27 February 2013

Aubergine and halloumi stacks

These garlic marinated and roasted aubergine stacks are a great starter. Halloumi brings the saltiness and chewiness to the dish and the roasted vegetables harmonise perfectly with it. It's also a lot of fun stacking the ingredients, almost like playing with food but in a respectful way.


1 Aubergine
250g Halloumi
10 Small plum tomatoes
1 Garlic clove
Olive oil
Some watercress as side

Slice the aubergine and chop the garlic. Mix the chopped garlic with a little bit of olive oil and roll the aubergine slices in that mix. Don't go too heavy on the oil as the aubergines like to suck a lot of it in if given the chance. Put the aubergines into the fridge in a closed box and let marinate for about an hour.

Slice the halloumi and cut the tomatoes in half. Place the aubergine slices on a roasting pan and roast them until soft and brownish. Fry the halloumi slices in a pan in olive oil until they are golden brown. Lightly fry the tomatoes in olive oil in a separate pan at moderate heat until soft.

When everything is done, stack the aubergines, halloumi and tomatoes on each other. Garnish with basil and serve with fresh watercress on the side.

24 February 2013

Medieval style mushroom broth

The VegHog is somewhat of an enthusiast for medieval times, so therefore it decided to try out some medieval vegetarian recipes and bring them straight to the 21st Century.

This first attempt to go medieval is an English mushroom broth from the 14th Century. It is described in the Forme of Cury (”Forms of cooking”), a medieval English cookery book compiled about 1390 written by the Master Cooks of King Richard II and edited by Samuel Pegge in 1791. It contains about 205 recipes, most of them not vegetarian.

I chose a simple sounding recipe ”Funges” (mushrooms) and tried to modernise it slightly but still stick to the medieval guidelines, and of course mushrooms always sound tempting to The VegHog.

Here's the original recipe:

Funges. X.

Take Funges and pare hem clere and dyce hem. take leke and shred him smal and do him to seeþ in gode broth. color yt with safron and do þer inne pouder fort.”

[Source: Forme of Cury; S. Pegge (ed.); Funges. X.]

This is late Middle English and means something like peel and dice the mushrooms. Shred leek small and cook it in a broth. Colour it with saffron and add the spices.

Powder fort is a medieval spice combination and its contents vary. I tried to create my own spicy powder fort.

Here are my ingredients:

1 cup dried funnel chanterelles
2 Small leeks
2 cups vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron threads
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tsp Chili flakes
1 tsp Sage
2 Bay leaves

This is what I did:

I thought that dried funnel chanterelles gathered in the Finnish forests would have the right rustic feel for this dish. Buying perfect supermarket mushrooms wouldn't have felt right for a medieval dish. So I crushed those mushrooms a little bit smaller and didn't soak them in beforehand this time. Then I just chopped the leeks into small slices.

I brought vegetable stock to the boil and added the mushrooms, leeks and the bay leaves. I'm assuming a medieval cook would have used a meaty stock but of course I used vegetable stock.

I let it all simmer until the leeks became translucent. I added the saffron and my secret powder fort (chili flakes, nutmeg, sage) and let it simmer for a while longer. I removed the bay leaves before serving and then the dish was ready to be served.

I found this dish to be very good indeed, it was spicy and it caught my imagination while cooking. It's a perfect winter broth or a good starter. A rustic self-made bread would be a good companion for it, maybe even The VegHog's seedy spelt flatbread.

Pair it with a nice dry cider or perhaps some mead and enjoy!

Your VegHog

22 February 2013

Homemade gnocchi

A felt hedgehog by Ateljé Hannetar.

Gnocchi are tasty Italian potato dumplings that can be combined just with butter or a variety of sauces. Of course you can buy fresh or dried gnocchi from the supermarket but homemade ones are so much nicer. Gnocchi are surprisingly easy to make as the dough is easier to work with than a pasta dough, for example. At least with some practise you can quickly learn what the right kind of gnocchi dough feels like.


½ kg Potatoes
1 dl Wheat flour
1 tsp Salt

Please note that the amounts are approximate and flour should be added carefully while checking the texture of the dough. Too much flour can easily ruin the dough. It's important to get a texture that holds together at the boiling stage and that doesn't get soggy.

Pay attention that you use good quality potatoes with a strong taste. I can't repeat that enough for any potato dishes. There are gnocchi recipes that include eggs but I make my gnocchi without them. But please do add a beaten egg to the dough as a binder if you're fearing that the texture of the dough isn't right. However, if you use waxy potatoes, such as the new potatoes which I used, the gnocchi will hold together better.

This is how they're done

Peel the potatoes and boil them for about 30 minutes until they are soft and let them cool down. Then mash them by pressing through a potato ricer into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and some flour into the bowl and mix and knead until you have a bouncy firm paste that can easily be shaped.

Shape the dough into small balls with teaspoons or by hand. Another method is to make a longish thin rod and then cut small pieces out of it. As you can see on the photos mine got slightly larger than normal and they still tasted very good. If you want to you can press some decoration in with a fork or dent them with your fingers.

Bring water to the boil and put the gnocchi in, let boil heavily throughout. Boil until they float on the surface, which happens quite quickly.

Serve with a lovely and light vegetable sauce, maybe tomato, pepper, mushroom, pesto, whatever you fancy and throw some cheese on the top. Sometimes I make gnocchi as a bake as well, which is extremely tasty, but I boil them first as normal.

In the future I will be posting some serving suggestions and combinations for homemade gnocchi.

Your VegHog

21 February 2013

Olive and pine nut pasta salad

Hello everybody!

It's time to make a salad again, but not in the traditional sense. A cold pasta salad is a nice lunch and quick and economical to make, for example using your excess pasta. This salad is light but also filling and you don't need many ingredients either.


Pasta (I used fusilli but you can use some other pasta as well)
A few leaves of fresh basil
A tin of green olives
A handful of pine nuts
Vegetarian pasta cheese (Parmesan equivalent)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Boil the pasta until it's soft and let it cool down. Chop the olives into half and the basil leaves into smaller pieces and grate shavings of the vegetarian pasta cheese. You could also try using other cheeses, such as mozzarella.

Put the pasta into a bowl. Add the olives, pine nuts, cheese and basil. Mix them all together. Season with some salt and pepper.

Finally glaze the salad with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Stir. Done.


Your VegHog

20 February 2013

Cheddar biscuits

For these biscuits I once again got inspiration from The Good Cook on the BBC when I saw him cook some Parmesan biscuits. The Good Cook doesn't cook entirely vegetarian food but quite often he has many tempting vegetarian ideas, so I like following his programme. You can find his original recipe for the biscuits here.

And here's what The VegHog used:

75 g Butter
100 g Flour
100 g Mature Cheddar
1 Egg
Chili flakes

Grate the cheese finely, saving about a quarter for the topping. Make a pastry by mixing soft butter with the flour, cheese, salt and dried chili flakes. Mix until they are bound into a firm pastry. If you are lucky enough to own a food processor, you can let it do the work for you. Wrap the pastry in a piece of cling film and let it settle in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a floury surface into a thin sheet and cut pieces out with a cookie cutter or a knife. This pastry is very easy to roll and cut as it's very smooth.

Place the biscuits on a greased baking tray and brush them with beaten egg. Sprinkle a little grated cheese over them.

Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes or until they're golden brown.

Mine didn't look so pretty in the end but main thing that they taste good. These are lovely cheesy snacks but quite rich at the same time. In my opinion the flavour develops itself better when they have cooled down.

Tomato and mozzarella pappardelle

What I like most about this dish is its lightness and freshness. The cool mozzarella pearls and fresh basil give a nice touch to it. It's important to use tasty good quality tomatoes. If you buy them on the vine you should notice the smell on your fingers as if you had grown them yourself.

Ingredients for two large portions

10-20 Small plum tomatoes depending on the size
2 Cloves of garlic
A bag of pearl mozzarella (Small mozzarella cherries)
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Pappardelle (I use about 6-8 nests of pasta)

Preparations for this dish are quick. Wash the tomatoes and chop the garlic. Heat some olive oil in a pan and put the tomatoes in there. Let them fry at a moderate heat and stir occasionally. I don't peel the tomatoes for this dish as the skins are fairly small. Slowly the tomatoes start breaking down and become more sauce like. Then add the garlic into the sauce. Let the sauce reduce slightly by cooking slowly for at least ten more minutes.

Boil the pasta until it's al dente. Finally season by grating a little nutmeg into the sauce.

Place the pasta on a plate, put the sauce and mozzarella pearls on it. Put nice and fresh basil leaves on it to create the colours of the Italian flag.

And there it is – a light and quick pasta dish. Enjoy!

Your VegHog

18 February 2013

Real Food Market in London

One of my favourite places in London is the Real Food Market. After visiting the market last weekend and taking some photos of the atmosphere I decided to write about it. I apologise beforehand that this entry contains very many photos but it all looked so vibrant!

This market is well worth a visit for everyone and it takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday on London's South Bank. Its location next to the Southbank Centre is very convenient and offers a nice backdrop to this foodlovers' market. If you are visiting London and happen to be around that area, I would recommend for you to have a browse through. South Bank is a nice part of London just to have a stroll and see many different things.

You can find all kinds of local produce there, quite many meaty foods but also several vegetarian options and good drinks and sweets. I find that food markets are getting rare in Britain as many cities don't have a decent place to buy fresh local vegetables and other foods but I'm very happy for having found this one.

I have some all time favourites on the market and luckily these stalls are usually there. One of them is The Flour Station who bake lovely rye bread among others. For a Finn it's important to know where to obtain quality rye bread and they seem to have a very good alternative.

The Somerset Ploughman sells good West Country products such as tasty ciders and good smoky cheese. You can taste different ciders, mulled and non-mulled, dry or medium, and also buy 1 or 2 liter jug to take home with you!

Visiting the stall of the Arancini Brothers is also a must for The VegHog whenever it's at the Real Food Market. They make divine risotto balls and sell them in a wide variety of forms for great prices. Normally I just have a huge amount of the balls and enjoy them with their tasty sauces but you can also buy them with salads and wraps etc. These risotto balls have even inspired me to experiment in the kitchen but more to that subject later.

And now reading this and looking at the photos, I want to go there again!

Stay hungry!

Your VegHog

17 February 2013

Full English vegetarian breakfast

The full English breakfast is a much criticised dish abroad but much loved by the English. It might seem a bit odd to people who are used to a continental breakfast or similar, but I can assure you that it has its good sides. It is definitely very filling and actually can be made in a healthier way as well.

Obviously I'm making a vegetarian version of the English breakfast but I'll try to honour some of the traditions. Normally an English breakfast is fairly meat invested business but it can easily be made as a vegetarian version and most pubs and cafes nowadays serve a vegetarian option.


Closed cup mushrooms
A tin of baked beans
Vegetarian sausages
White bread
Olive oil

Get many pans ready as you need to fry everything. They don't call it the fry-up for nothing, you know!

Start by preparing the veg: Cut the tomatoes in half and depending on the size of your mushrooms, you can cut them in half or quarter or even leave as whole. Chop a clove of garlic into small pieces.

Put the baked beans into a saucepan and heat at a low temperature.

Fry the mushrooms, tomatoes and vegetarian sausages in olive oil. Spice the mushrooms and the tomatoes with chives, salt and pepper. I'm sure that olive oil isn't traditionally used but it makes the whole dish feel healthier. Sausages can alternatively be grilled in the oven for a less greasy outcome.

Make scrambled eggs and the fried bread in separate pans. Fry the bread in olive oil adding the garlic later on so it doesn't burn. Please note that the bread will absorb a fair amount of oil.

Place everything on a plate and the result is surprisingly colourful.

Have good breakfast moments!

Your VegHog

13 February 2013

A trio of vegetarian filo parcels

I'm using today the exciting and fragile filo (phyllo) pastry for my vegetable parcels in three variations. So first I prepared three different fillings and then baked the parcels. Obviously you don't have to use the same fillings as these are only my suggestions and ideas.

I have divided this entry to sections for each parcel type: Aubergine mash filo parcels, Mushroom and cheese filo parcels and Grilled pepper and soft cheese filo parcels.

Aubergine mash filo parcels


Filo pastry
1 Aubergine
1 Pepper
Olive oil
Gloucester cheese
Salt & pepper

Cut the aubergine into slices of approximately ½ cm thickness and cut the peppers into halves (the second pepper goes into the soft cheese parcels but grill both at the same time). Brush the vegetables with olive oil, place into an oven dish and grill until they are soft and get some dark bits.

Mash the grilled aubergines with a hand mixer and add salt and pepper into the mix. Slice the pepper into small bits and add it to the aubergine mash. Add the grated cheese and mix until you have a firm paste. Set this to one side to cool down and continue making the other fillings.

Mushroom and cheese filo parcels


Filo pastry
A few mushrooms
1 Red onion
1 Clove of garlic
Fresh chives
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
Red Leicester cheese

Chop the mushrooms, onion, garlic and chives into small pieces. Fry them in a pan. First fry the onions and garlic in olive oil, add then the mushrooms and fry until they are cooked. If your mixture is too moist at this point, pour everything into a colander and drain the excess fluid out. Take the pot from the heat and add the chives, salt and pepper and mix the grated cheese in. Let it cool down before filling the parcels.

Grilled pepper and soft cheese filo parcels


Filo pastry
1 Pepper
Grilled peppers soft cheese
Spring onion and black pepper soft cheese
Gloucester cheese
Olive oil

Take the other grilled pepper and chop it into small pieces. Mix it with the soft cheeses (take about a third of each packet) and the grated Gloucester.

Making the parcels

You can make any kinds of shapes or forms, small or large, whatever you feel like. Filo pastry can be a bit tricky to work with as it's so fragile and delicate.

Spread the pastry on a baking surface and cut it into suitable pieces for your parcels. I think I cut mine into eight parts. Use at least double pastry because otherwise the parcel might not hold together. You can use several layers but be then careful that pastry isn't too thick at some parts. That may result into dry parcels.

Put a small amount of your filling onto the pastry and shape a closed parcel out of it. Place the parcels on a baking tray.

Bake at 220C for about 10-12 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

This is a great fingerfood to serve at a party with vegetarian treats. These can even be eaten cold. I couldn't recognise later on which parcel had which filling and that added a great element of surprise to the eating.


Your VegHog