Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ 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.


Even Better Courgette & Almond Soup

A year ago I posted a recipe for Courgette & Almond Soup that’s had quite a few hits. It was delicious…..however, I’ve improved the recipe.  I’ve made this a few times recently with small, young courgettes from both the tunnel and outside.  It’s a richer affair and would be a perfect starter  in an elegant, shallow bowl served at a summer dinner party.  It could in fact be called courgette, white onion & almond soup since the flavour of new season onions makes a huge difference to this recipe.  I’m talking about onions that haven’t developed a crispy russet skin in storage, but still have a soft cover and taste really sweet after sweating in butter.  I’ve seen some for sale in bunches in the local veg shop.  The amazing thing about this creamy soup is that it can be made completely vegan if you substitute a vegan cooking margarine or olive oil for the butter. Try to get small courgettes that haven’t travelled too far and only make this soup in summer – it really shows off the youth and freshness of the courgette at this time of year.

Even Better Courgette & Almond Soup 

For 4

2 tbsp butter

2 medium white onions

2 cloves garlic

8 small courgettes

4 tbsp ground almonds

800ml – 1 L very light vegetable or chicken stock

salt & pepper

Heat the butter in a saucepan to melt.  Chop the onions roughly and add them to the butter.  Sprinkle with sea salt, cover with a lid and leave to sweat over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onions are lovely and soft add the garlic – finely chopped and the courgettes – chopped into even pieces.  Cook for 5 minutes with the lid off.  Sprinkle with a little more sea salt and add the light stock – enough to cover the vegetables.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the courgettes are just tender – 10 minutes or so.  Be careful not to overcook so that none of the vibrant green colour is lost.  At this stage stir in the ground almonds and remove the pot from the heat.  Blitz the soup to a puree – taste and season with salt and pepper.  If it’s too thick add a little more stock.  If it doesn’t seem creamy enough, try adding a little more ground almonds. Heat gently to serve.

Pesto Peas, Supper Club & Garden News

We would grow a lot of peas when I was young.  I’m thinking now that large families provide a lot of podders……there isn’t so many peas or young podders around these days.  In later years the ‘posher’ variety of pea ‘mange-tout’ was grown.  The taste of freshly pod peas or mangetout holds a lot of memories.  When first faced with a huge bucket of peas to pod, one would eat plenty – munching on the small sweet peas, making the odd mistake and getting a hard, dry one.  By the end one was truly sick of peas……until the next day.  The podded peas went into bags for the freezer.

I made these ‘pesto peas’ with frozen peas as we don’t have any in the garden as yet. Anyway, it’s probably best not to alter freshly podded peas too much.  They impress us just the way they are.

As a quick, last minute, “what will my 2nd vegetable be?” moment while you’re waiting for whatever it is to finish cooking these are brilliant.  Take your frozen peas and cook in just enough water for 5-10 minutes.  Drain the water and add a couple of tablespoons of basil pesto.  Bash them around with a masher or fork, adding some seasoning – salt, pepper (and a little cream cheese if you have it).  This could also be blended for a lovely pea puree.

pesto peas

On supper club news I’ve just made the ‘pernod’ ice-cream for one of the desserts… to keep it safe until Sunday!  The menu is still pretty much as previous post.  A couple of spots opened up today because of cancellation – we’d be happy to have a few more eaters. Get in touch to find out more (Sarah: 0879439446). Very excited!

Cockails will be served in the Gazebo

Eric Humburg, landscaper, has cleaned up around the gazebo with some nice beds and laid a deck floor within.  There is loads of work going on around the garden – check out this ranch-style fence love it!!

And here’s a 2011 view of the front:

One vegetable I’m looking forward to this year is the aubergine in the tunnel.  I’ve a good few plants in and they’re doing pretty well.  I spotted it’s flower today.

Picking about 2kg strawberries every day so best go and deal with them before they soften.  I’m not complaining – I will love these frozen strawberries in the depths of winter – but I will have enough of them when it’s done.  By the way – I’m washing them, laying them on a tea towel to dry, hulling them and freezing the perfect ones whole on a tray in the freezer.  Once frozen I bag them and return to the freezer immediately.

Beetroot: Putting colour into pasta

There’s nothing quite like the beautiful fuchsia colour beetroot gives a dish.  Grating freshly cooked beetroot into creme fraiche with a little lemon juice, herbs and garlic chives makes a fabulous condiment that elevates your dinner plate to a masterpiece. Last week my lunchtime cheered up no end by the addition of a little chopped beetroot into a warm quinoa salad.

Today I experimented with beetroot pasta for an upcoming supper club (more details and draft menu at end of this post).  Recently I came across a gem of a cookbook for anyone interested in Italian cooking:  ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ by Katie Caldesi.  I took the recipe from here.  It is so simple yet very elegant.  To serve 4 people a light meal I made half the recipe:

150g pasta flour (I used strong flour and it turned out fine….couldn’t get my hands on pasta flour today)

1 egg

1/2 egg yolk

40g cooked beetroot

Put the flour into a stainless steel or glass bowl (beetroot will stain plastic) and make a hole in the centre of the flour.  Blend the egg, egg yolk and cooked beetroot with a food processor or hand blender until smooth.  Pour this paste into the flour.  Begin mixing from the inside out with a butter knife until most of the flour is combined with the liquids.  Now you can get your hand in and bring the dough together.  Knead for 5-10 minutes on a clean work surface (if your pasta is sticky add small amounts of flour until it’s workable without being too dry).  You should have a nice smooth ball that springs back when you press the surface with your finger.  Cover the dough with a clean, inverted bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes.

At this point of pause I put together a filling.  I love the combination of beetroot with goats cheese, and goats cheese with fennel so I made a filling with goats cheese, cooked chard and finely diced fennel (cooked in a little olive oil).  Mix when cool.

I took these photos on the laptop as I didn’t have my camera at home.  You will get the idea I’m sure.

After the resting period, I rolled the pasta with a machine (see previous pasta making post – ‘Pasta from Scratch’) until it was very thin and transparent.  Laying a long sheet of this thin pasta on a floured surface, I placed a teaspoon of the filling 5cm from the edge about 5cm apart from each other.  I then folded the edge over the filling.  The idea then, was to take a wine glass and use it to push air out, whilst using it as a cutter for the ravioli so the shape was a half moon.  A photo will do better justice to this step.

Where you see the wine glass to the left of this picture, I’ve just cut out 1 piece – the wine glass seals the pasta at the cutting point and so long as you’ve tried to push out the air just before cutting you should have a nice piece of beetroot ravioli.  The piece of pasta to the right has little mounds of filling and I proceeded by folding the upper edge over the filling and then cutting out with the wine glass.

This pasta can be cooked straight away in a big pot of salty boiling water for 5-6 minutes.  If you’re making it for later Katie Caldesi suggests par cooking it – for 2-3 minutes before draining and tossing in oil, then covering once cool with cling-film (in single layers so they don’t stick) and storing in the fridge for up to 5 hours.  Finish the cooking when ready to serve.  A nice little sauce with this would be sage butter and pine nuts (suggested in the book – different filling used though).

This has made it to the menu for next weeks supper club – a yummy pasta.  There are 2 spots still free on the 3rd of July’s supper club.  A sumptuous 7-course menu with a pre-dinner cocktail and canapes under our new gazebo in the centre of the organic garden.

Here’s a little idea of what’s on the menu:

Aperetif & Canapes

Wild Venison Plate: Cured & Seared Carpaccio, rye croutons, baby salad

Beetroot ravioli

Squid: chilli, garlic, lime

Gooseberry & Elderflower Sorbet

Pan-fried Hake

Braised shin grass-fed beef, Sicilian style sauce, marrow doughnut

Pernod Ice-cream with Summer Berries

Chocolate Plate

100% Oatbread

This recipe was passed on to me by my Aunt Teresa who picked it up from someone else.  Weight watchers was mentioned as a source.  From talking to people it seems clear that a lot of women have heard of this recipe.  I had been experimenting with high-oat bread recipes for my clients and this one is really quite good.  Oats are a great source of soluble fibre and are a very slow-release energy (low GI) compared to wheat breads (medium to high GI).  People with conditions like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and diabetes particularly benefit from eating diets that contain very slow-release carbohydrates like oats.  So this bread recipe is viewed by many people who possess it to be a very healthy, low-calorie bread.  But let me break some bad news – too much bread, of any type, means extra calories and possible weight gain.  This oatbread, however, would move slower through the gut and you may getting away with eating less of it and feel fuller for longer.  On top of all that good news, soluble fibre is also really good for keeping the gut healthy.

The bread also ties into ‘Eat Only Irish Week’ which kicks off next Monday 9th May.  The oats are from Kilbeggan Organic Oats with some Irish natural yogurt and Donegal rapeseed oil.  I’ve used a small amount of bicarbonate soda – if you’re being really strictly Irish you may get away without this as the bread does not rise very much.

Raw Materials

The recipe is:

1 * 500g tub natural yogurt

2 * 500g (yogurt) tubs oats

2 tsp rapeseed oil

1 level tsp bread soda

Mix well and press into a 2lb loaf tin.  Bake at 180 C for 45 minutes.   Cool & Slice.

Oatbread Mix

For breakfast – a lovely slow-release, set-you-up-for-the-day porridge bread.  Some people have had such bad experiences with porridge growing up they refuse to touch it – but try this bread!  All the goodness of oats without the porridge memories.

100% Oatbread

Spring Greens & Gnocchi

The tunnel is providing some much needed super green food in the last couple of weeks. Like last year I’m using the tops of the early beetroot in salads or in place of spinach. There is also a small amount of beautiful sprouting broccoli.  Good eaten raw or steamed for just about 1 minute.

Spring Greens

My husband loves gnocchi – when I ask him what we should have for dinner it’s french onion soup in winter and gnocchi in summer (sometimes it’s just “steak”….well quite often actually). When I was getting to know gnocchi it seemed a bit of an ordeal to make but it’s quite straight forward and really worth it.  The nice thing is that it goes well with a simple sauce so once the spuds are mashed and cooled dinner doesn’t take too long.

For the gnocchi (2-3 people) I peeled & steamed:

4 medium/large floury potatoes (I used roosters)

When they were cooked I mashed them and left to cool.

Into the cooled mashed potato I added and mixed:

2 egg yolks

1oz / 30g grated parmesan

salt & black pepper

2oz plain flour

Gnocchi Basics

I rolled the potato base into long cylinders and cut off 1 inch pieces of gnocchi bits:

Gnocchi Bits

For the sauce take:

2 good handfuls fresh spinach and beet greens and place them in a frying pan with a little knob of butter and sea salt.  Cover and wilt for 1/2 a minute – stir and transfer to a bowl.  When the greens have cooled squeeze out any excess liquid and chop up roughly.

Reheat the frying pan with another knob of butter and a dash of olive oil.  Add 1 clove crushed garlic and cook for 1/2 minute over a low heat.

Now pour in 100ml cream, bring to a simmer and reduce until slightly thickened to a nice sauce consistency.  Stir in the cooked spinach.  Season with salt & black pepper as needed.  Set aside.

Creamy Spinach

By this stage you should have a large pot of water simmering to cook the gnocchi.  You can cook 1 piece of gnocchi (for consistency & seasoning) before you cut them all out – just drop into boiling water.  When it floats to the top it’s cooked.  If it falls apart you probably need some more flour in the potato mix.  Taste it and adjust seasoning as necessary.

So drop your gnocchi bits into the pot of boiling water and skim off as they rise to the top with a slotted spoon.  Transfer to the pan with the warm cream sauce and stir gently to serve.

I served mine with an extra shaving of parmesan and steamed, fresh sprouting broccoli.

Buon Appetito!

Wild Garlic & Potato Soup

Though very comforting, root vegetables begin to lose their appeal as the days get longer.  This time of year we have to jump on spring greens and what better than free and fresh spring greens?   Not so far from here there is a Coillte forest area called ‘Mote Park’.  It’s a great place to go for a wander and forage for wild garlic – you’ll know it when you smell it.

Wild Garlic Mote Park

I had brought my scissors and a carrier bag so filled it up, brought the wild garlic back to the kitchen, washed it and quickly made wild garlic & potato soup.

Here’s the recipe:

For 6

1 large white onion, peeled & roughly chopped

1 leek, washed & roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

3 large potatoes, peeled & roughly chopped

1 carrier bag wild garlic

1.5L light vegetable stock or water

sea salt & black pepper

1 clove garlic (crushed)


Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion and leek.  Season with salt, cover and sweat for 15-20 minutes stirring a couple of time.  Remove the lid and add the potato and stock/water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked.  Add the wild garlic and crushed garlic clove.  Cook for less than 1 minute.  Blitz with a blender and season well.  This soup should look lovely and green.  A dash of cream at the end would be fab.

Potato & Wild Garlic Soup