Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that we like to give meat and fish a rest about once a week and go vegetarian.

A frittata is an egg-based Italian dish, similar to an omelette. A vegetable frittata makes a tasty light supper and any leftovers are nice cold the next day. Choose a medium sized non-stick frying pan (mine is 25 cm or 10 inches) with a metal handle, so it can go in the oven.

When the frittata comes out of the oven the metal handle will be very hot. I forgot and have the blisters to show for it.

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

1 Tbs olive oil
60g butter
200g mushrooms, cut into quarters or sliced if large
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About half a bunch of spinach
6 eggs
½ cup sour cream or fresh cream
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon
2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sour Cream Sauce (optional):
½ cup sour cream
2-3 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat half the butter and oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring, then transfer to a bowl. Strip the spinach from the stalks and discard the stalks. Tear the spinach into smaller pieces. Add to the frying pan with the remaining oil and butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until wilted. Add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

In another bowl using a balloon whisk beat the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and rind, grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. Pour into the frying pan, Scatter the spinach and mushrooms and any juices over the top. Place small pieces of goat’s cheese or feta all over the top. Place back on the stove until the frittata starts to set, then bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve with a mixed salad and the sour cream sauce.

Sour Cream Sauce: mix sour cream with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-3

Variations: use small broccoli florets instead of spinach; use Pecorino instead of Parmesan cheese; use a mixture of fancy mushrooms instead of the usual ones

Baked Eggplant with Halloumi

Fed up with ham and turkey? Here’s a quick vegetarian dish made with eggplants, tomatoes and halloumi cheese.

Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese which originated in Cyprus. I first ate it at a lunch hosted by my brother and sister-in-law at an Airforce base in the UK where they were stationed nearly 20 years ago. They cooked the halloumi on the barbecue and our kids decided to rename it squeaky cheese, because of the noise it makes as you bite into it.

Some eggplant recipes involve lots of frying. This method doesn’t, making it truly quick and easy.

2 medium to large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin tomatoes (chopped)
2 tsp sugar
250g halloumi cheese
2-3 Tbs Dukkah (bought or home-made)
Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish in one layer, cut side up. Make deep cuts in the surface of each, one way and then the other, so you cut the flesh into squares but not right through.  Brush with one tablespoon of the olive oil and season. Bake for 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add onion and garlic. Cook gently for a few minutes till soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and sugar, season to taste, then simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken a bit. Spread over the eggplant. Slice halloumi cheese and arrange over the top. Brush the halloumi with the third tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with dukkah, then put the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until halloumi is golden.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 4

Substitutions: use fresh, peeled tomatoes instead of a can; use a different cheese such as sliced cheddar or Manchego (hard sheep’s cheese from Spain) or whatever you have.

 

Turkish Green Rice

Cappadocia, in the middle of Turkey is well worth a visit. We stayed in Göreme in a cave hotel which had been carved out of the rock, but was nonetheless very comfortable.

Over the centuries the inhabitants of this region have carved out shelters, houses, churches and monasteries from the rocky outcrops, which are often described as fairy chimneys. The geology and history of the area is fascinating and in order to see the terrain from above we went on a balloon flight at dawn. One hundred and twenty balloons all taking off at about the same time is a sight to behold.

A Turkish passenger on our inward flight asked for a drink which the flight attendant poured from what looked like a two litre bottle of milk, but as he poured I could see it was much too thick to be milk. When I asked if I could “have what he’s having” the flight attendant looked sceptical. He said that usually only Turks asked for Ayran and I might not like it, so he gave me a little to try before filling up my glass. It’s basically plain yogurt watered down to pouring consistency, with a little salt added. Full of probiotics it’s really good you, so I drank it all the time while we were there. Delicious.

This was our third trip to Turkey and we felt perfectly safe. The people are friendly and helpful and the food is simple, but healthy and delicious. Lots of kebabs and grills, as well as vegetable dishes, salads and traditional casseroles cooked slowly in sealed clay pots. Thick yoghurt drizzled with local honey was my favourite dessert.

This rice recipe is from the inflight magazine on Turkish Airlines. It makes quite a lot so you may want to halve the recipe. Serve it with kebabs, hummus, Turkish bread and a salad of diced tomato, onion and cucumber.

2 cups long grain rice such as Basmati
1 packet frozen spinach or 1 bunch fresh spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
50g butter
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbs each finely chopped parsley and mint
2 Tbs pistachio nuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

If using fresh spinach, remove leaves and discard stalks. Wash thoroughly. With just the water clinging to the leaves, place spinach in a large saucepan, cover and cook, stirring from time to time, for a few minutes or until wilted. Place in food processor and chop finely. You will need a generous cup or more of this chopped spinach, or use thawed frozen spinach. Quantities are flexible.

Heat butter in a large saucepan and cook onion until soft, stirring from time to time, and allowing it to brown slightly. Add rice, spinach, water, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. If not quite ready, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to continue cooking in its own steam. Stir in the chopped herbs. Check for seasoning and if liked add another knob of butter. Garnish with the toasted nuts.

Serves 6-8

Sweet Potatoes with Almond Tahini

I found this recipe in the Financial Times newspaper which I was reading on a recent QANTAS flight from Bangkok to Sydney. I tore it out as  I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes and although we’re not vegetarian I tend to cook a meatless evening meal at least once a week.

So last night was try-out night and the recipe didn’t disappoint. It said to bake the sweet potatoes on a bed of salt to draw out the moisture. I don’t think this made any difference, so I would leave that out next time.

2 large sweet potatoes
Tahini:
100g whole shelled almonds
Small clove garlic, peeled
3 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
Pinch salt
2 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbs water
Garnish:
2 Tbs almonds roughly chopped (blanched or unblanched, I used slivered)
2 tsp oil
pinch salt
2 spring onions, thinly sliced or 2 Tbs snipped chives
Pomegranate or date molasses (or fig glaze)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, but don’t peel them. Line a baking tin with foil and place the sweet potatoes on top. Bake for an hour or until soft and a knife can be inserted easily.

Meanwhile make the Tahini by blitzing the almonds in a food processor until fine then adding the garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice and water. Taste and adjust seasoning. It will thicken up as it sits. If made ahead and refrigerated you may need to mix in a little water when serving.

For the garnish, place nuts in a small frying pan with the oil and salt and stir over moderate heat until golden. Turn off heat.

To serve, cut the sweet potatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze to open up the flesh a bit then top with a couple of dollops of tahini. Top with the nuts, the spring onions or chives and a drizzle of molasses or glaze.

Variation: use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Serves 2-4

 

Jerusalem Artichoke and Blue Cheese Salad

We grow Jerusalem artichokes so I’m always looking of new ways to serve them. If you look in the index you will find several recipes.  This is a slightly adapted recipe from Maggie Beer. I made half this recipe to serve two.

1kg Jerusalem artichokes
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter, melted
½ cup walnut or pecan nut halves
2 tsp maple syrup and 2 tsp olive oil
1 bunch rocket
100g creamy blue cheese, cut into wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs verjuice (or substitute white wine or cider vinegar)
2 Tbs walnut (or substitute olive oil)

Wash, scrub and trim the artichokes. Slice thickly or if small cut them in half. Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix artichokes with the oil and butter in a bowl then spread on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. They should be in a single layer, so you may need two baking sheets. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender and golden brown.

Place walnuts or pecans in a small frying pan with the maple syrup and olive oil and stir over moderate heat until slightly glazed. Cool, then coarsely break them up. Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange artichokes, rocket and cheese on serving platter. Scatter over the nuts, drizzle with a little dressing and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 as a side dish or starter

Variation: use parsnips or carrots instead of the artichokes

Coleslaw with Carrot Dressing

This is an unusual coleslaw because it doesn’t contain any mayonnaise. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment it’s very quick to make, but you can of course do the grating by hand.

½ large white cabbage or 1 small one
1 head broccoli or half a cauliflower, coarsely chopped or sliced
6 sliced spring onions
½ cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
½ cup sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
Carrot dressing:
2 carrots
1 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed  (optional)
1 Tbs sesame oil
½ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the thinly shredded cabbage in a large salad bowl with the broccoli or cauliflower (I used cauli in the photo, but broccoli would have been more colourful) and the spring onions. Stir the seeds and nuts over a medium heat in a dry frying pan, until lightly toasted and add to the bowl.

Using the grating attachment of your food processor, grate the carrots. Then, leaving the carrots in the bowl, switch to the metal mixing blade, add remaining ingredients and mix until you have a bright orange dressing. Add to the salad bowl, mix well then scatter the dried fruit over the top.

Serves 6-8

Variations: add some shredded red cabbage or strips of red capsicum.

 

Little Cauliflower Cheeses

This recipe makes 12 delicious little cauliflower cheeses. Instead of flour it uses breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Serve as a side dish, snack or healthy addition to school or office lunch boxes.

It’s a very adaptable recipe. Use broccoli or asparagus instead of cauliflower. Grated Parmesan or crumbled feta instead of cheddar.

1¼ cups breadcrumbs, preferably Panko
500g cauliflower florets
1 egg
250ml light cream or evaporated milk or half cream and half milk
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped (or use ham)
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or use another fresh herb)
25g butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 12 hole one-third of a cup muffin pan. Keep half a cup of cauliflower florets. Place the rest in a food processor and process till finely chopped. Place in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, egg, cream and half a cup of the grated cheddar. Mix well and season to taste, then divide among the muffin pan holes.

Slice remaining cauliflower thinly and mix with the bacon, thyme, melted butter and remaining cheddar. Top the muffins with this mixture. Bake 20-30 mins or until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Don’t overcook as they will be dry if you do. Cool 10 mins in pans then run a knife around to remove. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with some fresh thyme leaves.

Makes 12

Variation: for a vegetarian version leave out the bacon and add some chopped pitted olives.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Pesto

Between the vegetable patch at the farm – where we spend  every second weekend – and the one in Canberra, we produce more than half the fruit and vegetables we eat, with some to give away to family and friends during summer. All organic of course.

There’s no shortage of space at the farm so we grow things like strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, potatoes, onions and garlic as well as pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini. We’re also establishing an orchard, with quince, apples, pears and plums. In town where space is more limited we stick to herbs, radishes, lettuces and rocket.

You can’t grow salad greens in northern Europe in the middle of winter, but here in Canberra a typical winter’s day is often 15 to 20 degrees Celsius warmer than the nighttime sub-zero temperatures. This means that the soil doesn’t freeze solid and allows some vegetables to be grown in sheltered areas of the garden. A piece of glass or plastic helps protect the foliage from the frost

Rather than going out and buying something we tend to eat what we have. At the moment, it being the middle of winter, we have spinach, carrots, rocket and lettuce. Not much in the way of fruit, apart from the lemon tree which is laden and lots of cooking apples I froze during summer.

Carrots from the garden were the inspiration for this soup which showcases the natural sweetness of root vegetables. The coconut milk gives a velvety, creamy texture and the pesto makes a nice contrast in colour and flavours. The pesto in the photo is a bit dark because I froze it during summer. Still tastes good though.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Pesto

1 large onion, chopped
25g butter
About 1kg sweet potatoes and carrots (half and half or whatever)
1 can coconut milk or cream
2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
Water
To serve:
Milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pesto (home-made or bought)

In a large heavy-based saucepan, heat butter and cook onion for 5-10 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add sweet potatoes and carrots, peeled and cut into chunks, the coconut milk or cream, enough water to cover the vegetables and the stock cubes. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft, then cool a bit and blend in a blender until smooth. To serve, reheat with enough milk to make to desired consistency. Season to taste and garnish with some pesto, thinned down a bit with some olive oil if it’s too thick.

Serves 6-8

Baked Eggplant with Hummus, Lentils and Pine Nuts

We eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. Our favourite vegetable is eggplant – it’s very filling and leftovers are always good for lunch.

Many eggplant recipes include tomato and cheese, so this one’s a bit different. I used a can of lentils to speed things up. If you prefer to use dry lentils you will need to add more stock and cook it for longer. The lentils will be ready at about the same time as the eggplant comes out of the oven, so everything will be hot and you can serve the dish straight away. If one or the other has got a bit cold, just put the dish in the oven to heat through, before topping with the hummus, herbs and nuts.

If you’re making your own hummus half the recipe (one drained can chickpeas) is more than enough.

For the eggplant:
2 large eggplants
4 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs
For the lentils:
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
To serve:
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Hummus (preferably homemade)
Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or foil. Cut eggplants in half horizontally. Lay them on the tray then score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife. Brush all over with the olive oil, going back over so you use it all.  Season and sprinkle with the rosemary. Bake for 25-35 mins or until tender and slightly charred. Discard the rosemary.

While eggplant are baking, heat oil in a large frying pan. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until softened but not brown. Add the lentils and stock, then simmer until thick. Add the balsamic vinegar and check seasoning.

Spread mixture in a shallow baking dish and arrange the eggplant halves on top. If necessary put the dish into the oven to heat through.

Taste the hummus and, if necessary, add a bit more lemon juice and/or crushed garlic to give it a bit more zing and make it less thick. Serve the eggplant drizzled with hummus and sprinkled with the pine nuts and fresh herbs. If liked drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Variations: use a drained can of chickpeas or kidney beans instead of lentils. Add a can of chopped tomatoes when adding the stock.

Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Garlic

Learning a language is hard work and keeping it going can be a challenge.  As the saying goes – if you don’t use it you lose it. I started French at school in the UK when I was 11 and have managed to keep it going, helped by 3 years in Geneva in the early 70s and 4 years in Paris in the late 90s, ever since.

In Canberra I belong to a group called Accueil which meets once a month to speak French over lunch. We take it in turns to host and everyone brings a sweet or savoury dish. This inevitably results in a spectacular spread.

Last month Gabrielle brought a delicious sweet potato dish from one of my favourite chefs Yotam Ottolenghi. Since then I’ve made the recipe three times – the first time with sweet potatoes, the second time with carrots from the garden and the third time with a mixture of the two. They were all delicious.

A bottle of Angostura Bitters has been sitting in our drinks cabinet for years. Apart from an occasional dash in a gin and tonic or a splash on top of a pisco sour it rarely sees the light of day. It’s probably been there for a decade, but having made this dish three times I had to buy another bottle. Any good liquor store should stock it.

Ottolenghi serves the sweet potatoes sprinkled with goat’s cheese, but I think it’s perfectly nice without.

1½ cups orange juice (preferably fresh)
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup red wine or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Angostura bitters
2 Tbs olive oil
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
4-6 sweet potatoes
2 small red chillies (optional)
3 sprigs sage
10 sprigs thyme
2 heads garlic, unpeeled, cut in two horizontally
100g goat’s cheese (optional)
Fresh herbs to garnish

Place orange juice, brown sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then boil steadily for about 20 minutes or until reduced to one cup. Add Angostura Bitters, oil and salt.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into thick wedges – see photo. Place in a bowl with the chillies, herbs and garlic. Pour in the orange juice mixture and mix well to coat, then spread out over a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper if liked, to make the washing up a bit easier.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, turning the vegetables every 15 minutes or so. The sweet potatoes should be nicely glazed all over when done, so if they are looking a bit dry add a dash more orange juice or water to the pan.

Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with goat’s cheese if using and garnished with some fresh herbs.

Serves 6