Category Archives: Vegetables

Saturday Night Pasta with Olives, Tomato and Chili

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Staying in this Saturday night? Lucky you: it is the perfect time to cook yourself some delicious, easy pasta, open a nice bottle of wine, and catch up on Ray Donovan or whatever else you are into at the moment. Don’t worry about the washing up, either: you only need 2 pans!

Have a lovely weekend!

You will need (for 2):

4 tbsp olive oil
2 anchovies in olive oil, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small red chili, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers in brine, drained
About 10-12 mixed green and black olives, halved
250 g cherry tomatoes
250 g wholewheat fusilli

salt, pepper

Method:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a frying pan, heat up the olive oil over a medium heat, and add the anchovies and chili. Cook for 2 min, stirring, then add the garlic and cherry tomatoes. Cook for about 8 min, then add the olives and capers and leave to cook until the pasta is ready. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan, tip the sauce into the pan and combine. Serve with grated Parmesan, if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Pasta, Vegetables

The Next Best Thing To A Duvet Day: Velvety Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

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Winter is dragging on, my mood is as gloomy as the weather, and I feel like I am going to be cold forever.

I wish I could just burrow under the duvet and wait for the temperatures to start climbing again before venturing back out, but I can’t do that because I would most probably get sacked. Unfortunately, my job cannot be done from home, and it definitely cannot be done from under a duvet, so like most other people I have to suck it up, leave my bed and wrap up in a lot of layers in order to go to work. And it sucks.

Sadly, taking your duvet to work isn’t normally very practical either. So, what to do? What could make up for having to get out of bed?

In my opinion, the next best thing to a duvet is probably soup. It is warm, comforting and satisfying, and unlike a duvet you can take it to work to enjoy during your lunch break, without having to endure being stared at by your co-workers as if you have suddenly grown a second head. If you agree with me, then this recipe is definitely for you.

This mushroom and chestnut soup is very tasty and warming. The chestnut purée is optional, but the texture wouldn’t be as smooth and velvety without it. Use any mushrooms you want; if you are lucky enough to have access to wild mushrooms then don’t hesitate to use them. I usually go for a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and (rehydtated) dried porcini.

You will need (for 4 servings):

800 g mixed mushrooms (rehydrated weight if using dried mushrooms), quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
Salt, pepper
4 heaped tbsp unsweetened chestnut purée

Method:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter together on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft but not coloured (about 3 to 4 min).

Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, then add the brandy and cook for 1 or 2 min to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 min.

Transfer about 2/3 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the soup, and stir in the chestnut purée. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread, and crème fraîche if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Soups, Starters, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Butternut Squash, Feta and Spinach Roast

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With all this windy, cold weather, I was in the mood for some nice comfort food tonight; a tender beef stew maybe, or simply sausages and mash. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go the the butcher’s at the weekend, so I am having to rely mostly on vegeterian options this week.

I am, and forever will be, a committed carnivore, but I really enjoy a meat-free option every once in a while. Having no meat in the house usually forces me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and find interesting ways to cook vegetables.

This is one of my favourite meat-free dishes; it is quick enough to prepare on a weeknight after work, and it features feta which I adore. It is easy to substitute some of the ingredients depending on what you have available (parsnips, sweet potatoes or turnips work very well here too).

If you don’t fancy pumpkin seeds, try some toasted flaked almonds or cashew nuts instead.

You will need (for 2):

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp thyme

A few pinches chili flakes

1 butternut squash

2 large carrots

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

2 handfuls spinach leaves

200 g feta

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220ºC/ fan 200ºC / gas 7.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane with a teaspoon, discard. Cut the flesh into cubes (roughly 2 cm). Peel the carrots and cut into thick slices.

Peel the onion and cut into rough 1 cm cubes. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a roasting dish, mix the squash, carrot, olive oil, thyme and chili. Use your hands to mix thoroughly so the veg is well covered with the oil and flavourings. Bake for 20-30 min or until tender.

Meanwhile, wash and drain the spinach. Chop the feta.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the feta, spinach and pumpkin seeds to the dish, mix briefly, and return to the oven for 5 min.

Serve with some crusty bread.

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“Sweet Chick” Chorizo Stew

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Every night, I race from work to nursery, where I pick up my Little Greedy Tadpole (19 months). Then I race home from nursery. Then I race around the kitchen trying to prepare dinner as fast as I can (no wonder I am exhausted…).

Dinner on a weeknight therefore needs to be quick, nutritious, grown-up enough for me and Mr Greedy Frog to enjoy, but also suitable for our little one. This recipe is a good example of something that works, and it features some of my go-to ingredients: sweet potatoes and chickpeas (hence the rather daft title).

I tend to rely heavily on tins of pulses; they are very quick to cook and can be used to bulk out pretty much any meal. I also try and have some sort of root vegetables in the house at all times, as they tend to keep rather well. Finally, I always have some onions and garlic, because a life without them is just not worth living!

The ingredients in this recipe can be modified at will, depending on what needs using up in your fridge or cupboard; potatoes, mushrooms, leeks, butter beans or any other vegetables or pulses could be added, it also tastes lovely with some feta added in at the last minute, and the stock can be replaced with a tin of chopped tomatoes and a bit of hot water. In fact, pretty much anything goes!

I make some sort of variation of this about once a week, and I don’t think I have ever made the same combination twice. I would love to hear from anyone trying this with different ingredients, as I am always looking for new ideas, so please pass on any suggestions!

You will need (for 3 portions):

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
100 g chorizo, diced (if feeding a toddler, make sure you don’t serve them any of the chorizo as it is a bit hard to chew for little teeth, although they will enjoy the taste it gives the stew)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 handfuls basmati rice
500 ml hot vegetable stock
1 x 400 g tin chickpeas, drained
2 bay leaves
Paprika
Salt, Pepper
Grated parmesan, to serve

Method:

Heat up the olive oil on a medium heat in a large, deep pan with a lid. Fry the onion and garlic for about a minute, then add the chorizo, sweet potato and rice. Stir well for a few seconds.

Add enough stock to just cover, sprinkle with a bit of paprika, salt and pepper, add the bay leaf and chickpeas, and cover with the lid. Leave to cook for about 10-12 min, stirring once or twice, until the rice and sweet potato are cooked through and tender. Check the seasoning, then serve and sprinkle with a bit of parmesan.

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Filed under Mains, Vegetables

Another “No Cheese” Rant: Authentic Gratin Dauphinois

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I was fortunate enough to spend 3 years studying in Grenoble, in a part of the French Alps called the Dauphiné. And it just so happens that this region is the birthplace of Gratin Dauphinois (or dauphinoise potatoes as it is called in English).

When I say that I was “fortunate”, it is because at the end of these wonderful 3 years, I headed back home with the recipe for Gratin Dauphinois in my back pocket (and a Master’s Degree in Business, but who cares? You can’t eat a degree).

Now, for those of you who read my Quiche Lorraine post, you will know that I don’t like it one bit when people mess with a beautifully simple recipe. This also applies to Gratin Dauphinois. THERE IS NO CHEESE IN IT, just potatoes, milk, cream, eggs and seasoning. That is all you need!

This gratin is perfect as a side dish with roast meats, or as a main with a few slices of cured meats.

You will need (for 4):

About 1.2 kg potatoes
2 eggs
750 ml milk
4 tbsp double cream
1 clove garlic
100g butter + extra for the dish
Nutmeg
Rosemary
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ fan 180C/ gas 6-7.

Peel the garlic and cut in half. Rub the cut side over the bottom and sides of a large oven dish. Butter the dish.

Peel and wash the potatoes, then cut into 2mm slices.

In a large jug, beat the eggs, then add the cream and milk. Season.

Put a layer of potato slices over the bottom of the dish (you don’t need to be neat), then pour some of the milk mixture over it. Repeat until the dish is full or you have used up all the ingredients.

Season, sprinkle some grated nutmeg on top, and some rosemary. Dot small pieces of the butter all over.image

Bake for about 45 min or until golden and cooked through.

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Filed under Mains, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

The poor, un-sexy globe artichoke

Globe artichokes are not sexy. They are not fashionable, and rather hard to find in Britain. Most people I know have never tried one.

Why is this? Does the name put people off, I wonder, with its suggestion of choking? Or is it its large, tight leaves and almost Jurassic appearance?

Whichever way, I think it is a real shame. Artichokes are delicious, nutricious and easy to prepare, and they should be a lot more prominent on people’s shopping lists.

Now just to be clear, I do NOT hold shares in any artichoke-growing conglomerate. I am not here to brainwash anyone into eating artichokes. To me, they are simply a taste of my childhood, and I think it would be nice if more people gave them a chance.

The best way to cook them is to steam them. So dig out your pressure cooker, and after just a few simple steps, you will be ready to enjoy this little treat.

Here’s how:

Snap off the stalk, and steam for around 22 min (slightly more if your artichoke is large)

Place in a shallow bowl, and pull out the tougher leaves around the
base.

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You are now ready to enjoy the first part: the leaves.

In a small bowl, mix some crème fraîche with a dash of lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Pull a leaf out, dip the fleshy part into the cream, then put it in your mouth, and scrape with your teeth as you pull it out. (at this point I shall refer you back to the word “un-sexy” in this post’s title).
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Keep doing this until you reach the central leaves, and have exhausted the fleshy ones.
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Grab the leaves firmly in your hand, and hold the base of the artichoke in your other hand. Pull firmly apart, and you should be left with just the base, covered with thin, straw-like bristles.
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Pull these out, they should come out easily.
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You will be left with just the heart. With a small knife, trim any harder bits away from underneath.
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Cut into chunks and eat with the rest of your cream dip.

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Filed under Vegetables, Vegetarian