Tomato, fennel and goats cheese salad

Inspiration, not unlike perspiration, happens unexpectedly and far more pleasantly. Whilst trawling our local Growers Markets, I happened upon some bulbs of baby fennel and trays of sunny yellow and dark red to the point of black, cherry tomatoes. The bloke on the stall informed me that the dark reds were named Black Russians. This romantic moniker instantly transported me to long gone days of Tsars, bejewelled Faberge eggs and Rasputin. All set against a backdrop of snow covered mulit-coloured Russian Orthodox churches. A far cry from the humid heat and slick sweat that was slowly rolling down between my shoulder blades. (Of course Tsarinas don’t perspire they gently ‘glow’ but I doubt that the Russian royalty of that era went veggie shopping under a blazing hot Aussie sun either.)

This unseasonably warm weather calls for salads and lots of ’em. My fridge coughed up a jar of the lovely marinated Meredith goats cheese feta. And so it was. Crunchy, finely sliced aniseed fennel, the sweet tartness of tomatoes, the creamy goaty tang of the cheese and the herbal zing of mint. Perfect for a bloody hot day and a dish fit for a Tsar or perhaps even a mad monk.

TOMATO, FENNEL AND FETA SALAD

WHAT YOU NEED
250g cherry tomatoes, I used a mix Black Russian and yellow
1 baby fennel bulb (or half a normal size bulb)
Juice of half a medium size lemon
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
50g goats cheese (if you don’t have or like goats cheese, a creamy feta cheese would be a great substitute)
1 tbl fresh chopped mint

HOW YOU DO IT
Wash the tomatoes, de-stalk and slice them in two.
Wash the fennel bulb, slice in half and take out the hard core in the middle. Using a mandolin, slice into fine slices. (The fennel that is, not your fingers.)
Place the tomatoes and sliced fennel on a platter or in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice and olive oil.
Toss together and let this sit for 15 to 30 minutes to absorb the flavours.
Crumble the feta over the salad, scatter the mint and et voila!
Serves 2 very hungry people, could serve 4 alongside a lot of other dishes. I had it with a lemon pepper pork schnitzel. It was the bomb.

A Cheergerm take on a number of similar salad recipes

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Cauliflower fritters and the stink of learning

A conversation had with the eldest of our progeny went like this.

Me: You smell of school.
Kid 1: I hate the smell of school too. It’s the stink of learning.

It is true that our boys emanate a certain odour upon their return from school which is, well, rather unpleasant. However, I always thought it had more to do with the running, jumping, sweating, wearing enclosed shoes, stinky socks, and being cooped up in classrooms with twenty five or so other human beans along with their bodily emissions.

In my imagination, the smell (or stink) of learning would consist of the earthy scent of knowledge filled books and the exciting aroma of information. You would be enveloped by the bouquet of well washed teachers who are thrilled to impart knowledge and to empower our children to be independent and critical thinkers.

But then, what do I know? All that is required is a shedding of uniforms and some serious bathing to ablute the young ‘uns of the heady aroma of school. These fritters are packed full of cauliflower (the totally hip vegetable of the hour.) They smell only of good things, the tingly exotic spices of India and the promise of something tasty to eat. We usually serve them with an Indian style tomato relish or yoghurt and mint sauce.

I would rather walk into a house that was perfumed by the fragrance of delicious fritters than the odiferous miasma of stinky, day old school socks. Like, any day.

INDIAN STYLE CAULIFLOWER FRITTERS, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
Olive oil/grapeseed oil for frying
1/2 cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into small 1.5 cm pieces
1 medium red onion, (half it then finely slice each half)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chilli powder (or 1/2 fresh red chilli finely diced)
Black pepper, a few healthy grinds
Handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves roughly chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup millet flour (or sorghum flour or brown rice flour)
1/2 cup plain gluten free flour
1 1/2 tsps gf baking powder
3/4 to 1 cup water

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C and line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Place the cauliflower, onion, garlic, spices and coriander into a large bowl.
Sift the flours and baking powder into the large bowl. (I am big on saving on washing up.)
Add the egg and half a cup of the water, mix well. If the batter is too dry, continue to add the rest of the water until you have a loose batter.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large non stick frying pan.
To make the fritters, add 2 – 3 large spoonfuls of the batter for each fritter into the pan. The mixture will be chunky and look like it won’t hold together but it will. Once they are golden brown on the bottom, flip them carefully and cook until golden brown on the other side. Remove to the tray and repeat the process until the batter is used up.
Place the fritters in the oven and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes until they are puffy and golden brown.
Makes ten very big fritters or if you wish to make smaller ones, just use 1 – 2 tablespoons of batter when making them.

A Cheergerm recipe creation


Thanks Mum and Moosewood, bean and tofu casserole

Growing up in the seventies, our Mum was part of a health-food co-operative. She purchased natural food in bulk that wasn’t your average store bought fare. Standout memories from those days include bags of wholemeal flour, copious legumes, lecithin (crazy stuff that), tins of molasses and brown sugar. (To emphasise this was the seventies, I remember Mum wearing a much coveted white peasant blouse embellished with red embroidery.) An orchardist’s daughter, she always stocked a cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables in the house.

Mum baked her own bread, made her own tomato sauce, bottled delicious preserves and for a time, a yoghurt maker graced the benches. Out of her kitchen rolled wonderful soups and heartily savoury casseroles. There was always a container holding tempting baked slices and biscuits made using recipes she had memorised from her own Mums wonderful baking. Our mum is not one to toot her own horn but we all feel lucky to have had such a solid grounding in eating and cooking good food.

One of the cookbooks that graced Mums shelves was The Moosewood Cookbook, one of the most iconic and revolutionary cookbooks of that time. This vegetarian recipe book was written by Mollie Katzen, who at the time was a member of The Moosewood Collective. (A natural foods restaurant founded in 1973 in Ithaca, New York.) My copy seems to have gone missing but recent reviews of updated editions state that many recipes are now ‘lighter’ than in the past. I imagine the author cut back on some of the larger quantities of cheese and sour cream. (Ingredients which were possibly the reason why the Moosewood food was so darned delicious!)

I took the inspiration for this dish from memories of the Moosewood Cookbook and the fact that I was housebound and needed to use whatever my pantry and refrigerator had to offer. It is great to soak your own beans but if you can’t, tinned beans are fine. These sort of casseroles are forgiving, so use what you have and experiment to your hearts content. The Yak and I happily scoffed our portions whilst the sproglets did a double take at the tofu. Kid 2 asked ‘what was that white spongy stuff?’ I said tofu. He said he thought it was chicken. (See, everything really does taste like chicken!) There is a good contrast between the crunchy munchy topping and the piquant, Mexican style sauce underneath. If you like your food really spicy, just bump up the chilli.

Peace out and enjoy.

Thanks Mum and Moosewood, bean and tofu casserole

WHAT YOU DO
3 tbl Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 large yellow or red capsicum, diced (or 1 small)
2 carrots, diced
3 small zucchini, diced
200g Mushrooms, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbl ground cumin
1 tbl ground paprika
2 tsps salt
Black pepper to taste
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin red kidney beans, drained
1 tin cannelinni beans, drained
1 tbl molasses
250 hard block tofu cut into 2cm cubes (don’t like the curd of beans? Don’t put it in!)
50g Parmesan, grated
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (or regular, try and use wholemeal or wholegrain)
Extra olive oil

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Oil a casserole dish or if you have an ovenproof casserole dish that you can cook everything in and then transfer directly to the oven, use that. I used my sturdy Le Crueset cast iron pot.
In a large saucepan saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil for a few minutes until they start to soften.
Add the capsicum and zucchini and cook for another few minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few more minutes.
Add garlic cook and for 30 seconds or so then add chilli flakes, cumin, paprika, salt and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the tomato and molasses and stir to combine.
Add the beans and tofu. Bring to the boil.
Adjust the seasoning. If using another baking dish, pour the mixture into it. If you are using the same casserole dish, make sure you wipe the rim so it doesn’t look too messy.
Combine the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the breadcrumb mixture over the bean mixture.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the mixture beneath is bubbling. (Turn the dish half way through cooking to ensure even browning of the crust.)
Serve with a green salad or steamed veggies.

A Cheergerm creation

http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/about/cookbooks/

http://www.molliekatzen.com

http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/about/cookbooks/

http://www.molliekatzen.com


Where did the words go green bean curry

Sometimes adjectives run towards my outstretched hands like small greedy children to a fairground stall laden with fairy floss. Other days, I reach desperately into the hollow of a darkened cave where all the worthy words in the world are wedged into tiny crevices. Begging for them to come forward into the light, they refuse and cling mollusc-like to their safe rocky comfort. Leaving me berefit and wordless.

Ornery little buggers.

That is why I give you a brief description. Aromatic, spicy, zingy, beany. This curry was bloody good and adds a vegetable freshness to an Indian banquet.

GREEN BEAN CURRY

WHAT YOU NEED

1 tbl vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
15 small dried curry leaves or 5 fresh
1 tbl curry powder (use a good quality one, I used a Herbies Spices blend)
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
500g green beans, topped and tailed
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used low fat)
2 tbl lime juice

WHAT YOU DO

Heat the oil in a medium size frypan over a medium heat then fry the onions until they start to turn golden brown.
Add the garlic and curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add all the spices and salt and cook for one to two minutes.
Add the green beans, stir to coat in the spices then turn to a low to medium heat and cook until the beans are just al dente. (Meaning they have a bit of resistance when you bite into them.)
Add the coconut milk and cook for five minutes. Check the seasoning.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.
Serve as part of an Indian banquet.

A Cheergerm adaptation of the recipe listed below.


http://allrecipes.com/recipe/green-bean-curry/


King of the vegetables and a potato and Comte galette

The Yak was crapping on orating upon the delight of the humble potato, his favourite vegetable over all others. We could say in fact, that in his view, it is The King of the Vegetables. As he plainly stated, there isn’t much that you cannot do with the tatie. Bake it, boil it, steam it, mash it, grate it, fry it, smash it, dumpling it. Perhaps The Yak has a point? What he was really trying to say was, could we please have potatoes for dinner?

The pantry was laden with potatoes, I also had some delicious looking Comte cheese that I had purchased at the cheese shop. I suffer from an insidious illness that I would not wish upon anyone, it is called ‘Cheeseyearningitis’. It entails standing in front of a cheese counter, looking longingly at cheeses that one wishes to try but one also knows, that one is of an age where one can no longer eat every cheese that ones hankers after. This is due to a waistline thickening on a daily basis and a propensity towards high cholesterol. ‘Cheeseyearningitis’. Look it up, it really exists.

Comte is a semi-hard French cheese made from unpasteurised milk obtained from cows that have only been freshly and naturally fed. It is very similar to Gruyere but a Comte cheese can only be called thus if it adheres to a whole bunch of strict Frenchy regulations. God Bless the French.

I was thinking of a good old potato bake but a googlebumble led me to this delightful concoction, a Comte and potato galette. (Galette meaning a flat pancake and this dish is intrinsically that, a pancake like concoction of cheese and potato.)

The smell of this simple dish baking caused dribble to surreptitiously slide out of the corners of my mouth. Luckily, no one was watching. How best to explain the odour of this cheese baking? I imagine that it is the smell of the meadows in the French alps, of the sweet grass and alpine flowers that blissfully happy European cows chow down upon.

This cheese and potato dish was nutty, sharp, crunchy and almost caramelised around the edges. Unfortunately, all the children present loved it so there were barely any leftovers. Which really sucked. As a French cow would say, ‘Le Moo, Le Sucky.’

POTATO AND COMTE GALETTE

2 tbl unsalted butter (30g)
1 kilo potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded. I used Desiree because it’s all I had, the recipe called for Yukon Gold. I shredded them in my food processor, oh yeah. Squeeze the potatoes well to get rid of as much liquid as you can.
200g Comte cheese, grated
1 1/2 tsps sea salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C.
Preheat a medium size frypan, add half the butter and melt it.
Place 1/3 of the shredded potatoes into the frypan, sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt, some grinds of black pepper and sprinkle some nutmeg evenly across.
Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the potato.
Place another 1/3 of the potatoes on top, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and add another 1/3 of the cheese.
Add the last 1/3 of potatoes, drizzle the remaining butter on top then press the mixture down with the back of a spatula. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Over a medium heat, cook the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes until the potato on the bottom starts to sizzle.
Transfer the frying pan into the oven and cook for about 25-35 minutes until golden brown and the potatoes pierce easily with a knife. (Meaning they are cooked.)
Eat it down quickly before the children do.

Recipe knicked from the website listed below, only a minor change was made to it.

http://www.oliversmarket.com/index.php/413

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comté_cheese


Green lentil dal, a curry, not the author

How could I not use this recipe as an excuse to wax a wee bit lyrical about one of my favourite authors, Roald Dahl?

Easily, you may say but then, that is how I roll. Expect the unexpected, I never promised you a rose garden and all that. (Whatever the hell that means, seriously, what does it mean?)

As a child, my fervent reading habit encompassed the works of Roald Dahl. His books were devoured as readily as any white bread that I was able to get my mitts on. (Back in the day, Mum baked homemade bread or we ate brown bread. This once painfully fussy eater hankered after a slice of white bread something fierce.)

Favourite Dahl tomes included the hippy trippy delicious adventures of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, closely followed by Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and of course, James and the Giant Peach. These books were read cover to cover and more than once. They were then followed by the rest of his children’s novels and poetry. In my later teenage years, I encountered his more grown up ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in which a story about screaming plants was inked indelibly onto my mind and psyche. To read Dahl is to go on an adventure and end up in a place you never thought you would go.

Indian food is a little like a Roald Dahl tale, an exciting and exotic journey into a diverse world of spice and many varying ingredients. Each bite can reveal a different flavour and aroma. Every spice brings something new to the party. This curry consisting of deep green legumes is gently earthy, with a delicate creamy blend of heat and richness. It is a wonderful addition to an Indian banquet or just as pleasantly, scoffed alone with a heft serving of basmati rice.

On that note, I leave you with my one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes. (And of course, the recipe.)

‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’

GREEN LENTIL DAL

WHAT YOU NEED
250g green lentils, washed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
5 cm ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil
1 tbl ground cumin
1 1/2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps salt
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tbl garam masala
1/4 cup cream

HOW YOU DO IT
Put the lentils in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to one hour or until the dal feels soft.The lentils will start to split a little and that is fine.
Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
Blend the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor to form a paste or finely chop them together with a knife.
Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan and fry the onion mixture over a high heat, stirring constantly until golden brown.
Add the cumin and coriander and fry for two minutes.
Add the lentils and stir in the salt, chilli powder and garam masala.
Pour 310ml (1 1/4 cup) of the reserved lentil liquid into the pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for ten minutes.
Just before serving, check for salt then stir in the cream and simmer for another 2 minutes to heat through.
Serve alone with steamed basmati rice or as part of a feast.

A Cheergerm adaptation from the The Food of India: A journey for food lovers by Murdoch Books. Recipes by Priya Wickramasingh and Carol Selva Rajah.


Gluten free silverbeet, herb and polenta pie for Easter

Sending the Yak to the superdoopermarket/green grocers is a hit and miss thing. He is very good at buying utilitarian dried goods (think loo paper, environmentally friendly toilet cleaner in the shape of a duck or gluten free taco shells) but one has to be extremely specific when it comes to fruit and vegetables.

Point in case….I once asked for some green beans. He came back with eight, yes eight, (count them people) individual green beans. I could have created an art installation from them but finding a way to incorporate eight beans into a recipe was a tad beyond my imagination.

When pondering a vegetarian gluten free recipe as part of a shared Easter celebration, I lovingly reminisced upon the traditional spanokopita. That wonderful Greek pie consisting of silverbeet or spinach, ricotta, feta, herbs and flaky layers of pastry. Pastry that The Yak can no longer partake of. Thinking cap placed firmly atop of my noggin, I thunked. Perhaps a polenta crust atop a semi-traditional spinach pie would be quite the treat? (Or a total disaster.)

Curiosity led me to pondering the Greek connection between ground corn and food. Googlebumbling revealed that ground corn has indeed been used in Greek cooking in various ways for several hundred years. It possibly arrived in Greece, courtesy of the Turkish Ottoman Empire by way of Africa. Amongst other uses, it is sprinkled atop leafy green pies or placed underneath to soak up the juices. I have added the link to the very interesting article, after the photos in this post.

Once upon a time, I used to favour a spanokopita recipe by Matthew Evans (a former chef and food critic, now television host). It contained an abundance of herbs, leafy greens and cheese. Having lost this recipe, I now make it merely from memory. (Not the most reliable of sources.) Do not freak out at the amount of herbs in this recipe. It seems a lot but it works. Need it be said, The Yak did not do the shopping for this dish.

This pie is audaciously herbaceous. The salty hits of feta and kefalograviera (a salty Greek hard sheeps milk cheese), combined with the slightly sweet corn polenta, balance the meadowy punch in the face. But this is the kind of face punch that you happily go back for.

Sadly I missed out on the actual abundant Easter feast itself due to Kid 2 and a tummy bug. However, I did get to eat leftovers of this pie. I poured myself a glass of vino, tucked in and pretended I was on a Greek island somewhere. (In a place where stomach viruses did not exist.)

SILVERBEET, HERB AND POLENTA PIE

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch spring onion, finely chopped
1 big bunch chopped silverbeet, trim the woody ends and use the leafy greens and some of the softer stem. (I had roughly 700g once trimmed of stalks.)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 Eggs, beaten
300g Ricotta
200g Feta, crumbled
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch dill, chopped
Zest of one lemon and juice for the silverbeet
1 tsp Salt
Pepper

Polenta Crust
1.5 cups instant polenta
5 cups water
1 1/2 tbl butter
120g kefalograviera cheese (Use 1/4 cup to add to the polenta and the rest to sprinkle on top of the pie.)

HOW YOU DO IT
In a large frypan, sauté the chopped onion for a few minutes until they start to become translucent, add the chopped spring onions, sauté for one minute.
Remove the mixture from the pan into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.
Re-heat the pan to a medium heat, add the chopped silverbeet along with a big squeeze of lemon and cook, stirring regularly until it has wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. When it has cooled, squeeze out any remaining liquid.
Into the large bowl containing the onion mixture, add the silverbeet, nutmeg, beaten eggs, ricotta, feta, chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt and a few big grinds of black pepper, as much as you fancy. (I am not the pepper police!)
Mix well, taste and check for seasoning.
Smooth this mixture into a large oiled baking dish, I use a 3 litre rectangular Pyrex dish.
Preheat the oven to 180 C if you are cooking the dish immediately.
Polenta Crust
For the polenta. Heat the water in a medium saucepan until it just starts to boil. Using a whisk, slowly pour in the polenta, continuing to whisk. This is important as it avoids lumpy polenta.
Change to a wooden spoon, turn the heat to low and continue to cook the polenta, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and 1/4 cup of the kefalograviera, it should be of a spreadable consistency.
Remove the polenta from the heat and immediately, spread it over the silverbeet, herb and egg mixture.
Let cool for ten minutes. Sprinkle the remaining kefalograviera cheese on top, and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown on top. (You can also place the pie in the fridge if you are cooking the next day.)
Let the pie rest for about 15-20 minutes until it has set a little bit.
Serve with a green salad, or roasted veggies.
Cooking Notes: silverbeet is also know as chard. If you cannot find Kefalograviera, use Pecorino, Parmesan or Gruyere.

A Cheergerm creation

http://www.dianekochilas.com/when-greeks-do-corn/

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kefalograviera


Parenting and cauliflower curry

Ten years later, I do not have this parenting thing down pat.

Kid 1: Mum, I am scared that an axe murderer is going to kill me.
Me: That is highly unlikely darling. Good night.
5 minutes later
Kid 1: Mum, can you come here please?
Me: Yes?
Kid 1: You telling me that ‘it’s highly unlikely’ does NOT make me feel better.
Me: Oh, all right then, it will never happen, how’s that?
Kid 1: OK, now I feel better.

Thanks for the parenting tip Kid 1.

Kid 1 will probably never eat this curry, he hates anything spicy. We don’t care, more for us. This curry benefits from a hit of bright, pungent mustard seeds; I love the little buggers. After a spot of googlebumbling research I discovered these wee dudes are high in a variety of B vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytyo-nutrients. (Phyto what?) Phyto-nutrients are intrinsically natural chemicals found in plant matter that may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly. Mustard seeds and their oils have traditionally been used to relieve muscle pain, arthritis and rheumatism pain.

Whatever a mustard seeds health benefit, this curry has good depth of flavour along with a punch of heat from the chilli. Add more chilli if you like but we enjoy the balance of flavours. If you aren’t a chilli fan, reduce the amount back to 1/4 of a teaspoon or you could leave it out. (No judgement from this Cheergerm….really, you don’t like chilli? What’s wrong with you??)

CAULIFLOWER CURRY

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl oil , rice bran or grapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
A 3cm piece of peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cloves crushed or grated garlic
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder (the hot stuff)
1 tsp salt
Dry curry leaves about 10 (I only had 4)
1 cauliflower head, cored and cut into small florets , about 2-3 cm large
1/2 cup water to start with, you will need more
1 handful fresh chopped coriander

HOW YOU DO IT
Sauté onion in oil in a large frypan over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes until soft.
Add the ginger and garlic, cook for 1 minute.
Add all the spices, salt, curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes to release their flavour, stirring gently.
Add the cauliflower, stir well to coat the cauliflower in the spices.
Add 1/2 cup water and simmer on a low to medium heat for about about 50 minutes. If the curry starts to get dry, add a bit more water. I added just over a cup throughout the entire cooking process. By the end, the curry should be mostly dry with a small bit of liquid but soft and beginning to fall apart.
Take the curry off the heat, taste and see if it needs extra salt then stir through the chopped coriander.
Serve with rice, quinoa or whatever takes your fancy. We had it with brown basmati rice.

A Cheergerm creation


A Cheergerm gluten free roasted vegetable lasagna

There is a raging battle of supremacy in our family for the grand title of ‘Queen of the Veggie Lasagna.’ It’s not as if we have any other ruling status to aspire to, unless of course it was The Precious Princess of Dunny Cleaning or The Lady of the Laundry. Perhaps we should aspire to the title of The Duchess of Finding Lost Shoes and Spare Socks?

Battles aside, all of our vegetable lasagna versions have a different twist and they are all scrumptious. A lasagna is such a practical ‘big gathering’ dish as you are able to prepare it the day before you need it. Come the day of the party, you can smugly swan around the house preening and cleaning. Safe in the knowledge that the lasagna resides in stately grace, awaiting to be baked. In this case, we were enjoying a joint birthday celebration for Kid 2’s eighth birthday, as well as my birthday. (Thanks, turning 21 was tonnes of fun.) As such, I had prepared my Cheergerm veggie lasagna the day before.

It ain’t traditional Italian, more a mixed breed of an old school lasagna and a hippy vegetarian version. I know that the grated apple and carrot in the tomato sauce is based on a vague memory I have of a Julie Stafford recipe from the healthy eating cookbook, The Taste of Life. This was a 1980’s cookbook that was well used by Mum back in ‘the day’. This lasagna is unctuous and hearty. The use of the ricotta in the white sauce gives it a lighter taste. Yes, it does contain a shedload of veggies and whilst it looks overwhelming, it really isn’t as much work is it at first appears. ( Ah, who I am kidding but it’s worth it!) There are a lot of photos in the post, I took the ‘step-by-step’ approach quite figuratively. Go figure.

CHEERGERM GLUTEN FREE ROASTED VEGETARIAN LASAGNA

WHAT YOU NEED
Roasted vegetables
2 medium eggplants
1 large sweet potato
4 medium zucchini
1 red pepper
1 head garlic
Tomato sauce
1 onion, diced
400 g mushrooms, diced
700g bottle sugo (or passata, which is basically a tomatoey sauce)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large carrot, grated
1 green apple, grated
Fresh basil, a big handful, torn
Ricotta sauce
2 tbl Butter
2 tbl gluten free plain flour
1 1/2 cups milk
400g Ricotta
Other
1 box 200g gluten free instant lasagna sheets
Grated mozzarella (2 cups, 200g)
40g Parmesan, grated
Lots of Olive oil
Salt and pepper

HOW YOU DO IT

Roast Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 200C (180 fan forced).
Cut the eggplants (I peel mine), sweet potato (peeled) and zucchini into one cm thicknesses. Place on trays lined with baking paper, oil both sides of the vegetables and season with salt and pepper lightly.
Place halved red pepper and head of garlic onto a tray and drizzle with olive oil.
Put the trays into the oven, turn the veggies over after 15 minutes, cook for another 10 minutes until the veggies are tender. You may have to leave the head of garlic in for another five minutes.
Allow the vegetables to cool.
Once the capsicum has cooled down, peel and cut into thin strips.
Take the head of roasted garlic, peel and squash up the peeled cloves. (This is to add to the red sauce.)

The tomato sauce
Sauté onion in 2 tbl olive oil over medium heat until they start to soften, add the mushrooms and fry them until most of the moisture is evaporated.
Add the sugo, tin of tomatoes, grated apple and carrot. Season with 1 tsp salt and some generous grinds of black pepper.
Cook for about 45 minutes until the mixture has thickened and reduced. Check again for salt, it may need more.
Take off the heat, add the torn basil and squashed up roasted garlic, stir gently.

Ricotta Sauce
Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over a low to medium heat.
Add the flour and cook for 3 -4 minutes until the mixture (roux) starts to bubble.
Take off the heat and whisk in the cold milk. (This method of adding cold liquid to a hot roux helps to reduce the risk of a lumpy sauce.)
Put the sauce back on the heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to thicken. Cook the white sauce for a few minutes, continuing to stir constantly.
Add the ricotta cheese, pepper and taste for salt before adding any.
Take off the heat.

Assembling the lasagna
Oil your lasagna dish. I use a Pyrex, 3 litre dish.
Place approximately five big spoons (a serving spoon size) of sauce on the bottom of the dish.
Place 4 lasagna sheets on top and spoon on more tomato sauce, about 4 spoonfuls.
Put all the eggplant in a single layer, place the red pepper strips on top then layer on half of the ricotta sauce. Smooth it out.
Place 4 more lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta sauce, you will probably need to snap one sheet in half to add as well. (Press down gently.)
Place another layer of tomato sauce, around 4 spoonfuls.
Add the sweet potato and zucchini. (It’s looking full by this point.)
Place a few more spoons of tomato sauce and spread it out. (I usually have some left, which I freeze.)
Spread the remaining ricotta sauce on top, then sprinkle with the combined mozarella and grated Parmesan.
At this point you can place the lasagna in the fridge and cook later that day or the next. (When doing this, make sure you bring the uncooked lasagna out of the fridge for an hour before cooking, so it isn’t stone cold going into the oven.) If you are eating straight away, place in a 180C oven for approximately 45 min to one hour until golden brown and bubbling.
Let stand for 20 minutes before serving. This helps the lasagna to re-solidify a bit and will be easier to portion and serve.
Now you can lie down and rest for a day or two.
It really is worth the effort.
Truly.
Serving Notes: Serves 12. Best served with a simple green salad and crusty bread of some kind.

A Cheergerm creation.

http://www.juliestafford.com.au/about-julie.php


A farewell afternoon tea with mini mushroom and feta frittatas

Last Sunday, The Mothership and Mr Polish hosted a family farewell afternoon tea for the Lovely R and Gorgeous A before they headed back to Poland. In direct hospitable response to the Lovely R’s Polish picnic generosity, the pressure was on to reciprocate. (In all reality, most of our get together’s involve some fairly tasty food due to a general love of eating, and eating well.)

The Cheergerm contribution to this slap up were dainty little mushroom and feta frittatas. Puffy, light and earthy from the thyme and mushroom; they were a nice addition to a motza of delicious afternoon tea delights.

This was the kind of spread from an Enid Blyton storybook. I half expected old Moonface himself to pop his head in and say ‘Hullo, oh, what have we here? What a top drawer afternoon tea. May I have a piece of cake?’ (To which the answer would have been a resounding, why yes Moonface, help yourself!) There was a pumpkin and veggie frittata, crispy homemade sausage rolls, dreamy gluten free lamingtons, fluffy pikelets, a gorgeous rich missisippi mud cake and spanokopita. The Polish contingent provided a delicious apple cake and peach cake (that had also been freed of gluten) and a vibrant marshmallow and Oreo cheesecake.

We sat in the sun, ate, talked and laughed, then ate some more. These beautiful people left a little bit of Poland behind and we hope that a little bit of Australia is forever tucked away in a corner of their hearts.

MINI MUSHROOM AND FETA FRITTATAS

WHAT YOU NEED
1 tbl olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, finely diced
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
6 eggs
100ml cream
1 tbl thyme
200g soft Danish style feta, crumbled
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

HOW YOU DO IT
Lightly oil a 12 pan non-stick muffin tin.
Heat olive oil in a frypan and cook onions over a medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the zucchini and cook until they start to soften.
Add the mushrooms and cook the mixture until any liquid from the mushrooms is reduced. Season lightly and allow to this mixture to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C or 170C fan-forced.
Beat the eggs and cream together in a medium sized bowl.
Stir in the mushroom mixture, thyme and gently fold in the feta. Check for salt and pepper, add more to taste.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and cook for 20-25 minutes, until puffy and golden. They will deflate as they cool, so don’t freak out.
Serve warm or cold, they would also be great for a picnic.

A Cheergerm creation