Mushroom Soup 

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Autumn is drawing in, and as far as I am concerned that equals soup weather (and pie weather of course!). This one I find particularly warming, I think partly due to the mace which I very much associate with autumn and winter cooking. Mace is a truly wonderful spice; if you do not have any in your store-cupboard I highly recommend that you get some. Mace comes from the same tree as nutmeg but has a rather more savoury taste, it is fantastic in all sorts of wintry stews and I recently put it in a rather delicious beef pie.

This mushroom soup recipe is vegan;  I put soy milk in it rather than cows milk because I had some in the fridge which needed using. I have to say that I don’t like soy milk in tea or on cereal but it is really good to cook with. I am also rather fond of almond milk – it’s great to cook with and rather good in hot chocolate.

Ingredients

  • Mushrooms! I used quite a big bowl full (see picture below) which were left over from Punk Night – I don’t like to waste things! Mushrooms shrink more than you think they will, so don’t worry if they fill the whole saucepan because they will reduce.
  • A small red onion
  • Half a teaspoon of Mace
  • A teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • A couple of grinds of black pepper
  • A tablespoon of cornflour

Method

Heat some oil in a frying pan and then add the onion, mustard seeds, mace and pepper.

When the onion is nicely softened, add the mushrooms. Give it all a stir, turn the heat down and put a lid on the pan allowing the mushrooms to ‘sweat’.

Keep an eye on it;  you probably won’t need to add any liquid because a lot will come out of the mushrooms,  but if it looks like it is drying out then add a splash of hot water from the kettle.

When the mushrooms are cooked, put them in the blender along with the cornflour. Give it a good whizz, adding the soy milk (or other milk) a bit at a time.

Put the mixture back in the pan and heat slowly, allowing the cornflour to thicken.

Taste, and add further seasoning if required. More milk can be added, depending on how thin or otherwise you like your soup.

Done!

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Crêpes (aka ‘Punk Pancakes’)

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This week I have mostly been teaching myself to make crêpes… and not taking enough pictures of them to share with you.

I was asked quite a while ago to do the catering for a Punk Night at my local community hall, the Trinity Rooms in Stroud. Until a week or two before the event I had had absolutely no inspiration as to what I was going to do… and then I went to France. At the Youth Hostel where we stayed there was a chap making fresh pancakes each morning on a specially designed electric hot-plate; they smelled delicious, were fun to watch being made, and gave me the inspiration I needed. One trip to a French supermarket later (I adore French supermarkets!) and I had procured my new toy – a Tefal Crêpe-maker. Hurrah!

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My new toy 🙂

Needless to say, I needed quite a lot of practice before I was prepared to make them for people I didn’t know; my lodgers and neighbours weren’t complaining though!

I took the batter recipe from the Tefal instruction booklet which was fantastic (as you would hope) and then had fun coming up with yummy fillings.

Batter 

  • 250 g sifted plain flour
  • 0.5 litres of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or melted  butter (I used rapeseed/ canola oil)

Put the flour into a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the milk until you get the consistency of single cream. Then gradually beat in the three eggs, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of oil or melted butter. It is best to leave the batter to stand for 1 to 2 hours.

It took me a little while to master spreading the mixture onto the hotplate and I’m not entirely sure how to explain it other than ‘practise makes perfect’ – sorry! Your friends and family won’t complain about you practising though! I did get much better at it once I started brushing the hotplate with oil every couple of times – dip a clean but unloved tea-towel or some kitchen towel into oil (preferably rapeseed/ canola) and then swoosh it around the hotplate quickly. Also the hotplate came with a small ladle, two of which is supposed to be the correct amount for a crêpe, and I found that it was too slow and it cooked before I could spread it out; it became a lot easier once I had started using one of my own ladles of the correct volume.

Fillings

The sweet fillings are pretty obvious; Nutella (do I have to say ‘other brands are available?!), lemon and sugar…

A slight variation on a theme which was truly delicious was Nutella and raspberries, I also had one particularly decadent crêpe where I chopped up a big dark-chocolate coated praline onto the crêpe and allowed it to melt – mmmm…

The savoury filling presented a bit more of a challenge. What I needed was a traditional crêpe filling (cheese and cream sprang to mind – sorry vegans!), which tasted impressive but was also very easy to prepare in advance for a lot of people.  I experimented with a couple of different ideas as to how to make a really good creamy and cheesy filling which I could easily put together ahead of the event.

What I came up with (which I’m sure has been done before, but nonetheless I am proud of myself for ‘making up’) is a combination of Crème fraîche, grated cheddar cheese (in approximately equal measures) plus a generous amount of Herbes de Provence and some freshly ground black pepper. Mixed herbs or oregano could also be used in lieu of Herbes de Provence. I then prepared very finely chopped mushrooms and bacon which could then be added to the savoury crêpe if people wanted it; this made it a very good way to cater for both vegetarians and non-veggies.

I added the cheese mixture and other savoury bits to the crêpe while it was still on the hot plate and then folded it into quarters, the cheese quickly melted into the Crème fraîche to make a beautiful instant cheese sauce.

Delicious! The feedback from Punk Night was pretty good too!

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Smokey Baked Feta Cheese with herby rice and salad

Emma and I made this together a couple of weeks ago. It is delicious and so simple – pretty much just cover feta cheese with smoked paprika and out it under the grill.
The rice had lime juice and zest, cumin, fresh coriander and spring onions. Emma thought that she didn’t like radishes but was converted!

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I have been doing some cooking with Katherine. I thought I didn’t like radish but it is great covered in lime!

I have put a picture of what we made and a photo of the recipe in case you want to mark it yourself.

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Pickled Beetroot 

I love late summer and autumn, not least because it is pickle and chutney time!

A few weeks ago I had lots of surplus beetroot and so I went hunting around for a pickled beetroot recipe. I decided to wait until I had tasted it to share it with you, and I can now confirm that it is indeed yummy. It has been only a couple of weeks in the jar, consequently it is still rather vinegary – which is fine if you like it like that but it will mature more with patience.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/pickled-beetroot

I (mostly) used the above recipe; one of the things I like about it is that no preparation of raw beetroot is required and so it isn’t too messy. I still managed to get rather red hands though!

For twice the amount of beetroot I used the same proportion of vinegar to sugar, plus approximately 3 tbsp pink pepper corns, a few cloves  (all that was left in the jar), 2 tbsp coriander seeds,  1 tbsp pickling spice and 1 tbsp juniper berries.

I ended up with a couple of extra jars-worth of pickling vinegar, which I used to pickle some little cucumbers from my garden. I haven’t tried the gerkins yet but I’m looking forward to it;  I am going to try to be more patient because I only have one jar of them.

Bring on Autumn!

Odds and Sods Soup

I have decided that it is time to go back to my £5 a week food budget – I have become lazy recently, and although I have maintained the discipline of not wasting food it has become too easy to spend more than I need to and to do ‘lazy cooking’.

I have not yet spent my £5 this week, and I did not top up my storecupboard before commencing my budget cooking – no cheating! Before I spend my £5 I need to use up some fresh ingredients; my lovely lodger is working away for a week and has left me with a fridge full of yummy things which I cannot let go to waste, so what I have to start with is:
– a couple of rashers of bacon
– a bag of green salad
– an avacado
– salami & parma ham
– red peppers

Thanks Amy!

I also have carrots which very much need using up, onions, garlic, a lonely potato, a lonely tomato, fresh bread, and of course my trusty spice cupboard.

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So of course I started with soup.

Ingredients

– one onion
– one potato
– one big tomato
– one red pepper
– six carrots
– 2 cloves of garlic
– smokey paprika
– stock from the freezer (or a vegetable or chicken stock cube)
– salt and pepper to taste

Method
Finely chop all of the vegetables apart from the tomato. Fry in a large saucepan with the paprika and a little oil or butter.
Put the tomato in a bowl of boiling water straight from the kettle; when it has been in there a few minutes you will find that the skin peels off easily.
Add the tomato to the other vegetables along with a pint of stock – I used my turkey stock from the freezer, but you could equally use a vegetable stock cube.
Simmer until the vegetables feel soft when you put a fork in them – about 20 minutes – then blend using a food processor or hand blender.
Return the blended vegetables to the saucepan and continue to cook on a low heat, adding more liquid (water or milk) if you think that the consistency is too thick.
Taste, and season with salt and pepper if required.
Serve with toast and lots of butter.

… and I have plenty left for lunch tomorrow – hurrah!

Kitty’s Vegetable Curry #2

Another vegetable curry – this one Dahl-based. The previous one was pretty darn good if you want to check it out!

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I have done many variations on this recipe over the years, very much depending on what vegetables I happen to have; also on whether I’m making it as a side-dish which I do quite mild, or a meal in itself which I like somewhat spicier. This time I used carrots, plus spinach and the crumbly cheese which I needed to use up and had also put in my pasta yesterday – very versatile!

Ingredients

  •  1 Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
  • 1 dried chilli, chopped
  • 1 cup of Red Lentils
  • 1 pint of vegetable stock
  • A couple of handfuls of Spinach
  • Some chilli salt to taste
  • Approx 1/3 cup of crumbly cheese

Method

Fry the onion, garlic, carrots and spices in oil. When the onion is becoming transparent, add the lentils and stock.

Allow to simmer for about half an hour,  adding more water if it begins to dry out.

Taste, and add chilli salt as required.

Stir in the spinach. When the spinach has wilted serve with a generous sprinkle of crumbled cheese.

… and it was even better the next day with potatoes roasted in coconut butter with mustard seeds and black onion seeds :).

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Vegetable Chilli

I  don’t think that this recipe needs much introduction. I love chilli, whether meat or vegetable chilli, and I usually make it up as I go along;  this is the first time that I have put enough thought into it to be able to write it down.wp-1459028741249.jpeg

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 1 red Bell Pepper
  • 1 green Bell Pepper
  • 1 tin Chickpeas
  • 1 tin Kidney-beans
  • 1 tin Tomatoes
  • a good squirt of Tomato Puree
  • a square of dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli salt (or, substitute in normal salt or vegetable stock and add more chilli to taste)

Method

Fry the onion, garlic, chilli and a couple of grinds of black pepper in some oil for a couple of minutes. Add the pepper and fry for another couple of minutes.

Add the chickpeas, kidney beans, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and chocolate. Mix well, turn down the heat and cover with a lid.

Cook for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally. If it starts to look a bit dry add a splash of hot water from the kettle.

Taste, add the chilli salt until it suits your taste.

Serve with wraps and/ or rice, avacado, creme fraiche and cheese.