Archive for the 'Vegetarian' Category

no recipe- just nori wraps

nori rolls

Lunch doesn’t really do it for me. Don’t get me wrong- my tummy gets its growl going but I just don’t get enthused for lunches offerings. I know that it doesn’t have to be that way but lunch is usually at work- and often it’s eaten standing at the stove. On the rare (but totally decadent) occasion that I do get to sit and prop my clogs up I’m faced with a crew lunch, which is a far cry, wail and a few stomping fists away from the glamour one would expect on a TV set.

If it comes to ordering out the absolute last thing I will choose for lunch is a sandwich. It’s not that I don’t love a good sandwich, tuna and salad, extra banana peppers, hold the mayo they just don’t love me. If I go the devil route and eat that sandwich I will find myself suddenly slipping off into a peaceful snooze. And it’s hard to enjoy a post lunch snooze when you have someone screaming for a reset down the walkie. So, I stay away from sandwiches- they are my rainy day lunch at home when I know all I have to comply with is a 6ft 3 husband who also wants the couch.

This is something slightly different though- it’s not a wrap with a tortilla but with a toasted sheet of nori. It’s my kind of make-at-home sushi- which doesn’t involve a bamboo mat or a Japanese name. Just toasted nori stuffed with well, whatever your little heart desires. It’s the perfect lunch when you’re pottering around the kitchen all day with lots of little bits of tasters or leftovers that you can stuff inside.

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English scones, revisited

scones

Is it just me or have things cooled down quite dramatically in the past two weeks? I’m running in a long sleeve tee-shirt and sweats, my feet have demanded my Ugg boots to make a reappearance and I’ve eaten soup the past three days. I could be wrong, but something says that winter is poking it’s chilly head around the corner, to me.

Being that I’ve spend the past six weeks in West Virginia, around a bunch of English crew I’ve been feeling a few pangs for food from home, and not my Brooklyn home. Perhaps it’s the offerings of Galaxy chocolate and Walker’s Shortbread but I’m now dreaming about Yorkshire puddings, curries (because everyone knows they are practically English) and scones. With clotted cream and jam, of course.

I’ve made these before but I think you’ll forgive me once you make them. They make me feel ever so British, even in a place where people prefer biscuits and say things like hey, ya’ll. But don’t you go pronouncing them Sc-owns- it’s more like Skons where I come from. A sc-own is what you’ll find behind the glass in Starbucks- not an ounce of authenticity, I’ll have you know.

These have a crisp outer shell, which when you slice it open presents a soft buttery pillow of layers- the perfect bed for a slathering of clotted cream and jam. Oh, yes. Or perhaps I should say Yee-ha!

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Chermoula-spiced hummus

chermoula-spiced hummus

I know I’ve done a lot of complaining of late- West Virginia, being homesick, living in a hotel room. Yes, yes. I know. I’m a right old bore when I’m working on a show.

But the thing is, I haven’t really finished my moaning yet. Sorry- it’s all I’ve got to give you tonight. I’ve just worked three sixteen hour days in a row- that’s six working days for the price of three for any normal person out there. Six! And it’s only Wednesday. And if forty-eight hours by Wednesday isn’t bad enough, which frankly, it is-  there’s another unlucky sixteen hours to come- starting at oh, about about 4 am tomorrow. And another sixteen everyday for the next ten days. Oh geez, will this two weeks ever end! I’m certainly not getting paid enough for all these hours. Note to self- must be a better negotiator for day rate on next job.

So please, tread carefully around me- I’m feeling a little overworked. A little under-inspired and every so cranky. I hate not having time to write- not feeling inspired to write not being able to get in my kitchen so I have something to write about! It’s quite the predicament I’m in.

Okay, okay moaning over. Lets talk hummus. On long days shooting when I find myself eating three four meals a day at work, standing at a counter, it’s hard to hold back the temptation not to attack the crew snack table with those amazing doughnuts with the chocolate glaze dripping off the sides. So, I take hummus- and lots of vegetables- it’s healthy, it keeps those sugar cravings at bay and it’s the perfect food for grazing on when mealtimes cease to exist. I’m not going to lie, hummus is no match to a fresh chocolate glazed doughnut but it’s a tasty way to fill your tummy up and it won’t make your blood sugar crash.

chermoula spiced hummus

When I first moved to New York, I was thoroughly disappointed with the hummus I could find.  Actually, lets be honest, I’m still thoroughly disappointed but now I just make my own. Only, it’s different.  I gave up trying to make it like it is in the UK- (if somebody could tell me how they make it so deliciously tangy I would love to know the secret) and now I spice it up with my basil chermoula pesto.  You can use any other white beans, but I just adore chickpeas. If I open up a can I’ve gobbled half a dozen before they’ve even made it in the blender or hummus, or this curry or this salad. Lets be honest, some days they don’t make it in the blender- I just pop ’em in my mouth like peanuts. On days that they do though (make it in the blender that is), I make this dip. it has a spicy, herby, citrusy note to it and you can make it as smooth or as chunky as you like. And seeing as I don’t have much control over the hours I work, having control over the consistency of my food is important.

The recipe below makes enough chermoula for two big batches of hummus- because if you’re going to go to all that effort of pressing buttons on a food processor then you may as well make a big batch. And trust me after sixteen hours working, turning the blender on is an effort. Plus, for me it means it lasts all week and on occasion I’ll share it with my colleagues. But now I must get some sleep. My veggies are chopped, my hummus is prepped. Sixteen hours, you say? Pah! Bring it on!

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Cheese & walnut choux puffs revisited

cheese & walnut choux puffs

My temporary abode in West Virginia has presented me with a number of firsts. I have experienced my first Chili fest, my first ‘shoot & hollar’ competition, (which is a story in itself). Then there was singing karaokee in a real karaokee bar, celebrating Rosh hashana which in turn led to my first time trying Mazo ball soup and Gefilte fish.

Then there have been the less inspiring firsts. I’ve seen how a fast food restaurant operates  from product development through service. I’ve met a disturbingly large number of people who actually believe that Kraft Mac & Cheese is home-cooking and I’ve seen first-hand how rubbish the USDA’s guidelines for kids’ school lunches are. Like I said, there have been a lot of firsts for me.

Which is why for the next two weeks things might be a bit quiet around here- there are people to teach how to cook, school lunch ladies to fight with and fast food restaurants to be turned around. It’s all a part of an exciting project that I’m working on- I promise I will give details down the line, but for now I’m signed to secrecy. Anyway, now for something that’s not a first for me- gougeres, or choux-puffs as I prefer to call them.

Gougeres is one of the only French words I don’t like…I guess it reminds me too much of the word goo which in turn reminds me of what a lot of people seem to eat down here in West Virginia. There’s nothing gooey about these little golden puffs. They are crispy on the outside and comfortingly doughy on the inside. You’ll want to eat them straight from the oven before they sink and go squidgy (but even then they still taste rather good). I’ve made these before but this time I added a few spices for a little extra oomph- and I think you’ll be pleased with the result.  I like to serve them with a spring onion and chive yogurt dip as a pre-dinner nibble but they are frankly bloody good in place of popcorn whilst watching a film, sandwiched with a wedge of cheese for a snack or for lunch with a salad, in place of a roll. I love a versatile recipe.

This photo was taken by my fabulous photographer friend Dan, who also photographed these. He tells me my food looks blue when I photograph it so I’m rather pleased he stepped in to show me how its done. Thanks, Dan!

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Slow-roasted tomato & herb tartlettes


slow roasted tomato & herb tartlettes

If you wanted to make me really unhappy and I mean extraordinarily bloody-the-the-bones-miserable then it really wouldn’t be that hard.  Taking away my lovely kitchen and dumping me in a hotel in West Virginia would pretty much do it.

I’m hoping that you wouldn’t want to do that to me- but in case you were thinking about it, you’re too late- somebody beat you to it. Not that I have anything against West Virginia- the mountains are quite beautiful, the people charming, but I miss my local market,  my oven, my Kitchen Aid. Oh, and of course I miss my husband too. As if living in a hotel with neither a kitchen nor a husband wasn’t already enough torture for me they have apparently taken away all the good restaurants from the town. Amazing how cruel these TV people can be.

slow roasted tomatoes

Anyway, if I were back in my kitchen at home I would be having a celebratory party- and I would be serving these. As the tomatoes begin to loose their prime, slow roasting them is a magnificent way to revive them. Slice on the vine tomatoes through the middle, lay on a tray sprinkle with a touch of salt and a scattering of thyme and bake in the oven at 150C/200F for 2-3 hours or until drying at the edges but still a little juicy in the middle- you can do it at a lower temperature for longer but this works just fine. I make up huge batches and then leave them in the fridge covered in a little oil. They are amazing as soup, or in salads and I’ve even put them in a tart. Here, I’ve gone down the salad route- mixing them with cucumber, spring onions and fresh herbs.  And because I’m always looking for new ideas to serve at parties I stuffed the salad into baked wonton shells (after eating some for lunch, of course).  They are so crisp and much easier to work with than any pastry- I assure you, the healthy part is just an added bonus.  You can fill them with just about anything- in the winter I make them with roasted squash, chorizo and feta. Make the shells in advance and then stuff them when your ready to serve. Speaking of stuffing- I’m wishing I could stuff this hotel room right now. And I know just where I’d stuff it.
slow roasted tomato & herb tartlettes

And in case you forgot- I’m hosting this weeks BSI (Bloggers Secret Ingredient) challenge. This week the ingredient is chocolate so if you have a recipe leave me a comment with a link to your entry by 9pm on Sunday September 13th. The winner will be announced on Monday September 14th.

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Aubergine & courgette bake with basil chermoula pesto

Aubergine & courgette lasagna with a twist

If there’s one thing that invariably causes a stir when it arrives to the table, it’s a bubbling casserole dish with a layer of crispy bits and melted cheese on top. You know the kind I’m talking about. Mouths start to water, deep nasal inhalations take place and there is a buzz in the air. Rest assure a good meal is about to come.

aubergine & courgette bake with basil chermoula pesto

I’ve made variations of this over the years but this is one is a little bit unusual. The rich bechamel sauce is replaced by a layer of my basil chermoula pesto folded through creamy ricotta cheese. There’s a suggestion of spice and a whole whack of of summer- basil, tomatoes, aubergines & courgettes. It will undoubtedly make you reflect on how fast summer has gone and how fast time seems to go as you get older. Sorry about that, it’s a nasty and rarely avoidable side effect- made good by the little jive your taste buds are doing on your tongue.

Anyway, don’t let that worry you- you have bubbling tomatoes and cheese to consume and that ought to leave you feeling rather smug. This is essentially a lasagna without the sheets of lasagna- slices of grilled aubergine & courgette take their place. It’s  layered up with homemade tomato sauce, ricotta mixed with basil chermoula pesto with a final topping of goats cheese, crispy breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  Hungry? I’m really wishing I still had some leftovers in my fridge.

aubergine & courgette bake with basil chermoula pesto

Now, the nitty gritty. Firstly, this is not a quick dish to make. I know, I know, we all want dinner on the table in twenty minutes- trust me I want it in ten. That is why I have posted this on a Friday- you now have the whole weekend to fit it into your schedule. I’m not talking hours and hours and certainly it’s not difficult but it will take you the best part of two hours from start to finish. So grab a glass of wine, put on some crazy tunes and try not to think to much about the fact that this is the last weekend of summer.

Another note, I like to use cricket ball courgettes- the round ones people often stuff. Mostly, just because they are easier to slice and are more similar in size to the aubergine.  You can by all means use normal ones (in which case try and get ones thicker round the middle) and then slice both vegetable lenghtways rather than through the middle. When choosing a cricket ball squash for this you want to stay away from the large ones, which tend to have quite mealy middles- look for the young smaller ones. If you do find yourself with a mealy small one, then feel free to curse me, have a tantrum and then just carefully remove the mealy middles before getting on the task at hand.

Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of making this darn thing you’re going to be rather cross with me when I tell you that now you need to wait a whole ten minutes before diving in.  It’s going to be a real bore, let me tell you- but it really helps the vegetables to settle and reabsorb some of their lost juices. Don’t let it stop you from putting it on the table all bubbly- just start with a small salad and let your guests ooooh and aaaahhh in anticipation. You’ll ruin their joy if you cut into a watery mess. Patience, my friends- if you acquire some I’d love to know how.

And finally, no doubt you will find it oozing its savoury juices over the sides of the pan so make sure you place it on a baking tray in the oven. Melted bubbly cheese heading for an eager mouth is one thing- on the oven floor, is quite another. Continue reading ‘Aubergine & courgette bake with basil chermoula pesto’

Basil chermoula pesto, I think.

basil chermoula

It’s funny how one becomes so accustomed to their kitchen gadgets. Ever since I bought my new food processor I’ve been whizzing up pestos, breadcrumbs and pastry with only hint of appreciation for how easy it is and not a thought for how I would do it otherwise. When I cook in my mothers gorgeous kitchen I realise how spoiled I’ve been- or perhaps it’s how lazy I’ve become as a cook. Mum asked me how easy my biscotti recipe was and I replied oh, it’s so easy! but then on second thought I replied well…. if you have a kitchen aid it’s easy.   Mum doesn’t have these crazy gadgets in her kitchen. Microplane? What would I need one of those for? Chef’s knife? If I had one of those it would disappear in the garden with your father.

She probably burns a lot more calories than I do working in that kitchen.

I have a tendency to forget that other people’s kitchens are not as equipped as mine, which leads to me having a bit of a tantrum. When I arrived at my parents home last weekend I was excited about what herbs my father would be growing in the garden. Oh, the day when I can have a herb garden. I certainly won’t be growing lemongrass just because it looks pretty!

It was the rows of basil standing to attention that caught my eye. How could it not? It was looking as though it might take over the entire garden soon- clearly, it was only the tomatoes that the squirrels were interested in. Nothing like a bounty of basil as an opportunity to make pesto. Really, I ought to do something about it before it eats the nearby roses.

I set to work, plucking basil leaves. I had not set to thinking about how I might come to whiz them so fine that you’d want to toss them in your spaghetti. In fact it wasn’t until I marched inside with an overflowing colander of leaves that it suddenly dawned on me that pulverizing them might pose me a wee problem.

I did what I do most skillfully in the kitchen- I rummaged. Ah ha! Victory! A  mini processor was discovered and brushed of its dust and year old lining of breadcrumbs. Only, it turned out to be a piece of junk- one speed, one direction and one whiz would turn off the kitchen lights. This was going to be a slow and tedious project. On a second round of rummaging I came up with a liquidiser- of course my mother would have one of those with all those soups she makes. And that, finally I get to my point is why my pesto looks a bit like split pea soup- have you ever heard of overworked pesto? I had not until this day!

basil chermoula

Fortunately it tastes delicious and besides which this ain’t no cheesy pesto! I don’t really know what it is, actually. It’s basil, garlic and olive oil but it’s spicy and there are no cheese or nuts. I like to toss it with rice and pasta. I fold it through  ricotta and spread it on toast and blitz it into hummus (don’t try that in a liquidiser!).

You can taste the basil much better than when it’s mixed with cheese and nuts and it’s very light. Just try not to use a liquidiser- you always end up using more liquid than it wants and it’s so messy getting it out!

Oh, and after you read this you could head over to Good Food and check out my latest post there. Just a suggestion.

Continue reading ‘Basil chermoula pesto, I think.’


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