Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bulgar Wheat Stir-Fry Veg with Tahini Honey Dressing

Hi hungry readers, I can't believe how quickly the last two weeks have flown since I last posted. There is so much going on in life, on top of which is the amount of work I need to catch up on for The Library Project. I did go on a coffee shop tour the other week with two other trustees, in which we visited a couple of really great coffee shops, including The Old Library in Caerphilly, a fantastic library refurb in which a local couple had turned a derelict old library space into a community coffee shop. The size of the space was considerably smaller than the space we have to work with, but it was decorated really well, with wallpaper imitating bookcases full of books, and book and library orientated paraphernalia. Oh, and the coffee was really fantastic. I would highly recommend paying a visit if you're in the area. It caters fantastically for children, with a dedicated childrens' area, and the building is literally set on the edge of a park adjacent to a playground. The very kind Angela spent quite a bit of time with us, showing us around and giving us recommendations regarding kitchen equipment and serving coffee. We also visited Baglan Community Church which is a huge church centre which incorporates a coffee shop, and again, the very kind owners showed us around and gave us copious advice. We certainly have a lot to think about!

So the recipe I'm sharing with you today is nice and simple. It's one of my own, although it's so unbelievably simple anyone could come up with it. It's inspired by a lot of the books and blogs I've been reading lately, as well as by Hugh F-W (of whom I'm a great fan, which you'll know if you've been reading for a while) through his eye-opening programme, Hugh's War on Waste, shown on BBC One. I have so much to say about that programme (you can check out my Facebook page for a bit more information) but I've been really trying to use up excess food and not throw away so much. I've put together some delicious lunches in the last couple of weeks, made entirely of fridge and storecupboard finds, and I've felt so much healthier in the day time, having consumed far less bread!

You can swap the veggies I've used in this recipe for whatever you happen to have in your fridge really, though it will obviously work best with those that are crunchier. Here are the ingredients I used though, and it's really tasty! These amounts are for one adult and two small children.

130g bulgar wheat
500ml veg stock from a cube
One red onion
Chestnut mushrooms
Cherry tomatoes
2tbsp coconut oil

Dressing ingredients
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil

I haven't given amounts for the mushrooms, brocolli and leeks because you can basically use as much as you fancy. If you wanted to make this meal for two adults, I would use 150g bulgar wheat and increase the amount of stock according to the packet instructions.


First, prepare the mushrooms, red onion and leeks. Peel the mushrooms then slice. Slice the onion and leek.

Boil the kettle and make the stock for the bulgar wheat. Add the coconut oil to a heavy-based frying pan whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil, and set the hob to a medium heat. Once the stock is made, pour it over the bulgar wheat in a saucepan and add to the hob with the frying pan.

Bring the bulgar wheat to the boil then turn down to a low-to-medium simmer and time for 15 minutes (keep an eye on it from around ten minutes though, you don't want it to go soggy, so if it feels like it's nearly absorbed enough liquid by then, just remove the lid and turn up the heat so the remaining liquid boils off, being careful not to burn the bulgar).

Add the chopped veg to the melted coconut oil in the frying pan. Allow to soften and gently colour to golden for about ten minutes.

While the bulgar wheat and veggies are on the hob, prepare the brocolli and cherry tomatoes. Simply chop the tomatoes in half and make the brocolli florets bite-sized. I obviously didn't use a whole brocolli for myself and two little ones!

When the mushrooms, onion and leeks have softened and are looking really tasty, add the brocolli and tomatoes to the pan, making sure you put the tomatoes cut-side down for the first couple of minutes to get the juices out and get some caramelisation going on. They only need a few minutes, as you want to retain the crunchiness of the brocolli (I despise squishy broc, unlike my parents!). Don't forget to season.

 Check the bulgar wheat at this point. It will look like this when ready, with little sink holes all over the surface.

While the things on the hob are finishing off, make the dressing. This couldn't be easier; just put all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix together.

Once everything is ready, you can dish up.

Begin with a serving of bulgar wheat, then top with the veggies and finish with a generous swirl of dressing.

This is a really great recipe to adapt if you are looking in the cupboards for a meal to rustle up. You can swap the bulgar wheat for rice (preferably brown) or wholemeal pasta, couscous or quinoa. As I said previously, the veggies are also totally open to experimentation. I must say though, I do love the sweetness the caramelised tomatoes bring to the dish. So really this recipe is an enabling recipe. It's a basis from which you can create something of your own. Or you can follow this to the letter if you like! Be inspired to try something different in your kitchen today and have a good rummage in your kitchen cupboards and fridge. Feel free to share your creations on the facebook page, or post a link to your own blog in the comments.

Thanks so much for reading :-)

xxx Sam

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Tofu, Butternut and Mango Curry from BBCGoodFood

Good evening my ravenous readers! As the evenings draw in, I am forced to come to terms with the necessity of natural daylight in which to take photographs, specifically of food. I am snapping shots of finished dishes on my phone to post on Instagram, and even thought they can be tweaked, brightened up and contrasted, they will never look as good as a photo which has been taken in daylight in the spring or summer. We have also this week removed everything from our kitchen worktops on order to sand and re-oil our oak worktops, which haven't been tended to since we installed the kitchen four and a half years ago. I love my oak worktops, but it is hard to keep them looking nice around the sink, and places where one is constantly pulling things back and forth across the surface, such as food waste bins, scales, a utensil pot. You get the idea. So I've been doing everything at the kitchen table for the last couple of days. Making school sandwiches, chopping up ingredients then travelling with them to the oven, serving dinner directly onto plates. I'm very much a serve-everyone-myself kind of person, rather than letting people serve themselves. It makes life so much easier and there is far less washing up, as if there isn't enough already!

The recipe I'm going to share this evening is from BBCGoodFood and was inspired by an item I picked up at playgroup from the FareShare food; tofu. I'd always been intrigued by tofu, although never enough to actively seek it out in the supermarket, or deliberately search for a recipe online in which it could be used. However, on this occasion, it leapt from the table into my hand, and I thought it was an ideal opportunity to do some experimentation and then tell you all about it. Having acquired my tofu, I did a quick search on BBCGoodFood and immediately this recipe came up, containing two of my all time favourite ingredients; butternut squash and mango, so it was the obvious choice. In my humble opinion, the way the original recipe is worded is a little confusing, so I've decided to re-word it here for your benefit. You can view the original recipe here and maybe see what I mean. If you have a look through it, you will see that one of the ingredients is tamari. Tamari is basically a gluten and wheat free soy sauce, mainly obtainable from health food shops. To be honest, soy sauce is much nicer, so if you don't have any tamari but have soy sauce, don't bother making a special trip to find some, unless, of course, you are gluten intolerant or following a gluten-free diet, in which case it's the ideal substitute.

Ingredients (for two adults and two small children)

One butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1" chunks
Half a 397g pack of firm tofu (I used Cauldron, as does the original recipe)
One onion, finely chopped
Small piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
One garlic clove, finely sliced
One lemongrass stalk, woody tip and outer leaves removed (bash the end to release the oils)
1/2 a red chilli (or use cheats squeezy chilli, about 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
One ripe mango
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach
200ml veg stock (from a cube)
Half a can coconut milk (I use Pride - it's amazing!)
A shake of soy sauce or tamari
Juice of one lime
Small bunch of coriander
150g brown rice
Olive oil


Pre-heat the oven to fan 180C.
Peel and deseed the squash then chop into 1" chunks and arrange on a baking tray. Give it a good lug of oil and twist of seasoning, then place in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

Prepare the onion, garlic and ginger by chopping as shown.

Prepare the lemongrass by chopping off the end and outer stalks, then squashing it with the flat end of a chef's knife.

Put the rice into a saucepan with approximately one and a half to two times its depth in water, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down to a medium simmer for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the water because brown rice takes significantly longer to cook than white long-grain or basmati. Once cooked, set aside.

Meanwhile, put a frying pan on the hob, add a generous lug of olive oil and heat to medium-high. Prepare the tofu: open the packaging, drain, then remove the tofu and pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut the whole block in half.

Cut into cubes...

 ...then add to the pre-heated saucepan.

Fry, turning occasionally, until the tofu is beautifully golden all over, then remove from the heat.

When the butternut squash has about 10 minutes left, heat a lug of oil in a wok then add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes until soft but not coloured.

Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, lemongrass and spices and fry for a few more minutes until nice and fragrant. Whilst this mixture is cooking, peel the mango with a swivel peeler, then slice into approximately 1" pieces.

By this time, the squash should be ready, so add it to the wok, along with the chopped mango and stir together.

Add the spinach, followed by the veg stock and coconut milk. Stir well to combine, and increase the heat to bring to a simmer so the spinach can wilt.

Prepare the lime.

Once the spinach has wilted, remove the lemongrass stalk, then add the tofu cubes, soy sauce or tamari, chopped coriander and a splash of lime juice. Stir well to combine and check the seasoning, adding more lime juice, salt and pepper according to taste.

Serve with a helping of brown rice.

There you have it. My mouth is actually watering at the thought of this absolutely yummy meal. All those tastes; the tofu (which I highly recommend, by the way - it's delicious when fried until golden), the roasted squash and the mango, all brought together in my favourite-coconut-milk based sauce. All healthy and really, really enjoyable to eat and fun to prepare.

As you know, I'm not a fan of calling a recipe "vegetarian" just because it happens to be meat-free, but I'm well aware that tofu has connotations of 80's hippies who eat only it and vegetables. I say it's a great ingredient and one to at least try out, if not to use again, as a tasty addition to a meal in its own right, not as some poor excuse for meat. As you can see from the above photograph, this meal translates really well into a family meal to serve to children. The inherent sweetness of many of the ingredients will make everyone unable to say no!

Have you cooked tofu before? What was your experience? I know I'm jumping on the bandwagon pretty late, but better late than never. I hope you've been enjoying some delicious home cooking lately too, and have maybe experimented with a new-to-you ingredient. I'd love to hear about it.

xxx Sam
Cooking for Sanity