Monday, April 25, 2011

haloumi in vine leaves, baked potatoes, tomato sauce & broccoli

Tonight I'm cooking from Maria Benardis' book My Greek Family Table. It's a lovely book with recipes based on Maria's family life in Greece and Australia.

I'm making "Chargrilled haloumi in vine leaves", with "My favourite baked potatoes", the "Santorini caper and tomato sauce", and a salad of blanched broccoli for greens. Normally I'd cook rice to go with haloumi but I wanted to eat rice pudding for dessert and didn't want too much of a good thing.

Paella with chorizo, red capsicum, beans and artichokes

Tim cooked paella last night for dinner. I love paella for its infinite variety, and because it is, I think the ultimate, one dish meal. It has rice, vegetables, beans, herbs, seasoning and perhaps meat and crustaceans. Really it has whatever is available but in a particular balance.

Traditionally paella is an outdoors food cooked over a charcoal fire in a broad shallow pan - the paella - with ingredients being added in order for them all to be cooked and ready at the same time. And it is worth remembering this as you cook it at home over the stove, starting out with the things that require most cooking and adding more delicate ingredients towards the end.

Paella with chorizo, red capsicum, beans and artichokes


for 2

1 tbspn olive oil
2 rosemary sprigs
2 sprigs of thyme
1 small chorizo, about 150g, sliced into 1cm rounds
1 small red capsicum / red bell pepper, cut into strips about 1.5 cm wide, then cut again into squares
3/4 cup paella rice (or risotto rice)
small pinch of saffron threads (optional)
a large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 4cm lengths
4 preserved artichokes, halved or quartered, depending on their size


Put the paella pan over a medium heat. Add the oil, when it is hot add the rosemary and thyme. Let them sizzle a little then add the chorizo so that it is evenly distributed about the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes then turn over the pieces of chorizo. Add the capsicum between the pieces of chorizo and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Shake the pan a little to loosen the food.

Sprinkle the rice into the pan, shaking into the spaces between the chorizo and capsicum. Pour on about one and a half cups of water, enough that the rice is completely submerged. Shake the pan again to even the rice, meat and capsicum out. Sprinkle on the saffron threads then bring the water to a simmer.

When the dish is simmering distribute the green beans over the top and turn the heat down slightly. The paella should not be stirred as a crust should form on the bottom but this means that you need to keep an eye on the dish and shake it about a little to make sure that it doesn't burn. You may need to add more water as the rice cooks. Towards the end of cooking distribute the artichoke pieces across the top.

At the end the rice should have plumped up and there should be little air holes across the surface. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid or a piece of foil and a tea towel to allow the rice to finish cooking. Leave it to sit for 10 minutes.

Serve straight from the pan.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook


I bought Veganomicon, not because I'm going to become a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but because I want to make more vegetable based meals. Expand my repertoire. Get healthier. The book is lovely to look at, dark turquoise green and paler green olive text on a roughish paper. It sits open by itself, very useful when cooking. And the writing is engaging.

The authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, although they've both written several other cookbooks, are obviously home cooks. I like this. They know about taking food to picnics and barbecues, about entertaining at home, about cooking for yourself and maybe one other person. They know about which foods are probably available in your local supermarket and which things you'll most likely have to go to a specialist supplier to buy.

I'm fascinated by the culture portrayed through the recipes: New York, Brooklyn, Mexican, Greek, Jewish food is put through a vegan filter, and comes out in sometimes surprising combinations. And I wonder if in Australia where we've been influenced by Greek, Arabic, Italian, and South-East Asian foods and ways of cooking we do the same thing.