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Posts from the ‘Amazing veggies’ Category

Grilled beetroot salad with pumpkin seed pesto and goats milk yogurt dressing


Making a salad can often feel like a slapdash affair; a few fresh ingredients quickly tossed together, fast food at its healthy best. So it was nice to spend a little extra time over the weekend to make this salad, packed with the sort of sweet, earthy flavours that I start to crave when the autumn comes.

Unless you are eating it raw, beetroot will never be a fast food. And whilst I do use those pre-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroots from time to time, they can be a little bit watery, losing some of their fabulous rich flavour and colour. Much better to cook your own, although this takes time. I’m amazed by the number of recipes that insist you can roast a beetroot in 30-40 minutes. The only time I roasted some beetroots, I was amazed at the length of time they took to cook, taunting me from the depths of the oven as they remained hard as nails for hours on end, disregarding my every effort to hurry them along. I’ve not roasted a beetroot since. But for this recipe I wanted the dense, sweet flesh that only roasting seems to yield, so I decided to experiment with simmering them and then grilling them to get that sweet caramelised flavour in a fraction of the time. Its still not exactly quick, but it does save on oven-induced torment.

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Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

I’m not one to pick favourites, but if I had to, broad beans would definitely be on my list. Their delicate, fresh green flavour is the epitome of summer to me. They have a wonderful affinity with the fresh lemon zest, fragrant basil and rich creamy buffalo mozzarella in this recipe.

Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. I always, always double-pod mine. For both flavour and aesthetic reasons, I like the bright green inner bean to be completely disrobed. Broad beans lead such a cosseted life,  enveloped in the thick, soft wadding that forms their pod; the vegetable equivalent of a cashmere blanket. The beans inside have a tough white skin which also needs to be removed. I have read many times that if you catch the beans when they are young enough, this white skin is edible, but I’ve never found it to be anything other than slightly bitter and so I remove it as a matter of course. Read more

Tomato and caramelised garlic tart

May just seemed to disappear this year, which is bit of a shame as it’s one of my favourite months, a month full of potential, the cusp of a new season. Just at the point when you can’t possibly face another root vegetable, suddenly, right on cue, bunches of English asparagus and punnets of early strawberries make their appearance, signifying the start summer, of long bright nights, barbecues in the garden and lazy sunny afternoons.

I spent most of May in California this year, which was a real foodie pleasure. I barely came across the stereotypical monstrous portions of beige food so frequently associated with eating in the US. Not to say that there wasn’t the occasional burger, but it seemed that everywhere I went the main emphasis was on farm-to-fork eating, organic and local. I was spoilt with amazing fresh seafood, juice bars, taquerias, farmers markets, delicious hot garlic fries, a handbag stuffed with peanut butter cups….not to mention a fulfilled ambition of eating at the seminal Chez Panisse.

So of all the back-to-reality post-holiday tasks I could choose, this weekend I decided to defrost the freezer! Lurking at the back, amongst the escapee fish fingers and suspect looking bags of egg white, was a packet of puff pastry, still tightly wrapped in clingfilm, which I decided to use up, rather than return to its frosty home. After a quick rummage in the fridge, I decided on this tomato and caramelised garlic tart, with added goat cheese for good measure.

My favourite part of any dish made with puff pastry is the inevitable stodgy, sticky layer that forms between the crisp, flaky top and the filling underneath. And so it is with this tart; sweet tomatoes and garlic ooze their juice into the pastry, forming a satisfyingly sticky layer of tomato soaked goo. Definitely the best bit.

Baking the tart upside down, like a french tarte tatin, makes the whole thing quick and simple, with minimal washing up. I have a nice, small 20 cm frying pan which is ovenproof, so I could cook it all in the one pan. If you don’t have an ovenproof pan of the right size and shape, no harm will come from transferring the tomato mixture into a baking tin for the oven. Read more

A warm salad of grilled aubergine and puy lentils

A warm salad of grilled aubergine and puy lentilsAfter a long day at work, supper needs to be super-fast. When I’m only putting my key in the front door at 8.30pm, I need something that requires minimal effort and intervention, nothing more than a little slicing, a little stirring.

A salad might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but when it’s getting late, I shy away from the default bowl of pasta and pesto, knowing that it will be still be sitting heavily in my stomach when my head hits the pillow just an hour or two later.  When time is of the essence, a pack of ready cooked puy lentils from my store cupboard stash of pulses is invaluable. The addition of some grilled aubergine, which can be left happily to its own devices, gently charring and softening away whilst I freshen myself up, makes for a light but substantial dinner. Read more

Super green soup

super green soupA simple, vibrant soup. Pure green, green, green – the colour alone is just so beautiful. And the flavour is peppery and bright, refreshing and nourishing. It’s like a turbo-watercress soup, unadulterated by cream or potatoes; just fresh, clean, intense flavour. Read more

A little something on toast: pan con tomate with avocado

Pan con tomato with avocado

Its nice to sometimes have a slightly summery lunch in the depths of winter, on a day when the sunshine makes a frosty appearance and cuts through the winter gloom. Pan con tomate is one of my staple orders in a tapas bar and whilst it undoubtedly tastes much better in the Spanish sunshine, maybe sat out on a little terrace…with a chilled glass of wine… it can also brighten up a January lunchtime in London.

If you’ve not had pan con tomate before, I’ll accept that its not immediately obvious what the magic of a bit of tomato on toast is. It’s one of those simple dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts. The brief twang of garlic in the background, the grassiness of the olive oil, the crunch of a little sea salt with sweet juicy tomato on top. It’s my favourite thing on toast by a long way. This time I added few chunks of avocado to make it more of a meal, but its not really necessary.

You need a robust white bread for this with a good crisp crust – no pre-sliced industrial loaf here please. Grill chunky slices until just golden. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side briefly over the crisp bread, just anointing it with a little of its scent. Drizzle over some olive oil, a good quality, full flavoured oil is called for here. Next you need some quite large tomatoes, so they have a decent amount of flesh to them. I find cherry tomatoes are too much pips and skin for this. Rub the cut side of the tomato generously over the bread, giving it a bit of a squeeze as you go. The crispiness from the grill should mash up the flesh a bit and leave a scant layer of pulp and juice over your toast. Add a little extra chopped flesh if you like. A good sprinkle of sea salt plus some roughly mashed avocado and you’re done.

Butternut squash and kale fritters with chorizo and poached eggs

Butternut squash and kale fritters, with chorizo and poached egg

So happy new year! I’m a bit late, I know. January is a bit of an interesting month eating wise. So many friends and family are tucking into salads and staying off the booze. I rarely fancy a salad in January – the cold weather combined with a house stripped of its tinsel makes me feel like I need something comforting, not food purgatory. And there are plenty of tastier ways to up my vegetable consumption and gently get myself into a healthier frame of mind.

My shopping bags are full to bursting with greens this week. Kale seems to be everywhere all of a sudden, in every A-lister’s smoothie, the superfood of the moment. So hopefully you’ve got a bag in the fridge and I promise this will be much nicer than juicing it! Read more

Butternut squash soup, with thyme pesto oil

Butternut squash soup with thyme pesto oil

Soup is the ultimate winter soul food. Nourishing and sustaining, with endless varieties, I never get bored with it.

This soup was borne out of pretty much the entire contents of my fridge – a squash, a couple of shallots, a carton of chicken stock and a little double cream. It was frankly a pretty bare fridge, but I had no desire to head out to the shops and this was the first thing that came to mind. I guess thats the joy of soups, there are no rules, you make make a soup from practically anything.

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A simple supper, just for me

What is it that makes food a treat? It needs to be out of the ordinary, something you don’t eat everyday. Where the anticipation of eating is part of the allure. With a definite element of indulgence. It needs to be right food for the right time and the right place. So here is my little Thursday night treat. A simple potato, patiently baked in the oven for a good hour. Slathered in butter, the faintest smear of mushroom pesto, finished with cheddar. The perfect supper for a crisp November night.


Autumn roasted vegetables, hazelnut dukkah, tahini yogurt

Autumn roasted vegetables, hazelnut dukkah, tahini yogurt

Autumn roasted vegetables, hazelnut dukkah, tahini yogurt

Sunday night dinners are always some of my favourites. It’s the one night I try very hard to be at home, to have a relaxed night in, as a last bit of indulgence before the weekend is over. Sunday night is a recuperative night, to restore and soothe you for the week ahead. Good food is integral to this and I absolutely believe that a slow cooked supper is the best foundation for a languorous night on the sofa. If you can dedicate your mind to it, chopping and stirring can be almost meditative, having a gentle rhythm to help escape from that endless to-do list whirring around your mind. Not to mention that slow cooking naturally lends itself to comfort foods – succulent slow cooked meats, casseroles and puddings, such a luxury compared to weekday grab and go meals.

The rain felt endless this weekend. A deluge from the sky. The sort of weather where the most tempting activities are all sofa based. I’d eaten a lot of meat and rich food over the weekend, a big plate of roast veggies was just the thing I needed. Having spent the summer months without consuming anything resembling a root vegetable, roasted roots have regained their appeal, so I set about chopping with zeal. Without any accompaniment, this is probably enough for 3 or 4 portions, so providing a few leftovers for the two of us. Read more