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.