Sunday, 29 November 2009

Whatrachelatetoday has moved!

What Rachel Ate Today has now now moved to

I've done this for several reasons, mostly to put my (limited) developing skills to the test and make a pretty site with lots of new exciting bits. You can now search for recipes by category of look for recipes using a particular ingredient. All in all, I hope, a much more enjoyable blog to read and use.

So update your RSS feeds, if you don't know what I'm talking about, see here, and if any of you have been nice enough to link to me from your blog - please update that link too ( I look forward to seeing you all at!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pumpkin and goats' cheese tart

The sweet flesh of pumpkin goes perfectly with the sharp savouryness of goats' cheese. This is another recipe from Ottolenghi. This time a super easy pumpkin (or butternut squash) puff pastry tart with goats cheese, pine nuts and garlic. Perfect straight out of the oven with a simple salad and equally good at room temperature the next day. For an impressive starter, cut the pastry into squares to make indiviudual tartlets.


serves 4

1 small pumpkin (about 1kg), peeled, deseeded and cut into quarters
250g puff pastry
100ml soured cream
100g goats' cheese
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 chilli, finely chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
small handful chopped parsley

*Drizzle the pumpkin wedges in a little oil and season well. Bake in the oven at 200C for 30-45 minutes until soft.
*Once cool enough to handle, slice the pumpkin into thin slices.
*Roll the pastry out into a rectangle about 2mm thick and spread the soured cream on top.
*Lay the pumpkin slices onto the pastry and crumble over the goats' cheese. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
*Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top.
*Meanwhile, mix the oil, garlic, chilli and parsley in a bowl.
*Once the tart's cooked, brush the parsley dressing on top.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Carrot and Green Mango Salad

Every so often it feels really good to eat a bowl of raw, shredded vegetables doused in an interesting dressing or perked up with some cheese or toasted seeds. The simple act of chewing your way through is enough to make you feel virtuous and purified. Perhaps even virtuous enough to squeeze in a sticky toffee pudding for afters?

This recipe came from Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey - shredded carrot, mango and smoked mackerel with a spicy and sweet dressing of lime juice, palm sugar and fish sauce - all topped off with crunchy peanuts.

While it might sound like a strange combination, the flavours actually come together really well to create a colourful, light and refreshing salad. If you don't have palm sugar or Thai basil and don't mind veering from authenticity, then I imagine you could substitute honey for the palm sugar and basil for the Thai basil.


serves 2

4 smoked mackerel fillets, broken into large flakes
1 green mango, cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
small handful peanuts, roasted and chopped
small handful Thai sweet basil
2tsp palm sugar
1tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp lime juice

*Mix the smoked mackerel, mango, carrot, onion, peanuts and Thai basil in a large bowl.
*Mix the palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice together in a separate bowl. Pour over the ssalad and toss together.
*Pile onto plates.


Monday, 9 November 2009

Sticky ginger and banana bread

I had wanted to post this in time for Bonfire Night as the warming ginger in this cake seems to make it perfect for eating next to a bonfire, preferably with a mug of mulled wine in the other hand. Even though it's a little late, it's still perfect for perking you up in colder weather.

This started life as a Jamie Oliver recipe, but has since swayed quite a lot off course. Jamie's recipe is here, for my version, I added a couple of bananas I had lying around (they were actually snuggled up to the last of our green tomatoes in the hope that they might turn red) and cut down on the vast quantities of sugar and golden syrup. However, the finished result is still sticky and sweet and full of gingery kick. It's also firm enough to travel well as a little snack for the office, which is always good.

I also wanted to share a neat trick that I discovered recently. If you don't have a cake tester (who does?) then a strand of spaghetti works really well. Instead of huge dents left by testing with a knife, and I usually end up testing a few times, you get a barely discernible hole. Genius!


8 pieces stem ginger
4 tbsp stem ginger syrup
150g butter, softened
100g golden syrup
50g dark muscavado sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Put the stem ginger into a food processor and whizz until it's a paste.
Add the syrup, softened butter, golden syrup and sugar and blend until thick and fluffy.
Add the eggs and blend again until well combined and smooth.
Sift in the flour, baking poweder, ground ginger and cinamon and blend until a thick better forms.
Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin, smooth the mixture with a spatula and sprinkle over the sugar.
Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until risend and golden and a cake tester comes out clean.


Sunday, 1 November 2009

Cauliflower Risotto

We culled our tomatoes plants this weekend and brought them inside in the hope that a little warmth might turn a few red. It felt like the true end of summer, winter coats and scarves are now being pulled on and the winter veg has started arriving. Bags of dark green curly kale, cauliflower, broccoli and squashes all turned up in our veg box this week.

One of the things I love about getting a veg box is the monotony. Believe it or not, receiving cauliflower for the third week in a row forces you to get creative and try new things. Last year it was toasted cauliflower florets with crème fraîche and pasta or silky smooth soups livened up with cannellini beans. This year, I have a feeling this will be our staple. A Jamie Oliver recipe from his jaunt around Italy. A rich, creamy risotto, packed with little cauliflower florets and a crispy anchovy breadcrumbs sprinkled over. Not only will this make you love cauliflower, you will want to go out and but more cauliflower so that you can make it again.

Not much different from a classic risotto, all you do is cook the florets in the hot stock and add them towards the end, breaking them into the risotto as you go finishing with plenty of butter and a little parmesan. For the crunchy chilli pangrattato, simply whizz stale bread with a tin of anchovies and a little chili, then fry until golden. The full recipe is here.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Chickpea, Sausage and Kale Stew

I cooked this stew in about 20 minutes flat, with a spoonful of yoghurt this was a perfect Saturday lunch, eaten hungrily from the bowl after a morning of gardening. If you’ve some crusty bread, then by all means use it to soak up the smoky juices, otherwise a spoon is all you need.

I often slice open sausages, remove the skin and tear off little chunks, they’re the perfect size for sauces and stews and go crisp and golden in the heat. A decent sprinkling of paprika evokes the spicy smoky flavour of chorizo in it’s absence. Add the usual onion and garlic, a tin of chickpeas and a tin of chopped tomatoes. Wait until this is bubbling ferociously before adding some shredded kale to preserve the vibrant green colour. Then, cook the whole thing for 10 or 15 minutes until the kale is tender and the tomato sauce thickened (you may need to add a little extra water). Simple as that and you’re left with a healthy, hearty pot perfect for a biting October day. For a proper soup, add some vegetable stock to thin it out.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Courgette and Barley Salad

I bought a bag of barley last year with high hopes of making hearty soups and comforting stews in the winter months. A year later and there was still half a bag languishing in the back of the cupboard. We've still got some courgettes in the fridge, and I decided to try using the cooked barley in a filling, healthy salad. Think of cooked barley like bulghar wheat, it has a chewy, nutty texture that works perfectly with lots of fresh herbs and veggies. I've also got it on my list to try as an alternative to arborio rice for a healthier version of a risotto.

This is a simple salad of fried courgettes, mint, spring onion and goats' cheese, what really makes it is stirring the cheese into the hot barley to create a creamy cheesy sauce. This keeps well and the flavours develop over time, so perfect for making in advance although I would allow it to come to room temperature before serving and sprinkle over a few extra chopped herbs.


300g pearl barley, cooked in vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
3 medium courgettes, chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
1 small bunch mint, roughly chopped
1/2 lemon, juice
4tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions, sliced
200g feta or goats cheese

  • Heat the olive oil in pan and fry the courgettes until golden, add a squeeze of lemon and season well.
  • Stir the courgettes and the remaining ingredients into the hot, cooked barley. Stir well and season to taste.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Apple and olive oil cake

I've been lusting after the Ottolenghi Cookbook for a while and I finally got it for my birthday a few weeks ago. A weekend lusting after the cakes and beautiful salads ensued as I littered it with post-it notes for 'must try' recipes.

For those of you not familiar with the London restaurant, this book is all about big and beautiful salads, using ingredients in new and delicious ways as well as the most fabulous cakes and pastries - the best of both worlds then...(see this post for 101 Cookbook's take on Ottolenghi and another recipe). Yotam Ottolenghi also has a regular column in the Guardian on Saturday - Yotam Ottolenghi's inventive, modern vegetarian recipes.

Everyone who has this book has recommended the apple and olive oil cake so it was top of my to-do list. A light and airy cake packed full of apples, lemon zest and olive oil. The olive oil is not overpowering at all but adds a wonderful complex flavour. And, it just keeps getting better, the whole thing is sandwiched together with luscious maple syrup icing (I used golden syrup) - a delicious butterscotch take on the classic cream cheese icing.

This cake was devoured in a matter of days to a chorus of quiet 'mmms...' Need I say more?Make this cake and make it soon.


280g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
120ml olive oil
160g caster sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 Bramley apples, peeled cored and chopped into 1cm dice
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g light muscavado sugar
85ml maple syrup (or golden syrup)
220g cream cheese, at room temperature

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the olive oil, vanilla and sugar (preferably with an electric whisk) together until voluminous and smooth. Next whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
  • Stir in the apples and lemon zest and then the flour.
  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold carefully into the cake batter.
  • Grease and line two sandwich tins and bake for 45mins until a cake batter comes out clean.
  • Once cooked, allow the cakes to cool completely before icing.
  • To make the icing, beat together the butter and maple syrup and sugar until light and airy. Beat in the cream cheese until totally smooth.
  • Use the icing to the sandwich the cakes and smooth the remaining on top.


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Courgette Spaghetti

I discovered a new blog recently - Smitten Kitchen. It quickly went on my google reader subscribe list and I'm now suitably hooked so I urge you check it out too. This recipe immediatley appealed as it's another courgette recipe. Although very similar to other courgette pasta, this is a sort of light version. Courgettes are shredded finely, preferably with a mandolin for paper thin strips, but you can do it with a sharp knife too (see the picture below, although I must warn you now, I am particularly anal when it comes to chopping things finely). The idea being that the courgette take the place of some of the pasta, so you have a lighter summery dish. Simply soften a little garlic and chilli in a generous glug of olive oil, throw in the courgette and cook for a minute or so if that (longer if you're strips are larger). Add some cooked spaghetti, a few torn basil leaves (or chopped parsley) and season well. Serve with grated cheese if you like.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Roasted Carrot and Bean Salad

Another 101cookbooks recipe, this one caught my eye as a tasty way to eat carrots (I've been leaning towards cakes recently). I had some friends round for dinner and we eat this with roasted trout and artichokes with almonds, breadcrumbs and mint from Jamie Oliver. Unfortunately, there aren't any pictures but the recipe is here and believe me it was delicious and the carrot salad went perfectly. Just enough bulk to fill you up but light enough that you feel comfortably full.

We eat this at room temperature and I think it definitely needs a good 30mins for the flavours to settle and develop and will no doubt be delicious the day after. What follows is my version, I made a few tweaks to suit what I had at home. Parsley instead of dill and a little ground cumin for warmth.

5 medium carrots
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
1 can borlotti or cannellini beans, drained
1tbsp brown sugar
1 red onion, finely diced
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
juice 1/2 lemon

Wash the carrots well and slice diagonally into coins about 1/2cm thick.
Put in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Drain.
Heat the oil and cumin in a large frying pan until sizzling. Tumble in the carrots, fry over a high heat for about 5mins until golden.
Add the beans and sugar and fry until beginning to caramelise.
Spoon the mixture into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well and season - checking if it needs a drizzle more oil or a little more lemon juice.


Monday, 28 September 2009

Jamaican Veggie Patties

I had a few odds and ends of vegetables in the fridge, a carrot here, the end of a cabbage there and a handful of new potatoes. I've been making a lot of soup recently so I decided to give this recipe from 101cookbooks a go. Sweet little vegetable patties with a little spice and coconut milk. You'll have to excuse the pastry as I didn't go all out and make the traditional patty pastry flavoured with turmeric giving it an orange hue. But even without this, these are dangerously moreish. what started the afternoon as a pile of patties, quickly disappeared as everytime I ventured near the kitchen, I took another bite. Hot pepper sauce is obligatory here. Don't worry, the pastry dilutes the fire and you're left with a tang that is perfect with the spiced filling. It also goes without saying that you can use whatever combination of vegetables you have on hand.



Saturday, 26 September 2009

Carrot and Pecan Cake

This cake was inspired by the delicious Gails in Hampstead. We went there for a post lunch cake and coffee (and promptly spent £10!). I decided on the carrot cake, a big blousy affair covered in cream cheese icing, moist and absolutely delicious.

It inspired me to make my own, especially as there are usually a few carrots lingering at the bottom of the fridge. This cake is a mish mash of flavours, yoghurt and oil for moistness, chopped dates reduce the amount of sugar needed and add a touch of caramel, a hint of orange and plenty of chopped pecans.

Is it as good as Gails? I think so and I don't have to pay 4 quid for a slice...


75g yoghurt
125ml sunflower oil
zest 1 orange and juice of 1/2
150g sugar
100g dates, finely chopped into a paste
3 eggs
175g plain flour
2 1/2tsp baking powder
2tsp cinnamon
3 carrots, peeled and finely grated
100g pecans, chopped

Whisk the sugar, oil, zest and yoghurt in a large mixing bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time and whisk in thoroughly followed by the orange juice and dates.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix well.
Stir in the carrots and pecans.
Transfer to 2 lined sandwich tins and bake at 180C for 30mins until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

For the icing, beat a 200g tub of cream cheese cheese with 200g icing sugar and a squeeze of orange.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Potato Bread

I've written about potato bread before (here), but that was almost a year ago and I was inspired to mention it again after baking some this weekend. Since last year, we have (on and off) had a pretty much continuous supply of potato bread, sometimes we use a little rye or spelt flour to give it more character, sometimes we bake it in different shapes. What stays the same is the sourdough like tang and the unbelievable toast it makes. Shop brought bread just doesn't cut it in comparison.

The idea of making bread yourself can often seem a daunting task. Whilst it does invariably take time, it's certainly not difficult and it is so satisfying to remove a delicious looking loaf of bread from the oven and the smell is incredible. I usually boil a couple of extra potatoes when I'm making mash or roast potatoes. If I have lots, then I cook enough to make 2 loaves as it freezes excellently.

Then all you do is reserve some of the starchy water the potatoes are cooked in and mash some potatoes into a large bowl containing, flour, salt, yoghurt and yeast; roll your sleeves up and get kneading. Let it rise in a warm place for an hour or two, punch out all the air and let it rise again before baking in a hot oven until golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

As long as your water isn't too hot (this will kill the yeast and stop it working), and you give it a good knead, there's not much that go wrong.

Also, check out these tips from baking god Dan Lepard.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

Sweetcorn Fritters

Can you spot the pattern here? At certain times of the year, we seem to be inundated with the vegetable du jour, so after I've made my usual recipe, I'm forced to consult my cookery shelf for inspiration. Don't get me wrong, this is why I love my veg box, it forces me to constantly try new recipes.

At the moment, it's sweetcorn and tomatoes and rocket from our garden (well, plant pots). Last weeks salsa was definitely a success, but I wanted something new. I found this recipe in Bill's Sydney Food by Bill Granger. While he is almost unbearably smug on TV, I love the sunny, bright styling of his book and the simplicity of his recipes.

These are fairly simple to make and are bound to impress, sweet and crisy sweetcorn in a batter full of coriander and chilli. I had them for a simple lunch with avocado, rocket and tomatoes and a the obligatory dollop of yoghurt. But, I have a sneaky feeling that they'd work perfectly with a fried egg and beans for brunch. Bill suggests serving them with roasted tomatoes and bacon. If you're making these for a lots of people, you can cook them in advance and just warm through in the oven.


Serves 4

2 corn cobs, kernals removed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
1 small bunch spring onions, sliced
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp paprika
1tbsp sugar
2 eggs
250ml milk

  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and mix with the paprika. Whisk in the egg and milk with plenty of salt and pepper until you have a smooth batter.
  • Mix the sweetcorn, chilli, coriander and spring onions in a bowl and stir in the batter until combined.
  • Heat a large frying with a large glug of oil. Once hot, place a tablespoon of mixture into the pan and press on it lightly to spread it out into a fritter.
  • Cook for a few mins on both sides until golden and remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper while you cook the rest of the fritters.


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Toasted Sweetcorn Salsa

This salsa makes the best of late summer ingredients. Fresh sweetcorn, crispy and sweet, flavoursome tomatoes and fruity chillis from our (very small) kitchen garden finished off with some lime and coriander. Try it spooned over nachos complete with plenty of guacamole and soured cream.

We used it in a mexican inspired (I make no claims of authenticity) brunch. Spoon some salsa onto a warm tortilla, top with some sliced avocado, a dollop of yoghurt and plenty of grated cheese and finish off with a fried egg. Wrap it up and prepare to make a mess as you eat it. I like this kind of brunch as I get the satisfaction of a fried egg (I'm all about eggs at the weekend) while shoe-horning in some vegetables at the same time, especially useful if I overindulged the night before. Eating something a little lighter than a full english also helps me fight the urge to go back to bed and no emerge again for the rest of the day...


1 red onion ( or a small bunch spring onions)
1 red chilli
2 cloves garlic
100g tomatoes
all finely chopped
1 sweetcorn cob
handful roughly chopped coriander
juice 1/2 lime

  • Peel the skin from the sweetcorn cob and run a knife down the edge to remove the kernels.
  • Heat a large frying pan, add a slug of oil and soften the onion, garlic and chilli for a few minutes.
  • Add the sweetcorn and continue to fry for a few more minutes until the sweetcorn is cooked, but still with a little bite.
  • Add the lime juice, tomatoes and coriander and season well.


Saturday, 12 September 2009

Carrot and Lentil Soup

As I've mentioned before, I'm loving soup at the moment. With the weather on the turn, its the perfect comforting bowl and as I'm discovering, so easy. It's just a case of chopping and then sweating down some onion with whatever vegetables you have to hand; try adding lentils or beans to make it into a meal. This Cabbage and Bacon soup is a favourite from last year, or how about a zesty Courgette, Chickpea and spinach soup that makes the most of the last of the courgette glut.

This carrot soup is lovely and simple. Sweet carrots and lentils are simmered into a thick and warming soup and a hint of chilli and cumin add background warmth. Great for using up any limp carrots lurking in the bottom of the fridge (I always seem to have a few) and equally good (perhaps better) with brand new sweet and crisp carrots.

As usual, I would reccommend making lots for dinner, lunchboxes, afternoon snacks and finally the freezer - if you're going to make soup, you may as well make a big pot.

I blended this until chunkily smooth, but my mum (from whom I got recipe inspiration) simply simmers the soup for an age until the vegetables and lentils literally disintegrate. Try serving with a drizzle of olive oil, a dollop of yoghurt or a handful of shredded spinach for greenery.


serves 4

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli
4 medium carrots
-all roughly chopped
1tbsp cumin seeds
100g red lentils
1l vegetable stock

  • Heat a large saucepan pan and add a knob of butter with a little oil to stop it burning.
  • Add the onions, garlic, chilli and carrots and cook for 5 or so mins until softeneded.
  • Add the cumin seeds and cook for a few mins more.
  • Add the lentils and stir until coated in fragrant oil.
  • Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30mins.
  • If you want to, blend the soup until smooth.


Saturday, 29 August 2009

Roast Chicken and Bulghar Wheat Salad

A summery take on a simple roast chicken - using sage from our garden, lemon zest, garlic and butter as flavour. Eaten with this courgette and bulghar wheat salad, an extra smattering of pine nuts and some cooling, garlicky tzatiki.

To make the taztiki, I grated a cucumber, salted it and left it to drain for 15-30mins. Squeeze out the excess water (there should be a lot), tip into a bowl and mix with greek yoghurt, finely chopped garlic and a little lemon juice. Finish with black pepper and a drizzle of oil.

This is perfect summer eating, there's no pressure to serve it piping hot, indeed it's better lukewarm and eaten casually outside. In fact, you could joint the chicken and BBQ it instead, swapping the butter for olive oil. I'm a fan of uncomplicated BBQs - making one great piece of meat the star so you don't spend hours cooking burgers and sausages. We're recently had success with a huge leg of lamb, marinaded overnight, cooked briefly in the oven and then finished on the BBQ. Sliced thinly and eaten in pittas with tazatiki and tomato salsa - that's my kind of BBQ.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Banana, Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

I've taken to freezing bananas whenever there's a stray overripe one lying around. It renders them almost completely useless, as they turn into a sludgy mess when defrosted. However, looks aside, they do make perfect banana bread and that way I can freeze a banana every so often until I have enough in the freezer to bake with.

I came across this recipe while looking up Nigella classic banana bread in How to be a Domestic Goddess. These are ridiculously easy to make and taste as good at they sound. The dried raspberries (or cherries) contrast with the sweet banana muffin and the white chocolate adds a butterscotch touch.


Taken from How to be a Domestic Goddess but changed slightly

125g butter
200g sugar
1tsp vanilla
3 ripe medium bananas
4tbsp yoghurt
2 eggs
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp baking powder
300g flour
40g dried raspberries, cherries
50g white chocolate

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tray with cases.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the sugar and vanilla using a fork.
  • Add the bananas, mashing them into the mixture as you go.
  • Stir in the eggs, yoghurt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Finally add the flour, chocolate and raspberries, stir until just combined and divide between the 12 muffins cases.
  • Bake for 20mins until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.


Thursday, 20 August 2009

Brixton's Bazaar

Anyone who loves to cook harbours fantasies of having their own market stall. Naturally, I have always wanted one, but having worked in the food buisness for a long time, I know that it is a lot of work for not a lot of reward. That said, I found myself agreeing to fill a spot at the up and coming Brixton's Bazaar - a market that's just got going opposite the Ritzy and in time will be on the newly renovated Windrush Square complete with live music and performances.

So, a Saturday of baking ensued and my friend Kat and I produced a pile of brownies, lemon drizzle cake, carrot cake, vanilla cupcakes and chocolate Guinness cake. All the usual suspects but so good when homemade (well). Of course, the chocolate Guinness cake is a little different, a Nigella gem (obviously) - you do get a hint of Guinness in the cake, but really you just end up with a rich, dense, almost fudgy cake that is so easy to make (recipe here).

Things were a little quiet as the market has only just got going, but there were still plenty of people and it was so satisfying to see people enjoying the cakes - there were a few double takes when people tried samples and said "wow, that is really good!". Having said that, several people seemed genuinely surprised that we actually made them ourselves! Of course, in my experience, the best bit about doing a market is the sense of community and the swapping of goods at the end. In exchange for some leftover cakes we got some olives, a chorizo and some delicious creole fish cakes. Read more...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Courgette Fritters with a Tomato and Almond Sauce

I'm aware this is another courgette recipe. What can I say? We're overwhelmed, not only are we getting them from our vegbox but the marrows are also threatening to take over at the allotment we're babysitting.

Having said that, it's amazing what the pressure to use up a couple of huuuge marrows can do, I've come up with some genuinely delicious and different ways to cook courgettes, my favourite is still this soup, we made a huge batch out of the marrows.

This recipe is another gem, from none other than Cranks, I always forget just how good this book is, full of delicious and unique vegetarian recipes. It has guided me through budding vegetarianism and fed my friends and I through university.

These are crisp, delicate, gnocchi-esque fritters, eaten with a spicy tomato and almond sauce, couscous and yoghurt. I made the tomato sauce the day before in about 10mins and then made the fritters on the day. Cranks suggests making little balls and deep frying them. We went the lazy route and shaped larger fritters that we shallow fried. However, next time I think I will go all out and deep fry them (and I include instructions to do that below) - the crispy edges are just so good.


Serves 4

500g courgette, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
60g flour
1tsp paprika
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3tbsp chopped coriander
1/4tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1 bunch coriander, chopped
vegetable oil for frying

Tomato and Almond Sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 small piece ginger, grated, juice reserved
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp turmeric
2tsp paprika
2tsp garam masala
1 can chopped tomatoes
3tbsp ground almonds
To serve: couscous, yoghurt and extra chopped coriander

Make the tomato and almond sauce first, it benefits from sitting around for a while letting the flavours develop.

  • Heat a large saucepan with a splash of oil. Fry the onions, ginger and chilli for 5 or so mins. Add the spices and fry for a few mins more.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes and ground almonds. Simmer for 15-20mins until thick and season well.
To make the courgette fritters:
  • Squeeze the grated courgettes in a muslin cloth or clean towel to remove as much excess water as possible and tip into a large mixing bowl
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  • Now pour the oil into a deep saucepan – you want it to be about 10–12cm deep – and heat it to 180°C. To check, just drop a piece of bread into the oil, if it floats and starts to sizzle immediately, it's ready.
  • Flour your hands and shape a tablespoon of mixture at a time into small balls. Carefully place into the hot oil. Fry the pieces gently, turning them a couple of times with a slotted spoon.
  • When they’re browned and crisp, lift them out of the oil, allowing any excess to drip back into the pan, and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve on a mound of couscous with a spoonful of the sauce, a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkling of coriander.

Carrot and Radish Salad

This came about by using up the dregs leftover in the fridge (as is so often the case). We're not massive fans of radish in our house and we always seem to have more carrot than we know what to do with. As I've said before, I will happily eat grated carrot with nothing more than a drizzle of sharp mustardy dressing, but Pete has started to complain so I threw in a few extras to jazz it up.

Bright, colourful and crunchy, with added saltiness from proper deli olives and tang from mustard dressing. It will happily and indeed should sit around for an hour or two for the flavours to meld and to take some of the edge of the red onion. We eat ours with little cubes of crispy roasted potatoes and a piece of fried salmon - simple summer eating. Also, everyone knows how good carrot and hummus sandwiches are - imagine how good leftovers of this are on hummus sandwiches.


Makes a large salad - enough for 4 people as a side salad

4 medium carrots, peeled and grated coarsely
1 small bunch of radish
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
small handful olives, sliced
generous drizzle mustard dressing
handful of seedy sprinkle

This is essentially an assemble job, mix the ingredients together, drizzle with dressing and leave until you're ready to eat - at which point I would stir it a little to freshen it up or decant into a clean bowl (I'm a big fan of decanting into clean bowls). All I will mention is how I cut up the radishes. Clean, top and tail and cut into 4 slices lenghtways; while still holding them together, cut into 4 slices in a perpendicular direction so that you end up with radish batons - a little labour intensive but it works much better with the grated carrot.


Monday, 10 August 2009

Seedy Spinkle

Having been a vegetarian for so long (although decidedly lapsed now...) I know you don't need meat to complete a meal. And while I certainly appreciate the charms of a roast chicken, or sausage or steak; I love vegetables and am happy to make them the star of the show.

Unfortunately, they are often jostling for space with my other favourites - eggs, cream, cheese, potatoes, pasta rice - you get the picture. In an attempt to eat a balance diet, I often shoehorn in more veggies with a side salad. Nothing fancy and at this time of year, its downright easy with everything tasting so damn good.

I always have seedy sprinkle and mustard dressing on hand, these two will liven up anything. Be it a few lettuce leaves or a grated carrot. I like to add finely chopped red onion or spring onions. Cool and creamy avocados for a hint of oily goodness. Quartered cherry tomatoes - so sweet and full of flavour right now. Thinly sliced fennel or cabbage, a handful of defrosted peas add a little sweetness. The list goes on...

I used to make this seedy sprinkle in big batches when I worked at pieceofplenty, hazelnuts, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds roasted in chilli powder, paprika and soy sauce. You're left with crunchy, spicy seeds that make any salad instantly delicious, be it simply grated carrots or a couscous salad.

I've not been able to get my fix lately, so I knocked up my own batch today. It was all done in half an hour.

To make this, heat a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil and sprinkle in 2tsp of paprika and 1-2tsp chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it). Heat until sizzling and tumble in 500g mixed seeds or nuts. The mixture is down to you, I like lots of pumpkin seeds, but chopped cashews would also be delicious. Stir really well and make sure the seeds are coated in the bright red oil. Roast in a large tray for 20-30mins until brown.

Pour back into the saucepan and drizzle over 2-3tbsp soy sauce. Heat and stir frantically until the soy is absorbed, giving the seeds and salty coating. Allow to cool and store in an airtight jar.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Courgette Carbonara

We were away at the weekend and so returned to a huge pile of vegetables, not only from the vegbox but also kindly donated from an allotment. In search of courgette inspiration, I got this recipe from Rachel Eats. A wonderful blog brimming with simple, colourful and delicious Italian food. Every time I read it, it makes me yearn to have long leisurely lunches of pasta. In a departure from the norm, I actually followed this recipe as is, it's super easy and you end up with smooth and creamy pasta, made a little lighter and fresher by the use of courgette and basil rather than bacon.

The only tricky bit with carbonara is you need to allow the egg mixture to cook in the residual heat of the pasta and courgettes rather than directly on the hob, so you end up with a silky sauce rather than scrambled eggs. Jamie Oliver also does something similar.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Courgette, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

Yet another courgette recipe (we're seriously overrun here) and this one I'm really proud of. I'd forgetten how easy a good bowl of soup is to make and how satisfying. Taking inspiration from this 101Cookbooks recipe, this is a simple and fresh soup of courgette and spinach, I add chickpeas for extra thickness and just before blending threw in a load of mint and coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice to make it fresh and zingy. Finish off with a drizzle of good olive oil or a dollop of yoghurt.

Makes enough for 2 with leftovers.

1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 red chilli
2 medium courgettes
about 100g spinach (or spring greens)
all roughly chopped
25g butter
750ml vegetable stock (from bouillon powder is fine)
1 can chickpeas, drained
juice 1/2 lemon
small bunch each of coriander and mint

  • Heat the butter in a large saucepan, sweat the onion, garlic and chilli for 5 or so mins until softened.

  • Add the courgette and continue to cook for a few minutes until they take on some colour.

  • Pour in the hot stock and bring to the boil. Add the chickpeas, and if using spring greens, you want to add them here. cover and simmer for 10-15mins.

  • If using spinach, add now and cook until the spinach is wilted (it will only take about 30s).

  • Add the mint, coriander and lemon juice and blend immediately.


Saturday, 25 July 2009

Courgette, Tomato and Basil Fritatta

A colourful, summery fritatta making the most of the abundant supply of courgettes and sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes at the moment; finished off with a little cheese and a sprinkling of basil (from our overflowing window box). Low in carbs, packed full of veggies and nutrient rich eggs; this is superhealthy summer eating.

Perfect for brunch with bacon or sausages and toast (I would also have it with baked beans but that's probably just me...) or lunch with a green salad eaten in the sunshine.

As with most of my recipes, this is very relaxed. Use what you have; broad beans or spinach would work equally well here. Or maybe, continuing the italian theme, add a torn ball of mozzarella for oozy, stringy, cheesy goodness. Our vegetable boxes have been low on onions recently, but I imagine if I make this again, I'd add a little finely red onion for extra bite. You could also make this even easier by laying the cooked courgettes in the bottom of a small greased baking dish, topping with the tomatoes, basil, cheese and eggs and baking at 180C for about 20mins until puffed up and golden brown.


Serves 2

2 medium courgettes
handful basil, shredded
handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 eggs and a splash of milk
knob butter
approx 50g cheese, grated

  • Slice the courgettes thinly on the diagonal.
  • Heat a medium non-stick frying pan with a little oil. Fry the courgette slices in batches until blistered and brown. Try to refrain from adding too much oil to the pan otherwise you'll end up with a greasy frittata. Season once cooked.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk with plenty of salt and pepper.
  • Once cooked, return all the courgettes to the pan with the butter and spread out evenly, sprinkle the basil and tomatoes over the top.
  • Preheat the grill.
  • Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan, making sure all the vegetables get covered and add the grated cheese. Turn the heat down and using a spatula, carefully scrape the cooked edges inwards, allowing the uncooked eggs to run into the rivulets.
  • Once the frittata is mostly cooked around the edges, but the middle is still fairly runny, pop under the grill until the top is completely set.
  • To serve, run a spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the frittata and cut into 4 wedges.