Bulgar wheat with mushrooms and feta cheese.

From SIMPLE. The book says it serves 2, but it fed two of us for two nights. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 150g bulgar wheat
  • 250ml boiling water or light stock
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 punnets of mushrooms, preferably mixed, around 500g – sliced to about 5mm thick. 
  • 2 tsp dried thyme, or 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dill seeds
  • around 100g feta (half a block)
  • 1 tsp mild chilli flakes 
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Rinse the bulgar wheat, add a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and add the boiling water or stock. Cover the bowl and set aside while everything else is sorted out. 
  • Put 2 tbsp oil in a large frying or saute pan, heat to medium, and add the onion. Cook for 7 minutes, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 1/2 tsp dill seeds, and continue to fry for another couple of minutes. Keep stirring to ensure that nothing sticks or burns. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. 
  • Add another 2 tbsp of oil to the pan. raise the heat, and then add the mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt, and fry for 7 minutes, stirring until the mushrooms are browned and soft.
  • Add the rest of the cumin seeds, and the thyme and continue to cook for another minute
  • Add the balsamic vinegar, and cook until the liquid has almost disappeared. 
  • Mix in the bulgar wheat, onions, feta cheese and chilli flakes and heat through. 

Serve garnished with fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Tomato and butter sauce for penne or gnocci

This is a very easy recipe from ‘Dear Francesca‘ – it feels very indulgent adding all that butter, but the sauce is unbelievably tasty. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • One tin of tomatoes (I used chopped tinned tomatoes)
  • A small shallot, peeled but not chopped
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp caster sugar
  • A pinch of dried rosemary (a sprig of fresh rosemary is better if it is available)
  • salt
  • Penne pasta or gnocci – allow 60 to 75g per person
  • freshly grated pecorino cheese

METHOD:

  • Put the tomatoes through a mouli or sieve to get rid of the seeds. It is easier if you blend them in a liquidiser first. 
  • Put the sieved tomatoes in a small saucepan with the shallot, sugar and butter, and bring to a slow simmer. Put a wooden spoon in the pan and then put the lid on, so it is propped open a little. Keep simmering and stirring to reduce the sauce. Cook for 30 minutes
  • When the sauce is cooked, take out the shallot, add the rosemary and season with salt. 
  • Cook the penne or gnocchi, and drain, pour over enough sauce and then add freshly grated pecorino cheese

Chickpea curry

This is a very easy curry to serve with baked potato, baked sweet potato, or with nan bread. It is best served warm rather than hot.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch of ginger root, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • chopped coriander leaves. 

METHOD:

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan to a medium heat, and fry the cumin seeds for around 1 minute, before adding the onion, and frying until it is soft, around 7 minutes
  • Add the garlic, ginger, and chilli, and cook for another three minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn or stick. 
  • Add the remaining spices and cook for another couple of minutes
  • Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and then add the chickpeas, and cook for another 20 minutes. I covered the pan for the first ten minutes, and then took the lid off and stirred the curry, to ensure it didn’t stick. 
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. 
  • Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

 

Fresh tomato sauce with ricotta and pecorino – to serve with spaghettini

I’ve just read ‘Dear Francesca’ from cover to cover. The recipes use a relatively small range of ingredients to create wonderful food. This is one of the first recipes I tried, using a tray of cherry tomatoes that had ended up in my fridge, along with some of the staples from the book: ricotta and pecorino. 

I didn’t have spaghettini, so I used spaghetti, which is very slightly thicker. It was fine, I had no complaints. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tbsp good extra-virgin olive oil
  • A punnet of cherry tomatoes, or a couple of good handfuls, quartered
  • a clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 180g spaghettini (or enough pasta for 2 people, whatever your usual measure is, I allow 60 to 75g per person)
  • salt and black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • two good pinches of dried oregano
  • freshly grated pecorino

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a pan, and add the tomatoes and garlic. Turn the heat down low and let them cook for ten minutes. There will be a bit of sizzling. 
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water, according to the instructions. 
  • When the tomatoes are completely softened, add the oregano and the ricotta cheese, and mix well. Check for taste and add salt if required. 
  • When the spaghettini is cooked, drain it, return to the pan and add the sauce, pecorino and a grating of good black pepper. 

 

The QUICK After-Work Vegetarian Cookbook

My copy of the Quick After-Work Vegetarian Cookbook is so old the binding is going, and the pages are getting a little yellow. To my shame, I only ever made two recipes in it; Mexican rice, and cheesy polenta. I have recently tried some of the other recipes and they have been excellent. The ingredients are generally easy to source locally, and the cooking techniques are easy too. There are over 120 recipes to choose from, including such classics as Fettucine with carrot carbonara, and Balaton Hotpot

I hadn’t realised, until I searched online, that this is one of a series of books, including an Indian version, one for summer ingredients and another for the winter. I am tempted but my recipe book collection is rather large. Although the recipes aren’t glamorous, they are tasty and filling; I would say that this would be an ideal first recipe book for any vegetarians, as they head off for pastures new. 

Vegetarian Balaton-style hotpot

I made this and it was good, so I looked up to find out more about this cooking style. One-pot cookery is a very simple style of preparing a meal, perfect for unsophisticated cooking facilities. A goulash is just such a dish, and around lake Balaton, the style of goulash includes sour cream and potatoes, caraway and paprika. 

This vegetarian version comes from The Quick After Work Cookbook, for which I shall have to provide a review soon.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 75g long-grain rice
  • 1 large potato, around 250g, chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 1/4 tsp caraway seed
  • 2 tsp Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 300ml stock or water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, haricot beans, or borlotti beans. 

METHOD:

  • In a medium pan, gently fry the onions and green pepper until the onions are browning. 
  • Add the rice and potato, and cook for another minute
  • In a measuring jug, mix the stock, sour cream, salt and pepper, paprika, caraway seed and tomato puree, and pour the mixture into the pan and stir. 
  • Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat and cook for 20 minutes
  • Add the beans, any extra water, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. 

 

Fettuccine with Carrot and Tarragon Carbonara

The last of last year’s carrots, and the best of this spring’s eggs, with some fantastic pasta from the co-op. I pulled the inspiration for this recipe from one of my older recipe books, The Quick After-Work Vegetarian Cookbook. It has several ‘go-to’ recipes in it, but I often tweak them to suit my taste. This one, I tweaked the quantities to suit two quite hungry people. 

INGREDIENTS (PER PERSON):

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 egg
  • 25g butter
  • 75g pasta
  • 25g pecorino 
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • salt and freshly grated black pepper

METHOD:

  • Put a pan of salted water on to boil while you prepare the other ingredients. 
  • When the water comes to the boil, add the pasta, and cook as instructed on the pack, usually around 8 minutes. 
  • Peel and chop the carrot finely. 
  • Melt the butter, and add the dried tarragon and carrots, cook gently for around 7 minutes until the carrots are tender. 
  • Beat the eggs and then add the grated cheese, a pinch of salt and a good grating of pepper. 
  • When the pasta is done, drain it, return it to the hot pan, add the hot carrots and butter and then stir in the cheese and eggs, which will cook in the heat of the pasta. 
  • Serve in warmed plates. The egg should still be a little runny, like the centre of an omelette. 

A light, sharp-flavoured green salad and a light fresh white wine would go well with this. 

 

Spiced pumpkin risotto

This recipe is from the Naked Chef, by Jamie Oliver. It has rather a lot of ingredients, but the flavour is amazing, so it is really worth it. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 butternut squash or onion squash
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves (or add fresh thyme while you are cooking the risotto)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli flakes, or two small dried chillies
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • another tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 head of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 more cloves of garlic
  • 400g good risotto rice
  • 100ml dry white vermouth or dry white wine
  • 70g butter
  • 100g parmesan
  • 2 heaped spoonfuls of mascarpone

METHOD:

  • Turn the oven up to 200C and start to prepare the spices. Put the dry herbs and spices and the salt and pepper into a spice grinder, or grind with a pestle and mortar. Once it is all in a fine powder, crush the garlic, and pound it in, and mix to a paste with the olive oil. 
  • Next, prepare the squash. Peel it if you are using a butternut squash and you don’t like the skin. Cut length wise into eights (half, half and half again) and scoop out the seeds. Rub the squash all over with the spice mixture, and lay it out in a small roasting dish. Roast for thirty minutes in the middle of the oven. 
  • The roasted squash is just lovely as it is, and if you wish, you could add chickpeas to the recipe. For the risotto, set it aside to cool, and then chop finely. Chop one half more finely. 
  • Make sure your stock is good and hot to make a good risotto.
  • In the risotto pan, head olive oil, and then gently cook the onion and celery for 3 to four minutes, before adding the garlic. Once the vegetables look soft, add the rice and turn up the heat a little. Continue to cook until the rice is turning translucent. Keep stirring so the rice doesn’t scorch or stick. 
  • When the rice is ready add the wine or vermouth and the thyme leaves, and keep stirring. Once the alcohol has boiled off, start adding the stock and the roughly chopped half of the chopped squash. Add the stock slowly, a ladleful at a time,  and keep checking the flavour and texture of the rice. I found the squash quite salty, so you don’t need to add masses more. Wait until each addition of stock has been absorbed by the rice before pouring more in. The rice will be ready when it is tender but still with a hint of a bite to it. 
  • When you think it is just about ready, turn off the heat, and stir in the rest of the pumpkin, the butter, mascarpone and parmesan. 

This makes four very large or six modest portions. 

Italian stewed lentils

This recipe is a classic side dish, to be served with Cotechino or Zampone. I often add a side serving of mashed potato and cabbage as well. I have also made it with tinned brown lentils when I was in a hurry and it was still grand. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Approx. 300g brown lentils, such as Puy lentils
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • A sprig of fresh mint
  • A clove of garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp good olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Rinse the lentils in cold water. 
  • In a medium pan, heat the olive oil and then over a very low heat, cook the chopped onions, around 10 minutes, so they are soft. 
  • Add the lentils and then add a litre of hot water, and bring to a simmer
  • Add the mint and the whole clove of garlic, cover and cook on a low heat for around an hour and a half. Keep checking that the pan to make sure it isn’t burning. You can keep the lentils at a simmer in the oven as well. 
  • Once the lentils are tender, season with salt and pepper, and a drizzle of very good olive oil. 

Beetroot soup with cumin and mint

This is a delicious middle-eastern twist on beetroot soup, warm and filling. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoonful of cumin seed
  • 750g raw beetroot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • Approx 1 litre of water
  • 3 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • a good pinch of sweet paprika
  • 1 heaped tsp dried mint
  • salt and pepper
  • Greek-style plain yoghurt to serve

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large soup pan, and when it is hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt, and fry over a very low heat for around 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and continue to fry for another minute or so, along with the cumin and paprika
  • Add the chopped potato and chopped beetroot, and then cover with water, around 1 to 1 1/4 litre, and bring to a simmer
  • Cook for around 20 minutes, until the beetroot is nice and tender. Use a soup blender to blitz it to a smooth mixture, and add the vinegars, mint, salt and pepper to taste. It needs quite a bit of salt. 
  • Serve with a goodly dollop of yoghurt in the centre, and flat breads and chopped herbs and a drizzle of good olive oil to garnish. This is also good without all the extras.