Crispy Cauliflower

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Following at a close second to Kale as the “wonder vegetable” of the moment, cauliflower is being used in ways unheard of before.  I’m  not a fan of ALL of these new ideas.  A notable failure was Cauliflower “bread sticks” or pizza base !  NO !    Maybe if you haven’t eaten bread in a while or for those who are truly gluten intolerant (ie have Celiac Disease), but this is not better than real bread .   Cauliflower Fried “Rice” is another that I’m not a huge fan of.  Its nice, but lets not call it . . . rice 😦

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So back to the basics with good old cauliflower, which I do love !  The kids fight over this.  So so easy to make and great as a side dish to many things or eaten on its own as snacks with drinks.  Its also nice, if cut smallish, to sprinkle on top of soup for a lovely texture.

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I usually make this with “Indian” spices, but it would be just as nice with simpler flavorings such as dried oregano and chili flakes.  Make it Middle Eastern with sumac and allspice.

Today’s crispy cauliflower was served with Pea and Paneer Curry with home made paneer, Brown Rice (for feeling a bit virtuous 😉 ) and a selection of home made chili sauces.  Sooooo good on a drizzly winter day.

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I used the first spice mix for this recipe.

Crispy Cauliflower

  • 1 cauliflower (as much as will fit into your pan without over crowding)
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Seasonings of your choice (feel free to make up your own versions):

  • A good sprinkle of turmeric, black mustard seeds, chili flakes and garam masala
  • Dried oregano and smoked paprika and feta when it come out of the oven
  • A good sprinkle of ground sumac and ground allspice
  • A good sprinkle of ground cumin and coriander with black onion seeds
  • A bit of lime juice at the end would be nice

Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F)

Cut the cauliflower into smallish pieces (size of your thumb) and put into a roasting tin.  It’s important to not pile them up (or they will steam instead of go crispy), try to keep spread out evenly.  Add your chosen spices and your olive oil and toss.

In the oven they go for around 30 minutes, stirring halfway or until crisped to your liking.

TIP:  If you want to serve this as finger food with drinks, don’t use too much stalk (keep them for making soup !).

Bon appetit !

 

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Lentil, Barley, and Potato Soup

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I have learned in France to eat A LOT of soup.  Some families eat soup most winter evenings.  Having an on going supply of good quality BROTH in the freezer helps make this an even more tasty and healthy winter meal.

Once you get into the habit of soup making, you will quickly see that you don’t always need a recipe.  With a bit of inspiration from existing recipes or what you have in your fridge, you can create your own concoctions quite easily.

The “very” basic idea is to cook down some chopped onions (don’t let them brown), add garlic and/or ginger before adding your veg/meat of choice.  Cover with water or broth and cook until the veg are cooked through.  A great tip I once read is to keep the liquid ratio “tight” until cooked and then adjust if more is  needed.  I tend to just “cover” the ingredients with stock and add more before serving?  It seems that the flavors are more concentrated this way.

To blend or not to blend is up to you.  A simple stick blender is what I usually use, but for a “fancier” smooth finish, I sometimes get out the blender.

This years main inspiration comes from the wonderful book SOUP FOR SYRIA.  A collection of recipes and photographs by Barbara Abdeni Massaad.  Acclaimed chefs (including Anthony BOURDAIN, Mark BITTMAN and Yotam OTTOLENGI) and cookbook authors contribute recipes to help feed Syrian refugees.

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All proceeds from the sale of this cookbook are donated to help fund food relief efforts to Syrian refugees.

I’ve tried a few recipes from the book and this one is one of this weeks favorites.  We have access to local organic lentils and are always looking for ways to cook with them.  Though it doesn’t seem like winter here at the moment, there is still no access to basil so I used home made pesto I had in the freezer to drizzle and some fresh parsley from the garden.

I used my pressure cooker for this recipe (MERCI to my mother in law for that gift), which I do often when cooking beans and pulses to reduce the cooking time.

DID YOU KNOW ?  2016 is the International Year of Pulses 🙂

Leek, Barley and Potato Soup

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup (250g) pearl barley
  • 450 g (1 lb) potatoes, cubed
  • 3/4 cup (150g) brown lentils
  • fresh basil, parsley leaves or pesto to serve
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 1/2 cups (1 liter) chicken or vegetable stock (at least)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) yogurt
  • pinch or paprika or Espelette pepper

Heat the oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir.

Rinse the barley in cold water and drain.  Add to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring.

Add the potatoes, lentils, basil leaves and salt.  Stir well to coat.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes and barley are tender. You can add more water or stock if the soup becomes to thick.  (or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker)

Remove from the heat, stir in the yogurt and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish each with a sprinkle of paprika or other pepper flakes.

*** Adapted from the book Soup for Syria, recipe by Martyna Monaco

Bon appetit !

 

Sardines on Toast

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I know what you are thinking….  “Do I really need to read a blog post on putting tinned fish on bread?”.  Well this is just a friendly reminder of how sometimes the simplest of things can be the most healthy, inexpensive and delicious.

Tinned sardines contain LARGE amounts of Vitamin B12 as well as selenium, phosphorous, OMEGA 3 fats, protein, calcium, vitamin D . . . and the list goes on.  Thanks to the Vitamin B12 (over 150% of the daily recommended amount) sardines are incredibly good for your heart’s health.

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While sardines are wonderful when eaten fresh, they are most commonly found canned, since they are so perishable. With growing concern over the health of the seas, people are turning to sardines since they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, feeding solely on plankton, and therefore do not concentrate heavy metals, such as mercury, and contaminants as do some other fish. They don’t live long enough to accumulate too much mercury.

Not all tinned sardines are created equal though !!  Choose your brand carefully, reading the label.  Choose olive oil packed as many are packed in Soybean oil or may contain other additives.  We live close to the Spanish border, therefore blessed with access to some amazing sardines.

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Sardines smashed with some nice butter, salt and freshly ground pepper spread on a nourishing slice of sourdough bread served with a fresh green salad is one of the most satisfying QUICK lunches you could eat !

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Nice things to add to your Sardines on Toast

  • Espelette pepper or any chili pepper flakes
  • Lovely with flavoured butters
  • Freshly grated lemon zest and a squeeze of juice
  • Finely chopped preserved lemon
  • Fresh parsley
  • Tomatoes and/or avocado
  • Thinly sliced onions or caramelized onions

Be creative and bon appetit !