Friday, 26 November 2010

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I am trying to incorporate more fibre into my diet, which is proving much more difficult that I thought it would be. I don't really eat much fruit at this time of year, I much prefer summer fruits which just don't taste the same in autumn/winter. I also don't really like wholemeal bread and detest granary bread, so the easy things to get into my diet I don't like to eat all the time. I have opted for eating more lentils and beans instead as I like both of them and they are quite easy to use instead of potato for a meal. This Vegetarian Shepherds Pie is one of the meals that I've tried. It was really filling and I didn't miss the meat at all.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
(Serves 4-6)

2 red onions
2 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
a small bunch of fresh rosemary
2 x 400g tins of lentils
olive oil
1 x 400g can of plum tomatoes
200ml vegetable stock, preferably organic
1.5kg Desiree potatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
100ml whole milk
a large knob of butter
1 fresh nutmeg, for grating

Peel and roughly chop the onions and carrots. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Pick the rosemary leaves, discard the stalks, finely chop half of leaves and put the rest to one side. Drain the lentils.

Heat a large pan on a medium heat and add a tbsp oil. Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pan. Cook gently with the lid on for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped rosemary leaves, tinned tomatoes and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then add the drained lentils, reduce to a low heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until thick.

To make the mash topping:

Peel the potatoes, cut them into halves and quarters depending on their size, and put them into a pan of salted, boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes until tender. Stick a knife into them to check they’re soft all the way through.

Drain in a colander and return them to the pan. Grate the Cheddar cheese. Add the milk, butter, most of the cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. Mash until smooth and creamy.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Transfer the lentil mixture to a large ovenproof baking dish. Spoon the mash evenly over the top, poke the remaining rosemary leaves into it to decorate and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, then cook in the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Potatoes Boulangere

Potatoes Boulangere is one of those side dishes that you always get in French restaurants and love but never try to make at home. I never knew that it was so simple to make. The stock makes the potatoes so tasty and this dish is so easy to prepare. It's literally layering everything together, pour over the stock and the put in the oven to bake. It definitely takes me back to the many fantastic trips I have had to France.

I had them with chicken stuffed with cream cheese wrapped in bacon, broccoli and courgettes.

Potatoes Boulangere (adapted from Good Food Magazine January 2008)
(Serves 4)

1 onion, thinly sliced
few thyme sprigs or some dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
750g potatoes ,peeled and sliced thinly
300ml vegetable stock

Heat oven to 200C.

Spread a layer of potatoes over the base of an oiled gratin dish. Sprinkle over a few onions and some thyme and continue layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Pour over the stock and bake for 50-60 mins until the potatoes are cooked and the top is golden and crisp.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Tomato and Courgette Tortellini Soup

It is definitely the time of year for warming and comforting dishes. Walking to work this afternoon my hands and face were freezing and according to the weather it's going to snow later in the week. I used my last courgette this week, so summer has definitely gone! I found a last one lurking when I took the plant out last week, part of it went into this tortellini soup. It was lovely on warming on a freezing cold day.

Tomato and Courgette Tortellini Soup
(Serves 1)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small courgette, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
350ml vegetable stock
1/4 pack fresh filled tortellini
chopped basil or parsley
grated parmesan, to serve

Heat oil in a pan. Fry the courgettes for 5 mins until starting to soften, add in the tomatoes and garlic and fry for a minute. Add the stock , then simmer for 5 mins.

Once veg is tender, stir in the pasta. Return to the boil and simmer for 2-3 mins until the pasta is just cooked. Stir in the basil or parsley, if using. Season, then serve in bowls topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Rice Noodles with Hoisin Lamb

I got an amazing deal on lamb cutlets a little while ago and stored them in my freezer. I had eaten the other eight cutlets just simply grilled with risotto on the side, but for the last two I wanted to do something different. I stumbled across this Asian inspired and it seemed to be just what I was looking for. The lamb was really good, but the noodles could have done with a bit more of a sauce rather than a dressing.

Rice Noodles with Hoisin Lamb (adapted from Good Food Magazine February 2007)
(Serves 2)

125g rice noodles
6 lamb cutlets , fat trimmed off
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 courgette
1/2 carrot
10 sugar snap peas
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

Cook the rice noodles following the packet instructions then rinse with cold water and drain.

Brush the lamb cutlets with the hoisin sauce. Cut the courgette and carrot into batons and stir fry for about 3-5 mins. Mix with the rice noodles and remaining ingredients.

Grill the lamb for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through but still pink. Serve on top of the noodles.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Daring Cooks November 2010: Rocket and Cheddar Souffle

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Souffles as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate souffle recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I made souffle! I can't believe it! I put off this challenge for so long and I finally made the souffle about 30 mins ago and I am so glad that I did and it worked! I made one individual souffle with one egg as I had left it so long that I only had time to make it for me. I used the watercress souffle recipe but put rocket and cheddar cheese in instead, as I don't really like Parmesan and I had rocket in the fridge already. It was actually really nice, it rose a little too much and went down the side of the ramekin, but you can't have everything! I am just so glad that it basically worked and was lovely and fluffy.

Rocket and Cheddar Souffle
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp 1 oz/30g butter plus additional for the soufflé dish
3½ Tbsp (55 ml) 1 oz/30g plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup/8 fluid oz (240ml) milk
½ cup (120 ml) 2 oz/60g cheddar cheese, finely grated plus additional for the soufflé dish
1 cup (250ml) 2 oz/60g finely chopped rocket
4 large eggs, separated
½ tsp (2½ ml) (3 gm) (.1 oz) prepared mustard
¼ tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar*
Salt and pepper to taste
* If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted

1. Butter the soufflé dish(es) thoroughly, then grate a small amount of cheese in each dish and tap so that the sides are evenly coated with the cheese. Place the dish(es) in the refrigerator until needed (according to some sites, this helps the soufflé climb).

2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350º F / 180º C / gas mark 4

3. Wash and chop the watercress if you haven’t already.

4. Finely grate the parmesan cheese

5. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook 1 minute, then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir until it’s just melted. Remove from heat then add the watercress and salt and pepper.

6. In a larger pan, bring water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until pale and slightly foamy – about 6 minutes. (I held the bowl just above the simmering water to be sure I didn’t cook the eggs)

7. Mix the egg yolks into the watercress sauce.

8. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks yet are still glossy.

9. Fold the egg whites into the sauce in 3 additions so that it’s evenly mixed, but you don’t lose too much volume.

10. Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and spoon the mix into it. Use a spatula to even the tops of the soufflés and wipe off any spills.

11. Bake 25 minutes for small dishes or 40 minutes if using a large soufflé dish, then serve immediately.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


I have lots of food that I cooked before I went to Paris still to write about, but I thought that I would write about my trip whilst it was still relatively fresh in my mind. I went with my Mum to Paris for three days last week, we did a Gastronomic Tour with a tour guide. On the first evening we did a three hour walking tour through the area in and around Les Halles, learning about the market, cafes and restaurants and the history behind the site. We then walked to a lovely fish restaurant close to the Bastille for dinner. I had John Dory and got a whole fish really simply cooked with rosemary and my Mum had Sole Meuniere with three fillets of Sole on her plate, it was absolutely divine.

The second day included the highlight of the trip, a three course meal with every meal in a different restaurant and each course being chosen by the chef at the restaurant. We started at 11.30am and had a brief walking tour onto I'le St-Louis, looking at the Hotel Particuliers that still survive on the island. This led us to our first restaurant Le Fin Gourmet, where we were treated to a glass of white wine and Salmon Rillettes with Rocket and a Balsamic Dressing. This was absolutely delicious.

We then walked to I'le de la Cite, past Notre Dame and through the beautiful flower market, learning more of the history of the area to the restaurant where we had our main course. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, save that it was in what used to be the cloisters of the old Abbey. There we had roast chicken with a mushroom sauce, braised celery, half a grilled tomato and some mashed potato with a glass of Cotes du Rhone. We were not very impressed by the main course, the chicken had a huge bone in it, so not much meat and all in all it just wasn't very inspiring. Also when I asked for an extra glass for water I was told we could only have one glass each. Very bizarre.

Our final walk took us over the Pont Neuf to Rue Dauphine on the left bank, not far from where we usually stay in Paris, and to our final restaurant for dessert. This again was very disappointing, of all the magnificent typical french desserts we could have had, profiteroles is not what I would have chosen. They were fine, but will always remind me of school dinners.

In the evening we only wanted something light for dinner so we took ourselves off to a cafe near the hotel and had salads. I had my favourite, goats cheese salad.

My Mum had Caesar Salad, which was so huge that she couldn't finish it but I did and it was absolutely delicious. One of the things I love about Paris is the cafe culture, that you can get fantastic food relatively cheaply in a really relaxed environment.

On the morning of the third day we went on a walking tour with tastings in and around Boulevard St Germain. The first tasting we had was Macarons from La Duree. I had rose and ginger and my mum had salted butter caramel. They were both sublime, much better than any macarons I'd had before. We then moved on to Rue Jacob and J. Leblanc oils. We tried three different oils, pistachio, hazelnut and the nut from the inside of the kernel of the plum! The last was very bitter. Here is our tour guide talking about the oils with the samples in a basket around her neck.

We went back on our way to the hotel and I bought some of the hazelnut oil, some tarragon vinegar and some raspberry vinegar so I can make some lovely vinaigrette at home. Our next tasting was choquettes and a mini almond cake from the carton bakery in Rue de Buci. We then walked back to Rue Dauphine close to where we had dessert the day before and tasted saucisson and ham from Coeson. Our final tasting was glass of red wine from one of the wine sellers in Marche St Germain. The wine a little strange on its own but would have been really good with food.

We then left the group and went to the supermarket to buy cheese and other bits and pieces and then to the fromagerie to buy yet more cheese! My fridge currently smells delicious and I need to say a big thanks to my Mum for suggesting the trip, I had a really lovely time.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Courgette and Basil Pasta with Pesto Crumbs

Wow, so it's been over a week since I wrote anything here, this last week has been totally hectic. I went to Paris for 3 days on a gastronomic tour with my Mum and had a fantastic time, I will blog more about that later this week. Then I went to Hen party on Saturday for my friend whose getting married in a month and had a lovely time dancing and chatting with friends and in between all that I've been to work and had fireworks in the back garden for Bonfire Night! Fantastic way to spend the week, but very little cooking at home was done.

This dish used up the last of my courgettes, and it was one I saw in Good Food and knew I had to try. It was delicious, I was lazy and used a jar of pesto which I combined with the breadcrumbs, but it worked just as well. I had it with a pork chop seasoned with Old Bay and then sugar snap peas.

Courgette and Basil Pasta with Pesto Crumbs (from Good Food Magazine September 2010)
(Serves 6)

500g pack penne
5 courgettes, grated
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
500g pot crème fraîche
25g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), finely grated
small bunch basil, reserve a few leaves for garnishing
85g chunk ciabatta
handful toasted pine nuts , plus a few extra for sprinkling

Slightly under cook the pasta, then drain, reserving a ladleful of cooking water. Rinse the pasta with cold water to cool. Drain again, toss in a little oil to stop it sticking together and set aside while you get the rest of the bake ready.

Fry the courgettes in oil for about 10 mins to drive off most of the liquid; they should reduce down a lot. Add the garlic and onion to the pan, cook for 2 mins more, then season really well and add to the pasta. Stir in most of the crème fraîche and half the Parmesan with seasoning, then tip into an ovenproof dish. Dollop the rest of the crème fraîche over the top.

Heat oven to 180C. Whizz nearly all of the basil, remaining cheese, bread and pine nuts together to make pesto crumbs, then scatter all over the top. Finish with a few more pine nuts. Bake for 20 mins until the topping is crisp and bubbling at the edges. Serve with a few more basil leaves scattered over.