Posts Tagged With: dinner

Indo Coco Curry (Raw)

One bright day in June (the bright day in June), our picnic spot, above Beddgelert

So the raw food lifestyle is continuing in the Beach House, this is a good sign.  We have been feeling good and loving experimenting with raw foods, so we are rolling on raw well into July.

Our aim is to eat a lot of raw food, but soon start cooking again.  I cook alot at work, but its not the food that excites me, it seems a strange idea getting the pots and pans out again at home.  The oven, instead of the food processor.  I’m sure it will happen gradually and at the right time.  I still haven’t drank a coffee or any wine, again, it just seems like a strange thing to get back into now.  Those of you who have been on a raw diet will know how I feel.

It has been an atrocious June for weather, we’ve had a fire on most nights and the rain and wind has lashed down on our poor little seedlings.  Even with this wintery weather,  Jane and I have been perfectly happy with salads and cold food.  I think a full raw food diet (ps – when I say diet here, its not like a weight loss diet, just what we are eating) in winter is a possibility, whereas before I would have not considered it.  No hot soups!

One spoonful of this curry and we both exclaimed “This is the best yet!” Which is always a nice thing to hear about something.  This coconut curry has a lovely sweetness, the smooth richness of the creamed coconut and the gentle warming hint of garam masala.

We have not been eating a great deal of spice of late, the raw diet it not overtly anything really (bar amazingly healthy food). This dish added so much needed spice back to our lives.

I think this curry is a real winner this summertime. Raw food is, of course, perfect for a sunny day (which are rare in these parts, but hopefully on their way).  Summer is the ideal time to dabble with raw food and this Coco Curry would make an interesting salad to serve as a side dish at a barbecue or take for a picnic to a beauty spot.  It keeps well and is nice and quick to get together.

If you’re not a raw one, this will go very nicely with something like a cold rice salad.  You can even heat it up!  The flavours will still be amazing.  It can be thinned down for a lovely soup (just add a little stock or water)  and used as it is for a dipping and spreading.

The original inspiration comes from the brilliant British raw food book “Eat Smart, Eat Raw’ by Kate Hill, but I have dabbled with the recipe to bring it more into line with our taste.  That means more spice, more garlic, more ginger……..we like a big and bold flavour in the BHK.

Cauliflower can be used as a substitute for rice in the raw food world.  You just need to chop it up very finely, or stick it in a food processor, and it resembles rice but without the stodge factor.

The serving here is enough for four strapping individuals.  Jane and I saved some for lunch the next day.

The salad base, as you can see, we like ours chunky!

The Bits

Sauce – 1/2 tin of organic coconut milk, 1/2 a big avocado, 4 dates (pitted), 4 tomatoes, 1 carrot, 1 medium onion, 2 tbsp tamari (or soya sauce), 1 tbsp garam masala, 1 tbsp turmeric, 1/2 red chilli, 1 inch cube of ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 150ml water.

Salad/ Filling – 3 tbsp raisins, 2 handfuls of green lentil sprouts, 1/2 handful of chopped coriander (with a little saved for topping), 2 handfuls of spinach, 2 sticks celery (finely chopped), 1 carrots (finely chopped), 1/2 cauliflower (finely chopped), 1 handful of mangetout, 1/2 butternut squash (chopped into little cubes), the rest of your avocado.

The Coco curry pre-mix

Do It

Salad – We use a food processor, because it is so easy.  You lose the individuality of hand chopping, but it saves alot of time, especially when you’re eating raw foods and most of your days could be spent peeling and chopping veggies.  Most of these contraptions have a chopping and grating blade as standard that can come in very handy.  However on this occasion we hand chopped, just to be awkward!

So, put carrots, celery and cauliflower in food processor.  Chop up your butternut squash and avocado into small chunks and mix all of these with the other ingredients in nice big bowl.

Sauce – Chop all vegetables into manageable chunks for your food processor.  Ginger, garlic and chilli should be finely chopped.  Put it all into the food processor and give it a whirl.  Make sure you hold the lid down firmly to begin with, if its a small one like ours, it tends to jump around a little.

Indo Coco Curry (Raw)

Serve

Sprinkle on left over coriander, raisins and grated coconut (dessicated coconut is fine).  We ran out of coriander and forgot the coconut!  It would look grand though, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

We rarely have time for presentation touches as we are such scoffers!  In the bowl, quick pic then get stuck in!  Tends to be the order of eating affairs in the Beach House.

You could try it with some cauliflower rice (see above), it makes for an interesting change.

Foodie Fact

You may have heard that coconut is full of fat, well it is, but they are great fats!  Avocado, nuts, seeds etc do contain a high proportion of fats, but they do not harm your body like the fats in processed foods or donuts!

The fat in coconut does not raise your cholesterol levels like saturated fats in animal products.   It is actually the most health-giving oil available, you can buy coconut oil for cooking.  The make up of the fats is similar to mothers milk, the lauric acid (a fatty acid in mother’s milk) has antibacterial qualities.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Black Olive Tapenade with Beetroot and Red Onion Salad

Beetroot and Red Onion Salad with Black Olive Tapenade

Tapenade is one of those things that we don’t eat enough of.  Everytime we have it, we say the same thing, “Why are we not eating more tapenade!”  It is delicious and is one of those classic summer dishes that reminds me of holidays in Greece and France.

I ate alot of tapenade at break times whilst picking grapes in Beaujolais.  We’d have it spread over warm baguettes, with local cheese and lashings of whatever wine was in the bucket (purely medicinal, it helped to dull the back pain you see).  I believe that the intense satisfaction I got from munching the tapenade pulled me through those back breaking times.  The wine was certainly nothing to get excited about, unfortunately.

This is a wonderful concoction of flavours that I’ve had a little play with (of course) and omitted the use of capers due to a forgetful moment at the shops.  The unique caper-ness has been replaced by the gorgeous sun-dried tomato.  Not a bad substitute!  I have also added raisins to add a little sweetness, the black olives can be a little bitter in these parts, Wales not being high on the olive producing charts.   The rest is fairly classic tapenade, forming a delectable black paste that can be spread or dipped as you choose.  I love this type of food, which is greater than the sum of its bits.

I normally think of Tapenade as being a Greek dish, but it actually hales from Provencal in France.  Traditionally this puree contains caper, anchovies, black olives and olive oil.  The French would normally serve it as an hors d’oeurve or stuff it into a steak.

Tapenade is alot like pesto (see our ‘Hazelnut Pesto‘ post) in that it is a joy to behold sitting in the fridge door.  It just hangs around and marinates, getting better and better.  It goes well in so many things and mixed with some oil, makes for an instant wonder dressing.  The best part is that it has a gourmet flavour with very little needed in way of preparation.

The way you chop up your veg has a major effect on the presentation and texture of a salad.  Have a little think before you begin to chop about what type of effect you’d like to create.

If you spend a little more on good quality olives here, it is well worth it.  The black variety are normally a little cheaper and in their own way, just as good as some of their greener brothers and sisters.

The Bits

Tapenade – 1 cup black olive, 6 sun dried tomatoes, 2 cloves crunched garlic, 1/2 red onion, 1/4 cup raisins, juice of 1 lemon, handful of chopped parsley, sprig of rosemary, pinch of thyme and oregano, glug of olive oil, cracked black pepper and sea salt (to taste), glug of olive oil (if needed)

Salad – 1 nice red onion (thinly sliced), 4 small beetroots (cut into eighth’s), 2 cups of spinach (chopped), 3 carrots (grated), 2 stalks celery (chopped), 1 cupful of sprouts (we used green lentil sprouts)

Black Olive Tapenade in the mix…..

Do It

Tapenade – Add all ingredients to a food processor and begin to whizz.  As it becomes sticky, trickle in some remaining olive oil to create a beautiful, shiny puree.  Keep in a sealed container in the fridge overnight for maximum marination (new word for you there!).

Salad – We put the red onion and carrot into a food processor and grated, then chopped the celery, spinach and beetroot separately.

Serve

Thin out some tapenade by adding the same quantity of good olive oil and whisking well.  You can lower the amount of tapenade if you’d prefer a lighter dressing.  Pour the dressing over the salad and give a good mix in.

Place in your favourite salad bowl and top with a handful of green lentil sprouts (see our ‘sprout‘ post for how to sprout your own, its quite simple).  Then spoon on some tapenade.

We have also used it to flavour soups and stews and of course in post June days we’d have it lathered on some warm oat bread.

We Love It!

This tapenade has a great balance of bitter and sweet, with the beautiful silky texture of pureed olives.

Foodie Fact

Olives are one of the oldest foods known, dating back 7,000 years.  Black Olives are left to ripen for longer on the trees, green ones are picked earlier, they generally have a milder flavour.  Olives are a good source of iron (which helps to carry oxegen in our blood) and are low in calories with plenty of good fats.  They do however contain a decent amount of sodium and should be eaten in moderation if you’re keeping an eye on salt intake.

Twelve black olives provide 1.8mg of iron.  Interestingly women need 18mg of iron per day and men only 8mg.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Dressings, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Fair Hill Salad with Vegan Hazelnut Pesto

Local veggies

We live at 1 Bryn Teg (aka the beach house), Bryn Teg translates to English as ‘Fair Hill’.  I call it tiger mountain because of the stripes, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on in these parts.

So Fair Hill it is and this salad reflects what is growing near our little home.  Things are beginning to come into season and our local farm shop’s shelves are beginning to fill (thankfully).  We bought what they had and this delicious salad was born.  The combination of flavours worked surprisingly well with the pesto and it was even better the day later after having a good marinate in the fridge.

Broad beans (Fava beans) are special in any salad, they add a unique, nutty texture.  Texture is one of the key ingredients to a brilliant salad and ingredients should be selected accordingly.  Limp leaves are not the way forward!  Fresh and crunchy is the key, something that is exciting to in the mouth and on the taste buds.

We have been discovering the art of salad making this raw month.  Ingredients and dressings take on a completely different flavour when combined and subtle changes in flavouring can make all the difference.

Making a vegan pesto is tricky, without the pungent cheese, you just cannot recreate that unmistakable flavour.  I think this is a decent attempt, matured cheese is something that vegans just have to give up on.  You can buy those yeast cheese flake things, but I am wary of anything labelled as yeasty and cheesy.  I just don’t like the sound of them.

You do end up using quite a bit of herb in the pesto, but it is well worth it.

The Bits

Salad – 1 cup shelled broad beans, 3 handfuls of chopped sprouting purple brocolli (leaves as well), 1 sweet potato (peeled and grated), 1 courgette (1/2 grated, 1/2 cubed)

Pesto – 4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed, 1 cup fresh parsley, 1 – 2 tsp honey of your choice, 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 cup hazelnuts (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed) 1 – 2 clove (s) fresh garlic, minced

Do It

Salad – Separate your broccoli florets from the stems and leaves, chop up.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Pesto – Chop the basil and parsley until reduced to 1 cup basil and 1/4 cup parsley, blend all ingredients except hazelnuts until smooth.  Add hazelnuts gradually and continue blending, adding more olive oil as needed for desired consistency.  Check seasoning.

Thin down the pesto a little and mix into the salad.

Serve

Dress with a few of the brocolli leaves and a few more spoonfuls of the thick pesto.  Maybe a few leaves of parsley or basil if you are feeling extravagant!

Raw pesto salad

We Love It!

The glory of pesto!  Mix it in yoghurt for a tasty side dish, thin with oil for a dressing, mix with hummus to make the finest hummus ever!  It really is one of the finest things you can have lurking around the fridge.

Foodie Fact

Sometimes referred to as the horse bean (!), broad beans like all legumes are a high in protein and low in fat.  A really meaty legume!  They are packed with vitamins, fibre and have a high iron content.

Fair Hill Salad with Vegan Hazelnut Pesto

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Dressings, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Beach House Dressing

Beach House Dressing

We are in love with this.  It is going on or in most things that we are munching on at the moment.  Like most Beach House recipes, its super easy and quick.

Jane and I are both missing big flavours, I normally use a lot of spice in my cooking and they are lacking in our current diet.  Jane, of course, adores chocolate.  The sensual experience of raw eating is totally different, but this is a very creamy and more-ish dressing to go with the crunch of our salads.

The quantity of each flavour depends on your palate, maybe you like it sweet, maybe you like slightly sour.  Have a play here.  The flax seeds add a nice crunch and the garlic a little heat.  If you are not a huge fan of raw garlic (its fiery) omit the garlic.  It will make a great dressing.

We make alot of this, it keeps well in the fridge and I’m sure will soon become on of your ‘house’ favourites.

The Bits

Makes a decent bowlful

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (evoo), 1 tbs tahini, 2 cloves garlic (crushed, optional), 1 tbs good cider vinegar, 2 teas agave syrup or honey, 1 tbs flax seeds, 1 teas braggs liquid amino acid (or a pinch of sea salt).

Do It

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and bled together with a fork.  Taste, adjust flavour according to taste.  We like ours quite tangy, so we add a little more vinegar, but there should be a good balance of sweet and sour over the creamy tahini.

Serve

You can douse it on vegetables, salads, it would be amazing on new or roasted potatoes (leave overnight in a fridge and let the flavours mingle and soak).

We Love It!

We can’t stop making this and devouring it, smothered on whatever it takes!

Foodies Fact 

Apparently cider vinegar increases memory and concentration, which we need  quite desperately.  Cider vinegar contains over 90 substances and is actually less acidic than coca cola.

The glorious colours of raw food

We thought you might like to see what we actually put this dressing on.

Above is a picture of last nights dinner, served with the ‘Beach House Dressing’.  Jane’s ‘Traffic Light Salad’ with a delicious ‘Butternut Squash and Seaweed Salad’:

Diced butternut squash and courgette, grated carrot and red onion, topped with diced cauliflower and nori (soaked overnight).

Happy crunching!

lee and janeX

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dressings, Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quick Green Lentil Stew (Beach House Basics)

This is one for the ‘Beach House Basics’ page; the place to go for simple food, prepared with love (of course!).  Good food does not necessarily mean complex with loads of ingredients and this is one that we make regularly.

Sometimes, when writing this blog, I forget that people just want something easy.  I normally put the more elaborate or special occasion dishes that we make, but really, the everyday food is just as good, just not quite as fancy.

This stew can be made with puy lentils, which many would class the ‘king of lentils’ (they are rather nice), I feel that green lentils make a good substitute.  The lemon, chilli and coriander give the stew a lift, making it great for this time of year (its springtime in Britain).

Like so many recipes, this could be used as a side dish, but for me, it deserves to be center stage.  Adding the potatoes means this is a definite main course filler.

The coriander is something we had in the kitchen, but you could use any fresh green leaf herb really and the lemon could always be a lime instead.

This recipe needs dried lentils that need soaking (overnight).  Otherwise this is minimal fuss and maximum munch!

This recipe will be a good dinner for two people, though we normally cook in bulk and dip into it over a few days.

Green Lentil Stew

The Bits 

1 cup of green lentils (soaked overnight) or one tin, 1 clove garlic (finely chopped), 1 great carrot (chopped) , 2 large tomato (chopped), a few new potatoes (sliced), 1/2 teas of chilli flakes, 1 big handful of coriander, juice of half a lemon, knob of butter (vegans add a glug of olive oil), 1 pint of good veg stock (as needed).

Do It

Drain soaked lentils (a quick wash for them) and cover with your veg stock (approx 1 inch above lentils) in a saucepan.  Add a little sea salt and bring gently to the boil, then cover and simmer.  Cook as per packet guidelines (30 minutes should do), try one for ‘bite’.

Once lentils are 10 minutes from being cooked, stir them and add your potatoes (it should be looking quite stew-like by now) and cook for 5 minutes, then add your garlic, chilli, carrots and tomatoes, cook for a further 5 minutes.  Then stir in the butter (or olive oil), lemon juice and coriander and place a lid on the stew, turning the heat off.  Let the flavours marinade for a few minutes and then serve.

Serve

We normally have it topped with a little olive oil and toasted sunflower seeds, with brown rice and yoghurt.   Just by itself with a fresh green salad is also great.

We Love It!

This is perfect for when you only have a small window of time to work your kitchen magic!

Foodie Fact

These wonder legumes are filled with cholesterol lowering fibre, they also help to maintain your blood sugar levels.  They contain high levels of six important minerals, two vitamin B’s and protein, with hardly any calories.

 

 

Categories: Beach House Basics, Budget, Dinner, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Recipes, Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Beach House Egg Benedict with Asparagus

Morning bluebell

This is our version of the famous Waldorf Hotel breakfast dish.  It was originally created by a man named Benedict (surprisingly!) who wanted something to cure his hangover.  I have almost completely changed the dish, made it a healthier delight, and served it for supper.

That seems to be the BHK style, take a classic and meddle with it until it is almost unrecognisable!

Asparagus is a very beautiful thing, so fleeting, which makes you appreciate it more. I have recently looked into growing them and it really is a labour of love. They are quite tricky and only give you good spears after a few years. Hootons Homegrown have been selling some delicious packs of asparagus, so we’ve been using it in many recipes. Simply pan-fried is my favourite and topped with a local egg makes it something rather special.

This is a gorgeous light dinner or lunch and quick to prepare. The layered effect and combination of creamy dressing, runny egg and crispy vegetables give it a ‘complete’ restaurant dish feel. We added a little toasted oat bread for some ‘packing’. We’ve been in the garden for most of the day, doing loads of seeding and planting; transplanting and spreading of horse manure. We needed a good feed.

We loved to use the last of our wild garlic here, picked from the roadsides of Anglesey. The extent of our foraging consisted of opening the car door and leaning out. Not exactly Ray Mears, but just as satisfying. Who doesn’t appreciate a little free food?

Broccoli Florets

The Bits
Glug of olive oil, half a handful of pumpkin seeds, 1 big handful chopped wild garlic, 1 big handful chopped mint, half a large head of broccoli, 5 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, splash of water.
Bunch of whole asparagus spears (take of the tough tails, normally one inch from base)
Mixed salad leaves
2 free range, organic eggs (with vivid yolks)
For the Dressing
(these measurements are slightly larger than a teaspoon)
1 teas honey, 1 teas dijon mustard, 4 teas olive oil, 1 teas white wine vinegar, salt + pepper (s+p), 4 teas creamy natural yoghurt.

Do It
Make dressing, add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix together thoroughly. Taste and adjust to how you like it (sweeter, saltier, not quite mustardy enough, more bite, smoother etc).
In a large saucepan, on a medium heat warm the olive oil then add your pumpkin seeds, roast for a few minutes until slightly golden, then add the cherry tomatoes and scorch a little, then add the wild garlic then broccoli.  Add a splash of water (roughly 2 tbs). Season with s+p. Cook for a couple of minutes then add spinach and mint.  Put to the side with the lid on, keeping warm.  This will steam the broccoli.
In a separate small saucepan, bring some salted water to the boil with a splash of white wine vinegar and poach your eggs (crack them into a tea cup and pour low and gentle into boiling water for a neater shape).
As that is happening, heat a glug of olive oil in a small frying pan and flash fry the asparagus spears for three minutes. Do not overcook, they should be nice and crunchy. You may add a splash of truffle oil here, if you are feeding people you love very dearly. It’s a decadent touch.
Give your salad leaves a quick wash and drain.

Beach House Benedict

Serve
Place a flat pile of green salad on your serving plate, add the broccoli and wild garlic fricassee (posh word for something fried), then spoon over the dressing, top with a neat pile of asparagus spears and place the egg on top and season with a little s+p. We had it with a piece of toasted oat bread.

We Love It!
Jane loved it so much she actually licked the plate clean! It wasn’t pretty!

Foodie Fact

Asparagus has been enjoyed by folk for thousands of years and has also been used for its medicinal properties.

Asaparagus is brilliant for digestion and helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.  It also contains very high levels of Vitamin K.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, Garden, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Recipes, Vegetarian, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Berber Date Tagine with Orange ‘Kech Pilaff

Berber Man

The food we cook reflects our journey through life.  It’s been a long old dusty road with some tasty nibbles along the way.

Much of my inspiration for recipes and greater experiences in general have taken place away from the shores of my island home, Britain.  It is a grey Sunday today, in need of some sun and spice, so I re-visited Morocco for a classic(ish) tagine and pilaff meal.

I probably ate this alot when I was there, but due to the fog of time and the sheer influx of brilliant tagine in the streets of Marrakech (‘Kech) and beyond, I forget.  One tasty tagine seemed to blend into another, until you have a very long tagine spell which many people would just call ‘travelling around Morocco’.  Find out more about our passion for tagine pots here.

The Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco, desert and moutain folk.  They have lived in Morocco since the beginning (whenever that was?!), well before the Arabs came and conquered North Africa.  Berber is one of the official languages of this incredible land.  Here’s some Nas El Ghiwane to get you in the mood:

We love the combination of spices and dates, there is bags of harmony in this dish with the lovely flavours of coriander and mint to finish things off.
You may use tinned tomatoes, but we prefer fresh. The orange is an addition that is not normally used in Morocco, but we’re a long way from Marrakech!

This is not cooked in a tagine (ours is stuck in Spain), but if you have one, what a great excuse to dust it off……

Blanched Cauliflower

The Bits

Berber Tagine
1 large cauliflower (leaves and all), 4 carrots, 1 big handful of stoned dates, 1 potato (for thickening sauce), 4 ripe tomatoes (chopped into small chunks, or 1 can of good organic toms), 1 ras el hanout (if you can’t get hold of this, I suggest a mix of your favourite spices.  That’s all it is really), 1 teas turmeric, 1/2 teas chilli powder (be careful here!), 1/2 teas coriander seeds, 2 teas chopped ginger, glug EVOO (E.xtraV.irginO.live Oil), 1 onion (chopped), 3 cloves garlic (chopped), 1 handful of chopped coriander and 1 of chopped mint, 750 ml (a wine bottle size) of good veg stock, juice of 1 orange, s + p to taste.

Dates and spices

Orange ‘Kech Pilaff
Glug of EVO, 1 onion (chopped) handful of roasted almonds, 1/2 handful of currants, 1 teas ground cinnamon, 350g long grain rice (we normally prefer brown rice, tastier and better for your belly), zest 1 orange.

Do It
In a large pan, blanch your potato, cauliflower (use the leaves as well, they are very tasty) and carrots. Add potato first for 5 mins then add the rest for 2 mins. Drain the veg well and refresh with cold water. Place in a bowl and add spices and ginger, stir, leave covered for a couple of hours to infuse and get yummy. Save the water for stock, approx 1.5 litre needed for the rice and tagine.  Just add an onion, a stick of celery, a carrot, some good stock powder, a bay leaf and some mixed herbs and slowly boil for 30 mins.  Strain out all bits and thats it.  A light veg stock.

Heat oil in a good heavy-based pan and gently fry you blanched veg for 5 mins, they should be getting nice and golden, then add onion and garlic and cook for another few minutes, add tomatoes dates and veg stock and simmer for 20 mins on low heat.  Season here, add orange juice and stir in the coriander and mint.  Do not over cook the veggies, they are not so good mushy.

Orange and Almond

For the Pilaff, heat oil in a pan and cook almonds for 5 mins then remove when golden. In the same oil add the onion and currants cook for 2 mins, add cinnamon then rice and coat all in all. Then pour over hot stock, cover tightly and cook for around 15 mins (depends on rice, remember no lifting the lid! Keep all that good steam in).  Remove from heat and cool for 5 mins.  Stir and lift with a fork before serving to seperate the rice and make it fluffy.

Finally, add the orange zest and almonds to the rice, stir again and serve with your tagine on your finest, colourful, platter (or just a plate).

The Berber Tagine

We Love It!

The crunch of the roasted almond, sweetness of the dates makes for a very rich sauce which is lifted by the zing of the orange, it all makes for a real taste sensation!  This was one of those dishes that really surprises you with its deliciousness.  This is now my favourite tagine recipe (until next time that is….)

Foodie Fact

Cauliflowers just don’t get  the credit they deserve.  They are full of good stuff.

Cauliflowers are full of vitamin C and manganese and a broad spectrum of anti-oxidants that give your system a real boost.  It’s also anti-inflammatory, aids digestion (plenty of fibre here, like most of the cruciferous bunch i.e Kale, Brocolli etc).

The coarse green leaves, which we love to munch on, protect the centre of the cauliflower, reducing the chlorophyll and making it white.

Boozie Bit

This is not booze actually, but we had some chilled Clipper Tea with this.  The ‘Green Tea with Echinecea’ variety, in a tall glass with plenty of ice, lemon and a dollop of honey.  You could very easily add booze to this, I’m thinking vodka or maybe gin would be pleasant.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Recipes, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carrot and Beetroot Tatin, Green Lentil Stew, Orange and Mint Dressing

My Dad is visiting, he likes his food meaty, hearty and tasty. This dish seemed to fit the bill (even though it had no pork chops in it!)
We had a thorough Purple Moose beer tasting before dinner, sampling the full range (belatedly trying the Merry X-Moose Ale). This got my inspiration well oiled for cooking dinner. Like almost all of the BHK food, this required little thought, preparation and execution.
The tatin works a treat with the sweetness of carrot, onion and beetroot being lifted by the touch of balsamic and orange. You can do the tatins individually, but one large one is easier and much more impressive when you flip it out (queue a few ‘ooohhhhhhsss!)
The green lentil stew would be better with puy lentils, but they were expensive. Your humble green lentils still have a nice bite with some earthy flavour. The stew is rich with butter and a the interesting addition of coriander.
The orange and mint dressing is an added dimension of flavour that balances the sweetness of the tatin.
I’m not a huge pastry fan at the minute, but this was a real treat. Dad happy munched away, without mentioning sausages of chops for at least half an hour. A major breakthrough!

We are so lucky that all of these veggies come from Hootons, the organic farm down the road.

This makes enough to sate three hungry souls……and a purple moose.

This dish will be amazing without the butter, for our vegan brothers and sisters.

Dad and I lost in a sunset and Purple Moose haze.

The Bits

Tatin
Puff Pastry (we bought ours, make your own if you prefer, enough to adequately cover your dish, needs to be snug), 1 chopped carrot, red onion and 2 beetroots (veg should fit snuggly in your dish after cooking, so add around a 1/3 more initially and allow for shrinkage), small glug of balsamic vinegar, glug of cooking oil (we use sunflower), knob of butter, 2 teas of fresh thyme, zest of 1/2 orange, juice of half an orange, 2 teas light brown sugar.

Lentil Stew
3 cups of green lentils, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, big handful of chopped cherry tomatoes, 1 carrot, zest and juice of half a lemon, handful chopped coriander, 1 bay leaf, 1 knob butter, 1 teas thyme, 1 teas chilli flakes, good veg stock.

Dressing
Zest and juice of half a orange, 1/2 cup of good olive oil, handful of finely chopped mint, 1/2 teas dijon mustard, touch of honey (to just slightly sweeten), a little lemon juice (if your orange is super sweet, needs a little sourness in the dressing), s+p.

Do It

Preheat an oven, 200oC.

Lentils should be soaked for at least 6 hours in cold water.  Then bring to a simmer, add stock, bay leaf, herbs (not coriander), veggies (except toms), chilli (monitor chilli level depending on whos eating!).  Cook for half and hour, or until tender with a bit of bite to them.  5 minutes before serving, add toms, butter and lemon, stir well and just before serving stir in the coriander.

Roughly roll out and measure you pastry, should be slightly larger than the dish you are using, prick well with a fork, keep in fridge until needed. We used a heavy bottomed oval casserole dish.

Tatin Pre-bake

Heat dish for a few minutes, then take out and add your oil, butter, veggies, sugar, vinegar, thyme and season.  Mix well and bake in the oven for half an hour or until caramelised.  Then take out dish, squeeze on orange juice and a splash more oil.  Stir the veggies around to loosen and coat with the oil, make sure the veggies are packed in nice and tight (and flat), then carefully lay on your pastry case (brush top side with some olive oil), tuck in at edges, should fit nice and snug.  Put back in oven for 20 mins, or until nicely golden brown…..

Prepare dressing.  Add all ingredients to a bowl (small blender would be good for this) and mix vigorously together.  Check for seasoning and make sure its nicely citrus, to balance the sweetness of the tart.  Perfect when drizzled on all over the tart.

This is a good time to throw a green salad together.

The Voila! Moment

Take tatin out of oven and grab a serving plate that fits over the dish, place on top and skillfully using your oven gloves/ cloth, hold plate and dish together and flip over.  There should be a nice gentle thud, your tart is turned! Take off dish and viola!  A steaming, beautifully caramelised tatin in all its sticky glory.

Green Lentil Stew

Serve 

We chopped the tart up and served everything family style on the table with a nice glass of Purple Moose (flavoured with elderflowers!) and a green salad (rocket, romaine lettuce, cucumber and mint).

We Love It!

This was a proper feast for St Georges Day.  The patron saint of England (I am English) and countless other countries, including Syria, Serbia and the isle of Gozo.  Strange day really, celebrating the slaying of a dragon?!

Foodie Fact

You know we love our beet!  The greens of beetroots contain more nutrition than the roots and a higher iron content than spinach.  Beetroot is a great blood cleanser and builder for the blood.

Boozie Bit

Purple Moose all the way here!  Dad is now their newest no. 1 fan and he knows his way around an ale.  The Dark Side of the Moose was is my favourite and Dad is a fan of the Bog Myrtle Ale (a unique little number).  These beers seem to compliment anything!

 

Categories: Baking, Dinner, Dressings, Local food, Organic, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegetarian, Welsh produce, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel with Aioli


I am so inspired by you all, fellow food bloggers and good people of blog world.
I was just reading a brilliant veg blog (www.impeccabletasty.blogspot.co.uk) and came across an old friend.  An orange, falafel shaped friend.
This is a favourite from my days with Leon down in old London town. A great substitute to the fried and sometimes dry chickpea versions of falafel.  The sweet potato makes the falafels moist and hopefully slightly caramelised and gooey in the middle. Delicious!
With a creamy aioli, a little green salad (adding avocado here is a nice touch) and warm bread of your choice (we used to wrap it in a wholemeal pitta with some gherkin slices) and you have a form of food perfection on your hands. Yum.
For the source of this inspired bit of meddling, see the Leon Cookbook (www.leonrestaurants.co.uk), it’s packed with all sorts of deliciousness.
One thing, this is not really falafel and the aioli is not really aioli. They are healthier versions and I dare say, even tastier!

Do It

Lifted straight from the Leon Cookbook

2 medium sweet potatoes (orange inside), around 700g or 1 1/2 pounds in total

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, 2 big handfuls of fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped, Juice of half a lemon, a scant cup (120g) gram /chickpea flour, a splash of olive oil, a sprinkling of sesame seeds, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees (220C) and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender – 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leave the potatoes to cool, then peel.

Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, ground and fresh coriander, lemon juice and gram/chickpea flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash until smooth with no large chunks. Stick in the fridge to firm up for an hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you take it out, your mix should be sticky rather than really wet. You can add a tablespoon or so more of chickpea flour if necessary (the water content of sweet potatoes varies enormously).

Reheat the oven to 400F/200C. Using a couple of soup spoons (put a well-heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides) or a falafel scoop if you have one, make the mixture into falafelly looking things and put them on an oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the bases are golden brown.

Makes about 18 falafel, enough for 4 – 6.

Aioli……simple as……greek yoghurt (soya yoghurt will do nicely for vegans), dash of water to thin out (double cream style), squeeze of lemon, cracked pepper and salt, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard, splash of olive oil, mix well with spoon, preferably leave in the fridge overnight.

Serve

See above.

We Love It!

Leon are lovely people with even lovelier food.  These falafels are a modern classic.  This recipe can also be made with purple sweet potatoes (if you can your hands on them).  Keeps things interesting!

Foodie Fact

Sweet potato are ace sources of beta carotene.  When eaten with a little fat, our bodies are much better at absorbing this vital nutrient.  Although they are potatoes (although a totally different family from your average spud) the sugar in sweet pots absorbs slowly into our blood, giving them a surprisingly low G.I. (Glycemic Index) Rating.

Sweet Pots are one of the vegetable worlds finest Vitamin A providers.  Sweet!

Falafel kisses to you allX

(PS – Thanks to the good folk at Impeccable Taste blog for the above falafel photo, which is far better than any photo I could have taken.)

Categories: Baking, Books, Dinner, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Photography, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El Limonar Stew – A Taste of the Spanish Sun

The 'El Limonar'

The ‘El Limonar’ is not an everyday stew.  It reflects the culture and produce of a special little corner of Spain, the Costa Calida.

This dish that would suit any occasion this summertime, especially a special time when you are eating outside in the sunshine with the people who you love, a time when you are planning to open a few bottles of good wine (it is a Spanish stew after all!) and let the world just pass you by.

‘El Limonar’ is the name of the place my parents have in Spain, its near Cartagena, Murcia, for me it is one of the worlds most beautiful and relaxing places.  The lifestyle in Spain is slow, steeped in history, with much fiesta and siesta.  Relaxing is a way of life and food and drink play a major role in everyday life and traditional celebrations.

When I am in Spain, more than anywhere else in the world, I can happily revert to the wise words below:

‘Sólo un idiota puede ser totalmente feliz.’

‘Only an idiot can be totally happy.’

Mario Vargas Llosa

The Mediterranean sun brings life to the dry red earth.   Murcia is the hottest and driest region in Spain, but the local farmers use a lot of new technology and plenty of old world know-how to make the most of the parched land.  The area is covered with lemon, almond and olive trees, many old and gnarled.  A whole host of incredible local produce blooms with stunning flavours.  This stew combines many of these treats, most notably the sweet and smoky local pimenton (paprika).  We use Coato Paprika, an excellent local co-operative (http://www.coato.com/en/about-coato/).  The figs and almonds reflect the Moorish (North African) influence who were here for hundreds of years.  You can hear the sound of North Africa in every flamenco song.

Being a veggie in Spain is tough, we eat at home most of the time, using the produce from the local markets.  Old men and women gather every Sunday in a car park down at  the port and sell their crops.  We have our favourite olive lady, pepper man, spice mama, knife gypsy, Moroccan mint seller etcetc.  There are an array of characters and smiles.  I love to browse a good market.  It is also very cheap, which makes it that touch more satisfying.

The occasion for the ‘El Limonar’ was a visit from Rob and Linda.  They are super foodies who we met in a local cafe.  These shiny people deserved a treat so I put together this deluxe version of one of my tried and tested simmered chickpea recipes.

The technique is to simmer the chickpeas down until only a little stock remains (chickpea stock is delicious, almost beefy!) then begin to add the ingredients.  I find this retains a lot of flavour and gently cooks everything.  This stew did have some added roast vegetables, but it was most definitely a special occasion.

The best way to recreate this is in a colder country is to buy as much organic produce as possible.  Beautifully ripe tomatoes and a good quality Spanish paprika will give this dish a real taste of the Med!

Local Murcian Pimenton from Coato Cooperative, Totana

This is enough for 4 with plenty for lunch the next day (we are bulk cookers at  the B.H.K).

The Bits

5 cups of fat chickpeas (pre-soaked overnight), 1 bay leaf, good veg stock (enough to cover the chickpeas in the pan by 1 inch, maybe 1 litre), one big red onion (all veg chopped into interesting looking chunks), 1 large sweet red pepper, 1 aubergine, 1 courgette, 5 sweet tomatoes, 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, 6 sundried tomatos, 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 2 tbs Coato paprika, 1 big glass of Spanish red wine (for authenticity), 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 teas of thyme, zest and juice of one large unwaxed lemon, 2 smoked dried peppers (if you can get your hands on them), 1 handful of roasted unsalted almonds (soaked overnight), 1 good handful of chopped dried figs, 1 good handful of pitted green olives (preferably manzanilla), chopped mint, coriander and parsley, s + p, olive oil to start and finish.

Do It

Most of these steps can be done beforehand and kept in the fridge overnight, the flavours will intensify.  Even better, cook everything for a little less time, get the stew together and re-heat it on the day. 

Add your pre-soaked chickpeas and one bay leaf to a pan of good veg stock, it should cover them by 1 inch.  Bring to a gentle boil then simmer until tender, normally 1 hour.   Skim of white froth regularly.  If the stock evaporates too quickly, put a lid on it.  After cooking the chickpeas should be just poking through the stock.

While they are simmering, chargrill in olive oil your large chunks of aubergine (should be well coloured and gooey inside), pepper, onion and courgette in a frying pan or griddle.  Best to do in batches and keep warm in a covered plate.  I chargrill my cherry tomatoes quickly to give them a little colour.

Add the paprika to the chickpeas and stir in well, then the tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and thyme, put the heat up and before it reaches a boil, add the rest of the ingredients except the wine, which you add just before the stew is about to boil.  Season.  Little finesse here, but maximum flavour!

Once the stew has reached a very gentle boil put the heat down to low and leave simmering, covered for one hour letting the flavours infuse nicely.  Check that the sauce has thickened and is not too thin, if so, turn the heat up and cook down.  Do not boil, this kills flavour.

Just before serving, check seasoning, add a glug of olive oil for shine and richness (or a glug of oil from your jar of sun-dried tomatoes as I did), the lemon juice and most of the chopped mint, coriander and parsley, mix gently in.

Serve

I topped it with a splash of olive oil, some of the left over herbs, finely sliced dried fig and a fistful of crushed almonds.

We ate our stew under the stars, over halved roasted butternut squash with brown rice, a spinach salad with a lemon and honey dressing and a cucumber and local spring onion (like wild garlic) yoghurt.  I think Rob and Linda were amazed at how much we eat!  It’s difficult for me to not get carried away with a kitchen full of amazing produce.

Jane having our 'millionare lunch' (which cost 8 euros)

Foodie Fact

Good old Christopher Columbus got his greedy hands on the pepper plant in South America and like everything else he found of value, brought it back to Spain (I’m not a huge fan of the behavior of these old explorer/conquistador types).

Paprika is made by grinding dried peppers, different paprika uses different peppers and can be sweet, smoked or spicy.  Paprika is used extensively in the cooking of Spain and also quite randomly, Hungary.  Good Goulash would be lost without it.  The name ‘Paprika’ actually comes from the Hungarian word for ‘Pepper’.

Paprika has a high sugar content which must be considered when cooking with it.  It burns easily.

By weight, Paprika contains more Vitamin C than lemon juice.

Boozy Bit

I haven’t had the chance to write about wine in a while.  Thank you Spain for giving me the excuse!

This is best with a wine from the south of Spain.  The stew incorporates many of the flavours of this evocative land, therefore the local wines compliment it perfectly.  We went for a young ‘Casa De La Ermita’ Organic Monastrell from Jumilla (a local wine region), with ripe fruits, lovely vanilla scented oak and dark violet colour.  Monastrell is generally a concentrated wine with good structure and this one held its own with this blockbuster stew.

Casa De La Ermita is a wondeful winery and you can buy the wine in the U.K., I think I even saw it in Tescos.  The Crianza is a very stylish example of the quality of wine now produced in Jumilla, formerly a very ‘rustic’ wine growing region.  They also make a great white and an interesting Petit Verdot.

Here’s their site:

http://www.casadelaermita.com/vinos/casadelaermita_tintoecologico.php

'Casa De La Ermita' Crianza, fine wine from Jumilla, Spain.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Organic, Photography, Recipes, Relax, Special Occasion, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Midnight Biriyani

We had just got in from a long day travelling back from Spain (via the gnarled maze that is Manchester), the cupboards were bare and our bellies empty. I managed to dig out some potatoes, onion and garlic and whip up this tasty little comfort dish. It is simple enough to get together after a long journey, or night out and really hits the spot.
Biriyani is a staple in Northern India and its quality and complexity varies greatly. This is a simple attempt based on getting it hot and into your belly with minimum fuss. It reminds me of the Biriyanis served in Indian train stations, ladled out of giant metal pans on a dried palm leaf.  They were always a blessing after many hours rocking around in a grotty train carriage.
Good ghee will make all the difference to this dish, it adds  and shine. We are using ‘Pukka Organic Ghee’, which has a lovely dark colour and deep flavour.  In fact, one teaspoon of this ghee matches the richness of three teaspoons of my homemade ghee, meaning less fat in the dish.

Pukka Organic Ghee

Pukka Ghee

http://www.pukkaherbs.com/ghee.html

This recipe fed two very hungry travellers, with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.

The Bits
4 small potatoes, 2 red onions, 4 cloves garlic, 2 heaped teas chopped ginger, 2 heaped teas good curry powder (or your prefered mix), 1/3 teas of powdered cinnamon, 2 good-sized tomatoes (chopped), 1 clove, 2 cardamom pods, 1 teas carraway seeds (optional), a handful of raisins, a handful of cashews (if your feeling decadent!), 2 cups of rice (white is traditional, brown is better for the body), 1 tin of drained chickpeas, 2 teas Pukka Ghee, s+p.  Jane is not a fan of chilli, but I would add one.

Do It

Heat a large non-stick saucepan with a dash of oil and the ghee on a moderate heat.  Chop potatoes into chunks, add to pan, chop onions finely, add, chop garlic finely, add, then the ginger and cashews, fry for a couple of minutes.  Season.  When the potatoes have taken a little colour and the onions softened, add your spice, clove and cardamom, heat through, stirring regularly.  Add your tomatoes and raisins, then the rice.  Stir well for a minute, all should be shiny.  Add enough water to cover all by 1/2 inch and bring to a gentle boil.  Cover well and turn to your lowest heat setting.  Leave for 45 minutes, without lifting the lid (very important), the trapped steam is doing all the cooking and must be trusted!  When the rice is cooked, fluff up with a fork, adding the chickpeas, then leave for a few minutes to let them warm through.

Serve
Initially we had it straight from the pan, with spoons, nice and warm.

We have had this dish since with a basic 4 egg omelette, chopped up and mixed in or if you really want to push the boat out, mix in lemon juice, yoghurt and chopped coriander and mint leaves, adding another handful of cashew nuts.

We Love It!

Biryani is a real taste sensation!  All those spices with sweet onion and raisin and the richness of ghee and cashew.  This recipes is super versatile and can be added to, making it a real show stopper of a dish or simplified to make it real quick and satisfying.

Foodie Fact

Ghee is much more than just clarified butter, it is used in many religious Hindu ceremonies and is truly the stuff of legend!  Many myths extol the virtues of this golden butter.  It is used widely in the ancient systems of Ayurveda.

Ghee burns at high temperature and the flavour will intensify the longer it is heated.  It contains hydrogenated fats, making it healthier than normal butter and it also contains no lactose, making it suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.

Ghee will stimulate stomach acids and will help to soften your skin and brighten your eyes.  It contains anti-viral acids and may have medicinal qualities, but these are still unconfirmed.

It is basically like butter, but better!

Shimla Toy Train

Categories: Ayurveda, B.H.K Reviews, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Gluten-free, Lunch, Nutrition, Photography, Recipes, Travel, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bridie’s Kumara and Beetroot Salad with Spinach Fondue

This is a really special little number, inspired by the sweetest of girls, Kiwi Bridie. Kiwi Bridie is my pal John’s lovely girlfriend, we used to have many parties in our shared house, where food was a decent distraction from the ‘grog’.

Bridie’s salad of Kumara (sweet potato in N.Z.) and beetroot, with chunks of feta was universally wolfed down and regaled. I certainly will never forget it.  It’s also quick and easy.

We ate ours as a starter in ramekins and I’ve added a bit of a spinach fondue to the top. Just to jazz it up a bit.  I used Cambazola (cheddar would be good), I thought creaminess would go nicely with the sweetness of the dish.

This should be enough for two people:

The Bits

3 sweet potatoes, 1 large beetroot, 2 cloves of garlic (chopped), 1 decent chunk of Cambazola, 1 small orange, splash of Balsamic Vinegar, several glugs of olive oil, 1 teas sage, 1/2 teas smoked paprika, four large handfuls of spinach.

Do It

In a heavy bottomed pan, glug of oil, roast off your sweet potatoes over high-ish heat for a couple of minutes, then add beetroots, season.  Get nice and roasted.  Take the zest off the orange (using a peeler is the easiest way), chop finely and add, squeeze in orange juice, 3 tbs Balsamic, paprika  and sage.  Heat for another couple of minutes, pots and beets should be nice and soft and coloured, add another splash of oil (to give a nice shine to the salad) stir and leave covered on a low heat.

In another warm pan, a little olive oil then your chopped garlic, after a couple of minutes of gentle heat, add cheese (as much, or as little, as you like) then spinach, season and leave on a low heat until spinach is wilted, if you have some open, add a small splash of white wine before the cheese.

Grab a couple of warm ramekins or small bowls, spoon in the hot salad until almost full, then add a few slices of cheese and top with your spinach fondue.

Serve

With a nice salad.  We had mixed leaves with some sliced olives and an orange vinaigrette (olive oil, orange juice, little white wine vinegar, season).

We Love It

It turns out that this dish has most of Jane’s favourite ingredients in.  The melted Cambazola runs down through this sweet, colourful salad.  Making it all gloriously cheesy.

Foodie Fact

Cambazola cheese is a mixture of Italian Gorgonzola and French cream cheese.

Kiwi

Categories: Cheese, Dinner, Gluten-free, Recipes, Salads, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pancake Bake

Looks like a mess though tastes rather amazing

Pancake day is coming soon?  This makes a proper meal out of it.

‘The Pancake Bake’ is more a method, than a specific recipe.

You will end up with succulent layered oven baked pancake wonder.  Hopefully drenched in creamy cheese and a rich tomato stew.  Due to the presentation and perceived difficulty of this dish, its bound to impress friends, guests and family.

The ingredients can chop and change depending on whats in your fridge, that’s the beauty of this.  Its learning the basics and filling in the blanks with your lovely creativity.

The main components are cheese, tomatoes and stuff to make pancakes with.  That should be easy enough.  It takes a while to get together, but when you’ve done it once, you’ll be knocking out bakes like a veteran.

Fresh, fresh tomatoes and spinach with fistfuls of quality strong cheese will make this dish sing for you.  Its worth spending the extra pence on your taste buds (but not necessary).  Balance your pocket with the occasion and how much you love the people eating pancakes (including yourself!!!!).

This is a dish perfectly designed to warm, satisfy and comfort after a particularly wintry day.

Makes enough for two hungry mouths (we eat two pancakes eat).  As usual, it can be made vegan or gluten-free with a few twists and is equally delicious (just not that creamy).  If you haven’t tried a gram flour pancake, give them a whirl.  They’re brilliant with an earthy flavour.

The Bits

Tomato Stew – A small glug of oil (I don’t normally use olive oil for cooking, something cheaper but good ie veg or sunflower), 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), 5 tomatoes (or one tin of good chopped tomatoes), one large onion, 1 cup of veg stock (or water), herbs (we used fresh basil and thyme), add one veg or more (we used carrot and potato, we needed some ballast!), salt and pepper to taste.

The Spinach Layer – Good glug of oil, 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), a large pan of spinach leaves (the more the better, they cook down to not much).

Cheese – The one you like best.  Quantity depends on how much you want to use.  Get a normal sized block and see how you go.  Vegans add a nice tofu here.

Pancakes – Glugs of oil, one cup of wholewheat flour (gluten free, use gram flour), 1 egg (not essential), 1/2 cup of milk (soya if you like), 3/4 cup of filtered water, 2 teas dried thyme (or similar herb), s+p to taste.  A few roasted sunflower seeds can make a real treat of these.

Do It

Get the tomato stew on the go.  In a thick bottom pan on medium heat, add olive oil and thinly sliced onions.  Stir and cook for at least 10 minutes, until softened and sweet, then add garlic, fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and s+p.  Simmer for a few minutes then add stock, continue the simmer with the top off until the sauce thickens, then pop a lid on and leave on a low heat to infuse a little.   You could call this a ragout if you like, it’s a basic sauce for many pasta dishes.  Good to get the ragout in the repertoire.

In a large sauce pan (spinach takes up a lot of space initially), medium heat, a glug of oil and flash fry some chopped garlic.  Then pack the pan full of washed spinach leaves, season with s+p (if needed).  Leave for a minute, then stir the leaves down.  It should only take 5 minutes to get them wilted.  The oil should make them nice and shiny.  Set aside.

Chop your cheese into chunks.  We used a strong local cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, goats cheese, really anything except cheese slices will be good here.  Your favourite is probably best.  Slice it into pieces that would grace a hearty sandwich.

Now for the tricky bit.  The pancakes.  They can take a little practice to get right, so the quantities here give you some breathing space.  Try a couple before going for the ‘presentation’ pancake.

In a large bowl, add all of the dry pancake ingredients with egg and milk.   Mix a little, I use a hand blender for this, you could hand whisk.  Gradually add water as you mix, you are looking for a batter with the texture of double cream.  Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC (most recipes tell you to pre-heat the oven far to early, it only takes 5 minutes and you’ll save a load of energy this way).

In a medium size casserole dish or similar (preferably ceramic, they look great).  Add a glug of oil and swoosh it around to cover it nicely.

In a small non-stick frying pan, get the pancakes fired up.  In a hot pan (medium heat, but adjust accordingly as you go) a small glug of oil followed by approx 1/4 cup of batter.  It should cover the base of the pan, but not much more.  Tilting the pan and rolling the batter around, until it meets each panside.

Leave for a minute, then with a thin spatula, life the edges away from the sides, make sure it loose.  Cook for a few minutes, the batter on top should be solid, then flip.  You can either go for the flick wrist acrobatic toss, or the gentile flip, using the spatula to support the pancakes progress.  This will take a bit of practice, don’t worry if the first attempt lands somewhere outside of the pan.  A taster!  When you get the knack, prepare 4 decent pancakes (they don’t have to be perfect!) and lay them on a plate covered with paper towels (to drain any surplus oil).  That’s a hell of a method!  But once mastered, is a real sinch.

Now for the layering.  Remember to portion your bits, you are aiming  for four and enough to pour over the finished pancakes.  On a board/ plate, beside your casserole dish, lay a pancake out flat.  Spoon in approx 2 heaped tbs of ragout, in a line across the centre of the pancake, spread across (not too much you have to roll these suckers).  Top with a layer of spinach, then a decent layer of chopped cheese.  Now gather one side of the pancake and flip it over, tuck and press with your fingers, then quickly whip over the other edge of the pancake to a make a fat sausage.  Hold together in with downward pressure from your hand.  Be firm but gentle.  Some sauce may shoot out of the end, enjoy that.  Now place the pancake fold down on the casserole dish.  Repeat and no doubt, get better with your rolling skills.

When four pancakes are laid out in a neat(ish) row, pour over remaining stew. It should get a good covering, sprinkle the left over cheese and spinach, the more the merrier and whack it in the oven for 20 minutes or until all the cheese is golden and melted and the sauce is bubbling nicely.

You can prepare all of this before hand, all the bits will sit nicely in the fridge overnight.  I’d heat the stew a little first though and keep the pancakes in a tight container or well cling’d.  I would always assemble the dish close to mealtime, the pancakes can go soggy.

Serve

With a good crisp salad tossed in a nice citrus dressing.  I’d finish off the bake with a few more leaves of torn fresh herb.

We Love It

You’ll be proud to view this Pancake Bake sitting in the middle of the dinner table,  it’s so unctuous all over and does have a hint of the wow factor.   Because it’s so rich, it’s a good one for carnivores.

Foodie fact

Allegedly the Mayans first cultivated tomatoes.  It’s a member of the nightshade family which includes aubergine, potato and chillies.   Unique to tomatoes, Lycopene helps to protect your cells from harmful free radicals, it also helps to protect the skin from U.V. rays.

Pickled Part

You don’t want something too tannic and overpowering here, I’d go white, something dry and with good acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc.  Splash out on a decent bottle of French Touraine Sauvignon.  Normally packed full of fresh fruits, a good one should be around 6-8 pounds and have a decent structure to hold its own against the strong flavours in this dish.

You could go for a lighter red style and Chianti historically goes well with the rich tomato and cheese sauces of Italian cuisine.  I just think that the white will cut through the melted cheese and leave your mouth feeling vibrant and ready for more bake.

Categories: Cheese, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pumpkin and Almond Tagine

Tagine Market

I love Morocco, the sleepy mountain villages and endless desert sands.  I always made time for the local spice markets, checking out the intoxicating mix of aroma and colour.  I shipped many bags of the stuff back to Spain, running the gauntlet of some very suspicious customs officers and barking Alsatians.  Apparently my bag smelled like a vagrant (must have been the intense cumin?!)

The variety and freshness of these spices make a tagine.  It’s a bit like Guinness and Ireland, something is lost when eaten anywhere outside of its Motherland.

Add fistfuls of dried fruits, olives and ras el hanout and you have a perfect expression of Morocco’s incredible produce.  This is one of those evocative dishes that can sum up the spirit and atmosphere of a diverse country, on one platter, better than a lengthy commentary or travel article.  It’s basically Morocco on a plate.

Having said all of this, due to financial constraints (being a skint traveller), I rarely ate in decent restaurants during my stay there and have had better Moroccan food in London than Marrakech!  My Moroccan diet mainly consisted of triangles of manufactured cheese, handfuls of figs and the ubiquitous flat bread.

However, I was lucky to meet some truly amazing and hospitable folk, who invited me into their homes (the finest place to sample true culture and food worldwide).  I especially remember a chap named Khalid, staying in his family home in Taroundant made me understand the importance and pride attached to the traditional of the tagine.

I met Khalid in a spice market and immediately realised he was the kindest of sorts.  He showed me around the old city for days, but one afternoon he took me, with a big gang of friends and family, to an oasis where we sat under a fig tree and shared a delicious lunch.  We ate straight from the dish, with hunks of bread and greedy hands.  It contained a few spices, vegetables and a whole lot of care and pride.  It was not a tagine strictly speaking, we cooked it in a heavy pan with a good lid, as we do in the B.H.K (we’re tagine-less, hence the generic tagine pot picture), but it’s almost as good.  Only the name changes, its called a ‘Gimb…….’ something or other.  The results are very similar, but you just lose some of the mystique and authenticity.

Tagine is named after the earthenware dish used in the cooking.  The dish is normally cooked slowly and captures all the condensation, making the dish moist.  It’s an easy and healthy way to cook vegetables.

This recipes is slightly more complex than Khalids, and not completely traditional.  It’s another one of my Mum’s favs.  We are lucky here that we have a wonderful organic farm, just over the way, that grows brilliant pumpkins.  Good pumpkin is as important, as the spices.  Use fresh spices and keep all opened spices in a cool place in a tightly sealed container.  Being tagines-less at the moment we opt for a thick bottomed pan or a casserole pot:

Makes one big tagine or pan full, enough for four.  Like all stews, it is better left a while in the fridge to infuse and serve the next day.

The Bits 

Handful of dried apricots (chopped into large chunks), juice of one lemon (add rind finely chopped for more zing), 1 inch root ginger (chopped), 2 tbs tomato puree, 3 cloves garlic (chopped), 2 tsps smoked paprika, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 2 cardoman pods (split or bashed), 2 tsps ground cinnamon, 1 small pumpkin (chopped and roasted, skin on), 1 carrot (chopped into chunks and roasted), 1 tin chickpeas (drained), 5 tomato’s skinned and chopped (or a good tin of chopped tomatoes), 1 tbs honey, handful of fresh coriander (chopped), 2 red peppers (roasted and chopped), salt and pepper, handful of unpeeled roasted almonds.
(If we could get hold of some ras el hanout, we may substitute that for all the spices except paprika.  A handful of pitted olives can add an extra tang to the dish.  Especially good when feeding carnivores for a bigger flavour.)
Do It
Start by frying off you pumpkin chunks, carrot and pepper in a pan with olive oil.  Cook quickly, until coloured nicely, then set aside in a covered dish.
Heat the olive oil in a casserole and stir in the lemon juice, tomato puree with the spices.  Season with s/p.
Add chopped tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and peppers, cover the dish.
Cook over a very gentle heat, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 mins.
Stir in the almonds, apricots, ginger and garlic and cook for another 15 mins.
When the pumpkin is good and soft, add the chick peas giving a good mix.
Cover and cook about 15 mins until everything is tender, then stir in the honey.
The tagine should be checked regularly and water topped up if required.
Serve
With an extra splash of olive oil, the chopped coriander and a generous dollop of creamy yoghurt and a scattering of almonds and seeds.  Accompanied traditionally by a nice warm flat bread or cous cous.  We made it gluten-free and opted for some quinoa.  ‘As you wish, you are free’ as many of my Moroccan friends would say.
We Love It
Moroccans make some of the finest stews, they are so blessed with amazing local ingredients.  As I said, this is really Morocco on a platter and that makes it a glorious thing.  It’s the perfect winter stew, bursting with spice, flavour and bright colours.
Foodie Fact
Pumpkin, and most very orange veggies, are packed with the important anti-oxidant beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A.  It’s also a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, K and E and loads of different minerals.   Even its seeds are packed with goodness, especially omega 3 fatty acids.
The big orange beauty is a member of the cururbitaceae family, making it a relative of the cucumber and can grow to be 25 kgs in weight.

The Djem El Fna, the mad Market Square in Marrakech

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Gluten-free, Lunch, Photography, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jane’s Roasted Goats Cheese and Med Veg Lasagna

Phwoarrrr! Nice LasagnaXXXX

Jane created this decadent Lasagna(ish) recipe as a special treat for last nights dinner.  We were celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day (Welsh Valentines Day), 25th January.  See my other blog for more info:

http://leroywatson4.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/lovers-island-and-llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch-wales-8th-september-2011/

Jane is normally busy (juggling two jobs at the minute) but took the time out to whip up this wonder and it was rich and delicious.  It’s like a cross between Moussaka and a classic Lasagna, with lots of luxury twists along the way.

We have used wheat free pasta here, but normal pasta will be just as good.

This was packed full of love, which is just as well, we’ll be munching our way through this for days!

It takes a while to get together and the veg is not exactly local (unless you are lucky enough to be on the Med), but it’s a one off!

Makes one large oven dish full, serves 4 big people.

The Bits

2 aubergines, 2 bell peppers (yellow and orange look good), 1 large courgette, 2 large field mushrooms all roughly chopped into chunks and sprinkled with fresh thyme and rosemary.

2 large red onions and 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced, 8 medium ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped, a little dried oregano, 2 handfuls of chopped roasted hazelnuts (one for topping, one for the sauce), 2 handfuls of halved olives, 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, 2 handfuls of spinach, 3 tbsp tomato pesto (or 3 tbsp tomato puree), glug of red wine.

1 knob of butter, 1 ounce of plain flour, 1 big lump of good mature cheddar (grated), 1 pint of good creamy milk, 1 tbsp of whole grain mustard.

1 lump of creamy goats cheese (sliced)

1 packet gluten-free lasagna sheets (200g)

Salt (if needed) and pepper.  We don’t add much salt to our food, especially this.  The cheese and pesto will add saltiness.

Do It

Heat the oven to 200 0c.

Toss aubergine, peppers, courgette and mushrooms in olive oil and a good amount of thyme and rosemary, stick in oven on a baking tray, cook until nicely soft and coloured, around 15 minutes.  Cover and set aside.

In a good pan soften the onions and garlic on medium heat for 10 minutes, when nice and sweet and soft, add a glug of red wine, then tomatoes and a few shakes of oregano, heat for further 10 minutes until all broken down nicely.   Season (if needed).  Then add spinach and basil leaves, halved olives, tomato pesto(or tomato puree) and the roasted veggies.  Mix up, the sauce should be nicely thickened.  Cover and simmer.

Then in another smaller pan on lowish heat, melt butter, stir in flower, add milk slowly whilst stirring constantly, until a smooth sauce is formed.  Stir in grated cheddar (keep a bit for the topping) and mustard (I would sneek a little goats cheese in there too), it should have the texture of a ‘thin custard’.  If not add more milk or flour (made into a loose paste).

Then its layering time.  Make sure you ration the sauce well.  In the oven dish, ladle in a layer of veg, cover with random sheets of pasta, then a layer of cheese sauce, more pasta, then repeat with veg first until dish is full, normally twice (or until you run out of sauce!).  So thats veg pasta cheese pasta veg pasta cheese.

On the last layer of cheese sauce, top with liberal slices of goats cheese, a bit of grated cheddar, a sprinkling of roasted hazelnuts and some fresh thyme.

Heat for 40 minutes at 200 0c, check after 20 mins and cover with foil if getting burnt.

Serve

Cut into slabs and get it on a plate.  We had ours with a simple crunchy green salad.  Best eaten beside an open fire.

We Love It

Two cheeses and the occasional crunch of a hazelnut.  There are so many flavours here, it’s a sunshine party in your mouth.  This is a truly unique lasagna/ moussaka!!!  Food with an identity crisis just shows that the experiments are working!  Not one for the faint hearted or calorie conscious.

Foodie Fact

Tomatoes and Peppers contain more vitamin C than Oranges.  Vitamin C is good for maintaining a healthy immune system and keeps tissues healthy.  Great in these winter months.

Pickled Part

We drank a nice Chianti with ours. Full of cherries.  Look for something red, dry(ish) and acidic (cut through the cheese sauce and stand up to the tangy toms).  You can pick up a decent, reasonably priced Chianti on the high street.  As with most good Italian wines, ask for a D.O.C.G, which is basically a sign of quality.  A higher stamp of approval from the Italian wine people.

Mmmmm. Leftovers

Categories: Cheese, Dinner, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegetarian, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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