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. 

Shakshouka – eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.

Susannah and Alexander have hens, so I have eggs. This is another dish in which the eggs are poached in a sauce. This is delicious served with warm flatbreads, such as pitta bread. Susannah is good at home-made flatbreads, and I shall have to get instruction. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 long red peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 hot green chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomato
  • 250ml vegetable stock 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • eggs – 2 per person
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley to garnish
  • feta cheese, crumbled, to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan to a medium heat, and cook the chopped onions and peppers until soft, and beginning to brown at the edges. 
  • Add the oregano and spices, stir once and then add the tomatoes and stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until reduced to a thick stew. 
  • Use a spoon to make a small dent in the sauce, and crack the eggs into it, cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so. 
  • Garnish with the parsley and feta cheese and serve with bread. 

Pressed Tofu with Cabbage

This is another wonderful recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. It is very satisfying. To press tofu, select a medium to firm tofu, place between two teatowels under a baking tray, and put something heavy on top, such as a tin of beans. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • around 100g pressed tofu (firm)
  • 225g cabbage (works well with brussels sprouts too)
  • 2 fresh hot green chillies
  • 1 punnet of mushrooms
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 slices of fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic, cut into thin strips
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry or shaohsing wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

METHOD:

  • Chop the ingredients as follows: 
    • Cut the tofu into julienne strips 4cm long
    • Core the cabbage and cut into fine strips
    • Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and slice into 1/2 cm slices
    • Cut the spring onions into 4cm lengths, and shred lengthways
    • Cut the green chillies into fine 4cm strips
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in the wok over a  medium/high heat and fry the bean curd for about 10 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. 
  • Add the rest of the oil to the bowl, and add the ginger slices for 20 seconds, pressing into the side of the wok. Then add the garlic and fry for a further 15 seconds. 
  • Add the chillies, mushrooms and spring onions, and stir fry for 30 seconds before adding the shredded cabbage, and frying for a further minute. 
  • Add the wine, then the soy sauce, salt, sugar and sesame oil. Add each ingredient round the edge, and stir, before adding the next. After another minute add the bean-curd. 

The original recipe says to remove the ginger slices beforehand, but I can never find them, which is why I chop it up finely. 

Tagliatelle with St Agur Cream sauce and spinach.

This is an adaptation of a recipe from ‘Vegetarian Pasta’ by Rose Elliot. We had quite a lot of cream and cheese left towards the end of the Christmas break, so this was an excellent way to pull everything together. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 300ml cream 
  • salt, black pepper
  • grated nutmeg
  • 400g tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 125g blue cheese such as St Agur or dolcelatte, chopped
  • 125g spinach leaves, shredded
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

METHOD:

  • Make the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan, and add the onion. Cook very gently for ten minutes with the lid on. The onion should be tender, but not brown. 
  • Add the garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the cream, and leave to simmer very gently for another ten minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. 
  • Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the tagliatelle. When the water boils, add the pasta, give it a stir and leave to cook for around 8 minutes. 
  • A couple of minutes before the pasta is ready, add the cheese and spinach to the sauce, and stir to warm through, and season with pepper. 
  • Drain the cooked pasta and put it back in the warm pan, add a tablespoonful of good olive oil and stir. 
  • Serve in warm dishes with the sauce poured over the top. You can also pour the sauce onto the pasta in the pan, stir, and then serve onto warm dishes. 

Tofu and broccoli

Another outstanding and adaptable recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s book, Eastern Vegetarian Cooking.  Tofu and any of the cabbage family is very good. A top tip from the recipe book, after chopping the broccoli, freshen it in cold water until you need it. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 175ml stock
  • 1 tbs shaohsing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tps soy sauce 
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 spring onion
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 slices of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into strips
  • 225g broccoli florets and stems, all about 4cm long
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • roughly 225g medium tofu, cut into 2cm cubes or thereabouts

METHOD: 

  • Put the cornflour in a cup or small jug, and add 50ml of the stock, and mix before adding the sherry, soy sauce, and sesame oil. 
  • Cut the spring onion into 4cm lengths and then shred lengthways into strips. 
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat, and when it is hot, add the ginger and garlic. Stir and fry for 10 seconds, then add the broccoli and spring onion. Continue to fry for around a minute. 
  • Add the rest of the stock, cover and simmer on medium/low for a minute until the broccoli is hot but still crisp. Lift the broccoli out with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. 
  • Turn the heat to low, and add the tofu, heating it through. Once it is hot, stir the cornflour mixture in the jug, to ensure it is well mixed, and then pour over the tofu. Mix very gently, and then return the broccoli to the pan. Continue to cook on low, stirring very gently, until the sauce is thick and everything is hot.