Tuesday, 23 November 2010

You're All Getting Hats This Year

As usual, Christmas has snuck up on me. You'd think that I'd learned by now, but no. No learning here, thanks, we're fully stocked with the stupids.

But I'm still a firm believer in homemade gifts are the nicest to give (and receive!), so along with the baby jacket I've still not finished for little Henrik & the woo-you-got-married gift for Sue, I'm currently whipping up some simple gifts for my pals around the world (though you'll have to wait until after Christmas to hear about them. Sorry folks!). So I'm a One-Fox knitting factory right now. (And for those of you in the UK with people to send gifts to, last posting dates for Christmas are here.)

If you're stuck for home made gift ideas, you can't go wrong with a jar of Chutney or Mincemeat! If you're really short of time, but nifty with knitting needles, here's a hat pattern that knits up in a day (I make a few of these every year!) & an easy little Shawl that can be made with pretty much any wool you have lying around in your stash.

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting more crafty gifts, along with the usual babble about vegetables & the like.

Okay, off to chop some more wood for the fire. For the 21st Century has yet to reach North Lincolnshire.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Hooray, Pizza Day

Thanks to Jonathan Coulton for the blog title. If you're unfamiliar with JoCo & his Thing A Week series (where he recorded a new song a week for a year & made it freely available on his website), then visit his website for a folk version of 'Baby got back' as well as songs about zombies, robot overlords, monkeys, a creepy doll, mad scientists in love & furry lobsters.

Anyway, I'm supposed to be doing a recipe.

So, if you haven't already figured it out, today is pizza day. Pumpkin pizza day. But the pumpkin isn't part of the topping, it's part of the base. Fancy that!

This recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. You can halve the recipe if that's too much for you, or use the remaining dough to make a small loaf or some bread rolls (you'll need to leave them to rise until they're doubled in size before putting in the oven)

200g roasted pumpkin flesh
125ml water
1 tbs each of pumpkin seed oil & olive oil (or 2 tbs olive oil)
1 tbs maple syrup (or honey or golden syrup)
1 1 /2 tsp salt
75g fine cornmeal (or maizemeal or polenta flour)
425g strong white flour (or half plain, half wholemeal)
1 tbs easy blend dried yeast

If you have a breadmaker, throw in all the ingredients & use the dough setting. Go have a cup of tea or something while the breadmaker does its thing. If you've not got a breadmaker, pour all the dry ingredients into a large bowl & give it a quick stir around. Make a well in the centre & add the oil, maple syrup, mashed pumpkin flesh & water. Either get your hands straight in there or start mixing with a fork or wooden spoon. It will be messy, but most things in life worth doing get messy at times. Once it's a dough (if it's a little dry, add a little water, too wet, add a little flour), knead for 3 or 4 minutes, until it's springy & elastic. Put in a bowl & cover with a cloth, then leave for about an hour to rise (which is roughly how long it will take to get all the gunk off your hands). This is also a good time to figure out what pizza toppings you want.
Preheat the oven to 220C/G7.
Take a couple of baking sheets & scatter with a little polenta flour (which will keep it from sticking, but not leave an unpleasant floury taste on the pizza).
Divide your dough in half & set one piece to one side. Lightly knead your dough on a floured surface & roll out as thick or as thin as you like your pizza. Lay on the baking sheet & get started on the second lump of dough.
Once you've got your pizza bases rolled out & on their baking trays, spread with whatever sauce & toppings you fancy. Bake for around 15 minutes, or until the dough is puffy & browning at the edges.

You don't always have to go for the traditional cheese & tomato pizza. Pesto (either home made from whatever is in the garden, or shop bought), salsa (tomatillo & Serrano salsa is awesome) and chilli sauce all work really well. And the toppings can be grilled vegetables, steamed greens, toasted nuts, whatever you can think of. The picture above is of a vegetable pizza. The base was spread with a sauce made from 4 large mushrooms & a clove of garlic fried up in a splash of oil & whizzed in a blender with a pinch of salt. pepper & tarragon. It's topped with sliced chard stem & wilted chard leaves. You could have topped it with dabs of goats cheese or something blue & salty, but it was just as delicious without.

Om nom nom!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Pumpkin Dumplings

This recipe is inspired by the Indian snack Boondi (small, round gram flour balls deep fried in oil & served with yoghurt), but actually bears more of a resemblance to English dumpling, as it's much larger and steamed, rather than deep fried, though they don't have any raising agents like baking powder in them. So Pumpkin dumpling, then...

250g roasted pumpkin flesh
150g Gram flour
2 tbs semolina (optional. This gives the dumplings a bit of bite & texture)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Mash the pumpkin in a bowl with a fork. Add the spices, semolina & seasoning & mix thoroughly. Add the gram flour & work into a soft dough (if it's too wet, add gram flour a little at a time. If it's too dry, a splash of water). Roll into balls about the size of a walnut (if you have one of those coffee scoops that come with cafetieres, they're a quick way of making a good sized ball).
If you want to freeze some for using later, arrange on a tray & pop in the freezer. When they've frozen, tip into a bag & try not to let it get stuck behind the peas, only to be rediscovered 3 years later when you've completely forgotten what they are.
To, cook, just drop them onto any pan of wet curry that you're making, cover & leave to steam for 10 minutes (or you can just steam them & serve with yoghurt & a squeeze of lemon juice).

So, not really a recipe, but an extra to liven up something you're already making.

Here's some steaming over a pan of sweet potato & mushroom bhuna*
Om nom nom!

*Though it works really well with milder curries like pasanda & korma

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Warning: Does Not Turn Into A Pumpkin After Midnight

Okay, folks. I promised a week of pumpkin recipes, and I'm working on new & interesting ways to use roasted pumpkin flesh. So, open you're minds really wide... wider than that. And Behold!


Okay, so maybe I've gone a bit too far. Feh, if you can't get stupid on your own blog, where can you? This recipe is inspired by those Quorn roasts that you find in the supermarket freezers, but it's a lot tastier! It's been so long since I last ate turkey (and that was the Christmas roast - painfully dry and about as tasty as chewing on greasy cardboard) that I don't really remember the flavour. But this has a rich, savoury, slightly sweet flavour, you wouldn't know there was pumpkin in it without someone telling you. It's also vegan, woo!
It's a surprisingly simple recipe & mixes together in no time, the texture comes from both steaming & baking (much like with the Chorbeetzo recipe), which keeps it nice and tender while still being firm enough to slice. You can shape it into two Quorn roast style logs, or into one large one that can be used like vegetarian luncheon meat or deli slices.

1 cup of roasted pumpkin flesh
2 cups of water
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups wheat gluten
4 tbs nutritional yeast powder (if you can't get hold of any, don't fret. It just gives the roast a savoury taste)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp vegetable stock powder (marigold is really good, but any stock powder or cube you have will do)
2 tsp maple syrup (the secret ingredient! It sounds weird, but it works wonders!)
1 tsp Maggi sauce (again, this is to give it a savoury flavour. If you don't have Maggi sauce, Bragg liquid amino's, hendersons relish, vegetarian Worcester sauce or soy sauce will do)
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Put the pumpkin, onion, garlic, maple syrup, vegetable stock powder & Maggi sauce in a blender & whizz until smooth. Mix the gluten powder, nutritional yeast, spices & salt in a bowl. Add the wet to the dry & mix thoroughly. You're looking for a spongy mass, not dry & tough, but not sticky & wet either. Knead for a minute & shape into two logs (or one big 'un). Wrap in kitchen foil, twisting the ends firmly to make a log. Place in a steamer & leave steaming for 30 minutes (1 hour for the big 'un). Preheat the oven to 200C/G4.
Remove the foil parcels from the steamer & place in a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes (1 hour for the big 'un). The Not-Turkey (Turkain't?) will swell up but the foil will hold it in shape. Leave to cool wrapped in the foil (if you unwrap it while hot, it'll dry out and get a bit tough). You can unwrap it briefly to cut a bit off one end to try it, of course.
Once cool, it can be stored in the fridge. Then you can use it in sandwiches, salads, chilli, pasta, enchiladas, risottos, mole, jambalaya... anything really!

I'm going to play around with it a little & it will eventually become Christmas dinner. I'm mostly thinking along the lines of filling it with some sort of stuffing, maybe apricot & almond, or cranberry & pecans (my current favourite, I think they'd go well with the earthy sweetness of the maple syrup) and serving with roasted veg & cranberry relish. Sound good?

Om nom nom!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Pumpkin kebabs

This recipe is inspired by Monesha Bharadwaj's Shakarkand kebab recipe, a North Indian sweet potato dish from the indispensable India's Vegetarian Cookery book (one of my favourite cookery books, and one of the few where I diligently follow the recipes). The original recipe had chickpea flour, paneer & ginger - all things that go really well with pumpkins! The Gram flour needs to be toasted, which is a bit of a faff, but worth it for the lovely aroma that fills the kitchen!
Paneer is an Indian cheese, often referred to as Indian cottage cheese, though it's nothing like cottage cheese. It's a firm, dry, neutral flavoured cheese. If you can't get hold of any, feta will work, but leave out the salt in the recipe, as feta is pretty saltalicious.
Makes 8 kebabs.

300g roasted pumpkin flesh, mashed with a fork
100g Gram flour (Chickpea flour)
100g Paneer, grated or crumbled
4 tbs cashew nuts
1 tbs grated ginger
a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 220c/G6
Tip the gram flour into a small pan on a medium heat & dry roast it, stirring regularly to keep it from sticking. After 5 or 6 minutes it will smell toasty & delicious. Tip into a bowl & use the warm pan to toast the cashew nuts. When they are golden & fragrant, tip into a pestle & mortar & give them a quick bash. You don't want cashew powder, you just want to break them up a little.
Add the cashews, pumpkin, paneer, ginger, nutmeg, salt & pepper & mix together. Add the gram flour & knead until a dough is formed (it will be a bit sticky). If you have kebab sticks or skewers, divide the dough into 8 and shape around the skewers (if you're having a bit of trouble with things being sticky, try oiling your hands or adding a tablespoon of flour to the dough). If you haven't got any skewers, divide the dough into 10 & shape into little cigar shapes.
Place on a greased baking sheet & chuck in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve with wedges of lemon & a dollop of yoghurt.

Om nom nom!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Ermeni Pilavi (Armenian Rice with Pumpkin)

As you can probably guess from the title, I'm still mucking around with Middle Eastern food.
This is quite an unusual rice dish of Armenian origin, sweet & fruity & caramelised, more like a dessert than a savoury dish. It takes a little bit of time to prepare, but it is a delicious winter warmer of a dish, and well worth the effort. The Pilavi in the name hints to the method of cooking the rice, where the rice is browned in butter before water is added & the rice is steamed until cooked & fluffy. If your attempts to make rice end up with something soggy & disappointing, pilau or pilav rice will never let you down!

225g rice (preferably basmati)
675g pumpkin flesh, thinly sliced (you can use roasted pumpkin, which is delicious, or if you have a raw pumpkin, peel, deseed, slice & steam or parboil for 5-7 minutes)
1 tbs sultanas, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs clarified butter or ghee (regular butter also works)
600ml water
a pinch of brown sugar
60g honey (or light brown sugar)
1 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
90g butter
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/G6.
Wash the rice & drain. Soften the onions in the clarified butter in a pan. Stir in the rice, garlic & sultanas. Add the water, a pinch of salt & pepper, then bring to the boil & simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat & leave to steam
In a bowl, combine the honey & spices. If your honey is quite thick, warm it for a few seconds in the microwave to get it runnier. Grease an oven-proof dish and sprinkle with a little brown sugar, then arrange half of the pumpkin slices in a layer. Melt the butter in a pan & pour half over the pumpkins. Drizzle half the spiced honey mixture over the top* of all that. Spoon the rice over the top, spreading it out in an even layer. Arrange the remaining slices of pumpkin over the rice & press down firmly. Pour the last of the butter & spiced honey over the top & bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pumpkin is meltingly tender & caramelised on top.
Serve with grilled vegetables & halloumi.

No picture today. We ate it all.
Om nom nom!

*Not exactly health food, but you won't be having it everyday, will you?