Thursday, 30 December 2010

Fennel and artichoke orzo

Orzo is a little pasta shaped like a rice grain. I had some left after using it in soup, so I cast around for a way of using it up. This turned out to be a very filling pasta dish; the packet on the orzo said use 75g-100g per serving and I used 100g. It made a bit much, so today I’ll stick to 75g. The dairy in the dish could be made using whichever you prefer: cream, crème freche, fromage frais… I made this after the indulgent Christmas period so I used 0% Total. Also any pasta could be used, although stiring this all into tagliatelle might be a bit tricky. Oh, and watch out, orzo goes really gooey!

Fennel and artichoke orzo

Serves 4

Took around 45mins to prepare and cook

2 fennel bulbs, sliced

350g drained and chopped artichoke hearts (can be marinated or tinned)

300ml cream

Generous splash of dry white wine

50g Parmesan cheese

125g Spinach (shredded baby spinach is best, but I used chopped frozen)

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

30g butter

Olive oil for cooking

Orzo pasta (allow 75g dry weight per person)

*Saute the fennel over a medium heat in the butter and olive oil until soft and caramelised (around 20 minutes should do it)

*Add artichoke and cook for a further 5-10mins

*Stir in cream, mustard, wine and parmesan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5mins.

*Meanwhile cook the orzo in a large pan of salted water for about 8-10mins then drain well.

*Add the orzo and the spinach to the sauce and cook until spinach is wilted.

Additional notes: On the second run I added some pine nuts for a bit of variation on texture. I also sprinkled in some dried savory - it really brings out the flavour whilst still being extremely subtle.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Aromatherapy - Cleaning surfaces

Lemon and lavender essential oils are very cleansing and leave a lovely fresh smell. Both have antiviral and antibacterial properties and are gentle enough when mixed liberally with water to wash down floors and surfaces.

For a floor mix a few (around 5-7 in total) drops of oil per pint of water used. For surfaces mix a drop or two of each oil in a large bowl of hot water or scale it down for a small amount. Another option is to put one drop of whicher you fancy straight onto a jaycloth and thoroughly wet it with hot water.

Basics - my mum's white sauce

A really simple bechamel-type sauce to boost pastas, cover vegetables, bind 'fish' pies... it's so versatile and not fatty at all. Full fat or semi-skimmed milk can be used as the base and it can be flavoured with cheese or herbs as you will.

Simply whisk 1-1.5 tblsp plain flour (thin sauce) or up to 3 tblsp plain flour (thick sauce) per pint of milk while the milk is cold until you see no lumps. Add herbs and seasoning. Then gently bring the sauce to boil while stirring constantly. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 3-5mins, still stirring occasionally. Any cheese goes in at the end while it's still hot.

And that's that. I like really thick sauce, so I tend to use 2.5 spoons of flour.

I personally like to add a bit of strong cheese and herbs de provence or sage, depending what I'm using it with.

Mushroom and Ricotta nut bake

To start off, I thought I’d let you know what I cooked for the centrepiece for Christmas dinner. It’s a special kind of nut bake which we only ever have on Christmas day, thus it is always highly anticipated. It's a lot more moist than your average nut roast, and extremely tasty. The nuts, mushrooms and onions are best chopped in a food processor. Expect to make a mess with the breadcrumbs and chopped nuts. I always make a mess anyway!

Mushroom and Ricotta nut bake

Serves around 6

Allow at least an hour for the whole thing, cooking time is around 45mins.

2 large onions, finely chopped

1 crushed garlic clove or a teaspoon of minced garlic

200g mushrooms, finely chopped

300g cashew nuts, finely chopped

200g fresh white breadcrumbs

A whole standard tub of ricotta cheese (this is usually around 235 - 275g)

1 tsp of dried thyme (I like a little more as thyme is my favourite herb)

½ tsp of ground nutmeg

2 tsp soy sauce

Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Olive oil for frying

Oven at 180C (350F)

*Fry onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes until softened, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.

*In a large (Large!) bowl stir together the breadcrumbs, cashew nuts, thyme, nutmeg and then mix in the ricotta.

*Add the mushroom and onion mix along with the salt and pepper and soy sauce and stir thoroughly until it looks evenly distributed.

*Spoon the mixture into a greased 1L cake tin (I used 9”, though I think I would have preferred 8” for a thicker bake).

*Bake for 40-45mins.

Note: You can also add some fresh cranberries as a layer in the middle or on the top.


Welcome to the Tales from a Veggie Kitchen blog, a new blog by myself, Anita, about what I cook, how I cook it and with extra little snippets of other kitchen-related info, such as aromatherapy and herb lore.

As the title suggests, I am vegetarian (lacto-ovo) and have only recently aquired my own kitchen and started cooking. I have found it is a passion of mine, and although my dishes lack a certain finesse with presentation, all the flavours are there!

I hope you enjoy reading my antics and recipes as I make my bold steps into the world of cookery.