Our youngest daughter has been a French citizen for more than 20 years and when I said I was going to cook a vegetable Bourguignon her reply showed the initial contempt one might expect from a French woman! The term for the brilliant (more…)
We have been playing with meat free dishes for a while and although it is taking us out of our comfort zone we are having fun with the step by step exploration. We have really enjoyed refining our Aubergine Parmigiana but one day we didn’t have enough aubergine, but we did have a little gnocchi. And so we came to this dish. On the first trial run we went with a simple parmigiana sauce. This worked really well, especially with the addition of some red peppers. This is the dish we will describe here. We have also tweaked the recipe further and moved it a little closer to a puttanesca sauce with anchovies, capers and olives but without the chilli. We will look at that recipe later!
The dish is simplicity itself. The aubergine was cut into decent size chunks. I like them to be odd shapes rather than cubes, but what ever way they should be around 3 cm in most directions. These were sautéed in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly.
We then added the chopped pepper and cooked for a few minutes more. Then set both the peppers and aubergine mix to one side. The onion was finely chopped and added to the pan to soften in a little olive oil. Once it had started to take on some colour the chopped garlic was added too and cooked for a few minutes more.
The can of chopped tomatoes was tossed in and allowed to cook through for a couple of minutes and then seasoned with salt and pepper. At this point we added the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi. The sauce was left to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the gnocchi was soft and the sauce had thickened. This would be the time to transfer to an ovenproof dish, but as we were cooking in the Tefal Ingenio pans with the removable handles, this was going to be our ovenproof dish.
We stirred through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scattered the torn chunks of mozzarella on the top. You could also add a little grated parmesan cheese to add more crunch to the top if you fancy the idea. We have cooked this inside on the hob and on the Big Green Egg, both work well.
The vents were closed on the Egg and the cheese allowed to melt for a minute or two. Whether cooking in a domestic kitchen or on the Big Green Egg the dish really needs to be finished under a domestic grill as a ‘crozzled top’ is the one thing the BGE doesn’t do well (unless you are using a very small pan in a much larger EGG). The dish was put under the grill in the kitchen to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
Serve with a green salad ………………… give it a go!
Add anchovies, capers and black olives rather than the finely chopped red pepper – but we will link to this later!!
Gnocchi, Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake
A combination of roasted Aubergines, tomato sauce and gnocchi - a perfect and simple bake
- 1 Aubergine cut into decent size chunks.
- Olive oil for sautéing
- 1 Red pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 1 Garlic clove chopped
- 400g tin of tomatoes
- Salt and pepper.
- 250g gnocchi
- Fresh or dried oregano and thyme
- 125g mozzarella
- Grated parmesan (optional)
- Step 1 Cut the aubergine into chunks, around 3 cm in most directions. Sauté in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a few minutes more. Set both the peppers and aubergine to one side.
- Step 2 Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and soften in a little olive oil. Once it takes on some colour add the chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
- Step 3 Toss in the tinned tomatoes and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 4 Add the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi and leave the sauce to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. The gnocchi will soften and the sauce thicken. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, stir through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scatter torn chunks of mozzarella on the top. At this point you can also add a little grated parmesan cheese
- Step 5 To get a crunchy top transfer to a domestic grill for a couple of minutes to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
- Step 6 Serve with a green salad
This week we had too many French beans to cope with and so we needed to be a little inventive! We therefore combined some of the dishes we have tried over the last couple of decades travelling over Europe and were delighted with the outcome. I doubt its absolute authenticity but am convinced by its principal ingredients. More importantly – it just works!!!
Basically this is a bean dish designed to ‘showcase’ a piece of meat or fish. We lit the BGE and set it up for indirect cooking. As it was heating up we put into the BGE a small pan of trimmed French beans which had been halved (as they were long). As the BGE came up to temperature we let the beans boil for around 3 minutes to begin to cook. The water was then poured away and the beans were put to one side. In a sauté pan we then cooked a finely chopped shallot in some olive oil and part way through cooking added a coarsely chopped garlic clove.
Once these had taken on a little colour a can of chopped tomatoes joined the mixture to cook for around 10 minutes with some freshly chopped herbs (on this occasion thyme, oregano and rosemary). We were almost there ! A small handful of chopped green olives, lemon zest, capers, salt and pepper was added to the pan.
All that was left to do was to add the almost cooked French beans, and let the whole dish come together. This makes a fine side dish, or indeed a light supper dish in it’s own right. Today however we were using oil to underpin some freshly grilled Tuna with a little grilled lemon – this worked perfectly!
Once the beans were cooked, the platesetter was removed and the Tuna was grilled on the BGE – this time direct – at 250C for about 1 minute a side. The tuna was then served on the beans and the grilled lemon squeezed over the top
………… give it a go – it is so easy!!
Tuna with Sicilian lemon tested beans in a tomato sauce
A simple sauce using tomatoes and shallots, enhanced with lemon zest, and olives with green beans - the perfect foil for grilled Tuna.
- French beans - around 300g
- 1-2 Shallots finely chopped
- Garlic clove coarsely chopped
- Olive oil
- Can of chopped tomatoes 400g
- Freshly chopped herbs (e.g. thyme, oregano and rosemary). Handful of chopped green olives
- 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp capers
- Salt and pepper.
- 2 Tuna steaks
- Step 1 Set up the BGE for indirect cooking aiming for around 180C. If the beans are long cut in half put on the BGE in a small pan of water – allow to partially cook as the EGG warms up. Once partially cooked pour the water away and set the beans to one side
- Step 2 In a sauté pan sauté the finely chopped shallot in some olive oil and part way through cooking add a coarsely chopped garlic clove. Once these have taken on a little colour add a can of chopped tomatoes and allow the mixture to cook for around 10 minutes with some freshly chopped herbs
- Step 3 Add a small handful of chopped green olives, the zest of the lemon and the capers. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 4 Finally add the partially cooked French beans, and let the dish come together.
- Step 5 As the beans are finishing – open up the vents on the BGE to allow the temperature to begin to rise. After a couple of minutes , remove the beans and the platesetter. Put the platesetter flat on a heat proof surface and put the pan of beans on this to keep warm. Once the BGE gets to around 225-250C grill the Tuna for around 1 min on each side. at the same time cut the lemon into 4 lengthways and add to the grill to warm and colour
- Step 6 Serve the tuna on top of the beans with the hot lemon ready to squeeze over the top
We have written before about the glorious ‘Melanzane alla parmigiana’ We first came across it in Italy in the summer of 2017 when travelling through the Dolomites in Northern Italy. Taste wise it was a plant based dish that absolutely took my breath away ……….. or so my memory tells me! I went back to the article we wrote about this in early 2018 and our first attempts to recreate the dish and you can find that here (Aubergine Parmigiana). Whilst we were very pleased with this first attempts we said at the time ‘.…… the dish, it still doesn’t quite match my holiday memory of that first mouthful in the Dolomites. When it does we will post the next instalment’. Well I think we are in a position when it is worth offering that ‘next instalment’ and so here it is!
What is it? It is probably the best tasting plant based meal I have ever eaten (speaking as an obligate carnivore) – and absolute truly – you don’t miss the meat! There are umami flavours in their myriads. There is nothing missing – it is just a coincidence that there is no meat!!
The recipe we are currently using is very similar to that 2017 first try – we have been round the recipe books and the final dish is dependent on how you cook it not really the basic recipe itself! So lets talk about how we are cooking the dish.
Firstly, we have come to the conclusion that the aubergines are best cooked in a cast iron skillet with a moderate amount of good olive oil at around 180C direct. No matter how much you use, the aubergines will always accept more – so it is up to you how much you give way to their greed! With moderate portions – you can afford to be generous!! The aubergines are cut not along the fruit but across it to produce circles of around 7mm thick. (If you prefer your dish to ‘slice’ and the slices to remain as a single piece – then cut the aubergines lengthways and build each layer in alternate directions – but we have ended up favouring a less firm finish). Once cooked these were put to one side.
Once the aubergines had been cooked we used the same skillet to cook the sauce but the BGE was set up for indirect cooking by adding the platesetter. First a finely chopped onion was softened with a little oil until it just became translucent – then the 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced, were added and cooked for a few more minutes. Then 2 cans of chopped tomatoes were added (these seem to work better than fresh tomatoes – in the UK anyway) and some chopped fresh herbs.
This was left to cook at around 160-180C for 20 minutes or more until it began to look a little more dry. (You need to lose that watery ‘tinned tomato’ look).
From this point on it really becomes a matter of ‘assembly”
We have been making our Melanzane alla parmigiana in one of our Tefal Ingenio pans and it works really well – though ideally something slightly deeper would be even better! Put in the smallest amount of tomato sauce you can to cover the bottom of the pan then add a layer of the aubergine, and repeat this tomato sauce/aubergine combination until you are just less than halfway up the dish. At his stage sprinkle the tomato sauce with some parmesan cheese and add around half of the mozzarella together with some basil leaves (I have taken to sprinkling just a little parmesan on each of the tomato layers but I don’t think that is traditional!). Repeat until all the aubergines are used. Finish off with a layer of tomato sauce topped off with further basil leaves, parmesan and mozzarella (and ricotta if you are using it too – this is not traditional). Put the dish back in the BGE and cook for a further 30+ minutes then ‘turn off the BGE’ and let it cool.
This is one of those dishes that tastes great on the day – but even better the day after! We have taken to eating it on the second day, and although we could use the BGE to bring it back to temperature we have taken to doing this in a domestic oven at around 150C for around 30 minutes. At which point turning on the grill produces the most lovely crispy and glorious topping.
This is a dish best served warm rather than hot so don’t rush to serve it. All you need is to plate it up with a green salad.
We think we have now got to the essence of this dish – ours probably has just a slightly high proportion of the tomato sauce than the original one we had in the Dolomites.
It is probably also just a little more fluid in consistency. It does however contain all the essence of that first experience of that ‘Timballo di Melanzane alla Veneta’. Made in that Italian way – with lots of love! It is a real thing of beauty.
………………… do give it a go!
Roasted aubergine baked in a tomato sauce with baked Italian cheeses
- 2 Aubergines, sliced into 1/2cm-thick slices - I prefer circles as easier to arrange
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 3 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 Tins chopped tomatoes (400g)
- 2 x 125g Mozzarella balls, sliced In the last one we also added a little ricotta on the top as we had some - it worked well)
- Basil or other herbs that you can lay your hands on
- Olive oil
- Parmesan (or veggie alternative) or other Italian hard cheese 75g, finely grated
- Step 1 Set up the BGE to around 180C. Direct roast Aubergine slices in a pan or in the cast iron skillet, till they take on colour and are a little ‘crisper’ turn a couple of times – need to do in batches
- Step 2 Then olive oil in same skillet and cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, season, and simmer for 20 minutes
- Step 3 In a baking dish starting with the sauce, layer up the aubergine and sauce, half-way, a layer of half of the mozzarella, basil, and parmesan. Layer up the remaining aubergine and sauce, and finish with a final layer of mozzarella, basil and parmesan (and or ricotta if using).
- Step 4 Put back in the BGE and cook for a further 30+ minutes then ‘turn off the BGE’
- Step 5 30 mins before you want to serve – re warm in a domestic oven and pop under the grill for a couple of mins to give a really great top!!.
- Step 6 Serve with a salad.
We could spend ages debating if this dish is a frittata or a tortilla – but that would miss the point of the dish! I think of it as a frittata – but do have a look at the footnote! We had been baking the last of our supply of small (1951) potatoes from Carroll’s Heritage potatoes that (more…)
Last year we had had every intention of highlighting recipes from Genevieve Taylor’s book – “Charred”. I really think that this is a great book for those of us wanting to try more vegetarian cooking. Especially those of us wanting to explore it when cooking outside especially over wood and charcoal. Things like the Coronavirus Pandemic have got in the way but we are going to try and publish when we can this year!
The first of these is this ‘Caramelised Fennel and Orange dish’! We know from our own slow roasted caramelised fennel dish just how well fennel responds to this type of cooking. Limited shopping opportunities during the pandemic and personal cooking interests has led to some small variations to Genevieve Taylor’s recipe. But it has worked really well and we are delighted to share it here.
We may as well start with the principal difference! We had a tub of ricotta but no goat’s cheese. Instead of goat’s cheese whipped with cream, we used Ricotta infused with orange and thyme. We used about two thirds of a 250g tub of ricotta and added the zest of half an orange and the leaves of 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme. To this was added enough of the juice of the orange to allow the ricotta to be whipped into a soft cream. This was then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and was set to one side. We found the following day that this mix works very well with baked potatoes (and that in the absence of any fresh orange juice, Cointreau or Grand Marnier works well too!)
On to the cooking itself. We sliced the fennel along the bulb and through the root in slices around 5-7mm thick. These were tossed in a little olive oil and salt and pepper and put in the BGE MiniMax Skillet and onto the BGE (which was ticking over at around 180C) to caramelise in the pan. This just meant keeping an eye on the fennel until it took on some colour and began to soften. The hot pan was then removed and the fennel continued to cook in the heat of the pan. Whilst the fennel was cooking we had partly jested an orange and cut it into slices which had then been halved.
These were tossed in a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and put on the grill over the open flame.
The idea was to just slightly ‘char’ the pieces of orange – particularly the peel. Once this was nearly completed the final cooked element of the dish was introduced to the BGE.
The final element was a tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed with an added clove of garlic – finally chopped. The pan had a little olive oil stirred through and was put on the BGE to warm through. Once all the elements had been cooked, all that was left to do was assemble the dish. Firstly the Butter beans and garlic were divided between the 2 plates. On to these followed the fennel and the burnt orange. This was then topped off by a generous helping of the orange and thyme infused ricotta and finally a handful of chopped black olives. The dish was finished with some thyme flowers, a few fennel fronds and the last of the orange zest.
I have to say here – I am not by any stretch of imagination a vegetarian – but this is a wonderful, satisfying vegetarian (or if you prefer – plant based) dish. Infact it is just a wonderful dish!!
Do give it a go………..
…………. we will certainly be doing it again!
Caramelised fennel and burnt orange with infused ricotta, butterbeans and black olives
Caramelised fennel and burnt orange - on top of garlic butter beans - set off with orange and thyme infused ricotta and black olives
- Around 180g Ricotta
- Zest of an orange
- Fresh thyme leaves from 3-4 stems
- A little orange juice or orange liqueur
- Salt and pepper
- Large fennel bulb sliced around 5-7mm thick, through the root end
- One orange sliced and then cut into semicircles
- Handful of black olives chopped
- 400g can of butter beans drained and washed
- 1 garlic clove finally diced
- Step 1 Take around 2/3 of a 250g tub of ricotta and add the zest of half an orange and the leaves of 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme. Then add enough of the juice of the orange to allow the ricotta to be whipped into a soft cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then set to one side.
- Step 2 Slice the fennel along through the root in slices around 5-7mm thick. Toss these in a little olive oil and salt and pepper and put in a Skillet to caramelise on the BGE direct at around 180C. Keep an eye on the fennel until it takes on some colour and begins to soften. Remove the skillet and allow the fennel to continue to cook in the hot pan.
- Step 3 Toss the orange slices in a little olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper and put on the grill over the open flame. Allow these to char a little. Once this is nearly completed add the washed butter beans to a second pan with the chopped garlic and a little oil and put on the BGE to warm through.
- Step 4 If cooking on one EGG at this point you may need to just reheat the fennel for around 1 min before assembling the dish. Firstly divide the Butter beans and garlic between the 2 plates. On to these add the fennel and the burnt orange. Top these off with a generous helping of the orange and thyme infused ricotta and finally a handful of chopped black olives. Finish with some thyme flowers, a few fennel fronds and the last of the orange zest. Serve warm
The question in the title is a little facetious but potato skins cooked on the Big Green Egg are something of a revelation! Just before the Covid Pandemic lockdown we were lucky enough to get a 12.5Kg box of Linda (1951) potatoes from Carroll’s Heritage potatoes – they have been great and have kept the 2 of us going really well during the lockdown period. However April/May is the time when all self respecting potatoes that have not been chemically treated start to ‘sprout’ or as Lucy from Carroll’s Potatoes said – “start to wake up!!” We reached the point where the last 20-30 potatoes (these were relatively small, select potatoes) had developed lots of sprouts! Under normal circumstances we may have just composted them at this point – but we have been trying to reduce our demand on local shops so have looked for things to do with them – and success!!
We removed the potato shoots, scrubbed the potatoes and popped them into the large EGG whilst we were heating it up for a different cook. As these potatoes were only the size of an extra large hen’s egg they cook in around 30-40 mins. They were cooked over an indirect setup at around 180C (the other half of the EGG set up for direct cooking.)
Once cooked they were removed and allowed to cool. The next day the potatoes were cut in half lengthways and 90% of the flesh scooped out with a teaspoon leaving the remaining 10% supporting the skin. 20 potatoes therefore give you 40 skins which is a lot to play with! To cook and serve the halves were simply placed in the base of one of our ‘handleless” Tefal frying pans, and sprayed on each side with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt placesd open side down in the pan and sautéed over direct heat at 170C until the edge of the skins were nicely coloured. They were then flipped over and the cooking continued until they were crispy.
We have simply been serving them with a homemade hummus dip, though they would also work with a simple cooked filling (more of that later!!). The potato that was scooped out was destined for other dishes which we will try and catch up with as we get chance.
For the moment though it is the skins that are taking the pride of place – they are lovely and ‘as cheap as chips’
…………….. go on – give them a go!!
Potato Skins - the best bits of the potato!?
Cooked potato cooked out of small baked potatoes to leave a glorious skin to sauté and roast!!
- 30 potatoes (size of a duck's egg)
- Spray oil e.g. olive or rapeseed oil
- Step 1 Bake the potatoes indirectly at around 170-180C on the EGG until just cooked and allow to cool
- Step 2 Cut the potatoes in half lengthways and scoop out most of the cooked flesh (and set aside to use for another dish) leaving just a little potato lining the skins. Save the skins in the fridge till needed
- Step 3 Spray the skins (4 or 5 per person) with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place onto a solid cooking surface (e.g. pan) open side down and cook direct at 170C until the rim of the skin is golden coloured. Turn over and cook for another 5 mins or so until crisp.
- Step 4 Serve with a home made hummus dip
Sometimes it is the simplest of dishes that give the most satisfaction. This is very much one of those dishes! It is hard to better simple roast potatoes – but this is a dish that does that!. Indeed it would be a lovely simple supper dish in its own right! This is a sautéed potato dish with onions, garlic, rosemary and peas. The secret is to hold your nerve and cook it for (more…)
We have returned to this dish so often – in so many ways it has been the ‘go to’ dish of the summer! It has also been popular with friends who have adopted the dish and have added it to their own regular cooking repertoire. It is incredibly versatile and so easy to cook too! – see original post with recipe here
The transformation of a simple fennel bulb and a handful of small tomatoes requires no more than some heat and a heavy metal surface on which to allow the caramelising process to occur. To balance the dish, a little salt and pepper, perhaps a teaspoon of fennel seeds and some rapeseed oil – let the magic begin!
Whilst you could do this dish in a domestic oven it is perfectly suited to Kamado cooking with a combination of bottom heat and oven cooking.
We have served it as a Tapas, as an amuse bouche, with flaked parmesan, with fish, with steak, with pork………………..
The only decision making you need is how caramelised you want to make it. On one occasion we left it, as we thought, too long, and if anything it was better still …………….. this is just a dish that keeps on giving!!!
Try your own twist on how you serve it, but remember to share your best ideas with us here!
When we were in Italy we were very fortunate to be given some Mazze di Tamburo (Parasol mushrooms). These were found in the local chestnut groves and although we had seen them growing, our knowledge of wild mushrooms is such that unless we are with someone who clearly knows what they are doing – we leave them well alone! We can buy our fungi in the local vegetable shop (these will almost always have been found by local people who actually know that what they are picking is safe!). These however were a gift from someone we trusted and this made them all the better! (more…)
Whilst I have come to love the taste and aroma fennel seeds bringto many Tuscan dishes, I have only occasionally cooked with fennel bulbs. So with some fennel bulbs to use it was time to search the internet for something simple. This is therefore based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for slow roasted fennel. It is a very simple recipe. (more…)