Thursday, 24 November 2011

Spiced Chickpeas with Peppers

This is a dish based on a lovely chickpea salad I had for lunch, and inspired by it and the desire to make it better it became a very nice weeknight dinner. I used dry chickpeas, soaked overnight and whilst I was at work, soft fried peppers, lots of homegrown chilli, garlic and spices. I siimmered for a while and then topped with feta cheese and piled onto warm flatbreads.

I used dry chickpeas here because they do taste nicer, I find they are less floury, but you can substitute canned. I didn't make the flatbreads, but instead use the new Warburtons square wraps, they are based on the idea of tortilla wraps but are thicker and less like chewing on plastic than the normal 'mexican' style ones you find in supermarkets. I'm going to use these for square tacos soon!

Spiced Chickpeas with Peppers

100g of dry chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled for 10-20 minutes til tender
Or 1 can of chickpeas.

2 bell peppers sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon of honey
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

1 large clove of garlic
1 large green chilli (red chilli if you like it hot!)
1 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Squirt of tomato ketchup
Salt and pepper

Boil your chickpeas whilst you do the peppers, if you are using dried chickpeas.
Cut your peppers into thin strips and fry on a high heat for a few minutes with some seasoning. Add in a little honey and the red wine vinegar and then pop the lid on and reduce the heat. This will soften the peppers. Simmer gently for 10-15minutes.

Fry the garlic and chilli in olive oil for a minute or so, then drain your chickpeas (either after boiling or from your can) and throw them in. Add in the spices, tomato ketchup (yes it seems a bit strange but it gives the dish a sauce and tomato-ey flavour) and season. Stir in your softened peppers. Simmer for 5 minutes to let everything flavour the chickpeas and peppers, add a splash of water in it if looks a bit dry.

Pile into bowls and serve with some oven warmed flatbreads and feta cheese on top.
A sprinkle of chopped coriander wouldn't hurt either.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cooking from the River Cottage Veg Book

Never before have I made so many recipes from a recipe book before. I think I am like a lot of people, I buy cookbooks promising to try all the recipes, I look at the pretty pictures, feel my stomach grumble, make one or two and then resign it to the shelf. Google is a lot quicker if I need to find a recipe in a hurry so my books get neglected.

I've loved the recipes from this book, and we've been watching the TV programmes too. Mr. Giraffe became a vegetarian nearly a year ago so I'm really glad to find a book full of many recipes that are inventive and veggie.
Our favourite by far is the broad bean and pea bruschetta - we use frozen peas when there are no broad beans in season - topped with crumbly goats cheese or feta. A small portion makes for a lovely side to a plate of pasta too.

We've also made the polenta chips, the mushroom stoup (make lots of this, it tastes better the next day), beetroot soup, aubergine parmigiana (Sainsburys basics 'italian hard cheese' is veggie and also tastes pretty good) and the beetroot tarte tatin.

Next on the list is the rest of the book - but more specifically the cauliflower pakoras, chickpea ketchup curry (for a day when we are feeling lazy!) and the beetroot and chocolate ice cream.

I cannot recommend this book enough, whether you are veggie or not, it is huge so you'll find something you'll like. And I agree with Hugh that we all need to eat less meat, not no meat but a lot less than we eat now.

I've also forgiven Hugh for cutting his hair, this book has made up for him having run of the mill short hair.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Jolly Scholar, Cambridge

Update: The Jolly Scholar has now closed and has been replaced by the Cambridge Brewhouse, read my review here.

Since I heard the Jolly Scholar had opened I was quite keen to go, it was formerly the Bun Shop which is a pub that was crying out for new owners and refurbishment. The Jolly Scholar is very gastropubby, in the decor and the menu. Inside it is lots of oak, old style furniture and little Cambridge themed decor - ie the punt suspended on the ceiling.

They popped up on Groupon recently so I bought a voucher, thinking that if it wasn't up to much then at least it only cost me £12 for £35 worth of food. Anticipating it being very busy due to the voucher (our experience at using a Groupon for The Rice Boat taught us this) we booked for 6pm, although when we arrived it was pretty quiet - a good sign, or not?

The Jolly Scholar is part of the same group as The Jolly Sailor in Orford - a very good place to find something yummy to eat, and of course a great place to find seafood. Mussels are one of my favourite things to eat so I ordered these, and Mr. Giraffe ordered the veggie burger (halloumi burger with other fried veg) with aioli & sweet potato chips. Both were good, a nice start. The mussels were very very fresh with a lovely white wine sauce and a slightly too huge portion of very nice crispy frites. The sweet potato chips that accompanied the burger were great too, they know how to do chips here.

Unfortunately the puddings let us down. I had a broiche & marmalade bread and butter pudding, which was perfectly acceptable if a little soggy, I like my bread and butter pudding to have a crispy top. The custard was however homemade, not the flouro Birds stuff. Mr's berry crumble was a huge disappointment, the berries were nondescript and mostly full of seeds and the crumble top was dusty and uninspired. Such a shame.

We loved the mains, but the puds let us down and so did the service. The restaurant was pretty quiet which only made the rather brash member of staff behind the bar barking orders at his staff sound even louder -  this also meant that the waitresses were quite nervous and obviously under undue pressure.

I don't think I'd pay full price here, the whole experience wasn't up to scratch despite the main courses being nice.

The Jolly Scholar
King Street, Cambridge

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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sort of Sea Spiced Aubergine

Whilst it might seem a cliche, since Mr. Giraffe became vegetarian we've been eating a lot more aubergine, a lot of people describe it as being meaty - although I don't really see that - but it is very substantial which means it is easy to make it the centre of a meal.
This is my 'sort of' sea spiced aubergine, it is probably not very authentic but it has all the right mix of flavours - deep savoury, chilli burn and a little sweetness. This always takes me longer to make than I think, due to the fact that aubergines take SO LONG to roast. After they are roasted the dish comes together pretty quickly though.

Sea Spiced Aubergine - serves 2

2 medium sized aubergines
olive oil
2 fresh chillies

For the sauce
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons of  Tamari (or just add in another tablespoon of dark soy sauce)
2 teaspoons of chili bean paste (or any good chilli sauce, or sambal oelek)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of honey
juice of 1/2 a lime

Heat the oven to 180 degrees c / gas mark 4.
Line a baking dish with foil and wrap your aubergines and chillies up in the foil, drizzle with sunflower or a mild olive oil before you seal. Roast in the oven for about an hour to an hour and a half, about half way through remove the chilis and turn the aubergines. Slice the chillies in to small pieces. If you don't want too much heat you can use 1 chilli, or leave the seeds out.

For the sauce mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with the roasted chillies.

When the aubergines are ready, remove from the dish and let them cool so they aren't going to burn your hands off when you slice them. They should be very very soft and collapsed slightly.
Cut your aubergine into rough chunks, about 2 inches.
Heat up a large frying pan or a wok, add in some sunflower oil and then your aubergines. Fry for a minute and then pour in your sauce, followed by a little hot water if it is a bit dry. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on a medium to low heat.

Serve with egg fried rice or fine egg noodles.

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