Category Archives: Vegetarian

Aubergine and Mushroom in Fragrant Peanut Sauce

Hi there

I went a bit nuts on the veg front when I went shopping this week – there was so much different stuff I fancied buying, so last night it seemed to make a lot of sense to have a vegetarian dinner.  What I made was a mish-mash of stuff, but actually turned out to be pretty tasty.  Despite the long list of ingredients, it was also really quick to prepare, which can only be a bonus in my book.

My one piece of advice would be: don’t forget to put the rice on.  We ended up having disappointing cous cous, because it’s quicker to cook than rice.  Tonight we’re having the leftovers with added chicken and rice.  Or at least, that’s the plan.

Much love

Gemma xx

Aubergine and Mushroom in Fragrant Peanut Sauce

Y’know, imagine rice instead of cous cous…

Aubergine
Mushrooms
Leek
Red pepper
Root ginger
1-2 cloves garlic
Lemongrass
Kaffir lime leaves
Cumin
Ground coriander
Ground ginger
Toasted sesame oil
Crunchy peanut butter
Coconut milk
Some kind of sweetener – honey, brown sugar or agave syrup
Soy sauce
Fish sauce (omit if vegetarian)
Nuts (I used soy nuts)

  1. Chop all the veg into chunky pieces and place in a bowl.  Peel the root ginger and garlic, grate on a microplane and add to the veg.  Bruise the lemongrass, chop finely and add to the veg.  Crumble in a couple of kaffir lime leaves, and sprinkle on a generous amount of cumin, coriander and ginger.  Add a couple of spoons of sesame oil and stir really well to ensure everything is evenly distributed.  Leave to marinade for a couple of hours.
  2. Heat a wok until it is really hot.  Throw the veg into the pan and immediately turn down to a medium/low temperature.  Stir fry for several minutes, until the aubergine is cooked in the middle.  Cover the wok.
  3. In the marinade bowl, stir together a couple of heaped spoons of peanut butter with enough coconut milk to form a fairly thick sauce consistency.  Add a teaspoon of your preferred sweetener and a good dash each of soy and fish sauce.
  4. Add the sauce to the veg and stir well.  Once hot, adjust the sauce as required by adding more soy sauce, fish sauce or sugar.  Cook for a few minutes for the sauce to reduce slightly.
  5. Stir through the nuts at the last minute, and serve on a bed of rice.
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We’re Jammin’…and jellyin’ and chutneyin’ too

Hello!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a week, but hadn’t quite got around to it.  Last weekend I did a lot of fruit picking with my dad.  We’d gone sloe and blackberry picking down the drove and collected plums and both eating and cooking apples from my parents’ garden.  I was driven home last Sunday with a lot of this fruit and one of my parents’ large pans so that I could make some jam and other such jarred loveliness.  The result was several jars of plum and ginger jam, plum and apple chutney, apply and thyme jelly and sweet chilli jelly, not to mention the blackberries, stewed apple and sloes (which have since been thrown into a kilner jar with some gin) in my freezer.

I’ve been collecting jars for several months – jam jars, condiment jars, sauce jars etc.  If you’re not a serial hoarder, you can buy jars from cookery shops, homeware stores and even some supermarkets.

Youngest brother climbs into the plum tree.

The instructions below are very very rough – a lot of it was trial and error, involving a lot of tasting between times.

If anyone’s got a favourite preserving recipe I’d love to hear it!

Much love

Gemma xx

Jars and jars and jars of stuff 🙂

Plum and Ginger Jam

4lb fresh plums (most of mine were yellow plums, but there were a handful of little red cherry plums too)
Around 4oz fresh root ginger
1 pint water
Between 1-4lb preserving sugar
Pectin (I used 1 Tate and Lyle Pectin Sachet)

  1. Sterilise some jars and leave in a low oven to keep warm and dry.  I ended up with 6 jars of jam.
  2. Grease your preserving pan to prevent the fruit from sticking.
  3. Weigh the bowl or pan you’ll be stoning your plums into and zero the scales.  This will prevent frustrating guesswork as to how heavy your fruit it later on.
  4. Wash the fruit as necessary.  Stone your plums into the bowl or pan you weighed.  This is a job which can be done whilst sitting on the settee watching a favourite film or some TV programme.  I watching University Challenge and then trashed it up with Don’t Tell the Bride😉

    All of my plums. I had just over 6lb of fruit after it had been stoned. I used 2 thirds in the jam and the rest in my chutney.

  5. Peel the ginger and grate finely.  Squeeze the juice from the fibrous gunk into the fruit and discard.  Add the grated ginger to the plums with the water.
  6. Stew the plums on a medium heat until they have cooked down.  Mix the pectin with some sugar and stir through the fruit to dissolve.  Continue to sweeten the plums, tasting as you go.  I only added about 1lb of sugar because I like my fruit more tart than most people.
  7. Remove the jars from the oven (carefully – they’ll be hot!) and jar the jam immediately.  Label with the type of jam and the date.  Keep in a cool, dark, dry place and refrigerate once opened.

Plum and Apple Chutney

2lb stoned plums
1lb cooking apples
A few onions
Your favourite spices – I think I used some mustard seeds, smoked paprika, ground ginger, cumin and cayenne pepper
Sultanas
Dried figs
2lb brown sugar
1 pint malt vinegar (I used the absolute cheapest stuff and it worked fine)
2 tablespoons salt

Some of our apple harvest.

  1. Sterilise some jars and leave in a low oven to keep warm and dry.  I ended up with 4 very large jars of chutney.
  2. Peel and chop the apple and onion.  Fry the onion and spices in a little oil.
  3. Add the apples to the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.
  4. Turn the heat down and simmer until the fruit has softened and the chutney thickened.
  5. Jar the chutney, label and allow to mature for a couple of weeks before using.

Apple Jelly from The Ballymaloe Cookery Course

5 1/2 lb cooking apples
4 1/2 pints water
2 lemons
Sugar
2 sachets pectin (Darina Allen tells you not to use pectin, but I don’t think this would have set otherwise)
Your chosen flavours – I did some with fresh thyme and some with fresh chilli, but use whichever herbs/spices you fancy

  1. Sterilise some jars and leave in a low oven to keep warm and dry.  I ended up with 7 jars of jelly.
  2. Chop up the apples, but do not discard the peel or cores.  Place in a pan with the water and lemon zest.  Cook until the fruit has turned to pulp.
  3. Transfer the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip overnight.  You’re not supposed to squeeze the bag, but I did in order to get as much juice as possible out of the apples.

    Dangling in a muslin from my kitchen cupboards. One advantage to having door handles which you can thread string through.

  4. Place a couple of plates in the fridge.  You will use these to check if the jelly has set.
  5. Measure the juice into a pan.  Mix the pectin with the sugar and add 1lb of sugar for every 1 pint of juice.  Squeeze the lemons into the juice and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for 10 minutes.  As a warning, my jelly was very sweet, but perhaps the apples weren’t as sharp as cookers usually are.
  6. Drop some juice onto one the the cold plates and return to the fridge for a couple of minutes.  Remove the plate and push your finger against the juice – if it wrinkles, it has set and the jelly is ready to jar.
  7. Stir through your chosen flavouring and jar.  As the jelly cools, twist the jars in order to redistribute the herbs/spices so that the pieces are suspended throughout the jelly, rather than floating to the top.
  8. Serve with meats and cheeses or use in cooking.  We had some of the thyme jelly with roast lamb at the weekend, which was really good.  Mint or rosemary would have worked well too.

Wild Boar Pizza with Allotment Salad

Hullo

A Man and I went for a cinema date on Friday, and I really fancied pizza for dinner.  He wasn’t in the mood though, so I agreed that we would go to Wagamama’s and make pizza for dinner on Saturday night.

I’ve blogged about pizza a couple of times, so I won’t bore you with that again.  I tried making the dough with some wholemeal flour but it wasn’t as good as before, so I’ll just be using plain white flour in future.  Oh well – lesson learned!

As well as the garlic we also brought back some other culinary delights from France, one of which was a Saucisson Sec de Sanglier – Wild Boar salami.  A few years ago, as A Man and I were preparing to return to the UK after our European tour, we went to a food market in France where we tried some wild boar prepared similarly to parma ham and it was fantastic.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the space in our luggage to bring any back, but the memory remained and A Man was on the lookout at the Rennes market.  As we couldn’t find the ham, saucisson sec was a good alternative and it was a delicious addition to the pizza.

A Man’s mum visited us during the week, and came bearing fresh vegetables from her allotment.  I decided to make up a yummy salad, with some of the red onion, carrots and peas that she brought us.  Yummy!  It’s a fairly robust salad, and adding some pesto to the dressing really helped to bring the flavours of the veg out.  I plan to have the rest with some more saucisson sec for my lunch today 🙂

And, as a final farewell, here are two of her carrots having a cuddle.

Awww, cuddling carrots. How sweet!

Love love

Gemma xx

Allotment Salad

Fresh peas, shelled
Small red onion
Carrots
Cucumber
Lettuce
Mixed nuts
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Pesto

Allotment salad, with pizza in the background. Mmm, yummy!

  1. Thinly slice the onion.  Peel or scrub the carrots if necessary and chop into fairly small chunks.  Chop the cucumber into cubes and tear the lettuce.  Chop the nuts fairly finely.  Launch all the veg and nuts into a bowl.
  2. Mix the pesto with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Season to taste.  Dress the salad and serve.

 

Thai Green Curry

Why hello there, long time no see.

I must apologise – over the past couple of weeks I’ve been most unadventurous in the kitchen.  Dinners have consisted of either leftover freezer food or easy easy things which may be tasty but are definitely not blogworthy (spag bol anyone?!).  I have been occupying myself out of the kitchen (shock!), primarily with the assistance of sewing (preceded by incredibly necessary maintenance on my very very pretty but 50-year-old sewing machine), knitting, attempting to crochet and origami.  All with end goals in sight, I swear!  As a result I’ve been neglecting you – I’m very sorry for that.

Today has been gorgeous, and I wanted something fragrant and delicious for dinner.  I haven’t cooked thai food for ages, and the fact that we had to go food shopping anyway seemed like a perfect excuse to make a green curry.  It takes a while to make the paste, but it’s totally worth it.  This one’s almost soupy, the way I like it, but if you prefer a thicker sauce then you don’t have to add as much liquid as I do.  You can also make the paste in a food processor, but I find chopping and grinding it to be quite cathartic (although I did enlist the assistance of A Man when my arm got tired!).

Having never been to Thailand, I’ve no clue whether this is anywhere close to authentic, but it really hit the nail on the head for me.  Definitely what I needed to eat tonight!  You can change up the ingredients to use fish, prawns or veggies if you like.  If you’re making a vegetarian version, just use soy sauce instead of fish sauce.

Both A Man and I have been cooking with a lot of garlic recently, partially because we both love garlic, but also because one of the souvenirs he brought back from our recent holiday in France was a grappe of garlic from the Rennes food market.  The bulbs are really big, less harsh-tasting than supermarket stuff and frankly damned tasty.

Yes, we really did go to France and bring back garlic.  So shoot us.

Love love

Gemma xx

Thai Green Curry

Unveiling the curry 🙂

For the Paste
Root Ginger – about 2 cm
Fresh Galangal – about cm
Shallots – 2 or 3
Spring Onions – 3 or 4
Finger Chillis – 2-4
Garlic Cloves – about 5 fat cloves
Lemongrass – 1 or 2 stalks
Kaffir Lime Leaves – about 5
Zest of 1 lime
Pinch of course salt
A little vegetable oil

For the Curry
Chicken, prawns or whatever you fancy.  I used chicken thigh fillets, chopped into chunky pieces
Red onion, chopped
Butternut squash, chopped into thin slices
Carrot, chopped
Mushroom, sliced
Courgette, sliced
Sugarsnap peas
250ml coconut cream.  Not coconut milk, because the stock dilutes it somewhat.
250ml stock.  I used homemade chicken stock
Fish sauce/soy sauce
Coriander.  Fresh and chopped for preference, but I had to use some prepared coriander from a jar 😦
Juice of 1/2 lime

  1. Peel and grate the ginger and galangal with a microplane grater.  Squeeze the juice from any fibrous gunk and discard the fibrous bit.
  2. Finely chop the remaining paste vegetables and spices.  Use 2 chillis to start with – you will be able to add more later if necessary.
  3. Grind all of the paste ingredients together until it’s fairly homogeneous, although lumps are OK.
  4. Heat a little vegetable oil in a wok.  If using chicken, brown it all over and then remove from the pan.  Fry the paste ingredients for 3-5 minutes on a low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the onion, squash and carrot to the paste and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Add the mushroom and courgette and fry for a couple of more minutes.  Stir through the coconut and stock and add the chicken/prawns etc to the sauce.  Turn down to a medium-low temperature, cover the wok and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat has just cooked through.
  6. Add the sugarsnaps, a few drops of fish sauce/soy sauce, a heaped teaspoon of coriander and the lime juice.  Stir well and taste the sauce.  Season further with fish sauce if necessary.  If you feel like it needs some more heat, chop up another chilli and fry for a minute or so in a separate pan.  Add to the sauce and taste again.  Remember, you can always add more chilli but you can’t take it away!  It’s taken me a long time to learn this 🙂
  7. Serve with rice noodles and crackers.  And spoons.  Definitely spoons – you don’t want to miss out on all that juicy deliciousness.

Pea and Mint Soup

Hi there

Yesterday after work, I bought a couple of kg of fresh pod peas which were seriously reduced.  I then sat on the sofa and shelled them over a couple of episodes of Don’t Tell the Bride.  Totally intended to tidy the house.  Didn’t.  Never mind!

This soup is seriously easy and very pretty too!  If you’re feeling extreme, you can strain it after it’s been blended to ensure it’s super-smooth, but I didn’t bother.  It can be served hot or cold, and the addition of a little cream or yoghurt can make it really special.

You can of course use frozen peas if you  prefer.  With fresh peas, you end up with tons and tons of pods – I chucked mine in the slow cooker to make an easy veggie stock.  I also had too many peas to blend so removed some of them from the stock and chilled them for use later in the week.

Much love

Gemma xx

Pea and Mint Soup

It’s so greeeen! A Man seasoned his with lots of black pepper.

2 red onions
Several fat cloves of garlic
Butter and olive oil
Dried and fresh mint
1 – 2 pints vegetable stock
Lots of peas
Salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste
Cream or natural yoghurt (optional)

  1. Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry in some butter and olive oil until starting to soften.  Add the dried and fresh mint.
  2. Add enough stock to cover the onion by about an inch and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Add the peas and more stock if necessary to ensure they are covered by an inch or two.  Simmer for around 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and whiz with a hand blender until smooth, adding more liquid as necessary.  Strain if desired.  Season well with salt, pepper and a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar to taste.  If serving chilled, leave to cool and then chill in the fridge – it may thicken as it cools, so add more liquid if necessary.
  4. Add the cream or yoghurt if desired and serve with toasted pitta bread.

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

Hiya

I love soup!  It’s easy to make, good for hiding veg that’s slightly past its prime, offers infinite variety and it’s really good for you.  Research has shown that if you’re trying to lose weight, you should eat soup because the exact same meal blended with some water or stock will keep you fuller for longer than if you ate it solid with a glass of water.  If you make soup with home-made stock made from bones, you will also get the kick of a whole load of minerals (particularly calcium) and the satisfaction that you’ve got an extra meal from your roast dinner.

Carrots are great for soup – they’re cheap, they cook pretty quickly and they go with lots of other flavours.  I chucked in the parsnips too, as they were reduced and are tasty with some good strong spices.

Much love

Gemma xx

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

Olive oil
Onion
Carrots
Parsnips
Cumin
Chilli Powder
Ground Coriander
Stock (I used chicken stock, obviously use veg stock if you want a veggie soup!)

  1. Warm some olive oil in a pan.  Peel the veg and chop into small dice.  Fry in the olive oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add spices in quantities to taste.  I used lots of ground cumin for this soup, but use your own favourites.  Fry the spices for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add stock a little at a time to cover the vegetables.  Simmer the soup until the veg is soft.
  4. You can serve the soup lumpy if you like.  I blended using a hand blender until smooth (add some more liquid if necessary).  You can also stir through some cream or herbs and season to taste.  Serve with some crusty bread or rolls.

Hot and Sour Noodles

Hiya

The weather is crappy.  It’s miserable and windy and rubbish.  But it’s June and we shouldn’t have to be eating beef stew.  These noodles in their spicy broth makes life seem much much better 🙂  It’s just the right combination of light (so you don’t feel like you’re made entirely out of dumpling) yet spicy (so you don’t feel like you’ve been short-changed out of a decent meal on a miserable day).  It’s also incredibly quick, easy, and pretty good for you too.  I needed to use up the leftovers from our Garlic Lemon Chicken, but it would be great with just veg or tofu.  The advantage of using the chicken is that it had rather cunningly been flavoured with the right kind of things, and when I stripped the carcass down I squeezed the limes which had been in the cavity all over the meat.  Clever girl.  You can also use uncooked chicken, which poaches in the broth like in the Chicken and Sweetcorn soup I made a couple of months ago.

Love love

Gemma xx

Hot and Sour Noodles

Stock (I used ham stock, but chicken or vegetable would be just as good)
Juice of 1 lime
Garlic clove, finely sliced
Galangal, finely sliced
Half an onion
Half a courgette
Carrot
Red pepper
Tinned sweetcorn
Chicken or tofu (optional)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 red chilli, finely diced
Soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Egg noodles

  1. Slice your veg into fairly fine strips.  Cut the chicken or tofu into chunks and set aside.
  2. Warm through the stock, sesame oil, lime juice, garlic and galangal.  Add the veg and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the chilli a little at a time, stirring through and tasting.  It is very easy to over-spice so try not to overdo it.  Dissolve the sugar into the soup and season with soy sauce if necessary (I didn’t need to as ham stock is very salty anyway).  Mine wasn’t quite sour enough so I added some cider vinegar as I didn’t have any more lime juice.
  4. Add the chicken or tofu, if using.  Simmer until cooked or warmed through as necessary.
  5. Break some noodles into the soup and simmer until cooked.  Serve immediately.