Ever Tried Black Garlic?

You know you’ve got a cooking problem when you see some new random ingredient in the supermarket and you just have to have it!

black garlic and mini chillies

I came across this the other day whilst looking for fennel seeds (keep an eye out for an excellent soup recipe coming soon) and I just couldn’t resist. It’s garlic that’s been aged, meaning the harsh flavours have mellowed leaving you with a sweet bulb of balsamicy, squishy goodness.

Seriously, this stuff is so nice I kept just biting bits off to chew. It’s just that morish. I decided to cook it with some chillies from the plant my friend gave me as a thank you for providing her with Spanish lessons (on CD that is. Me no hablo… or something like that), and I’m glad I did. The spiciness complimented the sweetness very well, though admittedly next time I’d use a few less chillies; Phew!

sweet and spicy pasta

I just fried some chopped onion, added the garlic and chillies (also chopped), chucked in a couple of sliced chestnut mushrooms, two diced tomatoes (some tomato puree) and a sprinkling of oregano – pausing between steps to let the previous ingredients cook – and that was it, job done. Simple huh?

Chuck that in with some al dente pasta et voila, there you have it, a bowl of nice simple flavours that compliment each other really well. If you get a chance to have a go with black garlic I highly recommend it. It has a unique taste that your palate will thank you for trying at least once.

Cooking, stretching and kicking ass!!

I’m a little bit spacey at the moment as I’ve just got back from my yoga class and I’m a little ‘stretched out’ if you know what I mean, so you’ll have to bear with me.

spinach, tomato and pepper pizza

Made this pizza the other day and it came out real nice. I used my basic pizza recipe but with a few tweaks which I think make it better. As follows…

1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
a pinch of salt
a splash of olive oil
1/4 pint warm water
200g+ plain flour

Hand whisk yeast and sugar into water until dissolved. Add salt and olive oil. Whisk again. Add flour until it makes a sticky dough (figure out how much for yourself, but go easy, do it in increments; remember, it’s easier to add more flour than it is to take it away), cover with cling film, then put it somewhere warm – next to a radiator for example – for 30 mins ’til it rises.

Punch down, knead a bit, cover and let rise again for another 10-15 mins. Spread by hand onto an oiled baking tray, dock (prick) with fork, then top and put in hottest oven (pre-heated to about 230C) for approximately 10 mins.

I’m well pleased with the crust on this. It came out nice and golden. There was a bit of liquid in the middle from the cherry tomatoes on top, but it wasn’t a deal breaker so not to worry. I scoffed the whole thing in about 5 minutes, which says it all really. Yummers!

NB: “Yummers” is my new word of the month. I’m trying to get it in the collective psyche / lexicon. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. ๐Ÿ˜‰

the warlock of firetop mountain

Well, I’ve almost completed The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I did it once without cheating, got to the end, but didn’t have the correct keys to open the chest (which was always the problem before). Then I kind of did it again, using the map I’d made to go places I hadn’t gone before, but this pretty quickly degenerated into fingers in pages, notes of numbers, and instant victories in battle (ie: cheating on an epic scale!). I still plan on doing it again (properly) soon, but for now I’ve had enough. The Warlock has defeated my once more. Curses! ..lol.. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yoga Update: I’m getting very comfy with touching my toes whilst sitting with my legs straight out in front of me, which is a big thing for me. I couldn’t get near them when I first started. And tonight we did the half head-stand for the first time, which I could do but I couldn’t hold for long. Hopefully by next week’s lesson I’ll be much better. Going to incorporate leg raises into my daily routine which will help me with the head-stand for sure. Got five days off now, so plenty of time to practice. Still loving it too! Yoga is brilliant.

Finally, not gonna bang on about work as I intended. Quite simply, if I’m still doing the same job by the end of the year something has gone terribly wrong. I am pursuing alternative revenue streams with a dogged tenacity at the moment. Life’s too short to be spent in a dark room watching TV all day. Kiki needs his sunshine. C’mon the summer!!

Garlicky Green Salad

Ok, confession time, I totally nicked this from the coffee shop on the high road. They sell it as a cold salad in a tub, but it tastes just as good warm with Shepherd’s Pie (as pictured).

garlicky green salad

1 courgette, sliced
1 head of broccoli, decapitated
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
2 tsp sesame seeds

On a medium heat fry the courgette and garlic in a large frying pan until the courgette has softened. Be very careful not to burn garlic. Stir often and turn heat down if necessary. Take your time with this. There’s no rush.

Steam the broccoli and sugar snap peas. Do the broccoli for 4 minutes, then toss in the peas and cook for a further 4 mins. Alternatively you could boil these veggies if you don’t have a steamer, but you’ll lose some of the nutritional value.

Toss the drained, just cooked, veggies into the frying pan and mix with courgette (to coat with galricky oil).

Put in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Toss lightly then either serve or allow to cool for a tasty snack.

Serves 3-4.

Saag Aloo

A surprisingly quick and simple recipe that I think you’ll enjoy.

saag aloo - ingredients

4 potatoes, chopped
2-3 handfuls of spinach, washed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated/chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chillies, chopped
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

saag aloo 1

Par-boil the potatoes in some salty water for 8-10 minutes or so. While you’re doing that fry the onions, garlic and ginger in a large saucepan on a medium heat until soft (approx 5 minutes).

saag aloo 2

Add all the remaining spices to the onion mixture and stir in. Drain the potatoes and add them too. Mix thoroughly, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent it from sticking, then cover and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes (still stirring to keep it from burning to bottom of pan).

saag aloo 3

Once potatoes have gone edibly soft add the spinach and cook for another couple of minutes. Spinach will wilt and reduce in size a great deal.

saag aloo

Serve hot over a bed of rice.

A few notes on the recipe vs the pictures. I made mine with raw potatoes soaked in water rather than par-boiled ones, but this just meant I had to add more water to the pan and it took longer to cook, and I don’t think it added anything to the flavour, so I’d recommend doing it this way instead. Also, chop your spuds smaller than I did mine, again, to save time. As always I left the skin on, coz that’s where all the nutrients are, but cut the eyes out.

Also, I added more spinach than is pictured. After I threw in my 2 handfuls and it cooked down to size I saw the ratio was way off and more was needed. Really this is up to you. The recipe could probably handle more spinach even, if that’s what you’re into, I just didn’t have a whole lot more left so I stopped at 3 handfuls.

Sweet Sweet Potato Wedges

So nice they named ’em twice, these sweet potato wedges are pretty yummy, and go great with a veggie burger.

sweet sweet potato wedges

1 sweet potato, skin on
1 tsp crushed garlic (approx 2-3 cloves)
1 tsp hot English mustard (the kind with seeds in)
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
salt, to season

Heat oven to 230C. Cut the sweet potato into wedges. Mix the garlic, mustard, honey and olive oil in a large bowl. Add wedges and toss until coated completely.

Lightly grease an oven proof dish with olive oil to stop wedges sticking. Add coated sweet potato, sprinkle with salt, then cook in hot oven for 8 minutes. Remove and toss wedges to prevent burning, then cook for a further 8 minutes.

Remove when brown and soft and eat whilst hot.

NB: One sweet potato makes enough for one person. To cook for more simply adjust the amounts accordingly.

Nut Roast

More one for Christmas, but deserves to be more than just once a year I reckon.

(un)thanksgiving dinner

1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
225g mushrooms, chopped
400g red lentils of lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of mixed nuts (such as hazelnuts, almonds and cashews), finely chopped
50g (1/2 cup) of flour
50g of (faux) cheddar cheese (I used Life Free From Cheddareese by MH Foods)
Egg replacer to equal 1 egg (I used Orgran)
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh mixed herbs
(I used just 4 tsp of dried herbs – got that wrong, eh – but it worked fine)
salt and pepper to season

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Lightly grease a 900g/2lb loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Put red lentils in a pan and cover with boiling water. Bring to boil and simmer for 15-20 until soft, adding more water if needed. Drain and put aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, leek, celery, mushrooms and garlic. Cook gently for 10 mins until vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally.

Add the lentils, mixed nuts, flour, ‘cheese’, ‘egg’ and mixed herbs. Season, then mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, ensuring it is pressed into the corners, and level the surface. Bake uncovered for 50-60 mins or until the loaf is browned on top and firm to the touch.

Cool the loaf slightly then turn out onto a serving plate. Serve hot or cold, cut into slices.

Potato and Tomato Dahl

Hi all. Here’s a little something I’ve come up with. But first, a small qualification:

Contrary to the recipe below I made the dahl pictured with a tin of chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of ground coriander, coz I’ve got no money so had to make something up with what was in the cupboard, but I reckon it’ll be much nicer with the fresh ingredients listed.

Potato and Tomato Dahl
(makes enough for 4 people)

potato and tomato dahl

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
a splash of olive oil
2 medium potatoes, chopped (I used 5-6 small)
3-4 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of red lentils, rinsed
2 cups of boiling water
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp chopped coriander

In a large pan on a medium heat fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add cumin seeds and fry for a further minute or two until onions are soft.

Add potatoes, tomatoes, lentils, water, turmeric and salt, bring to boil, then simmer on a medium low heat for a minimum of 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through. Add coriander and garam masala, and cook for 3-4 minutes more, then serve.

Like with a lot of recipes like this, this one tastes better the second time around, after it’s had a chances to rest and for all the flavours to mature. With this in mind you might want to leave it on a very low heat for a while before serving. This will improve the taste first time around, though it’s still quite nice as is. Oh, and if you use ground coriander instead of fresh you can add it when you add the turmeric, you don’t have to wait until the end.

Also, the water doesn’t have to be boiling when you add it, but it does speed the process up a little bit if it is. Maybe cut the potatoes a little smaller too, lol.

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Week 13: Exercise and egos (& Suzette Rice)

Right, I’m well late for this ‘report’ but that’s ok, coz I’m going to chill out a bit about this whole blogging thing (hence the fact that it’s not a report anymore).

Last week I was too busy with cat sitting, work, and everything else to even get online, never mind do things, so I haven’t ‘achieved’ very much, though that depends on your point of view.

I did exercise every day, which is a first. I went to see a physio and he told me that my tight leg muscles were making me walk funny and causing the pain in my foot and back. Unfortunately he wanted over ยฃ228 for the privilege of sorting it out for me, and that’s far more than I can afford (or am willing to pay for a bit of leg stretches if I’m honest) so I’m just exercising at home with techniques I’ve got from friends of mine – lots of yoga/sports type stuff – and it’s working out ok. Definitely feel looser, and it can only get better.

katie goes ape

Bank Holiday Monday I did Go Ape again with the very lovely Katie (above). It was great fun, and it made me want to get out more, do more physical stuff. Y’know, the other day I did a quick list ofย Things I’d Like To Be If Time, Money And Effort Were Not An Issue and this is what I came up with:

1. Turntablist
2. Parkour Expert
3. Zen Gardener
4. Surfer
5. Buddhist Monk

Notice how they’re all physical (with the possible exception of Buddhist Monk, though it could be argued that the practice of mindfulness is the most physical activity of all). That’s what I should be doing with my life, something physical, not spending most of it in front of a computer. That’s why my legs are messed up, because I don’t get enough exercise. So, with that in mind, I’ve looked into doing a climbing course at the Westway Centre. They’re farily cheap for a taster session, and it looks like fun. I’ve always enjoyed climbing stuff, just never done it in any professional capacity. Well, now’s my chance. Just got to wait for pay day to roll around now.

Suzette Rice (or, la riz Suzette)

My recipe this week was going to be a dahl type thing, but I’m still working on it, so here’s a little something I made up whilst cat sitting, named in honour of my friend whose house I was staying at.

suzette rice

1 cup Basmati Rice
1 Onion, chopped
1 clove of Garlic, crushed
1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
1 Bay Leaf
Olive Oil
2 1/4 cups of Water

In a pan on medium high heat fry the onion, and garlic for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften. Add the mustard seed and fry until seeds start to pop.

Add the rice, water and bay leaf, stir, then leave to simmer until all the water has gone.

Remove from heat, remove bay leaf, fluff up with a fork, then cover pan and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

It’s not a complicated recipe but it does make plain rice a little more interesting, both taste wise and visually too. And the first bite is with the eye after all, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kiki’s scrambled tofu & Butternut squash and mixed bean stew

Got a couple of tasty and interesting recipes for you this week. One’s a re-imagining of a favourite of mine, and the other’s something to keep you warm until spring finally makes an appearance.

Kiki’s scrambled tofu

Those lovely ladies Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer have done such a great job of coming up with a scrambled tofu that it would be folly to try and better it, so here’s my version of their excellent recipe (to be found in How It All Vegan) which I came up with mainly because I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed to do it properly.

1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
4 mushrooms, sliced
200g firm tofu, crumbled
1 tbsp sun-blush tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Braggs

In a non-stick pan fry the spring onions on a medium heat until soft.

Add the mushrooms and garlic and fry until mushrooms are cooked, being sure not to burn the garlic. Add crumbled tofu, chopped tomatoes, turmeric, worcestershire sauce and Braggs, and stir thoroughly.

Let it sit until tofu has seared a little, then stir again. Cook through until most of the excess liquid has evaporated. Serve.

Butternut squash and mixed bean stew

1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp unrefined brown sugar
1 butternut squash, cubed
1 tin of mixed beans, rinsed
1/2 cup sweetcorn

In a large saucepan fry the onion on a medium high heat until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute or so.

Add the cumin, salt, tinned tomatoes, sugar and butternut squash, and mix thoroughly. Simmer for 15 minutes until squash is cooked.

Add the mixed beans and sweetcorn and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve warm with a garnish of coriander.

Enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚