Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Piperies Gemistes

A few days ago I posted about the need to think of something to do with leftover rice. Sounds like I am trying to be the Leftover Queen! I'm not aspiring to be there: we all cook with leftovers ;>). But I did need to do something with my leftover rice and I am finally blogging about what I did. And it was gemistes piperies. In fact, it was only just piperies in the plural as I only had one red and one green in the fridge. I ended up with more rice mixture so I have frozen that for more peppers or tomatoes, or just for eating by itself as it is yummy.

With my already cooked rice, I added tomato sauce (I used ready made Bertolli tomato sauce from a jar but feel free to make your own), lots of chopped dill, and some crumbled fetta, Dodoni of course. The rice is delicious and the baked peppers are too!

I don't have any proper measures but these are the ingredients and mode.

Piperies gemistes

Cooked rice
Red and green peppers
Chopped dill
Tomato sauce

Place cooked rice in pan and heat with tomato sauce to taste.
Add chopped dill and simmer.
Prepare peppers by slicing around top to make cap with stalk.
Remove seeds.
Add crumbled fetta to rice mixture.
Fill peppers with fetta and rice mixture.
Replace caps on peppers.
Place peppers in casserole with a little water.
Cover and cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.
Remove cover and cook for 30-40 minutes or until cooked.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another day, another bowl of cauliflower soup

It's MIFF time here in cold Melbourne and a good bowl of soup after hours in the dark is a great thing. Last night I had a great big bowl of cauliflower soup with a difference. I added a few chunks of fetta and some freshly ground pepper as a garnish. The pepper added a hit to the soup and the melting fetta was delicious and quite different from the normal Parmesan touch.

As is perhaps inevitable with our population, Melbourne has access to a mountain of different types of fetta - some local and ordinary, some local and gourmet, some full-fat, some low-fat, some Bulgarian, and some Greek. I guess they all have their place in the scheme of cheese making but the fetta I always have on hand is the my old favourite, Dodoni.

I don't know if it really has anything to do with the oracle of Zeus at Dodona near Dodoni in Epirus but the name for me evokes memories of visiting Dodoni one summer and the Greek family who took me into their house on the mountainside for a visit. They thought I was mad wanting to visit archaeological sites and read guidebooks there. But there you are. Greek oracles are long ago in my past but the Dodoni fetta is very much of my present. It is a proionta of Epirus even if not of Dodoni and I get quite anxious when I don't have stocks on hand ;>)

And the highlight of yesterday? Courtney Hunt's Frozen river, which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance. See it if you get the opportunity. It's not oracular or Epirote but a great film set on the US/Canadian border and about poverty and a hand to mouth existence not dissimilar in some ways to the old Greek subsistence but in other ways very dissimilar.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A pot of cauliflower soup

During the winter I like to have a pot of soup on the go and I like to use seasonal produce for the soup. A few weeks ago I went back to an old favourite, Two in the Kitchen's Pumpkin soup. Last weekend as cauliflowers were plentiful, I bought a cauliflower to make soup. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on which way you look at it), the cauliflower got eaten before it became soup. Cauliflowers are, of course, still plentiful. So yesterday I purchased another and made soup before the cauliflower could be eaten.

This is a pretty simple soup: just butter/margerine, onion, cauliflower, stock and a few additions like ginger, garlic and coriander. As I have been longing to try my piri piri oil, I flung in a dash of that too, though the difference was not at all noticeable. Maybe I need to leave it sit for a bit longer, or it is not as strong as I expected.

Cauliflower soup

1 tablespoon butter or margerine
1 onion
1 whole cauliflower
2 teaspoons crushed ginger
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 dessertspoon chopped coriander
1 teaspoon piri piri oil
1 litre chicken stock
Shaved Parmesan cheese

Break up cauliflower roughly into flowerlets.
Chop the cauliflower stalk and any leaves.
Chop onion roughly.
Melt the butter/margerine in a stockpot.
Add onion and stir until soft.
Add cauliflower - all parts of it - and stir with butter and onion.
Leave to cook for a few minutes.
Add the chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer).
Add ginger, garlic, coriander and piri piri oil.
Bring to the boil and leave to simmer until all the vegetables are tender.
Puree the soup.
Serve with some shaved Parmesan to garnish.

You could also reserve some chopped coriander for garnish. If you prefer a creamier soup, add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt when serving. So, here we can have an almost pointless meal - or it would have been if I hadn't eaten it with toast and butter ;>(

Now I need to think what to do with a whole lot of leftover rice from the butter chicken curry I made during the week. Piperies gemistes?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lebanese "raita"

During the week, we had our regular BC Geek Dinner. We tend to alternate between going out and bringing food to someone's house. This time we were going to Caroline's house and I said I would bring salad, not knowing what Caroline was cooking for main course. When she said she was cooking lamb curry and dhal, I started thinking about cucumber and yoghurt. I was particularly thinking about a delicious recipe with sour cream and yoghurt that my friend Karen cooks but unfortunately didn't get the recipe in time.

I looked at some Indian books, but finally lighted upon a cucumber salad in Abla Amad's The Lebanese kitchen and made that. It wasn't Indian but people treated it as such and were saying "Pass the raita" even though I had stressed the Lebanese nature of the dish. But hey! Brunswick is multicultural and our meal was too. The mint and yoghurt and cucumber was a delicious counterfoil to Caroline's curry and also to the butter chicken I made last night and ate with the leftover "raita".

The recipe is basically Abla's but I didn't add any water (she includes 2 tablespoons) and I used 500 ml yoghurt, whereas she uses 800 ml. All of this meant that my consistency was probably thicker than hers was intended to be but it was right for what I wanted.

Cucumber salad (aka Lebanese raita) after Abla


4 medium-sized Lebanese cucumbers
2 gloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
500 ml natural yoghurt

Peel cucumbers, then cut into quarters lengthwise and slice.
Finely crush garlic in a bowl with salt.
Add cucumber, dried mint, fresh mint and yoghurt and mix.
Add water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Two in the Kitchen's Pumpkin Soup

One of my favourite cookery books from the 1980s (and only just as it was published in 1981) is Rita Erlich and Dennis Pryor, Two in the kitchen: recipes for four hands published by Penguin, 1981. I have never cooked their recipes with four hands but let me tell you that that doesn't matter and a lot of them are very good and easy to make with two hands!

With my ongoing saga about pureeing soup (there have been more adventures in between now and my last post about it), I was keen to cook soup today as a friend was coming to lunch. So off I hopped to my battered and food-stained copy of Two in the kitchen for the Pumpkin soup recipe which is an old faithful stand-by. I change the Erlich Pryor recipe slightly by not adding salt and sugar and by adding ground cummin in addition to the nutmeg, but essentially it is their recipe. I also don't specify below what are the tasks for the first and second cooks as I do it as a stand-alone cook!

1 kg butternut pumpkin (seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 onion
1 potato
4 cloves garlic
60 gr butter
1500 ml chicken stock or stock and water
sour cream
ground cummin

Peel the pumpkin, remove seeds, chop into large cubes.
Peel the potato and quarter.
Put the stock on to heat in a saucepan.
Peel the onion, slice finely and gently soften in the butter in a 3 litre saucepan.
Peel the garlic cloves.
Add the garlic and vegetables to the onion and butter and stir until the vegetables are glistening.
After about 5 minutes, add the hot stock.
Season with pepper, nutmeg, cummin and bayleaf.
Cover the saucepan and simmer until the vegetables are very tender.
Remove the bayleaf and puree the soup.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.

We had a yummy lunch with the pumpkin soup and Philippa's bread, followed by a couple of King Island cheeses served with Marg's Spiced oranges from Stephanie. I continued the tradition and gave Karen some of MY Spiced oranges from Stephanie to take home. She will now cook some and pass them on and who knows where this will end.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Prosciutto and ricotta tartlets

I was wondering what to cook to take to a friend's house when I remembered that a couple of weeks ago my friend Penny told me she had made my prosciutto tartlets. Duh! I had a complete chemobrain episode for a few minutes until I remembered what she was talking about. It had been so long since I had made them - and I often have made them with phyllo cases for vegetarians. I have no idea where I got the idea for either of these as it's so long ago that I started cooking them.

So there was the answer: prosciutto and ricotta tartlets. Most of the ingredients were easy. Yes, Piedimonte's, of course. However, they let me down on the dill front and I had to do an extra trip to Queens Parade to the great greengrocer's where, of course, they had dill. I am glad to have some on hand as now I can make some lentil soup with it as well.

Prosciutto and ricotta tartlets

375 gr ricotta
1 egg
2 tablespoons shaved parmesan
1/2 cup dill roughly chopped
18 slices prosciutto (roughly 200 gr)
9 cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c.
Mix together the ricotta, dill, parmesan and egg.
Take one slice of prosciutto and cut in half horizontally.
Place one half in a small muffin tin compartment, and add the other half crossways.
Repeat for all of the compartments.
Place a heaped dessertspoon of the ricotta mixture in each prosciutto case.
Slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters
Place two quarters on the top of each tartlet.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly before serving.

This quantity makes about 18 tartlets in the baking trays I was using, but will make more or less depending on your trays and how much filling you put in the cases. They will disappear in minutes so that you wonder about the effort ;>)

Death of the pea and ham soup

Last weekend I was very glad to have picked up some bacon bones from the deli and confidently set out to make a pot of pea and ham soup. In fact, at the end of Sunday I self-confidently stated on Twitter that one of my achievements for the weekend was a pot of pea and ham soup. Well, so I thought.

I had great fun on Sunday looking at various recipes for pea and ham soup from Stephanie to Margaret Fulton. But what I ultimately cooked depended really on what I had bought with the soup in mind (pre recipe perusing) and what else I had in the house. All went well and it simmered away on Sunday night.

On Monday I came home from work excited by the prospect of a bowl of thick soup. Before that I needed to put the final touches to it with my trusty Sunbeam maestro. Alas! The trusty Sunbeam maestro was no longer trusty. It was dead. Well, it truly owed me nothing as I had had it for 20 years or so. The soup - well, I pulled out a sieve and then discovered the soup needed more cooking. I ate something else and days passed and the soup ended up in the compost.

This morning I was very excited to purchase for all of A$79 (it was on special) a Sunbeam Stickmaster Pro which is a stickmixer, a whisk and a chopper. So I can now aerate, puree, crush ice, emulsify, mince, chop, dice, make bread crumbs, and whisk. All the components except the actual motor part can be put in the dishwasher, a big improvement on the poor old dead maestro. I plan to have lots of fun with this new toy. I will even be able to make soup again.

Alas, poor maestro, we have had good times but you are soon going to your rest in the garbage bin. You have been replaced by a younger, sleeker model.


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