Asparagus and potato bake

It is amazing what one can find in a fridge if one looks hard enough. I have been on a mission to empty the contents of my fridge ever since my return from a conference trip. This task seems never ending and the more I take out, the more there seems to be. Since Sunday the 5th of May Friday the 10th of May, I have made (1) brie and chive biscuits (2) gouda, chilli and rosemary biscuits (3) a banana raspberry cake (4) a flan aux speculoos (gingerbread flan) (5) fresh yoghurt (6) a yoghurt based curry with spinach (7) eggplant with miso glaze (8) chickpea bread (9) asparagus and potato bake (10) sautéed okra and the fridge is still not empty. You must imagine that I am a veritable fatty eating all this food but I’m not doing too badly….right now at least. In my defence, I shared pretty much all the snack-like/sweet things with friends and colleagues.

Where does the asparagus and potato bake come into this ? Well as you might have guess, I had asparagus and potato – check! On Tuesday night, I went to a friend’s for dinner and she made this amazing eggplant parmigiana with a beautiful tomato sauce (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2876664/roast-aubergine-parmigiana). I also had mozzarella that needed to be used soon. So I decided to put all these things together and make an asparagus-potato “parmigiana” if you will. I then wondered what I’d like to eat it with and bread seemed an ideal candidate. Since our local Sainsbury’s (and most English supermarkets) stock nothing but crap bread, I decided I’d make my own. For bread recipes, I trust a fellow-blogger  Silvia (http://silviascucina.net/) where I came across an interesting take on bread involving chickpea (http://silviascucina.net/2011/10/08/chickpea-garbanzo-beans-bread/). I took it one step further and made it with some chickpea flour and fine cornmeal. The overall result was quite exciting. I was quite pleased with myself before the realisation hit me that there was no way I could eat 2 small loaves of bread and a baking dish full of “parmigiana”. So off it went to the neighbours and they thought it was decent so here I am talking about it.

Do give this recipe a try and tell me what you think! I still can’t get over the fact that everything I put in this dish was in my fridge/pantry/herb garden 🙂

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Asparagus-potato-bake-with-chickpea-bread

Ingredients (Picture 1 below):

15-20 spears of baby asparagus

1/2 a large potato , sliced into 3mm thick slices

400 gms (1 can) of chopped Roma or cherry tomatoes

125 gm ball of mozzarella, halved and then cut into 3mm thick slices

5 pieces of sun-dried tomato, finely chopped

1/2 cup of grated smoked cheddar or grated parmesan

1/2 cup of stuffing mix (I used a toasted chestnut, roasted hazelnut and thyme one)

1 tablespoon of honey

2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 hot red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon of thyme, finely chopped

a handful of mint, coarsely chopped (substituted for basil so use basil if you have some)

2 tablespoons of oil

salt to suit your taste

pepper to suit your taste

Method:

1. Grease a baking dish with oil/butter and preheat the oven to 180ºC.

2. Heat the oil in a deep pot and when hot, throw in the asparagus spears. Cook the spears until you see a bit of brown blistering on their skin.

3. Remove the asparagus from the pot and arrange them to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Grind some sea salt over them (Picture 2).

4. Add the potato the the same pot, add a pinch of salt and cook until the pieces of potato start to blister and go brown (Picture 3).

5. Remove the potato slices from the pot and arrange them on top of the asparagus (Picture 4).

6. Sprinkle the potato with the chopped mint and some freshly ground pepper (Picture 4).

7. Top the pot with a tablespoon of oil if required and add the thyme, chilli and garlic to the pot (Picture 5). Cook them until the raw smell of garlic no longer lingers. Don’t let the chilli burn or you will go into a coughing fit.

8. To the chilli/garlic mixture, add the canned tomatoes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and honey. Season with enough salt to suit your taste (Picture 6).

9. Bring the sauce to a boil and take the sauce off the heat.

10. Arrange pieces of mozzarella on top of the potato layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle half the cheddar/parmesan on top of the mozzarella and grind some more pepper onto the cheese (Picture 7).

11. Pour the tomato sauce on the cheese layer and spread it so that it covers the entire dish (Picture 8).

12. Cover the dish with silver foil and bake for 30-40 mins in the oven (Picture 9).

13. During this time, mix the remaining cheddar/parmesan with the stuffing mix to use as a crunchy topping (Pictures 10 & 11).

14. After 30-40 minutes, remove the silver foil from the dish and check that the potatoes are soft and your knife/skewer should go right through it.

15. Sprinkle the cheddar-stuffing mixture on top of the tomato sauce and bake for another 10-12 minutes until the cheese has melted into a golden brown colour (Picture 12).

16. Serve while warm with some fresh bread (Pictures 13-15) or couscous (Picture 16 and main picture above).

Tips:

1. I find stuffing a more exciting substitute for a breadcrumb topping. Keep a box of it in your pantry and stock up after Christmas when it is usually on sale 🙂

2. After all that, I don’t think I liked the asparagus in the dish so much. I would make it again just with the potato or some other vegetable.

3. If you want to make it a vegan dish, leave the cheese out and use a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs and olive-spread to make the crunchy topping.

Pictures:

Method for asparagus-potato bake

Method for asparagus-potato bake

Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

THIS IS NOT (FULLY) MY OWN RECIPE !!!

Source: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/

I love baklava and its close relatives. Baklava is Turkish in origin and refers to a very particular kind of pastry – diamond shaped, layered with honey and pistachios/cashews. It’s close relatives refer to anything from finger shaped pastry, bird’s nest shaped pastry, semolina cakes etc. While it is Turkish in origin (or so says Wikipedia), you will find it regularly at Greek, Lebanese and Moroccan restaurants so I suspect it is more a regional dish than a country-specific one.  Some of the flavours I associate with these sweets are rose water, orange-blossom water, sugar/honey (lots of it) and cinnamon. These flavours are what inspired this experiment of mine.

Enough about baklava and more about the scrolls – I was chatting with a friend on Google Talk when I saw him chomping on some cinnamon scrolls that his wife had made for him. It reminded me of “Cinnabon” in American and their stonkingly sweet buns full of sugar and cinnamon. I thought that I could give them a try and actually control how sugary I make them and then thought of making them with rosewater and nuts, like a baklava.

So I went searching for a recipe and found the pioneer woman’s recipe. Ree’s words about the impact this dish would have on its consumer was so very inspirational that I set off on my own journey to conquer the hearts of all I know.Boy, was I disappointed. The rolls were too crispy, too crunchy and not at all like I’d been imagining them all day. I couldn’t really taste much of the cinnamon which was also disappointing.

I don’t think it is the recipe that was at fault – just some of the things I did that I shouldn’t have. Hope I can pass on some tips that will mean that your scrolls are a lot fluffier and tastier than mine turned out. I baked these in March this year and it has taken me this long to gather the courage to write about them. Learn from my mistakes and tell me if you make a fluffy baklava-inspired cinnamon scroll!

Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

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A healthy Cranachan

It wasn’t until January this year that I heard about Burns’ night and of Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Burns). For those of you who are blinking now like I did when I first heard of it, here’s a little spiel about Robbie Burns. He is Scotland’s most famous poet know for several popular songs including “Auld Lang Syne” which is often sung at midnight on New Year’s Day. He was also known for his many love affairs some of which he captured in his poetry. Robbie Burns is the most popular of poets who wrote in the Scots’ language.  As it seems to happen with a lot of famous people, Robbie passed away at the not-so-old age of 37 after several months of deteriorating health and mental state. It was a few years after his death that some of his friends got together and started celebrating his life and work in what is today called “Burns’ night’.

In several places around the UK, Burns’ night dinners are organised with great enthusiasm. They feature a Scottish menu of Haggis (the vegetarian version is also available), broth, a dessert known as Cranachan and tastings of Scotch whiskey. The Haggis is often ushered in by Scottish men in clan kilts with the song “Ode to the Haggis” being played on bagpipes. This song too as one of Robbie Burns’ pieces. After stuffing yourself full of food and drink, you are challenged to take part in Céilidh (pronounced : Kay-lee) dancing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9ilidh)  which I highly recommend.

Overall Burns’ night’s dinners are a lot of fun and hope this recipe will give you a tiny feel for it. The original Cranachan is made of thick double cream but I used Greek Yoghurt instead.

Cranachan for one....

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