Brussels Sprouts with Black Garlic & Pasta

Black garlic is sweet and pungent. Ottolenghi calls it “licorice meets balsamic meets essence of garlic.” I have heard it called  Poor Man’s Truffles.

Like all vegetables, Brussels sprouts, which our mothers and grandmothers loved to boil to death, are completely transformed by roasting in a hot oven. This is a delicious recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi which I have adapted with the addition of pasta and a couple of tweaks to turn it from a vegetable side dish into a vegetarian main course for four. By the way, I used Orecchiette pasta shapes which look a bit like mushrooms in the photo!

A friend lent us a black garlic-making machine. It looks a bit like a rice cooker and you just put the garlic heads in for 270 hours on a very low heat. We had to banish it to the garage because it was stinking the house out, but now we have plenty of black garlic. You should be able to find black garlic at your local farmer’s market.

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthways
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
12 black garlic cloves
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves or 1 Tbs dried
30g butter
2 Tbs pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs Tahini
250g pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
Sesame seeds, toasted, to garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C and put the water on to boil for the pasta.

Place sprouts in a bowl with 1 Tbs of the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well then spread out in one layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-15 mins until golden brown but still crunchy.

Meanwhile lightly crush the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar, then place in food processor with the black garlic, thyme and the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil. Blitz to form a paste.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. In a large wok or frying pan heat the butter until it turns a nutty brown. Add the black garlic paste, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice and tahini. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins, then add the cooked pasta and a little of the cooking liquid. Check seasoning.

Serve in 4 individual bowls sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Kladdkaka – Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake

Crisp on the outside, with a soft and gooey centre, this traditional Scandinavian chocolate cake is a bit like a brownie. Kladdkaka means sticky cake in Swedish.

Serve it on it’s own, with a dusting of icing sugar and a cup of coffee, or with whipped cream or ice cream and a few berries as a delicious dessert.

In the photo it’s served with homemade strawberry ice cream, using a very quick recipe and substituting frozen strawberries for the frozen raspberries.

2 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
1 Tbs vanilla extract
Extra cocoa powder
To serve:
Icing sugar
Fresh berries such as strawberries or raspberries
Whipped cream or ice cream

Prepare an 8 inch (20cm) cake tin by lining the bottom with baking paper, then buttering the bottom and sides and giving a good coating of extra cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl with electric beaters whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Fold in sifted flour, cocoa and salt and lastly the butter and vanilla. Scrape into cake pan and bake for 20 minutes. The top of the cake will be firm, but it will still be soft in the centre. The cake will sink as it cools.

Cool cake then dust with sifted icing sugar. Serve as it is, or with berries and whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 8

Eggplant in Red Lentil and Coconut Sauce

This delicious recipe is adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi. He used an Indian soft cheese called paneer as the filling. I used halloumi but you could use feta or ricotta.

I first discovered red lentils when watching a Nigella Lawson TV show, in which she said they are great because they only take about 20 minutes to cook. Be careful as overcooking results in mushy lentils.

3 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise ½ to 1 cm thick
About 100 ml vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped (or 6 shallots)
2 Tbs finely chopped ginger
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
Strips of peel from 1 lime removed with veg peeler
200g red lentils
400ml can coconut milk
800ml water
100g spinach leaves
220g feta, halloumi or ricotta cheese
To garnish:
Juice from 1 lime
Fresh chopped coriander

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line two large oven trays with baking paper. Arrange the eggplant slices on the trays, brush both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 mins or until cooked and golden brown. Cool.

Put 2 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions over medium heat, for 2-3 mins, stirring. Add ginger, chilli, spices, tomato paste, sugar, strips of lime peel and lentils and continue to cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add coconut milk, water and a teaspoon of salt. Turn down heat and simmer 20 mins, stirring from time to time, or until lentils are al dente and sauce is thick. Pour into an oiled baking dish large enough to take the eggplant rolls in one layer and put aside.

Arrange spinach leaves all over the eggplant slices in one layer, then a piece of feta or halloumi. Roll up from the thinner end so the cheese is enclosed. Arrange the packages seam-side down in the lentil sauce and press them in a bit. You should end up with 16 to 20 rolls in one layer. Bake 20 mins or until golden brown on top. Drizzle with the lime juice and garnish with the fresh coriander.

Serves 6

Substitutions: use lemon instead of lime

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Nigella Lawson made this ice cream on her TV series some months ago and I made a mental note to give it a try. She says it’s the ice cream she makes (and eats) the most.

It’s very quick and easy, using roughly equal quantities of Dulce de Leche or Nestlé’s Caramel Top ‘n Fill and cream. A splosh of bourbon, rum or brandy is optional – and best left out if you’re serving this to kids. There’s no churning required and when ready to serve the ice cream is not rock hard, so you don’t need to take it out of the freezer ahead of serving time, the way you do with most home made ice creams.

Dulce de Leche (known as Manjar in Chile) is basically condensed milk cooked until it turns into a thick brown caramel. It’s not difficult to make from condensed milk in a pressure cooker and this is what you had to do in Australia before Nestlé’s Caramel Top ‘n Fill came on the market.

Nigella says this ice cream goes well with Sticky Toffee Pudding. She also suggests adding brandy instead of whisky and serving it with Christmas Pudding. I have served it with Sago Plum Pudding.

1 can Nestlé’s Caramel Top n Fill (380g) or equivalent in Dulce de Leche*
300ml whipping cream
1-2 Tbs Bourbon, rum or brandy (optional)
½ tsp Maldon sea salt flakes, or to taste
To serve (optional):
½ cup pecan nuts or walnuts, roughly chopped
Maple syrup or golden syrup or honey

Place dulce de leche or Top ‘n fill in a bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth. Add the cream and continue whipping until thick and smooth. Gradually mix in the alcohol, if using and salt to taste. Scrape into a container with a lid, then freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

Optional topping: Place pecans or walnuts in a small frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted.

Serve ice cream topped with the nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, golden syrup or honey.

Serves 8

*or Bonne Maman Caramel Spread

Caramel Slice

I was staying at Hill House, a dairy farm in County Durham in my early teens when I learnt to make this recipe. They called it Triple Decker Slice and everyone loved it. There are heaps of versions online, often called Millionaire’s Shortbread, but this is my version. I’ve added the salt flakes, which weren’t in the original recipe, but appeal to anyone who likes salted caramel.

This slice is high in sugar and calories, so I don’t make it often, but when I do it always puts a smile on Matthew’s face.

If you can find dulce de leche or Nestle Top n Fill, make Filling (1). If not then make Filling (2).

Shortbread:
125g butter at room temp
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
Filling (1):
250g dulce de leche or Nestle Top ‘n Fill
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Filling (2):
1 can condensed milk
2 Tbs golden syrup
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Topping:
250g dark chocolate
2 Tbs Copha or butter
To finish:
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Mix butter and sugar in food processor. Add flour and cornflour and process till mixture sticks together into a ball. Press into a greased shallow rectangular baking tin measuring about 25x30cm, lined with greased baking paper. You don’t need to roll it out, just drop lumps evenly over the tin, then press with your fingers till you have a more or less even thickness. Bake 15-20 mins. It should be very lightly coloured, not brown.

Heat filling ingredients (1 or 2) and when bubbling cook gently for 2-3 mins, stirring. If using Filling (2) you will need to cook it a bit longer, say 5-7 minutes, to achieve the caramel colour. Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly. When caramel has cooled, melt chocolate with Copha or butter, pour over and spread evenly. If liked sprinkle with salt. Cut into squares when cold.

Makes about 20

Nigella’s Meatloaf

This meatloaf recipe, which she calls Ed’s Mother’s Meatloaf, comes from Nigella Lawson. Eldest son James sent me the link which caught his eye because the onions are cooked in duck fat and the meatloaf is covered in bacon. What’s not to like about that?

When he and his family came for dinner to celebrate a family birthday, for the first time since coronavirus lockdown, I happened to have some duck fat in the fridge. Nigella’s Meatloaf seemed a good choice as the main course, accompanied by potatoes roasted in duck fat and salad.

I made two changes to Nigella’s recipe which resulted in a bigger loaf measuring about 12″ x 5″ (30cm x 15cm):

  • used 5 hard boiled eggs instead of 3
  • cooked 250g chopped mushrooms in a little butter and used them as a layer around the eggs. So it was mince, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, mince.

The bacon slices weren’t long enough to go over the top and tuck under on both sides, so I used two slices for each row and had them overlapping in the middle. A few small metal skewers kept them in place during cooking.

For the method go to Nigella’s link above. Easy to  make ahead and have ready in the fridge just to pop in the oven. I served it with a sauce made with sour cream and finely chopped gherkins, spring onions and parsley.

Ready to go into the oven. Skewers to help keep the bacon in place.

Hummus

Hummus is available in every supermarket, but when I first learnt to make it, while we were living in Israel in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

This recipe is quick and easy and, like anything homemade, much cheaper than the bought variety. With tahini and canned chickpeas in the pantry you can whip up a batch any time, as the other ingredients such as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil are part of most people’s everyday supplies. I’ve been using canned chickpeas for quite some time. They’re so convenient but, if preferred, by all means soak and cook some dried ones.

While hummus makes a delicious dip to serve with drinks, it’s also good as a spread in sandwiches, instead of butter, or as a component in several of the recipes on this blog, such as Roasted Veggies with Hummus or Baked Eggplant with Hummus Lentils and Pine Nuts.

Hummus keeps in the fridge for up to a week, but if preferred why not make half the recipe first time.

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup tahini paste, stirred
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Garnish: (optional)
Chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika

Place chickpeas in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process, adding enough water to give the consistency of a dip. Keep in the fridge, covered, until needed.

To serve, add a little water if Hummus has become too stiff, then spread in a swirl onto a shallow dish and decorate with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. The garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and cauliflower.

 

Makes about 3 cups

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne (pronounced Carnay) means Chili with Meat and was invented by working class Mexicans living in southern Texas. Often referred to simply as Chili this dish has lots of variations, a bit like Spag Bol which we’re all familiar with.

In this version, the sun-dried tomatoes give extra tomato flavour to the sauce. If preferred use tomato paste instead, or some of each. This recipe is enough to serve a big family, or a smaller family with some leftovers, which go down well for lunch on toast or in a wrap.

500g minced beef
2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
200g sun-dried tomatoes, drained (or 4 Tbs tomato paste)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded & finely chopped (more if you like it hot!)
2 tins tomatoes
2 cups water and more as required
2 tins red kidney beans, drained (or white beans or a mix)
Stick cinnamon or 1 tsp of powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
3 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Sour cream (or thick Greek yoghurt)
2 finely sliced spring onions or 1 small red onion, chopped
Grated cheese
Corn chips or corn tortillas
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed and seasoned (optional)

Chop onions and garlic and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan until softened. Add the chilli powder and cumin with the meat and cook, stirring, until browned. Place the sun dried tomatoes, water and the chilli in a food processor and blend to form a paste. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar, stock cubes and another cup of water.

Bring to the boil, cover then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1½ hours. Stir often and add more water as necessary. Add the red kidney beans 30 minutes before the end of cooking time. Check for seasoning. This meat sauce will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen. When reheating add a little water.

Serve with corn chips or tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and sour cream mixed with spring onions. Put all the elements in individual bowls and let everyone help themselves.

Serves 8

Low Carb Variation: use whole iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap instead of corn Tortillas.

Plum Cake

I’ve been making this cake for nearly 30 years from a recipe published by Stephanie Alexander, which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake after the friend who gave it to her. I have slightly adapted the method but the end result is the same.

The best plums to use are blood plums which have dark purple skins and flesh, but unfortunately they’re only in season for a very brief period. The recipe works well with any plums you can get, or peaches, apricots or, as you can see in the photo, with nectarines.  You could also try making it with canned fruit if you’re housebound and that’s all you have.

I make this cake in a 22 cm (9 inch) square tin, so each serving has half a piece of fruit on top. This involves increasing all the ingredients in the original cake mix (but not the topping) to make a bigger cake which serves 16. For a smaller cake use the original recipe (see above link). I like to grind the nuts in a food processor and leave them slightly chunky, rather than buying ground nuts which are more like flour.

Serve with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a dollop of cream.

250g butter at room temp
250g sugar
200g plain flour
200g self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup ground almonds or walnuts
8 blood plums, halved and stoned (or use apricots, peaches or nectarines)
Topping:
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
60g butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Process nuts coarsely in food processor then tip out. Process butter and sugar till fluffy, add eggs one at a time, sifted flours, salt, the nuts and then the milk, stopping to scrape down the mixture halfway through.

Spread into 9″ (22cm) square cake pan, greased and lined with paper. Arrange the plums, cut side up, over the cake and push them in a bit. The 16 halves should fit exactly. No need to wash the food processor before using it to mix all the topping ingredients. Pour topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle (cake not fruit) comes out clean. If outsides are getting too brown, turn oven down a bit, but don’t overcook or the cake will be dry.

Variation: Use peeled and halved juicy pears instead of plums and add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to the topping.

Serves 12-16

Stir Crazy Chocolate Cake

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown I participated in an online recipe exchange from which you are supposed to receive lots of recipes. I only received two and this is one of them, from another Linda who lives in Chile. Appropriately named for when you’re going stir crazy while in isolation.

This quick and easy chocolate cake surprisingly doesn’t contain any eggs. Delicious on its own or with a dollop of sour cream, as shown in the photo.

3 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups cold water
Chocolate Icing:
250g cream cheese at room temp
¼ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar
Chocolate buttons to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C. You can either mix this cake in a bowl or in a food processor. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl or food processor and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix till smooth, stopping to scrape down any mixture stuck to the sides. Spread into a cake pan. I used a 22 cm (9 inch) square silicone pan so I didn’t need to grease and line it with baking paper. You know your pan and whether or not cakes stick. Bake for 30-40 mins or until firm to touch in the middle.

Ice with your favourite icing or this one which uses cream cheese. Place cream cheese in a bowl and mix till smooth, gradually adding the sifted cocoa and then the sifted icing sugar.  You might find one cup of icing sugar is enough. If liked decorate with chocolate buttons. Cut into 16 squares.

Serves 16