Sunday, 28 June 2009

Frozen raspberry delight

A little belated, but here is one of the desserts I made for my editorial board meeting a couple of weeks ago. It's another recipe from the Good Food Vegetarian Summer magazine and looked so amazingly impressive that I just had to give it a go. It's called a Crunchy Raspberry Ripple Terrine. Doesn't that sound classy? And yet full of the goodness of childhood as well - raspberry ripple AND a terrine. Surely this must cater for all tastes. In fact it's even better than that, as a perusal of the ingredients list reveals that it also includes crushed meringue bits. It's basically posh ice cream, tart with real raspberry juice and crunchy with meringue. The hitch must be in the amount of time it takes to craft this dessert - well, no - it's a cinch! All you do is mash up the berries and sieve them, whisk some eggs and sugar over hot water until it's all fluffy, whisk some cream and then combine both lusciously voluminous mallowy piles, fold in meringue, drizzle over the fruit puree, and then freeze. No stirring, no ice cream makers, just leave it alone. And it still slices perfectly when you take it out. I only tried a little bit since it features cream rather extravagantly (which I avoid as part of my carbon-output-lowering regime - the dairy industry is v bad for this) - but it was *really* nice. I especially liked the little crunches of meringue. I managed to save some for The Scientist and he loved it too. And Munchkin Granny was with me when I made it and she liked the look of it so much that she copied out the recipe to make for a party she's hosting. So, if you need a fancy but low effort summer dessert, look no further. The picture of mine sliced looks stripy because I used a knife with a serrated edge to cut The Scientist's portion - a smooth blade will make for a tidier finish (listen to me trying to pretend I know anything about presentation!)

Crunchy raspberry ripple terrine (from Good Food Vegetarian Summer magazine)
Serves 8

350g raspberries [I actually used more]
3 eggs
100g golden caster sugar
284ml pot double cream
2 meringue shells, crushed into small pieces

1. Mash 150g of the raspberries, pass through a sieve into a bowl, discarding seeds, then set aside. Line a 1 litre loaf tin with cling film. Whisk eggs and sugar with an electric whisk continuously over a bowl of barely simmering water, until doubled in volume and thick. Remove bowl from heat. Continue to whisk until completely cool; the whole process will take about 10 mins.

2. Whisk the cream until just thick. Fold the egg mix into the cream until completely combined, then fold in the meringue. Pour the raspberry puree over the mix in a zig zag, then gently pout into the lined loaf tin. Freeze for a minimum of 4 hours, then serve in slices with the remaining whole raspberries.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Herby solstice bread

In an effort to use up the lovely small-leaved Greek basil (thank you for supplying the name Munchkin Granny!) which MG brought me last weekend I started to think about herby breads. I knew that I had a recipe for a herbed spiral bread in my Complete Baking book, but I also had a vague feeling that I'd seen another one on a website about solstice foods last year. Sure enough, a brief bit of searching turned it up, and since it was the summer solstice on Sunday (one of my favourite days of the year, and also The Scientist's sister's wedding anniversary) I made it for our dinner.

The website I found the inspiration for the bread on said that solstice foods are generally summery fruits and vegetables, and harvested leaves and greens. I think that harvesting it from my windowsill counts, don't you? It's the spirit of the thing after all, and my bread was definitely made in the spirit of revelling in the longest day of the year and all the fruitfulness it brings. I actually used the bread recipe from my book, but followed the original inspiration to scatter fresh herbs over the rolled out dough, rather than cooking them with some garlic and spring onions in butter as the book directed. I just fancied something a bit lighter this time, though I'd be interested to try the cooked version another time.

I've been reading quite a bit recently about how adding too much flour to bread dough as you knead it can make the bread quite tough. I do usually add flour to keep things less sticky, but this time I valiantly ploughed on with my shaggy mess until it started to get a bit less adhesive, at which point I just added a little bit of flour to bring it all together. Despite this, and making sure that the water was a good temperature, the pesky thing didn't rise at all (it evidently hadn't picked up on it being the longest - albeit admittedly not the sunniest - day of the year). I thought that this would affect the final loaf but it was actually still quite nice and light. The mix of white and wholemeal flour meant that it wasn't weighed down too much, but still had a nice nuttiness, and while my herb swirl wasn't quite as visible as the one in the book, it was still just discernible enough to keep me happy. It's a testimony to how nice the bread was that The Scientist tucked in too - normally he's a bit unenthusiastic about my grainy and wholesome breads! We ate it with carrot and coriander soup and made sure that we appreciated every minute of the lovely long evening.

Solstice herbed bread (based on Complete baking, with inspiration from here, too)
Makes 1 loaf

1 Tbsp active dried yeast
1/2 pint (300 ml) lukewarm water
210g strong flour [I used white]
250g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
15g butter
Good handful of chopped fresh herbs - I used Greek basil, normal basil, and a little bit of coriander
Egg, egg white or milk for glazing

Combine the yeast and about 30ml of the water, stir and leave for 15 minutes to dissolve.

Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and the remaining water. With a wooden spoon, stir from the centre, working outwards to obtain a rough dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with a plastic bag, and leave until doubled in volume [hah!] - about two hours.

Grease a loaf tin. When the dough has risen, roll it out to a rectangle about 35cm x 23 cm. Brush with the egg, egg white or milk, and scatter the chopped herbs over the dough.

Roll up the dough in a sausage, and pinch the short edges to seal. Place in the tin, seam side down. Cover, and leave in a warm place until the dough rises above the rim of the tin.

Preheat the oven to 190C, Gas 5. Brush the bread with milk [I didn't do this], and bake until the bottom sounds hollow. The recipe said about 55 minutes but mine was done after about 25 so check early and often! Cool on a rack.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Does giving your cat drugs make you a bad person?

Just look at her eyes!

I'm glad to report that she calmed down soon afterwards and wandered off to find some munchies :)

Buffet-friendly kamut pilaf

Last week I hosted a meeting of the editorial board I sit on. The editor usually hosts and cooks up a storm, so I was a bit nervous. He'd put in a request for falafel when I said it was all going to be veggie so I themed the menu around middle-eastern-esque foods. The falafel went down very well, with toasted pittas, a spiced chickpea dip from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites, and a tahini dip (I bribed someone to take the leftovers away with them as I loathe tahini unless it's completely hidden in hummus), some roasted tomatoes and peppers with herbs and garlic, a carrot and orange salad, some salad leaves, some last-minute-panic feta with coriander leaves and oil drizzled over it, a roasted cherry tomato and cheddar tart (for those who aren't used to weird vegan grains) and this pilaf. It was based on a recipe in the BBC Food Vegetarian Summer magazine which used a grain called Ebly which I had never heard of, but which I subsequently have seen in a small box at a great price in the supermarket. I was keen to try out and use up a packet of another grain called kamut which I bought in a fit of zeal about a year ago so I subbed that instead. It looks like spelt and is similarly long-cooking, but is of ancient Egyptian origin. It's only quite recently been rediscovered, and it was described as having a 'buttery' taste in my wholegrains book. It was either going to be great or really really weird.

In the event it was very nice. I don't honestly think that I could have distinguished it from spelt if I hadn't known, and one of the other board members guessed that it was barley. It has more bite than that though - The Scientist liked it and he doesn't like barley. I said there would be a prize for anyone who could guess the grain, and no one had even heard of it which was fortunate as the prize was only dessert, which they were getting anyway :) The other good thing about the pilaf was that it was quick and easy to cook, and was nicely spiced because it simmers in well seasoned stock. I thought of serving it with some feta on the top but in the end decided to style the feta as its own dish to boost the spread on the table! Much to my relief there was enough food and it didn't seem to cause too much consternation among the omnivores. Next time we're going out for a pub lunch so carnivorousness will be restored to the masses!

Spiced kamut pilaf (based on one for Ebly grain in Good Food Vegetarian Summer magazine)
Serves 4 (I doubled it)

200g kamut
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 large courgette, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed [the original recipe was for 3 cloves but one of my visitors doesn't like too much garlic]
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp turmeric
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2.5 cm pieces [the recipe said runner beans; I used whatever sort had travelled the fewest air miles]
140g cherry tomatoes
350ml vegetable stock
small handful of coriander

1. Cook the kamut in boiling water. It takes about an hour and a half. I did this a couple of days before, cooled and then froze it, but that's only because I had quite a lot of dishes to juggle on the day.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then fry the onion and courgette over a low heat for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic, cumin seeds and turmeric; fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the beans, tomatoes and stock to the pan, bring to the boil, cover, then simmer for 5-6 minutes until the tomatoes just start to lose their shape.
4. Stir the drained kamut into the vegetables, then cook over a high heat for 2 minutes. Season to taste, stir in torn coriander and serve.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Very orange carrot and basil soup

I've been a very bad blogger, I know. I've had a steady avalanche of exam scripts to moderate ever since we got back from holiday, and it hasn't left much time for writing blog posts, or cooking new and interesting things for that matter either. The avalanche is slowing now though, and I'm feeling a bit more confident that I'm going to make it to the snow fields, or the foot of the mountain, or the Pizza Hut of restfulness or wherever you get to when you outrun an avalanche, so here I am again.

This soup was my lunch today, and it was inspired by the contents of the veggie basket at the end of the week, and a pot of special basil that Munchkin Granny brought me when she came to visit last weekend. It had a particular name, which I've forgotten, so let's just call it 'small basil'. It looks really pretty and smells lovely and I wanted to make sure I used it rather than gradually let it wilt which is what generally seems to happen to my herbs. I had a bag of carrots as well, so I roasted them during the morning along with a sweet potato, a red pepper, some garlic cloves and some of the small basil, and then blended them with some hot stock at lunchtime. Given all that orange and redness it's not really surprising that the soup turned out the colour it did, and it tasted clean and colourful as well. The basil paired well with the veggies, and it all smelled lovely too.

I'm sending this soup to this month's No Croutons required, which has leaves as its theme. I would have made a rocket soup with my home-grown leaves, but they are still only about 1cm high so it would have been a nano-soup, and I prefer meals I can see :)

Carrot, sweet potato and 'small basil' soup
Serves 2
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
glug of shaoshung wine
spray of oil
about 400ml hot stock
1 good handful of 'small' or regular fresh basil, torn

Roast all the veggies in a 200 degree oven in a covered baking tray, covered with the glug of shaoshung for about 45 minutes. Shovel them about a bit with a spatula. Spray with oil, and continue roasting, with half of the basil, uncovered for about 20 minutes more, until all the veggies are soft.

Liquidise the veggies with the other half of the basil and the stock. Reheat if necessary.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

A veggie break

No, not a break from being a veggie (that will NEVER happen, and you can quote me on that), but a break in veggie heaven. We've been in the Lake District on holiday, and I have discovered that not only is it the most beautiful place I've ever been, but it is an absolute paradise for us herbivores. Never since living near Brighton have I been so well fed. Never since our last holiday in Devon have I marvelled so extensively at the beauty of the English countryside. Never since their last stay at the cattery have the cats been so unimpressed at being stuffed in a carrying box. We're all back now, and while the cats are appreciating their usual freedom and The Scientist is banging a nail into the wall for our newly acquired picture as I type, I am mournfully contemplating the prospect of having to cook my own dinner.

Just in case anyone else is looking for veggie tips for the Lakes, here are my recommendations:

Cote How Organic B&B near Rydal does veggie and vegan breakfasts, and is super eco-minded as well (plus the rooms are very luxurious, it's in the middle of beautiful nowhere, and you can walk to Grasmere from their door)

Zeferelli's restaurant in Ambleside is an amazing veggie place - wholemeal crust pizzas, chillis, stews, pastas, and all delicious enough to keep even the most suspicious omnivore happy. We ate there three times and every time it was brilliant. You can eat in the downstairs restaurant or upstairs in the jazz bar, and there's also a cinema. It's worth booking though we managed to sneak in even on a Friday night without.

The Lakeland Pedlar cafe in Keswick - great sandwiches, smoothies and general cafe fare. We both had the falafel wraps which came with proper top quality salad on the side.

The cafe at Brantwood, John Ruskin's home on Coniston Water, is good for veggies though we only ate sandwiches there. The sandwiches aren't very vegan friendly (cheese and egg) but the cooked options looked more varied.

That's just the ones we went to - there are several more around too, and all in a small part of the country without any particular pretensions to hippydom. Next time I have my eye on a couple of veggie B&Bs, but I think I'll have to go without The Scientist!

By the way, while I never intend to stray from the green and animal-friendly path again, I did have one lapse with a tuna mayonnaise sandwich when I was 16 and recovering from glandular fever - which is what the poor little Munchkin has been in hospital with this week! He's home now but we're very sorry that he and his parents have had such a nasty time, and while I couldn't condone the eating of tuna sandwiches now, I do prescribe large quantities of angel delight and ice cream (and I'm a doctor, you know).
I think he's pleased to be home :)