Recipe: Portuguese Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde

So way back in January 2010,  I went to Lisbon.  I stayed in a reasonable, but most excellent hostel, and went to some fairly nice restaurants. I think I spent more on food per day than I did my accommodation! On my first evening I didn’t stray too far from the hostel, and dined early.  For mains I picked rabbit (which was delicious and came with chips!), and I decided to somewhat splashout by having  an entree as well. I picked caldo verde. I had no idea what was, or that it was a traditional Portuguese dish  (I think I knew it was a soup from the menu). The main reason I picked it because it was cheap (3 or 4 euro from memory).  But oh it was delicious – a hearty (but not stodgy) green soup with spicy sausage.  I had it a couple more times during my trip (pretty much at every opportunity!) and came away with the vow to make it myself. When I got home I looked up wikipedia and a few recipes, and saved them, and then did nothing… until a couple of weeks ago when I realised that I had all the ingredients (and most specifically chorizo and kale) – without even trying!

And so I made it. I pretty much following this recipe, though I amped up the chorizo (two sausages instead of one), and used kale as my green. I also was a bit concerned about the paprika oil.  Was it swirled into the pot?  In individual bowls? What if I was just going to eat it ALL BY MYSELF**? So I decided to just mix in the paprika late in the cooking phase, without worrying about the oil  (perhaps I will add the paprika earlier in the future).

Someone asked me if my caldo verde tasted like the one I had in Lisbon, but to be honest I can’t remember exactly what it tasted like.  But it certainly felt the same – warming, spicy and wholesome.

**Not quite, but close

Dal Palak (Lentils with Spinach)

Chana DalThis Palak Dal (Spinach and Lentils) was fortuitous in that it used chana dal from my pantry, as well as some spinach and tomatoes that were lingering in the fridge! It was very quick to cook, and very warming and comforting to eat.  It felt healthy 🙂

This was also my first time of roasting dal before using (lets face it,  i’ve used chana dal once before!), and it really enhance the flavour of the dal. The recipe is fairly self explanatory, although I did find the lentils dried up very quickly into the 1 hour cooking time – much quicker than I expected!  I will be ready with more water next time I cook. I also held off adding the spinach until right at the end, to preserve its bright green colour.

Dal Palak with Spinach

Note to Self: Nigella’s Onion Mush

Onion Mush

This is really a reminder to myself of the volume of onion mush that is produced from 1 kilo of sliced onions (it’s probably about a cup).  I do know the onions reduce down, and I always think ‘I really should double this recipe’, but, you know, one of the last things you want to do when you’ve peeled and thinly sliced a kilo of onions, is to peel and thinly slice *another* kilo of onions!  Still, when you put in effort to make onion mush, it would be nice to end up with more than a cup of delicious-ness (and it is delicious). Since peeling and slicing is the major hurdle in making mush, it would make sense to use a food processor, like Nigella suggests (the recipe is from How to Eat).

Recipe (more or less).

Peel one kilo of onions, and then slice very thinly. Add your fat (1 tbps of butter or LARD plus 3 tbps of olive oil, or 5 tbsp olive oil) to a heavy based pot over a low heat, and then add the onions once the butter/lard has melted, but has not started bubbling. Pack the onions down with a wooden spoon, sprinke with salt and then add 75 mL of Marsala (or cheap dry sherry in my case), topped up with 100 mL of boiling water.  Take a piece of foil and pack it tightly over the onion, shiny side down, put the lid, and allow to simmer for 2 hours (check after 1 hour to ensure the onion is not browning or sticking to the pan). After 2 hours, take off the lid and foil, increase the heat and boil off the liquid. You will need to keep a fairly close eye on the mush at the point, and stir pretty constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick. A key point is that the onion does not turn brown until you start boiling off the liquid.  I remember feeling quite worried the first time I made mush my onions were so pale at the end of the slow cook stage.  However the sugar doesn’t caramelise until the water is gone – so don’t worry, your onions will go brown!

LARD!

An exciting moment in making this batch of mush, was using my own LARD,  when I rendered off a slow cooked pork shoulder a few days before.  I just poured the fat off the slow cooker and cooled it in the fridge, ending up with a suprisingly pristine white fat that melts beautifully (and I feel good about not throwing it away. go LARD!).  I do think you can cut down on the oil in the onions, though.  I might ignore the addition of olive oil next time.

Anyway, the mush (or relish) is very delish and worked well on our umami burgers (which I essential followed this recipe, but replaced the applesauce with  1 tsp sugar and grilled in a frying pan). If only there was more…

Zucchini and Eggplant Bake

Roasted VegetablesWith some nice eggplant and zucchini in my last vege box,  I was looking for a non-meat dinner option to make one night.  This Layered Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Casserole looked interesting and also would enable me to use panko breadcrumbs from the pantry. I made some changes, mostly based on  what I  had to hand,  and used two medium normal eggplants and two medium sized zucchinis. I swapped two tins of tomatoes for the fresh ones, includes some garlic in when I fried the onion, and used more basil than recommended (probably a good cup worth). Zucchini and Eggplant Bake

The end result wasn’t too bad but could do with some modification – firstly I found the long slices of veges unwieldy when it came ti eating it.  I’d probably cut the veges horizontally rather than length wise ( if that makes sense!).  I think the tomato sauce could have done with more flavoring – perhaps adding a jar of pasta sauce in stead of one of the tins of tomatoes would help here.

Zucchini and Eggplant BakeFinally pre-roasting the veges took a loooooong time (particularly if you are trying to save dishes by only using one tray!) I’m not sure the roasting added *that* much flavour to the dish, so I’d also be tempted to just put it together with raw veges, possibly up the tomato content (2 tins of tomatoes and 1 jar of pasta sauce perhaps?),  and just cook the whole thing in one go.

Red Quinoa Salad

Red Quinoa Salad

So getting rid of the quinoa was very easy. I cooked it one evening, let it sit overnight, and then mixed it with cherry tomatoes, green capsicum, cucumber, parsley and garlic chives from the garden, and a few squeezes from lemon juice.  It provided lunch for two days and it kept me surprisingly full. Quinoa is high in protein and has a complete set of amino acids, which is why I think I bought it in the first place.  Now I have an easy way to use it, I should probably get some more…

Vegetable Spaghetti

Zucchini and Carrot 'Pasta'One thing we are enjoying quite often these days is vegetable spaghetti – basically just very thin strips of zucchini and carrot, often in the place of pasta with a pasta sauce or meatballs.

Now, I’m sure you can make these thin strips using a knife and sweet chopping skills, but we invested instead in a vegetable julienne peeler (this exact one actually) and have found it to work a treat!*

To cook, we just stick them in a microwave proof bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes on high, stirring every minute of so. You can also steam them, but you are more likely to end up with mushier vegetables ( or at least *I* am!) and microwaving is way quicker anyway.

*Note:  You will be left with some pieve of vegetable which you can’t further julienne with the peeler (or it becomes hazardous to your fingers to do so!).  I normally just chop them up as finely as I can and add them to the mix – or you can just eat them as a raw snack before dinner!!

Spicy Carrot Soup

Spicy Carrot SoupWe almost always get carrots in our vege box and, while we do eat them,  we also tend to accumulate them. So I’m always after a good recipe to use them up!  I’ve made other carrot soups in the past,  but for whatever reason I have not been that taken with them. However, this is a great soup, warming and filling, and a great way to use up excess carrots (plus sweet potato and pumpkin if that what you have).  It’s largely based on this taste recipe: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/5686/spiced+carrot+soup+with+coconut+cream.  However I add some thai red curry paste as well as the other spice,  and stir the coconut cream in at the end (and don’t bother with the dairy cream either).  I’ve made this several times, each varying the amount of carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin in it, depending on what I had to hand.  There is a recipe of sort below,  but to be honest I don’t really measure stuff (even less so than normal!),  I just pop it in to taste ( particularly the chili, sugar, lime and fish sauce)

Ingredients:
2 medium onions, chopped
heaped teaspsoon of thai red curry paste
1-2 tsp of ginger (the more the better!)
small red chili, chopped, or 1/2-1 tsp chili powder
8-10 carrots (or fewer carrots plus pumpkin or sweet potato)
3-4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (enough to cover the veges)
1 tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar
1-2 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 tbsp lime juice
1 tin of coconut cream.

Saute the onion, curry paste, ginger and chili in your oil of choice until softened.  Chop the carrots (and other veges) into 1-2 cm cubes and add to the sauteed onion.  Stir for ~5 minutes and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for ~c30 minutes, or until the veges are soft. Take off the heat, then puree until smooth (a stick blender is good for this!).  Stir in the coconut cream, sugar, lime juice and fish sauce, modifying these to taste.