Archive for the 'Rice' Category

My trusty chickpea and spinach curry with Tahini yoghurt

October 25, 2010

Chickpea and spinach curry

I must have cooked this curry a thousand times. It’s fab – I suppose it is more like a stew than a curry as it is not very curry-y. It’s one of those “I don’t really have much time but I want something healthy and hearty for dinner” meals. This has been cooked for many of my friends as a last-minute meal and they loved it.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Chickpea curry

2 tins of chickpeas
2 table spoons of cumin powder
2 red onions
6 – 8 cloves of garlic
1 kg ripe tomatoes (ideally roma/egg tomatoes not not essential)
200 grams baby spinach
Salt and pepper

Tahini and Yoghurt sauce

2 tbsp Hulled tahini
1 cup Greek yogurt

Method

Onion and garlic

Finely dice onions and finely chop garlic. Add to heavy based pan with a hearty glug of olive oil and a large pinch of sea salt.

Saute onions and garlic

Saute onions and garlic on a low/medium heat until soft and sweet. Add cumin and cook spice until fragrant making sure that the spice does not burn – this should only take a couple of minutes.

Add diced fresh tomatoes

Dice the tomatoes and add to the pot.

Simmer on a medium heat for 20 – 25 mins until tomatoes have fully broken down and has become “saucy” if you know what I mean. You may need to add a little bit of water if you feel that it is getting too thick.

Add chickpeas

Add drained and rinsed chickpeas and simmer for a further 10 – 15 mins until chickpeas are nice and soft. The tinned ones tend to be a little bit firm.

Add baby spinach

Add the baby spinach and stir through – season with salt and pepper to taste. N.B. You will need quite a bit of salt.

Spinach and chickpea curry

Mix the yogurt with the tahini, you can add a little lemon juice and some seasoning if you wish but you don’t really need to.

Serve chickpea curry with brown rice and tahini and yogurt sauce – I sometimes sprinkle the top with oven roasted unsalted cashews and a drizzle of peppery olive oil.

**** Please note the photo of the curry has plain yoghurt on it not the yoghurt and tahini sauce – I ran out of tahini. It’s really worth making though and just to let you know tahini is packed full of calcium and is really really good for you.

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Paella the way I like it!

July 5, 2010

The best paella I have ever had was from Movida in Melbourne. Movida is a cracker of a Spanish restaurant and a must to visit if you are ever in Melbourne!! Actually it is worth visiting Melbourne just to go to Movida.

Like risotto Paella is often made badly in restaurants as it is not terribly difficult to make but is pretty time-consuming, restaurants often cut corners and the result is a rather disappointing dish.

I actually really enjoy making paella (when I have time) and I like to go the whole hog and have made my own fish stock which sounds a bit faffy. If you have time it is really worthwhile but not absolutely essential.

If you do not fancy making a fully fledged fish stock I do recommend you still make the prawn stock – it really makes the dish and is super easy.

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)

Soffritto

1 red onion
6 cloves of garlic
6 ripe tomatoes
3 red peppers
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Fish stock

2 carrots
4 sticks of celery
1 brown onion
parsley stalks
8 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
white fish bones (I used monk fish and the bones from 2 fish)

Prawn stock

12 prawn heads
1 level teaspoon smoked paprika
saffron threads (large pinch)

Paella

500 grams of paella rice (if you can’t find this arborio/risotto rice will do)
1/2 red pepper (cut into fine slices length wise) I used some yellow pepper too.
10 – 12 fine green beans (cut in half length wise)
cup of baby peas (frozen)
1 small piece of meaty white fish (I used monk fish)
12 large green prawns (use heads and shells for prawn stock)
8 black mussels
Flat leaf parsley (stalks kept for fish stock)
1 large lemon
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

The first thing you need to do is make the soffritto, this is a tasty savory jammy paste to kick-start the paella. Finely dice the onion and garlic and saute in a large fry pan with a good quantity of olive oil and a large pinch of salt. (about 3 tablespoons of olive oil)

Once the onion and garlic is soft and sweet add in the finely diced red peppers and peeled and diced tomatoes.

Turn down to a low heat and cook very slowly for about 1 – 1 1/2 hrs until jammy.

While this is happening make the fish stock. Roughly chop the carrot, onion and celery sticks and add to a large stock pot. Pop in the parsley stocks, fish bones, peppercorns and bay leaves. Add about 2 ltres of boiling water and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce to a gentle simmer. Skim any scum that forms on the top and discard and simmer for about 1 – 1/2 hrs.

Once the stock has cooked for 1 1/2 hours remove from the heat and strain through a sieve or colander.

Once you have made the fish stock leave it to the side and make the prawn stock. This is the easiest thing in the world and makes this dish.

Fry the prawn heads and shells in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. While they are frying crush the heads with the back of a wooden spoon to get as much flavour out of them. Fry until golden brown then add about 1 ltre of boiling water and simmer for about 15 mins.

Once the prawn heads and shells have been boiled strain through a fine sieve pressing the shells to extract as much flavour as possible.

Add 1 level teaspoon of smoked paprika and a good pinch of saffron and stir. Leave to the side.

Add rice to the cooked soffritto and stir through to combine. Cook on a medium heat until rice is fully coated in the soffritto. Add in prawn stock and 1/2 of the fish stock. Bring to the boil and reduce to a low simmer.

The best kind of pan to use is a deep frying pan and ideally none stick (I even prefer this to a proper paella pan) however I did not have this so used a Le Creuset pot instead.

You will need to cook the paella until the rice is almost cooked which will take about 30 mins (still has a bit of a bite to it) you will probably need to add the rest of the fish stock to keep the rice moist but do not add too much as you do not want a wet risotto.

If you find that you need more liquid just use boiled water. It is always quite hard to advise exactly how much liquid you will need as it depends on your stove, the rice and the soffritto.

Also try not to stir the paella too much as you do not want the rice to break down and create a tomato risotto.

So once the paella rice is “nearly” cooked check for seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed. Then pop in 2 cm cubes of white fish, the prawns and the mussels, poke them into the paella rice as far as you can. Stir in the peas and add the french beans which have been sliced in half length wise and fine slices of red pepper. Then cover with a lid or tin foil. Let steam the fish/veg steam for about 5 – 8 mins or until cooked. Check the rice to make sure it is also cooked.

Sprinkle roughly chopped parsley and squeeze over lemon and serve immediately.

I got a bit excited about the imminent eating of paella and forgot to take photos of it when it was finished…opps! Sorry about getting a half eaten pot shot!!

It was really fantastic by the way – and I ate way too much as per usual!

Gemista – Greek slow cooked stuffed vegetables

May 27, 2010

Gemista

I am on a roll with Greek food. No matter where I go I seek out Greek restaurants hoping that they will have an old Greek granny in the kitchen making traditional Greek food.

Unfortunately more often than not I am disappointed. One of the best Greek restaurants I have ever been to was actually not in Greece. It was in Balmain in Sydney and was called Artemis’s Village.

For many years it was my favourite restaurant. I felt like I was having dinner at my Greek friends house eating proper “home cooking”.

Great Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie), amazing Saganaki prawns (large fresh prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce with chunks of feta dotted through) and Gemista (stuffed veg).

Unfortunately Artemis (the Greek mama in the kitchen) retired and the family sold the restaurant. It was taken over but was never the same….sob sob.

I judge all Greek restaurants on the quality of their Gemista.

Firstly I will not even bother going into the restaurant unless they have Gemista and secondly it must be vegetarian – why do some restaurants put mince in their stuffed veg – yuck!

I have successfully made stuffed tomatoes many times before but have been unsuccessful with my stuffed peppers. So I had a little google search the other day and scanned a few recipes. One thing I picked up from my searches was once the peppers were stuffed and put in the oven a glass of water was added to the roasting dish. This makes the peppers nice and soft and also prevents them burning.

With this new piece of culinary genius I had to tackle stuffed peppers one more time.

Ingredients

8 large ripe tomatoes (6 for stuffing and 2 for the sauce)
2 large courgettes
6 small to medium peppers (I used red and yellow ones)
2 medium brown onions
4 large cloves of garlic
1 large glass of dry white wine
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Approx 1 dessert spoon of fresh thyme leaves
250 grams of Arborio rice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Pre heat oven to 190 degrees celsius.

Onion and garlic into the pot

Finely dice onions and garlic and saute in a heavy based pan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Scooping out the inside of tomatoes

Cut the “bums” off 6 of the tomatoes to make a lid, scrape out the insides of the tomatoes and add to a bowl.

Sprinkle with salt and leave upside down on a plate.

Peppers deseeded and caps cut off

Cut the tops off the peppers and discard the seeds. Sprinkle with salt and place upside down on the plate alongside the tomatoes.

Removing the centres of the courgettes

Cut the courgettes into 3 leaving the stem on, carve out the middle of the courgette, chop and keep to the side. Sprinkle inside with salt and add to plate.

Once onions and garlic are cooked, soft and sweet with no colour add the rice and stir through until coated with oil.

Add wine to rice, onions and garlic

Add wine and reduce.

Chopped tomatoes added to the rice mix

Chop up the insides of the tomatoes and the 2 left over tomatoes and add to the pot with the chopped up courgette insides too.

Turn the heat down and simmer until the rice has cooked for about 10 mins. Try not to add water there should be enough liquid. However if it is really drying out you can add a splash of water (make sure the heat is not on too high).

The rice should be cooked but still have quite a bite too it (more of a bite than you would have with a risotto).

Add chopped herbs

Finely chop the parsley and mint and add to the rice along with the thyme leaves.

Taste rice for seasoning add salt and pepper if you need.

Stuffing peppers with rice

Stuffing courgettes with rice mix

Fill the tomatoes, peppers and courgettes with the rice mix and put the lids on the peppers and tomatoes – make sure you do not over fill the veg as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks in the oven and it may split the skins.

Stuffed veg ready for the oven

Pack stuffed vegetables into a ceramic dish with at least 5 cm sides.

Add a glass of water and a drizzle a good quantity of olive oil over the veg.

Pop it in the oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the peppers are soft/collapsed.

Stuffed peppers, tomatoes and courgettes

I covered mine with foil for the 1st half of the time so that it steamed too but you do not have to do this.

Gemista

Serve with a green salad and a glass of chilled red wine.

Close your eyes and think of Greece……

Risotto to make you happy

May 10, 2010

Mushroom and asparagus risotto

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

Onion and garlic being sauteed

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Rice added to onion and garlic

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Or you can bake sliced mushrooms in the oven with butter, olive oil until they are cooked through – approx 25 mins at 190 degrees celsius. Once they are cooked keep the mushrooms to the side.

Sliced portobello and chestnut mushrooms with butter, olive oil and fresh thyme

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!

Mushroom risotto (and other suggestions)

April 30, 2010

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Keep to the side.

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!