Monday, 26 April 2010

Spanish Omelette

Spanish omelette (or tortilla) is a common tapas dish made of potatoes and eggs.  My partner is actually half Spanish, and the first time I had this was on vacation in Tenerife made by his Tenerifian dad.  I attempted to make it when we got home but didn't realize quite how many eggs were required, so it ended up being less omelettey then it should have been.  You can eat it warm, or at room temperature.  We tried it when it was freshly warm and then at room temperature with some cantaloupe for breakfast the next morning - it was great both times.

My partner really wanted meat in his, so before flipping I sprinkled half of it with chopped ham.  You can add loads of different things to the mix such as mushrooms, chorizo or peppers.  I added garlic which I don't think is traditional, but we love it.

Spanish Omelette
serves 6 as a starter 

1 1/2 pounds potatoes - diced (about 4 medium potatoes)
oil - enough to shallow fry (about a cup)
1 medium onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - finely minced
10 eggs
salt & pepper

In a large skillet on a low heat, gently fry the potatoes in a single layer until they are cooked through but not browned.  This takes a while (about 20 minutes) and depending on the size of your pan may need to be done in two batches.  Remove the potatoes and drain on kitchen paper, then fry the onion gently until softened, adding in the minced garlic in the last minute to lightly cook.  Crack the eggs in a large bowl and whisk lightly.  Mix in the potatoes and onions - season with salt & pepper.  Tip the mixture back into the skillet and gently cook until the bottom is browned to your liking (about 5 minutes).  Place a plate on the top of the omelette, flip the whole thing over, then slide the omelette back into the pan and cook that side.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Spaghetti with rocket, asparagus & lemon

I haven't been doing much cooking this past week - we've eaten out, ordered in and bbq'd, so there hasn't been much to share recipe wise. But here's one of the meals I make regularly at home.  I cook enough spaghetti for two, and make either spaghetti bolognese or carbonara for my partner.

This meal is one of my favorites.  It's packed full of strong flavors - peppery rocket, salty parmesan and zesty lemon (which really livens it up).   I actually found the recipe for this in a book I bought years ago - and slightly adapted it by adding grilled asparagus.  Oftentimes I'll add a large handful of baby spinach in with the rocket to amp up my iron & vitamin intake.

Spaghetti with lemon, rocket and asparagus
serves 1 generously

150 g spaghetti*
1-2 cloves garlic - finely chopped or grated
2-3 thin chillies - finely chopped (depending how spicy you like it)
1 small lemon - zest and juice
175 g asparagus - grilled**
60 g rocket/arugula - very coursely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese - finely grated
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cook spaghetti accordingly.  Whilst the spaghetti's cooking, chop the garlic and chillies and put in a pile.  Grill the asparagus until fork tender, then slice into bite sized pieces (about an inch).  Grate parmesan, zest lemon, and coursely chop through the rocket leaves a couple of times.

Once the spaghetti is cooked, reserve some of the cooking water then drain.  Put the pot you cooked the spaghetti in over a medium heat - heat a tablespoon of olive oil, then fry garlic and chili for about a minute.  Add in the rocket, spaghetti, parmesan, lemon zest and asparagus and mix - add in another tablespoon of olive oil and a splash of the cooking water and mix until you get a somewhat creamy coating.  Squeeze in  lemon juice to taste (usually about half a lemon) then season.

*I use wholewheat spaghetti
**This is the weight of the asparagus before snapping off the woody ends - the actual weight was probably around 125 g.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

I love fries.  I think people in general think that vegetarians eat lots of vegetables, salads, and nuts.  I do eat a lot of vegetables, but I don't eat many salads or nuts. I still love deep fried and starchy filling foods.  I have made sweet potato wedges many times, but I came across this recipe for healthy sweet potato fries that looked too irresistable to not be tried.

They had the typical sweetness that you'd expect and overall were a nice alternative to normal potato fries, but not quite as crispy as I'd have liked.

Sweet Potato Fries
serves 2
1 large sweet potato
2 egg whites
3 tbsps flour
1 tbsp spices (I used chili powder and cayenne powder)

Preheat oven to 205 C/ 400 F.  Cut the sweet potato into thin sticks and soak them in cold water for about 15 minutes, then put on kitchen towel to dry. Lightly whisk the egg whites until light and foamy.  Coat the sweet potato sticks in the egg whites and spices, then add the flour in a tablespoon at a time until they are covered in a thick coating.  Lay the coated sticks on a rack in a single layer so none of them touch*.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until browned and crispy.

*I ran out of room on my rack so had to put the rest on a baking tray.  I actually found that the fries on the baking tray ended up crispier than the ones on the rack - but the coating made a bit of a mess on the tray.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Red Onion New Potato Salad

I know to most people it's not barbeque season quite yet, but living in a country where the sun is rare, it's hard to resist the urge to bbq whenever it does make an appearance.  So while this recipe may be a bit early, please understand that opportunities must be taken when they can!

A friend made this simple potato salad for her house warming party a couple years ago and it was a huge hit.   I much prefer it to the typical potato salads with loads of mayo and/or egg that leave you feeling very heavy.  I made it for a bbq picnic with my partner's family - I was concerned that the raw red onions may be too strong for them, but they loved it and made it themselves when they got home.

This is great for picnics because it can be easily put together at the last minute, so the mayonnaise doesn't spoil.  The potatoes can be cooked days in advance, cooled then kept in the fridge until you need them.  When I made it for the picnic, I boiled the potatoes the night before and let them cool overnight.  Then in the morning I sliced the onions and added them to the potatoes with some pepper.  I packed a small jar of mayonnaise in the cooler bag and stirred it all up right before serving.

Red Onion New Potato Salad
serves 4

1 kg / 2 lbs new potatoes*
1 medium red onion - halved and thinly sliced
1-2 tbsps mayonnaise**
salt & pepper to taste

Boil the new potatoes until tender, drain and let cool.  Mix in sliced red onion and  mayonnaise.  Season to taste. (It's that simple!)

*Or charlotte, or any other small potato.
**A little mayo goes a long way, so add it in bit by bit so it's not too thick.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wild Rice Stuffed Pepper

In general, I'm not a huge fan of stuffed vegetables - but I find this combination surprisingly satisfying.  The nutty bite of the wild rice grains work well with the sweet pepper and salty halloumi.  Even my meat-loving partner enjoys it (albeit as a side dish to his meat).   It is very easy to prepare and full of flavor.

Wild Rice Stuffed Pepper

1 large pepper (any color)
60g wild rice, long grain rice mix*
1/2 vegetable stock cube made up**
2 slices halloumi cheese
salt & pepper

In a small sauce pan cook wild rice mix with vegetable stock (about 25 mins).  Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F.  Meanwhile, lightly grill halloumi cheese slices, then chop finely.  Cut top off the pepper, remove white pithy ribs and seeds from inside.  Line a baking dish with foil then pour about 1/4 '' of boiling water in the foil in the dish.  Mix chopped halloumi with rice, season.  Fill pepper with the mixture.  Put pepper top on, then bake for 30 mins, or until the pepper is tender. 

*The rice I use is an 88% easy cook long grain/12% wild grain rice mix.
**A whole cube I used makes about 500 mL of stock, which is too much for one portion of rice, but this varies by brand.  I generally add a little less liquid than I think will cook the rice, because you can always add more.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Lettuce Wraps

It's been at least six years since I had 'Chang's Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps' at P.F. Changs and yet I still remember how delicious the savory filling wrapped in crisp fresh lettuce cups was - so I thought, I have to try this at home.

Since it has been so long I cannot truly say whether or not this came out exactly the same or not, but the idea was definitely similar.  I like that you can choose how much or little filling and dipping sauce to put on your lettuce wrap.  I also made this easily meat friendly by separately frying a chicken breast fillet, food processing it, then blending it with half the vegetarian mixture.

P.F. Chang's Style Lettuce Wraps
serves 2 as a starter

1 cup water chestnuts
2/3 cup mushrooms
1 small onion - chopped
2 garlic cloves - chopped

2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps brown sugar
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

'special sauce'
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsps light soy sauce
2 tbsps rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp lemon juice
few drops sesame oil
thin sliced chili (optional)
garlic puree (optional)
hot mustard (optional)

1 tbsp oil 

lettuce leaves - washed and separated (I used baby gem but you could use iceberg or any crispy lettuce)

Mix together all ingredients for 'special sauce', refrigerate til ready to eat - you can add chili slices, garlic puree, or hot mustard to amp up the flavor if you like before serving.  Put all vegetable filling ingredients in food processor and pulse until everything is the same size (finely minced).  Mix together filling sauce (soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar).  Heat 1 tbsp oil in frying pan, add vegetable mix and filling sauce and fry together for a few minutes until some moisture has evaporated and it has warmed through.  Put about a tablespoon of mixture into each leaf and dip into sauce as desired.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Vegetarian Scotch Eggs

I've never actually had a Scotch Egg, so when tasting this vegetarian version there wasn't anything to compare it to.  That being said, I can imagine what a hard boiled egg coated in sausage meat then fried tastes like. Visually, this vegetarian version looks virtually the same as a traditional sausage scotch egg (even my partner agrees).  Since it's made with a mix of beans instead of sausage meat it needs to be seasoned/spiced well or it will be really bland.  The construction and cooking are the same though.  In fact, I made three veggie, and one sausage meat version for my partner (which he loved).

Vegetarian Scotch Eggs
makes 4

4 large eggs
1/2 tin chickpeas/garbanzo beans* - drained and rinsed
1/2 tin kidney beans* - drained and rinsed
1/2 tin cannellini beans* - drained and rinsed
1 tbsp coriander/cilantro - coursely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1 egg - whisked
1 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup flour

neutral oil for frying

Hardboil eggs to your liking** (I actually boiled mine the day before making these - before I realized I didn't have any kidney beans, but hardboiled eggs will keep in the fridge for a few days, so it's also a great way to use up leftover Easter eggs!). When the eggs are cool - peel (the warmer they are, the harder it will be to peel them).  

In a food processor (or with a hand blender) pulse the beans and coriander together until nearly smooth.  At this point you may need to add some olive oil to make it smoother, but the mixture should be malleable.  Once blended, season to taste (this is important since normally sausage meat is very seasoned, so to match the flavor you may want to add different spices, but definitely salt & pepper!) 

Lay out about a 9 inch square piece of cling film (saran wrap) and flatten 2 tbsp of the bean mixture on it.  In the center of the mixture put the egg, then bring up the sides of the cling film around the egg.  Remove the cling film, then shape the bean mixture around the egg.  Depending on the size of your egg you may need more or less bean mixture to coat it.  You want about 1/4'' to 1/2'' of thickness around the egg.   

Dip the bean coated egg into the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.  Heat about 2 inches of neutral oil over a medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Because you don't have to cook any sausage meat, it is not as essential that you get the correct heat of the oil, as this stage will mainly be about browning the scotch egg - however, saying that, a lower heat will allow the bean and egg to warm through, making a more pleasant eating experience.  You could also deep fry it, but since I don't like to use lots of oil (and don't have a deep-fryer) I'm not sure what temperature this would be at.  Brown on all sides then put on paper towels to drain.

*Why not use the leftover beans in a chili, soup, stew etc.
**I put my eggs in a sauce pan with enough tepid water to cover.  Bring to simmer, then turn heat off and put lid on - let stand 7 minutes.  Then drain hot water and fill pot with cold water to cool eggs.