Sage and cheddar biscuits or, what to do with sage?

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What to do with sage? Make buttery, cheesy sage and cheddar biscuits?  Yes please.

I’ve found myself with a reasonably plentiful supply of fresh sage, which is a new thing.  I have always managed to grow parsley and been left perplexed at how to use the stuff up, but my previous sage attempts have all turned into sad little heaps.

It seems I’m not the only person to pose this question. The lovely Chocolate and Zucchini blog has very helpfully compiled a list of suggestions.  Those of you who have read some of my other cheese-laced ramblings can probably imagine that sage and cheddar biscuits were a stand-out.

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Mmm, cheddar.  Do you know what I love most about cheddar?  It’s those delightful little crunchy bits amongst the dense, savoury cheese.  And recently, I was fascinated to learn  from this wonderful cheese blog, Fromage Homage, that they have a special name….calcium lactate crystals.

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These little biscuits are adapted from this recipe.  They provide a lot of bang for their buck, being so very simple to make but looking most classy served up as a home-made nibble to accompany drinks.  I need to provide you with a warning: they are incredibly buttery.  So much so that you need to have at least two.

Here’s how to make your very own:

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter, chilled and diced
  • 125 grams Cheddar  cheese, grated
  • 125 grams flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius and line two baking trays.

Combine the butter, cheese, flour, sage and pepper in a bowl.  Mix until it forms a ball (I find it easiest to use my hands for this).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to 0.5 cm thickness.  Use a cutter to make into rounds, treating it like a cookie doll by rolling up the offcuts and cutting out more biscuits.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden.  Cool for one minute and then transfer to a baking rack.

Makes 16 biscuits.
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Parsley pesto

It was time to slay the mighty parsley-beasts.  I felt a little regretful about this, as they had done me proud by growing all green and bountiful, despite my doing very little to help them.  But, many leaves had been picked for many dishes, and now the beasts had gone to seed.

My parsley-beasts looked a little sad all uprooted and laid out on my deck:

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My garden likes very much to grown parsley, which has left me with similar questions in the past about what one should do with the crop.  This was an unprecedented situation because rather than just a mere glut, I had several large plants’ worth of the stuff.  And when I think ‘something that uses an unholy amount of herbs,’ I think ‘pesto.’

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As I’m sure you know, traditional pesto is made from basil, pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan and Fiore Sardo, a sheep’s milk cheese.  Its name comes from the Genovese word ‘to pound,’ and some even say it lends itself to the English word ‘pestle’, as in ‘mortar and.’

Apparently the Ancient Romans themselves ate a paste called ‘moretum,’ consisting of herbs, cheese and oil.  This was of particular interest to me, as my only memories of food and the Ancient Romans, scraped from the dim, dusty part of my brain labelled Third Form Latin Class, were that stuffed field mice were typically on the menu.   How unfair of me.   I shall be contacting the editors of Ecce Romani forthwith to suggest a showcasing of moretum and pesto.

It seems to me that these days, we are increasingly embracing any number of nut, cheese and herb combinations for our pesto.  The parsley pesto I have made here, based on this parsley pesto recipe, contains walnuts, almonds, parmesan and olive oil. I made it like so..

My ingredients (note: I had a HEAP of parsley, so needed a heap of everything else and in turn made a heap of pesto – you could quite easily halve or quarter this and still have a respectable amount):

  • About six large handfuls / cups of parsley
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves
  • 200g parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks (as much as you can manage, depending on how firm it is!)
  • ground black pepper
  • lemon juice and a pinch of salt, to taste

I toasted the almonds and walnuts of the stove-top in a non-stick frying pan until they were all golden and smelling tasty.

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I ripped the parsley into smaller bits with my hands, and added it to the bowl of my food processor, along with the toasted nuts, parmesan, olive oil and plenty of ground black pepper.  I processed it until it made a smooth paste, adding a little salt and squeezing in some lemon to taste along the way.

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I wound up with 6 jars of roughly 250mls capacity, meaning that a few friends and family members had pesto thrust upon them.  Our first meal with the bounty was a salad with roasted potato, shredded poached chicken and plenty of pesto. This pesto is rather tasty slathered on freshly toasted bread, and I am reliably informed it tops pasta quite nicely too.

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Happy gardening and eating.

 

 

Bok choy bounty

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The little rosette in the middle of my bok choy, depicted above, is not something you’d see in an exhibition-standard specimen.  It indicates the plant in question has gone to seed.  Far from being ashamed, I am absolutely delighted I kept something alive long enough for it to reach the gone to seed stage.

I am not the only creature in my neighbourhood who seems to enjoy bok choy, given the amount of nibbling something was doing on my hapless plants, risking the very existence of this blog post.

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Luckily, my third ever gardening-related purchase saved the day. This little spray bottle below (which happened to be gift-wrapped in cellophane and metallic pink ribbon for Father’s Day – apologies readers, I did not think to capture this image) filled with a blend of dishwashing liquid, warm water and baking soda put a stop to the nibblers.  There you have it, a hot gardening tip for you all along with my ramblings about food.

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The bok choy one buys in a shop tends to be robust and very leafy in my experience.  My little crop of bok choy was much smaller in size.  Good things come in small packages however – they were lovely and green and pretty when picked.  I almost felt bad about eating them.

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It’s not surprising that the majority of recipes you might consider involving bok choy are Chinese in flavour.  Bok choy, after all, hails from China and is even known as Chinese Cabbage by some.

So, when it came to deciding how to treat my tiny little harvest, a simple combination of soy sauce, ginger and garlic seemed only natural, not wishing to drown the tender little leaves.  I gently stir-fried my bok choy in one sliced garlic clove, a tablespoon of grated ginger, a liberal sprinkling of soy sauce and a little vegetable oil.

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They were sweet and tender, and I gobbled them up from the top a large mound of jasmine rice, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and some chicken with lemon juice.

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My first harvest! Rocket and goat cheese

Today was an exciting first for me.  As you may have read in earlier posts, I have taken to gardening over recent months.  Well folks, today was the first time I harvested and ate something I had grown myself (aside from herbs…I’m talking things you can make a meal out of here).

Rocket was the lucky plant in this instance.  Rocket  made the final cut into my garden largely because I had it on good authority they are  easy to grow and low maintenance.  This has proven to be true.  Aside from losing a couple of seedlings to an enthusiastic blackbird chasing worms, my rocket plants are starting to resemble a pretty decent salad.  I am proud.

So, when one is harvesting one’s first crop, one really wants something special sharing the plate.  And that special something is goat cheese.  If you fancy hearing about my rocket and goat cheese salad with honey and balsamic dressing, read on.

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To make this for two people I used:

A handful of rocket leaves

Goat cheese – I used about 50 grams

2 tablespoons of pine nuts

A heaping teaspoon of runny honey

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

This salad requires doing pretty much all preparation simultaneously and then throwing to together at the end, which requires vigilance to any burning smells.

I started by toasting the pine nuts in a non-stick frypan.  Watch those little critters, they  burn all of a sudden.  I find they only need a couple of minutes of medium heat.

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Slice rounds of the goat cheese and place in a heat proof dish.  Put it under a hot grill and grill for several minutes until golden brown.

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While all this is going on, make the dressing by whisking the honey, vinegar and oil together.  I microwaved my honey first for 15 seconds first, which was helpful to proceedings.

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Place the rocket leaves in two bowls. Top with the grilled cheese and pinenuts. Add the dressing and combine.

As my rocket plants are in the first flush of youth, my harvest was modest, and so we had this salad on top of some fresh pasta to fill the meal out a little. It was okay teamed with the pasta, but another time I would have the salad with bread or grilled chicken if a little padding was needed.

Not so bad if I say so myself.

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What to do with parsley?

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I have recently taken up gardening.  That is a sentence I never thought I would write.  Yet, here we are, and so far I am enjoying it immensely.

My Italian flat-leaf parsley in particular is going great guns.  The picture above may not look as impressive as other, larger members of the foliage kingdom, such as lavender bushes or small shrubs.  But given I have never been able to keep even a pot plant alive (ask my mum), the fact that my parsley is springing forth in several locations in my garden is very, very exciting.

So, now that my parsley is healthful, if not quite yet in abundance, I am lead to the question of what to do with it.

A quick google leads me to some interesting facts about parsley.  According to legend, parsley is dedicated to Persiphone and  will only grow once the seed has visited Hades seven times.  I hope this does not mean there is some kind of fast-track between Hades and my garden.  It is also said that parsley will only grow well where a strong woman dwells.  But of course.

This is all very interesting but does not answer the question to hand of how I want to eat this stuff.  So, left to my own devices, I have come up with this recipe for Parsley and Mint Yoghurt Sauce.

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To make my Parsley and Mint Yoghurt Sauce, I used:

One handful of parsley

One handful of mint

A pinch of cayenne pepper

One garlic clove

Half a lemon

3/4 cup or so of plain yoghurt

One tablespoon of sour cream.

The method I followed is:

Crush and dice the garlic, and loosely tear up the parsley and mint.  If you have one of those little whizzy-chopper things, great.  A food processor would work too.  Put the herbs and garlic in the bowl and whizz them up a little.  Without electrical intervention, I think slicing, dicing and mixing by hand would do the trick.

Add the yoghurt, sour cream and cayenne.

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Squeeze in the juice from the lemon half.

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Whizz it up again until it is as smooth as you like.

And you’re done.

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The Mr gave me a hand photographing the sauce,both by itself and atop of dinner. We had to confess it does not look amazingly appetising either tout seul or in the company of dinner, resembling somewhat the great green glob from outerspace (or Hades, I suppose, if you follow the aforementioned legend).  Let me assure you however, the taste is quite lovely and made a good accompaniment to our meal – I served it slathered on top of potatoes roasted with their skins on, in paprika, olive oil and black pepper; chicken breast grilled in lemon juice, and a little stir-fried silver beet.

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I have a little left over, and can confirm it also works well as a dip with carrot sticks.  As my parsley shows no signs of slowing down, I will be making this again.

Here’s the recipe in one go, without pictures:

Parsley and Mint Yoghurt Sauce

Ingredients:

  • One handful of parsley
  • One handful of mint
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • One garlic clove
  • Half a lemon
  • 3/4 cup or so of plain yoghurt
  • One tablespoon of sour cream.

Method:

  • Crush and dice the garlic, and loosely tear up the parsley and mint.
  • Add herbs and garlic to the bowl of whizzy-chopper thing or food processor and blend until finely chopped. If doing by hand, slice the herbs more finely  than loosely tearing,  add to a bowl and mix.
  • Add the yoghurt, sour cream and cayenne.
  • Squeeze in the juice from the lemon half.
  • Blend until smooth.