Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chill-Busting Chilli

I do like chilli, I really do, but it lacks adventurousness and, while not particularly unhealthy, doesn't really pack much of a punch in the nutrition stakes. Don't get me wrong, I'll never turn down a big steaming bowl of chili, but when picking something of a hearty, inexpensive nature to cook, it tends to get sidelined by other dishes that have a little more, well, personality. This vegetarian version, on the other hand, I feel will become a regular fixture in my eating schedule, and one I'll turn to again and again in the winter months when I need nutritious warming up from the inside on the cheap. It is absolutely rammed with health-givingness, thanks to an abundance of pulses and veggies. It isn't invaded by any (relatively) sneaky, treaty ingredients like cream or cheese - though obviously it is entirely possible to make these additions if you so wish. For me, it's the loveliest kind of healthy food, that which leaves you feeling neither cheated nor empty, but, rather, full and satisfied and not wanting of any further addition or embellishment. It's from the kitchen of one Gwyneth Paltrow, a recipe she conceived to feed her vegetarian daughter. The recipe says that it serves four. I put away the lot within 24 hours, initially scoffing it down with basmati rice after a cycle, and then I finished it off the following day in a pitta to quell the devious hunger brought on by wedding celebrations the night before. A more ladylike and decorous appetite than mine should find that it will serve up four to six portions. This is definitely one for the athletes among you: it does that essential task of refueling after a training session and allowing the option of further portions in a healthy manner, significantly reducing the urge to tell yourself that you have earned the right to recompense your body's efforts with empty calories.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ode To Sponge Bob

So, apparently myself and Moses Paltrow have something in common: we were both curious as to precisely what Sponge Bob and his Bikini Bottom-residing pals are ingesting when they tuck into a krabby pattie. Until Gwyneth (literally) stepped up to the plate and solved that great mystery. See, Moses was actually willing to admit that he didn't know, and came straight out and asked the question. Me, I just sat there on the sofa for years acting like I totally knew what krabbie patties are, sneaking sidelong glances at my nephews to discern if they didn't know either so I wouldn't look like a moron if I asked. So, thanks for that, Moses. Mystery solved in his mommy's cookbook. Not that it's the world's most mysterious mystery - they are very simple crab cake burgers, and the Gwynster serves them up with a little something she calls spicy remoulade: it's amazing. While crab cake burgers are speedy and easy and tasty, this rather special condiment requires a little more time, but it will make you immensely happy and really must feature in further adventures in seafood-eating. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feel The Beet

It is oft lamented that those who say they hate beets do so on the basis of the dodgy vinegary stuff that our mothers sliced onto salad plates in the 80s. That was definitely not its finest hour, but proponents of the knobbledy red super-staining power veg have made valiant efforts in recent years to showcase its beauty beyond that tongue-stinging incarnation. Beetroot seems to be one of these superfoods that is continually cropping up in those "OMG ten foods that will TOTALLY make you beautiful/skinny/smart/live to a million/generally amazing" features. Beetroot juice has become something of a trendy food fad among athletes in recent years, as studies have found it to boost athletic performance. Honestly, yes it is pretty crammed with quite a quantity of vitamins - A, C, loads of the B ones...I won't go on, in case the other vegetables start to hate it and pick on it for being too perfect. But above and beyond all the virtuous goody two-shoes vitamin action, it is a delicious vegetable, and one that is definitely worthy of a second chance from anyone who harbours the scars of childhood beetroot trauma.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Use Your Loaf

Yup, they just keep on coming; the courgettes are still popping up outside, and after a bout of courgette fatigue I just had to take a break. But of course, when I ventured back in amid those large coarse leaves there were tons of little green marrow curving out hopefully in defiance of gravity, anxious to be picked and eaten before they turn into watery oversized marrow fit only for the compost heap. I decided to turn my hand to a sweet creation, having heard a bit about courgette cake here and there. I wasn't looking to create a fancy tiered-and-frosted affair, just something in a loaf tin that I could hack ginormous doorsteps off to eat with coffee in the morning. And the afternoon. And when people call in for coffee. And any other time I might be in the mood for it, really. I found a recipe to fit the bill in the Tess Kiros book Apples For Jam, a very pretty, nostalgic sort of book with recipes inspired by her childhood favourites, as well as what she cooks for her own family, and chapters divided up on the basis of the colour of the food. A tad quirky, perhaps - but then I never necessarily search for a recipe in a book on the basis of a title of a particular chapter; I would generally mark out a few after leafing through the whole book, or look for specific ingredients in the index at the back. This recipe is a nice simple, straightforward one, requiring minimal, if any, grocery shopping. I popped it in the oven right before I had my brekkie, it was in the oven just long enough to eat and get a few things done, and out just in time for a mid-morning coffee break.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Easy Peasy

I refuse to make any apologies for the extreme cheesiness (mmmm, cheese) of the above, but it very neatly sums up what this post is all about: an easy dish that is full of peas. Keeping up with me, now? Good. On the basis of my most recent blog posts you would be forgiven for thinking that I live on some sort of courgette farm; incorrect: I live in a small mid-terrace house with a garden that is busting out with veggies. Thing is, they are not all quite as high-maintenance as that oh-so-prolific marrow, and so they don't really get so much of a look in when I'm burying myself in cookbooks looking for something new to conjure up in the kitchen. So, before my peas come and go with ne'er a mention, here is a small tribute to that little round sweet nutritious veggie. My sources (various internet pages that look vaguely reputable) tell me that they are full of calcium and folic acid, as well as vitamins A and K. I am quite sure that they have plenty other wonderful things in them, but they are bright green and that is good enough for me. I had it in my head that peas are a difficult sort of veggie to grow, but I was just being veggie-ist; just because they grow differently to other vegetables does not mean that they are more trouble than they're worth. You just need to get some bamboo and pop out every now and then to tie your shoots to the sticks as they grow. And there is such a prettiness about the delicate, spindly green bits that bind themselves to anything they can cling to. The only downside that I would see in growing peas is that the pods can be difficult to spot amid the leaves, so occasionally you get a sad, withered, inedible old one that got left behind. Apart from that, they are a joy to grow, to cook and to eat. They are so very tasty that I never do anything madly exciting with them; I just cook them and land them on the plate - they cropped up alongside fishcakes on more than one occasion over the summer months. Anyhow, with my last blast of peasies I thought I should make more of an effort - not too much effort, mind, can't be having that. I took one look at this simple pea and prosciutto spaghetti recipe from Sophie Grigson's Vegetable Bible and I could practically cook it there and then without the book. Not quite, but...oh you get what I mean. EASY.