Py cooks…tomato soup

Soup for my sweet, sandwich for my honey,
Your first taste thrilled me so…

Soup-er fix

Soup-er fix

First, a bit of business. You may have noticed from the emphasis on love and passion in my post on porridge that I am feeling the love this February. This being so, I am going to devote my posts this month to those foods and meals that play a role in my love of life, and also, indeed, my love life.

Now ya’ll know by now that I love soup. It just seems to be something that my body craves during these cold, wet, and occasionally snowy, months. This is never more true than when I am also suffering from cold, another common feature of February. As this is currently the case (woe is me), I thought I would share my fool proof recovery meal: homemade tomato soup with a fish-less finger sandwich. It’s a miracle worker.

Now I have nothing against a good ol’ tin of soup. I have one almost every day. However, there really is something to be said for doing it yourself. Actually seeing the kilogram of tomatoes going into the mix makes you fully aware of the goodness you are going to take in; that knowledge alone makes you feel better.

Before...

Before…

...after.

…after.

You will also need...

You will also need…

It may not be pretty, but the charred bits and juices are the most important bit!

It may not be pretty, but the charred bits and juices are the most important bit!

INGREDIENTS

1kg tomatoes
 (the better tomatoes, the better the soup)
Pinch of sugar

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Bunch of basil, separated into leaves and stalks

600ml veggie stock

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (+ extra to drizzle and serve)

2 – 3 tbsp creme fraiche

RECIPE

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas5

Cut the tomatoes in half (if you do it horizontally it means they will sit better on the tray). Arrange them, cut-side up, in a baking dish or tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Bake these for about an hour, until the tomatoes are soft and starting to char around the edges.

Heat a bit more oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the chopped onion, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened.

Meanwhile, chop the basil stalks, and then add to the pan and cook for another minute.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and add them, plus any juices from the dish (which is the really important bit in getting the deep tomato flavour), to the pan.

Add the stock. Stir and bring to the boil, turn the heat down, cover and leave to simmer until all the vegetables are soft, which should take about 20-25 minutes.

Once the soup has cooled slightly, use a stick blender (or whatever you have) to purée the soup to whatever consistency you like.

Stir the vinegar and creme fraiche through the soup, and season to taste.

Reheat gently, while you tear the basil leaves into pieces, then serve with these and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.

Enjoy!

As for accompaniments, some buttered bread may do. However, to have full effect on me I need some fish-less fingers, housed between two buttery slices of homemade white bread, with lashings of tomato ketchup. So wrong and yet so right.

So wrong and yet so right!

So wrong and yet so right!

Don’t I spoil you? Just a little while ago I gave you the cure for a hangover, and now you have the cure for a cold. No need to thank me though. These little things just help keep the love, even when things are a little less than rosy.

What cold cure do you swear by? And what soups do you really love?

Py xx

Py talks…shopping

There are three things in my life that I can’t help spending money on. Firstly, skincare. I am obsessive about skin care, spending a small fortune on washing my face. Secondly, make up. I spend that fortune perfecting my skin, then a second fortune covering up said skin. Sensible. Finally, kitchenware. For obvious reasons.

A tower of tins

A tower of tins

However, I do have limited space. Very limited. Very very limited. So my bulging kitchen cupboards have been out of limits as far as new purchases go for some months now. But I cracked at the weekend. How could I resist when I saw these three (yes three) Emma Bridgewater cake tins in TK Maxx for a grand total of £15? In short, I couldn’t.

Emma Bridgewater is my gurl

Emma Bridgewater is my gurl

I convinced myself that I needed them (I really do), that they are easy to store as they stack inside each other (very true), and that there were a steal at that price (they were).

Three's a crowd

Three’s a crowd

What are your best foodie finds? Or general TK Maxx bargains?

Now I just need to decide what to make to go in them…maybe these brownies, or these cookies, or maybe even this cake. Exciting times.

Py xx

Py Cooks: Porridge

Me-ee-ee and mr, mr porr’ge, we got a thing going o-on
We both know it’s wrong, but its much too strong to let it go now

The porridge of my dreams

The porridge of my dreams

February. The month of luuurve. Now remember what I said on Friday? Recently porridge and I have been very much into each other. So much so that, like any other true love, I can’t get through the day without it. Honestly. I simply can’t get my brain moving without it. No porridge = no Py.

This level of fever pitch has been reached by my discovery of peanut butter and jam porridge. A spoonful of peanut butter stirred through the gooey oats, with a dollop of strawberry jam on top. Morning glory.

You will need...

You will need…

Note on the recipe:

This recipe calls for ‘cups’. This is not meant in the american sense, but rather in the sense of proportion. For my ‘cup’ I use a very small chinese tea cup. As for spoons, that’s up to you; feeling healthy use a teaspoon, feeling frivolous use a tablespoon.

When it comes to oats, it really is a case of the bigger the better. I am not interested in oat dust, only proper jumbo oats.

Obviously this is not the only way to eat your porridge. If you fancy something else (I love grated apple and cinnamon too), just follow the basic recipe (oats, water, milk, sugar and salt) and add your own flavourings.

Good big porridge oats

Good big porridge oats

Two spoons are better than one

Two spoons are better than one

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of oats
2 cups of (skimmed) milk
1 cup of water
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of brown sugar
1 spoon of peanut butter
1 spoon of jam

RECIPE

Place the oats, liquids, salt and sugar in a pan, and place over a medium heat.

Stir occasionally, and simply wait for the oats to soak up the liquid and become gooey, rather than watery. The time this takes depends upon the oats used.

Once you reach the gooey stage, add your peanut butter and stir through.

Dollop the porridge into your bowl, and dollop the jam on top.

Enjoy!

What are your favourite ways with porridge? And what are you just loving at the moment?

Py xxx

Py talks…Favourites

What’s that they say about the best plans? Last week, I introduced a little series of posts pulling together my weekly food photos on instagram (@pyandplate, check it!). However, this week I have been far too greedy, chowing down on my grub before I have any chance of photographing it. What can I say, my mouth moves faster than my hands. So, instead of photos this week, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of my favourite things this week.

One: Porridge

Jumbo porridge oats

Jumbo porridge oats

The true joy of this week has been rediscovering my love of porridge. Porridge and I have a love/hate relationship; sometimes porridge acts as a morning emetic, at other times I can’t get my brain to start without it. Recently the latter has proved true. Keep your eyes peeled for the recipe that has set our relationship back on track…

Two: Jacket Potatoes

The perfect packed-lunch

The perfect packed-lunch

Finding a bag of big potatoes lurking at the back of my cupboard I decided to bake the whole lot of them and then leave them in the fridge for a quick but substantial lunch. This week I have them heated and stuffed with all sorts of things, from cheese to coleslaw, with humous and tomatoes proving to be my favourite. Lovely.

Three: Rose Elliot’s New Vegetarian Cookbook

Rose Elliot's life-saving cookbook

Rose Elliot’s life-saving cookbook

This cookbook (which I reviewed here) has proved invaluable through this busy week. Tomatoes stuffed with rice and sweetcorn pudding have particularly hit the spot.

Four: Hot Chocolate

Options Mint Hot Chocolate; low-effort luxury

Options Mint Hot Chocolate; low-effort luxury

Having given up my expensive coffee addiction in order to pay for my kitten’s fancy cat food, I have really missed my ‘treat’ drink (as opposed to my regular green or mint tea). This week that spot has been filled by hot chocolate. My current fave is Options ‘Mint Madness’, as it is low in fat, quick to make, and doesn’t rely on me having milk in my fridge.

Five: Candlelight

Candlelight, every night

Candlelight, every night

My Py and I have our dinner by candlelight every night, whether we are having a feast or a bowl of soup. This week I have stopped taking this for granted, and have really appreciated the beautiful romance of it all. And the flattering effect of the light, obvs.

What have you guys been loving this week? And what are you looking forward to next week?

Have a great weekend!

Py xx

Py+Tips: Nigella Lawson’s Mexican Lasagne

Photo from Nigella.com; I always eat this too quickly to remember to photograph it!

Photo from Nigella.com; I always eat this too quickly to remember to photograph it!

It isn’t often that I find a vegetarian recipe that I instantly fall in love with. Often finding them too sweet, too meagre or too dull, I usually end up taking my inspiration from meat based recipes. Nigella Lawson’s Mexican Lasagne is an exception. It is absolutely amazingly delicious. No lie. It uses tortillas in place of traditional lasagna sheets, layered up with black beans, sweetcorn, chili, cheese, and salsa. Served with a mound of homemade guacamole this is the stuff of mid-week dinner dreams. And, what’s more, any leftovers make the most amazing lunch ever. 

What are your best recipe finds? Anyone ever tried this mexican mash up?

Py x

P.S: I use smoked cheddar in place of the suggested goats cheese, I omit the coriander (it is the Devil’s food after all), and I also double the chili ration, as I love a good kick of heat.

Py Cooks: Sweetcorn Chowder

Can I just dive in?

Can I just dive in?

I like soup. No, I love soup. However, sometimes I need something more. That is where chowder comes in. Richer, creamier and more filling, Chowder ticks all the boxes for a cold, drab February night. Especially when you have already had soup for lunch.

The sweetness of the sweetcorn, the saltiness of the stock, the creaminess of the milk, and the smokiness of the bacon all combine to give a wonderfully complex yet extremely comforting flavour. Plus this meal is yellow. Who is not going to feel a warm glow at that?

Now, I know that Quorn and the like aren’t for everyone. If you aren’t a fan of such meat replacements, try this trick with smoked cheese: lay a single layer of tortilla crisps across a baking sheet, then grate some smoked cheddar on top, before placing under a medium grill for a couple of minutes. Once cooled, break up the cheesy crisps and place atop your chowder. A little extra work, but well worth it. (For more ideas on using smoked cheddar as a bacon replacement, see this post.)

INGREDIENTS (comfortably serves 2)

3 rashers vegetarian bacon,chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 big potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
350ml veggie stock
350ml milk
250g frozen sweetcorn
To top:
1 red chili, sliced
Some snipped chives

You will need...

You will need…

Also, some sweetcorn

Also, some sweetcorn

Yellow chowder in a yellow pan = happiness

Yellow chowder in a yellow pan = happiness

RECIPE

In a big pan, gently fry the bacon, potato and onion in some oil; cook until the onion is soft (don’t worry about the potato being soft at this point).

Add the stock and milk, and bring to a simmer; leave simmering until the potato in soft.

Add the sweetcorn to the pan, and cook until done.

Serve in big bowls and top with the chives and/or chillies. If you are feeling especially hungry add some crusty bread or maybe even a quesadilla.

Please Mum, can I try it?

Please Mum, can I try it?

Enjoy.

Do you like to chow down on a good ol’ chowder? Or is there no replacement for your super soup?

Py x

Py+Tips:Hangovers

Now, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I have discovered the cure for a hangover. Well, maybe discovered is the wrong word. And maybe ‘cure’ is a little dramatic. But otherwise it is true.

‘So what is this miracle cure?’ I hear you cry. Well, it is Heuvos a la Mexicana. To the uninitiated, that means Eggs the Mexican Way. To the even less initiated, that means scrambled eggs with spring onion, chili, tomato and tortillas. Oh yes. The perfect balance of stodgy (thanks tortillas!), healthy (hey tomatoes, with all your vitamin C!), and spicy (kick my arse out of bed, chili!), this dish is like a band-aide to the self-inflicted sore soul.

You will need...

You will need…

As for a recipe, I follow Nigella Lawson on this one, as she doesn’t even call for a knife; fearing a sharp implement with a head like cotton wool and the reaction times of a turtle, I simply chop everything with scissors. Even the tomatoes.

No knife required...

No knife required…

He ain't pretty, he's my saviour.

He ain’t pretty, he’s my saviour.

Let me know if this cures you. Any other pieces of advice that I should be following?

Py xxx

Py+Pictures #1

Now, prior to my blog, I was in the cave. Not even in the Plato way. Quite literally. I was in the cave by way of my complete lack of technical understanding and ability. For instance, in my first year of uni, I typed with one finger. The world of technology was a complete and utter mystery to me. And now, although I am perhaps the only person in the world without a FaceBook account (at least the only 23 year old), I am starting to embrace this new world. Not only through this blog, but also through the likes of twitter and Instagram. Now, instagram is my absolute fave. I spend hours on it. So, I have decided to bring that love over here, and, each Friday, give a weekly roundup of all my poncy food photos, ok?

Brownies; heuvos mexicana ingredients; tomatoes for tomato soup; chocolate cookies; veggie sausage tasting.

Brownies; heuvos mexicana ingredients; tomatoes for tomato soup; chocolate cookies; veggie sausage tasting.

D.C; fridge photos; snow is Russell Square; green tea; licking the spoon.

D.C; fridge photos; snow is Russell Square; green tea; licking the spoon.

Any of you on Instagram? Let me know your usernames, so that I can follow you! I am, obviously, @pyandplate.

Py xx

Py+Reviews: Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian

Generally my food books fall into three categories:

1. Baking books, great for cakes and cookies, but not so hot for the ‘What should I make for dinner on this grey Tuesday with the half cabbage and off cuts of cheese in my fridge?’ debacle.

2. Ancient, foisty old tomes picked up at charity shops, bought out of curiosity and mocked for their datedness.

3. Books that I devour as though they were novels. The Nigella How to Eat and the Nigel Slater Real Food type of thing. Full of inspiration and interest, but somewhat lacking in the ‘recipes for the non-meat eater’ department.

From these three arenas I develop my ideas and recipes, blending, borrowing and bending. However, none of my books help in a perfectly direct way. None simply tell me what I should make when I am pushed for time and/or inspiration. Feeling as though I could do with a bit more of a helping hand some nights, I invested in Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian.

Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian

Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian

Now, this is the first cookbook that I have ever owned whose sole purpose is to provide everyday recipes for vegetarians (I do own the amazing Veggiestan, which I use often, but I’m not counting that as it is centered around being food from the Middle East with only secondary emphasis on lack of meat). There is something completely and utterly freeing knowing that I can open the book and eat the suggested meal with no tinkering at all. So that is what I did: the book flipped open to Paella.

Normally the reserve of fish-eaters, I had not eaten a paella since around 1998, aged 10 in the windiest restaurant in Spain. I was pleasantly surprised by the veggie result; tasty, interesting and now a regular in my kitchen. Just like that. The same can be said of all the dishes I have tried out of the book; not a dud in sight. That’s the thing with this book: it is packed full to brim with tasty, simple, quick veggie dishes. Just what I needed.

Vegetarian Paella, a revelation.

Vegetarian Paella, a revelation.

Now, this book may not get your heart racing. There are next-to-no glossy, stylized photos. There are few recipes that would win rounds of exclamations from a round table of Michelin starred chefs. If you have been cooking for years, do it almost professionally and think that homemade tortellini and ragu is a simple mid-week meal, then this book isn’t for you. But, for the rest of us, this is the perfect book for any veggie, be you newbie or oldie. What this book lacks in inspiration and excitement it more than makes up for with its ease, from sourcing the required ingredients to the cooking itself. I can’t really recommend this book highly enough as a veggie staple on the cooking book shelf.

Even my kitten loves this book!

Even my kitten loves this book!

Which cookery books do you swear by? Tried Rose Eliot’s New Complete Vegetarian? Any recipe recommendations from it?

Py xx

P.S The paella featured in this post was actually made for me by Mr Py; another benefit of this recipe book is that he too enjoys using it!

Py+Tips: Smoked Cheese

Do you get sick of being thwarted by bacon? You are checking out a recipe and all seems good, but a quick look down the list of ingredients suggests that bacon is a requirement. Bugger. Except that I have a brilliant solution. At least, that is, if there is also cheese in the recipe. If what you seek is indeed a cheesy treat (invariably, for me, it is), then why not try swapping the suggested bacon and cheese combo for a smoked cheese? This brings with it its own salty, smokey, barbecue-y flavour, perfectly mimicking the ousted bacon. For instance, when I fancy a carbonara (as I do tonight), I make my sauce by mixing cream, mascarpone, egg and smoked Applewood Cheddar (plus some pepper and nutmeg). To add some texture, I might mix through some sun-dried tomatoes or some mushrooms. Delicious.

Creamy, smokey carbonara. Don't mind if I do.

Creamy, smokey carbonara. Don’t mind if I do.

What are your go-to bacon replacements? Does smoked cheese rock your world too?

Py x