David and I disagree about this salad. Both of us love the crunch and the sweetness of the vegetables and both of us think the colour is fantastic. We do not, however, agree on the dressing. He prefers a zingy gingery flavour; I like a kick of mustard.
See what you think.
Shredded Beetroot and Carrot Salad
(serves 4 as a side)
3 medium beetroot, peeled
2 medium carrots, peeled
- Simply use a mandoline to shred the vegetables finely. (Unless you have incredible knife skills, a mandoline is what is required here. Grating makes the whole dish a bit wet.)
- Toss with one of the following dressings (you may not want to use all the dressing) and sprinkle with the matching herb.
Dressing 1 – Mix together the juice of one lime, a teaspoon of grated ginger and 25ml groundnut oil. Top salad with coriander.
Dressing 2 – Mix together 1/2 tspn Dijon mustard, 1 tblspn white wine vinegar and 4 tblspn olive oil. Top with parsley.
A bright but blustery Sunday morning has turned into a rather dark, threatening afternoon. Icy plops of rain are falling and the bare birch trees across the road are swaying in an increasingly strong wind. I don’t mind though. Marco’s been walked and I’ve already been for a run. There’s nothing I need do other than read my book (The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler), drink peppermint tea and make soup for the week ahead. Nice.
Today’s soup will be a wintery minestrone (this one). More often than not, however, I’ve been making the below soup. It’s David’s current favourite. He likes his soups hearty and, in this weather, so do I.
Chorizo, Spinach and Chickpea Soup
150g chorizo, skinned and chopped into small cubes
2 celery sticks, chopped finely
2 onions, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tspn smoked paprika
½ tspn cayenne pepper (optional – really not necessary if your paprika is spicy)
½ cup brown rice
400g tin of chickpeas, drained
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
500g frozen, chopped spinach (Whole leaf is fine too but it will need to be defrosted then chopped finely first. Fresh spinach should be chopped finely first too.)
1.5 litres of stock (ham for preference but vegetable or chicken is fine too)
- Add a splash of olive oil to a large pan. Throw in the chorizo and cook over a medium heat until the chorizo releases its fat. Add the onion and celery and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and smoked paprika. Cook for a couple more minutes then add the chickpeas and brown rice. Stir well.
- Finally, add the tomatoes, spinach and stock. Simmer gently for an hour then taste for seasoning. It’s unlikely to need salt but a grinding of pepper would be good.
Parsnips last week, parsnips this week. I’m in a parsnip place right now…
I often like to make Bill Granger’s LA Burgers on a Saturday night. They’re lovely juicy patties made with pork mince and fennel then topped with roasted peppers and rocket. He recommends serving them with sweet potato chips (non-Brits: I’m talking about fries here not crisps) and, sometimes, I do. But they never get crispy enough for me to be able to dip in ketchup. Not good. Normal chips, which I generally love, ruin the freshness of the meal for me, however. It’s a dilemma…
No, it’s not! Parsnip chips are the way to go. Garlic and rosemary parsnip chips, to be precise. I’m a fan. Think you will be too.
Garlic and Rosemary Chips
(serves 2 as a side)
2 large parsnips
1 tblspn olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of peppercorns
¼ tspn chopped rosemary
1 small garlic clove
- Preheat oven to 200 oC
- Peel the parsnips and cut into chips half the length of the whole veg and half an inch wide.
- In a mortar and pestle, bash together the peel garlic clove, rosemary, peppercorns and salt to form a rough paste. Stir in the olive oil then toss the parsnips with the mixture.
- Lay the parsnips out on a baking tray making sure you don’t crown them. Put in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown.
My favourite cookbook of last year was undoubtedly Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Everyday Veg. Lots of lovely workable, unfussy ideas for veggie meals and snacks. It’s barely been off my cookbook stand since I got it and is already covered in splatters and splodges of various foodstuffs. Always a good sign.
One of the recipes we’ve come back to time and time again is the Lentil, Parsnip and Watercress Salad. Unusual combination but it’s a cracker of a dish.
Simply toss around 5 peeled and roughly chopped parsnips in a little olive oil then roast for 25 mins in a 200 oC oven until golden brown and slightly caramelised. Meanwhile boil 125g of puy lentils in water with a couple of bay leaves and an onion. Drain, remove the bay and onion then toss the hot lentils with a honey, garlic and mustard dressing. Allow the lentils and parsnips to cool a little (the salad is best warm rather than hot) then top with generous handfuls of watercress.
We dished this up for a couple of lunch guests recently with a Spanish tortilla, rye bread and hummus.
I heard some disturbing news recently. It seems there may be a shortage of Brussels sprouts this winter. Hooray, cheer children and sprout haters throughout the land; boo hiss boo, says me. They’re dinky wee cabbages. What’s not to love?
Hopefully, the rumours aren’t true as we are crazy about stir fried sprouts at the moment. Simply fry some garlic and chilli (more than you think you’ll need) in a pan then add a great big pile of shredded sprouts. Cook over a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes until the greens soften, adding a splash of water if necessary.
We’ve been eating this side dish recently alongside spicy bean enchiladas. Perfect for munching on the sofa on cold, dark December nights.
(Thanks to Katrina for the photo!)
This is a lovely starter to make for guests. Not only can everything apart from the chips be prepared a day in advance (in fact, the flavours improve after a night in the fridge), it’s also pretty healthy and is a nice social start to dinner with friends.
Last time I made this I followed it with lamb tagine with couscous and salad for a main and a pistachio cake with yoghurt for dessert. It was really rather good, if I do say so myself!
Middle Eastern Dips with Pita Chips
(serves 4 generously)
6 pita bread
2 garlic cloves
2 tblspn tahini
1 small lemon
Salt and pepper
- Heat an oven to 220 oC. Prick the aubergine all over (do NOT forget this part unless you want to be scraping exploded aubergine off you oven for hours) and place on a baking tray. Cook in the oven for 45 mins until all squidgy inside.
- Let aubergine cool slightly then scrap the fleshy insides into a bowl. Add the garlic, tahini and the juice of half a lemon. Mash together thoroughly then season. Add extra lemon juice and seasoning to taste.
- Pour a little extra virgin olive oil over the dip before serving.
4 red peppers
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tspn chilli powder
1/4 tspn cumin
1 garlic clove, crushed
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tspn pomegranate molassess (or honey, if it’s easier)
Salt and pepper
- Roast the pepper and remove their skins. I use this method.
- Pop everything except the olive oil and seasoning in a blender. Blend until combined. Season carefully. Turn the blender back on then add oil a little at a time until the mixture becomes a uniform texture
Does the world need another hummus recipe? Possibly… I use this one though (GREAT series of food articles).
Get the nice ones.
We visited Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Barbecoa, in London during the summer and were very impressed. The service was relaxed and friendly, the view of St Paul’s was spectacular and the food was excellent. Afterwards, as we walked back to our friends’ flat in the warm city night, David and I discussed our highlights. For me, it was my starter: a watercress, apple and walnut salad with a blue cheese dressing. For David, the highlight was his main of pulled pork with waffles and barbecue sauce. He loved it and, ever since, has been badgering me to make it at home.
So I did. And it was amazing.
Though it is delicious and a crowd-pleaser and ridiculously simple to make, it’s also very, very indulgent! If you are dieting or watching your weight, I advise you to just step away from the recipe. Once tried, it’ll be hard not to make again. And again. And again.
1.5 kg pork shoulder (skin on and scored)
300g barbecue sauce
200ml white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 200 oC.
- Rub the pork joint generously with salt and pepper. Place into a heavy casserole dish and pour over the vinegar then the barbecue sauce.
- Place the lid on the dish and pop in the oven for 4 hours, removing every hour to baste.
- After four hours remove from the oven. If, like me, you would like to reduce the fat content of the dish ever so slightly, carefully remove the excess skin from the top of the pork and pour off the excess oil that will be surrounding the meat. Be careful not to pour away any of the sauce though! If you don’t care about, move on to the next step.
- Use a couple of forks to shred the meat which should pull apart very, very easily then toss with the barbecue sauce which will have caramelised beautifully around the meat.
- Serve in buns with coleslaw and sweet potato fries.
It hasn’t been a great year for growing really. A lack of sunshine and warmth meant that my berries and salad vegetables were a little pathetic this year. Two things that did, as ever, grow well were my potato and courgette plants giving me plenty of opportunity to make this lovely dish.
Beware, the below recipe is rough in quantities.
Courgette, Tomato & Potato Gratin
(serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side)
10 tomatoes, sliced thickly
8 medium potatoes
3/4 courgettes per person, sliced 1 cm thick
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tspn chopped thyme (1/2 if dried)
Salt and pepper
A big handful of grated mozzarella cheese OR breadcrumbs
- Scrub the potatoes and boil in salted water until almost tender. Drain and cool. Remove skins (they should come away easily) and slice into 1cm thick rounds.
- Heat 1/2 cm of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the courgette rounds in batches and fry for a few minutes on each side until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen roll to soak up excess oil.
- Once all of the courgette has been cooked, add the garlic and thyme to the oil and immediately turn off the heat. Stir until the garlic stops sizzling.
- In a shallow oven dish add a row of sliced potatoes. Angle them slightly so they aren’t lying flat but aren’t completely upright either. Add a row of courgettes then a row of tomatoes. Repeat until all off the veg is in the dish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Brush the vegetables generously with the garlicky oil then sprinkle cheese or breadcrumbs over the top.
- Bake in a 180 oC oven for 30 mins until the top is golden.
Chicken breast is not something I cook with very often. Leg meat is tastier and doesn’t dry out so easily so it’s the chicken cut of choice in my kitchen. I have three exceptions to this rule though:
- Grilled rosemary & garlic chicken cutlets
- Balsamic chicken with tomatoes
All three are dishes where the chicken is cooked so quickly it doesn’t get a chance to dry out and all three are ideal for a speedy weeknight dinner. The third dish is one of my favourites at the moment. Served with couscous and a vegetable (roasted fennel in the picture), it’s a rather elegant little meal. As it provides most of the flavour, a good balsamic vinegar is essential for this recipe. For example, this lovely one my Dad bought me on holiday…
I could eat it with a spoon.
Balsamic Chicken with Tomatoes (adapted from the patronisingly bossy but undeniably brilliant, Tasmin Day Lewis)
(serves two generously)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 free range chicken breasts, cut width ways into 2cm slices
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tblspn good quality balsamic vinegar
Handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt and pepper
- Melt a knob of butter over a medium high heat in a frying pan. Add the chicken and saute for a couple of minutes until sealed all over.
- Add the garlic and stir well. Cook for a minute then add the tomatoes, vinegar and another knob of butter. Reduced the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the tomatoes have turned into a sauce and the chicken is cooked through.
- Add the basil and season with salt, pepper and sugar.
- I like this served on top of couscous.
One of our favourite meals at home right now is Shakshuka, a Middle-Eastern dish of eggs poached in a fragrant stew of peppers and tomatoes. To make from scratch, this takes almost an hour but if you make to make the pepper/tomato stew on a Sunday afternoon or some evening when you do have plenty of time, dinner, a few days later, can be on the table in 20 minutes.
1 onion, sliced
3 red or yellow peppers, sliced
250g tomatoes (I use cherry tomatoes)
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of sugar
2 bay leaves
1/4 tspn cayenne pepper
1 tspn cumin OR smoked paprika (either version is lovely)
1/2 tspn sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
Parsley & bread to serve
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 mins over a medium/high heat. Add the peppers and cook for 10 minutes more, lowering the heat if necessary.
- Once the peppers have started to soften add all the spices, the tomatoes and about 100ml of water. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat. Let this cook gently for 20 mins, adding a splash more water if it gets too dry. Season and taste, adding more cayenne if needed.
- If you’re making the stew in advance, stop here. Turn off the heat, cool and pop in the fridge.
- Bring the stew to a slight simmer. Use a spoon to create 4 little pockets in the sauce. Break an egg into each and sprinkle with salt. Turn the heat down as low as it’ll go and pop a lid on the frying pan. Leave for 10 mins.
- When you remove the lid, the eggs should be cooked through but still have a runny yolk.
- Sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.