Mushroom, Quinoa, and Cashew Stuffed Delicata

Delicata squash has a dense, rich flesh, and a thin edible skin, and it needs only a little salt to bring out the flavor, which is excellent. In my opinion, it is at its best when meltingly soft. I first came across it at a wonderful little diner called Our Bar in Washougal, Washington, where they baked the stuff, and tossed cubes of it into breakfast scrambles and vegetable fried rice.

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Stuffed Delicata Squash with Roast Potatoes and (vegan) Creamed, Garlicky, Cruciferous Veggies.

Stuffing the delicata turns them into a vegan, formal dinner center piece. Both my girls gave it the thumbs up … they are very partial to formal dinners with roast potatoes, orange and cranberry sauce, and cashew gravy.

The moist, herby, mushroom stuffing can be made the day before and stored in the fridge until required: a useful trait when there’s a lot of cooking to do! It must be about as damp as you’re going to want to eat it, as it doesn’t dry out much in the oven (and you wouldn’t want it to: quinoa tends to get a bit crunchy and stuck between your teeth if it dries out. Not so good.) If you have any extra stuffing left over after filling the delicata shells, mould it into 3″ round patties, and cook them along side the squash, to eat later as burgers.

Serves 6-8
1 recipe of the stuffing for Cashew and Mushroom Bake
3-4 delicata squash
oil as needed (~1 tsp per squash)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350-400F (depending on what else you have cooking in the oven).

Wash the squash, then use a hefty knife to cut them in half from stem to blossom end. Use a spoon to firmly scrape out (and discard) the seeds, rub oil over all surfaces, sprinkle lightly with salt, and place (cut side down) on an oiled cookie/baking sheet.

Cook the squash for about 30-40 minutes (or until a fork can pierce the flesh), then turn over, stuff with the mushroom mixture, cover lightly with baking parchment to avoid drying, and continue cooking until the nut mixture is hot (15-30 mins).

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Rich Fruit Cake / Christmas Cake

This is a pretty traditional rich fruit cake (lack of wheat, notwithstanding). Although the 6.5” tin looks as if the cake will be a bit small, by the time it has been covered with almond paste/marzipan and icing, it is big enough to serve 12-15 slices. I use a food processor to make mine as it’s easier to beat the eggs in, but you can do it by hand if you have a strong arm.

I made an experimental version of this a few weeks ago (sans any almond paste and icing), and decided that was a good recipe because it disappeared within 24 hours …. and there’s only 4 of us in our household. In actual fact, this second one is even better (less crumbly in the middle), probably because I knew how long I wanted to cook it for without opening the oven periodically to stick the poor thing with cocktail sticks to check how it was doing.

Cut cake

Rich Fruit Cake, minus the snowman and snowballs. Comfortingly traditional for Christmas.

6 oz seedless raisins
9 oz other mixed dried fruit (e.g. cranberries, blueberries, cherries)
3 oz chopped walnuts or pecans
3 tbsp brandy
6oz margarine or shortening
6 oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
5 oz almond flour
3 oz corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
3-4 tbsp additional brandy for spiking the cake once it is cold

Grease a 6.5” round cake pan.

Stir the dried fruit, nuts, and brandy together in a mixing bowl. Leave to soak, stirring occasionally.

Cream together the margarine and sugar (in a small food processor, if you have one).

Gradually beat in the eggs.

Stir the flours and spices into the dried fruit.

Stir the egg mixture into the fruit mixture. Mix well.

The mixture should now have a soft dropping consistency. Adjust with a few tablespoons of cider or brandy, if necessary.

Turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Cover lightly with foil.

Bake at 300F for 2 hours.

Check the cake is done by sticking a cocktail stick into the middle and withdrawing it. Check for uncooked dough on the stick.

Allow the cake to get cold, before removing from the tin.

Prick the base with a needle and spoon the brandy over the top, especially around the edges where it tends to dry out a bit.

Eat as is, or cover with almond paste and icing.

Vegan Bailey’s Irish Cream

Oh, I’ve missed this! Before children came along, and the realization that I couldn’t consume dairy products had materialized, the ultimate self-indulgence for me was to spend an evening on my own, poring over a jigsaw puzzle, and drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream. A couple of years ago, friends brought a bottle over as part of a dinner party, and all I could do was look sadly at it. Not so any more. This version is thick and creamy, festive and comforting; just right for the on-coming holiday season. Note that this mixture thickens as it sits, and you should either drink it immediately (poured over ice-cubes to chill), or expect to have to adjust the consistency with water or brandy (your choice).

Cashew Bailey's

1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup raw cashews
6 tbsp soft brown sugar
6 tbsp brandy

Put all ingredients into a blender (preferably high speed), and blend until smooth.

Chill in the fridge until required. Adjust consistency with water/brandy if required.

Serve in sherry glasses, or in a tumbler on the rocks.

Happy Holidays! 🙂

Pommes Dauphinoise

Pommes Dauphinoise, potatoes fit for a prince, is a rich, warming, indulgent, side dish for formal occasions. It’s also very easy to make, and needs very little attention once it’s been composed, so it’s a great side dish for dinner parties when you don’t want to be fussing with food too much, because you’d rather be socializing. I happen to like plenty of garlic in mine, but you could reduce it by half if you really had to. Although it’s naturally gluten free, this dish is normally loaded with cream. This version is still rather decadent, but in a veganized, and somewhat healthier fashion.

Pommes Dauphinoise

Serves 4 – 6

3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz.) white wine (or water)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp nutritional yeast
3 cups (24 fl. oz) water
5 – 6 large potatoes (2 1/2 – 3 lbs), peeled and thinly sliced

Put the cashews, wine, nutmeg, salt sugar, lemon juice, garlic, and nutritional yeast in a blender, and process until smooth. Add the water, and process to combine.

Transfer the sauce to a saucepan, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for a minute to thicken the sauce, which helps it to adhere to the potato slices. Check for seasoning.

Layer one of the potatoes in a shallow baking dish (such as an 8” by 12” lasagna dish), and pour a small amount of hot sauce over it, and repeat with the other potatoes, making sure that the final layer is completely covered with sauce even though the sauce doesn’t fill the dish.

Set the oven to 400F, and cook for 50-60 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked (test by stabbing the middle of the potatoes with a fork.)

Serve as a side dish for a formal meal, or as a rich side to complement a tart main dish.

Aside: This can also be cooked in the microwave. Make sure the dish is microwaveable, and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes at a time, turning and checking the potatoes for softness between each cooking period. Depending on the power of your microwave, it will probably be done in 15 to 30 minutes. Place under a hot grill (broiler) to brown the top.

Mince Pies

Mince pies are another British Christmas treat. I’m sure even the Queen eats them, though her’s would be made with wheat pastry, I’m sure. Their roots are in the middle ages, when they were a savory dish, filled with spiced minced meat. They evolved to contain less meat and more brandy/sugar, so that today, you can get vegetarian versions. We find ours an essential on the run up to the mid-winter holidays. If you’ve never tasted one, know that they are rich and warming, evoking thoughts of rooms warmed by roaring fires while it snows outside.

1 recipe of almond pastry is sufficient for 9 deep dish mince pies (tops and bottoms)

Mince pies made with almond pastry (unblanched almond meal) and rad whip.

Mince pies made with almond pastry (unblanched almond meal – use blanched for a more traditional white wheat pastry looking crust) and rad whip. The rad whip should apparently whip up stiffer, but I had to get in there and take the photo before the rest of the family ate it all!

Almond pastry (sweet version; vegan option available)
Mincemeat
Margarine for greasing muffin tins.
Rad whip, rich brandy sauce, or creamy pouring sauce for serving.

Grease the muffin tins well.

Take golf-ball sized pieces of pastry, and push with your fingers to line the muffin pans, pushing into the corners so the pastry doesn’t get too thick there. You might well not need a whole batch of the pastry, but it freezes well for future use.

Fill the pastry cases with about 2 tbsp mincemeat each.

Fashion lids from the pastry dough, if there’s any left.

Put in the fridge to cool until ready to put in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 370F.

If desired, brush the tops of the pies with beaten egg or non-dairy milk, and lightly sprinkle with sugar.

Bake, lightly covered with parchment, in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Allow to cool slightly before serving hot or warm, with brandy cashew cream.

Seared Rosemary Carrots

These carrots appear as part of my mid-winter festive meal. They’ve a heartening color for when the sun isn’t shining (not necessarily a problem in southern California), and provide a slightly sharp counterpoint to the richness of much of the rest of the meal. They also benefit from not being a fuss to prepare when there’s a lot going on just before dishing up a formal meal. They’ll sit quite happily, covered, in the pan for a while until you’re ready to serve.

Slightly sweet, slightly tart. We like ours cooked through, but if you like yours a bit crunchy, just reduce the water in the pan and the initial steaming time a little.

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into thick julienne
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 orange, juiced (no pulp)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp margarine

Put the carrots in a large frying pan with 1/4”  or less of water, the rosemary, orange juice, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil, and simmer until the carrots are almost cooked.

If necessary, boil hard until the liquid has all evaporated, then add the margarine and briefly sear the carrots, stirring frequently.

Variation: Use a small (12 oz) bottle of hard cider instead of the orange & lemon juice & water, and add a tsp of mild mustard; there is no need for the step involving the margarine as the cider makes a scant syrupy sauce N.B. You can also skip the brown sugar if the cider is sweet.

Cranberry and Orange Relish

Cranberry and Orange Relish for Formal Occasions; this is not sickly sweet; it’s for the grown-ups.

Borrowed from Joy of Cooking; this needs no adjustment. It is a fabulous raw relish to serve at a formal meal with roast potatoes: sweet and tart all at the same time, this is a wake up call for your taste buds. Any left overs are great, thinly spread in sandwiches, and it freezes very well. I make it towards the end of the year when fresh cranberries are in the stores, and freeze it in small serving bowls ready to pull out and put on the table at any formal occasion. You can also make it just 4 days ahead of time, and leave in the fridge while the flavors meld.

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1 orange, cut into eighths and de-seeded
1 cup sugar

Put the orange in the food processor (yes, skin as well), and pulse once or twice. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and pulse until the cranberries and orange are evenly chopped to pieces no bigger than 1/8-1/4″ thick , but not pureed. At this point, it looks a bit dry, and tastes raw. Let sit in the fridge for 2-4 days to allow the flavors to blend, and the sugar to dissolve in the juices.