Eggplants come in all shapes and sizes, colours, tastes and textures. Sadly, we only get to cook with a few varieties through our Green Grocer and 1 or 2 more through our Asian Grocers. Thai Eggplants are a particular favourite, a little crunchier in texture than the European variety, and a real affinity with Asian flavours such as toasted sesame and soy.
Radishes at their most soft and gentle
Growing radishes must be the easiest thing under the sun. They don’t need a lot of attention, and suddenly, they are fully grown and fully flavoursome. Sliced thinly and salted is our favourite way to enjoy them, although they go into salads and sandwiches too, and sometimes they go into a quick pickle to have with rice or other dishes.
Today, we are treating them French style, cooked in a little butter. This removes the heated tang from the little bulbs, leaving them soft and tender in texture and taste.
Today’s salad takes some olive tapenade and olive oil and smothers bread in it. As it soaks in, cubes of the bread are mixed with tomatoes to make a gorgeous salad. A fun alternative to including olives, and adds a bit of bulk to the dish.
This is also a great way to use up left over bread that might be only good for toast. The firmer texture of this bread is perfect for salads as it soaks up the juices of tomatoes and dressings.
The season of cumquats are upon us, and not only are we able to get gorgeous ones from our local Asian Grocery, but friends who are not so kitchen-friendly as me, arrive with baskets of them.
But a conversation with a Fijian friend changed, or rather, expanded, the way we think about this tiny, semi-sour globular fruits. He related how they use cumquats like lemons, squeezing the juice into dishes that need that bit of tang. Now not only are they squeezed, we cut them in halves and nestle them into oven baked dishes, they are floated in stocks, soups and stews to infuse, we char grill them for salads, and they find their way, chopped into 2 or 4 or 6, into warm vegetable mixes.
And they are made into tea.
What a delicious infusion this is. Just cumquats, or with mint and/or other herbs added, it is a perfect mid morning or mid afternoon pick-me-up. Surprising. Wonderful.
In terms of herbs, use your favourites, and don’t be afraid to experiment with a leaf here and there. Tulsi, basil, mint, thyme, parsley. Add honey if you need a sweetener. I don’t. But some Cumquat varieties are more sour than others.
A salad perfect for late Winter and early Spring – and the rest of the year too.
Salads, what wonderful variety they add to life. The number of salads on this blog (150 different salads either posted or scheduled to be posted) says something about our commitment to them. Hot or cold, cooked ingredients or raw, we adore the variety, usefulness, tastes and textures of salads.
A beautiful dish from Ottolenghi – one that takes time to produce a marvellous dish
Pottering in the kitchen today, I had a little more time so brought together Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem Artichoke recipe from his book Plenty. Simple to make, it takes just a little time as you need to roast the artichokes, make the charred tomatoes, blend up the basil oil and grill the halloumi. It appears a random combination of ingredients, but it is not so. A perfect combo of bitter, sour, sweet, crispy, crunchy, soft and creamy.
Sometimes bitter greens are not available, so I substitute nasturtium leaves which are always plentiful here. And some rocket leaves.
This dish is a vegetarian version of a stew from Afghanistan, Quince Stew or Qorma-e-Behi. It uses lentils in place of the non-vegetarian items. It is a perfect Winter dish, fragrant from the quinces, and comforting and warming. Deeply, deeply warming.
I often use soft chard or other greens in this dish in place of the spinach, it works just as well.
Some time ago, one of my social media connections, dee, suggested that I cook okra with mustard oil. This is her recipe. We were discussing mustard oil and okra – there is such a natural affinity. When we are drying okra, for example, we mix the okra halves with mustard oil and spices before drying.
You’ll love this recipe – simple, quick, easy and deliciously flavoured.
Let’s face it, Barley is primarily a winter grain, cooked into soups, pilafs, “risottos” and vegetable stews. Its creamy texture is divine in winter, pairing well with parsnips in particular, with winter hard herbs and parsley, with tomatoes, and, well, with me. I fell in love with barley this year.
Having experimented with making barley water and roasting barley to make barley coffee, I can now leave those uses behind – I am not a terrific fan of either although they are interesting. But wintery barley uses – sign me up.
This is a huge vegetable and barley soup, full of goodness and just right for a day when the temperature doesn’t get over about 9C. Best to take some books and a bowl of soup and curl up in bed on those days.
We are back to beetroot again – and home grown beetroot is simply the best. As soon as you begin to work with it, that earthy beetroot scent invades the kitchen. Raw beetroot, not often used, is not only good for us (lots of roughage), its texture and taste is perfect for salads. Crunchy! Plus beetroot salads add such a colourful element to the dinner table.
This is another Bittman Salad, adapted from his 101 Salads. We have a project to make them all, at least the vegetarian ones, as they are all very healthy and amazing salads. You can browse other ones we’ve made here.
This salad I have adapted quite a bit, adding ingredients from my garden.
We don’t often cook radishes, but they can be sautéed or braised easily. Most people prefer them raw, but for a change, braising them can be an exciting alternative.
This recipe braises them with raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar, with sugar added to make a sticky glaze. It is rather interesting.
My radishes are home grown and quite small this year, so I reduced the cooking times. They are topsy turvy and not uniform in size, and I quite like the variation. We have round ones and long ones.
A perfect wintery cauliflower salad
A lazy Sunday Lunch with my Father included this great Wintery salad with roasted cauliflower. Easy to make, this Ottolenghi salad can be partly prepared earlier, to mix and serve at the table. It is from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty.
You might like other Cauliflower recipes – Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce, A Plate of Cauliflower, and Cauliflower Slow Cooked in Oil with Lime and Spices.
A surprising little tarte, intense in flavours, perfect Sunday Lunch or picnic food. Serve with a green salad.
This is an amazing little tart, layered with caramelised onions, oven dried tomatoes and feta. I make it as 4 individual tarts and serve with a green salad and a vegetable salad.
Not only does it taste sensational but it looks simply stunning and unusual.
The taste of the tomatoes is intense, due to the very slow drying of them beforehand. The pie is fragrant with fresh basil, sumac and parsley. Delicious!
Not a fast food, this one. It does take some time to prepare, due primarily to the slow baking of the tomatoes. Best to prepare the tomatoes, pastry and onions the night before and assemble and cook when you need it.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. Feel free to browse other recipes from our Retro Recipes series.
This salad is rather unusual but rather nice. It is a great salad for Autumn and early winter. Caramelised onions are mixed with bitter greens.
Take time to caramelise your onions. They will take between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on your stove, your pan, the onions and the heat that you used. These were cooked for 45 mins, but usually I cook them with a little more heat and they take 30 mins. Watch them carefully as they cook, stirring often.
Oh how cute – baby corn in a creamy base. It makes a great soup. Fresh baby corn is easy to find in Asian groceries if your local green grocer does not stock it.
This is another soup recipe from Vol 4 of Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See iconic books. All the soups in this section are simple, unspiced and almost 1970’s in style. This is not surprising, given the era that Meenakshi Ammal wrote the rest of the books. Soups like this are not common in South India, but not rare either. Baby corn is quite popular – going with the love of all things Indo-Chinese – and as I said, are really cute.