Saturday 31 March 2012

Rice with Peas

From Vegetarian Bible, Margaret Barca, Penguin Books, 2008.

Rice is a perfect accompaniment for many dishes but sometimes it is good to vary the accompaniment from that of plain boiled rice to one with a touch of spice. This boiled rice variation comes from a favourite little vegetarian cookery book.

Cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and a cinnamon stick are cooked for a few minutes in hot oil in a saucepan. When the spices start to smell strongly some chopped garlic is added and cooked just a little longer.

The rice—basmati in this case—is added to the pan with water. Once it is boiling the lid is placed on and it is left to cook for about 10 minutes. A cup of frozen peas is then added and stirred in. The lid is placed on again and the rice cooked for a further 5 minutes. By now the rice should be cooked and the water absorbed. The rice is taken off the heat and left with the lid on for a further few minutes.

When ready, taste it for seasoning and fluff it up with a fork.

The rice has a subtle flavour of Indian spices and the peas add colour and sweetness to the dish. I had it with Spicy Quick-Fried Beans.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Spicy Quick-Fried Beans

From Thai Vegetarian Cooking, Vatcharin Bhumichitr, Pavilion Books, 2003.

Before beginning this recipe I had to make a red curry paste. It was only a matter of pounding all of the ingredients in a mortar until they became a paste. The ingredients used were dried red chillies (7 in all), coriander seeds, chopped galangal root and lemon grass, some salt, and chopped kaffir lime peel, garlic and shallots. From the wonderful smells that rose at the pounding I could tell it was going to be a good curry paste.

 The remainder of the dish was an easy one.

Beancurd was cut into blocks and fried until brown.

From then it was only a matter of heating up a wok and frying chopped garlic for a few seconds and then adding the red curry paste. The rest of the ingredients were added in the order of beans cut into 3 cm lengths, light soy sauce, sugar, ground roast peanuts and chopped kaffir lime leaves. The last to go in was the fried beancurd.

This was served with rice with peas. What a tasty way to have beans. Next time I make a red curry paste I’ll save some to use with beans.

This was another successful recipe from Thai Vegetarian Cooking. It's good when you can find a recipe that manages to make a good vegetarian curry paste without having to use ingredients such as fish sauce.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Friday 30 March 2012

Preserved Lemon and Tomato Salad with Capers

From Tagines & Couscous, Gillie Başan, Ryland Peters & Small, 2010.

If you have some flavoursome ripe tomatoes then there is nothing better than a tomato salad. This one I found in Tagines & Couscous is well worth trying. It is juicy and has a great tartness to it from the lemon and capers.

 The tomatoes need to be skinned and deseeded then sliced. A red onion also needs to be sliced and the rind of a preserved lemon sliced into thin strips. These are mixed in a bowl with some olive oil and lemon juice. It has some seasoning added and you can set it aside until you are ready to serve it.

At serving time add capers and chopped parsley, coriander and mint. If you like it sprinkle paprika over the top.

It’s so easy to put together and has such a wonderful mix of flavours.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Potato-Corn Chowder

From Fields of Greens, Annie Somerville, Bantam Books, 1993.

Recipes that come from the Greens restaurant have always been ones that have pleased. The restaurant stays as one of the top memories from a visit to San Francisco. So it was somewhat of a surprise to find that this particular recipe didn’t come up with the goods. It was all right but bland and with the amount of cooking involved should have been better.

To start a corn stock had to be made. The instructions suggested that a corn soup required a corn stock otherwise the soup would not maintain its colour. So corn was shucked from 4 cobs and saved for the soup while the cobs were broken into several pieces and tossed into a pot of water with some vegetables and seasonings and simmered for an hour. This was then strained and the stock was ready.

For the next stage half of the corn had to be placed into a pot with a couple of cups of the stock. Half of the total amount of potatoes were also placed into the pot with salt and pepper. This was cooked until the potatoes were soft. It was then pureed and placed through a sieve. This puree then went into the pot with the remainder of the stock. A bay leaf was added and the mixture was cooked gently for a little longer. The puree thickened the soup and meant that cream was not needed, as is usually the case.

The next stage was to fry chopped onion, dried basil and thyme in butter and olive oil with salt and pepper. When the onions had softened the remaining vegetables were added: garlic, celery, diced potatoes and the remaining corn. These were sautéed until tender. White wine was added and the cooking continued until almost dry. 

The contents of the frying pan were now added to the soup to simmer for another 20 minutes. Chopped basil was added and it was ready.

It was disappointing to have so much work turn out to be such a pale version of a corn chowder. There was nothing wrong with it but a lack of real flavour.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔

Quick Soda Bread

From Vegetarian, Alice Hart, Murdoch Books, 2011.

I always like to have bread when I am eating soup. It’s not always convenient to go through the whole yeast process however so I was pleased to find this soda bread. It looked as though it might be quick and easy to make—and it was.

All that had to be done was to turn on the oven to heat to 180. Then while the oven was heating the mixture had to be put together. Two flours, plain and wholemeal in equal quantities, were sifted with baking soda. Some salt was added and some sugar. Then a small amount of butter was rubbed in. Water was added to make a rather sticky dough which was then formed into a loaf shape on baking paper. Into the oven it went until cooked.

This turned out to be a really good accompaniment to go with soup. It had quite a bit of flavour from the wholemeal flour and there was enough body to make it well suited for dunking.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Pasta with Mushrooms, Peas and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

From Elisa Celli’s Italian Light Cooking, Elisa Celli, Prentice Hall Press, 1987.

I’m glad I picked this older book again from my bookshelf. I’m enjoying getting back into the solid recipes.

This particular pasta did have prosciutto in it but I decided just to leave it out as the ingredients sounded as though they would work equally well without the meat.

It was a quick meal to prepare. First dried porcini mushrooms had to be soaked. While they were doing their bit, the remainder of the ingredients were got ready. An onion was chopped. A cup of frozen peas was taken from the freezer to defrost. A half-cup of sun-dried tomatoes (the kind marinated in oil) were chopped. Three garlic cloves were crushed. A little Italian herb seasoning was added to the sun-dried tomatoes.

By the time all this was ready the mushrooms had had sufficient time so they were sliced.

A pot of salted water was put on to boil . When it was ready the pasta was added to cook. At the same time the sauce ingredients were added to a frying pan with some olive oil and sautéed to be ready when the pasta was.

When it was cooked the pasta was drained and added to the sauce in the frying pan with a little of the cooking liquid.

It was all blended and put into the serving plates with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

A satisfying and easy pasta dish. I particularly liked the flavour bites from the tomatoes and the texture that the peas added.

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.

Monday 26 March 2012

Simple Roasted Tomato Salsa (Salsa Roja de Molcajete)/Super-Simple Enchiladas

From Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

The last salsa, a fresh one, I made from this book had an amazing punch to it so I was keen to see what a cooked salsa would be like. I chose a simple one to match the simple fresh one.

It was all very easy to do. The tomatoes and the chillies were roasted under the grill until blackened and cooked through. The chillies came out a lot earlier than the tomatoes.

The chillies were peeled and added with garlic and salt to a mortar and pestle and pounded into a paste. The tomatoes were skinned and added to the paste and pounded to become a rough puree. It was tasted and seasonings added.

I did not find this salsa had quite the bite that the raw one had, though it was still pretty good.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

I had a sauce made so I needed something to use it with. I decided on super-simple enchiladas.

Some tortillas were warmed up one by one in the frying pan. Then they were, one by one, dipped into the warm sauce until fully covered. They were folded in half while they were still in the sauce. Again they were folded and then put in the oven to keep warm while the others were done.

It was then simply a matter of placing the enchiladas on the plate for serving with some chopped onion, some sliced avocado, some grated cheese and some sliced greens. Tasty and easy.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Green Bean and Kipfler Potato Salad with Miso Dressing

From The Conscious Cook, Tal Ronnen, William Morris, 2009.

When I saw the list of ingredients for this salad dressing I just had to make it to see what it was like: miso paste, rice vinegar, agave nectar, shallot, garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon. That’s quite a mix for a dressing.

The salad itself was quite simple. Kipfler potatoes were boiled and then sliced. Green beans were blanched in boiling water. Roquette was washed. The three were mixed and tossed with the dressing.

The dressing had a wonderful tang to it with the lemon coming through just nicely over the bite of the mustard and miso. It suited the potatoes perfectly. And the sweetness of the beans complemented the mix well. This could easily become my favourite dressing for potato salads.

This is only the second item I have cooked from this book by Tal Ronnen. It’s a vegan cookbook and I have a tendency to overlook vegan because I have a strong preference for dairy products. But I am finding that this book is well worth investigating further.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Melon Salad

From Gourmet Cooking without Meat, Paul Southey, Marshall Cavendish Editions, 1980.

I don’t often delve into this old cookery book. It was one of the first really good vegetarian recipe books which I purchased. I used it often at the time but fashions change and so it seemed to get overlooked more and more. However I do think it’s worthwhile going back to look again at the past—forget fashion. Everything reappears at some time refashioned.

The melon salad sounded a bit odd to me at first but proved to be a pleasant enough fresh tasting salad.

It was simply made by cutting up honeydew melon into dice. A carrot was grated. Tomatoes were chopped, Some Edam cheese was cut into blocks. And a small amount of preserved ginger was cut up finely. These were all put into the bowl and tossed with the dressing which was made of lemon juice, olive oil, chopped parsley and mint, seasonings and a pinch of cayenne.

A pleasing return to past food fashion.

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 a copy. Of course, the whole book would be better; it’s loaded with other goodies.