Sunshine food – Quesadillas

Quesadillas are something which I like to eat when I fancy a bit of sunshine –  I love them because they’re bursting with fresh and healthy ingredients and taste phenomenal for it. They’re also excellent barbecue fare for vegetarians. This is a recipe that I picked up from the excellent Otto Lenghi book ‘Plenty’ a few years ago and have written to my memory, making it time and time again.

INGREDIENTS
(makes 8 quesadillas – sometimes less depending on how generously you fill them!)

1 pack of corn tortillas (the brand ‘Discovery’ do these in the UK – I always find they have them in Waitrose and make special trips to stock up on these!) – however, normal flour based ones will do the job too though if there is a corn tortilla deficit

SALSA
2 ripe avocados
5 large ripe tomatoes (or lots of little ones, though these make the salsa a bit sweeter)
Half a red onion
3 spring onions (or thereabouts)
Juice of 1 lime
Crushed clove of garlic
1 fresh red chilli (finely diced)
pinch of salt
1 bunch of fresh coriander
2 tbsps cider/white wine vinegar

BEAN PASTE
1 tin of black beans (or equivalent in soaked weight)
1 bunch of fresh coriander (I often use  just one between the salsa and bean paste and add a little more ground coriander as my student budget prefers this)
1 tsp ground coriander
half a tsp ground cumin
quarter tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
Juice of a lime

GARNISHES
Soured cream (enough for a blob in each tortilla)
Grated cheddar (enough for a sprinkling on each tortilla)
Chopped jalapeno peppers  – also for sprinkling in the tortillas (the kind that come in vinegar in jars)

Chop the ends off the red onion, peel and then cut in half down the centre. Very finely slice this half to get neat little semi-circle slithers of onion. Place these in a large bowl (everything else will also go in here eventually) and mix with the vinegar. Then dice and slice all of the other salsa ingredients, finely chopping the leaves and stalks of the coriander and put these all in the bowl too. This is probably the most time consuming bit of the dish but well worth it!

For the bean paste, put all of the bean paste ingredients in a food processor and blend to form a lovely tasty paste.

Put a griddle pan (or failing that, a frying pan) on a good high heat whilst assembling the first 2 (unless you get several pans on the go, these cook 2 at a time). To assemble, put the tortilla on a plate, take a spoonful of the bean paste and spread it on the tortilla, leaving a good cm or two round the edge. Dollop some soured cream (or creme fraiche) in the middle of this in a little circle and then put a spoonful or two of salsa on. It’s best to go easy with the salsa otherwise it all ends up on the griddle pan which is rather upsetting. I find it’s generally better to serve it up with an extra spoonful of the stuff than overfill it and risk loosing it between the cavernous ridges of the griddle pan.

Once the salsa is on, sprinkle on some cheese and jalapenos then fold the tortilla gently in half  and put it on the hot griddle. Turn the griddle down to a medium heat so you don’t set the whole thing on fire and wait until the edges start turning the tiniest bit browned then flip the tortilla carefully and repeat (a few minutes on each side). If using a griddle this should result in lovely dark griddle lines across the tortillas.

I find that two of these alone is a good substantial lunch and one/two of these with a rice salad or some home made oven chips  is a substantial dinner.

Hannah

Moules

For Jack, Hannah and I, Moules are reminiscent of holidays spent on the Ile de Ré. Alongside Andy’s chilli and lime prawns, bought fresh from the market that morning, this is a staple  lunch time meal before heading to the beach.

Jack made Moules for himself and I a month or so back, maybe yearning warmer weather, classic flavours and outdoor cooking whilst we were hunkering down to a typical February in Edinburgh evening, avoiding the rain and dreary cold. It was also inspired by recent visits to the Mussel Inn on Rose Street in Edinburgh, of which the menu is largely a selection of mussels, oysters and fish, good bread and good frites. A firm favourite, cheap enough for students, too.

Simplest of soul foods, this crock of mussels was just cooked with shallots and garlic, then steamed in its juices with a sauce of white wine, cream and lots of parsley. Served with great hunks of bread on the side, this is fast, beautiful food.

Catriona

‘Clay pot’ sea bass with ginger and lemongrass

I have been feeling unwell for a few days and have been fancying something light and fresh and uplifting – soul food really. One of my absolute favourite places to eat in Sheffield is the Vietnamese restaurant ‘Pho 68’ because they do an incredible clay pot sea bass dish which never fails to uplift so it was with this in mind that I dreamt up this evening’s supper which is not only incredibly delicious (honestly, even if I say so myself!) but is also remarkably healthy for something so tasty.

Ingredients (serves 3/ 4)

2 Whole sea bass, gutted and with heads removed
A great big thumb of fresh root ginger
Several spring onions
2 stalks of fresh lemon grass
4 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Juice of 4 limes
400 mls of stock (preferably chicken stock. Vegetable stock is okay but try to use a reduced salt version as the soy sauce is salty enough!)
A pinch of sugar
Half a cucumber
Bunch of coriander

You will also need either a clay pot or some kind of oven suitable dish with a lid (I am using a creuset dish).
Heat the oven to 220 degrees and if you are using a genuine clay pot, put it to soak in cold water for 20 minutes.

Top and tail the lemon grass stalks and bruise them with something like a rolling pin to bring out the wonderful heady scent. Finely slice the lemon grass, spring onions and ginger in thin strips of about an inch or two in length. Lay half of this in the bottom of the dish you will be using. Wash the fish under a tap, checking the scales have all been removed. Score the fish deeply along its width on both sides several times and rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then place the fish on top of the finely sliced ingredients in the dish. Place the rest of the sliced ingredients on top of the fish and turn to preparing the sauce.

In a separate bowl combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, stock and sugar and pour this over the fish and chopped vegetables. Put a lid on and place this in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sea bass is white and falling away from the bone in moist flakes. Chop the cucumber in the same way that you chopped the rest of the vegetables but slightly thicker and place this in with the sea bass for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time. Coarsely chop the coriander and sprinkle this across the dish to serve. Serve with rice, preferably fluffy steamed jasmine rice (just watch out for bones! If you are not a fan of filleting your fish as you eat it or serve it, I’m sure this recipe would work fine with fillets too – just watch you don’t overcook them!)

Enjoy! For quantities and particularly for the sauce, I based this recipe on one from Nigel Slater’s ‘the kitchen diaries’  – a version in which he steams the sea bass Nigel Slater calls this a ‘soothing supper’ which I can certainly attest to. The wonderful intensity of flavours in this dish is remarkable and incredibly rewarding given the relatively short amount of kitchen time needed – it has certainly served its function as soul food.

Hannah

DIY Pot Noodle

Taken from the River Cottage Veg: Everyday! book, this recipe is a fantastic lunch or dinner solution for me when I’m in the studio late and need sustenance. Endless variations, with noodles as well as the veg and flavours to choose from, rice noodles are particularly good. My variation included bits I had in the fridge, mushrooms, spring onions, kale, fennel and some frozen peas. Hugh suggests a Kilner for the pot, I used my Aladin Bento box, separating the wet from the dry ingredients in the compartments.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s DIY ‘pot’ noodles

“I first experimented with these when I was looking at ways to improve workday lunches.  However the concept works equally well as a fast and very satisfying supper. It’s important to find the right kind of noodle – one that will soften nicely in boiling water from the kettle without the need for pan-cooking. I find flat, thin, quick-cook egg noodles fit the bill very well. The ‘pot’ should be covered once the water is added…with this in mind, a sealable heatproof jar, such as a kilner, is ideal.

1 nest thin, quick-cook egg noodles

1tsp vegetable bouillon powder

A big pinch of soft brown sugar

1 small carrot, peeled and very finely sliced

3-4 spring onions, finely sliced

6 sugar snap peas or frozen petit pots

1 leaf of spring greens/green cabbage/leaves pak choi, shredded

1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

1/2 garlic clove, grated

1/4 red or green chilli, finely chopped

2 tsp soy sauce

juice of 1/2 a lime

Put all the ingredients, except the soy sauce and the lime, in a ‘pot’. Pour over boiling water to cover, and leave for 8-10 minutes covered. Stir, add the soy sauce and lime juice to taste and eat. ”

Catriona


Yoga Re-fuel

Pure Yoga Fuel

After an intense led primary series class of Ashtanga yoga this morning, I was hungry, even after the big bowl of porridge I ate only 3 hours earlier. Since starting a regular morning practice of Mysore Style Ashtanga last week,  I have noticed a big increase in my appetite, and I am only too pleased to be gobbling down more and more food! A quick march home to ravage the cupboards and fruit bowl: I had one thing on my mind, a power smoothie.  Perfectly for my pre- or post-yoga practice, this is fuel in the simplest form. Bananas, honey and raisins for quick-release energy, oats for the slow-release to keep me going ’til dinner later (slow-cooker stew, watch this space!) and to bring it all together lots of yoghurt and milk. I’ve made this kind of oaty, banana, yogurt mash-up before, inspired by the fantastic Leon cookbook (number one, the original).

Breakfast Power Smoothie, page 141

‘Everything in there has a job: the oats provide a slow-release carb to keep you powering through til lunch, the bananas are loaded with potassium and other goodies to keep you strong, the honey gives it a touch of sweetness and the dairy pulls the whole thing together.

[Yeh, as I said.]

MAKES ENOUGH FOR 4

3 big handfuls of oats; 1 really big or two small bananas, fair trade; ; 2 tbsp clear honey; 250ml Greek yoghurt; 300ml whole milk; (+ any seasonal berries, eg strawberries in summer, blackberries in autumn)

Everything goes into the blender with a few cubes of ice. Whizz until smooth but not a total puree. That’s it.’

Mine was not this accurate in quantities, and had a few extra goodies – tahini, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins – I was possibly feeling the influence of my yoga teacher Susan’s raw food diet. Know as Wee Yogi, she keeps a food diary. My additions are only in the spirit of her raw food love of all things nutty and seedy, but it is a vegan diet as well as raw, so I’ve poo-pooed the no dairy with a double helping of smooth creamy white stuff – the raw foodies at Bristo Yoga School have not got me yet! Here we go:

Makes a pint glass full.

2 small bananas

a sprinkling of raisins (I would have far preferred to use dried figs but I finished them yesterday)

a small handful of sunflower and pumpkin seed mix

about 10 walnut halves

1 large tbsp of dark tahini

200ml approx Greek yoghurt

a few big splooshes of milk

a small handful of oats

a little drop of Scottish set honey

Blitz.

The tahini gave an almost peanut butter taste and thickness, and if I indeed had peanut butter I would have added a spoonful of that too. I did not add ice cubes but I think that would have been good, thanks Leon. More milk would make a more drinkable smoothie too, I could almost eat mine with a spoon but was not complaining.

Catriona

Well Delia, maybe ‘One IS fun’, at least when it comes to soufflés!

Today I went out for a wonderful and rather filling lunch (Nonna’s, Sheffield, http://www.nonnas.co.uk/), and since I had the evening to myself I decided to tackle something I’ve never before been brave enough to make – a lovely light souffle.

It’s frustrating trying to find a soufflé recipe for one, despite the fact that all sources seem to suggest that they are best cooked in small quantities. However, on this occasion Delia Smith came to the rescue with a book that has previously just sat on my shelf – ‘One is Fun!’ (something my mum sent me to uni with!). This particular soufflé is courgette and cheese which was great, as they were both in my fridge!

Heat the oven to 200 degrees (i put mine on at 185 as its a fan oven) or gas mark 6. grease a 13cm diameter soufflé dish with plenty of butter and fill a roasting tin with 2.5cm of water and place in the oven to heat up with it (the soufflé will be cooked sitting in this water). I don’t own a soufflé dish and whilst I considered using my house mate’s teacups (they’re pretty sturdy), I settled for my pyrex measuring jug on the grounds that a) it’s pyrex, what can go wrong? and b) when it goes wrong, it’s mine which will save a lot of guilt. Luckily, this turned out to be a remarkably successful soufflé dish!

Ingredients:

  • 175g Courgette(s – if they’re small)
  • 1 large egg, separated AND an extra egg white
  • 40g butter
  • 2 rounded teaspoons of flour (a dessert spoon)
  • 55 ml of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley 
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped chives or spring onion
  • 10g grated cheese – Cheddar or Gruyère or other hard cheese of choice
  •  Nutmeg
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Grated parmesan or more cheddar for the top
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1. Cut the courgettes into 4 quarters, lengthways. then slice finely to end up with little delicate quarters of courgette. The precision of this does not matter too much as the courgette melts away as you cook it, the important thing is that it is consistently small, allowing it to cook evenly and rapidly. Put this in a medium frying pan or saucepan (the milk will be poured in later so it must be deep enough to hold a bit more stuff!). Put the butter in with the  courgette and cook slowly on a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes with a lid on, until the courgettes look soft and melty, but make sure to stir to avoid burnt bits. Season with salt and pepper
 
2. When the courgettes are cooked to perfection, add the 2 teaspoons of plain flour and stir around to soak up the butter/courgette juices. Then gradually add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring to create a smooth mixture – this is essentially a courgetty roux. Remove this from the heat and stir in the egg yolk, parsley, chives/spring onion, grated cheese (coarsely grated!!), a good whack of nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste – for me also a good whack! As those of you who watch masterchef will have learnt this week, cheese for a soufflé must be coarsely grated if you want your soufflé to taste cheesey as finely grated cheese gets completely lost in the mixture, resulting in a disappointing cheese flavour.Taste this and adjust seasoning of the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.
 
3. In a separate large bowl beat the two egg whites. Make sure that no yolk has mixed in with the whites as it will stop the aeration process working effectively!! Beat until the whites are at the soft peak stage and be careful not to overbeat. Fold the whites a third of the mixture at a time into the bowl of courgettey roux. Gently coax into your souffle dish and sprinkle the top with more cheese. Place very carefully in the hot water in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. do not open the oven door to check until about 25/30 minutes (especially not early on in the cooking!). 
 
This is lovely served with salad and some tasty bread and makes a surprisingly filling dinner and a substantial lunch. I made waldorf salad with mine as apart from courgette I happened to have stilton, apple, celery and walnuts! This went quite nicely actually, and I had a few lightly toasted slices of the loaf I made yesterday with it (from the recipe posted by Jack a few days ago).
 
What amazed and delighted me was that this soufflé actually worked!! I think I may attempt a dessert soufflé next!
 
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So behold my very poorly photographed and extremely unglamorous but remarkably successful and totally delicious courgette soufflé. A great dinner for a freezing winter’s night and a wonderful treat for the lone diner!

Dreams of Summer Food

Whilst winter food is so wonderfully comforting and can be fresh and salady (what with the winter salads I keep eating), there’s still nothing like good food eaten outdoors in wonderful weather, something which I find hard to replicate in the winter months. This summer we had an amazing holiday for food – staying on the lovely island off the West coast of France called the Ile de Re, we basically just ate beautiful food for a week in beautiful surroundings, some of which I think is very much deserving of a post, so what follows is a review of these beautiful food experiences – hopefully it will inspire you as it has done me!

A particular food highlight of the holiday for me was a rather decadent lunchtime trip to fish restaurant Le Skipper in Saint Martin (right on the harbour front). For starters I had a rather tasty creamy scallop dish, which was followed by a beautifully citrus-y octopus tagine (pictured below)…

Octopus tagine at Le Skipper

 While the savoury courses were very good, it was after these that I was really sold when the most exciting plateful was set before me – a ‘cafe gourmand’ (below), which hit the spot unbelievably (I have real trouble choosing desserts and a bit of everything couldn’t be more ideal!). With the fresh chocolate macaroon, creme anglais, mini trifle (which was boozy), bite sized piece of chocolate torte, the absolutely stunning caramel cake thing (I’m struggling to remember the name of it) and a hot espresso with a wonderful crema this was a dessert to remember!

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As there were a few couples holidaying together, one evening we decided to split the cooking between us and each create an element of one meal – naturally we ended up with the most colossal feast! Here (below) we have griddle chorizo, falafel burger, flat-bread, grilled aubergine, humus, tabbouleh, green salad and tzatziki (all home made). Needless to say, after this ridiculous feast no one could move for the rest of the evening and some serious swimming in the sea was required the following day!

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A standard meal by the coast, but one that cannot be missed, especially by the coast in the France is  moules, cooked in white wine and garlic…

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… These were stunning, with crusty French bread and the moule-infused white wine source you can’t go wrong! There were also prawns cooked in a very large amount of garlic and a little chilli but alas, no picture exists (they’re probably far too messy to have gone near my camera whilst eating them).

An interesting discovery for me was the fish ‘Ling’ which we came across in the bustling fish market of Le Bois Plage en Re. This we cooked on the barbeque, wrapped in a foil parcel full of lemon, dill and garlic.

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And which turned out wonderfully alongside some fantastic meguez sausages…

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So I’ve spent the evening drinking G & T and surveying my summer food snaps… It’s certainly inspired me to make plans for the summer and in the mean time to make some gorgeous summery food as a winter pick-me-up!!

Watch out for a follow up post on learning to prepare oysters!

Hannah