Category Archives: Foundations

Sneaky Veg Mince

If you want to reduce the amount of fat in a recipe that calls for minced meat without reducing the volume – or if you want to sneak more vegetables into a picky eater’s diet, here’s an easy alternative:

  • 1 zucchini (courgette)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or 1 tsp dark soya sauce.

Put the courgette in the food processor and chop until it’s fairly small, but still irregular pieces (you want it to look “mince” like).   Mix in the Worcestershire sauce or dark soya sauce.

Bake in a warm (not hot)  in the oven until dried out and brown.

This works best as a partial substitute for the meat.   I’ve been able to substitute as much as 1/2 without anyone noticing the difference but 2/3 usually gives the game away.

Homemade yoghurt

When I was a kid, my mom used to make yogurt at home.   I hated the stuff and always wished she would just buy “normal” yogurt.

Fast-forward a few years and I’ve learnt a few things.    First among them, mom used UHT (long conservation) milk to make the yogurts.   A drop of the stuff in a cup of coffee is enough to play havoc with my tummy.   Second, I like a nice firm yogurt.   So here is my recipe (requires a yogurt maker)

  • 1 litre of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dried skim milk (this makes the yogurts firm.   The more you use, the firmer your yogurts will be.  You can omit at will).
  • 1 individual sized bio-active yogurt.
  1. Bring the whole milk and skim milk powder to a boil then cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix in the yogurt.
  3. Pour through a sieve and then divide the liquid into your jars. If desired, you can add a tablespoon of jam at this point.
  4. I use a 15-hour fermentation cycle on my machine.   Once it’s done, I allow the yogurts to cool and refrigerate.

“Sun-dried” tomatoes

The first thing I’ve done is take out a big roasting dish.

Tomatoes - prep for drying

Tomatoes ready for drying

I quartered enough tomatoes to cover the bottom.

Then I added a bit of salt to really pull out the water.

They’ve gone into the oven at the lowest setting (50C)  at a low setting (100c) for for an hour or an hour and half.   I’ll check on them later and take them out when they look right.

Once they’ve cooled, I’ll chop up some herbs from the garden (I have loads of lovely looking thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary but use your favourites.) and add some of the garlic I roasted at the same time as the tomatoes.  The cheat here is to use dried herbs (like an Italian herb mix) and powdered garlic.

I’ve packed it all in a single jar and then topped up with some good olive oil.

If I have too many for the jar I’ve picked, I’ll just make tomato pesto with what’s left over.   I might still make some pesto… but I only got this one small jar out of the tray.  (except for maybe 4 pieces that went into last night’s scallop and prawn risotto)

By the way, that olive oil will be gorgeous once the tomatoes and herbs have flavoured it.   Don’t just throw it away once you’ve used the tomatoes, if you don’t add it to dishes.    It’ll make a great addition to a vinaigrette dressing.

Foundation recipes

There are some basic recipes that I consider foundational.    These are the versatile recipes that form the basis for a multitude of other dishes.    I generally like to have at least one or two ready to go.   Some, like roast chicken, can be the starting point for a week’s menu.    Others, like roasted tomatoes, can  be the starting point for an intense pasta dish or risotto.

I’ll make sure all those recipes are tagged as foundation recipes so you can find them easily.