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fish with leek and tomato sauce

My  local fisho tells me that his mackerel is line caught, and that’s always a good thing as far as sustainability goes: no bycatch and no complete decimation of breeding populations.  Good Fish Bad Fish lists mackerel as sustainable too.  It’s high in Omega 3 and low in mercury, and it has a nice firm texture with few bones.  It’s an oily fish that goes well with acid tomato based sauce, and I have both tomatoes and leeks in abundance in my garden at the moment.

The Recipe:

For four serves:

  • Chop 4 leeks into 3 cm pieces.  There is usually hard to reach dirt in between the leaves, so I do this over the sink: take the outside leaves off and  the end off the green leaves.  Then chop from the bottom till I get up to where the leaves separate.  Then peel off the outside set of leaves, wash the grit out, chop another segment and repeat until I have used all the tender white and light green parts and I’m left with the tough outer leaves.
  • Add an equal quantity of tomato, roughly chopped if they are big tomatoes, whole if they are cherry tomatoes, and a slurp of good olive oil.
  • Add plenty of salt and pepper, a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of thyme if you have it.
  • If I am going out for the day, I use the slow cooker – set it on low with the lid off and leave.  Eight hours later, it is a thickish liquid tomato sauce with soft braised leeks.  This is the best way and it is so nice to come home to dinner pretty well sorted. If I am home or I want it faster, I use the slow cooker on high for about four hours, or an ovenproof dish with a lid, in a hot oven for 20 minutes with the lid, then another 10 minutes or so without the lid to reduce a bit. You want the sauce to be liquid , but not so liquid that it flows off the plate.
  • Fry the mackerel (fillets or steaks) quickly in a little olive oil, taking care not to overcook  and serve on a bed of leek and tomato sauce.
  • Couscous, green beans and zucchini all make good accompaniments.
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This is a bit of a  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules cheat.  Now the days have started really lengthening, even the geriatric chooks are laying so handmade pasta with real eggs was in my mind. And then I was looking for a cake tin deep in the back of the shelf and came across a fluted flan tin that I forgot I had.  And in a moment of inspiration realised it would work to cut pasta.  So I decided to try hand making farfalle.

The next decision was primavera with the lovely sweet baby spring vegetables, or carbonara which would use up another egg, so I compromised by combining both. The whole meal didn’t take much over the half hour of the rules, and it was quite simple and easy, but if I were making it for more than two and trying to get it done in the half hour, I think I’d go for a simpler pasta shape.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • a large egg,
  • a spoonful of olive oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin.  (If you flip it several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get it very thin without sticking. The thinner the better.)

I put it onto a chopping board to cut, but that will depend on your bench hardiness. You can then cut it into any shape you like. To make farfalle, I used the fluted edge of the flan tin to cut the pasta into strips about 2.5 cm thick, then into 5 cm lengths.  You can fold and stack the pasta and cut 5 or 6 layers at once to make it a bit faster.  I then just squeezed the centre of each little piece of pasta to make the bow shape.  This is the bit that takes time. Kids may enjoy helping.

Put a pot of water on to boil and leave the pasta spread out to dry a little while you make the sauces.

The Carbonara:

You don’t need to wash the food processor.

Blend together:

  • egg
  • 80 grams of low fat feta
  • 2 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese

The Primavera:

They are all fresh vegetables that take no time to cook, so this will come together in 5 minutes;

In a heavy frypan, with a little olive oil, add (in more or less this order, giving it a stir with each addition)

  • a small leek, finely chopped
  • a handful of  single shelled broad beans
  • 4 or 5 leaves of kale or silver beet, or a couple of each (just the greens, not the stems)
  • a big handful of shelled fresh peas
  • a big handful of snow peas, chopped into bites
  • a dozen or so olives, roughly chopped
  • half a dozen spears of fresh asparagus, any woody bits removed and roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a heaped dessertspoon of chopped fresh mint. (The fresh mint really changes it – it’s not essential  but really worth adding)
Take the pan off the heat and put a lid on it to conserve the heat.

Assembling:

  • Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until it rises to the surface, which will be in about 2 minutes.
  • Reserve a little of the cooking water and drain the pasta, then return it to the hot pot.
  • Blend a little of the cooking water in with the carbonara sauce to make a cream consistency, then gently toss it through the pasta in the hot pot. Put the lid on and leave for a minute for the egg to just coddle a little and thicken the sauce.
  • Add the vegetables, toss through and serve, with a grating of parmesan and black pepper on top.

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It’s getting towards the end of the best season for leeks. Pretty soon, the big ones will start to realise it’s spring and want to bolt to seed.  if you have leeks hanging on in the garden, it’s a good time to use them, before they start developing the hard core they get as they go to seed. Ever since I figured out how to make pastry with olive oil and low fat yoghurt,  rather than butter, pies and tarts have become a reasonable midweek regular meal rather than a “sometimes food”, and leek tarts are a good way to use lots of leeks.

My chooks have already realised it’s spring.  A good number of my chooks are geriatric. They earn their keep just with their weed clearing, pooing and scratching, and they only lay well for a few months in spring.  But when they are all laying, eggs feature in a lot of my cooking.

This is a late  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe this week – time just ran away on me.  But your fast, easy, healthy, midweek vego recipes are welcome in the comments.

The Recipe:

Makes 6 large muffin sized tarts. Recipe doubles fine.

The Pastry:

Into a food processor or a bowl, put 1 cup of wholemeal plain flour and a good pinch of salt.

Put a couple of good dessertspoons of low fat Greek yoghurt in a cup, then top it up to half full with olive oil. You want it about half and half – ¼ cup of each. You don’t need to mix them.

Tip the cup all at once into the processor or bowl and blitz them together.  In a food processor it’s just a couple of seconds, but you can do it just by stirring.  Knead just enough to combine into a dough.  It needs to be quite moist so don’t add any more flour than necessary, and don’t overwork the dough or it will get tough.  Put the dough in a plastic container in the freezer to cool while you make the filling.

The Filling:

Sauté 2 cups of chopped leeks in a little butter or oil (or a mixture of the two). I use the whites and pale green part, and save the dark green leaves for stock.

Use the (unwashed) food processor, or an egg beater to beat together:

  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup white wine (or substitute a squeeze of lemon juice in water, and use ordinary thyme rather than lemon thyme).
  • a dessertspoon of lemon thyme
  • a good grating of black pepper

Chop 60 grams of low fat feta cheese into tiny cubes and stir them in.

Let the leeks cool a little while you roll out the pastry, then stir them into the egg mix too.

Assembling and Baking:

The pastry is quite fragile.  The easiest way to roll it out is to put a sheet of greaseproof paper on your bench top, put the ball of dough on it, and cover with another sheet.  Roll the pastry out between the two sheets, turning once or twice to un-wrinkle the paper. You can then peel the top sheet of paper off, cut the dough to fit your muffin tins, flip the lot and peel the other sheet off. Roll the scraps out between the greaseproof paper again.

I have a small bowl that cuts circles of dough the perfect size for my Texan muffin tin, and this recipe makes just enough to fill it.  Really though you can make them any size or shape you like.

Grease the baking tins lightly, line with pastry, and spoon in the eggs, cheese and leeks mix.

Bake in a medium oven for around 20 minutes till the pastry is golden.  Serve with a salad or steamed vegies on the side.

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Beans are like octopus – they need to be cooked either very fast or very slow.

I love snake beans cooked in an Asian way – just barely blanched, so they are still crunchy and tossed in a dressing.  But these purple king beans have such a nice deep flavour, I think they go better cooked long and slow in the Mediterranean way, specially this time of year when not only the beans but all the other ingredients are in season too.

We ate these just as is for Saturday lunch with toast and feta cheese on the side.  But they also go fabulously well as a side dish for a roast (and take a similar amount of time to cook).

The Recipe:

In a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, simmer together on a low heat for an hour or more:

  • 400 grams of green beans, preferably a strong flavoured variety like Purple King
  • a swig of good olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a leek, chopped into 3 cm slices
  • 12 black olives, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • a good tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano
  • 700 grams of chopped ripe tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of water

Towards the end watch the liquid level and add more water if it looks like it might burn.

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