Sunday, September 28, 2008

Open lasagne of mushrooms and spinach - Weekend Herb Blogging

This week's Weekend Herb Blogging event is being hosted by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.
Next week I will be hosting it and I am so excited. I really like this event. It has been literally the soul of the English version of my blog. It was a long time ago that I told Kalyn, the event creator, that I would love to host it one day.

This week I will make it by the skin of my teeth. I have had a really busy weekend and just had time to stop and prepare something an hour ago to be exact. I have been thinking about this open lasagne since Tuesday. I wanted to have a light lasagne and also a very seasonal one. So I chose mushrooms.

This is what I read about mushrooms which I did not know: The Pharaohs thought they were food from heaven; the Romans spread them throughout their Empire and from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance they were an autumn feast.

I love them because they taste delicious and also because I know that they are a good source of minerals - specially potassium, a good source of vitamins - specially vitamin B, low in fat and have no cholesterol, low in calories, its protein is superior to that of many other vegetables, and they are in season.

I watched this show on BBC2, What to eat Now, and found out that I could watch the first episode on the website. It is all about seasonal food. This is where my inspiration came from.The first show followed Valentine Warner, the new cook on the block – he says that he is not a chef, walking in the woods with a mate collecting mushrooms and truffles. They gathered quite a few mushrooms but no truffles. And they ended up preparing some scrambled egg with truffles that Valentine’s friend had in his pocket. Valentine prepared this lovely oven baked lasagne as well when he got home. I decided that I wanted mine to be an open lasagne. I just thought that it would be much lighter and I wanted to try my idea.

I had no special recipe - just what i saw on the show. I had a bunch of different types of mushrooms which I sliced and cooked in a very hot pan with a bit of butter, finely chopped garlic and thyme. Towards the end I seasoned it with salt. You could add black pepper if you like. I then set the mushrooms aside, boiled water for the pasta and proceeded to prepare the spinach. In the same pan where I had prepared the mushrooms I threw a big bunch of spinach with more chopped garlic and let it wilt. I then seasoned it with freshly ground nutmeg and a wee bit of salt. I transferred the spinach mixture to a colander and let the excess water from the spinach drain. I cooked the lasagne sheets and then once cooked I heated a non stick frying pan and threw a tiny piece of butter in and a bit of ras el hanout, that beautiful Moroccan style spice which has amongst other things rose petals. I just fried it a bit in the oil and then just threw the lasagne sheets in, one by one, so that they got a bit of the ras el hanout on them.

I then assembled the dish: one sheet of lasagne, a bunch of mushroom, another sheet of lasagne, bunch of spinach, another sheet of lasagne and some grated parmesan cheese on top. I thought of adding goat’s cheese to the spinach originally but in the end decided not to.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Red peppers wiht couscous and yogurt her sauce - WHB

This week’s Weekend Herb Blogging evTent is being hosted by Zorra from Kochtopf. As you all must know by now, Kalyn from Kalyn’s kitchen is the master mind of this great idea that has been going very successfully for the last two years. She has got a very faithful bunch of bloggers who contributed regularly. The recipe I chose for this week had been prepared previously for the event but in the end I decided to go for a completely different one. This time I prepared it again and I am glad that I am going ahead with it.

Capsicum is native to the Americas, and they were already cultivated by the native people of that continent. It can now be found worldwide.There can be red, green or even yellow. Each 100g contains 29kg calories, 1,3g proteins, 0,1g fat, vitamin A, B1, B2, B5, C, 140mg potassium, 16mg sodium, 20mg calcium, 0,5mg iron. I much prefer them roasted as their flavour seems at its best in my opinion. Stuffing them is a great way to prepare. I have done loads of stuffings with meat and herbs, or even rice,meat and herbs. I do much prefer the couscous stuffing. It adds a nice texture, together with the pine nuts. Oh pine nuts, they just lift most of the dishes they are added to. The first time I prepared this dish I added some chopped anchovies to it and the result was quite exciting. I had none in the house this time so had to leave them out. Perhaps you would like to try the combination yourself.

2-3 medium to large, ripe peppers
200g couscous
6 spring onions
Olive oil

2 cloves garlic
½ tsp ground paprika
Grated zest of half lemon
Large handful chopped mint leaves
Large handful chopped coriander
75g toastes pine nuts

For the yogurt sauce:
200g plain,thick yogurt
Handful each of chopped coriander and mint

Pinch of paprika

Preheat the oven at 180oC. Cut the peppers in half, clean them out from seeds and lay all of them cut side up in a baking tin.
To prepare the stuffing, prepare the couscous as per instructions in the packet. I like to use vegetable stock instead of water.
Meanwhile finely chop the spring onions and let them soft in a glug or two of olive oil over a moderate heat. Just before they start to colour, add the garlic, paprika and grated lemon zest ( reserve the lemon juice). Stir in the chopped herbs and the toasted pine nuts. When all is fragrant and starting to darken a little in colour, stir in the couscous and lemon juice. Season to taste.
Pie the stuffing into the peppers, sprinkle some ground black pepper over it and drizzle over a little more olive oil. Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
Mix the yogurt with the coriander, mint and paprika and serve.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pasta with aubergine and pine kernels - Weekend Herb Blogging

I spend my whole week thinking of a recipe that is good enough to take part in Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging event - click on the logo above to be taken to the site and find out more about it. I prepare various things and in the end I post my favourite item. This week the event is being hosted by Gretchen from Canela & Comino . I already had a lovely red pepper dish to post, but when I got the paper this morning I came across this aubergine pasta dish, and I decided that I had to prepare it because it might be worth taking it into consideration. In the end I chose this recipe. If anything because it was such a different way to prepare aubergine with pasta.

Did you know that aubergines and tomatoes are related? That’s right. They are from the same family, and some say that growing them can be similar to growing tomatoes. They don't like cold weather.
They are also known in the English speaking world as eggplant or brinjal. My friends from India always say brinjal which makes me think of 'berinjela'which is the portuguese world. Their shapes go from oval to round to sausage shaped. They also come in a variety of colours: dark purple, violet, stripy purple, yellow, white. There are big ones, little ones. When buying them it is best to look for smooth, unblemished and glossy skinned ones. They should feel firm to the touch. They are apparently not particularly high in any single vitamin or mineral. However, they do have the benefit of supplying few calories and being virtually fat free. I was amazed to read that for a while in Europe it was believed that they could cause madness, leprosy, cancer and even bad breath. Only on 18th century it was established that it was a good food item both in Italy and in France.
There are so many ways of preparing them, and I just loved this new way – new to me anyway. I got the recipe from Nigel Slater.

measure pasta for four people
2 large aubergines
Olive oil
A large handful of basil leaves
½ lemon
4 tbsp pine kernels

Preheat oven – 200oC- 180oC fan assisted. Cut each aubergine in half lenghtway, then make criss cross cuts on the flesh nearly all the way down to the skin. Brush with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes or until soft.
Boil the water for the pasta and whilst that is getting ready toast the pine nuts on a non stick frying pan.
When ready scrape the flesh out of the aubergine skins to a mixing bowl. Pour the olive oil gradually mixing it with the aubergine flesh until you get to a smooth paste. Season it to taste. I used salt and black pepper but next time I might use some cumin.
Drain the pasta, and mix it with the aubergine to coat it really well. Add shredded basil and the pine nuts. Be generous with them as they add a lovely nutty taste to the dish. As a last touch squeeze a wee bit of lemon. That will bring all the flavours together. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Onion, sweet corn and mascarpone tart - Weekend Herb Blogging

This week’s Weekend Herb Blogging event is being host by Ulrike from the bilingual blog Kuchenlatein. Kalyn from Kalyn’s kitchen is the master mind of this great idea that has been going very successfully for the last two years. Every week it is hosted by a different blog host.This week I wanted to make a tart. I took the base from an old recipe favourite – with walnut. I also usesd buckwheat flour instead of normal flour. I do have to say that perhaps I ought to have mixed buckwheat with normal flour as I feel that the final result was not the best. I do list only normal flour in the ingredients as this base recipe has been tested and approved. I just love the filling of this tart as I have been getting so much corn at the moment. I lived for a long time in a part of Brazil where corn is very abundant, and we also had it in our diets: corn soup, corn sauce, corn croquettes, corn dessert..Corn is high in nutrients: vitamin B1 ( aids the digestion of carbohydrates), vitamin B5 (helps with physiological functions), vitamin C ( fights diseases), folate ( generation of new cells), rich in many goodness in it. And it tastes just wonderful. You can use frozen corn here but I had my kernels taken straight from the cob.
It is thererefore a very seasonal recipe.And with a great green salad it constitutes a meal in itself.

Walnut tart ingredients – 6 of 10 cm tart tins
250g flour
40g natural yoghurt
100ml walnuts, toasted and ground
125 cold butter, grated
Cold water

Mix the flour, yoghurt and walnuts in a bown, then add the butter and mix it all with your fingertips until you have a crumb like texture. Start adding water bit by bit until you reach an uniform dough. Wrap with cling film and rest for 2 hours in the fridge.

2 talblespoon olive oil
1 ½ cups sliced onions/leeks
1 ½ cups slightly cooked corn grains
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup mascarpone
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoon finely grated parmegianno cheese

To prepare the filling:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the corn and cook, stirring often for 2 minutes. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl, and cool for 10 minutes.

To prepare the crust:
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it in out. Distribute it among the six tart tins. Take it back to the fridge for 30 minutes.

Back to the filling:
In a medium-size bowl, beat together the mascarpone, cream and eggs until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add to the onions and corn mixture and mix together until the ingredients are well blended. Transfer the filling into the crusts, and sprinkle lightly with the Parmesan. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until the filling is set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve it on a bed of greens.