Sunday, 31 January 2010

Spinach rice, scrambled tofu with raspberry chipotle sauce

The kind of food I like to cook and eat are one-pot meals. I don’t often make different components to create an evening meal, but I had today.
Also I don’t often serve my rice in timbales and make towers like this, but it looks far more presentable than if I had just spooned it on the plate.
I've never had chipotle pepper sauce, so yesterday while in the west end I picked up a tin (see below) from Lupe Pintos. D raised his eyebrows at the cost of this small tin as it wasn't particularly cheap, but I justified it to him. One I wanted to try it, and two, it is a specialist ingredient, you have to pay extra for imports. He said 'well if your going to get it you better do something with it, I don't want it getting lost in the store cupboard passing its sell by date'. I said I would go one step further, and make him a meal with it this weekend, and this is the meal I presented to him.
The spinach rice was sticky and flavoursome. The raspberry chipotle sauce was very good, you could taste the sweet from the jam as well as the smoke from the chipotle peppers, and the scrambled tofu texture was interesting. I think I prefer tofu in chunks. All in all it was a satisfactory meal.
Spinach rice
Ingredients
Rice
4 spring onions
200g of spinach
Salt and pepper
Method
Coarsely chop the spring onions and rinse the spinach. In a large pan, sauté the spring onions in 2 teaspoons of the oil for a couple of minute. Add the spinach and seasoning, cover and cook until the spinach begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. In a blender puree the spinach and spring onions until smooth, adding a little water if necessary.
Now cook enough white rice for four people. When rice is done, fluff with a fork and stir in the spinach puree and serve.
Scrambled tofu with raspberry chipotle sauce
Serves 3 – 4
Ingredients
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 firm tofu
3 tablespoons soy sauce
For the Raspberry chipotle sauce
¾ cup raspberry jam
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotles in adobo sauce
Method
Heat the oil in a wide pan with a lid over medium heat. Saute the onions in the oil until they begin to soften. Add the garlic until it fizzles then stir in the greens, cover and steam until the greens begin to wilt. In a bowl mash the tofu with the soy sauce using a fork. Stir in the mashed tofu and cook for about 5 minutes stirring well until the tofu begins to brown.
While the tofu cooks, make the Raspberry Chipotle sauce. In a small saucepan, stir together the jam, chipotles and 4 tablespoons of water. Simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes, until hot and saucy. Add more water if the sauce looks too thick. Serve the scrambled tofu with the sauce
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Being kitch

We decided to go into the West End today and just have a lazy stroll in the Botanic Gardens and the surroundings.
Of course a bit of retail therapy would not go amiss either. Glasgow University is surrounded by a number of retro, kitchy and independent shops,however don't hold your breath to visit them when you come, there is a high turnaround of shops in this area, which is a great shame. However, if you are interested, here's a very good link and most of these shops are still there.
I had forgotten that on my Birthday or Christmas wish list years ago was red chilli lights for the kitchen. These were displayed away from my eye level, but D being just over 6 foot spotted them and pointed them out. Well I just had to get them, and this...
I know, but I'm not 12 years old or even a student anymore, but I couldn't resist. When I was growing up, I would never see dolls of colour. I never had a Barbie doll, but saying that, even as a small child I did not want a Barbie doll as it didn't represent me or who I wanted to become. Nowadays, of course things have changed. Take this pen, so I had to treat myself for all those years of going without. Ah the little girl in me is still there.
We stopped at our favourite independent second hand bookstore: Voltaire & Rousseau. I've mentioned it in a previous post.
Its not the most organised of bookstores, but it sure has character. It was featured in the second series of one of my favourite TV shows The Book Group which was set in Glasgow.
While we were in the West End, I wanted to visit a place I had been to once when I used to work in the environment sector. A community project called the Coach House Trust which is tucked away in one of the side streets of Great Western Road. Over the years it has gained some recognition as an innovative community organization in the field of mental health and environmental and social justice. The project provides people from disadvantaged backgrounds with a variety of disabilities including mental health problems, learning disabilities, alcohol and drug rehabilitation with educational and employment opportunities and support the individual discover their talents through a wide range of workshops and activities, such as woodcarving, gardening, ceramics, recycling and art. Unfortunately noone was about so we couldn't get access or pictures to the vegetable garden, instead here are a few pieces of the works of the participants.
I like the way this tree trunk has been turned into a seat. Its a bit weather worn now,
The seat shaped almost like the palm of a hand. The first picture above of ceramic mosaics is one of from the project too, made from recycled tiles.
A rough stone given some structure and stars to brighten the day.
Nice to see a bit of colour this time of the year.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Vegan Marshmallow, Cocoa and Cola muffins

During my student days, I made a cola and chocolate cake for a friends birthday. To make the cake aesthetically pleasing, I could have easily decorated it with those gummy zingy cola bottle sweets, but I chose not too as they contained animal gelatin.
I can’t remember how the conversation started, but I was telling a colleague at work this and she advised that nowadays there are kosher and halal cola bottles and marshmallows. I appreciated my colleagues knowledge around this and her interest in my diet. She was right to point out that there are some products that are 'suitable for vegetarians and vegans' such as halal ‘Jellies’ that are either made with guar gum, caragheen or agar agar, but not all. Kosher essentially means suitable for Jewish people and Halal essentially means suitable for Muslims as the animal had been ‘sacrificed’ according to the rituals of that religion. The sweets she was referring to were still made from animal extracts, they just happened to be kosher or halal, but not necessarily suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet.

However, on the positive side things have changed for vegetarians and vegan who used to miss out on certain sweets associated to their childhood or aspects of comfort eating like hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold day. Nowadays, you can now purchase vegan marshmallows, gummy bears, wine gums and even cola bottles, the only drawback for a small portion they are all of course a little more on the pricey side, but hey that is a price some of us choose to pay in the larger scheme of things.
So why am I talking about cola bottles and marshmallows. Well, I carried out another baking experiment. I had some vegan marshmallows from Christmas that were approaching their use by date. I had won a muffin cookbook early in the year which contained a recipe thats been calling out to me: Marshmallow, Cocoa and Cola muffins.
I thought why not attempt making a vegan version of these. I am pleased to boast yet again, that they have been successful. This was the first time I had ever baked with marshmallows and replaced the egg with a vegan substitute of ground flax seeds.
These muffins were absolutely delicious. The top was like a soft cookie, inside it was soft like a brownie but not overly sweet. The mallows held their shape really well and melted in the mouth. The only criticism I have and it is a very small criticism, neither D or me could taste the flavour of the cola in it at all.
Vegan Marshmallow, Cocoa and Cola muffins.
Makes 8
Ingredients
1 ¾ cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoon water (or 1 egg lightly beaten for vegetarian option)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup cola
¾ cup vegan mini marshmallows (or cut some large one into 8 small pieces)
Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 4. Line a muffin pan with muffin cups. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together the ground flax seeds (or egg) and vegetable oil. Add the cola, then pour the cola mixture all at once into the dry ingredients and mix briefly until just combined. The mixture will thicken up here but don’t worry. Place a large spoonful of the batter into each muffin case and add a piece of marshmallows, keeping them in the middle of the muffin. Spoon the remaining batter on top, dividing it evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until well risen and firm to the touch. Serve warm or cold when it will have a brownie like texture. Recipe adapted from Catherine Atkinson’s Muffins Galore.
We don’t partake in Valentine Days activities, but I think I may have to bat my lashes at D for another box of marshmallows, as my Birthday is a long, long way now. Or maybe I’ll try making my own. Oh if your new to my blog, you may be interested reading more about marshmallows and me.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Vegetarian Haggis Pakora Bites

Call them haggis popcorn, call them haggis morsels, call them haggis balls, even haggis bon bons - one thing for certain though, they are definitely bite sized.

I made these with the left over vegetarian haggis and pakora batter from my belated Burns Supper celebrations. Tasty they were too.
My regular readers will note that I have a new blog header too. I was going to post this on my 500th blog post, which is about a fortnight away, but as you can appreciate circumstances have changed a little. I won't be changing the name of my blog though, I am accustomed to it. Also I will still be growing some of my own soft fruit and vegetables, albeit from my tiny garden plot.

Once again, may I take this opportunity to Thank you all for your kind words of support at this time. It really is most appreciated.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Mushroom haggis pakoras with curried neep chips

Over the years the Scottish haggis has undergone many guises from its traditional serving with mashed neeps (swede, rutabaga or turnip) and tatties (potatoes) on St Andrews Day or Robert Burns Night, to celebrate the Caledonian national bards birthday. These days there are many ways to eat the Haggis. There is haggis samosas, haggis pakoras, haggis pasty, haggis spring rolls, haggis wontons, haggis lasagne, Haggis tostados, haggis Tex Mac nachos, haggis quesadillas and even haggis wraps with winter Tzatziki.

I personally think the wider appeal of the haggis in the past few years has come about come about because of the versatility of the 'vegetarian haggis'. Previous to that not even hardcore meat eaters could stomach the thought of eating the 'real haggis' made from sheeps stomach stuffed with oatmeal, sheeps lung, heart and liver, but disguise it and it becomes a far more appealing product.

It’s only been in the past few years that Scotland has begun to recognise the contributions made by its ethnically diverse communities. Most notable for me is perhaps the visibility of Scottish Sikh communities whom whilst proudly retaining their own cultural and religious identity, have openly embraced aspects of Scottish identity. As part of Scotlands hidden 'Black history' I have learned about the Scottish Sikh Prince, I also became aware of the contributions of the New Scots: the Polish Tartan, the Scottish-Sikh or Leith Tartan. 

Such cultural influences have also impacted on cuisine. In the cities of Scotland, you will often see a Punjabi-style haggis on menus at pubs and restaurants. To the traditional haggis recipe additional ingredients such as onions, cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, green chillies and other spices are added and Naan bread, rotis and chappatis replace the traditional 'neeps' and 'tatties'.
Jeevan Singh of the band The Tartan Dhollies, wearing Leith Sikh tartan. © the artist
From Portrait of The New Asians by photographer Herman Rodriguez 2006

The traditional Burns Night supper ritual would begin with the haggis being ceremoniously led into the room by a man dressed in complete Scottish outfit and bagpipes. However, at a Sikh Burns Night supper, this duty is performed by a Scottish Sikh piper wearing his turban and kilt to identify both his religious, social and cultural heritage. This should not be a surprise, after all, Indian and Pakistani pipe bands have been popular sight at Scottish piping events in Paisley, Glasgow and Edinburgh for a long time now. Also did you know that many of the bagpipes and kilts imported into Scotland are manufactured in the Indian and Pakistani Punjab.
I have read some instances when the haggis was led into the room by a Bhangra or dhol band. Anyway, back to the Burns Supper Night. At a traditional Scottish Burns supper night, the Scottish dirk is traditionally stabbed into the haggis skin during the Burns Ode to a Haggis address, however at a Scottish Sikh event this is often replaced with a kirpan, a spiritual Sikh dagger.

Many people will be or are horrified at integration of cultural identities, and more so at the fusion of such cuisines, but think about it, many countries, even towns and cities identities are based on imports or cuisines that are fusion food. Take Dundee Marmalade for example or even a cup of Tea in Great Britain. Anyway, I digress again. Last year in acknowledgment of Scotlands diverse communities, BBC Radio Scotland transmitted a programme Ravi Burns. In place of Burns's 'Address to A Haggis', the Scottish Sikh comedian actor Sanjeev Kohli gives us Ode to a Samosa: "Wee sleekit, cowrin' triangular tastie, oh what a picnic is in thy pastry'. The novelist Alasdair Gray also recited 'To a Mouse' against a background of sitars.

Now back to my dish. You may already know that every South Asian (m)Ummi Ji whether she is from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh will have her own traditional recipe for pakoras, but the one I am using for this recipe combines both Scottish and Punjabi cuisines. I served these with curried neep chips and mint-yogurt chutney. This is my effort for a belated Burns Supper. I hope you will all approve.

To see more about the Portrait of The New Asians Exhibition see here link to National Library of Scotland

Mushroom haggis pakoras with curried neep chipsServes 4
Ingredients
For the pakoras
200g gram flour also known as chickpea or besan flour
1 tablespoon of garam masala
1 generous tablespoon of dried methi, also know as dried Fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon cumin or Ajwain seeds (also known as Bishop weeds seeds)
Salt and red chilli powder to taste
1 fresh green chilli, minced
Tepid water as required
1 small Vegetarian Haggis
6 – 8 large Portobello mushrooms
Sunflower or olive oil for frying
Method
To make the pakora batter, put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and minced green chilli and mix. Add water gradually and mix the batter until smooth but not thick. Leave aside for 5-10 minutes.
Steam the haggis for 20 minutes, then break it up with a fork so that it can cool down.
In the meantime, wipe clean the mushrooms and cut out the core.
Heat the oil in a frying pan for 5 minutes. Scoop out a tablespoon of haggis on the mushroom, press and spread it gently with the back of the spoon. Add more haggis if required but not too much. Do this with all the mushrooms. When this is done, gently place the mushroom into the batter to coat, I use my hands, but use a spoon if you wish to ensure batter covers the mushroom.
Heat the vegetable oil. Place 2 – 3 mushrooms into the pan, ensuring not to crowd them out and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden-brown. Turn the mushroom over so that it is evenly golden. Once cooked, remove from the pan and place onto a kitchen towel to dry.
For the curried neep chips
One large swede, turnip or rutabaga, peeled and sliced into chips
Toss in generous coating of olive oil
Bake in a moderate hot oven, turning now and again until slightly golden.
In the last 10 minutes, sprinkle over either 1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala and a sprinkling of salt. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Then serve warm.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Pay it Forward - Whose getting a Package from Scotland

About a week or so ago, I got a wonderful box of smiles from Ribbit of The Corner Yard, I was real chuffed with all my gifts, now its my turn to 'pay it forward'. Pay it Forward was started by fellow bloggers in the U.S.A. The idea is to send the lucky recipient something local. The recipient then has to Pay a gift forward as well.

As I had only two people put their names forward for the Pay It Forward package, it was easy to decide who got the package. They both do. The recipients of my little box of smiles are Oraphan of Easy Veggie and the Mommy of Two Vegan Boys CONGRATULATIONS!

Oraphan and Mommy of Two Vegan Boys, please can you contact me on my e mail. The e mail address can be found on my profile page. Please send me your address and a package from this corner of Scotland will head your way early next week.

If you would rather not receive the package please do let me know. Remember, the idea is that once you receive the package, you should find someone to 'pay it forward' to.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Beetroot and chocolate waffles for breakfast

Before we received the phone call about our plot yesterday, we had finished enjoying eating some of my experimental 'beetroot and chocolate waffles'. I had searched the Internet for a recipe for 'beetroot and chocolate waffles' as I wanted to make sure the ingredient quantities were right. I found many variations of the chocolate beetroot cake, muffins, fairy cakes and even ice-cream, but I couldn’t find one for waffles. So I thought, well how hard can it be and decided I would attempt at creating one of my own. I was a bit nervous, after all this was going to be our breakfast, the most important meal of the day and it could all go terribly wrong. D encouraged me, saying if it did go pear-shape he wasn’t going to wither away.

Well I was so pleased with myself. These beetroot and chocolate waffles were a resounding success. You could taste the subtle flavour of the beetroot and the chocolate hit. I am confident this recipe would work with courgettes too and look forward to trying out some 'courgette aka zucchini and chocolate waffles' in the summer when I grow some of my own. I served these with some whipped cream to which I added a teaspoon of beetroot juice for colour; and hazelnut and chocolate spread as if it wasn’t chocolaty enough.
Beetroot and chocolate waffles
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup of cooked beetroot, grated
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
Method
In a bowl, mix the wet ingredients together. In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine well. Add more milk if necessary. Cook according to your waffle maker instructions.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

R.I.P Plot 45

I was umming and erring whether to go to the plot this morning,
Then the decision was made for us, when we got a phone call from one of the committee members to tell us that she had some bad news. Our plot had been burned down.

You may remember, early in the year two other plot holders plots had been targeted. This time it was ours. About an hour or so later, after preparing ourselves for the worst, we drove over. As we entered the site, we could see smoke from the distant, as we got closer, it was certainly our plot - all the buildings: the greenhouse, the shed, the hut and the tool shed had all been been torched, set alight, burnt to the ground. There is no doubt about it we have been targeted for some reason, both the plots on our sides belonging to the Allotment president and the other to the allotment treasurer were not damaged at all, which is really ironic as they are pretty close.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know a little background and history of this private allotment site. If your interested you can read a bit about the thieving at the plot here and here; and the committee attitudes and behaviours here and here. Maybe our caring for the place, showing consideration to others and speaking up now and again, has made us some enemies.

We have to think a bit more about our participation and future at this allotment site, and will do so over the next few days. Right now, we are both completely heart-broken.

Dalgarven Mill

We've been thinking about moving away from the outskirts of the city for a while, as we could get more for our income, a house in fact, so yesterday we took a drive to the West coast of Scotland, we stopped in places like Beith, Dalry, Kilmarnock and Kilwinning. Then we got distracted, as we stumbled upon an old fashioned working grain Mill that is powered by water. The mill has been on the site since 1203. Dalgarven Mill is also part of the Museum of Ayrshire, Country Life and Costume which shares the life, social and economic history of that region.
Our intention was just to have a coffee in the Millers Kitchen, who incidentally are part of the Ayrshire Food Network and then head back out, but we were charmed by the inside and the hospitality of the woman who served us our coffee, that we decided to purchase two tickets to tour the mill. I have to admit I wasn't really that excited at the thought, as it looked very small and thought it would be a quick visit.
But I was pleasantly surprised, we must have been in their for a good hour. The mill is like a Tardis and has three floors.
As you enter you are welcomed by the most beautiful Edwardian dollhouse. It something that you have to see in person to appreciate, so much detail. I know as a woman of colour, the 1920s would not have a welcoming environment for me, but I certainly love the fashion of the roaring 1920s. I discovered and fell in love with the 1920s fashion in my early twenties whilst watching episodes of House of Elliot. A wonderful, softly spoken gentleman gave me a peek preview of some of the Victorian outfits that would be displayed to the public around Easter. He also showed me some 1920s outfits, that were not only beautiful, but delicate, made with lace, hand-painted in gold or embroided. I was honoured and Thankful to have been able to get up close and personal. Many of these beautiful, handmade outfits were donated by local families. I later realised the gentleman was Mr Robert Ferguson the owner of the Mill.
Then D and me went up the wooden steps. There was so much to see, especially toys, craft work from the period. Paper crafts: little red riding hood I think.
The Fisher Girl.
This Punch image from the nineteenth century seems to depict a procession or family fun fair day. I can't quite work out if these were black men dressed to look like minstrels or white men dressed as minstrels, my guess is the latter. The image also has men and women of a certain social class dressed in their finery's, as well as drunkards and chimney sweepers. It is an interesting social commentary on the time.
For me this was perhaps the most poignant. It is connected to the Highland clearances, as well as emigration of Scots to countries like Australia and Canada choosing to leave behind their life of misery and poverty in Scotland, for a better life elsewhere, like any migrant or refugee.
A clothes washer. Labour intensive. Thank goodness for the washing machine.
I can't remember what this was. It may be connected to beehives, but I am not sure.
Classy! You don't get showmanship prize badges like these nowadays.
Any farm would be proud to display such a sign. I know I would if I had a smallholder.
This was another one of my favourites. It is a 1930s kitchen cupboard. One of the local families donated it to the Museum. I loved the story that went with it. If you look closely at the top of the cupboard, you will see a plastic Santa Claus. The person who donated it shared a story behind the Santas. His mother was English and his father, a Scotsman would not allow them to partake in the festivities of Christmas. However, when his father was away from the home, his mother would bring these out two Santa characters and he and hsis siblings would just look at them with glee. Awww. How mothers please their children. I love the three tier cake holder too.
A close up of some things you may have found in a 1930s kitchen.
A creamery - a butter churner. A rusty old tin.
These pots, bowls and pot belly jugs are pretty standard in many Scottish museums, but I have never seen so many in such a small space.
A jelly mould on the right and a antique Shortbread mould advertising Raisley raising powder.
Too hot to handle. Some well used cooking pots.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend anyone in the area to visit. I intend to go back in the near future. To end our time there, we had a bowl of lentil soup. I was tempted to have a clootie dumpling as well, but decided not too, as I had some of my own home-baking in mind.