Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittata with Basil Oil

Do you ever have go-to dishes? Those meals that you know you can rustle up easily, using the contents of your cupboard, and be wholly satisfied and fulfilled both because you’ve been well fed and because you haven’t exerted much effort or time in doing so? If I had one such dish, this frittata would be it. I initially read about it in the Guilt Free Gourmet cookbook, where cavolo nero is used. I don’t always have cavolo nero and other such wonderful greens readily accessible at my greengrocers, so I have found baby spinach or chard to be great substitutes. And the dish has since been added to my repertoire of go-to dishes. It’s packed full of wonderful greens, vegetables and colours which makes it a culinary delight to devour with all of one’s senses. And it’s a good thing, too, because when I arrive home late from work some nights, tired, cold and in need of comforting, it is dishes like this that lift my spirits and stop me from eating ice cream sandwiches for supper (yep, it has happened).

Roasted Veg

Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittata with Basil Oil
adapted from Guilt Free Gourmet)

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into wedges
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes (or a few cherry tomatoes)
Bunch of spinach / chard/ cavalo nero, washed and roughly chopped
6 medium eggs
Bunch of basil
1 garlic clove

Method

Preheat oven to 180C (or preheat grill).

Toss the potatoes, onions and tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper. Roast in the oven for 30mins or until all the vegetables are very soft.

If using cavolo nero or chard, be sure to remove the stalks. If using spinach (I love to use baby spinach, keep the leaves whole), blanch in salted water for 1-2 mins, drain and move to a large gently heated frying pan. Add the roasted veg to the pan too.

Crack and beat the eggs and season well. Pour over the vegetables in the frying pan. Using a medium to high heat, allow the egg to cook on the stove for a few minutes. When you can see that the edges have cooked, move the pan into the over/ or under the grill for a further five minutes, or until you can see that all the egg is cooked through.

Finely chop the basil and garlic and combine with 6 tbsp olive oil to make a loose basil oil. Drizzle over the frittata and serve with salad.

Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an anytime awesome snack!

Grilled Frittata

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

I’ve just eaten my twelfth one. And why not. Twelve hours ago, I started breakfast with one of these teasing bites of ‘eat me now’ butter cups, I figured, why not complete the day with one.

almond butter cups halved

It was Kat’s birthday at the weekend (the same Kat that bullied …oops I mean “encouraged” me to start this blog). So, naturally, I wanted to make something to taste-test. Having seen her consume peanut butter Reeses at an impressive rate, I had an inkling of what to make when I saw this recipe for ‘dark chocolate almond butter cups’ by Sprouted Kitchen’s Sara Forte. Spot on.

birthday note

cups

I set about, making them last night (totally underestimating how long it would take to fill those tiny cases, and being forced to drizzle spoonfuls of melted chocolate into my mouth at midnight, in the interests of ‘saving time’). Refrigerated them overnight, and the tub went straight into my handbag this morning. It may have slightly opened itself on its commute to the office.

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups, from Sprouted Kitchen

In place of the powdered sugar, I used all honey.

200g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solid
1/2 cup natural almond butter
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp powdered sugar (or an extra tbsp honey)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine grain salt
sea salt flakes for topping

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, over a pan of simmering water.

melted chocolate

Lay out the miniature cases. Spoon some chocolate into the bottom of each of the cases (how much will depend on the size of the case, but for mine I needed about half a tsp. Twist the case around so as to coat the sides with chocolate.

work in progress

Mix the almond butter, honey, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together. Take about tsp of the mix and form a small ball in your hands. Gently press it into the centre of a case, and repeat. Once all the cases are filled, spoon some melted chocolate on top of each almond butter ball until it is completely covered. Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on top of each one and chill in the fridge to set.

semi filled cups

Share. Or, don’t. Just eat them. All of them. All by yourself.

Happy Birthday Kat.

almond butter cups

Sweet n Spicy Bramley Stuffed Mushrooms

Seven years ago, I walked out of my corporate job, into the nearest Trailfinders travel agency, and booked myself a round-the-world ticket. Two weeks later, I was at the airport, with one backpack, one ticket and one dream: to travel, free-spirited, unconstrained by time or any notion of post graduation normative values of what I ought to be doing. It worked. I returned, several months later, tanned, fatter, a better photographer and published author. Today, after work, I rediscovered the same sense of adventure, walking into a travel agency and planning a road trip along the U.S. west coast. Woop. Anyone up for joining me?

Oh. And I made these, to submit to a ‘readers recipe swap’ competition:

stuffed mushrooms

Sweet n Spicy Bramley Stuffed Mushrooms

(a recipe from my mum)

Ingredients
mushrooms: 6 small closed cup mushrooms or 3 large flat ones (you can use any type of mushroom you like here, so long as the stalk is removable to reveal an area for stuffing). (keep the stalks for the stuffing).
1 medium sized bramley apple
breadcrumbs (freshly made, using one slice of bread, toasted)
1cm stick of ginger
1/2 cup fresh coriander
1/2 red chili, de-seeded
squeeze of fresh lemon, to taste

Method:

Place everything but the mushrooms into a food processor and blitz until you have a chunky mix.

mushroom stuffing

Place the mushrooms upturned, onto a lined baking tray. Spoon the stuffing into the hollow of the mushrooms (where the stalks have been removed), and press in a little.

Place in oven at 150C for 30-40 minutes until the tops of the stuffing are starting to brown and crisp.

Best eaten hot. Great as a canape or starter. As a teen, I recall my mother making something akin to this, and it being a family favourite. I hope my own version is just as popular. Thanks mum. Love you.

mushroom plate

Purple Potato and Lentil Salad

How do they do it? You know, those chic City chicks in their Jimmy Choos and Prada tote bags, slung over one arm as if this accessory arrangement poses just as slight an inconvenience as high heels on the London Underground; how do they do it? I once had one of my heels stuck in the doorway of an underground train just as the doors were closing, only to have a gentleman on the platform grab hold of my leg and help free me from the potential pain and embarrassment of having my leg stuck between the doors; chivalry isn’t altogether lost..

This morning, I arrived at my office, in flat shoes, a large handbag (housing everything from a food book to a packed lunch), a gym kit and an umbrella. I looked less City-chic and more commuter bag-lady. I know my friend Rekhi is squinting at the screen in cringing agony at this latter statement but it’s true. And I still don’t get it. How do these women pull off the ‘just walked off the cover of a glossy magazine’ look? If ever I find out, I’ll promise to share. For now though, all I have to share with you are recipes and wonderful food finds. Like this one, using vitelotte (aka purple potatoes). Frankly, I don’t care if my hair isn’t fly-away free when my suppers look like this:

Vitelotte Salad

Purple Potato and Lentil Salad

(adapted from the ‘lentil almond stir fry recipe’ of 101cookbooks)

Ingredients
1 cup fresh mint
1/2 red chilli pepper, de-seeded
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil
6-10 vitelotte (or small new potatoes), peeled and halved
2 cups brown lentils
12 brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
3 dates, pitted and chopped

Method

To make the mint sauce dressing: in a blender, combine the mint leaves, chilli, olive oil, salt, honey, and lemon juice. Pulse to combine, so as to leave the mint still in chunks.

Cook the lentils in some salted water. Whilst the lentils are cooking, make the potatoes: add olive oil and salt to a pan/ cover with lid, and cook the potatoes. On a medium heat this takes up to 15 minutes. Stir frequently, once soft, turn up the heat to brown off the potatoes, giving them a slightly crisp edge. Remove the potatoes and add to the pan of cooked lentils. Next cook the brussels sprouts using the same pan, adding another splash of olive oil. Place the sprouts in the pan (single-layer), sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover, and cook for a few minutes; until just tender, then uncover the pan and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized.

DSC_0005

Add the lentils and potatoes back to the pan and mix together. Dish up with some yoghurt on the side, and the mint sauce drizzled over the top. Scatter the chopped dates over the salad. Best served warm.

DSC_0009

If you are lucky enough to stumble upon purple potatoes, buy them. Just so that you can make this salad. It’s so pretty. And tastes nutty and sweet. I think pomegranate would be an awesome addition too, if you can make the effort to peel them (I never can).

chopped dates

So pretty!

salad

Chinese Leaf Parcels

Here’s what I’ve been up to this weekend: using up the large chinese leaf cabbage that landed in my veg box delivery this week, which, as Keith Able says, “looks like the love child of a savoy cabbage and an iceberg lettuce”. Now who wouldn’t want to start cooking with that?! Seeing Smitten Kitchen‘s recent post for ‘italian stuffed cabbage’ lit an inner lighbulb; ‘oooh I know what I’ll do’. Turns out, it wasn’t so illuminating a light bulb moment as one might have hoped. It turned out okay, just that, the texture of the chinese leaf lends itself to frying far better than boiling or steaming. The taste was all there but the texture was somewhat chewy. Which is really not the effect I was after. Experiment trialled. Lesson learned. If you ever make that recipe, go with Savoy cabbage, as Deb Perelman suggests. I had enough chinese leaf left to also try out the following recipe:

Chinese Leaf Parcels (recipe adapted from Abel&Cole)

Ingredients
1 head chinese leaf
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
sea salt
200g mushrooms, sliced
1 onion (or 1 leek), thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
dash of soy sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
handful fresh coriander

Method

Carefully pull off 8 large outer leaves of the chinese leaf cabbage and finely shred the remainder.

Put a lidded pan over a medium head and toast the rice for a few moments, add salt and olive oil, then the water. Cook for 30-40mins, adding more water if necessary (note I cooked my rice in veg stock for extra flavour).

In the meantime, fry the onions. When softened, add the mushrooms and the shredded chinese leaf, garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir and cook til soft. Season with a dash of soy sauce and lime juice. Taste and adjust accordingly; adding herbs if desired.

When both are cooked, stir the rice and veg together.

Now time to make the parcels. Add some salt to a pan of boiling water, gently place the leaves into the pan, and allow to cook for 2-3mins, remove when softened and place on a dry teatowel to drain. Take each one onto a work surface and spoon a heap of the rice mix onto the base (the firm white stalk) of the leaves. Roll up/ tuck in the sides and your chinese leaf parcel is ready.

Sketch, Yauatcha and the London Bus Tour

Who has dinner at 11pm on a Saturday night except carefree twenty something year olds livin’ it large in London, right? How awesomely rebellious did I feel, knocking my inner warm-cocoa-and-cotton-pyjama-loving self to the side in favour of social scenes and bright lights and late nights? Totally. Until around 9pm Saturday night, looking at Josh’s jet-lagged fuelled yawns mirroring my own fatigue and wondering what on earth had possessed me to make a midnight booking for dinner.

Admittedly it was the only available time that Sketch The Gallery had remaining when I made the reservation but I hadn’t really thought it through. We made it though, Josh, Julia and myself, walking through the west end via New Bond Street to the venue at 10pm. We arrived early, our hopes of an early sitting being substituted for cocktails in the East Bar. Sometime close to midnight, being served our starters, I was amazed, at how full the venue was. Who on earth eats dinner at this time?! Well, us, evidently. Mostly in quiet as it took too much exertion to shout above the din of the noise of the interior. I hadn’t recalled it being this noisy the last time. Neither was the interior design quite so poor. I used to marvel at the moving wall projections, the artistic room dividers and clean white spaces. The food was still good, but not outstanding and certainly not marvellous enough to compensate for the other disappointing factors. It’s probably the only time I opted for an early departure over dessert. And then of course there was the debacle about the cloakroom having lost my coat when we tried to retrieve it with the cloakroom tag. Sigh. I shan’t be visiting Sketch again anytime soon.

On the upside, a huge thanks to Julia and Josh for the opportunity of a weekend playing tourist in my own city. Having lived in London for twelve years, I have never made it atop a London Bus Tour until this weekend. Fuelled with a breakfast of heavenly chocolate brownies from Chelsea and warm fudgey lunch courtesy of Ben’s Cookies in Covent Garden, we paraded our cold but enthusiastic selves around the city on Sunday, winding up with dinner at YauatchaOne of my favourite places for dim sum, I have to say I especially enjoyed the pumpkin duck dumplings this time, although wasn’t so keen on the cold draft that came with it, as we were seated by the front door on the ground level of the restaurant. And that was the only real downside. After a sugar filled day, I gladly slurped up all the savoury I could, and good it was, too.

It’s taken us a while to get Josh to fly across the Atlantic from New York and, we’re very glad that he finally did.

Mind to Mouth Macaroons

So. Pride got wiped off my smug sugar-free face today, by something the size of a 50 pence coin. Yeah. Sat in the office, post gym workout, unassumingly munching on my mid afternoon treat of wholegrain rice thins with avocado, when I overhear talk of homemade macaroons. Now, ordinarily this kind of talk has my mind, mouth and heart drooling with desire. However, three weeks into my detox, I’m unphased, as I bite into another huge chunk of avocado. Mmm, yum.

And then, it happens. Jade walks over with a box of chocolate orange macaroons “would you like Macaroonone?”. What happened next occured in slow motion; my hand (I insist through no volition of my own) suddenly reached out to take one, I hear Emma’s voice “no Asha, you can’t! what about your detox?!”, but the voice was more like a blurry noise, from some distant place. The next thing I’m aware of is a phenomenal sensation in my mouth, an amalgamation of delicious sweetness, dark cocoa, soft orange, strong desire and absolute admiration. “oh my gosh, I cannot believe you just did that”, says Emma. Half a macaroon still in my hand, I put it down, still in disbelief myself that I ‘just did that’, but more than disbelief, there was a sense of guilt, wrongdoing, badness.

Before a degree of self berating ensued, it occurred to me: we can be so disciplined about what we put into our mouths, but what about what we feed our minds?

The relentless inner critic does far greater damage to my health than does half a spoonful of sugar (or any other food for that matter). That notion of ‘being bad’ that we are taught from an early age, such that we strive to be ‘good’. I realised that my detox is far more about being good than it is about being healthy. Even my latest favourite recipe book is titled ‘Guilt Free Gourmet’. What?! Shouldn’t all of life be guilt free?

So, does this mean I am shovelling large quantities of cocoa into my tummy again? No. I’m still eating well. But as a natural functioning of a healthy body/mind, as opposed to some castigatory punishment for all the indulgent foods that normally take precedence in my diet. If the detox served only to bring me to that one insight, then it was worthwhile. Thanks Jade.

Here’s to happy munching. Always.