Vegetarian Dishes

We don’t all love meat, here are a selection of dishes that are either totally veggie or can easily be adapted to be veggie by simply leaving out the meat!

Strozzapreti

Strozzapreti - made for choking priests

Strozzapreti – made for choking priests

If someone had told me about a year ago that one day I would be making my own pasta and that my whole family would love it I would have laughed at you until I fell over… I always thought that making your own pasta required a massive amount of skill and effort, needing mad crazy tools such as a pasta rolling machine and the like and requiring a ton of space to hang your pasta to dry like an edible indoor laundry but it’s absolutely not! You don’t even need a bowl! Just your ingredients, a bit of time and a rolling pin!

Strozzapreti is a great place to start making your own pasta because it is ridiculously easy to make and form into pieces and when ready, it only take 2-3 minutes to cook.  It tastes great with most sauces and everybody can have a go making it.

The name Strozzapreti is a funny one, it means “priest choker” in Italian and the legends are many, my favourite one though is that in times gone by, the Catholic Church owned much unused land which they used to rent out to families in exchange for food cooked by the wives of the men who worked on the land. The husbands would be so angered by these corruptible and greedy priests that they would wish them to choke whist stuffing their faces with their wives food which in this instance was quick and easy to make for them, hence the name priest choker.  Another is that gluttonous priests would be so enamoured by this type of pasta that they would literally stuff their faces with it, choking themselves, sometimes to death! Geesh, I know I have a good appetite, but please!

Anyway, this pasta is a little different from most in that it isn’t made just with flour, eggs and salt. I actually replace most of the eggs with chopped tomatoes and their juices which give the pasta a lovely flavour.  Of course you can make Strozzapreti with eggs but I prefer it this way. Try using ’00 flour instead of plain, it’s made with a finer grain specifically for pastas.

This recipe gives you a heck of a lot of pasta, 6-8 servings in fact and be warned… it is VERY filling, so if you want to freeze some for another day, then do it in a ball and defrost it when you want to make more.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g ’00 flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large tinned plum tomatoes and their juices, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  1. Here comes the fun part… Begin by putting a large pan of salted water on the boil.
  2. Tip the four onto your work surface and make a well in the middle, kind of like a flour volcano on your kitchen worktop.
  3. Pour the egg and tomatoes into the  well and slowly start to bring it all together until you have a dough, much like a bread dough.  You might find it becomes either a bit dry or wet, in which case you either add a bit more tomato juice or a bit more flour depending on which it is.
  4. Take about 1/4 of the dough and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Place a cloth over the remaining pasta dough to prevent it drying out while you work.
  5. Roll the dough you have on your work surface until it is about 3-5mm thick. Them using a sharp knife, cut it into strips about 3/4 inches wide.
  6. Take a strip of pasta and using your thumb and forefinger, pinch it together until you can roll it, sort of like a sausage, this will form a long twisted tubes which you then need to cut into 2 inch pieces. Don’t worry about being precise, it’s not about maths!
  7. Place your cut pasta onto a floured board so that none of the pieces are touching, and when you have as much pasta as you need ready (a board full feeds 2 of us happily), tip it gently into the boiling water.
  8. Give the pasta a good but gentle stir straight after it all goes into the water to prevent it from sticking together.
  9. Once the pasta floats to the top of the surface, give it another minutes and add it to whichever sauce you are using (I use my Crazy Simple Rosemary & Garlic Pasta Sauce) along with a splash or three of the starchy pasta water.
  10. Serve in the pan with crusty bread and salad.
Categories: Italian Dishes, Meat Dishes, Pizza & Pasta, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Spice Quesadillas

Five Spice Quesadillas - delicious with or without meat!

Five Spice Quesadillas – delicious with or without meat!

What the heck is a quesadilla? I hear you cry, or not, you probably already know and if you do, then you will know that a quesadilla is a Mexican snack consisting of a flour tortilla (or wrap as we call them over here), filled with various ingredients and fried until crispy on the outside.  They are SO quick and easy to put together and cook and take just 15-20 minutes from prep to the table.  They are light and not overly filling and you can fill them with whatever you have in the fridge that takes your fancy.

Traditionally, they are filled with Mexican goodies such as cheese and refried beans, along with chilli, avocado and other vegetables and they are fried, but me being me, I like to mix things up a little bit and although I have some great recipes for more traditional quesadillas, this particular one is for a delicious Chinese inspired one.  I use cooked chicken pieces in mine and I also cheat with the Hoisin sauce (a delicious five spice Chinese sticky sauce), using the bottled version.

You might also notice that I cook my quesadillas in the oven not in the frying pan, you can do either, I just prefer the crisp you get from the oven… Don’t be tempted to brush oil or butter on the wraps, it won’t need them to crisp up and will only make them soggy and quite frankly rather unhealthy…!

Also, you can make it with or without the chicken so I’ve also included it in the Vegetarian Section.  And for those of you out there who like a bit of heat, simply add some chopped chilli to the mix…

So, here we go, this recipe will serve 1 person, to serve more, double the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 flour tortillas (use white or grain)
  • 100g cooked chicken
  • 3 stalks baby corn
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 mushrooms (oyster if you can)
  • 1/2 sweet pointed red pepper
  • 50g bean sprouts
  • Fresh ginger (a piece about the size of your index fingernail)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

METHOD

  1. Heat your oven to Fan 180C/200C/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Chop your vegetables into small pieces (apart from the bean sprouts, you can leave these whole), pop them all together into a small mixing bowl and add the soy sauce. Chop the chicken and leave it separate from the vegetables in another bowl and sprinkle the five spice powder over the top.
  3. In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the vegetables. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until soft and add the chicken. Keep stirring and add the Hoisin sauce.
  4. When the whole mixture is thoroughly heated through, take it off of the heat and spread half the mixture onto half a wrap and fold it over, doing this twice and laying both folded tortillas side by side on the baking sheet. I twill look like you have 2 half moon wraps on your sheet.
  5. Pop the baking sheet into the oven and leave to cook for 5 minutes, watching carefully to ensure the wraps don’t burn, as soon as they turn golden brown, remove them from the oven, flip them over and do the same thing on the other side.
  6. Remove from the oven and cut into slices.
  7. Serve with a rice salad or on it’s own – yum!
Categories: Chicken Dishes, Chinese Dishes, Dishes of the World, Light Lunch, Meat Dishes, Mexican Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chorizo & Pancetta Deep Pan Pizza

Choritzo & Panchetta Pizza

Choritzo & Panchetta Pizza - When the moon hits your eyes....

In our house we like nothing more on a rainy Saturday afternoon than to curl up on the couch, all three of us, watching a movie and stuffing our faces with this meaty, cheesy, deep crust pizza covered in delicious meats and cheeses and fresh basil leaves… It’s ridiculously easy to put together and even easier to scoff in one sitting!

It’s here that I hold up my hands, I am a cheater, yes, I admit it, I rarely make my own pastry and I rarely make my own pizza dough… I am a sucker for Hovis bread mix… there I said it.

There are no added preservatives in Hovis breads, which there are in most white breads unless they are organic, for me these preservatives can be a problem as I am allergic to them and I wake up the morning after eating them feeling like I have a hangover, which is particularly annoying if I haven’t had the debauched night before to go with it. I could of course make up my pizza dough with a nice organic bread flour… but the Hovis range of bread mixes include a white one for a very reasonable price (under £1 in most supermarkets), it’s so quick to throw together, rises nicely and hasn’t yet made me a horrible dry or soggy pizza base! So there you go, you don’t need to be a master baker to make pizza dough!

When it comes to toppings, this Mediterranean meat feast is my absolute favourite, but of course, the world is your oyster, you can bung on whatever you like, vegetables, mixed cheese, ham and mushroom, ham and pineapple, pepperoni, meat feast, chicken, leftover pulled pork (that’s a good one together with some of that BBQ sauce) and more, bung olives, peppers and anchovies on there, it’s entirely up to you!  This recipe as I said is for my personal favourite pizza though, chorizo and pancetta!

Because you don’t have to have meat on your pizza, I am throwing this one into the Veggie Dish section as well for all your vegetarians out there!

This recipe makes 2 large pizzas with pretty thick bases, if you want them thinner then cut the dough into thirds or even quarters.

INGREDIENTS

DOUGH

  • 1 pack Hovis White Bread Mix (or your own mix if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon oilve oil

TOMATO SAUCE

  • 8-10 nice fresh tomatoes (plum tomatoes are great, but if you don’t want to use fresh then use 2 tins of chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

TOPPING (PER PIZZA)

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 100g grated four cheese mix (available ready grated from most supermarkets)
  • 1 50g sliced chorizo (smoky not spicy – unless you want spicy that is!)
  • 1 50g pack pancetta
  • Handful of large fresh basil leaves

METHOD

  1. Firstly you need to make your tomato base so that it can sit in the fridge and develop a flavour while the dough is rising.  If you are using tinned tomatoes, sieve away the juice by pouring them into a tin and allowing the juice to pour away either down the drain of your sink or into a jug for making Bloody Marys later. Once they are pretty well strained, you can tip them into a mixing bowl. If you are using fresh tomatoes, things are a tiny bit different. You need to chop each tomato into small cubes, less than 1cm in width and length, try and get rid of all the seeds and juice inside as this will just make your pizza soggy (the same reason you got rid of the tinned tomato juice).  Pad the tomatoes with a wad of kitchen towels to ensure most if not all of the liquid is gone, then pop them into a mixing bowl.
  2. Finely chop your garlic and add it, along with the olive oil, oregano, Liquid Smoke and a grinding of salt and pepper, into the bowl with the tomatoes and stir.  Have a little taste, if you want more seasoning, then add it now. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge until you are ready with your risen and kneaded dough.
  3. Make up your dough by mixing the bread mix according to the packet instructions, including the tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of oregano, once your dough is in a ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and give it a good kneading for about 5 minutes. Then wash and oil your bowl and place the dough inside, leaving it to rise in a warm place (by a radiator, hot oven or in an airing cupboard) for 45-60 minutes.  When you come back to the dough it will have doubled in size and will now need to be kneaded once again and cut into two pieces (one for each of two pizzas).
  4. Turn your oven on as high as it will go, placing one shelf a third of the way down and a second tray another third of the way down, so your oven is cut into three basically. Leave the oven to preheat and be careful when you open it, I got a heck of a suntan on my face the first time I did this!
  5. Take each of your dough pieces and using a rolling pin and your hands on a floured surface, begin to make your pizza base, there’s no hard and fast rule here that says it has to be round, I have two large chopping boards at home, one round and one rectangular so I always make one of each shaped pizza so I have something to slice and serve them on.  When you have your shaped base ready place it carefully onto a piece of tinfoil which has been oiled to prevent sticking.  I usually then pop the whole base and tin foil onto it’s relative board in order to use the board as a sort of pizza shovel when taking the  pizzas in and out of the oven.
  6. Rip the mozzarella ball into pieces, dabbing with a wad of kitchen roll as you go (mozzarella balls are supplied in a brine and you want no trace of this all over your nice crispy bases!
  7. Next, remove the tomato mix from the fridge and spoon it over the bases, spreading it out with your (clean please) hands.  Then add your meats, followed by the ripped mozzarella, grated cheese and the basil leaves on, in and around the meat.
  8. Turn your oven down a tiny bit, about 20 degrees should do it, and then slide the whole lot into the oven in one swift move using the chopping board as a tool so you don’t spill the pizza or burn your hands. Obviously don’t leave the boards in the oven! Place one pizza on the top shelf and the other on the bottom and cook for 5-8 minutes before taking the pizzas out of the oven, removing the tinfoil from the bottoms to crisp up the base and swapping the two pizzas back in the oven (so the one that was on the bottom is now on the top and vice versa) for a further 5-8 minutes.
  9. Remove the pizzas from the oven, leave for a couple of minutes to settle and slice and serve!
Categories: Italian Dishes, Pizza & Pasta, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chunky Minestrone Soup

Chunky Minestrone Soup

Chunky Minestrone Soup - It's a big soup!

In Italian, Minestrone literally means ‘big soup’ and this lovely thick hearty winter warmer is anything but small! Really more of a meal than a soup it has everything you need from a meal in one single bowlful.  Even if you aren’t a fan of soups, give it a try, my girls don’t like soup as a rule but scoffed this when I first made it!

Chock full of pasta, simple vegetables and some other lovely garden goodies, my version of Minestrone Soup is not only healthy, but it also truly a ‘store cupboard soup’ i.e. most of you will already have all or most of the ingredients in your kitchen so if it’s cold out or you want something warming and comforting, then this is one to try!

Never a traditionalist, I like to ‘faff’ (as my Dad would say) with the ingredients and also add a bit of meat to my Minestrone in the form of smoked bacon and chorizo, but you obviously don’t have to use meat, so this one is included in the veggie section of the blog too! You can also add to it as you please, try adding different vegetables, like parsnip or turnip or the traditional Savoy cabbage or if you don’t like it chunky, then give it a good blending before adding the pasta.  Don’t like chunky pasta either? Simple, just snap a few strands of spaghetti into the soup!

Don’t forget the extra touches either, a good grating of parmesan and a sprig of parsley to serve atop your soup, alongside a beautiful chunk of fresh crusty bread and butter! So simple and sooooo good…

This little lot will feed 3-4 with large bowls… keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container, in fact, it tastes better reheated!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 900 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (fresh is great but dried has a better flavour)
  • Handful of fresh thyme leaves (I use a mixture of common and lemon both from my garden)
  • Handful of pasta shells (if you like your soup to keep a lot of liquid then use small shells, if you like it thick, then use large like lumaconi)
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley to serve

(THE FOLLOWING IS OPTIONAL)

  • 100g smoked bacon
  • 75g chorizo (as always I use sweet and smoky, but feel free to use spicy)

METHOD

  1. Grab yourself a large and deep saucepan and a frying pan.
  2. If using the meat, fry it off for a few minutes in the frying pan until browned. While the meat is browning, dice your potatoes, carrots and onion into 1cm cubes, slice your celery and finely chop your garlic.
  3. Heat the olive oil in the large saucepan and then, using a slotted spoon to drain off the meat fat, transfer the meat from the frying pan into the saucepan.
  4. Throw the vegetables on top of the meat and stir, leaving them all to cook together over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes until they are all softened.
  5. Stir in the Liquid Smoke, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, thyme leaves and oregano and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
  6. Give the soup a stir and add the pasta shells and allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Season to taste and either serve or allow to cool and reheat later (recommended).
Categories: Italian Dishes, Soups, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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