Have you ever ordered something in a half-asleep kind of way?
A few weeks ago when ordering pie ingredients from Cardiff Market I ended up with about 10kg of onions in excess even after cooking many caramelised onion pies. In the process of making the order I was wearing my astute-business-woman face, hiding tiredness from a long day at work. And the only thing I heard the helpful man say was ‘very little money for a lot of onions’ to which of course I said ‘yes’. It is unlike me to be imprecise with orders (on food or anything really) but this wonderful mistake gave me the opportunity to experiment cooking with a lot of onions within a short period of time.
Admittedly Dan and I will not have onion soup again for a while. But we gratefully savoured its thyme and wine flavours during a May week when the weather had turned bad, we got ill and the heating came on again. French onion soup recipes online are plenty but my version is closest to Elise Bauer’s one on Simply Recipes because I also use no butter. And on occasion I choose to leave out the garlic and also make Gruyere cheese toast on granary bread instead of baguette croutons.
The bulk of my excess onions however I turned into a spiced onion chutney. I almost followed a recipe from Allotment Growing Recipes but did not use as much sugar and added ground pimento berries, bay leaves, port and red wine. The result is a fragrant onion chutney that compliments strong and piquant cheeses competently and also works well with beef burgers. I converted and amended the recipe below for you.
Make up to 9 medium jars and about 4Kg of Chutney.
5kg onions (peeled and chopped)
800gr dark brown sugar
9 Tbsp olive oil
3 lemons, juiced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp ground nutmeg
3 tsp ground ginger
6 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cloves
6 tsp salt
3 tsp black pepper and pimento berries ground together
9 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 Tbsp malt vinegar
1 shot of red wine
1-2 shots of port
Preparation and jarring
At least 4 hours
Heat the oil in a 5lt pot, add onions and sauté for at least 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the vinegars, lemon juice and spices and cook for 2 minutes.
Add sugar and then simmer uncovered for at least 3 hours.
Half way through cooking add the wine and port.
The chutney is ready when the liquid is reduced even if not fully evaporated- it will thicken when you stir.
About half an hour before the chutney is done sterilise jars.
Boil clean jars and their lids in bubbling water for 10 minutes.
Whilst doing that preheat the oven at 110 centigrade.
Line a baking tray with a clean towel.
Place the jars upside down on the tray using metal tongs.
Leave in the over for 15 minutes.
Ladle the chutney into hot, sterilised jars and seal immediately.
Label the jars when fully cool.
The chutney should keep for a year.
- Be prepared to peel and chop 5 Kg of onions for about hour if you have as small a kitchen as mine.
- I added the vinegars and lemons half an hour in the cooking process is as I was adding and sautéing onions gradually.
- Leave the lid off!
- Keep on low heat and stir regularly. Caramelised is good and burnt is bad.
- I put 800gr sugar but next time I’ll use less.
- Keep the jars in the oven if you have to wait a bit longer for the chutney to cook. The jars need to be hot if you are filling with hot chutney.
- Good instructions for sterilising can be found on Taste.com, an Australian website.
- The simple rule of jarring is to never add hot chutney to a cold jar and vice versa.
Today I am writing about an experiment. I have no clue whether it will work or not in its virginal attempt but I thought I’d tell you anyway because … I am excited. I have had a go at preserving lemons, which I can then use to accentuate the flavours of tagine dishes. And apparently I could even exepriment with cakes and deserts that use preserved lemons.
Lemons, their colour, their scent, their flavour, their overall character brightness, mean happiness to me. My friend Becks loves the Forsythia hedge in our garden for its yellow flowers and the tone of happiness they bring into our house. They light up the scene. Lemons and their sunshine hue have the same effect on me.
So on a gloomy day like this, when the sun might have gone on holiday to Spain, what better idea than to surround yourself with the colour yellow and cheer your self up! Have a lemonade and wear something yellow!
Ingredients for preserved lemons
Enough for a 10cm diameter jar and about 8 cm height
4 Lemons for preserving
1 Lemon for juice
1 Bay leaf
4 Heaped tbsp coarse salt
Additional coarse salt for jar layering
20min and 1 month preservation (at least)
Wash unwaxed lemons really well.
Juice the juiciest of lemons. Then slice the leftover skin in strips.
Layer the bottom of the jar with a couple of heaped tbsp of coarse salt.
Cut the four lemons in four but avoid cutting through them. Cut along the middle of the lemon first and then across.
Pull the flesh of each lemon open and add 1 or more tbsp of heaped salt inside it.
Add lemons to the jar snuggly and top with more coarse salt.
Sprinkle with peppercorns between layers.
Add bay leaves to the sides of the jar.
Top with strips of the juiced lemon flesh and top with more salt.
Pour the lemon juice over the contents of the jar.
Push down lemons with a wooden spoon to bring lemon juices out.
Seal and wait patiently for at least a month for your lemons to preserve.
- You can also use limes. I added one lime to make the experiment more interesting.
- Salt takes away the lemons bitterness. Same effect it has on aubergines when you prepare them for cooking.
- You can keep preserved lemons for about a year.
- My tinterweb research reveals thta Meyer lemons are the best for preserved lemons. I just used what I had.
- I decided to use flavourings inspired by Snowflake Kitchen’s Blog and as I have bay leaves in abundance all year around.
- Zoe English makes the best preserved lemons I have tried. Fact. She has ecnouraged me to do my own. Who she is I am sure you will find out soon 🙂
- Punk Domestics, a directory of cooks and community activity and a gateway to cookery blogs, is how I learnt to preserve lemons.
- Through Punk Domestics, I filtered down my preferred preserved lemon recipes which in addition to Snowflake Kitchen’s Blog can be seen on the One tomato, two tomato, The view from the Island (with star anise) and Head Space Canning blogs.
- Enjoy preserving sunshine!
Spring is here! I am writing to you from one of our local cafés. Its wide French doors are open to an outdoor terrace. It’s still light and warm and a soft breeze just brought in scents of blossom (and something delicious cooking in a kitchen).
I have chosen to share with you the recipe for Tourlou, a mixed vegetable dish that tastes like spring and summer to me. A fridge chilled portion of it with some crumbled feta (surprise, surprise!) is just as nice to eat as straight after cooking or cooled to room temperature. But I’d prefer the chilled version today because it makes me think of Vourvourou, my friend Maria and resting in the shade in her company sipping a chilled beer (sigh!).
Back to cooking! Tourlou is an easy recipe and great for using a medley of vegetable. It can be a light evening dinner on its own or served with rice, a delicious side dish or alternative to salad, and a fantastic tapa or meze. And apparently Tourlou is the same as briam only it’s cooked on a hob- here’s something new for food geeks like me.
Serves 2 for main and more as a meze or side
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 pepper, chopped (optional)
1 carrot (optional)
200g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or chopped in blender
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g mixed weight)
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Pepper (to taste)
Takes up to an hour
Wash all vegetable, peel the potatoes, and dice it all in five centimeter (large) chunks.
Sauté the onion and a pinch of salt in about two Tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes.
Add one or two more Tbsp olive oil, the vegetable, toss and fry for about five minutes.
Add the garlic, let it fry for a minute without burning and add the tomatoes.
Add the sugar and also season with salt and pepper.
Stir well and cover.
Lower the heat and simmer for forty minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
Add the chopped parsley at the end or half way through the cooking.
- For a good Tourlou do not to stir during simmering to avoid breaking the vegetable as it softens.
- The tomatoes should have enough juice for all the vegetable to cook but halfway through cooking check if you need to add a couple of Tbsp of water to make sure the potatoes cook.
- Replace potatoes with other root vegetable such as parsnip if you like.
- I prefer cooking Tourlou with more aubergine and one courgette.
- Use any vegetable you like. Okra is fantastic in tourlou but might take a bit longer to cook.
- For Briam use the same ingredients, add a little bit of water and cover a baking tray with foil. Slow cook for about an hour in the oven.
An alternative to scrambled eggs. It’s nice to imagine recipes for ingredients you did not know how to cook with. Scrambu has made Tofu part of our regular diet easily.
Serves up to 4
350gr Tofu, plain or smoked
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika, plain or smoked
½ tsp salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
100gr baby plum or cherry tomatoes (handful)
100gr grated cheddar cheese
1 small bunch of fresh coriander or basil
Garam massala spices (optional if you are using coriander)
Sauté the onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt.
Add the mustard seeds until they start popping.
Add the tomatoes sliced in half or quarters and cook for a few minutes until softened.
Crumble the tofu with your hands into the mixture.
Add the turmeric and paprika and stir with a wooden spoon. Add as much turmeric as you need to make the tofu look like scramble eggs.
Cook the tofu with your spices for about five minutes. Season with the rest of your salt and pepper.
Turn the heat off and add the grated cheese. Toss until the cheese it melts nicely.
Taste and season more if required, tofu is very bland and might need more salt than you thought it does.
Be creative with your spices in tofu. You can make Indian, Thai or Italian flavoured scrambu as we do or make your own version. Coriander goes really well with garam massala spices and you can add a chilli pepper too. But the basil and tomato version is very tasty too with a pinch of cinnamon or pimento berries.
Enjoy on warm buttered toast.
My mother was here until last Monday, and I kid you not, she made the best halva of her mother career for us. It was one small little change in the simple foolproof recipe that she has been using all her life- she used lime instead of lemon and oh my was that a wonderful deviation.
The halva recipe follows the simple 1-2-3-4 rule, which is fool proof and depending on your unit of measure allows you to make more or less portions of halva. If you use a cup as a unit of measurement you should have enough desert for about six people.
Remember to allow some time for the halva to cool down slightly so that you can mould it into your chosen shape or individual portions.
This desert is easy, quick, cheap and everybody loves it. And the recipe is vegetarian, vegan and dairy free.
Here is how we do Halva in the Moutselou clan although admittedly I prefer to brown the halva a bit more than mom because of the toasted grain smell it releases in the house.
1 measure of olive oil
2 measures of coarse semolina
3 measures of sugar (you can easily reduce that to 2 or even replace with honey)
Peel of half or whole lime or lemon
1 cinnamon stick
A big handful of chopped walnuts
Some finely chopped walnuts for dusting and decoration
Some cinnamon powder for decoration
Prepare a syrup adding the boiled water, the sugar, a cinnamon stick and lime or lemon peel to a heat proof bowl or pan.
Stir the sugar until dissolved, cover and let it sit long enough to unleash the lime and cinnamon flavours[i].
Heat the olive oil in a pan (preferably non stick) until it’s almost sizzling.
Add the semolina to the pan and brown, stirring continuously and until it reaches your preferred shade of semolina brown[ii].
Add a big handful of coarsely chopped walnuts halfway through your browning action.
Remove the lemon/lime peel, stir the syrup in the pan of browned semolina and either remove from heat or lower to minimum whilst you continue stirring.
Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick.
Let the halva mixture cool down for five minutes or more.
Mould either in a bundt cake tin or a loaf tin or in individual moulds of your choice, e.g. Greek coffee cups for smaller portions.
Dust with cinnamon powder and decorate with finely ground walnuts and.
Let the halva cool down before serving. The halva is delicious cold when left in the fridge overnight.
If you wish serve with grapes and decorate with single (soya) cream
[i] The longer you leave your syrup to sit the more flavoursome it will be but if you are in a rush you can just let it sit whilst you go through the next few steps.
[ii] Many people like to toast the semolina very slightly and until it absorbs the oil- if you prefer this your halva can look very pale and almost beige and could be very light. I love to brown the semolina to a heavier complexion but I would recommend a light tan for most beginners.
[iii] You will see the semolina expand.
We found the main ingredient for this new red carrot pasta sauce at the roadside between Temple Bar and Criblyn villages in Ceredigion, Wales.
A compulsory stop to find our bearings and the way to the little thatched cottage that would be our home for the weekend revealed a roadside stall with bunches of fresh organic carrots, homemade jams and eggs. This was still one of those places where you are trusted to pick what you want and leave the money.
We arrived ravenous at the cottage with a bunch of fresh small organic carrots, and fettuccine pasta, tinned plum tomatoes, the basics of garlic, salt and pepper, and the luxury of cinnamon in our travel cook box.
The recipe came together in my mind when I remembered an interview of Anna del Conte, the Italian food writer who raised awareness of Italian cuisine in the UK in the late 70s, and her mention to finely chopped carrots as a main ragu ingredient.
I coarsely grated the carrots for my recipe to infuse the sauce with the bright orange colour and the organic carrot flavours of this star ingredient. The result: a pure delight and a fool-proof vegetarian ragu sauce that is guaranteed to please and comfort. Yum!
- 7-8 small and fresh organic carrots, coarsely grated
- 2 tins of plum tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Half a pack of fettuccine or other dried pasta (120g)
Coarsely grate the carrots after you have washed them well. No need to peel really fresh and young carrots.
Finely chop the onion.
Sweat and sauté the onion on low heat for a few minutes. Use a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
Add the grated carrots and a couple of pinches of salt, and sauté in low heat for another ten minutes or so.
Add the two tins of plum tomatoes and a teaspoon of sugar.
Mash with a wooden spoon; add another pinch of salt or two, one or two teaspoons of cinnamon, stir and cover.
Simmer on low heat for thirty or fourtyfive minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the sauce has reached a thick ragu consistency.
Cover and let the sauce rest for at least fifteen or more. This helps the sauce bind and the flavours come out, patience is a key.
Serve with half a pack of fettuccine, strong crumbly cheddar and coarse pepper (we used Barbers cruncher, a West Country mature, sweet and crunchy cheddar) .
This recipe makes two very generous portions but you can share between three or four.