Friday, 29 November 2013

Easy Peasy Tortilla and Hummous Pizza

I love homemade pizza. Or rather, I love the idea of homemade pizza. But over the years, although I have had some success stories, I feel that I have spent too many pizza-making evening toiling away over a dough that ends up a bit too sticky or just not quite delicious enough, and subsequently the yummy toppings were always just slightly let down by the base. And not only did store-bought bases feel like cheating, they were also bland. So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Dreena's homemade pizza, which uses a tortilla wrap for the base - ideal! A little bit creative (store-bought tortillas don't feel so much like cheating!), nice and simple, and best of all, TASTY! This is the homemade pizza I have been waiting for.

And so I decided to share my take on this fun Friday treat with you. As Dreena's original recipe is in fact vegan, you could certainly leave out the cheese to make this vegan-friendly - but I love cheese, so had to include it! I didn't half my cherry tomatoes, but that led to some less-than-fun explosions of burning hot tomato juice when I was eating, so I have suggested halving them in my method below. You can adapt this recipe to include any other toppings you choose - perhaps red onion, olives, or sweetcorn would also be nice. Mix it up a little and try your own toppings! Because that's the beauty of homemade pizza - it can be made exactly how you like it. What are your winning combinations for pizza toppings?

Tortilla and Hummous Pizza


2 tortilla wraps
1 red pepper, sliced
approx. 5 small mushrooms, sliced
approx. 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbsps hummous
a little Cheddar cheese, grated


Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Put the chopped pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. On a separate oven tray, place the tortillas, and bake for 5-10 minutes (checking frequently to ensure they do not burn!). Remove the tortillas from the oven and leave to cool while the vegetables continue to roast. When the vegetables are done, remove from the oven. Spread the hummous over the tortillas (putting only a thin layer in the middle, to ensure it does not get soggy, and more towards the outside). Spread the vegetables evenly over the hummous, and finally, sprinkle with the grated cheese. Pop the pizzas in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the hummous has 'cooked in' to the base a little.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Kitchen Experimentation: Making Spätzle

Germany is not famous for its gastronomical wonders. Most people would struggle to name much more than Sauerkraut and Bratwurst if tested on the subject. And it is certainly not known for its vegetarian cuisine. Many people ask me 'but what did you eat?!' when they hear I lived in Germany as a vegetarian. Actually, I got on fine, as most restaurants did not serve specifically German food (Italian and Asian food was very popular in Berlin, where I spent two years), and when I cooked for myself, other than the lack of Quorn in the supermarkets, there wasn't too much of a difference from cooking for myself back home. But it is true that when you do go to a German restaurant or a traditional event with traditional food, it can be slim pickings for the vegetarians.

Yesterday I set myself the challenge of making Spätzle for the first time. Spätzle is a type of German dumpling, and I really enjoyed this dish when I was living in Germany (especially since it tended to be the only vegetarian dish at markets and festivals where all the meat-eaters were tucking into their Bratwursts). My brother came round to help out (with the taste test, mainly) as he also enjoyed Spätzle when he visited Germany, and he was kind enough to bring his ukelele, so my cooking could be accompanied by eine kleine Nachtmusik!

One of my friends, Danielle, had given my a rough guide to making Spätzle a while back, so I used that as my basic template, but also took a look at some other recipes I found on the internet for inspiration. The basic dough is just made up of flour, egg and water, with a little salt. But we both felt that it might be more interesting to add a little more flavour to the dough, so opted for nutmeg and mixed spices. We also felt that the pinch of salt I added initially wasn't really enough, so I think more salt is called for in the final recipe.

The main problem though, that I found, was getting the dough into the pan in little separate dumpling shapes, rather than all clumping together in one large mass. I used a potato ricer to form the dough into little fat noodles, but no sooner were these little shapes formed, than they stuck back together again, right as they hit the water! They separated out again to some extent, but there were still quite a few clumps. Perhaps my dough was too watery. Danielle did say that it should be 'between a dough and a batter' in consistency, so next time I will try adding less water.
Frying - but you can see the clumps.

Danielle advised that the Spätzle should be sauteed rather than fried, but I have to admit, I prefer it fried (it must be the Glaswegian in me - we fry everything!). So I fried my Spätzle in a little butter and then added cheese to melt on top. I am going to try making this again this week sometime - with less water and more salt - and intend to fry it with a little garlic, onion and mushrooms, as I think that will make a really tasty dinner. I will let you know how I get on, and if it's any good, I will post the final recipe here. If it's not....well, if you don't see a Spätzle recipe appearing on this blog in the near future, you can assume that my second attempt was a complete failure!

Do you have any tips for cooking Spätzle? Or can you recommend any lesser-known foreign dishes that I should try to recreate in my veggie kitchen? And let me know if you are a vegetarian living abroad - how easily do you manage?

Despite the clumps, still tasty!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Treats from My Home Bakery and a Lovely Rice Salad

Sunday tends to be our shopping day, but today we felt like a wee treat after getting in the shopping and so we went to a lovely little local bakery in search of cakes. The bakery in question was My Home Bakery on Hyndland Street, and so tempting were its wares, that we we left the shop with not only two cakes, but also a savoury pastry each for our lunch. If you are in the west end of Glasgow, you should definitely pop in to this lovely little shop sometime, as it really is special. Service is always with a smile, and there are samples of various cakes if you can't decide just by looking at them which you would like to try. As their food not only tastes wonderful but also looks perfectly put together, I've included a selection of photos for you to drool over at the end of the post - and one just below, to whet your appetite!

A selection of the cakes on offer at My Home Bakery

After lunch, I decided to recreate a (slightly) less healthy version of a salad I saw featured on another local blogger's site yesterday: a rice salad from What Kate Made Next. I thought this looked nice - simple, healthy (though I switched the brown rice for white...), and a nice lunch to take into work with me. But I was amazed by just how great this salad is. Totally moreish, I couldn't stop myself from taking cheeky spoonfuls from it as I was preparing tonight's dinner! So I thought I would share this (ever so slightly modified) version of the recipe with you.

Spinach and Rice Salad

(makes enough for 4 lunchbox portions)


250g long-grain rice
1/2 red onion
1 medium apple
100g baby spinach
80g raisins
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar


Wash the rice and strain through a sieve. Put the washed rice in a pan and add 600 ml of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the water has all been absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Meanwhile, chop the onion and apply into tiny pieces. When the rice has cooled, put into a bowl and mix in the onion, apple, spinach and raisins. Add the oil and vinegar and mix well. 

So simple, so delicious! I can't wait until lunchtime tomorrow to eat a full portion of this!

And now for the photos of our treats from My Home Bakery, as promised:

My spicy bean 'sausage' roll
The non-veggie version - pork sausage roll

Raspberry crumble - so sweet and delicious!

Chocolate orange cake - with orange rind through it. Yum. And it's gluten free.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Lentil 'Meatballs' and Tomato Sauce

I love taking inspiration from other food blogs - in terms of both style and content. I have already mentioned one of my favourite blogs, The Stone Soup on here - not only is Jules very knowledgeable about her subject, but she has a great style that I love reading. Plus all of her recipes come with tweaks, so even when she blogs about a meat or fish-based dish, she gives pointers on how to make it vegetarian or vegan. Her recipes are also nice and simple, which is always a plus! But another thing I love about her blog is how interactive it is - lots of readers always comment on her recipes, and - perhaps following her lead - are always keen to share how they have tweaked the recipe to suit their own needs or tastes. The end result is an amazing melting pot of culinary ideas based around a common dish, which I find so inspirational.

Last night's dinner was an amalgamation of one of Jules's recipes and one of Heidi Swanson's. Jules had blogged about lentil balls as an alternative to meatballs, and one of the commenters mentioned that they had made Heidi's Five-Minute Tomato Sauce to accompany the lentil balls. The sauce sounded so amazing that I just had to try both it and the lentil balls (that I keep accidentally referring to as meatballs....slips off the tongue more easily, doesn't it?!) and I was really impressed with both and just had to share this recipe with you. (David really enjoyed it too, so it has also passed the 'meat-eater test'.)

Lentil 'Meatballs' and Tomato Sauce

(Serves 2)


115g dried brown lentils
500ml vegetable stock
3 tbsps olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp lemon juice
75g ground almonds
1 medium egg
150g dried spaghetti


Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC Put the lentils in a medium pan and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce. Put the olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic in a pan and gently heat until the aromas are released - don't let the garlic brown. At this point, add the tomatoes, and bring to a gentle simmer. Crush any larger pieces of tomato between the side of the pan and the stirring spoon. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice. Pour the sauce into an oven-proof bowl and set to one side. Once your lentils have finished cooking, drain them, put them in a bowl and rougroughly mash them. Add the ground almonds and the egg, and mix well. Once everything is well combined, use a soup spoon to help form the lentil mixture into medium-sized balls, and place the balls into the tomato sauce. Drizzle with a glug of olive oil. Bake the whole thing in the oven for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, put the spaghetti into a large pan of boiling water and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Serve the lentil balls and tomato sauce on top of the spaghetti for a tasty, filling dinner.

To serve, Jules suggests sprinkling with parmesan, which I forgot to do, but that would definitely be really tasty!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Mushroom Risotto

I think I need to improve on my food photography skills.....this mushroom risotto is mouth-wateringly good but I don't think it comes across in the photos. You'll just have to take my word for it for now, and any tips on the photography front will be gratefully received!

Many people think that making a risotto from scratch is really difficult and/or time consuming. But it is one of my go-to meals, partly as it is so easy to make it seem fresh every time by altering the ingredients, but partly as I feel so comfortable making it. Yes, you need to spend a good half hour standing over it, stirring frequently, but other than that, there's not much else required in terms of time. And it is not as complicated as you'd think. I think the trick is to keep tasting the rice as you near the end of the cooking time, until you are satisfied with the consistency - not too hard, not too mushy. You will eventually develop a feel for how long your risotto takes.

Another tip I would offer would be this: don't worry too much about how much stock you need. If you taste the rice and it seems done but you haven't used all your stock, that's fine. (I suggest preparing a litre in the recipe below, but the other night I found I only used 700ml.) Or, if it's not quite done and you've run out of stock, simply add a little boiling water instead of the stock. Bearing this in mind may help you if you have a fear of trying to make risotto.

I have been making mushroom risotto for years, but had taken a bit of a break from it for the last few months, favouring pea and mint (ever since I started growing my own mint, I have loved any excuse to use it in my cooking!) or pea and carrot versions. But now the weather's getting colder and I was looking to revisit some old favourites, the mushroom risotto came back onto the menu, and it has been a welcome return!

I am usually not very specific about quantities with this recipe - I use lots of mushrooms, as I absolutely adore them, but you can reduce the amount if you want/need to. Also, I just add as much cheese and butter at the end as I feel like (sometimes this is dictated by how much of each I have left!!), but I tried to weigh out what I was using the other night to give me an idea of what to suggest you add - these are the weights I have noted in the recipe below.

If you don't have wine, it is possible to make the recipe without it, or to substitute lemon juice (both of which I used to do), but the wine really adds the 'wow' factor to this one, so I'd highly recommend its inclusion if possible. One thing I've learned over the past couple of years is that although white wine can't be drunk after more than two or three days open in the fridge, it is still fine to use in cooking after this time. I usually have an open bottle of 'old' wine in the fridge specifically for cooking, and a couple of times I have used wine as old as two months old in my risotto - and it was still delicious and caused no problems. This makes it even easier to include wine in your risotto - there's no desperation to use up the rest of the bottle! Alternatively, you can buy those mini bottles of wine, or even small cartons of wine for a pound or two at the supermarket - ideal for cooking with.

Mushroom Risotto 

(serves two with a little left over for lunch the next day!)


3 tbsps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
300g button mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g arborio rice
150ml white wine
1 litre vegetable stock
30g butter
50g grated parmesan/vegetarian equivalent
salt and pepper, to taste


Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and fry, stirring gently until the mushrooms have softened (approximately 10 minutes). Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Now add the rice, stirring to coat each grain in the oil. Once all the grains are coated, add the wine. Stir until the wine has been fully absorbed by the rice. Now add the stock, gradually (many recipes suggest a ladleful at a time; I am not so precise, but would say about 150ml-200ml at a time). After you have added a ladleful/approximately 200ml, keep stirring until the stock has been fully absorbed by the rice. Only at this point add the next ladleful/200ml portion. At this point, it may be good to turn the heat down a touch, if the risotto seems to be boiling rather than simmering. Continue like this until the rice is cooked through - it should still retain a little bite (it should definitely not be soggy!) but it should not be so firm that it's crunchy either. I never normally time this, but I did the other night and it took approximately 20 minutes to reach this stage. At this point, take the risotto off the heat and add the butter, cheese and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Let stand for a couple of minutes, and then serve. If you have some fresh basil leaves, they make a nice garnish.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and that if you have previously been put off trying to cook risotto, that I have inspired you to try!