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.

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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 🙂

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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
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  • 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

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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 ….

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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….

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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
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  • 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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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 . . .

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GOOD food from the good life . . .

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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.

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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…

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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 !

 

Cabbage Kimchi

kimchitop

I kick myself when thinking about Korean food and it’s recent popularity.  I was in Korea almost 30 years ago (gulp) and I just couldn’t find my food groove.   I don’t remember seeing Bibimbap on the menu, or Bulgogi, and the best “Korean BBQ” I’d had was in Japan ! I remember not really liking anything…  other than …  KIMCHI 🙂  I have great memories of the stuff and that it made everything else taste better ….

To be fair, I think it was just a language problem and I surely missed out on a lot of great food.  But Kimchi remains a solid memory.

Kimchi (or Korean Sauerkraut if you like) is a wonderful spicy traditional lacto-fermented side dish or condiment made using many different vegetables, the most popular being Cabbage.

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As with other lacto-fermented products, Kimchi is rich in anti-oxidants and has some great health benefits including aiding digestion, improving your intestinal flora, regulating cholesterol levels… the list goes on and on.

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I’ve tried a few different combos of veg in the past, but really like this mix.  I used a both Napa Cabbage and Savoy Cabbage (mostly Napa) and instead of the traditional Korean Gochugaru dried pepper flakes, I used a local “Piment d’Espelette” which is not quite so hot but very flavorful.  I always use whatever radishes are in season if I can’t find Daikon.  I also like adding the umami flavours of fish sauce and/or shrimp paste.

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Use filtered water if possible and good quality salt.

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Don’t be afraid to get your hands “dirty” !  Use gloves if you use a hot hot pepper powder.  Massaging the veg is important, so don’t just stir with a spoon.

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MAKE SURE you read the instructions carefully and don’t forget to check your fermenting Kimchi everyday until it goes in the fridge, so it doesn’t. . . explode out of its jar.

Careful, this stuff is ADDICTIVE !  Its great alongside so many dishes, on of my favorites is Korean Pancakes.

KIMCHI

  • Servings: Approx. 1 liter jar
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  • 1 kg approx. napa cabbage (savoy works to but gives off less brine)
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned
  • 1 daikon radish (or other radish), julienned
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • Water (filtered)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unrefined brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon dried shrimp paste (or more fish sauce)
  • 1 to 5 Tablespoons Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) or Espelette Pepper to taste
  • 4 spring onions cut into 1 inch pieces

Slice the cabbage, a bit wider than if you were making coleslaw, place in a large bowl and add the salt.  Using your hands, massage the salt into the leaves.  Cover with water and weigh down the cabbage by placing a plate in the bowl with something heavy like a bottle of water to hold the plate down.  Let stand for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, make the paste by combining the garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce and shrimp paste (if using) in a small bowl to make a smooth paste.  Add the pepper flakes and mix well (the quantity depends on how hot you want your kimchi, I use 3 to 4 Tablespoons).

Rinse the cabbage a few times and drain in a colander for 15 minutes.  Rinse and dry the large bowl and set aside.

Squeeze the cabbage, using your hands and put it into your large bowl with the other veg and your spice paste.  Mix thoroughly using your hands (gloves not a bad idea) working the paste into the veg until well covered.  It should now have a nice fresh kimchi smell.

Pack the kimchi into a clean 1 Liter or Quart jar and press down using your hand or a wooden spoon to release some of the natural juices (instant brine)  Leave at least a few cm of head space and seal the jar.  If your kimchi is not giving off enough water to cover the veg you can make a brine using 1T of sea salt for 1 cup of water and add a bit of this.

Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 to 5 days (1 usually leave mine 4 or 5). Open the jar once a day and squish everything down using a wooden spoon.  This will also release any built up bubbles created by the fermentation process.  Place your jar on a plate or bowl in case it does seep out.  Taste your kimchi every day and when it is to your liking, into the fridge it goes where it should keep for months.  Its ok to eat right away but will get better with age.

Bon appetit !

*** Adapted from the blog TheKitchn

 

 

“Thai” green bean fritters

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Still no end to the bean onslaught in the potager !  Purple ones and green ones alike, just keep on giving 🙂

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Beware this recipe is very moreish, so double it if you have a big appetite !  In the past, I have made this without the radishes (though an interesting addition), by adding more potato and beans.  It is really good with the radishes so try to source them.  Plain old garden radishes or milky white Daikons are nice.

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If you have time to spare (don’t we all?) this is a great way to use up a glut of beans as these little fritters freeze very well.  So make an afternoon of it 😉

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I have been experimenting with homemade hot chili sauces this year, as my freezer is already fully stocked with various Chili Butters 😉  I’ve made some nice versions of Caribbean style hot sauces and a gorgeous Chili Jam…  Recipes to come soon 🙂

Thai style green bean fritters

  • Servings: 2 to 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 110g green beans
  • 225g waxy potatoes, grated
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 110g radishes (daikon are nice)
  • grated zest of one lime or grated kaffir lime zest
  • small handful chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and more to finish
  • 1 green chili, chopped and de-seeded if you like (the heat is mostly in the pith and seeds)
  • up to a Tablespoon red Thai curry paste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 30g chickpea flour (gram flour)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • veg oil for shallow frying (I always use olive)

Serve with something worth dipping in:

  • a nice sweet chili sauce or….
  • a mix of lime juice and soya sauce and brown sugar to taste

Trim the green beans and chop into small pieces by hand or using a food processor. Mix together with the potatoes (squeeze the extra water from potatoes first), spring onions, radishes, lime zest, coriander, chili and curry paste.

Stir in the eggs and chickpea flour. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Heat a good glug of oil in a heavy frying pan. Fry spoonfuls of the mixture for a few minutes on each side until golden-brown. Serve garnished with sprigs of coriander. Serve dipping sauces separately.

adapted from Leiths Vegetarian Bible

Bon appetît !