Ragù e polenta

Ragù e polenta
Ragù e polenta

😃 This is a guest post by none other than Devvers! 😃

The other Sunday we finally had time to do some slow cooking, and after looking through “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan, we decided to make ragù and polenta.

For those of you which are not familiar with this book, it is an encyclopaedia of Italian cooking; there is a section talking about ingredients and techniques and every recipe is detailed and precise. It truly is kitchen essential, and definitely worth investing in.

The ragù took about four and a half hours to make, so it can’t be rushed. We served the ragù on top of the polenta and grated plenty of parmesan cheese on top – delicious!

So, to the recipes: Continue reading “Ragù e polenta”

Flatafels, falapatties, frifels, falatters, frittatela, frittafels…

A mountain of falafels

Ingredients

  • 1 onion peeled
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 500g soaked chickpeas (from 250 dried)
  • 6 sprigs of parsley, picked
  • a bunch of coriander (leaves and top part of stem)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp gram flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Preparation

  1. Soak chickpeas overnight or 8+ hours with plenty of water (they might double in weight)
  2. Roughly chop the onion, garlic, and herbs on a food processor

    Before chopping garlic, coriander, etc
    Before chopping garlic, coriander, etc
  3. Add chickpeas and chop them too
  4. Tip the mix to a large bowl
  5. Mix in the spices, sesame seeds, salt, flour and baking powder. Combine all well together.
  6. Add oil to a pan and bring to a high heat
  7. Now, you can use damp hands to shape bits of the mix into balls or patties, or you can use two wooden spoons which is what I did, using one to scoop the mix out and the other one to flatten it a bit before placing it on the pan. Once it’s in the pan and it has settled a bit, I delicately flatten it further using the spoon.
  8. After a while, you will want to delicately turn them around, once they’re browned on one side.  Be careful not to do it too early or they might crumb and break!
    Four falafel fritters, browning
  9. When they are browned on both sides, take them out of the pan.
  10. You might want to add a bit more oil for the next batch.
  11. Repeat until you’re done with all the mix!

Background

I had a really disappointing experience with some supermarket-bought falafel recently. It was dry and crumbly, had no taste or kick whatsoever, and all in all, it was utterly dissatisfying. I should have known better, I know. I guess I was just very hopeful that day 😜

“Of course”, I thought, “it can’t be that hard to make falafel myself, as chickpeas are basically foolproof”.

So I searched for a falafel recipe. I found lots from US based writers which used ingredient names I’m not familiar with and I was quite suspicious of, and I was starting to feel a bit disappointed, until I had an illumination, and searched for “falafel honey and co”.

And my wish for a trustworthy looking recipe was fulfilled: Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer —or essentially, the “heads” of Honey & Co— went to Women’s Hour in BBC Radio 4, and shared their falafel recipe there.

BUT I do not have a fryer, and I didn’t want to use a lot of oil to fry the falafels. So I ended up flattening them; I figured that would increase the surface that was exposed to the heat. Which turned them into flat falafels. Or like chickpea fritters. Or patties. Or… any combination of the above. You can’t say cooking isn’t creative…

The end result isn’t the prettiest, but the taste was really good, and that’s even if I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter: I forgot to add a green chilli, and I doubled the amount of other ingredients so I could have a larger batch… except for baking powder and spices, which I wasn’t quite confident about (specially baking powder-it’s got a great ability to ruin things if you add too much of it). Also, their recipe doesn’t mention sesame seeds in the list of ingredients, but then it does when it asks you to add sesame seeds to the mix. And you’re left wondering: “WHICH sesame seeds?!”

The fantastic garlic kick reminded me a bit to the cod croquettes which my grandma used to make (except you can’t find fishbones, yay!). It even made me think that maybe it could also work if adding pine nuts, like in my grandma’s recipe. After all, there are very few things in the world that will not be improved by adding pine nuts to them.

They combined well with salad, as they can be a bit dry on their own.

Falafel with salad

Maybe a yoghurt and cucumber sauce could work too, but we didn’t have any on the fridge. Instead, I tried making a very purist allioli, with just garlic and olive oil, but it didn’t work, mostly because I was using a blender instead of a pestle and mortar. Something to experiment with some other day. That said, the garlic and oil sauce was great anyway—and we felt very confident that no vampire would get close to our household, haha!

Honey & co don’t recommend reheating, but I did warm them slightly on the microwave the next day before placing them on top of my salad and they were still very nice.

A final warning: this dish is a bit laborious; chopping the ingredients can be tiring if your blender decides to get temperamental (as mine did), and you might need to do it in small batches so it takes longer than it should. I’d personally advise making this on a day where you can take your time and not fall asleep over the bowl. Or getting a mega food processor and blitzing through the chickpeas in two nanoseconds (so to speak!) 🙂

Roasting all the things

We didn’t really know what to have for dinner, but we also had a lot of random vegetables that we had to eat before they went off. One pepper… another single potato… an aubergine… a fennel… What to do with all these bits and pieces?

The answer, obviously: roast all of them in the oven!

Then we had them with some olive oil (of course), a bit of chorizo and a fried egg (“for protein” 😅). And I made a salad for lunch the following day ✌🏻

Ingredients

Basically any random vegetable that you might have in your fridge, but in our case:

  • 1 potato
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 fennel
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Pebrella (if you have it) or oregano
  • A piece of chorizo (optional)
  • One egg per person (optional)

If you skip the chorizo and eggs, this could be a totally vegan dish. Do as you feel!

Preparation

  1. Put some water on a pot so we can lightly boil the fennel before roasting it (that way it will be tender). Set the heat to high.
  2. Set the oven to 200C
  3. Cut any ugly bits off the fennel, chopping off the ends and perhaps the outside leaves. Wash off any soil. When the water is boiling, add the fennel to it.
  4. Prepare one or more trays (depending on how many vegetables you want to get rid off), oiling them lightly or perhaps adding some aluminum wrap if you don’t want things to stick to your tray
  5. Peel or wash very thoroughly the potato (sometimes I like to keep the skin), and slice lengthwise. Lightly cut the flat sides so they get better cooked. Then place on the trays.
  6. The aubergine is pretty tedious to peel, so I don’t. Wash it carefully and slice it like the potato, and place on the tray too.
  7. Peel a few garlic cloves, slice them and place them on the aubergine slices. It adds a nice garlicy flavour!
  8. Peel the onion, slice it in four parts and place on the tray.
  9. When the fennel seems to have softened a bit, take it out of the pot, and (slice in 3 or 4 parts, place in tray)
  10. This is our tray of things that will take longer to cook: Aubergine, potato, fennel and onion
    Add a bit of olive oil and salt, and place in the oven so it starts cooking. 
  11. And now for the tray of delicate things that take less to cook: the tomatoes and pepper.
  12. Wash the pepper and slice longitudinally. Remove any seeds, and place on the tray.
  13. Wash the tomatoes and slice in somehow thick slices (don’t go too thin or they just evaporate down to nothing). Place in the tray, and then add some olive oil to everything, and sprinkle with pebrella or oregano over the tomatoes.  And place it in the oven.Pepper and tomatoes on the tray
  14. Keep an eye on the food as it cooks. Some things take less to cook, so you might need to take a tray out and remove some of the ingredients to prevent things from burning. Vegetables being roasted in the oven
    TIP: If it’s hard to look at the tray underneath because the oven light is on top, you can use your mobile phone’s flashlight function as a “lantern”.
  15. When things are cooked to your liking (e.g. some people prefer the potatoes more done and crispy, others prefer them tender…), arrange them in dishes, ready to serve. Roasted vegetables
  16. Optional: Right after turning the heat in the oven off, take a piece of chorizo, peel the skin off, slice it in two and place them in the oven to gently warm up while we cook the eggs. This will release its smokiness and soften the fats, so it’ll take a darker colour. Chorizo pieces
  17. Optional: Fry the eggs, and place on the dishes. Fried egg
  18. Add some paprika on top of the potatoes. I’m using smoked paprika like the one in this recipe.
  19. And there we go! Ready to eat 😋

Roasted vegetables with egg and chorizo

We had never roasted fennel before, and this was such a nice surprise. It turns way mellower than when raw, and the aniseed flavour is sort of surfing on top of a gentle wave of sweetness. It conjured visions of walking across fields on a slightly chill, crisp Autumn Sunday morning; muddy boots and all.

You would wonder: can a roasted fennel do ALL THAT to your mind? And my answer is that the only way to find out is to try it by yourself.

 

Thai (?) green curry

Thai green curry

Note: I’m not from Thailand, so please excuse any horrible things I did to your (sort of) national dish 🙂

I had a horrible day/week, and was really upset by various things that had happened, so I decided the best way to leave that behind me was to focus on cooking something comforting.

Somehow I thought of green curry, but I had not cooked this in a very long time—would I still remember how to do it?

For extra challenge, I decided to try and make it vegan, which is not very hard as the only ingredient from animal source is the chicken. I replaced it with tofu instead. Done!

Continue reading “Thai (?) green curry”