Guest Recipe: Squash Casserole

This is another recipe my girlfriend Rhey taught me. I’ve been using winter squash from my garden, but I’m told it also works with summer squash or marrow. If using marrow, sweat the slices in salt for 30 minutes to an hour first to reduce the water content.

Thinly slice about 2 cups squash (a regular sized butternut should give you this amount). Sautée 1 onion, diced, and 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, until translucent; then add the squash and cook until soft. Allow to cool, then stir in 1 cup almond flour or bread crumbs, 1/2 cup grated cheese (saving a little to top the casserole with), 2 tbsp milk, 2 tbsp melted butter and 2 eggs. Season with generous salt and black pepper, and 1/2 tbsp paprika. Spread into a greased casserole dish and top with the remaining grated cheese and more black pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C until the top is bubbly and brown.

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main. Freezes well.

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Guest Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

This is a recipe my girlfriend Rhey taught me to make (they’re American, hence the name!) They usually have pre-made tomato sauce on hand but I’ve found that a can of chopped tomatoes works fine for this recipe. Likewise the best seasoning to use for this is Old Bay seasoning (celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika) but it’s not easy to get hold of in the UK so I’ve substituted readily available spices into the recipe.

Thinly slice one aubergine and salt generously to sweat out the water. Leave for 30 minutes to an hour then rinse off the salt and pat dry. Meanwhile sautée 1 onion, diced, 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, 1 red pepper, sliced, and any other vegetables you have to hand, for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Add a can of chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tsp stock powder, 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, and 1 tsp smoked paprika, and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Make up an egg wash with 2 eggs, a splash of milk, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, a pinch of stock powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or almond flour crumbs, seasoned in the same way, for the coating. Dip the aubergine slices in the eggwash then coat with the crumbs. Coat a nonstick pan with a thin layer of oil, heat until bubbling, then fry the aubergine on either side until golden brown. In a greased pan, spread a layer of the vegetable mixture then top with a layer of aubergine slices. Sprinkle over a light coating of grated parmesan, then repeat, finishing with a final layer of vegetables. Sprinkle over any remaining parmesan and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes, until the parmesan is browned and bubbly.

Serves 3-4 depending on how many vegetables you use. Freezes well.

Variations:

  • You can also include a cup of minced meat at the sautéeing stage. If you do you’ll want to reduce the amount of salt and smoked paprika a little.

Vegetarian Satay Hot Pot

Not very authentic, but a quick, filling meal that can be adapted to any vegetables you have in the fridge. I used a pre-made satay hot pot base for this, but there are recipes online for making the base from scratch too if you’d prefer. Make sure all your vegetables are chopped before you start cooking, since the total cooking time is very short.

Boil 1 nest vermicelli noodles and a small strip of dried kelp, very finely sliced, for 3-4 minutes, then strain and set aside in the saucepan. Lightly beat 1 egg with 1/2 tsp soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan and fry the beaten egg until just cooked, then remove and cut into 1cm wide strips. Bring the oil back up to temperature then add 1/2 onion and 2 cloves garlic, both finely diced, and fry until translucent. Add about 3 inches plantain, a handful of aubergine and a handful of red pepper, all sliced as thinly as possible. Also finely slice a bulb of pak choi, adding the stems to the pan and setting the leaves aside. Fry the vegetables for 2-3 minutes until softened. Make up 2 cups of satay hot pot base with 1 generous tbsp satay hot pot base and boiling water. Top the noodles with the egg, cooked vegetables and pak choi leaves then pour over the hot pot base. Bring to the boil, allow to cool a little, and serve.

Serves 2-3

Variations:

  • The kelp is optional, although it’s a good ingredient to have in the cupboard as a little goes a long way and it keeps for years. You can buy it from health food stores, but if you have an Asian supermarket nearby it’s likely to be cheaper there. I use sheets of prophase kelp.
  • You can substitute any vegetables for this – any soft vegetables such as spinach or mushroom should be added right at the end, any harder vegetables such as sweet potato or brussels sprouts should be fried beforehand to make sure they’re cooked through.
  • To make the dish vegan, substitute the egg for tofu strips marinaded in soy sauce for a few hours then lightly fried.

 

 

Elderflower and Raspberry Cake

I’ve been wanting to try baking with fresh elderflowers since they started blooming, and I finally got around to testing this cake for my birthday – it went down well with my housemates and research group! The cornflour apparently gives the cake a silkier texture – I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I’ve kept it in the recipe anyway since it certainly doesn’t hurt.

To prepare the elderflowers, just rinse gently to remove any insects then use scissors to cut into bunches of 3-4 flowers, discarding as much of the stem as possible. 3-4 large heads of elderflowers will make about a cup – pick extra for decorating.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tbsp cornflour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder. Stir in 1 cup fresh elderflowers. In another bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, 1 scant cup sugar and 2 eggs. Combine the wet and dry ingredients then stir in 1 cup frozen raspberries. Tip into a greased 1.5 litre loaf tin or a large cake pan and bake at 180°C for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes clean. Allow to cool then cut the cake half horizontally, spread with raspberry jam and replace the halves. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with elderflowers.

Serves 6-8, depending on the size of the slices.

 

Spiced carrot pickle

I adapted this from a Co-op leaflet based on the ingredients I happened to have in the cupboard. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge, and should be freezable. The particular mixture of spices you use is pretty arbitary – I’d always keep the garlic, ginger and chilli, but garam masala or mixed spice could easily substitute the rest. You could also add coriander seed or cardamom if you have it.

Melt about 1 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then add 1 1/12 cups grated carrot (about 4-5 medium size carrots) and fry for 5 minutes until beginning to turn golden. Stir in a large thumb-sized block of grated ginger (or 1 tsp powdered ginger), 3 cloves garlic, finely diced, and 1/2 red chilli, finely diced (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes), and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp ground cumin or (1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds), 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 star anise, broken into pieces, and 1/3 cup raisins (or sultanas). Finally add 2 tbsp honey and 3-4 tbsp malt or cider vinegar and cook down for a further 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the carrots are completely soft. Wait a day for the flavours to develop before serving.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, because I’m actually incapable of following a recipe without changing something. This version is slightly less sweet and more dry, with a few changes to the baking procedure to reduce the burning around the crust of the cake. Once again, the measurements are in cups since I still don’t own any scales.

Microwave 3/4 cup of baking margerine on low for about 30 seconds (or place in a bowl of hot water) until softened. Add 3/4 cup sugar and whisk vigorously until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes using an electric whisk). Beat in 3 eggs, the zest of 1 large lemon and half of its juice. Fold in 1 cup flour and 1/2 tbsp baking powder, and spoon into a greased 1 litre loaf tin or a large cake tin. Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes then turn down to 160°C for a further 15-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool upside down for 15 minutes then turn upright again pierce the cake liberally with a skewer or fork. Stir the rest of the lemon juice, the zest of half a lemon if you have it and 2-3 teaspoons of sugar into a slurry (there’s no need for the sugar to dissolve). Drizzle the mixture over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Green been casserole

I threw this together out of bits and pieces from the back of my fridge and it turned out really well. There’s no need to throw away the chicken bone and skin – add them to the casserole to improve the flavour and pick the cooked meat off the bone when it’s done.

Remove the meat from a chicken thigh and cut it into roughly 1 cm cubes. In a large casserole dish, mix together the chicken, 1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 1 cm slices, 1 medium carrot, cut into 1 cm cubes, 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, 2 cloves garlic, finely diced, 2/3 cup cottage cheese, 1/3 cup hot salsa and a generous crack of black pepper. Pour over enough stock to just cover everything. Bake at 180°C  for an hour and a half, or until everything is well cooked. If the casserole is looking a bit runny after an hour, remove a few spoonfuls of liquid and return to the oven.

Serves 2 or 3 with garlic bread.

Carrot cake

Another cake recipe adapted from A Taste of Oregon. It’s a great cookbook, especially since all the baking measurements are in cups and I don’t have a set of scales. You can also add walnuts or pecans, although I don’t usually have them in my cupboard.

Mix together 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2 eggs; add 1/2 cup oil and stir thoroughly. Sift in 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp salt, and combine. Stir in 1 1/2 cups grated carrot and 1/3 cup raisins; if the mixture is too dry (you’re struggling to stir in all the flour) add a little milk, 1 tbsp at a time, until the mixture is fully combined but still thick. Pour into a 9-inch cake tin or separate into muffin cases, filling the cases 2/3 of the way up. For the cake, bake at 180°C for 45 minutes to 1 hour. For the muffins, bake at 220°C for 5 minutes to create round muffin tops then turn down to 180°C for 10-15 minutes for the muffins.

Hash browns with salsa and avocado

When I cooked this, the hash browns got stuck to the pan after I’d flipped them over, so sprinkling over a little extra oil when flipping should help prevent them getting stuck.

Peel and grate 2 medium potatoes and rinse under the tap to remove excess starch. Pat or squeeze out the worst of the moisture; stir in 1 clove garlic, finely diced, 1/2 small onion, finely diced, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan then turn the heat to low and add the potato mixture, spreading it out evenly across the pan. While the mixture is cooking, roughly mash 1 avocado then stir in 1 small clove garlic, finely diced, 2 tbsp hot salsa, and a small fistful of goat’s cheese, cut into small cubes. Once the hash brown is brown on the underside and crisping up around the edges, break it into quarters with a spatula and flip (if it’s falling apart, leave it for a few more minutes). Continue to fry on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown on both sides, then transfer to a plate and top with the avocado mixture.

Serves 1 generously.

Tomato Sauce

I use this recipe for anything from lasagne to pizza. If you don’t have a blender (or don’t feel like washing up), simply chop the onion up more finely, add a little less water, and use your spoon to mash up any large chunks of tomato from the can.

Finely chop 1 small red onion and 2-3 cloves garlic. Heat a generous spoonful of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until they are golden brown. Add 1 400g can chopped tomatoes then refill the can with water and add that in too. Stir in a heaped teaspoon of vegetable stock and a generous sprinkle of herbs of your choice (I use oregano and thyme). Bring to the boil then reduce to a medium heat and bubble for 15-20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (white is fine) and 1 teaspoon soy or Worchester sauce. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little, then blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. If your sauce is too thin, stir in a spoonful of plain flour and cook for an extra 3-4 minutes.

To use as a pizza sauce, omit the can of water.

Freezes well, or lasts for a few days in the fridge.