Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Aubergine, Black-eyed peas, Pepper and Coconut Pot

I've been making lots of one pot dishes recently such as Rhubarb and Lentil Curry; Moroccan Tajine; and Mushroom Strogonoff for when the rain came down.

This Aubergine, Black eyed peas, pepper and Coconut Pot came soon after.  It's been either too hot or muggy to be slaving in the kitchen for long hours, so I have been opting for one pot summery dishes using seasonal ingredients where I can.  I have to say my efforts have all been appreciated.  
I would describe this Aubergine, Black eyed peas, pepper and Coconut Pot closer to a Sri Lankan style curry, one that is not too spicy.  It really was mildly curried and sweet from the coconut.  I loved the soft nutty flavour from the black eyed peas that melted in your mouth and the aubergines were cooked perfectly.  Not hard at all, but not to soft either and the green peppers still had a little crunch. 
I served it with plain white Basmati rice my favourite, but if you want to ring the changes couscous would also do or even good chunky bread.  
Aubergine, Black-eyed peas, Pepper and Coconut Pot
Serves 4 - 6
200g dried black eyed peas, soaked in cold water overnight
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 aubergines
2 medium onions, finely sliced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon of red chilli flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt to taste
1 x 400g tinned tomatoes, roughly chopped including liquid
200ml vegetable stock
2 green peppers, sliced length ways
1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk (unsweetened)
Drain and rinse the black eyed peas, then put into a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to the boil, then turn heat down and simmer for about an hour or until the peas are tender.  Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200oc.  Either slice or cube the aubergine into bite size pieces, then toss in 2 tablespoons oil and lay them in a single layer on a baking tray.  Roast in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes, turning a couple of times, until they are soft to the touch and lightly charred. Set aside.
In a wide pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, add the onions and garlic and sauté until they are beginning to soften.  Stir in the spices and salt to taste.  Sauté for a few more minutes.  Add the tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock and black eyed peas and bring to a boil, before turning down the heat and allowing it to simmer.  As the liquid slightly begins to thicken, stir in the peppers and coconut milk.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  In the last 5 minutes, stir in the aubergines.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve immediately with an accompaniment.  Adapted from Sri Lankan Cuisine and Denis Cotter For the Love of Food.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Strawberry and Black Pepper Lassi

Lassi is appearing all over now as a alternative cooling drink to milkshakes on many trend setting café menu's.  Well in the last few days I have made two variations of my own.  Today I will share my Strawberry and Black Pepper Lassi and later in the week my Rhubarb, Rose and Vanilla one. 

Lassi - for the un-initiated is a south Asian sweet, sour and salty yogurt based drink, I guess I would sort of describe it as alternative to milkshake.  It is traditionally made up of a blend of home-made natural yogurt, water or milk and seasoning and used to be made by hand with a wooden whisk/stirrer/frother, all I can say now is thank goodness for the food blender/processor as it just takes moments to make.

I grew up drinking both the savoury version flavoured with salt or cumin; or the sweet one enhanced with sugar and almonds.  Sometimes my mother would vary it with fruit, namely with mangoes from Pakistan.    It was always, always made with home-made yogurt, but I have to say I am not as organised as my mother and my natural yogurt comes from a tub - not the same for sure, but it will do as a substitute for my Strawberry and Black Pepper Lassi.
My strawberry and black pepper lassi was with strawberries that I had just picked from my own garden.  Initially it was just going to be a simple strawberry lassi, but felt it was lacking something - so a twist of black pepper was added.  It certainly perked me up.

As I was taking a photograph of my Strawberry and Black Pepper Lassi, Moggy - the cat who has adopted us came up out of curiosity, so of course I had to snap a photograph of her too. 
Strawberry and Black Pepper Lassi
Serves 2
Handful of fresh, hulled strawberries
160g homemade yogurt or natural live yogurt such as Henna.  (Its not a heavy yogurt like Greek Yogurt and is good to use in smoothies or to use for marinades)
180ml milk
Sugar, honey or maple syrup to taste

Twist of fresh black pepper (do not use the powder form here)
Optional: ice cubes
Blend all the ingredients (except for the black pepper and ice cubes) in a food blender until smooth.  Taste, tweak and adjust to suit your taste buds, blitz again if necessary.  Pour over optional ice-cubes for a cooler drink and add a twist of black pepper, stir well before drinking.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A bowl of strawberries

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I am a passionate vegetable gardener.  After all it was the premise of this whole blog: allotment2kitchen, but life has changed dramatically since late 2010 and things don't seem to be improving, in spite of all my efforts.  Still I hope and remain a optimist, encouraged by my husband that things will get better.

Anyway, this is a way of saying that there is not much going on in my rented garden: a small herb patch and lots of weeds.  The wildlife are happy though, especially the bumble bees.   And Oh and there are strawberries!
Some of you may remember in June I mentioned that I had unearthed a small patch of strawberry plants that I has planted last year when I had moved into the house.  Well the delicate white strawberry flowers have now turned into juicy blood red strawberries.  I enjoyed some yesterday simply with a drizzle of honey and cream,  and today I made a Strawberry and Vanilla Lassi.  I will share the recipe with you tomorrow

For now just gaze at these sweet deep red shapely strawberries . 


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Butterfly Cake

I've been taking some evening classes in cake decorating.  I really wanted to sign up for the cupcake decorating ones, I especially wanted to learn the skill of piping those swirly ice-cream swirls, but unfortunately  I was unable to sign up for them as all the dates were a Saturday and I had been scheduled to work those particular Saturdays.   So I opted for this evening class instead.

It was a six week course that ended last week.  I have to admit, I started off not particularly enjoying it and at the end of every class I had decided not to go back, but I did.  And I am glad I did, as  I have picked up a few new skills in cake decorating that I know I can develop and enhance in the future, should I choose to do so.

As well as learning to cover a Victoria Sponge cake or a Madeira Cake with icing, not easy as it seems.  Its got to be even, no lumps and bumps and no air bubbles too.  Its got to be smooth.  We were also taught to emboss and paint our cakes with edible food colouring,  I must add all of which are suitable for vegetarians. Its so amazing how a simple cake covered in white icing is suddenly transformed with a few tools and tricks of the trade.  Here is a photograph of my embossed Butterfly Cake.  
I have to admit, I did get a little tired after painting the fifth small butterfly on the side (so please don't look too closely at the paintwork).  I found them a little too fiddly, but the end result was worth it.
I was really pleased with my embossed Butterfly cake, even though the burgundy ribbon I picked out was a little to on the fat side.  Still, not bad for a first attempt.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Vegan Moroccan Tagine Flaky Filo Pies

Gosh yesterday it was proper hot sunshine weather. A sunny Sunday when most families and friends decided on impulse to have a BBQ, well my family were no exception either.  Coming from a South Asian background, the BBQ menu was Anglo-Indian.  There was meaty burgers, tandoori chicken, spiced fish fillets, shammi kebabs and for the veg head like me - vegetable samosa with yogurt mint chutney and salsa salad.  I also brought along my own small contribution, Mango Trifle (to be showcased later in a different blog post), as well as these Moroccan Tagine Flaky Filo Twist pastry pies which happen to be vegan.  I was really glad of the restful Sunday, only thing missing was that glass of red wine.   

These  Moroccan Tagine Flaky Filo pastry pies were served with spiced couscous and a little harissa oil. I know I grumbled a little while ago, when I made these very same filling in a hot water crust pastry, but I have to say they worked pretty well in filo pastry.  The flaky filo pastry is a lot more delicate and the flavours inside really complimented the lightness of the filo pastry, unlike the the sturdiness of the hot water crust pastry.  

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Vegan Orange Chocolate Cake

Some of you may remember me mentioning my new garden friend last month: who I have named Moggy.  Well she certainly has adopted us and we definitely now have a pet.  It's so nice to come home to a warm excitable cat, especially after a long day at work. 
Yes, yes work.  I have found paid employment and I have to say I am not enjoying it one bit.  Its been made unenjoyable (is that even a word?) because of the people I am working with, namely women who have been most unhelpful in helping me adapt and learn my new routine in my new environment.  I have barely had any training and its like I am meant to know where everything is and how everything operates.  I have been coming home really tired: physically and mentally and frustrated that this is what I have been reduced too.  I thought the role would be a little more rewarding, but I am expected to do so much in so little time with very little help from those around me.  I am going to keep my eyes peeled for other opportunities, but in our current economic environment, well you know paupers can't be choosers and its a job.  I am hoping it will get better with time as its only been a couple of weeks, but I have a gut feeling I may not last long there, but I will persevere for now as I have very little in the way of options right now and we need the money.

Anyway, onto some sweet things.  I made this Orange Chocolate cake just over a month ago and it was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who had a slice.  I've put some 'vegan cream cheese frosting' on the cake, it's completely optional.   Oh I could happily do with a slice of this cake right now. 
Vegan Orange Chocolate Cake
You will need a 10 inch round spring form cake tin for this cake
Serves 12
425g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
11/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
180g golden caster sugar

400ml soy milk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
200ml vegetable oil
Zest of two oranges
Sieve the dry ingredients first over a large bowl, then stir in the sugar. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients and the grated zest, then carefully pour into the dry ingredients and combine well. Then pour into baking tin. 
Bake at gas mark 4/180oC for 45 - 50 minutes of until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool.  Best served the following day