Friday, 23 November 2012

Thai green curry idea

It's been a while and to be honest I haven't cooked an awful lot that I haven't before. I find myself with a lot less time on my hands now than I used to, especially now I've picked up a new hobby as well. I might just do a "recipe of the month" from now on.

But anyway! Here's this rather cheaty thai green curry, as I didn't make the paste myself but was testing one ofthe only other curry pastes I know to be vegetarian from Tesco supermarket. It wasn't brilliant, too much heat and not enough flavour for my liking, but find a decent curry paste and the combination of veggies and coconut milk in this version will taste great.

Thai Green Curry

Serves 2

Takes 30 minutes

Half a block of tofu (enough for a good handful of small pieces each)

1 courgette

1 red pepper

5-6 babycorns

Half a white onion

A clove of garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

400ml coconut milk (I always use half-fat, but full fat tastes much better)

Thai green curry paste

Half a lime

Noodles or rice to serve.

* Drain and chop the tofu into small pieces. Fry on a medium heat for 7-10 minutes until getting nicely brown on all sides.

* In the meantime chop the vegetables as desired. When the tofu is nicely fried, add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the curry paste and coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

* Tip in the rest of the vegetables and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may wish to add the courgettes a little after the others if you prefer them with a bit of bite.

* When ready to serve, squeeze in the juice from the lime and stir through.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

An easy, quick dinner

Whoops! Consumed before imaging!

I suppose this idea is based on bruschetta, but it's not really like proper bruschetta at all. It uses lots of convenience ingredients so it's easy on your hands and easy on your time. I'm sure you can chop and change the vegetables used in here easily, as long as they are fairly swift to cook (no turnips!).

Quick 'bruschetta'

Serves 2

Takes around 20 minutes

2 bulbs of fennel

2 courgettes

Olives (amount to taste)

8 artichoke hearts

350g jar of your favourite pasta sauce

200g garlicky/herby cream cheese

Bread of your choice (I chose ciabatta rolls)

Garlic butter (or just use garlic bread)

* Slice up your veggies whilst heating some oil in a pan and preheating your grill (broiler, I think). Spread the garlic butter on the bread, if using.

* Gently fry the courgettes, fennel, artichoke hearts and olives until soft, which should take around 7-10 minutes.

* Pop the buttery bread under the grill. Stir in the cream cheese and then the pasta sauce into the veggies and lower the heat to simmer and thicken for about 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't go dry.

* When the bread is lightly toasted serve with the veggie mix on top.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Nicoise style salad

I have moved! I'm still largely in the "can't be bothered to be inventive" phase, but I did have a flash of inspiration when we were fancying a salad. This is based on the classic Nicoise salad, which is usually served with tuna but can easily be fiddled with to make vegetarian. I used crumbly cheshire cheese, which is probably an english peculiarity. You could probably use feta, halloumi or any other cheese really, or you can add your favourite meat replacement.

Nicoise style salad

Serves 4

Takes about 30 minutes in all

300-350g bag of mixed salad leaves (depending how leafy you want it)

4 hard-boiled eggs (or you can boil them on the side along with preparing the rest)

750g baby new potatoes

6 medium-sized tomatoes

A jar of black or kalamata olives (you will most likely have spare)

200g green/french beans

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing. Flavoured oil goes nicely here.

175g cheshire cheese

* Set the water boiling for your potatoes (and a pan for the eggs if you're doing them now). Chop the potatoes and beans into bite-sized pieces.

* When the water is boiling, add the potatoes and boil for 15-20 minutes. I usually do 20 minutes.

* In the meantime, chop the tomatoes and cheese and add to a large salad serving bowl. Add the olives and stir around a bit.

* Add the salad leaves to the serving bowl and pour over a suitable amount of oil and vinegar fr dressing.

* When the potatoes have 5 minutes left to boil, add the beans to the potatoes.

* When the potatoes and beans are done, add to the serving bowl and toss everything together well. Peel the eggs and slice into quarters lengthways and arrange on plates before serving the salad.

If you want the salad completely cold the eggs, beans and potatoes will have to be cooked much further in advance. You can also add some chopped fresh herbs, such as chives and parsley. You can serve with a couple of slices of ciabatta bread, but you probably wont't need it!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Peperonata pasta salad

I originally made this as a cooked meal, but was so hot and frazzled the other day that I couldn't face standing around a cooker. In my opinion it actually made a better salad, with fresher flavours, more juice and more filling. I even had some left over for lunch the next day.

Peperonata pasta salad 

Serves 2-3

Takes 20 minutes

2 sweet peppers (I usually use one yellow and one orange)

2 large 'beef' tomatoes

Half a red onion

A handful of kalamata olives each

100g crumbly salad cheese

170g brown spaghetti

A handful of torn fresh basil leaves

Olive oil and vinegar for seasoning

* Put some water on to boil for the pasta and slice the peppers and onion into very thin slices. Slice the tomato as finely as you can, but don't get rid of any juicy bits. Slice the cheese into small chunks and prepare the basil leaves.

* Once the water is boiling, drop the pasta in and cook as per instructions (mine said boil for 9-10 minutes).

* Put all the other ingredients into a bowl and toss with a little of the oil and vinegar (don't forget the olives!)

* When the pasta is cooked, drain and either add to the bowl and drizzle with the rest of the oil and vinegar or leave to cool a bit first. Toss in with the rest of the ingredients and serve.

This doesn't need anything else with it as the pasta and raw veg are really quite filling.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Nectarine and goat's cheese tart

This was supposed to be made with figs, not nectarines, but my local supermarket is quite tempremental when it comes to fruit and vegetable stock. Nectarines actually worked quite well, and we not nearly as sweet as you'd think. There's a lot of contrasting flavours in here and it packs quite a punch. Best served with boiled potatoes (I sprinkled mine with some fresh thyme) and baby spinach salad leaves. This is just so easy to make and it looks great. Not the lightest meal in the world though.

Nectarine and goat's cheese tart

Serves 2

Takes 30 minutes if you're snappy with your timing

1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry or around 220g cut off of a block

125g soft goat's cheese

2 nectarines

A jar of ready made olive tapenade (black is best)

A handful of cherry tomatoes, around 10 will do

Beaten egg or milk to brush over the pastry - optional. I'm too lazy.

* Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and roll out the puff pastry, if needed.

* Score the edges of the pastry to form a crust, then spread a couple of tablespoons of tapenade inside the filling area.

* Slice the nectarines and arrange onto the tapenade.

* Crumble the goat's cheese into any bare areas, then plop the tomatoes down where you can.

* If you wish, brush the crust with egg/milk, which will make the pastry nice and golden and crisp when it rises.

* Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes - it's really best to keep an eye on it here. There's a fine line between well cooked puff pastry and burnt puff pastry!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Tomato & couscous soup - BBC Good Food

Well this was much more of a stew than a soup! It wasa thick and warming and a strange combination of summer-y flavours and winter-y textures. A good soup, then, for spring or autumn! It was tasty although the curry and tomato overpower the rest (I did not use harissa, as I don't like hot food). The bread wasn't really necessary to mop anything up; I would use more stock if you want to make it into a proper soup.

Here is the recipe:

There's lots of room for variation; a couple of comments suggested leeks instead of celery, you could use different spices instead of harissa (I used a Moroccan spice rub by Schwartz), you can add a dollop of yoghurt or creme fraiche... experiment!

Oh, and if you leave it overnight it will suck up all the moisture. This actually makes it quite a good thing to take to work for lunch.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Disruption and salad days

It's May. I dislike May because that's when I have my yearly medication for arthritis that knocks me out. I don't do an awful lot of cooking in May, but I have saved a couple of bits from the previous month. Also on top of that June/July will most likely be moving house month (our first house!) which will involve lots of upheaval and decorating, not to mention I'll be using a gas cooker for the first time.

So really that's a long way of saying that I won't be posting much this summer!

Here's something in the meantime - my favourite side salad, which I like to serve in huge amounts next to a small main portion. Here it is next to a red pepper and cheese omelette. The amounts listed make 2 times this amount and a bit extra.

Mega side salad!

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

Half a cucumber

3 large tomatoes

100g sweetcorn

Black olives - I usually make sure I at least have 8 olives per person

2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs of your preference - I have used chives and dill so far, and thyme and lemon thyme will also work well

1 tbsp olive oil, preferably flavoured like basil

2 tsp Balsamic vinegar

* Chop it all up to desired size and mix it all up in a bowl!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Green pesto rice

This is one of my easy, throw-together dishes when I fancied something with a really healthy kick. It makes generous portions and is filling in all the right ways. You can use the meat replacer of your choice or even use scrambled egg instead to fry with the rice. If you're feeling fancy you can even make your own pesto!

Green pesto rice

Serves 4

Takes around 40 minutes

1 crown of broccoli

2 courgettes

150g fresh shelled peas (petis pois are nice here)

300g Quorn chicken

500ml stock

2 x 250g packets of ready-cooked brown rice (I used Tilda brown basmati)

A jar of pesto of your choosing

3 chopped garlic clove or 2-3 tsps of minced garlic

1 tsp cornflour

One lemon

* Heat some oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Separate the broccoli into small florets and chop the courgette into small pieces.

* Fry the meat replacer a bit first, with the Quorn chicken just 5-7 minutes at the start to brown should be fine. Then add the garlic, courgettes, broccoli and peas and fry for 10 minutes.

* Once the veg is ready, prepare the stock and pour over. Make a paste with the cornflour and a small amount of cold water and add to the pan and stir. Bring to the boil while stirring then lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

* Just before the veg is ready, heat the rice in the microwave as per instructions on the packet. When done, add to the pan and stir in.

* Make sure the mixture is heated through thoroughly, then add 3 tablespoons of pesto (can vary amount according to taste) and squeeze the lemon over to add a fragrant tang. Stir well and serve.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Greek filo pastry pie

This is a recipe that's pretty similar to where I lifted it from. Good old BBC Good food!

I did make a few adaptations though, so I'll outline those here and what I did. It was very tasty and probably actually better cold than hot, or at least eaten the next day. I'd never used filo pastry before so it was all new to me. This is a great recipe to make for friends because it really does look exactly like the recipe picture and I think it's very attractive. I served it with boiled potatoes in roasmary butter and a tomato and radish salad.

Greek filo pastry pie

Serves 4

Takes around 50-55 minutes

200g bag of baby spinach

125g sun dried tomatoes (preferably in oil)

125g feta cheese

1 small red onion

2 eggs

A pack of filo pastry (make sure you have at least 3 sheets)

* Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Break the eggs into a large bowl (big enough to fit the other ingredients in) and beat.

* Heat a large pan over medium heat. While this is heating, chop the onion into small pieces and cut or crumble the feta into small cubes. If you have time, slice the sun dried tomatoes into smaller pieces. Add these to the bowl with the eggs.

* Heat the spinach in the pan, covered, with a couple of tablespoons of water. When it's done, press the spinach down into a seive to drain the excess water and chop. Add this to the bowl. Once the spinach is out, fry the onions for about 5 minutes until softened.

* While the onions are cooking prepare the pastry. You can use a standard pie/flan dish. Take one sheet of filo pastry and brush one side with oil. Lie that sheet oil-side down into the pie dish and press into the dish, making sure there are flaps hanging over the side. Repeat with 2 more pastry sheets ensuring that they are turned so the overhanging flaps are not directly on top of each other.

* When the onion is done, add that to the bowl and mix everything together evenly and make sure everything is coated with the egg. Pour this filling into the prepared dish and close the overhanging flaps of the pastry until the filling is full covered.

* Bake for 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Cooking for friends - Tomato and pepper soup

A picture-less couple of posts as there isn't really a lot of time or thought for pictures when you're serving up a meal for guests! I might have a picture somewhere of the trial run I did for the soup though.

This tomato soup recipe I adapted from the recipe at Nigella's website, and the main change was to make it serve 5 people and be a bit more peppery. Here is the original:

This is a brilliant soup to make if you have friends over, because once the chopping is done you just stick it in the oven for 40-45 minutes and blend it with some stock in the end. It leasves plenty of time for socialising outside of the kitchen! I made bread rolls the day before to go with it with my usual bread machine method.

The soup itself is quite textured; if you don't like the skins on the tomatoes and peppers you can peel them afterwards by sticking them in a sealed plastic bag for a few minutes and letting the skins steam so they can easily peeled off. It's a lot of effort though, and probably best done with just the peppers. You can add cream/creme fraiche/soft goat's cheese as the end to make the soup a bit richer.

Roasted tomato and pepper soup

Serves 5

Takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete totally

800g vine tomatoes

3 peppers (red is good for colour, but any can be used; I used 2 red and 1 orange)

2 small red onions

5-6 cloves of garlic

650ml stock

1.5 tbsp Mushroom ketchup/soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce

Olive oil and seasoning

The recipe on the website includes tabasco which I didn't use as I'm not a spice fan, but would go very well.

Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan)

* Prepare the vegetables - Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters (depending on size), the peppers into quarters, the onions into chunky wedges and separate the garlic cloves but keep the skin on.

* Put all the vegetables into a large roasting tin, season and drizzle with your preferred amount of olive oil. Mix well.

* Roast the veggies for 40-45 minutes so they become soft and slightly blackened.

* A few minutes before the veggies are due to come out make up the stock and keep it hot it in a large pan.

* When the veggies are out, first squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the stock and add the mushroom ketchup. Then plonk in all the veggies and mix around a bit. Heat if required.

* Whizz up with a hand blender or in a food processor.

Soup done!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Gnocchi Al Forno

A baked gnocchi dish adapted from a recipe I collected at Waitrose. With the spinach and broccoli it gives a green, healthy hit and the tomatoes offset that nicely with their salty tang. You could use another creamy cheese if you don't fancy ricotta and add another strong cheese on top instead of Parmesan.

Gnocchi Al Forno

Serves 4

Takes around 30-35 minutes

400g chopped spinach (frozen is ideal)

800g gnocchi

250g ricotta cheese

A crown of broccoli

Several sun-dried tomatoes to taste

A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

4 tbsp breadcrumbs

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

* Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Chop the broccoli into florets and defrost the spinach. If not using frozen, then wilt the spinach gently then whizz in a blender. Frozen is easier though!

* Boil the broccoli for 1 minute, then add the gnocchi and boil for 2 more minutes, then drain.

* In the meantime mix together the ricotta, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and 1 tbsp of the Parmesan.

* In a large, oven-proof dish mix the spinach mix with the gnocchi and broccoli and smooth down. Season with the salt and black pepper.

* Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the rest of the Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Mushroom Stroganoff

I like mushrooms and I like creamy things, so mushroom stroganoff is a winner. Any mushrooms will do, but the darker, stronger ones are best, and if you have any dried mushrooms in your cupboard you can add those for extra flavour. I served mine with spring onion and pea mash, but it also goes well with jacket potatoes, rice or pasta.

Mushroom Stroganoff

Serves 2

Takes 25 minutes

300g mushrooms

An onion

150ml red wine

150ml stock (or mushroom soaking water if using dried mushrooms)

2 cloves of garlic or one heaped tsp of minced garlic

3 tbsp single cream or soured cream

1 tsp dried thyme

Around 1tbsp paprika

1 tbsp Mushroom Ketchup or Worcestershire-style sauce

1 tsp of cornflour, mixed with a little cold water to form a paste

* Chop the onion finely, slice the mushrooms and heat some oil in a large pan over medium heat. Toss the mushrooms in the paprika until coated.

* Put the onions and garlic into the pan and cook for 5 minutes until softened.

* Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook for a further 5 minutes until starting to reduce.

* Pour in the wine, stock, cornflour and Mushroom Ketchup, bring to the boil whilst stirring, then simmer for a further 5 minutes or until reduced to your liking.

* Stir in the cream last, but do not heat afterwards otherwise it (single cream) will curdle.

Note: If you are using dried mushrooms, follow the packet instructions to rehydrate then add with the rest of the mushrooms.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

BBC Good Food - creamy courgette lasagne

I have to include this here, as it was so yummy that everyone should try it. Apologies for the weak picture, my dad has yoinked my camera for a while, and my phone doesn't cope well with our bad lighting. It shows the salad nicely though.

Don't be fooled by the name, there's no actual cream in it. The creaminess comes from ricotta, which I adore, which is stirred in to the courgette mix before assembling the lasagne.

I added a pint of white sauce because I like saucy pasta which added to the creaminess and also increased the moisture content. It also allowed me to get away with using less cheese than I would normally on the top (the recipe is very skimpy on the cheddar, in my opinion). I also added some basic dried mixed herbs to the courgette mix, as I felt the need for a little extra layer of flavour.

I would also recommend that it serves 6 rather than 4 if you add a couple of pieces of garlic bread and a bit of salad each. I served it as 4 with a salad of baby spinach, 2 beetroots and an orange pepper and I was stuffed 2/3 of the way through. Of course I still ate it all, and because there's a large amount of veggies the stuffed feeling wears off pretty quickly.

I must say that this is one of my favourite dishes. If you're not a fan of fake meat then you can't go wrong with this lasagne, especially if you get a good quality tomato sauce.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Livening up a tomato sauce

This applies mainly to Italian style tomato sauces, as the flavours might be a bit out of place in curries or mexican. That said, there's no harm in experimenting! I use a variety of ingredients to add flavour to tinned tomatoes to make a rich sauce for pasta, baked dishes etc. Here are some that add that extra punch:

Red wine -
This is the one ingredient that I believe adds the most flavour and a sort of dry tang that cannot be provided by lemon juice or tomato paste. It's best added at the beginning with the quorn (if using) and onions/garlic/herbs and left to bubble away and evaporate for about 10 minutes or until it's noticibly reduced.

Sun dried tomato paste -
Richer and not as tart as normal tomato paste, this also has a more full-bodied flavour. Use sparingly, perhaps a tablespoon in a sauce for 2 people. If you can't find the paste, then finely chopped sun dried tomatoes should be fine, or if even those are tricky, roast some cherry tomatoes with a bit of sugar until sticky and whiz them up in a blender (or dry your own, but I don't know how to do that!).

Balsamic vinegar -
If this is used, it is important to use a good quality, and most likely expensive, vinegar otherwise it'd make the sauce too sour. It should be reasonably thick and sweet. It can be used as just that little extra something a sauce might need, and to added sweetness. Add about a tablespoon per 2 people.

Treacle -
A bit of a strange option, and certainly not something you would buy especially for some sauce. If you don't have any lying around then dark, soft brown sugar will do, but if you do then don't afraid to add a couple of teaspons per 2 people to add sweetness and a layer of curious flavour.

Mushroom ketchup/Worcestershire sauce -
Salty and light, this is a good option to use instead of actual salt if you have it. This is very much a personal taste thing, but I usually use just over a tablespoon per 2 people.

Marmite/yeast extract -
You love it or you hate it. If you love it, I'm sure you've probably tried putting it in about everything, and tomato sauces are no expection. Giving a savoury tang similar to wine, it's easy to overdo and end up too yeasty. Just a teaspoon should be enough.

Herbs -
Don't forget your herbs! Fresh or dry, never give up the opportunity to season a sauce with their particular flavours. Basil and thyme go well with tomato, unless you are making a northern-type dish like meatballs, in which you may wish to use dill. Rosemary goes well with british dishes.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Creamy green soup

Another soup! I just love soup and it's so easy, plus it's an excuse to eat homemade bread. I was anticipating spring a bit to early with this one, but fancied something refreshing rather than stodgy. The greens used are 'light', spring type greens rather than the heavy leaves of winter.

Creamy Green Soup

Serves 4-5

Takes about an hour if you're speedy with your chopping, took me more like 1hr 10mins

2 Courgettes

2 trimmed leeks

A crown of broccoli

200g french/green beans

3 tbsp green pesto (can adjust to taste)

3-4 tbsp Creme Fraiche

1200ml vegetable stock

2 tsp dried thyme

3 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to season, although with the pesto, salt isn't too necessary

* Prepare the veg - slice the leek in half lengthways then slice into thin slices (slice, slice, slice). Cut the florets of broccoli off the stem, chop the courgette into small, 1.5cm pieces and cut the beans in half or thirds if you're not blending at the end. Chop the garlic into small pieces.

* Heat some oil in a large pan and fry the leeks, garlic and thyme gently until soft but not brown (about 5 minutes)

* Add the rest of the vegetables and fry for 10 minutes, until just starting to go soft.

* In the meantime make up the stock, then add to the pan once the vegetables have finished their 10 minutes of frying.

* Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes. This makes the vegetables very soft! If you prefer not to blend your soup and want to keep a bit of crunch to the veg, adjust the cooking times accordingly.

* Stir in the pesto and creme fraiche, then blend in a food processor or using a hand blender.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sausage casserole

Started eating before remembering to take a picture!

January is upon us, the end of the festive season has come and I'm sure many of us are looking to food that's comforting but not too rich on an already over-taxed stomach. This recipe is heavy on veg and flavour but light on fat and stodge, making it a great supper for post holiday-excess. I did cut corners a bit, as my favourite flavour for casseroles comes from packet soup, the kind you make in a cup with boiling water, rather than the traditional stock+tomato paste. I'll add an alternative though, for those who want to make it properly (or can't find any packet soup).

Sausage casserole

Serves 4 or can serve 6 if served with potatoes or bread.

Takes 1hr 15 minutes in total, including a lot of chopping.

2 packs of vegetarian sausages

2 trimmed leeks

2 large carrots

2 eating apples

4-5 sticks of celery

4-5 portabella mushrooms

800ml of water mixed with a tomato-y packet soup (I used Heinz vegetable)
- [alternative - use 800ml stock mixed with 2 heaped tsp tomato paste, 2 tsp herbs of your choice such as savory or thyme, 2 tbsp savoury sauce such as worecester]-

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp dried savory

If available, a packet of herbs for sausage casseroles is a nice addition, such as the Schwartz brand. This gets added to the liquid.

* Chop everything that looks like it needs chopping! All the veg needs to be in pretty small pieces, and the sausages I generally cut into 4 pieces. Heat some oil in a large pan.

* Fry the sausages until they are cooked (check the packet - usually 10 minutes or so) then put aside.

* Fry the leeks, garlic and savory for a few minutes until the leeks are soft but not brown.

* Add the mushrooms and the sausages again cook for 5 mintues.

* Chuck in everything else besides the liquid and fry for a further 10 minutes. If you haven't made your soup/stock yet then make it now.

* Pour in the liquid and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.