Tag Archives: No meat

Hot, cheap and saucy

Recent meals have been conjured up to combat a few sad truths: January malaise has set in, it’s freezing out and we have a LOT of root vegetables around. And did I mention it’s freezing?

Last Thursday I hit upon a winner, a perfection of a basic curry I’ve been trying to get right for a long time now. The trick was moving my sauce to North Africa by adding harissa. Who knows if I’ll get it right again, but with any luck the act of blogging it will help cement it in my brain.

I started by slicing an onion and slowly caramelizing it over a medium flame in a little olive oil. The trick is to let the onions sit undisturbed for minutes at a time, but without burning them. Take your time with this. It took me 30+ plus before mine were browned and totally limp.

To this I added a hunk of sliced ginger – I used shoestring thickness slices for no good reason – and two cloves of garlic, also sliced. Let these cook for 10 minutes or so, until the ginger is nice and soft. Turn down the heat if you’re worried about the garlic burning.

I then added a teaspoon/teaspoon and a half each of cumin, cinnamon, tumeric and corriander, a few grinds of black pepper (add a little water if there isn’t enough oil to absorb the spices), and a big spoonful of harissa paste. Harissa varies a lot from blend to blend, so the amount you use depends on how hot yours is, and how hot you like your food.

So now the flavors are developed all that’s missing is the liquid to actually make it a sauce. I added spoonfuls of plain yogurt and water until I was happy with the texture and flavor. To finish it off I stirred in a whole bunch of chopped cilantro and squeezed a lemon into the pot, and turned off the heat.

What did I do with my magical sauce? On day 1 I poured it over roasted carrots, potatoes, parsnips and cabbage (weird, I know, but weirdly good), and some couscous. Day 2 I added it to some good chicken stock I’d livened up with some fresh ginger and more harissa, and added my leftover couscous and veggies for the cheapest, most warming supper I think I’ve ever made.


Orange is all around us


Carrots salad with cilantro

I’m sitting here on a rainy November night, in an orange sweater, thinking about carrots and admiring all the orange food we’ve blogged about recently. Fall is here, and I’m trying to focus on the positives. Like, my orange sweater may be a slightly nauseating shade. But it’s cashmere. See – you win some, you lose some.

Now on to the food. One of the reasons I struggle with cooking vegetables is I don’t do sides. I’m a major advocate of one dish meals, and my one dish meals don’t often feature veggies in a major way. But I recently found a carrot salad recipe that’s easy and great. What more do you want from me?

Tunisian carrots (adapted from Epicurious)
Supposedly serves 4, but that hasn’t been my experience.

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the carrots in a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 6-7 minutes. You want the carrots on the way to tender, but with plenty of bite left – especially if you’re like me and think cooked carrots are a bit sad. Drain.

In a skillet, or at least wide-bottomed pot, put the olive oil, cumin and cayenne. After about a minute, add the carrots, vinegar and water. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. The carrots could be chilled completely if you don’t want to eat them right away, but at least give them 10-15 minutes to be not hot. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. (The point is not to let the hot carrots cook the cilantro.)

I can’t tell you how it holds up as leftovers, because we’ve never had any.



We still have about this much left. Photo courtesy of flickr user tamaradulva, used with a Creative Commons license.

We still have about this much left. Photo courtesy of flickr user tamaradulva, used with a Creative Commons license.

Though the internet tells me kale season is usually in deepest winter, our box o’ veggies has been brimming with it in recent weeks. Which, sadly, means our fridge has been brimming with bags of it. The one dish I’ve made before that uses kale (I’m new to vegetables, remember) is far too wintery for even this chilly September. I’m clinging to the notion of warmth as long as I possibly can.

So, naturally, I asked my good friend epicurious and came up with this recipe for sauteed kale with smoked paprika. We built a whole Mediterraneany tapasy meal around it, and it was really delicious. The recipe as written was too oniony for me, but I recognize that my onion-skeptic ways put me well in the minority.

The recipe is very simple, and I won’t bother repeating the whole thing here (that’s what the link is for). The basic idea, though, is prep your kale leaves and rough chop them, and cook them in boiling water for about five minutes. Drain well and move them in to a large pan with softened onions, olive oil, smoked paprika and a shake or two of chili flakes. Sautee for a few minutes and serve. Really easy.

So easy in fact that, having barely made a dent in the kale stash, I tweaked the recipe and made it again – this time with a French accent. The preparation was the same, but I replaced the onion with thinly sliced leeks, and the paprika with tarragon and a very small amount of mint. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that it was not very attractive, but it was just as delicious the official version.

So bottom line: high marks for ease, taste and adaptability. I approve!


When breakfast takes 8 years

As long as we’re confessing kitchen failures, I’ll admit to something sad: I can’t fry eggs. Either I don’t cook the white enough, the yolk ends up solid, or sometimes I wind up with a pathetic combination of the two. But because I make really excellent scrambled eggs, I’ve never let this particular deficiency get me too down.

There is one recipe, however, that frustratingly highlights this failure: Spaghetti with fried eggs. I first came across it  in my first Mark Bittman cookbook, a gift from my mom not too long after I first started living on my own. The book was great – short recipes, few ingredients, and they didn’t turn out vast quantities of food. This recipe seemed particularly useful, since it only needed three ingredients I always had on hand, took 10 minutes and I could easily throw in a vegetable if so inclined.

If only I could fry eggs. I tried it out a few times, but, well, it just never worked for me

I can’t remember the last time I did a proper shop, so all I could find to eat were eggs and an array of just about every carb but bread, I decided to try again. I put a small serving of pasta on to boil (I prefer shapes to the spaghetti family), and a couple of minutes before it was ready I turned on the flame under a frying pan with a healthy splash of olive oil. One of the many things that always goes wrong for me in the egg-frying department is the white seems to spread out to cover much of the pan. While very annoying in typical breakfast scenarios, it was kind of perfect this time because you don’t really want big clumps of cooked egg white in your pasta.

I drained the pasta when it reached my preferred level of doneness, and in a crucial step I suspect I may have skipped over in past, tossed it in some olive oil. When the egg was done – yolk runny, white just about cooked – tipped it out of the pan onto my pasta, and tossed it all together, breaking up the egg as I went along. The heat of the pasta finished cooking the white, and the lovely runny yolk coated the pasta, making a silky sauce.

I finished the dish with salt, pepper and a splash of tabasco. It was great!

Maybe I’ll be able to poach eggs by 2017…


Musings on (not) eating meat

A veggie dish I make - lentils with spiced herb butter

A veggie dish I make - lentils with spiced herb butter

The spate of articles about the evils of factory farming inspired by the recent pig flu scare rekindled my guilt about eating factory farmed meat.  However, the realities of my finances mean that if I upgrade to more ethical meat I’d be eating vegetarian most of the week (on a related note, as the Guardian’s dinner-for-two-for-a-fiver series last week illustrated, budget food basically has to be vegetarian).

My problem is that when ever I look for vegetarian recipes, I never find anything that appeals to me.  Exhibit A…Epicurious’s top-rated vegetarian main courses: Continue reading

So many leeks

One of the things I’ve noticed since starting to blog is how often I’m driven to find new recipes by the sheer volume of any one ingredient piling up in the fridge. Lately, that catalyst ingredient has been leeks.

I’ve already blogged about one of my favorite dishes involving leeks, but that one involves a whole lot of other ingredients, too. This particular glut required something more focused, so as ever I hit the books.

I started out with a very simple Mark Bittman recipe for braised leeks. I went that route last weekend, and decided half way through cooking that I don’t really like leeks enough to eat them quite so plainly alone as that. I decided to incorporate the cooked leeks into a salad, but that involved slicing them post cooking, and it was basically a great big mess. Promising, but not quite there. I tried again this evening, and think I hit the nail on the head – a warm salad with a leek and carrot vinaigrette. Continue reading

Cold sesame noodles

The inevitable happened last weekend, and I didn’t make it to the farmers’ market on Saturday. Jesse and I had made a rare venture out of the neighborhood and we were having such a nice time I couldn’t be bothered to rush back just for a few pieces of chicken. Besides, I can make do for a week, right? And there’s lots of nice takeout around, right?

So, three meals in and no-meat-in-the-house week is going OK. Though clearly it could use a better name. Monday was chickpea curry, which I’ll post about if I ever get the recipe sorted out, and Tuesday was Jesse’s favorite, Thai curry soup.

Last night, however, was far and away the winner: cold sesame noodles. I love this dish, and since I avoid chinese restaurants in London and can’t make a good peanut sauce, it’s been a long time since I had it. But I saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen last week and thought I’d give it a go. It was perfect. I was so excited! And I’m thrilled I get to have the leftovers for lunch today!

To make the sauce, puree:

So comically ugly I had to include it

So comically ugly I had to include it

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1-2 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
Heat – I added a few good squeezes of sriracha, but add however much or little chili sauce you like

I tossed this with 250 grams of soba noodles, cooked and rinsed, and a chopped red pepper and half a cucumber. It was really, realy tasty.

Full recipe on Smitten Kitchen.


Using up the leftovers

Besides food (charoset, latke batter, applesauce, a bit of lamb, etc, etc), I had a lot of ingredients left over from our Jewish food extravaganza the other day.  I already told you about the chicken curry salad I made to utilise the chicken that went into our stock, but I still had  feta, greens (pea shoots, spinach, kale), yogurt, and dill sitting in the fridge.  As I’m trying to waste less food at the moment, I consulted Epicurious (who else?) for recipe ideas.

Searching “feta greens” turned up this recipe for penne, green olives and feta as the third option, so I went with that.  I don’t eat much pasta these days (I think my days carbo-loading as an athlete put me off the stuff), but I find fresh spring pastas more appealing.  I made some modifications to the recipe, namely leaving out the green olives because I hate them and all their relatives.  I also didn’t use parsley because I didn’t have any, and a quick internet search persuaded me I couldn’t use coriander in its stead (digression – who are all these people who apparently harbor a deep hatred for coriander?  It’s such goodness).  The result was easy, healthy, and tasty.  My one recommended change would be to chop the spinach.

Fresh yogurt and dill biscuits

Fresh yogurt and dill biscuits

The Kitchn then fortuitously posted a recipe for biscuits made with yogurt and dill, which killed my two other leftover birds with one stone.  Before our British readers get too disgusted, American biscuits are savoury.  I was able to whip up the dough in no time flat, thanks to the food processor.  I had to add a bit of milk to the yogurt specified in the recipe to make the dough wet enough to totally combine.  I’ve cooked the biscuits in small batches as I wanted them and left the rest of the dough in the fridge so I can always eat them piping hot.  Yum!

– Anna

Overcoming fears, polenta edition

Beans on toast: a hallmark of sad British cooking. Also, delicious (see: New Yorker cartoon). It’s a staple of our Sunday brunches (chile garlic sausage, beans on toast with malt vinegar and tabasco,  mediocre coffee). Beans + carb = yum, so why not baked beans and polenta?

Sorry, I didn't remember the camera until a few bites in

Sorry, I didn't remember the camera until a few bites in

Now, a little back story. In the past year I have developed a fear of polenta. I have absolutely no idea why. We’ve had a package of it in the cupboard for months and months, and I never knew what to do with it. My protein tends to the Asian, and it always struck me as an odd accompaniment to food involving soy sauce. But one weekend morning I was feeling so damn chipper (the sun was shining, it does powerful things to me) I thought I’d give it a go.

Baked beans and polenta? It was ok. The beans were reduced salt and sugar – any sweeter and I don’t think it would have worked at all. But the polenta itself was creamy and satisfying – and a treat fried later in the afternoon. And I was on to something with this bean and polenta combo. All week I pondered a reprise. I googled black beans and polenta, and kept coming back to a casserole that involves ‘polenta rounds’. What in the world is a polenta round? Undettered at around 5 last Saturday I just gave up and went my own way: polenta and black beans with broccoli rabe on the side.

Oh my god it was good. And meat-free! And how awesome is it that black beans smell so meaty?

Continue reading

Cheap and cheerful: Garlicky noodle soup

With Jesse out of town for 10 days and a hectic few weeks after that, our cupboards were looking seriously pathetic. We had a food delivery coming in a few nights so didn’t want to shop, and needed to find something to fill us up on a chilly spring night.

The base of a very cheap dinner

The base of a very cheap dinner

What we had: dry pasta, garlic and assorted frozen vegetables. You could see a general idea take shape, but when you hate tomatoes, improvising pasta sauce is generally too much effort. However, Mark Bittman has a recipe for garlicky vermicelli in broth that, when you come right down to it, really only needs noodles and garlic for a passable supper. And with a few more ingrdients it’s good enough even for nights when you aren’t in desperate straits.

Disclaimer: I have yet to find a way to do this that doesn’t result in an amusing but very real mess.

Start with half a pound of angel hair, or some other fine dry pasta, and find some way to break the noodles up into small pieces. I’ve tried breaking them by hand, putting them in a bag and bashing them with a rolling pin, double bagging them, etc. It’s always fun, but I’ll never get all the broken strands of capellini out of my How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Next, peel and mince half a head of garlic.

Put 1/4 cup of olive oil in a deep pot over medium high heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes and then add the broken pasta. The idea is to get the pasta toasted and brown. It won’t brown evenly, but after 7-10 minutes of frequent stirring it should all be golden, with some bits nice and dark.

Add 4-5 cups of water or vegetable stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes, until the pasta is cooked, adding more liquid if needed/desired. I threw in some frozen spinach, and have added chopped broccoli rabe near the end of the cooking time in the past for a bit of color/nutrition. Garnish with some grated Parmesan if you’re so inclined, and enjoy!