Tag: Plant based

Aubergine, ricotta and lemon involtini

Aubergine, ricotta and lemon involtini

Over the last couple of years we have been eating more and more aubergine based dishes.  Usually Italian in style, they always seems to be made with tomatoes too.  When we came across this recipe in our local supermarket’s food magazine it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. A quick glance on the internet reveals a host of versions of this recipe.  So many of them though included lots of different and additional ingredients: raisins, pine nuts, cream, mozzarella, feta, bread crumbs, mint ……….. the list goes on! As with so much Italian cooking, at its best, simplicity is the key.  This is basically a simple dish, with a minimal number of ingredients and it has Italy written all over it!

We have made this a number of times both indoor and out and it always works well!  The first time we tried it we didn’t have any ricotta cheese and substituted a soft spreadable goats cheese we had in the fridge.  That was great – but I have to say on balance my favourite version is this one with ricotta.  We have tried different tinned tomatoes too.  Whilst it works well with any good tinned tomato, it is just in a different league when made with tinned San Marzano tomatoes.
These are the classic Italian tomato; one of the only 2 types allowed on an authentic Neapolitan Pizza.  (The other is the Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio which must be grown in one of the 18 ‘comuni’ lying just about within the Vesuvius National Park).  They bring a special flavour and sweetness to the sauce without having to resort to the addition of sugar.  They are more expensive, but as the sauce simply comprises only tomatoes, garlic, sage leaves and butter, this is a perfect time to use them!

Preparation is simplicity itself; the BGE was set up for indirect cooking with the platesetter in place.  Once the temperature stabilised at around 180-200C we needed a solid metal surface to add some colour to the aubergine slices.  A plancha, skillet or in our case a stainless steel searing plate was perfect.  We usually just oil it and pop the aubergines on flipping them as they take on colour.    In batches, these were cooked for 10-15 minutes turning once during the cooking. They were then put to one side to cool.

We swapped out the searing plate for our Tefal Ingenio frying pan. This could have been used to brown the aubergine slices which would have made this a true one pan cook.  Once the pan was hot we added the butter, garlic slices and the sage leaves and cooked for a few minutes to infuse their taste into the butter. To this was added one can of San Marzano tomatoes and as they usually come as whole tomatoes they were gently crushed and mixed with the infused butter and seasoned.  If cooking on a hob or stove top I would add around one third of a can of water to the tomatoes and leave them to bubble gently for around 20 minutes until the sauce thickens and the flavour deepens.  Cooking on the EGG is the same except that you only add  a touch of water, just enough to rinse out the can.  This is because the cooking in the EGG retains so much moisture.  To cook the sauce it is worth just closing down the vents a little and dropping the temperature to around 180C.

Whilst the sauce was cooking we put the ricotta into a bowl, grated in the zest and added the juice of half a lemon and two thirds of the grated parmesan.  It was seasoned to taste with just a little salt and pepper.  One heaped teaspoon of the mix was placed at one end of the aubergine and this was then rolled up into a cylinder containing the mix.  Once the sauce was cooked the rolled aubergines were pushed into the sauce with the seam at the bottom.

A drizzle of olive oil was poured over the involutini and some sage and torn basil leaves scattered over the top.  This was followed by the remains of the lemon infused ricotta and the rest of the parmesan.  The dish was then returned to the Big Green Egg for the final part of the cook.   It takes around 25-30 minutes to cook this through.  If the top doesn’t brown as you would like, it can be popped under a grill for a minute or so (or under the flame of a pizza oven for 30 seconds!).

Possibly the most important step however, and one easily forgotten – let it stand!  The dish should be allowed to cool before serving.  This is true for so many baked dishes with a tomato sauce base and very true here.  Let it stand for at least 5 minutes.  Use the time to make a fresh leaf salad which is the perfect accompaniment.  Pour yourself a glass of something you fancy (A medium bodied red wine is perfect) – and take a sip in anticipation!

Serve at the table with the simple salad …………………..

………….buon appetito!

Aubergine, Ricotta and lemon involtini

July 25, 2021
: 2
: 30 min
: 30 min
: 1 hr
: Reasonably straightforward

Grilled aubergines wrapped around a lemon ricotta and parmesan cheese in a rich tomato sauce

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 large Aubergine or 2 medium sized in 0.7cm slices length ways
  • At least 2 tbs Olive oil
  • 15g butter
  • 12 or more sage leaves
  • 1 large clove of garlic finely sliced
  • 1 Tin (ideally San Marzano) tomatoes crushed
  • 125g ricotta
  • Half an unwaxed lemon (juice and zest)
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • Basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • A little water
Directions
  • Step 1 Set the BGE for indirect cooking with the platesetter in place stabilised at 180-200C.
  • Step 2 Oil a flat cooking surface such as a plancha or skillet and put the aubergine slices on.  Add extra oil and cook for 10-15 minutes turning at least once. Set aside to cool
  • Step 3 Add the butter, garlic slices and half the sage leaves to a handless frying pan and cook for a few minutes to infuse their taste into the butter. Add one can of tomatoes and gently crush.  Season and mix with the infused butter. Add a little extra water. Drop the temperature to around 180C. Leave to cook gently for around 20 minutes until the sauce thickens.  
  • Step 4 Whilst the sauce cooks add the ricotta to a bowl with the grated lemon zest and juice of half a lemon and two thirds of the grated parmesan.  Season to taste. Place I heaped teaspoon of the mix at one end of the aubergine slice and roll up into a cylinder containing the cheese.  Once the sauce is cooked the rolled aubergines should be pushed into the sauce with their seam at the bottom.
  • Step 5 Drizzle some olive oil over the involutini.  Add some more sage and some torn basil leaves over the top.  Add any remaining ricotta and the rest of the parmesan.  
  • Step 6 Return to the Big Green Egg (or conventional oven) and cook for around 25-30 minutes. If the top doesn’t brown enough, place under a grill for a minute or so.
  • Step 7 The dish should be allowed to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving – serve with a simple leaf salad
Nigel Slater’s Roasted Root Vegetables with Feta

Nigel Slater’s Roasted Root Vegetables with Feta

I can’t believe that we haven’t published this recipe before! This dish became one of our staple dishes during the 2020-21 UK lockdown period. It works well cooked in  a conventional oven as you would expect with a dish from Nigel Slater.  It is however so much better when cooked over charcoal on the Big Green Egg! The recipe follows the original Slater recipe quite closely. We do usually add some celeriac to it in place of some of the swede though. The other change we make is in the way we prepare the vegetables. Normally in a dish like this we would attempt to get the pieces of vegetable to be a similar size so they cook in a similar time. Here though we do the opposite, and look for both large and small pieces. This is to broaden the range of textures of the final dish. It is so often the range of textures I miss in a plant based dish, rather than the taste of anything meaty. Our third ‘tweak’ is to cook it at a slightly lower temperature but for slightly longer.  This seems to just give a favourable edge to the caramelisation we get on the vegetables.

The first thing to do is to set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at around or just below 180C. We have also cooked the dish at around 160C without the platesetter in place. Cooking like this gives really good colour on the vegetables. It does, however, require more attention and more regular tossing of the vegetables.

The recipe works best with red onions. These were peeled, cut in half and then into thick segments lengthways. Around 300-400g of swede and a similar about of celeriac was peeled and cut into the size of ‘chunky chips’. These mimic the size of the carrots, some thin and some thicker around 5-8cm long. The parsnips were peeled and cut into similar size pieces. The 4 carrots were also peeled and cut into similar pieces. All the vegetables were tossed in some olive oil and put into a roasting tin. For this we use the large Tefal Ingenio Sauté pan which makes a great roasting tin.  It also has the advantage that you can attach the handle and toss the vegetable when you need to.

We have used both smoked and fresh garlic, and as we are cooking over charcoal we have not found any great advantage of using the smoked garlic that Nigel Slater suggests.  The top of the garlic head was cut off and the head was tucked into the bed of vegetables.   We tucked in sprigs of fresh thyme around the dish and poured a little more oil over the vegetables.  The dish was roasted for 25-30 minutes before tossing the vegetables over and roasting for a further 20-25 minutes.

After 50-60 minutes, the vegetables should be softening and taking on some colour.  At this point we removed the garlic, tossed the vegetables again and then mixed in the mustard seeds and the fennel seeds.  The EGG was closed again and the vents opened a little to do the final 20 minutes of the roast at a slightly higher temperature.

The garlic that had been removed was squeezed out of its outer skin into a glass bowl and broken up with the back of a spoon.  The feta cheese was crumbled into the bowl and mixed with the garlic ready to dress the final dish just before serving.


Remove the roasted vegetables from the Big Green Egg and gently toss with some of the feta and garlic mix.  Simply plate up and then sprinkle with the remaining feta and garlic and serve.

So why is it better on the EGG than in a conventional oven.  I think it is simply that even with the platesetter in place there is more ‘bottom heat’ in the EGG and so the base of the heavy pan has more opportunity to develop those characteristic ‘bottom of the roasting tin’ flavours

………………. give it a try and see what you think!

 

Variations: don’t feel constrained by the mix and proportion of vegetables used here.  feel free to alter the amounts and try others too

Baked root vegetables with feta cheese

June 4, 2021
: 2
: 15 min
: 1 hr 20 min
: 1 hr 35 min
: Easy

Beautifully caramelised root vegetables offset with the tang of Feta cheese

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Red Onions
  • 300-600g swede
  • 100-300g celeriac
  • 2 parsnips
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 head of garlic (possibly smoked)
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs mustard seeds
  • 6 bushy sprigs of thyme
  • 6 tbsp of olive oil.
Directions
  • Step 1 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at around or just below 180C.  
  • Step 2 Peel the red onions, cut in half and then into thick segments lengthways. Peel the swede and the celeriac – (around 600g in total). Cut into the size of ‘chunky chips’.  Peel the parsnips and cut into similar size pieces and similarly with the 4 carrots. Toss all the vegetables in some olive oil in the roasting tin. Cut the top off the garlic and tuck into the bed of vegetables.   Tuck in the thyme in a similar way. Pour a little oil over the vegetables.  
  • Step 3 Roast in the BGE for 25-30 minutes then toss and roast for a further 20 minutes. It may be worth tossing the veg occasionally in addition
  • Step 4 After 50-60 minutes, the vegetables should be softening and taking on some colour.  Remove the garlic, toss the vegetables again and mix in the mustard seeds and the fennel seeds.  Close theEGG, open the vents a little and roast for final 20 minutes at a slightly higher temperature.
  • Step 5 In this last 20 minute period squeeze the softened garlic out of its outer skin into a glass bowl and break up with the back of a spoon.  Crumble the Feta cheese into the bowl and mixed with the garlic.
  • Step 6 Remove the roasted vegetables and gently toss with some of the feta and garlic mix.  Plate up and sprinkle with the remaining feta and garlic to serve.

Chilli Mole – A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli

Chilli Mole – A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli

This cook is based on a recipe from Boxxfresh, a UK company supplying really great fresh fruit and vegetables. They described Mole (pronounced ‘mo-lay’) as the ‘quintessential chilli sauce native to Mexico’. It apparently literally means ’everyday sauce’!   As such it is ladled over nachos, tacos, enchiladas, burritos or served on rice.  The recipe takes care to mimic what so many of us think of a “Chilli” meaning Chilli con Carne.  But this is a plant based dish or one of the plant-centric dishes we are cooking more and more.  So whilst mimicking this classic meat based dish it uses chopped mushrooms to recreate some of the texture of minced beef and does so very well.  It returns to its origins in South America with tomatoes, black beans, dark chocolate, chillies and cinnamon spices to create what they describe as ‘deep soulful flavours that will have you reaching for seconds!’

We have used Boxxfresh (no links) to supply most of the plant based food we have eaten during the first 12 months of the covid pandemic.  Together with supplying fantastic products they are actively helping and encouraging people to make more of, and more with fruit and vegetables. This recipe started out as one of the many on their site (see here) with just a few little adjustments for cooking it on the Big Green Egg

The Big Green Egg was lit and allowed to heat up to around 180C.  Whilst the temperature settled we blitzed the mushrooms in the food processor, being carful not to process it too far.  The whole thing could be cooked directly in a Dutch Oven but I prefer to use a wide shallow handle free pan to start things off.  The  mushrooms were gently fried off in olive oil in this pan until softened.  These were then set aside.

As the food processor had already been used we also blitzed the onions and then cooked in the same pan as we had the mushrooms.  After a minute or so the chopped garlic was added. We have also come to add the red pepper (which we use instead of the chilli in the original recipe) at this stage.  This was softened with the onions. (We have also done them separately and added them back in when the mushrooms were added back – but this is just easier).

The onions were cooked until translucent at which point the spice mix was then stirred through and cooked for another minute or so.

The platesetter was put in place to move the BGE to indirect cooking.  A small chunk of oak was added to the charcoal to add to the smoky flavours developed in the second part of the cook.

The onion, garlic, pepper and spice mix was transferred to a Dutch oven together with the 2 tins of beans.  This was then put into the EGG and allowed to warm through.  Once warmed, the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, tamari, vinegar and wine were all added to the pot and gently mixed together.  The whole dish was brought to a very gentle simmer without the lid to cook off the alcohol and allow the liquids to reduce a little.
Finally, the mushrooms, (the sautéed peppers if you choose to cook them separately), chocolate and maple syrup were added and stirred through the dish.  As you will see from the picture we had slightly misjudged the volume of the ingredients.  The pan was very full to say the least.  Normally we would have cooked this for around 90 minutes or so at around 150-160C.  Because the pan was so full we cooked at around 110C instead.  This proved to be a great decision!

At 110C we ended up with a very slow cook taking around 5hrs.  During this time the volume reduced, though only a little, and the colour deepened.  More importantly the taste took on a really complex richness, more than we have had before.  It will be ‘low and slow’ for this dish from now on!

Served with a baked potato, rice, nachos or tortilla chips – you really can’t go wrong!!

…………. do give it a go!!

 

Chilli sin Carne - a plant-centric version of a classic

April 9, 2021
: 6
: 40 min
: 4 hr
: Easy

A superb plant centric version of a classic chilli con carne!

By:

Ingredients
  • 250g of mushrooms
  • 2 red onions or 3 shallots
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 Red pepper (could substitute with 1/2 or 1 whole chilli)
  • 2 tins of black beans of kidney beans or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 large glass red wine
  • 10g of dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Directions
  • Step 1 This can be cooked inside on the hob and oven – or on the BGE – or a combination of both. When the weather isn’t great we sometimes do the first part in the kitchen on the hob
  • Step 2 Light the Big Green Egg and allow it to heat up to around 180C.  
  • Step 3 Blitz the mushrooms in the food processor Leave them coarse)
  • Step 4 Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until coloured and softened, either directly in a dutch oven or in a handless pan (if working on the BGE).  Set aside.
  • Step 5 Blitz the onions and cook in the same pan as the mushrooms. After a minute or so add the chopped garlic after a couple of minutes more add the red pepper and softened with the onions. When the onions are translucent add the spice mix and stir through for another minute or so.  
  • Step 6 Add the platesetter to the BGE and add some smoking wood to the charcoal
  • Step 7 Transfer the onion, garlic, pepper and spice mix to a Dutch oven (if not already using the Dutch oven)together with the 2 tins of beans.  Place on the EGG and allow to warm through.  Then add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, tamari, vinegar and wine to the pot and stir through. Bring to a very gentle simmer without the lid to cook off the alcohol and allow the liquids to reduce a little.
  • Step 8 Finally, add the mushrooms, chocolate and maple syrup and stir through the dish.  Cook at around 110C for at least 3hrs (or at 180C for 90m
  • Step 9 Serve with a baked potato, rice, nachos or tortilla chips
Gnocchi Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake in a Parmigiana Sauce.

Gnocchi Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake in a Parmigiana Sauce.

We have been playing with meat free dishes for a while and although it is taking us out of our comfort zone we are having fun with the step by step exploration.   We have really enjoyed refining our Aubergine Parmigiana but one day we didn’t have enough aubergine, but we did have a little gnocchi.  And so we came to this dish.  On the first trial run we went with a simple parmigiana sauce.  This worked really well, especially with the addition of some red peppers.  This is the dish we will describe here.  We have also tweaked the recipe further and moved it a little closer to a puttanesca sauce with anchovies, capers and olives but without the chilli.  We will look at that recipe later!

The dish is simplicity itself.  The aubergine was cut into decent size chunks.  I like them to be odd shapes rather than cubes, but what ever way they should be around 3 cm in most directions.  These were sautéed in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly.

We then added the chopped pepper and cooked for a few minutes more. Then set both the peppers and aubergine mix to one side.  The onion was finely chopped and added to the pan to soften in a little olive oil.  Once it had started to take on some colour the chopped garlic was added too and cooked for a few minutes more.

The can of chopped tomatoes was tossed in and allowed to cook through for a couple of minutes and then seasoned with salt and pepper.  At this point we added the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi.  The sauce was left to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the gnocchi was soft and the sauce had thickened.   This would be the time to transfer to an ovenproof dish, but as we were cooking in the Tefal Ingenio pans with the removable handles, this was going to be our ovenproof dish.

We stirred through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scattered the torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  You could also add a little grated parmesan cheese to add more crunch to the top if you fancy the idea. We have cooked this inside on the hob and on the Big Green Egg, both work well.

The vents were closed on the Egg and the cheese allowed to melt for a minute or two.  Whether cooking in a domestic kitchen or on the Big Green Egg the dish really needs to be finished under a domestic grill as a ‘crozzled top’ is the one thing the BGE doesn’t do well (unless you are using a very small pan in a much larger EGG).   The dish was put under the grill in the kitchen to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!

Serve with a green salad ………………… give it a go!

Variation

Add anchovies, capers and black olives rather than the finely chopped red pepper – but we will link to this later!!

 

Gnocchi, Aubergine and Red Pepper Bake

October 29, 2020
: 2
: 15 min
: 45 min
: 1 hr
: Easy

A combination of roasted Aubergines, tomato sauce and gnocchi - a perfect and simple bake

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 Aubergine cut into decent size chunks.
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 Red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove chopped
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 250g gnocchi
  • Fresh or dried oregano and thyme
  • 125g mozzarella
  • Grated parmesan (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut the aubergine into chunks, around 3 cm in most directions. Sauté in a little oil until each side had taken on some colour and the pieces are a little gnarly. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a few minutes more.  Set both the peppers and aubergine to one side.
  • Step 2 Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and soften in a little olive oil.  Once it takes on some colour add the chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes more.  
  • Step 3 Toss in the tinned tomatoes and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  
  • Step 4 Add the roasted aubergines, pepper and the gnocchi and leave the sauce to bubble for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally. The gnocchi will soften and the sauce thicken.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish, stir through some fresh oregano and thyme and then scatter torn chunks of mozzarella on the top.  At this point you can also add a little grated parmesan cheese
  • Step 5 To get a crunchy top transfer to a domestic grill for a couple of minutes to finish off the top – just watch that it doesn’t burn!!!
  • Step 6 Serve with a green salad