Monday, April 22, 2013

Meatless Meals

Not sure what has caused this, but today I'm almost crippled.  Almost had to crawl out of bed due to my back having siezed up, and my left shoulder also is painful and 'creaking' as I move it.   Am hoping the paracetamol I took with my morning coffee will ease the pain.  At least, sitting here in my chair in front of the comp, am a bit more comfortable, but not THAT much. 

Thanks Sarina for your comment.  Myself had a very bad allergic reaction the day after the family ate at the local Chinese restaurant, so do think that had something to do with it, but at home, as I eat virtually the same things each day, have not yet found any connection between an allergy reaction and what has been eaten.  Or even what I might have touched.   What does seem odd is that the allergy is very regular, every 15 - 16 days, usually preceded by a rash on my arm (hives) the day before.  Sometimes I have a very bad rash and no facial swelling.

The present 'attack' has been slightly different.  Firstly I had a smaller rash on my right arm (just below the wrist then moving up the arm), then - during the day - my throat swelled up.  After taking double doses of anti-histamines the swelling eventually subsided, and the rash stayed put.  Then, yesterday afternoon my top lip began swelling on the other side of my face, more anti-histamines seemed to keep it under control,  but this morning my left hand and wrist now has 'hives', with the orginal right-hand rash still there and moving slowly up my arm.  Both sides of my face are a bit swollen (happened overnight), but nothing worth concerning myself. 
It's just about due to happen all over again around the time I go to see the doctor about it, so - for once - am hoping it does so he can see it in its full glory, but at least do have photos that he can see. 

As not feeling in a very 'chatty' mood today, think I'll press on with giving a few recipes that may help to keep costs down as normally meat is the most expensive ingredient in a dish, and the dishes today don't contain any. 
The first recipe had two main ingredients (carrots and yellow split peas) both being some of the cheapest foods we keep in our kitchens.   The original list of ingredients was very lengthy, and myself find when this happens it puts me off making the dish rather than encouraging me, so instead of: "1 tsp ground turmeric, half tsp ground cumin, half tsp ground coriander, pinch ground cloves...", I've put 'curry powder (aka 'garam masala').  Also, instead of "1 Scotch Bonnet chilli", I've suggested using one Peppadew (these are sold in jars, both mild or hot - so use the strength you wish).  
Myself absolutely LOVE eating the mild Peppadew, either stuffing them with cream cheese as a 'nibble' (or buffet dish) or chopping up one or two and adding to a Prawn Cocktail or a 'salsa', or just sprinkled over salads.  I even eat them like sweets.    The liquid they are bottled in is also worth saving as it is slightly sweet and 'tangy', and blends well with mayo to make a spicy salad dressing.  Or can be use as one of the ingredients to make our own Thai Sweet Chilli sauce.

Carrot Casserole from Afghanistan: serves 4
2 onion, chopped
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1 - 2 hot Peppadew (see above)
1 tblsp grated fresh root ginger
2 tsp curry powder (see above)
1lb 5oz (900g) carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
10 oz (300g) yellow split peas
1 tblsp tomato paste
half a 400g can chopped tomatoes
half tsp salt
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
approx 18 fl oz (500ml) vegetable stock or water
Using a large saucepan, fry the onions in the oil until beginning to soften, then add the garlic, Peppadew, ginger, and curry powder.  Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add the carrots and split peas, cooking for a few more minutes before adding the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, then stir in the salt, vinegar, adding just enough stock (or water) to cover all the ingredients.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hr, or until the carrots and peas are tender.
Serve with rice, yogurt and crusty bread.    The salsa below is good served with this dish.

Next recipe make a refreshing chunky salad and can be made in advance to allow the flavours to join hands.  Keep chilled in the fridge until ready to serve.
Middle Eastern 'Salaata': serves 4
half a cucumber, peeled and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 spring onions, sliced
handful fresh coriander chopped OR...
...flat-leaf parsley
handful fresh mint leaves chopped
2 small green chillies, chopped
juice of 1 large lemon
pinch of salt
Put everything into a bowl in the order given, sprinkling over the salt and drizzling with the lemon juice at the end. Cover and keep chilled in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.  Serve chilled.

My Beloved and I love eating oranges, especially in the earlie months of the year when the Navel (pipless) oranges are on sale.  At this time of the year, although still plenty of oranges on sale, these often have thicker skin and a lot of internal membranes so the segments are not so pleasant to eat in the hand.  The best way to use these oranges is to remove all the peel and pith, using a sharp knife, then remove the segments from the membrane (again using a knife).  Do this in/over a shallow dish so that all the juice is collected - this can be added to a salad as part of the dressing.

Here is a lovely salad that makes use of a bag of mixed watercress, rocket and baby spinach leaves, but you could use any one of these leaves if that's all you have (or you could use a mixture of your home-grown 'mixed salad leaves' that I KNOW you are growing on your windowsill), then add an orange or two, and some blue cheese that needs using up.  The walnuts add extra flavour, and as these nuts are extremely good for us, a pleasant way to eat them.
Walnut oil does not have a very long shelf-life, so buy this only in small bottles.  Or make you own by chopping a few walnut pieces and putting them into a small jar, topping up with olive oil, giving a shake, then leaving it to 'mature' for a few hours/days. Drain and use as walnut oil.
Watercress, Orange and Blue Cheese Salad: serves 4
1 x 200g bag mixed leaf salad (see above)
2 oranges
1 tbslp walnut oil, or olive oil, ( see above)
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces, roughly chopped
5 oz (150g) Stilton (or other blue) cheese, crumbled
Spread the salad leaves over the base of a shallow salad bowl.  Peel the oranges over a small bowl (to catch the juice), and remove the segments.  Add the walnut oil to the captured orange juice and whisk together, adding seasoning to taste.  Pour this dressing over the salad leaves and toss together, then scatter the orange segments, walnuts and cheese over the leaves.   Serve immediately.

Lentils are a great favourite of mine as they contain plenty of vegetable protein.  Myself tend to keep the split red lentils in my larder, occasionally buying cans of green lentils.  Never have found that the more expensive Puy lentils are to my taste, but many people do enjoy eating them. 
With this next dish we can either soak/cook dried lentils, or as the recipe suggests - use canned.  Myself (not being a vegetarian verging on vegan), would use normal cows milk and egg-base pasta sheets, but soya milk and egg-free lasagne can also be used, so - as ever - choose the ingredients to suit your own preferences.
Mushroom ketchup is an ingredient I have yet to buy/use.  We could add chopped mushrooms to the lasagne, and add a teaspoon of Marmite to give the depth of flavour the ketchup would give.
Lentil Lasagne: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick/rib, finely chopped
2 x 400g cans lentils, drained and rinsed
1 tblsp cornflour
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp mushroom ketchup (see above)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
salt and pepper
1 large caulflower, broken into small florets
2 tblsp soya milk (see above)
pinch of grated nutmeg
9 dried lasagne sheets (see above)
Put the oil in a pan with the onion, carrot, and celery, cover pan and cook over low heat to saute the veggies until soft (takes about 10 minutes).  Add the garlic and stir-fry for a further minute, then stir in the lentils and cornflour.
Empty the canned tomatoes into the pan, then fill the can almost full of water, giving it a swirl to gather up the remaining tomato in the can, then add this to the pan with the mushrooms ketchup, oregano, stock powder, and seasoning to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes (or until tender), drain then put in a food processor with the milk, nutmeg and seasoning to taste.  Blitz to a puree.
Assemble the lasagne by putting one-third of the lentil mixture on the base of an 8" x 12" (20x30cm) ceramic dish, cover with three sheets of the pasta (you may need to break to fit), top with with another third of lentils, then a third of the cauliflower 'sauce', then another layer of pasta.  Finish with the last layer of the lentils, and the last of the pasta, then spoon the remaining cauliflower puree over the top.
Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 25- 35 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes to allow the top to become slightly golden and crusty.  Take to table and serve from the dish (take care, it will be hot).

To prove that with very similar ingredients to the above recipe we can make a different pasta dish, here is the final recipe for today.   The advantage with this dish is that when the sauce is made then cooled, it can be chilled for up to three days before being reheated while you cook the pasta, OR it can be frozen for up to three months (in single portions if you wish), then defrost overnight at room temperature then reheat gently while the pasta is being cooked.
Lentil Ragu: makes 6 portions
1 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 500g bag dried red split lentils
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 tsp each dried oregano and thyme
2 bay leaves
1.75pts (1 ltr) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1 x 500g pack spaghetti
grated Parmesan for serving
Put the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, carrots and celery. Cover and cook gently (saute) for 15-20 minutes until softened, adding the garlic towards the end.  Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and the stock.  Bring to the simmer, then cook for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender (check after 30 minutes as you may need to add a little more water).  Add seasoning to taste.  Keep warm (or leave to cool if intending to chill/freeze).
Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions, then drain well and divide between individual bowls or plates.  Spoon the sauce over the top and sprinkle on some cheese.
Follow directions above if you wish to serve the sauce later, or freeze it.

It really does help to make up bulk amounts of a 'pasta sauce' such as above, then freeze in individual portions.  Myself make a bulk panful of 'spag. bol. meat sauce', cooking the 'Holy Trinity' of veg (carrot, onion, celery) as above, then adding this to some fried mince beef, with a can of tomatoes PLUS a packet of 'Beanfeasts' Bolognaise mix (vegetarian), plus extra water. I always add a good dash of HP sauce and a good glug of Worcestershire sauce to give a really rich flavour.
Cooled, then packed in individual portions, this 'meat sauce' takes just 8 minutes to cook from frozen (on HIGH in the microwave) ready to serve with the pasta that is being cooked while the meat sauce heats up.

My Beloved had the above (frozen spag.bol) with pasta penne for his supper last night (grated Parmesan on top), and perfect for those days when I really feel a bit 'off' and really don't want to have to cook a meal from scratch.   It's just so EASY, yet still tastes as though freshly made. Do much the same thing with the 'Beanfeast Mexican Chilli' mix.  Starts off the same, the veggies, then mixed with the meat, then the tomatoes and the Beanfeast Chilli, but instead of the sauces I might add half a sachet of chilli casserole mix (B likes it hot!), or a dash of red pepper sauce (or even a teaspoon or so of chilli powder), finishing with a can (drained) of red beans.  Once heated through, freeze in individual portions, and reheat for 8 minutes, serving with rice or salad and tortilla chips (or pitta bread).

Am desperately trying to clear space in the freezer drawers ready to put the samosas, dahl, curries etc that I will be making for the 'social'.  Trouble is, as soon as B sees a gap, he dashes out and buys some tubs of ice-cream to fill the space (he loves ice-cream).  I've asked him to stop buying until the Indian meal is done and dusted or I'll never be able to make enough in advance to give me time to do what needs to be done on the day (as am providing everything - several curries, koftas, dahl, samosas, chapatis, bahjis, pakoras, poppadums, salads, two different rice, raita, pickles, and a couple or so Indian desserts...!!! Not a problem as I prepare much in advance, just as long as I have freezer and fridge space.   I've done it before, learned then how I could have reduced the work load, so this time am hoping it will be even easier to do.

Time for me to start sorting the larder, putting the ingredients 'for the Indian' together on one shelf, and also checking to see what needs to be ordered/bought nearer the day.  Still a month away, but the sooner I start the easier it gets. 

Hoping you can join me again tomorrow, and keep those comments coming.  TTFN.
p.s spellcheck has failed yet again, so apologies for any errors.  I could read the blog myself, word for word, but today don't feel like sitting here any longer than I need to, as am still aching. Am sure you will know that errors are mistakes rather than me being unable to spell.