Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tartine Degustazione

From The Vegeterranean: Italian vegetarian cooking, Malu Simões & Alberto Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Little salad tarts. Sounded interesting. So I gave them a go. The recipes from Vegeterranean are just a bit different from the usual fare and I have found that they generally turn out worthwhile.

Making the dough was pretty easy. It was a 1:2 mix, 100g butter to 200g flour. There’s always something satisfying about working with your hands to mix the ingredients.

The dough was then rolled out, fitted into the small pie cases and baked. They turned out quite satisfactorily.

There were two salad mixes: potato and beetroot.

The potato was boiled and then cut into small cubes. All the flavourings were then added: mayonnaise, green olives, red onions, gherkins, chives, parsley and yoghurt, with some salt and pepper and a dash of Tabasco. It made a pretty tasty mixture.

The beetroot went through much the same method. Added ingredients were yoghurt, lemon juice, parsley, goat’s chees with salt and pepper and a dash of Tabasco. This was my preferred mixture.

The fillings were then ladled into the cases and they were ready for eating.

These were tasty and different appetisers, though they did tend to be a bit on the heavy side for a starter as they were quite filling.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Baked Tofu and Green Bean Salad

From Vegetarian Bible, Margaret Barca, Penquin Books, 2008.

This small unpretentious book has proved to be a useful one for vegetarian dishes. I have found it to be reliable with its instructions and the meals that result are generally very successful and flavoursome.

I don’t know what tempted me to make this dish as it had the uninspiring title of Baked Tofu and Green Bean Salad yet, despite this, I thought I’d give it a go.

The tofu was prepared first. It was marinated in a mix of ginger, garlic, lemon juice and soy sauce. After an hour of soaking in the flavour mix it was baked in the oven for about half an hour. It was then left to cool.

The beans were steamed for a few minutes and cooled quickly in cold water.

The dressing was an unusual one as it had a tahini base mixed with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, lemon juice and some warm water.

A batch of mixed salad greens was placed on the plate, then the green beans, some cherry tomatoes and spring onions. These were tossed with half the dressing. The tofu was put on top and the remainder of the dressing poured over and some toasted sesame seeds.

This was a very satisfying salad. The tofu had a pleasant chewiness to it and it was well flavoured from the marinade. (There was some left over and I found it great to nibble on the following day.) The beans still had a good crunch to them and the tahini dressing made the whole concoction come together satisfactorily with its Asian flavours.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Warm Salad of Slow-roast Tomatoes, Ricotta and Almonds on Mujadhara

From Vegetarian, Alice Hart, Murdoch Books, 2011.

I decided to slow roast my own tomatoes for this recipe. The instructions are in the book so I just made sure I planned a bit ahead of time for they needed four hours in the oven. I am pleased that I took the time for the freshly roasted tomatoes, sprinkled before roasting with caster sugar, rosemary and chopped garlic, were wickedly good.

I had not had mujadhara before But it is an easy-to-make base on which to serve some salad vegetables. Onions were fried until golden, then lentils were added and boiled for a little while before rice was then added to boil in the mixture.

The dressing was an oil and vinegar one but it had the addition of some saffron soaked in a little boiling water.

The salad was then put together. Chopped parsley and some spinach leaves were added to the mujadhara. It was placed on the serving plate and some tomatoes added on top with spoonfuls of ricotta. Toasted flaked almonds were scattered on top. Over this the dressing was poured.

What a great salad. I loved it. It was basically a meal in itself. One due for repeats. 

I'm truly enjoying cooking from this recipe book. The recipes are fresh and modern and turn out to taste as well as they look in the photographs.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Jock’s Spinach Pancakes

From Mrs Harvey’s Sister-in-Law and other tasty dishes, Margaret Dunn, Murdoch Books, 2007.

I seem to be picking up recipes at the moment that all have a tomato sauce in them of some kind. I had a Mexican salsa (great) and a tomato chutney (not so great). Now here’s Jock’s spinach pancakes with a tomato sauce.

I have no idea who Jock was but this cookery book is a medley of odds and sods of recipes that the author has collected over time. They are usually wonderful family-type recipes that work because they have been tried over time and savoured.

Jock has no instructions for making the pancakes. You just go ahead and make your own from your favourite recipe.

The filling includes chicken livers which I just ignored. The remaining ingredients (cooked spinach, cottage cheese, eggs, pepper and salt) were basically blended and chilled before using them to fill the pancakes.

The tomato sauce was an annoying recipe. It was written in straight prose rather than recipe format. There was no ingredient list to begin; you just had to find the ingredients as you worked your way through the instructions that all came in one long paragraph.

I fried onions and green capsicums until softened, then added peeled and chopped tomatoes. A mixture of seasonings was added: salt, pepper, sugar, cloves, bay leaf and oregano. It was cooked until it had thickened a little.

The filled pancakes were placed in a casserole, the sauce poured over and some grated parmesan sprinkled on top. It was then baked in the oven for roughly 30 minutes.

All in all it was a pleasant comfortable dish, nothing out of the ordinary but a good mid-week dish that left you satisfied and not over filled. With a green salad it made an enjoyable meal.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mushroom and Cashew Nut Samosas

From The New Tastes of India, Das Sreedharan, Headline, 2001.

Jamie Oliver describes this as ‘a really wicked book’. I guess he means it in a positive way. I have yet to find out whether it is really wicked or not. I don’t really pay much attention to selective quotes that are included on book covers.

I had to make a basic change to these samosas. The ingredients included ready-made samosa pastry which I was unable to obtain. I hunted around in some other cookery books and found one that used filo pastry. This made an easy wrapping to use though the samosas turned out rather large, like big pasties. Perhaps I should have cut the sheets of filo to the measurements in the Sreedharan recipe but followed that of the other book.

The filling was not difficult to make. It followed the usual method of popping mustard seeds first, then adding onions and curry leaves. The next stage was adding the spices, followed by the cashews to be cooked for a few minutes.

The potatoes, mushrooms and carrot were added and cooked until tender. When the mixture was cool it was wrapped in the pastry to be deep fried at the final step.

The recipe suggested using a tomato chutney from further on in the book. All that had to be done was to put the ingredients (tomatoes, green chllies, garlic and salt) in a blender and give them a quick burst. Some coriander leaves were added to the final mix.

The samosas were a good eat, not particularly out of the ordinary. I guess I wouldn’t make tem again.

The tomato chutney was more like a very liquid salsa and quite ordinary. I had an extra special salsa to compare it with that I had made the previous night with Mexican quesadillas. I think that salsa will be my benchmark for future one.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Monday, 5 December 2011

Tomato Salsa with Quesadillas and Spinach and Mushroom

From Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

I am very fond of Mexican food. I occasionally try to cook it but never quite seem to be able to achieve anything near the real taste. So this book, I hope, will be able to help me master something nearer to proper Mexican cuisine.

The book concentrates on the sauces and condiments giving instructions on how to achieve the best results with these. So the book is arranged into sections according to these elements: salsas, guacamoles, adobos, moles and pipianes. In each section the reader goes through a series of instructions on making the sauce or condiment. The section then ends with some recipes for using these elements in particular dishes. The author hopes that once a person has achieved success with the sauce or condiment they will be able to construct their own recipes.

The instructions are very clear and easy to follow. I began with a salsa, a pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa). This was the easiest salsa to make. All of the ingredients were mixed together, it was seasoned and served.

This was a salsa with a great tang to it and one I think I would go back to whenever I am preparing a salsa dip for other occasions.

The recipe ends with suggestions for what to serve it with. These were generally not vegetarian so I settled on having it with quesadillas, the instructions for which were in a later section of the book. Again these were simple to make, though once again I should mention the difficulty in Sydney of obtaining corn tortillas.

As a side I made sautéed spinach and mushrooms, again from the end section of the book.

This turned out to be a very satisfying meal (salsa, quesadillas and spinach with mushrooms) with lots of flavour and spicy bite that I like.

I’ll be back into this book again soon, I think.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Vegetarian Scotch Broth

From Gourmet Cooking without Meat, Paul Southey, Marshall Cavendish, 1980.

This book used to be a constant for me but has gradually dropped out of my cooking repertoire. I thought I might like to revisit it. In its time it was a very useful book because there were not a many vegetarian cookery books available. It is quite different now and cooking styles and cuisines have changed remarkably. However, the old recipes are still valid and it’s possible to vary them with some of the more recent variations.

I’ll always go for a soup when I’m flipping through pages so thought I’d have a look again at Scotch broth.

One of the most noticeable differences in this older recipe from more recent ones is the amount of time given to cooking the soup. It was actually cooked for 1½ hours, a time which I cut back considerably.

It was an easy cook. Onions and carrots were fried for a little while. Then all the remaining ingredients (turnips, parsnips, barley, water, thyme, bay leaves and seasonings) were added except for the leek. These were supposed to cook for an hour. I only gave it about 20 minutes, sufficient for the barley to be almost done.  The sliced leek was then added and cooked for another 30 minutes; 20 for me.

The result was a thick rather heavy soup. With ‘broth’ in its name I expected a lighter more watery dish. It was, however, a pleasant enough soup, and substantial enough to be satisfying.

 Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Fennel Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, Crème Fraîche and Parmesan Crisp

From Biró: European-Inspired Cuisine, Marcel Biró and Shannon Kring Biró, Gibbs Smith, 2005.

This is not a book for vegetarians but on glancing through the pages I felt that there were adequate recipes to make it worthwhile.

Marcel Biró being an acclaimed chef and opening his own restaurant, Biró, in the United States, the recipes should be reasonable. The book is a collection of recipes from the SBS Series The Kitchens of BIRÓ.

The first part of the book consists of amuse-bouches. These are supposed to be bite-sized portions served before the meal and generally not ordered but served at the discretion of the chef.

The name for the one I tried was basically longer than the titbit, although mine did not turn out to be anywhere near a titbit.

There were two parts. The first was to make Parmesan crips. This was not difficult. A dough was prepared with water, oil and salt. It was rolled out as thin as possible—thin enough to read through—sprinkled with parmesan and baked.

This worked out reasonably but, even though I halved the quantity, I ended up with heaps too much. However it did serve as nibbles later.

I followed the ingredients list carefully and made sure all the portions were correct. It was basically fennel and carrot grated and mixed in with orange juice and olive oil which had been whipped until emulsified. Crème fraîche was added and seasonings.

It was then supposed to be shaped into a quenelle and served with a Parmesan crisp. There was no way I could turn mine into a quenelle as the crème fraîche seemed to lose its texture as soon as it was added to the other ingredients and became very watery. I put it into a mould to see if it could gain at least some shape. When turned out it just flopped into a runny lump.

It was all right to eat—especially the Parmesan crisp—but it was a most unpleasant sight on the dish.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔

Fresh Tomato Pasta

From Sydney Food, Bill Granger, Murdoch Books, 2000.

This is not a vegetarian cookery book but vegetarians will find that the few dishes that are suitable for them are certainly worth trying out.

This pasta dish with uncooked tomatoes is one that I really enjoyed—and it was an easy one to make.

The tomatoes were skinned, seeded and chopped. They were then sprinkled with salt and left to drain. When about half an hour had been allowed for the draining the chopped tomatoes were mixed with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and chilli—a sort of dressing with added chilli.

The mixture was left to meld while water was put on to boil for the spaghetti. When this was cooked it was drained and the tomato mixture tossed through it. Some parmesan was added on top and a few torn basil leaves.

This was such a pleasing pasta. The flavour of the tomatoes was refreshing after the cooked tomato sauces that are usually used. I’ll go back to this one for sure.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tortilla Triangles with Smoky Avocado Salsa

From Quick Vegetarian Dishes, Kurma Dasa, Chakra Press, 2000.

I’ve had this book in the library for some time now but never really got around to using it. I can’t think why it has been overlooked but it has. Now I think it is time to give it a try.

The book is divided into the usual sections of appetisers, soups, salads and so on. There are ample illustrations in the form of photographs. The print is clear and the recipes are provided with a list of ingredients first. What I like about the instructions themselves is that each paragraph begins with a verbal instruction highlighted in bold. For example, here are the highlighted verbs at the beginning of one recipe: Heat… Pour in… Fold… Reduce… Serve… It clearly identifies where you are.

I began with a simple snack to test out the waters: tortilla triangles with smoky avocado salsa. Tortillas were just cut into triangular wedges and fried in a little oil. Easy. The most difficult part was to obtain corn tortillas. The stores seem to be overstocked with wheat ones of a brand currently advertising on television.

For the salsa all the ingredients were combined and mixed. Also easy. The most difficult part of this was to spend some time reconstituting a dried chipotle.

This was an enjoyable snack, possibly a little bit bland for my liking. I think I would prefer to add a little Tabasco to brighten it up a little or a touch of Sriracha sauce. What I found stood out a little was the shredded iceberg lettuce, a salad green which I usually find not to have a lot of character, but here it came through well.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Thai-Inspired Black Bean, Tofu and Potato Patties

From The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, Joni Marie Newman, Fair Winds Press, 2011.

These were originally called burgers not patties in the book but I did not want burgers to eat in a bun when I made these. To the best of my knowledge burgers do not occur in the Thai cuisine. I wondered what a Thai-inspired one would be like. This book, which gives recipes for burgers from a different number of cuisines, has to guess what a burger in each cuisine might possibly be like.

The Thai inspiration seems to have been that of using tofu and peanut butter. The main ingredient though was potatoes that were chopped into 3 cm blocks, boiled first and left to cool. The firm tofu was broken up and mixed with an assortment of items: a can of black beans, peanut butter, chopped spring onions, red pepper flakes (I used chilli), garlic, curry paste, Sriracha sauce and ground coriander.

The potato was now added when it was cool enough to handle. It was then that hands were used to squash it all together. The resulting mixture was formed into burger shapes. The fact that the potato was not mashed but left in its blocks gave a mix that held together well but had satisfying lumps of potato and whole black beans.

These were an enjoyable eat, not exactly Thai-flavoured to my mind, but tasty though somewhat dry. I served mine with a stir fry of Asian greens, puffed tofu and reconstituted dried mushrooms.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango

From Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2010.

When I read eggplant and mango together I hesitated. Would that work? I felt somewhat uncertain about that combination. And I had never used soba noodles before. However, I had previously made several recipes from this book so I did trust Yotam Ottolenghi. I decided to give it a go.

The dressing was made first. That in itself seemed unusual to me. But go with the chef’s instructions. It was an Asian mix of rice vinegar, sugar, salt garlic, red chilli and sesame oil with some lime juice and zest.

Next I fried the eggplant (aubergine) that I’d cut into cubes. When they were golden they were sprinkled with salt and left to drain.

Next the soba noodles were cooked, drained and left to dry.

The noodles were mixed with the mango cut into pieces, the eggplant, chopped basil and coriander and some sliced red onion. These were tossed with the dressing and left for an hour or two until ready to serve. Basically this was a type of noodle salad.

It was surprisingly tasty. The mango and the fried eggplant complemented one another quite well. And the soba noodles are tastier than the usual noodles.

One to add to my make again list.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Friday, 25 November 2011

Nourishing Chinese Green Pea and Tofu Soup

From Healthy Asian Vegetarian Dishes, Periplus Editions, 2003.

A nourishing clear soup was just what I was in the mood for and I found what looked like one in this book of healthy Asian vegetarian food. Not having used the book before I was keen to see how it would go.

It was so easy.

Firstly black fungus had to be put into water and soaked. Frozen peas were taken from the fridge to defrost a little.

While this was happening I put stock on to bring to the boil and chopped up a carrot and diced tofu. This went into the pot to simmer for 3 minutes while I chopped the mushrooms and cut up the black fungus that was now soaked. Mushrooms, peas and fungus went into the pot to simmer for another short while.

This gave me time to mix some cornflour and water to stir into the soup when it was ready. It was then brought back to the boil to thicken and it was done. Some sesame oil was then dribbled on top.

The soup was placed into serving bowls with chopped up spring onions added.

I did enjoy this soup. It was just what I felt like, satisfying though not over filling, well flavoured though neither too spicy nor too strong. And it was ready to eat in just a few minutes.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔