28 July 2011

Tomato Pasta Sauce with Lotsa Secret Veggies (aka Cheeky Sneaky Sauce)

I'm not a snob. Right? But sometimes I am.

I'm a food snob. I definitely turn my nose up at pre-packaged food. Especially pasta sauce, because (come to find out), it's not hard or expensive to make your own. And, bonus, it's delicious and so much healthier. Come on! Saving money is a no-brainer, here. So being snobbish about pasta sauce is actually saving me money and making me healthier. That's like closed-loop, circular, inverted snobbishness. Snobbishness with its own life force? Um, maybe?

Then there's that other kind of food snob. The one who won't eat vegetables. What's that about? Either you're a 3-year-old or you're, y'know, acting like one. I'm not gonna lie. You're dumb. I think I can get away with saying that since anyone who disagrees with me is probably not reading a vegetarian food blog. But if you have these people in your life - children, 30-year-old children (men) - then this sauce is totally for you. The veg is all there, but no one would ever know -- you can't see them, and it just tastes like a basic pasta sauce. Serve it up and watch in glee as those suckers eat more veg in one sitting than they've had in a week.

This is actually really easy. Probably the most time-consuming part is the chopping, but that's really no biggie. I always thought making a super-good, versatile, perfect sauce would be much more difficult than this, but it's basically down to four easy steps:

That's it. You should make a double or triple batch and jar it up to save for a rainy day. I gave some away, too, as part of a nice little homemade housewarming gift. Or, you could just eat it all yourself. No one will ever know.

Tomato Pasta Sauce with Lotsa Secret Veggies
original recipe by me!

1 red pepper (diced)
1 red onion (diced)
1 carrot (grated)
abt 1/3 aubergine (diced)
1 clove garlic
1 knob butter
glug red wine
500g tomato passata
splash balsamic vinegar
sea salt to taste

Sauté veg in butter until soft and browned.
Remove from heat.
Deglaze with a glug of red wine.
Transfer to saucepan.
Add tomato passata, puree with hand blender.
Stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Salt to taste.

Heat through and use for whatever purpose you wish. Bring to simmer for at least 5 minutes if canning.

Makes about 3 cups sauce.

21 July 2011

Summertime Split-Pea Soup with Veggies and Chipotle Chilli

Um, hi. I know it's summer, but it's kinda cold here. It rains a lot. I have a theory that there's a little man in the sky with a watering can just waiting for me to come outside and get on my bike. It's always fun for about 30 seconds until rain gets in my eyes and I realise that wet jeans don't move so well when you're cycling. But I digress.

I decided to make soup today. I know you don't want to eat soup when it's hot. If anything, your wildest fantasy is to fit your entire body inside of your fridge. I know it's like a million degrees in my hometown in America right now (yea facebook peeps, I see you!), and I totally get that none of you want to eat hot soup on your picnic blankets. That just won't do.

But if you happen to live far enough north that it's sometimes cold in the summer - here you go. Or maybe your office is air-conditioned? Anyway, if you're here in the UK, I know you totally feel me right now.

The flavours in this soup are really summery, which I lovelovelove, but the packaging is all hardy and wintry - perfect for a chilly day like today. The texture of the pea soup bit is so silky and thick and then POP! -- there's a crunchy bit of summer veg! There's the down-homey, rustic texture of polenta. And oh my, the smoky chipotle chilli bounces in on it, too, reminding you you're alive with real working tastebuds. Pardon me for waxing lyrical on this soup -- I love it!

And, um... happy summer!

Summertime Split-Pea Soup with Veggies and Chipotle Chilli
inspired by this recipe on 5-Second Rule

1/4 cup yellow split peas (dried)
1 medium baking potato, peeled and roughly chopped
vegetable stock

1 green pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 cup polenta
1/2 tea chipotle chilli flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Greek yogurt for serving

Simmer split peas and potatoes in stock until both are tender, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute pepper and carrot in olive oil until beginning to brown. Add courgette and continue cooking until the courgettes are almost cooked but still crisp - this will happen pretty quickly. Remove from heat.

Add chilli flakes to peas & potatoes, puree with hand blender. Mix in polenta & continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add more water if things are getting too thick.

Season with salt & pepper to taste. Depending on the salt content of your stock, you might use more or less (I used more). Ladle into bowls and top with sautee'd veg. Garnish with additional chilli flakes.

Not pictured - I totally swirled in some greek yogurt before digging in. Yum.

19 July 2011

Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie (a story of drunk baking)

The other day, I got drunk and made a giant cookie. It seemed, of course, like it was the best idea in the world.

I made it in my new cast iron skillet. I named him (the skillet) Angus. Immediately after taking the above photo, I burned my hand on Angus like a drunken dumbass. It was not my finest moment...

The photos below? Taken by my partner-in-drink, who I shall call "Coronatastic". Coronatastic's pictures are a little blurry... I wonder why?

Two days later, I cut the cookie up into bars and took it with me to help my friends move house. They were supposed to be for feeding the worker men who carried the big heavy stuff. Maybe the girls ate them all instead. Sorry, guys.

It was, shockingly, better after sitting there for two days. Or it could have just been because my taste buds were no longer paralysed by alcohol. Either way, it keeps well.

If you don't have an Angus of your very own, no worries. I imagine you can use a cake pan... anything over 2" deep should do the job.

Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
adapted from 101Cookbooks

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
225 g (2 sticks) room-temp unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup (200g) white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
225g (8oz) plain or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F. The original recipe says to butter your cast-iron skillet, but I drunkenly missed this instruction... so I didn't do this but it worked fine. So, use your own judgement here but I don't think it's necessary, since cast iron is brill.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, Mix together the butter and the sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low speed (I used a spoon) until the flour is barely combined. Add chocolate and mix until all flour is combined. Dump into your cast iron and level out with a spoon.

Bake the giant cookie for 35-45 minutes, or until until the dough is a deep golden brown along the edge, and the center has set. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before slicing.

17 July 2011

Greek Yogurt Fudge Popsicles

Dear Summer, I love you. I love your midnight sky and how you never let it get completely dark. I love the silhouette on the hills outside my bedroom window, better than the skyline of any city. I love how on your hottest days here in Scotland, it is never too hot, never unbearable. I love your weddings and barbecues and bunnies and flowers, and how you let me cycle to work wearing only spandex without freezing my bum off. You, Summer, are perfect.

I made these popsicles after seeing a normal (non-yogurt) recipe for them on SmittenKitchen, but I craved the tanginess of Greek yogurt. And having just returned from a conference in France, I couldn't resist using my newly-acquired fleur de sel.

Because I used a very thick Greek yogurt, I had to thin it out a bit with semi-skimmed milk and water. But if you opt for regular yogurt, or something labelled "Greek-style" - which gives you the tangy flavour without the thickness of real Greek yogurt - you should probably use 200ml of the yogurt and 100ml semi-skimmed milk.

These taste like frozen chocolate mousse. For real.

Summer Yum.

Greek Yogurt Fudge Popsicles
Adapted from SmittenKitchen

20g (~3/4oz) plain chocolate
65g (1/3c) caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch to Americans)
1.5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
big-ish pinch sea salt (I chose fleur de sel)
100ml greek yogurt
100ml semi-skimmed milk
100ml water
1/2 tea vanilla extract
small knob of butter (half a tablespoon)

-In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, cornflour, cocoa powder, salt, yogurt, milk and water.
-Melt chocolate in the bottom of a saucepan over low heat. When chocolate is melted, add the milk mixture and raise heat to medium-low, whisking whisking whisking, until mixture just reaches a simmer, whereupon it will thicken. This should take about 5-10 minutes.
-Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.
-Pour into moulds and freeze!

11 July 2011

Chana Masala (what my curry dreams are made of)

I've mentioned before that I once had a curry fear.

So, so silly. Really. I made one curry - my first curry - and the rest was history. Hello, brave new [curry] world!

This is maybe the best thing in the world. Ok, that might be, possibly, maybe, a little dramatic. Whatever. Make it and you'll agree!

Don't be afraid of curry, it's your friend -- especially if you are a vegetarian. This was so super easy, and really packed full of flavour. Maybe the best part is that it's DIRT CHEAP. Come on! My little curry heart died and went to curry heaven.

The garam masala turns this into a warm, comforty dish. Don't skip it! If you don't have any on hand, don't fret... just use some ground cinnamon and nutmeg in its place.

Serve with basmati rice, greek yogurt and chopped coriander:

Mix it up and it becomes a creamy orange wonder!

Chana Masala

abt 150g dried chickpeas (alternatively, use 1 can tinned chickpeas)
2/3 medium white onion, chopped
splash sunflower oil
1 bay leaf
3/4 tea cumin
1/2 tea ground coriander
1/2 tea garam masala
1/2 can good-quality cherry tomatoes (these are my favourite!)
1/4 tea chilli powder
1/2 tea turmeric
splash white wine vinegar
sea salt to taste - more or less depending on salt content of your tinned tomatoes

Soak chickpeas overnight in plenty of water - they will triple in volume so make sure to use a large bowl. They need to soak for at least 8 hours, so you could also set them on the counter in the morning before you leave for work if you want to cook them that night.  Drain and rinse, then place in a saucepan with fresh water. Boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until chickpeas are fully cooked. Drain and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, heat up the sunflower oil. Add onion, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and bay leaf. Saute unil onion is soft and browning.

Add tomatoes to the onion mixture. If using cherry tomatoes, you may want to halve them with a knife first - for me, this a more desirable texture. Add chilli powder, turmeric, vinegar and salt. Stir to make a uniform mixture, then add chickpeas. Simmer until heated through. Remove bay leaf.

Serve with basmati rice, a dollop of greek yogurt and some chopped coriander. I like to mix the yogurt through the chana masala to yeild a nice, creamy curry.

Serves 2.