Monday, 31 August 2009

Potato, Rosemary and tomato Bake

Me: This veggie bake looks very 1970s
D. responds: I grew up in the 1970s and I don’t remember ever eating anything like this.
Me: Yeah, but you were not a vegetarian then.
D: Nor were you
Me: Well I still think it looks very 1970s!
Like many vegetable growers, I have a lot of tomatoes to go through and there are only so many you can eat fresh. So I made this Potato, rosemary and tomato bake yesterday, as a way to use up some of them, but also to serve as part of our working week meal ahead. I am so glad I did, it is just what you want when outside it is blustery and raining. Plus I have a stinky cold. All I had to do was reheat it in the oven for half an hour or so and serve a generous slicing with some simply steamed green beans. There’s enough left for another meal later in the week.
Potato, Rosemary and tomato Bake
Serves 6
Ingredients
750g large potatoes, finely sliced
230g mature cheddar cheese, grated (keep back about 30g for sprinkling on top)
200g white or brown bread
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped from the stalks
800g tomatoes, sliced
400g double cream
Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 4. boil the potatoes until they are just cooked, and drain. Whizz the bread and rosemary in a food processor until turned into crumbs. Mix the cheese, bread and rosemary crumbs together. Layer the ingredients in a deep 9 by 13inch baking tin. With plenty of seasoning on each layer in the following order:
Potatoes,
Tomatoes
Cheese and breadcrumb mixture
Potatoes
Tomatoes
Cheese and breadcrumb mixture
Pour the cream over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes until the top is golden and most of the cream has been absorbed. Adapted from Bill Sewell’s Food from the Place Below

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Gold Beetroot and coriander pakoras

Today I decided to cook the Detroit 2 and Golden beetroot picked from the plot last weekend (see below). I had already picked and jarred the Detroit 2 red beetroot, so earlier on I was thinking about how to use up the golden beetroot, and yes, more deep frying and more pakoras came to mind. Well why not, I don't do it that often, honest! But before I give you the recipe for these lovely golden beetroot pakoras. Let me tell you a little bit about this root vegetable.

Beetroot has edible leafy tops which contain beta carotene, calcium and iron, which is great in salads or cooked simply like spinach or Swiss chard.

These days however, only the root is eaten - it can be grated raw, boiled, pickled in vinegar, roasted or baked in foil. Cooking beetroot can also be a bit of a pain, most people tend to boil them, but I think boiling beetroot introduced a wateriness to the texture, so I would recommend to reader to roast them, which guards all their juiciness. Then allow it to cool, before peeling the skin off gently.

Beetroot apparently has one of the highest sugar contents of any vegetable. What is unusual about the beetroot is the taste and texture of the cooked vegetable remains quite close to the raw, which is not good for someone like me. Well you see I am not a big fan of eating beetroots, as I find the flavour quite strong and earthy, but my husband D likes them, hence the reason me growing them at the plot. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that there were many other varieties, not just in size and flavours but also in colours. For example, when you cut into a chioggia betroot it has alternating red and white rings inside of it. There is also white devoy, bulls blood, moulin rouge and burpees golden, which is what I am using for this dish. This golden beetroot is not so strong in flavour as the common dark purple variety that are available in most supermarkets. So you can imagine, I really liked these pakoras.

Also did you know that these days, many bakers are using Beetroot juice as a natural alternative to red food colouring. Have you heard of Red Velvet cake?!
I am submitting this recipe into this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging #198. This weeks host is Rachel from The Crispy Cook. The weekly food blog event showcases information and recipes about herbs, vegetables, fruits and other plant ingredients. Weekend Herb Blogging was first initiated by Kalyn's Kitchen in Utah, and is now organized by Haalo in Sydney, Australia, Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once.
If you like the the look of these morsels, please do come back for my red beetroot kofta which I will be making later.
Gold Beetroot and coriander pakoras
You will need a deep fat fryer for this recipe
Ingredients
200g cooked beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
2 spring onions, finely chopped including greens
60g feta cheese, crumbled (can be omitted for vegans)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander (or mint)
salt and pepper to taste
80g fresh breadcrumbs
60g gram or plain flour
Method
Mix the beetroot, spring onions, feta and herbs together. Season, then mix in the breadcrumbs to combine. Cover and refirgerate for about an hour.
In your hand tightly shape the mixture into golf size balls, adding a little flour to bind the mixture. Heat the oil and fry in batches until golden on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Warning: please note the fresh coriander will splutter a little when you deep fry it, so just be careful. Inspired by a recipe from Maria Elias The Modern Vegetarian

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Sugar in a plum…plum plum

Chorus to a song that reminds me of my childhood. Can you guess which one?

A lot of the plums that Fitzy had given me earlier in the week had gone soft and mouldy, so I to dispose of most of them. I had only a handful remaining, so I decided to make a plum cake. It is ultimately a citrus cake with plum topping. Quite a nice way to use up those plums!
Cinnamon Plum Cake
Serves 6 - 8
Ingredients
110g margarine, softened
180g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
190 plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons milk
4 – 5 plums, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Method
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4.
Grease and line a 7 inch springform tin. Blend the margarine and all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs and slowly whisk into the sugar and butter mixture. Once mixed, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl along with the lemon zest, juice and milk and fold through. Pour into the prepared tin. Toss the plum halves in the remaining sugar together with the cinnamon, then place gently, cut side down on top of the cake mixture. Cook for about 50 minutes to an 1 hour, until a skewer when inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly before removing form the tine. Cut into wedges and serve warm.
Adapted from Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian

Courgette pakoras in a spicy tomato sauce

I spent a few hours at the allotment today, not good news I'm afraid, my san manzano plum tomatoes have all got blight, so no home-made tomato sauce for me. D spent a couple of hours in the greenhouse pulling them out. Whilst did a little bit more harvesting: a bag full of colourful green beans, some round squash and two rather sad looking courgettes, one of which I turned into the dish below. I think the courgette plan is done for sure now, so either tomorrow or next weekend, I am planning to pull them out of the squash bed.

Anyway onto food. This is something I grew up eating, but I came across an easier version of the spicy tomato sauce in Nadine Abensurs The Cranks Bible who acknowledges Julie Sahni for the recipe. Last year, I must have made this dish about four times, because I had such a glut of courgettes. This year, only once and I thoroughly enjoyed the dish. Normally these little vegetable pakoras would contain either potatoes, grated carrots or cubes of aubergines, but this one has courgettes. You can eat the courgette pakoras just as is, a delicious moreish deep fried snack. For a vegetarian version, you could stir in some Greek yogurt to the sauce, but add this towards the end and do not boil the sauce, just allow it to simmer for a few minutes.
Courgette pakoras in a spicy tomato sauce
You will needs a deep fat fryer for this recipe.
Serves 6
Ingredients
For the courgette pakoras
700 – 750g courgettes, grated
1 medium onion, finely sliced
100g chickpea flour
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
2 – 4 green chillies, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped coriander
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
For the spicy tomato sauce
8 tomatoes, roughly chopped or in the winter 1 x 400ml tin of tomatoes
4 green chillies
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
2 teaspoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of garam masala
6 tablespoons of sunflower oil
Coriander
Salt to taste
Method
For the courgette pakoras

Squeeze the grated courgettes of its excess liquid. Then place all the pakora ingredients in a large bowl an mix well with your hands.
Heat the oil for deep frying. Then drop a large tablespoons worth into the oil, turn them carefully so that they are golden all over, which will take about 4 minutes. Remove and drain on layers of kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Keep doing this until all the batter is used.
For the spicy tomato sauce
In a food processor, blend the tomatoes, chilli, ginger and spices to a smooth puree. Season with salt to taste. Then in a wide pan, heat the oil. Add the blended sauce to the pan and fry over high heat for a few minutes. Then lower the heat and simmer for 35 – 40 minutes, about halfway through the process add about 200ml water to loosen the sauce. When sauce is ready, gently add the pakoras and heat together for a few minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve with naan bread, plain boiled rice or potato wedges.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Scouseveg and some sights of Liverpool

Some of you will note that I did not put a blog entry on Tuesday as I was in Liverpool that day for work reasons, but I did get some time to see some of the sounds and sights of Liverpool.
The Liver bird is a mystical bird, it is also the city of Liverpools proud motif.
This Radio City Tower bang in the middle of the city centre was quite amazing to look at. Something you only see in some of those 1970s Hollywood movies, but not that often in the U.K.
I had to capture this, you think its an art piece in Liverpool city centre, but it's actually a child running through the water feature - yes, fun in the square for some. I don't know why, it was pouring with rain pretty much most of the day.
Not very clear I know, but I thought I would snap a picture of it, for the colours mainly.
A pretty powerful poster outside The Merseyside Maritime Museum. The museum was opened in 1994 and was the U.K first museum to explore Transatlantic Slavery, since then more have opened up, most notably the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.
A famous scene of the Docks (above and below).
There were a lot of signs reminding people that it was illegal to consume alcohol in public places. I did see a lot of menfolk under the influence and some drinking cider straight from the bottle unable to walk in a straight line, but unlike those you see on a night out in the city of Glasgow, where some menfolk always appear to be angry with the ways of the world. And if you looked at some the wrong way, they'd threaten to either give you a 'Glasgow kiss' (a head butt) or 'stab you', so you just keep you head down and walk by very fast. In Liverpool, it felt different - those under the influence seemed 'chipper', and by chipper I mean smiley and light-hearted, which was strangely reassuring.
Some artwork. First I thought it had something to do with asylum seekers, refugees and even the Holocaust, but on closer look it was dedicated to some famous Liverpudlians who had left Liverpool for fame and gold elsewhere.
There were loads of these peculiar looking things dotted all over the city and even in shop windows. When I got back home and showed D, he told me it has something to do with the Yellow Submarine, but what do I know, I have never been a fan of the Beatles.
But when in Liverpool, do as Tourists do and check out some of the Beatles places, so that is what I did, just to say 'Yeah I've done that'.
I was impressed with the bricks, all with names of famous bands and singers. Even ordinary individuals tried to sketch their names in, which made me smile.
The plaque reads 'four lads', but I only see three. Stumbled upon China Town by accident, quite amazing.
As I was walking down Bold Street, the Big Issue man stopped me and asked if I wanted to sign his petition, when prompted petition for what, he said the Bold Street Produce Market (above) was being closed down, because the council wanted to build houses there, and apparently this grocery shop was popular with many locals, as it was independent. So I signed it. I was impressed with it, it was very popular.
I didn't get the opportunity to check out 'The Egg Restaurant' a well known vegetarian canteen style eatery in Liverpool as I was with company and obliged eat at a generic Tapa Bar with the majority. However, I did see these tins being advertised in one of the independent cafes, so I thought I would pop in and get the Scouse Vegetable Stew, but unfortunately the cafe did not have any. Grrr. Maybe next time, maybe.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Sweet and Savoury Baklava

I am not a person who is into buying make up, jewellery, clothing, shoes, or going out to eat or drink – my one compulsion is to buy cookbooks, with my most recent purchase Maria Elia The Modern Vegetarian being about two months ago. To my knowledge, Elia is not a vegetarian, nor a vegetarian cook. She joins a long line of U.K celebrity chefs that are beginning to breathe new life into the way people see vegetarian cuisine. I had flicked through the book a little while ago in the bookstore and like many cookbooks before, I knew I could do without this one too, yet in my head I had persuaded myself to get it and to go on my already burgeoning bookshelf.

I sat with it yesterday evening, looking at the colour coordinated photographs. Many of the recipes to my ‘vegetarian cooks eye’ look familiar, but to those new to vegetarian cooking will certainly view it as innovative. A number of simple dishes have been given a modern make-over with relatively unknown ingredients in the U.K like sumac and dukkah and some ingredients deemed to be vegetarian and vegan friendly are made more appealing to the eye, for example you can’t go wrong deep fat frying tofu cubes in ginger beer batter, these morsels would even tempt meat eating colleagues. Maria Elia also presents old fashioned dishes that have fallen out of limelight such as the pea custard in a more delectable and stylish manner. Some of the fusion recipes reminded me of the works of other chefs, namely Paul Gayler, Nadine Abensur and Peter Gordon. The way we bloggers are influenced by fellow bloggers to recreate and evolve dishes, it must be so of cooks and chefs, surely!

Anyway, I liked it enough to buy the book. For me it is good to see mainstream chefs creating vegetarian and vegan food that could appeal to everybody. Okay so what did I decide to make from it? The Tomato, feta and date Baklava, leaped out for two reasons. Firstly, I had an abundance of home grown onions and tomatoes and secondly, the combination of feta and dates seemed unusual and I am always willing to try new flavours, however odd they seem at first glance.
Oh another thing, I did not follow the recipe accordingly, I made some adjustments along the way. Hence the slight change in title recipe. It was actually very nice, I think the dates in the pastry contrasted really well with the savoury saltiness of the feta. I served it with home made Greek cucumber Tzazki.
Sweet and Savoury Baklava
Serves 4 - 6
Ingredients
100ml olive oil
3 white onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon dried dill
8 tomatoes, roughly chopped, I used a mixture of what I had
2 teaspoons tomato puree
Packet of ready made spring roll pastry. I use TYJ Spring Roll pastry
100g melted butter
100g dates, stones and finely sliced
200g feta cheese, crumbled
Method
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Heat the oil in a large bottomed pan. Gently fry the onions over a low heat, add the garlic and cinnamon and increase the heat. Fry until caramelised. Add the dill, tomatoes and tomato puree and cook until reduced.
Brush a square cake tin approximately 8x8 inch with melted butter, line each side of the square tin with a sheet of spring roll pastry, brush with butter and repeat until you have 12 layer thickness.
For me it is important that the bottom layer has more layers of pastry as it will absorb most of the tomato juices.
Spread half of the onion mixture over the pastry, top with the dates and half of the feta. Cover all corners with 4 layers of pastry overlapping on the tin, brushing each with melted butter and top with the mixture in order again. Cover with another 4 layers of pastry. Then bring in the overlapping pastry, until all are folded in. Lightly score the top, cutting diamonds or squares, brush with butter. Place on a baking tray and cook for 35 – 40 minutes until golden. Leave to cool a little while, before serving.
Adapted from Maria Elia's The Modern Vegetarian

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Come into my greenhouse

Or should I say, Ds greenhouse. Anyway, I thought it was about time I gave you a quick tour of the greenhouse. I think you will enjoy it.
Looks lush and green
but don’t be deceived by the green, come a little closer and you will see that the green leaves cleverly camouflage the bright red tommy-ta-toes.
Trusses of gardeners delight
ripening ailsa craigs
I think the changing colours beautiful!
San Manzano - a plum variety
Some neckar tomatoes
Some Golden Sunrise
Some gorgeous looking Tigerellas
Little bullets of juice and flavour. We had so many that we gave a load to away to friends and neighbours. I also made a feta tomato tart yesterday to sustain me for my drive to Liverpool. Yes my dear readers, I was in Liverpool last night and most of today. Not for pleasure you understand, but for work. I am back now in the rainy land of WoS (West of Scotland). So what can bring me a little bit of sunshine, ah yes another tomato tart!
Enjoy!
Tomato and Feta tart
Ingredients
Ready rolled puff pastry
4 – 6 tomatoes, sliced
100g feta cheese
1 teaspoon of dried mint or 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, minced
Black pepper to taste
Method.
Top the puff pastry with the sliced tomatoes, crumble over the feta cheese and sprinkle with mint. Season with pepper. Bake in oven for 20 - 25 minutes until golden.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Two Tone Bean Terrine

I really wanted to love this two tone polka dot terrine, especially as it was inspired by one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks, but was quite plain tasting. Maybe adding some sun-dried tomato paste would have given it more flavour.
The tomato paste gives the terrine that salmon pink colour. Anyway, this terrine sliced beautifully. It would be good for the buffet table or as a starter to a three course meal.
Did we eat it elegantly at the table with napkins in hand? Of course not, we took some into work and had it for lunch with some cherry tomatoes.

Two Tone French Bean Terrine
Serves 4 - 6
Ingredients
230g green beans
230g yellow beans
4 eggs
3 tablespoons of double cream
4 tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 4. Top and tail the beans and cook separately in salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Line a 1 lb loaf tin with baking parchment paper and arrange the green beans length ways, then top with the yellow beans.
In a mixing bowl, beat in the eggs, add the double cream and tomato paste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over mixture on beans, press down so all submerged. Put loaf tin on a deep tray. Fill tray with water about two inches high and bake in oven for 30 minutes until set.
Allow to cool overnight, before slicing and serving.
Recipe adapted from Catherine Mason's Veg: Simple, stylish and seasonal vegetarian cooking

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Plum and almond crumble for my tum tum

I am feeling a little under the weather today, so not much experimental cooking today.
These are some of the plums I picked from Fitzy’s plot yesterday, some of which were transformed into a plum and almond crumble, just what this girl needs to cheer her up on miserable rainy day.
Oops sorry no pictures today, I just wanted to dig in with my spoon and eat.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

First ladybird, some weeding and a good harvest

First, I must give little beastie the spotlight. My first ladybird of the year, yipee, it's been worth the wait. Ain't she pretty. I also saw another but she was too hard to capture on camera as she was snugged tight in the cardoon head flower.
We arrived at the plot around 10am and left about 3.oopm. It was a good day at the allotment.
So much fresh produce. Most of it our own: beetroot, green beans, broccoli, Desiree potatoes, onions, carrots and red Marner cabbage; and a bag full of plums from Fitzy. Fitzy permitted to me pick some as long as I made him a plum cake. Good deal I think.
Amongst the marigolds, two types of beetroot: Detroit 2 and Golden.
The magnificent blauhilde climbing beans still growing on and on.
Red Swiss Chard
Some red onions, not very big are they?!
Much of my day was taken up by pulling out the white onions and then weeding and clearing the allium family bed.
These onions are okay, better than those I grew at home. I have left them in the hut to dry now so that I can store them for later use.
Some squash flowers. Tempura - nah I decided to leave them for the bees that are still hovering about.
From the surface this parsnip looked huge, which is what tempted me to pull it out the ground. But when I did, what did I find, a forked parsnip that is no good for anyone but the compost bin. Hopefully the others will be better...I would really like some of my own parsnips for Christmas please.
We took of the perspex from the courgette bed, so that is me there weeding the squash family bed as well as harvesting some baby gem squashes and courgettes, one or two of them had turned into marrows.
D spent most of the time today in the greenhouses harvesting a variety of tomatoes.