Tag Archives: vegetarian

The Next Best Thing To A Duvet Day: Velvety Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

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Winter is dragging on, my mood is as gloomy as the weather, and I feel like I am going to be cold forever.

I wish I could just burrow under the duvet and wait for the temperatures to start climbing again before venturing back out, but I can’t do that because I would most probably get sacked. Unfortunately, my job cannot be done from home, and it definitely cannot be done from under a duvet, so like most other people I have to suck it up, leave my bed and wrap up in a lot of layers in order to go to work. And it sucks.

Sadly, taking your duvet to work isn’t normally very practical either. So, what to do? What could make up for having to get out of bed?

In my opinion, the next best thing to a duvet is probably soup. It is warm, comforting and satisfying, and unlike a duvet you can take it to work to enjoy during your lunch break, without having to endure being stared at by your co-workers as if you have suddenly grown a second head. If you agree with me, then this recipe is definitely for you.

This mushroom and chestnut soup is very tasty and warming. The chestnut purée is optional, but the texture wouldn’t be as smooth and velvety without it. Use any mushrooms you want; if you are lucky enough to have access to wild mushrooms then don’t hesitate to use them. I usually go for a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and (rehydtated) dried porcini.

You will need (for 4 servings):

800 g mixed mushrooms (rehydrated weight if using dried mushrooms), quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
Salt, pepper
4 heaped tbsp unsweetened chestnut purée

Method:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter together on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft but not coloured (about 3 to 4 min).

Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, then add the brandy and cook for 1 or 2 min to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 min.

Transfer about 2/3 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the soup, and stir in the chestnut purée. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread, and crème fraîche if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Soups, Starters, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Butternut Squash, Feta and Spinach Roast

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With all this windy, cold weather, I was in the mood for some nice comfort food tonight; a tender beef stew maybe, or simply sausages and mash. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go the the butcher’s at the weekend, so I am having to rely mostly on vegeterian options this week.

I am, and forever will be, a committed carnivore, but I really enjoy a meat-free option every once in a while. Having no meat in the house usually forces me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and find interesting ways to cook vegetables.

This is one of my favourite meat-free dishes; it is quick enough to prepare on a weeknight after work, and it features feta which I adore. It is easy to substitute some of the ingredients depending on what you have available (parsnips, sweet potatoes or turnips work very well here too).

If you don’t fancy pumpkin seeds, try some toasted flaked almonds or cashew nuts instead.

You will need (for 2):

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp thyme

A few pinches chili flakes

1 butternut squash

2 large carrots

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

2 handfuls spinach leaves

200 g feta

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220ºC/ fan 200ºC / gas 7.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane with a teaspoon, discard. Cut the flesh into cubes (roughly 2 cm). Peel the carrots and cut into thick slices.

Peel the onion and cut into rough 1 cm cubes. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a roasting dish, mix the squash, carrot, olive oil, thyme and chili. Use your hands to mix thoroughly so the veg is well covered with the oil and flavourings. Bake for 20-30 min or until tender.

Meanwhile, wash and drain the spinach. Chop the feta.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the feta, spinach and pumpkin seeds to the dish, mix briefly, and return to the oven for 5 min.

Serve with some crusty bread.

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Another “No Cheese” Rant: Authentic Gratin Dauphinois

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I was fortunate enough to spend 3 years studying in Grenoble, in a part of the French Alps called the Dauphiné. And it just so happens that this region is the birthplace of Gratin Dauphinois (or dauphinoise potatoes as it is called in English).

When I say that I was “fortunate”, it is because at the end of these wonderful 3 years, I headed back home with the recipe for Gratin Dauphinois in my back pocket (and a Master’s Degree in Business, but who cares? You can’t eat a degree).

Now, for those of you who read my Quiche Lorraine post, you will know that I don’t like it one bit when people mess with a beautifully simple recipe. This also applies to Gratin Dauphinois. THERE IS NO CHEESE IN IT, just potatoes, milk, cream, eggs and seasoning. That is all you need!

This gratin is perfect as a side dish with roast meats, or as a main with a few slices of cured meats.

You will need (for 4):

About 1.2 kg potatoes
2 eggs
750 ml milk
4 tbsp double cream
1 clove garlic
100g butter + extra for the dish
Nutmeg
Rosemary
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ fan 180C/ gas 6-7.

Peel the garlic and cut in half. Rub the cut side over the bottom and sides of a large oven dish. Butter the dish.

Peel and wash the potatoes, then cut into 2mm slices.

In a large jug, beat the eggs, then add the cream and milk. Season.

Put a layer of potato slices over the bottom of the dish (you don’t need to be neat), then pour some of the milk mixture over it. Repeat until the dish is full or you have used up all the ingredients.

Season, sprinkle some grated nutmeg on top, and some rosemary. Dot small pieces of the butter all over.image

Bake for about 45 min or until golden and cooked through.

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Filed under Mains, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Lunchbox chili pasta

I call it lunchbox pasta because it is an easy way to use up any leftover pasta you might have after an evening meal. I usually make this with leftover cooked lasagne sheets (see Open Lasagne),cut into ribbons, but any pasta shape will work.

Rinse the pasta in some cold water to avoid it sticking together, then refrigerate in a microwaveable container.

In the morning, add a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of chili flakes, and some pitted, roughly chopped black olives. Grate a bit of parmesan on top.image

At lunchtime, microwave on full power for 2 to 3 min depending on wattage. Tuck in, and don’t forget to put your best smug face on in front of your colleagues with their shop-bought lunches!

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Open lasagne with creamy mushroom and spinach filling

You can use any type of lasagne sheet for this recipe: you can buy them fresh or dry from most shops, or you can make your own (watch this space for a recipe and step by step guide, coming up sometime soon).

You will need (for 2 portions):

2 large lasagne sheets (or 3 small ones)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions
250g chestnut mushrooms
Pinch of thyme
150g spinach (about 2 large handfuls)
3 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
Parmesan (from a block)
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Method:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the lasagne sheets according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the spring onions and mushrooms. Wash the spinach and drain thoroughly.

Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan, or sauté pan with a lid. Add the spring onions and mushrooms, salt, pepper, thyme, stir then cover for 2 to 3 min until the mushrooms are cooked.

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Add the spinach and leave to wilt for a few seconds, then add the crème fraîche. Warm through, check the seasoning and take off the heat.

Drain the pasta and cut the lasagne sheets in half so you end up with square-ish pieces.

Lay one piece in each serving bowl, top with some of the filling and some grated parmesan. Repeat until you have used up the pasta and filling, then finish with some parmesan shavings and chopped parsley.

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Quick bean stew with grilled halloumi and crunchy toasted almonds

This is very quick and easy to make, and ideal for a midweek evening meal.

You will need (for 2 portions):

2 tbsp olive oil
200g fresh white mushrooms
4 spring onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tin baked beans
25g blanched almonds (flaked almonds would be fine too)
150g halloumi
Pinch thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Preheat your grill on medium.

Cut the spring onions into 1cm chunks, clean and quarter the mushrooms, crush the garlic.

Place a large pan on a medium heat, and heat up the olive oil. Add the spring onions, garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Toss in the oil then cover and leave for about 2 min until it all starts to soften.

Meanwhile, warm up a small frying pan. If you are using whole blanched almonds, crush them roughly in a pestle and mortar (or food processor), if using flaked almonds, leave them as they are.

When the frying pan is hot add the almonds to it and let them toast until golden. Make sure you keep an eye on them though: they would burn in no time if left unattended. When golden, take off the heat and set aside.

When the mushrooms have softened, add the baked beans, salt and pepper to taste, and warm through.

Slice the halloumi as evenly as you can (you should end up with 6 slices), and pop it under the grill on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

As soon as the halloumi is nice and golden (this should take 1 to 3 min depending on your grill), take it away from under the grill.

To serve, spoon the bean and mushroom stew into shallow bowls, top with the cheese and scatter the almonds on top. Finish with the chopped parsley.image

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