Home-style Tomato Soup

tomatoes

Serves 2 for a main course/lunch or 4 as a starter

Simple to prepare and soft to eat, this is great for anyone who loves tomato soup. Doesn’t everyone?

You’ll see there is a lot of black pepper in this recipe. I think tomato soup and black pepper is a match made in heaven but ease back on the pepper if you’re not such a fan.

For a vegetarian version, just replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large celery stick, trimmed and finely chopped
500g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons sugar
500ml chicken stock
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
500ml milk

Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and sauté for 5 minutes until the vegetables are softening and starting to colour. Add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, stock, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently until everything is very soft, approx. 30 minutes.

Let the mixture cool slightly then blend until smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor. Press through a sieve to remove the tomato skins and pips. Wipe out the saucepan and return the sieved soup to it. Stir in the milk and bring to the gentlest of simmers. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Roasted Vegetables

courgettes

Serves 2

These roasted vegetables are simply delicious! Serve them on their own or with just about any protein or with rice or potatoes or whatever. They are also great with pasta, in a lasagne or in a quiche or omelette.

This dish is vegetarian and vegan.

Cut all of the vegetables into large pieces about the size of a man’s index finger.

3 large mixed sweet peppers, various colours, deseeded and cut into fingers
3 medium courgettes, cut into fingers
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into fingers
1 ½ tablespoons tomato puree, slackened in a little cold water
A very large bunch of flat leaf parsley, coarse stems removed, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp salt
2 to 3 tsp ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in a roasting tin, mix well and roast until soft and slightly coloured. This will take between 45 minutes and 1 hour depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your roasting tin. Stir the vegetables a couple of times during the cooking period.

Beef Casserole in a Slow Cooker

beef-cubed-lr

Serves 4

This is an excellent and simple beef casserole. It doesn’t need anything to go with it because of the large amounts of vegetables in it. However, it throws off a lot of sauce so if mashed potatoes are your thing, go for it!

8 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
8 celery sticks, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1kg stewing beef (shin beef, braising steak, knuckle etc.) cubed
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
250ml red wine
500ml beef stock (I use an Oxo cube)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
A generous pinch of chilli flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp Marmite
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Several sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)

Place the carrots and celery in the bowl of your slow cooker.

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and brown the beef in batches, removing each batch to a bowl once browned. Next sauté the onions until soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Sprinkle in the flour and continue to cook, stirring. If it starts to catch, add a splash of stock. Continue to stir adding the wine splash by splash, then pour in the stock and cook uncovered until the mixture has thickened and reduced. This is important to get rid of the alcohol.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and the beef, bring the mixture to a simmer, then pour it over the carrots and celery in the slow cooker bowl. Give everything a good stir, cover and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours.

Vegetarian Moussaka

aubergines-cropped

Serves 2 to 3

This version of moussaka replaces minced lamb with Puy lentils to make a delicious vegetarian dish. I think it is lighter than the meat version. It’s packed full of protein.

It’s very moreish, so if you are serving it on its own, serving 3 people will be a stretch. But add a salad and there will be plenty for 3.

This recipe will make about twice as much of the lentil mixture as you will need. The rest can be used another time; make a lasagne or mix them into a salad or eat them on their own with crusty bread or a baked potato. You get the idea!

For the lentils…
Several sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
250g Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 large celery sticks, finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes (preferably Mutti tomato pulp)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the béchamel…
35g butter
25g plain flour
450ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
Olive oil
2 medium aubergines, sliced into rounds about 1cm thick
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

30cm x 20cm deep-sided oval oven-proof dish (or similar), buttered

Put the thyme in a large saucepan of unsalted water and bring it to a boil. Add the lentils. Turn down the heat and simmer until just cooked, approx. 35 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Remove the fresh thyme sprigs.

Meanwhile make the sauce to go with the lentils. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onions and sauté gently until starting to soften, approx. 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the celery, cover, turn the heat down low and allow the vegetables to sweat and soften for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, chilli, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook covered for about 20 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the lentils and check the seasoning. The mixture shouldn’t be watery, but if it looks too dry, add a splash of the reserved lentil cooking liquid.

Next make the béchamel. Put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

While the béchamel is cooking, fry the aubergine slices in a large frying pan in a little oil until golden and slightly softened. You must cook the aubergine slices in a single layer, so fry them in batches.

To assemble the dish, spread half of the lentils onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of half of the aubergine slices. Add the other half of the lentils and sprinkle over the cheddar cheese. Add the rest of the aubergine slices to form a final layer then spoon over the béchamel to cover evenly. Finally sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the moussaka for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Hungarian Pepper and Chickpea Casserole

sweet-peppers

Serves 3 to 4

This is a fantastic, flavoursome vegan casserole that needs no more to go with it than a few chunks of crusty bread. It is also great with pasta or rice.

The overriding flavour is of smoked paprika which I love but not everyone is a fan – including LW. So, if you don’t like smoked paprika, just replace it with ordinary paprika.

This dish is easy to prepare and can be cooked ahead and stored in the fridge until needed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 bell peppers (1 each of red, green, yellow and orange), deseeded and sliced
Salt
Ground black pepper
700g passata
400g tin chick peas, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika
A generous pinch chilli flakes

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions until softened and starting to colour. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute, then stir in the peppers, salt and black pepper. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for about 10 minutes until the peppers are starting to soften.

Add all of the other ingredients, bring to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this stage the dish can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed. To reheat, tip the casserole into a sauce pan, cover and gently bring to a simmer.

National Food Days

cheeseburger-lr

Never mind traditional public high days and holidays, there now seem to be days set aside to celebrate just about everything from felt hats to cheeseburgers. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of them are American National Days.

Today – Thursday 15th September – is the day to celebrate three great foods and one traditional drink, as follows.

National Cheese Toast Day
Toast with cheese on; we all love it! But did you know that Del Johnson of Los Angeles claimed to have invented it in 1958? Perhaps he had never heard of Welsh rarebit which has references dating back to 1725.

National Linguine Day
Hey, who needs an excuse to eat pasta? Linguine, which translates as little tongues, has an elliptical shape, a bit wider than spaghetti. Its origins lie in Liguria, so not surprisingly it is perfect with pesto.

National Double Cheeseburger Day
Personally, I think you can have too much of a good thing, so if you want to celebrate a single cheeseburger, why not wait until Sunday which is National Cheeseburger Day.

National Crème de Menthe Day
I suspect you either love it or hate it served neat. But it is a popular ingredient in some cocktails. It was developed in France as a digestif. It is available either white (colourless) or green. Traditionally the green colour comes from the Corsican mint leaves that are used to make it. Today the colour often comes from the addition of colouring agents.

Non-food National Day
Just so you know, today is also National Online Learning Day and National Felt Hat Day.

More National Days
There is a website dedicated to national days if you looking for an excuse for a daily celebration.

Lasagne with Ratatouille

Uncooked lasagna pasta isolated on white background

 

Serves 4

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of an empty stomach must be in want of a lasagne.

(That’s what you get when you cross a love of Jane Austen with a love of Italian food.)

So, being that man, I made a lasagne using left over ratatouille. And it was fantastic! Creamy tomato sauce with vegetables, cheddar cheese, parmesan and sheets of pasta cooked until part crispy, part chewy, all excellent. As our American cousins would say, “Oh my God, it was awesome!” (That’s why I prefer Jane Austen.)

This dish is vegetarian.

Oh, and you first of all better check out my ratatouille recipe because you’ll need a portion of that before you start.

For the béchamel…
75g butter
50g plain flour
800ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
Ratatouille – enough to make three layers in your lasagne dish
10 to 12 sheets (200g to 250g) lasagne
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

You will need a 30cm x 20cm lasagne dish or glass/ceramic baking dish, buttered.

To make the béchamel put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take it off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, spread a layer of ratatouille onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of lasagne sheets. Add another layer of ratatouille, a layer of one third of the béchamel and sprinkle with half of the cheddar. Repeat by adding another layer of lasagne, another layer of ratatouille, another third of the béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Add a final layer of lasagne and the last third of the béchamel. Sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the lasagne for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker lr

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish

Ratatouille is a classic Mediterranean vegetable stew. It is great as an accompaniment to just about any meat or poultry or you can use it as a base for pasta sauces. I like to eat a big bowl full of it simply with crusty bread or potatoes.

I cook this dish in a slow cooker which I find intensifies the flavours of vegetables. I use a 6.5ltr slow cooker so there is plenty to portion up for the freezer.

This dish is vegan and vegetarian.

5 mixed colour peppers (capsicums), deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
4 medium courgettes cut into bite sized pieces
1 large aubergine cut into bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium red onions, roughly chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
A large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
700g best quality passata
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt
Ground black pepper

Place the peppers, courgettes and aubergine in the bowl of your slow cooker.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until starting to soften and colour, approx. 7 minutes. Add the garlic and basil and stir fry for 1 minute. Stir in the passata, vinegar, sugar, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then pour over the vegetables and stir to mix well.

Cook covered in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. If you are about give it a good stir half way through, taste it and adjust the seasoning. But if you are not about, don’t worry; you can do this at the end of the cooking time.

Jambalaya

tilda-long-grain-rice-258x300

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish

There shouldn’t be any rules with savoury rice dishes. You can pretty much add what you want – prawns, chicken or whatever. Some recipes call for chorizo but I find the flavour of that tends to dominate the whole dish. I prefer to use bacon and to substitute some of the chorizo flavour by adding garlic and smoked paprika.

This dish is easy to prepare and has the added benefit that you can make it well ahead and simply reheat it in a microwave when you are ready to eat it.

For a vegetarian and/or vegan version of this dish, omit the bacon and use an appropriate stock.

2 tbs olive oil
6 rashers of unsmoked back bacon, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 peppers (1 red and 1 green), deseeded and chopped
1 large courgette, cut into small dice
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
6 fl oz long grain white rice
12 fl oz chicken stock
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small tin sweet corn, drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika

Heat the oil and sauté the bacon until cooked and coloured to the point you want to eat it. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate to drain on kitchen paper. Add a little more oil to the pan if needs be then sauté the onion until softened and starting to colour, approx. 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the peppers, courgette and chilli, turn the heat low, cover and sweat for 15 minutes by which time the vegetables should be softened.

Stir in the rice and heat through. Add all of the other ingredients (don’t forget the bacon), cover and simmer until the rice is cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.

At this point the jambalaya can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed, then reheated in the microwave.

Red Kidney Bean and Vegetable Curry

Cumin Seeds

Serves a hungry 2

Hello! I’m back from my holidays and ready to start blogging again.

Here is a delicious curry that’s quick to prepare and, depending on the curry paste you use, it is vegetarian and/or vegan. I will soon be posting a recipe for a vegan home-made curry paste. In the meantime, this recipe uses Patak’s Madras Curry Paste which is vegetarian.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp freshly grated ginger (or use shop-bought minced ginger)
2 tablespoons curry paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Splash of boiling water (optional)
2 courgettes, cut into small batons
2 peppers – 1 red and 1 green – deseeded and cut into slices
400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat half of the oil – 2 tablespoons – in a large pan. When hot, add the cumin seeds and stir fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the sliced onions and sauté until softened and browned, approx. 15 minutes. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the ginger and continue to stir-fry for another minute.

Add the curry paste, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Bring everything up to a gentle simmer, adding a splash of boiling water if the sauce looks too thick. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needs be.

While all this is going on, you can multi-task by preparing the vegetables. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or wide based pan and stir fry the courgettes until softened and starting to brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl lined with kitchen paper. Add the peppers to the wok and stir fry until they too are starting to soften and colour. Tip the peppers into the bowl with the courgettes.

Add the courgettes, peppers and kidney beans to the curry sauce and stir to coat everything evenly. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

At this stage the curry can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed. To serve, just bring it back to a gentle simmer and make sure it’s piping hot.

As with most curries, I like to serve this with plain boiled white rice.