Sweet chickpea tagine

How much this constitutes a tagine I’m not sure given how many ingredients I substituted from the original recipe, which was for a fish tagine. Serves 3 with bulgar wheat or naan, or 2 alone; reheats well the next day.

Melt ~1 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and caramelise 3-4 stalks celery, diced, and 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped. Add 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and a pinch of chilli flakes to taste, coating the celery and garlic thoroughly. Add 1/2 plantain, 1 apple, 1/2 courgette and 1/2 mango, all diced into 1 cm cubes and cook, stirring continuously, until the pan begins to smoke. Add 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1/2 can water and 1 tsp stock powder. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low heat, cover, and leave for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has reduced. If the tagine is still a little sour, add 1 tsp brown sugar. Stir in 1 400g can chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes, then serve.

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Marrow Special: Zucchini Bread

This recipe was given to me by an American friend, hence the name. It’s similar in texture and taste to banana bread. It will make two large loaves, but keeps well and can be frozen.

Sift together 3 cups flour (I used 2 cups spelt and 1 cup wheat), 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder and 3 tsp cinnamon. In a separate bowl beat together 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, 1 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tsp vanilla essence or extract. Grate 2 cups of marrow – if the marrow is particularly large (over 1 kg) gently squeeze out some of the water with your hands. Add the sifted ingredients to the wet ingredients, then stir in the marrow and 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans until well combined. Transfer into two large greased loaf tins and bake at 170°C for 40-60 minutes or until a knife in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

The bread goes particularly well with marrow preserve!

Marrow Special: Courgette Fritters

These fritters are easy to make and go well dipped in mayonnaise or plain yoghurt. Because the courgette has a high water content, it will cool down more slowly than the batter, so be careful when eating. Adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe. Rather than traditional deep frying, I prefer to fry these in about an inch of oil – it’s safer and less messy than deep frying on the stove top.

Slice into batons about 250 g of courgette or marrow and set aside. Sift into a bowl 50 g gram flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed, 1/2 tsp ground cumin seed, 1/4 tsp chilli flakes and 1/2 tsp salt. Slowly add 100 ml soda water, stirring continuously, until you get a thin batter. Heat about one inch of vegetable oil in a deep sided saucepan until a drop of batter fizzes and turns gold in around 30 seconds. One by one, dip the courgette batons into the batter and place carefully into the oil (they will spit – wear long sleeves and stand back). Turn after 1-2 minutes, or when the batter on the bottom side is crisp and golden brown.  Remove each fritter as it’s done and place on kitchen paper to cool.

The leftover oil can be strained in a fine sieve and used as cooking oil for other dishes.

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.

Thai Prawn Noodle Soup

Adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe I tore out of a magazine years ago.

Snap and cook 1 portion of noodles (egg, udon, instant etc) according to packet instructions. While the noodles are cooking, thinly slice 1/4 green bell pepper, 1/4 courgette and 1 clove garlic, then fry in oil over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Turn down the heat and add 1 tbsp curry paste, 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup coconut milk, a pinch of chilli flakes and a large handful of frozen cooked prawns. Cook for 3-4 minutes until prawns are heated through. Stir in the noodles.

Serves 1; the soup base keeps in the fridge for a few days but it’s best to cook the noodles fresh for each portion otherwise they go soggy on reheating.

Variations:

  • Also very good with sliced button mushrooms, added with the prawns.
  • The original recipe called for pak choi; I’ve also made this with spinach and chard. The stalks can be cooked with the garlic and leaves added with the prawns.
  • For a hotter variation use a thinly sliced chilli pepper instead of the chilli flakes; fry them with the garlic
  • You can use thai curry paste for this, although I don’t usually have it in the cupboard.

Cauliflower Biriyani

Adapted from a vegetarian recipe with the help of a friend. Not very authentic, but adaptable to whatever’s in the fridge.

Fry 1 medium onion or leek, thinly sliced and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or thinly sliced, in a little oil in a large (preferably non-stick) saucepan for 5 minutes, or until onion/leek is beginning to soften. Add 1/2 cup brown or white rice, 1 heaped tbsp curry paste, a pinch of chilli flakes to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp garam masala and stir well until the spices coat the rice. Add 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets, 1 small courgette, thickly sliced, a handful of broken cashew nuts, a handful of raisins and a 400ml can coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes (brown rice will take longer to cook), stirring occasionally and adding 1/2 cup water about halfway through the cooking time, until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed.

Serves 2, or 3 with naans

Variations:

  • Easily scaled and frozen or eaten for leftovers. Keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  • Instead of coconut milk, any other non-dairy milk or 1/2 cup yoghurt and 1/2 cup water or stock may be used
  • The best kind of cauliflower to use is romanesque, although it’s not always easy to get hold of! A mixture of cauliflower and broccoli can be used as well
  • The turmeric, chilli flakes and garam masala can be substituted for an extra tsp of curry paste if you don’t have them
  • If your cauliflower comes with leaves on, they can be added to the biriyani halfway through the cooking time
  • I would suggest keeping the cauliflower but any other vegetables can be substituted in and out as you have them. Soft vegetables like peas, spinach etc should be added to the biriyani halfway through the cooking time, or else they’ll cook down to mulch.