Last week, by happy accident, all of the recipes I cooked were of a Mediterranean origin. Baked kibbeh on Sunday night (that Ash has been raving about all week – yay!), roast eggplant with za’atar sauce on Tuesday night, and Lebanese gazpacho on Wednesday. Along with a few extras such as za’atar and hummus. As it turned out, that worked so nicely, both in terms of our grocery budget and tastebud bliss, that I’ve decided to start a new thing – themed weekly menu plans.
To kick off, this week will feature Donna Hay.
A while ago I picked up a stack of Donna Hay seasonal magazines in perfect condition from a sidewalk council collection, which not only made my day, but pushed my already overstuffed recipe collection to bursting point.
That was a good six months ago. And thanks to the billions of inspiring recipe blogs out there distracting me, I haven’t yet cooked anything from the magazines. So, tonight I picked out an Autumn edition, and have chosen three recipes for the week. I’ve also cut out the recipes I want and have thrown the magazine away. One down, many to go.
One nice thing about cooking for a week along a particular theme is that it makes grocery shopping easier and cheaper. I’ve found that a number of key ingredients are common (or the recipes can easily be adapted to make the ingredients common), which means less chance of a half-bag of zucchinis dying a slow death in the back of the fridge while using just a quarter of that pumpkin. You’ll particularly relate to this if you’re also cooking for just one or two people.
Another benefit is that it breaks the cliche’d meal plan cycle. You know, when you have a small repertoire of dinners that get made again and again? Not that repeating recipes is a bad thing (check this blog’s tagline), but when it’s due to lack of inspiration, boredom or laziness, it does take the excitement out of cooking. I get stuck cooking the same types of dinner repeatedly – does tinned legume + veggie + spice ring a bell? Last week was fantastic because I cooked a recipe I’d had my eye on for ages (baked kibbeh), a familiar chickpea soup (gazpacho), and I had fun getting all inventive with the roast eggplant dish. If it wasn’t for some subconscious desire for Mediterranean food you’d probably have been stuck reading about my latest lentil creation.
Introducing Donna Dinner One – Apple and celeriac salad
Naturally I just couldn’t resist improvising on the recipe, and it didn’t help that my local grocer was out of celeriac. Apparently it’s not in season (get your seasons right Ms Hay! geez). But I followed it in a general way, and it was a hit. Sweet and savoury, fresh and filling. Who doesn’t love apples? Who doesn’t love greens? And apples are in fact in season.
Roast apple salad (serves 2)
I’ll admit I was disappointed to find that celeriac wasn’t available. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s that ugly fat pale root-vegetable that looks like Jabba the Hutt. I’ve never used it before and so I was looking forward to trying something new. In it’s place I actually used a swede, which I also have never tried before. But that was quite dry and tasteless, so I’m writing the recipe here with plain ol’ potato. You can’t go wrong with baked potato. Any root vegetable would work though, I think parsnip would actually have been a good choice too. Or you might have more luck finding celeriac.
Oh, and, my god, curly kale! I keep coming across it in blogs from the US and I’d never seen it except at a farmer’s market once where they were charging a ridiculous amount per bunch. My grocer has started stocking it! I must have looked like a total nutter standing there in the aisle, holding a big bunch, staring at it with an enormous grin on my face like I’d found Jesus. So naturally where the recipe asked for rocket I switched in shredded kale.
By this stage you probably are thinking I get unusually enthusiastic about vegetables. If you were, you would be right.
- 1 large potato (500g), cut into fat fries
- olive oil
- 1/8 cup apple juice (if you’re buying it, get the good cloudy stuff)
- 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 2 big pieces of curly kale, remove the stalks and shred the leaves finely
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- 1 red apple, halved and sliced
- a small handful of pinenuts
- Preheat oven to 180°C, line a tray with baking paper.
- Toss the potato in a little olive oil and salt, pop in the oven. Depending how thick you cut the fries will determine the cooking time. I’d say potato takes at least 30 minutes, and usually more like 45.
- While the potato is getting started in the oven, shake up the juice, vinegar, sugar and olive oil in a jar until the sugar is dissolved.
- Pour the dressing over the kale and rub it in to the leaves with your hands. It’s good to do this to soften it, because it can be a bit tough otherwise. And then leave it to sit and the vinegar will soften it further while you do the rest of the preparation. Obviously if you’re using rocket or baby spinach or lettuce you can skip this step and just toss the dressing through at the end like a normal salad.
- When the potato has about 20 minutes left, take it out, mix in the onion and half of the apple slices, and return to the oven. The original recipe didn’t roast any apple, but you should. It’s the bomb.
- To finish, toss the roasted things through the kale and the rest of the apple slices. Season with plenty of salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with pinenuts.
p.s. My current preoccupation is the creation of a perfect vegan French macaron. Today’s attempt ended in thin chewy walnut cookies – yummy, but not even close. A quick Google search revealed that I far from alone in this quest, and that success is rare. I want to perfect a recipe that looks, feels and tastes like a macaron, and doesn’t use specialty ingredients like weird and wonderful egg replacements from woop-woop. Wish me luck!