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Dear Reader,

It’s Morel season.

Until very recently, I had had no morels in my life. Sorry, but I was dying to say that.

A few weeks ago, I bought a small packet of morels from the local, posh deli. I sauteed them in olive oil and butter with a few, sliced button mushrooms, added a bit of lemon juice, and thought they were absolutely awful.  Tough, chewy, and woody, no taste.

Of course, I was convinced that either I had prepared them incorrectly, or, they were stale, old morels.  I couldn’t tell.

I have a very dear friend who lives far, far away.  She mentioned that she was going on a morel hunt/party with friends.  So, my interest was renewed. I begged her to please tell me all that there was to know about morels.  What is the secret of their allure?

Fresh Morels

Fresh Morels

Then, a day or two later, I saw fresh morels for sale, loose, in a tiny basket at the same, posh deli, I decided to try them again.  After all, even though they were $49.99 per pound, five morels only cost $3.50 as they are hollow. I had seen a Mark Bittman’s recent recipe video about morels and asparagus, and was inspired to try again.

Mr Bittman uses reconstituted dried morels, but as I have stumbled upon fresh ones, that is what I am using. As I only had a few, I supplemented them with fresh baby bella mushrooms.

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Start with a good pat of butter, then I sauteed the mushrooms with some finely chopped shallots, until most of the moisture has been released and then reabsorbed.

Add a bit of water and dry white wine,  about half and half.  (Mr. Bittman uses the liquid from the dried morels). Once very hot, add the asparagus.  Steam for about two minutes, or until tender. Asparagus cooks in the blink of an eye, so, don’t blink.

Fresh Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus

Add a small amount of cream.  This can be any thickness you like, I used a small amount of heavy cream.

Then add a few, fresh Tarragon leaves.  Not too many, as Tarragon is a strongly flavoured herb.

This dish requires a fair amount of salt and pepper.

Tasting it, without the thrill of the hunt, or the pleasure of a party, just alone, in my kitchen, I was very satisfied.

I felt that I was beginning to understood the mystery of the morel.

It was a start.

A tasty start.

M x

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Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire puddings are full of hot air. Literally. I do my best, but, no one makes them like the girls’ grandmother, Nanny.

Nanny is the Queen of Yorkshire Puddings.

Like anything else that is very difficult, it has few ingredients, but the technique is paramount.

All you need is Flour, Eggs, Milk, a drop of water, a pinch of salt, plus some oil for baking.  Whisk them all up well, then let them sit for a a while, half an hour to an hour is best.  If you are in a hurry, you can use the batter straight away, but, Nanny always lets her batter stand for a while. Listen to Nanny.

Yorkshire puddings are very similar to American popovers.  The main difference is that Yorkshire puddings tins have wider and shallower cups.  Probably the most important step is to make sure that the tins with a bit of oil are smoking hot before you ladle in the batter.  And I mean smoking.

Once the batter is in, pop the tins back into a very hot oven, and watch the magic.  The puddings will quickly begin to rise.

I started writing this post nearly three years ago, and very little has changed, except that I now make one Yorkshire Pudding for our roast dinners. I have gone a bit retro, and make it one, large tin. The principle is the same, use a metal pan, smoking hot oil, and a well beaten batter. You will have a lovely, fluffy pudding to eat with your dinner.

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I love carrots. Here is one of my favourite dishes, another Turkish meze, appetizer, dip, spread, or salad. If you hadn’t noticed, versatility is part of its appeal. My friend, Esin, showed me two versions, both are equally lovely and very easy.  I have been making this for years and we never get tired of it.

One version is grated carrot, left raw, and mixed with thick yogurt, crushed garlic and salt.

The other version is grated carrot, sauteed in olive oil, cooled, then mixed with thick yogurt, crushed garlic, and salt.

The results are very different, but, both are delicious. Both salads can be garnished with a sliced lemons, lemon juice, parsley, or anything you fancy.

As ever, the amounts needed depend on how much you want to make and personal taste. This dish keeps well in the refrigerator. It never lasts for more than a couple of days in our house. We like a lot of carrot with our yogurt, but, you may prefer to have less.  We like a lot of garlic with our carrots and yogurt, but, again, you may prefer  to have less. It’s best to add things slowly, then taste, then see if you want to add more of something.

I like to use Fage Greek yogurt, as it is so thick and mild. It comes in full fat, 2 percent, and low fat.  All are good for this recipe. But, you can use any standard, plain yogurt that has been strained for a few hours. The idea is that the yogurt should be thick with a mild flavour.

Raw Carrots with Yogurt

6 large carrots, more or less.

1 tub of Fage yogurt, or the equivalent of strained, plain yogurt.

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed.

Salt.

Extra virgin olive oil. 

Lemons, optional.

Grate the carrots on the coarse side of a box grater, or with the coarse setting on a food processor.  Mix with the yogurt and crushed garlic. Salt to taste. Put into the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours develop. This version is a bit fresher and lighter than the cooked version below.

Sauteed Carrots with Yogurt

6 large carrots, more or less.

1 tub of Fage yogurt, or the equivelent of strained, plain yogurt.

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed.

Salt. 

Extra virgin olive oil. 

Lemons, optional.

This is the same as above, except that you will saute the grated carrots, before mixing them with the yogurt and garlic.

Grate the carrots on the coarse side of a box grater, or with the coarse setting on a food processor.  Warm a generous amount of olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the grated carrot. Use a medium to low heat, as the idea is to soften the carrot, not to brown it.  Stir frequently, don’t allow the carrots to stick or overcook, just to soften.  This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.  Once cool, mix the carrots with the yogurt and crushed garlic. Salt to taste.  Put into the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours to develop.  This version is slightly sweeter and richer than its raw counterpart.

Both of these dishes are meze in Turkey, traditionally served on a shallow plate, with a swirl of olive oil, a small squeeze of lemon juice, and fresh crusty bread. My family like both versions as a dip, served with raw vegetables and salads, or as spread on sandwiches or bagels. It is also very nice with felafel.

I hope that you like this as much as we do.

Till next time,

Myrtle.


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Busy Bees

Please bear with me.  We have been busy.

We are moving.

East.

Soon.

I will be back online as soon as we are settled.

We have been eating and living well this summer.

Lots of things to tell.

Stay cool,

Myrtle. x

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With Ascot coming up, I came across this image and couldn’t resist sharing.  

Watercress and cream cheese sandwiches are one of my favourite tea time treats.

This hat, designed by London Milliner Sean Barrett, was worn at last year’s Ladies Day at Ascot.  

 

_41800434_rachellittlejohnsgetty

 

sarnies

Isn’t it lovely?

Stay cool, 

Myrtle. 

 

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I found a new recipe in my inbox this morning.  It was for a Summer Squash Gratin from Heidi Swanson, on of my favourite food writers. Her blog, 101 Cookbooks is a fabulous source of down to earth, tasty, and exciting vegetarian dishes.  I love her ideas, although, I’ve yet to follow one to the letter. I tend to use her recipes as inspiration, then, adjust the recipe according to my family’s tastes and/ or according to what I have in the house. I highly recommend having a look at her website, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I liked the look of this recipe as I love vegetable gratins, but don’t always want to eat the volume of dairy products that they normally call for. 

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As I had some yellow summer squash that I wanted to eat up, this recipe arrived on the right day. I used the squash and potatoes, as Heidi suggested, but I also included several stalks of de stringed, roughly chopped celery. I think that there are many vegetables that would work well with this method. I changed the sauce – I made it from two cups of basil with some dried marjoram, as I did not have the requisite fresh parsley and oregano in the house today (I’m cleaning out the fridge for the summer).  I also substituted a block of sheep’s feta for the gouda. It all worked very well.

It is important to slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, as they will take longer to cook than the squash. I used my trusty mandolin. 

The temperatures have been cooler this week in Arizona, so something hot, out of the oven, was a welcome change.

 

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Summer Gratin 

3 yellow summer squash, sliced about 1/6″ thick. 

6 small red potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible. I used my mandolin for the slicing today. 

4 stalks of celery, de stringed and roughly chopped. 

1 block of sheep feta cheese, about 7 ounces. 

2 cups of fresh basil.

2 cloves of garlic.

1 small salad onion (optional).

Zest from 1 small lemon.

A small pinch of dried marjoram (optional).

Red chilli pepper flakes (optional).

1 cup (or more if necessary) Extra virgin olive oil.

Panko breadcrumbs.

Salt and Pepper.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Salt the sliced summer squash and put aside to drain, for about 10-15 minutes.  Slice potatoes, chop celery, and put into a large, mixing bowl. 

Make the sauce. Put the basil leaves, garlic, lemon zest, and small onion into a the bowl of a small hand mixer/blender.  Blend. Then add the olive oil, some chilli pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.  Blend again until smooth.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning. 

Rinse the squash and dry with paper towels. 

DSC_8165

 

Break up and mix the feta cheese, and two thirds of the sauce (saving a bit for the topping), into the bowl with the potatoes and celery.  

Mix in the summer squash. Make sure everything is well coated. Taste for seasoning.  

Turn the mixture into a ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle on a few handfuls of panko breadcrumbs. I prefer to go lightly here, but, you can add as much as you like. Use the remaining sauce to moisten the breadcrumbs. 

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Bake until the potatoes are cooked and the topping has turned golden brown.
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I was very happy with the result, but, next time I would use more squash and make the slices thicker. Heidi suggests using a variety of squash, which I think would be very nice. Still, my supper delicious and really hit the spot. 

Thank you to Heidi Swanson for the inspiration.  Here is the link for the original, which looks fantastic, as well as lots of other, very good things. 

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/summer-squash-gratin-recipe.html

Have a good weekend. 

Myrtle.

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School is out, the parties are over, the building work is done, packing for the holidays has started, but, it is time to encourage to learn to prepare things for themselves, especially First Born, who is now sixteen.  She is getting braver in the kitchen.  Last week’s contribution was a simple pasta bake, with Marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese.  It was very good and none was wasted.  

It is often difficult for me to have the children around when I prepare meals.  Ideally, I like to make things first thing in the morning, when they are at school. I can do things very quickly and then have my afternoons free for activities. But, as our schedules vary from day to day at the moment, I find that our eating habits have changed.  Plus, the children want to learn some basics, and, of course, I want them to learn as well. 

But, a gentle reminder, food preparation, like any task, takes much longer with children hanging around.  

I have found that First Born tends to think that she cannot do things that I am certain she can do.  But, if I am in the room, she will look more at me than concentrating on her lemons and parsley.  So, I now leave her alone in the kitchen as much as possible, only coming in the room if necessary. I am pleased that she is able to see that she is able to do more than she realizes. 

Today’s task was Pasta Salad. 

After the initial panic, I explained the method, step by step. She was delighted that it is so easy, and I am happy to say  that she and Little One did a fabulous job.  It was very good. Very good indeed. 

The lovely thing about this salad is that you shop for specific things to make special, or it can simply be a reflection of what is in season, or even things that you want to use up from your fridge. It is easy, flexible, keeps well, and best of all, is very refreshing when it is hot outside. 

Once you decide on your pasta base, the rest can be different every time you make it.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

The children chose most of the ingredients for the salad tonight from our cupboard and refrigerator. They had wanted to add cucumber, but the last one had gone a bit mushy.  Never mind. 

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Pasta Salad for a Hot, Summer Evening

1 bag or box of relatively small pasta shapes, tonight we used Tubettinni.

Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Beans, 1 can. Tonight we used cannellini, but, any bean will do. Be sure to rinse them well. 

Sweet corn, 1 can.  I prefer unsalted, but even frozen will do. (Soak frozen sweet corn in boiling water for a minute or two, then rinse, before adding to the salad. 

Onion, tonight we used 3 small, purple salad onions,  and a couple of green onions, finely chopped. 

Bell pepper, tonight we used 1 yellow, but any colour will do. 

Celery, 4 stalks, de stringed with a vegetable peeler and finely chopped. Adds crunch.

Red Cabbage, a handful, coarsely chopped. Decorative.

Fresh flat leaf parsley, 1 bunch, washed, dried, and finely chopped. 

Fresh basil leaves, 1 bunch, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped. 

Cherry tomatoes, a handful, cut into halves. 

Several lemons, depending on juiciness.  Tonight, we used three lemons, but a mild vinegar could also be used. 

Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes. 

Cook the pasta according to the packet, not forgetting to salt the water well. It makes a big difference to the flavour of the pasta to add salt to the cooking water, rather than afterwards. Drain and rinse the pasta well, cooling it down enough to handle. Once drained of its rinsing water, put the pasta into a large, mixing bowl with a generous serving spoon of olive oil, to stop it from sticking. Add the juice of one lemon and some seasoning at this point as well. 

While the pasta is cooking, assemble, wash, and begin to prepare the remaining ingredients. Be sure to rinse any canned beans and sweet corn well. 

Once the pasta is cool, add and mix all the ingredients together, carefully. I like to use the biggest bowl I have, and a very large spoon.  

When all the ingredients have been well mixed, taste the salad.  The type of pasta you use, as well as how many vegetables you’ve added will determine how much more oil and lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes you will need.  Don’t be afraid to taste, just a little, as you go.  

This salad is best served either slightly chilled, or at room temperature. Remember, olive oil thickens significantly when it gets cold. 

 

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I went a bit mad and sprinkled a few marigold petals on mine, although the salad was colourful enough without.  

I had mine with extra basil leaves as well.  

Well done children, it was a lovely supper. 

Thank you. x 

 

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Here is one I made earlier.  A few months earlier, in fact. It is made with a base of fusilli pasta. I took two, big bunches of basil and a bunch of fresh parsley, whizzed up with pine nuts and olive oil in the food processor as a dressing, then added frozen peas, salad onions, a few cherry tomatoes, lashings of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but only a small amount of lemon. This salad had a very different nature and flavour. I sprinkled toasted pine nuts over it to serve, although it is also nice with a bit of flaked Parmesan Cheese or tiny balls of Mozzarella. As I mentioned earlier, variations are endless.

Pasta salad need never, ever be boring.

Dessert

Dessert

Mustn’t forget dessert. It is very difficult to eat too many raspberries.  

They are very good at the moment.  

Very good indeed. 

Happy Saturday, 

Myrtle.

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