Monday, 23 July 2012

Samphire (Sea Vegetable) Stir Fry

I pride myself on knowing the majority of vegetables in the marketplace, even the more unusual/exotic ones, but when watching an episode of 'River Cottage Veg' I became endeared with samphire when it was showcased on the programme.

Samphire, originally called 'sampiere', stems from being named after Saint Pierre (Saint Peter) who was the patron saint of fishermen because the plants would grow in the rock salt water coastlines of northern Europe where they used to fish.

Thinking it was a strictly 'sea vegetable' only found on coastlines and therefore in accessible for me based in the Midlands, I was disappointed I wouldn't get to try it.

However, my local Tesco remedied this situation by launching packet samphire via their Finest range.  Although there are many recipes on the net featuring samphire, I decided to create my own.

I was very mindful of samphire's salty properties and taking heed of the 'Do Not Salt' note on the packet, I balanced out the seasoning with lemon juice and pepper which worked very well.

Encompassing Quorn pieces, gnocchi and ramino peppers, my recipe was a delicious hearty meal stir-fried in home-made rosemary infused oil which, with salty samphire, is a quick meal, ideal for Mondays when you want something pronto after completing the first working day of the week (also an idea for 'Meat Free Mondays'). 

So even if you don't live by the coast, you can still enjoy a little taste-of-the-sea care of samphire on your own dinner plate.  Give it a try and see what you think of the latest en-vogue veg on the block.

Quorn Foods have nominated my recipe (below) as their 'Recipe of the Week' on Facebook!  Praise indeed!  

Recipe of the week is this tasty treat from Word In Veg Ways. Thank you so much for telling us about this delightful dish! Who else thinks this looks as yummy as we do?


Quorn, Gnocchi & Samphire Stir-Fry (Serves 1)

Handful of Quorn Chicken Pieces
Gnocchi (as much as desired)
1 Ramino Pepper
4 Mushrooms
Handful of Samphire
Oil (I used rosemary infused oil, but vegetable oil is fine too)
Lemon Juice and Ground black pepper
Optional: Few cubes of Blue Shropshire cheese

  • Cook Quorn pieces and gnocchi as per packet instructions.
  • In a separate frying pan, heat the oil and fry the ramino pepper, mushrooms and samphire - fry gently.
  • When the Quorn and Gnocchi are cooked, drain and add to the frying pan. 
  • Stir-fry all ingredients together and add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a good grinding of black pepper.  Continue to fry until combined together.
  • Serve in a bowl and add some cubes of Blue Shropshire cheese if desired.

Or if you fancy having a go at Hugh's recipe from River Cottage Veg:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Aubergines - Purple Beauties

Fellow blogger, Georgina from Culinary Travels, has published my aubergine blogpost on her site.

So if you're after some inspiration of how to cook aubergines or fancy trying a new recipe, take a look at Culinary Travel's link:  

You can also follow Culinary Travels on Facebook and Twitter!

(For ease, you can also see my Aubergine blogpost below).


Adventures in Veg - Aubergines

Whether you call them aubergines or whether you call them eggplants, their versatility is vast, but sadly, they are one of the most underrated/ignored vegetables on the veggie rack.
I think most people feel comfortable with the classics like cabbage, cauliflower, potato etc but although aubergines have been a permanent feature in our supermarkets for many years now, so many people walk on by and don’t bother with them.  Perhaps because they don’t know how to prepare them or have heard that it needs pre-salting which may seem fiddly.  However, for those aubergines imported into Western Europe this isn’t necessary anymore and with the way that crops are grown, the bitterness that used to be present in aubergines is now minimal.  But the advantage that pre-salting does offer is that is it reduces the amount of fat that is absorbed during cooking, so the choice is yours – to salt or not to salt.
I have to say, I’m well and truly on ‘Team Aubergine’ and endorse all its benefits and I do think that they deserve a fair trial as they have so much to offer, especially when prepared and cooked with an army of fresh ingredients.  Tomatoes lend themselves beautifully to cooked aubergine and therefore creating a perfect culinary marriage.
As they grow in warmer climates, the bulk of the aubergine recipes come from Mediterranean countries.  One of my favourite dishes is Italian Aubergine Parmigiana where the soft pulp lengths of the fried aubergine complements the sweetness of the tomato sauce and contrasts with the stretchy saltiness of the cheese.  Easily eaten as a standalone main course, this also makes a perfect side dish and lends itself to be eaten hot or cold.   My recipe uses Stilton cheese/blue cheese as opposed to Italian hard cheese or standard Cheddar as it adds a sharp dimension to the dish which enhances the taste.
 Aubergine Parmigiana with Stilton Cheese
1 Large Aubergine, 1 x 400g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes (good quality), Himalayan Pink Salt, Stilton Cheese (veggie friendly), sprinkle of dried herbs, 1 tsp paprika and 2 tsps brown sugar.
  • Cut the aubergine lengthways, sprinkle with Himalayan Pink Salt and fry in oil until both sides are brown and soft. 
  • In a separate saucepan, heat the tinned tomatoes and add the brown sugar, paprika and herbs.  Mix well.
  • In a greased loaf tin (or any suitable baking tin), make one layer of aubergine slices and then pour a little of the tomato sauce over it.
  • Repeat until all the aubergine slices and tomato sauce have been used up.
  • Crumble some Stilton cheese on the top and then bake in the oven (Gas Mark 4) for about 15-20 minutes or until the Stilton cheese has melted.
  • Serve with crusty bread!
  • NB:  Can be served when tepid or cool and is just as delicious!

Vegetarian Moussaka is a beautiful Greek vegetable packed dish, comparable to a lasagne (if you will, without the pasta), with aubergine as its prime ingredient.  This hearty affair also adds in lentils, potatoes and creamy b├ęchamel sauce with optional veggie mince soaked in tomato juice making it an all encompassing meal covering all bases.  A suggested recipe: .

Turkey and many Middle Eastern countries typically dine on a dish called ‘Imam Bayildi’ which translated means “the Imam fainted”.  The story goes that a Turkish priest (Imam), was so impressed with this dish when he was eating it that he fainted!  Praise indeed for this wonderful meal!  This is yet another example of a fine union of lightly spiced aubergine and tomato sauce which works perfectly.  The aubergine is cut in half vertically to have the flesh scooped out and refilled again with tomatoes, peppers and onions and a strong cheese.  Recipe suggestion:

If you want to turn the heat up even more, aubergines are great in a curry and their spongy flesh absorb spices really well.  A delicious demonstration of this is via River Cottage Veg’s Aubergine & Green Bean Curry.  With supermarket spices and accompaniments readily available now, the added achievement of making your own curry paste adds another dimension to the dish.  Using tomatoes will not only fuse well with other ingredients but will also add a splash of colour and sweetness to it.  Here’s the recipe:   

These are just a few examples of how to cook aubergines, especially with tomatoes, although there is a wealth of recipes out there to choose from.  So next time you see these purple beauties on the shelf, pick one up and see what culinary journey it takes you on.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Wimbledon - Serving Up an Ace of Pimms & Strawberries

One of the stalwarts of the year’s social and sports calendar has to be Wimbledon.  As crowds descend upon London’s SW19 to watch the world famous tournament, as synonymous as it is for tennis, it is also renowned for its traditional refreshments of strawberries with cream and jugs of Pimms.  

Taking the facts featured on from 2009's tournament, 150000 glasses of Pimms were purchased and as for strawberries & cream, 28000 kilos of English strawberries with 7000 litres of fresh cream were consumed.   

The background work that goes into creating the perfect Wimbledon Strawberry portion is quite amazing and makes you realise why there is so much adoration for it.  Firstly, they have to be Grade 1 English strawberries from registered farms in Kent.  They have to be picked the day before being served, to arrive at Wimbledon for 5:30 a.m. where they are individually inspected before being hulled.  Then are served as a portion size of 10 with lashings of cream.

As much as I love these summer essentials separately, my thoughts turned to putting them together to make the ultimate Wimbledon feast!  

So, experimenting in my kitchen, I created a Pimms laced Eton Mess.  I chopped up a punnet of strawberries into quarters, sprinkled some vanilla sugar on top and placed them into a bowl.  Then, in a separate bowl, using extra thick double cream (occasional indulgence of this calorific version is permitted), I put a splash of Pimms in the cream and mixed it together.  I placed the Pimms infused cream on top of the strawberries and crumbled enough ready-made meringue nests over the mixture to cover it and then enjoyed it with, (of course), a glass of fruit garnished Pimms. 

Pimms laced Eton Mess

Whilst I can’t be at Centre Court or Henman’s Hill this year, I can at least create a little Wimbledon spirit in the comfort of my lounge, enjoying every fruity mouthful whilst nestled in the best seat in the house with my feet up and lots of love, juice and Pimms laced Eton Mess around me.