Veggie mains

Veggies in ‘pasta’ sauce

Lots of people are making ‘pastaless’ pasta dishes using spiralized vegetables such as courgettes to make courgetti etc. My friend Jaja made a delicious dish this week with courgetti and a veggie ragu. So I thought I’d experiment with a mixed ‘veghetti’. I used just over a kilo of veg for two people so you’re certainly getting your five-a-day here!

I started by frying finely sliced eryngii mushrooms in some olive oil with crushed garlic and some salt. Meanwhile I made ‘ribbons’ from a couple of courgettes and added these to the pan. In a steamer I lightly cooked a leek also cut into long strips and some baby asparagus. While these were cooking I added a slosh of white whine and some cream to the frying pan to make a sauce. Then added in the leeks and the asparagus and a bowlful of sunflower sprouts. I mixed everything together and cooked it until the sprouts started to soften then turned off the heat. I stirred in two beaten organic free-range eggs mixed with a handful of grated Parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper and made sure all the vegetables were coated in the sauce.

It made a nice light meal, certainly not as substantial as a pasta dish but a good alternative if you want something between a pasta meal and a salad. One tip is that quite a bit of liquid comes out of the vegetables, especially the mushrooms and courgettes, so try to use firmer mushrooms, like eryngii and smaller courgettes which are less watery. Also fry off as much liquid at the early stage as you can, adding salt at the beginning should help here. Having said that the juice is very tasty so serve in a bowl with a spoon as well as a fork, or serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices, but then your back to carbs (not that that bothers me)!

Veggie mains

Matar paneer (pea & cheese curry)

I love Indian curries with paneer cheese in them so today I made some paneer and made Matar Paneer. In fact I love Sag Paneer with spinach too so I will have to do that soon when I have plenty of spinach in the garden. All the recipes I have for this curry are a little differnt so I took what I thought I wanted from each.

So what do you need?

  • 200g paneer cheese
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 an onion (about 50g)
  • About 5cm fresh ginger
  • 2 – 3 large green chillis
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 large tomato
  • 200g garden peas
  • A handful of coriander leaves
  • 3-4 tbsp cream
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil

So what do you do?

Start by cubing the paneer and frying this in some vegetable oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan or saucepan (with a lid). When it is nice and golden remove it. In the same oil fry the cumin seeds seeds and the add the onion, finely chopped and fry for a couple of minutes. Spit the chilli and chop in up and peel and finely chop the ginger and add these to the pan. Gring the coriander seeds with the salt add these along with the turmeric and fry while you chop up the tomato. Add the tomatoes and the peas and a some water to cover the base of the pan and put the lid on and simmer for about 10 minutes so the peas and the tomatoes. Add the cream and add the paneer back in an cook for a minute or two more so you have a thickish sauce coating everything. Taste and add a little more salt and some dried chilli if you want.  Finally stir in the coriander leaves and serve.

The Basics

Homomade paneer cheese

Paneer is easy to make at home and is great in Indian curries. For about 200g of cheese bring 1 litre of full fat milk to boil in a thick bottomed saucepan. Keep stirring the milk so it doesn’t catch as soon as it starts to  come to a boil turn down the heat and add the juice of about half a lemon. Keep stirring for a few seconds and the milk should begin to split into curds and whey. If it doesn’t split add a little more lemon juice. As soon as this happens turn of the heat. Leave to stand for a minute and large pieces of curd will form as in the picture on the left. You can shake the pan a little to help the separation. Prepare a sieve lined with two layers of muslin or cheesecloth above a bowl and then pour the milk into the sieve. The whey will go through the muslin leaving the curd in the muslin. Leave it for an hour or so then put the cheese in the muslin between a couple of saucers and put a heavy weight on to top for a couple of hours help press the moisture out of the cheese. Keep the whey you can use it when making bread of put it in soups or smoothies.

Veggie mains

Pea, pumpkin & feta fritters


These make a great lunch or light supper perfect for a nice spring / summer’s day. This will make 8 good-sized fitters so enough for 4 servings.

So what do you need?

  • 300g pumpkin / butternut squash flesh (cooked)
  • 1 tbsp. plain yoghurt’
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 100g plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds (optional)
  • 3 or 4 spring onions
  • 200g garden peas
  • 150g feta cheese
  • a handful of dill / mint leaves (or a mix)
  • 2tbsp. plain flour
  • 2tbsp. sesame seeds
  • vegetable oil

So what do you do?

I roasted my pumpkin as I had the oven on, alternatively you can steam it. I boiled the peas for a couple of minutes and then strained them. Meanwhile I put the pumpkin in a large mixing bowl and mashed it. I added the yoghurt, egg, salt, a good grinding of pepper, nigella seeds and mixed everything together. Next I added the flour and stirred it in. I then chopped up the spring onions and added them with the peas and crumbled in the feta and roughly chopped up some dill and mint leaves and added them. I mixed everything together you should have a pretty thick mixture. I put this in the fridge to rest for a while and it became a bit stiffer. I heated up some vegetable oil in a large frying pan, enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. I then put some flour and sesame seeds on a plate and scooped up a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and put it on the plate and formed a patty out of it making sure it was dusted all over in flour and put it on a try. I did this with the rest of the fritters. I then popped them in the frying pan on a medium heat and cooked them for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until brown. While they were cooking I made a quick salad with sunflower sprouts, tomatoes and red onions and served the fritters with this and some tzatziki.




Baking, Something sweet

Madeira cake

It’s a classic teatime cake. I used Dan Lepard’s method mixing in half the flour before the eggs. He flavours his with Madeira wine, I used vanilla and lemon zest as I didn’t have any Madeira.

So what do you need?

  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g  sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. plain yoghurt
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. flaked almonds

So what do you do?

Star by preheating your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 F and lining a loaf tim with baking parchment. Then cream together the butter and sugar until soft. Add the vanilla essence, lemon zest and yoghurt and mix together well. Next add half the flour and mix for a couple of minutes before adding the eggs on at a time. Finally add the rest of the flour and the baking powder and mix in. Four the mixture into the loaf tin and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. Cook for an hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes then lift out and allow to cool on a wire rack. Eat with tea, or a glass of Madeira, and jam, if you like.


Thai Food, The Basics

Thai omelette ‘Kai-jiew’

One of the simplest Thai dishes that can be eaten as a quick meal or as part or a larger Thai dinner. You can put different things in it, the classic veggie version would have some sliced onion and tomato in it but my favourite version is with Thai sweet basil ‘horapah’ leaves and some chopped spring onions. It’s traditionally severe with Siracha sauce but also like it with soy sauce with some chill powder in it.

It’s best not to try to make a massive omelette as it’ll be difficult to cook. If you just want to eat it with rice then a couple off eggs per person is fine. I normally don’t make an omelette with more than four or five eggs. They are quick to cook and best eaten fresh from the wok so just make more if you have a crowd to feed. If I’m cooking for two and having another dish or two I’d probably use 3 eggs.

In a wok heat about a half cup (75ml) oil for a two egg omelet, probably 100mls for a larger one. A Thai omelette is almost deep fried so you do need quite a bit of oil. If you don’t use enough oil it won’t puff up well, or get as crispy.

While the oil is heating crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them well. Then add a good splash of (light) soy sauce and a splash of water and beat this in. Next add a good handful of Thai sweet basil leaves and a chopped spring onion (optional) keep beating the mixture until you pour it into the hot oil. Use the back of a spatula to push the outer, uncooked egg mixture into the centre until it starts to cook. (This will help cook the omelet evenly.) Then allow the underside to cook. Shake the wok a litle once the omelette moves easily it should be ready to turn over with your spatula. Cook on this side, it should puff up nicely and begin to get a bit crisp around the edges. As soon as it’s cooked lift it out of the wok, draining off any excess oil, and serve.

Drinks, Something fruity

Plum & apple cordial

I made this by mistake but it’s good some I’m sharing it. I was stewing some plums and apples but added too much water so I simple strained off most of the juice from the fruit through a sieve and and bottled it. Leaving me with my stewed fruit AND a nice byproduct! I’d already added sugar to the fruit, just enough to take the very sour edge off. I’ve been drinking it with soda and ice and it’s very refreshing. It’s good in a G & T too.