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).