I love halloumi. I love the saltiness, the squeakiness and the oh-my-god-it’s-just-so-fucking-delicious-ness of it. In the fridge languished half a block that needed to be used up and instead of stuffing it in the portobella mushrooms that are also languishing in the fridge needing to be used up, I decided to batter the halloumi, like they do in my local chippy.
I’ve made Yorkshire Puddings and battered tofu before, but I’ve never made a chip shop type batter. I whisked up the flour, milk and baking powder and seasoned it with salt and pepper but I felt it was missing something. The Meat Eater said it wasn’t and said that was how batter is made so I took his word for it, even though he couldn’t tell me how he knew how to make batter. He also assured me that it’s supposed to be the texture of wallpaper paste.
This battered halloumi was so, so good. It was even better than the chip shop’s. The halloumi had softened and lost its squeak and weirdly developed the texture of fish.
I don’t have a deep fat fryer, so I used the Tefal wok-type pan I use for almost everything. I’ve had it over ten years and I still think it’s brilliant and you can buy one here. (This post isn’t sponsored by Tefal, I just wanted to tell you how much I love my wok.)
Sweet potatoes contain Vitamin D and, as we all know, at this time of year when summer’s coming to an end and there’s a lack of sunlight, our energy levels can crash, along with our mood. The Vitamin D in sweet potatoes will boost your energy, along with the natural sugars it contains which are released slowly into the bloodstream to keep your energy levels balanced.
Chickpeas are a source of manganese which is important in energy production. So if you ever needed an excuse to eat more hummus, here it is. You’re welcome.
Although coconut milk has a high level of saturated fats, those saturated fats are mainly short and medium chain fatty acids which are not stored by the body as fats but provide instant energy to the body.
Tomatoes have a high content of biotin which is also known as Vitamin H which is, confusingly, part of the B complex group of vitamins. But, you don’t need to worry about that (unless you’re doing some kind of medical degree which requires you to know about these things) – all you need to know is that B vitamins help the body produce energy.
So, I had a list of healthy ingredients and, faced with these ingredients, there was only one thing to make – a curry. And not just any old curry but a creamy vegan curry that raised my energy levels and gave me a natural boost.
I got a bit carried away while I was making tonight’s dinner. Originally, I’d planned to cook a simple aubergine melt (mozzarella melted on top of half a roasted aubergine) to use up the mozzarella that was in the fridge but, while I was taking out the mozzarella, I saw the spring onion that also needed to be used up, then I saw the mushrooms, then I thought it looked like I was heading towards making a pizza out of an aubergine, so I thought I might as well go all the way and give it a tomatoey base, too. The only pizza-y thing I held off from adding was chilli, but that was only because I thought a chilli, cabbage and potato combo would confuse The Meat Eater who doesn’t like his food to be too much of a ‘challenge’ (his word for anything that doesn’t involve potatoes).
I wouldn’t usually serve pizza with cabbage and new potatoes – I mean, why do you think garlic bread and onion rings were invented? – but it worked well. Obviously, you can choose your own toppings based on your own preference or whatever you have in your fridge that needs using up.
I usually haven’t recovered from the weekend enough to be bothered to cook from scratch on a Monday, but because I had a rare booze-free, exercise-packed, fresh-air filled weekend, my energy levels were up and so I decided I wanted to cook something healthy.
After deciding I wanted tonight’s dinner to involve asparagus, I perused the BBC Good Food website, filtering the results down to healthy options. None of the healthy options particularly appealed, so I took the healthy filter off and saw their free-form asparagus and potato tart, which is what I loosely based mine on. It’s not healthy in the slightest but it’s a big step up from the processed junk I usually heat up in the oven on a Monday.
Unfortunately, this didn’t go down too well with The Meat Eater. I loved it – I especially loved the pastry because – round of applause, please – I made it all by myself. I don’t think I’ve ever made pastry before; I might have made some at school I suppose, but that would have been a *cough* few *cough* years ago now.
You’ve got to hand it to The Meat Eater though – he’d do well on Masterchef’s palette test. He said the pastry had an odd taste to it and as I thought back to what had gone into it, I remembered the coconut oil, so that was probably the ‘odd taste’ he was referring to. He did admit to liking ‘bits of it’ though.
Hopefully, the coconut oil hasn’t put you off, so I’m going to post the recipe below as I made it (which is pretty much as it appears in Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel, which I talked about a bit more in yesterday’s post – my version is only slightly simplified). The end result is a kind of quiche-like dish which I reckon would be just as nice cold, as hot.
Please don’t be put off by making your own pastry – this was about as simple as it gets and if I can be bothered to do it, so can you.
Although the recipe below states 240g tofu, I used a normal (normal for the UK, anyway) sized block of Cauldron tofu and pressed it (nothing fancy – just between two saucers), this left me with 275g tofu and I used all of it.
Make the pastry. In a large bowl, mix together the flours and ½ tsp salt. Work the coconut oil into the flour, leaving small lumps. Add the water gradually and work until the dough comes together. Roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, add the crushed garlic, mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices and the juices evaporate. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, steam the spinach until partially wilted, then leave to cool.
Place the tofu, lemon juice, 1½ tsp olive oil, nutritional yeast and the whole garlic clove in a food processor and process until fairly smooth (you might need to add a bit more oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the spinach and fold in by hand.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. On a piece of baking paper, roll out the pastry to a 30-cm (12") round. Transfer the pastry and baking paper onto a baking sheet and spread the spinach-tofu mixture over, leaving a 5cm (2") border. Top with the mushrooms and gently fold the extra pastry up and onto the toppings, pleating as you move around the outside.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
The perfect pie for winter – robust and warming seasonal veg, topped with a puff pastry lid. This recipe is loosely based on one in Veggienomics by Nicola Graimes but I didn’t have any celeriac or carrots (I think *someone* forgot to buy carrots, because I’m sure I put them on the shopping list), didn’t use any cider and Nicola Graimes probably didn’t find her plain flour had gone mouldy and had to use sauce flour instead. The original recipe also did something complicated with the pastry; the recipe below is my simplified version.
Put the turnips and parsnip in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and stir in the bouillon powder. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Strain the vegetables, reserving the water.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the onions for 8 minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic and herbs and cook for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir continuously for another minute. Stir in the stock and cook for 2 minutes until thickened and reduced.
Add the cooked root vegetables, 175ml of the reserved water and the mustard and stir until combined. Season the filling with salt and pepper. Transfer the root vegetable mixture to a pie dish, stir in the cheese and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180 fan/Gas 6. Roll out the pastry until large enough to cover the dish. Lay the pastry on top of the vegetable mixture and press down the edges. Prick the top of the pastry with a fork and brush the top with a little milk. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.
The kitchen is currently being redecorated, so that seemed like a good excuse to be lazy and just chuck a load of stuff in the slow cooker. I’d been sent a few Old El Paso products to try but unfortunately two of the products weren’t suitable for vegetarians (the One Pot Rice Meal and the Stand ‘N’ Stuff Soft Taco Kit. I’ve never had tacos so I had been looking forward to trying them, before I found out they’re not veggie, ho hum). Their Creamy Poblano Pepper Casserole Mix is suitable for vegetarians though (as are lots of other Old El Paso products), so I made that with Quorn fillets.
The recipe on the back of the packet said to mix the contents with 50ml of water. This seemed a tiny amount to me, especially as it was going to be sitting in a slow cooker all day, so I doubled it up to 100ml. I also added a few slices of jalapeno peppers and the result was a deliciously creamy, yet spicy, casserole.
Slow Cooked Old El Paso Creamy Poblano Pepper Casserole (serves 4)
8 Quorn fillets (I put them in the slow cooker frozen)
1 packet Old El Paso Creamy Poblano Pepper Casserole Mix
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
A few slices of jalapeno peppers, chopped
120ml double cream
Place the Quorn fillets, onion, jalapenos and green pepper into the slow cooker.
Mix up the casserole mix with the water and pour over the Quorn and vegetables and stir in.
Cook on low for about 5 hours, adding the cream to the slow cooker 20 minutes before the end.
The Complete Bread Machine Cookbook had been in my Amazon Wishlist for a few years but I never got around to buying it, probably because I don’t use my other bread machine cookbooks that much and didn’t see the point in buying another one just to not use that one much either. But when I saw it in a local charity shop a couple of weeks ago for just £1, I thought I might as well buy it.
I’m really glad I bought it, as it includes a recipe for the best pizza dough I’ve made in a bread machine.
According to the blurb at the front of the dough chapter, it says it may be necessary to leave the dough in the bucket to carry on rising, even after the programme has finished, until it reaches almost to the top and/or doubles in size. As I’d halved the original recipe (if you don’t want to halve it and haven’t got a lot of people to feed, you can freeze the other half of the dough), I didn’t know how much further it would rise, but I left it in the bucket for another twenty minutes or so after the programme has finished and I think it rose a bit more.
You’ll see in the instructions below (no. 6) that it says to roll the dough out and put in a tin, then spread with tomato puree or passata, then covering with oiled paper and putting in the fridge. I didn’t bother with this bit but just – after kneading the dough – covered it with some oiled baking paper and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then I rolled it out and covered it with tomato sauce (make your own with a tin of chopped tomatoes and herbs) and my favourite toppings of olives, mushrooms, red pepper, mozzarella, Cheddar and chilli flakes.
2 tbsp olive oil
450g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
7g sachet instant or fast-acting yeast
Pour the water into the breadmaker bucket, then add the oil and half the flour.
Sprinkle with the salt and sugar.
Cover with the remaining flour and mound the yeast into the centre.
Fit the bucket into the breadmaker and set to the dough programme.
When ready, remove the dough from the bucket and quickly knead on a floured surface.
Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a round large enough to fit two 25-30 cm/10-12 in well-greased pizza tins, gently pulling and stretching the dough to fit. Pinch up the edges all round to make a lip, then spread with the tomato puree or passata.
Cover with oiled paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cover with your favourite toppings and bake for 20-25 minutes at 220C/gas mark 7 until the pizzas are well risen and the cheese is bubbling.
I’d never made a nice risotto. So, when Sunrise Care asked me to make the Tomato and Basil Risotto recipe on their website, I thought ‘uh oh’. But, I know the key to a good risotto is to pour the liquid in slowly and to keep stirring, which is where I’ve gone wrong in the past. I’m far too impatient for that kind of thing and usually just bung in the liquid then go off to play Candy Crush or something and return to a heap of bullets stuck to the bottom of the pan.
This time, I thought, I’m going to do it properly. I’m going to make a decent risotto. Guess what? I didn’t make a decent risotto. Although I did the pouring slowly thing and the stirring thing, the rice was still hard at the end. So hard, in fact, that The Meat Eater wouldn’t eat it (he does like his rice and pasta to be more overcooked than undercooked though). I ate it though as, although it was slightly (and only slightly) too firm, it was creamy and cheesy and rich and delicious. If you’re one of those people who can make a risotto, you should make this one.
Tomato and basil risotto (two large portions)
(adapted from the recipe at Sunrise Care)
20g salted butter
1tbsp olive oil
2 vine tomatoes, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
200g Arborio rice
400ml vegetable stock
20ml double cream
70g goat’s cheese, chopped
Handful of fresh basil, torn
salt and pepper
Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes, until soft.
Add the tomatoes and seasoning and fry for a further 3-4 minutes.
Add the rice, mix thoroughly and fry for 3-4 minutes.
Gradually add the vegetable stock, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.
Continue stirring until the rice is tender and creamy but still firm, then add the butter, cream, goat’s cheese and basil and stir it all through.
Veggienomics by Nicola Graimes is a cookbook designed to help you cook delicious money-saving vegetarian meals. Nicola covers what you should keep in your storecupboard and tips on getting the most out of your freezer, along with hints on foraging and growing your own veg.
The recipes are divided into eight chapters: basics and accompaniments, tin of beans (and other pulses), pack of pasta (and noodles), sack of rice (and other grains), bag of nuts (and seeds), carton of eggs, slice of cheese (and other dairy) and box of veg. There are plenty of full-page colour photographs to accompany lots of the dishes.
You needn’t worry the recipes are all basic though – take this linguine carbonara with crispy capers for example that I made last night. Beautifully rich and creamy (my capers didn’t go crispy though).
Linguine Carbonara With Crispy Capers (serves 4)
400g dried linguine
1 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp bottled capers, drained, rinsed and patted dry
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, deseeded and diced
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g vegetarian Parmesan cheese, grated
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp chopped oregano leaves or 2 tsp dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta following the pack instructions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the capers, turn the heat down slightly and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp, then drain on kitchen paper. Add the butter to the pan and when melted, stir in the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 3 minutes until softened, taking care that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Mix three-quarters of the vegetarian Parmesan into the beaten eggs. When the pasta is cooked, use tongs to transfer it to the frying pan and reserve the pasta water. Take the frying pan off the heat and quickly pour in the egg mixture. Using tongs, turn the linguine so it becomes evenly coated in the egg mixture, which should thicken without scrambling. Add 2-4 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, if needed, to keep the pasta moist and to give a glossy sauce. Serve seasoned with pepper and sprinkled with the remaining vegetarian Parmesan and oregano.