Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Oh dear, and suddenly the summer has passed, or today certainly feels that way. Over the summer my daughter has learnt to sit up, eat and also reject certain foods, wave her hands and, most heart-brimmingly wonderful for me, started to call ‘Mama ma ma…’ over the monitor when she wakes. One of the first vegetables she learnt to love was the courgette, plentiful in France where we spent a few lazy weeks, whizzing green flecked or bright orange purees for her delectation. As a result we often had more courgettes than one little person can eat and then this tart was a wonderful way to use them up. You need to make this with the small, firm kind of courgette, not the monsters my mother apologetically hands me after a weekend at home and calls ‘soup courgettes’. If the idea of a tart puts you off – don’t let it. This is easy. You buy the case or pastry ready made (and follow pack instructions) and just mix the veg in with the eggs and cream. I have to confess I haven’t made the raw tomato dressing, but I meant to, so I include it as I’m sure you will too.

This recipe is by Tamasin Day Lewis and her wonderfully named book ‘The Art of the Tart’.

Courgette and basil tart

Serves 6

22cm shortcrust pastry case, chilled

800g small firm courgettes

salt and black pepper

2 – 3 tbsp olive oil

2 eggs and 2 egg yolks

150 – 300 ml double cream

a handful of basil leaves (about 4 tbsp)

Tomato dressing

1 small onion

1 clove of garlic

675g tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped

6 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp each of torn basil leaves, chopped chives and flat-leaf parsley

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Bake the pastry blind for 15 mins, then remove the beans, prick the base with a fork, and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Slice the courgettes into thinnish coins and layer them in a colander, salting each layer. Leave to drain for 20-30 mins, then rinse and dry on kitchen paper.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, throw in the courgettes, and cook until they are slightly softened and translucent, but do not allow them to colour. Remove from the pan and drain.

Whisk together the eggs, yolks, cream and seasoning: the amount of cream will depend on the depth of your tart tin, so begin with the smaller amount and add more if it doesn’t look as if the mixture will fill the pastry case. Put the courgettes into the pastry case with the torn basil leaves, and pour over the egg and cream mixture. Bake until just set, puffed up and deliciously browned, about 30 minutes. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out, and eat while warm with the gutsy raw tomato dressing, made while the tart is in the oven.

Mince the onion and garlic together in a food processor. Put in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, stir, then cover and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes. Stir again, and spoon on to the plates alongside the tart.



Read Full Post »

I love spicy food with a dollop of something cooling on it, like chilli with guacamole or curry with raita, almost to the point where the cooling element takes precedence. It’s the kind of food I want when I’m on my own of an evening and am going to sit down in front of the TV for dinner.

This curry, not as hot as the name vindaloo suggests, is made so much more delicious with thick, cold yoghurt and mint and coriander leaves. The recipe is for 4 but it’s even better eaten the next day or reheated from frozen so do make more than you need. I found myself searching my freezer hoping for one last bag of this the other day which seemed the sign of a good recipe.

Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredients list, it’s a cinch to make and most of this lot are just spices you quickly tip into the pot. Another from the wonderful Mr Ottolenghi, this time from his new cook book ‘Plenty’, which will be the first of many recipes I’ll try. Not sure the husband was convinced with the lack of meat in this recipe but even he had to admit it was pretty good – once he was pursuaded to try it.

Two-potato vindaloo

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 Cooking time: 2 hours

8 cardamom pods

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegetable oil

12 shallots (300g in total), chopped [I didn’t bother with shallots, just used the onions I already had in the fridge]

1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

25 curry leaves

2 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger

1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped [I used tinned]

50ml cider vinegar

400ml water

1 tbsp caster sugar

400g peeled waxy potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm dice

2 small red peppers, cut into 2cm dice

400g peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm dice


mint or coriander leaves to serve

Start by making a spice mix. Dry-roast the cardamom pods and cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan until they begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and add the cloves. Work to a fine powder [i found this quite hard work, not sure how ‘fine’ you’d call what I ended up with], removing and discarding the cardamom pods once the seeds are released. Add the turmeric, paprika and cinnamon and set aside.

Heat up the oil in a large heavy-based pot. Add the shallots with the mustard and fenugreek seeds, and saute on a medium-low heat for 8 minutes, or until the shallots brown. Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves, ginger and chilli and cook for a further 3 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes, vinegar, water, sugar and some salt. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and red peppers and simmer for another 20 minutes. For the last stage, add the sweet potatoes. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if needed) and continue cooking, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce. Serve hot, with plain rice and garnished with the herbs and yoghurt.



Read Full Post »

We get asparagus from our farmers market and have been gorging on bags of them for a few weeks now. Farmers’ markets are so highly regulated that we get ours ‘under the table’ from a farmer who officially sells something else. This guy can only sell what he’s signed up to sell but if you’re in the know he’ll let you have some of ‘the other stuff’ and a plastic bag will be stashed, with the legal goods, in your bag. All very satisfying as you see the line for the official asparagus vendor snake down the street. I don’t really like to mess with the perfection that is a pile of asparagus and melted butter, but I made this tart recently when my sister came over and I felt it needed to look like some effort had been made. Plus, with the husband away that week, the asparagus mountain was proving daunting, even for me.

This recipe is by Tamasin Day-Lewis, sister of Daniel, and comes from the wonderfully named ‘Art of the Tart’, a lovely book with loads of fairly easy to make sweet and savoury tarts, quiches and pies. As she says in the intro to this recipe, it is only to be attempted once you can bear to share the flavour of asparagus with others, and actually this recipe maintains the asparagus as the main event – the rest of the tart being very mellow and creamy. If you buy ready-made shortcrust pastry it really is dead easy. Tamasin talks of her ‘golden rule’ which is to steam the thicker, woodier ends of the stems first before you throw in the more tender tops – that way avoiding “the flobby mess” that putting them in at the same time can lead to. I didn’t do this, lazily, and while it didn’t matter I think she may have a point…

Asparagus tart

Serves 6

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 50 mins

22cm/9 inch shortcrust pastry case, chilled

beaten egg, for brushing

1 good-sized bundle of asparagus

300ml/10fl oz cream

150ml/5fl oz Jersey milk [funnily enough I didn’t get this, I’m sure whole milk will also do]

4 egg yolks

2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Bake the pastry blind for 15 minutes, then remove the beans, prick the base with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pastry case from the oven and brush with beaten egg. Turn the oven down to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Steam the asparagus as discussed above and leave to cool. Whisk the cream, milk and egg yolks together, add the grated Parmesan and season. Spoon the cooled asparagus into the pastry case, then pour over the custard. Cook for 25 – 30 minutes, until puffed up and just set and browned.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out and serve with a strong-noted salad, say raw fennel, orange and watercress with a hazelnut or walnut and olive oil dressing, which introduces astringence and pepperiness.




Read Full Post »

Another way to use up that Stilton. I do think Nigel Slater is the man to turn to for anything to do with cheese and this recipe is such delicious comfort food. I’d highly recommend making large quantities as its completely moreish. Forget the diet for now. It does take a while to cook, though it’s pretty low maintenance, so not great for a midweek supper but something to linger over at the weekend. I just served it with frozen peas, but Nigel also suggests spinach or kale which would be delicious too.

I have started the recipe with chopping the onions, Nigels says do the potatoes first, but that makes no sense as they take less time. I found the onions needed easily 25 mins like he suggests, perhaps more. I also didn’t put the potato in the food processor to make the mash I just did it in the pan so there was less washing up – plus I adapted the recipe to serve 2 and baked the pie in a little Le Creuset pan. Just so you know.

I got Nigel’s first volume of Tender for Christmas and must try a recipe soon. Waiting and waiting for a baby does not seem to bring out the adventurous cook in me, though I’ve started to lose my appetite now so might try and cook slighty less stodge tonight. Here’s to something light and fragrant wafting from the kitchen this evening.

Stilton, onion and potato pie

Serves: enough for 6 as a main dish with greens

Prep: 20 mins Cooking: 1 hour

1.5kg floury potatoes

4 medium onions

80g butter

150ml milk

225g Stilton

25g grated Parmesan

Peel the onions and cut them in half, then cut each into five or six segments. Put them in a heavy-based frying pan with 4og of the butter and let them cook over a moderate to low heat, stirring from time to time. They will need twenty to twenty five minutes [at least] to become thoroughly soft and sticky.

Put a large pan of water on to boil. Peel the potatoes and cut them into halves or quarters, then add them to the boiling water. When it comes back to the boil, add a little salt and turn down to a lively simmer. Check the potatoes now and again; they should be tender in fifteen minutes or so.

Bring the milk to the boil and turn off the heat. Drain the potatoes, then tip them into the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a beater attachment. Mix as you slowly add the milk and the remaining butter. Beat to a smooth mash, stopping well before it becomes gluey.

Set the oven at 200C/Gas 6. Butter the base and sides of a heavy 28cm frying pan with a metal handle or a similar diameter baking dish – I use a black cast iron frying pan. Spoon in half the mashed potato, smooth the potato a little, then add the onions and a grinding of black pepper. Crumble the Stilton over the onions. Pile the rest of the mashed potato over the top and smooth lightly with the back of the spoon or a rubber spatula.

Dust over the Parmesan, then bake for twenty five to thirty minutes, by which time the top will be pale gold and the filling will be bubbling up around the edges.

Read Full Post »

If you’ve still got some way to go with the Christmas Stilton, like we do, this is a great recipe for using some up. It was recommended to me by a chef from The Ivy who suggested gorgonzola as the blue cheese to use and it’s absolutely delicious. Stilton works just as well, and while this dish won’t win any prizes for low fat cooking the peas give it a surprising freshness. You could also try broccoli. People are often put off risotto because they think it’s very time consuming but I find all the stirring quite therapeutic and really the cooking time is about 20 mins. Who doesn’t have time for that?

Pea and Stilton risotto

Serves 2

Prep: 5 mins Cooking: 20 mins

olive oil or butter, or a bit of both

1 onion, finely chopped

200g risotto rice

small glass of white wine

500ml good quality chicken stock

2 handfuls frozen peas

100g Stilton, cut into smallish pieces

a good grating of Parmesan

Heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan until the butter has melted. Add the onion and cook on a low heat for 5 to 10 mins until it is really soft, keep stirring so the onions don’t burn. Add the risotto rice and turn up the heat a little. Mix it in until the grains are covered in the cooking oil. Just when you think the rice is about to burn, add the white wine (if using, if not just start with the first ladleful of stock) and stir until it has been absorbed. Next add a ladleful of the (hot) stock and again stir until it has been absorbed. The rice should be simmering gently, not boiling away like crazy, and should start to look nice and creamy.

About 15 mins in add the frozen peas. I just chuck them straight in to the risotto but I suspect, if you are doing things properly, you should have either cooked them in the stock or at least cooked them before, so they don’t cool everything down. I’ve never noticed it make a difference. When the risotto tastes done – the rice should have a little bit of ‘bite’ – take it off the heat. Add another knob of butter, the Stilton and a bit of Parmesan and cover with a lid for a few minutes. This allows the risotto to rest and get even creamier and more delicious plus it gives you time to set the table/make a salad/put the TV on. I’m not sure why but it works. Stir again and serve.

Read Full Post »

I served this with the beef fillet with three sauces but it is delicious with chicken, pork, on it’s own… Another Ottolenghi recipe, it can be prepared a day in advance and left in the fridge until you want to put it in the oven. You can also replace the sage with thyme – or use a mix of both. For me the best thing about it is that you don’t have to peel the potatoes and, unlike other dauphinoise-type dishes where you use ‘normal’ potatoes, these never seem to be under cooked.

My top tip is don’t use those really massive sweet potatoes you often find in the supermarket, you want them to be small enough so that when you pour the cream over them they are nicely covered, not just toes dipping. You’ll see what I mean. 

Sweet potato gratin

Serves 4-6

Prep: 15 mins Cooking: 1 hour 10 mins

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5kg in total)

5 tbsp roughly chopped sage, plus extra to garnish

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

250ml whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6. Wash the sweet potatoes (do not peel them) and cut them into discs 5mm thick. 

In a bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a deep, medium sized oven-proof dish by taking tight packs of them and standing them upright, next to each other. They should fit together quite tightly so you get parallel lines of sweet potato slices (skins showing) along the length or width of the dish. Throw any remaining bits of garlic or sage from the bowl over the potatoes.

Cover the dish with foil, place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Roast, uncovered, for a further 25 minutes. The cream should have thickened by now. Stick a sharp knife in different places in the dish to make sure the potatoes are cooked. They should be totally soft. 

Serve immediately, garnished with sage, or leave to cool down. In any case, bringing the potatoes to the table in the baking dish, after scraping the outside clean, will make a strong impact.


Read Full Post »