Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meals without Meat

Depending upon who will be eating this next dish, start by making this vegetarian version of paella, and then - if necessary - divide the mixture between pure vegetarian, and almost vegetarian by adding a little fish to one half. Even some can have some cooked chicken wings slipped into the final serving if a non-vegetarian is at the table and hungry for meat. Feel free to vary the vegetables according to what is in season, the quantities also can be varied. The only ingredient that needs accuracy is the rice and liquids. If wishing to use white rice, it will take less time to cook, and probably need less liquid, so start by using half the liquid and then add more as the rice takes it up. Leave just a little liquid in the dish after the initial cooking as the rice will absorb this during the 'standing time'.
The adaptable Paella: to serve 8 (V)
4 oz (100g) flageolet beans, soaked overnight
8 fl oz (250ml) white wine
juice 1 large lemon
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock
1 tsp saffron strands
16 fl.oz (500ml) measure long grain brown rice
3 tblsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely diced
1 each red, green and yellow bell pepper
4 oz (100g) frozen peas, thawed
4 oz (100g) flaked almonds, toasted
4 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 large handful each fresh mint and parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
(optional extras: hardboiled eggs, black olives)
Drain and rinse the soaked beans, then boil in fresh water until tender. Drain and set aside.
Put the wine, stock, lemon juice and saffron into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir in the rice, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, then remove from the heat, still keeping the pan covered, and set aside for 15 minutes by which time the rice should be tender and all the liquid absorbed.
Meanwhile, trim and de-seed the bell peppers and cut into small squares. Using a deep frying pan, heat the oil and stir-fry the carrots and onions over high heat for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat and stir in the garlic, peas and bell peppers, and cook for a further couple of minutes, then stir in the rice, half the almonds and the beans, and all the herbs. Heat through, stirring occasionally, and serve garnished with the tomatoes (and quartered hardboiled eggs and olives if using). Scatter the remaining almonds over the top and serve immediately.

If recently 'turned' vegetarian, then sometimes we might feel something is missing from our plates. There are meat substitutes aplenty, but as they are not meat - just pretending to be - why not serve a cheaper 'steak' that you can prepare yourself.
Aubergine Steaks: serves 4 (V)
1 - large aubergine, thickly sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
4 fl oz (100ml) red wine
pinch each dried oregano and dried thyme
salt and pepper
Take a large shallow dish and place in the aubergine slices, lying flat in a single layer. Whisk the oil, wine and herbs together, adding seasoning to taste, until well mixed, then pour this evenly over the aubergines. Cover and chill for half an hour, then turn the slices, cover and leave for a further half hour.
To cook: place the marinated aubergines a single layer in an oiled baking tray, spooning over any marinade left, and bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 10 minutes, then turn each slice over and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the slices are tender and all the wine marinade has been absorbed. Remove from the dish and drain on kitchen paper.
Finish by frying the steaks in a little oil in a frying pan (or oiled griddle pan) for 1 - 2 minutes each side. OR - before the final frying - dip each into beaten egg and then breadcrumbs and then fry for the time given above.
Serve with cooked vegetables or a crisp salad as you would serve a beef steak.

All cooks keep plenty of onions in their vegetable racks, so this is a dish we should be able to make at any time. Use ordinary or vegetarian cheese according to your needs. In any case the 'stuffing' can be easily adapted to suit your tastes, but this one is particularly tasty. Don't peel the onion before the initial cooking, the skin helps to hold it together. As a 'side' dish, serve one onion per person.
Stuffed Onions: to serve 4
4 very large Spanish onions, unpeeled
1 oz (25g) butter
1 fl oz (25ml) white wine
4 oz (100g) grated (vegetarian) Cheddar
4 oz (100g) cottage cheese
pinch of dried thyme
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces, toasted
dash of Tabasco
salt and pepper
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then carefully drop in the unpeeled onions and simmer for 10 minutes to soften the flesh enough so the middles can be easily removed. Do not over cook or the onions will fall apart.
When cooked, set aside to cool, then remove the brown skin. Remove the centre part from the onions, leaving at least 2 - 3 'rings' of onion to form a shell. Put half the middles to one side, and chop the rest finely, putting them into a frying pan with the butter and wine, and frying gently for 3 minutes. Remove from pan to a bowl, and mix in the cheeses, herb, walnuts adding Tabasco and seasonings to taste.
Stuff the onion shells with this mixture, then take an oiled dish and pour in a little water or wine to just cover the base, then place in the stuffed onions. Cover with foil and bake at 179C, 325F, gas 3 for about 40 minutes until the onions are tender. Serve hot with mushroom or onion gravy.
onion gravy:
take the reserved 'middles' and chop coarsely then fry for a few minutes with a small knob of butter and half a teaspoon of sugar, then when beginning to caramelise, add a little onion water or vegetable stock and cook until the onions are really tender. Either blitz in a blender to make a pouring gravy, or thicken with a little arrowroot, adding a dash of soy sauce if you wish more flavour.
mushroom gravy:
instead of using onion 'middles' (in which case use all the onion centres in the stuffing mix), saute finely chopped mushrooms in butter, omit the sugar but add a dash of brandy to give a rich flavour. Add stock and finish as above.

Believe we have already done a Masterclass on pastry, but there are always variations to the classic recipes and this one is 'vegetarian'. It won't work unless the margarine has been frozen and used when still frozen. Otherwise said to be foolproof. Two suggestions: if it makes it easier, cube the margarine before freezing, then less chance of it softening when added to the flour. And - if like me your hands are often warm - plunge hands into cold water for a few seconds (then dry well) before handling the pastry.
Vegetarian Pastry:
14 oz (400g) wholewheat flour
1 - 2 tsp salt
9 oz (250g) hard vegetable margarine, frozen
2 tblsp lemon juice. chilled
4 - 5 fl oz (100 - 150ml) iced water
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Finely chop or grate the margarine into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon just long enough for the margarine to be coated. Stir in the lemon juice and enough cold water to make a dough. It should be slightly sticky.
Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly so it just gathers itself together. There may be bit of margarine visible, but nothing to be concerned about. Wrap in greaseproof or put in a polybag and chill for at least an hour before using.
When ready to use, knead lightly until smooth, then use in the normal way.