Saturday, 17 July 2010

Insert Greek pun here

Jar of rigani (Greek oregano)
In times of uncertainty, cook what you know - and in large quantities. Here (finally?) is a savoury recipe, originally from the Guardian, but tweaked a little to make it more like the dish I remember.

(The pictured jar contains rigani - Greek oregano. There are several different varieties of oregano out there, but most of the dried stuff you can buy in the UK is authentically - interchangeably - Greek or Italian. Honest.)

Fasolia gigantes

250g butter beans (big ones, ideally) - or 2 tins
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 tins of tomatoes
1 or 2 clove(s) garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Soak the beans in a large pot of cold water overnight. Next day, drain the beans. Bring a big pot of water to the boil, add the drained beans and boil for 30-40 minutes, until they are well cooked but not mushy. Drain. (Or you can use tinned beans - I usually do.)

Preheat the oven to 170C (GM 3).
Heat some oil in a casserole. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry gently until softened. Add the garlic, oregano, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Mix in the beans, drizzle with oil (this is an important step - don't skip it), and bake for 30-40 minutes.

These are apparently good with sausages or lamb - alongside something barbecued works particularly well. I serve them with a green salad dressed with oil, lemon juice, and a little salt (or, in the winter, horta, dressed in the same way); tzatziki (crush a clove of garlic and mix with a little oil; beat in some yoghurt; stir in some grated, kitchen-towel-dried cucumber and chopped dill/mint); tyrokafteri (mix a crushed clove of garlic and some chopped fresh/dried chilli with some oil; mash in a pack of feta and a chopped, skinned, grilled pepper); and pitta bread. It's easy to stretch further, too, with olives and dolmades alongside, and perhaps also spanakopita, or something like - see what strikes your fancy.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Cake for a miserable afternoon

It's been a rough couple of weeks, but I received a timely reminder that baking can be a source of comfort beyond the consumption of its products. With that in mind, here is a long-loved recipe for what is probably my favourite comfort-food cake - though I'm always in danger of eating far more of it than is comfortable. The recipe comes from Sarah Brown's Vegetarian Kitchen (a book that's much less worthy - in the lentils, bean sprouts and sandals sense - than it first appears).

Cinnamon and Carrot Cake

1/2 lb (225g) plain wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
4 oz (110g) butter
4 oz (110g) honey
4 oz (110g) sugar
1/2lb (225g) carrots, peeled and finely grated

Pre-heat oven to GM3 (170C/325F).
In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, honey and sugar, then stir this mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir in the carrots. Put the mixture into a well greased bread 1lb bread tin (though I usually use a 2lb tin - makes the cake go further and you get more of the crunchy top) and bake for 60-80 minutes until firm to the touch. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a cooling rack.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Fond memories of British Rail

As predicted, I've neglected this blog, but that's not to say I haven't been baking. Indeed, over Christmas and New Year I've spent many happy hours pottering about the kitchen, and here's a start in noting it down.

This gingerbread recipe is probably my most requested, and if I'm asked for it midwinter I can usually reel it off from memory - not that unusual, I'm sure, and I don't think people asking for recipes are in a position to judge the quirky memory skills of others. But I digress. This recipe comes from Linda Collister's Bread Book via Food from the Place Below and How to Eat. Collister herself tentatively attributes the recipe to British Rail. Whatever its origins, its cookbook pedigree should be inducement enough to give it a try...

It was only when I came to write this recipe down that I realised I use a bastardised version - and that I use metric or imperial measures depending on the equipment I have to hand. So, I use the spicing and the metric measurements from the Place Below but always include the grated stem ginger suggested by Nigella (I don't bother weighing it, but use three pieces straight from the jar).


225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
grating of nutmeg
100g (4oz) butter
3 pieces/45g stem ginger
100g (4oz) light muscovado sugar
300ml (1/2 pint) milk
100g (4oz) treacle
100g (4oz) golden syrup
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 180°C (GM4). Grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin (or use a silicon mould and do neither - if using silicon bakeware, put a baking sheet in the oven and rest the mould on this when baking to help cook the bottom of the cake).
In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the milk; in another saucepan, melt together the syrup and the treacle. Let both cool to blood temperature (or thereabouts). In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, bicarb and spices. Rub in the butter. Grate in the stem ginger. Mix in first the milk/sugar mixture, then the syrup/treacle mixture, then the egg. The mixture will have a batter-like consistency. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin. Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Wrap it in greaseproof paper and it'll keep in a cake tin for several days (willpower dependent).