Monday, September 13

I Loathe the Red Hot Chilli Peppers

So spring hasn’t sprung after all. But I socked it to Mother Nature, taught her a lesson she’ll not forget in a hurry. In spite of her wintry persistence I prepared a cold dish! Perfect for a balmy spring evening with a chilled glass of whatever takes your fancy followed by the first mangoes of the season.

I like to call it Sesame Soba Salad and it features this week’s lucky vegetable, the good ol’ capsicum. Or the bell pepper. Or the red pepper. The Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Its species are native to the Americas, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years by the people of the tropical Americas, and are now cultivated worldwide. As a medicinal plant, the Capsicum species has been used as a carminative, digestive irritant, stomachic, stimulant, rubefacient, and tonic. The plants have also been used as folk remedies for dropsy, colic, diarrhea, asthma, arthritis, muscle cramps, and toothache. Handy to have in the refrigerator.

I began by cutting up three red peppers, placing them on a non-stick baking tray and roasting them in a hot oven until the skin was bubbly and charred. Then I popped them in a sealed plastic bag to cool and enable the easy removal of the skins. Meanwhile I cooked a packet of organic soba noodles (the buckwheat variety) in boiling water for four minutes before rinsing in cold water, splashing them with sesame oil (to stop them sticking together), and leaving them to drain. Meanwhile, meanwhile I topped and tailed a generous handful of long green beans and gave them two minutes in the microwave before plunging them headfirst into a bowl of icy water to stop them from continuing to cook and to maintain their emerald hue.

Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile I toasted about 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds and thinly sliced a small red onion. Now to the soy and chilli dressing. I must admit my quantities were a little haphazard and the end result was achieved purely through tasting and muttering, muttering and tasting. I mixed the following ingredients together to make about two-thirds of a cup of dressing – tamari, vegetable oil, sesame oil, lime juice, raw sugar, rice wine vinegar, mirin, minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped fresh chilli, salt and pepper.

Having relieved the red pepper pieces of their skins, I cut them into strips and added them to the noodles along with the beans, red onion, sesame seeds and a cup of coriander leaves. Then I poured the dressing over, gave the salad a gentle but thorough toss and served it topped with cubes of marinated tofu and some more fresh coriander. It was alright. Admittedly if I was a contestant on Iron Chef I’d be marked down for not duly featuring the feature ingredient. But hey, what’s a poor housewife to do?
Sesame Soba Salad
Chris Bell (Pepper)!

Sunday, September 5

Just Beet It!

Oh Dear Reader! I was all set, truly prepared to rustle up a beetroot, walnut and goat’s cheese risotto on a rainy Saturday evening. It was supposed to be all special, in honour of Father’s Day. And then the father in question, our very own Mr R, sidled into the kitchen and sheepishly announced that he really doesn’t care for risotto and cannot abide walnuts and how about we have a pizza instead? Eighteen years I have known this man, eighteen years! And now I really don’t know him at all.

What to do? A lesser housewife would have ordered in and a better one would have set the yeast to rising and whipped up some dough in no time at all.  But I chose the middle way.  With tears in my eyes and a pain in my heart, I pulled a packet of Bazaar Gourmet Pizza Bases from the pantry and began to “cook”.

With beetroot, which is this week’s star vegetable. And I hope the last we’ll be seeing of the wintry root vegetables for a good long while. Bring on spring I say! Anyway, the beet (Beta vulgaris) is a plant in the Chenopodiaceae family. Beet pulp is fed to horses that are in vigorous training or conditioning and to those that may be allergic to dust from hay. Beetroot can also be used to make wine. The consumption of beets causes pink urine in some people.

I peeled and chopped five little beets into quarters, drizzled them in olive oil and seasoning and set them to roast for about half an hour (until they were quite purple and withered). Meanwhile, I mixed 250grams of goats cheese in ash with two generous tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme and spread it over the pizza bases with a palette knife. I added some finely sliced red onion for a bit of bite and the now sliced and roasted beetroot. A glug of olive oil and some more black pepper followed and hey presto they were ready for 15 minutes in a hot oven. After that I rather recklessly threw rocket at them as well as toasted pinenuts, that ol' balsamic vinegar, more olive oil and some sea salt flakes.  They looked like this...
And tasted much better than beetroot risotto!