Cauliflower & Cheese Croquettes

They had me at croquette. And cheese. This recipe appeared in the May 2017 edition of delicious magazine and it immediately appealed to me. And boy was it good. The texture was perfect — crispy on the outside, soft, creamy, gooey on the inside. Sooo tasty. Serve with mayo or Greek yogurt dipping sauce. Serve with a side salad.

Here’s how to make them. This makes enough for 2 people for 2 meals, so quite a bit.

  1. Chop a head of cauliflower into florets. Preheat over to 200C, and roast florets with a bit of olive oil and seasoning, for 20 minutes.
  2. When the cauliflower is roasted, whizz half of them, with 150ml milk, using a food processor or stick blender. Roughly chop the remaining cauliflower and set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: melt 50g butter in a saucepan and stir in 75g plain flour [I found I needed a bit more better]. Gradually whisk in 350ml milk and stir to make a smooth, thick sauce.
  4. Add the following to a mixing bowl: the sauce, 100g grated cheddar, a pinch of nutmeg, 2 spring onions (chopped), and 2tbsp olive oil, and all of the cauliflower. Cool, and then chill for 2 hours. The magazine recommends using cling film and allowing it to touch the top of the mixture to prevent a skin forming.
  5. Get ready to form the croquettas: in bowl 1, beat 2 eggs; in bowl 2, mix 150g Panko breadcrumbs with 30g Parmesan. With floured hands, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls, flatten slightly, and then roll in egg and then breadcrumbs. I did this as I went, batch by batch.
  6. Time for frying: the recipe recommends 1L sunflower oil. I did not use that much (probably about half). You want the oil hot — 180C on a digital thermometer (or until a piece of bread turns golden in 30 seconds).
  7. Fry the croquettes for a couple of minutes on each side. Leave to dry on a paper-toweled plate.

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Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Bake

Soon after I posted saying I’m not cooking much new…I have a couple of posts in the pipeline.

This is like a mac & cheese except solely with vegetables. I’m not sure about elsewhere, but cauliflower rice is everywhere here: even in tiny shops it’s available, pre-chopped. I picked some up on a whim and for a couple of days mulled over what to do with it. Since we all know that I love cheese…it had to be something cheesy in the end. I loosely adapted this recipe.

I didn’t have buffalo sauce (it doesn’t seem to exist here? Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough), so made the recipe a simple “mac and cheese,” with bechamel sauce, cheese (mature cheddar and Parmesan), and “pasta” (vegetables). The original recipe is with shrimp, but, again, I omitted this.

I won’t lie: this was not the tastiest or most thrilling dish I’ve ever made. In hindsight I would have added some sharp blue cheese to it, and if I make it again I think I’ll do that. Nevertheless, it wasn’t dull or bland — I had it with a side salad and they worked well together. I don’t think I’d go to the trouble of mincing the cauliflower by hand to make this though — some shortcuts are worth it.

cauli cheddar bake

 

Gnocchi with Mushroom & Kale Cream Sauce

Welcome 2017
Happy new year readers! I’m starting 2017 off not with a ‘new year new you’ green smoothie or broth, but with some comfort food. It hasn’t exactly been an easy slide into 2017 for me, although I knew it wouldn’t be. My 2016 ended with a whirlwind of change: I got a full-time job! After 4 years as a student/very low-paid adjunct lecturer, I am very pleased about this development. However…the job involves me spending my weeks in the north of England and my weekends in London, which will radically change the way I live plan and cook meals. I start next week, and am currently in a stressful fog of marking, flat-hunting, and preparing for this new job. As ever, being in the kitchen remains a form of solace.

Obviously, the blog is about to undergo a bit of a change of focus, and probably less frequent posting in the short term. I will be cooking in a totally new way and the blog will reflect that. Hopefully you will still want to continue reading. 😉

The dish
Incidentally, I had never bought gnocchi until a couple of months ago (though have made it before). I picked up a couple of packages, thinking it would be a good to throw together on evenings when I didn’t have anything planned.

I can’t find the exact recipe I used online, but this one is similar. Although it has the taste of a dish that took much longer, this can easily be made in under half an hour. The sauce is made from sauteed mushrooms, cream (~150ml), stock (~150ml), thyme, sage, and salt and pepper. The original recipe called for spinach, but I used kale instead as I prefer a sturdier leaf in this type of dish. I also modified the cheese – the recipe called originally for 75g of Gorgonzola, but I used Stilton, and much less of it, and then topped with Parmesan.

Somehow this dish manages to be comforting but not too cloying or heavy, despite the cream. It’s a great one to throw together quickly — tasty, easy, satisfying.

gnocchi

 

“Green Goddess” Mac & Cheese

The term green goddess seems to be everywhere these days. I’m not particularly fond of it, since it seems to be one of those terms that can be appropriated for everything from smoothies to face masks, but I’ve left it in the title because it sounds better than ‘healthier mac and cheese’ or ‘mac and cheese with kale, basil, and spinach.’

I’ll get straight to it: this was a real winner for us. I added in curly kale in addition to the basil and spinach. It’s fairly easy to make — pureeing the greens just takes a bit of extra time. There’s still lots of cheese, but you do feel a bit better eating this knowing that there is some healthy bits! It was absolutely delicious and will become a part of my regular rotation of meals.

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Cauliflower Pakoras with Tomato & Ginger Soup

Now that fall is here, sometimes you just crave a simple, healthy, fulfilling meal. That’s how I would describe this one. Both recipes come from Vij’s Indian Cuisine. The book says that they serve the two dishes together in their restaurant, so that is exactly what I decided to do as well.

We had this on a Monday and I made the soup the day before, so just had to warm it up. (This type of prep is something I am trying to do more of — I will get into it more in a future post). The soup is very gingery. It calls for 30g; I didn’t have quite that much so used around 25g. With 15-20 curry leaves, 1tbsp ground coriander, and 1 tsp cayenne as well, it’s pungent, but not offensively so. I liked it.

Onto the pakoras: I decided that pakoras for 6 would be too much, so modified the recipe to make enough for 4. Even so, I ended up with had a huge batch and was able to freeze 2/3 of them. You make them by combining chickpea flour, buttermilk, a potato (which I cut up and parboiled beforehand), cauliflower florets (most of a large cauliflower), hot peppers of your choice, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt. What I liked about making these is that they were so easy to fry — I didn’t have to worry about them falling apart. As long as the oil is hot enough (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way over the past few years!), they are remarkably stable. You can also play around with the ingredients as well. As long as the flour/buttermilk ratio is ok, I think they are fine (the recipe calls for 3.5 cups gram flour to 2.5 cups buttermilk).

I served them with some plain Greek yogurt mixed with a bit of garlic and salt. These are so good — and freeze really well — that I am going to be making another batch very soon since cauliflower is so plentiful at the moment.

tomato-ginger-soup

Pakoras, anyone?
Pakoras, anyone?

Thai-flavoured Chickpea & Millet Cakes with Red Pepper Sauce

Having moved more than 6 times in the past 10 years, I’ve learned not to keep much. I’m not a collector of anything (yet), with one major exception: books and magazines. I find it hard to get rid of these. My rule for books is to give away what I would never want to read again, and I’ve recently devised a magazine rule too: only keep them for a maximum of two years. In a small flat with no storage, even that is pushing it.

So, 3-4 times a year I go through my collection, which is mostly delicious as I have a subscription, and rip out recipes I want to keep (yes, I know… old school). I do it seasonally so that I can better be in the time of year frame (no use sorting summer recipes in the middle of Feb.). I recently went through a bunch of late spring/summer ones and (re)discovered this recipe, which comes from the May 2013 issue of delicious.

This is one of those dishes that really grabs me. I love a cake (this blog is full of them), love millet, and the flavour combinations really seemed to work.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put 125g millet in a pan with 300ml water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce and heat and simmer until cooked, ~15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the red pepper sauce: chop up 1 red pepper and put it in a pan with 1 tbsp maple strip, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and a pinch of chili flakes. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. The pepper will lose water and become tender.
  3. When the millet is finished, mix it in a bowl with 1 can of drained and rinsed mashed chickpeas, 3 tsp Thai curry paste*, 4 tbsp chopped coriander, and 2 chopped spring onions. Mix together, and then form the mix into 6-8 cakes.**
  4. Heat 1/2 cm of oil in a pan and fry the cakes in batches. Fry until they are golden.
  5. Meanwhile make the dip: mix together 3 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tsp Dijon mistard.
  6. Serve the cakes with the dip, red pepper sauce, and a side salad!

*Use your preferred curry paste, or make your own. It called for red but I’d run out of red so used green.
**Here’s the thing: there was a major flaw with this meal….the cakes did not want to stick together! There is no binding agent in them and even with a lot of pressing it was touch-and-go. The mixture may have needed to be colder.

As you can see from the pic below, at a certain point I sort of gave up. The cakes weren’t sticking together well and so I cooked the second half of the mix on its own. But guess what….the TASTE was spot on! We loved this meal. The sauce, composed of just mustard and maple syrup (3 tbsp), with a pinch of chili flakes, was SO good, and the red pepper sauce worked perfectly. While the cakes may have been a bit of a failure I wouldn’t call the overall meal that at all. Just a good lesson for me to stop being such a perfectionist and concentrate on what matters…delicious food.

millet cakes1

Kinda gave up
Kinda gave up

Mushroom & Mozza Risotto Cakes / Baked Risotto with Peppers & Eggplant

Two posts in November is not a great record. I had every intention of posting more, but life got in the way. I was a hermit for most of October and was not being very social, so made it my goal to get out more in November. I wish I could say that’s why I haven’t been posting, but no, H. and I were struck down with an awful stomach bug that lasted 10 days. That 1 1/2 weeks was a total write-off in terms of cooking and doing much outside of the house, unfortunately.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately… life has changed a great deal in the almost 5(!) years since I started this blog. While I still have a great deal of control over my schedule, I no longer have the time to experiment in the kitchen as much as I used to. Cooking has become a lot more functional and practical, as I knew it would, and that’s only going to increase over time. I still love being in the kitchen and trying new things, but I now only seem to have the time to do that a few times a month. Of course, this is also coming to the end of the semester during which I have lectured for the first time, am trying to finish my PhD, and of course how can I forget, now starting to apply for ‘real’ jobs. I.e. it’s a very busy of time of year! Reprieve will come (I hope).

Today I have two really good recipes to share, both featuring arborio rice used in ways different to a traditional risotto. Bringing these together was a fluke; I originally intended to post them separately but it makes sense to combine them.

Mushroom & mozarella risoto cakes
delicious magazine tweeted this recipe over a month ago, and it caught my eye straight away. It is one of those recipes that looks straightforward and requires easy-to-get-a-hold-of ingredients. Although my version did not look as good as the photo in the link ;), I loved this meal because it turns out that I love the texture of fried arborio rice. The cakes are a bit hard to get to stick together. Mine did, but just barely. This is the perfect meal to have with a crisp, slightly spicy side green salad. They’re crunchy and simply delicious.

risotto cakes

 

Baked rice with eggplant and peppers
Luisa’s title sounds better, and her photo looks better too! But essentially this is exactly what is sounds like: rice baked with aubergine and peppers and topped with cheese. It’s very tasty and straightforward enough to make as a weeknight meal. I’d be inclined next time to try it with drained canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones, just to see what a difference it makes in texture. Otherwise this dish gets my full approval.

riso al forno all siciliana

PS: Happy December! November favourites coming soon.

The Seduction of Simplicity: Summer Greens in Tahini Dressing

This is definitely one of those “it’s so simple, why didn’t I think of it before” dishes. And although it looks and sounds a bit like a side dish, I had this meal on its own for lunch one day and it was so filling that I couldn’t finish it. The “recipe”, from a new book called A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, appeared on A Little Bird, and I happened to have all of the ingredients, including some green beans that really needed to be eaten up. It is the perfect example of less is more.

In my version I didn’t include the maple syrup (too precious!), so just toasted the nuts with a bit of salt and pepper, and then replaced it with honey in the dressing.

Although this is perfect for summer (very little prep and less than a minute to blanch), Anna’s recipe includes options for all seasons using other greens such as kale, broccoli, sprouts, etc. If you like tahini or haven’t yet tried it I would urge you to give it a go. 🙂

 

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The Humble Egg

I started writing this post around Father’s Day, with the intention of being slightly more timely and dedicating it to my dad. However good my intentions, it obviously didn’t happen. So, while I may be a few weeks late, I’m still dedicating it to him. 🙂

My dad is THE healthiest person I know. He is very strict when it comes to diet and exercise and I really look up to him for that. He is a huge champion of (in his words) “the humble egg.” Whenever I am pondering out loud what to cook one night, he invariably suggests eggs! I think it’s a good reminder, because it’s easy to over-complicate things when actually a simple and delicious meal can often be staring you right in the face.

In the spirit of that I’m sharing a couple of egg-based recipes. The first is this chorizo, chickpea, & spinach frittata. We were lucky to still have some chorizo from our recent trip to Spain. Both H. & I enjoyed this — the varying textures really make it. I didn’t include the roasted red pepper but I bet it would be even better with it.

Padova 092

Padova 096

 

The second one is my own creation, another frittata, spinach, basil, & pesto. This was born out of the need to use things up before we go away, but the combination worked!

I have not yet managed to learn the art of perfect eggs. I almost always overcook them. It’s a matter of seconds too. I usually start frittatas on the stove and then put them into the oven. But as you can see the picture below doesn’t look very frittata-like and I still managed to overcook it slightly.

Looking a little hash-like....oops.
Looking a little hash-like….oops.

 

More of my posts featuring eggs: zucchini + tomato frittata, quiche, shakshuka part 1, shakshuka part 2, baked mushrooms + eggs, & spicy baked beans with an egg on top.

Vegetarian Vietnamese Summer Rolls

The subject of this post is something I’ve made a couple of times but never got around to sharing. It’s one of my favourites ‘styles’ of eating — the laid back, assemble-yourself type of meal well-suited to this time of year!

The great thing about this meal is that you can use pretty much whatever you want. I decided to make my rolls veggie and used the following (of course chicken or shrimp work well too):

  • vermicelli noodles
  • shredded lettuce
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • red pepper
  • mint
  • coriander
  • spring onion

I made two sauces: this one from Felicity Cloake, and then the peanut sauce recipe found here. I preferred the first, H. the peanut one.

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