Fideua de Verduras

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It’s a cool drizzly day today and I have been busy sowing peas and planting lettuce so that they can benefit from the dampness. So after that, a warm hearty lunch is required. My first thought was to make a vegetable paella, and I found that I’d forgotten to buy rice but while looking in the cupboard I saw that I had fideuá. These are small pasta, usually, but not always, rice shaped, that are cooked in place of rice in a paella pan with similar ingredients to a paella. As with paella Spanish cooks vary the ingredients depending on what vegetables are in season, and of course if you are a meat or fish eater, then small pieces of these can be added to your ingredient list.

Today’s fideuá – this makes two portions

70 grams fideua

olive oil

1 large spring onion – sliced

1 large spring garlic -sliced

2 shiitake mushrooms – halved and sliced thinly

150 grams fresh broad beans

half a picante green pepper – cut into small cubes

200 grams courgette – cut into bite sizedcubes

150 grams fresh globe artichokes – prepared, sliced and fried

1 large tomato

few sprigs of thyme

pinch of saffron threads

pinch of smoked pimienton/paprika

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

vegetable stock

Prepare your artichokes first. I had some left from a previous dish. Clean the artichokes down to the tender leaves. Top and tail them. Cut into thin slices and fry immediately in olive oil until about half cooked. Remove from pan.

Add more oil and fry the onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the mushroom and stir in. Cook for a couple of minutes

Add the courgette, stir in and let fry for five minutes.

Cut the tomato in half and grate the flesh up to the skin into a bowl. Discard the skins.

To the pan add the tomatoes, pasta and broad beans. Stir to mix.

Add the seasonings and then enough stock to come just to the top of the pan contents. Turn the heat down low, cover the pan and let cook slowly for five minutes.

Add the artichokes and more stock as needed.

Check the liquid level in the pan every few minutes until the pasta is cooked. If you are using the rice shaped pasta this will only be another five to ten minutes, other thicker pastas will need longer. The dish does not want to be as dry as a paella.

Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and leave to sit for 5 minutes before serving with wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

Iceplant Salad & Soy Sesame Dressing

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We had a reasonable, for here, amount of rain before the shortest day of the year, and now we have warm sunny days and cool damp nights, the result of which is that the countryside is blooming with Spring plants and flowers. Many of these are edible and begging to be foraged. There is wild garlic and asparagus on the hillsides, and by the sea, samphire and ice plants.

Part of the mesembryanthemum family, these succulent faintly salty leaves are delicious in salads. It’s easy to see why they have the name iceplant as they seem to be covered in tiny glistening ice droplets.

These plants like the Sandy soil near to the sea and are frequently found next to Samphire. Pick the tender shoots that are sprouting at this time of the year. You may have to part the sturdier tough stems at the top of the plants to find the more tender leaves underneath.

Give them a good wash in two or three changes of water, and then they are ready to use.

This salad has a particularly delicious dressing which perfectly complements the iceplant leaves.

Iceplant Salad & Soy Sesame Dressing

150 grams ice plant leaves

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sesame seeds to garnish

I had garlic cloves which I had roasted with vegetables the day before, but if you are starting with raw garlic, fry them very slowly in a little oil until they are soft.

Mash the garlics in a small bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and mix well.

Slice up the iceplant leaves and put into a salad bowl. Add the dressing and mix well.

Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and serve.

Salt & Sweet Lime Pickle

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Before my lime crop finishes I thought I ought to make a batch of lime pickle. Over the years I’ve tried various recipes but this one is my, and all my friends, favourite. It’s salt, sweet, citrusy tangy and packs a picante punch, a fabulous accompaniment to any curry.

This makes 10 jars of 270ml

2 kilos limes – small ones if you can get them

100 grams fresh ginger

240 grams sea salt

500 grams white sugar

2 heaped teaspoons fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon star anise

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

3 large green chillis

Wash the limes, cut them into quarters and remove any seeds. Put them into a large bowl.

Peel the ginger and cut into tiny cubes. Add to the limes.

Add the salt to the limes and ginger and mix well. Leave to marinate for 24 hours.

The next day drain the liquid from the limes into a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar stirring from time to time.

Grind the fenugreek and star anise in a coffee grinder or pound in a pestle and mortar. You are not aiming for a powder, more just to break the spices into smaller pieces. Add to the drained limes.

In a thick based frying pan heat the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add to the limes.

Chop the chillis small, either in a processor or by hand. Add to the limes.

Mix the limes and spices very well.

Pack the limes into clean jars and then fill up with the hot salt and sugar syrup.

Seal and leave in a cool dark place for 4 weeks for the pickle to mature.

Spicy Buckwheat Pancakes with Cool Tomato Relish

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I love plain buckwheat pancakes for breakfast with a fresh fruit salad, but sometimes it’s nice to have a more spicy start to the day so these spiced up pancakes with a fresh tomato relish fit perfectly.

This amount makes enough pancakes for 6 servings

225 grams buckwheat flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 heaped tablespoon garam masala spice

1 fresh red chilli – finely chopped

1 spring onion – cut in thin slices

pinch of salt

1 egg

275 ml vegetable stock

Olive oil for frying

Mix all the dry ingredients together with the spring onion and chillis.

Break the egg into the stock and mix well.

Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.

The batter can be used straight away but improves if kept in the fridge for a day or two, so if you don’t use it all at once the rest can be kept very well for another day.

Heat oil in a small frying pan and when hot pour in a small cupful of batter. Fry until golden before turning over and frying the other side.

For the tomato relish simply cut a well flavour tomato into dice and season with salt a finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Strozzapreti with Tomato Sauce

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Strozzapreti, meaning ‘priest strangler’ as it is reputed to be enjoyed so much and in such quantities by the holy fathers that it chokes them, is a rolled pasta that goes very well with this tomato sauce. You can of course use other pastas if you can’t get hold of Strozzapreti.

For 2

120 grams pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large clove of garlic – finely chopped

1 small onion – finely chopped

1/4 red bell pepper – cut into short slices

2 tablespoons chopped Florence fennel

125 grams button mushrooms – halved and then sliced

200 grams chopped plum tomatoes

2 heaped teaspoons tomato purée

fresh oregano finely chopped plus a few sprigs for garnishing

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese if you are making the vegetarian but not vegan version of this dish

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Orange zest

Put salted water with a splash of olive oil on to boil for the pasta, and then cook the pasta according to the timings on the packet.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and onion. Fry until translucent.

Add the red peppers and cook for á couple of minutes before adding the fennel and mushrooms. Stir well and leave to cook for five minutes.

Add the chopped tomato, purée and oregano. Cook slowly for 15-20 minutes until the sauce looks thick and richly red.

Season with salt and pepper.

If using the Parmesan cheese, add most of it now leaving a little to sprinkle on top of the pasta and stir into the sauce letting it melt.

Once the pasta is cooked but still with a little bite, drain from the water and add it to the sauce. Stir to mix.

Serve in shallow bowls with a grating of orange zest and a few sprigs of oregano to garnish. Of course if you are including Parmesan in your dish then add a garnish of grated cheese as well.

The Glass Strawberry

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To start with – what a fab name for a restaurant! This cafe in Doncaster is one of my must do stops when I visit the town. The food is freshly cooked and super tasty, the service friendly and efficient, and the decor bright and cosy at the same time. You can eat lunch at a dining table or lounge on a comfy sofa with your coffee and cake.

I have my favourite dish that I like to order, The Naked Vegan Burger. Two burgers made from quinoa, beetroot and edename beans, served with yummy sweet potato fries, mixed salad and a pot each of hummus and sweet chutney.

If this is not for you, worry not, the menu has plenty to tempt all tastes – from breakfasts to sizzling pizzas. You can see the full menu on their website – http://www.theglassstrawberry.co.uk

Tofu Scramble with Spinach & Mushrooms

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This delicious breakfast dish was adapted and cooked for me by Richard from Doctor Rupy Aujla’s recipe for Tofu Scramble. I will now be experimenting with swapping tofu for eggs in all my favourite scramble recipes.

For two servings –

300 grams firm or silken tofu

70 grams mushrooms

3 spring onions

70 grams baby spinach

salt and freshly ground black pepper

A good pinch of mixed herbs

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

olive oil / coconut oil

Slice the mushrooms. Any type of mushroom will work in this recipe, shiitake are particularly good.

Drain the tofu and dry well with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

Put in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the turmeric and seasonings.

Put the mushrooms into a frying pan with enough water to come up to just about half way up the mushrooms.

Cook on a medium heat until the water has been absorbed and the mushrooms are cooked to a softness.

Add half a tablespoon each of olive oil and coconut oil and then the sliced spring onions. Fry for two or three minutes to soften the onions.

Add the tofu and gently mix as it heats through.

Once the tofu is warm, add the spinach and continue gently mixing as the spinach wilts.

Serve on whole meal toast drizzled with a little olive oil.

Aubergine Salad & Exquisite Hummus

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The aubergine pate that I served for supper last night was this salad whizzed up in the food processor, and the bean hummus was this hummus recipe, just substituting ready cooked butter beans for the chickpeas, so thought it was worth reposting these recipes.

 

I have been making this salad for so long that I now don’t recall the origin of the recipe. It is equally good as a salad, or puréed in the food processor as a vegetarian pate.

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The herbs can be changed to vary the flavour depending on taste and what you have available fresh. In the master recipe I have specified Oregano, I also like Coriander or Mint.

AUBERGINE SALAD

2 largish aubergines

Half teaspoon cumin seeds

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic – finely chopped

2 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

Fresh oregano – finely chopped

Fresh chilli – finely chopped

Chives finely – chopped

I have found that the best way to cook the Aubergine for this is in the microwave, although you can roast them if you prefer.

Prick the Aubergine all over with a fork to prevent any explosions and put on a plate  in the microwave. Cook at full power for two minutes.

Turn over and cook for another two minutes.

Depending on the size of the vegetables and the power of you microwave they may now be cooked . They want to feel soft all the way through.

If they need a bit more cooking, turn them on their side and cook for another minute.

They can be turned to the other side and given another minute of cooking if you think that they need it.

Let cool until only warm and handleable.

Meanwhile toast the cumin seeds in a shallow thick based pan until they are slightly coloured and you can smell their aroma. Grind them and the salt with a pestle and mortar.

Once the aubergines are cool cut them into small cubes. I grow on the farm a variety of Aubergine called Gandia which has very thin soft skin, so I leave it on, but if the skin is tough remove it before cutting up the flesh.

Put in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

If you are making pate, put all the ingredients in the food processor instead and process to a purée.

Leave for an hour at room temperature for the flavours to develop with one another before serving.

HUMMUS.

A classic revisited.

hummus

Mass production has turned this dish into a bland cream, let’s get back to the super tasty dish that it started life as. The deep nutty flavour of the toasted sesame seeds blended with that of the chick peas should be the first to hit the taste buds, then the pungency of the garlic closely followed by the citrus sharpness of the lemon. If you like you can also add some finely chopped fresh coriander to add yet another flavour.

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 jar or tin chick peas

2 cloves garlic – chopped

Grated rind and juice of a lemon – unwaxed if possible

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Picante paprika or pimenton

Put the sesame seeds in a shallow thick based pan and toast on a low heat shaking from time to time until light brown and giving off their distinctive aroma.

Grind to a paste with a pestle and mortar adding the olive oil to moisten as you go along.

Drain the chick peas from their liquid and rinse well to wash off the starchy residue.

Put in the food processor with the sesame paste, garlic, lemon rind and juice. Process to a paste – but not a smooth puree – leave some texture in the chick peas. Add more oil if it seems too dry.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put in a small bowl with the paprika sprinkled over.

Serve with warm pitta bread.

Try hummus rissoles – add egg, then egg and breadcrumb or flour and fry

Oatmeal Crackers with Mixed Seeds

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These taste better than any crackers that you buy in the supermarket. They’re crispy but moist and full of the nutty flavours of the seeds. I have to thank Rowena for inspiring me with her version of seeded crackers into having a go at creating my own. Perfect for serving with dips for a light supper or lunch, last night my friend John and I had them with a bean hummus, aubergine pate, guacamole and a tomato salad.

150 grams medium ground oatmeal – you can used rolled oats but the crackers have a better texture and hold together better with ground oatmeal

100 grams sunflower seeds

90 grams flax seeds

50 grams green pumpkin seeds

40. grams sesame seeds

1 level teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

350 ml water

Mix all the dry ingredient together

For the liquid, you can substitute some or all the water with vegetable stock or when I made the crackers yesterday I used the gooey liquid from my jar of beans and some water.

Mix the olive oil into the water and add the whole lot to the oat and seed mix. Mix well. It will be quite wet.

Leave for an hour or two until the liquid has been absorbed.

Put the oven on to warm at 180C

Spread the mix onto an oiled shallow baking tray into an even layer about 1/2 a centimetre thick. If the layer is too thick the crackers will take longer to cook and will not be crisp. I used a round shallow tin of 30cm diameter the first time I made these and an oblong tin 25 x 35 cm the third time and they came out perfect, however the second time I made them an had them in a smaller tin they were too thick and soft.

Mark out where you want the crackers to break with a knife.

Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

Let them cool in the tin before removing them and breaking them up. They will keep for several days if kept in an airtight jar or tin.

Pickled Salad

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This fresh light salad can be made with many different vegetables depending on the season, I will give you the recipe of exactly what I put in this time, and at the end of the recipe a list of the other vegetables that like this type of marinade. The salad is made in a large glass jar which is put on a sunny windowsill for a couple of days to lightly ferment and tenderise the vegetables. The fermentation also adds to the prebiotic qualities of the vegetables.


50 grams sea salt

20 grams sugar

750 ml water

400 ml cider vinegar

romanesco cauliflower – cut into smallish florets

carrots – peeled and very thinly sliced

radishes – very thinly sliced

Spring onion and garlic – sliced diagonally

mustard seeds

In a large jug, mix the water and vinegar with the salt and sugar. Stir well.

Layer the vegetables in a large jar adding a sprinkling of mustard seeds as seasoning with each set of layers.

Push the layers down to compact the vegetables and then see if you need more layers. Once the vegetables soften they will naturally compact down, so it’s a good idea to firm them down at this stage.

Once the jar is full, add the brine and vinegar, fill to the top of the jar.

Stand the jar in a container to catch any overspill of liquid. You will need to put something in the neck of the jar to weigh down the contents and stop them rising above the liquid. I use a small round plastic container to fit inside the jar neck, and a jar of beans as the weight.

Place the whole contraption on a sunny window sill for 2-3 days to ferment. The vegetables will emit bubbles of gas as they marinade, which will push some of the liquid out over the top of the jar, hence the need to have a container to catch the excess.

Once the bubbling has stopped remove the weight, top up the jar with the overspill liquid and more of the brine mix if necessary. Put the lid on the jar. Wash the outside of the jar.

Leave the salad to continue marinating in the fridge for a couple more days and then it will be ready to eat.

The salad will keep for a couple of weeks, so doesn’t need to be eaten all in one sitting.

Other vegetables that can be used for this salad are: white cabbage, Chinese leaves, red peppers, bean sprouts, cucumber and courgettes, broccoli and white cauliflower. The spice and seasoning can be varied too, I used mustard seeds to complement the cauliflower. Dill is traditional in Eastern Europe, coriander, caraway seeds, fresh herbs, citrus peel. If you want to give the salad a more oriental flavour, then add fresh ginger, lemon grass and chilli….and maybe a splash of Nam Pla. Have a play with flavours and see which ones you like!