Tag Archives: cheese

Squash and Sweetcorn Tamales

Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano

Last night I had a little Tamale Party with friends Jane, Jimmy and Steve to celebrate Jane’s and Jimmy’s Month of Anniversary. The event stemmed from a recent walk in Wales, wherein I expressed to Jane and Jimmy my desire to further my tamale practice, and they offered themselves as willing taste testers and sous chefs.

Hot Tamale Party Chalkboard Menu

There was a pretty steep learning curve here, and I admit our tamale rolling efforts weren’t exquisite (that may have been the numerous margaritas, white russians, negronis and long island iced teas talking). So this morning I woke up and had another sober attempt at rolling tamales, and things went pretty well, so I thought I’d share my notes and photos from the process in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano

The recipe I used as a base is Rachel Demuth’s Tamales Rellenos de Calabacin from Demuths Cookery School which uses roast butternut squash and feta for the filling. I’ve written about this recipe before, but this time I made a few tweaks that I think improved matters considerably. I added roasted red pepper and sweetcorn to mine – the corn really made it for me. Instead of feta, I did some tamales with queso fresco, and others with goats cheese. The queso fresco offered a nice melty chewy cheesy hit, but I think I preferred the salty creaminess of the goats cheese tamales.

Big learning points were: make sure that the batter is pretty soft – you should be able to smear it across the husk with a spoon; also, spread the batter in one corner of the husk – this makes rolling the tamale a no-brainer (this video was very helpful in this regard).

My tamale technique still needs practice and I’d love to experiment with other fillings, so hopefully my amazing sous chefs will return for more tamale rolling and taste testing, and requisite margarita drinking which, let’s face it, makes even the most poorly rolled tamale taste like a dream!

Squash and Sweetcorn Tamales

I recommend serving these with mole poblano sauce, but you could also do any kind of salsa, red or green, or a creamy verde sauce.

Makes about 10 tamales.

Ingredients

  • 20 large fresh or dried sweetcorn husks

For the masa

  • 200g masa harina
  • 50g butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50mls milk
  • 100mls vegetable stock

For the filling

  • 100g queso fresco, goats cheese, feta or other cheese of choice
  • 1 small butternut squash (or another variety if available)
  • corn kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 chopped fresh red chilli
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole with the skin on
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Chopped coriander
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Roast the squash and red peppers in a hot oven (180/gas mark 7) with the garlic, chilli, thyme, and olive oil until it is soft-this should take 30-40 minutes. When cooked remove the garlic from its skin and pound in a pestle and mortar and then stir back through the squash. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir through some chopped coriander and lime juice. Add the corn and crumble in the cheese (or if using a very soft cheese like goats cheese, keep it separate until you are filling the tamales).
    Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano
  2. To prepare the sweet corn husks, if fresh, carefully peel the husks off the cobs and place in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for 5minutes, drain and leave to cool. If using dried husks soak them in hot water for 30minutes. When they are soft rinse them under running water as you separate them. Lay them flat on a plate and keep them covered with a damp cloth.
  3. To prepare the masa, combine the masa harina with the salt and baking powder. Add the butter in chunks and crumble it through with your hands until it reaches the consistency of breadcrumbs (much like making scones).
  4. Add the milk and stock and mix with your hands until combined and you have a soft dough. Add a bit more milk until it becomes easily spreadable (slightly softer than the consistency of scone dough).
  5. To assemble a tamale, take on corn husk and place it on the table. Put a heaped spoonful of batter in one corner of the husk and spread it out into a long rectangle with two sides running along the edge of the husk (see picture below).
    Roast Butternut Tamales with Mole Poblano
  6. Take a spoonful of the filling and spread it out down the middle of the masa. Roll the tamale as you would a burrito, starting with the end where the masa is flush with the side of the corn husk, rolling over so that the edges of the masa meet, folding up the bottom corner of the tamale, and then finishing the roll.
  7. Steam the tamales in a vegetables steamer. Cover the bottom of the steamer with some left over husks, place the tamales standing upright and fill the spaces between them with wads of silver foil. Cover the top with a lid or cover with silver foil. Steam for 45- 60 minutes. You can tell when they are done because the masa will be soft and sponge like.
  8. Serve them as soon as possible, before the masa becomes stodgy.

Family Recipes: Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese Dumplings

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

I’ve been living in the UK for over seven years now. Along the way I’ve become a British citizenship, I’ve acquired a wonderful dog, and I’ve accumulated a lot of “stuff”. But I still regard Chicago as my “home”. It’s where I grew up and almost all of my family still live there, as do many dear friends. And even after seven years, I still get a little “homesick” sometimes.

Food is a natural way to go get my fix of virtual family time. I am very grateful to my mother who put together a family recipe book, a collection of recipes spanning three generations and nine households. I turn to this book often, with the most stained pages being Auntie Jo’s Sunshine Cake (now legendary across the globe), Aunt Sue’s Cranberry Chutney (a must-have at Christmas, amazing with Stilton), my sister’s Ranch Dressing (Clausen dill pickle juice is the key) and Grandma’s famous Oriental Coleslaw (especially popular with my friend, Henry).

SeasonedWithLove

The recent onset of cooler weather, paired with the end of tomato season, compelled me to turn to another page of the family recipe book: Mom’s Tomato Soup & Dumplings. This is a classic and probably shares the Gold with Matzo Ball Soup for Ultimate Comfort Soups by Mom. In fact, it’s worth saying that my mom is a soup genius – her Shorabat Addas and Green Lentil Soup are two favorites that I make frequently. (When is your book on SOUP coming out, Mom?)

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

Back in the day, we used tomato soup from the Campbell’s can (jazzed up with fresh tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and grated cheese), but now that I grow my own tomatoes (and am wary of the salt and preservatives in tinned food), I make my own roasted tomato soup that is silky smooth without added milk, cream or cheese. The cheese element comes from the dumplings, which couldn’t be easier: mix up grated cheese, eggs and breadcrumbs then spoon in bits of the batter. The dumplings cook right in the soup.

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

In this case I was prompted to use Davidstow Mature Cheddar in my dumplings thanks to my latest blog post on Great British Chefs featuring this very soup. You could use whatever cheese you have on hand – it might be fun playing with feta, parmesan, gruyere or a combination of cheeses. You could also add fresh or dried herbs. Feel free to use whatever bread you wish for the breadcrumbs – I tend to go for wholemeal bread crumbs but white works just as well and sourdough is absolutely dreamy.

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

The soup is vegan without the dumplings. I haven’t tried vegan dumplings yet but there are a few recipes around, including these chickpea flour dumplings from Edible Mosaic and these rosemary dumplings from Post Punk Kitchen. In the non-vegan version, the eggs help puff up the dumplings making them nice and light. Without the eggs, the dumplings would seem very stodgy to me, so if anyone has some good suggestions for a vegan alternative, I’d love to hear them!

Mom's Tomato Soup with Cheddar Dumplings

Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese Dumplings

Serves 4

For the tomato soup:

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Small bunch of basil, separated into leaves and stalks*
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • grated cheddar (optional garnish)

For the dumplings

  • 2 slices bread, crumbled (or about 1/2 cup bread crumbs)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 oz grated cheddar cheese
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F and cut the tomatoes in half. Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about an hour, until the tomatoes are totally soft and beginning to char around the edges.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot over a medium heat and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, chop the basil stalks, and then add to the pan and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the roasted tomatoes (including any juices that seeped out) to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Stir and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover and leave to simmer for about 10-20 minutes (until the carrots are very soft).
  4. Purée the soup in a blender (I used a Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender which works a dream for this purpose) then return to the pot and gently reheat.
  5. Meanwhile, make the dumplings by mixing together all of the ingredients – you should have a moist doughy mix that’s easy to shape into small balls (about the size of a teaspoon).
  6. Drop the balls into the hot soup and simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
  7. Ladle the soup and dumplings into bowls and garnish with grated cheddar cheese and fresh basil leaves before serving.

* The impressive bunch of basil pictured in the top photo was grown by The Organic Farm Shop, who also supplied a few extra tomatoes to go in my soup. I also used their eggs for the dumplings and can only imagine that their award-winning homemade cheeses would have lifted this recipe even further. Their ingredients are top of class and the shop itself is a treasure, with a vegetarian cafe and Indian textile shop to boot. I highly recommend giving them a visit if you’re ever in the Cirencester area!

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast

Pistachio & Cranberry Veggie Roast

I’m back in Chicago for Christmas and have been happily very busy, mostly with things involving food. As I’ve written previously, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect veggie roast. Thanksgiving was good practise – and great fun – but Christmas adds an extra layer of “special” since I’ll be spending it with my family.

The veggie loaf I’ve settled on is this Pistachio and Cranberry “Nut Roast”, adapted from Anna Jones’ recipe in the Jamie Oliver magazine of all places. But I really do love it. She bills it as a “nutroast”, but there’s a whole lot more going here – a risotto-style base of barley (or arborio rice), mushrooms, cheese, pistachios of course, plus lots of Christmassy herbs like rosemary and sage. The best part, though, is the cranberry “glaze” on top that makes it actually look pretty appealing, rather than just a vomitty-colored lump of congealedness on a plate. Plus, cranberries are great with pistachios. And cooking the rice in a risotto-like manner with white wine, wild mushrooms and porchini mushrooms gives the loaf that super umami flavour that you really need on Christmas.

I made this for the Thanksgiving crew and everyone enjoyed it. I’ve adapted it slightly to include lentils for added texture. A slice of this veggie roast requires cashew gravy and, if you’re me, my aunt’s killer cranberry chutney.

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast
 

Ingredients
  • A small handful of dried porcini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 90g risotto rice or pearl barley
  • 60g puy lentils
  • 100ml white wine
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 200g mixed wild mushrooms
  • 100g pistachios, toasted
  • 100g almonds, toasted
  • A handful of breadcrumbs from sourdough or ciabatta
  • 50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 225g ricotta cheese
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 sprigs each of sage, rosemary and thyme, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 200g fresh cranberries

Instructions
  1. Cook the puy lentils in boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make the risotto base: Soak the dried porcini in a little boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the celery and onion and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the rice. Cook for a minute or so until you hear it snap, crackle and pop, then add the wine and stir until absorbed.
  4. Drain the porcini, sieve any grit from the liquid and add this to the risotto pan, stirring until absorbed. Finely chop the porcini and add to the pan.
  5. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring each one in until it has been completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir as much as you can – this is what will make it creamy. Once the rice is al dente (when you break into a grain, it should be almost cooked through but still have a white fleck in the middle), transfer to a bowl to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Fry the wild mushrooms in a little olive oil over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes, until they are just starting to crisp. Bash the nuts into coarse pieces, or quickly pulse in a food processor.
  7. Once the risotto has cooled, add all other ingredients except the sugar and cranberries, season, and mix well.
  8. Butter a 20cm loaf tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Cook the sugar and the cranberries in a pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes, then tip into the tin and spread evenly. Pile on the nut-roast mixture and pack it down with the back of a spoon.
  9. Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. Once it’s golden brown on top, remove the nut roast from the oven and leave to settle for 10 minutes.
  10. Use a knife to loosen the tin, then place your serving platter or board on top. Cover your hand with a tea towel and flip the whole lot over, then carefully lift the tin off. Serve with cashew gravy and all the trimmings.

 

Image credit: Many thanks to Emily for snapping the above picture on Thanksgiving. A very happy moment captured!

Raw Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad


Raw Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

If you know me at all then you I’m a bit of a kale addict.

Raw kale salad features prominently on my lunch menus. My usual approach is simple: finely chopped raw curly kale tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add orange wedges, red chilli and sunflower seeds. Other times I add red onion and carrots. Sometimes I add boiled eggs, beans, tofu, tempeh, or bulgar wheat.

This weekend I discovered that Tuscan Kale, aka ‘Cavolo Nero’, is also great in raw salads. A family friend sent this recipe, which sounds like a weird melange of ingredients: Tuscan kale, brussels sprouts, pecorino and almonds in a lemon vinaigrette. Does this really go together?

It does. You’ll just have to trust me and try it. The key is to shred the kale and sprouts very finely. I use my hands to really rub the dressing into the leaves and then give it a half hour to soak in. You could skip the cheese and make it vegan, but I don’t think it would be as good (sometimes those are the breaks!).

Raw Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

If you’ve never had raw kale salad before, this is a pretty good place to start. I suspect it would work well with curly kale, too, or cabbage in place of the brussels sprouts. Ah but that is the beauty of salads, isn’t it? Endless adaptation. Anyone who thinks salad is just a big pile of leaves is just wrong!

Raw Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Adapted from a recipe from a family friend. Made with Tuscan “cavolo nero” kale.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt plus more for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large bunches of Tuscan kale / cavolo nero (about 1 1/2 lb. total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely sliced or shredded
  • 1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino, Parmesan, Grano Padano or other hard Italian cheese

Method

  1. Make the dressing: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend then set aside to let the flavours meld.
  2. Toast the almonds in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown.
  3. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Toss with the salad dressing (add as much dressing to suit your tastes – you may not need it all). Use your hands if you like to really rub the dressing into the leaves. Toss in the cheese and, if you’re patient, put the salad in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to marinade a bit. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Serve garnished with toasted almonds.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

Per serving: 195 Calories | 15.3 grams Fat | 8.7 grams Carbohydrates | 8.1 grams Protein | 3.3 grams Fiber

Raw Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Cauliflower and Broccoli Omelet with Feta

Open-Face Omelet with Cauliflower, Broccoli & Feta

I’m not really sure what to call this. Open-faced omelet? Frittata? Chunky vegetable pancake? Whatever you call it, I’ve really been enjoying this style of “omelet” lately, and this particular combination of ingredients worked very well. I use parsley here, but I could see dill and/or mint also working very well.

Cauliflower and Broccoli Omelet with Feta and Parsley

This is an easy omelet for one, which I make in an oven-safe 20cm frying pan so that I can grill it at the very end. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you could cook it for a few extra minutes on the stove top with the lid on. Adapted from this recipe for a Cauliflower and Feta Omelet.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • ~2 cups broccoli and cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, whisked (with a splash of milk if you like)
  • ~2 Tbsp of feta or more to taste
  • 5 cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Turn on the grill / broiler in your oven
  2. In an oven-safe skillet, saute the broccoli and cauliflower on medium-high heat in some olive oil. Try not to stir too much so they take on some colour in the pan.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the garlic, half of the parsley and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for another minute.
  4. Pour in the egg and rotate the pan to distribute the egg evenly.
  5. Crumble the feta over the top, then distribute the cherry tomatoes.
  6. Place under the grill for about 5 minutes, or under the omelet is nicely coloured and the cherry tomatoes have started to burst.
  7. Garnish with the rest of the parsley, a couple grinds of fresh black pepper if you’d like and serve.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Yield: 1 serving

Per serving: 212 Calories | 13.3 grams Fat | 13.2 grams Carbohydrates | 12.9 grams Protein | 4.8 grams Fiber