Posts Tagged ‘onion’

Something to do on a slow day.

Today for example!

Up ’til late watching the Olympic closing ceremony last night–lazy morning catching up on life with house guests–sunny but mild outside–prospect of more talk and lunch under the fig tree–slices of fritatta with a green salad and a plate of brilliant red tomatoes, sliced, with olive oil and torn up basil leaves, setting us all up nicely for an afternoon siesta.

Patience is the extra ingredient that makes the difference between dry and moist frittatas.

In this case patience to melt the sliced onion slowly and not to rush the cooking of the omelette.

A simple classic frittata from one of my favorite old cookbooks: Marcella Hazan’s 2nd Classic Italian Cookbook.

6 tblsps olive oil

450gms/1lb red onions–sliced thin

5 eggs

50gms/2oz parmesan–freshly grated is best

salt and pepper

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onion.
  • Sauté over a low heat until the onion starts to caramelise and that pleasing scent wafts over the kitchen.

  • Turn off the heat and prop up the pan at an angle to allow some of the oil to drain off.

  • Choose a 10″/26 cm pan that goes under a grill to make the omelette.
  • Spoon out the drained oil (probably about 2 spoonfuls) into the pan.
  • Whisk the eggs together in a bowl.
  • Add the cooled down onion and parmesan to the egg mix.

  • Mix and season well.

  • Heat the saved oil in the pan–(2 tablespoons is what you need to cook the omelette, so add a little extra if there’s not enough of the saved.)
  • Add the eggs and spread the mix out evenly in the pan.
  • Turn the heat to the lowest (use a heat diffuser or two if you need to) and cook for about half-an-hour.
  • Heat the oven grill to hot.
  • When there is just a pool of loose egg mix left on top, place the pan under the grill for about a minute.
  • The top should be lightly colored.
  • Ease a spatula under and round the omelette and slide it on to a serving plate.
  • Slice as needed.

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Renown vegetarian cookbook writer, Rose Elliott found this in Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery and adapted it and I have tweaked it a bit.

It’s a quick excursion to the East.

There was a small cabbage in the fridge and some fenugreek seeds on the shelf in the larder, which I whizzed into powder in a converted coffee grinder!

The fenugreek is optional, but interesting… (as its name implies this herb is found in the mediterranean region and has healing qualities as well as culinary uses.)

Our friend Myriam called in this morning and said it was minus ten last night and would not get warmer until Wednesday, so a bowl of something gently spicy and soupy for lunch might be just the ticket.

for 4

250gms/8oz red lentils

2 1/4 pints/1300ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

1/3 teaspoon turmeric

375gms/12oz tinned tomatoes–chopped

  • Rinse the lentils thoroughly.
  • Put them in a saucepan with the stock and the turmeric and bring up to the boil.
  • Cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes then set aside.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek powder (optional)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 onion–chopped

a small cabbage–outer leaves removed, quartered, cored and shredded

Juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Parsley or better still fresh coriander–chopped to sprinkle over

  • Heat the oil in a new pan.
  • Add the mustard seeds and cook them until they start to pop–a couple of minutes; they look brown in the photo but in fact stay black.
  • Mix in the curry powder and the fenugreek (if using) and let them  cook for a few seconds.
  • Add the onion and the cabbage and mix everything together well.
  • Cover the pan and cook  for 5 minutes.
  • Add the wilted cabbage mix to the lentils.
  • Bring the mixture up to the simmer.
  • Leave it to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Sprinkle over the parsley or coriander when you serve.

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I found this in my old paste-in foolscap notebook and have been meaning to try it for a while.

Cabbage has been on my mind since leaving Strasbourg–and pork for that matter!

An example of this brightly colored variety of red cabbage was waiting patiently in the fridge for my return.

So lunch yesterday was a pork chop on a bed of red cabbage.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion–sliced fine

red cabbage–shredded not too fine

2 sticks of celery–sliced fine

1 apple–peeled, quartered, cored and chopped into chunks

10 juniper berries–crushed

Juice of a lemon

Juice of an orange

1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  • In a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, sauté the onion gently in the oil until it is soft–about 5 minutes.
  • Add the shredded cabbage, the celery and apple and turn these over with the onion and oil.
  • Cook this mix for another 5 minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  • Pour over the two juices, the vinegar and the juniper berries.
  • Add a good pinch of salt.
  • Turn it all over carefully to distribute the liquids.
  • Cover the pan and continue cooking for about 20 minutes–the time depends on the toughness of the cabbage–it should be nicely tender to the bite.
The cabbage and apple married well with the pork.
I’ll write up the simple pork recipe tomorrow.
Next time–red cabbage with a slow cooked fillet of salmon.

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Amatriciana and Arrabiata.

Two tomato-based pastas beginning with “A“–and until now I never bothered to find out the difference.

As far as I can gather (my Italian friends might put me right on this) arrabiata is vegetarian and amatriciana is made with pork–but both are fired up with chili–as much or as little heat as you like.

Last night for a Birthday Pasta I made amatriciana with wholewheat penne.

(We always eat wholewheat pasta. Its lower glycemic index makes it healthier–which matters for people with diabetes–and Meredith and I prefer it now. That said, I limit myself to pasta once a week.)

Our friends, Keith and Helen, sent a birthday present of some bold and beautiful Tuscan red wine and it went down a treat with this robust sauce.

It takes its name  from the town of Amatrice,

in the east of the region of Lazio (Rome’s region) close to the border of Abruzzo and Marche to its north.

for 4

350 grms wholewheat penne

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion–chopped small

2 garlic cloves–chopped small

2 oz/50 grms pancetta or bacon–chopped small

2 small dry red chilis–seeds removed and chopped

2 teaspoons rosemary needles–chopped small

2 tblspoons red wine

1 14-oz can/tin of tomatoes–chopped and drained but retaining 3 tablespoons of its juice

salt and pepper

  • Heat the oil in a sauté pan large enough to contain the cooked pasta at the end.
  • Gently brown the onion, bacon and garlic.
  • Take  time to get a nice sticky, slightly caramelised result (but not burnt!).

  • Stir in the chili and rosemary and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the wine and let it bubble a moment to burn off the alcohol.
  • Add the tomatoes and extra juice and mix everything together thoroughly.
  • Cook this for about 20 minutes to achieve the unctious sauce in the photo at the top.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil a large saucepan of cold water with a teaspoon of salt.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to your taste.
  • Drain the pasta thoroughly and add to the sauce; turn it well in and heat through.
  • Serve hot in warmed bowls with parmesan cheese to grate and red wine with a bit of attitude!

Portion control is the only challenge!

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“Horses for courses”–chicken for chills!

“Please–just some broth today!” was the request this morning from the sick bed.

Poor Meredith has been fighting the lurgy since Christmas Day.

Not a person to give in lightly to a tickle in the throat she has been up and back to bed all week.

We were bucked up last night by watching the original Shrek film, which I hadn’t seen.

It is high in the chuckle factor and almost as good a tonic as a bowl of chicken soup.

But this morning after a troublesome night it has to be the real thing–so here goes!

I put in a large pot:

1 chicken–washed

1 carrot

2 sticks of celery–roughly chopped

the outer parts of a fennel bulb–roughly chopped

1 onion–peeled and roughly chopped

1 small garlic bulb–with the top sliced off

3 bay leaves

a couple of parsley sprigs

a couple of slices of fresh ginger

a few peppercorns

3 pints of organic vegetable stock–from cubes and

the kitchen sink (only kidding!).

I bring these slowly up to the simmer–while feeding Beau a little cat milk and reassuring the patient that broth will be ready at the end of a brief snooze–cover it and leave it to bubble for an hour and a half.

Then I remove the cooked(out) vegetables with a slotted spoon and

add a cut up carrot, 

half a cut up fennel bulb and

some broccoli and

cook on until they soften and serve them with the broth.

Now, not meaning any disrespect to “grandma’s”  traditional  cure-all remedy–especially not as in a few days I shall reach the traditional “alloted span” and so must watch my tongue–I always find this broth/soup less than more-ish. So what am I doing wrong?

I notice that in several internet versions tinned chicken broth is used.

Tinned stuff? Really? This seems a bit of a cheat; though anything to lift the spirits I suppose…

As broth is staying on the menu for the next few days–I’m in the market for ideas!

(Our friend Charlotte suggests plenty of leeks and some nutmeg!)

Nevertheless the patient said she was happy with the outcome, but advised that the broth be refridgerated overnight for the fat to rise, be skimmed off and the soup to be reheated.

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This is pushing it, I know–cauliflowers have been featuring a tad too much lately.

We had this for supper the other night and Meredith said, “What is this, it’s so creamy? It’s not potatoes is it?  It’s delicious.”

Cauliflower soup,”  I said sheepishly. Somehow cauliflower is not a vegetable that’s easy to own!

This recipe is adapted from one by Nigel Slater that I spotted in a newspaper last week.

The key ingredient is smoky bacon.

1 large cauliflower--broken into florets

2 cloves of garlic–chopped

1 medium onion–chopped

4 rashers of smoked bacon–chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 bay leaves

1 litre/2 pints stock

salt and pepper

  • Gently heat the oil in a pan and sauté the bacon bits until they colour a bit.
  • Add the garlic and onion.
  • Cook the mix on for five minutes until the onion has softened.
  • While this happens break up the cauliflower into florets and add to a large saucepan.
  • When ready add the onion and bacon mix to the cauliflower pan with the bay leaves and the stock.
  • Cover and bring this mix up to the simmer and cook until the cauliflower is tender.
  • Lift a thirdish of the mix out of the pan and into a bowl with a slotted spoon letting the liquid fall back in the pan
  • Liquidise the contents of the pan and test the seasoning.
  • Add back the set-aside florets and serve the soup hot.

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We tasted this new soup for lunch.

When Dianne P. from New Hampshire posted her memorable photos taken 33 years ago, in autumn of 1978 on the set of The Europeans in New Ipswich, New Hampshire on Flikr last night, it put me in mind of the late Ismael Merchant’s cooking.

He was the producer half of  Merchant/Ivory productions–Jim Ivory is the director of their movies.

I played the frustratingly “unable to commit” Robert Acton, opposite the much lamented and talented Lee Remick, in their film of Henry James’ novella.

Ismael was a wonderful cook and would sometimes use his talent to smooth the ruffled feathers of nervous creditors when the film threatened to overrun.

One of his curry feasts, I remember, bought us enough time to finish the film!

There’s a soup in his book Indian Cuisine called “Claverack Carrot Soup“.

We used to have it often, but after I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it came “off the menu”, because of the potatoes and carrots in it.

I had some fennel and a sweet potato I wanted to use and a nobly piece of ginger–and autumn has  arrived with the clocks going back;  so I thought I’d experiment–with a nod to Ismael and thanks again to Dianne!

1 medium onion–chopped roughly

1 tablespoon of olive oil

12 oz of cleaned and chopped fennel

12 oz of peeled and chopped sweet potato

1 clove of garlic–chopped fine

a thumb-nail size piece of  fresh ginger–peeled and chopped fine

1.5 pints of stock–I use organic vegetable stock

a little single cream or yogurt to swirl on top in each bowl

Salt and pepper

for 4

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.
  • Soften it for 10 minutes without browning it.
  • Add the fennel and the garlic, mix it in with the onion and gently sweat the mixture–covered–for 15 minutes.
  • Add the sweet potato and the ginger, mix it in and sweat–covered–for a further 15 minutes.
  • Season the mixture–keeping in mind that the stock will have salt in it.
  • Add the stock and cook it for another 10 minutes–uncovered.
  • Let the soup cool for a few minutes before liquidising it.
  • I use a hand-held liquidiser/blender.
  • Serve hot with a swirl of cream or yogurt on top.
  • Meredith thought a single piece of crispy bacon for each bowl would be good too–we’ll try that next time.

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The last few days have been unbelievably beautiful — warm, with soft golden light, and the leaves which have just begun to color slowly drifting to the ground. More of the same is predicted for tomorrow and the next day. Not really soup weather at all. However, cold and rainy weather is out there somewhere in our not too distant future and I look forward to making this again.

Exactly how I’m feeling–I found this quote by chance on a lovely looking site called Kitchenography– Life in my Kitchen.


Soup is what I’m feeling like tonight.

The days are summer days–the evenings and nights are autumn.

So that’s why I have a yen for soup–I understand–often you have to put it into words and then it becomes clear.

I’d bought some leeks and fennel and I’m starting with an onion.

for 2

1 medium onion–peeled and chopped

1lb/450 gms leeks–cleaned and chopped

1 medium fennel bulb–cleaned and chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pint/525 ml vegetable stock–I use an organic stock cube

  • Sweat the onion for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the leeks and fennel and sweat all three for ten minutes, covered, until they soften.
  • Season well with pepper and a little salt.
  • Add a pint of vegetable stock.
  • Simmer gently for twenty minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup and check the seasoning.
  • If you feel the soup is to thick add a little extra water.
  • Serve hot.

I topped it tonight with sautéed onion:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Half a medium onion–peeled and sliced thin

  • Sauté the onion in the oil until it is nicely browned.
  • Twirl a little on each bowlful of soup.

I put a sweet potato in the oven and we  had a half each after the soup with some new season broccoli.

[Which makes it a five vegetable meal to boot!!]

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