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Archive for the ‘Vegetarian Variation’ Category

When the colder weather arrives my thoughts turn to soup, home made of course.  Soup is fantastic for this time of year and can be very forgiving if you have slightly less than fresh veggies that need finishing – not that I am advocating using items that have started to rot!   I had been planning to make Leek and Potato soup for ages and now I had no excuse, with leeks left over from Turkey Flan with Leeks & Cheese, potatoes in the cupboard and turkey stock in the freezer.  So far this year as the weather has been fairly mild and life has been busy soup has not made much of an appearance on the menu, but this last Saturday I finally rectified that.  This soup is not just for winter though.  It can also be served chilled during the summer months, often served poured over two or three ice cubes and garnished with leek strands as below or a sprinkling of chives, see this BBC recipe.  I had thought that Vichyssoise was the name of the cold version with the hot soup called the much less exciting Leek & Potato.  I discovered however that both hot and cold versions can be called Vichyssoise and further it is quite possible that it is not, as I had previously learned (or perhaps assumed having visited Vichy in France) a uniquely French soup.  According to Wikipedia:

‘…food writer Julia Child calls Vichyssoise “an American invention” whereas others observe that “the origin of the soup is questionable in whether it’s genuinely French or an American creation”‘.

There are a lot of good Leek & Potato Soup/Vichyssoise recipes around.  This version came from Potatoes: more than Mashed by Sally Mansfield, one of my most recent charity shop finds.  It has other lovely ideas I am sure its recipes will appear again. The original quantity, however, was a less than generous lunch for the four people specified so the quantities below have been increased by about a quarter so as a first course it could probably serve up to six. There are also a few little personal tweaks: cooking in olive oil as well as butter, increasing the onion, adding fine strips of leek and crème fraîche to garnish. The original recipe was for chicken stock but turkey or vegetable stock can be substituted.  For a richer soup replace some of the water with milk or even single cream (in which case a little could be reserved to swirl on top).  Yoghurt, or as I used this time, crème fraîche could also add the finishing touch.  All that is needed is some lovely crusty bread to serve alongside.  In the picture is a small piece of a large Pide flatbread bought from the wonderful bakery in our local Turkish supermarket.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Leek & Potato Soup
(Serves 3-4 or 6-8 as a starter)

25g/1oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, chopped (reserve a few fine slices to garnish)
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
454g/1lb potatoes, floury type if available, chopped
1150ml/2pints chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (or use mix of stock & either milk or cream)
Salt & ground black pepper
To serve
Cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche
Fine strands  of leek
Grind of black pepper
Crusty bread

1.  Heat half of the butter and the olive oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion and chopped leeks until transparent and soft, about 7 minutes.  Stir them occasionally and make sure that they do not brown.

2.  Add the potato pieces and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

3.  Add the stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer gently for 30-35 minutes.  The vegetables should be very tender.  Taste and season as required.

4.  The soup can be left either very chunky or liquidised until smooth.  I part liquidise the soup so there are a few chunks left.  Take care over liquidising potato as the starch can make it very sticky.  Add plenty of liquid with the vegetables and liquidise in short bursts until smooth.  Return to the pan, combining with any remaining chunks if making a mixed texture soup.

5.  Reheat the soup, stirring in the remaining butter in small pieces.  Check seasoning.

6.  Serve with a swirl of cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche, a few strands of leek and a grind of black pepper in each bowl, along with a piece of crusty bread.

 

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I made my own version of what we called ‘Cauli-mac’ some years ago but it wasn’t particularly exciting so we had it just once, twice at the most.  Cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese are both popular here but I was attracted to this version as it was just a bit different.  Finding a good recipe to make both at the same time was always going to be a hit and this is proving to be our favourite recipe from the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals series and book.  It is simple comfort food at its best and I have lost count of the number of times I have made this or a variation.  Although it is a fairly standard mixture of cauliflower, macaroni and cheese I have changed the ingredient proportions in the original recipe to give a less stodgy version: more cauli and slightly less mac.  There are two brilliant ideas that lift this Cauli-mac out of the ordinary.  The first is the addition of crème fraîche along with the cheese, saving the need to make a time consuming flour based white sauce: simple but brilliant.  (Of course part of the 30 minute meals brief is the need for speed.)  The second idea was to add a breadcrumb topping which included bacon and rosemary, both delicious flavourings.  There is very little bacon – just enough to add a slight flavour – but if you are vegetarian never fear as I have included some information below, giving my still tasty but meat free version.  Adding chopped parsley to the cauli-mac mixture gives a pretty green flecked sauce and I saved some to scatter one top as well.  Recently I have been making a new variation of my own, which includes tomatoes.  This is still being ‘tested’ by my guinea pig team (aka family) and needs photographing, however it will make an appearance in due course.

As I have already said, this recipe comes from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (by Jamie Oliver).  This is just one dish, part of a menu he suggests can be cooked within the half hour time limit and which also includes a mixed salad and a dessert.  I am afraid I have not cooked the complete menu and probably will not, but I have often served some salad on the side.

Vegetarian Variation: The bacon can, of course, simply be omitted but a similar smoked flavour can be obtained by using grated Applewood Smoked Cheese (or a similar variation – though possibly not the Bavarian Smoked log type cheese).  I replaced about half of the mature cheddar.  For a stronger flavour replace all the cheddar with smoked cheese.  A dusting of smoked paprika before cooking will also add to the smoky flavour and give a little heat as well.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

‘Cauli-mac’ – Cauliflower Macaroni Cheese
(Serves 4)

4-6 rashers of smoked bacon, or a similar quantity of bacon offcuts or leftover smoked ham
1 large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
Olive oil as required
150g mature Cheddar cheese
2/3 thick slices of bread
large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large clove of garlic
150g crème fraîche (about half a tub)
Parmesan cheese, to serve
2tbsp chopped parsley, to divide between mixture & to garnish
Salt & pepper

1.  Fill the kettle with water and bring to the boil. Preheat the oven on to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas 7.

2.  Lay the bacon in the dish you will eventually be using for the cauli-mac mixture and put on the top shelf of the oven to pre-cook.

3.  Trim off any very coarse or spoiled outer leaves from the cauliflower and remove the tough end of the stalk.  Quarter the head or break it up into large pieces. Place in a large saucepan, stalks downwards and add the pasta. Chop or crush the garlic well and add to the pan.

4.  Pour over the boiling water to cover the ingredients, season, add a little olive oil and place on a high heat. Stir well, and cook with the lid just askew.  I found it was worth stirring the mixture once or twice to help avoid the pasta sticking to the pan.

5.  Grate the cheddar cheese in the food processor and tip into a bowl.

6.  Remove the bacon from the oven.  Using a mini chopper or food processer, chop or process well with the bread and rosemary leaves.  Add a good drizzle of olive oil to bind the ingredients into a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

7.  When the cauliflower and the macaroni is just cooked (a knife inserted into the cauliflower stalk should slip in easily), reserving the cooking water, drain the cauli-mac through a colander into a large bowl.  Tip the cauli-mac into the dish the bacon was cooked in.

8.  Add about 300ml (about three quarters of a pint) of the reserved cooking water.  Stir in the crème fraîche, grated cheddar and most of the chopped parsley, breaking the cauliflower up with a fork or potato masher until you have bite size, but still recognisable, chunks.

9.  Taste the mixture and if required add more salt, plus a little ground pepper. The sauce should be loose and if necessary, add another splash of the reserved cooking water.

10. Spread the mixture out evenly in the dish and scatter over the breadcrumb topping. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the mixture bubbling.

11.  To serve grate over some Parmesan and scatter the top of the dish with the remaining parsley.  Serve with a simple side salad.  Crusty bread or garlic bread can be served alongside if required.

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This recipe is a regular at my table, especially in the Summer.  I think it deserves a place on this site even though it seems almost too easy to be worth posting, but the simplest recipes are often the best.  I don’t know how many types of tomato you are able to find locally.  Most weeks just the round red type are available on our market, with unusual varieties a rarety.  In the Summer there are often the small sweet ones, useful for skewering, plus vine tomatoes and sometimes the oval Italian plum type.  One week last Autumn, therefore, I was surprised and pleased to see a number of varieties I had not come across before.  I knew, though, that if I bought several types of tomatoes I would also need to have a plan for them.  No problem: our favourite warm tomato dish, flavoured with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil – perfect!  It would be extra pretty, multi-hued rather than the usual plain red.  I decided on some medium sized pale yellow tomatoes and some enormous crinkly orange/red ones, plus the ordinary red type I had already bought at an earlier stall.  Later on I saw dark tomatoes too, a combination of maroon and olive green: my heart said yes … but my head said that I had bought enough already!  A pity as the splash of extra colour would have made the dish particularly attractive.

Although I am sure that there are many similar versions of this Mediterranean style dish in recipe books this recipe is my own.  I have not specified amounts – use as many tomatoes as you would like to serve, but be generous as this is moreish. The other ingredients should be according to taste.  Since I made (and photographed) this recipe I have discovered the existence of white balsamic vinegar, though have not yet bought a bottle.   It would be useful as the tomatoes would not have the usual dark staining associated with ordinary balsamic vinegar.  I usually serve this as a warm side dish as part of a main meal or as a warm or cold salad.  It also makes a good light lunch spooned onto a slice of crusty toast or a delicious starter, either cold or a warm, served on its own, or on crusty bread drizzled with additional olive oil, or topped with a slice of flash grilled melted goats cheese.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Roasted Mixed Tomatoes

Tomatoes – one variety or mixed varieties and colours if available
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar, dark or white
Fresh basil leaves, torn – plus a few to garnish
Sugar (a small sprinkle for added sweetness)
Sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
Slices of French baguette loaf – optional
Slices of goat’s cheese roll – optional

1.  Cut the tomatoes into ¼inch/½cm slices and layer in an ovenproof dish.

2.  Sprinkle generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add sugar, torn basil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3.  Put the dish uncovered into a preheated oven at around 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for about 15 minutes.  (The temperature and cooking time can be a little higher or lower as this recipe is often cooked at the same time and heat as another dish for the meal.)
OR
Cook uncovered on medium in the microwave so the tomatoes heat through relatively gently.

4.  Whichever method of cooking is used the tomatoes need to be warmed through, retaining their shape, rather than dried up (although they are still delicious if they have shrivelled a little!)

5.  Serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil and some more torn green basil, as the original leaves will have darkened and have lost their attractive colour.

6.  If adding goats cheese then, before finishing with extra olive oil and basil, lay slices of a goat’s cheese log on the top and gently flash grill to melt and colour. Alternatively toast a slice of French baguette loaf on one side, then turn over and lay a slice or two of goats cheese on the other side.  Flash cook cheesy side under the grill.   Serve laid on a bed of warm or cold cooked tomatoes.

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One of my favourite orders from the Chinese takeaway used to be one portion each of Special Fried Rice and Chinese mushrooms – haven’t had it for ages, by the way, not sure why.  Special Fried Rice is, as far as I am concerned, as near to comfort food as you can get in Chinese cuisine.  I was delighted to find this recipe in a book of recipes from around the world I found remaindered in bookshop and it was probably the first Chinese style recipe I every tried to make.  It was certainly in the days before I owned a wok.  It is a great way to use up leftover rice and worth making a little extra so you can make this recipe the next day.  It is good to serve as a light lunch as well as part of a multi dish meal.  This was very well received as part of my mum’s Chinese style birthday dinner.

The recipe was mostly based on one in Cooking and Eating Around the World by Alison Burt and I also looked at the Fried Rice recipe in Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery.  It is a versatile recipe where a selection of ingredients are fried with the pre-cooked rice.  If available Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong (sometimes spelled Xuong)” can be added. This is available from Oriental supermarkets. (See also this interesting Fried Rice post using the same Chinese Sausage: Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, Mixed Frozen Vegetables & Eggs from Wandering Chopsticks.)  Finally an egg is quickly stirred through the rice mixture and allowed to cook briefly before serving.  A vegetarian version can be cooked, leaving out the meat and fish and if necessary increasing the quantities of vegetables and possibly adding another egg.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Special Fried Rice

This recipe mostly does not have any quantities as it uses a mixture of leftovers and ingredients chosen by the cook.  Rice, oil to fry and an egg to bind are essential, plus at least one vegetable and one other ingredient – the more ingredients you add, the more ‘special’ it is.

Cold cooked white rice
Sunflower oil
Soy sauce
Garlic cloves, finely chopped
Spring onions, white and green, chopped finely
or
Onion
Ginger, finely chopped (not a large quantity)
Frozen Peas, partly cooked
Button mushrooms, quartered or sliced
Beansprouts
Ham or bacon, chopped fairly small – or leftover ham
Poached Chicken, chopped fairly small – or leftover chicken
Small frozen pre-cooked Prawns
Chinese Sausage Lap Cheong/Xuong (available from the Oriental supermarket)
Salt & black pepper
1 egg (more for a larger quantity)
Sesame oil

1.  Fry together the chopped onion/spring onion, ginger, garlic and button mushrooms until soft.  If you are adding any uncooked meat (ie bacon) then add it at this point so it cooks thoroughly.

2.  Stir in the pre-cooked rice and mix thoroughly.

3.  Add part cooked frozen peas, ham, cubed chicken, prawns (and/or other ingredients of choice) plus soy sauce.  Stir well to combine and cook over a medium heat for five minutes.  Watch to make sure the ingredients do not burn.  Season as required with salt and black pepper.

4.  Just before serving add the egg and stir throughly until just cooked.  Be very careful that the egg does not burn.

5.  Finish with a splash of sesame oil, stir through the rice mixtuure and serve immediately.

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My last post was Chunky Vegetable & Pasta Soup: warming, satisfying and meat free.  I thought I would follow it with an equally warming and satisfying one that includes just a little meat: some chicken and bacon.  I am very fond of red lentils too, which cook down to give the soup a warming, slightly grainy thickness.  Although the original recipe specified fresh meat (a boned chicken thigh) I substituted leftover chicken, adding it later in the recipe as it was already cooked.  It is always good to have a variety of ways to use up the remains of a chicken – or even some of the Christmas turkey!  I suspect we will continue to have warming winter soups for some weeks yet so I am sure I will be making this again and very soon.

This is yet another hit recipe from my favourite soup recipe book, initially from the library but then bought with some birthday present money: Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert. In the book it is called The Number One Winter Soup, a rather strange title and although I agree that it is a first class recipe, I did feel I wanted something more helpfully descriptive.  Apart from substituting leftover chicken as I had some available, in place of a chicken thigh, the recipe is more or less as it originally appeared.  I did add a few more lentils to make the portions a little more generous and I have included this information in the instructions below.  (The lower figure is the amount of lentils given in the original.)  This dish is easily adapted by adding a little more of any of the ingredients that are particular favourites plus, of course, it could be completely meat free if the chicken and bacon were removed, vegetable stock substituted and a tin of favourite beans added.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Winter Vegetable, Chicken & Bacon Soup (The Number One Winter Soup)
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp butter
4ozs/125g streaky bacon (about 4 rashers)
1 boneless fresh chicken thigh
   or
4ozs/125g cooked chicken (or turkey)
2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
2 leeks, sliced
3pints/1.7litres weak chicken (or turkey) stock
175g/6ozs red lentils (can increase to 225g/8ozs)
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley (plus a little to garnish)
¼tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.  Heat the oil and butter together in a large saucepan.  Cut the bacon into small pieces and gently fry until golden.

2.  If using fresh chicken cut into small pieces and add now.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on a gentle heat until it starts to brown.  (Pre-cooked chicken is added later to prevent it from breaking up.)

3.  Stir in the onions, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnips and leeks.  Cover and cook over a low heat for about 10minutes until they are starting to soften.

4.  Add the stock, lentils, thyme, bay leaf and parsley (remembering to reserve a little parsley to garnish).  Bring to the boil, cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then put on the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 30minutes.  If using leftover chicken add this 10minutes before serving, which gives enough time for it to adequately heat through.

5.  Before serving check and adjust the seasoning.  Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with the reserved parsley and with some crusty bread on the side.

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One of the joys of the colder months, particularly just after Christmas when the food has normally been rather rich, is a simple bowlful of soup accompanied by some crusty fresh bread.  I was attracted to the flavour combination of the ingredients in this recipe: carrot always makes a delicious soup (at least I think so), butter beans add a smooth creaminess and rosemary gives both scent and flavour.  This is my final recipe this year for seasonal leftovers.  It was first made just after Christmas so I used Turkey stock, but the original recipe specified chicken stock (vegetable stock would be fine too).  Don’t worry if you are a bit fed up with turkey flavour as the main flavours come from the other ingredients so you won’t feel you are eating ‘that bird’ – yet again! 

The recipe comes from my soup book: the Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert.  Butterbean, Carrot & Rosemary Soup, the original title, is listed in the Winter section and it truly is a warming bowlful for a cold lunchtime.  It was made and on the table in a very short time, which is always an advantage.  The recipe uses tinned beans.  Dried beans can be substituted (in which case the amount of beans used should be halved) and I have given details below, however the recipe will no longer be so speedy.  The carrot predominates and my version has the option of adding extra carrot, so I changed the title a little.  The word ‘Thatched’ is my addition, which I have used once before when I grated cheese onto Thatched Cauliflower Cheese Soup.  This time I suggest an additional small carrot is grated with most stirred in and a scattering on top for decoration, or if you prefer simply reserve and add a few strands for decoration.  Stirred though, without cooking, gives a crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth soup.  On first tasting the soup can taste a little bland so beware overseasoning and taste again before serving.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Thatched Carrot, Butterbean & Rosemary Soup
(Serves 4)

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
12ozs/35og carrots, diced
1 or 2 sticks celery, diced
1½pints/700ml turkey or chicken stock
2tsp fresh chopped rosemary (or 1tsp dried rosemary): more if you love rosemary
1 bay leaf
400g can butterbeans, rinsed & drained (or 200g dried butterbeans)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
sprigs of fresh rosemary to garnish (if available)
1 more carrot, grated (small: garnish only/medium: garnish & stir in) optional

1.  For tinned beans, start at step 2.
If using dried beans instead of tinned they should first be soaked overnight to soften or, if time is short, pour over boiling water and leave for 1 hour.  Bring to the boil in unsalted water, reduce heat and cook until soft, about 30minutes, before using in the recipe.  (Salted water will toughen the skins of the beans.)

2.  Heat the olive oil in a large lidded saucepan.  Gently sweat the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for about 10 minutes until soft but not browned.  Shake or stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

3.  Add the stock, rosemary and bay leaf and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

4.  Stir in the butterbeans.  Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

5.  Allow the soup to cool slightly and purée, using a liquidiser if available.  Check and adjust seasoning.  I usually add a little more hot water to rinse the liquidiser once the soup has been puréed so I do not lose any of the soup.  Return the soup to the saucepan along with this extra soupy water and reheat.  If you are stirring grated carrot through the soup then add it just before the soup is served, reserving a small amount to garnish.  Do not reheat for too long as the grated carrot will lose its crunch.

6.  Serve in bowls, garnished with a thatch of grated carrot and a sprig of fresh rosemary.  The original recipe suggests that the pretty lavender flowers of rosemary, if in season, add to the appearance of the dish.

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Following on from my original post about Pizza Bases last year, here is a good idea for a speedy pizza and one I will be using regularly.  It substitutes ready bought pitta breads as pizza bases.  The original recipe suggested that the pittas could be divided in two for an extra crispy pizza, layering toppings on rough side.  I found this proved too difficult.  I ended up with two halves of different thicknesses, one of which was far too thin.  An uncut pitta is perfectly adequate as a base.   The suggestion was that round pittas could be used if available, but I could not track any down: oval was fine.  Some supermarkets sell very small pitta breads which would be idea served at a buffet.

The original recipe came from Red magazine, August 2008 issue, in an article giving suggestions for picnic food.  It is ideal as a light snack, either cold as they suggest, or hot straight from the oven with salad for a summer light meal.  I used a simple mozzarella and tomato topping, adding slices of mushroom and red pepper, but any other favourite toppings could be used: fresh tomato, ham, tuna, prawns are all popular.  The original recipe first spread on a layer of tomato puree but I used my home made Tomato Relish – recipe to follow very soon.

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Pitta Pizzas
(Makes 6)

Olive oil, a little to brush over and to pour on top of each pitta pizza
6 pitta breads, white or brown
½tsp Tomato puree, evenly smeared, per pitta
   or
2tsp Tomato Relish (or similar) per pitta
Two pinches of Italian mixed herbs/pizza herbs per pizza
2 x 125g Mozzarella Balls cut into thin slices
Black pepper
Torn fresh Basil leaves
Slices of Mushroom, 2-4 per pitta pizza (optional)
Thin slices of Red Pepper, about 2 per pitta pizza (optional)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

2.  Place the breads on a baking tray and smear lightly with a little olive oil, going right to the edges.

3.  Smear on a layer of tomato puree (do not go right to the edge as it will blacken if not covered).  Alternatively spread on tomato relish.  Sprinkle lightly with Italian or pizza herbs.

4.  If using mushroom, red pepper or other ingredients equally divide these between the bases.

5.  Drain the cheese well and blot with some kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.  Cut into thin slices.

6.  Sprinkle lightly with more Italian or pizza herbs and a little black pepper.

7.  Drizzle with olive oil.

8.  Bake in the oven for 10mins and serve with salad

Alternative toppings:

Potato, Fontina & fresh Thyme
120g waxy new potato, cooked & sliced
80g fontina or taleggio cheese, thinly sliced
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt

Onion Chutney, Goat’s Cheese & Rosemary
2tbsp onion chutney
80g goat’s cheese, crumbled
1tbsp freshly chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Sea salt

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This Far Eastern inspired, slightly spiced fish stew gives a nod to the Pacific islands with its coconut-creaminess.  It is easy to make and full of colour and flavour.  Although it originally appeared in a Winter, January, issued magazine it would be just as good served in the summer months. 

The original recipe called South Pacific Fish came from the ASDA supermarket free instore magazine, January 2009 issue.  I made a few adaptations for my version.  The original lists a tin of chopped tomatoes with chilli and peppers: I used a plain tinned tomatoes and added a red and green pepper, chopped and a small chilli (a larger chilli can be added for hotter dish).  In place of the can of coconut milk I used 50g of creamed coconut (grated from a block) with a little water: the first time I made it I used ½pint of water but this made the sauce too watery.  The next time I used just ¼pt, reasoning that I could always add a little more water if it was too dry.  It is important to avoid having to reduce the liquid as the fish can easily be overcooked.  I added a few prawns in place of some of the white fish to add variety.  I also added a few diced okra and their sticky juices helped to thicken the stew a little, but they are not really necessary and certainly should not be cooked for too long if used.   The original recipe had 75g chopped macadamia nuts scattered over as it was served, but I did not feel this was really necessary – and anyway there were none in my cupboard.  This dish would be delicious with chicken substituted in place of the fish.

Vegetarian variation: in place of the fish, add a tin of chick peas or red kidney beans and chunks of green banana 5-10 minutes before serving.

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South Pacific Fish Stew
(Serves 4)

2tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 de-seeded green chilli, finely chopped
2.5cm/1inch piece of root ginger, peeled & grated
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground turmeric
450g/1lb sweet potato
50g grated creamed coconut
¼pint boiling water
400g/14oz can of plum tomatoes, liquidised or chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced (optional – omit if adding okra or another vegetable)
225g/8ozs okra, cut into small rings
450g/1lb white fish, skinned & cut into large chunks
110g/4ozs small prawns (optional – reduce white fish amount slightly if using)
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped – to serve
Finely chopped, de-seeded red chilli – to serve (optional – for heat lovers)

1.  Heat the oil in a large pan and gently cook the onion until soft.  Add the garlic, ginger and chopped chilli.  Continue to cook for another minute.  Stir in the ground coriander and turmeric and cook, stirring, over a low heat for a further minute.

2.  Peel the sweet potato just as it is about to be used (so it does not blacken).  Cut them into 2.5cm/1inch chunks.  Add to the onion mixture and stir so they are well coated. 

3.  Dissolve the grated creamed coconut in the boiling water (alternatively use a 400ml can of coconut milk as in the original recipe). 

4.   Stir in the coconut milk, well chopped or liquidised tomatoes and peppers and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the potato pieces are nearly cooked.

5.  Add the chunks of fish, plus the prawns and okra, if using, and simmer the mixture gently for 5 minutes more.  To avoid breaking up the fish pieces, from this point onwards the pan should be shaken rather than stirred but watch carefully that the heat is not too high causing the bottom of the stew to burn.  If the mixture seems dry then a little more boiling water can be added, but be careful not to add too much.

6.  When it is ready to serve, the sauce in the stew should be slightly thick, with any okra used helping to thicken the sauce.

6.  Serve on a bed of rice.  Garnish with a generous scattering of chopped coriander leaves.  Finely chopped red chilli can also be added for those who would like the extra heat.

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Dhal, or Dal (or sometimes Dahl or Daal!), is simply the Indian word for lentils and this recipe is one the simplest I know.  It is one of the standard dishes I make as part of an Indian meal, whether alongside rice or a bread with a curry for the family or as part of a multi-dish meal for a group of friends.  It is quick and easy to make, warming and flavoursome without being hot.  I have listed it as spicy, but it does not have to be very: the heat and flavour being adjusted according to personal taste.

The original recipe for Masoor Dhal came from a book I bought many years ago in a shot that was selling remaindered books. India is just one country whose most popular foods and eating habits are explained and sampled in Cooking and Eating Around the World by Alison Burt.  The original recipe is called simply Dhal.  Just recently I have started to add a handful of fresh coriander towards the end of the cooking time, although it does not appear in the original recipe: mainly because we like it so much!  Such a lovely fresh flavour.  It is a particularly good idea to add fresh coriander to the Dhal if you are adding very little of it, or none at all, elsewhere on the menu.  The asaphoetida aids digestion, but can be left out if not available.  I have also given instructions below for turning this lentil side dish into a main course vegetarian dish.  This can be made earlier in the day and reheated, with the coriander added just before serving.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Masoor Dhal – Red Lentil Dhal
(Serves 2-3 – if one dish among many then this quantity will serve 3-4)

15g butter
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
small clove garlic, crushed
115g/4ozs red lentils (masoor dhal)
½pint/10fl ozs/200ml water
½tsp salt
pinch of ground chilli – adjust according to personal taste
pinch of ground ginger – adjust according to personal taste
pinch of ground turmeric (haldi)
pinch of asafoetida (optional)
handful of chopped fresh coriander, reserving one leaf for decoration if you wish

1.  Heat the butter and oil together in a small saucepan and cook the onion and garlic gently together until soft but not browned.

2.  Pick the lentils over removing any stray stones or twigs, rinse and add to the pan along with the water and salt.

3.  Add the spices, which can be adjusted according to personal taste.  I prefer to keep this dish rather bland, tasting of onion rather than highly spiced as I find it complements the spicier dishes it accompanies.

4.  Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to very low.  Cook until soft and all the water has been absorbed.  This will take about 40minutes.  A little more water can be added if the misture starts to dry out before it is fully cooked.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  The finished dhal will be a thick puree.

5.  Just before serving stir through the fresh coriander, reserving one leaf for decoration.

6.  Serve as part of an Indian meal, with rice or an Indian bread and a meat, fish or vegetable curry plus a creamy yoghurt based raita and poppdoms (quickly cooked under a hot grill).

Vegetarian main course variation:
Vegetable Dhal with optional Egg and/or Tomato
Adding more vegetables at the same time as the spices will turn this dhal into a lentil based vegetable curry.  The amounts of spices can be adjusted to give a stronger flavour: in particular increasing the chilli and ginger powders to taste.  Added during the last 5-10 minutes, quartered fresh tomatoes are a particularly good addition and halved hard boiled eggs can also be added during the last five minutes of cooking, not long before the coriander.

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Updated 29 Nov 2010: The mincemeat recipe on this page is for ‘improving’ a jar of shop bought mincemeat by adding extra ingredients.  This site also has a recipe for a delicious and alcoholic Suet Free Mincemeat, made from scratch.

Mincemeat is a traditional sweetened filling which has altered down the centuries.  It no longer contains minced meat (originally mutton or pork), of course, but most mincemeat includes shredded beef or vegetarian suet.  Home made Mincemeat is relatively easy to make, but sometimes time is tight and this is a useful shortcut.  This is an easy version for improving on a standard jar of shop purchased mincemeat which turns standard mincemeat into something a bit more special!  The choice and quantities of additional ingredients is up to you. You will need a second jar for the extra mincemeat: the quantity you make will depend on the quantity of extra ingredients you add.  It is unlikely that you will have any unused mincemeat at the end of the Christmas season, but if you do I suggest that you use it up as I am not sure how well it would keep.

Margo, a friend in our last church in Ipswich, Suffolk, a cookery teacher, showed us this quick ‘cheat’ recipe at a Christmas cookery demonstration. The mincemeat can be used in a variety of ways: as the filling of a large tart or for individual mince pies. Use either a standard shortcrust pastry or Nigella Lawson’s special orange flavoured pastry, see Basic Recipe: Pastry.

 
Last Minute Mincemeat

1 jar of good quality mincemeat
(if you do not eat meat then make sure it is made with vegetable suet)

Select from the following additional ingredients:
Extra mixed dried fruit (usually a mixture of sultanas, raisins and mixed peel)
Other dried fruit ie: chopped apricots, glace cherries, small amount crystallised ginger…
Grated apple
Orange or clementine zest & juice
Brandy or liqueur
Sugar (optional)
Suet (optional)

Mix the purchased mincemeat with a selection of extra ingredients, making sure they are well combined.  Spoon into jars and ideally leave for 24hrs before using so flavours combine.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

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