Category Archives: Christmas

Perfect roast potatoes 

I’ve posted about making crispy roast potatoes before (then inadvertently deleted all the photos!) and it’s been one of my most visited posts over the years; this is a newly revised version, with only a slight amendment. I use this method week in, week out, it works! 

The best potatoes to use are ‘floury’ potatoes, as opposed to waxy. In the U.K., I use Maris Piper potatoes.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C fan.

Peel the potatoes, cut them into even sized chunks, ensuring some flat edges

Place them in a large saucepan and cover with water

Bring the water to the boil then turn the heat down enough for the pot to continue to boil for a good 5 minutes, a bit longer is fine, this is just to par boil the potatoes though, not completely boil them 

Then drain the potatoes and – this is the key – keeping them in the saucepan, hold a lid over the pot and give them a good shake to break up the outsides of the potatoes, basically rough them up a bit

Then leave the potatoes to one side to cool in their own steam. You can leave them for as long or as short a time as you like, they can cool completely or just a bit. 

During this time, pour a shallow layer of oil of your choice – I use rapeseed oil, it’s a lovely light oil and perfect for roasting potatoes – into your roasting tin and put it into the top of the oven to heat up for about 10 minutes

When the oil is very hot, add the potatoes to the pan carefully, I do it one by one with tongs. Be careful not to splash yourself with hot oil

See the roughed up finish?

Then spoon some of the hot oil over each potato

Put the pan back into the top of the oven for 40-60 mins depending on the size of the potatoes

Halfway through, take the pan out and baste each potato with hot oil again, then put them back into the oven

And watch them crisp up 🙂 

Enjoy! 

These will be coming to this week’s Fiesta Friday, are you…?

How to feed a vegetarian this holiday season: ask! (And new tips for roasting veg) 

And I don’t necessarily mean ask me, although of course you can, and I’m only too happy to help, but mainly I mean: ask them!

I’ve said it before, probably around this same time last year, but I’ll keep saying it: ask your vegetarian, or vegan, or food intolerant, guest what they’d like to eat. Don’t guess, don’t give yourself the stress of trying to figure it out if you’re not sure. Call them, email them, ask them what kind of dish they’d like. If they’re anything like me, they’ll be grateful that you asked, and relieved that they know they’ll be catered for. Please. Make your life simple 🙂

And once you know what they’d like, I of course offer you my entire collection of recipes, I hope something may be of use.

In the meantime, I’d like to offer a couple of new ideas (to me anyway) for roasting vegetables, in particular carrots…

 Roasted carrots are so tasty, but sometimes it takes so long to get them cooked through, that they can get almost overcooked in your attempts to roast them. When I read this tip on Sally’s lovely blog, I immediately tried it and it works very well. I HIGHLY recommend that you try it out, with carrots and other dense vegetables, particularly root vegetables. 

Once you’ve tried that, try this…this is a tip from Jamie Oliver, so it must be good mustn’t it?!

When you come to toss your carrots in olive oil, add some cumin seeds and an acid element…in this case I used apple cider vinegar, and it really, really brings out their flavour..

Mr Oliver offers up various ideas for various vegetables including different oils, vinegars, herbs and spices, its definitely worth looking up for your Christmas table. 

Two tips I highly recommend, and great for me to learn new ideas for roasting vegetables – and I thought I knew them all!

I’ll be taking these along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by Judi and Sandhya, why not check it out and get some other new ideas for your celebration meals? 

Happy weekend! 

Tian time!

I’ve been slicing and stacking and playing with vegetables over the last week, and producing various versions of a ‘tian’. Not to be confused with a traditional ratatouille, which is often presented in the same way, my tians have included not the courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes sitting on a base of onions and garlic of a ratatouille, but my version based on whatever I had to hand! 

As is my way, I was already knee deep in making dinner for my boys when I decided to give a tian a go, so it was a bit of a rush job..


This was sliced aubergine, courgette and sweet potato sitting on a slick of one of my homemade Mexican chilli sauces. I put a lid on the pot and baked it for half an hour, then removed the lid, sprinkled over it all some spices and grated cheese and cooked it further..

And it was good!!! Maybe not very pretty, but very tasty.

The leftovers were even tastier the next day..

I tried again a few days later but this time with aubergine, sweet potato and tomatoes – and this one was even better. The added moisture of the tomatoes is definitely a winner..

I decided to line the slices up in a rectangular pan which worked just as well, even if it doesn’t look as pretty. I also baked it uncovered for the whole time and sprinkled a smaller amount of cheese over it all 10 minutes before it was finally removed from the oven..

It really is a winner, I’ll be making this more and more often!

I think they look great when you serve them up, definitely a great option for Christmas if you’re looking for a side dish or vegetable based main dish. You could always replace the cheese topping with something else, or just leave it off, for a vegan. And try serving it with a dip, sauce or homous.

If you’re going to have a go yourself:

I would allow an hour to bake the dish 

Try and slice everything thinly and of even thickness, you could use a mandolin or slicer if you have one, I don’t!

Slice up all of the your chosen vegetables and create piles

Then start by stacking them, holding them in your hand to create a starting stack, before sitting them into the cooking pot, then start adding the rest

Include tomatoes

Sit the slices on a bed of something with some flavour 

Try mixing up the vegetables 

Keep it as colourful as possible 

Always make enough to have leftovers!!! 

I’ve had lots of fun making these – and eating them 🙂

If you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope you had a great day. Now let’s join Fiesta Friday, with our lovely co hosts Julianna and Hilda, and see what everyone else is up to…

Lots of food & a few decorations

 Festive greetings from my little piece of the world..I seem to have collated various dishes and ideas recently without a fixed single recipe so I thought I’d share a few ideas in one place. And of course, my Christmas tree!  

  Okay, that’s the tree, now some food..

Last week I cooked a huge pan of diced sweet potato, butternut squash and carrots in coconut oil, sprinkled liberally with roasted cumin and sumac, mixed with sprout tops and quinoa…

And served with home roasted cashews..

  

Absolutely perfect with tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds..

I also recently revived my sourdough starter and put her to work making this lovely loaf: a mix of kamut/Khorason flour, spelt flour, strong white flour and poppy seeds..I followed Selmas overnight recipe for the dough, and just threw together my own mix of flours within the 500g requirement…
    
This bowl of green goodness is a mixture of some of my gluten free spinach flatbreads dough, mixed with quinoa and spelt, that I cooked using my special method but this time I cooked it in whey instead of water (try it, it’s very good!), all mixed and heated, and paired with my homous..

Below is a thrown together pie that worked really well: I had some pastry leftover from making pies for my boys, so I lined my mini pie tin with the pastry and blind baked it, then filled it with mild, soft, crumbly goats cheese and topped with roasted butternut squash slices..success! 

I’ve been playing with some apple chutney…rather than just go for cheese and crackers, I paired some of this tasty chutney from Spice Kitchen UK with a roasted sweet potato and goat cheese, it works very well!

I also baked some into a dish of baked ricotta and cream cheese – I basically created an apple chutney soft cheese 🙂 

Yesterday’s dinner was a roasted sweet potato topped with a mixture of cooked bulgur wheat, za’atar and olive oil, drizzled with tahini…pretty much a perfect combination of flavours!!! The sweet potato plus the za’atar plus the tahini..oh wow! 

Just a few glimpses from my kitchen recently..and here’s a couple of glimpses from the outside.. 

  This was a recent sunrise I caught when walking Bob, it was like a ball of fire, absolutely stunning! 

 Bob and I say hi! 

How to feed a vegetarian dinner guest..

This time of year, I see a lot of articles and posts talking about what to feed a vegetarian guest should you find one sat at your Christmas dinner table; I always find it interesting to see what suggestions are proffered and I’m afraid, I very rarely agree. So often the solutions offered are pasta dishes smothered in some sort of cheese sauce, or something wrapped in pastry…basically, heavy dishes that, quite frankly, I wouldn’t eat.  Where are the beautifully cooked vegetables in all their glory?? 

  
So, I thought I would give my view point, being as I am, the ‘vegetarian guest’.. 

It’s funny because in my world, I’m one of many; I share my virtual world with many vegetarians & vegans, and in my real world my two best friends are also vegetarian – it wasn’t a prerequisite of our friendship or anything, it just happened that way; just shows that like minded people are drawn to each other doesn’t it? But if I find myself amongst family or a wider circle of friends, then I’m the alien (throw into the mix that I prefer low or no gluten, I don’t eat any sugar or sweet things, AND I don’t drink alcohol, and I really am an island…but that’s just me, that’s not all vegetarians) but I’m really not an alien, and I’m a lot easier to feed than you’d think..

So what would you think of feeding me if I came to your house? (Let’s pretend for a moment that I don’t have a blog full of ideas…!) Would you be completely stumped? Or drive yourself crazy with worry about the dish for this one person? Or just assume I must want to eat nut loaf?? (I don’t, by the way.)

Stop. It’s easier than you think. 

Do you mind if I offer some suggestions? 

My top tip would be: 

Don’t make your life difficult! Especially if you’re making food for lots of people, don’t let the addition of a different eater at your table cause you stress. 

And don’t make assumptions: I am labelled ‘vegetarian’ by most people in that I don’t eat any meat or fish, but I do eat cheese and eggs. Not all vegetarians are the same. Best to double check with them. 

So…make life easy…

First, tell me what you’re already planning to cook..for example..last year we visited my brother & sister in law over Christmas; my sister in law Tina is a great cook and she cooked a huge roast dinner for 7 of us; knowing how much she’d already have to do, I asked if she’d like me to bring a dish for myself? She very happily accepted the offer with great relief as she had been concerned about it, and I made a small sweet potato casserole which I took with me to heat up in her oven. 

When dinner was served there was about 10 different dishes of vegetables – I really didn’t need my dish too. I would have been quite happy with a plate piled high with lovely veg, and I’d have grabbed some of the nuts and seeds she had in the cupboard and sprinkled them over the top and been very happy. Whenever I cook a roast dinner at home, I just make sure there’s lots of vegetables with it and I eat them with some homous or any dips I’ve made, like the squash below, or with some grains I’ve got leftover from during the week. It’s that easy!  

 
Butternut squash, beetroot and quinoa 

The only notes I would make here are…consider your gravy, you may need to make a vegetarian version if your guest is a gravy lover (I’m not!); and if you roast your potatoes in goose fat, it’s only fair to to let your vegetarian guest know. Or maybe on this occasion, use a non animal fat to roast your potatoes in? 

The moral of this story is..consider what you’re already making and whether you’ve actually already got an answer in your menu. You may already have a perfect solution…can you make something ahead, like these marinated vegetables, or these, that will just need flinging in the oven in the day? 

Are you doing a dish with meat that you could produce a small amount of it without meat? Could you plan it that way? Make two versions of the same chilli or casserole/tagine for example? 

Or, make a vegetable based soup and offer a platter  antipasti, crudités, bread etc along with it and allow everyone to choose what they want. 

Salads are a godsend; especially warm salads (like the one below) in the cold temperatures; buffets are even better – let your guests choose; and side dishes are often the answer – I’ve often ordered just a selection of side dishes at a restaurant. 

  Tagine

A cordon bleu creation really isn’t necessary. For me, the aim would be to ensure that that guest is made welcome and not made to feel like they are the alien at the table. I can tell you that it isn’t a pleasant feeling.

So, why not just ask me what I’d like? As one of my vegetarian friends said: “I think you’re right, people rarely ‘ask’ what you like to eat, so you can end up with a Supermarket version of what a veggie [supposedly] likes to eat, which, can often be wrapped up in a huge parcel of stodge, ie, pastry. Why do they do that?!” Yes, why do they?? For me it just shows lack of imagination.

Although…if you do fancy offering a pie or flan of some sort that everyone might fancy a bit of, how about making it a healthy, tasty option like this beetroot galette with a lovely light gluten free crust..

 Or make life really easy, and let me bring a dish. I wouldn’t be offended at all. I’d rather not give a hostess added worry and I’d definitely prefer not to be presented with a dish that I’d rather not eat and then feel rude. And I’d really hate to cause any stress or extra work! So let me help. 

Of course, I am a blogger with a list of recipe ideas so I do have a list of suggestions on this here blog in case they be of use, including a Christmas feast I made for guests last year and all of my Pimp Your Veg ideas, plus lots of healthy, vegetarian snack and Christmas cake ideas, but I’m also available if I can be of help.  

 I hope this has been of some help to you and my friends at Fiesta Friday, com hosted this week by lovely Liz and Johanne. Enjoy! 

NOTE: many of these recipes and suggestions would satisfy vegan diets and/or ideas for guests with various food intolerances. 

Disclaimer: these are only my views, not all vegetarians are the same! All the more reason to ask 🙂 

Perfect crispy roast potatoes..and parsnips…but mostly, perfect crispy roast potatoes 😀

20131216-174846.jpg

’tis the time of year for roast dinners and beautiful roast potatoes and vegetables, although in my house, a roast is welcome any time of year!!

When I married my husband, I promised to love and cherish him til death do us part….AND learn how to cook a perfect roast!! Maybe not quite as official as that, but it was something I knew he loved to eat and I wanted to learn to make a good roast dinner (as good as, if not better than his Mum’s!!) and now, both of my boys love nothing more than roast chicken with all the trimmings including perfect crispy roast potatoes. I remember the roast dinners of my childhood and the potatoes were always the star dish ⭐️

This weekend I made a roast for my boys and our visitors and took some photos and notes as I made the roast potatoes in case it may be of interest…

I’m sure everyone has their perfect method, this is just mine ☺️

Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan). Peel the potatoes and place them in a large saucepan and cover with water.

20131216-174906.jpg
Bring it to the boil and turn the heat down enough for the pot to continue to boil for a good 5 minutes, a bit longer is fine, this is just to par boil the potatoes though, not completely boil them

20131216-174916.jpg
Then drain the potatoes and – this is the key – keeping them in the saucepan, give them a good shake and break up the outsides of the potatoes

20131216-174943.jpg
Then leave to one side to cool in their own steam. You can leave them for as long or as short a time as you like. During this time, pour a shallow layer of vegetable oil into your roasting tin and put it into the top of the oven to heat up

20131216-174954.jpg
When the oil is very hot, add the potatoes to the pan carefully. I do it one by one with tongs. Be careful not to splash yourself with hot oil

20131216-175004.jpg
Then spoon oil over each potatoes

20131216-175014.jpg
And roast in the top of the oven for 40-60 mins depending on the size of the potatoes. Yesterday these were in the oven for 50 minutes.

Halfway through, take the pan out and baste each potato with hot oil again then put back into the oven

20131216-175024.jpg
And watch them crisp up 😀

20131216-175033.jpg
I cooked the parsnips in exactly the same way, par boiling them, draining them and shaking them up before roasting them in hot oil

20131216-175043.jpg
Mmmmm……yum!!!!!