Thursday, January 24, 2008

Steak for vegetarians

The photo yet again doesn't do this dish justice, so ignore that slightly messy looking plateful for a minute and just let me tell you about it.

There's three components - a cauliflower 'steak' - browned outside and soft inside; a strangly almondy cauliflower puree; and a rich tomato and caper sauce. The steak and puree bit I borrowed from Bon Appetit magazine, slightly adapted, and the sauce and pine nuts I added.

The other day I tried a recipe for a chickpea and celeriac salad I had had bookmarked in Australian Gourmet for ages. It involved a lot of different ingredients, making your own houmous, and roasting celeriac in about an inch of liquid that needed to be sporadically topped up. Complicated stuff, but I thought it would be worth the effort because it looked like a beautiful dish that would be bursting with flavour and something very special from two humble main ingredients.

I learnt a valuable lesson trying this out. Namely, that complicated recipes are just not my thing. I cut corners and I substitute ingredients, and I expect too much from something which takes all of my evening to prepare. It was a bit of a mess, and the kitchen was so messy by the time I had finished, and I so tired, that I barely noticed eating it in between all the prep and the tidy up.

Hang all that. I am much happier with recipes with a little give and take. That concentrate on one or two ingredients, that don't require the finely tuned balance of 17 different spices, that can be thrown together in an hour and then enjoyed at leisure.

I saw this cauli recipe and it seemed much more the kind of thing. I thought there was something very dignified and beautiful about presenting this vegetable in both a luxurious processed form and in a proud, unadulterated chunk. It required few ingredients and only three pans. It looked promising.

And it delivered. The 'steak' is good and caramelised and tasty. The puree is light and slightly sweet and rich. The sauce is rich and sharp and a good complement to both. It's a good dinner dish. Something a bit different and fully satisfying. And not too complicated!

Cauliflower steak with cauliflower puree and tomato sauce
(Serves 2)
  • First, chop half an onion, a clove of garlic and several handfuls of cherry tomatoes (sorry - I forgot to weigh them so no more accurate weight, but you can work out how many you need I'm sure!) or just use a tin or two of tinned tomatoes.
  • Heat some olive oil gently, add the onion, garlic and tomatoes, a good slug of red wine, salt and pepper and a few branches of rosemary. Let simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until rich and thick.
  • Near the end, add a handful of capers and pick out the sticky bits of rosemary.
  • Meanwhile, cut two 1 inch slices from the middle of a medium-sized cauliflower and break the rest into florets.
  • Heat some olice oil in a frying pan, and cook the 'steaks' on both sides for about 5-10 minutes until browned, at which point transfer to an oven tray and bake at about 180C for another 20 minutes to soften the inside
  • While the steaks are cooking, put the florets in a saucepan with a cup of milk, a cup of water and a couple of pieces of cinnamon bark. When soft (about 10 minutes), drain, reserving the liquid, spread out on an oven tray and put in the oven until they've crisped up a little (5-10 minutes)
  • Process the florets with a cup of the reserved liquid and a little grated parmesan, until nice and smooth.
  • Toast some pinenuts in a frying pan until lightly browned.
  • Put a blob of puree on each plate, top with a steak, and scatter with pinenuts. Sauce on the side.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Fabulous Crunchy Salad

I made the fabulous crunchy salad on a Thursday night. Its composition had been settling in my thoughts for a few days and I finally had some time to boil bulghur and to pull apart a pomegranate and bring my ideas into reality.

And boy was I glad that I did. I know it sounds humble, and it's, if not super easy, then just one smidge below that, but it is utterly utterly fabulous. Hand on heart I can say this is the best thing I have eaten in months. I kept closing my eyes as I ate it, the better to taste all its constituents and savour their happy amalgamation.

It was so good I'm almost scared to make it again, in case my expectations are too high and will be cruelly dashed.

But you should make it. Even if you think you don't like bulghur wheat or red cabbage or celery. In fact, especially if you don't like bulghur wheat or red cabbage or celery. Retain your gastronomical scepticism, and, I hope, you will have your preconceptions pleasantly re-buffed. Fabulous Crunchy Salad

Serves c.4 people - nb measurements are approximate; adjust as you see fit

Bring to the boil and simmer 1 cup bulghur wheat (the coarse type) in 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes until soft and fluffy (or follow instructions on the packet) and set aside to cool.

Roughly chop a couple of sticks of celery and thinly slice half a red cabbage.

Dice a ripe avocado.

Prise open a pomegranate and pick out all those jewel-like seeds (this will make a mess!).

Mix the cooled bulghur, cabbage, celery and a handful of chopped fresh parsley with a good slug of olive oil, the juice of a lime, salt and pepper.

Set on plates, top with the avo and pomegranate, and some more parsley if you like.

Squeeze over a little more lime and drizzle over a dribble of pomegranate molasses.

Serve and enjoy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Great minds think alike

I was idly perusing the wares of Liberty a couple of days ago. I'd gone in to get myself a Moleskine diary - an object which I had coveted for many weeks, and which, now it is in my possession, I love more even than I imagined I would. It's the perfect diary! I keep getting it out to show various friends and aquaintances who don't seem quite so enthralled at the smooth leather cover, and the neat elastic to keep it closed, the page for notes next to a week-to-view page (who doesn't like a good page for notes?), the maps, the pocket for keepsakes and cards...

Anyway, I had the diary in my hand, but when in a store as full of pretty things as Liberty, it's a shame not to slow a little and just to look at them all and maybe pick up one or two or tilt your head appraisingly before this and that. Which was how I came to be in the chocolate room and how I came to notice a brand of chocolate hitherto unknown to me, and how I came to pick up this delightful looking and intriguing sounding confection and take it to the cashdesk with the aforementioned Moleskine.

I love pink peppercorns. Quite simply, they are pink and peppery, and they taste like you might imagine a black peppercorn would if it were a little more pink. Quite joyous and zingy.

I am also not unfond of dark chocolate.

The two together though, I was not sure of. I had tried and been disappointed by chilli chocolate, and you know how often you love two friends separately but together they just don't bond, are not well suited.

Was it to be thus with chocolate and pink peppercorn? It was not! I was delighted.

And the title of this post? Well, just hours after I'd made this happy chocolatary discovery, I was reading Claudia's lovely blog, and found more pink peppercorns cosying up to some chocolate. (Except in a much more beautiful and better researched fashion than mine!) Read this post to see what I mean. I am definitely going to try her pretty diy version next time I fancy this sweetspicy treat. Superb!
(and he likes it too!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Guest Slot #3 - Gluten-free cookies

This time it's Big Sister Saucepan who's augmenting the saucepan repertoire with a culinary contribution from the other side of the world. The first specialist gluten-free recipe on the blog as well! Which reminds me, Shauna's book is out in the UK now so I must go and look that up sometime soon...

Anyway, back to the biscuits. Apparently these are so good they have to be strictly rationed in the BSS household. Sounds good to me...

Gluten Free Orange Dark Choc Chip Cookies (alternative Lemon & White Choc)

125g unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
The rind of an orange, finely grated
1 cup baby rice cereal (or cornflour)
1 cup plain gluten free flour
2/3 teaspoon bicarb soda
200g choc chips

Preheat over to 170degrees. Line tray with baking paper
Cream butter and sugar until creamy
Add the egg and orange rind until all combined
Separately, mix the flours and the bi carb
Fold this into the egg mixture along with the choc chips
Once all is mixed together well roll into small balls and flatten slightly. They flatten during cooking.
Cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Jerusalem 'Chokes with Celery Leaves

A little while ago I was happily reminded of how sublime these knobbly little fellows can be. I met them again as one un-assuming little dish in an array of mezze, seeminly boiled or baked in a lemony-oily sauce. They were silken and tangy and slightly nutty.

I'm fond of jerusalem artichokes. Maybe partly because I have a fondness in general for 'ugly' vegetables, and probably a lot because I remember digging up artichokes in my parent's garden one winter, and I remember the sheer joy that came from plunging fingers into soft soil and unearthing first one silvery nugget, then two, then four, then a whole heaving bunch of them. Something so lovely about this bounteousness emerging from a barren earth.

And because they taste good. I know some find them bland and un-arresting. But they have to me a flavour quite velvety and delicate and delicious.

Good in soups, with lots of thyme and creme fraiche. Also good in this kind of warm salad/mezze dish, which I created based on the memory of the little 'chokes I had in Turkey the other week, and with the leaves of a magnificent bunch of celery which the little shop sells. They have a lovely soft celery flavour to them.

Jerusalem Artichokes with Celery Leaves and Yoghurt

1. Peel your jerusalem artichokes (3-4 for each portion), and cut into c.10mm slices. Place in a small saucepan with a generous splash of olive oil, the juice of a lemon (for two portions, more for more), a clove of garlic - minced fine, salt and pepper.

2. Cook over a low heat for 30-40 minutes, shaking every now and then to make sure it doesn't stick, until the chokes are soft to a knife.

3. Add a couple of handfuls of celery leaves, replace the lid and return to the heat so they can steam for a further 5-10 minutes.

4. Turn out on to a plate and garnish with fresh plain yoghurt, chopped parsley, more lemon juice and pepper.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy New Year!

Oh jeez, over a month since I last wrote. I meant to remind you of menu for hope, which I somehow sadly managed to miss this year (will make up next year!), I meant to post at least a Christmas message, if not a recipe, something, anything...

Ah well, sometimes things slide. And now a super fresh new year lies tantalisingly before me (I still fall every January for the promise of the new and improved). I won't repeat last year's attempt to keep myself disciplined and hemmed into my self-promises though. This year, things will just go as they go I think. Though this humble little site hasn't quite lived up to my dreams of it in terms of content, it has been much more rewarding and challenging and fun than I imagined, and I feel now I know better where I want to go with it and what I want to do and say.

I have been enormously cheered by those of you who have visited and commented this year. It makes it all so much more enjoyable. I really truly appreciate each kind word left and feel uplifted by each visit on the counter. And I have been hugely inspired by all those others out there in food blog world producing such treats for eyes and brain at a rate much faster than I can digest it all. May it all continue and grow.

And the very very best wishes to you and yours for 2008. Happy New Year!