Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Root vegetable soup with barley

Ah December. What a busy, overindulgent month! This is a recipe to soothe troubled tummies, as it is pleasant, yet also bland and comforting, being filling without being rich. It does take quite some effort to prepare the veg though, as they are woody, hard things, so make sure you have a good knife. It actually has a texture more akin to stew, so feel free to add some dumplings if you wish.

Root vegetable Soup with Barley

Serves 4

Takes about an hour to actually cook, but preparing the veg can easily take an extra 15 minutes

2 medium carrots

1 medium parsnip

1 leek, trimmed to leave mostly the white

1 small onion

1 small swede

100g dried pearl barley or other grain mix if you choose

1.2L of good vegetable stock

2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced (or 2 decent tsps of minced)

2 tsp dried herbs of your choice of - savory, thyme or rosemary

A splash of seasoning sauce, such as mushroom ketchup (the bottle just seen on the left in the picture)

* Scrub or peel the carrots or parsnips, peel the swede, peel the onion. Chop all the vegeables into neat little chunks around 1.5cm-2cm, except for the leek and onion which need to be sliced thinly.

* Heat some oil in a large pan, then fry the leek, onion, garlic and herbs for 5 minutes or until softened, but not coloured.

* Chuck in the rest of the vegetables and cook until slightly softened, around 10 minutes.

* Add the stock and the barley, bring to the boil, then simmer for around 40 minutes.

* After the time has passed, check to see that everything is tender. Mash the soup roughly with a potato masher and serve. Add the seasoning sauce into the individual bowls to taste.

Serve with a good bit of white bread.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Feta, Walnut and fig salad

I fancied a salad, but something really tasty and filling, not light as a salad perhaps should be! This one has a tasty contrast of salty cheese, sweet figs, garlicky beans and tangy lemon dressing, with a bit of crunch from the walnuts. It's quite garlicky, so adjust the amounts of garlic used to fry the beans accordingly. The red sticks you see in the picture is beetroot, which came in the bagged salad I chose.

Feta, Walnut and Fig salad

Serves 4

Takes.. I can't remember :( but really not long. Half an hour should be perfectly fine.

300g of ready-packed salad, to ensure a nice variety of leaves.

4 figs

300g feta cheese

100g walnuts, crushed

200g green (french) beans

3 tsp minced garlic

Handful of chives, chopped

3 tbsp good quality olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Optional splash of balsamic vinegar to add a bit more sweetness

* Boil some water for the beans. While this is heating, prepare the other ingredients - cut the green beans in half, the figs into slices, the feta into bitesized cubes, the chives into small pieces and crush the walnuts in a plastic bag if they are not already in pieces.

* Once the water is boiling, cook the beans for about 4 minutes. While the beans are cooking, empty the salad into a large mixing bowl and add the feta, figs, chives and walnuts. You can also add the olive oil and lemon juice now, as it will all get mixed together shortly.

* Once the beans are cooked, drain them then add oil to the pan (make sure there's no water left!) and fry the beans with the minced garlic. Fry these for a good few minutes, until they look a bit wrinkly and nicely browned.

* Add the beans to the rest of the salad and toss vigourously to ensure thorough mixing. Whether you serve it right away with hot beans or cool it down for later is entirely up to you.

Serve with a slice of good bread, or just on it's own.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Roasted vegetable pasta with ricotta

Since the 11th I seem to have disappeared into a Skyrim-sized hole, and my allotted computer time has been eaten up by playing, rather than writing. But here's an easy, rustic and nutritious pasta dish to fll yourselves with in the long winter nights. Your choices of vegetables goes here, I used the classic mediterannean style.

Roasted vegetable pasta with ricotta

Serves 4

Takes about 40 minutes

2 small aubergines

2 courgettes

250g button mushrooms

2 orange peppers

330g dried pasta (I used shells)

A 250g bag of baby spinach leaves

A ready mix of spices to sprinkle onto roasted vegetables (I used Schwartz mediterannean chicken spices. If you can't get anything like it, use some herbs de provence with some paprika and dried garlic)

250g rictotta cheese

Extra virgin olive oil for roasting and dripping on the pasta to stop it from sticking

A dash of balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200C if fan, 220C conventional

* Chop up the veggies into inch-sized chunks while the oven is preheating.

* Put some olive oil into a roasting tin and chuck the veggies in, stirring to ensure they are well coated.

* Sprinkle herbs/spices on top, toss for an even coating, then pop in the oven for around 30 minutes.

* In the meantime boil the pasta according to package instructions. Set aside when done and toss with a bit of oil to stop it sticking.

* When the veggies are done, take them out and first stir the spinach into the pasta. Then stir in the vegetables evenly, then dollop the rictotta on top and mix well.

* Drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar and season if you only used herbs on your veggies.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sausage and vegetable hash

To be honest I don't quite remember the exact amounts in this recipe as it was very much a case of "chuck this in there" and pretty much anything goes. I based it on a bubble and squeak type thing, but actually turned out a lot like a Dutch "stamppot". I'm sure pretty much any vegetable can be used, and it makes a great easy, nutritious and filling meal for the closing Autumn nights.

Sausage and vegetable hash

Serves 2

Takes around 40 minutes including chopping time

A pack of 5 or 6 vegetarian sausages

1 leek

150g spinach (I really don't know exactly how much I used here, as I use pellets of frozen spinach up to a certain level in a jug, then defrost)

2 medium-sized potatoes, preferably waxy

A handful of cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp of some kind of seasoning sauce, such as soya sauce or a vegetarain worcester sauce. I used something called "mushroom ketchup", which really doesn't look or taste how it sounds

1 tbsp fresh thyme

1 tsp marmite/yeast extract (optional)

1 clove of garlic, chopped (optional)

* Cut the potatoes into small cubes, the leek into small pieces, the sausages into inch-thick pieces and the tomatoes in half.

* Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes, then drain and set aside. While they are boiling, heat some oil in a large pan and fry the leeks and garlic for 5 minutes until soft.

* Fry the sausages for around 10 minutes, adding the potatoes and thyme in halfway through.

* Stir in the seasoning sauce and marmite if using, so it sticks to the potato-y bits

* Depending on the nature of your spinach, stir it through with the tomatoes and either leave to wilt or leave to heat through (fresh vs frozen).

* By the end the potato should have broken down a bit, leaving a lovely, mushy mash that sticks everything together. Serve with ketchup!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Beetroot, tomato and goat's cheese soup

Almost a month has gone, wow. Lost the cooking flare a bit, but am getting more into now the weather has well and truly changed.
Beetroot soup! There are lots of things you can change in this recipe to suit your tastes, including swapping out the goat's cheese for something like feta or cream cheese and changing the herbs around. But here are the basics, and flavours which I believe work well together. It makes a thick, earthy soup that's tasty but not too rich. It's so easy to make, yet looks so sophisticated. You just can't beat (har har) that colour.

NOTE: Be very careful as beetroot is a potent dye. Clean up any spills immediately.

Beetroot, tomato and goat's cheese soup

Serves 4

Takes about 40 minutes

A ~550g bunch of beetroot

1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 medium red onion

150g goat's cheese

600ml good stock

2 cloves of garlic (chopped) or 2 tsp of minced garlic

2 tsp dried savory

* Peel, trim and chop the beets into small chunks. Chop the onion into small pieces

* In a big saucepan fry the onions and garlic for 5 mintues or until soft

* Add the beets, savory and stock and bring to the boil then simmer fr about 20 minutes or until your beets are soft. Season.

* Stir in your cheese (if it's creamy, stir until it's melted) then add the tomatoes and heat through.

* Use a hand blender or a food processor and blend, then serve. I usually don't blend my soups, but this really needed it.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Banana Curry

Despite the ingredients, this curry isn't especially sweet. It's mild, creamy and the bananas take on a texture akin to sweet potatoes. Using curry paste is a bit of a cheat method, but I'm still not confident enough with spices to attempt something that requires such delicate flavours. I used korma curry paste, for the mild, sweetness but you can use whatever you want. The best bananas are still half green; anything riper than that will fall apart. I used tinned pineapple because I'm not chopping up a pineapple, but fresh would be great if you have it.

I also used tofu to add some protein, but that is optional. Whenever I fry tofu I fry it in a little dark soy sauce and mirin, no matter what the type of dish is I'm serving. I find it adds just that little bit of extra flavour.

Banana curry

Serves 4

Takes 35 minutes

4 semi-ripe bananas

1 large onion (or 2 escallion shallots)

1 400g tin of pineapple pieces in juice

1 400ml tin of coconut milk

At least 4 tbsp korma curry paste, add more for a stronger taste

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

400g block of firm tofu, chopped into small pieces (optional)

A splash of dark soy sauce and mirin to fry the tofu in (optional)

Rice to serve

* Fry the tofu over a medium heat for 5 minutes with the soy sauce and mirin, if using. Chop the onions and banana while doing this.

* Add the onions and garlic and fry with the tofu for a few minutes until the onion is translucent

* Add the bananas and stir around for a minute or so, then stir in the curry paste.

* Make sure the curry paste has coated everything and had a chance to infuse, then add the coconut milk.

* Stir the coconut milk through well and add the pineapple including some of the juice. The more you put, the sweeter and runnier the curry will ultimately be.

* Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or longer if you prefer a thicker sauce.

Goes well with brown rice.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Spiced Vegetable Biryani

Note: pic is taken with my phone, so not the usual quality. It looked more yellow than this.

BBC Good Food strikes again, and this time I was specifically looking for a curry of some sort. I saw this and it looked delicious. I'm so glad I don't have to type the recipe out, haha.

I bought all the ingredients (quite expensive if you include some yoghurt, poppadoms and mango chutney) even though the recipe says it's for 6 people. I was curious to see how much it would make. Well believe it, it really is for 6. I had to leave out a good portion of veggies so it'd fit into my largest oven dish, and even then it went for 5 servings.

Making sure the rice is cooked is key here, so it's best to use a dish with a lid in addition to the foil trick. I cooked mine for 15 minutes to roast the veg, then another 35 minutes for the rice part. This cooked it beautifully, but I think it's definitely a trial and error thing.

Taste-wise it was lovely, a bit weak in the spices because my spoon didn't fit in the curry paste jar and I ended up estimating the size of a tablespoon. But looking beyond that and it would certainly make a fine dish. The veg takes quite some preparing, but it can be done whilst waiting for the oven to hear. Or, at least, the veg that goes in first.

I did find that the mustard seeds and thick spices collected in one place, but I'm not sure how to stop that. I did stir it a bit, but didn't have much room to give it a good mix, and by the time it was cooked they had all settled again anyway.

It's a good dish to make on the weekend; reheated it's just as good and you don't have to cook for a couple of nights if there are just 2 of you. It does need the condiments I added to give interest (i.e. the yoghurt etc) and some protein, Alternatively you could use some ready-done fake meat pieces added when serving.Link

Friday, 2 September 2011

Healthy veggie ramen

I have recently found out that American ramen is different to English ramen. We here in Britland call American ramen "supernoodles". For us ramen is just standard noodles in soup (although ramen noodles are best). I used Blue Dragon ramen noodles, and they were perfect. This soup is very dependent on the soya sauce and other condiments for flavour, as well as using the right kind of noodle. First attempt I tried with rice noodles, and it wasn't that good. Oh, and big pan alert!

Veggie Ramen

Serves 4

Takes 30-40 minutes

Ramen noodles in amounts as recommended on the packet (if using standard noodles, take about half the amount you would for a normal stir fry)

A crown of broccoli, chopped into florets

500g bag of fresh baby spinach

250g Shiitake mushrooms, chopped

300g silken tofu (the ready cooked kind) sliced into small pieces

8 Spring onions, sliced thinly

2.5 pints of good vegetable stock

8 tbsp soy sauce

2 tablespoons of other condiment, such as mushroom sauce, vegetarian worcestershire sauce, fish sauce if you eat fish. If you can't fnd any of these, then more soy sauce will do fine

4 tbsp Mirin

I didn't feel this recipe needed garlic or chilli, but add to taste if you like things spicy.

* Cook the noodles according to instructions, drain and refresh with cold water and set aside

* Bring the stock, soy sauce, condiment and mirin to the boil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes

* Add the broccoli to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes

* Add the mushrooms and simmer for another 5 minutes

* Stir in the spinach until wilted, then stir in the tofu and spring onions. Leave for another couple of minutes so it's all warmed through.

* Divide the noodles into serving bowls and ladle the soup on top.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

"Green" Pasta

So named because it uses green pesto and green vegetables! Ever since I tried pesto pasta in a Bella Pasta restaurant I've been hooked on pesto stirred through pasta. In my opinion the best pasta for this is spaghetti, but any can be used. For a healthy kick use wholewheat pasta. I'm afraid I've drawn a blank when it comes to remembering the exact amount of ingredients that I used, but in this sort of thing it's easy enough to wing it!

When I was shopping for this the vegetables in my local supermarket were buy one get one free, and had the last broccoli grabbed from right under my nose, so had to make do with what else they had, which were packs of tenderstem broccoli and baby courgettes together. It worked just fine. I also made the addition of low-fat cream cheese mainly to add some protein. It doesn't alter the taste, only makes the texture less 'slippery'.

Green Pasta

Serves 2

30 minutes cooking time if you're organised!

150g of dried spaghetti (75g per person is usually a good guide)

A jar of green pesto with enough for 2 generous tablespoons

Around 6 baby courgettes (I'm sure one large one will do fine)

A handful of tenderstem broccoli or half a crown of standard broccoli

100g of baby spinach

A clove of garlic, finely chopped or a teaspoon of minced garlic

150g low-fat cream cheese (optional)

A jar of sweet, pickled hot peppers for garnish (optional. Can also use pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes...)

Cheese for sprinkling on top (optional)

* Chop the broccoli into florets and courgettes into 1cm slices. Cook according to preference (I used a steamer)

* Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the spaghetti, cooking as per packet instructions (usually 8-10 minutes)

* When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and refresh under cold water. Set aside while heating some oil in a pan (if you haven't frid the veg previously). You can use the same pan that the pasta boiled in

* Lightly fry the broccoli, courgettes, spinach and garlic for a few minutes. Whilst frying, if you're using any garnish such as the peppers these can be chopped to the desired size

* Stir in the pasta and 2 tablespoons of pesto, ensuring the pasta is heated through. Then, if using, stir in the cream cheese and garnish

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Crunchy Cherry Cake

I'm afraid this was snaffled before any pictures could be taken as I made it for an afternoon tea party. However, you can rest assured that it was delicious and looked wonderful! It's a basic cake recipes with added cherries and ground rice for the crunch. I find it best if you have an electric beater to beat the sugar and butter in the first instance and beat for about 5 minutes. It sounds like a lot, but it's an easier way of knowing you've done it long enough than just looking out for it being "light and fluffy".

Crunchy Cherry Cake

Serves 10-12

Time taken around an hour

175g butter, softened

175g caster sugar

175g self-raising flour, sieved (or you can seive it directly into the cake bowl later)

3 medium eggs

25g ground rice

Juice of small lemon (or use just over half of a bigger one)

125g glace cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 180C

* First thing to do is wash and dry your cherries. This is supposed to help against them sinking. Mine invariably still do, but your mileage may vary!

* Beat the butter and caster sugar for 5 minutes

* Add the eggs one at a time and beat a little in between each one

* Fold in the flour and ground rice with a spoon, a third of the ingredients at a time

* Add the lemon juice and cherries and mix them all together with the spoon

* Put into a tin (I used a loaf tin) and level the surface with the spoon

* Bake in the oven. Time varies hugely depending on the type of tin you use; mine took 45 minutes, which I think is a good standard time. That said, I did put some of the mixture into extra muffin tins because I had too much. Start with 45 minutes and go from there.

* Leave to cool for a few mintes before turning out onto a wire rack for it to cool completely.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Fake Coronation Chicken

Looks exactly like real coronation chicken, but with no chicken! Magic! For those who don't know, coronation chicken is a dish invented to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in the 50's. It's uses mild curry spices mixed with mayonnaise, dried fruit (usually sultanas and apricots) and something to give it a little sweetness. We eat it cold, on sandwiches or jacket potatoes. It can also be served with toasted flaked almonds sprinkled on top.

Coronation 'chicken' jackets

Serves 2

Potatoes take 1hr 25 minutes to bake, the rest takes around 20 minutes to prepare.

200g fake chicken/tofu pieces/whatever

1.5 tbsp low fat mayo

2 tbsp low fat greek yoghurt

1 tbsp mild curry powder

1 tbsp apricot jam

Handful of dried fruits e.g. sultanas

2 baking (big!) potatoes

Preheat the oven to 180C

* Put the potatoes on a backing tray, prick the skins, rub them with a bit of oil if desired then stick them in the oven for roughly 1 hour and 25 minutes. Enormous potatoes will obviously take a little longer. The ones we get at our supermarket are quite modest.

* Put some oil on to heat for cooking the ficken (infused oil works nice; I used lime oil).

* While that's heating, put the coronation sauce ingredients into a bowl and mix together. That's everything that's not a potato or ficken!

* Fry the ficken until it's cooked (quorn pieces take about 10 minutes) then leave to cool a little while before stirring in with the sauce.

* Refrigerate the filling until the potatoes are done, then spoon it on top of a hot, buttery potato.

As a bonus recipe, I served this with a side salad that consisted of:
1 Romano pepper
Half a pack of ready cut mango pieces
Sprinkling of pine nuts
A dressing made from yoghurt, water, sugar, garlic and herbs.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Warm potato, green bean and broccoli salad with feta

This based on another BBC Good Food recipes from the salad section, but I seem to be having trouble accessing their site lately. I can't remember the ingredient amounts exactly, but I'll outline it as best I can here.

Serves 4

Takes around 30 minutes too cook in all

400g new potaoes or baby news

200g green (runner/french) beans

A mid-sized crown of broccoli

Juice of half a lemon

A decent handful each of dill and chives

At least 2 -3 tbsp good quality olive oil

A 200g block of feta or goat's cheese

A handful of pine nuts

A bag of baby spinach leaves to serve

I also served the meal with half an avocado each. Because I love avocadoes!

* Chop the beans in half and separate the broccoli into florets

* Bring some water to the boil and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes

* While the potatoes are cooking, mix together the oil, lemon juice and herbs and pine nuts in a large bowl

* When the potatoes are done, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl with the dressing. Mix well.

* Using the water from the potatoes, boil the broccoli and green beans for about 4 minutes. When done add them to the potatoes and dressing and toss together well.

* Cut the feta into small rectangular pieces. Arrange the spinach leaves on plates and spoon the dressed salad mixture on top. Top the salad with the feta cheese. Now is the time to slice your avocado. If you have lemon juice left, squeeze onto the avocado to prevent it browning.

I loved this meal. So healthy, filling and tasty, all in one dish! I did adapt the recipe somewhat, as I served it warm, used feta instead of goat's cheese and added chives and the baby spinach, And the avocado. I didn't feel the recipes would have been interesting or tasty enough without the additions. It's a good time of year to make the most of fresh, in-season produce, so make it now!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Build your own bruschettas

This was something I could get along with!

Simple and easy enough to make, although I always dislike washing up blenders. The toppings were delicious, although I think I used a little too much lemon. The amounts were fairly decent, but I could have used a bit more of the ricotta and walnut.

I also used a jar of roasted pepper meze instead of the tomatoes, and this helped extend the meal a bit. I found it just enough to fill, with room for ice cream afterwards.

This recipe makes a colourful, light, and visually impressive meal which I will defnitely make again. It is, however, heavy on the purse and the arms when you carry it from the shops. Oh well, can't have everything.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Fennel and lemon risotto & easy pasta bake

First up is the fennel and lemon risotto.

Now, I'm not a big risotto fan (overexposure as the veggie option in restaurants), but I have to admit this was delicious. The wine gave it a very strong tang; if you omit it you will have to really make the effort to add more flavour elsewhere. The fennel was lovely and buttery and imparted a flavour that synergised well with the lemon; that scented, fresh flavour that makes this a very summery dish.

I served it as recommended with shaves of parmesan, which I think is a must. My gripe is that without any sides, this wasn't a very big dish. I compensated a bit the second time by adding more rice and stock, and luckily my second fennel bulb was a bit bigger. Oh and I can't stand zesting lemons, but there's really no way around it; it's the zest that adds the real lemony hit.

Overall a very good recipe, one that I would make again if I can be bothered to zest!

Secondly, the cheesy broccoli pasta bake.

I messed around quite a bit with the recipe, making it with the white sauce I usually make and adding some sweetcorn because I didn't think just the broccoli was enough veg. There's nothing much else to say about it really, it's a standard pasta bake. It can be rather bland if the sauce isn't tasty enough, so really make sure there's plenty of garlic, mustard and herbs in there. I even chucked in some old parmesan I had.

I put in the broccoli raw and it cooked just about enough but still a bit crunchy. I like it like that, but if you don't then boil it first. I also added herby breadcrumbs under the cheese topping.

It was ok, but I prefer making my pasta bakes with tomato based sauces.Link

Monday, 4 July 2011

Roasted chestnut and herb pesto pasta with mushrooms

Recipe found here

I used linguine as the pasta for this, which is one of my favourites.

Usually I dislike getting out the food processor, as it means a lot of fiddling and washing up to do, and usually a lot of mess, but making my own pesto was oddly satisfying. And having it taste like pesto in the end was a real boon! Having said that, it lacked the tang and punch of shop-bought pesto, which is probably to do with A) my parmesan being rather weak and B) the presence of the chestnuts.

Chestnuts are sweet, and the pesto very smooth tasting with a nutty sweetness not usually present. Also I didn't have quite enough olive oil, so the texture overall with the chestnuts was rather firm. It tasted good though, and I think benefitted from the addition of extra herbs. It was just different to what you would be used to.

I love mushrooms in any form, so not much to say there. I don't think I made any changes to this recipe, except being more generous with the basil than the other herbs. All in all it was enjoyed and I would make it again.

BBC Good Food challenge

I'm rather busy at the moment, and in the summer I feel like spending less time planning meals and more time doing, well, anything else. It's nice to know that your meals for the next few weeks are planned ahead to give the old noggin a bit of a rest (and to channel creativity elsewhere) so I decided to give the recipes on the BBC Good Food website. I've often used their recipes for desserts and I noticed they have a fair amount of vegetarian options, including salads, mains, BBQ stuff and dinner party bits.

I'm doing these more-or-less in order, although I'll shift it around a bit if needed and leave out the rare few I really wouldn't get along with (the Japanese pancakes come to mind). I won't type out the recipes again, but I'll link to the recipe and use my own pictures where possible when I haven't scoffed the lot before I remember. I'll also do more of a review for the recipe and how it turned out.

I also hope to gain some more inspiration doing this, and try things I wouldn't usually include on the menu, such as risotto (not a favourite) or bean enchiladas (ewww, beans).

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Plain Mushroom Soup

A basic mushroom soup. I made it chunky simply because I could not fit the blender into the pan, and clumsy as I am (and lazy), am averse to pouring it to blend in a food processor. This probably affected the flavour, making the broth blander with intense mushroomy hits when you chomp a piece of mushroom; it's up to you how you do it. It's big pan time!

Mushroom soup

Serves 4-5

Total time taken around 40 minutes

500g strong, tasty mushrooms, such as chestnut or portobello, wiped clean

1 pint milk (full fat is best)

1.5 pints of stock

1 onion or 2 large escallion shallots

A couple of teaspoons of thyme (optional)

4 generous tbsp plain flour

Oil or butter for frying

Salt for seasoning

* Chop the onion and put aside, because you'll need room for all the shrooms

* Chop the mushrooms as small as possible

* Heat some oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When heated, add the onions and fry for a few minutes

* Add the mushrooms (probably in batches) and cook until the final lot is reduced, about 5 minutes after the last fresh pieces are added.

* Add the flour, stirring in so any lumps dissolve, until the mushrooms are well coated. Add the thyme, if using.

* Pour about half the stock in and stir until thickened. Add salt.

* Follow this with half the milk, stirring as you go, followed by the rest of the stock and milk.

* Simmer for about 20 minutes.

* At the end blend if desired.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

On Thai curry

I don't make Thai curry very often, for the simple reason that it's so hard to find a vegetarian Thai curry paste in my local shops! But finally I have found a brand that does do it - Thai Taste.
They do pastes and ready-made sauces as well as other Thai miscellany (not all vegetarian) so finally I can start making Thai curries. For now I thought I'd try the ready done sauce above, so I don't waste a tub of paste if I don't like it.

Another thing - Thai curries seem awfully heavy to me. Even using a 1:1 ratio of stock and coconut milk, it's still pretty creamy so I think these will be occasional treats. I do love Thai curries though, so I hope that this solitary vegetarian brand is a good one.

Thai Taste:

Note: Waitrose also do a frozen Thai herb selection. It doesn't have the full range of paste ingredients and I have no idea whether it's in paste form or rough leaves, but it might be something to look into.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Gobi Aloo Saag

Cauliflower with potato and spinach. There are many options here – you could use sliced large tomatoes instead of cherry toms (or none at all), frozen spinach instead of fresh, different types of potato… it’s a pretty forgiving dish. A note on the spinach – if you use fresh as I did, you will need to wilt it in a separate pan in a couple of batches most likely. I cook for 2 people (on 2 separate days) and I could barely stuff the fresh leaves into the pan. Also I didn’t fancy putting onion in it, which I don’t think detracted from the dish, but just about any Indian dish has onions so I’ll add it here.

Oh, and as usual I don’t put chillies in my curry. Feel free to add where you need.

Note: the idea for roasting the cauliflower first came from a Hairy Bikers’ recipe.

Gobi Aloo Saag

Serves 4

Time taken around 45 minutes.

1 head of cauliflower

500g potatoes

500g baby spinach leaves

1 onion

A punnet (around 20) of cherry tomatoes

Oil for frying and roasting

A few tablespoons of water

2 tsp curry powder

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp kalonji (onion seeds) or poppy seeds

2 tsp each of fresh ginger and garlic

5 curry leaves


* Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and while it’s heating chop the cauliflower into florets. You will probably have time to chop the potatoes into 2cm pieces and chop the onion. Put the cauliflower into a roasting dish, sprinkle with oil and roast for 20 minutes.

* After the cauliflower is in the oven, heat some oil in a large pan or wok over a medium heat. When ready, add the onion and fry until the onion is translucent, then add the spices.

* When the spices are well mixed in, add the potatoes and mix so everything is coated with spices.

* Add the spinach, tomatoes, salt to taste and a few tablespoons of water sprinkled over to make it steam. Simmer for 25 minutes.

* Somewhere in that time the cauliflower will be ready. Tip it into the mix in the pan and stir well. Make sure everything is heated and spiced well. Your curry will be done when the potatoes are done (which should be after the 25 minutes stated in the previous step).

* Serve with rice or Indian breads. The curry itself is quite dry, so I’d recommend putting a dollop of yoghurt and mango chutney on top.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Bread machine Pizza

The dough for my pizza, as the title suggests, was made in a bread machine. I can't possibly do all that kneading myself and there aren't enough warm spots in the flat to really make it rise. I suppose the amounts would be the same if you weren't using one, but then increase the rising time according to the heat of your warm spots! I used strong bread flour although the bread machine book suggested plain - also personal preference on how thick you want your crust.

Bread machine Pizza

Serves 2 if eaten on it's own, 4 if eaten with chips and salad (for example)

Using the bread machine with extra rising time it took about 2 hours in all

For the dough:

150ml tepid water

1 tbsp olive oil

1.5 tsp salt

280g strong bread (or plain) flour

1 tsp sugar

1tsp easy yeast (the stuff you don't have to activate first)

For the topping:

Half a jar of pizza sauce (yeah, yeah, lazy option!)

2 big handfuls of grated mozzarella

The rest is up to you, I used sliced mushrooms, orange pepper/ricotta and green olives.

* If using a bread machine, add the dough ingredients in the order I gave and fllow the instructions to make pizza dough. On mine this kneads for a few mintues then rises, taking a total of 30mins. If you aren't using a machine, then.. uhm. I guess you combine the dry and wet ingredients like you would a cake and knead it lots! Best look for another recipe online for that.

* I didn't find my bread risen enough in the machine alone, so I left it to rise for an additional hour. Your times will vary.

* When you are satisfied with your dough, first preheat your oven to 200C (fan oven, 220C conventional). Then take your dough, punch it back to remove excess air and using a combination of rolling pin and stretching with your hands, flatten it onto a 12" pizza tray according to your desired thickness.

* Spread the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle over the cheese.

* Chop/dice any additional toppings and sprinkle them over the rest. By now your oven is probably ready, so you can pop it right in.

* Cook for around 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Pizzas can go from perfect to hopelessly dry and burnt in only a couple of minutes!

* Enjoy your yummy (mostly) homemade pizza!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Stuffed peppers with rice, ricotta and dill

This is a quick and easy thing. I used ready-cooked packet rice, the ones you're supposed to heat in the microwave, but I am of the opinion that this dries out more in the oven than freshly boiled rice, so use whichever you prefer (or is easier). I used sweet pointed red peppers, which contrast nicely with the flavours and textures of the rice mix.

Stuffed peppers with rice, ricotta and dill

Serves 2

Takes around 30 mins in all

2 peppers, deseeded and sliced in half lengthways if using long ones

200g ricotta cheese

A good handful of fresh, chopped dill

1 packet of ready cooked rice, or 250g of freshly boiled rice

2 medium-sized escallion shallotts, or the equivalent size in plain onions

Preheat the oven to 180C

* Fry the onions for 5 minutes over a medium heat or until softened

* Add the rice and fry for a further 5 minutes, making sure the grains are evenly
oiled and cooked

* Add the dill and stir through

* Stir in the ricotta and spend some time really mixing it in so it sticks in the rice and leave until the mixture is warmed through

* Line your peppers on a baking tray, stuff them with the mixture and place in the oven for 10-15mins

I served these with a hunk of rustic bread and butter.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Mozzarella, tomato and olive puff pastry tarts

I'm back from holiday now and can cook what I want! These tarts are so simple, tasty and look amazing. A good piece for if you're cooking for others. I've listed the ingredients on a per tart basis, to make it easier to scale up. These are quite large and I can only fit 2 comfortably on a baking tray.

Mozzarella, tomato and olive puff pastry tarts

For 1 tart

All in all time taken was around half an hour

1 medium tomato

Half a ball of mozzarella

125g puff pastry (I used 1/4 of a block of Jus roll all-butter puff)

Olive tapenade or sliced olives (Your choice of type, I used kalamata tapenade)

A few basil leaves to sprinkle on top

Optional - egg or milk to brush the edges

Preheat oven to 220C (200C fan ovens)

* Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until nice and thin and vaguely a squat rectangle shape

* Score a rectangle inside the edges; this is where your crust will puff up at the edge of the filling

* Spread/lay the tapenade/olives inside the scored area

* Slice the tomato and mozzarella and lay these down in an alternating pattern on top of the olives

* Sprinkle some basil leaves on top. If you want, brush the edges with egg or milk

* Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden

I served this with minted new potatoes and a salad. Yummy!

More April cooking

Throughout most of April I had tummy issues, and as I was going away at the end, I wanted to sort them as much as possible by eating low-fat food in small amounts. It was a bit boring really as most of what I did didn't involve a lot of cooking, and I was restricted in what I could make. Examples are:

Omelttes with new potato and radish salad (I beat my eggs with mustard, salt and pepper and add chopped spring onions)

Veggie fajitas made with sliced veggie burgers and peppers served with lettuce, guacamole, half-fat cheese and white wraps. I cooked the innards in Discovery fajita spices.

A variation of the spring soup using a tin of tomatoes and sweetcorn and tortelloni

Lots of pastas, sausage with veg, frozen yorkshire puds (Aunt Bessies are good) and stir fries.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Egg Curry

A simple, tasty and nutritious curry which is a bit different to the standard curries you get from the shops or restaurants. When was the last time you saw an egg curry on the menu? The spices can be varied according to taste; I make it very mild and don't use any chillis at all.

Egg curry

Serves 2

I can't remember how long this takes, but not very long once you've boiled the eggs. About 20 minutes.

3 hardboiled eggs, peeled

1 400g tin of tomatoes (try and get pre-flavoured ones, such as garlic)

3 tbsp yoghurt

1/2 a small tin of sweetcorn (vary according to taste)

1 small onion or escallion shallot

2 cloves of garlic

1 generous tsp of minced ginger

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 1/2 tsp tumeric

1 tsp mild curry powder

* Gently fry the onion, garlic, ginger and spices together until the onion begin to soften.

* Add the eggs cut face down and fry for a further 5 minutes until they brown a bit.

* Add the tomatoes and sweetcorn and bring to the boil, then set to a simmering heat. You can also add a bit of spinach here, if more veg is wanted!

* Lastly stir in the yoghurt and cook until heated through.

* Best served with basmati rice.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

April Cooking

So far I haven't done anything that requires reams of recipes in April. Have been and will still be keeping it healthy for a while due to health issues and simple due to time issues (and also, in some respect, health issues again). Some things I have done:

* A variation on macaroni cheese using a tin of olive oil and garlic flavoured tomatoes instead of the white sauce and a herby bread crumb instead of plain on top.

* Mushroom and halloumi burgers (with a quorn burger too) with salad and salsa in white baps

* Roasted chinese vegetables with coconut rice. The veggies were aubergine and pepper roasted with a sauce I got form the supermarket especially for roasting. I think it was Blue Dragon brand, but I could be wrong. This was perhaps less healthy because of the coconut rice, but I didn't fancy it plain!

* Egg, tomato and yoghurt curry. I might type this one out actually, because although it was simple, the proportions of spices would be useful put down.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Spring soup

This is a big, chunky broth that I put together to celebrate the fact that spring was coming! I overestimated the size of my pan though and ended up leaving out some of the ingredients, including some extra stock which would have been useful as I kept it overnight. Make sure you use good quality stock, as the vegetables by themselves aren’t especially tasty. I used Knorr’s premade vegetable stock.

Spring Soup

Serves a generous 4

Time to make close to an hour with inefficient time keeping and inexperienced chopping!

1.5 litres of good vegetable stock

1 crown of broccoli

4 plum tomatoes

100g green beans (French beans)

1 large courgette

Bunch of spring onions

3 measures of garlic (cloves, sliced, or tsps. of Bart’s)

1 bulb of fennel

Few springs of thyme

75g pasta for soup or broken spaghetti


Optional: a dollop of pesto or cream cheese or parmesan (or all 3?) for on top.

Optional: bread to serve with

* Prepare the veg – separate the broccoli into small florets. Slice the courgette thin, long slices. Chop the green beans in half and deseed the tomatoes and slice thinly. Finely slice the fennel and the onions. Heat some oil in a large saucepan.

* Fry the fennel, garlic and spring onions on a medium heat for around 15 minutes, making sure they don’t brown too much.

* Add the rest of the veg, the herbs, the pasta and the stock and seasoning then bring to the boil. Cover, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with dollops of pesto (or whatever your prefer) and some good bread.