RSS

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne

I’m not sure if I mentioned that I had recently set myself a challenge to not eat any meat for the last few weeks.

Having been a vegetarian for about 10 years back in the day, I know it can be difficult to enjoy exciting, delicious food that doesn’t involve asparagus (because apparently, that’s the staple of every vegetarian diet according to most caterers at functions) or lentils….

My motivations for not eating meat were varied. I wanted to detox my body in a way and just thrive on the nutrients and benefits of vegetables. It was also an experiment- would a meat-free diet inspire any changes in my health, my complexion, my irritable moods or stabilise my erratic hormones (how’s that for TMI?). Would not touching any steak, or chicken or seafood make me feel drained, weak and starving or would I feel vibrant and refreshed?

Well, here are the results, two weeks later.

  • For the first few days, I felt vibrant, energetic, healthy and wholesome. I am convinced this was psychological, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
  • Then coincidentally, I got the flu, had an allergic reaction where my face swelled up and itched like crazy, hives on my arms and puffy eyes. Now, I have a respiratory infection. Now, I’m not blaming the change in diet. I’M JUST SAYING, it’s a bit of a coincidence that I changed my diet and as a result, perhaps I wasn’t being as responsible with keeping my vitamin and mineral intake up to where it needed to be to help my immune system stave off all the problems? Alternatively, I blame my job. For stressing me. Stress weakens your immune system, therefore it’s all work’s fault.
  • Then I felt tired. A lot. More lazy and lethargic than usual, I was having trouble being the night owl I usually am and was falling asleep on the couch every night while The Husband polished off the cookies behind my back. Don’t you worry, I took care of him. With my fists, KA-POW! Joking…no spousal abuse here….
  • Then I felt hungry and unsatisfied all the time. My mouth was watering for chicken, to have something to CHEW and digest, I felt empty and found myself drooling over a pamphlet we got in the letterbox for KFC discount vouchers. I was looking at each individual coupon, tongue prickling, imagining what it would be like to chew on that. I thought about it all night and all the next day. I couldn’t shake the feeling. By 5pm the next afternoon, I was rabid. If someone didn’t give me chicken, I was convinced I was going to die from malnutrition. So I went. I ate with shame, my face buried in a 2-piece feed box and I think I had a foodgasm. Was chicken really this good before? It was the first time I had eaten chicken in 2 weeks and it was damn good. Then I felt guilty and dirty and like a failure. So I went home and ate celery with peanut butter and felt depressed.
  • Then, I had a blood test. And my hormones were a little more balanced this time around. Hmm, interesting, interesting.

I love the idea of being a vegetarian again, for health reasons, for ethical reasons, for cost-cutting reasons, but I just don’t think I can do it this time around. I tried, I failed ultimately but what it did teach me is that I can survive on a diet without meat and there are delish meals to be had using vegetables as the stars of the dish.

Going forward, I will be cutting down the amount of meat we eat and try and incorporate more veggie-based meals into our diet, but God help anyone who gets between me and chicken ever again.

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

2 potatoes, peeled and sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally

1 bulb of garlic

1 large eggplant, sliced

2 medium zucchini, sliced

1 leek, sliced

1 brown onion, sliced into thick rounds

2 large red capsicums

3/4 cup semi-dried tomatoes

2 x 600ml jars of good pasta sauce (I use my grandmother’s homemade Italian tomato sauce)

Fresh  lasagna sheets

Fresh mozzarella cheese, grated

Fresh parmesan cheese, grated

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Drizzle a large baking tray with olive oil and placed sweet potato slices, potato, carrot, the bulb of garlic,  leek and onion on the tray. Toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and cooked and the onions, leeks and garlic are soft and sweet.
  3. Remove the vegetables from the oven. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the bulb and discard. Chop the cloves of garlic and combine with the roasted vegies.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a grill on med-high heat, drizzle with olive oil and grill eggplant, zucchini and capsicums in batches until they have beautiful grill marks on them and are semi-cooked.
  5. Now, to compile the lasagna, pour some sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Line with lasagna sheets. Trim any lasagna sheets that don’t fit well. Line the lasagna sheets with the sliced potatoes, onion and leek. Sprinkle with sauce and a small amount of the grated cheeses.
  6. Place another layer of lasagna sheets on top of the potatoes. Line this layer with the eggplants, zucchini and garlic. Pour on some sauce, sprinkle with some of the cheeses again- dont overdo the cheese, it’s really there to act as a “glue” between the layers. Press down the layers and place one more layer of lasagna sheets on top.
  7. For the last layer, arrange the capsicum, carrots and sun-dried tomatoes, pour a little sauce over the top, sprinkle with a little bit of cheese and pat down the top layer of pasta, pour on remaining sauce and sprinkle with enough cheese to cover the top.
  8. Bake, covered with baking paper and foil for approx 1 hour before removing the foil to allow the top to brown and crisp up.

You should have leftovers of this for the next day- and it’s even tastier the next day.

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Delish Dinners, Luscious Lunches

 

Honey & Black Tea-Poached Apple & Pear Crumble

So, I love a good crumble. One of the ultimate comfort foods.

The things I love about crumbles:

  • You don’t have to try too hard, the messier, the more the delicious
  • A great way to use up ripened fruit
  • The combinations are endless
  • Perfect for lazing around in your PJs
  • Can be breakfast, dessert or midnight snack
  • Crunch
  • A great excuse to have a scoop of icecream
  • You feel healthy because it has oats and fruit in it

I made this crumble a bit differently than usual by poaching the fruit in the flavours of honey, spices and black tea because I was in an adventurous mood….or delirious from the flu.

Either way, the end result was something I won’t be forgetting for a while.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups strong brewed black tea
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 baking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 3  firm pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter

 

Method

  1. Place the pears and apples in a small saucepan with the tea, honey, lemon juice, 2 tbsp sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  2. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and the fruit has become slightly tender. You need to focus on the pan during this time, no updating your Facebook status or answering telemarketing calls.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Grease your baking dish or ramekins with butter.
  4. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar,salt and butter in a large bowl.  With your fingers, work the mixture together until it is well combined and you get little yummy crispy bits that are going to make your knees go weak when they come out of the oven.
  5. When the fruit is cooked, turn off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.  Drain poaching liquid. You can reserve this to make a sauce to pour over the crumble.
  6. Put the fruit into the base of the baking dish or ramekin and evenly spread the crumble topping over the fruit, pressing it down firmly.
  7. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and crispy.
  8. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sprinkle with nutmeg.
 

Vanilla Slice

I’ve always wanted to make a vanilla slice- after all, they are the one treat I enjoy the most when I occasionally pop into the local bakery.  For many years, I filed the humble vanilla slice into the CBF Too Hard category.

Then I had a serious attack of “If-I-Don’t-Get-It-Now-I’m-Going-To-Die-itis” and much to my annoyance, the local bakery was closed. I mean, really, how inconvenient closing at a reasonable hour- there are people who want bread and sweets at 10pm, you know?!

So anyway, I set out to find an easy enough recipe that didn’t involve hours of pastry making and farting around with custard, because I would epically fail at both as we know…and I’m lazy.

So I found the easiest recipe I could and gave it a whirl…and I was impressed.

This vanilla slice was yummy and close enough to the bakery perfection I have adored over the years.

If I could give you one bit of advice, it would be to definitely refrigerate this overnight, not just until you think it’s cool enough.

I am impatient by nature and it took me two attempts to get these right, mainly because I tried to cut it before it was set.

So I sat there with a spoon and ate it from the tray…I mean, it gets all jumbled up in your tummy anyway, right?

For the sake of getting a decent photo, I tried again, this time refrigerating it overnight and had much more success.

Ingredients

  • 2 bought puff pastry sheets
  • 250ml (1 cup) milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 3/4 cup cornflour
  • 1/2 cup custard powder
  • 220g (1 cup) caster sugar 
  • 750ml (3 cups) thickened cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 3 egg yolks

For the icing:

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Hot water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 210°C. Line a 23cm square pan with aluminium foil, so that the foil comes up over the sides (this allows you to lift out the slice).
  2. Place each pastry sheet on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, then bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Once cool, place 1 pastry sheet, cooked-side up, in bottom of pan. (You may need to trim it slightly to fit.)
  3. Place milk in a pan over medium heat. Scrape in vanilla seeds and add bean too. Warm gently, then set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Place cornflour, custard powder and caster sugar in a pan. Strain milk, discarding bean, into pan with cornflour and whisk until smooth. Add cream, then return to heat, stirring constantly, over low heat until the mixture thickens and boils. Add butter, stirring well to combine, then remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks, one at a time, until smooth. Pour into pastry-lined pan and set aside to cool slightly before placing other piece of pastry, cooked-side up, on top.
  5. To make the icing combine all ingredients in a bowl- gradually add hot water and stir until you have a thick but easily spreadable icing. Smooth over the top piece of pastry and refrigerate overnight.
 
 
 
%d bloggers like this: