lentil shepherd’s pie

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Andy and I are making the transition to a vegetarian diet, a lacto-ovarian vegetarian diet. So I made this recipe using cow’s milk instead of a non-dairy milk. I also lightened the salt by using just 2 tablespoons soy sauce. The pie came out hearty and filling, with just the right amount of seasoning. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (adapted from Melanie McDonald)

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
2 ½ teaspoons dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram or mixed herbs or Italian herbs)
190 g or 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils, green or brown*
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
240 ml or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
240 ml or 1 cup mushroom broth or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1000 g or 6 cups diced raw potato
80 ml or 1/3 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened
1-2 tablespoons vegan butter, optional

Preheat oven 400˚F/200˚C. Boil water in a large pot. Prepare a 9 inch deep-dish pie dish by spraying the inside with cooking spray. Set aside.

Put the diced potatoes in the pot of boiling water. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover and bring to the boil again. Simmer 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain then return to the pan. Add milk and butter if using, and mash very well. Set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, warm another pan over medium heat.

Sauté onions, garlic, and carrot until the onions start to go golden brown. You can use oil to sauté or a teaspoon or two of vegetable stock. Add the dried herbs and cooked and drained lentils. Make a slurry out of water and cornstarch, and add it to the pot. Stir well to distribute the cornstarch mixture. Add the tamari or soy sauce and tomatoes. Stir well.

Add the stock and stir well. As soon as the mixture is hot and is starting to bubble, remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the lentil mixture into the dish. Top with mashed potato. Spread the potato evenly on top, one spoonful at a time, and drag a fork through the top to create a pattern. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. If additional browning is desired, put the dish under the broiler until the top is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

*To cook lentils:
3 cups water
1 cup lentils
Using a large Dutch pot, bring lentils and water to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Yields 2-2 1/2 cups cooked lentils.

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new york revisited: soba noodles with pork and sweet ginger scallion sauce

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The last time I made this dish we were living in New York City. For old times’ sake and all that, I made it again, this time without sirloin steak. I used pork tenderloin for tender juicy bites to go with the sesame-soy-ginger-scallion sauce.

Soba noodles with sweet ginger scallion sauce (Modified from Simply Reem)

8-9 oz. dry soba noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons chili oil (substitute 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic and 1 teaspoon oil)
Coarse salt, optional
Fresh ground black pepper, optional

Mix the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Cook the noodles.

Cook’s Note: To cook soba, rinse the dried noodles first. According to Food 52, this reduces the gumminess of the noodles and they won’t stick together in cooking. Like rice grains, I rinsed the noodles until the water was clear. Bring pot of water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook in simmering water 5-8 minutes or until cooked through. If al dente, cook a few minutes longer. Rinse and drain in cool water.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. If too sour, add up to a teaspoon sugar. Serve at once.

OPTIONAL: To make the pork, I thinly sliced about 1 cup of pork tenderloin and marinated it for 10-15 minutes in soy sauce and pepper. Then I stir-fried the pork in a 2 teaspoons of hot oil until cooked through. Toss with the noodles.

danish aebleskiver pancake balls with banana

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Aebleskiver pronounced “able-skewer” refers to both the pancake ball and the griddle it is cooked in. The basic recipe below came with the griddle, s. The pancake balls turned out light and fluffy, not too sweet, and very addictive! You can’t have just one.

Banana Aebleskiver Pancakes (based on Great Grandma’s Danish Aebleskiver)a heavy iron pan with seven shallow cup

Basic Recipe
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sour milk (2 tablespoons white vinegar topped up to 2 cup line)
3 eggs, separated

Filling (optional)
Mashed ripe banana, about 1/3 cup

Special Equipment
Aebleskiver, a cast iron griddle
Metal Chinese soup spoon, bamboo skewers, or teaspoon

  1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add sour milk and egg yolks. In another large bowl, beat egg whites until light and fluffy, until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Put the batter into a small pot with a spout, e.g. a teapot; a measuring cup; or a large squeeze bottle, the kind used in commercial kitchens.
  2. Heat aebleskiver griddle on medium heat. Grease each cup with melted butter, oil, or vegetable oil cooking spray. Reduce heat to low. Then fill each cup half full. If using filling, fill the cup only half full with batter and place a small amount of fruit in each cup. Top with batter.
  3. On low heat cook for approximately 8 minutes on the first side or until golden brown on the bottom. When the top starts to look shiny and have bubbles, it’s close to time to flip. Look for the batter to pull away from the sides. It will be easier to flip when the bottom is cooked. Don’t be tempted to flip them too early for they’ll stick to the sides and tear. Flip using a metal Chinese soup spoon. This kind has a thin edge around the rim and is useful for getting under the bottom of the pancake to flip. If you don’t have a metal soup spoon, you can improvise with skewers or a teaspoon; scoop up the edges and turn. Cook the second side for 2-4 minutes or until the bottom is cooked through and slightly browned. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the batter is used up.
  4. When both sides are done, serve with confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon sugar for rolling the pancakes, or honey or maple syrup for dipping. Also,  try this chocolate-y Nutella thinned with milk to the desired consistency. Best eaten warm.

Cook’s Notes: I used an Oxo salad dressing mixer to pour the batter into the aebleskiver griddle. Try using a dome lid to cover the griddle during cooking. It will speed up the cooking of the pancake balls and contribute to overall browning.

Yields 35-56 pancake balls

Variation:

    • Mix chopped apple and mashed banana together with brown sugar. Yum.
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carrot-ginger soup

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Took a break from the turkey leftovers and made this carrot-ginger soup–without a recipe! It’s got my favorite seasonings: ginger, garlic, and scallions, the trinity of Chinese cooking. To make a sweeter soup,  add about 2 cups pumpkin. No need to increase the liquid; the additional vegetable makes the soup thicker. To make this vegan, use vegetable stock instead of chicken.

Carrot-Ginger Soup
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

4 medium carrots, scraped and chopped into rounds that are quartered
2 medium potatoes, cubed
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used 1 bouillon cube and 3 cups water)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, slivered
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cream
herbs, e.g thyme
scallions bias cut for garnish

Special Equipment: immersion blender

In a medium aluminum saucepan or small dutch oven put the carrots, potatoes, broth, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 45 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes are fork tender. Insert immersion blender in the pot and puree the vegetables until the soup is smooth and thick.

Cook’s Note: Because of the immersion blender I recommend using an aluminum sauce pan.If you don’t have an immersion blender use a food processor or blender to puree the soup in small batches.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme, and cream. I use a bit more than 1/4 cup cream to make a creamier soup. Spoon into bowls and garnish with scallions.

green skillet pizza

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I used the electric pan as a pizza maker and this is what I found out: the top griddle does not brown the top of the crust when it is closed, so I will have to flip the crust over to brown the top. Basically, the pan fries the bread, and in the absence of clear instructions of how to cook a pizza in the electric pan, I had to experiment. To those of you who have the Homemate brand Double Electric Pans/Pizza Maker, this is what you will have to do: roll out or pat the pizza as thin as possible–about 1/4 inch thickness. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet part to heat up (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes) on maximum. Put the crust in and let it fry about 5 minutes. Flip it and let the top brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Then flip it back over, add the toppings and close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes on 180˚C. Pizza in ten!

Pizza Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proofing: 30 minutes

2 1/2 cups (312g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (200ml) skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 200˚F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, turn it off but do not open the door.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, add the milk, oil, and sugar. Combine the flour, salt, and yeast on low speed, while it is mixing, add the milk mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes together in a ball.

Baker’s note: I used a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. It takes longer to make pizza dough with a handmixer because it’s not as powerful. So when the recipe says low speed, use medium low speed, and so medium low becomes medium high. My arm got tired holding the motor so I had to use both hands to hold it!

Lightly flour a board and knead the dough two times and form into a ball. Put dough ball in a large greased glass bowl, turning it several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to proof for 30 minutes.

By now the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper.

Baker’s note: I wrapped both dough balls in plastic and refrigerated them to stop the rising process. This is because I didn’t want to make the pizza right away. If you refrigerate the dough, use it within 24 hours. If you want a thick crust you will have to make the pizza right away when the yeast is fresh. For a thin crust pizza, where very little rising is involved, cooking the crust later is no problem.

To make the crust, roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Or use your fingers to stretch and tamp the dough into a roughly 10 inch round. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the pizza dough.  Prick the dough with a fork. Fry 5 minutes on one side, flip and fry 2-3 minutes on the other.

Green Skillet Pizza:
Prep time: 15 minutes (includes sauteeing the toppings)
Cook time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
6 cups spinach, chopped
5 ounces arugula,any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I used basil pesto, recipe to follow)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, lightly saute the mushrooms and garlic in oil. Add the spinach and arugula. Saute until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In the pan add the water and heat to boiling. Add the peas and cook until bright green. Drain the peas and discard the water. Add peas to the cooked vegetables.

Baker’s note: Prepare the pizza toppings ahead of time and refrigerate.

When the top of the pizza crust is browned, spread half the pesto. Add half the toppings and half the cheese. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second crust.

Andy complained that the pizza was slightly bitter. I think the arugula and the spinach were not a good combination. I should have used broccoli with either arugula or the spinach, not both. He said the crust was excellent–it was fresh, slightly crisp on the bottom but soft on the inside.

Basil Pesto (adapted from Skinnytaste)
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest thing to do is to process all ingredients in a food processor. Since I’m in Salaya and not in my kitchen at home, I had to make the pesto by hand. For this, I needed one sharp santoku knife.

tomato ratatouille

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This vegetable stew is hearty and filling, and it comes with the added feeling of virtuousness because it is made entirely of fresh vegetables.  There is nothing in it to feel guilty about. I used salsa to season it, but a tomato paste or puree with some wine would be wonderful.

Tomato Ratatouille (adapted from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used two tablespoons salsa for flavor and bite)
3 tablespoons water
2/3 cup sliced mushrooms (I used fresh shiitakes)
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
pepper
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil, to serve, optional
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve, optional

1. Heat the oil in a Dutch pot. Add the onion, garlic, and eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
2. Add the bell peppers and zucchini.
3. Mix together the tomato paste and water in a small bowl and stir into the pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes, with pepper to taste, and continue to simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
5. Garnish with shredded basil and serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

green banana with escovitch sauce

DSC03887In Jamaica, probably the next most popular dish after rice and peas is escovitch fish. This improbable dish is of Latin origin where it is called escabeche. In Jamaica escovitch fish is a fried fish, all salty and crisp,  served with a spicy hot vinegar, onion, tomato, and chili sauce. I made this vegan version of escovitch with boiled green bananas. It’s simple really, a simple vegan meal. The green bananas are actually bland like a potato, but the escovitch sauce adds interest–sour, salty, sweet.  I served it with a colorful basmati rice salad made with corn, sweet red peppers, and golden raisins with a handful of scallions sprinkled on top.

6 green bananas

Cut off the tips of each banana and make a shallow slit from end to end. Place in a pot of boiling water, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, remove the bananas to a plate and let them cool slightly. Remove the skins. Meanwhile, wash out the pot and put in about 8 cups water with 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil and return the peeled bananas to the pot. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Add a cup of cold water and boil for 5 more minutes. Drain the bananas and let cool. Slice into chunks and set aside.

For the sauce (from WikiHow)
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup ripe tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup onion, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon mixed peppercorns, optional
2 Thai chilies or 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional (I recommend the scotch bonnet!)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 large pinches of sugar
Salt

Saute the garlic, tomatoes, onions and peppercorns. When the vegetables are wilted and fragrant with pepper, add the chilies, lime juice vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste. Heat through. Pour over the boiled green bananas.

To tell you the truth, I just used tomatoes and onions, vinegar and sugar.

vegetarian lasagna with thai spinach and chinese chives

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Well, this is the reason why I made my own ricotta cheese.

I adapted this recipe from Misty’s vegetarian lasagna recipe adding the zucchini and bell pepper and using fresh Thai vegetables instead of the frozen Western spinach. By fortunate happenstance, Tops supermarket had fresh lasagna sheets. I split the recipe into two 9-inch square dishes, otherwise use one 9×13 inch dish.

Lasagna with Thai Spinach and Chinese Chives

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
2 large eggs
2 cups home-made ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pesto Genovese
2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups skim milk
1 bunch fresh spinach or Pak Khom (about 6 cups), coarsely chopped, tender leaves & stems
1 bunch Chinese chives (no flowers), leaves only, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 medium carrot, grated
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
8 fresh lasagna noodle sheets, trimmed to fit
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Edam)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used diced tomatoes processed fine and seasoned with 1 teaspoon pesto)

Preparation
Heat oven to 350˚F or 175˚C.

Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Fold in ricotta cheese and pesto.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot,  chives, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt.

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or two 9 inch baking dishes. Layer the zucchini rounds on the bottom. Slice some to fit.

Make layers in this way: spinach mixture; noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses; noodles. End with noodles.

Spread the marinara sauce on top to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

rice bowl

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I got tired of eating street food. I know people who would say, I could never get tired of it. The fact is: I missed my kitchen. But for most of the week, I live in Salaya in a tiny studio that has no kitchen. I decided to buy a small 3 cup rice cooker and experiment with rice bowls. A rice bowl is a dish that includes meat, veggies, and rice all in one. I made this vegetarian version out of just a few ingredients: rice, a handful of cashews, golden raisins, sweet bell pepper, and scallion. The only thing I cooked was the rice. The rest I added when the rice was steaming hot. It’s  so simple it doesn’t need a recipe!

rice ruam mit

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This dish has everything all mixed up together–ruam mit. Well almost everything.  The base for it is Thai jasmine rice, of course. Then I tossed in raisins, green peas, lime zest,  the juice of a lime, scallions, salt, pepper, and the chiffonade of a few leaves of basil. Should have been mint but all we had was basil.  The raisins added a touch of sweetness to a rice dish that was also salty and tangy. A-roy.