an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Green beans and Mangetout with Hazelnuts and Orange

Here is another recipe from the wonderful Ottolenghi cookbook (I just pre-ordered the next one-yippee!). This salad is refreshing, crunchy and a little unusual. The nuts make it more substantial than a standard veggie salad, adding a warm and protein-y element.

I have made this salad twice. The first time I cooked the green beans and mangetout seperately as the recipe suggested, and it worked fine, but having all that water, saucepans and colanders was a bit too much of a logistical challenge for my very small brain. So the second time I made it, I cooked the veggies all-together, carefully timing it so that the mangetout went into the water after the green beans had been in for 3 minutes. But then small brain struck again, and I realised that it was far too much to all fit in the colander at the same time - and they need to be drained pretty quickly so that they can be refreshed, and the cooking ceased. I won't go into the details of the mental bean-balancing act that followed. So i will write the method staying true to Ottolenghi, and leave any time-saving ideas to your own judgement.

I have scaled down the oil somewhat from the original recipe - the addition of orange juice is mine as well (seemed silly not to incorporate it).

They suggest toasting the hazelnuts in the oven, but i always use a frying pan. For a simple reason that I always burn nuts and seeds if they are not toasting under my watchful gaze! I leave the choice of toasting venue up to you.

I recently tried a variation on this made by Suzy, which included fresh green peas, and dill and red onion instead of the chives and hazelnuts. Also potentially lemon instead of the orange - I forgot to ask.

They say that it serves 6 – but it stretches much further depending on how many other dishes you are serving with it.


400g green beans, stalks trimmed
400g mangetout (or sugar snaps, that works too)
70g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 orange, zested and juiced
20g chives, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp hazelnut oil (or walnut oil, which is what I used)
salt and pepper

Bring plenty of water to the boil in a large saucepan (you need a lot of space for the veggies, to preserve the colour). Blanch the beans in the water for 4 minutes, the drain them in a colander and run them under tap water until cold. Leave to drain and dry. It is really important to make sure that they get completely cold so that they don’t continue to cook – no-one wants overcooked green beans! Repeat this with the mangetout, but only cook for 1 minute (see above note).

Mix the garlic and chives with the oils, zest and a tbsp or so of orange juice, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the green beans and mangetout, and scatter the hazelnuts over the top.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Spiced Polenta Crusted Potatoes

These babies have been on my 'to blog' list since December, so I'm sorry for the delay. I made these for the same dinner where I made the Kale, Pineapple and Peanut stew, which proved to be a big hit.

I used fountain-pen ink blue potatoes, and orange sweet potatoes for a colour and taste extravaganza.

Selection of potatoes and sweet potatoes, ideally in a variety of colours, peeled and cut into chunks

for the crust:
1 cup or so of fine polenta/corn meal
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chili powder, this was enough to give them a defined kick, without being too spicy, add more or less depending on your tastes
1 tsp ground coriander

Flavourless cooking oil
Preheat oven to about 180c
Mix together the crust ingredients on a large flat plate. Of course you could add different spices too if you wanted.
Regular potatoes will need a 5 minute par-boil, while sweet potatoes can go straight into the oven raw.

This would probably be quite nice too with aubergines and pumpkin.
Put about a tbsp. of oil into a large bowl, and toss the potato chunks so that you get a light, even coating (you will probably have to do this, and the coating in batches). Once oily, put the potato pieces in the crust mixture and roll about to evenly cover. Place the covered pieces on a baking sheet – try and make sure that they are not too crowded, as it will prevent them going as crispy. Roast in the oven for 45-1hr, giving the pan a shake after about 30mins.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Fennel Seed Olive Oil Crackers

This recipe is in the Flavour Thesaurus, one of my all time favourite books. Niki Segnit writes that anise and washed-rind cheese goes together very well, citing specifically Stinking Bishop and these crackers.

“Washed-rind cheeses such as Munster or Stinking Bishop are simply too opinionated to be paired with many flavours, but anise (sweet, beloved pet flavour of The Flavour Thesaurus) is up to the challenge.”

This is the first time I have made crackers, and while they could have probably done with being in the oven a little longer (I know for next time), they are some of the easiest things I have made in a while. And with entirely storecupboard ingredients! Including oven time, these take about half an hour to put together.

Makes 15 – 25 crackers, depending on how big you make them.

2tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp baking power
½ tsp salt
125g plain flour
25 ml olive oil
125ml water

Preheat the oven to 160C (with fan).

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the olive oil and water in increments until it comes together in a dough (I had them both in the same measuring jug and it worked pretty well).

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, and then roll it out to a thickness of 2-5 mm. Handy tip: if you roll dough between 2 pieces of cling film, you don’t need to flour surfaces, drying out the dough and making everything a bit messy. Use a cutter or knife to cut the crackers into whatever shape you fancy, and place them on a greased or lined baking sheet. Brush the crackers with water and bake for 25-30 minutes. They may need a little longer depending on your oven.

When I made these, I also made a batch with cumin seeds, and they were similarly delicious and well-partnered with cheese.

Note - the next day, I brushed the crackers with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and baked them at 180c for another 15 minutes until golden brown. And oh my. They were good before, and now they are amazing!