Courgette, Cheddar and Thyme Soda Bread

If you have a vegetable garden (sadly I do not) it is highly probable that you are being swamped by courgettes (zucchini) and marrows at the moment. Both at my dear friend’s house in the Cotswold, where I have been enjoying some time recently, and my parents’ home in Sussex, where I have also been staying – it’s the summer holidays after all – they are both drowning in these wonderful vegetables. As such I thought that it would be useful to come up with a couple of ways in which you can incorporate these ingredients into your diet.

For those who have been reading (casting an eye ;o) over my blog for sometime you will know how much I adore dal in all it’s varied forms. Marrow or courgette works really well in dal so I can highly recommend you give this one a whirl (click on link – photo of it below).

I made it for a friend the other day who was completely surprised by how tasty it was and asked me to send her the recipe. So if you are reading this Rose, this is for you.

Soda bread is a really easy and quick to make as it does not require yeast or proving, so within an hour you have a freshly baked loaf – what’s not to love?

Courgette Cheddar and Thyme Soda Bread

400g self raising/wholemeal spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 large courgette or 2 small/medium

50g giant rolled oats

70g cheddar cheese, grated

handful of fresh thyme, leaves only (chives or rosemary also work well)

284ml buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

 

  1. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees if using a fan oven)
  2. Sieve the flour and add the baking powder into a large bowl.
  3. Place a large tea towel under a course grater and then grate the courgette. Fold the edges of the tea towel and squeeze so that all the liquid is released from the courgette. Then place into the flour.
  4. Add all the other ingredients except the egg. Save back a handful of grated cheese to use for the topping.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to begin with to bind the ingredients together and then use your hands to create a dough ball. If it remains too sticky add a little more flour to help bind it. Do not over handle the dough so that it remains light.
  6. Place it onto baking paper, lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg and add the remaining cheese on top. Using a knife make a cross in the top of the bread.
  7. Place into the oven for 35-40 minutes so that it is nicely bronzed. Remove from the oven and place on a rack.
  8. It is great to eat warm with some butter, which will melt into the bread. Equally I love to dunk it into soup.

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Bengali Khichuri – perfect for convalescing and detoxing

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If you are feeling a little under the weather, have the winter blues or just fancy some good old Indian comfort food, then read on, this post is especially for YOU>>>>>>>

Khichuri is a traditional Ayurvedic Indian dish, consisting of rice and lentils, that is given to those who are convalescing, detoxing  or fasting, it’s also really popular during puja time. Whilst it can be eaten in its pure form of rice and lentils (no onions or garlic), most khichuri that I have eaten consists of a vegetable or two thrown in as well. It’s the perfect dish to prepare if you need to use up any vegetables before they go off.  The Anglo-Indian dish of ‘kedgeree’ was inspired from khichuri and although it tastes very different the consistency is similar.

My eldest daughter (Big A) has been poorly recently and this is what I prepared for her as it is both nourishing and easy to digest.

There is no set rule on which lentil you need to use or vegetable for that matter. I tend to opt for red split lentils as they are the quickest to cook and need no soaking, although mung beans are also good to use (they do need soaking) as they are known for their ability to remove toxins from the body. My version includes carrot, courgette and and peas. Other vegetables would work equally well so if you have squash, marrow, cauliflower, pumpkin, green beans in the fridge (garden) pop one or two of them in and it will taste divine.

I have not included chilli in this dish as I was feeding it to my daughter, however, if you need a chilli buzz yourself just pop it in (whole or chopped) during  number 2 on the steps below.

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Bengali Khichuri

Serves 2-4

100g red split lentils

100g white rice (if using brown it will take twice as long!)

900ml boiling water

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 large handful of fresh/frozen peas

1/2 courgette, partly peeled and diced

1 tsp of fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp garlic paste

4 green cardamom pods

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp of garam masala powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

pinch of asafoetida/hing

1 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp ghee/butter/or a splash of oil

fresh coriander to garnish

1. Rinse the rice and red spilt lentils a couple of times in cold water so as to get rid of any impurities and than place in a large saucepan with 900ml of boiling water and the chopped carrots and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile place the ghee/butter/oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion. After 5-7 minutes add the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic and mix into the onions. Following this add the turmeric, garam masala, asafoetida and stir once again. Take a spoonful of the boiled rice and lentils and mix into the saucepan ingredients and then return it back into the main rice and lentil saucepan.

3. Stir all the ingredients together and add the courgettes and peas (or any other greens you need to finish up). Simmer for a further 5-7 minutes and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. You may find you need to add a little more water, but just enough to make sure that the rice and lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan. It is not meant to be the same consistency as a soupy dal.

4. Serve into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

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Save the English cauliflower from extinction by EATING it!

It was during a recent family conversation about how cauliflower consumption is in decline, that gave me the idea for this blog. I wanted to do my bit, so as to speak, to give the cauliflower some much needed positive PR and encourage people actually to buy and eat the vegetable.  The sad truth is that if we don’t consume them we will slowly see them disappearing from our farmers’ markets, grocers, supermarkets (delete as required) and they will join the list of other extinct vegetables. A really interesting article was published a couple of  years ago in “The Daily Telegraph” with the heading ‘Cauliflower to make a comeback with environmentally friendly rebranding’ – it’s worth a read so just click here.

I think a lot of people are not too sure what to do with cauliflower, other than the obvious cauliflower cheese, which don’t get me wrong is tasty, especially when you add crispy bacon bits to the topping, but there are so many other delicious things to do with cauliflowers.

So I thought I would share two completely different recipes with you to inspire you to love and eat cauliflower. Broccoli and other so called ‘superfoods’ seem to have taken centre stage due to their health benefits, but the fact is that cauliflower is also very nutritious, perhaps not quite as much as broccoli, but close, and if the truth be told cauliflower has less calories than broccoli. You can check out the facts here if you don’t believe me!

First up…………………………drum roll please……………………. is………………………………………………..

Sweet Piccalilli, which is a gloriously tangy and vibrant looking relish which includes cauliflower as the main ingredient, along with green beens, courgette/marrow, pickled onions and spices. It’s also been referred to as ‘Indian Pickle’, indicating that it’s origin stems from the Indian subcontinent. I recently made a huge batch and then gave a number away as gifts at christmas time. A dollop of this relish is the perfect accompaniment to hams and cheeses, in fact you are guaranteed always to see it on the plate when ordering a traditional ploughman’s lunch at any good English Pub.

This recipe is sourced from my favourite preserves and pickling book called The Complete Book of Preserves and Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. I have remained pretty loyal to the original recipe other than the fact that I do add a little more flour as I like the piccalilli to be slightly thicker. It’s personal choice, so see how you get on and don’t be afraid to add a little more flour if need be. It is also really important to note that steps 1 and 2 you need to do 24 hours before the next steps can be completed.

Sweet Piccalilli

Makes circa 1.8kg/4lb, which was precisely 7 jars  and I bought them from here.

1 large cauliflower

450g pickling (pearl) onions

900g mixed vegetables (marrow/courgette, cucumber, French green beans)

225g salt

2.4 litres/4 pints cold water

200g granulated sugar

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tsp of mustard powder

1 tsp of ground ginger

1 litre/1 and three quarters distilled (white) vinegar

25g plain flour

1 tbsp turmeric

1. Clean and cut the cauliflower into small edible florets and cut off the ends of the French green beans and cut them into 2.5cm/1inch in length. The pickling onions I use are small, but if you have bought the slightly larger ones you will need to quarter them.

2. In a large bowl place the vegetables in layers and add a sprinkling of salt over each layer. Pour the water over all the vegetables and then cover with cling film and leave to soak for 24 hours.

24 hours later

3. Drain the soaked vegetables and discard the brine. You will need to rinse them well several times in cold water so as to get rid of the salt. You may find it easier to do this in batches.

4. In a large pan (preserving pan if you have one) add the sugar, garlic, mustard, ginger and 900ml/1 and a half pints of the vinegar. Gently heat the pan stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.

5. Add the vegetables to the pan and bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until they are almost tender.

6. In a separate bowl stir the turmeric into the flour and then add to the remaining vinegar. Stir this mixture into the vegetables. Bring to the boil and stir and then turn down the heat so that it simmers for another 5-10 minutes allowing the piccalilli to become thick. If it is not the consistency you want, simply add a little more flour and it should thicken up.

7. Into warmed sterilized jars, add the sweet piccalilli and cover and seal. Store in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks. Use within the year.

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The second recipe I wanted to share with you is Cauliflower Curry, which is really straight forward and speedy to make and perfect to eat either on its own or with a bowl of dal on the side; I also like to have mine with a little natural yoghurt. This recipe comes from my mother-in-law who stores all her recipes in her head and never seems to have precise measurements. It’s always a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and the result is always divine.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how tasty and simple this dish is to make.

Cauliflower Curry

Serves 2-4 accompanied with another dish such as dal or speedy salmon curry

1 large cauliflower

2 tbsp of mustard oil (or sunflower oil if you do not have mustard oil)

1 tsp  nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1tsp ground coriander (cilantro)

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

half tsp chilli powder

3 inch cinnamon bark, broken into smaller parts

splash or two of water

1 heaped tsp of ghee or butter, optional

1. Wash and cut the cauliflower into small florets. Do not discard the outer green bits as these too can be used in the curry.

2. In a pan warm up the oil on a low heat and when it’s hot add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the cauliflower and stir into the seeds and the oil. Add the turmeric and then let the cauliflower gently cook away. You want to begin to see the cauliflower bronzing before adding any more of the ingredients, this will take between 5-10 minutes. Keep the oil on a low heat or you will find that the cauliflower will burn, which is not the effect that you want to achieve.

3. Add all the rest of the ingredients, aside from the ghee/butter and water. Stir them all together and then add a small amount of water to help soften the cauliflower and help it cook. Cook for further 10 minutes and then add the ghee/butter and stir into the cauliflower to give it a more buttery taste. This is not essential so try it both ways and see which you prefer.

4. Serve with natural yoghurt.

Do you have any any cauliflower recipes that you cook at home and would recommend? I’d love to hear them.