Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Halloumi-gate (part 2)

I went on holiday for 10 days and came back to a new menu on the MC street food bus. It was the 'roadshow' menu. As a result of limited prep time and storage, and with all round challenging logistics, we had somehow ended up with portobello mushrooms and halloumi cheese.  For those of you that remember halloumi-gate part 1, it should come as no surprise that I wasn't overjoyed! So after much discussion I was given the go ahead to turn it into something that could be a burger. I came up with this...

We didn't know what to call it, as it was a hybrid of the simple (and lazy chef) griddled portobello halloumi. The idea came from one of the few restaurants that do something more with halloumi than stick it on a griddle. Halloumi menander is a much loved Mughli menu item, served with a tangy tamarind dip.  So I took the idea of a menander batter, giving it a little twist with the fabulous ajowan seed (all hail the ajowan seed!), wedged the halloumi inside the mushroom, dunked it in the batter and fryed it.

We served it with all the goodies going on in the smoky chicken burger.  This veggie burger flew out and morphed into a gluten free special with no roll, which we thought made a lovely dish in itself.  Mat Follas reckons everything tastes better with bacon, so we had a third special of halloumi, mushroom & bacon going out by the end of the week. 

So here's the recipe.

4 portobello mushrooms, remove stalk, dust off any soil/residues
1 pkt of halloumi cheese, cut into 60mm slices
3 cups of gram flour
1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp ajowan seeds
2 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder (add more chilli if you like it spicy, or perhaps fresh chopped)
3 tbsp paprika powder
salt to taste

Toast the seeds in a pan, once aroma is released add the powdered spices and toast for another 5 minutes.  Leave to cool. Mix gram flour with cold water to make a thick pancake like batter, then add spices and seasoning. Whisk well and taste batter to check seasoning.

Heat deep pan of oil or fryer to 180.  Fill mushroom with halloumi slices, then dip in batter.  Gently place in fryer, with halloumi side facing upwards. After 2-3 mins, gently dunk using tongs so that the batter seals the halloumi in place. Cook for a further 2-3 mins on each side.

Turn onto kitchen roll, halloumi side down to allow any excess oil to drain away.

We served our burger in a milk roll, with Tim Anderson's gochujang burger sauce, Mat Follas' smoky tomato sauce, homemade pickles and salad leaves.  To serve as a gluten free starter, we lay the salad leaves into the box, drizzled with burger sauce, added the spice battered mushroom halloumi burger (yeah crap name I know), then topped with smoky tomato sauce and some pickles.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Slow Cooked Vegetable Ragu

Recipe time!

This is one of my stock recipes for having something delicious, healthy, quick and ready to eat during the week, when we’re all busy and the last thing I want to do when I get home from a ten hour day is chop more veg!

I make this slow cook vegetable ragu every other week at home. Instead of making it this week, I'm blogging it, after a special request from a local yoga teacher. A big batch usually goes on the stove on a Sunday afternoon while I’m making dinner, and consists of whatever vegetables are knocking around in the fridge drawer. Core stock ingredients and often a few Mediterranean veg that we all eat regularly like peppers, courgettes, aubergines and the like.

The ragu makes a great pasta sauce on it’s own, but I often add a veggie mince for a Bolognese or use it to make lasagne or an aubergine bake, sometimes with cooked puy lentils. I'm making some gnocchi to go with ours this week, or how about ricotta dumplings. It’s great for a ready-made homemade dinner after a long day at work and I can hide a few veg the teens are less keen on (teen girl isn’t keen on cooked carrots and teen boy doesn’t like aubergines or mushrooms as he thinks they have a weird texture). No matter, the secret to this sauce is to cook slowly and for a long time.  A Creuset style pot is best, and once the ragu is simmering, put it on the smallest gas ring on low.

The ingredients vary. Start with 2-3 onions, fine chopped. Then any number of the following that you may find lurking in that fridge drawer, all diced…
Aubergine, carrot, leeks, peppers, celery, mushroom, courgette, fennel (no more than half a bulb or it will overpower the flavour) etc etc

Saute all your veg in a large heavy bottomed pan, with a good splash of pomace oil. This needs a gentle sauté, for at least 15 mins, so that the veg is a bit sticky and soft. Then add water. The next part all depends on quantities of veg used. The more veg, the more water and seasoning you will need. I added 2 litres to the pan above. Add the following seasoning per litre of water:

1 tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp black pepper
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
small handful of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tins of tomatoes
1-2 tbsp dark soy sauce or 1/4 tsp marmite
little squeeze of lemon or vinegar

Then bring to full simmer, and turn down heat to lowest. Place a lid on the pan, and leave to cook gently for 1 - 2 hours.  Check up on it every 40 minutes or so, and see if there is enough water. Add a little more as necessary.  This dish should have a soft velvety texture.  If you need to hide the veg a bit further, I sometimes give it a rough mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. This will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. Enjoy!