Monday, 29 November 2010

Vegan Tower of Haggis, neeps and tatties

This weekend, when D and me visited the Kelvingrove Museum, I asked him to take a photograph of ‘Haggis Scoticus so that I may share it with you. Haggis Scoticus is the fictional wild haggis animal from which the original haggis is 'claimed' to be made from, see the prepared MacSween example next to it. Even my favourite TV chef Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall knowingly allowed himself to be fooled by Scottish pranksters who led him on Wild Haggis hunt for one of his River Cottage series. Haggis continues to remain an amusing subject for people all over the world.
I have yet to meet a Scottish person to honestly admit to enjoy eating the traditional haggis (sheeps stomach full of offal). I have however met many Scots who talk about the traditional haggis with passion and pride; and this has not swayed with recent debate around the origins of haggis.
I’ve written before how ethnically diverse communities in Scotland have incorporated haggis into their traditional cuisine, for example haggis pakora or bhajis can be found at some South Asian (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) restaurants; haggis wontons and haggis spring rolls at some Chinese Take-aways in Glasgow and haggis samosa in Edinburgh. One of the best places to eat vegetarian haggis samosa in my opinion has to be the Baked Potato in Edinburgh. I think it was around this time last year that I treated my nephew to a vegetarian haggis samosa. It was nice and spicy too. Another modern twist on the haggis is a dish called the ‘Flying Scotsman’ chicken stuffed with haggis. Haggis features quite a lot now in Scottish fast food. There is haggis burger, a patty of fried haggis served on a bun, haggis fritters, haggis pasties, haggis pies topped with a swirly mash, haggis savoury crepes, haggis wrapped in tortilla, haggis nachos, haggis lasagne, haggis macaroni cheese, haggis crisps and much much more. I’ve even created some with my own twist, mushroom haggis pakoras, haggis pakora bites, and haggis tikkia.

As a person who prefers to eat her vegetables, I have absolutely no idea what the meat version of haggis tastes like, but I can tell you that the vegetarian alternative is a bit like a smooth oaty- bean and nut roast.
I know haggis, neeps and tatties are traditionally served as a main course of a Burns Night Supper and Hogmanay, not St Andrews day celebrated on the 30th November. St Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland. But it is not often I eat meat-free haggis, so any excuse is welcome. Also chances are I may not be living in Scotland this time come next year, and good haggis may not be easy to find in places like England and Wales, so I thought it would be a good time to start making some from scratch made with various pulses, oats and vegetables.

There are so many vegetarian and haggis recipes on the world wide web, however the recipe I made was adapted from Hendersons. If anyone should be making a good version of vegetarian Haggis, it has to be Hendersons Bistro and Restaurant, a Scottish institution.

Those of you who read my blog often, will know that I am not a huge fan of vegetables mashed, but if I am to stay within the traditional boundaries of haggis, neeps and tatties, then the one thing I can do is present it slightly differently to those I’ve made in the past, often shaped into quenelles or placed in rings. Once all the components were made, I spooned, pressed and layered each into individual pudding basins and then gently placed onto a plate, if you are not eating these immediately then, they can be gently steamed for 20 minutes before serving. If you don’t have individual basins, you could do in a large basin and bring it ceremoniously to the table.
Can you guess what is missing from this picture? Greens? No Gravy! It does look a bit dry, but you will have to take my word for it when I tell you this veggie haggis was quite moist.

Now having had the ready-made vegetarian haggis and home-made version, I asked D for his opinion. He said he thoroughly enjoyed it, it had substance and it had flavour. He had one criticism, and it was nothing to do with the vegan haggis, it was my tatties, I did not mash them well. Well I did say, I didn’t like mashed veg.
Vegan Haggis
Serves 4
50g pinhead oatmeal (soaked for 1 hour)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, sliced finely
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon Tamari
100g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and grated
100g puy lentils
100g of cooked kidney beans, about 1/2 tin, rinsed and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Saute onion, garlic and seasoning in the oil until soft. Add the lentils and carrot and simmer on low heat until the lentils are soft, stirring to prevent sticking. The moisture content of the soaked lentils and carrot should be sufficient, but if not add a very small amount of water. Add the mushroom and allow to soften before adding the kidney beans. Season with black pepper to taste. Finally add the drained and rinsed oatmeal and mix well. Serve warm. Adapted from Henderson's Wholefood Cookbook.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Lavender Pancakes and snowflakes

This is the third weekend in a row when I've had lavender for brunch. First it was lavender bread, then Lavender waffles and now Lavender pancakes. Hey, that is what happens when a girl rediscovers her jar of home-grown lavender. I think I have shown over the past few weeks, that lavender can be a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, especially in sweet treats.

If you have yet to cook or bake with lavender, just keep one thing in mind, Lavender has a very strong flavour especially when dried so please use sparingly. Its a wonderful herb, almost magical - both for scent and flavour. Lavender not only stimulates the appetite, it raises the spirits and right now, I am appreciating lavender more as my work life situation is not the most happiest at the moment. The flecks of lavender flower buds also make dishes look very pretty. This I think can only make you smile!
This is what my tiny garden plot looks like from my flat window. I had plans yesterday to do a bit of gardening, tidying up and harvesting the last of my beetroot and chard, but I can't even see them for all the snow. The snow is falling quite heavy as I type.
The last of the red cooking apples still hanging on strong look like Christmas baubles. The birds are appreciating them. We had some Waxwings (I like to call them punk birds because of their hair-do) fly over, but they didn't stay long.
I am submitting these Lavender Pancakes to Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) Number 261. WHB as it is fondly known, is overseen by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything and was an idea initiated by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. This is a wonderful food event for bloggers to showcase recipes or informative posts about cooking with herbs or unusual plant ingredients.

If you don't fancy making some Lavender pancakes, please check out my other Lavender recipes. I am sure you will find something to inspire you.

Lavender Pancakes
Makes 4 - 6
125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 free range egg
250ml milk
1/2 teaspoon edible lavender
Sunflower oil for frying
Pour the milk into a measuring jug and add the lavender to it for the flavours to infuse, about 10 -15 minutes should be good. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a crater in the middle of the flour and break in the egg. Pour in half of the lavender infused milk and start to mix the egg and milk with a balloon whisk, whisking in the flour from the edges a little at a time. Add the rest of the milk and keep on whisking until there are no more lumps of flour.
Put the frying pan on the hob and heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil to the pan, and swirl it around the pan. When the oil is hot, pour in a ladle or so to cover the pan, tilt the pan so the batter covers the base. As the pancakes sets, loosen the edges with a palette knife of a spatula. Flip the pancake over and cook for a few seconds on the other side. Serve immediately.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Woke up and looked outside of the window and saw the streets and roads paved with snow....BBrrrrrr....

I would have been quite content staying in the warms of our four walls, but no my husband says lets go out for a walk in the park. The park in question was Kelvingrove Park.
It took us past my old University - Glasgow.
On the other side of the University is Kelvingrove Museum.
Still red berries
Snowy twigs
straddles of the River Kelvin
I don't recall seeing this abstract wooden stick figure before, but to be honest in my student days I had other distractions than the colours of the park. I could not quite figure what the stick figure represented, on first glance I thought it was a Scottish piper,
but upon scraping the snow away, the words 'The Psalmist' were revealed. The Psalmist is a well-defined figure in the Bible. Its by the artist Benno Schotz.
Onwards and upwards, next came the monument of Joseph Lister, a pioneer of antiseptic surgery.
then Lord Kelvin himself.
Although I had my walking boots on, the tippy of my toes were feeling a bit nippy, I wish I had put on thicker socks. So refuge was sought inside the Kelvingrove Museum. I've featured my adventures at the Kelvingrove museum before. If you have not read about it, then please follow this link. Today, we just looked at the new exhibitions.
This eye installations was one of them. Pretty cool I think. The eye followed you as you moved. If you look close, you will see D in this one.
Then me and D together.
Then just me - all smiles. Can you see me wrapped up all snuggly and warm?!
We also wandered again through the Real Glasgow Stories section: How Glasgow inspires and infuriates people. The good - positive contributions of migrant communities and the not so good, such as Sectarianism: religious intolerance between Catholic and Protestant communities.
Then selected work by The Glasgow Boys. These were my favourite exhibits.

Thai Pumpkin and chickpea curry

After our snowy, slippy walk through Kelvingrove Park and Museum, we came back home just wanting to have a lazy day. On days I don't want to be in the kitchen too long, I often make a quick Thai Green curry and Thai Red curry with ready made curry paste. These two meals has been a stand-by favourite in our home, for ease and for flavour.

A little while ago though, I picked up a jar of Thai Yellow curry paste. I've never had a Thai Yellow curry, so was intrigued to try it. In the fridge I also had a wedge of pumpkin, a packet of salad greens that included baby spinach, (watercress and rocket), plus I always have tinned chickpeas in my kitchen cupboards . So an impromptu meal of Thai Yellow Pumpkin and chickpea curry was served in about 30 minutes. Its not as spicy as the Thai green or Thai red, but still - a nice change.
Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Chickpea curry
Serves 2 -3
3 tbsp vegetable oil
400g pumpkin, peeled and sliced into wedges or roughly even sized chunks
400ml unsweetened coconut milk
100ml vegetable stock made with bouillon powder
3 - 4 tablespoons of ready made Thai Yellow Curry Paste (make sure it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans).
1 teaspoon Tamari
4 dried kaffir lime leave
Salt to taste
1 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100 g baby spinach
Coriander to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the pumpkin wedges or chunks. Cook them in the hot oil for 10 minutes, until they begin to soften slightly. Check by inserting a fork.
Then add the coconut milk, the stock and the yellow curry paste, the tamari, Kaffir lime leaves and salt to taste.
Simmer for a few minutes, then add in the chickpeas and the greens. Stir gently until the greens wilt. Check seasoning, and scatter over coriander if using.
Serve with lovely plain Basmati rice or in keeping with the Thai theme – Thai Jasmine rice.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Rum Pumpkin Jam

Or should I call it Rum Pumpkin Puree?!
The field pumpkin I used for the Pumpkin, black bean and leek was rather generous in size. I had enough for at least four different meals. But not wanting to bake it or make a pumpkin soup. I decided on making some more preserves, jams and jellies for my store-cupboard. I’ve seen a number of recipes in cookbooks and on fellow bloggers blogs for pumpkin jam and pumpkin marmalade. I settled on one called French Pumpkin Jam purely for its simplicity, making a few minor changes to the original. In my head I thought this pumpkin jam would be similar to the Mulled Carrot Jam. It was not. I was not completely happy with what I had produced. It tastes okay a bit like chunky chestnut puree, but the smell is not particularly alluring. I don’t know if it is the niff of the rum or that I upped the quantity of cinnamon.

Later, when I revisited the recipe, I learned what I had done something wrong. I had thrown all the ingredients into the pan. I was supposed to add the rum in the last two minutes of cooking. Oh well, we all make mistakes in the kitchen. It will not go to waste though, I have some ideas of how to consume it in the next few months or so, and it actually tastes fine, it’s just the alcoholic smell.
If you want to make this, I'd say have a go. You only need 500g pumpkin, and you can happily omit the alcohol. For a vegan version, I did come across a recipe where you could substitute the honey with dried apricots and raisins.

Rum Pumpkin Jam (or Puree)
Makes 2 x 245g jars
500 g pumpkin, peeled and grated
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
200 g granulated sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
100 g honey
2 teaspoons rum
Put all into a preserving pan. Remove the zest from the lemon. In bowl, add cinnamon, granulated sugar, lemon zest, honey. Mix. Cook for about an hour. Stir regularly. Test if the jam has reached it setting point. If the jam gels at once, it is ready, otherwise continue until it is jammy. As soon as the jam is ready, spoon in the rum. Stir and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Pour the hot jam into sterilized jars. Seal and store.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A pumpkin is not just for Halloween

Everyone has their favourite version of a Vegetarian chilli, even omnivores are happy to miss out the minced meat as this dish is a hearty affair. Minus the cheese and soured cream accompaniments, vegetarian chillies are often vegan. They are always packed with substance: beans, pulses and a colourful array of vegetables. If I am honest I have liked all the vegetarian chilli recipes I've eaten. I have found them always warming, filling and comforting. But I have to admit I do have one that I like above all the others, one that I would declare 'my favourite of favourites'. It is a Chilli recipe by one of my favourite vegetarian chefs, Denis Cotter. His vegetarian chilli is usually made with roasted aubergine which I do like very much, but with aubergines being out of season, I thought I would substitute this ingredient with a very autumnal one – the Goldy-orange Pumpkin.

I was actually rather surprised to still be able to find a pumpkin post-Halloween. Why? Well as soon as Halloween passes, pumpkins are immediately removed from the aisles of supermarkets and the grocers shelves.
I have to forewarn you in advance this chilli is spicy and hot. It is one designed for grown ups. Denis Cotter makes his version with 8 dried birds eye chilli, please don’t be alarmed and think the chilli ratio will knock your cotton socks off. I have followed Denis Cotters recipe word for word and actually found 8 not spicy enough, so upped it to 14 (honest). I think dried chillies must lose that heat intensity on drying or else I have a high tolerance of chilli and spicy food. This time though, not having any dried birds eye chillies in stock, I substituted these with some fresh red chillies. I used 5 or was it 6? It was spicy, it was heat Hot – but not too hot that you could not taste the other flavours.

If you decide to make this and I encourage you to do so, You can err on the side of caution and use 4 – no less though, this is supposed to be a Chilli dish after all.
As mentioned, although hot and spicy, all the flavours in the pot came through good and strong. The black beans were what Jack Crow (from the blockbuster Hollywood movie Pirates of the Caribbean) would declare black pearls and the Borlotti beans soft, the leek was both silky and caramel like. The pumpkin bites were roasted to perfection, allowing the natural sweetness and graininess to come through. Instead of the usual accompaniment of rice, I served these with some chickpea chips aka fries. Fabulous they were too.
I am submitting this to Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen who is hosting Novembers edition of My Legume Love Affair, the event founded by Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook to encourage bloggers to to share legume recipes.
Pumpkin, black bean and leek chilli
Serves 4
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, freshly ground
1 tablespoon cumin, freshly ground
4 to 6 fresh red chillies, sliced
1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt to taste
400g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into even sized cubes
1 large leek, washed well of grit and cut into slices
1x 400g tinned black beans (or mixed beans), drained and rinsed
1x400g tinned Borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
Heat a little olive oil in large pan and cook the onions and garlic until soft. Add the spices, chilli and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and check the spice levels - the sauce should be very heavily spiced at this point, as the vegetables and beans will dilute the flavours.
While the sauce is cooking, toss the pumpkin cubes into olive oil and roast them in a hot oven until softened. Turn and toss the pumpkin cubes once or twice as they cook.
In another wide pan, heat two tablespoon live oil and cook the leeks in it until just tender, stirring often.
Add the black beans, Borlotti beans, pumpkin cubes and leeks to the sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and spices before serving.
Serve on rice, chickpea chips or in tortilla wraps along with soured cream and cheese; or vegan alternative. Once again, this recipe is adapted slightly from Denis Cotter Paradiso Seasons. I hope he will not mind. If you do not have this cookbook on your shelf, I strongly encourage you to put it on your wish list. Not only for the creative and flavour packed recipes, but for the style of writing which I very much like.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Spiced Apple Chutney

Oh not not another Apple Jar recipe! I promise this will be the last Apple jar recipe on this blog, for this year at least. That is not to say, that I don't have any more apples, I certainly do but I think there is enough to make either a humble, homely Apple pie, Upside down Toffee Apple cake, Apple muffins or maybe some Apple flapjacks later this week.

Back to todays recipe. I actually made this Spiced Apple Chutney in September but had not got round to posting it on my blog. The original recipe can be found here and is made on the stove taking about 2 hours from start to finish. This particular weekend, I recall that I did not want to be standing looking over the pot - stirring too often, so I decided to make it in the slow cooker. Although it took longer to make, it did release me to get on with other exciting things such as house cleaning, laundry and composting. This was a day to stay in-doors.
Spiced apple chutney
Cooking time in Slow Cooker: 6 – 8 hours
Makes 5 x 296g jars
Medium onions, sliced and chopped
1kg cooking apples, cored and chopped
110g sultanas
15g ground coriander
20g paprika
15g allspice
15g salt
340g granulated sugar
425ml malt vinegar
Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker. Turn high for the first hour, then turn low.
Stir from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.
When it is very thick and you can draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan so that it leaves a channel behind it that does not immediately fill with liquid, the chutney is ready.
Turn into sterilised jars, seal and cool.
Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Lavender Scented Waffles

I often have American style waffles for breakfast, it gives us the excuse to use our flash Waffle maker.

As well enjoying the plain and vanilla scented waffles, in the past I've also made cranberry and pecan nut waffles and beetroot and chocolate waffles. However, after rediscovering my jar of lavender last weekend, I was inspired to make some Lavender Scented waffles.
This photograph was taken at my allotment plot last year. I just adored walking past it brushing my arms against the blooming lavender flower heads, so it would gently release its delicate aroma.
The lavender waffles were not heavily flavoured. The lavender comes through more as smell than taste, which D appreciated. So for the maccho menfolk reading this, please do give it a go. These waffles are not as flowery tasting as they sound, anyway, sometimes its nice to get in touch with your feminine side.

I did not want to serve slate-purple specked waffles with a dominant flavoured syrup, jelly or jam. So I opted for the Apple and cinnamon jelly. It complimented the lavender waffles wonderfully.
Regular readers may have noticed, that whenever I make American style recipes such as waffles, I tend to use American cups. I am not sure exactly why this is the case, but it gives me an excuse to use my American measurement cups too.
Lavender Scented waffles
Serves 4
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 generous or 2 teaspoons edible lavender
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
In a bowl, mix the wet ingredients together. Add the lavender and stir well.
In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine well. Cook according to your waffle maker instructions.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Garam Masala Swede Cakes

The Swiss chard, lentil and mango chutney pie I made a few days ago has been shrinking happily in quantity. However, the puff pastry no longer flaky, but claggy and soft. So it was not enough to reheat and serve two hungry people an evening meal. So I decided to remove the pastry and accompany the the remains with Garam masala Swede cakes. In Urdu and Hindi, Garam means warm and masala means mixture. Garam masala is a traditional condiment used in traditional South Asian cuisines to impart a certain flavour, much in the same way salt and pepper is in Western cuisine. As a child, I used to like shaking it all over homemade (orange lentil) dal. Every South Asian (M)Ummy jee (Mama) has her own take or family recipe on garam masala, but traditionally it includes black cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamon, coriander, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. I'm not a huge fan of cardamon, so don't often include it in mine. But then again, I don't make my own. I always get my mother to make me some. She always manages to put in the right quantity and gets the balance right. It stores well too.

Anyway, back to this recipe. The swede has been sitting in my vegetable basket now for over two weeks. I have to admit, I had bought the Swede to make some Garam masala Swede soup, but I think a change is in order as I've eaten a number of meals in the past few days with a spoon. So instead of making the named soup, I used the same flavours, just different presentation. These Swede cakes are not firm as other vegetable cakes featured on my blog. Swede is a mushy veg, so the cakes with be soft. But that should be okay for those of you who like your mash.
Spiced Garam Masala Swede Cakes
Makes about 8
Medium Swede, peeled and chopped
200g potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chilli falkes or 1 red chilli, sliced (remove seeds if you wish)
Salt to taste
Fresh or dried breadcrumbs for coating*
Olive or sunflower oil for shallow frying
In two separate pots, either steam or cook the swede and potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until soft.
While it cooks, slowly fry the garlic and shallots in the oil, until soft and caramelized – this will take about 15 minutes. Halfway through the process, add the spices and cook for a few minutes more.
Drain the swede and potatoes in a sieve. When cool enough, mash both until smooth. Then combine the mashed vegetables along with the shallot mix. Season with salt to taste, before forming into cakes.
Spread breadcrumbs into a dish and coat the cakes on both sides in the breadcrumbs. Put into fridge to firm up, until ready to cook.
Drizzle enough oil in a frying pan. Heat until quite hot and carefully add each cake. Cook until golden on each side, about 3 minutes. Make sure the sides of the cakes get browned as well.
*Optional: I have added a pinch of red chilli flakes and salt to the breadcrumbs for extra flavour and colour.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Swiss chard, lentil and mango chutney pie

D is back home. I know one thing for certain, he has not been eating lentils and greens whilst away, so I decided to combine these ingredients and make a vegetable pie of sorts.
I know its not the prettiest looking plates featured on my blog recently, but let me tell you this Swiss chard, lentil and mango chutney pie is rich and sweet. It is belly warming.
You don’t necessarily need to place the puff pastry on top, and can eat it as it is - like a stew. But I feel like I’ve been eating a lot of evening meals lately with a spoon that I wanted the flaky pastry top - a humble homely pie.

For those of you unable to get Swiss chard, and I can sympathise. If I didn’t grow my own, I wouldn’t be able to find any at the grocers or supermarkets. In this case, please use spinach, it will work very well. Another thing I should point out, this recipe includes a knob of ginger and I know some of you don’t like ginger, I am thinking of you Louise. So feel free to omit the ginger all together from the recipe, unless of course I can encourage you to add a teaspoon of dried ginger powder in its place, I’ll leave you to decide.
Oh I am full of suggestions today, here is another one. Although I have used mango chutney in this recipe (as I wanted to finish off the nearly empty jar in my fridge), I think you could also substitute the mango chutney with a sweetish apple chutney.
Swiss chard, lentil and mango chutney pie
Serves 4 – 6
For the sauce2 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 clove garlic, crushed
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
A knob of root ginger, grated*
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 x 400g tins tomato, chopped
4 tablespoons mango chutney*
100g red lentils
1 ½pint vegetable stock
For the vegetables450g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
350g Swiss chard, large stems removed, washed and chopped
100g frozen peas
Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
375g puff pastry
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6.
Place the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and curry powder and cook until the onion is soft. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, chutney and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes before stirring in the red lentils and stock. Continue cooking for 15 – 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Then add in the Swiss chard and cook until it is limp. Season to taste and stir in the frozen peas and fresh coriander. Tip into an large ovenproof dish.
Roll out the puff pastry and place on top of the vegetable mixture. Make an incision in the middle of the pastry to allow the steam to escape and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown.
*Note: I actually had a jar of mango chutney that included ginger, so I omitted the ginger from my recipe. Adapted from New Food for Thought.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Earthy Chestnut Mushroom soup

I’ve never really enjoyed eating mushrooms, especially button mushrooms. I find them bland. The only time I will compromise using them is when they are combined with other ingredients. The one mushroom I can just about eat because it has depth and an earthy flavour is the chestnut mushrooms. I especially use it when I make mushroom stroganoff.

I picked some up to enjoy at the weekend, but never go to eating them for breakfast. So I decided make some more soup. Yes I know, more soup already, but you will understand and forgive me, it ‘tis the season of soup. Now I must admit I was a little wary, as I have never liked mushroom soup from a tin, always finding the texture creamy, thick and a little sickly. But I do recall having had mushroom soup from scratch before and remember it being very light and deeply flavoured, so had no doubt this one would be satisfying, especially as it had a red chilli to spice it up. Ooh just the thought of it is warming me up and I was not disappointed.
Oh before I rush off, please don’t substitute the mushrooms in this recipe with another, clues in the title.
Chestnut Mushroom and brown lentil soup
Serves 3, maybe 4
Splash of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded if you wish, then finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
A few sprigs of fresh (lemon) thyme, pulled of the stems or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons of tamari (or soy sauce)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
75g brown (or green) lentils
2 pints vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
MethodIn a large saucepan, add the oil with the onion, chilli and garlic. Cook until the ingredients are soft.
Add the mushrooms, thyme, tamari or soy and lemon juice. Cook until the mushrooms are just starting to soften.
Add the lentils and stock, and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Season to taste if necessary and serve. Adapted from New Food for Thought by Jane Noraika

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Scented Lavender Bread

Beautiful full heads of blue, mauve, indigo and yes even pink’. Lavender is indeed one of the most elegant and delectable flavours you can use in cooking. I’ve been looking for an excuse to open my jar of my home grown lavender and last week I found it when I stumbled across Vanessa Kimbell’s from Prepped.

Vanessa had an invitation for foodies to get involved and test recipes for the cookbook she is currently writing. I was more than happy to oblige my time and taste buds as a tester. So I wrote to her excited to be part of the development of her book and offered my humble services. I was even excited when it happened to be a recipe using lavender, and then a little nervous when it was a bread recipe. You see, I am not accustomed to giving my upper arms a work out, but it was so worth kneading and stretching. Homemade bread is the best, especially when it comes out looking like this.
The bread wasn't sweet at all, but delicately scented from the infused lavender. I will be making the bread again, so please come back in a weeks time when I’ll be able to share the recipe with you, it just needs a little bit of tweaking.
Updated 5 December 2010. I haven't heard back from Vanessa regarding re-testing the recipe. When I originally tested the recipe, she did say it was okay to post the recipe on my blog as other testers had, so for those of you who have been wanting to give it a go, here it is as it was given to me. I think I know where I may have gone a little wrong with my making of the Lavender Bread recipe, the salt I used was sea salt which dominated the flavour over the lavender.
Lavender Bread
2 tablespoons of culinary grade dried lavender
30 ml of hot milk
750g strong plain white flour
2 tsp salt
75g butter, cut into small pieces
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
330 ml milk
100 ml hot water - but not boiling
1. Pop the lavender in a cup and heat about 30ml of milk soak the Lavender in the milk for about 15 minutes. In the meantime tip the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and mix together with the butter turning it into fine breadcrumbs.
2. Pour the milk into a large measuring jug and stir in the hot water ad the lavender and milk solution. The liquid should be just about hand temperature, as this warmth will help the bread to rise.
3 Mix this until it forms a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Dust your surface with flour, then tip the dough onto it. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes by hand or alternately use a dough hook on your mixer to do the same job. The dough should be stretch y and elastic. Put this into a lightly greased liter tin and over with a clean damp tea towel to rise for about 35 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Once the dough is risen Bake for 30 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Leave in the tin to cool.
5 Tip it out onto a cooling rack and tap the base of the bread to check it is cooked. It should sound hollow.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Spinach and split green pea soup

My lonesome evening meals over the past few days have not been the most exciting or inspiring. I have had Spinach and green split pea lentil soup, three days on the trot. But for enjoyment purposes, I have tried to serve each bowl of soup slightly different.

The first day, I had a simple soup twice (lunch and evening). I enjoyed that.
Second day, soup was ladled over some plain boiled Basmati rice - lovely and filling.
Third day, soup ladled over fusilli pasta – not so good. I think by this time my belly was gurgling and asking for something that would stick to my ribs.
Slightly off track, whilst surfing the Internet, I learned that Glasgow hosted its second Zombie Walk in and around the West End of Glasgow. The walk coincided with Halloween weekend, no surprise there and it left from the gates of Kelvingrove Park. For those of your interested you will find some images of the Zombie Walk in Glasgow. I think it would have been awesome to witness, especially at night rather than daylight when it would have given some people the fright.
Spinach and split green pea soup
Serves 4
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 leeks, washed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
150g *dried split green peas, picked over and rinsed
200g fresh spinach
2 pints of vegetable stock or water
Add olive oil to a big pot over med-high heat. Stir in onions, leeks, garlic and salt cook until it all softens. Add the split peas and stock or water if using. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the split green peas are cooked through. Then add in the spinach and cook until wilted. Turn off heat. When cool enough, either using a hand blender or liquidiser puree the soup. Return to the pot, taste seasoning and adjust to taste and reheat before serving.
*If you don’t have green split pea lentils, yellow channa dal lentils, another green or brown lentil will work too.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Apple, ginger and honey chutney

This little Missy has been busy in the kitchen.

Not only have I been making more preserves, I also made some versatile Spinach and lentil soup and lavender bread, but I will share that with you later in the week. Today its another recipe for the jam jars. Whilst peering into my kitchen cupboard, I noted that I had not one, but two jars of stem ginger in syrup. I wondered why on earth would I have two? Then I recalled I was going to make my mother some Rhubarb and Ginger jam. I remember giving my mother a jar from the allotments open day last year and she really loved the flavour. So I wanted to make her some with my own produce, but of course I no longer have my allotment plot and access to rhubarb that was often being given away by fellow plot-holders. The rhubarb I had growing in my own garden plot withered away early this year due to my own neglect. So after that, making this jam for my mother went completely out of my mind. Saying all this, I was still staring at two full jars of stem ginger in syrup and wondering what to do with them?!
Then I remembered fellow blogger little black fox telling me that she was going to be making either a jam or a chutney with honey and ginger, this prompted me to request her recipe and she was happy to oblige. The recipe is very slightly adapted as I used a whole jar of runny honey and a whole jar of stem ginger in syrup. What was good about this was I was also able to recycle these 2 jars immediately, once sterilized they were re-filled with this very chutney.

This recipe makes a whopping 10 jars. I think I will have to book a space at the local farmers market to off load some of these jars - just kidding - many of these jars will be gifted to unsuspecting family and friends. The flavour of this chutney is unlike the others I've made, it tastes more like a jam - wonderfully sweet, but not too sweet. The ginger hit surprises you when you bite into it, whereas the honey is subtle lurking in the background. The raisins and sultanas give the chutney some depth (or body) as Little Black Fox describes it. Thank you Little Black Fox for being kind to share this recipe with me.
Apple, honey & ginger chutney
Makes about 10 x 245ml jars
2kg apples, peeled, cored & chopped
200g sultanas and raisins
350g stem ginger in syrup, chopped
200g dark or light brown sugar
320g jar of runny honey
600ml cider vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
Little Black Fox instructions were to 'Throw it all in a pan, bring to the boil (inc. liquid from the stem ginger), simmer until thick etc.' I did as she instructed and it was all fine. It took about 45 minutes to reach the chutney consistency. Leave to mature for a couple of months before enjoying.

Please do take time to visit the Little Black Fox blog. Little Black Fox has some very innovative seasonal recipes such as pumpkin dumpling, pumpkin kebabs and some unusual ones such as beetballs (made from beetroot). She also writes with a keen sense of humour.