I ate my first ploughman’s lunch last year. I’d seen other people with them on numerous occasions and they looked interesting – all that picky stuff to eat looked right up my street. Whenever I saw it on a menu though I always swerved it for a hot meal instead because who the flipping flop goes out to eat a bit of bread and cheese and pickle? Then one day last year I thought I MUST HAVE A PLOUGHMAN’S and off in search of one I went.
To help safeguard our nutritional intake and strength our immune system, we need to keep our hearts healthy, but what foods are actually good for our hearts?
Back in 2010, I entered a competition to win the title of ‘UK’s Tastiest Meat-Free Dish‘ where the winner’s recipe would be included in the range of Linda McCartney products. Fellow food blogger Kate Ford – who blogs at The Veg Space – won with her mushroom and ale pie. I reckon Kate either bribed or slept with the judges because why the flipping flop would they choose a pie over my cheese-covered aubergine, eh? I mean, come on, look – it’s a masterpiece!
The first time I had a massaman curry was in a Thai restaurant in Ashford. I was happily tucking away, thinking how gorgeous it was, when I saw a massive lump of beef sticking out of it. Obviously, I stopped eating it and told the staff, who apologised and offered to make me another – meat free – one but, unsurprisingly, I’d gone off the idea of eating. That wasn’t the first time I’d found meat in a meal:
Portobello mushroom burgers are the best veggie burgers you can get. I’m all for the more ‘meaty’ veggie burgers, like the Linda McCartney ones but when you’re out and about, the veggie burgers on offer are usually more of the indistinguishable mushed-up vegetables coated in breadcrumbs variety. So, when I see mushroom burgers on the menu, that’s what I always go for, especially when they’re topped with halloumi which is how The Foundry pub in Canterbury serves them. The mushroom burgers in that pub are so good, even my meat-eating friend gets one when we go there instead of one of the many meat dishes they sell.
This vegan pinto bean stuffed peppers recipe is loosely based on the Chillies Stuffed With Beans recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian cookbook River Cottage Veg Everyday! Although Hugh’s version would undoubtedly be better than mine, his recipe involved grilling and peeling chillies and there is no way I could ever be arsed to a) peel a chilli pepper; or b) stuff something that small, so I bunged a couple of peppers in the oven and stuffed those instead.
The pinto bean stuffing is pretty much the same as Hugh’s except I left out coriander and cumin because I’m not keen on coriander and every time I use cumin, The Meat Eater says it tastes of farts and I wasn’t in the mood for any stupid talk like that (by the way, in case you’re wondering, The Meat Eater is 44, not 4).
I loved the bean filling in these peppers – it’s not dissimilar to baked beans in tomato sauce – and I also thought it would make a good sandwich filling. The Meat Eater didn’t enjoy it as much as I did but I think he was in a moany mood as he also complained about having a green pepper and not a red one (even though I offered to swap) and said the peas were too chewy.
Next time, I’ll tell him to rearrange this sentence: dinner your make own fucking
- 2 red or green peppers, deseeded
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 150g tomatoes, halved
- 400g tin pinto beans (or other beans of your choice)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- salt and pepper
- Put the peppers on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes at 200C until tender and the skin is slightly browning
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the shallots and garlic for a couple of minutes, until soft
- Grate the tomatoes into the pan, and discard the skins
- Remove from the heat, add the beans and lightly mash with a fork, leaving plenty whole
- Add the paprika and season with salt and pepper
- Stuff the bean mixture into the peppers and return to the oven for another 20 minutes
Hands up who knows where Bulgaria is? In case you’re like me and your knowledge of Bulgaria begins and ends with a certain Womble called Uncle, then here’s a map for you.
So, when Expedia asked me if I’d take part in their World on a Plate Challenge and cook something from Bulgaria, although I had no idea if Bulgarians ate nothing but fried newt eyes and worm feet, I agreed.
I probably should have checked Google before agreeing to take part in the challenge but I found out that Bulgarian food is practically the same as Turkish food (which isn’t surprising as, as you can see from the map, Turkey is only down the road from Bulgaria) and Turkish food is one of my favourite cuisines. Yay halloumi. Yay hummus. Yay falafel. Yay those spinach and feta triangle pastry things.
One dish I came across frequently while looking for vegetarian Bulgarian inspiration was stuffed aubergines or, as it’s more commonly known in Bulgaria – Imam Bayaldy (and as with hummus, there are various variations on the spelling so don’t moan at me if I didn’t use your preferred spelling).
As this was supposed to be a challenge, I decided I should probably serve the stuffed aubergines with something more adventurous (and more Bulgarian) than plain boiled potatoes and peas, so I accompanied the stuffed aubergines with Bulgarian potatoes au gratin (which Google informs me is also called ‘ogreten’ which sounds more Bulgarian than ‘au gratin’ which sounds distinctly French to me and, according to my map, France is nowhere near Bulgaria).
Unfortunately, The Meat Eater wasn’t keen on either of these dishes and found them a bit bland. I reckon this was because he’d caught the lurgy I’d had recently, because I found the potatoes creamy and tangy, and the stuffed aubergines were – well, stuffed aubergines, which are always nice, but I’ll admit they could have been tastier.
You can find the original recipe for the Bulgarian stuffed aubergines here and the original recipe for the Bulgarian potatoes au gratin here. As usual, the recipes below are my adaptations, using ingredients I have to hand/can find in the supermarket and simplified to suit my cooking methods/laziness.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 large aubergine
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp parsley
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry gently for about 5 minutes, until soft.
- Meanwhile, cut the aubergine in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving the skins intact.
- Chop the aubergine flesh and add to the onions and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, carrot, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Stuff the aubergine skins with the onion mixture, place in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
- Cook for 20-30 minutes.
- 450g cottage cheese
- 50g butter, melted
- 3 medium potatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup Greek yoghurt
- salt and pepper
- Heat oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
- Lightly grease an ovenproof dish with butter or oil.
- In a blender or food processor (I used a hand blender), puree cheese until as smooth as possible.
- Add the butter, salt and pepper and blend in thoroughly.
- Lay one-third of the potatoes in the ovenproof dish and top with one-third of the cheese mixture. Lay down another third of potatoes and cheese, followed by the last third.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake until the potatoes are tender, about 1- 11/2 hours.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and yoghurt and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour over the potatoes and bake, uncovered, until the topping is puffy, golden and set, about 20-30 minutes.
Check out these other vegetarian Expedia World on a Plate recipes from my fellow bloggers:
Simple Fig Jam from Fab Food 4 All
Plum, Apple and Almond Tarte Tatin from Foodie Quine
Quick and Easy Creamy Mushroom Pasta from The Hedge Combers
Olive, Garlic, Halloumi, Spelt Bread – Eliopsomi from Tin and Thyme
This post was sponsored by Expedia World on a Plate.
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.)
Now I want to batter all the things.
- 1/2 block halloumi, sliced into 4 pieces
- 60g plain flour
- 30ml water
- 30ml milk
- 1 tsp baking powder
- salt and pepper
- Oil for deep frying
- Heat the oil in a large pan or deep fat fryer if you have one
- Whisk together the flour, milk, water and baking powder and season with salt and pepper
- Check the oil is hot enough by dropping in a bit of batter. If it floats and sizzles, the oil is hot enough
- Dredge the halloumi in the batter and fry for 5-10 minutes, until golden, turning over a few times
If you like the look of this battered halloumi, you may also like these beer battered mushrooms from Amuse Your Bouche.
I mentioned last week my energy levels had slumped, so I googled to see which foods were good for energy. Among those mentioned were:
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.
Maybe I should have called it Sunshine Curry.
- 1 onion
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 400g can chickpeas, drained
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1″ chunks
- 400ml can coconut milk
- Salt to season
- In a large saucepan (or Tefal wok, like I use), heat the vegetable oil and fry the onion for a few minutes, until softened
- Add the garlic, chili, and ginger to the onions, along with the dried spices and fry for another couple of minutes
- Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, coconut milk and the sweet potato and bring to the boil
- Turn the heat down, season with salt, cover and simmer for 30 minutes
- Remove the cover and let simmer for another 20 minutes
- Serve with Basmati rice
I can’t make risotto. I know how to make it, I’m just missing some kind of key risotto-making gene which means whenever I try to make risotto, no matter how much time I take slowly pouring in the stock and patiently stirring for three weeks (or however long it is; it feels like three weeks, anyway), the rice ends up as nasty crunchy bullets. Maybe the rice knows I’m not patient by nature and can feel the hate and resentment when I’m standing there relentlessly stirring instead of doing something far more pleasurable such as, say, emptying the cat litter tray or hanging up my washing.
So, why I decided to give risotto another go, I don’t know but, instead of the stirring-for-three-weeks-on-the-hob method, I had a look for a slow cooker recipe (although, for someone who can’t be arsed to stand around stirring things, I certainly lift the slow cooker lid plenty of times to give the contents a good stir) and found this one.
Usually when I use my slow cooker, I don’t bother with any pre-cooking malarky and just chuck everything in but, given my history with risotto-making, I thought I’d better give it a decent shot at turning out okay and followed the instructions, only deviating by adding garlic as there was no garlic in the original recipe, which led to a ‘what do you mean there’s no garlic in this recipe?’ moment. I mean, how can you have onions and mushrooms in something but no garlic? Crazy.
I’d like to say this risotto turned out perfectly, but I’d be lying. It was certainly tasty and definitely un-bullet-like but it was a tad stodgy and ‘wallpaper paste’ and ‘sticks to your ribs’ wouldn’t be unfair descriptions. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a disaster and I’d make it again and, if you give it a go, it’ll probably turn out perfectly. I just think risotto and I aren’t meant to be.
- 1.5 tbsp sunflower oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 200g Arborio risotto rice
- 300ml vegetable stock
- 30g butter
- 225g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 30g vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, grated
- Heat the oil and add the onion and cook for 4 – 5 mins until soft.
- Add the rice and stir through so all grains are coated and cook for 2 mins.
- Transfer the rice and onion to the slow cooker and cover with the stock.
- Melt the butter in a pan and cook the sliced mushrooms for about 10 mins or until they have browned.
- Add the garlic to the mushrooms and cook for another minute or so.
- Stir the mushrooms into the rice and cook for 2 – 3 hours on low.
- Stir in the vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese in the last 5 minutes.