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Cover: The Gourmet Garden

Less than 90 mins

23Jul 12

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo
is a typical Mexican garnish, or salsa, traditionally served with fajitas, tacos, burritos, and anything made with flour tortillas.  My recipe is a slight variation on the classic Mexican version which was given to me by a Mexican amigo.

I’ve reduced the number of chilli peppers by half compared to the original recipe, as I found it was almost too hot for my taste (and I like it HOT!), and definitely too hot for most of my friends and family.  If you’re particularly adverse to spicy food, you can go ahead and halve the amount again, or even cut out the jalapeños completely, although this will take away slightly from the authenticity of the dish.   If you’re a fire-eater, you can double it back up again to 4 or more jalapeños.

If you don’t have or can’t get fresh limes, lemons make a decent substitution. It won’t be quite as good, but it’ll work in a pinch.  The same thing goes for the fresh coriander. You could substitute it with fresh Italian parsley (they’re from the same family), but again, it won’t taste quite like it should.  Lastly, if you can’t get fresh jalapeño peppers, you could substitute any other fresh hot peppers.  If none are available, then you should use the dried variety, or dried pepper flakes.

This recipe doesn’t keep very well, so you should try to use it the same day as you make it. Why not try it with my vegetarian burritos?

Pico de Gallo
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiment
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
A typical Mexican garnish
Ingredients
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped (about 450g)
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium-size bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, coriander, jalapeños and lime juice.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. For best results, serve the same day.
  5. Makes about 500ml.

 

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18Jul 12

Seitan Teriyaki

Seitan Teriyaki
My mum used to make a beef version of this seitan teriyaki when I was growing up, and I have always loved the strong sweet and salty taste of the sauce.  Since fried seitan has quite a similar texture to beef, I decided to have a go at making up a vegetarian version of my childhood favourite.

The one thing taking away from the authenticity of the recipe is my inability to find a decent vegetarian fish sauce.  In the end I decided to just go with regular Tamari sauce, which tastes great, but is obviously missing a bit of the tangy and pungent effect that a fish sauce would have provided.  If anyone knows of, or ever finds a decent vegetarian or vegan fish sauce, please let me know; I’d love to try it.

I also like to sprinkle over sesame seeds for extra crunch, but that is optional. Serve it over rice and veggies for a balanced meal.

Also try these Japanese noodles with bell peppers and beef. And as we do here, replace the meat for seitan.

Seitan Teriyaki
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
The vegetarian version of beef teriyaki
Ingredients
  • 400g seitan, cut into 1cm strips
  • 3 tablespoons oil, for frying
  • For the marinade:
  • 125ml water
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice wine)
  • For the Teriyaki Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake
Instructions
  1. Make the marinade by combining the water, soy sauce, brown sugar and mirin in a large, shallow Tupperware container or a wide and shallow bowl.
  2. Add the seitan strips, mixing well with the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  3. To make the teriyaki sauce, simply add the honey, soy sauce, mirin and sake to a small sauce pan and boil over medium heat until the sauce is glossy and slightly viscous. It should start to acquire a caramelized taste, but be careful not to burn it.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking.
  5. Add the marinated seitan strips and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the seitan turns brown and a bit crispy on the outside.
  6. Pour the Teriyaki into the pan with the seitan and cook for about 30 seconds over medium heat, stirring continuously.
  7. Remove from heat and serve immediately with some rice or noodles, or on its own.

 

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29Jun 12

Falafel with Tomato Sauce

Chickpea meatballs with tomato sauceI remember loving the meatballs in tomato sauce that my mother used to make when I was growing up, so the other day I decided to try and make a vegetarian version.  This chickpea falafel with tomato sauce recipe was the result.  The texture is, of course, slightly different than the lamb-based or peri-peri meatballs my mother specialised in, but the lemon, garlic and Italian parsley give them a subtle flavour that  is offset nicely by the tomato and thyme sauce.  Enjoy!

What you’re going to need:

For the falafel:

  • 400g cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

  • 500g tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1tbsp pine nuts
  • 170ml crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What you have to do:

 

  1. Drain the chickpeas well.
  2. Peel and mince the onion and the garlic.
  3. Wash the parsley and finely chop the leaves.
  4. Place the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest in a food processor and blend to a paste.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes.
  7. Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls.
  8. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.
  9. Add the falafel and sauté for 10 minutes, shaking the pan at regular intervals so that they brown evenly.
  10. Remove the falafel from the pan and keep them warm in the oven at the lowest setting.
  11. While the falafel is frying, prepare the tomatoes for the sauce by removing the cores.
  12. Submerge the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds, then transfer to a bowl of cold water to loosen the skin.
  13. Remove the skin, cut into quarters, and chop finely.
  14. Wash the thyme and strip the leaves from the stems.
  15. Add the remaining oil to the pan.
  16. Add the pine nuts and thyme and sauté for 20 seconds.
  17. Add the tomatoes and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  18. Mix in the crème fraîche and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  19. Arrange the falafel on 4 plates. Pour the sauce over them and serve.

 

Preparation Time:  15 minutes + 30 minutes setting

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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19Jun 12

Spinach and Chickpeas

Spinach and ChickpeasThis spinach and chickpeas recipe makes for a great starter or can even be served as a main course if you accompany it with some oven-warmed French bread and a bit of salad. (If you want to stick with the chickpea theme, try this carrot, chickpea and orange salad.)  As always, I suggest using dried pulses and rehydrating them overnight, but if you don’t have time, you can go ahead and use the precooked canned or bottled ones.

What you’re going to need:

  • 300g chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 1 slice white bread
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4tsp paprika
  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

What you have to do:

  1. Drain the chickpeas and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them completely.
  2. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 1 hour or until the chickpeas are tender.
  4. Remove from heat and drain off the water.
  5. Heat 30ml of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the slice of bread until it’s golden brown.
  6. Set the fried bread aside on a plate.
  7. Sauté the onion in 15ml of olive oil over low heat until it’s translucent.
  8. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are dissolved.
  9. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  10. Add the paprika and sauté for 30 seconds.
  11. Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes until the spinach is tender.
  12. Add the mixture of tomatoes and onions to the spinach, mix well and add the chickpeas.
  13. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Put the fried bread and the garlic in a blender and mix to form a smooth paste.
  15. Add the bread and garlic paste to the spinach and chickpeas.
  16. Add 170ml of cold water and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  Add more water if necessary as you cook.
  17. Serve hot.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes + 8 hours soaking the chickpeas

Cooking Time: 55 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

 

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04Jun 12

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Pasta saucePasta: who doesn’t love it? There are probably just as many different types of pasta as there are sauces to accompany it, and this week I decided to have a go at inventing my own. The result is this Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Pasta Sauce, which, if I do say so myself,  is simply sublime!

This sauce is a breeze to make, and the roasting adds a rich depth of flavour. I suggest doubling the recipe and freezing or preserving the rest for later.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 12 medium tomatoes, washed
  • 1 whole head of garlic, wrapped in aluminium foil
  • 1 Spanish onion, wrapped in aluminium foil
  • 1 leek, washed, tips removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, washed
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 60 g chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

What you have to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Place the tomatoes, red pepper, leek, onion and garlic on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.
  3. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the skin from the tomatoes (it should peel off easily after baking) and remove the seeds and the hard bit at the top.
  5. Remove the skin and seeds from the red peppers. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the skin off, just get as much as possible.
  6. Remove the aluminium foil from the onion, and peel off the outer layers of brown skin.
  7. Place the tomatoes, red peppers, leek and onion in a large saucepan.
  8. Remove the garlic from the aluminium foil.  Take each clove between your thumb and fingers and squeeze one end over the saucepan.  The melted garlic should slide out easily.  Repeat for the rest of the garlic cloves.
  9. Add the olive oil, sugar, salt and ground black pepper.
  10. Using a handheld blender, purée the sauce until it is very well blended (about 1 minute on high power).  Alternatively, you can use a food processor or regular blender to make the purée.
  11. Mix in the freshly chopped basil by hand.
  12. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Reheat if necessary and serve on top of your favourite pasta.
  14. Any leftover sauce can be safely stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour

Serves: 6

Difficulty: Medium

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28May 12

Potato and Gruyère Cakes

Potato and Gruyère Cakes

These potato and Gruyère cakes are a satisfyingly filling starter that are sure to delight the whole family, young and old alike.  The tangy crème fraîche offsets the earthy flavour of the potatoes in just the right way, making for a true taste sensation.  For a sweeter presentation, try serving them with an added dollop of raspberry jam, or any other jam you like.  These were initially intended as an appetiser, but I have found they make for a great breakfast too.

If you are a fan of Indian food, you might want to try out this Malai Kofta recipe as well. They are special potato dumplings with cheese in a special gravy. The texture isn’t as delightfully crunchy as with my cakes, but the flavour of the gravy is amazing!

Potato and Gruyère Cakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 900g potatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, washed and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2tsp minced garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2tbsp Crème Fraîche plus extra to garnish
  • 100g Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1.5tbsp flour
  • Oil for the frying pan
Instructions
  1. Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until they are tender but not quite completely cooked, about 25 minutes.
  3. Drain and set aside to cool.
  4. When cool, peel and grate using a coarse hand grater, or a food processor.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan and add the leeks and a few pinches of both salt and pepper.
  6. Cook over medium heat until the leeks start to get soft, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a little water if necessary to avoid having the leeks stick to the pan.
  8. In a mixing bowl, combine the leeks, potatoes, ½ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.
  9. Beat the eggs and crème fraîche together in a separate bowl and then mix into the potato mixture.
  10. Mix in the cheese and flour and stir well.
  11. Form the mixture into little cakes about 7 to 10 cm in diamater and about 1 cm thick.
  12. Cook in a well-oiled frying pan over medium heat until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes per side.
  13. Serve immediately with a dollop of crème fraîche.

 

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07May 12

Basic Seitan Recipe

Basic Seitan RecipeSometimes I like to vary from using tofu because a lot of my non-vegetarian friends claim that it can be quite bland and sometimes has a strange texture (although this really depends on whether you know how to cook it properly). They also say that it doesn’t resemble meat in taste or in texture.

 

On the other hand, I’ve never heard anyone make similar complaints about seitan, also known as “Wheat-Meat“, which is nice and chewy and really does resemble meat a bit.  The price, however, is a bit abusive if you buy it at the shop, so here’s a basic seitan recipe which will make about four times as much for the same price.

I personally like using seitan in hearty seitan stewstir-fries, or even fried and eaten in a bun like a hamburger.  It’s very filling and really not all that hard to make, and once you get the hang of it, you can try other spices to make your own personalised flavour.

What you’re going to need:

  • 250ml wheat gluten
  • 180ml vegetable broth for the seitan mix.
  • 30ml soy sauce
  • 5ml ginger powder
  • 5ml garlic powder
  • 1.5 litres vegetable broth for cooking
  • 4 onion slices
  • 3 slices fresh ginger

What you have to do:

  1. Mix together the wheat gluten, ginger powder and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix the soy sauce and 180 ml of vegetable broth in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the soy sauce mixture to the gluten and spice mixture, stirring gently with a spoon and then with your hands until they are well blended.
  4. Kneed the dough gently10-15 times on a flat, clean surface.
  5. Let the dough set for 5 minutes, then kneed again 4 more times.
  6. Separate the dough into 4 chunks and stretch into 2 cm thick cutlets.
  7. Bring the cooking broth to a boil in a large stockpot with the onion and ginger slices.
  8. Add the cutlets to the broth and simmer slowly, covered, for 60 minutes.
  9. When the cutlets are expanded and firm, they’re ready.
  10. Place the cutlets in plastic containers and fill up with broth.
  11. The seitan can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 8

Difficulty: Medium

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30Apr 12

Cabbage and Barley Soup

Cabbage and Barley SoupOne of the most underrated vegetables in modern cooking has got to be cabbage.  It’s got a lot of vitamin C, and even though it is quite filling, it is very low in calories. Even more importantly, it tastes absolutely wonderful, even if the smell while cooking can be a little off-putting to some people!  In any case, yesterday I found a head of green cabbage buried at the bottom of my refrigerator and decided to make this barley and cabbage soup recipe. (Also try this Danish red cabbage.)

The pearl barley adds a nice chewy touch to the soup and is also full of lots of essential amino acids and apparently even helps to regulate blood-sugar levels.  All in all, this is a very healthy soup, although I suppose the sour cream might take away from that a little bit, so you can omit it if you’re dieting or lactose intolerant.

What you’re going to need:

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • 125g pearl barley
  • 1 small leek, washed and finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, washed and finely diced
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 65ml dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10g parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 65ml sour cream

 

What you have to do:

  1. Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core. Wash, dry and cut into thin strips. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the barley well and then dry.  Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  4. Add the leek, carrot, and celery, and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
  5. Add the barley and sauté for about 2 more minutes.
  6. Add the wine and continue cooking until most of it has evaporated.
  7. Stir in the cabbage.
  8. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  9. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 60-75 minutes, or until the barley is tender.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Wash the chives and cut them up into fine rings.
  12. Garnish the soup with a tablespoon of sour cream and sprinkle some of the chives and parsley on top.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 90 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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18Apr 12

Pumpkin Ravioli

Pumpkin RavioliI made this pumpkin ravioli last weekend when I had some friends over for lunch, and the verdict was unanimously positive – everyone loved it!  Which was a good thing too, because it definitely took a bit of work to prepare.  The baked garlic and sun-dried tomatoes provide a great counterpoint to the sweet pumpkin, and the filling just melts in your mouth when you bite into it.  The recipe calls for a pasta machine, but if you don’t have one, you can roll out the dough by hand.  It takes a bit more time but won’t make any difference to the taste; just make sure you get the dough as thin as you can.  About 3mm is thin enough.

Filling your pasta is a great way to add flavour to the dish. For more variations, try this scrumptious tortelli piacentini recipe.

What you’re going to need:

For the pasta:

  • 250g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 4 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 400g pumpkin, peeled and seeded
  • 120ml cottage cheese
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

What you have to do:

For the pasta:

  1. Place the flour, eggs and salt in an electric mixer and blend into smooth dough.
  2. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
  3. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and let it set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll them out lightly to half a centimetre thick.
  5. Pass the pieces through a pasta machine on the thinnest setting.
  6. Let the pasta dry for 10 minutes on a clean cloth.
  7. Use a drinking glass about 7cm in diameter to cut the pasta into circles.

For the filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC.
  2. Bake the unpeeled garlic on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until soft.
  3. Steam the pumpkin for 6-8 minutes or until tender.
  4. Drain well.
  5. Peel the garlic and add to the pumpkin.  Mash well with a potato masher.
  6. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, cottage cheese, salt and pepper.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Place a heaping teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture in the centre of half the pasta circles.
  9. Wet the edges of the pasta with a little water on the tip of your finger and fold in half in a semi-circle.  Press down firmly on the edges to seal the ravioli.
  10. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the ravioli.
  11. Boil for 4 minutes.
  12. Drain well and serve plain or with your favourite pasta sauce or cheese. I personally like sprinkling a bit of Feta cheese on top.

Preparation Time:  45 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Serves:  6

Difficulty:  Hard

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16Apr 12

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

This rich, creamy potato and leek soup is a classic French dish which can be served either hot or cold.  When served cold, the French call it vichyssoise, which certainly sounds a lot better than cold leek soup!  In any case, it’s equally delicious either way, even if the whipped cream, butter and milk probably do make it somewhat fattening.  If you’re on a diet, you can substitute the whipped cream for evaporated skim milk and either eliminate the butter or replace it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

It’s very important to make sure you don’t boil the soup after adding the cream, as this will cause it to curdle.  The same precaution needs to be taken when reheating.  This rule applies of course to any recipe with cream or milk.  For a vegan-friendly version, I imagine you can substitute the cream, butter and milk for soy or rice versions of the same, although I’ve never tried this, so I can’t guarantee the results.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium-sized leeks, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced (do not use the tough, dark green part)
  • 1 litre vegetable broth
  • 300ml cold water
  • 125ml whipping cream (add up to an  extra 125ml of milk if you like your soup thin)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • chopped chives to garnish

What you have to do:       

 

  1. Combine the potatoes, leeks, vegetable broth, and water in a large heavy pot or saucepan.
  2. Cover the pot and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Without draining off the broth, mash the vegetables in the pan with a vegetable (potato) masher until they are fairly smooth. (If they do not mash easily, the soup has not cooked long enough. In this case, let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes longer.)
  5. Add the cream, butter, salt, and pepper.
  6. Heat the soup just to the boiling point, but don’t let it boil.
  7. Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with the chopped chives.

Note: If you want a bit of spice in your soup, try this pumpkin soup with curry and Garam Masala.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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