Thursday, 21 February 2013

Squash, Lentil and Coconut Casserole

I'm still on the spicy kick, as you can see. Last night’s dinner was inspired by a recipe I found recently in a Waitrose magazine; it sounded just the thing for a cold day. Yesterday was certainly that day – it was lovely, dry with some weak wintry sunshine, but it was absolutely freezing! When we went out for our daily walk there was a bitter easterly wind which made my eyes water and my face go numb…not a pretty sight…!

Anyway, when we got back I fiddled around with the aforementioned recipe and changed some of the ingredients (Mr Simply Veg isn’t keen on fennel), ditched the cream that was in it (cream and coconut milk…hmm, no thanks, my hips don’t need the calories) then added a handful of lentils.

OK, so it doesn’t look anything like the original dish but it was really good. We had it with crusty bread but next time I’ll serve it with rice or maybe noodles – it makes masses so I froze two portions for a later date.

Much as I love spicy food I’ve never used Cajun seasoning before – god knows why, I must be mad, it’s wonderful stuff!

2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1kg butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2-3cm cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp dried thyme
250ml stock
1 400ml can coconut milk
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
75g red lentils

Heat the olive oil in a large lidded pan; fry the onion and squash over a high-ish heat for 5 minutes then add the garlic and fry for a minute or two.

Add the Cajun seasoning and thyme, stir well then add the stock, coconut milk and tomatoes; bring to the boil then turn the heat right down, pop a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes. Mix in the red pepper and lentils, put the lid back on and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the veg and lentils are tender.

Serve with crusty bread, rice or whatever you fancy.

Serves 4

Monday, 11 February 2013

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Last week I bought an enormous cauliflower for the princely sum of 50p at the veg stall on the market; having used some in a cheesy cauli and broccoli bake I still had more than half of the monster left. When in doubt…soup!

I’m going through a period of curry type spices in almost everything I cook at the moment; it could have something to do with the on-going weather which is cold, damp, grey and miserable. All I seem to want right now is food to warm me up from the inside so I decided to use my usual curried parsnip soup recipe for this and just subbed the cauli for the parsnip; despite my slight misgivings it worked really well and, in fact, I think I actually prefer the cauli version.

I should warn you this makes quite a lot of soup but it freezes well.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium potato, peeled
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
700g cauliflower in florets
1 tbsp curry paste
1.5l stock

chopped coriander

Fry the chopped onion gently in the oil in a really large saucepan for 5 minutes; add the chopped garlic and fry for another minute or two. Stir in the curry paste then stir in the chopped potato, celery and cauliflower florets (reserve one cauli floret); stir to coat in the curry paste then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, put the lid on and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Divide the reserved cauli floret into tiny pieces and blanch in boiling water for a minute or two.

When the soup is cooked blitz with a stick blender until smooth, you may need a little more stock, and serve with a scattering of chopped coriander (you'll have noticed I had to use parsley - forgot to buy any coriander...duh!) and a few tiny blanched cauli pieces.
Serves 6 (or even 8) generously

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Vegeree or Veggie Kedgeree!

I’ve been scouting around recently for a decent recipe for a fishless Kedgeree; sadly, the main recipe on the net was Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s offering (you may remember HFW upset me greatly a year or so ago when he went half-heartedly veggie for a few months, purely in order to sell more books – I now refuse to cook anything of his!) plus others which seemed to have an awful lot of ingredients which rather negated the simple feel of the original Kedgeree. I had to come up with my own.

It was a nice easy dinner and you could easily substitute any veg you have to hand. Yes, I know kedgeree was originally eaten for breakfast, but a curried rice dish really doesn’t do it for me at 8am, I’m afraid – I’m more of a porridge fan, myself – however, the same dish at 8pm for dinner is a different matter entirely.

Mr Simply Veg had the traditional topping of boiled egg quarters with his, but although I can just about manage an omelette, I can’t cope with anything that looks quite so overtly eggy so I topped mine with tomato wedges. It occurred to me a little too late (we’d already eaten it!) that some toasted cashews scattered over the top would be a tasty addition. Next time, maybe…

1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 shallots
2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
175g baby sweetcorn
250g basmati rice
500ml water
1 bay leaf
150g frozen peas
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped coriander

1 egg per person
(or a tomato in my case…)
lime wedges

Fry the finely chopped shallots in the oil in a lidded frying pan until translucent, then stir in the curry powder, cumin and coriander and allow to cook for a minute or two. Add the sweetcorn, cut into 2-3cm chunks, and the rice followed by the water and the bay leaf; stir well and bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a simmer, put the lid on and leave to cook for 10 minutes.

Put the eggs into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil; simmer for 5 minutes then run them under cold water and peel.

Stir the peas into the rice and cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes by which time all the water will have been absorbed. Leave the lid on and allow to stand for five minutes before mixing in the chopped herbs.

Serve with a quartered egg (or tomato) and lime wedges. Oh, and don't forget to remove the bay leaf before serving, as I did!

Serves four 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Piedmont Roasted Peppers

Last night’s dinner was something that we usually eat in the summer but, having had my appetite whetted by seeing a thread about them on a food forum, I decided I really couldn’t wait several months for the weather to warm up a bit. Piedmont Peppers on February 1st – completely unseasonal but gorgeous at any time of the year...!

As usual I’ve had to vegetarianise this, but I think a few green olives add the required saltiness and I usually throw a few pine nuts on top just because I like them and they add a bit of texture.

We had them for a light dinner with a couple of chunks of fresh bread to mop up all the delicious juices, but just one pepper half with a rocket salad would be good as a starter too.

Word of warning – don’t try making this with green peppers, the flavour is all wrong; you really need the sweetness of the red variety.

2 red peppers
1 clove of garlic
16 green olives
3 tomatoes
4 dsp olive oil
black pepper
1 tbsp pine nuts

Turn the oven on to 180C. Halve the peppers through the stalk and remove the seeds but leave the stalk attached; put the peppers in a small roasting tin. Slice the peeled garlic and put three or four slices, followed by four green olives, in each pepper half. Put the tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water – leave for a minute or two then peel off the skins; cut into quarters, remove the cores and put three pieces of tomato on top of the garlic and olives.

Drizzle a dessertspoon of olive oil into each pepper half, grind over some black pepper and put into the oven for about 45 minutes. Take out of the oven, sprinkle over the pine nuts and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the edges of the peppers are starting to char at the edges.

Serve at room temp with lots of crusty bread.

Serves 2