Recipe: Tortilla (or is it a Frittata?) with Potatoes, Cheese, Leek & Sage

Potato, Leek, Cheese and Sage Frittata

Potato, Leek, Cheese and Sage Frittata

Recipe: Frittata with Potatoes, Cheese, Leek & Sage

Please, please send me on a holiday to Barcelona! 

http://holidays.easyjet.com/spain/barcelona/barcelona-inner-city-breaks.htm

(Oh my, am I shamelessly advertising!  Yes! I really would love to go back to Barcelona…)

And now to cooking. I often find that tortilla Espagnola—the Spanish deep omelette with sliced potatoes and onion—can be rather dry and bland, but the Spanish version is often acting as a counterpoint to far spicier tapas dishes, so fair enough really.  Italian-inspired frittata tend to have more ingredients—incorporating leftovers and whatever is in season and available, any old thing can go in there, from artichoke to zucchini.  Another difference between the two is in the cooking method: a tortilla is usually flipped over using a plate or lid half way through, whereas a frittata is generally finished under the grill.  But, no hard and fast rules in Spain or Italy–almost every human culture breaks eggs to make omelettes.

This version of a sliced potato omelette (I’m calling it my tortatta) is not bland at all, and it majorly ticks my boxes in that it has few, simple ingredients in quantities that I would usually have to hand and it is an easy dish to make.  The recipe is an adaptation from a BBC Good Food Magazine original, where I was surprised to see several comments on it being not very tasty, but if you use good quality ingredients (leeks in summer= tasteless rubbish) and your dried sage has not been hanging around in a cupboard for two years, I really can’t see where those comments came from.  Dried sage is, of course, the worst herb for losing its pungency over time and turning into acrid green-brown dust so perhaps that is the reason for those remarks.

This amount would serve four as a lunch with a big salad and nice bread, or two to four as a warm winter supper with some extra bits of tapas e.g. Tomato & Mozzarella Salad, Calamaris, etc.  It takes around half an hour all in to make and could be a good lunch box/picnic dish.  You could of course add other ingredients as you fancy, but why bother when this dish is so nice?

Up Close, Mmmm

Ingredients:

  • 250g-275g Potatoes (this is a surprisingly small amount of potatoes, about four smallish or two medium sized ones and they need to be pre-cooked.)
  • 1 medium-sized Leek—I would substitute spring onions or fresh white onions in the summer months.
  • 6 medium Eggs, or 4 large Eggs
  • Large knob of Butter
  • 80g good, mature hard Cheese such as a strong, vintage Cheddar
  • Large Pinch of Dried Sage, rubbed in your palm before adding to release the oils, or use 3-4 leaves of fresh sage, very finely chopped.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste—you may not need much salt depending on the cheese used.

Method:

Peel and boil the potatoes and be careful not to overcook them, they need to be in decent shape to slice down without crumbling or going to mush.  As they are cooking, slice the leek as thinly as you can, I used a mandolin.  Over a low heat on the hob and in a reasonably deep non-stick skillet/frying pan gently soften the leek in butter until it melts down but is not browning, this can take up to 10 minutes depending on how thickly sliced. My skillet is 10” or 26cm diameter and it is probably on the outside size of making this whole dish work with these quantities. Cool the potatoes once cooked, then slice down—certainly not more than half a centimetre thickness.  The original recipe states to place potatoes over leeks, but I prefer to do it the other way around, as the potato layer at the bottom gives it more of a base for cutting and serving.  Beat the eggs, add the cheese, sage and seasoning and make sure the egg is settling evenly round the pan and moving around and under the leek and potatoes to encase everything.  Gently cook the mixture on the hob over a low heat until the eggs set—should take just a few minutes.  I tend to annoy it a little by moving a flexible spatula around the edges and under the frittata just to loosen things off and check the base is not browning too much (aka burning), but I think my skillet is not so non-stick as it once was. To finish, place the entire skillet under a medium hot grill to set the frittata top for a couple of minutes or so but too long under the grill equals rubber omelette.  The frittata/tortatta can be served hot or at room temp, it slices better when cooled, but I prefer eating it warm.

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Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes Recipe with Lemon

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes with Lemon

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes with Lemon

I massively over-ordered French green beans via Tesco online, not realising there was a buy one get one free thingy.  As there is only so much steaming a girl can do, something was required other than just blanching and freezing the excess. I (vaguely) remembered a recipe for green beans and cherry tomatoes in the Terence Stamp Collection cookbook.  That book is Lord knows where at my mum’s, I may have to actually order my own copy though I am a bit loathe as it is all wheat and dairy free *.  All I can recall is the recipe had the two ingredients above and that Terence used a lot of lemon juice as a salt substitute.

So, like the good researcher I am, I went looking for something like it online, and wouldn’t you know there are hundreds of recipes, but not that one.  So here is my half remembered homage, takes about 10 minutes start to finish:

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish)

  • 400g fresh Green Beans, cleaned, topped and tailed.  Cut in half if very long, but try to have them all roughly the same length
  • 200g of fresh Cherry Tomatoes, whole, with a tiny notch cut into the top.  Good quality tomatoes are required for this dish. The notch stops them bursting in uncontrollable ways, helping to keep them (almost) whole.
  • Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 large Lemon
  • Fresh ground Black Pepper to season (let the lemon be your salt substitute, it works weirdly well…)

Method:

Drop the trimmed green beans into plain boiling water, bring back to the boil, simmer vigorously for 4 minutes or so. Drain the beans very thoroughly, and pat dry’ish with kitchen towel or a napkin to remove any excess surface water.  Keep warm in the oven in a pyrex serving dish or similar, but not for so long they go flaccid. Flash fry the cherry tomatoes for about 30 seconds to a minute in olive oil in a hot skillet–beware, they spatter like crazy.  You want the tomatoes to singe, soften but stay in shape and open a little at the tops without de-skinning completely, but not remain raw and cold in the middle. Add in the lemon juice (again, it spatters) and black pepper and simmer to heat through again.  Spoon out the tomatoes onto your hot serving dish of green beans and drizzle the lemony juicy sauce over.  NB Green beans have a nasty habit of going cold and watery on your plate too quickly, hence all these keep warm instructions.  And cooked, pre-frozen green beans are the worst offenders for this.

I served this with breaded chicken escalopes and slow fried roast potatoes.  It is a nice dish when it is too cold for a salad but you want something very fresh-tasting as a side.  Variations could include adding in some basil and/or garlic though I find I want a rest from the old garlic/herb combo now and again.

*The Stamp Collection Cookbook (hardback 1997, paperback 2002) was a collaboration between actor Terence Stamp and cook Elizabeth Buxton on wheat and dairy free cooking.  Second-hand copies on Amazon are available for a penny + postage.

(BTW recent lack of activity–I have been moving house…we’re in now, and properly broadbanded, interneted, and phoned.  Thanks to goodness.)

Ratatouille Recipe

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I don’t usually make ratatouille as it contains bell peppers, but took took a notion today to try a “pepper-less” version. I could not find yellow courgettes but half yellow and half green would certainly have added some extra colour, but no matter, it was super nice as a side dish to lamb burgers.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a side dish):

  • 1 large Courgette/Zucchini
  • 1 large Aubergine/Eggplant
  • 1 large White Onion
  • 3 fat cloves Garlic
  • 8 small button Mushrooms
  • 2 smallish Tomatoes
  • 1 Carton or can of Chopped Tomatoes in juice
  • Large pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • Small pinch salt and a few grinds of black pepper

Method:
Chop the aubergine into thick slices and salt to remove any bitterness. Slice the onion vertically into eighths and cook slowly in a large heavy-based pot on the stove in some olive oil until just softened. Add in roughly hand-minced garlic. Slice and chop the courgette into large chunks. Add in with the button mushrooms, halved. Cook until lightly coloured. Add in the tomatoes, quartered. Pat the aubergine dry of any moisture and cut into large chunks. Add in with the herbs and the canned tomatoes. Season. Do not add any other liquid. Cook with a lid on over a low heat, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour.

PS I wrote this entire post, plus taking and inserting photographs AND posted this to the blog all from my phone. How cool is that? I swear if I was chocolate I could eat myself…

PPS oops, posted as a page first and not a post, guess I am not so smart after all!!

Maltese Baked Potatoes Recipe

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In my occasional series on doing potatoes differently (2 posts to date, see slow fried roast potatoes), this recipe for Maltese baked potatoes is a simple, no-fuss delicious winner, the fennel adding a slightly exotic note to an otherwise rather humble dish. Most dauphinois/casseroled/ranch-style potato recipes use milk or cream but this dish is more like “boulangere” potatoes, using stock and oil. No parboiling first either, which saves a lot of time and trouble.

I can attest to the authenticity of this recipe as hub and I were served this dish with almost every meal on a business jolly a few years ago in Valleta and I asked how it was made, then did the usual trial and error experimentation, trawling the blogs and so on back home.

For a Sunday lunch, Maltese cooks add meat, usually pork, to the base of the dish. Although the fennel is traditional, adding in a teaspoon of mixed curry spice is an option too–though Maltese cooking is very sparing with spice and generally tends towards plain and unfussy. The cuisine in Malta to me seems to be lots of grilled fish & seafood, rustic stews and casseroles, simple robust flavours, great pizzas from their Italian links…what more could you want?

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish):

  • 4-6 ordinary white Potatoes, depending on size, e.g. 4 large or 5/6 medium, peeled and sliced at a medium to thick setting on a mandolin, or as evenly as can be managed if by hand
  • 1 large white Onion, peeled and sliced, not transparently thinly but not great huge chunks
  • 2-4 medium Garlic Cloves depending on taste, crushed rather than minced as this gives a softer taste, roast garlic would be nice too
  • 1/2 Pint/225ml Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tbspn regular Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 level tbspn very lightly crushed Fennel Seeds
  • Salt (or not depending on the stock used) and a few grinds of Black Pepper to season

Method:

Mix the garlic, stock, fennel seeds and oil together, infuse for a few minutes. Place the sliced onions at the bottom of a casserole dish, layer over the sliced potatoes and pour over the liquid. Season lightly. Cook in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Farenheit for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is browned and crispy and the potatoes cooked through. The potatoes should be moist, with a very small puddle of gravy juices. This dish is similar to boulangere potatoes as I said, but that version commonly uses thyme/rosemary as a flavouring and alternate layers of potatoes and onions with stock. It is technically possible to overcook these potatoes and end up with brown mush but I am sure that will never happen to you…

Recipe Method: Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Oxfam Books: a favourite haunt for “new-to-me” recipe books.  Today, I bought Richard Olney’s 1997 Good Cook’s Encyclopedia in perfect condition for £3.00.  It has a wealth of reference information with great photos: want to pluck and draw a gamebird? shirr eggs? make a puff pastry basket?  I love those kind of cookbooks, it seems such a comfort to know I have the instructions somewhere, even though I will never in this life pluck and draw a partridge (but I might yet attempt a souffle!)

The book has an interesting method for slow frying roast potatoes.  In the spirit of relaxed, fuss free family cooking, I thought I should try it out.  Usually, fried tatties in our house are the leftover boiled potatoes from the night before, served re-heated in a skillet with bacon and eggs for breakfast.  However, this method is done from raw in a large, deep frying pan, with a lid, or a shallow pot in oil/butter so that they sort of steam, roast and fry all at the same time.  My thinking was it would certainly save oven space on the weekends  if decent roast potatoes can be done on the stove and not in it.  We shall see!

Method:

Cut your potatoes into even chunk sizes.  If using regular small potatoes, then there will be no need to trim them to size, and you can keep the skins on too if you like.  Wash and pat dry your potatoes with kitchen towel to try to get rid of any starch; I used 500g of “new” potatoes, of varying sizes from a “Basics” range bag from Sainsbury that cost £1.  I threw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves too as suggested.

Warm enough butter or oil (or combination of both as I used) in a suitable pot or deep frying pan to coat the potatoes.  Add the potatoes and garlic cloves.  Set over a low heat, I used the smallest gas ring on the lower setting but I might use a diffuser too next time.  They are supposed to take around 30 minutes, during which time you wipe off the excess moisture a couple of times from inside the lid to stop water dripping back into the pan.  After 30 minutes and checking the potatoes are soft, you then take the lid off and let all the moisture evaporate for another 10 minutes.

Slow Roast Potatoes, 20 Mins into Cooking Time

Slow Roast Potatoes, 20 Mins into Cooking Time

And the result?  After 30 minutes they were perfectly cooked, and after a further 10 minutes, then drained on kitchen paper, they were superb.  I thought they would be a bit limp and soggy, but not at all.  They were slightly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy delish on the inside, more akin to the sweetness you would expect of a baked potato.  They did not stay crispy for ages, but in our house, they would be eaten up immediately so that would never be an issue.  Also, perhaps I had too few in too large a pan, so they coloured up a little more than I expected, and I did use too much oil/butter, the method says to coat and I probably drenched…But hey, am not complaining, these were fab and they suit my needs.  I may just have expanded the old repertoire!

The Good Cook’s Encyclopedia is still available at Amazon, I can thoroughly recommend it if you need a decent “how to” manual and don’t trust the t’internet to tell you the right thing or get fed up with search engines constantly returning rubbish from amateurs like myself…

UNSUBSCRIBE me from this Blagging about Blogging…

Carrot & Cardamom Soup

Oh, plus a recipe for Carrot and Cardamom Soup. Just scroll past the next paragraph or two if all you were looking for was a soup recipe 😉

Rant:

Blaggers and Bullshitters.  I am unsubscribing from a few blogs and twitters from fellow family cooking types because I cannot stand feeling this inadequate.  One blogger/blagger, allegedly in one day from her tweets and posts, wrote three paid-for food articles, baked and decorated two paid-for cakes to order, supervised a playdate for an impossibly named child (Phelia or Persephi or some other silly name that embarrassingly lays naked parental social aspirations) where they all made scrummy kiddie cupcakes together–beautifully photographed of course–and then, if that wasn’t enough, felted her own hand-knitted shit in the washing machine while cooking a delicious multi-course anniversary meal from scratch for her husband.  And she has previously trumpeted that she crochets her own bikinis, thus leading one to believe she also looks good in a bikini.  Bullshit.  If this woman is real, there are one of two things going on: either a dangerously overactive thyroid or some massive over-compensation complex, either of which require immediate medical attention.  But, I now reckon she is manufactured, a conglomerate persona run by some marketing company or another to try to sell stuff by sucking you into some unachievable idea of womanhood, probably via concealed product placement or other mind-bending psychomarketing ploys.  I am so on to you now, you blaggers who blog!

By 10am this morning, I have cleaned the cats tray, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned the oven, made beds, put on a laundry and cut up veg for soup.  I might make risotto later on after I have done my exam marking but I am already knackered.  I am sincerely hoping not to have to go pick up any groceries today, I think there is just enough milk and bread, etc. to do us until at least tomorrow.  So there.  That’s reality and I promise never to lie about it…rant over.  Actually I lied already, I haven’t made my bed yet.

 
 

Soup Ingredients


Carrot and Cardamom Soup Recipe:

 

Not fond of carrot and coriander soup, sometimes tastes like fairy liquid to me, so thought I would try cardamom instead as I love that light, lemony fragrant taste. 

 

 

Ingredients for 4:

  • 1.5 lb Carrots, 700g, washed and chopped into medium to large dice, just helps with the blending later on
  • A few pale, inside stalks of Celery because that is what I had in the fridge, the outer ones were a bit tough, ropey and stringy and I could not be fagged destringing celery–life being too short to stuff a mushroom and all that
  • 1 small Leek, sliced, again because it was in the fridge looking lonely
  • Three or four Shallots, minced
  • Couple of cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 6 whole Cardamom pods
  • 1 Bay Leaf for fun
  • Squeeze of lemon, lime or orange, whatever citrus you fancy
  • 2 Pints thin Vegetable Stock, I made up mine from a tub of Marigold Vegetable Bouillon

Method:

Gently soften the onion, leek, celery, shallots and garlic in a large heavy based pot, your choice of oil or butter, I use olive oil with a little bit of butter too.  Add in the cardamom pods and turn up the heat just a little bit till they start to release their fragrance, which is subtle but if you leave the kitchen and come back the scent is glorious.  Add in the carrots.  Sweat for 5 minutes, then add in a bay leaf and the stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for around 35 minutes until the carrots are very soft.  Remove the bay leaf.  Fish around for the cardamoms, which will in all likelihood be floating (apart from one, there’s always one!), squish out the softened seeds into the soup and discard the husks. After blending, taste and season with salt/pepper and citrus.  I did not add any salt as the lemon was enough.

Some recipes call for grinding the cardamom in a pestle and mortar or adding it in later, after the soup has cooked as a sort of powder mix-through.  This is just wrong.  Asian spices need to fry to release their flavours and fragrances.  I know because I lived in Asia for five years.  Cardamoms soften and slightly open themselves with a little heat.

And the taste?  As I suspected it would be, lightly fragrant and lemony, with a really good colour, far deeper orange than the pic shows.

Cheese and Egg Fluffy Baked Pudding

Recipe: Cheese and Egg Fluffy Baked Pudding

Fluffy Baked Cheese and Egg

Fluffy Baked Cheese and Egg

 

I know this is a bit of a weird one but it reminds me of my aunt, a farmer’s wife, and of eating this dish round the big farmhouse kitchen table after the harvest one late night.  There seemed to be scores of workers in the field racing to bring in whatever the crop was, probably hay.  When we were done my uncle lifted me up on his shoulders to see an enormous yellow harvest moon, so big and close I thought we could just go there.  I was about 7 I think at the time.

This is a typically frugal farming dish, costs next to nothing to make, and fills you up!

Ingredients to serve 4 for a supper or hot lunch dish:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 Eggs, separated into white and yolks
  • 300ml or 1/2 pint of Milk
  • 75g of fresh Breadcrumbs
  • 100g grated strong Cheddar or flavoursome hard cheese, I used Lincolnshire Poacher
  • Seasoning

Method:

Grease a 2 pint/1.5 litre casserole or other oven proof dish with the butter.  The dish does bake onto the sides, so it is worth doing this properly.  Beat the egg yolks with the milk, place in the dish and stir in the breadcrumbs and cheese.  Season and set aside for about 15 minutes.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.  Bake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius, 400 degrees Farneheit until the pudding rises and browns with a beautiful crunch on the top, 30 minutes give or take.  Serve immediately with a side salad and nice bread.

BTW: the picture above is my very first attempt with a hokey, home made cobbled together light soft box to try to get a more natural light feel, I took this pic about 6.30 pm, pitch black outside, no flash.  I am super pleased with the result, and if you think I am easy pleased, you should see the other pix on this site…I had to start making yellow food to blog about when the clocks changed.

Easy Glazed Carrots

Recipe: Easy Glazed Carrots

Glazed Carrots with Caraway

Glazed Carrots with Caraway

 Glazed carrots is yet one more dish that has about a billion blogger versions.  So, to add to the general congestion on the internet where you can hardly find what you are looking for, here’s yet another one, hooray!  But, in my humble opinion, this method is quicker, easier and not as fiddly as about 20+ versions I have taken a look at so far. The provenance of this recipe is that my cousin is a chef, so, thanks v. much Billy, great dish, only sorry my photography does not really do it justice.

Ingredients: 

As a side vegetable for 4, I reckon on 1 medium-large sized carrot per adult, which works out to about 500g or 1 pound of carrots.  Glazing carrots can turn very ordinary supermarket carrots into something quite special, so freshness is more important than origin, variety or regularity in shape or size. 

Salted butter, around 25g or an ounce per 500g/1 lb.  Use more and the result can be a little “greasy”.  If you use unsalted butter, add in a little salt to the cooking water.  I do not add sugar, carrots have natural sugars enough and adding more sugar o rhoney can make this cloyingly sickly sweet.

Method: 

Carrot Batons, with a Lemon for Scale

Carrot Batons, with a Lemon for Scale

Wash the carrots (scrub if really dirty) and cut off the top and tail.  I don’t peel them as the vitamins lie just beneath the skin, and peeling is just more work frankly. 

I like cutting baton shapes, these are slightly thicker than julienne strips which can easily overcook and, especially for kids, can be a challenge to get on a fork.  Rondels remind me of school lunches, shudder, and seem to want to clump together in the pot.  Whatever shape, the aim is to achieve roughly the same thickness and length to ensure even cooking.

Place the batons in a suitable pot of cold water. The carrots + water should come up no more than half-way in the pot you are using with the water barely covering the carrots.  Add in the knob of butter.  

 Bring to the boil and just keep bubbling away without a lid until the water disappears, this takes about 25 minutes for carrots for 4 people.  I have been known to accelerate this process on the big wok gas burner on my range if the rest of dinner is ready, though this does make washing the pot afterwards a  bit of a chore!  As the water evaporates, the butter creates a lovely carmelized glaze.  Towards the end of cooking, ie for the last couple of minutes, shake the pot and toss the carrots so they are all coated in the glaze.  This also stops them sticking and burning.  Don’t be tempted to stir with a spoon, as this can break the carrots up.

Serving suggestions: a garnish of fresh parsley or fresh thyme is always lovely.  Lightly toasting caraway seeds by throwing in a teaspoonful towards the end of cooking and as things are carmelizing are very good too.

Home Oven Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recipe: Home Oven Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Home Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Home Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

As I was preparing the butternut squash for my spicy soup recipe at the weekend, I wondered if the squash seeds I was about to bin could be roasted at home.  Turns out they so can, geez, who knew?  Apparently thousands of American bloggers, that’s who.  So, I started the long, sometimes painful trawl through scores of blog methods for roasting pumpkin seeds. 

Wow, are there multiple ways of doing this.  Some call for soaking for days in the fridge, changing the water, boiling in salted water first, shelling, not shelling, short roasting at high temps, long roasting at low temps, I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of ways of making one thing.  The upshot was what I was looking for had to be quick, not hard and not fiddly, and I found this method below in a comment on another comment buried deep in a very obscure blog.  You don’t have to do the research people, because we do it for you here at Hampshirecook…

Ingredients:

  • Whatever comes out of your pumpkin/squash.  I used a butternut squash and got a couple of ounces, around 50g of seeds.
  • Olive Oil
  • Celery Salt

Method:

Heat oven to 200 degrees.  Separate the seeds from the gloopy, stringy orangey stuff by placing whatever you scooped out the pumpkin cavity in a bowl of water and whooshing around with your hand.  The seeds float away from the stringy stuff, which sinks to the bottom. This is by far the fiddliest bit, but only takes a couple of minutes.  Next, put seeds in a colander, rinse under the tap.  Then put the seeds in another bowl of clean water with a couple of teaspoons of salt in.  Leave for 10 mins.  Drain this, pat seeds dry (well dryish, I wasn’t too particular about this) with kitchen towel.

Next, in a small roasting pan, coat the seeds with olive oil and sprinkle generously with celery salt.  I probably was a bit heavy-handed with the old olive oil, I would maybe think next time a dessertspoon would be enough.  Place in oven.  Every couple of minutes, whoosh round with a spatula.  After about 15 minutes they start exploding in your oven.  They are, at that point, done.  Take out, but beware of popping pumpkin seeds and potential eye disasters…

If they make it into a bowl before you have wolfed down the lot, I will be very surprised.  Ours did not last 10 minutes, I had to grab the bowl from myself to take the photo, whereupon my hub said “Had enough of these, OK if I just finish them off?”  and promptly did.  They were absolutely gorgeous.  And we are not even very fond of the shop bought kind, it’s like, something we never buy.