Random recipe #25: Bermuda Salad

I felt very old last week. First, I saw a group of new university students moving into their hostel accommodation and realised I looked like one of their mothers. Second, I got out of bed and put my neck out. Third, I saw several copies of Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook in charity shops.

She was more hippy than hipster, but Mollie Katzen ruled the vegetarian school of eating in the late 1970s and 80s. She was part of a collective (it was the 70s, remember?) who ran a restaurant in Ithaca, New York devoted to good, wholesome food. The hand-lettered Moosewood Cookbook, first published in 1973, reflected that ethos (instead of a table of contents it has a ‘table of contentment’) and went on to become one of the 10 best-selling cookbooks of all time, according to the New York Times. The food, though a little dated in parts, is not unlike that in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, so if you see a copy in a charity shop, snap it up.

Moosewood Bermuda Salad
All that said, I felt a bit nervous when my hand fell on the book’s cracked spine when I was searching for a contender for February’s Random Recipe challenge. I thought of some of the book’s less appealing recipes, like Stuffed Cabbage or White Rabbit Salad (cottage cheese, apples, seeds) and wondered how I would sell those to my dining companions. In the end though, the benign gods of Random Recipes – or at least the beatific Dom of Belleau Kitchen – smiled upon me and we ended up with this gem. It looks a bit messy, but it tastes delicious. Don’t tell Mollie’s crew but we ate it with a roast chicken and it was a very happy match.

125ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
125ml extra virgin olive oil
500g green beans, topped and tailed
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheese
two handfuls fresh parsley, finely chopped

Put the vinegar, salt and pepper and garlic in a large bowl (the serving bowl, to cut down on dishes) and stir well. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the sliced onion and set aside.
Steam the beans until just tender. Drain, then add to the marinade. Stir well and let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
Ten minutes before you’re ready to eat, take the salad out of the fridge. Toss through the parsley and grated cheese just before serving. Serves four.

The instructions in the book are very explicit: “This is a COLOR SALAD. Don’t substitute white onions or cheese or you’ll lose the scheme. Okay?” You’re also supposed to serve it on a bed of red cabbage leaves for added wow factor. I didn’t. As for the cheese, the book specifies colby (ugh!) but we used tasty cheddar. Feta or Parmesan would be good too. The final instruction is to “Garnish Lavishly” with eggs, tomatoes, olives, sprouts, lemon slices or orange slices. You can take a book out of the 1970s, but you can’t take the 1970s out of the book.

Do you have the Moosewood Cookbook? Do you still use it?

Random recipe #24: Barbecued ribs

For this month’s Random Recipe Dom instructed us to get someone else to choose a recipe from their collections. I called on my sister-in-law Lucy – yes, two Lucys, married to identical twins, no, they didn’t find us at a dating agency – to do the honours and she did me proud.

“I picked the Leon cook book because you gave it to me and it is one of my favourite books. I honestly just let the book drop open and the lucky page was 226… Love me tender ribs.”

I’d forgotten all about giving her the Leon book, even though I remember introducing her to the tiny Leon on Carnaby St years ago. It’s been a long time since I made anything from the book myself, but I couldn’t believe I’d missed these ribs.

Barbecued pork ribs
I took some liberties with the Leon recipe – I couldn’t get baby back ribs but just asked the butcher to saw some up, which he did while telling me a story about playing Father Christmas at a children’s party. “I got out of the car and there was a huge scream, then I realised it was because of me!” But I digress. I simplified the sauce a bit and did the final cooking on the barbecue. If it’s not barbecue weather at your place, finish them off in a hot oven. Either way, these are super simple and delicious. The amount below is enough for four adults with some side dishes, though two Flintstones could probably devour them by themselves.

1kg good quality pork ribs
1 x 200g tin of chipotle sauce (I used the La Morena brand)
4 Tbsp honey
90ml  red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Put everything except the ribs into a large dish (big enough to hold the ribs in one layer) and mix well, Then add the ribs, turning to coat in the sauce. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to marinate overnight.
The next day, heat the oven to 120C. Line a shallow roasting dish with foil and put the ribs on top, fitting them in like jigsaw pieces so they form one layer. Carefully pour the marinade in (between the ribs, not on top of them) and top it up with water so the liquid comes about halfway up the ribs.
Sprinkle the ribs with salt, then cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake for about five hours, turning occasionally. At this point, you can let the ribs cool until you’re ready to eat – in the fridge for a few days if necessary.
When you’re ready to eat, fire up the barbecue or heat the grill. Grill the ribs, basting with the sauce, for about 15 minutes, until they are piping hot and sizzling. Eat with your fingers, flatbreads, black beans and a cold beer.

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…

Treat me: Triple Chocolate Bagels

I’ve been thinking about making chocolate bread all year, ever since my triumph in the sandwich making contest (for which a lot of the credit must go to this delicious stuff). The November edition of We Should Cocoa – in which the theme is bread – has finally made me do it. If you fancy the idea of a dense, chewy, chocolate-studded bagel for brunch tomorrow, here’s how to make it happen.

Triple Chocolate Bagels

Triple Chocolate Bagels
Credit where it’s due: these chewy, chocolatey bagels owe something to Dan Lepard’s recipe and something to my own ingenuity. (And something to Nazima at Franglais Kitchen, this month’s We Should Cocoa host. Thanks too to Chele and Choclette for their continued WSC inspiration.)
They taste like they’ve got buckets of chocolate in them but it’s really quite a modest amount. Use the very best cocoa you can – once you’ve tried the good stuff, the supermarket variety seems very bland. If you are using the latter, I’d bump the quantity up to six tablespoons and maybe increase the water content accordingly. See how you go. These take about two and a half hours to make, from getting the flour out to sitting down with one in your hand.

500g strong white flour
4 Tbsp good quality cocoa – I used this one (you can buy it in 5kg sacks, imagine!)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
350ml warm water
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
100g chocolate – a mixture of dark, milk and white – chopped

Put all the dry ingredients – except the chocolate – in a large bowl and mix well, then tip in the water and vinegar. Mix it to a dough, then cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to sit for 10 minutes.
Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled bench and scatter the chocolate over the top, then fold the dough 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 an hour. Don’t clean the work surface, you’ll need it later.
Tip the dough out onto the bench and cut into 10 pieces, each weighing about 80g. Roll each one into a ball and place on the greased bench. Cover with a teatowel and let rest again for 15 minutes after you shaped the last one.
At this point, heat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with nonstick paper. Get a large pot of water, sweetened with a few generous tablespoons of golden syrup, boiling on the stove.
When the proto-bagels have had their 15 minute rest, take the first one you rolled into a ball and poke your finger through it. Stretch it out with your fingers – the hole should be about 2cm – then drop it into the boiling water. Poach it for 30 seconds on each side, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on the waiting tray. Repeat this process with the remaining bagels. You can poach up to three at a time, depending on the size of the pot, but any more than that gets unwieldy. The chocolate might get a bit sticky, but don’t worry about it.
When all the bagels are poached, bake them for 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack, then split and eat with lashings of cold cream cheese and good jam. These bagels also freeze and toast well, though I suggest slicing them in half before freezing to make thawing easier.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m going to spend mine coaxing my tomato plants to grow and thinking about Christmas…