Saturday, October 31, 2015

Vegetarian Pumpkin Lasagna

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

A great one for Halloween pumpkin flesh, but butternut squash is good as well.
Bursting with autumn flavour and colour. Based on a recipe from the Evening Echo, but from scratch.

I made this totally from scratch - but you can always buy the lasagna leafs and passata.

Pasta, and particular lasagna is very easy, without machines etc.
I made it before, just click on this text for the link.

This is a very simple meal to make. Very straight forward, without the white sauce.
Passata is easy to store if you want to make a batch, just can or jar it as you would jam so lets kick off with that.

You will need a blender, even a simple hand blender will do.
Then, in terms of ingredients (this is for about half a litre BTW)
About 7 Fully ripened medium to large tomatoes, halved. 
1 Large, finely chopped red onion, white is fine, but add extra puree. 
Olive oil to fry.
3 or 4 Peeled and chopped cloves of garlic. 
1 tbls Finely chopped basil, or basil pesto is really good. 
3 or 4 Sundried tomatos. 
1 good Desert sp Tomato puree. 
1 tsp Course ground black pepper. 
Salt to taste.

Place the tomatoes, garlic, basil and black pepper into a blender and liquidize.

Fry the onion until soft.

Pour the blender contents into your large pan and bring to the boil.

Blitz the tomato puree and sundried tomatos into a paste, mix through and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Now the lasagna. 
You will need:
Pumpkin flesh, about a cereal bowls worth, skinned, seeded and cut into about 1"/2.5cm cubes.
Olive oil
1 big onion, chopped.
2 crushed garlic
About 150 -200 grms spinach, frozen or fresh.
about 250 grms cream cheese, any type will do but a herby type is really nice,
Alternatively Cno Ban from On the Pigs back in the English Market in Cork.
Lasagna sheets, 2 or 3 big ones if home made.
The pasatta.
Some cheese, cheddar is fine, to top off.

Pine nuts are a nice addition with the pumpkin mix as an option.

Pre-heat the oven to 190 C, throw the pumpkin pieces in with the olive oil and toss, season.
Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until soft but not mushy.
Ideally you can do this while the pasatta is simmering away.

Meantime, sautee the onions and garlic 'till they are soft.
Throw in the spinich in the last 5 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin pieces from the oven and add in with the onion and spinach and take off the heat. 

Leave the oven ticking over.

Mix them up - try not to break the pumpkin bits.

Pasatta should be ready by now.

Pour in a base layer of pasatta to your lasagna dish - I just used a non-stick loaf tin.

Top that off with some of the pumpkin bits and then dot with the soft cheese.
Throw on your lasagna sheets, then repeat the process.
After two layers, I cap it out, then sprinkle the cheddar on top and bake for another 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbling.

Sorry about the photography, but it really is a warming winter winner.

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Simons Spiced Tea Cake - A twist on Halloween Irish Barm Brack

Thanks for reading, hope you find the recipe of use.
Please do take the time to leave comments, suggestions etc.

Halloween, All Souls night is a very Irish tradition. Barmbrack is a tea flavored cake with dried fruits that is seasonal this time of year.

The word Barmbrack probably comes from bairĂ­n breac - speckled loaf - the same etymology as Welsh bara brith.

In Connemara it is quite usual to see dried fruit and treacle added to soda bread to give sweetness and flavour.

This is a more east of Ireland version, but with gusto and without yeast which some recipes have, this is far simpler, and great for kids as the recipe gives easy results.

Traditionally simple black Irish tea (which is mostly Ceylonese) is used, I use Lapsang Souchong to give a deep smokey flavour and fantastic aroma.
If Whiskey is used, then the smokeyness really adds to it.

Its very simple.
You will need -
300ml / 1/2 pint lukewarm tea - I highly recommend Lapsang Souchong, but you can use plain black tea. Just make sure its STRONG-Stewed and black.
225g / 8oz Flour
2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
375g packet of Fruit Mix (or make your own, currants, sultanas, candied peel)
80g Sugar - I use dark brown Muscovado, but any will do.
125g / 4oz Caster Sugar
1 Egg (beaten)
1 teaspoon Mixed Spice* - I use my own blend that is given below
Pinch smoked paprika if you have it (optional)
50ml - good dash of Whiskey (optional, but a good addition)

You can add some chopped nuts if you like (walnuts and/or hazelnuts are seasonal and good)
Even a good sprinkle of rolled oats gives nice texture and flavour - it really is a catch all.a
A lot of people add glazed cherries, but I don't really like them or feel that they are traditional, these cakes were made by working class small farmers after all. Flour, egg, sugar, tea and a drop of whiskey would have been staples, with the dried fruit and mixed spice to give seasonal variation.
 Soak the fruit, nuts, rolled oats and sugar with the mixed spice and smoked paprika for at least an hour - overnight is best.

Now blend the flour and baking powder.
Make a well and break in the egg and mix
Mix in the tea soaked ingredients.
Add a good bit of the liquid from the soaked ingredients and mix it through.
You may not need all the liquid, though you are looking for a wet dough.

Pour the mixture into a buttered or non-stick loaf tin, 1.5 or 2L capacity is about right.

Bake in a preheated oven 170°C/325°F/Gas 3 for approx. one hour or until risen and firm to the touch.
Its actually better if its left for two days wrapped in baking paper

Fantastic smeared in butter, and a nice cup of tea


*Simons Mixed Spice
This is my own blend. Its a bit more fragrant than commercial types,
the cardamom takes an edge off the very sweet taste, makes it more savoury.
But you can adjust it as you wish, and commercial types are perfectly OK for this, but I would recommend the cardamom as an addition.

1 tsp ground mace.
1 tsp ground allspice or pimento corns.
1 tsp ground cinnamon.
1 tsp ground nutmeg.
1 tsp cloves (or ground)
1 tsp ground coriander or 1.5 coriander seed.
1 tsp ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Paprika
8 Green cardamon pods

Grind down and mix in a coffee grinder, put in airtight jar - label, store.

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