It’s time for a veggie living post today! I know we have a bit of a tendency to just shove everything in the fridge to try and keep it fresh, but sometimes that’s actually not the best option. Even if you have some leftovers that you want to eat tomorrow, storing them away in a cold place might not be the right thing to do. Here are five foods that you should never, under any circumstances, be putting in the fridge.
So most people probably don’t put a whole loaf of bread in the fridge – but what about leftovers? Are you guilty of putting last night’s pizza in the fridge to keep it fresh? The truth is, this is the worst possible thing to do with it. The time it spends in the cold will simply encourage the bread to go stale faster, so you will end up with an inedible crust and base in no time at all. If you want to keep it for longer, try keeping it in the pizza box or covering it with foil and leaving it out on the side. Putting in the freezer is fine however as this helps the bread to retain its moisture when thawed.
Melons are fruit, so they should be stored in the fridge, right? Wrong! They will actually do better outside until they are ready to eat. Once you cut them up, you can keep them in the fridge to prevent them from drying out too quickly. Most fruit actually slows down the ripening process in the fridge, so don’t put unripe fruit in there – but once it’s ripe, keep it cool so it doesn’t go off too quickly.
When you store a potato in a cold place, the starch starts to break down and convert to sugar. This makes them gritty and sweet, which is not what you want for your mash. They should be stored in a pantry or cupboard, preferably in a breathable paper bag. They want to be cool and dark, but not cold.
Honey has the advantage of being a natural preservative, meaning that you could still eat honey that was two hundred years old so long as it was kept in a sealed jar. You don’t need to do anything special to keep it going. If you put it in the fridge, however, the sugar will start to crystallise. This makes it harder to pour or scoop. If you’re having trouble getting your honey out, put it in the cupboard instead.
Another fruit that can’t sit in the fridge? Yep! Tomatoes will start to form ice crystals when they are kept at low temperatures, which changes their texture – and not in a good way. It’s actually better to keep them at room temperature. This is one of the reasons why they are so good to eat when hand-picked from the vine.
This week I wanted to let you know about some of my favourite cooking tips. When I started this blog I could just about cook pasta and not much else, but as I have experimented and grown I have picked up a lot of little quirks that make things easier or tastier. Here are my top five killer veggie cooking tips for vegetarians that have helped me so far.
1. Use sundried tomato oil
When I cook, I fry vegetables a lot. Red onion almost always goes in the pan, whether I’m cooking a soup or a curry or just some quick and simple wraps. But there’s a great way to get more flavour into your dishes, and that’s by using flavoured oil. I use garlic oil whenever I have it in the cupboard, but I also like to use up something that would otherwise be wasted: the oil which is used to preserve sundried tomatoes. Since we buy them a lot anyway, this oil would otherwise be thrown in the bin – and it’s full of that tomato flavour, as well as a few herbs that sink to the bottom. A little bit goes a long way.
2. Soup is everything
If you don’t know what to cook, cook soup. That’s my motto and I’m sticking by it. When you have such a crazy mixture of ingredients that you don’t know where to start, soup is always the way. You just need some form of vegetables and/or beans, herbs and spices to improve the flavour, and a watery element such as chopped tomatoes, pasta sauce, or similar. In a pinch you can even get away with just using water. Lentils, beans, chickpeas, leftover vegetables, spinach, kale, and so many other ingredients can easily be used up this way. Pick up a hunk of cheesy bread on the way home to go with it and you have a meal that works every time, no matter what.
3. Always stock beans and onion
On a similar note, there are just two elements you need in stock if you want to be able to cook anything at any time. These are: one tin of beans, and one red onion (or yellow, your choice). With this combination you can make any dish work. Fry them and add tortillas and you have easy wraps. Puree them with sauce and you have soup. Add pasta and you don’t need sauce. Fry them up with a little garlic and some cayenne pepper or barbecue rub and you have a tasty bowl that makes you feel as though you have more than two ingredients in your cupboard. Never run out of beans or onions.
4. Smell your herbs
I’m always experimenting, and I don’t have a natural flair for cooking – I really resisted learning for a long time. So I don’t know the conventional pairings of spices or what goes well with what. So when I’m making something and I don’t know what to add, I take the lids off the herb and spice jars in my rack and smell them. Then I smell the food. If they smell good together, it goes in. When you consider how much of taste is influenced by smell, this really works – and it’s never let me down as a method.
5. Add bread or syrup
When making soup or a stew or anything of a similar consistency, there are two directions you can go in. If your dish is too watery or needs more savoury flavour, add bread. Take the soft white or brown insides and add them to a blender with your mixture – just a little at a time. This really thickens up and improves the taste of most soups. If you want them to be sweeter on the other hand, add maple syrup. The real thing or a fake, it doesn’t matter – the consistency is not affected but the taste really is. Even a teaspoon makes a huge difference. Try this with vegetables like sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, beetroot, or so on as well – it really brings out the sweet flavour and can be used to caramelise chunks of vegetable before serving.
Vine Post: Tomato chutney, mozzarella, and basil grilled cheese
We’re always on the hunt for a great toasted sandwich. There’s just something about combining gooey, melted cheese with seeded bread and getting all the right flavours together. So when we saw the idea for an Italian themed grilled cheese – combining three classic elements – we just couldn’t resist.
This sandwich is very easy to make, and does not require you to measure ingredients exactly. We used Warburton’s seeded toastie loaf, a very nice tomato chutney that we bought at a local food festival, and some mozzarella. The finishing touch was fresh, home-grown basil. Plucking it right off the plant is always so satisfying! We also coated each side of the bread with a little melted coconut oil to give it that amazing taste and texture that signifies a truly great grilled cheese sandwich.
The end result was gooey, stringy, fun to eat, and bursting with flavour. It’s a bit like eating a Margherita pizza, with far less calories and a really moreish taste. Trust me – you won’t be able to just eat one.
This week I wanted to talk to you about something a little different. It’s obvious that I can’t be eating veggie burgers all the time and nothing else. The problem is that I love a good burger and fries (especially sweet potato fries), and if I wasn’t eating a bit of variety now and then, I’m pretty sure I’d be the size of a house. That said, this post is not going to dispel that mental image, because I’m going to tell you about my latest obsession: bread bowls.
Realistically speaking, my obsession is actually with home made soup. I can’t get enough of it. I love to make soups at home, and get them to just the right consistency. Normally I’ll start with a base of white beans, sauteed onions, and a tin of chopped tomatoes, followed by various other elements. It will depend on what we have in the house, as well as what I fancy. Our most common variation features sweet potato roasted and then blended, but we’ve also done carrots, and occasionally a soup that doesn’t turn out red. Here’s one of our soups served not in a bread bowl, from Vine:
More commonly, we’ll just stick to tomato flavourings and some herbs, because that’s what we have in. We started all of this when J read about bread bowls on Buzzfeed and started sending me endless links to images of them and recipes. Finally I gave in, figuring it also gave us something great to put on Vine. I guess I was right, as it turned out to be one of our most popular posts! We also used our homemade pesto recipe to add a bit of contrast on top (you can see that being made in this Vine). The extra special touch was stirring in just a few of the beans later on rather than putting them all in the blender. It added to the texture and created a bit of interest.
We also like to use more complicated recipes. In this one I used root vegetables (sweet potato and carrot), which required a lot more preparation beforehand. My favourite thing about homemade soup is the texture. I love it to be really thick and creamy, rather than thin and watery like most store bought soups. It almost becomes a puree the way I do it. If it isn’t creamy or thick enough, I picked up the super useful tip of adding some bread to the mixture. You have some on hand anyway, because you will have taken it out to make the bread bowl. You blend it up, and amazingly it really does make the texture and taste more creamy. If it’s too thick, on the other hand, I simply add water.
Eating bread bowls is not just tasty – it’s fun as well. You get all of the little bits of bread to dip in first of all, which takes up the top layer of soup. Then you can start breaking off the sides of the bowl to dip in and eat! This is another reason why I like the soup to be nice and thick – it means that you can scoop out one side and eat that part of the bread first, without having to worry about your soup dripping everywhere. We even tried it with a baguette, and it worked just as well! This one really does look like a boat, with some Quorn chorizo sausages and cheese spread out across the top.
I find it works best with a cheesy bread, but you can go for something a little healthier if you like. We make an effort to go for wholemeal or other types of bread a lot of the time just to cut down on the calories a bit. The good news is that the soup itself is usually super healthy (I hardly add any oil to the onions, and the only other thing added is herbs), so you can allow yourself to be a little bit naughty. I’ve included a recipe below so that you can try this out for yourself.
Hearty Tomato Bread Bowl
A gorgeously hearty and filling soup, served in a bowl made of bread
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Bread (large enough to serve soup)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 red onion
1 tin cannellini beans
1 clove garlic OR splash of garlic oil
Italian pasta herbs
Chop the onion, drain the beans, and open the tomatoes.
Put the garlic and herbs into the pan and heat with the onion.
Add 2/3 beans and heat until the onion is slightly soft.
Put into blender with more herbs and fresh basil.
Add chopped tomatoes and continue to blend.
When all beans and onions are broken up, assess the texture. Add bread to make it thicker, or water to thin it out.
Meanwhile, use a bread knife to cut the top off your bread bowls.
Scoop out the inside of the bread and transfer to a small bowl for each person. Leave enough thickness around the sides that the bread will not break or seep, but make a large hole.
Transfer the mixture back into the pan and add the remaining 1/3 beans.
Stir over a medium heat.
When the mixture starts peeling back from the sides of the pan, it is ready! (if you have made it thinner, you may judge by the soup starting to boil).
Ladle gradually into the bread bowls, taking care not to spill any. Add a fresh basil leaf on top.
Close the lid of the bread to serve!
You can have fun with the ingredients here. Add in vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and parsnips after baking, or try fresh tomatoes instead of chopped. You can top with cheese or sour cream for a contrasting taste, or a dollop of pesto.
Chop up sausages for an extra level of flavour and texture. Spinach or rocket can be wilted and then blended in, although beware of the colour of your soup!
In terms of the garlic oil, by the way, I have to recommend the Scarlett and Mustard oil. They have a whole range of products which I am totally in love with, having started with their curds.