Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Life is a crazy place

Okay. So you may have noticed that neither me or Zosia have been doing as much with this blog as we did last year. As way of explanation/excuse, let me just say that this is basically life at the moment...

By which I mean, life is freaking crazy.

 As well as, y'know, degrees and reading and housekeeping and everything else that means the partying that picture shows is becoming a scarily infrequent thing. 

The other part of my excuse is that this is no longer my only food-writing outlet. Because since September I've had a column in my university's newspaper, The Orbital. So if you're at Royal Holloway then go get a copy. And if you're not, then here's this month's column. Purely because I want to share the foody love with you all, and not because I'm showing off (okay, only slightly because I'm showing off).

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Aubergine Not-Cannelloni

This one's for Rebecca. Because I have loads of other things still to blog and now I'm all out of sequence but I'm doing this one first because she asked me to and I rock.

This one was an awesome one. Inspiration was taken from here, and once I'd seen it the recipes-part of my brain wouldn't stop whirring 'til I'd done something.

You will need (for 4):
- 2 aubergines
- 300g pot garlic and herb Philadelphia
- 125g pot soft goats' cheese
- large handful of fresh spinach
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- sprinkle dried oregano and rosemary
- oxo cube
- glug of red wine (or a desert spoon of red wine vinegar and 1 tsp sugar)
- fresh parsley

The aubergines: Begin by prepping these. They should be topped and tailed, and sliced as thinly as you can get them - about 5mm is ideal. Sprinkle with salt and leave to the side for about 20 minutes, until water droplets begin to appear on the surface. Rinse off the salt and pat dry, then brush both sides of the aubergine with olive oil and grill for approximately 4 minutes each side.

The sauce: Chop the onion and garlic and throw into a large saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Cook for 8 minutes, then add the tomatoes and the dried herbs. When this begins to bubble, put the oxo cube and red wine into the saucepan as well. Cook on a low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until it begins to thicken. Season to taste.

The filling: Empty the pots of cheese into a mixing bowl, and stir together thoroughly. Add to this a sprinkle of black pepper, some fresh parsley and the spinach leaves (when I made it I had a mixture of spinach, watercress and rocket, so they all went in). Stir again so that everything is incorporated.

The assembly:
1. Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture onto each slice of aubergine, and roll the aubergine around it.

2. Pour enough sauce into a baking dish to cover the bottom of it, then place the aubergine slices on top, with the end of the roll facing down. As you can see with mine I used a courgette as well, as I only had one aubergine. It wasn't bad - I'd recommend sticking to the aubergine but if you have any fussy eaters who don't like it they can be easily appeased this way.

3. Pour the remaining sauce over the aubergine rolls, and bung the remaining cheese mixture on the top too. You could also sprinkle over some breadcrumbs or seeds.

4. Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes and then enjoy thoroughly. I like serving it with a mixed leaf salad with a balsamic and olive oil dressing, but you could do anything at all.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

And then I made vegetarian French onion soup and gluten free bread because I'm the best housemate ever.

Me again. Zosia's alive and cooking (see what I did there?), honest, but she's currently in Cheshire for Alex's Dad's wedding and is running around like a running-around-person being busy. Also her blogger may be broken. I'm not entirely sure but she promises to sort it all when she has time.

In the meantime, I'm doing more cooking than ever and loving it. And I'm particularly proud of this recipe.

As I mentioned last month in my apple pie post, Fraser took me to Paris in September. Cue being surrounded by endless beautiful food, but also feeling sad because I can't eat it. Being vegetarian sucks in France. I ended up having French onion soup a couple of times - anxiously asking the waiters if it was vegetarian, and being assured that it was - but I'm not sure I'm convinced. Ever since I discovered that the onion soup in a cafe at home was made with beef stock, I'm permanently suspicious. So, I decided that the only way to avoid this conflict and still get the yum-factor was to make my own.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 50g butter
- 6 onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp caster sugar
- 3tbsp plain flour
- 1/2 cup white wine (approx 120ml)
- 1500ml veg stock
- 1tsp smooth French mustard
- approx 200g cheese - jarlsberg or gruyère (or a strong cheddar if you have none)

1. Begin by heating some olive oil in a large pot and then melting the butter. Chop the onions into strips, crush the garlic and add along with the salt.

2. Using a low-medium heat, these now need about 50 minutes to caramelise - thought you need to add the sugar after the first 15. Stir every 10 minutes or so, just to make sure everything gets an even blast at the heat and that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns.

3. When the onions are soft and golden and you just can't stand waiting any longer, add the flour. Stir to coat and cook for about three minutes before adding the wine. Let this bubble, and use it to get all the bits off the bottom of the pot that got there stuck no matter how much you stirred (the chefs call this 'deglazing the pan').

4. Add the vegetable stock and mustard, and cook with the lid on for a further 40-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Season to taste.

And as for the bread... 

This was the first time I'd made gluten-free bread, so I thought I'd keep it simple and follow the recipe on the back of the Dove's Farm gluten-free bread flour packet. It wasn't bad. And it probably would have worked better if we'd discovered at that point that the oven in our new house is a fan oven and so all the cooking times need to be altered. Also we don't have a bread tin so it was freestyle...

Don't judge me.

Despite its aesthetically-questionable appearance, it worked really well with the soup. Mix it all up before you start, then let it rise while the onions are doing their thing. Whap it in the oven about the time you add the flour and everything should be ready at about the same time.

5. To serve, slice up the bread and stick it under the grill for a couple of minutes until it's going hard. Then grate your cheese (I only had cheddar) and sprinkle over, before putting back under the grill. If you have posh oven-proof soup bowls you can put the bread and cheese in there, but I don't so I used my trusty baking tray and then transferred them. If you have any around then sprinkle with a little herb de provence for a finishing touch, and enjoy.