Archive for March, 2012

March 29, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Tomato salad with basil and goat’s cheese

A starter that doesn’t really look like the recipe title suggests. Yes, it’s a bit ‘dinner party’ isn’t it? It’s also a refreshing ‘palate cleanser’ of a starter, perfect for the end of a warm spring or summer day. (If it had been a little warmer we’d have uncorked a bottle of pink.)

The recipe is based on one in Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option. The book is great for sides, starters, flans and such, but not so good on whole vegetarian meals, which is something of a shame. Have a look here. Hopkinson makes a tomato jelly, which would be great, but I chanced it with something simpler – a tomato salad – mainly because I couldn’t find any vegetarian gelatine in the local supermarket.

For the tomato salad I quartered and deseeded some cherry tomatoes, finely chopped a small amount of red onion, mixed them both with a splash of red wine vinegar, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a tiny amount of fresh red chilli, and set aside.

For the goat’s cheese you need a soft, creamy goat’s cheese with no rind. In a small bowl mix it with a spoonful of creme fraiche, soured cream or even plain yoghurt, season with a little pepper, stir in a little olive oil and mix t get a slightly softer, creamier ‘cheese’ that can be spooned easily into a glass. Chop some fresh basil very finely and mix into the cheese mixture.

Layer the cheese into a glass, carefully place some tomato salad on top and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

Quantities will vary, obviously, depending on how many portions you’re making, the size of glass, the size of tomatoes etc. I think a smallish portion works best, but not so small as an amuse bouche. Any variations? Let us know.

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March 18, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: A warm purple sprouting broccoli, quinoa, chick pea, tomato and goat’s cheese salad

There are some of our favourite ingredients combined in a warm salad here, so, for us, what’s not to like? It’s a very simple thing that can define a mood, or short time of year (erm, March?) when winter is just about over and signs spring is about here – a time after the year’s first warmth from the sun but before the last frost. That’s the time when purple sprouting broccoli appears. Sometimes we have it in wintery stews, but here it almost nods to summer, in a just-warm, almost room-temperature salad, with fluffy grains of quinoa, oven-dried tomatoes and goat’s cheese that tell you summer is not far away.

The recipe is not much more than an assembly job. First, roast the tomatoes on a low heat for as long a time as you’ve got (around 45 minutes at least) – they should dry out a little rather than cook to mush. As they’re cooking, roughly chop and steam the spears of broccoli for 5 minutes or so and cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions in a light vegetable stock. Leave both to cool slightly. Scatter the quinoa into a wide salad bowl and stir in a tin of chick peas, then add the broccoli and, finally crumble in some goat’s cheese. C’est ca.

March 12, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Veggie burgers

…otherwise known as lentil, quinoa and halloumi burgers. These are our latest version of the humble veggie burger and they’re pretty good. Puy lentils and quinoa mean they’re packed with protein and therefore avoid the failure of many a sad veggie burger that comes out of the pan as a dull, soft mush of mashed carbs.

We experiment every time with these so I’ll just outline the recipe. The idea, of course, is to make a small pattie that will hold together in a frying pan and in the bread that will surround it. That means combining your cooked, cooled ingredients with egg and flour in a mixing bowl and forming the patties with your hands before frying. The amount of egg and flour you need will be dependent on how much mixture/patties you want to make. The mix should not be too dry and crumbly, but not oozily wet either. Once you get the hang of this part of the pattie-making process it becomes really easy to judge. You might have a few failures along the way.

Our ‘veg mix’ combines savoury flavours and textures. Puy lentils, simmered for 25 minutes in veggie stock, add an earthiness and some bite. Some handfuls of cooked quinoa add a mealiness and up the protein levels. Lightly fried halloumi, chopped into 0.5cm dice adds some fat, a bit of chew and requisite saltiness. A chopped and lightly fried onion adds savouriness.

When all of these are cooked and cooled, tip them into a large mixing bowl and add one beaten egg and a sprinkle of plain flour. Mix well. Now you’re into the pattie-making zone and need to carefully add a little more flour, or another egg, until that consistency starts to come together. I like to let the mixture sit in the fridge for 30 minutes after mixing as it seems to help the patties stick together. Then form the patties in the palm of your hand and fry in small batches in a little olive oil for around 5 minutes a side. We like to serve them in a bun with some cheddar and a dollop of kick-ass homemade chilli sauce. Rustic and good.