It’s been a fortnight for food that isn’t what you might call conventionally attractive. I’ve had mush for lunch a few times, with such highlights as ‘Red Mush with Baked Potato’ and ‘Green Mush with Chickpeas’. The flavours have been there, but the presentation hasn’t been top notch. You wouldn’t see it on Masterchef – or if you did, you wouldn’t see it for long, and not because Gregg Wallace (or puddingface, as he calls himself on Twitter, much to everyone’s delight) had scooped it up on one spoon and made it disappear. There was also the Strange Case of the Blue Noodles – that was a side effect of adding red cabbage that I should have foreseen, but was instead a somewhat unwelcome surprise…
I’ll start with the red mush, which was another recipe from LC. The recipe was for the better-named Romesco Sauce (click through to the recipe), and it really is a lovely creation, very rich and warming without being overpowering or mouth-burning. It was also an opportunity for me to try cooking with hazelnuts, which I’ve never really done before – if you’ve read my past posts, you’ll know I don’t really like nuts, though I’m more and more realising that it’s purely the texture that I have an issue with, because the nuttiness of this sauce is really delicious. I was a little stumped about serving suggestions, though. The suggested use is to spread on grilled bread or to use as a dip, and either would be lovely at a dinner party (however formal, or otherwise) but for just me, little old me who’s back to trying to avoid eating much by way of bread or pasta, it was less obvious what I should do with the sauce once I’d made it. I decided to go with layering the sauce up with vegetables and roasting in the oven, an unorthodox option but one I was glad I had dreamed up. The sauce, Google tells me, is also good to serve with fish, asparagus or lamb. I have some in the freezer, now, so I’ll dig that back out after pay day and try it with one of the above, too. As you can see from the picture, it’s a vibrantly coloured sauce, with slightly rough texture, and the flavour matches its appearance with mingled hits of garlic, spice and sharpness. Really great stuff. The only unfortunate side is that I was making it with my mini jug blender rather than a proper food processor, so it took a bit more work and a lot more mess to get it to come together, but I made it in the end. Lets just say I had plenty of opportunities to taste the sauce. Because I got it all over my hands.
With a base ingredient as flavoursome as this, I didn’t have to work too hard with the rest of the ingredients that I put in the dish. I sliced into rings half a large leek and two thirds of an aubergine, and sliced a courgette long ways. I also thinly sliced enough broccoli florets to give two layers, and I bought a pack of sliced mushrooms – it was cheaper than buying them unsliced and doing the work myself, why would I not? Before using the aubergine and courgette, I put them all in a single layer on the grill pan and put under a high grill for a couple of minutes each side, to soften them up a bit. I layered up one lot of aubergine, one lot of broccoli, one lot of courgette, then the mushrooms and leeks in the middle – there was only enough for one layer of each of these; I ran out of mushroom, and I didn’t want the leek to overpower the other veg with its tyrannical onioniness. I dropped spoonfuls of the sauce over these layers, then poured over enough just-boiled water to thin it to a consistency that would get all friendly with the layers and snuggle up in between them – I used the back of a spoon to help it along its way, and gave the baking dish a good round of shaking and gently tapping against the table to further encourage mingling. I then repeated with another layer of courgette, aubergine and broccoli, covered in sauce, and banged in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes. The veg was still quite firm after this long, but it was also quite late at night, so I took the interesting decision to turn the oven off but leave the baking dish in with the residual heat. The result was probably overcooked, but delicious nonetheless as all the flavours had mixed together well. It was actually more brown mush than red, if I’m honest, and I probably wouldn’t have served it to anyone else, but spooned over a baked potato it made a really good, filling lunch.
The green mush was an attempt at a korma style vegetable curry. I’ve realised lately that, while I do try to incorporate a good amount of vegetables into my daily diet, I eat a lot more meat than I used to. When I was a student I would very rarely buy meat, because I couldn’t afford it (not if I wanted to keep my beer fund topped up, which I did). I ate well, and compared to my group of friends I think I did a lot of home cooking and ate balanced meals, when I wasn’t eating rolls and salmonella from the food van on my way home from the union. Now I eat meat at most meals, and I think it might do me good to eat more vegetarian food. Maybe I’m mistaken, but even if I don’t eat *too much* meat, it’s good to eat a variety of foods, right? Also, the week before pay day is the week to cut down the grocery bills, so it was a matter of a couple of factors combining to encourage me to cook veggie food this week. The korma-ish was also low-fat, as part of my ‘lose a pound a week until Christmas’ venture. This venture is only in its second week but its going according to plan, thank you oh so very much. The low fat factor meant that it wasn’t the best curry I’ve ever made, and it also wasn’t really like the kind of creamy, buttery korma I love to eat even though I’m pretty sure it’s not really proper Indian food. Still, it was good, and made for a decent dinner one night and a decent lunch on two days – I suppose it must have been better than alright, if I ate it three times in one week, though that was partly down to not having room in the freezer and not wanting to waste it…
As I made the korma sauce, I kept meticulous notes of everything I was putting in. Unfortunately, I’m being a roving reporter today and am at the G man’s house, typing as he watches the rugby, and I didn’t bring my notepad with me. From memory, the sauce contained:
- half an onion
- two cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
- one roughly thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled (I have quite small thumbs)
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, cinnamon and granulated sugar
- 1 tsp of turmeric, garam masala and fenugreek seeds
- pinch of allspice
- few grinds of black pepper
- 3 heaped tsp ground almonds
- 3 1/2 tbsp sweetened desiccated coconut
- 150g low fat natural yogurt
- 2 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
- 1 cup veg stock
I put everything apart from the yogurt, creme fraiche and stock into the mill attachment on my blender and combined thoroughly , in particular making sure the fennel and fenugreek seeds were broken down. I then added the yogurt and creme fraiche and mixed again, then tasted – I may have adjusted the spice amounts at this point, I’ll come back and update tomorrow.
Next, I melted two teaspoons of Flora Light in a wok, and added the first of the veg – this was the remains of the aubergine from the romesco bake. Frying it like this was to give it colour, texture and flavour, which I then ruined by simmering alongside all the other ingredients – I should have taken the aubergine out of the wok once it was cooked. We live and learn, eh? I then added a tin of chickpeas, and then some frozen cauliflower and broccoli florets and three chunks of frozen spinach. I should have defrosted these and added later, too. It’s not a perfect recipe. I added the sauce and the stock, stirred round and simmered for twenty minutes. The aubergine was basically ruined, and everything else was basically mush – Green Mush with Chickpeas, in fact. At the very end, I added two small green chilis which I had deseeded and sliced, for some texture and some heat. I enjoyed it, but again I probably wouldn’t serve it to anyone else…
The blue food I *did* serve to someone else, and it turned out pretty well considering that I accidentally dyed a large part of it blue. However, that, as they say, is another story for another time. I have ignored the G man long enough, I’d best go and make one of my two stock sports comments. If you’re wondering, those are ‘That was a soft yin’ (which means nothing) and the kind of inward whistling noise that mechanics apparently make if you let them look in the engine of your car at any time, possibly followed by an ‘oooooooh’ and a head shake. Wish me luck.