Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Doing lots of cooking at the moment, because work is winding down ready for Christmas hols (ours start on Friday!). On the weekend we had Good Food's scrumptious Pumpkin and Parsnip Cassoulet (great way to disguise horrid parsnips - why oh why did I order 2kg extra last week?!). Yesterday we had this wintery vegetable soup.

Because we're leaving on Friday, I am trying to use up the veg from the rack. This soup makes good use of plenty, and tastes much more interesting than the recipe suggests. It's adapted from Cranks Vegetarian Restaurants' recipe - I've added Russiany herbs to give it a distinctive flavour. Yum!


1 onion, chopped finely
1tsp butter
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 medium parsnip, peeled and sliced (core and all)
2oz (a handful) white cabbage, shredded
3 small/medium carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 pints vegetable stock
Pinch nutmeg
1tsp dried dill
1tsp dried tarragon
Generous pinch salt
Generous grinding of pepper

Melt the butter and saute the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables and cover the pan; leave for about 15 minutes on a low heat until they start to soften and get a golden glow. Add the garlic, herbs, seasoning and stock. Simmer gently for a further 20 minutes. Cool, then puree in a blender. Reheat and serve with fresh bread.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Perfect Margharita

I've been testing and trialling pizza recipes for ages and finally got it right. Crispy, fluffy base, juicy tomato sauce, slices of stretchy mozzarella. Even Steve doesn't mind the absence of meat. Here it is.


6oz plain flour
1tsp dried yeast
1tsp salt
0.5tsp sugar
1tbsp olive oil
100ml warm water

Combine the ingredients and mix to a dough. Knead for 10 mins, then leave to rest in a warm place. Return to it after an hour and knead and stretch it into a pizza shape on a baking tray. Cover with a tea-towel dampened with hot water, and put in a warm place (I use the bottom oven). Leave for as long as you can bear (about an hour at least).

Tomato Sauce:
4 large tomatoes, chopped
2tsp balsamic vinegar
Splash water
Pinch sugar
Pinch salt and pepper

Put everything in a saucepan and simmer on a very low heat, for maybe 40 minutes, checking often. By the end it should be thick and almost dry.

To assemble:
Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza, and add some thinly-sliced tomato if you have any left. Slice a ball of fresh, organic mozzarella and put over the top. Finally, grate a scant handful of cheddar over everything. Serve with mixed salad and white wine (capers optional).

Friday, December 01, 2006

What's a Vegetable Box Scheme?

It's a farm-organised scheme, and there are lots running all over the country. You register with a supplier and receive a box of organic vegetables once a week or once a fortnight. Your box will include only what's in season, and, because the farm can decide what goes into the boxes each week, prices are kept low (about 60% less than supermarket organics). You'll get some staples (usually potatoes, carrots, and onions), some greens, and some interesting things each week!

Joining a box scheme is a great way to:
1. Keep food miles to a minimum
2. Eat what's in season
3. Support the local economy
4. Get more organic veg for your buck.

We get ours from
Riverford Farm, paying £9.00 for a small, £11 for a medium, or £13 for a fruit-and-veg each week. But there are plenty of farms offering the boxes - and some milkmen deliver vegetable boxes on their rounds, too!

This week our small box includes: Butternut squash, celeriac, box of mushrooms, brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. Yes, we usually get through it all, although I can go online and swap the box for a mini or medium depending on whether we are running low or high on vegetables! It does dictate what you eat, but that's a good thing - plenty of variety and challenges. Eating what's in season is naturally better for our bodies, since imported exotics have only been arriving for the last few decades.

We've been receiving a box for a few years and so I'm used to working out the weekly menus according to what appears - not as hard as it sounds, especially in winter, when you get used to eating a lot of root gratins and bubble 'n' squeak!


1 leek, chopped into large chunks
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
1tsp butter
0.5 pint cheese sauce (either white sauce with cheddar melted into it, or ready-made)
250g fresh penne
Two slices bread, chopped or whizzed to make breadcrumbs
Handful grated parmesan

Saute the leek in the butter over a medium-high heat; add the broccoli florets and stir briefly to soften. Add the cheese sauce and stir on a low heat until it's hot. Meanwhile, cook and drain the penne. Turn penne and vegetables into an oven dish, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and finely-grated parmesan, and put under a hot grill until toasty and bubbling on top. Serve with garlic bread.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Scrumptious wintry dinner served with bubble 'n' squeak - or broccoli and mash. This is one of Delia's recipes, which I've adapted to suit vegetarian sausages. Pick a good red wine though, and don't season until you've tasted it - sometimes the wine needs a squeeze of lemon to sharpen it, and sometimes it doesn't need any extra salt.

4 Cauldron Lincolnshire sausages
6 baby onions or shallots
Handful chopped mushrooms (optional)
1tsp sunflower oil
1tbsp plain flour
200ml red wine
200ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1tsp chopped, fresh thyme
Splash soy sauce (optional)
1tsp redcurrant jelly

Heat the oil and brown the sausages and onions slowly. Add the mushrooms and stir until softening. Stir in the flour until absorbed, then pour in a little of the red wine. Stir until thick and add the rest slowly. Add the stock, bay leaf and thyme. Stir all the brown bits off the bottom, and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer away for about 20 minutes, then taste. If it's a bit tanniny, add a squeeze of lemon juice; if it needs seasoning, use the soy sauce. Add pepper and the 1tsp of redcurrant jelly. Stir and check seasoning again.

Serve with mashed potato and something green. Lick plates clean...

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Click here for my Natural Collection feature on autumn seasonal eating. Links to recipes for apples, beetroot, kale and pumpkin - from the professionals!

Pak choi time... you could add lots of things, like bean shoots or cashew nuts, to this recipe to make it more substantial. Or eat it with some sweet and sour tofu on the side. I love Chinese cooking - it's so easy and fool-proof...

2 portions noodles, briefly boiled and drained
1tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
1 head pak choi, chopped
1tbsp sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2tsp rich soy sauce
2tsp toasted sesame oil

Heat the oil and throw in the pak choi stalks and the sesame seeds. After a few minutes on a high heat, add the pak choi leaves and the garlic. Stir for a couple more minutes, then add the soy sauce and noodles. Stir and heat until hot and almost dry; drizzle over the sesame oil and serve in hot bowls. Better than a Pot Noodle any day of the week.


This deceptively simple recipe is just so delicious, I could eat it all year. Which is just as well, since we still have 4 pumpkins to use up....

Even if you don't think you like pumpkin, or goat's cheese, give it a try; you will be surprised. (Tesco's Welsh Goats Cheese is a good, mild version that isn't remotely offensive.)

0.5 pumpkin or large squash (or thereabouts - you will probably nibble it from the tray before it goes in the pan, so make extra)
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
1 handful pine nuts
2tbsp chopped Sage
1 dstsp butter
1 log Goat's Cheese (or Brie), crumbled into large pieces

Peel (oh heck), de-seed and cube the pumpkin or squash. Spread on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil,salt and pepper. Roast at about 180 degrees C for around 40 minutes (thereabouts), until browning and scrumptious. (this is where I start picking at it. Yum!) Put dinner plates in the oven, switch it off and close the door.

Take a large pan and boil the pasta briefly - don't overcook -undercooking is better. Put it in a colander and rinse with cold water. Then return the pan to the heat, melt the butter and add the pine nuts and sage. Allow to gently brown, then throw in the pasta and stir to coat and reheat. When all hot, add the cheese and pumpkin and toss gently.

Dish up onto the hot plates and eat..... ooh, bliss.

Friday, September 22, 2006

with carrot, cashew and tofu

2 carrots, sliced into batons
2 courgettes, sliced into batons
1 block tofu, diced
Handful cashew nuts
Groundnut oil (1tbsp)

Stir-fry the above in order of cooking time: start with the tofu and fry until starting to brown. Add the cashews and vegetables, and continue cooking until lightly crunchy.

Meanwhile, boil two portions of thick egg noodles. Set aside.

For the Sauce:
1.5tbsp soy sauce
1tsp tomato puree
1tsp sesame oil
2tbsp vegetable stock
0.5tbsp white wine vinegar
1tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Mix together and pour over the vegetables in the pan. Add the noodles and heat through. Serve!

Friday, September 15, 2006

This is rather a prized recipe of mine, and I post it with some reluctance, having spent a lot of time perfecting it. Delicious hot with beans and equally good cold, with ketchup. It's a good use of the leeks that arrive all autumn, and I always keep a pot of sage in the garden.

Makes 6
1 leek, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped and boiled
1 handful spinach, shredded (optional)
0.5 tub of creme fraiche
2tbsp chopped sage
1tsp Marigold bouillon
2tsp wholegrain mustard

Pastry - either Delia's wholewheat shortcrust, or ready-made shortcrust or puff.

Put the leek and spinach in a saucepan with a drizzle of olive oil, and leave to saute for a few minutes. Put the potatoes in a bowl with the creme fraiche, sage, bouillon and mustard, and mash together. Season generously.

Add the spinach and leeks to the potato mixture and set aside.

Roll out the pastry quite thinly and cut into rounds (using a saucer). Place on a baking sheet. Next, brush the edges with beaten egg, and put a tbsp of filling on each circle. Bring the sides together to form a half-moon pasty, and pinch the edges together firmly.

When they're ready, brush with the egg, and put into a preheated oven at about 180 degrees C for 20 minutes, until golden.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

As if you need them. Having undertaken comprehensive research, I'm pleased to present...

Five Excuses to Eat More Chocolate

Got a cough?
Take chocolate. Researchers at Imperial College, London discovered that chocolate is 30% more effective than codeine, which is the most common cough-medicine remedy. Theobromine, found in cocoa, was tested on volunteers with cough symptoms and didn’t show any of codeine’s side-effects, either.

Planning an adventure?
Take chocolate. Mountain-climbers, trekkers and serious adventurers are always advised to take chocolate. It’s been said to have saved the life of many a weak walker.

High blood pressure?
Take chocolate. Its polyphenols slow down the oxidation of cholesterol (which is what leads to blocked arteries) and it’s also suspected to prevent blood clotting. In fact, Mars is so convinced of its health-giving properties, it’s just launched CocoaVia: high-cocoa bars for people suffering with blood and heart problems. Mars claims the bars promote platelet activity (for good circulation) and improve blood flow.

Prone to anaemia?
Take chocolate. This trick is familiar to many women who suffer mild anaemic symptoms once a month. If you’re menstruating, dark chocolate is a useful iron supplement, and cheers you up too.

Need extra vitamins?
Ditch the pills and take chocolate. The humble cocoa bean is 3.5% vitamins, including calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Sunny herbs and lemon make courgettes ever-so-much-more interesting. Serve with potato salad and green things, plus a bottle of chilled rose - perfect!

2 courgettes, finely sliced
0.5tbsp olive oil
1tsp tarragon, chopped
Squeeze lemon juice (about 0.25 of a lemon)
Salt and pepper
Puff pastry - half a packet (won't catch me trying to make this)!

Slice the courgettes very thinly and leave in iced water, then drain, dry and soften gently in a large frying pan. Remove and toss with the olive oil, lemon and tarragon, then leave to infuse. Roll out the pastry and put onto a baking sheet. Score around the edge, leaving a 2cm gap. Now arrange the courgettes prettily over the pastry. Sprinkle the seasoning and remaining marinade over and add extra tarragon if you like it.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the courgettes are lightly tinged. Serve with new potatoes and rocket salad.
(for one)

One good (or bad) thing about working from home is having the time and space to whip up something interesting for lunch.

The River cafe recipes are always more amazing than they sound on paper. Beans, spinach and white wine - what's great about that? Try it and see.

You will need some prepared tomato sauce: I sometimes have a batch in the freezer (handy for pizzas), made by stewing tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for up to an hour until dark red and mushy. The River Cafe's tomato sauce is much the same - made with tinned tomatoes, plus chopped onion - but in the absence of either, a jar of Italian tomato sauce will do fine. Make sure it's a concentrated one, with lots of tomato.

Cooked chickpeas or butter beans: about half a tin's worth (about 40g dry)
Swiss chard or spinach: 100g
Onion: a quarter
Carrot: a small one
Olive oil: 1tbsp
Tomato sauce: 0.5tbsp
White wine: 2floz
Pinch salt, pinch pepper, pinch dried chilli flakes (crushed together)

Warm the oil and soften the onion and carrot until both are tender (not brown). Add the seasonings and the white wine and reduce until almost all gone. Add the tomato sauce, the beans and the spinach or chard, cover, and simmer gently until the spinach/chard is cooked.

Cool slightly before serving (this is also scrumptious scooped cold from the fridge!) on toast, or with focaccia.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Here's my Natural Collection article on seasonal eating, summer - made me terribly hungry writing it all up:

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


9oz self-raising flour
1.5tsp baking powder
2oz margarine
3oz caster sugar
1 punnet blueberries, washed
Juice of half a lemon
2 large eggs
235ml milk

Makes 12

Sieve flour and baking powder twice. Add the marg and rub gently until it resembles breadcrumbs; stir in the sugar and berries. Whisk together the eggs, milk and lemon juice. Add this to the dry mixture and stir briefly (enough to combine but leaving it lumpy).

Plop into 12 muffin cases and bake at 200deg C for 20-25 minutes. Eat warm with cappuccino!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Perfect for summer! Serve these gorgeous little things outside, with focaccia, hummous and a bottle of wine. Or eat in pitta with hummous, like I am right now. Toss through salad. Or just serve on a plate as part of antipasto.

Organic tomatoes and peppers, in season, produce the most astounding flavour. Better than shop-bought any day!

1 small punnet cherry tomatoes (from organic box)
1 large Romiro pepper (the pointy sweet one - from box)
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to about 100deg C (200deg F). Halve the tomatoes and the pepper (and de-seed the pepper). Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and vinegar. Put in the bottom of the oven (poss when something else is cooking) for about an hour, then leave to dry out in the oven.

The tomatoes should only be semi-dry and the pepper should be soft. Chop the pepper into chunks, put the whole lot (scraping the tin's juices) into a small pot, and cover with olive oil. Refrigerate until needed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


After much testing, I've finally settled on a definitive lemon (or orange) cheesecake recipe. Cheesecake recipes vary hugely, but this simple baked cake includes no gelatine, no strawberry jelly, no annoyingly gritty zest, and no fancy amaretti biscuits.

We ate it topped with orange chunks, but raspberry coulis would be divine poured over the top. There are lots of oranges arriving in our fruit bag from the farm at the moment, so we will probably be having an all-orange version next!

There is a gorgeous photograph of a lemon cheesecake on the cover of BBC Good Food this month. It is served outdoors, with a glass of white wine - perfect lunch if you ask me.


2oz digestive biscuits, whizzed to crumbs
1/3 cup ground almonds
1oz butter

1lb (400g - two boxes) cream cheese
2/3 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
4floz liquid, made up from 1tbsp lemon/orange juice and the rest double cream

Whiz biscuits and almonds, melt butter and stir together. Press into tin, wrap bottom of tin in foil, and put into freezer.

For the topping, blend the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and cream thoroughly in a processor. It will look sloppy but that's good -- pour onto the base and carefully slide onto the middle oven shelf.

Bake at 140 degrees C (275 F) for up to about an hour, checking often - the centre will be wobbly but just set. Cool in the tin - it will firm more as it cools. The centre will be the creamiest bit!! In fact, I think this cheesecake would benefit from minimal cooking - so will try to catch it sooner next time.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


When the asparagus is becoming woody (say, because someone you know bought it and didn't use it early enough!) and you can only use the tips, try this - a different way to combine the classic flavours of asparagus, lemon and cream.

4oz flour
1oz Trex
1oz butter
1oz parmesan
2tbsp cold water

Pastry: weigh out ingredients and combine with a knife, chopping the fat into small pieces. When relatively crumbly, start to add the water and pull together with a metal spoon. Finally, push the last remaining dry bits together, form into a rough ball and wrap in cellophane. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

Asparagus tips (about 12)
Splash of stock
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6floz double cream
4 floz milk
Squeeze lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 egg and 1 egg yolk

Steam/boil the asparagus tips lightly in a pan containing a splash of stock: bring to boil, cover and allow asparagus to absorb stock. Roll out the pastry in a quiche tin. Arrange the asparagus tips in a starburst pattern.

Blend the milk, cream, lemon juice, garlic and seasoning in a jug. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat well. Pour gently over the asparagus, and put into the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with grated cheese, then return for another 10 minutes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

with wild garlic

We picked some wild garlic from the woods! Check out that foraging instinct! You see, who needs a fancy marketing job and organic supermarkets when you can write from home and pick your own dinner? Hmm?

Didn't get poisoned, neither. Am so country-girlish. (The next urban chic, you know. Primal Scream says so.)

3-4 medium potatoes, sliced thinly
2 leeks, sliced
Big handful wild garlic leaves, shredded
3 cloves of normal garlic, chopped
Tbsp butter
100ml double cream
100ml milk
1tbsp grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter and soften the leeks. Add the garlic leaves and cloves, and stir briefly. Add the parmesan, milk and cream and bring to the boil. Tip in the potatoes and mix well. Season generously.

Tip the lot into an ovenproof gratin dish and cover with foil. Bake at about 180 deg C (dunno, got an ancient Farenheit oven so I just guess) for an hour. Remove the foil, sprinkle with more Parmesan, and allow to brown for a few mins. Serve - delish!

Friday, April 28, 2006


If you don't like cauliflower, try this lovely soup - it's creamy and spicy with a coconut finish. And even if you think this sounds peculiar, please try it - in all honesty it was a last resort, Ready-Steady-Cook style, but turned out beautifully.

The cooked soup needs plenty of extra blending, to make sure all the little grainy cauliflower bits are smoothed out. Serve with thick pieces of wholemeal bread... bliss.

1 cauliflower, leaves separated, florets chopped
1 onion, sliced
2tsp korma curry paste
Large pinch salt
Half a tin of coconut milk

First, simmer the cauliflower leaves in hot water for about half an hour (while getting the veg ready). Strain it through a sieve - this is a basic stock.

Rinse the pan and put the sliced onions in, along with the curry paste. Let soften gently for about 5 minutes, then add the cauliflower florets. Cover and leave to soften for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk, and enough of the hot 'stock' to cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer, cover, and leave to plip-plop for anything up to half an hour.

Once it's cooled slightly, blend for a loooooooong time. I want this super-silky-smooth. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Reheat gently (not to boiling point).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Even people who like cooking don't always WANT to cook, you know - specially after a hard day's procrastination. But needs must... I invented this pasta bake last night, wanting something I could throw in the oven and leave while we walked Holly. Which was a far nicer way to spend a warm spring evening.

2 large courgettes, chopped into chunks
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin tomatoes
Sprinkle balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle sugar

Ricotta (about half a tub)
1tbsp margarine
1tbsp plain flour
0.5 pint milk
Sprinkle parmesan (optional)

Penne or fusili pasta, cooked in boiling water (about 2 handfuls)

Saute the courgette and onion for 10 mins until golden, then add the garlic, stir briefly, and add the tomatoes, balsamic and sugar. Simmer for a minute and then turn off the heat. Mix with the cooked pasta and put in an ovenproof dish.

Melt the butter in a clean pan and stir in the flour, to make a paste. Stir in a drop of milk until blended, then add the rest of the milk slowly. Bring to a gentle simmer until the sauce has thickened. Whisk in the ricotta and parmesan. Spoon over the courgette/pasta mixture, and sprinkle with extra cheese if you like.

Bake in the oven for about half an hour.
Please check out my feature on spring eating at the Natural Collection website...

What's Cooking - Spring

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


A posh recipe, loosely based on some scrumptious pan-fried gnocchi which we also ate at Jack-in-the-Green. I swapped my veg box for a fruit-and-veg box this week, because the fruit-and-veg boxes promised asparagus and I can't get through April without some asparagus. This recipe serves 2.

3 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled
1tbsp parmesan
2tsp ricotta
1tsp marscapone
1 egg
1tbsp self-raising flour
Salt and pepper

1 bunch asparagus, divided into stems and tips
Green vegetables for serving (I used broccoli)

2 egg yolks
1dstsp lemon juice
1dstsp white wine vinegar
4oz butter

FOR THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE, put the egg yolks into a blender or processor with a pinch of salt and blend briefly. Put the lemon juice and vinegar into a small pan and heat to simmering point, then pour slowly onto the egg yolks while blending. Put the butter into the same pan and heat until melted and starting to froth. Pour onto the eggs slowly, blending. Set the sauce aside (it can be reheated over a pan of hot water).

FOR THE GNOCCHI, push the potatoes through a ricer into the still-hot pan and leave to dry out a little. Add the egg, parmesan, ricotta and marscarpone and beat to combine. Season to taste, then add the flour slowly until the mixture is the right consistency to be shaped. Refrigerate if there's time.

Brush a griddle pan and a frying pan with olive oil and heat both.

Put the asparagus stems into the griddle pan. After a couple of minutes add the broccoli and finally the asparagus tips. When almost ready, add a blob of butter to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, pan-fry the gnocchi until brown on both sides.

Serve artistically, with the hollandaise drizzled around the edge of the plate, the gnocchi in a circle, and greens in the centre!

Monday, April 24, 2006

with chilli and coconut

This soup is heavenly. I had a similar one at a restaurant - Jack-in-the-Green (Rockbeare) - on Friday and decided to try to recreate it. It was scrummy-licious! My efforts were pretty good, even if I say so myself...

1 butternut squash (large) or Sweet Mama squash (medium), peeled, de-seeded and chopped into large chunks
1 large red chilli (all the flesh and about 1/4 of the seeds)
1 onion, chopped into large chunks
1/2 tin coconut milk
Pinch Marigold vegetable bouillon
Half a lime
Flaked almonds, dry-toasted in a pan

Soften the squash, chilli and onion in a covered saucepan and leave over a low heat for 10 minutes, until golden in places. Sprinkle on the bouillon and stir.

Pour in the coconut milk, and top up with hot water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and leave to plip-plop gently for about 20-30 minutes.

Allow to cool, and blend. Season with salt and lime juice. Scatter with toasted almonds to serve.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Since we got a dog, I feel much healthier. I can climb hills without running out of breath and have even lost some weight. The diet has taken a back-seat (give me exercise over ryvita anyday) but these low-fat chips are still favourites. They have a mere fraction of normal chippy calories and they taste great accompanied with a big veggie-burger in a bun with salad and ketchup. Mmm!

Serves 2.

5-6 small potatoes
1dstsp olive oil
1tsp Paprika
1tsp Salt

Peel (or scrub) and chop potatoes into chips. Dry carefully on some kitchen towel. Put them in a roasting tray and turn them in the oil, trying to make sure they are all glossy. (This stops them from sticking to the tray.)

Sprinkle over the paprika and salt and turn them again.

Bake in a hot oven for about 40 mins (depending on how big you have cut them). Serve with hummous for dipping! Plus veggie burgers in buns. mmm.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


This is my own recipe for hummous, which I am rather proud of. Still, I think hummous is a rather personal thing: different folk like different garlic-lemon ratios. Steve complains if it's over-lemony but likes lots of garlic; I don't like it when the garlic starts to burn your tongue.

We both agree on lots of tahini though (sesame seed paste, available from the supermarket). So start with chickpeas, stock and tahini and adjust the rest to your own peculiar liking.

Makes a big potful.

200g dried chickpeas (cooked for recommended time)- or approx one tin
1tbsp tahini
Juice of half a large lemon, or most of a small lemon
2 medium cloves garlic
3-4tbsp olive oil

First whiz the chickpeas, 1 clove garlic, lemon juice, oil and tahini with enough cooking water to obtain the right hummousy texture. Add the salt, and start tasting. Adjust garlic and lemon to taste.

This keeps in the fridge for ages.

Serve in a thick sandwich with:
Grated carrot and lettuce leaves
Coriander, grilled aubergine slices and mango chutney
Spring onions and pine nuts
Honey-roasted aubergine and toasted sesame seeds

Also good with jacket potatoes, as a dip for potato wedges or carrots, or thinned with lemon juice and drizzled on falafel.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Aubergines and courgettes arrived in our vegetable box this week, along with the first sunshine of spring! Much as I love our winter vegetables, summery mediterranean things like tomatoes, basil, courgettes and lettuces are extremely welome after a cold winter.

This lasagne is a lazy invention, and utterly delicious - we have foccacia and salad alongside. (and, of course, a glass of wine.) If no lasagne sheets are in the cupboard, the roast veggies can be mixed with the bechamel and any sort of pasta; just scatter with cheese and heat through in the oven.

for the ROAST VEG:
2 courgettes
1-2 aubergines
1 onion
3-4 tomatoes (or use tinned - see below)
2 cloves garlic
1tbsp pesto
Salt and pepper
1tbsp olive oil

Chop the vegetables and put in a roasting tray. Scatter garlic, salt and pepper on top, then stir in the pesto and oil. Roast for around 30 mins until golden. If no tomatoes are available, stir in half a tin of chopped tomatoes after roasting. This is an infinitely variable recipe - you can vary the veg and the herbs (using fresh basil in season), swap pesto for sundried tomato paste, etc.

1tbsp butter
1tbsp plain flour
1pint milk
2 handfuls cheese

Melt butter, stir in the flour to make a paste, then very slowly add the milk, whisking after each addition. Heat gently to simmering point and the sauce will thicken. Turn off heat, stir in cheese.

Assemble the lasagne by arranging veg, lasagne, bechamel, until all is used up. Finish with bechamel and extra cheese (veggie parmesan if you can get it).

Bake for about 30-40 mins in a medium oven.

Friday, March 31, 2006


This is one of Nigella's recipes. She is always good with comfort-food: the filling, lusciously stodgy sort. Her sour cream chocolate cake is seriously hardcore, and don't get me started on her easy danish pastry, heart-shaped raspberry cakes and piled-high pies.

So we like Nigella. This is her New Year's Day soup from 'Feast'. She says this is great hangover food. The soup is also very nice without the frankfurters: thick, golden and warming.

She uses yellow split peas, but forgot to mention that they need to be soaked overnight. So I substituted red lentils, which turn goldy anyway.

serves 2-3

1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, washed and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2 handfuls red lentils
2pts vegetable stock made with Marigold Bouillon
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

3-4 vegetarian frankfurters

Soften the chopped veg in a tbsp olive oil for ten minutes until soft but not brown. Add the lentils and stir until they are glossy. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaf, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins. Blend until smooth. Season to taste.

Boil or microwave the frankfurters as per packet instructions. Chop into diagonal pieces and add to the soup.

Serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


We all love crumble but Delia's brilliant idea to add almonds turns this into a heavenly version. I made this apple crumble for Steve's birthday last week (we were on holiday) and we can't agree whether apple or rhubarb is better. Play safe, and make both.

Now please excuse me, as I saw a 'rhubarb' sign in our village grocer and am going to HAVE to get some and make this again now I'm reminded of it...

4 oz almonds, flaked or whole, gently crumbled
3 oz chilled butter, cut into small dice
6 oz self-raising flour, sifted
4 oz demerara sugar

3-4 Bramley Apples or equivalent amount of fresh Rhubarb
1dstsp caster sugar

Peel, core and chop fruit; arrange in a deep dish and sprinkle with sugar.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips (or whiz in a processor if lazy like me) then stir in the almonds and sugar. If using rhubarb, you can also add some ground spices such as ginger and cinnamon (up to 1tsp each). Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and press lightly. Nobody cares if some of the apples poke out the top. It only adds to the charm.

Serve with CUSTARD! Beat 2 egg yolks with 1/2tbsp caster sugar in a bowl. Gently heat 200ml single cream with a vanilla pod (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract). When warm, pour it over the yolks, beating constantly. Tip the whole lot back into the saucepan, and bring slowly to a simmer, whisking like mad, until it's thickened. (If it starts to split, apparently you should plunge the pan into cold water - but mine's never done this.) Allow to cool, whisking, for a minute before serving.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I miss Wales. While I was missing it, I remembered a wonderful Welsh vegetarian recipe which I haven't made for ages.

Tempted to make Welsh cakes for afters, but am on a emergency-one-week-bridesmaid-diet. (Not a very good one, but I only want to drop a couple of pounds, not a stone.)

Yes, much prefer being curvy and contented. I would have to sacrifice a lot to be skinny - sausage and mash, for one. Good thing we Welsh girls are naturally gorgeous. I couldn't live without sausage and mash.

(makes plenty - they freeze well.)

1 large or 2 skinny leeks, chopped very finely
150g cheddar
100g bread
1tsp dried sage
1tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
0.75tsp mustard powder
1tsp vegetable bouillion
Black pepper
2 egg yolks

Saute the leek gently (I did this in a splash of water to avoid extra fat!) to take away that potent onionyness. Grate the cheese, finely chop the bread into crumbs, and mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the egg yolks and stir to a thick, sticky mess. Refrigerate if there's time - makes the rolling easier.

Flour your hands. Shape into sausages and roll in egg white, then semolina (if you have any) or some more breadcrumbs. Refrigerate again, until you're ready to cook.

At Dermouths' (fab veggie restaurant in Bath) they shallow fry these until golden, but I've discovered they bake just fine. Drizzle with a little olive oil and put in oven until golden.

Serve with mash and beans... or gravy... and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Pumpkin lasagne might sound strange, but when you have got a shelf of pumpkins leftover from the winter and nothing but an old jar of pesto in the fridge, it all clicks into place.

This started as a Cranks recipe (Nadine creates a three-layered lasagne, with a mushroom layer and a spinach layer) but I tried it once with mushrooms and didn't like it. And pumpkins & spinach aren't in season at the same time, so that isn't much good. Leeks are okay, mixed with creme fraiche or ricotta, and sandwiched in the middle layer. But nowt wrong with this just as it is.

Strange, but go with it...


Half a huge pumpkin, or a whole medium pumpkin
Salt and pepper
Lasagne Sheets
1tbsp butter
1tbsp plain flour
1.5pt milk

Peel, de-seed and chop the pumpkin. This is one of the worst kitchen jobs in the world. In fact, right now I have half a pumpkin on the kitchen worktop with a giant knife sticking out of it. Couldn't get it out, and was weak from hacking.

Anyway, pumpkin chunks go onto a baking tray, seasoned, drizzled with olive oil, and roasted at high heat for 20-30mins.

When they come out, turn them gently in about 1tbsp pesto on the tray and leave while you make the white sauce.

Melt the butter, add flour and stir until it's a paste. Stir in the milk, a little at a time, whisking. When all the milk's in, increase the heat and allow to come to simmering point, stirring until it's thickened. (But not too thick - you want a light bechamel) Add the grated cheese (a good handful, or more if you like cheese a lot - and almost any cheese is fine here, like cheddar, ricotta, and particularly the vegetarian Parmesan you can get in Sainsburys)

All you do now is layer the lasagne - pumpkin, lasagne, bechamel, etc - until you get to the top, slather with the remaining sauce, sprinkle with parmesan and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes on a medium heat.

You'll need garlic bread and a mustardy salad on the side.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Peppers are obligatory for a stir-fry, if you ask me. Carrots and cabbage are very well, but a stir-fry should appeal to the eye as well as the palate, which doesn't really make them suitable for winter. (I wonder why our winter vegetables are all similar colours?) Anyway, we managed to get some peppers from Sainsburys last week and have been making the most of them: sweet and sour vegetables on Friday, a couple of Indian dishes on Sunday.

The page in my Ken Hom book with this recipe is covered in splashes. We eat it a lot. It's great with tofu (fry before adding the veg, as it takes longer).

(serve with egg-fried rice for protein!)

Mixed vegetables, enough for two from the following: carrot strips, broccoli florets, shredded cabbage, sliced peppers, bamboo shoots.
Cashew Nuts, toasted
Tsp Sesame Oil
Groundnut Oil for frying

2 cloves garlic, crushed
2tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
2tbsp dry sherry (or martini!)
1tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp sugar
100ml vegetable stock

NB: I use a dessertspoon instead of tbsp, to reduce the quantities.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a cup. Heat the oil and stir-fry the veg, keeping it crunchy. Pour on sauce. Sizzle for a minute until the sauce is desired consistency. Serve, garnished with toasted cashews.

Sunday's Chana Massala (chickpeas) and Spicy Potatoes were more of an improvised event.

CHANA MASSALA starts with a few cloves, bay leaves, cardamom pods and cumin seeds being toasted in a pan; next add a paste of onion, garlic, chilli, 1 tomato, 2tsp tomato puree, 2tsp dried pomegranate seeds, and fry for a few minutes. Stir in chickpeas with 1tbsp cooking water, lemon juice, garam masala and fresh coriander to taste. This is best eaten at a temperature closer to body temp than boiling.

SPICY POTATOES was even more spontaneous, consisting of 1tsp mustard seeds, green chilli, half a green pepper, two cloves of garlic - finely chopped and gently fried - then some cubed, steamed potatoes, 0.5tsp turmeric, 1tsp coriander, 0.25tsp asaefotida, and salt and lemon juice to taste.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Vegetables I don't like always end up in soup. It's marvellous how soup disguises the yuckiness, all merging together in a golden bowl. So I made a vast batch of mixed-root-veg soup yesterday, partly because the vegetable basket is overflowing and partly to give us instant lunches for the next few days. You have to throw in some things you like too, of course.

1 leek
1 swede
1 onion
3 carrots
2 parsnips
Tbsp butter
Marigold Vegetable Boullion
Salt and pepper

Throw chopped veg into a big casserole, add butter (improves the taste vastly over using olive oil) and put over a low heat, lidded, to 'sweat' (don't like that term). I left it for about half an hour like this, letting the veg become melty and tinged with gold.

Sprinkle in the bouillion (about 2tsp), dried herbs as preferred, and seasoning. Pour over about 2pts water and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Blend until smooth, and taste for seasoning (this soup can take a lot).

I also made some bread to go with it - Cheese and Herb - but it didn't rise enough. I think the ratio of flour to cheese was too low. It still tasted nice though. Shall keep trying and post it up when I get it right!!

Without a bread machine, Delia's Goat's Cheese, Onion and Potato loaf is wondrous served with soup. And there's no kneading - and no rise time. Hurrah!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Pizza is one of the only meals Steve will willingly take over when he gets home from work. I have no idea why - perhaps the association with fast food makes him feel it is less like hard work. Or perhaps it's just one of his favourites.

So it was lucky I'd made the dough before he got home last night, because my day took a turn for the worse when I phoned the secretary of my local Business Association (who was obviously already having a bad day) to tell him I can't make it to their conference on Thursday. He totally lost his temper with me in an unbelievably unbusinesslike, horribly personal way. I apologised for half an hour but he just carried on and on.

So all I wanted to do after that was sit down with a glass of wine and a plate of food that someone else put in front of me.

This is a great recipe: fast food without the calories. Okay, there's some olive oil, but that also makes you live longer, right?


6oz plain flour
1tsp yeast (dried, easy-bake stuff)
1tsp caster sugar
1tbsp olive oil
120ml water

Combine dry ingredients, add the wet in the middle and gather it into a dough.

The boring bit. Knead vigorously for 10 minutes (or use bread machine on 'Dough' setting). When it's ready the dough will be smooth and much more pliable than at first. Delia says it should blister under the surface but I can't say I've ever seen that phenomenon!

Leave to rest, covered with a tea-towel (I soak one in boiling water from the kettle, which creates humidity and seems to help the dough rise). It won't rise much, but it will be a little springy when poked.

Spread with tomato base (onions, tomatoes, balsamic and olive oil - gently sweated and then stewed at length) and add toppings.

My favourite toppings:
Spinach (raw and shredded - use more than seems reasonable)
Onion rings
Half-fat Ricotta (in teaspoonfuls)
Grated cheddar, parmesan or other cheese, but not too much.

Bake in oven for about 15-25 mins (checking frequently).

If anyone has any amusing topping ideas, let's hear them!!!
Starter for 10:
> Vegetarian Sausages, Eggs and Tomatoes

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I'm still on a carb-craving curve and besides, I had some pie dishes for my birthday. It seemed about time I put them to use. Although I don't need an excuse - I have been secretly making pies in cake tins for the last few months.

So I made a double-batch of Delia's wholewheat pastry (4oz wholewheat flour, 4oz self-raising flour, 2oz butter, 2oz vegetable fat, enough water to bind) - using Nigella's foolproof method, which basically involves throwing everything in the freezer, at every opportunity, before it has the chance to start melting. And a cold kitchen helps. The pastry was perfect, so I am glad I have half left in the fridge for something else later in the week.

For the filling I used Nadine Abensur's Homity recipe - she's one of those writers whose recipes can put up with lots of tinkering, and still work like magic. So the below is slightly adapted.


600g potatoes, chopped into chunks
300g onions, chopped
100g mushrooms, left whole
2 cloves garlic
Splash tamari (soy sauce will do)
2tbsp double cream
65g cheddar cheese
Chopped chives
Salt and pepper

Saute potatoes - slowly and lengthily, until soft in the middle and golden on the outside - in a tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and leave over a gentle heat to turn golden. Next add mushrooms and garlic, and a splash of tamari, and turn up the heat for a couple of minutes. Take off heat. Add cream, chives, seasoning and cheddar. Put aside to cool.

Roll out the pastry to fit the pie tin, and add the cooling filling. Cover with lid (optional - Nadine's recipe is an open-top pie), brush with egg and put in oven (200 degreesC) for about half an hour.

Leave to stand before eating (it gets very hot) with green, lemony salad and sunblush tomatoes.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Sunday night calls for comfort food and bubble & squeak is the perfect solution. Even though spring has just about sprung, Sundays still get dark too early - what we need is something in a bowl to eat in front of the Antiques Roadshow. I like it buttery, green and whipped to a soft-focus blob.


Serves 2

1 leek, topped and tailed
Half a head of cabbage (Savoy is good but Pointy Hispi works too and white is fine if pushed)
1tbsp butter
7-8 medium potatoes
1tbsp double cream
3tbsp milk
Salt and pepper

Peel, chunk and boil the potatoes until they break apart. Set aside in a colander to drain. Warm the butter in the same pan, and add the leek and cabbage (both finely shredded for fast-cooking).

Stir-fry briskly, allowing to brown in places, until glossy and wilted. Turn the heat right down and tip in the cream and milk. Put the potatoes through a ricer directly into the pan. When they're all in, season generously and beat everything together with a wooden spoon. Beat, beat, and beat a bit more (get help if bored). Put lid on and get plates ready.

Dish up. Ta-da!! Dinner Supreme. Serve with onion gravy, sausages or beans (all optional - this tastes good ALL ON ITS OWN.)

Lick the pan clean.

For pudding we ate strawberry ice-cream with chopped banana, but it's no good - strawberries just aren't in season yet, no matter how much I want them to be. The ice-cream came out pallid and meek - more vanilla than strawberry - but the bowls still came out clean (of course).