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.

Fish Pie

This recipe is a combination of traditional mashed-potato topped fish pie and dauphinoise potatoes, with some extra vegetables thrown in because I throw extra vegetables into everything. I used whiting, but any other sustainable white fish such as pouting can be used; similarly the cuttlefish balls (which I found in the local Chinese supermarket) can be substituted out for any other shellfish depending on what’s available.

Gently heat 400ml milk in a non-stick frying pan with 1/2 diced onion, 4 cloves, 2 bay leaves and a pinch of salt. Once the milk is steaming, tip in a large handful of Brussels sprouts, peeled and halved, and about half of a small sweet potato, cut into 1 cm cubes. Poach until beginning to soften, then add 200g whiting, cut into 1 inch slices, and 4-5 cuttlefish balls, cut into eighths. Once the fish is cooked through, lift everything out of the milk with a slotted spoon (or use a sieve) and place in a large casserole dish. Stir in 1/3 cup sweetcorn and 1/3 cup edamame beans or peas.

Return the milk to the heat and add 3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly (ideally ~1 mm); add extra milk to cover if necessary. Poach, occasionally stirring to make sure they don’t stick together, until they are just cooked through. Lift the potatoes out of the milk and layer over the fish mixture.

Pour the milk into a jug, stir in 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of cream if desired, and set aside. Wipe down the inside of the frying pan, then melt 25 g butter over a medium heat. Mix 2 tablespoons flour into the butter and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the roux is dark golden in colour. Pour the milk into the frying pan in increments, making sure that the mixture is well combined before adding more. Continue adding milk until a white sauce consistency is reached – this should take all the milk in the jug, and might need more. Season the sauce with salt and black pepper, then pour over the potatoes, making sure that it soaks through into the fish mixture.

Bake the pie in the oven at 180°C for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily broken with a fork and the top of the pie is golden-brown.

Serves four, suitable for freezing.

Vegan Paella

The biggest challenge when it comes to adapting paella to be vegan is finding an acceptable substitute for chorizo, which I think is the single ingredient which gives paella its most characteristic flavour. I’ve experimented with soya chunks and aubergine as the substitute, so both methods are listed here. Alternatively you could leave them out and just add an extra teaspoon or two of smoked paprika to the rice.

This recipe serves 3, or 2 generously.

Aubergine: cut 1 small aubergine into inch-thick slices and layer with 1-2 tsp salt. Leave to draw out the moisture for 1-2 hours, then rinse the slices off, pat dry with kitchen paper and cut into cubes. Mix 2 tsp smoked paprika into 2 tbsp oil and coat the aubergine. Leave for another 2-3 hours or overnight to marinade. While you’re cooking the paella, place the aubergine cubes on a foil-lined tray and cook under the grill for 15-20 minutes, turning once, or until well cooked. Stir into the paella towards the end of the cooking time.

Soya chunks: rehydrate 1/2 cup soya chunks with boiling water and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Drain, pat dry with kitchen paper, then marinade and grill the soya chunks as with the aubergine.

In a large lidded saucepan, preferably non-stick, fry 1 small leek, sliced and 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced, until beginning to caramelise. Add 1/2 cup long or short grain rice, 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks, 1-2 teaspoons turmeric and 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (if you don’t have time to pre-marinade the soya chunks/aubergine, add them now with an extra tbsp smoked paprika), and stir to coat the rice. Pour over 1 cup hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning over occasionally,  or until the rice is almost cooked (you may have to add a little extra water if the paella starts to look dry). Then add 3-4 small mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 cup peas and the marinaded aubergine or soya chunks, if using. Cover again and cook for a further 5-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through.

Variations:

  • Red or white onion can be used instead of the leek.
  • Other vegetables to add in with the rice: chunks of sweet potato, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of red cabbage, cubed raw beetroot or any other root vegetable
  • Other vegetables to add in with the peas and mushrooms: sweetcorn, halved black olives, spinach, kale
  • If you want to use chorizo, add it in a few minutes before the rice and leave out the smoked paprika (or add just a teaspoon, to taste). Meats such as fish or chicken are best cooked first, removed from the pan, and added in again towards the end of the cooking time to prevent overcooking. Cooked frozen prawns should be added in with the peas.