Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Menu of Wild Rice Stuffed Squash, Cider Braised Red Cabbage & Gluten and Dairy Free Bread Sauce

I know it is a bit late in the day but I thought I would finally get around to posting about our Christmas dinner dishes. This is more of a theoretical exercise as we are going to my other half's family on Christmas day. So here is my virtual Christmas day menu.  Below are links to recipes I would use followed by my recipes for wild rice stuffing for the squash, braised red cabbage and bread sauce.

Maple Glazed Turkey for the meat eaters
Stuffed Squash for the veggies or Parsnip, Cranberry & Chestnut Loaf
Wild Rice Stuffing
Roasted Root Vegetables
Cider Braised Red Cabbage
Gravy, Cranberry Sauce & Bread Sauce 
Followed by 

Quite a bit of it could be made in advance and reheated on the day for an easy relaxed Christmas morning in the kitchen. The day before I would make the wild rice stuffing up until the point where you put it in the oven, I would also make the red cabbage to be reheated in a crockpot or in a pan the next day. I would also steep the milk with the onion, bay leaves and cloves overnight. A family tradition is to all help to peel and cut up our root vegetables the night before which are then left in cold water overnight until needed the next day. Yes you will lose some of the water soluble vitamins but for one day does it really matter? If you do all this the hopefully, apart from the turkey cooking in the oven, everything else can be done in the hour leading up to serving.

 Merry Christmas everybody!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dairy Free Brandy 'Butter'

Brandy butter is great on warm mince pies and is must for melting over you Christmas pudding, well this is all true if you are my other half who spoons bucket loads of the stuff over any Christmas dessert and, annoyingly never puts on a pound. As he cannot be trusted to leave well alone from dairy if it is in the form of brandy butter or cheese I decided to make a dairy free version in an attempt to save him from himself. It works really well with the vegan and dairy free sunflower oil based margarine I use. If you can have butter then just substitute in unsalted butter and make sure it is at room temperature so that the sugar and brandy can easily be combined with it. 

Tapas Party Menu

After we spent an enjoyable week in Spain last month I really wanted to have a go at making my own homemade tapas and what better way to eat tapas than with friends. Over the holiday period with numerous parties and entertaining then why not try something different and throw a tapas party instead of the normal canapes or as alternative to christmas dinner. Below is my Tapas Menu (click on the links to go to the recipes) which has the benefit that most of the dishes can be prepared in advance leaving you free to mingle with your guests and glug some sangria.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Garlic Mushrooms, Spinach & Chickpeas and Manchego Cheese Tapas

Here are three quick and easy vegetarian tapas dishes. The first is garlic mushrooms or 'Champinones al ajillo', the second is a spinach and chickpeas dish in tomato sauce, in Spanish 'Garbanzos con Espinacas'  and the third is manchego with tomatoes and olive oil which I guess is Spain's most well known cheese. These dishes can be made ahead of time and then reheated as required.

Patatas Bravas & Patatas Alioli

Along with Spanish tortilla, patatas bravas is one of my favourite tapas dishes and the spicy tomato sauce really lifts up these crispy little potatoes. I also like the alioli with them and if you are making patatas bravas then for very little effort you get two dishes for the price of one. If you serve the sauces in separate bowls rather than over the potatoes the benefits are threefold, 1) the potatoes will remain crisp, 2) you can add both brava sauce and alioli to the same batch of potatoes and 3) people like me can use it on bread and Spanish tortillas, yummy.

I cooked my potatoes in the oven which I know isn't traditional but I find you need less oil to make them crispy and it freed up the stove top for other dishes. For the tapas party I made the two sauces ahead of time and also boiled the potatoes so that all that was required once the guests arrived was to pop the oiled potatoes into the oven to crisp up and heat the tomato sauce.

As you can see the pictures aren't great as I had to photograph the food under artificial light quickly so that I could serve them piping hot to our guests.

Tortilla Espanola

Spanish tortilla amazes me in the way that such basic and humble ingredients work together to create this delightful dish and I have to say, that for me, no tapas menu is complete without this included. Also Spanish tortilla makes one of my favorite sandwich fillings so if there are any leftovers you know what to do. If you like you can add bell peppers or chunks of chorizo to the potato mix. The tortilla will need to be turned at least once so make sure you have a plate that is larger than your pan to hand to help you flip this omelet.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pan Veggity

Pan Haggerty is a classic north of England dish, a rich layered potato, onion and cheese gratin style dish that is cooked on the top of the stove rather than in the oven. The potatoes and onion absorb the stock and become wonderfully rich and tasty. It is amazing how such simple ingredients come together to make a great dish. This version of the dish came about following a glut of veggies from my mum and dad's allotment. It has a variety of root vegetables and some runner beans which all help towards your 5 a day. It is great sprinkled with some cheese, particularly a strong cheddar or goats cheese or, for any meat eaters, crispy bacon but to be honest I mostly make it vegan and dairy free to fully appreciate all the different vegetable tastes. This can be the main attraction in a meal or used as an all in one side dish. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Warming Winter Bean and Cabbage Soup

I am finally back to the blogophere following some nasty computer viruses invading my laptop combined with, on a much nicer note,  a wonderful winter sun holiday in the canary islands. Much tapas was consumed along with  goats cheese, bread, olives and for J at least half a pig in the form of various hams and salamis. This holiday has really endeared me to the Spanish as who couldn't love a culture that has brought such yummy dishes to the wider world. As winter draws on I am looking forward to turning up the heating, shutting the curtains and eating some tapas dishes I have recreated and pretending, if only for a night, that we are back in sunny Fuerteventura. 

In the meantime I will post a couple of recipes that I had ready to publish in November, before my laptop got very sick. The first is this winter soup recipe that really is filling and hearty and makes a great warming lunch or light supper served with bread and or a hunk of cheese. If you want some meat than some thick chunks of Chorizo, added at the same time as the beans would make a great addition although you might want to reduce the amount of smoked paprika.