Potato and Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

Three lovely potato dishes for you this week. First up a Potato and Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin. I am cooking this at the SuperClub this week in Putney and since I have never made it before I thought I had better give it a try. Obviously you can make a gratin with practically any root veg but it is the starch in the potato which helps hold the whole thing together, so it is always worth putting a bit of potato in, even if it is not the main ingredient.

I love Jerusalem artichokes. Though strangely enough they do not come from Jerusalem and have nothing to do with artichokes. They are in face a  tuber from the sunflower family and originate from North America.

This gratin is delicious on its own served up with a nice green salad, or would work very well along side a piece of chicken or lamb.

Potato and Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

Serves 8-10  This makes a very large gratin. You can cut the amount easily by 1/3 or 2/3

1 cup milk (250mls)

3 cups Double cream (750mls)

3 whole peeled garlic cloves

1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper, to taste

800g potatoes, sliced thin

500g Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, whole garlic cloves and rosemary over low-medium heat being careful not to boil over. Gently boil for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. The cream is going to season the whole dish so it can be quite salty. Arrange the sliced Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes in a gratin dish. The Jerusalem artichokes discolour quickly so finish with a layer of potatoes.

Mash up the garlic cloves in the cream until they dissolve. Check the seasoning of the cream. Pour the infused milk over the potatoes. It should come up nearly to the top, but not quite. If necessary add a little more milk. Cover the dish with foil and place in a preheated 170 degree oven. Pre-boiling the cream should stop the gratin boiling over in the oven but just in case put a layer of tin foil under the gratin to save on washing up. Bake for about 1 hour until the potatoes are tender. A knife should easily insert in the middle. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until gratin is golden around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce

And so to my last leek recipe of the week. This recipe is actually for new season’s spring onions. In Catalan they have a festival in honour of their spring onions, called Calcots and the festival is literally called Calcotada. They grill their Calcots on fabulous charcoal fires and serve it with variations of this Romesco Sauce. It is funny I should think about this recipe now, because when I did some research into the festival, I discovered that it is celebrated this weekend! How is that for timing!

I have adapted the recipe for lovely fresh leeks. The secret to grilling perfect leeks is to boil them first until completely tender. Obviously that would be best grilled and lightly smoked, over a charcoal grill, but if not a griddle plate will have to do.

Romesco Sauce

2 red peppers

75g blanched almonds

75g walnuts

3 slices of wiale white sourdough bread

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tbsp. sherry wine vinegar

1 small dried chilli

1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly toasted

30g bunch of parsley

1 tbsp. tomato puree

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

For the leeks

4 leeks

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Put the peppers in a roasting dish and leave in the oven for 40 minutes, until they are charred all over. Remove and place in a bowl, covering with cling film to steam the peppers and help the skins slip off. When cool enough to handle, skin and deseed. Meanwhile, lightly toast the walnuts and almonds in a dry frying pan, stirring frequently. Add to a bowl with the tomatoes, bread, vinegar, garlic, paprika, chilli, tomato puree, parsley, fennel seeds, olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the peppers and pulse all the ingredients in a food processor or with a hand blender until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Check for seasoning.

Put a large, salted pan of water on to boil. Trim the leeks both ends and cut in half. Put the leeks in the boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes until you can easily pierce all the way through the leek with a sharpish knife. It is imperative that your leeks are properly cooked. Remove and leave to drain in a colander. When cool. Carefully cut in half lengthways with a sharp knife. Brush both sides of either leek and grill on a really hot BBQ or griddle. Leave until griddle marks are clearly made on one side before flipping to the other side. Serve warm with your Romanesco Sauce.

Spicy Chorizo, Leeks and Tomato Baked with Eggs

This week is all in praise of leeks. It is still a month until St David’s day and I don’t know what got me thinking about leeks, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. The first recipe is a sort of variation on the North African Dish of Shakshuka. Here I replace the peppers and onions with leeks and chorizo. Serve it with plenty of sourdough bread to soak up the sauce. A great brunch!

Spicy Chorizo, Leeks and Tomato Baked with Eggs

Serves 2

120g Good quality Chorizo, finely chopped

2 leeks, cut in half and shredded, washed and drained

1 can tinned plum tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

4 eggs

A little extra virgin olive oil

A small bunch of coriander

In a heavy bottomed pan (which can go in the oven) add a little oil and then fry the chorizo until it releases its own fat. Add the leeks, season, cover and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes, checking regularly. Remove the lid and continue to cook until they are beginning to caramelise. Add the tin of tomatoes and half a tin of water.  break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the chilli and paprika and cook down until the sauce has thickened. .  Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Preheat oven to 180C. Make little wells in the sauce and crack a egg into each hole  Place the pan in the oven and cook the eggs to your liking. I like mine yolks just runny, whites fully set. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with bread.

Chickpea, Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Curry

I have been making Thai Curry with Butternut Squash for years but for some reason it never occurred to me to make and Indian Curry with it instead. Butternut squash is very dense and very rich so it is important to cut it with another vegetable. Cauliflower works really well and along with the chickpeas adds texture and interest. As always, I prefer to roast the veg and add them to the sauce at the end.

I think this intensifies the individual flavours of the vegetables as well as stopping the vegetable becoming overcooked.

Chickpea,  Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Curry

3 tablespoon coconut oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1 knob of ginger, scraped and finely grated

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground cardamon seeds (try Spiceways)

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tbsp. tomato puree

½ a butternut squash diced into ½-inch cubes

1 large cauliflower florets cut into small 1-inch sized pieces

1 tin chickpeas drained

1 tin coconut milk

1 small bunch coriander

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté over medium low heat for 10 minutes until soft and lightly coloured. Meanwhile toss the butternut squash cubes with another tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a lined baking tray and roast until golden brown. Toss the cauliflower with another tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a lined baking tray and roast until golden brown. When the onions are tender, add the ginger, garlic and chilli cooking and stirring for one minute. Next add the spices and tomato puree and cook for a minute more to release the flavours. Season with salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk and chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the spices have mellowed and integrated. Taste the sauce and add more salt as desired. Stir in the coriander and then add the butternut squash and cauliflower. Reheat and serve with basmati rice.

Potato Latkes

I have a fridge full of potatoes as the moment and I don’t even remember how they all got there. So I was thinking of interesting things to do with potatoes and remembered making delicious Potato Rosti in one of the Restaurants I used to work in. I started looking up recipes for this Swiss fried potato cake but they seemed over-complicated and confused. No one seemed to agree on what sort of potato to use – waxy or floury and some recipes mentioned boiling the potatoes first before grating them.I wanted something quick and easy for the kids tea.

So I turned instead to a less known cousin of the Rosti – Potato Latkes. Being almost identical but thinner, they are much easier to cook and there is less chance of an overcooked outside and a raw middle. There is nothing worse than a raw potato. What I can’t agree on is the traditional accompaniment of sour cream and apple sauce when what they really need is my favourite – sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. Delicious.

Potato Latkes

2 large potatoes (450g)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander. Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch non-stick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to frying pan as needed. Serve hot.

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Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce

I cant believe that I never thought of baking a sweet potato. How many sweet potato recipes I must have made over the years and I never thought of just putting them whole in the oven and removing them an hour later. That’s it. Healthier than a normal potato, they bake perfectly, and are a stunning deep orange when you cut them open. But what to serve them with? Well, Chilli con Carne would be lovely, or Spicy Black Bean Chilli, but both involve quite a lot of work. I was thinking more on the super quick and simple baked potato fillings – baked beans, grated cheese, tinned sweetcorn. But none of those sounded at all nice with a sweet potato. So I turned to my absolutely favourite accompaniment of all, the unassuming sounding but totally delicious combination of sour cream with sweet chilli sauce. It was perfect!

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Wash your sweet potatoes and dry well and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cook in a pre-heated oven for about one hour depending on size. They are cooked when you can easily squeeze them. Remove, cut open and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Meatballs with Warm Yoghurt and Swiss Chard

I have to admit that I am not very good at trying new recipes. If I do choose a new recipe, it is usually similar to something that I have tried before. I suppose at my age, I put it down to taste and experience. I know what I like and I know what is likely to turn out well. But we can become a bit safe, a bit boring, never trying something that really sounds a little bit out of your safety zone.

With this recipe, I just heard the words “warm yoghurt” and I panicked.  I mean, it just sounds like it is going to curdle. I was about to opt for a safer option – lamb meatballs with braised chard, pitta and yogurt but I stopped myself. After all this recipe is Yotam Ottelenghi from his massively successful restaurant “Nopi” so who was I to question why. Warm yoghurt – why? So I made it.  To tell you the truth, I would have preferred my original idea, but this is for all the more adventurous of you.

Meatballs with Warm Yoghurt and Swiss Chard

1kg lamb mince

150g fresh breadcrumbs

70g pine nuts, toasted

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp dried mint

4 tsp ground allspice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

60ml olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped (120g)

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced

300g Swiss chard, white stalks removed and green leaves roughly shredded (120g)

300ml chicken stock

40ml lemon juice

500g Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with 2 tsp water

1 egg, lightly beaten

seeds of 1 medium pomegranate (150g) (optional)

20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Put the first six ingredients in a large bowl with half the allspice, half the garlic, two teaspoons of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper. Mix to combine, then shape into 5cm-wide meatballs weighing 50g each. You should make about 24 balls.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions and remaining garlic and fry on a medium heat for eight to 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions have softened but not taken on any colour. Add the chilli and chard, cook for two to three minutes, until the chard has wilted, then stir in the remaining allspice, the stock and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Put the yoghurt, cornflour paste and egg in a large bowl with 150ml of water. Whisk to a smooth paste, then gradually spoon in the hot chard mixture, stirring well after each addition, until well combined. Stir in two teaspoons of salt and a good crack of black pepper, and set aside.

Pour the remaining oil into a large, high-sided saute pan on a medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and fry for four minutes, turning a few times so they brown all over. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding a little more oil if need be.

Wipe down the pan and pour in the yoghurt sauce. Bring to a very gentle simmer on a medium-low heat – it should barely be bubbling – and stir continuously in one direction to prevent it curdling. Return the meatballs to the pan (they should just be submerged in sauce), cover and cook on a low heat for 20–25 minutes, until cooked through. Serve at once, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, if using, and coriander.

Homity Pie

It is funny how vegetarian cooking has gone in and out of fashion through the years and even more so, how the recipes have changed in style . It all started with Cranks which actually opened before I was born, but it was still fashionable when I was student, when being vegetarian was almost obligatory.  I remember waiting desperately for Cranks cookbook to come out so that I could try and recreate their legendary Homity Pie. I can’t remember if I ever made it back then, but I googled it the other day and came up with the original recipe which, not very surprisingly was really dated and uninspiring. Now a days it would have about twenty more ingredients in it. But I was drawn by it’s old fashioned simplicity, although it needed some serious alterations – It recommended putting the filling into a raw pastry case, which I thought sounded unwise, and indeed the pastry came out completely uncooked and soggy on the bottom. Anyway, a few tweaks here and there and my Homity Pie came out even better than I remembered it. I have to admit, that although Homity Pie should be made with wholemeal pasty, I cheated with some ready-made, ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, which made up for the extra blind-baking time.

Homity Pie

8” Fluted pastry case

125g/4oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling

125g/4oz wholemeal flour

150g/5oz butter

1 free-range egg, beaten

Or 215g ready-made, ready-rolled good quality shortcrust.

For the filling

350g tasty potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm slices

25g/1oz butter

1 tbsp olive oil

3 leeks, shredded and washed (or onions)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

100g mature cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

250ml/9fl oz double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C (fan)/Gas 6. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and pulse until the mixture just comes together as a dough. Bring the dough together and flatten into a round.

Put the pastry in the centre of a 20cm/8in pastry tin and carefully ease it over the base and up the sides of the tin. Line with baking parchment and bake until very light golden brown. Meanwhile cook the potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes, or until just tender.

Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan and fry the leeks gently for 15 minutes, or until soft and pale golden-brown. Add the garlic and cook for two further minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and fry for minute of two more. Add ½ the cheese and season well. Add the potatoes and spoon the filling mixture into the pastry case. Pour over the cream and allow it to drizzle down between the layers. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is pale golden-brown.

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Omelette Stuffed with Sautéed Spring Greens

It is January and I have taken a little longer away from this blog than usual. I hope that I haven’t left you lost for ideas for what to do with all your January vegetables but I doubt it, because this is the time of year when everyone jumps on the bandwagon of healthy eating and all the food magazines are packed with vegetable recipes. I always find it quite irritating that they all go mental for vegetables for one month of the year, before they move on to the next thing, where as I and obviously you, are focusing on vegetables all year round and not just for January.

Anyway it was whilst flicking through one of those many magazines that I got to thinking about omelettes. Not just any omelettes but ones stuffed full of greens. And when my box turned up with a large bunch of spring greens, I set straight to work to see how it worked out.

Being a trained chef, omelette is a word which conjures up many memories. The cooking of your omelettes had to be a work of art and I can still hear head chefs scolding me for over-mixing or overcooking the eggs or getting even the faintest hint of brown on the outside. We were not allowed to use any cooking implement, you had to make the whole thing by shaking the pan. Nowadays I allow myself to relax a little and so I have to admit I really enjoyed making, and eating this omelette.

Omelette Stuffed with Sautéed Spring Greens

For one omelette

3 eggs

A knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g spring greens, shredded and washed

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. double cream

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the drained greens and sauté. The moisture left on the greens from washing will help steam the greens as you sauté them. Season with salt and pepper and stir until just wilted and tender. Stir in the cream and remove from the heat.

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Beat well with a fork. Heat a small knob of butter in a small frying pan on a low heat, and once melted and foaming, add the eggs and move the pan around to spread them out evenly. Using a spatula or palette knife, stir the eggs until almost set. Then leave still for a minute. Remove from the heat and pile the spring greens onto the omelette. Using a spatula or palette knife, ease around the edges of the omelette, then fold it over in half and slide on to a plate.

Smoked Salmon with Roast Beetroot and Horseradish

Next up, another recipe good enough to serve on Christmas day. A fabulous combination on Smoked Salmon, Roast Beetroot and Horseradish. Super simple and you can plate it up all beforehand. Roasting beetroot is really easy and intensifies its flavour and sweetness. It is also meant to purify your blood and help remove toxins, which is probably a good idea at Christmas time.

Smoked Salmon with Roast Beetroot and Horseradish

200ml tub crème fraiche or 200mls double cream and some lemon juice

3 tbsp hot horseradish sauce or fresh grated horseradish

1 tbsp vodka (optional)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large beetroot

Some Salad leaves, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil

Smoked salmon

Dill or chives

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Scrub the beets, wrap in foil, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserts and removes easily. Set aside to cool. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, you can just slip the skins off with your hands. You may want to wear gloves but it is really quite a satisfying experience. Coarsely grate in a food processor or with a grater. Dress lightly with a little olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little finely chopped dill or chives.

Meanwhile, fold the crème fraîche with the horseradish and vodka, if using, with a little seasoning.

Or stir a little lemon juice slowly into the double cream until it thickens. Stir in the freshly grated horseradish and season.

Before serving, arrange a layer of smoked salmon on plates. Scatter over some dressed salad leaves and top with a pile of grated beetroot. Top with sprigs of dill or chives.