Tag Archives: vegetarian

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

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.

 

Poached eggs

9 Feb

Ages ago I promised to tell you how to make the perfect poached egg.

Well, it looks like I’ll be having a few more poached eggs soon, as we have just got another two chickens. I thought they might be called Charles Darwin and Jane Austen (after significant authors in our collections at the National Library of Scotland where I work)… but now that they’re home, I’m not so sure. Pictures will of course follow but it’s such a dreich dull day that I can’t bear to take pics yet. They are both Wyandottes: one white and the other blue. The white girl is big and bumptious, and blue is petite and very shy. And neither can be seduced by food – I gave them a scattering of warm sweetcorn, which my other girls would hoover up in the space of seconds.. and the new girls weren’t really interested.

Anyway, there will no doubt be further news of my family of chooks, but for now, let me tell you how I make the perfect poached egg.

Poached egg

Get the freshest eggs you can get.

You do know how to tell if they are fresh or not? You pop them in water and see if they float or not. If they sink to the bottom then they are oh so fresh; if they float to the top I’m not sure I’d eat them. Somewhere in the middle is probably ok.

And the reason this happens is that there is a membrane inside the egg, and over time the gap between the membrane and the eggshell fills with air to make a wee air pocket, hence the egg floats.

OK, so now you’ve got your eggs, you’re ready to make the poached eggs.

  • Boil a kettle full of water
  • Pour the hot water into a wide pan (possibly a deep sided frying pan type thing)
  • Add a pinch of salt and about 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar (don’t add more, you don’t want your eggs to taste of the vinegar – it’s just added to help the egg whites stay together and not stray all over the pan)
  • Put the pan on a REALLY low heat – you hardly want the water to bubble at all
  • Break your egg into a tea cup
  • Lower the tea cup with the egg in it towards the water, at a 45 degree angle, then slowly and gently tip the tea cup and slip the egg into the water
  • Repeat for as many eggs as you have (but don’t overcrowd the pan)
  • Now, let them just sit there in the almost boiling water for about 3-5 minutes, depending how fresh the eggs were and how soft you like them
  • Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon (which was always called a holey willie when I was a child and I still find it hard to resist calling it that!)

Serve on fresh buttered toast. Of course. Preferably with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Other things to have with a poached egg on toast

  • Black pudding – classic and delicious, needs nothing else
  • But if you’re being fancy, add some scallops (and perhaps swap the toast for some spinach)
  • Bacon
  • Ham with or without hollandaise sauce
  • Marmite – trust me, it works
  • Smoked salmon

 

 

Christmas leftovers (but no turkey)

2 Jan

It’s that time of year when you’re probably still living out of the fridge and store cupboard, still eating up bits of food you bought thinking you’d need it over the festive period. Or perhaps you haven’t over-shopped this year and you are now eating delicious meals started from scratch, made with fresh vegetables and real meat (ie not leftover roast turkey, or cold ham). If so, well done.

But have you still got things lurking in the fridge which you’ve had enough of? Maybe you’ve had enough of Stilton? Or brussels sprouts? If so, I have a couple of recipes for you which might help: Stilton Nibbly Biscuits (gluten free!) and creamy sprouts.

Let me explain first of all about the sprouts. I never thought I would grow to enjoy a sprout, but they are the Captain’s second favourite vegetable! Yes, seriously, they are. His favourite is parsnips, and I think this afternoon I’m going to find a recipe for a parsnip cake just to use up the last of the bag of parsnips I have in the fridge. But, back to the sprouts. I’ve done all manner of things with sprouts to try to enjoy them: added juniper berries, lardons, chestnuts, lots of butter… but all to no avail. Until now. I used what I had in the fridge (as you do at this time of year) and found my perfect Brussels Sprouts recipe. It’s not for the faint hearted, and should be eaten BEFORE you start your diet. But it is delicious with roast pork, or a pork chop, or I can imagine it working really well with sausages and black pudding and some creamy mash.

And then I mentioned Stilton didn’t I? One of my favourite cookbooks over the last year or so is by Thane Prince: Ham, Pickles and Jam. It consistently gives me interesting and useful recipes. One that I keep returning to is for cheesy nibbly biscuits. All you need is about 30 minutes, and food processor and some leftover cheese. OK, and some butter and flour too (preferably gluten free).  I originally wrote about this recipe here, back in 2011.

Over the months I’ve modified the recipe – these days I generally make it with stilton and pretty much always omit the parmesan. Also, when the dough is made I roll it into a great big sausage, and then just slice off pieces to bake them, instead of all that faff with making cherry size pieces and then squishing them flat before rolling them in sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are important though – they add an extra nutty flavour to the biscuit. And I’ve only ever made them with gluten free flour – I love the light crispness you get with this mix.

So, that’s your stilton sorted. Now for the brussels sprouts.

Creamy Brussels Sprouts

Prepare your brussels sprouts by cutting off the wee end, and removing the outer leaf or two if necessary. Then slice the sprouts – you’ll get about 4 or 5 slices out of each sprout, depending on their size. You don’t need to be a perfectionist with this, all you’re doing is cutting down the size of each sprout so they cook through more quickly and evenly.

Put the sliced sprouts into a wide flat pan and throw in some stock (or if you’re me, some water and a stock cube). You don’t need much stock – the idea is that the sprouts will cook in it, but it will boil away. I use about 200ml when cooking enough sprouts for two people.

Now, put a lid on the pan and boil up the sprouts. Remove the lid and stir them around a bit, to make sure all the sprouts are in the water. Put the lid on again if you think you should, but if it’s a tight fitting lid, you might want to leave a slight gap to let some steam out.

Ideally, the sprouts should be just about cooked at the point when the water is just about boiled away.

Throw in about 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg and a good turn or two of black pepper. Stir. Add a seriously big glug or two of double cream and stir again.

Leave quietly bubbling away while you serve the rest of your food up, and by the time you’ve plated everything else up the sprouts will be ready.

Delicious with roast pork and all the other trimmings, or as I’ve just discovered with Lucas Hollweg’s Beef Casserole with Cinnamon and Prunes. Exquisite!

 

Perfect and easy cheese scones

2 Dec

You know how it is, you’ve got some nubs of cheese left in the fridge and you think they’d be better cooked than eaten on a cracker.

But you want your cheesy snack NOW.

Mimolette cheese scones

Mimolette cheese scones

Well, this is the recipe for you – from start to finish it probably only takes about half an hour.

Ready?

Off we go.

Spicy cheese scones

Preheat oven to 200C / GM6. Prepare a baking sheet

  • 200g SR flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • a good shake of celery salt
  • a good shake of cayenne pepper
  • a good shake of smoked paprika
  • about 40g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge, grated on a coarse grater
  • 100g mature cheddar-type cheese (I used mimolette) either grated or cut into wee chunks
  • 3tsp crunchy mustard
  • 100ml milk
  1. Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
  2. Stir in the butter and cheese
  3. Add milk and mix together with a fork
  4. Bring together with your hands and knead REALLY lightly on a floured board. If the dough is really solid, add more milk – it should come together, but feel quite light and spongey (not hard and solid)
  5. Pat down to about 2cm thickness
  6. Either use a cutter to make about 8-9 scones, or cut into rough scone shapes with a knife
  7. Bake for 12-15mins until golden brown

Grating the butter means you don’t need to do anything other than mix it in to the dry mixture – no working it till it turns into breadcrumbs. To be honest I didn’t weigh the butter, I just grated about 1/6 packet of butter (mark the pack of butter half way down, then divide the half into 3 .. don’t actually cut through it, just mark with a knife then grate to this point).

You could make these into wee baby scones and they’d be delish with a wee sherry at Christmas. Or Bonfire Night

Vegetable broth (and croutons if you want them)

21 Sep

It’s clearly the beginning of the soup season. The days are cooler, and the evenings are outright cold. Yesterday it rained and rained and rained all day. Today it’s still cold, but it’s gloriously sunny and I’ve already got two loads of laundry merrily blowing on the whirligig line.

It’s not just nature that is going through a period of change. My life is also changing. Quite dramatically really.

A couple of weeks ago I moved house. I had been living in two places: a lovely wee colonies flat in Leith, in Edinburgh, through the week and in the Clyde Valley with my boyfriend, the Captain, at weekends. Each Friday after work I would travel west to the Valley and the each Monday morning I would travel back east to the Capital. At one level I had the best of both worlds: the city life (and all the benefits of living in a truly wonderful capital city) through the week and then the joy of having a relatively big garden and being surrounded by fields at the weekend.

But in all honesty it was no longer my dream. My dream was to live in one place, and to know that I would have the right accessories to go with whatever clothes I put on in the morning. All too often that perfect necklace was in the other house.

So just after this year’s festival was over I packed all my worldly belongings into boxes and moved out west. And here I am. Sitting in the garden room, looking out onto the garden and across the Clyde Valley. The clouds are just beginning to blow in, and the trees are starting to lose their lush green. Autumn is definitely in the air. So it’s most definitely the season for warming soups.

After yesterday’s smooth carrot soup, I wanted something chunkier today. And I had a hankering for pearl barley. This the perfect soup for using up whatever veg need to be used. Today it was turnip, carrot, potato and leeks. Oh and savoy cabbage, which didn’t really NEED to be used, but I wanted it.

Anyways, here goes, another simple recipe to see you through the Autumn and Winter.

Vegetable broth with croutons

Vegetable broth

  • A splash of oil, or a smudge of butter
  • A couple of leeks, washed of dirt, then sliced finely
  • A carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • A medium potato, peeled and cut into the same size(ish) chunks
  • Turnip, peeled and cut into the same size chunks – I used a piece about the same size as the potato, maybe slightly larger
  • A handful of pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 stock cubes (veg, lamb or beef work well)
  • A few big outside leaves of savoy cabbage, the central spine removed and sliced finely
  • Parsley
  1. Put the oil/butter in the bottom of a large heavy based pan over a medium/low heat
  2. Put a kettle of water on to boil at this stage
  3. Add the leeks, the carrot, the potato, the turnip. Just add them as you chop them up, they don’t all need to go in at once
  4. Sweat the veg for a few minutes, stirring to stop them from sticking/burning
  5. Add the pearl barley and stir
  6. Add a good few grinds of black pepper and the stock cubes and a wee bit of water, just to wet the pan, and cook for a further minute or two
  7. Add the kettleful of water, stir, and bring back to the boil
  8. Simmer for about an hour, till the whole thing is looking thick and gloopy and the barley is soft
  9. Add the savoy cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or so
  10. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. It doesn’t need croutons, but I couldn’t resist them.

If you have any bay leaves throw one or two in while it’s simmering, and if you have celery in the fridge, then cut some up and add it all in with the other veg. Somehow, I never seem to have any celery around though.

Croutons

  • Whatever’s left of an old loaf of bread
  • Olive oil
  • Celery salt
  • Black pepper
  • Herbs and Spices (I have a harissa style spice mix, with chilli, garlic, coriander and who knows what else)
  1. Cut the bread into thick slices. Then cut each slice into long batons. Then cut each baton into chunks. They don’t need to be precisely the same size, but it’s best if they are similar sized chunks
  2. In a big bowl, pour some oil around the sides of the bowl so it dribbles down into the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need a lot, but enough that the inside of the bowl is coated in a thin film of oil
  3. Now sprinkle in your chosen flavours – I grind lots of black pepper, then a sprinkle or two of celery salt, followed by a good skoosh or the harissa spice mix
  4. Now through in the bread chunks and gently mix it all around. A
    good squidgy spatula is the best implement for this. What you’re trying to do is to give all the bits of bread a chance of absorbing a wee bit of the flavoured oil. The chunks should not all look soaked in oil, although some of them might. But really, you’re trying to make this with as little oil as you need
  5. Pour the coated bread into a baking tray and pop in a very low oven
  6. I leave it for about 45 mins in an oven at gas mark 2. But this is not a precise recipe – check on the croutons and take them out when they are ready – they will have taken on a slightly golden colour and will be slightly crispy (they crisp up a bit more as they cool down).
  7. Sprinkle in your bowl of soup, or serve them in a pretty bowl so people can help themselves. If you have any left keep them in an airtight tub for a few days.

Please don’t use good fresh bread for these – the bread will be much nicer just served in chunks with the soup. But if you have the heel of a loaf left, just take 5 minutes to make these and then you’ll have them ready for next time you have soup (which surely won’t be long away).

%d bloggers like this: