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

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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.

 

 

Zucchini-onion tian & zucchini salad

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Zucchini glut and how to cope

Every year there is the inevitable zucchini glut and even if we are far away from my Mum’s garden to be regular recipients of said glut our weekly veg box can be trusted to contain some sort of courgette (aka zucchini or squash). So, time to hastily add a few zucchini recipes that require minimum effort and work since leisure time for lengthy prep or delicate tweezer action suddenly has become a rare luxury in this house, wonder why…

First a simple zucchini and onion tian, a Provençal gratin where I veer away (just a little) from tradition by arranging the vegetable slices in a fan rather than fitting them snug upright in the namesake earthenware dish. It looks pretty and shortens the cooking time considerably – these days a necessary requirement of any dish we’ll have. Thyme adds its irresistible resin perfume reminiscent of the Provençal hills and makes this a great side dish to lamb (little cumin coated lamb brochettes are my latest favourite) or a grilled fish like sea bass.

Secondly, a light summer salad and absolute of mine: thin zucchini slices in a lemony dressing. Even when made ahead of time zucchini keep a firmer texture and some bite unlike the similar tasting cucumber would. I shave long ribbons of small green and yellow courgettes (no big squashes here) with a mandolin or vegetable peeler and dress these courgette pappardelle quite simply with lemon juice, oil, salt & pepper. You can’t get a lighter but substantial salad that lends itself to any main dish, said lamb brochettes again a firm contender these days. The recipe for those should come soon (hopefully) but I’ll have to make them again since I am much too greedy hungry these days and wolf anything down in record time (in the spirit of ‘Eating-while-it’s-hot’).

 

 

zucchini-onion tian


Zucchini-onion tian

Feeds 2-3 people as a side dish. Loosely after Stéphane Reynaud.

 

2-3 medium Zucchini
3 small onions
a few sprigs of thyme
olive oil
salt & pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 375° F.

Cut zucchini into 5mm rounds, onions into slightly thinner slices. Arrange alternately in an ovenproof dish big enough to have a slanting fan of zucchini & onion slices rather than them being tightly packed like a roll of coins. Place thyme sprigs in the gaps, sprinkle with a generous splash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and slightly browned around the edges.

 

 

 

 


Zucchini salad

 

Thin green & yellow courgettes / zucchini
lemon juice
olive oil
salt & pepper

 

Shave thin slices of zucchini / courgettes with a mandolin or vegetable peeler and dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper to taste.

 

 

 

Deutsche Rezepte:

Zwei Zucchinigerichte um der reichen Zucchiniernte Herr zu werden. Beide, ein leckeres Gratin und ein frischer Salat, schmecken sehr gut zu kleinen Lammspießchen, deren Rezept (hoffentlich) bald hier erscheint.

 

courgette-onion gratin


Zucchini-Zwiebeltian

Für ca. 2-3 Personen als Beilage. Inspiriert von Stéphane Reynaud

 

2-3 mittelgroße Zucchini
3 kleine Zwiebeln
einige Zweiglein Thymian
Olivenöl
Salz & Pfeffer

 

Backofen auf 180°C vorheizen.

Zucchini in dicke Scheiben schneiden, die Zwiebeln etwas dünner. Abwechselnd in einer ofenfesten Form fächerartig schichten (und nicht wie üblich für eine Tian diese dicht an dicht wie eine Rolle Münzen). Thymianzweige in die Zwischenräume legen, großzügig mit Olivenöl beträufeln und mit Salz & Pfeffer würzen. 20-30 Minuten backen bis das Gemüse gegart ist und an den Rändern leicht gebräunt ist.

 

 

 


Zucchinisalat

 

Dünne grüne & gelbe Zucchini
Zitronensaft
Olivenöl
Salz & Pfeffer

 

Die Zucchini in dünne Scheiben hobeln (geht am besten mit einer Mandoline, aber auch einem Gemüsehobel oder –schäler) und mit Zitronensaft, Olivenöl, Salz & Pfeffer anmachen.

 

 

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

Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy sauce

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The beginning of a new year always seems to call for some sort of detox, cleanse or diet (or all three together) and generally imposing on us an imperative to repent for our ‘sins’ aka holiday excesses. This requires some will for martyrdom and in most cases sets one up for failure within a few days anyway. A big part of the phenomenon called French paradox is the absence of regret and the ability to savour (and indulge in) the food without fretting constantly. So, why not leave all the guilt where it belongs and just eat a few more greens? Especially when those greens are purple sprouting broccoli and come with this wonderfully assertive dipping sauce that is reminiscent of bagna cauda and gentleman’s relish. Continue reading

Kimchi

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Autumn can be glorious, the trees blazing in fiery reds, dark greens, burnt oranges, gold and yellows. Crisp mornings invite to a brisk walk in the woodland, where rays of sunshine are breaking through the thinner tree canopies, chestnuts and acorns are dropping and deer browse on misty clearings. But autumn can be murky, grey and nondescript as well, it is not yet cold, but not really warm anymore, not dark but not bright either, some days are just murky. Though these days are not to be sniffed at, they are perfect for preserving, pickling or making the adequate antidote to the feeling of ambivalence: Kimchi. A pickle extraordinaire, the Korean condiment awakens any dish and tired taste buds, it is punchy without being too spicy, has a funky note from a short term of lacto-fermentation and dazzles with vibrant colour and flavour. Continue reading

Zucchini pickles

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Here’s what to do with the rest of the zucchini glut (self-inflicted, harvested or otherwise acquired), should you by chance having any kicking around your house or a few pounds leftover from last weeks lunch. These pickled zucchini are not mouth-puckering vinegary, they are savoury with a lingering note of distilled herbs and Indian spices, have a subtle sourness and just a whisper of sweetness – think of them as something along the lines of sweet & sour Indian bread-and-butter pickles. Imagine how good they will be with cooked ham, on a sandwich (oh, I should make pastrami), as a side to a cheese platter. Certainly will they be fantastic with turkey & chicken and provide an extra flavour-layer to the great noodle / rice / quinoa / farro bowls that we all will be eating for lunch now that the days are getting shorter.

In all their turmeric glory, they look pretty stunning, don’t they? The yellow, green & red just pop and bring back the summer colours when you get a jar out later in the year. Surely, they will liven up the darkest and dankest of days with their cheery colours and warm aromatic spices. The zucchini pickles are not spicy at all, so feel free to add a few chillies to cover that if you are so inclined. Continue reading