Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tightening Pursestrings

One good thing about Halloumi cheese is that it has a very long shelf life when kept unopened in the fridge - something like a year! Once opened, wrap tightly and it should still keep a few months.
Mediterranean Salad: serves 4
1 small red onion, finely sliced
6 small tomatoes, sliced
4 oz (100g) roasted red and yellow bell peppers, sliced
1 tblsp capers
2 tblsp black olives, stoned and halved (or sliced)
3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 x 225g packs Halloumi cheese
few fresh basil leaves
Place the onion in a small bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover. Leave for a couple of minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again.
Prepare the dish by placing the sliced tomatoes on a platter, then scatter over the now blanched onions, add the sliced peppers, capers and olives. Drizzle with 2 tblsp of the olive oil, adding seasoning to taste.
Slice the Halloumi fairly thickly and place in a heated frying pan or on the ridges of griddle pan and cook over high heat for a minute each side until golden (this will need to be done in batches). Add the cooked cheese to the platter and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. Garnish with basil leaves. Good served with c crusty bread.

This next dish makes a perfect 'fish free' version of Spanish paella. Great for vegetarian summer suppers, but also makes a great dish to serve when entertaining as it not only looks good, but also bursting with flavours. If you haven't saffron, a drop of yellow food colouring would tint the rice. Another way to add yellow colouring is to soak the petals of pot marigold (NOT French marigold) in hot water..
Vegetable Paella with Almonds: serves 4
large pinch of saffron (see above)
3 fl oz (89ml) olive oil
7 oz (200g) red or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
4 oz (100g) string beans
4 baby courgettes
3 oz (75g) peas (fresh or frozen)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sprigs rosemary
12 oz (300g) paella or risotto rice
a good pint of vegetable stock
2 oz (25g) flaked and toasted almonds
Infuse the saffron in an eggcup full of boiling water, and set aside. Put half the oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from pan and set aside.
Add the beans, courgettes and peas to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Remove and add to the tomatoes, then set aside until needed.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, stir in the garlic and rosemary and fry for 1 minute, then reduce heat before stirring in the rice. Cook-stir for 2 minutes so that all the rice is covered in the oil and turning opaque, then add the saffron with its water, the stock. Stir a couple of times, then raise the heat and bring to a fast boil. After a few minutes (by which time little holes will have formed in the rice) reduce heat to just above a simmer, and continue cooking (but without stirring) for about 20 minutes, by which time all the liquid should have been absorbed. If the liquid has been absorbed but the rice is still not cooked through then add a little more boiling water.
Once the rice is cooked, spread the cooked tomatoes, beans, peas, and courgettes, cover and leave for five minutes to heat through, stir through once gently to mingle the ingredients together (but without breaking up the toms), scatter the almonds on top, take the pan to the table and serve.

Soya beans are one of the few vegetables that contain all the amino acids - so on a part with animal protein, but as this next dish also contains eggs, another type of bean (or pea) could be used instead. As with many such tortillas, different vegetables could be used. The traditional Spanish omelette (aka tortilla) made using only potatoes and onions.
The good thing about these 'thick' omelettes is that they eat equally well warm or cold, so perfect for family meals, packed lunches or picnics. Or even just an evening 'snack'. If stored in the fridge, allow them to come back to room temperature to allow the flavours to be fully appreciated (chilling often dampens them down).
Low Carb, Low Cal..Tortilla: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, sliced
5 oz (125g) frozen soya beans (defrosted)
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch dried chilli flakes
6 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
Put the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan, stir in the onion and peppers and gently fry for about 10 mintues until softened, stirring in the garlic towards the end. Add the soya beans, parsley and chilli flakes and give another stir. Season the beaten eggs, then pour this over the vegetables in the pan, giving the pan a shake so that the eggs coat the veggies evenly, then leave to cook over a low-medium heat for a good 10 minutes (maybe longer depending upon size of the pan). Check the underside of the tortilla occasionally to make sure it is not getting too brown. The top will still remain 'runny'.
Cook the top of the tortilla by placing under a pre-heated grill, allowing 5 - 6 minutes, or until the top has turned golden, and the middle is set. Slide onto a platter and cut into wedges to serve.
Garnish with extra chopped parsley if you wish, and serve with a crisp green salad (although good eaten on its own).

For a vegetarian family supper you can't get a much more attractive and tastier cold dish than the following. Always supposing that cheese is allowed, if so it doesn't HAVE to be goat's cheese, it could be feta or Wensleydale - almost any white cheese that crumbles easily. Maybe there are even vegetarian versions of these cheeses, not forgetting that 'tofu' is also classed as a type of 'cheese'.
The broccoli is the 'green' part of this dish, so watercress, spinach or even Little Gem lettuce leaves could be used instead.
Beetroot, Broccoli and Goat's Cheese Couscous: serves 4
4 oz (100g) tenderstem broccoli florets, cooked
zest and juice of 1 large orange
5 oz (150g) couscous
4 fl oz (150ml) water
1 oz (25g) walnut pieces
3 oz (75g) firm goat's cheese, crumbled
6 no-soak apricots, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
4 small cooked beetroot, cut into quarters
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
Put the orange zest and juice in a pan with the water into a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and stir in the couscous. Cover, and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then fluff up the grains with a fork and add the walnuts, cheese, apricots and seasoning to taste. Fold in the oil and lemon juice, finally folding in th e broccoli (broken into tiny florets, or chopped), and lastly the beetroot (otherwise the beetroot stains the rest of the ingredients red). Serve immediately.
If wishing to prepare this in advance, prepare up to and including the broccoli, but keep the beetroot separate, adding it when ready to serve. If wishing to take this as a picnic dish or packed lunch, place the beetroot on top, then fold in when ready to eat.

Even though warm days should now be here, we still feel the need for a hot meal, so am hoping this Vietnamese 'sweet and sour' dish might suit vegetarian tastes. Myself find that one butternut squash will last several meals, and if the cut side is tightly covered with cling-film, the unused part will keep for quite a few weeks in the fridge.
Oriental Hot Pot: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower oil
knob of fresh ginger, shredded
1 clove garlic, chopped or crushed
half a large butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tsp soy sauc
2 tsp light muscavodo sugar
7 fl oz (200ml) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) green string beans, chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
fresh coriander as garnish
freshly cooked rice (opt)
Heat the oil in a saucepan and stir-fry the ginger and garlic for 4 minutes, then add the butternut, soy sauce, sugar and stock. cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid, add the green beans, and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the squash and beans are tender. When ready, stir in the spring onions then serve, garnished with the coriander. Can be eaten as-is, or with the addition of cooked rice.

Final dish today uses vegetables that are shortly coming into season (although no doubt the supermarkets stock these the whole year round). Another good-looking vegetarian dish (always supposing that eggs are allowed (although in this instance could be omitted), and can be prepared in advance, then gently reheated the eggs being added then.
Ratatouille with Poached Eggs: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 aubergine, diced
2 courgettes, diced
1 x 4oog can chopped tomatoes
cold water
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
basil leaves for garnish
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, pepper and rosemary for 5 minutees, then stir in the garlic and then cook until the onion has softened. Stir frequently during this time.
Add the aubergines and courgettes, then cook for 3 minutes more before adding the canned tomatoes. Rinse the can out by filling with cold water, and tip this also into the pan, then bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then remove lid and simmer for a further 20 minutes or until the contents are pulpy and the liquid reduced to a thickish sauce, then stir in the vinegar. At this point it can be removed from the heat to be reheated later.
If wishing to continue, make four big dentations in the ratatouille to hold the eggs. Crack each egg into its hole, and season with pepper, Cover and cook for 2 - 5 minutes (or until the eggs are set to your taste) then serve with a garnish of basil leaves scattered over the top. Also serve a bowl of chunks of crusty bread to mop up all the lovely juices left in your dish.