Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi and inspired dinner

I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,

1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark

3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.

Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.

To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it ūüôā An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !

My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !

Menu for board games night

Menu for board games night

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Tomato gojju or spicy tomato chutney

“Gojju” in Karnataka (where I grew up), refers to a thick, tangy sauce made with tamarind pulp, some basic spices and vegetables that will hold their shape when cooked in a sauce – like capsicum (peppers), eggplant (aubergine/brinjal), onions, okra (bhindi), lemon and so on. The tamarind pulp is the predominant ingredient and gives gojju the tang it is so well known for. Gojju, much like chutneys in the Western world, can be served as a condiment to rice dishes. Alternatively, gojju can be mixed with plain rice and consumed as a dish in itself.

Tomato gojju is a version of gojju which takes advantage of the abundance of tomatoes in the tomato rich season in South India. No tamarind is added to this version as tomato has its own subtler tang (yay Vitamin C) and a beautiful red colour that is much more appetising than the dark brown colour of a normal gojju.

Tomato gojju can be mixed with rice to make tomato bhath (mixed rice) or used as a dip to go with flatbread (rotis, chappatis), idlis (steamed rice cakes) and dosas (savoury rice and lentil pancakes). The recipe is easy and the end product is addictive. The hardest part is not to eat it all before the sauce thickens in the pot.

I’ve been having some fun with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to take the yellowness out of my pictures owing to the yellow lights in the house. I think it has worked well – hope you do too!

Tomato gojju with idli segments

Tomato gojju with idli segments

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2. Main: Twice-baked blue cheese souffl√© with a creamy tomato sauce and apple, walnut, rocket salad

There are 3 parts to this recipe (a) the souffle (b) tomato sauce (c) salad

(a) The soufflé 

Source : http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10556367

Changes:

1. I left out the parsley and I forgot to add salt and pepper but that’s OK, the cheese has enough flavour to make up for this.

2. I used thyme and sage as herbs to flavour the soufflé. To incorporate them, I heated the milk on the lowest setting with sage and thyme for 15-20 minutes allowing the flavours to infuse. It was this milk that I then used to make the white sauce.

3. I have included images of the process of¬†souffl√©¬†making in the collage below. When I added the milk to the butter-flour mixture it went really thick and I panicked as I’d never made¬†souffl√©¬†before. It got worse when I added the cheese and then the egg yolks (Pictures 5,6,7). However, the addition of soft peaked egg whites fixes it all up (Picture 9). Yay! Trust me when I say it tasted amazing – a very forgiving recipe I concluded!

4. Once the soufflés have cooled, they deflate (Picture 13). At this point, ease them out of their ramekins and place them in a larger baking dish upturned (Picture 14)

5. The recipe makes exactly enough batter for 2¬†souffl√©s¬†so follow it to a tee if that’ s all you want. Most other recipes I found seemed to be for 6-8 servings which I wasn’t interested in.

(b) The tomato sauce

Source : Inspired by http://www.addictedtoveggies.com/2012/09/cherry-tomato-cream-sauce-nut-free.html

My partner and I are both not huge fans of cream and I thought I’d give the creamy sauce a bit more flavour before baking the¬†souffl√©¬†for the second time. I got the idea from the recipe link above but my recipe was as follows.

Changes:

Ingredients:

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic with skin

100 ml cream

2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 level tsp of salt

1 level tsp of sugar

Method:

1. Roast the tomatoes and garlic at 180¬ļC until the skins of the tomatoes crack and they start oozing out juices. Discard the garlic.

2. In a small saucepan, add the tomatoes, cream and spices and cook until the tomatoes go mushy and the flavours blend into the sauce. You want it to taste a bit sweet as the soufflé will be on the salty side.

3. Sprinkle freshly grated parmesan over the upturned and cooled souffl√©s and bake for 15-20 minutes at¬†150¬ļC until the tops are golden brown.

4. Serve with the apple and walnut salad (Pictures 15 & 16).

5. It is a rich and decadent main so take your time…..

 

(c) Apple, walnut and rocket salad

Source :  

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10784/twicebaked-goats-cheese-souffls-with-apple-and-wal

Changes:

1. I used rocket leaves only

2. I used a golden delicious apple instead of a red apple

3. I toasted the walnuts slightly in a pan on dry heat

4. I tossed the apples in a bit of melted Manuka honey to give them a bit of flavour and to ensure that they didn’t turn brown.

5. I left out the chives.

6. I used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.

 

Blue cheese soufflé method

Blue cheese soufflé method

Caponata – Italian sweet and sour eggplant

My very first real job was in a small student town in the North Island of New Zealand (NZ) called Palmerston North. The reason it is called Palmerston North is because there is a town called “Palmerston” in the South Island of New Zealand. Full marks for imagination I suppose.

If one wasn’t a student or had a partner/family/pet in this little town, it could get terribly boring. Given I was flush with cash for the first time in my life (not really, but it felt like it), I signed up to as many activities as I could after my work day. Running, swimming, salsa, ceramic painting and so on. Just so happened, 2 other friends of mine, finding themselves in a similar situation as I did, signed up to an “Italian cooking class”. I took cooking classes to be a slight on my ability as a self-made home chef so I shunned them. I could follow recipes well enough on my own!

As fate would have it, one of the two friends couldn’t take the small town politics any more and went back to BIG Auckland (population 1.5 million, largest town in NZ). One of her leaving gifts to me was her place in the cooking class. I smiled and accepted gracefully as that’s all I could do. I went to the first one with great apprehension but to my surprise, I loved it. Our cooking teacher would give us a list of ingredients for the following class. We bought them and then got given recipes for a 3-course meal. We had two hours to cook this 3-course meal and then we’d sit together and have dinner with the teacher. One of the evenings, we even had an olive-oil tasting session. After attending this class, my image of cooking classes changed completely. I’m going to a wine-tasting class soon and will report back.

The friend who remained in Palmerston North was from Germany and was on an exchange programme.  So before she went back, she scanned all the recipes from the class and mailed it to not just herself but to me too! I have the entire collection and I printed some of my favourites for my cooking album. The tiramisu recipe earlier on this blog is one of hers. This Caponata recipe is another.

Our teacher told us that Caponata is originally a Sicilian recipe but had spread throughout Italy taking many forms. While it is usually served as a “Contorno” or vegetable side dish, I have always eaten it as a main. It goes with pasta, with pita bread and more recently as I discovered, as a pizza topping.

Hope you try it and like it!

Caponata, ready to eat…

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Zucchini bake with olives, sundried tomatoes and feta

A colleague of mine who is a keen gardener and has an allotment, turned up to work one day with what he called “mutant zucchini”, ¬†offering them to anyone interested. I asked him why they were named so and if one should be eating them given they were mutant. Apparently they just grew really rapidly and doubled in size overnight, thus making them mutant. Convinced that I wasn’t going to be eating anything toxic, I brought home 1 giant yellow and 1 giant green zucchini.

That was the easy bit. The hard part was to figure out what to do with them. Zucchini bread maybe – but I didn’t ave the patience or the time ¬†to knead and allow the dough to rise. Zucchini cake – I didn’t think vegetable cakes would go down too well and I would end up with most of the cake in my belly. So I did the usual thing of querying fellow wordpressers for some ideas. Lots of great stuff out there but I settled on this one for proportions http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/zucchini_breakfast_casserole/. As with most recipes, I added my own things to it and removed things I didn’t feel like using.¬† I served my zucchini bake with a tomato chutney (that I will provide a recipe for)¬†and some rosemary bread (thank you Waitrose!)¬†. Hope you like it.

Zucchni bake with tomato chutney and rosemary bread

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Summery holiday series: 5. Home-made gnocchi in tomato sauce

THIS RECIPE IS NOT MY OWN !!

Having lived in Melbourne for a while, I’d become used to the fact that a decent gnocchi was a tram-ride or a short walk away. Now having been in small-town England for a while, this is no longer true. I have to make what I want in my kitchen with what I can find here. It’snot too bad and thanks to food giants ¬†like Tesco, raw ingredients are easy to come by.

I came across this recipe one evening. I’d returned home from work as usual and my partner was going to be slightly late coming home so I thought “Why not make something a little more time-consuming?”. I can’t say I’ve eaten a gnocchi since I left Melbourne so I decided to query my fellow word-pressers for a recipe. Silvia’s recipe looked simple, achievable and tasty and that’ s exactly what it turned out to be. I passed it on to a colleague at work and I know she enjoyed it too.

When we were on holiday in France, I saw that we had potatoes and some parsley. It was very easy to find some dry white wine and a can of tomatoes and¬†voil√†, dinner was sorted for that evening. Where we were wasn’t parmesan territory so we used the same yummy sheep’s cheese ¬†as I did in the Summer spaghetti recipe. My partner’s mum made the sauce and I the gnocchi.

 

Source: Silvia http://silviascucina.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/gnocchi-allaglione-home-made-gnocchi-with-tuscan-garlic-tomato-sauce/

Potato-carrot gnocchi with sheep’s cheese

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My take on a vegetarian moussaka

Those who have seen “My big fat Greek wedding” might remember the scene when the other kids in school mock Nia Vardalos’ lunch calling it “Mous-ka-ka”. I thought it was hilariously cruel (it’s easy to make me laugh at silly things shall we say). So I decide to run around the house on evening announcing that I was going to make a Vegetarian mous-ka-ka and my partner looked at me like I’d lost it. Clearly, he hasn’t watched the movie.

This Greek dish has forever eluded me as I can’t say I’ve come across any restaurant posing a vegetarian moussaka.So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create one for dinner. First stop – the interwebs. Thanks to my fellow wordpress-ers ¬†or wordpress-ites, I found some rather good recipes. My recipe is mainly inspired by the following two recipes¬†http://www.culinaryadventuresinthekitchen.com/2012/02/08/785/¬†and http://oolongrouge.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/my-big-fat-vegetarian-moussaka/. I’d made pizza for dinner the day before mousakka Sunday so I decided to salvage some of the leftover vegetables into the dish.

Hope you like it!

Vegetarian moussaka

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