Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Take a Second Look

In the newspaper yesterday read something about how we are being urged to eat meat less often and begin to serve one or two vegetarian meals a week . Ideally, it would be worth serving a vegetarian meal on alternate days, or even more often, for it would certainly save money and we can still obtain the necessary protein by other means. So today am giving one or two recipes for 'meatless' meals.

The first uses three different cheeses - hence the name, but it is just a guide, use two or - at a pinch - just one, but the more we use the more flavour we gain. With gnocchi, flavour IS important, for on its own it has virtually none - just acting as a sponge for the more strongly flavoured ingredients. So up to a point, and within reason we can vary the flavours according to what we have and - more importantly - to our taste.
Three-Cheese Gnocchi: serves 4 (V)
2 oz (5og) Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) Stilton or Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3 oz (75g) Mozzarella cheese, grated
half a pint (300ml) single cream*
1 tblsp plain flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) walnuts, chopped
handful chopped fresh parsley
1 lb (500g) pack potato gnocchi
2 tblsp fresh breadcrumbs
Put the cheeses and cream into a small pan and heat until the cheese has melted, then whisk in the flour and simmer for 2 - 3 minutes before adding the mustard and nutmeg. Season to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and parsley.
Cook the gnocchi according to packet instructions, then put into a large shallow dish and level the surface. Pour the cheese sauce on top and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs with more grated Parmesan (or Cheddar) if you wish. Bake for 15 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until bubbling and golden. Serve at once.
Note: * if you do not wish to use single cream, enrich milk by stirring in one or two tblsp of dried milk. Alternatively use half and half milk and evaporated milk.

The first part of this recipe makes a good sauce that can be used for any bolognaise dish, meat or veggie. Blitzed down it will also make a good sauce to spread over a pizza base, or even thinned down slightly would make a pleasant soup.
Beany Bolognaise: serves 6 (V)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
2 cans plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
freshly ground black pepper
2 x 410g cans mixed pulses, drained and rinsed
1 lb (500g) spaghetti
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated or shavings
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, carrot and celery for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute then stir in the tomato puree, the sugar and the plum tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to incorporate them into the mixture. Add the dried herbs and season with pepper. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes before adding the pulses. Cook on for 10 more minutes then stir in the parsley, adding more seasoning if required.
Meanwhile cook the pasta as per packet instructions, drain and add to the bean sauce and toss together. Serve in individual heated bowls and sprinkle over the cheese.

The third veggie recipe is a good one to make for lunch. With a poached egg on top it could also make a breakfast dish. Ideally, use a granary bap or ciabatta rolls, but any port in a storm I say, so feel free to use a bog-standard bap. If you must.
Rustic Chargrilled Hot Sandwich: makes 4 (V)
1 large red bell pepper, deseeded and quartered
1 yellow bell pepper, treated the same
4 large flat field mushrooms
1 aubergine, cut into 1/3" (1cm) slices
2 fl oz (50ml) olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
4 oz (100g) cream (philly) cheese
4 fresh rolls, split
Brush the peppers, mushrooms and aubergine with oil. Either put the pepper and aubergine on a baking tray under the grill for a few minutes, or cook in a ridged griddle pan. After 3 minutes add the mushrooms (may be necessary to do this in batches if using a pan), and continue for 5 - 8 minutes, turning occasionally until the vegetables are tender. When cooked, put the veggies into a large bowl and sprinkle over the vinegar. Set to one side.
Toast the rolls on both sides, then spread each bottom half with cheese and top with the warmed vegetables, then replace top of the bun. Serve warm.

Final 'recipes' of the day are more on the lines of how to make "veggie toast toppings.' The better the bread the more the impact. When fancying toast made with granary or other good bread, don't feel that it cannot be afforded, ideally buy the loaf then freeze it and take just a slice when you fancy toast. This makes it last a lotlonger than having to use it up within a week, and makes a slice now and then with chosen topping make an agreeable lunch.

spicy beans on toast:
Drain a 400g can of mixed beans (or used home-cooked). Put into a pan with a 227g can of chopped tomatoes, a dash of Tabasco and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Simmer away the liquid, then serve on hot toast.

hummous on toast:
Using a food processor, blend 220g can (or homecooked) chickpeas with the juice of half a lemon, a little crushed garlic and a tblsp Greek yogurt and 1 tsp olive oil. Season to taste. Spread thickly on toast, eat as is- or can be heated under the grill.

stilton melt:
Blend 3 oz (75g) Stilton (or other blue) cheese with 2 - 3 tblsp creme fraiche. Spread onto toast and pop back under the grill until bubbling. Serve topped with caramelised onions (or put the onions on the toast then put the cheese over that).