Penne Pasta Bake

It’s not spaghetti tempehgnese. It’s not lasagne. It is pasta based though – and it cooks in the oven (mostly). Woo hoo…it’s Penne Pasta Bake.

Here’s who you need to bring to the party:

  • 1 cup of uncooked penne
  • Half a medium aubergine, chopped into large chunks
  • Half a medium cauliflower, separated into large florets
  • One small onion; halved into hemispheres then quartered and separated (basically you want big chunks)
  • More garlic than is socially acceptable; roughly chopped.
  • 1/2 cup of your favourite (destoned) olives
  • 1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup of marinated artichokes (if whole artichokes then cut them into quarters))
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked chick peas (or a standard sized can)
  • A spring of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Ground black pepper
  • Miso (or your favourite vegetable stock)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (plus extra for you)
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of capers (optional)

Here’s what you know you want to do:

Start preheating the oven (220c) and while doing so lightly toast the pine nuts (now this will challenge your multi-tasking skills won’t it!?! There is nothing quite as disappointing as singed pine nuts)

Cook the penne according to the manufacturer’s instructions but for half the time.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic over a low heat in an ocean of olive oil. At the last moment add the pepper then remove from heat.

Throw the cooked mix into a deep, lidded oven-proof pot (take the lid off first or you’ll make an awful mess).

Add the parsley and rosemary.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain about a cup of the liquid back into the saucepan you cooked the onion etc in and reserve the rest of the liquid. Add the miso to the saucepan and dissolve in the cup of pasta water and the white wine.

Layer in to the oven proof dish in the following order; the pasta, the fresh herbs, the aubergine, the chickpeas, the olives, artichokes and sundried tomatoes (and chopped capers if using) and the cauliflower.

Pour the miso stock over and then drizzle very generously with olive oil.

The level of the water should be a centimetre or two below the cauliflower i.e. the florets should be exposed. If you need more liquid to achieve this level use some of the reserved pasta water; discard what you don’t need.

Bake, covered for 30-45 minutes.

Just before serving mix through the pine nuts (no…I hadn’t forgotten them!)

Handy Tip

For the first 15 minutes after putting the meal in the oven crank the temperature up, I mean really crank it. This will get the party started (especially if you’ve had a few glasses of that white wine) and much reduce overall cooking time. After 15-20 minutes reduce the heat to 220c. A gentle word of advice from experience; much sadness results from forgetting to turn the over down from FURNACE and back to 220c.

 

Greek Moussaka

I found this recipe a while ago, and bookmarked it.  I knew that one day soon I would think to myself, hmmm, I feel like cooking something different today.  And today was the day.  I am often happy to cook meals that I have cooked many times before, as they involve little thought, unlike Veghead, who much prefers something new and exciting to come from the kitchen.  The original recipe I found on the blog of Carol J. Adams, who was given the recipe by Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, apparently a vegan who had been around for a very long time.  I changed the recipe around a little bit, due to our preferences, and reduced the amounts significantly as there were only two of us eating it, not ten.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, stem end cut off and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 3 medium potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 tab extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium chopped onion
  • 1 inch slice of red capsicum, chopped
  • 120g mushrooms, chopped or quartered
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup passata (recipe called for 1 tab tomato paste but we didn’t have any)
  • here the recipe calls for 1 package ground beef style veggie meat (I have no idea how much that is as the recipe is American). I used chickpeas, 1 or 1 1/2 cups, which are yum, unlike the sound of that fake meat.
  • 2 tabs fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tspn cumin powder
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1/4 tspn black pepper
  • 1/8 tspn each cinnamon and nutmeg

Bechamel sauce ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tabs cornstarch
  • a couple of thin slices of onion, finely chopped (the recipe called for powdered onion, but why would you bother)
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/8 tspn pepper

What to do:

Preheat oven to 204.4 repeater degrees celsius (this is the metric conversion of 400 fahrenheit).  205 degrees is probably OK.  Place the eggplant and potato slices on well oiled baking trays and brush them with more oil.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

While the eggplant and potatoes are roasting, sauté onions, capsicum and mushrooms in olive oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in tomatoes and passata until mixed.  Add chickpeas and the herbs and spices.

In an oiled baking dish, add a layer of eggplant slices, then a layer of potato slices.  Add a layer of the chickpea mixture then cover with potato slices, then the rest of the eggplant slices.

To make the Béchamel sauce, blend all the ingredients together and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Pour sauce over eggplant.

Bake at 176.667 degrees celsius for about 30 to 35 minutes.  Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Leftovers are good the next day.  This statement is actually written in the recipe but I think that is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said at all.

Harissa beetroot and aubergine

The VegHead exceeded government guidelines on the consumption of alcohol last night. Thursday was, therefore, a “slow” day. Earlier in the week, prior to this unfortunate slip in decorum, The VegHead and SheWhoMustBeFed had earmarked Thursday dinner as Beetroot and Aubergine Sri Lankan Curry night, on account of having a particularly nice looking aubergine (tight, dark flesh and firm to the touch) as well as two precooked (and un-vinegar-ed) beetroots in the fridge. However, come dinnertime both comfort food and ease of preparation was called for. Thus, I introduce to you “the lazy version” of the curry. Total cooking time is not much more than the time it takes for the aubergine to cook through.

Needing (serves two):

  • 2 cooked beetroots (not preserved in vinegar or salt), cubed
  • 1 medium aubergine, cubed in a chunky sort of way
  • 1 cup of cooked butter beans
  • a few thin slices of onion
  • 2 tablespoons of harrisa paste (or more or less to taste)
  • olive oil
  • generous handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • 1/3 cup of coconut milk

To do:

  • sauté the aubergine, beans, onion, and paste in a generous splash of olive oil
  • once the aubergine is cooked, add the beetroot (adding the beetroot later in the cooking process ensures that you end up with some colour variation in the meal. Add it too early and everything just ends up purple. As the beetroot’s already cooked, you’re really just warming it up and getting it coated it spice)
  • just before serving, mix through the coriander and the coconut milk

Serve with mashed potato a.k.a. “comfort food”

Its a hing thing

Hing is the Indian name for asofetida, which together with a big, fat, grated root of fresh turmeric is the spice that gives the most to the flavour of this chick pea curry. Many recipes have asofetida thrown in to the hot oil at the beginning of cooking, together with the other dried spices and chillies. However The VegHead finds that its flavour is overcome and lost if this is done, and prefers instead to sprinkle a little in once most of the cooking has been done.

Friday’s are the principal shopping day for the VegHead larder, and so Thursday nights tend to be “whatever is left” night. A shiny black-skinned aubergine begged to be eaten, and a pile of orange sweet potatoes just cried out to be culled somewhat. These, together with the big jar of chick peas in the fridge formed the basis for dinner.

The Thursday night larder:

  • 1 medium aubergine – cubed
  • 1 medium sweet potato – cubed
  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas
  • 1 small onion – diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes – chopped
  • 1 chilli – chopped
  • 1 thumb sized turmeric root (substitute 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder if unavailable)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • small pinch of fenugreek seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon of asofetida powder
  • 1 tablespoon of miso (or substitute vegetable stock)
  • sunflower oil
  • water
  • corn flour (or other thickening agent)

To do:

  • dry roast the spice seeds for 10 minutes or so, then grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle
  • roughly mash the chick peas with a “potato masher”
  • fry the dried spices, chilli, onion and garlic over a low heat for a few minutes (if using powdered turmeric add at this stage too)
  • add the chick peas, sweet potato, and aubergine. Mix thoroughly and cook covered over a low heat for several minutes
  • add the tomato and miso, and enough water to cover. Bring to a steady, low simmer and maintain until the sweet potato and aubergine are tender but not mushy
  • if using fresh turmeric root, grate and add now (best to only grate fresh turmeric root just before using or it browns quickly through oxidisation). Also add the asofetida powder. Simmer for another few minutes.
  • thicken the sauce. The easiest way to do this is to scoop out the vegetables into a bowl using a slotted spoon, leaving just the sauce in the pan (off the heat). Then spoon out a little of the sauce into a small bowl, add a little corn flour, and mix all the lumps out with a fork. Then add the corn flour mix back into the rest of the sauce in the pan, and mix through thoroughly over a low heat. Then add the vegetables back in. This might sound fussy but it ensures a lump-free thickening experience at the expense of two extra bowls and a slotted spoon in the washing up.
  • bring the saucepan back to a low simmer
  • serve with rice or idli

Chick Pea and Brinjal with tumeric and methi leaves

This recipe relies pretty heavily on you having some fresh Turmeric Root. Though turmeric root is the source of the more common dried turmeric powder, it has a subtly different flavour. Turmeric root should is best grated on a ceramic ginger grater, just before you need to add it to the dish – it oxidises very quickly and then the bright orange turns a rusty brown.

The act of grating turmeric root is also recommended for anyone who wishes to go to an X-Files themed fancy dress party as The Cancer Man. It is incredibly staining, and even if you immediately wash your hands your finger tips will be left with an orange tinge reminiscent of a 2 pack a day habit for a day or so. It is quite a cheerful colour actually and will serve as a happy remembrance of a lovely meal even as you sit the next day in yet another interminable business meeting getting a numb arse, and an earache from all the corporate nonspeak.

Ingredients:

  • a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 baby brinjal (aubergine), cut into thin wedges. It is best not to cut the brinjal until just before you need it, as the cut flesh quickly oxidises and turns brown.
  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of dried black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 3 cardamom (seed) pods
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 6-7cm (approx) long turmeric root, grated
  • 1 cm (approx) of ginger root, grated
  • tablespoon of light miso paste (or similar vegetable stock source)
  • 1 cup (approx) of methi leaves
  • (up to) 1 cup of water
  • vegetable oil

Zee making:

  • de-pod the cardamom seeds from the pods, and then dry roast together with all the other dried spice seeds for 5-10 minutes. Then grind to a course powder in a mortar and pestle.
  • saute the spices, together with the onion
  • add the chickpeas, tomatoes, miso paste, garlic, grated ginger and water and simmer for ten minutes on a low flame
  • add the brinjal and the grated turmeric root continue to simmer for a minute or two. The brinjal should best be still a little crunchy. Simmer longer however if that is not to your taste.
  • stir through the methi leaves and serve

* Image of turmeric root sourced gratefully from www.food-info.net

Spicy aubergine dip

A VegHead reverse engineering of an oft ordered entree from our favourite local Moroccan restaurant (Al Fassia – in Windsor). Al Fassia serves this on a bed of finely chopped lettuce, the fresh green of which offsets the brilliant red of the dip in a dramatic manner. If you choose to do it that way, do not spoon the aubergine dip onto the lettuce until just before you serve, or the leaves will wilt and stain.

What goes in:

  • One medium sized aubergine
  • One medium tomato, finely chopped
  • A few thin slices of onion – finely chopped
  • One small crushed clove of garlic
  • Two tablespoons of harissa paste
  • Juice of half a medium lemon
  • Olive oil

The making:

  • Quarter the aubergine lengthways. Holding the skin against your hand, grate the flesh (use the medium to large holes on your grater)
  • Saute the aubergine, onion and garlic in olive oil. Do not allow to stick.
  • Add the harissa paste and continue to cook for another minute or two
  • Add the tomato and tomato
  • Simmer until the juices from the tomato have mostly evaporated
  • Stir through the lemon juice

Serve warm with toasted pita bread (can therefore be made ahead of time)