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.

Beetroot-Cured Salmon and Homemade Bagels

Beetroot cured salmon….for such a long time I have wanted to make this. I don’t know why it has taken so many years for me to get around to it, because it’s so simple. I like the idea of curing my own salmon and the dark pink hue of the beetroot looks so beautiful against the coral salmon. Make sure your salmon is fresh. I’m a bit paranoid so I went to the fish markets.

Now the bagels, on the other hand, are part of my monthly Gourmet Traveller Challenge. Never had I made them before but I was so pleased with the results, I went off to work singing (now that’s a first!).

Beetroot-Cured Salmon

300g fresh thick salmon fillet

50g brown sugar

50g sea salt

5-6 black peppercorn seeds, crushed

1 small beetroot, grated

1 small bunch dill

Mix the sugar, salt, crushed peppercorns, beetroot and half the dill finely chopped. Lay the salmon, skin side down, in a non reactive tray (use ceramic, glass or plastic). Make sure all the bones are removed, pack the salmon with the curing mix. Cover with cling film and sit anther tray on top of the salmon, inside the tray and weigh down with two tins of whatever is to hand. Leave refrigerated for 1-3 days. Wash off the curing mix, dry and top with the remaining chopped dill.

To make the bagels I followed the recipe in the September issue of Gourmet Traveller. If you don’t have a copy it’s online here. They are pretty simple to make and very satisfying not to buy the shiny perfectly smooth round supermarket ones. Instead you will have real ones that look homemade, which is much more impressive.

To serve thinly slice the salmon and serve with toasted bagels. Serve with aïoli, crème fraîche with freshly grated horseradish, sour cream or whatever you fancy.

Lunch at Danks Street Depot

So it’s been a long time since I’ve been a ‘local’ in Sydney. In fact I still don’t feel like one yet. I still need my brothers Sat Nav to get around, I have no idea where to get my haircut and haven’t really had a restaurant meal here in 10 years. I do however know where to go to get a good lunch. Of course I started my research early in that department.

Danks Street Depot was not open when I lived in Sydney but I was curious after seeing their cookbook on a browse through Selfridges one Saturday afternoon. It looked gooood, really good. Opening in 2002, chef Jared Ingersoll was serving up food I wanted to eat in a relaxed open cafe style of place.

I love it when you sit in a cafe and it’s the standard to serve you a carafe of tap water. It makes me feel welcome and also reminds me to drink water. I need constant prompting.

This week in Sydney has been hot, actually really hot, tipping the 45°C in some areas. I’ve been struggling to eat more than salad. So what did I have today, salad. Pickled beetroot, roasted walnuts, ruby pink grapefruit, Valencia orange, goats milk feta and baby shoots, served with sourdough from Brasserie Bread Co.

I could be a beetroot ambassador, I love the stuff. There must have been at least 2 decent sized beetroots here, all the flavours worked well. Nice and fresh, I would have liked a few more walnuts but I’m not complaining. I’m not turning into a health freak yet either…I did sip my way through 2 glasses of Kladis Estate Verdelho (yes I enjoyed it) and I had dessert.

Vanilla pannacotta and red wine poached pears. I have been disappointed with over set pannacotta before but not this time. I plunged my spoon in and it gently gave way. I started to eat it smiling like I wanted to savour every mouth full although I couldn’t help but scoop up big creamy mounds, making it end all too soon.

The pear however was a little on the hard side which made it difficult to enjoy next to that pannacotta. I didn’t care though I just had maybe the best pannacotta to ever pass my lips.

Thanks for the welcome home Danks Street Depot..x