Tag Archive | wheat free

Cherry Bakewell Traybake

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The last few weeks have flowed like syrup. Dark, sticky and heavy with the promise of thunder. Thoughts move slowly, my body even more so as I do my best “Edwardian lady” impression – floating around the house in diaphanous gowns and drinking endless cups of tea.

edwardian lady

Any proper afternoon tea should come with a cake of some sort. No delicate little fancies for me however, what I require is a cake that matches the weather: dense, moist and almost (but not quite) a little too sweet.

In my head, Cherry Bakewells mean Mr Kipling. I experienced no other as a child and I can’t say I cared for them all that much. I found them too dry, too small and not nearly almond-y enough for my palette. This is a shame really as I consider cherry and almond to be a flavour combination made in heaven, and one that is perfect for summer. This recipe is not like Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Nor is it like an authentic Bakewell tart, which is an entirely different entity. It is a sort of hybrid: a were-bake: a Franken-well… but one that tastes very nice.

Recipe Notes

  • This is not necessary a quick recipe. The various stages are simple enough but it does take time. For people with limited “spoons” like me this can be problematic. I’ve found I can reduce the time by completing each stage in the order given below and/or actually making the pastry in advance and freezing it. (It freezes perfectly well for several months) I also love my food processor. It saves me so much time and effort, and I can even put it in the dishwasher. I know they’re expensive (mine was a gift from my Dad) but if you cook a lot it might be worth the investment. The good news is, simple ones work just as well for day-to-day cooking as fancy ones with all the attachments. It’s also possible to find old 70s/80s food processors at flea markets and car boot sales being sold for next to nothing. My Mum has had her food processor for around 30 years and it’s still going strong.
food-processor

My Mum’s is not this exact brand but it looks like this.

  • So far, I have made this recipe using eggs and have also made it completely vegan, using chia seed goo instead. Personally, I prefer the fully vegan version as it is much denser and stickier. But, if you are not vegan and prefer a lighter, more risen sponge layer then the eggs are for you. See my recipe here for how to make the chia seed egg replacement. It’s really easy and only takes a few minutes.

 

  • Similarly, if you are using gluten free flour for the pastry then I’ve found that an egg or chia seed substitute helps to bind it all together a little better. But if you are not using gluten free flour then this is not necessary at all.

 

  • If you don’t use polenta or ground almonds very much and don’t want a situation where you have half a packet lurking in the back of the cupboard forever more, you can replace them in the pastry with the equivalent amount of flour. They’re not vital ingredients at all, they just make the pastry taste that bit nicer.

 

  • I nearly always use golden caster sugar in my baking because I like the slight caramel taste but you don’t have to – normal caster sugar works just fine.

 

  • The amount of water used in the icing seems tiny but go with it. For years I made icing too runny by adding more water than I should because it seemed right at the time. It wasn’t until I discovered this ratio that I finally achieved the perfect consistency of “firm enough not to run all down the sides but runny enough to not be fondant”. I promise you, it works.

 

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 6oz gf plain flour
  • 1.5oz polenta
  • ½ oz ground almonds
  • 1 heaped tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz (vegan) butter
  • 2oz golden caster sugar
  • EITHER 1 egg OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (1/4 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 tbs water)
  • A little water

Filling

  • 4oz gf self raising flour
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 8oz (vegan) butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp almond essence
  • EITHER 4 medium eggs, beaten OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (4 tbs chia seeds + 16 tbs water)
  • About half a jar of jam – strawberry, raspberry or cherry works nicely

Icing

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 3tbs water
  • 25g flaked almonds (toasted)
  • 20 glace cherries

Method

Pastry

First make the pastry (this can always be done in advance to save time).

The method is pretty much the same as with any pastry, and if you have a food processor you can skip the faff, pop all of the ingredients in together and watch the magic happen. If not, do the following…

1.  Mix the flour, polenta, ground almonds and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.

2.  Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the dry mix. “Rub it in” using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3.  Mix in the sugar.

4.  Add the chia seed egg replacer/egg yolk and mix in well.

5.  Add a tiny bit of water at a time, mixing with a spoon and then your hands until the mixture comes together to form a solid ball. The amount of water you will need depends on the individual mix so go slowly. If you are using a particularly large egg you may not need any water at all.

6.  Ideally, wrap the pastry in clingfim and chill in the fridge for half an hour (if you are pushed for time you can skip this step).

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7.  Grease the inside of a large roasting tin with oil and dust with flour to coat the surface.

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8.  Roll out your pastry to fit the tin. Rather than attempt a complicated transfer process with fragile, crumbly gluten free pastry, I find it easier to simply roll it out part way, and then squish it out the rest of the way into the corners of the tin with my fingers.

9.  Prick the pastry all over with a fork. (This helps the pastry to stay flat and crisp)

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10.  Spread a generous layer of jam all over.

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Filling

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling… (That rhymes!)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.

2.  In a large bowl, cream (mix really hard) the butter and sugar until pale in colour.

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3.  Add the “eggs” a little at a time, stirring after each addition.

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4.  Add the almond essence and ground almonds.

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5.  Sieve in the flour and fold it in, in a “figure of 8” pattern.

6.  Spoon the mixture over the jam-covered pastry and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown.

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Icing

While the filling is cooking, make the icing… (That doesn’t rhyme. How disappointing)

  1. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl to remove any lumps.
  2. Stir in the water.

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Put it all together!

  1. Once the filling is reasonably cool, spread the icing over it (leave it in the tin at this stage) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

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2. Place 20 glace cherries evenly over the surface.

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3. Cut into 20 squares with a sharp knife.

4. Leave in a cool place for the icing to set a little more and lift the squares out of the tin.

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Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

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If you ask me, there is something comical about rhubarb. I don’t know why. I think it’s got something to do with this.

My Uncle has a new allotment and has given much care to his rhubarb plants. I haven’t seen them but apparently, they are luscious, thriving and have stems as thick as your arm. He’s thinking of showing them. I was given some of this rhubarb when I visited my Nan a week or so ago and as far as I’m concerned, there is only one thing to do with rhubarb…

…Crumble!*

*I know crumble is technically more of an autumn dish, but never mind.

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Recipe Notes

  • There are recipes out there for all sorts of fancy and wonderful things you can do with rhubarb, crumble and both. But seeing as the focus of this blog is on simple, tasty, home cooking, it would be remiss of me not to start with the real basics. I grew up eating a lot of crumble but it does contain our old friends, wheat and dairy. Luckily, these are so easy to substitute in a crumble recipe you barely notice the difference.
  • Sometimes, I like to substitute some of the flour for a handful of porridge oats and/or chopped nuts to give it an interesting texture. It depends what mood I’m in.
  • If you prefer your fruit crunchy you can skip the pre-cooking step and just bake it from raw. I don’t as I like my fruit more cooked but I still take care not to simmer it for too long.

Ingredients

  • 8oz of cooking apples
  • 8oz fresh rhubarb
  • 6oz plain flour (or gf substitute flour of choice)
  • 3oz butter, chilled (or vegan/lactofree substitute)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • An orange
  • 3oz caster sugar (I like golden caster sugar but white works fine)

Method

  1. Wash the apples and rhubarb. Cut both into small-ish chunks.Crumble5
  2. Finely grate the orange rind and squeeze the juice.
  3. Place the fruit in a pan with, the cinnamon, orange rind and a tablespoon of orange juice.
  4. Place a lid on the pan with a little gap to let the air out and simmer for roughly 5mins, or until the fruit begins to soften, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom.Crumble4
  5. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour. “Rub it in” to the flour using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make sure the butter is as cold as possible for this to work best. (Alternatively, stick it all in the food processor and let that do the work for you!)
  6. Add the sugar.
  7. Place the fruit mixture in the bottom of a large oven-proof dish. (1.5 pint should do)
  8. Spread the crumble mixture on top and dot with little chunks of butter.Crumble3
  9. Bake at 210°C for 20mins and reduce to 180°C for 45mins.
  10. Eat before you can take a decent photo of it for your food blog.

 

  1. Crumble2

    Observe my truly excellent photography skills. I particularly like the shadow of the camera I have managed to capture in the corner…

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. 
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    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

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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)

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

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– 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.

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  • 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.

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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

 

Simple Vegetable “Risotto” with Pesto

risotto-4

vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/lactose free

We are recovering from a nasty bug here at the moment. My husband has been sick all week and I have felt stranger than a blue hippopotamus with wings.

Despite being nominally hungry the very thought of cooking makes me want to leap out of the kitchen window. It’s hard to know what to do when you’re feeling sick. Should you eat properly to keep your strength up or should you follow your first instinct and hide under a blanket with a bag of crisps until it all goes away?

My go-to choice for times like these is a simple vegetable risotto. This can be made as safe and bland or as exotic and exciting as you need. It doesn’t use too many ingredients and is quick to prepare. This isn’t the proper way to make an authentic Italian risotto, especially since I always insist on ruining the suble flavours by adding large amounts pesto at the end – this recipe is probably more accurately described as “risotto rice with mixed veg”  – but it is tasty, nutritious and very easy to make.

Recipe Tips.

  • This recipe can be made with whatever vegetables you have lurking in the fridge, which is especially handy if you’ve been feeling too ill to get to the shops. I have used pepper, courgette and kale here because that’s what I had to hand but pretty much anything goes. If you are planning on using root vegetables however they may need to be pre-cooked as they do take longer to cook through.
  • I like to add a protein element to my vegetable risottos. Here I’ve used some Quorn chunks, vegetarian hot dogs and mixed seeds but you could try nuts, tofu or any other vegetarian meat substitute. Or, of course, there’s meat if you’re not vegetarian. Chicken is probably best. If you are using meat this will require a longer cooking time so it’s be best to add that before the veg instead of after.
  • At the end, I like to add extras for flavour such as pesto and/or cheese but you don’t have to.

Ingredients

(To serve 2 people)

  • 200g Arborio risotto rice
  • Approx 700ml boiling water
  • A vegetable stock cube (gluten free)
  • A pinch of mixed Italian herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash of white wine – optional – (about half a glass should do it)
  • Mixed vegetables. I generally use: a red pepper, half a courgette, a handful or kale or spinach, half a carrot.
  • A jar of tomato pesto (gluten/dairy free brand)
  • A handful of grated cheese (vegan or Lactofree if necessary)

Method

  • Peel and/or chop the vegetables into small cubes.
  • Fry the vegetables in a little oil for a couple of minutes until they start to soften.
  • Add any protein, if desired, and fry with the vegetables. (If using meat, a longer cooking time may be required – you may need to add it before the veg.

risotto-1

  • Meanwhile, make up 700ml of vegetable stock by adding boiling water to a stock cube. Add the herbs and seasoning to the stock.
  • Add the uncooked rice to the pan and fry with the vegetables for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add a splash of wine if desired and stir until the wine disappears.
  • Add a splash of the stock to the pan, stir and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer (you should see gentle little bubbles, not big violent ones).

risotto-2

  • When the stock has disappeared, add a little more. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through – taste it to check – and all the stock has been absorbed. (The amount of time this takes and how much stock you need will vary depending on how absorbent and quick-cooking your ingredients are. As a rough guide this should take around 15 minutes)
  • Add the kale or spinach and cook for a few minutes until softened.
  • Add any extras such as pesto, cream or grated cheese. Continue to cook until these are melted/absorbed/dissolved.

risotto-3

  • Enjoy and feel better.