What I'm cooking and eating

Friday, 16 October 2020

Moroccan-seasoned chickpea, spinach and quinoa stew

 I knew I wanted chickpeas, and wasn't quite sure what else to do with them.  I was tempted by the thought of a not quite Buddha bowl, but then it was a horrible day so I decided I fancied some comfort food.  And this was dead easy!  Serves 4.

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and then cooked for 12 minutes in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot (or use 1x400 g tin, drained and rinsed.  Your call!)
2 small red onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 chunk butternut, peeled and diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes, plus 1 tinful water
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon harissa spices
1 tsp Moroccan seasoning
1 tsp ras el hanout
(or 2 tsp of whichever one of those you prefer)
1/2 tsp all-purpose seasoning
A few sprays of cooking oil
1/2 packet of spinach, wilted under boiling water and roughly chopped.

Put the onion and garlic into a heavy-based pan with the cooking oil, and allow to cook for a few minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to the boil, and allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Add the spinach and stir until it wilts, then serve at once.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Sag Paneer

 I keep on experimenting with curries, and I don't suppose this is authentic, but it is very good!  Serves 2

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 chunk root ginger (I use frozen cubes, but if you use whole ginger, then peeled and grated)
2 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 packet paneer, cubed
1-2 tbs cooking oil
1-2 tsp curry powder, either proprietary or a blend of cumin, cardamom, mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder (I blend this up in advance)
1/2 package baby spinach leaves.

Put the spices and oil in a pan and fry for a moment or two, then add the paneer and fry, stirring frequently, until the cheese is brown on all sides.  Lift this out and put aside.
Blend the onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes into a puree and then put this in the pan where the paneer just was, and fry this off gently for about 10-15 minutes, again stirring frequently (I cooked rice to go with this while I was at it).  Wilt the spinach by putting it into a colander and pouring boiling water over it, then when it has cooled a little, roughly chop it.  When the puree is cooked - it will have thickened up nicely and stopped looking raw - add in the spinach and the paneer, with a splash of boiling water if necessary, and bring back to the boil.  Serve with rice or naan or similar. 

I might try making this - or a similar curry - with a tin of tomatoes, pureeing the onion, ginger and garlic separately (perhaps with a drop of water).... we shall see.  I like experimenting, and I like curry!  

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Very Nearly Vegan Lasagne

 This would be quite vegan if you didn't put cheese on it, or if you substituted a vegan "cheese" for the real stuff.

Sauce the first (mock bechamel)

1 large leek, green parts removed
1/2 medium cauliflower
Chunk butternut squash
3/4 cup unsalted cashew nuts
Sprig of rosemary (if you have some)
Salt, pepper and dry mustard powder.
Enough water to come up to the minimum level in your soup maker, if you have one, or just to cover.

Chop the leek, peel and chop the butternut, render the cauliflower into florets

If you have a soup maker, put everything in there and cook on pureed soup.  If you don't, put it all in a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes, until soft.  Blend until smooth.

Sauce the second (mock ragu)

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 punnet mushrooms
2 slices bread
About 1/3-1/2 cup walnuts
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Salt, pepper, herbs, mushroom ketchup

Peel and chop the onion, peel and crush the garlic.  Put them into a saucepan with a little cooking oil and allow to sweat for several minutes.  Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until their juices run. 

Meanwhile, use a food processor (or mini food processor, which is what I used) to turn the bread and walnut into crumbs.

Put the breadcrumb mix into the vegetable mix and add the tin of tomatoes.  Season to taste.

To assemble:

6-8 sheets lasagne
1/2 packet grated cheese (if using)

Layer the mock ragu, pasta sheets and mock bechamel in a lasagne dish in that order, finishing with a layer of mock bechamel.

  If you are using cheese, pile it on the top. 

Bake in a moderate oven for about 30-45 minutes.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020


 I expect there are almost as many variations on fish and rice as there are on chicken and rice.  My current favourite is called Samak Meshweh, from a local Lebanese restaurant, which we have had delivered several times during lockdown - it's basically sea bass, marinated in lemon and garlic, served on a bed of rice with garlic sauce.  Very yummy.  But one can't always eat takeaway, nor, indeed, sea bass (not at £4 for 2 tiny fillets, you can't), and I love things-in-rice, so this was an Interesting Dish of my Own Invention. 

2 frozen haddock fillets (or cod, or any other white fish that takes your fancy)
knob of butter, for frying

1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red pepper
1/2 cauliflower
1/2 punnet mushrooms
4-5 sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup rice
1 1/4 cups boiling water with seasoning added (see method)
1 tbs cream cheese - optional.  I used a new Philly with smoked salmon that was on special offer in Tesco.

Peel and chop the onion, peel and crush the garlic, chop the pepper, cauliflower, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Put in a heavy-bottomed casserole with a little cooking oil, and sauté for a few minutes.  Now add the rice and stir thoroughly, then add the water, which you have seasoned with - well,  your choice of seasoning.  1 used 1 tsp of a lemon/garlic/herb mix I just bought from Tesco, 1 tsp sumac, 1/2 tsp  all-purpose seasoning (Dunn's river) and 2 teaspoons of "fumet de poisson", which is a French fish stock powder, although it sounds as though it's fish manure... Also sea salt with oregano and sorrel, and black pepper. 

But use what you fancy - chicken or vegetable stock would probably work if you have no fish stock.  Bring back to the boil, stir thoroughly, cover and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.  

Just before the rice finishes cooking, fry the fish fillets in the butter on both sides for about 5 minutes - they'll take a bit longer if they are frozen, but not much.  If you are using cream cheese, stir it through the rice, and then serve with the fish on the top.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Vegan (well, almost) pasta bake

I had long been wanting to try the pasta sauce you make from cashew nuts, and, as I had bought a cauliflower, I thought I would make a cauliflower cheese using it.  Only things got a bit away from me, as they are apt to do.  And I didn't measure anything much, except to make sure it reached the "minimum" level of my soup maker.  If you don't have a soup maker, simmer everything on top of the stove for 15-20 minutes and then blend it.

Handful unsalted cashew nuts (I started by soaking 1/3 cup of them in boiling water, but then decided to add some more at the last minute, so probably 1/2-3/4 cup)
The outside leaves of a cauliflower, roughly chopped
A large-ish chunk of butternut squash, peeled and chopped
An onion, peeled and quartered, and a peeled clove of garlic
Seasoning:| salt, pepper, mustard, rosemary (I have some fresh rosemary at the moment!)
Enough water to make sure it reaches the minimum level of your soup maker.
Your choice of pasta in the amount you like.

Put everything except the pasta into the soup maker (or saucepan) and cook on "pureed soup".  Cook the pasta separately.  I found I had far too much sauce for the amount of pasta, so have saved some to live to fight another day, perhaps with a jacket potato and hard-boiled egg.  

I sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top, which rendered it vegetarian (arguably not that if you don't consider Parmesan vegetarian) rather than vegan, but you don't have to.  Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes.  It was delicious!

Friday, 5 June 2020

Not quite a Buddha bowl

This is an adaptation of a meal I used to make some years ago.  Had it been cold, with perhaps some asparagus or avocado added, I could have put it in a bowl and called it a Buddha bowl.  As it is.... not quite! Serves 2

1/2 cup dried chickpeas (125 ml by volume)
1/2 cup quinoa (125 ml by volume)
1/2 head broccoli
1 tomato
1 clove garlic
1 tbs tahini
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
Hot water as needed (see recipe).

Soak the chickpeas in boiling water to which you have added a little bicarbonate of soda (or not, you don't have to add this).  Cook for 18 minutes in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, or for 45 minutes or so (depends on how fresh they are) on the stovetop.  I cooked them with a vegetable stock cube, but as you wish.

Put the quinoa in a saucepan with some salt and 250 ml boiling water.  Bring back to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow to sit, covered, for a further 10 minutes while the water  is absorbed.

Cut the broccoli into florets; peel the thick stalk and cut into slices.  Steam until cooked.

Slice the tomato.

For the dressing, crush the garlic and put it, the tahini, lemon juice and olive oil into a dressing shaker (or, perhaps better, a mini food-processor), and thin down if necessary with hot water.

Pile everything on a plate and pour the dressing over.  Delicious!

Friday, 22 May 2020

"Yelm", or home-made lemon squash.

It was my father, I think, who first called it "Yelm",  as a way of distinguishing it from other kinds of lemon drink.  Certainly my family have been making it for well over 50 years - I remember taking a supply to school in empty whisky bottles, which slightly disconcerted the House Mistress and Matron - it would have been a lot worse had I been bringing in whisky or gin in empty lemon squash bottles, of course.... Yelm, by the way, is very nice mixed with gin if you like gin.

Measurements are in Imperial, as that's what we used back in the day.  I'll put rough metric equivalents in brackets.

Rind and juice of 3 lemons
2 oz citric acid (approx 50g)
2 lbs sugar (a little less than 1 kg)
3 pints boiling water (1.75 litres)
Optionally, you could add elderflower blossoms or crushed mint (I love mint in lemon drinks so I used the latter).
Empty bottles - to take at least 2.25 litres

Mix everything together in a large jug or bowl and stir until the sugar and acid have dissolved.  Strain, and pour into bottles (if you don't strain, it doesn't last so long as the lemon peel is apt to go mouldy); keep in the fridge and dilute to taste.  I imagine that if you wanted lemon barley water, you could use this as a base instead of making from scratch......