Cornish Fairings

Cornish Fairing

Just having a cup of tea and a biscuit.  Do you want one?  These only take 5 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to bake so you could be eating one in half an hour.

I made these to celebrate St. Piran’s Day but, as it falls during Lent, I have also “veganised” them in keeping with my Lenten promise to give up animal products.  They haven’t “crinkled” on the top quite as much as they do when made with butter but they still taste scrumptious; gingery, spicy and crispy – delicious.

I don’t have much more to say on the subject except that my tea is going cold so I might make a fresh one – and have a second biscuit…

Ingredients

100g (4oz) Non-Dairy Spread

100g (4oz) Un-Refined Caster Sugar

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

175g (6oz) Self Raising Flour

2 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / Gas Mark 4

Heat the spread, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat until the butter has melted, but do not boil.

Sift the flour, ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda together into a bowl, then tip into the melted butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon to form a smooth dough.

Place heaped teaspoons full of the mixture on to baking sheets, about an inch apart to allow room for them to spread.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool and harden on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

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Sweet Potato and Coconut Dal

 

I made this sweet potato and coconut dal / dhal for dinner for Martin and I last night.

Earlier in the evening we had met up with friends for an “early doors” drink and when we got home we wanted something quick to prepare but tasty and this looked like it would fit the bill.

The original recipe is from a Rose Elliot book called Vegetarian Supercook which I have owned for about 10 years but it is still in print and easily available.  The book contains a number of vegan recipes as well as tips on how to “veganise” some of the vegetarian recipes so I suspect I might be referring to it quite a lot over the next few weeks as I have decided to be vegan for Lent this year.

The dhal (I spell it dhal, Rose Elliot spells it dal) took about 30 minutes from start to finish and a maximum of 5 minutes prep time.  I anticipated serving it with some chapattis just as it is but, when it was ready and we tasted it, we realised that wouldn’t quite be right.  This dish is incredibly sweet – absolutely delicious but very, very sweet.  Martin said it tasted almost like dessert which is, perhaps, going a little too far but I take his point.

Luckily, and I do mean luckily, we had some left over vegetable curry in the fridge.  I had planned to have it for my lunch today but we ate it last night instead and the dhal became a side dish.  In fact the dhal became an absolutely perfect side dish.

I will be making this again but only as an accompaniment to something with a spicy kick – the two balance each other perfectly.

Now – what am I going to have for lunch?..

Ingredients

1lb / 500g Sweet Potato

6 oz / 175g Split Red Lentils

1 or 2 Green Chillies, sliced

14 fl oz /400ml can Coconut Milk

3/4 pint / 450 ml Water

1 tsp Grated Fresh Ginger

1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Turmeric

Salt & Pepper

A generous handful of Chopped Coriander

Method

Peel and dice the sweet potato.  Place it in a saucepan with the lentils, chilli, coconut milk and water.  Bring to the boil and then leave to cook gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the sweet potato and the lentils are soft and the mixture looks thick.

Stir in the ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and some salt and pepper, then cook gently for a few more minutes to blend in the flavours.  Sprinkle with coriander and serve.

NB The spices are added after the lentils are tender – adding them earlier can stop the lentils from softening properly.

 

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Tuscan Bean Soup

Tuscan Bean Soup

I have never been to Tuscany.  I don’t even know if they make a version of this soup there but this recipe (and variations of it) have always been called Tuscan Bean Soup.  So here it is.

This version is suitable for vegans; I used a vegan bouillon powder to make the stock.  I also used tinned beans for convenience but you could use dried beans if you have time to soak them.  The actual mix of beans isn’t too important – some recipes use all cannellini beans – what really matters is that you choose varieties you like to eat.

My mum used to make a version of this soup (actually, she probably still does) and it has always been a favourite of mine, tasty, hearty and filling.  This soup is no starter to a meal – it is a meal all in itself.  Add some crusty bread and you are away.

Once, when no. 2 daughter was about five years old, we visited my mum when she was cooking.  The conversation went like this:

L: “What are you cooking nana?”

M: “Bean soup”.

L: (With a cheeky glint in her eye) “I don’t care what it’s been, what is it now”?

That pivotal moment should have prepared us for the slightly warped but hilarious sense of humour my daughter has displayed ever since – like the time I opened the kitchen cupboard to find all my groceries looking back at me with googly eyes, or the time she recommended a “really funny” film which was actually the most terrifying thing I have ever seen!

Anyway, for that reason this soup makes me smile and, on a rainy day in March, that is priceless.

Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp Olive Oil

2 large Onions, sliced

3 Celery Sticks, sliced

3 Carrots, diced

3 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

5 fresh Thyme Sprigs, leaves picked

2 fresh Rosemary Sprigs

1 tsp Smoked Paprika

2 x 400g tins Chopped Tomatoes

2 litres Vegetable Stock

400g tin of Cannellini Beans, drained

400g tin of Flageolet beans, drained

400g tin of Borlotti Beans

1 small Savoy Cabbage, thick stem removed, finely sliced

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the onions, celery and carrots; sweat the vegetables (stirring occasionally) until softened but not coloured.  Add the garlic and herbs and cook for another five minutes.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and beans.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour or so to give the flavours time to develop.

 

Remove the rosemary and add the cabbage and simmer for another ten minutes or so or until the cabbage is just cooked.

 

This soup will keep in the fridge for two or three days or in the freezer for up to six months.

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Pea and Mint Spread

Pea and mint spread recipe

I had to go into Truro to have my eyes tested this morning.  I went out early and skipped breakfast (tut tut) then arrived in town just in time for my appointment.  I went through the usual rigmarole; puffs of air in the eye, a lecture for leaving it too long between appointments and complete indecision when choosing new frames to go with the new prescription.  By time I left I was just in time for my bus home.

On the up side that meant no time wasted.  On the down side it meant no time for a self indulgent cup of coffee – and I do like my coffee.

All in all, I arrived home at lunch time tired, hungry and a little bit grumpy.  I opened the fridge and couldn’t immediately find anything quick and tasty – so I made this.  And it was delicious.  And quick.  And easy.  And healthy.  In other words a perfect Monday lunch.

I have called it a spread, because I spread it on some crackers, but it could just as easily be a dip with some crudité.    And it is so simple it doesn’t really need a recipe – change the flavours to suit whatever you have in the fridge:  No crème fraiche?  Use natural yoghurt or cream cheese.  No mint?  Try coriander or parsley.  Just make it your own and enjoy it.

I’ve stopped being grumpy now but I might just have a little bit more pea spread – just to make sure…

Pea Dip Recipe

Ingredients

100g frozen peas

A sprig or two of fresh mint

1 Spring Onion

1 tbsp crème fraiche

Method

Put the peas in a pan, just cover with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for a minute until heated through.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain again.

Blitz the peas with a stick blender until you have a course purée.

Finely slice the spring onion and mint leaves.  Add to the peas along with the crème fraiche.  Season well.

You can eat this as a dip with vegetable crudité or spread it onto crackers or a chunk of crusty bread.

 

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Bowl Food with Falafel

Falafel bowl food

Bowl Food – it’s a thing!

When I first saw this I admit that I groaned a little:  Really?  Are we just going to swap a plate for a bowl and call it a thing now?  Surely this belongs in the crockery section not cookery.  But then I set aside my pre-conceptions and explored the idea further.

Bowl food is designed to be both healthy and comforting and we could all do with some of that – especially in January.  You will sometimes find bowl food referred to as “Bliss Bowls” and the idea is to create a blissful base of grain (couscous, rice etc.) and then top it with lots of tasty veggies and a protein source.  The whole thing should then be pulled together with a killer sauce or dressing.

So, yesterday, Martin headed off to work in Southampton leaving me home alone for a few days.  Whilst I miss him, I also really enjoy having a bit of me time; time to read, to think, to cook and to pretend to work on that novel…  This is where bowl food comes into its own for me:  I can skip any kind of formality, fill a bowl with tasty stuff, light the fire and curl up on the sofa with a book in one hand and a fork in the other.

So this time I made a bowl full of Moroccan flavours; a little spiced and fruity couscous topped with roasted peppers, carrots and cauliflower, some spinach, hummus and a couple of falafel.  I pulled the whole thing together with a warm dressing made from hummus, harissa paste and olive oil.

I added ground cumin and coriander to the roasted veg and sprinkled the carrots with sesame seeds for the last five minutes of cooking and used the same spices in the falafel to help pull it all together.

A bliss bowl doesn’t have to be plant based but it’s good to have a few meat free meals a week and I decided to make this one vegan in honour of Veganuary.

My recipe for the falafel can be found below – it’s probably not entirely authentic but it tastes good and that’s good enough for me.  You can use shop bought if you prefer.  Again, I made my own hummus but you can buy that too making this a really simple meal.

In the interests of honesty I feel obliged to tell you that if you put this on a plate it will still taste just as good!

Falafel Recipe

Ingredients

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas in water

1 small Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic

1 tbsp Olive Oil

Chopped Parsley and Coriander (about a handful)

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tbsp Gram Flour (or plain flour)

Salt

Groundnut or sunflower oil for deep frying

Method

Slice the onion and cook gently in the olive oil until soft but not coloured.  Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Drain and rinse the chick peas and pat them dry with some kitchen roll.  Add to the pan with the onions and cook for two or three minutes to make sure the chick peas are completely dry – you don’t want too much moisture in the finished falafel.

Season well with salt and place half the chick pea mix in the food processor.  Blitz until quite smooth.  Add the second half of the mix and pulse until chopped but still quite coarse.  Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir through the chopped herbs.  If the mixture still seems a little wet stir in the gram flour too.

Shape the mixture into golf ball sized balls (this mixture will make about 6) and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer (or deep saucepan) to 180°C.  If the oil is too hot the falafel will burn before the middle is cooked.  Add the falafel and cook until golden brown all over.

If you don’t like to deep fry you can shallow fry or even bake them but they do turn out best if they are deep fried.

Drain and serve hot.

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