Keep Calm & Eat Pesto

Keep calm and eat lettuce pesto

I have always loved pesto ever since my teens when one day my sister cooked us up a batch of pasta with lashings of pesto mixed
into it. Both store bought but the flavour and almost immediate satisfaction that filled our bellies after just 15 minutes cooking time has always left the classic pesto and pasta combination as a staple in my household. I have always enjoyed the taste of store bought pesto but nothing can beat a fresh pesto made from scratch. It’s flavour is always lighter and fresher tasting, pairing brilliantly with more then just a simple pasta dish. I often make pesto for the start of the week as a go to dressing for quick meals when I’m busy. It can be a little expensive to make your own pesto as you need quite alot of fresh herbs but there is a solution. I use lettuce to bulk the pesto out yet it doesn’t detract from the flavour as I still uses the herbs plus all the other classic ingredients. It is the perfect way to use up salad leaves which are often one of the most thrown away items in British households and you know how I hate waste!

Lettuce pesto ingredientsIngredients to make a small jar: 1 good handful of fresh herbs,2 good handfuls of salad leaves, 2 large handful of nuts or seeds, A small lump of hard cheese, 2 garlic cloves, 2tbsp of olive oil plus extra for jar. sprinkle of salt and pepper.

1. I have given these vague ingredients as you can pretty much choose whatever combination of items you want. A classic pesto is basil, pine nuts and parmesan but you can adapt it with anything. Here are some ideas

Mint/parsley, almonds, mature chedder

Coriander, cashews, manchego , abit of chilli and ginger

Dill, sunflower seeds, pecorino

Lovely ingredients for lovely lettuce pesto A spoonful of lettuce pesto helps the leftovers go down2. Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor, slowly adding the olive oil as you go, till you get a think paste that isn’t too wet.

3. Add to a jar, press down with a spoon and cover with a layer of olive oil. It should keep for 1 week, topping up with oil to cover if you use a little at a time. (My oil looks horrible in this photo, it has no colour weirdly. That’s what you get for cheap olive oil)

Lettuce Pesto Ready to Go

You can add pesto to loads of different dishes other then pasta, here is a few and please feel free to add your own uses in the comments.

Dolloped on pizza either as a replacement to a tomato sauce or as an addition blobbed on randomly

Mixed into potato salad

On top of a baked potato

A sandwich filling with some fresh salad veggies (tomato, pesto and mozzarella sounds good)

A salad dressing, mixed with some more  oilve oil and a little lemon juice or vinegar

A crust or rub for fish or meats

Basically anything

Lorna

x xxx

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Kohlrabi, celery and potato Gratin

Kohlrabi, celery and potato

This is a really quick recipe for a gratin because who doesn’t like food smothered in cream! I had a Kohlrabi in my veg box and having never cooked it looked to the internet for some inspiration. I found a several gratins with varying ingredients so I settled on a mix of Kohlrabi, celery and potato. It’s another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, kept in the fridge and whacked into the oven when you get home. Kohlrabi has a slightly sweet appley taste but has a root vegetable like texture so it lends well to savoury dishes but it would be interesting to see if you can make it work in a sweet recipe. Any ideas people?

sliced veggies for gratin

Ingredients Serves 2: 1 smalll kohlrabi, 2/3 medium potatoes, 2 celery sticks, 1 garlic clove, 150ml of  double cream, 150ml veg stock, a small handful of fresh rosemary or 1 heaped tsp  of dried rosemary

1. Peel the kohlrabi and potatoes, slice in to thin slices (having a mandolin works well here) Dice the celery into thin slices also. Slice the garlic and chop up the rosemary.

2. Heat the veg stock up gently in a pan and add the milk to mix together (DO NOT BOIL) add the garlic and rosemary and allow to infuse for 5 mins on a low heat.Tasty Ingredients for Kohlrabi Gratin

3. Layer the kohlrabi, potato and celery in a baking dish and slowly add the liquid, and continue to layer until your dish is full. You don’t want the liquid to be full right to the top, at least 1cm from the top is good. I prefer to finish with a layer of potato on top as it browns nicely.

4. Pop in the oven for 40 mins at Gas Mark 5. A good grind of black pepper on top never goes a miss. Serve with a crisp salad to offset the gorge on creamy goodness.

Kohlrabi Gratin

There we have it! Has any one got a brilliant recipe for kohlrabi, would love to hear?

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. Sorry about the lack of finished photos, as always I ate it before I had a chance to photo it, nom nom

Vegan Lasagne

Vegan Lasagne looks so tasty up close even better in your mouth

I’m becoming more and more interested in both vegetarian and vegan food at the moment. The ethical and environmental reasons behind switching to a non meat/ animal product diet are vast and I really do support them. But on a wholly selfish note, eating more fruits, veg, nuts and grains improves your health and wellbeing considerable and even more so when you avoid processed foods that contain chemicals and toxins. A switch to a veggie/vegan or even a mostly veggie diet can be hard but as I have said in several other veggie recipes, you can use a much loved ‘meat’ recipe and turn it into a veggie delight and ‘trick’ yourself. A perfect example of this is my veggie lasagne, a simplified version of a recipe from Emily @ This Rawsome Vegan Life which uses fewer ingredients. Some of the wonderful but unusual ingredients Emily suggests may be harder to find for those those of us who may not follow a strict vegan diet .

Vegan lasagne 'pasta' 'mince' 'bechamel'

Ingredients, Serves 2

For the ‘Pasta’

1 Medium Courgette

For the ‘Mince’

1/2 a head of broccoli, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp dried basil, sprinkle of pepper

For the ‘Béchamel sauce’

1 Cup of sunflower seeds (or any other nuts or seeds), 2 tbsp Tahini, 2 Garlic cloves, 1 tbsp lemon juice, water to loosen

Vegan Lasagne for one

1. Blend all the ‘béchamel’ ingredients together, in the vegan community they call this nut cheese. Blend to a rough paste adding a little water to loosen, you don’t want it too sloppy more like a rough pate.

2. Chop the broccoli into tiny pieces so the little buds are basically little green grains, this will be your ‘mince’ In a bowl mix the broccoli with the chopped tomatoes, basil and pepper

3. Slice the courgette length ways, using a mandolin is best, cut off the ends if you want them to sit flush against your baking dish.

4. Layer! Courgette, ‘Mince’, Courgette, nut cheese, repeat till your baking dish is full

5. Bake for 30 mins on gas mark 5 or enjoy raw!

Vegan Lasgne with courgette pasta, broccoli mince and nut cheese crunchy topping

Pretty simple recipe really for a quick and delicious dish. It definitely matches a ‘regular’ lasagne on flavour and I was so pleased by the textures as well as taste. The top with nut cheese came out really golden and crunchy making it even more appetising. I used the left overs to make myself a single serving for my lunch, the photos are of this meal and I made it a circular little stack by cutting slices rather then lengths of courgette. This is a great recipe to experiment with too, you could swap the sunflower seeds for any other seeds or nuts and the broccoli with maybe cauliflower or minced carrot and onion. The choice is yours, just make it a healthy one ;)

Do you have any favourite meaty meals you’d like me to turn veggie? just ask

Lorna

x xxx

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Slow cooker Risotto

Slow cooker to the rescueMany a food purist might say you can’t do a risotto in a slow cooker but they would be wrong. If your strapped for time, have a bundle of things to do and still have to make dinner; the slow cooker can be a life saver. Most recipes I do require little more then putting everything in and letting it go. This risotto recipe does require a little more prep but a lot less then if you did risotto the traditional way. The prep took me just 10 minutes and though the cooking time is longer (1 hour and a half) it is a better option when your busy especially if you did the prep earlier on in the day. This recipe is for a mushroom risotto but all flavours are possible.  Ingredients serves 2: 1 cup of risotto rice, a medium onion diced, 1 or 2 garlic cloves diced, 6 medium mushrooms sliced , 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 500ml veg or chicken stock, olive oil

1. I used one frying pan to do the prep (cuts down on washing up) Sauté the onion and garlic till translucent. Meanwhile coat the inside of the slow cooker with olive oil and set on a high heat

2. Once the onions and garlic are done add to the slow cooker, turn the heat up on the pan and add the rice so it takes on the flavours of the pan, just like a regular risotto, add the vinegar and let it bubble till all is absorbed. Add the rice to the slow cooker

3. Add the stock to the slow cooker and add any dried herbs you might want. Stir once to make sure no rice has stuck to the bottom and then leave for between 1 and 2 hours till most of the liquid has been soaked up

Slow cooker risotto4. When there is still a little liquid left to be absorbed turn the slow cooker off as the rice will continue to cook and doesn’t need any more heat (or electricity wasted on it) Sauté the mushrooms in butter and olive oil till soft then mix through the risotto

5. Serve in bowls with fresh herbs and a light side salad, this is comfort food at its best

The risotto definitely doesn’t have the same bite as when done from scratch in a pan and has a softer sticker texture but it tastes just as good and really warms you up on those cold nights. I also wanted to highlight that I love using the slow cooker because it hardly uses any electricity so its good for the environment and your pocket :D I have a electricity monitor from British Gas and it uses only 2p an hour which is way better then using the oven for meals(a whopping 30p) but unfortunately can’t compare it to the stove top as we have a gas one. I still imagine the slow cooker is cheaper then using gas.

Please share your own slow cooker recipes that you love for winter

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. sorry there is no final picture of the end result, this happens a lot with food posts I plan to do, I end up forgetting to take the last picture because I wanna get the food in my belly asap and only remember after I’ve finished, DOH!

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Veggie Burgers

One of the main ways me and H save on our food shop is that we hardly buy any meat. Its expensive and not essential to healthy living so we don’t buy it unless its on offer or a special occasion. I know some people find it hard to give up meat especially if it is what you are use to cooking and eating so a great way  to make the switch is to recreate meaty meals with a veggie alternative and make meat free Mondays a possibility for more people. One of my fav alternatives is super tasty veggie burgers.  The recipe below I’ve used carrots but you can use any root vegetable to make veggie burgers. My other favourite is beetroot burgers which have an earthier flavour and I want to try celeriac as well.

veggie burger mix

Ingredients to make 4 burgers: 3 large carrots, 1 small onion, 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp of flour, 1 medium egg, herbs and spices of your choice.  Grate the carrot and onion into a bowl, adding thinly diced garlic and your choice of herbs and spices. Mix the ingredients so they are well distributed. Add the egg to the mix and combined well. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. It’s important to let it rest or the mixture will not stick together later. Sprinkle the flour in and mix again. Form the mixture into patties by rolling equal sized balls and then flattening them with the palm of your hand about 2 cm is a good depth. Sprinkle a touch of flour on each side. Add oil to a frying pan over a medium heat, once hot fry the patties on each side for 3-5 minutes until golden.

carrot burgers

I like to serve mine in burger baps with salad and homemade chips, just like a classic burger meal. A pint of beer never goes a miss or if your being good a tall glass of lemonade with fresh lemons and mints. My creation this time came with roast potatoes, sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes plus some herby dressing on the side. Apologies for the naff photos, Its still dark at 4pm so terrible kitchen lighting overhead never makes for pleasant photography.

Lorna

x xxx

Just bread for breadline Britain

We are all aware in one way or another that the economic recession has impacted almost every one whether a little bit or drastically. I see it every day and most people i know are struggling in some way. The Guardian Newspaper have been running a series about austerity Britain called Breadline Britain and they have recently highlighted within the series the impact of the recession on the British public’s diet.   Unemployment/ no comparable wage rise coupled with increased living costs means that people need to cut back, however it has gone so far down the line that it is no longer just the ‘luxuries’ we are cutting out but the essentials as well. The Joseph Rowntree Trust reported that food prices have risen by 32% in the last 5 years, 12% in only the last year with spending staying relatively the same but increasingly less and less spent on fresh meat, vegetables and fruit. Furthermore the biggest and ‘best’ deals are on cheap, poor quality, processed foods which doesn’t make it a contest when as one women from the Breadline series put it ‘When four bars of Chocolate are £1, you end up on junk’

I feel i am very lucky when it comes to providing myself and family with thrifty but nutrition food because i can cook relatively well, have slowly collected herbs and spices which always come in handy for livening up a dish and i use my noggin and buy smart without sacrificing on nutrition. So i have compiled a short list of essentials which i personally spend on and scrimp on to show you where you can save on the pennies and spend your pounds on what maybe be a bit pricey but needed. Though this won’t be THE list for everyone depending on what and where you buy and it may not be the most ethical food, but i think for the majority of people who shop at supermarkets and are on an increasingly tight budget  this could really help when it comes to the weekly shop.

SCRIMP

Tinned Tomatoes

I always buy the 33p value plum tomatoes because they simply don’t taste any different and you are most of the time putting them into a sauce or stew so they are mingling with other flavours. I get plum tomatoes because they give you more fruit in them and they are often about 2p cheaper then chopped tomatoes

Baked beans

Now many people are simply brand snobs when it comes to canned stuff but for value beans i have found they taste just as nice but tend to have less sugar and salt in. If you need a tomatoeyer hit just squirt in a half a tablespoon of ketchup which works out so much cheaper then buying the big named brands, i.e. Heinz

Cooking Cheese

I am a massive Cheese fan and do not like to scrimp on the good stuff but for some recipes you can. You can get the cheapest cheddar cheese and use it for cheese sauces and toasties and it adds just as much flavour as it is heated up and you can add other flavours in to it. If eating on crackers though, that is when you want the good stuff .

Spreads and fillings

It can be hit and miss but some value brands have equally delicious products but some are also horrific. Test out a jar of own brand ‘Insert name’  and see what the difference is you might be surprised how delicious it is but equally if it turns out it tastes like horse muck then you have wasted alot less. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking packing all the time.

Value veg and fruit

Once again the packing makes you believe it is of a poorer quality because it is technically ‘Class II’ rather then Class I. The only thing this means is that the peppers in packet numero 2 are little bit funkier looking then packet number 1. See this post for why that shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. The same goes for canned veg as long as its not in brine (too much salt) or fruit which is in juice rather then syrup (too much sugar)

SPEND

Bacon

Firstly, there is more to bacon then just a butty in the morning or a workmens lunch, bacon can be added to so many dishes just to give a little extra meaty depth without having to chuck a whole animal into your meal every night. More importantly though is that you shouldn’t scrimp on it because i have never ever bought cheap/average priced bacon and NOT found it to ave shrunk by at least a half under the grill. Its a mugs game cheap bacon and if you choose to spend just a little more you can get a quality product which will give you the weight in meat that you paid for.

Sausages

Just like bacon you can make a substantial meal out of a packet of sausages but don’t sacrifice health or taste pleasure for some overtly pink, E-number ridden cheap banger. Use your noodle and find the best quality ones, you will be pleased for it. Better still get to your local butcher.

Pasta

Though there are value brands out there that have good pasta, can’t hurt your pocket too much to check, i have often found that the medium or top brands yield the best results.  They are less likely to stick to the pan, don’t take as long to cook and overall taste so much better.

Bread

If you’ve seen this post you’ll know why but briefly: Cheap, mass produced bread is pretty much what is killing Britain, readily available and value for money people are shoveling mountains of the stuff into their gobs each day to keep full. Eat less and spend a little bit more on a local, good quality, real baker and you will reap the benefits later on and so will your purse.

Has the recession affected your diet? what are your tips for eating healthy but at a price you can afford?

Lorna

X xxx

Thrifty + Nifty Food: Saag Aloo and Quick Potato curry

Following on from Mondays post on potato skins saving the world, today’s thrifty and nifty food dishes are dedicated to the humble potato. It’s a staple that most of us have every week, boiled, mashed, as chips, or my favourite, roasties with Sunday lunch. It does however tend to be as a side dish rather than the main star of the show when it comes to dinner, unless of course its 2am, you have a quid left from the pub and chips is the only option. Cheesy chips if you’ve got an extra 50p. But anyway…. I like to include potatoes a bit more in my cusine and my favourite way to do this is to add a little spice. I’m going to show you too dishes today featuring spice and potato not only because they are tasty and quick but using the same ingredients, that you buy in bulk, for different dishes can make for a thrifty week of shopping.  You can buy a large bag of potatoes for about a £1 depending on the type and where you shop. Add a few other bits and bobs, a few different flavourings and you’ve got several delicious meals for the week.

As always for the recipes, essentials in RED, must have flavouring in GREEN and extra you can add in ORANGE.

Quick Potato Curry

This is a really quick recipe, which if you buy  a pre-made curry powder has only 4 basic ingredients in it.

Ingredients, Serves 4
2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
4 Medium Potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized chucks
half a cabbage, i used sweetheart. finely shredded
1tbsp of curry power or make your own
(For this recipe i like to use Turmeric, coriander, mustard powder,cumin, garlic power, salt & pepper)
Other vegetables you fancy or have knocking about the fridge, Finely shredded

1. Par boil the potato chunks in lightly salted water for about 10 mins.

2.While the tatties are going, heat a heavy frying pan on a medium heat, peel and chop the onions then add to the pan.

3. Fry the onions till the potatoes are done, its ok if they catch and brown as we want that caramelised taste, turn the heat up a little. Make a space and add more oil if needed and let it heat up.

4. Drain the potatoes well and add to the frying pan, you want to crispy up the edges. Turn occasionally to get all the skin browned.

5. Once most of potatoes are browned, add the cabbage or other veg and stir in. Cook along with your spices for at least 5 minutes. I like the veg crispy so cook for longer if you want it softer.

6. Turn out on to a plate and serve with rice or naan bread or both

 

Saag Aloo

Next up is this curry house classic, normally served as a side dish to your rogan josh or korma, i think saag aloo should stand out on its own for a flavourful main dish, served with rice, poppadoms and dips.

Ingredients, Serves 4
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks
500g  of fresh spinach roughly chopped/can use 400g of tinned puree but i like fresh
1 Small Onion, finely diced
1tbsp Garam Masala
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Green Chillies
1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
1/2 tsp Coriander powder
1tbsp Oil

1. Chop the garlic and chillies and mix with roughly chopped spinach

2. Saute the chopped onion in the oil, in a heavy frying pan on a high heat, until golden. About 5 minutes.

3.  Add the potatoes, cumin and coriander and cook  until the potatoes start to go translucent at the edges. If the spices start to stick at the bottom of the pan add a little hot water and scrap the bottom with a wooden spoon(never metal or you’ll wreck your pans).

4. Add hot water to the pan half way up the potatoes and cook for 5- 10 minutes till they are cooked through and you can put a fork into them easily.

5.  Add the spinach, garlic, chillies and garam masala, simmer till the spinach has wilted, then serve with whatever you delights you want or gobble it up as it comes

Have you any recipes for jazzing up your spuds?

Lorna

x xxx

Foodie Feast: Malaysian Memories

First day of secondary school, first maths class and I found a friend for life, though when she first met me she was slightly scared as I was a bit of a crazy child (her words not mine) (sounds worse than it is but I tried to stab her with a pair of compasses)….anyway. We have been friends for a very long time now and at the moment I miss her very much as for the past year she’s been living at the other side of the world in China. I visited her in May which was absolutely brilliant but made me miss her even more once I got back home. She herself is half Malaysian and several years ago we visited her family and friend over there, so today’s food feast is a tribute to her with Malaysian inspired dishes and my own take on the national dish Laksa.

Laksa is a spicy coconut soup with noodles and from there you can add whatever you want. Just like a lot of curries, there are no strict rules as to what you put in and that’s how I like to cook…with what’s left in the fridge or cupboard. There are hundreds of varieties of Laksa across Malaysia and the most popular main ingredients are prawns, pork, tofu or simply vegetables. If you want to add meat, cook first then add just before serving. With Seafood or fish, cook in the broth in the last 5 minutes. This is a quick meal if you have the paste already made or you can pick up Laksa paste from your local Chinese superstore, its normally called Singapore Laksa

Laksa Ingredients:

Serves 4
For the Paste:                                             For the Soup:    And a little bit of what you like, I used:
1 medium white/red onion, sliced         500ml Veg                                2 Medium Carrots
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced                400ml Coconut milk               200g Green Beans
a thumb of ginger, finely sliced              1tsp Salt                                     2 Sweet Peppers
2 lemon grass stalks                                 2tsp Sugar                                 100g Bamboo Shoots
2tsp ground corriander                            100g of noodles of your choice
3 chillies, more or less for your taste
2tsp curry powder 
4tbsp vegetable oil

1. Put all of the paste ingredients in a food processor, add half the oil and blitz to a semi smooth paste.
2. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan or wok and fry the paste on a low heat for 10 mins stirring all the time to release the flavors. Dont let it burn!
3. Add the stock, salt, sugar and coconut milk and simmer gently for 30 mins.
4. While the soup is simmering, cook your choice of noodles (and any meat) but drain them just before cooked.
5. At 25mins of simmering, add the veg and noodles, and any seafood, meat or tofu.
6. Add lime juice and a handful of coriander leaves if you have any, taste and season if necessary.
7. Serve in bowls alongside your salad and rice.

Satay Salad Ingredients

For the Sauce                                    For the Salad
2tbsp Peanut Butter                       6 Radishes sliced
1tbsp Dark soy                                quarter cucumber sliced
1 garlic bulb, finely sliced              quarter of sliced lettuce
a thumb of ginger, finely sliced     3 spring onions, finely sliced
1tbsp of chilli oil
1tbsp of olive oil/peanut oil

1. Add all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and mix. You can put it in the microwave for 30 seconds if the peanut butter is quite thick.

2. You can choose whatever salad veg you like, the ingredients I used are listed above but feel free to mix it up. Finely slice any you use and trickle the sauce over or leave in a bowl to serve.

Et voila!

Pin It

Lorna

X xxx