Saturday, 25 October 2014

Boureki - Greek Potato & Courgette Bake

This is another Cretan vegetarian recipe, which is filling and warming - great for the winter months ahead. It does take a long time to cook, so I would suggest making two and freezing one for another meal.
Traditionally, boureki is made with mizithra cheese which is difficult to find in the UK, so I've used feta instead.

Serves 4

  • 2lb/900g (unpeeled weight) baking potatoes
  • 1lb/450g courgettes/zucchini
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped mint or 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill leaves or 1 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8oz/200g pack of feta
  • black pepper, to taste
  • ½ pt/280ml hot vegetable stock (made with a stock cube)

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/160C Fan/325F/Gas 3.

Peel and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. This is best done using a food processor or mandoline slicer.
Thinly slice the courgettes the same way.

Grease an oven proof dish (approx 25x20cm) generously with olive oil and place a layer of courgettes in, slightly over lapping. Repeat with a layer of potatoes and another layer of courgettes. Crumble half of the feta over, and sprinkle with black pepper, half of the mint and half of the dill.
Continue layering up the vegetables, finishing with a layer of potato.

Mix the rest of the herbs into the stock and carefully pour the into the dish over the vegetables.
Top with the remaining cheese, an extra sprinkle of mint and drizzle the remaining olive oil over.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in the oven.

Bake for 2-2½ hours until the potatoes are soft (insert a sharp knife into the potatoes, to see if they are tender) - believe me, it will take this long to cook, as I have tried to reduce the cooking time and ended up with under cooked potatoes! 
If liked, remove the foil for the final 10-15 minutes, to brown the top of the boureki. Allow to cool for around 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
Serve with seasonal vegetables or salad.

Seasonal variation: Try swapping the courgettes for sliced squash, pumpkin or celeriac.

Vegan version: Swap the feta for a vegan feta-style cheese. When topping the bake, mix the crumbled 'feta' with the remaining olive oil before sprinkling over the potato, to help stop it from drying out too much.

Slow cooker version: Although I haven't tried this, I reckon this dish could also be cooked in a slow cooker. Follow the recipe above but reduce the amount of stock by half. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Brown under the grill before serving. Do let me know if this works!

I'm linking this recipe up to Ren Behan's Simple and in Season event for October.

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Spicy Vegetable & Bean Burgers

Spicy Vegetable & Bean Burgers
I've been trying to perfect a spicy bean burger recipe for some time and this is the best version I've made so far, in both flavour and texture. The mixture holds together well without the need for egg, so it's vegan too. My version is slightly chunky, but you could blend the mixture briefly, if you want to hide the vegetable pieces from fussy children!
  • 1 small tin/½ big tin refried beans - approx 8 oz/200g
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • around ¼ of a butternut squash or 1 sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
  • 1-2 tsp green harissa paste or chilli sauce, optional
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp chopped coriander leaves (I used the frozen type)
  • 2 slices of bread made into breadcrumbs
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4,
Put all of the chopped vegetables in a baking dish and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook for around 15-20 minutes turning occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and browned slightly.
Mix in all of the remaining ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). 
Finally mix in enough breadcrumbs to form a firm, but not dry, mixture.

Form the mixture into 4 large burgers using your hands or a burger press and chill for at least half an hour to firm up. Fry the burgers in a further 1-2 tbsp olive oil for 6-8 minutes on each side.

Top with salsa, guacamole or ketchup and serve in a bread roll or with chips/sweet potato wedges.

Leftover tip: Make this recipe using any combination of left over boiled or roasted vegetables, to make it even more economical.

I'm linking this post up to the This month's Extra Veg Challenge over at A Mummy Too, created by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy. 

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Peanut & Tamarind Falafels for National Curry Week

 The Spice Tailor sauce range
 The Spice Tailor chutni rangeAs you may have realised, my family all love Indian food. So we were excited to find out that Anjum Anand's The Spice Tailor range has now been extended to include a delicious array of curry sauces plus a tasty selection of chutnis. I've been testing out the whole range on my family over the past couple of weeks and they've been really impressed how tasty and authentic the sauces are. I've also loved how quick and easy they are to use.

I've been experimenting with different variations of falafels lately and decided to come up with an Indian-inspired version for National Curry Week, using The Spice Tailor products. I used two varieties from the new chutni range, which are a delicious addition to almost any Asian meal, either as a condiment or as an ingredient.

Makes 12
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 5 tbsp Spice Tailor peanut & tamarind chutni
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 tsp chilli paste/ hot chilli sauce
  • 1-2 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
Peanut & Tamarind Falafels

Put all of the ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, into a food processor and blend for a minute or so. Scrape the ingredients down from the sides of the bowl and repeat until you have a fairly smooth mixture.
Add just enough breadcrumbs to form a fairly stiff, but not dry, mixture.
Roll into 12 balls and flatten slightly.
Chill in the fridge for around half an hour.

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large frying pan, on a medium heat.
Cook the falafels for around 4-5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Wrap in a chapatti with salad and your favourite dip, sauce or chutney; I served mine with onion salad and mint sauce:

Onion salad
  • 1 tsp Spice Tailor mint leaf chutni
  • 1 small onion, halved and very finely sliced
  • 1" cucumber, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
Indian mint sauce
  • 1 tbsp Spice Tailor mint leaf chutni
  • ½ cup natural or vegan plain yogurt
  • a pinch of sugar, optional
The Spice Tailor range is available from most major UK supermarkets and online.
I received a selection of complimentary products from The Spice Tailor to review and to use in recipe development. All views expressed are my own and those of my family.
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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Spicy Mexican Bean Soup

Spicy Mexican Bean Soup
Autumn has well and truly arrived in England this week, and the nights are drawing in, so I thought that this hearty, protein-packed, bean soup would make an ideal week-night meal. You can make this soup as smooth or chunky as you like, depending on your family's preference. I decided to blend the soup and then add the beans for a bit of texture, but you could blend the whole soup (including the beans), or not blend at all if you want a more rustic, chunky soup.
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, made with 1 stock cube
  • ¼ cup dried red lentils
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tin beans, drained and rinsed - I used mixed beans but you could use any type
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped coriander
  • a little hot chilli sauce, to taste
Heat a drop of vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute gently for a couple of minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the beans and coriander leaves, and simmer for around 15-20 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are tender. 

At this point you can blend the soup (I used my tried and tested Optimum 9400 blender) and then add the beans, or vice versa, or don't blend at all!
Return the the soup to the pan for a further couple of minutes to heat the beans through before serving.
Season with hot chilli sauce to taste and sprinkle with the coriander leaves.

Serve with warm home-made bread.

I'm entering this recipe to this month's No Croutons Required Challenge, co-hosted by Jacqui at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa's Kitchen

I'm also adding it to this month's Credit Crunch Munch, created by Helen and Camilla and hosted this month by Hannah at A New Addition

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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Courgette & Halloumi Kebabs

Courgette & halloumi kebabs
After a long mild, summer, I'm currently using up the last of my homegrown courgettes/marrows. After appealing for recipes, Natalie via Facebook sent me her kebab recipe, which is so simple to make, but tastes amazing...

Serves 8
  • 2 packs of halloumi
  • 3-4 medium sized courgettes/zucchini or a marrow, peeled and de-seeded
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh, chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley 

Make the marinade by whizzing the ingredients up in a food processor, or chopping the herbs finely and mixing together with the other ingredients.
Cube the halloumi.
Cut the courgettes/marrow into similar sized pieces.
Marinade for about two hours (in the fridge).
Thread the cheese and courgettes alternately onto skewers.
BBQ or grill until cooked, turning once or twice. 

Serve with tabbouleh or couscous.

Vegan option: For a vegan version, swap the halloumi for firm, pressed tofu.

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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Dakos - Greek Bruschetta

Dakos - Greek bruschetta
We recently came back from a lovely holiday in the Chania region of Crete. As always, I've come home wanting to re-create some of the dishes we have eaten on holiday. The first one being dakos/ntakos or Greek bruschetta. This simple starter is traditionally made with barley rusks, but I swapped them for Krisprolls which have a similar texture and are more readily available. You could also use any good, crusty bread such as ciabatta.

The Cretans make these with Greek mizithra cheese, which is a whey cheese generally made from goat's or sheep's milk. I used a soft goat's cheese for the closest taste and texture, but you could use ricotta or crumbled feta instead.
  • 1 pack of dakos rusks or Krisprolls
  • 2 ripe beef tomatoes, quartered (or de-seeded vine tomatoes)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • ½ tsp Greek oregano
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g soft goat's cheese
  • A handful of Greek olives
Briefly blitz together the tomatoes, garlic and oil in a blender for a few seconds (it should be slightly chunky like a salsa). Season to taste.
Spoon the mixture over the rusks/Krisprolls and top with crumbled goat's cheese and an olive. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
Refrigerate for up to 2 hours before serving.

Vegan option: Swap the cheese for a vegan Greek olive paste (check ingredients for anchovies).

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Friday, 5 September 2014

Nectarine & Kiwi Smoothie

We're loving our Optimum 9400 blender and smoothie maker and using it most days. I think one of it's most positive attributes is that it's so quick and easy to clean.
This smoothie is Miss K's latest invention...
  • 1 nectarine, stone removed and quartered
  • 1 kiwi, skinned and quartered
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup ice
Smoothie benefits: Rich in vitamins C, E and A and a good source of fibre.

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mixed Bean and Basil Hummus - Suma Blogger's Network

Mixed Bean and Basil Hummus
Here's my second post for the Suma Blogger's Network. I decided on a variation on hummus using mixed beans rather than chickpeas, and Italian flavourings instead of the traditional Middle Eastern ones. I must say it worked really well and tastes great with crudites or fresh crusty bread.

  • 1 tin of mixed beans, rinsed and well drained (I used Suma organic mixed beans)
  • a good handful of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
 Suma Blogger's NetworkBlend all ingredients, except for the pine nuts, until smooth. Season to taste.
Drizzle with olive oil and top with the toasted pine nuts.
Chill until needed.
Will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge. 

As a member of the Suma Blogger's Network, I will receive a selection of complimentary products from Suma every two months, to use in recipe development, and will blog an original recipe for the Network. 
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey - A Book Review and Giveaway

 The Hundred Foot Journey
After reviewing several cook books with narrative content, I was intrigued by the offer of a review copy of The Hundred Foot Journey, which is classed as Foodie Fiction  - a genre new to me. 
Written by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey has recently been made into a film starring Helen Mirren . The film will be released in the US on 8th August and in the UK on 12th September. It tells the story of a culinary war between a boisterous Indian family who open a restaurant in a sleepy French village opposite a renowned Michelin-starred chef. 
The book tells the life story of Hassan, a budding young Indian chef whose career takes off in a very different direction to the one his family have planned for him, after they move first to England and then to France. There are touching and sometimes tragic scenes, as well as many humorous moments, as Hassan gains recognition for his culinary skills, much to (acclaimed French chef) Mme Mallory's disdain. It is Hassan's journey though, both physical and emotional, which grips the reader and shocks his family. 

Detailed descriptions of the Hassan's ingredients, menus and culinary skills are paramount to the story, however, I must point out (as a vegetarian) that this is not a book for the squeamish, as there are also passages depicting animal slaughter and butchery. I personally would have liked slightly more detail about Hassan's family, culture and the Maison Mumbai restaurant and slightly less about French haute cuisine, but maybe that's just me!

Having read the book, I can't wait to see the film, as I can imagine that Helen Mirren will play the formidable Mme Mallory very well.

Watch the film trailer here...

I have two copies of the book to giveaway (UK only). Just enter on the Rafflecopter widget below and leave me a comment to tell me which you favourite type of cuisine is. Competition ends midnight 24th August '14.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Integrity Statement
I received one copy of the book to review and 2 copies to giveaway.  The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sun-Dried Tomato & Chilli Falafels

We all love falafels, and the great thing about them is that they are cheap to make, a great source of protein and fairly low in fat (depending on how you cook them). I've been experimenting with different variations and found that these went down very well with all of the family.
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 50g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh chilli, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1-2 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
Put all of the ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, into a food processor and blend for a minute or so.
Scrape the ingredients down from the sides of the bowl and repeat until you have a fairly smooth mixture.
Add just enough breadcrumbs to form a fairly stiff, but not dry, mixture.
Roll into 10-12 balls and flatten slightly.
Chill in the fridge for around half an hour.

Heat 2 tbsp of the sun-dried tomato oil in a large frying pan, on a medium heat.
Cook the falafels for around 4-5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Serve with pittas, salad and your favourite dip or sauce.

Lower-fat alternative: Brush or spray with vegetable oil and bake for 10-15 minutes at 170C/160C Fan/Gas 3/325F, turning once.

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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Blueberry & Raspberry Smoothie

This is the first recipe we (well actually Miss O!) made in our new Optimum 9400 blender. It's a super-easy, but really tasty, chilled fruit smoothie...

Serves 1
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup ice cubes
  • ½ cup apple juice
Lightly crush the ice for a few seconds in the blender.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend on medium-high for 45-60 seconds).
Pour and serve.

Smoothie benefits: Rich in  vitamin C, Vitamin K and fibre. 
Top tips: This smoothie is quite sharp-tasting, so younger children may prefer it sweetened with a drop of agave or date syrup.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Optimum 9400 Froothie maker - a review

 Optimum 9400
I was delighted to be asked to become a Brand Ambassador for Froothie, who sell the award-winning Optimum range of professional and domestic juicers and blenders.

One reason that I jumped at the chance to try out the Optimum 9400 blender, is that my daughters both love smoothies. My existing blender can only make 'lumpies' so I generally spend around £5 per week on ready-made cartons of fruit smoothies. I'd love them to drink more smoothies, as I think it's a great way to get 1 or 2 extra portions of fruit (or veg!) into their diets. The great thing about home made smoothies, is that you can use seasonal ingredients to keep costs down and you can omit any ingredients you don't like.

Whilst certainly not cheap at a RRP of £329, the Optimum 9400 is an excellent piece of kit for health-conscious vegetarians, vegans and raw food enthusiasts. In a domestic kitchen, it can be used to make smoothies, hot and cold soups, slushies, sorbets, dairy-free nut and seed milks/butters plus much more.  In fact it has around 15 functions - do check it out on this YouTube clip to see it in action!

On first inspection, the blender looks and feels like a proper, heavy-duty, professional product - which of course it is - as the Optimum range of blenders and juicers are used in many cafes and juice bars. I found the blender really easy to use and importantly, easy to clean too. There are no detachable parts to screw or lock together and the flexible lid just pops on and off. The tamper allows you to stir and scrape the contents of the blender whilst the motor is on; no need to stop, and scrape the contents back down. Once you've made a smoothie, you just fill the jug with hot water and a drop of washing up liquid and blend for a couple of seconds. Tip out the contents, rinse and you're done!

 Buy NowBoth of my teenage daughters have tried out the machine already and have been really impressed with the smoothness of their smoothies and the speed of blending. 
Over the next few months, we will be testing out the Optimum 9400 Froothie maker and blogging our recipe ideas.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to test out the machine with a 30 day money-back guarantee, pop on over to the Froothie website.

Integrity Statement

I received an Optimum 9400 blender to review and to act as a brand ambassador in future posts.
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Win tickets to London VegfestUK '14

This year's London VegfestUK will be taking place in the Olympia West Halls on the weekend of Sept 27th and 28th 2014.

Vegfest hosts an amazing range of vegetarian/vegan food and drink stalls, kids' activities, talks, cookery demos and workshops, plus meet-and-greet sessions and book signings.

Special guests this year include presenters Amanda Hamilton and Sarah-Jane Honeywell, athletes Brendan Brazier, Patrik Baboumian, Fiona Oakes and Neil Robinson, plus Ms Cupcake founder Melissa Morgan, comedian Andrew O'Neill and Carl Donnelly.

Advance tickets are £10 in advance, currently available on a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE offer (which runs till Aug 23rd) at Children under 16 are admitted free.

I have 2 Sunday tickets to the show to giveaway (these will also admit a family of 4, with 2 children under 16).

To enter, just leave a comment telling me your favourite cook/chef, using the Rafflecopter widget below. Competition closes midnight Sunday 20th July. UK only.

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Easy Halloumi Cheese Pie

Easy halloumi pie
I've made this recipe before, but last time I made it, I altered it quite a bit and made pastry-less mini-pies! This time, I've more or less stuck to the original recipe...

Eftychia of 'Dream of Cakes' lives in Cyprus and mainly blogs dessert and cake recipes, however she also posts many other delicious Greek recipes, one of them being this amazing halloumi pie. I adapted it slightly this time (using filo rather than puff pastry and swapping the polenta for cornflour), but other than that I followed the recipe.

 Bookmarked RecipesAs you can see, it looks quite impressive when baked, but is really easy to make. It can be served hot, warm or cold and makes a great addition to a meze or a picnic. It also looks good enough to serve for a dinner party or special occasion, slices well and can even be (slightly under) baked in advance and re-heated if needed.

I'm entering this recipe to July's Bookmarked Recipes Challenge over at Tinned Tomatoes.

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Gigantes Plaki (Butter Beans in Tomato Sauce)

Traditionally, gigantes plaki is made from soaked, dried butter/lima beans and baked in the oven. My quick version relies on tinned beans and is cooked on the hob, but you could make a big batch using dried beans and cook in the slow cooker (boil the beans for 10 minutes before slow cooking). This dish can be serve warm a part of a meze or hot as a main dish with rice or bread.

My version costs around £1 to make, using budget-brand beans and tinned tomatoes. 

Serves 2-4
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes or around 400g/1 lb chopped fresh tomatoes.
  • 1 tin butter/lima beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • ½ tsp sugar, optional
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • a pinch of cinnamon or a small cinnamon stick, optional 
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, carrot and garlic for a few minutes.
Add all of the remaining ingredients, apart from the beans, and stir well.
Cover and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. 
Add the beans, stir and simmer (with the lid on)  for a further 10-20 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

 Vegetable Palette
Lower fat alternative: Just use 1 tsp of oil. 
Camping version: Simmer a jar of tomato pasta sauce with a drained tin of butter beans. Serve with warm pittas.

I'm linking this recipe to 'The Vegetable Palette'  over at  A2K - A Seasonal Veg Table.  This month's colour theme is red.

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