Category Archives: vegetarian

Bring on the Beans

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The shorter, cooler days of November give me the opportunity to indulge my bean and lentil obsession. Beans and lentils grow where the climate is warm and sunny yet I’m inclined to eat them more often when it’s cold. A bowl of thick, creamy lentils or beans is an inexpensive source of protein which will slowly release energy to fuel your body and comfort your soul.

 

Dal Markhani is a recipe from the north of India, which uses both lentils and beans served in a sauce of fragrant spices. Markhani is a sauce of butter, tomato and cream but in order to slot this recipe into my ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes file I have used coconut milk and vegetable ghee/oil instead of the dairy but feel free to swop it back.

 

The original recipe also uses black urad dal, a type of black mung bean, which takes an overnight soaking and then three or for hours to cook. Healthy as urad dal might be it’s not really in synch with our fast paced lives so they have been dumped in my recipe in favour of black beluga lentils, which are one of the gems of the lentil family. Black, round and robust they cook in 20-25 minutes and keep their shape whilst doing so. No mealy mass even if you forget them and decide to walk the dog whilst cooking.

 

There’s a fast version and a slow version for this dish, both have their merits but I’m going for the fast version and opening a can of beans. The lentils I cook from scratch.

 

Dal Makhani

 

1 large onion

50g vegetable ghee or oil

25g fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

2 cardamom pods

3 cloves

2tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 can tomatoes

½ tsp salt

1 can kidney beans

200g beluga lentils

150mls coconut milk

chopped fresh coriander to serve

 

Put the lentils into a saucepan with three times the volume of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Put aside.

Peel the onion then chop finely.

Heat a medium saucepan then add the vegetable ghee or oil and the onions. Cook on a medium heat without browning until they soften.

Peel and chop the ginger and garlic then stir into the onions. Bash the cardamom pods with the back of a wooden spoon so they crack open then add to the pot together with the cloves. Cook gently for a couple of minutes then add the ground coriander, ground cumin and turmeric. Stir and gently cook for a few minutes more then stir in the tomatoes and salt. Allow the sauce to come to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Drain and rinse the kidney beans.

Add the beans, the beluga lentils and residual cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and most of the coconut milk then taste . It’ll probably need a little more salt. If it’s too thick thin with a little water

Serve with chopped coriander and a swirl of coconut milk to garnish.

Eat with rice or mop up with naan bread.


Aliens in the Vegetable Patch

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Autumn is my favourite time for eating from the garden, there is such an abundance to choose from. The tomatoes in particular seem to have reached peak sweetness, perhaps it’s the long slow ripening on the vine. It is the reason we keep gardening as it’s impossible to buy this flavour.

We have harvested all our apples and potatoes and the beetroots are ready for eating. The beans and courgettes keep making a last ditch effort, everytime that the sun comes out they decide to have another go, so although we’re no longer picking bucketsful there’s plenty for dinner.

We have the best crop of pumpkins – almost ready- after the glorious summer. Pumpkins don’t like to grow below 18c and the prolonged heat this year really boosted them along. We’re delighted as this precious crop will store right through the winter.

The stars of the moment are the cauliflowers, which have appeared like aliens in the brassica patch. All at once! Which means there’s quite some cauliflower eating to be done so it goes without saying that this months recipe is with cauliflower.

I’ve combined the cauliflowers with pumpkin so it could also be a Halloween recipe.

The measurement for the pumpkin and cauliflower are guidelines as obviously cauliflowers don’t grow in half kilo units. They do not have to be exactly 500g, just roughly equal amounts of each. The amount of eggs also depends on the size so use two large eggs or three smaller ones.

I used salted ricotta for these fritters. Pecorino and Parmesan would also be good substitutes and who knows, maybe cheddar would work too but I have not tried this variation.

 

Cauliflower and Pumpkin fritters

 

500g pumpkin

500g cauliflower

2-3 eggs – lightly beaten

200g salted ricotta – grated

a large handful of parsley finely chopped

salt and pepper

oil for frying

 

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.

Peel the pumpkin and remove any seeds then chop into equal sized pieces of roughly 2cm each.

Wash the cauliflower well then cut into florets.

When the water is boiling add the pumpkin, as soon as the water returns to the boil turn the heat to medium /low because if the pumpkin is belting around in the pot the pumpkin will become fluffy. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until a knife will enter without resistance. Lift the pumpkin from the water then leave to drain in a colander.

Return the pot to the heat and add the cauliflower, cook for 4-5 minutes, just enough to take the edge off the rawness.  Drain into a colander and give it a good shake to remove excess water.

Gently mash the pumpkin and season with salt and pepper.

Put the cauliflower florets onto a chopping board and chop to small pieces paying particular attention to the stalks.

Put the pumpkin and cauliflower into a large bowl together with the beaten eggs and grated cheese and mix together with your hands.

Give the mix a good squish and it will hold together. Form the mix into golf ball sized pieces.

Heat a large frying pan and add enough oil to cover the bottom. Gently flatten the fritters and fry on a medium heat, flipping half way, until  golden on both sides.

 

These are best served with some kind of sauce/salsa. We ate ours with chopped tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic but when the tomatoes are gone we’ll move onto avocado salsa, yoghurt sauce or mayo.

 

 


Pasta Peas

On a recent holiday,  myself and my cycle buddy, travelled from South Tyrol, the land of Apfel Strudel and ice blue rivers, down to the sea.

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At the beginning, even though we were in Italy the language spoken was German, the trees and houses were alpine and the vegetables growing were small. As we travelled down toward the sea the language was Italian, the beautiful old cities oozed history and the vegetables increased in size enormously.

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Cycling is a great way to peep over fences and the vegetable gardens were a pretty picture. There were pristine rows of courgettes, peas, beans, salads and not a weed in sight – unlike our large unruly garden.

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I ate this month’s dish at a trattoria in Soave. It was on the lunch menu as ‘lasagnetti di piselli’ which I thought was going to be a little lasagne with peas. I got the pea bit right but the lasagnetti was in fact freshly made ribbon pasta. Totally simple but delicious.

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Now is the time to rush from the garden to the kitchen with freshly grown peas if you can find some. If you don’t have fresh peas, frozen ones are a brilliant substitute, they actually taste better than old pod   peas.

As there are so few ingredients involved in making this dish the quality is very important. Buy a good brand of pasta and use a tasty extra virgin olive oil.

Peas and Tagliatelle

1 small onion

75mls extra virgin olive oil

50g butter – diced

350g podded or frozen peas

1 glass white wine or water

100g grated Parmesan or Pecorino

300g tagliatelle – or gluten free pasta

 

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a pan and add a little olive oil and the chopped onion. Cook on a medium heat until the onion softens then add the peas, salt and pepper and a glass of white wine or water. Cook for 5 minutes if you’re using frozen peas, 8 minutes if the peas are fresh. Puree half the peas using a stick blender or food processor then put back in the pan with the peas.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan, with plenty of water and a big spoonful of salt, according to the instructions on the packet. Be careful not to overcook. Put a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water onto the peas then drain the pasta. I always drain my pasta over the serving bowl to heat it up, this way the past doesn’t cool too quickly, Reheat the peas, add the butter cubes and give it a swirl. Put the pasta and peas in the serving dish and toss together.

Serve with olive oil to drizzle over and plenty of grated Parmesan or pecorino.

Ready to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chilli Kale

I can happily munch away at bowls of stir fried chilli kale.

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It’s delicious  on the side of a dinner or piled on top. Last night I made a risotto with the last of the tomatoes and borlotti beans and piled some chilli kale on top.

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We grow a few different kinds of kale. My favourites are the Asparagus kale and Raggedy Jack or Red Russian as it’s also known. Both of these kales are more tender than curly kale or the more fashionable Cavalo de Nero but whatever you have got will work with the recipe below. Just cook a little longer if you are using curly or cavalo.

It’s quite a loose recipe – you need a big handful of kale for each serving as it cooks down considerably. Wash the kale, strip the central stem from each leaf then roll a few leaves together and cut finely.

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Heat a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom and then add half teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and a about a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.

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Keep the heat low whilst the flakes, seeds and garlic gently flavour the oil then raise the heat and stir in the kale. You might have to add the kale  in two stages, letting the first batch wilt down before adding the second. Keep stirring the kale , season with a little salt and after a few minutes add couple of table spoons of water. The steam created will help the kale to cook.

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Test for doneness. If you think the kale’s still too coarse add another couple of tablespoons of water and repeat the process then serve with whatever you’re having.

Absolutely yummy!

 


Up the Pumpkins!

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We went on holiday for ten days and when we got back I could have sworn the grass had grown by 10 inches! As always in this beautiful fertile island the grass keeps growing. The drop in temperature doesn’t mean that everything else is as keen to keep growing though. The spinach and chard are now on a go-slow and even the kale production has slowed down. Mind you they all get picked so hard for the kitchen at the shop that it’s hardly surprising that they need a break.

Luckily the pumpkins are ready to harvest. We grow the Crown Prince and Queensland Blue varieties.. They aren’t huge this year but they’re not going to grow any more now – in fact pumpkins don’t like the temperature to be below 18c so it’s a wonder that they grow at all.

For us it is a precious crop. Pumpkins store very well and are very versatile, we make them into pies, soups, cakes, hummus, curries, with pasta, pilafs…. The options are endless.

They also have many nutritional benefits, being high in antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.

Each 100g of pumpkin provides 26 calories, no saturated fat or cholesterol, plenty of vitamin A – great for eyesight, vitamin C and B

So all in all it’s a great vegetable to include in your diet.

It’s delicious simply roasted as a side vegetable but it’s also the beginning part of many recipes, which transform it into something more substantial.

To celebrate the pumpkin harvest and with Halloween arriving at the end of this month here’s a pumpkin recipe. This recipe for filo pie is inspired by our recent holiday in Greece where the bakers are the masters of filo pies.

Filo is very easy to use. Just go to your local shop or supermarket and pick up a packet and follow the instructions below. Don’t worry if it breaks up a bit , just patch it up. It’s quite forgiving.

This recipe is for the dense orange flesh type pumpkin. Halloween pumpkins are too watery for this recipe so if you can’t find the hard skinned blue/grey variety it’s best to substitute a butternut squash.

 

Pumpkin Filo Pie

 

750g pumpkin flesh

2 onions

200g feta cheese

2 eggs

half tsp ground cinnamon

about 200mls olive oil

salt and pepper

a packet of filo pastry – defrosted

 

Pre heat the oven to 180c.

Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into roughly 2cm cubes. Put the pumpkin onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle over the cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. It doesn’t need to brown nor go crispy. Leave aside to cool .

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Peel and chop the onions. Sautee gently in a little olive oil, until they soften and becomes translucent.

Crumble the feta onto the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together.

Stir in the cooked pumpkin and onion, giving it a bit of a mash as you go. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Oil a baking tray that is 20cm x 30xm and has about a 5cm rim. If you don’t have one of these try a large cake tin.

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Open the packet of filo and carefully unroll it. Take the first sheet and lay it in the tin leaving the excess to hang over the edge of the tin. Brush with olive oil. Turn the tin and lay the next sheet so that the overhang is on the other side.

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Brush with oil Repeat this 3 times – there will now be 6 layers of filo.

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Spread the pumpkin mix over the filo then cover with 4-5 sheets on top, brushing with olive oil between each sheet and tucking in some of the overhang as you go .

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This will make rough parcel. Brush the top with olive oil. Score the top of the pie down the middle with a sharp knife then cut each half into 4. This will ensure the tart can be sliced once baked.

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Cook in a pre-heated oven 180c for 40- 60 minutes or until golden on top. Allow to cool for fifteen minutes before eating..

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Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.

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The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.

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Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.

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We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.

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The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.

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The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.

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Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper

water

a handful of parsley

 

Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!

 

 

 


The Blackberries are Back!

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This recipe is a good excuse to go for a walk. The hedgerows are full of ripening blackberries, here in West Cork

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I have been traipsing around with my little helper trying to fill a little bucket with blackberries so that we can make blackberry and apple muffins. Each day there are more ripe blackberries than the day before and we are just getting to the stage where we find enough berries to actually arrive home with some in the bucket.

I have two good tips if you’re in a position to go picking. One is to go armed with a dock leaf as there seem to be as many blasted nettles as blackberries and the other is to feed the little helpers a snack before setting out. This definitely ups the odds of arriving home with berries in the bucket.

It’s apple time here too and we have a bumper harvest of apples this year so I have been playing with recipes to combine the two.

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One of the most successful is this ancient recipe that our neighbour cut out of a magazine and gave to my Mum when I was little. It’s so ancient that the original recipe is in pounds and ounces and uses margarine which very few people bake with anymore.

It’s one of those recipes where you don’t need many ingredients nor do you have to do a lot to make the cake. It doesn’t even need any machinery although a food processor does speed things up.

I’ve wiggled the measurements, exchanged butter for the margarine and added in some blackberries. The result got scoffed which is always a good sign!

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Blackberry and Apple Cake

 

450g cooking apples

150g blackberries

300g flour

1tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

200g butter – diced

125g caster sugar

3 eggs

 

 

Pre heat the oven 180c

Prepare a 24cm spring form cake tin. Line the base with parchment paper

Weigh out the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Put into a big bowl or a food processor and add the cubed butter.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips or pulse buzz in the food processor until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. If you have used a processor now is the time to tip the mix into a bowl.

Peel and core the apples and cut into a small dice. Mix the apples and blackberries gently through the flour mix.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk together then pour into the big bowl and gently mix everything together with a metal spoon. Do not overmix. Tip into the prepared tin and gently even out the top.

Bake for 50 minutes. Poke a sharp knife into the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is ready. If the knife is sticky cook for another five minutes and try again.

Dredge the top of the cake with caster sugar whilst it is still hot.

Delicious, and the cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box.