Tuesday 14 April 2009

scallops w lentils, pancetta & sage

I have been eyeing off this recipe ever since my sister gave us this cookbook in March 2007. It was the first dish I marked and one of those I coveted and craved after (hence another Food Challenge), and yet it wasn’t until April 2009 that I finally made it.

Why did it take me so long?

I suppose the recipe seemed complicated and fiddly. Too many ingredients not easily on hand. Too many steps.

But when you break it down it’s pretty easy. Boil in one pot. Fry in another. Done.

Don’t be like me. This recipe is worth the effort. Just make it.

The lentils provide a warm, earthy backdrop to the sweet scallops, crispy sage and salty pancetta. The asparagus brings some fresh flavour while the lemon crème fraîche is an delightful end to the composition. Sublime.

The lentils could easily be made and served without the other accompaniments, as a great vegetarian side dish. I kept some “uncontaminated” from the scallops and served them to Jonas, who has since requested a repeat performance.

One of the wonderful aspects of this dish is the crispy sage leaves. I just adore these leaves fried until brittle and crunchy then paired with anything soft and sweet like fish or pasta.

Scallops w Lentils, Pancetta & Sage

Recipe from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver. Serves 4.

300g Puy lentils
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 potato, peeled
1 tomato
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche (or thick yoghurt)
Juice of 1 lemon
32 baby asparagus spears, woody bases trimmed (or 3-4 large ones)
12 slices pancetta (or smoked, streaky bacon)
12 large scallops (or 16 small scallops)
24 sage leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying


1. In a saucepan, combine lentils with garlic cloves, bay leaf, potato and tomato. Cover with water.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but holding their shape (ie not mushy).

3. Drain off 90% of the water. Discard the bay leaf.

4. Peel the tomato skin and discard. Return tomato to pot.

5. Mash the tomato, garlic and potato into the lentils with a fork. The lentils actually seem to hold their shape while the mashed vegetables help to create a sauce around the lentils.

6. Add the parsley, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warmish.

7. Season the crème fraîche with salt and pepper to taste. Add just enough lemon juice to give it a twang. Set aside.

8. Heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick pan then fry pancetta.

9. Once golden and crisp, remove and set aside.

10. Season scallops.

11. In the same frying pan, add asparagus and scallops and cook until scallops are golden on each side and asparagus is tender but still crunchy.

12. Remove from pan and set aside.

13. Finally, add some more olive oil and fry sage leaves for 40 seconds on each side until crispy.

14. Divide lentils between four plates, top each with 8 baby asparagus spears, 3 pancetta slices, 3 large scallops and 6 crispy sage leaves. Serve with a dollop of lemon crème fraîche.

Salvia officinalis
is a common herb that delivers an anything thing but common flavour to your cooking. Not only has it been a medicinal herb for millennia, but it also acts as an ornamental plant with its soft, dusty-green leaves.

In European cooking sage is often served with fatty meats (particularly pork), onions or cheese and can be included in sausages. The classic Italian sage and burnt butter pasta sauce has been popular for decades and in the Balkans sage is used to flavour spirits.

Once upon a time, sage was prescribed for every illness, hence it’s name “salvia” meaning “to heal”. It was used for everything from sprains, fertility, sore throats, swelling, bleeding, snakebites and even to ward away evil. For instance sage, along with thyme, rosemary and lavender was one of the main ingredients of the Four Thieves Vinegar, believed to protect people from the plague.

Modern sciences shows sage to have healing effects as an “anhidrotic, antibiotic, antifungal, astringent, antispasmodic, estrogenic, hypoglycemic, and tonic”.

This recipe is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Prof. Kitty from wonderfully named blog The Cabinet of Prof. Kitty. Be sure to visit this recap!

Other blogger recipes using sage:

Apricot, Sage & Cornmeal Cookies - Lottie + Doof
Baked White Beans w Tuna & Sage - Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Biscuits w Sausage & Sage Gravy - Pinch My Salt
Butternut Squash Cupcakes w Sage Frosting - Vanilla Garlic
Cauliflower w Sage Butter & Eggs - Nami Nami
Chicken Liver & Sage Salad - Dirty Sugar Cookies
Corn Crackers w Rosemary & Sage - Anne'Food
Crispy Sage & Brown Butter Pasta - 80 breakfasts
Fresh Fig & Sage Grilled Pizza - The Left Over Queen
Game Casserole w Cider & Sage - Food, Glorious Food
Guinness Stew w Sage & Ginger - The Hungry Mouse
Pork Chops w Apple, Sage & Pancetta - Closet Cooking
Rabbit Lasagne w Mushrooms & Sage-Scented Bechamel - Food Stories
Roasted Root Vegetables w Maple Sage Glaze - Food Blogga
Sage & Caramelized Onion Risotto Cups - sugarlaws
Sage Focaccia - Baking Bites
Sage Ice Cream - pastry studio
Sage Lady (cocktail) - Yum Sugar
Sage Steamed Snap Beans - Lucullian Delights
Sage, Honey & Pecorino Heart Bread - Ms. Adventures in Italy
Sage-Pecan Pesto - Kalyn's Kitchen
Sage, Pine Nut & Pecorino Scones - Pro Bono Baker
Sage, Walnut & Dried Fig Stuffing - 101 Cookbooks
Savory Sage Corn Cakes - Gluten Free Cooking School
Soothing Chicken & Sage Dumpling Soup - canarygirl.com
Strawberry & Sage Ice Cream - Ice Cream Ireland
Vegetarian Apple-Cider Ginger Sage Gravy - A Veggie Venture
Walnut-Sage Potatoes Au Gratin - Gluten Free Bay
Watercress & Fresh Sage Soup - Chocolate & Zucchini
White Bean, Crème Fraîche & Sage Frittata - Cook Think
Yellow Fin Tuna, Sage Oil, Hibiscus Salt - Wrightfood
Zucchini, Sage & Scamorza Terrine - The Passionate Cook


Sunday 12 April 2009

chocolate & pumpkin seed biscuits

These biscuits are what my North American friends would call cookies, so don't get them mixed up with scones, which Americans call biscuits.

Wow. Don't you think it's all very weird how one language can be so confusing?

Regardless of what you call these, you will definately think they're good. So on the chocolate theme: Happy Easter!

Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Biscuits
Recipe by
Stephanie Alexander. Makes 15.

125g unsalted butter
25g castor sugar
60g soft brown sugar
100g self-raising flour
100g rolled oats
75g dark chocolate (preferably 70%), roughly chopped
50g pepitas (green pumpkin seed kernels)


1. Preheat oven to 170C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, oats, chocolate and seeds.

3. Place spoonfuls on the baking tray and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Leave room for the biscuits to spread. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden-brown.

4. Cool completely on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Anna's other chocolate recipes:Drinks
Boozy Hot Chocolate
Spicy Hot Chocolate
Custards & MousseChocolate Chestnut Cake
Chocolate Ricotta Mousse
Muhallabiah Mousse (Iranian white choc & almond pudding)
Strawberry, White Chocolate & Almond Cannoli
Cookies & Slices
Chocolate Coconut Slice
Double Chocolate Cookies
Triple-Choc Brownies
Ice Creams & Candies
Cassata Gelata
Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
Filo Baked Mars Bar
Cakes & Tarts
Apricot & Chocolate Tart
Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding
Chocolate Chestnut Cake
Fig, Hazelnut & Chocolate Fudge Cake
Fondant au Chocolat Framboise
Ginger Cake w Chocolate Sauce
Glacé Apricot, Chocolate & Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Ludo's Chocolate Truffle Tart
Ricotta, Strawberry & Choc-Chip Muffins
Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (black forest cake)

Tuesday 7 April 2009

pozole verde: mexican stew

At first this soup seems mild, almost bland and disappointing, but as you continue to eat, it becomes moreish and intoxicating. We made a huge batch and between three of us we devoured the entire pot within minutes, greedily going back for seconds and thirds.

Afterwards we all agreed that the first mouthful seemed dull but the last mouthful left us wanting still more. It had a ravenous effect on all of us and we declared the recipe a delicious success. A triumph!

Cooking this pozole also fulfilled two 2009 Food Challenge by ticking off yet another Mexican recipe (one of the cuisines I have set out to explore this year) and also cooking with hominy.

Pozole Verde (Hominy, Tomatillo & Pepita Stew)
Variation on recipe by Serious Eats. Serves 3 – 4.
800g can hominy
800ml canned tomatillos (green tomatoes)
1 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 serrano chillies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
½ cup chopped fresh coriander
¼ cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
3 radishes, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried epazote (or oregano)
2 limes, cut into wedges
1. Dry toast the pumpkin seeds in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until seeds are lightly browned. Remove and let cool for a minute. Then grind in a food processor or blender. Set aside.
2. In a blender add the tomatillos, coriander, chillies, salt, onion and stock. Process until smooth.
3. Heat the tomatillo mixture in a large pot. Sprinkle in the ground pumpkin seeds. Stir constantly until mixture has thickened, around 7 minutes.
4. Add the hominy along with its liquid. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 30 minutes.
5. When the hominy is tender, season to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and top with radishes, a sprinkling of epazote and a squeeze of lime juice.

Hominy, also known as nixtamal, is dried corn kernels which have been treated with an alkali, a process known as nixtamalisation.

In Mexico people use lime-water (calcium hydroxide) and in the US wood ash was used to create lye-water (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide solution). The process removed the germ and the hard outer hull from the kernels, allowing easier digestion.

The process also changes the nutritional value of the corn, allowing the body to more easily absorb certain nutrients such as Vitamin B, amino acids, calcium and phosphorus.

Nixtamalisation was used as early as 1500 BCE in Guatemala. The fact that the kernels were dried meant they could be soaked and processed any time and many native people in Central and North America relied on hominy as an integral food source.

Hominy is my theme ingredient for Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Chriesi from Almond Corner.


Sunday 5 April 2009

earth hour recap

More than 4000 cities and towns in 88 countries participated in Earth Hour, making it the world's largest ever demonstration of public concern about climate change. I can't even think of any other (peaceful) event where so many people round the world have been involved.

It’s not surprising that even with the small number of blogging event participants we had two Greek bloggers. Why? Because Greece had an amazing rate of participation. Although the Philippines had the most cities/towns/municipalities participating (600+), Greece came second (400+), then Australia (300+), Canada (300+) and the USA (200+).

Earth Hour is misunderstood by a lot of people, who think the focus in on energy saving. WWF and Earth Hour participants around the world are not stupid – they know that turning off lights for one hour doesn’t save enough electricity to make a difference.

Earth Hour was never about one hour.

Earth Hour has two very important roles to play in public awareness:
1) It shows us - in a visible, practical way - that when many individuals do something together it does make a difference. When we all switched off our lights and made our cities go dark, we saw that if each of us does our bit (individuals and business) it will make a difference overall. It is symbolic.
2) By participating in Earth Hour, people walk around their homes switching off appliances and lights etc and through this practical process they realise where they can reduce their energy consumption (and costs) every day. And that experience is what can lead to a lasting change.

Participating in Earth Hour is an educational exercise. It is not a saviour in itself and for media and critics to use this as the main reason to condemn Earth Hour, well they are just showing their ignorance and lack of imagination.

Anyway, that’s my take on it, and since I worked on the Australian project and speak on a daily basis to one of Earth Hour’s founders, I'm confident I know what I’m talking about :)

But onto the recap!

Firstly, thanks to the 10 bloggers who joined me for this event. I must admit even I found it hard to choose a recipe that was environmentally friendly enough to feel confident writing about it. The food global supply chain is so massive that it’s often hard to find local ingredients or low level packaging. It’s a real challenge.

So here are the results:

Arugula White Bean Dip
Bellini Valli
from More Than Burnt Toast (British Columbia, Canada) made an Earth Hour meal that that could be enjoyed by candlelight but which lefts only a small carbon imprint on her area of the world. Her bean dip requires no cooking, the rocket was bought from a local greenhouse and the naan bread came from a local bakery too.

Mustard Greens
from Food Junkie not Junk Food (Athens, Greece) made a dish with vegetables directly from her own garden! Mustard greens are wonderful, vibrantly flavoured vegetables that I wish I could find more easily in Sydney. If only I had my own garden to grow them in!

Chicken Curry w Tomatoes
Deeba from Passionate About Baking (Gurgaon, India) used local farm raised chicken, fresh tomatoes and fresh curry leaves from her own curry tree to produce this delicious curry. There was no packaging involved and all the ingredients were locally sourced.

Cypriot Mezedes
from Kopiaste.. to Greek Hospitality (Greece) choose recipes that did not need to be cooked to reduce her energy consumption. Her mezedes included taramosalata, tahini, horiatiki, tzatziki and a bottle of Cypriot wine by candle light. I’m swooning!

Barley Salad w Peppers, Beans & Everything Else
from eCurry (Plano, Texas, USA) made a trip to the local market to load up on fresh, seasonal vegetables, beans and grains to make this “healthy and fulfilling salad”.

Banana Peach Mango Crumble
from Mele Cotte (Atlanta, GA, USA) went sweet on fresh fruit to eliminate packaging and conjured up this “quick and satisfying dessert”. Best of all she can recycle her fruit rinds and in the compost!

Pasta in Home Made Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Sandeepa from Bong Mom's CookBook (USA) used local ingredients to make her dish, which also uses few ingredients, limiting waste from leftovers that might not be used.

Carrot & Tomato Soup
Rinku from Cooking in Westchester (Westchester, NY, USA) relied on local produce for her key ingredients. The recipe can be made in bulk in season then frozen for later use.

Spaghetti w Homemade Pesto
from Simply Spices (USA) didn't throw away some week-old basil, but instead turned it into pesto to flavour pasta. An economical and resourceful use of aging, yet still perfectly delicious, herbs.

Beef Stew w Fresh Casserole Herbs
from ISKAndals.com (New Zealand) used home-grown herbs, veggies from the farmer's market and 100% local beef which she explains "means the meat came from cows born and raised on NZ farms, produced according to the NZ' animal welfare codes, low in foodmiles and free from added growth hormones".

Potato & Feta Cakes w Two Toppings
This was my own contribution to low-carbon cooking, using leftovers from various meals to make a dish that could stand alone in its own right. It was truly delicious.

So that's it folks. For more information about low-carbon cooking, I included some facts and tips in my recipe post.

Otherwise check out all the videos and photos of Earth Hour around the world.

Thanks for participating.

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