Sunday, 6 April 2014

STINGING NETTLE PESTO..




Stinging nettles





“Stinging Nettles?”

“Are you joking? Why can’t we just have normal basil pesto?”

That was the reaction I received when I produced this rather bright green looking pesto the other day. I must admit it isn’t something I've made before however, this doesn’t usually deter me from trying something new.

Recently there have been lots of articles in the paper and magazines about gathering your own food for free, maybe it’s the recession or just that spring is in the air. Who knows, however when I saw a huge patch of nettles at the back of the house I thought, Why not!






Nettles




The actual making of the pesto was really easy. The hardest part was trying to gather enough nettles to make a substantial quantity of pesto for the four of us.






nettle detail




It sounds stupid but it's amazing how light the leaves are. Fine if you live in the country side with abundant lanes and hedge rows, however in the city, they are harder to come by. It goes without saying you do need to wear thick gloves and have scissors and a tray or bag to put them in as you need bundles of the things.

I’m pleased to say I managed the whole thing without getting stung...but still had to answer the question

"Why eat nettles?" 

After a quick bit of research I found out that they are rich in vitamins A, C, D, K and many other minerals including iron and can often be used as a substitute for spinach. I won't put them in my salad like spinach, but cooked in a pesto, they are great.


 The colour alone is worth making it for, it's such a bright, intense green.



Intense green homemade nettle pesto




It is certainly different and served with homemade tagliatelle it's lovely, AND was a real hit with everyone.... 

 So if you have run out of basil pesto and have a patch of stingers nearby give it a go.





Spring shoots



STINGING NETTLE PESTO


Serves 4-6
Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 5 minutes


INGREDIENTS:

 3 slugs of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp pistachio nuts
4 Tbsp Walnut oil
60g  stinging nettles
20g Parmesan
 Salt and pepper to taste



Nettle pesto with half a ladle full of the pasta water



WHAT TO DO:
1.     First wash the nettles in boiling water, then place in salted boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.
2.     2. Meanwhile chop a clove of garlic put it in a food blender, I used a hand held one, add the pistachio nuts, and when drained, the nettle mush and oils and blend.
3.     If you are serving straight away then add the cheese if not, refrigerate and add the cheese when you need.

Cook your pasta as needed and then add half a ladle of the pasta water to the pesto in a pan and heat gently before adding the cooked pasta into the pesto.

Really simple!! The hardest thing is not getting stung when you pick them!!







Nettle pesto pasta served in a Richard Bramble bowl.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A FLORENTINE PICK ME UP


Florentines in the spring sunshine



Apologies to all the kind people who have been asking why I haven't been posting on the blog and saying how they miss it. I’m sorry. I have missed not having the time over the past few months to write. I have been in a tunnel of work, which is slowing thankfully, however it has left me feeling like a mole emerging from the dark after the long dark winter.

Luckily signs of spring are everywhere and I am enjoying the sunshine, the time to think about life, to watch the birds and butterflies busy about amongst the blossom.

There were so many moments that I had wanted to share over the past few months but time got the better of me. Autumn, winter, Christmas...where did they go?

There have been a couple of significant changes in our household.

Firstly Teen V is fully recovered and back on with her life, and more significantly, eating meat again. This is rather funny as the whole reason I started the blog was to share the recipes and ideas that I, a non veggie but keen foodie, with a veggie teenager, discovered. The good news is I am still cooking lots of vegetarian food and constantly developing new recipes despite her wanting spaghetti bolognaise or roast chicken now.

The other significant addition to our household was, according to Teen Foodie 

"the best Birthday present ever" beating the sparkly sequin dress, the pasta maker that she received from her godmother for her birthday. (Thank you A!)

I must say Teen Foodie has quickly become excellent at making fresh tagliatelle, lasagne to name but a few. 






Flowers and chocolate




There have been several debates about my first post after such a long time.
 “It has to be a pasta recipe” was Teen Foodies input.

“No a tart with the fresh rhubarb” Teen V suggested. 

However the thing that I have enjoyed most recently and is one of the first treats I have cooked for a while, Florentines. I had some at a friend’s the other day and just couldn’t get the sweet little nutty treats out of my head.

They are a real pick me up, just what I needed.

As always I have tried a few recipes and adapted them to suit my mood and tastes.

So here is my recipe for pick me up Florentines, with a little help from Nigella and inspiration from WHAT KATIE ATE.




Florentine with a drizzle of dark chocolate 





FLORENTINES

Makes about 20
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 8-10 minutes


INGREDIENTS:

80g whole almonds
20g hazelnuts
90g of Italian mixed peel
40g of glace cherries
25 g unsalted butter
90g caster sugar
15g plain flour
150ml double cream

½ a bar about 50g of chocolate melted to drizzle over the cooked Florentines

WHAT TO DO:

1.     Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
2.     Roughly smash the nuts up in a bag and roughly chop the cherries.
3.     Put the butter and sugar in a saucepan and melt them gently so they don’t burn.
4.     When melted add the flour and stir to make a thick dough like paste then take off the heat and add the cream, making sure you whisk in quickly until it is smooth. At this stage it tastes slightly fudgey..be careful it is very hot though if you are sampling it!
5.     Now stir in all the lovely fruit and nuts.
6.     Using a teaspoon make blobs of mixture that you spread evenly on the baking sheet. Beware they do spread a lot so do leave 5cm between each blob.
7.     Put them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown.
8.     Remove them from the oven and leave on the baking sheet to harden. You can easily remould them at this stage if they have blended into one big mass.
9.     When they are hardened slide them off the baking paper and leave to cool on a wire rack.
10.                        Melt the chocolate carefully so as not to scald it. You can use a microwave or the old fashioned bowl over a saucepan; either way, make sure you do it slowly. Then, drizzle the melted chocolate with a spoon over the crunchy Florentines in artistic patterns!

You can totally cover one side with chocolate but I just found that too much.. the drizzles looks good and makes them slightly less heavy.


Florentines and camellia's

Thursday, 31 October 2013

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH,ONION AND GARLIC SOUP



Garlic




Post storm here in the South of England everything is looking a bit battered. Leaves and branches everywhere, luckily we have electricity and very little real damage unlike lots of people.






After the storm



The weather is getting colder though and we all want warming comfort food that is healthy. This roasted butternut squash soup is delicious and easy to make as you just prepare the vegetables which takes a few minutes and then blend  a bit later which isn’t difficult either!




Garlic and onions



The black olives add a saltiness and provide a good contrast to the smooth soup. The garlic and ginger just give a hint of warmth and don’t over power the overall taste.

So if you need a warming easy supper this Halloween I can thoroughly recommend this warming soup served with a red onion and olive focaccia.





Roasted butternut squash and onion soup




Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4-6
Cooking time 40 minutes
Preparation time 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
1Butternut squash
2 red onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 ½ inch piece of ginger peeled
Splash of olive oil for roasting.
Handful of fresh rosemary
1.5 pints of vegetable stock
A few dollops of crème fraiche to serve and 10 black olives chopped to garnish.


WHAT TO DO:
1.     Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees. Wash then slice the butternut squash into rings about 1cm deep and place in a roasting tin. Peel and quarter the onion, peel the ginger and garlic, squash the cloves of garlic with a knife and add all to the roasting dish.  
2.     Coat the vegetables with a good slug of olive oil through in the rosemary sprigs and place in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes.
3.     When the vegetables are soft remove from the oven and transfer to a saucepan. Add the stock and let simmer for 10 minutes, and then blend.
4.     Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped black olives.




Butternut squash


 Happy Healthy Halloween.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

LATE RHUBARB- RECIPES FOR COMPOTE AND JAM


Rhubarb 





I am relatively new to the gardening lark. I tend to throw a few seeds or plants in the ground in the spring and hope for the best. Low maintenance plants are my ideal, as long as they offer something edible at the end.
Lack of time comes into this and so although I hanker after fresh broccoli, spinach and salad the slugs tend to eat more than we do.



I know experienced gardeners talk of gluts of vegetables in the garden after the summer however this year I didn’t get a single courgette, only had a few tidily little tomatoes, and not one stalk of broccoli.


We have had great handfuls of runner beans, which we all love, ad so I have been making pots of runner bean and anchovy stew, which incidentally freezes well, see my post from last August
 if you haven’t checked it out already.

The real surprise has been the rhubarb.

I thought Rhubarb was a spring thing.

Not in our garden.

Unless it thinks it’s Spring now?

 Strange...

So I have been cooking up pots of rhubarb. We have made delicious individual tarts, which all got eaten before I could photograph them, sorry.  There has been bowls of rhubarb lightly stewed with orange juice and sugar, another great combo, and lastly my biggest achievement rhubarb and vanilla jam.

Yes jam.


Rhubarb jam making



Not something I would normally post here, but it’s delicious so think I will share the recipe in case anyone else has an abundance of rhubarb. Advance warning, it requires marinating overnight , so don’t do what I did the first time, and think you can make it in a hurry. It is easy, as most of recipes are and quick once you have left it over night. Kind of low maintenance jam!






RHUBARB AND VANILLA JAM

Preparation time 5 minutes to cut up and over night to marinate
Cooking time 15 minutes
Serves lots and makes 3small kilner jars full


INGREDIENTS:

1.2kg rhubarb cut into chunks
2 vanilla pods
700g jam sugar
The juice of one orange

WHAT TO DO:

1.      Wash and chop the rhubarb and place in a large preserving pan. Layering the rhubarb with the sugar, orange juice and the vanilla pods, cover with a clean tea towel and leave over night.
2.      The next day put a couple of saucers in the freezer ready for testing the hot jam, remove the vanilla pods from the sticky mixture and scrape out the seeds, stir them in with 120 ml water then turn on the heat.
3.      Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil.
4.      Boil for 10 minutes until the bubbles get bigger, or if you have a sugar thermometer until it reaches 105 degrees. I bought a thermometer this year but actually think the best way to tell is by the bubbles and then dip a spoon into the mixture and put a dollop of the mixture on the freezing saucer. You have to freeze it for 30 seconds and then if a slight skin forms it is ready.
5.      Don’t over boil as it becomes more like toffee- not as nice as it sounds believe me. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then pour into warm sterilized jars. You can put them in the dish washer or just heat them with steam from the kettle to ensure they are clean.
6.      Seal the jars and keep in the fridge is my advice. The jam last up to a year if kept un opened and refrigerated.  



RHUBARB AND ORANGE COMPOTE

Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
Makes a pot full!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 kg washed rhubarb chopped into chunks
I glass of orange juice approximately 150 ml
2tbsp soft brown sugar

WHAT TO DO:

1.      Chop the rhubarb and place in a large saucepan.
2.      Pour on the sugar and orange juice, if the base of the pan is not covered with liquid add a little cold water, then simmer slowly for 10 minutes.
The rhubarb should melt down into a delicious soft sweet compote that is perfect for breakfast with yoghurt or in crumbles or fools.


Summer fruits from the garden



Well that’s a first, two recipes in one post hope you have some rhubarb to try them with!




Sunday, 8 September 2013

MUSSELS -A TASTE OF SUMMER AND A QUICK EASY SUPPER.



Moules de Mer- Mussels in French Market 




Everywhere we went on our recent trip to France mussels or Moules were on the menu.






Mussels



Each place offered their own slightly different versions; there were mussels with cream, mussels with curry..not something I tried I have to admit. In St Malo we had delicious mussels with a lovely creamy, fishy, chorizo sauce, sounds awful but they were gorgeous but not great for a vegetarian food blog and of course the traditional moules marinere- the classic mussels with garlic and white wine.


Some were better than others of course.  


Garlic stall at a market in France



One of the best things about the house swap this summer was just having the time and space to stop. It also allowed me the chance to sit and look through my friends cook books. It was interesting looking at French vegetarian recipe books on Mediterranean cooking, which were extolling the virtues of the Mediterranean diet and with its simple vegetable based structure supplemented with small quantities of fish, meat and cheese. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the simple recipes can be the tastiest. You realize we do tend to over complicate food at home sometimes.




Gruissan Plage, France




Not Just For Rabbits has always been about taste and simple economical food. Food that is suitable for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike and that doesn’t take hours to prepare. So here is my simple recipe for Moules Mariniere.




Kilo's of cooked mussels





MOULES MARINIERE

Serves 4
Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
2 Cloves of garlic
1 Large white onion
A dash of olive oil for frying
A glass of white wine about 8 fl oz or 220 ml  more if you want. A little tip don’t panic if you don’t have any white wine, rose does work as well if you have drunk all the white!
1.5-2 kg of fresh mussels, scrubbed and de bearded!!
Pepper to season.

WHAT TO DO:
1.     Chop the onion and garlic into small pieces, put a good slug of olive oil in a deep saucepan with a lid and then fry them gently until they are soft.
2.     Whilst this cooks wash the mussels, pull off all the bits of weed etc that are attached. Discard any broken or open shells at this stage.
3.     When they are all clean and the onions are soft add the wine to the saucepan and stir for a few seconds allowing it to warm, then gently tip in the mussels and cover with a lid for about five to seven minutes.
4.     This allows the mussels to steam open gently in the wine vapour cooking them properly. When they have opened and have changed to a light colour serve them in big bowls spooning over the wine juices to give a soup like liquid, serve with plenty of fresh bread.



Moules Mariniere and crusty bread




This is such an easy economical supper. The fish monger in France reckoned you needed 1kg of mussels per person, but we found ½ kilo more than enough, in England the fishmonger said one pint person was enough. One pint to ½ kilo is good especially if you have other courses –like cheese and crème Catalan. Now that is what I have to have a go at making next I think.



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