Monday, 23 April 2012

A tasty recipe for quinoa... really? Try this Moroccan style vegetable claypot

Having a rare day off on Sunday, I was enjoying some sofa surfing and bad TV, when hunger drove me to inspect the half empty cupboards and fridge.  This is one of those recipes that comes from trying to make something out of only the things you already have.  Being slightly obsessed with spices, I have a well stocked dry store cupboard to be fair.  But the fridge was looking very lean indeed...

I had 2 aubergines and 1 yellow pepper leftover from a cooking class, an onion and loads of garlic.  There was also a very sad looking half cauliflower, which needed a good trim, half a jar of green olives, half a lemon and half a tube of tomato paste.  And the ubiquitous herbs from the garden....  

For those of you unfamiliar with quinoa, it's a kind of grain that originated in S America.  The Incas believed the crop was sacred, and hardly surprising given it kicks the nutritional backside of most other cereals and grains, containing essential amino acids as well as calcium and iron. 

The recipe looks like a lot of ingredients, but it is very much a 'chuck it in a pot' recipe.  Enjoy :) 

Moroccan style vegetable claypot with quinoa

1 or 2 white onions roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic crushed
Olive oil for frying
1-2 aubergines, 1" pieces
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cauliflower, trimmed florets
300g frozen quorn pieces (optional, but adds nice texture & soaks up flavour; you could also use tofu mince or tofu pieces, or add more variety of vegetables)
1 can of chickpeas, washed
2 tbsp of tomato paste
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Couple of sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp saffron, steeped in hot water for 10 mins - then strain saffron water into pot
1 tsp sumac (optional)
1 tsp hot paprika or cayenne pepper
3 pints of veg stock
1-2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
1/2 lemon, cut into thick slices & deseeded
1 cup of green olives, stoned
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)
200g quinoa, cooked for 10 mins in 1/2 pint veg stock, then leave to stand for 5 minutes (you could substitute with couscous or bulgar wheat also, soak in same way)
Handful of chopped marjoram (could substitute for coriander or parsley)

1. Prepare ingredients as above.
2. In a heavy bottomed deep pan (I use a creuset pot for this kind of food), soften onions in olive oil until translucent and then add garlic.  Cook for a further minute or two, then add aubergines, peppers and cauliflower (you could use any veg really such as carrots, sweet potato, courgettes). 
3.  Add all the remaining ingredients, except for the quinoa.  Ensure there is plenty of liquid in the pan, as this will be absorbed by the quinoa later.
4. Bring to simmer and cook on very low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 
5. Stir the ingredients well, then layer the soaked quinoa over the top.  Replace lid and leave to stand for 5 mins.  Sprinkle with some fresh chopped marjoram (or parsley or coriander) just before serving.
6. Serve with hot crusty bread and a green salad!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

My first streetfood event @ Ramsbottom Choc Festival

I barely know where to start.  On MasterChef, they say that cooking doesn't get tougher than this.  I may have to contend this point.  I have never worked so hard or learnt so much in such a short space of time.  The preparation and set up during the last few weeks was almost overwhelming.  I've learnt to tow (and even reverse) a 3 tonne 23ft trailer.  I've taken delivery of more produce and prepped more food than I ever thought I would (or could for that matter).  Just bonkers!  But what an amazing experience.  The highs and lows have left me exhausted and exhiliarated at the same time.  The best bit of all was seeing people enjoying my food and hearing such great feedback.  It has made all the hard work, sweat and yes, a few tears, very much worthwhile :)

Our weekend in Ramsbottom at the Chocolate festival was the perfect first event.  I owe a HUGE thanks to the lovely people there for making us so welcome and for helping us out with numerous hiccups and challenges (The Chocolate Cafe, Ruth from Bury Council, Room54 and the lovely Stuart for his impromptu lesson in reversing a trailer).  From class 1 driving lessons to supplying water from local shops, we couldn't have done it without the support of everyone there.  I think I've fallen a little bit in love with Ramsbottom!

So here's a few pics.... 

At one point, the queues were overwhelming and we felt like we just couldn't serve people fast enough.  Thanks for your patience though and the feedback was inspiring! 

It has to be remembered that neither my sister Nic or my best mate Fran, have EVER worked in food service or kitchens before.  They did brilliantly and learned so fast.

And I only shouted a few times ;0)

My friend H, made some special edition cake pops for The Hungry Gecko including dark choc & chilli and choc fudge & stem ginger.  They went down a storm.  Seriously, her cake pops really can't be beaten and she makes a fine cup cake too.  Check out her facebook page for more info CupCakeCuties