marmite and soy sauce.

Leave the soup for at least an hour for the flavours to blend.

Ten minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, bring it slowly to the boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve with the parsley sprinkled over.

Cucumber and Enoki Mushroom Salad

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This is a version of a salad that I had in Restaurant Xiao ge zi in Valencia. It has taken three attempts to get the dressing right, but I think I’m there now.

The original salad had as well as the cucumber and mushrooms, the carrot slivers and thin strips of red pepper. For this version I’ve left out the peppers and added sliced radishes and alfalfa sprouts, which went particularly well with the dressing. Double the amount of dressing was used in the original salad, but as this was to go with the delicate stir fried smoked tofu, I pared it down. If you want a picante salad then stir in chilli oil at the end to suit your taste.

The salad needs to marinate for about an hour so start your preparation early enough to allow for this.


1 small cucumber – peeled and cut into long thin slices

enoki mushrooms – I used fresh thin and plumper ones, but you can use the dried thin enoki.

1 carrot – peeled and cut into slivers with your peeler

Radish – sliced

alfalfa sprouts

For the dressing –

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together and leave to marinate for about an hour at room temperature.If you are using dried mushrooms, marinate until the mushrooms are tender.

Smoked Tofu with Crispy Ginger

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I have come back from Christmas in Valencia with some oriental goodies found in Chinatown. There are two types of fresh enoki mushrooms, which feature in the next post, and two types of smoked Tofu, one dark and the other more golden.

I’m something of a novice with tofu dishes, especially the smoked type, so this dish was a bit make it up as you go along, hence the black beans appearing in the photo of ingredients, which I decided not to use. This tofu has a delicate flavour, not of smoke exactly, more fragrant like a very lightly smoked tea, so it felt right to complement the delicate taste of the tofu rather than adding strong flavours.

Per person

100 grams dark smoked tofu

sunflower or peanut oil

piece of fresh ginger about 2 cm square

1 spring onion

1 spring garlic

1/2 green pepper – the long thin variety

juice of half a small lime

1/2 teaspoon light soy or fish sauce

Drain the tofu and wrap in tea towel or kitchen roll to dry it thoroughly. Once it’s dry, cut into thin slices.

Cut the ginger into short julienne

Cut garlic and onion into slanted slices

Cut the pepper into long thin slices

Warm a tablespoon or two of oil in a wok. Add the ginger and fry slowly until light brown and crisp. This will take five to ten minutes.

Add the garlic, onions and peppers. Continue frying tossing the vegetables constantly.

Add the tofu and stir fry until warmed through.

Season with the soy sauce or fish sauce and the lime juice.

Serve with plain rice.

Red Winter Salad

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For this salad hot stock is added as a dressing which blanches/cooks the ingredients and helps combine their flavours. This jewel bright salad has a Christmassy feel for me, with it containing cranberries, pomegranate and apples.

Enough for 4 portions

1/2 a medium sized red cabbage

sea salt and black pepper

250ml unseasoned vegetable stock

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

40 grams dried cranberries

1 pomegranate

1 red apple

2 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

Start by slicing the cabbage as finely as you can. If you have a mandolin use that.

Put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt and pepper. With your hands crush the seasoning into the cabbage breaking it up a little as you go. Leave to soften for half an hour.

Put the coriander seeds in the stock and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and leave to steep for half an hour.

Once the cabbage and the stock have steeped, continue finishing the salad.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and add to the cabbage together with the dried cranberries.

Cut the apple into small slices and add to the salad.

Dress the salad with the oil and vinegar. Mix well.

Bring the stock back to a boil and pour over the salad. Mix well.

The salad is ready to eat, but will taste even better the next day. If you store it in the fridge, get it out early enough to let it come back to room temperature before eating.


La Casa Viva Russafa

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Fabulous Vegan lunch in this bright and modern restaurant. The service is efficient and always cheerful, but it’s the food that excites. The menu is innovative and adventurous with lots of tasty light vegetarian dishes. My sisters only complaint is that the humble potato should not be too humble to make an appearance on vegetarian menus – a small complaint.

We started with the house salad we we fell upon with such gusto that I forgot to take a photo.
Next I had a pizza made with a corn, spelt and wheat flour base, moistened with a smooth sauce of cashew nuts and shiitake mushrooms flavoured with cumin and topped with vegan cheese, courgettes, rocket.

My sister had the very tasty vegan burger, which was served with a creamy tomato sauce and yuca chips.

Pad Thai – today’s version

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There are many versions of Pad Thai, so it’s one of those dishes that can happily adapt to what you have in your fridge as long as you include the core ingredients, these being flat rice noodles, peanuts and bean sprouts. The flavourings are of course key. Galangal or ginger, red chillis, tamarind, soy sauce and Nam Pla, the Thai fish sauce.

Today I have spring garlics, green and red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, edename beans and Swiss chard leaves, plus of course some peanuts.

Per person

  • 45 grams flat rice noodles
  • 35 grams raw peanuts
  • 35 grams edename beans – in Spain you can now buy these frozen in Mercadona
  • red and green peppers
  • broccoli
  • alfalfa sprouts
  • Thumbnail sized piece ginger
  • 1 clove garlic or 3 small spring garlics
  • red chilli
  • teaspoon sized piece tamarind paste or 1 dessert spoon tamarind sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Nam Pla fish sauce – you vegans will have to leave this out, although for me Thai food just doesn’t taste the same without it.
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • oil for cooking – either sunflower or olive oil

Firstly put the noodles to soak in cold water at least an hour before starting to cook.

Shell the peanuts and pod the edename

Cut the peppers into short strips

Wash the chard and cut into thin strips

Cut the broccoli into bite sized pieces

If you are using tamarind paste, which you buy in Asian stores in the uk, separate off a teaspoon sized chunk and put it into a small container with 2-3 teaspoons boiling water and mash the paste into the water to make a sauce. You can use tamarind ready made sauce if need be, but this tastes better.

Finely chop the ginger garlic and chilli

You are now ready to start cooking.

Boil the kettle, drain the noodles of the cold water, return to their container and cover with boiling water.

Heat a wok and add a couple of tablespoons of oil. Add the ginger, garlic and chills. Stir round and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the peppers to the pan. Stir round and cook for a couple of minutes.

Do the same with the broccoli.

Now the chard.

Put in the peanuts, bean sprouts and beans.

Drain the noodles and add to the wok.

Add the tamarind, soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice. Stir well to mix everything. Taste to see if you are happy with the balance of flavours and adjust accordingly if you are not.

Enjoy.


Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

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I love grilled vegetables, especially grilled broccoli. This method of cooking seems to concentrate the flavour of each vegetable. I crush a clove of garlic with some coarse salt with a pestle and mortar, and then add olive oil to make a garlicky oil with which to paint the vegetables.

Romesco Sauce originated in Tarragona, Cataluña and traditionally is served with fish, but can make a great dipping sauce for vegetables. It is slightly spicy, garlicky and almondy.

Per person

  • 35 grams almonds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet and sour smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chilli jam
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons vegetable stock or water

Lightly toast the almonds in a thick bottomed pan on a low heat, stirring from time to time until light golden. Remove to the bowl of a small food processor.

Finely chop the garlic and fry in olive oil until golden brown. Add to the almonds.

Whizz these until the almonds are finely chopped

Add the rest of the ingredients except the stock or water, only add a tablespoon of this and whizz the mix again until a thick mayonnaise consistency.

Add a little more stock or water if the consistency is too thick.