Linda McCartney Fish Free King Prawns

Wow. These little beauties have forever changed the game for me and Ben. They’ve opened up a whoooole new world of prawn dishes for us and I’ve already got loads of bookmarked recipes to try out!

I was innocently strolling through the frozen vegetarian section to pick up our usual bags of mince and chicken chunks when a little red bag caught my eye in the ever-expanding Linda McCartney section. I gasped in shock when I read the title on the bag – “FISH FREE KING PRAWNS.” I’m a sucker for new veggie products and these were pretty much the most exciting I’d ever seen, so they went straight in the basket.

Although there were a million recipes running through my head with these sat in the freezer, I decided to cook them really simply for my first taste. Ben had already tried them so he was possibly disappointed with this decision. I panfried them straight from frozen, as recommended on the bag, with garlic, sesame oil, salt and pepper. I panfried them for about 7/8 minutes, until the sides went slightly crispy, and I served them with a little dish of soy sauce. They were seriously amazing!

For me, the texture is very similar to scallops – slightly overcooked scallops, but scallops all the same. They have the same just-on-the-cusp of rubbery feeling, buttery but with that satisfying bite. Honestly, I really think if you gave me these and told me they were prawns, I would be none the wiser. I would be slightly sceptical of your cooking skills but I would definitely think they were prawns. They smell fishy too! How do they do that!? If you are a veggie who misses shellfish, these may just change your life. After finishing the bag in a matter of hours, I’m now on the quest for what to do with the next bag. At ยฃ2.50 a pop they aren’t cheap, but they are definately worthy of being the centrepiece of a special meal. I’m thinking paella first, then maybe a creamy carbonara pasta dish. And obviously I want to make Ben a classic prawn mayo sandwich. Not sure how these would taste thawed, cold though – I think I’d probably cook them in salt and pepper and then refrigerate before using, just to be on the safe side.

Overall, these are a winner and you’ll definitely be seeing a lot more of these fish-free treats on the blog in the coming weeks!

OH, I almost forgot, I have some very exciting news! Me and Ben signed the contracts on our very own little flat last week and will be ย moving in together next month! We are both so excited and I can’t wait to stock my fridge and cupboards with all the kinds of foods we like, experiment with all the recipes I’ve been wanting to try and just be able to cook aaallll the time ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll also be on a budget for a little while as we adjust to the cost of rent/bills/life etc so I’ll be researching some cheap, tasty meals to keep us going. And then we have Christmas coming up so OBVIOUSLY there’ll be some festive cooking and baking – we’re also trying to save money by not going out so much so I think my weekends will be mainly kitchen based from now on! I can’t wait ๐Ÿ™‚

Look at my new kitchen! Isn’t it beautiful!? Not polka dot unfortunately but I already have a selection of polka dot kitchenware and utensils, to keep me going until we buy our own house and I can have an entirely polka dot kitchen!

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A PROPER (vegetarian) PIE

For many moons now I have wanted to make my lovely boy a proper, fat, meaty, winter-warmer PIE. Pies are to boys, what salads are (unfortunately) to girls. The stereotypical British man spends his evenings tucking into massive plates of beef and ale pie, mashed potatoes and token greens, washed down with a pint of beer and darts on the TV. At least, in my head. But as we all know, this is not all men! And especially not lovely vegetarian men ๐Ÿ™‚

When Ben was a meat-eater, I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing that one of his favourite meals was that most repulsive of convenience foods – Fray Bentos pie-in-a-tin. With mash and veg. And probably a pint of squash, seeing as he wouldn’t have been old enough to drink. While there are few things he misses about being a carnivore (fish, funnily enough, being one of the only things) he does sometimes reminisce about FB pies with a dreamy, faraway look in his eyes. So I decided to challenge myself to make the meatiest non-meat pie I could, and this was the result!

First things first – fillings. I wanted something hearty, steaky and gravy-y. No chicken and white sauce over here thanks! Unfortunately, steak is one of the hardest flavours to replicate in vegetarian form and we had sadly run out of seitan – the closest taste/texture we’ve found so far. So, I settled for Sainsburys own ‘meatballs’ with some veggie sausages thrown in for good measure. The sausages were very herby and flavourful and added a hefty meatiness to the mixture without much effort, always a good thing.

I started, as always, with chopped onions and garlic. I also made myself a little pan of very finely chopped onions and garlic for my own dinner – mushroom-less, pastry-less pie. So basically just pie filling – I’m a bit weird and don’t really like pastry or the shedload of calories it brings to every meal. I also despise mushrooms unless they are super finely chopped. A kids version for me!

I chopped up the meatballs and sausages and added them into the pan, along with some big chunks of chestnut mushrooms. Then, a selection of seasonings including rosemary, sage, salt and pepper followed by a generous slug of ale. We were slightly overwhelmed by the selection of ales in the supermarket and so plumped for a bottle of bog standard Newcastle Brown Ale. I simmered the mixture for about ten minutes, adding more herbs as I went until it tasted lovely and hearty.

Once I was sufficiently happy with the taste of the filling, it was pastry time! For convenience I used a 500g pack of ready-to-roll shortcrust pastry. I divided the mixture into two balls of approximately 2/3rds and 1/3rd – the 2/3rds for the base and 1/3rd for the lid. It was then just a case of rolling the dough out with a bit of flour into a shape that would fit into the bottom of my pie dish with enough to line the sides. ย (Apologies for the jaundice photos, I am hoping Santa is going to bring me a shiny new DSLR for Christmas this year which will pretty much change my life, and this blog, for the better!)

I then spooned the mixture into the dish and it filled up nicely, about 3/4’s of the way up the sides. Next came the bit I was nervous about – adding the lid! But, it was really simple and with a bit of deft flipping and quick fingers, my pie was lidded. I ‘forked’ the sides to achieve that authentic pie effect and added some hearts to the top with some of the leftover pastry I had. Cute!

I brushed the top with milk and it went into the oven. I kept checking to make sure the pastry wasn’t burning but a medium heat seemed to do the trick. It emerged, shiny and golden, 45 minutes later and I cut into it with Ben watching eagerly over my shoulder.

Check it out! A proper pie!!

I served Ben a verrrryyy generous slice onto a plate already bulging with mashed potato, green beans and peas. I whipped up a quick gravy and his dinner was served. My dinner? Don’t worry about me, I had my tasty child-like pie filling and mash and was a very happy girl. A glass of wine helped immensely with this.

 

The filling was thoroughly ‘meaty’ – both in taste and texture. The medley of herbs combined with the reduced-down ale was really tasty and the Quorn meatballs broke apart slightly during cooking, which thickened the sauce. I really feel this is about as meaty as you can get with vegetarian pies – obviously vegetable and non-meat pies are delicious but sometimes it’s nice to just use fake meat as it was intended – a substitute for meat! In this instance, Quorn works extremely well and I really recommend this recipe if you or someone you love fancies a proper meat pie!

Proper Job Pizzas

A thousand apologies for my prolonged absence from Polka Dot Kitchen! Life has rudely barged in the way of blogging and I’ve really missed it. In the last month a lot has happened…I took voluntary redundancy from my job of two years after finding out ย the company was merging and there would be job duplications. I applied for a LOT of jobs, went on a few interviews and started to get TENSE when my last day at work was approaching and thoughts of unemployment, JobSeekers Allowance and cancelled Florida holidays (GOD FORBID) were looming. In my last week at my job, I went on two interviews. One was absolutely amazing and I was hoping and praying they’d offer me the job, I wanted it SO MUCH!

I then secured a ‘chat with the CEO’ the following week; brilliant, but no guarantee of a job! The second interview that week was before this ‘chat with the CEO’ of the job I really wanted. The interview was great but I just didn’t think the job was for me. Obviously, they then phoned me an hour after the interview and offered me the job. Dilemma! I politely asked the very pushy recruiter if I could let them know Friday. What followed was an extremely tense 48 hours in which I ran through all possible scenarios with Ben and went to sleep the morning of the ‘chat’ convinced I would not get the job and had also ruined my chances of getting the other one.

LONG story short, I was offered the job I really wanted. YES!!!!! Me and Ben then skipped off to Disneyland Paris for a very very very well deserved weekend away and I returned on Bank Holiday Monday pretty much on top of the world. I’ve been working at my new job nearly a month now and I’m feeling very happy, settled in and ready to get back to blogging. Obviously I’ve been eating a lot during this stressful time (mainly carbs…) so I have lots of backed-up posts to get through!

So. Lets start with my favourite food in the world – pizza! But, not just any pizza. Proper job, home-made, from scratch pizza. Yeahhh! Homemade pizza dough has fast become mine and Ben’s newest obsession. Nicer than any shop-bought pizza we’ve ever had, home-made is super quick to make and I keep finding myself knocking up fresh pizza dough when I get in from work during the week. Say goodbye to Lazy Boy Pizzas, we’re never going back!

The recipe I use is a very simple one found on Jamie Oliver’s forum, thanks to a Google search for ‘easy pizza dough fast action yeast’ or something along those lines. It serves 8 to 10 people but although we like pizza a lot, we halve the measurements due to the pressing need to stop gaining weight.

The first time we made them we were seriously amazed with how quick the dough was. Chuck in the flour, yeast, water, salt and sugar and mix it all up and that was it! DOUGH! Next time we’re going to get a bit adventurous and maybe add some flavourings into the mix, I’m thinking a cheesey, garlicky pairing would be a winner. Next was a generous spread of tomato paste, followed by some serious topping assemblage. I was recreating the magical Padana as it had been at least 4 days since I’d had my last hit. Caramelised onions, wilted baby leaf spinach and goats cheese. Always a winning combination, if a little time-consuming with the onions.

After a lengthy caramalisation sesh, I added the onions and spinach to my pizza base, followed by an overly generous sprinkle/slather of the goats cheese. Tada!

 

Ben naturally opted for a spicy, veggie meat based affair. He used the classic Linda McCartney veggie sausages, chopped tomatoes, red pepper flakes and jalapeno peppers, as well as some of my very generously donated onions.

 

This is his pre-oven pizza! Proper crust!

 

 

25 agonising moments then passed, spent mainly staring through the oven door watching cheese bubble. Finally, they were ready and we proudly retrieved our pizzas from the steaming oven, ready to slice ’em up.

 

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to put the entire pizza on my plate. I was very restrained though, and only put half on. As it was, all the excitement got a bit too much for me and in fact I was only able to eat a measly 4 slices. Call myself a pizza fan!

Ben was equally thrilled with his resplendant, golden circle of goodness.

 

MOUTH. WATERING.

It was too spicy for me but he absolutely loved it. My pizza was gorgeous too; sweet, sticky onions, fragrant tomato and sharp, piquant goats cheese. If you have never sampled a Padana-inspired pizza, I suggest you get on board immediately. You won’t regret it.

So once again, apologies for the brief disappearance and I hope you enjoyed my unemployment to employment sob story and the photos of these pizzas. More exciting food to come. Mainly carbohydrates though, this will never be a salad blog!