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Butternut squash toad-in-the-hole

This is a good hearty Sunday lunch for a vegetarian. One thing I'm missing as I increase my vegetarian-ness is something that's a proper centrepiece for a Sunday roast - those "nut roast" things which are fairly common are OK but I don't think I've had one that could outshine the roast potatoes on a plate. Anyway toad to the rescue. Of course you can do toad-in-the-hole with veggy sausages, but this here is great and not pretending to be anything it isn't!

Serves 2. Takes about 90 minutes in total, including a lot of oven-time where you can do other things.

I recommend you serve this with onion and red wine gravy (takes about 30 mins in a gentle pan), and have some raspberry vinegar available to sprinkle on the pud.

Untitled
  • 1/2 a butternut squash (easiest to use the top half for this one)
  • 75 ml milk
  • 75 ml water
  • 65 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1 egg

With a whisk or a fork, mix the milk, water and egg. Whisk the flour in, beating out any lumps. Now let this batter stand for a little while, e.g. 15 minutes, though it can easily rest for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 210 C.

Peel the squash and cut it into big thick fingers, like oversized chunky chips. (This is easiest if you're using the top of the squash and not the lower half with the seeds.)

Brush a roasting tray with oil (olive or vegetable) and then spread the squash pieces out on it. Drizzle over some more oil then roast the squash in the oven for about 40 minutes. They're going to get a bit more cooking after this, so they don't need to be "done" - they need to be at the point where they're just starting to soften and to get some darkening caramelisation at the edges.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the roasting tin in which you'll cook the toad. This needs to be at least 1 inch deep. Put a good glug of vegetable oil in, and then put this in the oven alongside the other stuff, so the tin and the oil can pre-heat to a good hot heat.

Take the squash out of the oven. If you leave them out a couple of minutes, they'll cool a bit so they're easier to handle in the next step.

Next is assembling the toad. It has to be done quickly! So that everything's hot in the hot tin. Quickly get the hot tin from the oven, pour the batter into it, then place the squash pieces one-by-one into the middle of the batter with a bit of space between them - and immediately return this to the hot oven and shut the door. This then cooks for 20-25 minutes until the batter is risen and crusty, the squash is nicely cooked and getting a nice roast colour.

If you have more pieces of squash than you can accommodate in the tin, simply put them back on the roasting tray and continue to roast them. You can serve them alongside.

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Sweet onion and puy lentil stew

Inspired by Nigel Slater's recipe I made a great and simple vegetarian stew (vegan, in fact), using my black bean chorizo to help add depth of flavour. (If you haven't got any of that, you could probably do something similar just with a blob of black bean sauce, even though the flavour is different?)

Lovely stew

Serves 1 (fairly big portion), takes 25 mins.

  • 125g ready-to-eat puy lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp black bean chorizo
  • 1/4 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Optional: a few mangetouts
  • A few leaves of fresh parsley
  • Optional: a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

In a deep pan which has a lid, heat up about 1 tbsp vegetable oil, while you chop the onion. You want to chop about three-quarters of the onion into whatever size pieces, and the remaining one-quarter of the onion slice it into nice rings, about half a centimetre thick.

The misc pieces of onion, put them in the pan and give them a good fry to get them softened. Add the three spices and stir around. Then add the chorizo - not too much, it's mainly for flavour. Let this cook for two minutes or so.

Then add the lentils and stir, then add enough boiling water to only-just-cover. Put a lid on, turn the heat right down, and let this bubble for 15 minutes.

In the final five minutes, heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Make sure the onion rings are separated into circles, and put them in the pan to fry briskly for 5 minutes, turning halfway. While these are getting a little crispy, chop the mangetouts roughly into maybe 3 pieces each and chuck them into the stew, and also add the bits of parsley and the lemon juice.

When the onion rings are ready, simply put the stew in a bowl and sprinkle the onion rings on top.

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Big aubergine and lemon tagine

I love a lamb tagine, so I'd like to make a vegetarian tagine that competes with it for the fullness of flavour. Here's my best one so far, making it deep and main-coursey by having large chunks of aubergine flavoured with cinnamon to take centre stage, and bitterness from fried lemon slices so that there's contrasting objects in there along with the standard tagine backing.

And yes you're meant to eat the lemon slices, rind and all. You don't have to eat the rind if you don't want, but it's doing the bitter/sour job we've got it for.

Serves 2, takes maybe an hour (including the stewing time).

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • Half a lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1 pack chopped tomatoes (300ml?)
  • 1 handful prunes or dates (chopped or whole, you choose - but no stones)
  • 1 cup veg stock
  • runny honey
  • 2 handfuls sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 handful chickpeas, drained

In a deep pan that has a lid, heat up a big glug of olive oil, and fry the diced onion at a medium heat for 3-5 minutes to soften. Then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and let it cook for a minute or two, then add the dates/prunes, 1 cup of veg stock, the honey, and a handful of almonds. Put the lid on, bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down to a simmer.

Chop the aubergine into big pieces, maybe 1 inch cubed. Don't go smaller than that. Put the aubergine in a bowl and sprinkle over a good dose of cinnamon, maybe 2 tbsp. Toss this around to coat the aubergines fairly evenly.

Get a big frying pan and put it on a hot heat. (No oil.) Add the aubergine pieces. Let them dry-fry for maybe 6 minutes, tossing them occasionally to turn over. A couple of minutes before they're done, slice the lemon into 0.5 cm slices, remove the seeds, and cut the slices in half (i.e. into semicircles), then add the lemon slices to the dry-fry pan. This gets them a little bit browned too. If you're increasing the quantities, you'll need to do the dry-frying in batches.

Put the aubergine and lemon into the stew pot. Stir around. Now put the lid back on and let this bubble gently for maybe 20 minutes minimum, 40 minutes maximum.

About ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add a handful of chickpeas.

Then, just before serving: taste to check the sweetness, and decide whether to add a bit more honey. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, and stir. Then finally sprinkle some more sliced almonds over.

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Courgette fritter salad

After a tip-off from a friend, I've had a couple of different attempts at doing a nice simple meal with courgette fritters. This one is working well so far. I keep the courgettes in pieces (rather than grating them) which maintains the nice structure with the squishy middle bit, and the egg coating helps to make them into little parcels.

Takes 10 minutes, serves 2 as a light meal.

  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 egg
  • handful of plain flour
  • grated dried parmesan (about 1/3 the amount of the flour)
  • Some leaves. I used:
    • a small handful of parsley
    • a handful of rocket
  • Half a lemon (for juicing)
  • More parmesan (fresh or dried)

First get the courgette ready. If you rinsed it, pat it dry with kitchen paper. Cut it into 1cm-thick slices and put them on kitchen paper to dry a bit more.

Put a large frying pan on a medium-hot heat, and put a good slug of vegetable oil in it, a couple of millimetres deep.

Mix the flour and parmesan in a bowl. In a second bowl, lightly beat the egg. These are going to be for coating the courgette.

Take the courgette slices and toss them in the flour/parmesan. Try to get a nice even coating.

Now we fry. With one hand, take the courgette pieces one at a time, dip them in the beaten egg, turn them to coat, and then put into the hot pan. By the time you've got them all into the pan it may well be time to turn the first ones over - they need 2 or 3 minutes each side. Do the turning-over one slice at a time (e.g. using tongs), in roughly the same order that you put them in.

When the courgettes are nicely golden-brown on both sides, lift them out onto kitchen paper. In a bowl or directly on the plate, mix them with the salad leaves. Sprinkle more parmesan over them, then squeeze lemon juice over them.

Serve with crusty bread or hot buttered toast.

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Beetroot nisk soup

"Nisk" is a kurdish soup. I don't know much about it but I've modified it with a pack of beetroot to make a simple storecupboard thing that's a lovely warming and hearty soup. Takes 20 mins, serves 1 as a main or 2 otherwise:

  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2cm ginger root, finely sliced
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pack beetroot
  • Some vegetable stock
  • 1 small handful yellow lentils, dried
  • 1 small handful rice
  • 1 small splodge of chilli sauce

Set up the lentils: put some hot water on them briefly, then drain and rinse them.

Heat some vegtable oil in a saucepan and start the garlic and ginger frying gently. Open the beetroot pack (carefully!), drain the liquid, and but the beetroots into bite-size pieces (eighths).

Add the turmeric to the garlic/ginger, stir once, then add the beetroot. Stir.

The rice and lentils to the pot, then add just enough stock/hot water to cover. Bring to the boil, add the dab of chilli sauce, then put a lid on and turn the heat right down.

Simply simmer really gently for 15 minutes. Then serve, perhaps with a bit of parsley. You probably don't need bread with it.

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Kale and rosemary flatbread

Kale and rosemary flatbread. What I particularly like about this flatbread is that the kale baked in the oven goes crispy like fried seaweed. I had it as a main course with a bit of rocket and some manchego cheese. It could also be a good accompaniment, maybe an accompaniment to something meaty.

Serves 2. It's derived from a recipe from "Crumb" by Roby Tandoh.

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a twist of black pepper
  • 175ml lukewarm water
  • a few (6? 10?) tines of fresh rosemary
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g kale, stalks removed, and shredded

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the warm water. Mix with a fork, then when that gets difficult add 1 tbsp of the olive oil and rosemary, and mix with one hand.

Knead it for 10 minutes. You might be able to do this in the bowl or it might be easier to tip it out onto a clean surface. You might need to sprinkle a bit more flour on. It should become elastic and less sticky.

Now cover the dough and let it rise for 30-60 minutes in a warm place. Meanwhile, blanche the kale: bring a pan of water to the boil and plunge the kale in. Boil it quickly for 1 minute, then immediately drain it and run cold water over it to stop it from cooking any further. Now you need to get it as dry as you can, firstly by draining it then by pressing it gently.

Knead just under half of the kale into the risen dough. It'll be a little tricky, due to the residual moisture on the leaves, but there's no need to worry about it being perfect.

Preheat a fan oven to 170C. Using a rolling pin and a floured surface, roll out the dough and then roll/hand-stretch it into a kind of A4 shape, quite thin, and put it onto a lightly floured baking tray. Put the remaining kale over the top, pressing it down a bit so that it'll stick in. Drizzle plenty of olive oil over the top and bake for 20 minutes.

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Poached thai-style sea bass

Poached thai-style sea bass - a handy everyday recipe, easy to do, healthy and fresh, whenever you see a nice piece of sea bass in the shop. It takes less than ten minutes. All of the flavourings are optional really but most of them can be kept in your store cupboard ...

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Dry-fried paneer

This is my approximation of the lovely dry-fried paneer served at Tayyabs, the famous Punjabi Indian place in East London. These amounts are for 1 as a main, or more as a starter. Takes about ten minutes:

  • 200g paneer, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground ...
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Blackberry and lemoncurd cheesecake

A baked germanic cheesecake with blackberries and lemon curd. Yes please. Makes a cheesecake for 12 slices.

Cheesecake, artist's impression
  • 12 digestive biscuits
  • 85g butter/marge
  • 500g quark
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 3 eggs (we'll be using 3 whites and 2 yolks)
  • 225g blackberries (if you have more, you could ...
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Asian-style pork suet dumplings

I got a big pot of kim-chi from the chinese supermarket, so I decided to make some pork dumplings and give them a vaguely asian flavour. This was nice and makes good use of a very small amount of pork. Serves 1 as a main, or 2--4 as accompaniment, takes ...

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Dudhi, chicken and basil

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Beetroot and tomato soup

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Tea-smoked turkish delight

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Haggis, apple and pasta salad

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Blackberry pavlova

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Haggis and orange salad

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Clementine cake

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Lime tabbouleh

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Rhubarb in the hole

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Asparagus with garlic mayonnaise

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