Archive for August, 2010

August ’Meanderings’ …

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’

Pictured (top to bottom)
Pitta Pizzas
Minted Apple Salad
Marinaded Feta
Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

We spent most of August on holiday in France so I arranged for some automated posts while I was away.  No one wants to spend longer in the kitchen than they have to when the weather is warm and it is lovely outdoors.  Sadly the weather has been less than perfect this year.  On the few really good days we had I was pleased to be able to make some simple snacks such as Cheese & Tomato Tortilla Bake, served with some quickly grilled meat, or Pitta Pizzas both of which were accompanied by a side salad.  Also on the menu was Welsh Rarebit, an old family favourite and a perfect light snack at any time of year. Marinaded Feta, Hummous and Pesto Hummous are also good eaten as a light snack and perfect for a summer buffet.

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I love salad meals in the summer and so I am always on the lookout for new and tasty sounding mixtures, ingredients and marinades.  One salad recipe which I have been making for a number of years is Mixed Bean Salad, which has a choice of two different marinades: both are delicious, so it is difficult to choose my favourite.  Minted Apple Salad was the result of an experiment using cider vinegar and the recipe for Tzatziki Potato Salad was another experiment using yoghurt based tzatziki as a dressing for cold potato in place of the usual mayonnaise.  Finally, I added the delicious Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad in advance of posting (in September) the delicous Za’atar Chicken with which it should be served: both from recipes by Nigella Lawson.

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This year we travelled to Haute-Savoie in the French Alps for our summer holiday not far from the Swiss and Italian borders.  We were based on a lakeside campsite at the southern end of beautiful Lake Annecy, but as usual we made our way slowly there, looking and tasting as we went.  There were many foodie delights along our way, some of which I hope may make an appearance in these pages if I am able to find both recipe and ingredients.  We ate with ex-pat English friends who served us Gesiers in a salad (literally gizzards, which some people might be inclined to turn their noses up at, but it definitely is a case of ‘don’t knock them until you have tried them’).  With the same friends, were served an extensive cheese board including Chaource, Mimolette Ancienne and several types of Brie.  We also tried some other cheeses, including Morbier which has a creamy texture and a thin blue vein running through the centre.  The Alpine region is well known for its cheeses.  Apart from the well known Fondue, which we did not eat this time, one of the best known dishes is Tartiflette, a delicious mixture of bacon, onion, cheese, mushrooms and potato.  (I made this at home before I went and it makes a regular appearance as a quick meal.)  On a day out from Lake Annecy we visited Beaufort, watching the fascinating cheesemaking process in the Coopérative Laitière, then buying and eating some of the cheese we had watched being made.  We enjoyed Jambon Sec, dried ham, several times in salads at restaurants and when self-catering: it is becoming more readily available here in the UK, but is still difficult to find and often rather expensive.  Freshwater fish is found on many menus.  At one restaurant I had a delicious Trout Meunière and in another Sandre or Pike-perch (called this because it is like a cross between the two fish).  Memorable desserts were Mousse aux Myrtilles (delicately amethyst coloured from the bilberries and served in a tiny taster cup), Pineapple Coconut Tarte Tatin (something to try at home: a rum sprinkled ring of pineapple on a coconut crumble base) and Iles Flottante (Floating Islands – always a favourite).  On the way home we dined with some French friends and they gave me their recipe for Flan, a very traditional French dessert which I will eventually post here.  There was one very unusual ingredient discovery as well, the famous red Poppy (or Coquelicot).  Coquelicots de Nemours (named after a town South East of Paris, not far from Fontainebleu) is a sweet created in 1870 from poppyseed, fruit paste and liqueur.  We found Coquelicots de Nemours as a delicious jam at breakfast at our Ibis hotel in Fontainebleu, but were unable to find it in the supermarkets: I expect it is very regional so I will keep looking on future holidays.  It was also available as a special ice cream flavour in the chain restaurant Flunch: always a place worth looking out for in France if you want an inexpensive quick meal.

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As always, we returned with wonderful French ingredients which are mostly unavailable in the UK: Walnut Vinegar, Raspberry Vinegar, Sea Salt (from Guérande, where we holidayed some years ago), olive oil, Confiture de Lait (or Dulce de Leche), cheeses (goats cheese, Chaorce, Mimolette Ancienne, Beaufort, Morbier, Reblochon and Emmental), pate, Spicy Beef Merguez and Chipolata Pork Sausages (totally different in taste to the ones available in the UK), Gesiers (which can be bought ready prepared and vacuum packed, so preparation is unnecessary)  – and of course liqueurs and wines.  I also managed to buy some really inexpensive individual tart tins in two shapes: not sure how I will use them but I could not resist. 

Bookshelf Meanderings:

I have enjoyed browsing though Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson which has a wealth of lovely summery recipes.   My copy came from the library but I may just have to invest in a copy of my own.  This book is the source for Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad and Za’atar Chicken.  Other recipes that have caught my eye are: Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice, Moroccan Roast Lamb (using the delicious spice mixture Ras el-Hanout), Chicken & Cashew Nut Curry, Gingery Duck with Red Onion & Orange Salad, Hasselback Potatoes (so simple – so attractive!), Banana & Butterscotch Upside Down Tart, Lemon Rice Pudding, Figs for 1001 Nights & Gooseberry & Elderflower Ice Cream.

Blogosphere Meanderings:
Highlighting one food site from the UK, one from outside the UK plus something completely different, which may or may not have a food connection.  This month my three are:
UK foodie site … Cherrapeno  ‘A cherrapeño is the result of a cross between a cherry pepper and a jalapeño chilli pepper’, writes Nic at the top of her blog page.  I was inspired by one of her recipes, which led to my post this month for Marinaded Feta.  True to form, there was a red chilli in the jar giving a great spicy flavour but not all recipes on the site contain chillis.  I like the look of Frozen Raspberry Kent Mess (I make a normal version, but have never thought to freeze it), Chelsea Buns (I’ve made these before but must do so again!) and Sablés (a butter biscuit which we have eaten in France) with a caramel glaze. 
Non-UK foodie site …  My French Kitchen  (Allow me this one, after all I have just come back from France and am pining for it already…!)  Ronelle’s site is a beautiful mixture of recipes with photos of France and artwork.  This lovely combination appeals as I love France and enjoy drawing and painting as well as cooking, although for me it is mostly a holiday hobby.  These caught my eye for the recipe as well as the illustrations: Tomato and Goats Cheese Tartlets, Mackerel Pate and Crystallized Orange Strips.
…and something else – The Old Foodie  A fascinating Australian based site giving anecdotes about the history of food in a plethora of well researched subjects.  Each time there is a detailed history, recipes and a clever and often connected quotation.  See Sorbet StoryFragrant Food, Bubble & Squeak and Eating à la Française.

August Recipes …

Basic Recipe: Hummous & Pesto Hummous

Cheese & Tomato Tortilla Bake
Marinaded Feta
Pitta Pizzas
Welsh Rarebit

Marinaded Mixed Bean Salad
Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad
Minted Apple Salad
Tzatziki Potato Salad

Meanderings Revisited took a break during August …

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months  


‘For what we are about to receive…’ September 2010 and beyond

Coming in September … a selection of ideas for cooking and using Chicken plus some French Style recipes.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

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We inherited most of a bag of nacho tortilla chips that were left over after a party and I managed to persuade the family to let me make this rather than just finish them up.  Just a few days before I had seen versions of this recipe in two different places but as we don’t normally buy crisps it was an ingredient I did not have. 

There were two sources for this recipe, both from Sainsbury’s supermarket.  The first is the Summer 2010 leaflet titled ‘Try something new’, the recipe was called Cheesy Nachos.  The second source was from a free instore recipe card, which adds beans to the mixture.  One recipe used salsa dip, which is available from the supermarket, but the other had instructions for a sauce.  My own basic Simple Tomato Sauce could be substituted or alternatively it would be a good way to use home made Tomato Relish.  Chilli powder or sauce can be added if not already in the sauce or relish used or this could be replaced with another spice such as cumin.  No need to buy expensive branded tortilla chips, the supermarket own brand ones are just as good.  Once cooked the top layer of chips are mostly crunchy, but the lower layers are less so.  Do not make this dish too long in advance as the tortilla chips will lose their crispness.

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Cheese & Tomato Tortilla Bake
(Serves 4)

1 bag plain flavoured Tortilla chips/Nachos (about 100g/3½ozs)
1 125g ball Mozzarella cheese
2-3 chopped spring onions or ½ red onion
1 x 400g tin cannellini/red kidney/black eye beans or chick peas – optional
100g/3½ozs Salsa dip (approximate amount)
100g/3½ozs Tomato Relish (approximate amount)
1 portion Simple Tomato Sauce (approximate amount)
Chilli & or cumin powder or chilli sauce, unless relish/sauce already spiced, to taste

1.  Heat the oven to 200oC/Fan 180oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  Finely chop the spring onions or red onion.

3.  Cut or tear the mozzarella ball into pieces.

4.   Reserving 6 unbroken tortilla triangles for the top of the dish, start to layer the Tortilla Bake nto an ovenproof serving dish.  Cover the bottom of the dish with about ⅓ tortilla chips and follow  with ½ beans (if using), ½ tomato sauce, ½ onions and ½ cheese.  Repeat (⅓ chips and remaining beans (if using), tomato sauce, onions and cheese). Finish with the remaining ⅓ chips placing the 6 reserved chips on top.

5.  Bake uncovered for 10minutes in the centre of the preheated oven.

6.  Serve warm as an accompaniment to a light supper, as part of a buffet or even as a starter.  Best eaten warm but could be served cold at a buffet as long as not made too far in advance.  It will be less crisp if cold.

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Fattoush is a delicious light summery salad well known across the Middle East.  It is packed full of fragrant flavours – lemon, sumac, mint and basil.  Fattoush can be served with any Middle Eastern, Mediterranean or even North African main dish making a good light alternative to a couscous based salad.  This recipe, from Nigella Lawson, was originally served alongside Za’atar Chicken.

The recipe below is almost the same as the one in the book Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson, in fact it was the repeats of the television programme that accompanied the book that originally alerted me to the recipe.  This was, however, just my starting point.  Some more research showed me that this is a fairly basic recipe to which other ingredients can be added, as you wish.  Optional extra ingredients widely listed are lettuce, radish, parsley, carrot (grated or batons), red or green pepper, red cabbage, black olives or pomegranite seeds (or arils): I particularly like the sound of this final idea. Feta cheese is another optional ingredient which would make this a more substantial salad (in fact this recipe is not unlike Greek Salad and has very similar basic ingredients, with the feta cheese and olives replaced with pieces of pitta bread, basil and sumac).  Not unsurprising really given the close proximity of Greece to the area normally considered as the Middle East.  It is perfectly acceptable to use pitta breads that are slightly stale: this recipe was used by cooks in the middle east for this very purpose.

Middle Eastern Fattoush Salad
(Serves 4)

2 pitta breads
3 or 4 spring onions (depending on size) or ½ finely chopped red onion
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
Generous handful of fresh parsley (flat leaf if available), chopped
Generous handful of mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
6-8tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1tsp Sumac powder to sprinkle over finished salad
(see also list of optional ingredients above)

1.  Prepare the spring onions or red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, herbs and garlic and mix gently but thoroughly together.

2.  Dress the salad with the olive oil, lemon juice and a little salt.  Refrigerate until almost ready to serve.

3.  It is good to have the pitta breads slightly warm and still crisp so this final stage should be done just before serving.  Split the pitta breads in half and toast or put in the oven for five minutes.  They should be slightly crisp but not completely brittle.

4.  Using scissors, snip the toasted pitta breads into medium to small pieces and stir into the salad mixture.

5.  Sprinkle over the sumac so it is noticeable but not too thick.

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This basic Hummous (or Hummus, there are various spellings) mixture can be served as a snack, a starter or appetiser or as part of a buffet.  Traditionally Hummous contains tahini, a sesame seed based based paste, but as long as the sesame flavour is present the finished Hummous is, I find, indistinguishable.  I add the flavour by either adding ground toasted sesame seeds or, more usually (because it is easier) sesame oil, which is always in my cupboard.  Hummous is a vegetarian dish, but much loved by the members of our household, who are all non-vegetarians.  It is a quick and easy recipe and very useful as it can be made in under 10 minutes.

The original recipe for Red Pesto Hummous was pulled from a magazine advertising Flora products, but this is my own variation of what seemed a very good idea!  The pesto Hummous is equally as delicious made with green pesto and both could be put on a buffet table side by side: just add half of each colour of pesto to each half of the blended chickpea mixture.  For extra flavour I added 2tbsp toasted crushed (or ground) sesame seeds to the original recipe (sesame is a traditional ingredient in Hummous), plus a pinch of salt, although these could be omitted.  Alternatively the mixture could be blended with sesame oil in place of the half fat spread, in which case the seeds can be omitted.

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(Serves 4 – more at a buffet)

400g/14oz tin chickpeas, drained
1tsp lemon
1 small clove garlic
2tbsp sesame oil or low fat olive spread
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2tbsp toasted ground sesame seeds (microwave or grill until toasted) – omit if using sesame oil
To serve:
Drizzle over Olive or Sesame oil (optional)
Sprinkle sumak or paprika or cumin (optional)

1.  Put all the ingredients, apart from those added when serving, together in a food processor and blend.  The texture can be either chunky or smoother depending on the length of processing time.

2.  Serve with toast or pieces of warm pitta bread.  It can also be used as a dip at a buffet with a selection of crudities: sticks of carrot, cucumber & peppers plus bread sticks.

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Red or Green Pesto Hummous
(Serves 4 – more at a buffet)

400g/14oz tin chickpeas, drained
1tsp lemon
1 small clove garlic
1tbsp low fat olive spread or sesame oil
1 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tbsp red or green pesto
2tbsp toasted ground sesame seeds  – omit if
using oil
To serve:
Drizzle over Olive or Sesame oil (optional)
Red – Sprinkle sumak or paprika (optional)
Green – torn/chopped basil (optional)

(Adjust the proportion of spread/sesame oil, yoghurt and pesto to personal taste.  Ready made pesto can be strong so use just 1tbsp first time.)

1.  If making two different colours put all the ingredients, apart from those added when serving and the pesto, together in a food processor and blend.

2.  Divide the mixture in half and add ½tbsp of each colour to each half of the basic mixture.

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A simple potato salad is a delicious alongside a green salad as part of a summer supper.  This version is combined with Tzatziki, a yoghurt based accompaniment commonly served at Greek meals, but found around the Mediterranean and further afield under other names: all slightly different but all very similar.

The source of this recipe was an idea found at Good to Know Recipes and also called Tzatziki Potato Salad originally taken from Love Dips.  I revisited my recipe for own Tzatsiki, already posted on this site and used this, with the addition of a small amount of sweet red onion, for extra flavour and lots of mint, which very strangely was omitted from the Good to Know recipe.  As an alternative to Greek yoghurt I used a standard plain version, which can be combined with some crème fraîche for extra thickness.  However Greek Yoghurt would also give a thicker consistency and is often available in lower fat versions.  Finally, I sprinkled the whole salad generously with Sumac, a Mediterranean ingredient  more commonly found in the Middle East and North Africa, but also because I like it.  This can be replaced with paprika or some ground black pepper if preferred.

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Tzatziki Potato Salad
(Serves 4)

500g new potatoes – substitute old potatoes if new unavailable
2/3 large sprigs of mint
300g Greek yogurt, or a mixture of plain yoghurt and crème fraîche or soured cream
½ clove of garlic
½ small red onion or 2 spring onions (optional – can replace garlic)
½ cucumber
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt & black pepper
Sumac or paprika (optional)

1. Scrub new potatoes and halve or peel and cut old potatoes into large dice. Cover with water, add a pinch of salt and a large stem of mint. Bring to the boil and cook until soft. Do not overcook as they could break up, which could be a problem using old potatoes.

2. Measure the yoghurt or yoghurt and crème fraîche/soured cream into a bowl.

3. Finely chop or crush the garlic and red onion or spring onions. Finely dice the cucumber. Chop the remaining mint, reserving a few whole small leaves to decorate. Mix these into the yoghurt along with the lemon juice and season to taste.

4. Gently combine with the potatoes, spoon into a serving dish, decorate with the reserved mint leaves and sprinkle with a little sumac, paprika or black pepper to serve.

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Sometimes a recipe that I just have to try pops into my Inbox from one of the sites that sends me regular updates.  A trip to the supermarket shortly after I first saw this recipe and I had a attractive jar full of feta cheese waiting for me to try.  I had to be patient and do as the recipe suggested, but as soon as the week was up I ‘dived in’ – and was not disappointed!

So, thank you to my UK Food Bloggers fellow member, Nic at Cherrapeno for her recipe: Make your own Marinated Feta.   Of course, we all adapt and amend recipes to suit our own tastes.  The ingredients below are for my own version, adjusted to complement the size of block of feta cheese available locally, but with some other ‘tweaks’ too.  I love olives so added some to the second jar I made and will definitely add them again.  I halved the number of chillis as I did not want to spicy a flavour.  The oil is delicious too so don’t forget to mop up the puddle on your plate with some of the crusty bread you serve alongside.  I would definitely serve this as a starter, along with some other marinaded items, such as mixed peppers.  I have tried making this with the cheaper feta type cheese you can buy, which is usually called something like ‘Greek style salad cheese’ and it is fine, though for entertaining I would definitely splash out and buy real Feta.  Only problem with this recipe is that the jar doesn’t last long enough!

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Marinaded Feta

200g packet Feta cheese
½tbsp dried oregano
½tsp coriander seeds, ground – ¼tsp ready ground powder if seeds unavailable
½tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, depending on size
1 small fresh red chilli (2 if you wish) – split lengthways, remove seeds for a milder taste
3-4 small sprigs fresh rosemary
25g/1oz green or black pitted olives, or a mixture (optional)
Olive oil

1.  Drain the whey from the packet of feta and pat dry with a paper towel to remove the maximum amount of liquid. 

2.  Cut into cubes: I cut the block into four long pieces lengthways and then crossways into cubes – around 36-40 pieces.  (Make the pieces larger if you wish by making 3 strips and then crossways into larger cubes.) 

3.  Place the cubes in a bowl.  Sprinkle with oregano, crushed coriander seeds and black pepper.

4.  Cut the tomatoes into three our four pieces each.

5.   Sterilise a jar (about 500-600ml) that is big enough to take all the ingredients by pouring in water from a boiling kettle, draining and filling immediately.  (Make sure the lid is sterlised in a similar way.)

6.  Gradually fill the jar with the cubes of cheese, the pieces of tomato and the olives, poking in the chilli and sprigs of rosemary from time to time so all the ingredients are fairly evenly spaced through the jar.  Make sure that all the herbs in the bowl are included as well.

7.  Pour in a little oil from the sun dried tomatoes (about 2-3tbsp) and top up with extra olive oil as needed.  The ingredients need to be fairly tightly packed with the oil filled to the brim.

8.  Seal the jar tightly.  Refrigerate for 1 week before using. (The marinaded feta will keep for 6-8 weeks in the fridge).

9.  Serve at room temperature for lunch or as an starter. This would also make a good culinary gift.  I have used the excess oil and chilli as a starter for the next jar and I think this could be done two or three times, before needing to start again from scratch.

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This salad was made as a contribution for a shared supper with a group of friends.  I was asked to bring a green salad, so set about putting together a mixture of green salad and fruit items (although there were some dark red radiccio leaves in the mixed salad and the green pepper was slightly turning to orange/yellow.)   I used cider vinegar in the vinaigrette dressing as it complemented the sharp tasting green skinned Granny Smith apples.  Although they are sharp they add a sweetness and this can be increased by adding grapes.  Alternatively, green olives could be added to give a more salty flavour, although I did not add them on this occasion.  The whole salad was well received and one friend in particular was very complimentary.  I shall certainly be making this again.

As you might have gathered, this recipe is my own concoction, probably not very original but still was not copied from another source.  Pork and apple complement each other well and this would be particularly suitable to eat with cold ham or gammon, pork, pork pie or a pork based pâté.

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Minted Apple Salad
(Select items from this list – choice & proportions according to personal preference)
Mixed green salad leaves
Baby spinach
Chopped cucumber
Chopped green pepper
Chopped mint
Seedless green grapes (optional)
Pitted green olives (optional)
Dressing (can be increased proportionally as required):
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp cider vinegar
black pepper

1.  Wash leaves.  

2.  Slice cucumber in quarters lengthwise and chop.

3.  Chop and prepare other items as required and combine in a large bowl.

4.  Mix the dressing in proportion of 2:1 (oil to vinegar) add a little black pepper and whisk together thoroughtly.

5.  Shortly before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss lightly together.

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Welsh Rarebit is a traditional British dish.  It was recorded in an eighteenth century recipe book having been served as a supper or of snack food in taverns and alehouses. It is not clear why it has the name Welsh, which was  first recorded in 1725.  However it has been suggested that cheese was cheaper than the meat which the impoverished Welsh people of that time could not afford to eat.  Some traditional versions add a splash of Worcester Sauce, ale or mustard to the mixture as it is mixed for extra flavour.  Also a pinch of cayenne can be sprinkled on top.  I have a Welsh Recipe Tea Towel, which includes one for Welsh Rarebit (called Caws-Wedi-Pobi in the Welsh language).  The ingredients are 8ozs/225g cheese, 1tsp butter, 1tsp dry mustard, 2tsp Worcester Sauce and 2tsp flour mixed with 4tbsp milk or beer which are melted together in a saucepan before being spread onto 4 slices of toast and finished under the grill – a parsley garnish is suggested: so a much more complicated and highly flavoured version than mine below.  Buck Rarebit has a poached egg served on top. 

This is the way Welsh Rarebit is cooked by my mother but I think the recipe is a fairly standard one.  It is one of the simplest cooked lunch dishes I know and very popular with my family. In some ways it reminds me of a very simple version of Nigella Lawson’s Triple Cheese & Onion Strata, especially if I put a little more effort in when making it and add some fried onions, which make it delicious.  I have tried to give an idea of the quantities of ingredients, but mostly I do not weight what I use.  It is a good way to finish up the remains of a block of cheese and different types of cheese can be combined although it is usual to use hard rather than soft cheese.  Mostly a fairly strong cheddar or similar is recommended, but a milder flavour is fine if it is preferred.  A delicious addition is to spread the bread with some home made Tomato Relish or another relish or chutney – or even a scrape of Marmite (love it or hate it?) before grilling.  My family have been known to add a dollop of tomato sauce onto the finished rarebit, though I prefer it without.  However, the recipe given below is for my usual everyday version with no frills, apart from those I am likely to include. The mixture can be made a little in advance and stored in the fridge. It is usually eaten hot, but there is no reason why it could not be eaten cold.  Cheese on Toast is an even simpler version of this recipe and too simple to be a stand alone post.  It is quite literally cheese-on-toast: sliced (or grated) cheese, arranged on the untoasted side of a slice of bread and then gently grilled until golden and bubbling.

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 Welsh Rarebit
(Serves 4)

4 thick slices of bread (for toasting so 1 or 2 days old is fine)
2 eggs
8ozs/225g Cheddar or similar hard cheese, or a mixture of cheeses (aprox)
1 onion, finely chopped & fried (optional) or
1 tbsp tomato or other relish (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1.  Break the eggs into a bowl and stir with a fork.

2.  Stir in the grated cheese.  Add the pre-fried onions at this point if using.  Season and mix together well.

3.  Toast the slices of bread on one side only.  If using relish, spread this over the untoasted side of the bread.

4.  Share the egg and cheese mixture equally between the four slices of bread, piling onto the untoasted side (on top of any relish if it has been spread on).  Gently spread over the slice but not quite to the edges as the mixture will melt and spread out slightly.  It can be gently spread more with a  knife while cooking if necessary.

5.  Sprinkle over the cayenne, if using.  Cook under a gentle grill until the mixture has melted and browned.  Do not cook too high or the crust will burn before the centre is cooked.

6.  Cut into half, or slices and serve with a small side salad while still hot.

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The soft cream, beige, brown and maroon colours of a mixed bean salad is attractive and delicious addition as part of a summer salad meal and a useful dish to serve on a buffet table.  I tend to make a large potful and keep it in the fridge to eat over several days – but I find it rather ‘moreish’ and it is very difficult not to help myself to a quick spoonful every time I open the door! 

These recipes come from Vegetarian Kitchen by Sarah Brown, the book of her BBC TV series from the 1980s.  I first made these marinade recipes not long after seeing the series and buying the book and I find it difficult to decide which is my favourite, so I have posted both.  Mixed dried beans can be bought and cook them in advance, in which case about an hour needs to be added to the preparation time.  I find, however, that the beans often end up looking a similar colour, losing the individual shades which go to make the salad rather pretty.  The best way to avoid this is to use tins of pre-cooked beans, gently warming them through first to help soak up the flavours of the chosen marinade.  It used to be much more economical to buy and cook dried beans, but tinned beans are much less expensive now, especially if bought from the ethnic food aisle or from the supermarket’s ‘economy’ range.  Both marinades look virtually the same: as for flavour, the ‘Dark & Spicy’ is actually not very hot (increase the proportions if you wish after you have given it a try) the ‘Light & Sharp’ is a fragrant mixture of lemon, garlic and ginger.  I usually make this second one for entertaining.  Any leftovers keep well in the fridge and can be eaten over two or three days if necessary – if there is any left.

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Marinaded Mixed Bean Salad
(Serves 8 – more as part of a buffet)

For the Bean Mixture use either:
4-5 400g tins of ready cooked beans
red kidney, borlotti, haricot/cannellini, black eye peas & chick peas – choose varied colours (empty the beans into a saucepan and gently warm through before dressing with chosen marinade – be careful not to cook as they are often already very soft
Mixed dried beans about 1kg
 – half the weight of the eventual amount of cooked beans. (Cover with water, do not add any salt, bring to the boil and boil for 10 mins.  This is important as Red Kidney beans contain a toxin which can cause stomach upsets unless they are boiled in this way – and Red Kidney beans are needed for their colour. Continue to cook on low heat, still without adding any salt, until softened – around 1 hour in total.  Drain well and dress with chosen marinade.  The liquid can be used as a stock to enrich other recipes.) 

Dark & Spicy Marinade
6fl ozs/175ml olive oil
3fl ozs/75ml red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground coriander
1 tsp freshly ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder
1 clove garlic, crushed

Light & Sharp Marinade
6fl ozs/17ml sunflower oil
3fl ozs/75ml lemon juice
½tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
½tsp dry mustard powder (Colemans English is ideal)
½tsp freshly grated root ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed

1.  Mix together the ingredients for the chosen marinade.

2.  Prepare the bean mixture (either by using tins or by pre-cooking dried beans – see above).

3.  While the beans are warm, pour the marinade over and gently stir to combine. 

4.  Cover and leave in a cool place, transferring to the fridge if possible once cold, to allow the flavours to permeate the beans.  Ideally do this overnight or at least for severall hours.

5.  Just before serving chopped parsley can be sprinkled over the salad to add extra colour – for the Dark & Spicy marinaded beans chopped fresh coriander can be substituted.

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Following on from my original post about Pizza Bases last year, here is a good idea for a speedy pizza and one I will be using regularly.  It substitutes ready bought pitta breads as pizza bases.  The original recipe suggested that the pittas could be divided in two for an extra crispy pizza, layering toppings on rough side.  I found this proved too difficult.  I ended up with two halves of different thicknesses, one of which was far too thin.  An uncut pitta is perfectly adequate as a base.   The suggestion was that round pittas could be used if available, but I could not track any down: oval was fine.  Some supermarkets sell very small pitta breads which would be idea served at a buffet.

The original recipe came from Red magazine, August 2008 issue, in an article giving suggestions for picnic food.  It is ideal as a light snack, either cold as they suggest, or hot straight from the oven with salad for a summer light meal.  I used a simple mozzarella and tomato topping, adding slices of mushroom and red pepper, but any other favourite toppings could be used: fresh tomato, ham, tuna, prawns are all popular.  The original recipe first spread on a layer of tomato puree but I used my home made Tomato Relish – recipe to follow very soon.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pitta Pizzas
(Makes 6)

Olive oil, a little to brush over and to pour on top of each pitta pizza
6 pitta breads, white or brown
½tsp Tomato puree, evenly smeared, per pitta
2tsp Tomato Relish (or similar) per pitta
Two pinches of Italian mixed herbs/pizza herbs per pizza
2 x 125g Mozzarella Balls cut into thin slices
Black pepper
Torn fresh Basil leaves
Slices of Mushroom, 2-4 per pitta pizza (optional)
Thin slices of Red Pepper, about 2 per pitta pizza (optional)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

2.  Place the breads on a baking tray and smear lightly with a little olive oil, going right to the edges.

3.  Smear on a layer of tomato puree (do not go right to the edge as it will blacken if not covered).  Alternatively spread on tomato relish.  Sprinkle lightly with Italian or pizza herbs.

4.  If using mushroom, red pepper or other ingredients equally divide these between the bases.

5.  Drain the cheese well and blot with some kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.  Cut into thin slices.

6.  Sprinkle lightly with more Italian or pizza herbs and a little black pepper.

7.  Drizzle with olive oil.

8.  Bake in the oven for 10mins and serve with salad

Alternative toppings:

Potato, Fontina & fresh Thyme
120g waxy new potato, cooked & sliced
80g fontina or taleggio cheese, thinly sliced
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt

Onion Chutney, Goat’s Cheese & Rosemary
2tbsp onion chutney
80g goat’s cheese, crumbled
1tbsp freshly chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Sea salt

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