Sunday, 13 September 2009

Garlic for Greta

What I usually do, cooking for Greta, is to make large-ish batches of things, divide it up into portions, and freeze them. I then put them into ziploc bags, labelled with what it is and the date, and feel secure in knowing that I just have to pull something out of the freezer in the morning and microwave it for 45 seconds in the evening.

Her dishes always have to have some garlic in it, or she'll turn her nose up and spit it out at me.

This morning, her busily making a mess around my ankles, I took a head of garlic out of the drawer, started to take it apart, and realised that it was made up of about 5 cloves! I peeled those, cut them into four, and put them through what I call the smacky- the chopper with the piston you pump up and down. I put plenty of olive oil in a saucepan, and when that was hot, I tipped in the garlic and took it off the heat, stirring it all around as it cooked. I then left it off the heat whilst I continued preparations.

I took out a medium-sized courgette, sliced and chopped it, put that through the smacky as well, added it to the garlic, stirred, put it back on the heat, and added some black pepper.

Now, as she will only eat a little of most things, it's a case of having to get as many food groups in as possible, so I took out a block of tofu, repeated the chopping and smacky part, and, when the courgettes were soft, added the tofu. I stirred that around, let it heat up again.

When it was bubbling gently, I added passata, and cooked it down for about 10-15 minutes. I also added some of the cooking water from the pasta I was doing on the side.

We'll see tonight whether she tolerates this latest effort of mine.

And if not, I also made peach and greengage compote with saffron honey for her to spit out and make faces at.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Quinoa AGAIN, Mom?

Why are we having quinoa again? We had it last week! Well, yes, but Peter likes quinoa. And I have a pattypan squash that needs eating.

Not that Greta had to eat it- as she has a small cold that is giving her an excruciatingly runny nose, she got pasta with courgette sauce with tofu. About half of which she ate. But it had me thinking about children and food, and a story that my father used to tell about when he was a boy.

I went through a phase when I was still in primary school of having an egg for breakfast every morning. And it inspired my father to tell me that when he was a boy, back in the early 1940s, his father used to go out and get him an egg in the morning- even when there was an air-raid on. My grandfather used to go out, braving (as my father told it) the bombs, to fetch his only son an egg for his breakfast- and of course, my father would then refuse to eat it. My grandfather would tell him that there were plenty of starving children in Germany who would love an egg. And my father gave him the perennial response of ungrateful children everywhere: "Well, why can't we send it to them?"

Yes, this is a totally irrelevant story to the tale of my pattypan squash... but I was thinking about it whilst I was preparing it. Ungrateful, picky children. I guess my girl is just taking after her grandfather! Although, to be entirely truthful, I suspect that this tale is a conflation of several episodes, and I also doubt considerably that my father was allowed to get away with not eating his egg. It also surprises me very much that the man I know today was ever so rude to his parents, let alone so ungrateful!

But to get back to my muttons...

I've never bought pattypan before. I've read about it, but hadn't worked out either what it looked like, nor that it was available around here... nor that it was called patisson in French. Last weekend at the Migros, in the bin of pumpkins/squash, there it was, a big white thing, shaped not quite so much like a UFO as it is generally said to be, but still quite pretty. I picked a nice big one out... got home, did a bit more research, and found out that if they're bigger than the palm of your hand, they're supposed to be tasteless.


However, there were many recipes for stuffed pattypan knocking about on the Internet, a few of which I read, but none of which I retained among my tabs. I kept in mind, however, that sage and breadcrumbs and cheese featured heavily among them.

I'm out of bread. Hence, no breadcrumbs. I'm also out of fresh sage, although I do have (and have only just remembered) dried sage. As for cheese... well, Peter may be Swiss, but he isn't a big fan of cheese in cooking. Unless of course I sneak it in without telling him, then he's fine with it.

I knew I needed funky flavours for this squash. However, we're at the end of the week, and there's not much left in the fridge other than the usual vegetables. I should have unfrozen another slab of bacon, but I didn't.

However, after a perusal of the contents of the fridge, I pulled out a packet of jamon serrano (on special offer last week), and the chunk of parmesan that sits at the back at the top and gets hauled out when I make risotto.

I then cut the pattypan in half, the hard way- and that I ended up with a lid and a base rather than two equal halves wasn't particularly important. I took out the seeds and fibres, and whilst I was doing that I had the idea of the quinoa. Well, to be honest, first I thought of bulghur, but then I opened the cupboard.

I'm out of white ("regular") quinoa, as I mentioned previously. I had asked my mother to pick me up some whilst she was at the Migros in France, as I know they had it there. I told her not to get me red quinoa, as I had some... and she turned up with two packets of red quinoa (and one packet of red mixed with amaranth, which should prove interesting some other meal). So I now have four packets of red quinoa in the cupboard, and one half-used packet. Bulghur, I have one packet of. Quinoa it had to be!

A small cupful of red quinoa was therefore put on to cook, whilst I scooped out some of the flesh of the squash. I put that in a mixing bowl, adding roughly chopped jamon Serrano, and a lot of black pepper. I took the block of Parmesan, cut off all the... biological bits, and grated a lot into the bowl. I also grated some into the base and lid of my squash, and more black pepper over that.

Looking into my bowl, I thought it was a bit uninteresting, so I went into the fridge again. I came out with a pot of sundried tomatoes. I'm not a big fan of sundried tomatoes by themselves, finding their taste quite simply weird, but cooked and as a single component of a dish, well, they're OK. I chopped five of them and added them in. And I wish that it wouldn't have looked unbalanced to put in six, because the pot went back into the fridge with one tomato in it!

I also added a bit of the oil from the pot to the mixing bowl.

When my quinoa was just undercooked, I drained it (not too much), put it in the bowl, stirred everything around, stuffed the base of the pattypan, put the lid on, and put the whole thing in the oven at 200C for an hour.

It didn't quite work. It was OK, but it would have been better with bulghur and with bacon- and definitely better with a melted cheese in it, something like taleggio. I won't be bothering with it again, and instead will go back to baking little orange pumpkins brushed with truffle oil and with lardons.

The patisson, however, was an interesting taste. It wasn't bland, and was oddly like green melon. I think I need to come up with something else to do with it.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The bunny died happy

My camera's battery having suddenly died just as I was taking photos of Greta being amazingly cute (i.e. throwing all the tupperwares out of the drawer onto the floor with as much noise as possible), so there are no pictures of the redcurrant jam I made yesterday. Sadly, as the 2 tablespoons that wouldn't fit in the jar were very tasty! I'm thinking that redcurrant jelly would be a good idea for Christmas, so I'll start that up soon.

Currently simmering in my lovely Staub cocotte (large casserole dish) is two half rabbits (on special offer at the supermarket, and I really must remember that rabbit is usually cheap anyway), which I brushed with mustard and then "gilded" in a frying pan. In the mean time, I cut 2 slabs of lard fumé (smoked bacon) into lardons, put them in the Staub, added 6 medium carrots, cut into 5mm thick slices, 1 big, 1 medium, and 1 small white onions, sliced similarly, and about 8-9 cloves of garlic, chopped into bits. I put the vegetables on top of the bacon, turned the heat up, and when the bacon was sizzling, I stirred in the vegetables. I cooked that for a few minutes, then turned the heat off, and poured over a bottle of white wine (Cotes de Ceressou 2005).

When my rabbit pieces were nicely gilded, I put them on top of the vegetables, added a little bit of water, black pepper, thyme and three bay leaves from Peter's father's garden (it sounds like Mr McGregor should turn up too!). The whole lot is supposed to simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, after which I shall remove the rabbit and as much of the vegetables and bacon as I can, turn up the heat, boil the sauce thicker, add cream, return the bunny to the pot, reheat, and serve up. Peter wants potatoes, and potatoes he shall have!

This semi-recipe is adapted from the following three from Dans la cuisine, Marmiton, and Gourmandines. Mostly the Marmiton recipe, as I read it to Peter and he liked the idea of a whole bottle of wine. Although none of them contain bacon- but I can't help feeling that most dishes of this sort can do with being enriched with a little bacon. Even more so as I want this one to last through until Tuesday dinner!

My next non-jam project is involving the pattypan squash (patisson) that we bought at the weekend. I love the way it looks! Almost as beautiful as romesco, which I always have a hard time eating, I just want to admire it so much. I'm currently looking at this recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini for stuffing the squash, but I'm not sure.

Post-dinner verdict: It's a nice way of doing rabbit. I think, however, that it will be better tomorrow, reheated- and next time, I will make sure I have smooth mustard, which will coat the rabbit pieces better, as all I had this time was grainy mustard! And maybe add some button mushrooms right at the end of the cooking.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Quinoa for little ones, quinoa for grown-ups

Continuing on my efforts to feed Greta, stubborn little child that she is, yesterday's attempt was a variation on curried lentils with coconut milk- a dish which I've made for her before, and which she oddly quite likes. Enough to open her mouth when I bring the spoon towards it, that is!

I still have some of the latter in the freezer, but I thought I'd make some fresh yesterday evening, at which point I discovered that I'm (almost) out of green lentils. I had a quick look through my grains shelf, and dug out the quinoa instead.

Peter is very fond of quinoa.

The Internet in general appears to be very fond of quinoa. Which is not, according to my Peruvian friend, pronounced KEEN-wah, as most websites have it. She says you pronounce it as it's spelt (reassuring me, as that's how I pronounce it)- ki-no-wa. I have a couple of varieties in the cupboard- "regular" quinoa, which is white, and "royal" quinoa, which is red. Further differences will be mentioned further on.

I've made tabbouleh with quinoa a couple of times, but I don't think it works right. It's too small. Curried quinoa with peas and cashews, however, is a tab which I had open for a while without actually getting around to cooking the dish (mainly due to the fact that I never buy cashews).

For Greta, therefore, I cooked a small mug of white quinoa in a mixture of water and coconut milk, to which I added a chopped onion (chopped very small), and a (heaped) teaspoon and a half of a curry powder mix that I got in Migros. It isn't a very strong curry, so it's fine for her- just strong enough to taste! Looking at it, I can see chili flakes, so it's odd that it's so comparatively weak. The dish as a whole turned out quite creamy, as I added a bit more coconut milk at the end.

I gave it to her like that, and she ate about half the plate-ful before starting to spit it back at me. Not bad. But I think I'll have a better result tonight- as whilst Peter was bathing her, I took half a big carrot, diced it very small, and cooked the dice until almost soft, then adding them to the quinoa. I should have done that in the first place, as it is now a whole lot more interesting.

No doubt she'll spit it all straight out tonight.

Once she'd gone to bed, I took a mug of the red quinoa, sliced and rinsed a pack of leeks (about 6 leeks, the white part), a red pepper cut into strips, the remaining large carrot plus two others, peeled and sliced, and returned a huge courgette to the fridge.

I put olive oil in my big gratin dish (I do a lot of cooking in this, as works both as a frying pan and a saucepan- it's designed to be able to start off a dish on the hob-top, then put it in the oven, so it really is endlessly versatile), fried the leeks and the pepper for a minute, added the carrot and about a tablespoon and a bit of the curry powder, stirred it and cooked for a minute more, added the quinoa, stirred it in and cooked again for a minute, then added water and coconut milk (it would have been more, if I hadn't put more than half the tin in Greta's supper!), and cooked the whole lot for about 15 minutes.

It turned out very well- the red quinoa stays crunchier than the red, so it wasn't as creamy as Greta's. And a mouthful of crunchy red seeds surrounded by soft soft leeks... is very close to what I like best to eat!

This was also a clearing-out-the-fridge dish- quite handy for finishing things off. As we were away last weekend, we didn't get around to going to the supermarket, so this week I've been trying to finish things off and clear things up. It's resulted in one disappointing dish (egg noodles with a semi chicken-paprikash- I liked, but Peter didn't), one very yummy Salade Nicoise (2 hard boiled eggs, a whole pack of green beans, a pack of rocket, a tin of tuna, three spring onions that were getting very wilted), and the quinoa dishes.

I've also been cooking down tomatoes from the farm to make tomato coulis, and made plum jam. I won't share the recipe for the latter, as it was pretty much the same as the greengage jam, except that I used white sugar (which I never use), and, for somebody used to cutting any amount of sugar in a recipe by 1/3, it was pretty scary to use almost a kilo of sugar!