Monday, 19 May 2008

Pan fried cod with basil dressing and roasted vegetable quinoa

I am still going hard in my less-processed-food-more-vegetables-and-grains quest. One of the grains I have discovered that I really like is quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH). You cook it and use it just like rice, but it tastes earthier, and it has a different texture. It's also gluten-free which is good to remember for my father-in-law!
I'm also trying to include more fish in our diet, but I often find it hard to think of different ways to cook it. This dressing is great, because unlike a sauce, it requires no cooking, and it also means that all you have to do is simply pan fry the fish (or even cook it on the BBQ) and you still get a tasty meal that seems like it took lots of effort! I used the basil in the tube for this. I know it's processed, but I managed to kill my basil plant, and I didn't want to buy a whole bunch. The tubes are great because you can keep them in the freezer. The basil just squeezes out easily, even though it is frozen. (It's probably because it's full of weird chemicals, but I'll cope with that for now!)
You really should give this one a go. It's different and tasty and looks impressive. If you don't like fish, just use chicken. Sorry there's no photo, it all got eaten way to quickly!

Pan fried cod with basil dressing and roasted vegetable quinoa
Serves 4

4 pieces cod (or other fish of your choice, or even chicken if you so choose)

For the quinoa:
¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken stock
Olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
Pumpkin, peeled and diced (as much as you like)
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 large handful baby spinach

For the dressing:
½ tsp minced garlic (just reserve a little bit from the vegetables)
1 tbs minced basil
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ tbs red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200ÂșC. Place tomato, zucchini, pumpkin, garlic and thyme in a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Mix well. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Place the quinoa and stock in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to very low, simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove from heat. Leave to stand with the lid on for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the fish.
Heat frypan to high. Spray with olive oil. Brown the fish on both sides, then transfer pan to oven to finish cooking. This will take anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on how thick your fish is. (A chicken breast will take around 15 minutes)
Once the vegetables and quinoa are cooked, add the quinoa to the vegetable pan, along with the spinach. Mix well then return to the oven for 3 minutes for the spinach to wilt.

Serve the quinoa, topped with a piece of fish, drizzled with the dressing.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

No-knead Bread

You HAVE to get this book. Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Look at that loaf! It really didn't take me long at all (and no, I didn't just drive down the road to the bakery!) If I didn't try to do the pain d'epi (the one in the picture) and just went with a boule, it really would only take 5 minutes (of your active time). It takes time for the rising and the baking, but in terms of you in the kitchen, up to the elbows in dough, flour flying everywhere, you really could get away with 5 minutes. And think of all those dodgy dodginesses that are in packaged bread these days. As PorkChop would say, ALL GONE! Whoohoooo! I LOVE this bread!
(it goes perfectly with the soups from the last post!)

Soup's Up!

I love winter - just because of all the soups. Not that you can't have soup in summer, but when it's cold outside, there is nothing better than tucking in to a big bowl of home made soup. No-one else in my family is particularly fond of soup. This would usually annoy me, like it does with mashed potatoes for examples. No-one else in my family particularly likes the mash (I know, this post is starting to make them sound like FREAKS! No soup? No mash? I agree. Freaks). I often miss out on the mash because I couldn't be bothered making it just for me when I know I am going to have make something else for the family. But no such problems with soup!

I make up big batches of whatever weird and wonderful flavours take my fancy, and then freeze them in individual serves. I don't have to worry about anyone else's picky tastebuds, and they are all ready for me to pick and choose each day for lunch, with whatever my tastebuds are demanding. My mother loves soup too, so if she happens to drop in for lunch during winter, she is very happy with the smorgasbord waiting for her in my freezer. The photo shows what my freezer looks like at the moment. Colour, colour everywhere! Clockwise from the top: Green bean and almond; White sweet potato with peanut butter; Broccoli and cheese; Spicy roasted vegetable; Roasted tomato and garlic. Yum!

The white sweet potato I posted about earlier. I won't be making it again.

The green bean and almond comes from this book: Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Carrarini. The colour is absolutely revolting, but if you can get over that, the flavour is fantastic. It won "New Soup of the Year" for 2007. (This is the personal soup competition I hold each year. Soups from all over the world vie for my prestigious trophy.)

The broccoli and cheese sounds like a strange combination but again, great flavour. I adapted the recipe from none other than my secret flame, Bill Granger.

Spicy roasted vegetable may have won New Soup of the Year in 2006, but I can't remember. I had a similar version at the RSL of all places, and I liked it so much I went home and made up my own. I was surprised at how easy it was to get it tasting so good. It's basically just every root vegetable you have in the house, along with an onion and some garlic, thrown around with some olive oil and spices, and then roasted. Once the veges are all soft and gooey and there's some good caramelisation happening, just blend the whole lot up with some water or stock. They probably just use all the leftover roast vegetables from the night before at the RSL, but mine is full of fresh tastiness and hopefully not full over left-overs bacteria! Maybe I should have thought of that before I had it that day. Oh well. That was 2 years ago and I'm still here.

Last but not least is Roasted Tomato and Garlic. This is a new one - I have only made two batches so far, and it is definitely a strong contender for New Soup of the Year for 2008. This one is super simple - even easier than the roasted vegetable because there's no peeling! All I did was cut some roma tomatoes in half and lay them out in a baking pan, throw in a good handful of unpeeled garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and then roast for and hour or so. I blended the whole lot up along with the some sage (in the first batch) and basil (in the second) and some pepper and then scoffed it. Oh actually, before I blended, I squeezed all the garlic out and discarded the skins. OH MY GOD. How good is roasted garlic? MMMmmmmmmm. People get scared of garlic, but when it's roasted like that, it's smooth and mellow and so incredibly tasty. I think I may have done the same thing for the roasted vege soup. Can't remember, but thinking about it now, it would seem like an exceptionally good idea.

So the only real recipe you get today is for the Broccoli. The sweet potato is unsatisfactory, the bean and almond is in the book, the tomato and the vege are too easy to even qualify for a real recipe, so broccoli it is.

Broccoli Soup
Adapted from delicious magazine, recipe by Bill Granger

1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 heads broccoli, broken up into florets, stems roughly diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
Chicken stock, enough to just cover the broccoli
Grated cheddar cheese
1 tbs grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Heat large stock pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion and fry gently until onion is translucent.
Add garlic, cooked for a further minute
Add broccoli and potato, increase heat to high and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.
Add stock and bring to the boil
Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until broccoli and potato are soft.
Allow to cool slightly
Blend in food processor or blender (for smoother soup)
Return to the pan over low heat
Add cheese and season to taste
Stir until cheese melts

Bill put cream in his, which is probably exceptionally tasty, but I like to avoid freezing soups which have dairy in them. Apparently they curdle when you reheat them. Apparently they also cause strange growth around your waistline.