Greens Mac ‘N’ Cheese

I continue with my quest to try all of the recipes in the Jamie Oliver ‘Veg’ cookbook with this greens mac ‘n’ cheese. I guess it’s one of those recipes you give to kids where you hide the veggies by putting them with some cheese and pasta. My beautiful cat Earl Grey has developed arthritis so we have to hide his medication by soaking his favourite treat with it to get him to eat it. He’s not a super old cat but he has some inbred pedigree Russian blue genes which is fairly ironic being that we adopted him from a litter of kittens belonging to a stray cat that our friend found. We’re also trying to reduce his weight to help the cause which is unfortunately not working as he seems to be as good at dieting as I am.

I changed things up a bit with this recipe by using some Vivera fake bacon strips rather than the almonds in the recipe. I think it would be great if you can find those smoked almonds they seem to love in Spain.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 leek
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 400g broccoli
  • 40g butter
  • 15g fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 litre milk
  • 450g macaroni pasta
  • 30g parmesan cheese
  • 150g mature cheddar cheese
  • 100g baby spinach
  • a handful of veggie bacon

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2.) Slice up the leek and the broccoli stalks, leaving the florets to one side. Heat the butter in a casserole dish and add the veg to the pan. Strip in the thyme leaves and cook for 15 minutes on a low heat.

3.) In the meantime, peel and finely dice the garlic and grate the cheese.

4.) For the last couple of minutes of cooking time, add the garlic to the pan.

5.) Add the milk to the dish and sprinkle over the flour and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes to thicken.

6.) Whilst this is simmering, cook the pasta in another large pan for 5 minutes.

7.) Add the cheese to the milk sauce then blitz this in a blender.

8.) Pour back into the casserole dish and stir in the broccoli florets and the partly cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper and stir.

9.) Sprinkle over some veggie bacon and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Beer Cheese Dip

I made this beer-cheese dip to go with my pretzels. I don’t feel like I need to advertise it much – beer and cheese – what more could you want. As you can see, it makes a fair bit. The rest of it I mixed with some cooked pasta and roasted butternut squash and baked topped with some breadcrumbs as a makeshift mac and cheese. I used Newcastle Brown Ale as my beer of choice as I don’t much like hoppy beers and this one has a nice mellow flavour. The sauce will solidify as it cools down – there really is that much cheese, so make it ready to eat straight away or bung it in the microwave to melt. The recipe is adapted from the blog ‘Spend With Pennies’.

Ingredients

  • 60g butter
  • 35g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper (or paprika)
  • 250ml milk
  • 170ml Newcastle Brown Ale
  • 235g mature cheddar
  • 120g mozarella
  • 120g gruyère cheese
  • 2 tsp mustard

Method

1.) Grate the cheddar and the gruyère and chop up the mozarella

2.) Measure out the milk and beer into a jug and measure out the butter into a pan

3.) Measure out the flour. Melt the butter in the pan then add the flour, garlic, onion and cayenne powder. Beat to a paste and stir around the pan for 2 minutes.

4.) Add splashes of milk and whisk until each is combined into the paste, eventually forming a thick sauce.

5.) Add the cheeses to the pan and mix until all melted into a smooth gooey sauce.

6.) Stir in 2 tsp of mustard.

Pretzels

I wanted a few bites from a few different countries for my Eurovision party (lets not talk about the UK’s result) and decided to make some tasty German pretzels with a beer cheese dip. I found the pretzel recipe on the blog ‘Sally’s Baking Addiction’ but I halved it as the pretzels were part of a melee of things. Pretzels are a nice bread choice to make as you only need to let the dough rest for 10 minutes before you can crack on with making them. I didn’t sprinkle them with salt – I’ve never been too keen on the crunching into large salt rocks but feel free to do so before you bake.

Makes 10

Ingredients

  • 180ml tepid water
  • 5g yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp soft butter
  • 250g plain flour
  • 120g baking soda
  • 2,000ml water (or how much fits into your pan)

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Measure out the flour into a large bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix around with a fork as you don’t want the yeast to hit the salt.

3.) Sprinkle the yeast into the tepid water and let it brew for 10 minutes.

4.) Pour the yeasty water into the flour and mix with your hand to form a ball. Tip out onto the counter top and knead for about 7 minutes until the dough is smooth.

5.) Let it sit for 10 minutes

6.) Boil the 2000ml of water and once boiling, add the baking soda. Line a baking tray.

7.) Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces

8.) Roll each piece into a rope (probably a bit longer and thinner than mine if you want really neat pretzels).

9.) Shape the dough into pretzels.

10.) Add the pretzels to the baking soda bath – I did two at a time but you can judge based on the size of your pan. Leave for 15 seconds, flip over and leave for 15 more. Then remove to a baking tray with a slotted spoon. (This step gives the distinctive pretzel taste).

11.) Once all the pretzels have been dunked in the baking soda mix (they look a bit puffy after this) and are all on the baking tray, bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown.

Mole Sauce

In the UK, we have a celebrity chef called Rick Stein who has a fantastic seafood restaurant in Barnes, close to where I used to live in London. As with most of our celebrity chefs over here, he’s had a couple of tv series where he goes to another country, tries the food and makes his own recipes (sounds like the dream job to me!). I bought his book ‘The Road to Mexico’ as the dishes in there all look absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, I haven’t used the book much because the recipes are either fairly hard work or have ingredients I can’t find or more often – both. I decided enough was enough and I would make something out of this book, even if I had to change a recipe. As a result, this delicious Mole sauce. The sauce is quite rich and sweet so you can’t have too much of it in one go. I would serve it with some plant based steaks – I recommend the ones by plant pioneers.

Serves 8 – 10

Ingredients

  • 2 mild chillis
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli flakes
  • 30g panko breadcrumbs
  • 50g sesame seeds
  • 120g blanched almonds (or flaked)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 5cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 small unripe banana
  • 130g raisins/currants
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 litre stock (I used vegetarian beef flavoured stock powder)
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method

1.) Toast the breadcrumbs, chillis, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, almonds, coriander seeds and the cinnamon stick until smelling fragrant.

2.) Grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder. It’s quite a lot of stuff so I found it easier to do it in 2 lots.

3.) Peel and chop up the banana, peel and chop finely the garlic and peel and chop the onion. Weigh out the raisins.

4.) Heat the oil in a frying pan and then fry the bananas for a couple of minutes. Add the raisins and fry for one minute more. Then add the garlic and onion and fry until soft. While the onion is cooking, make up the stock.

5.) Now, add the contents of the pan, the spice mixture, the oregano and the stock to a blender and blitz. Again, you may need to do this in two lots. At this point with the sesame seeds and banana it’s almost like a beautiful peanut butter milkshake.

6.) Add back to the pan. Break up the chocolate and drop into the sauce. Simmer gently for 15 – 20 minutes until the sauce is lovely and thick. Season and serve as you wish.

Before the chocolate has melted

Enchilada bake

So this one doesn’t look much like a work of art but sure is tasty. I was looking for something I could make in bulk on a Sunday night as I had a two hour language class on the Monday so this fit the bill perfectly. It’s almost like a Mexican lasagne, with a spiced béchamel sauce and tortilla ‘pasta’ layers. If making again, I’d probably skip the tortilla layers in the middle and serve with some nachos instead. I’d keep the top layer as it crisps up nicely and tastes delicious with the cheese. I found this recipe in a Good Housekeeping ‘Vegetarian Collection’ magazine. I wasn’t able to fit all of the layers in my 30 cm pie dish so you’ll need a big dish for this. The recipe recommends a 30 x 21 x 6cm dish.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 30g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 1 – 2tsp chilli powder (I used 1/2 tsp ancho chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli flakes and 1/2 tsp normal chilli flakes)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • spray oil
  • 500g quorn pieces (conveniently one pack)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 250g sweetcorn (tinned or frozen)
  • 8 tortillas
  • 200g mature cheddar
  • sour cream (to serve with)

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C

2.) To make the béchamel sauce, measure out the butter into the pan and the flour into a bowl. Get the spices ready and make up the stock.

3.) Melt the butter in the pan and then and the flour, the tomato purée and all the spices. Cook for a minute or so then take off the heat and gradually whisk in the stock, letting it thicken. Keep adding until all of the stock is combined. When all the stock is in, put back on the hob to simmer for 5 minutes.

4.) For the filling, peel and chop up the onion and peppers, de-seed and chop up the chilli. Measure out the sweetcorn.

5.) Spray some oil in a frying pan, heat up and add the onion and cook down for a couple of minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another couple of minutes then add the chilli. Add the quorn and the sweetcorn and cook until they have defrosted. In the meantime, drain and rinse the kidney beans then add them to the pan.

6.) Combine the sauce with 3/4 of the filling.

7.) Grate the cheese

8.) Put the quarter of the spicy sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.

9.) Layer with 2 tortillas, ripped up to fit the dish.

10.) Spoon on 1/3 of the filling.

11.) Sprinkle over 1/4 of the cheese.

12.) Layer up with tortillas, quorn and cheddar two more times and then add the last 2 tortillas and 1/4 cheese.

13.) Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is lovely and bubbly and serve with some sour cream or even better – sour cream with guacamole!

Cauliflower NACHOS

The new Bond film has been pushed back again. Inevitable but annoying. Now we’ve worked our way through the whole Netflix series of Alice in Borderland (why are there so many Japanese shows about young people having to kill each other and what does it say about me that I seem to enjoy them all?), it’s thankfully coming up to Oscar season so maybe for once this year I will watch some of the nominees. Nachos are a great for a ‘movie night’ and replacing nachos with cauliflower means that you save calories on the nachos for extra toppings (or chocolate).

Serves 2 for dinner or 4 for a snack

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • salt
  • 400g plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 10g coriander
  • chillis (preferably jalapenos)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 50g cheese (or more depending on how indulgent you’re feeling) I used applewood smoked cheddar but a mature cheddar will work well.
  • 4 rashers plant based bacon

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Line a baking tray

3.) Break the cauliflower into florets and put in a bowl with the spices and a sprinkle of salt and the oil

4.) Rub the spices into the cauliflower with your hands

5.) When the oven is ready, bake for 25 minutes

6.) In the meantime, make the salsa. Chop up the plum tomatoes into the cauliflower bowl. Dice the onion finely and mix with the tomato.

7.) Halve the lime and squeeze in the juice from half and sprinkle in some salt. Chop up the coriander and mix in half of it with the tomatoes.

8.) Chop up some chilli – I used a fairly mild chilli and added a third to the salsa but add to taste. Have some left over for a garnish.

9.) For the guacamole, peel, de-stone and chop up the avocado. Mash it up in a bowl, add juice from half a lime and some salt. Add the rest of the coriander.

10.) Chop up the plant bacon and the cheese.

11.) Once the cauliflower is done, switch the oven to the grill setting, sprinkle over the cheese, bacon and some chilli and grill for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.

12.) Serve the cauliflower with the salsa and guacamole.