Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Pisto Manchego

pisto manchego with sauteed potatoes

Pisto Manchego is basically a Spanish version of ratatouille, which is generally served topped with an egg. It's one of the few traditionally Spanish vegetarian dishes, although if you eat this in Spain, do check that it doesn't include any ham, before you order!

Serves 4
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 1 Spanish onion
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Black pepper to taste
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 1 egg per person or fresh mozzarella/Manchego/melting vegan cheese
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan.
Throw in all of the vegetables and garlic, and gently cook for around 5 minutes until softened.
Add the chopped tomatoes and seasonings, plus a pinch of sugar.
Allow to simmer with the lid on, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve con huevos - topped with a fried egg, or with a less traditional slice of mozzarella or vegan cheese and some sauteed new potatoes.

This also makes a good pasta sauce or bruschetta topping.

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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Holland & Barrett Veg.Out Products - a review

Holland and Barrett vegetarian pastries
Holland & Barrett have recently launched a whole range of ready-to-eat vegetarian snack foods. Most of these use meat substitutes and closely resemble their animal-based counterparts! This might be disconcerting for some veggies, but I think they would particularly appeal to new vegetarians and people who want to reduce their meat consumption. 

The O family tried out the Veg.Out meat-free Italiano, Cornish-style and Jerky Jamaican lattices (pasties), plus a porkless pie, Scotch egg and jumbo sausage roll.

Our least favourite product was the porkless pie, which had way too much pastry and not enough filling. We had mixed views on the lattices; Mr O preferred the Cornish-style, I preferred the Jerky and the children preferred the Italiano. All of the pasties tasted distinctly different from each other, but again these were a little on the slim side and would have benefited from a bit more filling and a little less pastry. Our favourites were the veggie Scotch egg and jumbo sausage roll. The girls had never eaten vegetarian Scotch egg before, so they enjoyed the novelty factor as well as the taste!

Although we were divided in opinion about some of the products, we all agreed that they would make a good sandwich alternative if you wanted something quick to grab and go, or as a vegetarian/vegan addition to a picnic. All of the products, except for the Scotch egg, are suitable for vegans and are available from Holland & Barrett stores nationwide. RRP from £1.15-£1.55 per product.

Integrity Statement
I received some free samples from Holland & Barrett to review. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. 

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Fuengirola on a budget - a review

Over the Easter holidays, we went to Fuengirola on the Cost Del Sol in Spain, for a budget week away. Fuengirola was far more 'Spanish' and cosmopolitan than I expected. It's a working town and port rather than just a tourist resort, so was quite busy even in low season. Although there were plenty of British bars, they were quite low key and scattered between other bars, restaurants and shops.

The resort had a long sandy beach, which sloped gently into the sea, so it would be ideal for families with children of all ages.  

My top tips for booking a cheap holiday are to book flights directly with a budget airline, watching out for extra costs such as luggage charges. Then look for the best deal for your accommodation.This may be booking directly with the owner, or booking through a low-cost travel broker. I always look at Trip Advisor for reviews and then pick accommodation with the highest star rating for the lowest cost! By booking separately rather than booking a package, we saved several hundred pounds. However, it's worth remembering that you get more financial protection if you book a package holiday through an ABTA/ATOL registered travel agent.

We stayed in the cheap and cheerful Ronda 4 Apartments, which were right by the beach in the quiet area of Los Boliches. We were really please with the location and the quality of the accommodation and would be happy to stay there again.

Before going, I did a bit of research on vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area. It's worth knowing that vegetarianism is still viewed as a strange concept to many Spanish people and that ham, meat-stock, fish and lard are sometimes included in dishes which may appear vegetarian on the menu. For example, when we were last in Spain I ordered a green salad along with a pizza. The salad came topped with tuna!

I found a couple of useful guides before I went: one from Span Expat and one from Piccavey.
I also discovered that there are several exclusively vegetarian restaurants in the area. We visited two of them: El Vegetariano in Malaga (in a side street just behind the castle) and Restaurante Vegetalia on Calle Santa Isobel in Fuengirola.

El Vegetariano served a full menu for lunch and dinner, with a range of tapas dishes as well as main meals, whereas Restaurate Vegetalia had an all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet and an a la carte dinner menu. Both restaurants were surprisingly busy and had a good atmosphere. The food in both places was great and there were various vegan options.

We found plenty of other veggie-friendly places to eat in Fuengirola along the paseo (beach front). There were several Indian restaurants, all offering a selection of vegetable dishes plus a good choice of Italian restaurants serving a limited selection of vegetarian pizza and pasta dishes. There was a lot of competition, so the prices were really reasonable.

We self-catered for lunches and breakfasts. There were several large supermarkets (and loads of mini-markets) and we found that most food and drink was a little cheaper than in the UK. We also noticed a couple of health food shops: Bio Casa Health and Bio Natura. Although we didn't go into them, they may well stock vegan foods such as dairy-free milk if you need them.

Integrity Statement
This holiday was taken at my own expense. I did not receive payment or any incentives from any of the businesses/websites mentioned. 

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

How to make paneer cheese

After reading Christine's post on making ricotta cheese (Thinly Spread), I thought I'd have a go at making my own paneer. A friend of mine told me that she always makes her own paneer and that it's really simple, so I bought myself some muslin cloths (from the baby section in ASDA) and got cheese-making. Although a little time consuming, it really is pretty straight forward and would be a great activity to do with the kids.

This recipe makes around 200g/8oz of cheese, but you could easily double the recipe and freeze any left over cheese. Making in bulk will also save you money.
  • 1 litre/2 pt full-fat organic cow's milk (preferable un-homogenised)
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pour the milk into a large saucepan.
Bring to the boil (on a medium heat), stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat (reduce the heat to low) and stir in the lemon juice.
Return to the heat and stir gently until the curds to separate.

If this works, you will see the watery whey separate from the white solid curds (see top right hand photo). If they don't separate initially, add some more lemon juice.

Remove from the heat.
Line a colander with a muslin cloth.
Pour the curds and whey into the cloth and allow to drain for a few minutes.
Then tie the muslin so that it is hanging from the kitchen tap and allow to drain for an hour.
After an hour, twist the cloth gently and squeeze out a little more whey (see bottom right hand photo).
Open the cloth carefully. Without moving the curds, gently place them on a plate and cover with the muslin (so they are sandwiched between the cloth).
Top with another plate and weigh down with a pan full of water. Press for a further two hours, draining off the whey if necessary.
Remove the pan and plate and unwrap the cheese. Finally, cut into cubes.

Refrigerate and use within two days, or freeze until needed.

Recipe adapted from Anjum Anand's Indian Food Made Easy.
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Friday, 19 April 2013

Guacamole and Guacziki

guacamole served in an avocado skin

As a family, we've only recently discovered the delights of guacamole and until now have been buying the ready made tubs. As Morrisons had packs of 4 avocados for £1 this week (that's the same price as 1 tub!), so Miss K and I thought we'd buy some and make our own.

Most authentic recipes seem to include chopped onion, but as neither of the girls like raw onion, we replaced it with garlic.

For the guacamole
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 ripe tomato, deseeded and diced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed (or some finely chopped onion)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • A little chopped jalapeño chilli, to taste
  • A little chopped coriander, to taste 
Cut the avocado in half by scoring around lengthwise with a sharp knife.
Twist to separate the two halves.
Scoop the avocado flesh out into a bowl with a spoon, removing the stone as you do so.
Retain the skins and drizzle with half of the lime juice. Wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Add the remaining lime juice to the avocado flesh and mash roughly with a fork.
Add the other ingredients and stir in.
Cover and refrigerate until needed (for a couple of hours at the most, as it will discolor). Serve in the avocado skins.

a bowl of guacziki dip

For the guacziki

I decided to experiment with one of the remaining avocados and came up with guacziki - a kind of vegan tzatziki!
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 chunk of cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • A dash of hot chilli sauce, to taste
  • A little chopped dill, to taste 
Prepare the avocado as before.
Place in a food processor with the lemon juice, garlic, the scooped out cucumber seeds and seasonings.
Blend until smooth.
Finally, stir in the chopped cucumber.
Cover and refrigerate until needed. 

Top Tip: Pop the avocado stone back into the dip until you are ready to serve. I'm not sure if this really works, but it's supposed to help stop the dip discolouring!

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Goodlife Foods - a review

Goodlife Foods were one of the first vegetarian frozen food brands to be launched in the UK, way back in 1989, and they're still going strong. Unlike many new brands, their products are made from vegetables, grains, nuts and pulses rather than meat substitutes, which make them a good way to contribute to your 5-a-day intake.

I was very happy to try some of their products, mainly because I haven't bought them for quite a while, as my kids didn't like the visible and identifiable chunks of vegetables when they were younger!! Unfortunately the Glamorgan sausages didn't go down too well with them (too onion-y!) but Mr O and I really enjoyed them smothered in gravy with a roast dinner. I did find that they didn't keep their shape very well during cooking though, so they wouldn't really be suitable for barbecuing.

I must admit I was quite surprised by the girls' reaction to the spicy bean quarterpounders this time around...they loved them! We had them in burger buns with salad and a dollop of ketchup and they tasted great; nice and crispy on the outside, 
jam packed with a variety of tasty chunks of vegetable and beans inside and had a good spicy kick.

I'll certainly be buying the bean burgers again and I'm looking forward to trying some of Goodlife's other products, such as the hearty vegetable bakes and the spicy lentil and vegetable wedges
You can find Goodlife Foods on Facebook and Twitter.

Integrity Statement
I received some free samples from Goodlife Foods to review. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. 

Images © courtesy of Goodlife Foods.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tibits: At Home - a review and giveaway

Tibits, the Swiss-based vegetarian restaurant chain, have recently published their first English language cookbook: Tibits at Home: stylish vegetarian cuisine. The book includes recipes for a variety of dishes served at the restaurants, from seasonal soups, salads and sandwiches to delicious drinks and desserts, around 80% of which are vegan.

Although, I've never been to Tibits' London restaurant, I was keen to try out some of their recipes, so I made a couple of the antipasti dishes (mixed vegetable antipasto and aubergine antipasto) for a recent dinner party. They were simple to make using easy-to-find ingredients and most importantly, tasted delicious!

The recipes in the book are arranged by season, rather than type, which is unusual, but a good idea (although with the weather we've been having lately, it looks like I should be sticking to dishes from the winter section for a while!). I love the eclectic range of recipes which are clearly laid out, easy to follow and beautifully illustrated. It may seem strange to mention, but I really appreciate the addition of  the two attached ribbon bookmarks, as many of my cookbooks end up with scraps of paper in to mark the recipes which I want to try!
If you'd like to win a hardback copy of this fantastic book with a RRP of £25, just take a quick look at Tibits' spring menu, enter your details on the Rafflecopter widget (so that I have a record of your entry and contact details) AND leave me a comment below telling me which dish you like the sound of best. UK only. Competition closes 21.4.13 at 04:00

You can find Tibits on Facebook and Twitter.

Integrity Statement
I received a copy of Tibits: at Home to review and 1 to give away on my blog. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. Referral links included in post.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Self catering abroad? Travel essentials

a basic Greek kitchen in a self catering apartment
I've got to admit that I'm a bit of an obsessive planner when it comes to holidays. I love holidays and want them to go well, so I do plenty of research beforehand (accommodation, beaches, public transport, local restaurants serving vegetarian options etc.), to make sure we chose the right resort and have a great time when we're there. We generally stay in self-catering, budget accommodation in Greece and to keep costs down once we're there, I pack various 'essential' items, which some family members seem to find a little over-the-top!

It's worth knowing that kitchens in Greek self-catering accommodation are often very small and basic (see photo). You will generally have a 2 ring electric hob, a fridge and a sink, plus one set of basic crockery and cutlery. Microwaves, toasters and even kettles can be scarce, so check reviews or contact the owner before travelling to make sure you have everything you need.

Foods to take :
These foods tend to be expensive in Greece as they are imported.
tables outside a traditional Greek taverna
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Teabags/coffee
  • Marmite (squeezy in plastic jar)
  • Peanut butter (in plastic jar)
  • Packets of dried veggie burger/sausage mix (not available in Greece).
  • Small sachets of herbs/spices
Kitchen equipment:
  • Washing up liquid - decanted into a small bottle
  • Tea towel
  • Ice cube bags/tray
  • Sponge scourer/dish cloth
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener
  • Small sharp kitchen knife in original packaging
  • Small plastic sandwich bags to wrap sandwiches etc.
  • Adaptor plugs
Equipment to take for picnics on the beach:
  • Picnic mat/s with waterproof backing
  • Small insulated cool bag (use small frozen water bottles as ice packs)
  • Small beach parasol 
Depending on accommodation reviews, you might want to buy these in the UK and leave them in resort or pass them on to fellow holiday makers:
  • Small 2 slice toaster
  • Travel kettle/small kettle
Although we generally eat out most evenings, I prepare a basic breakfast and lunch each day, which really helps to keep down the cost.

  • Travel wash
  • Camping washing line and a few pegs
Basics to buy in resort:
  • Fresh bread each day (enough for breakfast and lunch)
  • Jam/marmalade
  • Fruit juice
  • Water
  • Soft drinks, beer etc for an evening drink on the balcony!
  • Fresh fruit/salad ingredients
  • Small bottle of vegetable oil
  • Eggs (omelettes, fried eggs etc)
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Ice-creams - much cheaper at the supermarket, than from your hotel/apartment!
If you're travelling on a very strict budget and want to cater for all your own meals, try some of my camping recipes, for simple, budget-friendly meals which can be cooked on a 2 ring hob. 

Rachel has some more great family holiday tips and ideas over at Midlife Single Mum.
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