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.

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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

Py+Brownies

Call me neurotic (and you wouldn’t be the first), but I just can’t bear to have a visitor in my house without any home baked sweetness to offer them. Now, in the name of the New Year I decided that I was going to let things like this slide. Don’t sweat the small things and all that. So, when I heard that my wonderful Mum was coming to London town for a brief visit, I decided that I was going to draw the line at the homemade pizzas for the night in with the kitten, the restaurants and afternoon teas that were booked, and the undoubtable lattes and treats of a day shopping. That would be enough, I told myself. Until the Friday morning, at least. At that point, roughly two hours before I was due to meet my Mum, I panicked, flapped and caved in. I made brownies.

Now my go-to brownie recipe is one that I have mentioned in brief many times before (found here), however that one calls for raspberries. In a mad rush, in the centre of snow-halted London, these were quite simply out of my desperate grasp. So I improvised, making these with what I had in the house. My Mum would call it ‘living off my hump’. The result was pretty damn nice, even if I say so myself.

Notes on the recipe:

Peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven, but they are not the moistest of combos; these brownies are at their best soft, juicy and slightly undercooked. Don’t overcook these brownies: they are done as soon as their top is crisp and cracked, but a knife inserted does not come out clean.

For lack of alternatives (my house is where tins go to die) I used the glass lid of a pyrex dish to cook these. A square or rectangular tin would work just the same, if not better.

What you'll need...

What you’ll need…

Just right...

Just right…

INGREDIENTS

140g chocolate (milk or dark; I used a mix)
115g butter (I like to use salted)
225g caster sugar
170g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
170g peanut butter (I like crunchy, but it’s up to you)
3 large eggs (whisked, ideally)

Maybe I didn't bother whisking my eggs. Do as I say, not what I do.

Maybe I didn’t bother whisking my eggs. Do as I say, not as I do.

mmm...melting goodness

mmm…melting goodness

RECIPE

Oven on to 170C / gas 3; line your tin with baking paper

Put your chocolate, butter and sugar into a pan, and melt together over a low heat.

Meanwhile (whilst keeping an eye on your chocolate mix) sift the flour and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl, and create a well at the centre.

Add the peanut butter to the now melted chocolate mix, and stir together.

Pour the chocolate mixture and the eggs into the flour and mix well (making sure to get rid of any floury lumps).

Pour the mix into the prepared tin; place in the prepares oven and bake for around 20 minutes.

Let the brownies cool in the tin, then cut into generous squares.

Enjoy.

Nearly time to eat them

Nearly time to eat them

Eat me!

Eat me!

What are your fave brownie recipes? And what is your best store cupboard invention?

That’s all for now,

Py x

Py+Her Fridge

For the nosy amongst you (hello, my friends!), here is a quick tour of my mid-week fridge…

Fridge door

Fridge door

Veg boxes

Veg boxes

Bits and bobs

Bits and bobs

Middle of the fridge

Middle of the fridge

Top shelf: the good stuff

Top shelf: the good stuff

Only two notes. Firstly, I have yet to try the Quorn fajita strips, although I am sure they will go down a treat (fajitas are a big thing here at Py towers). Secondly, I am not accustomed to having such fancy drinks in the door; that was earned by Mr Py’s chivarly to our neighbour. See, knowing nice people pays off.

What’s in your fridge? Any guesses on what I plan to make with the contents of mine?

Py x

Py+Tips: How to dice an Onion (photo guide)

You will need: an onion; a chopping board; and a sharp knife.

You will need: an onion; a chopping board; and a sharp knife.

Chop the onion in half, vertically.

Chop in half, vertically

Chop the head of the onion (NOT the root end) off.

Chop the head (NOT root end) off

Peel the onion; you will be left with a naked onion that looks like this.

Peel the onion; you will be left with a naked onion that looks like this.

Slice the onion horizontally, but be careful to leave the root end in tact!

Slice the onion horizontally, but be careful to leave the root end in tact!

Your onion should now look beautiful, like this one.

Your onion should now look beautiful, like this one.

Now cut horizontally across your onion, stopping 1/2cm from the roots (which can now be discarded).

Now cut horizontally across your onion, stopping 1/2cm from the roots (which can now be discarded).

Now you have a beautifully diced (1/2) onion. Go forth and enjoy.

Now you have a beautifully diced (1/2) onion. Go forth and enjoy.

Py Talks…Lunches

Lunch

Lunch

Each week I sit down with pen, paper, cookery books and my computer and work out a few new recipes that I am going to have a go at in the following days. To me, somebody as likely to chew my own hand off as jump out of a plane in the sky, this seems like quite an adventurous thing to do. To my mind I am Beryl Markham of the culinary world; an imaginative risotto is my solo flight across the Atlantic. However, even I am not so delusional as to see my lunch choices as pioneering. Every single day I have a Heinz Cream of Tomato soup (300g Mug-size), Ryvita Mini’s and a piece of fruit. Sometimes I go really crazy and add some carrot sticks and hummus. Wild.

What do you guys have for lunch? And what are the meals that you always seem to fall back on?

Perhaps this calls for some sort of series on quick, easy and cheap lunch-boxes…

Py x