Tag Archives: vegetarian

Courgettes with pasta, my favourite pasta dish!

1 Jul

 There was a time when I hated courgettes but, over the years and after trying so many delicious recipes, that has all changed.  I love it when there is a glut of courgettes in the shops but, thankfully, you can now buy them all year round.  When we had this recently it reminded me how much we love it, and how long it had been since we ate it!  I can’t remember when we first had this dish, it must be at least five years ago.  I think our first time was because someone had given us a bag full of courgettes, they were not a vegetable I would have actually bought in those days!  The recipe would probably have come from one of the cooking journals I subscribe to and, if I remember, the picture did not look that tantalising.  I am so glad we tried it though.  Sometimes you come across a recipe that you want to make time and time again.  This is one of those times! We absolutely love this pasta dish.  You would not believe how fresh it tastes or how much flavour it packs in.  Before the recipe though, I thought I would look at some food trivia on Parmesan Cheese.

I can remember, many years ago, buying Parmesan cheese already grated and served in little tubs.  It was disgusting and smelled of sweaty socks.  Yuk!!!  The first time I bought fresh Parmesan I could not believe the flavour.  It is so strong, absolutely beautiful.  It really makes you wonder how they manage to transform such a great taste to an imitation of sweaty socks!!  A lot of people will not buy the fresh cheese as it is expensive and they may only use it occasionally.  Believe me, it is worth the expense!  I grate the whole block at a time and freeze it in a well sealed freezer bag.  That way I can take out just as much as I need when I need it.  I even freeze the rind, it gives a great flavour to soups!

Parmesan cheese is the French name given to Parmigiano-Reggiano, and one that most of the UK have adopted.  Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese that is cooked but not pressed, and is produced in Italy.  The name is protected under European Law and can only be given to the cheese produced in specified regions of Italy.  Informally it is often called the ‘King of Cheese’.  The cheese is made out of cows milk and any left over whey is used to feed the pigs from which Parma Ham was produced.  Great bit of recycling!!!  The cheese is as pure and organic as possible.  Cows can only feed on grass or hay, giving grass-fed milk, and only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter.  The only additive allowed is salt which the cheese absorbs while being submerged in huge vats of brine made from Mediterranean sea salt, before being left to age for an average of two years.  The end result is a fantastic cheese with a deep, savoury flavour.  It is very strong so, although expensive, you only need a small amount yet still get the full flavour coming through.

Anyway, I’ve tried to trace the recipe to a website and failed so I have written it out for you below.  I really hope you give it a try, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Courgettes with pasta and herbs.    Serves 4       About 530 calories

  • 12 oz/350g  spaghetti
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 650g/1lb 7oz courgettes, cut into thin ribbons (a vegetable peeler is great for this)
  • 25g/1oz butter cut into pieces
  • 50g/2oz freshly grated parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grand Padano if you can’t get it)
  • Handful each of chopped fresh basil and flat leaf parsley
  1. Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok.  Add the garlic and cook gently for a few seconds until it becomes fragrant.  Be careful not to let it burn or it will be bitter.  Tip in the courgettes, stir to coat in the garlic oil then cook gently for about 4 minutes.  They need to be softened but not soggy.
  3. Drain the spaghetti and add to the courgettes, along with the butter, cheese and herbs.  Toss them gently until the butter has melted, the spaghetti is coated with the cheese and herbs and the courgettes are evenly distributed.  Season to taste and serve immediately.  You can drizzle with a little extra olive oil if you like.

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Melanzane, all the flavours of the Mediterranean.

15 Mar

  My daughter-in-law is vegetarian and I am always on the look out for tasty vegetarian recipes.  The funny thing is that, since I have started doing this, my husband has started eating vegetarian meals and loving them.  I never thought I would see the day.  This recipe is an excellent example of a meal Terry can’t get enough of.  He loved it so much the first time we had it, that he ate the leftovers for lunch on the next two days.  That’s another thing that is unheard of!

I’m not sure what I like best about this meal.  It’s a bit fiddley to make but, once all the layers are prepared, takes second to put together.  It’s a meal in itself, just eat it with crusty bread.  It warms up well and I have even frozen it successfully.  Best of all though, is the creamy taste of the cheese sauce as it melds with the tomatoes and aubergines.  Mmm!

The dish is from Southern Italy.  There are numerous recipes for it, you will find one in almost all Italian cookbooks and I have seen a few over the years in the cooking journals I subscribe to.  I can’t remember where I saw this recipe as it was so long ago, but I have made it numerous times, at home and on holiday, and it always turns out the same, delicious.  If you are trying to watch the calories I believe it will turn out just as well if you make the sauce with semi-skimmed milk and use half fat cheddar.  There is very little fat in the remainder of the dish as the aubergines are blanched rather than fried.  As they absorb so much fat when fried, this will automatically make the dish lower in fat and healthier.

Aubergines are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking so it would be easy to assume they originated there.  Not so!  Aubergines are native to India and it is thought it was introduced to the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the Middle Ages.  There are numerous varieties.   The most common in Europe and North America is the large, deep purple variety.  In Thai they prefer the small berry type, sometimes green and sometimes pale purple.  Indian cuisine favours the small round or long thin purple fruit.  The seeds are bitter as they contain nicotinoid alkaloids, not surprisingly as it is related to the tobacco plant.  At one time aubergines were thought to be poisonous as they are related to the Nightshade family but in India they use it daily in cooking and even grind it to a paste to help heal wounds.

Anyway, to the recipe.

Melanzane

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 700g jar passata
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 2 large aubergines, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 500ml/1 pt cheese sauce (bought or home-made)
  • 100g Parmesan, grated.
  1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Make the tomato sauce by heat oil in a deep frying pan and frying the onions for 4 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure it does not burn.  Add passata, chopped tomatoes, oregano and sugar.  Bring to boil and remove immediately from the heat.  Set aside.
  3. Make the cheese sauce (if using) by adding 2oz/50g butter, 1.5 oz/37g plain flour and 500 ml/1pt milk in a pan over a medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sauce thickens.  Add 4oz/100g grated cheddar cheese and 1 tsp English Mustard.  Set aside.
  4. Blanch the aubergine slices in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes until softened but still holding their shape.  Drain onto kitchen paper.
  5. To assemble the dish, place half the tomato sauce in the bottom of a ovenproof dish.  Arrange half the aubergines on top then drizzle with the cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat ending with the remaining cheese sauce and grated parmesan.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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Vegetarian chilli – really tasty

3 Mar

DSCI0516I am beginning to think my husband is a closet vegetarian.  If my son and his family are coming for a meal I always have to cook a vegetarian version of the recipe for my daughter-in-law.  This time it was a chilli and I have to say, he admitted to it being outstanding.  I like it so much I opted for the veggie version rather than the beef chilli myself!

I always use canned red beans for my chillies, rinsing them under water as directed on the can before adding to my recipes.  You can of course, cook red beans from dried yourself.  Be careful, however, that these are cooked properly.

Raw kidney beans contain lectin, a glycoprotein that can bind to sugars in membranes, causing changes in the membrane that lead to agglutination (clumping of cells) and mitosis (cell division). In the digestive tract, they bind to intestinal cells and block absorption. An episode of red bean poisoning lasts about four hours, beginning with nausea and severe vomiting and proceeding to diarrhea. Hospitalization is rarely necessary. The kidney bean lectin (phytohaemagglutinin) is destroyed by thorough boiling for about 10 minutes, after which water should be discarded and replaced before cooking. Red kidney beans are not appropriate for crock pot cooking.

I found this recipe in my well used and trusted cookery book by Judith Wills -‘Top 200 Low Fat recipes’ and adapted it to my own tastes.  It is so thick and unctuous you don’t miss the meat at all.

Vegetable chilli                             Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper deseeded and chopped roughly
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 birds eye chilli, chopped
  • 1 tsp each ground coriander and cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 400g new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 large courgettes, sliced
  • 400g can of red beans
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • Tabasco to taste
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions and peppers over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened and just turning brown. Add the garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin and chilli powder and stir for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the Tabasco and fresh coriander, mix well and bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. Half way through the cooking time test the chilli for heat. If you want it a bit hotter then add a little Tabasco sauce.
  4. When cooked, check the season and serve with the fresh coriander.  I like to sprinkle mine with grated cheddar cheese. Perfect on rice or jacket potatoes.

 

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