Tag Archives: italian

Winter Vegetables

Well, just take a look out the window. Chances are it is raining, or the sun may be glaring, but you know that it’s freezing outside, that misleading swine. This was the view from our living room window at about 3pm this afternoon. Miserable, isn’t it ?

A couple of friends and I have taken up yoga in an attempt to beat our winter blues (and premature back pain). I realise that it is only October, but for someone who hates this lack of sun and heat as much as I, it may as well already be winter; I’m seriously considering hibernation. As we spilled onto the pavement outside Brighton’s Buddhist centre last Friday evening after a class, limber and supple and refreshed into the chilly night air, we encountered a farmer’s market about to close for the evening. With gleeful excitement we perused the colourful array of tasty and healthy fruit and veg and outstayed our welcome long enough to warrant free figs. We ate yellow baby tomatoes out of a paper bag as we walked home in our leggings, each with our own respective plans to make soup for dinner that evening. It seemed like the perfect way to round off the day.

My choice: chunky vegetable and lentil – just saute an onion, add 500ml vegetable stock, cube a potato and some butternut squash, add a few handfuls of lentils and simmer for 20 or so minutes. Throw in a can of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, and some chopped leafy greens (I used spinach and kale). Season as you wish.

Freeze what you can’t physically fit into your tiny, cold-shrunk stomach in mismatched plastic tubs. Above is this very soup in its frozen form, a soup-cicle, if you will. It is necessary, as I find myself making a lot of soup recently, what with having developed somewhat of an obsession with fresh vegetables and farmers’ markets.

And another good way of using up a mismatch of leftover veg…

… like I need an excuse to make pizza.

I’ve been experimenting with different doughs. This here pizza is on the gluten-free base I have made previously. It’s nutty and chewy, kind of like a wholegrain, savoury cookie, topped with a plethora of Mediterranean delight.

I went to the Turkish/Greek market near where I live, one of those ones with all the fresh olives and sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes and baklava on display, and you can spoon them, dripping in oil and herbs, into little tupperware dishes and pay per lb; with freshly baked bread, pitta and fruits and vegetables and nuts and yoghurt and all the goat and sheep’s cheese you could possibly want at any one time. Going there is like a trip to the zoo for me. Markets are beautiful.

I bought some halva and some Greek yoghurt, the figs and the feta. A true Mediterranean feast. Though I have never visited Greece, I feel like this was a subconscious effort on my part to ignore how cold and grey and dreary England is becoming. I like to think that the figs on this pizza add a little sunshine to my wintery squash vibe.

Feta and butternut squash pizza with fig and caramelised onion

Roast some butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary for about 25 – 30 minutes on medium-high heat.

While the squash is roasting, caramelise your onions.

When you take it out, mash it up a bit. I didn’t think the figs would go very well with tomato pizza sauce, so I left it out. You can either go commando or make some kind of cheese or white sauce with which to top your pizza (I find a mixture of cream cheese and lemon juice works well on tomato-less pizzas), or just drizzle some olive oil over the top, then spread the mashed butternut squash mixture across your pizza base of choice (Wholemeal, gluten-free, or see below !).

Slice your figs, crumble your feta (any goat’s cheese would work well) and arrange your onions over the top, with an extra sprinkling of rosemary and pepper for good measure (use judgement – too much rosemary can end up tasting soapy, I’ve heard…). I chose to omit the final dash of salt I usually put over my pizzas before baking – mozzarella needs it, feta does not.

Providing your pizza base has been pre-cooked, you should only need to cook your assembled pizza for about 10-15 minutes.

The colours on this remind me of a seventies caravan.

Pizza Fiorentina

So, from Greece back to the homeland of the pizza, tonight I made fiorentina. That’s tomato, mozzarella, spinach, black olives and artichokes all topped off with a poached egg, black pepper and parmesan cheese. It’s perfect.

This is my favourite food to eat of all time.

On my journey to create the perfect pizza base I have had to relinquish some of my health-fascism in the form of using WHITE FLOUR. Well, as I read on a forum wherein the pros and cons of wholemeal flour were being discussed, some things where just not meant to be wholemeal. Pizza dough is one of them. Sure, I will happily make and eat a wholemeal pizza crust, but you can’t compare it to those soft, chewy and smooth white bases that the Italians and a number of UK-Italian restaurants do so well.

So I’m trying this recipe tonight, with the semolina and strong white. It turned out really good, if not a little crispy. At the moment I’m yearning for that stretchy, doughy puffiness that I can never seem to achieve with homemade pizza, especially not in the gluten-free or wholemeal versions. It is so elusive.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Amy x

Tofu Lasagne

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Piercing the film lid of a Linda McCartney vegetarian lasagne ready meal, placing it lovingly into the microwave, shutting the door and pressing ‘Go’ is about as close as I’ve ever come to making this dish. I can’t really believe that I’ve never done it before, shame on me ! Well today is the day that I changed that part of my life forever, by making…

VEGAN TOFU LASAGNE !

(What a strange combination of letters combine to form the word ‘lasagne,’… lasagne, lasagne, lasagne… so weird !)

You will need:
Wholewheat lasagne sheets (mine you can just put straight in the dish without pre-boiling – check your packet instructions)
200g spinach
400g pack of firm tofu, drained
60ml soy milk
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps fresh basil
1 tsp salt/pepper
A double batch of the tomato sauce I detail under the pizza recipe in this post (so about 20 cherry tomatoes worth)

Optional: a few handfuls of grated not-zzarella (I used Cheezly); a sprinkling or two of vegan imitation parmesan; a handful of pine nuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Blanch the spinach (place in boiling water for a few seconds, then remove and plunge immediately into cool water). Leave aside to drain.

Place the tofu, milk, garlic, lemon, basil and seasoning in a food processor and blend until fairly smooth but slightly textured. I think the idea here is to create some kind of imitation ricotta…

Stir the spinach through the mixture.

In a baking dish, layer tomato sauce, then your lasagna sheet, followed by tofu and cheese/pine nuts if you’re using. Repeat until dish is full/ingredients are gone. Finish with pasta sheets and tomato sauce, and cheese if you wish.

Bake for 45 minutes

Makes 4 servings. Adapted from The Daily Green.

Things I learnt from making this dish:

Drain your tofu like a mother. I mean really drain that badboy – take it out of the packet in the morning, squeeze it, wrap it in paper towels, stick it under something heavy in your fridge. Go for a 10 mile run. Take it out. Squeeze it again. Wrap it up. Put it back in the fridge. Repeat. Check it throughout the day and change the paper towels if need be.

Make more tomato sauce than you think you need. I ran out. It’s better to have too much – you can always put it on some pasta for lunch the next day.

Season this like you’ve never seasoned before. I enjoyed this but because of the tof-overload it was a bit bland, next time, MORE EVERYTHING. Especially tomato sauce because I reckon this is where the most flavour is in this dish.

Other than that, I totally am not missing dairy products anymore. I’m no longer starving either. And it’s sunny.

Life is AWESOME.

Amy x