Thursday, 21 April 2011

Three Tomato Bruschetta

Many years ago we used to go to a local Italian restaurant that did the best tomato and basil bruschetta I have ever tasted; it was worth going there just for the bruschetta alone! This is my best effort at recreating it and, although I've got some way to go before perfecting it, I think it was a pretty good try.

It made a perfect warm weather lunch today; a single piece with a salad garnish would also be nice as a light starter before a heavy main course. Use the best tomatoes you can get hold of for this, you really need the intense flavour. I can't wait to try it again later in the summer when our own home-grown toms, red onions and basil will be making an appearance.

10 cherry tomatoes, chopped
10 baby plum tomatoes, chopped
6 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
1 tbsp oil from the tomato jar
1 small red onion, finely chopped
large sprig of basil, chopped
6 smallish slices of ciabatta or sourdough
1 clove garlic, cut in half

Put all the chopped tomatoes, the oil, chopped onion and basil in a bowl, mix well then set aside while you toast the bread on both sides, in a griddle pan if you have one. Rub the toasted bread with the cut side of the garlic clove then spoon on the tomato mixture and serve at room temperature.

Serves 2

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bun and Butter Pudding

It's Easter next weekend; doesn't time fly? I like Easter, it's a nice four-day break just at the right time of year as the weather is starting to get a bit better, but I've always thought it doesn't have a lot going for it foodwise, apart from chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. I know it's important to many people on a Biblical level but to be honest I think Easter is the poor relation to Christmas on the food front. I think we need some more Easter foodie traditions so here's a pudding to start us all off.

I love Hot cross buns and quite happily eat them all year round; I rarely have any left over (because I eat them all!) but there were a couple in the pantry yesterday that were looking a bit sorry for themselves. I almost put them in the compost bin but then Bun and Butter Pudding came to know, like bread and butter pud without the bread. Hot cross buns plus custard...what's not to like?

2 hot cross buns
2 eggs
450ml milk
1 dsp caster sugar + extra for sprinkling

Slice open the buns, butter the bottom half and spread with marmalade; replace the top half and cut the buns into quarters. Place in an ovenproof dish with the pointy corners upwards. Beat the eggs with the milk and a dessertspoon of sugar, then strain over the buns. I know it looks a bit uninspiring at this point, but be patient…let it sit for half an hour so the buns can soak up the custard mixture, then sprinkle with sugar and bake at 180C for 30 minutes until puffy and golden.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 2 very generously or 4 normal (!) people

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Vegetable Beanpot Soup

Well, it must have been something I said! No sooner do we get a few days of sunshine, sending my mind wandering to salads and warm weather food, than it turns cold again and I start thinking of soup! The joys of the British weather…

I seem to have been making this soup forever; it’s the one I return to again and again, firstly because we love it and secondly it’s made with standard store cupboard items so the ingredients are always to hand.

Just had a nice bowlful for lunch with some tomato bread – went down a treat…

1 large onion, chopped small
2 large carrots, chopped small
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced
10 chestnut mushrooms, chopped small
1 tbsp olive oil
1 dsp tomato puree
1 lt veg stock
1 tin mixed beans, drained and rinsed
1 dsp Worcester sauce (a veggie one, obviously!)
½ tsp curry paste
½ tsp Marmite

Put all the veg into a large saucepan, add the oil and fry over a medium heat for five minutes. Add the tomato puree and the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Put half the beans and half the hot soup in another pan and blend until smooth with a stick blender. Add the smooth soup to the chunky soup then add the rest of the beans, Worcester sauce, curry paste and Marmite. Reheat gently. Eat and enjoy.

Serves 4 and freezes well

Monday, 11 April 2011

Coronation Chickpeas

I know it's not quite summer yet, but we'll soon be there. We had lunch in the garden yesterday for the first time this year - nothing special, just some nice bread, cheese, a few tomatoes and some homemade chutney. The garden table and chairs were dusted off, the grass was cut and the allotments across the road were a hive of activity; it was lovely eating outside again after such a cold winter. A few of our plants look a bit sick because of the snow at the end of last year but, with a bit of sun and some TLC, they’ll probably recover.

Before I went veggie one of my favourite warm weather meals was Coronation Chicken; I still make it sometimes for visiting omnivores but obviously I don't eat it. The thing is, I really like the Coronation sauce, so I've been trying to work out a veggie version and I think I've finally cracked it.

I actually made this last week but forgot to take a picture of it – doh! We enjoyed it so much I made it again for last night's dinner with salad and rosemary potatoes. There's some left over so I think today's lunch is sorted - chunks of baguette filled with Coronation chickpeas and salad. Lovely!

250gm chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tin chickpeas, drained
50gm salted cashews
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 dsp curry paste
1 dsp mango chutney
1 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
1 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander

Mix the mayo, yoghurt and mango chutney together then set aside while you saute the mushrooms in the olive oil until cooked but not browned, add the curry paste and cook gently for a minute or two. In a large bowl mix the chickpeas, celery, cashews and cooked mushrooms together then stir in the mayo and yoghurt mixture. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and toasted almonds before serving

Serves 2 with enough leftover for lunch next day

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Ultimate Club Sandwich

The husband likes club sandwiches, given half a chance he would probably live on them; I can guarantee he has had one (or more) sent up on room service at every hotel we have ever stayed in, but despite his liking for them I have never actually made one.  Last weekend I decided to remedy that by making what can only be described as The Ultimate Club; it had all the sandwich fillings we like best in one delightful stack!

I think a good sandwich is a very individual thing so I haven’t given specific amounts; use as much or as little of everything as you like and add or substitute at will.

So, working from the bottom up…

Wholemeal toast spread with mayonnaise
Shredded lettuce
Griddled halloumi
Another slice of wholemeal toast spread with mayo on the underneath surface and spread with houmous on the top surface
Sliced avocado
Finely sliced red onion 
A final slice of wholemeal toast spread with more houmous.

Now that is what I call a sandwich!

Cut into four triangles and spear with a cocktail stick topped with an olive. Serve with crisps or chips. (I only put two triangles on the plate for the picture so the filling could be seen).

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Trofie Liguria

I can't lay any claim to this recipe, it's one of St. Delia's and it's also known as Trofie Liguri. I’ve been meaning to put it on the blog for ages, but unfortunately I kept forgetting to take a picture before we demolished it! This is a really good after-work meal that can be on the table in 20 minutes.

Although Delia suggests using pesto from the chiller cabinet I can almost guarantee it won't be vegetarian so I always use Sacla Organic which is one of the few widely available pestos that’s veggie. I'd love to make my own but basil just refuses to grow for me and the quality of fresh basil is so hit and miss that I've given up on it for the time being; at least a jar is reliable.**

I’ve mentioned this recipe a couple of times on food messageboards and it always seems to elicit one of two responses; either “Pasta and potatoes....? No thanks!” or  “Oooh, pasta and potatoes….sounds lovely!” The idea of putting two carbs together really seems to polarise opinion and maybe it’s a bit like the Marmite slogan says, you either love it or hate it. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it though, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

175g trofie pasta
75g salad potatoes
75g fine green beans*
2 tbsp Sacla organic pesto

grated parmesan-style cheese   

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the pasta, give it a quick stir and let it bubble for 10 minutes. While the pasta is cooking slice the potatoes to the thickness of a £1 coin then top and tail the beans and chop them into thirds.

When the 10 minutes are up add the potatoes and beans to the pan; bring back to the boil and cook for exactly 8 minutes then drain the contents of the saucepan, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water.

Tip the potatoes, beans and pasta back into the saucepan along with the reserved water and the pesto. Stir carefully to give everything a nice coating of pesto.

Serve  immediately in warmed pasta bowls with plenty of parmesan-style cheese for sprinkling.

Serves 2.

*I’ve also made this with broccoli or peas instead of green beans. It’s equally as good.
**Update: I finally took the plunge and made my own pesto - you'll find it here if you fancy a look. It was worth waiting for!