What I'm cooking and eating

Monday, 20 November 2017

Squid in black bean sauce

This was a (fairly successful) attempt to re-create a favourite of mine from the Chinese take-away across the road that closed its doors several years ago now, and I still miss!  I bought the squid bodies from Sainsbury's - Tesco's only sell squid rings, which aren't quite such good value for money.  Sadly, I don't quite know where to source whole squid, complete with tentacles - they are quite the nicest.

About 100-150 g squid (I didn't weigh, but it was 4 of Sainsbury's frozen squid bodies), thawed and cut into smallish pieces.  Or a similar weight of raw squid rings.  Or use whole squid if you can get them.
1 chunk frozen ginger (or grated fresh - a piece about the size of your thumb)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 chilli pepper, chopped (seeds removed)
1 onion, peeled and chopped, but not too finely
1 green pepper, cut into chunks about the same size as the pieces of squid.
1 sachet black bean sauce
Oil for frying

Melt the oil in a wok or large frying pan, and add all the vegetables.  Stirring all the time, once they begin to cook, then add the squid pieces, stirring again, and finally the black bean sauce.  Bring back to the boil and serve at once with rice or noodles, or even vegetable noodles, as liked!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Vegetable rice

I nearly called this bottom-of-the-fridge rice, as it can be (I imagine) made with lots of different vegetables, depending on what wants used in your fridge.  I served this with bought chicken kievs (don't judge me - they are nice once in awhile), but I imagine it could be a meal in its own right if you added some cooked beans, or cheese or an egg, depending on whether you wanted it vegan or vegetarian.

2 tbs cooking oil
1.5 tsp asafoetida (only because I cba to chop an onion!  Use an onion instead if you prefer)
1 tsp dried garlic (or 1-2 cloves of fresh; again, I cba to prepare it!)
1 leek
1/2 small swede (rutabaga)
Handful Chantenay carrots
1 chilli pepper
1/2 cup long-grain rice
250 ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine if you don't have any home-made; obviously if you want this to be vegetarian or vegan, use vegetable stock or plain water - if the latter, up the seasoning a bit).

Cook the asafoetida in the oil for a few minutes - don't let it burn if you can help it - and then add the prepared vegetables.  Allow them to cook in their own steam for a bit, then add the rice and stock.  Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to the minimum and leave to cook for 15 minutes.  It comes out quite different from a risotto, much more (in my opinion) of a side dish.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Garlicky aubergines with goats' cheese* and root vegetable noodles

* If you don't eat goats' cheese, substitute either regular cream cheese or, for a vegan alternative, hummus or a simple tahini dressing.

2 carrots
2 parsnips
1 chunk daikon

1 medium aubergine
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tbs cooking oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 tub goat's cream cheese (I used one with chives, which was really nice!) (or ordinary cream cheese, or hummus, or a simple tahini dressing)


Spiralize the root vegetables,
and put into a pan with the oil, salt and pepper.  Cook on a low heat, stirring frequently, while you dice the aubergine
and crush the garlic.  Add these to the pan, cover, and allow to cook on a low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in the goats' cheese (or substitute), heat through again, and serve at once.
You could also use sweet potato or butternut squash noodles with this.  Either as well as, or instead of, the carrot and parsnip.  I do like to add a bit of daikon (aka mooli), though, as it lightens things up a bit.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Macaroni cheese revisited

Macaroni cheese is, of course, infinitely variable, but this particular casserole has a couple of new things.  First of all, I discovered that home-made spaetzle should really be kneaded for several minutes, and this certainly does improve their texture and the length of the finished product in my noodle maker.

Secondly, I decided to try Amuse your Bouche's crispy garlic breadcrumbs instead of my normal breadcrumb-and-cheese topping; the first time I tried to make these they were a disaster, but, but I realised that if I made the bread into breadcrumbs first, it would work rather better.   It did!

Thirdly, I used a tin of tomatoes instead of the normal béchamel - I used to do this a lot in the past, but haven't done it with leeks before.

So:

The noodles:

1 cup (roughly 250 ml by volume) plain flour
1 egg
Salt, pepper and mustard to taste
Enough water to make a stiffish dough.

Knead the above - ideally using dough hooks on a stand mixer - for several minutes, until it is really smooth and stretchy.  Press through a noodle-maker into boiling salted water; bring back to the boil, then drain, and rinse the noodles in cold water until they are cold (this helps set them).

The main event:

1 leek, chopped
About 1/4 small pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
c 20g butter
c 1 tbs plain flour
1 tin tomatoes
Seasonings - salt, pepper, mustard, maybe sweet paprika
Several handfuls grated cheese

Cook the leek and pumpkin (or any other vegetable you fancy) in the butter until no longer raw; using a blender, whizz the flour with the tin of tomatoes and pour the result on to the vegetables; bring to the boil and add the noodles and grated cheese.  Smooth the surface, and top with: crispy garlic breadcrumbs (see recipe here).  Bake at Mark 5 for about 45 minutes, until the breadcrumbs really are crispy.

Edited to add: I was not totally convinced by this.  The garlic breadcrumbs were wonderful, a great addition to the repertoire, but I think with a tomato sauce I do prefer onions to leeks, and I'm not sure the home-made noodles showed to best advantage like this.  Maybe commercial pasta would have been better (the dried kind - one can buy fresh spaetzle anywhere on the Continent, but not in this country as yet).  The pumpkin worked well, though.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Well, duh!

There are times when I really think I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me!  I have been cooking for - what - the best part of 60 years, and I always, but always, made a béchamel sauce to go with cauliflower, especially if I was going to make it into a cauliflower cheese bake.

But we have been travelling, and space in our motor home is limited.  So it occurred to me - when I make nachos, I just melt the grated cheese in a little milk - what would happen if I poured the result over the cauliflower?

And, of course, it worked splendidly!  I didn't realise quite how dim I was not to have thought of that that long since....

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Barley Salad

I had been making lemon barley water this morning, so had some cooked barley.  It has been very hot, although it is cooler today, so I decided to use the barley as I would have used rice in a salad.  I think, in hindsight, I should have rinsed the cooked barley, but it's not a bad fault.

c. 100 g barley (I used 1/2 measuring cup - 125 ml by volume)
1 litre water
1 large clove garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 large or 2 small avocados
1 large or 2 small tomatoes

Rinse the barley, then put it in your pressure cooker with the water and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.  I used my lovely Instant Pot for this, which was marvellous, as I could put the barley on and then go and shower and dress without having to hover over it!  If you don't have a pressure cooker, then use 1.5 litres of water and cook for 40 minutes on the stove.  Drain, and use the resulting liquid for barley water.  This, then is what you do with the barley itself!

Put in a large bowl, and crush the garlic clove over it, ideally while it is still warm.  Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Now add the chopped avocado and the peeled and chopped tomato, and stir thoroughly.  Allow to chill before serving.

I love this with cold chicken, but the original recipe that inspired it was from a vegetarian cookbook, Rose Elliott's "Not just a load of old lentils".


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Bean Casserole

I recently bought an Instant Pot, which is a gadget that combines the functions of a pressure cooker, sauté pan, slow cooker, yoghurt maker and rice cooker.  So, of course, I have been using it quite a lot - it is a great deal easier to use than my conventional pressure cooker, which will be retired from active service now.  I tended only to use it for the occasional pot of beans, and for cooking the oranges when making marmalade.  I rather think I shall use this electric one more often!  I have yet to try the yoghurt maker or the rice cooker, and doubt I shall (although I did have a yoghurt maker at one stage; I am not quite sure where it is). 

Anyway, this bean casserole is very versatile; you can use whatever vegetables you have around. Makes masses - enough for at least four people.

½ cup each (dry volume) red kidney beans, cannellini beans and those pink ones (or any other sort you like), soaked overnight in cold water to which you have added a little bicarbonate of soda.
1 tbs cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped (it was going to be a whole one, but I dropped half of it into the bin and couldn't find it again!)
Neck of a butternut squash, cubed
1/2 punnet of mushrooms, sliced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
A little extra water,  if needed (it shouldn't be)
Seasoning as liked.

When you have soaked the beans, drain them and rinse them well, then place into the cooker with about 2 litres of cold water.  Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, and allow the pressure to come down at room temperature, if possible.  Drain, and set aside.

Using the sauté function of the cooker, add the oil, then the various fresh vegetables.  Allow to cook, stirring frequently, just as you would if you were cooking them on a normal stove.  Then add the tomatoes and the beans and stir very well.  Add a scrap more water if you think it needs it, but don't forget the mushrooms and the courgettes will yield quite a lot.  Season as liked, and then, using the slow cooker function, cook on low for about 6 hours.  I put it on the timer so it sat for 2½ hours before it started to cook.  If you aren't going to be out all day, of course, you can cook it using the pressure cooker function, probably for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with grated cheese.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Fried spätzle

When we were travelling in France I noticed that they sold, in the supermarkets, gnocchi which one was intended to fry, rather than the normal boil.  I bought some, and very delicious they were, too.  Then when we were in Germany last month, I saw packets of obviously pre-cooked spätzle (noodles) that were intended to be fried, and, again, they were very good. 

One can buy spätzle in this country, and I sometimes do, but nothing really beats fresh pasta, so I thought that I would try to replicate these German offerings at home.  And again, they were very good with a chicken casserole.  You do need a noodle maker, although if you don't have one you could try rolling out the dough very thin, rolling it up, and cutting it in thin strips to make noodles that way.

1/2 cup white flour (strong, if you have it)
1 egg
Enough water to make a dough
Salt, pepper, dried parsley or other herbs to taste.

Mix this all up to form a stiff dough, then press through a potato ricer/noodle maker (on the disc with the fewest holes) into boiling salted water.  Bring back to the boil, stir, and drain very well.  Now melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the noodles on one side until golden (it doesn't matter if they clot into a sort of pancake), then turn and fry the other side.  Serve at once.


Monday, 6 March 2017

"Indian" cauliflower cheese

Well I was bored of our usual cauliflower cheese bake and I had half a packet of paneer that wanted using, left over from last week's mattar paneer. So, I thought, well, why not?

Spice mix:
Roughly 1 teaspoon each of
coriander seeds
cumin seeds
asafoetida
garam marsala
turmeric
fenugreek
ground ginger
ground chillis
mustard seeds


Or you could just use curry powder, of course

½ large cauliflower, cut into florets
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 tin tomatoes + 2/3 tin of water (rinse out the tin!)
1 small tin sweetcorn
1 tablespoonful coconut milk powder
½ packet paneer, diced
2 tsp coconut oil

Grind the coriander and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar, and then add the rest of the spices, except the mustard seeds.  Melt the coconut oil in a large sauté pan or casserole dish, and add the mustard seeds.  When they start to pop, add the rest of the spices, stir well, cover, lower the heat and allow to fry for a minute or two while you chop the potatoes into bite-sized chunks.  Add these and stir well, cover and allow to cook for a few minutes while you chop the cauliflower and chilli.  Add these, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked, stirring occasionally.  Taste, and adjust the salt if necessary.

This made enough for 4, although I'd only intended it to serve 2!



Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Wednesday Casserole, revisited

Some years ago now, I posted my recipe for what I call Ash Wednesday Casserole, or Ash Wednesday Stew.  I have always made it in my slow cooker, as if there was an Ash Wednesday service in the evening, one could go, and it would be ready to eat on one's return.  However, this year, the services were in the morning, and what with one thing and another, I didn't have time to put it in the slow cooker.  And we reckon we like this version even better! 

1/2 cup of your favourite beans, soaked for at least 1 hour in boiling water, or overnight in cold
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1 large leek (it is St David's Day, after all!)
1 chilli pepper
1 sweet red pepper
1-2 sweet potatoes, depending on size
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tinful water (rinse out the tin so you don't waste any tomato juice)
Seasoning to taste - I used salt, pepper, a little soya sauce and some chilli-garlic sauce.  You could use a vegetable stock cube of some kind, but I forgot!

To serve: 1 tbs peanut butter; peanuts or cashew nuts to sprinkle (apologies if you have a peanut allergy - either use some other kind of nut butter, or tahini, or I expect you could use grated cheese, but this is essentially a vegan dish).

Rinse the beans and cook in fresh water - if you use red kidney beans, make sure they boil hard for at least ten minutes.  Or you could use a tin of beans, drained and rinsed, but I prefer dried.  Traditionally the recipe uses red beans, but you could use any kind you like.

Chop onions and leeks and fry very gently in a little oil until they don't look raw.  Add the chopped chilli, red pepper and sweet potatoes (which you will have peeled and cut into chunks).  Stir well, then add the beans, tomatoes and water, and season to taste.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes.  Stir in the peanut butter and serve with nuts sprinkled on the top.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Mattar Paneer

Last week the Swan Whisperer and I took our grandsons to a local cookery course (they are regular attenders with one or other parent when it's on a Saturday, but as it was half-term the course was on a Thursday).  Normally the Walthamstow tutors use their own recipes, but this time, the recipe was taken from Bags of Taste, an organisation that teaches people how to cook cheap, nutritious and delicious meals for less than £1 a head.  We made a fish curry, but the vegetarians on the course made this delicious recipe, and I tried to replicate it tonight.

1 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Spice mix, as follows:
      1 tsp garam marsala
      1 tsp turmeric
      1 tsp ground fenugreek
      1/2 tsp each ground ginger and hot paprika
      Pinch of salt
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
1/2 packet paneer
Nice amount of frozen peas
1/2 cup raw rice, to cook however you normally would.

Put the coconut oil in a deep frying-pan and add the onion.  Cook very gently for several minutes, until beginning to be transparent, then add the spice mix and crushed garlic (you can also use fresh ginger, but for a variety of reasons I chose not to this evening).  Stir vigorously, and then add the chopped tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and leave to cook  while you cook the rice, adding a little water if it looks like drying out.  Just before the rice is ready, add the cubed paneer and frozen peas, and bring back to the boil before serving.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Curly Potatoes

I do love my spiraliser.  This is an interesting alternative to chips, and very quick to cook.

3 potatoes, spiralised on the larger holes
1 tbs cooking oil
Salt and pepper

Spiralise your potatoes (sorry, if you don't have a spiraliser - I don't think I've seen spiralised potatoes in the vegetable department of the supermarket, even if they did have spiralised courgettes when whole ones were unobtainable last month!), and put in a large frying pan or sauté pan with the cooking oil, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently but keeping it covered in the meantime. 

I served this with fish, but it would be lovely with an egg, or even a steak.....

Friday, 3 February 2017

"Egg pancake"

My grandsons are not very good at eating eggs. But I wanted to cook them something quick for their evening meal yesterday, and with vague memories of this post from Chocolate and Zucchini in mind, I told them they were going to have an egg pancake, and would they like it with cheese, ham, both or neither?  As it turned out, there didn't seem to be any ham in their fridge, so I made it with cheese.... but I'm sure it would be lovely with ham, or herbs, or a mixture....  They had a slice of bread and butter with it.

Serves 2

2 eggs
Small amount (c 25-30 g, but I didn't measure!) grated cheese
A little black pepper (they don't have salt in their food yet; I would have added a little for an adult)
Butter for frying

Whisk the eggs until they are a uniform colour and texture.  Stir in the cheese.  Melt the butter in a frying pan and pour in the eggs, which you allow to spread out (or use a spatula) until they are as thin as a pancake (crepe type).  Allow to cook until it is beginning to dry out on top, at which point use a fish-slice to turn it over and cook for one minute on the other side.  In an ideal world you then roll it up and cut it in half, but mine didn't exactly turn over very well.... so I just divided it into two and watched it disappear......

Their mother tells me they will eat omelettes if they are called crustless quiches, too!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Mushroom Soup

We spent a day and a night with a friend in France recently, and she made the most delicious mushroom soup for lunch.  I was moved to try and emulate it, as it was so good, and this was the result.  Very quick and easy.  Serves 4, unless you are greedy and have all of it, as we did!

1 punnet mushrooms
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tsp plain flour or cornflour
500 ml milk
500 ml stock (or water, and then you add a Stock Cube/Stock Pot to it)
A couple of dollops of butter
Salt, pepper, parsley

Slice 2/3 of the mushrooms and fry up in 2/3 of the butter with the peeled and crushed cloves of garlic.  When they are cooked enough to release their juices, sprinkle on the flour or cornflour and stir well, then add the liquids and season, and bring to the boil.  While this is happening, chop the remaining mushrooms finely.

Transfer the soup to a blender, and while it is not in the saucepan, cook the chopped mushrooms in the remaining butter.  Once they have released their juices, pour the soup back on top and bring back to the boil.  Serve at once.