Archives for posts with tag: olive oil

leeksleeks

I am very full. I write this almost immediately after eating Sunday night dinner, a meal one shouldn’t miss. Tonight we had beef short rib, slow cooked for 9 hours with red wine, mushrooms, carrots and smoky bacon. The rib was tender and left the clean, sleek bones behind in the slow cooker. We had mashed potatoes made smooth with a hunk of butter and big scoop of chicken stock from a roast during the week. On the side, softened leeks. I watched the leeks slowly steam in butter and oil through the glass lid of a fry pan and the light green colour, like a perfectly ripe avocado, reminded me of a very good leek recipe I have been meaning to share.

cross sectionquarters, lengthwise

The leek is probably my favourite vegetable. A strong declaration perhaps when you consider the variety, the sheer abundance and colour of the vegetable world. But the sleek, white, sturdy and soil-dusted trunk with the green fan tops are my most loved. I cannot pinpoint when the leek became a crucial part of my culinary arsenal, which is likely another measure of favouritism – never a conscious decision but a slow integration until you cannot remember ever cooking without it. I realised I began most meals by dicing a piece of a leek rather than an onion or like the meal tonight, sauteed leeks became as common as steamed broccoli or green beans for the vegetable side. Then much like broccoli once made the leap from a humble side to the star of the show (think roast broccoli), leeks began to do the same.

placed in dishtomatoes

These leeks do indeed steal the show. They are acidic, bright and sweet. They are like ribbons, almost pasta in texture; wide wraps of tender noodle. With tomatoes and a robust mustard vinaigrette, they seem an entirely different vegetable to the diced and sauteed and the gently cooked leek for soup.

beforeafter

I’ll let the photos do the talking here. It’s late on a Sunday and between the title and the photography clues, I’m sure you get the idea – that there is perhaps more to the leek than we thought.

Roasted Vinaigrette Leeks

This serves as a generous accompanying dish for four people. Goes superbly with chicken, but also with pork chops.

2 leeks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 pinches salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
minced garlic clove (I didn’t use this but just thought it might be a nice addition)
1-2 tomatoes, diced
handful sun-dried (can use no tomato or either all sun-dried or fresh)

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cut the white of the leeks in half lengthwise then each length into quarters, lengthwise. Place the leeks into a large oven dish with the chopped tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes. In a bowl or jug mix the vinaigrette ingredients together and pour over the leeks. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and remove the tinfoil then gently mix, basting the leeks with the sauce. Place back in the oven with the tinfoil removed for another 15-20 minutes until soft and floppy.

I read a lot of recipes, everyday on blogs, in the newspaper, magazines, websites. Some recipes cement themselves in my conscious, a bookmark so clear and vivid I have no need for an electronic or paper page marker. Sometimes I think there must be a part of my brain solely charged with storing food information. Like a niggle to not forget a dentist appointment or to pay a bill or return a library book, I have a niggle to not forget about this bread I just read about, or to remember a recipe for olive oil cake while Perrin still has a 20 litre container of his family’s press under his kitchen table.

red wine red wineciambelline al vino

Most recently I read about a biscuit, simple and straightforward enough on paper, five main ingredients, made mostly by hand in one bowl – the ease is appealing. But I only realised this as I made them; they first caught my attention with this summary – biscuits made with wine for dipping in wine! That was all I needed to know.

red reflectionsred wine days

And really, that’s all you need to know too. There is no story here, although I did start a draft post on a rather overwrought, melodramatic note about earthquakes and high winds and rumbling ground and beautiful Italian biscuits for dunking in wine. But in a bid to keep things real, I’ll focus on the biscuits.

swirly doughrolling and pinching dough

They look delicate but are hardy. They can withstand a good dunking and being carted about town in containers. They are sugar crusted and look like doughnuts with dark, caramelised bottoms and just blushed tops. They contain generous sprinkles of fennel seeds adding the sweet-savoury lilt of aniseed. When they bake, and this is my favourite part, the kitchen smells like baking bread, a yeasty, oily focaccia perhaps. Even after they have cooled, a biscuit brought to your mouth will still smell of yeast and grassy olive oil.

Fennel seedsready to bake

These flavours, a seemingly ill-aligned profile of oil and wine and aniseed, are a bit like chilli and chocolate, maple syrup and bacon, avocado and raspberries, that is, they work. In fact these ciambelline could be the most adaptable biscuits you make – we’re thinking they really could be dipped, dunked and spooned into all manner of things. Hot chocolate and black tea for slow days then stiff drinks for later – a sweet sherry, a dry sherry to compliment the savoury, yeasty tones; cointreau for a bit of zest; eaten with rosé at lunch or a hearty red on a dark night. Creams – perhaps lemon syllabub, or soaked prunes mashed into a thin creme fraiche or perhaps eaten on the side of a panna cotta.

There’s no story today – just biscuits with red wine for dunking in red wine – all you need to remember them by.

Ciambelline al Vino
Recipe from Rachel eats

On the original post no measurements are included in recognition of true Italian cooking style – a ‘feel your way/you’ll know when you see it’ approach. I have included measurements but the recipe should be easy enough to halve or double as you like. Equal quantities of sugar, olive oil and wine are key. Next time I might add a smidgeon of grated lemon zest.

1 cup sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup wine – red, white or fortified (I used red)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
flour – I needed close to 5 cups in total
sugar for dusting

In a bowl stir together the sugar, olive oil and wine. Add the salt and fennel seeds then begin to add flour in small measures, mixing at each addition until a soft dough has formed and comes away from the sides.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly for several minutes, adding more flour until the dough is smooth. Cover and rest for at least an hour. Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with paper.

Break off walnut size pieces and roll between your hands or on the bench until a slim log forms – about 8-10cm. Wrap the ends around to meet and pinch together. If the dough gets too oily, rub your hands with flour. Pour a bit of sugar in a small bowl and place the ciambelline in the sugar until lightly covered. Place the biscuits on the oven tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy

Orange ginger honey cakePeople are going to think all I eat are cakes and desserts soon. People are going to think I look like all I eat are cakes and desserts; rolling about the place like a big, round cookie. But really, most of the time the meals I eat are simple and easy – salads, soups and what I call funny stove-top vegetable throw-togethers. There really are no boundaries with these sorts of meals. Last Tuesday night’s dinner was a fine example: Brussels sprouts halved, cooked in a tablespoon of oil and a knob of butter then two diced tomatoes thrown in, salt and pepper, fresh thyme and cubes of stale bread. The bread had been sitting on the kitchen table for a few days so I diced it up before I could think too carefully and threw it in with a “what the hell” flick of the wrist. Sometimes not thinking in the kitchen is a damn good idea; this dinner was very, very good.

The Brussels sprouts browned at the cut edge while the outer leaves softened into translucency and the tightly wrapped insides were sweet and toothsome. The tomatoes simmered down to a sauce, herbaceous and with a bit of tang. The pieces of bread, nestled amongst the red and the green, absorbed the sauce and the juices until almost cake-like in texture.
HoneyOrange and Ginger
Occasionally I think people may want to read about these sorts of dinners; this funny, made-up on the spot sort of food. I could write about my mother and her funny, made-up on the spot sort of food. I think I learnt that brazen flick of the wrist motion from her. I love it when she says, while stirring a pot or searching through the spice shelf, “I have no idea what this is or what I’m doing, I’m just going with it.” I love that honesty in cooking, the thrill of being guided by instinct. Forget the recipe books for a while, I say, cook with abandon.
Beaten egg whites
But then I bake a cake and it seems exciting and something of a revelation. The margin for error is greater in baking, I think, than simply throwing together vegetables and herbs in a pan. When a cake emerges from the oven golden and perfect there is a small sigh of relief and then a celebration to be had for this small victory. My kind of cooking, my week day throw-togethers, take place in the moment and without occasion so very rarely are they eaten by anyone but me. These meals are flavourful, yes, and healthy, yes, but they’re not pretty like a cake or uniform like a biscuit.
Olive oil, honey cake
This cake, though, it’s a keeper. It has earthy, floral notes of olive oil and is sweetened with honey and fresh orange juice. The ginger and the orange and the honey; they go very well together. A honey sweetened cake is much more interesting than any white processed sugar counterpart. Honey feels balanced and produces a sweetness with a real flavour. Sugar is not a flavour. There are jubes of crystallised ginger in the batter and grated ginger throughout so there is a spicy warmth to the cake.

There appears to be a lot going on here – Orange! Ginger – ground, root, crsytallised! Olive oil! Honey! Wholemeal flour! But it works, perhaps it’s the wholemeal flours toning everything down a bit, maybe it’s the savoury of the olive oil. This cake is simple and honest. It’s wholesome, a quality I love in a cake. It feels approachable and user-friendly; it’s a scone cake, a Sunday morning tea cake, a snacking cake, a breakfast cake. It is not striving for centre stage or a grand feast, much like my on-the-spot dinners.

Orange Ginger Olive Oil Cake
I adapted this recipe from the Eating Well website – a very good reminder that sweet treats can be made and eaten well. I think this cake would almost be better with ground almonds instead of the mixture of plain flour and wholemeal. Let me know if you try this.

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup mild flavoured olive oil
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root
5 tablespoons chopped crystallised ginger
1 cup wholemeal flour
2/3 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

juice of an orange
1/4 cup icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

In a small bowl mix together the honey, olive oil, egg yolks, orange zest, grated fresh ginger and the crystallised ginger.

Into a large bowl sift the flours, baking powder, ground ginger and salt.

In a third bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the honey mixture into the flours then gently fold in the egg whites with a spatula until the mixtures are well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.

Check the cake after 20 minutes, or bake until golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Mix the orange juice and the icing sugar together and drizzle over the warm cake.