Tasty Cauliflower Cheese Lasagne

Cauliflower-cheese

This is such a fantastic invention, I’m surprised I haven’t thought about it before.  As most gardeners know vegetables are very like buses in that you don’t see anything for ages and then, all of a sudden, several come along all at once.  And that’s what it has been like with Cauliflowers recently for me.  So Cauliflower Cheese Lasagne was born and has become a firm favourite in our house.

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 chopped leeks

I lg prepared cauli or 2 sm

Cauliflower leaves (chopped) or half a bag of spinach

6 sheets dried lasagne

About 1 pt of cheese sauce (slightly more watery than usual)

Grated strong cheese

Method

Par boil all veg seperately. Layer leeks in bottom of lasagne dish, top with 1/3 sauce and half lasagne sheets. Layer leaves, add 1/3 sauce and other half lasagne sheets. Top with cauli florets and rest of sauce. Scatter grated cheese over and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.

Serve with bacon if liked or crunchy bread or salad. Yummy!

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Ginger

ginger

Since ancient times ginger root has been used as an effective remedy for many day to day common ailments.  It is a real medical marvel and  Eastern food even today uses copious amounts both for flavour and for the health giving benefits…

The ginger plant grows mainly in tropical countries – it is a creeping perennial with thick, tuberous underground stems and can grow up to one metre high. According to Chinese tradition, dried ginger tends to be hotter than fresh.

Ginger is available in various forms:

  • Whole fresh roots. These provide the freshest taste.
  • Dried roots.
  • Powdered ginger. This is ground made from the dried root- Preserved or ‘stem’ Fresh young roots are peeled, sliced and cooked in heavy sugar syrup.
  • Crystallised ginger. This is also cooked in sugar syrup, air dried and rolled in sugar.
  • Pickled ginger. The root is sliced paper thin and pickled in vinegar. This pickle, known in Japan as gari, often accompanies sushi to refresh the palate between        

 The many curative properties of ginger are widely researched. Used on the skin it can stimulate the circulation and soothe burns. As a diaphoretic it encourages perspiration, so it can be used in feverish conditions such as influenza or colds. The root, which is the part of the plant most widely used in alternative forms of medicine, is rich in volatile oils. It is these oils that contain the active component gingerol.

Soothes digestive system…

Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating discomfort and pain in the stomach. Ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative, a substance that promotes the elimination of excessive gas from the digestive system and soothes the intestinal tract. Colic, and dyspepsia , respond particularly well to ginger.

Nausea…

Gingerroot appears to reduce the symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating. Ginger has also been used to treat the nausea and vomiting associated with mild symptoms of pregnancy sickness.

Gingerols…

Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. Gingerols inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines; chemical messengers of the immune system.

How to select and store

Fresh ginger can be purchased in most supermarkets. Mature ginger has a tough skin that requires peeling. Fresh ginger can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over dried since it is superior in flavour and contains higher levels of the active component gingerol. The root should be fresh looking, firm, smooth and free of mould with no signs of decay or wrinkled skin. If choosing dry ginger, keep it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark dry place for no more than six months.


Safety

Ginger is very safe for a broad range of complaints, whether it is taken in a concentrated capsule form, eaten fresh or sipped as a tea or ginger ale. Ginger contains moderate amounts of oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid overconsuming ginger. If you’re unsure or concerned whether it is safe for you to consume ginger always consult your doctor.


How to get more ginger into your life… simply eat plenty of recipes containing ginger…

Gingerbread biscuits
Ginger cake
Grated or finely chopped, ginger adds a zing to a stir fry or soup
Ginger goes well with fish
Jams and chutneys also work well with ginger
Try making your own ginger tea:

To make ginger tea (for nausea)…
Steep 20-40g of fresh, sliced ginger in a cup of hot water. Add a slice of lemon or a drop of honey if you fancy.

Ginger tea is great to drink when you feel a cold coming on. It is a diaphoretic tea, meaning that it will warm you from the inside and promote perspiration. It is also good when you don’t have a cold and just want to warm up!

Simple Creamy Mushroom Biryani

mush biryani

If yours is a mad house in the evenings like mine, you need food that is easy to prepare, tasty and fully flexible – suitable for reheating when someone comes in late or you all come home at different times.

This Biryana ticks all the boxes… make it ahead, the time it rests allows the flavours to develop. Reheat all together or in parts and you can always cook a chicken leg or grill some bacon for those who fancy some meat on the side.

Creamy Mushroom Biryani

Ingredients (serves 4 big helpings)

Mushrooms – 300 gms

Oil – 2 tbs
Onions – 4 sliced thinly
Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Coconut Milk – 1 cup

For the Marinade

Plain Yogurt – 1/2 cup
Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves minced

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Salt + Pepper to taste
Coriander leaves – handful, finely chopped

For the seasoning

Ghee – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp

Add 2 tbsp oil to a large wok and fry the onions in it till brown and crispy.

Remove half the onions to a dish, add the mushrooms and marinade ingredients. Leave covered for 30 minutes.

Wash rice in 4 cups of water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Remove mushroom mix to plate, wash wok out.

In the wok add ghee and saute the seasoning for a couple of minutes.  Add the plate of marinated mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes or till the mushrooms start shrinking. Mix in the coconut milk and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Drain the rice(reserve the water) and mix in carefully. Add in salt and pepper. Add the water in which the rice was soaked and bring to boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

The water should be fully absorbed by now – leave it undisturbed for another 15 minutes.  Fluff up and serve with the rest of the fried onions.

I leave the wok to go cold and then re-heat as the family need (it’s like having a running buffet!!). Take a portion off and reheat in a smaller saucepan. Fluff the rice with a fork, mix lovingly with a few of the fried onions and serve with a smile!

‘Tis the Season… to make marmalade!

orange marmalade

We’ve had the season to be jolly – now we have the season to make marmalade… If you’ve never done jamming/preserving before but fancy giving it a try, marmalade is the easiest , most satisfying of jams. I’m always amazed at how many jars of the stuff you get for so few oranges.

The secret to a really tangy marmalade is to get the Seville oranges that are only available at this time of year. You do have to have a bit of patience with the slicing of the skin, but the results are worth it. The flavour of your marmalade is super-tangy and you can use it to give an orangey zip to all kinds of cakes and sauces.

My favourite recipe is from Delia – but like all of us, I adapt to what suits and the time I have available. You will need a big preserving pan as when the mixture boils it froths up no end. If you have only a large saucepan I suggest using half the ingredients listed below.  This recipe makes about 6lb of marmalade so you’ll need some glass jars which have previously been storing jam, honey or marmalade – don’t use pickled onion, olive or any savoury jars as they may impart a nasty taste. The other odd thing you’ll need is a square of muslin fabric – this is used a bit like a tea bag – I think the foot of an old pair of tights (clean of course) works just as well, providing there are no holes!!

Ingredients –

1kg Seville Oranges

1 lemon

2.5 litres water

2kg sugar (I use normal granulated)

Method

1 Measure water into the pan.

2 Cut oranges and lemon in half. Squeeze juice out using a juicer and add the juice to the pan.

3 Collect all the pips and pith from the insides of the skins to a square of muslin (or clean tights foot). (Also here you can be creative with your marmalade – adding flavours to the pip/pith bag such as fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom pods, chai tea, cinnamon stick and so on (NB not whisky at this stage) – you have to play around with the quantities to get the pungency of these additions that suits your taste.) Tie up your square to make a bag of magic and suspend this in the pan by tying it to the handle so it floats about in the water/juice mixture.

4 Now cut the orange peel into quarters and then thin or thick strips. This is tedious and can be done with a food processor – but you get ‘bits’ rather than pretty ‘strands’. Personally, I sit at the kitchen table and try my best to do all the skins but more often than not I end up doing 3/4s and calling it a day. I certainly haven’t got the spit to do the lemon peel – but you can do if you want.

5 Add the shreds to the pan and bring it up to the boil.  Allow it to simmer gently for about 2 hours, filling your kitchen with a wonderful fruity aroma.

6 Place a tea plate or 2 in the fridge – this will be used later to test the set of your marmalade.

7 When the peel is soft Remove the bag of magic and allow it to cool in a dish.

8 Add the sugar to the pan and continue to cook over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar in the liquid until all the crystals have gone and it looks clear – this takes a little while, so have patience.

9 We need to extract the ‘pectin’ from the bag of magic – the best way is with your hands, but if it’s too hot or you don’t want to dirty your hands, you can use another dish squashed down into the first. The thick, sticky substance is to be added to the pan – as much of it as you can muster. If you have added flavourings to the bag, this process will bring more of them out too.

10 Now put the pan onto your biggest ring and turn it up full. When the mixture starts to boil set the timer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally – don’t leave your marmalade unattended at this point.

11 Meanwhile, wash your jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water. (You’ll also need a jug to use to fill the jars so wash this thoroughly too.) Put the glass jars onto a baking tray and into the oven – turn it on to just over 100 degrees. This will sterilise them and help to keep your marmalade from going mouldy. Leave for at least 15 minutes.

12 When the timer beeps, drop a couple spots of your extremely hot mixture onto one of the plates from the fridge. Put it back into the fridge for a minute or 2. You can turn the heat down on the marmalade while you wait for the results.

13 After a few minutes, see if a set has been achieved by pushing the blobs of mixture on the cold plate – if it wrinkles then you have done! If not you’ll need to boil up the mixture for another 5 minutes or so. You may need to test 2 or 3 times – it’s not an exact science as the amount of juice, number of pips, evaporation surface area of your pay etc varies. I have found that it works pretty much first time, and compared with making jam from strawberries is an absolute breeze. When happy with the ‘set’ turn off the heat and allow the pan to settle down and cool.

14 (neally there) Get the jars out of the oven – this part is quite dangerous I find, as the marmalade needs to be bottled into hot jars while it is still hot.  Again this helps to preserve it so that it will keep well. Take as many precautions as you need to – I work using the jars still in the baking tray placed on a trivet onto the table and then place the pan next to it on another trivet and use a measuring jug to scoop up the marmalade pour it into the jars.  Any spillages go into the baking tray so it’s easier to clean up – or you can use the tray to make a bread and butter pudding (wipe out the jug and pan with your slices of bread, arrange and then pour over your milk and egg mix).

15 Put the lids on your jars when still hot. Clean and label when cold, then store in a dark place.

YUMMY WINTER MEAL

vege shep pie

Hears a yummy winter meal to warm the cockles… it doesn’t take very long to prepare – about 35 minutes and serves 4 people.  Once you’ve made the ‘pie’ you can leave it to go cold and keep it in the fridge (covered) for a day or 2 then heat it in the oven (about 40 minutes on 180 degrees) when you want it – ensure it is thoroughly cooked through before eating if you go for this option.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, halved and sliced

2 large carrots (500g/1lb 2oz in total), cut into sugar-cube size pieces

2 tbsp thyme chopped

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 vegetable stock cubes

410g can green lentils

950g sweet potatoes + swede, peeled and cut into chunks

25g butter

Fry the onions in the oil to soften and sweeten. When translucent, add the carrots, thyme, tomatoes, lentils and stock cubes. Bring to the boil and simmer while you cook the potato and swede in boiling salted water.  When the potato and swede are cooked, drain and mash with the butter. Place the lentil mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Grill or oven bake until the top is crispy and brown. Serve with steamed broccoli or curly kale for a well balanced, nutritious meal.

SIMPLE SPINACH SOUP

perp spinach

Perpetual spinach is so simple to grow and rewards you with a long season (or even 3) of fresh, home grown leaves… Far cheaper and more nutritious than its supermarket cousin, the only drawback being the faff of washing and de-stalking. I overcome this by having a weekly harvest and wash session – then keep one or 2 freezer bags full of washed leaves in the fridge for another day. By working this way you can also sort the baby leaves out to have in a salad.
To make a very Simple Spinach Soup pick a whole load, de-stalk and soak in salted water. Meanwhile, chop up a couple of onions and some celery (between 4 sticks and whole head). Simmer this in water to cover for about 10 minutes until the celery is soft. Crumble in a stock cube and add more water. Add spinach, allow to wilt and then whizz with a stick blender. Add pepper at the table.
You can, of course, make a more deluxe version by sautéing the onions and celery, plus adding a splash of cream at the end. However, the basic version tastes fine and, I think is one of the most flavoursome no-fat dishes I’ve made. Enjoy!