bloody brilliant piccalilli

img_20161107_222829-1So named by family friend Eric, who is renowned for his taciturnity. However, he got very animated about this piccalilli, and declared it to be bloody brilliant. High praise indeed, from a man of few words.

  • 1kg mixed vegetables, washed and peeled as necessary. Essentials are cauliflower (white or romanesco), green beans, and shallots or small silverskin onions. The rest can be made up of sweetcorn, fresh peas, red peppers, courgettes, carrots, green tomatoes. The  more colourful the mixture, the better.
  • 50g fine salt
  • 30g cornflour
  • 10g ground turmeric
  • 10g English mustard powder
  • 15g yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 200g granulated sugar

The most time consuming part of making piccalilli is cutting up the vegetables. You need to make sure that the pieces are quite small and of an even size. Once you’ve got your kilo of chopped veg, put them in a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt.  Mix it in well and leave the bowl, covered in a cloth, overnight. This will help to ensure that the vegetable pieces stay crunchy.  The next day, rinse the veg in ice-cold water to get rid of the salt, and drain as much of the water off as you can.  The veg need to be quite dry or the resulting sauce will be watery. Put the cornflour, turmeric, and all the other spices in a big jug and mix them to a smooth-ish paste with some of the vinegar.  The rest of the vinegar goes into a large saucepan to be heated up with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the vinegar and sugar mixture to the boil, then pour some of it over the spice paste and mix it well, then pour the spice paste and vinegar mixture back into the pan and bring to the boil again.  Keep stirring it until it thickens. This should take about five minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, and then you’re ready to mix in the drained vegetables.  Stir all the vegetables around until they are all coated with the spicy sauce, then pack them into sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets.  Seal the jars with wax paper discs to cover, and acid-proof screw-on lids.  This piccalilli can be eaten straight away but improves after about 4  weeks maturing in a dark cupboard.  It’s excellent with cheese, cured meats, pork pies, roast beef, sandwiches, anything that benefits from a mustardy, crunchy hit. I have been known to eat it from the jar with a spoon.  It’s also vegan, containing no animal products (but it tasts so good WITH animal products…!).

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No-peel mincemeat

this is what it looks like before you leave it to stand overnight.

this is what it looks like before you leave it to stand overnight.

I can’t stand mixed peel in anything. There are far nicer ways of getting a sharp hit of citrus in food without those chewy, hard, waxy bits of “bacon rind”. Here’s our take on the sainted Delia’s mincemeat recipe, which is a lovely balance of sweet, sharp and fruity, without the mixed peel.

  • 450g Bramley apples, peeled and grated (easiest way is to peel them then use a box grater on the side with the largest holes – no need to core them, just stop grating when you reach the cores).  One big Bramley weighs about 250g.
  • 200g shredded vegetable suet
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 150g soft apricots, chopped
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 350g soft dark brown sugar
  • grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 50g slivered almonds
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • half teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons brandy

This makes just under 3kg of mincemeat (about 6 normal sized jamjars).  Mix all of the ingredients together except for the brandy in a large ovenproof  bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it overnight.

Take off the cloth, stir the mixture well and cover it loosely with a piece of foil. Place the bowl in a very low oven (gas mark 1/4, 110 degrees C) for 3 hours, then take it out of the oven. As it cools, give the mixture a stir occasionally. When it’s completely cooled down, stir in the brandy and put into sterilised jars. Seal them well (wax discs and acid-proof lids, or parfait jars with rubber seals).

This keeps for a really long time in a dark, cool place.  When you open it to use, if it’s looking a bit solid just mix in a bit more brandy.

This recipe is vegan if you use vegetarian suet. It makes absolutely no difference to the flavour whether you use ordinary suet or vegetarian suet as far as I can tell.

Not quite minestrone

This made enough for 6 big portions.

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 handful frozen green beans
  • 1 head cavolo nero – a very dark green crinkly cabbage with long thin leaves (you can use spring cabbage but cavolo nero is much tastier)
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tin tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tin canellini beans
  • 500ml stock (veg or mushroom)
  • 100ml small pasta shapes (broken spaghetti, orzo, ditalini or small macaroni)
  • salt and black pepper
  • If you have a dried up old rind of hard cheese in the fridge, now is the time to put it to use!NB if you leave out the hard cheese and use pasta made without eggs, this soup is vegan. Parmesan is not suitable for vegetarians, but there are other hard cheeses which are.

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and add the onion and garlic.  Stir it around and leave it to saute gently until the onion is translucent – high heat will burn the garlic and that never tastes good.

Add the cubed potato, carrot, green beans and peas and the tin of tomatoes. Add the 500ml hot stock and stir all the veg around. Now is the time to add your bit of hard cheese to the mixture. Bring to simmering point then leave it all to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are almost soft. Add the drained canellini beans. Shred the cavolo nero finely.  Put the pasta into a separate pan of salted boiling water and let it boil for 5 minutes, while you put the cavolo nero into the pan with the rest of the soup ingredients.  Small pasta shapes don’t take long – check after 5-8 minutes to see if it’s done.

Season the soup with black pepper and salt if it needs it.   Drain the pasta when it’s done and put a spoonful in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle the minestrone over the top of the pasta.

If you cook the pasta separately, it’s easier to save any leftover minestrone for another day so that you can add more freshly-cooked pasta.  Leaving pasta in the soup mixture makes it go a bit sticky and flabby.

Molly Cake

At least one of your five a day,  and vegan too – no eggs, no added sugar, no added fat, just yummy.

  •  250g chopped prunes
  • 300 ml water
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 85 g wholemeal plain flour
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 400 g mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries – whatever you feel like)
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • 80 ml orange juice

900g loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C or gas mark 3.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.  Chop the prunes (you can do this in a food processor) and put in a pan with the water.  Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and set aside.

Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl.  Add the wholemeal flour, mixed fruit, walnuts and ground almonds.  Stir to combine.  Stir in the wet prune mixture and the orange juice and mix well, and spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Get it into the oven as quick as you can – the baking powder gets activated by the liquid so you need to act fast to keep all the bubbles in the mixture to make it nice and light.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Turn onto a wire rack and cool before slicing.

This could be used as a vegan version of a celebration or Christmas cake – it’s quite dense, and will take marzipan and icing quite well as it doesn’t rise much.  However it won’t keep as long as a traditional fruit cake.

Fast cauliflower curry

A totally veggie – or even vegan if you don’t serve it with the raita – super-quick recipe using mainly storecupboard ingredients for those days when you need something fast and full of flavour.  Cheerfully ripped off from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals – but with some changes for convenience (plus I never did like easy-cook rice…)

Serves 4

  • ½ large cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy ginger (or a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated)
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy garlic (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed)
  • 1 onion, grated, or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy chili
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400 g tin light coconut milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 x 227 g tin of pineapple chunks in juice
  • ½ lemon

For The Rice

  • 1 mug (300g) basmati rice
  • 10 cloves
  • ½ lemon

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, then slice it 1cm thick and put it on a hot griddle pan, turning when lightly charred.

Put 1 mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water into a  pan with the cloves, lemon half and a pinch of salt, put the lid on and cook on a low heat.  Heat the oil in a large casserole pan and gently fry the finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and chili for a few minutes until the onions start to go translucent.  Add the garam masala and stir it round for a minute to heat up the spices before adding any of the wet ingredients.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the coconut milk, the drained chickpeas and the pineapple chunks and their juice.  Add the griddled cauliflower, cover the pan and turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil.  It should be ready when the rice is, but if the sauce is a bit sloppy then take the lid off and give it a couple of minutes at a fierce heat, stirring all the time to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon into the curry and season to taste  with salt and pepper if it needs it. Check that the rice is cooked through and drain it if there’s too much water in the pan.  Scatter the torn coriander leaves over the curry and serve with the drained rice.

You can serve this with a quick “raita” of fat-free yogurt mixed with fresh chopped mint leaves, and poppadums, chapatis or naan if you want a bit more carb content with your tea.