Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Warm Beetroot, Mushroom & Leek Salad

As a student of nutrition for 4 years in Dublin I sought out a fitting place to work – Cafe Fresh in the Powerscourt Townhouse.  It’s a vegetarian/vegan/wholefood restaurant run by Mary Farrell.  Mary was good to us there and staff lunches were by far the healthiest fare in Dublin.  My dingy flat diet was mainly lentil soup/stew; with fish, mashed potato and broccoli on a splash out day.  Cafe Fresh provided welcome variety and some great recipes that I still use.  They served a lovely organic roast beetroot, mushroom and shallot salad.  This version is inspired by that and is a real earthy dish for November.

Warm Beetroot, Mushroom & Leek Salad

Serves 1 for lunch or 2 as side-salad for dinner

1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp butter

2 egg-sized fresh beetroot, boiled until tender

3 flat mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

sea salt

1/2 tsp English mustard

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

sea salt & black pepper

toasted seeds to garnish

Heat the butter and rapeseed oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and season with salt – cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, thyme and marjoram and another pinch of salt and continue cooking until the mushrooms are just tender.

Peel the beets and slice them into wedges.  Stir the warm beets, mustard, black pepper and balsamic vinegar into the mushroom/leek mix off the heat.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve with toasted pumpkin & sunflower seeds on top.

This is good by itself but I ate it with beetroot cous-cous (yes, I am turning pink!).  I had some fresh beetroot juice leftover from my kids class (where we made beetroot icing for beetroot and chocolate muffins), which I brought to the boil and poured over dry cous-cous.  The cous-cous absorbed the colour and earthy flavour of the beet juice.

 

Preserving basil

We need some space in the tunnel so the basil had to come out.  There were two types of basil – the regular stuff and holy basil.  I set about preserving some of their summer flavour for the dark days ahead.

Holy Basil!

Very fragrant in a different way, holy basil smells a little like a slightly out of date body cream – weird I know but finding it really hard to describe!  Luckily it doesn’t taste like gone off cosmetics and is actually delicious thrown into a curry (especially coconut based) at the very end.  It’s no more difficult to grow than basil but does go to seed quite a bit sooner.  And it also goes very well with tomatoes.

Basil is not one of those herbs you dry – it retains no flavour this way (lack of oils).  I usually freeze basil pesto without the cheese and it works so thought why not just whizz up the basil with some oil and freeze?  It’s not space consuming and this method means you have little nuggets of intense basil oil to add to a dish.

For the regular basil blitz 2 handfuls of basil with 100ml olive oil and transfer to ice-cube trays.  For holy basil use rapeseed oil instead (not too mediterranean incase it’s for curry).

I put these in the freezer for a few hours, then emptied them out to store in a freezer bag and popped them back in the freezer for later use.

If anyone has a more eloquent description for the flavour of holy basil please share!!

Get your basil in

My mother came across a tub of basil pesto in the freezer, frozen in time since the end of last summer.  What a find!  It kept deliciously – that is without the addition of cheese before freezing.  To celebrate I’ve been eating plenty of it – today with just pasta and grated parmesan on top.  I thought it couldn’t get any better until I came across a glass of red wine at the end of a bottle.  A match made in heaven!  Get basil seeds in pronto or buy small plants for a sunny window, glass house or tunnel.  If you’ve lots of sunny space don’t skimp on planting and you can enjoy basil pesto anytime of year.