Fried Courgettes with Tomato and Fennel Seed Sauce

9 01 2014

I wasn’t sure how this would work out but being an Ottolenghi-based dish from Waitrose Kitchen magazine I knew it would probably be a safe bet.


The original recipe uses marrow which I find tends to be a little too watery and the skin can sometimes be very tough. I used large courgettes which are more reasdily available and have a little more taste and texture.

2 large courgettes – about 800g
5 cloves garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
400g finely chopped fresh tomatoes
pinch caster sugar
1 tablespoon tomato puree
a few basil leaves

Cut the courgettes into 1.5cm thick slices. Crush 2 cloves of garlic in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt and black pepper. Add the courgettes slices, mix well and leave for at least 30 minutes.

Put the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Thinly slice the remainder of the garlic and add to the pan followeed by the fennel seeds. After about 2 minutes add the tomatoes, sugar and a little salt. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until thickened then remove from the heat and give it a quick blitx with a stick blender. The sauce doesn’t have to be completely smooth, but if you prefer it that way then keep on blitzing…

You can cook the courgettes in a frying pan or griddle or I find it easiest in a pannini grill. Heat the pan, griddle or grill and fry/griddle the marinaded courgette slices in batches until slightly charred on both sides. Spread the cooked courgette slices out in an oven proof dish then pour over the tomato sauce.

You can serve this at room temperature. I prefer it hot which also improves the texture of the courgettes, in which case place in the oven at 180oC for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle chopped, torn of slices basil leaves over the top before serving. Works well with roasted new potatoes, steamed rice or flat breads


Crispy Cavalo Nero

30 12 2013

The allotment is a little bare during the winter months. Only Brussels Sprouts and Cavalo Nero remain. Bored of bubble & squeak, and soups I thought I’d try the Cavalo Nero deep fried which concentrates the flavour whilst retaining the beautiful dark green colour. Cavalo Nero is packed full of vitamins A, C, E and K. These essential vitamins are retained through such quick cooking so this is arguably one of the healthiest deep fried foods you can eat.

Cavalo Nero can be difficult to find in the shops. If you can’t find it, use curly kale instead.


Take 5-8 leaves and remove the tough, woody stalks. Then slice thinly across the leaves.

Take a saucepan and fill a third to half full with sunflower oil. Heat slowly. Test the heat by dropping one shred of Cavalo Nero into the hot oil. if it sizzles, you can add the rest though stand well back as the water in the leaves tend to make to oil bubble up for a few seconds. Fry until the sizzling noise stops, then drain and sprinkle with a little salt and caster sugar. Mix gently before serving.

Serve as an accompaniment to Chinese dishes or like this, piled high on top of a slice of pumpernickel, smothered with creamy, tangy blue cheese.


Christmas Lunch

19 12 2013

Meat free Christmases….. I’ve done a lot of them now, and each year try to think of something new to make. The trouble is, having to serve a centrepiece with all the trimmings, etc restricts us somewhat as it just isn’t natural to make meat free food in the same way as meat. That is, to have the meat as the centrepiece and a bunch of accompaniments around the edge of the plate. Anyway, to please the other meat free guests at the table, and having exhausted my variations of nut roasts over the years, I decided on something involving puff pastry. I usually try to avoid pastry as it is so rich and so high in fat, but hey, it’s Christmas. I can go running more regularly in the New Year.

I settled on a giant mushroom, filled with garlicky spinach and pine nuts and a slice of roasted butternut squash. Then encased the whole thing in a big sheet of puff pastry and bake until crisp and golden.

1 butternut squash
6 large flattish mushrooms
1 pack boursin garlic and herb cheese
100g or so pine nuts
2 big bunches of spinach
3 packs of ready rolled puff pastry

Start by roasting the butternut. Take the thin end (without the seeds), peel and cut into six slices about 1cm thick. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season then roast in the oven at 200C for about 20 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, wash the spinach then wilt in a large pan. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can, then chop roughly.

Take a small frying pan and place over a medium to high heat. Add the pine nuts and toss them gently until toasted. remove from the heat and add to the spinach. Now stir in the pack of Boursin, season with salt and black pepper. Leave to cool.

Peel the mushrooms and remove the stems. Divide the spinach mixture evenly between the six mushrooms then top each with a slice of butternut.

Now take the puff pastry. If using ready rolled, cut each sheet in half then place the filled mushroom, mushroom side down, in the middle of half a sheet. Now carefully fold in each corner in the middle ensuring there are no gaps. Turn the filled ball over and place on a foil or parchment lined baking tray.

When all the mushrooms are wrapped, brush the pastry with a little milk, cut a small steam slit in each then bake for about 25 minutes at 200C until browned.

I served this with a platter of mixed roasted vegetables (beetroot, turnip, parsnip, carrot), roast potatoes, peas, sprouts, brocolli and a gravy made from caramelised onions, vegetable stock, marmite and cornflour.

Beetroot and Celeriac Slaw (and a Baba Ganoush recipe)

31 10 2013

It’s been quite a while since I posted an update here. With this post you get two for one. Two recipes in one post, but perhaps not for dishes that work together. The main reason for writing up both recipes in the same post is that I only have the one photo, with both dishes in it!


The first is for a beetroot and celeriac slaw/salad. Whilst this dish uses beetroot and celeriac you can substitute any similar root vegetable (swede, turnip, fennel, or , though not strictly a root, kohl rabi), just shred them finely and use them raw. Beetroot does work well though both for colour and that earthy sweetness that compliments the creamy yogurt-based dressing

1 medium beetroot
½ head of celeriac
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons natural yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and black pepper

Peel the beetroot and celeriac then grate by hand or in a food processor. Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the grated vegetables and mix well until all the vegetables are coated in the creamy dressing.

The second recipe is for a baba ganoush, sometimes referred to as moutabal. I beautifully creamy, subtly smokey aubergine sauce or dip which can be served as part of a mezze. The smell of burnt aubergine skin is not particularly pleasant and can linger a little in your kitchen but you need to make sure the skin is blackened to get that smokey flavour.

1 large aubergine
1 tablespoon tahini
juice of ½ lemon
1 small garlic clove – crushed
olive oil

Prick the skin of the aubergine with a skewer or knife then place directly over a gas burner on your cooker. If you don’t have gas, place the aubergine under the grill. Make sure you do prick it in several places else it will explode.

Turn the aubergine occasionally until the skin is well charred and the aubergine is soft and collapses when you try to pick it up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, scrape out the flesh and discard the burnt skin. Finely chop the flesh then add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic and enough olive oil to make a smooth paste (about 2-3 tablespoons). Season with salt, mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of ground sumac.


13 10 2013

The wonderful farmers at Riverford sent me a sample of cucamelons. These odd little grape sized fruits grow on a vine and have lovely, if somewhat tough, watermelon-like skins.


I tried one raw. Hmm. Not great A bit like a cucumber only blander. Most articles I googled suggest the cucamelon has a sour hint, a little like lime. I couldn’t taste that. They seemed to taste of very little and those tough skins are quite unappealing. So, what is the best thing to do with bland food….make a curry. Or to be more precise, make an accompaniment to a curry.

I opted for a spiced salad/chutney.

6-8 cucamelons – chopped into small chunks
1 tablespoon red onion – finely chopped
1 red chili – very finely chopped
3-4 cardamon pods – take out the seeds and crush
a pinch of cumin seeds – crushed
juice of half a lime
salt to taste
pinch sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh coriander – choppped
small glug oil

Place everything in a bowl. Mix and leave for half an hour or more for the flavours to develop. If you leave it overnight the cucamelon skins do soften a little. Serve with popadums


or with a spinach, chick pea and paneer curry with bread


Verdict. I still love Riverford, but cucamelons I can happily live without. Have you tried them? What did you think?

FF4 Cookbook Offer

10 09 2013

The nice people at Blurb are offering 20% off all print books through to the end of September. And if you’d rather have an ebook then you can still pick one up for only £2.49. That’s about the price of half a lager in most London pubs.

Use the code SEPTEMBERDEAL at checkout

Spinach Pie (Greek Style)

20 08 2013


I’m not quite ready to surrender to the fact my holiday for this year is over. Having spent a week in Kefalonia (or Cephalonia, or is it Keffalinia) I am continuing with the Greek themed food. Kefalonia is a beautiful island: Stunning scenery, crystal clear water, hot sunshine and some great food. Somewhat surprisingly none of the bakers sold flat, pitta style bread and none of the restaurants had hummus on the menu. They did however have spinach pie and cheese pie (made from “yellow cheese” they told me).


This made a pie big enough to feed 6-8 people
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions – finely sliced into quarter rings
about 650g spinach (raw weight)
4 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 egg
1 block (200g) halloumi cheese – grated
8-10 sheets filo pastry
lots of butter
a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion and fry gently for 15 minutes stirring occasionally until starting to brown. While this is cooking, wash the spinach then place in a large pan, lid on and heat until wilted. Drain in a sieve then squeeze as much liquid as you can from the spinach. Chop well.

Ass the garlic to the onions and fry for a further 5 minutes before adding the spinach. Turn the heat up and stir fry the onion, garlic and spinach until quite dry. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Once cool add the egg, za’atar and grated halloumi. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.

Take a large round dish then melt the butter and brush it over the base and sides of the dish. Take 4-5 sheets of filo pastry and brush with more melted butter, then layer over the base and up the sides of the dish. Spoon in the spinach filling, fold in the overhanging filo, then butter the remaining filo sheets and cover the base. Turn the whole thing out onto a baking sheet, dusted with semolina or polenta.

Heat the oven to 200C. Before placeing the pie in the oven, cut into 8 slices. If you don’t do this now, slicing it will be tricky once the pastry has crisped. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden and crispy, allow to cool a little before serving.





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