Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

When day and night are of equal length and druids encircle Stonehenge; the moon grows fat and glows blood-red.  Summer turns to autumn.  Farmers and their families work hard to ensure their crop comes in before the first frost.  It’s harvest time.

The more delicate crops, beans and leafy greens, get picked first.

The pumpkin, large, round and orange, peaking out from under its deep green leaves, soaking up every last ounce of summer sunshine until eventually it too must be picked.  But whilst the rest of the crops are ready to be consumed, the pumpkin has another month to develop.  As it further ripens, its starches turn into sugars giving the pumpkin its sweet taste.  The pumpkin needs this time to mature and for its skin to harden.

Come late October, the pumpkin has reached perfection.  The excess of them meaning that they get churned out as Halloween pumpkins but for others, it is time to give thanks to the hare, the spirit of the land, for a bumper crop in this year and for the next.

And a whole pumpkin baked in the oven, a la river cottage, can’t be anything less than delicious!

Whole Oven Baked Pumkin

Ingredients:

1 whole pumpkin

250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)

300ml Double cream

500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)

2 Bay leaves 

Rasp of Nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Method:

1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.

2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.

3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese.  Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.

4th: Pour in the pot of cream.

5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.

6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).

“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse.  The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger!  Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.

7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.

If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.

The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.

Start by making a mushroom risotto but make sure to ALWAYS make a little bit extra just so that you can make these easy to create, amazing arancini!

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Ingredients:

  • Leftover mushroom risotto
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • plain flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying

Method:

 

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1st: Take the fridge cold mushroom risotto and make teaspoon sized balls.  Roll the mixture in the palm of your hands, taking care to squish back in any pieces of mushroom that stick out.

2nd: Place all the mushroom rice balls onto a baking sheet and place back in the fridge for a few moments to firm up.  Use this time to bring out the flour, beat the egg and pour breadcrumbs onto a plate that you’ll need for the next stage.

3rd: Take the rice balls out of the fridge and dredge each one through flour – shake off the excess – then pass through the beaten egg, and roll in the breadcrumbs.

4th: Chill for 10mins before deep frying them until golden.

These can be eaten as they are.  I prepared a quick aioli and chilli mayo to snack on but some favour a béchamel style sauce to dip these luscious balls into.  Either way, it’s a win-win situation: delicious mushroom risotto, amazing arancini!

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Fresh Pasta – Tortellini

A couple of years ago, or was it last year? I was given a pasta machine for my birthday.  And whether this was a gift given out of love or the thought that I’d be inviting people around to eat fresh pasta on a regular basis I don’t know BUT what I do know is that it is great fun making fresh pasta from scratch.

A great activity for the weekend when you’ve got time to make some space, make a mess and clean up.

Believe it or not, fresh pasta is actually very simple to make; 100g pasta ‘00’ flour to one large egg.  Combine the dough together, let it rest for approx 20mins and then start rolling.

In the past I’ve transformed my fresh pasta into tagliatelle and spaghetti using the attachments on my pasta machine but this time I wanted a hand at stuffed fresh pasta such as ravioli or tortellini.

If you want to know about The Science Behind Fresh Pasta – click on the hyperlink to read about the ingredients to make the best fresh pasta, an article written by Nikki Achitoff-Gray from www.seriouseats.com

Spinach and Goats Cheese Tortellini with Toasted Pine Nuts and Sage Butter

Ingredients (serves 2):
For the Pasta:
100g ‘00’ flour and 1 large egg  

For the Butter:
Pine nuts
50g butter
Sage leaves

 

For the Filling:
100g of wilted spinach
100g of goat’s cheese
30g of grated parmesan cheese
Rasp of fresh nutmeg

 

 

Method:
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1st:
On a clean surface pour your flour and make a well in the centre.  Crack the egg into the well, and either using a fork or your fingers, start to mix the ingredients together.  Once the dough has come together, allow to rest for 20-30mins.  Place under a damp tea-cloth, wrap in cling film or hide under an upturned bowl.

2nd: Whilst the dough is resting make the filling.  Chop the wilted spinach and mix with the goat’s cheese and the parmesan cheese, season and add a rasp of nutmeg.  Taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly.

 

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fresh pasta

3rd: Once the dough has rested start rolling it out- it is much easier with a pasta machine (as you can see in the clip above) as you can get it much thinner than if rolling by hand.  Follow the directions on your machine as each will have its own instructions.

4th: To make tortellini: On a pasta sheet, place teaspoonfuls of the filling at regular intervals.  Put another pasta sheet on top and using your fingers, seal the two pasta sheets expelling any air around the filling.  Note: any trapped air may cause the tortellini to burst on cooking.  Using a circular cutter or wine glass, cut out each tortellini and sprinkle in semolina to avoid them sticking together or the surface they are on.  Repeat the process until all your tortellini are made.

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Fresh Pasta – Tortellini

5th: Boil the tortellini in salted water for 4 mins, this is a good time to make the butter.  In a dry frying pan toast your pine nuts.  Once they are as coloured as you dare, place the butter and the sage leaves in the frying pan.  Add a ladleful of the pasta water and mix to make a sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan and crispy sage leaves.

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Spinach and Goat’s Cheese tortellini with toasted pine nuts and sage butter

Buon appetito!

 

With the onset of cooler nights I want my dinners to pack warmth.  The best and most effective way to add warmth to your dinner is by adding spice.  There are so many different types of spice to add warmth to a meal that you can pretty much tailor make the flavours to suit you. Creating an Curry from scratch is actually quite simple and is a great way of creating food with spice.

There are times when I use holy the trinity of aromatic spices: ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric to create a taste of the ancient world in a beef tagine or Garam masala chicken dish.  If I want something to have a bright, chilli-citrus hit then it will be a Thai prawn curry with chilli, lemongrass and lime.  But there are times when only the South Asian flavours which combine the taste of the aromatic spices with the rounded warmth of ground ginger, the pungent heat of mustard seeds and cayenne pepper are sometimes the flavours I want in a beef or chicken curry.  These spice blends don’t always have to be made from scratch – shop around and find one that works for you.

To create a Meat-free Monday dish, substitute the beef of chicken for aubergine chunks.  The aubergine when cooked in large chunks holds its own without becoming mushy; it retains a meaty-kind of texture and does not disappoint.

The lemon pickle can sound frivolous but makes the world of difference to this dish and is super easy to create.

Aubergine Curry with Cardamom Rice and lemon pickle

Ingredients:

1 Aubergine per person

1 large onion

2 large tomatoes

1 tblspn tomato paste

2 cloves of garlic

1 tblspn curry powder of choice

 

3 cardamom pods

Basmati rice

For the lemon pickle:

1 lemon

1 tspn of mustard seeds

1 tspn of turmeric

Glug of vegetable oil

 

Natural yoghurt

 

01a995efcf64056fc02386cfcb101fa257cf2210a5Aubergine Curry

1st: Cut the aubergine into large chunks and drizzle in olive oil.  Either griddle or fry the aubergine chunks.

2nd: Slice the onions and fry until soft and add chopped garlic.  Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan along with the tomato paste.  Let this simmer for 5 mins before adding the aubergine.

3rd: Add the tblspn of curry powder to the saucepan and mix well.  Allow to simmer gently for a few minutes before sprinkling coriander over and serving.

 

Basmati Rice

I prepare my rice via the absorption method usually adding a few pressed cardamom pods and or cinnamon stick to the pan.

Lemon Pickle

Slice a whole lemon down its length and cut each half into quarters.  Cut the lemon into small, thin pieces.  Remove any seeds.

Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.  Once the mustard seeds start popping add the turmeric and turn in the lemon pieces.

 

Serve with a generous dollop of yoghurt.

 

The weather seems to have finally cooled down.  And as the nights draw in, the food I want to cook and eat celebrates the mid-autumn vegetable haul: plump pumpkins, purple plums, gorgeous gourds and the last of the summery fruits.

With pumpkins hogging the limelight in October and being resigned to be carved into jack-o-lanterns or used to flavour and thicken soups (puchero) I prefer to turn my attentions to other gourds and the most valued player of the gourd world is the butternut squash.

Their golden orange hue reminding you that they’ve been soaking up the summer sun readying themselves for the autumn harvest.    

The butternut is a truly versatile vegetable.  You can puree it, roast it, steam it, mash it, grill it – great in soups but also works as a vegetable side dish, or even as a main-course ingredient.

In the past I have given recipes for Roast Garlic and Butternut Squash soup and Butternut Squash Risotto.  I have also included a photo of a Roast butternut squash and lentil salad with chilli and rocket leaves from a cookery weekend at Food at 52 in London.  However, today I have discovered the wonders of Moroccon spices with roasted squashes.

roasted butternut squash

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash

1st: Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

2nd: Cut the squash into quarters (so that they cook quicker) and place them cut-side up into an ovenproof dish.  Dot with butter and season well.

3rd: Sprinkle with ground cinnamon, cumin seeds and sprinkle with dried chilli flakes.  Use paprika or chilli powder as an alternative.  Roast in the oven for 45mins at 210˚C.

4th: After 30mins, take them out and add a good sprinkling of sultanas and cook for a further 15mins.

I served my roasted squash with roasted chicken thighs that were cooked together with the squash in the same oven dish until their skins were brown and crisp.  Served immediately with some of the pan juices spooned over.

A juicy and fragrant Lamb or beef tagine served with the roasted squash must be delicious.

 Definitely one to try again!

With the uphill month of January hitting people’s pockets hard and everyone trying to stick to their new year’s resolutions of which generally losing weight is a major focus, the home cook is being challenged to provide food that is flavoursome but light and easy on the wallet.  A bowl of hot soup can usually tick all the boxes.

Soup is the epitome of thrift.

Think about it – you need a greater quantity – add more water; too watery and you can add a handful of rice/pasta/lentils to bulk it out.  You can use cheaper cuts of meat to add flavour and any back of the fridge vegetables that are on the turn and have become slimy can make a star appearance in your soup.  The possibilities are endless.  All you need to remember is that at the heart of any good soup is a good stock.

If however, like me, you are getting bored of the usual soup combinations, I must recommend my sister-in-law’s roasted garlic and butternut squash soup.  The roasted garlic turning into a sweet puree to the already sweet, orange flesh of the squash.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup

butternut1Peel and deseed a butternut squash.  Cut it into chunks of similar size and place onto a baking sheet.  Break a head of garlic and add around 5 medium sized cloves in their papery wrappers.  Deseed and chop a red chilli.  Cover in olive oil and mix well.  Place into a moderate oven for approx 40mins.

Whilst waiting prepare your stock of choice (approx double your rice quantity).  If making this for vegetarians make sure to use a vegetable stock but I usually use a chicken stock for extra flavour.

When you take the tray out of the oven, release the garlic cloves butternut2from their skins.  Put the roast veg and garlic into a blender with half of your prepared stock.  Alternatively you can use a stick blender.  Add more stock to slacken the soup.  Once you are happy with the consistency, and different people prefer it in different ways, you are ready to serve.  A bowl of this soup and some crusty bread for dunking, makes this dish a great light lunch and a convincing supper.

Eventually you get to eat most of the soup and there is that little bit left in a small bowl in the fridge – not enough to make a decent bowlful or you don’t fancy soup again for the third time that week!  So now is your chance to convert the soup into a flavoursome stock for a delicious butternut squash risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto

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1st: First thin the soup with water and place into a saucepan to be heated through.

2nd: Heat a good knob of butter with some olive oil.

3rd: Chop an onion and add to a pan of foaming butter and soften until translucent.  Add your risotto rice (Arborio) and cook through for 5mins.  Add a splosh of sherry or vermouth to the pan and boil off the alcohol.

4th: Now, ladle the stock into the rice pan a ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next ladleful.  Stir well and continue this process until the rice is cooked through – you may not need to use all the stock – if more is needed add warm water.  Leave to stand for 3mins.

5th: Serve with a grating of parmesan cheese and a ribbon of extra virgin olive oil.

Who would have thought that from one humble butternut squash (£1) and store cupboard ingredients, you can create a duo of delicious dishes, where both in the soup and the risotto the squash is the star of the show.

Delicious, flavoursome, thrifty.

Having established a benchmark of food and drink at my parties a few years ago, what could I pull out of the bag to feed my 20+ guests this party round?  After all I can no longer get away with several bags of doritos and assorted dips!

Do I provide my standard party medly of spiced nuts, cranberry glazed cocktail sausages and pesto palmiers?  Surely that’s a more wintry repertoire.  With the weather nearing the cusp of summer a lighter menu would be more appropriate.

So when thinking of summer food what do we recall to mind?  For me it’s things like chilled gazpacho, salads, fruit and veg and bbq meat!  How could I go about trying to incorporate these ideas into my repertoire of party food?

Summer Party Menu:

strawberry cocktail

taken from youtube.com

Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

In a blender blitz strawberries, lemon juice and icing sugar until you form a strawberry puree.  Pour this into the bottom of champagne glasses and top up with the fizzy wine of your choice.

After much deliberation the following is the menu I decided on:

Ajo Blanco (aka white gazpacho), Roast vegetable cous cous salad, Cauliflower cake and Beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings.  For dessert homemade limoncello and biscotti.

Ajo BlancoAjo blanco

I followed a Sam and Sam Clark Moro recipe (having even asked them which bread to use via Twitter!) but looking online there are several sites that have similar if identical recipes.

Literally combine almonds, garlic, stale bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar and iced water in a blender and blitz until it forms a smooth-like liquid with the consistency of cream.  Chill and serve with white grape cheeks.  This needs to be served ice cold – so either put into the freezer for a while before serving or pour over ice.

Top Tip: beware the volume of liquid you put into your processor as you don’t want it pouring out of the central post as mine did!!

Roast Vegetable Cous Cous SaladRoasted-Veg-Couscous

This couldn’t be easier; roast the veggies you wish – peppers, red onions and courgettes give the best flavour for this but I also used some leftover asparagus.  Aubergine is a great veg to use in this as it is a meaty vegetable providing texture as well as colour.

When you’re ready to assemble, pour boiling water or stock over the cous cous making sure to just cover in liquid.  Cover in cling film and leave until the cous cous has absorbed all the water.  Mix the veg through and add chopped herbs – parsely, corriander and mint work best.

Cauliflower CakeCauliflower Cake

A recipe from Foodat52 from my Foodie Weekend but a quick online search has given me the exact same recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi  (Follow the Yotam hyperlink to take you to the recipe) at the Guardian online.

I’ve followed this cauliflower cake recipe several times now.  The 10 eggs in the batter make the cake soufflé in the tin.  It is decadent, delicious, moreish and full of flavour.  Ideal as a light lunch.  You could almost replace the ubiquitous lunchtime quiche with this golden cauliflower delight.

decadent, delicious, moreish

The great thing about the cauliflower cake is that it is even better the following day!

Beef CarpaccioBeef Carpaccio

As all my other dishes were unintentionally vegetarian I decided to pull out all the stops with a prime fillet of beef for the carnivores amongst us.

Make sure that the fillet is at room temperature before attempting to cook it.

Roll the prime fillet in sea salt, crushed black pepper, finely chopped rosemary and thyme (no oil).  Once the griddle is smoking hot, sear the fillet for a minute all the way round.

Then take off the heat and leave to rest.  Once the meat has rested for anything from 5 – 10mins, slice it as thinly as you can AND with the back of the knife flatten each slice as much as possible without grinding the fillet into a mush on your board.

Top Tip: Know your audience!  As there are many people attending the party who would not like to eat their meat carpaccio-style, put the end of meat into the oven.  Leave to rest and then carve this in thin slices/strips.

Lay the slices of carpaccio onto a dish and shave parmesan over.  Sprinkle with some fresh thyme and drizzle with a simple dressing of olive oil, mustard and sherry vinegar.  If serving this as a main meal accompany the carpaccio with peppery rocket leaves.

Limoncello and Biscotti

click on the hyperlink to direct you to the recipes.

If there is one recipe from the ones mentioned above that you MUST try and recreate it has to be Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake.  I’m off to scrounge in the fridge for leftovers!

Enjoy the summer everyone.