Monday, 29 June 2015

Riverford's Vegetarian Recipe Box Reviewed

We've received and enjoyed regular Riverford veg boxes in the past, though not currently as Mr P's veg plot is so productive. So it was very nice to be offered one of their new vegetarian recipe boxes to use and, if appropriate, review. The box contains three recipes, each said to serve two people.

All ingredients (apart from olive oil, salt & pepper) are included amounting to about 12 per recipe, and items to put in the fridge are clearly marked. Fresh veg/salad/fruit are neatly arranged either side of the middle compartment which contains all the cans, spices, oils etc in three sections to match the three recipes. Wherever possible, all ingredients are organic.

Each dish was very good, with both of us impressed. Instructions are very clear; however, the timings given to prepare and cook were always less than it took in my kitchen - and I am generally considered a fast and efficient cook! Quantities were generous (there were leftovers of everything) and all fresh foods were in very good condition. One other point - each recipe recommends preparing within 5 days, so once the box arrives the cook/s will need to bear this in mind when planning.

Here are the Thrilling Three, with brief comments (I can answer any other queries via the comments box):

Jerk Chickpeas & Roasted Peppers with Callaloo (spinach & coconut sauce)
This made two meals for us with some of each of the three components left over.  Greatly enjoyed it.

Broad Bean, Beetroot & Spelt with Sheep's Cheese, Radish & Mint
Of the three, this was my favourite. I even - for the first time ever - obeyed the instruction to remove the skins from the cooked broad beans! The mix was perfect, and the sheep's cheese crumbled over the top was really creamy - it's on my shopping list already.

Japanese Sesame Beans with Carrot & Aduki Miso Noodles 
I didn't toss the noodles/carrots/aduki beans which is why it looks different
This was Mr P's favourite of the three, and distinctively Japanese rather than Chinese. I was unsure about the quantity of water to add to the aduki beans and carrots, and found using only half the amount was perfect. I enjoyed this and used chopsticks with it, noodles notwithstanding.

*             *             *             *             *             *

There were no individual parts of the instructions which were difficult to understand or follow, so it's a case of 'anyone can do this' - although those who don't cook complex dishes that often may need to allow plenty of time.

So thank you, Riverford - this was good fun to complete and eat. I can certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to produce restaurant-quality vegetarian meals for two.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Tofu in Cider with Apple, Mushrooms & Garlic

Looking through this recipe, there are lots of possible substitutions to suit various tastes - see last section, though the details here are how I like it best. Can easily be made vegan.

Should take around 45 minutes all told, and it helps to prepare the first few ingredients before starting to cook (e.g. up to and including the mushrooms). This dish is relatively low in calories for a main course, and is cooked using one large frying pan and one ring on the hob. It would also work well in the slow cooker, adjusting the timescale of course.

Wish I'd snipped that large leaf.
Tofu in Cider with Apple, Mushrooms and Garlic - serves 2
1 tbsp oil
180g firm tofu, cut into bricks around 3 x 1.5 x 1cm
1 tsp oil
1 medium red onion, peeled & diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
2 tbsp fresh herbs such as thyme leaves or snipped sage or coriander
1 medium apple, cored and diced (no need to peel)
140g medium-sized mushrooms, trimmed & quartered
230ml vegetarian-suitable dry cider (or apple juice)
1 good tbsp Dijon mustard
100ml double cream (or 80g full fat cream cheese)
80g baby spinach leaves, washed
s & p
small handful of chives (or garlic chives), finely snipped

1  Heat the first measure of oil in a large frying pan. Meanwhile blot the tofu well
    in layers of kitchen paper before frying it gently for about 10mins, turning once,
    until lightly browned both sides. Remove from the pan.

2  Heat the second measure of oil in the pan and sautee the onion and garlic for
    5mins, stirring from time to time.

3  Add the herbs, apple and mushrooms and cook for a further 5mins, stirring

4  Add the cider (or apple juice), the mustard and the tofu; simmer 5mins.

5  Mix in the cream (or cream cheese) and spinach, and season well. Cook for 
    another couple of minutes until heated through and the spinach has wilted.

6  When serving, sprinkle each plate/bowl with the chives.

Alternative ingredients
•  Good with Quorn chunks in stead of tofu, or indeed with Quorn fillets kept whole.
•  Low fat cream cheese could be used, but tends to end up a little weaker.
•  Same with low-fat yogurt. Full fat would be OK.
•  White onions work as well as red, but just don't look quite so pretty.
•  Creamed horseradish could replace the mustard.
•  Chives might be replaced with very finely sliced onion, fried until crisp. 
•  For vegan version, check the cider and if dodgy, use apple juice. Substitute the
        cream/cheese with suitable cream such as Alpro.

Added Extras
Rice (preferably whole-grain), mash with parsley, or crusty bread.
Dry white wine or white grape juice - more apple juice might be a step too far.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Nice Savoury Tart for the Family - Leek, Mushroom & Walnut

Usually my recipes serve 2 or 4, but since I made this tart for 6 of us, here are the recipe and the quantities used. It's at its finest straight out of the oven - and is most easily divided by cutting with scissors! Can be eaten at room temperature, or - if there is any left - reheated in a moderate oven for about ten minutes.

Ready-rolled pastry is a little more expensive than block, but saves so much time. Here I used a single sheet of Sainsbury's puff pastry; it weighs 375g, which is a little more than most other brands, and just right for six.

Leek, Mushroom and Walnut Tart

375g sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
3 tbsp decent oil
4 fat leeks, trimmed & sliced to about 15mm
200g mushrooms, trimmed & thinly sliced
50g walnut pieces, chopped coarsely
2 eggs
150ml creme fraiche or double cream
90g blue cheese - preferably vegetarian Stilton
2 tbsp snipped sage leaves (or other herb)

1  Line a large rectangular baking sheet with parchment. Unroll the pastry and place 
    on the sheet, then use fingers to pinch up the sides all round to about 15mm.

2  Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large pan and saute 
    the leeks for about 10 mins; stir occasionally.
    Move them from the pan into a large bowl.

3  Add the rest of the oil to the pan and saute the
    mushrooms and walnuts for 3-4 mins. Add to 
    the leeks.

4  Beat the eggs lightly in a bowl with the creme 
    fraiche or cream, then crumble in the cheese, 
    add the sage and mix well.

5  Spread the leeks and mushrooms evenly across the pastry, then pour the egg/creme
    mixture over them and smooth out.

6  Bake for 30-35 mins until the filling is set and the pastry browning nicely.
Adjustments, Anyone?
If the family likes tomatoes, halved baby cherry or plum tomatoes could be dotted around the tart before baking, cut side upwards. If there's no sage, thyme leaves or coriander would be good. Hazel nuts could be substituted for walnuts, and you could add peas or sweetcorn!

We had a salad of baby spinach leaves, rocket, celery, cucumber, chopped dates and chopped pears. For a more substantial meal, buttered baby potatoes would be nice, and parsnips roasted in a lower shelf as the tart cooks instead of salad.

And to Drink?
Either a dry white wine or a light red (e.g. beaujolais) might go well, otherwise perhaps apple juice or just a sparkling mineral water.

Friday, 13 February 2015

A Pilgrim's Help in Confronting a Demon!

Couscous with Cheddar, Mushrooms and Onions

The company who make Pilgrims Choice kindly offered some of their cheese if I'd like to taste it, cook with it and blog about it. Since cheese is a favourite of ours, I was happy to say yes.  And because couscous has long been a problem for me - apparently healthy but bland - it seemed a good idea to take the bull by the horns, grasp the nettle, etc etc. Especially as middle-eastern food is trending in magazines.

Oddly, I get on well with tebbouleh which involves bulgar wheat - along with couscous, it's made from durum wheat. Bulgar could be a substitute here.

Pleased to say this actually worked well, so the birds will not be getting the rest of the couscous (after I soaked some to put in their latest bird cake-in-a-mug). The cheese was Pilgrims Choice Extra Mature Cheddar and made an excellent nibble before the cooking began. Would be a full-flavoured addition to a cheeseboard as well as for cooked dishes.

The recipe takes 30 minutes or so once the ingredients are ready. The quantities would serve 2 as a main; I made half because Mr P shares my uncertainly about the grain.

Couscous with Cheddar, Mushrooms and Onions

60g wholewheat couscous
150ml boiling water
30g pine nuts or flaked almonds (optional)
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion (80-100g), peeled and coarsely chopped
100g mushrooms, wiped and stalks trimmed, fairly thinly sliced
Heaped tbsp snipped herbs, e.g. parsley, coriander, basil, sage, or thyme leaves
50g cheddar, coarsely grated e.g. Pilgrims Choice Mature!

1  Place couscous in a small bowl. Stir in the water and leave for a few minutes.
2  Meanwhile, toast the nuts by heating gently in a small, dry pan for about 5 mins,
          stirring frequently to prevent charring.
3  Empty the nuts into the couscous. Use the same pan to heat the oil.
4  Fry the onions gently for 5 mins.
5  Add the mushrooms and fry a further 5 mins.
6  Add these to the couscous with the herbs and about 3/4 of the cheese and some
          ground black pepper and mix well.
7  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
8  Heat through by either microwaving (maybe 1min30secs) or placing under a hot grill
          for a couple of minutes.

The ingredients can be juggled around to some extent. Grated nutmeg might be good, or finely sliced leeks instead of onions. A couple of crushed garlic cloves could be added at Stage 4, as could some finely sliced red pepper.

To my surprise this was an easy cook-up that I'm very likely to prepare again. I don't expect to serve it to Mr P any time soon, but with this quantity, the second half could be chilled and reappear at room temperature the next day.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

What a Whopper! Courgette Longboats - Vegetarian or Vegan

Fritters, soup, stir-fried or baked, and still the courgettes come. When Mr P found one that had escaped his notice and grown to about 22cm, something had to be done with it. The result was a repeat of a recipe I devised for a competition a while ago; requirement was a cheap two-course meal and the prize was a set of kitchen white goods. Those were the days, when really good prizes were plentiful if you made the effort.

Courgettes stuffed with mainly inexpensive ingredients seemed worth a go, so I sliced them longways and scooped out the flesh to make a boat shape. Longboats seems a good title - really important in recipe competitions at that time. For info, the dessert recipe was for a butterscotch meringue mountain, which I still make quite often.

The recipe below serves two, or four for a starter as there are four pieces. It's vegetarian, but would be vegan if the bread is suitable (e.g. Everfresh Sprouted Rye Bread from Holland & Barrett; it's organic and free from dairy, wheat and yeast). Timing is under an hour from start to serving, and the dish is not diet-antagonistic! Quantities are approximate, depending on the size of the veg and how much you scoop out.

Courgette Longboats
1 very large courgette, or 2 medium, halved lengthways, & if large, across also
tsp of oil
1 medium onion, chopped fairly finely
1 large savoy cabbage leaf (or similar), spine removed, chopped
half slice of bread, preferably wholemeal, hand-crumbled or whizzed
juice (and optional grated zest) of half a lemon
3 tbsp cream cheese, pref lower fat
4 skinned, chopped tomatoes or 4 tbsp from a tin, drained of 'loose juice'
2 heaped tbsp walnut pieces
salt & pepper
Ready for the oven
1  Using a teaspoon, hollow out most of the courgette flesh, leaving each piece in
          a boat shape and reserving the flesh.
2  Heat the oil and fry the onion gently 3-4 mins.
3  Add the cabbage (or whatever greens) and fry a further 3 mins.
4  In a small bowl place all the rest of the ingredients, add the onion mixture
          and about a quarter of the removed flesh, finely chopped. Stir well.
5  Judge whether the amount is enough to fill the boats; if not, add a little more 
          onion, cream cheese and/or chopped flesh.
5  Place the boats, hollowed side up, in a greased oven-proof dish and pile the 
          mixture into them, pressing down as you go.
6  Cover the dish with foil and bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 mins
          until the shells are soft when pierced with a knife.

Served up with sauce

To the mixture could be added chopped mushrooms, grated nutmeg, or light herbs such as thyme, sage or parsley. Spinach could replace the cabbage, and other nuts used instead of walnuts. Whatever you fancy!

Here it's served with cheese sauce - I like Asda's packet sauce which requires only boiling water to make up. It tastes great and isn't high in calories. I also have a drum of non-dairy 'cheese sauce powder' which would go well too. Baby potatoes would be good, or some French beans or sugar snap peas. To drink, maybe apple juice or vegetarian/vegan dry white wine. OK, no contest there.

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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
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

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.

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.

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.

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

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!