I Was A Guest Chef For Jeanne In The Kitchen!!!

celebrity chefWell today, I had to leave the house in huge Jackie O sunglasses and a wide brimmed floppy hat, to hide from the paparazzi and the autograph hunters. That’s all because I am now a celebrity chef! You may already have seen it for yourself, but in case you didn’t know, Caramel was featured as a guest chef by Jeanne, the creator of A Jeanne in the Kitchen.

Here is the link where you can see Jeanne’s post detailing my recent culinary escapade:

We Have a New Guest Chef – Mel’s Leek & Greens Lasagne

Jeanne is inviting anyone who would like to be featured as a guest chef to get in touch with her – but make sure you have sunglasses and a hat before becoming a celebrity chef – the paparazzi are a nightmare!!

You can make anything you like! I chose a dish I was make for friends – it was a hit, although one of the lads asked where was the meat. That was after he told me he didn’t mind eating vegetarian food for the evening.

Here was my choice:


Leek And Greens Lasagne – a BBC Good Food Recipe!

First of all. the recipe said to make the bechamel sauce. Here are the ingredients required:

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1 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
1 bay leaf
rosemary sprig, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 leeks, finely sliced 
40g plain flour
500ml milk
fresh nutmeg, for grating
75g cheddar, grated
30g parmesan, grated

And these were the instructions to make the sauce:

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Heat 1 tbsp oil with the butter over a medium heat. Add the bay leaf, rosemary and finely sliced leek, season and cook for a few mins until the leek has softened
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Tip the flour into the pan and cook for 1 min more until the roux smells nutty. Remove from the heat, slowly pour in the milk and whisking out any lumps. Return to the heat and whisk slowly until thick and smooth, about 5 mins. Season well with grated nutmeg, then add cheddar and Parmesan, cooking until they are melted. Set aside.

Next, it is time to make the leek and greens mixture that will make up most of the filling in the lasagne. Here are the ingredients needed:

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2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ green chilli, sliced
400g mixed green leaves, such as kale, chard and spinach, roughly chopped
100ml dry white wine

I love garlic, so I actually used four garlic cloves instead of two. I could not find chard when I went shopping, so I had to be content with kale and spinach. The wine I chose was a sauvignon blanc.

Here is the method to combine the leek and greens mixture:

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Heat 2 tbsp oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic and chilli for a couple of mins until aromatic.
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Add the rest of the leeks, season and fry until softened.
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Add the mixed greens and season a little more.
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Cook the vegetables, stirring, until the greens have wilted, (about 4 mins), then pour in the wine and cook until it evaporates.

Now, I would recommend turning on your oven to pre-heat it. My oven heats up very quickly, but if you have one of those ovens that takes ages to get going, maybe you should turn it on before you do any of the above 😉

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Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6.

So now we come to the important part – assembling the lasagne! Here are the rest of the ingredients that will be needed for the lasagne:

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Olive oil to grease the tin
100g walnuts
280g jar preserved artichoke hearts in oil, drained
100g ricotta
6 dried lasagne sheets

Here some photographs that I took while assembling the lasagne:

And these are the steps the recipe described for assembling the lasagne:

  • Oil a medium roasting tin (about 20cm square)
  • Tip half the greens into the tin.
  • Dot half the walnuts over the top, and nestle in a third of the artichoke hearts. Dot over half the ricotta.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the leek bechamel and pour over a third of it.
  • Top with three lasagne sheets to cover everything in a layer.
  • Repeat the process
  • Cover the top layer of lasagne sheets with the remaining bechamel and artichokes and then scatter over the remaining cheese.

Then of course we need to slip the lasagne into the oven and bake! In the meantime, you have the rest of that bottle of wine to keep you busy.

After 30-40 minutes, it should be golden and bubbling and looking delicious:

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Et voila!

It will be scalding hot, so it needs to rest for a good ten minutes before you tuck into it.

For me a lasagne is not really complete without a salad and a hunk or garlic bread:

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And of course, the rest of that wine!

 

They Named A Fruit After Jack!

I mentioned in a post a few days ago that I have been vegetarian since I was six years old. One thing I did not have for a long time, was variety in my diet. Variety means so much to me now.

For a long time my diet consisted of either very cheesy dishes or those made with lots of tomatoes  – and I ate a lot of pasta and bread. My favourite combination of those basics being being a mozzarella and tomato baguette with pesto dressing – yum.

But when I started to earn my own money, I was excited to find new flavours and ingredients and expand my culinary skills. It was great to discover vegetables and pulses that I had not tried before. Although I never had the desire to eat meat or fish, I was bored of just cheese and tomatoes. Avocados and hummus became my new staples especially after I became sensitive to dairy.

When I moved to London and had friends from forty other countries – I asked my friends for cookery lessons so I could make vegetarian dishes from their cuisines. I have to admit I love variety. I love it! I still love making new discoveries of flavours.

Well, this past year I have been excited by how many bistros and cafes are featuring jackfruit on their menus. Jackfruit is more like a vegetable, but has a meaty texture. From jackfruit burgers to jackfruit curries. I can’t get enough of it! It’s so exciting to have a new flavour on vegetarian menus. I have seen in the supermarket chiller units jackfruit pizzas and packets of pulled jackfruit.

I have been looking at recipes on line so I can start cooking jackfruit dishes myself and have found jackfuit pies, jackfruit tacos, jackfruit fritters. Love it!!!

I have been reading all about jackfruit and where it grows and am looking out for more and more recipes.

Fancy naming a fruit after Jack!!

Mum And Dad Thought It Was Just A Phase

Vegetables and fruits background.I am a vegetarian. You may have noticed that I have mentioned that occasionally in other posts. I am not a vegan. I do not eat meat or fish, however I do eat animal products such as honey, dairy products and eggs. I have some friends who are vegan and I think some of them disapprove of me eating some animal products. But I have never had strong feelings about being vegetarian, I just lost the desire to eat anything that used to be alive and is now dead.

I stopped eating meat at the age of six. I can’t remember exactly why. I think there were were two major influences. The first was my little best friend at school who became a vegetarian. It was something I had never heard of, she introduced the idea to me. But there was also a school trip to a farm, Tatton Farm in Cheshire. I distinctly remember being horrified when I saw a pig. I had been reading story books with tiny little pink pigs. But seeing a enormous hairy pig was terrifying. I went home and told mum I no longer wanted to eat what had previously been my favourite food, sandwich ham. Not long after that I lost the desire to eat any meat or fish.

Mum and Dad thought it was just a phase. But the phase has lasted a very long time. I remember my parents wondered what I would eat instead of meat and fish. They bought vast quantities of frozen veggie burgers from the supermarket. I couldn’t stand them! Being a vegetarian at school was hard because there was not often a vegetarian choice. I remember dinner ladies being very angry with me that I was eating only boiled rice because I did not want the chicken supreme or the mincemeat chilli. My diet at home for many years growing up was cheese on toast, beans on toast, cheesy pasta, tomato pasta – then I found pesto sauce and was so grateful for the variety.

I was desperate for variety in my diet. When I was a teenager, I asked my parents if I could start doing some of my own shopping and cooking. I started making things like vegetable curries (with a jar of curry sauce from the supermarket), vegetarian lasagnes, and using soya mince to make shepherd’s pie and spaghetti bolognese.

I don’t have a problem with other people eating meat. I just don’t have any desire myself. I cook meat for other people, family, friends and while I was working as a cook I cooked meat for clients of course. I don’t mind cooking pieces of meat that I can’t really identify. But if I have to cook a bird, I find it really hard, because I can see where it’s head and feet where. It makes me feel really sick. When I was six years old I had no idea what gelatin was, or rennet or the ingredients that might be hidden in soups and stocks and gravy. So for years I ate all of those in ignorance. Many years later I learnt about them and realized I had been eating them. It did not really upset me.

I have done pretty well on a vegetarian diet. I remember at school the teachers saying that vegetarians are weaker or they don’t develop properly, or become sick more often. I don’t know if that was the general opinion back then. But I was a competitive swimmer with a lot of strength and stamina. I was on all the school sports teams. I did not seem to be lacking in strength. In more recent years I have been more conscious of making sure I eat more vegetarian sources of protein and a huge variety of vegetables. I love my veggies, I always have.

The only difficulty I have had is that I seem to have become sensitive to dairy. For that reason I have been eating a mostly vegan diet for some years. I am not sure, but I wonder if I ate too much dairy for many years. I cut it out completely for around five years, during which time I did not have a single cold. Before then I seemed to be chronically congested and snuffly. Since then I have been able to introduce a little dairy into my diet. I don’t drink milk or eat ice-cream, yoghurt or cream But I will have a little cheese every now and then (I love cheese!) and I seem to get away with it if I have a little. I know if I overdo it because I suffer!

So that is me. I am a vegetarian, not for religious reasons, not for ethical reasons, not for health reasons. I know some people do have some very strong feelings about being vegetarian or vegan, and I respect that. But in my case, I just lost the desire to eat meat and fish when I was six years old and thirty years later, I still have no desire.

So when I do mention I am vegetarian, I am not preaching, I am not promoting a vegetarian diet as superior to others, it’s just a small detail in a personal account I might relate.  I don’t mind what you eat.