Tag Archives: fresh

White heaven

24 May
Yoghurt

Yoghurt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1979 I went to work in Athens for a year; on the first Friday I was presented with a white lunch. Turned out Fridays were fast days in the household, which meant a plate of plain boiled rice and plain yoghurt. White food, white plate. What the hell is this? I thought, not thrilled at the sight.

But when I took a mouthful, I discovered that white was wonderful. The saltiness, heat and texture of the rice with the smooth, cold, tangy, fresh, creamy yoghurt (this is the full fat miracle that is proper Greek yoghurt), was heavenly. I promise you, it’s utterly delicious.

How simple do you want? Boil long-grain (preferably basmati) rice in salted water until done (grains separate with a tiny bit of bite in the centre, not soft or mushy). Drain, serve on plate or in bowl with a large dollop of Greek yoghurt (not the strained stuff, the fresh lemony-tasting creamy stuff) on top. Eat. 

Tell me how you find it. I’ve eaten it ever since 1979, and never get tired of it. You could try it with brown basmati rice for a change – you’d lose the white factor, but the taste would be even better. You could chop some fresh chives, parsley, coriander or basil on top, if you like, or a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne; some toasted sesame seeds or flaked almonds.

But the whole point of this is the apparent blandness which disguises a taste sensation.

What’s your favourite fasting dish?

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Pink peanut pasta

19 May

This is a very old favourite from student days. A skint* store-cupboard supper, quick, easy, vegan – and scrummy.

Ingredients:

Pasta

Onion & garlic (1 med onion per person & as much garlic as you like)

Tinned chopped tomatoes (half a tin per person)

Generous spoonful of good peanut butter (NO added sugar!) per person

Spice mix of choice [see herb & spice page]

juice of quarter of a lemon per person, or to taste

Herbs of choice

Salt & fresh black pepper

Don’t worry about the length of these instructions – I’m dotting t’s and crossing i’s for the inexperienced, but the only thing you have to watch out for is keeping the sauce from burning, so don’t leave it!

Pick your preferred pasta shape and cook as directed on the packet (or sling it in boiling salted water and test it till it’s done to your satisfaction).

In another pan, slosh in some olive oil [NB see store-cupboard/healthy pages]. Chop up a mid-sized onion per person and some garlic (more or less, according to your taste. I love it, so three cloves for me); hurl them into the pan and fry gently (or sauté if you’re posh) over a low heat, stirring now and then to stop them burning, until they go soft and transparent. At Keep an eye on the pasta.

Scoop out the peanut butter and push it off the spoon into the onion mixture. (NB it melts quickly and then burns easily, so from now on, keep stirring.) Pour in a teacup-ful of water to keep the peanut butter from sticking to the pan, and keep it all moving. Static peanut butter is stuck peanut butter.

Open as many tins of tomatoes as you need and slosh them into the onion pan, with your herbs and spices (turmeric is good, btw) and a bit of salt. Stir thoroughly, then let it mix itself with the spices and herbs for a while.

Is the pasta done? Turn the heat off, drain it and put it back in its pan with a lid on to keep warm.

Tomato & peanut mix: it doesn’t take long to do – maybe 15 minutes. Keep stirring it off the bottom of the pan, and check the flavour. Add a bit more salt if it needs it; adjust everything to your taste.

Squeeze your lemon juice into the tomato mix and stir well. It adds a bit of zing and freshness, and makes the flavour a bit more complex and delish. The tomato & peanut sauce should be a salmony-pink now, but don’t worry about the colour. It’s the flavour that matters most.

You choose: serve the pasta and pour the sauce on top of it; OR turn the pasta into the sauce and stir it through before serving. Put some chopped fresh herbs (basil, chives, or parsley, maybe?) on top of each serving and let them wolf it down.

Vegan, as is; with a shot of sour cream or grated cheese on top, vegetarian.

[* skint – for unBritish English speakers: skint, boracic, broke, cashless, poverty-stricken]

Scarlet soup

16 May

The family was coming to my house for Christmas for a change. I love planning food for parties and guests, and had dreamed up an irresistibly delicious menu for Christmas Day. My mother’s menu never varied for 35 years, and as she was a great cook, it was always a treat, but now I was in charge of the kitchen, I wanted to find at least one variation. A starter was in itself a family innovation, but I wanted something simple to make and simple to eat. The rest of the Christmas lunch was going to be rich and indulgent, and mostly brown; so I wanted something pretty, fresh and tangy, and something that took only minutes to make.

Soup was the answer, and what I produced for them went down with inarticulate cries of delight, every scarlet atom scraped from the bowls in record time. What had I concocted? Lobster bisque? Moroccan rose petal broth? Hardly. It was cheapest, quickest, simplest soup possible, which works as a dinner party starter or a summer lunch

Here’s the recipe, if you can call it that. Ten minutes from tin to table. This makes a good amount for a light lunch – serve with crusty bread, and if you’re hungry, a chunky green salad to follow.

1 tin of tomatoes per person

juice of half a lemon per person

pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper and a leaf or two of fresh basil to serve

Empty tins into saucepan; heat the tomatoes gently until steaming but not boiling. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan, and whizz the soup with a hand blender till the tomatoes are lump-free.

Pour into bowls, drop a basil leaf in the middle and grind a good screw of black pepper over the top. Serve immediately with warm crusty bread.

Watch it vanish.