Saturday, October 31, 2015

Vegetarian Pumpkin Lasagna

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

A great one for Halloween pumpkin flesh, but butternut squash is good as well.
Bursting with autumn flavour and colour. Based on a recipe from the Evening Echo, but from scratch.

I made this totally from scratch - but you can always buy the lasagna leafs and passata.

Pasta, and particular lasagna is very easy, without machines etc.
I made it before, just click on this text for the link.

This is a very simple meal to make. Very straight forward, without the white sauce.
Passata is easy to store if you want to make a batch, just can or jar it as you would jam so lets kick off with that.

You will need a blender, even a simple hand blender will do.
Then, in terms of ingredients (this is for about half a litre BTW)
About 7 Fully ripened medium to large tomatoes, halved. 
1 Large, finely chopped red onion, white is fine, but add extra puree. 
Olive oil to fry.
3 or 4 Peeled and chopped cloves of garlic. 
1 tbls Finely chopped basil, or basil pesto is really good. 
3 or 4 Sundried tomatos. 
1 good Desert sp Tomato puree. 
1 tsp Course ground black pepper. 
Salt to taste.

Place the tomatoes, garlic, basil and black pepper into a blender and liquidize.

Fry the onion until soft.

Pour the blender contents into your large pan and bring to the boil.

Blitz the tomato puree and sundried tomatos into a paste, mix through and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Now the lasagna. 
You will need:
Pumpkin flesh, about a cereal bowls worth, skinned, seeded and cut into about 1"/2.5cm cubes.
Olive oil
1 big onion, chopped.
2 crushed garlic
About 150 -200 grms spinach, frozen or fresh.
about 250 grms cream cheese, any type will do but a herby type is really nice,
Alternatively Cno Ban from On the Pigs back in the English Market in Cork.
Lasagna sheets, 2 or 3 big ones if home made.
The pasatta.
Some cheese, cheddar is fine, to top off.

Pine nuts are a nice addition with the pumpkin mix as an option.

Pre-heat the oven to 190 C, throw the pumpkin pieces in with the olive oil and toss, season.
Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until soft but not mushy.
Ideally you can do this while the pasatta is simmering away.

Meantime, sautee the onions and garlic 'till they are soft.
Throw in the spinich in the last 5 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin pieces from the oven and add in with the onion and spinach and take off the heat. 

Leave the oven ticking over.

Mix them up - try not to break the pumpkin bits.

Pasatta should be ready by now.

Pour in a base layer of pasatta to your lasagna dish - I just used a non-stick loaf tin.

Top that off with some of the pumpkin bits and then dot with the soft cheese.
Throw on your lasagna sheets, then repeat the process.
After two layers, I cap it out, then sprinkle the cheddar on top and bake for another 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbling.

Sorry about the photography, but it really is a warming winter winner.

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Simons Spiced Tea Cake - A twist on Halloween Irish Barm Brack

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

Halloween, All Souls night is a very Irish tradition. Barmbrack is a tea flavored cake with dried fruits that is seasonal this time of year.

The word Barmbrack probably comes from bairĂ­n breac - speckled loaf - the same etymology as Welsh bara brith.

In Connemara it is quite usual to see dried fruit and treacle added to soda bread to give sweetness and flavour.

This is a more east of Ireland version, but with gusto and without yeast which some recipes have, this is far simpler, and great for kids as the recipe gives easy results.

Traditionally simple black Irish tea (which is mostly Ceylonese) is used, I use Lapsang Souchong to give a deep smokey flavour and fantastic aroma.
If Whiskey is used, then the smokeyness really adds to it.

Its very simple.
You will need -
300ml / 1/2 pint lukewarm tea - I highly recommend Lapsang Souchong, but you can use plain black tea. Just make sure its STRONG-Stewed and black.
225g / 8oz Flour
2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
375g packet of Fruit Mix (or make your own, currants, sultanas, candied peel)
80g Sugar - I use dark brown Muscovado, but any will do.
125g / 4oz Caster Sugar
1 Egg (beaten)
1 teaspoon Mixed Spice* - I use my own blend that is given below
Pinch smoked paprika if you have it (optional)
50ml - good dash of Whiskey (optional, but a good addition)

You can add some chopped nuts if you like (walnuts and/or hazelnuts are seasonal and good)
Even a good sprinkle of rolled oats gives nice texture and flavour - it really is a catch all.a
A lot of people add glazed cherries, but I don't really like them or feel that they are traditional, these cakes were made by working class small farmers after all. Flour, egg, sugar, tea and a drop of whiskey would have been staples, with the dried fruit and mixed spice to give seasonal variation.
 Soak the fruit, nuts, rolled oats and sugar with the mixed spice and smoked paprika for at least an hour - overnight is best.

Now blend the flour and baking powder.
Make a well and break in the egg and mix
Mix in the tea soaked ingredients.
Add a good bit of the liquid from the soaked ingredients and mix it through.
You may not need all the liquid, though you are looking for a wet dough.

Pour the mixture into a buttered or non-stick loaf tin, 1.5 or 2L capacity is about right.

Bake in a preheated oven 170°C/325°F/Gas 3 for approx. one hour or until risen and firm to the touch.
Its actually better if its left for two days wrapped in baking paper

Fantastic smeared in butter, and a nice cup of tea


*Simons Mixed Spice
This is my own blend. Its a bit more fragrant than commercial types,
the cardamom takes an edge off the very sweet taste, makes it more savoury.
But you can adjust it as you wish, and commercial types are perfectly OK for this, but I would recommend the cardamom as an addition.

1 tsp ground mace.
1 tsp ground allspice or pimento corns.
1 tsp ground cinnamon.
1 tsp ground nutmeg.
1 tsp cloves (or ground)
1 tsp ground coriander or 1.5 coriander seed.
1 tsp ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Paprika
8 Green cardamon pods

Grind down and mix in a coffee grinder, put in airtight jar - label, store.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Curried Watermelon

This is an easy to do and complex in flavour watermelon curry from Rajasthan.
The flavour is earthy due to the cumin and coriander, with a hint of heat from the chilli - but once you bite into the melon chunks there is this great burst of sweetness and juiciness - a great combo and a real surprise.

The colour is spectacular, I wish the photos reflected it.

Above, served with a Goan Pork curry with a simple lentil dahl.

This is a great dish, in particular a great, unusual and interesting side for big BBQ's.
It only takes about 20 minutes to do.

Inspired again by the great Camellia Panjabi whose inspiring and definitive  book  '50 great curries of India' introduces accessible Indian food in all its glorious regional variety. 

What also surprised me was how easy it is to reheat - and if done gently the watermelon will retain its bite and form without turning into mush. Harder than you think!

Pretty straight forward - this will easily yield 8 large portions
You will need
1/4 of a water melon
1&1/2 teaspoons of chilli powder
Pinch Turmeric powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Coriander powder
Crushed and pureed Garlic - good Teaspoon.

Teaspoon of Cumin seeds
Ghee, Coconut oil or oil (I used coconut for this - made it vegan)
2 - 3 teaspoons lime juice

De-seed the melon as best as you can
Chop up the flesh of the watermelon into good sized chunks - about 4cm/1.5 inch chunks.

Take about a cup of the chunks and blend them  to a liquid with the chilli, turmeric, garlic and salt to taste.

Now heat the oil in a wok or pan, when its hot chuck in the cumin seeds and sizzle them for about 20 seconds. It gives the oil the earthy flavour.
Add the blended watermelon and spice mix - bring to a simmer and leave sit for about 5 minutes.
Then reduce heat, add the watermelon chunks, spooning over or tossing the chunks gently in the juice.

Add the lime juice about 2 minutes from the end.

Serve and enjoy.

Please feel free to comment or leave feedback - I really appreciate the effort.

Just for fun - how to open a coconut, first take (more about that later)
Thanks to Brian for the camera work

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

John Dory with Lime and Ginger sauce.

John Dory is a sustainable fish, generally a bycatch in the fishing industry.
It is in demand, a really nice meaty fish, so a bit on the expensive side, but sooo worth it.

Apart from John Dory, other good fish are pollock, hake, bream - any meaty white fish.
Also Sea Bass, Bream and Dover Sole are really good alternatives. 

This takes about 20 - 30 minutes for a really lovely late summer light dinner.

Please feel free to comment - I really appreciate the time and effort when people do.

This recipe is really influenced by Tony Singh - born and raised in Leith (with as strong a Leith accent as I've ever heard on TV)  You may have seen him, as I did.

He is among Scotland's leading contemporary chiefs, and coming from Leith really knows fish.
Having watched him on TV, he did make me think, he is quite inspiring - as a chef he takes traditional Scottish food, and re-invents it. 
In a way, this is a meal that is a tribute to his energy and ideas.

I love his demeanor and the way he approaches food. His original version uses Dover Sole. It seems to me to be a sort of Parsee style Buerre Noissette, mine is more like an Indian Hollandaise - if anything, more Indian than the original.

I served this dish with new potatoes and asparagus.

Again, fish sourced from Ballycotton Seafoods in the English Market, Cork. 
So, John Dory - best have it filleted at the fish shop if not given to or caught by you.
Keep the head and bones for great fish stock.
Sustainable Irish Fish - John Dory
John Dory Fillets
4 tbsp Gram flour (you can use plain flour)
½-1 tsp Chili powder  
½ tsp Ground green cardamom pods
Salt and Pepper
1 John Dory, made into two fillets
Donegal rapeseed oil to fry

Parsley to garnish 
140g/5oz unsalted butter
50g/2oz chopped fresh root ginger
4 tbsp Lime Juice
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
Pinch Corriander
(Optional) 1 Egg yolk

Serve with:
New potatoes
Asparagus (or spinach, broccoli - your favorite green veg)

Take enough new potatoes for two (or more) people, I picked small waxy baby spuds.
These take about 20 minutes.

Now, mix the flour, chili powder, cardamom and salt and pepper, dust the fish in it.

Start to make the sauce.
Melt the butter over a medium heat, let it bubble until it turns nut brown in colour.
Reduce the heat to low and ass ginger, coriander and warm through - but don't overheat to avoid the butter separating.

Remove from heat.

Add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
As an option whisk in the egg yolk to give a richer, creamier sauce. 
Leave aside.

With about 10 minutes to go, throw the asparagus spears into the boiling potatos, use a basket if you have one.

Get a pan with the oil good and hot.
Put the dusted fish fillets skin side down into the pan, fry for 5 minutes either side - a really nice crisp crust develops.

Plate up fish, potatoes and asparagus - pour over sauce - serve, lap up the praise.
Really quick, really nice

Please feel free to comment - I really appreciate the time and effort when people do.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Turkish style Red Gurnard in a creamy lemon and mushroom sauce

Red Gurnard - a meaty, economic, tasty and sustainable fish, Scale 3 on the Marine Conservation Societies (MCS) list (*See note at end of article)

This type of fish, bony, bottom dwelling, is not usual on the menu - but they are great.
Very common in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, this recipe is inspired by Turkish and Lebanese food. Good recipe for the more expensive red snapper as well.

I like my fish on the bone - but you can use fillets if you prefer.

The fish is not in great demand in Ireland, I picked these beauties up from Cork cities English Market - Ballycotton seafoods - along with the samphire, for €3.50, with rice can easily feed 4 or a greedy dinner for two.

This meal itself is great with rice, giving it almost a risotto effect.
The rice will cook in about the same time as it takes to cook the fish and veg.

The sauce, with egg, lemon and cream is kind of a Mediterranean hollandaise  - rich and velvety.

You will need a pan or heavy based pot with a lid or plate that can cover the pan.

Good knob of butter
Fish - 2 or 4 red gurnard fish/fillets, or red snapper - meaty white fish.
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
115 grm button mushrooms (about 9)
1 tomato - skinned, de-seeded and peeled
1 tablespoon - good squeeze - tomato puree
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Parsley to garnish                                                .

Melt the butter in a large frying pan.
Cook the onion for 2 - 3 minutes until softened or translucent but not browned.
Add Garlic and cook for another minute, then chuck in your mushrooms, tomato and tomato puree and season to taste.
Cook down for about 5 minutes.

Put the fish fillets on top of the veg and pour over the water.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium/low, cover the pan and leave simmer gently for 10 minutes.

There is a trick to this dish.
While waiting for the fish to cook, whisk up the egg yolk and lemon to emulsify- go easy on the lemon juice, you can add more later to taste, After whisking the egg and lemon add the cream and whisk in.

When cooked, remove the fish and keep warm.

Stir the egg/lemon/cream mixture into the veggies and blend, constantly stirring.
Taste the sauce, add pepper and salt to season as wanted, add more lemon juice to taste if you overdo the lemon, a pinch of sugar will bring it back.

Pour sauce over fish and serve.

I served the fish on a sushi rice with tomato and samphire mini salad on the side.
Also very good just with salad.

I hope you enjoy this recipe - please take the time to comment, I really appreciate the time and effort.

Pollock in wine
Paprika Pollack Almondine with Sephardic style spuds
Fennel poached Pollock
Easy Pea-sy Orangy Mackerel
Super Simple Cider Mackerel
Super Simple Herring 

* MCS scale 3 - eat but not too often.
Red gurnard is a fast growing fish and matures early at a large size. Avoid eating immature fish (less than 25 cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the spawning season (summer).

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