Labneh with Zaatar & Olives

Labne olives zaatar

Beautiful silky strained thick yogurt … That’s all it is ! Total revelation the first time you try it. Like a homemade cream cheese.

It all starts with these beauties… 🙂 Jessica the super farmer and her Jersey cows. Don’t panic, keep reading ! This is how I do it, but Labneh can be made much more simply using shop bought whole milk yogurt. If you live in the south west of France, don’t miss Jessica’s mom Véronique at the local markets. The butter will change your life 🙂

Jessica & the Girls

In the spring the milk is extra rich with all the new green grass they are eating. The amount of creamy milk fat floating on the top of the is crazy.

Raw Milk

Then my lovely husband makes delicious yogurt.

Next step is to stir a bit of good salt into your yogurt. The fun begins finding the best way to strain it using a cheese cloth. If your fridge shelves are racks you can tie the cheese cloth onto the rack over a bowl. I place my cheese cloth over a large canning jar and shut the lid to hold the yogurt suspended in the jar. Empty out the whey after a few hours (my chickens get that 😉 ) so the ball of soon to be labneh is not sitting in liquid. The idea here is to get most of the liquid out of the yogurt leaving you with a thick spreadable yogurt “cheese”.

dsc_0054

Labneh

  • 600g whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Cheese cloth or étamine

Stir the yogurt with salt and place it into the center of your cloth. Leave to strain over a bowl or large jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours. Check from time to time to make sure it is not dipping in its own liquid. Once well strained you are done ! The labneh can be stored for almost a week in the fridge.

Then what ?

  • Sprinkle with olive oil, Zaatar and olives to make a dip or spread
  • Top with roasted veg such as leeks or asparagus
  • Play around with replacing cheesecake in a recipe
  • On toast with smashed peas or broad beans
  • Top with good olive oil and eat with a spoon 😉

Bon Appetît !

Advertisements

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Its amazing how many different ways of cooking this dish that you will find! To parboil or not? Hot oven or moderate heat? Spice rub or just salt & fat? Olive oil or butter ? (I like both 😉 )

A lovely way to serve cauliflower for guests and easy enough to make for yourself and family. I served this version with a chickpea and chorizo salad, so added a bit of the rendered fat from the chorizo to the rub. Waste not …. 😉 Placing a dish of water in the very bottom of the oven seems to help cooking to the core.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Serve this punchy flavoured cauliflower with a chickpea and herb salad, Labné (strained yogurt) or thick yogurt, a tahini sauce or a green or chili sauce of your choice.

  • 1 medium sized cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika or Spanish Pimenton powder
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon (or more if you like the heat) Harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped coriander leaves to serve

Trim the cauliflower taking care to leave it intact. In a large pot of boiling salted water, parboil the cauliflower with the stalk facing up. Don’t worry if its not totally submerged. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.Remove the cauliflower using a spider or large spoon and carefully place it to drain (still upside down) in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place a baking pan of water on the floor of the oven. To prepare the spice rub, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Place the cauliflower into a baking dish (not too big) with the core facing down. Using your hands or a brush, rub the mixture all over the cauliflower and place it into the oven. Bake, basting and turning once at the halfway point, for 40 to 60 minutes or until it is knife tender.

Serve at the table, sprinkled generously with coriander, cut into wedges.

Bon Appetît !

For the love of green sauces

Wild Garlic Pesto

Originally inspired by perking up the “January detox” brown rice bowls I have been making an unprecedented amount of green sauces these past few years. When spring and summer finally arrives, there are even more nice green leafy herbs to play with. I have a running stock of some of the below recipes that keep well in the fridge and some are best to be used immediately.

A great way to use up bunches of herbs you may have on hand for other recipes but don’t use them up fast enough. These lovely homemade condiments are starting to take over my fridge space. Beware… they are addictive 🙂

A great great way to add zing to, well…. anything !

  • dress up eggs on toast
  • or avocado’s on toast
  • the always delicious grain bowl
  • plopped into a bowl of soup (hot or cold)
  • on a tomato salad
  • on a sesame noodle salad (Scallion ginger sauce)
  • on a lovely piece of meat (Gremolata for example)
  • add flavour to a stir-fry
  • next to any curry recipe (green chutney for example)

Here are a few of my favourites:

Bushy Basil

Pesto Obviously !  You’ll find loads of recipes online…  I like mostly basil, but some parsley.  I use a really hard sheeps cheese, because that’s my regional cheese 😉  I never use pine nuts as they cost a fortune and usually come from China (a bit far), but walnuts, pumpkin seeds etc…  work great.  I like to make mine in a mini chopper or food processor, not a blender (and too lazy for the pestle and mortar).  I freeze portions during peak basil season.  Here’s my version using local wild garlic…

Salsa Verde is so versatile. Delicious on meat or fish. A great boost in flavour. Use the best tinned anchovies you can find.

Trinidadian chili sauce (quite hot)  This keeps well in the fridge for months.

Indian green chutney  So fresh with heaps of fresh mint and coriander (aka cilantro)

Caribbean seasoning sauce

Caribbean seasoning sauce (a bit on the hot side)  This keeps well in the fridge for about a year ! scent of it makes me think of Jerk Chicken Mmmmmm.

Gremolata  Parsley, garlic & lemon.  I find this best when chopped by hand.

Shatta (Middle Eastern Hot Sauce)   I made this with walnuts.  My latest favourite 🙂

Scallion ginger sauce One of my perfect simple meals…  Hot bowl of rice, some Kimchi or sautéed greens, a fried egg with a good spoonful of this on top. A bit of Echo’s Chili sauce (see recipe below) would be good too.

Echo's Chinese Preserved Chili's in Vodka

Love this one inspired by a recipe from my friend Echo. This keeps forever in the fridge. Absolutely delicious and just spicy enough. Great in noodle or rice dishes. I learned from Echo that Vodka is a pretty good substitute for Chinese rice wine.

  • 2 cups chopped hot chili peppers (a mix of colours is fine, but try to chop fairly evenly.
  • 1/4 cup vodka (or chinese rice wine)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (add a bit more if you prefer it sweeter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • Chunk of ginger about the size of your thumb
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. Let sit at room temp for 2 days and then its ready to eat. Store in the fridge for AGES !

The key to keeping sauces a long time in the fridge (this goes for store bought ones too, is to not “contaminate”. Meaning always use a clean and totally dry spoon to scoop out your sauce or paste to avoid mold.

Do you have any favourites to add to this list ! I’m always looking for more ideas. Share in the comments 🙂

Wild Garlic Pesto

Pestoailours

Wild Garlic season is upon us !  Where I live, you are sure to find fields of beautiful fresh wild garlic from early spring.

ailours

I was a bit late this year so they are starting to flower…  Even better !  The flowers are more pungent than the young leaves.  To eat wild garlic raw in salads, the young leaves are nicer so its wild garlic and nettle soup and wild garlic pesto on the menu today 🙂

pestoailours1

Pesto is pretty forgiving stuff, so play around with the ingredients to adapt to your taste and what you have on hand.  I used a few cashews and a few more almonds this time.  Strong Ewe’s milk cheese gave it a wonderful flavour.  Use more or less olive oil depending on what you will use the pesto for (for pasta it should be runnier).  This made enough for one meal of pesto on roast chicken and potatoes and tossed through pasta the next day.

Wild Garlic Pesto

  • Servings: 2 meals for 4
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

  • 1 bunch or large handful wild garlic leaves (flowers are ok too)
  • small handful parsley (optional)
  • 70g or a small handful of nuts (pine nuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts etc.)
  • 70g hard Ewe’s milk cheese (or pecorino or even parmesan)
  • extra virgin olive oil (around 150ml’s depending on the finished texture desired)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Everything goes in a food processor or herb chopper (use a blender for a smoother finish, I like mine chunky) and give it a whizz until you have the texture you are looking for.

Store any leftovers in a jar, covering the pesto with oil, in the fridge.

Bon appétit !

Simple Lentil Dal

lentilescorail

I could live off Dal (I think quite alot of people do in India !)…  Isn’t it wonderful when “healthy” also falls under the heading of “comfort food” ?

Dal (daal, dhal etc.) is a broad term that refers to legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) that are cooked and spiced.  I’m sure there are an infinite number of recipes for Dal though one of its endearing qualities is the lack of need for a recipe.  Get the water to lentil ratio about right and play with it from there.  One of my favourites is this base, made with red (actually orange, go figure ;)) lentils.  PS :  red lentils are a great source of iron ….

lentillesred

The most exciting bit of this dish lies just before serving. . . TEMPERED OIL. Once you try tempering spices in oil, you’ll be flavouring all of your curries this way….

ghee8

Oil, or even better Ghee is heated, spices are added and the whole sizzling lot is poured into your finished dish.  Total transformation, trust me 🙂

Dal

Simple Lentil Dal

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup (200 g) red lentils (picked over if needed, and rinsed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 4 cups (235 ml) water

Tempering Oil

  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons oil or Ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (lightly crushed in a mortar & pestle)
  • Finish the dish with the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime if you like

Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water.  Bring to a boil and skim the foam that rises.  Simmer, covered on a low heat until the lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so.  Add more water if necessary and taste for salt.  Some like their Dal thick some like it soupy, its up to you.

For the tempering oil, combine the oil, coriander seeds and the cumin seeds in a small pan and heat over a moderate heat, stirring until they colour slightly (1 minute).  Add the chilies and cook, stirring for another 30 seconds.  CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE SPICES.  Pour the oil and spices into the Dal, add the lemon or lime juice if using  and simmer for another 5 minutes before serving.  Serve on its own, with rice or Naan bread, or as part of a curry feast.

Bon appétit !

Some yummy variations to play with:

  • Before adding the lentils, fry a grated onion until soft adding chopped ginger and garlic just before the lentils and water go in.
  • Add a chopped fresh tomato just before the lentils are done.
  • Replace half the water with coconut milk.
  • Top with fresh coriander (cilantro).
  • Play around with other spices, either added with onion at the beginning or in the tempering oil; cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, garam masala, black mustard seeds, curry leaves etc…
  • Top the dish with crispy fried onions or leeks just before serving.

Green beans with hazelnuts and crème fraiche

greenbeannoisette

The moment when summer meets autumn and the fruit and veg available start to change.  Before “the change” goes too far I like to pair the taste of summer and autumn together.

purplebeans

This is a delicious recipe to eat as a side dish or mixed with pasta.  Just cooked green beans, a bit of pig for the salty richness, toasted hazelnuts for a bit of crunch and some very good quality “raw” crème fraiche from gorgeous local Jersey cows to blend it all together.

chinesebean

Although it has been, in general, a pretty bad  year for veggie gardens in southwest France this year, the green were as prolific as usual.  This year I grew your basic French green bean, gorgeous purple ones and very long Chinese red beans (just for fun).

grnbeans

Green beans with hazelnuts and bacon servings = 4 as a side dish

  • 500g green or runner beans, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped into pieces
  • handful of hazelnuts, toasted (peeled if you like) and roughly crushed *
  • 2T cider vinegar
  • 5 T crème fraiche (or thick cream), more if serving with pasta
  • handful of tarragon or parsley, chopped

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the beans for 4-5 mins until cooked, but still vibrant. Drain the beans and tip straight into a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain again and set aside.

Heat a frying pan, tip in the bacon and sizzle for 4-5 mins until it starts to crisp.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bacon, but leave behind any juices and residue. Place the pan back on a low heat, slosh in the vinegar and sizzle for a moment, then stir in the cream. Return the beans, bacon and hazelnuts to the pan to warm through and toss them in the dressing. Tip into a bowl and mix in the tarragon just before serving.

** To easily peel hazelnuts:  Dry toast them in a frying pan, being careful not to burn !  Tip them onto a clean tea towel and wrap them up.  Once cool rub them around in the tea towel which will help remove most of the papery skins.

***Adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine

Bon appetit !

Piedmont beans

With the late August heat, this has re-emerged as a “test” in the solar oven. Great results with a beautiful crispy top . . .

Piemontbeanscook

 

GOOD food from the good life . . .

DSCW0700

Its late August and the garden is in overdrive !  We are now on our 8th continuous week of eating green (or purple 😉 ) beans numerous times per week…  I usually make this recipe at least once in the season when I want to “get rid” of loads of beans in one meal.

Its an interesting recipe as it seems a bit odd, on the verge of “will this work?”.  The ratio of beans to the other ingredients just doesn’t seem right.  Trust me as I trusted the original recipe, it does work.

DSC_0716

I’ve adapted this Italian inspired recipe to suit my tastes and the ingredients I can get here in France so play around with it, its a forgiving recipe.  I used a beautiful ground red pepper produced in the Basque Country called “Espelette Pepper”, that I’m quite addicted to which adds a bit more depth and a…

View original post 60 more words