You can’t cycle to the Indian Grocery and then have pizza for dinner

The happy occurrence of the presence in the larder of fresh turmeric root, as well as methi leaves means that it was Indian on the menu last night in The VegHead’s kitchen.

Chick pea and brinjal to the left, and Methi Shaak Potatoes to the right. Kept from fighting with each other by a few Idli, each topped with a dop of (soy) yoghurt.

Not a great photo – but who takes a SLR to the dinner table every night?

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

Methi Shaak Potato


Yesterday afternoon was clear and brisk. Ideal weather for slipping the iPod into the top pocket and donning the thickly knitted Moroccan skullcap hat that keeps The VegHead’s VegHead warm. Fortified by an earful of Michael Franti it is a ten mile or so cycle to the Indian grocery store. Driving to a place is travel, cycling is immersion. It also allows The VegHead to indulge in a wider range of food shopping choices while keeping the emissions down (notwithstanding the potential food miles of the purchased produce).

Methi leaves are one of those staples of Indian cooking that you would go to your grave ignorant of if you draw your view of the foodstuffs of the world from the shelves of the average big-chain supermarket. They are the leaves of the Fenugreek plant, the same plant that gives us the dried fenugreek spice (which is the ground, dried seeds). If you’ve ever been served a dish in an Indian restaurant that has spinach leaves in it, it probably is really meant to have methi leaves in it instead. Spinach is the Westernised version.

This Methi Potato dish has been adapted by SheWhoMustBeFed from a Shaak Potato recipe, which came into our kitchen from dour, plain, paperback sized Indian recipe book called “The Vegetarian Curry”.

Needing…

  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into thick “chip” shapes
  • 1 cup of methi leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder (or if available, about 4cms of grated fresh turmeric root)
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of palm sugar
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • handful of chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Doing…

  • In a large pan (The VegHead uses the trusty wok) lightly saute the mustard and cumin seeds until they pop
  • Add everything else save the methi and fresh coriander. Add extra oil if needed. Fry until the potatoes are cooked, stirring to ensure even cooking and coating with the spice mix
  • Just before serving, add the methi leaves and stir through
  • On serving; garnish with the coriander leaves

Tomato and Chickpea soup, with pesto

A blogger’s tasks are never done. Having spent a morning catching up on posts the laptop had been put down to suckle on the electricity and lunchtime had arrived. SheWhoMustBeFed has gone to pick up the Larger Loinfruit from her morning of Being Improved in a Dance and Drama Way.

Cold out….so I made this soup ready for SheWhoMustBeFed’s return and then woke up the laptop to quickly write it up before they arrived.

In…

  • 1 thin slice of onion, finely chopped
  • half of a large Jack Hawkin’s style tomato. Chopped.
  • 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
  • pinch of black pepper
  • splash of tamari
  • desertspoon of pesto (oh…how handy I happen to have a jar in the fridge)
  • a teaspoon of tomato paste
  • water
  • olive oil

Doing…

  • lightly saute the onion and pepper
  • add the tomatoes and chickpeas and simmer covered
  • once the tomatoes have softened, lightly mash everything
  • add all remaining ingredients, along with some water
  • simmer for a few minutes
  • serve with a slice of toast

Oh…look….here they are arriving home now.

A superior Morrocan Hommous

Subtle variety is the reason that the masses trawl happily up and down the aisles of the supermarket, dazzled by the almost endless variations of milk, bread, snacks. This then is “Superior Moroccan Hommous” – as opposed to “Lesser Not-Moroccan Hommous”.

Bushra tells it like it is, “Hommous should not be made with tahini. All these people, they put tahini in their hommous. Is no good. Makes you feel urgh-agh-ugh-ugh [for full effect, clutch your stomach and try to look as bloated as possible at this point]. These Greek people, these Lebanese, these whatever, they don’t know that they are doing. Not like that in Morocco. We make the best hommous. No tahini. Chick peas….yes. Olive oil…yes. Garlic…yes.A pinch of cumin…yes. And it must be Morrocan cumin, not tthat terrible Indian cumin! A pinch of salt. Lemon juice. Blend and blend until smooth. More olive oil if you need, more lemon juice if you need.”

Bushra might just be ever so slightly opinionated on this topic. She is however right that this variation makes for a lighter hommous.

Beetroot and Aubergine Sri Lankan curry


The World Food Cafe cookbook rightfully deserves credit for this dish, though the recipe here is slightly different.

This is one intense flavour experience, and is colourful the following day too. Serve with Quinoa, and with some additional coconut milk to hand. In the absence of Quinoa, lash yourself firmly with a bunch of celery in penance, and substitute a lesser grain of your pitiful choosing.

Needing to have in the larder:

  • 2 medium cooked beetroots – not preserved in vinegar. Lucky for The VegHead beetroot cooking day was yesterday and a big batch of cooked whole beetroot was in the fridge, soaking in its cooking water and a little salt. Actually…it wasn’t that lucky as I had planned it that way.
  • 1 medium purple aubergine – cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup of cookd haricot beans
  • 1 small onion – halved and thickly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass – chopped and ground in a mortar an pestle
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of light miso paste
  • coconut milk
  • sunflower oil or similar
  • 1/2 cup of crushed, roasted cashews

Oh…you’re making that all up…

  • dryroast the spice seeds in a hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Then crush to a powder with a mortar and pestle.
  • fry the spices and the onion
  • add the aubergine and fry until cooked but still firm. Add more oil if necessary, by jitherers those eggplants have a thirst for the stuff don’t they?
  • add the beetroot, beans, lemongrass, miso and a little water. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes allow the flavours to mix and mature
  • stir through about 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Allow the saucepan to come back to a simmer and then immediately serve
  • liberally sprinkle with cashew nuts

And here is one that I cooked earlier (before it was eaten)


Potato and bean balls

There is very little oil in this dish – in fact non other than however much you use to saute the onion and garlic in, and that used to grease the oven tray. The second time SheWhoMustBeFed made up a batch of these, she happened to neglect that preparatory step – they still turned out fine so if you’re looking for a very low-oil meal try that too.

Me? Olive oil is a beverage my friends….

These were initially birthed as a Loinfruit meal. They would also be ideal as a party finger food snacky thingamee.

Going in the balls…

  • 1 medium to large potato. Peel, boil and dry mash
  • 1/2 cup of cooked black beans (or substitute pinto or haricot)
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped roasted cashews
  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread – finely breadcrumbled
  • pinch of finely ground black pepper
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 thin slice of red onion – finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic – finely chopped

Making the balls…

  • lightly saute the onion, garlic and pepper in a little olive oil
  • combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl
  • lightly mash to combine and slightly break apart the beans
  • lightly knead the mixture until it all binds
  • form into balls, each about a little smaller than a golf ball. For anyone fortunate enough to never have played a game of golf, the balls should be about as round as the circle formed by your thumb and index finger. If you do not have a thumb, then firstly may I say that that is a great excuse to use to avoid golf, and secondly I am at a slight loss as to how to further describe the size of the balls. Just do your best…
  • bake on a lightly oiled tray in a pre-warmed, medium oven for about 15 minutes

Makes approx. 12 balls

Beans that the Larger Loinfruit likes

SheWhoMustBeFed requires this recipe to be recorded in its exactness. The Larger Loinfruit was served these this past Thursday and remarked that “They aren’t as good as pizza but they’re very nice”. Well…what isn’t as good as Pizza when you’re a Loinfruit? Or indeed cold pizza when you’re hung over?

Being as damn near perfection as a dish can be (when not being a pizza) this recipe must be cloned forevermore in The Veghead kitchen…or at least until one day when it is served and declared “Unfit for dinner, and oh by the way Mum I never liked that dish anyway”.

To begin:

  • 1 thin slice of red onion – finely chopped
  • 1 very small clove o garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 cm (or so) thick slice of a Jack Hawkins (or similar) tomato – chopped
  • pinch of mixed italian herbs
  • pinch of finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of cooked haricot beans
  • a few Spanish style olives (brine preserved not oil preserved) – sliced

To do:

  • saute the onion, garlic and pepper in a little olive oil
  • add tomato, the herbs, and a little water
  • saute until tomatoes begin to break down
  • add haricot beans
  • continue over a low heat for a few more minutes
  • (off the heat) stir through the olives and serve immediately

If it wasn’t already obvious; that only makes enough for one small serve – about as much as you might serve on one slice of toast.

Black bean and sweet potato tagine

Black beans and sweet potato seem to like each other. The orange of the potato seems brightened against the black backdrop of the beans, while their flavours and consistencies are complementary. This is a very simple dish to make – say 15 minutes preparation time, and then between 45 and 60 minutes to bake. Put the oven on to preheat while you prepare everything else, and it will speed cooking time significantly if you place the empty tagine in the oven as it preheats. While the tagine heats up The VegHead meanwhile lumps all the ingredients into a bowl, which I then just empty into the tagine when ready.


Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of cooked black beans
  • 1 medium orange sweet potato – cut a few strips and then dice the rest
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 small preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of your favourite olives
  • 1 courgette; quarter lengthways and then halve those lengths giving eight slices
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of Ras-El-Hanout
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • generous amount of olive oil
  • (Optional) 1 small tomato, sliced
Making:
  • Aside from the courgette and the strips of sweet potato, mix all other ingredients and slop into the tagine
  • Arrange the courgette and sweet potato slices spoke-like around the top of the tagine, with the skin facing upward. Arrange the tomato slices between the spokes.
  • Add enough water to almost fill the base of the tagine
  • Bake in a hot oven for 60 minutes

I do not like my credit crunchy

Old Batman cartoons had “Whammo!” and “Biff!” and “Chop, Smack, Pow!!” in bold, coloured text to indicate a particularly violent triumph of good over evil. Unless it was Batman and Robin getting Biffed and Powed, in which case it was evil triumphing over good – temporarily of course.

Over the last two weeks The VegHead’s local source of fairtrade, organic, and fresh ground coffee has closed down. The local Whittards has been one of the 47 stores shutting down due to the company hitting hard times. An extra package of Guatemalan Elephant lies in the freezer to tide me through.

On the High Street of the village The VegHead and SheWhoMustBeFed call home, there’s a little independent butcher. Been there forever, and the old man who ran it looked like he was born in the back room. As they were independent, and as they also sold fruit and veg’, they also got a slice of The VegHead’s wallet. Alas…the butcher closed up shop six days ago. Weakened by years of supermarkets sucking out every pence from the consumer’s pockets, they succumbed at last to a slow death.

Then on Friday, the mobile bleeped with a text from Ballsy Dave suggesting a beer in the bar of the local seafood restaurant. Now neither Ballsy Dave or The VegHead eat seafood, but this little local restaurant happens to welcome Ballsy Dave, The VegHead and The Spinner in for a pint or two before the dinner rush. It has been our habit for the last five years or so to have a quiet beer as we reflect on the week’s highs and lows, and perhaps a bowl of fresh hot chips along with it. Indeed, this little seafood restaurant had earned itself the moniker of “The Chippy”. Ballsy and the The VegHead arrived at The Chippy at the same time, only to find the lights off and the sign on the door reading…

“We regret to inform you that Mulligans is closed until further notice”

My Whittards has been Whammo’d!
My local supply of fruit and veg’; the High Street butcher has been Biffed!!
And now The Chippy has been Chop, Smack, Powed!!!

I do not like this Credit Crunch.

Not one little bit.

Satay Thai Beancurd Wraps

I have NO idea what best to call this dish. I must have been inspired by the making of a cannelloni dish recently. Instead of lasagna sheets you’ll need beancurd skins, and instead of being genealogically Italian this is somehow a relative of Thai cooking.

For those not familiar with “beancurd skins” – these are available from any Chinese, Thai or similarly Asian grocery. As the name suggests, they are made from beancurd (a.k.a tofu) and are basically large, thin sheets of the stuff. The consistency is tougher than might be imagined – much sterner stuff than your wobbly block of soft tofu. They are sold dried, as are lasagne sheets, and must be preboiled or soaked in boiling water in order to soften them. In the absence of beancurd skins, I guess you could substitute the rice sheets that are used to make spring rolls.

In this dish the beancurd rolls are filled with a spicy mix, while the sauce that it bakes in is flavoursome, but not spicy.

Ingredients:

  • beancurd skins
  • 1 cup of cooked haricot beans
  • 1 cup of blanched spinach, chopped
  • big handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Thai red curry paste (The VegHead makes his own so it isassured to be free from shrimp paste – I haven’t made any for a while so the recipe for the paste isn’t posted yet, I predict it will February before doing so)
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup of zuchinni, chopped
  • 1 cup of brocolli florets
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 – 6 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
  • fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
  • peanut sate sauce
  • coconut cream
  • tamari
  • handful of crushed, roasted peanuts
  • half a lime

Making…

  • The best way to evenly mix the thai curry paste with the haricot beans is to saute them together in a small saucepan, with some peanut oil. Once done, mix the spinach and coriander through.
  • Lay out a beancurd sheet on the work area. The sheets I used where all about 25cms by 35cms, and I generally used two or three layers make it strong enough. Once rolled up with the filling inside each roll was a fat sausage shape about 15 cms long.
  • Figure out how many rolls you want to end up with, and divide the bean/spinach mix accordingly i.e. I ended up with 3 rolls, so I rolled a third of the mixture into each roll.
  • Place the mix in an even sausage shape, parallel to the short edge of the beancurd sheet and inset a little from one of those ends. Do I need to describe this? Look – you’re basically going to slop down a bit of bean/spinach mix and roll it up, tucking it all in so that you end up with as neat a package as possible. How hard can this be? Get in there and get your hands dirty!
  • Place the rolls in a deep baking dish, lined up like sardines in a can. Cover with the vegetables as per the picture. Note that it is important to have the half drunk glass of Chardonnay next to it or yours won’t be at all authentic:
  • Over this splash some tamari, and then pour the sate sauce and coconut cream (logic dictates you will have mixed those before hand)
  • You can see from this that there needs to be a good covering of the sate sauce. Sprinkle generously with the crushed peanuts. Bake covered on a high heat for 45 minutes (preheated oven). Adjust cooking time as per your expert opinion.
  • Before serving, dash with the juice of half a fresh lime.
  • Voila:

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.

A warm gift

I baked bread today and gave one to my friend, The Queen King, when we met for coffee. Even though it was zero degrees during the 15 minute cycle into Eton it remained warm from the oven, wrapped inside an old linen tea-towel in the pannier bag. The Queen King said she’d never been given a loaf of bread as a present before, as she cuddled its warmth. I hope she liked it, especially as I gave her the better of the two loaves.