Umami Rich Portabella Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomato and Black Garlic Pesto

IMG_0891

Recently I was asked to create my own version of one of the vegan dishes offered on the menus of ‘The Wynn Resort‘ in Las Vegas. The hotel has recently teamed up with famous vegan chef Tal Ronnen so I was eager to bring my own twist to the menu.

IMG_0888

I decided to alter his version of ‘royal trumpet mushrooms with a soy reduction’ at the Lakeside Restaurant and create my own umami rich mushroom dish. Mushrooms, tomatoes and black garlic are all ingredients that are bursting with umami. I wrote an article for Country & Townhouse Magazine on umami which you can read here. My ingredient that brings depth of flavour and an interesting twist though is black garlic – see another article here. It is now becoming increasingly easy to get hold of and can be sourced at some of the large supermarkets here in the UK. I can only imagine the same can be said for the US. If not there is a business opportunity out there for someone as this is a seriously magic ingredient.

IMG_0874

It is so straight forward and quick to prepare and bake that these can be easily rustled up in no time at all. I find them hugely satisfying and perfect if you want a vegetarian flavoursome meal.

IMG_0880

I like to sit the mushrooms on a bed of steamed spinach with a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes and a splash of lemon juice. So Tal if you are reading this how about adding this to the menu? Do let me know if you do.

IMG_0895

Portabella Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomato and Black Garlic Pesto and Steamed Spinach

Serves 2

2-4 large portabella mushrooms (depending how hungry you are)

70g sun dried tomatoes

3 black garlic bulbs

20ml sun dried tomato oil

200g fresh spinach

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

fresh lemon, quartered to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Cut the stork of the mushroom if it is protruding and place in a hand blender. Add the sun dried tomatoes, black garlic bulbs and sun dried tomato oil. Blitz so that it forms a pesto like consistency.

3. Spoon the tomato pesto onto the mushrooms evenly and place in an oven proof dish. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

4. Steam the spinach or simply place the spinach in a pan with 1 tsp of cold water which will make it wilt. Move it around the pan for a minute so that it is all wilted. Add the chilli flakes and serve on to a plate.

5. Place the hot stuffed mushrooms onto the spinach and serve with fresh lemon on the side.

Please note you will not need to add any salt to this dish as the umami flavours more than make up for flavour and depth. 


Spiced Aubergine, Cavolo Nero and Mushroom Spring Rolls

IMG_8913

It’s the Easter holidays so my daughters have some wonderful leisured weeks ahead of them. They love to cook too so we decided to make these spiced aubergine, cavolo nero and mushroom spring rolls together. Rolling spring rolls is a great communal activity and actually rather calming and therapeutic. It is very satisfying to make a tightly rolled and neat spring roll – seriously you’ll know what I mean when you give this recipe a go.

IMG_8940

I hope that it gets a big thumbs up from all my vegetarian and vegan followers. The filling is deliciously tasty and even if you do like your meat I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how tasty these little spring rolls actually are.

IMG_8881

Once the filling has been prepared  and roasted the actually filling of the spring rolls is relatively quick. You can make them ahead of time and then leave them in the fridge until you are ready to fry them. Equally you could freeze them to use in the future – they are pretty versatile. IMG_8886

I adore cavolo nero and added to the aubergine, mushrooms and the spiced sauce, it makes for a very tasty filling.

IMG_8901

The trick to rolling spring rolls is to keep the rolls tight and well folded so that none of the filling escapes when frying. Don’t overfill or you may find the rolls cannot be rolled tight enough – I know it’s tempting but do restrain yourself ;o)

IMG_8912

Frying takes a couple of minutes and I tend to do a few at a time. Once they have bronzed, remove from the oil and place on some kitchen roll to cool and to soak up any excess fat. Diving in too quickly will burn your mouth, so let them rest for a short while before feasting. I like to dip them in tamarind chutney or some chilli sauce – the recipe for the former is noted below.

IMG_8925

Spiced Aubergine, Cavolo Nero and Mushroom Spring Rolls

Inspired by a similar recipe from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Denis Cotter

Makes 22 rolls

1 aubergine (weighing 300g), diced

200g cavolo nero (black kale), chopped  and stalks removed

100g mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp tomato puree

2 tsp light soy sauce

1/2 tsp caster sugar

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1/2 large red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 tbsp coriander seeds

4 cloves

pinch of fresh nutmeg

22 spring roll pastry sheets

vegetable/sunflower oil for frying

1. In a roasting tray layout the aubergine and mushrooms and scatter with a little olive oil. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing at intervals so that all the ingredients cook and soften.

2. Whilst the aubergine and mushroom are roasting, heat a pan of boiling water and submerge the cavolo nero within it. Cook for 1 minute before straining under cold water and squeezing out the excess water from the cavolo nero. Place to one side on some kitchen paper to dry out thoroughly.

3. Mix the soy sauce, light soy sauce and caster sugar together and when the aubergine and mushrooms are sufficiently cooked transfer them to a bowl and mix in the sauce using a spoon.

4. Using a spice mix or pestle and mortar grind the coriander seeds and cloves together and add the nutmeg. Transfer these and the sliced spring onions and finely sliced red chilli also to the bowl along with the now dry cavolo nero.

5. Lay out a spring role pastry sheet and using your finger or a brush lightly wet the sides of the square. Add a tablespoonful of the aubergine, mushroom and cavolo nero mix towards the bottom of the sheet and then fold over tightly once and then fold in both ends   so that the roll is tightly packaged and then roll until the sheet has been used up. The water that you place on the end will sufficiently hold the spring roll together when cooking.

6. Once all the filling has been used up, heat a deep pan with sunflower/vegetable oil and when it is hot (drop a pinch of flour into it and if it fizzles it is ready) add a couple of the spring rolls at a time. They should take around 2 minutes each to cook. Once they have lightly bronzed place on a plate with kitchen roll to soak up any excess oil.

*************

Tamarind Chutney

Makes half a ramekin full

1 tsp roasted cumin seeds, ground

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp tamarind concentrate

500ml boiling water

45g palm sugar

1 tsp salt

1. In a pan dry roast the cumin seeds for 30 seconds so that the aromas are released. Place in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a powder.

2. In a deep pan add the oil and when it is hot add the ground cumin and move around the pan.

3. Add the tamarind concentrate and boiling water and stir so that the concentrate is dissolved. Keep on a medium heat.

3. Add the palm sugar and salt and allow to dissolve into the liquid.

4. Simmer for 25 minutes by which time the liquid will have thickened, although it will still be relatively runny. As it cools it will begin to harden.

5. Store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to two weeks if not consuming immediately.


Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

IMG_8109

Have you ever been a little ambivalent about aubergine/eggplant? On the one hand loving their smooth, shiny plum coloured exterior but never really in raptures about the taste. Well my other half, Mr B, tended to fall into this category, so a while ago I set out to prove him wrong.

IMG_8072

After mutterings of ‘you know aubergine is my least favourite vegetable, I prefer greens’, he tasted one mouthful and that completely shut him up. Murmurs of approval were given between mouthfuls and a 9/10 score (yes we regularly mark our food – is that unusual?). RESULT. Surprisingly my eldest child also adored it, surprising as it does have a fair amount of chilli in it! If you don’t like chilli, but like spice, just reduce or take out the chilli in the recipe below.

IMG_8093

The combination of aubergine, peanuts and sesame seeds works ridiculously well together so much so that you will have to restrain yourself from wanting to guzzle up the whole dish. Combine that with a spiced onion and tomato sauce and you have yourself a winning dish.  So put your assumptions to one side for a moment and give this recipe a whirl and I can assure you you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  I couldn’t resist the bijou aubergines on sale at my local market but a regular sized aubergine will work equally well. Just slice the aubergine into chunky chip sized pieces, keeping the skin on of course.

IMG_8097

Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

Adapted from Sanjay Thumma’s Eggplant Tomato Curry

450g baby aubergine/eggplant (normal size is fine too), sliced lengthways or chunky chip sized if using a regular aubergine

cooking oil, enough to deep fry the aubergine

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

1 small green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

5 curry leaves (fresh or dried)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp of garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

1 white onion, finely chopped

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp salted peanuts

1 tbsp sesame seeds

150ml water

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. If using baby aubergine/eggplant slice lengthways removing the stalk. If using a regular sized aubergine slice into chunky chip sized, again removing the stalk. Once sliced, immediately place in a pan of boiling oil to sizzle away and bronze. This should take no longer than ten minutes.

2. Remove the aubergine with a straining spoon and place on some kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next steps.

3. In a new large pan add the olive oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seeds. They will begin to pop immediately so move them gently around the pan for 15 seconds before adding the dried red chilli, fresh small green chilli (optional), curry leaves (fresh or dried), turmeric, garlic, ginger paste and onion. Continue to cook on a medium heat for around 7 minutes by which time the onion should have nicely softened, but not bronzed.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander, cumin and Kashmiri chilli powder and simmer for a further 5 minutes, by which time the tomatoes will have totally softened and blended into the sauce. Return the aubergines to the pan and fold gently into the sauce.

5. In a small pan dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds for a couple of minutes, making sure to constantly move them around the pan so that the heat is evenly distributed and they do not burn. They will begin to bronze at which point you need to remove them from the pan.

6. Using a spice grinder (definitely one of my most useful items I own in my kitchen) – this is the one I use – see here – grind the peanuts and sesame seeds together to form a paste.

7. Add the peanut sesame paste to the pan and stir into the curry, adding more water if necessary. As I used salted peanuts I only needed to add a little more salt. Simmer for a few minutes and serve. If cooking ahead and leaving to rest you will have to add a little more water when heating up.

Serve with rice or Indian bread and you have yourself a vegetarian – in fact vegan – treat. Try it and leave a comment below.

IMG_8116


Ivy Gourd Curry – also known as Gentleman’s Toes

IMG_7967

We all know that lady’s fingers is okra right? But gentleman’s toes? I had no idea there was a vegetable with such an unappealing name, I mean seriously who wants to eat a gentleman’s toe?

IMG_7931

My Bengali mother-in-law introduced them to me only recently and since then I have become hooked. They look similar, and taste not dissimilar in fact, to gherkins which we are huge eaters of in my household – seriously we get through jars of them, even my four year old has a weakness for them. Gentleman’s fingers is also more commonly known as ivy gourd or in Bengal they are known as kundri. Baby watermelon or little gourd are two other names by which they are known.

IMG_7952

Granted, you are unlikely to find them at the big supermarkets but head to any Indian subcontinent grocers and you’ll stumble across these fabulous little vegetables. I know for a fact that you can source them in Tooting and I imagine the same goes for Brick Lane, Southall, Hounslow etc. They are commonly eaten in India and are a great source of vitamin A and C. Eaten alongside a dal and you’ll have a very filling and tasty vegetarian supper.

IMG_7976

Ivy Gourd Curry

Serves 4

550g ivy gourds/kundri/gentleman’s fingers, halved lengthways

4 tbsp olive oil

1 green chilli, halved

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

 2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp salt (to taste)

2 tsp sugar (to taste)

2 tbsp water

1. Heat a large pan with the olive oil and when hot add the nigella seeds followed by the green chilli. After  20 seconds add the ivy gourds and stir into the oils and nigella seeds. Leave to cook on a low heat for 5 minutes.

2. Add all the other ingredients and give a good stir and then place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer, stirring a couple of times, for 20 minutes or until the ivy gourd is soft but not mushy!

So simple and yet ridiculously satisfying.

I hope you get to stumble across these little beauties before too long.