Vegetarian Parmigiana

Cheap, Tasty and easy to prepare.

This meal is not only cheap and easy to prepare it will also feed at least four people for approximately 50p each, depending on the quantities you add to the dish.

I have cooked this meal for me, and my wife, with the ingredients listed below and it has lasted for two days. On the second day you can always add a touch of chilli and some extra cheese or yoghurt. The basic ingredients look amazing when fresh and the preparation is so simple.

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Ingredients

The best way to get the most flavour from your ingredients is to not over cook them.

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion , peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ bulb spring garlic , or 1 clove of regular garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1×400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large handful fresh basil
  • 3 large handfuls Parmesan cheese , freshly grated
  • a little fresh oregano , leaves chopped finely

White Sauce

  • 50 grams plain white flour
  • 50 grams butter
  • milk 200-300 ml

Preparation

Start by frying the aubergines in a little oil with some thin slices of garlic, slice them into 1cm thick slices, and put to one side once light brown in colour. Whether you’re using a griddle pan or a barbecue, get it really hot. Meanwhile, put 2 or 3 glugs of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat. Add onion, garlic and dried oregano and cook for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and the garlic has some colour. If you’re using tinned tomatoes try to buy chopped if not break them up. Add the tinned tomatoes to the onion, garlic and oregano. Give the mixture a good stir, then put a lid on the pan and simmer slowly.

Once the mixture has cooked, I prefer to simmer for as long as possible. But if you’re in a rush you can just heat for 10 to 15 mins and put to one side ready to add to the main dish.

Simple white sauce

To make enough white sauce to cover the top of the dish, add 50 grams of plain flour to 50 grams of melted butter in a saucepan. Stir vigorously for 2 minutes until the mixture has cooked, you can then slowly add milk until you have a sauce that is the texture of thick cream. Once you have the non lumpy sauce you can slowly add some Parmesan cheese, to taste.

Potato base

If I’m having problems with cash I sometimes pad the dish out with a single layer of potatoes, that have been sliced and brought to the boil or blanched for two minutes at the base of the dish. Preferably on the bottom of the buttered dish.

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Use an earthenware dish (25 x 12–15cm). Put in a small layer of potato, then a thin scattering of Parmesan, followed by a single layer of tomato sauce and then a layer of aubergine. Repeat these layers until you’ve used all the ingredients up, finishing with a little white sauce and another good sprinkling of Parmesan. I sometimes add breadcrumbs with a little freshly chopped oregano and sprinkle them on top of the Parmesan. Sometimes the dish is served with torn-up mozzarella on top and some halved cherry tomatoes.

Layer the Aubergine.

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Adding the tomato sauce.

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Place the dish in the oven and bake at 190°C/375°F/gas 5 for half an hour until golden, crisp and bubbly. It’s best eaten straight away, but it can also be served cold. You can use the same method substituting courgettes or fennel for the aubergines – both are delicious. But do try making it with aubergines – you’ll love it!

The finished meal with a white sauce topping and Parmesan cheese.

20160830_174216I hope you enjoy this meal and if you need any hints just ask.

 

Paris in the Spring 

I’ve just spent a week in Paris and I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to tell you about my travels.

Amazing food, wine and new friendships. From local waiter’s to bar owners and local eccentrics riding 1948 motorcycles. He told some great & fantasticle stories ‘I’m sure he didn’t meet any cannibals,’these were mostly in his imagination, but believable. A great man with a twist.

I’ll post my full travel adventures and stories soon.

A patisserie in an amazing part of Paris 

The Craziness of Kitchens

The craziness of kitchens

Working in a kitchen, or serving customers in a restaurant, can be a nightmare and hard work and long hours! But it can also be very rewarding and many people live out their dreams by building a career around and in the craziness of this hot and sweaty environment. Known as the hospitality industry.

Today’s kitchens have many differences from those of days gone by, but most of these are common sense, with a touch of modern technology. These include the obvious high tech gadgets, new cooking techniques using liquid nitrogen and high pressured foam guns. There is also the all important hygiene and health and safety regulations, which were slightly different in medieval times. As seen below. Mostly non-existent.

The Medieval Kitchen

Earning a Living

 

People who have never tried this type of work will probably think you’re nuts. But if one day you make the decision to become a chef and tell your friends, ‘yeah that’s for me, I think I’ll get a job in a kitchen.’ Then why not follow your dreams and aim for the top. You never know, one day you could become the new masterchef in town, or own the restaurant you’ve been dreaming about since you began cooking as a child.

 

Modern Professional Kitchen

 

Whether you are working in this environment to pay the bills and nothing more, then fair enough and well done for the hard work. It’s not an easy life and the hours can become soul destroying, but for anyone who’s aiming for the top, then the shift patterns won’t worry you too much and the end result could be well worth the effort. But there will be days when you’ll feel like screaming!

Mid Service Frustration

 

The hard work seems never ending and many chef’s never achieve their true goals, but continue nonetheless. It’s a cutthroat business and can cause havoc with relationships. But if you get the chance, grab it, and don’t let go until you’ve got what you want.

 

Working in a kitchen can not only be a place of creation, performance and somewhere to show your artistic skills, it’s also a great place to practice how to be a chemist, mixologist and herbalist while experimenting with new foodstuffs and techniques.

 

Artistic Food Presentation

 

Learning the Basics

 

Knowing your onions is an apt saying! If you don’t know when to use a red, white onion, or a shallot, then it could mean the difference between a gorgeous meal, or not a bad one. This is a simplistic way of looking at it, but everyone has to start somewhere and in a kitchen many work their way to the top by starting as a pot washer. Someone has to do it.

 

If you haven’t been to catering college then get as much practice as possible and grab any chance you can to practice your knife skills, making sauces and the art of seasoning. It’s also a good idea to read as many recipe books as possible. You can never learn too much about the art of cooking.

 

Practice your chopping skills

I will finish writing this blog by Sunday. Ha! Its been a while. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Feast @OPENNorwich 

Getting ready to go with the final course of the day. A great meal was had by all and we loved cooking it. Christmas dinner at the Open in Norwich.

Baking #mincepieswithmeaning for The Feed Norwich, a sister company of Leap East, helping those in life who fall on hard times. All money goes on to help train people to get back into work.

Christmas is here again. Yawn! 1

Yes it’s nearly here again! Christmas is almost upon us and I can guarantee hardly any of you have prepared a thing. I know I certainly haven’t, but that’s nothing new in our household.

Well it’s time to dust off last years decorations that have been hiding under the stairs or in the loft. You can rest assured you’ll spend half a day untangling the annoying tree lights only to discover that you cut the plug off before you put them away earlier this year.

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Happy untangling

I have a bad habit of reusing old lights even though most of the bulbs have broken. This means that when I come to decorating the tree, I have to delicately position the bulbs that do work, into the spaces that don’t. This can either be excruciatingly tedious or great fun, depending on your boredom threshold.

Another amusing, or not so amusing, part of Christmas tree erecting, is buying one from ‘that guy in the white van’ who always sells me a £30.00 bargain and I always fall for it. But when I get home, all I have is a very straggly bundle of twigs with pine needles falling everywhere, which would be better off on a fire. Oh well some people never learn. HA!

There are also the baubles and tinsel………..! Broken and knotted, enough said.

Christmas decoration

Cards or eCards

Have you ever wondered how many people actually bother to send real paper Christmas cards? No probably not, but I’m going to give you a rough idea anyway. It’s estimated that 1 billion are sent each year in the UK, but that figure was worked out by a Christmas card industry spokesperson. Say no more. I’m sure that electronic forms of yuletide merriment will become more popular as us oldies drop off the planet over the coming years. Only time and advertising agencies will tell.

Presents for all

I’m a last minute shopper and going by the amount of people I see rushing into the same shops as me at 4-30pm on a Christmas Eve, I’m not the only one and they’re nearly all men carrying perfume. HA! What a surprise.

But now there are no excuses for any of us, online shopping is here to stay. You can also change old habits, if you wish, and gradually buy items during the year and squirrel them away. The only problem with this system is trying not to surprise your partner with a Christmas gift in the middle of June, but I’m sure we all do that anyway. Don’t we? 

I’ve promised myself this year that all preparations will be carried out by the end of the first week in December.

Preparing Food in advance

Many people think that Christmas dinner has to be started at some ungodly hour by the woman in the household, but not anymore. Mainly because most men wouldn’t get away with not helping and also because you can start preparing your food now. Yes that’s true. Even the gravy can be cooked and frozen in advance and on the day you can just add the juices from whatever meat you have roasted.

There are a wide range of recipes available online or in various cookbooks, but if you know how to cook a roast your’re already prepared. It’s all down to deciding how much you need for each portion and how long everything will take to cook. 

I normally cook enough for four, even though there are only ever two of us. You never know who might arrive and it’s also nice cold.

Have pleasant dreams and a happy holiday.

Where should I begin?

When I first decided to write a blog of my own I didn’t really know where to start, or what to write about, but while I was cooking a meal one day it came to me.FOOD!

We all need it to survive and most of us at some point have attempted to construct a snack or meal of some kind. Whether it was beans on toast, or something a tad more adventurous, at least you tried. But even something like baked beans can be made at home and the results can taste amazing. They don’t have to cost a fortune and you can add your own mixture of spices and herbs to tailor them to your individual requirements. 

Everyone’s taste buds are different. Some people prefer spicy others like the taste of their childhood.

Full of beans: Tom Kerridge's baked beans and toast

Following recipes, or not?

Most cooking is based on self-confidence and being able to follow simple recipes. Knowing the basics of cooking will not only help you produce your own meals, but will also help you understand what to do and what not to do? You can never read too many cookery books, as they will not only give you some great ideas, they will also help you make up your own concoctions.  Once you have gained the basic skills required for a recipe you can then change it to suit you. 

I used to hate reading recipe books, because they all seemed beyond my reach as a cook. I then realised I had been cooking the same meals with a twist added for decades and was bored with chilli and pasta etc. I then started learning some new tricks in the kitchen (that sounds a bit strange) by reading a variety of cook books and online blogs and websites about the art of cooking.

Don’t PANIC

Many aspects of cooking are trial and error while experimenting with various ingredients. This can be fun and can give you some amazing results. You’ll also have some unbelievable catastrophes, but don’t worry, next time you won’t make the same mistakes. Hopefully!

It is possible to cook anything if you concentrate and don’t PANIC! We all hopefully learn by our mistakes?