Archive | October, 2012

Kale Pesto

30 Oct

Kale Pesto Pine nuts sourdough

This recipe is part of a 7 course dinner which I recently prepared whilst in Vancouver. It is based on the original recipe of Brenda Fawdon. I reduced the pecorino cheese because my diner isn’t a huge fan of yellow cheese. I also used less pine nuts because I wanted the kale to stand out. Again, adjust to suit personal taste.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Makes 1 small bowl (increase quantities for larger portions)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 50g of pine nuts, toasted
  • 50g of pecorino cheese, grated finely
  • 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil

Method

Blanch kale leaves in hot water then transfer to icy cold water. Then add kale, parsley and garlic into food processor then blitz until rough. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and pine nuts blend until combined. Add pecorino and olive oil then stir through and combine. (For a finer result, just add pecorino and olive oil to processor and keep blitzing until smooth)

Season to taste and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Serve on crusty Italian bread like sourdough or pane di casa.

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7 course dinner…at home

28 Oct

tasting menu

Recently, I spent last the 2 weeks of summer in Vancouver. Whilst I did get to savor some amazing food at several restaurants, I also had that one chance, to put my skills to the test and baptize a new kitchen.

A friend of mine had told me about a 5 course dinner that he had cooked to woo his girlfriend. I had to go one step further and cook an elaborate 7 course dinner. I have never cooked something so elaborate before and never in a kitchen I am unfamiliar with, but then I was not going to let that daunt me. I love challenges!

Leading up to the big day, I’d sourced enough ingredients to make 5 courses but needed to decide on another 2. Fortunately, two nights prior, I’d been watching an amazing documentary Step Up To the Plate. It provided plenty of inspiration, but in no way was it going to turn me into a 3 star Michelin chef overnight!

I still needed 2 more entrees. I narrowed it down to dishes which I thought would be hearty but not the stuff-you-silly kind. Soup it was. Besides, it was miserable outside, summer was coming to an end and rain, wind, cold was setting in.

Some of the dishes I made up, others I drew on inspiration and from participation at the Mondo Organics cooking class. Detailed recipes to follow.

Kale pesto on sourdough (original recipe by Brenda Fawdon)

Leafy green salad with semi-dried cranberries, pecans, goat milk fetta with a balsamic and agave dressing

Roasted tomato soup with thyme croutons

Wild mushroom soup with saffron croutons

Roasted pumpkin spelt gnocchi with sage butter sauce

Beetroot pearl barley risotto (adapted from original recipe by Brenda Fawdon)

Chocolate tofu tarts (adapted from original recipe by Brenda Fawdon)

Out and about in Vancouver and San Francisco

16 Oct

The abundant seafood along with many immigrants from the far east has created the perfect environment for eating sushi in Vancouver. There are probably more sushi restaurants per capita in Vancouver than any other city in the world, perhaps even more than in Tokyo! They are literally on every city block, in shopping centres, food courts, etc…

Could Vancouver be the sushi capital of the world? We’ll I don’t have the statistics to support such a statement but one thing I can vouch for is that it was some of the freshest, tastiest and cheapest sushi I’d ever eaten! If only I had my camera on all the occasions that I’d been eating sushi.

Sushi and Sashimi Porn…

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donburi vancouversamurai avocado

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Not only did I come across many sushi restaurants in Vancouver but also a wide variety of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai restaurants too. Unfortunately I only have one stomach and am limited to eating 3 times a day so I wasn’t able to rival my sushi indulgence with other Asian delicacies. I did however sample a few dishes like hand-cut noodles, chili-garlic eggplant and salty-spicy tofu at The Peaceful; kacang ikan bilis (fried anchovies with peanuts) and roti canai at Tropika; probably the best laksa of late at Hawkers Delight; and, some decent papaya salad at Bob likes Thai Food.

Hawkers Delight Laksa…

hawkers delight

The food choices in Vancouver weren’t limited to Asian either: fine dining vegetarian at the Acorn and the well established West, my first Thanks Giving Dinner experience and I even stepped up to the plate to prepare a 7 course dinner!

The Acorn…

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Thanks Giving Dinner…

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Samples from the 7 course dinner…(through the eyes of my exclusive diner)

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And it wasn’t all about Vancouver too. San Francisco offered some of the best Mexican food I’d tasted outside of Mexico. Sadly, the camera wasn’t always on hand to capture what was delighting my taste buds and nourishing my stomach. Two vegetarian restaurants worthy of a mention were Greens (the longest standing) and Millennium (contemporary).

Tacolicious Mission SF…

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Spicy Chickpeas, baby eggplants and mushrooms

2 Oct

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I have recently allowed myself to watch a little more TV than the usual rare occasion. Although I’m not a big devotee of the “box”, I don’t mind cooking programs. In particular, I’ve been following River Cottage Veg on the LifeStyle FOOD channel. It’s about an English celebrity chef who takes on a 4 month meat-free pledge. The series has grown on me because I also have recently taken on a similar pledge: to cut my meat consumption by increasing veg in my diet.

I am still a little way off from becoming a vegetarian but I’m definitely enjoying this little challenge. I already eat a good amount of ordinary vegetables, grains and legumes but could be more adventurous. My recent experience with Superfoods has also showed me that healthy meat-free dishes need not be boring or bland. On the contrary, I discovered that there are some interesting textures and tastes which would please most palates. If you looked closer at your next meal, you’ll probably find that many of the ingredients are not meat.

So how did I arrive at this recipe? I just made it up! During an episode of River Cottage Veg, the chef prepared merguez spiced lamb liver as he had been really missing meat on his fork. He didn’t eat any though, just watched his colleagues devour it. Later in the same episode, he went on to make a chickpea curry. Then it came to me: why not combine both merguez spices and chickpeas? So to clear out my fridge and pantry before my next travels, I went rummaging around for ingredients. I came across some beautiful purple and white striped eggplants (spray free of course) and mushrooms. And that’s it, a new dish was born.

You’re probably thinking, “what will he post next, my first protest with PETA?”. Hang in there carnivores! I’ll make sure that the next one includes meat just to balance things out.

Ingredients
1 can of chick peas, drained

6-8 baby eggplants
300g of button mushrooms, chopped into quarters
1tsp caraway seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
1/2tsp of cayenne pepper
1/2tsp of smoked paprika
1 clove of garlic, chopped into slivers
1 cup of stock (veg or chicken)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Black pepper
Salt
A handful of parsley or mint, or both, chopped roughly

Directions
Dry fry all seeds in a non-stick pan, then grind in either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Combine with the rest of the spices and set aside.

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Chop eggplants into bite sized pieces, place in a bowl, add a good sprinkle of salt and massage with a tablespoon of olive oil.

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Heat about a 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan, then add baby eggplants and sauté on medium heat stirring frequently until they’re lightly browned.

Add mushrooms and garlic, sauté for a few minutes then add stock and stir through.

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Simmer on low until the stock reduces to about half, then add spices and chickpeas. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Season with pepper and garnish with parsley.

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Serve warm with a good dollop of extra thick yoghurt.

It can also be served with couscous or rice, and of course as a side dish with lamb, beef or meat of choice!

What is Merguez? Its actually a North African lamb or beef sausage. The spices used in the sausage are pretty much summed up in the mix used in this recipe.

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