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Smoked cheese potato cakes with crispy kale, and Its Part-Time Vegetarian Variation

These potato cakes from Nicola Graimes’s The Part-Time Vegetarian are a great midweek supper that can easily be prepared in advance. You can also easily adapt the recipe to your own preferences. For example, for a non-vegetarian version, try using salmon instead of cheese.

Part time veg day 7 Smoked Cheese and Potato Cakes090

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:
Potato cakes
750g/ 1 lb 10oz white potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 ½ tbsp butter
4 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
olive oil, for frying, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
4 large handfuls of curly kale, tough stalks discarded, torn into large bite-size pieces
3 smoked garlic cloves or regular garlic
100g/ 3 ½oz/ heaped 1 cup grated smoked Cheddar cheese
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and grated
4 tspb capers, rinsed, patted dry and roughly chopped
1 large handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
flour; for dusting
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Caper mayonnaise
6 tbsp mayonnaise
juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp drained capers, rinsed, patted dry and finely chopped
1 tbsp nori flakes or 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

If possible, use a naturally smoked Cheddar in the potato cakes, rather than a smoke-flavoured one, which can lack the intensity of flavour and requisite dry texture. The smoked garlic embellishes the overall smokiness of the potato cakes, but you could use regular garlic instead.

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 190C, 375F/ Gas 5. Cook the potatoes in plenty of boiling salted water for 12-15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return the potatoes to the hot pan to dry briefly. Leave until cool enough to handle (or use rubber gloves) and coarsely grate into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the butter.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, brush the tomatoes with oil, place in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes, or until softened and starting to blacken, then leave to one side. Reduce the oven to 150C/300F/ Gas 2. Toss the kale in a little oil, season with salt and pepper, and place in a roasting pan in an even layer. Roast the kale for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until crisp. Keep an eye on it as it can easily burn.
  • Meanwhile, blanch the smoked garlic in a small pan of simmering water for 2 minutes until softened. Drain and roughly chop, then gently fold into the potatoes with the Cheddar, eggs, capers and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cover a plate with flour and form the potato mixture into 8 thick cakes, about 8cm/ 3 ¼ in diameter. Lightly dust each potato cake in flour. Heat enough oil to generously cover the base of a large non-stick frying pan and fry the potato cakes in two batches for 3 minutes on each side until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the bottom of the oven with the tomatoes.
  • While the potato cakes are cooking, mix together all the ingredients for the caper mayonnaise. Serve the potato cakes with the roasted tomatoes and crispy kale and with the caper mayo by the side.

Part-time variation:
Salmon potato cakes

  • Cook the potatoes, tomatoes and kale as described above. Replaced the smoked cheese, smoked garlic and hard-boiled eggs with 635g/ 1lb 6oz canned salmon, drained, skin and bones removed and fish flaked. Stir the salmon into the grated potato with 4 tbsp capers and 1 large handful chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, as instructed above. Form and cook the potato cakes as described above.

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Nicola Graimes
The Part-Time Vegetarian
£20.00, available from Nourish Books

 

 

 

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A Part-Time Vegetarian Choice: Pikelets with Pear and Ginger Compôte

A cross between the English crumpet and American pancake, the pikelet is thought to have originated in Wales. You need to plan ahead when making pikelets as the yeast requires time to do its thing, so these are best served for brunch (or indeed for tea). Nicola Graimes’s recipe from The Part-Time Vegetarian includes a warming pear compote flavoured with ginger and cloves, but they could also be served topped with a few rashers of crisp bacon and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Part time veg day 7 Pikelets006

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus rising

Cooking time: 16 minutes

Ingredients:
Pikelets
225g/8oz/ 1 ¾ cups plain/all-purpose flour, preferably spelt
1 tsp instant dried yeast
2 tsp caster/ granulated sugar
1 large egg
270 ml/ 9 ½ fl oz/ scant 1 ¼ cups milk
½ tsp salt
sunflower oil, for frying
Greek yogurt, to serve

Pear and ginger compot:
3 just-ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into bite-size cubes
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cm/ ½in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves
40g/ 1 ½oz/ 1/3 cup sultanas/ golden raisins
1-2 tbsp clear honey

Method:

  • To make the pikelets, mix together the flour, yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined, then make a well in the middle.
  • Whisk the egg into the milk. Pour the mixture into the well and gradually draw in the flour, whisking to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with cling film/ plastic wrap and leave for 2 hours in a warm place until bubbly and risen. Stir in the salt just before cooking, otherwise it will inhibit the yeast.
  • Meanwhile, to make the compote, put the pears, orange juice, ginger and cloves in a saucepan over a high heat and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and stir in the orange zest and sultanas/ golden raisins. Cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the pears are just tender but not falling apart. Stir in enough honey to sweeten.
  • Heat a little oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and wipe it over the base using a crumpled up sheet of paper towel. Place a small ladleful (about 3 tablespoons) of the batter into the pan, then repeat to cook 4 pikelets at a time. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until risen and golden. Keep warm wrapped in a cloth or low oven while you make the remaining pikelets.
  • Serve the pikelets with pear and ginger compote and with yogurt on the side.

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Nicola Graimes
The Part-Time Vegetarian
£20.00, available from Nourish Books

 

 

 

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Potstickers for a Part-Time Vegetarian

Asparagus and ginger make for a delicious filling for these typical Chinese potstickers. You can adapt this recipe according to your own preferences, adding pork instead of asparagus. Nicola Graimes‘ non-vegetarian version also for you below to try.

‘Potsticker’ is another name for a Chinese dumpling and this tempting version makes a great precursor to a vegetable stir-fry or can be served as part of dim sum. The great name derives from the way the dumplings are cooked. First they are fried to give a crisp, golden base – take care as they can stick to the pan, hence the name – followed by steaming in a little water or broth.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 6 minutes

Ingredients:
20 round wonton wrappers (for frying), defrosted if frozen
plain/all-purpose flour, for dusting
1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra if needed
1 tbsp finely snipped chives, for sprinkling

Asparagus and ginger filling:
235g/8½oz bunch asparagus, stalks trimmed and very thinly sliced, tips halved lengthways
1 spring onion/scallion, finely chopped
2.5cm/1in piece of fresh root ginger, coarsely grated (no need to peel)
140g/5oz tofu, drained well on paper towels and coarsely grated
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soy and ginger dipping sauce:
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
½cm/¼in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced

Method:Asparagus and Ginger Potstickers

  • Mix together the ingredients for the dipping sauce, adding just half of the chilli, then leave to one side.
  • Reserve the asparagus tips, then mix together the remaining ingredients for the filling in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Place 2 teaspoons of the filling mixture in the centre of a wonton wrapper. Moisten the edge of the wrapper with a little water, fold in half and pleat the edge to seal to make a half moon-shaped dumpling with a flat bottom and rounded top. Place the dumpling on a floured board, cover with a damp dish towel and repeat to make 20 dumplings in total.
  • Heat the oil in a large lidded frying pan. Arrange half the dumplings in the pan, flat-side down, and cook for 2 minutes until the base of each dumpling is golden and slightly crisp. Remove from the pan, leave to one side and repeat with the second batch of dumplings, adding more oil, if needed.
  • Return the dumplings to the pan if they fit in an even layer.
  • Add 4 tablespoons water to the pan and scatter over the asparagus tips, immediately cover the pan with a lid and steam  for 2 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Serve the dumplings scattered with the asparagus tips, chives and reserved chilli with the dipping sauce in a small bowl by the side.

PART-TIME VARIATION: Pork and ginger potstickers

  • To make the potsticker filling, mix together 150g/5½oz minced/ground pork, 1 finely chopped Chinese cabbage leaf, 2.5cm/1in piece of fresh root ginger, grated, 1 finely chopped spring onion/scallion, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil in a bowl.
  • Make and cook the dumplings as described above, adding 6 tablespoons water to the pan.
  • Cover with a lid and cook for 6 minutes.
  • Serve scattered with chives and chilli with the dipping sauce.

1106_original-300x390

Nicola Graimes
The Part-Time Vegetarian
Available from Nourish Books
£20,00

 

 

 

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,

Meet Nicola Graimes

Nicola Graimes is an award-winning cookery writer and former editor of Vegetarian Living magazine. She has writtenNicola G. more than 20 books, including The Top 100 Recipes for a Healthy Lunchbox, The Big Book of Wok, The Big Book of Low-Carb Recipes, The New Vegetarian Kitchen (that was chosen as one of OFM‘s Top 50 Cookbooks of the Year) and Veggienomics for Nourish.

Can you describe your book? What should the reader expect from it?
The idea behind my latest book was born out of the growing number of people who like to eat a flexitarian diet, so one that is predominantly vegetarian but occasionally features meat and fish – so it’s the perfect book for those who are looking for simple and nourishing vegetarian meals and who also want recipes that can be adapted, on occasion, to include fish and meat.
In the book, there are lots of recipes for different eating occasions from breakfasts and brunches; light meals; quick and easy weekday meals; to weekend cooking and food for sharing, covering dishes for entertaining, celebrations and special occasions.
Yet, what sets this book apart is that many of the vegetarian recipes feature a variation that shows the reader how to adapt the original into one that contains meat or fish. So, in effect, you get two recipes for the price of one!

What inspired you to start writing The Part-Time Vegetarian?
I’ve noticed a real shift in interest in vegetarian food in recent years and not only from those who are committed to a fully meat-free diet. The standard of creativity in vegetarian cooking and the choice of ingredients now available is really inspiring.
The book is also a bit of a coming out for me… having been vegetarian for nearly thirty years and written many vegetarian cookbooks, more recently I’ve started to include some meat and fish in my diet. Although my diet is still mainly veggie, I’ve really got into developing dishes that can be adapted to suit different diets and preferences.
Coincidentally, I’ve discovered that I’m not alone and a flexi diet is, in fact, one of the fastest growing food trends. And, as the name suggests, the beauty of this way of eating is its flexibility – so it can easily be adapted to suit your lifestyle and what’s happening on a weekly basis

What was the first flexi dish that you mastered?
I suppose it’s a way of cooking I’ve been doing for years without fully recognizing or acknowledging it. For many years, there was a real divide in our house: my daughter and I were vegetarian and my son and husband meat-eaters. This could have made mealtimes tricky so I got used to adapting dishes to suit different tastes and keep everyone happy!
Everyday favourites such as pasta, pizza, soups, stews and pies are the most obvious dishes that can be readily adapted. In the book, the non-veggie twist may be as simple as adding a sprinkling of bacon or topping a lentil dish with a grilled fillet of fish, but I also wanted the non-veggie dishes to stand out on their own and not be second-rate to the meat-free ones, so there may be a slight change in spicing or other ingredients to ensure they work as best they can and taste great.

‪‪What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Well it’s such a great job, so I have no complaints… I’m not sure that this is the biggest challenge but keeping recipes simple and accessible is always a priority – as a food writer it’s easy to get carried away when developing new recipes by making dishes over-complicated or using too many different ingredients. I often have to remind myself to keep things real and don’t go overboard on the number of ingredients. I hope I’ve achieved this with The Part-time Vegetarian, especially with the special features that give pocket-sized ideas to spice things up in the kitchen – with the occasional more complex recipe, like the celebratory hand-raised mushroom pie for when time is not quite as pressing.

‪‪Can you tell us 3 kitchen hacks for a flexi diet?

  • For those occasions when you’re cooking for both veggies and non-veggies I like to make what I call ‘assembly’ meals. These are when you have a core part, say a noodle and vegetable Asian broth, but then on the table have different bowls of accompaniments that everyone can help themselves to depending on preference, so perhaps you could have some chilli-garlic prawns, cubes of marinated and fried tofu, stir-fried strips of beef or salted black beans.
  • Now we’re moving towards the cooler months, vegetable-based soups, stews and curries are perfect for making in bulk in advance and storing in portions in the freezer. Simply defrost and reheat for a quick warming weekday meal or in true flexi style, add your choice of meat or fish.
  • I always find it easier at the start of the week to mentally plan out what we’ll be eating as a family throughout the week to come, so there’s a balance and variety of ingredients and meals. If you want to include more vegetarian meals in your diet it makes it so much easier to be prepared and plan in advance. Incidentally, there is a section on ‘Planning Ahead’ with menu ideas in the book.

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Nicola Graimes
The Part-Time Vegetarian
Available from September 2015
Pre-order the book on Amazon

 

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Top Tips to Go Flexi

by Nicola Graimes

HH Part Time Veg day 2 Steamed sesame tofu in ginger 214

Steamed Sesame Tofu in Ginger

It has been named as one of the top food trends of the moment… it is called ‘flexitarianism’ – vegetarians who occasionally eat meat or fish and meat-eaters who regularly include plant-based meals into their diet.

I have picked up on this burgeoning trend with my new book Part-time Vegetarian, due to be published in late September. The cookbook includes over 100 vegetarian recipes, many of which can be adapted to include meat, seafood or poultry, if so liked.

If you’re keen to reduce the amount of meat you eat or you are looking for delicious adaptable meals, the Part-time Vegetarian shows how easy and tasty it can be.

Here are some simple tips to get you started:

  • A good starting point is to change the ratio of animal protein to veggies on your plate. This means having a smaller piece of meat or fish on your plate than perhaps you would normally have and upping the quantity of vegetables and look to include vegetarian protein foods, such as nuts, cheese, pulses, eggs or tofu.
  • If you’re new to vegetarian cooking or find it all a bit daunting, it’s time to think out of the box. Don’t feel restricted by meals that are made up of meat, potatoes and vegetables – there is a wealth of exciting vegetarian meals out there waiting to be tried. Check out new recipes to make it less daunting.
  • Risotto, paella, pies, tarts, winter and summer salads, soups, stews and bakes don’t have to include meat or fish. Try to include a meat-free main meal at least three times a week – but the choice is yours.
  • It’s a good idea to plan ahead what you’re going to eat over the forthcoming week. In that way, you can ensure you are eating a good balance of varied meals and it makes food shopping that much easier. There are some meal plan ideas at the back of my book to help.
  • Stock up on store cupboard essentials so that you always have a good store of veggie ingredients to hand such a tinned beans, lentils, tinned toms, nuts, seeds, grains, noodles and pasta.
  • Try to be aware of seasonality and local fresh fruit and veg suppliers. Markets, pick-your-own and veg box schemes can all be good value and will open your eyes to new varieties of fresh stuff perhaps not tried before.
  • Eat up your veg – make a conscious effort to try a previously untried type of veg each week – Asian grocers are great places for finding new varieties.
  • The beauty of a flexitarian, or part-time vegetarian diet, is there are no hard and fast rules so it can be as flexible or varied as you like. That means you don’t have to feel pressure to stick to any dietary guidelines, which allows you to take things at your own pace.
  • Flexitarianism is a lifestyle choice, rather than a ‘diet’ so have fun – no guilt allowed!

1106_original-300x390

Nicola Graimes
The Part-Time Vegetarian
Available from September 2015
Pre-order the book on Amazon

 

 

Sign up for our newsletter to get our new articles straight to your inbox every month.

 

The Revival of Pickles & Ferments

ferments

by Nicola Graimes

Traditionally a way of preserving vegetables to extend their shelf life as well as add flavour before the days of refrigeration, most cultures have their own version of pickled and fermented foods. What’s most interesting is that they are currently experiencing a revival in popularity, partly due to a renaissance in the back-to-basics approach in the kitchen but also because of their numerous health benefits, particularly supporting the immune system and aiding digestion.

Fermented foods such as the Wild Sauerkraut, below, are made by adding salt to vegetables to stop them going off, while leaving them at room temperature to allow the natural bacteria and wild yeasts found in the environment and the cabbage leaves to preserve them. This esults in the vegetables developing a softer texture and a mildly acidic flavour. Pickles on the other hand rely on a combination of salt and vinegar as a preservative and tend to have a more piquant flavour.

The technique for making both pickles and ferments is quite straightforward, but the end result requires a certain amount of patience as it can take weeks before they are ready to eat. Bearing this in mind, here are a few speedy ‘cheats’ versions, when time won’t wait.

Wild sauerkraut
This basic recipe for sauerkraut can easily be adapted with the addition of spices, such as fennel seeds, caraway seeds, chilli and ginger, or by adding other vegetables, including kohlrabi, radish or kale.
Put 750g/1lb 10oz shredded green cabbage, 2 grated carrots and 2 grated turnips in a large mixing bowl. Stir in 4 tsp fine sea salt with 5 crushed peppercorns and 2 tsp crushed coriander seeds.
With clean hands, turn and lightly squeeze the vegetables for 5 minutes until they start to soften and release their liquid. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Spoon into a sterilized glass mason or kilner jar, pressing the vegetables down firmly with the end of a rolling pin as you go to make sure they are tightly packed and until the level of the squeezed liquid is above the vegetables. Put a glass or smaller jar, inside the mason jar and weight it down to keep the vegetables submerged. Cover with a clean dish towel and secure with a rubber band to let the sauerkraut breathe. Leave at room temperature for 5–14 days, checking daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged, pushing them down if needed and removing any scum that forms on the top. Taste and when happy with the flavour, secure the lid and transfer to the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 6 months chilled.

Easy kimchi
For a speedy version of kimchi, the famous and increasingly popular Korean fermented pickle, mix together a thinly sliced 2.5cm/1 in piece of fresh root ginger, 1 shredded carrot, 1 handful of shredded Chinese leaves, 2 shredded spring onions/scallions, 1 diced red chilli and 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds  with 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 tsp caster/granulated sugar and ½ tsp salt.
Stir well and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to combine and develop. Transfer to a bowl to serve straightaway or to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Pickled ginger
Liven up sushi, rice and noodle dishes with this simple recipe for pickled ginger, which, unlike most shop-bought alternatives, is natural coloured, rather than
artificial pink. Mix together 4 tbsp rice vinegar and 2 tbsp caster/granulated sugar in a shallow bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add a 5cm/2in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into paper-thin slices, and turn until coated.

Leave the ginger for about 30 minutes to steep, or until softened. The ginger is ready to eat but can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Cheat’s preserved lemons
Usually preserved lemons can take weeks to ferment, but this quick and easy version makes a surprisingly good alternative to the real thing. Simply, pare the zest of 2 large lemons into strips using a vegetable peeler and put them in a small pan. Squeeze in the juice of 2 large lemons and stir in ½ tsp sea salt.

Set the pan over a low heat and simmer for 8– 10 minutes, or until the skin is very tender and has darkened slightly in colour. Transfer to a bowl to serve straightaway or spoon into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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Nicola Graimes
The Part-Time Vegetarian
Available from September 2015