Sunday, October 27, 2013

294/984 - Gratin of artichokes

I have eaten many artichokes in my time, but have never before been inspired to cook one myself. Cruising the aisles of my local organic store recently, I saw these lovely artichokes and decided it was time I gave it a go.

Braving the art of artichoke preparation for the first time, I decided to third the recipe and cook just two rather than six. We like our vegetables baked, and quite frankly anything that includes oil and breadcrumbs is usually going to be enjoyed by my family, so I was fairly sure this would be a success. Even so, I reasoned that half an artichoke each was a reasonable starting point when asking the boys to try something new.

I made some acidulated water (water with vinegar) to sit the artichokes in once they had been cut, although I had some trouble keeping the artichokes under water! 

I really liked the finished product (including the trimmed stems!), although wondered if the artichokes could have done with a light boiling before they were baked. The boys were very excited about the fact that these looked more like aliens than vegetables and so were happy to give them a try.  

Another chapter discovered! There are five more artichoke and cardoon recipes so watch this space for more on this little thistle. 

Now where to find a cardoon??

Sunday, October 20, 2013

293/984 - Baked kale with potato, olives and garlic

I made this dish to serve alongside our Sunday night lasagne (which I have not started yet, must get on to that!) but it looked and smelled so amazing I have just polished off two bowls of it for my lunch.

I wasn't able to find curly kale but I found two bunches of the most beautiful cavolo nero which I was happy to use as a substitute. I have decided that the easiest way to remove the thickest part of the stem is to strip the leaves away with my hands, which allows me to feel when the stem is becoming less firm and to retain the softer thinner pieces towards the top of the leaf. As suggested I selected Nicola potatoes, which are waxy and a beautiful yellow colour.

The most difficult thing about this recipe turned out to be pitting the olives! I bought a jar of beautiful organic black olives and finally got the knack of pitting them neatly as I reached the end of the little pile I was working through. Of course it took a bit longer than expected due to the amount that were eaten as I pitted. 

I didn't add all of the olive oil at the end, maybe half of what the recipe suggested, and also left out the salt. I did add a big crack of pepper though which my family love! 

Another great dish and I am sure it will do my Sunday night lasagne proud. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

292/984 - Broccoli frittata

When I started this challenge I owned (and loved) the original orange version of The Cook's Companion. I was excited to share the news each time I completed a chapter of cooking, which occurred three times in the first 16 months, having cooked all of the bread, spinach and rabbit recipes. Upgrading to the new rainbow version of the book meant new and fabulous recipes, and the fact that I no longer had any completed chapters under my belt.

So today I am excited to announce (again!) that I have completed my first chapter of cooking!

The broccoli chapter has only three recipes and so it might not seem much of an achievement to some, but I am a firm believer of celebrating every milestone, no matter how small. Just ask my children who are often on the receiving end of high fives and whoops of excitement when they walk home from school for the first time or make a simple meal unassisted. 

We absolutely loved this frittata, which included kangaroo chorizo and ham as our chosen meats. I don't know why, but I was surprised to find pasta as an ingredient in this recipe. It was a fabulous addition and I think I may include pasta in my frittatas more often.

I promised to share a learning each time I complete a chapter and so here goes; Broccoli is notorious for harbouring small caterpillars and so it is recommended that the broccoli be soaked in salted water for ten minutes. I have never done this, which means my little family are likely to have consumed quite a bit of additional protein over the years!

So here we are again, one chapter down, only 122 to go.

My beloved and still treasured
original version of
The Cook's Companion

Sunday, October 13, 2013

291/984 - Poached eggs with yoghurt and garlic sauce

Another gorgeous breakfast recipe!

I found this buried in the yoghurt chapter and actually started the preparation yesterday when I put the yoghurt in a sieve lined with muslin to allow it to drain. The chooks were happy because I fed them the juice; they were in heaven, dipping their little beaks in to the container and shaking milky white drips all over the place. 

This morning the garlic and salt were pounded in the mortar and pestle and then mixed with chives and my lovely drained, thick yoghurt. Once the eggs were poached and laid on thick globs of yoghurt mixture, the butter was heated until bubbling and along with some parsley, was tipped over the top to finish.

My goodness, what a beautiful combination! The yoghurt gave each mouthful a wonderful creamy texture and the burnt butter added the most amazing flavour. I smell like raw garlic now (my apologies to the ladies I am catching up with today!) but it was well worth it. Loved by the whole family and even the little guest we had staying with us. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

290/984 - Savoury ricotta fritters

We had a mini family holiday this week, staying and dining at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. Determined to try everything the restaurant had to offer, we ordered two omnivore degustations and two vegetarian, and then shared the dishes with one another. The food was spectacular and the matched wine was equally amazing. The highlight of my night was the first dessert (yes there were two!) which was based around the flavours of violet, lavender and honey. 

What inspired this post, however, was the buffet breakfast at the hotel, which included the most amazing house-smoked salmon which I ate on toast with house-made ricotta. The lovely lady who was looking after us asked the chef how the ricotta was made and kindly shared the recipe with me, which of course I had to try!

It really is ridiculously easy and I will never buy another tub of ricotta while I have milk and lemons on hand. All you have to do is to gently warm 2 cups of milk to eighty degrees Celcius and then remove it from the heat and gently stir in 1/3 cup of either lemon juice or vinegar. I added a good pinch of salt to mine too. Leave to stand until curds have formed and then strain through a piece of muslin. The curds end up on top and the beautiful whey is caught in the bowl below. Given that I used beautiful Schulz organic milk in my recipe I was not going to waste a drop! I replaced the water in my bread recipe for whey and then used the rest in scrambled eggs, which turned out to be the creamiest eggs I have ever made. 

But on to the fritters! I left my ricotta a bit wet, which would have been fabulous if I was spreading it on toast, but not so fabulous when trying to roll it into little balls. Needless to say, my fritters ended up a bit flat, but the shape certainly didn't alter the taste. I used organic pecorino as the second cheese in these little fried balls from heaven, and possibly a bit more garlic than the recipe actually called for. I overdid the herb elements too, probably to appease the guilt of eating fried food. I did however only use a small amount of oil in the pan and was pleased to see that the final products were beautifully crispy on the outside and still squishy in the middle.

Inhaled by the boys in no time. No surprises there!

Whey based bread
Scrambled eggs with whey
Beautiful whey