Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Root of the Problem

Here are three recipes based on almost-the-same seasonal veggies. The first two are both classed as 'soups' - but one is almost a meal in its own right. First is the recipe for a 'chunky' one. Use more or less of the vegetables according to what we have. Omit the bacon and use the same weight of sliced mushrooms to make a vegetarian version.
Minestrone for Chilly Days: serves 4
1 onion, chopped
4 oz (1oog) streaky bacon, chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 potato, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 4oog can chopped tomatoes
1 3/4 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
1 tsp dried sage or mixed herbs
salt and pepper
few cabbage leaves, shredded
1 x 400g haricot or cannellini beans, drained
handful parsley, chopped
Put the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion and bacon for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute before adding the carrots, celery and potato. Stir well and saute for a few minutes longer. Add the tomatoes, stock, dried herbs and seasoning to taste. Simmer for fifteen minutes, then stir in the cabbage and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Stir in the beans and parsley. Cook for a further minute to heat the beans then serve in warm bowls with croutons on top, or crusty bread on the side.

Spicy Root Vegetable Soup: serves 4
2 onions, thickly sliced
1 tsp cumin, ground or seeds
3 tblsp sunflower oil
2 leeks, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chipped
2 tsp mild curry paste
1 3/4 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
8 fl oz (250ml) natural yogurt
salt and pepper
handful fresh coriander, chopped
Put 2 tsp of the oil in a saucepan and fry half the onions for 3 minutes, the stir in the cumin and continue frying until the onions are browned. Stir in the curry paste and the prepared vegetables, and when well coated with the paste pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to the simmer and cook for half an hour or until the vegetables are tinder
While this is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, and fry the remaining onion until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
Puree the soup (may need to be done in batches) then return to the pan and stir in two-thirds of the yogurt.
Season to taste then reheat gently, but do not boil. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and dress each with a dollop of yogurt topped with fried onions and a sprinkling of coriander.

Again, similar vegetables but this time a vegetarian 'tagine'. A little harissa paste (to taste) could be used instead of the spices as shown, but as the spices can be used in many other dishes (both sweet and savoury) it is worth building up a spice rack.
Vegetarian Tagine: serves 4 (V)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
half tsp turmeric
half tsp paprika pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 large carrot, sliced lengthways then cut into batons
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 turnip, sliced into thick rounds
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 pint 6fl oz (750ml) cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 crisp green eating apple, peeled and cored, cut into 8 wedges
handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
10 oz (280g) couscous
1 oz (25g) butter
13 fl oz (375ml) boiling water
Put the oil in a frying pan over high heat and fry the onion for 3 minutes, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Lower the heat to medium then stir in all the spices and cook for 2 minutes to allow them to release their flavour. Pour in the cold water, add the tomatoes and season well. Bring to the boil then stir in the carrot and parsnip. Cook for half an hour then add the turnip, sweet potato and apple. Cook for a further 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender, then stir in the mint.
Immediately you have added the turnips etc to the tagine, prepare the couscous by putting into a large bowl with the butter. Pour over the boiling water, giving it a quick stir, then cover with clingfilm or a plate and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Remove cover and stir again with a fork, re-cover and leave for five minutes longer. Fluff up with a fork, tip into a warm shallow dish and top with the vegetable mixture.

For once am giving a dish designed to be cooked (or rather heated) in the microwave. If you have a microwave and some plain cake that needs using up, then this is the one for you. Canny cooks will keep plain cake in the freezer, and dried fruits in the storecupboard so that this can be prepared and cooked in all of fifteen minutes, but as with any dish such as this, the syrupy fruit part can be made in advance - even the whole pud can be assembled in advance then that cuts down time to less than 5 minutes. A variation is also given for those who have ginger cake left over after Halloween.
Spiced Apricot Pudding: serves 4
6 dates, stoned and roughly chopped
8 no-soak dried apricots, chopped
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tblsp runny honey
5 fl oz (150ml) orange juice
2 tblsp chopped mixed nuts
1 madeira cake
Put the dates, apricots, spice, honey and orange juice into a small pan, and bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until the dates have collapsed and you end up with a thick syrupy sauce. Stir in the nuts then set aside.
Cut the madeira cake in thick slices and use a cutter to cur circles to fit into the top of four ramekin dishes.
Divide the fruit mixture between the ramekin dishes, then top each with a circle of the cake , pressing down gently. Cover with clingfilm and microwave on High for 3 minutes. Serve by upturning each onto an individual plate and serve with ice-cream, pouring cream or custard.
Instead of plain cake, use ginger cake, and for the sauce use a can of pear halves (drained) instead of the dates and apricots. Heat the pears instead with a handful of raisins or sultanas, good pinch of ground cinnamon. zest of 1 lemon or orange, the honey as above and just a splash of orange juice. When the pears have cooked down to a pulp (add more orange juice or juice from the can if necessary) then continue and cook as above.

Banella Toasties: serves 2 -4
butter, softened
4 slices (medium cut) white bread
Nutella spread
1 large banana, sliced
Thinly spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Turn over and spread the unbuttered side with Nutella spread. Cover with sliced banana, then cover with a second slice of bread butter side up.
Heat a dry frying pan, then put one sandwich (or two if they will fit) into the pan and cook for 3 minute on each side until the bread is golden and crisp. Remove from the pan, slice across diagonally and serve one or two triangles (per portion), dusted with icing sugar with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice-cream.