Sardinian Purcavru in Agru Durci

Purcavru in Agru Durci garnished with mirto

I told you all I was going to be making things interesting on here with different recipes from a variety of different world cuisines!

With the first in this series, I am giving a nod to my husband’s Sardinian roots. Sardinia is a small island off the coast of Italy in the vicinity of Rome. I was lucky enough to go there this past year when Roberto and I went with our moms on the “roots tour” of Italy. Roberto was born in Sardinia to Sardinian parents, but grew up in Rome. On our visit there last fall, we spent time with the extended family. It was lovely.

Sardinia is an interesting place, I immediately loved it because it has a rich culture both with herding animals (sheep and goats) but is also the place in Europe which has the greatest amount of megalithic structures, making this farm girl and history buff very happy!

These megalithic structures, round tower-fortresses called nuraghi, which ancient villages were built around are over 35,000 years old and there are over 8,000 of them on Sardinia, an island that is about the size and shape as Vermont. So that is a lot of pre-history going on there! If you aren’t into history, Sardinia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, La Costa Smeralda- The Emerald Coast. There are also beautiful mountains (yes they get snow!) and lunar looking rock formations. There is an area towards the middle of the island that is called Valle Della Luna – The Valley of the Moon and looks just like Rohan from the Lord of the Rings movies. Fascinating landscape!

But the thing I loved about it most is that it is home to some of the oldest trees in Europe. We were able to visit 2 of these old olives, the oldest being 5,000 years old and the second oldest being around 3,000 – and still producing olives!!! For me, a nature worshiper it was akin to meeting Gandhi. The most amazing thing about Italy in general is that you can grow so much food! Nearly everyone that has even a small plot of land has fruit trees, some grapes to make homemade wine, nut and olive trees, veggie gardens, etc. I saw tons of pomegranate and fig trees. There is just so much abundance there!

Sardinia actually has its own language, Sardu, of which there are several dialects. Sardu has been influenced by Catalan, Spanish and indigenous Nuragic elements with some roots from Phoenician and Etruscan. So instead of the more familiar Italian “a” and “o” word endings, Sardinian words end with “u” and “s”, like our last name, Campus. This is because Sardinian is much like Latin. You can see this in the name of this dish Purcavru Agru Durci, which in Italian would be Cinghiale Agrodolce.

So what about the food? Well because of its location, Sardinian cuisine has been able to capture tastes from various Mediterranean influences: Catalan, Corsican, Spanish, Italian. The diet is rich in meats, like lamb, goat and pork, fresh vegetables, wonderful cheeses, fresh veggies and of course copious amounts of olive oil and rich red wine, famed for its high level of antioxidants- Cannonou. On the coast, where we didn’t spend much time, there is also a lot of fish and seafood consumed. And, like the rest of Italy the population consumes large amounts of pasta and bread. In fact as a gluten-intolerant, I had a hard time in Italy in general staying away from wheat as it is in almost everything from bread and pasta, to a thickener in sauces and a coating on vegetables and meats. I asked the question on facebook the other day after reading an article about how wheat is killing the world, how people like Italians, and especially Sardinians, known the world over as healthy and one of the longest living peoples could be in such a good state of health (the island has the world’s highest documented percentage of people who have passed the century threshold.) if wheat is the only factor. It was an interesting discussion, but none of us were able to really make sense of that!

But I digress. One thing which is very unique to Sardinian cuisine is the use of Mirto, or Myrtle. The plant is symbolic of love and immortality, and in Sardinia it is an essential plant. The berries (which look a bit like small blueberries, although there is a white version as well )are used to make a delicious aperitif, called “mirto”, which uses both varieties of berries separately, creating a red and white version and the leaves. Sardinians also use the leaves in cooking, similar in manner to bay leaves or other herbaceous plants. I was able to get some to bring home with me, and this is one of the ingredients that really makes this dish. The taste is very hard to place for me, but is most similar to a bay leaf.

I wasn’t able to get wild boar for this dish, but we did use meat from the half pig we bought this year (and butchered ourselves) from a local farmer.

Purcavru in Agru Durci (from Cooking in Sardinia)

INGREDIENTS:

4-5 TBS olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp myrtle leaves (substitute bay leaf)
1 ½ lbs boneless boar or pork meat, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp sugar
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 TBS tomato Paste
Salt to taste

METHOD:
Sauté onion in a pan (I used cast iron) with 4-5 TBS of olive oil. Add about a tsp of chopped myrtle leaves. Add the meat and a pinch of salt and brown over medium heat. Blend sugar and vinegar, stir and pour over the meat. Then dilute tomato paste in a cup of warm water, add to the pan, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 mins. You will have to add more water intermittently so the stew doesn’t dry out. During the last five minutes, uncover pan to reduce the sauce.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (Gluten-Free!)

 

One of my favorite desserts of all time is Sticky Toffee Pudding. The first time I had it was in Galway, Ireland. But once I developed a taste for it, I had it every chance I could get, which considering where I live, is not very often, and since I had to stop eating gluten, not at all! To my good fortune, this has all recently changed!

For those of you who have not been bewitched by this amazing treat, I’ll give you a run-down of what it actually is. What it is not, is a pudding in the American sense of the word, but a tender, moist cake- a true pudding in the British sense of the word.

Now everyone knows that British/ Scottish/ Irish cuisine does not get its due credit in the world of gastronomy. In fact it is often looked down upon. But there is really no need for it – if you actually have the good fortune to try it first hand, I guarantee you will find much to write home about. The foods of these small northern European islands are quite good, lots of fresh vegetables, wild game, wonderful sausages and unexpectedly – dessert. I fell in love with the desserts when I traveled to Ireland and Scotland- cranachan, treacle pudding, Victoria sponge, custards and of course the queen of them all, Sticky Toffee Pudding (that’s why it is all in Caps, it is that good!).

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a moist, rich cake made with dates (sometimes prunes) and topped with a wonderful toffee sauce. Many times puddings are served with a topping of thin custard, like crème anglaise. I have seen Sticky Toffee Pudding served with both together. There is some mystery to the origins of this special dessert, some say it was developed in the south of England, and others say it was being served and enjoyed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland many years before if became popular in England. I think we should give this one to the Scots. I mean the English have laid claim to much that has belonged to the Scots these many long years, and why quibble over a dessert?

I digress, so for Burns Night I was looking for a festive dessert and I remembered Sticky Toffee Pudding. I started by searching on line for gluten-free recipes. I found a few, but none of them alone felt like it was going to yield a classic. So I forged out on my own. I must say that the one ingredient that makes the recipe is Lyle’s Golden Syrup - cane sugar syrup that has been made the same way for over 125 years (and another Scottish invention!) and a good substitute for evil corn syrup. Once I tasted it, I knew that it was this beautiful amber syrup that really lends the magical element that makes a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding taste.

So if you are gluten-free and want to try a new delicious and simple to prepare dessert, or are already a lover of Sticky Toffee Pudding, you will love this recipe! It was a huge hit at our Burns Supper!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of organic chopped dates
1 ¼ cup water
1TBS pure vanilla extract
2 TBS whiskey
1 cup gluten free flour mix
1 cup almond flour/meal
¼ cup arrowroot
2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 eggs
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden syrup
¼ cup coconut palm sugar

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 325 F
Simmer chopped dates in water for about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and place into a food processor, add the vanilla and whiskey and pulse a few times, until you have a chunky paste.
In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together: GF flour mix, almond flour, salt, and baking soda.
In another small bowl, beat together the butter, yogurt and eggs. Then combine all the dry and wet ingredients together and add ¼ cup of Lyle’s while mixing.

I used a muffin tin to bake my puddings, but you could use ramekins or a large baking dish to make a large pudding (cooking times will vary). I filled my muffin tin to the top with the batter – creating a large muffin sized pudding.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime you can make the toffee sauce. Just heat the heavy cream, sugar and Lyle’s until it boils, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, while stirring often.
*Tip: Since I wanted to serve my puddings warm, but make them ahead of time, I made them, and then baked them for 10 minutes. Then I took them out of the oven. When I was ready to serve dessert later that night, I popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes while I made the sauce!
Serve warm, serves 6.

Guest Post: Tahini, Pomegranate And Coriander Potato Salad

 

Today I am truly excited to share with you a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers Rosa, from Rosa’s Yummy Yums. It is a unique and seasonal Potato Salad, a wonderful unconventional addition to your Thanksgiving table! I am a huge fan of potatoes and I adore this recipe. Just look at the beautiful photos.

If you are a food blogger, I am sure you know Rosa. Whenever I am visiting blogs, her comments are always within the first three. She happens to be a very talented lady and so I imagine she has super powers that allow her to be on all blogs at once spreading encouragement to bloggers throughout the blogosphere.  If you don’t already know Rosa and her aptly named blog, go on over there and check her out!

I have been following Rosa’s blog for many years now, since I became a food blogger, actually (her blog has been around a lot longer than mine). Her creative, vibrant and flavorful recipes have always kept me coming back for more and inspired me as a budding blogger. In fact her participation in the Daring Bakers and the beautiful things she made, prompted me to sign up and bake with them for a few years, too! Rosa is not afraid of flavor, spice or color in her dishes and there is always a side of pizazz to go with it! Clearly I admire her.

Besides kitchen creativity, Rosa is also well known for her amazing photography, not only of food, but also the countryside of Geneva, Switzerland where she lives. Besides food we share a love of all things Scandinavian, genealogy and nature. I would love to go visit her someday, and taste some of her amazing recipes, cooked by Rosa herself.  So here’s Rosa!


I have known the lovely Jenn Campus for quite a while now and have been visiting The Leftover Queen” since its launching in 2007. During all those years I have followed her adventures striving towards the goals of sustainability, preparing traditional foods and seasonal feasting, and have admired her courage when she moved to Northern Vermont in order to live out her dream and become self-sufficient (growing her own vegetables as well as raising her own animals).

So, the day Jenn asked me to write a guest post for her there was no way I was going to refuse her generous offer as I hold her ideas (ideals) in esteem, envy her countryside lifestyle and share similar visions with this captivating young lady who is extremely knowlegeable reagarding all things linked to Nature and homesteading. It is a real honor for me to be invited into her awesome space.

As she advocates healthy eating and enjoys creating culinary delights based on simplicity as well as everyday foods that can be traced locally and respect the earth’s cycles, I thought that it would be a brilliant idea to invent a potato salad which could be adapted according to what’s on the stalls of your regional farmers markets and savored as a fulfilling main course that can stand alone.

I have always been an immense fan of spuds and worshipped them because they are marvelously versatile, nourishing and delicious. There are so many varieties available and an astonishing number of amazing dishes can be made with them. Without a doubt, it is the king of vegetables.


Other ingredients I very much idolize and venerate are tahini, peppers, nuts, paprika and mustard. They literally make my world turn and I cannot imagine my extraordinarily well-stocked pantry and fridge being devoid of them (of course, I buy bell peppers solely from July to October).

Good food and good eating aren’t a class thing – anyone can eat good food on any budget as long as they know how to cook.

Jamie Oliver

Thanks to my immense collection of condiments, herbs and spices (it is an addiction), my cuisine is intensely savory, makes good use of seasonings hailing from all over the world, is highly inventive, ecclectic and can be described as “fusion”, yet those are not the only aspects which characterizes it. Budget-friendliness is also an integral part of my style of cooking as I only have an acutely limited amount of resources I can spend on groceries every month. This forces me to juggle like crazy and find ways of getting more for less. It means that I never eat meat or fish more than once a week (generally lower cuts or bargain spicimens) and have to manage my larder intelligently.

Nonetheless, being restricted money-wise and following good existence habits doesn’t obligatorily mean that you have to eat like an austere monk on a strict diet, a New Age prophet living on love and fresh air nor restrain your kitchen activity and stop concocting exciting meals. Quite the contrary. It is indeed absolutely possible to count your pennies as well as satisfy your body and soul simultaneously with refined and tasty grub (please read my article “13 ways to eat on a budget and improve your health at the same time” that was published on The Rambling Epicure).


“I don’t know what folks are going to do,” she said “because they don’t know how to be poor.”

- Marilyn, http://culinate.com

I strongly believe that in this period of global financial crisis, more people should be concerned about learning how to survive hard times and to reduce their consumption costs by being more aware of what can be done in order not to throw their dollars/Euros/Francs out of the window, yet without compromising on the nutritional quality the of their dinners and on self-indulgence. Our ancestors were forced to find methods to get through dearth, so there we should maybe start learning from them as their teachings could prove useful in the future – the impacts this behavior has on our environment are either not negligible…

So, the harmoniously tasting (sweet, sour, salty & hot), quirky, colorful and elegant “Tahini, Pomegranate And Coriander Potato Salad” I am presenting here today englobes all of those aspects. It provides cheap nourishment, incredible gustative pleasure and is well-balanced, especially if paired with proteins such as fish, meat or eggs.

Most potato salads contain mayonnaise and, although I have nothing against this practice (I am a big fan of the homemade version), I preferred to whip up a dressing with sesame paste which offers a similar creaminess than its calorific counterpart, but is a lot less fattening and adds a delightful nuttiness to the whole dish. Then, for more color, crunch and sweetness I incorporated a grated carrot, a handful pomegranate seeds and a thinly sliced red bell-pepper (see comments for more info), and for extra gusto and dimension I used plump walnuts, sweet German mustard (or “Weisswurstsenf“), pimentón, finely chopped leftover smoked ham and fresh coriander.

The result was electrifying and even my boyfriend who is not the biggest fan of potatoes in their boiled form was impressed by my invention and had seconds, and even thirds. As a matter of fact, the salad disappeared as fastly as it arrived on the table!

I  hope that you’ll be blown away by this “Tahini, Pomegranate And Coriander Potato Salad“as much as we did and wish to thank all of Jenn’s readers for having taken a moment to read me as well as to express my gratitute to my kind host for inviting me on her platform…

~ Tahini, Pomegranate And Coriander Potato Salad ~
Recipe by Rosa Mayland at “Rosa’s Yummy Yums”, November 2011.

Serves 2-3 people.

Ingredients For The “Salad”:
750g Small firm potatoes
1 Medium Carrot, coarsely grated
1 Red bell pepper, cubed (see comments)
1 Medium red onion, cut into thin rings
30-40g Smoked ham, finely chopped
50g Walnuts, coarsely chopped
A big handful (or to taste) pomegranate seeds
Fresh coriander, chopped, to taste
Ingredients For The “Dressing”:
3 Tbs Tahini
3 Tbs Milk
1 Tbs Water (or more if the dressing is too thick)
1 Tbs Malt vinegar
1 Tbs German sweet mustard (or French old-fashioned mustard)
1 Tbs Olive oil
1 Tsp Horseradish cream sauce
1 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tsp Sugar
1/3 Tsp Smoked paprika
1/4 Tsp Onion powder
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste


Directions For The “Dressing”:
1. Mix all the ingredients together, until you get a thickish mayonnaise-like sauce.
Directions For The “Salad”:
2. Cook the potatoes in water until tender. Drain them and let them cool until tepid, then cut them in two, lengthwise.
3. Delicately mix all the ingredients together and add the sauce.
4. Serve and decorate with a little extra coriander.

Comments:
I used small Charlotte potatoes, but you can also use waxy potatoes such as Désirée, Nicola, Bintje or Kipfler that are perfect for making salad.
I made this recipe when bell peppers were still in season. As they are now out of season, I recommend you to replace them by either 1 1/3 cup fresh muscade pumpkin cut into small cubes or thin matchsticks, raw betroot cut into thin matchsticks or finely shredded Brussel sprouts.
If you wish, you can substitute the walnuts with any nut of your choice.

Serving suggestions:
Serve alone as main course or accompanied with smoked fish (salmon or mackerel), rollmops, small shrimps, cold meat or hardboiled eggs.


Guest Post: Orecchiette Carbonara, or a Procrastinator’s Tale

The final installment to this series of guest posts, comes from a very funny pastry chef, and by funny, I mean extremely humorous. I have known Jenni for a while now, and even though her focus is on pastries (and I keep begging her to delve into gluten-free versions of her goodies) that I can’t eat, I love her down to earth and hilarious posts. She does also feature more savory dishes on her blog, The Balanced Pastry Chef,especially her Sunday Suppers series.

I read a lot of diverse blogs, and for many reasons. Some I learn from, some help me stay up to date with longtime blogging friends, some are inspirational, and some are just downright FUN to read, and that’s Jenni’s blog. She is so very down to earth, and as a former teacher turned pastry chef, she is here to help people who want to cook learn the methods and techniques that arm the average person with the skill to cook amazing meals at home! So please check out her blog!

We have a lot in common – she also raises chickens, and cares about food waste in the world. She founded the Four Pounds of Cheese Project, which is now a facebook group that discusses tips and tricks for reducing food waste. So check that out too!

 

First off, I must say that I am very Excited to have been asked to write a post over here at Jenn’s place. I’ve known Jenn online since we were both miserable in Florida (apologies to any Florida lovers out there). Now, we’re both happy–me in North Carolina and her in Vermont. Which I’m a little jealous about, since I have always had a non-specific but real Desire to visit Vermont. At any rate, I am happy that these words, at least, are on a blog that originates from The Green Mountain State. Thanks for having me, Jenn, and hello to all of Jenn’s readers!

orecchiette carbonara with bell peppers

When Jenn asked me to write a guest post, I knew that I wanted to make something utilizing local ingredients. And that, of necessity, means that if you don’t live right around here, you can’t use exactly what I use. But that’s okay. It’s more than okay, actually. It’s the way it should be. Pricey gourmet shops have sprung up like mushrooms because the Fancy cook book or magazine recipe says that you have to use pollen from Peruvian llacon* or the leaves of the Malaysian pandan tree*. But cooking should be local. It should be about what is growing in your yard, or your neighborhood or your community.

So, if you live in Peru, go harvest some llacon pollen. If you’re Malaysian, by all means use pandan leaves. But if you can’t find those things, don’t let it limit you. Let it free you to do your own experimentation.

Let me just say now that I am not a homesteader. I don’t make my own kefir or yogurt. And I don’t own goats. I think it is the Height of Awesome that Jenn is living her dream, but I know my limitations. I am limited by a Procrastination Gene that prohibits me from working too hard. Being a procrastinator does not mesh well with being a homesteader. We do keep chickens, but only for eggs. And God forbid we try to have goats. I hear they can’t wait until I finish Lounging to be milked. So, we try to buy happy meat or no meat at all. Happy meat, by the way, is my short-hand way of saying “naturally raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, romping-in-pastures, eating a natural diet, allowed-to-have-sex animals who lived carefree lives. Until they were slaughtered in as humane a way as possible. So we can eat them.” But that takes a long time to say, let alone type, so I normally just go with Happy Meat.

I’m happy to buy what I don’t have the time –or want to take the time–to make, and I try to strike a balance between local/organic and cost-effective. It’s not always easy, but I feel like we generally do a good job. And we eat pretty well, if I do say so myself.

As a matter of fact, sometimes my tendency to procrastinate results in a Surprisingly Yummy Meal. Take, for instance, last night’s meal. I knew that my husband and I had to attend a class at our chiropractor’s office at 6:30. I knew it all day long. Until I finally stopped knowing and started realizing, at about 5:45, that I should probably make something to eat because we’d have to be Out The Door by 6:20 to get there on time. And once I am committed to action, there is no stopping me.

Here’s what went on in my brain:

Okay, pasta is fast. It’ll take about 6 minutes for the water to boil and another 10-11 for the pasta to cook. In that amount of time, I can have a reasonable meal on the table. What to do…what to do. Oh, there’s a lovely pepper from Roberta’s garden (next door neighbor)! And we have marinated feta from Prodigal Farm. Onions…half&half…olive oil. Oh, eggs! I’ll beat an egg and add it in with the sauce to make a kind of carbonara-type deal.

Heat a pan…chop some onions…add some olive oil. A lot of olive oil. Toss in the onions to sweat…cut the pepper into strips but reserve them so they stay crisp. Turn the heat down and melt in some of the feta. Wow, that doesn’t melt too, well. Oh, well, it’ll taste Amazing and should mix in well with the half&half and egg…

I won’t subject you to any more of my crazed stream of consciousness mental cooking chatter. Suffice to say that the meal was Quite Good. It was a bit rich, but the barely-cooked peppers added a nice green counterpoint to all the dairy goodness. And if you’re gluten-free, you can absolutely sub rice pasta for the wheat pasta. I’ve had a lovely rice penne from Trader Joe’s, and penne would work really well in this recipe.

Prodigal Farms Marinated FetaSo, are you going to be able to use Roberta’s peppers or Prodigal Farm marinated feta? Probably not. But you will be able find some sort of vegetables. (Asparagus would be perfect for this. Now I have to wait for spring…) And you will be able to scare up some cheese and some milk (or cream or half&half) and an egg. Use whatever short, fat pasta you have on hand, and prepare to Wow your family. You don’t need to wait until the last minute to make this, but I find that victory is so much sweeter when you have to rush a little!

Procrastinators’ Delight: Orecchiette Carbonara
Carbonara usually contains bacon, and you can certainly add it here. I left it out because it was one extra step between me and dinner and being on time. This served 2 generous portions. Scale accordingly to serve 4, 6 or even 8.

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hot pepper flake, to taste
  • about 1/4 cup marinated feta
  • 1/4 cup half&half
  • 1 small bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 8 ounces orecchiette, or other short, fat pasta shape
  • 1 egg, beaten with about 1 tablespoon half&half

Put on a large pot of water and let it come to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and then add the olive oil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.

Sweat the vegetables until soft–you might need to turn down the heat a bit as you don’t really want anything to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the hot pepper flake and the marinated feta. Mash the feta so it sort of melts into the oil. It will look a bit grainy. Don’t worry, that’s how feta looks melted.

If your water is boiling, salt it so it tastes like the ocean, and add the pasta. Mine took about 11 minutes to cook.

Add the half&half to the skillet and bring the heat back up to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then add the vegetables. You want them warm but still crisp, so how long you let them cook will depend on what vegetables you choose. If you’re using spinach, it’ll only need a minute or two. I let the pepper strips cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

When the pasta is ready, reserve about 2 tablespoons of pasta liquid and drain the rest.

orecchiette carbonara sauceWith the skillet off the heat, whisk in the egg mixture and the reserved cooking water until well blended. Add the drained pasta and toss everything together over medium-low heat until the pasta is nicely coated. Do this fairly quickly and keep everything moving so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.

And that’s really it. Pair this with a nice green salad, and you’ve got a lovely meal. If you’re me, plop some on a plate, be grateful and then inhale it so you’re not late to the chiropractor’s office.

And, whether or not you are Plagued by the Procrastination Gene, it’s nice to know that you can have this meal on the table in about 20 minutes.
orecchiette carbonara with bell peppers

 

 

“Greek” Green Beans

 

I am going to start off by stating clearly, that I  make no claims to the authenticity of this recipe.  I got it from one of my very first cookbooks, ever, when I was still in high school. “Greek Green Beans” is just what we have been calling it for years. The book is called A Little Greek CookbookCooking, Food & Wine References) and it was given to me by my mom as a gift when I discovered my love for Mediterranean cuisine. There are some great tasting recipes in there and I have been using it ever since.

I have been making this dish for about 20 years now! I have only eaten something similar in one Greek restaurant that was near my house growing up –Athens Grill, so maybe it is a regional dish? The restaurant was a family restaurant, owned by Greek immigrants from Athens. I loved their food so much and begged my mom to take me there often! We used to get gyro platters, or souvlaki served with Greek salad, pita bread and the best French fries ever. Sometimes we would eat at the restaurant, al fresco, on little wrought iron tables right off the parking lot. Other times, we would take it home to eat while watching a movie. I thought it was the best food ever. What I wouldn’t give to pop over there for lunch today!

In the cookbook, the name they give this recipe is Fasolakia Freska or Green Bean Casserole, in English. It is a simple recipe with a lot of flavor. I am making it tonight to accompany some pan seared fish. But it also goes well with chicken or beef dishes, and of course lamb. Sometimes I like to sprinkle feta cheese on it, and eat a large bowl full for lunch. This is a great recipe to double – and it is also one of those recipes that tastes all the better a day or two later. It has a large amount of olive oil in it – but don’t skimp on it – that is what makes this dish so rich and flavorful.

Normally I follow the recipe as is, but sometimes I might add Kalamata olives for bite, or pearl onions instead of the sliced onions, for pretty. You can also omit the potatoes, but that would be silly.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb of fresh green beans, topped and tailed (I have also used frozen with great success)
1 large onion, finely sliced – or half a bag of pearl onions
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup olive oil
14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
This is not part of the recipe, but I usually add some oregano as well.

METHOD:
Slice beans in half, rinse and drain. Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil until pale golden. Add beans and potatoes and sauté together until well coated in the oil. Add the tomatoes and seasoning. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes or until beans and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a little hot water to keep from burning. This can be served hot, or at room temperature.

Isn’t it fun trying something from one of your favorite restaurants? I thought so too.

Best Shepard’s Pie for Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone out there! This year I want to share with you my best Shepard’s Pie recipe to date. This dish is common in Ireland as well as Scotland and England, and it is very quick to throw together. So if you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but didn’t really plan for it, a Shepard’s Pie is perfect!

I have been working on this recipe for a while. Shepard’s Pie is one of the easiest dishes to make, and it is that very simplicity that makes it such a lure to me to perfect to our tastes. With such a short list of ingredients, the quality of those ingredients makes all the difference. The pie I made before this one was when I really understood that point. Since then, I have added a few other subtle flavors that really add something to the dish, without taking away from its intrinsic simplicity and classic taste.

This past fall Roberto and I butchered a lamb for our own consumption. I wish I had taken some pictures because I so wanted to post about the experience. But I was up to my elbows in the work at hand, and taking photos wasn’t too convenient. It was a wonderful experience and one I plan to do over and over again. I am a firm believer in educating oneself about where you r food comes from. This is why we grow our own, and buy from local farms. Butchering your own meat is about as close you can get to this philosophy.

The lamb and kidney that was used in this recipe is from that lamb we butchered. I know for me, it is hard to come by lamb kidneys, so you can omit this ingredient, but if you can find lamb kidney, I suggest you use it. It adds an amazing richness and earthiness to the pie, but it doesn’t scream OFFAL to your taste buds.

If you are looking for more recipes to celebrate St. Patrick ’s Day, please check out my Real Food St. Patrick’s Day Feast from last year, featuring Guinness Stew, Sautéed Cabbage in a Mustard Glaze, Brown Soda Bread and Guinness Ice Cream!

Slàinte Mhòr!

 

INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks – I used Idahos
butter
cream
salt and pepper

2 TBS olive oil
¾ lbs ground lamb
¼ lb ground beef
1 lamb kidney, finely chopped
1 cup sautéed onions and shallot, mixed
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup chopped pickled carrots (you can use un-pickled as well)
1 tsp each dried sage, thyme and rosemary
1 tsp of beau monde seasoning http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-beau-monde-seasoning.htm
salt & pepper
1 ½ cup cup homemade gravy – beef or poultry (heat 1 1/4 cup of stock, add ¼ cup of stout beer or red wine and whisk in 3 TBS of arrowroot powder to thicken. Season with salt and pepper).
handful of corn
handful of peas
malt vinegar
extra butter to put in top before baking

 

METHOD:

Boil the potatoes until tender. Hand mash potatoes with butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare the gravy. Then set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place ground lamb and beef, kidney, carrots, onion and garlic in a cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until eat begins to brown, and veggies start to soften. Then add your carrots, corn, peas, and spices. Mix together. Pour gravy over top, and stir. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly over the top of the other ingredients, dab with butter and sprinkle a hearty bit of malt vinegar over top for that real pub taste!

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until warmed through and potatoes become golden.

This post was contributed to Simple Lives Thursday.

Chioggia Beet Salad

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Here is a quick but beautiful and romantic salad perfect for your Valentine’s Day celebration or any other romantic occasion. The beauty is in the freshness and color of the ingredients, naturally. Valentine’s Day menus typically focus around red foods, chocolate and other aphrodisiacs.

I don’t think there is anything more tantalizing than a warm beet salad, with creamy goat cheese and cranberry-balsamic compote to get your dinner started off right. The best thing about it is that it is quick so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, instead focusing on more important things!

Chioggia Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Cranberry-Balsamic Compote


INGREDIENTS:
2 giant organic Chioggia beets (the ones I had probably weighed 1 lb each), sliced into ¼ inch rounds
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt, pepper and herbs de Provence to season
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
Handful of fresh organic cranberries
Goat cheese (sheep milk feta would do nicely too) – quantity depends on your taste, but a nice hefty crumble between each layer is good.


METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sliced beets on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning (to your taste). Bake for about 35-40 minutes. You want the beets to be nice and roasted, but still soft.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, place the balsamic, wine and cranberries bring to a boil over medium heat and then lower heat and let simmer until it has reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, layer the beets, goat cheese and compote, in a stack until all has been used up. Serves 4

For dessert, why not try these quick and easy Dark Chocolate Covered StrawberriesSpicy Mayan Hot Cocoa or Raw Chocolate Pudding – each of these recipes take under 10 minutes to make!

Enjoy!

Balmoral Chicken the Delicious Answer to Leftover Haggis

It is a rare occasion, at least in most people’s households, to have leftover haggis. Well I found myself in this position recently after a very successful Burns Supper. Lucky for me, I have some awesome Caledonian friends and fellow bloggers that were able to help me out with this culinary quandary. My good friend Cat, who blogs at Kitty Cat’s Litertray explained to me that there are two popular ways to deal with the problem of leftover haggis – Haggis Pizza and Chicken Balmoral.

Now that I am 100% gluten-free and cannot enjoy my perfected sourdough spelt pizza right now, there has been very little pizza eaten in this house. As I mentioned in that post I have yet to find a delicious GF pizza crust…yet. So haggis pizza was clearly out.

Chicken Balmoral is a delicious dish, and really elevates haggis to a more modern culinary preparation. I actually feel very comfortable in saying that if you didn’t know it contained haggis, you would likely think you were eating a sausage stuffed chicken breast. The oats in the haggis are very creamy, and in this dish ads a bit of a “cheese vibe” to the stuffing. It is really a wonderful modern take on haggis, and I am pretty sure I enjoyed this dish when I was in Scotland many years ago as I was eating as much haggis as I could possibly stuff down my gullet.

Should have been a clue back then, of my Scottish lineage…

Chicken Balmoral is essentially chicken breast stuffed with haggis, wrapped in bacon – to keep it all together and drizzled with a whiskey cream sauce. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Yes indeed.

I found several recipes online, but this one, including a very helpful and instructional video is the one I followed.

I was in a bit of a rush when I made this, so I kind of winged the whiskey cream sauce. The only whiskey we have in this house are single malt scotches (I would say I am a bit of a budding connoisseur), so I used one of those, some butter, cream, salt and pepper. It was great, and I particularly enjoyed it the next day with the leftovers of this dinner, because I poured it over the leftover stuffed chicken and the neeps and tatties (aka “clapshot” ) the night before and it had the chance to sink in and saturate everything.

I am really enjoying my exploration into Scottish culture and history through the foods of that beautiful place in the world. I have found a lot of lovely dishes that are unique and tasty. I imagine this theme will continue on for quite a while!

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty!)