Posts Tagged With: italian

CCC – From Italy to India

And back again…

I fell down a hole in the internet watching Indian cooking programmes – a classic 90s series from the BBC and a more recent series on Netflix that was in Hindi with subtitles – and got side-tracked from my efforts to cook my way through my little Italian and Pasta recipe book. It was a very tasty detour, I made Matar Paneer again, along with a lovely dal – it’s been ages since I last cooked with urid dal and it’s such a good and different flavour even before you add the spices, nutty and fragrant – and a quick and dirty quorn korma, the leftovers of which ended up as lunch one day, wrapped up in a flour tortilla.

This week it’s been back on the wagon for Italian cooking and I’m back to working my way through the recipe book. First up I tackled a pasta frittata, I’ve never actually made frittata before so that was it’s own adventure. I cut the recipe down by half – largely because it called for six eggs and I only had three – and didn’t sufficiently cut back the pasta, so it was a bit, bumpy, on top rather than the even surface I’d hoped for. It was also supposed to be made with mackerel, which wasn’t happening, so I substituted quorn and also swapped out frozen peas and used frozen edamame beans instead. I ended up using my in-between sized frying pan – which I’d been debating whether to keep or not as I’d never previously used it – which proved the perfect size for the purpose. Though if I ever make a full sized frittata for guests, I’m definitely using my big frying pan, as it’s oven safe and I was a bit nervous of my wee frying pan’s handle when I realised it would need to go under the grill. (I left the handle sticking out and it was fine.) While I feel the recipe may need some further refining for my preferences, it makes a nice lunch or light summer dinner, particularly with some oven chips.

Having both mushrooms and leeks needing used up, I did a bulk cook of baked macaroni – unusually for me, I bought actual macaroni, as I needed more pasta anyway so saw no need to substitute – I must confess, I turned it into a more traditional pasta bake sauce, rather than a creamy mushroom and leek topping for the pasta, and used panko breadcrumbs I found in the cupboard instead of faffing around grating bread crusts and frying them, I did mix them with not!parmesan for a more authentic flavour. I do think I prefer crème fraîche as part of that kind of sauce – where you make a roux – rather than as the sole base of a sauce, it was creamy and indulgent here, whereas on it’s own in a sauce I tend to find it a little sour/tart tasting. I used about half the pasta, mushrooms and leeks the recipe called for and still ended up with enough food for four portions so I dread to think how much the full recipe would have made.

One of the unexpected side pleasures of my meal planning adventures, is that I often have lots of left-over odds and ends in the fridge, that are ideal for throwing together more adventurous weekend brunches. On Sunday I had some ‘ripen-at-home’ apricots left and grilled them with a dollop of mascarpone I’d bought for another recipe, and drizzled with honey and it was revelatory. I’ve always considered mascarpone a rather bland ingredient – nice in a sauce but not really worth the extra cost – and rather cloying if you try and serve the leftovers with fruit or cake. However, whether it was the grilling itself, or some alchemy with the honey, but the combination of it and the grilled apricots was like an explosion of joy in my mouth – just divine.

Categories: being veggie, challenges, covid cookup | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CCC Mostly Italian

I made a concerted effort to finish off the dried tagliatelle last week, in part so I could free up the tall and pretty jar it was stored in to keep the fancy new noodles I got during the week. Early shifts meant that I needed to keep it simple and straight forward most days, so first we used up some broccoli florets I’d got on special in a dish that was essentially, pasta, broccoli and two kinds of cheese, simple and delicious. Later in the week I made two variations on tagliatelle with beans – the recipe called for broad beans, but I had edamame which don’t need peeled – crème fraîche and garlic, which got spruced up with various combinations of peppers, spring onions, hard Italian cheese and toasted pine-nuts.

The Tuscan Beef Ragu did indeed convert successfully into a Tuscan Bean Ragu, though given how much ragu I ended up with, I feel if I’d used beef instead of beans, I’d have been eating ragu all week! As it was, I had a lot of food rather than two much food. Between shifts and the weather, I actually ended up prepping the ragu to the point where it’s meant to go in the oven and then actually baked it the following day. It came out pretty decently, though it wasn’t special enough for me to consider it worthy of inclusion in my regular rotation of bulk cook recipes – the effort to tastiness ratio isn’t worthwhile.

Speaking of gnocchi – one of the better parts of the ragu was the gnocchi in it – a colleague who keeps chickens had an excess of eggs, so I’ve been eating cooked egg breakfasts more frequently lately, and it’s reminded me how much I enjoy paprika fried gnocchi as a side with a cooked breakfast. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, just a little spicy – lovely.

Additionally, I’ve been making a valiant attempt at cooking up the giant tapioca that has been lurking in the cupboard since my ill-fated experiments with making bubble tea a couple of years ago. I loved tapioca pudding as a child, but it’s not something I’ve ever made for myself as an adult, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve actually ever eaten it as an adult, as I don’t think my mum’s really made it since I went to uni. My dad has always preferred rice pudding and semolina – he tends to refer to it and its sibling sago as ‘frogspawn’ – so I guess it wasn’t worth the hassle? Whatever the reason, I had a hankering and got her to send me the recipe, and lo, after much patient stirring – and also an impatiently burned tongue – I had tapioca pudding. It was more glutinous than I remembered, seeming to take forever to thicken up, but that might be a product of it being giant tapioca, and the recipe omitted the essential ingredients, generous sprinklings of both nutmeg and cinnamon. However, once my tongue had recovered from it’s scalding, I had a big bowl of hot, filling, comfort food – and equally important, leftovers for the following day!

Categories: challenges, covid cookup | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back on the Wagon

So I’m back in Inverness and back to being a vegetarian. (So much easier to maintain when all your friends and colleges know you as a vegetarian and there isn’t meat in the fridge needing used up.) It’s been a month now and I’m really not missing the meat – outside of the occasional rubbish sandwich options – and I’ve been taking the time to experiment with different veggie options.

My last stint up here means I have a good selection of veggie staples to work with but I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t pushing my culinary barriers. I’ve always been a bit dubious about ‘meat substitutes’/’meat-free meat’ because, well they’ve always seemed a bit pointless to me. (Plus once you’ve tasted a good homemade veggie sausage the quorn variety really doesn’t cut it.) I have, however, tasted some good veggie burgers, whether mushroom or cheese and broccoli so I thought it might be time to branch out. I tried veggie Kiev’s. I like sweet potato, I like beans, I kind of miss Kiev’s. Nope. Perhaps if I find a good recipe to make myself I’ll give them another try, but based on the shop-bought variety it just doesn’t work. They taste of neither beans nor sweet potato, of the cheese and garlic filling there was no sign and honestly I just got an overwhelming mouthful of spice. So next up I tried some quorn ‘meat-free’ chicken. (For anyone, like me who doesn’t know what exactly quorn is – the label really doesn’t make it clear – it’s a microfungus, sort of like mushroom but more like yeast is my understanding.) While I have successfully moved to making veggie chilli, burritos, tacos and quesadillas, I haven’t yet made veggie fajitas that I’m entirely satisfied with. So quorn. I treated it like the chicken it claimed to be and marinated it in the spice mix and oil and cooked it all up with the veggies. It certainly has the texture of chicken, but it has its own taste that came through even under the Mexican spice. I’m not convinced.

(Veggie quesadillas that I made as part of my cupboard cook up before I moved back up here, mushrooms, beans, spices, passata to bind and three different kinds of cheese. Bliss.)

Speaking of sweet potato, I’ve long been a bit wary of it due to only really eating it as an ingredient in sub-standard veggie burgers – grated up and tasteless – but after using it in the mash for the excellent Lentil and Bean cottage pie, I decided that I ought to give it another proper go. So I have a Lorraine recipe for Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Lasagne and I love squash so that seemed a safe enough bet. One of my pet hates with veggie lasagne recipes is that they often use vegetables that don’t stand up to the cooking process, so you end up with mushy goo or lumps of uncooked veg. Or they throw out the pasta entirely and replace it with aubergine. Which is just, not lasagne anymore. Lasagne substitute for gluten intolerant people it may be, even a nice layered vegetable bake if you like aubergine, but not actual lasagne. This recipe side steps the issue of cooking the pasta and the veg at the same time, instead you pre-cook your squash and sweet potato first so they can then be mashed together (making a nice consistent texture), then part cook your lasagne sheets, add in an extra layer of spinach and only bake for long enough to finish off the pasta, cook the spinach enough that its tender but still intact and get everything else nice and hot. It falls apart a bit more than some meat varieties do – though I always bulked my mince out with beans or mushroom and broccoli – but not impractically so, as the veg mash holds together pretty well so gives it some stability. It tastes amazing too. I normally put mozzarella or smoked cheese on the top of my lasagne, and while I do think the Parmesan works well here I’ll probably use a mixture in the future. Though talking about the Lentil and Bean cottage pie, I might try adding passata to the filling of that recipe and see if that works as veggie lasagne filling…
Veggie Lasagne
Lasagne 2

Categories: being veggie, challenges | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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