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13Jun 12

Bean and Red peppers Burritos

Bean and red pepper burritosI love Mexican food, and it’s so easy to make it vegetarian!  These bean and red peppers burritos are my take on the classic Mexican burrito.  Even if you’re normally not a fan of beans and pulses, I think this dish will get your taste buds smiling. They’re fun to make and even more fun to eat! If you want to make it even more entertaining for your guests, place the bean mix in the centre of the table along with the garnishing and let them heap their own burritos!

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 x 400g tins red kidney beans, drained and mashed. (You can also use black beans.)
  • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 100g tomato purée
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 pack of 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • 200g mature cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
  • 150ml sour cream (optional)
  • Diced tomatoes, sliced Jalapeños or Mexican salsa (for garnish)

What you have to do:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it’s hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the onions and red pepper and sauté until the onions turn translucent (approx. 4 minutes).
  3. Remove the onions and peppers and set aside.
  4. Sauté the onions, cumin, black pepper and paprika for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
  5. Add the onions and peppers back into the mix along with the tomato paste and salt and mix well with the spices.
  6. Add the mashed kidney beans and mix well.  The mixture should be thick, not runny.  If it’s runny, cook a little longer to evaporate any excess water and add a tablespoon of  cornflour  to help thicken.
  7. Remove from heat and set aside.
  8. Remove the tortillas from their packaging and heat in the microwave on medium power for 1 minute to soften.
  9. Place two tablespoons of the bean mix on each tortilla, in a line a little off-centre to the left and running from the top to about 4 cm from the bottom.
  10. Place a slice of cheddar cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and a few jalapeños (if desired) on top.
  11. Wrap the burritos by first folding up the bottom, then the left-hand side and then the right-hand side to make a kind of envelope.
  12. Serve warm.
  13. If you really want to add to the “bean theme,” try serving this borlotti bean, celery and tomato salad on the side.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time:  20 minutes

Serves:  3-4

Difficulty:  Medium

 

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11Jun 12

Tomato and Basil Pie

Tomato and Basil PiePizza is a standard classic in my home, especially spinach, fresh tomato and blue cheese pizza. This tomato and basil pie recipe is a sort of variation on the traditional pizza, using pastry rather than leavened pizza dough.  The ingredients are simple but the taste is wonderful.  Basil, cheese and tomatoes work so well together that you just don’t need anything else, as the Italians have obviously known for years.  If you’re in a rush or just too tired to make the pastry yourself, go ahead and use any store-bought variety.

What you’re going to need:

For the crust:

  • 160g sifted white flour
  • 1/4tsp fine salt
  • 110g butter, chilled and diced
  • 60ml ice water

For the filling:

  • 100g fresh mozzarella, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 175g Parmesan cheese
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 5 medium tomatoes, washed and sliced 5mm thick
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp freshly ground black pepper

What you have to do:

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut into the butter using a pastry knife and add to the bowl. Do NOT use your hands.
  4. Stir in the ice water using a spoon, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms into a ball.
  5. Wrap the ball in plastic and chill for 4 hours.
  6. Roll out the ball into a flat crust about 30 cm in diameter.
  7. Press the crust firmly into the bottom and sides of a 26 cm pie dish.
  8. Using a fork, make some holes in the bottom of the crust.
  9. Cover the crust with parchment paper and fill with dry beans.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven, leaving the heat on.
  12. Remove and discard the beans and parchment paper.

To make the filling:

  1. Varnish the crust with a little olive oil or butter.
  2. Cover the bottom with the the fresh Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over with half of the fresh basil.
  3. Lay the tomato slices and Mozzarella on top of the Parmesan and sprinkle on the rest of the fresh basil.
  4. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and olive oil.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.  If the cheese exudes a lot of liquid during baking, remove from the oven and drain the excess liquid in order to keep the crust from getting soggy.

Preparation Time:  1 hour + 4 hours setting

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Serves:  6

Difficulty:  Medium

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08Jun 12

TVP Veggie Burgers

TVP Veggie BurgersBefore I became a vegetarian, one of my all-time favourite foods was hamburgers.  So when I finally converted to vegetarianism, I decided I had to learn how to make veggie burgers.  Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) seemed like the way to go for substituting the meat, and after a few slightly disastrous attempts, I eventually came up with this recipe for TVP Veggie Burgers.  The recipe was an instant success with both family and friends and has been a weekly staple of my diet ever since.

If you prefer not to use TVP, these spicy beanburgers are also rather tasty, and a good alternative for those who try to refrain from “meat substitutes” like TVP or tofu.

The hardest part of the recipe is getting the right ratio of wet and dry ingredients so that the burgers stick together when you mould them into shape.  This is achieved by varying the exact amount of breadcrumbs added to the mix. At first, try using a little bit less than the indicated amount and keep adding more until you get them to a consistency where they stick together well but not to your hands.  As always, practise makes perfect.

What you’re going to need:

  • 200 g TVP (Vegetable Protein Mince)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml soy sauce
  • 250 ml boiling water
  • 2 eggs
  • 250 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

What you have to do:

  1. Mix the TVP in a large mixing bowl with the soy sauce and boiling water and wait for it to puff up (about 2 minutes).
  2. In the meantime, fry the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat until it’s translucent but not brown and add to the TVP mixture.
  3. Add the paprika, curry powder, salt and pepper, and stir well.
  4. Beat in the 2 eggs and add breadcrumbs. Mix well.
  5. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Take it out and form it into tightly packed balls, about the size of tennis balls.
  7. Squeeze the balls between your hands to make patties about 1.5 cm thick.
  8. Fry the patties in a little oil over medium heat until they are dark brown on the outside (about 4 minutes per side).
  9. Leave the finished burgers on a wire cookie rack to cool, allowing the oil to run off so as to avoid greasy burgers.
  10. Serve between 2 slices of toasted whole-grain bread with your favourite toppings.

Preparation time: 45 minutes (including 30 minutes setting in fridge)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 8

Difficulty: Medium

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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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20Apr 12

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Red lentil and sweet potato soupIt’s funny, as a kid growing up, I always hated sweet potatoes (and pumpkin for that matter, as they’re virtually the same when cooked), and it was all my mother could do to get me to eat even the tiniest mouthful.  However, somewhere along the way, I developed a taste for them, especially when they’re mixed with other veggies or pulses that I like more.  I invented this Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup one day when I had some sweet potatoes I needed to use up before they went bad, and the result was an instant success both for me and my family.

The soup is very filling and the sweet potato provides lots of dietary fibre, beta carotene and vitamin C.  As I mentioned before, cooked sweet potato and cooked pumpkin are virtually identical in taste, so if you want, you can go ahead and substitute an equal quantity of pumpkin for the sweet potato to create a tasty pumpkin soup.

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, washed and chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 500g red lentils
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tsp curry powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 tsps salt (to taste)
  • 3 tbsps fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Spanish Sherry Vinegar

What you have to do:

  1. In a large stockpot, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the onion turns translucent.
  2. Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes and lentils and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the salt, curry powder, ground coriander, black pepper and bay leaf and sauté for another minute.
  4. Add the water and stir well, make sure you get any spices that may have stuck to the bottom.
  5. Cover the pot, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes and sweet potatoes are nice and soft, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher to make a slightly chunky purée.
  7. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with a teaspoon of fresh coriander and a splash of sherry vinegar.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 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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10Apr 12

Asparagus and Cheese Pudding

Asparagus and Cheese PuddingThis creamy and savoury asparagus and cheese pudding is a great way to make use of yesterday’s leftover bread and impress even the most demanding gourmands at the same time.  I usually use ciabatta, but any rustic style bread will work just as well. (Also try this Asparagus Risotto.)

What you’re going to need:

  • 450g ciabatta bread, at least a day old, cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 375ml milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp pepper
  • 450g asparagus, tough stems removed, cut into 5cm sticks
  • 250g grated Manchego cheese
  • 250g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

 

What you have to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
  2. Lay the bread along the bottom of a large shallow dish and cover with the milk.
  3. Set aside and let the bread absorb the milk, about 30 minutes.
  4. Bring 3 litres of salted water to the boil in a large pot.
  5. While you wait for the water to boil, butter a 2 litre baking dish and set aside.
  6. Combine the double cream, eggs, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl and whisk together.  Set aside.
  7. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it just turns tender.
  8. Drain and rinse under cold water then set aside to drain again.
  9. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.
  10. Place a third of the milk-soaked bread on the bottom of the buttered baking dish.
  11. Lay half of the asparagus over the bread, sprinkle with a third of the cheese mixture and half of the herbs.
  12. Lay another third of the bread on top, cover with more asparagus, herbs and half of the remaining cheese.
  13. Cover with the rest of the bread and the cheese, placing the remaining asparagus on top.
  14. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the top.
  15. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.
  16. Use a knife to check if it’s done.  The egg and cream mixture should be set and the knife should come out clean when inserted into the centre of the pudding.
  17. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Preparation Time:  35 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Serves:  6-8

Difficulty: Difficult

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06Apr 12

Crepes Stuffed with Ricotta and Courgette

Crepes stuffed with ricotta and courgetteThey’re cheesy, chewy and delicious, and you’re going to love them.  What more can I say?! Prefer fruit over vegetables? Try these crepes suzette with oranges.

What you’re going to need:

For the crepes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 100g flour

For the filling:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium-sized courgettes, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
  • 25g butter
  • 25g flour
  • 300ml milk, heated with 1 bay leaf, 1/2tsp ground nutmeg and 3tbsp diced onion
  • 2tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 200g Ricotta cheese
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • 300ml vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter to grease the  baking dish

What you have to do:

For the crepes:

  1. Beat together the eggs and milk with an electric blender for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the flour and continue mixing for about a minute or until the mixture is smooth and thick.
  3. Let set for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat a bit of butter or oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  5. Drop about two tablespoons of batter onto the frying pan and fry for 1 minute, flip over and fry 1 minute more.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the batter.  You should end up with around 10 crepes.

For the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sauté the courgette and garlic for a few minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.
  3. Drain off any excess oil with kitchen towel and set aside.
  4. Heat the butter in a saucepot over low heat, add the flour and stir well to form a smooth paste.
  5. Add about a third of the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly until the sauce is nice and smooth.
  6. Add the rest of the milk mixture while continuing to stir; keep at it until smooth.
  7. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
  8. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  9. Add the courgette and garlic to the sauce along with the ricotta and half the Parmesan.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Fill the crepes with the filling, using a spoon.
  11. Roll them up and lay them out on a buttered baking sheet/dish.
  12. Pour the vegetable broth over the top and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan.
  13. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes.
  14. Serve hot.

Preparation Time:  30 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:  4-6

Difficulty: Hard

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