Couscous Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

My Small person announced in the supermarket the other day that she ‘really liked that frilly kind of cabbage’. When I picked myself up off the floor and put the savoy cabbage in my trolley it occurred to me that there are quite a number of leaves a whole cabbage and only 2 people in our house at the moment so I had better come up with some cabbage recipes quick smart.

My big sister has also been asking for some good low fat healthy recipes, not something HillyWillys kitchen is known for, so I thought I should try and come up for something for her as well. Hopefully she’ll like it as much as small person did.

This is a great tasting low fat dish on its own as a starter or served with a green salad and coleslaw as a main. If you happen to have any parcels left over wrap them in foil and keep in the fridge overnight and they can be eaten cold as a snack.

Couscous Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

Ingredients

6 large Savoy Cabbage leaves
500ml Vegetable stock
200g pre-cooked couscous*

*You can put just about anything into couscous to jazz up the flavour, but this is what I used in mine.

150g of dried couscous
25g raisins
Pinch of dried mint
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
2tsp dried mixed pepper
(if you wish to use fresh pepper add 20g of finely chopped mixed peppers with the chopped tomato)

Place ingredients into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. Once the water has absorbed into the grain stir in 1tsp of olive oil, 1tsp lemon juice and 1 finely chopped cherry tomato .

Take the cabbage leaves and cut away the hard white stalk
Image. Drop the leaves into boiling vegetable stock and blanch for 1 minute ( if you are using red or white cabbage you may have to leave for an extra minute) until slightly softened.

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Take each leaf ( bring together the two edges where the stalk was cut away so you have a solid flat leaf ) and place a small amount of couscous in the middle of the leaf.

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Wrap the leaf into a small bundle by bringing the bottom of the leaf up to cover the filling, then fold in the left then right sides and roll the bundle upwards.

Tightly pack the stuffed leaves into an oven proof dish and cover with the stock you used to boil the leaves. Cover and place in a 200 degree oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook for a further 10.

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If you wish you can serve with a spoonful of low fat crème fraiche or a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.

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A Bientot.

Speedy Spicy Tomato Carrot & Apple Soup

There’s nothing nicer on a drizzly damp night than some spicy home made soup, and it just so happens that’s exactly what we had for tea tonight.

There’s also nothing nicer than something that only takes 20 minutes to prepare and cook.

So here is a very quick recipe for a very quick meal.

Tomato and Apple Spicy Soup

1 Onion
2 tsp Tomato Puree
200g ( half a tin ) Chopped Tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 Potato
4 Carrots
1 Apple
1l Vegetable Stock
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Roughly chop the onion and put in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, tomato puree and sugar. Stir well until the onions are coated in the puree then add the chopped tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
cook tomatoes and onion
Roughly chop the carrots, potato and apple and add to the pot, stir well for a couple of minutes and add the vegetable stock and cayenne pepper.

roughly chop veg
Boil for 15 minutes until the veg are tender then blend. Serve up with a splash of cream or a dollop of creme fraiche and some warm crusty bread.
serve with creme fraiche or cream
Simple, quick and delicious.

A Bientot.

HillyWillys Homemade Haggis

Well it’s that time of year again when all the Scots around the world get slightly stronger accents, forget the weather and long for home.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Yes it’s Burns night, so to all my compatriots across the globe, Slaintemhath.

Anyway….. The reason for this post is not just a rose coloured reminisce, but to give you all an easy ( and non stomach churning ) haggis recipe should you want to try this wonderful Scottish delicacy.

Traditionally a haggis is made with what is called a sheep’s ‘pluck’. Those of you with tender dispositions should look away now. The ‘pluck’ comprises of the heart, liver, kidney and lungs of the sheep. To make a haggis the pluck is minced up with onions, oatmeal and seasoning then stitched back into sheep’s washed out stomach lining, sewn up and steamed for around 5 hours.

Having once been party a traditional haggis cooking session I can assure you that this is not for the feint of heart or indeed stomach and I will NEVER be doing it again. ( I can still remember the smell vividly after 7 years.)

This recipe is a lot more palatable to the modern-day cook and won’t take half a day to cook either. In my opinion the results are just as delicious and will make enough haggis for around 6 people.

HillyWillys Homemade Haggis

ingredients
250g lambs liver*
250g shredded suet*
350g oatmeal
1 large onion
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to season
500ml vegetable stock

*for a Vegetarian option in place of liver use

*150g of shredded mushrooms
*100g of mashed kidney beans
*250g vegetable suet

No Burns supper is complete without the accompanying bashed tatties and neeps so you will also need

1kg potatoes
2 large yellow turnips
A little Butter and cream to mash.
First gently fry off the liver in a pan with a little oil till brown and firm. Remove from the heat and allow to cool then grate into a large bowl.

Grate cooked liver

Place the oats into a large dry pan and heat,stirring frequently, until toasted, then add to the liver.
Toast oats and cook onion
Finely chop the onion and cook with 50 g of suet for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft and begins to turn translucent then add the rest of the suet to the pan and melt. When fully melted pour into the bowl and mix well.
add onion and suet  to the bowl
Add your cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper and 500 ml of vegetable stock and stir the mixture.
grease foil
Now take a large piece of foil and brush generously with oil. Place about half of your mixture in the centre of the foil and shape into a large sausage then bring the sides of the foil to the middle and gently twist the ends (it looks rather like an enormous Christmas cracker at this point) and fold the ends to the middle.

wrap haggis

Now wrap again in foil and place in a large oven proof dish.
Repeat this step for the rest of your mixture.

place in large dish

Pour boiling water into the dish to about half way and place the dish in a hot oven (225 degrees) and cook for an hour and a half. Don’t forget to check the water levels in your dish throughout the cooking time and top up as needed.

After about an hour set your potatoes and turnips ( in seperate pans) to boil.

Once they are boiled mash the potatoes with a little cream and butter, and mash the turnip with just a little butter.
unwrap
Remove the haggis from the oven and take from the dish. Carefully remove the foil and serve up with the bashed tatties and neeps and a little onion gravy.
Haggis Basht tatties and neeps
Of course if you’re doing this properly you will address the haggis before eating with the words of Rabbie Burns himself.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!

This is the much abbreviated version, (the full text can be found here), because I just can’t wait to start eating it 🙂

A Bientot and ( for today only ) Scots Wah hae!

Catastrophic Carrot Chutney

Let me start by saying that, despite the title, this is one of the nicest chutneys I have made so far. It’s zesty and tangy, has a lovely rich colour and packs a real punch with a mature cheddar.

I’m never making it again.

You see every time I make this something goes horribly wrong. Not with the chutney, it’s one of the few things I will remake to the exact recipe, just with the surrounding circumstances.

For example ; The first time I made this delicious chutney I rather overdid the quantity and even after giving some jars away to my friends/guinea pigs there were still quite a few leftover. So I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to pack up a few jars (along with some excess jam)  and take them as gifts on our imminent visit to the UK. What could possibly go wrong?

As we were traveling by Eurostar suitcase weight was not an issue so I tightly packed in the many jars amongst my belongings and off we trundled. All went well until we reached the Victoria line underground interchange.

At rush hour.

On a Friday.

By this time I had a very tired small person on one hand, her luggage, my handbag, a VERY heavy suitcase and a dead arm. A very kind gentleman offered to take my suitcase onto the tube and found a tiny corner amid the sea of humanity to wedge it in.

With his foot.
Of course his foot connected with one of the jars. The one I squeezed in at the last minute because there was a tiny space left. The one that wasn’t wrapped in a plastic bag.

By the time we left the tube there was a rather pungent aroma emanating from my case and a small orangey brown puddle on the train floor.  We fought our way through Waterloo station leaving a sticky trail behind us and located the train heading out to Richmond. By the end of the half hour journey we, rather unsurprisingly, had the carriage to ourselves.

At my friends flat it was time to assess the damage. Rather wisely I elected to leave the case in the downstairs hall while I picked out the broken glass and sticky pickle from my belongings. Even the clothes that hadn’t come into direct contact with the chutney needed washing due to the smell. When we left a few days later I’m embarrassed to say the hall still carried a heady lingering aroma.

(Almost two years later there is still a vague whiff every time the suitcase gets unzipped – which is not very often as it has been relegated to shed and used for ‘storage’).

Rather ironically when we got back one of my friends here was desperately disappointed when I told her there was none left as her husband had finished the whole jar in the 10 days we had been gone. She has been dropping hints ever since that he would really like some more.

Last week I found myself with a surplus of carrots so thought I’d be kind and make a jar or two for Mr.W.

So what went wrong this time?  (I hear you ask) Read on to find out why this is the last time.

Carrot Chutney

300g brown Sugar

150g Sultanas

1 Orange (zest and juice)

1 Lemon (zest and juice)

3tsp mixed Peppercorns

2tsp wholegrain Mustard

2tsp clear Honey

1tsp mixed Spice

2 cloves of Garlic (minced)

500ml Red wine vinegar

250ml White vinegar

250ml Tarragon vinegar (if you cant get tarragon vinegar then just use 500ml of white vinegar and add 1/2 tsp of tarragon)

600g Carrots

2 Onions

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan combine all the ingredients except the carrots and onions and bring to the biol stirring to ensure the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

While your vinegar mix is heating, grate the carrots and onions.

When the vinegar mixture is boiling add the vegetables and boil for 5 minutes stirring at all times

Now turn down the heat until you get a gentle simmer and leave it bubbling away for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the liquid has reduced by around a 1/3 and is sticky on your spoon it’s time to take it off the heat and ladle into sterilised jars .

Top Tip – If you are using jars with metal lids make sure you cover the pickle with a wax disc or some greaseproof paper as the acid in the vinegar can react with the metal and cause it to rust.

This amount of ingredients should give you a enough to fill 4 regular jars or two large ones.

Unless of course you are an idiot.

Don’t worry Mr. W – the only remaining jar has your name on it!

A Bientôt

Potato Nest Quiche

OK so its not the best name I’ve come up with, but its the best I’ve got for this dish.

As you may have already surmised I get quite easily distracted in the kitchen, so when small one requested quiche for dinner things didn’t go exactly to plan. Not that there’s anything wrong with quiche ( unless you happen to be my father who maintains to this day that ‘real men don’t eat quiche’), in fact I love a good quiche and its a bit of a family favourite, but I got a little distracted by all the  potatoes in the cupboard. Then I had an idea……

Potato Nest Quiche

6 large Potatoes

1 Onion

3 eggs

1 large Tomato

200g Lardons ( or chopped bacon )

50g grated Cheese

100ml Crème fraîche

Salt and Pepper to season

Peel, grate and rinse the potatoes, then dry them. Its best if you can do this well in advance to allow the potato to dry out. When I had rinsed them I hung them in a muslin bag for a couple of hours, but if you are a bit pushed for time, place the potato between sheets of kitchen roll and press down firmly to remove as much moisture as you can.

wash and drain potatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beat one egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper then add 1 onion which has been finely chopped or grated. Add the potatoes to this mixture and stir well.

Grease 6 muffin cases ( you may need a couple more depending on how large your potatoes are ) and firmly press the potato mixture into shape.

Pop these in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees) for 15 – 20 minutes until they begin to brown.

line muffin cases with potato

While your shells are in the oven, lightly fry the lardons or bacon with a chopped tomato.

Beat your 2 remaining eggs with the crémé fraîche and a little seasoning.

lardon, tomatoes, egg and creme fraiche

Take the potato shells out of the oven and turn it down to 170 degrees.  Spoon in the lardon and tomatoes but don’t press them down.. Slowly pour in the egg mixture until the cases are full. ( I say pour slowly as it is VERY easy to overfill the cases and make your clearing up so much messier than it needs to be !)

fill the potato nests

Once the cases are filled sprinkle the tops with cheese and return to the oven for 30-35 minutes until they have risen well and the cheese has formed a light crust.

bake for 30-35 minutes

Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before removing the cases.
These little Quiche-ish-‘s are fantastic warm as part of a main meal, but are also pretty amazing when the are cold and served with a spoon of chutney on the side . Thankfully they gained the small person seal of approval and she has already asked for me to make them again. which will be fine unless I get distracted again….

enjoy!

A Bientôt

Parslip* Soup

This year has been a complete disaster in the garden, after a tiny crop of early radishes we have harvested close to nothing from our tiny veg patch. A combination of peculiar seasonal weather and voracious insects have left slim pickings indeed. So when hubby required a leaf or two of parsley to complete the evening meal it was off to the market we had to go. I don’t know if it’s the same in the UK, but here in France it’s almost impossible to buy a small amount of parsley, and the bunch we were left with after the required leaves had been plundered was … rather large.
parsleyNow if you are a regular follower of this blog you will already know that I loathe throwing anything away, but what to do with a big bunch of parsley on a chilly autumnal weekend ? I went through, and rejected, a few ideas involving breads and pestos and plumped for one of my favourite standbys; soup.

 

But parsley on it’s own would be far too strong a flavour and it needed something that would compliment the slight sweetness of the herb, but not overpower it. Tricky.

My musings were put to a decisive end at the supermarket when we all got very excited to see that they had on sale the seldom seen pleasure of ‘Panais Anglais’. Now whilst that may sound rather exotic and strange it is quite simply the humble parsnip.

Parsnips are not a usual feature on the supermarket shelves in this part of France,  (they are traditionally grown as donkey fodder rather than for human consumption!), but as the influx of ex-pats to the region grows ever larger so has the demand for this ‘strange’ delicacy. The suffix of ‘Anglais’ has been added not as point of origin, but as an indication of who will most likely be buying them.

So there was my answer, all I had to do now was make the soup.

ingredients

Parslip* Soup.

3 tbsp olive oil
100g of leek, roughly chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
50g of Parsley,  with stems removed ( reserve a few leaves for garnish)
200g of chopped Parsnip
1 apple, diced
1 l of vegetable stock

Warm the oil in a large pan the add the chopped onion, leek and garlic. Stir well then cover and sweat for a few minutes making sure the vegetables don’t start to brown too much.

Add the parsley and stir until the leaves have wilted, then add the chopped parsnip and apple. Cover and sweat for a few more minutes then add 1 litre of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes.

When the parsnip has softened, blend the soup till smooth and serve immediately with a swirl of creme fraiche or cream and garnish with the remaining parsley leaves.
Parslip SoupThis is a rich, thick, slightly sweet soup which, ( in my opinion at least), is perfect for a rainy autumnal evening warmer. And its a fabulous colour too 🙂

A Bientôt

*No it’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a clever play on words.

You learn something new every day….

I’ve seen a lot of strange things over the years, so it’s not often I’m surprised when I see something a little peculiar, but today I was surprised.

Browsing the local supermarket produce department I saw these beauties…

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Purple and orange cauliflowers. Purple. And Orange. Cauliflowers.

I was a little gobsmacked to say the least and automatically assumed that they had been artificially coloured so passed them by. (well that and the fact that neither hubby or small one actually like cauliflower anyway.)

When I got home I decided to do a little research and was astonished to find out that not only are they naturally occurring, but that they are actually better for you than white ones.

Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’. Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of vitamin A of white varieties.

Originally, cauliflower was bred to be white by tying leaves over the edible portion, preventing the formation of chloroplasts and therefore chlorophyll, ( in the same manner that white asparagus is made). Eventually, cauliflower varieties were developed that completely lack the ability to grow chloroplasts even if they are exposed to light. So it’s actually white cauliflower that is artificially coloured and not the other 2.

Who’d a thunk it?

Well now of course I’m gutted that I didn’t buy any, and have to wait and hope that they will be there on my next visit, I think even small person will give purple cauliflower a try.

A Bientôt.