Spiced Rhubarb Syrup

rhubarbThis weekend welcomes the start of winter with a rainy few days. I for one, love the excuse to stay in and catch up on some relaxing. Well I call it relaxing but it’s just staying at home, cleaning, baking and repotting some of my plants to make more space on the balcony etc etc.

When I first made this syrup it was to accompany a semi-sweet sparkling wine on a picnic in the park. I was honestly surprised how well it worked, balancing perfectly together with the wine. It was a warm Autumn day and the leaves were in full change, so beautiful. If only I remembered my camera.

The syrup would also work swirled through some natural yoghurt or drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Don’t waste the remaining rhubarb either! Use it over muesli or porridge but remember to remove the spices before storing in the fridge.

rhubarb syrup

Spiced Rhubarb Syrup

250g caster sugar

350ml water

6-8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 5 cm pieces

1/2 a star anise

1 stick cinnamon

thumb size piece of ginger, sliced

squeeze of half a lemon

First make the simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low-medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer gently until the rhubarb is soft.

Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Stir the rhubarb to remove most of the liquid. If you want a clearer syrup and have the patience let the liquid drip out without forcing or stirring the rhubarb. Leave to cool then store in a jar in the fridge.

Roast Escarole, Beetroot and Walnut Quinoa

escaroleescaroleThere are some vegetables, actually quite alot, that I find beautiful. I often buy them then wonder what the heck I’m suppose to do with them, like escarole.

Last night I steamed some of the escarole in an attempt to retain it’s colour and make an effort to retain some nutrients. I didn’t like it at all, bitter, bitter, bitter. I don’t know what I expected, it is from the bitter leaf family. Maybe it was the kimchi I put with it, but I don’t think so. Now roasted, it’s a whole different story. It becomes sweeter, like most roasted things, bringing out it’s sugars. I really wasn’t sure it would work but it did.escarole

Quinoa was another little challenge. I have struggled to like this old seed but I think I’m finally there. If you’ve got some sitting in your cupboard or have given up trying to cook it, here are some tips.

Firstly you must to rinse it. This removes the saponins from it’s outer layer. This is their bitter defence mechanism, which (according to Harold McGee) will actually penetrate within the seed if you soak them for too long. The second tip is not to overcook it. It seems like there are a matter of moments between perfectly cooked quinoa and overcooked, irretrievable mush, so be attentive.

Roast escarole and beetroot quinoa

Roast Escarole, Beetroot and Walnut Quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa

1 large beetroot

1/4 large head of escarole, roughly chopped and washed

1 medium carrot, sliced

a few radish, thickly sliced

1-2 spring onions finely sliced

handful of walnuts

marinated feta

lemon infused olive oil ( I use Colonna Granverde brand)

Set the oven to 180°C. Wrap the beetroot in foil and roast for about an hour or until cooked. While still warm remove skin and cut into bite size pieces.

Rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve. I don’t have one so have to use a muslin lined sieve, which requires you to scrap some bits stuck onto the cloth when you transfer it to the saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave covered for 5 minutes. Drain and use a fork it to fluff up.

Meanwhile roast the carrot, and radish with a little olive oil for about 35 minutes, turning half way through cooking. Cook the escarole in a baking tray with a little olive oil and salt, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Bake walnuts for 8-10 minutes.

In a large bowl combine the carrot, beetroot, radish, spring onion, escarole and quinoa. Add pepper and a swirl of lemon infused olive oil. Divided onto two serving dished and top with roasted chopped walnuts and crumbled feta.

Serves 2.

Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Patties

Black bean and sweet potato patties I really have to work hard not to over cater for myself. I just love buying food. I love to have a full store cupboard with things I can have to hand if I want to make something on a whim. For the most part this is ok because these things last but as far as the fridge is concerned it needs some work. At times I open it in shock realisation that I have bought so much it’s chock-a-block full. I justify the over spending by saying to myself “it’s food, I’ll eat it”. Well you can only eat so much before it’s past it’s best.

black bean and sweet potato pattiesI also have ideas of things I want to make. I go out and buy the ingredients, then things happen, I get stuck at work or become too tired to make it. Then I forget what I had in mind to make and it becomes just another thing in the fridge I have to use up. Sound familiar to anyone?

Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Patties with Yoghurt Coriander Sauce

1/4 cup unhulled millet

300g cooked black beans or 400g tin black beans drained and rinsed

400g sweet potato, steamed

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 heaped teaspoon chipotle paste

breadcrumbs

yoghurt

coriander

1/2 lemon

Pop the millet in a saucepan over high heat with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to the boil then simmer,covered, for about 8-10 minutes until cooked. Drain and leave to the side. Into a large food processor add the spring onions, garlic and black beans, whiz to break up the black beans but not too much a little texture is good. Add the sweet potato, chipotle, and millet. Whiz until combined. If you have time, shape into patties, cover with breadcrumbs and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise it’s fine if you want to continue on. Fry them in a non-stick pan over high-medium heat with a little oil ( I like rice bran oil for this).

To make the sauce just spoon into a bowl as much yoghurt as you think you would like, then add more. Add to it the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper and some chopped fresh coriander. Always taste and adjust.

Makes 8 large patties.

Pear, Hazelnut and Rosewater Cake

Pear and hazelnut cakeI love that I don’t have a microwave. When I did own one I barely used it. The occasional reheating and warming milk, that was it. I certainly never used it to cook food in. It just didn’t feel right.  So when I moved into a tiny one bedroom flat with the tiny one person kitchen I decided I didn’t want to take up valuable space with a piece of gadgetry I hardly ever used. I also wanted to keep thing simple and more natural. I don’t have a toaster either, purely to save space. I have to say this has resulted in many a burnt toast as I forget about it under the grill while I’m distracted by something, usually someone’s blog.

People have also looked at me quizzically when I say I really don’t want a thermomix. Don’t get me wrong they certainly have their place, that’s just not in my kitchen. I like that it takes me time to make ice cream, a risotto that needs constant tending, and I like a dough that requires time kneading. I don’t want any machine that takes that pleasure away from me.

In saying all that there are times when you have to be inventive, like softening butter…butter

Still, I wouldn’t change a thing and as Autumn brings cooler evenings I will be welcoming it with my central heater, the kitchen oven.Pear and hazelnut cake

Pear, Hazelnut and Rosewater Cake

100g hazelnuts

100g plain flour

2 tspn baking powder

200g softened unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

100g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tspn vanilla extract

2 not quite ripe pears

Rosewater syrup

2 tbspn caster sugar

4 tblspn water

1 tspn rose water

1 tspn cinnamon

1 tspn dried rose petals

Line a 24cm spring form baking tin. Warm oven to 150°C. Place the hazelnuts in a baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes or until you see the skins cracking. Remove and tip onto a tea towel. Increase oven temperature to 180°C. Gather up the tea towel edges and rub the hazelnuts together so the skins will fall off. Don’t be too fussy about this, some skin left on is fine. Pop them into a food processor and when cooled down a bit whiz them to a fine ground.

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and add ground hazelnuts. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating each in well before adding the next. Add vanilla extract with the last egg.  Add flour/hazelnut mix and gently fold through well. Tip into the baking tin and spread out to cover the bottom.

Peel and quarter the pears, slice out the core and then slice the quarter into 3-4 more slices. Lay over the cake in a circle, over lapping is fine.

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool. To make the syrup, mix the caster sugar and water in a very small saucepan over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved. Then add the rosewater and remove from the heat. Pierce the cake with a skewer to make alot of holes over the cake. Spoon over about 3/4 of the syrup. Sprinkle with cinnamon and dried rose petals.