Tag Archives: sides

how to cook fresh spinach

Best ingredients picture ever :)

A post for those of you who would like to try cooking fresh spinach. It’s very easy and tasty as long as your spinach is fresh. Right now it’s in season – buy a big bunch because it will shrink to about 1/432th of it’s original size.

Chop off the soiled ends and part of the stalk. Some people will prefer to remove most of the stalk as this is the bitter part. I left quite a bit of stalk since I don’t mind the taste. It’s fine to eat the stalk in any case. Incidentally, I am not quite sure if it is safe to eat raw spinach – there seem to be opposing views on the matter.

Wash your leaves well. Heat some oil (and optional garlic) in a pan. Since you’ll be adding wet leaves it is best not to let it get too hot to avoid it spraying. Place your leaves in the pan and turn/stir them often until they wilt. This tends to happen quite suddenly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Not that canned crap that popeye eats :p

Uber crunchy genie

This dish is not a meal in itself, although it will suffice if you’re not very hungry and you’d like a little snack. It’s also makes for a very pleasant side dish.

You will need:

  • an aubergine chopped in bite-size pieces
  • paprika
  • bread croutons or bread crumbs
  • sunflower seeds
  • olive oil

Place the aubergines, bread croutons and olive oil in a large pan and mix well so that the aubergine pieces have absorbed the olive oil. I used about 3 tablespoons of oil for better flavour.

It’s obviously really important to use a good quality olive oil –  you’ll find that a good extra virgin olive oil is slightly green in colour. Watch out for the companies who cheat by placing it in a tinted bottle so that it looks greener!

Place on medium heat, stirring every few minutes so that your mixture cooks evenly. Add some paprika when the aubergines have started to soften. Keep stirring and add the sunflower seeds when you think the aubergine is almost done. You’ll know this by tasting it when it starts to brown. The seeds will give your mixture a nutty flavour. I’m thinking that good alternatives could be pine nuts or cashews. The bread croutons will remain crunchy and give it some bite.

Your result is a mixture that can be used either on pasta, in a lasagna (that’ll be another post!) or as a side dish. It would also go well with sour cream for a great contrast. (You’ll find out soon enough what the bowl on the left side of the picture contains..)

daddy or chips?

Trying to find ways to use the butternut squash, aside from making delicious soup, I discovered it is also possible to make squash chips! These are healthier than potato chips and make an interesting variation as a side dish. Simply cut the butternut squash in thin slices and start to cook, turning the slices every few minutes. I didn’t use any oil but I’m sure they would taste even better if you do. Half way through cooking I added some salt for better flavour. Paprika is another interesting option.

it’s all in the texture

I was vegetarian for around 3 years and this has made me appreciate food more. Not only did I need to be more careful to maintain a balanced diet, but I started to discover new ways of enjoying food. I found that one of the most important things is actually texture. I often judge a restaurant by the way they cook their veg. If it’s overcooked and bland.. my opinion is obvious. If they manage to make broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower taste great without masking the taste then the restaurant is going to become a favourite.

One of the interesting options as regards texture for vegetarians is soya mince. I haven’t been very adventurous with tofu or soya chunks yet but the mince has always been in my freezer. It’s versatile and it has that ‘bite’ that is often lacking in a meat-free diet. This recipe is one of my quick favourites.

You’ll need:

  • soya mince
  • hoi sin sauce
  • soy sauce
  • tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • veg of your choice – I prefer mushrooms, courgettes and baby corn for this recipe

Fill half a cup with soya mince and top up with water until it is all covered. Add some soy sauce and hoi sin sauce to ‘marinade’ it. Chop up your vegetables and cook in the pan with more soy sauce. Remember to throw in the ones which take longest to cook first, allowing ample time so that everything is cooked well at the same time.

Throw in your soya mince mixture and keep cooking. Stir continuously to cook the mixture evenly. After about 5 minutes add your tomato sauce and let it simmer for a while so that your flavours fuse. Use as a vegetarian bolognese on pasta, rice or in lasagna. This is also suitable for freezing to use later on.

monsieur mangetout

Ok so this one is really quick and easy but there is one critical requirement… none of the ingredients have particularly strong flavours, so unless they are really fresh it will taste bland.  I tried the same recipe a couple of days later and it wasn’ t half as good!

So, beat one or two eggs (depends how hungry you are) and mix in a tablespoon of water per egg. Don’t use milk as this makes the eggs tough. A little water makes it light and fluffy. Next, grab a handful of mangetout, cut them in half and saute them in a pan for a minute or two, then throw in some chopped ham. Pour in the egg mix and keep stirring until cooked. Add some freshly ground pepper and serve. Very quick and light!