Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Vegetarian BBQ for Camping!

With the summer of 2012  renown for being somewhat soggy, when a weekend of glorious weather beckons, you have to maximise your time in the sun!

So car packed to the brim with camping equipment and a convoy of friends following behind, we set up camp at a beautiful countryside site on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border.
The camp naturally gravitated to splitting into the boys v girls bbq grills and on a disposable bbq tray us girls created our own little veggie banquet.  So as the Pimms jug was chilling, the bbq heated up....

Our grill featured Linda McCartney Italian Sausages, with flecks of red pepper and herbs which provided a lovely hint of flavour and a change from standard veggie sausages.  In addition, we added on fresh sweetcorn cobs, lightly drizzled with olive oil.

The team effort by the girls was enhanced by each of us making a bbq side dish to compliment the grilling feast. 

I made a hearty pasta dish, perfect for eating cold, which was inspired by Nigella’s Linguine with Lemon, Garlic & Thyme Mushrooms recipe. But I made it with conchiglie pasta, I used button mushrooms and omitted the cheese.

Victoria made gorgeous Mediterranean inspired Halloumi and Courgette kebab skewers which when assembled, alternated with a chunk of halloumi cheese and a wedge of either green or yellow courgette.  Both work very well together and the halloumi is especially nice when the edges turn brown, contrasting with the inside of the chunk which is all stretchy and chewy.

Gayle brought along delicious stuffed peppers with a couscous, feta cheese and black olive filling which were wrapped in foil and bbq-ed along side our sweetcorn cobs and a great accompaniment to the sausages.

Julia had created a divine Pea Pate which we spread thickly onto rye bread (as well as onto our sausages), but the recipe itself is ideal to use for all sorts of occasions from buffets to picnics.  Julia’s recipe is:

Pea Pate

400g of Frozen Peas
4 tablespoons of olive oil
½ small tub of Mascapone Cheese
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Veggie Pecorino and Mozzerella Cheese (optional - to place on top for taste & decoration)

·         Cook the frozen peas as per the packet instructions.
·         When cooked, allow to cool.
·         When cooled, place all ingredients into a food mixer/blender and mix until it becomes a pate/paste.
·         Keep chilled until ready to serve.
There are quite a few brands now that offer a variety of burgers and sausages using different flavours such as herbs, spices or other ingredients which is great as veggies finally have a wide selection of items to choose from.  Some brands even have bbq selection packs which contain a mixture of bbq goodies so if you’re having a bbq for one or don’t wish to buy bumper packs of a particular item, these are ideal.  For example, Linda McCartney Foods pack features: 

Equally, having a veggie bbq doesn’t have to be just about veggie sausages and burgers, you can make a wealth of dishes that compliment the bbq grilled foods and turn it into a delicious meal using different textures, tastes and combinations.  The side dishes that go with a bbq are just as important as the focal point grilled items in my view, it’s great fun to experiment with different dips, pates, pastas and salads etc.  Great recipe ideas can be found in the free magazines produced by supermarkets as well as via online food websites.

So next time the weather proves to be kind, get creative with the bbq (whether it be at home, at an outdoor picnic or whilst camping) and make yourself a feast fit for a Veggie (with the Pimms jug constantly topped up, of course.....)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes

Using the mantra of green = unripe, I never touched home-grown tomatoes until they became red, that was of course until the early 1990’s when the film ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe’ came on our screens and I was introduced to the culinary use of these unripen fruits.

The original recipe uses bacon fat and cornmeal which I omit to make it a vegetarian dish, but using a nice simple combination of seasonings, I was amazed at how tasty they were when cooked and not at all bitter as you would expect with unripened fruits.

You can check with your local greengrocer if they will provide you with green tomatoes and if not, growing your own is probably the most practical way of having your own supply.

Using salad or beef tomato types, I pick them when they have grown to size, but not yet ripened.  I cut them into thick slices (much thicker than for a sandwich) and then fry them in oil with seasoning and they make a great side dish or stand-alone snack.  If you want a taste of the Deep South that echoes the film, then sprinkle on some Cajun spice powder. (See recipe below).

So now as my tomato crops come into harvest, I no longer have to wait until they turn red for my fix; and I can enjoy my fried green tomatoes whilst enjoying watching Kathy Bates & co on DVD making their version at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients (Serves 2 or 4 if served as a side dish)
  • 4 large green tomatoes (standard salad tomato size)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt (or sea salt) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Optional: Cajun Spice powder
  • Vegetable oil for frying
1. Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick.
2. In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat.
3. Place tomatoes into the frying pan and season with salt, pepper and Cajun powder (if using).
4. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side.
5.  Serve as an accompaniment for a meal or as a snack.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Home-made Ice Cream - Without Churning (Hurrah)!

It seems strange writing about hot summer days and cooling ice cream when it's thundery and pouring down with rain outside (typical of summer 2012), but that doesn't stop me from thinking about/wanting to eat or make, delicious ice cream!

I've always loved ice cream, ever since I was a child - the excitement of opening the big freezer at my local newsagent and diving in to choose a lolly or ice cream was heaven, especially on a hot day after school.  Even the sight outside a shop of the old Wall's Ice Cream logo (the yellow background and boy-girl picture) or the skipping children on the Lyons Maid ad boards would whet my appetite knowing that treats were in store, and as for the hearing the chimes of the ice cream van - music to my ears, especially if I could have 99 Flake in my cone!


As the years rolled on and my taste-buds changed from lollies to luxury ices, coupled with ice cream manufacturers venturing into more exotic flavourings away from the conventional array of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ones, this led me then to dip my toe into the world of making my own.

Worth it yes, hand-in-hand with the fact your heart can swell with pride at your own accomplishment, but making ice cream can seem hard work and off-putting when you think of the careful skill needed to separate eggs into whites and yolks and then the timed appointments of going back to the freezer to stir and mix the ice cream to make sure it sets properly and so on.....

But I was thrilled when cookery writer Nigella Lawson introduced a world of home-made ice cream to her readers which were easy to make, cheap and not a single egg yolk in sight and best of all - no repeat churning!  Hence, a collection of recipes entitled:  'No Churn Ice Creams'.

Featured in a number of her books, Nigella has written ice cream recipes using a variety of flavours to accompany any dessert or perfect for stand alone indulgence.

Fruity flavours include pomegranate as well as bitter orange and for those that fancy an alcoholic twist, there's a taste of the tropical with margarita flavour and also pina colada which embraces the cocktail flavourings of rum and pineapple.

So with the basic ingredients of double cream, lime juice and icing sugar plus your chosen flavourings you can whisk, mix, pour and freeze with minimum fuss and maximum taste and ready made ice cream will be yours within a few hours.

Here are Nigella's quick flavoursome recipes for you to try for yourself.  For that retro feel when serving, just remember to put a Flake in it (or two)!

New No Churn Ice Cream recipes in Nigella's new book Nigellissima - take a look: