Archive for July, 2011

July 20, 2011

A pause for inspiration

ETP Towers is moving house this week, so there’s not much time for cooking, photographing and sharing. Indeed, in a few moments I’m dismantling the contents of the kitchen cupboards. Which is all a way of saying that there will be no updates on Earth to Plate until next week.

In the meantime, we leave you with some culinary inspiration: a few of our favourite cookbooks. We have quite a lot of cookbooks, though I wouldn’t call us collectors. And often they’re just used to spark ideas rather than treated as definitive recipes.

We get a lot from each of them, in their own way. Some aren’t vegetarian cookbooks (Geetie’s book from the Duke of Cambridge gastropub in North London), while some are high-end dining (step forward Chef Trotter), some are simple suggestions (Mr Oliver), some stick to one continent (Classic Indian…), while some rove around the world (Celia Brooks Brown’s book). But we’ve taken something from each. Look ’em up and maybe you’ll find something you like.

Right. Ta-ra for now. See you on the other side.

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July 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Lettuce, pea and cucumber soup

Sunday 26 June

This is the second entry for the 26th of June, following on from the morning’s veggie sausages.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Cucumber, in a soup?’ Well yes, actually, and it really works by adding some substance to the light summer greens. I’m not sure how, but it does.

The recipe we took it from is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and includes the herb lovage. We couldn’t find any lovage and replaced it with flat-leaf parsely. It probably misses the point but hey, we’re all friends here. The soup was good. Go on, try it: the recipe’s here.

July 13, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Vegetarian sausage and egg with chilli sauce

Sunday 26 June

Okay, so this isn’t quite a ‘last night’s dinner’, it’s a breakfast based on a recipe in Denis Cotter’s For the Love of Food. Once you get the basic idea, it’s easily adaptable to your own taste.

We’ve often wondered about how to make a decent veggie sausage – one that doesn’t try too hard to be meaty, one that doesn’t taste of artificial flavourings and enhancers, one that celebrates its own fresh ingredients and yet one that is defiantly sausagey. Well, this is as near as we’ve got.

The principle is straight forward. It’s a mix of cooked chestnuts (a vacuum-packed bag from the supermarket is good for this), mashed tofu, breadcrumbs and herbs, all blitzed in a food processor with an egg to bind the mixture. You then take small palm-full of the mix, mould into a sausage shape and lightly fry.

For Cotter’s exact ingredients see the book, but we’d happily encourage you to have a go yourselves. It’s just like making a fritter or savoury ‘cake’, but sausage-shaped and with ingredients you might not expect. Think about it, however, and it all makes sense.

One tip: do be careful with them in the frying pan, unlike a Quorn sausage, or a real sausage, they do break apart fairly easily. Cotter suggests making a large batch and freezing them, uncooked. Apparently they cook better from frozen. We tried it. They did.

We served them for breakfast with a fried egg and a hastily made chilli sauce (take a couple of tomatoes, some chillis, a little oil, seasoning, whizz in the food processor and cook through for five minutes).

July 9, 2011

Recipe: Yotam Ottolenghi’s summer minestrone with basil cream recipe

…and while we’re on the subject of summery soups infused with basil, here’s a light little number from Yotam Ottolenghi in the Guardian today.

July 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Denis Cotter’s summer squash, borlotti bean and roasted pepper soup with basil chilli oil

Saturday 18 June

I know, we’re playing catch-up here, but we have an excuse. We’re moving house you see, and for the past few weeks I’ve been calling solicitors and estate agents every hour, every day. The good news? We’ve exchanged contracts and are looking forward to moving in a couple of weeks and starting to shop for our veg at the wonderful little local grocer’s.

Of course, we are still eating. Back in May, Ella got me Denis Cotter’s briliant new recipe book For the Love of Food. You can get it here.

This rich, rustic, wonderful soup is one of the first recipes we’ve tried from the book. As ever with Cotter, the trick is in assemblage. What? Well, Cotter’s talent is to see that you should treat each ingredient with the respect it deserves. If I’d invented this summery soup I’d have probably fried an onion, added some courgette and peppers, then added a tin of tomatoes and a tin of borlotti beans, some chopped chilli, a pint of stock, simmered, and then scattered some basil leaves over at the end. And, you know, fine. Seriously, it would be fine.

The Cotter factor? Roast the peppers first, cook the beans separately and add marjoram and the zest and juice of a lemon. Add some spring onion at the end. Blend wilted basil leaves with olive oil and chilli to make a fiery pesto. Et cetera, et cetera. The end result is a much deeper flavour and a soup that is truly respectful to the vegetables from which it is made. Glorious.

July 2, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Moroccan vegetable stew

Tuesday 12 June

I think you could change the vegetables for this – some of them at least – as long as you stick with the potatoes and chickpeas, which do a good job of soaking up some of the flavours and making it more stew-like and slightly less soup-like. However, at the risk of contradicting that last statement, the stew should be ‘loose’, watery, broth-like and not thickened, just reduced slightly to intensify the flavours in the broth.

This is a recreated version of a dish we first ate not in Morocco but in a local Moroccan restaurant in Marseille. Maybe there’s an Algerian influence, then, but I’m not sure. There was a sweetness to the broth that told us there was more going on in the spices than just cumin or coriander. It took us a while playing around with different mixes before we got this right – oh, and a trip to Morocco where we had the chance to talk to domestic cooks about the spices they used.

And so, our Moroccan spice blend is a mix of chilli powder, cumin, slightly less coriander, a touch of paprika… and then a dash of cinnamon, allspice, a clove or two and possibly even a couple of cardamom pods, seeded and crushed. You could even add some ground, dried rose petals. Bart, the spice company, does a tin of Berbere spice mixture that covers this off pretty well if you don’t want to mix your own. Have a look, here.

For this recipe, I’d suggest around 2 level dessert spoons of spices in total, but you might want to alter that depending on how spicy you like it and how spicy your chilli is in the mix.

And so to the cooking. For two people:

Peel and finely slice a large onion and soften it in a little olive oil for 5 minutes in a large frying pan until translucent. Deseed and roughly chop one bell pepper (any colour you like) and add to the pan. Next, take a handful of smallish new potatoes per person, wash ’em, peel ’em if you like, and chop ’em in half. Add to the pan and stir. Next, tip in a tin of chickpeas and stir again. Add a couple of chopped fresh chillis (go on, be a devil), then your spice mixture, then three medium fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped. Finally, add 500ml or so of water, season with a little salt and pepper, and simmer for around 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft (you should be able to break one with the back of a spoon).

So, to recount, what you’re aiming for is a loose stew of mixed vegetables and legumes in a fiery but fragrant, tomatoey broth. Hopefully you’ll get a bit of a sweat on while you eating it, but still want to lap up more of the sensitively spiced flavours. A couple of slices of Turkish-style bread would be good to mop up the broth. Phwoar.

July 2, 2011

Recipe: Anjum Anand’s Bengali butternut squash with chickpeas

Saturday morning and we just watched Anjum Anand cook Bengali butternut squash with chickpeas on one of the repeat sections on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. It’s been a while since we used butternut squash in a curry. Maybe it’s time to put that right.

The recipe is here.