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asparagusdukkahI can see that this dish is probably mixing my culinary metaphors, but I did think this was a successful combination.  I tasted my first dukkah a few years ago after I was given some as a present, and it has since become a standard in the kitchen, albeit one that gets occasional use.  Dukkah (or duqqa) is an Egyptian condiment, consisting of a mix of ground nuts, seeds, spices and herbs.  The jar I’m currently using contains sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, coriander, cumin, salt, garlic, thyme and black pepper.  I use it mostly as a coating or in this case topping, added to breadcrumbs or cornmeal.  Every family would have their own blend of dukkah, so you could certainly make up your own mix!

The fine spear asparagus was delicious, although thicker spears would work well cooked a little longer.  This dish would make a wonderful seasonal starter, or a main course with a big side salad and chunks of crusty bread.

Asparagus with Dukkah over Chilli Polenta

Large handful of fine spear asparagus, washed and any woody ends cut off
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp dukkah
1 tblsp fine cornmeal / polenta
Dash of sea salt
1 pint water
1/4 pint polenta (I find it works well to measure the polenta as a quarter of the water!)
1 small red chilli chopped.
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.  Put the asparagus into a roasting tin, pour over the olive oil and toss till well coated.  Roast for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the water in a large saucepan.  As it heats, add the polenta, chilli and salt, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Keep stirring until you have a thick, creamy mix, then keep warm over a very low heat (or just put the lid on the pan).

Mix the dukka and the cornmeal.  Take the asparagus out of the oven, turn the spears with tongs, then sprinkle the dukkah mix over them.  Put back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Serve on warm plates, by spooning up a heap of polenta and topping with asparagus spears.

LeeksMarmalad

Having had a big bunch of leeks in my veg box, I couldn’t resist trying this curious sounding recipe.  I found it in a book I bought a while back in a second hand shop, ‘The Whole Earth Cookbook’ by Hilary Meth, (you can also get a copy on Amazon).

The book does feel like a flash from the past, using a lot of packaged and convenience foods in the recipes.  But I did rather like this recipe for leeks.  It was simple, a bit different, and went very well with some veggie sausages!

The original recipe called for the addition of soy milk, which I decided to leave out at the last minute, as I thought the dish looked complete without it.  Also I finished cooking in a casserole in the oven with the sausages, which I think gave it a slightly richer flavour, but you could manage without this step.

Leeks in Marmalade Sauce

2 medium leeks
170 ml water
3 tblsp marmalade
1 tablsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C.  Trim and carefully wash the leeks, then slice them into 5mm thick rounds.  Bring the water to a boil in a pan, then add the leeks.  Cover the pan and simmer the leeks for 3 – 4 minutes.

Add the marmalade and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Put the leeks in a small casserole, with the lid and cook in the oven for around 15 minutes.

cornbreadlgeThis delicious cornbread is a great addition to the bread basket and a fantastic gluten-free staple.  It’s especially good as an accompaniment to spicy soups or a chilli, but is also perfect for breakfast with just some tangy marmalade.

This quantity made one loaf in a 20cm square tin, and 12 mini muffins.  if you do this remember the muffins only need half the cooking time of the loaf.  If you make this quantity into one large loaf, you will need to increase the cooking time to approx. 30 minutes.

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Gluten Free Cornbread

2 eggs
450ml natural yoghurt
50g butter, melted
65g plain gluten free flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp salt
275g fine cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 200C / 300F / Gas 6.  Grease and line the baking tin and grease the muffin tins.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl until they are frothy.  Add the yoghurt and melted butter and whisk until combined.

Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir in well.

Fold in the cornmeal, ensuring it is fully mixed in.  Divide the mixture into the tins.  Cook the muffins for approximately 10 minutes and the loaf for about 20 minutes.  They should be slightly browned when cooked and spring back when gently pressed.

cornbreadsm

red veined sorrelI’m a great believer that good gardening is easy gardening.  This could be because I’m lazy and I’m certainly short of time to spend in the garden.  But surely, working with nature, rather than fighting against it is best, and the plants which thrive in your garden are the ones that most belong there.

A few years ago, I bought a pot of red-veined sorrel at a farmers market.  I transferred the plant to a bigger pot, added a few leaves to a salad every so often, then completely neglected the plant over the winter.  But then the plant seeded itself in the garden, popping up in several places, and generally thriving like a weed.  Not only that, but the slugs seem to leave it alone.

Now all of that seems to me like the peak of gardening success.  And this sorrel has the added advantage of being an attractive plant wherever it chooses to settle.

The young sorrel leaves have a lemony, lettuce like flavour and look good in a mixed leaf salad, while older, more bitter leaves, can be cooked like spinach.  Nutritionally, sorrel provide vitamin C and iron, so more than worth the (non) effort involved!

Some days time is short and a quick solution is needed for lunch.  I discovered this simple way of serving up rice noodles recently and have used it with various vegetable combinations since.  This recipe is the easiest, as it includes the kind of frozen veg I always keep in, straight from the bag.  It’s also good for using up vegetables you have languishing in the fridge, or even left overs!

ricenoodlesPeanut Rice Noodles

1 cup of frozen vegetables, eg. peas, sweetcorn, broad beans
1 handful rice noodles
2 tblsps water
1 – 2 tblsps smooth peanut butter
Small piece ginger, grated
1 tblsp tamari (wheat free) soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper

In a pan, bring to boil enough water to cover the veg and the noodles.  Add the frozen veg and bring the water back to the boil.  Add the noodles and push down into the water.  Bring back to the boil and cook the noodles for 4 minutes.  Drain.

Add the 2 tblsp water to the same pan over a medium heat.  Add in the peanut butter, ginger and soy sauce and stir until smooth.  Toss in the noodles and veg and coat in the sauce.

Serve topped with black pepper and more soy sauce to taste.

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