Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

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.

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The recent Horsemeat scandal has left farmers incensed as meat sales have plummeted, supermarkets have lost billions in profits and governments struggle in vain to draw a line under the scandal over horsemeat being sold as beef.

horsemeat

So with consumers ditching beef for veggie ready meals it makes me question why people feel that creating vegetarian dishes can be difficult.  Wouldn’t it be just as easy to buy ingredients to create a vegetarian dish than buying a microwave pre-packed one?

By creating your own dish, you control the quantities, the amount of salt, volume… So why don’t some people cook their own vegetarian dishes?  Simple:

 Vegetarian = Boring!

If you try to convince a non-vegetarian that a meat free meal is delicious and exciting then you’ll just be faced with the deadpan certainty that they are awaiting the punchline in your joke.  Either that or they think you’re going to resurrect the vegetable stir-fry.  It is just a case of changing a mindset.  Question: how can culinary giants such as Italy and Spain create amazing vegetable dishes without the ridicule of their respective nations?  Answer: by never compromising on flavour.

The key to a great vegetable dish is to keep it simple.  Let the product speak for itself such as aubergines and honey; a simple Starter to any meal:

IMG_2337

Aubergine and honey

1st: Heat a griddle pan for approximately 8mins before you start cooking.

2nd: Slice the aubergine however you wish; I tend to favour cutting them in half along their length and then slicing into thin strips along the length of each half.

3rd: Pour olive oil into a dish and soak both sides of the aubergine slices in the oil.  Aubergines are like sponges and will soak up a lot of oil so try not to leave them dunked in the oil for too long.

4th: Griddle until scorch marked and softened from the griddle.

5th: Drizzle honey over just before serving.

Use ingredients to compliment your vegetable:

Mushrooms with garlic, chillies and butter IMG_23271

1st: Make the Garlic, Chillies and Parsley butter found on the recipes page.

2nd: Share between the mushrooms.

3rd: Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake at 180°C for 20mins.

Disclaimer:  The butter retains a lot of heat so take care when eating as you don’t want to end up with your palette blistered to shreds!

For the more adventurous cook why not try a Roast Vegetable Lasagne or an impressive melanzane alla parmigiana where instead of using lasagne sheets you use slices of aubergine with plenty of parmesan.  

Toptip: When roasting vegetables don’t add salt until the end otherwise they braise in their own cooking liquid.

Or if you want to impress:

Aubergine rolls filled with spinach, ricotta and pine nuts: 

aubergine rolls

Photo taken from bbcgoodfood.com

1st: Soften the aubergine slices by either griddling or cooking them in the oven.

2nd: Mix the wilted spinach leaves with the ricotta cheese and add a good shaving of parmesan.  Season to taste.

3rd: Either use tomato passata from a jar or create your own.

Start to assemble the dish:

4th: Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.

5th: Add a teaspoonful of the mixture to one end of the aubergine slice and roll it.  Repeat this for the remaining aubergine slices.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  To make this a dinner party indulgence why not cover in bechamel sauce before sprinkling with parmesan cheese.

Most of these vegetable dishes make a great accompaniment to any meal.  For example both the mushrooms and the aubergine rolls can be a side dish to meat or chicken if you so wish.  But celebrating them as a main course with some crusty bread is just as rewarding.  Remember, there are plenty of health benefits from eating more vegetables, they are tasty and good on the budget.

Buy vegetables at the height of their season as this will mean you’ll get the best quality product at the best price.  Buy what you need as they have a limited longevity; buy small but buy often.

No, I am not a vegetarian, but I hope through this blog entry I may have given you some ideas as to how to take the jump and cook up simple meat-free dishes that you won’t find boring or predictable.

Give them a try!

December arrived before I managed to hear it creeping up on me but once 1st Dec dawned upon us I couldn’t wait to literally Deck the Halls!

Christmas is my favourite time of the year – I love everything about it.  From preparation to execution I am a complete convert.  The minute I see a twinkling fairy light (a traditional warm light none of those modern blue LED monstrosities!) and holly wreathed front door I both exude and want to be filled with Christmas Spirit (or two).

But after all what is Christmas if not a festival of excess; of everything:       food, drink and cheer.

Before I get slated by those that believe that Christmas is all about faith, I’m not trying to ridicule that Christmas; the Christmas I’m talking about is clearly the Pagan Saturnalia version which is all about merry-making, excess and misrule.  My sort of festival!

Where to begin?  In the same way that December arrives it will rapidly move into January.  The best way to make the most of the food and drink that will be consumed this season is: 1) Plan and prepare ahead and 2) Not to worry about the effects of this indulgence on the waistline.

So I started my Christmas cooking off gently by getting some pots of Chilli Jam organised, Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti and Sesame Toffee Snaps.

20121203-224218.jpg

Chilli Jam

1st) Put 150g of red peppers and 150g of red chillies into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.

2nd) Pour 600ml of cider vinegar into a saucepan with 1Kg of jam sugar (high in pectin).  Heat gently until the sugar dissolves.

3rd: Pour the red flecks of chilli and pepper into the vinegar and bring to the boil.  Boil ferociously for 10mins and then allow the mixture to cool for approx 45mins before you decant into sterilised jars.

20121203-230051.jpg

Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

I have already included this recipe from Joyofbaking.com before.  It is included in a previous blog titled

“I know what you did last summer…biscotti!”    

Please click on the link to be taken to the recipe.

 Sesame Seed Toffee Snaps

20121203-230100.jpg

The third of the Christmas goodies were the sesame seed toffee snaps.  Very easy to make but take caution as you will be working with boiling sugar.

1st) Put 455g of Caster Sugar into a saucepan with 8 tablespoons of water.  Bring to the boil.

2nd) Once the sugar boils and turns a nutty brown colour (take care not to burn it) add 200g of sesame seeds.  Mix well and pour onto a greased baking sheet.  Smooth it down to create  a thin continuous layer.

3rd) When cold and hard break the snap into pieces.  Enjoy on its own or use to mop up desserts.

Ok – so it’s not the onslaught of the Xmas Turkey with all the trimmings but these are three easy but impressive Christmas goodies to either devour yourself or give as gifts.  Why not give one a try and let me know how you got along.

If I don’t get a chance to wish it before – Merry Christmas.

Wet, windy Wednesday’s tropical storm (apparently the tail end of Hurricane Nadine) was the herald that Summer was over. Cloudless, cerulean blue skies turning to ghostly grey and the drop in temperature were the clues to make everyone assume that Autumn was on its way.

Patio furniture and BBQ sets have been hidden away until next year.

Our food naturally changes with the seasons. When I think of Autumn, I don’t just think of the obvious gourd. Not that there is anything wrong with a bright orange pumpkin or a seasonal butternut squash used in soups or roasted with maple syrup but characteristically they tend to be associated with Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.

To me Autumn is more than just this; it is about a return to the food of the forest. Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colour of the earth. Foraging for the last remaining edible scraps that will eventually be wiped out by the onslaught of cold and rain.

Mushrooms are the ultimate autumnal feast. I know we can get several varieties of white mushroom throughout the year thanks to supermarkets capitalising on our greed, but these tend to be bland and tasteless with a very short storage life.

Truffles, Cepes, Morels, Chanterelles, Portobello

Wild mushrooms are packed full of flavour but are found scant in the wild. Therefore, drying these is the perfect way of extending their shelf life.

My neighbours recently (or maybe not that recently, I can’t remember) gave me a packet of dried porcini mushrooms that they had brought back from Rome for me. So what best to cook with these than Mushroom Risotto!

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Button/chestnut mushrooms
  • Risotto Rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Onions/shallots
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • dry white wine
  • parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley

1st: Prepare a litre of stock and keep it warm on the hob. Use any stock you wish – I prefer chicken and not vegetable stock and generally use either a cube or those new stock pots. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I most certainly don’t make my own stock as have neither the incling nor the need to have to make everything from scratch!

2nd: Place the dried Porcini mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water from a recently boiled kettle to reconstitute. Leave for 10mins.

3rd: In a saucepan add some butter and olive oil. Once foamy, add a finely chopped medium onion or if you prefer to use shallots do so (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than onions). Sautée until the onions are soft and translucent.

4th: Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and slick with the oniony, buttery mixture. Keep stirring the mixture so that it won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once you hear the rice begin to fry in the pan, pour in a glass of dry white wine. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.

5th: Chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the mixture.

6th: Now you can start adding ladelfuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladelful of stock is absorbed add the next. Don’t let the rice become waterlogged as what you want is the rice to slowly cook whilst at the same time releasing its sweet, creamy starch. This stage will take approx 15mins unitl all the stock is absorbed but do not let this faze you; remain calm and relaxed.

I tend to find the repetitive stirring very reassuring and almost lulling.

7th: Drain the porcini mushrooms and add to the risotto. Take off the heat and mix in some more butter and parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for at least 2mins before serving. Serve with a ribbon of olive oil and chopped parsely to add another level of taste as well as colour.

If you want to be extravagant but not show-offy, replace the olive oil at the end for truffle oil! A tiny bottle costs around £10 but a little goes a very long way.

NB The risotto should be one homogenous mixture.  The liquid should not be oozing away from the rice.  Neither should the risotto be so dry that a spoonful remains stoic in the centre of your plate!

Buon Appetito!

I know that there is a chance that you will have stopped reading once you read the five letter word in the title and I know that it seems a bit odd to follow a BBQ Carnivore blog with its Salad Omnivore counterpart but as with everything in life, balance is key.  Here goes…

With the soaring temperatures suffocating us into the early hours of the morning, an absolute essential antidote to the summer heat is replacing water lost through perspiration.  We drink more fluids (sometimes more alcoholic than thirst-quenching but the intention is there) and we turn to food which has a higher water content.  And what food has got a higher water content to volume ratio?  Lettuce.  There, I said it, lettuce.

Heirloom and Cherry Tomato Salad

In hot climates, salads are not just full of water but delicious; they are colourful and made with natural ingredients that have been kissed by the long periods of sunshine until their ripe juices are ready to burst.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans dined on mixed green leaves as a way of putting water back into their diet.  They served their mixed leaves with a dressing of olive oil and brine as replacing lost minerals is also necessary – not too dissimilar from the salad dressings used nowadays.

Salad, from the Latin ‘sal’ salted; ‘salted things’ roughly translated into ‘salted herb.’

Ancient Times had their ‘mixed greens’, the Renaissance Period the ‘Salmagundi’ (a salad comprising of cooked meat, seafood, fruit, leaves and nuts) to the Modern Day ‘Chef’s Salad’.

Ultimately, the basic salad has remained the same: a bed of mixed greens.  The remainder of the ingredients added to the salad being up to the chef’s discretion.  The original ‘Chef’s Salad’ devised at the Ritz-Carlton was of smoked ox tongue with watercress leaves!  As a result of this creation, hotels and upper class restaurants started presenting their own salad concoctions.  Each trying to outdo the other.

As well as salads having a variety of ingredients assembled together to surprise the discerning eater, chefs started to add warm ingredients to salads.  Such as warming eggs to create a dressing for a Caesar Salad or boiling potatoes still served warm in a Tuna Niçoise salad.

It may seems as if pretty much anything goes is the only rule to follow when making a salad.  It can be cold, warm, vegetarian, seafood, meat, chicken, bread, fruit and nuts (sounds a bit like the Renaissance version!)

Every salad – no matter its ingredients – is only as good as its dressing!

Here are some recipes (more assembly instructions) you must try to help restore your faith in salads.

Mozzarella, Jamón Serrano and Peach Salad

Mozzarella, Jamón Serrano and Peach Salad

1st: Tear the mozzarella balls and places around the plate you are going to serve this on.

2nd: Cut around the peach and remove the stone.  Then likewise tear the peach into pieces that are similar in size to the mozzarella.

3rd: Tear strips of cured ham and drape in and around the pieces of peach and mozzarella.

4th: Add rocket leaves to the dish.

5th: DRESSING: squeeze the juice of a lemon over the dish and add a generous glug of olive oil.

6th: SEASON: sprinkle some freshly cracked black pepper over the plate.

NB: Make sure that the peaches are at room temp before assembling this salad as you don’t want to be in tooth sensitive pain as you bite into this!  If you can’t get seasonal peaches then swap them for conference pears which are great in this recipe.  Use any cured ham your stomach or your pocket desire.  As a starter at a dinner party serve with a french baguette to soak up the juices that your guests will be fighting for that have collected at the bottom of the dish!

Watermelon and Greek Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon and Greek Feta Cheese Salad

1st: Cut a small red onion into rings and place in a bowl to steep in the juice of a lime and sprinkle with Maldon salt.

2nd: Cut the watermelon flesh off its rind and remove as many black pips as you have the patience for!  Place watermelon chunks onto your serving plate.

3rd: Cut a block of feta cheese into chucks and add to the serving plate.

4th: Add the red onion to the dish.

5th: DRESSING: Pour the now pink lime juice and olive oil over the dish.

6th: Add flat leaf parsley and some mint to the dish and SEASON with freshly cracked black pepper.

OPTIONAL EXTRA: add black olives to the salad.  

NB: Mix everything gently so as not to break the feta or watermelon too much.

I’m not suggesting we all start chomping rabbit food until bushy tailed but salads can be a delicious, filling, refreshing light lunch as well as an accompaniment to any evening meal.

Some of my favourite salads are just one ingredient doused in olive oil and sherry vinegar and chopped garlic, such as the tomato salad at the top.  Unlike baking, assembling a salad is free from restriction, just think about flavour combinations you like and how to best present them in their simplest form.

Why not have a go?

Feel free to reply with your favourite salads.