I have to apologise to my readers who are actually in possession of Ottolenghi‘s earthshatteringly wonderful cookery book Plenty (probably most of you) and who must be very bored by me currently obsessing about this book.
But let me tell you – I am in love and here the reasons why this recipe collection stole my heart like none before.
1. Everything I cook from Plenty turns out delicious –it doesn’t only taste great but also looks rather pretty and very close to how it is supposed to look. This I don’t attribute to my amazing cooking skills (because amazing they are not) but to the very easily understandable and logical description of work processes in this book.
2. The recipes use the most attractive ingredients –aromatic herbs,exotic spices,fresh vegetables and tangy fruit and combine them in unusual but all the more successful ways. Not for a second you miss the meat or seafood.
3. What you cook is also healthy,exactly what you need for frugal February.
4. Last but not least Y. Ottolenghi persuaded me with this beautiful recipe of lemon and goat’s cheese ravioli to attempt the first fresh pasta of my life. And,ladies and gentlemen,I succeeded! *beamingproudly*
I don’t want to boast,but if I was served this dish in a restaurant I would be more than happy. The dominating flavours are these of the lemon zest and the crushed pink peppercorns,the goat’s cheese serving as a vehicle to let these flavours take centre stage. I did not have tarragon as suggested in the original recipe. Using basil instead worked,however,tarragon might have been even more outstanding.
Lemon and goat’s cheese ravioli
Amount: 4 people as starter,2 as a main
Cooking Time: it took me hours but if you have a pasta machine and some dexterity it might be around 60 min
For the pasta dough
330 g of OO flour and more for rolling
½ Tablespoon tumeric
grated zest of 3 untreated lemons
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
(apparently you also need semolina but I don’t know for what so I leave it out)
For the Filling
300 g creamy and mild goat’s cheese
a pinch of sea salt (depending on how salty the goat’s cheese is)
a pinch of chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg white,beaten
2 tablespoons of crushed pink peppercorns
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of chopped tarragon (I used basil instead)
Rapeseed oil (I bought Grapeseed oil by mistake and used olive oil,was fine)
First,mix the oil and the eggs. Put the flour,the tumeric and the lemon zest in a food processor,add the oil/egg mix and there we go,most of the work is done! Blend into a crumbly dough (add more flour or oil if necessary).
Once the dough has developed smooth consistency (I needed to use my hands too),divide into 4 thick rectangular blocks. Wrap these in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes to 2 hours. (If you are pressed for time,just put them into the freezer for 10 minutes).
Now the hard work. Dust the work surface with flour. Take a piece of dough and flatten with rolling pin. Set a pasta machine to its widest setting and pass through. Repeat,narrowing the setting a notch each time,until you reach the lowest setting. Place pasta sheets flat under a moist towel,so they don’t dry out.
(If you don’t have a pasta machine,despair not! I just worked very hard with the rolling pin to get thin sheets,using masses of flour so they wouldn’t stick to the work surface).
Now the filling: crush all the ingredients together using a fork,apart from the egg white. Beat the egg white.
Use a pastry cutter (if you are in the possession of something so fancy) or the rim of a glass to stamp out pasta circles of roughly 7 cm in diameter.
Brush each with egg white and place a heaped teaspoon of filling in its centre. Place another disc on top and,with fingers dipped in flour,squeeze out any air as you bring the edges of the discs together. You should end up with a pillow-shaped centre surrounded by a 1cm edge. Tighten the edges until you can’t see a seam. Repeat with the rest of the dough,place the ravioli on a tray sprinkled with flour,and leave to dry for 15 minutes. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for a day or two
To serve,bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for two to three minutes,until al dente,drain and divide between four plates.
Sprinkle with pink peppercorns,tarragon (or basil) and lemon zest. Drizzle with rapeseed oil (or olive oil),add salt and serve piping hot.
This weekend I spent at home, having a beautiful and highly recommended date with The Killing DVD box set. Caught between subtitles, unsmiling Danish faces, intrigue, murder, thick knitted jumpers and funny Scandinavian names, I suddenly felt the urge for popcorn. I craved not the normal kind of popcorn, but a healthy, non-greasy variant with exotic spices and I came across this intriguing sounding recipe of Curry Popcorn. I adapted it a bit and called it Spicy Indian Popcorn (as I don’t think it tastes very much of curry).
It was the best popcorn that I have ever eaten, and I emptied an entire enormous bowl while being stuck to the TV for some more depressing Danish adventures. I can’t recommend this low caloric snack highly enough to sweeten your TV series marathons.
Amount: enough for 2 very hungry people or for 4-6 as a snack.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
0.25 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if you mind spicy)
0.25 teaspoon ground cumin
0.25 teaspoon turmeric
0.25 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
0.5 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grapeseed oil (or more if you want it more greasy)
1 espresso cup of popcorn maize
Mix together cayenne pepper,cumin,turmeric,ground pepper,and salt in a small bow.
Put the oil and 1 popcorn kernel in a big largish pot with lid. Cover and heat over high heat,until the kernel pops. Quickly dump in the remaining popcorn and then the spices. Replace the cover.
Occasionally pick up the pan (use potholders) and vigorously shake it to ensure even cooking. When the kernels begin popping,shake frequently. When you no longer hear any kernels popping,remove the pan from the heat and give it a few more shakes for good measure.
Set the pan down and carefully remove the lid,lifting it away from you to avoid the hot steam. Pour the popcorn into a bowl and serve while still hot.
Do you have any favourite popcorn recipe you would like to share with me please? I would love to try different variants,having finally realised what a great flavour vehicle this little kernels are.
This is an excellent dish for leftovers to be taken into work the next day. In addition,it works as a starter,a main or a side dish,very volatile indeed! What I love about it is that it’s so fresh and healthy while it fills you up at the same time. For me it’s the perfect dish to combat the winter blues with some Mediterranean flavours and vibrant colours.
The main ingredient is bulgur,a whole wheat grain partially pre-cooked and dried. Because it is already pre-cooked,it’s very fast to prepare and almost impossible to get wrong. It makes a perfect base for all kinds of salads,the most famous one certainly being Tabouleh or Kisir. Bulgur is lower in calories and higher in fibre than brown rice and also has more nutrients. Enough reason to choose bulgur when craving for carbohydrates in this Arctic temperatures.
Bulgur With Avocado And Pomegranate
Serves: 2 as a main,4 as a starter or side dish
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
100 g Bulgur (1 cup)
200 ml of chicken or vegetable stock (cube is fine) (2 cups)
a hand-full of fresh mint (the more the better)
a hand-full of flat leaf parsley (the more the better)
8 cherry tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
Bring chicken or vegetable stock to boil in a pot with lid and remove from heat. Stir in bulgur and close lid. Leave standing for 20 minutes until the bulgur has soaked up all the liquid and has acquired a fluffy consistency. If not all the soup is soaked up,drain in a strainer.
(even though the cooking instructions on the pack are to cook bulgur similar to rice,this is not necessary!)
In the meantime finely chop up mint,parsley and shallots. Mix with bulgur while it is still a bit warm.
Cut the cherry tomatoes and avocado in small cubes and add to the bulgur mixture.
Add juice of one lime and olive oil as well as salt and pepper to taste. If you have,add a teaspoon of Za’tar.
Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (how to efficiently de-seed pomegranates explained here).
A few days ago I read this post about how to make Pilaf rice on Hungry and frozen,a New Zealand food blog that I follow. It sounded so easy and so delicious that I immediately attempted my version of this Persian classic. I have made it 3 times the last week because I like it so much and in addition it is so quick and straight forward to prepare. You only need one pot,it makes great use of leftover vegetables and it works by itself as well as a side for chicken or lamb. Who would have thought that rice can taste that fantastic?
Ute’s AROMATIC AND FRAGRANT PILAF RICE
Amount: for 2 people as main,4 people as a side
Preparation time: 20 minutes
1 cup of basmati rice
2 cups of water
1 half onion,finely diced
20 ml olive oil
20 mg of butter
a cup of frozen peas
a handful of spinach leaves
20mg of sliced almonds
5-7 slightly crushed cardamom pods
a teaspoon of cumin seeds
a teaspoon of garam massala,
a teaspoon of ginger,
a teaspoon of Szechuan pepper (adapt to how spicy you like it)
5 threads of saffron (soak in hot water for 3 minutes)
Low fat Greek Yoghurt
Toast the almonds in the same pan with lid,that you will later cook the rice in,until nicely browned. Set almonds aside.
Heat olive oil and butter in the pan and cook onions on medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened,stirring occasionally.
Add all the spices and roast for about a minute.
Add the basmati rice to the hot pan and fry for about 3 minutes until fragrant and golden,then stir in the saffron threads (including the by now yellow water that you have used to soften them).
Add 2 cups of water and some salt,then cook on low heat for about 10 minutes until rice is soft and water is absorbed
When the rice is almost done,add the peas and the spinach leaves and cook some more until the peas are soft and the spinach leaves have nicely melted into the rice
Serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt (nice to mix some lemon juice,salt and pepper into the yoghurt first) and garnish with toasted almonds.