Thursday, January 31, 2008

Goat Cheese and Squash Pie

500g shortcrust pastry
1 small butternut squash
1 red onion, chopped into bite sized wedges
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1tbsp fresh thyme
1 pack soft goat’s cheese
1tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 pack goat’s cheese with rind

heat oven to 190c. Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a 1 pound coin. Use to line a 23cm round tart tin. Blind bake for 15 min
Cut the squash into chunks and remove skin and seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, season and put in a roasting tray with onion, garlic and thyme. Roast for 20 min until the squash is cooked
Spread the soft goat’s cheese on the bottom of the flan case. Squeeze the garlic from it’s skin. Mash with ½ of the squash and the sage. Spread over base. Season, then scatter over the onion and remaining squash.
Slice the goat’s cheese with rind into rounds and place on top.
Bake for 20 – 30 min

I usually make my own pie pastry. It’s quick and easy, and I like doing it. Still, for this one I decided to try the store bought kind. I got the kind that comes in a block and you roll it out yourself. Sadly, I loved it. It was really tasty, great texture. I think I’ll still make my own most of the time, because I still like doing it, but it’s good to know that if I’m in a rush, the store bought is there as a reliable back up.
As for the rest of the recipe, from Good Food Magazine, it was not as good as I had hoped.

It could have been great, but it was a bit fussy to make, even with the pre-made dough, and the squash should have been cooked much longer. When I went to mash up the squash and garlic, I kind of guessed at that, but I thought maybe the cooking time of the assembled pie would solve that problem. If it had a really creamy texture, it would have been a beautiful dish, but it wound up with a bit of a grainy/undercooked texture. Not inedible, but not good either.

I’d be willing to guess that if you increased the original squash cooking time (or chopped it much more finely), it would make a really good pie.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bean Cakes

2X300g cans of cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
100g Edam cheese cut into very small cubes
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
5 spring onions, chopped
2tbsp sun dried tomato paste
75g fresh bread crumbs
1 medium egg, beaten
1tbsp sunflower oil

For the tomato relish:
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
3tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1tbsp olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon

Put the beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the Edam, pinenuts, onion, tomato paste and a third of the breadcrumbs. Season and stir to combine the ingredients.
Using your hands, shape the mixture into eight burgers. Coat each one with beaten egg and remaining breadcrumbs. Transfer to a plate, cover and chill for about 20 min.
Mix together the ingredients for the tomato relish in a small bowl and season.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add the burgers. Fry for 3-4 min on each side until golden and heated through. Drain on kitchen paper.

This comes from Good Housekeeping Magazine
. I was unsure about trying these because I love bean burgers when they are good, but so many of them wind up tasting bland and having a pasty texture. Still, I have had some good experiences with Good Housekeeping recipes in the past, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m glad I tried it. These were really good. They were just what you want from a bean burger. They had a good depth of flavor, I think that’s due to the sun dried tomato paste, and the edam (I love edam). They also had a great texture because the breadcrumb coating gave the outside a good crunch, while the inside had the melted cheese to keep it from being too uniform. Then there was the bonus of the tomato relish, which was sooo good.

I decided to use a food processor to mash the beans because I was in a hurry. I think that if you do it by hand it would have an even better texture, but I liked it just fine coming from the processor. I will probably use one again next time I make them (I’ll make them again). I also used sun dried tomatoes instead of sun dried tomato paste. I just ran them through the processor first to make them into a paste.

I had the left over one the next day for lunch, and it was just as good. This is a nice bean burger recipe. I recommend it.

One Sauce base, and three sauces

Sauce Chasseur

Sauce Piquant

Madeira Sauce

Sauce Espagnole is what is commonly known as a “mother sauce”. Almost all of the thousands of French sauces are based on one of five “mother sauces”. This was a very easy version of the Sauce Espagnole. Really I should have started by making the stock myself and all that, but still, this gave me a very good base.

It takes hours to make, but it’s a great thing to try. If you are going to be home one day, make a big batch of this, and when it is done and cooled off, divide it into portions (about 1 cup each), and freeze them. That way when you want a quick mid-week meal, you can defrost the base, add a few things to it, and you’ll have an amazing and fancy sauce that has the benefits of being cooked for hours and hours, but you’ll have it in minutes.

I was so pleased with how well this worked out, that I have vowed to always have some in the freezer. Next time I will even make the stock myself too.

The sauce variations that I tried were:

Sauce Piquant
I loved this one. It’s made with capers and pickles, so it’s very unique. It was easy to make and it tasted fabulous. We used this sauce for cold leftover pork roast, and I think that it works particularly well with cold meat. I will use this sauce again and again. What a great way to dress up leftovers.

Sauce Chasseur
This one had a lot of good stuff in it. It had tomatoes and mushrooms and onions, and all kinds of good flavorings. It was also easy to do, and it was also fabulous. This one goes best with pork or chicken I would think. It is flavorful and lovely and makes a really refreshing change from plain old gravy.

And Madeira Sauce
This one was a bit of a disappointment. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t outstanding like the other two were. It’s a classic sauce, so there’s a good chance that I just need to find a better recipe for it. Someday I will try this again from another book.

And here are the recipes (they are all from Joy of cooking

Sauce Espagnole
Melt, in a large sauce pan over medium high heat:
8tbsp butter, or ½ cup beef drippings
Add and cook, stirring until the vegetables are caramelized and browned
½ cup finely chopped onions
½ cup finely chopped carrots
½ cup finely chopped celery
Reduce the heat to medium and add, stirring:
½ cup all purpose flour
Cook, stirring constantly, to make a brown roux, about 10 min. Gradually stir in:
8 cups cold brown beef stock
2 cups drained canned peeled tomatoes
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, including stems
1 bouquet garni
Bring just to a simmer. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming the fat and any skin that forms on the surface, until the sauce is reduced by half, 2 to 2.5 hours. It should be the consistency of heavy cream, no thicker. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Stir the sauce occasionally as it cools to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate, make into another sauce, or season to taste and use on it’s own.

Sauce Piquant
Melt in a medium saucepan over medium heat:
1tbsp butter, preferably unsalted
Add and cook, stirring till lightly browned:
2tbsp minced shallots
stir in and cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is almost evaporated:
2tbsp dry white wine
2tbsp white wine vinegar
stir in and simmer uncovered for 10 min:
1 cup Espagnole sauce
Just before serving, stir in:
1tbsp chopped fresh parsley or a mixture of fresh parsley, tarragon, and chervil
1tbsp minced cornichons or sour gherkins
1tbsp chopped drained capers (optional)
salt and ground pepper to taste

Sauce Chasseur
Melt in a medium saucepan over medium heat:
2tbsp butter, preferably unsalted
Add and cook, stirring until softened:
2tbp minced shallots or onions
Add and cook, stirring until lightly browned, about 5 min:
1 cup sliced mushrooms
add and simmer uncovered, until cooked down by half:
¼ cup dry white wine
2tbsp brandy
Add and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 min:
1 cup sauce espagnole
½ cup tomato puree (not the same as British Tomato puree, closer to chopped tomatoes)
Salt and ground Black pepper to taste
Just before serving, stir in:
1tbsp minced fresh parsley
1tbsp minced fresh chervil or tarragon (optional)
1 to 2 tbsp butter, softened (optional)

Madeira Sauce
Combine in a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, and simmer uncovered, until cooked down to 1 cup:
1 cup sauce Espagnole
¼ cup Madeira
1tsp meat glaze (optional)
Strain through a fine mesh sieve and stir in:
1/3 cup Madeira, dry sherry, or port
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Just befor serving, whisk in:
1tbsp butter, preferably unsalted, softened (optional)

Pan Cooked Savoy Cabbage

50g butter
3 potatoes, thinly sliced
½ Savoy cabbage, cored and cut into thin strips
1tbsp parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 eggs
100ml milk
salt and pepper

Melt half the butter in a large frying pan an make a layer of half of the potato slices on the base, then top with the cabbage, and sprinkle with the parmesan. Beat the eggs with the milk and a pinch of salt and pour into the pan. Make a layer of the remaining potato slices on top, season with salt and pepper, and dot with the remaining butter.
Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook over a low heat for 1 hour.

This comes from The The Silver Spoon. Everyone should own this book. Everyone should try this cabbage too.

It takes a while to cook, but once you’ve got it set up, you just leave it there while you get on with whatever else you are cooking to go with it. It’s really easy. I would recommend using a non stick pan for this, because it is a long cooking time, and you can’t stir it or anything while it’s cooking, so if you don’t have a non-stick, then at least be sure to use a good one with a strong heavy base so that it conducts the heat well, otherwise you’ll wind up with burned spots.

This goes with so many things, and it is a potato and a green all in one so you don’t need to worry about making anything else. The flavor is really good because it just emphasizes the flavor of the cabbage itself instead of drowning it with other things.

I loved this so much that I have actually made it a few times (don’t worry, I always make something new to go with it).

Try this one!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Spinach sauce

800g spinach
40g butter
250ml milk
1tbsp plain flour (optional)
Salt and white pepper

Put the spinach in a large saucepan with just the water clinging to it’s leaves after washing and cook for 5 min. Drain, squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then puree in a food processor.
Melt the butter in another saucepan, and pour in the milk and the spinach puree. Season with salt. Cook over a medium heat, stirring the mixture occasionally, until thickened. If the sauce remains runny, stir in the flour and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add more salt, if necessary, and white pepper to taste. If this sauce is served with pasta, hand around plenty of parmesan cheese.

Serve with short pasta, or with poached eggs.

hint: don’t use frozen spinach, the texture won’t be right.
also, if you are going to use the flour, be sure to cook for the whole 10 min. so you don’t get a floury taste

This was really good, and really fun too. It was shockingly bright green, which the boys loved. It turned out to be an excellent way to get them to eat massive amounts of spinach without complaining.

I got the recipe from The The Silver Spoon. One of the most wonderful cook books to have.

This was fast and easy and well received by all. I’d make it again.

Lamb dumplings cooked in yogurt

Makes 70 pieces
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g lamb mince
½ medium sized onion
good pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of allspice
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1kg cow’s or sheep’s yogurt
1 egg white
1tsp corn flour diluted with ½ tbsp water
1tbsp fresh cream (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, pounded until creamy
1 small bunch coriander, leaves and tender stems only, finely chopped

For the dough:
200g unbleached all purpose white flour
½ tsp salt, or to taste
½ tsp organic cider vinegar

Make the dough. Combine the flour, salt and vinegar, gradually add about 150ml water, and mix and knead for about 3-4 min to form a pliable dough. Over with a clean cloth and leave to rest for 30 min.
Meanwhile, heat ½ tbsp of the oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the mince and grate the onion over it. Cook until the meat changes color, about 4 min. If a liquid appears wait until it has nearly evaporated, then stir in the cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and slat. Turn the heat off.
Divide the dough into 2 portions. Roll one portion thinly over a lightly floured surface and, with a biscuit cutter, cut it into 2.5cm/1inch rounds. Place about 1tsp of the meat mixture in the center of each. Bring the opposite sides together to make a half moon shape, pinch to secure, then bring the two pointed ends together and pinch to seal, leaving a hole in the middle. Place on waxed paper to prevent them from sticking.
Thoroughly mix the yogurt with the egg white and corn flour paste and sieve into a pan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon in one direction till boiling. Stir in the cream if using. Add the dough parcels and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5-8 min, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a nonstick frying pan. Add the garlic and coriander and sauté for a few seconds only. Pour this over the yogurt in the pan and leave for 1 min.

These were probably the most unusual thing that I made from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table . I have a hard time trying to think of anything to compare it to in western coking. Sure on one level, it’s just dumplings, and they are nothing new, but the cooking in yogurt was so new and different for me. My husband said that the yogurt sauce was reminiscent of the sweeter Indian curries, and I can totally see that, mostly because of the texture, not the flavor.

The filling is already cooked, so there is no worry about undercooked meat, the yogurt is just for cooking the dough, which is so thin that it doesn’t require to much cooking anyway.

The tiny little dumplings take a long time to make. Each one is quick, but this recipe makes 70 of them. That seems like a lot but they are so small that 70 dumplings will feed about 4 people.

Definitely not a quick recipe, but it was good, and it was unusual enough that I feel it is worth trying (if you have some free time for cooking).


675g meat, preferably from a leg of lamb or beef fillet, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) strips
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardomoms or 4-5 whole cardomoms
pinch of ground cloves, or 2-3 whole cloves
2-3 pieces of miskee, gently crushed to a powder with a little salt
4tbsp lemon juice
5tbsp organic cider vinegar
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt or to taste
¼ - ½ tsp grated orange zest
1 small tomato, peeled and very finely chopped, or shredded
1 small onion, finely grated
1 large Lebanese bread

For the tahini sauce:
5-6 tbsp lemon juice
120ml tahini
¼ tsp salt or to taste

Place the meat in a glass bowl. Season with the cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, white pepper, nutmeg, cardamoms and cloves. Add the miskee and toss with the lemon juice, vinegar, oil and salt. Add the orange zest, tomato and onion, mix thoroughly and leave to marinate, covered, in the fridge for 12-18 hours, tossing 2-3 times.
Preheat oven to 180c. Remove the meat from the fridge and allow it a little time to reach room temperature. Arrange the meat mixture in one layer on the base of a baking dish bake for about 30-40 min or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce. In a bowl gradually whisk the lemon juice into the tahini. Before the liquid thickens and while you are whisking add up to 5-6 tbsp of water (or you can use orange juice if liked) and the salt, the sauce should look like cream, neither too thin or too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Preheat the grill. Remove the meat from the oven, place it 10cm/4inch away from the heat and grill for about 2-3 min or until nicely browned, turning the strips to brown both sides. Split a large Lebanese bread and place the meat inside the pocket.
Serve immediately with the tahini sauce or hummous, home made pickles, and with thinly sliced red onions sprinkled with 1 tbsp of sumac and topped with a handful or coarsely chopped parsley leaves

Another from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table .

I wanted to try this because my husband and both really love shawarma. There was a place where we used to get it in Brooklyn, and we found a good place to get it in London too, so I thought it would be great if I could just make it at home.

It didn’t come out quite as well as I had hoped, but that was really down to me and not the recipe. You are supposed to use strips of meat, not chunks. It makes a big difference in the way it takes the marinade, and in the way it cooks too. I knew this, but went ahead making it incorrectly anyway. I’m not sure why. I also covered it while it was cooking, even though it didn’t say to do so. I did that because I was worried that mine would dry out because I was using the wrongly cut meat. Unfortunately, that made a very overly soupy outcome.

Still once I did the last step (the grilling), the extra liquid problem was taken care of, and they were still pretty tasty. Tasty enough that I feel I need to try this again. Next time, I will follow it more faithfully, and also, I will use lamb. I used beef this time, and it made me realize that although it says you can use either, lamb would definitely fit the recipe better.

I’m convinced that this is a good recipe, even though mine was just ok. I will try to update this when I try it again.

Potato kibbeh patties

500g potatoes, unpeeled and halved
1 small onion
½ bunch coriander, leaves and tender stems only
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt or to taste
150g fine wheat burghol (bulgar wheat), do not rinse
1tbsp unbleached white flour (optional)
olive oil for brushing

Place the potatoes in a steaming basket and set into a pan over 1inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for about 20 min or until soft. Leave the potatoes to cool a little.
Meanwhile, place the onion, fresh coriander, pepper, cinnamon, ground coriander and salt in a blender and blend until smooth.
Peel the potatoes and mash till smooth. Add to the coriander and onion mixture, and add the burghol and flour If using. Mix thoroughly to form a medium soft dough. Then make the potato patties. Take small portions at a time and, with oil moistened hands, shape each portion into 4cm/1.5inch patties. Preheat the grill. Heat a baking sheet, brush it with olive oil, arrange the patties on it and cook them 4 inches from the heat for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides

More Kibbah from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table .

I’ve decided that I really like Kibbeh. I had heard of it before, but I didn’t realize that there were so many varieties of it. The pumpkin is still my favorite, but these potato kibbeh patties were nice too.

It’s not too much work, about the same effort level as making fish cakes or croquettes. They’re actually pretty fun to make, my younger son thought so too…

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Green Pasta and more

I know I've been awful about posting this last week, but I assure you, I have been cooking non-stop.

Here are some hi-lites of the things I've been making

Green pasta

I've been experimenting with sauces, I have many to share

This cabbage and potato dish is so good, I've actually made it a few times

Also, really good bean burgers, chicken dishes, and many more.

I will try to start posting it all in full next week. Sorry about the lag in typing.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Green Beans in oil

2-3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g onions, thinly sliced into half moon shapes
7 garlic cloves, cut into thick slivers
450g green beans, topped, tailed, and strings removed, and cut at an angle
1 ¼ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of allspice
450g ripe tomatoes, peeled (optional), and thickly sliced
1-2 slices of green pepper (optional)
Heat the oil in a pan. When it is hot, but not smoking, add the onions and garlic, and cook over moderately high heat for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden in color. Add the beans and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Cover and let the beans sweat for about 10 – 15 min. Stir them once or twice without disturbing the onions, or shake the pan. Gently stir in the tomatoes and pepper (if using). Cover and simmer over moderately low heat for about 20-25 min, allowing the beans to cook in the juice of the tomatoes.

I got this from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table .

This is a great way to make green beans. I don’t normally approve of cooking green beans for that long, but in this case it worked really well. In the end it’s really more like a green bean stew or something. With some bread it could be a good lite meal on it’s own.

Also, it’s the first time I’ve used cinnamon in a green bean recipe. That was pretty cool.

This was a really wonderful dish, and I highly recommend it.

Pumpkin dip

675g pumpkin, peeled deseeded and cut into 2.5cm/1inch pieces
1 garlic clove
1tsp salt or to taste
3tbsp tahini
3tbsp lemon juice
handful of finely chopped parsley or watercress leaves to garnish

place the pumpkin pieces in a steaming basket and set into a pan over 1 inch of boiling water, cover and cook over moderate heat for 10 min, or until tender. Meanwhile, in a serving bowl pound the garlic and the salt with a pestle until creamy.
Remove the pumpkin pieces, drain, squeeze out some of their excess water and puree them in a blender, or use a vegetable mill. Add to the garlic in the bowl. Add the tahini and lemon juice, mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve with cos lettuce, endive, or a mixture of orange, red and yellow pepper slices

One more from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table .

This was my son’s favorite thing ever. He loved it so much that we ate it for two days in a row, and when it ran out, he made me take him to the supermarket to buy more squash so we could make more and eat it for two more days. He never got tired of it, kept asking if he could have it for breakfast.

It’s basically Hummus, but with pumpkin (I used butternut squash instead). What a fabulous idea!

Next time you are thinking about having hummus, try this instead. It’s easy and quick to make, and it’s a really nice change from the usual.

Herb butter

7 anchovies
handful of fresh rosemary
3 cloves of garlic
pack of butter (250g)

All into the food processor and blended till it is totally smooth.

Scoop out onto some cling film, in a long tube shape, roll up, and freeze. Use as and when you need it.

This was from a Jamie Oliver tv show. It’s really handy to do, because it only takes a few minutes, and then you can keep it around for any time you want to add more flavor to something you are cooking. I used it (as he suggested), to cook some greens the other day. I tend to fall back on the same way to cook greens again and again. I sauté a little garlic, throw in the greens till wilted, add a touch of lemon juice. Now don’t get me wrong. I love greens made this way, but it’s nice to vary it a bit now and then. Jamie’s tips were to use this flavored butter, and also that you can use balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice.

I tried it and it was wonderful, and with the butter made up in advance, it took no time at all and was so full of flavor. I think it will come in handy for a lot of things, but even if I only use it for this, it would be worth having.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Broccoli Fantasia aka Fabulous Broccoli

1kg broccoli, cut into florets
2tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1tbsp plain flour
100ml double cream
200ml white wine
25g butter, plus extra for greasing
6tbsp parmesan cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper

Parboil the broccoli in salted boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the garlic and leeks and cook over a low heat stirring occasionally until softened. Remove and discard the garlic. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 min until lightly browned. Stir in the cream, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add the broccoli, pour in the wine and simmer for about 10 min. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200c. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the mixture to the prepared dish. Sprinkle with the parmesan, dot with the butter and bake until golden and bubbling.

I got this recipe from The Silver Spoon, and with a name like that, I had to try it.

I’m making more of an effort to find new and exciting ways to prepare vegetables, it’s so easy to just serve them the same way over and over again, and even though that way may be a good way, it’s a shame when there is so much more out there. Hence, the Fabulous Broccoli.

It was, as the name said, fabulous. It’s a really high fat way to eat your greens, but it was so creamy, and tasty. As a matter of fact, my older son asked if he could have the sauce over everything on his plate, and then he ate his whole dinner (didn’t even leave room for dessert). Good stuff.

It was not hard to make, though it used a few dishes. One for blanching, one for simmering, and a third for baking. Still, it was totally worth it. It really dresses up a fairly plain dinner too, if you are just having a roast or chops or something.

It didn’t say in the recipe how long to bake it for, it just said, “until golden and bubbling”. Mine took about 15-20 min.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will be making this again.

Stuffed cabbage rolls

900g head of green cabbage
120g long grain brown rice
275g mince, preferably from a leg or shoulder of lamb
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ tsp salt or to taste
4tbsp hot water
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves
15g butter
1-1 ½ tsp dried mint
6tbsp lemon juice or 300ml Seville Orange juice
Cut out and discard the core of the cabbage, then gently remove the leaves one at a time. Put them in a pan with just enough boiling water to cover and leave to stand for a few minutes until limp and easily pliable. Drain.
In a bowl, combine the rice, mince, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, half the salt, and the hot water. Set aside.

Place several cabbage leaves on a clean surface, thick vein sides up. Trim the middle thick vein of each leaf, or flatten it with your thumb. Put about 1tbsp of the meat mixture on the stem end of each leaf. Roll once, fold in both sides of the leaf and continue to roll the leaf around the meat mixture. Repeat with all the leaves. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 8 of the garlic cloves and stir until golden brown, about 1 min. remove from the heat and arrange the cabbage rolls, seam side down in the pan. Place the garlic at intervals between the rolls. Pour in anough water to cover just the cabbage, season with the remaining salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 30-40 min.
Meanwhile, crush the remaining garlic until smooth, heat the butter in a small frying pan and lightly sautee the garlic for a few seconds. Turn off the heat and quickly stir in the mint. Add to the cabbage rolls along with the lemon juice. Cover the pan and continue to simmer for another 30 min.
Serve hot with plain yogurt and Lebanese bread.

These cabbage rolls from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table were really good. I had some left over Lamb mince, and I like to use it up right away, so I looked around and found this. There are many different ways to do cabbage rolls, I was always most familiar with the Italian, and the Eastern European ways to make them, so this was a bit new and different. I’d say the biggest change was the lamb and mint combo. It was really good.

They take a long time to make, I won’t kid you about that. They are very small, and you have to make a lot of them. Still, it’s not hard work, so if you are looking for a soothing meditative time cooking, trying this one out would be good.

The flavor combinations are really nice. My biggest tip to you is don’t skip the yogurt. It makes a huge difference between these being ok, and these being really good. Try to use the thickest yogurt that you can get hold of, we use the Greek style (so good).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pasta with balsamic vinegar sauce

25g capers, drained and rinsed
½ bunch of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 potato, boiled and coarsely chopped
about 150ml olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar

put the capers, parsley, boiled potato, and a pinch of salt in a food processor and process to a puree. Scrape into a bowl and gradually beat in the olive oil to make a thick sauce. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
For short pasta or spaghetti

This was from The Silver Spoon. I got this book recently, and I love it so much. It’s overwhelming, and educational, and fabulous, and exciting. If you love cooking, this is one of those books that is absolutely required.

I tried this because I was fascinated by the idea of a pasta sauce made of potato. Definitely not Atkins friendly.

I give this a place in the category of the easiest fastest sauces ever (if you already have a cooked potato), and it was really good. The taste was really interesting, different from most of the pasta sauces that I make regularly. I wound up adding a little extra vinegar, I think that how much you need probably has to do with how good your vinegar is. The texture of the overall dish was not exactly sticky, but definitely thick and coated. Very high on comfort factor, and with a real balsamic kick to it.

We all loved this one, there were no leftovers.

Red wine and sour cherry pan sauce

1/3 cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup dry red wine
¼ cup chicken stock or water
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
one 2-inch strip of lemon zest
1 tsp packed light brown sugar
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1tbsp butter, preferably unsalted, softened (optional)

After cooking steak, pork chops or chicken breasts, remove them to a platter and keep warm. Pour off all but 1tsp fat and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until just starting to soften and brown.
Add the wine, bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen and dissolve any browned bits, and cook for 2-3 min.
Add stock, cherries, lemon zest, brown sugar, vinegar, and thyme. Cook stirring often over high heat until reduced by half and thickened, about 3 minutes. Discard the zest.
Season with salt and pepper, and swirl in the butter (if using).

This is just from plain old Joy of cooking. An underappreciated work horse of a book. I’d say that just about everybody that cooks in America has a copy of this book. I like to dip back into it from time to time.

I thought I’d try this one, because I made a balsamic and cherry dish before, and I wanted to know if a quick pan sauce would come out as well.

It was a really good sauce, and very easy. Just minutes from start to finish and you have a great way to make a boring old pork chop into a super fancy meal. It definitely gets points for that, and also for tasting so good.

It still didn’t move me the way the Chicken dish did, but it was a really wonderful sauce to have in you repetoire.

Broad beans in oil

I thought I had a photo of these, but I don't. Sorry.

They were green, and broad bean looking.

3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1kg frozen broad beans
a good pinch of sugar (optional)
3-4 tbsp hot water
½-1 bunch coriander, leaves and tender stems only, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

Warm the oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and saute them, stirring them occasionally, until they are transparent and yellowish in color. At this point stir in the beans, sprinkle with the sugar, if using, and cook for 3-4 minutes. From time to time give them a stir. Then add 3-4 tbsp hot water, stir and simmer covered for a further 2-4 minutes. Uncover, add the coriander and simmer for a further few minutes or until the beans are soft. Stir in the lemon juice and serve.

This is really handy because it uses frozen broad beans. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it’s a really tasty way to make a super quick green vegetable for the side. Let’s face it, as much as we want to focus on each part of the overall meal, sometimes, the side vegetable gets left as an afterthought. If it does, this is not a bad solution at all. It would also be really good for picnics.

I liked them, and I’m going to replace my stash of frozen broad beans so that I can make it again in the future.

It was fromNew Flavours of the Lebanese Table .

Brown bean salad with Chickpea salad

Brown bean salad
200g brown beans, soaked overnight, drained, rinsed and drained again
1tsp salt
5tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
Juice o 1 small orange, or 2-3 Seville oranges (in season)
3tbsp chopped parsley, or coriander
½ tsp paprika (optional)
Place the beans in a pan with 1 pint of water. Add ¾ tsp salt and ½ tbsp oil and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, civer and simmer for about 40-45 min or until the beans are very tender.
Meanwhile, in a bowl pound the garlic and the remaining salt with a pestle until smooth. Add the beans, with the reduced liquid, and stir well, mashing some of the beans lightly to coat them with the garlic. Add the lemon and orange juices, stir and top with the remaining oil. Sprinkle with the parsley or coriander, and the paprika if using.

Prepare half of the amount of chickpea salad, and place on top of the brown bean salad

Chickpea salad
225g chick-peas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove, crushed
1tsp salt or to taste
½ tbsp tahini (optional)
½-1 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
1tsp ground cumin
Place chick peas in a medium pan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, skimming the foam from the surface of the water. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chickpeas are very soft, about 2 hours. Check the water level at intervals, taste a chickpea, and if necessary add hot water. Drain the chickpeas, reserving a few tbsp of the cooking liquid
Meanwhile, in a serving bowl pound the garlic and salt with a pestle till creamy. Add the tahini if using, and the lemon juice. Stir in the reduced cooking liquidand the chickpeas, crushing some of them lightly. Drizzle the oil over and toss. Season with cumin.

Serve with Lebanese bread, spring onions, and watercress

These two bean dishes go really well together. On their own, each one was very nice, but together they are even better. One of those cases of the whole being greater then the sum of it’s parts. The flavors work well together, but the textures do too. The chickpeas have less liquid then the more soup-y brown beans (by the way, I couldn’t find brown beans, so I used Pinto beans instead), together they are really hearty.

The beans take a long time to cook, but I cooked them in advance, and then just heated them up when it came time to make the dish. That worked really well. It turns this into a dish that can be made in minutes.

This was another from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table , and it was a wonderful thing to do with beans.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pumpkin Kibbeh

500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into thick slices
175g fine burghol (cracked wheat) do not rinse
1 small onion, grated
1tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of allspice
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
45g unbleached white flour (or as necessary)

For the filling:
50g chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed (optional)
90ml Extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp and extra for brushing
1 medium sized onion, chopped
75g walnuts, coarsely chopped
1tbsp pomegranate syrup
½ tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt or to taste
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 medium sized aubergine, cut into cubes and fried

Prepare chickpeas for filling, if using. Place in a pan, cover with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil, skimming the foam from the surface of the water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until tender. Remove and split chickpeas.
Meanwhile place the pumpkin pieces in the steamer basket and set into a pan over 1 inch boiling water. Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until just soft. Remove and drain the pumpkin and squeeze out excess water using the back of a jug.
In a bowl, place the burghol, onion, salt, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and pumpkin, and knead to form a slightly moist dough. Add the flour and mix well. Cover and leave to stand in the fridge for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the filling. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions until lightly golden. Stir in the chickpeas if using, and the walnuts, pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and aubergine. Give the mixture a good stir and remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Brush a 21cm diameter round baking tin with a little olive oil. Take just under half the dough, and spread evenly over the base of the tin. Cover with the filling. Then take small portions of the remaining dough and flatten between the palms of your hands, moistening your hands as necessary. Spread the pieces of dough out over the top, then smooth and drizzle over the 90 ml of olive oil. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the baking tin and cut into squares. Bake for 30-40 min or until browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is from a new book I got called New Flavours of the Lebanese Table . It was written by one of the chefs from books for cooks
. Books for cooks is an amazing place, and they produced one of my favorite cookbooks too, so I was really excited about this one.

It does not disappoint Not a bit. I love it. It makes Lebanese food completely accessible, and the dishes themselves are so good. I have already made a ton from this book (which I will be blogging soon). What I have found out is that Lebanese food is not so hard to make and also, my kids love absolutely anything that has Tahini in it (they like to lick the spoon after I measure it out too).

This particular one is my favorite so far. It’s not the simplest thing to make, it takes a little time, and has to be done in stages, but it’s not rocket science either, so if you have time and you enjoy cooking, you won’t have any trouble with it.

I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin, because it’s what I can get. It works really well in place of pumpkin for any recipe. Also, I used Bulgur wheat which, I think is what I was supposed to use. I was worried because I wasn’t sure how the Bulgur wheat would manage to soften since there isn’t really liquid in the recipe, and I still don’t know how it did it, but it did. The consistency was perfect.

This dish was just so good. It’s vegan, and vegetarian friendly, but don’t let that stop you if you’re not vegetarian. The taste is such a beautiful mix of sweet and savoury, and the texture is very complex and it all works so well together.

This was just as good as leftovers, cold on the second day too. This recipe alone makes this book worth owning. This is really good stuff.

Lebanese Spiced Sausages

Sorry about the awful picture, they disappeared too quickly for me to get a good shot.

500g lamb mince
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cumin
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp white pepper
good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
5-6 cloves
¾ tsp salt
1 garlic clove
½ - 1 tbsp cider vinegar
15-30g pine nuts
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp lemon juice
Juice of 1-2 clementines, or 1 tsp pomegranate syrup (optional)

Place the mince in a mixing bowl with the first eight spices. Grind the cloves well with the salt, then add the garlic and mince thoroughly until the mixture is very fine. Add to the meat mixture in the bowl, then add the vinegar. Knead well for about 5 min. Add the pine nuts and mix well. Refrigerate for 16-20 hours.
Shape the meat mixture into short finger-like sausages. Saute for 1 min, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the sausages have browned and are cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, and the Clementine juice, or pomegranate syrup if using. They will sizzle. Cook for 1 min, then serve.

Another big winner from New Flavours of the Lebanese Table .

Everybody loved these. My four year old son offered to eat all his green vegetables if we would save him the last one, that’s how well they went over. They are also really easy to make. You have to think of it the night before because they have to marinate overnight, but on the day of cooking it’s about 5 minutes prep, and 10 minutes cooking. Nothing. It would be a great thing to make after work because it can go fridge to table in 15 minutes.

They were really tasty, and the flavor was not overpowering, even though there is so much going on in them. It was really pretty subtle. The juice/syrup is listed as optional, but I recommend that you use it. It complements the lamb really well.

Try these, they are too easy, and they’re a real crowd pleaser.

Thai Spicy Chicken soup

2 stalks fresh lemongrass
1.5 liters homemade chicken stock, or store bought fresh stock
2tbsp coarsely chopped fresh galangal root, or ginger
6 fresh Kaffir lime leaves, shredded, or 2Tbsp lime zest
225g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 450g unboned thighs
3tbsp finely slice shallots
3tbsp fish sauce, or light soy sauce
2tbsp lime juice
1tbsp sugar
2 small red or green thai chilies, seeded and finely chopped
handful of fresh coriander leaves

Peel the lemongrass stalks to the tender whitish center and crush with the flat of a knife. Then cut into 3 inch pieces. In a large pot, combine the lemongrass, stock, galangal, and lime leaves, then cover and simmer gently for 1 hour 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves. Return the liquid to the pot.
If you are using unboned thighs, remove the skin and bones, and cut into 1 inch chunks. Add the chicken to the soup together with the shallots, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and simmer for 25 min. Stir in the chillies and coriander, turn into a large tureen and serve at once.

This is another Ken Hom recipe.

This is not terribly quick because you need to infuse all the flavors into the stock, but that’s not a terribly big effort either. If you are going to be around for a couple of hours, this is the kind of recipe that you can manage while doing whatever else you need to be doing. Put some stuff in a pot, go about your business, put some more stuff in a pot, finish whatever you were doing. Easy.

It’s really good too. Very fresh and lite. It’s a nice change from traditional western chicken soup.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Thai meatball soup

110g dried wide flat rice noodles
225g minced pork
½ egg white
2tbsp cold water
3tbsp fish sauce, or light soy sauce
2tsp finely chopped garlic
2tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
2tbsp finely chopped spring onions
2tsp sugar
½ tsp
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.2 liters homemade chicken stock, or store bought fresh stock
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves or 2tsp lime zest
1 large fresh thai red chili, seeded and sliced
2 tbsp lime juice

Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 15 min. Drain well.
Mix the pork with the egg white and cold water by hand: the mixture should be light and fluffy. Then add 1tbsp of the fish sauce, the garlic, coriander, spring onions, sugar, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Divide the mixture into 12 equal parts and roll each into a ball.
Heat the stock in a casserole, add the lime leaves, 2tbsp of fish sauce and the chili. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the meatballs and stir slowely. Gently smmer for about 5 minutes, then add the noodles and continue to cook for another 5 min. Now add the lime juice and give the soup several good stirs. Serve at once.

This recipe came from Ken Hom.

I have a Thai Hamburger recipe that we all love, and the meatballs looked similar, so I thought I’d check this out. It was delicious. It was also really easy and fast to make. A lot of soups take a considerable amount of time, but this one can be thrown together at the last minute if you have everything you need.

The meatballs were very tasty, and the noodles worked really well with the overall dish. The only recommendation I would make is to have extra lime juice. It’s perfectly fine as it is, but we found that with a bunch more lime juice, it’s even better.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Spicy Thai Tuna Salad

450g tuna fillet
3tbsp fish sauce, or light soy sauce
3tbsp lime juice
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2tbsp groundnut oil
225g fresh tomatoes
6 spring onions
3 tbsp finely sliced shallots
2 small fresh red thai chillies, seeded if desired, Coarsely chopped
Handful fresh coriander leaves
Handful fresh thai or ordinary basil leaves

Cut the tuna into 1 inch pieces. Combine it with the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and marinate for 1 hour. Drain the tuna from the marinade, and set the marinade aside.
Heat a wok or large frying pan, preferably non-stick, over high heat and when it is hot, add the oil. When the oil is slightly smoking, add the tuna and stir fry for about 1 min. The tuna should remain rare. Remove tuna to a warm platter.
Quickly pour off the excess oil from the wok, add the reserved marinade, and deglaze for 30 seconds over moderate heat. Pour this over the tuna and set aside.
Cut the tomatoes into slices. Cut the spring onions into thin diagonal slices. Add the tomatoes , spring onions, shallots, chilles, coriander and basil to the warm tuna, toss well and serve at once.

This is another from Ken Hom. He is a genius. I have made several of his recipes, and I have never been disappointed. This one is one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever made. I don’t buy tuna that often, because it is usually very expensive, but I found some that looked good, and was affordable so I couldn’t resist. It’s such a beautiful piece of fish.

Making this was a breeze. It has to marinate for an hour, but other then that it is so quick to make. The cooking literally takes a minute and a half.
This was so good my husband asked if we could just have it every day from now on. The combination of the fresh basil, and the fresh coriander with the lime juice and shallots is completely out of this world. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The flavor combination is very authentic, and so clean and refreshing. I loved this dish! If you ever come across some really nice fresh lovely tuna, try this, it’s the nicest thing that you could do for it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Stuff dipped in chocolate

These were mostly just a spur of the moment idea. I had all this stuff in the fridge, so I just put it all together. You make a small slit in the top of the dried apricot, and stuff some marzipan in it, then just dip the apricot in some melted chocolate and lay it on parchment paper. I also dipped in a bunch of sections from a Clementine. Then put it in the fridge to harden the chocolate.

I melted the chocolate in the microwave by the way. It’s the easiest way to do it. 1 minute, then stir it up. It’s that easy.

The apricots weren’t really what I had hoped. They were tasty, but the flavor of the marzipan was lost. It was unnecessary. Really it was the Clementine pieces that won me over. They were just really simple, and totally perfect. The fresh juiciness of the orange, and the dark chocolate were a wonderful combination. I would definitely do that again.

Stollen Slice

25g mixed peel
50g pistachio nuts, chopped
50g dried cranberries
50g raisins
1tbsp brandy or rum
375g pack ready rolled puff pastry
225g marzipan

For the glaze:
4tbsp apricot jam
2tbsp brandy or rum

Preheat to 220
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Mix the peel, nuts, cranberries, raisins, and brandy or rum. Soak while you make the glaze. Gently heat the jam and brandy or rum in a small pan, then bubble for 1 min. Sieve into a bowl, cool.
Lay the pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Spread the fruits and nuts almost to the edges. Roll the marzipan into a long sausage. Lay it along the pastry’s length over the filling, 1 inch from 1 edge. Roll pastry around marzipan, join underneath.
Trim the ends, slice into 12. Lay the slices in a ring, slightly overlapping, on the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 min until golden. Brush with glaze. Cut slices. Serve warm.

This was cool. It was like cake baking for people who don’t like baking cakes. It was that simple. Just spread out some toppings, and roll it up. It takes no time at all, and it comes out really well.

I found this in 101 Christmas Dishes.

This is a good recipe to have around, because it’s a lovely dessert cake, and it’s also nice to serve with coffee or tea. And like I said before, super easy, super fast and tasty. What more could you ask for?

Bailey’s Cheesecake

11g pack powdered gelatin, plus 1 tsp
175g shortcake biscuits , crushed to crumbs
85g butter, melted
250g tub Quark
250g tub Mascarpone
150ml Baileys cream liquor
142ml double cream, lightly whipped
2 eggs
140g caster sugar

For the coffee jelly
1 heaped tsp powdered gelatin
150ml strong black coffee, sweetened with 2 tbsp caster sugar

Measure 5tbsp cold water in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the gelatin and leave to soak or 5 min until spongy. Now stand the bowl of gelatin in a pan of gently simmering water and leave until it turns clear.
Meanwhile mix the biscuit crumbs and butter really well, then press on the base of a loose bottom 20cm cake tin. Chill.
Beat the quark, mascarpone, and baileys together, then stir in the gelatin and fold in the cream.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until thick, pale and foamy, then fold into the cheesecake mixture and pour onto the biscuit base. Chill for 3-4 hours or until set.
For the jelly, sprinkle the gelatin over the coffee, then put the bowl in a pan of gently simmering water until dissolved. Cool the mixture. When cold, carefully spoon the coffee mixture on top of the cheesecake to make a thin layer - don’t pour it on or you will disturb the creamy layer. Chill until set.
To serve, wrap a hot tea towel round the outside of the tin, then gently ease out the cake. Serve in slices.

This was from Good Food Magazine.

Normally I don’t go in for fancy cheesecakes (I’m a cheesecake traditionalist), but I decided to give this one a try. It’s a non-bake cheesecake, so that’s new for me, and it uses gelatin, which I am still fairly new to, so it seemed like it would be a fun adventure.

It was.

I think I’ve finally got my head around using gelatin. There was a tip in the magazine about how you should always add powdered gelatin to cold liquid, and let it go spongy before heating it up. That way it won’t go lumpy. I guess it worked, because I had no problem with it. It was also my first time using Quark. I always wondered what it was. It said on the package that it is a very basic kind of soft cheese. I don’t think you’d want to eat it on it’s own, I’m pretty sure it’s just for use in cooking. It had a nice consistency though, and it worked well.

The gelatin coffee topping was a fun touch too. I always loved the way that looked on fancy cakes, and I had no idea it was so easy to do. It says in the recipe to spoon it onto the top so you don’t disturb the cake, but if you want a slightly quicker method, you can pour it very slowly and carefully over the back of a spoon onto the cake (the spoon should be held as close to the cake as possible). This method spreads out the impact of the liquid. I did it that way, and it was fine. Before pouring it on, I didn’t think it was going to be enough, I looked like such a small amount of liquid, but it was perfect.

One really important thing that the recipe doesn’t mention, is that as with any cheesecake, you really need to make it the day before. Cheesecakes are ok on the day you make them, but they don’t really reach the right consistency till they’ve been in the fridge overnight.

All in all, this wasn’t quick, or especially simple, but it wasn’t tricky either. There’s nothing here that should trip you up, it’s just a lot to do. I would recommend it, because on the day after it was made, it was really delicious.

Goat cheese and black olive tartlets

375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg lightly beaten
2 X 200g packs crumbly goat’s cheese
Handful pitted black olive, sliced
Chopped parsley, to serve

Preheat to 200c
Unwrap the puff pastry, and using a 5cm cutter, cut out 20 rounds (you may need to re-roll to get the 20). Now use a slightly smaller cutter to make a light dent in the pastry, creating a rim. Use a fork to make a few pricks in the center of the pastry; this will stop it from rising while letting the outer ring puff up.
Place the pastry discs on a baking sheet, and brush all over with egg. Crumble the goat’s cheese in the center of each tartlet and scatter over the olives. Can be made up to this point up to two days ahead and kept in the fridge. Cook for 15-18 min until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

These came from This was from Good Food Magazine.

They are so easy. They take almost no time to prepare, it can all be done in advance, and they look and taste really impressive.

These are big winners, we all loved them, my youngest went totally crazy for them. I will make these over and over and over again, using the original combination, as well as trying other things. The might be nice with sun dried tomatoes, or with roasted red peppers, or capers in place of the olives for variety. You could really use anything you wanted, but the goat’s cheese and olive combination is definitely a star.

Some small festive foods

For New Year’s eve, we thought it would be fun to make some festive little foods, and I found these here. They are all really easy to make.

Portable Caprese: Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.

So simple, so basic, so lovely. I thought these were wonderful, and they were fun to put together too. The boys were able to help with these, and they enjoyed that a lot.

Marinated mushrooms: Cut button mushrooms into chunks and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let rest five minutes. Spear two chunks with a piece of Parmesan about the same size.

I didn’t do the last part with the parmesan cheese. I just used it as a recipe for extra quick marinated mushrooms. I also slightly changed it. I crushed up a small garlic clove to a paste, and mixed that in with the oil and lemon, salt and pepper, and I used Chestnut mushrooms instead of button. They are similiar, but just a bit more flavorful. It was great. It was super quick, and the flavor was excellent. These would be nice to serve as a light side with a lunch, or to bring along on a picnic. I’m sure I’ll be doing this again.

Cucumber and caviar: Take 3/4-inch-thick slices of cucumber. (The quality of the cuke is more important than that of the caviar; it has to be good enough to leave the skin on.) Scoop out most of the seeds, leaving the bottom of each slice intact. Fill it with a spoonful of yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche mixed with dill, and top with caviar or salmon roe.

These were really fun to make. I enjoyed scooping out the little cucumber cups, but all in all I found it a little disappointing. To be honest I’m not exactly sure what went wrong, it was probably the incredibly cheap and sub standard caviar that I used. The flavor of it got completely washed out by the dill, sour cream and cucumber. It wasn’t that it was bad, it just seemed like a waste. If you are going to do this one, I would make sure your caviar is fairly good quality, or just skip it completely and make them as little cucumber dill snacks.

Tagliatelle with smoked salmon

1tbsp vegetable oil
250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
375g dried or fresh tagliatelle
125g pack smoked salmon (trimmings are fine), chopped
3tbsp chopped fresh parsley
200ml carton half-fat crème fraiche
juice of ½ lemon

heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mushrooms and cook for 8 min until beginning to brown.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
Stir the salmon, parsley, crème fraiche, and lemon juice into the mushrooms and season. Drain the pasta and quickly toss with the creamy sauce.

This is another fast easy wonderful thing to do with pasta. I got it from 101 Cheap Eats. I’m not sure on what planet Smoked salmon could be considered a cheap eat, but it does make a point of saying that you can use trimmings, which are usually a lot less expensive.

There’s not much to say about how to cook this, because it’s just so easy. It takes no time at all, and it’s really very good. It tastes a little alfredo-ish.

I’m making it again right away (I’ll make a cake as my new thing). My older son loved it so much he’s been begging me to cook it again. For a fussy four year old, that is better then the best review.

Give it a shot.