Potato, Spinach and Quorn Breakfast Hash

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Every so often you cook something absolutely amazing, using only the ingredients kicking about your fridge, with no prior planning or thought given to it previously. This is very unusual for me as I love the build-up to a dish creation and I often spend a lot of time thinking about how I’ll cook it and what it’ll taste like. Obsessive? Perhaps. But Polka Dot Kitchen wouldn’t exist if this didn’t happen!

A couple of Sundays ago, we woke up at a leisurely hour and dragged ourselves from our bedroom to our l0unge, to slump on the sofa just in time for Sunday Brunch. We looooove Sunday Brunch. We used to love Something For The Weekend and I was absolutely devastated when the BBC cancelled it. Like, inconsolable. Then the stars aligned and good old Channel 4 picked it up and we didn’t have to face a lifetime of Sundays without Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer talking about conservatories. Ahhh, bliss!

So this particular Sunday, we were running slightly low on breakfast supplies. And when I say low, I mean we didn’t have any milk, bread or butter. Three ingredients which pretty much top every breakfast dish ingredient list. We did pool together our change (about Β£1.47) and consider getting dressed and buying some hideously overpriced bits and bobs at the village shop but we decided NO. We Don’t Need It. I should mention, we spend pretty much all our lives saving for our Florida holidays (Floridays) the second of which is in a mere 90 days, so we are generally thrifty and always looking not to spend money. This is also the reason I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to; Florida planning is taking up all my time! We’re going for three weeks and so there are ESTA’s to do, hotel reviews to read, restaurant menus to peruse and the Disneyworld website to pore over and check I haven’t missed a single potential activity that could make our holiday EVEN BETTER. I’ll be doing a full food review on the Dibb (an awesome website for fellow Florida obsessives) and I’ll post a few on here too for those who are interested πŸ™‚

WOW can we say tangent!? Going back (again) to that Sunday, we basically didn’t want to spend any money. But I fancied a nice breakfast. We hardly ever have a cooked breakfast as I’m overly keen on toast with marmite but that day I really fancied one. So I perused our cupboards, did a quick google to see if anyone had ever put roughly these ingredients together, discovered they hadn’t so threw some oil in a pan and cracked on with it.

I started, as many recipes do, with some sliced onion. I love slicing onion like this as they take hardly any time to chop. I can’t be doing with finely chopped onion (even though that is how I prefer my onion) as it just takes soooo long and the chunks are never even anyway 😦 I fried the onion slices in a pan with some olive oil, seasoning and garlic. While that was cooking, I cubed some potatoes that, judging by the sheer size of the sprouts coming out of them, had almost become living beings. They went into the microwave for about 4 minutes for a lazy boy boil and I then added them to a new pan with some more olive oil and seasoning.

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I wanted them toΒ get all crispy and browned and I knew they wouldn’t if they were squished in the other pan with the onions. Two pans Morgan!

The onions were looking nicely browned by this time so I added in some spinach and a load more garlic. God I love garlic.

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I was feeling like this badboy needed some meat (and when I say meat, obviously I mean “meat”) so I grabbed whatever frozen Quorn delights were lurking in the bottom of the freezer, gave them a quick microwave to thaw a bit and chucked them in with the onions. We had Quorn fillets and sausages but I think most fake meat would work! Facon would work. Mmmmm.

The potatoes were now nicely browned and crisp, the onions were caramalised, the spinach was fully flavoured and the fake meat was browning away nicely. I tipped the onion/spinach/Quorn mix into the potatoes, added a tiny bit more salt and pepper and let it all come together while I cooked the eggs. I did consider adding some chopped tomatoes to the pan to moisten it all up a bit but honestly, it was so good on it’s own! But tomatoes would be nice if you wanted more of a liquidy hash.

I quickly fried two eggs and added them to the top of two hulking piles of hash. The verdict? LIFE-CHANGING. I found that the onions had flavoured the whole dish with a good, solid savoury taste and the minced garlic and super posh garlic oil (see Foodies Festival post!) had really made it all come alive. Ben actually said, and I quote, “This is the best breakfast I’ve had outside of America.” !!! Big words!! I was one smug store-cupboard chef that morning!!

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*I haven’t added amounts as it was very much just chucking whatever I had in. I will say that I probably made enough for four and between two of us…we ate it all. Just sayin’. If I make it again I will record all measurements like a proper food blogger πŸ™‚

BBQ Pulled ‘Pork’ (Seitan!)

It was Ben’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and as one of his (many!) presents, I bought him some vital wheat gluten flour. ‘Great gift…’ I hear you cry! But, it was in fact, an awesome gift. Because vital wheat gluten is pretty pricey and it’s not something he’d ever order from himself so he was chuffed to bits when he opened it, mainly because I think he then knew he had many seitan-based dinners on the horizon.

The first thing I wanted to make with the flour was BBQ Pulled Seitan πŸ˜€ We were watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (when are we not) and for probably the 276th time, I watched somebody making pulled pork. It always looks soooooo good! I decided I wanted to recreate it for Benj and what better meat substitute than seitan? Seriously, there IS no better meat substitute. Seitan is chewy, textured and just plain MEATY! And it takes on flavour really, really well.

We decided to turn the BBQ pulled seitan into an entire American evening, complete with Disney videos on Youtube (our newest obsession) Β and summer-y drinks. To accompany the rolls, we made chilli cheese fries and had onion rings, corn on the cob and coleslaw on the side.

First up, I had to actually make the seitan! I used the Fat Free Vegan BBQ Seitan Ribz recipe as I figured I was going to be chopping the meat up into little pieces at the end anyway.

Here are the dry and wet ingredients ready to be mixed…Ben said it looked pretty disgusting. He is correct.

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The dough comes together very quickly and is super hard to knead. It doesn’t knead like normal bread dough, it kind of just forms a ball and then stays like that. I couldn’t really flatten the shape or make it fit the size of the tray like the recipe said to, so I just formed it into a rectangle and left it! Onto an oiled tray and into the oven for 15 minutes; I had no idea what was expected to come out but hoped for the best.

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I think it looks a bit like brains :/

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15 minutes later I pulled what can only be described as a BEAST out of the oven. Eeek! This photo was taken as it had started to deflate too, it was HUGE!

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We flipped it over and popped it back into the oven for 5 minutes to give it a chance to CALM THE HELL DOWN.

When I took it out again it was slightly less terrifying and I was able to baste it with BBQ sauce and put it back into the oven for its’ final hit of heat. The next time I took it out, it actually looked pretty good! And it smelled AMAZING. So if you do try this recipe, you just really need to persevere with the seitan because it is a funny old thing but it does come together eventually.

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Close-up! See, appetising!!

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I left the seitan to cool for a little while before I sliced it up. Whilst I waited, I indulged in a little of this:

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(Passionfruit juice and vodka)

And Benj indulged in a little of this:

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(Margarita)

It was Saturday night! Hey, can you tell we like Disney? I’m not sure it’s obvious enough.

Once about 10 minutes had passed, I sliced up the seitan into lots of small chunks. I wanted to get the look and feel of pulled pork but it was tricky because the seitan didn’t ‘pull apart’ as such, I just had to do it manually. But once it was all doused in BBQ sauce and sticky, it really looked the part.

 

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I then popped it into a pan and fried it on high for a few minutes to encourage some crisping and browning of the edges, before adding a liberal amount of BBQ sauce. It all came together beautifully in the pan and with a bit of added water to make the BBQ sauce go further, it was starting to look fantastic.

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See?

We served the pulled seitan with the aforementioned sides and I was so pleased with how it turned out. Ben never thought he’d be able to sample this authentic American delight and here he was, with a plate in front of him!!

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For the chilli cheese fries, I just used some leftover frozen chips we had in the freezer, topped with veggie chilli (veggie mince, taco seasoning, chilli powder and passata) and my homemade nacho cheese sauce which I have perfected over recent months and I’m now very proud of!! It’s a basic roux, with added plastic cheese slices, garlic and a few glugs of brine from a jar of jalapeno peppers. The brine gives it a lovely heat and to me, it tasted exactly like the plasticy nacho cheese sauce found in many an Orlando restaurant/quick-service place. Try it, it’s so easy! We tried to buy Squeeze Cheeze to make our lives even easier but tragically, Asda didn’t have any 😦 I topped the cheese fries with some chopped spring onion, but you have to call them scallions to make it all authentic and American.

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We then have corn on the cob, beautifully cooked by Benjamin with liberal amounts of butter and salt and some oven baked onion rings, which I dipped in sour cream. A lot of sour cream. Like, half the tub. I served the pulled seitan on buttered white rolls as although this goes against everything I’ve ever been told about carbs (go brown wherever possible) that is how they are always served on TV. I topped them with some coleslaw (not homemade as we really couldn’t be bothered to wash the new food processor we have recently acquired) – plain for me and a mango jalapeno variety for Benj.

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This was a proper, trashy, down-home American meal and we absolutely loved it. Better still, we made enough for two nights so enjoyed exactly the same treat the following evening! Best Bank Holiday ever!! If you are a vegetarian just gagging to experience the full, unadulterated beauty of pulled pork, please try these. πŸ™‚

Japanese Gyoza

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Sometimes, I get a food craving. A really really strong, can’t-think-about-anything-else food craving where I actually have to abandon all other eating plans and satisfy it.

This happened the other day with Japanese gyoza. I was chatting innocently to the girls at work about the wonders of Wagamama and how I hadn’t been in ages. When I used to work in Basingstoke I would go quite often as the restaurant was about 5 minutes from my office but since I started my new job, I haven’t been once. Which is very, very distressing. Although, I did get into the quite expensive and extremely calorific habit of just grabbing a take-out box of my favourite dish Amai Udon on my way back to the office, after a lunchhour spent browsing the shops. Not very good at all! So maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that I’ve had to go cold turkey, on reflection.

Anyway. Myself and Ben had a gig on the Saturday (this was the Thursday) IN Basingstoke and although I knew we should go somewhere cheap for dinner beforehand, the lure of Wagamamas was extremely strong and quite difficult to ignore. I realise that to most people Wagamamas is a cheap option, however, last time we went I accidentally got two side dishes* AS WELL AS my main meal, plus we both had wine and beer. So the bill was like Β£50. Not even slightly cheap.

*I find it really hard not to order the gyoza when I visit Wagamamas and then I saw they had salt and pepper squid so obviously I had to get that too. In my defence.

So I was chatting to the girls at work about how amazing the food at Wagamamas was and what a shame we were going to Wetherspoons instead in order to keep costs down, when the craving hit me. Hard, suddenly, and out of the blue. I had to have gyoza. Right now. This was like 5pm so as I drove home I was mentally rifling through our cupboards to see if we had anything remotely Japanese-y that I could make gyoza with. We actually had baked potatoes and veggie chicken kievs on the meal plan for that night, but that went out the window and it was all about the Asian food.

I remembered seeing The Hairy Bikers make gyoza a couple of weeks before on their new gourmet cooking show and it looked so easy! I Googled the recipe and lo and behold, water and flour!!!! Easy peasy pie. I whipped up a batch of dough (if you can call it that) and left it out to prove for a bit whilst I made a filling.

We didn’t have any ginger or rice wine vinegar or anything helpfully Asian like that so I had to make do with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce. I defrosted some Quorn chicken chunks, chopped them up into small pieces and chucked them in our wok with some garlic and sesame oil. I then added shredded lettuce (cabbage would have been much preferred but we didn’t have any!) and some chopped red onion. I fried it all for a few minutes before tasting it and I actually couldn’t believe how nice it was! I was seriously impressed with myself.

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The dough had been proving for about half an hour and it was ready to go. I divided it into 4 pieces (having halved the original Hairy Bikers recipe as I didn’t want to make enough for 8 people!) and rolled each section out super duper thin, with plenty of flour. I then used my cookie cutter to cut nice round circles out and stacked them all up into a pile, with flour in between each disc so they wouldn’t stick.

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Benj was eager to help with the gyoza making so after a brief viewing of ‘How to Make Gyoza’ videos on Youtube, we felt ready to give it a go.

And, honestly, it was so unbelievably easy!! I couldn’t believe it! We had the whole stack of about 28 gyozos done and dusted in about 15 minutes!

You take a disc, rub cold water around the edges and put a small spoonful of filling in the middle. It is then just a case of folding the dough around the filling and pleating it all the way, which sounds hard but once you’ve watched someone else do it, you’re sorted!

Ben’s hands expertly pleating the gyoza dough.

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Here is around half the batch we made, sitting pretty in the frying pan about to be seared! You need to sear the gyoza on the bottom until they are golden brown and crispy, before steaming them. This is a very important step! Otherwise you’ll have soggy gyoza! Surely everyones worst nightmare?? I know it’s mine.

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I seared them for about two minutes on a high heat. Oooh, they smelt so good! I then turned the heat right down and added 100ml of water to the pan. It hisses and spits a bit so be careful! I got Ben to add the water as he’s brave like that πŸ˜‰ I put the lid on the pan and steamed the gyoza for another two minutes before serving them with dipping sauces; soy sauce and sweet chilli and garlic. Both were lovely but soy sauce always wins for me!

We were so unbelievably proud of our creations, they could have come straight from the Wagamama kitchen!!

Check these bad boys:

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The bottoms were crispy and crunchy and provided a lovely contrast to the slightly gooey texture of the steamed dough. The filling tasted delicious with the extra cooking time and I can’t recommend it enough! I was so impressed with the ease and simplicity of these treats and how professional and restaurant-y they turned out.

I can’t wait to make these again, I think they’ll be even nicer when I have the correct ingredients! I’m going to research yummy fillings and make sure I have everything before I start cooking. But for a weeknight indulgence with no prior planning and no extra ingredients purchased, I think we did pretty good! πŸ˜€