Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Until I tried this recipe, I used to think of fennel as strictly a summer vegetable, well, proved wrong again.  I love fennel, even raw in salads, and I’ve always roasted it, but along with other vegetables to add to warm salads mostly.  But there’s something about this way of preparing it that opens a whole other world of possibilities.  For example, this fennel is delicious on the side of roast chicken, and you can cook it while your chicken is in the oven too.  I think it’s something to do with the use of a bit of butter and the cheese – that’s what makes this dish warming in the winter and soothing in the summer.

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

The Recipe

Preparation Time:  25 minutes
Baking Time:  20 minutes
Serves:  4 to 6

Ingredients

About 1.5kg / 3.3lb fennel bulbs (normally this is about 4 or 5) – halved, stalks removed.  Keep back the green feathery frons for dressing.
4 x tbsp unsalted butter
2 x tbsp Niolly Prat (Optional – I only use it if I have it in the house, I don’t go out and buy it specially for this recipe.  You can also use white wine or vermouth, or exclude the alcohol altogether.)
50gr / 1.5oz. freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Method

  1. Cook the fennel in a large pan of boiling salted water until softened, but not mushy. This should take about 20 minutes, it depends on the size of your bulbs.
  2. Whilst the fennel is boiling, set your oven to 200°C/400°F and use about a third of the butter to grease a roasting tray.
  3. Once boiled, drain the fennel and then cut each piece lengthways into 2 or 3 thick slices. Lay out in the roasting tray.
  4. Drizzle the Noilly Prat over your fennel (if you’re using it), dot the rest of the butter over and sprinkle the cheese. Give a few grinds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt (not too much, the water for your fennel will impart a little salt and pecorino is a salty cheese).
  5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese and butter have become golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle over the fresh fennel frons before serving.

 Tips and Variations

  • An excellent side dish to fish or chicken.

Baked Fennel and Pecorino

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Southern Indian Vegetable Curry

Before I say anything else, please, please don’t be put off by the list of ingredients for the curry.  It’s mostly just spices, and in no way means that this is a complicated recipe, in fact it is pretty simple.

Ok, now that’s out of the way I can tell you that as a confirmed meat eater this is a really satisfying dish.  I’ve said (sorry if I’m beginning to repeat myself) that there is only one place I could consider being vegetarian, and that’s Sicily.  Well, I have to eat my words (and believe me, if it were possible I would) and tell you that India could also persuade me to give up meat.

It’s the spice I think that does it, it charms and disarms the carnivore and before you know it you realise that you’re not even looking at the ‘non-veg’ options on their menu’s.  Of course it’s got something to do with the environment you’re in, the culture, the climate, I know how that can affect eating habits, but even after coming home I found myself eating less meat and turning more and more to spice.

Although I love meat, I don’t eat a huge amount and one of the many things I learnt in India was that I wanted to eat even less.  So, if you feel like cutting down a little too, but not giving up on the flavour or enjoyment of your food, this could be a really great place to start.

South Indian Vegetable Curry

Preparation Time:  25 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Serves 4 to 6
For the Curry Paste
1 x tsp of fennel seeds
2 x tsp of cumin seeds
2 x tsp of coriander powder
2 x tsp turmeric
2 x tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1 x tsp cinnamon
½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
6 x tbsp. of desiccated coconut
3 x red chilies, stalks removed and halved
4 x large garlic cloves
2 x medium tomatoes, quartered
1 x red onion, quartered
1 x tbsp. of tomato puree
4 x tbsp. of water

For the Vegetables
2 x tbsp. of vegetable oil (I normally use sunflower)
1 red onion sliced thinly
700gr / 1.5lb cauliflower florets (a small cauly will do).  Cut or tear the florets into quite small,  bite sized sections.
1 x aubergine (eggplant), diced
2 x red peppers with the seeds and stalks removed and then diced
200gr / 7oz. x green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 2cm / 1 in. pieces
1 x tbsp. of honey
1 x tbsp. of red wine vinegar (or other vinegar if you don’t have the red wine variety)
Salt to taste

To Serve
Some natural yogurt and fresh coriander leaves.

Method

  1. Grind the fennel and cumin seeds. If you are feeling particularly worthy or in need of some exercise you can do this by hand with a pestle and mortar, but, if like me you just want your dinner, do it in a little electric spice or coffee grinder.  Oh, but if you use a coffee grinder, keep it for spices only.
  2. Place the ground fennel and cumin with the rest of the ingredients listed under the heading ‘for the curry paste’ in a blender and whizz up until you get a smooth puree. If it is not blending as smooth as you want it, add a little more water to loosen up the mix.
  3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom soup or stew pan and add the sliced red onion, frying on a medium high heat until it browns.
  4. Add the curry paste, a little salt, the vinegar and honey, stir through and cook at a medium simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper, stir through, cover with a close fitting lid and cook for about 7 minutes. Check after a minute to make sure your temperature is correct, it should be simmering gently.
  6. Then add the cauliflower and aubergine (eggplant), again stir through to cover it in your curry paste, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Then it’s the beans, cook for a further 7 to 10 minutes.  The curry is ready when the vegetables have softened but still retain a little bite.
  7. This curry should be quite thick, but because of all the vegetables and depending on how much water you added to blend your paste, it may be thinner than you wish. To thicken, remove the lid from the pan, turn up the heat and allow to reduce for a minute or two.
  8. Check your curry for seasoning, you may need to add some more salt or you may want a little more heat in the form of fresh or powdered chili. You can even add more sweetness with an extra squeeze of honey.

Tips and Variations

  • You can vary the combination of vegetables as much as you wish – it’s a really handy recipe for using up veggies lurking in the back of the fridge that are perhaps past their best. Just remember different vegetables have different cooking times – you don’t want it turning to mush.
  • Try this mix with peppers (red and green) and tofu, this is one of my favourite variations.
  • Asafoetida is a powder that you will find in some specialist shops or Indian deli’s. It’s derived from a root and is often used in Southern Indian vegetable dishes and has an earthy, oniony flavour.  It’s not to everyone’s taste and can take a bit of getting used to.  To be honest I tend not to use it as I find at home I really don’t enjoy it the way I did when travelling in India.
  • This curry is a bit of a mix of a Goa style and Kerala curry. You can see the Goa influence with the addition of a little bit of vinegar – this came from the time when the area was colonized by the Portuguese.  And of course no Kerala curry would be complete without the use of coconuts.

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Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma  Pasta alla Norma:

I’ve said it before, Sicily is one of the few places I reckon I could be 100% vegetarian.  I think it’s the mix of cultures that have had an influence on the island’s cuisine and the fact they just seem to have the knack of really celebrating their vegetables.  Pasta alla Norma is classic Sicily and probably one if it’s best know dishes, named after Bellini’s opera Norma it’s base is a tomato sauce with aubergine, but with some little additions from around the Mediterranean and further afield the simple sounding combination is lifted to new heights.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 40  minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients


For the Aubergines (egg plant)
2 x aubergines sliced thinly – about ½ cm / 0.4 in. thick
2 x tsp salt
Olive oil – difficult to say how much as it will depend on the dimensions of your pan.

For the Sauce
2 x tbsp olive oil
4 x garlic cloves, sliced thinly
6 x large, ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 x small onion, chopped finely
1 x tbsp of small capers
1 x tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 x tsp of chili flakes
1 x tbsp of dried oregano
2 x tsp honey
Salt
75gr / 2.5 oz.  pecorino cheese, grated
Some fresh oregano or basil to dress

Pasta alla Norma

Method

  1. Lay the aubergines out and salt them – both sides, then place the slices in a colander with a tea towel underneath. Allow the liquid to drain for about 30 minutes.  Before you remove them, press down to get as much liquid out as you can – not too hard though, you don’t want to break the slices of aubergine.
  2. Whilst the aubergines are draining you can make the sauce. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and onion, let them cook for a couple of minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the tomatoes, chili, capers, vinegar, dried oregano, honey and a pinch of salt (be careful, the aubergines have been salted and the capers add a saltiness too).  Set to a medium heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.  As the sauce becomes thicker, you can turn down the heat so that it doesn’t stick.
  3. As the sauce cooks, you can get going on the aubergines. Get a plate and some kitchen towel ready and heat about a ½ cm of olive oil in a shallow frying pan.  To check it has reached temperature I dip the end of wooden spoon into it, if it fizzes, it’s hot.  Lay the slices of aubergine into the pan – you’ll have to do this in batches, and don’t overload the pan.  Cook gently on both sides until golden brown then remove and place on your plate with layers of kitchen roll in between the layers of aubergine.
  4. Once the aubergines are ready and the sauce has cooked down to be quite thick it’s time to add the aubergine to the sauce. Keep back 2 or 3 slices per person to lay over the top of your dish, this adds a nice crispy texture.  With the rest, tear them roughly into the sauce and stir through carefully as you don’t want mash up the aubergine – you want it to stay as intact as possible.
  5. Serve with the extra pieces of aubergine placed over the top and then sprinkled with pecorino and fresh oregano or basil.

Tips and Variations

  • I like to serve this with either spaghetti or penne.
  • If your sauce is too thick, and by that, I mean it’ll be difficult to get the sauce to cover the pasta evenly and you think you’ll end up breaking up the aubergine when you mix it through add a little water first, stir through to loosen it before you add the aubergine.

Preserved Red Peppers

Preserved Red Peppers

Sunshine in a jar ready for you whenever you feel the need of a little burst of flavour.

Preserved Red Peppers:

It’s time for the next round in the red pepper relay!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, I got a bit carried away recently with a great deal on red peppers and ended up buying 10 kilos of them.  The good news is not only that I got a bargain, but lots of new recipes.  I’ve been consulting cookbooks, friends and letting my imagination run around with this ingredient and have come up with some really tasty ideas.

In the past, I’ve bought countless jars of preserved red peppers, but have always been disappointed.  There was something about the flavour that jarred with me – I think maybe it’s to do with vinegar levels, of which there is none in this recipe.  Here, I’ve concentrated on bringing out the sweetness of the pepper and I reckon I’ve succeeded.  This simple recipe has hit the right note for me.  The sun dried tomatoes add a depth and a bit of zing whilst the garlic pushes flavour from behind the scenes.

They’ve become unmissable, I’ve been adding them to sauces, salads, pastas, and am going absolutely crazy for them over goat’s cheese.  When I made the peppers I have to admit to thinking maybe I’d made too much, but, now down to my last half jar I’ve hidden it in the cupboard to keep them to myself.

Preserved Red Peppers

Place the sun dried tomatoes on top of the garlic to protect it from burning during roasting.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

You’ll need some sterilised jars for this recipe.

Ingredients

8 x red peppers, seeds and stalk removed and cut length ways into thirds or quarters depending on the size.
8 to 10 large garlic cloves sliced thinly
150gr / 5.3 oz sundried tomatoes (in oil) chopped finely
3 x tbsps of olive oil to cook the peppers
Around 500ml / 1pt. US / 0.8pt. UK  olive oil cover the peppers in their jars – the amount will depend on the size of the jars and how densely you pack your peppers.
Salt

Preserved Red Peppers

Served on crispy toasted slices of baguette.

Method 

  1. Heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  2. Place the peppers in a roasting tray, skin side down then put one or two slices of garlic on each and about half a teaspoon of sundried tomato. Drizzle over the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and put in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes or until they are soft and have taken some colour here and there.  Be careful not to burn the garlic, you can place the tomato on top to protect it.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven and sprinkle with some salt, allow to cool and layer them in your jars. Cover the peppers with oil and seal.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve as tapas or antipasto. Or, as a topping for bruschetta and I really like to chop them roughly and sprinkle over salads.
  • You can add the peppers to soups and sauces.
  • The peppers will keep for quite some time, certainly a couple of months. I prefer to store them outside the fridge as the cold makes the olive oil solid.
Preserved Red Peppers

Serve with tapas or antipasti.

 

Spinach and Paneer Curry

Spinach and Paneer Curry

Spinach and Paneer Curry:

Ever since my south Indian travels I’ve been working on getting to grips with some of my favourite food from the trip.  This curry with spinach and paneer (Indian fresh cheese) is really fresh and light and, it uses a very (in my opinion) exotic spice –  asafoetida.  This spice has a sort of earthy onion type aroma and flavour and in its raw form is a root like ginger or turmeric.  In the South of India they use it in a lot of vegetarian curries.  I had heard of it, but I had absolutely no idea how to use it.  That’s the great thing about travelling to the places where your favourite food originates, you get to taste how it should taste and that makes it so much easier to understand how to use it.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes 

Serves 4
500gr / 1.1 lb. of paneer cut into cubes (you can also use tofu)
For the Curry
2 x tbsp of sunflower oil
2 x red onions, quartered
2 x large tomatoes, quartered
4 x large garlic cloves
2 x tsp of cumin
1 x tsp of turmeric
3 x tsp of coriander
3 x tsp of cardamom
1 x tsp f fenugreek
¼ tsp of asafetida (optional)
¼ tsp of salt

For the Spinach
500gr / 1.1 lb. of fresh spinach, cleaned and the most woody stems removed.
2 x green chili’s
2 x large cloves of garlic
75gr  / 2.5 oz. piece of peeled ginger

Method 

  1. Place the spinach leaves in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove them and plunge them into a bowl of iced water.  This keeps the vibrant green colour.
  2. Put all the curry ingredients (except for the oil) into a food processor and blitz until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. Drain the spinach and put  it in the food processor with the chili’s, garlic and ginger and blitz until smooth.
  4. Heat the oil in a non stick pan and cook the curry sauce for about 3 minutes.  Add the spinach mix and stir through, cooking on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Add the paneer, stir through and check for salt before serving.

Tips and Variations

  • This can be served as a main dish or without the paneer it makes a great side dish to a curry menu.

Spinach and Paneer Curry