Category Archives: sauces and side dishes

Beetroot crisps

beet crisps

You can make fantastic crisps from all root crops – potatoes being the most obvious and I guess economical choice for commercial producers, but carrots, parsnips, swede and beetroot all work well. You can also use squashes and I believe even kale, though I haven’t tried that one. For me though, the beetroot ones are the most flavoursome, and just look at those colours, potato crisps are frankly boring by comparison.

I have tried making them in various ways over the past few years. I had beginners luck the first time I made them, but have since discovered that they can be tricky to get just right. A few minutes under and they are still a bit soggy, a minute or even a few seconds over and they’re black pieces of beetroot charcoal – albeit very tasty charcoal!

The difficulty comes when you have slices at varying thicknesses and so they crisp at different rates, so the key is to get them as evenly sliced as possible to start with. A good sharp mandolin would be ideal (something I keep meaning to purchase) but I have found that using a vegetable peeler, you can get even slices, they just won’t be round. Luckily I’m not that fussed about the shape of my crisps.

Method:

Preheat your oven to a hot temp (around 240ºc). Wash, trim and peel your beetroot, discarding the trimmings and outside peelings. Then just carry on with the peeler all round until fully peeled. Put the peelings into a large bowl and cover with vegetable oil (be generous, a couple of tablespoons per large beetroot) and with your hands (or a spatula if you don’t want bright red hands afterwards) turn the beetroot slices over in the oil so they are thoroughly coated all over. Then spread them out evenly on baking trays and sprinkle over some sea salt. Put in the oven for around 10 minutes, but from 8 minutes onwards watch them like a hawk. Depending on your oven they may need more or less time.

To be honest though, even if some are slightly moist or some slightly charred, they still taste great. Once ready, tip them into a bowl, add a touch more salt if desired and eat straight away. They don’t really keep, but you won’t find that to be a problem.

beet slices for crisps beet crisps 2

Hasselback potatoes with garlic and thyme

hasselbacks cooked

The first couple of rows of main crop potatoes were dug up at the weekend. You never quite know what you’re going to get when you dig up root crops, and in this case, we didn’t even know what the variety would be. Way back in the spring, a box of mixed left over seed potatoes were offered up by our allotment neighbour. Just enough for 2 rows, with probably 3 or 4 varieties all jumbled up together. There’s a mix of red and yellow. I think the red are probably Desiree, and the yellow ones could be King Edwards or Cara (varieties I know my neighbour is growing). They’ve done pretty well, not a massive yield, a few had been attacked by tiny slugs or eelworm, who eat them from the inside-out, but no complaints for a free harvest.

We took to eating these hasselback potatoes last autumn and over the winter, so it’s nice to have them back on the menu again. As much as the new potatoes have been lovely, there are some things that you just can’t do with a tiny new potato and this is one of them.

I did a lot of weeding through the herb bed while John was digging up our spuds, and after freeing the thyme from the clutches of the bindweed, I decided to pick a few bunches to dry it out at home. I would normally use rosemary in this dish, but while fresh thyme was to hand I used it instead. Either works fine.

Method:

Preheat the oven to a hot temp – around 220-240ºc. This gets them nice and crisp on the outside edges.

1. Take your freshly scrubbed potato, and very carefully slice down across the narrowest width, but make sure not to cut all the way through. You can use a skewer, pierced low down through the length of the potato, to stop you from cutting all the way through, or I’ve also seen a method where the potato is rested on a large serving spoon before cutting. I have tried both and they’re a bit too much hassle for me! Get it – hassle, never mind. I just cut carefully.

2. Place the potatoes (cut side up) into a baking dish. I find it best to use something a little snug to hold the potatoes in their shape, but with a little room so they can open up slightly.

3. Slice a clove or 2 of garlic as thinly as you can, and push the garlic slices down between the slices of potato.

4. Scatter over the herbs, pushing some down into the potato layers, and then season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a glug of oil (olive, rapeseed, posh walnut, homemade chilli infused, whatever takes your fancy).

5. Place in the oven and roast for around 45 mins – 1 hour, depending on the size of your potatoes.

6. Smear over a little butter over when they come out of the oven. Enjoy!

You could experiment quite a bit with this. Such as:

  • a spicy version with chopped fresh or flakes of dry chilli between the layers and maybe a dusting of paprika.
  • a cheesy version with thin slices of cheese between the layers. Not sure if that would work, maybe the cheese would have to go in towards the end of the cooking time?
  • a creamy mustard version, a mixture of cream and wholegrain mustard spread into the layers with a splash of milk over the top to make a sort of hasselback daphnoise?

Just a few thoughts, it’s there to make it your own.

hasselbacks precookedpotatoes dying on soil potato harvest Sept thyme

 

Courgette Bhajis

courgette bhajis1

The courgettes keep on coming, and in return I keep on inventing different ways to use them. I have somehow managed to sneak them into almost every meal over the last few weeks; lots of pasta dishes, risotto, curries and stir-fries, salads, you name it. I am almost at the point of making soup, but I feel that might be a last resort, that or chutney. Not that they don’t make a lovely chutney, just that I have made so much chutney in past years that I have stocks to last me through a nuclear war.

So, as I wondered through the aisles of the supermarket one day, my eye caught sight of some onion bhajis, and after my brain thought ‘mmm bhajies’, in a Homer Simpson type voice, I then thought ‘ooh, I wonder if I could make bhajis with the courgettes?’ Okay they’re a little wetter than onions, but maybe it could work. After a quick internet search it seems (as usual) I’m not the first to have come up with the idea.

I found a couple of specific courgette bhaji recipes that looked quite complex, and in the end decided to adapt a normal onion bhaji recipe.

SourceHow to make the perfect onion bhajis by Felicity Cloake. Original recipe here with my adaptions in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 60g gram flour
  • 30g rice flour (I couldn’t get hold of rice flour, so used all gram)
  • 1 tbsp ghee or butter, melted
  • Juice of ¼ lemon
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds (I didn’t use these)
  • 1-2 hot green chillies (to taste), finely minced
  • 2 tsp root ginger, finely grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Small bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 2 fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional) (I didn’t use)
  • 2 onions, halved, core removed and thinly sliced (I used 1 small onion)
  • Vegetable oil, to cook
  • 1 large or 2 regular sized courgettes, deseeded if they’re large, grated and the excess water squeezed out using a tea towel.

 

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl, then stir in the ghee and lemon juice and just enough cold water to bring it to the consistency of double cream. Stir in the spices, aromatics and herbs and add salt to taste. Stir in the onions and courgette so they are well coated.

At this point, I used a shallow fry method, adding a few cm of oil to a large pan, heating well, and then dropping in a spoonful of the mixture at a time and flipping them over with a spatula after a few minutes. I then put them onto a baking tray lined with parchment and finished them off in the oven for 20 mins or so. However, feel free to use the deep fry method detailed below.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180C, or fill a large pan a third full with oil and heat – a drop of batter should sizzle as it hits the oil, then float. Meanwhile, put a bowl of cold water next to the hob, and a plate lined with kitchen paper. Put the oven on a low heat.

Once the oil is up to temperature, wet your hands and shape tablespoon-sized amounts of the mixture into balls. Drop into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, then stir carefully to stop them sticking. Cook for about four minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden, then drain on the paper and put in the oven to keep warm while you cook the next batch. Serve with chutney or pickle.

These are lovely as the starter or side to a curry dish, but equally nice with a piece of grilled chicken or fish and a salad. Or just eat them as a snack.

courgette bhajis2

Courgette and pea fritters with lemon and feta cheese

courgette fritters1

 

I’m on a courgette glut busting mission this week. We’ve already eaten lots, but one of the two plants I’m growing has set it’s sights on world domination (see photo below), and is producing marrows by the week. I’m determined not to let it beat me. So, throw all the courgettes you can at me mister, I’ll pull out every courgette recipe going and throw them right back at you.

Expect a few courgette recipes over the next few days. I’ll get around to the beetroot soon I promise.

This is the second round of fritters I’ve made, and I’m tweaking and improving them slightly each time, so the recipe might get an update at some point in the future if I ever hit on the perfect fritter. But for now, these are pretty good.

Ingredients highlighted in bold. Makes around 8 fritters.

Grate 1 large or a couple of smaller courgettes into a large colander. Sprinkle a heaped teaspoon of salt over the courgettes and place a plate below the colander. Set aside to drain for 10 mins. In the meantime, beat 2 large eggs into a bowl, add a handful of peas (straight from the freezer is fine), some cubes of feta cheese (around a third of a standard pack), and the grated zest from 1 lemon. Season with a pinch more salt and a good grind of black pepper. Chop or tear a few leaves of basil or mint and add to the mixture.

Take the courgettes and place them into the middle of a clean tea-towel. Gather the sides of the towel up and sqeeze as much of the excess water as you can from the courgettes. Tip them into the egg mixture and add a tablespoon of flour. Mix everything together well.

Heat some oil (I use rapeseed oil) in a shallow pan and drop a dessert spoon of the mixture into the oil. Leave to cook for a few minutes, you might need to pull the sides in a bit here and there, and then using a fish slice, flip the fritter over, and cook the other side. Serve with a slice of lemon on the side to squeeze over.

We ate these at the weekend for brunch with poached eggs and ham, and we’ve also eaten them for dinner with a tuna salad and new potatoes. They’re also great eaten cold as a snack.

courgette plant courgette fritters2 grated courgette

 

 

Courgette parmesan crisps

courgette parmesan crisps2

 

It’s that time of year when I’m finding ways to incorporate courgettes into every dish possible. We’re getting around 5 or 6 courgettes (or zucchinis) per week from 2 plants, and as ever, they’re a delight to start with, but once you’ve had your fill of them, and then the glut really gets going, they start to become a bit overwhelming. Having said that, last year I lost my courgette plants to the slugs, and I missed them so much. I got given some by my allotment neighbours, and I could have easily bought some, but it’s just not the same. I hadn’t realised until then, how much a part of my summer tradition they had become. Who’d have thought it of a little green vegetable that frankly doesn’t even taste of an awful lot. So I vouched never to complain about a courgette glut ever again, so I’m honestly not complaining.

I came across a recipe for courgette parmesan crisps in a gardening book I bought a few months ago, and I decided I really had to try it out. However, it wasn’t the greatest success. The recipe involved baking the courgettes at a very low temperature for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours! After the first hour they still looked pretty uncrisp like, so out of a little impatience I turned the oven up high and pretty soon they crisped up. The only trouble was, I had sliced them very, very thinly, so some went from green to black in seconds. They were tasty, but the cooking time was slightly off putting, and I decided to look for an alternative recipe.

So I went onto the internet, good old Pinterest, and searched for courgette and zucchini crisps, and quickly found this recipe from the blog Five Heart Home, which sounded like a much better solution. These ones turned out perfectly and were delicious, devoured in seconds. Today I did them again but with normal cheddar cheese which worked just as well, it’s just a bit more tricky to spoon evenly onto the slices, but that doesn’t matter too much. I happened to have a bit of lemon zest going spare so threw that on too, and it really worked well, gave them a lovely lemony zing (think lemon cheesecake) so I’ll try that again next time.

I don’t think we’ll have too many glut problems this year, the only problem is getting your share of these once they’re out of the oven!

Slice the courgettes into rounds, around 4 or 5mm thick, and lay them out onto a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper. Press a piece of kitchen paper over them to remove any excess moisture. Sprinkle over some garlic salt, or as I used, garlic granules and a little sea salt, a grinding of black pepper, and then top each slice with a little mound of grated parmesan cheese (easier to do with a teaspoon). Obviously the bigger slices will take more than the smaller ones, so use your judgement, but don’t worry too much, the cheese spreads out as it melts.

Bake in a hot oven (around 220ºc) for 15-20 minutes. I find mine need the full 20 mins, but it might depend on your oven. Eat them while they’re still warm.

courgette crisps raw1 courgette parmesan crisps

Chickpea hummus with roasted garlic

hummus

I am slightly addicted to hummus. If it’s there in the fridge when I’m feeling hungry, I have to find the nearest thing I can to dunk into it. Occasionally when I have the time I make my own from a tin of pre-cooked chickpeas. It’s so easy to do, I should really make it more often. I usually to stick to the traditional ingredients, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini. On this occasion I didn’t have any tahini, but decided it needed an extra kick at the end so added a bit of paprika, which worked well.

garlic harvest

The garlic that has been growing on the plot since autumn, has started to be lifted. The first couple of rows have come up and are drying out in the sun. There’s a couple more rows to come up at the weekend. So anything I can get garlic in right now is having it. Some of the heads were on the small side, and didn’t seem to have split into cloves. In fact most of them were fine except for a couple, but I decided to roast a few of the smaller heads whole, some to use for this recipe, but also some to keep in the fridge for other dishes.

garlic for roasting

To roast the garlic:

Trim the bottom of the garlic, just enough to give it a stable base, then cut across the top, enough to expose the cloves within. Place in a roasting dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and roast in a hot oven for around 30-40 mins. Once cooled, squeeze the garlic from their papery skins.

The soft, nutty, garlic paste is great for spreading over pizza bases, mashing into butter for spreading onto pre-roasted meat, to make garlic bread, stirred into past dishes. Possibilities are endless.

To make the hummus:

In a food processor, place the drained chickpeas, a few cloves of the garlic, a glug of olive oil and the juice from half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper and blitz. Then just keep adding oil/lemon/salt to taste and to your desired consistency. I added about half a teaspoon of paprika towards the end.

Garlic scape pesto

garlic scape pesto

If you’ve never heard of garlic scapes, they are basically the flowering stem on growing garlic. You only get them on hardneck garlic and elephant garlic. The hardneck ones curl around like a large pigs tail and you know they’re ready when they loop back on themselves. The elephant garlic scapes head straight up to the skies, and both, if left alone, will flower and set seed like any other plant. It’s normally recommended to remove them so that the plant concentrates its energy into the bulb.

This is all quite new to me because I’ve never grown hardneck garlic until this season. And while I have grown elephant garlic before, I had no idea the flowering stem could be used like a scape in the same way, and they just ended up on the compost. Also, I’d heard of pickled scapes, but nothing more, and not being a big pickle fan I didn’t think they were worth bothering with. I had no idea what treasure I was wasting.

If you’re a garlic lover, it is worth growing these varieties for the scapes alone, they have the most intense fresh garlic flavour, and this pesto is so easy to whizz up, normal pesto is frankly just boring by comparison.

Source: The Garlic Farm website.

  • 400g Scapes cut into pieces
  • 100g grated parmesan
  • 250ml Extra virgin Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • Salt & black pepper to taste

Put everything into a blender or food processor and blitz. Add more oil if required and season to taste.

My first small experimental batch was spread onto a cheese and tomato sandwich. It was so delicious, I headed straight back to the allotment to collect more scapes and made a bigger batch (with a bit of added basil) to stir into pasta. Use it anywhere you might do conventional pesto.

elephant garlic scape garlic scapeselephant garlic

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