Friday, April 11, 2014

Oh Jerusalem

Not quite flawless food, but not too far off

Oh Jerusalem

I recently joined a group of like-wise foodie-minded expats in a small cooking club. Think of it as a book club - mind, there are actually books involved, since a cook book is chosen - but with the addition of good food. Before we meet, one person chooses a cook book from their collection, and the rest choose a recipe. We all meet, cook our chosen recipes, share the dishes and then discuss what we liked, or didn't like, what we thought of the recipe we chose and the book over all.
Selection of amazing food from Jerusalem 

For the first meeting, my friends Janet and Maya chose Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It's an amazing book, a feast of Jewish, Arabic, Mediterranean and Middle-East cuisine. Among the food chosen was lamb meatballs with barberries, yoghurt and herbs; felafel; chard with tahini, yoghurt and buttered pine nuts; beef meatballs with fava beans and lemon; and clementine and almond syrup cake. The dishes chosen were absolutely incredible; gorgeous food.

I chose roasted chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and lemon. It was incredibly easy. Other than simmering Jerusalem artichokes - which I'd never even seen before, I admit, let alone tried - it was chucking everything in a bowl, marinating it overnight and then roasting it.
Roast chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and lemon

I really liked this - the tender chicken, the lemon, pink peppercorns, shallots, garlic, thyme and tarragon all worked well. The Jerusalem artichoke though I wasn't sold on. Not sure why - maybe it was because I wasn't sure what to expect, but I found the flavour a little too bitter for the rest of the recipe. This dish as a whole though was delicious and was a nice contrast to the other, more meatier, heartier dishes on the table. Having said that, the jury is still out on the Jerusalem artichoke; I'd need to make this again before I could decide whether it belongs in the dish.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little pumpkin parcels of delight

Light, fluffy sweet potato gnocchi is heaven on a plate

Little pumpkin parcels of delight

Emperor D has been on a bit of a carb war lately. Several months ago, he went off refined white pasta and rice, switching - at first - to brown pasta and rice, and now he's gone a step further and cut rice out completely. Because I flatly refuse to give up pasta, he's stuck with the wholemeal stuff, at least. I haven't followed his lead, however - being too much of a lover of white pasta and disliking brown rice - so occasionally it causes a bit of tension at dinner, especially now there's always an extra pot to wash up (or try to fit in the dishwasher). 

Little parcels of  light pumpkin deliciousness
After making the ravioli with the pasta maker a few weeks ago, I decided not long after it was time to give gnocchi another shot. Usually, Emperor D is the one who makes gnocchi, seeming to have a natural gift for it. But having received a gnocchi board from my mum for Christmas (along with the ravioli cutters I'd used the week before), and having brought my potato ricer from home two years earlier but yet to use it, I decided it was time I gave it a try again.

With Emperor D reluctant to have a white potato gnocchi, I decided to try a lower carb version in a sweet potato gnocchi. I found a few good recipes through a google search, but ultimately went with the recipe found on American chef and food blogger Kelly Senyei's website, Just a Taste.

The recipe looked simple and easy to make, but I usually have an aversion to ricotta. I figured the sweetness of the sweet potato would balance it out, so decided to go with the recipe as it was listed. 

I'm glad I did. Not having a microwave - an occasional lament that I soon get over - I decided to steam the sweet potato using my rice cooker. They were a little underdone, meaning the middle of each was still quite hard, so I had to leave a little bit of each out. After passing the potato through the ricer, and mixing with the ricotta, I added as little flour as I could get away with, in order not to make them too dense and heavy. 

One word: yum!
Being left with a ball of soft, and just a little sticky, dough, it's simply a matter of rolling them out into long sausages and cutting them up into little parcels of gnocchi. Finally, I give my gnocchi board a go, and gently roll each one down it, leaving slight indentations on the outside and a small dent to finish, to make sure the shape can catch as much of the sauce as possible. 

After quickly boiling the gnocchi and making the burnt butter with sage leaves and balsamic sauce, it's time to plate up and eat. I had invited a couple of friends who are also on a low-carb kick, given there was plenty of gnocchi for four people. It went down a treat. Little pumpkin parcels of delight. The light, slightly sweet gnocchi was perfectly matched with the nutty flavour of the burnt butter and the tang of the balsamic in the sauce they were tossed through. It was easy to go back for seconds, yet as it's lighter than traditional gnocchi, it left me feeling satisfied, but not uncomfortably heavy or over-full. 

This is a easily a recipe that will go into my repertoire for those weekends spent cooking in. Can't wait to make it again! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Summer wrapped in ravioli

Mint, peas and marscapone; the gorgeous taste of summer wrapped up in ravioli
Summer wrapped in ravioli

I've been subscribing to delicious. - probably Australia's best foodie magazine - for a few years now. I've kept the subscription up while I've been living in Switzerland and get it delivered here. I still love ripping open the plastic it comes wrapped in and spending a lazy morning, usually on a Sunday over a cup of tea, idly flicking through the colourful, glossy pages, and turning down the corners of the pages with the recipes I want to save for later. 
There's just one problem with getting an Australian magazine delivered in Switzerland; the recipes in them are 6 months out of sync with the season I'm living in. Being summer at home and winter here in Switzerland, it means that, at the moment, issues are arriving bursting with recipes for ice cream, salads and desserts full of summer berries. Meanwhile, I'm still stuck in hearty comfort food mode.
Gorgeous pea and mascarpone ravioli

But there was one summer recipe which - despite the weather outside - I couldn't resist giving a try. Pea and mascarpone ravioliwith sage burnt butter allowed me to give Betty a whirl with the pasta machine attachments I had bought a year or so ago and had only used once or twice. I was given extra incentive with the pasta making accessories my mum had given me for Christmas, including ravioli cutters.
Pasta is easy enough to make, but ravioli is all about the filling.

In this case, creamy mascarpone combined with fresh peas and vibrant mint made for light, refreshing ravioli which screamed summer. The sage-infused burnt butter provided the perfect, yet delicate savoury counter balance to the sweet pea filling.

I’ve always had this thing with seasonal food – don’t eat winter food in summer and vice versa.  But sometimes, when something is this good, it would be criminal to wait six months to try it.