Friday, 16 January 2015

Polenta & Pumpkin Mash

Mash is a wonderful comfort food, it speaks of curling up with a blanket on the couch and watching DVDs. Or lazy summer days when you're too lazy to want to chew food properly :) Potatoes are the classic option; I used to cook up a big bowl of mashed potato and smother it with gravy whenever I had an evening alone and just me to cook for. Sometimes I'd add some veggie sausages and peas, but often I'd just go with the big bowl of mash and gravy.

I love potato mash, but it's nice to mix it up and sometimes make your mash a but more nutrient rich! There are plenty of alternatives, and I love them all - parsnip, pumpkin, cauliflower, celeriac, swede, carrot, sweet potato - or a big amalgamation of all of them. You don't really need recipes for those though, it's not hard to figure out mash :)

This one is a little bit special, actually quite a lot special. In fact, it may be the best mash I've ever eaten.

Polenta & Pumpkin Mash

500g chopped pumpkin (skin removed)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups polenta
Salt and pepper to taste

To Make
1. Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Add the pumpkin and simmer, covered, until the pumpkin is very soft (about 15 minutes, unless you have chopped your pumpkin big in which case longer).
2. Mash up the pumpkin in the stock (or you can blend the whole lot of it if you like it very finely puréed). Check the water level and replenish it with extra stock if it has boiled down significantly while you were cooking the pumpkin.
3. Place the pan over a low heat and add the polenta, stirring as you do. Stir continuously over a low heat until the polenta absorbs all the liquid and becomes fairly thick and then remove from the heat. Taste test to make sure it is cooked, if it is grainy, add a little more hot vegetable stock and stir until it is absorbed.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper (or even a dollop of vegan margarine if you're so inclined).

Serves 4 as a side.

NOTES - There can be variations in quantities due to the water content of the pumpkin you use and how much liquid evaporates while you're cooking it. If the polenta is too runny and sloppy, you may need to add more polenta to soak it up. If it is too dry and the polenta is undercooked and grainy, add a bit more hot vegetable stock until you get it just right.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Onion Bhaji

Somtimes I get real cravings for onion bhaji, they're a such a treat in my book. I don't eat a lot of deep fried foods but you have to make some exceptions for things like these. The chickpea flour is really important for getting the right flavour, but if you can't get any you can substitute other flours. If you can though, try and use chickpea flour or they just won't be the same.

Onion Bhaji

6 tbsp chickpea flour
6 tbsp self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
1-2 tbsp peanut oil*
2/3 cup ice water
2 onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Peanut oil*, for frying 

*If you have allergies, substitute vegetable oil

To Make
1. Combine the flours, salt and spices in a bowl and whisk together. Whisk in the oil and then gradually add the iced water, whisking constantly. 
2. Add the sliced onions and crushed garlic and fold through until the onion is completely coated in the batter. Let it all rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Heat plenty of oil in a saucepan or wok. Test the heat of the oil by dropping in a tiny amount of batter. If it floats to the surface the oil is hot enough, if it sinks to the bottom of the oil then it's not there yet.
4. When the oil is hot, add large tablespoons of batter to the oil and deep fry until just golden. This should take 4-5 minutes and  you'll need to flip them over after the first two minutes. Once cooked, remove and drain on a wire rack or on crumpled paper towel to drain as much oil off as possible. 
5. Fry the fritters in batches until you have used up all the batter. Eat hot! 

NOTE- These are best freshly cooked straight from the pan but can also be made in advance and kept warm (or even reheated) in the oven. 

Makes approximately 20 onion bhaji (this will vary depending on how big your spoonfuls are).

Thursday, 1 January 2015

10 Most Popular Posts of 2014 - Plus my Personal Top 10 Recipes of 2015

It's always nice to take a moment to sit down and reflect back upon a year. It's nice to look at the highlights and enjoy them all over again. I like having a look back over the posts of a year and sharing with you which posts were post popular. I'm always surprised when I do, as often my favourites don't make the list and sometimes I'm surprised at what does. That's what makes it so interesting though, so this year I'm sharing with you again the 10 recipes which you, my readers, enjoyed the most. I'm also sharing my own personal top 10 (which only a few overlapping!). Hope you have a wonderful new year and enjoy lots of good food in 2015.

1. Georgian Lobiani (Kidney Bean Filled Bread)

2. Panamanian (Vegan) Empanadas

3. Quinoa Soba Noodle Salad with Bok Choy & Sesame

4. South African Chakalaka

5. Panamanian Black Eyed Beans

6. Vegan Fish Sauce

7. Big Fat Veggie Burger Bowl

8. South African Milk Tart

9. Tunisian Baked Yoyo (Orange Flavoured Doughnuts)

10. Tomato Vodka Pasta Sauce Gift Packages

And... in no particular order, my favourites from 2014 were:

Wishing you a happy & healthy new year in 2015 :)