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. 😉

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.. 🙂

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.