Comfort food from home

When we were growing up casseroles equalled comfort food.  They were prepared for  a family meal, a variety of different casseroles were cooked to feed a house full of guests, and they were central to cool weather fundraisers for the community.

Casserole luncheons brought the community together, with each family preparing a casserole to be placed on cloth covered trestle tables that had been set up for the occasion in the local hall.  There would be a small admission fee, raffles, maybe a cake stall, and all funds raised would be directed to a local community project, or to a cause that was close to the heart of the community.

While the casseroles back then were cooked in beautiful ovenproof dishes, dishes that could be taken straight from the oven to the table, I feel that they have somehow fallen out of fashion…  I suppose now, you could liken them to the modern day slow cooker dish.

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Who’s on the plate!

I often make Tartine de Chèvre et Poire (Pear and Goat’s Cheese Open Sandwich) when I want a quick, light meal.

As I was going through the list of ingredients used, I realised that it is not only what’s on the plate, but also who’s on the plate!  Apart from the Chèvre, this is truly a salad showcasing our region and our producers, along with our own garden and a couple of homemade staples.  So who is on the plate… Continue reading

Friends, flowers and figs

How wonderful are friends and how lucky am I!

Every week I spend time volunteering at a local community house called Segue, in Stratford, and it is here that I have made some wonderful friends. We love to share our experiences, plants and produce from each other’s gardens and stories and the occasional cuppa.

One friend, Shirley, often brings a bunch of beautiful flowers from her garden, and these flowers have convinced us we need to plant a protea or two in our garden.    She also has access to a neighbours’ fruit trees, and has kept me well supplied with figs. In return I give her fig vinegar, along with various jams, chutnies or relish that I may be making at the time. I also make sure that there are preserves set aside for our little produce stall at Segue where we raise money for our “Garden for the Community”.

I have written about making and using fig vinegar in earlier posts and recipes, but there was an issue that I had with it. After making the vinegar, the solids were thrown into the compost! This tormented me, it seemed such a waste! To me, figs are such a precious commodity – so what to do? It took me a while, but then I thought… well, really, the figs have just been steeping in blend of balsamic and cider vinegar, and relish has vinegar in it. Figs go beautifully with purple onion, and with the addition of few other ingredients, I soon had a use for the bi-product of my fig vinegar – Fig & Purple Onion Relish. Continue reading

Ravioli Ignudi (Naked Ravioli)

These delicate little pillows of ricotta and Swiss chard / silverbeet were given their wonderful name because they are not blanketed in fresh pasta like the ravioli that we all know and love.  This dish is fast becoming a favourite in our home – it is delicious, surprisingly simple to make, very economical and has very few ingredients.  I love making it because it means I get to make use of produce from our vegie patch.  It is so rewarding to take your basket and fill it with the ingredients needed to prepare your next meal…

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Ravioli Ignudi (Naked Ravioli)

Ingredients

  • 300 g ricotta
  • 400 g Swiss chard, leaves only
  • 1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend
  • 90 g unsalted butter
  • 16 whole fresh sage leaves
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Bring a large saucepan filled with salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the Swiss chard and boil until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Drain thoroughly, wrap in a cloth and squeeze until the chard is very dry. Chop very finely.
  4. Gradually combine the Swiss chard with the ricotta. Add about two-thirds of the Parmesan, the nutmeg and egg yolks. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Scoop up a small quantity of the mixture with a spoon and, with well-floured hands, form it into a little oval pillow about 3cm long.
  6. Dredge the little pillow lightly with some of the flour and set aside.
  7. Continue forming little oval pillows with the remaining ricotta mixture.
  8. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.
  9. Meanwhile, melt the butter with the sage leaves in a frying pan and keep warm.
  10. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the ravioli, a few at a time, and cook until they rise to the surface (as you would for gnocchi).
  11. Remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place them into the warm melted butter and sage.
  12. Continue cooking the remaining ravioli in the same manner.
  13. Arrange the ravioli in a serving dish and drizzle with the melted butter and sage. Dust with the remaining Parmesan and grind over a little black pepper.

Notes:

  • I like to bake some tomatoes and add them together with a few shards of crispy prosciutto to the plate when serving, just for colour, flavour and texture.
  • We also like to crisp some of the Ignudi up a little in the butter.
  • While I have used my Gluten Free Flour Blend, this recipe was originally made with normal wheat plain flour, so either can be used, depending on dietary requirements.
  • Adapted from a lovely old book, Tuscany – The Beautiful Cookbook (1996) L De Medici, p78.
  • I make my own soft ricotta style cheese.

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Chard, Onion and Cheese Gratin

I have read many recipes for Swiss Chard or Silverbeet gratin, where the prominent ingredient is the stalk, rather than the rich green leaves.  I recently stumbled upon this recipe that I thought I would try, because it includes some of the leaves as well.  I was so thrilled with the end result, I cooked it again a couple of days later.

This gratin really is very easy to make, and the end result is a delicious cheesy gratin with the stalks providing texture, the leaves, colour, and both contributing to the wonderful flavour.

Chard, Onion and Cheese Gratin

The stalks of Swiss Chard make a gratin that is delicious and delicate in flavour, and pairs beautifully with a roast. Equally it can be served as a light meal with a fresh green salad on the side.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • Stalks from a large bunch of chard, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced.
  • 4 chard leaves, thinly shredded
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 150 ml full-cream milk
  • 1 tbsp double cream
  • 30 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the topping

  • 3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C
  2. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil and half the butter.
  3. Add the onion and chard stalks, place the lid on and cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onion softens.
  4. Stir in the flour, and cook for a 1 minute over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the milk. Bring to the boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer until the sauce has thickened. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Stir in the chard leaves and cook for another minute or two until the leaves have wilted a little.
  6. Then stir in the Parmesan and the cream, then pour into a greased gratin dish.
  7. Mix the topping ingredients together and scatter over the top of the gratin. Dot with the remaining butter.
  8. Bake 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.

Notes:

  • This gratin can also be popped under the grill ’til golden and crispy, if short on time or oven space.
  • For a gluten free version, simply replace the flour with the same amount of gluten free flour blend.
  • Adapted from Easy Vegetarian One Pot, 2011, R Woods (ed), p159

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Chard, Onion and Cheese Gratin

Gluten Free Four Blend

Swiss Chard