Monday, 28 June 2010

Magazine Meal 3

The last meal in my week of magazine testing - what to choose...what to choose?

Torn between going all out with an indulgent and time-consuming recipe or a light meal thrown together in a jiffy (leaving time to enjoy what was left of the evening sun) I opted for a recipe from July's Weight Watchers Magazine that was sin-free, simple to prepare but also promised on flavour; result!

The recipe under scrutiny this time was actually from a little book entitled 'Summer Sizzlers' given away with the magazine; also included in the book were ricotta stuffed mushrooms, bulgar wheat pilaff and broad bean and leek tortilla, to name but 3.

Chilli Corn Fritters from 'Summer Sizzlers' courtesy of Weight Watchers
(Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main)

50g polenta
200g sweetcorn (I used frozen and defrosted them before use)
1/2 - 1 tsp crushed chillies
3 tbl sp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbl sp thai green curry paste
1 tbl sp fish sauce (I used wheat free tamari instead)
1 egg
low fat cooking spray

1. Place all the ingredients except the low fat spray in a bowl, and combine well. The mixture will be quite runny (adjust the amount of chillies used depending on how spicy you like your food).
2. Spray a non-stick frying pan with the low fat cooking spray and heat to a medium temperature. Use your hands to form the corn mixture into eight balls and flatten into cake shapes.
3. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden. You may find this easier to do in two batches. Serve immediately.

I served the fritters with broccoli stir fried in vegetable oil with slithers of garlic and a few crushed chilli flakes. For a more substantial meal cooked brown rice could also be added to the pan with the broccoli for a tasty side dish.

Now, you do have to watch out with some thai curry pastes as many contain fish sauce and/or shrimp paste, as standard. I used Suree Brand Thai Yellow Curry Paste from my local deli but have also found similar veggie pastes in major supermarkets...just be sure to read the label or even make your own if you have the time and energy after a day at work.

The fritters were spiced to the point of lip-tingling but balanced delightfully with the sweet 'pop' of the corn kernels; the salty kick of the tamari provided a needed savory note that made these little bites addictive. It was certainly a good thing that the entire batch was a mere 8 (Weight Watchers) points but truly a bad thing that I had to share them!

I hope that from this post and the two that preceded it you can see that there are some damn good eats to be had out there on the magazine stands of your local shop or supermarket and that they can be slotted into the weekday just as easily as a bowl of pasta or cheese on toast but with a much higher return!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Mazagine Meal 2

How to follow the aubergine....hmm....quite a daunting prospect.

After trawling through the 6 other magazines I've acquired this past couple of weeks I settled on a dish by 'all year round summer' guy - Bill Granger.

The recipe, Spinach, Watercress and Parmesan Cake came courtesy of a feature in July's Sainsbury's Magazine entitled 'Sunny Delights' so was an absolute must given the high temperatures, light evenings and all round holiday vibe we have been enjoying lately in the UK; had we the time I would have loved to pack it in a picnic basket with some crusty bread, chilled rose and a blanket. (Also in the feature was a recipe for baked eggs with three cheeses and tomato salad which looked tasty..another time maybe. It did, however, inspire the tomato and black olive salad below).

The 'cake' was actually a take on a frittata in that it relied on eggs and milk to set the mixture which was later cut into wedges and enjoyed with two salads; one, a simple selection of green leaves and the other, a tomato and black olive salad.


Spinach, Watercress and Parmesan Cake by Bill Granger

1 tbl sp olive oil
15g butter plus extra for greasing
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
100g young leaf spinach
1 x 75g bag watercress, tough stems removed
a whole nutmeg, for grating
500ml milk
6 large eggs
50g parmesan
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 180c, fan 160c, gas 4. Heat the oil and butter in a pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and cook gently until soft; about 10 mins.
2. Butter the inside of a round ovenproof dish, about 25x6cm deep. Add the greens to the leeks and season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Cover and leave to wilt for five minutes. Using tongs, remove the leek and greens from the pan and put in a food processor. Reduce the liquid in the pan to 1 tablespoon and add to the greens. Then add the milk and eggs and blend until almost smooth. Pour into the greased dish and scatter with parmesan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.


I swapped the leeks for an onion and few celery stalks (plus inner leaves) as I had them handy already and figured they would still offer the oniony/herbal hit provided by using the green and white parts of leeks.

I also forewent the parmesan in exchange for organic British cheddar as vegetarian parmesan is now only available sporadically in my local supermarket - much to my annoyance. The cheddar worked very well, though.

When transferring the wilted leaves to the food processor (step 2 of the recipe) there was no liquid left in the pan to reduce, therefore, this stage was not necessary to me in my kitchen.

The final product was light as air due to the ingredients being whizzed in the food processor which, incidentally, allowed the flavours from the vegetables and spice to permeate throughout the entire dish making the frittata intensely flavoured with iron rich leaves and mellow spicy nutmeg.

Tomato and Black Olive Salad
Serves 2

2 large plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
100g dry black olives, roughly chopped
Sunblush tomatoes (approx 8 quarters), roughly chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbl sp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl sp red wine vinegar
maldon salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix thoroughly, season to taste. Adjust seasoning and oil/vinegar ratio according to personal preference. Leave to sit at room temperature for at least an hour to allow all the flavours to mingle and settle in.

The tomato salad gave balance to the soft, milky frittata with the acidity of the British tomatoes and red wine vinegar ensuring any richness was promptly cut through without removing any of the comfort factor.

This cake will definitely be called upon again as part of light brunch on a lazy Sunday or served cold straight from a picnic basket - a cake by name but virtuous by nature...perfect!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Magazine Meal 1

Its always a 'good idea at the time' scenario when you set yourself a task or goal on a Sunday/Monday; youre feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new week of work and play in equal measure or, in my case, testing vegetarian recipes from June-Julys foodie mags.....

Upon arriving home on Tuesday evening after a day that can only be decribed as 99.99% hard graft and 0.01% play my intentions were geared more to beans on toast - and that was at a push - than roasted aubergines with a buttermilk sauce, however, my desire to write this post compounded with my need for something delicious to soothe my exhausted body and mind perked me up somewhat.

As it turns out this recipe was almost as simple as beans on toast but with results above and beyond.

Aubergines with Buttermilk Sauce by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4 as a starter - or 2 as a main course.

2 large and long aubergines
80ml olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme (I couldnt get any so used 1 tsp dry thyme)
1 pomegranate
1 tsp za'atar spice blend
maldon sea salt
black pepper

For the sauce:
140ml buttermilk
100g greek yogurt
1 1/2 tblsp olive oil plus a little drizzle to finish
1 small garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Cut the aubergines in half lenghtways, cutting straight through the stalk. Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of the aubergine half, without cutting through the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

2. Place the aubergine halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Brush them with the olive oil - keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the thyme and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 mins, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavoursome and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

3. Meanwhile, cut the pomegranate in two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of membrane.

4. For the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients, taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed. To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the aubergine halves without covering the stalks (they are just for decoration). Sprinkle za'atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.

As I had no thyme I sprinkled chopped fresh mint to echo the middle eastern vibe of this dish...coriander or parsley would also be great.

I have to confess that I was concerned the dish would be overly rich and creamy for my citrus and spice loving palate with the densely oiled aubergine and creamy sauce; boy was I was worng!

The aubergine was not at all greasy but instead lucious and tender. The garlic spiked sauce was complimented beautifully with pomegranate seeds that literally burst little intervals of perfumed fruitiness into the mix. The addition if the za'atar seasoning with its lemony tang courtesy of the ground sumac, to name but a few of the spices included in this unique blend, was inspired.

Now, za'atar is not as widely available as it should be and my own pot came from Dean & Deluca on a recent trip to Manhatten. Now I am not suggesting you fly around the world for this but it is worth tracking some down online, not only for this recipe but to be sprinkled on hummous topped toasted bread or mixed with olive oil to dress tomato, cucumber and parsley salads as part of a mezze type affair. The buttermilk sauce could also serve as a stand alone dip or the whole recipe (with the cooked flesh scooped out of the aubergine and the pomegranate omitted) plonked into a blender and whizzed up ready to be smeared on hot toast or gobbled up with some flat bread as a tribute to baba ganoush. This is what makes this recipe a new favourite, it has inspired me to create a handful of other recipes from its basic idea...I could go on.

I am pretty sure I have made myself clear now and I urge everyone to try it whilst I go about hunting down more recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi.

My husband agreed and, as we reclined on the sofa, was rubbing his hands together in anticipation for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Magazine Meals

Those that know me will not be shocked to learn that I ADORE food and lifestyle the point where I will automatically go to the latter pages of all non-food related mags in search of the recipes, food news...anything!
It's been the same since I was old enough to read and its gotten worse now that we live in a world obsessed with TV chefs, Come Dine With Me and, now uber trendy, dinner parties (think Jo Wood's country pad with dinner guests such as Kate Moss et al lingering over bowls locally-grown-watercress-soup).
It's got a lot to do with the recession nibbling away at everyone's bank accounts and desire to leave the house. Either way, the market is full of these magazines now and I love everyone of them!
So in tribute to these inspired and thoughtful magazines I have decided to cook 3 of my 7 suppers this week from 3 different magazines..the first being this evening's supper courtesy of July's Cook Vegetarian (as mentioned in my previous blogs for bringing the fabulous apple and cinnamon muffins to my attention).
The recipe - Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce (offered by Yotam Ottolenghi; vegetarian columnist for The Guardian) which I intend to serve with a simple green salad and granary bread from a gorgeous little bakery near my office.
I'll let you know I how get on....

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Fathers Day Feast

Sunday was Fathers Day and, therefore, a great excuse for me to flex my creative foodie muscle and get to work making gifts and treats.
This always involves an hour or so pouring over my veggie (and non-veggie I might add) cookbooks, magazines, favourite websites and usually a show or two on the Good Food channel on Sky...all in the name of research, of course!
After my extensive, selfless 'research' I settled on wholemeal apple and cinnamon muffins for 2 reasons:
1. Dad's a diabetic so the wholemeal flour is better for him as is the natural sweetness from the apple.
2. I make a very similar version of the muffins each Christmas for the hugely traditional family breakfast where we have them warm with butter and jams...and a few bottles of fizz to keep everything festive! I wanted to evoke happy memories for my dad (and indeed myself) and food has a truly magical way of doing this.
The recipe came courtesy of July's issue of Cook Vegetarian (some amazing recipes in there this month...see future blogs for details!).

Muffin Recipe:

125g self raising flour
50g wholemeal flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (I used 2 as my dad and I are cinnamon freaks!)
75g caster sugar
100g oats (reserve a tbl sp for sprinkling)
2 eggs

200ml milk
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
75g butter, melted
1 tbl sp demerara sugar

(The recipe also used 1 bramley apple peeled, cored and finely diced making them the Apple and Cinnamon Muffins they claimed to be but I wanted to do something more as this was a gift afterall)

I made the basic muffin batter by sifting the flours, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and then adding the caster sugar and oats. The dry mixture.

The eggs and milk were then beat into a separate bowl and the banana and butter added. The wet mixture.

The wet mixture was then added to the dry mixture and the two folded sure not to overmix or they will be tough and bread-like...not desirable in a fluffy muffin!

Most of the advice in the first points came courtesy of the magazine but I then went about implementing the twist..I distributed the batter between 3 bowls and to one I added 1/4 of diced a apple, to another a handful of roughly chopped dried sour cherries and 2 tbl sp dessicated coconut and to the final bowl a selection of roughly chopped and crushed nuts (brazil, almond, pecan and walnut etc) making sure to thoroughly combine the ingredients in each bowl whilst avoiding overmixing...

The batters were then spooned into a muffin tin lined with 12 muffin cases (4 per batter), a sprinkling of oats and demerara over each one and then baked in a preheated 200C oven for 15-20 mins. (Mine took 18 mins in total but all ovens vary so keep an eye on them and take them out when they look golden and feel firm).

It's worth mentioning that the muffins will continue to firm up after you take them out so, if they feel a little tender or the bottom of them feels soft it may be best to take them out and let them cool. I found this out a few years back when making labour intensive coconut muffins; after cooking them for the suggested time I kept prodding and putting them back in the oven until they felt totally firm and, as a result, was left with dense, bready muffins and I was heartbroken given the time and money I'd spent!

Once cooled and decidedly un-breadlike (I can now confidently recommend this recipe) they were placed into a gift bag; they did look and smell the business!

I reserved a few for hubby and I to enjoy with a milky coffee that evening and a spreading of peanut butter for breakfast...delish!

Also on my list was what to have for lunch that day; my husband and I being the only vegetarians. So, after a midweek phone chat with my mum, we settled on homemade pizza - a crowd role was that of bread base maker. I borrowed a basic recipe from Jamie Oliver:

800g strong bread flour
200g fine ground semolina flour or bread flour
1 level tbl sp fine sea salt
2x7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tbl sp golden caster sugar
approx. 650ml tepid water

(this made 8 medium-sized thin bases)

I did, however, replace the white bread flour with brown bread does give a different taste and texture of that in white pizza dough - less soft and elastic - but if you only eat brown bread anyway its not a big shock plus this lower GI option was more friendly to Dad's health...another fathers day gift in my eyes!

My folks agreed to supply a medley of toppings such as oregano infused tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichokes - chargrilled and steeped in garlic oil, olives, capers and basil - I had to draw the line at pineapple...although pinenuts can be sensational when lightly toasted and used with basil, garlic oil and veggie parmesan (using non-animal rennet) - a kind of deconstruct pesto pizza!

I figured we could make an activity of it - ie make your own plus I was intrigued as to what my family would put on their own pizzas, the composition, ratio of cheese to tomato sauce etc...I guess I'm weird like that but the cooking and eating habits of others can speak volumes about them - just take a look at someone else's trolly in the supermarket, as I do, and you'll know what I mean.

The pizzas were served with a simple salad of British rocket, watercress and peashoots along with thick slices of beef tomato all doused in chilli oil and aged balsamic and sprinkled (a little too liberally some might say) with salt and freshly ground black pepper...a must on a pizza!

The muffins and pizzas went down a storm with all dad has since text me using the word 'magnificent' whilst scoffing his 3rd muffin of the day - cheers Dad!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Anniversary Celebrations

Wednesday was my 1st wedding anniversary so, with somewhat modest amounts of money, time and energy the husband and I set about having a thrill filled, romantic nostalgia fest.

I can almost guarantee that in the lead up to the evening we each had only one thing on our minds..however, that one thing was different for each of us.

Without overstepping the mark by explaining what I think my husband was after I will tell you the trail of my thoughts - what were we going to cook/eat/order/drink??

For me, the food when eating out generally has to cover 4 bases - is it veggie, is it reasonably priced, how many points is in it (weight watchers out there will know what I mean here) and has it been made with love and attention? Now, the latter seems a little hokey I know, but if the food has been prepared with the consideration of a robot...I swear you can taste can taste it in the complete absence of seasoning, seasonality and authenticity. I'm no food snob but if you're going to offer me a salad of balsamic beets, goats cheese, walnuts and radicchio please don't plonk down a plate of flaccid mixed leaves, overcooked and under balsamic'd beets, 2 walnuts and a suspicion of goats cheese...your not only mugging me but you're mugging yourself!

With my above thoughts at the forefront of my mind we (I) had already decided we were not eating out which was handy as the majority our bank balance had recently been converted to euros and frittered away on churros and hot chocolate (recipe to follow), sangria, inexpensive yet quality wine and food magazines - we found a shop that stocked UK magazines and I was delighted to be able to get my fix of foodie journalism whilst lying on the beach!

So, what to eat? Firstly, I'm a gal who likes fizz...prosecco, jugs of asti with lime juice, champagne, we grabbed 2 bottles of quarter decent prosecco to accompany a selection of healthy, light and sensual nibbles to be eaten lingeringly with our fingers in an intimate setting of pillows, incence and candlelight...

Our affectionately named 'marriage mezze' included bowls full of Greek kalamata dry olives with their addictive salty/metallic taste that ensures the prosecco drinking is effortless! Cherry tomatoes on the vine - grown in the UK but with the taste of the Med. Cous cous with herbs and roasted vege dressed simply with olive oil and lemon. Sweet Potato and Harissa dip for a sweet, spicy kick which, when coupled with pitta breads split in half, sprayed with oil, sprinkled modestly with sea salt and paprika and baked until golden was the bees knees...the pitta chips also came in handy for shovelling (sensually of course!) mouthfuls of the cous cous.

And pud...

Cheesecake style cream - light cream cheese, greek yogurt, icing sugar, vanilla extract and a smidge of lemon to lift it.

And to dip....cherries, strawberries, really dark chocolate and our fingers...some ginger/oaty biccies would have gone down a treat had I had some lying around.

Sat together on a rug in our living room a glass of wine in one hand, a morsel in the other and matching glazed and bloodshot eyes we both began the battle not to yawn or appear anything but still 100% captivated with one another...when, really...I wanted a paneer and spinach curry mopped up with a floury chapati whilst I slobbed about in my leggings with no make up on watching bad TV...and my my poor hubby? He simply wanted to close his eyes.

But we persisted, such was our persistence that we ran out of booze and had to walk hand in hand to the local shop to buy more..whilst there and giddy from the fizz and lack of substantial food, I decided ice-cream and chocolate were my wisdom!

When we got back we flopped on the sofa; he drank the wine, I scoffed the chocolate to the point of regret/nausea and we both passed out! Happy Anniversary!

The cold light of the next morning provided ever-infuriating-always-too-late hindsight and, whilst powerwalking off the chocolate and wine, I decided that nibbles are all well and good at the weekend over cocktails with pals but that on a weekday night we needed and deserved that little bit more after long hours at work and hectic schedules and that wedding anniversary toasting material should be CHAMPAGNE ONLY (no corner shop fizz)!

So.....despite our efforts, we have rebooked our anniversary celebrations for 2nd July aka payday and the start of the weekend so we can enjoy ourselves with a little more cash and, more importantly, a little more time! And, whilst my darling otherhalf now forgets about it for the next 2 weeks, I will obsess about where and what we will eat using my mental checklist all the while hoping the waiter does'nt roll his/her eyes or huff when I ask if the risotto has been made with vegetable stock!

Either way we will be going out to eat which can be a veggie (and a weight and cost conscious) person's this space...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Hey all you veggies/veggie admirers out there (ha!)..

I am neither a professional writer or cook...I am simply a vegetarian (not vegan) woman who enjoys great food and is enthusiastic about nutrition, exercising the body, mind and soul, eating seasonally where possible - I WILL have an allotment once I learn how to pot a plant...I'm learning- and obsessed with all things food; be it reading, talking or writing about it in my little notebook - until now I guess!

When telling me what they got up to at the weekend, friends will casually say 'oh we had a chilled one, stopped at a pub for lunch then some shopping then...' this is where I cut them off with a 'whoa whoa...what did you eat at the pub?' to which they advise that it was just a sandwich or something but I want to know 'what bread, was there a spread of mayo, mustard, pickle'...oh and my fave 'what was the veggie selection like?'

Being a self confessed 'foodie' often conflicts with being a vegetarian when it comes to handing the cooking/feeding control to friends, restaurants, family, holiday destinations etc, despite their good intentions; ie the lovely spanish waiter (just got back from my holiday...hence the 'Hola!') who advised that the broadbean tapas I enquired about had 'only little chorizo' in it - guess its the med's version of 'Nanna' on the Royal Family asking 'can she have wafer thin ham?' - as I said, good intentions but they dont fill my belly or have me getting all misty eyed over aubergines dripping in peppery olive oil or artichokes with charred edges and smushy (its a word) textures!

So, I often end up feeling hungry and unsated or, worse, guilty! 'Guilty!?' you ask...I defy anyone not to get a lump in their throat when the proud waiter's face drops and heart sinks as you ask 'are the croquettes vegetarian' and he replies...'no, with ham' would be tough to decide who was most disappointed - me or him. I should have maybe considered that answer back in Spain when having eaten my fill of goats cheese and not much else (think word got round I was a veggie and they ordered more in!) and exceeded my fill of Rioja I stumbled to bed feeling woozy and unsatisfied wondering what the hell I would eat for the next week...suffice to say I managed...salad of strawberries, melon, dates, lettuce and marie rose sauce anyone?? no??...when I say managed I mean found a delicious rose rioja and lots of magazines...luckily I enjoy Yoga which calmed me down and stopped me slapping the next person to offer me my 3000th avocado salad of the holiday!

If youre still in doubt of how I coped, get this, we landed at 2pm, I'd got our luggage, gone through security, done a food shop, made homemade watercress soup and wholemeal margarita pizzas and scoffed the lot by 7pm...I'm still sorting through the unpacking and washing but, boy, the pizza was good!

Indeed, holidays are tough...and Ive not scratched the surface yet...think cold baked beans with a cold falafal with the texture of a bullet and plain rice, pasta AND cous cous offered as a veggie mezze in Cyprus (I'm serious Dr Atkin would NOT be pleased!) or basically no veggie option at all at a much anticipated trip to Les Halles in Manhatten (Chef Bourdain does state in his hugely entertaining - and I'm being genuine here...this guys cool - 'A Cooks Tour' book that veggies are ' the enemy of everything that is good and decent in the human spirit' still love ya Tony and FYI your french onion soup was delish once I vegetarianised it...thanks for your help!) so, as usual I ended up drunk and hungry! Wine was good though and its a great place to visit...a little piece of Paris on Park Avenue!

So there you have it, a few of my many musings on the trials and tribulations of eating out abroad as a veggie/food lover/health conscious gal!!

Oh and Ive got much more where that came from...eating out on your own turf, mums for sunday lunch, friends for bbqs etc etc but for another time, Ive taken enough of your day for now, get back to work!! ;)

I'll post findings of exciting recipes, restaurants, books and magazines along the way for your perusal...

Be back soon xx