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Archive for the ‘Vegetable’ Category

When the colder weather arrives my thoughts turn to soup, home made of course.  Soup is fantastic for this time of year and can be very forgiving if you have slightly less than fresh veggies that need finishing – not that I am advocating using items that have started to rot!   I had been planning to make Leek and Potato soup for ages and now I had no excuse, with leeks left over from Turkey Flan with Leeks & Cheese, potatoes in the cupboard and turkey stock in the freezer.  So far this year as the weather has been fairly mild and life has been busy soup has not made much of an appearance on the menu, but this last Saturday I finally rectified that.  This soup is not just for winter though.  It can also be served chilled during the summer months, often served poured over two or three ice cubes and garnished with leek strands as below or a sprinkling of chives, see this BBC recipe.  I had thought that Vichyssoise was the name of the cold version with the hot soup called the much less exciting Leek & Potato.  I discovered however that both hot and cold versions can be called Vichyssoise and further it is quite possible that it is not, as I had previously learned (or perhaps assumed having visited Vichy in France) a uniquely French soup.  According to Wikipedia:

‘…food writer Julia Child calls Vichyssoise “an American invention” whereas others observe that “the origin of the soup is questionable in whether it’s genuinely French or an American creation”‘.

There are a lot of good Leek & Potato Soup/Vichyssoise recipes around.  This version came from Potatoes: more than Mashed by Sally Mansfield, one of my most recent charity shop finds.  It has other lovely ideas I am sure its recipes will appear again. The original quantity, however, was a less than generous lunch for the four people specified so the quantities below have been increased by about a quarter so as a first course it could probably serve up to six. There are also a few little personal tweaks: cooking in olive oil as well as butter, increasing the onion, adding fine strips of leek and crème fraîche to garnish. The original recipe was for chicken stock but turkey or vegetable stock can be substituted.  For a richer soup replace some of the water with milk or even single cream (in which case a little could be reserved to swirl on top).  Yoghurt, or as I used this time, crème fraîche could also add the finishing touch.  All that is needed is some lovely crusty bread to serve alongside.  In the picture is a small piece of a large Pide flatbread bought from the wonderful bakery in our local Turkish supermarket.

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Leek & Potato Soup
(Serves 3-4 or 6-8 as a starter)

25g/1oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, chopped (reserve a few fine slices to garnish)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
454g/1lb potatoes, floury type if available, chopped
1150ml/2pints chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (or use mix of stock & either milk or cream)
Salt & ground black pepper
To serve
Cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche
Fine strands  of leek
Grind of black pepper
Crusty bread

1.  Heat half of the butter and the olive oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion and chopped leeks until transparent and soft, about 7 minutes.  Stir them occasionally and make sure that they do not brown.

2.  Add the potato pieces and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

3.  Add the stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer gently for 30-35 minutes.  The vegetables should be very tender.  Taste and season as required.

4.  The soup can be left either very chunky or liquidised until smooth.  I part liquidise the soup so there are a few chunks left.  Take care over liquidising potato as the starch can make it very sticky.  Add plenty of liquid with the vegetables and liquidise in short bursts until smooth.  Return to the pan, combining with any remaining chunks if making a mixed texture soup.

5.  Reheat the soup, stirring in the remaining butter in small pieces.  Check seasoning.

6.  Serve with a swirl of cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche, a few strands of leek and a grind of black pepper in each bowl, along with a piece of crusty bread.

 

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I made my own version of what we called ‘Cauli-mac’ some years ago but it wasn’t particularly exciting so we had it just once, twice at the most.  Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are both popular here but I was attracted to this version as it was just a bit different.  Finding a good recipe to make both at the same time was always going to be a hit and this is proving to be our favourite recipe from the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals series and book.  It is simple comfort food at its best and I have lost count of the number of times I have made this or a variation.  Although it is a fairly standard mixture of cauliflower, macaroni and cheese I have changed the ingredient proportions in the original recipe to give a less stodgy version: more cauli and slightly less mac.  There are two brilliant ideas that lift this Cauli-mac out of the ordinary.  The first is the addition of crème fraîche along with the cheese, saving the need to make a time consuming flour based white sauce: simple but brilliant.  (Of course part of the 30 minute meals brief is the need for speed.)  The second idea was to add a breadcrumb topping which included bacon and rosemary, both delicious flavourings.  There is very little bacon – just enough to add a slight flavour – but if you are vegetarian never fear as I have included some information below, giving my still tasty but meat free version.  Adding chopped parsley to the cauli-mac mixture gives a pretty green flecked sauce and I saved some to scatter one top as well.  Recently I have been making a new variation of my own, which includes tomatoes.  This is still being ‘tested’ by my guinea pig team (aka family) and needs photographing, however it will make an appearance in due course.

As I have already said, this recipe comes from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (by Jamie Oliver).  This is just one dish, part of a menu he suggests can be cooked within the half hour time limit and which also includes a mixed salad and a dessert.  I am afraid I have not cooked the complete menu and probably will not, but I have often served some salad on the side.

Vegetarian Variation: The bacon can, of course, simply be omitted but a similar smoked flavour can be obtained by using grated Applewood Smoked Cheese (or a similar variation – though possibly not the Bavarian Smoked log type cheese).  I replaced about half of the mature cheddar.  For a stronger flavour replace all the cheddar with smoked cheese.  A dusting of smoked paprika before cooking will also add to the smoky flavour and give a little heat as well.

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‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
(Serves 4)

4-6 rashers of smoked bacon, or a similar quantity of bacon offcuts or leftover smoked ham
1 large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
Olive oil as required
150g mature Cheddar cheese
2/3 thick slices of bread
large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large clove of garlic
150g crème fraîche (about half a tub)
Parmesan cheese, to serve
2tbsp chopped parsley, to divide between mixture & to garnish
Salt & pepper

1.  Fill the kettle with water and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

2.  Lay the bacon in the dish you will eventually be using for the cauli-mac mixture and put on the top shelf of the oven to pre-cook.

3.  Trim off any very coarse or spoiled outer leaves from the cauliflower and remove the tough end of the stalk.  Quarter the head or break it up into large pieces. Place in a large saucepan, stalks downwards and add the pasta. Chop or crush the garlic well and add to the pan.

4.  Pour over the boiling water to cover the ingredients, season, add a little olive oil and place on a high heat. Stir well, and cook with the lid just askew.  I found it was worth stirring the mixture once or twice to help avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.

5.  Grate the cheddar cheese in the food processor and tip into a bowl.

6.  Remove the bacon from the oven.  Using a mini chopper or food processer, chop or process well with the bread and rosemary leaves.  Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind the ingredients into a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

7.  When the cauliflower and the macaroni is just cooked (a knife inserted into the cauliflower stalk should slip in easily), reserving the cooking water, drain the cauli-mac through a colander into a large bowl.  Tip the cauli-mac into the dish the bacon was cooked in.

8.  Add about 300ml (about three quarters of a pint) of the reserved cooking water.  Stir in the crème fraîche, grated cheddar and most of the chopped parsley, breaking the cauliflower up with a fork or potato masher until you have bite size, but still recognisable, chunks.

9.  Taste the mixture and if required add more salt, plus a little ground pepper. The sauce should be loose and if necessary, add another splash of the reserved cooking water.

10. Spread the mixture out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumb topping. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the mixture bubbling.

11.  To serve grate over some Parmesan and scatter the top of the dish with the remaining parsley.  Serve with a simple side salad.  Crusty bread or garlic bread can be served alongside if required.

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This recipe was part of the Chinese style multi dish meal I served for my mother’s birthday though it is also something we now often eat as a midweek supper.  A few weeks ago I posted the method for making Poached Chicken Breasts and this recipe uses a similar method of pre-cooking the Belly Pork strips to tenderise them, as they can sometimes be rather chewy if not cooked for very long.  I am sure that it would be perfectly acceptable to pre-cook belly strips by this method for other non Chinese style recipes.

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I like to consider that this is a pretty genuine Chinese recipe as my brother in law’s family is Chinese.  It came via my sister in law from my brother in law, who learned it from his father.  This was the family’s favourite recipe so my sister in law makes it very regularly, serving it with rice into which pieces of the Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong (sometimes spelled Xuong) Wu Xiang” (available from the Oriental supermarket) have been added.  One day she served it to us and I begged the recipe – here it is.   I was given very specific instructions on how to make the original version (no onion at all and I had to use spring greens) and for mum’s Chinese birthday meal I made it that way but we found the flavour of the greens rather too strong. My brother in law much prefers the original recipe without any onions.  He says he likes this way as it is more savoury and not as sweet.  He also has a memory of his dad crushing the garlic cloves with a knife to just break them, but leaving them intact.  They were then cooked to flavour the hot oil but removed before cooking the rest of the dish: he remembers the smell of the garlic being cooked in this way.  He understands that the Chinese cook garlic in this way as it adds flavour but doesn’t burn.  In the end I have settled on my own variations for home cooking, which does include onion, the flavour of which we really love in Chinese food and replacing the greens with either Broccoli or Bok Choy (or choi, also known as pak choy or choi).  This last was definitely our favourite version and is a very good way to use the Boy Choy which occasionally appears on our local street market.  I also added mushroom slices and some colourful peppers for colour and flavour with a drizzle of sesame oil just prior to serving.  This will be my regular way of cooking the recipe from now on – I just need to track down a source of the chinese sausage in small quantities.  So far I have only found it in multi packs which would last me several years.  A word about the oil too… My sister in law uses a special wok oil, a blend of sunflower, sesame and ginger oils with natural extracts of garlic.  I just use ordinary sunflower oil and finish the dish, as advised by Ken Hom, by stirring through a slug of sesame oil – but I never use olive oil.

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Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy-Pak Choy
(Serves 4)
The ‘orthodox’ original recipe: pork poached in ginger then fried in garlic infused oil with a little more ginger, the soy sauce and Spring greens added towards the end of cooking time.
Below is my own variation.

2 tablespoons of oil
4 large Belly Pork strips – 1 per person (I prefer skinless pieces)
1 large piece Ginger, unpeeled and chopped into large pieces
1 small knob Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cloves Garlic
1tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
250g/8ozs Green Cabbage, washed and finely chopped (or Broccoli/Bok Choy) – or more
Chinese sausage to flavour rice (optional)
Optional additions:
2 medium sized white onions
or
1 bunch spring onions
125g/4ozs  button mushrooms
1 or 2 Peppers – mixed colours if possible
1tbsp Sesame oil

Poaching the pork and ginger (can be done in advance and refrigerated or frozen for later use)
1.  Put the belly pork strips into a saucepan with a large piece of ginger cut into chunks.

2.  Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 mins

3.  Take the pork out and leave to cool.

4.  Cut the pork into large pieces leave on all the fat – each piece should be should be about the width of your thumb.  Put to one side.

Stir frying the pork
5.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the wok

6.  Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife so they are flattened but don’t fall apart.  Cook in the hot oil to infuse the flavour and then remove them before they burn.
Alternatively …
Crush or chop the garlic and cook along with the onion, ginger and mushroom without removing.

7.  Add a chopped thumb sized ginger piece to the hot oil, along with the finely sliced onion and mushroom and garlic (if using).  Allow them to soften without burning.

8.  Add the sliced pieces of belly pork and cook, initially on a high heat.  Add dark soy sauce to coat the meat: it is suggested the soy is used liberally but I feel this depends on personal taste.

9.  Add the sliced pepper(s) if using.

10.  Cover the wok and turn down the heat.

11.  Add the chopped up greens to the wok containing the pork and ginger.  Add a little boiling water if required and more soy sauce if desired.

12.  Stir the greens when you adding them so they are well mixed with the pork and the sauce.

13.   Cook until the meat is soft and the greens are tender.  20minutes is recommended but I prefer a shorter time so the greens still retain their crispness.

14.  Just prior to serving, stir through the sesame oil.  It is used to add flavour rather than to fry.

15.  Serve with rice (plus Chinese sausage (see notes and below).

A note about Rice
Slice one Lap Cheong/Xuong Chinese sausage and add it on top of the rice once the rice steamer clicks over to warm, (or when almost all the water has disappeared if cooking conventionally in a saucepan).   Leave for 20 mins to heat through (this is about the time the greens are added to the pork, although I like my greens cooked for a shorter time).

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As I have said before, Sunday lunches can become rather predictable, but this is one of those accompaniments that adds some new flavours, giving a new twist to the familiar.  Other ways of bringing a fresh approach to a roast joint are pre-marinading the meat, as in Australian Spiced Roast Pork or by adding an unusual sauce, such as Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce.  The moment I watched Nigel Slater make this ragoût recipe on television just after Christmas I knew I had to try it.  All the ingredients were handy, including some juniper berries which I had bought in France (they were a bit old, but never mind – I just added a few extra!).  I was also already planning to serve roast beef the following Sunday.  In place of the fillet beef used by Nigel Slater in the original recipe I slow roasted a topside beef joint using my usual Sunday lunch method.  It was a definite hit with the family and I will certainly be making it again.  In fact it is an unusual dish to serve when entertaining and especially useful as it can be made in advance and reheated – always a plus on a busy Sunday! 

The original recipe was part of the programme Nigel Slater’s Christmas Suppers and was called New Year Roast Filet of Beef with Pumpkin Ragoût.  In place of pumpkin I substituted a butternut squash, which is readily available through the Autumn and Winter and useful for so many recipes.  I would be interested in trying this without using white wine as this is not always available, but the  juniper berries gave a delicate flavour and the buttery sweetness of the Butternut Squash complemented the beef really well. 

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Butternut Squash or Pumpkin Ragoût
(Serves 6)
For fillet beef see original recipe: New Year Roast Filet of Beef with Pumpkin Ragoût

For the pumpkin ragoût
2 large onions
2tbsp of olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 juniper berries
A large butternut squash (or a small pumpkin)
2 tbsp of plain flour
500ml/17fl oz hot vegetable or chicken stock
175ml/6fl oz white wine
salt & black pepper
a few sprigs of chopped fresh parsley

1.  Peel and finely slice the onions.   Gently heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions slowly.   Strip the rosemary leaves from the stems, chop them finely and crush the juniper berries.   Add both to the onions.  Continue to cook gently for about 15-20 minutes until the onions are softened.

2.  Remove the peel from the squash or pumpkin, take out the seeds and thinly slice  into small 1cm/½in thick pieces (or larger if you wish.)  Add the pieces of squash or pumpkin to the onion mixture and fry for 4-5 minutes. 

3.  Sprinkle over the flour, stir well and carry on cooking for about five more minutes.

4.  Add the stock and wine, bring to the boil, season and then lower the heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the pieces of squash or pumpkin are tender. 

5.  Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving.

6.   To serve, spoon the ragoût onto plates and place slices of the hot cooked beef on top.

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A bowlful of a good hearty soup sometimes takes the place of a plated main meal in our house, especially during the winter months.  This usually contains meat, but not always a large quantity and sometimes, as is the case with this recipe, there is no meat at all.  It just goes to prove that soups don’t have to to contain meat to be satisfying: this delicious recipe contains generous amounts of a good selection of vegetables, plus small sized soup pasta.

This recipe, originally just called Vegetable Soup, comes from The Creative Vegetarian Cookbook published by Bramley Books (there is no author listed – edited by Jillian Stewart & Kate Cranshaw). I made the recipe as in the book but substuted 1 sweet potato as I did not have any swede.  I also found that it needed a little extra water towards the end of the cooking time so have included this in the instructions.  Soup pasta, is available in supermarkets and is a dainty version of the pasta shapes usually served as part of a main course.  In addition to the original recipe I added a good sprinkling of grated parmesan just prior to serving.  Of course, if you really miss the meat some diced ham or bacon could be added as well, I suggest at the first stage of cooking.  The recipe gives three generous servings but can be stretched to four by increasing the size or amounts of the vegetables or by serving crusty bread or toast on the side.

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Chunky Vegetable & Pasta Soup
(Serves 3-4)

2tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled & sliced
1 large turnip or fist sized piece of swede or sweet potato, peeled & sliced
2 leeks, washed & thinly sliced
2 potatoes, scrubbed & diced
570ml/1pint vegetable stock
450g/1lb tin of plum tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼tsp dried marjoram or dried savory
60g/2ozs dried small sized soup pasta
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
90g/3ozs fresh or frozen sliced green beans
120g/4ozs okra, trimmed & sliced
60g/2ozs frozen or tinned sweetcorn niblets
60g/2ozs frozen peas
1tbsp chopped parsley – plus a little more to garnish
Fresh parmesan cheese, grated, to garnish (optional)

 1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the carrot, turnip or swede (sweet potato should be added a little later), leeks and potatoes.

2.  Cook gently for about 10 minutes until softened but not browned. 

3.  Add the stock, sweet potato (if using), tomatoes, bay leaf, marjoram/savory, soup pasta, salt & black pepper. 

4.  Gently bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 20minutes.

5.  Add the beans and okra and cook for 10 minutes more.

6.  Finally add the sweetcorn, peas and parsley and cook for 5 minutes more before serving.

7.  Check seasoning.  Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with a little reserved parsley.  Grated fresh parmesan cheese can also be added – optional.  Serve with crusty bread.

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The combination of pulses and root vegetables make delicious soups for the colder months and this thick golden bowlful certainly keeps out the winter chill.  The food writer Nigel Slater, who devised the recipe, writes that though this is a winter soup it is also ideal for a cold spring day: a way to use up the last of the winter pulses and a good use for those parsnips hiding in the vegetable rack.  It is certainly good for using up parsnips that are slightly past their best or the thin pieces that don’t roast too well!

The recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s column in the Observer Sunday newspaper colour supplement in April 2007 which can also be found online.  The other recipe that day was Beetroot Seed Cake, which I also made and have already written about on this site.  This soup is tasty and spicy, though for a less hot version use just half a dried chilli pepper, or even less, rather than whole one.  Nigel Slater prefers cooking the vegetables in butter rather than oil but I use both.  You still get a buttery flavour but the oil helps to prevent the butter from burning.  The recipe did not really need too much alteration, although towards the end of the cooking time I put in some fresh coriander, as well as adding some as a garnish to give its distinctive flavour which we love.  You can, of course, leave this out if you wish.

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Parsnip & Split Pea Soup
(Serves 4)

2 medium sized onions
a generous knob of butter
1tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 parsnips
2tsp chilli crushed (I used 1 small crushed dried chilli)
1tsp turmeric
a large pinch of ground mace
2tsp ground coriander
125gyellow split peas
1.5 litres water
black pepper
Fresh coriander to stir through and garnish (optional)

1.  Peel and roughly chop the onions. Gently heat the butter and olive oil together in a deep pan.  (Nigel Slater prefers butter to oil but I use both as you still get the buttery flavour but the oil helps to prevent it from burning.) 

2.  Add the onions to the pan and start to cook gently.  Next peel and crush the garlic and peel and roughly chop the parsnips, adding both to the pan and mixing well. Cook gently on a medium heat. 

3.  When they are starting to show colour add the crushed chilli, turmeric powder, ground mace and ground coriander.

4.  Add the split peas and water.  Season with black pepper.  (The salt needs to be added later when the peas start to soften: any earlier and it will toughen their skins.)  Simmer gently for around 35 minutes until the peas are soft and can be crushed between your fingers.

5.  Add salt to taste.  Liquidise until the soup is smooth and thick, return to the pan and gently reheat.  Rinse the liquidiser with a very small amount of water adding this to the pan as well. 

6.  Chop the fresh coriander, reserve a little to garnish and stir through the soup as it reheats.

7.  Adjust the seasoning and serve with crusty bread.

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One of the joys of the colder months, particularly just after Christmas when the food has normally been rather rich, is a simple bowlful of soup accompanied by some crusty fresh bread.  I was attracted to the flavour combination of the ingredients in this recipe: carrot always makes a delicious soup (at least I think so), butter beans add a smooth creaminess and rosemary gives both scent and flavour.  This is my final recipe this year for seasonal leftovers.  It was first made just after Christmas so I used Turkey stock, but the original recipe specified chicken stock (vegetable stock would be fine too).  Don’t worry if you are a bit fed up with turkey flavour as the main flavours come from the other ingredients so you won’t feel you are eating ‘that bird’ – yet again! 

The recipe comes from my soup book: the Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert.  Butterbean, Carrot & Rosemary Soup, the original title, is listed in the Winter section and it truly is a warming bowlful for a cold lunchtime.  It was made and on the table in a very short time, which is always an advantage.  The recipe uses tinned beans.  Dried beans can be substituted (in which case the amount of beans used should be halved) and I have given details below, however the recipe will no longer be so speedy.  The carrot predominates and my version has the option of adding extra carrot, so I changed the title a little.  The word ‘Thatched’ is my addition, which I have used once before when I grated cheese onto Thatched Cauliflower Cheese Soup.  This time I suggest an additional small carrot is grated with most stirred in and a scattering on top for decoration, or if you prefer simply reserve and add a few strands for decoration.  Stirred though, without cooking, gives a crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth soup.  On first tasting the soup can taste a little bland so beware overseasoning and taste again before serving.

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Thatched Carrot, Butterbean & Rosemary Soup
(Serves 4)

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
12ozs/35og carrots, diced
1 or 2 sticks celery, diced
1½pints/700ml turkey or chicken stock
2tsp fresh chopped rosemary (or 1tsp dried rosemary): more if you love rosemary
1 bay leaf
400g can butterbeans, rinsed & drained (or 200g dried butterbeans)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
sprigs of fresh rosemary to garnish (if available)
1 more carrot, grated (small: garnish only/medium: garnish & stir in) optional

1.  For tinned beans, start at step 2.
If using dried beans instead of tinned they should first be soaked overnight to soften or, if time is short, pour over boiling water and leave for 1 hour.  Bring to the boil in unsalted water, reduce heat and cook until soft, about 30minutes, before using in the recipe.  (Salted water will toughen the skins of the beans.)

2.  Heat the olive oil in a large lidded saucepan.  Gently sweat the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for about 10 minutes until soft but not browned.  Shake or stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

3.  Add the stock, rosemary and bay leaf and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

4.  Stir in the butterbeans.  Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

5.  Allow the soup to cool slightly and purée, using a liquidiser if available.  Check and adjust seasoning.  I usually add a little more hot water to rinse the liquidiser once the soup has been puréed so I do not lose any of the soup.  Return the soup to the saucepan along with this extra soupy water and reheat.  If you are stirring grated carrot through the soup then add it just before the soup is served, reserving a small amount to garnish.  Do not reheat for too long as the grated carrot will lose its crunch.

6.  Serve in bowls, garnished with a thatch of grated carrot and a sprig of fresh rosemary.  The original recipe suggests that the pretty lavender flowers of rosemary, if in season, add to the appearance of the dish.

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This is one of the best recipes I know for cooking red cabbage.  The spicy, sweet and sour, very seasonal flavours make it a perfect and attractive addition to the Christmas dinner table, but it is also really good eaten at other times of the year.  Some months ago this was one of the dishes at one of our parish Sunday lunches, when it was served with slowly cooked beef.  The recipe benefits from a long cooking time, so in recent years I have found it best to make a large quantity by cooking the whole cabbage at once, either eating the leftovers the next day or freezing them for another occasion.  I recently found a forgotten box in the bottom of the freezer which I had put there after Christmas eleven months earlier.  It was fine – we really enjoyed it!  Echoing Delia Smith’s words: ‘a real winner of a recipe.’

A number of versions of Spiced Braised Red Cabbage are available.  I usually use Delia Smith’s recipe, either from her original version of the book Christmas (Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples), recommended with venison, goose, pork or sausages and mash, or from her Complete Cookery Course (Braised Red Cabbage with Apples), suggested to accompany sausages or cassoulet.  (I ought perhaps to try it with my own Cassoulet ‘Franglais’!)  It seems to be a good accompaniment for most meats. Sometimes Cranberries are included, which make a particularly Christmassy addition.  I have made this recipe in a saucepan on the hob, giving it a long cooking time over a very low heat, but it is far better made in the oven.  I follow the recipe almost exactly as it doesn’t really need any improvement, apart from the addition of the optional cranberries and the crushed juniper berries, a flavour which I love.  Some recipes add ginger, apple juice, orange juice or stir in ready made cranberry sauce: all these would add their own twist to the basic recipe and the challenge is to get the flavour mixture that you like the best.  Although I like the original flavours well enough, I may well experiment with alternative flavours so this recipe could well change as I find something which I consider an improvement.  If you make this recipe and add an ingredient or flavour not listed here please do leave a message in the comments.

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

Spiced Braised Red Cabbage Casserole
(Serves 8)

2 lb/1 kg red cabbage
1 lb/450g cooking apples
1 lb/450g onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated
¼tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground cloves
1tsp juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
3tbsp brown sugar
3tbsp wine vinegar
½oz/15g butter
Salt & freshly milled black pepper
3-4ozs/75-100g dried cranberries (optional)
   or
6-8ozs/150-225g fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2.

2.  Remove and throw away the tough outer cabbage leaves.  Quarter it and making a ‘v’ shape remove and discard the tough stalk in each piece.  Shred the rest of the cabbage finely, using a sharp knife.

3.  Peel, core and chop the cooking apples in small pieces.  Skin the onions and chop them small.

4.  Layer the ingredients in a large ovenproof pot or casserole, alternating layers of shredded cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper with layers of chopped onions and apples with a little garlic, spices and sugar.  Continue with the layers until all the ingredients are used up, apart from the vinegar and butter.

5.  Pour over the wine vinegar and dot pieces of butter on top.

6.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven to cook slowy for 2 – 2½ hours.  Stir the ingredients well twice during the cooking time.

7.  Grate a little extra nutmeg over the top as it is served, if you wish.

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I wonder what you consider to be storecupboard essentials?  Which items do you always have available and make sure you re-stock almost before you run out?  Although my storecupboard is stuffed full of interesting ingredients there are those I make sure I never run out of and several of the ingredients below, including tins of tomatoes and beans which are a wonderful standby, appear in my Top Ten ‘must haves’!  I try never, ever to be without coriander leaves: fresh if possible, but when I have a part bunch left I transfer it to a box and store it in the freezer so I never run out.  It is better this way than not at all: the taste is the same it’s just  no good to use as a garnish! 

This recipe is my own and uses some of our favourite flavours.  It, or its variations, make regular appearances as a quick and versatile vegetable recipe and can easily be made in one pot to serve as a single side dish with a main course. We enjoyed it served with Roast Lamb with Chilli Sauce and North African dishes such as spicy Moroccan Style Fried Fish (a variation of a Nigel Slater recipe). Alternatively, for an ‘all  in one pot’ meal, stir in some more vegetables, topped if you want, with grated or crumbled cheese instead add or add chunks of meat (ham or bacon are delicious).  We love coriander leaves and it is particularly good if you have added some spices to the mixture, but it could be omitted or another herb substituted.  That’s the beauty of versatile recipes: they can evolve into something completely different!  It can be transformed into a soup too by adding some more liquid (you may have drained juices from the tin of tomatoes): for a chunky version liquidise about a third and return the mixture to the pan and liquidise more, say two thirds, for a less chunky version. See also Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup.  This dish is delicious served hot or cold: filling and warming in the winter, but lovely as a chilled dish with a salad or on a buffet, in fact the flavours seem to develop in the fridge overnight.  Remember to save some coriander back as a garnish if using fresh.

Rather than spoil a whole meal as I once did, be warned that occasionally courgettes are bitter and it is best to try a small piece of each one before adding to a recipe. 

100_7626 Spiced vegetables with chick peas

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

Spiced Vegetables with Chick Peas
(Serves 4)

1 large onion: chopped fairly small
2 large cloves garlic: crushed or diced
½tsp/2.5ml ground cumin
¼tsp/1.25ml chilli flakes (I use Piment d’Espelette): adjust to taste
½inch/1cm piece of fresh ginger: finely chopped/grated (optional)
1tbsp olive oil
1 tin plum tomatoes: drained
   or
6-8ozs/150-225g chopped fresh tomato
1 large courgette: washed, split lengthways & cut in short pieces (or other vegetables)
14oz/400g tin chick peas
Salt & black pepper
1 bunch fresh coriander (or frozen if fresh unavailable)

1.  Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic along with the ground spices.  If using ginger put this in as well.  Cover and cook gently over a low heat until the onion is transparent but not browned.

2.  If using fresh tomatoes peel them if you wish beforehand by making a cross shape and plunging into boiling water for about 30 seconds, which makes the skins easier to remove.  Chop them well before adding to the onion mixture and if the mixture is a little dry add some of the reserved tomato juice or a little water.  Add the courgette pieces (or substitute a similar amount of an alternative vegetable: pumpkin, squash or sweet potato are good, though you may like to reconsider your choice of spices)  Cook for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the drained chick peas and a generous handful of chopped fresh or frozen coriander (if you only have frozen then add a little more if you wish as you cannot use it as a garnish).  Sseason with salt and pepper and continue to cook.  For crisp vegetables do not need very long but this can take a longer cooking time as well so the texture is similar to Ratatouille.

4.  Serve sprinkled with more freshly chopped coriander if available.  If serving is delayed, it will be served cold, or turning it into soup, then reserve the coriander to add just before serving so it does not wilt.

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Cabbage, along with Spring Greens and Brussels Sprouts, gets a really bad press.  Its not surprising really – I am sure we have all eaten really awfully cooked cabbage, greens or sprouts at one time or another … overcooked, watery, tasteless, colourless…  It’s no wonder that generations of children rebel!  However, cooked properly, these green vegetables can be really tasty.  The secret is a short cooking time to retain crispness and colour: about 7 minutes for sprouts should be ample.  If  you wish, extra flavours can be added as in this recipe. I used a round winter Savoy Cabbage, which has a wonderfully ‘ruched’ texture.  Substitute a different type of cabbage, shredded or quartered Brussels Sprouts or even Broccoli for variety.

This recipe comes from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, originally simple called Fried Cabbage with Bacon.  It is quick and simple and can be ready in about 20 minutes, an ideal accompaniment for sausages or simply grilled meat.  Be careful not to cook the cabbage over too high a heat or it could could burn: add a little water (two or three teaspoons at most) and lower the heat if this does start to happen.

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

Cabbage with Bacon & Onion
(Serves 3-4)

1lb shredded cabbage (or substitute Brussels Sprouts or Broccoli)
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped – more if you wish
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper

1.  Using a large frying pan, gently fry the diced onion and chopped bacon in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until soft.

2.  Stir in the crushed garlic.

3.  Add the shredded cabbage to the pan.  It will seem to be rather a lot, but will cook down.  Stir from time to time so it cooks evenly.   Season to taste.  After 10 minutes the cabbage should be cooked, but will still be crisp.  For softer cabbage put a lid on the frying pan so that it will cook in the steam, but beware overcooking.

4.  Serve with sausages or grilled meat and a jacket potato.

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