Friday 26 July 2013

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I am known to be rather partial to eating and cooking vegetarian food, in fact I would list my favourite food as vegetables. With one exception.....
On a recent trip down south I opened the car window to get a bit of fresh air and a better look at the countryside (and the little lambs - is it me or are they arriving earlier every year?) and noted flocks of sheep eating turnips. Mmmmmmm.... The only vegetable I don't like is turnips.The smell from fields of turnips is not that pleasant and the experience reminded me why I don't like them, its not the taste but the smell of them cooking that quite puts me off eating them. Give me a roast parsnip any day!
Anyway back to the task at hand, my Shepherds Pie.....
This 'pie' is delicious, economical, nutritious and a nice change from using meat (and not a turnip in sight). It is a simple dish that can be prepared in advance and easily adjusted for Vegans, by converting the dairy products and soya sauce to your taste.  Children will love it, just tell them it is fancy baked beans with mashed potatoes!
To make the dish a bit different and special, you may like to make individual pies in ramekins, just adjust the time in the oven accordingly.
Ready for the oven
I have cooked it a couple of times now, it feeds two people for a week!! and a very hungry family of four (with plenty left over for lunch the next day).

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – Alison and Simon Holst -Dominion Post July 2013
For 4-6 servings
6 medium potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1 cup grated cheese
¼- ½ cup of milk
2 tbsp canola or other cooking oil
2 large onions, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp vegetable stock
1 tsp each of dried basil, oregano and paprika
1 tbsp dark soya sauce
1½ cups water, beer, wine, bean liquid and/or the potato cooking liquid
2 tbsp tomato paste
400gram can of red kidney beans (or 2 x 300g cans for a larger dish), drained and rinsed
Simmer thinly peeled, chopped potatoes in lightly salted water until tender, drain, saving the cooking liquid in case you want to use it later.
Mash the potatoes, stir in the butter, half the grated cheese and enough milk to make a fairly soft consistency.  After mashing, beat potatoes with a fork until light and fluffy.
Heat the oil in a large pot or fry-pan. Add the diced onions and cook until tender and well browned.
Add the chopped pepper and flour and stir until the flour is lightly browned too.
Add the remaining ingredients except the beans and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
Then add the beans (if desired mash the beans first – I prefer not to do this step and just leave them whole).
Spread the bean mixture into a lightly sprayed baking pan (about 20x25cm) and cover with spoonfuls of the mashed potatoes, spreading so all the bean mixture is covered.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the surface. If not using immediately, refrigerate until needed.
Bake at 180° C for 20-30 minutes.
If you wish, this dish can be heated in the microwave until centre feels hot,  brown the top under the grill before serving.


Thursday 11 July 2013

A classic English pudding

Thinking about good wholesome food and my recent visit to England gave me the inspiration for a dessert to make for our friends last Saturday night. The weather was predicted to be wet and cold, definitely a time to bring out a great steamed pudding to warm the body and soul.
I kept weird hours during my first week home. I would 'drop like a stone' into bed at 7pm and then be awake at four in the morning ready to start the day. So it was that I found myself cooking in my nightie and slippers at 4.30am last Saturday morning.
I remembered a pudding called Spotted Dick. I had never made one. Two of my guests were originally from England (and one male guest just adores puddings) so I decided it would be perfect to make for dessert.
My research on offered an explanation to the name of the pudding. It is surely an old English favourite!
I found my recipe in Jamie Oliver's Chef 2 book - 'My Mum's Spottier Dick'. Although it is extremely easy to make, I had a small challenge, as my copy of the recipe's metric conversions were all over the place. I have altered the recipe to what I considered the correct measurements and it was perfect. Trust me - this is a completely addictive pudding! And absolutely delicious with warm runny vanilla custard and a drizzle of cream.
A kitchen hint not included in Jamie's recipe - I used my mothers tip and put an enamel plate in the bottom of the boiling pan, then placed the pudding bowl into it - it stops the bottom getting overcooked or burnt (which ends up being the top of the pudding if you know what I mean). Also, my kitchen assistant had no luck finding suet in the supermarket so I replaced it with butter. I will make it with suet next time, will just have to search further afield to find some.
On the day you make it you probably need to plan to keep the morning or afternoon aside as you need to keep an eye on your boiling pot and make sure it is kept topped up with hot water while the pudding is cooking for three hours.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
The recipe is super for a crowd, Jamie states 6 servings but I would say at least 12 reasonable servings.

My Mum’s Spottier Dick - from Jamie Oliver Chef 2
125g suet (or butter) grated
140g dried chopped apricots
225g raisins or sultanas
1 orange (zested)
140g plain flour
140g sugar
140g fresh breadcrumbs
2tbsp fresh grated ginger ( I used 1 tbsp syrup from a jar of preserved ginger)
Pinch grated nutmeg
Pinch salt
1 egg beaten
500ml milk
Grease (really well) a 1 litre pudding basin.
Mix all the ingredients together, except the egg and milk. Add the beaten egg with milk and mix well. (I used my kitchen whizz to mix the butter with the flour then put the mixture into a large bowl, added the fruit etc and then the egg/milk mixture).
Put the mixture in the basin, cover well with tinfoil or a cloth (used about 4 layers of tinfoil – adding a pleat at the top to allow for the pudding to rise). Tie a piece of string around the bowl for easy placement and removal.  Put the basin in a large pan of boiling water – the water should be about half way up the sides of the basin. Put on a tight fitting lid and simmer for 3 hours, making sure to top up with boiling water every now and then.
Serves 6
Next day, left overs ready to be warmed through, yum!

Sunday 7 July 2013

Home is where the great food is.....

I have been on holiday this last month, in very warm nice places with great people. I was reflecting on my holiday (while on my walk this morning) and what I should share on my blog. The first thought that came into my head was, it is great to be home and the second thought was, that our little country at the bottom of the world is holding up very well against all the food and wine competition out there.
Yes we have our issues and problems. But overall New Zealanders are great people, we have scenery to die for, our coffee is great, our wines are fabulous and our choices and the quality of food is right up there. We also have lots of space to breathe and (almost) unlimited countryside to enjoy.
The one thing we don't have of course is the magnificent history and the architecture that goes with it (as they do around the world). And now and then, it is the one reason I have to travel thousands of kilometres to enjoy and experience for myself!
During my trip, our group had many meals out and while visiting villages we shopped in local markets and wineries. We oooh'd and aahhh'd at displays in shop windows. We savoured everything we ate and drank. We picked our favourites and, very often went back for more! And we agreed we were lucky to be able to enjoy this time away together.
Lunch made by Deb - La Motte style, where's the wine?
Yes, I have a number of absolute food 'stand outs' from my holiday. First, a simple entree of smoked salmon nestled on a bed of fennel salad, eating while in a fabulous setting of lush trees and buckets of colourful flowers. (I tucked into it and forgot to take a photo!)
The second was Lavender icecream, more of an experience really, it was so beautiful to look at but to me it tasted like eating hand cream!
And thirdly, an array of wonderful seafood meals at a restaurant called The Hut - with my great friend Di. We ate there every night during our Isle of Wight four day stay - right on the waterfront - watching the dazzling sea and the fading light. 

Lastly the many fabulous Rose wines in the South of France (hardly food I know), but we so enjoyed the tastings and matching the Rose with our food, cheers or should that be salute!
Leaving with our Rose purchases
While I am happy to be right here, right now - I am already thinking about my next overseas trip, maybe 2015....... the brochures have already been delivered, I'd better start saving!!.