Thursday, January 17, 2008

Swiss chard with tomatoes and chick peas

I adapted this recipe from one on the back of a spice packet. However, the combination of greens with chick peas is obviously well-established, as acelgas con garbanzos (Swiss chard with chick peas) and garbanzos con espinacas (chick peas with spinach) are both Spanish standards, while Claudia Roden gives a recipe for spinach with chickpeas in her Book of Jewish Food. If you can’t get hold of Swiss chard, use curly kale, winter greens or savoy cabbage instead.

olive oil
500 g of Swiss chard
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
½ teaspoon of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
500 g  tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon
1 tin of chickpeas

  1. Remove and discard the ends of the chard stalks. Separate the stalks from the leaves, and slice the stalks and the leaves thinly. Wash the stalks and the leaves separately. Chop the tomatoes into large chunks (4 pieces if using medium-sized tomatoes, 6 or 8 pieces if using larger ones).
  2. In a large saucepan pan, add the chard stalks to the olive oil and fry gently until they have softened. Once the stalks are reasonably soft, add the spices, together with the salt and pepper, and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the tomatoes, and stir to mix, then place the chard leaves on top, then the cooked chickpeas, pour the lemon juice over it and cover. (The flavours and textures of the different ingredients should still be clearly distinguishable at the end, so don’t stir the ingredients at this stage, and don’t be tempted to make tomato sauce!) The dish is ready to serve once the chard leaves have softened (about 5 minutes or so).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thai courgette and beansprout salad

This is a very bastardised version of a recipe which appears in David Thompson’s Thai Food (Pavillion, 2002). This is a brilliant if slightly daunting book which I was given shortly after Carmela was born and, with two kids under the age of 2, I wasn’t really in the mood for adventures in the kitchen. (It was hard enough to empty the dishwasher without one of them crawling into it.) Now I’ve finally got round to using it, I love the way it really explains techniques and how things should look and taste. (He often ends a curry paste description with comments like “it should taste both hot and sour”. May sound vague, but when you’re cooking it, it makes sense.) It’s also not too pernickety about measurements – there are lots of ‘handfuls’ and ‘any two vegetables from the following list’.

3 medium-sized courgettes
200g of beansprouts
1 clove of garlic
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of chilli sauce
½ teaspoon of sugar

  1. Wash the courgettes, steam them whole until just done (about 10 minutes or so), allow to cool, then cut into thickish slices (about 1 cm thick). Steam the beansprouts for a minute or two until just done. Put the courgettes in a bowl and sprinkle the beansprouts on top.
  2. Peel and squash the garlic clove, then mash it into a smooth paste with the salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the lemon juice, fish sauce, chilli sauce and sugar and mix. Pour the dressing over the courgettes and beansprouts, and mix well.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lentil stew with black pudding (lentejas con morcilla)

This is a great winter stew, and really easy to make. You can replace the morcilla with British black pudding in a link, or with good quality sausages. Don’t use orange lentils for it, though, as they will just turn into soup. In Spain, lentils are served in a shallow bowl, with a little bit of vinegar.

Ingredientsolive oil
1 medium-sized onion
4 whole garlic cloves
2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
350g brown lentils
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 large carrots, peeled
1 litre of stock (or water)
250g of morcilla

  1. Chop the onion roughly, heat in a large saucepan until nearly done, then add the whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Once the onion is translucent, add the paprika, stir and cook for another 30 seconds or so, then add the lentils, the quartered potatoes and the carrots. Add the stock, and season with salt.
  2. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to minimum and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the morcilla and cook for another 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Mediterranean beef stew

I find that most dishes come out better if I’ve had a bit of time to think about them before I start cooking, and begin with a clear idea of what the end product is going to taste like (and how I will get there). For this one, I deliberately wanted a slightly clich├ęd combination of Mediterranean ingredients. (I thought about this one when I was being forced by my children to hide under a duvet while they played hide-and-seek. They had told me where to hide, but still took 10 minutes to find me.)

IngredientsOlive oil
1 medium-sized onion
4 whole garlic cloves
1 kg of beef – cut in chunks
2 glasses of red wine
250 g of chopped tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
150 g of halved sundried tomatoes
150 g of black olives
¼ lemon
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary

  1. Chop the onion (but not too small) and separate the garlic cloves (but leave the skins on). Fry the onion in a large saucepan with the olive oil, and when it is nearly done, add the whole garlic cloves.
  2. Once the onion is translucent, add the chunks of beef, and fry until the meat has coloured. Pour in the wine, and add the tomatoes and olives, mix well and heat, then add just enough stock to cover and place the quarter lemon in the centre. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to minimum, cover and simmer for about an hour.
  3. Taste the sauce for salt, and add a little if required. (The dish may well not need any, depending on how salty your tomatoes, olives and stock are.) Place the rosemary sprigs gently on top of the stew and continue to cook for another hour or so until the beef is tender. Remove the rosemary sprigs before serving.

Aubergine puree

A lot of recipes recommend salting aubergines for an hour before using them. This is supposed to help reduce the bitterness, but there is no need for it.

Ingredients2 good-sized aubergines
juice of half a lemon
½ teaspoon of ground coriander
½ teaspoon of ground cumin

  1. Top and tail the aubergines, peel them, cut them into quarters lengthwise and then into chunks across the way (about an inch thick). Fry the aubergine chunks until they are golden brown. (Use a deep fryer, if you have one. Otherwise, do them in a couple of batches in a large frying pan.)
  2. Drain the chunks and transfer them to a food processer, and add the lemon juice, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Whizz until you have a reasonably smooth puree.