Month: June 2014

In a pickle!

Two of my favourite vegetables to buy and forget about are fennel and radishes. I see them in bunches at markets and cant but grab them for a mid week salad. Except I forget about them or couldn’t be bothered slicing them up so they inevitably wilt and become sad specimens in my crisper. So my solution? Pickle them! I adore pickled vegetables and when done at home they can be a great addition to a quick salad and can be complimented easily with many other ingredients.

So how do you pickle at home? It’s as simple as creating a pickle brine, bringing it to the boil and immersing the cut vegetables into it, placing them in a jar and a day or two later you are good to go! When it is this easy it is definitely a great solution to throwing out your produce. Of course, fresh produce is always lovely but a bit of a pickle never hurt now and again!

Another great pickled veg mix is the Italian Giardiniera mix. Carrots, capsicum, cauliflower and zucchini are all floreted and sliced to create a colourful combination great as an anti-pasto compliment or just on the table before a meal. Buono!  The old school mix sometimes slices the carrots with a serrated slicer or includes beans but I like to julienne them on a mandolin just for presentation on the other side of the jar. But do what takes your fancy and enjoy!

What do you eat your pickled vegetables with?

Pickled fennel loves: orange segments, fresh grated beetroot and apple, green beans and prosciutto

Pickled radish loves: lettuce and tomato in a salad, a peppery touch to salad sandwhiches or with ham

Giardiniera mix loves: salamis and prosciutto, grilled vegetables or just tossed through a lettuce salad

These are just my favourites, by all means experiment and enjoy! Just try and make them last once they are in the fridge. I can often be found with a fork in hand eating them from the jar standing in front of the open fridge door. But shhh….don’t tell anyone!

Basic Pickle Mix (makes approx 2 litres, enough to pickle all the vegetable mixes)

1l white wine

1l white vinegar (you can use apple cider or brown malt vinegar if it takes your taste buds fancy)

1 cup of white sugar

1 tbsp salt

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 dried chillis (optional if you like a little spice – I didn’t have them in the mixes below)

Method

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves

Remove from heat and pour over vegetables

Allow the vegetables to steep and add to jars, these will keep in fridge for about 2 weeks if you use utensils to remove from jars, avoid the temptation of wandering fingers!

NB: Sterilise jars in boiling water to ensure freshness and to keep the pickles for longer

Pickled Fennel

1-2 Large fennel bulbs sliced finely on a mandolin and steeped in mix above

Giardiniera Mix

3 Carrots

1 capsicum

3 small zucchini

½ cauliflower

Julienne all vegetables, keeping zucchini to the side, cut cauliflower into small florets

Steep in hot liquid, add the zucchini when cooled to keep the green colour

Pickled Radish

Remove green from whole radishes, cut in half for small and quarters for large, steep in mix above

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Buying your pumpkin and eating it too! How to make sure you make the most of pumpkins in your fridge

When the weather turns cold you can’t but help to think of warming dishes such as stews, casseroles and roast meats. The usual suspects also feature – roast vegetables. I am a big fan of roast vegetables as to me it brings out the sweetness and flavour of the root vegetables giving them a satisfying and unique flavour.

Alas not all vegetables for roasting are root vegetables and pumpkins are one of the exceptions. Their inviting orange flesh can be used for sweet or savoury dishes and it is very universal vegetable (fruit if we are being particular with the seeds/flowers and all) to prepare.

One pumpkin can be a task to get through for a single person or even a couple, so what do you do when you have a whole or even half a pumpkin rolling around in your crisper?

As mentioned, the most popular choice would be roast pumpkin closely followed by the sweet counterpart of pumpkin scones. Again, these tackle some of the pumpkin’s offerings but how do you utilise it without having an array of pots and pans?

I roasted my pumpkin two ways. One features garlic salt whilst the other is given a spicy kick with a chilli and lime salt. You can roast all the pumpkin at once, but create some different flavours to keep the leftovers interesting. No one really enjoys eating the exact same thing three days in a row and this is a way of mixing up the flavours whilst not wasting your crisper contents.

Another advantage of the roasted pumpkin is that it can easily be transformed into soup and frozen for later. I actually prefer to roast my pumpkins and blend with stock for soup as I feel that just simmering the pumpkins doesn’t bring out the depth of flavour they achieve with roasting. If you have some chicken stock ready to go in the freezer as featured in my last blog, it can be as simple as giving the stock a simmer, blending in the pumpkin and dinner is served. Pretty simple right?

Try also pureeing some of the pumpkin after giving it a steam to keep the water content down and have it frozen ready for scone making or thin it down with the chicken stock as soup for more versatility too.

Roast pumpkin is fabulous tossed through leafy green salads or even in a potato salad for a splash of colour and a kick of flavour. They can also be mashed up and folded through a potato mash for a bit of different side to your roast, sausages or casseroles.

However you like your pumpkins they are great vegetable to keep on hand. Have a go at some of the recipes below and tell me how you went. Happy cooking!

salmon salad

Recipes

Creating your own flavoured salts doesn’t need to be a task. Having a mortar and pestle or even a decent small blender/spice grinder can have your creating fabulous concoctions that bring your dishes alive.

lime salt

Lime and Chilli Salt Roast Pumpkin

Ingredients:

2-3 tbsp rock salt or course salt for grinding

½ tea spoon chilli powder (adjust according to your spicy preference)

Finely grated zest of 1 lime

Method

Place all ingredients into a mortar and pound with pestle until salt is broken up and flavourings are mixed through. If blending, same method applies

NB: You can use the lime juice to pep up the pumpkin once it is roasted. By using the zest you’re releasing all the fragrant oils into the salt

herb salt

Garlic and Herb Salt

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp rock salt

1 tbsp dried garlic

1 tbsp dried herbs – I used my own dried rosemary

Method: Place all ingredients in mortar and pound with pestle until combined

NB: I use dried garlic and herbs as the oils from fresh garlic can make it hard to sprinkle as it will clump together. If you are basting a meat with blend, use fresh garlic as you can then rub it in. The same applies for the herbs. I dried my own rosemary by handing it upside down in a cool area until the leaves became brittle and is stripped them from the stalk and store in an airtight container

pumpkin on tray

Roast Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

½ roast pumpkin

1l chicken or vegetable stock

4 cloves of roast garlic (if you like, add these with the pumpkin when roasting)

Method

Bring stock to a simmer, blend in pumpkin with stick blender and garlic and season to taste

NB: If you are using an upright blender please do not blend boiling hot stock as it will pop the lid and you can burn yourself – in this instance just ensure your stock is full defrosted if using from freezer or just pour in from the fridge and blend – bring the soup to a simmer once blended.

soup