Food: Baked Spaghetti squash with lentil ragù

Having seen them be an Autumnal regular on many American food blogger’s Instagram feeds, I was pleasantly surprised when I found a spaghetti squash at Möllan Market, here in Malmö. I bought a good sized one, for myself and the Mr to share for dinner for 22kr (£1.87), but now was the challenge, what the hell do I do with it?! The solution came in the unlikely form of Instagram, one of my friend’s here in Malmö, Nourish With Julie (IG), also a food and travel blogger, had done spaghetti squash ‘pasta’ the previous night and a little guide to how to cook a spaghetti squash in her stories. So, fired up I decided to put a twist on it, using my lentil ragù recipe to fill the big orange vessels. However, instead of using green lentils I used red ones to have it all meld together to the colour of an Autumn leaf. To make my take on it, you’ll need:

(Feeds 2 (generously))

  • 1 spaghetti squash, de- seeded and cut in half
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 100g of red lentils
  • 200ml of water
  • Splash of rapeseed oil/vegetable oil
  • 1 tbp of tomato puree
  • 1 tbp of sundried tomatoes/sundried tomato paste (optional)
  • Splash of red wine (optional)
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp of black pepper (or more!)
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a generous handful of fresh if you can get it)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay Leaves

Herbed breadcrumbs:

  •  100g (usually 3-5 slices) of stale bread
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Sprinkle of salt ( I used Halen Môn Anglesey sea saly)
  • Pepper

Garnish:

  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • Drizzle of garlic-infused oil

 

Start with the spaghetti squash, on a chopping board, cut it through the middle (be careful at this step, as the knife may not go through the flesh easily, depending on the individual squash) and scoop out all of the seeds. The seeds you can use as a snack, by seasoning them with spices and a little oil and oven baking them so don’t throw them away! Once you have two halves of squash, now with empty cavities, brush a little oil on them, followed by a crack of salt and pepper. Place them face down on a baking tray and place them into a pre-heated oven at 180°c for roughly 40-50 minutes (depending on the size of the squash).

Whilst the squash cooks you can sort out the ragù.

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until soft. Stir in the tomato paste and the tin of tomatoes. Season with the herbs, the salt and the black pepper and add the splash of wine if you have it.

Pour in the lentils and add ¾ of the water to the mix. The lentils will suck up the water as they cook. give it a good stir – add more water if it’s looking a bit thick. Simmer on the back ring on a medium heat until the lentils are soft. Take out the bay leaves and set aside.

Once the squash halves are done, take them out of the oven and rough the flesh up a bit with a fork. Next, fill with the ragù and top with some herby breadcrumbs. You can easily make these by taking some stale bread and the dried herbs and blending them up with a food processor. Once broken down into seasoned breadcrumbs, top the ragù, as you would with some Parmesan, drizzle with some garlic oil, a sprinkle of the salt and place back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

When the top is all golden, garnish with some basil leaves and serve with a side salad with a punchy dressing and some bread. As the squash are quite substantial on their own, you wont need a lot to go with them.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

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Food: Review: The Occasional Vegan

Sarah Philpott begins her book with a quote from George Bernard Shaw but I’m going to begin with a quote of hers:

“I’m a home cook, not a professional chef, but I’m passionate about inspiring others to eat well, simply, cheaply and above all, creatively.”

There is so much in this book and its origins that I can relate to. It’s the reason I started this blog, it’s the reason I still keep my Instagram, it’s the thing I think about in the shower, on the bus and rolling around at night when I can’t sleep. Food is a big part of my life and has been forever and reading through Sarah’s book I get where she’s coming from as a working class girl, growing up with food being a cornerstone of her life too.

Besides from the fact that we’re both Welsh and grew up in the nineties, there’s a lot in Sarah’s book that reminds me of my own complicated relationship with food. Food hasn’t always made me happy and I’m happy to sing that from the rooftops. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, low self esteem and boughts of depression in my life that have been hard to deal with. Sometimes food has been my friend and at other times it has definitely been my enemy. It wasn’t until a few years ago (early 2015 to be exact) that my true passion for cooking and inventing food became a reality. Until then I’d been mostly living at home and my mother rules her kitchen with an iron rolling pin. Most of my suggestions for a splash of this and a dash of that fell on deaf ears. In fairness my Mam is an excellent cook so a lot of the time it was a case of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!”. That being said I thrived on having my own kitchen and my own ingredients to play around with.

The title of the book belies the fact that Sarah is a full Vegan and she lays out her reasons and the argument for going Vegan right at the start. It’s a book aimed at people who may be on the cusp of going the whole nine yards, who have never considered it before or people who have already made the leap. Stacked from beginning to end with recipes which are self confessedly “easy to make”, her aim was to deliver “proper home cooking” and she achieves that with aplomb. You will find a blast from the past in this book, especially if you’re Welsh!

So, I’ve been lucky enough to get a hold of an advanced copy from Seren and I’ve spent some time pouring over it and decided to create two recipes from the book. The ‘main’, as it were, is her Beetroot Bourguignon, a brilliant and simple take on this classic French dish. For the second I chose and old favourite from my own past, her Bara Brith. I was especially keen to see how both coped with the translation from non to Vegan and I’m delighted to say both are absolutely delicious. I was also keen for something that would make a worthy meal for Easter Sunday, something classy but also casual and not too strenuous. As it happened I’d just returned from an epic walk and needed something that was easy to make and I was not disappointed.

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Beetroot Bourguignon

Both recipes are deceptively simple but this one I was a little more curious to see how it cooked. I’m used to slow cooking everything but this recipe is a wholly hob affair and works brilliantly. The recipe itself is super easy follow, made from ingredients that are readily available and cheap to buy. I halved the recipe for myself and my partner and it still made enough for us to eat the meal twice without being stingy on portion sizes. It calls for the veg to be chunky and this suits doing this meal fast with little fussy prep work beforehand.

One slight deviation I made was making my own stock. It calls for a lot of stock and/or wine and this is where the depth of the flavour really comes from. I made mine by peeling my veg over a simmering pot and chucking in the ends of the onions and the garlic, seasoning with a bit of salt and leaving it to bubble away while I continued with the recipe. After about 20-30 minutes it worked its magic and was ready to be used. It’s a great way of avoiding stock cubes (which can be pricey) and using up your food waste. It’s one of those little cheats you can pick up easily and will quickly become part of your cooking regime. Leftover snag ends of leek or cauliflower or broccoli, stick them in a bag and hide them in the fridge until you’ve got enough to brew away on the stove. You won’t regret it as it will really give your cooking character.

The only time the recipe really takes is the time it takes for the green lentils to finish cooking. Don’t be tempted to go red, they’re way too gritty and don’t have the heft and richness of green lentils when fully cooked. When they’re done the whole thing is, forgive the phrase, meaty and substantial. I love how the beetroot just permeates all the veg with a deep, ruby red quality so the whole thing just glows on the plate. You might also be surprised to know that the beetroot doesn’t overpower everything else, it’s the primary flavour don’t get me wrong, but it’s a deep and complex flavour that goes brilliantly with mash and fresh greens.

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Bara Brith

For the Welsh, Bara Brith is an institution and as it was our first Easter in Malmö I was feeling a little bit of hiraeth (a Welsh word that defies literal translation but in essence means ‘a longing for home’). Translated, bara means bread and brith, as Sarah points out, “refers to the speckles of the dried fruit in the loaf”. It’s a classic, old school soaked fruit cake and is traditionally served with lashings of butter and tea. Traditionally they have egg and milk in them, which are, I’m happy to say, wholly redundant ingredients. It calls for a splash of non dairy milk but other than that all rising and binding duties are handled brilliantly by the rest of the ingredients. I regret to say I was a shade more dubious about this one than the bourguignon, maybe it was the blood of my ancestors crying out, but I’m thrilled to say my doubts were totally unfounded. The bake handles beautifully and the fruit maintain their succulence so each spiced bite comes away soft and sweet and bursting with flavour.

I deviated once more, fractionally this time, from the recipe as I used jumbo golden sultanas, as they are abundant in Malmö. As a variation on a theme they were a brilliant choice as they swell with tea to almost grape sized nuggets. I made sure to use Glengettie, a proper Welsh brew that my good friend Nia sent us in a care package from home, for the recipe as I knew that the common or garden black tea you get abroad wouldn’t cut the mustard. As for the recipe’s execution it couldn’t be much easier than this: soak fruit, measure dry ingredients, combine, stir and pour into a baking tin and cook until done. I would recommend watching over it for the last half an hour or so to check when the knife comes out clean as the fruit and the dough can make things a little deceptive. It makes quite the substantial loaf so it would be perfect for serving your friends and relatives if they come over. As a proud Welshman I couldn’t have been more impressed with the recipe and if you aren’t Welsh then I would recommend this as an alternative to the usual tea cake recipes. Perfect for a Welsh addition to a Swedish Fika (with some vegan butter and a sprinkle of Halen Môn salt, of course)!

Even though I’ve picked two of the more traditional recipes from the book, one of the things that excited me when reading it was the variety of the origins of her recipes. It’s a modern and worldly book and you can really feel her love for exciting and diverse flavours. I really can’t wait to make her porkless pie as it really excites me from a flavour and food innovation perspective. Easy to make, cheap to prepare and packed with hearty flavours, I’ve got to say I will be flicking through this one time and again for inspiration in the future.

 

Published By Seren Books, RRP £12.99

With Pictures by Manon Houston

Food: Rude Food Recipe 1: Sage roasted parsnips on a bed of meaty green lentils

New for 2018! I’ve been made the Rude Food Ambassador for the next few months. Rude Food is Sweden’s first food rescuing service and I am lucky that it’s based here in Malmö. They stop perfectly good food from going to waste and promote good food practice to everyone. They usually return the food to the catering world to be used again but in order to help the promotional side of things they have asked me to write two recipes a month using some of their ingredients. Reducing food waste is a massive issue for me, not only for environmental and ethical purposes, but on a practical and economic level too. It just makes sense to make use of what you’ve got, so I’m thrilled to be taking on this role!

This first recipe is for sage roasted parsnips on a bed of meaty green lentils, served with a sour apple purée, blueberry pickled onions, plump sultanas and a sprinkle of fresh sage.,

If you’re wondering, here are the rescued ingredients I was given for this recipe: rescued parsnips, sage, lemons & apples.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the stock and the lentils:

600ml of water,

1 regular onion – ½ cut into half rings; ½ other half finely chopped.

150g of green lentils,

1 tsp of dried sage,

For the parsnips:

  • 4 parsnips,
  • 3-4 tbsp of rapeseed oil,
  • 2 tbsp of cornflour
  • 1 tsp of dried sage,
  • Salt,
  • Black pepper

For the sour apple puree:

  • 2 apples
  • 1 heaped tbsp of sugar,
  • 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar vinegar
  • Juice of ½ lemon

For the sultanas:

  • 20g of sultanas
  • A cup of the stock,

To serve:

  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • A handful of fresh sage,

 

For the stock and the lentils:

 

To begin you need to create a stock to cook the lentils in, one that’s imbued with the flavours of the main ingredients. To do this, simply peel the parsnips and the onion and add the skins to a Dutch oven of gently boiling water. Season with salt, black pepper and some of the dried sage. Having peeled the parsnips, cut them into decent sized chips; cutting off the thin ends then quartering the thickest part is best. Parboil them in the stock water for 2 minutes and then remove.

Allow the stock to reduce by a third. Ideally allow the stock to do its thing for at least an hour before taking out all of the skins. You can do this by straining the mixture over a bowl and then returning the water to the heat in the dutch oven. (Keep a small cup of the stock aside for the sultanas).

 

Fry the finely chopped half of the onion gently until soft in a little oil and then add to the water with the lentils and allow them to cook slowly in the Dutch oven for at least 45 minutes. Cooking them low and slow will give them all the time to lose their grittiness and take on all the flavours of the stock, leaving them meaty and moreish.

 

For the parsnips:

 

Preheat your oven to 220°c and layer a baking tray with the rapeseed oil and place in the oven until super hot.

 

Pat the parboiled parsnips down with kitchen towel to remove all excess water. Put the parsnips into a medium sized bowl and rough the skins up a little with a fork. Dust over the corn flour and season with black pepper, a pinch of salt and dried sage. Make sure the parsnips are thoroughly covered with the seasoning mix.

 

Remove the pan from the oven and place the parsnips into the hot oil carefully, they should immediately start to sizzle. Be careful to avoid spitting fat. Make sure the rapeseed oil covers all of the parsnips and return to the oven.

 

Continue to cook for 5 minutes on 200°c before reducing to 180°c. Cook for a further ten minutes before checking them.The undersides should be crispy and golden. Turn them all over and return to the oven for a further ten minutes. When they’re golden and crispy all over you can take them and remove any excess oil with some paper towel.

 

For the sour apple puree:

 

Peel and core the apples, cut them into small cubes and place in a small pan. Cover them with water and add in the sugar, lemon juice & apple cider vinegar. Allow the water to reduce and the apples to break down until you have a thick sauce. When it’s ready, remove from the heat and blend with a stick blender.

For the pickled onions and the sultanas:

 

Quick pickles are really easy to do and they can really add zing to a dish. You don’t need to use fancy vinegars but it is nice if you have a couple of bottles of nice flavoured vinegar ready for dishes like this.

 

Fill a small bowl with a third of water and add the vinegar, break up the half of the onion that’s been cut into half rings and sprinkle into the pickling liquor. Allow to absorb the vinegar for 20 minutes, but ideally a bit longer if you have the time. This can easily be made in advance, in fact they’ll keep in the fridge for a while and can be topped up and reused regularly.

 

For the sultanas, leave some of the stock aside and put in a handful of sultanas in a cup. Let them plump up in the warm stock.

 

To serve:

 

Layer a bed of the lentils in the bottom of a dish and place the parsnips on top. Spoon a little of the apple on the side and sprinkle with the sultanas, the pickled onions and some fresh sage.

 

Food: Lentil ragù

Here’s a great cheap & healthy recipe for a ragù, that has that same rich taste, but uses green lentils, instead of meat.This is another one of those recipes where time is the most important ingredient, not only to allow the lentils to properly cook but also to allow the rest of the flavours to come together. To make you’ll need:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 100g of green lentils
  • 200ml of water
  • Splash of rapeseed oil/vegetable oil
  • 1 tbp of tomato puree
  • 1 tbp of sundried tomatoes/sundried tomato paste (optional)
  • Splash of red wine (optional)
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp of black pepper (or more!)
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a generous handful of fresh if you can get it)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2-3 Bay Leaves

 

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until soft. Stir in the tomato paste and the tin of tomatoes. Season with the herbs, the salt and the black pepper and add the splash of wine if you have it.

Pour in the lentils and add ¾ of the water to the mix. The lentils will suck up the water as they cook. Bring to a good simmer and then put in the oven for at least 45 minutes at 140°c (fan). Take out and give it a good stir – add more water if it’s looking a bit thick. Put back in the oven for another 30 minutes and the lentils should have lost all of their “bitty” ness.

Serve with tagliatelle or spaghetti, fresh bread and a nice glass of red wine.

 

 

Food: Smoky chickpea and lentil stew

Here’s a dead simple recipe for a store cupboard vegan alternative to regular stew. The secret ingredient to this (and many other) recipes is time – just allowing it to simmer away and work its magic at a low temperature in the oven.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, chopped finely,

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic,

  • 1tbp of oil (vegetable)

  • 1 tin of chickpeas,

  • 1 tin of butter beans,

  • 150g of red lentils,

  • 200ml of water,

  • 1 tin of tomatoes,

  • 1tbp tomato puree,

  • 1tbp sundried tomato paste,

  • 1tsp dried cumin,

  • 1tsp pimentón,

  • 1tsp chipotle chilli powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon,

  • ½ tsp chili flakes,

  • 3-4 drops of liquid smoke,

  • Small handful of fresh coriander,

  • Small handful of fresh parsley,

 

To serve:

  • Small handful of fresh coriander or parsley,

  • 1 generous dollop of Oatly fraîche,

  • Lots of nice, crispy fresh bread.

 

Method:

 

Chop the onion and the garlic finely and soften in a little oil in a suitably sized Dutch oven. When they’re soft add the tomato puree and allow that to suck up all the extra oil. Add in the chickpeas and the tomatoes, sundried tomato paste, stir and season with salt and black pepper. Add in the lentils and some of the water for now. Season the stew with the rest of the dry spices and give it a good stir. Let the mixture come up to simmering point and then stir in the fresh herbs and the drops of liquid smoke. The lentils should have absorbed some of the water by this point so top it up and place in a preheated oven at 140°C. Allow it to cook for at least forty minutes before checking. Take it out and give it a good stir, give it a bit more water if it’s looking dry. At this stage you’ll need to give it another half an hour at least to let the lentils truly lose their bite and become soft. Keep stirring and checking until it’s the consistency you want. The longer you leave it the better it’ll be, I promise!

When it’s done serve with the chopped herbs, a dollop of Oatly fraiche and a mountain of good bread. It’s the perfect summer stew!

Food: Armenian stuffed peppers (Dolma)

Having bought loads of peppers on double discount at work last week I had quite a few left to use up. What perfect way than with some stuffed peppers!

I had made a vegan version of Armenian peppers previously, for my Eurovision party- and it was a resounding success. This was surely the way forward.

The finished dish ends up feeding 2-3 people  (we were very full afterwards!)

To make you’ll need:

  • 5-6 medium/large red bell peppers, charred

For the filling:

  • 80g of cooked rice (per person)
  • 1/2 fried courgette, chopped finely  (I used some from an antipasti jar to save time)
  • 2 Lombardi peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

For the mince:

  • 100g green lentils
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped,
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1tbs tomato purée
  • 1tbs sun dried tomato paste,
  • 1tbs dried parsley
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1tsp bouillon
  • 1 cup red wine

For the sauce:

  • 1 carton/ jar of passata
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • A glug of olive oil
  • 1 (Heaped) tbs of pepper paste

Soy garlic yogurt mix

  • 2-3 tbs of soy yogurt (I used Alpro Go On. Which is a thicker Quark style yogurt)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic infused oil
  • A sprinkle of smoked paprika – to garnish

Start by making the mince.

I’d recommend doing this in advance so you have a batch ready for you to use.  We usually have big batches of lentil mince  in the freezer that Tom cooks up whilst I’m in work on a Sunday. It’s so versatile (if you remove the cayenne and mixed spice) and can be made into all manner of creations from pies, ragù, Chilli- you name it!

This batch i’ve included the extra spices as I knew this batch was only for making dolma.

In a small cast iron pot fry the chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add the paste and the purée and heat through. Pour in the lentils and stir until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Add the herbs, spice and bouillon with lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Cover with the water and put the lid on. Simmer for at last forty minutes, an hour won’t hurt – this will allow the lentils to truly swell and soak up all the liquid.

After an hour the mixture should be rich and just about ready. Stir in the wine until the mixture reconstitutes itself – allow to cook through for another twenty minutes until the wine has cooked out. Leave aside to cool slightly, or store overnight/ freeze*

*If using thawed/chilled mince, I’d recommend heating it through before stuffing.

Once your mince is ready the rest is simple and fairly quick to make!

When you’d like to make the dolma, simply put each pepper over an open flame ( I used my gas hob) until it begins to bubble and blacken. Once burnished and black, take off and leave to cool down.

PS: Be careful around open flames! The amount of times the pepper (now a ball of fire) fell off the ring- and I was wearing oven gloves!

As they are cooling I’d recommend cooking the other components.

Cook the rice as you would normally, remembering to cook slightly less than usual as you are stuffing it with a rice mixture rather than serving it with rice. Whilst it’s cooking start the sauce.

Heat up a saucepan and fry off the garlic with the olive oil until translucent. Next, add in the pepper paste and cook for another minute. Then add in the passata and let it simmer until the flavours start developing.

The rice should be done by this point. Set aside and leave to cool.

Return to the peppers and de-core & de seed them, making sure that you cut them close to the top so that you have a vessel to fill. Remember to keep the tops, though.

Grab the mince, empty it into a mixing bowl and combine it with the rice. Then, add in the lemon juice & zest, chopped peppers, courgette and parsley. season well.

Then pour the sauce into a baking dish and sit the peppers in the tomatoey-peppery bath. Fill the peppers up to the brim  with this aromatic mixture and re-hat them with their tops. Place into a preheated oven at 180°C for 10-15 minutes.

Once they are in the oven, you can make the topping. Combine all ingredients together, (except the paprika) until it becomes thick & glossy.

Take the peppers out of the oven and de-hat them once again ( no fear they’ll have their hats back on soon enough!) and smother with the  lemony-garlic yogurt. Top with the smoky, fiery paprika and return the tops on (see, I told you 😉 ). Serve with a side salad or on their own

Enjoy!