Dec 2012

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

My kids love udon noodles. Every time we go the local Asian supermarket we end up with several packs of fresh ready cooked udon noodles. Together with the wonderful tofu that sits right next to them in the refrigerated counter we have a start to a delicious meal.

Kids like their noodles stir-fired with few veggies, tofu and soya sauce. That’s what they had for lunch today. I fancied something more exciting but restorative at the same time. What could be better than a fragrant Asian style broth with veggies, tofu and noodles. Perfect for rainy day, perfect to counteract any Christmas indulgences.

If you can’t find ready cook udon noodles buy them dried and cook according to the package instructions. They tend to come separated into portions, very handy. You can also use other type of noodles; ramen, soba, rice vermicelli... Conveniently any tofu will do for this recipe, if using soft or silken tofu just be careful not to break it up. Maybe best added after the noodles have softened. Feel free to add any other veggies; thinly sliced peppers, mangetout, green beans or mung bean sprouts will work great. To get the best out of the miso paste add it at the last minute, let dissolve into the broth but do not boil.

You can also make just the broth without the noodles and sip it. This is perfect if you have caught any of the wintery colds and infections, maybe add more garlic for even bigger healing punch. You can imagine your colds or infections melting away with every spoonful.

udon-broth

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH
Serves 2-3

ingredients
4 cups of light vegetable stock
1 leek
1 medium carrot
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 large clove of garlic
pinch of red chilli flakes
1/4 of Savoy cabbage
1 Tbs soya sauce
100 g of tofu
2x200g (3oz) pks of ready cook udon noodles
1 Tbs yellow miso paste
2 spring onions (scallions)
fresh coriander (cilantro) to serve

method
  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Cut the root and the dark green leaves off the leek. Cut the leek in half widthwise (you should have 2 tubes, about 2-3inches long). Cut the leeks into long thin strips (julienne).
  3. Cut the carrot into julienne (again cut it in half widthwise, than julienne)
  4. Add the carrots and leeks into the stock, simmer.
  5. While the stock is simmering finely julienne or just finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add to the stock.
  6. Finely shred the cabbage and add to the stock.
  7. Add the soya sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Cut the tofu into small dice. Add to the stock.
  9. Next, add your udon noodles and heat until they loosen up and warm through.
  10. Add the miso paste and just let dissolve. Do not boil.
  11. Last add the spring onion.
  12. Serve in large soup bowls garnished with some chopped coriander (cilantro).


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FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Christmas presents wrapped. Fridge and pantry bursting with food. The house is looking very festive. We are ready for some chilling, celebrating, eating and socializing. Christmas Eve day will be all about cooking for the evening. I love spending hours in the kitchen, pots on the cooker, gorgeous smells coming out of the oven. No rush. Yes I cook loads on Christmas Eve and just reheat and scoop on Christmas Day. Just as we did at home.

Kids love it, they can enjoy their presents without much of an interaction, me and my husband love it as we can spend time with them. And there are no mountains of dishes to wash and no feeling too stuffed to move. Perfect.

If you are still struggling to decide what to make for a veggie festive meal here is an idea. My stuffed peppers or if you prefer individual squashes. Nuts and cranberries with a hint of orange make a perfect festive combination! To make it easier, you can go for a wild rice mix, however those are usually made with white rice. I prefer brown rice therefore I went ahead with cooking my own wild and brown rice separately. The sauce is so yummy, my daughter said she could drink it! I will admit there was a bit of a fight over the last spoonful. it feels very luxurious. The best thing this meal will not make you feel heavy at all. Enough room for pudding.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xmas-stuffed-peppers


FESTIVE STUFFED PEPPERS/SQUASHES with MARSALA CREAM SAUCE

Serves 4-6

stuffed peppers/squashes
80g (1/2cup) wild rice
90g (1/2 cup) brown basmati rice
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 tsp fresh)
60g (1/2 cup) macadamia nut halves
60g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries
40g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
1 orange, zest and juice
3 large bell peppers, red or yellow
or 4 small squashes

marsala cream sauce
125ml (1/2 cup) Marsala wine
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs tomato puree
sprig of fresh thyme
125mml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock
70g (1/2 cup) cashew nuts
250ml (1 cup) water

baby spinach 100g per person

  1. Cook the wild rice and brown rice according to package instructions in separate sauce pans.
  2. If you are using squash, slice the tops of and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Wrap them in some aluminium foil, leaving the top opening exposed. Place in a 180C oven for 30min.
  3. Next prepare the stuffing.
  4. In frying or saute pan heat about 60g (1/4c) water, add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme. Saute till softened about 10min, adding more water if needed. Place in a bowl.
  5. Add the nuts, cranberries, juice and zest of the orange and both the wild and brown rice. Mix together.
  6. If using peppers, cut them in half lengthways, remove the core, membranes and seeds.
  7. Stuffed the peppers, try to get couple of flaked almonds or macadamias on the top.
  8. Place the peppers in a baking dish, add 80ml (1/3cup) of water to the dish, cover with aluminium foil and bake for 25min at 180C. Uncover and bake further 5min to get the nuts on top browned.
  9. If using the squash: after baking them for 30 min remove from the oven, stuff and cover in aluminium foil. Place back into the oven and bake for 20 min, uncover and bake further 5 min.
  10. While the peppers or squash are baking prepare the sauce. In a medium saute pan, bring the Marsala wine to simmer, add the thinly sliced onion and a thyme sprig. Cover and cook for about 20min or until the onions are soft.
  11. Add the tomato puree, cook for 1 min. Next add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer. Switch the heat off.
  12. In a high speed blender combine the onion mixture (thyme and all), cashews and water. Process till smooth. Pour back into the sauce pan and bring to a boil, turn down and let the sauce thicken, adjust seasoning. Don’t let this cook too long the sauce will thicken too quickly.
  13. Wilt the spinach in a large saute pan.
  14. Place a portion of spinach on the plate, top with the pepper and pour some sauce around (or over the top of the pepper). If serving the squash, serve the spinach on the side.
  15. Enjoy :)

xmas-stuffedpumpkin


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TRADITIONAL CZECH CHRISTMAS PEA SOUP

TRADITIONAL CZECH CHRISTMAS PEA SOUP

Christmas Eve is the BIG day in the Czech Republic, we have a Christmas dinner and open our presents in the evening. In my Czech/English family we mix customs from both countries. We still have our main meal on Christmas Eve, usually inviting few friends over. Presents, however, we open on Christmas day, as it is customary in the UK.

The same applies to our food, we mix some Czech traditional dishes (split pea soup, braised red cabbage. potato salad), few English ones (bread sauce, sprouts, cranberry sauce, roasted parsnips and carrots) and as there is no turkey or carp (Czech traditional Christmas meal) on our table, we are free to try a new dinner centre piece each year.

Traditional Czech pea soup has definitely earned its place on our international menu. I have had it made the same way, on the same day, for last 40 years! In our house it happened to be purely vegan. The only change I made was the addition of frozen peas, for color and sweetness. Every year I wonder why I only make this delicious soup on Christmas Eve.

splitpeasoup

TRADITIONAL CZECH CHRISTMAS PEA SOUP
You may have to increase the cooking time (each batch seems different), the peas should be very soft before the soup goes into the blender. If you are making the soup ahead make sure you have some water on hand, it thickens as it stands.

Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a light meal

ingredients:
1 1/4 cup (250g) split green peas, soaked overnight and drained
1 medium to large carrot, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, with the leaves, roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp dried marjoram
6 cups (at least) of water
2 tsp of vegan stock powder ( I use Marigold)
1/2 cup (125ml) frozen peas
bread for making croutons about one small slice per person ( I used a spelt and sunflower loaf, but any good quality bread will do, no pre-sliced white!!!)
1 Tbs of canola or olive oil


splitpeasoup2
method
  1. In a large saucepan (stock pot) combine the split peas, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, marjoram and water.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down the hear and simmer, covered, for about 1 hr. The peas should be very soft.
  3. After the hour of cooking add the stock powder and cook for further 10-15 min just to let flavors combine.
  4. Puree the soup in a food processor till smooth. Add more water if the soup is too thick.
  5. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan and add the frozen peas, heat up only.
  6. While the soup is cooking cut the bread slices into 1 inch cubes. Place into a bowl and combine with the oil.
  7. Spread the bread cubes onto a baking tray and broil ( grill ) until golden brown, about one on each side. You can make the croutons well ahead.
  8. Serve the soup with the croutons on top.

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BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA

Lately I have noticed that even though my weekly food shop tends to fit into fewer and fewer bags the amount I pay for my groceries remains suspiciously about the same. My fridge doesn't seem to be overflowing anymore either. Yes, food prices have gone up, and it is uncomfortably noticeable. There is a good thing to this. I buy less, plan more and waste less.

There are many healthy and good for the wallet foods. My favourite low cost food must be the fibre and protein rich beans. Tinned beans are a good buy but dried beans are a true bargain. You get an even better deal if you can bulk buy. Beans are a great store cupboard ingredient and a real must in any veggie kitchen.

I admit it is much quicker to open a tin, and I do always have some in the pantry, but cooking your own is kind of a meditative process. You can add herbs and aromatic vegetables, cook them just the way you want them. You may not get the uniform consistency of tinned beans but home cooked beans soak up flavours that you cook them with. Yum! A little planning goes a long way, it is always best to soak beans over night, this makes them easier (and quicker) to cook. I am a great believer in having a rough menu plan, have the basics sorted and adjust depending what else is in the vegetable drawer (or the weekly veg box).

My pinto beans were soaking and gorgeous bunch of Swiss chard was lurking in my vegetable drawer. Together, with fabulous tomato salsa, they came together as a very nutritious and comforting dish.

braised-beans-1

BRAISED PINTO BEANS WITH SWISS CHARD AND TOMATO SALSA
I have used parsley in my salsa to keep with the flavours in the beans, coriander will be great too.

Serves 4

beans
225g (1 cup) dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
large sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled left whole
1 stick of celery, cut into 3 pieces
1 small bunch of parsley, stalks included (you can tie it with a string to make it easier to fish out later)
1 medium onion, halved, leaving the root intact
2 tsp stock powder ( I use Marigold vegan powder)
1 large bunch of Swiss chard


braisedbeansalsa

tomato salsa
1 small red onion (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped
1/2 - 1 chilli, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped ( I like to deseed and skin my tomatoes)
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lime
small bunch of parsley or coriander

  1. Drain your pre-soaked beans, place them into a large stock pot. Add 1.25l (5 cups) of water. Add rosemary, bay leaves, garlic, celery, parsley and onion.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are soft. (Start checking the beans after 40min).
  3. When the beans are soft fish out the onions, vegetables and herbs. Strain the beans reserving 250ml (1 cup) of the liquid.
  4. Return the beans and 1 cup of liquid back into the stock pot.
  5. Separate the thick white stalks from the leaves of the Swiss chart. Cut the stalks into bite size pieces. Add them to the beans and bring it all to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 min.
  6. Next shred the green leaves and add to the beans. Cook for further 5 min.
  7. To make the salsa, mix all salsa ingredients in a bowl and let rest for at least 30min. It is best to make it ahead, the flavours will come together. I make it just as I start cooking the beans.
  8. Serve a bowl of beans and chard topped with the zesty pasta. Brown rice, quinoa or good wholemeal bread are all great accompaniments.

braised-beans-2

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FRANKENSTEIN FOOD/ROASTED ROOT BURGERS

FRANKENSTEIN FOOD/ROASTED ROOT BURGERS

Science is indeed incredibly fascinating. Over our human history, science has shaped how we live our lives. We may take the results of science for granted but can we imagine our today’s world without penicillin, x-ray or the latest smart phone technology?

On the other hand some science leaves me baffled. For example, do we really need bread that will stay mould free for 60 days? Scientist have indeed discovered a method (microwaving) that will do just that. And it is not just bread they tested this on, anything from pet food to jalapeno peppers was put "under the waves".

Originally this device was manufactured to zap pathogens like E-coli or MRSA... That may sound like a good thing but I really do have an issue with what it must do to the food. Can we believe this is safe? If moulds won't touch the food I am sure humans shouldn't either. It reminds me of the old "McDonald's hamburger doesn't get spoilt" YouTube video.

I cannot find a good reason for having bread that lasts 60 days, maybe in emergency situations, delivered to disaster areas, but for everyday use? Whatever happened to buying what you need? Or just stick your bread into the freezer! If you are making sandwiches, freeze bread in 2 slice batches and take them out as you need them. I find that making sandwiches with frozen bread keeps kids lunchbox cool and they are defrosted by lunchtime.

Growing up I don't remember bread getting mouldy. It went stale and rock hard first. Today’s over processed bread goes mouldy before it goes hard. Stale bread has great uses, it is especially great for making breadcrumbs. We used to have a large box of them in the pantry (I now keep mine in the freezer), it was used to make meatloaves or for breading various foods (the Czechs will bread and fry just about anything). I never remember any mould in our box of breadcrumbs.

No, this is not a scientific discovery I will be celebrating and i do hope it will not become a mainstay in our food preparation. If it does you should know that cantaloupe seems to be one food that didn’t do well in the process :)

http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/13339/20121130/best-thing-sliced-bread-special-microwave-keeps.htm


ROASTED ROOT BURGERS
I served these as a starter with salad but will work great in a wholemeal bun with yummy toppings. Salad and oven fries on the side of course.

Makes 4

roastedrootburgers2

ingredients

125ml (1/2 cup) of brown basmati rice
440g (1lb) parsnips
440g (1lb) carrots
2 tsp rapeseed oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp celery salt
freshly cracked black pepper

method
  1. First cook the brown rice in 375ml (1 and 1/2 cup) of water for about 30 min.
  2. While the rice is cooking, clean the parsnips and carrots, cut into about inch pieces. Place into a roasting dish, mix with 2 tsp rapeseed oil. Roast at 200C for about 35min. You can roast without any oil if you wish.
  3. Finely chop the shallots, place into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Place the roasted vegetables into a food processor and process till you get a coarse mash (still with some texture).
  5. Add the mashed roots and rice to the shallots. Next add the paprika, celery and black pepper.
  6. Shape 4 burgers out of the mixture. Place onto a baking paper lined baking tray. Bake at 180C for 30-35 min or until golden brown.

roastedrootburger
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