Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Salad of leeks, potatoes and pear with blue cheese

So Christmas has come and gone again. If you're anything like me, this means you'll have some odds and ends of Stilton or other blue cheeses hanging around. You could use them up in this substantial salad, which also happens to be about the healthiest way I can think of to use up blue cheese.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Deep purple salad

I sometimes have mixed feelings about red cabbage - especially when it's over-spiced and served as a side dish that obliterates every other flavour on your plate. Instead, here's a quick, light red cabbage dish that also happens to work well with leftover Christmas turkey, ham, pork pie or cheese - or just for when you want something lighter if you've eaten a bit too much over Christmas and New Year.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ode to aubergines

Aubergines seem to be my vegetable of the moment. Maybe it's the generous plumpness, the glossy purple-black skins. Or it could be the way that cooked well, they almost collapse into a velvety softness.

But I think it's the fact that they absorb other flavours so obligingly, whilst having just enough flavour of their own. I particularly like them with spices, and / or paired with a rich tomato sauce.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The 5 best green tomato recipes

It's the time of year when anyone who grows tomatoes might have some green ones left on the plant, with no chance now of ripening. So I thought I'd put my favourite recipes in one place for anyone wondering what to do with green tomatoes. And not a jar of chutney in sight...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Green tomato and lentil curry

Here's a recipe for anyone who has unripe green tomatoes left on their tomato plants, and doesn't fancy making chutney.
And if you don't have green tomatoes, it's just as good with red ones. Or you could swap the tomatoes for spinach, or cauliflower, or whatever vegetable takes your fancy.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Spanish vegetable stew

Here's another autumn dish - filling and delicious, but with a few flavours of summer in there. And it's packed with vegetables. Aubergines seem to be cheap and abundant at the moment, and this is one of my favourite ways to use them. The other good thing about this dish is that it doesn't require much preparation, just a bit of time in the oven while you get on with something else.

This is based roughly on a recipe from the Eagle in Farringdon, which was arguably the first London gastropub back in the early 1990s. I think I have been making this recipe, on and off, for the last 15 years or so.

I've called it a stew but it's also hovering near the salad zone, especially if you eat it at room temperature. I slightly prefer it hot but either will be pretty good.


Serves 4

Two red peppers
Two aubergines
Two courgettes
Two to four potatoes (use an all-purpose or floury potato, not new - two if they are jacket potato size, three or four if they are smaller)
Two to four onions, unpeeled (as with the potatoes, depends on size)
1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Put the whole onions, aubergines, potates and peppers in a roasting tin and cook them for 30 minutes (check them after 25, but the potatoes and onions may need longer) or until they are all soft.

Slice the courgettes into medium rounds, coat them in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and cook them in a separate tray for about 25 minutes or until soft but not burned. Take out any vegetables which are in danger of burning and set them aside while the rest finish cooking. 

As soon as the vegtables are cool enough to handle, discard the aubergine and pepper stems, the pepper seeds, and peel and trim the onions. Cut everything into rough chunks (I sometimes find it easier to do this with a pair of scissors than a knife).

Mix together with the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and half the basil. Season to taste. Serve with the rest of the basil scattered on top and some crusty bread on the side, if you like. You can eat it hot straight away or later at room temperature.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Easy salad for autumn

Autumn is here and sunshine becomes a precious commodity. I'm eating tomatoes while they still taste of something, but I'm all to aware that this won't be the case for much longer. Savoy cabbages are in all the shops - my favourite type of cabbage, with their crinkly leaves and a flavour that manages to be well-developed without any bitterness.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spiced runner beans and lentils

Runner beans feel like the most English of vegetables, more often found in gardens or allotments than in the shops. I don't often buy them - they can be hard to find in the shops - but I was happy to get these from a friend's vegetable garden.

Then I went down a not-very-English route, with warm spices, red lentils for body and a tin of tomatoes for extra depth.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Salad of roasted tomatoes and rocket

Summer is fast disappearing, so I'm enjoying tomatoes while I can - they never taste the same when they haven't had the benefit of sunshine to ripen them. I find peppers to be more consistent year-round, but they still feel like a late-summer ingredient. So here's an easy salad that just needs a bit of time in the oven to draw out the sweetness and emphasise the flavour of the vegetables. Then there's some garlic and coriander to wake them up a bit more.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wheat berries paella-style

I've tried a new ingredient this week - wheat berries. Or perhaps not that new, because this is simply whole wheat, an ingredient I eat in different forms most days in things like bread, pasta, bulghur wheat and so on.  I bought the wheat berries from my local Turkish shop, where it was labelled as "Natural wheat". It took me a while to discover that this was the same thing as wheat berries (which are not berries at all).

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A bowl of brown rice

These days I rarely buy white rice. I can remember finding brown rice quite off-putting, as if it was some extreme of of health-foodism (I certaibly wouldn't have bought brown pasta then either.) Now I love the  nuttiness and flavour of brown rice, even if the extra cooking time can be a pain - and even my five-year-old nephew likes it. This recipe is for a sustaining, soothing bowl of brown rice, turned into a complete meal.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Savoury rice cake with spinach and cheese

This savoury rice cake is a kind of cross between a risotto and a frittata. It is almost infinitely adaptable - you can use whatever vegetables take your fancy (as long as they're cut small), or ring the changes by using a different cheese. The rice does need to be a starchy, short-grain variety though (such as a risotto rice or paella rice, or even pudding rice), to help it stick together.

It is good hot or cold, and is perfect for a picnic. Or make it to eat hot for dinner and have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Five-minute salad with white beans and blackened peppers

This is a salad you can make in five minutes but it can be a meal in itself, especially with some slices of a crusty loaf alongside. And from just four ingredients.

Red peppers and white beans are a perfect pairing, the earthy beans setting off the sweetness of the peppers. I grill the peppers to soften them and add some smoky notes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Asparagus and pea risotto

Here's the most luxurious, delicious early summer risotto you can imagine. I'm posting this now in the hope that you might still be able to find some British asparagus. If not, you could use imported, or save it till next year. Or it will still be delicious with peas and no asparagus, just not quite as luxurious.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Quick and delicious: asparagus, cheese and tomatoes on toast

I realised that we're more than half way through English asparagus season, and I hadn't posted any asparagus recipes. Here is a really simple but delicious one to get you started.

This is one of those occasions when using a quality loaf of bread really does make all the difference.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Healthy risotto for spring

Risotto might be traditionally a buttery, cheesy dish, but it can still be delicious with a fraction of the fat. You don't have to go the whole hog and make some kind of vegan high-fibre risotto with pearl barley and no cheese. Those recipes have their place, but here I'm thinking of something more like a classic risotto, with arborio rice and still with the cheese. 

Spring risotto with mushrooms

Saturday, May 16, 2015

15-minute pasta with mushrooms and broad beans

I sometimes wonder what the point is of ready meals, when you can make something far more tasty in 10 or 15 minutes. Pasta, of course, is one of your best friends in a time-critical situation. On this occasion I'd come back from a 17-mile walk, tired and hungry. This dish hit the spot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hedgerow bubble and squeak, or, How to eat garlic at breakfast time

The wild garlic season seemed to start particularly early this year - I'm sure I picked some in late February, which is a personal record. Now it's coming into flower and before too long the season will be over for another year.

Wild garlic is one of those plants that seems to grow in abundance or not at all. It can be tantalisingly elusive, but then once you discover a good spot, it will reward you year after year.

Bubble and squeak is one of those dishes I am happy to eat at any time of day, and all the more so if topped with a poached egg. I ate the dish below for breakfast, but if you find garlic a bit much at breakfast time, it will be just as good for lunch or dinner. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cabbage and spice and all things nice

Cauliflower and cabbage are perhaps not the most glamorous of vegetables. Next to the shiny aubergines, colourful peppers, glossy courgettes - all those vegetables that help us to think of sunshine and chic Mediterranean food - they can appear dowdy, old-fashioned even. Cauliflower sales fell 35% between 2000 and 2010, and while I haven't seen more recent figures, I somehow doubt there's been a huge resurgence.

But I have a soft spot for the humble and the home-grown, and if you want British veg at this time of year, then there isn't much in the way of glamour to be had. So let's add excitement and exoticism with spices.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eat like an Egyptian: the ultimate home-made koshari

I have fond memories of koshari from my trip to Egypt last year. Some describe it as Egypt's national dish. It's often sold from dedicated koshari restaurants, although it's a popular street food too.

I initially was uncertain about trying it at home. Even in Egypt it's something that people buy rather than make themselves. There are quite a few ingredients to prepare separately, it seems dangerously close to hard work. But then I found myself with some leftover cooked lentils (I often cook a big batch of lentils so that I have some for other dishes) and some leftover pasta from a different meal. Suddenly koshari preparation almost seemed simple.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A hearty winter stew with lentils and greens

The idea for this stew started from a bag of greens and some slightly stale rolls. I thought of ribollita, that great Italian hearty soup based on cavolo nero, cannelini beans and bread. Why not do a version using spring greens, and lentils instead of beans, I wondered?

The end result is not really anything like ribollita, but it is a great, warming, substantial (and healthy) soup/stew, perfect for a cold night.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Easy pea risotto

Risotto sounds like hard work, but it doesn't have to be. You can stir all the time if you like, but this recipe works just as well with a casual stir now and then. A bag of frozen peas is your friend here, adding flavour and vivid green colour.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bread, cheese and onion bake

Most of my friends will tell you that I love cheese. A ploughman's lunch done right is a wonderful thing. But sometimes, you want something hot. Something a bit more crafted. Think of this as a cooked version of a ploughman's lunch. Or a savoury bread-and-butter pudding, if you prefer.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kale and mushroom hash

Healthy, easy, filling, and warming - this is a great weeknight supper for January. I really like it for brunch at the weekend too, either made from scratch, or I deliberately make enough for leftovers when I'm cooking it in the evening.

Kale seems to have aquired a "trendy" reputation, but it's a great, inexpensive vegetable, packed with nutrients and in season at this time of year. But you could use spinach or chard if you prefer. A runny-yolked egg finishes the dish off perfectly.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Creamy cauliflower and leek bake

I don't know about you, but I'd be quite happy if I never saw another mince pie. After all the indulgence of the festive season I feel it's time to load up on veggies. This dish couldn't be more full of vegetables, but is still warm and comforting, topped with a crispy, cheesy (but not too cheesy) crust.