Gently Spiced Sweet Potato and Quinoa Bowls

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Wow I haven’t blogged about food for a long time. Well my New Year’s Resolution is finally getting some attention so I’m back.

My excuse? Well I just haven’t cooked anything new. My wife started a new job (no longer working with me) and it just became easier for both of us to eat at lunchtimes and not really do anything special in the evenings.

Also, a new Wetherspoons opened next door to our office so I’ve been eating junk for 2 months.

But yesterday I decided to stop going out at lunchtimes – get a bit healthier and lose some of the weight I’ve gained. I need to – my wife is losing weight like nobody’s business!

So this dish is the first of many dishes I plan to make from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook. I do like her books – and they please Freya as she wants to eat less meat than we have been doing lately; so expect lots of vegetarian dishes for a while.

This recipe is in the ‘make in the time it takes to set the table’ category – i.e. 15 minutes. I tell you now – that is impossible. It can’t be done – not by me anyway – and I can do the Jamie’s 15 minute meals on time.

Breaking it down this dish is essentially quinoa boiled up in some vegetable stock. When that is done you add that to some spring onions, garlic, sweet potato, carrots and chick peas – which you will have been pan frying for 10 minutes or so to go tender. Oh there’s a little bit or turmeric in there too!

Sweet potatoes and carrots are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to them going soft. It took some time before I considered my vegetables to be ‘ready’ and I love a bit of crunch.

To top it off you fry some spring greens in coconut oil and a squeeze of lemon.

This dish is incredibly tasty. If you are on a budget this is incredibly cheap to make too.

I was planning on serving up two dishes yesterday – the other being a Kale and Crispy Rice dish – but there was plenty here for two with some left over for lunch.

Hopefully I’m back for good this time – and hopefully I’ll lose a stone before I got on holiday in March!

 

 

 

 

Brussel’s Sprout Risotto

Brussels Sprout Risotto

I’ve made this twice now. And I know I will just keep making it. It’s quick, easy, tasty and I always have the ingredients to hand. On top of that it makes lots so there are always leftovers for work the next day!

Tell someone you are making Brussels Sprout Risotto and they are sure to turn their nose up at you. Freya’s brother did. I could see his mind whirring at how he needed an excuse to leave so he could pop into McDonalds and get some real food! But trust me this is worth it.

The Brussels that Ottolenghi has in the pictures in Plenty More look stunning. Straight off the stalks with lots of purples and dark green colours running through them. I had to settle for the boring light green pretrimmed variety from the supermarket. I’ll try and hunt down the colourful ones nearer Christmas; I think the dish will look super special with more vibrant colours.

You make the risotto by frying some onions in butter and oil and then adding lemon, garlic and thyme. While that is caramelising, shred your Brussel Sprouts.

I must admit I made it wrong this time. You’re supposed to shred about half the sprouts and quarter the other half but I wasn’t paying too much attention and added all the sprouts and the rice to the onions at this stage.

The idea is you pan fry the quartered Brussel Sprouts in hot oil until they are golden and crispy and add them as a topping at the end. I’ll try and remember this for next time!

You now make the risotto as you would any other risotto; add wine and let it absorb and then gradually add stock while stirring often. When the stock is all used up the rice should be cooked but still have some bite.

Right at the end add Parmesan, Dolcelatte, tarragon and some grated lemon zest. if you followed the recipe properly, add the pan fried Brussels on top and serve.

It’s just as good with all the Brussels incorporated it just doesn’t look as striking – and it removed a crunchy texture that could have made the dish even more special.

This risotto is so creamy and is really tasty – especially with the additional lemon zest that I added.

There was so much of this left over that we had it for lunch the next day. I don’t think we were especially popular in the office later that day. Two Brussel’s Sprout meals in a row!

Beetroot, Avocado and Pea Salad

Beetroot, Pea and Avocado Salad

One of the big problems of winter and living on the boat is taking nice pictures of the food you make. Now that the clocks have changed it will always be dark by dinner time and we only light the kitchen and lounge with LED reading lamps so most of the pictures look dark and shadowy. Also, I’ve stopped using my iPhone and have switched to Android and I really don’t like the camera, so now  I’ve switched to my Lumix. More effort but hopefully more worthwhile.

This one didn’t come out particularly well but I can assure you the salad itself was amazing. It’s another sub 30 minute salad proving you do things in the right order and don’t stand around waiting between stages.

This dish like everything this week is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. I’ve only looked at the first 100 pages and I’ve already selected 12 things I want to make. I could be on this book for quite some time!

This is another incredibly easy salad to make. It is a little messy; peeling beetroots always is – but they are a lot better than the peeled, precooked and prepackaged ones you get in a supermarket.

Once you’ve peeled your beetroots, slice them thinly (about 2mm) and blanch them until they are cooked but still have lots of bite. I did mine for about 3 mins as I love raw beetroot anyway. The thinner you slice the beetroot, the easier it is to eat raw (or less cooked)!

Once blanched and drained, mix with some sliced red onion, sherry vinegar, olive oil, caster sugar, seasoning and chilli paste and leave for around 15 minutes to infuse the flavours.

While you’re waiting blanch some peas and refresh them in cold water. Slice a couple of avocado’s too while you’re at it.

When you are ready to eat, grab a big serving dish, and toss pea shoots (or lambs lettuce like I did), the peas, the beetroot and the avocado together. Tear in some mint and coriander and dress with some more olive oil and you’re done.

This is very fresh and very tasty. Proper beetroots can’t be beaten – never buy the packet ones!

I resisted the temptation to use one of my crazy chilli pastes and just went for something mild. I don’t think Freya would have appreciated it and I imagine an overpowering of chilli would have totally spoiled the dish – so go easy on the chilli!

Globe Artichoke and Mozzarella with Candied Lemon

Globe Artichoke and Mozzarella with Candied Lemon

 

The UK weather has been so mild of late that is seems almost normal to put together a cold salad for dinner on 27th October 2014!  I was expecting to come home to a cold damp boat every evening and be heating the boat to keep warm but it just hasn’t been necessary.

After spending an eternity in the IKEA returns department and then another eternity spending the store credit we got home quite late and were both feeling pretty hungry. Fortunately this dish can easily be put together in less than 30 minutes.

After bashing together an immediate snack of toasted pumpkin seeds with tamari, I set to work making this awesome salad.

The salad is courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. It does require really fresh ingredients though or it will just disappoint you.

Last week we bought some Dill and Mint from our local Morrisons and it was tasteless, chewy and limp and really let down all the dishes I made. Contrast to yesterday when I asked for mint from our local greengrocer and he went out the back and got me the freshest, most aromatic mint I’ve had for ages. It really is worth shopping around for your herbs!

Anyway – there are two ways of making this dish; the hard way or the easy way. The hard way relies on you being the master of artichoke preparation and having lots of time on your hands. The easy way uses them from a jar or frozen. We don’t have a freezer on the boat so I plumped for jars.

The only cooking involved here is candying some lemons. I really recommend you do this rather than copping out and just adding lemon rind, as the sauce and the sweetness from the lemons really sets this salad apart from the rest.

To candy lemons, remove the rind, cut into 1mm batons and cook down in lemon juice and caster sugar until the liquid reduces to about a third. Remove the lemon batons and allow to cool down. Keep the sauce for the dressing of the salad.

All that’s left is to cut some little gem lettuces, tear in some mint, parsley and basil and top with your quartered artichokes and torn mozzarella.

To serve, dress with some olive oil, your candied lemon and lemon syrup and some black pepper.

This salad is so fresh and tangy. The lemon hit might seem too much to start with but I found it really lifted the salad. The mozzarella, artichokes and lemon went really well together and it really was a meal in itself. Albeit a late one!

Fortunately for us we had loads left over so we have a very nice lunch to look forward to today!

Celeriac Soup with Goats Cheese Cream and a Walnut and Green Pepper Salsa

Celeriac Soup

Soup? In the summer? Are you mad?

Well no – but whilst looking through the fridge for left over ingredients from last week’s book, I saw that I had some leeks and a whole celeriac.

Denis Cotter has a recipe for Celeriac Soup in his book ‘For the Love of Food’ and it is pretty simple. I had all the ingredients – so why not ! All I lacked was the white wine – which I again ‘borrowed’ from Freya’s mum.

This soup also has a goat’s cheese cream and a green pepper and walnut salsa. Without it I’d have said this would have been bland. But these two additions really make the dish special.

For the soup, you fry some leeks and some garlic until soft, add a whole celeriac (diced) and a potato (also diced), and start the boil with 100ml of white wine.

Once that’s absorbed, add some vegetable stock and cook until the vegetables are tender. Took 30 minutes for me.

Blitz the soup in your favourite blitzer. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve. Easy!

The best bit though is the toppings:

Soup Toppings

For the cream, mash some goats cheese with some double cream. Simple

For the salsa, chop a green pepper really small, do the same with walnuts, and add in some olive oil and parsley. Just as simple.

We loved this. We ate it whilst watching ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, feeling we had earned a deserved rest after packing up all our stuff for the boat.

We ate the leftovers the next day cold – and to be honest it was just as nice cold. Soup’s don’t have to be hot you know.

Tonight we unofficially move onto the boat. Officially that will be at the weekend!

Spiced Halloumi on a Warm Puy Lentil, Spinach and Beetroot Salad

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Catchy title huh!

I love this recipe from Denis Cotter’s ‘For the Love of Food’. I’ve made it before. And it is consistently good – mainly because it is so simple. There’s very little ‘doing’ in this recipe – most of the time is spent roasting the beetroot!

I feel a little bit like Old Mother Hubbard this week. All my cupboards are bare. Everything is packed ready for the move onto the boat – and basic ingredients like flour are nowhere to be seen! Pretty frustrating – but fortunately I had all the ingredients for this dish in the fridge (except 100ml of red wine which I pinched from Freya’s mum!) I say pinched – I did pay for the wine with a serving of the dinner – so it was a fair trade.

The hardest part of this recipe is peeling a beetroot and slicing it into wedges. You just can’t keep your hands clean unless you wear some latex gloves.

Anyway – to make this you peel and wedge a beetroot – toss in some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil and roast (I did mine in my only remaining oven – the Halogen oven) until they begin to caramelise. It took about 30 mins.

While you’re waiting, cook some lentils in red wine and stock (with some garlic and thyme) until they are cooked and the liquid is absorbed.

While you’re waiting for this, crush some red chilli with some cumin seeds and lime zest/juice; slice some Halloumi, and chop a spring onion or two.

When everything is ready, add the beetroot and the spring onion to the the lentils – and allow to start cooling.

Then fry your Halloumi until it is golden and rub some of your chilli rub into it. Then serve the lentils on a bed of spinach and add the halloumi on top.

This is incredibly easy – and tastes amazing. It’s one of my top five dishes. Consistently good. You can’t get it wrong and it is a very well balanced meal.

 

Rosemary Popcorn

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Is popcorn cooking? probably not. Although you can burn it and it might not pop if you do it wrong!

This recipe came from Maria Ella’s – The Modern Vegetarian. It’s not really a recipe when you say ‘pop some corn’ – much like another cookbook I have where they tell you how to make a shandy by pouring lemonade onto a beer.

We have bucket loads of popcorn kernels. When you visit a health food shop and see ‘Buy one get one half price’ you really do believe that ‘yeh I will eat that much popcorn’. Trust me you won’t!

A 1 kilogram bag of popcorn will feed a small country for about 20 years. So be prepared to have your spare bag of popcorn move house with you – much like the unused ‘fenugreek seeds’ and all the other Bart spices that you thought were a good idea at the time!

True story: when Freya moved in with me in Gamlingay, we sorted through my kitchen supplies and she found a Schwartz tub of Hot Chilli Powder that was older than she was! I bought it from Costco when I moved out of home in the 80s – thinking giant tubs of spices were great value for money – and it has taken up space in my kitchen cupboards for over 20 years!

Anyway – back to the popcorn! All you have to do here is melt some butter, or oil in a pan with some chopped up small rosemary. It’s probably a good idea to have a lid on your pan or you’ll be making a bit of a mess. It’s also a good idea to have a heavy based pan or it’s going to blacken and burn. I have cast iron Le Creuset pans – which are more than heavy enough !

Get the pan hot – add a layer of popcorn kernels (which really isn’t a lot at all) and put the lid on. It’ll pop in less than a minute. Once the popping abates turn off the heat – and let the remaining kernels pop. Take then out of the pan – put them in a bag with some sea salt and shake it. Job done!

Whatever you do – don’t be impatient. Take that lid off too early and those kernels are gonna be all over your floor.

I made three pans worth – about the size of a large freezer bag – and we couldn’t eat it all. I ended up feeding the left overs to the ducks!

Textures of Beetroot

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Anyone that follows what I eat knows that I eat a lot of beetroot. I love the stuff. Not that awful prepackaged stuff – or the stuff that comes in a jar pickled in vinegar – but proper raw beetroot.

Roast it yourself (I always do mine in a halogen oven) and all the flavour just comes out – yummy. The books always tell you to wrap them in tin foil but I never do. They seem to come out just as well whether you wrap them up or not.

One big issue with this though is your cooking time – and the time it takes to get the food on the plate is increased by at least an hour. You can’t really roast a raw beetroot in less than an hour – and once you’ve waited for it to cool down so that you can peel the skin off, you are looking at 90 minutes before you’ve even started with the fun stuff.

Thinking a little outside the box I’ve started roasting my beetroots in the morning. Just stick them in the halogen oven for an hour and the oven turns itself off, the beetroots go cold while you’re at work – and presto – you come home and you’ve saved yourself 90 minutes!

Maria Ella presents four beetroot recipes in her book ‘The Modern Vegetarian’. They can all be served together ‘meze’ style and they go together beautifully. The four dishes are:

  • Beetroot Tsatsizi
  • Spiced Caramelised Onion and Bulgar Wheat Pilau
  • Beetroot Keftedes
  • Greek Beetroot Salad

All are pretty simple. All I’ll discuss in separate posts.

The first time I made this I spattered the pages with oil – resulting in a ghastly PDF once I’d despined and scanned the book!

I’ve made this many times since, but computer screens are far more wipe free than the pages of a book – so no further incidents have occurred.

As a complete meal I can thoroughly recommend these four dishes together. It looks beautiful (my photo doesn’t do the meal justice) and there are such variety of textures and flavours. All from one purple root vegetable!

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

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Now here’s a wonderful find. I don’t think I’d have been drawn to these if it weren’t for the really good photo that accompanied the recipe in ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ by Maria Ella. Basically the chips were arranged in a kind of Jenga tower and they looked very impressive. As you can see I didn’t copy that presentation!

I’ve decided that keeping a packet of polenta in the cupboard is a good thing! I’ve only ever made one thing with polenta – Polenta and Sage Pizza – but this is far cooler. I think I could even convince my six year old daughter to eat these – she’d never know they weren’t potatoes.

Making these is pretty easy – but not necessarily quick. There’s not a lot of cooking time – just a lot of waiting time for things to cool.

Firstly you dice some butternut squash very small and boil it with some rosemary. Then you add polenta – and when it thickens you pour it out into a greased tray (or one lined with parchment) and allow it to cool. You really need to season polenta well as it is broadly tasteless. I pressed a load of sea salt and pepper into the top of my slab.

When it is cool enough to put it in the fridge, do so – or do what I did and whack it in the freezer. As you all know by now I eat at stupid o’clock most evenings – we ate these past 10pm again – so the freezer was the quickest way to get this nice and solid.

Once it’s set – turn it out. It’ll look like this:

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Cut it into chip sized errr chips, dust them lightly in plain flour and fry them.

I did mine in two different ways – in a halogen oven – and in a frying pan. It’s pretty hard to take a picture of the excitement inside a halogen oven – so here’s a picture of a frying pan!

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I have to say the crispier chips came from the halogen oven. And they stayed hotter for a lot longer.

Once they are nice and golden and done, take them out and roll them in some very finely grated parmesan cheese. If you have one of those fancy microplanes like I do this really does the trick beautifully.

I served Freya’s chips with mayonnaise and my own with ketchup. I think mayonnaise was the better option!

The book suggests swapping out the butternut squash for either peas or sweetcorn. Both of which I plan to try. I have to say I couldn’t taste the butternut squash, nor the rosemary. I think it would be better not to add the rosemary to the butternut squash when you are boiling it – I just think it ruins the herbs. It might be better to add it in when you are stirring the polenta – just to keep it fresher!

I really liked these – I could eat a bowl of these anytime – even if they are really just a side. The slab was big – so we had these again the next day as a ‘starter’ while I cooked up our next dinner!

Fresh Borlotti Bean Cassoulet

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Does anyone know where to get Fresh Borlotti Beans? I don’t so I couldn’t really make this as per the recipe. If I’m honest I only chose this recipe because I found a couple of tins of them whilst packing up our food as part of our house move and figured I could swap them out without much fuss.

This dish is also from Maria Ella’s ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ – and was pretty easy – and is really just one of those ‘throw it all in a pan’ affairs. The end result is ‘posh beans on toast’ (if you serve it with toast!).

This was nice and quick and took me less than 30 minutes to make – although the recipe suggests that the longer you leave this to infuse the more tasty it will become! We ate really late last Sunday (when I made this) so the flavours didn’t have a chance to infuse. That said the leftovers were definitely more tasty when we had them at work the following day.

To make this you simply fry celery, onion, carrot and garlic (all diced very small) into some olive oil. Once soft add bay leave, sage and oregano, the beans (I used two 400g tins), chopped fresh plum tomatoes (I had a lot of Heritage ones that were very very ripe so I favoured these) and cook.

Now ordinarily in the recipe you would add water to cover the beans and cook for 50 mins or so. But my beans were already cooked so I didn’t bother with this step. I just added enough water to keep the consistency of my beans similar to that of a tin of baked beans.

When it’s all ready you remove from the heat – add lemon zest and lemon juice and some basil and serve with some toasted bread.

As quick dishes go – this was very quick. But I did cheat. This would take far longer if you used fresh beans.

This is quite a nice go to dish if you’re short of time. And it is far better than a tin of baked beans!