Spinach-ricotta gnocchi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I was going to write another quick post soon after the last one but… – who would have thought that having twins means not only, to employ the well worn but nevertheless true cliché, double the joy but also double the work, double no time & double no sleep. Lucky the people who have grandparents, aunts & uncles and the whole extended family around to alleviate the daily grind and provide small pockets of breathing space. We don’t, so it has been a hard year with fantastic experiences, precious moments coupled with absolutely back (& spirit) breaking times. I thought we had it covered. Continue reading

Pebronata aux aubergines

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Miniature veg

Resisting a picturesque vegetable display abundant with the best of summer’s crop is not something I am particularly known for – I usually can’t control myself and buy ways too many things (some might say). With two (rapidly growing) babies to carry three flights of stairs in their car seats (mine seem to be made from lead) I am trading market chatter and instant gratification for a weekly organic box delivery. Though there are moments when I cave in and these tempting finger-sized aubergines were just too pretty and just the right size for a vegetable Pebronata. A hearty stew lingering between summer and autumn: the vegetable sauce is perfumed with herbs & resiny juniper berries reminding me of walks in the hills of the southern Provence and Côte d’Azur where the sun dried air is full of earthy, wild herb scents while a strong red wine pushes the sauce towards more autumnal flavours.

Always assuming that Pebronata was a Provençal dish since seeing John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan facing butcher and customers discussing the finer details in Peter Mayles’s A Year in Provence: ‘Ça ne vas pas non, Felicieng, c’est quattre poivrons rouges et un poivron vert’ – ‘ Je dis, et je repete, quattre poivrons verts et un poivron rouge’… I was puzzled why I never came across it there but apparently the Pebronata sauce originally hails from Corsica and the aubergines replacing the customary pork is Anne Willan’s great idea. My favourite version.

 

 

 

Aubergine pebronata


Pebronata aux aubergines

Serves 6. Adapted from Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

700g / 1½ lbs. small aubergines / eggplants (mine were the size of a large man’s thumb)
about 120ml / ½ cup olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.35kg / 3 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into strips or 4 small tins diced tomatoes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
2 red peppers, cut into narrow strips
1 green pepper, cut into narrow strips
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
250ml / 1 cup hearty red wine
 

Cut aubergines lengthwise into quarters and halve those for two-bites-sized pieces (about 5cm / 2 inches long). Sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Meanwhile make the sauce:

Pebronata sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sweat the onion until it is beginning to turn brown, ca. 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a scant minute before adding tomatoes with the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until you’ve got a coulis. Heat another 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole and sauté the peppers with juniper berries until softened (ca. 10 minutes). Season, pour the wine over the peppers, bring to a boil and reduce, simmering slowly, to roughly half the amount. Add the tomato coulis and continue cooking over low heat into a thick, rich sauce vegetable sauce (about 15-20 minutes).

Sauté aubergine pieces over medium heat in the remaining 60ml olive oil until they are browned on all sides. Best to do in two batches to ensure browning and avoid steaming the aubergines. Decant into the casserole with the pebronata sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the aubergine pieces are tender. Season again if necessary and serve hot or at room temperature.
 

 

 

Deutsches Rezept:

 

Aubergine pebronata


Auberginen-Pebronata

6 Portionen. Nach Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

 

700g kleine Auberginen (meine waren so groß wie der Daumen eines großen Mannes)
ca. 120ml Olivenöl
1 Zwiebel, gewürfelt
4 Knoblauchzehen, gehackt
1.35kg Tomaten, gehäutet, entkernt, in Streifen geschnitten oder 4 kleine Dosen Tomatenstücke
1 Bouquet garni (Thymian, Petersilie, Lorbeerblatt)
2 rote Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
1 grüne Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
4 Wacholderbeeren, leicht angedrückt
250ml kräftiger Rotwein
 

Auberginen der Länge nach vierteln, diese dann halbieren (ca. 5 cm lange Stücke). Großzügig salzen und 20 Minuten stehen lassen (um ihnen Flüssigkeit zu entziehen). Dann abspülen und mit Küchentüchern abtrocknen. In der Zwischenzeit die Sauce kochen:

Pebronata sauce: 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer Pfanne bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen und Zwiebel anschwitzen bis sie zu bräunen beginnt (ca. 5 Min.), dann Knoblauch hinzufügen und 1 Minute später ebenso die Tomaten und das Bouquet garni. Würzen und 15-20 Minuten simmern lassen bis man ein schönes Coulis hat (eingekochte stückige Tomaten/Sauce). Weitere 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer großen Kasserolle erhitzen und die Paprikastreifen mit den Wacholderbeeren sautieren bis sie weich sind aber noch ihre Form behalten (ca. 10 Minuten). Würzen, dann den Wein hinzufügen, zum Kochen bringen und dann langsam köchelnd bis auf die Hälfte reduzieren. Tomatencoulis hineingeben und weiter bei niedriger-mittlerer Hitze zu einer dicklich-stückigen Gemüsesauce einkochen (ca. 15-20 Minuten).

Währenddessen die abgespülten und abgetrockneten Auberginenstücke bei mittlerer Hitze im restlichen Olivenöl (60ml) sautieren bis sie auf allen Seiten angebräunt sind. Um ein Dämpfen der Auberginen zu vermeiden, dies am besten in zwei Portionen machen. Dann die angebräunten Stücke in die Kasserolle mit der Pebronatasauce geben, mit einem Deckel verschließen und für 10-15 Minuten köcheln lassen bis die Auberginen weich sind, aber nicht auseinanderfallen. Wenn nötig, nachwürzen und warm oder bei Zimmertemperatur servieren.

 

 

mushroom and barley ‘risotto’

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Typical April weather calls occasionally for, no, demands the food equivalent of woolly jumpers or cashmere cardigans: soups and stews to keep warm and cozy when the temperature drops suddenly from 20 to 5 degrees. My grandmother’s vegetable and barley soup usually fits that bill being nurturing and full of great memories at the same time, though I’ve had plenty of vegetable soup already in past couple of weeks (my back-up lunch when I could not be bothered). There were bags full of various mushrooms from my last market trip and so a mushroom & barley ‘risotto’ or ‘pearlotto’ was just the thing to go for.

I love the different textures of these mushrooms, especially the intensity and sylvan notes of the trompettes de mort while king oyster deliver bite as well as substance and shiitake a decidedly mushroomy taste. It doesn’t always have to be porcini although I would be the last person to prevent you from adding a few. Continue reading

Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini & cumin

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Happy New Year and lots of luck with this flavourful and surprisingly snazzy lentil dish! Hopefully you had an amazing Christmas and a great start to this new & shiny year full of miracles and joy.

I don’t know about you but the holidays seem to have just rushed past in one big swoosh: plenty of balmy days spent celebrating, feasting & relaxing and we enjoyed every minute of them. Cooking wise, we’ve had a few ups (these lentils, Christmas goose with all the trimmings, bean chilli) and more than a few downs lately (burnt mince meat and no mince pies, the ‘Spanish’ chicken, yesterday’s supper to name the worst) since a stray swarm of tsetse flies must have settled nearby (odd, the forest does not look in the least like Kalahari) and I could hardly keep my eyes open past 9 o’ clock. Unfortunately, that’s a point where cooking ambition switches into sheer survival mode and explains a certain lack of Internet presence & participation. But, discounting yesterday’s meagre plate, I am getting back to normal and the hunger games might be over.

Whatever this year brings to you, it is always good to have a nice lentil supper up one’s sleeve and this Middle Eastern answer to dal is a real keeper as far as we are concerned. Ottolenghi – who else should wonderful dish be from? – mashes them for a more porridge-y consistency though I prefer the lentils intact in this dish where vibrant lemon & tomatoes deliver upbeat notes and tahini adds a touch of creaminess. Finish with zingy onion slices, fresh coriander and a dusting of warm paprika – a feast for all the senses that should bring lots of luck and keep even the sleepiest awake for dinner (me). Even on its own it is a thoroughly satisfying meal (add hard-boiled eggs for additional sustenance) but the lentils are also a spectacular side to pan fried fish we found one evening.

 

 

Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini & cumin


Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini & cumin

Serves 4. Adapted with small changes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

 

200g Puy lentils
30g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1½ teaspoons cumin
1½ tins chopped tomatoes (or 4 medium tomatoes, blanched, skinned and diced)
½ bunch of coriander, chopped (30g), save some 1-2 tbsp. for finishing
60g tahini paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt & pepper
water
½ red onion, sliced into thin half moons
olive oil
½ teaspoon paprika

optional: 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Cook lentils for about 20-25 minutes until done, drain and set aside until needed.

Heat butter & oil in a large sauté pan over a medium-high flame and cook garlic and cumin for a scant minute before adding tomatoes, nearly all of the chopped coriander (save some to sprinkle over the finished dish later) and the lentils. Stir and cook for a few minutes, add tahini, lemon juice, salt & pepper and 70ml water. Reduce the heat and continue to cook & stir for 5 minutes until the lentil dish has thickened and is hot. At this point Ottolenghi smashes the lentils a few times with a potato masher in order to achieve the consistency of a chunky porridge / hummus but I liked my lentils unmashed.

Garnish with thinly sliced onion, the reserved coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of paprika. For a more substantial main course add halved hard-boiled eggs.

 

 

 

Deutsches Rezept:

Puy lentils with tomatoes, tahini and cumin


Puy Linsen mit Tomaten, Tahini & Kreuzkümmel

4 Portionen, adaptiert und abgewandelt von Yotam Ottolenghi’s Linsengericht aus Plenty More. Sehr lecker als Hauptgericht (dazu die hartgekochten Eier) oder als Beilage zu gebratenem Fisch.

 

200g Puy Linsen
30g Butter
2 EL Olivenöl
3 Knoblauchzehen, gepresst
1½ TL Kreuzkümmel
1½ Dosen gehackte Tomaten (oder 4 mittelgroße Tomaten, blanchiert, gehäutet und gewürfelt)
½ Bund Koriander, gehackt (30g), 1-2 EL zur Dekoration zurückbehalten
60g Tahini (Sesampaste)
2 EL Zitronensaft
Salz & Pfeffer
Wasser
½ rote Zwiebel, in dünne Halbmonde geschnitten
Olivenöl
½ TL Paprika

optional: 2 hart gekochte Eier, halbiert
Linsen für ca. 20-25 Minuten gar kochen, abgießen und zur Seite stellen.

Butter und Olivenöl in einer großen Sauteuse bei mittlerer Hitze schmelzen und Knoblauch sowie Kreuzkümmel für eine knappe Minute erhitzen. Tomaten, Koriander und die gekochten Linsen hinzufügen, umrühren und für einige Minute kochen, dann Tahini, Zitronensaft, Salz & Pfeffer sowie 70ml Wasser unterrühren. Die Hitze leicht reduzieren und für ca. 5 Minuten weiterkochen bis das Linsengericht eingedickt und heiß ist. An dieser Stelle zerdrückt Ottolenghi die Linsen mit einem Kartoffelstampfer um die Konsistenz eines stückigen Hummus zu erreichen, ich bevorzuge die Linsen intakt.

In einer flachen Schale mit dünnen Zwiebelscheiben, gehacktem Koriander, etwas Olivenöl und einem Hauch von Paprika servieren. Zusammen mit hart gekochten Eiern wird dies ein noch gehaltvolleres Hauptgericht.

Roast lamb with a herb-mustard crust

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There is something so immensely pleasurable about a piece of lamb roasting in the oven, the scent of its mustard-herb marinade wafting through the kitchen before it slowly meanders through the whole house. Garlic adds its irresistible aroma and for an hour it’s half torture, half delicious anticipation of things to come. A roast is in my husband’s dictionary a proper Sunday dinner (he is an Englishman after all) and while I would love to serve an impressive gigot (leg), practicality and economy demand a smaller piece for us two or four. A shoulder works perfect as a roast for a small number of diners, since it’s size and the internal blade bone allow for a relative short cooking time. Pairing lamb with green beans and small potatoes is another must in our kitchen. Continue reading

Spring for spring pasta

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Just this morning showed again how rapidly fast nature starts to blossom and bloom and spring back into life. The surrounding fields are a carpet of furrowed rich brown earth, lush green wheat and bright yellow rapeseed while the apple trees are dressed in clouds of white blossom. Buttercups have appeared overnight, red poppies are dotting the green and whispy grasses sway on wonderful sunlit meadows. I’ve seen a pheasant this morning and the first butterfly of the season – I am overflowing with joy & gratitude & general happiness (while engaging a little sporting activity).

Overwhelming bliss caused by everything spring – or La Primavera if you speak Botticelli – is mirrored in this delightful pasta dish where indecisiveness and immoderation are a good thing. Continue reading

Lobster roll

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There is no arguing, I have a passion for seafood and a husband who does not give a shell for a clam or a crab which can make coastal holidays and heaping platters of fruits de mer for two a little testing but can be a blessing in disguise when it comes to lobster. In the early days when he ate a huge pot of jet-black mussels with gusto or swooned when I served him self-made sushi (dressed) while never revealing that seafood is not really his thing, I cooked a romantic lobster dinner for two. He drew the line at lobster, owned up and there I was facing two fair-sized lobster halves – yup, hard life, I know. Nowadays we are wiser and lobster is again on the menu for those tête-à-têtes but we’ll celebrate with a surf & turf: steak for Monsieur and lobster for Madame. Continue reading