Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Raspberry Fool

From What’s Cooking Vegetarian, Jenny Stacey, Paragon, 2000.

The cookery book that I used for this said that the dish could be made in advance and should be kept in the refrigerator. I made it with some to eat after a couple of hours and kept some for the next day. The ones I kept had separated when I came to serve them. They still tasted all right but I wouldn’t keep them in future if I made them again.

It was easy to make. The raspberries were put through a blender with some icing sugar.  Some crème fraîche was mixed in a bowl with vanilla essence and the raspberries stirred into it. Egg whites were whisked until stiff and folded into the raspberries. It now only had to be put into serving glasses and chilled.

It was a pleasant sweet and useful if you have egg whites left over but I’ve had much better desserts.

Taste: ✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Smashed Spiced Chickpeas

From The Return of the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, Michael Joseph, 2000.

I was browsing through The Return of the Naked Chef when I came across a recipe for smashed spiced chickpeas. Realising that I already had all the ingredients at hand in the pantry and feeling in the mood for snacky food I got to work on making it straightaway.

It was quick and easy. A can of chickpeas was smashed, not so much that it turned into a paste but enough to have some lumps left in it. Then in a mortar and pestle I pounded some cumin seeds, some dried red chillies and a clove of garlic. Some lemon juice was added and some seasoning, then olive oil so that it became more of a loose mixture. This was added to the chickpeas and it was ready to eat.

Some tortillas were cut into rough triangles and heated in a frying pan until they had browned a little on each side.

The chickpea smash didn’t quite work as a dip but by using a small knife and piling it onto the tortilla pieces you got an irresistible snack. It all went in the one sitting—proof enough of how good it was.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Monday, 27 February 2012

Luise’s Almond Crescents

From Mrs Harvey’s Sister-in-Law and other tasty dishes, Margaret Dunn, Murdoch Books, 2008.

I’m back again into the cookery book with my favourite name: Mrs Harvey’s Sister-in-Law and other tasty dishes. The recipes all have the same feel as the name: a casualness, a feeling of family and of recipes collected over time. Sometimes the recipes have a little information about who they came from but this time there was no information about Luise with this recipe. It was enough, though, to make me search a little further. I headed for the index and found another recipe by Luise and it was there that I found that Luise was a friend who came from the country to stay. Not a lot more but enough to make me feel much more comfortable about Luise.

The recipe was very simple: mixing together the ingredients (butter, caster sugar, chopped almonds, SR flour and salt) in the order given and then letting them stand for one hour.

Small pieces were then taken and rolled into little logs. These were then pushed into a crescent shape and baked.

When they were cooked and while still hot they were rolled in a mixture of caster sugar and cinnamon. Done.

These were easy to make and they were so moreish that they didn’t last over long at all. Definitely a recipe to make again. Thank you, Luise.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Pepper Water

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

I was tempted to try this dish by the fact that it was mentioned that it served as a digestive—and I also enjoy peppery dishes.

The first task was to soak tamarind pulp to extract the tangy sour pulp. This was placed in a saucepan with ground black pepper, ground cumin and coriander leaves. Water was added and a little salt. This was simmered for 10 minutes.

While this was happening, some black mustard seeds were fried until they popped. Curry leaves were torn and added. When they had curled, a touch of asafoetida powder was sprinkled in and cooked for a few seconds.

The fried mixture was poured into the simmering broth and it was ready.

I didn’t enjoy it. While I did finish a small cup of the pepper water it had to be managed in very small sips over a meal. I tried a little of what remained (quite a bit) the next day to make sure. I still didn’t enjoy it and threw it out.

Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Artichoke Risoni

From Commonsense Vegetarian, Murdoch Books, 2011.

I often wonder who makes up the titles for cookery books. Is it the author or are they made up by the publishing staff in search of something that will sell. Some of the titles tell exactly what to expect while others tend to be on the amusing side: The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet (difficult to prove), The Naked Chef (always fully dressed), The Conscious Cook (that’s better than the opposite), and, my most favourite of all, Mrs Harvey’s Sister-in-law and other tasty dishes.

One title that I always feel comfortable with is Commonsense Vegetarian; it fits the book perfectly. The recipes here have a commonsense feel to them. They are perfect for family meals. They are readily put together. And yet, with all of this down-to-earth feel about the dishes, they often have an element or two that lifts them from being ordinary.

The risoni dish is a case in point. It’s all very straightforward to make yet it has little touches that make it stand out.

Fennel was fried in olive oil and butter until it was caramelised. From then on it was a much quicker process. I put on a pot of water to bring to the boil for the risoni, and then added a can of artichokes (chopped) to the fennel. By the time the artichoke/fennel mix had cooked for about 5 minutes, the water was boiling so I added the risoni to it.

The vegetables now had cream, wine, mustard and parmesan added to them to cook for another few minutes, until the risoni was done.  The risoni was drained and added to the vegetable mix with some chopped spinach. When the spinach had wilted the dish was done.

I did enjoy this. Risoni always appeals with its pearly grains that slip down the throat, and the sauce was full of flavour. I had not imagined using a fennel base rather than onion but it added a subtle hint of aniseed underneath the sauce.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Orange and Fennel Salad

From A Month in Marrakesh, Andy Harris, Hardie Grant Books, 2011.

When exploring other cuisines you find yourself combining elements which you would not have normally considered putting together. I would never have thought of oranges going with fennel. It was worth trying to see just how well they combined.

The salad was simply made by slicing oranges and fennel and combining them in a bowl. The recipe called for the oranges to be segmented and the fennel sliced thinly. I sliced both; it was easier.

The dressing for the salad was simply extra virgin olive oil, orange juice and seasoning.

A fresh quick salad. The two ingredients did go together quite well. Though it’s not a salad I would make often it is handy to keep in mind because it would make a good accompaniment for some meals.

Taste: ✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Friday, 24 February 2012

Konstantinopoli Salata

From à la grecque, Pam Talimanidis, Hardie Grant Books, 2009.

Having been to Istanbul recently I was interested to see in this book a salad called a Constantinople Salad. Naturally I had to try it.

Though a simple enough salad to put together, it did require some preparation time in the cooking of both eggplants and red capsicums. These were put under the grill in the oven and cooked until blackened.

The eggplants were then held under a running cold tap, peeled and left to drain for an hour.

The capsicums were placed in a plastic bag and left to steam until cool and then peeled.

Tomatoes were peeled and sliced into wedge shapes and combined in a bowl with the eggplant cut into pieces and the capsicum cut into small squares. Red onion cut into rings was added to the mix with parsley.

A dressing of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and seasonings was whisked until emulsified and then poured over the vegetables.

This was a brightly coloured salad which was rather like a variation of the well-known Greek salad without the feta. It was quite a tasty salad though I think I would opt for the Greek salad which is quicker to put together and has feta cheese which I particularly enjoy.

Taste: ✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Pan Haggerty

From The Accidental Vegetarian, Simon Rimmer, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.

I just love crunchy, greasy potato dishes. While I had not heard of pan haggerty it sounded like my sort of meal. Though it really isn’t like bubble and squeak it does remind me of it because it is all cooked in a frying pan and largely has a potato base.

It was just a matter of frying some onions in butter. They were then taken from the pan and a layer of potatoes was placed in it and fried for a while. A layer of onions was placed over it, then a layer of potatoes, then onions, then potatoes. Each layer had some seasoning added. At the end some melted butter was dribbled over the potatoes and it was all placed in the oven for a good 40 minutes.

By now it was getting brown and crisp on the surface layer. Some grated cheese was sprinkled over the potatoes and it was melted under a hot grill.

Greasy, cheesy, salty crunchy bits, soft patches. Totally bad for you and a wonderful feast for down moments.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Penne with masses of broccoli, green olives and pine nuts

From Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, Deborah Madison, Broadway Books, 2005.

Pasta, especially when you are using the store-bought variety, is usually an easy dish to put together. This one is no exception.

A rather large pan was needed for this recipe. Onion was cooked until golden; the garlic, pine nuts, chopped green olives and marjoram were added. At this stage the heat was turned to a minimum.

A pot of salted water was brought to the boil and the broccoli florets dropped in it. They were only cooked for a few minutes so that they still retained some firmness. They were scooped out of the water and placed in the frying pan with the onion mix.

The penne was now added to the boiling water. When it was cooked it was drained and I added it to the frying pan of vegetables. Some more olive oil was drizzled over and seasonings added. All was now mixed together and put on the serving plates with some grated parmesan cheese.

The recipe called for the penne to go straight to the serving plates and for the vegetable mix to be placed over it. I preferred to have them mixed prior to serving.

It’s difficult to fail with a pasta dish. This was a pleasant change from some others that I have tried; the broccoli with the little bursts of flavour from pine nuts and salty green olives made for a very acceptable dish. I am finding that I am beginning to be more and more attracted to what I am finding in this cookbook.

Taste: ✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Raw Vegetable and Avocado Soup

From Vegetarian, Alice Hart, Murdoch Books, 2011.

I’m not a great fan of cold soups but I’m always willing to try recipes from this book because they have so far all proved to be well worth making.

The soup started off as though it were nothing more than a drink of vegetable juice. Spinach, carrots, celery and fresh ginger were put through a juicer and then the juice was placed in a blender. So far it was just a juice but, at this stage, avocado was added and when it was blended in the juice turned into a wonderfully smooth creamy mixture. Water was added and some flavour additions: soy sauce, Tabasco and lime juice.

It was served cold with some ice cubes. I tasted at this stage and, while it was all right, it seemed to be lacking something. The last stage of the recipe was to add a drizzle of sesame oil. This brought the whole thing to life. It was amazing the different that this made.

All in all, a healthy, easy to prepare soup, worth trying though possibly I wouldn’t make it again—however, come a really hot day, if Sydney ever gets another one this summer, I may give it another go.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Banana, Blueberry and Almond Cake

From Hungry, Guy Mirabella, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2011.

When you have one slightly overripe banana, what do you do? I inevitably think of banana smoothie or banana cake, with a strong leaning towards cake. A hunt through Hungry soon found this recipe which sounded pretty good—while the photograph of the cake did the final convincing.

It was the usual cake mix procedure: cream butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time. After this the banana was added together with port and vanilla. Finally came the flour with bicarb. soda and olive oil. The oil was, for me, an unexpected ingredient.

The topping was made by mixing together blueberries, flaked almonds and brown sugar. This was sprinkled over the cake mixture when it was placed in a cake tin. It was then baked.

This turned out to be a moist flavoursome cake. The almonds added a crunch and the blueberries were little juicy morsels. Worth making again.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔ 
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Monday, 20 February 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Rocket Pesto

From The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, Kyle Books, 2011.

There’s a remarkable number of recipes in this book. When you consider it covers every Monday in the year and for every Monday they include breakfast, packed lunch, lunch and dinner, which occasionally includes sides or snacks. While instructions are necessarily sparse they are clear and contain all that is needed to complete the dish. Sometimes, as is the case of this particular recipe, they include a short introduction of background information to the recipe.

The gnocchi were easy to make. Sweet potato was boiled until cooked and tender.

While they were cooling the pesto was made by processing rocket, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil.

The sweet potato was mashed and the remaining ingredients (butter, flour, semolina, nutmeg and seasonings) were added. It easily formed into a dough which was rolled out into narrow rolls. These were cut into small pieces of gnocchi.

Just before it was time to eat, the gnocchi were dropped gently into a pot of boiling salted water. When they rose to the surface they were ready to serve. They had pesto poured over carefully and, though the recipe didn’t include it, I sprinkled on some grated parmesan.

The gnocchi turned out to be quite light and tasty, The pesto though had a raw, almost grassy, tang to it from the rocket. I think I would have preferred a basil pesto, or have modified the rocket with the inclusion of some basil and parmesan.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Asparagus with Fontina and Poached Egg

From My Italian Heart: Recipes from an Italian Kitchen, Guy Grossi, Lantern, 2005.

Sometimes it’s the simple dish that wins hands down. This asparagus dish from the recipe book of Guy Grossi works wonderfully in its simplicity.

Asparagus was boiled in salted water until cooked. It was then put in a baking dish and a layer of soft cheese was placed across it. A small amount of cream was poured over it and it was seasoned. It then went under the grill until the cheese had melted.

Meanwhile an egg was poached until cooked but still soft. The asparagus was taken from under the grill and placed on a plate. The egg was laid on the asparagus and the juices from the baking dish were spooned over it. The asparagus was supposed to be wrapped in prosciutto at the serving stage but I just left this element out.

This was a delicious dish. When the egg was cut open the yolk ran out and mixed with the juices to form an excellent sauce.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Carrot and Oatmeal Soup

From The Vegan Diet: True Vegetarian Cookery, David Scott and Claire Golding, Rider & Company, 1985.

I had not cooked from this book very often though it has been on the shelf for quite a long time. Browsing through the books standing on my cookery shelf I came across it again and thought it was time to look at it once more.

The soup was easy to make. Onion, garlic and chopped rosemary were sautéed for a few minutes. The chopped carrots and some curry powder were then added to the pan along with water (the recipe calls for water and not stock). Once this all came to the boil the oatmeal was added. When the carrots were cooked the mixture was puréed with the stick blender and seasonings were added.

This soup ended up exactly as it sounded from its name: an ordinary, rather dull eat. I wonder why I decided to actually make it. Sometimes a decision is made because of what is available in the pantry; sometimes this is not the best decision.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Friday, 17 February 2012

Watercress Soup with Toasted Almonds

From The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, Kyle Books, 2011.

This book has a definite purpose: that of gradually making inroads into the meat-eaters, encouraging them to eat less meat. The introduction sets out the reasons behind the campaign. It is not only for reasons of health, though these are strong. It is also for the environment; livestock production is responsible for a huge amount of greenhouse gas around the planet. Of course, it is also a way to cut your weekly spend on food. These are only some of the reasons discussed, though possibly the predominant ones.

The campaign for the Meat Free Monday was launched by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney back in 2009. They have supplied a foreword to the book. And there is also the occasional recipe from Paul and Stella. Recipes are also included from a wide range of celebrities who support the campaign.

The book supplies complete menus for every Monday in the year, organised into spring, summer, autumn and winter. The lunch menu also includes one for a packed lunch. The mix of recipes is varied, for example for Week 01 breakfast is soft-boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers; lunch is sweet potato gnocchi with rocket pesto while the packed lunch is a Middle Eastern tabouleh salad; dinner is a spring vegetable tarte fine with a spring herb salad and dessert is pink rhubarb sorbet. This one day manages to range through several cuisines.

My first delve into the book had me making a watercress soup. This was simply made by frying onions and garlic until softened, then adding potatoes for a few minutes longer. Stock was now added and the vegetables cooked until the potatoes had softened.

The watercress was added and cooked for a couple of minutes more. This was puréed and cream was added with seasonings. All was then reheated and served with toasted flaked almonds—and a swirl of crème fraîche, that I did without. Both cream and crème fraîche seemed too much for me. The recipe included garlic toasts that I did not make.

This was a pleasant soup. I do enjoy the peppery flavour of watercress and do occasionally make a soup with this vegetable. This was not the best one I’ve had. I was a little unsure of using both potato and cream as a thickening agent. Potato by itself would by fine or cream but the use of both was overdoing it a little I felt.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Marinated Summer Radishes with Currants, Mint & Chive Dressing

From The Urban Cook, Mark Jensen, Murdoch Books, 2011.

Does urban mean dark?

This must be the most unappealing cookery book in my collection. The photographs are dark; some of them so poor that you would not even consider cooking the dish. The print is never on a white background but always on olive-brown backgrounds making it difficult to read on some pages. I am surprised that the design team would think that people busy trying to follow a recipe would want to compete with small print on dark pages with overprinted images.

The author obviously has a message about the environment. I could tell this from the section headings but didn’t bother to attempt to read the text on pages that were uninviting and at times not very legible.

Why they bothered with contents pages for each section I can’t understand when they are designed so that they are almost illegible. I am surprised that a book like this would come from Murdoch Books which are generally so well designed.

It took me some time before I decided to try cooking something from the book but since I had it (it came cheap when I bought another item) I thought I’d better try and see whether the food was better than the wrapping.

The first thing I did was to soak the currants in hot water so they could plump up a little while I prepared the remainder of the vegetables: radishes, celery and yellow baby squash. When cut into small pieces they were put in a bowl together with the drained currants.

The dressing was now prepared: Dijon mustard, lemon juice and olive oil with seasonings. Sliced chives and mint leaves were added to the dressing and it was folded through the vegetable mix. It was then left for about 30 minutes before serving when some thinly sliced chillies were added to the top.

This was a crunchy salad with a bit of bite though not a dish I would go back to. It did, however, reintroduce me to radishes which I don’t seem to have had for several years now. I must use them a little more often

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Aubergine Parmigiana

From River Cottage Veg Everyday!, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, 2011.

This book is strongly promoting a meat-free diet and the author presents his reasons at the beginning of each section. These sections are easy to read and the light, informal writing is easily accessed, and tends to go someway towards convincing. The first section is concerned with comfort food and the first recipe is certainly comfort food and bursting with flavour.

Nearly every vegetarian cookbook has a recipe for an eggplant parmigiana and they are usually all very tasty. I like to try each new one to see how they compare.

The eggplants were sliced, sprinkled with salt and left to drain in a colander.

The next step in the recipe was to make a tomato sauce. It was almost identical with one I had made from a Jamie Oliver recipe and since I had some left I decided to use this.

The aubergine slices were then fried until tender. It took a little while to get them all done. A layer of them was placed in a casserole. This was covered with some of the tomato sauce. Over this went some mozzarella pieces. It was supposed to be buffalo mozzarella but my wallet was a bit short this week so it had to be the cheaper variety. Then some grated parmesan was sprinkled over this.  The layers were repeated until all the ingredients were used up and I had ended with a cheese layer. The oven did the rest of the job.

This is such an enjoyable dish. The flavours burst right out and the chewy cheese strands are fun to eat. The author classes it as comfort food and it fits that category extremely well. A recipe to go back to.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Nectarine and Pistachio Summer Crumble

From Market Vegetarian, Ross Dobson, Ryland Peters and Small, 2008.

There were some cheap nectarines at the local store so it seemed a good time to try out this recipe that I had recently been looking at. It was the season for this fruit and so it seemed to fit nicely into the philosophy that is promoted in the cookbook, a philosophy which I frequently overlook.

The recipe was such a simple one that it would be difficult to go wrong with it. The crumble was made from pistachios and almonds which had been processed roughly. These were mixed with butter and oatmeal. Flour and sugar were added next and they were all rubbed together until they felt right.

The nectarines were cut open and the stones removed. The ones I had had stones that resisted all effort to let go the fruit so I just cut around them. The crumble was sprinkled over the fruit and it was cooked in the oven for about 15 minutes.

It turned out to be a pleasant dessert though the nectarines were not overly juicy and so it was oddly drier than I had expected. Enjoyable but slightly disappointing.

 Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Upside-down Red Pepper and Tomato Pie

From Market Vegetarian, Ross Dobson, Ryland Peters and Small, 2008.

Upside-down recipes are always, for me, slightly magical. You never quite know what it’s going to be like until you turn it over. Sometimes there’s no magic at all and you end up with a disaster but it’s certainly fun trying. So I was tempted by this upside-down pie.

The pastry was a cheese one. Flour, cheese and salt were mixed. Then melted butter, eggs and milk completed the mix. It was kneaded for a little and then left in the fridge for half an hour. The recipe calls for the dough to be made in a food processor but I usually tend to opt for hands.

While the dough was doing its wait, I put some onions, garlic and sliced red capsicum in a frying pan and cooked them for a good 10 minutes. A can of tomatoes was then added with seasonings and cooked for another 5 minutes. This was then left to cool.

The dough was now rolled out to about the size of the frying pan. This was placed over the mixture in the pan and placed in the oven for about 20 minutes until it had browned. When it was ready it was taken out and let cool a little. It was then upended onto a serving plate.

The result was rather like a pizza with a thicker than usual base. The savoury sauce was tasty and the slices were soon demolished.

While I don’t always stick rigidly to Ross Dobson’s recipes they can generally be counted on to work. For this one I did not use buttermilk in the dough and used hands instead of processor to make it; small variations which didn’t seem to affect the final product.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Cayenne Spiced Almonds

From Spice It, Murdoch Books, 2010.

I always like to have something to nibble on in the evening; it keeps me from falling asleep during dreary predictable TV shows. This recipe from Spice It looked as though it might just do the trick and it looked simplicity itself.

The spices were mixed in a bowl: cayenne, cumin, sugar, salt and smoked paprika.

The almonds were cooked in olive oil in a pan until they had turned a golden colour. They were then placed into the bowl of spices, mixed and left to cool.

While they were still cooling I tried a couple—couldn’t resist—and they were wonderfully spicy with quite a bite from the cayenne. After they had cooled they tended to lose some of the spice coating which dropped off. They were still really moreish and maintained the heat but did not have the full bounce of flavour that they had while still slightly warm.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔