Tag Archives: garlic

Three quick and easy vegan pasta sauces

22 Mar

When I get back from work late, or tired, or both, it’s hard sometimes to motivate myself to cook something proper for dinner. I often find myself eating freezer junk or having a takeaway, when I’d much rather have something healthy. Here’s my solution. Pasta, whatever random ingredient I find in the fridge, and a quick and easy sauce. These three sauces take about a minute each to prepare, and can just be heated in the pan the pasta was cooked in, meaning no extra washing up. I can be slobbing in front of the TV in my tracky bottoms with some dinner within 20 minutes of getting home.

 

Garlic tahini sauce (serves 1):

  • 1 tablespoon each tahini, cold water, and nooch
  • 1 small clove of garlic, mashed to a fine paste with a generous pinch of salt

Mix all of the ingredients together in a little bowl or cup. Leave to stand for a few minutes while you cook some pasta and veggies. It might be a little lumpy at first but it will become smooth. Mix with the cooked pasta and veggies and serve.

 

Harissa and tomato sauce (serves 1):

  • 1 heaped teaspoon harissa paste
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered

Cook some pasta, and drain, reserving some of the liquid. Leave the pasta in the colander and put the pan back on the hob over a high heat. Throw in the cherry tomatoes, a splash of the pasta water, and the harissa paste. Let it bubble for a minute or so, until the tomatoes are beginning to break down and the harissa paste is mixed in with the water. Return the pasta and any other ingredients back to the pan, stir until everything is well coated with the sauce, and serve.

This recipe also works well with chipotle paste instead of harissa.

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Creamy mustard sauce (serves 1):

  • 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes
  • Half a tablespoon of plain flour
  • 75ml of cold water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Up to 1 tablespoon of grainy mustard

Before cooking the pasta, mix together the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl or cup. Leave to one side while you cook the pasta, so the flour can start absorbing the water. Cook some pasta, and drain. Leave the pasta in the colander and put the pan back on the hob over a high heat. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir it until it comes to the boil and thickens – this should take less than a minute. Return the pasta and any other ingredients back to the pan, stir until everything is well coated with the sauce, and serve.

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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.

Spanokopitta sausage rolls

9 Jul

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At the weekend, my mum asked me to bake some vegetarian sausage rolls for a family picnic. Normally I’d wrap some veggie sausages in puff pastry and get on with my day but on this occasion I was the only vegetarian there, and I wanted to make something the omnivores would enjoy as much as I would. I decided to make something based on my favourite Greek dish, spanokopitta (basically an AMAZING spinach and feta filo pie).

So here’s what I came up with. They went down really well, even with the meat-eaters. The children didn’t really like them (my two-year-old niece ate half of one and politely shoved the rest in my mouth); perhaps a milder, less freaky cheese would make them more child-friendly.

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Recipe (makes 24 mini rolls)

  • 500g puff pastry
  • 300g frozen spinach, defrosted, preferably the whole-leaf stuff
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted
  • Two eggs (one for the filling and the other to use as eggwash)
  • One clove of garlic, mashed to a pulp, or a handful of finely chopped garlic scapes
  • A good grinding of black pepper and nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Roll the pastry out into two long rectangles, roughly 20cm x 40cm each, about 0.25cm thick.

Mash the drained feta with one of the eggs, then add the garlic, pepper, nutmeg, and pine nuts.

Drain the spinach in a sieve, and press as much of the water out of it as you can. Stir it into the feta mixture. It should be fairly dry, otherwise the pastry will end up soggy and the filling will spill out of the edges.

Spread half the filling down the middle of one of the sheets of pastry. Brush some beaten egg along one of the edges. Roll the sheet of pastry into one long sausage, ending on the side that you brushed with egg. Cut into 12 mini sausage rolls and place them onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the filling and the second sheet of pastry. Brush all of the sausage rolls with beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed up and golden. Enjoy hot or cold.

Growing vegetables without a garden

1 Jul

Home-grown vegetables taste infinitely better than those bought from a shop. Here’s my top three reasons why:

  • Freshness. The flavour of many vegetables degrades with every second that passes. Produce from a shop is at least a couple of days old, potentially weeks or months old. If you grow your own you can eat them within minutes.
  • Breeding. Commercially-grown vegetables are generally bred to be uniform in shape, size and colour, because sadly that’s what consumers and supermarkets want. If you grow your own, you can choose seeds and plants that are bred for flavour.
  • Ownership. If you put time and effort into creating something, it increases your appreciation of the end result.

As a big vegetable fan, it makes sense that I would have a go at growing my own, and getting the best, freshest veggies I can get my muddy little hands on. I’m not going to let a minor detail like not having a garden stop me. We did have an allotment for a couple of years, but it is too time-consuming if you work full time – I’ll leave that sort of thing to my Mum, who is retired and has two amazingly well-kept and productive plots.

There’s plenty of different things you can grow in containers, even in a small space. We have pots and tubs outside our door and outside our kitchen window. Here’s a selection of what I’m growing at the moment.

Broad beans and courgettes (zucchini). I’ve got these growing in two old recycling containers, with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Courgettes are very greedy plants, so there’s a generous amount of chicken manure in there to help them along.

 


Potatoes. We’ve been growing spuds in a patio potato bag for a couple of years now, with great success. It’s really easy, you quarter-fill the bag with compost and nestle the chitted seed potatoes about halfway down. When green shoots start to show through, cover over with compost, repeat until it reaches the top of the bag (this takes a few weeks). As with spuds grown under the ground, as soon as either the fruit sets or the foliage starts to die back, the potatoes are ready. If in doubt, stick your hand in the compost like a lucky dip and grope around to see if you can find any potatoes. I’m growing pink fir apples this year, which are my favourite potatoes ever – they’re knobbly, waxy, earthy, nutty… heaven!

 
Strawberries. I’ve already mentioned that home-grown tastes better, but wow… strawberries are proof of this. If you’ve never tried a real home-grown strawberry you need to find some and do it. You will never go back to the bland, watery supermarket offerings again.

 

 

 

Herbs. It’s great to get home from work, think “oh, I need a bit of rosemary for my roast potatoes,” and to be able to snap off a sprig before I even get in the front door. Here we’ve got lavender on the left, and rosemary on the right. We’ve also grown thyme in the past. Any woody herbs should work well in a pot.

 

 
Garlic. If you want to grow something easy, garlic is a great way to start. You get a whole bulb of garlic (from a garden supplier, not a supermarket), break it into cloves and stick them in a bit of compost in a container. Six months or so later, each clove will have turned into a whole new bulb of garlic. Let the skins dry out and they’ll keep for months. Here you can see the scapes (flower stalks) are starting to grow. If you cut the scapes down, the resulting bulb will be much bigger, and you can cook with the scapes too, they’re a bit like spring onions or chunky garlic chives.

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