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. 

 

Spiced lamb heart stew

This recipe is probably not that authentic, but it is based on a US recipe for a Moroccan stew. I have adapted it to use locally available ingredients and metric measures. I feel very strongly that if we are to eat meat at all, it should be local, and there should be no waste. This ‘nose to tail’ approach covers ingredients that are not commonly available in supermarkets, but can be acquired locally, before they are discarded.

Before you start, be aware that this recipe requires marinating overnight, and a slow cook the next day, so not a quick cook. I managed to set the oven onto automatic, so it was ready when I came home. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 lamb hearts
  • 100ml good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 100g sliced dried apricots
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thickly
  • 50g chopped black olives
  • 500ml stock
  • 4 large carrots (or squash or pumpkin or sweet potato) in 1 inch chunks

METHOD:

  • Prepare the hearts. cut away the coronary arteries around the top of the heart, as well as the auricles (small flaps at the top) and then cut the muscle into 1 inch chunks, or as close as possible. Put them in a sealable container and add the marinade ingredients as you prepare them. 
  • Grind the fennel seed in a mortar and pestle, and add this to the lamb hearts along with the cumin, coriander and turmeric.
  • Add the grated ginger, crushed garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Mix well together. Seal the container and put it in the fridge overnight.
  • The next day, slice the onions into thick slices. Fry in olive oil, over a low heat, for around ten minutes, until soft and brown, and transfer to a casserole dish. 
  • Remove the meat from the marinade, and fry in the same pan to brown it, and then add it to the casserole dish. 
  • Add the vegetables, stock, the marinade, cinnamon stick and bay leaves to the pan, and bring this to a simmer, check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Cover and cook at 180C for 2 hours. Remove the cover for the second hour, to reduce the gravy a little. 
  • I garnished this with chopped parsley and coriander. 

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. 

 

Steak and Kidney Pie

We had a really good bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, and when I googled what we should eat with it, the answer was steak and kidney pie. I made this, and it was delicious. The basic recipe is in Maw Broon’s cookbook

INGREDIENTS:

  • 375g Bells ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 2 sheep’s kidneys
  • Approx 150g mushrooms, roughly chopped. 
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 450g steak
  • A little water
  • Milk or beaten egg to glaze

METHOD:

  • Turn the oven to 220C
  • Dice the steak into large chunks. Peel the kidneys of their membrane, and cut out the central fibrous tissue. Coat the meat in seasoned flour. 
  • Fry the onion gently in the butter until translucent, for around five minutes. 
  • Add the mushrooms, and continue to fry gently for another three to five minutes. 
  • Mix in the meat, and fill the pie dish with the mixture. The dish should be fairly full. Add a little water. 
  • I needed to fold the rolled pastry in half, and then gave it a gentle roll to ensure it was just a shade larger than my dish. Wet the edge of the pie dish and trim a strip of pastry, and press this onto the wetted edge of the pie dish. Cover the pie filling with the pastry, pierce a few holes to let steam out, and decorate as you wish. 
  • Glaze the pastry with egg or milk. 
  • Cook in a hot oven, 220C until the pastry is golden, and then turn the heat down to 180C and cook for a further hour and a half. 

We had mashed potatoes and garlic cabbage with this. 

 

Dear Francesca

I bought this book, ‘Dear Francesca‘  for myself for Christmas, along with a bag of cooking essentials from Valvona and Crolla, an Italian shop in Leith Walk in Edinburgh. Valvona and Crolla has been an institution in Edinburgh since 1934, and when I was a student there in the 1980s, no picnic was acceptably provisioned until we bought something there. The shop is fabulous, long and with high ceilings, hung with hams and with shelves loaded with carefully chosen produce. 

I was delighted when they opened a small cafe at the back, and delighted again when they started selling their stock online. I’m now delighted a third time with this book. 

Written by Mary Contini, from one of the many Scottish Italian families in Edinburgh, this book tells the stories of the families that came from impoverished areas of rural Italy, from the countryside near Rome. They bought with them a direct knowledge of the ingredients they had produced from the land, and the recipes that can be made from them. They changed the food culture in Scotland. 

There are ice-cream parlours, fish and chip shops, delicatessens and restaurants, linked together from that period. A special treat when we went to visit my grandparents, was to call at Luca’s ice-cream shop in Musselburgh. All round Scotland, Italian families brought their values – use fresh local ingredients, waste nothing, honour tradition and quality, cook with style. 

The book is not a classical recipe book, more of a history and demonstration of regional food. Mary Contini successfully weaves together the family stories, the history of Italians in Edinburgh, the food and the recipes. Many of the ingredients called for in the book are in the Valvona and Crolla store cupboard hamper. 

I’ve tried out several recipes from the book, divine, simple and authentic. Her descriptive language for cooking techniques has taught me more than most. A good gift to myself and a good gift to others. 

 

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. 

Moro, the cookbook

I was excited when this book was published, a collection of recipes from Spain, North Africa and the Levant. The ingredients are simple, and the recipes are easy to follow. The flavours are outstanding. 

The story behind Moro, the recipe book is a tale of two people both called Sam, a husband and wife team who own Moro restaurant in London. They were already in love and inspired by Moorish influences on the food of Spain and the Mediterranean, so when they married, they took a camper-van and went on a food adventure, researching techniques, flavours, and the culture that brings the food to the table. 

In 1997, they opened their first restaurant in London, and in 2010 they opened their first tapas bar, Morito. They also have a news page on their website that occasionally showcases other recipes. There are other recipe books as well, since this first one: Casa Moro, Moro East and Morito. 

I was so excited to visit, can’t remember the year, but I can remember that I had their outstanding Seville Orange Tart. There are several of their recipes on this site from the first book, but you’ll just have to get your own copy. 

Jamie Oliver – The Naked Chef

This is the first recipe book that Jamie Oliver released, the cover has him looking fresh-faced and fashionable. I hadn’t seen the television programmes, but he was everywhere, it was hard not to be aware of the impression he was making at the time. The naked recipes aimed to strip food back to the basics of technique, good ingredients, and a twist of modernity. 

Unfortunately, he rather put my back up. I can’t work out exactly why. You don’t have to be young and trendy to cook, just like you don’t have to be a man or a woman, old or young. Anyway, I got over that little hurdle and tried out the recipes. The next hurdle is that most of the delicious fresh ingredients that he specifies are not available in the co-op, or have to be transported for miles and miles, so they are not as fresh or as fancy. 

The saving grace is, however, that if you do find a recipe in the book for which you can assemble the ingredients, the food is really delicious, and the directions are easy to follow. I haven’t got rid of the book, and I’m using it a little more. 

If you want to see what the hype was all about, and why I still have the book, it is available second-hand if you google, or available new here:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-naked-chef/jamie-oliver/9780141042954