Creamy Mushroom Penne

If you don’t eat anything with a face nor anything that comes from something with a face then you can end up eating a lot of tomato based Italian food. How much? A LOT. The default meal cooked by a restaurant “chef” who couldn’t be bothered spending 3.764 minutes finding a decent vegan recipe is “Pasta in a tomato sauce, with whatever vegetables need to be used but always capsicum”. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good Spaghetti Bolognese in this house, but sometimes it is nice to have something different when taking the menu to Italia for the night. Something with a creamy sauce rather than a tomato sauce.

But how to dream of cream without playing milkmaid?

Nuts!

Yes…nuts….or to be more specific cashew nuts. Oh yes…

Soak raw cashews in water and then blend them and you get…cashew cream; another one of those unlikely little transformations that make cooking a joy. Cashew cream is a great base for cream based recipes whether sweet or savoury.

So…Vieni con me in cucina con i vostri anacardi e faremo una bella cena insieme (*)

Portate con voi (abbastanza per due)

  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews
  • half a dozen or so medium sized mushrooms, quartered
  • your choice of: green beans, asparagus, broccoli spears, fresh peas, broad beans or whatever something green you like. In any case you want about an equal amount as you have of mushrooms. Chop into stir-fry type pieces
  • one small onion, cut into large rings or quartered and separated.
  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • a TBSP of light miso paste
  • about two TSP of chopped, fresh rosemary
  • about 1/4 of a cup of chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley
  • one bay leaf
  • 2 TSPN of ground pepper (this may seem excessive but the cream sauce dulls the heat a lot)
  • one cup of white wine
  • olive oil
  • penne – use gluten free if desired (however much you think you’ll need; some people like a lot of pasta, some not so much. Go on…make a decision on your own)

Come fare

  • Before getting to the rest of the “method” – don’t forget to cook the pasta as per the manufacturer’s recommendation, timing the pasta to be ready whenever the following is done. Helpful tip: The steps related to making the creamed cashews, and mixing it into the saucy, wine mix can be done ahead of time, making it all much easier to get the timing right.
  • Firstly, soak the cashews in water. Best to use freshly boiled water; cover the nuts and leave them for at least three hours. Oops!! You didn’t read this until it was WAY too late to leave them for 3 hours! Panic not and do what everyone else does…cheat. Put the nuts and water into a small, covered pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Regardless of how you got there…drain the nuts afterwards, retaining the water.
  • To cream the cashews: place the soaked nuts in a Bamix Wet and Dry Processor or similar. You could use any food processor of course but something small like the aforementioned will work best as you’re not doing a high volume of material. Add a little of the water and blend until a fluffy, smooth and absolutely-no-solid-bits consistency is achieved. Keep adding a bit more of the water as needed, as you go along. If you run out of the reserved water just use some extra. Once done…put aside.
  • In a small pot very lightly sauté the garlic and ground pepper in some olive oil. As soon as it is aromatic add the wine, the miso, the bay leaf, rosemary and half of the parsley. Dissolve the miso then continue to lightly simmer for a minute, then remove from the heat. Add the creamed cashews and mix thoroughly.
  • In a heavy fry pan sauté the onion in some more olive oil until clear.
  • Add the mushrooms and whatever green vegetables you decided on into the pan with the onion. Cook until just done – it is nice when the vegetables retain some crispness.
  • Remove the vegetables from the heat and add the sauce to the vegetables along with the rest of the parsley and mix thoroughly. You will notice that the creamed cashew mix thickens somewhat when added to the hot pan; add a little more water to thin the mix if desired.
  • Serve over the pasta.

(* this may or may not translate as “Come with me to the kitchen with your cashews and we will make a beautiful dinner together”)

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.

 

Shepherd’s pie

When I was a loinfruit, dinners followed a pretty predictable rhythm: Sunday night roast, Monday night reheated or cold slices of Sunday’s dead animal, Tuesday night Shepherd’s Pie, and so on through the week until Sunday’s roast came again. Later, whenever I could drag my teenage mind away from the distractions of girls, girls, girls, and oh…look….a pretty girl, I began to wonder why a dish made from ground up left over roast lamb under a bed of mashed spuds was called Shepherd’s Pie. I mean, isn’t the whole idea of being a shepherd meant to be that you look after the flock and bring them all back home where they can be slaughtered in the comfort of their own barn? Surely, I thought, you’re not meant to be tucking into a cheeky bit of lamb up on the mountaintop pasture. And furthermore, where did the shepherd get a spud masher? And furthermore….oooh look…a pretty girl.

And so it came to pass that many years later I turned my thoughts again to the question of making Shepherd’s Pie. Being much older and wiser now, with the cunning and sense of reason that comes with maturity, I realised that if the Shepherd had had the wisdom to bring along a spud masher, he or she would almost certainly have thought to bring along a few other little useful things too in the rucksack, so as to be able to whip up a lovely pie high on the mountain top pasture. Meanwhile, I resolved the quandary of why a shepherd would scoff into lambsie by deciding that instead, he’d save the lamb and eat kidney beans instead.

For the putting in:

  • 400g cooked kidney beans
  • Medium onion, chopped
  • Few cloves garlic, crushed
  • Large zuchinni, grated
  • Large carrot, grated
  • Medium stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 400g finely chopped tomatoes
  • Tspn powdered cumin
  • Tspn powdered mild paprika
  • Tspn powdered cayenne pepper (or adjust heat to taste)
  • Tbspn dried mixed Italian herbs
  • Tspn chopped fresh rosemary
  • 100ml stock
  • 50ml red wine
  • 50ml passata

Also:

  • 500-750g potatoes

Also:

  • 1/2 cup of soy milk
  • Tbspn of leftover rice that you happened to have some of in the fridge
  • Tbspn of pine nuts

For the doing:

  • In a largish saucepan, lightly sauté the onion in a generous splash of olive oil
  • Once the onions are clear, add the garlic and powdered spices. Continue sautéing briefly
  • Add everything else in the main list of ingredients
  • Simmer, covered, stirring regularly to avoid sticking.
  • Once the liquid is well reduced place this mixture into a large oven proof baking dish (pyrex or similar), one that is wide and shallow rather than small and deep.

Meanwhile:

  • Boil the potatoes and mash finely with a dash of olive oil, or vegan margarine

Meanwhile:

  • Whizz up the soy milk, rice and pine nuts using a bamix (or similar inferior kitchen tool) until no lumps remain

Cover the layer of sauce in the baking dish with the mashed potatoes, then spoon the soy milk mix over the top and smooth it out evenly. Bake in the oven at 180c for 30 minutes. Serve with steamed veg’ or salad.

Today’s handy kitchen trick:

Getting an even layer of something like mashed potato over a layer of something saucy can be a right pain in the donkey. This helps; get a shallow tray that is almost the same size in area as the dish you have placed the sauce into. Put a sheet of baking paper into your tray, then layer the mashed potato onto it in an even layer. In a swift, graceful manner, invert the spud filled tray onto the sauce. Then peel the baking paper off the top and discard. This should result in a nice, smooth, even layer of mash on top of the saucy stuff. Using a spoon, gently do any minor repair work required.

P.S. Keen eyed readers will note the similarity between this dish and The Templar’s Mexican chilli beans. Three words my friends: Reuse, recycle, reduce.

 

Bolognese sauce

Just like La testa di verdure himself used to make in the old country!

What you’ll need to make the best vegan bolognese sauce ever:

  • 1 block of tempeh – grated
  • 1 carrot – grated
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes if you have to)
  • 1 knob of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small aubergine, cubed; or chopped mushrooms; or both if you’re hungry
  • 2 tablspoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tablspoons of miso paste
  • 1 tablspoon fresh whole pepper corns (don’t substitute dried ones – must be fresh or the world will be consumed by Godzilla like monsters)
  • 2 tablspoons dried seaweed
  • 1 ½ cups of red wine; plus a glass for you – You’re Worth It!
  • Fresh picked herbs – chopped; parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, 3 bay leaves
  • (Optional – 3 small hot, red chillies, chopped)

Fabbricazione dell’amore nella vostra cucina:

  • Lightly sauté onions in a truly excessive amount of olive oil until clear
  • Add garlic, and chillies and sauté for an additional minute; low heat
  • Add tempeh and sauté for an additional minute. Be careful it doesn’t stick
  • Dissolve tomato and miso pastes in over medium heat, with red wine and chopped tomatoes
  • Once tomatoes have released some of their liquid, add all remaining ingredients
  • Simmer on low heat for at least 45 minutes – covered. Alternatively, if cooking in advance simmer for 30 minutes, covered; then turn off heat and leave covered before reheating for 10 minutes to serve

Serve with your favourite pasta

I’m a funghi, but I’m feeling a little green

You see what I’ve done there don’t you? “Funghi”….”fun guy”…oh the wit. When you’ve stopped guffawing just pick yourself up off the floor and hold together your split seams.

This pasta dish uses the Balsamic Butter Bean Salad and tosses it over some pesto tagliatelle pasta. Simple…hearty…colourful…what more could you want?

You will need:

  • A batch of pesto
  • A batch of Balsamic Butter Bean Salad
  • 1/2 glass of white wine (I’ll leave it to you to figure out what to do with the other half a glass)
  • Spelt tagliatelle pasta (or penne, or whatever)

Now ze doing:

  • Cook the pasta as per instructions on packet
  • Meanwhile; dump about 3/4 cup of the pesto into a small saucepan, together with the wine. Simmer (covered) over a low heat until the wine is reduced, stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  • Stir the pesto/wine sauce through the cooked pasta, together with an additional teaspoon of fresh pesto (the pesto has raw garlic in it – so you’re cooking most of it and then just adding a little “raw” pesto in to sharpen up the taste a little)
  • Serve the pasta, then top with the (warm) bean salad

Spinach Cannelloni with Adzuki bean sauce

Waitrose supermarket regularly slips marketing food porn into your shopping bag if you’re not watching carefully. Unpacking the fruit and veg later from the floorful of cotton and linen shopping bags you unexpectedly stumble upon this slim volume getting down and dirty with the spuds, or slicing it up with a loaf of bread.

“Follow this recipe and you’ll be popular and beautiful like the laughing people in the photos! Oh, and don’t forget to buy all the ingredients from Waitrose.”

I would have been more popular for instance if I had cooked the recipe for Cannelloni which steamed invitingly off the page. In front of a log fire which was in the background of the shot if I recall providing that additional look of heartiness and warmth to the shot. I’m not entirely sure that detail is correct though, as I binned the magazine to the recycling after a quick flick through it.

It did inspire me to have a go at making a cannelloni dish though…

Tahini isn’t an obvious choice I’ll admit for an Italian dish, however this was really good I have to say.

Was in the larder…

  • lasagne sheets
  • spinach
  • light tahini
  • basil pesto
  • half an onion, chopped
  • clove of garlic, chopped
  • fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
  • course crushed black pepper to taste
  • a “tray from the farm shop” worth of cherry tomatoes
  • six smallish mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup of blended, presteamed spinach
  • 1 cup of cooked adzuki beans
  • tomato paste
  • miso paste
  • red wine and water
  • olive oil

A frenzy of activity…

Here goes; a lot of this happened in parallel so it didn’t take too long I suppose to put it together, but it was certainly a frantic 30 minutes or so before it went in the oven and the bench was wiped down. On the other hand, don’t assume that everything happened in a linear fashion in the order that it is listed here.

1. Have this ready first though… Blend together the spinach, and a very generous pouring of the tahini, and a few generous spoonfuls of pesto.
2. The lasagne sheets. For a meal for two, I used five sheets (dry size each approx. 15cms x 15cms) – I seem to have some sort of tribal memory that you should pre-cook as many sheets as you actually really need, plus one spare, as they ALWAYS stick together in the pot. Boil at least 5 cms deep of water in a pan that is easily large enough for the lasagne sheets to cook in horizontally. If I was cooking any pasta, I’d normally pour a little olive oil into the empty pan before filling it with water as it helps to stop the pasta sticking together. I’d done that before on the odd occasion I’d precooked lasagne but the leetle sheets still always stuck together. This time however inspiration struck and instead once I’d got the water on to boil I poured about 1/2 teaspoon of oil onto one side of each sheet and then “painted” it with the basting brush. I can report here that rhe sheets did NOT stuck to each other! Further testing will elevate this to being a new item of Kitchen Lore but in the meantime it has a gold rating as a Kitchen Theory trick. While the sheets are cooking to just pre-al dente fill the (clean) kitchen sink with some cold water, and also fill a tray with cold water. Remove the paste sheets carefully from the hot water one by one which your favourite implement and drop them into the sink of water. Rinse thoroughly, then transfer to the tray for carrying back to your work surface.
3. Smear each sheet with a thick, even layer of the tahini and spinach. Roll and place lined up in a very large baking dish. The rolls will get significantly longer as the pasta continues to cook in the oven, so remember to cater for that in selecting the tray.
4. Meanwhile….de-skin all the cherry tomatoes using boiling then cold water baths. Keep the tomatoes aside. Compost all the skins.
5. Lightly cook all the other ingredients except the herbs to create a fairly saucy tomato flavoured italian mushroom and beany sauce thing. You need enough of this to be able to evenly cover the cannelloni rolls so adjust if necessary with another mushroom and some more wine etc. Once cooked sufficiently, then turn off and add the cherry tomatoes and the fresh herbs. The goal here is to not have the tomatoes get all mushed up. Presentation iz everything darlink! The herbs are added only now so their flavour released during the baking stage, rather than boiling off during this preparatory stage.
6. Pour the sauce over the cannelloni, taking care to make sure that all pasta has some sauce on it.
7. Bake covered for about 30 minutes.

Served with a large bowl of mixed olives and some fresh baked wholeflour bread.

I have to add that this was very good. Though I am of the opinion that I wouldn’t make this regularly as it is a lot of additional work for what is basically a variation on lasagne.

Bolognese sauce

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a National Security Agency plot to make everyone think that veg*ism is blah. Resist with every cell of your being. Tempeh on the other hand is a traditional soya product harking from Indonesia. Grated, it fulfills the role of minced meat with gusto and verve. If the NSA still has control of your mind then I suppose you will be tempted to use TVP in this recipe. It would work however your life will be a little less fulfilling and you will be less likely to be popular with random strangers. Your decision…

Ingredients..

  • 1 packet of tempeh – grated
  • 1 medium carrot – grated
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes if you have to)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small aubergine, cubed; OR equivalent volume of chopped mushrooms; OR both if you’re a gutsy pig
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of miso paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh whole pepper corns (don’t substitute dried ones – must be fresh or if you don’t have them don’t use them)
  • 1 ½ cups of red wine; plus a glass for you – You’re Worth It!
  • Fresh picked herbs – chopped; parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, 3 bay leaves
  • Optional – a small hot, red chilli, chopped

Method…

  • Lightly sauté onions in a truly excessive amount of olive oil until clear
  • Add garlic, and chillies and sauté for an additional minute; low heat
  • Add tempeh and sauté for an additional minute. Be careful it doesn’t stick
  • Dissolve tomato and miso pastes in over medium heat with about half a cup of water. Add red wine and chopped tomatoes
  • Once tomatoes have released some of their liquid, add all remaining ingredients
  • Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes – covered. If it looks a little dry, add more water – you can alway reduce it.

Serve with your favourite pasta