Halloumi Aubergine Rolls

This is my take on pigs in blankets for the festive season, but just as good all year round.

To make 12 rolls

3 large aubergines
Olive oil
Harissa paste
1 pack of halloumi cheese

Top and tail the aubergines then slice lengthwise, first removing two opposite sides, then slice the remaining aubergine into four long slices lengthwise.

Brush generously with olive and then either griddle until browned and soft or pop them into the oven for around 20 minutes at 200C

You should now have 12 golden brown aubergine sheets

Spread a little harissa paste on each – about a teaspoon but you can vary the amount depending on how hot you like them.

Cut the block of halloumi into 12 equal sized sticks.

Take an aubergine slice and place with the thinner end towards you. Place a halloumi stick across the thin end then roll up towards the thicker end. Try to keep it fairly tight. Place each roll onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

When they are all done put them into the oven at 180C for around 15 minutes until the halloumi has softened.

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Mushroom Pie

A rich and satisfying puff pastry topped pie that makes a great centrepiece for a Sunday lunch or for Christmas Day with all the trimmings

This recipe will feed 5-6 people

1 tablespoon olive oil
A knob of butter or dairy free margarine/spread
1 onion – finely chopped
300g mushrooms – sliced
1x400g tin of green, brown or puy lentils or two generous handfuls of lentils boiled in water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 vegetable stock cube or 1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoon marmite
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 handful parsley – roughly chopped
1 pack of puff pastry
1 egg yolk or a splash of milk (dairy or non dairy)

Heat the oil and butter or spread in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and fry off until well cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Add the soy sauce and stir gently.

Now add the flour and stir well so the mushrooms are coated. Slowly add water, keeping the pan on a medium to high heat, stirring all the time, until you have a nice thick gravy. Now reduce the heat to low, drain and add the lentils, stir in the marmite and crushed stock cube or bouillon powder. Simmer gently for around 5 minutes then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Take a 20cm pie dish and fill with the mushroom and lentil mixture. Brush a little egg or milk around the edge of the dish, then top with the pastry, pressing down gently and tucking into the sides of the dish. Trim the edges of the pastry. Now get creative and decorate the top with shapes from the pastry trimmings. I used Christmas trees as it was Christmas and trees are nice and easy to make.

Brush the whole thing with egg or milk and pop in the oven at 200C for around 45 minutes or until golden brown and pastry and your decorations ave puffed up.

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Courgette and Cheese Tart with Beetroot and Bulgur Wheat Salad

I’ve always struggled to build the right kind of relationship with courgettes. They are so easy to grow provided you have sufficient space. However some late summer they produce so many that it becomes a struggle knowing quite what to do with them all. On a good day I can pick 6 to 8 of them, only to find another crop just a few days later.

We recently had our first frost as winter starts to show its face and with that the courgette plants wither and start the process of becoming next year’s compost. Funny thing is, I miss them. I miss being able to pick my own and I refuse to buy them from the supermarket out of season. However if you are more relaxed about your courgette relationship you could try this tart

This is like a quiche but made with puff pastry rather than shortcrust. Despite blind baking to restrict the amount of rise in the pastry, it still takes on a life of its own. Very different to a traditional quiche or tart.

I served it with a salad made from raw beets, carrots and bulgur wheat.

To make the tart
1 onion – finely sliced
2 medium courgettes – sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 eggs
A splash of cream (optional)
1 pack of puff pastry – I use ready rolled for ease
150g crumbly cheese – Lancashire, Feta, Wensleydale all work well
salt and pepper

Put the oven onto 200C. Line a loose bottomed, metal tart tin with the pastry. This usually requires using two pieces of pastry so make sure there are no cracks in the join else the filling will leak through. Keep the off cuts for now. Pop a sheet of baking parchment over the base, fill with baking beans (or use dried beans or chick peas) to weigh it down, then bake for around 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the parchment. Let the beans cool and store them for reuse.

Meanwhile you can make the filling. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgette slices over a high heat. You want a little colour to develop as this adds some flavour to the otherwise bland courgettes. When browned and a little charred on both sides, remove and allow to cool. Turn the heat down and fry the onion gently until browned and starting to caramelise. Add these to the courgettes and allow to cool.

Beat 6 eggs with the cream if using, season to taste then add the cooled courgettes and onions along the the crumbled cheese. Pour into your par-baked pastry case. If you like you can use the off cuts of pastry to make a lattice top as per the photo. Brush with a little milk then place in the oven for 35-45 minutes until browned and the egg filling has set. Remove from the oven and from the tin and serve with the salad.

For the salad
1 medium beetroot
1 medium carrot
100g bulgur wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
A very large handful of Parsley
salt

Boil a kettle. Pop the wheat in a bowl. Just cover with boiling water and leave until all the water has been absorbed.

Take a large mixing bowl and grate the beetroot and carrot. Roughly chop the parsley and add this then add the other ingredients including the cooked bulgur wheat. Mix well and season to taste

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Spiralised Butternut Squash with Courgette Polpette in a Rich Tomato Sauce

At this time of year the harvest from the allotment is at its finest. I can pick courgettes every day and still they keep coming. 2016 has been a bumper year for tomatoes and I have found the best way to store them is to roast them, blitz with a hand blender then pour the hot, rich, sweet, deep red sauce into sterile jars and seal.

This is a variation on my original courgette ball recipe which you can find jere, this time using butternut squash in place of spaghetti and a jar of roasted cherry tomato sauce.

To serve 4

Make the courgette polpette as per the recipe here. For a gluten free version substitute gram flour for the flour.

Put to one side.

Take 2 butternut squashes, peel, cut into large sections, deseed then run through a spiraliser. You may find your spiraliser struggles to get through. Mne scored the veg and I had to carefully tease the strands from one another.

Next make the tomato sauce. Heat a pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic, fry for a few seconds until softened then add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, a large jar of passata or, if using fresh, roast the tomatoes for 1 hour at 200C, blend then add to the garlic and oil. Simmer gently to thicken.

Place a large, deep frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the butternut. Stir gently and fry for around 7-8 minutes until starting to soften. Add the courgette polpette then the sauce. Stir gently over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until everything is hot.

Serve with a sprinkling of vegetarian Parmesan style cheese.

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New Potato and Edamame Salad

The father of a friend of my son has a potato farm in Jersey. He very kindly sent us a box of delicious early Jersey Royals. So flavoursome they don’t need much added to turn them into a delicious potato salad. You can buy podded, frozen edamame at most supermarkets now. This works well served with a tart perhaps, or just with some hummus, yogurt and flatbread.

The number is serves depends on how many potatoes you use and what you are serving with.

Small new potatoes (Any type will do)
A dollop of pesto – I used Basil but you can use your favourite type
A handful of edamame – or use broad beans or peas
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes, bring back to the boil and cook for 5-8 minutes depending on size. Check they are just soft. Drain and leave to cool.

Bring more water to the boil and cook the edamame as per the instructions. If using broad beans, boil for 3-4 minutes, drain, rinse in cold water then pop the skins off.

Mix the potatoes (cut them into chunks if they are on the large side) with the edamame and pesto. Add a little olive oil to loosen the dressing. Then season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Herbs

100g puy or green lentils
1 bay leaf
200g of your favourite grain (bulgur, millet, farro, quinoa, pearl barley)
1 smallish cauliflower of half a large one
half a teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, salt
a handful of cherry tomatoes – halved
half a cucumber – diced
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic – minced
2-3 large handfuls of herbs (parsley, mint)
pomegranate seeds

Start by cooking the lentils in a pan of water with the bay leaf. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for around 20 minutes until tender but holding their shape. Drain, rinse under cold water, discard the bay leaf and leave to one side.

Cook your grains as per the instructions. If in a hurry use bulgur as they don’t need cooking, just soaking in boiling water for 20-25 minutes. Once cooked, drain and allow to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. Cur the cauliflower into smallish florets then fry in the oil over a medium to high heat, stirring occasionally. Fry for 10 minutes until starting to brown. Add the ground spices and a splash of water, stir well until the cauliflower is coated with the spice mixture, cover with a lid and allow to steam for a further 4 minutes until tender then allow to cool.

Take a large bowl and add the remaining olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper. Mix well then add the cooked grains, cauliflower, tomatoes and cucumber. Roughly chop the herbs and add them too. Mix well then transfer to a nice serving dish. Finally, scatter the pomegranate seeds over and serve with flat breads and natural soya or dairy yogurt.

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Pea, Mint and Courgette Soup

For those who grow your own vegetables you are no doubt all too familiar with the late summer glut of courgettes. Here is yet another way of using some of them up. Works well with the larger ones you forget to pick too as you can just simmer off some of the excess water they contain. If the skin is a little tough then peel it off with a potato peeler.

Makes enough for 4 people

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion – chopped
1 clove garlic – chopped
2 medium courgettes – cut roughly into chunks
3 cups of peas – fresh or frozen
1 green chili – optional
A large handful of mint – roughly chopped
vegetable stock – just enough to cover the vegetables
salt and black pepper to taste
Spring onions – sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently over a medium heat until translucent.Now add the garlic and fry for 1 minute before adding the courgettes. Continue over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. You want the courgettes to be softened and starting to brown just a little. Too brown and your soup will lose the green appeal.

If you lie a little heat, cut a slit lengthwise into the chili and add that. Then add the peas and enough stock to just come up to the height of the vegetables. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until everything is soft. Add the mint and stir until wilted.

Remove the soup from the heat and blend with a stick blender or transfer to a food processor. Blitz until smooth then return to the pan if required to heat through. Season to taste and serve with breads and the sliced spring onion.

For a non vegan version you could server with a little crumbled feta or a splash of cream.

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