Category Vegetables and Salads

Mexican Tasting Menu

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exican inspiration promised and delivered. I’ll take any excuse to create a menu so a family birthday was next in line. Fresh guacamole with pico de gallo christened every evening meal for us in Mexico. We used it as a barometer for each restaurant. Each eatery had their own style but each one we tried was incredible so there was no question about it being on this tasting menu with some mezcalitas to kick things off.

My stand out food memory from the holiday was our first taste of fish tacos on day 2 in Holbox. Blue corn tortilla’s topped with perfectly soft but crunchy green tempura fish and creamy avocado as we dumped the bags and collapsed in front of our idyllic ocean view. And the tacos didn’t stop there, from prawn to chicken but always back to fish. I was skeptical about recreating these at home but relieved to say, these were delicious and offered us a mini escape back to Holbox. I’d encourage you to invest in a taco holder and some proper corn tortilla’s to make these worth their while. Whilst you can use wheat tortilla’s, the corn version (blue or white) take these to their authentic level.

My Mexican menu was created sharing and I’ve shared a few of the recipes here which I hope you enjoy.

A few staples you’ll need for this menu if you’re serious about your Mexican feasting:

  • Taco holder 
  • Corn tortilla – blue or white
  • Hand lime squeezer
  • Mezcal – we bought back 2 bottles from Mexico. Buy the best quality you can afford or use Tequila if you prefer.
  • Every bar in Mexico uses ‘Tajin’ for the chilli-salt rim on their margaritas/mezcalitas. We bought this back in our luggage but you can buy it online.
  • Plain corn tortilla chips for dipping (salted but not flavoured) – don’t even think about buying Doritos. Artisanal are the best if you can shop around. Again, blue or white corn work well. I used these blue corn chips

Mezcalitas

Guacamole with pico de gallo & black corn tortilla chips

Prawns & Mango

Black Bean & Chipotle Empanadas

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

Coconut & Lime Ice Cream

Guacamole with pico de gallo & black corn tortilla chips (Serves 4 as a starter and for your fish tacos)

  • 4 large ripe avocados
  • 1-2 large limes
  • Handful coriander, chopped
  • 4 ripe large tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1-2 chillis, finely chopped
  • Tortilla chips to serve (plain)

I used a blender here but you can mash the avocados by hand with a fork also for a more rustic texture. I usually love making avocado this way but I prefer the creamier texture for serving this as a sharing starter with chips.

  1. Blend the avocado flesh, juice of 1 lime, chopped chilli to taste and all but a handful of the coriander in a blender with a generous pinch of flaky salt and freshly ground pepper until smooth. Taste and add more lime & salt if needed.
  2. De-seed and finely dice the tomatoes and add to a bowl. Season well with flaky salt.
  3. Add the chopped shallot, the rest of the coriander and the juice of half a lime and stir well.
  4. Leave to sit for about 30 minutes to let the salt draw out the lovely tomato juices.
  5. When ready to serve, make sure everything is at room temperature. Don’t serve straight from the fridge. Spoon half the guacamole into a serving bowl or dish and spoon over half of the pico de gallo and tuck in!

Black Bean & Chipotle Empanadas (recipe here)

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa (Serve 4 – makes about 8)

  • 500g white meaty fish – I used cod
  • 85g flour
  • 200ml sparking water, chilled
  • 1 litre sunflower oil
  • 8 white/black corn tortillas (If you can’t find corn, use wheat tortillas but you’ll benefit from the authenticity of corn!)
  • 1/2 guacamole recipe above
  • 1/2 pico de gallo recipe above
  • Roughly 1/4 of a mango, diced (leftover from your prawn and mango skewers)
  1. Cut the fish into large bitesize chunks  a few inches each and heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan until around 180℃. (If you have a deep fryer then prepare this)
  2. Make the batter by sifting the flour into a large bowl and seasoning. Whisk in the cold sparkling water, whisking until smooth.
  3. When the oil is hot enough, dip each piece of fish into the bater to very lightly coat and then quickly into the hot oil being careful not to splash yourself with the oil. You can add 3-4 pieces if they will fit at once but don’t crowd the oil. Fry for about 3 minutes until just golden, turning with a slotted spoon to ensure even colouring.
  4. Remove the fish pieces with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb the excess and repeat with the rest of the fish until all fried. If there are any crispy bits of batter left in the pan, remove these as they are great to top off the tacos.
  5. Mix the mango with the remaining pico de gallo and set aside.
  6. To assemble the tacos, lightly warm the tortilla’s in a pan or low oven and spread the corn tortilla with 1 tbsp of guacamole. Pop in 2-3 pieces of your tempura fish and place each in your taco holder.
  7. Top each with the mango/tomato salsa and any remaining crispy bater pieces and serve with lots of napkins!

Coconut Ice Cream (recipe here) – Serve with rum roasted pineapple for an extra treat!

Roasted Tomatoes & Cold yoghurt

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‘ve been absent for some time I know. In fact, this has been my biggest hiatus from blogging since I started “forage in the pantry” back in 2012! I haven’t stopped cooking and creating you’ll be pleased to know! On the contrary, I’ve been taking inspiration from our recent travels “honeymooning” in Mexico where I fell head over heels in love with the tacos, avocados, burritos. An oh the mezcal. I’ve been greedily recreating since…and a Mexico post is due.

I have however been back at school. Wine School. Studying for my WSET Diploma. And with studying commitment has come a compromise. I’ve swapped camera spittoon and evenings learning the maximum yields in Champagne to the advantages of hand harvesting…

I am loving it and whilst the end if not near, I am hoping to have some time in the summer to dedicate for  recipe inspiration. So dear followers, I am simply on a blogging sabbatical, not retiring yet.

A sunny summer lunch with the family inspired me to pop up a quick and easy side dish that seemed to get a lot of attention. This one is from ‘Ottolenghi’s’ SIMPLE, but with some modifications, obviously. But its a real winner for ease and flavour. A monkey could make it, I promise. Its fantastic as a side dish for some roasted or barbecued meats or as a starter scooped up with warm pitta or crusty sour dough. The hot/cold contrast is an added bonus.

Serves 6 (as a side dish)

  • 600-800g cherry tomatoes, best you can afford.
  • 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 4 large sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme/rosemary
  • 1 lemon
  • Handful basil
  • Handful pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 400g thick Greek yoghurt (I always use Skyr)
  • To serve – toasted pitta/crusty sour dough OR as a side dish.
  1. Preheat the over to 200 degrees and get yourself a large roasting tin/dish.
  2. Add all your cherry tomatoes in an even layer.
  3. Scatter over the sliced shallots, crushed garlic and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the sumac, chilli and thyme leaves. Grate over the zest of half a lemon.
  5. Drizzle with some olive oil (or use the oil from the sun dried tomatoes jar) and toss well to combine.
  6. Roast for about 20 minutes keeping an eye on them until the tomatoes have broken down and rebased their lovely juices. 
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before tearing over all but a handful of basil leaves.
  8. Get yourself a nice serving plate and spoon the yoghurt on top. Spread out and create a slight well in the centre.
  9. Spoon over your lovely roasted tomatoes and their juices.
  10. Scatter with the pine nuts and any left over basil and serve.

Bonus recipe – Roasted new potatoes with oregano & feta

  1. Preheat the oven to 220. Cut your potatoes in half and place on a baking tray
  2. Scatter with flaky salt and dried oregano.
  3. Drizzle with oil and roast for 30 minutes until crispy and golden.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before crumbling over some feta.

Mushroom & Ricotta Galette

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avoury galettes are so satisfying and hearty especially when you combine the meaty taste of mushrooms. An eggless quiche you could compare it to but much more forgiving with its rough pastry cracks and artisan edges. It can also be filled with whatever you like, just make sure there isn’t anything too wet inside. Roasted kale or peppers as a suggestion or experiment with a multitude of cheeses.

I made a ‘quick flaky pastry’ which I just love as its so short and crumbly but if you don’t want the hassle feel free to swap in a puff pastry here and save some time.

Galette can also slyly and traditionally be made sweet filled with almond frangipane. See here for a traditional French “galette des rois” with cinnamon ice cream.

Serves 4  –  serve with a lovely crisp salad dressed with a Dijon and lemon dressing!

Pastry

  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g cold butter, cubed
  • Cold water

You can also use ready made puff pastry if you like, a 500g block.

Filling

  • 500g mixed mushrooms (I used about 300 chestnut and 200g mixed wild) chopped roughly
  • 2 small leeks, finely chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 180g ricotta cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • 100g blue cheese (or cheddar, goats cheese, brie, use whatever you like)
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 handful thyme, leaves picked
  • Sprig rosemary, leaves picked
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Start by making the pastry. Combine the flour, salt and pepper and the cubed cold butter in a food processor and process until you get a fine breadcrumb like texture (you can also rub it by hand). With the motor running, add a tablespoon of cold water adding enough very carefully until the dough just comes together but isn’t sticky (about 2-3 tbsp). Tip it out onto a floured surface and combine the last bit with your hands to form a nice dough ball. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes at least in the fridge.
  2. Heat half the butter in a frying pan and add a tbsp of olive oil. When just hot and starting to sizzle, add the chopped mushrooms and cook gently until they begin to brown and they loose their water. This can take about 8 minutes. Don’t be tempted to crowd the pan with mushrooms, do it in 2 batches if needed. If using wild and more delicate mushrooms, add these at the end as they take less time.
  3. Once starting to turn golden, add the crushed garlic cloves and the chopped thyme and rosemary and stir to combine for a few minutes to cook the garlic. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, add the rest of the butter and sweat the leek gently on a low heat until soft, silky and just beginning to caramelise. Season and remove from the heat and stir in all but a handful of the parsley.
  5. Heat the oven to 190 and pop in a baking tray to preheat. Remove your chosen pastry from the fridge.
  6. Roll the pastry into a rough circle (about 14 inches) – don’t worry too much at getting it perfectly round but good enough. It should be about the thickness of a pound coin. Place it onto a sheet of baking parchment while you fill.
  7. Spread your ricotta cheese nicely on the base of the pastry, leaving a good 2 inch rim clear, like a pizza. Season and grate the zest of the lemon on top of the ricotta.
  8. Top with the leeks spreading evenly.
  9. Top with the garlic mushrooms. Finally, crumble or grate over your cheese of choice as liberally as you like.
  10. Brush the 2 inch rim of the pastry with beaten egg and then gently fold over the edges to partly cover the filling. Press down any pastry that overlaps. Coat the rest of the pastry in the beaten egg.
  11. Remove the hot baking tray from the oven carefully. Next very carefully slide your parchment with you galette on top. You can do this easiest from the edge of your counter. The hot tray should help the base cook evenly so its nice and crisp. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and smelling wonderful checking after 20 if needed.
  12. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes or so before scattering over the rest of the parsley and serve.

Pearl Barley Salad & Pea Puree

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haven’t blogged anything new in some time. Don’t worry I haven’t stopped cooking, our meals have just rotated between old favourites, cheap quick fixes and emergency lentils. I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with…a wedding. My wedding! My first blog post as a married woman. He was a happy man he said as he cheerfully devoured this dinner. Little does he know the menus to come…just wait for anniversary one!

The promise of a proper summer streamed through our balcony windows today and the forecast for our precious weekends begins to look brighter, dressy and filled with cold crisp pints. It is also a pinnacle time for the world opening up again. I very much look forward to stopping for an unplanned, non-booked drink at a random pub and even ordering it myself at a bar. Heck I might even pay in cash (perhaps one step too far?).

Back to this recipe. The dish is so fresh and vibrant in flavour yet it is deceivingly satiating. The barely salad is filled with summery, flavours all coated in the gorgeously sweet velvety pea that I always wish I’d made more of.

Serves 2

  • 2 fillets of fish – seabass, bream, cod – pick your favourite.
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 stock cube
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 1/2 courgette
  • 1 handful mint & parsley, leave picked
  • Handful of pine nuts
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 knob butter
  1. Prepare your pearl barely salad ingredients. Cut your courgette into dice, bite sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop the herbs and grate the zest of the lemon juice on top. Set aside with the courgette.
  3. Toast you pine nuts in a dry hot frying pan until golden, set aside.
  4. Simmer the pearl barley in boiling water for about 20-30 minutes until just soft and the bite has gone. Drain and return to the pan and keep warm with a lid on. You’ll finish this at the last minute.
  5. Make you pea puree just before serving, right before you cook you fish. Prepare a pan of stock and add the garlic clove and the peas. Boil for about 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Add the peas & garlic clove only (keep the stock) to a blender/nutribullet with some seasoning and a knob of butter. Add a small splash of the hot stock to the mix but best to add little to start so you can thin it down to the desired consistency, its harder to make thicker again! Blend and add more stock to achieve a smooth creamy texture but you really don’t need a lot. You’re not looking for soup but you’re not looking for mash! Season well to taste. Set aside and keep as hot as you can while you cook the fish.
  6. Heat a frying pan until piping hot and add a tiny bit of oil. Season you fish and cook, skin side down for about 2-3 minutes, finishing for 30 seconds on the flesh side (timings for a seabass/bream fillet)
  7. Combine herbs, lemon zest, juice of the lemon, courgette and the pine nuts and mix well into the barely you set aside.
  8. Spoon a lovely ladleful of pea puree onto a plate. Top with your pearl barley salad and finally your fish fillet. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil if you like, extra pine nuts or another squeeze of lemon

Eat ideally in a sunny garden while the birds chirping in the background. I will have to settle for a balcony, London sirens but a handsome husband to gaze into the eyes of. Who knows, perhaps a garden and bird song is on our list for the next adventure.

Raw Noodle Salad & Peanut Dressing

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uch a delicious rainbow salad, you can just feel your body thanking you for the amazing vitamins. The dressing is amazing (courtesy of Bill Granger) and can be used over hot noodles, salad leaves or some simply grilled salmon. It’s got fantastic peanut depth and sweetness. I served mine with some sesame crusted seared tuna steaks. 

I’ve mentioned this before but if you don’t have one of these julienne peelers then get on Amazon Prime and have one delivered tomorrow! They make such light work of this salad, and are great for raw vegetable noodle dishes. If you don’t have one, you can hand cut or use a grater but you won’t end up with the same texture. 

Serves 4 (as a side)

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red pepper, thinly slices
  • 1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
  • Handful coriander, chopped
  • Around 80g fresh grated coconut (you can use a few handfuls of toasted desiccated coconut f not)
  • A few handfuls of roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted to preference)

Dressing

  • 1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter (I use Pip & Nut. Not added BS and runny for dressings)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp unflavoured oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Thinly chop or julienne the carrot and courgette into a large bowl. Add the finely sliced red pepper and red cabbage and the chopped coriander.
  2. Add your coconut if using and stir to combine
  3. In a jam jar, add the honey, peanut butter and lemon juice and shake with the lid on. Or whisk well in a bowl.
  4. Add the oils, soy and vinegar and mix well to combine. 
  5. Only when you are ready to serve, dress your salad with the dressing and scatter over the peanuts. Serve immediately! If you let it sit around it will get soggy.

 

Courgette & Rice Gratin

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his one is a bit of a guesswork and culinary instinct. I make up the majority of my recipes from going by eye and taste so am constantly having to rush to the laptop at the end of a meal to formulate a trusty recipe with measurements! Due to the varying moisture of your courgette and the foolish way I left writing this one up to a week later its rough but will always be I think. When I make this again, I’ll return to this post and correct any misgivings…So try my chefs, go by eye, taste and gut to get the texture.

This makes a lovely side dish to some grilled chicken or steak. I felt it was  equivalent to but more sustainable than a creamed spinach with its carb element. It’s really moreish and filling and not creamy in the traditional gratin sense. It would also make a great vegetable main with salad dressed with a dijon lemon dressing.

Serves 4 as a side

  • 140g brown rice
  • 3 courgettes, finely grated
  • 2 shallots/1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 50g of grated parmesan
  • 25g butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp plain flour
  • Splash milk
  • Some breadcrumbs
  • 1 lemon, zest
  1. Grate your courgettes into a big bowl and sprinkle over about 2 tsp or two good pinches of flaky salt and set aside. This will draw out the majority of the courgette moisture.
  2. Boil your rice for about 20-25 minutes until just cooked with a slight bite. Check as you go as you don’t want to overcook it; it needs texture. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Heat and then gently sweat your shallot/onion for about 8 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes.
  4. Put the courgette into a sieve and push through to drain the, now extracted, liquid. Save this liquid in a separate bowl. Don’t worry about getting it really dry, you just want to remove the excess.
  5. Add the grated courgette to the frying pan and the onions and mix well to combine. Fry for a few minutes.
  6. Next, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and then add the butter and mix until melted.
  7. Add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and mix well.
  8. Next, (ironically) you want to add some of that courgette ‘juice’ back in, but at your control. Add in stirring well to stop the flour getting lumpy until it starts to thicken a bit – here is where you need to use your instincts!
  9. Once added, top up with milk if you want a looser texture, I added a splash but my courgette ‘juice’ was about 100ml.
  10. Grate in all but a handful of the parmesan and the zest from half the lemon and mix until the cheese is melted.
  11. Tip into a baking dish.
  12. Scatter with the breadcrumbs and the reserved parmesan and season.
  13. Bake at 180 for about 20 minutes or until golden and hot through!

Mushroom & Barely Risotto

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ome recipes make you excited. You end up dishing up then talking about them the entire way through the meal. With each mouthful another comment about your success or enjoyment until you realise you’re lost in an enthusiastic nodding and smiling conversation with your company across the table. This happens a lot to me, and I can only think my fiancee is happy to just enjoy his dinner and take one for the team by humouring me. Rather like I do when watching United play at the weekend I guess…

This recipe though was one of those happy soothing moments where we dined in delight, comfort and satiety. So pleasingly earthy, umami and meaty, this barley mushroom ‘risotto’ really treated our Monday evening normailty. Its a “YUM” dinner.

Free to use your favourite assortment of mushrooms here but do not skimp on the dried mushrooms. That soaking liquid is like nectar and I always have to stick my nose in when opening a fresh pot for that joyful aroma! Mushroom risotto is one of my favourites but I really think its elevated 3 fold by using barley. The earthiness comes through so pleasingly and the texture and bite make for such a delicious dinner.

Serves 2-3

  • 180g pearl barley
  • 300g (approx) chestnut mushrooms
  • 120g (approx) shiitake mushrooms
  • 15-20g wild dried mushrooms (I use these)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked, finely chopped
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • Hot Stock – I used a chicken stock but vegetable if you want to keep this vege
  • 25g butter
  • Handful chopped parsley & chives
  • Parmesan
  • Handful toasted pine nuts (to serve)
  • Hens/Quails eggs (Optional – to serve)
  1. Soak your dried mushrooms in about 200ml boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain but keep that mushroom stock but discard the last bit of liquid as it’ll be grainy. Set mushrooms and mushroom stock aside.
  2. Heat half the butter and a splash of olive oil in a large sauce pan on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped shallot, celery and sweat for about 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Don’t colour. Season well as its cooking.
  3. Add one crushed garlic clove and the rosemary and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and stir everything so you coat the barely in fats.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the white wine and simmer until this reduced.
  6. Add your mushroom stock and stir.
  7. Now add the hot stock in generous spoonfuls bit by bit as it cooks. Keep adding stock to the barley keeping it on a good strong simmer. The barley will take about 35-40 minutes to cook through but you still want it with a bit of bite. You’ll need around 800ml stock in total but use your eye to see when you need to add more but don’t add too much as its gets to the end of cooking as your want it to be reducing down.
  8. As the barley is cooking, set a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the rest of the butter and a splash of olive oil. Chop your mushrooms roughly (not too thin) or rip them if delicate and add to the pan. Season well with salt. Cook for about 10 minutes. You want to reduced them down. A lot of liquid will leak out so keep the pan hot to reduced that off and get them golden. Once ready, add the second crushed garlic clove and cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside.
  9. Once the barley is ready, check your liquid. You still want some give in it, do not let it dry out, it’ll thicken with the mushrooms and cheese. Check your seasoning here and add salt and pepper as needed (lots of pepper works wonders here).
  10. Add the dried soaked mushrooms and fried mushrooms and stir well. Add the chopped parsley and chives and stir.
  11. Finally grate in a really generous handful of parmesan – I like to keep this optional as to how much! Clamp your lid on, remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.
  12. If frying or poaching eggs to go on top, do that now.
  13. When ready to serve, remove the lid and stir the now molten cheese into the dish. If it’s a little thick, add a splash of water to loosen, you don’t want it cloggy.
  14. Spoon into bowls, top with grated parmesan, scatter of pine nuts, any reserved herbs and finely your eggs if using!

Texture – texture of any risotto should warrant a bowl or a large plate. It needs to ooze. If you can label your risotto onto a plate and it sits high and still like a mound of pasta, add more hot water and stir well.

Dal Tadka (with roasted cauliflower)

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‘m a bit lost for words on this one *love eyes*. I love dal but this one is a culinary cuddle with a gentle kiss of coconut among the curry layers. I am about packing in as much flavour as possible so if you’re used to using my recipes you won’t be surprised that I normally use about double the spices so please be heavy handed! 

I’ll never be a vegan but as I was cooking I realised we’d chosen something similar for our vegan/vegetarian wedding dinner option and thus realised its vegan by coincidence. Not many recipes are such, usually tirelessly omitting all the fun. But if I had to be vegan, I’d eat this one everyday!

Serving suggestions…this is devine with some warm fluffy flatbreads (250g SR flour, 150ml water mix into a dough, rest and roll thinly before dry frying!). It would also work wonderfully as a side dish to a curry feast or some grilled meat at a BBQ.

Serves about 3 people (Or 2 with leftovers in our case!)

Dal

  • 150g red lentils
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 1 bride eye red chilli (as hot as you like)
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tbsp curry powder
  • 400ml coconut milk (I always recommend Dunn’s brand here hands down)
  • 1 lime
  • Olive/vegetable/rapeseed oil
  • Flatbreads – to serve

Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 heaped tsp tumeric
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Handful chopped coriander

Tadka

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • Few curry leaves
  • Ghee or oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 200. Break the cauliflower into florets and cut the bigger pieces in half or quarters (think big bitesize so you don’t need a knife!). Add to a large roasting tray in a single even layer so they aren’t cramped.
  2. Scatter garam masala, turmeric and a good pinch of salt and pepper and then drizzle with some olive/vegetable oil and toss to combine.
  3. Timing with the dal cooking times below, roast for about 10-15 minutes during step 8 of making the dal below on a high heat to char the florets but not overcook. Remove from the oven when ready. Scatter with the chopped coriander and keep warm.
  4. For the dal, heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan pan and soften the chopped onion for about 5 minutes.
  5. Grate in the garlic, ginger and chopped chilli and stir. Add curry leaves and season.
  6. Add the spices and mix well for a few minutes to coat the oily onions and release their flavour!
  7. Add the lentils and stir to combine.
  8. Add the coconut milk and about 100ml of boiling water and stir well. Simmer well for about 20 minutes making sure to stir often to avoid it sticking or catching on the bottom. You may need to add another 100ml of water if it gets thick. I used about 800ml of liquid in total but it may depend on the quality of your coconut milk. (I always recommend Dunn’s brand here hands down).
  9. After 20 minutes of so it should be thick and shiny and the lentils just cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  10. When ready, squeeze in the juice of the lime and keep warm.
  11. Finally, to make the tadka, add a small tsp of oil of ghee to a frying pan. When really hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds and let them sizzle and release their lovely flavours! Add the curry leaves, careful as they will spit (due to their moisture content!). Let them crisp for a few seconds and remove from the heat.
  12. Serve a nice creamy scoop of dal in a warm bowl, top with roasted cauliflower and coriander and finally a little spoonful of that tadka!

Chestnut Risotto with flaked almonds

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adore a creamy, rich risotto on a cold evening. I’ll admit, with no sign of any greens, its not a nutritionally packed or balanced dinner in the slightest but it was a warm hug in a bowl we need right now on chilly weekday evenings when we’re house bound. It really did hit the spot and provided a festive hangover of creamy chestnut and garlic.

Whilst I’m no vegan, I would certainly urge any vegan missing their cream or cheese to try chestnuts as a replacement for that texture. They make a great hummus and are devine in desserts with caramel.

Chestnuts add a really natural creaminess to this one so you can use less cheese if you like but I always add a good handful or two of grated parmesan. Its subtle in flavour so don’t be tempted to overpower the topping too much.

Serves 4

  • 200g risotto/Arborio rice
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • Sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 25g butter + 1 large knob
  • 200g chestnut puree – make your own by blending chestnuts or use this one from Merchant Gourmet
  • 1 small glass Marsala wine (or brandy/white wine)
  • 1 stock cube (made up to 500ml or so of hot stock)
  • 50g approx, grated Parmesan cheese
  • Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Flaked almonds, lightly toasted
  • Garnish – crunchy breadcrumbs/croutons – optional but adds a much needed crunch.
  1. Heat the knob of butter and a tbsp of oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Once melted, add the chopped onion and celery and gently sweat for about 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the rosemary and stir with some seasoning.
  2. Get your hot stock in a saucepan nearby on a low but constant heat.
  3. Crush in the garlic and cook for a further few minutes
  4. Add the rice and turn up the heat to medium high. You are aiming to toast the rice and cover it in the fat. After about a minute the grains should start to change colour. Add the alcohol of choice which will bubble away quickly.
  5. Add a ladleful of hot stock and stir. Bring the heat to a gentle simmer and simmer gently, adding more stock from the pan as it begins to be absorbed for about 18 minutes – time this and as you near 18 minutes keep tasting the rice. It should be just cooked but with a slight bite and most of your stock used. The mixture should be ‘sloppy’ for want of a better word.
  6. Once you feel the rice is ready, add the chestnut puree and stir well to incorporate, it will thicken so add a splash of stock to thin if needed.
  7. Seaosn with plenty of black pepper.
  8. Remove from the heat. Add the grated cheese and the butter and put a lid on. Leave for 2 minutes. Stir well to mix in the melted cheese and butter and add all but a handful of parsley.
  9. Serve in warm shallow bowls topped with the remaining parsley, roasted almonds and crunchy breadcrumbs/crouton!

Sharing Pastry Wheel

T

his puff pastry sharing wheel has become one of my Christmas signatures! Made only in December for a festive drinks gathering with friends. Its such a perfect sharing canape as you can tailor it to your favourite flavours, those flavours of your guests or to suit any dietary requirement. I like to make this vegetarian as the rest of Christmas tends to be meat themed . Its such a pretty centre piece to the table – eye catching and head turning! The best part is that its barely cooking – I’d call it an assembly job! 

Glass of cold Champagne in hand, buttery puff pastry really is the most ideal pairing and always will be in my eyes!

Ingredients

  • 1 block puff pastry (I always end up with leftover pastry when I make this so I make a set of Palmiers here to match. Same process really just a different shape)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Fillings of choice, some combination suggestions below: Be careful here with your choices, you’re not making a pizza. It can’t be too ‘full’ or bulky. Chop finely and scatter scarcely, hence why punchy flavours work better!

Green pesto, feta, sun dried tomatoes, cumin seeds

Red pesto, sun dried tomatoes, goats cheese, chopped dill

Olive tapenade, feta, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, fennel seeds

Pesto, anchovies, capers, crumbled mozzarella, basil

  1. Half the pastry block and roll out each on a floured surface into circles around 30cm diameter. Use a plate as a cutter to cut around to form a nice neat circle.
  2. Place one circle on a baking sheet on a baking tray. Onto this circle add your toppings! Start with your pesto base and then scatter over the toppings and herbs making finely chopped/small pieces and scattering evenly. You can work up to the edges, but leave a 1cm border or so.
  3. Brush the 1cm border with a little egg wash.
  4. Take your second circle of pastry and place on top, and then gently press down so that it snugly hugs the fillings underneath and is sealed at the edges where you’ve egg washed.
  5. Next take a small upturned egg cup and place it in the middle gently, not enough to cut through. Working outwards, cut thin strips so that they are still attached at the centre.
  6. Take each strip and gently twist like a cheese straw and press down onto the tray at the end to keep it unfolding again. You’ll know here if you’ve packed it too full or cut your pieces too big as they will pop out everywhere!
  7. Continue all the way round and once done, remove the egg cup.
  8. Place in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes, preheat the oven to 200°C.
  9. When ready to cook, remove from the fridge, egg wash over generously so its gets a wonderful golden shine and then scatter over sesame, nigella or any seed of choice that suits your filling if desired.
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking regularly until golden and puffed!
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before serving but nicest served warm (avoid burning anyones mouths with molten cheese!)

You can remove the centre circle puff where the egg cup marked (eat it..) and then pop a nice dipping sauce in the middle in a dish. The idea is the guests ‘tear and share’…and dip if desired!