Friday, May 30, 2008

Sunset Vegetables with Feta

This is really just roasted vegetables with feta crumbled over them towards the end of cooking, but they are so pretty I think the un-originality can be forgiven. The name alludes to the colours - I use vegetables ranging through yellow to orange to deep red-purple. The resulting flavours are predominatly sweet, spiked with a gentle chilli warmth and contrasted with the salty cheese. This can be a meal in itself, or padded out with couscous, bulgar of quinoa, or omit the cheese and add some chicken flavoured with harissa if you are of a carnivorous bent. I realise that the quantities below sound like an enormous amount, but once it is all softened, it seems like a lot less, I promise.

Plenty for two:
  • 1/2 sweet potato
  • 1/2 small butternut squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 2-3 beetroot
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g feta cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C. Peel the potato and squash and cut into approx. 3cm cubes. Chop the top off the onion but leave the bottom, hairy, end intact, peel off the papery outer layers then chop length-wise into 6-8 segments; the layers of each should hold together. Peel the beetroot and chop into about six pieces each (you might like to wear rubber gloves for this, unless you don't mind having pink-stained hands). Peel the carrot and chop into 3-4cm half-barrels. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan. Throw in all of the root vegetables and the onion, coat thoroughly with the hot oil and stir in the chilli flakes. Cook for about 15mins. Meanwhile, chop each pepper into inch squares. Once the root veg is almost cooked through, add the peppers and cook for a further 10 mins, turning the oven down to 190. Crumble the feta over the vegetables, season with pepper and blast again for another 5 mins, by which time the vegetables will be cooked through and just starting to tinge around the edges and the feta will be hot and dry. Serve in bowls.

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Goji Berries = Gross

    Also known as wolfberries. Take my advice: take all necessary steps to prevent them passing your lips. Even if the ludicrous health claims were true (living to 250 years old? I don't think so), it wouldn't be worth it. And I dread to think what the juice tastes like.

    Sunday, May 4, 2008

    Mexican Marinated Chicken Kebabs

    An unfortunate side effect of good weather is the sudden desire of the rest of the world to return to caveman behaviours. Yes, I mean barbecuing. "What?! You don't love barbecues?!?" I hear you cry. "But everyone loves barbecues!". Everyone, that is, except me. I have a well equipped 21st Century kitchen, why would I want to stand outside and fiddle around with charcoal and lighter fluid and trying to cook over an uncontrollable heat? And worse yet, why do so many people who claim (admit) all the rest of the year round not to be able to cook, using said excellent equipment inside, suddenly think they are masterchefs when it comes to open flames outside? The results are rarely, if ever, as good as I could achieve in the kitchen, immodest as that sounds. And in this country, it is very, very, very unusual for the evenings to be so hot that I just can't bear to stand for five minutes by the grill and so feel compelled to retreat outside. to make this mid-summer madness more bearable?

    First, one has to identify exactly what the problems are (besides the realities of the British weather which people are so peculiarly determined to ignore). Either the coals are too hot and thus the result is meat over-cooked on the outside before it is done through, or they are not hot enough and the food is dried out by the time it reaches the plate. A bit of pre-planning can help with the second issue: marinade the meat beforehand to make sure it is tender and keep brushing with the remaining liquid whilst it cooks to reducing drying. The following is what you make if you have a bottle of Tequila lurking in your cupboard which you are never going to drink, and you think the space would be much better reserved for a spare bottle of Bombay Sapphire...

    Makes 6 long kebabs:
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons of Tequila
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 pinches of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 good sized chicken breasts
  • 1 red onion
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 small courgette
  • 6 long skewers

  • Whisk the liquids, salt and chilli flakes together. Chop the chicken breasts into 2cm-ish cubes and set in the marinade in a covered bowl or freezer bag. Leave for at least 30 minutes, though the longer the better. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water while you prepare the vegetables so they are less likely to scorch or burn later. Chop the pepper into 2-3cm chunks. Peel the onion, chop the top off, cut in half lengthways, and then each half into 6 wedges. Finally, prepare the courgette by slicing in half lengthways and then cutting into 1.5cm thick semi-circles. When you are ready to start cooking, thread all the ingredients on to the skewers in an alternating pattern. Cook on the barbecue (or under a hot preheated grill), brushing frequently with the left over marinade. Serve with salad and some salsa or fruity chutney. Or follow the Mexican theme of the flavourings and de-skewer the cooked kebab into a tortilla and roll up with salsa and salad inside.