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Mezze Birthday Banquet

Earlier in January was my mommy’s birthday.  N and I packed our car and headed down for the weekend to celebrate her birthday with her and my family. 

While my dad took her off to London for the day the little sister and me got to work preparing a delicious birthday banquet for dinner.  For the main course we decided to do a selection of mezze style dishes with some middle eastern flavours.

There was a crushed carrot and goat’s cheese salad (similar to this one) but prepared everso slightly differently. 

Crushed Cumin Carrots

Toss a bunch of washed carrots that have been cut into lengths in some olive oil and bung in a pre-heated oven at 180°C – roast for about 40-50 minutes until soft and golden.

Allow them to cool slightly then mash.  Stir through a couple of teaspoons of ground cumin and season lightly.  Spread the crushed carrots over a plate, crumble over some goat’s cheese, and sprinkle with finely sliced mint.

Taken and slightly adapted from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson & Jane Baxter – one of my favourite recipe books especially for lovely veggie dishes.

An earthy roasted beetroot, red onion, lentil and feta salad

Beetroot and Onion Salad

In a bowl mix 2 tbsp soft brown sugar and 2 tbsp red wine vinegar.  Add to this 1 medium red onion that has been finely sliced.  Leave the onion to ‘pickle’ in the vinegar mixture for about an hour.

Roast about 500g beetroot that have been scrubbed and trimmed in 5mm of water covered in foil at 200°C for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Cook the Puy lentils and allow to cool until just warm:  Place 100g Puy lentils in a pan with 2 peeled garlic cloves and add enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, turn turn and simmer for about 30 minutes until tender – top up the water if necessary.  Drain.

In a bowl mix together the lentils, onion mixture and any remaining liquid, and season with salt and pepper.  Peel the beetroot, cut into wedges and mix into the lentils.  Stir through some chopped mint and crumble over some feta cheese.

Another delicious recipe from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson & Jane Baxter.

A coriander and mint hummous (inspired by A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell). 

Coriander and Mint Hummous

I wanted to try a different take on hummous, so used Sky Gyngell’s recipe for chickpea purée to inspire me.  I can’t remember the exact amounts of ingredients as it was ‘taste and see’.  Into a blender tip a can of drained chickpeas, 2 garlic cloves, some fresh red chilli (seeds removed), a good bunch of coriander and another of mint, lemon juice (add more to taste), a tablespoon or two of Greek yoghurt, a sprinkle of ground cumin and coriander, salt and pepper, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Blend it all up into a rough purée.  Keep tasting and adjusting the flavours until it’s how you like.  I made it quite lemony, much to the horror of the little sister, but I promised her by dinner time the flavours would mellow and she would love it – they did and she loved it.

A platter of pan-fried ‘hint of spice’ chicken. 

Take some chicken thighs on the bone.  Place in a dish with a squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper.  Mix the chicken thighs in the flavours well and pop in the fridge for an hour or so.  When you’re ready to eat, pan-fry the chicken until cooked through.

Moroccan Olives

And a bowl of mixed olives – some with Moroccan flavoured and the others were called ‘Mojito Olives’ – spiked with lime and mint.

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purple sprouting broccoli with mustard hollandaise

purple sprouting broccoli with mustard hollandaise

I’m not quite sure where I would be without food at the moment.  It is my little bit of space to escape to, whether it’s lovingly prepared home-cooked food, or the guilty pleasure of frozen pizza comfort food – it’s there for me in a quite, steady way. 

Last night we made a simple but delicious dish of Purple Sprouting Broccoli with a Mustard Holandaise sauce.  It was the first glimmer of those summer dinners which are flung together from a few ingredients but turn out to be to be the most satisfying and memorable.  Amidst the snow storms and freezing temperatures that have descended on us this week, this was my first taste of the new year.

Delicately cooked spears of purple sprouting broccoli smothered in a glossy egg yolk sauce have been a food dream for a couple of weeks now, and one of my favourite recipe books helped my realise this meal.  The recipe was taken – and always it seems in my case, adapted – from the Riverford Farm Cook Book from the people who bring us the Riverford Organics box scheme.  This is a fantastic book for anyone who needs a bit of inspiration for cooking with vegetables, although it does include some meat elements in some of the recipes.  It is truly a celebration of the humble vegetable. 

The recipe, slightly adapted to my just-got-in-from-work-and-not-enough-time needs, is simple – boil the spears of purple sprouting broccoli.  Whip up a hollandaise sauce (a sensible thing to attempt for the first time, I feel, after a long day at work…).  Pile the broccoli on a plate and drizzle over the sauce.  Eat standing up, at the kitchen counter, with a fork (and a knife if you wish).  And don’t forget to mop up any remaining sauce with your finger!

It took my two attempts to make the hollandaise, the first I cooked the egg yolk and lemon juice just slightly too long and it went all lumpy. I am not good at admitting defeat, but it was well worth it to accept it had gone wrong, wash the bowl out and start again. The resulting sauce was beautiful.

Our local box scheme – Northern Harvest (www.northernharvest.co.uk) – supplied the first of the seasons English purple sprouting broccoli, and the eggs were laid by my colleagues hens.  That’s local enough for me!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with  a Mustard Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 2

200g purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed

For the hollandaise
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add your broccoli – cook until just tender but still a vibrant green.

In a separate pan, gently melt the butter then remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, just until it starts to thicken. Then start to gradually add the melted butter, a little at a time, whisking it until each amount has been incorporated. This is when the sauce will start to thicken and go glossy.

When you’ve whisked in all the melted butter, you can take it off the heat and stir in the mustard, and season it with salt and pepper.

Drain the broccoli and let if briefly steam dry. Pile onto a plate and drizzle over the hollandaise sauce.

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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