Sunday, 30 August 2015

Actually Cooking Pinned Recipes Part 1: Quinoa Baby Cakes with Herbed Tahini Sauce by Wholehearted Eats

Hello lovely and patient readers. I was going to begin with the most ridiculous sentence which went along these lines: "I'm sure you've been waiting with baited breath for the next post." Then I realized that, although sarcasm is one of my favoured forms of wit, it just doesn't feel appropriate in this instance. How can I intimate, even from a joking point of view, that you've all been sitting around with nothing to do but wait for a new post to appear on my blog, when you are just as busy, if not busier, than me, and that for you to condescend to spend even two minutes scrolling through whatever trivialities I have to share is a great privilege for me. I haven't had opportunity to sit and write here since, apparently, the 11th August. Life is busy, so I'd like to take a moment to say a very large and appreciative "thank you" if you've even spent about 20 seconds reading to here and decide you can't be bothered with any more. It's not been great up to here, has it? But sometimes I sit down to write, and am struck by what a presumption it is to think that anybody will actually want to read what I have to say, and I think I often take the sarcastic stance because I feel somewhat embarrassed that people think that I think I have something worth listening to. I think I'm just so full of words, to which anybody who knows me in real life will attest, and they just spill over and out and here they are.

Now that bit of self-deprecation is over (it's sincere, believe me) let me tell you of one of the plans I had for the blog in its very early days, when I couldn't stop writing down ideas and I had my little notebook to hand constantly, so as to instantly record any ideas which came to mind. Now that the blog has become a little more established, and I'm not constantly thinking about it, I realize that something which I really wanted to do I never actually got round to; a long-running series featuring Pinterest recipes. How many people save recipes galore in their foodie inspiration folders on Pinterest and never get round to actually cooking them? I know that's by no means true across the board and is a bit of a generalisation, but even if you do, from time to time, open up your Pinterest gallery and think, "Yes, I will make that recipe this week," is it often enough for the reams of photos you have saved to inspire you to put on your apron? So I want to inspire you to open those so eagerly saved images, go to the writer's website and actually cook a recipe from Pinterest. And if you do, leave them a comment. It will make their day. It means that somebody saw the recipe they'd spent time designing, photographing and writing up, as worth trying and appealing to the eyes and taste buds. What an achievement!

Over the months, I've cooked quite a few recipes I've saved on Pinterest, but this is the one I want to share with you first: Quinoa baby cakes with herbed tahini sauce from Wholehearted Eats. I've linked to the actual site rather than Pinterest, but if you want to pin the recipe, just look it up on Pinterest or use the pin it button in your browser or on the website. So, this recipe contains one of my all-time favourite ingredients, butternut squash, so it wasn't hard to draw me in, but just look at the vibrance of the photographs. It just looks so good for you, and that is good! Before I continue though, I need to make a confession, which isn't so much my fault as being one of those confusions that can happen when a British person follows an American recipe. Green onions though. Oh dear. I've never seen green onions in the shops and though they must be some special variety available in warmer climes than ours. It only occurred to me this morning, in fact, that they may perhaps be spring onions. And the recipe calls for four of said onions. Stupidly, I just thought, "four onions is rather a lot; I'll just use one... large white onion." Ha! I knew there was something wrong with this as I added more and more honey and tahini to make it edible, and ended up with about a litre of pungent though thankfully just-about-edible dressing. Another unfortunate mishap with the should-have-been beautifully vibrant green dressing was that I used soy sauce instead of tamari, which turned it a delightful disgusting brown colour. If you're reading this Sophie (the recipe author) please have pity on me for my incompetence!

The great thing about this recipe is that, aside from the baby cakes (what a fab title!) and the dressing, you can serve it with any selection of vibrant veggies you like. I began though, by preparing my squash and quinoa, as I didn't have leftovers to use as Sophie suggests, so I could get everything else ready while they were cooking. I baked the squash (of course) and simmered the quinoa in stock for added flavour.

I baked the butternut squash in olive oil with a good helping of seasoning, as per usual, for about 50 minutes.

For all the Brits reading this (you can thank me later!) I can inform you that one cup of quinoa equates to 160g, so no need to worry if you don't possess cup size measures. I made up 800ml vegetable stock from two cubes, then simmered it for about 20 minutes until all the water had been absorbed (it never takes as long as it says on the packet) then just left it to stand while I prepared everything else and waited for the squash.

I then prepared the dressing once as the squash and quinoa were dealt with. In the original recipe, Sophie prepares the dressing first, but I believe that's because she already has leftover squash and quinoa so she doesn't need to prepare them from scratch. Here's where things went a little pear-shaped. Or actually, they went onion shaped, and onion flavoured!

I am trying to hide my face in shame at this moment as I recall the moment I added dark brown soy sauce to my somewhat pungent smelling but refreshing looking dressing.

Big mistake - idiot!

 So here's how my vibrant Herbed Tahini Sauce turned out. Ha! Enough to dress any food of your choice for about a month. Except I won't, because it is simply not pleasant to wake up more than once in a month with the morning breath this concoction imparts to the eater. I need to remind you though, that this is not in any way the fault of the recipe. If I'd used four spring onions, as I'm pretty sure is intended (actually, if anybody can confirm that, I'd love to hear from you in the comments) it would have been simply delicious. So I set that aside in the fridge; it wasn't entirely pleasant to view!

Lets move on from that unfortunate episode. Once the squash and quinoa were ready I mixed them in a large bowl with the garlic and herbs, as per the recipe. This was a delicious, thick mixture which combined beautifully, easily shaping into the baby cake shapes and easy to transfer to the frying pan once the cakes had been formed.

Oh lovely readers, you will despair of me (if you haven't already, that is!) because if you've been reading for a while, you'll know how I have issues with portion size, as in, my eyes are bigger than my belly. These were not to become "baby" cakes but giant burgers! No matter how I tried to form dainty and delicate "cakes", as in the original recipe, my spoon just created burgers. Half pounders, I'm pretty sure. Thank goodness for all those vibrant veggies to be served with them!

If I'd made them the correct size, they would have also have acquiesced much more readily to being turned over. Two large spatulas were required! But even so, they stayed together remarkably well, and, had the burgers been a little smaller, there would have been absolutely no problem. One of them cracked slightly, unsurprisingly.

Whilst the burgers (sorry Sophie if you're reading, I simply can't continue to call these monsters "babycakes") browned beautifully in the pan, I got together the random selection of veggies I had to hand, plus the recommended boiled eggs. I ended up using beetroot, rocket, radishes, grated carrot and avocado, plus half a boiled egg each. This was a fantastic selection and a great way to use up spare veg too, as really anything will go with this dish. The freshness of the vegetables really complements the heavier nature of the baby cakes/burgers, and the dressing complements everything (yes, even mine did OK) bringing it all together beautifully.

So what do you think? How is that for a vibrant plate of food? I loved that the only preparation necessary for the raw veg was to chop them and place them on the plate. The baby cakes were really absolutely delicious, and this recipe also translated perfectly to a child's meal. A bit of finger food in the veg, a nutritious burger and some yummy dressing (my boys wouldn't, unfortunately, go near mine - I can't think why). Because I was starting from scratch rather than using leftovers it did take a little while to prepare; probably just under an hour. But the way it worked out meant I could prepare one thing while something else was cooking, which is a good and methodical way to work. That's me in the kitchen - methodical.

This was the first of many posts on the subject of cooking from Pinterest recipes. I hope you'll find them helpful and that you'll be inspired to use recipes by bloggers, as well as from the generic food sites (I still love you BBCGoodFood). It really gives bloggers support and a little encouragement that what they're doing is helping or encouraging even just one person. Personally, I love the little stories or lead-ups to recipes on blogs, because often a recipe idea has an interesting or anecdotal background, but if you'd rather miss out all the chat and scroll down to the start of a recipe, go ahead. If you're not used to reading blogs, it can seem a bit unusual to read about someone's life, or whatever of it they choose to share on their blog, but you may come across someone who shares your outlook on cooking, preparing meals for loved ones, how you like to cook, or pick up some interesting tips along the way. Go on, open your Pinterest recipe folder and choose one recipe from it make this week!

Thank you so much for reading :)

xxx Sam

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