Monthly Archives: June 2011

Parsley, Walnut, Miso Vegan Pesto

Parsely walnut miso pesto

Super quick post as I utterly fail to battle my way through the backlog and get a lengthier post up (sorry, sorry, sorry).

Vegan pesto made using miso paste to replace the parmesan cheese, incredible! I was utterly stuck trying to think of something for dinner tonight that a) the fussy boyfriend would eat b) didn’t require much work and c) didn’t require a trip to the shops.

Pasta was suggested but I wasn’t really in the mood for a tomato based sauce and didn’t think I had much of anything else in. A rummage in the fridge drawers however pulled up some rather wilted parsley and some slightly sprightlier basil. So, pesto.

Except I knew I had no cheese. So, vegan pesto?

I wasn’t sure what vegan pesto would use instead of cheese. My guess was nothing, but a quick Google turned up this recipe that suggested using miso paste as a replacement. It seemed odd, but the logic made sense; one salty umami hit replaced by another.

I also knew I had a jar of miso in the fridge, so vegan miso-pesto it was. As I didn’t have pine nuts in the house I replaced them with toasted walnuts instead, inspired by the unbelieveably good mushroom udon with walnut miso that I’d recently eaten at Koya (seriously. Go there. Eat that. You won’t be sorry).

My scales are broken at the moment so I just measured everything by eye and tasted as I mixed. There are more accurate measurements on the inspirational post behind this, but they are in American cups and so utterly mysterious to me (another reason for me not measuring anything).

Parsley walnut miso pesto

Makes…an amount (I haven’t decanted it into a jar yet, enough for two plus leftovers though)

  • Bunch of flat leaf parsley (about the size of a supermarket packet)
  • Half as much basil as parsley
  • A generous handful of walnuts
  • 1 heaped tbsp of miso paste (I used Clearspring unpasteurised barley miso)
  • Extra virgin olive oil/rapeseed oil
  • 1/4 lemon
  • Two cloves of garlic (if they’re big you may only need one)

Put the basil and the parsley into a food processor (I threw them in stalks and all) together with the miso paste.

Heat a dry frying pan and lightly toast the walnuts, then add them to the food processor. Peel the cloves of garlic (easiest way, smash them with the broad side of a knife, then pull the skin off) and add to the walnuts and herbs. Blitz everything together.

Once everything’s ground down, with the food processor still running, slowly pour the oil in through the feed tube. Again, I didn’t measure how much I used so just carefully free pour and stop every so often to check the consistency; you’re aiming for a loose paste.

When you’re happy with the consistency squeeze in the juice from the lemon and give it one last mix. Taste, and if you think it needs more of any of the above ingredients i.e. more lemon, more garlic, more miso, add them and blitz again.

Like most pestos I imagine this will keep in a sterilised jar in the fridge for about a month, but as I’ve only just made it I can’t say for sure.


Duck Egg and Asparagus Carbonara


For some reason I’d always imagined spaghetti carbonara to be one of those impossible to get right dishes, best left for the experts and ordered when eating out. So when I read this post from Eat Like a Girl about a year ago I was shocked to learn how quick and simple it actually is. No cream, no fuss, just a little oil, egg yokes, parmesan, freshly ground black pepper and hot pasta. Needless to say I’ve eaten a lot of carbonara since then.

Of course traditionally carbonara would also include cubes of pancetta or bacon lardons, however as I try to avoid eating meat too much in the week I often don’t have any in the house and so will turn to a seasonal “vegetarian” version like this instead. (The version in the picture actually does have bacon in it because it’s an old picture from a few weeks ago rather than the bacon-less version I made tonight. Oops.)

I say “vegetarian” because for strict vegetarians this recipe wouldn’t quite cut it; parmesan cheese is made with animal rennet, as are it’s cheaper substitutes Grana Padano and pecorino. There are similar Italian style hard cheeses that are vegetarian that can be swapped in, although they’re not as readily available, and those I’ve tried have never been quite as nice as the real thing.

The duck egg is a new addition. I’ve made carbonara previously both with just the yokes and with a whole chicken egg. The version with yokes is, unsurprisingly, creamier and would always be my preference were it not for the tiny pots of egg white that end up accumulating in the freezer never to be used. Of course there are loads of recipes the whites could be used for, primarily baking meringues or macarons, or simply an egg-white omelette if that’s your sort of thing, but it isn’t mine and invariably they end up going to waste.

To avoid this I usually opt for the less creamy whole egg version on a week night, but no more. Enter the duck egg; with it’s larger, richer yoke the whole egg seems to do just as well as a pair of chicken egg yokes and means I get deliciously creamy carbonara without any wasted whites. Hooray!

Duck Egg and Asparagus Carbonara
Serves 2

  • 150g-200g spaghetti (however much you’d normally cook for two people)
  • 1 duck egg
  • A bunch of asparagus (12 or so spears)
  • 30g freshly grated parmesan
  • A clove of garlic
  • Small knob of butter
  • A glug of olive oil (1 tbsp-ish)
  • Salt & pepper

Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water for about a minute less than the packet instructions (about 9 minutes probably).

Snap the woody ends of the asparagus spears and cut them into inch long lengths. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and toss in the asparagus. Smash the garlic clove with the broad side of a knife, take the papery skin off and add to the pan. Fry the asparagus for about 4 minutes over a medium-high heat, you want to get some colour on all sides but let it keep a bit of crunch.

While the asparagus and pasta are cooking, break the duck egg into a mug or bowl and beat together with the grated parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.

When the asparagus is ready, take the garlic clove out as you only wanted it to flavour the oil. Give the pan 30 seconds or so to cool down, then drop in the knob of butter and allow to melt in the residual heat.

Drain the cooked pasta reserving some of the cooking water and add to the asparagus; I just use tongs to pull the pasta straight out of the water and into the frying pan.

Use a spoonful or two of the reserved water to thin the mixed egg and parmesan, pour over the pasta and toss until everything is coated. The heat from the water and the pasta will thicken the egg to form a glossy, creamy sauce.

The butter and the wet pasta should have cooled the frying pan down enough to avoid the egg in the sauce scrambling instead of thickening, but if you find that happens the simple solution is to mix the egg and the parmesan in a large enough bowl and add the buttery pasta and asparagus to that instead. I would do that, but I’m lazy and would rather avoid the extra washing up if I can. As long as the frying pan has cooled down though it shouldn’t be a problem.

Kitchen Shortcuts and WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team Challenge One – Pad Thai

I'm a member of the WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team

I am, it must be admitted, a bit of a food snob; I suspect most food bloggers, food geeks, and self proclaimed foodies are. There is nothing wrong with this attitude per se, at it’s most reasonable food snobbery is simply a manifestation of someone caring about their food, what goes into it, who made it, where it came from etc. A mindset that should surely be encouraged if it stops people mindlessly shovelling unknown, tasteless, highly processed, battery farmed, mystery meat meals into their bodies. With diet related illnesses now costing the NHS £13 billion every year we need to start being a little more discerning about the food we eat.

That, I hope you’ll agree, seems fairly reasonable, but there are times when food snobbery can be taken too far. There is a part of my brain that’s extremely reticent to say this but, not all pre-prepared food is bad. I may dream The Good Life middle class dream, of cooking from scratch, everyday, using food I’ve grown or reared myself; but for most people, myself including, that simply isn’t feasible. Batch cooking meals for the freezer, or carefully planning meals around a central base prepared at the weekend can of course help, but sometimes corners still have to be cut. I’m far from the only one who thinks so, in recent years St Delia herself has taught us How to Cheat at Cooking, while Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals and Nigella’s Kitchen both use shortcuts freely to get the meals out fast. Of course all have received some criticism, and not all of the shortcuts they make seem that justified (mince in a can Delia, really?) but they do still have a point.

So on occasion I will use jars of pesto, buy filled pasta and a ready made sauce, or raid the freezer for breaded fish, oven chips and peas. Yet despite all of this I remain wary of endorsing pre-prepared products in this space. It was therefore with some reticence that I accepted an invitation to join WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team. WORLDFOODS produce a range of pan-Asian pastes, sauces and marinades, which they state are “100% Natural, use fresh ingredients, food allergens free, gluten free, trans fat free, no genetically modified ingredients” and all products are suitable for vegetarians, vegans & coeliacs. This is all fantastic and certainly commendable, but it’s still not enough to ease my food snobbery. The real test for me can only come with how these products taste.

So I signed up, and shortly thereafter received a beautiful hamper in the post with a range of different bottles and jars, as well as some other lovely bits and bobs to aid in trying them out. WORLDFOODS have since been setting us challenges on a weekly basis to try out each of the products in turn. So far we’ve been through four challenges; Pad Thai, Ayam Percik, Tom Yum and Nasi Goreng. As ever I’ve been slightly slow at getting them written up but I’m far from the only one lagging behind and this week has subsequently been given as a “catch-up” week. I think the WORLDFOODS team may have realised that asking bloggers to work to a weekly schedule is a little like trying to herd cats.

Anyway, with that not so mini-rant out of the way I’ll post up the results of the first challenge:

WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team Challenge One – Pad Thai

WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team Challenge 1 - Pad Thai

This challenge used the WORLDFOODS Thai ‘Pad Thai’ Noodle Sauce. You can read the official challenge recipe here, which used prawns, with a vegetarian alternative suggestion of tofu, and the optional addition of a shredded omelette. Knowing that the boyfriend doesn’t eat prawns (shame – I love prawns) and not sure he’d eat tofu either I opted to use chicken thighs instead which I chopped into bite-sized chunks. Unable to imagine Pad Thai that didn’t feature egg I also added the shredded omelette. Finally, after forgetting to buy bean sprouts, I threw in some sliced red and green pepper to boost the veg content and make it a bit more colourful. As suggested I garnished with (very) roughly chopped roasted peanuts and squeezed over a wedge of lime.

And do you know what, despite my scepticism and the whole rant at the top of this post, this was actually really nice. Having never been to Asia I can’t comment on it’s authenticity, and I’ll admit it wasn’t as nice as the Pad Thai I used to get from the Tampopo noodle bar back in Manchester, but it did make a quick and simple tasty dinner.

I’ll get the other challenges posted up in the next few weeks as I battle through the May back-log, but you can also find more up to date posts from other members of the team on the WORLDFOODS Fusion of Flavours Facebook Page or by following @fusiontasteteam over on Twitter. In the meantime I’ll leave you with this brilliant video on how to make vegan Pad Thai, heavy metal style.

Thank you to WORLDFOODS for sending me a bottle of their sauce to try out for this blog post.

Sweet Potato, Fennel and Feta Frittata

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

Sweet Potato, Fennel and Feta Frittata

Well, May happened. May happened and I did almost no blogging, and the one post I did write doesn’t even really belong here. Terrible, I do apologise.

There have been a few exciting developments though. To celebrate my blog’s first birthday (erm, which was in early April, there’s a post about the past year somewhere in the back log, honest) I bought myself a domain! Okay so not that exciting for people who aren’t me, but for people who are me it’s a shiny new toy to play with…and procrastinate from blogging with. At the moment it’s just set up to redirect here while I figure out what I want to do with it and how I can do whatever it is that I decide I want to do with it. In the meantime I’ll try not to let it distract me from actually writing something and hopefully posting will once again become more regular.

For now, here’s a quick post about the frittata I took into work today. This was my contribution to a colleague’s fundraising drive for the Japanese disaster relief. She’d asked a different person each day, over two weeks, to bring in a dish to share and asked everyone who ate to donate a small sum in return. Of course I forgot that I’d signed up to bring something in today, until about 8:30pm last night. Cue me scouring the cupboards and making a mad dash to the shops.

I love frittatas and tortillas. I like to think of them as pastry-less quiches, which is something else I love. They all fall under that category of brilliantly simple, anything goes dishes that can change to reflect the seasons, your mood, or whatever you have lurking in the back of the fridge. My favourite kind of cooking.

This one pretty much came about for the last of the above reasons; I had sweet potatoes and I had fennel. I suspected the two would work together, and Google bolstered my suspicions. Both caramelised slightly in the pan, which gave the frittata a delicious sweetness. Of course a frittata is almost always improved, as many things are, by the addition of cheese. I’d originally planned to add ricotta, inspired by a recent post from Eat Like a Girl, but the local shops didn’t have any so some creamy feta was a great alternative.

Sweet Potato, Fennel and Feta Frittata

Serves 4-6 with some salad on the side

  • 2 Sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 large fennel bulb (or 1 small blub – mine just happened to be huge!)
  • 100g feta (1/2 a standard sized block)
  • 6 eggs
  • milk (at a guess 100ml, I just sloshed some in, how much is a “slosh”?)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt & pepper

Peel the sweet potatoes and thinly slice into rounds about 5mm thickness. Halve the fennel if using a whole bulb, cut the core out and thinly slice this too. If you’re lucky enough to have some fronds on your fennel save these.

Preheat the grill to high. In a decent sized frying pan, ideally with a lid, heat the oil then add the potatoes. Move the potatoes around to coat them in oil, then cover with the lid. If you don’t have a lid you could use a plate, the seal doesn’t need to be perfect. Leave to cook on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes give the potatoes a bit of a stir and add the fennel, then cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs together with the milk and season with a little salt and pepper. When the potatoes and fennel are ready pour over the eggs mix and give it all a gentle stir. Keep moving everything in the pan around a bit until the egg is almost set then crumble over the feta, pushing it down slightly into the nearly set egg. If you have any fennel fronds tear them up and scatter them over the top too.

Pop the pan under the hot grill for a few minutes until golden on top.

This is probably nicest warm, but it also makes a really tasty lunch cold the next day.