Saturday, 29 January 2011

One-Pot Vegetable Pilaf

It’s probably the cold weather that’s doing it, but just lately I seem to want quick, easy meals that don’t entail a lot of faffing about and don’t need a lot of clearing up afterwards. This recipe hits the spot on both counts; it takes less than 30 minutes from chopping board to plate and the whole thing cooks in one pan. Result!

25g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 red pepper, chopped
150g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tbsp madras curry paste
150g basmati rice
300ml vegetable stock
150g broccoli florets
50g green beans
50ml coconut milk
1 tbsp chopped coriander
25g toasted flaked almonds

In a large deep frying pan sauté the onion, carrot, red pepper and mushrooms in the butter and olive oil for 5 minutes; add the garlic and curry paste and continue cooking for another minute.

Rinse the rice in plenty of cold water then add the rice and stock to the veg, stir well, bring to the boil then put the lid on and simmer for 8 minutes; add the green beans and broccoli and cook for another 4 minutes until the vegetables are just tender and the stock has been absorbed by the rice.

Stir the coconut milk and coriander into the pilaf and scatter with the toasted flaked almonds to serve.

Serves 2

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Homity Pies

What’s your favourite comfort food? What do you eat when it's been 'one of those days'? Well, some folk dive into a large bar (or two!) of Green & Black's or a tub of Haagen-Dazs, but as it happens I'm not that keen on either chocolate or ice-cream; for comfort eating I need serious carbs and plenty of 'em. Bring on the Homity Pies; pastry, potatoes and cheese....ooh yes, I'm feeling better already!

Now although this is quite obviously not health food, it is good for you in other ways; it's inexpensive, it's simplicity itself to make and it is guaranteed to give solace to the most battered heart and soul.

Homity Pie is a traditional English dish that was popular when times were hard and people couldn't afford to eat meat - perfect food for a veggie, in fact! There are probably 1001 recipes for it on the net but this is my version. If you don't manage to eat all 6 at once (!) the cooked pies freeze really well - just defrost and refresh in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.

I usually serve these with lots of fresh veg in order to kid myself that I'm offsetting the carb and calorie overload. However, if things are really dire, forget the veg and just have another pie...

450gm potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks
3 large onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp olive oil
25gm butter
Large handful of parsley, chopped.
150gm grated mature cheddar
ground black pepper
6 uncooked 10cm pastry cases (I use ready-made)

Boil or steam the potatoes until tender. Chop onions finely and saute in the olive oil with the garlic until lightly browned. In a large bowl combine the cooked potatoes and onions; add the butter, parsley and half the cheese. Mix well and season with black pepper. Cool, then fill the pastry cases and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place pies on a baking sheet and bake at 200C for about 25mins until golden.

Makes 6 individual pies or a 20cm pie if you prefer.

P.S. I forgot to mention that today is National Pie Day in the USA. I just love the idea that a country can have its own "American Pie Council"? Priceless!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Spicy Veg and Lentil Casserole

Last night's dinner was a rather tasty casserole; it was all a bit spur of the moment, but for some reason I was feeling short on inspiration and nothing seemed to appeal. There were loads of bits and pieces in the fridge that needed using up, so I got the whole lot out on the worktop to see what I could come up with. It turned into a fragrant veg casserole that cheered up a wet Saturday night no end and was very nice indeed.

I would have served it with naans if I'd had any in the freezer but onion bhajis provided a pretty good substitute. Incidentally, I know the list of ingredients looks as long as your arm but it's mostly store-cupboard stuff; nothing too tricky.

½ a small butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
12 small new potatoes, halved
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
100g small chestnut mushrooms
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 sticks of celery, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
450mls veg stock
100g red lentils
100g french beans cut into 1inch pieces
100g frozen peas
1 tsp garam masala
handful of fresh coriander, chopped finely

Prepare the first seven vegetables, put into a very large pan with the olive oil and saute gently for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and chilli flakes and stir for a minute or two until the spices become fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes and the stock, give everything a really good stir and bring to the boil; simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the red lentils and simmer for another 15 mins (you may need to add a bit more stock). Add the French beans, frozen peas and garam masala, bring back to the boil and simmer for another 5 mins.

Stir in the chopped coriander before serving with naans (or, in my case, onion bhajis!)

Serves 4 generously

Monday, 10 January 2011

Mincemeat and Apple Sponge Pudding

It’s the same every year after Christmas – I always have half a jar of leftover mincemeat staring at me forlornly every time I open the fridge. I know it keeps well (I put plenty of brandy in it!) but once the jar is opened, for some inexplicable reason I feel it’s best to use it up quickly. Yes, I know...I'm mad!

So, I made a little apple and mincemeat steamed sponge pud and served it with custard. We rarely eat desserts except on high days and holidays - the husband thought he'd died and gone to heaven!

2 tbsp mincemeat
50gms softened butter
50gms caster sugar
70gms self-raising flour
1 egg
1 small eating apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks

Put the mincemeat into the base of a well greased 1 pint pudding basin. Mix the sponge ingredients with a hand mixer in a small mixing bowl, then stir in the chopped apple with a metal spoon and spread the sponge mix evenly on top of the mincemeat. Cover the basin tightly with a square of baking parchment, then a square of double foil and steam for about an hour.

I couldn't be bothered to get my big steamer out, so I stood the basin on an upturned saucer in a pan of boiling water with the lid on. Only let the water come halfway up the basin, though; you don't want it bubbling up into the pudding.

This makes a nice sized little pud, ideal for two largish portions with lots of custard (and, if you’re having a pudding, who wants a small portion anyway?)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Christmas Nut Roast

Just one more post about festive cooking (until next year!)

This isn’t the greatest picture of my Christmas Nut Roast but I’m sure you get the idea; I couldn't hang around taking pics because I wanted to dive in to my lunch! I made the most amazing gravy to go with it and believe me, I’ve tried more than a few recipes over the years. This one is by far the best; give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. I've put a link for it after the recipe.

Loaf mixture:
½ a large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
200g whole mixed nuts
175g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
75g mature cheddar, grated
200ml stock
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp Marmite
½ tsp dried oregano

½ a large onion, finely chopped
100g finely chopped mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil

Sauté half an onion in oil until golden. Grind the nuts in a processor, not too finely. Stir the Marmite into the hot stock and allow to cool. Combine all the dry loaf ingredients, add the stock, sautéed onion and beaten egg and mix well. The mixture should be fairly slack. Sauté the remaining half of the onion and the mushrooms together until golden. Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment; put half the loaf mixture into the tin, cover with the onion and mushroom mixture and finish with the rest of the loaf mixture. Bake at 180C for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve with roast potatoes, vegetables of choice and veggie gravy. Also nice cold (if there’s any left!) with chutney or salad and it makes a killer sandwich with Dijon mustard and a pickled onion on the side!

Serves 4

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

I had been planning to make a mushroom pate for our starter on Christmas Day but, because the weather had been so awful, there were no decent mushrooms to be found anywhere; this festive-coloured soup was a very good second choice – I served it in teacups and saucers with some toasted ciabatta.

It was light, tasty and warming; just right before a heavy main course and pudding.

400g tomatoes, quartered
2 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths
2 red peppers, cored and cut into large chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
few grinds of black pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
2tbsp olive oil
1l vegetable stock

Small jar of horseradish cream to serve

Put the tomatoes, onions, red peppers and garlic in a large roasting tin; drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with the black pepper and thyme then mix well with your hands so the veg are coated in oil. Roast at 200C for about 30 minutes until the veg are cooked and starting to char at the edges.

Transfer the cooked veg and all the tomatoey, peppery juices to a large saucepan, add the stock then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. If you like, you can scoop out and discard any loose tomato skins that rise to the surface, but I don’t worry too much about leaving the skins in. Take the pan off the heat and blitz the soup with a hand blender.

Serve in warmed bowls with a spoonful of horseradish cream.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Baked Camembert

Now all the Christmas and New Year excitement is over for another year I thought I’d post a couple of the more successful things I cooked for us during the festive season.

Our Christmas Eve lunch was a rather splendid baked Camembert served with griddled ciabatta, celery sticks and some homemade fruity chutney. Definitely not the sort of lunch we have on a regular basis, but just the thing to kick off the celebrations. It would also make a great starter for a special meal.

I make no apology for posting the picture again; it looked gorgeous and tasted as good as it looked.

1 whole Camembert in a wooden box
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove

Take the paper wrapping off the cheese, rub the cheese with the cut clove of garlic then put it back in its box. Cut a large cross in the top of the cheese, drizzle with the olive oil and put the lid on. Put the whole box on a baking tray and bake at 180C for 15 minutes, by which time the cheese will be molten and unctuous.

Serves 2