Tag Archives: herbs

a sort of cassoulet

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Yesterday, when we did the shopping, there were nice meaty pork bones in the supermarket butchery. So I bought them, along with a packet of 3 chorizo sausages & also the things that were actually on the shopping list. And today I made a sort of cassoulet. It’s based on a recipe in Alison Holst’s collection of crockpot & slow=cooker dishes, but as usual I tweaked it a bit to suit what was in the herb garden & pantry.

You’ll need to start this off in the morning if using a slow cooker as it takes 6-8 hours on ‘low’ to get the meat nice & toothsome & the sauce thick & rich.

First I sliced a couple of brown onions & softened them in olive oil on a medium heat, along with 4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Then I tipped them into the bowl of my trusty slow-cooker, and added a tin of chopped tomatoes in juice, a tin of cannellini beans, 3 Tblsp of tomato paste, the leaves of several sprigs of time, a couple of Tblsp of chopped fresh marjoram, 1/2 tsp salt and a couple of bay leaves, & mixed everything together. (The original recipe calls for sage, but I haven’t had a lot of success with sage. If we enlarge the courtyard garden I’ll try growing it there as it doesn’t seem to like life in pots. Not at our place, anyway.) The chorizos I sliced about 1cm thick before adding them to the dish, and then the pork bones, and mixed again so the meat was well covered in sauce. Then I left it all to its own devices.

After a couple of hours I gave it all a stir. The mix looked a bit dry so I dropped in the half-dozen small tomatoes from the bowl on the bench, added about half a cup of water, & went away again.

A little before dinner time I fished out the pork bones & separated the now meltingly-soft meat from the bones & skin, popping the meat back in the cooker bowl & wrapping the other bits for the rubbish. Check to see if it needs seasoning – ours didn’t as the chorizos were pleasantly spicy – before sprinkling with chopped parsley & serving. Or you could use gremolata. The dish would go well with steamed greens and baked potatoes (or mash), but we had it with slices of beer bread (the recipe for which I will provide shortly 🙂 ).

It might not have been authentic, but it was certainly tasty.

beef cheeks (& even the doubter liked them)

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Well, this has been a rather occasional diary lately, hasn’t it? It’s not that I’ve not been cooking, but rather than I’ve had so much else on my (metaphorical) plate that this blog slipped to the back. But anyway, here we are again 🙂

A few days ago I called into a new butcher’s shop on the way home (‘new’ in the sense of  ‘new to me’; they’ve been there fora while but I’ve never stopped before). Into my basket went lamb sausages, a couple of nice bones for the dog, and 6 beef cheeks. I’d not cooked this particular cut before I thought I’d experiment.

So yesterday morning I turned on the slow cooker & got to work. First up, & sliced & gently fried 2 medium-sized brown onions in a bit of olive oil – I know most slow cooker recipes say to just put them in the pot, but I’ve found the flavours are better if the onions are at least partly-cooked before they go in there. Dunno why. After about 5 minutes I added 6 big cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced, and gave them all another 5 minutes in the pan.

At about the same time I put a cup of dried mushrooms – several different kinds – into a bowl & covered them with boiling water.

The onions & garlic went into the bottom of the slow cooker dish. I put a bit more oil into my frying pan, coated the beef cheeks in cornmeal, and browned each in turn before arranging them on top of the onions. A couple of largish carrots, peeled & diced, joined the meat, & I tucked 3 bay leaves in among them. (One of the things I love about our current house is that all my herbs are in the garden, or in pots, in the courtyard – just a few steps from the kitchen.)

Then I opened a bottle of pinot noir & used a cup of that to deglaze the pan. (My brother – the one that does a lot of cooking – would say that at this point I should have made personal inroads on the remaining wine, but I’ll confess to not particularly liking reds.) I added the leaves from several sprigs of thyme, 500 mL of beef stock, the rehydrated mushrooms (having cut the big ones into smaller pieces), and some of the water from the mushrooms, & brought all that to the simmer before pouring it over the meat & veges in the slow cooker. And left it all to cook on ‘low’ for 8 hours – I turned the meat occasionally but it could have been left entirely to its own devices. By the end of that time it smelled divine & the sauce/gravy was delicious 😀

We’d invited friends to dinner (one of whom loves beef cheeks, but the other was decidedly suspicious). To accompany the casserole, we had beans (frozen in the summer when we had a distinct surplus), roast butternut pumpkin (also from the garden) & baked potatoes, based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe I saw on TV recently.

For this, I used 3 large Agria spuds – they are yellow & floury & wonderful when baked. They needed an hour at 180 C. About 15 minutes before the potatoes were done, I finely shredded 1/4 of a drumhead cabbage and cooked it gently in a little butter until it was tender. Then I cut each spud in half lengthways & carefully scooped out the flesh into a bowl, arranging the skins in a baking dish. I mashed the flesh with a little butter & a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, seasoned it with salt & ground black pepper, and then mixed in the cabbage. And then mixed in about 75g of crumbled blue vein cheese – it really lifted the dish out of the ordinary – before popping back in the oven to heat through.

That was such a nice meal – & I think the doubter is converted.

zucchini timbales & tomato coulis

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Last night we had some good friends to dinner. The main course was garlic & sweet chilli prawns, but on casting about for an entrée I decided on this zucchini dish. Mainly because we have zucchinis in the garden, & with this vegetable it seems you have either a glut or a famine. I’ve had the recipe for years but haven’t made it a lot in recent times; it’s from an old edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly microwave cookbook (we’re talking the 1980s here 😀 ).

The timbales: first, puree 8 small zucchini in a blender – you could equally well grate them; I’ve done it both ways & both work just fine. Cook the result in the microwave on ‘high’ for 5 minutes & then squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can.

Put the squeezed veges in a bowl & mix in a 250g tub of sour cream (‘lite’, if you insist, a pinch of salt, as much chopped basil as you like (the recipe says 2 Tblsp but I like more than that), 2 Tblsp grated parmesan, & 4 eggs.

Divide the mix between 6 1/2 c moulds (I love my silicone ones; if you are using another kind remember to grease them well) & cook in the microwave for around 7 minutes on med-high – check occasionally. You want them firm in the middle. (They could also be done standing in a dish of water in a moderate oven.)

The coulis: peel & chop 4 medium tomatoes & put in a bowl with a clove or more (I used more as garlic is something we also have a lot of & we all like it) & 2-3 Tblsp tomato paste. Cover & cook on high for 3-4 minutes, then blend to a puree.

Unmould the timbales onto serving plates & serve with some of the tomato sauce on the side. This is a lovely, light, summery entrée 🙂

cheese-filled cannelloni

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The other day I found a packet of dry cannelloni tubes in the pantry, & decided we’d have cannelloni for tea. The sauce was going to be easy: we’re slowly working through the packets of tomato sauce that I froze last summer, so out came one of those, plus there was a 450g packet of beef mince in the freezer. So I turned the oven to heat to 180 C and next, once the meat was defrosted (microwaves are a wonderful invention) I browned it in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring to break it up, & then added a packet of sauce & left it to simmer very gently. But what to put in the tubes of pasta?

In the fridge were eggs, a block of parmesan cheese, and 250g tubs of ricotta cheese & sour cream. I emptied the 2 tubs into a bowl & beat them together with a wooden spoon, before beating in the egg and some grated parmesan. Next I chopped together fresh parsley, basil mint (because I still don’t have any basil) and lemon thyme & mixed that into the cheese mixture. I used a teaspoon to fill the pasta tubes, standing each on its end to do this. In retrospect I could have used a piping bag, but oh well…

I spooned a little of the sauce over the base of an oblong casserole dish, then arranged a layer of filled cannelloni over the top. More sauce on the pasta, and then the next layer of cheese-filled tubes, and finally the rest of the sauce. Because I felt like a cheese overload I sprinkled a little more parmesan over the top before putting the dish into the oven – it took about 35 minutes to cook, by which time the sauce was bubbling & the cheese golden. (You can check that it’s cooked by pushing a skewer into the pasta – there should be very little resistance.)

We had it with salad & some steamed broccoli from the garden – there was plenty for 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

i think you’d call it a flan…

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Zucchini. We’ve had them steamed. We’ve had them stir-fried. We’ve had them marinated in a salad, cooked up in tomato sauces, or in fritters. Today I saw a recipe for spiced zucchini with tahini dressing that I must try soon (thank you, Ruth Pretty). But recently I wanted a more substantial vegetarian main course, so I did this:

In a bowl, I mixed 1/2 c plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, & 1/2 tsp salt. Then I whisked in 4 eggs, 1/2 c of grated tasty cheese, & a rather large amount of finely chopped basil.

The next step was to top & tail, & then grate, 4 medium-sized zucchini** before adding them to the bowl & mixing everything together – it was a reasonably sloppy batter. I poured this into my large (pre-greased) pyrex pie dish & decorated the top with sliced tomatoes & a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, before putting the dish in the oven at 180 degrees until well-risen, firm to the touch, & golden on top.

With a potato salad & a corn salsa, it was a very nice meal indeed.

** I’m never quite sure what marks the boundary between courgettes & zucchini, although I know a marrow when I see one! Mum used to do this thing that involved de-seeding a marrow & stuffing it with a mince mixture; it was not a gastronomic success.

using more of the garden’s bounty: vegetable lasagne

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Something else that we seem to have a lot of in the garden – as well as all those tomatoes – is pumpkins. While the daughter dislikes them, the husband & I are rather keen on pumpkins, but even he agrees that he might have got just a little carried away in his plantings last year. With reason, mind you – after growing the usual butternuts & crown pumpkins & a few supermarket squash last year, we found ourselves with an awful lot of the things: far too many for the two pumpkin-eaters to take care of. So when we came across some small-fruit varieties, we thought we’d try them out. Well! Small the fruit may be, but the plants still sprawl everywhere, & they’re amazingly prolific given that the seed packets usually said ‘2-3 fruit per plant’. And some of them are already ripe.

So, since I had freshly-made tomato sauce to hand, I decided on vegetable lasagne for tea. (I’d like to say that I made the pasta for it, but honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t; I used a packet of fresh lasagne sheets from the supermarket.)

First I split a couple of our cute little pumpkins in half, removed the seeds, brushed them with oil & put them in the oven (180 C) to bake. Once they were cooked & cool enough to handle, I scooped the lovely rich, dry-ish flesh into a bowl. In another bowl I mixed 500g of cottage cheese with one large egg & a decent handful of chopped parsley & garlic chives. And I set the first of our spinach to cook in briskly boiling water. Then I assembled the lasagne, using a largish roasting dish as I had 5 hungry mouths to feed.

On the bottom of the dish went about a cup & a half of sauce. Then I laid half the pasta sheets on top of the sauce, & topped them with the pumpkin, the spinach leaves, & some more sauce. Atop that went the rest of the pasta, followed by the cottage cheese mix. More sauce over the top of that, sprinkled with grated tasty cheese, & then the lasagne went into the oven (180 C again) for about 30 minutes until it was bubbling & the cheese was golden.

We had it with salad, & – some time later – blackberry & apple crumble for dessert.

sweet pepper sauce & handmade cheese-&-herb ravioli

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I am soooo enjoying being on holiday 🙂 And my idea of being on holiday includes (among other fun activities) cooking lots of Nice Things. This morning I biked down to the Farmers’ Market, but – because I knew I’d be coming home with blueberries – before I left I mixed a brioche dough & left it to rise. And when I got back I used it to make blueberry brioche (which I will probably write about in another post).

Also in the saddlebags were beetroot, apple juice, avocados, macadamia nuts, free-range eggs, and a whole lot of lovely long sweet red peppers, courtesy of the lovely folk at the Southern Belle Orchard booth. I had designs on those peppers! Some of them I packed away in the fridge, but I kept 4 big ones aside. After lunch (mmmm, nommilicious brioche!) I turned them into a lovely, slightly spicey sauce:

  • Slice a brown & a red onion thinly & start them frying gently in a heavy pan. (It wouldn’t actually matter which kind you used; I just grabbed what was there.)
  • Peel & chop the cloves from a couple of small heads of garlic & add them to the pan.
  • Remove the seeds from the peppers (you could use ordinary capsicums too) and slice the flesh; add that to the pan as well.
  • At this point I looked at our excess of zucchini, and then chopped 3 of them into small dice & popped them in the pan with everything else.
  • Add 1 tsp of paprika – the rich red smoked kind if you have it (which I do, cos my friend Annette gave me some), 1/4 tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot), & salt to taste, before pouring in 500 ml chicken stock (I didn’t have vege stock available). Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mix gently for about 30 mins, & then a further 30 mins with the lid off if you want to thicken the sauce.
  • Finally, use a stick blender or food processor to process to a smooth-ish puree.

Now, I’d started off making the sauce without a firm idea of what to use it with, but while it was cooking (& I was doing my embroidery) I decided it would go rather nicely with cheese-&-herb ravioli. So I mixed up a batch of pasta dough (3 c flour, 6 of those free-range eggs, a couple of Tbsp of olive oil, all kneaded together & then – when I needed it – rolled out into thin sheets), & then dealt with the filling. Again, you could vary this according to what you’ve got in the fridge.

  • Beat together 250 g ricotta cheese and 250 g cream cheese, plus however much grated parmesan you feel like using.
  • Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that to the cheese, along with about a cup of finely chopped herbs: I used parsley, basil, marjoram, lemon thyme, chives, & garlic chives.
  • Fry 3-4 rashers of bacon, chop finely, & stir into the cheese/herb mix, along with the zest of a lemon & juice to taste.
  • Finally, mix in an egg – it helps hold everything together when cooked.
  • Take a sheet of pasta (I rolled this one sheet at a time) & place teaspoonfuls of the filling on half the sheet, spacing them about 3 cm apart.
  • Fold the other half of the sheet over the top & press down around each little mound of filling, before cutting into ravioli. Place to dry on baking paper on a cake rack & then roll your next pasta sheet. That amount of dough & filling gave me about 4 dozen  5 dozen** ravioli.

When ready to eat, bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta, & cook 3-4 minutes or till they’re al dente. Heat the sauce through while the ravioli cook. I’m just about to go & do that now. And we’re going to have it with a nice bottle of red wine, all the way from Italy!

** make that 5 dozen – I counted as I popped them into the pot 🙂