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Falafel

 

 

 

Falafel is something I have had a troubled relationship with.  For years I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t!  Everything was ether too bland or too spicy or too mushy or just not right!  However, with this recipe I really feel like I’ve cracked it.  And I feel that the key is to really amp up the spices.  Not too much chili, but spices, the cumin and coriander, and a good dash of salt and pepper, are what are going to make your falafel sing! 
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It helps if you think of your falafel as portable hummous.  Just as a bland humous is nobody’s friend, so too for falafel so even if you look at these quantities and think I’m crazy, remember, chickpeas are delicious but only with the proper accessories!

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The wonderful thing about this falafel recipe is that it healthy and simple.  You basically put everything in a food processor and blitz it up! Simple!  And to keep the calorie count down on these falafel I oven bake them rather than frying them.  Would frying them make them tastier… well, yeah, probably! But I can’t afford those calories so oven baking it is!  That’s why we amp up the spices, what you lose in fat you can make up in flavour!

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Makes ~15 falafel balls

2 x 400g tins of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 LARGE cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp fresh coriander
2 tbsp plain flour
~ 2 tbsp water if necessary

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Put everything except the water in the food processor.
– Blitz, scrape down the bowl, blitz again.  You want to keep blitzing until you have about half coarse mix, half smooth paste in there.  You don’t want to keep going until you get hummous!
– If it’s just not coming together into a paste at all then you might just need a little extra moisture to bind it so gradually add a little water at a time until it just comes together.  You don’t want to add too much or you get a soft, sticky falafel!
– Using your hands (or if you’re weird about these things feel free to use spoons/a small ice cream scoop) grab a ping pong ball sized amount of mixture and gently shape it into a nice round ball.
– Place on a very lightly greased baking tray (a quick spray with olive oil will do) and repeat until your mixture is all gone.
– Give all of your falafel a light spritz with an olive oil spray.
– Place in the top of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  The falafel should just be turning brown in places and should be crisp to the touch.
– Serve with salad, pita and haydari… or whatever else takes your fancy!

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Low Fat, Mains

Christmas Pie

Christmas is tradtionally a time of leftovers.  We’ve got just about all of the sandwich suitable turkey off it now so now it is time to think of other things to make with the bits and pieces left over.  There are lots of options available but few I’d actually enjoy.  Pie seemed the way to go.  Not only can you use the turkey but there’s nothing stopping you from using up some stuffing or leftover vegetables or even a few dollops of cranberry sauce.  Got a ham? Pop it in too!  Whatever is left or takes your fancy, within reason, then in it goes!  I usually keep things simple.  I might do turkey, stuffing and cranberry but I’d leave out the vegetables.  Ham, turkey and vegetables go well together too.  If you’ve got a lot of mash then why not skip the pastry and use that?  It really does depend entirely upon what you have and what you like.  If you’ve only got turkey to play with then a simple turkey and mushroom pie is great too. 

Makes 1 average pie dish serving 4 people. 

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, chilled and diced
50g Trex (white vegetable fat), chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp chilled water

– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and Trex and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
– Add 3 -4 tbsp cold water by sprinkling it evenly over the surface fo the mixture.  (I used 3 tbsp and a bit.)
– Using a flat bladed knife mix it together until it forms a dough. 
– Gather it together with your hands and lightly knead for a few seconds to bring it together. 
– Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm.  Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
Turkey/ham/vegetables/stuffing/etc.
a good splash of olive oil
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 pint chicken stock

– First saute your onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil in a frying pan.  Add whatever leftovers you’re using and stir gently to combine. 
– In a separate small pan add a good splash of oil, at least enough to cover the base of the pan. 
– Gently heat this until it just starts to shimmer a bit then add the corn flour.  Whisk rapidly to combine. 
– Pour in your chicken stock, still whisking and keep stiring until it is a smooth sauce. 
– Pour this sauce into the other pan and stir well to mix. 

To make pie:

– Lightly flour the worksurface and the rolling pin, not the pastry. 
– Turn out the chilled dough onto the worksurface and roll it out in one direction, turning it as you go until it reaches about 3 mm thick. 
– Place your pie dish upsidedown on top of the pastry and cut a line around the dish about 1 cm out to leave room for shrinkage. 
– Cut a second line around this about 1.5 cm thick.
– Fill the pie dish with the filling.
– Moisten the edge of your dish with a finger dipped in water then press the 1.5 cm thick strip round the outside of the dish trimming the length to fit.   
– Moisten this pastry with water again then lay the rest of the pastry over the top using the rolling pin to help lift it across. 
– I fluted the edges of this pie.  It’s very simple.  You basically place the thumb and index finger of one hand on the ‘inside’ of the pie and with the index finger of the other hand press the edge of the crust inwards between the two fingers of the other hand.  Move round the pie and keep going until the whole edge is fluted. 

– With any spare pastry I like to make decorations for the top of the pie.*  I went for a Christmassy snowman and Christmas trees.  Again just dampen any pastry you’re pressing together to make it stick. 
– Once you’re done brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and cook in an oven preheated to gas mark 7 for 40 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown and the contents heated through.  If it starts to look too brown then cover with foil or butter papers** for the remaining cooking time. 

* And any spare spare pastry I stamp out shapes with cutters, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with grated parmesan to make cheesy biscuits. 

** I keep the butter papers when I’ve used a block for covering things like this.  It saves on foil and is a great little recycling tip!

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French Chicken

I christen this dish French Chicken as I saw it on a French food blog A Foodie Froggy in Paris and it is full of French flavours.  The other qualifier is that it is needessly complicated in places as all great French food should be!  I tweaked the recipe here and there subsituting ingredients for things I had and were cheap rather than the more expensive options of porcini and fois gras. 

I would not recommend that you try wrapping the chicken in spiraled strips of pastry as I did.  I will give a different idea in the recipe that should give you a pretty sort of plaited effect and be a hell of a lot easier.  While I was wrapping these up I swore like a trooper, they were HARD!  But if Gordon Ramsey is anything to judge by may be the swearing makes food taste better because these were delicious! 

Serves 4

1 quantity Rough Puff Pastry, or buy ready made. 
Chicken Liver Pate or fois gras
4 chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten

For the mushroom pate:
400g mushrooms
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley

– Put the mushrooms and onion in a large pan and fry until just soft. 
– Add the garlic and parsley and stir well. 
– Transfer to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. 

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and have a large ovenproof dish ready, you may need 2 as the chicken breasts cannot touch.
– Split the chicken breasts on the top down the centre to create ‘boats’. First cut a line straight down then widen the pouch by cutting out to the sides, like an inverted T. 
– Roll out the pastry and cut out 4 squares just larger than twice the size of the chicken breasts. 
– Place the chicken in the centre of the square. 
– Put a large spoonful of pate in the chicken ‘boat’ and smooth down. 
– Top this with the mushroom pate to make a small mound. 
– Cut strips in the pastry either side of the chicken then start at one end and fold the two strips on opposite sides over towards the other end of the chicken in a V shape. 
– Repeat this all along the chicken breast to create a plait effect making sure the whole thing is covered. 
– Brush with egg, place in the dish and cook for 30 minutes.  If not quite browning turn up to gas 7 for the last 10 minutes. 
– Serve with whatever vegetables you like.  A simple mushroom cream sauce makes a nice addition but its moist enough to eat without if you wish.

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Full English Breakfast

Now this isn’t so much a recipe as a collection of foods but even though I have been cooking and eating the Full English for many years this was the first time I felt I had managed to get everything just perfect!  The most challenging part of the whole thing for me has always been the fried egg.  I’m too impatient.  Today I finally cracked it!  I have to admit that I didn’t actually cook the fried bread this time, I left it in my mother’s capable hands.  Hers is always much better than mine in any event! 

Per person allow:
2 sausages
1 slice of white bread
2 rashers of bacon
1 salad tomato, halved if using
1/4 large tin baked beans
1 egg
1 large portobello mushroom

-Sausages go in first.  I grill then under a fairly high heat. 
-The fried bread wants to go on next.  Cut your bread into triangles then pass one side under the cold tap.  Put into a frying pan of fairly hot oil (about 3tbsp) then turn down a bit and leave til the first side is a golden brown.  Then flip over and brown the other side. 
-When the sausages are brown on one side turn them over and add your bacon to the grill pan with them and turn down the heat to medium.  If grilling tomatoes as well put them in here as well skin side up then turn later.   
-Put the baked beans in a microwavable bowl with a knob of butter and cover with clingfilm.  Microwave on full power for 2 1/2 minutes. 
-Heat a few tbsp oil in another frying pan to fairly hot then turn down to low.  Crack the egg into a small bowl or saucer.  Slide it from the bowl into the pan.  Cook for a few minutes until the white is set.  Spoon the hot oil over the top of the yolk until it reaches the way you like it. 
– Brush or spray your portobello mushrooms with oil and then microwave for 2 minutes and test, microwave in 1 minute blocks until cooked.  (Ours took 4 minutes.)
– If necessary give the beans another minute in the microwave to get them piping hot again. 
– Everything is ready when the sausages are nicely browned all over and cooked through, the eggs are set, the bacon is soft with crispy edges, the mushroom is tender, the bread is a light golden brown and the beans are hot! 
– Plate up and eat!

This “recipe” of course is open to as much variation as you want to give it.  Don’t like something?  Leave it out.  Like your eggs scrambled? Scramble them!  Only got little sliced mushrooms? Pan fry them in a small saucepan in a little butter.  It’s your breakfast, enjoy it!

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Slow Cooker Chilli

This was the veggie option for the party.  I made it in the slow cooker so that I could throw it together and leave it and then serve from the slow cooker and it would still be hot.  It could easily become non-veggie by using minced beef instead of veggie mince but brown it in a frying pan first then proceed as below.  Essentially this is just my chilli con carne recipe done a bit differently. 

Serves 8

500g veggie mince
2 onions, chopped
2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
2x400g tins red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp tomato puree
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chilli powder
2 tbsp bisto granules made up with 200ml water
1 tbsp sugar

– Basically throw everything but the kidney beans into the slow cooker. 
– Give it a stir to mix it up well. 
– Add the beans and stir gently. 
– Put the lid on and cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.

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Fajita Wraps

We eat these a fair bit in our family and now I have proved that they make a decent party food.  Not the most graceful of foods to eat I’ll admit but so long as your not too precious about it and just get stuck in it’s a great food! 

Serves 4 (I doubled it for the party)

3 chicken breasts, sliced into chunks
1 large onion, diced
1 chilli, chopped
1 tbsp ground corriander
1 tbsp fresh corriander, chopped
4 tbsp lime juice
2 bell peppers, sliced into chunks
1 pack of tortilla wraps
lettuce
creme fraiche
salsa
lime segments

– Put the chicken, onion, chilli, corriander and lime juice in a bowl and set aside to marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably longer. 
– About 15-20 minutes before you want to eat heat a little oil in a very large frying pan (I used a paella pan here.)
– Add the marinated mixture, if a lot of liquid in the bottom of the bowl leave this out. 
– Cook, stirring regularly until the chicken is cooked then add the peppers and the reserved juice. 
– Keep cooking on a relatively high heat until the chicken just starts to char.  (If using a strong chilli keep the extractor fan on as the chilli smoke can get to you!)
– Microwave your tortilla wraps as you need them for about 30 seconds (1minute for a whole pack). 
– Make up the wraps as you like.  Standard order is lettuce, fajita mix, salsa and creme fraiche then squeeze lime juice on top. 

The best way to fold them is to place the filling along the centre but only go 2/3 along.  Then fold up the remaining 1/3 over the filling and wrap the two sides over the top.  Then eat!  It makes a handy little pouch so you’re not dropping stuff all over yourself… well, if you’re careful!

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Summer in Winter

At least I think that’s what the recipe called it.  I kept the name but altered the recipe a fair bit.  The idea of it was basically summery flavours in the depths of winter but these days that’s not so odd I guess!  Who knows what you call it in the summer!  It made a delicious dinner anyway and only took about 30 minutes to make.  It even kept warm very well as dinner was delayed by another 30 minutes.  I had everything ready by 8pm then kept the pasta covered with a tea towel in a warm oven and reheated the sauce and put it together when everyone was there. 

 

Serves 4-6

4 chicken breasts either whole or in strips*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
~200g baby plum tomatoes, halved
200g soft cheese
~400ml creme fraiche
1 tbsp grated hard cheese/parmesan
~6 fresh basil leaves, shredded
2 salad tomatoes, sliced
pasta to serve

– Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the chicken until just browned. 
– Get your pasta going. 
– Push the chicken to one side and add the garlic, fry in the space for a minute then stir through the chicken. 
– Add the halved tomatoes and cook for one minute. 
– Add the soft cheese, creme fraiche, hard cheese and parmesan. 
– Stir until combined.  If it seems a little thick add a little water from the pasta. 
– Grill the tomato slices until just starting to blacken in places. 
– Serve on top of pasta garnishing with the sliced tomatoes.

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Japanese Hamburger

This is based on a dish I used to have at a restaurant in Tokyo and loved!  You don’t technically have to serve it in the foil parcels as I have but it does give the meat time to take up a little of the flavour of the sauce and you can get on with other things while you leave them in the oven so it’s a good prep ahead then pop it in the oven meal.  This was usually served with a baked potato but I chose to have chips tonight as I was in the mood.  I’ve also had the burger wrapped in bacon and served with a different sauce or may be no sauce but I can’t for the life of me remember!  I’m working on it. 

This is a good basic hamburger recipe too and I’m sure would make an excellent burger in a bun on its own.  I love Japanese  style Western food.  So often they take a staple Western food and do wonderful things with it that we would never have thought to do because we’re so used to doing something particular.  Although I am informed that this is similar to a Salisbury Steak in America.  What I do know is it’s delicious!

I’m dying of cold at the moment so if anything doesn’t make sense here drop me a line and I’ll fix in once I am able to breathe and think again!

Makes 6

For the burger:
1 small onion, finely chopped
500g minced beef
200g sausage meat
100g breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/2 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
pepper to taste

For the sauce:
150g baby button mushrooms, sliced
red wine*
1 beef stock cube made up into stock*
3 tbsp ketchup
corn flour

– First lightly fry the onion in a little oil until soft.  Allow to cool a little. 
– Put everything in a bowl and mix it together with your hand. 
– Divide the mixture roughly into 6. 
– Gather a portion of the meat in your hand.  Roll into a ball then throw the ball forcefully back and forth in your hands to force out the air and flatten it into a patty. 
– Gently shape the patty to a circle and create a small hollow so the patty is thinner in the middle.  (This allows you to get a flat burger as it compensates for any swelling during cooking.)
– Place the patties on a large plate or chopping board and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably about an hour. 

– Melt a small knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms until just browning.  Set aside. 
– Sprinkle the burgers with a pinch of salt and prepare the foil sheets. 
– Fry the burgers in a large frying pan or griddle.  Give about 4 minutes each side.  Don’t move the burger about once you’ve placed it in the pan until it’s time to turn it or it will fall apart. 
– Place the burger in the centre of the sheet of foil and top with a spoonful of mushrooms. 

– Deglaze the pan with red wine (tip it in and scrape off any cooked on bits). 
– Add the stock and reduce until starting to thicken. 
– Add the ketchup and stir in continue to reduce. 
– If necessary add a little cornflour slaked in a little water to thicken the sauce.  It needs to be quite viscous slow moving. (Make sure to taste the sauce as it can need a little more ketchup to cut the saltiness of the stock cube.) 
– Pour a little sauce over each burger.

– Fold the foil up into a tent and fold together the edges to seal.  Then fold in the sides to seal those. 

– Place the parcels on a baking tray and place in the oven at around gas mark 5 for 10-15 minutes until everything is piping hot again.  (If preparing ahead cook for around 30 minutes to ensure food is piping hot all through.)
– When you’re ready simply put the parcel on a plate to serve. 

* I only cooked sauce for 1 tonight so I can’t speak as to actual quantities.  I just poured!

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Filed under Japanese, Mains, Moderately easy

Layered Enchiladas

Wow, what a week it has been!  I’ve been pushing my cooking boundaries already this week and I had to do it again today with the Tortillas.  It’s been a busy few days and I lost a few hours to that little mishap.  I’ve updated the index here again and I’m going to try to keep on top of it this time.  I’m coming up on 100 recipes!  Yes, there will be cake.  I’m generally working hard to get this blog to be the best I can make it.  I’m also hoping to also be able to participate in Adopt-A-Blogger #4 over at Dine & Dish which will hopefully mean improvements around here.  But that’ll be after the christmas madness.  I’m already preparing to go gourmet with the gifts this year.  I have a bunch of recipes lying about that’ll be just perfect for so-and-so so I’m gearing up to get cracking with those.  I hope you’re all getting ready for an excellent holiday season, I know I’ll be stepping up on the Christmas recipes any day now!

Anyway, on to tonight’s dinner!  These Layered Enchiladas were just supposed to be ordinary enchiladas, however, due to the supermarket tortillas going off and my first attempt at tortillas turning out rather brittle I had to go for Layered Enchiladas.  I have to say I am impressed with  how well they turned out.  Instead of having a wrap we each ended up with a slice of ‘enchilada pie’, which was actually really handy for portion control.  This certainly went down well with my dad who asked for seconds, which is almost unheard of!

Serves 4

1 pack tortillas or make your own with my recipe here.
~200g grated cheese 
500g passata
1 onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 chicken breasts, sliced
1 tsp chilli powder
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
1x400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 green pepper, chopped

– First make the sauce.  Saute the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt in a little oil until soft. 
– Then add the chicken and stir until cooked all over. 
– Add the chilli powder and chopped chilli.  Stir well. 
– Pour in the chopped tomatoes with a little water to rinse out the tin. 
– Add the sugar and tomato puree and stir until mixed. 
– Bring to a simmer and add the green pepper. 
– Simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens. 
– Assemble the enchiladas in a greased baking dish either in the traditional way or:
– Place a tortilla on the bottom of the baking dish and sprinkle lightly with grated cheese then add a few spoonfuls the sauce and spread over the tortilla. 
– Add another tortilla on top.  Pour a little passata over and spread over the tortilla.  Sprinkle with cheese. 
– Add another tortilla and sprinkle with cheese.  Add sauce and spread out. 
– Repeat alternating layers of sauce and passata until all of the tortillas have been used making the last layer passata covered with a good layer of cheese on the very top. 
– Bake in a hot oven at gas mark 6 for around 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and everything warmed through. 
– Serve in slices while hot. It’s really good with creme fraiche and avocado slices.

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Pizza

We have homemade pizza fairly frequently in our house.  We’ve tried dozens of different recipes and techniques trying to find the best pizza dough recipe, the most frequent problem is that the middles become soup so we got pizza trays with holes in, which helped a bit.  Last Christmas I got mum a pizza stone but it wasn’t as impressive as all that.  Up until tonight mum has always made the dough and done all the work but tonight I was put in charge.  So I turned to google and my usual foodie haunts trying to make the best damned pizza this family has ever had.  Boasting it may be but I may well have succeeded!

The secret would appear to be part cooking the base first.  It gets all big and puffy but when you put the toppings on that goes down and means that the middle doesn’t stay all goopy but still retains a bit of crispness.  We are also guilty of piling on the toppings, in the past I have been known to have up to an inch deep on mine.  I have no will power, you see.  We set up a little area with all the toppings layed out in bowls to build our own to spec. and I just keep piling it all on!  This, of course, means that they take longer to cook so be aware that if you’re spare with the toppings it’ll take less cooking time, if you’re like me they’ll need longer. 

Makes 3 large pizzas, if not from a family of gluttons makes 4 individual ones. 

For the dough:
500g strong bread flour
2 tsp salt
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
300ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
2x400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp herbes de provence (or basil, oregano or any herb that’s good with tomato)

For the toppings:
Whatever you like!  I always think that cheese on top is the only must, below that anything goes! 

– First, as it’s now winter here in the uk, I would remind you to prepare a warm draft free place for the dough to rise.  By the fire, on top of a radiator or boiler, in a gently warmed oven, wherever works for you.  I usually put the oven on the lowest setting (Slow Cook) while I prepare the dough then turn it off when I put the dough in and leave it.
– In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. 
– Mix with a wooden spoon until mostly combined, then get in there with your hands to get it together and get any bits stuck to the bowl off by rubbing the dough around.    
– Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more flour if necessary.
– Wash your bowl if necessary then lightly oil the bowl using your hand to spread it about. 
– Continue to knead the dough for a minute or two with your oily hands. 
– Place the dough in the bowl then turn over so it’s coated with oil. 
– Cover and leave to rise in your warm draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 

– Meanwhile prepare the sauce and toppings.  Chop up whatever you’re putting on the pizzas and leave them ready for people to put on themselves if you’re doing it that way. 
– For the sauce melt a knob of butter and a small splash of oil in a medium sized pan. 
– Add the garlic and stir on a low heat until just starting to brown. 
– Add the onion and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes until it is very soft and starting to go transparent. 
– Tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs and stir well. 
– Turn up the heat and simmer for at least half an hour until the sauce is reduced by half, making sure to stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick. 

– Heat your oven to as high as it will go.  Mine does gas mark 9. 
– Once the dough has risen knock it down and lightly knead it for a minute. 
– Cut into portions and cover the dough you aren’t working with. 
– Roll out the portion of dough into a very rough circle about 5mm thick. 
– Pick it up (you’ll lose the shape here) and place it on the pizza tray then pull and stretch the edges into a circle and neaten it up. 
– Repeat for each portion of dough. 
– Leave to rest for 10 minutes. 
– Put the bases into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  *
– Remove from the oven and put the sauce on and spread out to the edges then put your toppings on. 
– Put back in the oven and cook for 15-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the edge of the crust is golden brown. 
– Slide off the trays and onto plates to serve. 

*I had to do some improvisation with the oven shelves as I had 2 shelves and 3 pizzas.  I could have used the top oven as well but I’d rather only use one oven if I can and save energy.  I placed a deep cake tin on the bottom of the oven and put the grill tray on top of that to create an extra shelf.  Then I swapped the pizzas about throughout cooking so they were cooking at about the same rate.  Obviously opening and closing the oven so often meant they took longer to cook but better that than having the top one burnt to a crisp and the bottom one still soft!

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