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.