Sunday, August 30, 2009

Botanic Bar

I find that often when I anticipate something with great gusto it turns out to be quite the disappointment – uninspiring and overall far from the images conjured up in my mind. This is especially with regard to movies and meals. To avoid setting myself up for a fall, lately I have been setting the bar low and checking my expectations at the door. This is in no way easy for me since I the pleasure I derive from perusing online menus goes unparalleled, drooling over dishes and meditating over what to order far in advance.

After spotting a positive review in a local Adelaidian “newspaper” for the Botanic Bar raving about the place serving up extraordinary $6 “gourmet” pizzas, I decided I had to investigate for myself to ascertain what all the fuss was really about. Instead of the expected colonial style building and English pub décor reminiscent of The British on Finnis Street or The Exeter on Rundell Street that I was expecting –notoriously packed with boozy teenage hooligans, the Botanic Bar is a breath of fresh air. A regal, somewhat sophisticated aura is complimented by character and rich personality that are ingrained in the walls, cluttered with framed copies of renaissance watercolour and oil paintings. Plush, royal purple velveteen sofas and dark leather ottomans frame round tables that seat groups of two to six. The entrance welcome you with a long bar, with a blackboard overhead scrawled with pizza and cocktail specials and it folds out into two further areas, one framing a shingled pool table and thereon extending to a private enclosure resembling a smoking room.

While the wine list is far from exhaustive it is extremely comprehensive, the mere single A4 page covering a stellar wine in each type and category. The choice for the evening was straight up and simple – a bottle of 2007, Deviation Road, Adelaide Hills – a local favourite that made for easy drinking while supplying full-bodied flavour and a tannic blackcurrant aroma. Unusual for Adelaide the beverage menu dedicates two whole pages to mixology – something I will definitely be returning to try in the near future.

As for the pizza menu it features about eight kinds of thin crust wood-fire pizzas including a Turkish Pizza with lamb, yoghurt and mint, Tandoori Pizza with chicken tikka, Four cheese pizza, Italian salami with basil, a Prawn with Pesto, sweet cherry tomatoes and olives (which I tried and was excellent) and one with Meredith’s goat cheese, thyme and brocollini (delicate flavours working together fantastically) and to finish a dessert pizza topped with poached apple slices, cinnamon and mascarpone that is absolutely sublime.

All in all the Botanic Bar is a true blue winner deserving faithful patronage. There is no doubt I will be back soon for more delicious pizza and to take in the charming atmosphere.

Botanic Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mustard & Thyme Crusted Rack of Lamb with Parmesan Crusted Brussel Sprouts

This rack of lamb recipe calls for searing the lamb before roasting it. Meats are seared for several reasons: to add flavour, texture and colour. Contrary to popular belief, searing does not seal in the juices - food science has disproved this myth several times.

Brussel Sprouts are in season now, and are best lightly pan-fried with Parmesan cheese so they develop a crunchy, crispy golden crust that is simply irresistible. Totally beats the stodgy version most of us grew up on – Brussel Sprouts that had the be-jesus boiled out of them!

Ingredients: 1 rack of lamb; 2 ½ tblsp of Dijon mustard; 5 minced cloves of garlic; 2 tsp salt; 1 tsp pepper; ½ cup of breadcrumbs; 1 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese; 2 tsp dried thyme; Vegetable oil for frying; 250 g Brussel Sprouts

Method: Preheat oven to 230 degrees F. Rub the racks of lamb on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over high heat with vegetable oil. When the oil is very hot, brown the lamb racks on all sides. Place the lamb aside on a plate to cool. Once the lamb is cool to the touch, spread a thin coating of mustard on all sides of the lamb. Then, spread the garlic onto the lamb. Mix the breadcrumbs, thyme, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and then coat the lamb with the breadcrumb mixture. Place in a roasting pan with a rack. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until 125 degrees for rare or 145 for medium.

In a frying pan, heat olive oil and quickly pan-fry brussel sprouts with Parmesan cheese for no more than 4-6 minutes until it becomes crusty and golden.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Date, Almond and Chocolate Cherry Ganache Tart

This adapted recipe by Alison Anton is from Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking requires absolutely no cooking and is full of natures goodness and full on fruity-cocoa flavour. Anton is a nutritional chef and food writer based in California, USA.


For Date-Almond Tart Base: 1 ¼ cup raw almonds; 1 cup plump mejdool dates; Pinch salt
Tsp vanilla extract; Handful of cocoa nibs

For Nut Ganache Mousse: ½ cup mix of Macadamia and Cashew nuts, soaked in water for half an hour; Handful of dates, soaked in water; Dash of vanilla; Salt; 3-4 tblsp raw cocoa powder

For Chocolate Sauce: 1 tblsp Raw Cocoa Powder; 2 – 3 tblsp Agave Nectar or Unfiltered Honey; tblsp water

Method: Put the tart base ingredients into food processor and pulse for about 20 seconds, until you achieve a rough crumble. When you press the mixture together with your fingers it should start to stick – you want that kind of texture so it comes together as a crust.

Use a tart pan with a removable bottom, so it is easy to remove later. Put the date mixture on the base of the pan and press it into the pan with your fingers. Keep a bowl of water handy to keep the mixture from sticking to your fingers and ensure you press and spread it evenly.

Add all the nut ganache mousse ingredients gradually, and a little soaking liquid so it all becomes a smooth texture, completely blended with an even consistency. Using a spatula spread the ganache mousse onto the tart crust evenly. Then place the cherries over the top of the ganache mousse. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the tart to harden.

Mix all the chocolate sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Drizzle on top of cherries once it has been refrigerated for two hours and just before you serve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pan-Fried Ling with Eggplant Caponata

Caponata is a Sicillian delight that has spread in popularity throughout the Italian Peninsula. This is an adapted recipe by my good friend and fellow gastronome Cari Sanchez that is guaranteed to blow your mind. Her recipe called for Swordfish, a firm white fish, and since I couldn't find any available over the weekend I opted for Ling. The name ling refers to its elongated body, since it is a slim, long-bodied fish with small scales. Although it belongs to the cod family it looks more like an eel. Ling is found in deep northern waters near Iceland, the British Isles and Scandinavia. Two types exist pink ling that swims in deeper waters and are pinkish-orangish colour with irregular markings weighing up to 20 kgs and 1.5 m in length, while the rock ling are found closer to the coast in underwater caves reaching 9 kgs and growing to about 1 meter long.

This caponata recipe is a winner - it will have you licking your fingers and wondering how it exudes such a powerfully rich, meaty flavour. I added a whole zucchini, diced for an added twist since it works wonderfully with eggplant breaking down into soft chunks giving a characteristic sweet flavour.

Ingredients: 1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil; 4 anchovies, bones removed and rinsed well; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 3 medium size eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes; 1 large onion, minced; 1 tsp red chilli flakes; 3 medium ripe whole tomatoes, peeled and seeded; ½ cup black olives, pitted and quartered; 3 tblsp capers, rinsed and drained; ½ cup raisins; ¼ cup pine nuts; 2 tblsp sugar; ¼ cup balsamic vinegar; 1 cup tomato sauce; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; 4 x 200 g fillets Ling fish, skin and bloodlines removed; 2 lemons, juiced; 1 handful fresh basil leaves

Method: In a large sauté pan, heat 3/4 cup of olive oil over a medium flame. Add the anchovies and garlic to the hot oil. Using a wooden spoon, press the anchovies to break them up. They will appear to dissolve in the oil. Toss in the eggplant and cook until golden on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the eggplant from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Pour the excess oil from the pan and discard. Add 1/2 cup of the remaining olive oil to the pan and heat over a medium flame. Toss in the onion and chilli flakes and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Hand-crush the tomatoes into the pan and stir well. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes and then return the eggplant to the pan.

Add the black olives, capers, raisins, and pine nuts to the pan, stir well, and sprinkle with the sugar and vinegar. Pour in the tomato sauce and stir; taste and then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and simmer until ready to serve (at least 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, coat the swordfish fillets in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, and basil. Marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Heat a pan over a medium flame, and brush with oil to prevent the fish from sticking. Season the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and then place in the pan. Sear on both sides for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until fully cooked through. Serve immediately on a bed of caponata.

Cha Chi's Mexican Cantina

Glen Osmond is home to an eclectic mix of eateries from fast food giants McDonalds, KFC, Wok in a Box and Subway, contrasted by a range of more gourmet options – a cosy, little bakery cum breakfast café whose name I can’t for the life of me recall, Kublai Khan - a Mongolian BBQ restaurant that has caught my eye several times, two Chinese restaurants - Rice and Pagoda, a fish and chippie called Fisherman's Basket, Akropolis - a Yiros chop shop, The Ark at the Arkaba - notorious for serving up pub meals with a contemporary Aussie “twist”, Sabatini – a Greek Café and of course Cha Chi’s Mexican Cantina. Cha Chi’s has never failed to pique me curiosity every single day on my way home from the city and finally after months of contemplation and wonder I made it over.

More often than not themed restaurants and clichéd stereotypes come across as over-kill elements that kill my dining experience, period. Be it Balinese maître’ds with the ten inch golden fingernails welcoming you to an Indonesian restaurant or an overweight belly dancing dodging tables set close together and cluttered precariously with mezze platters to create an Arabian Nights feel in the twenty first century it all seems a little corny – been there, done that, give me something new, or simply cut to the chase and surprise my palate with something divine, put the effort on the plate rather in the circus routine. Adelaide however is an exception to this personal grudge. Why, you may ask? I simply put it down to the fact that the city has so little diversity to offer by way of brazen colour, showmanship, vivacity and quirky eccentricities. Thus local architecture, music, drama and the food scene lacks a zesty, bing, bang, boom attitude – barren of global pizzazz missing the treacle effect of the silly and overdone that plagues cosmopolitan capital cities the world over.

Walking in to Cha Chi’s you are immediately enveloped by the loud, festive ambience – brightly hued woven ponchos spread over the walls and screens with more than a dozen mixed sombreros – embellished and otherwise thrown in for good measure with heavy handed gay abandon. Ironically, the aesthetically carefree and vivacious atmosphere is hard at work while the lack of music – vibrant Latina beats or otherwise is sorely missed – a dimension that would definitely enhance the décor and illuminate that sense of it being a ‘Cantina’.

All set for a red hot night, I was on the edge of my seat excitedly anticipating my Margarita. Turns out we were advised not to bother ordering by the pitcher and instead opt by the glass for more value for money (the glass sizes play a big part here I believe) – Oh Australia!

The strawberry Margarita is halfway decent as is the lime at $AU 7 each. Having arrived at 8.30 and with last orders for the night being processed (the place shuts hop by 9.30 which means a night with the amigos must commence early and wrap up soon, or be shifted elsewhere relatively pre-maturely) we opted for a four way platter (complete scam since this sufficed for two, or I just have an incredibly mean appetite –not a question, but perhaps it is a fact).

First things first I said hola to four slabs of baby back ribs each containing four 3 inch ribs of questionable prior cooking since they were slightly dried out. The loaded potato skins had been boiled and simply finished in the oven resulting in squeezy, mashed potato texture that is not customary after having bit into the golden-brown crunchy skin crust – not what I was expecting. The quesadillas were deep fried and stuffed with a thin layer of tasteless, incognito cheese that made guessing what and where it was from an unsolved mystery.

Mini chimichunga cigar rolls feigning deep-fried spring roll pastry filled with chicken were tasty but somewhat out of place in its role as a Mexican ‘food’ on the platter. Somehow with all the chaos and incoherencies of the platter, it came into its own context along with the other could-be, would-be should-be treats reminiscent of something a la Mexican. The platter came with a bowl of runny, sloppy over chopped watered-down salsa (I could make better with my eyes closed) and an Aussie mixed green garden salad with a dollop of sour cream and olives.

All in all, Cha Chi’s serves up food that is vaguely Mexican, yet lacks the tell-tale punchy, robust flavours that belong to the dusty arid, region south of the border.

Monday and Tuesday nights are all you can eat nachos, burritos, and enchiladas – although rumour has it the service can be torturous.

Cha-Chi's Mexican Cantina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Week Four: Methods of Cookery

Fish (Whitting) and Chips with Green Garden Salad and Tartar Sauce
Cooking is classified into two categories: wet and dry cooking methods that are used on a daily basis in our kitchens at homes without being given much thought.
Stir Fried Vegetables in Oyster Sauce

Frying (sautéing, pan frying, shallow frying + deep frying) are commonly used as well as boiling and simmering, while poaching (shallow + total immersion) and steaming (pressure + atmospheric) are healthier options that aren’t as common as the former options. All of these are wet methods of cooking that are used to turn out favourites like fish and chips, stir fry’s to steamed puddings.

Vanilla-Sultana Steamed Pudding

The oven is very much an invention of the west, and its usage as I have recently learned continues to be predominantly restricted to America, Europe and Australia. While the majority of Indian city homes are fitted out with ovens, they are usually only used to bake cakes and very rarely employed in the preparation of roasts or braises. In China, the oven is almost non-existent since their do not have much of a cake-eating culture to begin with and their cuisine calls for no requirement of an oven in any way, shape or form.

Above Chef Jimmys Beef with Turned Potatoes, Baby Carrots, Demi-Glace with Fried Shredded Leeks. Below, my version - a long way to go
Trussed and Roasted Chicken... Before and After Shot
Personally I love using the oven, particularly because everything that goes in either comes out tender, soft and scrumptious, or crispy, crunchy and caramelised – both flavour and texture combinations to-die-for. Baking and roasting are considered dry methods of cooking. Last week I did a beautiful slow braised leg of hogget – it was cooked for five hours at about 160 degrees C, and was infused with Moroccan flavours – black Genoa figs and homemade preserved lemons. This is my favourite way to spend my Sunday, getting laundry and household chores in the day while keeping a watchful eye on my oven. In the end – falling off the bone, tender meat as a reward for all the slow cooking and infinite patience. A handsome reward I reckon!
Pork Piccante with Pasta Milanese
Crumbed Chicken Breast on Rosti Potato, Corriander-Tomato Salsa & Lemon Vinegrette
In commercial kitchens, majority of dishes are prepared or rather “started” on the stove top and “finished” in the oven, to allow for multi-tasking, effective time-management and a quality finished product. Steaks, snitzels and crumbed fillets are more often than not prepared this way.
Poached Kingfish on Bok Choy with Hollandaise Sauce
This week I learned what will perhaps prove to be one of the most important lessons for life – how to truss meat – an entire chicken and beef sirloin of fillet mignon. And with my super sharp Victorinox knives and carving fork, slicing the meat away in beautiful slices is beyond easy!

Counter to all the Francophile kitchen creations, Chef Jimmy whipped up a batch of finger-licking sweet-sour Chinese style Pork that had our class buzzing, and before I could say “delicious” the week was over!

Enjoying Sweet-Sour Chinese Style Pork

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moroccan Braised Hogget Leg, Sundried Black Genoa Figs, Preserved Lemon served with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts, Flat Leaf Parsley & Mint Couscous

This Sunday I made my first-ever trip up to the Adelaidian suburb of Goodwood to experience the much talked about Waverly Market for myself. I simply hopped on a tram from the city (Corner of King William St and Currie) and within ten minutes I arrived at Goodwood, from which the show grounds are just a 5 minute walk from. The trip is well worth it whether you’re looking to stock your fridge with veggies and meat for the week, to score the perfect Sunday roast, simply enjoy a lazy brekkie – hot coffee and a pastry, catch a live cooking demo or merely while away some time perusing the various interesting gastro-stalls. Waverly truly offers an enjoyable atmosphere and a unique experience for one and all.

The market is a gastronomic delight with fresh local produce representing a fair share of Adelaide’s various bordering settlements with an impressive range of products from artisanal breads made in Willunga to game meats from Hahndorf. With a pitter-patter of rain, gusty gales billowing and nothing but my Moroccan inspired dinner on my mind, I was on a hunt specifically for a pair of beautiful lamb shanks. Although extremely disappointed to learn that my 11 0’clock arrival was in fact too late in comparison to Waverly’s regular market goers that flood the gates at 9 am (although the market only closes at 1 pm, the choicest cakes and cuts of meat sell out quickly), I was pleasantly surprised with an alternative option – a leg of Hogget from North Marola. Technically speaking, hogget is meat from an ovine that is one to two years old, characteristically therefore it has a more intense flavour than lamb with low to medium, internal and external fat. It requires longer cooking time than lamb and thus it makes for the ideal roasting, stewing and braising meat.

A Sweet Reward for making the Sunday Market: Carrot Cake Cupcakes, Cream Cheese Frosting and Walnuts
To compliment my Moroccan Hoggett dish, I was on the lookout for dried mature tasting fruit. Although I was keen on prunes or dates I couldn’t spot any, so instead I was tempted by apricots as well as raisins, but my love for all things figgy got the best of me and so the Black Sundried Genoa Figs won. In the last week of July I preserved a couple of lemons in anticipation and craving of a homemade Moroccan Feast. Almost a month later, the lemons were coated in thick syrupy lemon juice and the skins were soft and pickled – perfect for my braised dish.
Since the hogget has a characteristic mature, meaty flavour and paired with two unique flavour profiles – the figs and the preserved lemon I wanted to serve it with a simple staple that would complement the braise without stealing the show. With this in mind I settled on serving it with a fluffy, steamed couscous with toasted pine nuts, and almonds, chopped flat leaf parsley and mint, finished with a good squeeze of lemon and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and I must say the combination was sheer genius! A memorable meal to say the least…
Ingredients: 6 lamb shanks, trimmed; salt and pepper; ¼ cup olive oil

Whole spice mix: 1 tblsp whole cumin seed; 2 tsp whole fennel seed; 12 whole peppercorns; 6 whole green cardamom pods; 1 3-inch cinnamon stick; 6 whole allspice berries
Ground spices: 2 tsp paprika; 1 tsp cayenne; ¼ tsp mace; ½ tsp grated nutmeg
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves; 1 tsp lavender; 1 tsp ground ginger
Mirepoix: 1 large onion, chopped; 3 carrots, chopped; 3 ribs celery, chopped; large pinch salt; large pinch sugar
Miscellaneous: 2-3 tblsp tomato paste; 6 whole cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled; 150 g Sun Dried Black Genoa Figs; 2 preserved lemon rinds, cleaned, rinsed and chopped; ½ tsp saffron threads, dissolved in ½ cup warm water; 2 cups dry red wine; 1 cup dry white wine; 2 cups meat stock
For couscous: 250g instant couscous; 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped; 1 bunch fresh mint; 75 g toasted pine nuts; 50g toasted almonds flaked; 2-3 tblsp lemon juice; 4-5 Black Genoa Sundried Figs, finely sliced; salt and pepper to taste; extra virgin olive oil to finish
Method: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, set rack to lowest or second-lowest level. Generously season hogget with salt and ground pepper. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven medium heat. Add meat and brown well. Set aside. Spoon out all but 3 tblsp fat from the pot, return to heat. Add whole spices and fry for 2-4 minutes until lightly fragrant. Immediately add mirepoix, salt and sugar and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Sweat vegetables and spices until soft and well-caramelized. Add tomato paste, ground spices and aromatics, stir to combine and cook on medium until tomato paste and spices begin to fry in the oil. Pour in red wine, deglaze and simmer until it is reduced by half. Add white wine, saffron and stock. Return hogget to the pot, add figs, garlic and preserved lemon. Cover tightly, with a cartouche or aluminium foil under the lid, to keep the moisture inside and bake for 2 – 4 hours. Turn meat over to ensure it cooks evenly on all sides.

If cooking for 2 hours or less, for the last 30 minutes, increase the heat to 200 degrees C and bake uncovered so the top surface of the hogget is nicely browned. Meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender at this point. Remove from oven, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.In the meanwhile prepare the couscous. Bring a pot of water to the boil, line a colander with cheesecloth or a dampened light tea-towel filling it with the couscous and allowing it to cook by steaming it for about 10-15 minutes. Check to see the grains have absorbed steam and are plumping up and flick with a spoon to ensure it is fluffy. In a bowl drizzle the couscous with olive oil once cooked, adding the chopped herbs, toasted nuts, sliced figs, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, tossing lightly to maintain its light, fluffy texture.
To serve, spoon the couscous onto the serving plate, slice the hogget in 2 cm thick pieces and arrange on the bed of couscous, with figs, preserved lemon bits and gravy caressing the plate and couscous appropriately. Extra gravy can be served in a sauceboat.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Salads, Sandwiches and Hors d'oeuvres

Classic Caeser Salad with Croutons, Crispy Bacon and Anchovies topped with an easy-over Poached Egg

Third week into the course and I have already made major progress moving from stocks, soups and sauces, learning to put together classical salads, compound salads also known as mixed salads and composed salads - where the salad is deconstructed and elements plated seperately without being tossed or dressed together.

Nicoise Salad served up as a composed salad - Grilled Tuna Steak with Mayonnaise over rings of boiled egg and red onion, latice of split haricot verts, finished with Kalamata Olives, Yellow Grape Tomatoes and Red Wine Vinegrette Dressing
The week entailed making favourite sandwiches like the Club Sandwich and Pullman Sandwiches as well as an array of cocktail appetisers and canapes.

Tuna-Cream Cheese and Asparagus Pinwheel Sandwiches and Rye Open-Faced Sandwich with Chive Butter, Romaine Lettuce, Pastrami and Potato Salad

Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese topped with Caper Flowers

Ham and Olives with Cream Cheese

Roast Duck with Confit Orange Zest and Blackcurrant Jelly, garnished with Chevril

Cocktail Platter - Smoked Salmon Sushi, Spinach, Feta and Ham Filo Triangles, Scrambled Egg and Smoked Salmon Puffs, Curry Puffs, Spring Rolls, Grilled Meat Balls, Fried Pork and Prawn Wontons
I am lucky to have a Vietnamese Chef that teaches my class as this means that while we are learning classical French cuisine - the basics of culinary arts we are also previed to interesting South East Asian conconctions and delcacies. We tried Chef Jimmy's take on Chinese 100 year old eggs, Tom Yam Soup and most recently a refreshing tangy, sweet and sour seafood salad with chunks of grapefruit through it.
Chef Jimmy whips up a South East Asian Inspired Salad

Seafood Salad with Grapefruit and Mint

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beetroot and Black Russian Tomato Soup with Feta

Beetroot is not only a rich source of carbohydrates, but has no fat and is a great source of fibre, as well as said to have anti-carcinogenic properties in the red colouring matter. It is also one of the many vegetables with a range of antioxidants which help to fight various diseases as well as being a source of folic acid. Black Russians on the other hand are rich, dark mahogany-brown tomatoes a little bigger than cherry tomatoes, that have a delicious blend of sugar and acid with a distinctive, complex. It is raved as being one of the best-tasting tomatoes because of its luscious sweetness. The beetroot and black Russians meld together to form a uniquely robust soup that is given a salty tinge and creamy texture via the addition of crumbled feta garnished atop the soup. Best served with crusty white bread.

This is an adapted recipe by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall the 'talented British writer, broadcaster and campaigner widely known for his uncompromising commitment to seasonal, ethically produced food.'

Serves 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients: 3 to 4 medium, apple-sized beetroots, (500-600g), grated coarsely, or choped into small dice; 500 g ripe Black Russian tomatoes; 1 clove garlic, chopped roughly; 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped; 2 tbsp olive; 500ml good strong stock (beef is best, but chicken or vegetable will do); salt and freshly ground black pepper; 125 g Greek feta cheese
Method: Place the beetroot in an ovenproof dish, fairly hot oven (190 degrees C). Roast for about half an hour, then add the halved tomatoes, throw over the garlic and drizzle over half the olive oil. Roast for another 25-30 minutes, until soft and pulpy. Rub tomatoes through a sieve to remove the skin and pips.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan and sweat the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the stock, tomato puree, beetroot and simmer gently for 7-10 minutes until the beetroot is tender. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the soup to a blender and process until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
To serve cold, chill the soup in the fridge, then divide between six bowls. Using your fingers, crumble a little feta into each bowl. A sprinkling of grated raw beetroot makes a good garnish for the cold version.

To serve hot, reheat the soup until thoroughly hot but not boiling. Divide between warm bowls and crumble over a little feta into each bowl. Serve with crusty bread.