Thursday, 14 August 2008

Nectarine and Gorgonzola Salad with a Beetroot Vinaigrette

This is an ideal summer salad, whose heady blend of flavours is outshone only by the bright and vivid colours it creates. I'm a big fan of beetroot dressings because let's face it, it is super cool to have such an intense fuschia colour on your plate. I'm also learning to love the many wonderful ways you can incorporate fruit into a savoury meal. Creamy cheese is somewhat of a treat for us and it was wonderful to pair it with rockett grown on our windowsill. Unfortunately, the only downside is that I can't take credit for the recipe. It is of course a brainchild of the genius himself, Ottolenghi. Original recipe here.

I am so pleased with this dressing though, that it will be my entry for this month's No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa of Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen as this month's theme is Salad Dressings.

Nectarine and Gorgonzola Salad

1 endive, leaves separated

Handful of rocket leaves

1 nectarine, cut into sixths

Thin slice of Gorgonzola, crumbled

Almonds with the skin still on and cut into chunks

Beetroot Dressing

2-3 large slices of beetroot (preferably home cooked - either bake or steam)

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I love Aspall's unpasteurised)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove

3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the beet, honey, vinegar, mustard and garlic clove using a hand blender. Once blended, add the olive oil slowly until a thick, creamy consistency has been achieved.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Stuffed Sardines with Red Pepper Stew

Yet another simple but incredibly tasty fish recipe from me. I am often drawn to vegan cooking and love to cook with vegetables, whole grains etc however I just can't keep away from fish. Nutritious, versatile and delicious, fish is our common ground between my vegetarian preferences and the boy's full on carnivore cravings. The original recipe was taken from this month's Observer Food Monthly and is an Angela Hartnett Italian creation.

Stuffed Sardines with Red Pepper Stew

Sardine fillets - 4 per person

2 sweet romero peppers

garlic cloves

olive oil



fresh basil

flat leaf parsley


bread crumbs

zest of 1 lemon

Slice the romero peppers lengthways and thinly. Saute them in olive oil with 2 garlic cloves. Once starting to cook, add water and thyme and simmer until soft, but not brown.

Meanwhile, mix 4 anchovies, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp breadcrumbs, the lemon zest and a good handful of flat leaf parsley in a food processor or with a hand blender. Stuff the sardine fillets with the mixture and bake in a lightly greased dish for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Serve atop the red pepper stew.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Smoked Trout, Beetroot and Horseradish Salad

Another very simple yet flavoursome fish recipe, this was ideal for tonight's hot and sticky temperatures. This was partly a combination of a Daily Green recipe and a UKTV Food recipe made using some beautiful smoked trout purchased at the weekend in the new Chegworth Valley farm shop on Kensington Church Street. There is just something about beetroot and horseradish which make them one of my favourite flavour pairings. Beetroot also works well with wasabi.
Smoked Trout, Beetroot and Horseradish Salad
2 beetroot (slow roasted in tin foil for an hour or more until soft)
2 smoked trout fillets
handful salad leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
garlic clove
1 heaped tbsp goat's milk yoghurt
Slice the whole roast beetroot and put two thick slices in to blend along with a garlic clove, the goat's milk yoghurt, the olive oil, the white wine vinegar and the horseradish sauce. Blend until smooth and creamy, using a hand blender.
Scatter a good handful of salad leaves on a plate, top with the remaining slices of beetroot and some chunks of smoked trout before decorating with dollops of the hot pink beetroot dressing.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sumac Salmon

I bought some sumac in The Spice Shop, which just happens to be across the road from our flat. I originally bought it for an Ottolenghi recipe but was curious to find some more ways to use it. A brief internet search sourced this simple find - there is something immensely satisfying about recipes which use very few ingredients yet whose flavours are intense and strong. I am constantly looking for new and exciting ways to cook fish, so this one pleased me on a number of fronts. I found the original recipe here:
Sumac Salmon
2 salmon fillets
balsamic vinegar
lemon juice
Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry. Put in a dish and dust liberally with sumac, probably around 1/2 teaspoon per fillet. Top with a good glug of balsamic vinegar and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 mins to 1 hour.
Once marinated, steam in bamboo steamers wrapped in greaseproof paper for 10 minutes or until cooked through.
Serve with steamed vegetables. Once plated, drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice on top and season with salt and pepper.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Poached Chicken with White Beans and Salsa Verde

This is a beautiful summer recipe which can be served warm or cold. I'm a relatively new convert to salsa verde, but the intense flavours are incredible. I found the original recipe at Times Online.

Poached Chicken with White Beans and Salsa Verde

2 organic chicken breasts

1 onion

2 bay leaves

6 peppercorns

1 lemon

1 spring rosemary and/or thyme

white beans - soaked overnight and cooked for one hour

baby spinach

1 big handful parsley

1 handful fresh basil

1 handful fresh mint

6 anchovies

1 tbsp capers

olive oil

garlic cloves

If you are using dried beans, set them simmering whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place a deep frying pan on the hob and fill with enough water to cover the chicken fillets. Add half an onion, the peppercorns, half a lemon (sliced), the bay leaves, the thyme and rosemary to the water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the chicken breasts and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the fillets from the water (the original recipe advises to leave them in but I find this makes them tough) and slice on a diagonal into hearty chunks.

Make the salsa verde by blending the parsley, basil, mint, 2 garlic cloves, 6 anchovies, the capers and a good glug of olive oil. I used my trusty hand blender to whizz up the sauce.

Mix the cooked white beans in a bowl along with shredded spinach leaves (I also used a handful of rockett), a glug of olive oil and the juice of the other half of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined.

Pile the beans and spinach into the centre of a plate, top with the chicken chunks and spoon dollops of the lovely fresh salsa verde on top.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Swiss Chard with Chickpeas and Feta

This is not a particularly photogenic dish (especially not when it's been papped at my desk during a muggy midweek lunchtime) but it is absolutely one of those recipes where the simplicity and brevity of the list of ingredients belie the complexity and richness of the flavours. I'm always interested in finding great ways to use the more unusual leafy greens (chard, kale, cavolo nero etc) and in my mind, this sits well on its own as a main dish, but can also be served on the side for those who prefer a more substantial main course. I got the original recipe from Abel & Cole (whose boxes I was a huge fan of until I moved to Portobello Road where I could buy my veggies literally outside my front door) but I can't find it on their site now.

Swiss Chard with Chickpeas and Feta
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight and boiled for an hour)
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
3 spring onions
chopped fresh dill
feta cheese

Rinse the chard, chop it roughly and transfer it still wet to a frying pan. Add a splash more water and sautee it in a mix of olive oil and water, along with the garlic cloves, until the leaves soften and reduce. I don't like to overcook mine so usually only take 5 mins or so. Thinly slice the spring onions and add them to the frying pan, along with the chickpeas and chopped dill. Combine the ingredients well and transfer to an oven proof dish. Season with salt and pepper before baking for 20 minutes. Add a scattering of chopped feta cheese to the dish and grill for a final 5 to 10 minutes or until the feta begins to brown.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

On a Blog Roll

Part of the reason I started my own blog is because I spend a fair amount of time on other people's blogs, using them as inspiration for my own cooking at home. I hoped that one day other people might find my recipes as useful as I do theirs. This week, I seem to have done a big round up of recipes from some of my favourite blogs and it has really made me realise what a fantastic resource the blogosphere is for cooking. It's now become my number one option when I have an ingredient I don't know what to do with, or an idea which needs fulfilling.

101 Cookbooks - Warm, Nutty, Cinnamon Quinoa Porridge

Starting with breakfast, this is a wonderful recipe from 101 Cookbooks, absolutely one of my top favourite sites ever. Cook rich red quinoa with almond milk and water, flavour it with agave and cinnamon before enriching it with berries and walnuts. I made two batches and had the second batch cold at work.

Corn Pancakes with Tomato Sauce

This simple but effect recipe is from one of my new favourites, Diet Dessert and Dogs. I will admit that I am a bit of a puritan when it comes to the type of ingredients I will cook with and it was fantastic to discover someone with the same beliefs (flax instead of eggs, spelt instead of wheat, agave instead of sugar). Believe you me, there are now plenty of Ricki's recipes on my To Do List. Not only that, but I actually used a half a cup of cornmeal (a newly discovered ingredient) which gave the pancakes a really nice texture. I served them with slices of avocado covered in piri piri spice and freshly cooked corn on the cob, which is just coming into season here.

Mango Peanut Curry

The boy outright sneered at this when he walked through the door tonight. "Oh" he said. "Tofu. You know I don't really like it". "It's homemade!" I said, "it's completely different". He took a bite and grudgingly conceded that homemade tofu was indeed a world away from the slimy wobbly shop bought stuff. He took a second bite, slathered in peanut butter, paused only to say "Oh my god this is good" before actually licking the empty plate a mere nanosecond later. This recipe was from Unique Little Bits, another great inspiration for dinners and light bites. It's basically an easy massaman style curry - peanut butter, coconut milk and Thai curry paste but it's creamy flavours are unbelievably good. I never would have thought of using mango in a curry but this was actually Lisa Rene's entry for the Cinco de Mango and I can definitely testify to its success.

I made my own tofu for this dish following Fuss Free Flavours recipe and am starting to think I really need a tofu press now. Maybe I am just becoming more and more like Chocolate and Zucchini as I'm starting to think I'll soon need to seek professional help for my addiction to kitchen gadgets!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Savoury Pesto Tomato Muffins

I've been toying with the idea of doing a savoury vegan spelt muffin for a while now but couldn't find a recipe, so I decided to bite the bullet and make up my own. I'm pleased to say that they were a huge success - wheat-free and healthy yet bursting with flavour and texture.

Savoury Pesto Tomato Muffins

1 cup wholewheat spelt flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup almond meal

3/4 cup almond milk

pinch of salt & freshly ground black pepper

dried mixed herbs

pinch of onion powder

pinch of garlic granules

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

handful of chopped sundried tomatoes

handful of toasted pinenuts

handful of halved cherry tomatoes

Mix the spelt flour, cornmeal and almond meal in a bowl until well mixed. Add the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic granules, baking powder and baking soda and combine. Add the flax mixture and almond milk and stir until a smooth batter is formed but don't overmix. Stir in the fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, pinenuts and cherry tomatoes, reserving a little of each to decorate. Pour a dollop of the mixture into muffin cases and top with a halved cherry tomato and a scattering of toasted pinenuts and basil leaves. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Bear in mind that the cherry tomatoes do make the muffins quite moist so the skewer might not come out totally clean even when the muffins are cooked.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Summer Salads

I always prefer to eat lightly in the evenings rather than heavy dinners, particularly in summer where the long evenings and fresh ingredients seem to insist on this. Here are a couple of light summer salads we've been enjoying in the past couple of weeks.

Asparagus, Fennel, Pea, Mint and Feta Salad

Baby spinach leaves

1 bunch of asparagus

shaved fennel

feta cheese

handful of peas

handful of mint

handful of sesame seeds (unhulled)

olive oil

white balsamic

Boil the asparagus and peas for a couple of minutes and refresh under cold water. Throw the salad ingredients together and drizzle a little olive oil and white balsamic vinegar over.

Beetroot, Chard and Caper Salad

baby chard leaves
handful of curly parsley
white wine vinegar
olive oil
Wrap the beetroot in tin foil and roast it in the oven for at least an hour (depending on size of beetroot). Once cooked, the skin is easy to peel off. Slice the beetroot, arrange over baby chard leaves. Sprinkle capers and chopped curly parsley on top. Top with a light salad dressing of olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Simply Beautiful Cocktail

In Saigon, drinking was a really big part of my life but after leaving there, I really felt like taking a break and actually barely drank for more than a year. Nowadays, I like the odd tipple but definitely have a weakness for good quality cocktails. No sugary syrup or grenadine, no colas or other fizzy drinks and I'm even looking into buying some organic spirits such as Square One Vodka. We needed a little pick-me-up on Monday night so I created the below cocktail which was absolutely divine, it is somehow so much easier to fool yourself that drinking is good for you if you mix it with pure fruit and fine ingredients. We didn't know what to name the new cocktail, but Al Green was playing in the background so we named it after that particular song which seemed pretty apt.

The Simply Beautiful Cocktail
One big glug of vodka
One big glug of cassis
One frozen banana
One handful of frozen blueberries
One handful of frozen raspberries
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
Juice of one pomegranate (just cut in half and juice each half on a citrus juicer as you would an orange)
Half a cup of almond milk
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Simply blend all the ingredients in a good quality high speed blender or use a hand held blender.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Butternut Squash Couscous with Radish and Broad Beans

Another Ottolenghi double, a little on the heavy side for me but worked well together.
Butternut Squash Cous Cous
Half a butternut squash, roasted with a splash of olive oil until soft
Cous Cous (we use kamut rather than wheat)
Roasted red onion
Flat leaf parsley
Fresh coriander
Dried apricots
Flaked almonds
Chopped preserved lemon
Radish and Broad Bean Salad
Broad beans - shelled, cooked and peeled
Spring onion
Preserved lemon
Green Tahini Dressing
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Black pepper
Flat leaf parsley

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Smoked Paprika Baked Mackerel

This is possibly my favourite way to cook mackerel ever. Not only is smoked paprika another 'it' ingredient, but the recipe is simple, flavourful and healthy. See here for Nigel Slater's original recipe.

Smoked Paprika Backed Mackerel
2 mackerel fillets
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons organic wholewheat breadcrumbs
olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
handful of flatleaf parsley

Thinly slice the red onion into rings and fry in the olive oil for around ten minutes or until translucent. Add the peeled crushed garlic, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and smoked paprika and fry around 5 minutes more. You will also need to add more olive oil as the breadcrumbs really soak it up.

Spoon the mixture over the rinsed and patted dry mackerel fillets and bake in a preheated oven for around 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges and drizzle them over the fish before serving.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Camargue Red Rice and Quinoa Salad with Bean and Hazelnut Salad

Yet more Ottolenghi Delicious Doubles for lunch. I'm not going to post the full recipe as I really do want to encourage everyone to buy the book but here is a list of ingredients I used so you can get the idea.

Camargue Red Rice, Quinoa and Orange Salad

Camargue red rice

Red quinoa

White quinoa

Orange zest

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Red onion


Spring onion

Olive oil


Unsulphured dried apricots

Green Bean and Hazelnut Salad

French beans, topped and tailed

Mange tout

Roasted hazelnuts

Orange zest

Hazelnut oil


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Granola with Summer Berries

In the last of today's installments on Sunday's epic cook-off, here's what I made for breakfast for the boy's Dad and his girlfriend who came to stay last night. I searched on the internet for a recipe and found one million variations, I decided to use this one as my base as it seems as good as any of the ones on offer and it turned out fantastic.

Rapeseed oil
Jumbo oats
Flaked almonds
Sesame seeds
Dried shredded coconut
Sunflower seeds
Dried unsulphured apricots
Large muscatel raisins

Take two cupfuls of oats and mix with generous handfuls of the nuts and seeds. Mix in a quarter cup of rapeseed oil (any cooking oil will do except olive oil) and a half cup of honey. Mix the ingredients well in the bowl until all of the dry ingredients are covered with the honey and oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake until golden, usually around 20 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula. Once cooked, leave to cool a little as this will help it to become crunchy before chopping and adding the apricots, dates and the whole raisins. Mix in well together with the oat mixture.

I served this with fresh raspeberries and blueberries from the market and with thick and creamy homemade goat's milk yoghurt (made courtesy of my new yoghurt maker). If anyone reading this happens to know where to get raw unpasteurised goat's milk in London (or Buckinghamshire) then please let me know!

Butternut Squash with Aubergine Dip and Fennel with Pomegranate

Continuing on Sunday afternoon's cook-off, I have made this for our lunch tomorrow. As I mentioned before, we are huge fans of Ottolenghi and live dangerously close to the Ledbury Road branch. Flicking through the cookbook, we decided that one of the dishes alone would not be enough to satisfy us for lunch, but that if we doubled up, it would be filling and varied enough to keep us going, so this will be the week of the Ottolenghi doubles.
Seedy Butternut Squash with Aubergine and Pomegranate Molasses Dipping Sauce
Half a butternut squash
flaked almonds
black mustard seeds
black sesame seeds
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
1 aubergine
pomegranate molasses
juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic
flat leaf parsley
olive oil
Firstly, cut the butternut squash into wedges, spray with olive oil and roast in the oven. Blacken the aubergine in the flame of your gas hob (or grill it for around an hour, turning occasionally, until the skin is black). Once the skin is shrivelled and black, cut the aubergine in half and scrape out the flesh, leaving the charred skin behind. Drain for 10 minutes in a sieve and then mix with 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, the garlic and the parsley using a stick blender.
As the squash is finishing roasting, toast the flaked almonds and black mustard seeds (original recipe calls for nigella seeds also known as kalonji or black cumin but we didn't have any). Once lightly toasted, mix with the other seeds and sprinkle over the butternut squash. Add a handful of fresh basil leaves and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.
Fennel with Pomegranate Molasses
Half a pomegranate
Half a fennel bulb
Flat leaf parsley
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Cut the pomegranate in half along its belly and using the back of a wooden spoon, bash the top of the fruit until the seeds begin to fall out easily into the bowl. Thinly slice (or mandoline) the fennel and add it to the bowl, along with the tarragon leaves and flat leaf parsley. Make the dressing by mixing olive oil, lemon juice and sumac in a glass. Pour over the salad and top with crumbled fresh pecorino. The original recipe calls for feta but we had pecorino left over from serving another Ottolenghi salad the previous night (with figs and a honey dressing).
If there is anyone left out there who hasn't got this cookbook, please don't hesitate to get it - it really is one of the best I have ever owned!

Homemade Tofu

And it's back to blogging after my business trip to Cambodia and Thailand. Actually the trip was only ten days long but I ate sooooo much on the trip that I did pretty much a full week's raw vegan detox on my return, just to get back into my trousers and didn't really feel like blogging it all! Thailand was fabulous as ever and it was fantastic to return to Cambodia although the country has changed so much in the five years since I was last there. It's a truly magical country which I am both entranced but deeply depressed by.
Anyway, I'd love to say that I ate so much tofu in Asia that I was inspired to make my own on my return but in fact I didn't eat any and this came about directly as a result of Hippolyra of Fuss Free Flavours and her challenge. Well I've done it! Cooking is often as much about the processes of creating as it is about the eating for me and this was certainly a fairly lengthy procedure, but as I view cooking very much as a hobby, it was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Homemade Tofu
Soya beans
Juice of half a lemon
I soaked the soya beans in plenty of water overnight, they expand greatly so be sure to cover them in more water than you think you'd need.
Once soaked, I made use of my new nut milk maker and used this to create a creamy milk, I thus didn't keep any of the okara (bean pulp left over from making the milk) as it was still raw. Once I had milk, I boiled it up twice on the hob, skimming off any foam and making sure it didn't boil over.
I kept some milk to the side which I am going to try and make yoghurt with overnight (have you seen the crap they put in soy yoghurt in the shops?).
Whilst the remaining milk was still warm (around 75 degrees), I added the juice of half a lemon to approximately 2 pints of milk. I put the saucepan lid on and left it to separate for 15 minutes.
Once separated, I strained through a muslin lined sieve, covered the tofu mixture with more muslin and then placed some heavy tins and other items on top. I left it to drain for 20 minutes and then pushed the last of the whey out by hand as I wanted a fairly firm tofu.
I was pretty surprised and pleased with the result, it does taste different from shop bought tofu and you do feel quite a sense of achievement afterwards!
Hippolyra, if you read this - I am trying to soak one of the boy's turmeric stained t-shirts in the whey but I'm not convinced of its laundry-whitening properties as yet!!
I'm planning to devour it with some wilted spinach and sweet chili sauce later on tonight. The rest I am keeping in water in tupperware in my fridge and will change the water daily until the tofu is finished.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Roast Cod with Muhummra Sauce

The idea behind this recipe came from the second Moro cookbook, I made a big batch of the sauce and will keep the rest in the fridge for a great standby meal. I think it would also work well with chicken. Pomegranate molasses is another 'it' ingredient for me and I got a lovely bottle recently at Whole Foods from The Equitable Gourmet. The original recipe calls for 'acili biber', a sort of spicy red pepper equivalent of tomato paste. I couldn't find this in my local Lebanese shop and the only near thing I could find was full of preservatives, salt and other rubbish things so I decided to improvise.

Roast Cod with Muhummra Sauce
2 cod fillets
1 roasted red pepper
2 roasted red chili peppers
olive oil
handful of walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp allspice
3-4 tbsps water
salt and pepper to taste

Puree all of the sauce ingredients using a hand blender, adding more or less water until you have the right consistency. You are aiming for a feel similar to pesto. Spoon liberally over the fish fillets and marinate for 1-2 hours. Roast the fish in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve on a bed of baby salad leaves with handfuls of sliced cherry tomatoes, olives, walnuts and dressed with a splash of pomegranate molasses.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Quinoa Broccoli Salad with a Carrot-Ginger Dressing

This makes an ideal lunch for the office and was again inspired by The Daily Green.

Quinoa Broccoli Salad with a Carrot Ginger Dressing
1 cup quinoa
1 head of broccoli
handful of cherry tomatoes
Handful of black sesame seeds
Sprinkle of nori flakes
2 tbsps cold-pressed sesame oil
3 tsps tamari
2 tbsps brown rice vinegar
1 inch cube of ginger
1 carrot

Cook the quinoa in boiling water, cut the broccoli into small florest and steam on top of the quinoa saucepan in bamboo steamers for 3-4 minutes. Chop the cherry tomatoes and add to the cooked quinoa. Mix in the broccoli florets, add a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and nori flakes.

To make the dressing, peel and chop the carrot. Peel the ginger and slice it before adding it to the brown rice vinegar, tamari and sesame oil. Blend together using a hand blender until smooth. Drizzle over the quinoa and serve.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Lemon and Blueberry Muffins

And so the obsession with vegan baking continues yet again. I whipped these up on Sunday morning and have to say they were my best batch yet. The recipe was adapted from my latest website discovery, The Daily Green but I wanted to keep it vegan and so substituted the egg for ground flax, a trick well learnt from the Post Punk Kitchen. Here is the original recipe.

Lemon and Blueberry Muffins
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup applesauce
3 tbsps rapeseed oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 1/2 tbsps of ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water
handful of frozen blueberries

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and slowly mix in the rapeseed oil, followed by the applesauce then the lemon juice and agave. Finish by adding the lemon zest, vanilla essence and frozen blueberries.

Place in a muffing tray and bake for around 20-25 minutes or until the muffins have risen, started to brown and a knife comes out clean through the middle.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Spice Blackened Halibut with Daikon and Pea Puree

Along with preserved lemons, I have had a bit of a fetish about cooking with daikon for a while now. Also referred to as Chinese radish or mooli, the long white and fairly scary vegetable has been on my wishlist at the market for a while. We do love to eat fish regularly and I particularly liked this spice rub as it features another "it" ingredient, cayenne pepper. The original recipe is here.

Spice Blackened Halibut
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
2 halibut fillets

Mix the spices together on a plate and coat the fish on either side. Place on a very hot frying pan (it will make your entire house smoky so be prepared) and fry each side for 3 minutes until blackened but not totally burnt. Place the fish in an oven proof dish and finish off in the oven, being careful not to overcook.

Daikon and Pea Puree
1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
1 daikon radish julienned
1 handful of alfalfa sprouts
olive oil

Boil the peas in water for 3-4 minutes. Drain, refresh and place in a mixing bowl. Puree with the hand blender and add olive oil. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a splash of water.

Fry the julienned daikon strips for 3-4 minutes in olive oil until starting to brown.

Place the pea puree in the centre of the plate, top with a pile of daikon and then the fish fillets themselves. Place a small handful of alfalfa sprouts on top for garnish. Season with a grind of black pepper.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Kidney Bean and Red Cabbage Burgers

The idea for these veggie burgers was shamelessly stolen from the excellent Mildred's, one of London's best vegetarian restaurants and a favourite of ours. The trouble with cooking for a 50% vegetarian, 50% meat loving couple is that you can't serve up anything that's too full on veggie. The boy hates tofu for example and is really not that keen on going for too long without some kind of meat. I'm lucky however as he loves Mildred's and is happy to try anything homecooked and made with love. I totally made this recipe up, it's nowhere near as good as the original so I would advise heading down to this small Soho gem and hoping they are on the menu that day! A la Mildred's I served his with sweet potatoes fries, lettuce from our window boxes, tomato slices, a big dollop of mayo and some coleslaw on the side. This recipe made 4 large burgers.

Kidney Bean and Red Cabbage Burgers

1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 red onion

2 cloves garlic

1/4 of a small head of red cabbage

half an apple

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

splash of agave nectar

2 tablespoons medium oatmeal

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons water (egg substitute)

splash tabasco

chili powder

1 tablespoon tomato puree

wholemeal spelt flour for dusting

First, braise the cabbage. Begin by frying the onions and garlic in some olive oil. Once done, add the finely sliced cabbage and diced apple. Add a big glug of red wine vinegar and the agave nectar to sweeten. Braise on a low heat until the cabbage is soft, around 20 minutes.

In a food processor, add the kidney beans and a handful of the braised cabbage. Add the flax mixture, tabasco, chili powder, oatmeal and tomato puree and process until well combined. Turn into a bowl and form into patties with your hands. Dust with spelt flour and fry lightly - around 3-4 minutes - on each side.

I was also inspired to create these burgers by the Endless Simmer 'Who Cooked It Better' Veggie Burger Battle Royal. I love the look of the 101 Cookbooks burgers (and am not a fan of using too much seitan, tempeh, TCP etc - too processed) but would have to work on this recipe before I could consider it a contender here....

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Aubergine Cannelloni

This dish always looks good and works well as finger food at a party, cold with some salad for lunch or warm with some pasta for dinner. It's a little fiddly but quite satisfying to do.
Aubergine Cannelloni
2 aubergines
olive oil
1 bunch spinach
1 round of goat's cheese
tomato sauce (I roast cherry tomatoes with garlic cloves and olive oil and puree it)
Slice the aubergine on a mandoline, lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Roast until soft, around 30 minutes. Meanwhile, wilt the spinach in a pan with a splash of water. Add the chopped goat's cheese and mix the two together thoroughly. Once the aubergine is cooked, place a small dollop of the spinach/cheese mixture at the bottom end of each slice and roll. Lay the slices in a baking dish and top with a dollop of tomato sauce. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Vegan Brown Rice Sushi

Asian style DIY week continues with vegan sushi. I make these with short grain brown rice, no you don't get the same effect as if you were using proper sushi rice but it's a lot healthier!
Vegan Brown Rice Sushi
1 cup short grain brown rice
brown rice vinegar
daikon (aka mooli or Chinese radish)
alfalfa sprouts
nori sheets
Rinse and cook the rice in 2 cups of water for about 40 minutes until the rice is soft and the water has all been absorbed. Whilst cooking, add a tablespoon of tamari. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Turn the rice out into a glass bowl, add two tablespoons of brown rice vinegar and a tablespoon of tamari, mix well and leave to cool for 15 minutes or so, turning occasionally with a fork.
If you have a sushi mat (it's helpful but not really necessary) place it on the work surface and place the nori sheet shiny side down. Smooth the rice down about half a centimetre thick with the back of a spoon. Leave a two centimetre gap where the end of your roll will be.
Julienne the carrot, daikon and cucumber and finely slice the avocado. Lay the vegetables (not too thick) in a row and top with a row of sprouts. Using the mat, roll the sushi as tightly as possible and with wet fingers, seal the edge. Lay the roll edge down for 5 minutes to sit before cutting with a wet, sharp knife, the thinner the better.
I got the original recipe from Epicurious.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Quinoa Tabbouleh

An ideal summery lunch, tabbouleh combines fresh flavours with wholegrains. Here, instead of bulgar wheat, I have used quinoa - a mix of both red and white quinoa.
Half cup quinoa
Half cup red quinoa
1 packet flat leaf parsley
1 packet mint
Half a cucumber
Cherry tomatoes
Handful pinenuts
Spring onions
Handful of pitted black olives
2 garlic cloves
juice of 2 lemons
olive oil
Cook the quinoa in boiling water for 20 minutes. Finely chop the parsley and mint. Peel and cube the cubumber, quarter the cherry tomatoes and thinly slice the spring onions and olives. Mix into the quinoa along with the pinenuts, crushed garlic cloves, lemon juice and a splash of olive oil.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Spinach and Water Chestnut Dim Sum

Dim sum was a regular feature on the Saigon restaurant scene whilst I was living in the Far East (Yeebo is by far the best in town), whilst it wouldn't normally feature in my kitchen here, I'd been inspired to try and make my own wrappers after having seen a few blogs on the subject. It was fiddly of course, this was to be expected, but also quite doughy. I also really knew that I'd been eating wheat flour afterwards as I haven't cooked with all purpose flour in a very long time. It was fun but I think next time I'll buy wrappers from the shop!

Dim Sum Wrappers
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water

Mix the flour and water together in a bowl and form a dough. You may need more or less water than above but you want the dough to be soft but not sticky. Knead the dough twenty times. Cover and leave to stand for 30 mins. Roll out flat on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Rather than rolling it into neat circles, I just used a cutter to create accurate discs.

Spinach and Water Chestnut filling
1 bag spinach
3 spring onions
1 tin water chestnuts
rapeseed oil

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped spring onions and garlic. Add the spinach and a little water and fry until wilted. Finely dice the water chestnuts and add to the pan, along with a splash of tamari. Once cooked, drain in a sieve to remove excess liquid.

Place a pinch of the mixture in the centre of the dim sum wrapper, fold in half and seal the edges using water. Make a series of folds along the edge of the dim sum and steam in bamboo steamers for 5 minutes.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Poppy Seed Oat Cakes and Beetroot Chutney

I'm staying off the sugar at the moment, so when Anjana and Nic came over on Monday, I decided to serve a cheese course and some fresh fruit rather than do a big dessert. Home made oat cakes are so easy to make and are delicious with some beetroot chutney and a slab of goat's cheese. I got the original recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian.
Poppy Seed Oat Cakes
1 cup of jumbo oats
1 cup of medium oatmeal
olive oil
boiling water
poppy seeds (optional, you can also use other seeds eg sunflower)
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven. In a large bowl, mix the jumbo oats and the oatmeal. Add any seeds you may be using (I sometimes add dried herbs here for extra flavour) and mix through. Season with several twists of black pepper. Form a well in the middle and add the olive oil. Afraid to say I never measure how much oil I am using and do it all on judgement alone. I would estimate a fifth of a cup. After this, add enough boiling water just for the ingredients to form a dough, not too sticky, not too dry. If you make it too dry, just add some more oatmeal. Work the ingredients into a ball and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so.
Roll the ball onto a floured surface and cut out the oatcakes using a cookie cutter. Once you have cut all that you can, place them onto a baking sheet lined with tin foil and bake for around 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown on the underneath. Flip them over and bake for another 5 mins or so. Turn out onto a cooling rack once done.
Beetroot Chutney
1 packet of pre-cooked beetroot
1 red onion
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
agave nectar
chili flakes
Slice the onion and fry in olive oil in a saucepan. Cube the beetroot and add it to the pan once the onions are translucent. Cook for another couple of minutes before adding the balsamic and red wine vinegars. I add a good half a cupful of both, enough to cover the beets and onions with at least a centimetre extra. Add a good glug of agave to sweeten. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquids have reduced. Add a pinch of chili flakes for extra kick if you wish.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Spring Salad

It's always such a joy to cook with spring ingredients when they start to make a re-appearance after the hungry gap. All that green just seems so fresh and healthy after the more stodgy winter veg. I was inspired to create this salad partly by 101 Cookbooks and also partly by the Daylesford Organic cooking class which I attended as part of the Edible Window Box evening seminar at Clifton Nurseries recently. We had the fabulous Anjana and Nic over for dinner and I decided to serve something very simple which would suit the hot weather.

Spring Salad

Mixed baby salad leaves

1 head of red chicory

purple radish sprouts

spring onions

broad beans

French beans


quails eggs

Jersey Royal new potatoes


olive oil

white balsamic vinegar

juice of half a lemon

Pre-heat the oven. Scrub the new potatoes but do not peel them. Place them in boiling water and cook for around 10 mins until they are partially cooked but not completely. Place them in the oven with a generous splash of olive oil and roast for 30 mins or until becoming brown and crispy on the outside.

Thinly slice the fennel and marinate for a while in some of the white balsamic vinegar to soften.

Poach the quails eggs in boiling water for a couple of minutes until done. Boil the shelled broad beans, whilst these are cooking in boiling water, steam the asparagus and French beans in bamboo steamers on top of the saucepan for a couple of minutes. When both are steamed to al dente, remove from the steamers and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When the broad beans are cooked, remove the rough outer casing leaving only the bright green bean inside.

Prepare the salad by placing the mixed salad leaves, chicory, radish sprouts and spring onions in a bowl. Mix well and scatter the cooked new potatoes, fennel, beans and asparagus on top. Place the poached quails eggs on top of this and serve dressed in a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and black pepper.

I served this with a simple cod fillet in a pumpkin seed crust. This recipe is a great way to do cod and was taken from my Abel & Cole cookbook - mix a handful of pumpkin seeds, some wholegrain breadcrumbs and some lemon zest in your food processor or dry mill. Add some finely chopped flat leaf parsley and pulse some more. Add a tiny splash of olive oil until the mixture 'catches' but is not too soggy and then spread evenly over cod fillets. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Aubergine, Pine Nut and Pomegranate Salad

Now that the cookbook's finally arrived, this is no doubt only the first of many Ottolenghi recipes that I will be blogging my own versions of. We've eaten this one from the shop, we've spent hours discussing how he gets his aubergines just right and whether the aubergine is actually the king of the vegetables or not, we've tried (and failed) to get this quite right at home. And now we know. Fabulous.

Aubergine, Pine Nut and Pomegranate Salad

2 aubergines

olive oil

handful of basil leaves

handful of baby chard leaves

pine nuts

pomegranate seeds

3 tablespoons goat's milk yoghurt


lemon juice

1 garlic clove

black pepper

red quinoa

Rinse the aubergines and cut them into thick discs, removing top and bottom slice. Brush them generously with olive oil using a pastry brush and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until soft and golden, turning half way through. In our rubbish oven this can take almost an hour.

Infuse a pinch of saffron in 2 tablespoons of boiling water for 5 minutes. Mix the infusion into the yoghurt along with the lemon juice and the crushed clove of garlic. Mix well until the yoghurt is a bright yellow colour.

Once done, serve the aubergines on a bed of red quinoa mixed with baby chard leaves (picked fresh from my window boxes!). Scatter with a handful of pinenuts (toasted if you wish) and pomegranate seeds. Finish by scattering with a handful of freshly chopped basil leaves, a twist of black pepper and several dollops of the yellow yoghurt sauce. We like the thick creamy St Helen's Farm Goats Milk Yoghurt.

And yes, I really do believe that aubergine is the king of the vegetables.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes

Another recipe using one of my current 'obsession' ingredients, preserved lemons. I took the original recipe from Epicurious which is an absolutely fantastic resource.

Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes
2 large beef tomatoes
2 white fish fillets
preserved lemons
juice of one lemon

Place the fish fillets in an oven proof dish, spray with olive oil and baked for 10-15 mins or until cooked through. Flake the fish fillets, mix in a bowl with chopped preserved lemons, chopped pitted black olives, chopped fresh coriander and the lemon juice.

Cut the top off the tomato and scrape out the seeds carefully, taking care not to cut the skin. Once the tomatoes are hollow, stuff with the fish mixture. I served mine with kamut couscous on a bed of baby spinach leaves. This is a simple but tasty lunch.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Spanish Rice

The boy's mum brought us back some beautiful chorizo from Spain. Now I try my hardest to avoid red meat but in the face of chorizo, even I crumble occasionally! The beauty of this tasty lunch recipe was that I could add chorizo into Mark's dish but leave mine as a healthy vegan option. Don't be tempted to skimp on the smoked paprika, it is this wonderful spice that really adds the authenticity here.
Spanish Rice
1 cup of rice
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
cherry tomatoes
1 tin of white beans
sun dried tomatoes
handful of pitted black olives
chopped flat leaf parsley

Put the rice on to boil in a large saucepan. Add the saffron strands and turmeric directly to the water. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them cut side up in a pre-heated oven with a splash of olive oil for around 10 minutes or until they start to soften.

Chop the red onion and fry it in the olive oil along with the crushed garlic cloves. Drain and rinse the white beans and add to the pan. Add the chopped pitted black olives, the chopped sun dried tomatoes and chorizo (if using) before adding the smoked paprika. Fry for a little longer until heated through.

Once the rice is cooked, mix it with the other ingredients including the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped flat leaf parsley and season with salt and pepper.
I am pretty sure that there are a whole heap more authentic ways to do Spanish rice but this was my own made up attempt!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mackerel and Horseradish Fishcakes

I took this recipe straight from Hippolyra at Fuss Free Flavours. I love the idea of fishcakes which don't include the usual potatoes, egg, breadcrumbs etc. There is a certain simplicity in a recipe which has only 5 ingredients which is very appealing. However the lack of a complex ingredients list in no way undermines the bursts of flavour these fishcakes deliver.
Mackerel and Horseradish Fishcakes
1 tin chickpeas
1 packet of smoked mackerel
1 tablespoon capers
juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons horseradish
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in the blender or foodprocessor. I used my hand blender and added about 3/4 of the juice of one lemon. You definitely do not want to add too much liquid as it will make it too moist for keeping the fishcakes together when frying. Once the chickpeas are mashed, add the capers, flaked smoked mackerel, lemon rind and horseradish.
Form into patties and fry for around 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. I served mine on a bed of baby spinach and watercress salad. Some chunky herbed sweet potato wedges would also accompany it well.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust

This is actually an amalgam of two recipes from Wholefoods. Not only do I absolutely adore the shop but I also happen to think that their recipe database is particularly thorough and full of healthy ideas.

I'd been toying with the idea of making a vegan quiche but didn't want to use the pastry of this recipe. I also liked the idea of making a pie using potato as the crust such as this recipe but didn't want to use normal potatoes or goat's cheese mixed with potato. So I stuck 'em both together and made a vegan, gluten-free version.

I was so pleased with how this turned out (even the boy liked it and he hates tofu) that I have decided to enter it in Abby's annual Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables round-up organised via her excellent Eat The Right Stuff Blog.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust
1 sweet potato
1 packet tofu
handful of mushrooms
handful of baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons of tahini
olive oil
cayenne pepper
curry powder
rice milk
1/2 a red pepper

Remove the tofu from the packet, wrap some kitchen roll around it and place a sideplate on top to press out most of the liquid. Peel the sweet potato and slice it using a mandolin slicer. Par-boil the slices for around 3-4 minutes or until soft enough to bend but not break. Layer the slices overlapping over the bottom and sides of a springform cake tin.

Fry the onion and sliced mushrooms in olive oil for around 8 minutes. Fry the garlic for an extra couple of minutes. Add a big handful of baby spinach leaves and a splash of water, continue to fry until wilted. Drain any excess water.

Put the pressed tofu block into a blender/food processor with the tahini and a generous splash of tamari. Add a small splash of rice milk but not too much - you don't want the mixture too soggy. Add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and curry powder and blend. I used my hand blender. Mix the creamy mixture with the spinach, mushroom and onions and pour into the potato crust in the cake tin mould.

Chop the red pepper into thin strips and arrange them onto the top of the pie. Bake in the oven at around 180 degrees for an hour or until the top of the pie begins to brown.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Cinnamon Walnut Raisin Loaf

The obsession with vegan baking continues (thanks in part to Fuss Free Flavours, one of my favourite food blogs). I had a not quite so successful run at muffins before the long weekend and was so disappointed with the results, I thought it was time to stop messing around making up vegan baking recipes myself and to start following what the experts do. Luckily, you can get no better expert in vegan baking than the excellent Isa at Post Punk Kitchen. I followed her recipe to the letter but substituted the sugar for a splash of agave and added in some chopped walnuts as I'd just been given some fresh from our friend's farm in the Lebanon.

Cinnamon Walnut Raisin Bread

1 1/2 cups spelt flour

1 cup of organic jumbo oats

1 1/2 teaspoons of gluten free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/4 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup raisins (I used sultanas)

1/4 apple juice (I used Meridian Apple Concentrate diluted)

1 1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 rapeseed oil

2 tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 tablespoons water

1/4 rice milk

Handful of walnuts crushed into small pieces.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Soak the raisins in the apple juice. Mix the spelt flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the agave, applesauce, oil, flax mixture and rice milk and mix with the dry ingredients until combined well. Add raisins and apple juice. Add the walnut pieces and mix well. Pour into a pre-oiled baking tin and bake for around 50-60 minutes or until the top is crusty and a skewer comes out cleanly.

This was such a quick and easy loaf to make, it looked fantastic and it made the house smell divine. I'm rather inclined to agree with Isa that with vegan baking, you are "creating edible art, making your house a home and solving world peace all at once". I may even try this in muffin tins next time. It's a dense loaf although perfectly moist but works well cut thickly, toasted and spread with leftover applesauce.

I found Isa's guide to vegan baking incredibly helpful and it helped me to realise where I was going wrong before (not enough egg substitute) and I can't wait to try more techniques. This obsession looks like it could run and run.....

Friday, 2 May 2008

Black Bean, Mango and Avocado Salsa

Another recipe inspired by the Cinco de Mango fiesta, this one was inspired by Ingrid Hoffman's recipe for the National Mango Board and also by the fact that I had black beans left over from making Chipotle Orange Black Beans the other night.

Black Bean, Mango and Avocado Salsa

1 cup of cooked black beans
half a mango
1 avocado
3-4 large tomatoes
juice of one lime
garlic clove
olive oil
fresh coriander

Peel and chop the mango and avocado into cubes before dicing the tomatoes. Mix in a big bowl with the black beans and with some chopped fresh coriander. We hate raw onions but you could also add some in or alternatively some spring onions which can be slightly less offensive. Mix the lime juice, a tablespoon of olive oil and a crushed garlic clove into a glass to form the dressing. Pour over the salad and mix well. This is a tasty, nutritious and quick snack but would also work well as a side dish for chicken and/or with tortillas.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Prawn and Pomelo Salad

We seem to be eating a lot of prawns at the moment, but I do absolutely adore their versatile goodness. Pomelos are often hard to come by (unless you are willing to pay the inflated prices of speciality Thai supermarkets) so when we saw them on offer in Portobello, we leapt at the chance to recreate one of our favourite salads. This is another Asian salad, popular in Thailand where it is known as yam som-o, whose alternately sweet and sharp flavours intermingle to create a light touch which is refreshing on the palate. The original recipe is here. Mark got white rice noodles with his to bulk it up a little.

Prawn and Pomelo Salad

1 packet of cooked prawns

1 head of chicory

1 handful spinach leaves

1 pomelo

juice of one lime

garlic flakes

1 red chili

fresh coriander and mint

Firstly, peel the pomelo. Removing the tough outer rind can be hard work as it is often a centimetre or two thick. Once done, you are then left with the fruit which still has a thinner pith on it like an orange. The easiest way in my mind to get to the actual juicy flesh is to take a sharp knife and literally cut the top and bottom off and then slice as thinly as possible the flesh from all around the sides of the pomelo. It should then be easy to separate each segment and peel the flesh away from the two sides of its casing. I then like to flake mine, rather than leaving it in segments.

Place the pomelo in a bowl with the chicory leaves and the spinach or rocket leaves. Mix the cooked prawns on top. Scatter freshly chopped mint and coriander leaves and garlic flakes (pre-fried garlic available from Asian supermarkets). De-seed the red chili and finely chop it. Mix it in and add the lime juice and a splash of oil such as cold pressed sesame oil.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Courgette, Asparagus and Wild Rice Salad with a Basil Dressing

A fresh, summery recipe great for lunches on the go. As usual, this recipe was inspired by the big spread on Ottolenghi in last week's Guardian Weekend supplement. The original recipe calls for manouri which is similar to haloumi but I decided to make it more substantial and add my favourite thee rice combo instead. Since I prefer not to mix carbohydrates with animal proteins, I left the cheese out for now. My copy of the Ottolenghi cookbook has been dispatched and is on its way. I am more excited than you rationally ought to be about a cookbook! We got some absolutely beautiful cherry tomatoes on the vine from the market last weekend and gently baked, they add a wonderfully creamy note to this dish.

Courgette, Asparagus and Wild Rice Salad with a Basil Dressing

1 courgette
1 bunch of asparagus
handful of cherry tomatoes
handful of pine nuts
fresh flatleaf parsley
handful of baby spinach leaves
handful of fresh basil leaves
garlic cloves
olive oil
rice (I use a mix of long grain brown rice, wild rice and camargue red rice)

Whilst the rice is cooking, steam the asparagus in bamboo steamers on top of the pan for around 5 minutes. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a baking dish, cut side up. Spray with olive oil and bake for around 15 minutes or until just starting to get soft. Slice the courgette into long, thin strips using either a mandoline slicer or a vegetable peeler (I found the latter made them thinner and actually tasted nicer than when using the former). Heat a griddle pan and spray with olive oil. Griddle fry the aubergine slices for around 3-4 minutes each side or until the blackened lines appear.

Using the cooked rice as a base, arrange the courgette slices, asparagus and cherry tomatoes on top. Finely chop the flat leaf parsley and the baby spinach leaves and mix in well, along with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Add a twist of black pepper.

Place the basil leaves, 1 peeled garlic clove, two tablespoons of olive oil and a splash of water (to make the consistency more pourable) into the hand blender and blitz until it becomes a bright green smooth and creamy dressing. Drizzle on top of the rice and vegetables to bring a fantastic colour and flavour to the dish.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Steamed Haddock on a bed of samphire and sweet potato mash

Having spotted some samphire at the wonderful Golborne Fisheries shop, I'd been keen on cooking with it. It is so unusual yet so flavourful that you really don't need a fancy dish to accompany it. Instead, I kept the fish simple and steamed it in lemon and black pepper, letting the flavours of this sea vegetable do all the talking.

Steamed haddock on a bed of samphire and sweet potato mash

2 haddock fillets

1-2 sweet potatoes

lemon juice

black pepper

olive oil

handful of samphire

Peel and chop the sweet potato and boil it in water for around 15 minutes or until soft. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, place the bamboo steamers over the pan of boiling water. Wrap the haddock in baking parchment with a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a twist of black pepper. Steam for around 10 minutes. Rinse the samphire and steam for around 5-8 minutes. You don't want them too soft. When the potatoes are cooked, mash with a little olive oil for flavour, then place on a plate, pile the samphire on top, add a little more lemon juice and black pepper to the samphire for extra flavour and sit the steamed fish fillet on top.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Well it was only a matter of time before the Portobello mushroom made an appearance on the Portobello Kitchen blog. Couldn't resist picking up four beauties and stuffing them with my usual Mediterranean style filling.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
4 Portobello Mushrooms
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Sundried tomatoes
Handful of spinach leaves
Pine nuts
Goat's cheese
Fresh thyme and basil
Olive oil
Garlic cloves
Rinse the mushrooms and cut off the stalks. Brush with olive oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Whilst the mushrooms are cooking, chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters, mix with the chopped sundried tomatoes, olives, pine nuts and cubed goat's cheese. Mix with finely chopped spinach leaves and herbs. Finely chop the stalk of the mushrooms and add to the mix. Spoon over the mushrooms and bake for a further ten minutes or until the cheese is melted and the nuts are starting to brown. Place a handful of fresh basil leaves, a garlic clove, a splash of olive oil and some water in the hand blender and blitz until it has a nice dressing consistency. Dribble over the mushrooms, place on a nest of rocket leaves, mixed with alfalfa sprouts and serve.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Broad Bean and Radish Salad

The first of the summer's fresh broad beans are now appearing in the market and with the current lovely weather, it really did feel as if summer was almost here on Saturday. We snapped up the broad beans and used them to make a salad once again taken directly from the fabulous Ottolenghi - I seriously can't wait for that cookbook to come out later this week.

I often obsess about a particular ingredient and search for recipes specifically to include different ways to use it. These past few months, I've had a thing about preserved lemons. They do say that once you start cooking with them, you never look back. I bought a jar of beautiful Carley's Preserved Lemons in Wholefoods just to see how we'd get on with them, but after that made my own.

Broad Bean and Radish Salad
1 bunch of radishes
1 cup quinoa
2 lbs of broad beans
1/2 preserved lemon
fresh chopped dill and flat leaf parsley
handful of alfalfa sprouts (optional)

Cook the quinoa in a saucepan in twice the amount of water. Whilst it is cooking, shell the broad beans out of their long casings. In a small pan of boiling water, blanch them for a minute or two. Run under cold water and then peel the soft light green shell casing from them. Top and tail the radishes before slicing them into rounds. Rinse and finely chop the preserved lemon, discarding the flesh. Mix all of the ingredients together and pour a little oil in to moisten - I used Udo's Oils but a good quality olive oil would do just as well. Finish with a twist of black pepper. This is summer on a plate.

Note to self: I'd probably put some sliced spring onions in this next time for added flavour.

Endive with melted Taleggio

Now this one won't exactly win any healthy eating prizes but as I've always said, I'm a firm believer in treating yourself every once in a while. On seeing some taleggio at the weekly market in Beaconsfield last week, it reminded me of an Ottolenghi recipe from the Guardian which I'd been saving as a treat. I am however on a strict no-sugar phase at the moment, so whilst creamy melty cheese was allowed, caramelising the endives in sugar and butter first was not!

Endive with melted Taleggio

1 large endive
olive oil
fresh thyme
black pepper
wholemeal breadcrumbs

Cut the endive in half and fry in olive oil, cut side down in a pan until browned. Place cut side up in a baking dish and cut out the tough heart of the endive. Place slices of taleggio over the top and sprinkle chopped fresh thyme over the top, along with a twist of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of wholemeal breadcrumbs. Place in a pre-heated oven for around 8-10 minutes until the cheese is melting and the breadcrumbs are brown. If necessary, finish under the grill for a couple of minutes to brown the top nicely.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


I came across this fabulous site via the UK Food Bloggers Association. Foodari is basically an online food community where you can make friends, look up other people's recipes as well as manage your own online cookbook.

For me, the beauty of this site is having one place in which to store all the recipes I find online which I can access from any computer. I am always on the web looking up various recipes and I now use my online Foodari site to save the ones I want to keep and cook later. There are also some interesting recipes on the site and you can search by tag, by name etc.

Take a look at my cookbook for things I have already made or am planning to make in the future! I find it such a handy resource for keeping everything in one place.

Friday, 18 April 2008

South Indian Okra and Sweet Potato Curry

This was a Jamie Oliver recipe that I found on a Sainsbury's recipe card. I'm not usually a massive Jamie fan but I do appreciate his commitment to causes such as eating free range poultry and of course, the famous school dinners. This recipe was great, thanks to the authentic use of curry leaves and the rich coconut cream.

South Indian Okra and Sweet Potato Curry

1 teapsoon mustard seeds

olive oil

1 onion chopped

2 green chilis deseeded and finely chopped

curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, ground coriander, garam masala

1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, chili powder

1 sweet potato

handful of okra, topped and tailed

handful of sliced tomatoes

handful of frozen peas

1 tin coconut milk

Fry the mustard seeds in the oil until they start to pop and crackle. Add the onion, chilis, curry leaves and spices and fry until the onion is soft. Add the sweet potatoes and brown for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk and a little water if necessary and simmer until the sweet potato is cooked. About ten minutes after adding the sweet potato, add the tomato, peas and okra. Continue to simmer and season before serving. I don't think you need to eat rice with this as it is heavy enough as it is.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Prawn and Avocado Salad with a Spicy Mango Salsa

Bizarrely enough, I found this recipe on the side of the box from a newly purchased bottle of Tabasco. It sounded pretty good so I gave it a whirl in the hand blender of course. It had a real kick to it but we both thought it was very tasty.
Prawn and Avocado Salad
1 packet cooked and peeled king prawns
1 avocado peeled and sliced
Handful of sliced cherry tomatoes
Handful of alfalfa sprouts
Handful of baby spinach leaves
Handful of pumpkin seeds
Spicy Mango Salsa
Half a mango peeled and chopped
A half inch or so of ginger peeled and chopped
Two tablespoons of brown rice vinegar
Freshly squeezed juice of half an orange
A splash of water for a runnier consistency
1 peeled clove of garlic
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon of Tabasco hot sauce
Mix all the salsa ingredients together in the hand blender and whizz until creamy. Pour over the salad ingredients and enjoy the Caribbean flavours!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Vietnamese Chicken and Pineapple Soup

When I first stumbled across this recipe on Epicurious, I wasn't sure how authentic it sounded and if the flavours would actually work that well. After having lived in Vietnam for almost two years, I am a huge fan of Vietnamese cuisine but dismiss most recipes as merely a bastardisation of the original or having nothing more than a passing nod to pan-Asian flavours. I was incredibly impressed with how this came out though, as was Mark. He got white rice noodles and cashew nuts in his to bulk it out a bit and we both thought the flavours were fantastic. I didn't add any bean sprouts but would definitely do that next time as I think it would work well.

Vietnamese Chicken and Pineapple Soup

2 red chilis

2 cloves of garlic

1 pineapple

3 chopped tomatoes

Handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, re-soaked and finely sliced

1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

1 stalk lemongrass

Handful chopped fresh mint

Handful chopped fresh coriander

Cut the top and shave the sides off the pineapple. The eyes should still be left on. Next, trim the eyes off in slices, leaving the main part of the pineapple without any eyes or skin left on. Place the shaved sides with the eyes on in a hand blender with plenty of water. Puree this mixture and set aside. Fry the chopped garlic and chili in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Add the fish sauce and boil for two minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. This will stink to high heaven but the flavour in the soup is more subtle. Add the chopped sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, beansprouts (if using) and a handful of cubes of the remaining pineapple flesh. Fry for a couple of minutes before placing a fine sieve over the saucepan and pushing the pineapple puree mixture through the sieve directly into the pan. Push hard on the rough bits and discard. Add a little more water if needed. Simmer for ten minutes or so with a stick of crushed lemongrass to add flavour. Just before serving, add the chopped fresh herbs and a grind of black pepper. I cooked my chicken separately and just sprinkled the shredded pieces directly on top. The rice noodles went into the pan just after the pineapple puree and I gave them a good 6 minutes to cook. A sprinkle of cashew nuts on top bring a nice extra flavour in.

I think the original recipe probably explains this better than I have but it is really worth an experiment, especially for us since we picked up a super cheap pineapple in the market and had chicken left over in the fridge.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Sesame Crusted Tuna in a Tamari-Wasabi Marinade

On our usual tour of the market this weekend, we walked up to Golborne Fisheries on Golborne Road. This is a true gem of a fish shop with a fanatastic selection. Apparently they stock some of the big department store foodhalls as well, so the quality is excellent. We bought two beautiful thick slices of tuna and paired it with steamed fresh vegetables which were of course also bought from the market that day. Mark had his with King Soba 100% buckwheat noodles to complete the Japanese feel. Tuna is not a fish we eat regularly (for environmental as well as health eg mercury level reasons) but decided to treat ourselves and it was truly a delicious meal.

Sesame Crusted Tuna in a Tamari-Wasabi Marinade

Two tuna steaks
One tablespoon of sesame oil
One teaspoon of powdered wasabi
Two tablespoons of tamari
Handful of mixed black and unhulled cream sesame seeds

Mix the sesame oil, powdered wasabi and tamari together in a glass and pour over the tuna in a shallow dish, making sure that the tuna steaks are well covered in the marinade on both sides. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours. Heat a griddle pan on the hob with a spray of olive oil until hot, then sear the tuna for 2 minutes each side, leaving the middle pinkish.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Leon Superfood Salad

This is our take on the fabulous Superfood Salad, unashamedly based on the Leon favourite. A great mid-week lunch, Mark gets feta cheese with his whereas mine is usually vegan. This week, we added asparagus as the season seems to be upon us and we got some beautiful asparagus going really cheap in the market.

Leon Superfood Salad
1 cup of quinoa
1 head of broccoli
5-10 asparagus spears
Handful of frozen peas
1 avocado
Handful of alfalfa sprouts
Handful of pumpkin seeds
Chopped fresh mint
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil

Cook the quinoa in double the amount of water until the water is absorbed and the grains have swelled and the little thread appears. I throw in the frozen peas towards the end just to thaw them a little. Whilst the quinoa is cooking, steam the broccoli and asparagus (if using) on the bamboo steamers on top of the quinoa pan. Peel and chop the avocado and mix all of the remaining ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Juice the lemon and mix a splash of olive oil. Pour over the salad, mix well and season with a little freshly squeezed pepper on top. Be generous with the mint - it is this flavour that really makes this salad.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Eggs in Purgatory with Chipotle Orange Black Beans

This is our new favourite light mid-week supper. I got the recipe directly from Whole Foods video blog but as always, altered it slightly from the original. I understand that this is originally an Italian dish but the way it is served here with avocado, the use of chipotle and the added black beans strike me as quite Mexican in style and I definitely love these type of flavours in my food. I have added chipotle into the main tomato sauce since it is difficult to get fire roasted tomatoes here and because I love the smoky chili flavour of chipotles.

Eggs in Purgatory

4 eggs
1 tin tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion
1 soaked and dried chipotle
1 red chili
red chili powder
fresh coriander
balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lime
splash of tabasco (optional)

Fry the chopped onions, garlic and chilis (including chipotle) for around 5 minutes in a deep frying pan. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, a half teaspoon of red chili powder and some chopped fresh coriander. Simmer for around ten minutes. Stir in the lime juice and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and puree the sauce straight in the frying pan using a hand blender. Add a little water if you need to thin it (I just add the liquid from the tin of tomatoes and that's usually enough) and a splash of tabasco if using. Once the sauce is simmering, crack four eggs (leaving a good gap between them) onto the sauce. Cover the frying pan with a lid and let the eggs poach for around 5 minutes or until done. Serve on top of sliced avocados and some salad leaves.

I also like to serve this as a side dish:

Chipotle Orange Black Beans
1 tin black beans
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 orange (juice and rind)
fresh coriander

Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tin of drained and rinsed black beans and heat through. Add the rind and juice of the orange and simmer a little until reduced. Stir through some chopped fresh coriander and serve.