Baked Fennel with Parmesan & Ciabatta Breadcrumbs


I could not resist buying up the fresh fennel bulbs that I chanced upon yesterday. I have been scouting around for fresh fennel for ages now and was delighted when I found some at the grocer, I love the fresh and unique flavour that fennel offers, it manages to compliment any simple dish by adding an original tanginess that I find hard not to find utterly delicious!

See below for my take on baked fennel bulbs that I served up for dinner with some simple grilled chicken.

 

  • 2-3 fennel bulbs
  • 15g dry ciabatta breadcrumbs
  • 40g parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt
  • 50ml dry white wine

Preheat oven to 150 deg. Slice off the base of the fennel bulbs & trim the stalks, keeping the feathery parts for the garnish. Cut the bulbs lengthways in half & cut out the core. Place the fennel halves cut side up in an ovenproof dish. In a bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, olive oil & salt to taste. Sprinkle the mixture over the fennel, then splash over the white wine. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the fennel is tender. Scatter over the feathery bits & serve immediately.

Spinach, Ricotta & Feta Filo Quiche


This recipe was inspired by a friend of mine who concocted this fabulous filo for a girls dinner. The filo always looks and tastes wonderful and adds an elaborate edge to any dish.

So seeing as I have a couple of girls coming over tonight (2 of whom are veggies) I thought that this would be the perfect, casual Sunday night dinner. See below for pictures and recipe.

Spinach, Ricotta & Feta Filo Quiche

Ingredients:

  • Melted butter
  • 1 9300g package frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
  • 200g fresh ricotta
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 green shallots, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • 6 sheets filo pastry, thawed
  • 2 1/2 T olive oil
  • 20g (1/4 cup) finely shredded Parmesan

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°. Brush a shallow 23cm (base measurement) fluted flan tin with removable base with melted butter. With your hands squeeze the liquid from the spinach. Chop. Lightly fry the shallots in olive oil until golden brown. In a medium bowl, using electric beaters, beat the ricotta until almost smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until it is all well combined. Add the chopped spinach, spring onions, pepper and 1/2 the feta Mix well with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Lay 1 sheet of filo on a flat surface. Place 1- 1/2 tbs of oil in a small dish. Brush filo with a little oil, sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper. Place another sheet of filo on top and brush with oil again. Repeat this process with remaining filo adding cracked black pepper lightly between each layer. Brush top sheet lightly with oil. Place layered filo in greased tin and trim the excess.

Spoon spinach mixture into pastry-lined tin and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with the remaining feta and Parmesan. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until filling is golden.

Remove quiche from pan, cut into wedges and serve.

Lightly fry the shallots in olive oil

Add the eggs to the beaten ricotta, 1 at a time

Coat the raw pastry in melted butter and wrap around the dish

Birthday dilemma’s


What to make, what to make?? I am hosting 15 of my girl friends over for my bday dinner in approximately 36 hours and still have no idea what I am cooking….aahhh dilemma’s!! I know two things for sure, firstly that I do not want the evening to involve any formalities, ie: I want it to be a chilled evening and let the wine flow, I do not want to have to seat all 15 of us, this means that my dinner will need to be some sort of finger food that we can pick at and eat whist milling around. Secondly, I do not want to be slaving over the stove at my own birthday party, so this involves making something that can be prepared beforehand.

I have a few ideas that have come to mind, but can’t seem to really get excited about any of them? I thought of doing loads of different snacks, however this could make the evening feel more like a cocktail evening (hmm although cocktails are a great idea that I have just thought of) and the other thing is that no matter how many snacks I seem to eat I just never seem to feel satisfied. So have ruled out the snack option.
Thought of  doing an Italian style al-fresco meal, ie, caprese salads, meats and cheeses with bruschetta, olives etc, I love this option although it does seems more of a lunch time meal?
Then I came up with the idea of mini hamburgers? great for dinner time, substantial, tasty and can be made in advance…

I have a great Italian meatball, basil and pine-nut recipe, so was thinking I make these but turn them into patties instead of round meatballs… pre-cook these in the afternoon so they can be warmed up beforehand and then serve with mini buns and an assortment of burger toppings; camembert, grilled bacon, caramelised onions, brie, fig, gherkins…. hmmm this is sounding good, low admin and it allows for everyone to mingle around and help themselves as they please. Think I have solved my dilemma, just need to find the damn meatball recipe that has got lost somewhere down the line… What do you think? Good idea?

Phad Thai


I am an absolute sucker for thai food, I love the unique combination of flavours that they fuse together to create anything from noodles to satay’s and curries, which are all so delicious, fresh and healthy. Thai food encapsulates fusion food, combining flavours such as lemon grass, tamarind, coriander, peanuts, chilli, basil and coconut, which all work well together to create brilliant rubs and sauces for noodles and rice, to which just about any meat or veggie can be added.

Mmmmm, Phad Thai

I backpacked around Thailand a couple of years ago with two girl friends of mine, it was an amazing experience and I definitely attribute my love of thai food to this trip. My all-time favourite dish that I took away from Thailand was Phad Thai, you can literally buy Phad Thai from street vendors off the side of the road for the equivalent of about R20 a bowl, absolutely delicious and dirt cheap. I loved this dish so much that I even had a local teach me how to cook it, however the fact that neither of us could communicate in each others respective language was a slight hindrance and think may be the result of the fact that I have now attempted to make Phad Thai on 6 occasions and am yet to be successful?
I am not quite sure where I go wrong, but I think it’s somewhere between obtaining the right ingredients and the order in which I add them, my last Phad Thai turned out more like a noodle omelette, with fish sauce and tofu, fairly inedible to say the least!

Anyway, so you can imagine my delight when I came across this step-by-step guide from Aaron on how to make Phad Thai,  going to attempt this tonight, please may Mr Aaron be my Phad Thai saviour this evening…Seventh time lucky?

Click here for the recipe, and see below for some essential steps to ensure a good Phad Thai:

Ingredients

Adding the eggs to the cooked noodles – I think this is where the omelette mishap started…

So this is what is actually meant to look like…

Good luck and may you all have better Phad Thai luck than me

Buttermilk & Stamkoring Salad


Had my parents and their friends over for a relaxed Sunday night braai, I wanted to accompany the meat with a slightly more exciting side-dish than the usual bland salad and hot dog rolls. So I turned to 101 Cookbooks – which is an amazing online recipe journal created by Heidi Swanson. Heidi focuses primarily on natural and whole foods and ingredients that are healthy and nutritious. Have a look at her website to be inspired to create yummy vegetarian foods.

101 Cookbooks presented me with an abundance of choices of unusual salads to make; the one I went with was a Buttermilk Farro Salad. Farro is a pearled barley and is the equivalent of a grain called Stamkoring that we use in SA. Its delicious and this is what I used in place of the farro. The dressing is very unusual, a vinaigrette combined with buttermilk and loads of fresh herbs. I was not convinced at first, but believe me this works, the sharpness of the vinegar combined with the sweetness of the buttermilk and herbs is delicious and also blends well with the clean veggies and stamkoring. This salad comes highly recommended, everyone loved it (even my meat-eating boyfriend!) See below for the recipe and pics…


Buttermilk Farro Salad Recipe

I used semi-pearled farro here, but you can certainly substitute whole farro, wheat berries, barley, or other plump grains. I say to serve this at room temperature, but actually, I like this salad warm, room temperature, and chilled. It’s good the day after, and for a couple days after that. Just revive with a splash of the leftover dressing.

2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup / 240 ml buttermilk
1/2 cup / 120 ml good-quality white wine vinegar
1/2 cup / 120 ml extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped thyme

7 small radishes, sliced paper thin
3 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
1 medium head of fennel, trimmed and sliced paper thin

4 cups cooked farro, cooled to room temp
chopped chives for garnish

Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board. Mash into a paste using the flat side of your knife. Place in a medium bowl or jar, then add the buttermilk and vinegar. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the herbs.

In a large bowl gently toss the radishes, zucchini, and fennel with the farro grains. Add 1 cup / 240 ml of the dressing and toss again. Let sit for ten minutes, taste, and adjust with more dressing, if needed, and salt to taste. Serve sprinkled with chives.

Serves 8.

So delicious!! included one last pic below that I love. You can see my “bland” green salad in the forefront but this was a great accompaniment to the stamkoring salad. I also did Marge’s delicious, creamy potato bake as a substitute for hot-dog rolls. All went together beautifully! You have to love the onset of summer with this weather and braai’s, gets me so super excited for December holidays, woohoo!!