Nutty Cauliflower Cheese

Regular readers of this site may have noticed I am a big fan of cauliflower. This is a slight twist on a classic, adding leeks and walnuts to add texture, flavour and a little bit of healthiness.

Makes enough to feed four adults

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower – cut into florets
1 leek
100g chopped walnuts
Large knob of butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon English mustard
500ml milk
150g cheese – something strong like cheddar, gruyere or red leicester

Start by cooking the cauliflower. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large pan. When hot, add the cauliflower and fry, stirring occasionally, until browned in places. A little bit of black won’t hurt either. All that colour adds a rich flavour and a little sweetness. Once browned, add about 50ml water and cover. Allow to steam for around 5 minutes to help the cauliflower soften. Remove from heat and pop the cauliflower into a baking dish. Season with a little salt and black pepper. A little grated nutmeg is nice at this stage too if you have it.

Now for the sauce. Heat the butter and one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. When the butter has melted, add the flour and the mustard. Stir over the heat for two minutes then add the milk, slowly, stirring all the time until you have a smooth liquid. Heat and keep stirring until thickened. Add more milk if it gets too thick but keep stirring to prevent the flour separating and burning on the base of your plan. Not only does that give the sauce a burnt flavour, it ruins your pan. When nicely thickened, add the cheese, either sliced of grated. Keep stirring over a medium heat until the cheese has melted and you have a thick, creamy, cheesy sauce. Pour this over the cauliflower.

Cut the leek in half lengthwise, wash well, then slice into fine half rings. Sprinkle these over the top of the sauce. Now sprinkle the walnuts over the top then pop the whole thing into the oven at 200C (or 180C for a fan assisted oven_ and bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.

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Sweet Potato, Leek and Gruyere Tart

It was Bruce Feirstein who wrote Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. So this, rather than being a quiche, is a tart.

This should be enough to feed four or five people depending on what you serve with it

375g pack of shortcrust pastry – I used to make my own but bought pastry is pretty cheap and pretty good
1 knob of butter and a splash of olive oil
2 small leeks – cut in half lengthwise then sliced into thin half rounds
1 medium sweet potato – peeled and diced quite small
150g gruyere cheese (or some other strong cheese) – grated
4 large eggs
a good pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and black pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and add the leeks and sweet potato. Fry gently for 15 minutes or so until the potato is soft – the exact time will depend on how big or small you like your dicing to be.

While that is going on, put the oven on at 200C. Line a 20cm loose bottom tart tin with the pastry. The ready rolled stuff is great, but they always make it too narrow so you have to patch it up a little. Make sure it is all well sealed then blind bake with some baking beans and greaseproof paper for around 15 minutes.

Let the leek and potato mixture cool a little, then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Take a large bowl and best the eggs with the grated cheese. You can add a splash of milk or cream if you like but that’s not necessary and doesn’t add much to the dish. Now stir in the leek and sweet potato mixture. Tip into the part-baked pastry case and return to the oven for 25 minutes until the filling has set and the top is beautifully browned

Serve with a salads, or new potatoes, or both.

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Kale, Ricotta and Leek Pancakes

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, or Mardis Gras. So what better day to finally break away from Veganuary with a little dairy and eggs. Yes I know there are plenty of vegan pancake recipes all over the Internet but I decided to go a little traditional, but with a twist.

Veganuary was great. I loved trying out lots of new ideas and the challenge of cooking vegan having been so used to throwing cheese onto meals for over 30 years. But I never intended it to stay with me forever. I’ll certainly be cutting down on my dairy and egg consumption, but won’t rule it out altogether until next January comes around.

Instagram was littered with photos and recipes for sweet pancakes, but having never had a sweet tooth, I opted for something savoury. i do however find it most annoying that supermarkets insist on selling kale, chopped and bagged. Given they chop the tough stem into little chunks, it makes it far less convenient than selling the leaves whole. So make sure you pick out all the tough little cuttings of stem as they really are not pleasant.

This made around 6-8 pancakes (depending on the size of your pan) so enough for 2-3 people.

You can start with either the pancakes of the filling. For the sake of argument I’ll start with the filling.

a splash of olive oil
200g Kale – tough stems removed
1 small leek – cut in half lengthwise then sliced into 1cm slices
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
a pinch of nutmeg
100g ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the kale in a pan and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep for around 4 minutes then drain well. Put in a large bowl to cool.

Heat the oil in a frying pan then gently fry the leeks and garlic until softened. This should take about 7-8 minutes. Add the nutmeg then take off the heat and add to the kale.

Now tip in the ricotta and mix well. Season to taste then set aside while you make the pancakes.

For the pancakes you’ll need
100g wholemeal flour
2 eggs
150ml Almond milk – you can use dairy of coconut, but almond does give it a little nutty edge
150ml water
Sunflower or groundnut oil for frying

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl then add the eggs. Give than a quick mix with a whisk then add the milk. Mix and beat well to remove any lumps.

Take a large frying pan and heat a tiny amount of oil. Gte the pan nice and hot. Now take about ½ cup of the batter and pour into the pan. The best way to get coverage it to tilt the pan and pour at the top, then swirl the pan around as you pour so the batter spreads evenly. Cook for about 30-45 seconds until firm and the edges are starting to brown, turn, flip or whatever takes your fancy and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Remove and repeat the process until all the batter has gone.

Divide the filling evenly between the pancakes then roll the pancakes up and place in a lightly oiled oven dish. Grate 120g Emmental over the pancakes (you could use a strong cheddar or a gruyere perhaps) and pop them in an oven at 180C for around 25-30 minutes until nice and hot and the cheese starting to brown just a little.

I served mine with roasted new potatoes and a selection of salads.

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Leek and Gruyere Stuffed Mushrooms

Yeh I know, stuffed vegetables….. very retro. There was a time when I could first afford to eat out where the meat free option (yes there was generally only one) was some vegetable or other filled with a bland concoction of rice and diced frozen vegetables then smothered in cheese. I kept the cheese in for this one (it helps everything to stick together) but removed the rice and used a few fresh breadcrumbs to absorb some of the liquid instead. These go rather well with oven chips!

To make four mushrooms – which is enough for four people…

4 large flattish field or portobello mushrooms – peeled and the stem cut out
2 medium leeks – cut in half lenthwise then cut into thin slices
3 spring onions – finely sliced
100g or so of Gruyere cheese – grated. You could use a strong Cheddar here too or Emmenthal would probably work quite well
a few glugs of olive oil – about 4 tablespoons
2 large handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs – about 3 slices worth
a pinch of nutmeg
black pepper
assorted seeds for sprinkling

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan then add the leeks and spring onion, put the lid on and sweat down until tender. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Take the lid off, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add a pinch of nutmeg, some pepper. Salt isn’t really needed as the cheese has a saltiness about it. Add the grated cheese and mix well.

Place the mushrooms round side down on a lightly oiled oven tray. Divide the leek and cheese mixture equally between the mushrooms, pressing the stuffing down well. Sprinkle some seeds over the top – I used pine nuts and sesame. You could also use pumpkin, sunflower, flax. Drizzle with a little oil then place in the oven at 200C for about 20 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through and the tops are browning.

Leek & Caerphilly Sausages

glamorgan-sausages

I based the idea for these on a recipe from Leiths which uses Cheddar. I think the Caerphilly gives a better flavour and texture. These are great for freezing – just lay them on a baking tray in the freezer. When frozen, transfer to a freezer bag until needed.

2 small leeks – cut in quarters lengthwise then finely sliced
2 oz butter
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6-8 slices on bread – made into crumbs in a food processor
pinch of nutmeg
75g approx of Caerphilly cheese – chopped into small chunks
2 eggs
2 more slices of bread – breadcrumbed
few tablespoons of plain flour

Melt butter in a pan and add leeks. Fry for 5-10 minutes until soft then transfer to a large bowl. Add the mustard, herbs, nutmeg, first lot of breadcrumbs, one egg and cheese then get your hands in there and squidge it all up into a dough like substance. If it’s a little wet, add more breadcrumbs. If a little dry add a splash of milk.

Divide the mixture into approximately 20 and mould each piece into a sausage shape.

Now find three flat bowls – put flour in one, beat the other egg in another and the remaining breadcrumbs in the third.

Take each sausage and coat with flour, then dip in the egg, the coat with breadcrumbs. If you want to freeze the sausages do so at this stage. If you want to eat them now, heat a little oil in a frying pan. When hot fry the sausages for about 10 minutes turning occasionally until browned.

Rustic Leek and Gruyere Tart

Quick, simple and delicious. I was going to make this a smart tart, then decided a deeper, rustic feel would be nicer. I made this tonight, served with sauteed potatoes, broccoli and peas. A nice big dollop of ketchup and a splash of Tabasco work a treat on here too. With all these extras this would serve 4-6 depending on how greedy your guests are.

3-4 medium leeks – cut in half lengthwise then sliced finely
large knob of butter
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
80g or so of Gruyere cheese
375g pack of ready rolled puff pastry – life is too short to make your own

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Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the leeks, cover and let them sweat for 5 minutes until nice a soft. Remove lid to let them dry off a little and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the grated Gruyere and a good grating of nutmeg – about ¼ teaspoon – salt and black pepper.

Roll the pastry into something roughly resembling a square and place on a baking sheet. Pile the leek and cheese mixture in the middle of the pastry then fold up the edges, leaving a bit of a hole in the middle. Brush the exposed pastry with beaten egg then place in the oven at 220C for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

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Leeks, leeks and more leeks

I love my organic box from Riverford However every box, every week seems to have carrots and leeks. Let’s face it, leeks are hardly the most interesting or versatile vegetables…..or are they? Having got tired of leek and potato soup, leek and celeriac soup and even leek and Gruyere omelette (all these recipes coming soon!), I thought I’d try something new. Some people would call them Glamorgan sausages, a traditional Welsh delight. I hunted for a traditional recipe for Glamorgan sausages and came across several so thought I would try and invent my own. These are actually quite tasty, but I have to admit I did get some help from Leith’s wonderful Vegetarian Bible.

Here’s the recipe

Leek and Caerphilly Sausages