Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

British food (yes, really)

I'm doing occasional theme weeks with my kid, and this week is London (her interest was spurred by her grandparents' recent visit there). When I did Paris week, we ate petit palmier cookies, fancy espresso drinks, crepes, ratatouille, chocolate mousse, brie... it was lovely. I started looking for British-y foods and came up with things like toad-in-the-hole. But whatever, I ran with it.

On Saturday I made pasties. I didn't use a recipe, though I had consulted several. It went something like this.

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed.
1 Tbs olive oil
3 med carrots (diced)
2 med potatoes (diced)
1/2 med cauliflower (diced)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 large zucchini (or, if you're being British-y, courgette), diced
1 cup vegetable stock
1 egg yolk

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat the oil, then add the diced vegetables and saute for about five minutes (I added the courgette last so it didn't get mushy). Add the stock and cook until potatoes and carrots are almost tender. Lay the puff pastry dough on a large cookie sheet (or two, if you don't have a gigantic one like I do) and add half the vegetable mixture to one half (leaving space around the edges). Fold the other half of the dough over and crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with the other sheet and the rest of the vegetable mixture. Beat the egg yolk with a small amount of water and brush the tops of both pasties with the egg wash. Bake for 40 minutes.

When we ate them, they were pretty tasty, although the stock wasn't quite salty enough to really add the proper seasoning to the mixture. If I were to make it again, I'd be a lot more generous with salt, pepper, and perhaps fresh parsley. My husband and I both added a bit of sriracha sauce to the final product, but that's just us...


Next up was shepherd's pie. Just reading the descriptions of the most popular British foods sent me into a carb overload, and I figured I was going to need about ten more pounds of potatoes if I intended to make this, bangers and mash, and bubble and squeak. I decided to throw tradition to the wind and make a nouveau fusion Southwestern shepherd's pie... or something like that.

I diced two large sweet potatoes, boiled them in salted water for about ten minutes, then drained them. I added just a splash of milk, about 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 Tbs harissa paste, and 1 tsp sea salt. (I think that was all, anyway -- I was in an experimental mode.)

Then I also diced two orange, two white, and two purple carrots, a medium yellow onion, a green bell pepper, and another zucchini. I chopped some shiitake mushrooms and got frozen peas and corn out. Then I sauteed them all individually, briefly and haphazardly, and added them to a Pyrex dish, where I eventually mixed them, threw in a rinsed and drained can of kidney beans, and added about 2 Tbs of soy sauce, about a Tbs of liquid smoke, and a bit more sea salt. I put the mashed sweet potatoes on top, then reconsidered my initial decision not to add cheese, and grated some cheddar on the top. Then I baked the whole thing at 350 for about 40 minutes (the first 30 with the lid on and last ten with the lid off). Surprisingly, it was pretty good! In fact, my husband said that if I made sweet potatoes like that all the time, he would like them. I was glad to have added the kidney beans, because they gave it a nice, filling texture.

Tonight I made toad in the hole. I honestly didn't even know what it was. I had seen an episode of Top Chef Masters where someone's TITH failed miserably, so I knew it involved sausages, but I wasn't really sure what the, well, "hole" was. I bought Lightlife veggie smoked sausages, and the recipe I consulted said to cook them in the Pyrex dish for about 8 minutes at 450 degrees first, then make the batter (eggs, milk, flour and oil). Then you pour the batter over the sausages and put it back in for 20 minutes.

It rose just as it was supposed to and looked quite attractive. And my daughter maimed it, eating more sausage than she ever has at a sitting. But Sweetie and I just weren't into the egg batter stuff. I mean, it seems to be one of those acquired tastes that may be a cultural thing. I wished it were more biscuit-y, and he wished it were potato-y. Neither one of us liked the eggy, almost custardy sponge that it actually turned out to be. On the other hand, the onion gravy I served with it was a huge hit, and so easy! Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a 12" saucepan. Slice one medium onion and saute over medium high heat until brown. Add 1 Tbs of flour, stir well, and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 1/4 cups water and 1 cup vegetable stock and cook down, stirring up the brown stuff from the bottom of the pan, until it's the desired thickness.

I happened to also make peas tonight. I got a big bag of peas from the farmer's market, shelled them, blanched them in boiling, salted water for about 15 seconds, and then dotted them with butter and salt. They were perfect.

Tomorrow night is our traditional sandwich night, but check back soon for my adventures with bangers and mash and bubble and squeak. Then I think I'll take a break from themes. The next one needs to be Vietnam or India or something.


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