Aubergine and Preserved Pepper Bake

This is the first recipe from my new kitchen… in Dubai! Yes, the ‘quiet year’ we had planned after the craziness of last year all went to pot when we moved half way around the world. Our possessions from the UK arrive today, hurrah! We have been rattling around in a rather empty apartment until now. As I have shared with you previously a kitchen with limited resources makes for some creative cooking… as does a  frequently breaking fridge-freezer it turns out. grrr. I am never buying a second hand fridge-freezer again!

There is nothing quite like a broken fridge-freezer to inspire a new use-it-up recipe. Sometimes these dishes are a bit ‘interesting’, however this one I will definitely make again. Past successes have included ‘disaster jam’ (can’t waste frozen fruit). I wasn’t sure what to call this one, ‘disaster vegetable moussaka bread and butter pudding’ – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

aubergine

Ingredients

  • Dry bread, buttered
  • Two aubergine (Eggplant), sliced
  • One red pepper
  • Four tomatoes
  • Stuffed peppers preserved in oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli flakes

Method

Pre-heat the oven to about 180oC.

Fry the pepper and tomatoes in some oil from the preserved peppers (the deliciously flavoured oil is too good to waste).

Place the bread butter-side down in an oven dish.

When the pepper and tomatoes have started to cook down add half to the dish as a layer over the bread. Add some of the preserved peppers, focusing on putting them in any gaps between the bread.

Add a layer of aubergine followed by the rest of the pepper and tomato mixture and the remaining preserved peppers.

Top with the last of the aubergine. Add a spoon of the flavoured oil onto each aubergine slice and season generously with salt pepper and a spice mix of your choice – I used BBQ chilli flakes.

Bake in the oven for approximately half an hour.

Enjoy!

Lamb with nectarines

lamb and nectarines

This recipe has been sitting in draft since January – so we haven’t ‘recently’ returned from Australia. In fact, we are now in a different part of the world altogether (we have a very well travelled baby, more on that another time). Although this post lacks the ‘immediacy’ of my usual writing, which means that I am not completely happy with it, I have decided to share it with you anyway – both because the meal was delicious, and because it was made in one of my favourite places. If  you ever find yourself travelling in the Australian State of Victoria make sure that you spend some time staying at Lochinver Farm; it is idyllic, and Alison will be able to point you in the direction of some fabulous places which serve local food and wine. 

Lochinver Farm

We have recently returned from spending nearly a month in Australia. Are we mad to fly around the world with a 6 month old baby? Maybe, but actually the most difficult part is now -dealing with a jet-lagged baby who wants to go to bed at 3.00 in the afternoon and wake up at 3.00 in the morning.

We spent our first week in Australia with our good friends the Williamsons who run a farm in country Victoria – the beautiful Lochinver Homestead. At Lochinver they raise sheep for both merino wool and meat, as well as offering accomodation in the old homestead and workmen’s cottages (well, ‘old’ by Australian standards at least!). On New Year’s Eve Mark cooked us roast lamb from the farm, and the following evening I took it upon myself to create something with the leftovers. What we ended up with was a middle eastern inspired dish, which also used up some fresh fruit and bits I found in the wonderful old-fashioned larder in the farmhouse kitchen.

Ingredients

  • Three handfuls of cooked lamb
  • A handful of raisins
  • A couple of teaspoons of Zaatar
  • Two nectarines
  • Half a tin of chickpeas
  • A handful of flaked almonds

Method

Chop the lamb into bite-sized pieces and put in a microwave-proof bowl with the raisins, zaatar and a splash of water. Microwave for about 3 minutes. Chop the nectarines into small pieces and fry them  in olive oil, together with the lamb hot from the microwave, the almonds and the chickpeas. Fry for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

I served this with salad, couscous and an impromptu ‘tzatziki’, which I made by stirring mint sauce and chopped cucumber into Greek yogurt- when in a strange kitchen you have to improvise!

This was a delicious and very simple dish, made even better by the satisfaction of using up leftovers and of eating lamb at the farm where it had been raised. Please let me know if you give this recipe a go -I would love to know how you get on!

lochinver farm sheep

lamb with nectarines
lamb with nectarines

 

Vegan Chestnut Stuffing Sausage Rolls

I love a guest blog post – this isn’t because I’m lazy (much), but because I love discovering and sharing other people’s recipes and writing styles. This recipe comes from the fabulously creative Kate.

Kate is, amongst other things, a Laughter Yoga teacher, a creative writer and seriously skilled at making cakes. Embracing the vegan lifestyle has, if anything, made her more creative in the kitchen and I always enjoying sampling the tasty treats she makes.

So without further ado, and in her own words (and with the help of playdough), here is Kate’s recipe for Vegan Sausage Rolls.

vegan sausage roll

So… near the start of the month I had a vegan sausage roll from Greggs (pleasant warming snack).

But then I got obsessed with sausage rolls!

I wrapped a Linda McCartney vegan sausage in pastry… also good.

Then I made my own stuffing with bagels, chestnuts, pecans, sage, dried cherries and spices and made it into this super fancy braided sausage roll based on some random video that appeared on my newsfeed. And it is the best yet!

I wrote it into my titchy recipes notebook (started in 2002!) but here it is slightly more legibly.

Day one: make the stuffing and eat some of it with some roast potatoes and veg

Day two: turn the rest into sausage rolls.

Special skills needed: adding just the right amount of water to things.

Ingredients:

(Stuffing fills a 15cm diameter, 7cm deep round oven dish)

STUFFING

  • 2x bagels
  • 200g ready to eat chestnuts
  • small handful pecans
  • 8 dried cherries (I like the Urban Fruit ones as they aren’t sweetened)
  • 6 sage leaves
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • sprinkle of mixed pepper
  • sprinkle of mixed herbs
  • water
  • dessert spoon of vegan margarine

PASTRY

(to make three sausage rolls)

  • 180g plain flour
  • 90g vegan margarine
  • pinch of salt
  • cold water to mix

Method:

Day one:

Blend bagels, chestnuts and pecans on a low speed until they are in crumbs/small pieces. Tip into a mixing bowl.

Boil the kettle.

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Snip cherries into thirds, add to bowl (It is possible that using a different amount of cherries cut into different fractions will also work!).

Skip idyllically into your garden to harvest some sage leaves, wash them, then rip them up and add to the bowl.

Add the spices and smush around with your fingers.

Pour a splurge of boiling water on until the texture looks like stuffing. Add the margarine on top and stir to melt it in.

Cook in an ovenproof dish for 25 minutes.

Day two:

Preheat the oven to 200oC

Make the pastry. Rub margarine into flour and salt. Tip a little cold water in until you get a dough, then roll it out and cut it into thirds. Top tip: don’t go back and forth over your pastry like a steamroller, just push it one way at a time then it won’t go tough.

Place a chunk of stuffing in the middle of each rectangle.

I didn’t have the opportunity to make another batch of pastry to demonstrate the braiding technique… but I did have some play dough and giant chalks (see below images for a step by step guide. ed).

Please do not consume chalk or play dough in a moment of confusion.

Cut the pastry in diagonal lines, wet the edges, braid it and do something rustic with the ends (or find a slightly more detailed tutorial if you aren’t a fan of super chunky pastry!).

Cook for 25 minutes.

Enjoy the wodge-tastic January comfort food goodness! Smile and then you can ingest your chestnuts in jest. Sausage ROTFL. Ha!

😋

braided sausage roll

vegan sausage roll

 

Vegetable and bacon pie… and a yummy use of leftover pastry

Little boy is four and a half months old (now 5 months) (… now 6 months!) and I’m going to attempt to finish my first blog post since he arrived. I did draft one a couple of months ago, but it turned into a rant about how people judge other people’s parenting skills. A shame really; what had started as a good day where I had managed to cook myself a delicious lunch from scratch (and even eat it while it was reasonably warm) turned into the day where I decided that the collective noun for mothers is ‘a judgement’. A parliament of owls, a murder of crows, a judgement of mothers… sounds about right. Today I am somewhat more positive, so here goes.

Not only is this the first post since baby arrived, it is also the first in my new kitchen. We took delivery of a new oven this week to replace the rather scary ancient gas contraption, so of course I celebrated by making pie!

This recipe was invented using inspiration from the reduced section of the supermarket and what needed using up in the fridge. I have rarely bought ready chopped vegetables in the past thinking it a bit lazy, which I suppose it is when you have time and energy. Now that I have a baby who will only let me put him down for limited periods of time I see the point of them! The chopped carrot and swede was reduced in the supermarket, as was the pastry. The spinach was in the fridge and wanted using, I wouldn’t have thought to buy it for this purpose but it worked.

Ingredients

  • Chopped carrot and swede
  • Half a pack of bacon, chopped
  • Half an onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Teaspoon dried herbs – I used thyme and tarragon
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach
  • A splash of cream
  • A handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • Pastry – I used ready rolled

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and bacon and fry together in a saucepan which has a lid – you will need very little oil because the fat will come out of the bacon. Add the chopped carrot and swede, herbs and black pepper. Do not add salt or stock at this stage – you will probably find that the bacon makes it salty enough. Add about half a pint of water hot from the kettle and simmer until you can put a fork in the vegetables. Stir in the spinach so that it wilts, then drain most of the liquid off (you can use this later as stock for soup). Stir in cream and grated cheese, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Put the pie filling in an oven proof dish and let it cool before adding the pastry lid – pastry put on a hot filling often shrinks. Brush the pastry with egg and bake in the centre of the oven for half an hour to 45 minutes.

… and finally, I don’t like to waste things so I made some delicious little tarts with the leftover pastry and egg. I rolled the pastry thinly and used a biscuit cutter to make rounds which I pressed into a small muffin tin. These I filled with finely chopped mushrooms which I had stirred into the remaining beaten egg along with some dried herbs and salt and black pepper. These were baked below the pie for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Kitty’s Cereal Bar Recipe

I am notoriously bad at eating breakfast, but one of these with a cup of tea in the morning gets me going. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, but at least there are slow-release sugars to keep me going for a while as well as the sugar and syrup. The proportions are based upon my favourite flapjack / oat slice recipe but with half the amount of sugar.

cereal bar

Ingredients

  • 4oz / 110g Dark Soft Brown Sugar
  • 8 oz / 220g Butter
  • 2 rounded dessertspoon Golden Syrup
  • 8 oz / 220g Oats
  • 2 oz / 55g Bran Flakes
  • 2 oz / 55g Rice Crispies
  • heaped teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • generous handful of Dates
  • generous handful of Chopped Nuts, I used brazil nuts. Pecans or walnuts would also be good.

Note, you can substitute in different types of cereal depending on what you have in the cupboard – as long as the total dry ingredients adds up to 12 oz / 350g. If you want to add flaked almonds I would advise including them as a proportion of the dry ingredients rather than substituting them for other nuts, otherwise they will dry out the mixture.

Method

Line a square tin (8 inches approx) with greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 150oC.

In a large pan, gently melt the butter, syrup and sugar. When melted add the ginger, fruit and nuts followed by the dry ingredients. Mix well and then put in the prepared tin, flattening it with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes. When it is cooked, let it cool in the tin before turning it onto a board and chopping it into squares.

cereal bar

Chocolate Brownie Tarts

Chocolate Brownie and pastry – why had I not thought of this before?!

One of the things I love about leftovers is that they make me use my imagination. Today I had a very ripe banana and some leftover pastry from making quiche at the weekend. In trawling Pinterest for banana recipes (saved here for a rainy day) I came across some wonderful brownie recipes and an idea was born.

My sister came to taste-test the invention, the verdict was 10/10 when warm and 9/10 when cold. Not bad!

chocolate brownie tarts

The recipe I decided to base the brownie on was a vegan one from the blog recipes from a pantry‘. I halved the recipe because I had only one banana, which also happened to be the right amount for the leftover pastry (more by luck than judgement!). I also didn’t add the additional peanut butter because I wanted the cocoa flavour to stand out. The leftover pastry was just normal ready-roll pastry from the supermarket, so the tarts weren’t vegan. If any of my vegan friends have recommendations for pastry recipes that would be fabulous!

(Update: I have now found out that ‘Jus-Rol’ shortcrust pastry is vegan.)

I have a sneaking suspicion that these would be wonderful with almond butter instead of peanut butter, along with some flaked almond. I will give it a go and let you know.

Ingredients

  • Shortcrust pastry (shop bought or homemade)
  • 1 (very) ripe banana
  • 90 g caster sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp rapeseed or canola oil
  • 1.5 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 45 g plain flour
  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1.5 tbsp chocolate chips, dark (I used 100% cocoa chips which are supposed to be used for drinking chocolate, so very dark!)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC / 160oC Fan.

Roll out the pastry and use a large biscuit cutter (mine was 88mm) to cut the pastry into rounds. Gently push the pastry into a ‘fairy cake’ tin. If you use a muffin tin (which is bigger) you will need larger rounds of pastry.

Mash the banana into a bowl and then mix in the sugar, oil, milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Next, stir in the dry ingredients followed by chocolate chips.

Spoon the mixture into the pastry cases. The brownie only rises a little, so you can fill them almost to the top.

If you have excess pastry then you could add jam to the remaining cases – note that you always need less jam than you think because it bubbles up! If you have excess mixture then you could use paper cases in the same tin and make some little cakes.

chocolate brownie tarts

chocolate brownie tarts

Chocolate Brownie tarts

Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast Muffins

These Breakfast Muffins are perfect for people who (like me) are awful at eating breakfast. They are small yet filling, cheap and easy to make.
breakfast muffins
One of the things which Steve and I struggled with when I started the Basic Kitchen project was what to do for breakfast. I have to say that breakfast isn’t my strong point at the best of times – it is my least favourite meal of the day, but if I don’t eat it I am miserable.

The solution came from Steve’s all time favourite recipe book, published in 1984 by the New Zealand Girl Guides – not something you can pick up in you local bookshop I’m afraid. One of the good things about using this book for the Basic Kitchen project is that it uses cups, so scales are not required. We did of course have to add a muffin tin to our collection of basic utensils, but it was well worth it considering that they are so cheap to make.
girl guides cook book
The book contains two versions of Bran Muffins – one of which is in the section on cooking for big events and asks you to mix in a ‘large bucket’, the other makes a rather more sensible number of muffins! Over the last few weeks I have tried both recipes, adapted and doctored them depending on what I have in the cupboard, and come up with the version below. The original recipes are at the bottom of the post – a big thank-you to the ladies who originally contributed the recipes to the book, and to the New Zealand Girl Guides who gave me permission to publish them here.

When we made the ‘mix in a bucket’ version a few weeks ago Steve calculated that they cost 7p a muffin. I haven’t calculated how much the recipe below costs, because my pregnancy brain is rebelling!

This recipe is fantastic for using up cereal which is going a little soft – a common occurrence for me since I don’t like breakfast very much! In the last few weeks I have made the muffins with ‘All-bran’ and with bran flakes which already had dried fruit added to it. I found that bran flakes needed a bit of crunching up before using.
bran muffins
Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 heaped teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional – I leave this out if I have included sugary dried fruit such as prunes, if I do add it I use dark sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of bran
  • a handful of dried fruit (something sticky and sweet such as prunes or dates work well)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

First warm the milk, syrup and butter in a pan and dissolve the bicarb of soda and coffee into it (I just want to drink it at this stage!). Take the pan off the heat and then add the bran, crumbling it in your hands, so that it can begin to soften.

Mix the rest of the dried ingredients together, then mix in the egg and the milk mixture. Stir in the dried fruit.

Bake in the centre of the oven in lined muffin tins for approximately 15 minutes.

When cooked, remove onto a cooling rack. Once cool they can be stored in an airtight tin for up to a week.
Bran muffins

Bran Muffins

breakfast muffins

breakfast muffins

Breakfast muffins