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A post-Christmas soup

4 Jan

We were given a lot of cheese just before Christmas. When I say a lot, I mean really an awful lot. Almost more than was possible for just the two of us to eat.

It included Grana Padana, Brie, Feta and Gorgonzola.

So I have discovered many things to make with cheese, Continue reading

Lush smoky pepper paste

28 Sep

I bought a new gadget recently. I’d been vaguely wanting it for a while and then found myself in the cookshop next to Glasgow’s Central Station with some time to spare, and my credit card in my pocket. I didn’t need my credit card though, did I, because this isn’t an overly expensive gadget,

It’s the Kenwood Mini Chopper. Some of you may be aware that I’m a fan of Kenwood, and would loyally buy their products over any other for no other reason than that my mother had a sturdy Kenwood mixer (1962 vintage) which I used when I learned to bake. It’s still going strong, although it gets little use these days (my mother occasionally uses the mincer attachment, because life might be too short to stuff a mushroom or to bake your own cakes in my Mum’s world, but never too short to mince your own meat. Go figure).

Anyway, you’d think that as soon as I got the mini chopper home I’d be chopping everything, wouldn’t you? But no. It just sat there at the edge of my vision for some weeks. And then it went into the cupboard under the drinks cupboard. You’d think that would mean it would never ever get used, but I think I was just waiting for the perfect moment.

My lovely new gadget - Kenwood mini-chopper

My lovely new gadget – Kenwood mini-chopper

I didn’t have to wait for long.

Rick Stein created that perfect moment.

He has a new TV series out, From Venice to Istanbul.  I only caught a couple of the episodes, but it included Paddy Leigh Fermor’s Moussaka, and I was smitten. This Moussaka was made for PLF by his cook, even though he had stated he didn’t like Moussaka. Of course he loved this dish and finished it all off and then asked what it was. Or so the story goes. Anyway, she puts potatoes in the bottom of the dish and whisks up the cheese sauce in a lovely light whippy sort of a way.  Buy the book, it’s great. I did. Of course.

And I discovered this lush red pepper paste. It’s seriously to die for, and I’m likely to use it in almost everything for the next few weeks, until I find the next thing I love most.

I’m reproducing the quantities for the recipe exactly as I find it, but with my own narrative.

Lush red pepper paste

  • 660g red peppers (I use those long pointy ones which have such good flavour)
  • 50g tomato puree
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper ( I’ve used sweet paprika instead)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 30ml olive oil
  1. Cut the peppers into big chunks and place them skinside up under a super hot grill till the skins are blackened. You may need to do this in batches
  2. As soon as they are blackened, pop them in a bowl and cover with cling film, till they are cool(ish)
  3. Using your fingers (there really is no other way to do this) slip slide the skins off the peppers and pop them in your mini chopper
  4. Add all the other ingredients and zizz to your hearts content.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea if I have made this with 660g of peppers or not. I’ve used a couple of peppers with about an inch or two of tomato puree squeezed out of a tube, a good shake or three of paprika and a healthy old glug of olive oil.

Smoky roasted peppers ready for zizzing

Smoky roasted peppers ready for zizzing

Zizzing!

Zizzing!

 

And what to do with this mixture? Well here are some suggestions:

  • mix it with mayonnaise and make a dip for crisps, chips or crudites if you’re doing the healthy thing
  • add it to any tomato-y stew or ragu to give an additional depth
  • spread it lightly on sourdough bread, and then add goats cheese
  • make sweet wee canapes with teeny tiny oatcakes, chicken liver pate and a wee dollop of this on top
  • mix with yoghurt to make a salad dressing
  • use it like a pesto
  • make savoury muffins, once you’ve made the batter add 2/3 into each muffin case, then add a dollop of red pepper paste, then add the final 1/3 of batter. Cook as usual. This works brilliantly with these Parmesan and Courgette Muffins
Cheesy courgette muffins with red pepper surprise

Cheesy courgette muffins with red pepper surprise

Hot tomato chutney

4 Sep
Jars of goodness

Jars of goodness

I sowed a few tomato seeds this year. And miracle, of miracle, most of them grew. They grew slowly, mostly because it’s been colder than usual all year, but they grew. And now I have a LOT of tomatoes.

I get my seeds from The Real Seed Company, which you should go visit if you have any interest in growing your own vegetables. They encourage you to save your seeds year on year, which if we all did, then they’d have no business. But mostly I don’t. And anyway, they have crazy unusual varieties of things, often from far flung parts of the world, and they have new seeds each year. I grew a Russian melon one year (I figured if it could grow in Russia it might just survive our Scottish summer) and this year I chose Grushovka and Urbikany bush tomatoes. The Urbikany comes from Siberia, and the Grushovka sounds like it’s of Russian extraction too. Anyway, so far I’ve picked 7.4kg of tomatoes, so I’ve been eating quite a lot of my favourite tomato salad: panzanella. It’s got that perfect balance of flavours and textures, and also uses up 2 or 3 day old sourdough bread (if any ever gets to be that age in our house!).

I’ve been making my super tasty tomato sauce (to use on pasta) which I’ll share with you later.

But for now… Another of my favourite tomato recipes is my hot tomato chutney. It’s super-easy to make and is the perfect accompaniment to cold meats or cheese. In fact when I’ve got a jar of it in the cupboard, it gets added to almost every sandwich, or salad platter. It’s just sweet enough, and just hot enough, with that lovely tang of sharpness too.

I’ve been making it for years, so don’t really know why it’s taken so long to add the recipe here. Anyway, here we go:

Hot tomato chutney

  • 1.8kg tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 red chillies
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 1TBsp salt
  • 300ml vinegar (malt, or it works well with a mix of red wine and cider vinegar)
  1. Peel the tomatoes. You know how to do this, right? OK, here’s how I do it. With a wee sharp knife, just nick the skin of each tomato, you don’t need to go through all the flesh, just break the skin. Now put a full kettle on to boil, and pop some of the tomatoes into a big heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the tomatoes. Leave them for a wee minute, and then, using a holy willie spoon (that’s a slotted spoon), take a tomato out, and using your fingers, peel/slip the skin off the tomato. Repeat. And repeat and repeat again until all the tomatoes are peeled.
  2. After you peel each tomato, roughly chop it straight into a large pan. It’s easiest just to do this while holding the tomato in your hand, over the pan, so you catch all the juice into the pot.
  3. Now, chop your onion, into small and even sized pieces and add this to the pot.
  4. Chop the chillies into teeny wee bits, and add them to the pan. Leave out the membrane and seeds, which are the super hot bits.
  5. Add the caster sugar and salt to the pot.
  6. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring as you go.
  7. Now simmer it for an hour and a half. Yes, an hour and a half. You should stir it occasionally, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, but you don’t need to hover over it all the time. Go read a book. Or water your tomato plants. Or whatever.
  8. Now add the vinegar to the pan, and stir again
  9. Bring it back to the boil and boil it, stirring occasionally, for 10 – 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you pull the spoon across the bottom of the pan, and it does a sort of “Moses Parting the Red Sea” thing, with the chutney ‘holding back’ and not immediately all slooping back into the base of the pan. You might not understand what I mean until you see your chutney doing it. But really, this is the best test I know for readiness of this chutney.
  10. And that’s it. It’s ready to pop into sterilised jars. You’ll probably fill about four 350ml jars, and it will keep for around 4 months. It might keep for longer, but I’ve never had any last that long.

And, if like me, you have a glut of tomatoes, make lots of this. And tie pretty fabric squares to the pot lids, with a ribbon, and there you have your first homemade Christmas presents of the season.

Mini oatcakes with cheese & chutney or ham & chutney. You choose.

Mini oatcakes with cheese & chutney or ham & chutney. You choose.

 

Perfect salad for when you have the best tomatoes

28 May

You already know that I love buying and cooking and eating local food. So when Clyde Valley Tomatoes were back at my local farmer’s market earlier this month, I knew we’d be eating tomatoes all week!

I wanted to make a salad which would showcase the varieties of tomatoes.

Spring haul from farmer's market

Spring haul from farmer’s market

On the drive home I thought of a salad I used to make many years ago: fattoush. And then another tomato and stale bread salad: panzanella. I hadn’t made either for years, and started hankering for that melding of flavours and textures. Yes, these tomatoes were destined to become one big dish of delicious salad. Served with cold meats for lunch.

Panzanella

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced and left in a bowl of ice cold salted water for an hour
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • a punnet or two of ripe tomatoes from Clyde Valley Tomatoes. Or perhaps about 8 medium tomatoes – if you’re using wee ones, feel free to double the quantities
  • 200g stale(ish) sourdough bread
  • 4 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 TBsp capers
  • 2 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 6 TBsp extra virgin olive oil
  • small bunch of fresh basil
  1. Cut the peppers into big flattish pieces and pop them under a grill skin side up so the skin blackens. Alternatively use a toasting fork (who has such a thing these days?) and burn the skin over a gas hob, or chuck them in a hot oven. Or use a blow torch. You’ll know how you like to do it. Once the skin is black, put the pieces of pepper into a bowl and cover with cling film for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and place in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave to drain while you prepare everything else
  3. Cut (or tear) the bread into chunks, about the same size as your tomato chunks and put them into a salad bowl and drizzle with vinegar
  4. Drain the onion and add it to the salad bowl
  5. Add the capers
  6. By now your peppers might be ready for peeling, so peel off the black skin, or as much of it as you can and cut the pieces of naked pepper into strips. Put them in the bowl
  7. Press down on the tomatoes and squeeze out lots of juice, then put the tomato flesh into the salad bowl
  8. Add the chopped anchovies and olive oil to the tomato juice and whisk
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste
  10. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Pick off some basil leaves and tear them onto the salad
  11. Leave for 15 minutes or so at room temperature – or outside in the sunshine
  12. Serve as one of those lunches where the table is covered with bowls and plates and ashets of this and that tasty treats.

Of course you could skimp some of the steps or tweak the recipe as you go:

  • If you don’t soak the onion right at the beginning, it will taste too harsh (for my taste buds). You might prefer to use red onion, or spring onions
  • Don’t bother pouring the vinegar over the bread. I think you’ll regret missing out that step though!
  • Add garlic. In fact most recipes include garlic. I just forgot to add is when I made it and enjoyed the garlic-free breath, and how the other flavours all sung out at me
  • Add cucumber, celery, chilli, crisp lettuce
  • Omit the anchovies if you’re feeding vegetarians. Obviously!

Basically make this your own panzanella – so long as you have the very best tomatoes and some good quality bread, you’ll make something delicious.

No pictures though, we ate it too quickly!

 

Sort of borscht

12 Oct

I’ve mentioned it before, but I love beetroots. I never used to, but as a child my only experience of beetroot was from a jar full of vinegar. Whenever I see fresh beetroot in my local farmshop or farmer’s market I buy it. And then it often sits in my fridge till the following weekend for me to do something with it (what could I do with a beetroot quickly on a weekday evening after a long day at work and the train journey home)?

So there was a bunch of beetroot in my fridge this morning, wasn’t there? Three large beetroot. They could have become a tart, or another jar of spiced beetroot relish. Or that salad with dill and shallots and oranges.

Or borscht.

I don’t know if it really was borscht or not, I just made it up.

Valley Borscht

  • A bunch of beetroot
  • a large onion
  • a couple of sticks of celery
  • a knob of butter
  • caraway seeds
  • a chicken stock cube, or some chicken stock if you have some kicking about (use veg stock if you’re vegetarian, obviously!)
  • a bay leaf
  1. Chop the onion and celery finely (ish) but don’t fret about it if it’s not all teeny wee chunkies
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and add the onion and celery; sweat them gently
  3. Peel the beetroot and grate it coarsely (if you don’t have a food processor then you might prefer to just cut it into wee chunks)
  4. Pop about 1 TBsp of caraway seeds into a pestle and mortar and smoosh them up a bit. They might have been even better if I’d quickly toasted them first
  5. When the onion and celery is looking slightly translucent add the caraway seeds and stir
  6. Then add the beetroot and stir again
  7. Add the bay leaf
  8. Cook it for a wee minute and then add the stock cube and hot water from the kettle. I added enough water to cover the beetroot plus an extra centimetre
  9. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30-40 minutes
  10. Remove the bay leaf
  11. Use a handheld blender and zizz it all up (or pour it into a liquidiser and liquidise it that way)
  12. Ladle into bowls and add a swirl of cream, or a couple of basil leaves, or a swoosh of basil oil or some chopped dill sprinkled over it

Perfect lunch with a chunky slice of homemade bread (preferably sourdough).

And now I’ve made the borscht, I have a perfect quick supper for later this week. Perhaps with a poached egg on toast. Imagine that dark yellow yolk on a plate next to a bowl of dark beetroot soup. Lush.

 

That cinnamon apple jelly

29 Sep
Cinnamon apple jelly

Cinnamon apple jelly

You like cinnamon right? And you can imagine having hot buttered toast spread with a deliciously sweet and cinnamony apply jelly right? Well what are you waiting for? Go get some apples, preferably cooking apples, which for me means Bramleys, but any tart apple which cooks down into mush will do.

This recipe is easy peasy, and none of the stages require very much time, but overall it will take at least 24 hours from start to glorious finish.

  • About 3lb apples, cut into bits – no need to core or peel
  • thinly pared rind of 1 lemon
  • about 2″ fresh ginger, squished with the side of a big knife
  • about 8″ cinnamon stick, roughly broken up
  • about 1lb sugar – but see exact requirements later
  1. Put the apples and 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. If your jeely pan has no lid, then put it to one side and find an alternative big pan, as you really need a lid for this stage.
  2. Add the lemon rind, ginger and cinnamon and bring to the boil, then cover the pan and simmer gently for about an hour, or until the apples are broken down into a smushy pulp.
  3. Set up your jeely bag. You do have a jeely bag don’t you? if not, off you go to your nearest jeely bag shop and get one. Or use some cheesecloth and a Heath Robinson contraption using broom handles and the backs of chairs.  My nearest jeely bag shop is a wonderful old fashioned ironmongers in Lanark; it’s the sort of place where the two Ronnie’s might sell four candles.
  4. OK, now you’ve set up your jeely bag, spoon the apple-y mixture into it. Don’t press it down, just spoon it in (over a big bowl) and let it drip. And let it drip some more. And then just leave it for at least 8 hours, but preferably longer. Overnight is good.
Making apple jelly

Making apple jelly

  1. Measure how much apple-y juice you have made and then pour it into another large saucepan. In fact it may be the same large saucepan which you have washed while the bag was drip drip dripping.
  2. For every cup of juice, you need to add almost 8oz granulated sugar. I know this isn’t very scientific, but there you go, it’s the recipe I have and it works for me. And you know what? I suspect you’ll be ok with a teeny wee bit extra sugar, or a wee bit too little.
  3. Put a side plate in the fridge, or freezer now. It’ll become clear later why you’ve done this.
  4. Anyway, add the sugar into the pot, and slowly heat it up, stirring occasionally.
  5. Increase the heat and cook at a full pelt of a boil for about 10 minutes. Watch it ALL THE TIME. Don’t be persuaded to go and see if you can get that blasted printer to work. Your apple jelly will boil over as soon as you have distracted yourself with something else. Trust me, I know this to be a fact.
  6. After 10-ish minutes test for a set – I do this by dripping a small amount of jelly onto that cold plate, and then waiting 20 seconds. Then I push the jelly with my finger and see if it has wrinkles at the edges, or if it is still just liquid-y. You want the wrinkles. If there are no wrinkles keep boiling and test again in a wee minute. Keep boiling and testing till you have wrinkles. Well, not you, your jelly…
  7. Remove the scum from the surface with a holy willie. I’ve been through this before in a previous recipe. A holy willie is what you might call a slotted spoon. Anyway, use an implement to remove the fluffy scum – pop it in a wee bowl and use it on the next piece of toast you make. You’ll thank me for that tip.
  8. Allow the jelly to cool in the pot for an instant or two and then ladle it into hot sterilised jars. If you’re being fancy, pop a piece of cinnamon stick in each jar before you pour in the hot jelly – it’ll look artisanal, or at least as though you tried.
  9. Seal your jars and label them up

If you make them look pretty they are particularly nice Christmas gifts. You know, for the sort of people who appreciate a jar of something sweet, and think that Christmas is too commercial. Anyone else doesn’t deserve it, not unless you really love them.

Only give as gifts to people you really love

Only give as gifts to people you really love

 

Thanks to Thane Prince and her ‘Jellies, Jams and Chutneys’ book for this recipe.

 

 

 

The best mayonnaise (and tartare sauce) and it’s easy peasy too

21 Sep

There are far too many cookery programmes on TV these days.

This statement may surprise you, as I’m clearly somewhat obsessed with food and cooking. But cookery has become entertainment, and in my world it’s not the cooking itself that should be entertainment, but the resulting food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the sociability and enjoyment of cooking alongside other people, but that isn’t what most of these programmes are about. There are too many competitive cookery programmes where the point of the programme is to see people mess up, to see a souffle flop; a bread become a brick; a sauce split.

But I do watch cookery programmes, usually ones I can learn from.

And I’ve been surprised this last week to find myself enjoying The Hairy Bikers Best of British. Yesterday afternoon I learned how to make a Pease Pudding, something I’d never really thought of as a real food before, just a line in a song. So sometime in the future I’ll be making Gammon with Pease Pudding and Mustard Sauce – warming food for the winter months.

This weekend I made scampi, with tartare sauce. And ate it in front of the TV, in homage to the 70s. It was divine. The tartare sauce was particularly lush, and I share it here.

Luscious mayonnaise

Luscious mayonnaise

 

Start off by making your own mayonnaise. If you’ve not made mayonnaise before then you might have an idea that it’s incredibly tricky. It’s not. And it doesn’t take long either, so long as you have a hand held beater, or muscles like Pop-Eye and a balloon whisk.

 

Mayonnaise

  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 1 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth would be best, but my cupboards dictated I had 1 tsp smooth, 1 crunchy and it was fine)
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml olive oil
  1. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a bowl and start whisking. I recommend you use an electric beater. Keep whisking till the mixture is smooth
  2. Keep whisking
  3. Add the oil drop by single drop
  4. Keep whisking
  5. The oil will emulsify with the yolkie mixture, and after a wee while you can start adding the oil in a slow trickle
  6. Keep whisking
  7. If you’re feeling brave, start pouring the oil in (still relatively slowly, but steadily)
  8. Keep whisking
  9. Once all the oil is added, you should have some thick, smooth and luscious mayonnaise.
Making mayo

Making mayo

 

Put half the mayonnaise in a jar in the fridge and use within the next week. It is amazing on a wholemeal roll with smoked ham. Or with warm boiled new potatoes folded into it. Or on a white bread fish finger sandwich,

But you’re going to make tartare sauce with the other half that is still in the bowl.

Making tartare sauce

Making tartare sauce

 

Tartare Sauce

  • Half quantity of the mayonnaise you have just made
  • 2 TBsp capers, dried on kitchen roll and then roughly chopped
  • 4 cornichons, dried and cut in half lengthwise and then sliced finely
  • 1 large TBsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small TBsp chopped fresh tarragon
  1. Gently stir all the ingredients together
  2. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste

Eat with scampi. Or fish goujons. Or go and buy a fish supper and eat it with your own fresh tartare sauce, and feel proud.

A bowl of perfect tartare saue

A bowl of perfect tartare saue

 

 

 

 

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