This is a recipe inspired by Jack Monroe over at www.cookingonabootstrap.com. Jack is one of my foodie inspirations. I bought their book for my sister when she started at university because I reckon it’s as good as any student cookbook out there. Jack is also a massive campaigner against poverty and LGBT rights and all round good egg. Check them out.
When I started this blog I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into those foodie bloggers that uses loads of ridiculous ingredients that you can only buy if you live in North London. Yotam Ottolenghi’s food is beautiful to look at, but a little tricky to actually make, or that’s what I think anyway (that being said, if anyone wants to take me out to Nopi or Ottolenghi I will not stand in your way!) I love him, but I don’t want to be him. So I was a little reticent about this post because it uses something you have to buy in the World Food aisle. But I really don’t think this goes too far. It’s not Za’atar. It’s not Dukkah.
Farinata is a pancake made from gram flour (also known as Besan) which is made from ground chickpeas. I’m fairly confident you can find it in most average sized supermarkets and a bag costs about £1.50. I’ve used the pancake as a base for a pizza-type thing, topped with my imaginatively named Red Sauce and a little cream cheese.
The nice thing about this recipe is that because it’s made from ground chickpeas, it’s full of protein and really filling. I packed mine out with spinach and carrot which increases the flavour and the veg content. It can be knocked up in no time, and I actually think it might be fairly healthy. It’s perfect for a midweek supper.
Farinata Pizza: no it’s not perfectly round. But it’s real life. And real life is full of wobbliness and wonky corners.
Serves 1 (easily doubled if you’re cooking for more than one).
- 50g gram flour
- 100mls milk (or water, or a mixture of the two)
- A good pinch of salt
- A shake of cumin
- A shake of cayenne pepper
- Half a carrot, finely grated
- 2-3 handfuls spinach (or whatever you have spare)
- Oil for frying
Red Sauce bit:
- An onion, red or white, chopped as finely as you can.
- 2 cloves garlic
- A splash of vinegar, (red wine, apple cider, balsamic)
- A tin of chopped tomatoes (I generally find that Basics/Value tinned toms are too watery, but they will still work if that’s all you have to hand)
- A good pinch of salt
- A good pinch of sugar
- A good dollop of cream cheese, or if you’re feeling fancy you could try goat’s cheese.
- Anything you fancy – grilled peppers, sauteed mushrooms, steamed courgette ribbons.
- Ideally the batter for the pancake needs to sit for 30mins before you cook it, so start by making this. (If you don’t have 30 mins, leave it for as long as you can and then cook according to the instructions. It will be ok. Jack Monroe says so.)
- Pop your spinach in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of water. Over a medium high heat, cook until the spinach is completely wilted. Remove from the pan and put on a chopping. Chop up the wilted spinach, ready to add to the batter.
- Mix the gram flour with a little milk/water to make a paste.
- Add the rest of the liquid.
- Add the cumin, cayenne and salt and give it all a good beat with a fork.
- Leave to stand for 30 mins and then stir in your chopped, wilted spinach and finely grated carrot.
- Meanwhile, make your Red Sauce:
- Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat in a medium sized saucepan.
- Put your finely sliced onion and garlic in the pan and turn the heat down to allow them to soften. Do not rush your onions.
- After about 6-7 mins they should be soft. Add your vinegar and give a little stir.
- Add your tomatoes, salt and sugar.
- Turn the heat up so it comes to the boil, then turn down to simmer for about 15-20 mins.
- Back to the pancake base:
- After 30 mins of standing, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan to a medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, pour your batter into the frying pan and squiggle it around the pan so it covers the base evenly.
- After about 4-5 minutes, the underneath should be cooked. Use a fish-slice or spatula to slide all the way underneath the pancake and deftly flip it over. It should be a gorgeous golden brown.
- After flipping, it should take a further 3 mins or so to cook the bottom.
- Turn out onto a nice big plate.
- Spoon as much tomato sauce onto the base as you’d like (I generally use about half the sauce for one person)
- Spoon your other toppings (cream cheese, veg etc) on to look as artful or messy as you wish. This is your meal. Own it.
- Photograph and upload to Instagram. Or not.
Sometimes risotto is a way to use up stuff in the fridge, thrown together with a prayer that it will all be ok. Sometimes risotto is a carefully planned showstopping, lovingly made with expensive ingredients that are marinaded and slow-roasted for ages before the final dish is ready. And sometimes a risotto actually fits in the first category, but is fancy enough that people think it’s the second.
This risotto was thrown together with cheap and cheerful ingredients, but would be suitable to serve anyone you’re trying to impress.
I find that people get a bit worried about risottos. They’re under the impression that they are in some way difficult, or that if they momentarily stop stirring they will cause some sort of fracture in the time-space continuum. It’s true that risotto is quite an involved dish, you can’t, for example, set it going and then go and run a marathon. But if you stop stirring for a minute to let the dog out, or even to go an have a quick wee, nothing bad will happen. The TARDIS will not land in your kitchen (more’s the pity). The Doctor will not shout at you to ‘RUN’. Weeping Angels will not start climbing out of your cupboards.
That being said, do try and stay with your risotto and stir it as gently as you can. But do not be afraid to blink.
(Apologies, the above must read as terribly esoteric if you’re not a Whovian. The funny thing is, I didn’t realise I was one until now…)
Fancy (Not Actually Fancy) Salmon, Pea and Lemon Risotto
- One white onion, finely chopped
- One clove of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
- A knob of butter or glug of oil.
- 150g risotto rice
- 500 mls stock of your choice (veg or chicken)
- 3 handfuls frozen peas
- 80g smoked salmon trimmings
- Half a lemon
- Black pepper
- Two tbsps cream cheese (optional)
- Melt your butter or heat your oil in a medium sized pan.
- Add your onions and garlic to the pan and gently soften them on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Do not rush your onions.
- Add your rice to the pan and stir it in the hot oil or melted butter.
- Add a big ladleful of stock to your rice, stir through.
- Once the stock is absorbed, add another ladleful of stock at a time, stirring each time you add the stock.
- Once most of your stock has been used, taste the rice. it should be just about cooked. The Italians call it ‘al dente’ so it should still have a little bite to it, which means it isn’t soft like rice pudding, but shouldn’t have any raw-rice crunch to it either. If it’s not cooked yet, you may need to add a little more stock.
- Now add your peas and the remaining stock, stir through.
- After 2-3 minutes, the peas should be cooked and all the stock absorbed. Check that they are. No one wants still frozen peas.
- Stir through your smoked salmon. Smoked salmon is already cooked so you’re just warming it through rather than cooking it.
- Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, being careful to catch any seeds.
- Pop into two serving bowls.
- Grind over plenty of fresh black pepper and top with a dollop of cream cheese to stir through.
- Be relieved that you made a risotto and there is no rip in the time-space continuum. Feel a little sad that you’ve not been visited by The Doctor and taken on as his assistant. Eat your risotto and feel better. Cooking – such an emotional sci-fi roller-coaster, huh?
I fear I may be wading into choppy political waters by claiming that this traditional breakfast dish originates from any one place. And I don’t want to do that. It comes from somewhere in the Middle East. And I will say no more about its origins.
I will however, tell you all about the flavours and contents of this gorgeous little gem of a meal. It’s robust and filling, whilst being loaded full of bright colourful veg. It requires a single frying pan. It takes less than thirty minutes to make. Its got the sort of gentle spice to it that makes you feel all buzzy without your mouth feeling it’s on fire. It’s cheap. It’s definitely cheerful.
This the sort of meal I keep in my arsenal for those times when I need to plan a weeks worth of meals, but the thought of that makes me want to cry. It’s an easy meal to have on permanent stand by. An Old Faithful of meal that won’t let you down. This is the foodie equivalent of that H&M dress that you bought for £7.99 and wear when you have no idea what else to wear because it’s comfy and looks nice and means you don’t have to think. (You have one of those too, don’t you?)
According to a Jewish friend, eating Shashuka for dinner is ‘cray cray’. I dispute this assertion. Eating Shakshuka at any time is never anything other than a delight. And what’s wrong with being cray cray anyway?
- A good glug of oil
- One onion, red or white.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 peppers (yellow look pretty. Red are lovely. Green would be my last choice here)
- A tablespoon of harissa paste (or 1-2tsp Ras-al-Hanout spice mix, or a little shake each of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and paprika)
- 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes.
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 4 eggs
- Parsley to garnish (if you’re feeling fancy)
- Flatbreads, pitta bread, baguettes to serve.
- Slice your onions and peppers, keeping them relatively chunky (onion into 6 wedges, peppers into 6-8 thick slices)
- Heat the oil in a frying pan.
- Add the onions and peppers to pan and turn the heat down really low.
- Crush or finely slice the garlic and add to the pan with the harissa or Ras-al-Hanout to the pan. Cook low and slow for about 15 mins, until the veg are really soft. Don’t rush this bit because burnt onions and garlic are not that great.
- Once your veg are soft, add your chopped tomatoes. Stir all together.
- Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp sugar stir through.
- Turn the heat up to a medium so the tomato sauce bubbles away and starts to thicken. About 10 minutes.
- Make four little holes in the sauce, so that you can see the bottom of the pan. Carefully crack an egg into each hole.
- Turn the heat down really low and carefully cover the frying pan (with a lid, plate, baking sheet or tin foil.) The idea is that you trap the steam in the pan and it cooks the tops of your eggs.
- After about 6 minutes your egg will be cooked so that the whites are opaque.
- If you’re serving this to a pregnant lady or someone who has a vulnerable immune system (or someone that just really dislikes runny eggs), just cook, covered, for another 5 minutes so that the egg is cooked solid. It will still taste delicious.
- Garnish with some chopped up parsley, if you fancy, with some bread of some description.
You can very easily make the sauce a few days in advance (up until the bit where you add the eggs), then heat it through a few minutes before you want eat and add the eggs. If you’ve the foresight to do this it makes knocking together a nourishing and yummy meal very easy at the end of a long day.
So last Sunday I had one of those days when for absolutely no reason, I was in a terrible mood. Not even Finding Nemo cheered me up. So you know it’s bad.
So after getting pretty sick of me, The Boy decided to run me a bath. And I listened to (and wailed along to) Adele in the bath for an hour and then suddenly I felt a lot better. And I wanted to cook something extraordinarily comforting and bad for me.
I wanted Tartiflette.
But it was 6pm on a Sunday and even if our local Tesco stocked Reblochon cheese (it doesn’t) it wouldn’t have been open anyway. So I had to get inventive. Of course a true Tartiflette uses Reblochon so to call this Tartiflette would be total sacrilege. So it is instead Absolutely Not Tartiflette.
I reckon it works pretty well though.
A note on potatoes: For this to work well, the potatoes need to be sliced really really thinly. I am lucky enough to have a spiraliser which has a slicing attachement. It works just fine, although you do get little circles cut out of every slice. You could also use a food processor, mandolin or the slicer side of a cheese grater. Or you could use a knife and patience.
A note on stock: I do think this is one of those meals that works best with real chicken stock (there’s a recipe for slow cooker stock, which is virtually no effort, here.) If you don’t have any though then a stock cube or jelly will still produce a very nice meal.
We had this with some sausages because we were starving. It would work as an accompaniment to some chicken (perhaps left over roast?) or works fine with a nice big salad for a slightly lighter meal.
- 2 large baking potatoes (unpeeled, unless you love peeling spuds. In which case, you’re a weirdo)
- one white onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 rashers bacon
- a tablespoon of butter or oil (depending on how naughty you’re feeling)
- 1 tbsp flour
- 100 mls white wine (optional)
- 400 mls chicken stock
- 5 tbsp creme fraiche
- salt and pepper
- hard cheese for the topping (I used grana padano, but parmesan, gruyere, cheddar or anything you fancy really would work just fine.
- Preheat your oven to 180’C
- Slice your potatoes as thinly as you can. (See above).
- Once sliced, plunge the potatoes into a pan of boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes. (If the slices are actually kinda thick you may want to increase this to 5 minutes. )
- Drain your potatoes in a colander.
- Chop your bacon into chunks and put in a medium sized saucepan. Cook on a very low heat so the fat melts.
- Finely slice your onion and add to the pan with the bacon.
- Add the oil or butter.
- Finely chop or crush your garlic and add to the onions and bacon. Cook everything on a low low heat until the onions are soft and translucent (7 mins or so)
- Add the tablespoon of flour to the pan and give it a good stir. It will mix with the bacon fat and butter/oil in the pan to make a roux.
- Add the wine to the bacon and onions, if using.
- Add the hot stock to the pan with the onions and bacon a little at a time (a ladle is the ideal amount), stirring constantly.
- The process will take a good few minutes to incorporate all the stock.
- Bring to the boil (this will enable the starch granules in the flour to burst and will thicken the sauce). Once boiling, turn the heat down low for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
- Arrange about a third of your potato slices along the bottom of a shallow ovenproof dish or gratin dish in a single layer so they overlap slightly. Sprinkle over a little salt and a good grind of pepper.
- Return to your bacon/onion/stock pan. Add the creme fraiche a little a tablespoon at a time, stirring it through really well so the sauce thickens up.
- Pour a third of the saucy bacony oniony mixture on top of the potato layer.
- Layer another third of the potatoes on top. Top that with another third of the sauce.
- Repeat once more, so you finish with the sauce on top.
- Grate as much cheese on the top as you fancy. It should pretty much cover all the sauce.
- Pop this in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. It should be golden brown and bubbling on top.
- Leave to sit for about 5 minutes as this makes it much easier to serve.
- Best eaten with a glass of wine, if you ask me.
A word of advice. Soak the dish you make this in. Do not leave it overnight without soaking. You will never get it off!
Stock or bone broth is all the rage, dontchaknow. Everyone’s talking about it. You can get tote bags that say ‘Boil your bones’ to carry around the Farmers Market.
I never used to think it was worth it. All that standing over a hot stove, skimming off scum. Not able to leave the house.
And then I discovered the slow cooker method. And it CHANGED MY LIFE. Now I have a freezer fully stocked with the stuff, ready to whip up a risotto or sauce or soup made with MY OWN STOCK. Like a veritable domestic goddess.
And it takes less than half an hour of actual work.
So next time you make a Boursin Roast Chicken, why not save the bones and make this? Soon you can have a freezer stocked with liquid gold too. And feel like a domestic goddess.
I usually pop the stock on after a Sunday lunch to give it a good 4 hours or so on high power, then turn it down to low when I go to bed and leave it on low until I get back from work the following day. That gives it about 20 hrs in the slow cooker. I think it needs a good 12 hours in total, and I am of a view that the longer you cook it the better the stock, but if you’re time limited just cook it overnight.
makes about 1.6 litres of stock.
- A roast chicken carcass, stripped of all its meat (save that for any number of left over chicken recipes.) (Any really dry or chewy looking bits of meat can go in the stock for extra flavour).
- One white onion, skin left on for colour, halved.
- 1-2 sticks of celery, rinsed of any grit.
- 1-2 carrots, scrubbed but not peeled.
- 2 litres cold water (or as much as you can get in the slow cooker)
Nice additions, but by no means essential:
- other left over veggies (leek tops, cabbage – NOT potatoes.)
- Parsley sprigs
- a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. (The Hemsley sisters claim that this helps to break down the bones so it releases their flavour and goodness better. I have absolutely no idea if this is actually the case, but it doesn’t effect the taste of the stock and the Hemsley’s are absolutely beautiful, so it clearly isn’t doing them any harm…)
- 6 pepper corns.
- 3-4 raw garlic cloves.
- 2-3 bay leaves.
- Put all of the above in your slow cooker. Put the lid on the slow cooker.
- Turn the slow cooker on high for about 4 hours.
- Turn it down low for a further 8 – 16 hrs, depending on how long you have and what your schedule is like.
- Once you have decided your stock has had sufficient time, turn the slow cooker off and let the straining begin!
- I use a ladle and pour the stock through a sieve into a big mixing bowl, squidging the bones and veg in the sieve with the ladle to get all the liquid out.
- I usually strain it again through a sieve into a measuring jug.
- Pour into freezer bags. (I usually portion out 500 mls per bag as this seems to be about right for most recipes.
- HANDY HINT FOR FILLING FREEZER BAGS WITH HOT LIQUID: stand the freezer bag up in a pint glass, folding the sides over the rim of the glass.
- Leave the stock to cool and then lie it flat in the freezer (takes up less space that way.
- When I need the stock I either take it out a few hours before hand and leave it to defrost, or cut away the freezer bag and put the giant stock ice cube in a sauce pan and defrost over a low heat.
- Now you’re a domestic goddess. Well done.