The Really Simple Vege Chilli

This is a really simple vegetarian chilli that we make quite a bit. It is tasty with nachos, on rice, with baked potatoes, etc, etc.

It also freezes really well so we always have a few bags in the freezer ready for “Oh dear, what shall I cook?” dinners.

Think of this as a base and, if you follow these rough proportions, you can make all sorts of changes. Switch out one or more cans of kidney beans for black beans, add mushrooms or capsicum alongside the onions, do your own spicing, etc, etc.

Ingredients

  • Tablespoon of frying oil (canola, light olive oil, etc)
  • 2 onions (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cans kidney beans in brine (drained)
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 packet el paso chilli spice mix
  • 250gm frozen chuckwagon corn (mix of corn, peas, capsicum, etc)

I often double or triple this in a large stockpot.

Method

  1. Chop the onions and fry at medium heat until somewhat cooked/translucent.
  2. Drain the kidney beans and add.
  3. Add the tomatoes (don’t drain them).
  4. Add the spice mix.
  5. Bring to a simmer and keep it that way for 30 minutes.
  6. Add the frozen veges and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Done!

 

Baked Eggplant Layer

From Healthy Food Guide March 2013.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 eggplants sliced
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190c. Arrange eggplant slices on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spray/paint with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick pan and cook onion and garlic until softened.
  3. Add tomatoes, pesto, sugar and chilli. Simmer for about 4 minutes until sauce has reduced. Add most of the basil. Season to taste.
  4. Place half of eggplant slices in lightly greased baking dish. Spoon over half of the sauce. Repeat layers.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes and serve garnished with remainder of the fresh basil.

Kim Edit: I quite like adding roasted asparagus, roasted mushroom, 2 tablespoons of cut up sundried tomato and 2 tablespoons of marinated artichoke. Yum.

Tabouli, taboule, tabbouleh, tabouleh

This is a straight cut’n’paste of the delicious tabouli recipe from here (well, with half as much pepper). I make it quite a lot and got tired of searching for it each time.

  • 2 cups bulgur or cracked wheat
  • 2 cups very hot water
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, (8) sliced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh chopped mint, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

 

Method

  1. Soak the cracked wheat in the hot water until the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. When it’s ready, drain any excess water, if necessary, and squeeze dry.
  2. Meantime, prepare the vegetables for the salad and mix the dressing ingredients together. Set aside.
  3. Stir the prepared bulghur, other salad ingredients, and dressing together in a medium bowl.
  4. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes about 8 cups, 12 to 16 servings.

 

OMG Delicious Falafel Burgers

Most falafel burgers suck. They tend to have a large and stodgy patty that gums up your mouth when you eat it and the whole thing tends to be very unsatisfactory. This was equally true of the ones I made as well as the commercial ones from the gourmet burger places.

I thought about it. Big falafel is stodgy. Small falafel is crispy and delicious.

And then all the pieces seemed to fit into place. What a sucker I’d been. What a fool. The answer was there all the time. That’s how I discovered the secret – two thin falafel patties, separated by cheese!

Edit: I bring glad tidings from our kitchen-lab! This burger is even better if you replace the fried onions with some tabouleh.

Edit2: Can now be described as the “Award Winning OMG Delicious Falafel Burgers” after getting third place in Stuff’s burger competition.

Falafel burger with chilli potato wedges

Ingredients

You will need (per burger):

  • Burger bun
  • 90gm falafel (Lebanese Delicious Snack Company is a good brand)
  • 0.25 tsp baking powder
  • pinch baking soda
  • two patty sized pieces of baking paper
  • half a chopped onion
  • 1-2 tbsp hummus (LDSC is again good)
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • two slices tomato
  • 1 tbsp Moroccan chutney (or similar)
  • lettuce
  • olive oil for frying

Method

Do all your prep first:

  • Mix the falafel with the baking powder and baking soda
  • Chop the onion
  • Slice the cheese
  • Slice the tomato
  • Cut the bun in half

Turn on the oven to 180c (for lightly toasting the buns later), then put a small frying pan and a large frying pan onto medium heat and add some olive oil.

While they heat up:

  1. Tear the baking paper into patty sized pieces.
  2. Shape half the falafel into a patty on the paper as shown in the picture, then repeat for the other half. Leave each one on the paper.

Falafel patty

Put the onions into the small frying pan and lightly saute (i.e. stir them every so often until cooked).

Put the falafel patties into the large frying pan, falafel side down.

Patties cooking with the paper still on

Cook the patties for a bit and then carefully peel off the paper. It may be useful to have a tool you can use to stop the patties tearing if the paper is sticking.

When done on the first side, flip the patties over and put the cheese on top to melt.

Patties with cheese

While the second side cooks, toast the buns briefly in the oven (a minute or two, just enough to get them warm and slightly crunchy).

When everything is done, assemble the burgers in this order from bottom to top:

  1. Bottom bun
  2. Moroccan chutney
  3. Fried onions
  4. Falafel patty with cheese on top
  5. Other falafel patty
  6. Tomato
  7. Lettuce
  8. Hummus (apply to top bun)
  9. Top bun

Two crispy falafel patties separated by melted cheese

Eat!

Ciabatta

I made ciabatta! It had a chewy crust and tasty crumb and everything!

Ciabatta

The overall process is as follows (recipe adapted from here):

  1. Make a sponge of yeast, water and flour. Leave it for 12-24 hours.
  2. Make a dough by adding more yeast, milk, oil, flour, water and salt. Leave to rise.
  3. Separate and shape dough loaves, being careful to preserve as much air as you can. Leave to rise.
  4. Bake in the oven.

What You’ll Need

  • 2½ tsp dry yeast
  • 950g/3½ cups sifted bread flour (strong/high gluten)
  • 5 tbs. warm milk
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 2-3 tsp. salt
  • water
  • Baking paper
  • Baking/pizza stone (optional, can use a tray)

The Process

Make the sponge

  • 1 tsp. dry yeast
  • 250ml/1 cup warm water
  • 350g/1½ cup sifted bread flour (strong/high gluten)
  1. Take a medium sized bowl and add the warm water and yeast.
  2. Leave it to sit for five minutes to go frothy (and thus prove the yeast is working).
  3. Add the flour and stir together.
  4. Cover with cling film and leave to sit in a coolish spot for 12-24 hours (not the fridge).

Make the dough

  • 1½ tsp. dry yeast
  • 5 tbs. warm milk
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 250ml/1 cup warm water
  • 600g/3 cups sifted bread flour (strong/high gluten)
  • 2-3 tsp. salt
  • (possibly some additional warm water/flour to achieve the right consistency)
  1. Take a large mixing bowl and add the warm milk and yeast.
  2. Leave it to sit for five minutes to go frothy (and thus prove the yeast is working).
  3. Add the sponge mixure, the oil and the water. Mix together.
  4. Add the first two cups of the flour and the salt and mix together.
  5. Keep adding flour until the dough gets to the right consistency. It should be quite moist but still possible to be worked by hand. (See notes below).
  6. Knead the dough until it is nice and smooth.
  7. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in it and cover.
  8. Leave to rise in a warm place until tripled in size.

Create the loaves

From this stage on we want to do our best to keep as much air in the bread as possible. Don’t punch down or squash the dough, and try to minimise handling.

  1. Lightly flour as many pieces of baking paper as you intend to make loaves. (This just makes it easier to handle.)
  2. Divide the dough into 2-4 pieces (I suggest either flattish and rectangular or more loaf-like) and put one onto each piece of baking paper.
  3. Cover and leave to rise for another hour or so.

Bake in the oven

  1. Preheat oven and tray/baking stone to 200c.
  2. Turn each each loaf upside down and transfer to another piece of baking paper (reuse the ones used so far).
  3. Use the baking paper to transport the loaf to the oven.
  4. Spray/brush the loaves with water three times within the first 10 minutes of cooking.
  5. Cook for a total of 15-25 minutes (depending on loaf size) until bread turns golden.

All done. Eat the yummy bread!

Notes for next time

  • I would like to increase the openness of the crumb (i.e. more holes). The advice I’ve seen indicates that you need to make the dough even wetter – but then it gets very hard to work. The suggestion was to knead the dough in the bowl (or use a mixer).
  • Someone else suggested doubling the olive oil.

Hybrid Man

I feel all suburban man at the moment – Kim and I built and planted our square foot garden. Power tools! Hardware stores! Garden supplies!

After that I went and mastered the rusty old Masport motor mower in the shed (I was already tired by the time I realised you had to hold the dead man lever closed while trying to start it or it wasn’t going to go) and mowed the lawns.

Then last night it was a chance to be modern man. There were wandering drop-ins while Kim and I were making a large greek salad, so we decided to offer people dinner and I hung out in the kitchen and made pizza for everyone. I like making pizza because it’s not as stressful as real cooking – you just assemble things at your own pace (not to mention I’m reasonably confident that it will turn out ok).

I was amused that by the end of the meal Andrea and Wendy both had little piles of unwanted greek salad ingredients on their plates, but they were different piles with Andrea abhorring the onions while Wendy expelled the olives.

Garden making photos to come.

The New Toasted Sandwich

So, as part of setting up our new kitchen I bought a nice combination sandwich press/griller. It makes a good toasted sandwich and I’m very happy with it… but it hasn’t been used as much as I expected because I stumbled upon an even better way to make them using the oven griller.

Tuna Toasted Sandwich

This recipe for a tuna toasted sandwich is an example of the technique. It can easily be modified for any fillings you like although I recommend keeping the tapenade no matter what else you change!

Ingredients (per sandwich)

  • Turkish bread (ideally not the Quality Baker brand – it’s very dense)
  • 1/2 small can of lemon-pepper tuna, drained
  • About 1/2 tbsp tapenade (recommend Genoese brand)
  • About 1tbsp basil pesto (recommend Genoese brand)
  • Half a tomato, thinly sliced
  • Small amount of grated mozzarella cheese
  • Handful of lettuce

Instructions

1. Turn on your oven’s griller (I think this is the broiler in US-speak)
2. Cut the bread into sandwich sized sections
3. Carefully slice the bread to separate the top and bottom
4. Lightly toast the outer sides of the bread (careful, it doesn’t take long)

5. Spread pesto on bottom piece of bread
6. Spread tapenade on the top piece

Spread that bread
7. Put the tomatoes on the bottom
8. Spread the tuna on top of the tomato
9. Put the cheese on top of the tapenade

10. Place back under the grill (again, it doesn’t take long)
11. Remove from the grill (to assist you with getting it just right, I carefully cooked the one in the picture one a little bit too much)


12. Put the lettuce on
13. Put the sandwich together and eat

Changing Tastes

I never used to like sushi, but yesterday I was sitting at work scoffing my prawn and avocado rolls and reflecting on how my tastes have changed over the years. (If anyone feels an urge to tell me that I’m using the term sushi incorrectly because blah, blah, blah – please don’t.)

I started making a list of foods I’ve learnt to like, and then I realised that the learning came in two clear phases. The first I started liking as a teen, the second happened after I reach adulthood.

The Teenage Years

* Mushrooms

* Asparagus

* Avocado

* Fish

* Mussels

* Chocolate mousse

I note that my parents thought it was a sad day when I started liking mushrooms and asparagus – it meant there was less for them!

The Gourmet Adult

* Sushi

* Prawns

* Olives

* Feta cheese

* Coffee

And then there’s the foods that other people love but I still just don’t get.

Ick! Still!

* Oysters

* Blue cheese (although I’m getting there)

* Coriander

I’m sure there’s a bunch I’ve missed. Anyone else finally seen the light on something?

~Thomas

The Living Room, Auckland.

The other night we went to Living Room on Ponsonby Road for dinner and it was really very nice. Kim’s salmon fillet served on bruschetta was interestingly flavoured with wood smoke. While the components of the dish didn’t integrate that well, working more as a piece of grilled salmon with a bruschetta chaser, it was still generally delicious. I ordered the seafood chowder which was generously laden with mussels, whitefish, squid and cockles.

Both of these dishes were from the cheaper ‘light meals’ menu but were more than sufficient to ensure that eating the sides we ordered was more of an indulgence than a necessity. I hate to think how large the mains were.

~Thomas

Wednesday Night Dinner Report.

Ok, I admit the menu was a slight repeat on a previous occasion, but the company was new! Thanks to Wendy and Jonathan for joining us for what will be the last of the Wellington Wednesday dinners. (Depending on how things work out we might be starting an Auckland chapter soon).

Guests: Wendy, Jonathan, indoor Yeti and outdoor Igor

Appetiser: antipasto with feta, chilli olives and dolmathes

Main: broccoli pasta with super-size garlic bread

Dessert: peach … soggy crumble with cream

Words: armadillo, wasabi, tumescent

Training: advice on dogs

Peach crumble-gunge made a good warming breakfast after taking the dog for his morning walk in the painfully cold southerly. I miss my tuque.

Other dinner parties this week: The Amateur Gourment cooks and presents the Big Pot of Food and a Dessert Theory of Dinner Parties. We’d probably alter that to “Snacky Things, A Big Pot of Food and a Dessert”.

Thomas.