Saturday, 23 July 2011

Courgette and Feta Fritters

Another courgette recipe; you can tell they’re doing well in the garden this year! That's one of the things I love about ‘growing-your-own’ –  when everything starts to come to fruition at once you have to find ways of using it. Good job we love ‘em!

If you have as many courgettes as me you can freeze them; just chop them into largish chunks and pack into a Tupperware box before freezing. They’ll collapse somewhat when they’re defrosted, so I wouldn’t attempt making these fritters with them, but they’ll be perfectly OK for either of the soups I’ve posted recently.

I like fritters, they’re great hot and fresh with some new potatoes or wedges and a salad, but if you have a couple left over I can recommend them for lunch next day in a soft flour tortilla with a dollop of sour cream and some leafage with a few olives on the side. Delish!

400gm Courgettes
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
1tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (thyme and chives are nice)
Grated zest of one lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
100gms feta, crumbled into small pieces
2tbsps olive oil for frying

Grate the courgettes, salt lightly and leave to drain in a colander for 15 min. Meanwhile put the flour, eggs, shallot, herbs, garlic and lemon zest in a bowl and mix. Place the salted courgettes in the middle of a clean tea-towel then wring out the tea-towel** over the sink until the courgettes are almost dry. Add them to the bowl with the feta and mix well.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add a tablespoon of mixture for each fritter, flatten it out a bit and cook until the underside is golden, then turn and cook the other side. Put on a paper-towel lined plate while you cook the rest of the mixture.

Serve with new potatoes and a salad.

**Your tea-towel will look a bit wrecked, but it’ll be fine after a hot wash!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Moroccan Veggie Parcels with Aubergine Sauce

I made these little parcels last Sunday; we had three people round for lunch and I didn’t want to do a nut roast or similar – I was after a lighter, more summery type of thing. For some reason I broke my golden rule, the one I’ve stuck to all my life, and cooked something that I had never cooked before! I always have a dry-run of a new recipe before I unleash it onto guests but, in this instance, I can only assume I had a rush of blood to the head or possibly a severe attack of over-confidence….whatever it was, I must be mad!

In the event it all turned out rather well; I chose a Simon Rimmer recipe and served it with tomato, olive and almond couscous and a leafy salad.

Now, far be it from me to criticise Simon, but I think when I make it next time I’ll give it a few refinements:

  • Double the chilli flakes in the filling to give it a bit more zing
  • Halve the amount of sweet potato, it made far too much filling for only six parcels
  • Double the chopped apricots because they got a bit lost in amongst all the other flavours
  • I should point out that I used a tin of chopped tomatoes because I thought the sauce would be a bit dry with just three fresh toms to provide the ‘sauciness’ and I also chopped the aubergines into chunks rather than strips
None of this is meant to suggest that they weren't fine as they are, it's just that I always mess around with recipes when I've made them once, to bring them into line with our particular taste. Our guests are omnivores, but they were very complimentary and I don’t think (?!) they were just being polite. On the whole I’d say it was very successful and definitely one to do again. The aubergine sauce was brilliant; I think it would make a good filling for lasagne...must give it a try.

Serves 6

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Eating Out

Do you eat in restaurants much? I'm sad to say we’ve almost given up on it; it’s just not worth the effort.

Is there a chef in the entire bloody country who knows that Parmesan is not veggie? I don't think so, judging by the look of the menus out there!

When I first went veggie I was under the mistaken impression that, although the eating out situation wasn’t great, things were bound to improve as time went on. Well, how wrong I was. Things are no better at all; you can still go into almost any mainstream restaurant and find the vegetarian ‘choice’ limited to one starter and one main course (both of which most likely include non-veggie cheese!) and as for wine - well, don't even ask!

I just don’t get why mainstream restaurants won’t offer more choice to veggies. Can they not understand that it is not only veggies who like to eat vegetarian food? Even confirmed omnivores will sometimes choose a veggie meal if it’s imaginative, tasty and well-presented. If they offered a good selection of vegetarian dishes, rather than the token ‘soup of the day’ and the tired ‘pasta bake’ that we usually get, their restaurant would appeal to more people and those same people would most probably eat at the restaurant more frequently; I know I would. Appealing to more punters would seem to be a sensible business move to me but, clearly, not to your average restaurateur.

It would be lovely if I lived in an area of the country where we had a selection of veggie eateries to choose from but, sadly, there is only one veggie cafĂ© nearby. It’s a 'communal tables, knit your own yogurt, Jesus-sandal-wearing' type of establishment that really belongs back in the Hippy days of the 1960s; it’s not the kind of place I’m comfortable in.

If I was twenty years younger I would seriously consider starting up the kind of veggie restaurant that I’d like to eat in: medium-priced, nice surroundings, friendly professional staff and a competent innovative chef cooking a small selection of seasonally changing dishes (say...four starters, six mains and four puddings) with a good choice of veggie wines and cheeses....and no sign of a communal table!

In my dreams....

Monday, 11 July 2011

Banana Bread

This is a really lovely banana bread which I had nothing whatsoever to do with; my nephew made it and brought it with him when he came for lunch yesterday.

It’s moist, flavourful and spicy; it's also much darker and richer than the banana bread I usually make, from St Delia’s Complete Cookery Course, circa 1984 (!) I’m sure Delia will be gutted to know that she has now been cast aside like an old sock because, having prised the recipe out of him, I shall be using this one in future!

I’m reliably informed (by said nephew whose sister, my niece, now lives in Sydney) that banana bread, lightly toasted and buttered, is a favourite breakfast in Australia. Now, why have I only just found this out? Just think of all those lost years when I could have legitimately been eating cake for breakfast! There has obviously been a serious gap in my education, this is the sort of useful information I should have known… it’s nothing short of a disgrace! 

2 eggs
270g light soft brown sugar
3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
270g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
a handful of pecans, roughly chopped (reserve 8 whole ones)
140 g melted butter

Beat the eggs and sugar together until well combined then mix in the bananas; add all the other ingredients, except the butter, and mix well; add the butter and mix to form a very soft batter.

Turn the mixture into a well-greased 2lb loaf tin, lay the whole pecans on top and bake at 180C for about 45-50 minutes until risen and cooked through. Test with a skewer and bake for a further 10 minutes if necessary.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.

Update: 12/7/11

I am happy to report that toasted banana bread with a little unsalted butter and some homemade marmalade is an absolutely scrummy breakfast! Well, I had to try it, didn’t I - it would have been rude not to!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Italian Vegetable Soup

They've started already; the courgettes are on the march! I wasn't expecting the onslaught quite so soon, but they seem to like the weather we've been having this year.

Every year about this time I start cooking recipes to help me use up the courgette mountain that has arrived in the garden; allotment holders and hobby gardeners across the land will all be very familiar with this same annual scenario.

I use them regularly in two different soups, fritters and a couple of salads; I also add them to roast veg as well as stir-fries and a vegetable tart. Admittedly, after a few weeks we get a bit courgetted-out but I still get a ridiculous sense of pleasure from just wandering outside and picking something that will be on our plates within half an hour. I’m easily pleased.

This soup may just look like a rather speckled tomato soup but the courgettes add a subtle sub-taste whilst the pesto gives it an Italian twist.

1 onion, chopped
1 courgette, sliced
1 400g tin of tomatoes (you can use fresh tomatoes if you prefer)
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
750 ml veg stock
a heaped tbsp of tomato pesto (I use Sacla Organic)
3 or 4 sprigs of basil

Fry the onion, courgette and pepper in the oil for 5 mins, add the garlic and continue to fry for another 5 mins; add the stock and tomatoes and simmer gently for 15 mins.

Take off the heat, add the basil and the tomato pesto then blend with a stick blender until smooth. Thin with a bit more stock if necessary.

Serve in mugs with plenty of good bread.

Serves 4

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Different Green Salad

We’ve all made a green salad before; you know the sort of thing….a few leaves, cucumber, maybe a bit of watercress or rocket and a vinaigrette dressing. So far, so boring.

Having made a very nice quiche and potato salad the other day I wanted something else to go with it. I had loads of green veg in the fridge so decided on a selection of those served at room temperature with a light dressing which let the vegetables speak for themselves. It was really light and fresh and made a nice change from the more usual salad-type ingredients.

125g fine green beans, trimmed
a small head of broccoli broken into florets
125g mangetout, trimmed
2 medium courgettes, cut into finger sized wedges
1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp olive oil                    
1 tbsp red wine vinegar       
1 tsp Dijon mustard                    
black pepper                    

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the green beans, cook for 1 minute; add the broccoli, cook for 2 minutes; add the mangetout and cook the whole lot for 1 minute then drain and refresh under cold water.

Heat a griddle pan, rub the courgette wedges with the olive oil and when the pan is really hot lay the wedges in and cook for 1-2 minutes; turn the wedges and cook until all sides are nicely striped.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together, arrange the veg in a serving dish and drizzle over the dressing.