Posts tagged ‘comment’

December 31, 2011

2011 leftovers: blackberry and apple pie

Over the years I have been known to wax lyrical (which is surely another way of saying ‘bored people rigid’) about childhood autumns spent blackberry picking – the huge buckets of blackberries that our family would bring back and the freezer full of blackberry and apple pies and crumbles. It’s a story seen through purple-tinted shades.

We did go blackberry picking, sometimes as a family, often my dad on his own. And I did love those home-baked pies and crumbles – the taste of autumn. In fact I loved them so much that shop-bought blackberries and blackberry-based desserts seemed a heresy. Only recently have I bought blackberries from the supermarket. Huge fat ones, not the smallish, round, neat little berries of subtle joy that I remember.

But this autumn, freshly settled into our new abode in the (almost) wilds of north Essex, a-blackberry-picking we did go (see our blog from the beginning of November). Not long after, a blackberry and apple pie was made.

We used shop-bought pastry as I was feeling lazy that weekend, blind baking the pie bottom before adding some slices of bramley apple, the blackberries, sprinkling over some sugar, encasing with the pie top and baking for 20 minutes.

The result? Well it wasn’t quite the great pie of antiquity, but then nothing was ever going to match the sublime taste of my berry nostalgia. However, it disappeared very quickly one wintery Saturday evening. And yes, it still delivered that true taste of autumn. Can’t wait till next year!

December 30, 2011

Where’s the pasta?

WordPress informs me that there are now well over 100 entries on this Earth to Plate blog, brimful with recipes, cooking tips, serving suggestions, reviews and more – all, of course, meat-free.

But so far there’s also one other ingredient that is almost as absent from the blog as meat/fish. This one, however, will come as more of a surprise to many vegetarian cooks. Can you guess what it is?

Pasta. Yep. It seems only one entry has a recipe for pasta (check by searching the ingredients list to the right of the page). But isn’t pasta a veggie staple? Well, as we claimed on the ‘About this blog’ page (here), we don’t do much pasta. It looks like that our first year of blogging has proved that to be true.

October 5, 2011

Tuesday-night suppers – the stir fry

I’ve mentioned previously that many of the dishes we post in the ‘Last Night’s Dinner’ section of this blog are the interesting ones – the ones that make use of gorgeous seasonal ingredients, or that make a pretty picture on the plate, or are worked up to some extent: a weekend meal rather than a Tuesday-night supper.

But that’s only half true. Our cooking at ETP towers varies little from weekday to weekend, mainly because at the moment yours truly doesn’t quite work a standard Monday to Friday 9 to 5 week. It’s also because even after a busy day’s work we enjoy a little kitchen prep and cooking as a way to relax. Why completely give that up during the week if you can help it?

That’s a privileged position, however, and there are times of course when you don’t want to think about cooking; when easy fall-backs become a practical necessity. For some people that’s once a week, for others almost every evening.

At these times we often resort to one-pot cooking to create a big bowl of health – for example our own signature dishes of butter beans, greens and peppers in a spicy tomato sauce, or spicy ‘Spanish’ chickpeas (recipes we may reveal in the fullness of time). This is basic stuff: take a big pot, fry an onion, add in some veg, chuck in some tomatoes, add spices, top with water and leave to simmer down. A hob-cooked stew, by any other name. You hardly have to think about making these and they’re so difficult to ruin.

I’ve heard that many carnivores resort to Spaghetti Bolognese and stir fries for a quick weekday meal. Well, we don’t eat much pasta here, but a stir fry, such as the one pictured, does hit the mark. The beauty is that we don’t have to think too much about how to cook the ingredients. Simple innit? But is a good stir fry as basic as one-pot cooking?

Well, it can be: if you use straight-to-wok noodles and throw all the veg in at the same time. Typically, however, and without wishing to turn a simple stir fry into a culinary challenge, I do now think a little extra effort can help.

Take the tofu in our Stir-fried tofu with broccoli, mushrooms and rice (above). Throwing chunks of even a firm tofu straight into the wok with the other veg will cause it to break up into a mush. Much better to fry it separately first for 5 minutes each side, then add it to the wok at the last minute. And the broccoli? To avoid tough stems it’s much better to steam it for 5 minutes before it hits the wok, too. So that’s two extra pans, but not a lot of extra thought. And it really does mean your stir fry will be a much more enjoyable Tuesday-night supper.

June 1, 2011

A note about quantities, as promised

You might have noticed that we’re not really giving accurate quantities in the ‘recipes’ that form the ‘Last Nights Dinner’ entries on this blog. There are a number of reasons for this.

The first relates to the initial inspiration for Earth to Plate, as outlined in the ‘About’ page. We’re writing this in an attempt to illustrate the kinds of things vegetarians eat – or, at least, what us vegetarians at ETP Towers regularly tuck into. The meal ideas we feature should act as inspiration – a starting point – but not as a set of rules that are meant to be followed to the letter.

Working on various magazines in the past where food has played an integral part of the content, we do also know a thing or two about what’s possible when writing about and photographing food. We’ve spent many hours at food shoots as photographers tweak lighting and stylists primp lettuce and fuss over the choice of plate. It’s a technical business. We’ve also spent long hours in recipe development meetings with nutritional advisors and food editors, ensuring that each recipe fulfils certain editorial and nutritional criteria. We’ve sent off recipes to experts who own specialist software that can crunch down on each specific amount of ingredient and suck out the exact amount of carbs, fat and sodium it contains. It’s an exact science – and time consuming.

At ETP we’re not trying to compete with all that expertise. We couldn’t. We’re just enjoying our home cooking and wanting to share it with you. Neither do we know how many you’re cooking for. We usually cook for two; others might prefer recipes that cater for six hungry mouths. Then again, sometimes we make larger portions and save some. You might prefer larger or smaller portions than us, or you might like it spicier, or milder, or want a soup thicker, or looser, or creamier, or more tangy. There are so many variations.

And so we’ve opted for the unscientific approach and we’re not measuring quantities. We hope it doesn’t hinder your enjoyment of the blog. And we hope it doesn’t stop you trying out some of the ideas. We think cooking is as much about experimenting with variations for yourself as it is about following a recipe. But if you do have any specific queries, let us know and we’ll try and answer them.