Veggie Quinoa Laksa + Garden Salad

Although I call this Laksa it’s really for want of a better term.  The recipe I based it on called it ‘Laksa’ but I’m not sure if it can really count as such with quinoa in place of noodles.  It’s also usually served with shellfish of some sort and this is vegetarian and anyone who’s been around me knows what I think of giving vegetarian foods the same names as non-veggie ones.  However, it’s neither truly a soup nor a curry so I’ll use the name to distinguish the style of it – if someone knows a more generic name I’d be happy to learn and use it! =)

This recipe was inspired by a somewhat lacklustre one from BBC GoodFood.  Most of their recipes are really good but sometimes you come across ones which are so-so and it was that so-so-ness of it that sent me looking for improvements!

 

Veggie Quinoa Laksa

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 thumb of ginger
  • 1/2 a red chilli
  • 4 tbsp thai green curry paste
  • 400ml can of coconut milk (low-fat is fine)
  • 600ml milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 175g quinoa
  • ~450g of fresh vegetables (I used: fine green beans, sprouting broccoli, red pepper, sugar snap peas).
  • 10cm piece of cucumber
  • Handful of coriander

Directions

  • Chop and add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and curry paste to a deep wok or saucepan, cooking over a gentle heat for a few minutes until the curry paste is warmed through and the onions just beginning to soften.
  • Mix the coconut milk and milk, add to the wok with the lime juice.
  • Stir well and bring the heat up until the mix is simmering.
  • Add the quinoa and cook until the seed coats just start to crack (should take ~5-10 mins)
  • Add the fresh veg and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the quinoa is fully cooked (you should see the tiny translucent spirals around the white part).
  • Split into bowls and top with finely chopped sticks of cucumber and a generous handful of shredded coriander.

Extra Notes

  • I learned recently quinoa is pronounced ‘keen-wah’.  Having never heard anyone say the word I had no clue, hehe.
  • Apparently this recipe also tastes really nice the day after (Andy took leftovers for lunch) – though if you leave it sitting the quinoa will continue to absorb water and it will thicken.

I’ve been trying to find all sorts of ways to cook quinoa so that Andy likes it and this is, so far, the only thing he’s eaten all of (and gone back for more, too!).

Unfortunately the rain has meant I’ve not been out in the garden as much as I’d like and when I have managed to get out it’s mostly been to pick salads for the kitchen so that’s all I have to show for the outdoors world this week.

Two types of lettuce, chives, pea tips, nasturtium with a few sage  and mint leaves.


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Leftover Squash, Sage & Ginger Soup


On Tuesday I tried this squash recipe from BBC GoodFood.  Andy’s out all week for extra drumming practice and the like, so I ended up with half a squash left over and decided I’d make a soup with it.  My aim was to try making a butternut squash soup that was thin.  Usually squash soup is very thick and can be a bit heavy and cloying which is great in winter but not so great when it’s summery outside.  The choice of sage for the main herb, instead of my usual squash favourite accompaniment thyme, was influenced by the fact that the sage plants I grew from seed last year have burst into full growth once again and were looking ripe for plucking!

Leftover Squash & Sage Soup

Ingredients

  • 10g root ginger
  • 10g fresh sage
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 knob butter
  • 350-400g butternut squash (about 1/2 of a medium sized squash)
  • 400ml chicken stock

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Peel and chop the butternut squash into squares and place in an oven tray.
  • Tear half of the sage and add it to the squash, pour over the olive oil and season lightly.
  • Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Whilst the squash cooks, chop the onion, garlic and ginger finely.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté with a lid on until soft.
  • Once softened chop and add the rest of the sage, mix and heat for a few minutes.
  • If the squash is not yet done, take the softened mix off of the heat and set aside.
  • Once the squash is done add it to the saucepan along with the stock.
  • Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Leave to cool, then blend (or alternatively, don’t leave to cool and have spatters of boiling soup launch themselves at your arms =(  Yeah, I’m really dumb sometimes…)

The soup ended up being more subtly flavoured than the main ingredients would suggest – the ginger adds a little bit of spiced flavour and adds to the aromatic flavour. As with most soups, it improves if left overnight =)

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Late Easter Treats

It’s been a while since I posted anything about cooking – I’ve been making plenty and quite a few tasty things too but for some reason I’ve felt really underconfident about posting on the subject – I guess possibly something to do with the fact there are so many amazing food bloggers out there who’re just so high above me I can’t see their feet for the clouds.  I don’t know why I don’t feel the same way about gardening – I’m a complete newbie with it, too, but I feel more of a sense of ‘sharing foibles’ with my gardening than my cooking, where it feels as though I’m sharing my ineptitude.

I’m pushing myself, thus, to post these even if they are now ‘out of season’ just so that I get back into the mode of publishing cooking stuff – I’d love to get back into doing my Saturday/Sunday soup recipes, especially since Mishi gave me the Covent Garden Soup Book – which has a recipe for every day of the year!  It was their soups, with the monthly seasonal changes, which added to my determination to make my own – I really liked them but they are were little  expensive and I figured I could have a go at making my own unusual soups.

Whilst hot cross buns are traditionally an easter recipe there’s no reason not to have them after!   I wish I’d taken more photos of these whilst I was making them but it was really late as I wanted to have them relatively fresh in the morning without actually making them first thing in the morning ;)  I have some pics over here, halfway down, from the last time I blogged about making hot cross buns.  Recipe is based on the bbc one here.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

  • 450g strong white / bread flour plus a few extra tablespoons for decoration.
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 100g mixed fruit and peel
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 150ml milk
  • 50ml of  water
  • 1 egg
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar for decoration

Directions

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl – flour, caster sugar, yeast, fruit & peel, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg – if you will be using unsalted butter you should also add 1 tsp of salt. Melt the butter and warm the milk and water.  Make a hole in the middle of the dry mix, add the milk and water.  Beat an egg then add it to the bowl, quickly mixing so that the warm water and milk don’t start to cook the egg.

Once well mixed, turn out onto a floured work surface.  Knead the dough for around ten minutes by hand – I’m not sure how long it’d take in a mixer – I didn’t want to use mine at 2am.  Put the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a warm damp towel and leave in a warm room for around an hour.  The dough should have doubled in size, if it hasn’t then leave it a little longer.

Preheat the oven to 200C

Turn the dough out onto the work surface, punch it down gently and roll into a vaguely sausage shape.  Cut pieces off about 1/2 the size you want your buns to be.  Take the piece in your hands and flatten it a little by stretching, pull the edges underneath and form a bun shape.  Cut a cross or whatever simple design you’d like into the buns and leave them, again lightly covered by a damp cloth, for around 15 minutes.

Whilst they are rising, mix four tablespoons of flour with water until you have a paste which is thick but still flows.

Once risen, use your flour mixture to make crosses or markings where you made the cuts.  The buns should then go into the oven for 10-15 minutes.  They are ready when they are a deep golden brown colour and sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Add the granulated sugar to a small pot with 1 and 1/2 tbsps of water.  Put the sugar mix over a low heat when you put the buns into the oven and it should be about ready when they come out – if it starts to burn or boil simply turn it off.

Once the buns are out of the oven transfer them to wire racks and use a pastry brush or similar to brush them with the sugar mix whilst they’re still warm.

Extra Notes

If you want to add extra juiciness to your buns then soak the fruit beforehand in fruit juice.  I soaked mine in orange juice for around 12 hours or so and this plumped them up well – making them softer once cooked.

You can use a piping bag to pipe the flour and water mix or you can roll up a piece of greaseproof paper into a cone and use that.

If you heat the sugar mix too fast or don’t let it melt fully before you brush it on the buns it can become very granular.  This isn’t a complete disaster as they’re still rather tasty and it can add a bit of crunch.  Andy apparently actually prefers them that way, too!

I made two batches as I wanted to make sure I had enough to feed ~15 hungry drummers with some spare and I used a cookie cutter to make circles on mine rather than crosses as the symbol the processional drummers (the group Andy is drumming with at Beltane) have on their tabards is a sun.

As well as a pile of hot cross buns I also took in some dyed eggs to roll down Calton Hill:

I used the instructions here and tips for making patterns here.  They didn’t all work out that well, but the mistakes often looked better than the deliberate patterns so I’m not too fussed ;)

Also, since it’s been a while since I posted one, here’s a silly tinfoil hat cat photo:

Sam is incredibly laid back and patient with us or possibly just too lazy to move when we put things on him…

Andy Walker liked this post

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Snow Day Soup – Purple Chicken

Due to spillover from last week, and plans going awry this week, I ended up with a large pile of veggies to be used up.  It was a rag-tag random collection – some looking a little sorry for themselves after two weeks in a freezer-cold vegetable compartment in the fridge but I figured what the hey, that’s exactly what soup is for, right? Throw in everything leftover which wouldn’t have made a ‘meal’ on their own and out comes tasty vitamin-enriched goodness.  Wonderfully perfect, too, for a snowy winter day!

Purple Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 sml red onions
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 80g broccoli
  • 250g red cabbage
  • 300g baby new potatoes
  • 100g green beans
  • Small handful of fresh cranberries
  • 3 stock cubes (chicken, vegetable or a mix thereof)
  • 800ml water
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 200ml milk

Directions

  • Chop up all of the veg roughly – quartering the new potatoes.
  • Heat a tsp of olive oil and add the celery and onion to it, covering and leaving to soften for 5 minutes.
  • Add chicken to the pot and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add all of the other ingredients except the lemon juice, boil for 20 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, take the chicken out and shred, setting the meat from one aside.
  • Add the chicken from the other thigh back to the pot and blend with a hand blender.
  • Add the milk, heat and add the lemon juice.
  • Mix well and leave to sit for at least a few hours.

Extra Notes

I have to admit – this soup, when first made, was so-so.  It was not bad soup, just not overwhelmingly ‘Mmmmmm’.  However, on sitting it really improved in flavour =)

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Sunday (Honest!) Soup – Parsnip and Apple

This parsnip and apple soup from CookItSimply was one I picked at the last moment but I’m glad I did.  It was super simple to make, tasty and surprisingly light.

Parsnip and Apple Soup

Ingredients

450 g parsnips (about 4 medium-large parsnips)
1 large onion
2 tbsp olive oil
250g Cox’s apples (about 3)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
850 ml vegetable or chicken stock
285 ml milk
Salt and black pepper

Directions

Chop the onion finely, slice the parsnips; core, peel and chop the apples.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions and cover with a lid to soften.

Once the onions have softened, add the nutmeg, apples, parsnips, stock and nutmeg, stirring well.

Simmer for around 15-20 minutes – the parsnips should be soft, but not falling apart.

Whiz with a hand blender.

Add the milk, season with salt and pepper.

Extra Notes

I sprinkled some chilli flakes on mine when done – it gave the whole thing a nice kick =)

Definitely a soup I’d make again – good quantities, simple ingredients and not too heavy.  Many parsnip soups are a little cloying but the apple seems to stop this one from being so at all.

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Sunday Soup – Curried Mango, Broccoli & Ginger

Sometimes when I see a recipe I must make it – this was one of those times.  Such an odd combination, for me, that I couldn’t resist finding out what it tasted like!

Adapted from this recipe at BBC GoodFood.

Curried Mango, Broccoli & Ginger Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • thumb of ginger
  • 2 tbsp Thai green curry paste
  • 250g broccoli
  • 150g spinach
  • 1 medium mango
  • 1 red chilli
  • vegetable stock
  • 142ml single cream

Directions

  • Chop the onion, garlic, ginger, broccoli, mango and chilli.
  • Heat the oil, adding the curry paste, and the above chopped items once heated.
  • Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the stock and spinach.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Blend with a hand blender.
  • Add the cream, reheat and serve.

Extra Notes

  • I used spinach and broccoli mainly because I didn’t entirely pay attention when writing down quantities for this recipe and didn’t buy enough broccoli – thus the spinach can be replaced with an equal weight of broccoli.
  • The soup is lovely when first made but matures really well – it was super on the second day.

I had to take a picture of the pot of ingredients – it was such a lovely mish-mash of bright colours compared to the slightly white-green colour of the final soup.

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Saturday Soup – Celeriac, Leek & Goat’s Cheese Soup with Young Leaves

What in the world are ‘young leaves’ you ask? Well, given the title was mouthy enough as it is, I decided not to add ‘and watercress and rocket and spinach’. I think ‘young leaves’ covers them well as all of them are picked when young and fresh – perfect for imparting a delicate, bitter or spicy flavour depending on leaf and cooking with the most minimal application of steam. This recipe was inspired by BBC Good Food’s ‘Watercress and Celeriac Soup‘.  As you might notice, if you peruse their recipe – they also use a lot of leek but sortof leave it out of the title.  I felt this was a bit unfair on the poor leeks as they’re as much a part of the flavour as the celeriac!

Celeriac, Leek & Goat’s Cheese Soup with Young Leaves

Ingredients

  • 4 leeks
  • large knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celeriac peeled and diced (I used ~700g of celeriac)
  • 1½ l  stock
  • 200g bag of ‘spinach, watercress and rocket leaves’
  • 100g goat’s cheese

Directions

  • Heat the butter and olive oil until melted.
  • Chop the leeks and put them in the pan with the oil and gently cook for around 5 minutes until they begin to soften.
  • Chop and add the celeriac and the stock (I used 1/3 ham to 2/3 veg stock).
  • Bring to a boil and then turn down and cook at a simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Once cooked, turn off the heat and put the bags of leaves into the soup.
  • Mix the leaves in, giving them a minute or two to wilt.
  • Add the goat’s cheese, season well then blend the soup with a hand blender.

Extra Notes

I mainly changed from using just watercress as was suggested by the recipe this is based on to using mixed bags simply because Tesco didn’t have any undiscounted bags of watercress.  Discounted bags, whilst super if you’re going to use them that day, aren’t going to last a whole week, even for soup.  However, if you can get bags of just watercress then go for it – the strength of flavour would probably make the dish a little less bland than it turned out.

I served it as the original recipe suggested – with a ‘crouton’ made from a slice of baguette and goats cheese – this was really nice, but the reason the rest of the cheese ended up in  the soup was because I can’t be bothered fiddling with that sorta thing every time I dish out soup ;)

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Sunday Soup – Curried Carrot

I bought carrots last week for… something and I cannot remember what so I decided to make soup from them.  I didn’t want to just make carrot and coriander and a quick search brought up this curried carrot soup recipe from Food Network.  I upped the amount of curry in it by accident (misreading teaspoon as tablespoon) but this actually gave a really nice soup, so I’ve modified my version accordingly =)

Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 5-600g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 500ml veg stock
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

  • Chop the carrots, celery and onion.
  • Add the oil and curry to a pan – I used mild/medium powder – and heat for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the chopped veg to the pan and mix well, letting it soften for ten minutes.
  • Add in the stock and tomato paste then boil for ten minutes.
  • Leave to cool and skim the oil from the surface, then blend.
  • Add the lemon juice, stir and serve.

Extra Notes

I often mix stock flavours unless it’s a particular flavour soup (chicken, for example).  This is a habit I learned from my mother and I’ve found that it really helps boost the flavours in some soups – lentil made with half chicken, half ham stock tastes much better to me than made with just one or other but, of course, using just one type would work and it’s all dependant on what you like!

This soup is warm.  I don’t really like ‘hot’ spicy food, but this has the kind of heat which leaves your mouth heated but not burning – perfect for me.  If you really don’t like a lot of spicyness you’ll want to tone it down a little, adding a little less powder and, conversely, if you like a little heat add hot curry powder rather than mild/medium.  A really nice soup to eat on a cool, misty autumn day.

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Halloween Treats – Toffee Apple Cookies

Gone are the days when I would don silly costumes and went around taking sweeties from strangers – now I have to make my own if I want any.  I decided to make something Halloweeny for the weekend but, despite being on a pumpkin kick, didn’t want to take the ‘easy’ way out.  I wanted something which really screamed Halloween to me and I definitely found it in this BBC GoodFood recipe.  Toffee apples are Halloween for me – every year, I await the glistening, sugary and unnaturally red apples, ignoring all the ‘chocolate’ imposters.  I must have one.

Toffee Apple Cookies

Ingredients

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 140g  caster sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 85g chewy toffees
  • 85g ready-to-eat dried apple chunks
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C
  • Chop the apples and toffee roughly – I cut my toffee pieces into 6 or so smaller squares.
  • Blend the sugar and butter together until creamed.
  • Add in all other ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Roll a small palmful between your hands and squish lightly before placing on a greaseproof lined / non-stick baking tray – making sure to leave plenty of room as the cookies spread.
  • Cook for ~10-12 minutes in the middle of the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before trying to pry them off any paper if you used it.  A spatula helps!

Extra Notes

Have an ice cube tray to hand and pour the egg whites into it to freeze.  Large eggs make about two ‘standard’ rectangular cubes.  Once frozen, put them in an airtight bag for later use – they don’t take too long to defrost when you need to use them =)

These are a little crumbly – maybe could have done with a little something more to hold them together – but they are also super tasty.  Who cares if your cookie is half crumbs when it tastes like toffee apple crumble? In fact, if you left out the eggs and milk it really would make a nice sticky toffee crumble top.  Probably a great base for other taste combinations – a few are suggested in the linked article’s comments.  I’d like to try something, perhaps, with the dried apricots I have leftover from another cooking experiment.

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Smonday Soup – Celery, Herb and Almond

Whoops, got caught out this weekend and didn’t get my soup done in time, so for this week only (hopefully)  we have a Smonday Soup ;) Inspired by this recipe, here.

Celery is the marmite of the vegetable world – most people either love or hate it.  I’ve gone from hate to love – especially when it comes to adding it to soups – so it was a natural progression to try a soup with it as the main ingredient.  Despite that, though, this soup is only mildly celery flavoured with the odd burst of it when you crunch through an unblended stalk.

Celery, Herb & Almond Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 6 sticks of celery
  • 2 tbsps fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsps fresh marjoram
  • 2 tbsps fresh sage
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 50g almonds
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 300ml skimmed milk
  • 3 heaped tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt

Directions

  • Chop the onion and celery whilst the oil is heating in a saucepan.
  • Add the onions and celery to the oil and heat until softened.
  • Add in all other ingredients except the yoghurt.
  • Boil for around 15 to 20 minutes – the celery should be fairly soft.
  • Allow to cool slightly then blend with a hand blender.
  • Add in the yoghurt, and heat back up, stirring well.

A relatively simple, quick and tasty soup which was made quickly and used products that the garden happily provided.  I don’t often get to use marjoram, but its flavour comes through very well – you could probably leave the dill out, though, as the other herbs overshadow it.

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