Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year

All posts tagged Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year

Cake to keep and cake to eat

Published December 7, 2014 by Storm

Cake to keep (for two or three weeks)

For at least the last 10 years I’ve been using the same Christmas cake recipe, with the only variation being whether I soak the dried mango and pineapple in spiced rum or spiced mead. It’s a nice cake, but this year I felt like a change. We’d enjoyed the Simnel cake recipe I’d baked from Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year so last week I decided to give the Christmas cake recipe from the same volume a try.

My first challenge was finding dried pears; I couldn’t get them anywhere within walking distance of home! I thought about the rest of the fruit in the cake, currants, sultanas, raisins and apricots, then looked at what we had on the shelf at work and decided that dried sweet cherries would do nicely.

The next challenge was to find a vegetarian sherry. I eventually found an amontillado (how suitably Poe), a nip of which will also make a nice companion to cooking Christmas dinner. At this time of year my drinks cupboard gets a bit scary; sherry for the cake, brandy for the mincemeat, rum for stollen, and possibly some kirsch still to add for a dessert I want to make for Christmas Eve or New Year… I might be making up some jars of boozy fruit in readiness for next Christmas.

Making the cake was nice and simple. It smelt lovely getting home the day I’d left the fruit and chopped almonds infusing in the sherry, ready to bake in the evening. Cheating a bit, as usual, I mixed the flour, spices, ground nuts, fat and eggs, in the food processor then stirred the mix through the fruit by hand. It all looked right going into the tin and tasted right when I cleaned the bowl out before washing it; I’m afraid when it comes to cake mix I do take my chance with raw egg. Two hours into the baking time, when I went to check on the progress of the cake, I realised I’d missed an ingredient or two; there on the side was the still sealed jar of molasses with the honey alongside it, too late to do anything about it I shrugged my shoulders and concluded that since the mix had seemed right, and the cake smelt and looked good, the lack couldn’t be too serious.

Now of course it’s waiting time.  The cake is wrapped in baking parchment, securely in it’s tub, being unwrapped to be fed a tablespoon of sherry about every 4 days; the recipe doesn’t actually mention feeding the cake but it’s a Christmas cake, of course it needs feeding! In two weeks time I’ll add marzipan and icing. I’m looking forward to seeing if it tastes as good as it smells.

4.5 out of 5 for well written instructions and ease of baking 

I can’t really grade the tastiness just yet!

And a cake to eat (now)

Having made a cake which wasn’t for immediate consumption I thought perhaps I should make another cake this week. I’d been given a glut of ripe bananas so a banana cake of some description was the obvious choice.  I picked up the Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking and thumbed my way to the chapter on teabreads and cakes. Banana and Pecan Teabread looked nicely tempting.

I had most of the ingredients in the cupboards but I did need to buy shelled pecans. Again, using the food processor to mix everything, this was a doddle to make. When I’m mixing a fruity cake in the food processor I mix everything except the fruit, then use the pulse option to mix the dried fruit in so as to keep as much of the fruit whole as possible. The only thing I would disagree completely with the recipe about is the cooking time; the recipe suggested an hour’s baking for the size I was making, with perhaps a few minutes more; I ended up giving my cake an extra half hour, which to me is more than a few minutes. Minor grumble aside, the cake is moist, tasty, and moreish; I’m likely to bake it again.

4 out of 5 for ease of baking and well written instructions

4.5 out of 5 for tastiness

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The best recipe I’ve tried this year, plus a tasty side and a speedy supper

Published November 10, 2014 by Storm

Whoops! It’s been a month since I’ve written about the recipes I’m trying. I only skipped trying a new recipe one week of that month and that was my birthday week. I ate out a couple of times that week and had a delicious lunch in the café of The Ashmolean, if you’re in Oxford give it a try.

The best recipe of the year (so far)

In Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year I found myself thumbing beyond autumn and into winter, there I found this delicious Almond Roast. I’m a little shocked at realising that it is my favourite of the dishes I’ve tried so far this year; I have a love hate relationship with nut roasts, Dad makes a fantastic one (and I do have his recipe) but the mention of nut roasts always pulls up the unpleasant memory of those dry packet ones you mixed with water and cooked in the microwave, cloying, over-salted, and generally yuck. Anyway, I pushed past my initial aversion and I’m really glad I did.

This recipe combines almonds and mushrooms, two foods I can never get enough of. I did ignore the celery stick in the ingredients list, the one vegetable I strongly dislike, and I used a red onion for it’s delicate sweetness while I suspect the recipe intended white as it didn’t specify. My only pause for thought was how to halve the quantities, the method suggested making a half sized roast in a 1lb loaf tin or a full-size one in a 20cm ring tin; not that my maths is bad but how do you halve three eggs? My solution was to use two smaller eggs and not add the splash of water. Other than that minor mathematical challenge this roast was a doddle to make. I liked this so much I made it again last week and even the firmly carnivorous Railway Modeller found it palatable in place of stuffing with his roast dinner.

5 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of making.

5 out of 5, plus a bonus point, for tastiness.

Also, something which is unheard of from me as I always complain recipes don’t go as far as they say they will, I got more portions out of this than the recipe suggests!

A speedy supper

Wanting something quick and easy to cook after a late shift, I decided to try the Mushroom Stroganoff recipe from the pages of The World Vegetarian Cookbook. Fry, or sauté if we’re being precise, some onion with some theoretical celery, then add some mushrooms and sauté a bit longer; herbs and stock follow, with some yoghurt at the last minute. The recipe reckoned on 30 minutes for preparation and cooking but I’m pretty sure I shaved it down to 15. Obviously, I skipped the celery, choosing to replace it with garlic which is a zillion times tastier!

5 out of 5 for ease of making.

4 out of 5 for tastiness.

And a tasty side

Already decided on making the Almond Roast again, which feeds me for most of a week, I decided that last week’s new recipe should be an accompaniment to it. A few dishes caught my eye but most were similar to things I make without referring to a recipe or didn’t quite lend themselves to working with both my main roast and The Railway Modeller’s pie. In the end it was a new, to me, method of cooking new potatoes which I decided to try. The Greens Cookbook gave the technique for New Potatoes and Garlic Baked in Parchment. As the oven was going to be in use anyway making maximum use of it’s capacity seemed a sensible idea. Also, roast garlic cloves are far nicer than they have any right to be and I was definitely interested to know if baked garlic cloves were as tasty.

This is a great way to cook new potatoes. I think we both enjoyed these; though the Railway Modeller declined to try his garlic cloves, giving them all to me. Garlic cooked like this is almost as good as roasted but it doesn’t quite have that fabulous texture, needing scraping out of it’s skin instead of sucking out. Jerusalem artichokes are freshly onto the shelves at work this week so I’m thinking of trying those cooked with this technique.

5 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking.

5 out of 5 for tastiness (there’s not really a lot that could go wrong with new potatoes and garlic).

Spaghetti Squash and a Sample of Simnel

Published April 1, 2014 by Storm

Baked Squash with Parmesan Goats’ Cheese

This is the closest to cheating at my own challenge I’ve come since I started in January. I have been baking squashes since a friend introduced me to cheese topped baked butternut squash when I was eighteen. This week’s recipe just about counted as a new dish as, on the rare occasion I’ve been able to buy them, I’ve always baked my spaghetti squashes with a stuffing; for this recipe you bake the squash on it’s own then season with a herb butter and top with grated cheese. 

I wanted to try something new with spaghetti squash, really I did. The problem was I worked in reverse this week. Up until now I’ve chosen a recipe then raided my store cupboards and shopped for the ingredients. This week I got excited about squash and bought one, confident that I would find spaghetti squash recipes in abundance in my library, and then discovered that of all my books only Vegetarian Classics Simple Dishes for Every Occasion had even one recipe for me to try.

I was slightly surprised by the seemingly short cooking time given but I assumed that it was because the squash wasn’t bursting with stuffing. Towards the end of the cooking time recommended I concluded that my doubts were in fact well founded and I gave my squash an extra twenty minutes. It was edible but still a little crisper than I would prefer. I still like spaghetti squash but I’ll go back to cooking them my way.

4 out of 5 for ease of cooking.

3 out of 5 for flavour (I made a poor choice of cheese though).

Simnel Cake

A couple of weeks ago I baked a Simnel Cake to a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year. On Sunday I added the marzipan ready for us to enjoy a sweet treat. Adding the marzipan did provide some mild stress! I obviously made my marzipan eggs a little on the small side as, when I tried to brown them under the grill as instructed, two of them softened too much and dropped through the rack and into the base of the grill pan. The errant eggs were retrieved and all eleven made it onto the top of the cake.

We like this cake. I really like this cake. It reminds me of my Gran’s cakes, though I can’t put my finger on exactly what makes it like one of hers. I think we’ll be having a Simnel Cake for Laetare Sunday every year from now on.

This also gets 4 out of 5 for ease of cooking.

4.5 out of 5 for flavour.

Simnel Cake and an Imprecise Pudding

Published March 21, 2014 by Storm

Simnel Cake

Let’s be completely honest, The Railway Modeller and I both like cake; we probably like cake more than we should really. I thought the next celebration cake was due for an April birthday, then I discovered that Simnel Cakes were traditionally baked for Laetare Sunday (probably better known as Mother’s Day in the UK); obviously I decided to bake one. I found a recipe in one of my books and a bit of research suggested two weeks would be adequate maturing time, so this week I’ve made a cake. I’ll write more about it when we’ve actually tried it. In the absence of more to say about cake I’m writing about a pudding instead!

Steamed pear and chocolate sponge

Earlier this week I was given a bag of very ripe, slightly bruised pears. This classes as a treat because pears usually seem to be sold under-ripe and even the smell of good ripe ones is cheering. Obviously the bruising meant there would be some wastage so I needed to use them in something I would be chopping them for; my usual dish for pears like this would be a crumble but I thought my hands would probably object to tickling the crumble topping into being at the moment so decided to come up with a sponge pudding instead. This was a good decision to make, my crumble is probably healthier but this was pure comfort food. It’s a slightly imprecise recipe in places and while my scales mean I weigh ingredients in ounces the chocolate content is given in grams because I used half of a 100g bar, it made sense when I was throwing things together in the kitchen.

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Ingredients (Serves 6-8)

A large knob of butter

1 dessertspoon golden syrup

50g dark chocolate (I used a 70% cocoa content one)

3 or 4 pears (I used the unbruised bits of six very ripe ones)

3oz self-raising flour

1oz cocoa powder

4oz butter, margarine or spread suitable for baking (I use sunflower spread)

2 eggs

4oz sugar 

About 2 tablespoons milk or single cream (I used 1 tablespoon goats’ double cream and 1 tablespoon water)

Method

Grease a 1¾ or 2 pint pudding bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the knob of butter over a low heat. Break the chocolate into chunks and add the chocolate and golden syrup to the pan with the butter. Stir continually until everything is melted and evenly mixed. Pour this chocolate sauce into the pudding bowl.

Peel and chop the pears into roughly 1cm cubes, discarding the cores, and drop into the pudding bowl on top of the sauce.

Mix the remaining ingredients, except the cream or milk, in a food processor.

Add the milk or cream a little at a time until the mix looks smooth and spongy but not runny. Spoon the sponge mix on top of the pears in the pudding bowl.

Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay a sheet of kitchen foil on top of it, pleat the two together down the centre. Cover the pudding bowl with the greaseproof paper and foil (paper side to the pudding) and secure with string. Trim any excess paper and foil.

Place the pudding bowl in a steamer and steam for around 1¾hours.

Turn pudding out onto a plate and serve hot with cream or custard, alternatively serve cold as an indulgent cake.

(Un)baked Rice

Published January 14, 2014 by Storm

Baked Rice

My newest, to me, recipe book, Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year, describes this as An unusual method of cooking rice in the oven with red lentils and nutritious root vegetables.” Wary but intrigued, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered savoury rice cooked in the oven, I decided to give it a go.

Perhaps I wasn’t wary enough!  I did have a back up supper of a favourite cheese, salad and nice bread but obviously I wasn’t going to need that; obviously I was.

I followed the, seemingly, clear instructions to the letter.  At the supposed end of the cooking time, as there wasn’t enough liquid left to half cover the contents of the casserole dish and everything was still rock hard, I boiled the kettle, topped up the liquid and returned the dish to the oven for another half hour.  At the end of this extended cooking time I had almost cooked vegetables, half cooked lentils and brown rice which looked like it had never been near water or heat. 

Baked Rice was declared compost.  I dished up what I’m told was a tasty mutton casserole, which I’d thrown together with no reference to any recipe, for the Railway Modeller and I sat down to my bread and cheese.

0.5 out of 5 for ease of cooking, it’s lucky to get that but if I were to take the ingredients and the order of adding them to the stock I could make this work on the hob.

2 out of 5 for tastiness, again I’m being kind but the vegetables gave me an idea of what the overall flavour should have been and with an effective cooking technique this would be an a reasonably flavoursome dish though probably not overly exciting.

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