Tag Archive | treats

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.

Saturday Night Pizza

pizza5

Mmm…egg, Quorn and mixed veg

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

In preparation for the weekend, I bring you… homemade pizza. This is our Saturday night treat and my own spin on the one my Mum used to make for us growing up.

When I made this the other week I was talking to my Mum on the phone as I made the bases, absentmindedly adding the familiar ingredients to my food processor while balancing the phone between ear and shoulder. Normally this recipe is one I can virtually make in my sleep, however this time something went wrong. While I was distracted by the tale of Mum’s near-forensic removal of every fuchsia in her new garden and their subsequent herbaceous replacements I forgot one vital thing.

In horror I watched as, instead of coming together satisfyingly to form a smooth ball in the food processor, the dough rapidly separated into soggy breadcrumbs that resembled nothing so much as curdled cheese. I tipped it out onto the work surface in an attempt to kneed it into submission but the crumbs not only refused to submit, they defiantly bounced all over the kitchen in a bid for freedom. I told my Mum I would have to phone her back; this was a disaster that needed my undivided attention. I contemplated the disintegrated mess with the sort of dismay usually reserved for a small-scale nuclear war. Why? Why? What went wrong? And then it hit me.

Xanthan gum.

Gluten free friends, heed ye this warning! If you have ever doubted the efficacy of adding extra xanthan gum to your gluten free flour believe in it’s awesome power now!

Xanthan gum is a magical substance that acts as binder in gluten-free baking – it basically mimics what the gluten would normally do. It seems like such a little thing to add to your cooking – just a teaspoon of innocuous white powder – what could it possibly be doing? It’s not until you forget it that you can truly see its effects.

In the end, I scraped the mixture back into the machine, added the extra xanthan gum and a few desert spoons of flour and it was just fine, if a little doughy when cooked. A happy ending for a hungry gardening enthusiast.

Recipe Tips

  • This is a scone base so it is a little different from a traditional pizza in that it is much thicker and more filling but it’s still just as delicious. I use a food processor for this recipe to save time but you can do it the traditional way just as well. The polenta in the recipe is optional – you can just use 8oz of flour instead of 6oz – but I find the polenta gives it a lighter texture and a nicer taste.
  • If you want to make the base vegan you can replace the egg with any of the following: a little more soya milk, vegan egg replacer, chia seed goo, or a handful of grated “melty” vegan cheese. The last three will help to bind the mixture in the same way that the egg would. If you go for the soya milk option be prepared for a slightly crumblier base.
  • The vegan cheese I use is a brand specially designed to be “melty” and suitable for pizza. I have found however that it only does this if you put it directly onto the tomato sauce, before the rest of the toppings. If you sprinkle it right on top it just goes crispy. (Also nice in its own way if you like crispy cheese) I do a combination of both for a crispy cheese top and molten under-layer of deliciousness.

Ingredients

To make two large gluten/dairy free pizzas.

Base

pizza3

A giant ball of dough

  • 12oz self-raising flour (gluten free mix)
  • 4oz polenta
  • 2tsp xanthan gum
  • 4oz vegan spread
  • 2 eggs (or substitute)
  • Large pinch of salt and pepper
  • Large pinch of Italian herb mix
  • Soya milk (or substitute)

Tomato sauce for 2 pizzas

  • A jar of tomato passata (or tin of chopped tomatoes if using the food processor)
  • A teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar (optional if you are sugar-free, but does bring out the flavour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • A teaspoon Italian herb mix
  • A shake of salt and pepper
  • Optional extras to be added at the dictates of whimsy and the contents of your kitchen cupboard include: garlic, red wine, concentrated tomato puree, fresh tomatoes, red peppers.

 

Traditional method…

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the egg and work it into the mixture with a spoon. Gradually add some soy milk or water, just a little bit at a time, gently kneading the dough with your hands until it forms one solid ball. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about half an hour (this step is optional but does help when rolling it out)
  4. Roll out into a pizza shape on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, as thin as you can before it starts falling apart. (It will probably crumble a little around the edges, if this happens just fold them back in and roll again. Using your fingers can be easier than a rolling pin at this stage)

    pizza1

    The base

For the sauce…

Locate bowl. Mix ingredients in bowl. Gosh that was complicated.

Alternatively…

  1. To make the base, gleefully tip everything into the food processor, turn on and marvel at the wonders of technology. Gradually add some milk or water, just a little bit at a time until the mixture comes together to form one solid ball. Wrap and chill the dough.
  2. Pop the tomato sauce ingredients into the food processor (I might give it a quick wipe first but it’s usually fine as it is) and pulse for a few seconds to mix and chop the sauce more finely.

Add the toppings of your choice.

pizza4

Toppings…

In my house this can be any combination from the following list but your pizza can be as creative as you are.

I like: vegan “pizza” cheese, vegan cream cheese, peppers, mushrooms, courgette, aubergine, mixed seafood, smoked mackerel, egg, ham, pineapple, vegetarian hot dogs, Quorn chunks, bacon, anchovies, olives, spinach…

…Maybe one day I should try them all at once and see what happens…

pizza2

Before cooking

Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for approximately half an hour.