Archive for the ‘Easy’ Category

Cabbage slaw and a miso ginger mayonnaise dressing staple

7 January 2021

More often than not, in winter, this will be lunch.

I could buy January King cabbage for its looks alone — and yes, in food looks do matter, particularly in the dead of winter! — but it is also the mildest and crunchiest and most delicious of cabbages. I discovered January King since moving to London and it now constantly lives in our fridge in winter (except when it disappears too quickly), and has rescued and will save a thousand meals.

Many of which in this house are compiled from bread and cheese and ham or saucisson, pickled herring and smoked trout. Usually some form of raw vegetable (in summer cucumber and tomatoes, later fennel, carrot, kohlrabi!), soup, or salad — in winter sometimes this endive salad or, more often, cabbage slaw, particularly when January King is in season.

But red or white cabbage will also do, and a jar of the miso mayonnaise dressing lives in the fridge on standby so this can come together in a few minutes, the time it takes to slice the cabbage.

Cabbage slaw with a staple miso ginger dressing

January King is my favourite winter cabbage when it is available, otherwise white or red cabbage, or a combination of both.

I try to always have a jar of this dressing on hand in the fridge; it makes a large jar and can be kept for weeks.

2 Tbsps miso
2 Tbsps mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
A small piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Juice from half a lemon
50ml (scant 1/4 cup) cider vinegar
100ml (scant 1/2 cup) olive oil
Large pinch of salt

In a large jam jar (with a lid), mix together the miso, mayonnaise, mustard, and grated ginger until well combined.

Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil, and salt, close the lid tightly and shake vigorously until the dressing is emulsified and looks homogenous.

Halve the cabbage, remove any wilted outer leaves, cut the half into wedges, then slice each wedge into thin strips.

Toss the cabbage with a few tablespoons of dressing and keep the rest of the in the fridge for future instant lunches.

Tahini date banana smoothie

29 December 2020

It is the end of year parenthesis. The time, finally, when it is ok to not cook.

The feeling usually nags on Christmas morning. Usually, so much has happened since the 31st of October — Halloween, Thanksgiving, three birthdays in the mix with one on the 23rd of December (!), each, usually, a celebration here with friends, children, family, dinner, parties, … By the 25th, Christmas lunch is the one meal I never really want to cook. (Of course, we always do.) The moment I look forward to is the parenthesis, the in-between time, when the imperatives have receded and all that is left is a nondescript sluggish present of films, puzzles, games, a walk, or forgetting to go out altogether. Having a smoothie for lunch.

This year the listlessness is different. Every period since March has been a parenthesis. The first ‘lockdown,’ hunkered down patiently until everything, it was said, would get back to normal; Summer, a breath, a change of place, but restricted still, different — another parenthesis. Back to London, back to school, this time we are expecting it, we know things will soon change again. This endless succession of unusual times, slipping from one parenthesis to the next, is what we have become accustomed to. We know not to settle, however uncomfortably, into any status quo. Nonetheless the recent sudden shutdown a few days before Christmas, at the outset of winter, feels particularly disheartening. — I know this, too, will be just another parenthesis.

Or at what point does this become the main text? There is a potent urge to resist it. For now, in the gap, I’ve made myself a smoothie for lunch.

Banana date tahini smoothie
Inspired by a smoothie from The Good Egg in Soho during the minute-and-a-half in December when it was possible to go to an exhibition and have lunch in a restaurant.

Makes two large or three medium smoothies

3 small or 2 large ripe bananas
4 dates
4 Tbsps (100ml or 1/4 cup) light tahini
Juice from 1/2 lemon (more according to taste)
3 Tbsps yogurt
4 ice cubes (optional)
150ml (1/2 cup) milk (oat, almond, or cow)
Drizzle of date syrup (optional)

Cut the bananas and dates roughly into chunks and place in a blender or food processor. Add the tahini, lemon juice, yogurt, and ice cubes (omit the ice if you prefer a very thick smoothie). Start blending and add the milk in gradually. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and add lemon juice as needed.

Serve in a large glass with a drizzle of date syrup if you happen to have some.

Leek and lemongrass trout

19 November 2020

Saturday came on the heels of a rather glum Friday when our predicament and the ever-encroaching mid-afternoon twilight seemed to suck most of the bounce out of my step. In which moment it is good to spend most of the drizzly weekend day on the sofa finishing a book.

When, wholly unexpectedly, a friend drops by unannounced bearing an enormous trout that he just caught in Walthamstow reservoirs. The mood was lastingly shifted. It’s ok to wallow for a day; tomorrow, often, things will look up!

Leek and lemongrass trout

One or two trout(s) depending on the size
4 leeks
5 or 6 spring onions
2 lemongrass stalks
1 or 2 fresh chillis
Half a lime
A small piece of ginger
Sunflower oil
Rice wine vinegar
Light soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

To gut the trout (unless the fishmonger has done it), cut a slit through half of the fish’s belly up to its head and pull out all the insides.

To prepare the leeks: cut off the ends, remove any tough outer leaves, wash any obvious soil/grit, then slice very thinly and wash again in a bowl of cold water. Drain well.

To prepare the spring onions: cut off the ends and remove the outer layer of green. Rinse briefly under running water. Slice the stalks at a slant into disks. Use the same method to prepare the lemongrass.

Rinse, cut open and remove the seeds, and thinly slice the chillis into rings.

Cut the lime into half moons. Peel and slice the piece of ginger.

Drizzle a little oil all over an oven dish. Scatter the leeks in a long oval where the trout will lie. Toss with about a teaspoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of soya sauce. Place the trout on top of the seasoned leeks. Stuff the trout’s cavity with the lime and ginger. Scatter the lemongrass, spring onions, and chillis over the trout. Drizzle again with about one teaspoon rice vinegar and one tablespoon soya sauce.

Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the trout(s). (With fish I prefer to be extra careful and err on the side of underbaking, and if necessary putting the fish back into the oven for a few minutes.)

Related post:

Trout in a paper package

Anzac biscuits

22 May 2020

Anzac day commemorates the arrival of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand (the ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corps’ = ANZAC) at Gallipoli in 1915 to help the Allies fight against the Ottoman Empire during WWI. It has become the defining Australian national holiday, and is celebrated with Anzac biscuits.

Recipes vary, mostly just in quantities, as the ingredients are pretty set: oats, coconut flakes, butter, sugar, flour, golden syrup, and no eggs. This last point contributed to the biscuit’s history (or mythology) as overseas war care packages, since the absence of egg made them more durable.

We’re always happy to adopt traditions, especially when they involve food, and these biscuits deserve to be made much more frequently than just on Anzac day, as has become the case in this house.

I’ve tried quite a few recipes over time and tweaked them to achieve less sweetness without losing chewiness. I like how these turn out.

 

***

ANZAC biscuits recipe

100 g (1 cup) rolled oats (or porridge oats, see note in the first step)
125 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
80 g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
Squeeze of golden syrup (or honey)
1 Tbsp water
100 g (1 cup) flour
75 g (1 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt

Blend the oats in a food processor briefly, just until they become coarsely ground but not too fine. ***I know this is an annoying extra step but it helps with chewiness. Otherwise use finer porridge oats.***

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup, and water, and warm over a low heat until the butter has melted and the ingredients are well combined.

Turn off the heat and add the oats, flour, coconut, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and moist throughout.

Divide the dough into two, onto narrow sheets of parchment paper. The dough will be soft but not runny — use the parchment paper to roll the dough into logs of approximately the same diameter. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F). Take the cookie dough logs out of the fridge and let them warm up a little at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Once slightly softened, cut the logs into 1cm (1/3 inch) slices. Place the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and reshape the dough a bit into soft edged cookies.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes until golden. Let cool on the baking sheet as the biscuits are still soft and crumbly when they come out of the oven.

Once cool, store in a cookie tin or glass jar. I hear they can keep for up to two weeks …

 

Lamb with hummus, salad, and tahini

18 September 2019
New photo from 13 June 2022

For the last days of summer, a few more weeks of tomatoes and, with luck, another dinner or two outside.

I am incapable of meal planning; rather the opposite. I rarely know in the morning what we will have for dinner tonight, and who can possibly know on a Sunday what they will want to eat on Wednesday? I realize it makes much organizational sense, but food here is not so much a practical matter as an impulse and a craving, even within the confines and limits of the daily humdrum of cooking for six.

And so the necessity for fast food. One could of course have made the hummus and the flatbreads oneself, but that hasn’t so far fitted into the picture of having dinner ready in twenty minutes.

It’s a family favourite, through the ages. We make it often, while tomatoes last.

Lamb with hummus, salad, and tahini
I’ve not made hummus in a long time, though I’ve had a fantastic recipe for years, which I must eventually share

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and flat leaf parsley
Red onion (optional)
*
Light tahini (sesame paste)
Fresh lemon juice
Water
*
Onions (about half an onion per person)
Garlic (one small clove per person)
Olive oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Minced lamb (about 100g per person)
Cumin and fennel seeds, ground in a mortar
*
Hummus (home made or good store bought)
*
Sumac
*
Warm flatbread or other good bread to serve

For the tahini sauce: Put a few tablespoonfuls of tahini paste into a bowl, pour a little lemon juice, and stir. Incrementally add lemon juice and a little water, until the tahini has achieved a desired, runny consistency and just the right amount of acidity. **The tahini will initially thicken before it becomes runny with added liquid.**

For the salad: Wash and chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley into a salad. Very thinly slice the red onion, if using. Lightly season with olive oil and lemon juice.

For the lamb:
Peel and chop the onions. Smash, peel, and roughly chop the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Brown the onions over medium heat until just beyond deep golden, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or two until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and set aside.

Turn up the heat to high and brown the meat, in batches if necessary. **The meat will release some liquid and start to stew rather than brown if the pan is too crowded.**drizzle

Mix the onions and garlic into the meat and season with cumin, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper.

To serve:

Slather the plate with a few tablespoons of hummus. Place the spiced lamb over the hummus, then the salad, and, finally, drizzle some tahini and sprinkle with sumac. Serve with warm pita or toasted bread.

 


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