I’ve been pining hard for Florida the past couple of weeks. I don’t know whether it was the sudden blast of warm weather, or the whole Lockdown “who the hell knows when you’ll be able to leave your own home let alone the country” situation… but I’ve been aching for warm waves, sunset pizzas on the beach, thunder storms, outlet malls (remember shopping?)… even the mosquitos (I’d happily offer up my legs in an all you can eat offer in exchange for just ONE day in The Keys). But most of all I’ve been pining for the food. When I was out there last August, I ate really well – from fast food to fresh fish (the best in the world – especially down south), as well as some of the best Cali-Mex Fish Tacos I’ve ever tasted – loaded with cheese, aoli, fresh avocado, slaw and fruity salsa. Hot weather, poolside food at its finest – and the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos that I chowed down on in the Florida Keys? Oh baby. I dream about them.
If you break those down to their basic ingredients then on the face of it they’re actually not that hard to replicate; tortillas – got ’em, cheese – arguably better here, avocados – always one in my fruit bowl, and salsa – well that’s easy. The trouble is that it’s near impossible to get your hands on Mahi Mahi (the meaty but soft fish otherwise known as Dorado) here in the UK – and even if you did, it’d never be of the “catch of the day” quality you’d get in a tropical climate because it’ll have been frozen in transit (and honestly, fresh cod just does not cut it as a substitute – I’ve tried).
Last week, the Fish Taco cravings got a little bit out of control and I started hunting around for something else to substitute in for the Blackened Mahi Mahi (Blackened is the term for the special blend of spices that season the fish before it’s cooked). I landed on Halloumi (I’ve always got a frozen stash for dinner times when I can’t decide what to cook and end up whipping up a quick Halloumi Hash) – and d’you know what? It wasn’t a bad sub at all – in fact, it was pretty damn good. It was soft and chewy – just like Mahi Mahi – and took on the flavour of the “Blackened” seasoning really well, crisping up around the edges in the pan. Along with a sweet and crunchy Mango and Red Pepper Salsa – as well as all the other added extras you’d expect in fresh Tacos – they were quite possibly the best Veggie Tacos I’ve ever tasted – and definitely the best I’ve ever made. Full of fresh ingredients and pretty easy to make, they’re perfect cold or hot – and are even better with a side of crispy Tequila Fries.
Fries(if you want to get fancy, brush them with lime juice and tequila before cooking 😉)
First, make the marinade by mixing together the smoked paprika, onion granules, garlic powder, chipotle chilli paste, oregano and olive oil in a bowl. While the Halloumi is still in its packet, pop it into a bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle – allowing it to sit for twenty minutes. This will soften the Halloumi and improve the texture. Once ready, slice the Halloumi lengthways to make long “flakes” (like fish), then stir them into the marinade. Leave to rest for ten minutes.
Next, prepare the Mango Salsa. Dice the red pepper and the mango into small chunks, and then combine in a bowl with some fresh coriander and the juice of half a lime.
Prep your Taco Filling Station: warm your Tortilla Wraps, grate your cheddar, chop your avocado, and have your mango salsa, sour cream and pickled red cabbage close to hand.
Pour the marinaded Halloumi into a shallow frying pan (along with any dregs), then fry on a medium heat for around 10 minutes. The Halloumi should go a little crispy around the edges, but maintain its soft and chewy texture.
Next, assemble your Tacos! Generously fill each one with slices of Blackened Halloumi, mango salsa, avocado, sour cream, cheese and pickled cabbage.
One of those ‘throw it all in and let it sit’ kinda recipes – hallelujah!
I think I’m going to remember 2019 as the year that I officially fell in love with vegetarian cooking. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I’m still most definitely a meat eater (you’d have a tough time getting me to ditch hot dogs and bacon baps, and you’ll never EVER convince me that Jackfruit is a solid alternative to pulled pork – nope!), but this year I kind of moved away from throwing meat into my weekly meals just for the sake of it. Last year, there were a lot of go-to recipes on my weekly meal plan that I just automatically cooked with meat – just because that was what I’d always done. Curries, Stir Fries, Casseroles, Burrito Bowls – meals I was eating at least once or twice a week – all came with diced chicken as a standard; previously it just wouldn’t have felt like a whole meal if I’d decided to skip the meat. But honestly? There have been meal times over the past year where I’ve chewed on the realisation that – actually – the meat didn’t bring anything special or add anything to the dish. It was just… there. Gradually, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the fresh greens and vegetables I’d thrown into the dish instead, and the textures and flavours that they brought to the game.
These days I’m shopping down the meat aisle less, cooking it only when it’s going to be the main ingredient and star of the show, and reworking all those old recipes that I would have just mindlessly chucked meat into, into new and improved, ultimate veggie versions! Like this Ultimate Veggie Chilli – or Chilli No Carne! You know me, I love Mexican Food – and chilli is just one of those things I tend to cook every couple of weeks. It’s an easy, throw everything into one pot and stir kind of dish, perfect for meal prep, and – if you make enough of it – it’ll keep you fed throughout the week (or month, if you freeze it). Plus, the longer you let it sit, the tastier it becomes! This ultimate edition is packed with cauliflower, adzuki beans, mushrooms, red peppers and tomatoes – and comes packed with plenty of flavour thanks to a few unusual ingredients – including a shot of whiskey… 😉
Ultimate Veggie Chilli
Plenty for two, Perfect for four
1 tbsp vegetable oil
125g cherry tomatoes
400ml can of tinned tomatoes
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
150g chestnut mushrooms
1 can of adzuki beans
2 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp chipotle chilli paste
3 tbsp barbecue sauce
100ml fresh, black coffee
1 tbsp ancho chilli flakes
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion granules
25ml shot of bourbon whiskey
pinch of salt and pepper to season
chopped coriander or scallions to serve
This recipe would work brilliantly in a slow cooker – if so, just throw in all the ingredients, turn the slow cooker on and walk away (lucky you) – but a great big pot on the hob will work just as well. To start things off, get your pot nice and hot, and then add the oil, chipotle chilli paste and garlic paste. Throw in the diced onion and sweat it off.
Next, add the cherry tomatoes, carrot, red pepper, cauliflower, mushrooms and beans. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine.
Time to add some flavour. Add the cumin, onion granules, paprika and ancho chilli flakes, then stir.
The next couple of ingredients are a little bit controversial, but are going to bring a whole lot of depth and flavour. Pour in the fresh coffee, barbecue sauce and whiskey.
Stir to combine, then turn down the heat, throw on a lid and leave to simmer for about an hour (make sure you check on it and keep it moving, or it’ll stick to the bottom and burn!).
Once cooked, season with salt and pepper, and serve with fresh coriander and/or some sliced scallions.Eat it with rice, hot sauce, avocado, sour cream, on toast or with some cheesy nachos – the choice is yours!
Happy Monday (and Happy 1st of July!)! Here’s a recipe to bookmark for later, because – well – firstly, Mac & Cheese isn’t exactly the kind of thing to be scoffing in the middle of summer, is it? It definitely falls under the category of cold weather comfort food; it’s perfect for gloomy, November night’s in rather than a sticky, July suppers scoffed alfresco – right? (Although, honestly my appetite knows no season, and – besides – you never know when the Welsh Weather’s going to trip you up…) And secondly, it’s two recipes in one! Definitely one to keep up your sleeve. 😉
Chilli is one of my absolute favourite meals to make because it’s a one pot wonder that’s easy to whip up mid week when I’m feeling too tired to cook and tempted to reach for that takeaway menu. It’s also perfect for batch cooking; the recipe makes more than enough to sort both one dinner and a couple of lunches for the week. Make it meaty with beef mince if you like, but I actually prefer the veggie version using Quorn Mince. I’ll usually serve it up with some rice, grated cheese and sour cream (my husband likes to add a couple of crushed nachos to his too for some extra crunch), but it’s also pretty fabulous served up on a bed of gooey, super-cheesy Mac and Cheese.
I feel like Mac and Cheese gets a bit of a bad rap from all those cardboard microwave versions (bleugh!). I mean it only takes a little extra effort to make it yourself, and it tastes so much better! Especially if you use the right kind of cheese. Lucky for me, the guys from Dragon Wales (who make my favourite vintage cheddar – my fridge is always stocked with a block!) sent me a lovely little hamper full of their brand new range of cheeses, including a Maple Smoked Cheddar that was born to make the smokiest, creamiest cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese. 👌
Chilli Mac & Cheese (serves 2 – with plenty for leftovers!)
For the Chilli:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
350g mince (sure, beef’s traditional, but I personally love Quorn mince)
To make the chilli, heat up your olive oil in a deep pan – then add the diced red onions and fry on a medium heat until they’re glossy. Add the garlic and fry for one minute.
Next, add the mince and fry it for a couple of minutes until brown, then add the bell pepper and black beans. Add the chipotle paste, honey and passata and stir until combined.
Season the chilli with the paprika, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and chilli flakes – then turn down the heat, whack on the lid and allow the chilli to simmer for twenty five minutes. If it’s looking a little dry, pour in a little cold water.
Once it’s cooked, you can stop there, season it with salt and pepper and serve it up with some fresh coriander, rice and sour cream… or you can keep the lid on and whip up some Mac and Cheese to scoff it with! 😉
To make the Mac and Cheese, first get your macaroni boiling with some salt. While it’s cooking, grab a fresh saucepan and gently heat the butter until it’s melted. Next, add the flour and whisk to make a roux (fancy-pants term which basically means a sauce base).
Keeping the heat down low, slowly pour in the milk and whisk until everything’s combined. Add the grated cheddar, season and stir to make a lovely, thick and cheesy sauce. 😉
Stir in the cooked (and drained!) macaroni, then serve up with the chilli and fresh coriander. Yum!
Have a great week everyone! And thanks to Dragon Wales for the lovely cheese! 💛💛💛
*This post isn’t sponsored, but contains gifted items. To find out more about what this means and to read my disclaimer, click here.
Happy Friday everyone! This time next week it’ll be March, isn’t that crazy? And with that in mind – seeing as next Thursday is St David’s Day – here’s a little Welsh recipe with a twist that you might have seen in this month’s Co-op Food Magazine.
Co-op got in contact with me before Christmas and asked me what I’d be cooking this St David’s Day and I came up with a recipe for Glamorgan Sausage Rolls. Glamorgan Sausages are legendary here in Wales, but if you’ve never heard of them before they’re basically veggie sausages made from leeks, cheese, eggs and breadcrumbs and were very popular during the war when meat was hard to come by. Now, I’m not normally one for veggie sausages, but these – if I do say so myself – are LOVELY, and would make a great snack to bring out at half time during the Six Nations. Especially if you dunk them in either some chilli jam or onion chutney. 😉
Glamorgan Sausage Rolls (Makes 8 small sausage rolls)
170g white breadcrumbs
100g Co-op British leek, finely chopped
150g Caerphilly or Welsh Cheddar, grated
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp English mustard
2 British free range eggs
3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
50g plain flour
25g unsalted butter
375g pack ready rolled puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a baking tray with some greaseproof paper. In a bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, chopped leek, cheese, paprika, thyme and mustard.
Whisk the eggs with 2 tbsp of the milk (Hold back 2 tbsp of the egg/milk mix – you’re going to need that later!) and stir into the sausage mix.
Now for the sticky bit! Mould the mix into 8 equally sized sausages (you could use a bit of cling film to help you), and then dunk them one by one into egg and milk mix you held back earlier. Lightly roll each sausage in the flour and then leave them to chill in the fridge for 30 mins – over overnight if you’ve got the time to spare.
When you’re ready to cook, melt some butter in a frying pan and fry the sausages until golden, then leave them to cool.
Now to get rolling! Roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick and then cut into 8 rectangles. Place each sausage in the middle of a piece of pastry, fold over, and brush with the remaining milk to seal (or use whisked egg for a richer wash).
Crimp the edges with a fork and slash the top of each sausage roll with a knife. Lay on the baking tray, making sure there’s a gap between each roll. Bake for 40 mins, or until golden. Slice, serve and scoff!
Other than a Chicken Jalfrezi, there are two dishes I’m likely to have a strop over if they’re not on the table when I go out for an Indian; Aloo Gobi, and Aloo Parantha. Both potato dishes (Aloo Aloo!), Aloo Gobi is a vegetarian dish made from potato, cauliflower and Indian spices (my mother in-law makes great Aloo Gobi) and Aloo Parantha is basically a veggie flat bread stuffed with potato and fried in butter (yum). They are my absolute faves – they’re such great comfort food, perfect for this time of year. So why not combine the two and have the best of both worlds, eh? 😉
Aloo Gobi Parantha
250g of Potatoes, chopped (I used one Maris Piper and one Sweet Potato)
1 Echalion Shallot, finely chopped
250g roughly chopped Cauliflower
100g roughly chopped Green Chillis (the smaller, the spicier!)
225g Atta Flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp Oil
100g Melted Butter
125 ml Warm Water
50g roughly chopped fresh Coriander
1tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
First, make the dough: If you’ve got a bread maker then you’re good to go – pour in the water and oil first, followed by the flour and salt. Run the “dough” program and then leave it to do the hard work! 😉
Next make up the Aloo Gobi filling: boil the potatoes and cauliflower until soft, then pour out the water and mash. Add the onion, green chillis, coriander and spices and stir together.
Once the dough is ready, divide it into six equal balls. Now the tricky bit; filling the parantha and then rolling it out without it spilling out the side, AND trying to keep it in a perfectly flat circle. I’m RUBBISH at this part; I’m sure there’s a knack to rolling them out perfectly, but I’m still nowhere near figuring it out! You’ve basically got to roll them out a little, plonk a spoonful of filling in the middle and then parcel it up and roll out the dough again until it’s flat and round. Sounds easy, right?
Heat up your frying pan with a little melted butter and cook the parantha on both sides, brushing with butter as you go.
Serve hot with fresh yoghurt (I flavoured mine with a little turmeric) and tamarind sauce.