Cafe Gandolfi

About a month ago, I was in Glasgow unexpectedly (for a funeral). The time put aside for that and the resulting scramble to catch up at work is part of the reason I ended up taking a break from blogging. The rest of the reason is mostly laziness and getting out of the habit of it…

So, Glasgow. It’s where half of my family are from, but I’ve spent little time there, mostly in family homes (rather than out and about in town). Which is why, upon finding ourselves with a (dry enough) Sunday morning spare before our flight home, we decided to mostly just stroll around, have a look at the architecture and get brunch somewhere. We had a couple of other half-baked plans that didn’t come to full fruition, but I’ll cover those in another post.

Armed with some search results and a vague understanding of the city map, we made our way to Cafe Gandolfi in the Merchant City area. Open for more than 30 years, it actually feels very modern inside, despite the fact that I believe a lot of the features are original – the unusual furniture, for example, was commissioned at the time of opening (the photo linked there is actually the corner that we sat in when I went there! W sat in the throne-like chair and found it very comfortable). Very little inside is not made of wood (down to a large clock whose very mechanism looks to be made of driftwood) and the overall feel is suitably cosy, and surprisingly light and bright for the colour of the paneled walls.

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1847: Vegetarian Cuisine 

Certainly in the UK, vegetarians have it pretty good these days. No longer is one mushroom risotto on the menu the standard, and in cities with a bit of a “foodie” scene, eating out as a vegan is becoming easier, too.

But I can’t help noticing that the meat-free options still usually cover the majority of healthy, sensible or diet-friendly remit of plenty of menus. You need only see the “add grilled chicken for £2″to understand the true intention of that dish.
And it is in this climate that 1847 stands out. Yes, there are healthy options. But there are decadent ones, too. Also really interesting and challenging flavour, texture and presentations of pieces. But comforting, familiar dishes (or elements of dishes) too. And it’s ALL veggie – with loads of vegan, gluten free and other allergen-free options, too.

If you want to treat the meat-avoider in your life to a fancy meal, can I suggest that 1847 should make your shortlist?

Quorn chorizo

I have been a vegetarian my whole life. My natural tendency is (therefore) to eat meals that balance the protein, carbs, fat, fibre, vitamins & minerals ETC ETC throughout the meal. E.g. aubergine madras with coconut dhal and rice, or Buddha’s Delight inspired dishes with noodles. Dishes that make the most of the harmony between grains & pulses… or just throw a little if everything together. Rather than, say, “meat and two veg”.

This means that my reliance on targeted “vegetarian protein” products such as Quorn, Cauldron and Linda McCartney is actually pretty low, and as a general rule I never feel the lack of meat in my diet.

(Which isn’t to say I think eating meat is a bad idea: I actually think the healthiest diet for a human is mostly veg most the time with small amounts of red and white meat in, say, half your meals, and one portion of oily fish a week. But, for me personally, the idea of chewing some animal’s muscle and fat… nope. No thank you. Do not want.)

EXCEPT chorizo. Yes, chorizo.

I’ll be in a tapas restaurant or wherever, and half the dishes are full of it, or have little cubes of it peppering the ensemble, and it looks & smells amazing, and I just think, “oh dang, I wish I were ok with chowing down on dead pig so I could get in on that”.

And now, I almost can. Really! Ok, I admit it’s not quite the same. But Quorn do a chorizo for veggies and I am so excited to finally be somewhat in on the action! They also do “chorizo style sausages”, and these are what I have actually tried. They’re a bit sweet, a bit smoky, a teeny bit spicy, with a healthy level of paprika flavour. They cook like regular Quorn sausages, pretty much, apart from the fact that they even stain the frying oil red! I definitely want to try the “full chorizo fake” product too, I will be keeping my eyes out for it.

I’ve cooked them up into chunks & stirred through tagine and casserole type dishes for flavour, texture and a great complement to beans in the dish. I’ve loved having something on hand that I can throw into a meal for and instant hit of smoky flavour and protein. This is how carnivores must feel about lardons/cooking bacon, I guess! (And real chorizo, obvs)

A warning: the veggie chorizo (vegrizo? chovego?) is not vegan. Sorry, vegans.

Fried Rice with Green Lentils

First off: If you are going to reheat rice, be sensible and be safe. The NHS has guidelines HERE, and whilst I admit that I’ve reheated rice after more than one day in the fridge a couple of times in the past, I have followed all other guidelines throughout my cooking life.

OK, with that in mind, let’s move on to: one of my favourite “leftover user” meals: fried rice with lentils!

So, you have chilli (or maybe curry?) one night. You’re already thinking “man, let’s get a pizza tomorrow, I’ve cooked enough this week”. Just me? Probably because we make the chilli on Monday, and every takeaway pizza place does their best deal on a Tuesday where I live. They call to me…

So, here’s what I suggest to stave off that cheesy-bread craving: make extra rice now, on Monday night, and put it in the fridge as soon as possible, whilst continuing to cook tonight’s meal.

Returning to Tuesday night, we now need very little extra to get this rice really singing.

Grab:
– some onion-y things (big onions, spring onions/scallions, shallots, leeks, whatever)
– some green lentils (dried or canned, it doesn’t matter)
– something to fry with (oil, butter, fat, whatever)
– tasty herbs and spices – don’t overdo it (I usually ignore my own advice here)

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Chop onions, boil kettle.

Get big frying pan on the heat with oil, and saucepan with kettle’s contents on the boil. Add lentils to saucepan of water. Gently stir until it’s back on a rolling boil. Add onions to frying pan:

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Stir onions and skim scum off lentils for a little while.

Once onions are starting to brown, add rice to frying pan. This is where we’re smart and safe. Gently stir the rice around the pan over the next 5/10/15 mins, as long as it take to get it fully heated through and steam rising off it from all parts of the pan. The upshot of this is, by the time that happens, you’ll have all these awesome little crispy bits, the onions will be meltingly soft (but with crispy brown bits, still) and the lentils will be done. In fact, keep an eye on them as you may need to drain them before the rice is done.

Add your tasty herbs and spices to the rice while frying. Contrary to the way I prepare almost all other meals, I tend to forego garlic in this dish. It can overpower the smoky savoury taste of fried rice. In the below, I’ve used cayenne pepper and nutmeg. I went a little too strong on the nutmeg (which was AWESOME for me, a consummate over-seasoner).

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Drain lentils, add to rice, stir through. In the below, I’d say it’s slightly too much lentil for the amount of rice. Healthy, but not to everyone’s taste.

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Keep stirring, letting the lentils get a little fried and re-heated through and really making sure that rice is fully cooked. Now would be a good time to bung other leftovers in the microwave…

Finally, serve up. It’s simple, super-cheap, relatively quick, and goes with almost anything (once you’re on board with the idea of mid-week leftovers dinner, especially!). Below it is shown with my reheated veggie quesadillas. Bliss.

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Carrot salad

I have a friend who lives in a house with some vegans, a celiac, and every one of them a foodie. It makes for some fantastic dinners and food discoveries. I got this recipe from her – the mixed seeds (on top of the cumin) is my own addition.

Get a few carrots – 2 small-to-medium ones per person, if you’re having it as half your dinner (see below for suggested accompaniments). One big carrot each will work but they tend to be less tasty than their spindly brethren.

Scrub clean, or peel, whichever suits best.

Get a large orange and separate out a few segments.

Grate the carrots. If you have a food processor, employ it for this step. It will get it done in seconds. Transfer to serving bowl. Grate or chop up the orange – this will be messy. Add to bowl.

Heat small frying pan with no oil. Add a small handful of seeds per person once hot. Any seed will do but those snack mixes have the classics (pumpkin, etc). Add cumin seeds, too.

(NB if you have cumin powder but not seeds, just add that later – don’t dry-fry it)

Shake pan occasionally to prevent over-toasting. Once the seeds start popping, take off the heat and add to carrot. Stir through, and serve immediately. Add

Great paired with:
– patties, eg falafels, fishcakes, polenta things
– burgers
– gratins eg potato dauphinoise, courgette, beetroot
– baked potato, baked sweet potato (as a summery version of the dish)

Jack Monroe: Cooking Inspiration

It was Jack Monroe who taught me that basics chopped tomatoes plus basics beans is cheaper than a can of basics bean soup – and more nutritious. I can’t find the original article, but I believe this recipe is based on that principle.

If you’re not familiar with Monroe’s work, I highly recommend checking out their website for cheap, fresh, fun, humble (but sometimes jazzy all the same) recipes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the breadline or pushing the high earner’s tax bracket – we can all benefit nutritionally, financially and intellectually by trying (& inventing!) recipes that minimise waste and maximise the potential of kitchen staples. Continue reading “Jack Monroe: Cooking Inspiration”

Bean Chilli – the non-recipe

I think we each have at least one recipe that we can “rustle up” out of almost anything.
Examples:
– pasta sauce (I have one “recipe” that involves drowning spaghetti in olive oil & throwing in some garlic & chilli. Delicious, easy to add leftover cooked veg on top, and if I’m out of pasta, garlic & frozen or dried chilli, dinner is the least of my problems because presumably the apocalypse has happened)
– pilaf (almost anything can be thrown in; you just need to pre-cook the “slower cookers” so it’s all ready at once)
– curry (I accept that this overly broad term is a bit like saying “food”, but here in the UK, it’s still definitely a category of food)
– “noodle-y bits” (I have a friend who’s especially proficient at making dinner out of some dried noodles and whatever needs using up in the fridge. I think it’s because her ingredient game is so strong)
– chilli (of course!)

Today, I’m going to talk you through my “chilli logic” (it’s not really a recipe).

Continue reading “Bean Chilli – the non-recipe”