Lentils, slow roasted tomatoes and goats cheese

Most of you would have heard the saying ‘you don’t make friends with salad.’ The underpinning sentiment being that salad is not worth eating. Personally, I try to avoid eating anything or anybody that I have made friends with. However, if we were ever to find ourselves in an extremely desperate survival type situation, who knows what may happen. (Having read the book ‘Alive’ based on the 1972 Andes flight disaster where sixteen survivors survived only by deciding to eat pieces of their dead friends, I have been forever haunted by the choices they made. Would I, wouldn’t I?)

Ponderings on cannibalism aside, salads these days are mega interesting and worthy of being elevated to ‘main course’ status. Yotam Ottolenghi, the British chef, cookery writer and TV presenter could easily be hailed as the ‘King Of Delicious and Fascinating Salads.’ Having been lucky enough to procure another smattering of delicious cherry tomatoes from the local Growers Markets, the idea of slow roasting them popped into my brain box. Trawling through my cookbooks I came across this salad from Ottolenghi’s book ‘Plenty’ and did a bit of re-jigging. The lentils have a toothsome nutty bite, the thyme perfumed tomatoes are unctuously sweet, the melting red wine vinegar onions and bright herbs add a zingy lift. The nuggets of goats cheese provide an extra creamy tart surprise.

Salad may not be ‘my friend’ but it is certainly a very tasty acquaintance.

LENTILS, SLOW ROASTED TOMATOES AND GOATS CHEESE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 small red Red onion, very finely sliced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
250g lentils (I used a french style fine green lentil from Mount Zero, Ottolenghi used castelluccio lentils or you could use French puy. The lentils need to hold their shape once cooked.)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbl parsley, chopped
1 tbl oregano, chopped (note, Ottolenghi’s recipe used 3tbsp chervil or parsley, 3 tbsp chopped chives, 4 tbsp chopped dill but I didn’t have these so just made do with what I had)
80g goats cheese (or Gorgonzola, or feta)
Black pepper

Slow roasted tomatoes
400g mixed cherry tomatoes, washed
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl caramelised balsamic vinegar
8 sprigs of thyme
Extra sea salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Start by making the slow roasted tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 100C. Place the cherry tomatoes and thyme sprigs onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with some salt and gently toss to coat. Roast for one hour, turning once or twice in that time.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven, discard the thyme and allow them to cool.
Meanwhile, place the red onion in a medium bowl, pour over the red wine vinegar and sprinkle with the salt. Stir, then leave the onions to soften.
Place the lentils in a pan of boiling water (the water should come three centimetres above the lentils) and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
Drain the lentils in a sieve and whilst still warm, add them to the sliced red onion. Next, add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic and some black pepper. Stir to mix and leave aside to cool down.
Once cool, add the herbs and gently mix together. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve, pile up the lentils on a large plate or bowl, integrating the goats cheese and tomatoes as you build up the pile. Drizzle the tomato cooking juices on top and serve.

A slight variation on a Yotam Otteolenghi recipe from ‘Plenty’ published by Edbury Press, 2010

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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


Gluten free zucchini fritters and a hankering

Kid 2: ‘I am a tiny bit weakened by winter and I think I am allergic to it, kind of like Kid 1 is allergic to spring.’

Kid, I hear you. Winter has weakened me, I hanker for stone fruit, light salad greens, vibrant vegetables, pretty frocks and fizzy wine. I long for sunshine on my pillow and swims in the pool on long, endless summer days.

My Cheergerm soul pines for the high pitched deafening buzz of cicadas and I yearn to be strong armed by sproglets into buying ice-cream at inappropriate times of the day.

Summer is now in sight and this is the kind of food that we will be eating.

Soft goats cheese marinated in olive oil and herbs makes another stunning appearance in these little beauties. The cheese provides the salty tang and works a treat with the pop of peas, zing of lemon, aromatic mint and springy zucchini. These fritters were light, like a summer sky. Don’t be a hater, just get it down you alligator.

GLUTEN FREE ZUCCHINI AND GOATS CHEESE FRITTERS

WHAT YOU NEED
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
120g besan flour (chickpea flour)
2 large or 3 small zucchinis grated and squeezed well to get rid of excess liquid
1 cup frozen peas
Zest of one lemon
1 large handful of mint, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
Black pepper, a few generous grinds
100g marinated goats cheese
3 tbl olive oil

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add all the ingredients except the goats cheese and mix well.
Crumble the goats cheese into the batter and stir to combine.
Heat the oil in a medium to large saucepan over medium heat.
Add two large tablespoons of batter per fritter to the pan.
Cook for 3-4 minutes until a light golden brown then turn over and cook for 2-3 minutes on the other side. Remove to an oven tray lined with baking paper.
Repeat this process until all the fritters are cooked.
Place tray of fritters in the oven for 10-15 minutes to cook through, this also turns them a tad more golden and crunchy.
Serve with a dipping sauce of either sour cream and sweet chilli, plain yoghurt and sweet chilli, salsa, or a tomato chutney. Great with a green salad, coleslaw, steamed beans or broccoli.
Makes around 10- 12 fritters, depending on how big you make them.

Cooking note: sometimes chickpea flour gets watery in a batter, if this happens, add an extra spoonful or two into the batter halfway through cooking.

A cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Taste website, link follows the recipe.

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/31267/zucchini+pea+and+mint+fritters


Spring has sprung and a gluten free asparagus and goats cheese tart

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris
I wonder where the boidies is?
They say the boidies are on the wing
That’s funny, I thought the wing was on the boidies.

Yes, spring has arrived in this Southern Hemisphere, slipping in and out admidst torrential rain and coolish days. Teasing us, then leaving us. With the tantalising promise that summer, in all it’s glory will soon be here.

Nothing says spring like an asparagus spear or two. Back in the good old gluten laden days, the Yak and I devoured many an asparagus tart made with puff pastry. Now the GF dust has settled, I am once again venturing into the whimsical world of pastry. GF styling it baby.

Thanks to the lovely ‘gf and me’ blog for their sour cream pastry recipe. I have provided a link to their original recipe below. This is purely a replica of theirs but I needed to add a dash of iced water, probably due to the difference in gluten free flour blends used. The sour cream in this pastry is banging. Having used it in my non GF pastry blends, it’s great to see it working here.

The pastry was light and crispy and The Yak has given this tart the big coeliac thumbs up. He is annoyingly endearingly asking me to make it again soon. Of course, you can use this filling in any regular gluten laden crust you desire.

This Meredith goats cheese was on special the other day and a free cheese cookbook was thrown in. Bonus! I have been loving on this cheese for quite a few years now. (It’s not illegal to love on a cheese, surely?) The experience of tasting this wee beauty at a farmers market years ago was surprising. It wasn’t all My Highland Goaty Oaty Oaty in your face but sweet, mellow and delicious.

This cheese is awash in golden fruity extra virgin olive oil with the herbaceous notes of thyme and garlic. Great in tarts, frittatas, fabulous tossed into a salad, thrown into a fritter batter or shmeared on a cracker or slice of fresh bread.

ASPARAGUS AND GOATS CHEESE TART

PASTRY
1 cup plain gluten free flour
1 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp salt
113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbl chilled water

HOW YOU DO IT
Put flour, xanthum gum and salt into a food processor and pulse to combine.
Add the butter and pulse until the mixture comes together and forms pea sized balls.
Add the sour cream and pulse until the dough starts to hold together. You may or may not need to add the chilled water. I did.
Roll into a ball, cover with plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 200C. Remove dough from fridge, let it sit for 10 minutes then place between two floured pieces of baking paper and roll out to the correct size to fit your tin. I used a 24cm loose bottom fluted tart tin. A rectangular one would be great. (I have misplaced mine.) Gluten free pastry can be very soft, don’t be surprised if you need to patch a few places.
Blind bake for 15 minutes. (This means lining the pastry with baking paper and placing beans or weights on it.)
Remove tart shell from oven, take out the baking beans then put back in the oven for another ten minutes.
The tart shell is then ready to fill.

FILLING
2 tbl olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 eggs
100ml cream
2 bunches asparagus, washed and trimmed
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
100g marinated goats cheese
Pepper and salt for seasoning

HOW YOU DO IT
Sauté onions until soft for about ten minutes.
Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Let cool.
Beat eggs and cream, season with pepper and a wee bit of salt.
Place onions on bottom of blind baked tart and pour the egg and cream mixture over the onions gently.
Place the asparagus and tomatoes in an artistic (not so in my case) fashion. I did find it hard to squeeze the tomatoes in.
Break up the goats cheese and place on top. I dribbled a wee bit of the olive oil from the goats cheese jar over the asparagus. Season with black pepper and salt. (Remember the goats cheese is salty.)
Bake 20-30 minutes at 190C until egg is set and puffy and golden.
Serve with a salad, steamed green beans or whatever you fancy.

Pastry by gf and me, filling by Cheergerm

http://gfandme.com/2014/09/06/marys-pie-crust-no-one-will-know-its-gluten-free/#more-1808

http://www.meredithdairy.com/allproducts.html

Just to note, there is no affiliation with Meredith Dairy, I just love their cheese.