Wednesday 30 March 2011

A Double Soup and a Simple Spaghetti

Parmentier (Potato and Leek Soup)
Zucca (Pumpkin Soup)
from The Vegeterranean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking, Malu Simões & Alberto Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008

Cooking two different soups for one dish seemed a little over the top but when the two were poured into the one dish the result was a visual delight. 

I managed holding a saucepan in each hand pouring the two soups at the same time into the plate to make a reasonably straight line down the middle of the plate where they met. But my partner, much more creative, took a spoon and turned it into a yin and yang design.

The two soups went together well taste wise. The pumpkin was slightly sweet while the savoury parmentier complimented the other with its overlaying flavour of the green olives cooked in it. Of the two the parmentier was my favourite.

I had cooked plenty of soup so on the night after we had just the pumpkin and on the night following that the potato and leek.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

A Satisfying Pasta Supper
from The Country Cookbook: seasonal jottings and recipes, Belinda Jeffery, Lantern, 2010

Pasta is one my favourites meals so this easy recipe appealed. It does have anchovies in it, but I left them out. I did however make two sauces, one without for me and one with anchovies for my partner.

The ingredients were simple: parsley, chillies, capers and breadcrumbs plus parmesan. It was all very straightforward though I do think I did something wrong in the last stage as I tried to separate things and add the anchovy to one. I suspect that the fish flavoured one had more of some elements than my plain one did.

It all went down well nevertheless.

Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Roll

Still continuing with my cooking binge. So far, though the process has been pleasing resulting in a lot of good things to eat, nothing has stood out yet as something that I would want to add to my repeat list. Until this spinach and ricotta roll. This one I would go back to at another time.

Rullo di Spinaci e Ricotta
from The Vegeterranean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking, Malu Simões & Albert Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

I hesitated before taking this recipe up. The idea of rolling a filling in pastry was a little daunting. However, once begun this was a buzz to make.

The filling was easily and quickly done. The pastry that seemed as though it was not going to come together did so easily. And then it had to be thrown forcefully onto the bench top 20 times. I enjoyed doing this so much that it received a few more than the nominated number of times.

This turned out to be a truly tasty dish. The spinach flavour came through strongly and the seasoning was just right. One worth repeating.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Broad Beans with Creamy Basil Sauce
Carrots and Dill
from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookery, Hutchinson Australia, 1989

Prepared these vegetable dishes to accompany the spinach and ricotta roll.

The beans with a white sauce with mustard and basil was pleasant. I didn’t peel the beans as I actually like them with the tough skins on.

The carrots were not so good. Cooked with onions in a Vegemite flavoured water they lacked something.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

As some of these books may be out of print if anyone would like a particular recipe, email me ( and I’ll send an abbreviated version. Of couse, the whole book would be better; it’s loaded with other goodies.

Monday 28 March 2011

Eggplant Torta

Eggplant, Mozzarella & Parmesan Torta
from The Country Cookbook: seasonal jottings and recipes, Belinda Jeffery, Lantern, 2010

Again I have gone back to this cookbook, this time to make this savoury torta of layered eggplant and cheeses. While I really like eggplant, I dislike it immensely if it is not fully cooked. The thin slices of eggplant are first grilled and I made sure at this stage that they received a good grilling.

The meal was a bit of mucking around preparing the eggplant first and then building up the torta. It was interesting to make though.

The result was a large, flattish-looking cake on a plate. Served in slices with vegetables it made a tasty and different meal. It also went down well served cold the next day.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔

As some of these books may be out of print if anyone would like a particular recipe, email me ( and I'll send an abbreviated version. Of course, the whole book would be better; it's loaded with other goodies. 

Saturday 26 March 2011

Goat Cheese Enchiladas

Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Sweet Corn Salsa
from Vegetarian Dinner in Minutes, Linda Gassenheimer, Chronicle Books, 1997.

 I had some tortillas left from my quesadillas so thought I’d use them up in these enchiladas. Making the sauce was easy. Making the filling was easy. Wrapping the filling in the tortillas was hopeless. They just broke up. I had soaked them in the sauce as directed but they just cracked and would not bend. The recipe called for flour tortillas and mine were corn ones though the recipe actually says ‘Tortillas made from flour or cornmeal are easy to use’ but mine weren’t. The meal was just a gluggy, lumpy looking mess. The salsa was good though.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔

Walnut Bruschetta
from The Vegeterranean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking, Malu Simões & Alberto Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

There was also some bread left so I made another type of bruschetta. Easy and enjoyable to eat.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking:

If I arranged the three bruschetta in order of my preference for taste they would be Mushroom, Tomato then Walnut—the order actually that I had made them.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Discovering Quinces

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Quinces
from The Country Cookbook: Seasonal jottings and recipes, Belinda Jeffery, Lantern an imprint of Penguin Books, 2010.

Seeing a recipe for quinces in this book and not having a lot of knowledge about the fruit, I went looking for them. There they were. This book being arranged in months you can be fairly sure that the ingredients are in season.

Thankfully the conversational tone of the recipe helped immeasurably when cooking, warning about oxidation and the difficulty of cutting the fruit up. It was really tough to get at the flesh but once the preparation was done the cooking was a breeze.

I had not thought that the skins and cores would have to be cooked first to make a stock to cook the flesh in but the results were so good.

The fruit turns a beautiful pink colour when it is cooked over a long time and it looks really appetising. It tastes great too. 

We had it with vanilla ice-cream at one time and then with cream straight from the container at another. I preferred the cream as it tends to moderate the sweetness a little.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Quince facts

Caught up with the thrill of the quinces I went looking for more information.
• They are related to apples and pears
• Apparently Turkey is the world’s top producer of the fruit  
• There are a couple of varieties that do ripen sufficiently to eat
• It is believed that the golden apple that Paris awarded to Aphrodite was actually a quince. I wonder if it was a quince that Eve offered to Adam.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Spiced Chick Pea and Tomato Soup
from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookery, Hutchinson Australia, 1989.

Final helping of this tasty soup. Had another browse through the book. It’s well set out, the instructions are clear and there’s photographs scattered over every page. However, the look is very brown and somewhat unappetising. The recipes are probably all right. They are a little dated — which doesn’t mean that they are not good, but they tend to give the impression that they are somewhat on the heavy side. I’ll certainly try some more from here on the basis of how good this soup was.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tomato Bruschetta Mista
From The Vegeterranean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking, Malu Simões & Alberto Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Chose to make tomato bruschetta to accompany the soup. Easy to make after the practice with the mushroom one. Basil in the tomato mix added a pleasing touch. I rather liked the way this went wih the highly spiced soup. The contrast of fresh tomatoes with cooked and spiced went down well.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Black Bean, Jalapeño and Mozzarella Quesadillas
from New Vegetarian Kitchen, Nicola Graimes, Duncan Baird Publishers, 2011.

This newly published book organises its contents differently from usual. Recipes are listed under raw, grill, fry, steam, simmer and bake. This means that you find entrees, mains and sweets all together under their predominant cooking method, with sweets occurring at the end of each section.

The book is attractively produced, even with ribbon place markers. The recipes are clearly set out. Measurements are in metric and imperial followed, where necessary, with cups to cater for US cooks. There’s a fine spread of recipes from different cultures.

My first dip into the book was to cook Mexican. I really enjoy quesadillas so I decided to give it a go to cook my own. The instructions were easy to follow and easy and quick. Basically it was a matter of mixing the ingredients with a little cooking in a pan and then spreading them on the tortillas and grilling them. I was a little surprised to find that the quesadillas were grilled as I’d thought they would be pan fried. The result, though, even looked somewhat like the book illustration.

I was not overly excited about the eating. The jalapeños seemed to overpower the flavour too strongly and the quesadillas were very dry, so much so that I didn’t finish eating. Disappointing. I wonder why the recipe didn’t have a salsa to go along with it.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

The next day I had a slice (cold with tomato sauce) and it was not too bad. The chilli flavour seemed to have modified a little. So it’s not a waste as it can be finished off cold.

Crisp Haloumi, Pumpkin & Red Capsicum Salad with Basil Dressing
from The Country Cookbook: Seasonal jottings and recipes, Belinda Jeffery, Lantern an imprint of Penguin Books, 2010.

This is not a vegetarian cookbook but it does have quite a large number of recipes that are vegetarian. The seasonal jottings I haven’t looked at because they don’t have much appeal to me but the recipes look great. They are also organised in months throughout the year so that you know (since it’s Australian) what produce is available at the time you want to cook.

The recipes stick to metric measures though frequently cups are used as per US. In these cases the metric measure is included. Unlike many cookery books the author has given lots of explanation so the recipes tend to look complicated but this is actually the opposite of what they are, for the explanations are clear and helpful. The conversational tone is friendly.

This salad had a lot of preparation before I could put it together. The pumpkin had to be baked. The capsicum had to be grilled and skinned. The haloumi had to be fried. And the dressing (a thin type of pesto) had to be made. Lots of separate items to prepare but when it was all put together it was worth the effort. Haloumi, capsicum and pumpkin with rocket all go well together and the pesto dressing worked wonders on it.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Saturday 19 March 2011

Restauranting is not always easy for vegetarians. You can’t always go vegetarian. You go where friends can also eat. Vegetarians often find only one choice on the menu. And it ends up a risotto, omelette or salad. 

Now lack of variety has made me look for other meals. I am no chef. I am an ordinary home cook but will cook each night from cook books. Can ordinary cooks succeed using recipes created by chefs? Have chefs left out secrets? Perhaps I’m a poor cook.

This is a record of what I cook and where I found it. Eating out is still valid. If I find anywhere with good vegetarian choices, I’ll record them.

Spiced Chick Pea and Tomato Soup
from Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookery, Hutchinson Australia, 1989

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

With most of the ingredients available in the pantry and a cookery book that has clear, simple instructions (there were only three steps for this soup) this was a good one to start with. And it had ingredients I enjoy: tomatoes, spices, chick peas.

I did add just a touch more of the hot chilli powder to the spice mix than was specified. I like the heat of chillies.

The soup turned out to be flavoursome and really spicy with a little bit of lippy burn.

Beans in Leek Sauce
from The Bean Book, Rose Elliot, Fontana/Collins, 1979

Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Goodness knows where this book came from but it was on the shelf. It’s a paperback and the contents look really interesting. There’s lots of information on the bean family and how to cook them. Overall the recipes look as though they’re a little old-fashioned but some old favourites are still viable and often very tasty. Possibly there’s a place for a new book on beans with more current ingredients.

I was a little wary of this particular recipe though it sounded as if it would be a good blend of flavours. The cooking was relatively easy and straightforward though I had to remember to soak the haricot beans the night before.

I was able to use a new saucepan for the first time. On the weekend my partner had bought a saucepan set so trying it out was an extra joy. The saucepan is a handsome one, stainless steel, glass well-fitting lid and slightly taller than the usual pan. It was a pleasure cooking with it.

The recipe suggested that a good accompaniment to the Beans in Leek Sauce was baked potatoes so I par-boiled some potatoes, smashed them with a quick punch t break them up and then put them in the oven with butter and olive oil to brown and crisp.

Mushroom Bruschetta Mista
from The Vegeterranean: Italian Vegetarian Cooking, Malu Simões & Alberto Musacchio, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Somewhat concerned about how the Beans in Leek Sauce was beginning to look I grabbed this book to see what I could add to it

It’s an interesting book with a terrible title and I can’t wait to try some other recipes from it. The chefs tell about the food from the Country House Montali near Perugia, Italy. Interspersed with the recipes are accounts of the countryside and the work at the hotel.

I chose to make mushroom bruschetta. The recipe was a little confusing in the way it was set out but came clearer as I read right through to the end.

With the beans and potatoes and two slices of bruschetta, the plate didn’t turn out looking too bad. The bruschetta was tasty. The potatoes golden and crunchy. But the haricot beans were a disappointment. They had a slightly sweet taste — possibly from the leek or from the gruyere which I used because it was already handy in the fridge — that somehow didn’t blend together into a proper whole. It was edible but only just. I had saved half for the next day but ended up feeding it to the trash can.

Fortunately I had put together a salad to go with the meal and that brightened things up a little.

As some of these books may be out of print if anyone would like a particular recipe, email me ( and I'll send an abbreviated version. Of course, the whole book would be better; it's loaded with other goodies.