Courgetti and beetballs

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Comfort food gets a guilt-free makeover with this dinner that resembles meat and refined starch but is packed with vegetables.

Fresh Living Magazine ran a recipe in their September 2016 issue for beetroot and lentil balls. The texture and flavour were great, but I’ve improved on their method to streamline the cooking process. The preparation (listed below) can be done hours or even a day or two in advance, taking pressure off you just before you want to cook the balls and serve them piping, crispy hot.

Fresh Living served the balls with rice and a minty yoghurt dip (yum), but I can’t resist the etymologically cheeky take of courgetti and beetballs. Use my recipe for courgetti here and simply slice it thinner if you prefer, but I rather like it chunky. Toss with a Napolitano sauce (home made or bottled – no one’s judging) and top with the beetballs.

Bon appetite.

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked brown lentils

1 cup breadcrumbs

3 medium beetroots

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbs curry powder

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

  • Boil lentils in water; drain.
  • While food processor is still clean and dry, blitz breadcrumbs (leftover challah or baguette is perfect for this; otherwise use 2 slices of regular bread – white or whole wheat)
  • Install a fine grater blade and grate the beetroot. Place the grated beetroot in a colander with a bowl below (to catch the liquid) and another bowl above (to weigh down with cook books or a heavy utensils canister). Drain as much juice as you can (drink this).

Method:

  • Return the blending blade to the food processor and pulse all the ingredients together (lentils, breadcrumbs, beetroot, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper).
  • Roll the mixture into balls, squeezing out any excess liquid if necessary.
  • Bake on a greased baking tray for 20 minutes at 190°C.

Note: For a completely gluten-free version, try replacing the breadcrumbs with almond- or chickpea flour.

How to get kids to eat cauliflower

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Some kids don’t like the texture of certain veggies; others don’t like the theoretical idea of eating specific things (like cauliflower. I’m just saying.) This approach solves both problems. When I pitched the idea of cauliflower in cheese sauce to my five-year-old (emphasis on the cheese sauce: “It’s cheese sauce. It’s awesome. It’s cheese, and it’s sauce! What could be better than that? Did I mention the cheese?”), he reacted with predictable skeptism. When he saw the actual cauliflower, I swear he turned a little green. But here’s the genius, see: it’s the CHEESE SAUCE.

Nothing scary going in there.

Flour – cool (it makes cake, right?)

Butter – great (he loves it on sarmies)

Milk – it goes well with chocolate so it must be safe.

Cheese – nuff said.

Plus he enjoyed being grown up enough to pour in the milk a little at a time while I stirred.

The next token of brilliance is to chop the cauliflower so small, it virtually blends into the sauce (you could use a knife, a grater, or cauliflower rice for this).

RECIPE

CAULIFLOWER:

Finely chop a head of cauliflower and steam until it is soft enough not to alert your child to its status as a vegetable.

Don’t bin the cauliflower leaves! Adult supper just got fancy. Click here to see how.

SAUCE:

Melt 50 g butter in a pan.

Stir in 50 g flour.

Add 500 ml milk a little at a time to form a sauce.

Season with salt or a herbal alternative and cook for 5 minutes.

Add 1-cups grated cheese (Tussers. Mmm.)

Coat the bejeezuz out of the cauliflower.

Smile extremely broadly and make positive comments about the cheese sauce as you serve. Praise your child wildly with every mouthful.

For a vegan version: replace butter with olive oil and milk with soy milk. Omit the cheese. (You might want to add a little extra flour to thicken it up, and a flavour your kid likes.)

Quick, easy and impressive mushroom frittata

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Unexpected dinner guests – eek!!!

But not such a big deal when you have a few quick tricks up your sleeve. Here’s what I rustled up with a 20-minute round trip to the shops and a little pot-stirring in the background while I oversaw my kids’ evening routine:

Sauté 1 kg mushrooms in oil, thyme and ground pepper (add a little milk if they begin to stick to the pan).

Beat 3 eggs with 1 cup of yoghurt (I used full cream, but have successfully used lower fat versions in the past). Season well with salt and pepper.

Transfer mushrooms into a greased pie dish and cover with the egg mixture. Bake at 180°C for 30-35 minutes until the egg has set.

(It went down very well, by the way!)

Cauli greens

Do not throw away cauliflower leaves! They’re full of vitamins and flavour. Chop them up – including the thick spiny bits – and follow me to Yum Land with this easy application:

Sauté 1 chopped onion with 3 cloves of crushed garlic until soft. Add washed, chopped cauliflower leaves and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serve with anything (we had lemon-and-parsley butter beans and boiled baby potatoes)

Sautéed cauli greens

Seriously. You never knew this could taste so good. And to think you’ve been throwing out this wholesome, delicious packaging for years!

 * save money * add variety to your 5-a-day * reduce your garbage                * eat healthy * high yum factor *

The Veggie Tots Seven Species Salad

At the end of this month, six chefs from the international hotel chain the Waldorf Astoria – famous for inventing the Waldorf salad, eggs benedict and red velvet cake – will compete in New York to create a new signature dish. Chef Itzik Barak of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is submitting a salad dish inspired by the seven sacred species of the bible: the wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8.

Waldorf Astoria chef Itzik Barak’s The Seven Species

As a vegetarian, this idea tickled my taste buds, but it bothered me ever so slightly that Barak chose to make fish a centerpiece of the dish (view the recipe here). I felt it somewhat superfluous, and that it detracts from the spirit of the biblical verse. Plus, Barak’s dish features just three out of the seven species (four if you count olive oil as showcasing olives).

My (vegetarian) version includes all seven species: barley salad with dates and pomegranates, olive tapenade on crostini (wheat), and figs and grapes poached in red wine (repetition of the vine imagery there). The saltiness of the olives complements the sweetness of the figs and grapes, and the crunch of the crostini offsets the softness of the same.

Veggietot Mom’s Seven Species Salad

I kept Barak’s base of tahini (though I altered the quantities as I found his recipe didn’t “smear” as his instructions direct) and I added thyme to the tapenade in a nod to his flavour profiling.

This is untypically Veggie Tot-tish in that it really is quite complicated and time-consuming to make, but it was loads of fun and very very yummy, so I encourage you to give it a try! (If you’re Jewish, this is a great one to file away for the harvest festivals of Shavuot or Sukkot as it celebrates the produce of Eretz Yisrael in all its glory.)

The Veggie Tots Seven Species Salad

(6-8 servings)

INGREDIENTS

Tahini

  • 40 grams tahini
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Pinch of salt for taste
  • Pinch of pepper for taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup ice water

Barley salad

  • 200 grams dried pearl barley
  • 1 pomegranate (or one small carton pomegranate rubies)
  • 4 dates (or 8 dried, which are smaller), finely chopped
  • 40 grams pumpkin, finely chopped
  • 4 pears, finely chopped
  • One thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 20 grams parsley, chopped
  • 20 grams mint, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil

Poached fruit

  • 4-8 figs (depending on size, preferably fresh), quartered
  • Small bunch grapes
  • 2 cups red wine (I used sacramental Kiddush wine to underpin the scriptural roots of the dish)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Olive tapenade

  • 1 cup olives (black, green, or a mix), pitted
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Crostini

  • 8 slices artisanal bread (I used challah because I liked the spiritual connotation to sacred bread)
  • ½ cup olive oil for brushing

Garnish

  • 1 radish
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Drizzle lime juice
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 

RECIPE

Heads-up: This is fiddly dish, but all but one of the recipe steps can be done a day or two in advance, so pace yourself. Mix the salad (step 7) on the day you’ll be eating it, and plate immediately before serving.

1  Make tachina sauce by combining tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and ice water in a medium size mixing bowl and whisking until smooth. Refrigerate.

2  Cook barley according to packet instructions (or bring to boil and seal in a Wonderbag for about 40 minutes). Drain, cool and refrigerate.

3  Make olive tapenade by combining all the ingredients with a handheld blender, small food processor or mortar and pestle. Refrigerate. (PS licking the tapenade bowl is to grownups what licking the cake batter bowl is to kids!)

4  Poach the figs and grapes by combining all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish, covered with a lid or tin foil, and cooking for approx. 20 minutes at 180°C. Cool, then refrigerate. Feed surplus figs to your Veggie Tot 🙂

5  While the oven is on, spank it up to “grill” and toast crostini by brushing the bread with olive oil and cooking for about 2 minutes (watch it – it burns fast!) Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

6  Use a veggie peeler to peel garnish vegetables lengthwise into long, thin slivers (rotate the radish as you peel). Marinate in the fridge in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

7  To make the salad, sauté the pumpkin with thyme leaves, salt, pepper and oil for 3 minutes until golden brown. When cool, combine with the rest of the salad ingredients and toss well in a large mixing bowl.

PLATING

1  Smear tahini in a line on the plate.

2  Place barley salad directly on top.

3  Spread olive tapenade on the crostini (cut into elegant pieces if your bread slices are large) and place on top of the barley salad.

4  Dot with the poached figs and grapes.

5  Roll pieces of pickled garnish vegetable and place throughout the plate, on top of the croutons or in the barley salad. Add leaves (I used chives and baby rocket) and extra pomegranate rubies.

6  If you’re feeling fancy, you can reduce some of the poaching liquid in a small pan to create a red wine jus and use this to decorate the rim of the plate. It’s quite yummy too.

Thanks to Wendy, Peter and Warren for being my willing, patient (and, I might add, satisfied) guinea pigs!

 

Yes we can-apé!

Move over, pigs in blankets and sausage rolls. The new, healthy vegetarian canapés are coming through!

Clockwise from top left: melon and feta kebabs, cucumber hors d’oeuvres with cream cheese and sprouts, tomato and halloumi polenta bites, falafel balls with tachina (crudité behind), healthy date balls, mini crustless quiches, caprese morsels, DIY papaya lettuce wraps with ginger dipping sauce.

I’ve listed the recipes in the order that you should prepare them so you can pace yourself (some keep well for a few days and others are best made fresh).

Note: If you’re going to grow your own sprouts (click here if you’re not sure how), start several days before.

 

FALAFEL BALLS WITH TACHINA

You can make these weeks in advance because they freeze well.

Soak 500 g dried chickpeas with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda overnight (don’t use canned chickpeas for this – the falafel may fall apart). Rinse. Blitz in a food processor with 3 cloves garlic, 3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin seeds (whole), 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, and 2 tsp baking powder (not traditional but makes them light and fluffy). It should be coarsely ground, not a fine paste. You can leave this mixture in the fridge for a day or two – in fact standing improves the flavours.

Use wet hands to shape small falafel balls and deep-fry in vegetable oil in batches, stirring periodically, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel or a clean dishcloth. Once cool, store falafel balls in the freezer; remove an hour or two before serving and they should be just right!

To make the tachina sauce, blend ½ cup tahini (ground sesame paste) with 3 cloves crushed garlic and ¼ tsp salt, then add the juice of half a lemon and 2-3 Tbs olive oil. Thin with warm water to desired consistency. Tachina also freezes well but allow a good few hours for thawing. Otherwise, store tachina in fridge for several days and decant up to an hour before serving.

TIP: Serve crudités for scooping up the extra tachina. The fresh crunch couples the soft falafel beautifully. (Cut crudités on the day of serving.)

 

DATE BALLS

It’s nice to offer a sweet option, and this one’s great as there’s no added sugar.

Melt 1 cup chopped dates in 2 Tbs coconut oil until soft and gooey (can take a while with dried dates). Remove from heat, then add ½ cup desiccated coconut and ½ cup chopped nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios or a mix work well). When cool enough to handle, mould into dainty balls and roll in extra desiccated coconut. Store in an airtight container for several days.

 

TOMATO AND HALLOUMI POLENTA BITES

This is great because you can prepare the various elements in advance at your leisure, and then look like a domestic goddess when you quickly “throw it all together” at the end!

Fill a roasting dish with roughly chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Roast at 200°C until liquids have reduced and the ends are starting to char.

Combine ½ cup polenta and 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and stir frequently for about 10 minutes. Pour into a greased baking tray. (If you’ve got the oven on at this point, drizzle the polenta with olive oil and bake for 10-15 minutes to add colour.) Allow to cool, then cut into canapé-sized squares or wedges.

Store tomato ragout, polenta squares and sliced halloumi in separate containers in fridge. Compile and garnish with fresh basil leaves up to an hour before serving.

TIP: Can’t find polenta? Use regular mieliemeal instead. A pinch of turmeric even gives it a yellow hue.

 

MINI CRUSTLESS QUICHES

Beat 3 eggs and 1 cup fat free yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper. Half-fill greased mini muffin pans with this mixture (pan sizes may vary; this quantity did 6 of mine, in a few batches). Top variously with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, grated cheddar or chunks of brie. Gently press the toppings into the mixture, so it oozes up the sides, forming a shell. Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown.

Store in airtight container in fridge.

TIP: Remove half an hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Arrange on a pretty platter and garnish with chopped chives.

 

MELON AND FETA KEBABS

Spear cubes of melon (spanspek, sweet melon or watermelon work well), chunks of feta, mint leaves and pitted olives onto wooden skewers. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (you can make these several hours before serving).

TIP: Remember you can wash and reuse the kebab sticks!

CAPRESE MORSELS

Halve cherry tomatoes and top each with a sliver of mozzarella cheese. (At this point you can store them in the fridge for several hours.) Just before serving, spoon a dollop of basil pesto onto each morsel.

TIP: To avoid wonky canapés that wobble all over the plate as you carry it, use this trick: Place each cherry tomato down whole before you cut it. That will show you where it’s steady base is. Slice parallel to this point, and both halves should balance fairly well.

 

CUCUMBER HORS D’OEUVRES WITH CREAM CHEESE AND SPROUTS

Lay round slices of cucumber on a serving plate. Top each with a teaspoonful of cream cheese (fat free cottage cheese works fine too), a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and a pile of sprouts. Just before serving, sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.

TIP: Alfalfa sprouts are so pretty for this, but lentil sprouts works too. Bean and chickpea sprouts are a bit large and unwieldy.

 

DIY PAPAYA LETTUCE WRAPS WITH GINGER DIPPING SAUCE.

The crunch of tart cos lettuce and the sweet softness of pawpaw pair beautifully with this ginger sauce, and guests enjoy wrapping and dipping their own.

To make the dipping sauce, combine tamari (or soy sauce if you can’t find it) with grated fresh ginger, crushed garlic, ground cumin, finely chopped coriander and a little chopped chilli.

Arrange piles of cos lettuce leaves and slices of papaya or pawpaw on a platter with a ramekin of dipping sauce.

TIP: You can make the dipping sauce several days ahead, and use any leftovers to coat your next stir-fry.

Courgette tagliatelle with rosemary cheese sauce

Courgette ‘tagliatelle’ with rosemary cheese sauce

I’m not necessarily into Banting, but I’m all for upping the veggies and not overdoing refined carbohydrates.

This recipe came about because I had some courgettes lurking in the fridge and I wanted to use them up. I was feeling far too lazy to make ‘spaghetti’ (which you can do using a spiraliser, a julienne grater, a sharp knife and plenty of patience, or by buying ready-cut courgette spaghetti from a growing number of supermarkets like Woolies or Pick-n-Pay), so I simply sliced them. The result was a more satisfying spoonful, in my humble opinion.

For the kitchen-illiterate: courgette, zucchini and baby marrow are all different names for the same veggie.

RECIPE

Cut about 400g courgettes into 1 cm slices.

Place courgettes in a single layer on a greased baking tray and brush with up to 60 ml olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180° C until soft and going ever so slightly crispy on the edges. You could probably steam or microwave the ‘pasta’, but I love the flavour and texture of oven-roasted, olive-oily veggies.

Meanwhile, start on the sauce by melting 50 g butter in a pan and mixing in 50 g flour to form a roux (fancy word for paste in this context).

Add 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (fresh or dried, whatever you’ve got on hand) and cook for 2 minutes.

GRADUALLY – and you need to be patient here – add up to 500 ml milk (I used full cream, you can try other varieties) in small pours, stirring well to incorporate all the milk into the roux before adding more. This GRADUAL mixing in of the milk is what will prevent lumps and give you a smooth, glossy sauce. (If you do get lumps, use a whisk to beat them out.) Cook the sauce for 5-10 minutes to thicken, then season with salt and pepper (a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or mustard powder wouldn’t go amiss here if you like a bite.)

Stir in 1 cup of grated cheese. (You can use any cheese you like – or have around – for this. Harder cheeses like parmesan will give a more pronounced flavour, while softer varieties like mozzarella will result in a gooier, unctuous texture)

Plate the ‘tagliatelle’ and nap with the cheese sauce (I’ve always wanted to say that! 🙂 )

MIX IT UP

This sauce would work just as well on steamed green beans or skinny sweet potato chips (baked not fried).

Regaining my sense of hummus

The last two years have been a real roller coaster. Actually the last six years since I fell pregnant with my firstborn have been a roller coaster, but the last two have been a special type of crazy, with perinatal depression, yet another newborn, moving house, a burst eardrum, and a series of crazy deadlines that were conceived by the devil as a practical joke which backfired.

I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen lately. I have a wonderful support system including a foodie husband, a helper who can follow any recipe I throw at her, and the manufacturers of Provita. So we’ve been eating, but I’ve missed cooking.

Today I made hummus, which really you can hardly call cooking at all, but the sense of anti-feminist satisfaction was enough to give me the “cooking kick” I needed. Measuring, blending, tasting, measuring some more. Feeling the crisp cool green of the parsley, the gloss of the garlic as it pops out of its papery skin, the sharp rush of juice from ripe lemons. It felt like getting reacquainted with old friends over a quick cuppa, with a taxi waiting outside and the promise to see each other again soon.

Sometimes something simple really is enough.

Enough with the poetry, I have another deadline looming. But I look forward to my next dalliance in the kitchen.

Veggietot Mom’s hummus

Ingredients:

Quantities are by feel, taste or culinary radar.

Chickpeas (cooked or canned)

Tehini paste

Olive oil

Garlic

Lemon juice

Fresh parsley

Ground cumin (and/or coriander and/or paprika depending on my mood)

Salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Blend all ingredients.

Thin with a *little* water if you want a smoother consistency. Olive oil is better for this, mind.

You can eat it immediately, but it usually tastes better after a day or two in the fridge, once the flavours have had a chance to mature and mingle.

 

 

Drooly and Droolier: Veg Medley

Protein, carb, plus the sweetness and betacarotene of the carrots makes this a light but balanced meal. My baby loves it followed by a spot of pureed apples for dessert – or mixed together with the dessert and eaten all at once!

Veg Medley OR corn, carrots, peas ‘n beans

Ingredients:

500g corn kernels (sweetcorn is best if your baby’s got a sweet tooth)

500g carrots

500g peas

500g green beans

Method:

1. Steam or lightly boil all the ingredients. It helps if you chop up the carrots and beans around the same size as the peas and corn, as they will cook evenly. You can also ‘cheat’ and just buy a bag of frozen mixed veg.

2. Puree the ingredients, thinning to desired consistency with the steaming/boiling liquid (or some sodium-free stock if you prefer).

Makes approx. 2.2 litres.

General Notes:

Output quantities are given in litres, not servings, as each baby eats a different quantity per meal, and this of course changes as the baby grows. You can calculate how many servings the recipes make by dividing the output quantity by the average number of ml’s your baby eats per meal. Output quantity will also be affected by how much liquid you add (this depends if your baby prefers runny or firm food, and this will probably also change with time. Note: firmer food is harder for baby to chew but easier/neater to feed! Your call.)

Of course all quantities can also be halved/doubled/etc, and all recipes can be altered according to your baby’s taste or what you have in the fridge!

For more exciting vegetarian baby food recipes, search for ‘Drooly and Droolier’ in the search bar on the top right of the page, or visit the ‘Recipes’ tab under Categories. 

 

Note: The corn cobs also make great teethers!

Drooly and Droolier: Cauliflower and Cannelli beans with marrow and sweet potato

Veteran readers will recall that when my boys were small I began experimenting with recipes for vegetarian baby food to make sure they got enough protein and variety in their diets (balanced vegetarian jarred options were rather limited). I called the series Drooly and Droolier, a baby-fied pun on the food blog Julie and Julia (for the backstory, click here, and for more reasons to try making your own baby food, click here).

Now that their sister is at that age, I’ve been back in the kitchen and adding some new and exciting concepts to the old favourites. Last week’s winner: cauliflower and cannelli beans with marrow and sweet potato. It’s pale and sweet. Kind of like her!

Drooly and Droolier: Cauliflower and Cannelli beans

with marrow and sweet potato

Ingredients:

1 small head cauliflower

800g cannelli beans (cooked or canned)

400g (about a punnet if you can’t buy loose) marrow/courgette

1kg sweet potato

Water or veg stock for thinning

Soy milk or cheese (optional)

 

Method:

1. Cook the sweet potato (steam it, boil it, or roast it while something else is in the oven).

2. Steam the cauliflower and marrow until tender.

3. Puree all ingredients and thin with water or veg stock to desired consistency. For an even creamier result, thin with soy milk.

4. If you fancy, add grated cheese to taste for extra calcium.

Makes approx 2.7 litres

General Notes:

Output quantities are given in litres, not servings, as each baby eats a different quantity per meal, and this of course changes as the baby grows. You can calculate how many servings the recipes make by dividing the output quantity by the average number of ml’s your baby eats per meal. Output quantity will also be affected by how much liquid you add (this depends if your baby prefers runny or firm food, and this will probably also change with time. Note: firmer food is harder for baby to chew but easier/neater to feed! Your call.)

Of course all quantities can also be halved/doubled/etc, and all recipes can be altered according to your baby’s taste or what you have in the fridge!

For more exciting vegetarian baby food recipes, search for ‘Drooly and Droolier’ in the search bar on the top right of the page, or visit the ‘Recipes’ tab under Categories. 

Gag reel – when you’re done feeding, it makes great finger-paint!