Courgette Fries with Alioli – Veganised!

Posted on August 25, 2016
Courgette Fries close up

It’s all about the courgettes at this time of year.

Courgettesssss

Invariably I plant at least 3 plants thinking that at least one might survive slug attacks. Most of the time they all survive. This year just two made it, but two still gives us at their peak, at least two a day. That’s a lot of courgette to get through!

Fortunately courgette fries are an easy way to snack your way through an entire one each without too much trauma.  

This recipe idea isn’t at all new, I’ve seen it in various guises around the internet. I even wrote a non-vegan version of it back in September 2014, one of my first blog posts! 

Courgette Fries.1

This time I’ve veganised the fries recipe and served it with an Alioli version Vegan mayo made with that miracle ingredient- Aquafaba (aka Chickpea water).  The recipe for the vegan mayo is based on the one I wrote here.  I’ve been experimenting with different flavours because I love it so much and amping the garlic to the max is always a winner.

To make it, use the same recipe but up the garlic by first blitzing 6 garlic cloves to a paste, then add the other ingredients, omitting the mustard. 

To encourage the crispy coating to stick to the courgette, I used my new favourite method which I swear is better than any egg wash. It’s simply a tablespoon of ground flax seed (linseed) mixed with 2 Tbs of water until it forms a kind of jellyish liquid. This will cling and hang onto the heaviest of crunchy crumb. In fact, I added some chopped macadamia nuts just for fun this time which worked beautifully. 

These are perfect to eat just on their own, or with a salad or a burger. Definitely have a glass of crispy white wine to go alongside, the recipe practically demands it.

Courgette Fries- Vegan style.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr 30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large or 2 small courgettes cut into long batons
  2. 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds mixed with 4 Tablespoons water
  3. a cup or so of panko breadcrumbs
  4. Fresh herbs such as parsley - approx 1 tablespoon
  5. mild chilli powder – half tsp
  6. finely chopped macadamia or almonds (totally optional but adds a nice crunch)
  7. salt & pepper-to taste
  8. 1 Tbs Olive Oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 7/ 220C
  2. Mix the panko breadcrumbs, chilli powder, herbs, nuts and salt and pepper in a bowl.
  3. Dip the courgette batons into the hemp seed mix
  4. Then coat them in the breadcrumbs.
  5. Cook them on a tray in the oven that has had a little oil slicked on to prevent sticking, flipping once to ensure a crispy finish on all sides.
  6. Serve with the Alioli and a salad and lovely fresh Sauv Blanc.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Greek-ish Greens Filo Pie (Spanakopita Veganised)

Posted on August 23, 2016
Veganised Spanakopita greens pie slice

We have a rather large amount of rainbow chard that’s suddenly had a growth spurt that needs using up, which reminded me that one of my favourite dishes is Spanakopita. That classic Greek pie, full of juicy greens with a lemony salty creamy hit of feta and ricotta that contrasts amazingly with the crunchy filo pastry crust. 

Chard for pie

I’ve made various pies with a filo crust since properly going vegan (see the Butternut squash one here.. and the Chilli filled hand pies here) which have all been super yummy, but none were quite the Spanakopita that I craved.  Until I read somewhere about using soaked macadamia nuts that were then blended to make a creamy ricotta-like dish that I thought, actually, maybe I could create something similar.

So, I soaked some macadamias for around 3 hours, then blended them up in my food processor. (* NB you could probably use cashew nuts too, I happened to have a giant bag of macadamia nuts that needed to be used up)

Chard chopped up ready for the pie

My processor isn’t the top of the line & won’t completely pulverise nuts, so I also added a bit of strained firm tofu to create more of a creamy texture. The result was a bit nubblier than ricotta but in terms of overall mouth-feel, quite nice & did the trick for me. 

I then started to  think about the flavour profile of feta, there is nothing quite like it for saltiness & tang in the cheese world. I had recently bought some fat green olives stuffed with garlic from a Turkish Greengrocer that for some reason had reminded me of that salty feta tang, so I chucked a few in with the macadamia/tofu mix. This dish really does need that salty hit to balance the earthiness of the greens and the blandness of the ‘ricotta’ mix and the olives did the trick nicely, along with a bit of dried dill and some lemon zest. Result! 

Pie Construction

Assembling the pie is quite easy if you have a springform tin, simply slick olive oil over layers of filo and arrange them in the tin with the edges hanging over the sides, I used around 6 layers. Then, pile in the filling and fold the edges over the top, adding a few extra layers scrunched up a bit for a pretty ruffled effect. 

whole pie

This would work brilliantly as smaller hand held pies for picnics or parties, just fold into triangles like a samosa. 

Vegan Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
Serves 5
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
For the Greens mix
  1. 1 large or 2-3 small leeks, finely chopped
  2. A huge pile of Spinach or Chard- enough to generously fill a deep frying pan, chopped (NB: this would be equivelant to 2 bags of spinach, or a large bunch of chard.
  3. chilli (optional)
  4. 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  5. Fresh Parsley and/or dill
  6. Olive oil to sautee
  7. Squeeze of lemon
  8. For the Vegan Feta/Ricotta mix
  9. 50g firm tofu
  10. 100g macadamia nuts, soaked for at least 3 hours
  11. 1 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
  12. 5-6 big green olives stuffed with garlic (the yummy deli kind)
  13. Juice and zest half a lemon
To assemble the pie
  1. 1 pack filo pastry
  2. Olive Oil
Instructions
  1. Make the 'ricotta' by first of all pulverising the macadamia nuts, then adding the tofu and other ingredients. Taste and add extra salt, a bit of dried dill or another olive to add more zing.
  2. Saute the leeks, garlic and chilli until soft in a big frying pan. If you're using chard, add the chopped stems now to so they soften.
  3. Add the greens and wilt them down to a big squishy mess.Taste and add salt & lemon juice. To avoid a soggy pie you might need to drain off a bit of excess liquid.
  4. Remove from the heat.
  5. Slick a springform pan with olive oil, then oil up layers of pastry, overlapping them so that all sides of the tin are covered.
  6. Mix the vegan ricotta in with the now slightly cooler greens and spoon into the pie dish.
  7. Fold the filo pastry over the top and add some extra scrunched up on top for a 'lid'. No need for an egg or milk wash as the olive oil gives a nice shine to the pastry.
  8. Cook in a pre-heated oven- Gas Mark 7/ 220C for around 20mins, or until the pie is a pretty glossy brown on top.
  9. Serve with a herby tomato salad.
Notes
  1. The pie is also lovely cold and re-heats beautifully.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
Vegan Spanakopita pie with slice cut out

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My First Event with WeFiFo & some yummy Oddbins Wine

Posted on August 18, 2016
Basil is Hilarious

Last Saturday I held my very first Poppy and the Bees event with Wefifo..

What is WeFiFo??

It’s a lovely new concept that  connects home chefs, supper club hosts and event organisers with hungry people. Basically, it’s a social network for food lovers. People who like to cook can sign up and find people who might want to eat their food. It can be anything from a university student serving their ‘famous’ veggie curry to hungry friends, a cheese tasting night, a high tea baked by an aspiring Great British Bake Off contender, or even me.

You sign up as a host or guest. If you are hosting, you can decide how much (or if) you want to charge for the event, you write-up a profile of what you’ll be cooking and what the guests can expect and you hope to receive some bookings. As the host, you can see any guests profile, and accordingly accept or decline their request to come to your event. 

Wefifogroup

As a guest, you choose a host from their description about the type of event, when it is & what they are cooking & pay or book in to their event. The host will then approve you, according to your profile & you’ll turn up for some lovely food and to make new friends. 

I opted to borrow a friend’s house for the Poppy & the Bees event (Big Thank you to Andrew!) as he lives in a far more convenient corner of London than I do!

After a bit of thinking and some last-minute substitutions the menu ended up like this:

To Start: 

  • Babaganoush
  • Spicy Roast Carrot Dip
  • Crudities 

Entrée:

  • Stuffed Mini Portobello Mushrooms (This recipe!)
  • Heirloom Tomato salad with pesto dressing (most of the tomatoes were from my garden) 

Stuffed Mushroomsssss

Mains: 

  • Home made ravioli filled with aubergine & roasted red pepper  (Hands up who would like me to post this recipe?!) 
  • Green Leaf Salad with baby chard, dragon’s tongue, nasturtium leaves & flowers, all picked from our garden
  • Courgette & White Bean Fritters ( Courgettes from my garden,see this recipe!)
  • Charred Sweet Corn Salad (an oldie but a goodie,  see the recipe here) 

Wine! Feast Semeli white

Dessert:

  • Vegan Eton Mess , made with Meringue made with Aquafaba & Canela. (I’m still working on this recipe *ahem*, dessert & sweet things are not my strong points)

Moody Dessert

The Vegan Wine that I served was curated by Oddbins who have an exclusive vegan wine selection. Not many people know that not all wine isn’t vegan, but don’t worry, Oddbins had us covered. (You can find their vegan selection here.. or ask in-store for a recommendation) .

But isn’t wine just made from grapes? Surely that’s vegan?

Sadly, it’s not quite the case, some wines use fish bones or egg white to ‘fine’ or clarify the wine. This is the process of removing sediment & impurities from the wine. Technically as the egg white or fish bones don’t remain in the wine, it does not have to be declared as an ingredient, however most vegans would argue that as these have been utilised in the wine production, they should be declared. Nonetheless, using these products to clarify wine is completely unneccessary and the wine we drank was delicious..

So – what did we drink? 

Oddbins kindly sent us four types of wine to try… A white & a red from a small producer in Greece & the same from an organic small producer in Puglia, Italy. 

I think my overall favourite was the Semeli ‘Feast’ Moschofilero from Greece, from the Peloponnese region (Aka Sparta to those who know their Greek history & geography!)  A small family business that has been running for 3 generations, who specialise in the native grape varietals. I loved how this wine was simultaneously floral, with notes of lychee, yet was fresh and mineral on the palette. Perfect on a sunny day, or in this case, served with dips and crudities. 

I have to confess, I only had a sip of the red from Greece, The  Semeli “Feast” Agiorgitiko, as at that point I was knee-deep in panicking about the courgette fritters which had decided to come undone on frying (*ahem* there is a reason there isn’t a photo of them!)  and the bottle of it disappeared very quickly! This would seem to suggest my guests liked it very much indeed.  It’s another native Greek Varietal.  According to the tasting notes has  a rich nose of plums, cherries, and sweet spices. It’s remarkably smooth and friendly and juicy, without coming off as heavy.

The Italian wine was from the Salento region of Puglia in Southern Italy and  fully certified Organic.

I served the white wine Zensa Fiano, with my Stuffed Mushrooms and Heritage Tomato Salad. A little juicier than the Greek white, with lots of tropical fruit/peachy notes with a lovely crisp palate which complemented the starters perfectly. 

I served the Italian red Zensa Nero D’Avola:, with my home-made ravioli (makes sense, no?) and it worked beautifully.  The filling to the ravioli was smooth & rich, just like the wine , which had glorious  spicy black cherry fruit and layers of chocolate and vanilla. Perfect. 

If you’d like to host an event, or attend one, simply sign up over at Wefifo. I loved hosting mine, in my eagerness, I may have overstretched myself a little in the sheer quantity of dishes I made, but everyone, including me, thoroughly enjoyed the evening. It was a chance to connect with some new people, as well as do my favourite thing, feed them yummy vegan food & break down a few preconceptions about it being boring or bland. 

Let me know if you do decide to host an event.. If I can,  I’ll come along.. x

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Courgette & White Bean Fritters

Posted on August 10, 2016
courgette fritters 1

I have a glut of courgettes to use up..

Again. 

It happens every year. 

I get nervous about our plants germinating/ lose one or two to slugs or frost, then panic plant and end up planting too many. Which then all invariably grow into monsters. Which means we end up with a glut. Just as well I love them..

Courgette plant

I’ve made various variations of vegetarian fritters with our courgette glut ever since I started growing them, but since going vegan had yet to find an adequate substitute to the feta cheese variety I was used to. Recently, I half remembered a recipe that I had read back in spring, and made pretty much the recipe you see below, but with just the white beans and no flour or flax seed to bind. It tasted delicious, but essentially was fried mush, not pretty, and not easy to flip or eat neatly.

So I did the sensible thing & went and actually searched out my half remembered  recipe, which turned out to be from one of my favourite cooking writers, Anna Jones, in her column for The Guardian. As it happens, her recipe had flour in it. Whoops. Also, I had mis-remembered and it had peas, not courgettes, which tend to hold a fritter a bit better due to their slightly starchier nature.

Courgette 2

But I had courgettes on hand, not peas. And a recipe that had nearly worked, despite being a bit sloppy.  So, undeterred, I tried again. This time I didn’t just grate the courgettes, I then lightly salted them to help them release some of their juices and squeezed out all the excess moisture with a clean tea-towel. I also used a bit of ground flax seed mixed with some water to help bind the mixture alongside the 2 tablespoons of plain flour.  

And it worked.

Actually, the recipe more than worked, it was deeeeelicious. In fact, I think it might even be better than my original. 

It’s quite a forgiving recipe, so use your courgette/ zuchinni glut. Or try it with grated carrots or  peas or chopped spinach, or corn kernels.. or indeed any other veggie you might think would work in a fritter. The white beans give them a lovely added vegan protein hit which keeps you feeling full, as well as tasting creamily delicious, and feel free to switch up the herbs you use. Parsley, dill, basil, even coriander would work. 

Serve with a salad, as part of a mezze/tapas spread or even as a side dish to a curry, to which they are seriously yum addition to, something I found out at the trial stage, trying to use up some of the testing left-overs. 

Courgette & White Bean Fritters
Yields 12
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tin White Beans (Cannellini or Butterbean work best), drained and rinsed.
  2. 1 large courgette, grated (or 2 small ones. It should be around 1 1/2 cups grated)
  3. 3 spring onions, finely sliced (or 1 shallot, finely diced)
  4. Fresh herbs, finely chopped (parsley or dill, or a combo is nice)
  5. 1 small chilli or 1 teaspoon chilli sauce
  6. 2 tablespoons plain flour
  7. 1 teaspoon ground flax seed mixed with 2 Tbs water (this is forms a great binder, perfect for fritters)
  8. Salt & Pepper to taste
  9. Sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil to fry.
Instructions
  1. Grate the courgette, then mix a bit of salt in and pop it in a colander for 10 mins to draw out the juices.
  2. Squeeze the courgette dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel.
  3. Either pop all the rest of the ingredients except the oil into a food processor and blitz a few times until a chunky paste
  4. OR
  5. Mash the beans with a potato masher, and mix the ingredients in.
  6. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan.
  7. Form into little patties, approx 6-7cm diameter and fry on each side.
  8. Serve with a salad or as part of a mezze feast.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Join Me For a Fabulous Feast!

Posted on August 2, 2016
Poppy Insta

I’m doing a thing. 

A Vegan Feast thing. 

It’s a little scary as it’s my first event, but I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun..

I’m hosting my very first dinner with WeFiFo on Saturday 13th August.
WeFiFo   We Find Food is a new site that allows home cooks to host an event whether its a picnic in the park , a simple spaghetti dinner or a full on 3 course experience. It connects local people with those who love to cook, providing a social  platform that is easy to use and unfussy, allowing people who like to make yummy things from all backgrounds and cooking styles a place to share delicious treats with appreciative mouths. 

So what will I be cooking and can you come along? 

I’m going to be cooking a selection of some of my favourite dishes.. There will be my favourite stuffed mushrooms, some kind of courgette fritters and heritage tomato salad. I have grand plans to also serve some of my homemade ravioli and probably a dip (or 3).  Where possible I’ll be using ingredients from my garden (tomatoes & courgettes for sure..!). It won’t be a fancy schmanzy meal, but it will be bountiful and hopefully delicious. 

There are very limited tickets, I’m borrowing my friends kitchen in Brixton so as to be close to all the action (Thanks Andy!) for this first event so do get in quickly. Tickets are £20.00 & include wine! 

Book here….https://www.wefifo.com/event/353684935439378  

Will there be wine served? 

Um. YES!

I’m known for loving wine. And Oddbins have kindly offered to supply the event with some amazing vegan wine from Greece and Italy.. I couldn’t be more excited about this! There will be four delicious wines to taste & I can’t wait to pair them with the dishes I intend serving. 

So… Londoners.. Who’s coming? 

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Sage Potato Crispy Thing

Posted on July 19, 2016
Sage Potatoes 1

I planted some sage seeds two years ago in a sunny garden bed, just outside our back door, and they have become the most wonderful clump of plants. Not only do they stay green almost all winter, providing us with snippets of freshness even in deepest January, they then bloom magnificently from May through to July, with beautiful deep purple flowers which the bees and butterflies adore. 

Garden sage 1

The fabulous thing about sage, is that it can be used fresh or dried. It has a particular affinity with potatoes and pumpkins & squash, its bright yet earthy and savoury tones complimenting their slight sweetness. 

Greedy sage bee

This recipe is a lovely and rather indulgent side dish to serve almost any time of year, I do like it best in late spring however, when the sage leaves are lush, and the potatoes are new. Boiling, then mashing the potatoes before sort of saute/frying them to a crispy crust makes a delightfully yummy and deeply satisfying dish. I always make way too much for one dinner, so I can re-fry the potatoes the next day, for extra crispy bits. Extra crispy bits are the best, as I’m sure you are fully aware ( if you aren’t, where have you been? Go make some & get Thee converted to the Extra Crispy Bits Thang). 

Potato & Sage 2

 

The trick is to boil the potatoes in their skins, then once soft, slightly dry them out in a hot saucepan, before adding the oils & sage leaves, then frying/sauteing until the magical golden crust forms. As I no longer use butter , I’ve taken to making this with a really good quality, cold pressed, rapeseed oil. This golden coloured oil, combined with some olive oil and a hint of smoked salt, somehow becomes buttery in flavour, so much so, that when I told The Gardener there was no butter in this, he was incredulous. It’s that good. Seriously. (Make sure you get a super-yummy good quality, cold pressed & organic rapeseed oil (canola to the Aussies)  it’s soooooo worth it!

 

Don’t be scared by how long it takes to create that so-delicious potato crust. Hold your nerve and keep going. You’ll need at least 10 minutes to create a crust, then, time permitting, turn the potatoes and squish them down into the saucepan again, to crisp up some more. Trust me, that golden crust is key to the success & deliciousness of this dish. 

Crispy Potato & Sage thing.
Serves 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 500g new potatoes, washed, skin on
  2. 4-5 tablespoons rapeseed oil (NB: you might need more!)
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 10-12 fresh sage leaves (plus extra for decorating)
  5. Maldon Salt ( or smoked salt- even better!)
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until soft.
  2. In a large saucepan, slightly dry the potatoes off over the heat, then add half the oils.
  3. Smash the potatoes up a bit, roughly, with a potato masher.
  4. Add the sage leaves, then squish everything down into the saucepan.
  5. Leave over a mid-heat, ocasionnally shaking the saucepan to prevent the potatoes sticking. They should start getting crispy.
  6. Once it starts crisping up, turn and mix the potatoes, so that you can make MOAR delicious potatoey crispies.
  7. Repeat until you can't stand it any longer and serve.
  8. This recipe goes with anything that potatoes go with. Or just eat on its own. Seriously, it's THAT good.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Stuffed Mushrooms #2

Posted on July 15, 2016
stuffed mushroom 3

One of my very first recipes on Poppy & the Bees was for Stuffed Mushrooms, way back in October 2014, and since then they’ve been a consistent and much loved recipe in our household.

The Gardener loves them as much as I do. I always know when a recipe has been a hit with him, because the ingredients will magically appear in our weekly shopping, as a little hint to me to maybe please can you make that again. The first time I made stuffed Portabella Mushrooms for him, that is exactly what happened. 

Back in 2014 I was still eating dairy & so added cheese to the stuffing mix to enrich it and add an extra savoury note. After a bit of experimenting, (some better than others!)  I’ve come up with a stuffing that is just as deliciously savoury, but completely vegan. The recipe retains the original breadcrumbs- I don’t really go in for the whole ‘gluten free/ low carb’ thing, but if you really do have an allergy, by all means substitute them with some rice or quinoa. 

I make these with large portobello mushrooms, 10 – 15 cm diameter, but these would be equally delicious  made with with smaller baby portobello mushrooms, approx 4- 6 cm diameter for canapes. Just bake for a slightly shorter time.  I also use my own pesto in this recipe. Generally when making pesto, I make LOADS, then freeze excess in ice cube trays, decanting the frozen cubes into freezer bags to use later for fresh tasting yet convenient pesto. So much nicer than bottled stuff!

Stuffed Mushrooms #2
Yields 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Large Portabello Mushrooms
  2. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  3. 1/2 fresh chilli (optional)
  4. 2 Tbs Vegan Pesto (I use my own awesome homemade one, but use whatever you like)
  5. 3 Tbs Pine Nuts
  6. 1 small Red pointy pepper, finely chopped
  7. 1/2 cup (ish) breadcrumbs (I like Panko Breadcrumbs the best)
  8. 2Tbs white wine (optional)
  9. 1 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
  10. 1 Tsp Olive Oil + extra togrease the mushrooms and baking tin
  11. Salt & Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the stems off the mushrooms & finely dice.
  2. Preheat the oven to 210C/ Gas Mark 7
  3. Gently sautee the mushroom stems, pepper, garlic & chilli in the olive oil.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in all other ingredients except the mushrooms
  5. Slick the mushrooms all over with some olive oil & lay on a baking tray.
  6. Divide the mix in half and generously fill the mushrooms, mounding the stuffing into a dome & packing it in quite firmly.
  7. Place the stuffed mushrooms in the oven and cook for around 20 mins, or until crispy topped.
  8. Serve with salad in summer, or sauteed veggies in winter.
Notes
  1. This recipe is for two, but easy to scale up for 4 or more people.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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Bruschetta Party!

Posted on June 28, 2016
Bruschetta Party 1

I love late spring and  summer. All the yummiest local tender vegetables start making an appearance in the market, plus we start to see the first of the juicy tomatoes from Italy and Spain.

In an ideal world, we’d have glorious warm evenings, and minimal housework to do, to languidly enjoy a bit of pottering in the kitchen and eat on the back patio. The reality is usually a little different in dear ol’ Blighty, but we can evoke warm weather eating, with really not a lot of effort. 

I like to make up a selection of toppings for bruschetta, then, toast some good quality baguette or ciabbatta, and serve it all along with some cut cloves of garlic and some good quality olive oil. Then everyone around the table can choose how much garlic they would like to rub on their toasts, and which toppings they like the best, or even get creative with combining toppings as they wish. It makes for a comfortable, casual type of eating. 

Bruschetta 2

Here are my current favourite topping ideas: 

  1. Classic Tomato, (use the juiciest, ripest tomatoes possible) a smidge of olive oil, balsamic vinegar & fresh basil
  2. Chopped Asparagus, lightly sauteed with some home-made pesto (my wild garlic pesto is amazing in early June) 
  3. Artichoke & Olive Tapenade: Whizz together a drained tin of artichokes and some good quality pitted green olives. Yum. 
  4. Peas & herbs. Gently cook some fresh green peas (or frozen!) in a little olive oil with some garlic and mix through some fresh parsley. I’ve even used edamame. Add fresh mint if you have some for a really trad English spin on the theme. 
  5. Mushrooms, finely sliced, and cooked in with garlic and a hint of chilli & white wine. 

The brilliant thing about this, is that you can adapt it according to the season.  It’s basically posh things on toast, but somehow, if you put everything out on a pretty board, maybe with a crunchy, leafy, zingy salad alongside, it seems so much more than that.  
Serve with a crispy white wine and pretend you’re in Italy or Spain. 

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Vegetable Pilaf/Paella thing.

Posted on June 16, 2016
Vegetable Pilaf Thing 2

Easy to make and spectacular to serve, this rice the perfect accompaniment to any curry or veggie stew. Or to serve alongside an array of Tapas or Mezze type spread to make it more substantial.

One of the things I particularly  particularly love about this rice pilaf/paella thing is that all that you need to do is add stock and let the rice simmer away whilst you get on with other meal prep, which makes this ideal for when you have guests arriving. All you need do is remembered to add the peas for the last 5 mins of cooking. 

I like to make this in a heavy cast iron casserole that I was given as a present. It’s a Le Crouset look-a-like which according to the gift giver was a total snip in comparison to the real deal.. and I have to say so far it has performed just as well. I do appreciate that this kind of cookware is a bit *next level*  for many people, but don’t worry. If you don’t have a wide, heavy casserole dish, use the biggest saucepan you have, but make sure to keep an eye on it to ensure the rice cooks through. Also, bear in mind that it will need a separate serving bowl. 

Veggie Paella 1

The trick is with a Pilaf, or any rice that is made using the absorption method is to first sort of level out the rice, I give mine a good shake, so it’s all flat in the pan. Then, add the liquid until it sits just to the knuckle of your pointer finger. This method works with pretty much any quantity of rice. I don’t  know why, but it does.  The other trick is, once you have brought the liquid to a simmer, turn the heat down loooow and put a lid on. Do. Not. Peak. for 15-20 mins. You want all the lovely steam building up to absorb into your rice. You don’t want it escaping out into the kitchen. 

If you’re making a pilaf or paella thing, you might want to accidentally on purpose let the bottom layer catch and crust up just a bit. It’s a delicious and crunchy layer to be prized carefully from the dish & fought over by the diners. 

This recipe is enough for two greedy people on it’s own. Double it & serve as a side dish for 4-6 people. 

 

Vegetable Pilaf/Paella Thing
Serves 2
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 200g short grain rice, or a mix of rice, spelt & barley
  2. 1 pointy red pepper, diced
  3. 1 leek or one onion, finely chopped
  4. 7 -8 mushrooms diced (optional but nice)
  5. 1 small chilli, finely chopped
  6. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  7. 10 strands saffron
  8. 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
  9. Other veggies would be nice too: corn, carrots, zuchinni added at the end....
  10. 1 -2 Tbs Olive Oil
  11. 1Tbs Vegetable Boullion or Stock Powder dissolved in 300ml boiling water
  12. 1/2 cup white wine
  13. Salt & Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large casserole that has a lid, or a wide saucepan, saute the leek or onions, garlic, chilli & red pepper until the onion is translucent in the olive oil.
  2. Add the mushrooms and saute for a moment more.
  3. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil.
  4. Add the white wine & stir.
  5. Give the pan a shake so that all the rice & veggies are in an even layer on the base of the pan.
  6. Stir the saffron into the boullion stock, then add the lot to the rice mix in the pan, ensuring that the liquid only sits one knuckle height above the rice.
  7. Bring to a simmer, then put the lid on. Turn the heat down very low.
  8. Leave for 15 mins. Do. Not. Peak!!!
  9. Now, carefully open the lid & check. If there is too much liquid, put the lid back on for another 5 mins.
  10. Quickly add the peas, and any other tender veggies you want to pretty the top up with & add the lid again for another 5 mins.
  11. Sprinkle some fresh herbs such as chopped parsley or basil on top if you like, then serve.
Poppy and the Bees http://poppyandthebees.com/
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How to make the BEST Tofu

Posted on June 7, 2016
Tasty Tofu Finished

I know tofu can be a bit of a scary ingredient. Too bland, too slimy.. too bleh. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The brilliant thing about tofu, is it’s ability to absorb other flavours.

But how do you go from bland to taste sensation? How do you make it the BEST tofu time & time again?

It’s quite easy really. First you have to remove the water content, in order for other flavours to re-absorb. Then marinate the tofu over night for maximum flavour absorbtion. If you’re in a hurry, just marinate it for half an hour or so, but it won’t be nearly as tasty

To make this kind of tofu, you need to start with a firm tofu type. Leave the soft, silky tofus for sauces and stuffing gyoza. Slice the tofu into 2cm ‘steaks’ then use paper towels or a clean teatowel to envelope the tofu. Press between 2 weighted plates or heavy cutting boards for at least half an hour to dry it out. 

Tofu on towels

Meanwhile, make up the marinade. I pretty much freestyle the marinade every time, depending on how I feel, but there tends to be a few themes:

  • Sort of Asian influenced: Chilli, Garlic & Soy sauce with a bit of sesame oil.
  • Sort of Spanish-ish, with smokey paprika, olive oil, oregano and garlic.
  • Sort of Thai-ish, with lemongrass, soy sauce, chilli, garlic and a hint of sugar for sweetness.
  • Sort of Italianish..with garlic, oregano, a little tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. 

Pop the marinade and tofu in an airtight container, making sure you have slicked all the tofu slices surfaces with the marinade. Leave at least half an hour, preferably overnight. If you remember, try and turn the tofu so the side that isn’t immersed in the marinade gets some juicy flavour too. 

Tofu in the pan

Then, choose to pan fry, grill, BBQ or oven bake.

Each method of cooking gives a slightly different texture, all of which I love. You want to aim for slightly caramelised edges that start turning crispy. If you’re oven baking, you can leave the tofu in on a low heat for 45 mins to an hour, which turns it into a sort of ‘Tofu Jerky’.

Go and experiment, play with the flavours. Then report back here which are your favourites! Yum. 

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