Thursday, 23 June 2011

Return with a Roast

After a very long hiatus I am trying to motivate myself to get back into this blog. So here's a non-recipe post to kick things back off.

In the UK, Sunday roasts are hugely popular with most pubs and restaurants serving them.  Most offer a 'nut roast' as the vegetarian option, which is usually dry and bland.  I tend to not bother even eating them, but I do love roasts.

People often ask me 'What do you eat in a roast?', so to show them that as a vegetarian I don't starve, here's a pic of one of my roasts complete with homemade Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes and parsnips, veg, stuffing balls and veg gravy.  Trust me, I was not hungry after this!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mexican Bean Stuffed Peppers

With this recipe I officially renounce my dislike for stuffed vegetables.  Although, in my defense, neither tomatoes nor peppers are technically vegetables - I know, I know...I'm not buying it either! Oh well, I guess it just shows that we must always be open to different things, especially those that we think we don't like.

It wasn't bbq weather, so this recipe had to be adapted for indoor cooking.  I started grilling them from underneath, then transferred the heat to the top.  From the original recipe, I changed pinto beans to black beans - as I find them softer and more flavorsome.  I also substituted the yellow onion with spring onion, since they wouldn't be cooked, I thought raw yellow onion may be too strong.

The stuffed pepper halves were super yummy and I wish I had made two!  They were also really fast and easy to put together.  The cumin is a necessity for the 'mexican' flavor - but even without they would still be tasty.  The original recipe was a take on chiles rellenos and used poblano peppers.  Sadly, living in a country which has yet to truly embrace Tex-Mex, it is near impossible to find Mexican peppers, so I substituted a large sweet red pepper - which appeared similar.  I actually think the slight sweetness of the pepper worked well with the spicy filling, and the size held the filling perfectly.  

I can't wait until the weather improves and I can try this recipe on the bbq!

Mexican Bean Stuffed Peppers
serves 1

1 large sweet red pepper (or any other large chili) - halved lengthways
1/4 cup black beans - drained and rinsed
2 thin chillies - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - finely minced
2 spring onions - finely sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup grated cheese
pinch salt

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat and preheat grill to medium high.  Combine black beans, chillies, garlic, cumin, most of the cheese, salt, and most of the spring onions in a bowl.  Fill each half of the pepper with the mixture and lightly grill for a couple minutes in the grill pan.  Then put the peppers (still in the grill pan) under the grill for 10 minutes, then top with remaining cheese and grill until melted. Top with remaining spring onions.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Risotto Stuffed Beef Tomatoes

Of course now that I've said that I don't like stuffed vegetables I remembered another dish that I like, that is of course, exactly that.  As a vegetarian when eating out, nine times out of ten there will be one or two vegetarian dishes - one of which will be some sort of risotto.  Perhaps it is this narrowmindedness of what vegetarian food is that has made me avoid most risotto's.  Whenever I have had to try them (due to no other vegetarian option) they have been boring.  

When I finally decided to try cooking it at home I felt that it needed something more - and that something was a large, ripe and juicy, beef tomato.  For some reason, this makes it feel like more of a balanced meal to me.  The risotto itself is delicious, but I could only really ever see it as a side dish - but somehow stuffed in a large tomato just makes it a proper meal.

Following the general idea of a recipe for spring vegetable risotto, I combined it with the idea of stuffing a tomato with risotto which I had seen in several places.

Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes
serves 4 as starter
4 large beef tomato
100 g risotto rice (arborio)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
small onion - finely chopped
1 large garlic clove - finely minced
50 mL white wine
40 g soy or edamame or broad beans* (or a mix of whatever you have)
60 g peas*
300 mL warm vegetable stock -you may need more or less than this depending on your rice
50 g parmesan - grated
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 190 C/ 375 F.  Parboil risotto rice for 6 minutes.  Drain rice, then distribute on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Cut the tops off of the tomatoes and scoop out the inner flesh.  Add the juice from the tomatoes to the stock and chop up the flesh from the inner tomato.  In a medium saucepan heat the oil and butter, add the onion and gently fry for a couple minutes.  Add minced garlic and gently fry for a further couple minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add in partly cooked rice, then add white wine and reduce until liquid is halved.  

Add in a ladle of stock and heat very gently until absorbed.  Continue adding a ladle of stock at a time until the rice is al dente (about 10 minutes).  Add in the beans and peas, chopped tomato flesh, parmesan and salt & pepper to taste.  The rice should have a bit of moisture, so if it's too dry add a bit more stock.  Fill the tomatoes with the risotto and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tomato is tender.

*I used frozen, which I took out of the freezer right before I started, then added to the cooked rice and warmed through.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Spanish Omelette

Spanish omelette (or tortilla) is a common tapas dish made of potatoes and eggs.  My partner is actually half Spanish, and the first time I had this was on vacation in Tenerife made by his Tenerifian dad.  I attempted to make it when we got home but didn't realize quite how many eggs were required, so it ended up being less omelettey then it should have been.  You can eat it warm, or at room temperature.  We tried it when it was freshly warm and then at room temperature with some cantaloupe for breakfast the next morning - it was great both times.

My partner really wanted meat in his, so before flipping I sprinkled half of it with chopped ham.  You can add loads of different things to the mix such as mushrooms, chorizo or peppers.  I added garlic which I don't think is traditional, but we love it.

Spanish Omelette
serves 6 as a starter 

1 1/2 pounds potatoes - diced (about 4 medium potatoes)
oil - enough to shallow fry (about a cup)
1 medium onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - finely minced
10 eggs
salt & pepper

In a large skillet on a low heat, gently fry the potatoes in a single layer until they are cooked through but not browned.  This takes a while (about 20 minutes) and depending on the size of your pan may need to be done in two batches.  Remove the potatoes and drain on kitchen paper, then fry the onion gently until softened, adding in the minced garlic in the last minute to lightly cook.  Crack the eggs in a large bowl and whisk lightly.  Mix in the potatoes and onions - season with salt & pepper.  Tip the mixture back into the skillet and gently cook until the bottom is browned to your liking (about 5 minutes).  Place a plate on the top of the omelette, flip the whole thing over, then slide the omelette back into the pan and cook that side.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Spaghetti with rocket, asparagus & lemon

I haven't been doing much cooking this past week - we've eaten out, ordered in and bbq'd, so there hasn't been much to share recipe wise. But here's one of the meals I make regularly at home.  I cook enough spaghetti for two, and make either spaghetti bolognese or carbonara for my partner.

This meal is one of my favorites.  It's packed full of strong flavors - peppery rocket, salty parmesan and zesty lemon (which really livens it up).   I actually found the recipe for this in a book I bought years ago - and slightly adapted it by adding grilled asparagus.  Oftentimes I'll add a large handful of baby spinach in with the rocket to amp up my iron & vitamin intake.

Spaghetti with lemon, rocket and asparagus
serves 1 generously

150 g spaghetti*
1-2 cloves garlic - finely chopped or grated
2-3 thin chillies - finely chopped (depending how spicy you like it)
1 small lemon - zest and juice
175 g asparagus - grilled**
60 g rocket/arugula - very coursely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese - finely grated
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cook spaghetti accordingly.  Whilst the spaghetti's cooking, chop the garlic and chillies and put in a pile.  Grill the asparagus until fork tender, then slice into bite sized pieces (about an inch).  Grate parmesan, zest lemon, and coursely chop through the rocket leaves a couple of times.

Once the spaghetti is cooked, reserve some of the cooking water then drain.  Put the pot you cooked the spaghetti in over a medium heat - heat a tablespoon of olive oil, then fry garlic and chili for about a minute.  Add in the rocket, spaghetti, parmesan, lemon zest and asparagus and mix - add in another tablespoon of olive oil and a splash of the cooking water and mix until you get a somewhat creamy coating.  Squeeze in  lemon juice to taste (usually about half a lemon) then season.

*I use wholewheat spaghetti
**This is the weight of the asparagus before snapping off the woody ends - the actual weight was probably around 125 g.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

I love fries.  I think people in general think that vegetarians eat lots of vegetables, salads, and nuts.  I do eat a lot of vegetables, but I don't eat many salads or nuts. I still love deep fried and starchy filling foods.  I have made sweet potato wedges many times, but I came across this recipe for healthy sweet potato fries that looked too irresistable to not be tried.

They had the typical sweetness that you'd expect and overall were a nice alternative to normal potato fries, but not quite as crispy as I'd have liked.

Sweet Potato Fries
serves 2
1 large sweet potato
2 egg whites
3 tbsps flour
1 tbsp spices (I used chili powder and cayenne powder)

Preheat oven to 205 C/ 400 F.  Cut the sweet potato into thin sticks and soak them in cold water for about 15 minutes, then put on kitchen towel to dry. Lightly whisk the egg whites until light and foamy.  Coat the sweet potato sticks in the egg whites and spices, then add the flour in a tablespoon at a time until they are covered in a thick coating.  Lay the coated sticks on a rack in a single layer so none of them touch*.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until browned and crispy.

*I ran out of room on my rack so had to put the rest on a baking tray.  I actually found that the fries on the baking tray ended up crispier than the ones on the rack - but the coating made a bit of a mess on the tray.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Red Onion New Potato Salad

I know to most people it's not barbeque season quite yet, but living in a country where the sun is rare, it's hard to resist the urge to bbq whenever it does make an appearance.  So while this recipe may be a bit early, please understand that opportunities must be taken when they can!

A friend made this simple potato salad for her house warming party a couple years ago and it was a huge hit.   I much prefer it to the typical potato salads with loads of mayo and/or egg that leave you feeling very heavy.  I made it for a bbq picnic with my partner's family - I was concerned that the raw red onions may be too strong for them, but they loved it and made it themselves when they got home.

This is great for picnics because it can be easily put together at the last minute, so the mayonnaise doesn't spoil.  The potatoes can be cooked days in advance, cooled then kept in the fridge until you need them.  When I made it for the picnic, I boiled the potatoes the night before and let them cool overnight.  Then in the morning I sliced the onions and added them to the potatoes with some pepper.  I packed a small jar of mayonnaise in the cooler bag and stirred it all up right before serving.

Red Onion New Potato Salad
serves 4

1 kg / 2 lbs new potatoes*
1 medium red onion - halved and thinly sliced
1-2 tbsps mayonnaise**
salt & pepper to taste

Boil the new potatoes until tender, drain and let cool.  Mix in sliced red onion and  mayonnaise.  Season to taste. (It's that simple!)

*Or charlotte, or any other small potato.
**A little mayo goes a long way, so add it in bit by bit so it's not too thick.