Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ceviche Revelation

Corn and Avocado Ceviche

I think I’ve discovered my new favourite thing to do with pollock: turn it into ceviche.

Pollock is all the rage at the moment as a sustainable alternative to cod. I got into pollock thanks to Rosalind Rathouse at Cookery School who uses it to make beautiful fish cakes and goujons (fish fingers for grown-ups). Her Fish and Shellfish class futher taught me how amazing poached pollack works with black butter sauce (but what wouldn’t be good with black butter sauce?).

Pollock is relatively inexpensive compared to most fish, but also, relatively flavourless. This makes pollock a good candidate for high flavour preparations like curries, fish tacos and, as I discovered this week, ceviche.

Ceviche is interesting – it’s an ancient method of preparing fish originating from South America where the fish gets diced and “cooked” by letting it marinate in citrus juice or other acidic liquid. Although no heat is applied, the fish obtains the colour and texture of cooked fish thanks to the interaction of acid in the citrus and protein in fish. To quote McGee, “the high acidity denatures and coagulates the proteins in the muscle tissue, so that the gel-like translucent tissue becomes opague and firm: but more delicately than it does when heated.”

Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for smoked corn and avocado ceviche using sea bass, one of my most favourite fish but also one I reserve for “special occasions”. Wild sea bass (the good stuff), is expensive, and when I have it, I like to cook it simply so I can really enjoy the flavour of the fish, not hide it in lime juice and spices.

Instead, I made his ceviche recipe with pollock, and I think it’s up there with one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever made. I served the ceviche on a crispy corn tortilla (which I achieved by heating a corn tortilla on an oiled frying pan until it was browned on both sides), with a dollop of fresh wasabi I recently acquired from The Wasabi Company. Total win.

Corn and Avocado Ceviche

Recipe: Smoked corn and avocado ceviche [guardian.co.uk]

Waldorf-Inspired Breakfast Salad

Heeding the call of the #vegan #breakfast #salad. Apple, celery, carrot, red onion, little gems, walnuts, chilli, mustard vinaigrette.

This has been breakfast the last few days, a sort of glorified vegan version of the classic Waldorf salad, inspired by this season’s apple harvest and a few stalks of celery lurking in my fridge. You could bulk this out with added quinoa, bulgar wheat, maybe a few raisins, or even a blob of yogurt, but I found this wasn’t necessary. As is, this was my idea of perfect breakfast: delicious food that satisfies without over-filling. Major feel-good factor here.

For one serving:

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • a few thin slices of red onion
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 10g walnuts
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • a few little gem lettuce leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sliced green chilli (optional)
  • 2 tsp dijon-based vinaigrette (mine was the House Dressing recipe from Arthur Potts Dawson’s Eat Your Veg, but any mustard-based dressing would do – I love this honey mustard dressing recipe)

Mix it all together and serve.

Turkish Style Flatbreads

Turkish Style Flatbread

My bread mojo has been lacking lately. I feel like I’ve had a long string of loaves that are too flat, flatbread that is too dry, lacklustre sourdough starter and cardboard-esque pizza bases. It has me feeling a little ho-hum about bread, while desperately craving something great.

I decided to try two things: first, a new recipe. I opted for the Turkish flatbread from the River Cottage Bread Handbook. The second thing I tried was following the recipe exactly – no cutting corners, no experimenting with different flours. Instead, I paid attention to what I was doing and put my faith in the recipe. It didn’t let me down.

The dough includes yogurt and olive oil to create a soft pillowy flatbread. The dough wasn’t as wet as what I’m used to, but I resisted the urge to add (very much) extra water and let it do it’s thing. It rose as it should, and it was very easy to roll.

Making flatbread

Making flatbread

I love flatbread because you can roll the dough into whatever size you want – big ol’ flatbreads for sharing with friends, or little mini breads to stack and freeze and keep on hand for whenever you need it. I rolled mine into about 4″ diameter, 3mm thick (do you like how I’m mixing my measurement systems?) and then got on with the baking.

The recipe calls for the rolled-out dough to be baked quickly on a hot skillet, and then finished in the grill. You can imagine my delight as I saw the dough puff and rise on the stovetop.

Making flatbread

What you don’t see, however, is the bread rapidly burning underneath! Lesson learned: these flatbread bake VERY quickly, and it’s a little fraught working with the skillet and then the grill. I ended up making most of the flatbreads on the outdoor BBQ because it’s much cleaner, harder to burn and you can make more than one flatbread at once!

Making flatbread

The resulting flatbreads weren’t so “flat” at all, but they were exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve been eating them with gusto with raw kale salads and beetroot and walnut hummus (another River Cottage recipe). Most importantly, however, I feel relieved to have had a baking success. The mojo is returning. Next up, sourdough?

Turkish Style Flatbread

Turkish Style Flatbreads
 

Ingredients
  • 500g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g powdered dried yeast
  • 20g fine salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • 325ml natural yoghurt, warmed
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil, plus extra for coating

Instructions
  1. Mix the flours, yeast, salt, water and yoghurt in a bowl to form a sticky dough. If it seems really dry, and you’re having trouble working all the flour into the dough, add more water, a little bit at a time. Add the oil, mix it in. Knead until smooth and silky (either by hand or with a machine – I use a mixer with a dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes).
  2. Shape the dough into a round, then place in a clean bowl. Leave to rise, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
  3. Deflate the dough, then if you have time, leave to rise a second, third, even a fourth time (this improves the dough but is by no means essential).
  4. Tear off pieces the size of small lemons (or smaller, or larger, if you like) one at a time, shape into a round, then using plenty of flour, roll out to a 3-4mm thickness and leave to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  5. To bake on the stove / grill: Heat a large heavy based frying pan over the highest heat and set the grill to maximum. When the pan is super-hot, lay the first bread in it. After a minute or possibly less the bread should be puffy and starting to char on the bottom. Slide the pan under the hot grill, a good 15cm from the heat, and watch your creation balloon magnificently. Remove the bread when it starts to char on the top, brush on some olive oil, then server.
  6. To bake on a BBQ: Make sure the BBQ is good and hot. Lay the rolled out dough directly on the BBQ. You’ll see it start to bubble and puff. When it starts to char, flip it over and cook until it starts to char on the other side, too. Remove, brush on some olive oil and serve.

Chilli Chocolate Beetroot Smoothie

IMG_6630

My experiments with “green” smoothies have led me to that happy marriage of beetroot and chocolate, but with a little twist inspired by Sumayya Jamil who recently wrote about her Chilli Chocolate Lassi with Mint and Rose Petals.

What caught my eye was the inclusion of cumin seeds and mint, so I decided to try the two with beetroot, spinach and banana. This might be my most favourite “green” smoothie to date:

  • 1/2 large banana (~75g)
  • 1 small beetroot, boiled (~60g)
  • 30g spinach
  • 1 heaped tsp cocoa powder (or more to taste)
  • 4 large ice cubes
  • a few mint leaves
  • a few cumin seeds
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of salt

Blitz until silky smooth, adding as much water as necessary.

Helen and Silvana’s Vegetarian Smorgasbord

Tomatoes & slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

A recent lunch re-affirmed two things I already knew: Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School is one of the best vegetarian chefs of all time ever, and Silvana de Soissons really knows how to pick ‘em.

The occasion was The Foodie Bugle Contributor’s Lunch Party, hosted by Silvana, who wisely chose Helen to create, cook and serve the meal. The end result was the smorgasbord of my dreams (veggie or otherwise). Get a load of this menu:

  • Roasted red pepper soup and harissa
  • Wild mushrooms with pinenuts and herbs
  • Imman Bayaldi
  • Roasted butternut squash and haloumi salad with tahini yoghurt and spices
  • Castelluccio lentils with beetroot & caramelised fennel
  • Tomatoes slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

This is my kind of food, and reading the menu filled me with promise. But it was in eating the food itself where I was reminded why Helen rocks my world.

Helen Lawrence

I’ve known Helen for the past few years in my work with The Vegetarian Cookery School and Demuths Restaurant (where Helen used to be head chef). Helen is happy, fun and spontaneous. She works hard but never stresses. She loves ingredients. She loves to play. She loves to cook. All of this results in some amazing food, often with flavour combinations that surprise and inspire, and always beautifully presented as if each dish is an homage to the vegetables themselves. I’ve been a (mostly) vegetarian for the past 20 years and every time I take one of Helen’s classes or am treated to her cooking, I leave saturated with new ideas for how to make vegetables extraordinary.

Tomatoes & slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

Case in point was her lentils with beetroot and caramelised fennel, where the fennel was roasted on a very low heat over the course of two days to make the lentils absolutely soft, tender and sweet. Add to this deeply roasted beetroot and red onion, pomegranate molasses and edible flowers and you have something for which the phrase “lentil salad” simply doesn’t do it justice.

Lentils done well

The other revelation came in her rose harissa – take your usual spicy harissa past and add rosewater and rose petals. The result: a world-rocking addition to roasted red pepper soup, bread, salad and pretty much anything that takes well to a bit of heat. (Following its positive reception, Helen has graciously shared the rose harissa recipe for all to enjoy.)

Roasted red pepper soup with harissa

It wasn’t all fireworks and surprise flavours – Helen knows when to hold back and let great ingredients speak for themselves. Her sauteed wild mushrooms were going to be wrapped in filo and served with pine nuts, but in the end she served the sauteed wild mushrooms as they were – another example of Helen’s spontaneity resulting in beautiful results.

Sauteed wild mushrooms with herbs

I asked Helen what her favourite dish was to make. Her response: “that’s like choosing your favourite child.” This was right before she commandeered the mint tea, opened the pot and threw in some fresh sage leaves: “let’s put some of this sage in there because it’s just so lovely.”

Lunch is served

Like I said, Silvana knows how to pick em’, and that goes beyond chefs – she knows how to pick her friends, too. The lunch party was full of the coolest, friendliest and most talented foodies around. Authors, chefs, cookery teachers, food and drink “artisans”, journalists… mostly small business owners who have the freedom of life to disappear on a weekday afternoon into Silvana’s countryside wonderworld – the crockery, the linens, the Aga, the dogs, the wine, the food, the people – it’s all straight out of the “Make Life Awesome” handbook. It’s a sure sign that things are headed in a pretty swell direction.

I’ll finish this post the same way we finished the meal: with dessert. Semolina cake with roasted quince alongside rosewater and pistachio meringues, blackberries and vanilla labna. There are those roses again, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. I need to get some.

Dessert

Related Links

Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Pea and Watercress Soup with Boiled Egg

The watercress returns, because let’s face it, there are only so many watercress and apple smoothies one can drink. The rest went into this soup, adapted from this recipe on Channel 4: Minted Pea and Watercress Soup.

I used stock in place of soy milk, and didn’t bother straining out any solids: all hail the Vitamix and its ability to puree even the toughest of pea membranes and watercress stems into the finest puree. The soup is vegan, until you add the boiled egg, which makes it altogether awesome (I’m sure toasted sourdough croutons would also work a treat). On a whim, I also added some mixed seeds I toasted in a dry pan then tossed with a little soy sauce. This might be my new favourite soup garnish!

Pea and watercress soup with boiled egg and tamar-toasted seeds.

I particularly enjoyed this soup for breakfast, and as we move into winter, I expect to see more savoury breakfasts arrive in soup form.

Recipe: Minted Pea and Watercress Soup