Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vegetarian Food Blog: 'Greek' Stuffed Peppers


Sweet, soft red peppers filled with a basic tomato-based risotto and currents to keep you interested. This is not nearly as fiddly as it sounds. Tomatoes work well too, just too expensive in Sydney at the moment.

RECIPE: GREEK STUFFED PEPPERS OR CAPSICUMS

6 large red peppers/capsicums
1 large onion, chopped 
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup arborio rice (or other short grain risotto rice)
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1/2 cup currents
2-3 Tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
1 cup tomato puree (or can chopped tomatoes, blended)
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper                                                                         

Preheat oven to 180-200 C or 350-400 F (depending on how hot your oven is).

Heat oil in large or medium pot. Add onion and saute on low heat for about five-ten minutes - until clear. Stir in rice and cook for a minute or two, taking care not to let it catch. Pour wine in and cook until absorbed, stirring a couple of times. Next add currents, pine nuts, half of the tomato puree, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a decent grind of fresh black pepper. 

Once the tomatoes are absorbed add 1 cup water, and cover with lid. Perhaps move to a smaller element so it can cook very slowly. Stir regularly. Once the water is absorbed taste it - the rice should be undercooked, but not too crunchy. Add another 1/2 cup water if necessary and cook gently until absorbed.

Meanwhile, prepare peppers/capsicums. You have several options: Slice the tops off for 6 larger servings, or cut the whole pepper in half lengthways for 12 smaller serves. I've tried a bit of both tonight. Two whole ones for Miles and I to eat for dinner, and a selection of half peppers to take to work for Food Club.

Stand peppers in large, lightly oiled baking dish, preferably one that fits them nice and snug -  a lasagne dish works well. Stuff with rice mixture. Pour rest of the tomato puree and half a cup of water around the peppers, so they are sitting in a bit of liquid. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top if you like, and pop in oven on middle shelf for about 35 mins, or until peppers are very soft.

These are best served warm or at room temperature. Leave them to settle for a bit when you take them out of the oven, or if eating cold the next day be sure to remove from fridge in plenty of time.





Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GINGER CRUNCH


This baked delight was a staple within my childhood treat collection. If you turned up to a friend's for afternoon tea, the cake tins were often filled with homemade ginger crunch.

However, I've just discovered the sweet and spicy slice is some kind of New Zealand specialty. When I took a batch to work last week I was greeted with, 'What's ginger crunch?'

So here's an education, for the Australians and Americans at least. Reduce the ginger if you don't like it spicy. And be mindful that it takes a while to set, so don't plan to serve it right away.

RECIPE: GINGER CRUNCH

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup sugar
125g hard butter, cubed

Topping:
150g butter
4 heaped tablespoons golden syrup
1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
2 Tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons of ground ginger

Heat oven to 180 C/350 F, or if you have an oven like mine just crank it up.

Combine flour, baking powder, ginger and sugar in a food processor if you have one, otherwise a large bowl. Add butter and pulse or rub with fingers until you get a dry crumb. 

Lightly grease a slice tin and generously line with baking paper - so that it goes up sides to allow for easy removal after cooking. Press crumbs into tin with your hands, ensuring sides are just as well-covered, if not more. If it's too thick in the centre it may not cook properly. It will feel very dry.

Bake until golden - better to be a bit over than under done. Depending on your oven, this will take between 25 and 40 mins. 

Meanwhile, prepare topping by first melting butter and golden syrup in small pot over medium heat. It doesn't need to be stirred at this stage. While it's melting, sift icing sugar into a bowl - or use food processor to break really big hard lumps. Stir icing sugar and ginger into liquid over low heat, stirring constantly until dissolved - at least a minute.

Pour over slice and use spatula to even out. Leave to cool and set - if you're in a hurry place in freezer briefly or fridge once it's cooled down. 

Remove from tin and cut into small pieces. Store in airtight container for a few days (if it doesn't get eaten).


Sunday, August 19, 2012

VEGETARIAN FOOD BLOG: SPICED PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP


This is super comfort soup. Super because it contains only ingredients designed to nourish and power your body. And comfort because it's hearty warmth will take the edge off the harshest nights.

Where I'm sitting in Sydney the days are gradually getting warmer, but there's still plenty of opportunities to whip this up before the hot nights hit. If you're up north, mark this one for the coming seasons.

This spiced pumpkin and lentil soup even goes down well at a dinner party. I served it as a starter at my 30th birthday party a while back.



This is my adaptation. Credit where credit's due to the Vegetarian Adventure Cookbook, a New Zealand number by Rowan Bishop and Sue Carruthers that has been part of my kitchen for more than a decade.

A good pumpkin is always the key to an outstanding pumpkin dish. However, I'm happy to report that even average pumpkins come up tasting superb here once the spices and lentil do their work.

RECIPE: SPICED PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP
3/4 cup brown lentils
1 cup water
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1 T butter (optional)
2 T olive oil
1-2 onions, chopped
1/3-1/4 pumpkin (depending on size) chopped roughly
1 cup vegetable stock (I dissolve a cube in boiling water)
extra water if needed
black pepper 
thick yoghurt (compulsory)
chopped fresh coriander (very optional)

Place lentils in small pot with water and lid and bring to the boil, lowering heat to simmer until water absorbed or lentils cooked. This will take about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in large pot and saute onions over medium hear until soft. Turn heat to low and cook spices briefly - only about 30 seconds.

 Prepare stock and add to large pot with pumpkin. Chop pumpkin according to how quickly you want soup to cook. Turn heat up and put lid on until boiling. Lower to simmer and cook until pumpkin mushy. Add 1/2 cup more boiling water if it looks too thick for your liking. Add lentils to soup at whichever point they are done, or nearly done. They will continue cooking with the pumpkin. 

Remove from stove and use stick blender to process, leaving a little bit of texture. It's nice if you can still get a sense of the lentils. Grind over plenty of black pepper, and taste for salt seasoning.

Gently reheat when ready to eat and serve each bowl with a generous dollop of thick creamy yoghurt. Garnish with little chopped coriander if desired (but it's delicious without too).


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