Katie’s Caponata

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Caponata is an incredibly flavoursome Sicilian aubergine stew and really, really worth a try!  Sicilian food is a mixture of traditional Italian and North African influences, and in this dish the aubergine, tomatoes, capers, raisins and white wine vinegar create a dish that is rich, sweet and sour all at the same time.   My boyfriend (a man who is not over the top with compliments) loved it too.  It’s delicious on it’s own, on some crunchy toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  It also works well hot or cold and will last a couple of days in the fridge!

I did quite a bit of research to keep the Caponata recipe authentic but without a long list of ingredients, and am confident this is a winner.   Hope you like it : )

Katie’s Caponata (serves approx 2)

Olive oil

1 medium to large aubergine, cut in to small cubes

1 onion, chopped small (white or red onion is fine)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Small shake of dried mixed herbs or small handful of chopped fresh basil or parsley (depending on what you have at home or what you fancy)

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 heaped tsp capers

1 heaped tbsp raisins

Optional – large handful of pine nuts

1-2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar, depending on your taste

Optional – grated parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

To avoid having to cook the aubergine in lots of oil, firstly place it in a colander or sieve, lightly salt it (ensuring the salt is mixed in) and leave it for at least 30 minutes over the sink.  This will draw out the aubergine’s natural juices, which will drip a little in to the sink.

Heat some oil in a pan and add the aubergine.  Fry it for 10-15 minutes, until softening, then add the onion, garlic and whatever herbs you have chosen.  Fry for another 5 minutes, until the onion is softened, then add the tin of tomatoes, capers, raisins, pine nuts (if using) and vinegar.  Leave it to simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have reduced down and you are left with a sticky, rich, tasty sauce.  Add salt, pepper and a wee bit more vinegar if you think it needs it (the other flavours might be plenty!)

Serve the caponata with a little olive oil drizzled on top.  Enjoy it on it’s own, on toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  Grate over some parmesan if you fancy!

 

 

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Family-Friendly Couscous with Fried Halloumi

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This is a delicious, fresh tasting summer dish.  Couscous (it doesn’t even need cooking!) is mixed with courgettes, sundried tomatoes, chickpeas, spring onion, pine nuts (optional), mint, parsley, garlic and lemon juice, and topped with slightly charred and naturally salty halloumi cheese.  Super satisfying!  My kids generally turn their nose up at more adventurous cheeses like brie or goats cheese, but love halloumi.

You could vary or scale down what ingredients you use, to make it appeal to your family specifically.  I think mint, garlic and lemon juice are essential flavours though.  Veg wise peppers, fresh tomatoes, soya beans, red onion, green beans and asparagus would also work well.  And feta cheese would make a great substitute for halloumi.  Allow about 15 minutes to make everything.  If you have a griddle pan then use that to fry the halloumi, otherwise a regular non-stick frying pan is fine.

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Summer Couscous with Fried Halloumi (serves 4)

200g couscous

1 small courgette, chopped small

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped very small

Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Large handful of mint (add more if you want a really fresh flavour!)

Small handful of parsley

6 spring onions, chopped small

Optional – pine nuts, toasted (do this by frying them in a hot dry pan until slightly browned for about a minute, shaking regularly to avoid them burning)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled

1-2 tbsp oil from the sundried tomato jar (or any oil)

1 block halloumi cheese, sliced

Make the couscous as per the pack instructions (normally only takes 5 minutes).  Meanwhile, fry the courgette in a little oil for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, mint, parsley, spring onions, pine nuts (if using), garlic, lemon, vegetable stock and  oil.  Heat for another minute or two until warmed through.  Taste and add salt and pepper and extra mint if you think it needs it.

Griddle or fry the halloumi on each side, until golden and slightly crispy (1-2 minutes each side).  Spoon the couscous salad in to bowls and top with a few slices of halloumi and a sprig of mint.  Eat!

Noodle Salad with Asian Pesto

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I spotted this Noodle Salad With Asian Pesto recipe in the Itsu cookbook, and really fancied trying a different take on traditionally Italian pesto.  This pesto is made from unmistakably Asian ingredients – coriander, mint, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.  The pesto is mixed with noodles, avocado and topped with fresh chilli and toasted seeds, and I have added some soya beans too.  This is a really unusual and warming dish!

Toasting seeds is really simple – you just briefly dry fry them in a non-stick frying pan, shaking regularly.   I buy frozen soya/edamame beans lots, and you don’t even need to cook them, they just need to defrost.  They are great for adding to salads, as a snack or with scrambled eggs, and make a nice alternative to peas.

My kids were a bit sceptical when I served up this meal, as they adore regular pesto, but they ate most of it in the end.  We had just watched a beautiful and insane Japanese family film called Spirited Away so were able to link the food to the film!

Noodle Salad With Asian Pesto (serves 4 and takes around 20 minutes)

For the Asian Pesto

50g coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp mint leaves

Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated tiny

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp lemon or lime juice

1 tbsp honey

For the salad

320g noodles (any is fine)

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 ripe avocados, chopped

2 tbsp soya/edamame beans, defrosted or fresh (no need to cook them)

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

1 red chilli, topped tiny

To make the pesto, put all the pesto ingredients (leaving a little coriander for serving) in a blender/food processor and blitz until it is a smooth sauce.

Cook the noodles as per the pack instructions, drain and toss with the sesame oil.  Add the chopped avocados and defrosted/fresh soya beans.  Toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds by heating them in a dry non-stick frying pan for 30-60 seconds, shaking regularly so they don’t burn.

Add the pesto, avocados and soya beans to the noodles and put in to bowls.  Top the mixture with the toasted seeds, chilli and remaining coriander leaves and eat!

Pea and Mint Soup with Parmesan Crisps

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My favourite springtime recipe has to be pea and mint soup.  It is so fresh and flavoursome that I ate an unacceptably impolite amount of it at my friend’s house once.  You can make parmesan crisps to dip in to the soup for an extra impressive, yet surprisingly simple, dish.

My other seasonal springtime favourites are: charred lettuce and spring onions with goats cheese; potato, onion and fennel tortilla; asparagus with tomato salsa and crumbled cheese; and watercress pesto (all recipes are on this blog and can be made in 30 mins or less!)

Allow about 25 minutes to make the soup and crisps.  You will need a food processor or hand blender and baking/greaseproof paper.
Pea and Mint Soup with Parmesan Crisps (serves 4 as a starter or light main)

1 tbsp oil
Large knob of butter
1 medium potato, diced small
700g frozen peas
2 vegetable stock cubes (ideally OXO as they crumble well)
Large handful mint, roughly chopped
65g parmesan, very finely grated (or use double this if you want two crisps per bowl of soup)

Heat the oil and butter in a pan and when bubbling add the diced potato. Fry for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden and cooked through. Add the peas then add water so they are only just covered. Simmer for a few minutes, until the peas are tender, then crumble in the stock cubes and stir well. Add the mint then then use a food processor or hand blender to whizz everything together until smooth. If the soup is too thick then gradually add water until you are happy with the consistency.

To make the parmesan crisps, heat the oven at 220 degrees/gas mark 7. Line a baking tray with baking/greaseproof paper and on to this divide the grated parmesan into 4 long strips, in a thin layer. Bake for around 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Leave to cool a little, for about 5 minutes, then while still a little warm carefully peel the crisps off the baking paper. Cool until firm.

Serve the soup in bowls with a parmesan crisp on the side to dip in!

My Easy Veggie Ramen

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I LOVE RAMEN.  A big slurpy bowl of goodness which is particularly enjoyable when it is cold outside.  You can eat lots, safe in the knowledge it’s pretty good for you.  Feel free to experiment with what veg you use, or add cooked prawns, meat or tofu to the vegetables for extra substance.  In fact, this is a great soup for using up leftovers so almost anything goes.  Also you could cheat a bit and get a pack of instant miso soup and use that as the water/stock base.

Allow 15-20 minutes to prepare the ramen, and remember the garlic, ginger and chilli amounts are only a guide – you may wish to use less or more, according to taste.

My Veggie Ramen (serves 2)

2 eggs

2 tbsp oil (any is fine)

3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed

Small thumb of ginger, chopped very small, or minced

1 red chilli, chopped very small

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 large cabbage leaves, sliced thin

1/2 red pepper, sliced thin

4 spring onions, chopped small

1 litre hot water (or 1.5 litres if you want the soup more watery)

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tbsp soy sauce

200g noodles (any is fine – I use fine noodles which cook in 3 mins)

4 radishes, sliced thin

1 avocado, sliced in to small chunks

Small handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Chilli garlic sauce (or whatever sauce you fancy)

Boil the eggs in water for around 6 minutes, then drain, put them in cold water and set aside.

Fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for 1 minute in the oil in a saucepan.  Add the mushrooms, cabbage, red pepper, spring onions and fry for another few minutes, until softened.  Add the water, crumble the vegetable stock cube in, add the soy sauce and noodles and simmer for a few more minutes until the noodles are cooked.  Ladle in to bowls then top each bowl with the radishes, 1 egg chopped in half (hopefully it will be a little soft in the middle!), avocado slices, coriander and chilli garlic sauce.  Slurp then go back for more!

Potato, Onion and Fennel Tortilla

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This potato, onion and fennel tortilla is my favourite recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals cookbook.  The slightly caramelised potatoes and red onions are delicious encased in the egg, and the fennel seeds are a really interesting addition.  As you can see my tortilla turned out flatter and more like an omelette, but it doesn’t matter either way!

We ate our omelette/tortilla with baked trout and peas and sweetcorn, but it would also be nice with a salad and/or sausages.  My kids enjoy eating it with their hands (hence it also makes a great cold snack the next day)!  Allow about 30 minutes to make.

Fennel seeds are one of my *exciting ingredients* and also work well in fish pies and Mediterranean tomato based sauces.  They are cheap and last for months in the cupboard!

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Potato, Onion and Fennel Tortilla (serves 4-6 with a side)

200g potatoes, chopped very small in to approx 1cm chunks (I don’t bother peeling – I like the nutty texture)

1 red (or white) onion, chopped small

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp dried mixed herbs or handful of fresh rosemary/parsley, chopped

5 eggs, lightly beaten, with a little salt and pepper

Fry the potatoes in a frying pan in oil on a medium heat until they start to soften and get a little golden (about 8-10 mins), then add the onion, fennel seeds and herbs.  Mix well and keep stirring for another 6 mins or so, until the onion is soft.  Add the garlic and stir, then pour the eggs in.  Briefly stir and swirl the eggs in the pan until the pan is covered and the other ingredients are nicely spread out.

Once the egg starts to set around the edges, you have two choices.  You can either finish the tortilla off by cooking the top for a few minutes under the grill until set (my preferred option) or you can leave it on the hob to gently cook through.

Once cooked, carefully cut the tortilla in to wedges and eat alongside whatever you fancy.

Chickpea, herb and halloumi salad

This chickpea, herb and halloumi salad is an old favourite of mine from the excellent Cranks Vegetarian Cookbook.  It manages to be both refreshing and filling at the same time.  The flavours of the lemon and herbs really compliment the rocket, chickpeas, roast tomatoes and olives, and the fried halloumi on top is a salty treat.  It’s lovely whatever the season and only takes 20 minutes to make (or 10 minutes if you don’t roast the tomatoes) – whoop!

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Chickpea, herb and halloumi salad (serves 2-4 depending on appetite)

2 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp lemon juice

100g pitted black olives, cut in half

Small handful chopped parsley

Small handful chopped coriander

Oil (ideally olive oil but any is fine)

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g halloumi cheese, sliced fairly thick

100g rocket (spinach would also work)

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

If you want to roast the tomatoes (to make them extra sweet), put them in a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and roast on gas mark 6/200 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until soft and slightly charred, stirring them a couple of times to prevent sticking.  Alternatively you can just use them raw.

In a bowl mix the chickpeas with the lemon juice, olives, parsley and coriander, a good dash of oil and the garlic.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Dry fry or griddle the halloumi on both sides in a fairly hot frying pan until golden – this should only take 1-2 minutes each side.

Once the cherry tomatoes are cooked, place some rocket on each plate.  Add the chickpea mixture, the tomatoes and finally top with 2 or 3 slices of the halloumi and a drizzle of oil.  Eat and enjoy!