Tag Archives: vegetarian

Szechuan-style eggplant

HOLY SMOKE peeps, these are on.the.money. if you’re looking for something hot, something vegetarian and something addictive that is not chocolate or doughnuts. And well, savoury.

Here is my biggest tip in the whole Asian cooking thing. As far as I’m concerned it is the zenith for mis-en-place. Have all your ducks lined up in a row people, have it beside the stove and go go go. GO!

Shallots, garlic and ginger

The starting point

 

Eggplants, chilli bean paste, vinegar, szechuan peppers

Penis eggplants!

 

Frying eggplant

Deep frying makes everything better

 

Fried eggplant

A thing of beauty

 

Sauce for Szechuan eggplant

Cooking off the sauce.

 

Szechuan-style eggplant

Heaven on a plate

Szechuan-style eggplant

From Neil Perry, balance & harmony Asian food

  • 550g Japanese eggplants
  • 500ml vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 knob ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3tbsp shaoxing
  • 3tbsp hot bean paste
  • 2 1/2 tbsp yellow bean soy sauce (I just used dark soy)
  • 100ml rice vinegar
  • 65g (1/3 cup) crushed yellow rock sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan pepper
  1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways while the oil is heating in the wok. Once it’s smoking then deep-fry the eggplants until golden brown. This doesn’t take that long, and I just turned them every so often.I often find deep-frying quite stressful, the whole is it cooked enough, is the oil hot enough, too hot, blah blah blah. Now I just wait until it’s really smoking and then hope for the best. If I’m deep-frying something like chicken with bones in it then I will cook until golden and put on a rack in the oven (on about 180C) while I cook the rest of it. Seems to work a treat.
  2. Pour that oil into a container, then put about 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan and once smoking add the shallots, ginger and garlic. Keep them moving and once you can really smell their goodness then add the shaoxing.
  3. Then add the chilli paste, soy, vinegar and sugar. (Have this all measured and in a bowl together so you can just toss it in.) Bring to the boil and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the eggplants, mashing them slightly so they absorb more of the flavour and cook for another two minutes.
  5. Turn onto a plate and scatter over some more shallots and ground Szechuan pepper.
  6. Devour.

 

Chilli bean paste

Current chilli addiction.

Onward!

 


Spaghetti with cauliflower strascicata and pennies dropping

Jared Ingersoll’s Spaghetti with cauliflower strascicata (but made with broccoli)

Adapted from Danks Street Depot  

 

  • 1 packet spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli (if using cauliflower the recipe stipulates 1/2 head)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 large red chillies, chopped (seeds in if you like it hot) – leave out if making for kids
  • 1 tblsp capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted in a 160C oven until golden
  • 200g parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  1. Cook the spaghetti then drain and toss through a little of the olive oil
  2. cook the broccoli in the rest of the olive oil
  3. once it starts to colour add the garlic, then the anchovies, capers and olives (and chillies if using)
  4. cook until the broccoli is nice and soft
  5. add half the parsley and the spaghetti and toss thoroughly
  6. once the spaghetti is nicely reheated add the breadcrumbs, parmesan and left over parsley
  7. As the parmesan starts to stick to the bottom of the pan use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan
  8. Serve with a wedge of lemon – totally lifts the whole dish.

This recipe is taken from the Dank Street Depot cookbook, but they use cauliflower and also put a couple of red chillies in there. I just used what I had, in that I used broccoli not cauli, didn’t have any herbs to speak of and also didn’t put nearly that amount of parmesan in it. But it was delicious and the kids loved it. Shame about the finger I nearly lopped off when chopping the olives.

*****

The boy made eyes at me all day yesterday. It came after I had thought to myself that he’d changed in the last 24 hours. Then those eyes, still deciding what colour they’re going to be, that look like pools of mercury cornered me so. Taking my breath away.
But he has. Changed that is. His face has changed shape ever so slightly and there is intent in his gaze.

 

He’s a screamer too, which has taken me a little aback.

 

He wakes with a good hearty yell and needs several of them before going off to sleep.

 

Tonight, I tried to settle him in his cot as he is very partial to going to sleep and then sleeping on me. And I am very nervy about setting up bad habits now. I know I know, it’s not even three weeks yet. But I know what I need to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

Badger wrote today about not being that much of a baby person and that she’s really glad it’s me here lactating not her. And the thing is, I hear her loud and clear. I guess it seems so contradictory to say that I’m not really a baby person when I’m here with number four (and that suddenly the idea of Chef getting the snip seems so… final, and maybe, just maybe I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet. If you get my drift.)
Like Badger, I enjoy my children the older they get. I suck up everything they write about read Badger, Blackbird and Suse with their older boys as it is so obvious how much they too enjoy each of their children the older they get.

 

I think I said it before, but I really do just ‘function’ through these early weeks and indeed years.

 

Having Jasper has given me the chance to enjoy those younger toddler years that I barely escaped with my life with Oscar and Felix. In fact Chef and I refer to them as the dark years.

 

But being back in the land with a toddler and a neonate ain’t no picnic and I’m not about to perpetuate some earth-mother myth that it is. I find it a bloody hard slog. I internally scream at least once a day. Progress (from the days of Oscar and Felix as toddlers) is that I can now see a bad day as just that and not spiral into an abyss of “holy fuck I’ve really ruined my life and this parenting thing is scary shit that I’m not cut out for and why is Chef just sitting on the lounge over there, Jesus Christ who did I marry and while I’m fuming why don’t I just eat a block of chocolate washed down with a bottle of wine followed by a large packet of chips with maybe half a cake as a digestiv”.

 

But that doesn’t lessen the number of bad days. Or OK days. Or fucking brilliant days.

 

And that scream? Used to be loud. And ugly. And directed at my children or my husband.

 

Now, just as there are bad days and good days, the scream is just a scream, simple frustration at trying to reason with a child to young to understand that watching Thomas the Tank Engine for six hours straight is ENOUGH ALREADY and tiredness from helping a newborn work out what on earth has happened to his safe, warm cocoon and negotiate his first few days in the world and exasperation with a nine year old asking “what next Muma” for the upteenth time.

 

But I know this time will pass quicker than it currently feels it is and that indeed I won’t ever really remember what it was like (hell, isn’t that why we all go back and do it more than once?).

 

And I look at my bigger boys with that swelling chest kind of pride.
Oh sure, they can shit me big time.
But it’s the honour in being a part of forming a person. Of being there each and every day and seeing their passions develop, of helping them through the rocky parts and of just hanging out that just rocks my world.
So while I am a pretty utilitarian when it comes to me as the mother of a newborn and toddler, while I tend to just clench the jaw, grit my teeth and beligerently tackle each and every day one by one I do so now with a quiet peace that the days I truly get a kick out of, dare I say enjoy are not that far away.

 

And in a funny way, knowing that makes me enjoy this time with Jasper and Grover in a way I never did with the first two.
Perspective is a wonderful thing isn’t it?

 

But this realisation? Which softens me ever so slightly has made me realise and recognise some other things about myself…

- that I always say I love change and really? I don’t. Sure it depends on the situation but in all honesty I like order and structure and knowing what I’m doing today, tomorrow and where I’m headed beyond that. I write endless lists. I concoct six month, 1,2 and 5 year plans. On everything.

- that I’m easy going. I put this in the same category as all fat people are jolly and all black people can dance. I like things done certain ways and I get antsy when people do it differently. Even if it’s in their own home. This is bad. I know. I am better at not caring or being such a control freak these days, but that’s just because I’m tired and more focused on ensuring one of my kids isn’t drowning eating all the junk food playing doctors and nurses missing.

- that I’m taking it one day at a time, but I always have my eye on the horizon (I’ve been talking to people about work for goodness sake… and I don’t go back until February).

- I really need to learn how to relax. Without it involving eating or consuming alcohol.

- I can be perceived as exuding confidence and self-assuredness but in reality am plagued by self-doubt and need a lot of reassurance and positive affirmations from those around me. Not everyone mind you, I have particular people, mentors if you will, in all aspects of my life whose opinion I seek out and use as a kimometre.

- While in my work I adhere to the policy of “not a word too many” here I waffle on and on and on…

 

I saw my shrink today and we both agreed that I’m travelling ok considering the baby isn’t even three weeks old. I told him how on the days I feel like I’m being swallowed by the relentlessness of the routine (or lack thereof) of domestic oblivion I adhere to the policy of ‘just achieve one thing’. So instead of being overwhelmed by the “I have to clean the house” I work to the “just get one load of washing done”.

 

He told me about how today there is this absolute focus on “outcomes” and that it is such a bankrupt mindset in that it pays no heed to the effort put in to get to that outcome, the quality of the work along the way and so on. And that my attitude was the right way to go – I mean, what is the point of me having the outcome of “I must have the entire house cleaned and pristine” if reaching that outcome turns me into a suicidal mess?

 

Instead, I focus on just one aspect of the outcome, and the sense of achievement in getting that done probably gets me closer to the goal intact than if I started at our ensuite and worked my way through the house to the back doors. We also talked – a lot – about my mother. But that is for another time.

I don’t think I’ve said anything well here. I can almost hear the pissed-off-ness of those who are trying to have children or would love to have a brood and thinking how ungrateful I am or how different they would be if they had four children and the rest of you? Well the collective head tilt is going to give you all a stiff neck. Just take it as the ramblings of a tired woman who had baby vomit on her shoulder for so long it dried and went crusty before she noticed it and almost cut off a finger tonight when trying to make dinner with a crying baby and a toddler demanding The Woefuls Wiggles and Thomas on alternately after each story and whose favourite activity is now climbing onto the coffee table, then standing on the arm of the chair and taking flying leaps onto the lounge and two bigger boys being absolute legendary angels.

*****


Nigella Lawson feast from Feast: sage and onion chicken and sausages, chocohotpots, peas and lettuce, potato gratin

Monday night saw me make the most kick-arse dinner for some months. It was all from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook, something I am somewhat obsessed with, so bear with me…

This is what it all looked like come dinner time:
Sage and onion roasted chicken and sausages

Nigella Lawson, Feast
I saw her make this and was intrigued. Intrigued enough to cook it, and MY GOODNESS was it seriously delicious.

  • 2kg chicken, cut into 10 pieces (or 10 drumsticks or thigh pieces or whatever you choose)
  • 12 chipolata sausages (she suggests anything from a traditional English sausage, to Italian or Chorizo)
  • 1 large onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 lemon, juiced and rind cut into eighths
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons English mustard
  • cracked pepper
  1. Put all the marinade ingredients in a large snap-lock bag (this is a great Nigella tip as it cuts down on washing up and lets your really mush the marinade into the meat)
  2. add the chicken and really mush the marinade and chicken together. Depending on when you do this, either refrigerate or leave at room temperature (I made it on a cold wet day and left it at room temperature for about an hour and a half)
  3. preheat oven to 220C
  4. pour the whole lot into a baking dish and tuck the sausages in around the chicken pieces
  5. sprinkle over the fresh sage
  6. bake for 1hr 15mins, turning everything occasionally so it all browns evenly.

Potato gratin

Nigella Lawson, Feast

I had been craving this for weeks and this seemed like the perfect occasion to satisfy it. The recipe was essentially the same as the potato dauphinois that I’ve been making for years, but it features this fancy thing with an onion. Mind you, on eating, it tasted no different, so I leave the decision on the value of the extra effort to you…

  • 2kg potatoes
  • 500ml milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 cloves, one stuck into each half of the onion
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3-4 bay leaves (although it was too wet for me to bother going out to the garden to get these)
  • good pinch of sea salt (Nigella says 1 tablespoon, I say woo down nelly on the salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 220C
  2. Bring the milk and cream to the boil with the onion, nutmeg and bay leaves, turn off the heat, put a lid on and let the onion infuse the milk.
  3. Peel the potatoes and slice 1cm thick – I use a mandolin for this as it turns a painful, time consuming job into something relatively painless.
  4. Put the potatoes into the milk mixture and bring it back to the boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.
  6. Grease a large baking dish (about 30x37cm) and as you transfer the potatoes remove the onion and cloves and the bay leaves.
  7. Pour over the milk mixture and then bake for about 15 minutes or until its all golden and bubbling.
  8. Seriously one of my most favourite dishes of all time.

 

Peas with lettuce

Nigella Lawson, Feast

I have never ever been one for the cooked lettuce concept, but this, this has changed my world.

  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 45g butter
  • 1 baby cos lettuce, finely shredded
  • 250g frozen baby peas
  • 125ml chicken stock
  1. Cook the onion in the butter until soft, then add the lettuce and cook until it has wilted.
  2. Add the peas and stock and cook over a robust simmer until the stock has reduced slightly and everything is tender.

(Nigella – on the episode she cooks this on – says to cook for 20 minutes or so but I think 10 is ample)

For dessert I did my Chocolate Sludge, but it was weird and didn’t go sludgy at all. I think it’s because it was cooked and we didn’t eat it for a while, so the sauce component sort of got absorbed into the cakey top.

As there was enough of everything to feed the whole family again on Tuesday night, I made a new dessert – Nigella’s Chocohotopots.

 

Chocohotopots (makes 4)
Nigella Lawson, Feast

  • 125g butter
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and grease 4 small ramekins (I used 1 cup size and you fill them about half way)
  2. melt the butter and chocolate together and let cool slightly
  3. in a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar, then fold in the flour
  4. pour in the melted choc butter mix and fold together
  5. spoon the gooey mixture into the ramekins
  6. cook for 20 minutes – the tops go all cracked and lovely and inside is just this gooey goodness.

I mean how easy is that? And can I just say, they are a.m.a.z.i.n.g. – and that’s from someone who really doesn’t do chocolate.

(Note: the recipe in the book adds 100g white choc chips, which you fold through at the end, but this just sent them over the edge. Chef and I agreed they would be divine with some raspberries folded through them.)


Pregnancy enigmatic moments and Nigella Lawson’s Mushy Peas

When the smell of bananas makes me gag (not helped by finally locating the smell in Oscar’s bag – a R.O.T.T.E.N banana) but I eat two banana toasted sandwiches for dinner.
*****
How chocolate no longer holds any sway over me whatsoever. At all.
*****
That – for the first time since Oscar’s pregnancy (there are two in between) – I can’t bend down or get on an angle to do up shoes.
Similar to Oscar’s pregnancy, if I stand for too long or “do too much” (read stand a lot, run around a lot, pick up Jasper a lot) I get early labour pains and have pinkish-brown mucus.
Sorry, I know that last point caught many of you off guard.
I have had three of these “shows” since Sunday week ago.
It give the tail end of pregnancy an interesting ‘edge’.
*****
I am absolutely craving red wine.
*****
This hit the spot last week – Nigella’s mushy peas

  • 300g frozen peas
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tbl creme fraiche
  • 3 tbl parmesan, finely grated
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring a saucepan of water to boil with the garlic clove in it.
  2. cook peas, drain and discard garlic
  3. puree peas w/ the creme fraiche and parmesan
  4. season to taste
  5. I added more creme fraiche and parmesan on the top at the end because I’m pregnant and I can.

*****
Name updates:
I am (still) loving Grover (although now I’m leaning to Grosvenor as – believe it or not – I am conscious of the child being cranky about being named after a blue muppet, even though no-one EVER makes the Oscar the Grouch connection w/ Oscar or the Felix the Cat w/Felix) Sebastian, Theodore, Oliver, Baxter and Banjo.

Chef is adamant on George, in fact, last week announced “It doesn’t matter what we call him, I’m going to call him George.”

*****
I finish work on Friday.
This fills me with so much excitement.
I feel like I will finally be able to be pregnant.
If that makes any sense at all.
Here’s hoping I don’t go into labour on Friday night as I finally relax.

 

Onward!

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