Greens, Eggs and Pam – Baked Vegetable and Egg Nests

Baked egg in a vegetable nestPlease forgive the tortuous title-mangling of a beloved Dr Seuss tale. I really couldn’t help it. There is no actual person named Pam involved in this easy recipe.

I refer of course to the proprietary eponym for a US non-stick cooking spray. Which you don’t even have to use. But still… At least my Dad might appreciate my ‘humour’ (cue Dad writing in with approval). :D

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Southern Cornbread Dressing (Stuffing) – gluten-free and vegan

southern-cornbread-stuffingAny Southerner looking at the title would be puzzled. You see, ‘vegan’ and ‘southern’ are rarely seen in the same sentence. Not unless one is speaking of raw ingredients – say, a tomato salad. And even this may have a mayonnaisey dressing on it, or at least some chopped hardboiled eggs. Southerners like to provide added value to any dish. A sprinkle of parsley at the very least. But more likely a glistening pat of Land O Lakes butter. We just can’t help ourselves. Continue reading

Winter Slaw with Pears and Cranberries + 15 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

pear-and-cranberyy-slawI hope you don’t mind me butting in here, but I know that many of you (and me) are going to festive parties, and I thought I would share my 15 healthy holiday eating tips with you. These are probably common sense, and you know them already, but if you are like me it is always good to have them written down and reiterated. At this time of year my healthy weight management workshops always drift onto how we can merrily eat and drink all of the holiday goodies but keep a handle (not lovehandle) on the old kilograms. These little tips may help. Some are for the cook, some are for partyers, some are for dining out; a whole paragraph is devoted to negotiating that desk that always seems to have a plate of Christmas sugar cookies on it. Something for everyone, in other words. Continue reading

Nearly-Naked Watermelon Salad

watermelon saladWatermelon in a salad is nearly as satisfying as chomping down on a chilled, ripe solitary slice. Nearly.

This is a salad for when watermelons are at their peak, and perhaps when you are satiated with them au naturel. Like ripe peaches, so heavy and plump that biting into them sends their honeyed juices cascading from your elbow, perfect watermelons are unequaled as fruits. Who can resist their saturated pinky-red flesh? Not me. Continue reading

Cauliflower and Green Olive Tapenade Gratin

cauliflower gratinThis recipe is one I make quite often at this time of year. But it is only one of many things that can be done with the humble cauli. Appropriately frugal in both expense and calories, winter cauliflower is a fairly magical vegetable.  With little effort the pretty pale curds can be transformed into a credible mashed potato and rice substitute (paleo-adherents love this brassica), as well as being an equal partner in the UK’s number one comfort food, cauliflower cheese. I and others also like it tossed in a little oil and lemon or balsamic vinegar then roasted to golden perfection in a hot oven. And soon I will be posting how to make this vegetable go from pale to pukka in just a few ingredients. Continue reading

Holiday Side Dish Special: Fennel and Maple Roasted Carrots and Creamed Kale Two Ways

maple roasted carrots
I can’t believe it is one week to Christmas Day. The tree is up, garlands festoon every feasible surface, wreaths are on doors. So it is only the food to think about. And some last minute cards to post – oops!

These are my last two side dishes to give you. Both simple and make ahead (yay!). Wednesday I will offer two gorgeous and simple dessert options to prepare and squirrel away. And Friday, food to glow will feature a festive vegetarian main dish that meat eaters will almost certainly help themselves to. Continue reading

Holiday Side Dish Special: Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Sage Crumbs

brussels sprouts with crispy sage crumbs
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are a pretty addition to a winter festive table. But they do have a certain dubious reputation. At least here in Britain. Right now folk on the radio – okay, BBC Radio 2 – are asking the annual foodie question: are your sprouts on yet? This ‘banter’ starts in, oh, November. Yes, more than any other vegetable, sprouts get a bad rap.

Even if you don’t like them, sprouts are not only healthy they are also quite good for playing table football – soccer or American-style. Joking aside, Brussels sprouts briefly boiled or steamed, then sauteed in olive oil or butter until just starting to frazzle, are a world away from the mushy, stinky horrors of your youth. Blanket them in crispy ciabatta and sage crumbs, and Brussels get their festive hat on. Simple, but effective.DSC_0106steamed sprouts

Although I like them only briefly acquainted with the steamer, cook them longer if you like them on the soft side, or if it makes them easier to eat. Whiz up any leftovers (crumbs too), mix in a beaten egg, and pop them into a small, oiled baking dish with a few grates of flavourful cheese to make a baked savoury pudding. Brilliant with a rasher or two of proper butchers’ bacon.

By the way, you know how I recently wrote about buying local? Well, one thing that I’m giving this year that is definitely not local are micro-loans. All of the adults on my little list are getting a card with a unique number that allows them to support a business venture of their choosing.

I have gone through Kiva, the not-for-profit organisation that hooks up those of us with a bit of money with those who don’t. They do this by working with “microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems.” Mostly Kiva helps people like you and me support people setting up new businesses.

There are thousands  of businesses and projects to choose from: from bull buying in Peru to purchasing food supplies for a non-profit community restaurant in Belize. You can even support writers and help build a shop. Previously I have given money to actually purchase such items for those who need it. You know, like goats and seeds. But this sounds really good as it is helping people in a different, and more long term, way.  Loans start at $25. You can choose whether you want the money back, or re-loan it to another business or project. Other such ‘brokering’ organisations are around, such as lendwithcare.org. But you can also go straight to the individual microlending institutions themselves. Here’s a  list from Forbes of the top 50 lenders, including assessment of risk. As my loans were on the lower end, shall we say, risk wasn’t an issue. I chose to go through Kiva as I had heard good things about it from someone who works on economic development projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Certainly a unique present!

I am popping this over to Karen at Lavender and Lovage who is this month hosting Simple and in Season for Ren at Fabulicious Food.

Are you giving anything unusual over the festive season? What are your memories of sprouts as a child? And were you scarred for life? If you are up for more sprout recipes perhaps check out bbcgoodfood, or if you want to get fiddly, here’s one for the more dextrous among us from Heston Blumenthal.

brussels sprouts with crispy sage crumbs

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Sage Crumbs

 
Festive Track of the Week: Christmas Time is Here, by Correatown – get your folk on! If you don’t feel festive after listening to this, there is no hope for you. Love this!
 
A wholesome and pretty side dish that is a good foil for the richness of the rest of the festive meal. If you don’t fancy the chestnuts, how about adding in a handful of sunflower seeds for an unexpected nutty crunch? See below how to make this ahead.
 
400g (14 oz)Brussels sprouts, bases trimmed if necessary (only if they are a bit woody or stick out), and halved if you prefer
200g (7 oz) whole, cooked chestnuts (I use Merchant Gourmet) – optional
juice of half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
1 ciabatta roll, crusts removed OR any good chewy bread, such as sourdough 
1/8 tsp smoked paprika – optional
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves, with extra for serving OR 2 tsp dried rubbed 
salt and pepper, to taste
zest of one lemon
 
Put the sprouts into a pan of boiling water, bring back up to the boil and cook for between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on how well cooked you like your sprouts. Any longer is a sulphurous disaster, in my opinion. You could also keep the nutrients at their tippy toppest by steaming for the same amount of time. Drain and blast with some cold water from the tap to stop them cooking, and to keep the vivid green colour. Leave to drain and dry a bit.
 
While the sprouts are doing their thing, tear up the crustless bread and pop in to a food processor, along with the smoked paprika and a good pinch of salt and pepper, if using. Whiz this up until you get a crumb size that you like (not too dusty though), adding in the sage in the last pulse or two. 
 
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, or a small knob of butter and a tsp of oil, to a sauté pan and heat over a medium flame. Add the crumbs (they will sizzle) and stir them around to coat. Saute the crumbs until they start to brown – about three or four minutes. Mix in the lemon zest, check the seasoning  and set aside in a bowl.
 
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over a medium to high flame and tip in the cooked sprouts, as well as the chestnuts, if using. Stir fry until just starting to ‘catch’ in places then add the lemon juice and cook until the juice just absorbs. Decant the sprouts and chestnuts into a warmed serving dish and scatter over the crispy sage crumbs and zest, adding more fresh sage to garnish. This also tastes great with well-cooked bits of good bacon.
 
Get ahead: You can do most of this the day before. Sauté and cool the crumbs, storing in a container until ready to use; cook and cool the sprouts, and store. When ready to eat just stir fry the sprouts and chestnuts as directed, topping with the crumbs before serving.
 
Serves 6 as a side dish. 

Holiday Side Dish Special: Cranberry and Apple Sauce and Cranberry-Pomegranate Relish

DSC_0010
As you see, I couldn’t hold out any longer. My little wordpress snowfall was my unambiguous clue to unleash the festive food. And as we are well into December, and there is a layer of snow, it feels pretty official. As a matter of fact I am even sending Mr A  into the loft this weekend to fetch Christmas.  Continue reading

Coconut Rice with Sweet Potato and Black Lentils – a taste of southern India

coconut rice
It is the first week of December and already I feel behind. Since November, newspaper supplements have practically dripped with all of the food that editors breathlessly extoll us to make; and my heart involuntarily races at the sight of those excruciatingly detailed checklists that will ‘make Christmas effortless.’ And then there are the actual presents. It is enough to make a sane person go into meltdown.   
Normally by this time most of the presents I intend to buy are stashed haphazardly around the house. Such is the pre-maturity of my usual present buying (July) that I have sometimes even popped little notes in my diary with clues as to where these presents are secreted. But not this year. Continue reading

An Edible Mosaic Virtual Cookbook Launch, Recipe and Giveaway!

I have a very special post for you today. My friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. I’m excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing two recipes from the book! If you read me you know that sometimes I will do a kind of ersatz Middle Eastern recipe, according to what I like rather than tradition. But Faith is offering you the real thing, including the Arabic names of each dish.
 
 
The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. As someone who loves a plant-based diet, I was reassured to find plenty of vegetarian dishes, which mostly can be made vegan. 
 
Faith has a pretty unique story. After getting married, Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. I wouldn’t recommend this book for a novice cook, but anyone else who loves going out to Middle Eastern restaurants, and wants to replicate authentic recipes from this ancient cuisine, look no further. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
 
 
After you check out the recipe below, please head over to Faith’s blog to check out her virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating. Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes. Be sure to head over and enter. I also have a copy of her cookbook to give to one lucky reader, so be sure and leave a comment saying that you would like to win it.
 
 
The recipe from the book that I’m sharing with you today is for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, along with a variation for Mixed White and Yellow Rice. The recipe is actually vegan so you won’t have any trouble incorporating it into a vegan or vegetarian meal, but it is just as delicious served with chicken, beef, lamb, or seafood, and it would be really fantastic with just about any curry dish. (In the cookbook, Faith recommends pairing Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce with this rice dish.) Btw, excuse the small images. I am a dunce with technology and couldn’t for the life of me make her very gorgeous photos any larger. If you head over to her site you will see them in all their glory, I’m sure.
 
 
 
 
Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, Pictured with Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce, another recipe from An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair.
 
 
Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
ROZ MLOW’WAN
 
 
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.
 
 
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking
 
 
1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)
 
 
Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
 
Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
 
Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
 
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.
 
 
OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.
 
 
 
 
Mixed White and Yellow Rice
 
 
 
 
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking
 
 
1½ cups (325 g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
2 pods cardamom, cracked open
2 whole peppercorns
¾ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
1-2 pinches saffron threads or ½ teaspoon turmeric dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
 
 
Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
 
Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan, cover and place over moderately high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 
Add the rice, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the boiling water to the rice, turn heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give it a stir, cover the pot, turn heat down to very low, and cook 10 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time).
 
After the rice is cooked, let the pot sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer 1/3 of the rice to a separate bowl.
 
Stir the saffron or turmeric-colored water into 1/3 of the rice (the rice will turn yellow). Mix together the yellow rice and white rice; serve.