Monday, 31 March 2014

Nut and Vegetarian Mince Loaf - a good slicer

First, an acknowledgement of the source of this recipe. It's a suggested Christmas loaf from Mary McCartney and the link was tweeted by @MeatFreeMonday. I have adapted the ingredients and method mildly and altered timings, and when I made it, this amount would serve 5-6. We really liked it; Mr P is not one for nut loaves usually, but I persuaded him that he likes every single ingredient and it went very well.

Although I work quite quickly in the kitchen, the loaf took 1 hour 45 minutes from start to serving, which is a little longer than the original - planned to serve it with The Archers but it wasn't ready, so 7.15 it was. This timing includes an hour's baking, so plenty of time to sort out the veg. I served it with baby hasselback potatoes (cooked in the oven for the last 35 mins) and broccoli, with a packet cheese sauce - Asda do a good one, not too calorific, which just requires addition of boiling water.

There are no complicated procedures - ingredients are added one by one to a single saucepan, then cooled briefly before piling into the baking tin.

Nut and Vegetarian Mince Loaf
 A 2lb (larger of the two common sizes) loaf tin is needed, lined with baking parchment. The oven will need to be at 175C, middle shelf.

2 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, peeled & finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, trimmed & finely chopped
40g pine nuts, lightly toasted*
50g walnut pieces, chopped finely
100g cooked chopped chestnuts (e.g. canned or vacuum packed, or cook from raw)
125g vegetarian mince (I used Quorn)
3 tbsp chopped fresh sage (or thyme leaves)
125g bread pulsed into fine crumbs
150ml vegetarian stock
3 eggs, lightly beaten together
scant tsp salt
plenty of ground black pepper

* To toast the nuts, put in a small dry pan over a moderate heat and stir frequently until they start to brown, then remove from heat. Takes only about 3 mins.

1  Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the onions and celery and sautee for 5 mins.
2  Add the pine nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, mince and sage. Stir well and sautee gently
         for a further 10 mins.
3  Stir in the breadcrumbs and continue cooking for 10 mins more, stirring often.
4  Add the stock and mix well, then cook just a further couple of minutes.
5  Tip the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool for 5 mins (so the eggs don't cook).
6  Add the eggs, salt and pepper and mix well, then tip into the loaf tin, smooth over
         and press down with the back of a spoon.
7  Bake for 30 mins, then turn out upside down onto a baking sheet. Remove the
         parchment and return to the oven for a further 30 mins. The edges should be
         golden and a little crispy.
8  This slices better if then left for 5 mins, and a sharp knife will be needed. The loaf
         slices really well when cold, too - like this:

I wouldn't tinker much with this recipe now that it works for me - it's a keeper. But you could add three peeled and crushed garlic cloves, or - to make it more festive - say 2 tbsp of chunky cranberry sauce. Or Branston pickle. Or horseradish sauce. Red wine could be used instead of stock, but I haven't tried that. As if!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Aubergine Canneloni - Family Meal to Prep in Advance

Can it be called 'canneloni' if it contains no pasta? I think the style of the content justifies it.

I devised this dish as a nice way to serve aubergines - they're lovely to look at, but suffer an awful fate sometimes in sloppy dishes such as overcooked mass-produced ratatouille. And in most recipes the slices are fried before baking, which allows them to absorb as much oil as they're given. I prefer to microwave the slices and then allow the other ingredients to work their magic in the oven or on the hob.  
via richard_north
The recipe serves 4 but can easily be halved, doubled, or - as in my picture below - increased by half to serve six. The preparation takes 50 minutes or so, but can be done in advance by making the canneloni and keeping (covered) in the fridge overnight and making up the sauce and keeping separately. Baking the dish takes about 35min.

Aubergine Canneloni
Lightly oil a rectangular (approx 20x14cm) or square (17x17cm) fairly shallow oven-proof dish.
The oven should be at 175C when the dish is assembled ready to bake, middle shelf.

2 large aubergines
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion
large can chopped tomatoes
150ml white wine or vegetarian stock (otherwise water)
1 tsp soft dark brown sugar (otherwise clear honey)
salt & pepper
200g low fat soft cheese or Ricotta
50g grated vegetarian Cheddar
sprig of basil, snipped
50g finely chopped nuts (or flaked almonds)
1  Trim away the ends of the aubergines and carve lengthwise into thin (about 7mm) 
         slices. Discard the skin-covered outer edge from each side; this should leave 
         about 8 slices for each aubergine.
2  Sprinkle with a little water and microwave on high for 3 mins in two batches, 
         spreading the slices around the plate.
3  Heat the oil in a medium pan. Peel and coarsely chop the onion and fry for 5min.
4  Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 10min. (Meanwhile, go to 6 below.)
5  Add the wine, stock or water and sugar to the pan; simmer a further 10min. Add
         salt/pepper as required. Set aside for now.
6  Meanwhile, mix the soft cheese, Cheddar, basil and nuts in a bowl and season.
7  Spread each aubergine slice almost to each end with the cheese mixture and
         roll up tightly. Pack in the oven dish in a single layer, seam side down.
8  Bake for 20min (without the sauce). 
9  Pour the tomato sauce over the dish, helping it to filter between the aubergine rolls. 
         Bake for a further 15min until well bubbling.

As so often, in the excitement of serving, I forgot to take a photo of the completed dish, so here's what was left of recipe-and-a-half after six people were served! (More went as seconds ...)
A decent side salad would go well, and as there's no pasta, perhaps baby potatoes. Since I tend to overcater with so many things I love to produce, here's the actual menu for this family lunch:
aubergine canneloni, baby roasted potatoes, mini stuffed sweet pepper halves, chick pea salad, pea/mint/onion relish, dark olive tapenade, French stick, savoury crackers. Followed by blackberry and apple crumble (topped with ground cardamom seeds), fresh strawberries and melon balls in mango juice, and Chantilly cream - but that's another story.