Gastronomically Terrific

May 10, 2015

Easter nest torte

Filed under: Cake, Easter, party — Tags: , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:04 am

Easter nest torte CUThe last of my three Easter bakes, this one was somewhat more complicated than the other two. I have made it before, which helped, and I really wanted to give it a go because it has a chocolate mousse layer – something you can’t really eat when pregnant, and there were three no-longer pregnant ladies in the house (me included) for our Easter weekend gathering.

There are four stages to making this cake. The first is to make a basic chocolate sponge, so it starts off fairly easily.

The second stage is to make a chocolate collar to go round the cake, which you need to do once the sponge has baked (so you can measure its exact circumference). Making the chocolate collar is simply a case of melting some dark chocolate and pouring it onto a strip of greaseproof paper that you’ve measured out to the right size. The tricky bit is getting the chocolate at the right time so you can wrap it around the cake without it breaking.

The third stage is to make the chocolate mousse by egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and milk. You then boil more milk, pour it over the egg yolk mixture, and cook them together gently. You then add the gelatine and chocolate to the mousse. Once the mousse has started to thicken, you add whipped cream and then pour the mousse mixture onto the top of the chocolate cake.

Once the cake has been in the fridge for a couple of hours, the fourth and final stage is to add shards of chocolate (I used Flake) to the top of the mousse layer, and some Mini eggs in the centre to make it look like a nest.

Not a recipe I attempt often because it is quite complex (made even more so by the fact that I use Vege-gel so my vegetarian husband can eat it), but if you manage to make it work, it looks and tastes amazing!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Simply Cadbury’s Chocolate. Joanna Farrow, pg. 120-121

All the Easter cakes

All my Easter bakes


January 27, 2014

Vegetarian Christmas Roast Dinner

Filed under: Christmas, main — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 6:48 pm

In ord28 Veggie Xmas dinnerer to get Dan to agree to the effort of cooking our own roast dinner on our Christmas Day, I sneakily suggested that we have a vegetarian roast dinner rather than a meat one. Turns out it wasn’t that sneaky, because I didn’t get to eat any meat. Ah well, I got plenty a week later.

Our vegetarian Christmas dinner consisted of three recipes from Nigella’s Christmas – roast stuffed pumpkin, gingery tomato sauce, and Christmas sprouts. We supplemented this with our roast potatoes and parsnips, which we know taste good because we cook them lots!

We couldn’t get hold of a pumpkin, so we substituted this for a butternut squash. This actually worked quite well – once we’d figured out how to make the squash hold the rice mixture and stand up in the oven (it involved a fair bit of tin foil…). The butternut squash and the gingery tomato sauce worked really well together, and the sauce was really easy to make – it’s mostly ginger and passata.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well with the rest of our roast dinner, which was a lot more traditional. In fairness to the recipe book, it suggests that the stuffed pumpkin and sauce should be served with red cabbage and a salad, which would probably work much better. That’s not a Christmas dinner now though, is it?

I do love the taste of brussel sprouts with chestnuts and nutmeg though, and have done it before. I personally think it’s much tastier than simple old brussel sprouts. I did go a little overboard with the chestnuts here though, so the brussel sprouts got a bit drowned.

So, whilst I enjoyed both making and eating the stuffed butternut squash, I wouldn’t choose to make it for a main Christmas dinner again. I think a nut roast works much better, and if you make it yourself they can actually taste pretty good. Still not meat though, is it?

Who made it: Anna and Dan

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 132 (Christmas Sprouts), pg. 165-167 (Stuffed Pumpkin), pg. 168 (Gingery Tomato Sauce)

July 17, 2011

Potato, Fontina and rosemary tart

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 3:41 pm

This looks pretty tasty.  It’s a shame that it wasn’t very good.

Its not what you can see, but what you can't that matters here.

Alarm bells should have started ringing with the title: potato tart.  Pastry doesn’t really need more starch added to it… still, pasties have potato in and are tasty so it’s not a hopeless idea.

Where this goes very, very wrong is that the potato is not cooked at all before going in the pie: it is just sliced very thinly.  Anyone who cooks knows that this is going to be dangerous, and with an oven like ours is downright silly.  You par boil potatoes.  They need par boiling.

So although the tart above looks really rather tasty, it was basically uncooked.  We then had to microwave it to death to get the potato to cook.  The end result was still OK, but the pastry was a little tough and just not the fresh yumminess it should have been.  I like the idea of a rosemary cheese pie, but I think more varied veg would be better.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: The daily cook book, by Love Food, November 11th.

July 10, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:35 pm

This is now such a regular feature in our house that we just make it up as we go along.  This qualifies as the “Summer Risotto”, being based mostly around herbs for flavour instead of spices and alcohol.

Summer Risotto

Summer Risotto with Butternut Squash and white wine

Of course you can do basically anything with risotto.  They key is getting some flavours in, here provided by mint and basil in a white wine and stock.  The next most important thing is making sure it has enough vegetables in  that you like.


1/2 Butternut squash, 1 carrot, 1/2 onion, 1/2 leek, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 pepper, 2 mushrooms, pine seeds, butter, white wine, fresh herbs.

Method (serves 2):

To make the butternut  squash, peel (1/2 a fair sized squash) and chop into chunks, drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar and bake (evenly spread) at 200 degrees for an hour. (optionally sprinkle on pine seeds after 30 mins).

Meanwhile for the risotto, fry some onion, leek and garlic in a dollop of butter.  Make 500ml of vegetable stock.  When the onion starts to go soft, add 1 small cup of rice (risotto if you have it, but actually most rice types work) and a small amount of stock, and turn down to a simmering heat.  Keep adding stock when it needs it to keep the consistency sticky but not wet.  Add the thinly sliced carrots and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the diced pepper and simmer for a further 15 minutes.  Then add the mushrooms and a good guzzle of white wine, and give it an additional 10 minutes.

When the rice is cooked (which should take about 50 minutes), add a dollop of butter with a handful of two of your favourite chopped herbs (say, basil and mint). Mix and leave to “breath” for a couple of minutes.  Serve the squash on the risotto, with grated cheese on top… and a salad on the side if that floats your boat 🙂

October 3, 2010

Stilton and walnut pie

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 8:35 pm

For no obvious reason we decided to make pie this weekend.  Awesome idea.

Pie, the way pie should be.

Good pie is a rare and wonderful thing when you are vegetarian. For some reason, many restaurants don’t get that vegetarians do eat pastry. Last I checked, there were no little pastry farms with little baby sausage rolls, many of which are killed before their time  and frozen for parties but some are allowed to grow up into those jumbo sausage rolls you get from bakeries.  Maybe I’m just a pastry farm denialist – I also deny that chips are caught by chip trawlers in giant nets as they graze the algae in the oceans, forming giant schools and being preyed on by cod and dolphins (but its OK because they lead happy chippy lives).  That would explain why so many places are reluctant to serve chips to vegetarians – they are looking out for our moral wellbeing.  After all, that chips come from potatoes is just a “theory” that scientists “believe”.

So anyway, we made this pie.  The recipe called for home-made short pastry, but we had some flaky pastry in the freezer so we used that instead.  A great tip – bake the pastry bottom for 5-10 mins before you add the filling – it makes it crisp up perfectly, and stops it sticking.  The centre was onion, egg, walnuts and Stilton (we also added some butternut squash), which works really well.  I think next time I’d try a larger variety of veggies, and would swap out the blue cheese for smoked cheese (e.g. Applewood).  Blue cheese is great, but it does overwhelm the other flavours a little.

It is a great vegetarian recipe though – the nuts and egg lead to a meaty texture that is very satisfying, and the cheese adds good flavour.  Very impressed and would try this again!  We had it with some boiled potatoes, carrots and brocoli, all sautéed for a little extra flavour.  Very much yum.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: modified from “Regional recipes and reflections” by Susan Over, page 64.

May 3, 2010

Rosti with roasted vegetables

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:16 pm

This is a misnomer – it should have been called roasted vegetables with rosti.

The rosti are under there somewhere, I promise!

This is a great way of cooking vegetables to bring out their natural flavours and add just a little more.  The veggies are marinated for at least an hour in olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar, garlic and honey – a fantastic sweetening and encouraging of the natural flavours, with the vinegar adding an amazing taste (I was recently converted!)   The vegetables should be ones you like, because they taste distinctively of themselves, although roasted courgette is not as watery as normal, and decent tomatoes taste amazing like this!

The rosti are potato cakes.  This recipe is just to grate par boiled potato, fold them into patties and fry them.  Its ok, but basically tastes of mashed potato – there are much better rosti recipes in the world.  Cheese and onion work well, as does garlic.

This recipe uses a pesto/olive oil mixture as a sauce that I liked, although I’m not really sure that it works better than a gravy would.  Of course, being essentially a tasty way to cook roast, any other roasted items could be added.  Sausages would seem appropriate as would good ol’ roasties and yorkshire puddings.  In summary, this is a great way to roast vegetables and we’ll be experimenting along these lines again.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: “the daily cook book” by Love Food, May 3rd.

Celeriac and Almond crumble

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:54 pm

This intriguing savoury crumble could be adapted to a range of different flavours, and is a flavoursome recipe in its own right, but could do with “something more” in the main tomato layer.

We left the crumble chunky to add texture. No, it isn't mince!

This consists of two distinct layers – the tomato based celeriac layer, and of course the crumble.  The tomato sauce itself is made from pasata and like all good home made sauces, really adds an intensity to the flavour lacking in shop bought tomato sauces.  Saying that, the main ingredients were simply leeks and celeriac, which are not too thrilling and lack the “meaty” texture needed for stews (and this layer is really a stew).  Any old veg and sauce would do the job just fine; just cook it up like you would a spaghetti bolognaise.

The topping is far more interesting.    It consists of wholemeal flour, rolled outs and ground almonds in equal quantity (50g) with half as much butter again (so 75g).  This is flavoured by fresh thyme (we used lemon thyme) but I imagine many herbs would come out well.  The crumble is baked for 30 minutes at 190 degrees.

We had our celeriac “aldente” – just a little crunchy in places – which adds texture and preserves taste but was a little disconcerting.  I’d prefer root veg properly boiled and to get my texture from something else, perhaps sausage or nuts.  Still, we’ll definitely be trying the crumble idea again because it adds a unique texture and flavour to otherwise simple stew dishes.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: “the complete vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 271.

Celeriac and emmental soup

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:38 pm

This tasty soup brings out the best of the flavour in celeriac.

As usual, soup looks like soup. Believe me, it was tasty.

Celeriac is a funny vegetable.  Literally, you laugh just looking at it.  It’s all knobbly and oddly coloured, clearly related to swedes and turnips.  However, as a root veg it has a very pleasant taste and smell – shockingly, it is something like celery – that is delicate and probably easy to boil out.  Soup brings this out very well.  I’d say the flavour is more pleasant than celery, perhaps because the parsnip like starchy texture is more reassuring.  This blends to a lovely thick soup that feels very satisfying to eat.

The emmental didn’t really add anything here and could be replaced by most cheeses – vegetable stock is the main secondary flavour.  I’d consider gentle spices but you’d have to be careful not to crowd out the celeriac.

Very tasty, we’d try this again.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: “the complete vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 154.

April 3, 2010

Cider casserole

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:29 pm

This is one of the most successful “subtle” casseroles we’ve made, having a distinctive and pleasant taste without being overbearing.

As usual with casserole, it tastes better than it looks.

The flavours in this dish all come from the cidery, creamy vegetable stock, which is a delicate taste that could easily be ruined by adding a strong-tasting vegetable or spice.  We start by frying onion, then adding leek and celery until they all soften.  Then add carrot, courgette and new potatoes and continue to fry gently until everything softens (10-15 minutes).

Then we add a finely chopped cooking apple, some cider, cream and vegetable stock, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, when the vegetables should be tender and have absorbed many of the sauces flavours.  Finally add parsley and season.

I wouldn’t really know how this could be modified – any spices or even herbs might be too strong – and you have to like the vegetable flavour naturally as it is enhanced rather than masked.  All winter veg could potentially work, although most of my favourites are already here.

A very tasty dish that we will definitely try again.

Who made it: Dan and Anna together.

Recipe: “the complete vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 243.

Leek and Fennel Frittata

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:14 pm

This is basically baked omelette, which tastes very similar to the real thing and is much easier, at the price of slightly longer cooking time.

Omelette, but baked.

So for this we fry some onion, leeks and garlic, then add some fennel.  Add some dill when the vegetables have browned off then remove from the heat.  Then eggs and goats cheese are mixed in and the whole lot is baked in the oven for 30 minutes.

The taste is very pleasant, not complex but good and hearty, and the goat’s cheese gives it a pleasant tang.  Dill works quite well by giving an earthy gentle taste, although the smell will not please everyone! I’d recommend it and will be trying it again.

However, the key thing about the recipe is that you can basically do anything that works as an omelette hear, with the advantage that it cooks reliably in the oven instead of falling apart in a frying pan.  So when cooking for a lot of people this approach would be much better than the traditional one.

Who made it: Dan and Anna together.

Recipe: “the complete vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 180.

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