A good soup ruined

….by the evil coriander, and at some stage I will have to dedicate a blog post to the evilness of coriander. But for now let me briefly revisit previous cooking dilemma. In aforementioned edition of Good Food I found a recipe for red lentil and chickpea soup. Considering the fact that it continues to be one of the coldest winters I have experienced in this lovely country (13years, I’ve been here.. and counting) I felt the need for warming comfort food and thought I should give it a go.

Great soup, destroyed by coriander

Like the good German that I am I went off and got all the ingredients: red lentils (140g), 1 red onion, can of chopped tomatoes, some cumin (and chili flakes if you’re so inclined), half a tin of chickpeas and , hey, what a surprise, stupid coriander. I really should have known better but there was a comment by someone who said how much the coriander helped the taste blabla. Now see, if you can’t cook and lack confidence in combining things, never mind herbs and tastes, you simply stick to the recipes, dumb I know, but you can take the girl out of Germany, but not Germany …you get the gist.

So, you dry-fry chili with cumin, then add oil, chopped onion and cook for 5min. Stir in lentils, 850ml of vegetable stock and tomatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15min and get out your stick blender in the mean time.  Once lentils etc are soft, blend into a rough puree and lastly add chickpeas. Stir in chopped coriander.

All filled with glee at my first grown up soup and the first vegetarian dish without aubergine in about a week or two, I was all chuffed. Until I had my first spoon of really yummy, warming and filing soup- RUINED by the coriander. Imagine eating something nice, flavoursome chickpea-lentil thing and suddenly you have a bar of soup on your spoon, that’s pretty much how it felt. So I took a fork and fished out the chopped coriander again. A fun way to spend half an hour, no doubt, but lesson has been learned, coriander needs to be avoided under all circumstances (soup really was good though!)

– Stef

YUM!

From flickr user longhorndave under Creative Commons licence

I feel slightly bad posting about these because I’m not sure you can get them in London.  But if you find yourself in Argentina, keep an eye out for Havanna Alfajores – they’re a thick layer of dulce de leche sandwiched between two very fluffy, cake-like cookies, covered in dark chocolate.  Seriously good.  I suspect the rest of the ones I was given are not long for this world.

– Anna

Purple and Round

And what else would I be talking about than my continued favourite veg – the aubergine! I still had one left and it cried out for its favourite friend, round and red in this case, the much-beloved (unless you’re Eve) tomato. So thanks to the a very useful edition of Good Food magazine, that had loads of good recipes in it (Mar 2010 edition) I tried out Melanzane alla parmigiana aka aubergine roasted with tomatoes and other stuff from a book called “Market Kitchen Cookbook“.

So, you need an aubergine cut in thick slices, 1 garlic close, 500g tomato passata, some basil and 100g grated Parmesan (I used less and it was still fine). Easy enough, I like recipes with a short list of ingredients.

You’re supposed to press your aubergine slices for up to 2hr, needless to say I didn’t – I mean who has the time? I pressed them for about 30min in the end. But if you feel the need, salt each aubergine slice and put them between chopping board weighed down with something heavy. Meanwhile get your tomato sauce going. Fry some garlic and add the passata, let that simmer down for up to 45min with a bit of salt and pepper.

Rinse your aubergine slices and dry them off, then briefly fry them on each side in some olive oil, just so they are nicely browned. Then assemble into ovenproof dish (and heat oven at about 200C), aubergine slices first, then pour over reduced tomato sauce. Chuck the basil on top and lastly scatter over the parmesan on top. Into oven for about 20min. Really really really liked it and made a nice vegetarian main.

So that’s my second post involving aubergine, tomato and cheese- two is not enough, I will strive to find more varieties…aubergine…aubergine (singing this to the tune of Edelweiss, totally works)

– Stef

Inspired by Eve’s twits

Specifically, the one about coffee and cilantro.  It reminded me of a blog I saw the other day called Putting Weird Things in Coffee, which does exactly what it says on the tin.  I’m not sure that cilantro is one of those weird things, but if you’re curious you can check it out here.

– Anna

Nuts nuts nuts

I appreciate it’s not very original to be going on about this, but the fact that the hazelnut seems to be less respected around here does bother me tono end. The almond gets all the glory, and you can actually get it ready ground – hazelnut no such luck. Because toasting and then grinding it is simply too much hassle (I am very lazy) I now import ground hazelnuts from Germany. And why go through the bother?

So I can make yummy cakes with it. My chocolate hazelnut recipe from my greataunt Hedy I have already sung the praises of extensively so it was time to try out something else. Hazelnut torte!

Is it me or did I take an unsharp picture??

This goes really well coffee, I have to say. What you need is:

100g melted butter, 140g chopped/ground hazelnuts (you want them not too smooth so you have some texture), 140g plain flour, 140g caster sugar

1 tsp of baking powder, 2 medium eggs, 100ml cream and some icing sugar for dusting.

Preheat oven (which is such a stupid word, the brilliant George Carlin enlightened me as to how unnecessary that word is. As he said ” there is only two states you oven can be in, heated or unheated. You can’t heat it before you heat it” same as “pre-boarding”…anyways, I’m going off subject but he really was genius) . Sieve flour, 1 tsp of baking powder onto the chopped hazelnuts and stir in the caster sugar. Add the eggs, cream and melted butter, beat with a wood spoon until creamy. Pour mixture into cake tin (20 or 23cm) and bake at 180C for 35-40minutes or until it’s firm to the touch and brown-golden colour. Dust with some icing sugar once it’s cooled and enjoy with a nice cup of coffee.

And another proof that the hazelnut should get more respect, because with almonds this cake just wouldn’t work so well (too sweet and boring)

– Stef

Rocket pesto

Conchiglie with mushrooms and rocket pesto

I had some rocket that was on the verge of going off, and didn’t fancy salad (it’s freezing again), so decided to attempt a rocket pesto.  I’ve made regular basil pesto before, but never this variation.  The interwebs yielded this recipe, which I used as a rough guide as I was feeling far too lazy to measure anything.  It worked fairly well, and I suspect would have benefitted from the lemon zest instead of the bottled lemon juice I had to use as a substitute.

I served it over conchiglie and sauteed mushrooms, and it was pretty successful.  But even improved with lemon zest, it’ll never trump my love of basil pesto.  And one word of warning – it’s very prone to getting stuck in your teeth.

Rocket pesto (from Taste Italia):

3 tbsp pine kernels, toasted
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large bunch of rocket (about 100g in weight)
100ml olive oil
sea salt
55g Parmesan, finely grated

Process the pine kernels and garlic until finely chopped. Add the lemon zest, rocket and a third of the olive oil, and process until the required texture is achieved, gradually adding more oil. Stir in the Parmesan by hand and season with salt. Adjust the olive-oil content to reach the desired consistency – this pesto needs to be quite thick.

– Anna

Turning east for inspiration

So after my failed vegetarian attempt, I now strive to be more varied in my cooking endeavours. It is the least I can do after my pathetic attempt at living without meat. I was mighty proud of my first, own attempt at rogan josh (though I cheated with rice and naan, both ready made). Not being able to eat anything spicy, rogan josh is the only other curry I can eat (korma being the other one) . But ever since someone told me of the calorie count of a korma (d’uh, I know) my korma love affair is over for good. Rogan josh my new way forward.

I started off by boiling bite-sized pieces of sweet potato for 5min. Then I fried one red onion cut into wedges with pieces of chicken until golden. After that I added two tomatoes cut into pieces. That was followed by Rogan josh paste (very little in my case, baby steps and all that…), bit of boiling water and then I let it simmer away. After 5-10min I added a bag of spinach, once that was wilted simply added the sweet potato. Et voila, my first rogan josh curry, fine, not at all authentic I am sure, but at least my first curry attempt that turned out rather good!

– Stef