Thai Green Vegetable Curry

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A lot of pre-made Thai curry pastes have fish sauce in them, so why not make your own? I find that some extra lime juice and tamari do the job just fine.

Mix together the following ingredients with a food processor or stick blender:

4 shallots
4 large garlic cloves
4 thai green chillies
A large chunk of ginger (grated)
A slightly smaller chunk of galangal (sub for more ginger if you can’t find it)
3 stalks of lemongrass
1/4 lime juice + some zest
A small bunch of coriander root (if you can’t find it use the stems and leaves)
1 tsp grapeseed oil
2 kaffir lime leaves
A pinch of salt
A pinch of black pepper
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp of tamari
1 tsp sugar

Once mixed, stir into a hot pan for a few minutes before adding coconut milk. Add the veg of your choice and serve over sticky rice.

British Asparagus Season

So long British Asparagus season - you were bloody good this year. Roll on May 2014.

British Asparagus and Watercress Salad

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It’s British asparagus time and I can’t get enough of the stuff. Last night I made this delicious and simple salad, which beautifully balances the sweetness of fresh green asparagus with peppery seasonal watercress. I love vegetables.  

INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3)
The Salad
1 bunch of fresh watercress
2 bunches of British asparagus
4 small, fresh beetroot
1 bunch of French breakfast radishes
1 ball of fresh Mozzarella
30g toasted walnuts
Watercress Sauce
Another bunch of fresh watercress
2 tablespoons of Crème fraîche
Salt and pepper
Dressing
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

RECIPE
Using a hand blender, mix up 1 bunch of the watercress with 2 tablespoons of Crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Using a mandoline if you have one, peel and finely slice the beetroot into circles. Trim and quarter the breakfast radishes. Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan and season with a tiny pinch of salt.

Prepare the Asparagus by snapping the ends off and trimming with a knife.  Boil briefly in salted water (no longer than 4 mins unless you have huge stalks). Chill in iced water and drain.

Layer all the salad ingredients into a large platter as in the picture above, dressing as you go and saving the asparagus for the centre. Serve with the watercress sauce on the side so you can add as much to your plate as you like.

Black Pepper Tofu

Once upon a time Blow Up Food was a slightly neglected Posterous blog. As from today Posterous will cease to exist, so I thought I’d have a quick rummage to see if there’s anything I’d hadn’t yet salvaged and I found this old post on Black Pepper Tofu.

Black Pepper Tofu is an Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty. It’s super spicy and fairly easy to make, though the heavy use of different soy sauces means it’s sadly not wheat-free. I’ll have a play around with some Tamari and update this post when I’ve figured out what will work, but if you’re fine with gluten then I recommend giving this a go.

Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu (Serves 4)

  • 800g firm, fresh tofu (if you’re near an Asian supermarket, try to get there early in the morning and you can get it still warm)
  • Grapeseed oil, for frying
  • 150g butter
  • 12 small shallots (350g), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 red chillies, thinly sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 5 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 16 small, thin spring onions, cut into segments 3cm long

Cut the tofu into 3cm x 2cm blocks fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning the pieces as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel. Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan and throw in the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft.

While you wait, crush the peppercorns, using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. They should be quite coarse. When the shallots and chillies are soft, add the soy sauces and the sugar, stir, then stir in the crushed pepper. Warm the tofu in the sauce for about a minute, then add the spring onion and stir through.

Original recipe

Showroom Vegan Night

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My second foodie piece for Sheffield website Our Favourite Places has just been published - it’s a review of the Vegan Night recently held at the Showroom Cinema, which was a bit lovely.

If you fancy a read, you can find it here.

Smørrebrød - Danish Open Sandwiches

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Mmmm, Danish food.

This Easter Sunday we made Smørrebrød - Danish Open Sandwiches. I love Denmark, and I’ve eaten some of the best meals of my life there. Everything is so fresh and full of warm Scandinavian flavours, plus you get to wash it down with a nice glass of hoppy beer, if you frequent the right places.

We’ve made Smørrebrød before, but this time we decided to do it right, with the help of this super brilliant blog, www.danishsandwich.com, which is completely devoted to the fine art of Danish Open Sandwiches.

We started with the bread. Smørrebrød needs to be on Rye, and whilst you can easily buy rye bread in most supermarkets, we really wanted to have a crack at making our own. @topfife took charge on this one, and used this smashing Rugbrød recipe, though he substituted the white flour for buckwheat flour to keep everything wheat-free.  It’s a long process, and you’ll need to start your first batch about a week before you plan to eat it - but it’s really worth it. The loaf we ended up with was dense and sour and all good things a Scandinavian loaf should be.

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We then got to work on what we wanted our toppings to be. I had this lovely meat-free platter of Smørrebrød at Aamanns when I went for lunch in 2012, which gave me lots of inspiration for what I could make at home.

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After a bit of thought and a fruitless search for a ripe avocado, I settled on my final selections for toppings

  1. Soft boiled egg, pea shoots, remoulade, gherkins and dill

  2. Potato, spinach, remoulade, chives, crispy onions (potato Smørrebrød is called kartoffelmad, which is my new favourite word)

  3. Smoked cheese, radish, cucumber, swiss chard, chives (this topping is called sommersalat and I based mine on this recipe)

These were the results:

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Anything with pickles tastes good in my opinion, but these Smørrebrød had it all - crunchy, sour, salt, fresh and creamy, all in one place. I cannot recommend making them enough, especially if you’re avoiding wheat, but you’ve got a hankering for a totally awesome sandwich.

Here are a few tips to make good Smørrebrød:

1. Make sure there’s a good slather of butter on your thinly sliced Rye bread. The Smørre in Smørrebrød means butter, so that should give a good idea about how important it is to the dish.

2. Pile the toppings high There should be no bread showing in between your ingredients, and there’s always room for an extra pickle or a sprinkling of dill.

3. Add crispy onions to everything. We mandolined some shallots, dusted them in Rye flour and fried them in some grapeseed oil. They were amazing, so make loads.

4. Have a poke around www.danishsandwich.com and you’ll be a pro in no time. The recipe for Remoulade is spot on.

Seriously, crispy onions

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Mexican Vegetable Soup

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It’s Arctic in Sheffield this month. Even though it’s nearly Easter, we’ve got nearly a foot of snow in some places. So, I’m cold and craving soup - hella spicy soup to be precise, which is how this recipe came to be.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1 red pepper (diced)
  • 1 green chilli (sliced - seeds in if you like it hot)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 courgette (sliced)
  • 1 box/ tin of chopped tomatoes (get good ones)
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 drops of Tabasco
  • 1/2 lime juice
  • A glug of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A big handful of roughly chopped coriander (yum)

RECIPE

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until they start to soften. Add the pepper and courgette and start to warm through (but don’t colour them).

Add the tomatoes, then add the same amount of water as tomatoes - filling up the box or tin they came in is a good way of measuring this. Season with salt and pepper then add the cayenne, cumin and tabasco.

Leave to simmer on a medium heat until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are tender - about 10-15mins.

Transfer the whole thing into a large bowl and whizz it up with a hand blender. Add water to get the consistency you’re happy with then chuck in the coriander and the lime juice. Give it a stir and you’re done.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (if you’re not vegan), and a huge glass of water. This soup be hot.

 

Our Favourite Places - Top 3 for Veggies in Sheffield

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The lovely Our Favourite Places folks have launched a brand spanking new website to house their reviews, previews and top tips for having a brilliant time in Sheffield.

I’m very proud to be a contributor to the site, writing bits and bobs on veggie, vegan and wheat-free food (as well as film - the day job!).


Have a look at my first veggie piece: Top 3 for Veggies, which includes some top tips for meat-free eating out, and keep your eye out for more in the coming months.

www.ourfaveplaces.co.uk

Aubergine and Wild Rice Salad


I’m making a lot of my work lunches at the moment because a) I’m not loaded, and b) I’m not eating much wheat these days and my bread-free choices in Sheffield city centre are getting a bit repetitive (Fanoush aside - I love that place).

Today I made this salad, which is based on my interpretation of the Ottolenghi formula - one awesome vegetable of your choice + left-over rice/ grain + a shredded up salad leaf + nuts/ dried fruit, all mixed together with a dressing. It’s a combination that you can rarely mess up, and even if you do it can usually be rescued by a big dollop of hummus on the side.

This salad is roast aubergine, basmati, wild and red rice, baby spinach and pine nuts. The dressing is one part extra virgin olive oil, one part lemon juice, a small crushed garlic clove, a bit of shredded basil and a pinch of chilli flakes (+ S&P). It can be customised based on whatever you have in, or whatever you have left over. 

The Ledbury - 8 course vegetarian tasting menu


(Saint Nectaire on toast)

Tasting menus used to seem to me to be something designed for meat-eaters -  opportunities for chefs to showcase their butchery skills, their meat cooking techniques and to introduce new types of animal bits for diners to try. No ta.

However, this seems to be seriously changing. I’ve been to several places in the last few years that not only provide full vegetarian tasting options, but publicise the menus on their website - it always makes me relax to see a meat free menu in advance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I see Noma as leading the way on this, and have eaten some of the most incredibly exciting and challenging vegetarian offerings there - whilst feeling that the menu was not just a concession to my dietary choices, but a big part of the wider ethos of Noma. It’s very pleasing to see other restaurants doing the same. 

As I was working in London a few weekends ago, we decided to book The Ledbury after seeing their veggie menu proudly sitting on their website. We were a bit nervous before hand, as although I’ve been to a fair few Michelin starred restaurants I’d never been to one in London - I figured with my Northernness and crap hair (my straighteners have bust), I’d stick out like a sore thumb.

And yeah, it was full of a lot of bankers and rich people but I started to realise something after the amuse bouche came out - good restaurants don’t care if you’re rich or posh. They just want you to be engaged with the food and to enjoy yourself. I relaxed quickly as I munched this lovely thing:



Matching wines also helped.

The food was pretty wonderful. Brett Graham cooks with an Asian slant on his food - not in a gimmicky ‘fusion’ way, but in a way that introduces Asian flavours and ingredients with perfect balance. It’s not evident in every dish, but the ones that did introduce some Asian flavours (gnocchi with lemongrass and ginger; aubergine with black sugar and shiso) were definitely the strongest plates.



One of the highlights of the evening was when the waiter brought out a beetroot baked in clay and tapped it open in front of me. 



He then whisked it away to plate it up into this magnificent thing:



I was really pleased that they made the effort to bring something out to show to me, as this is what they’d done with a meat dish that @topfife was having. Places that make sure vegetarians don’t miss out on any of the experience are really special and worth spending your saved-up money on. I’d definitely want to go to The Ledbury again, just for that. Oh and the cheese. I’d go back for the cheese:



Oh and eucalyptus chocolate petit fours. Can these be shipped in bulk to Sheffield?

Full pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/topfife/sets/72157631614849805/with/8020871524/

Cooking, eating and taking pictures of food without meat or fish.

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