Mar 312015
 

Carrot top pestoOnce you know how to make carrot top pesto, you’ll never want to waste your carrot ‘greens’ ever again.

My recipe appeared online and then in my book The Permaculture Kitchen. Since then, I’ve seen carrot top pesto used by loads of people in all sorts of creative and scrumptious ways. I thought it’d be good to collect some of those ideas together as a source of inspiration. The recipe for the carrot top pesto aka ‘CTP’ is at the bottom of this post.

How to use carrot top pesto

Bread

Carla Tomasi made these delicious bread sticks with black pepper and CTP spread over the dough before she twisted and baked it. Ideal with drinks and antipasta.
Carla's bread sticksAlso good is the CTP spread on bruschetta or toast with one or more of cheese, olives, veg, anchovies or shellfish.

Pasta

Thane Prince used the CTP to dress penne in this scrummy pasta bake with cherry tomatoes.
Thane's pasta bakeYou can just as easily just mix it through cooked pasta: just leave some of the cooking water in the pasta to help make the ‘sauce’. Or use it with ricotta or mascarpone filled ravioli or other filled pasta. Peas go well in the stuffing.

Vegetable Tart

Francoise Murat spread the CTP over the base of a puff pastry case and filled with tomatoes and delicious vegetables. Just bake till tender.

Easy- spread on puff pastry, add roasted tomatoes (vinegar+sugar+oil), peas +vegies, mozzarella bake 20 mins  = trop trop bon!

Rice and grains

CTP is ideal mixed into risotto or with farro/bulgur and other grains.

Roasted and baked veg

I love CTP spread on all sorts of veg including potatoes, oca, mashua, aubergine, courgettes, carrots (!), parsnips, onions which are then roasted. Use as a filling for that warming baked potato.

Meat, chicken, fish & seafood

CTP is delightful spread on all these to roast, grill or pan fry. Stuff it under the breast skin of a chicken before roasting. Slather on salmon before you grill it. Pop a blob on a juicy steak as you serve it.

Carrots a large bunch

Carrot top pesto recipe

Ingredients

Feel free to scale the recipe to suit what you have available.

It’s important that you use the young, tender carrot tops. The leaves & stalks from larger ones tend to be a bit tough.

100g of young carrot tops (a large bunch)
1 clove of garlic, peeled (you can use more)
50g whole almonds (it doesn’t matter whether they are blanched or not) Hazelnuts would work well too.
50g parmesan, roughly diced
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

If you need to, wash the leaves to get rid of any mud and grit. Pop them in a big saucepan over a high heat and pour over a large splash of boiling water. Cover the saucepan and boil for 2-3 minutes until the leaves are just wilted. Strain in a colander and refresh with cold water to stop them cooking. Drain completely and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. If you don’t need to do this, then you’ll get a fresher result.

Dry roast the whole almonds in a heavy based pan or in the microwave until they are nicely browned.

Cut the garlic cloves into slightly smaller pieces which will help them blend evenly.

Put the almonds, garlic and a small amount of the carrot leaves into a food processor. The carrot leaves help the other ingredients process well. Process until the almonds and garlic are finely chopped.

Add the rest of the carrot leaves and process until they are puréed. You’ll probably need to scrape down the sides of the processor a few times to ensure even processing. Add the parmesan cheese and process until well mixed, scraping down if needed.

What you’re going to do next is to add the olive oil to make a fluid paste. Add it gradually, stopping to test consistency and scraping down the sides. The consistency I was after I call ‘falling over’ consistency so that the pesto just falls into the blades of the processor as it turns. So, with the food processor running, gradually add the olive oil until you get your desired consistency.

Then check for seasoning. I added a good grind of black pepper and a couple of pinches of sea salt and processed that in.

Keep in the fridge covered in oil.

 Posted by at 17:09
Mar 302015
 

Padana Agrodolce
We spent a very happy few days in Ostia Antica near Rome with Carla Tomasi earlier this month. We ate like royalty and had lots of fun cooking with, and learning from, Carla. I’ll share some of the recipes in the coming weeks as I recreate them from my notes.

The first recipe is for griddled, sweet and sour marinated pumpkins or squash – aka, in Italian, zucca in agrodolce. As it happens, Carla was reminded of this Sicilian recipe by Rachel Roddy whom we also met there for a grand day in Rome.

Rachel was very kind to give us a swift tour around Rome in torrential rain and a tour (and lunch) in Testaccio where she lives. As with everyone we met in Italy, she and her partner Vincenzo were incredibly generous. Look out for Rachel’s first book Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome which I’m very much looking forward to.

Here’s the recipe on Rachel’s blog, I’ll let her tell the story as she writes beautifully. Variations from Carla and from me are below…

I used a padana squash that we’d grown last year…
Padana pimkin Carla varied the recipe by including some mint, parsley and a little chilli when she put in the vinegar. I used a mixture of Emporer’s mint and oregano. Carla and I used apple cider vinegar.

Agrodolce cooking on Carla stove

Cooking on Carla’s stove

Chicken and lentilsAt Carla’s we had it first with a Roman pan roast lamb and then next day as part of a huge lunch when another Testaccio resident Sigurd came for lunch. It tastes even better after a good chance for all the flavours to blend.

I served it first with chicken and some dressed lentils.

The next day, I chopped up the pieces so they were smaller and used it to coat some penne – molto bene.

This is a crackingly simple and delicious dish, let me know how you like it 🙂

 Posted by at 14:15

Stuffed sardines recipe, sarde a beccafico

 Autumn, Dairy, Recipes, Seafood, Seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter  Comments Off on Stuffed sardines recipe, sarde a beccafico
Mar 232015
 

Stuffed sardines

Stuffed sardines recipe

These sardines just melt in the mouth with a burst of herby flavour. They are a doddle to prepare and only take 10 minutes to cook. They are ideal as antipasto, as part of a buffet or a main fish course.

I developed the stuffing from ingredients I had left over from the foraging workshop I did locally. So it was a real case of the available ingredients driving the recipe.

In Italian ‘beccafico’ means ‘fig pecker’ a name for small, sweet plump birds. The dish is meant to mimic the taste of these birds. The stuffing is traditionally made with pine nuts, currants, anchovies, parsley, bread crumbs and lemon/orange juice and garnished with bay leaves. The fish tails are left to poke up out of the dish to simulate the perky birds’ tail feathers.

This quantity would serve 4 as antipasto.

Ingredients

8 plump sardines
150ml fresh ricotta (see here how to make your own)
50g of dried breadcrumbs
handful of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped
large sprig of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 lemon zest finely grated
1 lemon, sliced
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Method

Pre-heat an oven to 180°C (350°F).

If it’s not already been done, cut off the head of the sardines and gut them. Wash & gently dry them.

Cut from the gut to the tail to make it easy to butterfly bone the fish. If you fancy, cut or snip out the dorsal fin and cut off the tail. Put the fish belly down on a board so that the back is uppermost. Press down firmly on the length of the backbone and feel it separate from the flesh. Turn the fish over and remove the backbone and rib bones, with luck they will come out as one. Use a small knife to help you if you need to.

Mix the remaining ingredients apart from the extra virgin olive oil together so it makes a thick paste.

Divide the paste evenly across each of the sardines. Roll up the sardines. If you want to mimic the birds’ tail feathers roll from the wide end first: otherwise it’s easier to roll from the tail end.

Put the fish tightly in a baking dish so they don’t unroll and put a slice of lemon between each. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.
Baked stuffed sardinesThe fish can be eaten warm, I prefer them at room temperature.

Buon appetito!

 Posted by at 12:23
Mar 152015
 

WMF Perfect Pressure CookerA pressure cooker is an essential item for every kitchen. If I could only have one cooking vessel, it’d be a pressure cooker. They are versatile, easy to use, energy-efficient and help you cook delicious, healthy and quick meals.

I needed wanted a replacement for my old Prestige pressure cooker. And, thanks to a Twitter tip from Catherine Phipps (of whom more later), I saved more than £30 of the cost (£134, RRP £149) by buying from Amazon.de rather than the UK site.

I’ve had the cooker since November 2014 and I have used it more than once each week since then. I don’t like clutter in the kitchen, but this one never gets put away: I use it so often.

Size

I opted for a 6 litre cooker. One of the things to remember with pressure cookers is that you can’t fill them to the brim to pressure cook. Depending on what you’re cooking, you can only fill them 2/3 or 1/2 full. So my 6 litre cooker has a maximum ingredients volume of 4 litres. I find this is just right for the 2 or 3 of us. It’s ideal to cook a meal or dish that will last for multiple days.

One of the good things about this cooker is that you can buy different sized pans in this range to increase your options should you so wish. The lid and handle assembly are universal.

Why a new cooker?

I wanted to replace my old (20 years+) Prestige pressure cooker. Despite changing sealing rings and release valves it was difficult to get up to pressure, lost a lot of steam while cooking and was noisy. As a consequence of the sound and fury, it required more energy (higher gas) to keep at pressure and so had become relatively inefficient. To be honest, I’m not sure why it should have deteriorated. The physics and engineering of a cooker are very simple and there’s not much to go wrong. I can only assume that the quality of the spares were not as good as the originals. The pan is still good, so it’ll keep its place in my kitchen.

Why WMF?

Mainly on the advice of Catherine and other experienced users and a thorough research of online reviews. Partly because it fitted my budget: it’s not the cheapest on the market, but it is a relatively high quality for the price.

I was also impressed with the excellent design of the lid and pressure control handle. The handle clips on/off the lid easily to clean and reassemble.

WMF Perfect Pressure Cooker handle detail

Detail of handle top including locking mechanism

WMF Perfect Pressure Cooker lid and pressure releif valve detail

Sealing ring and pressure relief valve (top)

The pressure indication is graduated (low/high) and very easy to see. The locking mechanism is failsafe and has a neat fast pressure release that means the steam vents away from you. No more lifting hot weights with tongs or gloves. (You can also fast pressure release by dousing it with cold water as with other cookers.)

Spares

There are spare parts easily available for the cooker. They’re not cheap and I suspect all manufacturers make a healthy margin on spares. What will be interesting for me to see is how the sealing on the underside of the handle holds up over time.

WMF Perfect Pressure Cooker lid and pressure releif inner handle

Inside of handle

It looks like silicone to me, so will withstand the heat: I wonder how it will age. I’d welcome views from any longer term WMF user in the comments about this.

The cooker doesn’t come with trivet or other inserts as standard which wasn’t a draw back for me. They’re not essential and Catherine’s book (see below) has excellent tips how to improvise with standard kitchen kit.

Silent

I’m really impressed with the cooker in use. It comes to pressure without fuss and the indicator is very clear. Once at pressure, I can put it on my smallest gas ring at its lowest setting to keep up pressure. And – it’s almost silent! Which means less energy use, less steam in the kitchen and I can hold a conversation while it does its stuff.

Recipes

I use the pressure cooker for all sorts of things. Ragùs, stews, whole & jointed chicken and other poultry, risottos and pilafs, pasta, stocks, pulses (super quick cooking), grains, octopus…

The Pressure Cooker Cookbook page detail

Safety

You can’t bring the cooker to pressure without:

  • the sealing ring being properly located
  • the sliding indicator on the handle being in the locked position

And you can’t open the cooker until the sliding indicator is moved to the open position AND all the pressure is released.

If you do forget to turn down the temperature on the cooker once it’s up to pressure, it ‘honks’ at you to warn you. See and hear…

And if you left it still further, the pressure release valve would vent.

So no nasty surprises or explosions 🙂

Pressure Cooker Cookbook

I’ve been a pressure cooker fan for more than 25 years and have some lovely old pressure cooker books. I was delighted when Catherine Phipps published The Pressure Cooker Cookbook in 2012.

The Pressure Cooker Cookbook Cover It’s a fresh, modern and no-faff book. It’s well researched, covers the ‘how-tos’ of pressure cooking very well and has a wide repertoire of pressure cooker recipes. I strongly recommend it for pressure cooker novices and old hands alike.

 Posted by at 17:04
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