jamaican veggie patties

November 10, 2012

This is a bit of a long story … but the other day Sammy put in an order for Jamaican Meat Patties because he had them at a friend’s house and liked them. In soliciting suggestions for where to buy them in Toronto my friend, Pamela, challenged me to making my own Jamaican veggie patties. Of course I had to accept the challenge. So today I went out to get some ingredients and on my way back I bumped into my new buddies, Sam and Gordon, who are doing work on the house across the street. We struck up a conversation, I told them what I was up to, and they asked to be my official taste testers. Sam is from St. Vincent and Gordon is from Jamaica and I got 100% thumbs up from both of them which I take as a big endorsement. Sam even said he wasn’t dipping in the hot sauce because he only does that when the flavours aren’t good enough. Score.

 

For the filling:

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/8 tsp cayenne

coarse sea salt

2 larges cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup finely diced carrots

1/4 cup finely diced yellow potatoes

1/2 cup fresh green peas (or frozen)

1/2 cup sweet fresh corn (or frozen)

1/2 cup shredded kale

1 tbsp minced fresh thyme

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

For the pastry:

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour + 1/4 cup for rolling out the pastry

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsps turmeric

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

3/4 cup chilled coconut oil

2 tsps apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling: In a medium-size saute pan over medium-low heat, combine the coconut oil, the onion, cinnamon, allspice, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, carrots, and potatoes, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the carrots and potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the green peas, corn, cabbage, thyme, and lemon juice, cover, and cook for 3 minutes more. Season with additional salt and the white pepper (or to taste) and set aside to allow the flavors to marry.

For the pastry: Combine 1 1/2 cups of the white flour with the pastry flour, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Set the remaining 1/4 cup white flour aside. Add the coconut butter to the flour mixture and rub with your fingertip until the mixture resembles fine sand, about 10 minutes.

Combine the vinegar and water and mix well. Then, without overworking the dough, add the vinegar mixture by the tablespoon, while stirring, just until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and begins to coalesce. Squeeze into a tight ball, flatten, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F and remove the dough from the refrigerator.

With the reserved flour, lightly dust a clean surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut six 6-inch circles from the dough (you can use a bowl). Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling onto the center of one side of each circle, leaving about a 1/8-inch border. Fold the other half over to make a half-moon, press to seal, and make ridges around the edge using a fork.

Transfer the patties to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately with some hot sauce.

Adapted from  Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen via 101 Cookbooks

I was reorganizing the kitchen the other day and found a few small size format cookbooks that had gotten lost at the back of a shelf. One was 200 Veggie Feasts by Louise Pickford that my son gave me for Christmas 2 or 3 years ago. It’s a little gem I have to say, and is the inspiration behind these jeweled yam and mushroom wontons. Pickford’s were a little simpler – no onion or yams. But I decided to amp them up a bit and throw in a little extra heft. Just make sure when you are buying your wonton skins you look at the ingredients label to see if they have egg if you want to go the full vegan route (Twin Marquis is a brand that makes both vegan and non-vegan wonton skins). And of course with the basics in hand you can make different shapes, different filings, for different dishes from soups to little appetizers.

For the wontons

2 tbsps olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped

1/2 jeweled yam, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 tbsp soy sauce

16 vegan wonton skins

For the chili dressing

1 tsp dried red pepper flakes

2/3 cup veggie stock

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsps maple syrup

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the onions and cook until they start to turn translucent. Add mushrooms and yams and cook over medium heat until they become soft. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes more until garlic becomes fragrant. Add soy sauce and cook, stirring, for another minute or two. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring until hot but not boiling. Keep warm.

Put a teaspoon of the mushroom mixture in the centre of each wonton skin. Brush a little water around the filling and fold the wontons in half diagonally, pressing the edges together to seal.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a rolling boil, add the wontons, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until they rise to the surface. Remove gently with a slotted spoon and transfer to warmed serving bowls. Drizzle liberally with the chili dressing and serve immediately.

spanikopita

May 27, 2012

vegan spanikopita, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

I recently read that spanikopita is “in the  burek family of pastries.” What does that mean you might reasonably ask? Burek is a family of baked or fried filled pastries made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo “most probably invented in what is now Modern Turkey, in the Anatolian Provinces of the Ottoman Empire in its early era, to become a popular element of Ottoman cuisine.” Equally interesting is that there is a traditional vegan version eaten during the Great Lent and other religious fasts. But why deprive yourself of its earthy goodness the rest of the year? Lent. Summer Solstice. May 2-4 weekend. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. National Hug a Drummer Day. It’s all good and it’s a fun Friday night dinner to make with the kids so they can get their hands dirty and help out with the layering and folding … fast or no fast.

vegan spanikopita, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

For the herbed tofu:

1 16-oz package extra firm tofu, cubed

2 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tsps salt

2 tsps dried basil

2 tsps dried oregano

In a large saucepan over low heat, combine the tofu cubes, water, lemon juice, salt, basil, and oregano. Simmer for 30 minutes and then set aside to cool. Refrigerate overnight in the brine and then drain.

vegan spanikopita, spinach pie, vgourmet, ruth richardson

For the spanikopita:

2 tbsps olive oil

3 medium shallots, chopped

8 cups fresh spinach

1 1/2 cups drained herbed tofu, slightly mashed

1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

sea salt and pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

10 sheets phyllo pastry

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts. Set aside to cool and then drain, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.

In a large bowl, mix together cooked spinach and shallots, herbed tofu, dill, and parsley. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lay out one sheet of phyllo. Keep the rest covered with a slightly damp tea towel so they don’t dry out. Brush the one sheet with olive oil using a pastry, or basting, brush. Add the next sheet and brush it with olive oil. Repeat until you’ve got 5 layers of phyllo. Cut the phyllo into 3 equal strips, about 3 inches wide. Place some of the spinach mixture in a triangular shape in the bottom corner of one of the strips. Carefully fold the phyllo along with the spinach mixture diagonally along the inside edge.  Keep folding along the strip until you reach the end. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until all the phyllo and spinach mixture has been used.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes until the spanikopita is browned and crisp on top. Serve with a fresh green salad, and a glass of crisp, cool Greek wine like the 2007 Gerovassiliou Malagousia.

aloo gobi

May 19, 2012

This recipe was a labour of love – a well-researched-much-adapted-tested-and-tested-again-totally-worth-it labour of love. It’s awesome with chana masala, some simple naan, and rice. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. I wish I could tell you more about the history of aloo gobi but all I know is that it’s usually a dry dish containing potatoes, cauliflower, and turmeric as the signature ingredients, and it hails from Punjab in north-west India. I don’t like mine so dry so I add stewed tomatoes. And it rocks. Which I guess is all you really need to know.

3 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp whole cumin seed

1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated

4  garlic cloves, minced

2 tsps turmeric

2 tsps garam masala

¼ tsp cayenne

1 tsp sea salt

16 oz  stewed or crushed tomatoes

1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets

3 large potatoes, diced

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add whole cumin seeds and cook until they pop and sizzle.  Add minced garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two. Stir in turmeric, garam masala, and cayenne. Cook until fragrant but be sure not to burn the spices; about 1 minute.

Stir in salt, stewed tomatoes, cauliflower, and potatoes. Cook with the lid on until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring often. If it gets too dry, add a little bit of water. When the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, turn off heat and add peas. Put the lid back on and let the peas steam in the residual heat; about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper. Add chopped cilantro and serve piping hot.

We have a new steel chalkboard in our kitchen – floor to ceiling with lots of space to capture grocery lists, homework assignments, you name it. I put a quote up the other day from Parker Palmer, a wonderful thinker and beautiful writer. “Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility,” he said. He’s so right whether you’re talking about relationships, work or new ways of doing things, or asapargus, chives and ramps. This pie embodies the latter, with a helping of lemon thyme and fresh chives as well. All early spring plants that infuse this simple pie with … well, green stems and possibility.

For Single Crust Pâte Brisée:

1  1/4 cups pastry flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 – 3 1/2 tbsps water, iced

For Filling:

1 pound firm tofu

2 tbsps lemon juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp sea salt

pepper to taste

For the veggies:

2 tbsps olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

3 bunches ramps, chopped

2 bunches asparagus, chopped

bunch lemon thyme, leaves removed

bunch chives, chopped

For the pâte brisée, whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening by cutting it into small pieces and then, using your hands or a pastry cutter, blend it into the flour working it into pea-sized pieces until it resembles a coarse crumb. Add the iced water, beginning with only 3 tablespoons, mixing enough to form a ball (do not over mix or your pâte will become stiff). Add more if you need it but it might not be necessary. Flatten the ball into a disk shape, wrap it, and chill the dough until ready to use; at least a half hour.

Once your pâte brisée has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness with a floured rolling pin. Transfer it to a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Shape it, trim the excess dough, leaving a 1/2″ overhang, then fold the overhang over the pastry sides and press against the side to reinforce the edge. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes until it’s firm.

While the pâte is chilling pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the pastry has chilled, line the chilled shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until the pastry is set and pale golden along rim, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights.

Meanwhile, put tofu, lemon juice, balsamic, dijon, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped shallots and chopped ramps and sauté until soft and translucent. Once done, add asparagus and thyme and sauté until the asparagus is just slightly soft but still bright green. Don’t cook it too much or it will get overdone. Transfer the asparagus mixture to a bowl. Add tofu mixture and chopped chives and stir well.

Transfer filling with the vegetables to the pie shell. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and a inserted knife comes out clean. Serve with a green salad and a rosé bien frais.

We try our best to eat as seasonally as possible, within reason. Now that we’re into mid-March the pantry is getting a little low on stuff but we still have delicata squash, winter kale, and root veggies like parsnips. But how much can you really do with them? Well, quite a lot in fact. I made this tower of winter vegetables – delicata squash, steamed kale, parsnip sage risotto, baby beluga lentils, toasted squash seeds, and micro-greens – for a nice dinner the other night with friends in front of the fire. It’s not complicated but there are a number of steps so it’s best made when you’ve got a little extra time and you want to make something special. I put some absolutely outstanding squash jam with lavender on the side. It’s made by Stasis Preserves in Toronto and might just be one of my new favourite condiments.

For the sqaush

1 delicata sqaush

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

sea salt

Cut delicata squash into 1 – 2 inch slices. Scoop out the sqaush seeds and set the seeds aside. Place sqaush in a heavy-bottomed, oven-friendly frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil, nutmeg, and salt. Roast in a preheated oven at 375F until soft and slightly browned. Once done, remove the sqaush from the pan and set aside.

Clean the squash seeds. Pat dry with a tea towel. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the same frying pan used for the squash over medium-high heat. Add the seeds and sauté them until they are crispy and nicely toasted. Let cool.

For the steamed kale

1 bunch of curly kale or other greens like chard, collard greens, spinach

1 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

Clean the kale thoroughly. Tear it into large chunks and place in the top of a steamer. Steam over high heat until the kale is softened but not gone totally flacid. You want it to have some texture and presence to it. Once done, transfer to a bowl and season with a little lemon juice and sea salt. Set aside.

For the parsnip sage risotto

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1.5 cups of arborio rice

4 cups of veggie stock, heated

1 cup white wine, heated

a small bunch of fresh sage, chopped finely

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté until tender. Add the parsnips and minced garlic and sauté another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Add arborio rice stirring constantly until evenly coated. Begin to add the stock and wine slowly. Remember, the key to good risotto is to 1) start with heated stock and wine, 2) stir constantly, and 3) add the liquid slowly until the rice is just covered. Let the rice absorb the liquid and then add a little more, again, until the rice is just covered. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Once the rice has reached the perfect state of al dente-ness add the sage and toss. Season with good sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the baby beluga lentils

1 cup baby beluga lentils

1 carrot, quartered

1 celery stalk, quartered

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

olive oil

sea salt

Clean and rinse lentils thoroughly. Place them in a saucepan with the carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaf. Cover with twice as much water, about 2 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Once done, remove the bay leaf and vegetables. Drain the lentils. Put them back into the saucepan and drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.

To assemble

Start with the roasted squash. Put it on the plate you are going to use to serve. Fill the cavity with risotto. Next, on a cutting board, pack the steamed kale into a circular cookie cutter about the same diameter as your squash. Use a wide knife to lift it off the chopping board and gently place on the squash. Do the same with the risotto – pack it into the cookie cutter and place it gently on the kale.

Next, add some squash jam or other condiment (onion confit, red pepper jelly) beside the squash in a nice presentation. Then drizzle the whole dish with the baby beluga lentils and toasted squash seeds. Finally, top with some micro-greens and serve with pride and a smile on your face.

 

 

vegan onion tarte, alsatian onion tarte, tarte a l'oignon, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson,

I’ve had a hankering for this dish for awhile, dreaming of being in a quaint little Parisian café about to dive into the sweetness of onion, the pungency of nutmeg, and the flakiness of pâte brisée. But how to veganize it without losing all that the French stand for in their cuisine? I can just hear it now, spreading like a whisper across an outraged city of lights, “Mais non! Ce n’est pas possible.” The travesty of it all. Well, now having made this heavenly version, I can say with confidence (and trying my best to put on those French puckered lips) “Mais oui mesdames and messieurs. C’est possible!” Franchement.

Single Crust Pâte Brisée

1  1/4 cups pastry flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup  vegetable shortening (I use organic, non GMO, Earth Balance shortening)

3 – 3 1/2 tbsps water, iced

Onion Filling

1/4 cup olive oil

7 or 8 medium-sized  onions, sliced thinly

2 tbsps all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup rice or soy cream

sea salt and pepper

vegan onion tarte, alsatian onion tarte, tarte a l'oignon, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson,

Putting it together

For the pâte brisée, whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening by cutting it into small pieces and then, using your hands or a pastry cutter, blend it into the flour working it into pea-sized pieces until it resembles a coarse crumb. Add the iced water, beginning with only 3 tablespoons, mixing enough to form a ball (do not over mix or your pâte will become stiff). Add more if you need it but it might not be necessary. Flatten the ball into a disk shape, wrap it, and chill the dough until ready to use; at least a half hour.

Once your pâte brisée has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness with a floured rolling pin. Transfer it to a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Shape it, trim the excess dough, leaving a 1/2″ overhang, then fold the overhang over the pastry sides and press against the side to reinforce the edge. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes until it’s firm.

While the pâte is chilling pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the pastry has chilled, line the chilled shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until the pastry is set and pale golden along rim, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake the shell until it’s golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer the shell to a rack.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

While your pasty is cooking, prepare your onions. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven. Add onions and stir. Cover to cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions have started sweating and have become quite soft. Remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes until onions start to brown a little. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn and you cook them all evenly. Once cooked, add the flour and nutmeg and stir thoroughly so all the onions are coated. Let simmer over medium to low heat for another 3 or 4 minutes. Deglaze the onion mixture with the wine. Let simmer for a minute or two. Add rice or soy cream and stir until the mixture thickens. Add sea salt and pepper to taste and let it bubble away for about 15 minutes more.

Once the onion filling is cooked through, taste the mixture for seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Place it into the tart shell and spread it out evenly. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the top sets and the filling binds with the sides of the dough. Let cool for a good 15 minutes or so before removing from the pan to let it set up a bit. Slice and serve.

While a nice large tart looks lovely, this recipe also lends itself to small individual tarts. Simply line large muffin tins or ramekins with the pâte brisée, and continue the process.

Wine: Pair this baby with a lovely grüner veltliner (a white wine variety grown primarily in Austria with a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine) or look to Alsace for a full pinot gris or gewürztraminer.

Christmas is quickly approaching and I’ve been working on my holiday menu. My good friend, and most avid v:gourmet fan, Glenn, sent me a recipe awhile back for cauliflower steaks which I’ve kept tucked away until now. Good thing I pulled it out and experimented with it because it’s going to be on the table on the 25th for sure. The cauliflower steaks themselves give you something “meaty” to cut into, with a great “mouth-feel” as they say. The accompanying purée adds a wonderful complexity and depth of flavour with a combo of apples, shallots, leeks, and thyme. Put it next to mixed quinoa – red, black, and white – and some rosemary tomato skewers and you’ve got a gorgeous plate full of goodness. I’ll be amping it up a bit (’tis the season) with wild mushrooms parcels, roasted squash, and other goodies.

1 large, or 2 small, head of cauliflower

olive oil

2 shallots, sliced

1 leek, chopped coursely

2 small apples, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely

1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

sea salt and pepper

At the largest part of the cauliflower heads, cut a cross-section to create four to six 1-inch steaks. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. BBQ steaks over medium-high heat or sear the steaks in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Add chopped shallots, leeks, the remaining cauliflower “off-cuts” from the steaks, apples, and thyme. Sauté until everything is tender and cooked through. Add white wine or sherry and reduce for 5 minutes or so on low-heat. Add sea salt and pepper to season. Purée in a blender until smooth.

Serve the cauliflower steaks bien-placé on the apple shallot purée and accompany with quinoa, vegetables, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. Polenta is known to have been eaten by the Roman legions; known as pulmentum they would eat it in either a porridge or in a hard cake like form. A happy Mediterranean marriage, this recipe brings the two together in a meal that harkens to the good-ole-days when vegetables were fresh, food was simple, and everyone enjoyed the comforts and pleasure of the table with good friends and the gifts of the gods.

Ratatouille

4 large tomatoes

8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

20 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

3 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 medium zucchini, cut into chunks

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch together in a 4-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer peppers with slotted spoon to bowl with onions. Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini with slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.

While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Polenta

6 cups water

1 tsp sea salt

2 cups organic corn grits

In a large, deep pan over high heat bring water and sea salt to boil, gradually stir in the polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until the mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes). Stir in more salt if needed. Oil a square medium-sized pan or loaf pan, spoon in polenta, and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate. The polenta will unmold and hold its shape.

Cut polenta into thick slices and serve hot, smothered in ratatouille and chopped rosemary.

two potato vindaloo

July 27, 2011

You probably know that vindaloo is an Indian curry dish. But you probably didn’t know that the name vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos” which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. Crazy, no? The dish was originally modified in Mumbai by the substitution of vinegar for the wine, and the addition of red Kashmir chillies. It then evolved into the vindaloo curry dish in Goa, with the addition of plentiful amounts of traditional spice. The following recipe is plentiful, indeed, on the spice front so if you don’t have all of them, go out and get some. They are worth the time and effort – for all sorts of recipes, not just this one. I’ve adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi to streamline it a bit and modify the balance of texture and flavour! It’s sweet. It’s spicy. It’s hot. It’s satisfying. It’s great on a heap of freshly cooked plain rice.

8 cardamom pods, seeds extracted and crushed

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsps olive or safflower oil

12 shallots, sliced

1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

25 curry leaves

2 tbsps chopped fresh ginger

pinch red pepper chili flakes, in line with your tolerance for heat

6 ripe tomatoes, chopped, or a can of whole tomatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 3/4 cups water or stock

1 tbsp sugar

sea salt

3 cups baby potatoes, quartered

2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped

2 – 3 cups sweet potato, cut into chunks

cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven. Add the shallots with the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Saute on medium-low heat until shallots are brown. Stir in all the spices, curry leaves, ginger, chili flakes and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Next, add the tomatos, vinegar, water, sugar and some sea salt. Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and simmer for another 20 minutes. For the last stage, add the sweet potato and bell peppers. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if necessary) and continue cooking, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away while sauce thickens a bit. Add a healthy portion of chopped cilantro. Serve on plain rice and garnish with a bit more cilantro or some mint.