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Mini Vegetarian Moussaka

19 Oct

I’ve been in a really indecisive mood trying to choose what to cook for a dinner party tonight. Normally, a quick search of the internet brings up some good ideas but nothing inspired me this week.

In the end I decided to make a vegetarian starter – none of my guests is vegetarian but I”m doing roast lamb for the main course so I thought a contrast would be nice!

I tried finding a recipe but couldn’t find one I really liked so I invented my own!

I’m afraid the quantities are a bit vague but I think that’s part of the fun of cooking like this. My aim is to make 7 ramekin size portions so I started by measuring out 3 ramekins of red lentils into a pan, covering with water and cooking for about 10 minutes (the lentils will absorb the water – add more if it looks too dry and don’t let it stick to the pan).

While that’s cooking, chop a couple of onions and sweat gently in oil – I’m using sun dried tomatoes as well so use some of the oil from the jar of tomatoes.

Finely chop a few sun dried tomatoes (you need about 2 tomato “chunks” per person to get a good flavour) and then mix the cooked lentils with the onions and tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and spice to taste (I added some chilli powder and ginger powder and some ground black pepper). Dollop into the ramekin so it’s not quite full.

Slice some large tomatoes and place a slice of tomato on top of the mix – that can now go in the fridge until later.

When you’re ready to serve, slice an aubergine (you want discs, ideally the size of the ramekin). Fry the discs with a very little oil until they’re soft (only a couple of minutes; turn part way through).

While they’re cooking, slice some mozzarella – you want circles, again about the size of the ramekin. Cover the lentil and tomato with aubergine, put mozzarella on the top and put in the oven at about 100C-150C just to keep warm and to let the cheese melt.


Winter soups

3 Apr

Last week the weather was warm – summer was definitely on the way. This week the temperature has dropped and Scotland has had significant snow fall! With weather like this, soup is the food to eat!

I like making soup, it’s pretty easy to do, you can make huge batches and freeze it giving a quick meal when you’re in a hurry and it’s quite filling while also being low in calories.

I’ve made Carrot and French Onion soups many times before but this time I tried out the slow cooker. I peeled carrots (about 2kg) and then sliced them in the food processor. They went in the slow cooker with some stock for about 8 hours. At the end of this I just wizzed them up with a stick blender and the soup was pretty good. I also added coriander at the end for more flavour and chopped in an orange for a bit of interest!

To make the onion soup I peeled 2kg of onions (lots of tears) and then put them in the slow cooker with a dollop of margarine and some salt and pepper. They stayed in their on the low setting for about 10 hours; at the end of this they were amazingly caramelized and tasted fantastic. I then added stock and cooked for a further 8 hours. I think this is one of the best soups I’ve made and I’ll definitely do it again.

At the same time as making these, I wanted to use up some other veg so I roasted a tray of tomatoes to make tomato soup and about a dozen parsnips to make roast parsnip soup. Add cumin seeds to this to give a really nice flavour.

Birthday meal

26 Feb

I seem to be another year older – not sure how because it doesn’t feel like 12 months since my last birthday but I’d guess that’s just the way life goes!

I invited some people round for dinner and tried out some new dishes.

As a starter I made stuffed mushrooms – one batch were stuffed with cashew nuts and pesto (just whizzed up in the food processor) and the other with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, cous cous and parmesan cheese. The cous cous was instead of bread crums and I was quite pleased with the result and my guests liked them as well.

For the main course I just cooked salmon steaks drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in foil with a slice of lemon. They were then just put in the oven at 180C for 15 minutes. I also cooked some chunky roast potato wedges. Cut big potatoes into wedges, coat with olive oil and whatever herbs are handy (I used fresh rosemary and dried coriander), sprinkle chopped garlic in the pan and then pop in the oven at 220C for 45 minutes.

Pudding was pannacotta – I’ve never made this before and the recipes I found all talked about using leaf gelatine but I only had powered. I suspect the quantity isn’t critical but 1 small packet (about 12g) worked well with 500ml double cream 500ml milk – this made 8 ramekin sized individual puddings. I then served this with a raspberry coulis and some whole raspberries and strawberries as garnish.


Slow cooker meals

20 Feb

I bought a slow cooker a few years ago (actually, my “friend” put it in the trolley for me while we were out shopping – I wasn’t really sure I needed it!) and it’s turned out to be one of my most useful pieces of kitchen equipment. It cost less than £15 so it’s also by far the best value.

It works well for cheaper cuts of meat – pretty much anything sold for stewing works and you can adapt recipes that are designed for a slow oven.

My most recent meal was made with a pack of meat sold as stewing lamb but lamb neck would have worked well. I wanted to do something a bit like a lamb tagine; I’m not sure that’s what I got but it was pretty tasty!

I cut half a dozen small onions in half and laid them on the bottom of the pot (don’t chop stuff finely; the slow cooking means you end up with slush if you’re not careful!) I then added some meat, a small bunch of coriander (this was chopped finely – it works best when it does disappear into the liquid) some dried figs (about 250g) a good handful of olives and a can of chick peas and a little water (I half filled the chick pea can)

The lid goes on, I put the slow cooker on its low setting and went to work. 10 hours later I came home to the most marvellous smell! I knew the lamb, figs and chick peas would work but I wasn’t so sure about the olives. When I make it again, I think I’ll only use the olives as a garnish before serving – they rather dominate the taste (I like olives a lot but they’re just a bit too strong compared to the figs)

Burns night(ish)

8 Feb

Every year I try to invite a few friends round on the Saturday nearest to Burns Night and feed them a meal which includes haggis in some form. I know it really ought to be just haggis, neeps and tatties but I quite like to experiment! This year I made a haggis roulade based on the idea here

I used a slightly spicy sausage from Waitrose instead of the Toulouse sausage and I think it worked pretty well (it all got eaten so that’s a good sign!) I served it with roast potatoes, tender stem  broccoli (cooked using Heston Blumenthal’s “At home” recipe and then mashed carrots, turnips and potatoes to add a traditional touch.

As a starter I decided to go a bit retro with a prawn cocktail but used rocket and watercress as a base with smoked salmon, prawns and a dollop of caviar. I used a spicy salad dressing instead of Marie-Rose sauce and garnished with a slice of lemon. I think the combination worked well.

Dessert was fairly simple. I decided to do a chocolate pot because I’d seen one served on “Come dine with me” a few days earlier. I put some mandarin segments in a ramekin and topped it with chocolate mousse (200g good dark chocolate, eggs, cream and a bit of cointreau just for flavour). That looked a bit uninspiring so I made a white chocolate ganache and put that on top and added another mandarin segment just to make it look nice (and it tasted pretty good as well!)

My first 4 guests actually arrived for breakfast on Saturday so they got home made bread buns served with sausage patties (bit of a cheat; I just skinned ordinary sausages and reshaped them) and scrambled egg (use an electric whisk to make it fluffy)

I went to Dallas last year and for brunch one morning we had a pulled pork sandwich. I rather liked that and have been thinking of how I could serve it for breakfast. My guests stayed for Sunday breakfast and that gave me a chance. I took some stewing pork and put it in the slow cooker with a good dollop of barbecue sauce. I then put it on slow and left it for about 8 hours. The result is very soft pork which is easy to pull apart with forks. To serve it I took some large mushrooms, cooked them and topped with the pulled pork. A large slice of tomato went on top of that and finally a slice of halloumi cheese just to make sure there were enough calories!

The only disaster was that I forgot to take photos of the food but I was pretty pleased other than that!