Friday, 25 March 2011

Griddled Halloumi with Couscous

The birds are singing, the sun has been shining and I think I detected the sound of a distant lawn-mower….it looks like spring has finally sprung! The weather for the last couple of days has been lovely, almost like early summer rather than the end of March. It’s been so warm that we’ve been out in the garden and have planted out our seed potatoes and 100 sets each of red and white onions. All they need to do now is lie back in that lovely warm earth and grow!

Because it's been so unseasonally warm I made one of our favourite summer meals for dinner tonight, Halloumi with Couscous. It made such a nice change after all the heavy, warming meals of winter, really light and tangy, and I love the way the different flavours mingle in the couscous; it sets off the saltiness of the griddled Halloumi perfectly.

150g couscous
250ml very hot vegetable stock
8 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped (from a jar)
1tbsp of oil from the tomato jar
1 shallot, finely chopped
6 chopped cherry tomatoes
20 pitted green olives, halved
50gm toasted pine nuts
1tbsp chopped chives
1tbsp chopped coriander
1 lemon

250g halloumi
Olive oil for drizzling
Few chopped chives

Put the couscous in a large bowl, pour over the hot stock and stir in the oil, then cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Fluff up the couscous with a fork then add the shallot, both types of chopped tomato, olives, pine nuts, herbs and the juice of half the lemon. Mix well.

Cut the halloumi into 5mm thick slices, brush with olive oil and cook in a hot griddle pan until seared on both sides.

Serve the halloumi on a bed of couscous, squeeze over the juice from the remaining lemon half, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a few chopped chives.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Mulligatawny Soup

I have a confession to make…..I am a soup addict; I know most people think of it as a winter food, but I have long been of the opinion that soup should be served on a daily basis whatever the weather. Obviously some soups are better than others, but I think I can honestly say that I've never met a soup I didn't like; I have a list as long as your arm of different recipes that I will one day get round to making and I’m gradually ploughing through them so watch this space.

I realise that vegetarian mulligatawny soup might seem like a contradiction in terms, but things become easier once you ignore the fact that it is vegetarian and just think of it as a nice flavoursome Mulligatawny. This was adapted from a long, convoluted recipe that originally included meat. I made so many changes and adaptations that I think I can safely call it my recipe now. It went very nicely with some fresh wholemeal bread.

250gm carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tin of tomatoes
100gm red lentils
1 lt vegetable stock
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp finely chopped coriander

crème fraiche and a little coriander to serve

Soften the carrots and onion, without colouring, in the olive oil for 10 mins. Add the dried spices, garlic, tomatoes, lentils and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Blitz with a stick blender then stir in the chopped coriander. Serve with a spoonful of crème fraiche and a few coriander leaves.
Serves 4 generously and also freezes well.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My First Loaf

I've done it...I've bought a breadmaker! (A Panasonic SD-257, since you ask.) I've been dithering for ages about whether to buy one or not and I've finally taken the plunge! I took a pic straight away because I was so proud of my first loaf.

Now, I know the purists will say it's not really 'homemade' because I didn't do all the kneading and knocking back and waiting around whilst it proved in the airing cupboard; however, if you've read this blog before you will know that I'm bone idle and will do almost anything to make my cooking life easier. I followed one of the recipes in the instruction book, switched the machine on and Bob's your uncle. The loaf looks goldenly handsome, it tastes wonderful and as for the gorgeous warm yeasty aroma that was wafting around the house when we woke up this morning...well, words fail me!

Fresh warm bread and butter with homemade clementine marmalade and coffee for breakfast this morning. Do you need any more of an excuse to buy one of these magic machines?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

Its Shrove Tuesday today…Pancake day. I like the word ‘Shrove’ – it comes from ‘shrive’ meaning to repent and obtain absolution for one’s sins, apparently; not that I’ve ever done much in the way of sinning and, sadly, I’m probably a bit old for it now. If you happen to go along with all that repentance and absolution malarky, that’s fine by me, but it’s not my thing. However, I’m quite happy to jump on any passing bandwagon, particularly if it’s loaded up with food!

I had to forego my beloved porridge for breakfast this morning so that we could have pancakes instead; I’m always too full after dinner to have them for dessert. I know most people will be having the thin crêpe-like ones with lemon and sugar, but I have to say I'm not wild about them; I like something with a bit more oomph to it. Let’s just say that since discovering American-style pancakes I am a very happy bunny indeed.

Nigella's recipe is foolproof and guaranteed to work every time. Unfortunately though, as you can see, my pancakes are not beautifully circular and symmetrical like the sainted Nigella’s, but I think it just adds to their charm. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

In a futile attempt to make these seem vaguely 'healthy' I served them with sliced bananas as well as copious amounts of butter and maple syrup. Yes, I know I’m deluding myself…but it keeps me happy.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Welsh Cakes

I'm late; Tuesday March 1st was St David’s day so I should really have made these cakes then. I’m not Welsh, but we once lived in North Wales for a few years and I'm shameless enough to use any excuse for a little treat!

Having said that I’m not Welsh, this recipe most definitely is; it comes from a lady who was born, lived her whole life and died, in a small Welsh mining village: my husband’s Grandmother, Jane. Sadly, she’s been dead now for a number of years but she was a really lovely lady. She brought up a family of six children in a three bedroom miners’ cottage and cooked every meal on a Victorian coal-fired range, although she had a perfectly good electric cooker which was in pristine condition because she never used it!

I hope she’d be pleased at my effort at making her recipe, although I think she’d probably say they needed more spice. I’ll try to get it right next time.

8oz self-raising flour
4oz butter
3oz caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
3oz dried fruit
1 large egg
extra caster sugar for dusting

Rub butter into flour, sugar and spice, add fruit then add the egg and mix to a dough. Add a drop of milk if needed.

Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick and cut into rounds with a 2 inch cutter. Grease a heavy frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes each side. Dust thickly with caster sugar while still warm.

The original recipe was in ounces and I haven’t made any attempt to convert it; if it was good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. I don’t think milligrams had been invented when Jane first started making these!