Bagels, Lunch, and Dan Lepard.

So here is a post all about how my lunch got flipped turned upside down,

I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, to tell you how I became the prince of a 

town called…um, bagel… 

Lunch can be a tricky time for a vegetarian. Shops, cafes and coffee shops seem to believe that we subsist on a diet constituted solely by cheese and tomato sandwiches and their egg mayonnaise siblings. Neither float my boat.

This does:

Bagels, guacamole, halloumi

This is homemade bagels, with guacamole and fried halloumi. Oh yes.

And so to the bagels. My meditations on mid-day meals led me to a place that almost all my thoughts lead me: Dap Lepard and his life-enhancing, perhaps even life-affirming, ‘Short and Sweet’.

Nestled amongst the mouthwatering array of breads that could lift any lunch to one fit for veggie royalty, I saw a couple of little doughy rings, and I knew they were for me. And my gosh were they divine. I urge you to try this recipe.

The recipe is available here; due to the Guardian’s strict contract with Dan Lepard I cannot reproduce it.

However, I did make a number of changes: I increased the ingredients to make 8 bagels; rather than simply sticking my finger through the middle of the dough balls, I shaped them into snakes then joined the ends, so they at least looked a little more authentic; I left the bagels to poach in the poaching water far longer than the article suggest (around 30 seconds per side); and, finally, I found that my bagels needed around 5 more minutes than the recipe advised.

All that was needed was some fillings…

I had: Guacamole (mashed avocados with the juice of 1 lime, 1 chopped chilli, 1/2 diced onion) with fried halloumi.

Other ideas:

Stilton and mango chutney

Grilled artichokes and hummus

Cream cheese studded with capers and roasted peppers

Goats cheese and grilled asparagus

Nutella, peanut butter and banana

Let me know your favourites!

See; vegetarian lunch time can be fun!

MY EXPERIENCE:

I was actually at home when I cooked these (home being a farm in North Yorkshire); the oven could not have been any farther removed from my tiny gas cooker…

…but, having returned to Cambridge, I can once again but dream of such culinary luxury…

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Risotto Caprese

Risotto Caprese

I am guilt ridden. If you have read my about me page, you will see that I have been known to bash the risotto. (If you haven’t seen it, do.) But I don’t mean it arborio! Can you forgive me carnaroli? There are two meanings to ‘risotto’ for me. The first, the type you get in a restaurant, sludgy and salty, marking you out as the ‘awkward one’; the second…well, that is gooey grains of gorgeousness! And that is what we have here. This is not a risotto made to punish you for not eating meat, this is one to make you sing from your foodie soul!

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Who doesn’t love that ménage à trois of mozzarella, basil and tomatoes? Well imagine the mozzarella melting around the rice, bringing it all together, and the tomatoes oven roasted in butter, just ready to pop and burst their beautiful juices to cut through the cheesy goo. Delish.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2):

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250g cherry tomatoes – halved or whole
50g butter
Drizzle olive oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

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2 tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red onion, diced
175g risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
Glass of white wine
Stock, from cube or homemade – make up about a small pan’s worth (it needs to be in a pan, as it should be kept simmering)
150g mozzarella cheese, chopped into big cubes
Handful of basil, chopped

METHOD:

First, sort out your tomatoes: toss them in a dish with a drizzle of oil, knobs of butter and lashings of salt and pepper, then slide the dish in the oven at at gas 5 / 190 degrees Celsius, and leave roast for about 30 minutes.

Whilst they are in the oven…

Heat your oil and fry your onion and, added slightly later, your garlic until soft.
Add the rice and stir to coat the grains, cooking the rice until translucent, a minute or two.
Add your wine and stir.
Once the wine has all but gone, start adding your simmering stock, ladle by ladle as the rice takes in the liquid – this is not a quick process, but keep it slow, over a lowish heat, stirring often (but not religiously).
Once the rice starts to resemble risotto and the grains taste chalky, but have some softness, add the mozzarella and basil and stir through, and continue cooking until the rice is perfect (the best way to tell is, as ever, to taste it).
Once ready, label into a dish and top with your now-roasted tomatoes.

Serve with salad and bread.

Enjoy!

MY EXPERIENCE:

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Lurking at the back left of my little window box is a new herb! It is Greek Basil, and being the classics geek that I am, I could not resist this meeting of worlds with Greek basil in an Italian dish (made all the more complex and delicious by the root of the word ‘basil’ actually coming from the ancient Greek for ‘king’)! So excited was I to incorporate this new herb into my dish that I actually made my risotto almost half an hour before my dinner partner was even due to arrive…that is what mixing food and classics does to a girl like me. I lost my head.

BCP

Right. Here we go. Where better to start than that meal. The one that first springs to mind in moments of joy, and equally in moments of sorrow. The one that hugs you in tight and makes everything ok. No, not ok. Bloody wonderful.

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Welcome to BLUE CHEESE PASTA. Or BCP as we affectionately call it. This is no culinary masterpiece, but it is something that you will want to make over and over again, with the spicy, rich heady sauce meeting the molten luxury of the blue cheese that oozes down the sides of the dish. Not one for the dieter, but certainly one for the soul.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 (or 3 very greedy gluttons))

Sauce:
2 garlic cloves (chopped or crushed)
1 Birdseye chilli (chopped, with seeds)
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 glass red wine (save the fancy stuff for drinking)
Tin chopped tomatoes
100g passata (bought or homemade)
Splash balsamic vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
Pinch or so of dried chillies (to taste)
Pepper to season (no salt, as the cheese on top should provide all required saltiness)

500g Pasta
Cheese for the top – here I used a mix of Stilton and Gorgonzola, about 300g in total, but type (cheddar works nicely too) and amount is entirely up to you. This is about pleasure, so pick your own poison.

RECIPE:

Get a big pan of salted water on the boil ready for your pasta, and cook that according to the pack instructions as you make the sauce (you want the pasta beautifully al dente, ideally)
Heat a bit of (olive) oil in a large pan (I like to use a wide shallow pan, but whatever you have/prefer) on a low to moderate heat
Once the oil is a little hot add the garlic and chillies – you don’t want them sizzling when they go in as this is about flavouring the oil as it heats as much as cooking the garlic and chillies
Once the pan begins to sizzle, add the tomato purée and cook out for a minute or so – this is where the sweet richness of the sauce begins
Add in the wine and cook down
Add the tin of tomatoes, the passata, the sugar and the balsamic vinegar and stir together before leaving it simmer together
Taste and add dried chillies and pepper to taste (even if the sauce tastes hot enough, a pinch of dried chilli does add a slightly different layer, so maybe try it)
Simmer the sauce down until you’re happy with it – keep tasting!
Meanwhile heat your grill to medium-high (or heat the oven if you are without grill)
Combine sauce and drained, cooked pasta and tip the lot into a chosen dish (I use a traditional Italian serving dish, but this is also nice done in individual vessels – just make sure the dishes are grill-proof)
Pile your cheese up on top of the pasta, then place it under the grill for 5 minutes or so, until the cheese is oozing and bubbling

Serve with fresh salad and crusty fresh bread. With one bottle of plonk to drown the sorrows, with two bottles to celebrate the victories.

Enjoy!

MY EXPERIENCE:

Although a regular in my house, I last had BCP on the night I finished my final exams at Cambridge University. The pasta was perfect: luxurious, comforting and stress-free. It was all the sweeter followed by my boy doing the washing up …

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And then by these little beauties…chocolate, raspberry brownies…

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(Recipe here)