To be honest, I’m a little bit behind with uploading this post, as Asparagus season has been and gone. However, I still want to share it with you and to remember it for myself, as it’s very easy to make (in advance too), budget friendly, vegetarian and suitable for any occasion, such as dinner, picnic, or you can make it as individual portions for dinner parties, basically it’s very versatile. In a way, you can adapt it to suit the season. For example, now, you can use courgettes, or perhaps green /runner beans instead of asparagus.
FREE-FORM TART WITH POTATO AND ASPARAGUS
(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food Collection)
1 pack of all-butter puff pastry or shortcrust pastry
2-3 boiled potatoes, cooled, cut into thick slices
8-10 asparagus spears, blanched for 2-3 minutes in a boiling water in advance, let it dry
2-3 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
140g Gruyere or any other preferred hard cheese (I used Cheddar)
200g soured cream
salt & pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 180C fan with a baking tray inside.
- On a large sheet of baking parchment dusted with a little flour, roll out the pastry into a rough circle about 30cm wide, until the thickness of 2 x £1 coins.
- Trim the asparagus, snapping off woody ends. Cut the potatoes onto thick rounds.
- Brush the mustard over the pastry. Arrange the potatoes, asparagus and most of the cheese in layers in the centre of the base, leaving a border of pastry that’s roughly 5cm all the way around. Season and fold up the pastry edges to enclose the vegetables and cheese, pinching the edges to seal. (If you noticed on the photos, this time I missed this step completely, as I was short of pastry. And unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos first time around).
- Whisk together the soured cream and the egg with a little seasoning, then pour into the centre of the tart. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 30 mins until the pastry is golden and crisp. Eat just warm or at room temperature.
There is no limit to variations of the meatballs and its accompanying options. This is one of them and it happened to be one of my favourites. It just reminds me of my childhood food. Back then we were not exposed to spices or exotic flavours, food was very straight forward, but never tasteless or plain. I always was amazed how with only few ingredients on hand our Mums and Grandmas managed to come up with accomplished dishes. One of the keys is seasoning. No matter what you are seasoning with, just season and taste, season and taste, until you reach the desired flavour.
I chose to serve it with the buckwheat, just because I love it for its nutty flavour and health properties, but it goes well with pasta, rice or mashed potato.
MEATBALLS IN A CREAMY SAUCE WITH THE BUCKWHEAT
For the meatballs:
500g of your preferred mince (I like to use half & half beef & pork or just turkey)
1 white bread roll or 2 slices of bread
1 big onion, grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup of soured cream
1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot, smoked)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh dill or parsley to garnish
- Begin by soaking a bread roll in milk, but crumbling the bread in a small bowl and pouring over with milk. Press the bread with the fork, helping to soak up all the milk until it becomes mushy. Leave it to soak for a few minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Then in a big bowl mix all ingredients for the meatballs, including the milky bread, and form the balls, any size you like.
- Place the meatballs into oven proof baking dish or a tray and bake for about 20-30 minutes, depends on a size of your meatballs, or until they are cooked through.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Take any heavy-bottom pan, add the butter and when it’s melted, add the flour. Keep stirring until the butter absorbs the flour, but do not allow it to burn. Then add the chicken stock, continue constantly stirring, to avoid lumps. When it thickens, add the soured cream and paprika, salt and pepper, mix well and cook for a few more minutes. Season, taste, adjust seasoning if required.
- When the meatballs are ready, simply add them to the pan with the sauce or serve it separately, pouring sauce over. Garnish with the fresh dill or parsley.
It also goes well with some pickles on a side, gherkins in particular.
I saw this recipe on Pinch of Yum site and immediately wanted to try it. The suggestion was that it’s a breakfast/bruch casserole dish, but I think it’s great at any time of day on its own with some nice crispy salad or as a side dish perhaps. I’ve slightly adapted this to match my taste, but you can check out the original recipe here. It’s a lovely site, by the way, if you haven’t heard about it.
POTATO AND SPINACH BAKE
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 any preferred good quality sausages
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
2 large eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1 cup of grated raw potatoes
1/2 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
salt & pepper to taste
- Heat up the oven to 200C. Grease the medium oven proof dish and set aside.
- Heat up the flying pan over medium heat with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the chopped onions and sauté it until it becomes soft and translucent.
- Take the sausages, peel off their outer skin by gently cutting the skin in the middle and peeling it off with your fingers. Then crumble the sausage meat in rough chunks over the onion. Then add chilli powder and onion powder. Mix well and continue cooking until it brown and fully cooked. Transfer this mixture to the prepared oven dish, distribute evenly on the bottom.
- Add the rest of the olive oil to the frying pan, add the garlic and gently cook t for a few minutes, do not allow it to burn. Add the spinach and stir until whilted for a few more minutes. Then scatter over the sausage mixture.
- In a mixing bowl, using fork, mix together the eggs, milk, mozzarella cheese, raw potatoes, salt and pepper. Pour over the sausage and spinach mixture.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown or until it springs back when touched.
Simple and delicious one-pan of your ‘5 a day’ supper. Easy adaptable to whatever is in season, but this Mediterranean selection works very well with Halloumi. Perfect addition for the BBQ or a picnic. Of course, it is even better with home-made pesto, but on this occasion I used shop-bought, which is also just fine. You also can use Feta cheese instead of Halloumi.
EASY VEGETABLE TRAY BAKE WITH HALLOUMI & PESTO
(Originally seen in ‘Red’ magazine)
500g new potatoes, halved lengthways
3 Mixed Peppers, seeds removed, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons good quality pesto
zest of ½ lemon, plus squeeze of juice
125g cherry tomatoes, halved
250g pack Halloumi cheese, thickly sliced
black olives (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, then tip into a large, shallow roasting tin and scatter over sliced peppers. Drizzle over with the olive oil, salt, mix well, bake for about 20 minute.
- Meanwhile in a little bowl, mix together pesto, zest and lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon of water, if the paste is too thick. Set aside.
- Turn up the heat to 220°C. Add the halved tomatoes, olives, sprinkle half of the pesto mixture and sliced halloumi on top. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven, drizzle over the rest of the pesto and serve straightaway.
Following Nigel Slater TV advice, with a few improvisations, I’ve been using up all remains of Christmas (and the freezer). It takes very little effort to prepare, but tastes very festive and special.
CHIPOLATAS WITH CARAMELISED ONION AND CRANBERRIES
(Adapted from N. Slater recipe)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 red onions, thinly sliced
1 pack of your preferred chipolatas
150g fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons cranberry jam
splash of red wine (optional)
pinch of cinnamon
handful of fresh spinach
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, stir to coat the onion in the oil. Cover the pan and cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning.
- Add the chipolatas, increase the heat a little and continue to cook about 15 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.
- Add the fresh cranberries, pinch of cinnamon, cranberry jam and splash of wine, if using. Mix well to coat everything evenly, cover with lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
- At the end of the cooking mix in some fresh spinach, give another minute or two, taste for seasoning, serve with some hearty bread or with puy lentils.
Parsley the sauce please!
Excuse this bad joke, but I just couldn’t resist..
I have to admit that not only have I never made parsley sauce, I never even tried it before. One of my colleagues always says how much she loves it. I had to try it to see what it’s all about.
I see the appeal now, it’s a really delicious, quick and no fuss sauce to make and can be used with ham, fishcakes, baked fish, or even vegetables. We had it simply with baked salmon and green beans.
CLASSIC PARSLEY SAUCE
(adapted from BBC Food)
Tip: Make it just before you need to use it.
25g plain flour
a good handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, watch the heat to ensure sure the paste does not burn.
Gradually stir in the milk to get a smooth sauce. I prefer to use a whisk for that, stirring all the time, bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer gently for 5-7 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, stir in chopped parsley, serve it straight away.
Aubergine is not the vegetable you usually find in a chilli, but their meaty, spongy texture perfectly absorbs all the flavours and together with the beans makes a delicious combo.
MIXED BEANS AND AUBERGINE CHILLI
(recipe adapted from S. Rimmer’s ‘The Accidental Vegetarian’ book)
about 80ml vegetable oil
1-2 aubergines, depends on the size, cut into chunky cubes
1 red onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 red chillies, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin mixed beans
1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheese/soured cream to serve (optional)
- Heat some oil in a pan and fry the aubergine pieces for about 7 minutes or until they get some colour and soften. Remove and drain on the kitchen towel.
- Fry the onions until soft and translucent, add chopped green peppers, continue to fry for another 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chillies, all spices, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Then add the beans, tomatoes, aubergines, sugar and cocoa powder (if you use it) and a cup of water. Season well, cover with the lead and cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.
- Check again for seasoning and serve with rice/baked potatoes, with dollop of soured cream and some grated cheese.