Showing posts with label Vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vegetarian. Show all posts

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Asparagus, Brie & New Potato Tart

Asparagus is probably in my top 3 favourite vegetables. It definitely comes after aubergines though. They have to be my all time favourite (although technically, aren't they fruit..?). I usually eat my asparagus as simple as it comes, plenty of salt and pepper and a big pot of melted butter to dip each spear in (several times).

I decided to do something a bit different for my Tea Room at the Sunday Art Salon last Sunday, to showcase this wonderful British seasonal vegetable. The brie can easily be substituted if you're not fond of it. A soft cheese or goat's cheese would work well.


For the pastry:

225g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
50g vegetable shortening (eg Trex)
pinch salt
125ml cold water

For the filling:

4 medium new potatoes
16-18 thin asparagus spears
100g brie, sliced
300ml double cream
2 medium eggs
salt & black pepper


Start by making the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible. Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst the pastry is chilling (or in advance if you're super organised), boil the potatoes in their skins for approximately 20 minutes until just cooked, set aside to cool and then slice. For the asparagus, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and plunge into ice cold water to stop the cooking process.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick and line a greased 23cm fluted, loose based tart tin. Prick the surface of the pastry on the base of the tin gently all over with a fork, taking care not to push through to the tin. Chill again for 10 minutes. Line with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil / parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry has dried out and the base is cooked.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.

Cover the base of the pastry case with the sliced potatoes then arrange the asparagus and brie on top, ensuring that it is evenly distributed. Whisk the eggs and cream together and season with a little salt and plenty black pepper. Pour over the asparagus, potatoes and brie until it nearly reaches the top of the pastry.

Cook the tart in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until set and the pastry cooked through. If the pastry around the edge is cooking too quickly you can cover it with foil.

Serve at room temperature or leave to cool in the tin before removing to serve cold.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Warm Salad of Aubergine, Moghrabieh & Chickpeas

Persepolis in Peckham is one of my all time favourite shops.  What you can't buy there or learn about whilst you're shopping really isn't worth knowing.  Each time I go I seem to pick up an ingredient I've never cooked with before, as well as stocking up on cupboard staples for recipes I love to cook from Sally Butcher's Veggiestan or Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem.

A rather large packet of moghrabieh had been lurking in my cupboard for a while (I would say unopened, but I have a toddler who is rather partial to 'digging' them with his mini digger and liberally distributing them around the house).  Together with an aubergine, half a jar of rather lovely chickpeas and a few lonely tomatoes they made a tasty impromptu warm salad for dinner on a cool May evening.

Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a light lunch.


100g moghrabieh
1 aubergine
3 tbsp olive oil (plus a little extra for the tomatoes)
1 tsp sumac
8 small tomatoes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, halved and finely sliced
200g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
salt & black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 C (fan).

Cook the moghrabieh according the pack instructions (I cooked mine in boiling water for around 15-20 minutes).

Slice the aubergine in half lengthways and then, placing the cut side down on the chopping board, slice each half into 1cm thick semi circles.  Mix with the sumac and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then roast for about 20-30 minutes until cooked and starting to brown (you will need to turn them over at east once during cooking).

Put the tomatoes in a small roasting dish, season and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the skins are just starting to colour.  Set to one side.

Place a medium frying pan over a moderate heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the cumin seeds and fry for 1-2 minutes until they release their aroma.  Add the sliced onions and cook for 7-8 minutes, until they are starting to brown, then add the chickpeas.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add the ground coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the cooked moghrabieh, aubergines, onions and chickpeas and chopped parsley and place on a serving plate.  Top with the roasted tomatoes and their juices.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Roasted Cauliflower & Squash with Spiced Bulgur

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that has always failed to inspire me. I'm not talking about the fractal beauty that is the romanesco cauliflower, but the common or garden white variety. In my kitchen they usually find their way into cauliflower cheese or curry (there's something about cauliflower and spices that works so well), but overrun with them as I was just before Christmas I decided to try something new.

I've fancied Denis Cotter's recipe for cauliflower with green peppercorns for a while, but a lack of green peppercorns in my cupboards put paid to that plan! Here I was looking at a rather large cauliflower that really was ready for eating and to be honest there wasn't a fat lot else in the fridge. Aren't the best recipes always the ones that come out of nothing?

You could add some cooked chickpeas to the squash and cauliflower 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time to make this a more nutritionally balanced vegetarian dish.


1 small cauliflower
1/4 of a crown prince squash or 1 small butternut squash
1/2 to 1 red chilli (sliced)
3 cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

For the spiced bulgur:

1 tbsp olive oil
6 cardamom pods
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 whole cloves
150g bulgur wheat
350ml water (approx)
salt & pepper
1 tbsp toasted nibbed almonds

For the caramelised onions:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions (sliced)
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp good sherry vinegar
salt & pepper


Preheat your oven to 190 C.

Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into thick slices. Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower, wash the cauliflower and then cut into thick slices (rather than breaking it into florets). Put the squash and cauliflower into a roasting tin with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the red chilli and whole cloves of garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Put into the oven for around 40 minutes until the cauliflower and squash are tender and beginning to crisp and brown at the edges.  Remove the garlic cloves.

In the meantime prepare the spiced bulgur and caramelised onions.

For the spiced bulgur, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pan (which has a tight fitting lid) over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook for a minute stirring often, then add the cardamom and cloves. Stir in the bulgur and reduce the heat. Continue to stir over a low heat until the bulgur has turned from a golden to a nutty brown (without letting it catch or burn). Season and add the water. Bring to the boil, stir, put the lid on the pan and immediately reduce the heat to very low. Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes until the bulgur is tender but still with a little bite.  Fluff the bulgur with a fork, remove the whole spices and then stir through the toasted almonds just before serving.

For the caramelised onions, put the oil and onions into a heavy based pan over a low heat. Cook the onions very slowly, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown (this will take around 30-40 minutes) and then add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for around another 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until the liquid has disappeared. The onions should now be caramelised and a rich brown colour.

Serve the roasted squash and cauliflower on top of the spiced bulgur and finish with a spoonful of the caramelised onions.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rigatoni with Crown Prince Squash, Cavolo Nero & Red Chilli

There's one thing I know for sure - pasta consumption in our house has rocketed since we started getting an organic veg bag again. 

Picture's 7.30pm on a week night, the baby has just gone to bed, the fridge is full of the random assortment of vegetables that you can only have when someone else is choosing your veg each week, your tummy is rumbling and you want to curl up on the sofa, sharpish.  What you need is a hearty bowl of pasta that's ready in no time and leaves you feeling (relatively) virtuous.

I think my love of the combination of kale and squash is probably inspired by Denis Cotter.  He cooks the sort of good (vegetarian) food that I want to eat every day.  Food that is a far cry from the apparently mandatory mushroom risotto or pasta served up as the meat-free option in many restaurants and pubs.

You don't need to use crown prince squash - any squash will do - I just happen to like the rounded, buttery flavour of the crown prince.  Butternut squash would be a more than adequate replacement.  The same goes for the cavolo nero (black kale).  Although cavolo nero tastes best, you could use the more widely available curly kale or any other dark green leafy vegetable.


150-200g rigatoni (depending on how hungry you are)
1/4 crown prince squash (or 1/2 a large butternut squash)
1 leek
10-15 large cavolo nero leaves
1 red chilli (finely sliced)
3 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp to roast the squash
salt & freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated pecorino or parmesan


Peel and deseed the squash.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Season the squash with salt and pepper and toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Roast in a medium oven (approx 180 C depending on your oven) for approximately 20 minutes until tender and beginning to caramelise at the edges.  You will need to check on the squash a couple of times and toss to ensure it roasts evenly.

Discard the outer layer (or layers) of the leek and then slice in half lengthways.  Slice the leek into thin semicircles and wash thoroughly.  Wash the cavolo nero, discard any thick stalks and slice the leaves into strips about 1cm wide.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Heat a wide based saute pan over a medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the leeks.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes and then add the cavolo nero.  Continue to saute until the leeks and kale are tender.  Lower the heat, add the red chilli and garlic and continue to saute for a couple of minutes. 

The pasta and squash should now be ready.  Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water.  Add the squash, drained pasta and 3-4 tablespoons of the cooking water to the leeks and cavolo nero, then season generously. 

Serve with plenty grated cheese.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Romanesco Cauliflower & Chilli Pasta

Romanesco cauliflowers are like jewels.  Pretty fractal emeralds which call out to me from market stalls at this time of year.  They seem so rare and precious that I feel the need to do them justice; more so than any other vegetable.  I want to show them off in the manner they deserve.

Small romanescos are magnificent steamed whole and served with a bechamel sauce which has had large chunks of stilton stirred through at the last minute (so that they're just beginning to melt but haven't yet disappeared...) and then topped with crunchy toasted pine nuts.

On a quest for a simple dish befitting the romanesco but a little less artery clogging, I paired it with chilli and garlic to make a substantial week night dinner.  It's nothing new or inventive - there are probably a million similar recipes out there - but it's a hearty bowl of bejewelled pasta that makes me happy.

This will make enough for 2 hungry adults.


1 medium romanesco caulifower
1/2 - 1 red chilli (depending on how hot your chilli is and how much heat you want)
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp good olive oil
200g penne or rigatoni pasta
salt & pepper
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan (or other hard cheese)


Break the cauliflower into small florets and roughly chop the stalks into small pieces.  Wash thoroughly.  Finely chop the chilli and garlic.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Cook the cauliflower for about 8 minutes until soft but not falling apart.  Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and set to one side (don't discard the cooking water).

Bring the water back to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

In the meantime, heat a wide based saute or frying pan.  Add the olive oil and then the cauliflower.  Saute over a medium heat, stirring often, until the cauliflower begins to break down a little.  Turn down the heat and add the chilli and garlic and season generously with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Continue to for a couple of minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.

Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the cauliflower, using a slotted spoon, along with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking water.  Stir in most of the grated cheese, reserving a little to serve (to make this dish vegan omit the cheese).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Celeriac Gratin with Caramelised Onions

Over the summer I signed up to Local Greens - a not for profit weekly vegetable bag scheme providing seasonal veg from small organic or spray-free farms, which are as near to SE London as they can find.  To keep costs down, customers collect their bags from local pick up points (in Camberwell, Herne Hill and East Dulwich), rather than have them delivered to their door.  The idea is to use the minimum packaging and transportation so that they can pay the farmers a good price for their produce.  One benefit for me is that the veg has often been picked 24 hours or less before it makes it to my plate.

The majority of the ingredients in this recipe came from my Local Greens bag a couple of weeks ago and I bought some gorgeous golden rapeseed oil from Bambuni in Nunhead so this turned out to be a thoroughly locally sourced dinner!

It serves 2 hungry (greedy?) adults or a family of 3 or 4 if you reduce the amount of salt you use.  Perfect for an autumnal evening meal.


1 small celeriac
4-5 medium potatoes
3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
200ml single cream
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan or other hard cheese (this is a good chance to use up any odds and ends lurking in the fridge)

For the caramelised onions:

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions (sliced)
3-4 sprigs thyme (leaves only)
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp good sherry vinegar


Preheat the oven to 160C.

Peel and thinly slice the celeriac and potatoes (the easiest way to do this is in a food processor or using a mandolin, if you have either) and pop them straight into a bowl of cold water. Pat dry on a clean tea towel and then layer into a deep casserole dish, seasoning with salt and pepper and adding the garlic as you go. Pour the cream over the top and give the casserole dish a little shake to make sure it reaches the bottom layers. Sprinkle the cheese over the top (as much or as little as you like - I like a good layer!).

Pop into the oven for around 50 minutes to an hour, or until the potatoes and celeriac are cooked and browned on top.

Once the gratin is in the oven, put the oil and onions into a heavy based pan over a low heat. Cook the onions very slowly, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden brown (this will take around 30-40 minutes) and then add the sugar, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook for around another 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until the liquid has disappeared. The onions should now be caramelised and a rich brown colour.

Serve the gratin with a spoonful of caramelised onions and a crisp green salad lightly dressed with sherry vinegar and cold pressed rapeseed oil.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Leek & Cheddar Tartlets

Tartlets are so versatile - you can fill them with almost any vegerables and cheese you have to hand. There seems to have been a bit of a proliferation of 'caramelised onion and goat's cheese' tarlets served up as the token vegetarian offering in recent years (which not everyone is fond of...although I'm quite partial to a homemade one made with caramelised red onions and thyme), but this shouldn't put you off! Mushrooms work particularly well with pastry, especially in a thick bechamel flavoured with tarragon, garlic and brandy (like the Crank's recipe for Mushroom Lattice Tart), as does asparagus at this time of year. Other favourites of mine as the weather starts to warm up are tomato with either dijon mustard and gruyere or soft goat's cheese and thyme or fresh peas and broad beans with feta. All of which are great serve hot, warm or cold as part of a picnic.

I have made this version using the leek and cheddar combination a few times recently after picking up some lovely farmhouse cheddar whilst on holiday in Dorset. They're perfect for lunch or a light Spring supper accompanied by some English asparagus - especially in this gloriously hot and sunny weather!


For the pastry:

60z plain flour
3oz butter
2-3floz cold water
a pinch of paprika (or cayenne) (optional)
a pinch of salt

For the filling:

2 medium leeks (trimmed, washed and sliced)
1 egg
5floz mixture of milk and double cream (or just milk if you prefer)
4oz mature cheddar cheese (grated)
1 - 2oz butter
1 tsp mustard
salt & pepper


Firstly make the pastry. Mix the butter and flour together (either by hand using your fingertips or in a food processor) until they ressemble breadcrumbs, then add the paprika / cayenne (if using) and salt. Add the water a little at a time until the mixture forms a soft dough (taking care not to 'over-handle' the dough). You may need more or less water which is why it's best not to add it all in one go. Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and refridgerate for at least 20 minutes.

To make the filling, start by heating a large knob of butter (at least 1oz) in a heavy based pan over a low heat, then add the sliced leeks. Saute the leeks for around 10 minutes until softened but take care not to let them colour. In the meantime, beat the egg and add the milk and cream (or just milk), most of the grated cheese (keep a little to sprinkle on top of the tartlets), mustard a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to line 4 greased fluted tarlet tins. Return the tins to the fridge for 10 minutes (or longer - they can be prepared in advance). Blind bake the pastry cases for around 15 minutes at approx 190 C (depending on your oven). To do this, line the pastry case with a piece of baking parchment and fill the parchment with baking beans (or rice or dried pulses). Then remove the parchment and baking beans and bake for another 5 minutes.

Divide the leeks between the part cooked tartlet pastry cases and then pour over the egg, milk and cheese mixture, taking care to make sure the cheese is equally divided between the tarlets. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top and put back into the oven at approx 180 C (depending on your oven) for 10 - 12 minutes until set and golden.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Hazelnuts

Jerusalem artichokes aren't the prettiest looking of vegetables and seem to be much maligned for their (to put it politely) gas inducing properties. But that's not to say that they can't be transformed from the knobbly roots that they are, into some delicious dishes.

I first came across jerusalem artichokes about 12 years ago when I was living in France but didn't get to taste them then as these topinomboux, which grow abundantly even in poor soil, were destined for animal feed. It wasn't until a few years later that I spotted them for sale in the greengrocers back in England that I bought some to make a wild rice, puy lentil and jerusalem artichoke salad. A lovely earthy salad, perfect for the winter months.

What I didn't know until recently was that the jerusalem artichoke is from the same family as the sunflower. Looking at the roots (which are cultivated as the vegetable we eat) I could be excused for not guessing, but it's easier to see the family ressemblance when you see the flowers of the plant.

Jerusalem artichokes lend themselves perfectly to a hearty winter soup and the addition of hazelnut oil and toasted hazelnuts raises this soup to something a little special and good enough for a weekend lunch with friends.


8 - 10 medium jerusalem artichokes
1 medium leek (white and pale green only)
1 medium onion
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 to 1 & 1/2 litres light vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 oz butter
dash olive oil
salt & pepper
handful blanched hazelnuts (to serve)
hazelnut oil (to serve)


Finely chop the oinion and slice and wash the leek. Add the butter, dash of olive oil, onion and leek to a large heavy bottomed pan or casserole (which has a lid). Heat gently over a low heat and then place a sheet of baking parchment over the vegetables and tuck it down to seal in the steam. Put the lid on the pan and cook very gently for abuot 10 minutes (checking and stirring regularly to ensure that the vegetables do not turn brown). Discard the baking parchment.

Whilst the oinions and leeks are cooking, peel and chop the jerusalem artichokes and then add to the pan along with the stock and bay leaves. Simmer gently until the jerusalem artichokes are cooked though.

Remove the bay leaves and then puree the soup until smooth and return to the pan with the lemon juice (add more to taste if you like) and season generously with freshly ground black pepper and salt if needed.

As the soup is warming through slowly, gently toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and then crush slighty (I did this by putting them in a sandwich bag and bashing them with a rolling pin). Dish up the soup, drizzle with the hazelnut oil and scatter some toasted nuts in the centre of each bowl.

Serves 4 for lunch or 6 as a starter.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Mince Pies

I learnt a couple of new things about mince pies yesterday from a wonderful lady called Jean who led our festive Dickens guided tour around the City of London yesterday afternoon. Firstly, instead of being round as we know and love them, way back as early as the 16th century, mince pies used to be oval shaped - like a cradle. Secondly, superstition has it that you should eat a mince pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas to bring you good luck for the forthcoming year. Now that shouldn't be a problem for me (unless the idea is that you need to just eat 1 each day for the good luck rather than 3 or 4 ...).

By this time of the year I've usually whipped out dozens of trays of mince pies for work, neighbours, friends and of course for us at home. But for some reason this year I've not really got around to it and can only claim a couple of dozen so far... I'm planning on making up for it over the next couple of weeks though!

There are many mince pie recipes out there, but I make them the way my Mum taught me when I was growing up - super simple with lovely light, flaky pastry. Some people use sweet pastry, but for me this is sugar overload with the already sweet mincemeat, so instead this recipe uses a basic shortcrust pastry made with white flora as opposed to butter which can be a touch rich. The advantage of course being that I can easily eat 4 in one sitting!


8oz plain flour
4oz white flora
3-5floz cold water
Mincemeat (homemade if you have it or good quality vegetarian shop bought
Milk or beaten egg to glaze
Icing sugar to dust


Mix the flour and white flora together to form the consistency of breadcrumbs (this is really easy if you have a food processor, just be careful not to over mix). Then add the water a little at a time to form a soft dough. Depending on the flour you use you will need between 3floz and 5floz - I used Dove's Organic flour today and it needed about 3floz. Wrap the pastry in cling film (taking care not to handle it too much as this makes it dry and tough) and pop in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Grease your mince pie tins (just the same tins as you use for fairy cakes). If you prefer deep-filled mince pies you could use muffin tins or alternatively use some of those mini tins to make mouthful sized mince pies.

Once the pastry has chilled roll it out on a floured work surface to about 1/2cm thick. If you don't have a rolling pin you can always improvise with an empty wine bottle that you have washed and removed the labels from!

Use a 7 1/2cm or 8cm wide round fluted cutter to cut 12 discs. Gently place the discs into the mince pie tins and press down gently in the centre. Put a good heaped teaspoon of mincemeat in each one. Then use either a 6cm wide round fluted cutter to cut full tops for your mince pies or, if you have them, use Christmas shaped cutters like stars, Christmas trees and holly. If you choose the round tops, cut 2 small lines in the centre of each one to let the steam out whilst they're cooking.

Brush the tops with a drop of milk or, for a more golden topped mince pie, a beaten egg. To make your mince pies vegan use soya milk to brush the tops or if you don't have any, nothing at all (they'll still taste just as good!).

Pop the tray into an oven pre-heated to 200C for 15 - 18 minutes until the pastry is cooked and lightly golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin and then gently remove to a wire rack. If you can resist eating them there and then whilst they're still warm, leave to cool completely and then dust with a touch of icing sugar.

This recipe makes 12 normal sized mince pies.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Taste of Autumn - Caramelised Shallot & Chestnut Tatin

As the Summer begins to draw to a close and the sun sits low in the sky over the hazy landscape in the distance I feel a certain sense of contentment. Autumn is my season. All those wonderful colours as the leaves begin to turn golden, brown, russet, red. The perfect backdrop for the ginger haired amongst us. It's not just the colours I'm waiting for with eager anticipation though. There is a myriad of new, rich, earthy vegetables coming into season that I can't wait to start cooking with again - squash, leeks, chestnuts, parsnips, plums, wild mushrooms, figs, sweetcorn, kale...

At the beginning of each season as the fruit and vegetables begin to appear in the shops and markets there's that delicious transitional period of rediscovery. I dig out my cookbooks, search for new and different dishes to make the most of the produce that's not been around for a while. Last week saw roasted figs with gorgonzola and a honey dressing, roasted corn pudding in acorn squash (thanks to Heidi of 101 Cookbooks), corn on the cob dripping with butter and freshly ground black pepper, leek & gruyere tartlets and plum crumble.

That's just for starters. A drop in the ocean. The post-it notes littering the pages of my favourite cookbooks forecast a lot of time in the kitchen over the next couple of months. Why is Autumn so short?!

Last week Mat Follas, winner of Masterchef, who runs the restaurant The Wild Garlic and writes a lovely blog of the same name was touting for vegetarian suggestions for his Christmas menu on twitter. I like the fact that Mat asks people what they would want. He really values people's input - asking Guardian Word of Mouth readers to comment on his first menu for example. That way he canvasses opinion, encourages debate, gets some new ideas and (hopefully) comes to a much more considered decision on any number of things.

So with Christmas menus on my mind, and armed with some fantastic homegrown potatoes freshly dug up from FoodUrchin's allotment (which, I was reliably informed, made great roasties), I set about a Sunday roast for two. Chicken for Andrew and a seasonal veggie dish for me. Now, when it comes to a roast, I do not want to be missing out on those delicious roast potatoes, crispy roasted parsnips and lashings of gravy. I hate it when I go somewhere for a Sunday roast only to find that the veggie option is pasta or risotto. What's that all about? What can be so difficult about cooking something interesting and appetising and vegetarian to serve with the same veg as the beef, chicken or lamb?

With a truck load of shallots in my Abel & Cole delivery that I wanted to use up I decided on a savoury tarte tatin. I've made them before - a Tomato Tarte Tatin earlier this year with the first crop of the Summer tomatoes and a vegan Shallot & Wild Mushroom Tatin for Christmas dinner a few years ago when my Uncle and Aunty were visiting. All the talk of Christmas had whetted my appetite for chestnuts, so a Caramelised Shallot & Chestnut Tatin with porcini gravy it was.


For the pastry:

8oz plain flour
4oz butter
5 or 6 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
5 floz water
salt & pepper

For the filling:

Shallots (I'm no good at remembering to weigh food before I cook with it but I reckon I used around 20 shallots)
Mushrooms (I used up a couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms which where lurking in the fridge, but you could use any mushrooms you like)
1 tin of chestnuts
1 - 2 oz butter
1 tsp muscavado sugar
a few thyme leaves
salt & pepper


First make the pastry by rubbing all of the ingredients except the water together to form fine breadcrumbs, then add the water a little at a time until the pastry comes together (being careful not to overhandle it). If you have a food processor, put all the ingredients except the water and blitz for around 40 - 60 seconds and then with the blade running add the water slowly until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Peel the shallots. Heat the butter with a tiny splash of olive oil in a tarte tatin dish over a low heat (or another dish which you can use on but the hob and in the oven) and saute the whole shallots over the until they begin to brown slightly. Turn the heat up slightly and add the mushrooms, seasoning and thyme and cook until the juices which come off the mushrooms have evaporated. Add the sugar and cook for another couple of minutes and then finally add the chestnuts.

The mixture should cover the whole of the bottom of the tarte tatin dish. Roll out the pastry which has been resting in the fridge to about 1/2 inch thick and lay over the shallot mixture. The pastry should be a touch larger than the dish so fold the edges back and tuck well around the edges to form a seal and keep the moisture in.

Pop the tarte tatin in a medium oven for around 30 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden.

Slide a knife around the edge of the pastry to loosen. Put a plate over the dish and then carefully tip the dish with the plate held firmly on top over so that the tart is sat shallot side up on the plate. Remove the dish. Serve with roast potatoes, veg and your favourite vegetarian gravy.

N.B. To make this dish vegan, use vegan margarine (e.g. soya margarine) instead of butter in the pastry and use just oil (not butter) to saute the shallots for the filling.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Not Aunty Lisa's Top Houmous Tip

We eat a fair amount of houmous in our house. It's a super quick pre-dinner or lunchtime snack to whip up from the tins and jars lurking in the kitchen. With sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber, whatever is knocking around in the bottom the fridge really, it's a healthy snack too.

There are some days though, when I'm making a Middle Eastern inspired banquet for example (you know the sort of thing - falafel, tabbouleh, broad bean and preserved lemon salad, sumac roasted aubergines...), when I want my houmous to be a bit 'special'. On these occasions I've experimented with adding more olive oil than usual, adding a different olive oil or by sprinkling toasted pine nuts on top before serving. All with good results.

But whilst I was staying with my littlest sister in Newcastle a couple of years ago we decided to go for some food at the Flatbread Cafe. There you can choose to order a Bedou Feast of 3 dishes and a freshly made flatbread which we both did and then shared everything. Besides all the other mouthwatering dishes they have (including the Cucubita with pumpkin, chestnut and sweet potato and a fantastic Chana Dahl), we were bowled over by the houmous. There was something about it that I couldn't just put my finger on... It was smooth, light and so incredibly tasty. A delight!

As you can imagine, like every determined home cook, I scurried away to try to recreate it at home, wondering about the quality of the chickpeas, the way in which the chickpeas were cooked, the flavour of the olive oil, the balance of the other ingredients... All of these things do have a huge impact but the smooth texture continued to elude me. It wasn't until I was staying with Not Aunty Lisa a year or so later that I learnt a little trick that turns my everyday store cupboard houmous into the something special I'd been looking for, without the rigmarole planning in advance and cooking dried chickpeas or having a glorious earthy olive oil to hand.

It's as simple (albeit time consuming) as popping the little skins off each individual chick pea. It really does make a difference. And whilst I can't be bothered to do it every time I make houmous, I enjoy it all the more when I have gone to the effort.


1 tin chick peas (drained)
1 dessertspoon light tahini (or more if you are a big tahini fan)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic (crushed)
salt & pepper
2 or 3 tbsp good olive oil
splash of water (if needed)


Pop the chick peas out of their little skins. This is quite simple to do but will take time - I find it best to do it with the distraction of the radio or TV so I don't notice the time passing. Or I delegate this part of the process to unsuspecting friends or family.

Add all the ingredients (except the water) to a food processor and blitz until smooth. You may need to add a little water to reach your desired consistency or you can add more olive oil.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Food for Sharing

Our Big Lunch went off with a bang! What a fantastic day. Even before we'd all sat down to eat together at our long mish mash of tables up the middle of our street we felt like it had all been worthwhile. I caught up with neighbours who I wave to most days and met others who I had honestly never seen before despite them living only 10 doors away. Everyone brought the most amazing homemade and homegrown food - lettuces, tomatoes and courgettes from peoples' gardens, Sri Lankan pastries, huge bowls of colourful salads, sundried tomato bread, tarts and quiches, soups, cinnamon whirls (why oh why did I not get my hands on one of them...?!)... We had magic tricks, a clown on stilts, middle class dub from the back of a morris minor courtesy of Sly and Reggie, giant jenga and a lot of talking. And the rain stayed away!

I wanted to make food to share and also to test out my brownies ahead of my turn on the UKFBA stall at the Covent Garden Real Food Market on 30th July 2009! So I decided to make some vegetarian salads which would go with anything and Delia's Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart which is not only the simplest tart you can make it is also super, super tasty.

Delia's Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart


1 pack all butter puff pastry (you can make your own, but are there really enough hours in the day?!)
750g tomatoes (thinly sliced)
150g soft goat's cheese
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
fresh thyme
olive oil
salt & pepper

If you have the ready rolled pastry then just unroll it onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Otherwise, roll out your pastry into a rectangle measuring approximately 15"x12". With a sharp knife, mark a line about 1/2" from the edge of the pastry all the way around without cutting right through the pastry. This allows the pastry to rise at the edge.

Mix the goat's cheese, garlic, seasoning and a good handful of chopped thyme leaves. Spread onto the pastry base. Layer the tomato slices in lines on top of the cheese mixture, overlapping as you go. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and lay some thyme on top.

Bake in a medium oven (approx 170 - 180 C) for around 50 minutes to an hour, until the pastry is cooked and the tomatoes are starting to crisp at the edges.

Allow to cool slightly, then cut into slices and share with family, friends or neighbours!

For the salads I chose a Tabbouleh, which is light and fresh and goes really well with most things, including the Tomato Tart, and a potato salad. Potato salads tend to be the sort of thing most people like - a crowd pleaser. This particular recipe is one that I have made for years ever since reading Delia's recipe for Anya Potato Salad in her Vegetarian Collection. It's a good solid vegetarian cookbook - not my favourite, but one that covers so much day to day food and food for entertaining that it spends most of its time in my kitchen rather than on the bookshelf.



200g bulgar wheat
1 small red onion
large bunch of flat leaf parsley
750g - 1kg tomatoes
1 lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 clove garlic (optional)


Cook the bulgar wheat and leave to cool. I do this by putting the bulgar in a small pan, covering with cold water, bringing it to the boil with the lid on and then I turn the heat off and let the steam do the rest.

Make the dressing in the bottom of a big serving bowl by whisking the juice of 1 lemon (this isn't set in stone - use less or more depending on your own taste), salt, pepper and crushed garlic clove together, then whisk in the olive oil. I always find those little 'wonder whisks' are perfect for making dressings as they help the ingredients emulsify which is what you want from a good dressing.

Finely chop the red onion and add it to the dressing.

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces - around 1cm square and pop them in a sieve over a bowl to drain off any excess juice. You can put them in juice and all but I find that it sometimes makes the salad too soggy. Slice the parsley as thinly as possible starting at the leafy top and going all the way down to the stalks. Slicing the parsley this way is something I learnt a few months ago and really makes a difference to the taste.

Mix all the ingredients together with the dressing and red onion and it's ready to serve. It keeps well for a day or so which means you can make it in advance if you need to.

Anya Potato Salad


2kg Anya potatoes
5 or 6 shallots (finely chopped)
1 dessertspoon Dijon mustard
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
4 or 5 dessertspoons olive oil
salt & pepper


Cook the potatoes in salted water, drain and put to one side.

Make the dressing by mixing the salt, pepper and mustard together in the bottom of a big serving bowl. Add the balsamic and white wine vinegars and mix with a wonder whisk (or a fork if you don't have one). Then add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Put the shallots in the dressing.

Once the potatoes have cooled slightly (but are still warm) add them to the dressing and mix. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve either warm or cold. Again this can be made in advance, but the chives are best if you sprinkle them over at the last minute.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

More Gingers, Vicar?: Summer Gazpacho

There's little more summery than beautiful ripe tomatoes like these from The Tomato Stall on Marylebone Farmers' Market. These beauties were sweet and packed with flavour - just perfect for our Gazpacho starter for the Nom Nom Nom 2009 final.

Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato soup which originated in the southern region of AndalucĂ­a. It is a perfect refreshing summer dish, especially on a hot sunny day. I can picture myself now sat outside in the garden, the sunshine beaming down, a glass of chilled fino in my hand and a small bowl of vibrant, fresh gazpacho in front of me... (if only the summer would come back to London!).

I'd tried gazpacho in the past and never been particularly enamored with it. That was, until I spent 2 weeks in AndalucĂ­a earlier this year. If you have the best, fresh, ripe ingredients it is simply delicious. And what's more, it couldn't be simpler to make.

What better way to kick off our seasonal summer menu for the Nom final?!

Summer Gazpacho


1kg tomatoes
1/2 cucumber (we used a lovely organic spiky one on the day
1 sweet red pepper
1 yellow or orange pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 red chilli (or more if you prefer your gazpacho to pack a punch
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp good quality sherry vinegar
100ml good fruity olive oil
1 tsp muscavado sugar (you may need more or less depending on how sweet your tomatoes are
worcestershire sauce (to taste)
salt & pepper


Roughly chop the tomatoes, peppers (seeds and stalk removed), cucumber, red onion, garlic, red chilli, olive oil, sugar and vinegar. Put it all in a blender and blend until it's as smooth as it will go. Put a seive over a bowl and seive the soup mixture to remove all the skin and pips - you will probably need to push it through with a spoon.

You should be left with a smooth soup which you can season to taste with salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, more sugar (if needed), etc.

Pop it in the fridge to chill until you are ready to serve.

If you like the sound of this recipe please vote for us in the Viewers' Choice Awards. It's really simply - you just need to go to this page on the Nom Nom Nom 2009 website and vote for More Gingers, Vicar?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

What I Ate: Roasted Beetroot & Puy Lentil Salad

I'm always hungry when I get home from pilates. It's such hard work! But I'm not great at organising myself to make lunch when I get home on a Saturday, especially if Andrew isn't around. For some reason Saturday lunch always ends up being a grab and run affair squeezed in between pilates and shopping and washing and doing all those things I didn't have chance to do during the week. Which is wrong seeing as that means that one of my two 'this is my time' lunches is always a non-event. That's not the way it should be surely?

Today I guess I was fortunate to find good leftovers in the fridge which I could craft into a tasty lunchtime salad. Roasted beetroot left over from making Lebanese beetroot salad on Thursday evening, some cooked puy lentils (the rest of which went into a puy lentil tabbouleh with grilled halloumi earlier in the week) and flat leaf parsley which was beginning to wilt.


2 roasted beetroot (peeled)
1 spring onion
3 tbsp cooked puy lentils
a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 dessert spoon sherry vinegar
2 dessert spoons olive oil
salt & pepper


Make the dressing by mixing the mustard with some salt and pepper in a bowl, add the vinegar and combine, then whisk in the olive oil. Finely slice the spring onion and add to the dressing with the lentils, sliced beetroot and parsley.

If you haven't got roasted beetroot lying around in the fridge then you can roast them by washing, wrapping in a foil parcel and popping them in a medium oven for an hour or so (preferably whilst you've got the oven on for something else!).

A super simple, earthy salad. It would work so well with some goat's cheese or goat's curd but alas the goat's cheese in my fridge is destined for a tomato tart for tomorrow's Big Lunch street party!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

What I Ate: Summer Pasta

A few people have asked me recently why I don't blog more about what meals I make on a day to day basis. This is something I chatted to Kerri of Dinner Diary fame about at a fantastic Italian wine tasting event organised by Dan of Bibendum recently. You see, Kerri and Stephen's blog is slightly different to many of the other food blogs out there in that they write about almost everything they eat. Not just the highlights and the meals out, but pretty much everything (including tennis shaped pasta in honour of Wimbledon...) 365 days a year.

For me though, the truth is that (1) I didn't think anyone would be interested in my 'thrown together' week night dinners, (2) Monday to Thursday food for me is generally healthy vegetarian sustenance rather than fancy things to write home about and (3) I simply don't have enough hours in the day.

But they're all just excuses, so here goes!

Whilst sorting through some of my photos yesterday I came across this one of a pasta dish which I make in various different guises once the fresh spring vegetables begin to make an appearance each year and heavy pasta sauces no longer seem quite right. It's super simple and really tasty. You can make it with any Spring or Summer vegetables you have lurking in the fridge (or freezer). The photos are from one I made during the short (but oh so sublime) English asparagus season in June this year, but you could add any bright, fresh, seasonal vegetables (peas, green beans, broad beans...).

This first one is for some very good friends of mine who have asked me (several times...) for inspiration for weeknight meat-free meals. They're not veggie, oh no, they love their meat, but they're looking to eat less of it sometimes and eat more vegetables on a daily basis.


Pasta (wholemeal if you're feeling particularly virtuous)
Selection of seasonal vegetables (here I used courgettes, frozen broad beans and asparagus)
Small tomatoes (halved)
Black olives (pitted and halved)
Spring onions (finely sliced)
Olive oil
Feta (cubed)
Salt & Pepper


Pop a pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta and add the pasta once it has come to the boil. Slice your vegetables and steam until al dente (courgette slices, broad beans, etc only take a couple of minutes).

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the spring onions and garlic and saute gently for about a minute. Add the steamed vegetables, tomatoes, olives, cooked pasta and a couple of table spoons of the pasta water. Season with a little salt (remember the olives and feta will be quite salty) and black pepper. Add the feta and serve immediately.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Red Quinoa & Black Bean 'Chilli' Salad

I've been a quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) convert for quite some time. Not only is it a complete protein in nutritional terms, which is great for non-meat eaters like me, but it's also actually rather tasty. It might not look it - it's a pale grain like any other and I have to admit that I wasn't completely taken with it the first time I tasted it plain (although it does have a strangely moreish nuttiness). But once I began to experiment with it, mostly in salads and pilaf, I decided it was pretty good stuff. Added to which I feel rather virtuous when I eat it because of its goodness!

OK, technically it isn't a grain. Despite the Incas, who considered quinoa to be sacred, calling it chisaya mama (the mother of all grains) it is apparently a wannabe-grain (or psuedograin as the experts would have it). A grain-like crop. It has been a staple food source in the Andean region of South America for thousands of years but it seems that it's significance for our modern diets (and in particular vegetarian and vegan diets) has only received increasing attention over recent years.

Whilst shopping in Paris last month I spied a packed of red quinoa which I had read about, but never seen before. I snapped myself up a little bag and brought it home to London to try out. Actual recipes for red quinoa proved to be far and few between so I came up with the idea of using Mexican flavours to create a red quinoa chilli beans, corn, red chilli. I served it with guacamole and tortillas, but to be honest, the guacamole overpowered it a bit so next time I think I would make a side salad with the avocado instead (and use less lime!).

Here's what I did:


150g red quinoa
1 tin black beans
1 small tin sweetcorn
1 sweet red pepper (chopped into pieces)
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
2 x cloves garlic (I used new season garlic)
1 x red chilli (finely chopped)
Juice of 1 lime
Rapeseed oil
Salt & pepper


Cook the red quinoa. I do this by washing the grains in cold water, putting them in a dry pan for a couple of minutes until they start popping slightly, then covering them with water and simmering with the lid on for around 10 minutes until cooked but still with some bite.

Make a simple dressing with the lime juice, oil, seasoning, garlic and red chilli. Add the cooked quinoa, beans, sweetcorn, spring onions and red pepper and stir to serve. Some freshly chopped herbs may also work well but alas I had none...

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Stichelton & Potato Blinis with Purple Sprouting Broccoli (ITB)

It seems to have been a bit of a weekend for recipe inventions chez The Ginger Gourmand... I spotted Scott & Julia's monthly In The Bag challenge a few weeks ago and with two of my favourite foods - blue cheese and broccoli (I had in mind the purple sprouting kind...) - I decided to give it a go.

It's late (for me!) on Sunday night - tonight is the deadline and I have to be bright and bushy tailed ready for work in the morning so I'll make this brief.

I've been contemplating what I might make for a couple of weeks, but because I've been away for the last 2 weekends I've not had any real 'playing in the kitchen' time. So it wasn't until around 7pm this evening that I began rooting around the fridge for the ingredients to make my Stichelton & Potato Blinis with Purple Sprouting Broccoli...

The first blini was more the size of a small pancake and the flipping stage was a little hairy but the next few were much easier (with hindsight I could make them a touch smaller) and worked a treat. Rich blue cheese goodness in a super light blini topped with lightly steamed purple sprouting broccoli and slow roasted tomatoes. I'm not sure blini is the right word though... They're like a cross between a potato cake and a savoury ricotta cake - extremely light and fluffy but with the depth and substance of the starchy potato and the blue cheese kick every other mouthful.

The Stichelton was a good choice. I'd ummed and ahhed in the cheese shop on Saturday over my choice of blue cheese, but decided on this one because it had the sort of buttery texture I was after. I wanted the cheese to be firm enough to stay in little pockets in the blinis when cooked, but soft enough to melt a little into the blini mixture. I also think it's a lovely alternative to Stilton on a cheeseboard - our local deli stocks it and offered me some to try a few months ago when, as usual, I couldn't make my mind up which of the lovely cheeses I wanted to buy and I've been hooked ever since. I think a Stilton or maybe even a Blacksticks Blue would work quite well in this recipe too, although anything too soft, like a Gorgonzola would probably just melt into the blini mixture too much.

I like them. I'll be making them again!


250g (ish) potatoes
100ml milk
4 eggs separated
100g blue cheese (the stichelton worked brilliantly) cubed or crumbled
75g plain flour
salt & pepper

small vine tomatoes
olive oil
purple sprouting broccoli


Start by putting the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish with some salt, pepper and a glug of olive oil. Roast for at least 30 minutes in a low oven (I did mine at around 130C fan assisted).

Boil the potatoes in their skins until cooked. Drain well and leave to cool. Peel the potatoes and mash. Mix in the milk and then the egg yolks and seasoning. Then beat in the flour. Whisk the egg whites until firm and then fold into the potato mixture. Stir in the blue cheese.

Heat a little butter and olive oil in a frying pan and then put a couple of large serving spoonfuls of the potato blini mixture into the pan. Fry gently until set enough to flip. You'll need to be fairly confident when flipping the blinis otherwise they'll end up in a bit of a mess. Cook until golden brown on both sides and set in the middle.

In the meantime, lightly steam the broccoli and then pop into a frying pan with some olive oil and seasoning and cook over a low heat for a minute or so.

Serve the blinis topped with the broccoli and some roasted tomatoes. I also drizzled over some of the tomato cooking liqueur I had left over from my tomato tarte tatin last night.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

New Ways with Sumac

A fair while back I was given some sumac by a friend who is a fellow food lover. It has (and I hope I'm not in trouble for admitting this...!) sat in the cupboard with my other spices pretty much unused apart from the off sniff to see if would go with some concoction or other. Basically, I'd never really found an inspiring use for it until I came across this recipe - Sumac Spiced Aubergine Schnitzel with Tabbouleh.

Sumac comes from the berries of a bush that grows wild in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. The berries are dried and crushed or ground to form a rich red powder which is used as a souring agent, in the same way that some cuisines use lemon. Sumac is often used to flavour grilled meats and fish, or mixed with yogurt and served as an accompaniment to kebabs. But, before this recipe, none of the recipes which use sumac which I've come across have been vegetarian and, not ever having cooked with sumac, I wasn't quite sure how to use it so it lingered at the back of the spice cupboard until now!

This is another really good recipe from The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia (which I've blogged about before) which, most importantly, works. Basically, it's a great big super tasty aubergine steak with a crisp crumb coating and I'm a huge fan of aubergines so it's great to find a new way of cooking them. It has all the flavours of the Middle East - parsley, mint, sumac - and works perfectly with the Puy Lentil and Feta Tabbouleh (shown in my photo above) which is also in The Modern Vegetarian. Here is my version of Maria's recipe (I changed some of her quantities to suit our tastes):


120g flat leaf parsley
20g mint leaves
4 tomatoes (finely diced)
1 small red onion (finely diced)
150g puy lentils (cooked)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g feta cheese

(the original recipe also included 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon)


Slice the parsley as thinly as possible starting at the leafy top and going all the way down to the stalks. Repeat with the mint leaves. Combine the tomatoes, onion, lentils, herbs and spices and season. Dress with the lemon juice and oil. Stir in the feta just before serving.

Having never followed a recipe for tabbouleh of any sort before (just making up my own versions) what Maria says about slicing the parsley made perfect sense! "It was Anissa Helou who first showed me the art of making tabbouleh. The secret of this beautiful dish lies in the way you chop your herbs - they should be lovingly sliced, very finely, to produce thin slivers with a minimum of bruising". The taste and texture of the parsley was exactly how I've tasted it in tabbouleh which I've eaten in restaurants but I'd never realised that the way in which you chop the parsley that makes the difference. It really is worth giving that parsley some loving attention because it does add to the dish in a big way!

It is slightly different to many of the main course vegetarian recipes I generally cook as it's made up of two distinct component parts, almost like you would have meat or fish with side of salad or vegetables. But I think that's a good thing because it may well inspire me to create similar veggie dishes where the side dish would go equally well with meat for Andrew.

Update: I remembered that after friying the aubergines in the crumb coating I put them in the oven for a short time (maybe 5 minutes) to finish cooking and crisp up some more. Whilst you can't prepare the aubergines too far in advance and leave them uncooked (the bread crumbs would go soggy!), you could probably prepare them to the stage of having fried them and then reheat in the oven when you need them which makes them perfect for entertaining.