Random recipes: Fields Of Greens

In these days of wine and Roses* eating proper food can seem like a real luxury. It was with some relief then that I pulled Fields Of Greens from my bookshelf for December’s Random Recipes.

We were supposed to select a recipe at random from cookbooks received last Christmas but I didn’t get any (sob!) – but I remembered getting Fields Of Greens for Christmas about 17 years ago. The book, written by Annie Somerville, is a cornucopia of recipes from the celebrated Greens Restaurant in San Francisco Bay and focuses heavily on produce grown at its adjacent Green Gulch Farm. The amazing thing about is that the recipes haven’t dated at all and the eat seasonal, eat local ethos is probably much more fashionable and mainstream now than it was then.

My copy, scarred by being left on an element, naturally falls open at page 314 where there are detailed instructions for making an organic sourdough starter. But the week before Christmas is no time to be nurturing a new life, so I flipped through until I found something more seasonally appropriate. As it turns out, it couldn’t have been better.

Grilled New Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Beans and Basil
Potato salads are high on my list of foods to avoid, thanks to the disgusting ones we had at school. I’ve rarely found one I liked, except the baked potato one in Forever Summer, but this one is a keeper. I didn’t grill the potatoes, discovered at the last minute that we were out of beans and had hardly any basil, but it was still delicious. I think it would be perfect with cold ham on Boxing Day – it’s substantial but not stodgy and full of appropriately festive colours.
The recipe below is the way I made it – to do it the Greens way you grill the potatoes after roasting them.

800g-1kg new potatoes, halved lengthways
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
250g green beans, topped and tailed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved (unless they are tiny)
a handful or two of salad greens (something crunchy, like baby cos, and peppery, like rocket)
a good handful of black olives, stoned
handful of basil leaves

2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed

Heat the oven to 200C. Put the potatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water, then refresh under cold water and drain well.
Make the vinaigrette – put the garlic, vinegar and salt in a small screwtop jar and shake well, then add the oil and shake again. Taste and adjust sharpness as necessary.
Put the potatoes, tomatoes, beans, olives and vinaigrette in a bowl and toss gently. Arrange the salad greens on a serving platter and let the vegetable mixture tumble artistically on top. Scatter with the basil leaves and serve. Serves four.

What books are on your Christmas wishlist this year?


* I haven’t really been eating Roses, I promise. But is it just me or is there a lot of chocolate around at the moment?

Random recipes #22 : Picnic Eggs

After the horror that was October’s Random Recipe, I was a bit wary of taking part this month. But considering we were having a quiet weekend at home (apart from shrieking at Downton Abbey), I figured I could cope with another disaster. Then I opened page 38 of ‘250 Ways To Serve Eggs’ – sample recipes: Egg And Liver Ring, Egg And Liver Salad, Pickled Eggs – and nearly passed out.

This book is one of my most recent acquisitions and, dodgy recipes aside, I am very proud of it. I bought it, along with its 23 companion volumes, for a dollar (thanks, Trade Me!) about two months ago. These books are edited by the Culinary Arts Institute and they are a fantastic snapshot of American food culture in the 1960s and 70s. There’s not even a whiff of social change in these pages – it’s all about ways to show “the alert homemaker” how she can “add interest and delight to the family menu”. Some of the recipes are hideous – Body Building Recipes For Children is especially revolting – but there are some surprisingly good things too. Like this recipe for Picnic Eggs, which I turned to after I recovered from reading p38.

Picnic Eggs
Did you know that if you Google ‘how to boil an egg’ nearly 11 million results come up? How did people learn these things before the internet, do you think? I wish the cooks at my high school had been able to access it – the hardboiled eggs they made were cooked for so long the yolks had turned to dusty grey powder and the whites nearly bounced.
There’s a great method here – from a Le Cordon Bleu chef, no less – but his egg still looks a little dry for my liking. I used a Ruth Pretty method when cooking these eggs – bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt, then add the eggs, one at a time. Lower the heat so the water isn’t boiling so ferociously, then cook for eight minutes exactly. Drain the eggs, bash the shells a bit in the pot and leave under cold running water until cool enough to handle so you can shell them. This gives you eggs with perfectly soft-but-not-runny yolks.

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthways
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
a pinch of cayenne pepper (Togarashi Shimchi would be nice here too)
1 tsp vinegar
1 Tbsp very soft butter

Gently remove the yolks from the eggs and put them, along with all the other ingredients, in a small bowl. Mash together until smooth, then spoon this mixture back into the whites. Either serve immediately, or, if going on a picnic, press the halves back together and wrap carefully in greaseproof paper (twist each end so it looks like a giant sweet). Coriander flowers look sweet (and taste good) as a decorative touch.

For more about Random Recipes, you need to see the nice man at Belleau Kitchen. For more fun with eggs, you can have a bit of fun playing spot the difference between a boiled egg and Heston Blumenthal.

How do you cook boiled eggs? And have you ever seen volume 25 of the Culinary Arts Institute series, 500 Ways With Cocktails? I am desperate to complete my set…

Blue cheese, pear & walnut scrolls

Last week I struggled to get motivated in the kitchen. I looked at cookbooks, I read blogs, I stood on a chair and peered into the recesses of the pantry and still nothing worked. Then, on Friday morning, while I pushed the Small Girl on a swing in the sunshine and made that weird small talk you make with other parents at playgrounds, I had a flash of inspiration. We raced home – as fast as you can race with a three-year-old who has an elastic concept of ‘this is the last swing, ok?’ – and by afternoon tea time these delicious scrolls were cooling on the windowsill.


Blue cheese, pear and walnut scrolls
Don’t be put off by the instructions here – I’ve specified the ‘fold and leave it’ method of kneading but you can do it whatever what you like. I’ve come to think of this way of kneading as the Pilates of breadmaking. Vigorous kneading is a bit like step aerobics – you get all sweaty and red-faced – where upon this method achieves the same, if not better results by using muscles you didn’t know you had. Or something like that. Perhaps it’s too early in the morning to be mixing bread and exercise metaphors.

400g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
50g butter
150ml milk
300ml hot water

For the filling:
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
150g firm blue cheese, diced
150g walnuts, broken into quarters

1 egg mixed with 1Tbsp water – for egg wash

Put the flours, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl and stir well. Grate in the butter and rub through with your fingers. Mix the milk and hot water together – it should be tepid – and pour in to the dry ingredients. Mix well to a soft, sticky dough, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled worksurface and fold it in on itself, one corner at a time. Cover with the upturned bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, then wash and dry the bowl before greasing it with a little oil. Return the dough to it, cover with plastic and let rise for about 80 minutes.
Don’t clean the worksurface, you’ll need it later.
Grease a 30cm round cake tin and heat the oven to 200C.
When the dough has risen, tip it out onto the worksurface and press it out to a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Scatter over the pear, blue cheese and walnuts, then roll up tightly, as if making a Swiss roll or sushi. Slice into rings about 2.5cm thick – you should get about eight or nine – and place them in the tin, allowing about a finger space between each one. Set aside for 30 minutes to rise, then brush gently with the egg wash. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the scrolls are golden and your house smells wonderful.

This is my entry for November’s #TwelveLoaves project, a baking challenge run by Lora at Cake Duchess. This month is all about baking with apples and pears – and I think apples and another cheese would work equally well in this bread. Apples and feta, maybe? Pear and Parmesan?

Secret cheese and onion bread

Next time I plan to spend the weekend in the garden I’m going to check the weather forecast first. For instead of sitting on the back steps thinking about doing some weeding, I spent both days indoors, worried that either our roof was going to lift off or the windows were going to blow out.
The one good thing about being housebound was that I transformed a few basic ingredients into a magic loaf of bread. Who needs gardening, anyway?


Secret cheese and onion bread
This magic loaf and its secret molten centre is inspired by Lora at CakeDuchess and her TwelveLoaves project with Jamie at Life’s A Feast and Barbara at Creative Culinary.
I’ve also used some of the principles I learned last weekend with Dean in making the dough, which are easy to do but slightly difficult to explain. There’s a very short video that shows how easy it is to knead this way.

500g strong or high-grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
320ml warm water
2 onions, finely sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
olive oil for brushing
120g cheese, sliced into pieces about 2cm x 1cm x 0.25cm thick
4 Tbsp good chutney (I use this recipe, or if you are buying it, this one is amazing)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper

Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl and stir well, then add the salt and stir again. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. Mix well with your hand until a soft, sticky dough forms. Tip this out onto the bench. Pick up one side of the dough, stretch it up, then bring it down again on top of itself. Repeat from the opposite corner.
Do this another three times, then scrape the dough from your hands and walk away. Seriously. Leave the dough to rest for five minutes, then come back and repeat the pick up and stretch process again. Then leave it again for five minutes. Do this process twice more, then scoop the dough into a well-oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for an hour or so, or until doubled.

While the dough is rising, cook the sliced onions in a tablespoon of olive oil over low heat, stirring occasionally. When they are soft, turn the heat up a little and sprinkle over a teaspoon of brown sugar. Let caramelise for another five minutes, then set aside to cool.


When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured bench and roll out until it measures about 30cm x 40cm. Cut in half lengthways. Brush one side of each strip with olive oil, then spread the other side with chutney. Layer the cooked onions and cheese on top, then season well with salt and pepper. Fold each strip in half lengthways again to enclose the filling and press down to seal. Pick up the end of the folded strip and concertina it – as if you are folding a piece of ribbon so you end up with a square pile. Repeat with the other strip. Pack both gently into a large, well-greased loaf tin.
Cover the tin loosely with plastic and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200C. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg, then bake for 35 minutes, until well-risen and golden. Carefully tip out of the tin and let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Daily bread 3.0: Light rye poolish

After a very brief flirtation with Mr Vogel in recent weeks I am back in the swing of breadmaking. The thing that got me hooked again was a determination to get this particular loaf right. At first it was too dry, then it was too wet. After much tinkering and many substandard results, this is the perfect one. It’s based on a poolish – like a starter – that you should really leave overnight to ferment. I can tell you, however, that it still works if you only leave it for a couple of hours. Whatever works, right?

Light rye poolish bread
If you’ve got a freestanding mixer then this is about as hands-free as it gets. If you don’t have a freestanding mixer, then this will be a true labour of love as the dough is very wet and sticky. I’m working on one you can make in a no-knead style. Stay tuned.

The poolish:
60g rye flour
40g strong white flour
1/4 tsp dried yeast
250ml warm water

Mix the poolish ingredients together in the bowl of your mixer and cover with plastic. Set aside for at least three hours, preferably overnight or all day.

Then add:

1tsp dried yeast
175ml warm water
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Stir the poolish and other ingredients together, then turn on the mixer at low speed and let it pummel it into a soft, sticky dough (this will take about five minutes). Scrape the dough out of the bowl, then grease the bowl with a little oil. Tip the dough back in and roll it around to coat the top, then cover with plastic and leave in a warm place until risen (about 1 ½ hours).

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knock down, then press out gently into a rectangle. Roll up into a loaf shape, then fit inside a large, well-greased loaf tin. Leave to rise for 35 minutes, which should be enough time to preheat the oven to 210C.

When the dough is springy to touch, slash the middle with a sharp knife and put in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Tip it out of the tin and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing. This bread stays fresh for several days and freezes well.