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.

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.

Simple Green Risotto

I’ve always found risottos quite hard to make since they can easily turn out quite bland and soggy. The trick is to use a strong stock mixture and only add as much as you need to the rice, even if it means you end up with some left over.

In a saucepan, gently fry 1/2 onion, thinly sliced and 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced, in a little oil until translucent. Add 3-4 fingers okra, sliced, 2-3 inches courgette, cubed and 2 mushrooms, cubed, and fry for a further 1-2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup short grain rice and 1/2 tsp thyme, stir to coat, then over 15-20 minutes add approximately 1 cup of strong vegetable stock (I used a generous teaspoon of stock powder), stirring frequently and only adding more stock when the rice has absorbed the water and the bottom of the pan is bubbling. The more you stir the risotto, the creamier it will get. When cooked the rice should be soft and slightly translucent, although retaining a little bite. Sprinkle over cracked pepper and a small handful of grated hard cheese such as Parmesan or Wensleydale.

Serves 1, easily scaled.

Total cooking time: 35 minutes; active time: 20-35 minutes (I did the washing up while the risotto was cooking, but if you’re less experienced you might need to keep more of an eye on things)

Variations:

  • Omit the cheese for vegan; parmesan-style cheeses are often not suitable for vegetarians, so make sure to check if you are serving vegetarians
  • Any green vegetables can be substituted into this risotto. Very soft vegetables such as peas or spinach should be added five minutes from the cooking time. Stinging nettles can also be added to a risotto – once they’re cooked down they lose their sting – but wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while collecting, rinsing and preparing them.
  • For a richer flavour, add a little soy sauce or miso paste during the cooking process
  • Long grain rice can be used to make a risotto, but it will be less creamy and more sticky so it’s best to use short grain if you can afford it.

Ploughman’s Style Couscous Salad

I’m eating this as I type – for something I just threw together it turned out surprisingly well!

Cover 1/4 cup couscous with 1/2 cup boiling water, add a pinch of salt or stock powder, cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Finely dice 1/2 apple, 1-2 inches of plantain and 1-2 inches of courgette, and shred a handful of spinach. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the vegetables, 1 tbsp sweet pickle or chutney, a pinch of sage, a pinch of thyme and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle over a small handful of grated cheese.

Serves 1

Variations:

  • Omit the cheese for vegan
  • I haven’t tried this but it should go well with thinly sliced cooked ham or pork
  • Mixed herbs can be used instead of the sage and thyme if you don’t have them to hand
  • Spinach should be substitutable with other robust salad leaves.

Pasta and vegetables in white sauce

Cover a large handful of pasta in boiling water, add a little salt, and cook on a roiling boil until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, fry 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced, 2 mushrooms, thinly sliced, 3-4 okra, thinly sliced and a handful of green beans, thinly sliced, in a little oil until beginning to brown, then set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the vegetables; rinse out the saucepan used for the pasta and return to the heat. Melt 2 tbsp (25g) butter then add 2 tbsp plain flour and stir until a thick, bubbly paste is formed. Cook for a minute on a medium heat, then add 2/3 cup milk in small increments, making sure the sauce has thickened enough to leave the sides before adding more milk. Stir in the pasta, vegetables, and a large handful of baby spinach, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat once the spinach has wilted.

Serves 1 generously

Variations:

  • For a cheese sauce, add a handful of grated cheese to the sauce with the pasta and vegetables.
  • For vegan, substitute the butter for dairy free margarine and the milk for slightly less of a non dairy alternative such as soya or hemp. Don’t use coconut milk – it doesn’t work well for a white sauce.
  • Other green vegetables such as peas, courgette, broad beans etc. will work well. Chard or pak choi can be used instead of the spinach, although it’s best to separate the leaves and stems and cook the stems with the rest of the vegetables.