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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Christmas Lunch

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.