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.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Lush Lemon Drizzle Traybake - Vegan Version

Some time ago I blogged my recipe for lemon drizzle squares, and it's still a favourite in our house. However, since I offered to bring cake to my book-signing at our independent October Books in Southampton, and some of the staff there are vegan, a suitable adaptation was needed. I've some experience of wheat-free baking, but less with vegan, so sleeves were rolled up, teddy bear apron tied round the waist, and off we went. This is adapted to be really easy - the ingredients are mixed with just a spoon.

Here's what the rough copy of the final recipe looked like:
Some tidying up needed here.
This makes 25+ squares, of course depending on how small you want them. The picture at the end has more, as the pieces were intended as nibbles rather than whole portions.

Preps take about 20 mins, baking 30 mins, then drizzling just a further minute or two, followed by cooling time. The result was, I have to say, one of my best ever cakes.

Lush Lemon Drizzle Traybake - Vegan Version
The baking tin should have an area of about 400sq cm - that's about 26x17, or 21cm square. The tin should be lined (bottom and sides) with baking parchment. A fine grater is needed and a means of juicing the lemons - here are my trusty tools:



The oven should be heated to 175C, middle shelf ready.

Ingredients
225ml soya milk
2 tsp white vinegar (wine, balsamic or cider)**
2 lemons
75ml oil, e.g. olive
200g + 65g gran sugar
250g plain flour
2 rounded tsp baking powder

(** I checked some websites and it seems Waitrose Essential White Wine Vinegar and Cider Vinegar are OK, and Tesco White Wine Vinegar. Couldn't find info on sites for Aldi, Lidl or Asda. The Vegan Society site suggests almost all vinegar is suitable.)

                                                
Method
Mix the soya milk and vinegar in a small bowl; it may curdle, which is good.
2 Grate the zest of both lemons and place in a large bowl with the juice of one of them,
         saving the juice of the other for the drizzle later.
3  Add the milk/vinegar mix, the oil and 200g of the sugar and mix well with a spoon.
4  Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix gently, trying to eliminate any lumps.
5  Pour the mixture into the tin - it will be quite runny. Bake for 27-30 mins until the
         cake is golden and a skewer poked right to the bottom comes out clean. Then
         remove from the oven but keep in the tin.
6  While it cools, make the drizzle by mixing the remaining 65g of sugar with the juice of
         the second lemon and warm through without boiling so as to keep the crunch (hob 
         or 20sec in the microwave).
7  Make plenty of holes around the surface of the cake with a skewer then spoon the 
         drizzle slowly all over it so that it spreads over the surface and drips into the holes.
8  Leave until nearly cold then use a very sharp knife to cut into squares.

Oops! One piece missing.

Next project might be a vegan orange drizzle traybake - although it's hard to veer away from lemon if you love it as I do. Other possibilities are coconut, cranberry, even choc chip. Or even chopped hazelnuts and a maple syrup drizzle. Lovely!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Onion, Sage and Garlicky Soup

A quick posting of the recipe for my latest soup - there were enquiries on twitter!

I made it up as I went along, and it disappeared in double-quick time at lunch, so no pictures available. The quantities are therefore approximate, and this recipe serves two. I use a stick blender for soup but it can be whizzed in a processor. This would be vegan if the milk were omitted and the stock increased a little, and of course leaving out the cream.

Should take 30-35 mins from start to serving.

Onion, Sage and Garlicky Soup

Ingredients
2 tbsp oil
5 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 medium potato (washed but no need to peel), cut into 2cm dice
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (or use a garlic press)
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 pint of hot vegetarian stock , e.g. using Marigold Bouillon powder
about 2 tbsp snipped fresh sage leaves (or 1 tbsp dried)
1 tbsp ground cumin
200ml any organic milk
optional: a little double cream and snipped coriander to serve

Method
1  Heat the oil in a large pan (a deep one if you'll be using a stick blender).
2  Add the onions, potato, garlic and sugar and cook gently for 10 mins, stirring
          occasionally.
3 Add the stock and simmer a further 5 mins.
4  Add the sage and cumin, and simmer again 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
5  Puree using a stick blender, or whizz in the processor.
6 When ready to serve the soup, stir in the milk and bring again to a simmer.
         Ladle into bowls, then swirl a little cream (if using) gently over the surface
         and sprinkle the coriander over.

Without the cream, this is a relatively low-fat soup and it's very warming. More liquid can be added if the result is a little thick for the cook's liking, and thyme would serve instead of sage. I hope you like it!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Boston Baked Beans with Sausages: Warming and Treacly

Commercial tinned baked beans: ready in five. Boston Baked Beans: ready in 2h 20m. However, most of the Boston time does not need any attention, the recipe is tweakable, and the results are very pleasing.

Our slow cooker is small and the quantity here serves 2. Mr P likes Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages, while I prefer the Lincolnshire type, so we used two of each. Haricot beans could, of course, be bought dried, then soaked overnight and cooked vigorously, but I've used a can.

The only 'equipment' needed is the slow cooker, a small bowl and a melamine/wooden spoon! If you want to have a go at the recipe and don't have a slow cooker, use an ovenproof dish and keep in the oven, covered, for the duration on a lowish temp - around 130C - so that it bubbles very gently once heated up. Still stir occasionally. In the early stages the sauce may seem runny, but it thickens up nicely towards the end of the cooking time.

Treacle, sugar, mustard & sputniks
Boston Baked Beans with Sausages

Ingredients
410g tin haricot beans in water
2 small onions, each studded with 3 cloves
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 good tbsp black treacle
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp dijon mustard (or wholegrain)
Half tsp salt
Plenty of ground black pepper
4 vegetarian sausages
Juice and grated zest of half a lemon

Method
1  Switch slow cooker on to high.
2  Drain the beans (saving the liquid) and add to the cooker with the onions.
3  Place the sugar, treacle, puree, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper in the bowl with
         3 tbsp of the liquid from the beans and mix well. This will be quite syrupy to start.
4  Leave to cook for about 75 mins, stirring occasionally. Once it's bubbling gently,
         alter the setting from high to medium/low/auto, whatever keeps it at that point.
5  Add the sausages and mix around so they're covered in the beans and sauce.
6  Leave to cook for a further 45 mins.
7  Discard the onions (or save for soup), then stir in the lemon juice and zest.
8  Cook a further 5-10 mins for the lemon flavour to mix in.


As alternatives, black-eyed beans could replace haricots, and a couple of tablespoons of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce could be used instead of lemon juice.

With these we had small Charlotte potatoes with optional parsley butter, but roasties would go well, as would rostis or bought breaded potato cakes. A nice full-bodied red wine goes well. So I'm told. 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Sweet Party Nibbles: Choc & Cherry Palmiers

Most party guests are happy to dive into a savoury buffet, but watch their eyes when the desserts come out! These small palmiers are easy to make, look good, and taste excellent. I invented them when invited to pre-lunch drinks with neighbours, since usually I'd take either chocolates or savoury nibbles such as cheese crisps, and wanted a change.

Dried cranberries could replace the cherries, halved if large - or even cranberry sauce - but good cherries are, for me, the food of the gods.

A cherry stoner (usually combined with garlic press - nice combination ...) saves time and is a little less messy. The palmiers should take about 40mins from start to ready, not including time to thaw the pastry (overnight in the fridge or 2-3hours at room temp). Equipment needed, apart from cherry stoner, is just a baking sheet lined with parchment, a rolling pin (or even a straight-sided bottle!) and a sharp knife.

The recipe makes about 36 nibble-sized palmiers, and the oven should be at 175C.
50p piece indicates size
Chocolate & Cherry Palmiers
Ingredients
Half sheet of frozen ready-rolled puff pastry (or 180g) (see Method 1)
40g fresh cherries, stoned
120g chocolate or choc/hazelnut spread
A little beaten egg
1 tbsp gran sugar

Method
1  With the rolled pastry sheet still frozen, cut it in half crossways and leave it to thaw.
         The other half can return to the freezer.
2  Chop the cherries quite finely.
3  Unroll the thawed pastry on a floured board, and roll it just a little more thinly 
         widthways. Don't worry if the longer edges are not straight.
4  Spread the chocolate evenly over the pastry - if it's too thick and threatens to tear
         the pastry, it could be microwaved for 10secs first.
5  Scatter the cherry pieces in two lines lengthwise a little in from the edges like so:
The red silicon pastry mat doesn't do
any favours here, but bear with me
6  Roll up each long edge tightly towards the middle. Just before they 'meet', brush the
         facing edges with egg to help seal them, then press together and turn the whole
         thing over so the join is on the underside.
7  With a very sharp knife, slice into 10-12mm pieces. Place them flat on the baking
         sheet, a little apart, and brush them all over with egg. Sprinkle the sugar over.
8  Bake for 10-12mins or until the pastry is golden brown. 

These were very well received at the drinks do, I'm glad to say, and the recipe has been transferred to the fat but hallowed 'recipes that work' file. As opposed to the 'recipes to try sometime' collection. However, it seems clear that I need to enrol on a course on food photography!