Monday, August 31, 2009

easy and yummy soup

Here's a supper idea that was quite easy. Use only things I always have around (spinach, potatoes, onions) and turn them into a meal! I made this easy soup and served it with some fresh tea biscuits (or scones, as they should be called) and a steamed piece of fish.

Cream of Spinach Soup
serves 4 to 6
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

2 T canola oil
1 T butter
2 c chopped onions
1/2 c chopped celery
3 c chopped potatoes
2 1/2 c stock or water
300 g fresh spinach, washed
1 1/2 c milk (or evaporated milk, or half milk and half cream)
1/4 t nutmeg
salt and pepper

In a soup pot, warn the oil and butter. Add the onions and celery and sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add the potatoes and stock or water, cover, and cook until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach, cover, and set aside off the heat for 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted.
Puree the soup (in batches in a blender or using a hand immersion blender).
Stir in the milk, nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Reheat.
Serve with croutons, if desired.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

fresh pineapple

My fruit and veg box brings me seven wonderful veggies and three fruits each week. They are all organic and most are also local to the Riverford farm that supplies the boxes. Occasionally there are items from further afield (but they are never air freighted, which I really appreciate). This lovely pineapple arrived recently.

Cutting a pineapple is not something I have done before; have you? But it was not hard to do (and I did see a tutorial in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman while I was thinking about what to do with my pineapple). First cut off the top.

Then cut into quarters and for each one, slice the rough skin away. Also remove the woody inner core.

In the end I discovered that the best thing to do with a fresh pineapple is to eat it as is! The sweet, yellow flesh is only ripe for a short time. I cut up an organic apple and threw in a handful of blackberries. A fantastic afternoon snack!

Friday, August 28, 2009

hippy farm beans

Tamra recommended this recipe from the Leon cookbook to me. It's a delicious mixture of fresh veggies and satisfying beans. I don't think they were as spicy as the recipe intended, maybe when I have the key ingredient, Linghams Garlic and Chilli Sauce, it will be as hot as it should be. In place of the sauce I added some honey, since I was guessing it is a sweet chilli sauce. (I also admit that I didn't have the guts to use three chillies; my excuse is that there were only two left in the fridge.) It was delicious!

I used courgette instead of aubergine because that's what came in my veg box this week.

Hippy Farm Beans
adapted from Leon: Ingredients and Recipes

olive oil
1 large aubergine, chopped, or 2 small courgettes
3 bell peppers, chopped
1 big onion, chopped
at least 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
at least 3 assorted fiery chillies, chopped
1 punnet (350 g) cherry tomatoes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tins beans (one mixed and one kidney beans, for example), drained
Linghams Garlic and Chilli Sauce, or sweet chilli sauce
300 g spinach, washed

Heat the pan with 4 T olive oil. Fry the aubergine and peppers for 15 minutes, until crispy. Season with salt and cumin. Remove from pan and cover.
Heat the pan again and fry the onion for a minute, then add the garlic and chillies.
After a few minutes add the cherry tomatoes.
After a few minutes, add the tinned tomatoes, aubergines, and peppers.
Bring to the boil, add the beans. Add a good glug of the sauce.
Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes covered, then [up to] an hour uncovered.
Turn off the heat and stir through the spinach until wilted.

The cookbook says to serve it with tortillas, avocado slices, lime wedges, and cheese, which all sounds very delicious. I instead made a side salad (more spinach was left from the veg box) and the crusty whole wheat bread I made earlier.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cookbook Review: Leon: Ingredients & Recipes

While we were in Sydney, Tamra was talking up the Leon: Ingredients and Recipes cookbook. How had I failed to hear about a restaurant (with six branches in London) so in line with everything I think good should be? At Leon they serve fast food that “tastes good and does you good”. Each time we met she mentioned another recipe she loved from the cookbook. So when I got home I went straight out to buy it (and joyously, it was half price at Waterstone’s).

I dived in, to find that the book is in two parts, ingredients and recipes. The first half contains lovely drawings and interesting information about hosts of fruits, veggies, meats, grains, dairy products, and so on. Recipe and cooking suggestions are given for the ingredients and the writing is funny and relaxed. There’s a great pull out cheese map of Europe (soon to be laminated, perhaps, and put up in the kitchen?). There’s a tear out seasonality chart showing not only fruits and veg, but also herbs and fish.

The second half of the book is full of healthy and tasty looking recipes. They are marked if they are low GI, low fat, vegetarian, wheat free, dairy free, or gluten free (and all the recipes are some combination of these). Tamra highlighted a few for me to try and loads of others jumped out at me as new favourites. When I went to visit my friend Sarah I took Leon with me and we tried two recipes: Magic Beans and Black-eyed Peas, Spinach and Lemon (with a few adaptations for Sarah’s veg box collection). By the end of my three day stay she had also read the whole cookbook and we went out to buy her one of her own.

Magic Beans
adapted from Leon: Ingredients and Recipes

2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red chilli, chopped, seeds discarded for less heat if desired
1 T rosemary, finely chopped, or 1 t dried rosemary
200 g green beans
2 T lemon juice
3 spring onions, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, chilli, and rosemary. Cook to soften.
Before the garlic browns, add the green beans, lemon juice, and a splash of water. Cover and cook until the beans are soft, about 15 minutes. Add some more water if things start to stick.
Add the spring onions and heat through.
Remove from the heat and leave for five minutes for the magic to happen. Then season and enjoy!

And now I have been to the Leon restaurant as well. Bree and I went to the Leon restaurant behind the Tate Modern. The food we had was delicious! It was also very fast. We ordered a superfood salad, the recipe for which I had already marked as one to try. Yum! I can see many tasty meals ahead.

chocolate chip cookies

Here is the recipe requested by my colleague! These are also Ant's favourite cookie. Yum, I will be making these and taking them to work next week to ease the pain of reintegration.
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Everything
about 3 dozen cookies
(from 'Tis the Season: A Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook by Nanette Blanchard)

1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 T vanilla extract
1 c unbleached flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 c flaked coconut
1/2 c granola or rolled oats
3/4 c chopped pecans or other nuts
3/4 c currants, raisins, or sultanas
1 3/4 c semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer (or a strong arm) to cream together butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients along with everything else. Stir until combined.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Grease baking trays and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking trays and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Cool on a wire rack.

Anything and everything can go into these cookies. The additions (chocolate, oats, coconut, etc) total 4 1/2 cups, so feel free to use whatever appeals to you. I would imagine that dried cranberries and white chocolate would be nice together. Use any nuts that you prefer; hazelnuts would be delicious.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Thanks for joining me over here at my new cooking blog. To start things off, I have imported 57 cooking posts from the archives of my personal blog. Hopefully this means that meals with sarah will become a complete, searchable, growing collection of my experiments in the kitchen. The food here is home cooked and healthy (for the most part!).

I have been editing the old posts slightly to be more food focused and have also given some of them more descriptive titles. The full archived posts with comments about family, scenic photos, or non-food topics are still part of my personal blog. The posts here are also relabelled so that finding a recipe you remember or a new one to try should be much easier. You can use the labels or the search bar to help you do this.

Welcome to meals with sarah! The first new post for this blog is next, also published today. I love blogging and hope that you will feel free to comment with ideas, suggestions, questions, or comments.

small growing success

My garden was not a great triumph this year, but! But it was better than ever before. Helen and I went out last Sunday to tidy it up and pull weeds and I discovered that my potatoes did grow. I am so proud. There were lots of leaves at first, but recently they had all been eaten. But when I started to dig, I saw that I actually had a decent number of new potatoes. Here is the whole crop: 51 potatoes in all, including 24 reasonable sized ones. Look at the little babies! I dug them up and cooked them with the others; I was determined to waste nothing that I had successfully grown.

On Sunday evening I made Ant and I herbed salmon (Nigel Slater’s recipe from the last Observer Food Monthly) with bacon fried spinach and boiled new potatoes. The potatoes were small balls of delicious success.


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