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There are some fantastic Christmas markets in Manchester at the moment, full of delicious foods.  From Raclette melted over new potatoes and gerkins, to spaetzle and paella there are all kinds of goodies.

One of my favourite things at the Christmas markets is Flammkuchen – a German style pizza topped with a creamy sauce, bacon and onion.  When I cook so much at home, it always feels quite expensive to eat at the markets.  So instead we decided to give it a go at home.

I went in search for a recipe – mind you, it took me a while to get the spelling correct!  I was inspired by this recipe because it used quark – an ingredient I’ve seen before but never known what to do with it.  Here was the perfect opportunity to quell my interest – turns out it’s like cottage cheese without the lumps.  Quite nice!

Flammkuchen

Pizza dough
Creme fraiche
Sour cream
Quark
Pancetta or bacon
Onion
Black pepper

Preheat your oven 220°C.

Roll out the pizza dough as thin as you can.

Finely slice the onion – the thinner the better as the onion isn’t pre-cooked.  I used pancetta rather than bacon and sliced it into lardons.

In a bowl mix equal amounts of creme fraiche, sour cream and quark. 

Spread the creme fraiche mixture over the pizza dough, top with sliced onion and bacon before popping it into the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until it’s golden.

All it needs before eating is a good grind of black pepper…or not if your Mr Rigg.

Any other suggestions on what to do with the remaining quark would be graciously received!

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My laptop power cable broke – think sparks and spitting sounds!  Thankfully, I live with a super resourceful man, who minutes later had ordered a new lead on ebay. 

However, since the end of last week my laptop power supply has been diminishing so quickly there was only time to briefly check my emails.  I do have some lovely bits to share in the coming days if I can just catch up.

Here’s a sneaky peak of our Flammkuchen we made this week…it was scrumptious…

I am behind on sharing the good meals that we’ve been eating this week – mainly thanks to an inspiration visit to Bath Farmer’s Market last weekend.

This type of meal – nibbly bits, antipasto, food to share – is one of my favourites.  It always starts off feeling like a bit boring, eating up leftovers, making something out of odd bits in the fridge, but then it usually turns out wonderful.

We had melting delicious Coppa, Homewood Old Demdike ewe’s cheese and a candy stripe beetroot salad all from Bath Farmer’s Market.  The beetroot I sliced thinly, spread on a plate and lightly drizzled with olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice and some black pepper.

There was tiny slithers of garlic salami from Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market, and a tomato salad with quick-pickled shallot, black olives and capers.  You can quickly take the tang out of raw onions in a salad, by chopping them finely and soaking them in vinegar for 10-15 minutes before you need to use them.

Accompanied by the flowerpot loaf from Bath Farmer’s Market and some good quality salty butter, it was a quick but tasty dinner.  Not at all boring.

This was one of those cheats lunch that feels incredibly satisfying.  We went to the farmer’s market this morning and picked up a bag of onion and potato bhajis from one of the stalls, and from these our lunch was inspired using up some bits and pieces.

The other week we pulled up the last of the carrots from the garden – these were scrubbed, sliced into lengths and roasted in the oven tossed in a little olive oil. 

Once soft and starting to crisp at the edges, you take them out and mash them roughly with some ground cumin and dried oregano.  A final touch of crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint.

We warmed the onion bhajis up in the oven along with a couple of naans from the freezer – I used a new technique learnt from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals of scrunching up a piece of baking paper, wetting it then wrapping up your naans or tortilla wraps before putting them in the oven.  They come out beautifully soft.

In true Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals style we served everything on a wooden board, with a small bowl of Greek yoghurt and ate the lot with salad and much finger licking!

Still on the phone camera – new camera to come soon I hope!

What do we cook for dinner when we don’t have much in the cupboards?  A frittata.

frittata

We always seem to have eggs in our house, and like most people by the end of the week there are always an assortment of leftovers.  Making a frittata is our failsafe recipe for cooking a wholesome and quick meal that uses everything up.

Really, this isn’t a recipe, because you can use any ingredients or leftovers that you like.  It’s really a short set of instructions on how to make a basic frittata and some pointers on when to add certain ingredients to the pan.

frittata4

Frying pan: To make a frittata you need a frying pan, one that can be put in the oven is even better, but if not this isn’t the end of the world!  I use a medium-sized heavy cast iron frying pan with a metal handle – I have discovered that this is the perfect size for us, it makes just the right amount of frittata for the two of us.  If you don’t have an oven-proof frying pan, pop your frittata under the grill rather than in the over to cook it.

frittata2

Eggs:  Next, you need eggs – beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper.  For two of us, in my medium-sized frying pan I use about four eggs.  You need enough beaten eggs to cover the other ingredients in your pan, so start with a good guess of how many you need – you can always beat up another if you need a bit more.

crackedeggs

My key frittata ingredients would be potato, onion and cheese. 

Potatoes: We often have a few leftover boiled potatoes, and these are perfect in a frittata.  If you don’t have leftover potatoes, just boil up a couple of new potatoes and use those instead.  Simply slice the potatoes into thick-ish chunks, and they are ready to be added. 

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Onions: Onions are a staple in most people’s cupboards, cooked slowly in your frying pan in a little oil and maybe a knob of butter until they are softened they will add a lovely sweetness to your frittata.  You can cut them up in anyway you wish – roughly chopped, thinly sliced, diced – just as long as they are cooked until soft you can’t go wrong.

Cheese:Adding cheese just before you bung your frittata into a hot oven gives it that added luxury.  Now you can use any kind of cheese you fancy or have available in your fridge – make sure it doesn’t clash with any of your other chosen ingredients.  It could be grated, diced, sliced or crumbled.  Tasty options include mozzarella, cheddar, feta, goat’s cheese, or gorgonzola.

goatscheese

Other ingredients: You could add – olives…roasted red peppers…shredded spinach…diced ham…artichoke hearts…shreds of cooked chicken…sweet roasted carrots…smoked salmon…broccoli florets…salami…flaked fish…garden herbs…

frittata3

Key steps for making a frittata:

1. Heat oil and/or butter in a frying pan and add the onion – cook until soft.

2. Add any other ingredients – add those things first that will take longer to cook.

3. Once your ingredients are cooked, add your sliced potatoes.

4. Pour over your beaten egg.

5. Sprinkle over your cheese and bung in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until cooked.

6. Leave to cool a little for about 5 minutes before eating.

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As a child courgettes were one of the vegetables I loathed.  I remember them cut in thick slices and cooked until slightly soft and mushy.  They were gross.

Now I have a much better relationship with courgettes, I have found ways in which to eat and cook them which have made me fall in love with them.  Courgettes are starting to ripen and I picked up a couple from Little Heath Farm that had been grown by a local lady with a large garden.  There was a perfectly formed round yellow courgette which I couldn’t resist, and chose a couple of green ones as well.  With some delicious French chevre cheese in the fridge along with a pack of Parma ham, a simple egg dinner was dreamt up – a frittata (fantastic as a store cupboard meal for those evenings when you can’t think what else to cook) with courgette, goat’s cheese and shreds of salty ham.

I’ve got another lovely courgette dish that I’ll post soon – semi-dried courgette and chilli pasta.

Here’s how to make it…

Soften half an onion in a little butter and oil.  Next, grate up your courgettes and pop them into the pan.

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There’s quite a bit of water in the courgettes, so let it cook out and then continue to saute the courgette until all the liquid has disappeared – a beautiful smell will start to waft up and fill your nostrils.  Then you know it’s ready.

Whisk up a couple of eggs (I used four for two of us) and season well with ground pepper and salt…

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Pour the beaten eggs into the pan with the courgette and onion mixture.  Crumble over the goat’s cheese…

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Finally shred over the Parma ham and bung in the oven for about 15 minutes until cooked.

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I find the frittata is best left for 10-15 minutes before eating, more of the flavours come through than when it’s piping hot.

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Now here’s the recipe for anyone who fancies making it for themselves.

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Courgette, goat’s cheese and Parma ham frittata

Feeds two hungry people

4 eggs
1/2 onion, diced
2 courgettes (1 green, 1 yellow)
1/2 slice of goat’s cheese
a couple of slices of Parma ham, torn into pieces
salt
pepper

*Please note, ideally you need a pan with a metal handle that can go into the oven – if you don’t, you will need to pop it under the grill rather than in the oven.

Preheat the oven to about 200°C.

In a pan, heat a little butter and olive oil and saute the chopped onion until soft.

Grate the courgettes and add to the softened onion.  Cook the courgettes – water will come out of them, so just keep cooking them gently until it all disappears and it starts to smell nice.

Beat the egg and season well with salt and pepper.  Tip the egg into the pan with the courgettes and onion and keep on a medium heat while you crumble over the goat’s cheese and add the torn Parma ham.

Turn off the heat and bung the pan into the oven for about 15 minutes until nicely golden on top and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little (about 10-15 minutes).  Cut into wedges and serve on its own or with a garden fresh green salad.

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Feeling that a cold might be creeping up on me gets me planning all the ways I can try to fight it off.  These ‘ways’ usually involve food.  We have been eating lots of garlic, onion, lemons, herbs, chicken stock, and drinking orange juice and hot honey and lemon.  If my throat gets stratchy and sore, I head for the cupboard, grab a teaspoon, scoop out a spoonful of ‘spring flower’ honey brought back from our travels in the Loire, and slowly suck on it.  It coats your throat and tastes delicious, plus I’m sure I’ve read that honey has antibacterial properties.  It certainly does the trick.

So when N woke up on Saturday morning with a sore throat too, it was essential to fill our bellies with something healing for lunch.  We opted for a firm favourite in our house, a pasta broth.  Its part soup, part broth, part bowl of pasta.  At its most basic you cook some teeny pasta in stock rather than water and add any combination of tiny diced vegetables.  Every time we make cook this dish it is slightly different, a different combination of vegetables, herbs and seasonings.

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This time we cracked open a tub of frozen homemade chicken stock, to ensure the best possible healing powers, no stock cubes today.  I used the vegetables that we had lying around in the fridge – a lonesome carrot that had got forgotten at the bottom of the salad draw, a small white onion, a chunk of celery, some sunblushed tomatoes, a few oyster mushrooms, and a bulb of fresh garlic. 

Firstly, I finely diced everything – except the mushrooms and sunblushed tomatoes, which were roughly chopped.  The onion, celery and fresh garlic were sweated in a little oil.  Next the carrot was added, stirred a little, then the mushrooms added.  The mini pasta was added (we used a small pasta shaped like rice) and stirred in, then the chicken stock added and the whole lot simmered. 

With a couple of minutes to go before the pasta is cooked, the sunblushed tomatoes are added.  I also added a sprinkle of dried herbs.  Once the pasta is cooked, I added a handful of chopped parsley and the juice of a lemon – the lemon juice just lifts the whole dish and transforms it – for me it wouldn’t be the same without it.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  You will find that most of the liquid gets absorbed by the pasta, so it’s more like a sloppy pasta dish.

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Serve it up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and an extra grinding of black pepper if you’re me.  You could also add some grated Parmesan or a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.  Bread or toast with a smear of butter is also a must to mop up any remaining broth.

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

This recipe should be tried by all – it’s delicious.  A fantastic winter soup that will bring a little ray of summer sunshine into these cold and dismal days.  It bursts with rich tomato and zingy lemon, but with deep earthy lentils and hearty pasta twirls.  And what’s more, it is made from store cupboard staples.  We ate large bowlfuls with grated Parmesan and a sprinkling of torn parsley.  For lunch the next day I finished up the leftovers with a pile of sunflower sprouts and a drizzle of oil.

Tomato, Lemon and Lentil Soup

Serves 2
(this is what the recipe says, but really it’s two large bowlfuls and one for lunch the next day)

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
400g tin plum tomatoes
60g red lentils
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable stock
75g fusilli
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Delicious garnishes: torn flat leaf parsley or sunflower sprouts

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and gentle fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft.

Add the tinned tomatoes and break up a bit. Add the red lentils and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta in a separate pan. This is really important – the first time I made this soup I thought I would save on washing up and bunged the dry pasta in with the soup to cook. The soup turned out more like a stew as the pasta absorbed too much of the cooking liquid.

When the soup has had its 30 minutes, use a hand blended to blitz it up a little bit so that it is a mixture or smooth and coarse textures. Add the pasta and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Make sure you taste the soup and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper until the soup bursts with flavour in your mouth.

Serve in warm bowls with plain or with a garnish of your choice.

soup with sunflower sprouts

soup with sunflower sprouts

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from Family Food by Silvana Franco.

Winter veg coleslaw

Winter veg coleslaw

For lunch today, I finally made the coleslaw I’ve been wanting to make for the last two weeks.  The two cabbage that I bought, were however bought two weeks ago when I first decided I wanted to try making coleslaw.  I’d stored them in our back porch – which is somewhere between a shabby conservatory, a lean-to, and a boot room – as it’s freezing in there and great when I run out of fridge space.  They probably weren’t as crisp and crunchy as they would have been two weeks ago, but notheless still good.

I finely shredded a small white cabbage and a small red cabbage.  Finely sliced a small red onion, and grated half a giant carrot – probably the size of one normal carrot.  In a bowl I combined a couple of tablespoons of organic mayonnaise, about two teaspoons of whole grain mustard, a little under one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a glug of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a little warm water.  I mixed this all together and added my shredded, sliced and grated veg.  Stir it altogether and you have my version of coleslaw. 

a hearty meal

a hearty meal

What I’ve realised is that you don’t need to think that you need to ‘attempt’ to make coleslaw.  It is in fact, quite simple.  I’m sure you could try lots of different combinations, and with a little bit of tweaking to create the flavours you’re after it would still taste great.  So have a go, it’s the perfect way to eat raw vegetables at this cold and inhospitable time of year.

We ate ours two ways: N served his coleslaw with a minute steak (from Little Heath Farm) and a hunk of Cheese and Sundried Tomato bread (from Barkbakan – this bread is delicious, it is topped with mixture of seeds, one of which is caraway which seems to have the effect of hightening the cheese and tomato flavours); I ate mine with a potato, cheese and leek pastry.

ingredients for a storecupboard dinner

ingredients for a storecupboard dinner

A storecupboard meal to save you.  On realising that I am 2 ounces short of enough risotto rice to make the planned (and I might add for a number of days…plenty of time to check the jar of risotto rice and buy more) Pea, Mint and Mascarpone Risotto, I had a mild panic and was then saved by a couple of items that have been lounging in the fridge since Christmas.  I like nights like these, when plans go to pot, but in turn make way for a creative meal to be cobbled together. 

Tonight’s meal has been cobbled from: potatoes (delicious golden fleshed potatoes, ashamedly I admit from the supermarket, but grown in Hertfordshire), an onion, chorizo sausage (the cooking type, not the salami), green olives (remnants of the edible Christmas gifts), and a lump of hard Spanish cheese (brought back from Madrid by my dad).

Chop up the potatoes and parboil.  Slice the onion and fry in an ovenproof dish on a medium heat.  Add some sliced chorizo.  And some finely chopped garlic.  A sprinkle of dried herbs.  Ground black pepper.

Add the drained potatoes.  Stir well.  Add half a tin of tomatoes and 200ml of chicken stock (from a cube).  Bung in the oven (180°C).

20 minutes later, remove from the oven.  Sprinkle over the green olives.  Grate on some cheese.  Bung it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the cheese is all gooey and golden.  Yum.

time to lay the table

time to lay the table

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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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