Friday, 29 July 2011

Kids go free to the National Trust this summer

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As a National Trust (UK) member, I thought I'd do my bit to promote their 'kids go free' deal which runs from 1-26 August this year and allows families to enjoy an educational day out for a very reasonable price.

Whilst you're there, complete a free kids' trail or quiz and learn all about the history of the property you're visiting, play hide and seek in the grounds, and take a picnic lunch to eat al fresco.

If you want to treat yourselves and eat out, almost all National Trust cafes offer a good range of home cooked (and often locally sourced) food, including vegetarian options.

All you have to do is download a voucher, take it to a participating National Trust property and two children can receive free entry per paying adult - not bad eh?

By the way, if your kids like watching Horrible Histories, you can try to tie in an episode they've watched, with the NT property you're going to visit. Here's just a tiny selection:

Tudors - Tudor Merchant's House Pembrokeshire
Elizabethan - Hardwick Hall Derbyshire
Hanover, Georgians - Saltram Devon
Hanover, Victorians - Carlyle's House London
Stewarts, Charles II - Moseley Old Hall West Midlands Pin It

Monday, 25 July 2011

Turkish Vegetable Casserole

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If you have a glut of home grown or locally produced vegetables, use them up in this tasty Middle-Eastern vegan stew. You can substitute just about any alternative vegetables, so long as they are cut up into even-sized pieces.
If there's any left over, eat it cold for lunch the next day, or use to top a home made pizza.
  • 3 bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 courgettes/zucchini, diced
  • ½ butternut squash/2-3 carrots/1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, sliced or diced
  • 6-8 ripe tomatoes, diced or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • 200 ml water or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp sun dried tomato paste
  • 1-2 tsp paprika/smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp cinnamon or allspice powder
  • ½ a fresh chilli, chopped finely (optional)
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a casserole dish at 200C/190C fan/Gas 6.
Add the onions, peppers, courgettes and squash and coat in the oil.
Return to the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, garlic, herbs and spices. 
Return to the oven for a further hour or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.
Serve with rice, flat bread or cous cous.

Alternative: Add a tin of drained chickpeas for extra protein.
Slow cooker/crock pot method: Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker (reduce the water/stock to 100ml) and stir well. Cook on medium for 6-8 hours.

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Apple Cake (Vegan)

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This moist apple cake is a good way to use up left-over apples or other seasonal fruit. If you grown your own apples, like I do, use up your wind-fall or less-than-perfect fruits with this recipe.
  • 4 eating apples, peeled, cored and grated 
  • 200g self-raising flour 
  • 100g dairy free spread
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g dried fruit (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice 
  • 2-3 tbsp water or dairy-free milk
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
Pre-heat oven to 180C/ Fan 170C/ Gas 4/350F
Cream the spread and sugar.
Mix in the remaining ingredients (except the demerara sugar) adding just enough water/milk to make a thick cake mixture.
Spoon into a greased and lined 8"/20cm x 6"/15cm tin (or a 7-8" round tin) and flatten with a spatula or spoon.
Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and a little extra cinnamon. 
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Cool in the tin and cut into slices before turning out.
Eat warm or cold.

Suitable for freezing.

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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Easy Falafels

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I've made several versions of falafel in the past, but they've always been apt to fall apart on cooking. Not a major problem, but I've found that adding an egg and some fresh breadcrumbs to the mixture makes a more structurally sound falafel, which will stand up to barbecuing.

Makes 8 falafels.
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin powder, plus a pinch of cumin seeds
  • Black pepper and/or chilli to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp tahini paste (optional)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 small egg 
Mash or blend the chickpeas, garlic, herbs and spices with the tahini and egg.
Mix in enough fresh breadcrumbs to make a dough-like mixture - add more if needed.
Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
Form into 8 small balls and flatten slightly.
Brush with vegetable oil on both sides and fry, oven bake or barbecue.

Serve with salad and hummus or tzatziki.
Suitable for freezing.

Alternative: Omit the egg and replace with 1 tbsp tahini paste for a vegan option. Use around ½ cup of fresh (vegan) breadcrumbs.
Make 4 large 'veggie burger' patties instead of falafels. Pin It

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Aubergine/Eggplant/Brinjal Chutney (Vegan)

You may have guessed by now, that I love aubergines, and you'd be right. They have to be cooked well though, as undercooked aubergines are just not nice! I had 2 aubergines that needed using up, but couldn't find a chutney or pickle recipe that I liked the sound of, so made up my own.
This lightly spiced aubergine chutney goes well with salads, barbecued food, quiches and cheese.

  • 2 large aubergines, diced
  • 2 large red onions, diced
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200g/8oz soft brown sugar
  • 250ml/ ½ pint white wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic/1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 4 tsp fresh grated ginger/ 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes/hot chilli sauce/fresh chopped chilli
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • Black pepper and salt to season
Heat the oil in a large pan.
Add the mustard seeds, onion and aubergine, and cook gently for 5-10 minutes, or until the aubergine is soft.
Add the garlic, ginger and remaining spices and stir.
Add the sugar and vinegar.
Bring to the boil, stirring regularly.
Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the liquid has reduced by half.
Spoon into sterilised jars, top with a lid.
Keep for up to 6 months in a cool, dark cupboard. 
Fills 2 small or 1 large jar.

Alternatives: Double the recipe and/or bulk out the aubergine with other seasonal fruits such as bell peppers, squash and courgettes/zucchini. Pin It

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pickled Cucumber

I remember seeing Jamie Oliver on TV recently, suggesting that we bulk buy and pickle cucumbers, as they're in season and cheap at the moment. I googled, but couldn't find his recipe anywhere, so I've come up with my own, which may or may not be similar to Jamie's!
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 cup (200-250ml) of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp pickling spice
Wash the cucumber and slice in in half length-wise.
Scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon and then slice thinly (I used the food processor).
Place in a bowl and sprinkle with about 1 tbsp salt.
Leave for 3-4 hours (or over night) to release the juices.
Mix the remaining ingredients together in a jug and allow to steep.
Rinse the salted cucumber with cold water, drain well and pat dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll.
Pack into sterilised jars, pressing down well, and pour the vinegar mixture over.
Top up with a little more vinegar, if needed.
Seal the jars and keep in a cool, dark place until needed.

Fills 2 small or one large jar.

Tip: Double or treble the ingredients to fill extra jars and keep for later in the year. Pin It

Friday, 8 July 2011

How to cook an Indian meal in 30 minutes

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You may remember my previous review about Bipin's Masala curry pastes. Well, I was so impressed with my free sample, that I ordered some more to try out. I decided on a pack of 3 different pastes: Surti Masala, Jeera Masala, and Garam Masala and I was pleasantly surprised to find an extra complimentary pot of Bipin's new Royal Korma paste in my package (which arrived within 3 days of ordering).

I popped all 4 pots into the freezer as directed, until I was ready to use them. This week I tried out the Jeera Masala and the Royal Korma pastes in two different curries:

In one pan, I added the following chopped fresh vegetables: 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 green pepper, some butternut squash and half a pack of paneer cheese. I gently fried these with 1 tbsp of Royal Korma paste and a drop of extra oil. I then added half a carton of passata and 100ml of water and allowed to simmer for about 30 minutes. Before serving, I stirred through 25g of creamed coconut.

In the other pan, I heated 1 tbsp sunflower oil and added  a chopped aubergine. I cooked this until soft and then added a chopped onion, a drained tin of chickpeas, 100g of mushrooms, 1 tbsp of Jeera Masala paste, and about 50ml of water. I allowed this to simmer for around 20 minutes.
I made up some naan dough in the bread maker, and cooked them under the grill while the curries were cooking.

Both curries were completely different in taste. The Royal Korma, despite being mild, was packed full of aromatic flavours and went down really well with my children. The Jerra Masala complemented the aubergine and mushroom well, and had a distinct taste of cumin with a good chilli kick.

The pastes were really quick and easy to use, and allowed me to produce a restaurant quality meal in 30 minutes - not bad, eh?

Bipin's Masala can only be bought online at a cost of £10 for 3 pastes (plus p&p). Each curry paste pot serves 4+ people and is suitable for freezing.

Integrity Statement
I bought 3 pots of Bipin's Masala and received 1 free sample of  Bipin's Royal Korma to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

Image 2 courtesy of Bipin's Masala ©
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Friday, 1 July 2011

Tzatziki Dip

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Tzatziki is one of my family's favourite things to eat and always bring back memories of our many holidays in Greece. It's really simple to make and tastes so much better than the shop-bought variety.
I forgot to take a photo of my last batch of tzatziki, so I've included a photo from our holiday in Skiathos, instead!
  • 250ml Greek/Greek-style plain yogurt
  • ¼ cucumber, grated
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed 
  • a little chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • a dash of chilli sauce/pinch of cayenne/black pepper to taste (optional)
Grate the cucumber onto several sheets of kitchen roll.
Squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the cucumber.
Mix all of the ingredients together and chill until needed.
Serve with fresh, warm pitta bread.

Alternative: I'm not sure how this would taste using a dairy-free yogurt, but it's worth a try...you might want to add a glug of olive oil to get a more 'creamy' taste. Let me know if it works!

More Greek meze recipes: Greek salad, Hummus, Aubergine dip

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