Tuesday 28 January 2014

Bulgar Wheat, Corn and Zucchini Salad

I am just loving the beautiful corn on the cob in the shops at the moment. It is so good to eat, so tasty and sweet. It reminds me of my childhood going through very tall rows of corn growing in our vegetable patch, always searching for the biggest cob and picking it straight off the stalks. We ate it steaming hot with piles of butter, salt and pepper. Even now (although I don't - that would be greedy!) I could easily eat two large cobs in one sitting.
One time, during one of those corn picking expeditions, I came out in a terrible red itchy rash all over my bare arms and legs. I remember (at the time) feeling quite worried I might be seriously ill but I am pleased to say I recovered fairly quickly from the generous dusting of pollen. To this day I am still very allergic to many forms of vegetable, grass and tree pollens.
This Ruth Pretty recipe is a good one to use during the corn season (when or if you ever get sick of eating buttery corn off the cob). Actually I made it for the first time last year, and it ended up being one of the great platters for my birthday (and our wedding) party celebrations.
If you are like me and always in a bit of a hurry, it is fine to use a kitchen whizz to chop up the onions and herbs together. You may prefer to do it the old fashioned way so the onion is a little chunkier. I couldn't get fresh dill locally so used a little dried dill instead which was fine.
I love the crunch and the colour of this salad. And not only does it provide another way to eat fresh corn, it's a great recipe to use up all those excess zucchinis growing in your garden too. 
It's delicious served on its own or as a side dish at at BBQ or summer lunch.
Last week I helped delivered some meals to a Bellyful (vegetarian) client. It was perfect timing to arrive on her doorstep with a portion of this salad, as she was wondering what to have for her lunch!

Bulgar Wheat, Corn and Zucchini Salad
Ruth Pretty – SST Jan 2012
Serves 5-6 or 10-12 as part of an array of salads
¾ c bulgar wheat
4 cups of boiling water
2 corn cobs, cooked and cooled
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 zucchini, finely sliced (use a vegetable peeler)
½ red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped dill
½ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1tsp flaky salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place the bulgar wheat into a large bowl and add boiling water. Stir, cover and set aside to soak for 45 minutes.
Drain through a large sieve, discarding the water.
Transfer the bulgar wheat to a clean tea towel, wring to extract the excess water and tip into a large bowl. ( I forgot to do this step but draining it in the sieve for about 30 mins was ok).
Slice kernels from the corn cobs and add to the bulgar wheat. Add the chilli, zucchini, onion, dill and parsley.
Pour the lemon juice and oil into a jug with S & P. Whisk well.
Pour dressing over the bulgar wheat mix, toss ingredients together.
Cover the salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or overnight for the flavours to develop or keep for up to 3 days.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Broccoli, Brown Rice and Cashew Salad

If you don't like broccoli - look away now!
When the man of the house suggested another meal made with broccoli I was happy to oblige. (He found the recipe in an online newspaper - he couldn't remember which one but I have made sure the author has been noted).
Although a much maligned vegetable, broccoli is very good for you - full of those vitamins and minerals our bodies need to make us healthy, and of course it provides excellent roughage for our inner bits.
I particularly like this recipe as it includes everything in one dish - carbs, nuts and vegetables all taken care of. How easy is that?
Actually our pooch (Sadie) has a daily serving of broccoli, she is in her 17th year and still going strong. Having said that, she has had a few health issues over the last year. She is now pretty deaf ( handy, as she no longer shakes during thunder and lightening storms) and is a little slower than she used to be.
At times I call her a bit of a grumpy dowager as she takes a bit of a dislike for most other dogs on our daily wander around the neighbourhood (and the odd human!).
We are convinced her longevity is due to two walks a day and a dinner helping of a few florets of cooked broccoli strategically poked into her meal! She is not keen on any stalks (tosses them aside if you please) but finely diced, we can ensure all the broccoli is eaten. She likes a bit of grated carrot too!
Taking Sadie's lead, when making this salad make sure you cut the florets quite small. I left them a little too big, they need to be bite sized pieces.
And if you plan to keep some leftovers for the next day, don't add all the dressing to the salad, it can make it a little soggy.
I had a few beans in our garden, lightly blanched they were a perfect addition to this salad. Throw in some blanched fresh asparagus when it is in season too.
There are so many lovely flavours in this salad. Great for Vegans too.We had it as main for dinner but it is perfect as a salad side dish with BBQ chicken or steak. 

Broccoli, Brown Rice and Cashew Salad
From Bite – Jo Elwin
1 cup of cooked brown rice - cooled
1 large broccoli, cut into little florets and blanched for a few minutes – cool under cold water and drain well
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 cups of mixed lettuce leaves
1 cup of Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ c mint leaves, sliced
¼ c coriander leaves, sliced
½ c toasted cashews
2tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Place broccoli in large bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the nuts and seeds.
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Mirin (or rice vinegar)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp Tahini
Mix the soy, sesame oil, mirin, and grated ginger together in a jug. Place the tahini in a bowl and slowly add the soy mixture, whisking to combine.
Pour over the salad and toss lightly to combine.
Sprinkle with cashew nuts and sesame seeds before serving.

Friday 17 January 2014

Chicken and Parmesan loaf

I have always been a bit of a fan of a meat loaf. You will recall I posted a meat loaf (well actually a meat roll) a while ago. That recipe was a particular hit with me and some of my blog friends, so much so (due to its popularity) it has been repeated many times in one particular household.
I am not really sure why I like meat loaf so much. It might hark back to my childhood when I had a slice in my school sandwich - always with a generous smear of my Mothers tomato relish. Or it could be that you can eat it hot or cold (versatile), or that it is quick and easy to make (handy) or that the main ingredient is not expensive, or that my favourite loaf/roll recipes are ideal to feed a crowd! Or....it is an easy way to make a 1kg of mince look impressive. Actually thinking about it - it is probably a combination of all the above!
I made this Ruth Pretty Chicken and Parmesan Loaf just before Christmas. I find her recipes reliably good. And this loaf appealed to me because it was so simple to make and it didn't include pork mince - a meat I am not overly fond of.
I had some frozen chicken thigh meat I wanted to use up. And I also had all the ingredients (apart from the green pepper) either in my pantry or in my garden.  I find it so satisfying to be able to pick herbs fresh from my garden, it is not often all four of these lovely herbs are included in one dish.
I used bought passata but I think I'll use homemade tomato sauce next time. With any luck my little Isle of Capri tomatoes will do what they are supposed to do and turn red real soon! I have my hubby's old family favourite tomato sauce recipe waiting, waiting....
To save time, I cheated a bit by blitzing the onions, garlic and green pepper in my kitchen whizz. Bad mistake -  as I accidently tossed in the whole (deseeded) green pepper, when the recipe said a quarter of a cup. I think this mistake helped make the resulting loaf a bit too soggy - the good news was it firmed up nicely when cold and hubby thought it helped make the loaf less dry - which as we know, can happen with meat loaves.
I also 'minced' my chicken pieces in my kitchen whizz -  another mistake as the consistency was a bit random. (Next time I will buy the chicken mince). Thinking it wouldn't matter, I pushed on.
Subsequently my chicken loaf did not turn out quite like the picture in the article.While still warm, the slices were not as firm as I would have liked and due to the more lumpy chicken texture, the slices were not as smooth. Oh well...lesson learnt - follow the recipe!
I would highly recommend this recipe. Over a few days we had it cold with a salad and hot with gravy. It was  really tasty and will be a firm favourite in my future  recipe reportoire.
Since making the loaf I have also bought a tray to make mini loaves. That way I can use this recipe to make smaller loaves and freeze some for future use, genius!

Chicken Parmesan Loaf
Ruth Pretty – SST 17th August 2013
It makes a nice big loaf, good to freeze too.
1.5kg chicken mince
135g (1 ½ c) fresh breadcrumbs
250ml (1 c) homemade tomato sauce or bought Passata
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
2 eggs lightly whisked
18g (1/4 c) finely grated Parmesan cheese
2Tbsp chopped parsley leaves
2Tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1tsp flaky salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
15ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil
180g (1 medium onion), chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ c diced green pepper
¼ c chopped sage leaves
2Tbsp chopped marjoram leaves
½ tsp chopped thyme leaves
Grease well one 26cm x 10cm loaf tin with baking spray, butter or oil.
Preheat oven to 180°C
Place chicken, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, mustard, eggs, cheese, parsley, capers, salt and pepper into a large bowl.
Place oil in large heavy fry pan set over a medium heat. Add onion, garlic and green pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is lightly golden. Add sage, marjoram and thyme and cook, while stirring, for a minute or until the mixture is combined. Cool and then add to ingredients in bowl.
Thoroughly mix ingredients together. This is best done by hand.
Pack mixture firmly into a prepared loaf tin, mounding slightly in the middle.
Place in oven and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours or until the meatloaf has pulled away from the sides of the tin, is brown and firm to the touch.
Remove from oven, place tin on a cake rack and cool for 15 minutes.
Unmould and portion to serve.
Alternatively, refrigerate, unmould and portion to serve cold with pickled onions, gherkins and mustard.   

Lovely with a German Riesling

Sunday 5 January 2014

Ultimate caulifower cheese

It was Friday and when asked what the man of the house wanted for dinner, the reply was "a change from salad vegetables and ham - how about something with cauliflower?"
"Absolutely", I said.
I have made this recipe before - many times - and somehow (a pie being the exception), it is one of those great comfort dishes - especially good on a wet and windy day in the Capital.
The addition of the horseradish sauce and mustard gives quite a kick to a (possibly) otherwise bland dish.
Actually I am completely over this summer. Apart from a couple of days the weather here has been dreadful. It has been a good time to go to the movies or sit and read lots of books. But constant wind and rain with overcast skies is not good for my vegetable garden or my Vitamin D levels. My poor little cauliflower and silver beet plants have been battered to bits (perhaps beyond growing any higher than 10 cm). And I am getting just a bit mad about the lack of sun here!
I think we all know cauliflower can be cooked very badly - i.e. to a grey mush! For this recipe Gordon blanches the cauliflower but I like to steam it for about 2-3 minutes. I added broccoli to my dish too, adds a bit of colour to an otherwise all over cream dish. My breadcrumbs were made by blitzing a few sandwich slices of Burgen's Soy and Linseed bread - our favourite at the moment.
The Ultimate Cauliflower Cheese is another Gordon Ramsay recipe I found on line in 2009 (oops not intentional for it to rhyme!)
I used my deep Anchor Pyrex dish. It is the perfect size for this recipe and one of those old faithful dishes in the kitchen I would hate to break.
As he states, it can be adapted to suit your tastes. Perfect to leave it as a vegetarian dish. Or add some chopped chives through the sauce and/or sprinkle the top with crispy bacon or crumbed pancetta for a meat lovers tasty variation.

Ultimate cauliflower cheese
Serves 4 - 6
1 large cauliflower – trimmed and cut into florets
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g butter
25g plain flour
½ tsp dry English mustard
300ml milk
75g medium or strong cheddar, grated
1 heaped tbsp  creamed horseradish
Pinch cayenne pepper
25g Gruyere or parmesan cheese
50g coarse breadcrumbs (I used fresh)
Blanch the cauliflower florets in a pan of well salted water for 2-3 minutes (or steam), until just tender.  Drain and refresh in iced water to stop the cooking process.  Tip into a colander and drain again.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and mustard. Blend into a paste and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, to cook out the rawness of the flour.
Gradually whisk in the milk and continue to stir for about 5 minutes until thickened to a smooth sauce.
Add the Cheddar, horseradish, cayenne and some seasoning and stir until the cheese has melted.
Remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Mix together the Gruyere or parmesan and the breadcrumbs. Arrange the cauliflower florets in a lightly buttered baking dish. Spoon the sauce over the top, then sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumbs mixture.
Bake 20- 25 minutes until the top is golden. Serve hot from the oven.