Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Quorn Fillets in Vermouth with Tarragon & Creme Fraiche

Serves 2, takes about 30 minutes (plus thawing if frozen). Easy recipe. From calorie-counting sites, this comes out at about 320 cals per serving, mainly because of the oil and creme fraiche. The latter could be replaced by yogurt for a lower count.

Not everyone likes to eat vegetarian food that looks like meat, and interestingly, Quorn are now calling their fillets 'Chicken Fillets' - it's Vegetarian Society approved though, and I guess they get away with it by making this clear on the front of the pack.

I've been a fan of Quorn for some time, in fact since they changed to free-range eggs in order to get Veg Soc approval for the whole range, and more customers. It's not that they look like meat - and have similar texture - but that they are enjoyable in their own right and, especially, versatile.

When we go to have lunch with rellies where we all have different likes, each of us chooses a meal and brings it to the occasion. I devised this recipe for mine and everyone commented how luscious it looked; I'm sure I had the best deal! But for the reason why there's no pic of the finished dish, see below ...

The quantity serves two, but of course can easily be doubled or - as in my lunch - halved! With this method, the cook needs to be on hand all the time, but if there's a need to leave the kitchen for a while, the recipe could be made up from steps 1 to 5 inclusive, and the food placed in a shallow oven dish and left in a moderate oven (say 150C) to finish cooking  for 15 minutes, with the creme fraiche added just before serving.


Quorn Fillets in Vermouth with Tarragon & Creme Fraiche
Ingredients
2 tbsp oil
4 Quorn fillets
half a leek, trimmed & finely sliced
75g mushrooms (about 6 medium), wiped & stalks trimmed, coarsely sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (leaves only) or 1 good tsp dried
75 ml white vermouth (preferably dry)
150 ml hot vegetarian stock (e.g. scant tsp bouillon powder)
100ml creme fraiche

Method
1  Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a medium pan, medium heat, then saute the fillets gently
        for 5 mins, turning once during cooking, so that they are lightly browned.
2  Remove the fillets from the pan, add the remaining oil and saute the leeks for
        4-5 minutes, stirring at times, until starting to brown.
3  Add the mushrooms and saute gently for 2 mins, stirring at least once.
4  Return the fillets to the pan with the tarragon & vermouth, and cook 5 more mins.
5  Stir in the stock.
6  Simmer for 5-7 mins more, then stir in the creme fraiche to thicken the sauce
        just before serving. Place two fillets on each plate and spoon the sauce over.

Adapting
A medium onion could be used instead of leek. Dry sherry would work instead of vermouth, or this could be omitted and the volume of stock increased a little. Tarragon is the business here, but otherwise thyme leaves, coriander or parsley could stand in.

Serving
Suggest new or 'baby' potatoes and whole French beans. Rice at a pinch. To accompany, dry white wine, cider or apple juice.

Fessing Up!
When I rustled this up for the rellie meal, I forgot to take its picture, although it looked very appetising. Then, for the same purpose, made it again a few days later; remembered to have the camera at the ready, took the picture - sauce dark and forbidding since I'd forgotten to stir in the creme fraiche (which makes it paler and a better background for the fillets). Could my word do for this? 


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Mushroom, Leek & Goat Cheese Mille Feuilles

Those who love desserts will know that 'mille feuilles' is French for 'a thousand leaves', so called as it's usually made with sweet stuff sandwiched between layers of puff pastry. My recipe here is a savoury version, and for me it's a keeper. I made two individual servings, but for any more than that it would be better to make one long piece and carve with a very sharp knife to serve.

Each ingredient can be prepared in advance, but otherwise, once the pastry is thawed, the whole thing could be done from start to serving in about an hour. The extra in the picture is smashed roasted baby potatoes - the potatoes are simmered for about 5 minutes, then drained and crushed a little (e.g. with the end of a rolling pin) before placing in an oiled tin and putting in the oven about 15 minutes before the pastry goes in.

To toast flaked almonds, warm a small pan and dry fry them for 3-4 mins, stirring often to prevent burning.

Mushroom, Leek & Goat Cheese Mille Feuilles - serves 2 but easily increased.

The pastry should be thawed in the fridge for a few hours. The oven needs to be at just under 200C; suggest turning it on once the filling ingredients are individually prepared and before rolling out the pastry. Line a baking sheet with parchment.


Ingredients
About 130g frozen puff pastry, thawed (if from a frozen rolled sheet, cut a piece about 12cm long)
few drops of milk
1 tbsp oil
1 small leek, trimmed and finely sliced
80g mushrooms (approx 4 medium) trimmed and finely sliced
40g soft goat cheese (about 4cm from a log), sliced into four
1 good tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or parsley/coriander)
2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Method
1  If using part of a sheet of pastry, open out the strip and roll out gently to be just a little longer and wider. 
    Cut evenly crossways into six pieces.
    If using a block, roll out thinly to a strip around 24 cm x 12cm, then halve lengthwise and cut each strip
    crossways into three pieces. Place on the baking sheet and brush lightly with milk.

2  Put the pastry pieces in to bake for 15 minutes. When they're puffed and golden, remove from the oven
    but don't turn it off yet.

3  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium pan and saute the leek for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add
    the mushrooms and thyme and saute for a further 5 mins. Add the goat cheese, almonds and a good
    pinch of pepper and mix well.

4  To build the mille feuilles, press down lightly on four of the cooked pieces, keeping the other two as they 
    are for the tops. Divide half of the filling between two of the flattened pastry pieces and cover them with 
    the other two. Spread the remaining filling over these and top them with the remaining two, pressing down
    gently but without breaking the puffiness.

5  Return to the oven for 5 minutes to heat through.

And there you have it. Substitutions can be made for the filling, e.g. onions for the leek, cream cheese for goats, chopped walnuts or hazels instead of almonds. For glamour, the mushrooms could have a splash of sherry, brandy or vermouth in which to simmer until the liquid is reduced. Shredded spinach could be added to the pan with the mushrooms. A hot vegetable of choice would be right for this, and a light wine would do justice, perhaps a dry white.

I'm thinking this would make a good vegetarian main for Christmas lunch, with preps done earlier, though it needs attention for the last 20 minutes. The ingredients could also be transported easily if the cook should be working in someone else's kitchen!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Wild Rice with Apricots and Coconut - Easy Main Dish or Side

What's sold as wild rice is, more usually, a mixture of long-grain rice and dark-skinned rarer rice-alike special grass seeds. It makes a dish more visually appealing, I think, although it does take much longer to cook than straight rice - about 45 minutes on the hob or an hour or so in a pre-heated slow cooker. It needs still to have a bit of bite when it's served.

This recipe would serve around 2-3 as a main course, or a good 4 as a side. Nothing complicated about it, and quantities could of course be reduced although cooking time would be about the same. Time to prepare is 15-20 minutes. Any leftovers are good at room temperature.

Wild Rice with Apricots and Coconut

Ingredients
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, peeled and fairly finely chopped
180g wild rice
8 dried soft ready-to-eat apricots, snipped to hazelnut size
20g desiccated coconut
400ml (approx) vegetarian stock
1 heaped tbsp cumin seeds (optional)

Method
1 Heat the oil in a medium to large pan.
2 Add the onion and fry gently for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
3 Add the rice and fry gently for 2 mins, stirring to coat with the oil.
4 Add the apricots, coconut, stock and cumin seeds and mix well.
5 Leave to simmer gently on the hob for about 45 mins (or according to packet
       instructions), stirring fairly often and adding a little more stock or water if it's 
       absorbed before the rice is ready.
(If using a slow cooker, tip the mixture in at stage 5 and leave for an hour or so until the rice has a chewable texture but still with bite. Stir from time to time.)

Variations
A handful of roasted peanuts or cashews could be added at stage 5, or coarsely chopped hazel nuts, perhaps instead of the cumin seeds. Herbs such as thyme or coriander could be added towards the end of cooking.

Accompaniments
If the rice is served to the side of the plate, vegetarian sausages or burgers would go well, as would, say, a fried chick pea patty or two or some falafel. A roasted half butternut squash would be good, filled with a little seasoned goat cheese and breadcrumbs - or indeed filled with the wild rice itself. Perhaps a glass of rich red, maybe Hungarian, too.

 
 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Fennel Recipe - How to Make It Less Like Marmite

It's a strange one, fennel. Looks lovely, but tastes of aniseed if eaten raw as in shredded for salad. Not my favourite way. (Don't like anise drinks either, but aniseed balls always desirable.) Cook it in an interesting way, though, and its flavour is far milder and a little like celery in consistency as well as taste. It's not that cheap a veg compared with, say, carrots - I paid 85p for one bulb at the greengrocer's - but cheaper than a large aubergine!

It's the old Marmite analogy - instinctively you either love it or hate it. But this recipe makes it delightful for some, and 'quite nice' for others (e.g. Mr P). I really don't think anyone could dislike the result. (Stand by for contradictions.)

The recipe is a variant of one found in the Cook supplement of the Observer, devised by leftoverliz (http://lizsleftovers.blogspot.co.uk). It takes about 30 mins from start to serving, and is prepared on the hob. The quantities make 2 good portions as a substantial side dish.

Fennel with Garlic and Orange Juice

Ingredients  
1 tbsp oil - olive or rapeseed are good
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed or finely chopped
1 tsp soft brown sugar (optional)
1 bulb of fennel, sliced fairly finely, slices halved (I remove fronds and base)
15g butter
120ml orange juice
Optional 10 pitted green olives, halved




Method
1  Heat the oil in a medium pan and gently sautee the onion and garlic with the
         sugar for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
2  Add the butter and stir to melt.
3  Add the fennel and orange juice, and simmer gently for 20 mins, stirring at times.
4  If using olives, stir them in just before serving.

*               *               *               *               *

Mains that would go with this include vegburgers or sausages, pasties, and pasta. We had a quick dish of cooked penne, cheese sauce (yep, from a packet), grated Lyburn's Old Winchester cheese (like Parmesan), Dijon mustard, chopped walnuts and black pepper. Started at the same time as the fennel, took 20 mins, then into a hot oven for the last 10 mins to heat through so both ready at the same time. Thinking as a main dish, addition of a drained can of chick peas?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Cauliflower, Stilton & Tomato Tart, a pub favourite

While thinking of dropping into a chain pub/restaurant, I checked their menu online, probably like countless other skeptical vegetarians. Only two choices appeared, a simple pasta dish, or - cauliflower, cheese and tomato tart. That'd be good. But then again, it sounded so simple that I decided to make it at home. Cauliflower, cheese, tomato, pastry?

The freezer already contains portions of various tarts, but since I enjoy making them to eat straight from the oven, we forget to forage for them. Accordingly, I make this dish for just two portions, especially as there was half a rolled sheet of puff pastry in the freezer just asking for it. Hence the picture which looks as though the tart is topped with giant tomatoes. 

The quantities here would make four to six helpings. Once the pastry is thawed in the fridge, the tart takes about an hour from start to serving and there are no complicated manoeuvres. The step of brushing the pastry with egg and baking an initial five minutes before filling isn't vital, but it helps to form a barrier to prevent the base from becoming soggy.

Cauliflower, Stilton and Tomato Tart
The oven will need to be at 175C, middle shelf. A baking sheet ready lined with parchment will make sure the pastry doesn't stick while cooking. The pastry should be thawed, preferably overnight or for a few hours in the fridge. If you like pastry to be thin, the sheet can be rolled out to a slightly larger area.

Ingredients
1 sheet of frozen rolled puff pastry
1 medium cauliflower trimmed into small florets (leaves can be saved to use later)
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion (or 2 medium), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml double cream
100g Stilton, crumbled (or another blue cheese or Cheddar)
Half tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced

Method
1  Unroll the pastry and place centrally on the lined baking sheet. Turn up about 15mm
         all around the edge, pinching the corners to help keep the turn-up in place. Prick
         the base a number of times with a fork to help prevent it rising in the oven.
2  Put the oven on about now!
3  Boil a good amount of water in a large pan. Add the cauliflower and simmer 6-7 mins
         then drain well and leave to cool a little.
4  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan, then saute the onions gently for 5 mins.
5  Brush the pastry case very thinly with a little of the beaten egg; put it in the oven
         for 5 mins to help seal the base, then remove from oven.
6  Add the cream to the eggs and mix well. Stir in the crumbled cheese and the salt &
         pepper.
7  When the tart is out, press the base down gently if it has risen. Spread the onions 
         over the base and arrange the cauliflower florets over them. Pour the egg mixture
         carefully on top, then arrange the tomato slices over the tart.
8  Bake for about 25 mins until the pastry is golden and the filling looks set.

We served this with only a heap of buttered Jersey Royals sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander. And a dry white wine.

A chopped herb of choice could be sprinkled over the tart before cooking, or sliced mushrooms added just before baking. 

An alternative presentation is to make individual tarts, either on a baking sheet using the 'turn-up' way, or using a tray of individual Yorkshire pudding tins. In this case, slightly less filling would be needed. The tart is nice at room temperature, but if there are leftovers, I think they're nicest given about 5 mins in the oven to crisp up the pastry. Shortcrust pastry would be OK and perhaps more traditional, but I'm seduced by the golden flakiness of puff pastry and always have it in the freezer. 

I keep two files of recipe cuttings and scribblings. One has ideas which sound great but are yet to be tried, but the other is the tried-and-tested collection, separated into lots of categores in a really nerdy way, e.g.starters not soup, soup, mains with pastry, mains with pasta, veg sides, biscuits/cakes.This recipe has gone straight into the latter.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Nut and Vegetarian Mince Loaf - a good slicer

First, an acknowledgement of the source of this recipe. It's a suggested Christmas loaf from Mary McCartney and the link was tweeted by @MeatFreeMonday. I have adapted the ingredients and method mildly and altered timings, and when I made it, this amount would serve 5-6. We really liked it; Mr P is not one for nut loaves usually, but I persuaded him that he likes every single ingredient and it went very well.

Although I work quite quickly in the kitchen, the loaf took 1 hour 45 minutes from start to serving, which is a little longer than the original - planned to serve it with The Archers but it wasn't ready, so 7.15 it was. This timing includes an hour's baking, so plenty of time to sort out the veg. I served it with baby hasselback potatoes (cooked in the oven for the last 35 mins) and broccoli, with a packet cheese sauce - Asda do a good one, not too calorific, which just requires addition of boiling water.

There are no complicated procedures - ingredients are added one by one to a single saucepan, then cooled briefly before piling into the baking tin.

Nut and Vegetarian Mince Loaf
 A 2lb (larger of the two common sizes) loaf tin is needed, lined with baking parchment. The oven will need to be at 175C, middle shelf.

Ingredients
2 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, peeled & finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, trimmed & finely chopped
40g pine nuts, lightly toasted*
50g walnut pieces, chopped finely
100g cooked chopped chestnuts (e.g. canned or vacuum packed, or cook from raw)
125g vegetarian mince (I used Quorn)
3 tbsp chopped fresh sage (or thyme leaves)
125g bread pulsed into fine crumbs
150ml vegetarian stock
3 eggs, lightly beaten together
scant tsp salt
plenty of ground black pepper

* To toast the nuts, put in a small dry pan over a moderate heat and stir frequently until they start to brown, then remove from heat. Takes only about 3 mins.

Method
1  Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the onions and celery and sautee for 5 mins.
2  Add the pine nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, mince and sage. Stir well and sautee gently
         for a further 10 mins.
3  Stir in the breadcrumbs and continue cooking for 10 mins more, stirring often.
4  Add the stock and mix well, then cook just a further couple of minutes.
5  Tip the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool for 5 mins (so the eggs don't cook).
6  Add the eggs, salt and pepper and mix well, then tip into the loaf tin, smooth over
         and press down with the back of a spoon.
7  Bake for 30 mins, then turn out upside down onto a baking sheet. Remove the
         parchment and return to the oven for a further 30 mins. The edges should be
         golden and a little crispy.
8  This slices better if then left for 5 mins, and a sharp knife will be needed. The loaf
         slices really well when cold, too - like this:

 
Adaptations
I wouldn't tinker much with this recipe now that it works for me - it's a keeper. But you could add three peeled and crushed garlic cloves, or - to make it more festive - say 2 tbsp of chunky cranberry sauce. Or Branston pickle. Or horseradish sauce. Red wine could be used instead of stock, but I haven't tried that. As if!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Aubergine Canneloni - Family Meal to Prep in Advance

Can it be called 'canneloni' if it contains no pasta? I think the style of the content justifies it.

I devised this dish as a nice way to serve aubergines - they're lovely to look at, but suffer an awful fate sometimes in sloppy dishes such as overcooked mass-produced ratatouille. And in most recipes the slices are fried before baking, which allows them to absorb as much oil as they're given. I prefer to microwave the slices and then allow the other ingredients to work their magic in the oven or on the hob.  
via richard_north
The recipe serves 4 but can easily be halved, doubled, or - as in my picture below - increased by half to serve six. The preparation takes 50 minutes or so, but can be done in advance by making the canneloni and keeping (covered) in the fridge overnight and making up the sauce and keeping separately. Baking the dish takes about 35min.

Aubergine Canneloni
Lightly oil a rectangular (approx 20x14cm) or square (17x17cm) fairly shallow oven-proof dish.
The oven should be at 175C when the dish is assembled ready to bake, middle shelf.

Ingredients
2 large aubergines
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion
large can chopped tomatoes
150ml white wine or vegetarian stock (otherwise water)
1 tsp soft dark brown sugar (otherwise clear honey)
salt & pepper
200g low fat soft cheese or Ricotta
50g grated vegetarian Cheddar
sprig of basil, snipped
50g finely chopped nuts (or flaked almonds)
 
Method
1  Trim away the ends of the aubergines and carve lengthwise into thin (about 7mm) 
         slices. Discard the skin-covered outer edge from each side; this should leave 
         about 8 slices for each aubergine.
2  Sprinkle with a little water and microwave on high for 3 mins in two batches, 
         spreading the slices around the plate.
3  Heat the oil in a medium pan. Peel and coarsely chop the onion and fry for 5min.
4  Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 10min. (Meanwhile, go to 6 below.)
5  Add the wine, stock or water and sugar to the pan; simmer a further 10min. Add
         salt/pepper as required. Set aside for now.
6  Meanwhile, mix the soft cheese, Cheddar, basil and nuts in a bowl and season.
7  Spread each aubergine slice almost to each end with the cheese mixture and
         roll up tightly. Pack in the oven dish in a single layer, seam side down.
8  Bake for 20min (without the sauce). 
9  Pour the tomato sauce over the dish, helping it to filter between the aubergine rolls. 
         Bake for a further 15min until well bubbling.

As so often, in the excitement of serving, I forgot to take a photo of the completed dish, so here's what was left of recipe-and-a-half after six people were served! (More went as seconds ...)
A decent side salad would go well, and as there's no pasta, perhaps baby potatoes. Since I tend to overcater with so many things I love to produce, here's the actual menu for this family lunch:
aubergine canneloni, baby roasted potatoes, mini stuffed sweet pepper halves, chick pea salad, pea/mint/onion relish, dark olive tapenade, French stick, savoury crackers. Followed by blackberry and apple crumble (topped with ground cardamom seeds), fresh strawberries and melon balls in mango juice, and Chantilly cream - but that's another story.