burnt spring onion dip - limp or burnt is not for the bin!

Another usual suspect when it comes to food waste in my home is spring onion (or scallions as they call them across the pond). The other day I bought a couple of bunches and I forgot to put them in the fridge. They looked a bit limp the following day. And that’s where the downward spiral starts. They don’t look as crunchy, fresh and inviting as when I bought them and I start to procrastinate. „Shame“, I think and promise myself to use them tomorrow. And the longer I play this game, the worse it gets. They look more wilted and uninspiring over the days. It makes me feel guilty...not only do I think of myself as inconsistent, but cold-hearted, too. Dont laugh! Those spring onions have been growing for weeks and what do I do: procrastinate and later compost them!

Recently I read a good article about some fruit and veg being at their best when they are limp. Not sure if you can generally apply this rule to all fruit and veg. But I remembered this dip I tasted last year at NOPI in London. I was happy to discover it later in the cookbook of the same name by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. For this dip they encourage you to burn the spring onions until charred... Brilliant! If the spring onions are a bit limp, it’s not a problem at all. Nobody will be able to tell what they originally looked like once they are black and burnt. And if you accidentally burn some spring onions you don’t need to discard them: just use them for this fabulous dip!

The original recipe asks you to cut off the top quarter off the garlic and discard it, which in my opinion is just unnecessary food waste. So here I kept the bulb intact and roasted the whole head.

Burnt spring onion dip

  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 150 g (5.29 oz) spring onions (scallions), ends trimmed, sliced in half lengthways if thick
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 150 g (5.291 oz) cream cheese
  • 110 g (3.880 oz) sour cream
  • sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F). Brush the garlic with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and wrap in foil. Place in a small baking dish or on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool and when cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves, discard the skin and mash the garlic cloves with a fork. Set aside.

Brush the spring onions with the sunflower oil. Sprinkle over ¼ teaspoons salt and a generous grind of pepper. Heat a griddle pan to high. When the pan is hot and smoking, add the spring onions, grill for 5-6 minutes, turning them in between. They should be black all over. It’s recommended to ventilate your kitchen well, because the whole process creates quite a bit of smoke. Be courageous when griddling the spring onions, it’s ok when they get quite black. Leave the spring onions to cool, then chop finely. Add the spring onions to a bowl with the cream cheese, sour cream, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, roast garlic puree and another ¼ teaspoon of salt.

Poor man’s parmesan - breadcrumbs get an upgrade

There should really not ever be the need to go out and buy breadcrumbs in the supermarket. You can easily make them at home. If the end of a loaf of bread gets stale and you feel like discarding it, think twice. Leave it out to get a bit harder for a couple of days or so. Blitz in a blender or grate coarsely using a box grater. It’s as simple as that.

Breadcrumbs have a rather dull image, most people probably believe they are only good as a coating for deep-frying. A few years ago I learned that you can turn it into a wonderful condiment: poor man’s parmesan. Simply fry the breadcrumbs in a few tablespoons of olive oil and add some herbs, garlic, finely chopped anchovy, chili or lemon zest to jazz it up. Poor man’s parmesan loves to be sprinkled on top of pasta to add some crunch. Or add it to roasted or fried vegetables or a salad.

Obviously the better the crumbs and the better the butter, the more interesting the poor man’s parmesan is going to be. Then again: who would let a good-quality sourdough baguette go stale?! But treat yourself to good butter. After all we all deserve a little reward every now and then to combat foodwaste in our home.

Poor man’s parmesan

  • 200 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • thyme leaves, chopped parsley, chili, grated lemon zest, garlic (optional)
  • flaky sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil with the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, sea salt and pepper and let the breadcrumbs absorb the oil and butter. Add the herbs, chili, garlic or lemon zest if using and continue frying the crumbs until they have a lovely golden brown colour.

quick-pickled red onion

Pickling doesn’t need to be elaborate. Many late summers I have experienced my grandparents and parents spending long evenings in the kitchen after harvesting tons of vegetables in their garden. That period of the year has always been equally satisfying and stressful. Bringing in the harvest after a long summer is very rewarding, but it can also create sheer overwhelm when you are confronted with many types of produce reaching maturity at the same time. As a kid I sometimes wondered why my family is causing themselves so much stress.

Luckily I realised as an adult that preserving, pickling etc. doesn’t need to be a masochist experience. In smaller quantities it can be rather simple, enjoyable and still worthwhile. Even the tiniest amount of produce may be pickled. In fact, I frequently find recipes that include a recipe for mini-batches of chutney, jams or pickles, just a handful to serve with a steak or fish fillet. Small amounts that can be enjoyed immediately rather than having a large batch to be stored in your larder or cellar.

Ever find yourself wondering what to do with half a red onion? Here is a wonderful recipe I have found in Mindy Smith’s „The perfectly tossed salad“. She uses it as a salad topping, but I also like to enjoy  as a condiment for a sandwich filling, on top of a steak or pork chop. Pickling has never been that easy!

Quick pickled red onion

  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 100 ml (3.5 fl. oz) vinegar
  • 30 g (1 oz) sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 juniper berries
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • pinch of cumin seeds

Place the vinegar with all the other ingredients bar the onion in a small pan and bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has been dissolved. Add the onion and simmer for a minute, then remove from the heat and leave to cool in the pickling liquid for 30 minutes.

leftover beaten egg scrambled

Now stop pfft-ing and rolling your eyes! A recipe for scrambled eggs? Are you serious? Yes, I am! Confess! How many times have you had some beaten egg leftover when a recipe asked to brush the pastry or whatever you were cooking? You put the bowl with the remainder in the fridge and promised yourself you'll have scrambled eggs the following morning. But then life got in the way...and I find that's generally the problem with leftovers. You have the best intentions, but you find it to hard to get out of bed and then having cereal seems the more viable option. Two days later you wonder whether it's still safe to eat. And then it becomes a drag to even discard it. We've all been there.

I have also had to use some leftover ricotta from a cheesecake I made and thought why not try that. There were still 3 more eggs in my fridge and some chives. Why make it complicated? And who's to say scrambled eggs should only be enjoyed for breakfast? I had them as a late-afternoon snack before running some errands. If you don't have leftover ricotta, try grating some hard cheese like parmesan and add a splash of milk if you like. 

Something I had to learn over the years means that scrambled eggs need a bit of attention. Too often I have been multitasking, leaving the kitchen, the eggs solidified and then it became a rather dry affair. Scrambled eggs want a little bit of attention and you should do yourself the favour to have a few meditative minutes at the stove gently stirring and keeping an eye on them.

Scrambled eggs with leftover beaten egg

  • leftover of 1 beaten egg
  • 2-3 eggs
  • about 100 g ricotta cheese (or grated hard cheese and a splash or two of milk)
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of sweet red chili flakes (or play around with the seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • chives or parsley to

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Beat the eggs with the leftover egg, add the ricotta (or cheese and milk) and beat with a whisk until you have a smooth mixture. Season with salt and pepper and chili. Add the egg mix to the pan and continue stirring gently until the mixture solidifies, but stays moist. You should keep an eye on the pan and stir regularly. When it is solid, but still moist remove from the pan and serve with snipped chives or chopped parsley.

 

saving a bunch of lemon thyme

Shopping for a recipe that asks for a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary is a bit frustrating. You are bound to have a lot of leftovers. Last week I tried a recipe that asked for lemon thyme, the green grocer didn't have it in stock and I had to order a bunch. The size of the bag was simply ridiculous. A large bunch might be adequate for gastronomy, but a private household? Why can't they sell only a few sprigs of herbs that are very dominant in flavour? Occasionally I have offered other shoppers at the market stall part of a bunch of herbs, because I knew I would never use the whole bunch. Sometimes I offer a part of the bunch to friends and colleagues. Thyme and rosemary are rather loud herbs and I don’t use them all the time. So what to do? The bunch of lemon thyme was so large I had to turn it into several things: 

  • a syrup
  • garlic and thyme butter
  • herb/oil ice cubes
  • thyme vinegar
  • dried

So they have become building blocks for various future dishes. The syrup I use to drizzle over poached fruit or vanilla ice cream. The garlic and lemon thyme butter can be used to slather roasted vegetables or as a component for a sandwich or for using in garlic toast. The herb oil I have frozen in an ice cube tray to be used whenever lemon thyme and olive oil are needed in a recipe (such as a salad or stew). The lemon thyme vinegar is useful in salad dressings or dishes when both thyme and vinegar are asked for. And sometimes it is handy to have dried herbs, so I dried some lemon thyme when a smaller dose is needed and dried is sufficient or when I am in the mood or need for a herbal tea.

I really wish green grocers would start selling smaller quantities of herbs. The bunches are just too big. I think I will start building a little garden on my window sill again. It will save me from the dilemma having to preserve a whole lot of herbs at once. What are your favourite ways to save leftover thyme (or other herbs) and what do you like to use them for?

Lemon thyme syrup

  • 1 cup (250 ml) raw cane sugar
  • ½ cup (125 ml) water
  • 10 sprigs of lemon thyme

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the mixture has reached a boil, remove from the heat. Let cool and remove the thyme sprigs from the syrup when cool enough to handle. If you like you can pass the syrup through a sieve, but I quite like to leave the thyme leaves in the syrup. Fill in a bottle and store in the fridge. Perfect for drizzling on roasted fruit, pancakes or in cocktails. Store in the fridge. Use within 3 weeks.

Garlic and lemon thyme butter

  • 125 g (ca. 1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • leaves from about 10 sprigs of lemon thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • ½ teaspoon seasalt

In a shallow bowl using a fork combine the butter with the garlic and seasalt until evenly mixed. Add the thyme leaves and fold into the garlic butter. Shape the butter into a block and keep chilled. Ideal for steak, garlic bread or roasted vegetables. Store in the fridge. Use within 6-7 days.

Frozen lemon thyme/olive oil ice cubes

  • Lemon thyme
  • Olive oil

Remove leaves from stem and fill into an ice cube tray. I manage to fill about 1 tablespoon worth of leaves into one cube. Top with olive oil and freeze. I take the cubes out of the tray when they are frozen and keep them in a zip lock bag or other container, so I can use the ice cube tray for other things. Keeps well in the freezer for at least 3 months.

Lemon thyme vinegar

  • Half a litre (2 cups) white wine vinegar
  • 50 g (ca. 2 oz) lemon thyme sprigs

Fill the lemon thyme into a tall preserving jar and fill with the vinegar. Make sure the thyme is completely covered with the vinegar. Cover and let infuse for 2-3 weeks. Strain through a sieve, discard the lemon thyme stems and fill the infused vinegar into a bottle.

Dried lemon thyme

Wash the thyme leaves and hang them on a string and leave to dry. After a few days, when the bunch is completely dry, crumble the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Store the dried leaves in a container and keep away from sunlight.