Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Five-Step Korma
The easiest vegetable curry on record...

ONE: In a large frying pan (choose one which has a lid), warm 1tbsp groundnut oil, and soften 1 onion (diced) with 1 red chilli (deseeded and finely chopped).

TWO: Using a pestle and mortar, pound a 1" piece of peeled ginger with 2tsp of flaked or blanched almonds and 1 generous tsp of sea salt.

THREE: To the pan add half a head of cauliflower (broken into florets), one potato (peeled and cubed) and one courgette (chopped into 2cm chunks), then stir in the ginger mixture and 1 loaded tablespoon of Patak's Korma Paste.

FOUR: Pour in one can of low-fat Coconut Milk (available in the oriental section of supermarket), cover the pan, and leave to simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.
FIVE: Serve!


Roasting is my favourite way to treat a pumpkin; the edges turn gold and crusty and the interior loses its watery lacklustre. You get intense flavours and an interesting texture - I can eat this stuff cold, on toast, with goats' cheese, or... ooh, any which way.

Okay, so this is one to try if you're a hummous addict like me. I make this chickpea dip in some guise every week, sometimes adding chopped roast pepper, lime or coriander, but always stuffing it into pittas with mixed leaves and chutney or pesto for my favourite lunch in the world. This is a bit of a weird way to perk up hummous but it worked beautifully, and makes a cracking sandwich with some rocket and pumpkin seeds on top.

8 pieces roast pumpkin (1" cubes)
75g dried chickpeas, cooked (soak overnight, then boil for 1.5-2hours)
2 cloves garlic
1tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
Juice of half a lemon
2tsp salt
About 150ml warm water

The pumpkin wants to be cubed and roasted in olive oil for about 40 minutes (put it in the oven while you're cooking something else). Put the pumpkin, garlic, lemon juice and a little water into a blender or processor and whiz until smooth. Now add the salt, tahini, and about half the chickpeas; now whiz until grainy, adding water to help the process. Finally add the remaining chickpeas and give the briefest of whizzes, to maintain some nice chunks. Add water to get the right consistency (if the peas or pumpkin were warm, then the hummous will firm up a bit more as it cools).

Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds and cayenne pepper to serve.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Greek red pepper and feta dip

This isn't a recipe of mine - it's from the brilliant 'Vegetables' by Sophie Grigson - but we ate it for lunch yesterday - with fresh focaccia and pumpkin hummous (recipe and piccy to follow) - and it was just sublime. We were actually fighting for the last scoop of the dish.

In fact, this is the first time I have cooked with feta cheese, and I plan to find a lot of new ways with it! If you get a red pepper in your veg box, if you like cheese (even a little bit), if you have a penchant for salt, if you love bread - do try this dip. If no bread in the house, cut up carrots or cucumber - whatever you need to do...

1 large red pepper
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2tbsp olive oil
0.5tsp paprika
Juice of 0.3 lemon

First, you need to roast the pepper - take off the top and the seeds, and roast in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until starting to blacken. Sophie says to remove the skins, but I didn't as I like the added smokiness. Tip into a blender and add the cheese, oil, lemon juice and paprika. Whiz to a grainy puree and spoon into a serving dish, scatter with extra paprika, and serve. Heaven in a bowl!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Serves 2

Getting frisked at customs for smuggling over these dried Porcini from Italy was totally worth it.

This risotto is oven-baked, so it's really easy - put some garlic bread or focaccia in at the same time, and all you need is salad on the side. Carnaroli rice makes a better-textured risotto (firmer, more distinct grains) than Arborio (squidgey, rice-pudding grains).

1tbsp butter
1 large leek, finely chopped
0.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
6oz jerusalem artichokes (unpeeled weight)
200ml carnaroli rice
150ml white wine
2oz grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

To finish:
1 tbsp butter

Turn on the oven - about 300 deg F, 180 deg C - and put in an ovenproof dish.

Melt the butter in a wide pan over a gentle heat, and add the leeks. Put the dried mushrooms in a jug and pour over 1 pint of boiling water, then leave to soak. Now peel and chop the artichokes very, very finely, tipping into the pan quickly so they don't discolour. Keep stirring the pan, allowing the vegetables to sweat gently and soften.

After half an hour's soaking, remove the dried mushrooms (saving the liquid) from the jug - soft and juicy now - and chop them finely. Scrape them, and the juice, into the pan with the leeks. Now add the rice and stir it well until buttery. Pour in the white wine, add a good old grind of black pepper, and a teaspoon of salt. Add the liquid from the mushrooms and turn up the heat to bring the whole lot to simmering point.

Pour it all into your ovenproof dish, and slide into the oven for about 20 minutes. After that, take it out, stir it well, and sprinkle in the Parmesan, stirring it through. Dot the butter all over the top and return the dish to the oven for another 5 minutes, with two dinner plates.

Dish up and serve immediately.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I was pleasantly surprised by this cheesecake, which I invented for a dinner party last week. Because I let the food processor whiz and whiz and whiz the cheese mixture (while I mucked about doing something else), the filling turned out exceptionally light and airy. It's not a rich cheesecake, instead divinely light and whipped-creamy, so next time I'll experiment with the topping - perhaps a sharp, puce, raspberry puree, or some dark chocolate drizzled over the top as it cools.

12oz Philadelphia Light (2 packets)
2 eggs
3floz double cream
2tbsp caster sugar
6oz white chocolate
1tsp vanilla extract
2/3 packet digestives
1tbsp cocoa
2tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 150 deg C / 250 deg F.

Start with the base. Melt the butter in a small pan while you whiz the biscuits in a processor to a fine crumb (or, like my mum does, put them into a plastic bag and attack with a rolling pin). Add the cocoa and whiz/mix to blend. Now pour in the melted butter and stir together. Press this mixture very firmly into an 8" round tin, applying enough pressure to pack it very tightly. Put the tin into the freezer for the crust to firm up.

Next, break up the white chocolate and put it into the pan you used for the butter. Add the double cream and set over a low heat to melt.

Now for the cheese: put the Philly, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract into the food processor and whiz plentifully - let it become smooth and thicken slightly.

The white chocolate should melt fast - stir until it's a smooth, creamy mixture, then scrape the whole lot into the processor. Whiz again until the mixture is quite thick and smooth. Remove the tin from the freezer and pour the cheese mixture on top. Slide carefully into the oven (middle shelf) and leave for 45 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool inside the oven.

Top with whipped double cream, coulis, fresh raspberries, dark chocolate, etc (see above).