Red Miso Slaw

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I am obsessed with slaw. Coleslaw, cabbage salad, crunchy salad- whatever you want to call it, any type of slaw in a slight dairy based dressing is my downfall. Spoonfuls stolen from the freshly mixed bowl, bright, vibrant and young; ladled onto the side of pretty much any other dished-up meal, or eaten days later after a slight fermentation in the fridge, however I end up eating it, I’m head over heels for the stuff. Of course, there are many ways to concoct this delight. I have, over the last 30 years, grated and chopped and sliced an mixed, all in search of the nirvana of slaws. This one is pretty close. I mean, it’s not going to stop me changing things about and experimenting even further, but this is one I am currently falling back on each week, especially with this glorious weather we are having.

Enjoy.

Serves 6 as a large side

Ingredients:

Half a pointed spring cabbage finely sliced or shredded- the large, darker outer leave removed and kept for something else. You want the paler green ones here.

Half a red cabbage (hard heart removed and discarded please) finely sliced or shredded

A quarter white cabbage finally sliced or shredded (again- no room for hard hearts here. Discard)

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

1 large at Jalapeño Chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 tsp Maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

Pinch white pepper

1 large banana shallot, sliced within an inch of its life

1 heaped tbsp red miso paste

Juice of half a lemon

125ml (half a cup) good mayo

125ml sour cream

2 tbsp double cream

About 2 heaped tbsp chopped fresh dill, parsley and basil

2 tbsp or so freshly microplaned parmesan

Method:

Mix well- the miso paste will need a particular vigorous hand to ensure it is evenly distributed. You must, must must taste for seasoning and texture. You may need to up the mayo, or adjust the lemon, or pepper, or indeed the miso paste.

Cauliflower Puffs

The plain kitchen cauliflower puffs

As you know, I have a few of my mother’s recipe books: she was a meticulous organiser, and also enjoyed cooking a great deal. It certainly was the norm in those days to handwrite your favourite recipes in your notebooks, or, as my mum also did, cut out the exotic sounding ones from magazines and the newspaper, and then, using sticky-tape, pop them into an A4 ring bound scrap book of sorts. I do love looking at these, although these days I have to be very careful with them: they’re quite fragile, and the little cut-out recipe squares now slip from the pages, leaving yellowed strips where the tape once was. What mum also did, of course, was name the recipes using the name of whoever had given it to her: so, we have “Rose’s Trifle” and “Kinky’s Date Pudding” (yes, Kinky and Des were our next door neighbours in Cape Town…), and “Patti’s Paella”, and so on- a wonderful testament to my mum’s wide circle of friends.

Sometimes, the friend in question would be asked to write the recipe in mum’s book: and so it was with Granny Sue’s Blomkool Poffertjies. Granny Sue wasn’t our Granny: rather, she was the mother of one of my mum’s best friends, but we called her Granny Sue. Sue and mum were very close, and mum adored her. Sue even travelled across South Africa all the way from Cape Town when we moved to Kwa-Zulu Natal, and came to stay with us on the farm. I remember her with great affection. Sue was Afrikaans, so all of her recipes were written in Afrikaans too. When it came to translating the Cauliflower Puffs, I was terrified to realise that my Afrikaans is more than a bit rusty- I was once a fluent speaker, and in fact trained to become an Afrikaans teacher many years ago. I suppose if I were to be immersed in it for a few months, it’d all come back quite easily, however, reading Granny Sue’s entries in mum’s book did take a little decoding!

It’s a really easy recipe, and I have altered the original quantities a little. We had these as little starters before Sunday lunch, and I made a very quick dipping sauce of Greek Yoghurt mixed with a little Sriracha. They were utterly delicious- Barnaby wolfed them down, and I think they would make an excellent light supper for small children too. These are, as Granny Sue said of all her recipes, written in capital letters at the end, “Heerlik!”

Serves 4 as a snack

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, stem removed and broken into small florets

250ml full cream milk

2 eggs

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp table salt

Pinch white pepper

Good grinding black pepper

1 ½ cups finely grated cheddar cheese

8 tbsp plain flour

500ml sunflower or other flavourless oil, for deep frying

Maldon salt for serving

Method:

Steam the cauliflower on a fast steam for 2 minutes- no longer. Mix all of the ingredients for the batter well- I use a little whisk for this. Heat the oil in a shallow saucepan or frying pan: you do want at least 7-10 cm oil at the bottom, so that the florets will fry quickly and evenly. Heat the oil until it is at hot frying stage: test a little piece of battered cauliflower first: it should puff up and brown instantly. Place the florets in the batter, and using your hands, coat them well. Then very carefully, place the florets, a few at a time into the hot oil. Fry for a minute or so on one side, then using tongs, turn the, until golden brown on the other side. Drain on kitchen paper, and sprinkle with Maldon salt. Continue until all the florets are done.

Serve immediately.

And, because I am feeling super organised myself today, here’s another little recipe for you all: I came up with it last week, and it’s perfect stuff for the chill we are having: spicy, warm and so full of magic, golden turmeric that it really makes you feel better even just by looking at the golden bowl of goodness.

Cauliflower, Turmeric & Chilli Soup

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Serves 2, generously for lunch, or 4 as a starter

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped up into smallish pieces

50g salted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped

1/2 stick celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

3 tsp turmeric

2 tsp Maldon salt

Pinch white pepper

2 tsp red miso paste

600-700ml full cream milk

Coriander to serve

Method:

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, saute the celery, onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter for about 8 minutes or so. Don’t let it brown or catch. Add the cauliflower, and the spices and seasoning. Keep sautéing on a medium heat, stirring constantly to ensure the cauliflower becomes coated with the buttery spices. Pop the lid on the saucepan, and allow to cook on a medium heat for another 10 minutes, but: and heres the trick: every minute, remove the lid, and give it a good stir. Then pop the lid back on again, and repeat. You’re ensuring the cauliflower cooks well, and creates a good steam in the pot, but you are also ensuring it doesn’t brown too much. After ten minutes of doing this, pierce the cauliflower with a knife- it should be soft and giving, and if not, cook for a few minutes longer. Turn the heat down, add the milk, and stir slowly until steaming- it mustn’t boil or bubble other wise the milk will curdle. Once the soup is steaming, remove from the heat, and whizz until smooth using  hand held blender. Taste for seasoning- it will need more salt- and serve with chopped coriander and many slices of hot, buttered toast.

Pecan, Grape & Feta Salad

The Plain Kitchen Pecan Grape & Feta Salad

As many of you know, we are a bit obsessed with salad, what with Andy farming the stuff. I like to be a bit inventive with leaves, and I do cook with them a lot, even in the colder months; but I do welcome these slightly warmer days when I can rely on using the leaves in simple and fresh dishes such as this one.

Ok, so this sounds and looks easy, and it is: but it’s the dressing that moves this salad from the pedestrian to something quite fantastic. The creamy toasted pecans, salty sharp feta, and sweet grapes set against the spinach leaves just work. Make the orange dressing in a jam jar, and then mix with the spinach and grapes in a large mixing bowl, before turning out onto a platter, and then adding the nuts and feta: it just looks prettier that way, I feel.

Serves 2 as a (very) light lunch

Ingredients:

For the salad:

100g baby spinach leaves, harder stalks removed

200g seeded grapes, halved

150g feta cheese, cubed

1 cup pecan nuts, toasted

For the dressing:

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

½ tbsp. maple syrup

1 ½ tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp parsley, chopped finely

2 tbsp fresh orange juice, and the zest of ½ the orange

Slight grinding of black pepper

½ tsp Maldon Salt

Method:

Make the dressing in a jam jar and shake well. Mix the dressing with the spinach and halved grapes in a large mixing bowl, then turn out onto a serving platter. Dot with the pecan nuts and feta, and serve immediately.

Tomato & Anchovy Beans

The Plain Kitchen Tomato Anchovy Beans

The days are brightening, and meals are changing too: my cooking feels the need at times to be a little lighter and brighter too. Today’s recipe relies on both slow and fast methods of cooking: the very quick steaming of fresh crunchy greens: I have used gorgeous Helda beans here, green beans and sugar snap peas, which are ever so lightly steamed: all of 2 minutes on a rapid boil is all you need. The sauce however, requires slow cooking of about an hour (gosh, more if you can manage it: but an hour will do).

We ate ours with grilled chicken: but really, this is a meal on it’s own too.

Serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a light lunch

Ingredients:

About 500-600g mixed fresh beans and peas, like runner beans, green beans, mange tout and sugar snap peas

For the tomato sauce:

1 tin chopped tomatoes (a good brand please)

1 clove garlic, microplaned

1 large red onion, very finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

2 anchovy fillets from a jar (salted if you can find the salted types: these are far superior to the ones in oil- ensure you rinse the salt off though!)

Small handful basil leaves, chopped

1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Pinch caster sugar

Good grinding black pepper

Zest and juice of 1/4 a lemon

For serving:

1/2 a block feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup mixed toasted nuts: I used almonds and pine nuts here which I think work well

Small handful chopped parsley

Small handful chopped basil

Method:

Make the tomato sauce first. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and keep on a medium heat: fry the onion and garlic for about 7-8 minutes, and then add the anchovies and fry for a further 2 minutes. Keep on a medium heat, as you want the onion to saute but not catch. The anchovies, by this stage, should have almost melted away into the oil. Turn the heat up, and add the tomatoes. Allow to bubble furiously for a minute, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the pepper, sugar, vinegar and basil and simmer slowly on a low heat for about an hour or so, topping up with a splash of water if the sauce becomes too dry.

After an hour, taste for seasoning, add the lemon zest and juice, and stir well.

Steam your greens very lightly- for 2-3 minutes on a rapid boil, then remove and mix with the tomato sauce. Place in a suitable bowl, and sprinkle with the chopped herbs, crumbled feta and toasted nuts.

 

 

 

 

Roasted Vegetables with Chilli Hazelnut Pesto

The Plain Kitchen Chilli Hazelnut pesto

This, I like to think, combines the vibrancy of Spring (we are almost there, I can feel it) with the warmth of an Autumn or Winter dish: it is perhaps the combination of chilli and hazelnuts that make it feel like this. Do you remember, in the 90s, when Roast Veg suddenly became so popular? We used to roast everything, olive oil poured everywhere, whole roast garlics- we practically lived on the stuff. Trays of roasted vegetables will always remind me of Sooz and Hugh- my uncle and aunt in South Africa. Hugh decided that he would give the whole vegetarian thing a bash for a while (he lasted rather a long time before he decided it wasn’t for him) and Soozi used to make the best roast vegetables. She probably doesn’t know it, but hers were the best- and every time I make them, I think of Soozi. Mine never, ever taste like hers, just like my mince sauce for pasta will never taste like my godmother’s. Somehow, when certain people are in the kitchen, they do in fact cook with other stuff, things other than plain old ingredients: they cook with love. That may sound stupidly sentimental, but it’s true.

The hazelnut pesto can be made days before, and kept in an airtight container in the fridge before stirring through the vegetables. I have used a selection of vegetables here: please substitute as you see fit. Mushrooms, other squash, mini sweetcorn, cauliflower florets, courgettes: all will work well.

Serves 4 as a light lunch

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients:

For the vegetables:

8-10 salad potatoes, halved

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

8 shallots, peeled and halved (or red onion- both work well)

1/3 butternut squash, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled, but kept whole

1 tsp Maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

 

For the hazelnut pesto:

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted

½ cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup fresh parsley

1 large jalapeno type chilli, chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

½ clove garlic

60g parmesan

1 tsp Maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Pop all the vegetables and the oil, salt and pepper into an ovenproof roasting dish. Roast for 50 minutes: I do keep turning my vegetables, to ensure even browning.

In a spice grinder, or similar appliance, place all of the ingredients for the hazelnut pesto. Whizz until you have a crumbly, but not fine, mix.

Once the vegetables are done, stir through the pesto. Taste for seasoning, and adjust. Serve immediately.