This week saw me trying a recipe for a side dish rather than a main. I had some mildly spiced chickpea burgers to try, bought not home-made, and I fancied an interesting accompaniment for them. This was to be a purely self indulgent meal, I was cooking the Railway Modeller one of his favourites and felt I should do something nice for myself while I was about it. I’d happily eat locally grown asparagus every day while it’s in season but my budget might end up a little stretched if I did, and I’d already indulged in asparagus this week, so I looked to the other green crops arriving at work and was spoilt for choice on the bean front. The french beans at the moment are some of the longest I’ve ever seen and absolutely flawless so I chose a recipe to take advantage of them.
Long Beans in Coconut Milk
I remembered having seen this recipe when I was flicking through The World Vegetarian Cookbook and thought it might be just the dish I was looking for this week. Yes, the burgers were evidently inspired by Indian cookery while the bean recipe is Thai inspired but isn’t fusion cookery supposed to be all the rage?
I had to miss out the galangal as getting to the one shop in town which would sell it isn’t really practical on a work day but the beans certainly didn’t taste like they were lacking anything; chilli and lemongrass gave a nice, subtle seasoning and the coconut milk gave them a richness I don’t normally associate with green beans. I cooked half a pound of beans and ate the lot!
My beans did go well with the burgers, though I’m not convinced I’d bother with the burgers themselves again. The one lesson I would take from this first attempt at the recipe would be to chop the lemongrass much finer next time as I found it a bit tough and woody. I’m not sure what I’d choose to serve the beans with next time; I’ll have to keep in mind finding a partner dish for them when I’m browsing my recipe books for future cookery experiments.
5 out of 5 for ease of cooking
4 out of 5 for flavour
Minimal preparation and only one pan
I’m conserving my energy at the moment, by next week I should have plenty but at the moment I’m at a low ebb; this pilaf, from Vegetarian Classics Simple Dishes for Every Occasion, looked like it would suit this weary cook nicely. With only one onion and a few mushrooms to slice, and minimising the washing up by being a complete meal cooked in only one pan, it doesn’t get much less strenuous to cook from scratch.
It’s almost all in the spices
Unusually, the aroma of the spices sautéing with the onion drew The Railway Modeller through to the kitchen to tell me how good it smelt. Uncertain as to whether The Railway Modeller would like bulgar, he doesn’t think he’d ever tried it, and knowing he doesn’t share my liking for lentils I was heating something else up for him but I promised him some of the pilaf to try as well.
Once everything was simmering in the pan with the stock it could more or less be left to itself. With an almost finished knitting project on my needles, which I’m keen to wear before it warms up too much, and the next knitting and crochet projects crying out for me to start them I was quite happy to let the pan simmer away with little attention beyond an occasional stir. My dinner didn’t suffer for my neglect, it was ready in the expected time with both bulgar and lentils cooked to perfection.
Almost too much of a good thing
The recipe suggested that it would make four portions as a main dish, you could probably get five or six portions out of it if you were serving it with a good salad or planned a dessert. Personally I think I’d prefer this pilaf as a side dish, it would compliment a nice, fruity tagine very well. The Railway Modeller seemed to like the balance of spices in it and I don’t think he objected to the bulgar but I’d need to come up with a lentil free version for him to try it again.
5 out of 5 for ease of cooking
4 out of 5 for flavour
Less laze for a more interesting lunch
I admit it, I’m lazy about lunches. Typically I buy something at work to eat that day and the next, a tub of fresh soup and some nice bread or a packet of oatcakes and something to accompany them. This approach is lighter on my pocket than a daily trip to the sandwich shop would be but I always feel that if I could just get myself a little more organised I could spend less and have the satisfaction of something I’d made myself. It seemed to me that the challenge was to find lunch options that looked interesting enough to motivate me to try them, this week I came across one.
Aubergine Tahini Pâté
In The Book of Vegetarian Cooking by Ted Smart I came across this pâtè recipe which sounded similar to the Baba Ganoush I sometimes buy to go with my oatcakes. Given that I’d buy Baba Ganoush more often if it was less expensive I decided this had to be tried. As often seems to be the case, something I’d assumed would be fiddly turned out to be incredibly easy, basically bake the aubergine and then peel it and purée with the rest of the ingredients. I was pleased before I even subjected it to the taste test as, for around the same price as the Baba Ganoush I usually buy, I had about three times the volume of pâté. Tasting it I was pretty happy too, eating my way through this is going to be no hardship at all. I actually like the consistency more than that of my usual bought option, mine is less wet. The flavour isn’t quite as nice as that of the Baba Ganoush, I’d like a little more lemon and less garam masala or possibly different spices; I’ll take a cheeky look at what I buy and then have a play with the recipe. I will make this again.
5 out of 5 for ease of making
3.5 out of 5 for flavour
There are certain dates over the course of a work year when I feel the need to ply my colleagues with cake. Monday was one of those days. I considered trying a new cake recipe but, wanting one cake to suit vegans and non-vegans alike, I decided to play it safe with one of my own creations which has become a reliable fall back over the years.
This is it:
3 medium bananas
5oz self-raising flour (I use wholemeal)
4oz sunflower spread (choose one with a low water content)
4oz sugar (I normally use soft brown)
1oz pitted dates
1oz walnut halves
Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a food processor.
Lightly grease a 1lb loaf tin, pour the cake mix into the tin.
Bake for around 45 minutes, until a skewer or smooth knife comes out clean after poking into the centre of the cake.
Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.