Tag Archive | recipe

A Romantic Interlude…

IMG_20160815_121133 (2).jpgSweet Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese

vegetarian/lactofree/gluten free/can be made vegan

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Before we get properly started on the epic adventure curry quest I thought I would share a quick recipe to mark the occasion of receiving my first ever Valentine’s card with the word “wife” on the front. (We got married last summer. Yay us.)

This is one I often make as a romantic treat for my husband. (Yes, we do live in the 1950s apparently) wife-6-600x782.jpgIt’s tiny sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese. My husband loves these naughty little beauties. He first spied them in a pub while on a weekend away in Birmingham and has lusted after them ever since. The look on his face while he is eating them suggests that he may even love them more than me. For my part, instead of getting jealous of the peppers, demanding to know whether he is eating them behind my back, obsessively checking his phone for pictures of peppers and throwing his cheese out of the window, I have decided to take the unconventional approach of welcoming the peppers into our relationship and fulfilling his gastronomic urges every chance I get.

I think these work best when eaten as part of a tapas style spread. On the last occasion, we ate them with sweet potato fries, miniature vegetarian pigs in blankets, baked green lemon tiger tomatoes and olives but you can do whatever you like best.

Recipe Tips

  • Sweet peppers of suitable dimensions to make delicious, single-bite-sized parcels of cheesy goodness are surprisingly difficult to find. Most on offer that I have found in supermarkets are simply too big to be consumed in one bite. Of course the recipe does still work perfectly well with the larger variety, it’s just less satisfying when you have to cut them up. For those of you with a taste for the spicier things in life, this recipe is traditionally made with chillies, and these have the advantage of being the perfect size. I and my digestive system however, cannot cope with all the excitement. On balance, the scarcity of perfectly sized peppers is probably a good thing; given an unrestricted supply who knows what orgies of cheese based consumption might otherwise ensue in our household.
  • You don’t actually have to use cream cheese for this – any soft cheese will do if you can eat cheese.
  • I have not yet found a vegan or lactose free cream cheese that contains herbs or anything exciting so have added in the step of making my own for this dish. If you are using normal cream cheese feel free to skip this part. I like to add Herbes de Provence but a standard Italian herb mix will do just nicely. You can also add a sprinkling of paprika and/or garlic powder if you like them.
  • To minimise cheese-leakage when cooking I have, through much experimentation come up with an ingenious solution involving a scrunched up roll of aluminium foil to hold the peppers cheesy end up. I call my marvellous invention the patented* perky pepper proper-upper  *patent pending**    **patent not pendingpeppers-4

(It’s not the most eco-friendly option I know but unless you are a much better person than me and your dedication to the cause extends to scrubbing burned cheese off your cookware I would highly recommend this solution)

Ingredients

  • As many tiny sweet peppers as you think you can eat – remember: they are going to be stuffed with cheese so this one really is between you, your arteries and your conscience.
  • A tub of spreadable cream cheese. (I use lactose free but vegan works fine too)
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and garlic powder (optional)
  • Mixed herbs
  1. Prepare the pepperspeppers-1

Gently cut a ring around the stems using the tip of a knife. Pull the stems out and you should be left with a neat hole. Wash the inside of the peppers out under the tap to remove the seeds.

  1. Improve the cream cheese

Decant some cream cheese into a bowl – no measures, just as much as seems reasonable – a few dessert spoons should do it for one person. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste.

  1. Stuff those pepperspeppers-2

Using a knife, fill the peppers with cream cheese. If you’re feeling fancy you can use a piping bag but the results are much the same.

  1. Bakepeppers-3

Place on a baking tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. Bake for roughly 15-20mins (give or take – just keep checking it) on 200C.

  1. Revel in cheesy decadence. 
    800px-Neufchâtel.jpg

    Neufchatel. Markus Lindholm Wikimedia Commons.

Curry for the unadventurous

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Image source: Flickr. Matt Oldfield. The kitchen UWRF13. Wikimedia Commons.

 

Well hello there. My, what a time is has been! We have feasted, we have frolicked and we have made merry. We have roasted, fried, dipped, marinated, drizzled, boiled, crushed, glazed, baked, squeezed and sprinkled until we are fit to burst. I have (ironically) been so busy in the kitchen over the festive period that I haven’t even had time to write about it. The good news is that the fruits of my labours have provided lots of new recipes and tips to tell you all about in time for next year.

But for now, February…

Oh.

As I write this at 4pm the sun is just caressing the horizon, gilding the neighbours’ Cypress tree with warm light. Below, the pond is frozen solid and slivers of frost still linger in the shady patches of ground. This time of year is often undeniably beautiful yet we seem do our best to hate it anyway. In my daily life, I rarely encounter anyone with a good word to say about February. All of the fresh January enthusiasm has faded leaving ice on the car windscreen and a fridge full of wilting salad. I totally understand the compulsion to feel healthy after the splurge of December. I for one am craving apples. I normally hate apples. But I have never got to grips with the whole raw vegetables thing when it below zero outside. Surely, I think, there must be a better way. And I think I have found it in curry.

I would love to know more about cooking curry but have always been held back by the long lists of unfamiliar ingredients involved and a vague terror of making things too spicy. (IBS will do that to you) Despite liking the idea of curry the furthest I was prepared to venture in the past was a mild chicken korma. Even black pepper on my dinner was living wild as far as I was concerned. My husband however can tolerate food so hot that the sales assistant in our local spice shop once speculated that there must be something wrong with him.

Over the last couple of years of cooking together and trying to find a middle ground between our tastes I have gradually increased my tolerance for spice without really knowing it. So much so that the other day while eating one of my standard chicken with super-mild-korma-sauce-from-jar I was actually moved to get up out of my comfy chair to add some extra chilli powder before I even realised what I was doing.

Curry for me embodies everything you need on a cold February day. It’s colourful, warming and can be filled with fresh vegetables. Some ingredients in curries (i.e. ginger) can also be good for battling the dreaded plague demons that regularly beset us fragile mortals at this time of year. (Plus, it sort of looks like witches’ brew and that pleases me greatly. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to cackle manically as I stir a cauldron of bubbling curry on the stove).

So, I propose a quest. An adventure into the world of curry for the chronically unadventurous. Join me as I start by re-tracing my steps through the easy, mild curries that I am familiar with and then boldly venturing into delicious and unchartered realms. I’ll go and get the ingredients, you check back for the start of the quest soon!

(insert manic cackle here)

hocus-pocus-bubble

Autumn Leaves pie

Pie 5.jpg

vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

No, we have not taken vegetarianism this far, don’t worry. I have not (yet) resorted to eating fallen leaves from my garden. I just named this pie “Autumn leaves” because the colours remind me of autumn and I wanted to sound really clever.

pie-3

Look at the vegetables before they’re added to the sauce – aren’t they pretty?

This is a lovely, warming pie for a cold evening. It’s relatively easy to make but rather time consuming to prepare so maybe one for a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining and you want an excuse not to leave your nice cosy kitchen.

A warning: When I was shopping for ingredients to make this a few weeks ago I got very excited because next to the usual butternut squashes in the supermarket they had something called coquina squash. It looked the exactly same but was far more expensive, labelled as part of the supermarket’s premium range. Naturally, assuming it must be a far superior exotic squash variety, I bought it, only to find out when I got home that coquina is just another name for butternut squash. Probably you’re all now rolling in the aisles at my silly squashy ignorance but I thought it fair to mention.

Recipe Tips

  • In the pictures, the purple that you can see is purple carrot. I used these as I had some left over from Halloween and I’m a bit obsessed with purple vegetables. I might hesitate to do so if serving this to guests however as they turned the cooked pie filling a rather strange shade of pink. This pie works with any root vegetables really as long as you make sure they’re roasted first to soften them and eliminate excess moisture. Roast peppers or sundried tomatoes also work very well.
  • The best tip for making gluten-free pastry that I’ve ever come across was from a book about pies that friend owned. I wish I could remember the name of it. Next time I see her I’ll find out so I can link to it here because it was a very good book. The tip was to add polenta to the mix of flour. It gives the pastry a fantastic flavour, helps to hold it together and creates a warm yellow colour that makes a welcome change from the usual paleness of gluten-free pastry. Polenta is sometimes called cornmeal and it’s the fine ground, uncooked kind that you want. Most supermarkets these days stock it but you might have to hunt for a bit – try the “word foods” section.
  • If you want to make the pastry completely vegan it is totally ok to leave out the egg – just add a little more water instead. The pastry will be slightly crumblier if you do this as the egg acts as a binder. If you want to avoid this, you can use vegan egg replacer (just follow the instructions on the packet) or chia seeds. See this excellent tutorial for how to do this http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-make-egg-substitute-chia-seeds/
  • Adding the xanthan gum is absolutely vital if you want it to stick together. I’ve also found that adding Lactofree cheese to the pastry, apart from making it taste great, helps to hold it together as well.
  • Unfortunately, even with all the xanthan gum and will in the world, gluten free pastry is never going to look pretty. The best you can hope for is “charmingly rustic”. It will still try to fall apart when you lift it onto the pie and you will never get it rolled thinly. One easy way to get the pastry onto the pie in one piece is to roll it out on a plastic mat or chopping board, then quickly turn it upside down onto the pie.
  • So, you could just leave it OR if you’ve got guests coming over, you’ve had enough wine to pretend you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off or you’re photographing it for a food blog and want to look like you know what you’re doing, you could jazz it up a bit. Here are some ideas to impress those Bake Off judges with:

– Use the inevitable little bits of pastry left over and some cookie cutters to cover over the unsightly areas with pretty shapes. (Leaves in this case)

Pie 7 (3).jpg

 

– Use a knife to gently score patterns into the pastry.

pie-7-2

 

– Make the rough edges look deliberately quaint and homespun by squishing them all along with a fork. Put it on a gingham tablecloth for added effect.

pie-7-4

 

  • Note: The method for making the pastry that I’ll give is the old-fashioned version. I don’t actually do this because if you have a food processor you can just chuck all of the pastry ingredients in there at once and press the “on” switch. The future is here.

 

Ingredients

(To make one pie that serves roughly 4 people)

 

Pastry

  • 6oz gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 3oz fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz vegan margarine
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • 2tbs cold water
  • A handful of Lactofree cheese (optional)

 

Sauce

  • ½ pint milk or milk substitute (Soya milk works well, as does Lactofree)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 4oz cheddar cheese (melty vegan or Lactofree extra mature work fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard

 

Filling

  • Half a butternut squash
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 medium courgette
  • A handful of sundried tomatoes
  • I small packet of Quorn chunks

 

Method

 

  1. Prepare the vegetables.

    pie-2

    More pretty colours…

 

Peel the carrots and squash (or any other root veg/peppers) and cut into bite sized cubes. Place on a roasting tray (I cover it in tin foil to save washing up if I’m short for time) and roast on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for about half an hour or until the edges start to brown. Chop the courgette into very small cubes and put straight into the pie dish with any extras like the sundried tomatoes.

 

  1. Meanwhile, make the pastry…

 

  • Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add the fat straight out of the fridge so that it is as cold as possible and cut it up into small chunks before adding it the bowl. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the egg (or substitute) and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball.

    pie-4

    If you’re using a food processor the dough should look roughly like this when it’s done.

 

Remind you of anything? That’s right – it’s the same method as the one we used for the pizza, just slightly different ingredients. Turns out the component parts of many different recipes are pretty much the same – once you learn the basic skills they’re easy to remember and adapt.

 

  1. And the sauce? This is exactly the same as the one for macaroni cheese. It’s a Mornay (cheese) sauce.

 

To save you reading that recipe twice, (although if you haven’t yet, please do) here it is again. Thank you, copy and paste function:

 

  • Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk in a glass until it dissolves.
  • Add the milk to the carrot water (if a lot has boiled off you might need to top it up – you should have roughly 1 pint of liquid in total)
  • Add the salt, pepper and herbs.
  • Heat until it starts to simmer then remove from the heat.
  • Tip in the cornflour and stir. (A balloon whisk can help here) pie-1
  • Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
  • Grate and add the cheese. Stir until it melts.
  • Add the mustard and a generous pinch of yeast flakes.

 

  1. Now put it all together…

 

  • Put the vegetables and sauce in a large pie dish with thin slices or tiny cubes of the courgette – as small as you can get them.

 

  • If you have one, pop a pie funnel in the middle of the pie.

 

  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and transfer to the top of the pie. Trim the edges with a knife and cut an X shape in the centre and use it to make a little hole – either for the pie funnel to poke out of or just as it is to release some of the steam.

 

  • Decorate as you prefer. If you have any holes or bits that don’t quite look nice you cn cover them up with the extra bits of pastry like I have in the corner here.
  • pie-6

    Fixing the broken bit on the corner to make it look deliberate…

 

  • Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for half an hour or until the top has browned slightly and the vegetables are cooked through.
Pie 7.jpg

All done!

Cheesy vegetable bake

veggie-dish-1

Vegetable bake with Quorn sausages

vegetarian/gluten free/lactose free/can be made vegan

One week until the end of the month. That means it’s time to get creative. We may not have any money right now but what we do have is a tray full of mushrooms that are on the turn, half a loaf of stale bread and a couple of wrinkly peppers. What more does a girl need?

I don’t know exactly what this recipe is. It’s one I inherited from my Mum and in our house it was just called “veggie dish”. It’s sort of a delicious baked vegetable mush with a cheesy crispy, topping. It’s great for those times when you have a load of old odds and ends rattling around in the fridge and not much money in your bank account.

Assuming that bears had raided your kitchen and you had to buy every single ingredient in this recipe from a mid-range supermarket (I used Sainsburys prices to work this out) the cost would be roughly £4.50. This gives 4 portions at £1.12 each which is pretty good considering how nutritious it is. I love it because it uses up ingredients that I often have in anyway and prevents any waste.

In my local Sainsburys the celery, peppers, courgettes and mushroom are all cheaper to buy in gigantic packets than they are individually. This seems like a bizarre system to me and a silly waste of plastic but what do I know? I just take advantage of it while I can.

 

Recipe Tips

  • This one really works best if you have a food processor. I have made it without and it tastes just fine but you don’t quite get the same texture and the chopping takes ages. If you are doing this without a food processor you will need really stale bread to make the breadcrumb; it has to be totally dried out or else it just won’t work, especially if that bread is shop-bought gluten free.
  • If you’re like me and hate green peppers then this is an excellent way to disguise them. Also, despite the vast quantities of mushrooms in this, my husband who hates mushrooms cannot tell they’re in it.
  • If you want to make this vegan, then just leave out the egg or use egg replacer/chia seeds. It’s not a vital ingredient; it just helps to bind it.
  • My Mum’s version of this recipe used an onion, not a courgette but as I cannot eat onions in large amounts courgette is a good replacement.
  • This can be served with pretty much anything. I like it with sausages or with baked beans and half a jacket potato.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 peppers – 1 red and 1 green works best
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 12oz mushrooms
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 6oz cheddar cheese (Lactofree or vegan cheddar style)
  • 8oz stale bread (brown is best)
  • 1 egg (or substitute)
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Method

  1. Chop the vegetables as fine as you can. Use a food processor if possible.

veggie-dish-4

2. Fry the vegetables in a little vegetable oil for about 5mins.veggie-dish-3

3. Either use a food processor to turn the bread into breadcrumbs or rub it between your fingers.

4. Grate the cheese.

5. Beat the egg a little in a cup with the salt and pepper and add to the mixture.

 

 

6. Add 6oz of the breadcrumbs and 4oz of the cheese to the mixture.

 

7. Stir everything in and cook for another couple of minutes.

veggie-dish-5

 

 

 

8. Put the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish and smooth down. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top.

 

 

 

9. Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes or until the top is browned and crispy.veggie-dish-2