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When life gives you green tomatoes…

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… make salsa verde!

Our garden tomatoes are being a little slow to ripen: damn the sun for disappearing at a crucial time. We’re trying to ripen some on the vine and some on the windowsill, but impatient me wondered if they could be used while still green.

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I remembered the Mexicans use sharp green tomatillos a lot, which are actually a completely different species but have a somewhat similar texture and flavour. I raided my Mexican bible, Thomasina Miers’ ‘Mexican Food Made Simple‘ for inspiration, adapting the salsa verde recipe to suit what I had.

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The uncooked flavour of the green toms wasn’t very pleasant – a bit like a savoury tart green apple – but roasted and blitzed they were transformed into a delicious zingy salsa. I served it with squash, bean and shallot tacos.

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In a hot pan, dry fry a handful of green tomatoes, two garlic cloves (skin on) and a red chilli. Shake often until blackened all over, 5-10 mins. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, drizzle over a little olive oil and season well, and oven roast at 220 degrees for a further 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are bursting and the garlic is soft. Peel one shallot and dunk into boiling water for a few seconds to remove the rawness. Finely dice and throw into a processor with the roast tomato mix and a glug of lemon juice. Blitz until smooth, check for seasoning/acidity and enjoy with tacos of your choice.

Recipe: South Indian mattar paneer

mattarpaneer

This recipe is a mish-mash of a few influences, adapted to a suit my tastes and usual cupboard/freezer contents. It’s a very quick and easy curry that doesn’t require a whole arsenal of spices, and the result is a clean and creamy flavour with just a hint of mustard seed and chilli. The ideal curry for the current heatwave I’d say! Play around with the main ingredients: I think it’d work great with sweet potato, broccoli or aubergine too.

South Indian mattar paneer

Ingredients

  • 225g pack of paneer cheese, diced
  • Generous handful of frozen petit pois
  • 1 white onion, finely sliced
  • Tin coconut milk
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 red or green chilli, whole, slit up the side

Method

  1. Heat up 1tbsp oil in a large pan and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they start to sizzle, add the onion and whole chilli and fry for 5 minutes until onions are golden.
  2. In another pan, add an inch of oil and fry the paneer cubes, turning often until crisped all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen towels.
  3. Add the coconut milk and turmeric to the onion and spices. Heat through then add the peas and paneer. Heat through gently for 5-10 minutes until it's all amalgamated. Serve with lemony basmati rice and chapatti.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/07/recipe-south-indian-mattar-paneer.html

Recipe: Polenta ‘lasagne’

polenta recipe

This recipe is a winner! So easy, very few ingredients, but hearty with a massive flavour ‘pow’. Corn-based polenta is lighter on the digestion than wheat lasagne, and cheese aside it’s pretty healthy. I made it for Josh and my sister, and it disappeared too fast to snap a photo – so I’ve done a little illustration instead.

Polenta ‘lasagne’

Serving Size: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3-4 sundried tomatoes, halved
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 block ready-made polenta
  • A little loose polenta (cornmeal) or cornflour
  • Handful fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 block solid mozzarella cheese, sliced into 0.5cm pieces

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
  2. To make the tomato sauce, chuck the tomatoes, onion, garlic, sundried tomatoes and butter in a saucepan, half cover and simmer gently for half an hour or so until the tomatoes have broken down. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.
  3. Slice the polenta into roughly 1cm thick slices - you should get 10-12 slices from the block. Dust the pieces on both sides with the cornmeal or cornflour. Shallow fry both sides in a little oil until crisped up - do it batches in a big frying pan.
  4. Turn the heat off on the sauce and stir in the spinach so it wilts down.
  5. Layer up into a baking dish: Start with a third of the sauce, add a layer of polenta slices and a layer of mozzarella pieces, then repeat, ending with sauce and mozzarella on top.
  6. Pop into the oven for about 15 minutes until bubbly and browned. Serve with bread and salad.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/06/recipe-polenta-lasagne.html

Quorn, mushroom and mustard casserole

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m not usually a big fan of fakey meat products – I mean, I’m vegetarian for good reason – but there’s something about the cold weather that makes it appealing to fall back on simple protein-based stews and casseroles for dinner. I made up this recipe when my decidedly-omnivorous sister came round as a substitute for a similar dish that my mum makes, and it turned out really nice. It’s not very photogenic I’m afraid, but it does taste much better than it looks!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A classic combo of mushrooms, thyme, and white wine is given texture by the Quorn, which is torn into irregular pieces to give a – dare I say – meatier texture. Low fat creme fraiche gives acidity and a nice saucy base – you could swap it for half or full fat sour cream for a creamier, more decadent result. Mustard gives the whole thing a final warming kick, and serve with buttery mash for ultimate comfort factor. Give it a go!

‘Chicken’, mushroom and mustard casserole

Serving Size: 2-3

‘Chicken’, mushroom and mustard casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 shallots
  • 4 large / 6 medium chestnut mushrooms
  • 3 Quorn fillets or half a Quorn roast
  • Thyme
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 200ml soured cream or creme fraiche
  • 100ml white wine
  • Olive oil and butter

Method

  1. If using the Quorn roast, cook per package instructions. Defrost Quorn fillets if using.
  2. Slice the shallots and mushrooms and fry in a casserole or pan, in a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter, until softened and turning gold. Add the thyme and season very well.
  3. Tear the Quorn into bite-size chunks and add to the pan, and give another 5 minutes so it gets some colour on.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping any tasty stuck-on bits with a wooden spoon. Then add the creme fraiche and mustard and whisk a little to incorporate. Check for seasoning.
  5. Pop into a 200-degree oven, covered, for 20-ish minutes until bubbly and amalgamated.
  6. Serve with mash or rice and some greens.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2013/02/quorn-mushroom-and-mustard-casserole.html

Making Chapattis

Mattar paneer

Since doing an Indian cooking course and having a gander at the beautiful Prashad cook book, my home curry-making has definitely gone up a notch. In particular, Prashad’s mattar paneer is sure to become a weekday dinner staple: it’s so quick and easy yet authentic-tasting, uses storecupboard/freezer ingredients (did you know paneer freezes?!) and feels pretty healthy despite the main ingredient being um, fried cheese. Must be better than a takeaway at least. I like making more interesting rice dishes as an accompaniment too: the lemon, mustard seed and curry leaf rice we made on the course is perfect with a mild, creamy curry, and Prashad’s tumeric dal rice does great with the mattar paneer.

Chapatti
Chapatti

My absolute favourite thing to make however is chapattis, the little wholewheat puffed flatbreads that are so perfect at scooping up handfuls of curry to convey it to the mouth. I use the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ recipe and method, which involves the pretty fun task of toasting the chapattis over an open gas flame to get that wonderful airy texture and charred outside. I even videoed myself doing it, at immense personal risk – you’re welcome. Ignore my filthy hob please.

Finished with a dash of butter, they’re the perfect finishing touch to a homemade curry.

Chapatti