yoghurt

Lockdown lunch – easy flatbreads with mushroom and lentil soup

mushroom soup flatbreads

Lockdown continues with no end in sight in terms of the children going back to school. I’ve grown quite used to having them around but I feel as though I am morphing into a 1950s housewife. All meals are served on the dot at set times and my brain is clogged up with thinking about where the next one will come from and how I can mix up the random ingredients in the cupboard to form some sort of presentable family meal. Putting all my feminist principles to one side, it’s a part that I’m rather enjoying playing. PS. I do not look like a 1950s housewife. No pretty tea dresses here but rather tracksuit bottoms, no makeup and grey roots scrapped back into a rough ponytail.

We’ve now completely run out of bread and plain flour and our supply of out-of-date yeast (begged and borrowed from friends and family) is dwindling away dangerously. Luckily, we have still been able to buy self-raising flour locally so I searched the internet for a bread recipe that would make use of this. I was really delighted with the results of this flatbread recipe – loosely based on one from Jamie Oliver’s website. The dough was very forgiving and soft and it could be shaped easily without the aid of a rolling pin. It’s definitely one that you could get the kids to help with (dress it up as a home economics lesson!). My husband Ben said that they tasted a bit like crumpets which can never be a bad thing in my opinion.

The mushroom and lentil soup comes from the no-nonsense ‘New Complete Vegetarian’ by Rose Eliiot. It is rather reminiscent of healthy vegetarian cafes circa 1990, but with a few embellishments it made a perfectly respectable weekday lunch. It tasted earthy and wholesome and handily made use of store cupboard ingredients and some on-the-turn mushrooms. Weirdly my son ate it happily – despite claiming to hate both mushrooms and lentils (I didn’t tell him what was in it until the end).

The flatbreads were the star of the show though and I really recommend trying them.

Quick flatbreads (with self-raising flour)

Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 350g plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A slug of rapeseed or olive oil
  • Optional flavourings – I added a little fenugreek and some black mustard seeds

In a large bowl mix together all of the above ingredients with your hands and mix until it all comes together into a smooth dough (use a little more flour if it’s too sticky, I needed a couple of extra sprinkles). Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, divide the dough into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and flatten out until it is about 20 cm in diameter. Use a rolling pin if you need to.

Heat a frying pan until very hot – do not add any oil. Cook each flatbread for a 1-2 minutes on either side. They’ll bubble up a bit and go nice a brown in places. You may need to reduce the heat a little if the pan gets too hot – I like it though if they catch a little in places.

Keep warm in a very low oven (around 100oC) on a plate covered with a damp tea towel while you cook the rest (the tea towel will prevent them from drying out).

Mushrooms and lentil soup

Serves 4

  • 200g pack of mushrooms (I used chestnut), chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter (approximately 15g)
  • 125g green (or Puy) lentils
  • 850ml water
  • A stock cube (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • To serve, dill or parsley, cream or grated Parmesan

Take a large frying pan and cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil and butter until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils and the water and simmer with a lid on for 45 minutes until soft. Do not add any salt or salted stock cube until the lentils are soft as the salt prevents them from cooking.

If you are using a stock cube add this in once the lentils are soft and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Blend the soup until smooth. This will make a very thick soup. I thinned mine down with a bit more water, or you can use milk if you wish. Check the seasoning and add pepper and a little more salt if necessary.

Serve topped with dill, parsley, a drizzle of cream or olive oil, or perhaps some grated cheese.

 

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

mushroom and spinachh korma.jpg

Believe me this tastes better than it looks.

I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.

The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.

All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.

I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.

It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But  it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius  (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.

This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).

Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)

  • 50g of butter (I used ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
  • 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
  • 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
  • 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
  • 150g of thick natural yoghurt
  • 150g of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt

Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).

Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.

Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.

Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.

Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.

 

Pasta with caramelised onions and yoghurt

pasta with onions

This recipe sounds a bit weird but I promise you it’s absolutely delicious.

The first time I made it I had a rather strange conversation via twitter with the writer Diana Henry.

@DianaHenryFood Help please! Part way through your pasta with onions recipe but have realised I forgot to buy dill. What else could I use?

@DianaHenryFood PS. I also realise that this is a long shot – sure you have much better things to do on a Thursday night. I’ll go away now.

@Shelton_Zoe is that the Turkish one?

@DianaHenryFood Yes. Thanks for the reply (couldn’t fit the whole title in). 5 minutes from serving up.

@Shelton_Zoe oh dear. Too late. Not at all the same but parsley would do, or thyme. For future ref 😉

@DianaHenryFood amazing dish even without dill – thanks for the recipe. I’ll try thyme next as it’s in my garden.

@Shelton_Zoe get dill!

@DianaHenryFood Yes, of course. Golden rule – always follow the original recipe exactly first BEFORE tinkering. I’ll leave you in peace now.

I hasten to add that the next time I cooked this dish I bought dill. It was nice without, but even nicer with.

It was kind of Diana Henry to answer my stupid question but why on earth was she on twitter on a Thursday evening?

But then again why was I?

Diana Henry’s pasta with caramelised onions and yoghurt

Serves 2

  • 425g onions (about 4 medium ones), very finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A 5 cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 145g tagliatelle (I probably used more than this because I’m greedy. If you want to make your own tagliatelle, here’s my tried and tested recipe)
  • 50g Greek yogurt
  • 1½ tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh dill, chopped (or thyme, or parsley, or nothing)
  • 15g butter
  • ¼ teaspoons of ground cayenne
  • finely crumbled feta to serve (I didn’t bother with this because I don’t like feta)

Put the onions in a heavy-based pan with the olive oil, bay and cinnamon. Cook over a medium heat, stirring the onions, until they start to turn golden. Then add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes.

Add a splash of water, cover the pan, turn the heat right down and leave until the onions are almost caramelised (about 35 minutes). Open the lid to check them every so often and add a little more water if they look dry.

When the onions are cooked, uncover, season with salt and pepper and boil away any excess liquid.

Cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions. Drain and toss it into the pot with the onions and stir in the yogurt, milk and dill.

Very quickly melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the cayenne. Cook for about 20 seconds.

Serve the pasta with the spiced butter drizzled on top (and, if you like, the feta on the side).

Chocolate frozen yoghurt lollies

Nutella yoghurt lollies x

It’s the summer holidays, and whilst I love my children without question, they do test my patience by vacillating wildly between being funny little angels and obnoxious little monsters. Despite all the parenting advice which says it’s wrong, I get through the day by offering incentives and dealing out ultimatums, “If you two could just stop squabbling for all of five minutes you can have X”, followed by “if you don’t brush your hair/clean your teeth/get dressed/eat your breakfast you won’t get X”.

For most of the year TV is my bargaining tool of choice but in summer lollies work better. Freezing pure juice is an obvious good/healthy idea but this is not an incentive for a son who hates all fruit, so I came up with this simple idea of mixing natural yoghurt with Nutella (or fake version of) and then layering it with plain yoghurt so that it isn’t too unhealthy.

PS. If you don’t have children please ignore the whinging above but make these anyway – for yourself. However, if I was making these for myself I’d make them entirely of the chocolate/yoghurt mix and do a few extra sit ups.

Chocolate frozen yoghurt lollies

Makes 6 small lollies (using Annabel Karmel lolly moulds £3 from Tesco, see photo below)

lolly mould

Mix 120ml of full fat natural yoghurt (I use Yeo Valley which is nice and creamy) with 1 heaped dessert spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella or supermarket own brand) until well incorporated.

Put 2 teaspoons of the chocolate yoghurt mixture into the bottom of each lolly mould.

Then add 2-3 teaspoons of natural yoghurt to each mould.

Finally, for the top layer, add another teaspoon of the chocolate mixture (this is to encourage children to eat through the blander plain yoghurt to get to the bottom, if such an incentive is needed).

Put the tops on and place in the freezer until solid.