Monday 30 April 2012

Greek Style Fava Beans and Tomatoes

From The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker, Lynn Alley, Ten Speed Press, 2010.

There was a whole heap of dried fava beans in the pantry so this recipe was an opportunity to use some of them up. To date I have not had over much success with the items I have made from this cookbook. I have two cookery books dealing with meals made in the slow cooker. One has recipes that succeed quite well and seem to have been designed with the slow cooker in mind; the other seems to have meals that largely are not necessarily designed for this style of cooking. This recipe comes from the latter book.

It was simply a matter of placing the broad beans in the cooker with sufficient water and then cooking them for 6 to 8 hours. The beans in the pantry were ones that had the tough outer skin still on them so I had previously soaked them overnight and then picked off the skins before adding the beans to the cooker.

When the beans were close to cooked, an onion was fried in a pan for a few minutes. Then a couple of chopped tomatoes, a bay leaf and some thyme were added and cooked for a little longer. The beans were then drained and added to the mixture in the pan. A garlic clove was squeezed through a garlic press into the mixture. A little more olive oil was added together with some lemon juice. It was then seasoned to taste and it was ready.

By the time it was ready the beans had broken down to become almost a puree. Possibly this was the result of my soaking them overnight. The recipe states that this would make a nice meal with a fresh salad and a crusty bread. The way mine had broken down it felt more as though it should be served as a dip for an appetiser. It tasted fine though.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday 29 April 2012

Savoury Potato Cakes

From The Vegan Diet, David Scott and Claire Golding, Rider & Company, 1985.

I’ve had this book on the shelf for many years and rarely used it. But it seems vegan is becoming much more prominent in the cooking scene. The number of vegan cookery books appear to be multiplying rapidly, whereas vegetarian ones are fairly static. So I thought I’d have a look at this book again. You never know; you often find surprises from the past.

The first thing I noticed was this recipe for potato cakes which I have always loved. Every time I find another recipe I have to make it to find if it matches or surpasses my favourites. This one didn’t.

To the grated potato was added grated onion and also some dried sage. As well there is a small amount of flour—in this case I used a little besan (chickpea) flour.

When they were fried the potato cakes didn’t crisp us which for me is one of the absolute musts. They remained a bit on the soggy side and this I attribute to the addition of flour. I wouldn’t make these again.

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 28 April 2012

Carrot Purée

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

I decided to make this carrot purée to go with an aubergine tart I was making from the same book.

It was a simple accompaniment to make. The carrots were steamed until soft, then sautéed in butter with some chopped shallot. It was then seasoned with salt and pepper. This mix was puréed and left to cool. When it was cooled some grated Parmesan, some chopped parsley and chives were mixed in.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Friday 27 April 2012

Aubergine Tart (Pasticcio di Melanzane)

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

I use eggplant (aubergine) often. While it is not overly flavoursome itself, it absorbs the flavours around it and seems to be a versatile vegetable, being able to be used in a great variety of ways.

This looked like a very interesting recipe. It was for a tart but a tart without a pastry base. I was intrigued to see if the tart would be capable of holding itself together for eggplant is very soft when cooked. But I have always had success with recipes from this cookbook so I would have to trust it.

The eggplant (two of them), after being peeled and cubed, was soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, then drained and squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible. It was then cooked in a pot with a smidgeon of oil until it was softened and rather dry.

When the eggplant was cool a couple of eggs were beaten and added. Also going in were 200g of tasty cheddar cheese cut into cubes, some grated Parmesan, chopped garlic and oregano. It was then seasoned and placed into a greased spring-form pan to cook for about half an hour.

It was served with a sauce made from some capers and parsley, chopped, and whisked with some extra virgin olive oil. We had it with a carrot puree and some broccolini, which all went well with it.

The tart was a soft one and a little difficult to lift and place on plates as it had no tart case. However, it had a pleasing savoury taste with the occasional piece of cheese cropping up. The tangy sauce managed to bring into prominence the more subtle flavours of the tart.  Should I make it again, I think I might place it in a pastry shell.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Thursday 26 April 2012

Crispy Asian Noodle Pancakes

From Commonsense Vegetarian, Murdoch Books, 2011.

I was cooking some braised eggplant so wanted something had that a little crunch to it to go with it. I had seen these noodle pancakes when browsing through this book so thought this was a good opportunity to try them out.

The noodles first had to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes until they were soft. They were then rinsed and dried as much as possible with paper towels. They were then placed in a bowl with all of the other chopped ingredients: coriander, spring onions, red chilli, garlic and some lemon grass.

All that remained was to drop tablespoonfuls into hot oil in a frying pan. They splattered wildly and widely but soon browned and crisped up. They were certainly crisp but did not have a lot of flavour despite the mix of ingredients added to the noodles.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Gingered Beet and Fennel Salad

From Red Hot and Green, Janet Hazen, Chronicle Books, 1996.

It is some time since I have tried a recipe from this cookbook. I have found that sometimes they work and sometimes they just miss out a little from what they should be. However, the contents of the book are different from those you find in many books so it is worth going back to it every now and again to see what I might have missed. The recipes all centre around different heating elements: ginger, mustard, peppercorns, horseradish and chillies.

This salad sounded as though it might appeal; it contained beetroot and fennel, both of which I am fond of. The heating element was ginger.

The beetroot was cooked by boiling it until it was tender. It was then left to cool and peeled and cut into thin wedges.

The dressing, prepared next, was based on fresh orange juice, always a good companion for beetroot. This was mixed with a little vinegar, oil, some ground coriander, and fresh ginger cut into thin slivers.

Watercress was placed on a plate. The beetroot wedges were arranged on top. Over this went the fennel, cut into thin slices. The dressing was drizzled over the salad and some toasted, chopped almonds scattered over the top.

This was a successful recipe. The salad looked great and tasted pretty good too. The fennel gave a goodly crunch that went well with the tender, juicy beetroot. I felt there was a little bit more pepper from the watercress than the ginger which seemed to be lost in the salad, perhaps because I had cut back a little on the quantity suggested in the recipe.

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.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Sichuan Eggplant Braised in Fragrant Sauce

From Healthy Asian Vegetarian Dishes, Periplus, 2003.

Most of the work for this recipe was in the preparation for the cooking itself took little time.

The sauce was made first. This was simply a matter of combining all of the ingredients: soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, vinegar, salt and sesame oil.

The vegetables were prepared leaving the eggplants last so that they didn’t colour. Garlic was chopped. Ginger was chopped (less than the recipe called for). Spring onions were sliced finely. A tablespoon of chilli paste was got ready as well as a little water. The eggplants, the long variety, were halved and then cut into sections.

The wok was heated up with a little oil in it and the eggplant, the garlic and the ginger added and stir fried until the eggplant began to soften up. Then the spring onions and chilli paste were added and cooked for a couple more minutes.

At this stage the sauce was added and mixed in, then the water, and it was all covered and, on a low heat, cooked for a few minutes more. It was then ready to serve.

As usual when I try to cook Asian meals I don’t quite get the flavours right. I measure everything out carefully (except the ginger which always seems to be too much) and yet it never quite works. And so I have to get an expert friend to taste and adjust the flavours. Then I end up with a tasty meal.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Sunday 22 April 2012

Twice-baked Kipfler Potatoes with crisped Dulse

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

This recipe called for a small amount of dulse. I hunted store after store to find it. When I did chance upon it I found it cost $140 a kilogram. However it was not heavy and I only needed a little so only paid $1 for a fraction more than required.

I’m not a great fan of sea vegetables for the taste or smell of the sea reminds me of fish which I strongly dislike. I do persevere with seaweeds and may over time overcome my dislike for them. The dulse I found to be much more to my liking than any of the others I have tried. It’s actually the first one to win me over.

This recipe was little more than filled baked potatoes with an elaborate name. However, it was a vegan dish that called for me to investigate some new items such as cashew cream. Being an ovo lacto vegetarian I could make do with dairy products but decided that I would try for the recipe as it stood.

The first thing that I needed to do was make the cashew cream. This entailed soaking some cashews in water and letting them soak over night. The next day the cashews were rinsed and placed in a blender with enough water to cover them. They were then pulsed until they became the cashew cream.

The potatoes were washed and baked until tender. They were then cut in half and as much of the contents scraped out of the skins as could be done without breaking them. This pulp was placed in a bowl and other ingredients added: a little horseradish sauce, a tablespoon of mayonnaise (the recipe called for vegan but I settled for what was in the refrigerator), a couple of tablespoons of cashew cream, and a tablespoon of margarine (the recipe called for Earth Balance which I was not able to get but I understand is a type of margarine). These were all mashed together and seasoned to taste.

The potato skins were filled with this mixture. They were sprinkled with paprika and put in the oven to heat through. Some dulse was placed on the top of each potato when serving. The dulse was crisped by frying it for a short time in some oil.

As far as baked potatoes go these were reasonable. It was a change having kipfler potatoes rather than the larger varieties which meant you could settle for smaller portions. Next time I would settle for real cream rather than one made from cashews. The horseradish tang is always good with potatoes and it came through well in these.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Saturday 21 April 2012

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

From River Cottage Veg Everyday, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, 2011.

Rather than make the dressing as the final element of a salad in this particular one the dressing is made first. The ingredients for the dressing have an Asian touch to them: rice vinegar, zest and juice of a lime, a chopped red chilli, chopped garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce. These are whisked together.

The noodles are then cooked, drained and rinsed. The dressing is added to them, they are tossed and left to cool.

Some French beans and snow peas are cooked for a few minutes, enough to be tender but still having a bit of bite to them.

A small cucumber is cut into thin slices. Spring onions are sliced finely. Herbs (basil, mint and coriander) are roughly chopped. Some salted peanuts were smashed in a mortal and pestle to leave them broken though not too fine.

All of the ingredients were added to the cooled noodles and it was ready to serve.

This fresh salad could almost have been a light meal in itself. It is one that could be varied at will with the ingredients added to the noodles. I think in future I would make a few slight changes to the dressing to give it a little more zing: some more chilli would help (for me) and possibly up the amount of soy sauce for there seemed to be a need for more salt.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Friday 20 April 2012

Braised Broad Beans (Fave brasate)

From My Italian Heart: Recipes from an Italian kitchen, Guy Grossi, Lantern, 2005.

I’m very fond of broad beans but they are such a pain to prepare when you have to remove the tough skin from around the bean. When I’m in no hurry and in a calm mood it’s an activity that I enjoy as it can be rather relaxing to give the hard skin a little pinch and then pop out the bright green bean. However it is time time-consuming so I need to be making something that I’m sure will be worth the effort.

I made broad bean burgers recently from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and they were exceptionally good. I was hoping that Guy Grossi’s recipe for braised broad beans would also be a good one.

The beans, naturally, had to first be de-skinned. Once that was done some onion and garlic were fried in a pan until they were softened and starting to brown. Then the beans were added with a little tomato paste, some chopped basil and parsley, a little stock and white wine. They were simmered for about 20 minutes. After seasoning they were ready to serve.

As a side dish this worked well. The beans came through nicely in the savoury sauce and it is worth me remembering to cook my next lot of broad beans in a similar sauce rather than the simple plain boiling which has been my custom.

Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday 19 April 2012

Spinach Rice (Spanakoriso)

From à la Grecque, Pam Talimanidis, Hardie Grant Books, 2009.

This was the tastiest dish I’ve had for a long time and one I must go back to to make again.  I must admit that I began it with hesitation because it sounded as though it wouldn’t really work but when you’ve used a book for a few times before with success then you are ready to trust it again.

All you do is wash a large amount of spinach and place it in a saucepan. Pour a little olive oil over it and place the lid on. You only need to cook it a short time until the spinach begins to wilt.

Now place the rice, about 100g, over the spinach, season it and place on the lid. Turn heat down to its lowest setting and cook for about 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked. I had doubts that there was enough liquid to cook the rice but I checked a couple of times and nothing was sticking and all was fine.

 When the rice was cooked it was served on a dish with a piece or two of feta cheese and a poached egg. Surprisingly delicious and definitely one to add to the repertoire.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Corn and Bean Loaf

From Mezze to Milk Tart, Cecile Yazbek, Wakefield Press, 2011.

There is a great number of flashy cookbooks in the bookshops. They are glossy, full coloured, almost coffee table books. And hidden among these large showy books there are some small soft-covered books with no illustrations that could easily tend to be overlooked.

This one caught my eye because I stopped to work out what the title was: Mezze to Milk Tart. I guessed it meant from appetiser to dessert. But the subtitle made me look further: From the Middle East to Africa in my vegetarian kitchen. I thought this needed investigating a little further so I picked it up and flipped through the pages. There was a wide selection of recipes worth checking out. Not being one of the large colourful books it was not over expensive to buy.

The author has an interesting background. She grew up in South Africa, the daughter of Lebanese parents. She eventually migrated to Sydney and there ran Cecile’s Vegetarian Kitchen, a cooking school. She has now retired.

The corn and bean loaf began with an interesting sweated vegetable base, which the author uses for many of her recipes. Carrots, onion and celery are grated and placed in a saucepan with a little oil, some salt and a bay leaf. The saucepan is covered and the vegetables are sweated over a very low heat for about 20 minutes.

A measure of this sweated vegetables was placed on the bottom of a casserole dish. An egg was beaten with about a cup of stock, a cup of cornflour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. This was seasoned and a can of beans was added. This lot was poured over the vegetable mix.

Over the top of all of this went a chopped tomato, a sprinkling of paprika and some grated Parmesan cheese. Some chopped thyme was sprinkled over the top and the casserole was placed in the oven to cook.

This was a very simple loaf to make and it turned out a reasonable one. It’s not one I would make again but with some sweet chilli sauce and a few other vegetables it made a comfortable meal.

Taste: ✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Chocolate Roulade with Hazelnut Cream

From The Urban Cook, Mark Jensen, Murdoch Books, 2011.

Despite the fact that I think this is the most unattractive and most difficult to read cookery book, it is on my shelf and, being rather stubborn, I will keep going back to it sometimes; you never know there might be a gem to be discovered if I continue to persevere. I decided to try the sweet section.

The recipe was printed on a muddy brown background overprinted on a photograph that made it far from easy to read. It would have been better for me to have abandoned it before I started but stubbornness prevailed.

Firstly a syrup had to be made. It was just sugar and water brought to the boil and left to cool when the sugar had dissolved. Frangelico was added to flavour the syrup.

Next a hazelnut cream was on the list. This was made by creaming butter and icing sugar until it was fluffy, then stirring in crushed roasted hazelnuts.

The cake was next. Butter, chocolate, sugar, whisky and coffee were placed in a bowl with some hot water. The bowl was then placed over a saucepan with simmering water. When the butter and chocolate had melted the mixture was stirred until the sugar had dissolved. Once this was done the bowl was removed from the saucepan and in went a mixture of cocoa and both plain and self-raising flour. They were beaten until smooth and, when cool, a beaten egg was added.

The mixture was poured into a baking tray that had been lined with baking paper. It was a thin cake, only about 1cm thick.

When the cake was cooked it was left to cool for a few minutes then turned out. There then followed a detailed description of how the cake was to be constructed, with syrup brushed on and the cream spread over before it was rolled up. I did not manage this entirely well as the cake managed to break up a little in the rolling.

The cake turned out to be a big disappointment. It was just far too sweet to be enjoyable. We had one helping each and then the remainder was thrown out because we just couldn’t face it again.

Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔✔