Absurdly addictive asparagus

This recipe combines so many of my favorite flavors and is going to be a firm favorite. Such a heady combination of leeks, pancetta, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley added to the asparagus is without doubt the best asparagus recipe I’ve encountered.

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Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Pappardelle with Brussels sprouts, leeks and truffle cream

Sauteed leeks with the earthy intensity of the truffle oil and the smooth creaminess of the cream is a heady combination. Make sure you don’t overdo the truffle oil, so start with a little less and add to taste.

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Serves 4

1/2 oz butter
1 large leek, well washed and sliced at an angle
7 oz Brussels sprouts, cut into 1/4″ slices
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/b fresh (preferably) Pappardelle pasta
4 fl oz dry white wine
2 oz good quality Parmesan cheese,finely grated
A large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp truffle oil
salt and pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.

In a wide pan, melt the butter and saute the leek, Brussels sprouts and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often over medium heat.
Drop the pasta into the pan of boiling water, stirring until the water comes back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes (or if you are using dry pasta, follow the packet’s instructions) until tender. Drain the pasta into a colander and shake off any excess water.

Meanwhile, add the white wine to the sprouts pan and cook for 2 minutes then add the cream.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a minutes.
Stir in the cheese, nutmeg, truffle oil and some salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Remove from the heat.
The sauce should be quite moist. Check for seasoning and strength of truffle flavor and adjust if necessary.

Divide the pasta between 4 warmed bowls and top with some of the vegetables and sauce.
Use tongs to combine the sauce and pasta and serve immediately.

Beet, lentil and mint salad with pomegranate molasses and orange dressing

A stunning combination for a healthy, clean tasting winter salad.

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Serves 4 to 6

3-4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 small leek, cut in half lengthways and sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 oz Puy lentils
1 tbsp each of chopped rosemary, thyme and sage.
3-4 fl oz mirin
3 tbsp white miso
1-2 fl oz soy sauce
5 oz raw beets, peeled and cut into fine strips
A large handful of mint leaves, shredded
A couple of handfuls of baby wild arugula or rocket
About 4 oz Greek feta cheese to crumble over the top (Optional)

Dressing
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
4 tbsp Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
juice and grated zest of 1/2 large orange
3 fl oz (approx) of olive oil
pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the leek, onion and garlic and cook, stirring over a high heat until caramelized. Add the lentils, herbs and mirin and continue to fry for 4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add enough water to cover lentils by 1 inch, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tender (add a little more water if needed).
Remove from the heat and stir in the miso and soy sauce. Check the seasoning, adding more soy if needed, then leave to cool.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Toss the beets, mint and lentils together in a bowl with a generous slosh of the dressing. Add salad leaves and mix gently. Sprinkle over the feta cheese, if wanted.
Serve immediately

Leek and bacon pasta with creamy Boursin cheese

As well as inventing recipes, I love to share ones I find either on the internet, or in my many hundreds of books. The BBC Good Food website is my most favorite source for recipes, and this is a real winner.
There is nothing nicer than the combination of leeks and bacon and with the addition of melted Boursin cheese and pasta, who could want something more tasty and comforting?

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Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb leeks, halved and finely sliced
8 rashers smoked bacon, sliced
1lb pasta (I used penne)
4oz Boursin cheese, at room temperature

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the leeks and 2 tbsp water, and cook for about 10 minutes until very soft.
Add the bacon, turn up the heat and fry until cooked.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta following the packet instructions. Drain and reserve a mug of the cooking water.
Spoon the cheese into the leek and bacon mix, adding some of the reserved cooking water.
Season and stir gently over a low heat until melted.
Toss through the cooked pasta, adding a little more cooking water, if needed, to help the sauce coat the pasta.

Spinach, leek and white bean soup

We are soup fanatics in our house, any time of the year. I made this soup recently because dear friends of ours were having their first baby at the hospital over the road from us, and ended up staying with us for several days before and after. New mom was very anaemic so I was trying to come up with high-iron meals. After some research I read that spinach and white beans are very high in iron.
Well, typical me, I can’t just make a small batch of soup, I made enough for 20 people, but they ended up taking the rest home. If you’re going to make a little soup, you might as well make a lot. That’s my mantra!
This one I made up out of whatever I had in the fridge and pantry and it ended up being really good, so I made it again today and wrote down what I was doing. There are some rather weird ingredients in it, but it all helps to layer the flavors.

 

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2 tbsp butter and 4 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 4oz pack chopped pancetta (you could use 4 rashers  (slices) of bacon too)
6 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed small
2 x 15oz cans white kidney or cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
2 x 11oz packs (22 oz) fresh spinach
1  tbsp medium curry powder (If you want a real curried flavor, add 2 tbsp. 1 tbsp just gives it a certain “je ne c’est quoi”)
3/4 tbsp instant chicken Bouillon granules
3 x large (49oz) tins Chicken broth
A little salt and ground black pepper
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp

Get your largest saucepan, preferably a tall stockpot and put in the oil and butter. Heat gently and add the onions, garlic, pancetta, leeks and potato and saute, stirring occasionally.
Add the white beans and curry powder and season with a little salt and pepper.

2014-07-16 10.29.32Add the chicken broth and chicken stock granules and bring to a simmer. Add the spinach and keep pressing it down into the liquid with a wooden spoon until it wilts and shrinks considerably. Stir occasionally and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.

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After 30 mins, take the soup of the heat and set aside to cool for an hour or two. this way, when you blend it in the liquidizer, the steam won’t cause it to burst the lid off and cover you and your surroundings with soup!
When cooled a little, start blending it in a blender, add tablespoons of the cream cheese to each batch until you have used it all up. This gives it a really silky, creamy texture. When all is blended, return to the large pan and bring to  a simmer and serve
Serve. (You can cool the soup and freeze it in batches at this point)

 

 

 

 

 

Chilled corn soup with prawns, avocado and tomato relish

Chilled corn soup with avocado, shrimp and tomato relish

This is the season for gorgeous chilled soups, whether you serve them in shooter glasses or bowls like this picture. I will be posting several of these over the next few summer months, as I love starting a meal with a refreshing and zingy flavor.  You can make them well in advance so they are ideal for dinner parties or spontaneous lunches. Recently we held a house concert here at our home and I made my chilled cucumber soup (also on this blog) and set out 40 shooter glasses and two large pitchers of the soup. There was a constant group hovering over the pitchers refilling their glasses.

Serves 4
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 large leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 ears corn, husked, silk removed
3 cups chicken broth
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
6 oz grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
8 to 10 leaves fresh, thinly-sliced basil
8 oz small or medium prawns, peeled and de-veined, tails removed
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp Fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a large saucepan on low, heat oil until melted. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until softened.
Meanwhile, over a large bowl, cut the corn kernels from the corn cobs (A sharp, serrated knife would work well). With a heavy knife, cut each cob into 2 to 3 pieces.
Add the corn kernels and pieces of cob to the pot with the leeks. Add the chicken broth and 1 cup of water, and increase the heat to high. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and discard the cobs. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then purée soup with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, carefully purée soup in batches in a food processor or blender.) Transfer to a large bowl, cover and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
In a small bowl, toss avocado, tomatoes and basil
Heat a nonstick skillet on medium. Season the prawns with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until just opaque.
Just before serving, chop the prawns coarsely and stir the lime juice into chilled soup. Ladle into bowls and garnish with avocado-tomato mixture and prawns, dividing evenly.

Golden beet and leek fritters with yoghurt and lemon sauce

I’m always on the lookout for interesting vegetarian options for dinner and this is a really light and lovely starter from a fellow blogger.

Yields 12 fritters

3 medium golden beets, peeled and shredded
3 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour (or all purpose flour)
1 large egg, well beaten
1/2 tsp ground cumin (I roast my own)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil for frying

For the sauce

1/2 cup yoghurt
juice of 1/2 lemon

Toss the shredded beets, leeks, egg, flour, spices, salt and pepper together on a bowl.

Blend the yoghurt and lemon to make the sauce

Coat the bottom of a cast iron or other heavy skillet with olive oil

When the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of the beet mixture into the pan, flattening them out into rounds. You should hear a strong sizzle when the mixture hits the pan, or your oil isn’t hot enough.

Cook until golden and tender, about 3 minutes per side.

Drain on paper towels and serve hot with the lemon yoghurt

 

Roasted pesto, parmesan vegetable traybake

Yesterday, I did another traybake. I was on my own so decided to cut up a whole pile of vegetables, toss them with a container of pesto sauce from Trader Joes, lots of garlic, and when they were 3/4 through with the roasting, I threw at least half a container of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over everything and roasted it till it was all melted and browned.
It was divine and so healthy!

Preheat oven to 350 F

Vegetables

 You can choose whatever is in your fridge, but I used;
3 leeks, sliced into 1 inch slices
1lb Brussel Sprouts, trimmed
1/2 large cauliflower broken into florets
2 large red onions, cubed into 1 “ pieces
2 Delicata squash, unpeeled and cubed into 1” pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1 “ slices

6 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 container Trader Joes pesto sauce (8oz)
6 oz (at least) grated Parmigano Reggiano

Put all the vegetables into a very large bowl then season well and add the garlic and pesto sauce.

Mix together well with your hands and tip all the contents out onto a large baking tray with shallow sides, like the one in the picture.

Roast the vegetables for 25 mins then turn all the vegetables to avoid burning and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with plenty of grated cheese and return to oven, turning the oven up to 400F for another 15 to 20 minutes until toasty and melted.

Serve on it’s own, or with a salad

 

Cornbread, bacon, pecan and leek stuffing

Another great stuffing to add to the repertoire

2 cups pecans
2 cornbread (rounds, squarers or loaves, 8 inches each) coarsely broken into 2 inch pieces (16 cups)
3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the dish
8 slices smoked bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 celery stalks, chopped nto 1/2 inch pieces
4 leeks (white and pale-green parts only), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, rinsed well.
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. let cool slightly; coarsely chop. Mix together pecans and cornbread in a large bowl.

Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cook the bacon in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until almost crisp, about 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the celery and leeks. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Stir in thyme and 1 1/4 tsp salt; season with pepper.
Transfer to a large bowl.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add the stock; bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Add to the bowl with the bacon-vegetable mixture.
Stir in the eggs.
Gently mix in the cornbread mixture. (Do not overmix)
Transfer to a baking dish, dot the top with butter.
bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes

Baked, stuffed potatoes with leeks, cheddar and Boursin cheese

These are delicious and I usually treble this recipe at least, and freeze them individually.

Serves 4

4 large baking potatoes
4 leeks, white and pale green part only
6 to 8 oz mature cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (not pre-grated)
1 Boursin cheese, the one called “ail & fines herbes” at room temp. See picture, if you don’t know the cheese.
4 tbsp cream
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
4 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Wash the potatoes and put them straight onto the top oven rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are soft in the middle. Test with a skewer.
Remove from the oven and set aside until they are a little cooler.
When cool enough to handle, cut the baked potatoes in half lengthways protecting your hands with a towel, and scoop out the centers, leaving a little to line the potato so it still keeps it’s shape.
Put the potato into a large bowl and add the cream, Boursin, chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Mash the potato until as smooth as possible, then add 4 oz of the grated cheddar cheese, scallions and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Meanwhile to prepare the leeks, trim the ends then cut them lengthwise down the middle. Cut across widthwise in 1/4 inch slices. Put into a colander and wash thoroughly to get rid of any grit. Drain.
Put 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil into a frying pan and over medium heat add the chopped leeks and garlic. Stir, coating with the butter and oil and saute until softened. Watch they don’t burn.
When soft, tip them into the bowl with the other ingredients and mix well.

Stuff the empty potato shells with the mixture, topping with a little salt and pepper and grated cheese. Put the potato halves onto a shallow baking tray and bake for 20 to 30 minutes in the oven until hot and bubbling and enjoy.