No need for a veg box this week – home grown goodies from Mum

27 Aug

Wednesday is normally my veg box day, but I went to see my parents at the weekend and came home with this gorgeous back of fresh veggies! Going to visit my Mum’s allotment was one of the highlights of my weekend, she puts an awful lot of work into it but gets so much back in return. It’s not just the veg (although as I’ve said before about a million times that you can’t beat home grown), but the community and the satisfaction of putting love and effort into something and being rewarded. I don’t have a garden but don’t have the time for an allotment either, I am more than a little envious.

Anyway, my Mum said “lets just pop over to the allotment and pick a couple of bits for you to take back with you” and I ended up with all of this. We picked:

A massive bundle of beans. I think it’s going to be beans with everything for the foreseeable future.

Three different sorts of courgette – yellow, green, and round. The round courgette was more like a ball of marrow than a courgette. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, stuffed it with felafel mix, and baked it.

A butternut squash. It’s still very under-ripe, but after a few weeks of sitting on a window ledge (sunny, but not in direct sunlight) it will be ready to go. I love squashes and I’m really looking forward to them being in season. My Mum is also growing massive pumpkins, so hopefully I’ll have one of those soon as well.

Some long peppers. She broke one of the “rules” of vegetable gardening and planted some seeds out of a supermarket pepper. It’s a bit risky because the seeds might not be fertile, or might produce peppers completely different from the parent plant, but luckily it did work and they’re absolutely beautiful, really fruity and with a much more interesting flavour than peppers from a shop.

A box of tomatoes. As you can probably see, they got a bit squashed in transit (I’m a public transport girl), but it didn’t matter because I decided on the journey to turn them into a bit batch of tomato sauce, after I spotted this recipe from JB at frugalfinefreshfood.com. The sauce was delicious, somehow both fresh and rich at the same time. We had some over the felafel-stuffed courgette, and I’m about to reheat the rest to serve with some pasta, veg, and tofu.

She also gave me a couple of bulbs of garlic, not freshly picked but definitely home grown.

Product review – Oatly oat drink

13 Aug

Oatly, the Swedish brand of oat milk, has recently rebranded. Their previously bland, generic packaging has been replaced by a quirky design that proudly shows off their ethical standpoint and the health benefits of oats, as well as their reduced environmental impact. The carton explains how they chose to use oats because they’re “tall and strong and full of goodness” to make a drink that is “like milk but made for humans”. Their independent, principled personality really comes across and that’s something to be admired.

But enough of that, what is Oatly actually like? It might sound a little strange but trust me, it’s lovely! It tastes like the milk that’s left in your bowl after eating muesli, it’s not chalky or porridgey at all. It can be used exactly the same as milk from cows. It’s delicious in a glass with some biscuits dunked in it. It’s perfect for cereal, obviously it’s particularly good for muesli or granola, and it’s Mr Veg’s favourite milk for making porridge.

Oatly really comes into its own when used in cooking or baking, working better than any other non-dairy milk I’ve tried. The flavour is mild enough that it doesn’t dominate the dish, you don’t have to worry about your cakes or sauces tasting of oats (unless you want them to of course). What’s more, Oatly is very stable, doesn’t split, and does a really great job of making things thick and creamy – I can only assume that this is something to do with the soluble fibre content.

As well as regular and organic Oatly, you can also buy chocolate Oatly, which is absolutely divine! As with plain Oatly, you can drink it straight or use it for cereal, porridge, or baking. You can also use it to make a luxurious thick milkshake by blending it with a frozen banana or, if you’re feeling less virtuous, a big scoop of dairy-free ice cream. Delish!

All non-dairy milks have their pluses and minuses, some work much better than others depending on what you’re using it for. The only disadvantage I’ve discovered about Oatly is that it doesn’t work as well in tea and coffee as some other plant milks. The taste is fine, but it separates slightly and tends to leave a strange residue in the bottom of the cup. Still, I think its many advantages outweigh this, and I would definitely recommend you give it a try.

What better way to demonstrate Oatly in cooking than to make some basic white sauce. It tastes the same as the real thing, and is just as thick and creamy, but without having to get any cows involved. My favourite use for white sauce is a good old-fashioned lasagne. The recipe I’ve given here is basic because I wanted to showcase the white sauce, but you could tuck extra veggies between the layers, or jazz up the red sauce with chillies or sun-dried tomatoes or whatever you fancy. I don’t particularly like vegan cheese so I topped mine with breadcrumbs instead, but you could use vegan cheese or ground cashews if you prefer.

Recipe – classic vegan lasagne (serves 2)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 200g vegan mince
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 20g non-dairy margarine
  • 20g plain flour
  • 300ml Oatly
  • 4-6 sheets egg-free lasagne
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the red sauce, fry the onion in the oil over a medium heat until translucent and starting to colour, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute or so without colouring. Add the mince, tomatoes, tomato puree, and oregano, then leave to simmer while you make the white sauce.

For the white sauce, melt the margarine in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the Oatly very slowly, stirring all the time until you have a smooth sauce. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes until it’s nice and thick.

Season both sauces to your liking and remove from the heat.

Now to the fun part – building the lasagne. Spread one third of the red sauce over the bottom of your lasagne dish (you might notice in the photo that I use a loaf tin – it’s the perfect size and shape), cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, then spread one third of the white sauce over the top of that. Repeat two more times until you have used everything, ending in a layer of white sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and more dried herbs over the top.

Bake in the oven at 200°C for 30-40 minutes, until light brown on top. Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving – it will be easier to dish up whole slices that way. Serve with plenty of garlic bread.

Disclaimer: I have been asked to write this post by Oatly but as with all of the posts on my blog all opinions are my own. For more information on Oatly please see their website: http://www.oatly.com/.

In my veg box this week – sorrel, kohlrabi, tomatoes

9 Aug

Sorrel
The bag was unlabelled so I had to try a little bit just to double check what the leaves were. I’m glad I only tasted a tiny bit because it’s really strong on its own, kind of like incredibly lemony spinach. It can give a mixed leaf salad a lovely tang, or can be used in cooking to liven things up.  I’ve used some to make some courgette and sorrel soup. To feed 2-3 people, dice a small onion and a small potato and sweat over a low heat with a bit of oil in a covered saucepan for five minutes; add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic and about 500g sliced courgettes and sweat for another five minutes; add 500ml vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes; throw in 25g sorrel then blend; taste for seasoning and serve. With the rest, I think I’m going to experiment with sorrel pesto, if it goes well it will end up here on the blog.

Kohlrabi
Looks like a cross between a vegetable and an alien space craft, tastes like a cross between broccoli stems and turnip. Smaller ones can be sliced or grated for a salad, but this is a bit of a monster so it will need to be peeled and cooked. At other times of year I might roast it or use it in a potato gratin, but it’s summer and I can’t face stodgy food so it will either end up in pesto pasta with mixed veggies, or in a spicy stir fry.

Regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes
Another favourite glut of the summer, tomatoes are something I don’t mind getting tonnes of because I can happily put them in anything. At this time of year they’re sweet and full of flavour, and they smell of summer. For tomato scrambled tofu for 1-2 people, fry a couple of tomatoes over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes; add 200g crumbled tofu and fry for a couple more minutes; add a tablespoon of roughly chopped basil, a splash of lemon juice, half a teaspoon of black or regular salt, and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes; serve on toast or as part of a big veggie fry-up.

Also received this week: courgettes, carrots, new potatoes, broad beans, green and yellow French beans, garlic, bananas, pears, grapes, greengages.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

BBQ pitta bread

2 Aug

This is really just my basic recipe for anything bready, you can also use it to make breadsticks, naan breads to mop up your curry, or a base for your home-made pizza. We were having a barbecue one day and didn’t have any bread in the house, so I decided to try making some flatbreads directly on the grill, just to see how they’d come out. Amazingly they puffed up just like pittas, so we stuffed them with hummus and grilled veggies and they were absolutely delicious. You have to try this next time you have a barbecue!

Recipe (makes eight decent-sized pittas, enough for four hungry people):

  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon any kind of sugar
  • 250g bread flour (I prefer to use brown)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • A handful of semolina or polenta

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water in a large bowl and leave to activate. After 10 minutes or so it should have a layer of foam on top, once this appears, mix it into the flours, oil and salt. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Knead the dough for another couple of minutes, then divide into eight pieces. Scatter a handful of semolina or polenta on a large tray. On a floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll a piece out into a circle about 15cm across then put it on the tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough. If there’s not enough room on your tray to comfortably fit all of the pittas it’s ok to overlap them as long as you scatter some more semolina or polenta on each one – it should stop them sticking together. Let the pittas rise for half an hour or so while you light the barbecue and get the rest of your food ready.

To cook a pitta, put it straight on the hot grill. Let it cook until it has completely puffed up all over, this should take less than five minutes. Flip over and cook for another two minutes, until nicely browned on both sides. Split, stuff, and enjoy!

combine_images

Chuna pasta

2 Aug

When I was a student I practically lived on tuna pasta. Like a lot of mums of students, mine used to give me care packages to make sure I was eating properly, whenever I went to stay with my parents there was always random things like pasta and tuna in the bottom of my wardrobe. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss tuna, but the idea of eating an endangered species doesn’t really appeal so much these days.

There are millions of versions of vegetarian “tuna” salad recipe online, subbing chickpeas for the tuna. To be honest it’s nice, but doesn’t quite say tuna to me – there seems to be something missing. I kind of stumbled across this tweak to the recipe by accident. I’ve tried a few recipes for tahini pasta before, and a few other pastas with beans, and I started to wonder if I combined the two ideas I might be able to make mock tuna. I think I got it right here, the tangy, nutty, creaminess of the tahini and lemon sauce converts it from chickpea pasta to chuna pasta!

I like to add sweetcorn because tuna and sweetcorn is a classic combination, but you could add anything you fancy. I think a big handful of olives or some capers would be particularly gorgeous.

Recipe (serves 2):

For the tahini and lemon sauce

  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For everything else

  • 150g (dry weight) pasta
  • One small onion, sliced in thin half-moons
  • 150g cooked chickpeas (about two thirds of a tin)
  • 150g sweetcorn

For the sauce, mix together the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside while everything else is cooking. It might be a bit lumpy or split to start with, but if you leave it for ten minutes or so it will become completely smooth.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. If you’re using fresh sweetcorn, throw it in with the pasta about a minute before the end of the cooking time to quickly cook it.

While the pasta is cooking, fry the onion in a splash of oil over a medium heat until translucent and just starting to colour, about five minutes. Roughly mash or chop the chickpeas until there are no whole beans left, but don’t completely puree them.

Drain the cooked pasta and return to the pan with the sweetcorn, chickpeas, cooked onion, and the sauce. Stir over a medium heat until warmed through.

In my veg box this week – cucumber, raspberries, beans

30 Jul

This week we have:

Cucumber
I refuse to accept that someone doesn’t like cucumbers unless they’ve tried real cucumbers. I like supermarket cucumbers, but compared to organic or home-grown ones they’re watery, bland, and disappointing. I’d definitely recommend growing them – as well as being one of those veggies that is a million times better if you grow your own, they’re also really easy to grow and if you get a huge glut you can make a year’s worth of pickles for your burgers. Sadly we’re not growing them this year, but we’ve had one a week in our veg box for the past several weeks. As well as putting them in a salad, I also like just cutting off a chunk and nibbling on it.

Raspberries
Mr Veg teases me that I’m so ruled by my stomach that I’m not interested in growing anything that I can’t eat, and he’s absolutely right! I’ve finally (after seven years together) let him grow some flowers, they have absolutely no purpose but they make him happy, and I have to admit that they do brighten up our garden. Anyway, what does this have to do with raspberries? Oh yes, I’ve decided that when we have a house with a proper garden I’m going to fill the flower beds with as many fruit bushes as I can get away with, especially raspberries. I love the idea of pottering around the garden, picking raspberries and scoffing them while I do the gardening. Or sitting in the sun with a book and a glass of wine and a bowl of freshly-picked raspberries. Bliss. There’s a lot of different things I could do with these, but you know what? I’m just going to eat them.

Two kinds of beans
Another of my favourite things about the summer. We’ve got some speckled runner beans, and the darkest French beans I’ve ever seen. They’re so lovely to look at, it’s almost a shame to cook them as they lose the colour and end up green.

IMG_6810-2

Also received this week: beetroot, tomatoes, red pepper, chard, sweet potato, courgette, spring onions, regular onions, apples, bananas.

In my veg box this week – beetroot, lemon, apricots

24 Jul

This week we have:

Beetroot
I mistook the leaves for chard at first, until I saw what they were attached to. Beets and chard are closely related, and you can use the leaves as a green. A while ago I made beet-leaf soup, not knowing what it would look or taste like. It came out vibrant purple and delicious, if I hadn’t known what it was made of I think I would have guessed it was a mixture of beetroot and spinach. I think this time I’m going to use the leaves in a creamy pasta, the smaller roots raw in a salad, and the larger roots roasted.

A lemon
I always have a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge, so it’s always there if I need a splash for a recipe. Whenever I get an actual real lemon in the veg box I feel like I need to use them for something more special, something you need a whole lemon for. I’m either going to put it towards a lemon drizzle cake, or buy some gin or coronas. I wouldn’t want it to go to waste now would I ;-)

Apricots
One of the best things about summer is the soft fruits like apricots. They taste like flowers and sunshine. Some people moan about soft fruits taking ages to ripen and then all going soft at once, but I quite enjoy that – to me having to eat all my fruit in one day before they spill juice everywhere is all part of the fun of summer.

Also received this week: bananas, more whitecurrants, a big green pepper, a cucumber, spinach, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 505 other followers

%d bloggers like this: