Sunday, 19 November 2017

No-Meat November

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So, you managed a Dry January and survived being Sober for October. Just one more life-style changing month before plunging headfirst into Decadent December.

For health reasons, we are cutting right back on meat and processed foods for a month. Perhaps you would like to join me? I am aiming for a veggie vingtaine- 20 out of the 30 November meals to be meat-free.

I estimate that it will be not just better for our health, but also better for our budget and for the planet.
So here goes.

In addition to the usual pasta, quiches, soups, salads and stir fries which make up our standard meat-free meals- I am looking to expand my repertoire with some new recipes too.
I began with a Vegetable Satay Chow Mein- a selection of veg from the fridge ( courgettes, spring onions, bean sprouts, red pepper, mushrooms ) fried in a wok with some cooked egg noodles added in. The Satay sauce is made quickly from 2 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp chilli sauce, 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 200 ml coconut milk and 2 tbsp boiling water. Mix it all up and add it to the stir fry. Add more chilli or soy to taste.
Vegetable Satay Chow Mein
The leftovers will go into a Miso Noodle Soup

'Leftovers' Miso Soup
and these yummy little pancakes - Ban Khoai.
Make a pancake batter with 1 egg, 1 cup of plain flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk, a pinch of salt and a pinch of turmeric for colour.
Fry little saucer sized pancakes and stack (keep warm)
Fill each one with a spoonful of the re-fried noodles and veg. Fold and serve in a lettuce leaf with a chilli dipping sauce.
Ban Khoai
Next challenge- a really good veggie burger.

I think I've found it in this 5-a-day Burger.

150 g  fresh mushrooms
50g dried mushrooms
2-3 spring onions
1 clove of garlic ( finely chopped)
1 cup cooked Puy lentils
1tbsp hummus
1 cup grated fresh carrot
1 veg stock cube
1 cup soft white breadcrumbs
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs ( for coating)

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a tbsp boiling water.
2. Blitz the fresh mushrooms, spring onions and garlic in a food processor

Blitz the mushrooms
3. Squeeze out the soaked mushrooms (keep the liquid), chop and add to the fresh ones.
4. Fry the mushroom mixture, adding a crumbled stock cube and the (filtered) mushroom liquor
5. Cook rapidly until all the moisture has evaporated.

Fry the mushroom mixture and season well
6. Allow to cool and then place in a bowl along with the hummus, carrot and lentils.
Your 5-a-day in a bowl
7. Mix well and then add the soft breadcrumbs to soak up any liquid.
8. Chill for an hour or so, then coat in the toasted breadcrumbs.

Toasted breadcrumbs on
9. Fry in hot oil
Looks like the real thing!

and serve with chips and extra salad.

Now, how about Carrot, Sweetcorn and Courgette Fritters with Fried Halloumi?

Put 1 grated carrot, 1 grated courgette, 1 cup of sweetcorn, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 egg and 1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour in a bowl.

Mix to a batter and then fry spoonfuls in hot oil until golden.

Fry until golden
Serve with slices of fried halloumi and a salad with a lemon vinaigrette.

Carrot, courgette and sweetcorn fritters with fried halloumi

Next, Miso Aubergine with steamed rice.

Slice 2 aubergines, brush with oil and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes or so until tender. Mix up 2 tbsp miso paste, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp chili sauce, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp sherry ( or mirin or Muscat depending on whether you're in the UK or France). Pour over the aubergines and continue to cook in the oven until the sauce becomes thick and caramelized (15 minutes or so). Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and finely chopped spring onion. Delicious!

Miso Aubergines
And final dish this month- Butternut Falafel.

Steam or roast (whichever you prefer) 500g of butternut squash, then mash it with a potato masher until it makes a coarse puree.
Blitz to a paste a can of (drained) chick peas with 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 handful of chopped parsley, 1 tsp each of ground cumin and coriander, juice of 1/2 lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Mix together with the squash and shape into patties ( an ice cream scoop does this well).Place on an oiled baking tray and chill for half an hour or so.
Scoop out your falafel onto an oiled baking tray
Bake for around 20 minutes in a hot oven until golden and firm.
Serve with salad, pitta bread and hummus.

Butternut falafel- yum!yum!
And so, how did it go? Did you manage to resist meat? We are finding that we love this new diet.It seems a shame to go back to eating meat- even though Christmas is coming. 

Perhaps we won't.

Image result for dog that has eaten a carrot
If he can do it....

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Food for Free

Once again it is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
No more so than here in the Auvergne, where the hedgerows are bursting with autumn fruit and the little paths that wend their way round our friendly local volcano are lined with brambles begging to be harvested.
So, a few Sundays ago we braved the hunter's guns which were blasting around us and filled as many containers as we could with this free bounty.

Once we were safely home, the berries were washed and sent on the first part of their journey to become Bramble Jelly.

For each kilo of berries, you need 2 cooking apples ( cored and roughly chopped but peel still on) and 500 ml water.
Put these in a large preserving pan and simmer for 10-20 minutes until soft.
Apples and blackberries ready to simmer
I like to give the softened fruit a quick blitz with a hand blender or mash with a potato masher, before spooning the mixture into a jelly bag, suspended over a large bowl.
Leave overnight, weighted down with a heavy tin to press out as much juice as possible.
Make the remaining juice up to 1 litre with water or red grape juice and put in the pan with a kilo of sugar.
Boil on a full rolling boil for 5 minutes and then whisk in 4g of agar agar.

Boil until you have a set

Continue to boil until you have the beginnings of a set ( at 104 degrees if you have a thermometer or a spoonful placed on a cold saucer wrinkles when you press your finger through it, and leaves a clear trail.)
Pour into strerilized jars, cool, seal and label. (A litre will fill around 9 jars).
The jelly will be set by the following day.
Bramble Jelly
With another 500g of blackberries, you can make Blackberry Vodka too.
Wash the berries and crush them roughly with a potato masher. Spoon them into sterilized kilner jars and cover them with either alcool à fruits (readily available here) or use vodka in the UK. Seal and leave in a cool place for at least 1 month, turning the jars every week or so.
Then dissolve 400g of caster sugar in a pan with 200ml of water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 minutes before leaving to cool.
Open your kilner jars and filter the blackberries from the liquid, add your sugar syrup and mix well then pour into sterilized bottles and seal.

Blackberry Vodka
Another couple of blackberry ideas from the blog are:

Blackberry and Ricotta Bars
or Summer Pudding ( mine here looks a bit like The Blob!- but it is so simple, economical and lovely it really is worth a try):

Summer Pudding
Something very much more savoury, which I have been pleased to try recently, is sorrel.
I discovered a clump of it pushing its way up through the tarmac on our driveway. It's spear-shaped leaves and distinct lemon flavour are unmistakeable.

Made into a soup with a couple of potatoes, an onion or chopped leek and some vegetable bouillon it is scrumptious. Just pull the ribs from the leaves, chop them roughly and simmer with the other veg in the bouillon. Blitz before serving and add a little milk or cream if you like.

Sorrel Soup
Hugh F-W makes his into a sweet tart amongst other things:
Sweet sorrel tart
Sorrel Tart

And so, my foraging comes to an end this week but, whilst the hunters blow their horns, my other neighbours are snuffling about in the undergrowth, looking for mushrooms.

Here's a selection someone found nearby:

Foraged mushrooms (photo courtesy of Madeleine)
I am not brave enough to tackle these yet- but who knows? Maybe next year. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Runaway Pumpkins!

Lots of things really thrive here in the Auvergne. Swiss chard, courgettes, pumpkins.....And me, of course.

When we arrived back to the Potager, the pumpkins had taken over.
The leeks were frantically waving for help, and the beetroot, celeriac and radishes were all but in invisible under a tangle
of pumpkin leaves and runners.
Some had even made it over the fence into my neighbour's garden.

It is definitely the time of year to dust off my pumpkin, squash and courgette recipes.

But first, this year, I thought I would try something new. starting with tackling this giant courgette:
Makes me look tiny! (That's a good thing..)
I tried out a recipe for Courgette and Ginger Jam- and it is surprisingly delicious. The courgettes are a bit tasteless when they get to this size - so provide a good vehicle for strong flavours like ginger and lemon.

Courgette and Ginger Jam

1.5kg of courgette or marrow flesh, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into small chunks
1 kg of granulated sugar
grated zest and juice of 3 lemons ( keep the bald shells in the freezer for adding to marmalades and jams later)
100g of crystallized ginger, chopped
3 tsp ground ginger
250 g pectin

1. Layer the vegetable in a large mixing bowl, sprinkling each layer with sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is all used up.
Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice
2. Cover and leave for 24 hours.
3. A huge amount of liquid will have come out of the flesh, so drain that off into a preserving pan along with any undissolved sugar.
4. Add the lemon and ginger to the mixture and boil rapidly for 20 minutes or so.

Boil rapidly
5. Add the chopped marrow/courgette flesh and cook for a further 10 minutes until tender, skimming as you go.
6. Use a stick blender to roughly blitz the flesh and ginger into a course puree and then add the pectin.
7. Boil until your jam has reached setting point ( when a spoonful sets on a cold saucer and wrinkles up) and then pour into hot, sterilized jars.
Courgette and Ginger Jam

The medium sized courgettes were made into an old favourite- stuffed with leftover bolognaise sauce and cooked au gratin in the oven:

Stuffed Courgettes/Marrow Au Gratin
And any other assorted overgrown veg from the garden were put together with Moroccan spices, dried fruit, chutney and tomatoes for a tagine:

Veg for a tagine
Finally, I am going to use up one of the giant pumpkins to make Spiced Pumpkin Butter ( a bit like a treacle spread for toast, pancakes, waffles etc).

Spiced Pumpkin Butter
2 kg of pumpkin flesh, peeled and cut into cubes
500g brown sugar and 1 tbsp treacle or 600g  brown sugar ( if you don't have treacle)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
6 cloves
finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

1. Put the cubes in a steamer over hot water and steam for 10 minutes or so until tender.

Steam rather than boil the pumpkin initially
2. Place in preserving pan and blitz with a stick blender until you have a puree.
3. Add the sugar and spices, the lemon juice and zest
4. Simmer on a low heat for an hour or so until the mixture is very thick. (I am going to use a slow cooker for several hours instead.)
5. When the puree is very thick and leaves a clear channel when a wooden spoon is drawn through- it is ready to be potted up in sterilized jars.

Spiced Pumpkin Butter
(Photo courtesy of Thane Prince)
That takes care of one of the pumpkins. My friends assure me that the rest will keep well in our cool cellar over the winter.
No chance of getting the ones back which have run away into the neighbour's garden anyway- he has placed them under armed guard!

Pumpkin patrol!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Camp fire Cookery

If cooking on a camp stove means corned beef hash or sausages and beans to you, I thought I might try to inspire you with something a bit different this summer.
After a weekend of fun and frolics canoe-camping in the gorgeous Wye Valley a few weeks ago, I was myself inspired by my fellow campers.

So, I'm offering you Halloumi and Chutney fritters with couscous, Couscous Chicken Doris and Chocolate Orange Bombes for dessert. How does that sound?

Halloumi and Veg kebabs

Halloumi cheese is great for cooking on the BBQ- lightly oiled, sliced and cooked with peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms as a kebab.

Or, made into crispy fritters to fry in the pan over the camping stove:

Halloumi and Chutney fritters

1. Slice the halloumi into 1 cm thick slices
2. Beat 1 egg with a tablespoon of chutney
3. Lay out 3 dishes- 1 each of flour, the chutney/egg mix and breadcrumbs

Ready to coat
Halloumi and Chutney Fritters
4. Coat the slices first in flour, then egg mix, then breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil
5. Serve with salad and couscous

Make the couscous with boiling water as directed by the packet
Thanks Ainsley!

The leftover couscous makes the perfect coating for Chicken Doris (named after the skinny chicken who was the mascot for the weekend).

Chicken Doris

1. Marinade chicken breast fillets in 2 tbsp of natural yogurt

mmm..doesn't that look appetising?
2. Coat the yoghurty chicken with leftover couscous, pressing it on all over.
Chicken coated in couscous

3. Either fry in hot oil over the camp stove until golden and crispy or ( if you are at home, bake in a hot oven 190 degrees for 20 mins or so).
Chicken Doris
(Sorry it's a bit blurry- too much wine went in at this point- into the cook that is, not the food.)
Of course, if you would rather have Corned Beef Hash or Sausage and Bean Stew, the recipes are here on the blog too:
Image for Corned Beef Hash with Maple Caramel Bacon and Poached Egg

And for dessert, I was very taken with this dessert prepared by my camping neighbours:

Chocolate Orange Bombes

1. Cut a lid from the top of each of 4 oranges and hollow them out, using a sharp knife. Keep the juice and pulp to one side.

Preparing the mix
2. Mix up a chocolate cake mix using eggs as directed, but substitute orange juice for the water.
3. Spoon the mix into the hollowed-out oranges
4. Wrap them in aluminium foil and place on the BBQ to cook ( for at least 30 minutes )

Orange Bombes on the BBQ
5. Unwrap and serve.
Chocolate Orange Bombes

The result is a gooey, Brownie-like pud that tastes like a Terry's Chocolate Orange( but one you don't need to share).
The pulp and leftover juice from the oranges makes a nice breakfast with yoghurt - or mix it with caramel sauce for another pud:

All too soon, the camping weekend was over - as is this post.

Thanks to Steve for the photos, Paula for the pud recipe and Doris for the entertainment!

Can you spot Doris?