30 May 2010

Vegetarian Week Giveaway & NCR Challenge

















National Vegetarian Week is drawing to a close and I wanted to see it out with a bang.

As well as congratulating the winner of this month's No Croutons Required and announcing the challenge for June, I thought it might be nice to offer you the chance to win a veggie product you may not have tried before, one that is particularly tasty and particularly Scottish.

Vegetarian Haggis.

It is a very versatile ingredient. It is traditionally served with neeps and tatties, but it is equally delicious served in a crepe, in a pasty, in a wrap or shaped into pakora, the options are as endless as your imagination.

If you would like to be entered into my giveaway, then simply leave a comment. This giveaway is open to everyone. If you don't have a blog, then please leave me your name and email address.

And now on to No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian soup and salad challenge. This month I would like you to create a vegetarian soup or salad featuring the humble courgette or zucchini as it is sometimes known.

If you have been inspired by National Vegetarian Week and would like to enter a soup or salad, then email me at tinnedtomatoes@googlemail.com:

* your name
* the name of your blog
* your blog url
* your location
* the name of your dish
* a link to the post featuring your dish
* a photo of your dish

Entries must be in by the end of day on the 20th June 2010. This is also the deadline for entering the giveaway. These are two separate competitions that are running side by side to celebrate the vegetarian diet. The roundup of entries will be announced on the 21st June 2010 along with the winner of the giveaway.

And now we must congratulate Janet over at Taste Space who won this month's challenge with her gorgeously sumptuous Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing.


Janet receives this sweet little badge to display on her blog. If you would like to win one, then make sure you enter.

25 May 2010

Veggie Lasagne for National Vegetarian Week
















It's National Vegetarian Week and what better way to start the ball rolling than with the vegetarian classic, veggie lasagne. A great dish loved by all and a terrific way to introduce and tempt meat-eaters to enjoy vegetarian food.

Veggie Lasagne. Comfort food at it's best. There are many variations of this dish around. It can be made with soya, tofu, quorn, spinach and ricotta or just roast vegetables (Delia does a lovely version of this) to name but a few. My personal favourite uses soya mince or tvp as it is sometimes known. I use my bolognaise recipe as a base, so I can have some on spaghetti and use the rest in lasagne. It freezes really well, so you can make it ahead of time and freeze it until you are ready to use it.



Veggie Lasagne

Bolognaise Base


1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large carrots, finely chopped
250g mushrooms, finely chopped
100g soya mince/200g frozen soya mince
1 pint/2 cups vegetable stock
800g/2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 glass white wine
100g tomato puree

1 handful freshly torn basil
salt & pepper to taste


Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the carrots and cook until tender, then add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the soya mince and stir in well. Pour in the vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes and wine, stir in. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. You may find you need more liquid if you are using dried soya. You can add extra stock or extra wine.

Add the tomato puree and simmer for another 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt & pepper. Scatter in some torn basil at the last minute.

Set aside

Bechamel Sauce

500ml/2½ cups milk
25g/¼ stick butter
25g plain flour
10 black peppercorns
1 thick slice of onion
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper


Heat the milk in a saucepan with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and then strain off the peppercorns, onion and the bay leaf.

In another saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Add a little milk at a time and whisk until mixture thickens, then add a little more milk and do the same until all the milk is used.

Bring the sauce to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, keep whisking. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Lasagne Sheets

I use no-cook lasagne sheets, but I always think they benefit from being blanched in boiling water for a few mintes. I generally use about 8 sheets to cover two layers, cutting to fit as I go, but do lay the sheets in the dish you intend to use to see how many you will need.

Topping

250g mozzarella grated
½ cup grated vegetarian parmesan


Assembly

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/350°f/180°c.

Spread a generous layer of bolognaise over the base of a large oven-proof dish.

Cover with a layer of blanched lasagne sheets.

Spread a second layer of bolognaise sauce and once again top with lasagne sheets.

Top with a thick layer of bechamel sauce, then cover with grated mozzarella and a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serves 4-6

As you can see, we served our lasagne with vegetables, but it would be just as lovely with a side salad and some garlic bread. I had enough bolognaise leftover to send my brother-in-law home with enough for two helpings of spaghetti and there was plenty of lasagne left to enjoy again the next night.

Cooper thought the lasagne looked lovely too. He kept diving towards it with his hands outstretched. Bless!



National Vegetarian Week has been running in conjunction with the Vegetarian Society for 18 years now. Although there have been mentions of Vegetarian Days held way back in the 30's. It's a great event that gives schools, canteens, caterers, restaurants, libraries and individuals a reason to focus on increasing fruit and veg consumption and look at the issues around food or simply a chance to try something different. So why not join in and try some tasty vegetarian dishes this week?

22 May 2010

Extreme Chocolate, Chocolate Cake


















It was my brother-in-law's birthday last weekend, so I invited him over for dinner. It took me some time to decide what to cook. We had curry last time he was over and he ended up taking over the cooking whilst I fed Cooper, so this time, I wanted to have dinner well underway and just ready to pop in the oven when he arrived.

I decided to make veggie lasagne as it is such a long time since we enjoyed it last and homemde lasagne is always rather special. It is an easy dish, even though it requires quite a bit of preparation. I realised I haven't posted my recipe for it, so I will rectify that sometime this week.

My next decision was whether to make dessert or bake a cake, but heck, it was his birthday, so cake it was. I sat on the livingroom floor surrounded by recipe books, trying to decide and let me tell you it was no easy job, but I eventually settled on a chocolate cake from 101 Chocolate Treats. All I can say is extreme chocolate rush!

Extreme Chocolate, Chocolate Cake


225g/30 squares dark chocolate, broken up
200g/1 ¾ sticks butter, diced
1 tbsp coffee granules
85g/¾ cup self-raising flour
85g/¾ cup plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g/1 ¼ light muscovado sugar (I used demerara sugar)
200g/1 cup caster sugar
125ml/2⁄3 cup water
25g/¼ cup cocoa powder
3 large eggs, beaten
5 tbsp buttermilk (or same of milk, with a squeeze of lemon mixed in)
grated curls of chocolate to decorate


ganache

284ml/1 ½ cups double cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
225g/30 squares chocolate, broken up


Preheat oven to 160c/gas mark 3/fan 140c. Butter and line a 20cm/8 inch round and 7.5cm/3 inch deep cake tin.

Melt the chocolate with the butter, coffee granules and water.

Mix together the flours, soda, sugars and cocoa powder. Mix the eggs with the buttermilk. Stir the chocolate and egg mixtures into the flour until smooth and quite runny. Pour into the tin and bake for 1½ hours until the top is firm and a skewer inserted, comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack. When completely cool slice into two or three layers.

Next make the ganache. Scold the cream and sugar in a pan and pour over the broken chocolate pieces, then stir until melted and smooth. Leave to cool for a few minutes before spreading between the layers and smoothed over the whole cake. Sprinkle with chocolate curls.















As you can see, my cake would have benefited from a while in the fridge, it was rather warm in the kitchen and conservatory, so the ganache was melting somewhat. Of couse we couldn't wait to have a slice and didn't really care. It was delicious, but I would advise you to only have a small slice.

We sent Lachlan home with some cake and put the rest in the fridge. It came out the next day lovely and firm and fudgey. Mmmmmmmmm.

19 May 2010

Quinoa, Lentil & Bean Salad


This was a quickly thrown together dish for dinner tonight, just using what I had to hand. It was a hearty salad with a lovely fresh dressing and lots of lush green coriander.

This is my entry for this month's No Croutons Required. The challenge this month was to make a mexican style salad or soup. My salad isn't particularly authentic, but it gives a nod to mexican cuisine and it is very yummy. If you want to join in, you have until tomorrow evening to submit an entry.



Quinoa, Lentil & Bean Salad

250g prepared black beluga lentils
250g prepared quinoa
240g prepared kidney beans
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 large avocadoes, diced
1 large handful fresh coriander, chopped


dressing

juice of ½ lime
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper


There's not much in the way of preparation. Toss the avocado in some lime juice before adding to the salad, to prevent it from browning. Apart from that is just one of those salads, where you throw everything in and then toss in the dressing.

Serves 6

17 May 2010

Chapatis and Playing With Fire



















I thought I would try my hand at making chapatis to serve with our Indian meal. I found a simple recipe by Gayatri Verma on a BBC news page from way back in 2003 and converted it into cup measures. It was easy and it was great fun. Especially when I got to hold the chapatis over gas flames to make them puff up.

The chapatis were just perfect for mopping up the curry sauce and with such an easy and reliable recipe, you can't go wrong. I do think the chapatis could have done with some seasoning, fresh herbs or a little spice. I know they don't include any of these as they are just there as an accompliment to spicy food, but I will be adding a little extra flavour next time.

Chapatis by Gayatri Verma

Ingredients

3 ¼ cups chapati flour
1 tbsp oil
1 cup water approx
flour for dusting


Method

Mix flour and oil in a bowl and rub lightly. Add water gradually and knead it at the same time until a soft dough is formed. Cover and leave it for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 to 14 small portions. Dip one portion at a time in the plain flour and roll it with a rolling pin on the board, dipping it in the dry flour frequently to prevent sticking.

In the meantime heat a griddle/frying pan and put the rolled chapati in the pan. Cook one side for 20 to 30 seconds, turn it over and then cook the other side.

Now remove the pan and put the chapati on a high flame for few seconds and soon it will puff up.

Using a tong, turn the chapati over and wait for few seconds until brown spots appear this side.

Remove from flame and put it on a kitchen towel. Repeat the process with rest of the flour balls.

Serve these hot with any curry.

To keep the chapatis soft and warm, wrap in foil. They can also be warmed in a microwave for few seconds just before eating.

14 May 2010

660 Curries




































No, calm down. I haven't made 660 curries. It is the title of a wonderful book by Raghavan Iyer bought for me by my dear friend Lisa.

At first I was a bit overwhelmed by this tome of a cookbook, until I realised how it should be used. It's not one of those coffee table books that you flick through looking at the shiny pictures. Instead it is a treasure chest full of curries, biryanis, breads, pickles relishes and raitas, to name but a few and the best way to use this book is to choose the ingredients you want to use and then have a browse through the index. You won't be disappointed.

You will be surprised to hear that the first ingredient I looked up wasn't mushrooms. I decided I wanted a curry using spinach and so I came to Spicy Potatoes and Spinach with Blackened Chiles and Coconut Milk. I changed it a little, using chilli flakes, instead of dried red thai chiles, baby new potatoes instead of russet potatoes and I changed the spices a little. Here is my final recipe.


Spicy Spinach and Potato Curry

2 tbsp oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
16 baby new potatoes, quartered (approx 1 ½ cm pieces)
240g baby spinach
400ml coconut milk


Dry roast the seeds in a hot pan for a few minutes. Don't allow to burn. Grind the spices in a pestle and mortar.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the spices and allow to sizzle for a few minutes before adding the rinsed and chopped potatoes. The oil will sparks, so put the lid on until it settles, then stir occasionally for the next 5 minutes.

Stir in the salt, turmeric and chilli flakes. Then pour in the coconut milk and stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, with the lid on for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Rinse the spinach and then add to the pan. There is no need to chop it, it will wilt down as it cooks. Stir well before serving.

Serves 4-6

I served up this curry with our favouite Chickpea Curry, rice, chutney and chapatis. I will blog about the chapatis soon. They were great fun to make and I was very impressed when I realised there were flames involved. I managaed to make them without being burned, but I did smash a kilner jar reaching for my camera at the table. Ooops! Graham wasn't impressed as this is the third thing I have smashed this week, fourth if you include the teeny, tiny jam jar that fell out a cupboard as I opened it today.

I was ably assisted in the kitchen by my friend Andrew who had come for dinner and Graham, well he sat back and enjoyed the meal knowing he was in charge of clearing up afterwards. Cooper quietly supervised from the armchair in the corner, throwing in the occasional comment.







Disclosure Statement: I did not receive this book free from the publisher to review. This book was my own copy, which I decided to review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

11 May 2010

Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies
















It's cookie time again.

I got this recipe from Maria over at The Goddess's Kitchen. I doubled the original recipe and changed it into cup measures. I like to have lots of cookies to share around.

This is my 'go to' recipe whenever I want a blonde cookie. I have baked it a few times, changing about the fillings and they always turn out beautifully. So, if you are looking for a good blonde cookie recipe, then this is the one for you. If you would prefer it in metric, the original recipe is here.

Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies

250g/1 cup butter, softened
½ cup demerara sugar
½ cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup white chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 180C/ fan 160C/ Gas 4.

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale and creamy, either in an electric mixer or by hand.

Beat in the vanilla extract and egg yolk.

Add the flour, cranberries and white chocolate chips. Mix until you have a smooth dough, with the only lumps being the chocolate and fruit.

Using your hands, roll the dough into golf sized balls and lightly press each one flat on to a greased baking sheet, making sure they are spread slightly apart.

Bake for 12 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before moving onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24

08 May 2010

How to Cook Tofu

















I know that many of my regular readers will be expert at cooking with tofu, but for me it is quite a new experience, so I thought I would document my efforts as I go.

Tofu is something I have avoided like the plague for years. I think I may have had it once and disliked it so much I decided it just wasn't for me. So what has made me change my mind, I hear you ask? Cooper, my baby. Still puzzled? It will soon make sense.

Cooper is now 18 weeks old, which means we will soon be starting on the whole weaning process. The Department of Health recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months. This is not a hard and fast rule and this baby of ours is growing fast as well as watching every bite we eat. I think he may be ready before the 6 month mark.

In anticipation of the big event, I purchased Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel, who is a bit of a legend when it comes to advice on feeding children.

So, I was toodling through the book very happily, enjoying all the recipes and colourful pictures (it is a recipe book after all), when I came to the section on introducing protein.

This baby of ours is going to be a vegetarian baby and so the recommended protein to introduce to his diet is tofu, which is high iron, potassium and calcium. Apparently babies are born with an store of iron that lasts approximately 6 months, after which the baby needs iron introduced into his diet. Between 6 months and 2 years is a vital time for brain development, so iron-rich food are very important.

Thinking it would be a bit hypocritical to introduce tofu to Cooper's diet when we avoid it like the plague, I decided to start sampling tofu when I was eating out. My first try was on my birthday, when we enjoyed a meal with friends at the Metro Brasserie in Dundee, one of our favourite places to eat. Graham and I both chose the Soba Noodles with Teriyaki Stir-Fry & Spiced Tofu. It was delicious, but Graham didn't enjoy the tofu and I thought it might have been better. I think the reason for this, was it was soft and a bit bland.

My second attempt on my quest to enjoy tofu, was one late night, when we were starving and the thought of cooking just didn't appeal. We took, a very rare trip to a local Chinese take-away and there on the menu I spotted dishes with tofu. Aha! I jiggled the menu around a bit and ordered sweet and sour vegetables with tofu and rice and it was just the ticket. Mmmmmmmmm! Gorgeous. This is exactly what I wanted from my tofu. Flavoursome and slightly chewy, much more appealing.

A visit to Matthew's Foods, (the oriental supermarket) later and I had all I needed for a Teriyaki Vegetable Stir-Fry with Tofu and Noodles.

I did a bit of research online to see how other people were cooking their tofu and came up with this technique and marinade.

Cooking Tofu

1. Open your packet of tofu and drain away any excess liquid.

2. Slice the tofu into strips and then cut into triangles.

3. Place the triangles onto a clean, dry tea towel and gently squeeze out the moisture.

4. Fry the tofu in a dry pan until each side is golden brown.

5. Soak in a marinade for a few hours.

6. Add to stir-fry along with your choice of vegetables and sauce.

7. Enjoy.

Teriyaki Marinade

1 clove garlic, minced
2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup teriyaki sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup apple juice


Mix all the ingredients together and leave to rest for half an hour before adding the tofu. Leave the dry-fried tofu in the marinade for a few hours. You may use the tofu after half an hour, but it won't have as much flavour as it would if left to soak longer.

I then use this marinade as a dressing for my stir-fry and noodles. Very tasty.

04 May 2010

Hillwalking and Horseradish



This was my second day out hillwalking since giving birth to Cooper, four months ago. It was lovely to be out and about with Graham and my hillwalking friends on such a lovely day (ie. no rain), enjoying the fresh air and wonderful Scottish views.

We set off from the centre of Pitlochry and walked into the hills and back for nearly seven hours. The walk runs from Pitlochry uphill across heather moorland to Killiecrankie. It is supposed to be a 10 mile walk, but I would say nearer 15, taking into consideration how long it took us.

The walk up was quite steep and hard work, so we were grateful to stop for lunch.

My friend Andrew and I always do a lunch swap. It keeps us on our toes, thinking of something interesting to share.

I baked chewy flapjack cookies (recipe to follow) for us to munch on as we walked and I decided to make sandwiches for lunch.

Lovely fresh bread, overflowing with seeds, spread with a generous slather of horseradish sauce, topped with juicy slices of portabello mushroom, fried in a little butter (or marg) and seasoned with salt and pepper. A layer of sliced ripe and creamy avocado, tossed lightly in some freshly squeezed lemon juice (to prevent it from browning) and a handful of fresh, green, baby spinach leaves for crunch. Nom, nom!!

Andrew provided us with wraps. Seeded tortilla wraps spread with a blend of cream cheese and pesto and filled with potato and carrot roasted in olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, topped with salad leaves and carefully rolled. The flavours were gorgeous, in fact my mouth is watering just thinking of it. Mmmmmmm!

We were all very hot after the walk up, but you do cool down very quickly and there was a light flurry of snow to hurry us along.

The walk down is always more pleasant than the trek up and this time it was shared with lots of cute little lambs fiercely protected by their mothers. Then it was a long walk through woodlands by a river and back into Pitlochry. A dumping of gear into cars and a much appreciated comfy seat in a pub.













01 May 2010

Blueberry Muffins

































These blueberry muffins are from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. A colourful and sumptious treat of a book full of cupcakes, muffins, pies, brownies, cakes, cookies and cheesecakes. I probably choose one of the plainest recipes in the book, but I was craving blueberries, so it had to be.

Here is a bit of blurb about the bakery; "The Hummingbird Bakery landed in Portobello Road in early 2004. We wanted to provide Londoners with an alternative to supermarket cakes and French patisseries.

We didn't know where we could buy real cupcakes, fluffy with buttercream icing, moist chocolate layer cakes or genuine American pies - so we decided to make and sell them ourselves! Our simple, unfussy recipes have proved very popular."


Very popular indeed, they have gone on to open two more shops in London, with another one to open by the end of the year and plans to go overseas. Their cookbook sold over 100,000 copies last year.



print recipe

Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry muffins. Perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Light, fluffy and packed with squishy, sweet, blueberries.
Ingredients
  • 360g plain flour
  • 370g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 to 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 375ml buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 70g unsalted butter, melted
  • 250g blueberries
Instructions
Preheat oven to 170c/325f, gas mark 3.

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl and use an electric blender or a hand whisk and beat.

Pour in the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract into a jug and mix to combine. Slowly pour into the flour mixture and beat until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Pour in the melted butter and beat until the butter is just incorporated, then beat until the batter is even and smooth.

Finally, gently fold in the blueberries with a wooden spoon until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the muffins to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Details
Cook time: Total time:
Yield: 12 muffins

Here are a few more muffin recipes for you to enjoy:







* Buttermilk, Beetroot & Apple Muffins
* Chocolate Maple Muffins
* Double Chocolate Muffins
* Jammie Doughnut Muffins
* Pear & Ginger Muffins