As much as anything this is a ‘reminder to self’! There are so many wonderful vegetables available in the middle of summer that with or without a recipe we should grab and use them. Here is a perfect example of that – we had a few extra tomatoes and French beans from the garden. We had also bought a few more peppers than normal as they had been on offer so they were abundant too. So this ‘Grab some Veg’ dish (more…)
Having played with our Aubergine/Gnocchi and Parmigiana bake we have also played with a number of variations over the last year or so. One of the best has moved it a little closer to a puttanesca sauce with anchovies, capers and olives, and for us at least, only a little chilli!
The preparation of the dish is exactly the same as for the Aubergine/Gnocchi Parmigiana bake. Firstly the aubergine was cut into decent size chunks. We were short of aubergine and so added a little courgette which works well too. These were then sautéed in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour. (We often choose to include the peppers in this dish and if so add them at this point. The dish does work well without then too). Set these to one side.
We added some finely chopped onion to the pan to soften in a little olive oil. Once it had started to take on some colour the chopped garlic was added and cooked a little more. If you are using fresh or dried chilli, then add it at this stage and stir through the mix.
A can of chopped tomatoes was added and warmed through and then the pan was taken off the heat and the anchovies stirred in. As it is stirred through the anchovies completely break up and thickens the sauce. The pan was put back on the heat and some black olives and capers were tossed in and allowed to cook through for a couple of minutes. This is a good time to test and adjust the sauce base as necessary.
Now to build the dish. The roasted aubergines, (the peppers if including them) and the gnocchi were added to the sauce and left to bubble for 10-15 mins. The sauce was stirred occasionally in the first 5 mins to make sure everything was thoroughly mixed. Normally, at this stage, this would be the time to transfer to an ovenproof dish. As we were already cooking in the Tefal Ingenio pans with the removable handles, this was going to be our ovenproof dish.
Once the gnocchi were starting to soften and the sauce had thickened we stirred through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scattered the torn chunks of mozzarella on the top. We usually add a little grated parmesan cheese on top of the mozzarella. It adds a contrasting texture and colour as well as a little more crunch to the topping.
We have cooked this inside on the hob and on the Big Green Egg, both work well. This was being cooked on the Egg and so the vents were closed 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 often needs to be finished under a domestic grill as a ‘crozzled top’ is the one thing the BGE doesn’t do well unless the EGG diameter is a lot greater than that of your pan.
The dish can be put under the grill in the kitchen to finish off the top – but more recently we have been finishing these off in our Gozney Pizza oven. Either way just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
This is a dish that always tastes better if you let it cool for at least 15 minutes after cooking. So ………
Just take a drink ……. make a green salad………….
………………… give it a go!
Aubergine and gnocchi puttanesca bake
A combination of roasted Aubergines, puttanesca 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 - optional
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 1 Garlic clove chopped
- 400g tin of tomatoes
- Salt and pepper.
- 250g gnocchi
- Handfull of pitted black olives
- Capers 2Tbs
- Salted Anchovy fillets 5-6
- A little finely chopped fresh chilli or a few chilli flakes
- 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. Add the chopped peppers if using them 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, the chilli, and cook for a few minutes more.
- Step 3 Add the tinned tomatoes and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the anchovy fillets until they break up and thicken the sauce
- Step 4 Put the pan back on the heat and add the capers and black olives. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 5 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 the sauce thicken.
- Step 6 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 7 Allow to continue cooking till the cheese melts and starts to colour. If needed transfer to a domestic grill for a couple of minutes to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
- Step 8 Let the dish cool for at least 15 minutes after cooking. Serve with a green salad
Over the last couple of years we have been eating more and more aubergine based dishes. Usually Italian in style, they always seems to be made with tomatoes too. When we came across this recipe in our local supermarket’s food magazine it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. A quick glance on the internet reveals a host of versions of this recipe. So many of them though included lots of different and additional ingredients: raisins, pine nuts, cream, mozzarella, feta, bread crumbs, mint ……….. the list goes on! As with so much Italian cooking, at its best, simplicity is the key. This is basically a simple dish, with a minimal number of ingredients and it has Italy written all over it!
We have made this a number of times both indoor and out and it always works well! The first time we tried it we didn’t have any ricotta cheese and substituted a soft spreadable goats cheese we had in the fridge. That was great – but I have to say on balance my favourite version is this one with ricotta. We have tried different tinned tomatoes too. Whilst it works well with any good tinned tomato, it is just in a different league when made with tinned San Marzano tomatoes.
These are the classic Italian tomato; one of the only 2 types allowed on an authentic Neapolitan Pizza. (The other is the Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio which must be grown in one of the 18 ‘comuni’ lying just about within the Vesuvius National Park). They bring a special flavour and sweetness to the sauce without having to resort to the addition of sugar. They are more expensive, but as the sauce simply comprises only tomatoes, garlic, sage leaves and butter, this is a perfect time to use them!
Preparation is simplicity itself; the BGE was set up for indirect cooking with the platesetter in place. Once the temperature stabilised at around 180-200C we needed a solid metal surface to add some colour to the aubergine slices. A plancha, skillet or in our case a stainless steel searing plate was perfect. We usually just oil it and pop the aubergines on flipping them as they take on colour. In batches, these were cooked for 10-15 minutes turning once during the cooking. They were then put to one side to cool.
We swapped out the searing plate for our Tefal Ingenio frying pan. This could have been used to brown the aubergine slices which would have made this a true one pan cook. Once the pan was hot we added the butter, garlic slices and the sage leaves and cooked for a few minutes to infuse their taste into the butter. To this was added one can of San Marzano tomatoes and as they usually come as whole tomatoes they were gently crushed and mixed with the infused butter and seasoned. If cooking on a hob or stove top I would add around one third of a can of water to the tomatoes and leave them to bubble gently for around 20 minutes until the sauce thickens and the flavour deepens. Cooking on the EGG is the same except that you only add a touch of water, just enough to rinse out the can. This is because the cooking in the EGG retains so much moisture. To cook the sauce it is worth just closing down the vents a little and dropping the temperature to around 180C.
Whilst the sauce was cooking we put the ricotta into a bowl, grated in the zest and added the juice of half a lemon and two thirds of the grated parmesan. It was seasoned to taste with just a little salt and pepper. One heaped teaspoon of the mix was placed at one end of the aubergine and this was then rolled up into a cylinder containing the mix. Once the sauce was cooked the rolled aubergines were pushed into the sauce with the seam at the bottom.
A drizzle of olive oil was poured over the involutini and some sage and torn basil leaves scattered over the top. This was followed by the remains of the lemon infused ricotta and the rest of the parmesan. The dish was then returned to the Big Green Egg for the final part of the cook. It takes around 25-30 minutes to cook this through. If the top doesn’t brown as you would like, it can be popped under a grill for a minute or so (or under the flame of a pizza oven for 30 seconds!).
Possibly the most important step however, and one easily forgotten – let it stand! The dish should be allowed to cool before serving. This is true for so many baked dishes with a tomato sauce base and very true here. Let it stand for at least 5 minutes. Use the time to make a fresh leaf salad which is the perfect accompaniment. Pour yourself a glass of something you fancy (A medium bodied red wine is perfect) – and take a sip in anticipation!
Serve at the table with the simple salad …………………..
Aubergine, Ricotta and lemon involtini
Grilled aubergines wrapped around a lemon ricotta and parmesan cheese in a rich tomato sauce
- 1 large Aubergine or 2 medium sized in 0.7cm slices length ways
- At least 2 tbs Olive oil
- 15g butter
- 12 or more sage leaves
- 1 large clove of garlic finely sliced
- 1 Tin (ideally San Marzano) tomatoes crushed
- 125g ricotta
- Half an unwaxed lemon (juice and zest)
- 40g Parmesan cheese
- Basil leaves
- Salt and pepper
- A little water
- Step 1 Set the BGE for indirect cooking with the platesetter in place stabilised at 180-200C.
- Step 2 Oil a flat cooking surface such as a plancha or skillet and put the aubergine slices on. Add extra oil and cook for 10-15 minutes turning at least once. Set aside to cool
- Step 3 Add the butter, garlic slices and half the sage leaves to a handless frying pan and cook for a few minutes to infuse their taste into the butter. Add one can of tomatoes and gently crush. Season and mix with the infused butter. Add a little extra water. Drop the temperature to around 180C. Leave to cook gently for around 20 minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Step 4 Whilst the sauce cooks add the ricotta to a bowl with the grated lemon zest and juice of half a lemon and two thirds of the grated parmesan. Season to taste. Place I heaped teaspoon of the mix at one end of the aubergine slice and roll up into a cylinder containing the cheese. Once the sauce is cooked the rolled aubergines should be pushed into the sauce with their seam at the bottom.
- Step 5 Drizzle some olive oil over the involutini. Add some more sage and some torn basil leaves over the top. Add any remaining ricotta and the rest of the parmesan.
- Step 6 Return to the Big Green Egg (or conventional oven) and cook for around 25-30 minutes. If the top doesn’t brown enough, place under a grill for a minute or so.
- Step 7 The dish should be allowed to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving – serve with a simple leaf salad
This is dish is so simple it is almost ridiculous! It works well cooked in a domestic kitchen and even better when cooked over charcoal. The original recipe comes from our regular vegetable supplier Boxxfresh. We have just added the odd tweak to this already excellent recipe. The first of these was the addition of 4 large mushrooms that had been quartered. The only other differences were the addition of some mixed Italian herbs and the use of a little smoked paprika instead of black pepper.
This dish works especially well with the long banana shallots peeled and divided into separate bulbs (if they will) or cut lengthways into relatively wide slices. These go together beautifully with the roughly chopped garlic cloves. You will need 8 good sized shallots and 3 garlic cloves. We were cooking on the Big Green Egg set up for a direct cook initially at around 160C. The pan was put over the heat and the oil warmed in the casserole. Once the oil was warm the mushrooms were added for a couple of minutes. They were then joined by the garlic and shallots and sautéed for 4-5 minutes until they started to take on just a little colour. They needed an occasional stir to make sure they didn’t stick.
At this point we added a small oak chunk to the charcoal, just to push the smoky edge of the dish. The platesetter was introduced and the rest of the cook completed indirectly. The tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water together with the butterbeans, herbs and tomato puree were added, seasoned and stirred through. The casserole was brought to a slow simmer and left to cook for around 45-60 minutes. And that is it!!
Simply serve with some crusty bread or as we did here some finely chopped Pak Choi dressed with olive oil and a little wine vinegar
Any unused casserole will keep in the fridge for a couple of days – and could probably be frozen but we had not tried that yet. It is a great dish as it is – but also works wonderfully with fish!
– so watch this space!!
Shallot, Mushroom and Butterbean Casserole
A perfect combination of shallots, tomatoes and Butterbeans !
- 4 large mushrooms, quartered.
- 8 banana shallots
- 3 garlic cloves.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 0.5 tin of water
- 2 tins of butterbeans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp of tomato puree
- Sea salt
- Some mixed Italian herbs
- Smoked paprika
- Step 1 Set up the BGE for direct cooking at around 160C.
- Step 2 Quarter the large mushrooms and peel the shallots. Divide into separate bulbs (if they will) or cut lengthways into relatively wide slices. Roughly chop the garlic cloves.
- Step 3 Put the casserole dish in the EGG and warm the oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté for a further 4-5 minutes until they started to take on just a little colour. Make sure they don’t stick.
- Step 4 Add a small wood chunk to the fire and put the the platesetter in place for indirect cooking. Add the tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water together with the butterbeans and tomato puree. Season with the salt and smoked paprika and add the herbs.
- Step 5 Bring up to a slow simmering, and leave to cook for around 45-60 minutes.
- Step 6 Simply serve with some crusty bread or as we did here some finely chopped Pak Choi dressed with olive oil and a little wine vinegar
I can’t believe that we haven’t published this recipe before! This dish became one of our staple dishes during the 2020-21 UK lockdown period. It works well cooked in a conventional oven as you would expect with a dish from Nigel Slater. It is however so much better when cooked over charcoal on the Big Green Egg! The recipe follows the original Slater recipe quite closely. We do usually add some celeriac to it in place of some of the swede though. The other change we make is in the way we prepare the vegetables. Normally in a dish like this we would attempt to get the pieces of vegetable to be a similar size so they cook in a similar time. Here though we do the opposite, and look for both large and small pieces. This is to broaden the range of textures of the final dish. It is so often the range of textures I miss in a plant based dish, rather than the taste of anything meaty. Our third ‘tweak’ is to cook it at a slightly lower temperature but for slightly longer. This seems to just give a favourable edge to the caramelisation we get on the vegetables.
The first thing to do is to set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at around or just below 180C. We have also cooked the dish at around 160C without the platesetter in place. Cooking like this gives really good colour on the vegetables. It does, however, require more attention and more regular tossing of the vegetables.
The recipe works best with red onions. These were peeled, cut in half and then into thick segments lengthways. Around 300-400g of swede and a similar about of celeriac was peeled and cut into the size of ‘chunky chips’. These mimic the size of the carrots, some thin and some thicker around 5-8cm long. The parsnips were peeled and cut into similar size pieces. The 4 carrots were also peeled and cut into similar pieces. All the vegetables were tossed in some olive oil and put into a roasting tin. For this we use the large Tefal Ingenio Sauté pan which makes a great roasting tin. It also has the advantage that you can attach the handle and toss the vegetable when you need to.
We have used both smoked and fresh garlic, and as we are cooking over charcoal we have not found any great advantage of using the smoked garlic that Nigel Slater suggests. The top of the garlic head was cut off and the head was tucked into the bed of vegetables. We tucked in sprigs of fresh thyme around the dish and poured a little more oil over the vegetables. The dish was roasted for 25-30 minutes before tossing the vegetables over and roasting for a further 20-25 minutes.
After 50-60 minutes, the vegetables should be softening and taking on some colour. At this point we removed the garlic, tossed the vegetables again and then mixed in the mustard seeds and the fennel seeds. The EGG was closed again and the vents opened a little to do the final 20 minutes of the roast at a slightly higher temperature.
The garlic that had been removed was squeezed out of its outer skin into a glass bowl and broken up with the back of a spoon. The feta cheese was crumbled into the bowl and mixed with the garlic ready to dress the final dish just before serving.
Remove the roasted vegetables from the Big Green Egg and gently toss with some of the feta and garlic mix. Simply plate up and then sprinkle with the remaining feta and garlic and serve.
So why is it better on the EGG than in a conventional oven. I think it is simply that even with the platesetter in place there is more ‘bottom heat’ in the EGG and so the base of the heavy pan has more opportunity to develop those characteristic ‘bottom of the roasting tin’ flavours
………………. give it a try and see what you think!
Variations: don’t feel constrained by the mix and proportion of vegetables used here. feel free to alter the amounts and try others too
Baked root vegetables with feta cheese
Beautifully caramelised root vegetables offset with the tang of Feta cheese
- 2 Red Onions
- 300-600g swede
- 100-300g celeriac
- 2 parsnips
- 4 carrots
- 1 head of garlic (possibly smoked)
- 1 tbs fennel seeds
- 1 tbs mustard seeds
- 6 bushy sprigs of thyme
- 6 tbsp of olive oil.
- Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at around or just below 180C.
- Step 2 Peel the red onions, cut in half and then into thick segments lengthways. Peel the swede and the celeriac – (around 600g in total). Cut into the size of ‘chunky chips’. Peel the parsnips and cut into similar size pieces and similarly with the 4 carrots. Toss all the vegetables in some olive oil in the roasting tin. Cut the top off the garlic and tuck into the bed of vegetables. Tuck in the thyme in a similar way. Pour a little oil over the vegetables.
- Step 3 Roast in the BGE for 25-30 minutes then toss and roast for a further 20 minutes. It may be worth tossing the veg occasionally in addition
- Step 4 After 50-60 minutes, the vegetables should be softening and taking on some colour. Remove the garlic, toss the vegetables again and mix in the mustard seeds and the fennel seeds. Close theEGG, open the vents a little and roast for final 20 minutes at a slightly higher temperature.
- Step 5 In this last 20 minute period squeeze the softened garlic out of its outer skin into a glass bowl and break up with the back of a spoon. Crumble the Feta cheese into the bowl and mixed with the garlic.
- Step 6 Remove the roasted vegetables and gently toss with some of the feta and garlic mix. Plate up and sprinkle with the remaining feta and garlic to serve.
This cook is based on a recipe from Boxxfresh, a UK company supplying really great fresh fruit and vegetables. They described Mole (pronounced ‘mo-lay’) as the ‘quintessential chilli sauce native to Mexico’. It apparently literally means ’everyday sauce’! As such it is ladled over nachos, tacos, enchiladas, burritos or served on rice. The recipe takes care to mimic what so many of us think of a “Chilli” meaning Chilli con Carne. But this is a plant based dish or one of the plant-centric dishes we are cooking more and more. So whilst mimicking this classic meat based dish it uses chopped mushrooms to recreate some of the texture of minced beef and does so very well. It returns to its origins in South America with tomatoes, black beans, dark chocolate, chillies and cinnamon spices to create what they describe as ‘deep soulful flavours that will have you reaching for seconds!’
We have used Boxxfresh (no links) to supply most of the plant based food we have eaten during the first 12 months of the covid pandemic. Together with supplying fantastic products they are actively helping and encouraging people to make more of, and more with fruit and vegetables. This recipe started out as one of the many on their site (see here) with just a few little adjustments for cooking it on the Big Green Egg
The Big Green Egg was lit and allowed to heat up to around 180C. Whilst the temperature settled we blitzed the mushrooms in the food processor, being carful not to process it too far. The whole thing could be cooked directly in a Dutch Oven but I prefer to use a wide shallow handle free pan to start things off. The mushrooms were gently fried off in olive oil in this pan until softened. These were then set aside.
As the food processor had already been used we also blitzed the onions and then cooked in the same pan as we had the mushrooms. After a minute or so the chopped garlic was added. We have also come to add the red pepper (which we use instead of the chilli in the original recipe) at this stage. This was softened with the onions. (We have also done them separately and added them back in when the mushrooms were added back – but this is just easier).
The onions were cooked until translucent at which point the spice mix was then stirred through and cooked for another minute or so.
The platesetter was put in place to move the BGE to indirect cooking. A small chunk of oak was added to the charcoal to add to the smoky flavours developed in the second part of the cook.
The onion, garlic, pepper and spice mix was transferred to a Dutch oven together with the 2 tins of beans. This was then put into the EGG and allowed to warm through. Once warmed, the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, tamari, vinegar and wine were all added to the pot and gently mixed together. The whole dish was brought to a very gentle simmer without the lid to cook off the alcohol and allow the liquids to reduce a little.
Finally, the mushrooms, (the sautéed peppers if you choose to cook them separately), chocolate and maple syrup were added and stirred through the dish. As you will see from the picture we had slightly misjudged the volume of the ingredients. The pan was very full to say the least. Normally we would have cooked this for around 90 minutes or so at around 150-160C. Because the pan was so full we cooked at around 110C instead. This proved to be a great decision!
At 110C we ended up with a very slow cook taking around 5hrs. During this time the volume reduced, though only a little, and the colour deepened. More importantly the taste took on a really complex richness, more than we have had before. It will be ‘low and slow’ for this dish from now on!
Served with a baked potato, rice, nachos or tortilla chips – you really can’t go wrong!!
…………. do give it a go!!
Chilli sin Carne - a plant-centric version of a classic
A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli con carne!
- Main Iingredents
- 250g of mushrooms
- 2 red onions or 3 shallots
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 1 Red pepper (could substitute with 1/2 or 1 whole chilli)
- 2 tins of black beans of kidney beans or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
- 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp Tamari
- 1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1 large glass red wine
- 10g of dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- A little water if required
- For the spicing
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika ( smoked of you have it )
- 1 tsp oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to season
- Step 1 This can be cooked inside on the hob and oven – or on the BGE – or a combination of both. When the weather isn’t great we sometimes do the first part in the kitchen on the hob
- Step 2 Light the Big Green Egg and allow it to heat up to around 180C.
- Step 3 Blitz the mushrooms in the food processor Leave them coarse)
- Step 4 Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until coloured and softened, either directly in a dutch oven or in a handless pan (if working on the BGE). Set aside.
- Step 5 Blitz the onions and cook in the same pan as the mushrooms. After a minute or so add the chopped garlic after a couple of minutes more add the red pepper and softened with the onions. When the onions are translucent add the spice mix and stir through for another minute or so.
- Step 6 Add the platesetter to the BGE and add some smoking wood to the charcoal
- Step 7 Transfer the onion, garlic, pepper and spice mix to a Dutch oven (if not already using the Dutch oven)together with the 2 tins of beans. Place on the EGG and allow to warm through. Then add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, tamari, vinegar and wine to the pot and stir through. Bring to a very gentle simmer without the lid to cook off the alcohol and allow the liquids to reduce a little.
- Step 8 Finally, add the mushrooms, chocolate and maple syrup and stir through the dish. Cook at around 110C for at least 3hrs (or at 180C for 90m
- Step 9 Serve with a baked potato, rice, nachos or tortilla chips
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…)