Beetroot and Feta Fritters

Fritters are secretly one of my favourite staple recipes to have hanging around, as I tend to collect vegetables and often the only way to get rid of them is to grate them up and fry the beejesus out them (what, you don’t just think to fry everything?).

These beetroot fritters are particularly good because 1). They are bright pink; 2). You don’t have to wait forever to roast the beets, it’s a grate, fry and eat prospect; and  3). The inclusion of Danish feta makes them quite a bit richer than the standard vegie fritter, so once you team them with a nice side salad they make a proper filling dinner. Bingo bango.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium beetroot, peeled and grated
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 125g Danish feta
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour, plus extra
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • olive oil, for frying

Method

1. Combine the grated vegetables in a bowl with the sliced spring onions and the egg. Mix to combine, then once the egg is fully incorporated, add the flour, and mix further until the mixture is sticking together nicely. If your mixture is still too wet, just keep adding flour until it reaches an agreeable consistency.

2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Using a tablespoon, take spoonfuls of the mixture, plop into the pan and flatten down into discs with the back of the spoon. Each side should take around 2-4 minutes to brown sufficiently, and obviously remember to turn them over so both sides cook. Let cooked fritters drain on a plate covered with paper towel, and repeat until you run out of mixture.

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Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie with Mushroom Gravy

Ordinarily I am the sort of cook where if I see a recipe with a hugely long ingredients list and a method that involves more than using maybe two pots, I go “tell him he’s dreaming” and then make ramen for dinner for the forty thousandth time. It’s not just laziness (although a decent percentage of it is laziness) – huge recipes are generally a signal that not only are you going to have to whip out some very clever kitchen skills in order to pull it off, but there’s generally also specialty ingredients lurking within that list that are going to be a bugger to source, are probably expensive and will then sit in your cupboard forever never to be useful for anything else and you’ll end up throwing them away four years past expiry in a fit of annoyed guilt. And of course, there is nothing worse than throwing all your soul and effort into a big complicated recipe, only for it all to explode in your face and end up tasting terrible.

This Frankenstein’s monster of a shepherd’s pie recipe, which I cobbled together in order to use up a packet of tempeh, is however well worth its long ingredients list and slightly fiddly assemblage. I was inspired by Michael’s version of the Viva Vegan creamy corn-crusted tempeh pot pie and used that recipe as a jumping point, although I already knew that I’d be changing several elements – subbing out the corn crust for a more traditional mashed potato, replacing the potato with pumpkin, adding green beans and leaving out entirely the currants and olives (because HONESTLY), and using a mix of spices more easily found in my cupboard and garden. It also didn’t look saucy enough for my purposes, so I started googling around for a suitable vegetarian gravy to add, and came across this version of tempeh pie to further jump off. The mashed potato formula comes courtesy of my mother, as all the best things do.

The only thing that I’ve amended in writing this recipe down is that in my original version I used half dried shiitake mushrooms and half a mix of other dried mushroom varieties, as that’s what I had in my cupboard. But as the shiitake was clearly the best part of the whole endeavour, and lent an awesome richness to the pie filling as a whole while the other mushrooms were merely taking up standing room, I must forcefully insist that you go Full Shiitake.

Ingredients

Tempeh Filling

  • 1/2 medium sized pumpkin, deseeded, skin removed, and diced
  • 230g packet tempeh
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 brown onions, finely sliced
  • handful green beans, top and tailed and cut into short rounds
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (substitute with dried if you don’t have fresh)
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • olive oil

Mushroom Gravy

  • 1 small packet whole dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • lots of ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mushroom water (this will be what’s left from re-hydrating your shiitake!)
  • 2 tbsp corn flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • olive oil

Mashed Potato Topping

  • 4 floury potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 50g butter
  • milk
  • ground black pepper and sea salt

Method

Grab your shiitake and set them to soak in a big bowl of boiling hot water. The longer the mushrooms have to soak the better, so always make sure this is your first step.

Steam your tempeh and boil your taters! I have one of those stovetop steamer sets where you boil water in the saucepan then whack the steamer pot on top, so if you have one of those you can be a SUPER MULTITASKER and do both at the same time. WONDERS! (You can also just bung on a separate saucepan for the potatoes if you don’t have a stovetop steamer set.) The potatoes will take about 20 minutes to properly soften up, and you should make sure you boil them in water that has had a good generous shake of salt added. The tempeh will take 10 minutes or so, so lay a little round of baking paper on the bottom of the steamer before putting in the tempeh, and then place over the boiling potatoes with a lid on – make sure there is a few inches gap between the top of the boiling water and the steamer pot, otherwise you’ll end up with very soggy tempeh indeed. Once the tempeh is ready, take it out carefully – it will be hot – cut it into cubes and put aside.

Since we’ve been multitasking wonders and boiled our potatoes, we may as well make the mash topping now. Drain the water from the pot, add the butter, and use a masher or the back of a fork to mash the potatoes. Add in a splash or two of milk to bring it to your preferred level of creaminess, add generous amounts of black pepper and sea salt, and mash it all up good. You can set aside the mash with a lid on it and it will keep warm while you make the filling and gravy.

Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 200C.

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a big deep frying pan. Fry the onions and the carrots over medium heat for about 10 minutes – you want the onions to be completely soft. Add the tablespoons of wine, which will cook off nice and quickly, then add the cumin, thyme, pumpkin, beans, tempeh, soy sauce and water. Add the powered vegie stock, combine, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, with some occasional stirring, before taking off the heat and setting aside.

Now to the gravy. Drain the mushrooms (but keep that mushroom water, we need it!), and cut the shiitake in half. Put them in a small frying pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and start to saute away. Crack over a good generous amount of black pepper. Add in 1 cup of the leftover mushroom water and bring to a gentle boil. Slowly pour in the corn flour and water mixture, and let it all simmer, while stirring, until it thickens nicely (your kitchen will be smelling like THE MOST DELICIOUS THING IN THE WORLD at this point, by the way).

Let us assemble the pie. Get the biggest, deepest casserole dish you can find. Layer first with the filling mixture, then with the gravy, and finish with the mashed potato. Put the casserole dish on a baking tray that has been lined with foil (just in case there is any spillover during the pie’s time in the oven) and bake for 45 minutes, or until the potato has nicely browned.

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If you are vegan you can make this pie – just replace the milk and butter in the mashed potato with your preferred non-daily equivalent. If you are coeliac you can make this pie – just replace the soy sauce with tamari. If you are an omnivore who ordinarily goes “ugh tempeh”, get your childish arse in hand, stop being so fucking boring and make this goddamn pie. This is my greatest life achievement, creating this delicious monument to saucy starch, and if this is the only tangible thing that I leave to the world, well then my existence has been worthwhile. Make the goddamn pie.

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Warm Radicchio and White Bean Salad

In order to prevent myself from constantly eating solely surplus packets of Caramello Koalas from my local bargain supermarket for every meal, I’ve started ordering a fortnightly vegie box delivery. Apart from taking me one step further to achieving my greatest dream of being able to have everything I need delivered and consequently never having to leave my house ever again, it’s also contributed to expanding my recipe repetoire due to being sent all kinds of fun things I’ve never cooked with before.

In my most recent box, the good folks at Kelly Brothers included a radicchio. I sent a panicked photo to my mother going “WHAT IS THIS, IS THIS AN ENDIVE, WHY IS IT PURPLE?” before she set me straight, and further recommended that I use it in a recipe where it required wilting, as raw radicchio has a tendency towards being quite bitter. Being of the school of ‘always listen to your mother’, I did some googling, and ended up cobbling together this from smushing a couple of recipes together and substituting various ingredients from what I had available in my fridge.

I’d recommend serving this as a side-dish rather than the entire meal that I scarfed down, it would be damn perfect going alongside some rich and starchy winter stew deliciousness.

Ingredients

  •  2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  •  1 bunch radicchio, leaves separated (cut the bigger outer leaves in half horizontally to make them a bit easier to deal with)
  •  2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  •  2 spring onions, sliced into rounds
  •  240g can white beans, drained and rinsed
  •  olive oil

1. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir about until it starts to become fragrant.

2. Add the beans and the radicchio leaves. Toss them about until the radicchio just starts to wilt.

3. Drizzle over the vinegar and an extra fat glug of olive oil, and toss in the spring onions. Mix it all around until the beans are nicely warmed through. Give it a nice sprinkle of sea salt at the death. Serve on a pink salmon plate so the purple of the radicchio really pops (optional, but you would be losing serious style points not to).

radicchio noms

 

Stuffed Tiny Pumpkin Perfect For One

My mother is quite the vegetable grower, and alongside all the kale, rhubarb and tomatoes that I keep pilfering from her garden, she recently gave me a teeny tiny pumpkin. I initially wasn’t quite sure what to do with it (boil it? Mash it? Stick it in a stew? Hang on, wrong vegetable), it was such a pretty wee thing that chopping it up as a component in a dish seemed like it would be an insult. But then I thought “well, if you can stuff a big pumpkin then you can also stuff a mini one,” did some research, smushed a bunch of different recipes together and devised the perfect stuffed mini pumpkin for one. The best thing is that it’s that kind of recipe I love, the ‘shove in whatever you have handy’ kind, so you can mix up the ingredients list depending on what you have in your pantry.

Ingredients

  • 1 tiny pumpkin
  • 1/2 wholemeal English muffin (or whatever fresh breadcrumb is handy for you)
  • 1/4 small green capsicum
  • 1/3 small zucchini
  • 4-5 mushrooms (any kind – I used shiitake)
  • grated cheese, to taste (whatever you have – I used a mix of cheddar and parmesan)
  • thickened cream
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh sage leaves (obvs. if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand use the dried equivalent)

1. Preheat oven to 220C. Line a tray with baking paper.

2. Take your wee pumpkin and cut a circular lid into the top around the stem (be careful! Use a sharp knife, as pumpkin skin is quite tough, and be slow and deliberate about it). Get a spoon and scoop out all the seeds and slimy membraney insides. Put the now disemboweled pumpkin on your baking tray, lid off.

3. Chop up the mushrooms, zucchini and capsicum into tiny little diced pieces. Crumble up the half of the English muffin into course breadcrumbs, and put in a bowl with the diced vegetables. Chop up the herbs, add to the bowl. Grate your cheeses, when you feel you have enough, add to the bowl (warning: what you think will be enough cheese will never enough; add some more. Yes, even more). Mix together all the things in the bowl so they’re nicely combined. You have stuffing now!

4. Take your bowl of stuffing and fill the cavity of the pumpkin. Pack it in there. Once it’s filled to about an inch or two from the top, pour over the cream. It should sink throughout the the stuffing, but if you want to give it a hand in mixing it through a little, do so. Don’t overfill, as you need to make sure you can put the pumpkin’s lid back on for baking. Crack some black pepper and salt over the filling, for good measure.

5. Pop the lid back on the pumpkin, and put it in the oven. Cook for 1 hour – 1 hour 20 minutes until you can pierce the pumpkin with a wooden skewer and it goes through easily and cleanly.

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And there you go, you made a tiny delicious pumpkin! Get a fork, get a glass of wine, pop the lid off and get a whiff of the lovely pumpkiny smell. Pull away the soft orange flesh from the walls of the pumpkin and mix it through the creamy vegetables, and feel the contentment start to sing through your bones. You’ve done good.

Red Lentil, Tomato and Potato Soup

I never used to post many recipes here on the blog as I figured to myself  “oh no, no one wants to hear about all my basic home cook recipes, people want to learn how to make more exciting and complicated things.” But then talking among my friends, many of whom want to cook more but end up being overwhelmed by the proficiency level expected from a lot of cookbook and food blog recipes, I realised that there is always a place for staples, the kind of recipes you make week to week because they are easy, tasty, delicious, and yield a bunch so you can freeze it and care for your future self.

And there’s no better way to care for yourself than with a stupidly comforting bowl of this hearty lentil soup. Well, it’s probably more of a stew. Either way, it is thick and filled with vegies and warmth and goodness. Your mum will be so proud of you if you show her you can make this, because it means you’re doing better than fine, you’re doing well.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 5 baby potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tsp all-purpose spice mix (you might recognise this as the stuff you use to coat tofu or meat cuts with before pan-frying. It also makes a damn fine soup spice mix involving anything starchy)
  • good handful baby spinach leaves
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)

1. Get yourself a big pot, add the olive oil and the garlic, and heat on the stove until the garlic is sizzling. Add the potato cubes and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly so that you completely coat them in the oil.

2. Add the stock, the lentils, the all-purpose spice mix and the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook, occasionally stirring, for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are soft and have sucked up most of the liquid, and the potato cubes are at your preferred level of softness – I like them with a slight firmness to them, but if you like them softer just let the pot bubble away for a bit longer, you’ll just have to stir a bit more vigilantly. If you’re worried the lentils will suck too much liquid in this time, feel free to add a bit more stock, or even water.

3. Add the baby spinach right at the death, stir through so that it wilts, and then do a bit of seasoning with a generous sprinkle of black pepper and sea salt. Ladle out into bowls and top with a nice generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese if you are using it. Voila!

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Minestrone in 20 Minutes

Even if you love cooking big, elaborate recipes that take all day to put together, most weekdays after work really all you want is a magic recipe that’s ready as soon as possible, is hearty and filling and at least vaguely healthy. It also helps if it’s a recipe that you can vary depending what you have in your cupboards (you might have noticed that this is my default position when cooking – if I ever write a recipe book it will be called Just Throw Everything You Have In, It Will Be Fine).

Well, this minestrone ticks all of those boxes. And once you make it a few times you can basically get it done and dusted and have a big ol’ pot of soup ready in 20 minutes. Joy! The recipe below is a base that will make you an awesome soup on its own, but then after we will talk about VARIATIONS.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre vegetable stock (make your own, use the premade stuff, throw some stock powder into a litre of water, whatever is your jam)
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup dried pasta (I use ditalini, but any small pasta shape works well)
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables* (I use one that has peas, carrot, green beans, corn kernels and potato)
  • 300g can mixed beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp dried Italian herb mix (I use one that’s a mix of basil, oregano and chilli)

Put the stock in a big soup pot and pour in the can of chopped tomatoes, and bring to the boil on the stove. Turn down to simmer, add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes, occasionally stirring. Then add the frozen vegetables, beans and herbs, and simmer until the pasta is tender, again occasionally stirring. DONE!

What else can you throw in it:

– I like the mixed beans for legume variety, but you can go traditional and use cannellini or another type of white bean. Hell, go nuts and throw in chickpeas or lentils instead, I reckon they’d work just grand and then you’d have mutant minestrone, which could only be an Experience.

– You can stir through a handful of baby spinach leaves, or any leafy green, a few minutes before serving for a bit of extra colour and iron.

– You could also top each serving with a few curls of parmesan cheese if that’s your fancy.

This has been another edition of Hayley Doesn’t Want You To Freak Out In The Kitchen, This Cooking Lark Is Easy I Promise.

* I will not be having with any snarky, snobbish comments directed at the use of frozen vegetables, much as I will not brook negative comments about pre-made sauces, stocks, using canned soups and whatnot as recipe bases, etc etc. It is nasty and it is classist and anyone wanting to turn their noses up can take a HIKE.

Butter Tofu and Broccoli Curry

I’ve always been a bit massively intimidated by Indian cuisine, and very rarely make it at home for myself. Maybe it’s the long spice lists that generally accompanies most traditional-leaning recipes that gets me in a flap. However, pre-Christmas time found me needing to make something that would use up all perishable food items that wouldn’t last me being away for a week, and my already departed housemate had left half a jar of butter curry paste that she insisted I use, so I ended up throwing this tofu and broccoli curry together. And you know, it was pretty darn good. Darn good enough to come into regular quick dinner rotation, that’s for certain. Maybe with a bit more practice I’ll develop the stones to have a go at a proper traditional curry with all the spice trimmings, but for now this will do in a pinch.

Ingredients

  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into little florets
  • 1/4 cup cream (guide only – I am all for you judging how much cream you want. I want LOTS)
  • 1 350g packet firm tofu nuggets
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 75ml water
  • 1 tablespoon butter curry paste (I used mild, but obviously if you want more spice go wild you spice demon, you)
  • 60g butter
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • long grain white rice, to serve

1. Throw the butter and the grated garlic into the bottom of a large pot or saucepan and saute over medium heat until the butter completely melts.

2. Cut the tofu nuggets into quarters and toss into the pot with the broccoli florets. Add the curry paste, can of chopped tomatoes (juice and all, don’t drain them), water and cream, mix it all together and let it simmer away on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

3. Now is a good time to throw on your rice, whether you use a rice cooker or the old school pot method. I use the rice cooking time to judge when the curry is ready – when the rice cooker pings over from ‘cook’ to ‘warm’ makes it right for me. Either that, or keep an eye on the broccoli, and when it’s at your preferred consistency turn off the heat.

4. Serve with rice. Easy as!