Monthly Archives: February 2013

Review: Veg Out at Delifonesca

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We’ve got a guest blogger today … Let us introduce you to Joe Norman. He’s a Liverpool based journalist and has been a card-carrying vegetarian for more than 20 years. Joe’s been out and about in his home town and reports back on a vegetarian theme evening which leaves you wanting to lick the plate …

Delifonseca’s a deli that’s also home to a relaxed, informal restaurant. The upstairs room’s softly lit, with ancient stripped floor boards, American diner-style booths and an ever-changing menu chalked up on blackboards that take up an entire wall.

For over a year they’ve been putting on a monthly vegetarian night – Veg Out. They’re often seasonal – September’s was a root vegetable special – or have some kind of theme; a particular favourite was their vegan Spanish night – which included a sublime artichoke paella.

February’s Veg Out was based around Italian comfort food in a bid to beat off the winter blues. For starters there was a butternut squash risotto impressively topped with freshly made squash crisps and deep fried sage to offer contrasting textures. The risotto itself was smooth and creamy and was swiftly despatched, in fact I enjoyed it so much I ended up surreptitiously running my finger around the inside of the empty bowl to minimise wastage!

JoeDeli

Next up, pan-fried potato gnocchi, although in truth fried potato cakes would probably be a better description, but let’s not quibble – fried potato, what’s not to like? The cakes, sorry gnocchi, were crispy and golden on the outside, velvety and laced with chipotle within, and served with roast mushrooms and aubergine caviar.

Finally for pudding – a Jaffa Cake-style cheesecake, with a biscuit base chilled, rather than baked, flavoured with orange zest and topped with a show-stealing chocolate and orange sorbet. Like all the best puddings it was generous and rich – and almost, almost got the better of us.

February’s Veg Out was very like the others we’ve been to. The food was imaginative but not pretentious or poncey, indulgent without being over-reliant on dairy, and full of big punchy flavours. At over £23 per head it’s not especially cheap, but it was value for money. Hopefully other restaurants will follow Delifonseca’s lead and treat the veggie option as a challenge and not a chore.

Delifonseca
12 Stanley Street
Liverpool
L1 6AF
Tel: 0151 255 0808
http://www.delifonseca.co.uk/

Recipe: Pasta with Mint and Parsley Pesto

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There are some winter days when curling up in front of the fire with a warm, hearty stew is the best way of celebrating the season, of revelling in the now of the cold and seasonal ingredients. And there are some winter days, like today, when a bitter wind shakes a few flakes of snow from the iron-grey clouds and you want to be reminded of sun, warm days and gentle breezes.

We should, of course, be all about seasonal ingredients, but this fresh pesto only takes a couple of packets of herbs and some store-cupboard staples and you have summer in a bowl. Every winter deserves a couple of those, I think.

pasta with mint pesto

Ingredients
160g pasta
40g frozen peas
1 clove garlic
20g pine nuts
10g fresh parsley
10g fresh mint
10g vegetarian italian hard cheese, grated
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Add the pasta boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions
Half-way through the pasta cooking time add the peas.
Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. This is a small enough amount to bash together with a mortar and pestle if you feel in need of the exercise.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta and peas are cooked, drain well.
Put them back in the pan, add the sauce and mix.
Serve immediately, with a wedge of lemon to add to taste.

Serves 2

Recipe: Leek Pudding

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The leek may be a symbol of Wales and the Scots may be famous for cock-a-leekie soup, but when it comes to Competitive Leek Growing the North East of England reigns supreme. Practically every village big enough to have a pub had a leek club all gearing up for the annual leek show, usually held in late September or early October. Now it is always good to have a hobby and I want to make it absolutely clear that no Freudian inferences are to be drawn from groups of men competing to see who can produce the longest and thickest cylindrical vegetables. I hope we’re clear about that. Good.

Now I tend to use leeks more in soups and stir-fries more than anything else, but there is one leek recipe that I remember with fondness from my school days – leek pudding. This is leeks cooked with suet pastry. The two traditional ways to make it are in a pudding basin (like steak and kidney pudding but with leeks replacing the meat) or as a kind of leek roly-poly where the raw leeks are rolled in the suet pastry and then wrapped and steamed.

My recipe is based on the latter version, but I’ve adapted it to cope with my limited steamer space, so instead of one big pudding, you get four smaller ones.

Leek puddings 2

At school we used to get leek pudding as an accompaniment to stew, usually, thus nicely covering three of main school food types – stodge, grease and mystery meat. These will do that duty as well, but they also stand alone to have with vegetables and a bit of vegetarian gravy. If you’re very hungry, two puddings would be suitable.

Leek puddings 1

Ingredients
150g self raising flour
75g vegetable suet
1 leek, finely sliced
1/2tsp fresh thyme leaves

Put the ingredients in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Mix well.
Add cold water and stir until the dough is made and there is no dry flour or suet at the bottom of the bowl. It will look like a lot of leeks and not very much dough at this stage. Don’t panic! The leeks will cook down and the dough will expand to cover them.
Divide the dough into quarters and place in the centre of kitchen foil squares about 40x40cm.
Fold the corners of the foil in and twist to seal, allowing enough room for the dough to expand.
Put the foil parcels in a steamer, cover and steam for 60 minutes.

Serves 2 as a lunch, or 4 with the puddings as an accompaniment to a larger meal.

Recipe: Pickled Aubergine Salad

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One of the first restaurant reviews I did for this blog was Bangalore Express at Waterloo. One of the highlights of that visit was their Pickled Aubergine Salad. I’ve been back many times since then and that salad has always been one of the selections.

I went back last week to find that they have changed the menu. And, horror of horrors, the pickled aubergine salad has gone!

Noooooooooo!!!!!!

But did I panic? I did not. I Googled. And lo and behold! I found a recipe for it online.

I don’t think this is quite the same as the restaurant version, but it is just as silky, gently spiced and much less oily!

Pickled aubergine salad

Ingredients
1 aubergine, cut into 3cm long, thinnish strips
1 red onions
1 small tin chopped tomatoes
2cm fresh ginger
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder

Put the sliced aubergine in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 30 minutes for water to drain out.
Blend the onions, tomatoes and ginger until you have a smooth paste.
When the aubergines have drained, rinse them with water.
Fry the aubergines in about 3 tbsp of vegetable oil until softened and golden brown.
Put them back in the colander and let the excess oil drain off them.
Heat a small amount of oil in the pan and add the fennel and nigella seeds.
When the seeds pop add the tomato and onion paste to the pan.
Stir and add the rest of the spices.
Simmer this for 5 minutes until it is thickened.
Add the aubergines and fold them in carefully, trying not to break them up too much.
Cover and simmer on the lowest heat for 10-15 minutes.
Check that the aubergine is meltingly tender.
Season with salt.
Turn the heat off, put the lid back on the pan and let it cool to room temperature.
Serve with chopped fresh coriander as a garnish.

Recipe: Farinata with Mediterranean Salsa

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As it is coming up to Shrove Tuesday I was looking around for pancake recipes to see if anyone had come up with a vegan version. As I was searching I found references to socca or farinata – a pancake from Southern France and Italy made with chickpea flour. Its ingredients were chickpea flour, olive oil and water. Yes! I love it when I come across a traditional recipe that has always been vegetarian or vegan and doesn’t need adapting.

A lot supermarkets stock chickpea flour. Look for it in the Indian section of a World Foods aisle. It may be called chickpea flour, or gram flour or besan.

The recipes for socca/farinata say that it’s usually served as a snack, with a good drizzle of olive oil over it. And that it’s baked in a pre-heated hot pan (rather like a yorkshire pudding) in the oven. Now, it’s my mother’s bad influence I’m sure, but I don’t like turning the oven on for one item, for so short a time. To make sure this recipe is OK, I have tried it in the oven and there’s no difference, to me anyway, between an oven baked one and one cooked on the stove like a normal pancake. I’m also jazzing it up with a salsa with all the flavours of the mediterranean.

Quick note: this recipe makes two thickish pancakes. This means that the top will not have set fully by the time the bottom is cooked. Do not, therefore, try and toss this pancake. You’ll just end up splattering batter everywhere if you do. Trust me, play it safe and do a quick flip with a fish-slice.

Farinata photo DSCN0609_zpsd46de3d4.jpg

Ingredients
For the pancakes
50g chickpea flour
1 tbsp olive oil
50-60ml cold water

For the salsa
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp capers, chopped
10 black olives, stoned & chopped
a handful of parsley, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar

Put the chickpea flour in a bowl.
Add the olive oil, season with salt & pepper.
Gradually stir in the water until you have the consistency of thick cream.
Put the salsa ingredients in another bowl and mix thoroughly.
Leave both for 20-30 minutes.

To make the pancakes, heat a very little oil in a small frying pan.
Pour half the mixture in and swirl until the mixture evenly covers the bottom of the frying pan.
Fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom has turned golden brown and the top is nearly set.
Using a fish slice, quickly flip the pancake over and cook for another couple of minutes, until it, too, is nicely golden.
Put on a warm plate and do the same with the rest of the mixture.
Serve one pancake per person with the salsa over the top.

Serves 2 as a light lunch or supper

Quick bites: Round the web

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Here’s what I’ve been reading/listening to in the veggie world this past week and a bit:

First the good news! Vegetarians cut their heart risk by 32%. It’s great to see it’s a big study (44,561 participants) and published in a proper peer reviewed journal (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). There’s so much pseudo-science knocking around nutrition that a bit of solid science like this is like gold-dust.

The BBC Radio 4 Food Programme devotes a whole programme to Food in the Life of Sir Paul McCartney”. It’s a good interview, but I was a bit disappointed they had to have asides from free-range, rare-breed animal farmers though. There aren’t so many programmes devoted to vegetarian issues that we need ‘balance’ in them.

From The Guardian – What Kind of Vegetarian Are You?. I’m not someone who thinks that people should live their lives to fit in with a dictionary definition, but I do with that ‘vegetarians’ who eat chicken, or seafood or whatever kind of animal didn’t call themselves vegetarian because it makes it more likely that a strict veggie (like myself) unwittingly ends up eating a meat product because other ‘vegetarians’ didn’t mind.

Discussions about the Quinoa issue have been rumbling on in The Guardian:

Tim Philpott in the Environment Section has a measured response looking at the issue that occur when a locally-grown food hit the global market.

Eating quinoa may harm Bolivian farmers, but eating meat harms us all is a lot more fun. The original ‘vegans are just as immoral as any meat-eater (I may have paraphrased that) article had a comments section that gave cautious support to the veggies. But suggest that omnivores may not be right in eating meat and watch the fur fly!

I had noticed a few more vegetarian articles in the news websites recently there was even a spread in the Metro. It was that article with Mary McCartney that gave the game away for me. Linda McCartney foods have a new chilled food range out and the clan are out promoting it. See above interview on Radio4. Oh well, at least we’re getting vegetarianism in the news.

The Independent has a list of the 10 best vegetarian cookbooks. Check out the comment section for more recommendations as well.

Recipe: Hot and Sour Soup

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I came across chinese hot and sour soup when I first developed my chinese restaurant habit in the late 80’s when I lived in London. I don’t know where I first had it, but the moment that combination of heat and sourness hit my tastebuds I was hooked. It’s a great soup to do at home because you can replicate a restaurant taste without a huge number of specialist ingredients. If you have bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms around then by all means use them, but if not it’s a great ‘what have I got in the fridge’ soup. I vary the ingredients practically every time I make it, so please just take this ingredients list as a suggestion not definitive list. There are three things I always include – mushrooms, carrots and peas. It has to have peas. This is in honour of the time I was eating it in Poons off Leicester Square (my favourite restaurant at the time, now sadly gone), thinking that my mouth was on fire and realising that what I had taken for peas in the soup were actually rings of green birdseye chilli.

It’s low fat (or no fat if you leave the sesame oil off), packed with veggies, quick to make and the taste will knock your socks off. What’s not to like?

Hot & sour soup

Ingredients
750ml vegetable stock
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 medium carrot, cut into fine matchsticks (or grated)
75g mushrooms, sliced
25g frozen peas
25g frozen sweetcorn
1/2 gem lettuce, finely shredded
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water
1 handful beansprouts
sesame oil

Add the stock, garlic, ginger, chilli, soy sauce and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the carrot, mushrooms, peas, sweetcorn and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
Keeping the soup at a simmer, add the lettuce and spring onion.
Add the cornflour and stir until the soup thickens a little.
Turn off the heat and mix in the beansprouts.
Serve, drizzled with a little sesame oil.

Serves 2