Tag Archives: Main Meal

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.

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.

Squash Seed, Parsley, Chilli and Goat’s Cheese Pesto

Spaghetti with squash seed, parsley, chilli and goat's cheese pesto and roasted squash.

This was something I first tried a few months ago, it’s slightly less seasonal now but still just as frugal and you can always replace the squash seeds with pumpkin seeds from a packet.

Anyway, I’d bought a squash with the usual plans to roast and mix with pasta/risotto/whiz into soup, when a though occurred to me; could you eat squash seeds the same way you could eat pumpkin seeds? I couldn’t see why not, they’re basically just variants on the same fruit. So I Googled it, and according to the internet you can. Continue reading

Adventures into Oxtail Ragu and Polenta

IMAG1066

I didn't take a proper photo of this because I wasn't planning to blog it. Then I decided halfway through eating I would...which is why the photo looks like this.

I wasn’t going to post this recipe, because really it didn’t quite go to plan. Then I thought sod it, this blog is supposed to be about the cooking and crafting messes I get myself into, and that really ought to include the times those messes go wrong. At least then perhaps others might learn from my mistakes, even if I rarely do.

So, what did I do wrong? Well, buoyed by my recent slow cooking success with pork cheeks I’d decided to try my hand at some of the other less familiar, tougher cuts of meat. This time, my thoughts turned to oxtail; although I did almost switch to some less adventurous beef shin on the bone, my butchers didn’t have any in. Clearly I thought, the oxtail was meant to be. Continue reading

Braised Pork Cheeks with Blood Orange and Chilli

Braised pork cheeks with mexican rice

The terrible pictures are back, did you miss them?

I am incredibly easy to influence, my subconscious soaks up anything I’m exposed to like a thirsty sponge. If I’m watching TV and someone has a cup of tea, I will want a cup of tea. If in the next scene they’re drinking a glass of orange juice I will want a glass of orange juice. Sometimes just asking me if I want something is enough to plant the suggestion in my head that I do.

So when a few weeks ago two separate blog posts from Carla at Can be Bribed with Food and Helen at Food Stories both appeared in my Google Reader with recipes for slow braised pork cheeks in blood orange and chipotle I knew exactly what I had to do. Continue reading

Lentils and Chorizo Stew

Lentils and Chorizo Stew
Lentils and chorizo stew; incredibly simple and yet equally delicious. Warming, filling and comforting this is exactly the sort of food I want as the nights draw in ever earlier and the air develops a distinctly chilly nip. My mum was the first person to cook this for me a couple of years ago using the recipe below from Fresh Spanish by Sergio Vasquez;  a lovely book, filled with delicious sounding easy to follow recipes for various Spanish dishes, which she has since gifted me a copy of after I repeatedly lost my photocopied pages and had to call once again for amounts and instructions.  Reading through my mum’s copy I’d found loads of recipes to be bookmarked for future cooking and I was happy to see how easy the chorizo stew would be to make as well as I suspected fairly cheap too judging by the ingredients, and at the time this was all the more important as I struggled my way though the questionable expense of a post-graduate degree. Continue reading

Bacon, Lettuce and Pea (BLP) Risotto

Bacon lettuce and pea (BLP) risotto

Bacon lettuce and pea (BLP) risotto

After fretting and straining to think of a recipe to enter into the Student’s Can Cook bloggers for students competition a few months ago, I found that as the final deadline approached I actually I two ideas.  The first, a recipe for Five Bean Chilli, can be found here, the second is this; BLP (Bacon Lettuce and Pea) Risotto.

I love risotto for a multitude of reasons.  I love eating it, all comfort and warmth with its unctuous, buttery, flavoured carbs; as horribly twee and clichéd as it sounds it does feel like a meal that someone has loved and cared for, which if cooked right they have, continually stirring and adding the stock until the rice is just ready, gooey whilst retaining that little al dente  bite.  I love cooking it for the seemingly endless flavour combinations you can add to the basic recipe through a change in the stock, herbs, poached fish, smoked fish, roasted meat, slow cooked ragu, and roasted or steamed vegetables.  I love basic recipes like that, things like quiche, frittata or soup where you can just look at what you’ve got left in the fridge and go with it.  Leftover roasted chicken? Roasted chicken risotto.  Smoked salmon or smoked mackerel? Pop them in a risotto.  Tomatoes looking a bit wrinkly and past their best?  Slow roast them and stir them in for a roast tomato risotto. Continue reading