Monday, June 27, 2011

Spicy carrot and beetroot salad

This started as a simple carrot salad I learnt from a Greg and Lucy Malouf cook book - grated carrots and delicious spice.  But these days I almost always add beetroot, and maybe some seeds.  And then this morning I went bonkas and threw in pomegranate, walnuts and chevre and the things went to a whole new level.  Tangy and juicy and hot hot pink.  I got a spray of pomegranate down my white t-shirt that made me look like I murdered an exotic fruit, and in many ways, I did.

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beetroot
  • 1/2 a pomegranate
  • big handful of walnuts
  • big handful of sunflower seeds
  • really good olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • splash of orange blossom water
  • teaspoon cumin
  • teaspoon of cinnamon
  • half a teaspoon chilli powder
  • teaspoon of honey

Grate the carrot and beetroot and put in a large mixing bowl.  This is the most time consuming part. You're already 80% there.  Oh man I love an easy salad.  Scoop the seeds from half the pomegranate.  If this is the first time you've done this it will be slightly baffling and little hard white bits will stick to the seeds (at least, this was my experience the first time I used one).  The key is to abandon all utensils and muck in with your hands - the little juicy seeds will come away from the fruit easily.

 Toast your walnuts and seeds by placing them in a thin layer in a dry frying pan, and tossing on a medium heat for about 2 minutes until they start to brown and the seeds start to pop.  Then add these to your salad.

Now mix the dressing, by taking all the dressing ingredients and stirring them vigorously in a little ramiken, like so.

Toss the dressing through, and finally, place your creamy chevre (that's fancy for soft white goats cheese) on top.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mussels Provencale

BRAG ALERT: So this one time I was in the South of France, and I pretty much ate mussels and drank rose from carafes every day, during a balmy evening on a beach most likely.  It was basically devine.  That was 11 years ago. And now have this wonderful local seafood shop, and they always have these fresh bags of mussels.  Every time I go there I think about buying some, and then go, "not today...". Until, this weekend, I finally bought some and set about trying to recreate the whole experience.

Now technically I have my seasons all wrong.  See here in Melbourne it's currently freezing and windy and raining sideways and all in all roast chicken or spicy tagine or maybe even self-saucing pudding for dinner kind of weather.  But we had mussels provencale, and let me tell you, they work in all seasons.  I added some unconventional vegetabley ingredients, to up the nutritional and stodge content a bit, and you could do likewise with whatever is in the fridge (fennel would work well as would onion, shallots, leek, zucchini or capsicum).  But as long as you have the basics - garlic, chilli, tomatoes, wine - you can't really go wrong.

  • Mussels
  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • white wine 
  • olive oil
  • 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 hot red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 squash
  • 1/2 cup puy lentils
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh crusty bread and butter to serve

First you have to prepare the mussels.  I had never cooked them before so wasn't sure I was doing it right.  By since my dish turned out ok I'm guessing this process is acceptable: Rinse under cold water a few times, then trim off the beards and scrub the shells with a scourer to get any grit off.  These mussels had lots of beards.

Then soak the whole lot in a bowl of cold water about 10 minutes.  Change the water and soak again for another 20 mins or so, this time adding some salt and flour to the water.  I was told this would help remove sand and grit from the mussels.  Not sure of the science but the mussels were grit free, so it's probably a good idea.

While your mussels are soaking, fry up your garlic and chilli in some olive oil.  Once softened and fragrant, add the tin of tomatoes and a cup of white wine (use a good quality wine, you'll drink the rest later).  Grate or finely chop your squash (or vegetables of choice) and add to the mix along with your lentils and bring the whole thing to the boil.  At this point I also added about half a cup of water as I knew the lentils would absorb a lot of liquid.  If not using lentils, probably skip this part.  Cover and simmer the whole lot for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked, and top up with wine or water if it's getting too thick. 

Finely chop a couple of big handfuls of parsley and add one handful to the pot.  Then rinse your mussels one last time and add them as well.  Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the mussels have opened.  Then add the remaining parsley.

Discard any that don't open, then serve with the fresh bread and butter for mopping up the broth, and your crisp white wine.  We stuffed ourselves on these little puppies last night and still didn't get through the whole lot. Oh boy!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Zucchini salad

Fresh, green, tangy zucchinis.  I have long loved zucchinis, but never before has it occurred to me to eat them raw.  I suspect that there's a whole world of cooked vegetables that I should be eating raw.  I have already converted to raw beetroot.  And then Jamie fucken Oliver.  I hate the idea of sprooking Jamie Oliver recipes, but there's no denying that some of them are good.  I saw this one being made on tv and knew that I would make it soon. So I did.  It takes five minutes from start to finish, it's healthy and it packs punch.  Need to know more?

  • zucchinis
  • 1 lemon
  • good quality olive oil
  • fresh mint
  • red chilli
  • salt and pepper

Finely chop the mint and chilli.  Grate the zest from the lemon.  Sprinkle all three over the dish you will serve the salad in.  Squeeze over the lemon juice and drizzle the olive oil.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt and cracked pepper.

Then using a vegetable peeler, peel the flesh from the zucchinis in ribbons over the top, avoiding the seeded middles.  Then smoosh the whole lot around until the zucchini is evenly coated in all the delicious little tasty bits.  Serve it with fish or seafood or chicken or pie or just eat it up with a fork and a glass of white wine!