Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters

You only need one or two zucchini plants in the veggie patch to be inundated in the middle of summer. And if you don’t catch them when they’re small, a day or two later you’ll find they’ve turned into huge marrows! Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream is a good way to use up the big ones.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters make a tasty vegetarian meal and any leftovers are delicious cold or reheated in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve with Tzatziki and/or tomato chutney. Use regular sized zucchini or remove the seeds from bigger ones.

500g zucchini (seeds removed if large)
250g haloumi cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 egg
2/3 cup self-raising flour
Vegetable oil for frying the fritters
Tzatziki:
1 Lebanese cucumber, coarsely grated (or half a telegraph one)
1 cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated rind ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Salt flakes
Ground cumin
Fresh mint leaves
Tomato Baharat Jam (optional)

Coarsely grate zucchini and halloumi. If you have a coarse grating disk on your food processor, this is a breeze. Mix with remaining ingredients. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3-4 at a time. Use a tablespoon to dollop the mixture into the pan and flatten each fritter into a thick round shape. Fry for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with the Tzatziki, mint leaves, salt flakes and a shake of ground cumin. A little Tomato Baharat Jam, or any other tomato chutney, also goes well.

For the Tzatziki, place the grated cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave to drain for a few minutes, then press down on the cucumber to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix with remaining ingredients.

Serves 4

 

Green Vegetable Frittata with Pesto and Cheese

Frittatas are Italian omelettes. They make a delicious hot meal and any leftovers are perfect cold for lunch next day.

1 bunch asparagus and 1 small bunch broccolini
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To serve:
About 6 Tbs pesto (bought or home-made)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths, discarding the tough ends. Heat butter in a 25cm (10 inch) cast-iron or non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, broccolini and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season lightly.

When the vegetables are cooked and starting to brown, add the eggs, pulling in the sides with a spatula as they cook, as you do with an omelette. When the frittata is mostly set, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Turn off the heat then either put the pan under a hot grill for a minute or so, or cover it with a lid and let it stand for for a minute or so. This is to set the top.

Mix enough olive oil into the pesto to make it pourable then drizzle over the top of the frittata. Top with the crumbled cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal

Asian Green Salad

This recipe was given to me some years ago by my friend Donelle. She made it with Pak Choi but today I decided to use fresh spinach from the garden, because we have copious amounts.

I’m not sure if you can buy packets of crispy noodles everywhere in the world. If you can’t find them substitute crushed corn chips. Just something to give a bit of crunch.

The pomegranate arils weren’t in the original recipe, but they add a touch of colour. Some supermarkets sell these either fresh or frozen. I keep them in the freezer and just scrape out a few as required to sprinkle over the top of salads.

Full of iron and other good stuff, this recipe is very healthy!

1 bunch Pak Choy (or substitute spinach or kale)
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced (use the white and most of the green)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
¾ cup flaked or slivered almonds (or substitute pine nuts)
1 packet (100g) crispy noodles
Dressing:
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of Siracha (or other chilli sauce,) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs brown sugar
To serve:
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Wash, spin dry and shred the Pak Choy, spinach or kale with a large sharp knife. Place in serving dish with the nuts, which have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Add spring onions and coriander.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix dressing with salad and top with the crispy noodles. If liked garnish with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms

Now that there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of carbs with our evening meals. Pasta, rice and potatoes were great for filling up the hollow legs of teenagers, but we find we can do without them. So most nights we have some protein – chicken, fish, beef or whatever – with a mountain of green vegetables or salad.

That regime can get a bit boring, so once a week we have a vegetarian meal and occasionally we’ll have pasta or polenta. This recipe from the New York Times caught my eye. I read through the comments people had made after trying the recipe and made a few adjustments according to their suggestions.The original recipe serves four, so I halved the polenta but not the mushrooms and it made enough for two, with a small amount left over. The original recipe includes half an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and mixed in with the fresh mushrooms. I didn’t have any so I left them out. This is comfort food, good for the cooler autumn evenings or Sunday night in front of the TV.

1½ cups water
1½ cups milk
¾ cup quick cooking polenta
Salt to taste
50g butter or 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
250g sliced mushrooms (ordinary ones or fancy ones)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1-2 Tbs cream (sour cream or creme fraiche)
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Place water, milk, salt and polenta in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, whisking, then continue to stir for 2 minutes or until thickened, Turn heat down as low as it will go, cover, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until polenta tastes ready. Add a little extra water if it seems too thick and still tastes uncooked. Traditional polenta can take up to 45 minutes, but quick-cooking polenta only takes 5-10 minutes – see what it says on the packet. When it’s ready turn off the heat, check the seasoning, add half the butter or olive oil and let the polenta sit with the lid on.

Meanwhile heat remaining butter or olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the herbs, soy sauce and cream and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.

Divide the polenta between 2 or 3 serving bowls and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

 

Sweet Potato & Spinach Salad with Rice and Cranberries

Lunch with our dear friends Lorna and Jim is always a pleasure.  At our recent catch up Lorna served this delicious salad with confit salmon, followed by strawberries and ice cream.

The original recipe said to leave the skin on the sweet potato, but I decided to peel mine as it was rather blemished. If you’re missing one or two ingredients don’t worry, I’ve listed some substitutions which would work.

1 medium sweet potato (about 500g)
2 red onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6ths or 8ths
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup brown basmati rice
1½ cups water
100g baby spinach leaves
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pistachios
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Scrub sweet potato or peel if preferred, then cut into 1.5cm cubes. Mix with the onions and 2 tsp olive oil then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 mins. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile place rice in a saucepan with the water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down the heat as low as it will go and cook until water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and leave to continue steaming. Cool.

Place dressing in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss.

Serves 6

Substitutions:
Pumpkin instead of sweet potato
White onions instead of red
White rice instead of brown
Rocket instead of spinach or half and half
Sour cherries or raisins instead of cranberries
Pine nuts (toasted) instead of pistachios
Goat’s cheese instead of feta
Cider vinegar or lemon juice nstead of red wine vinegar

 

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