50 new recipes

I decided not to make resolutions for the new year, and instead decided on a few projects (from small to somewhat ambitious) that I would try and complete in the next twelve months. One of those was making 50 new recipes, with the goal of making different things to my usual recipes – not just 50 cakes, for examples, although a cake has already featured.

I’m up to 9 recipes so far:

1/50: Beef Biryani – adapted from a chicken biryani recipe here. I simply used leftover steak instead of chicken, and it was lovely – I’m a fan of one pot meals.

2/50: Spicy African Chicken Stew – adapted from this recipe. I do wonder how this dish can declare itself to be from an entire continent. Presumably African cuisine varies. It also contains an entire jar of peanut butter, but it does make a rather large quantity – so possibly a bit questionable health-wise, but delicious.

3/50: Carrot Soup with Tahini & Roasted Chickpeas – from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. This was fantastic – a beautifully spiced soup, but the things I loved most about it was the lemony tang of the tahini mixture, stirred into the soup, and the crispy chickpeas. The roasted chickpeas were amazing, I’m going to make them on their own as a snack when we have guests.

4/50: Braised Pork Shoulder in Apple Cider – adapted from this recipe, using carrots instead of parsnips. Braising is my new obsession. Talk about transforming cheap cuts of meat. I don’t particularly like pork, but thought it was really transformed by the cider. The Husband: “best pork I have ever eaten”.

5/50: Pumpkin, Bean & Lentil Stew – from this recipe. This was a lovely spicy stew, and the fig raita, whilst it sounds a bit odd, goes wonderfully with the sweetness of the pumpkin.

6/50: Braised Leg of Lamb – made from this recipe. I neglected to take a photo of it (not a big loss. Braised meat is not terribly attractive). It was fantastic – sweet and fruity and falling off the bone. The Husband: “This is even better than the pork.”

7/50: Fig & Prune Bliss Balls. I looked at a few recipes for these, then hurled things into the food processor until they came together. Starting with a cup of almonds, then when they’re pretty well pulverised, adding a cup of figs, a cup of prunes, and half a cup of pepitas. Form into balls, roll in coconut, put in fridge. Tasty little healthy snacks.

8/50: Honey Cake -from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking (which someone has set out here. Dense and moist, with an intense honey flavour. I’d like to figure out if you could make it sugar free, but I imagine it would make the texture more gingerbread-like.

9/50: Lentil Salad – adapted from this recipe. It claims to be the best lentil salad ever, and it is pretty damn good. I baulked a bit at the mixture of spices, but it is lovely – spicy and slightly sweet, and the lentils and currants go beautifully together.

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Carrot spread

This is a deliciously sweet lemony spread – perfect as a dip, or spread on bread, or dumped on pasta or a salad. Adapted from here.

Chop up 3 or 4 large carrots, and boil or steam them until soft. Chuck them into a food processor, and add a can of chickpeas, the juice of a lemon, a quarter of a cup of rice bran oil and a pinch of salt. Whizz away until relatively smooth. Dump into a bowl and enjoy.

Carrot & Fennel Salad with Ranch Dressing

This was my first time cooking with fennel, and I had a couple of bad moments while slicing the fennel bulb and experiencing the subsequent strong smell of aniseed. I’m the sort of person who picks the black jelly beans out of the bag (Husband loves black jelly beans, that’s why we’re married). However, I quite enjoyed the flavour of the baked fennel, as the aniseed flavour wasn’t nearly as prominent – I thought it mixed very well with the other flavours in this robust roast vegetable salad. This recipe is adapted from the February 2009 delicious magazine.

ingredients:
2 bunches of baby carrots, or small carrots sliced into fours
2 baby fennel bulbs, or 1 large fennel bulb
1 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups rocket leaves
1 bunch mint

for the dressing:
250g light sour cream
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp each of chopped chives, parsley, fennel fronds, dill & basil

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the carrots, and if you’re using bigger carrots, slice them into three or four lengths. Slice the fennel bulb thinly, and reserve the leafy fronds for the dressing. Chop the onion into quarters, and leave the peel on. Arrange the vegetables on a tray, sprinkle with salt and olive oil, and bake for 25-30 minutes until everything is tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in the serving bowl. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to have the dressing at a nice runny consistency.

When the vegetables are cooked, leave them to cool a little. Remove the skin from the onion quarters, and slice them up. Place the vegetables in a bowl with the rocket and mint, season with a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Serve the salad on a large platter, with a bowl of the ranch dressing to the side.

Cauliflower Soup

This is a lovely creamy soup with a beautifully smooth rich texture and sweet flavour, and very quick to make. It’s a recipe from the August 2007 issue of delicious magazine, which I altered slightly to make it a little lower in fat. It didn’t detract from the creaminess of the soup – in fact, the Husband declared it was a little too creamy for his taste. Served with crunchy garlic croutons for contrast, this is a delicious soup to start a meal with, or for a light meal on its own with some salad.

ingredients:
50g unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 caulifower, broken into florets
2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
(go for the reduced salt version if you’re buying stock)
300ml skim milk
additional 150ml skim milk
2 tbsp low fat sour cream
1/2 small cobb or vienna loaf
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Add the cauliflower florets, and cook for a minute or so. Pour the stock and milk over the cauliflower, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.

While the soup is cooking, break up the bread loaf with your hands on a baking tray, and sprinkle with garlic. Bake at a high heat, say 200C, for about 5 minutes until golden and crunchy. Sprinkle the parsley over the mixture.

Leave the soup to cool slightly, then blend (either with a handheld blender, or pouring the soup by halves into a blender).

Return the blended soup to the saucepan, and stir in the additional milk and sour cream. Taste, and season with salt and white pepper.

Serve hot, sprinkled with the bread, garlic and parsley mixture. I found that larger bread pieces gave a nicer crunch than the smaller crumbs, and contrasted nicely with the smooth creamy soup.

Roast Tomato Soup

This soup is so gorgeous – tangy, chunky tomatoey goodness.  And it barely warrants being called a recipe.

Take about 1.5 kilos of very ripe tomatoes.  Cut them in half or quarters, depending on the size, and spread out on a baking tray.  Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle over salt.  Roughly chop two onions into wedges, and place in among the pieces of tomatoes.  Peel about half a head of garlic and drop the cloves in with the onion and tomatoes.  Bake at about 200C for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on whether you forget about them or not as I did.)

Leave the baked vegies to cool a little.  Pour everything on the tray into the food processor, and proceed to whiz until you’re getting a reasonably smooth consistency.  You’ll probably want to add a little hot water to dilute the soup a little.  Serve with parsley and perhaps some fresh parmesan or croutons.

Bean & Baby Spinach Salad

I adapted this recipe from a Valli Little recipe in the September 2007 edition of delicious magazine. It’s a lovely tangy salad, with a gorgeous dressing. The original has lots of mint in it as the main leafy substance, while I used very little – I think it could have used a bit more, but I would still shy away from the original two cups full.

ingredients:

2-3 handfuls of sugar snap peas
2-3 handfuls of snow peas
A few sprigs or a handful of mint, depending on taste
Baby spinach leaves
Soft feta cheese (usually described here as Danish or Tasmanian style)

and for the dressing:

1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp honey
100 ml olive oil
1 tbs dried mint

To make the dressing, mix together the garic, lemon juice and honey in a bowl, and then whisk in the olive oil and the mint.

Rinse and top & tail the beans, breaking them in half or into thirds, before putting them in your serving bowl. Add the baby spinach, using enough eaves to fill out the bowl, and toss the beans through with your hands. Crush some feta over the top of the salad, and toss again to combine. I didn’t measure the feta I used – you’ll have to judge according to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad, toss gently, and serve.

(The original recipe used peas as well, and cooked all the beans gently before making the salad. I love the sweet crisp taste of fresh sugar snap peas, so I left them raw.)

Roast Pumpkin

Roast pumpkin is one of my favourite foods – either on its own, accompanying a roast or a platter of other vegies, or as a versatile ingredient in a variety of recipes.

 I leave the skin on, and bake it for a long time, so that it becomes soft and edible.  I use it on pizza, combined with salami, feta cheese, and red onions.  I use it in salads, with fresh green leaves of baby spinach, a touch of peppery rocket, grilled red capsicums, cashew nuts and crunchy fresh snow peas.  It’s also a delicious topping to couscous, with a little vinaigrette and diced capsicum tossed through the grains.  Ooh, and rolled up in some pita bread with pesto and tomato as a sandwich wrap.  Delicious.

Imam Bayildi

It’s a pity that I can’t photograph cooked eggplant and make it look pretty, because this is one gorgeous tasting dish. I’ve always wanted to try imam bayildi – that description of the imam fainting when he ate it made it sound pretty fabulous. And so it is, probably because of all the oil – there’s a lot of oil in this dish, but it results in a meltingly delicious eggplant.

I used a Rick Stein recipe I found in the September 2007 issue of delicious magazine.

ingredients:

6 small to medium eggplants (I used two large eggplants, and didn’t change any of the other ingredients, so I ended up with rather a lot of sauce.)
200ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)
(I skipped it)
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
4 very ripe tomatoes, skin removed, chopped
1 heaped tsp harissa
(Again, skipped it)
2-3 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup tomato juice
1 tsp caster sugar
Juice of one lemon

Use a potato peeler to peel away roughly 1cm wide strips lengthways along each of the eggplants. I couldn’t find the nice peeler my brother gave me and so was stuck using my crappy $2 peeler, which did an awful job – you can’t see the stripes in the photo because they were so ridiculously large and uneven. Not that it matters, really – the stripes are for presentation purposes, I think.

Cut a long, not too narrow wedge out of each eggplant, making a fairly deep pocket, taking care not to cut through to the bottom. Sprinkle a little salt into the pockets, and leave the eggplants to drain upside down on a plate for 30 minutes.

While they’re draining away, heat 1/3 of a cup of the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, and fry gently for 10 minutes until they’re soft, but not too browned – you want them to absorb lots of the oil. Add the garlic, chilli (if you’re using one) and chilli powder, and fry for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the chopped tomatoes (I didn’t bother to peel them – what a bothersome task, and I think a little unnecessary), harissa, parsley and seasonings.

Spoon the filling into the pockets in the eggplants – as I only used two eggplants, I had plenty of the filling left over. Put the eggplants side by side and pocket up in a wide saucepan (I ended up using a big soup pan). Mix the tomato juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pour it over the eggplants, followed by the remaining oil. Given my two lonely eggplants, I shied away from using much more oil, and only used a splash more. I also surrounded my eggplants with the leftover filling.

Cover the saucepan and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender. Let cool, and serve at room temperature, with some couscous perhaps, or rice.

Ratatouille

This was a nice freestyle ratatouille I cooked up for a springtime lunch out on the verandah. The local fruit & veg shop had bags of nice fresh zucchini on special for a couple of dollars, and bright firm eggplants on their shelves – ratatouille was the first dish I thought of.

Chop up one onion, and roughly chopped a few cloves of garlic. I used a ceramic casserole dish to cook this in, because I wanted to serve it straight from the stovetop onto the table.

Saute the onion and garlic in a bit of oil until translucent. Chop the zucchini and eggplant into rough chunks. (My eggplant was a nice young one with barely-there seeds – I think the only time you need to salt eggplant is when the seeds are larger and it’s older and more bitter.)

Add the chopped zucchini and eggplant to the pot, and cook for a while, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has shrunk down a bit. I seasoned it at this stage, with plenty of pepper and a little dash of salt. Add a 500g can of chopped tomatoes, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. You want the vegetables to be soft, but not mushing together.

This stew had a beautiful fresh flavour, thanks to those lovely zucchinis, and I enjoyed it as leftovers stirred through pasta, and served with a beef curry.

Carrot & Shallot Soup

When I make soup, I generally make them as chunky and thick as possible, so this attempt to make a clear, fragrant soup was quite new to me.

I began by gently frying finely chopped shallots with a little bit of olive oil in a large saucepan. I added two finely sliced garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and stirred for a little while. I then poured in several peeled and finely diced carrots.

I didn’t have any excellent stock in the fridge, but if you have homemade or liquid stock, I suggest you use that – pour in a generous amount to cover the vegetables. I used a powdered chicken stock (as I’d run out of vegetable), and it turned out very well.

In hindsight, I don’t think I put quite enough water in – some bowls were very chunky with carrot, and that wasn’t quite the effect I was going for. I wanted a fragrant liquid with scattered pieces of carrot and shallot floating in it, not piles of carrot with a bit of liquid on top. Then again, I suppose it’s better to be less generous than too generous with water – it’s easy enough to add more liquid to a soup, and rather more difficult to reduce it.

I’d like to try this again with better stock and some different vegetable combinations – I’ll have to resist throwing too many things in, and ending up with a chunky soup yet again.