Category Archives: vegetarian

Smoky roasted butternut squash soup (Serves: 4/6 – Preparation time: +1hr)

Pumpkins and squashes come in all manner of shapes and sizes and in my opinion they are one of the most versatile vegetables that you can cook with.  The good news is right now they are in season and fairly cheap to buy!  For today’s recipe I have decided to keep things simple and turn butternut squash into a wonderfully velvety soup which is perfect served in a mug for bonfire night or as a starter for a dinner party with crusty French bread on the side.

The vibrant orange colour of this soup is hugely inviting and has the effect of making you warmer simply by looking at it. However, it is the paprika in this recipe transforms this soup – turning it from the sweet delicate taste of the squash into a rich smoky flavour that makes you want to keep going back for more.

This is definitely a recipe to try this autumn/winter whilst butternut squash is in season and at its best.  The soup freezes well so can be made up in large quantities and squirrelled away until you need it.  Enjoy!

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Goat’s curd and spinach tart (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1hr – 1.5hrs)

I work a ten minute walk away from Borough Market in London which means on a good day I am able to head over there during my lunch break. I tend to amble through the market seeing what is in season, chatting to the stall holders about their produce and what they recommend doing with it. Bliss!

On my last visit I ended up buying some goat’s curd (soft cheese) from Ellie’s Dairy with the idea of making spinach and goat’s curd tarts. The curd had a delicate flavour and unlike other goats cheese I can safely say then you couldn’t taste the goat. Instead it had subtle zesty notes that lingered on the palette. If you can’t find goat’s curd then substitute with ricotta or another soft cheese of your choosing.

One of my concerns when making the tart was whether the moisture in the spinach would cause it to have a ‘soggy’ bottom – however this was not the case. So long as you squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the spinach after wilting it you should end up with a crisp pastry.

The tart can be served hot or cold which means it is ideal if you need to prepare something in advance or are simply looking for lunchbox ideas. Enjoy!

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Gazpacho (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 15 mins)

I told my Spanish friend Alejandro that I was going to make Gazpacho this week and he quizzed me about what I intended to put in it to ensure that I was making what he deemed to be an authentic Spanish Gazpacho.  When I dropped ‘lemons’ into the list of ingredients that I intended to use, he promptly stopped me and told me in no uncertain terms that lemon is not a Gazpacho ingredient and that the vinegar is all that you need – and I have to say that now having made it without lemons that I agree with him.

For those of you that are less familiar with Gazpacho it is a cold tomato soup made using raw ingredients and there is absolutely no cooking involved.  All you need to make it is a sharp knife and a hand blender – simple.  Whilst summer is drawing to a close this is a great option if you are looking for a refreshing starter or light lunch.  The underlying flavours are both tangy and slightly creamy making you want to go back for more.  Enjoy!

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Roasted red pepper, asparagus and goat’s cheese quiche (Serves: 6 – Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

Quiche is a very handy recipe to be able to fall back on if you have friends coming for lunch and don’t want to worry about timings, as it can be served hot or cold and is always delicious.  They also are a good option for vegetarians as you can pack them with lots of yummy vegetables and cheeses.

I think a lot of people avoid making quiches as they don’t want to bother with the faff of making and rolling pastry.  Well my solution to that is buy ready-made pastry to save you the hassle.  My parents who live out in France always use pre-rolled puff pastry which works incredibly well and you don’t have to blind bake it – reducing the preparation time to 30 minutes.

Personally I find the process of making pastry relatively therapeutic especially when you do it by hand.  But I also fully appreciate that it is not for everyone so just do what works for you whether it be making the pastry in a food processor, by hand or simply buying it pre-made.

This quiche recipe is perfect for this time of year with the asparagus being in season.  It is a nice light option for lunch served with a big green salad – ideal for these warm summer days that we are starting to get.  Enjoy!

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Asian salmon salad (serves: 2 – cooking time: 15 mins)

I think it is fair to say that summer is on its way and about time too!  I am pleased to report that I am writing this blog from the comfort of my garden table with my new puppy ‘Oscar’ dozing at my feet…  Bliss!

Last weekend, with the weather being so glorious, there was a definite need for fresh and healthy food.  I really enjoy Asian style salads as they are fragrant and crunchy.   I often vary how I serve the salmon when I cook it in this way, for example if I am looking to eat something more substantial then I replace the salad with egg noodles and serve with pak choi  or  I add it to a stir fry using the juices of from the fish to form the sauce.

This recipe is good irrespective of whether you serve it hot or cold and takes very little time to prepare.  If you are looking for a recipe that can be made in advance to be served at a summer lunch party then this is a great little option.  Or if you are having a barbecue and are looking to cater for the non meat-eaters – again this recipe comes into its own as the salmon is cooked in tin foil and can be cooked alongside the meat (just remember that the cooking time will vary depending on the heat of your barbecue).  Enjoy.

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Pâtés

Ladies and Gentlemen I am back!  Each Friday going forward I am going to endeavour to post some new recipe ideas for you.  So watch this space!

Today I have whipped up three different pâtés any one of which would make a great little starter if you have friends popping over, or as a light lunch with some salad or other nibbly bits. The first pâté was mackerel pâté which is a personal favourite of mine.  Mackerel pâté takes a matter of minutes to make and is scrummy served on fresh bread, melba toast or even that 70s throw back a vol-au-vent.

Second up is a vegetarian option, roasted red pepper and olive pâté which requires a food processor to blend the cream cheese and red pepper together.  This pâté is wonderfully light (a result of blitzing the cream cheese in the food processor) and the red pepper gives it a slightly piquant but sweet flavour.  If you are tempted to blend all the ingredients together I wish to warn you that the olives will give the pâté somewhat grainy texture.

Last but by no means least duck and orange pâté, it involves a bit more effort to make but is a good contrast to the other two pâtés.  To make this pâté perfectly smooth after putting it through the food processor you will need to pass it through a sieve.  If you do not mind having a slightly course pâté than I would suggest that you skip this part of the recipe…

Enjoy!

 

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Bruschetta snacks

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Jones (my housemate) and I have had a tough week and were feeling somewhat jaded this morning.  There was only one way to make us feel better –food.  Unfortunately for us that meant a joyous trip to the supermarket on a Saturday morning before we could tuck in.

Fancying something a little bit healthy, we settled on the idea of bruschetta, mostly because it can be put together in a matter of minutes and it looks and tastes good!  In the end we made four different types: a classic tomato, a pea and broad bean, goat’s cheese and beetroot and avocado, red pepper and mozzarella.

These bruschetta are perfect for a light lunch, starter or even a canapé.  Don’t be afraid to change the ingredients depending on what you have available and what is in season.  The only thing I would strongly advise is make sure that you season the toppings well and make sure you always taste as you go along.

 

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Avocado, Red Pepper and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1/3 of a red pepper
  • ½ a mozzarella ball
  • 4-5 green olives
  • 1 tbsp of fresh chopped chives
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the avocado, red pepper, mozzarella and olives.
  2. Place in a bowl with the chives and stir.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • Handful of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 4 black olives
  • 1tbsp of finely diced chopped red onion
  • 5/6 basil leaves (chopped finely)
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1.  Finely chop the cherry tomatoes, olives. (If the tomatoes give off a lot of juice then pour away some of the excess)
  2. Place in a bowl along with the red, basil.
  3. Season well , add the lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your tomato mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Pea and Broad Bean Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 handful of broad beans (frozen are fine)
  • 1 handful of peas (frozen are fine)
  • 5/6 mint leaves
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Place your broad beans in a pan and cook according to the instructions.  Once they are cooked peel the broad beans (it is worth the effort.)
  2. In a separate pan cook your peas, once cooked place in a bowl together with the broad beans and mash using the back of a fork.
  3. Season well, add the mint, lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cooked and peeled beetroot
  • 2” goat’s cheese log
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the beetroot and goat’s cheese.
  2. Place in a bowl and mix together.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.


 

Side dishes (part 2)

When I got back to France last week lying in a box on the kitchen table were four relatively large marrows.  My first reaction was, “oh God, not marrow”, as the childhood memories of stuffed marrow came flooding back.    I have always thought of marrow as being a fairly tasteless vegetable which always seemed to turn into a soggy mess when cooked.  However, this time I was determined to find something good to do with them.  So my first step was to Google marrow recipes.  Sure enough stuffed marrow appeared time and time again.  I stumbled on one forum that had me chuckling away as I read some peoples’ views on marrows.  Here are a couple of the comments for your amusement:

“Slice marrow in half lengthways.  Leave on kitchen worktop.  Wait for Other Half or child to come in and moan “oh not bl**dy marrow AGAIN” *theatrical sighing*.  Take marrow outside and give to the hens”

“1. Peel outer skin
2. Chop off ends
3. Cut length ways in half
4. Remove all seeds and discard
5. Dice marrow into 1 inch cube
6. Salt to taste
7. Place in bowl and refrigerate for 18/24 hours
8. Remove from fridge
9. Kettle on and brew tea
10. Add milk & sugar to personal requirement
11. Make a cheese toastie
12. Throw marrow in bin
13. Enjoy said toastie with your cup of tea”

After A LOT of searching on the internet some of the more interesting recipes I started to come across involved frying the marrow with fresh herbs – however I was concerned that the marrow might become a little greasy.  However, it made me start thinking about what it was about marrow that I didn’t enjoy and it boiled down to the texture.  Subsequently it got me thinking what if I tried to make the outside crispy.  In the end I settled on marrow and potato chips with fresh herbs – and even if I do say so myself, they tasted pretty good.


Marrow and Potato Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium marrow
  • 4/6 medium potatoes
  • Handful of plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Combination of fresh or dried herbs (e.g. parsley, coriander, chive and thyme)
  • Olive oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

  1. Peel and de-seed the marrow.  Then cut into small bite sized cubes.  Place the marrow in a colander sprinkle with some salt and then place over the sink and leave for 30-40 minutes to draw out the water before drying the marrow with paper towel.
          
  2. Place the flour and herbs in a bowl and season well.  Toss the marrow in the bowl until they are completely covered with flour, then set to one side.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and cube the potatoes.  Dry them slightly with paper towel, before placing on a large baking tray.  Season with salt and pepper, drizzle some olive oil over and then toss the potatoes with your hands to make sure they are evenly coated with oil.
  4. Place the tray in an oven preheated to 190C fan for 10 mins to start the potatoes cooking.
  5. After 10 minutes remove from the oven and add the marrow to the baking tray.  Stir the potatoes and marrow together, drizzle over a little more oil before placing back in the oven for a further 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Note: Yesterday I made the potato and marrow chips again, this time however I added cubed carrots for a splash of colour.  I made the mistake putting them in the oven at the same time as the potatoes, as a result they cooked too quickly.  So a word of advice add the carrots at the same time as the marrow otherwise they are likely to be a little on the carbonised side of things…

Sweet and savoury courgette recipes

As I mentioned in my last blog, our neighbour dropped off a huge amount of vegetables the other day, which included a large box of courgettes.  I don’t mind courgettes; however they are not the most popular vegetable in our household and often just seem to get chucked into things just to use them up.  Subsequently I have been trying to think of new recipes to cook them in.  So far I have cooked with them in a tart, I have made them into fritters and I have baked with them in a cake.  I think out of the three my favourite was the tart, the flavours were subtle but pleasant and would be lovely with a salad on a summer’s day.

In addition to trying out new recipes I have been making up vast quantities of baked ratatouille which have been frozen ready for use in the upcoming months.  I have been using the same ingredients that we use in our families recipe for ratatouille but have been cooking it in a slightly different way.  My mother’s recipe cooks the ingredients as you would a vegetable stew, whereas I prefer to layer up the vegetables and tomato sauce before baking it (if I am being truthfully I got the idea of layering up the vegetables from the cartoon Ratatouille – I guess inspiration can come from anywhere…)

I can safely say that I have eaten courgette every meal this week (save for breakfast) in some form or another and I am looking forward to eating something other than courgettes once we have managed to use them all up/preserved them…  However until then I am pretty sure I am eating my ‘five a day’ in the form of courgettes.


Courgette and Tomato Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet pre-rolled puff pastry

Tomato Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small sprigs of basil (leaves torn)
  • 12-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Seasoning
The toppings:

  • 3 medium courgettes (sliced 2-3mm rounds)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 tomatoes (peeled / de-seeded / sliced)
  • 100-150g blue cheese like a Cambozola (sliced)
  • Black pepper for seasoning

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven 190C Fan.
  2. In a bowl mix together the ingredients for the tomato sauce.
  3. Prep the courgettes, by salting the slices in a colander to draw out the water – rinse in water – then dry with a tea towel.
  4. Mix the garlic and olive oil in a bowl, then toss the courgette slices in the oil mix.
  5. Finally make up the tart: Spread the tomato sauce on the pastry (leaving an inch from the edge), place on the courgettes overlapping them as you place them, then equally distribute the cheese and the tomato slices in a pattern of your choosing, lastly season well with black pepper.
  6. Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes.

               

Courgette Fritters

(Note: When I made these I decided to add a little more flour to the mix after cooking the first two fritters because the mix  was fairly wet, by doing so it helped hold the mix together a little better.  I had a couple of thoughts about how the recipe could be adapted depending what you were eating them with, for example if I was serving the fritters with fish and a side salad I would add a little lemon zest, coriander and chilli in the place of the parsley, paprika and cayenne. )

Ingredients:

  • 2 large courgettes (grated and either using your hands or a colander and a spoon squeeze out any liquid that you can)
  • 1 small onion (grated)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 heaped tbsp parmesan
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 sprigs parsley chopped
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning
  • Oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season well.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan.
  3. Shape the courgette mix into golf sized balls, place a few at a time into the pan and then flatten slightly using a spatula.
  4. Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes (or until they are golden brown)

          

Mini Chocolate and Courgette Cakes

[Note:  I am pleased to say that this attempt at making chocolate and courgette cakes were a far bigger success than the complete failure that I had earlier this summer!  I like the little kick that the cayenne pepper adds in this recipe however if you are not a fan of spice then just leave it out when you are making up the cake batter.]

Ingredients:

The ingredients for this cake are measured by using an individual yogurt pot (125g).

  • 1 pot plain yogurt
  • 1 pot oil (sunflower or vegetable)
  • 2 pots sugar
  • 2 ½ pots self-raising flour
  • ½ pot cocoa powder
  • 1 large courgette (grated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 170C fan.
  2. Grease and flour a muffin tray.
  3. Mix everything except the courgette in a bowl.  Once the batter is well mixed, stir in the courgette.  Then pour the batter into the muffin tin. 
  4.  Bake for 17-20 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  5. Leave to cool before serving with crème fraiche or ice-cream and a simple chocolate sauce (made by melting some chocolate with some cream).

Baked Ratatouille

[This is a great accompaniment to any meal particularly on a cool autumnal day.  This is a dish that takes a bit of time to prepare, but, is well worth the effort and leaves you feeling very healthy when you eat it.]

Ingredients:

  • 1 aubergine
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper (Roasted in the oven for 30 mins at 190C Fan then peeled and de-seeded)
  • 1 medium sized onion (diced)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 can of tinned tomatoes (or 5-6 fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven with a little oil, thyme and seasoning for 30 mins at 190C Fan then remove the core and roughly chop the tomato)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking with

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C fan.
  2. Cut the aubergine and courgettes into 2-3mm thick circles.  Place them into a colander sprinkle with salt and place on top of a bowl/in the sink to allow the water to draw out of the aubergine and courgettes.
  3. Place the onion and garlic in a pan with some oil and the sugar then cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube, thyme, season with salt and pepper, then stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer on a very low heat whilst you get on with preparing the other vegetables.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan.  In batches cook the aubergine for roughly 1-2 minutes on each side until they are soft.  Once the aubergines are cooked quickly pan fry all the courgette slices in a little bit of oil to give them a little colour this should take no longer than 2 minutes.
  6. Finally make up the ratatouille in a medium sized oven proof dish layer up the dish in the following order:
    • Tomato Sauce
    • Aubergine
    • Courgette
    •  Red Pepper
    • Tomato Sauce
    • Courgette
    • Aubergine
    • Tomato Sauce
  7. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Green soup – packed full of vitamins

I have just gotten back from a trip to London.  I was only over for a couple of days but it was enough to leave me craving fruit and veg.  On the whole I love London for the sheer variety of food/cuisines you can choose from.  However, like most people who are madly dashing around trying to pack in as much as possible in a very short time frame, I fell into the trap of buying food that was convenient (and cheap) to eat on the move and subsequently found myself grabbing a sandwich for lunch.  So when I arrived home last night to find, four large boxes of tomatoes, one large box of courgettes and 2 cantaloupe melons sitting on the kitchen table (a gift from our neighbours because they have too many to know what to do with) I felt somewhat relieved.  Knowing that we are likely to be eating courgettes and tomatoes in some shape, form or another over the course of the next 2-3 weeks I thought I’d ease myself in gently…  So after having a quick look in the freezer I settled on the idea of a green vegetable soup, which was quick and easy to make and tasted fresh.

However, I feel that I am not doing my trip to London justice in terms of food… On Thursday I attended a celebratory meal which was held at a brilliant little restaurant near to London Bridge called Champor Champor.  The restaurant serves Malay food with a slight Thai twist and was found one of my friends via a Google search (what would we do without the internet?!).  Having never tried Malay food before I was interested to see what it was like.  The food I tried was packed with flavour, leaving you with a slight zing on your palate.  The dishes were not dissimilar to some I sampled when backpacking through south-east Asia – however I will definitely be heading back to that restaurant in the not too distant future and am definitely going to try and re-create some of the dishes over the next couple of months!

A Very Green Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 courgette (chopped in to small pieces)
  • 300g broad beans
  • 300g peas
  • Handful fresh spinach (washed)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 sprigs of mint
  • 2 stock cubes dissolved in 750ml boiling water
  •  (either chicken or vegetable)
  • Seasoning
  • Crème fraiche (for serving)


Steps:

  • On a low heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and garlic, cover with a lid and leave to sweat until the onion is soft.
  • Add the courgette to the pan and season well.  Stir occasionally until the courgettes begins to soften.
  • Add the peas, broad beans, mint and stock, bring the mix up to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the mint from the pan.  Then add the spinach and cook for a further 3 minutes.

  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending the soup using either a handheld blender or a liquidiser.
  • Serve the soup warm with crème fraiche.