Posts Tagged With: quorn

Cooking the Book – November Edition

I had all sorts of plans to cook all sorts of exciting this last month. I had a week’s holiday and everything so I thought I might actually get lots made that week – maybe even do some baking!

The month started well, with some Sweet and Sour Chicken (Quorn again, I did intend to make it with tofu, but there was all this quorn in the freezer needing used up), which, despite a minor disaster, was pretty good. The minor disaster was that it suggested using dried chilli flakes. I normally measure them out before adding them to anything – my tongue is notoriously timid with chilli – but I always end up putting too little in whatever I’m cooking. (I’m better at judging chilli powder, but chilli flakes are what I have in the cupboard.) So, in my wisdom, I decided to shake some into the pan, and you can guess what happened next can’t you? I didn’t quite end up with half a jar in the pan, but there were decidedly more than were necessary to the recipe. It could all have been much worse but that was definitely the spiciest sweet and sour chicken I’ve ever eaten.

Sweet and Sour!

I had two other recipes picked out to make this month, good, solid, winter warmers. Perfect bulk cooks to nourish me through the long winter nights. I even bought vegetables for them. Did I make them? No. I did in fact get to the very last day of November without having cooked anything else from the book. I was really starting to think I was going to fail out for this month.

Handily though, I remembered that there was a recipe for a Porcini, shitake and Oyster Mushroom Pasta in the book and that I had loads of mushrooms that I’d bought for one of the recipes I hadn’t made. (As the recipe name suggests, it requires several kinds of mushrooms, handily I had some more unusual mushrooms in dried form in the cupboard to balance out the masses of Chestnut mushrooms.) I cut down the recipe from its original version, as I always end up with far too much food. There was still a slight excess of mushrooms, but only really enough that I ended up with a small side of mushrooms for another recipe later in the week, rather than an excess of them. An odd side effect of cutting down the recipe was that I ended up with lots of excess vegetable stock – its really awkward to make a small amount of stock out of stock cubes – so I cooked my spaghetti in the leftover stock and it was incredibly tasty. I could have eaten the spaghetti plain, maybe with a little parmesan but perfect just as it was. I’m not sure if it was the intention of the recipe or a product of cutting it down, but the mushroom liquor didn’t cook down as much as I expected – I think if I make it again, I would add some corn flour to thicken up the sauce, I do prefer a bit of body to my sauce.

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More Adventures in Meat Substitutes

When I first went vegetarian full-time (a year and a bit ago) I did some unsuccessful experimentation with ‘meat-substitutes’. Recently I decided to try again in my quest to manage a varied diet with the need for quick and easy post-work cooking to balance out the more organised bulk cooks that I do. I’m pleased to be able to say that I have finally found a way to eat quorn that I enjoy. The answer apparently is curry.

One thing I miss about chicken is being able to stir fry some protein with some mushrooms, dump a jar of sauce over it, chuck it in a bowl and eat it with poppadoms/naan bread/prawn crackers as appropriate. But, I have discovered that frozen ‘chicken style’ quorn works as a perfect substitute. There’s something about the spices in curries that penetrate the quorn much more effectively than those used in Mexican food. So for example, even a jar of something mild like Korma will mask that distinctive quorn flavour! Success!

I expanded this out in two exciting directions last week. Having had success with the aforementioned jar of korma, I got a little bit more adventurous and picked up a jar of Keralan curry paste, a couple of handfuls of quorn, some mushrooms, spring-onions and half a can of coconut milk later – lots of delicious curry was served. I even managed to knock up a decent pilau with some massive raisins (left-over from the ones I steeped for my quinoa-that-wasn’t dish a few weeks back), some whole spices (carefully counted cardamom pods and a couple of sticks of Thai lemongrass) and some flaked almonds. Tasty, quick and easy and almost entirely made up from stuff I already had in my cupboards. I’ve never had Keralan curry before so that was an adventure but it’s delicious – pleasantly fennelly but not overwhelmingly so.
Keralan Curry
I do love daal best, but sometimes I want Indian food without spending 3 hours messing around with lentils and fried spices.

After the success of incorporating quorn into Indian food, I decided to venture into East Asian food. I made an old favourite of mine, sesame hot noodles. I doubt its remotely authentic but it is very tasty. The sauce is made by combining peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime-juice, chilli and sesame seeds. It’s a quick and easy dish and I’d resurrected it because I needed to do a bulk cook and had zero motivation to do so. But while I was waiting for the noodles to cook, I noticed in my notes for the recipe (I have a little notebook of recipes I’ve gathered over the last 10 years) mentioned bulking it out with chicken and mushroom. I’d already stuck a few bits of baby corn, I’d found lurking in the salad box, in with my noodles. Feeling inspired I grabbed a handful of quorn, a couple of mushrooms that need using up (I nabbed them from the reduced section) and a couple of spring onions stir-fried them until everything was cook and threw them into the mix. Voila! Suddenly my super-lazy emergency dinner looked like a proper meal!

Sesame Hot Noodles

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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.

Quesadillas
(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

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