Sunday, 29 May 2011

Spring Vegetable Lasagne

Sorry about the poor quality of the picture, but I had to take it using my phone; the quality of the dish however was brilliant!

My lovely sister served us this gorgeous lasagne when we went to them for lunch yesterday. She and her husband aren't veggie but she always makes the effort to accommodate my dietary choice; I know I’m lucky and I'm very grateful.

This unusual spring veg lasagne is a veggie take on a Jamie Oliver recipe. I don't have the book but I think it originally had fish of some description as one of the ingredients. (Do you have any idea why anyone would want to put fish in a veggie lasagne? Nope, me neither!) Anyway, having tweaked and changed the recipe somewhat, this has now become my sister’s recipe which I have shamelessly appropriated for future use!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed and chopped
3 cloves  garlic, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, reserve tips and cut stalks cut into 2cm pieces
2 mugs of frozen broad beans (or you could use edamame beans)
2 mugs of frozen peas
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tbsp freshly chopped mint
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
250ml single cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pack fresh lasagne sheets
500g plain cottage cheese
150g grated Bookham’s veggie ‘parmesan’

Heat the olive oil in a large deep frying pan and sauté the spring onions and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, broad beans and peas; cook over a medium heat for three minutes then add the lemon rind, mint and thyme; mix well then add the single cream and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes. Season well with plenty of black pepper then turn off the heat.

To assemble the lasagne (this sounds worse than it really is!):

Put a large flameproof dish or tin – sis used a roasting tin – on a low heat and assemble the lasagne whilst it is still over the heat; this will help soften the pasta sheets while you do the assembling.

Put a quarter of the veg in the tin, cover with a layer of lasagne then sprinkle with a third of the parmesan; add another quarter of the veg, cover with another layer of lasagne then spoon over half the cottage cheese; add another quarter of the veg, another layer of lasagne and another third of the parmesan; finally, add the last of the veg, cover with lasagne and the second half of the cottage cheese, arrange the reserved asparagus tips on top then sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. If there are any creamy juices left in the frying pan, pour them carefully around the edge of your assembled lasagne. Phew!!

Put the whole thing on a baking tray, place on the middle shelf under a pre-heated grill and leave for about 8-10 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serve with a mixed salad and warm ciabatta.

Serves 6.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mushroom and Chestnut Casserole

It’s been funny weather-wise this week, it started off sunny and warm, poured with rain yesterday and today things were very cloudy and chilly; if we'd had snow we could have had all four seasons in one week!

I hadn't intended to make this mushroom and chestnut casserole; it was a bit of a surprise, really. I fancied a curry to warm us up a bit, but I was having a rummage in the freezer (searching for some frozen coconut milk which I never actually found I wonder what happened to it?) when I discovered a pack of frozen chestnuts left over from Christmas; I also had loads of mushrooms in the fridge so, together with a few other store cupboard bits and pieces, I made a rather unexpected dinner.

I love it when something delicious turns up by surprise; we’ll have the curry another day!

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g mushrooms, halved or chopped if large
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
500ml veg stock
100ml red wine
1 dsp tomato puree
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
200g chestnuts (vacuum-packed)

Mix the stock, wine, tomato puree, soy sauce and thyme together in a large jug and set aside. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions, carrots and celery over a medium heat for five minutes; add the mushrooms, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and fry until the water from the mushrooms evaporates; stir in the flour then add the wine and stock mixture; bring to the boil, stirring, then add the chestnuts; put the lid on, lower the heat and cook over a gentle heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I served it with tenderstem broccoli and some decent bread to mop up the delicious gravy, but rice or mashed potatoes would also be nice.

Serves 2 with enough left for lunch tomorrow

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Strawberry Jam

The house has been smelling like a jam factory this last week or so, not that I'm complaining, it's been delightful; rhubarb and raspberry was first, then strawberry, then a batch of the clementine marmalade I made at the end of last year. I remember saying we don't eat much marmalade....we do now!

The strawberry jam was so good, I went back to the market this week, stocked up on more fruit and sugar and made another batch! I'm squirrelling it away in the pantry, it'll be so lovely to have a taste of summer in the cold dark days of winter. Plan ahead, that's what I say!

Having never made strawberry jam before, and having read many times that it's sometimes difficult to get a 'set', I thought it best to follow this Good Food recipe rather than winging it as I usually do.

It worked out perfectly and has had rave reviews from family members. I will definitely make it again, although I think I could be making a rod for my own back because homemade jam is soooo much better than the commercially made stuff. Obviously jam has to be boiled, but why on Earth do commercial makers boil the guts out of it so that all you get is a generic taste of 'jam' rather than the taste of the fruit itself? Beats me.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Warm Spring Salad

I bought a load of veg at the market this week with, I confess, no clear idea of what to do with it all. I do this all the time - I’m a fool to myself….

The usual suspects of tagine, chilli, curry, stir-fry etc. didn’t really appeal as I stood in the kitchen last night, with a blank look on my face, waiting to be inspired. I wanted something different!

‘Different’ appeared in the guise of a warm salad. Now, it should be said that I don’t like warm salads as a rule; the idea of warm ingredients on top of salad leaves gives me the willies – I can’t understand that concept at all (shudder!). This salad, however, had no limp leaves or wilting watercress; just lots of lovely veg and lentils and a touch of very simple dressing. Perfect.

100g puy lentils cooked in stock until tender
50g green beans
50g frozen soya beans
100g broccoli
Small bundle of fine asparagus, trimmed and halved
50g frozen petit pois
4 chopped tomatoes
¼ of a red onion, finely sliced

Dressing: whisk together
1 tbsp olive oil                 
Juice of half a lemon      
1 clove garlic, crushed

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, throw in the green beans and cook for 1 minute, throw in the soya beans and broccoli and cook for another minute, throw in the asparagus halves and petit pois and cook everything for one more minute. Drain well.

Drain the lentils and divide between two pasta bowls, top with the lightly cooked green veg then scatter over the tomatoes and finely sliced red onion. Drizzle over a little dressing…enjoy.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Rhubarb and Raspberry Jam

When I went to our local market on Tuesday there seemed to be so many bargains on the veg stall I didn’t quite know where to start. We’ve had such a warm dry spring so some fruits seem to be very early this year; I bought masses of strawberries and raspberries as well as all the usual everyday stuff and we were absolutely loaded down when we came away from the stall.

All the soft fruit I bought has gone into jam-making. The husband put in a special request for strawberry jam (recipe to follow) and I have been hankering after a rhubarb and raspberry jam that I have fond memories of from years ago. I was really chuffed that we finally had enough of our own rhubarb from the garden for this – it makes it seem even more homemade, somehow.

This a lovely soft-set jam that's very fresh tasting because of its short cooking time, really nice on toast or scones.

600g rhubarb, sliced into 1inch chunks
300g raspberries
75ml water**
600g jam sugar (includes pectin)

Put the rhubarb, sugar and water into a wide deep pan or a jam pan if you have one. Bring slowly to the boil to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 15 minutes; add the raspberries and boil for a further 5 minutes. Test for setting by putting a teaspoonful of jam on a cold saucer, leave for 30 seconds and if it wrinkles when you push it with your finger…bingo!! If it doesn’t wrinkle, boil for another 5 minutes and try the cold saucer test again. Pot up whilst still hot into hot sterilised jars.

**I added the water because I wanted a fairly soft-set jam but reduce it, or even leave it out, if you want a stronger set.

Makes 4 medium jars.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sweetcorn Fritters

I like this time of year – it's all going on in the garden; everything is growing like crazy (including the blasted weeds!) and all the newly planted veg seeds are poking their way through the soil. After a beautifully sunny day last Wednesday we had a late season frost (aarghh!!) which burned all the top leaves on the potatoes and saw off a few of my herbs. The potatoes will survive though, and I have plenty of herb seeds leftover to fill any gaps, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

It’s been lovely weather for the past few days necessitating lots of gardening followed by lunch while we survey our handiwork. I made these sweetcorn fritters yesterday; they went down a treat as a light lunch, although they spread in the pan more than I expected and turned out quite a bit bigger than I planned. If you try them you might want them to look a little more delicate than mine appear to be!

I think I'll use the same basic recipe to make some courgette fritters later on in the summer when the garden produces its usual courgette mountain and I'm desperately trying to use them up.

50g self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
50mls milk
200g frozen sweetcorn, defrosted
small bunch spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the flour, egg and milk in a bowl until you have a thickish batter; stir in the sweetcorn, chopped spring onions and coriander until well combined and season with plenty of black pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and fry tablespoons of the sweetcorn batter for about three minutes each side until golden and cooked through.

Serve with sour cream and chive dip or a tomato salsa.

Makes 6-8 fritters

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Maple Pecan Flapjacks

I know some people make cake every week, for them there's always cake in the tin for visitors; I make cake about 3 or 4 times a year! It’s not that I don’t like it, the problem is I do like it and my weight is quite enough of an issue as it is! I also like the actual ‘making’ of cake; all the measuring and mixing, plus the wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen, is very satisfying.

Mooching about on the net the other day I saw a recipe for Cranberry and White Chocolate flapjacks, which set me thinking about baking. Needless to say I had no white chocolate or cranberries in the pantry so I improvised with what I had to hand; the result was a moist chewy confection that's incredibly moreish.

I won’t try to pretend that these are even remotely 'healthy' or 'good for you' despite their rustic wholesome appearance; yes, I know there are all those oats and nuts, but there is also all that butter and sugar! But who wants 'low-fat' where cake is concerned?! Everyone deserves a treat once in a while; a little of what you fancy does you good in my opinion and anyway, I have a cunning way of getting round the issue of having such tempting morsels in the house – I take them round to my son and daughter-in-law….simples!

200g unsalted butter
150g golden granulated sugar
80g golden syrup
40ml maple syrup**
150g pecan nuts, chopped
350g rolled oats

Melt the butter, sugar and both syrups gently together in a very large saucepan, stirring over a low heat just until the sugar melts. Do NOT allow the mixture to boil or you’ll have a panful of toffee! Take off the heat and stir in the oats and chopped nuts. Mix really well until all the oats are completely amalgamated with the delicious gooey, buttery mixture.

Press the flapjack mix into a 20cm x 30cm x 2cm tin lined with baking parchment and bake at 180C for 25 mins. Mark into squares whilst still warm but don’t remove from the tin until they’re completely cold. Store in an airtight tin.

Makes 15-20 squares.

**Please use pure Maple Syrup for this recipe - I know it's expensive, but you really need the intense flavour. The much cheaper 'Maple flavoured' stuff is ghastly and just won't do.