Goat’s Cheese and Rosemary Rolls – My First Culinary Adventure of 2016

Happy New Year everyone!

I’ve spent today getting reacquainted with my baking spirits, which is always a worthwhile activity, even when it is stinking hot. And even when it’s not always appreciated by others.

And it was important that it happen today. You see, I am starting a new tradition. Okay, more like ‘borrowing’ and running with someone else’s tradition.

 

Goat's Cheese and Rosemary Rolls 1

 

As some of you know, I bought Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries III when it first came out – no way was I risking that one on the Christmas list… what if no one bought it for me??? I would be bereft of Nigel…

So I had already read his entry for New Year’s Day, which he called Rising. In it, Nigel talks about how the new year comes to his kitchen quietly, with a pot of soup and freshly baked bread. He writes:

‘I like the notion of yeast rising, of new life in the kitchen on the first day of the New Year. Eccentric, daft even, but to me it just feels right.’

Is that not a glorious notion?

And I think that those with bakers’ souls will feel a certain affinity with this notion…

 

Goat's Cheese and Rosemary Rolls 2

 

Yeast rising in the kitchen on the first day of the new year can become a quite a compelling metaphor for an unbelievable number of different things, for an unbelievable number of different people. So don’t forget to make 2016 the best year you can for yourself.

And you can start by joining the fiesta party! Our hostess with the mostess, Angie @The Novice Gardener, and her lovely co-hosts – Judi @Cooking with Aunt JujuMolly @Frugal HausfrauSteffi @Ginger & Bread and Suzanne @A Pug in the Kitchen – are extending the party over the festive season, so come along and share your first dishes of 2016.

 

Goat’s Cheese and Rosemary Rolls

  • Servings: makes 6 rolls
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Goat's Cheese and Rosemary Rolls 1

 

Ingredients

  • 500g white bread flour
  • 7g sachets instant dried yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 350ml water
  • 3 large sprigs of rosemary (finely chopped)
  • 100g goat’s cheese (cut into small chunks)

Method

  1. Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add almost all the water and mix to a sticky dough.
  2. Continue to mix for a further minute or so – the dough will gradually become less sticky. Add a touch more flour or water until you are left with a dough that is soft and springy, yet slightly sticky to the touch.
  3. Flour a large work surface and gently knead the dough for 10 minutes without treating it aggressively. It should feel soft, smooth, light and springy.
  4. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover it with cling film and leave it to prove for an hour in a warm place.
  5. When the dough has doubled in size, tip it back onto a floured surface. Knead it again for 30 seconds.
  6. Work the rosemary and cheese into the dough so that they are evenly distributed.
  7. Cut the dough into six equal pieces and shape each piece into small rolls.
  8. Lay the rolls on a floured baking tray, leaving a good amount of space between them.
  9. Decorate each roll with a few rosemary needles on top.
  10. Leave to rise in a warm place under a tea towel for 45 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  12. Bake the rolls for 30 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.
  13. Great as a burger bun. Fantastic eaten warm and slathered in butter.

 

Recipe by Nigel Slater as found on BBC website.

 

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Salt Choc Chip Cookies

Don’t get me wrong, I eat my fair share of chocolate. Probably even more than my fair share of chocolate. But if there’s a choice between something sweet and something savoury, I’ll choose the savoury option 99 per cent of the time.

I’ll always choose chips (crisps) over biscuits. Yes, I’ll even choose them over cookies.

I blame the salt.

But these cookies, these delightfully chewy cookies are equally sweet, chocolaty and salty. And when they’re fresh out of the oven, so soft that they’re curving over and the choc chips are still gooey, well, something magical happens when you take you first bite.

Salt Choc Chip Cookies

We had a public holiday today for a sporting event… think what you will about that… and seeing as though we are really not sports-orientated people, a group of us decided to do the least sporty thing we could thing of… have a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.

There was even a runsheet organised for the day and what kind of snacks were and were not acceptable. These cookies were listed. Twice.

They are that good.

The first time I made them we gorged on them. And I still had enough cookies to take to work the next day so that we wouldn’t eat them all. And everyone who tried them came up to me with wide eyes, making noises you generally don’t want to hear at the office…

Yep, they’re that good.

Even though these cookies don’t taste overly sweet, they do have a fair bit of sugar in them. This is why you should share, you know, cookie style – two for you, one for someone else; two for you, one for someone else… Which is why I am being so very generous and kind by bringing these to the Fiesta Friday #88 party, this week co-hosted by Angie @The Novice GardenerJulie @ Hostess At Heart and Liz @ Spades, spatulas, & spoons

Salt Choc Chip Cookies

  • Servings: makes around 30 cookies
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Salt Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 430g plain flour
  • 1½ teaspoons bi-carb soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 240g unsalted butter (at room temperature and chopped into small cubes)
  • 230g brown sugar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ a vanilla bean (seeds scraped*) or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 150g dark chocolate chips
  • Approximately 2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt flakes**

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan-forced) or 190°C (conventional). Line two large cookie sheets with baking paper and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, bi-carb soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beating after each addition, then add the vanilla.
  4. Mix in the flour, followed by the choc chips.
  5. Roll small tablespoon amounts of the dough into balls and place on the trays, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Press down on the dough lightly and then sprinkle some Maldon sea salt on the top of each cookie.
  6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden.

* Don’t throw out the scraped vanilla bean – place it in some sugar to make vanilla sugar.

** Make sure to use sea salt, Maldon or not, but not table salt

Recipe by Camilla Clark.

Spiced Haloumi and Pea Fritters and a Tribute to Selma

It seems that every other person has a blog nowadays.

Some start up because they need a creative outlet. Others are looking for notoriety. Still others just want a little piece of space, carved out just for them and their thoughts.

I started my little food blog at a time when they were already a dime a dozen. I had no new idea, not fantastic, paradigm-shifting approach to creating or sharing recipes. I just wanted a little creative outlet and a place to keep track of my efforts, achievements, and which recipes in the mounds and mounds of magazine cutouts, cook books and web links were the ones worth cooking again.

What I never thought I would encounter when I started was a community of like-minded people who were so sweet and nurturing. A group of people that were unbelievably kind and supportive, even to one who mostly just lurked in the shadows and only popped up every now and then to shyly say hi before going into hiding again.

Spiced Haloumi and Pea Fritters
Amongst this beautiful community was a lady who I formed a bond with over haloumi, of all things. Selma @Selma’s Table was always there, encouraging all of us with her kind words and sweet nature, and we’re all deeply saddened to hear of her passing. I will miss her wicked sense of humour and her heartfelt advice.

These haloumi fritters are not the ones we first bonded over, but they are the ones I’ve made to honour Selma. A huge thank you (and even bigger hugs) to Angie @Fiesta Friday, Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook, Elaine @Foodbod and Sue @birgerbird for putting together this space for all of us to remember Selma.

Spiced Haloumi and Pea Fritters with Avocado Salsa

  • Servings: makes 12 to 16 fritters
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Spiced Haloumi and Pea Fritters

Ingredients

  • 250g frozen peas
  • 125ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g cornflour
  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 180g haloumi (half finely grated, half cut into 1cm cubes)
  • 3 scallions (finely sliced)
  • Zest and juice of half a lime
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • Vegetable oil (for shallow frying)
  • 1 Avocado
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Method

  1. Boil the peas in salted water for 2 minutes, then drain. Refresh under cold water, then drain again. Roughly mash half of the peas with a fork and then set aside.
  2. In a different bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, flours and baking powder until combined and smooth. Fold in the peas, haloumi, scallions, lime zest, coriander and chilli flakes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frypan over medium-high heat. Add 4 tablespoonfuls of the mixture to the pan, pressing down to flatten slightly, and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up.
  4. Meanwhile, halve, de-pit and roughly chop the avocado flesh. Mix in the chopped fresh coriander, and then add the lime juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, to taste.
  5. Serve the fritters hot or at room temperature with the avocado and coriander salsa.

Recipe adapted from Delicious magazine.

Salad and Burrata Piadina Wraps

For a little over a year now, I have been waiting for quinces to come back into season so I can make a version of Philippa Sibley’s Hansel and Gretel dessert.

Last month, I bought some quinces and some apples, and I poached and I baked and I churned and I caramelised and I made a seriously tasty dessert.

But all those little notes, change and tips that we all make to recipes are messily scrawled across multiple bits of paper. Bits of paper that I do not have the time to transcribe at the moment.

You see, things are happening… things that require boxes, and tape and bubble wrap…

I have only done it twice, but I know that I do not like moving. It’s messy, dusty and my usual method of ordered chaos has disintegrated into pure disorganisation. I don’t think it helps that the cat jumps out at me from behind boxes like a ninja.

So, seeing as though the majority of my spare time is now devoted to boxing up my life, I offer you all not the beautifully poached quinces and apple crumble ice cream that has been the plan for two weeks now; instead, I present a quick (plus resting time!) and easy recipe that can be adapted according to your mood, cravings, time and whatever it is you have in the fridge.

Salad and Burrata Piadina

Piadina is Italy’s lesser-know flatbread, after pizza and focaccia, can be just as tasty – there’s a lot of bad pizza out there – and is much easier to make. It’s great as a snack or as a base to top with a variety of ingredients from cheeses to cold cuts to vegetables. I love them folded over and stuffed with pesto, rocket, tomato, avocado and lots of burrata.

And I promise to share the poached quinces and ice cream dessert very soon. But until then, grab a piadina and enjoy this week’s festivities at Fiesta Friday #76 with Angie @The Novice Gardener, who is this week encouraging all of us to slow down, pause, and to appreciate and value each other.

Salad and Burrata Piadina Wraps

  • Servings: makes 6 piadina
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Salad and Burrata Piadina

Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour (plus extra to dust)
  • 250ml milk
  • 100g vegetable oil (or half vegetable oil and half extra virgin olive oil, or lard or duck fat)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons pesto (your favourite kind is the best choice here)
  • 100g rocket (or any salad leaves)
  • 3 tomatoes (finely sliced)
  • 1 to 2 avocados (flesh sliced)
  • 1 burrata ball (sliced as neatly as possible)

Method

  1. Combine flour, milk, vegetable oil, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Divide the mixture into 6 balls and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out each ball on a lightly floured work surface until 2mm thick.
  4. Heat a large frying pan or chargrill pan over medium heat and cook each flatbread for 2 minutes each side or until golden.
  5. Spread each piadina with a tablespoon of pesto, top with rocket, tomato, avocado and burrata, fold over and serve.

Recipe by Matteo Carboni via the SBS Food website.

Maple-Baked Nectarine Crostini with Mozzarella, Basil and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar

How do we really feel about imported fruit and vegetables?

Do we really and truly buy fresh produce because we want to support the community and our local growers? Because it is better for us? Because it’s better quality? Because it’s the right thing to do?

Yep, these are all good reasons. Personally, I prefer to buy local produce so that I can cook seasonal meals, from the comfort foods of winter to the beautiful fruit-inspired summer mains and everything in between.

And to be perfectly honest, the wait for seasonal delicacies is part of the appeal.

Baked Nectarine Crostini

I did buy imported nectarines the other day. I saw them and instantly remembered all of the summer dishes that I never got around to making before the stone fruit season had come to an end.

They weren’t great like middle of the season nectarines, but they weren’t bad either. And since I knew I was going to bake them, I only felt the tiniest, teeniest bit guilty for buying imported fruit.

So, moral of the story, it’s pretty much in everyone’s best interest to buy fresh and local produce. But if it’s available, and it’s tasty, and you really, really want to make something, it’s okay to sometimes buy some imported goodies.

I’m sharing these baked nectarine crostinis with the Fiesta Friday #73 gang, created by Angie @The Novice Gardener, and this week co-hosted by the lovely Michelle @Giraffes Can Bake and very sweet Juju @ cookingwithauntjuju.

Maple-Baked Nectarine Crostini with Mozzarella, Basil and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar

  • Servings: makes 8 crostini
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Baked Nectarine Crostini

Ingredients

  • 4 nectarines (stone removed, quartered)
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 8 pieces of sourdough bread
  • 2 fresh mozzarella balls (cut into 8 thick slices)
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • Raspberry balsamic vinegar to drizzle (or balsamic vinegar)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Place the nectarine quarters cut side down in a baking dish, drizzle with maple syrup, and bake for 15 minutes or until just tender.
  3. Meanwhile, lightly toast the slices of sourdough.
  4. Top each piece of sourdough with a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf and two pieces of baked nectarines. Drizzle with raspberry balsamic vinegar and serve warm.

Vanilla Scones with Strawberry Cream

Have you ever thought about how many different kinds of scones there are? There are sweet scones, like white chocolate and strawberry, herb and cheese savoury scones, fruit-filled scones, butter scones, pumpkin scones, lemonade scones, buttermilk scones, lovely sounding crème fraiche scones that Kitsch n flavours just posted… I could continue for days…

Scones have never really liked me. I can make soufflés and bake croissants, but every scone recipe I’ve tried has ended in disaster.

Vanilla Scones

I have a friend who can speedily and effortlessly whip up a batch of scones without thought. Whilst also cooking lunch. And bread. And happily chatting and drinking wine. She is very skilled at multitasking…

She’s even walked me through her recipe and watched me make it and still has no idea how I messed them up time and time again.

They tasted fine, but boy did they look awful.

Recently, I had to take a morning tea/afternoon tea type treat to an event, and I figured it was the perfect time to try making scones again, and shock horror, they actually turned out pretty well! They tasted great and rose beautifully and evenly, and because these particular scones contain no butter or milk, they were still great the next day.

So seeing as how I am now free from the scone curse, I’m off to experiment with other types of scones and offer these ones up to the Fiesta Friday #70 party. Angie @The Novice Gardener, Dini @Giramuk’s Kitchen and Mollie @The Frugal Hausfrau are your co-hosts this week so it should be a great get-together.

Vanilla Scones with Strawberry Cream

  • Servings: makes 20 to 24 scones
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Vanilla Scones

Ingredients for Vanilla Scones

  • 4 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 cup thickened cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla essence)
  • A few tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar (to serve)

Ingredients for Strawberry Cream

  • ¼ cup strawberry jam
  • 1 ½ cups whipped cream
  • 150g fresh strawberries (roughly chopped)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a flat baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
  2. Sift flour, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Create a well in the centre and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine cream, milk and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a flat-bladed knife to combine.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth.
  5. Pat the dough out to a 2.5cm-thick round. Using a 5cm scone cutter, cut 12 scones from the dough. Gently press the remaining dough together and repeat.
  6. Place the scones on the prepared tray, allowing a little room for spreading. Using a pastry brush, gently brush some milk on the tops and sides of the scones and then bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove the scones from the oven, cover with a clean tea towel and stand scones on tray for 10 minutes.
  8. To make the strawberry cream, stir the jam in a bowl until slightly softened. Add the cream and half the strawberries and gently fold through until just combined.
  9. Split scones in half. Top the bases with a dollop of strawberry cream, the remaining strawberries and the scone tops. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Recipe by Julie Jansen from taste.com.

Smoked Salmon and Quinoa Lettuce Cups with Lemon Crème Fraiche Sauce

Whether you were celebrated or helped to celebrate, I hope everyone had a lovely Mothers’ Day last week.

A friend’s mum is actually the inspiration behind these lettuce cups.

Lettuce Cups

We were having a grazing lunch a while ago of freshly-baked bread, salad, crisp vegetables and lots and lots of cheese. After trying to force more food on everyone, she ended up wrapping the leftover bits and pieces in a huge piece of cos lettuce. She looked so cute munching on her lettuce parcel, even while the rest of us good-naturedly teased her for it.

So I made a note in my phone to make some lettuce cups of my own, and here they are. You could pretty much use whatever combination of veggies that you like or have on hand, throw in some protein – tofu, smoked salmon, smoked chicken – and, to keep the boys happy, add some quinoa or couscous. Dollop on the crème fraiche sauce, fold into a parcel, and enjoy.

I’m sharing these with the Fiesta Friday # 68 lot, created by Angie @The Novice Gardener, and this week c-hosted by Justine @Eclectic odds n sods and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook.

Smoked Salmon and Quinoa Lettuce Cups with Lemon Crème Fraiche Sauce

  • Servings: makes 8 lettuce cups
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Lettuce Cups

Lettuce Cups Ingredients

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • ¼ cup mixed fresh herbs (finely chopped)
  • 8 of large, curved lettuce leaves (cos, little gem, iceberg)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (woody ends trimmed)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 100g smoked salmon
  • 1 Avocado
  • 12 baby bocconcini

Lemon Crème Fraiche Sauce

  • ½ cup crème fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of a ½ a small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 tablespoon fresh dill (finely chopped)

Method

  1. Rinse and drain the quinoa and then cook it following the packet directions, adding the mixed fresh herbs to the cooking liquid. Set aside to cool.
  2. Wash the lettuce leaves, then dry them thoroughly between absorbent towels. Set aside.
  3. Toss the asparagus spears with the oil and lemon juice, season with salt, and grill until slightly charred, about 5 minutes.
  4. While the quinoa and asparagus are cooking, prepare the smoked salmon by portioning it into 8 slices and rolling them into 8 individual rolls. Halve and pit the avocado and cut four slices out of each half. Quarter each baby bocconcini into quarters.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, whisk together the crème fraiche, mustard and lemon juice until smooth and combined. Fold through the basil or dill and season with salt.
  6. When everything is cooked and ready, lay out the lettuce leaves on a serving tray. Top with a full tablespoon of quinoa, add a roll of smoked salmon, a couple of asparagus spears and a slice of avocado. Top with some baby bocconcini, drizzle some crème fraiche sauce over the top and serve warm or at room temperature.

French Onion Soup Toastie

Bloggers tend to be in one of two camps when it comes to posting recipes about sandwiches, toasties, jaffles, rolls, etc ad nauseam – ‘Yes, let’s all do it’, or ‘No, are you kidding? That’s not even a recipe’.

But ultimately, most people just start making one or two sandwich fillings again and again because they are:

  1. Really, really yummy
  2. You remember how to make it off the top of your head because you’ve made it so often and it’s really not that hard
  3. You just want to throw something quick together
  4. Your care factor that day is quickly approaching zero
  5. All or non of the above.

We all need new sandwich filling inspiration every now and then, right?

Right.

Moving on…

French Onion Soup Toastie

April may be Grilled Cheese month, but today is Grilled Cheese DAY; and even though I still maintain that you can’t go wrong with a cream cheese, cheddar and tomato toastie, I thought we’d need something a little more special to celebrate the day with.

There are heaps of variations of French onion soup toasties out there, but I like this one as I don’t always have wine on hand to deglaze the pan and it doesn’t require beef stock for flavour – I use some balsamic vinegar glaze that then creates a tangy caramel onion filling that pairs nicely with the melted emmental.

There will be no soggy bread croutons in soup around here!

French Onion Soup Toastie

  • Servings: makes 2 toasties
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French Onion Soup Toastie

Ingredients

  • 20g butter (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 brown onions (halved and then very finely sliced)
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves (loosely packed)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze*
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 100g emmental, gruyere or swiss cheese (finely grated)

Method

  1. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a heavy-based pot with a lid and then add the oil. When starting to bubble, add the sliced onions and stir and agitate them continuously to separate the layers until the onions begin to sweat, about five minutes.
  2. Turn the heat down to low, add the thyme and salt, stir, then cover with the lid. Cook for at least 30 to 40 minutes, stirring the mixture every five minutes or so, until the onions turn a caramel colour and taste sweet. (Turning up the heat will burn, not caramelise the onions, so don’t try to rush the process.)
  3. When the onions are just about done, remove the lid, add the balsamic glaze to deglaze the pan and cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes or until golden and the liquid has been reduced. Keep warm and set aside.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan and toast one side of each slice of bread. Flip the slices and top two of the bread slices evenly with cheese and then the onion mixture. When the cheese just begins to melt, flip them over to toast the other side and allow the cheese to fully melt.
  5. Remove from the pan, cut in half and serve immediately with a green salad.

* If you can’t find or don’t have balsamic vinegar glaze, you can use balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, but you may need to cook the onion for a bit longer to reduce the liquid.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Fresh Fig Topped Spinach Tortillas

There’s no better way to celebrate another Meat Free Week than by posting a recipe by the men who made vegetables fashionable: Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

There is also no more arguing that autumn is now truly upon the other half of us. The weather has changed, the wind’s turned cool, which for the moment, is a lovely change to the sweltering and humid winds of the past season.

And with autumn comes the next wave of figs. Beautiful, sweet, slightly funky tasting figs.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Fresh Fig Salad

It truly is the fig’s presence in the Roasted Sweet Potato and Fresh Fig Salad that is served at Ottolenghi that ties the whole dish together. Oh, and the balsamic reduction. Notice it missing from the photo?? Trust me, you do not want to forget the glaze!

As I was serving this salad for dinner, and only this salad, I knew we’d need a little crunch, or should I say, a little carbs. For better or worse, I turned Yotam and Sami’s beautiful salad into a pizza/tortilla/wrap topping of sorts. But it worked! The crispiness of the spinach tortilla was a welcome texture on the plate. It also became a spoon to scoop up all the veggie goodness; and to mop up the sticky globs of balsamic reduction.

So, with only a few days left, go experiment with veggies and grains and enjoy Meat Free Week 2015.

And don’t forget to come and celebrate at Fiesta Friday’s new hangout that Angie @The Novice Gardener was so nice enough to create for us. Her co-hosts this week are Selma @Selma’s Table and Margy @La Petite Casserole so you know it’s going to be a great party.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Fresh Fig Topped Spinach Tortillas

  • Servings: Serves 4 to 6
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Roasted Sweet Potato and Fresh Fig Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 small sweet potatoes (1kg in total)
  • 75ml olive oil (divided)
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper
  • 40ml balsamic vinegar
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 12 spring onions (halved lengthways, cut into 4cm segments)
  • 1 red chilli (thinly sliced)
  • 4 to 6 spinach tortillas
  • 6 fresh and ripe figs (240g in total, quartered)
  • 150g soft goat’s cheese (crumbled, optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 240°C.
  2. Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthways and then cut each again similarly into 3 long wedges. Mix them with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt and some black pepper.
  3. Spread the wedges out on a baking sheet, skin-side down, and cook for about 25 minutes until soft but not mushy. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool down to room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the balsamic reduction, place the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-4 minutes, or until it thickens. Be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is still runnier than honey; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Stir in a drop of water before serving if it does become too thick to drizzle.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in a medium frying pan and add the green onions and chilli. Fry them over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, making sure not to burn the chilli, and then spoon the oil, onions and chilli over the sweet potatoes.
  6. On a medium heat, cook the tortillas on both sides until just crispy in the same frying pan used to cook the green onions and chilli. Set aside and cover with foil until ready to serve.
  7. Divide and arrange the sweet potato and chilli mixture on top of each tortilla. Dot the figs among the wedges and then drizzle over the balsamic reduction. Serve at room temperature with the cheese crumbled over, if using.

Recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Colcannon – A Colcannon by any other name would taste as good

Up until a week ago, I believed that the main ingredients in the most comforting of Irish foods, colcannon, were potatoes, milk, butter and cabbage.

So it came as quite a surprise to find out that cabbage is a substitute, and that kale was indeed the more traditional green to use when cooking colcannon, a kale/cabbage studded mashed potato.

Odd, considering that cál ceannann means ‘white-headed cabbage’…

Colcannon

When reading up on this Irish mash dish, I found Nigel Slater’s amusing column on colcannon, and how such a versatile dish with many variations can really only be called colcannon if it’s made up of potatoes, kale and milk. ‘Any changes you make to the classic,’ Nigel says, ‘will result in your dish getting a new name.’

Yet it was Nigel’s nifty twists that appealed to me more than the traditional version, so I tested it out on some Irish friends. One refused to acknowledge it as colcannon because that’s not how her mum and grandmother and great grandmother (etc.) made it; another said that as long as there were green specks through the mash, it was all good. The third didn’t really care what I called it as long as I gave her another helping.

I will admit that kale would make for a brighter, more noticeable green element to the mash, but the cabbage and leek mix made for a much mellower flavour that complimented the buttery potatoes quite well.

So, happy St Patrick’s Day everyone, and may you enjoy your colcannon any way you like it.

Colcannon

  • Servings: Serves 4 as a side dish
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Colcannon

Ingredients

  • 900g floury potatoes (peeled, coarsely chopped)
  • 40g butter (divided)
  • 80ml warm milk
  • 60ml crème fraiche
  • 250g leek (white and pale green part only, finely sliced)
  • 300g savoy cabbage (finely shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • Extra butter to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Place the coarsely chopped potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for around 20 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain and return to the saucepan over low heat. Stir the potatoes a bit to release the steam, then remove from heat. Add 20g of butter, the warm milk and the crème fraiche and, using a potato masher, mash until smooth and combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the remainder 20g of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until they start to soften. Add the shredded cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 7 minutes.
  4. Once cooked and still warm, fold the leek and cabbage mixture through the mashed potatoes. Season with salt to taste and serve topped with chopped chive and extra optional butter.

Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater.

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