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Roast squash, halloumi and pine nuts with asparagus

This was gorgeous. I hadn't realised that the sweet butternut and the salty halloumi would play so well off each other.

Serves 2, takes 45 minutes overall but with a big gap in the middle.

  • 1/2 a butternut squash
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • a generous handful of pine nuts
  • 1 block of halloumi
  • 6 stalks of fresh asparagus
  • Half a lemon

First get the oven pre-heated to 180 C. While it's warming get the butternut ready to go in the oven. Chop it into bitesize pieces, roughly the size of 2cm cubes but no need to be exact. Then put the pieces in a roasting tin. Take the tines of rosemary off the stalk, chop them up and sprinkle them over the squash, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Chop the garlic into two pieces (no need to skin them - we're not eating them, just using them to add flavour) and place the pieces strategically among the squash. Then put this all into the oven, to roast for maybe 40 minutes.

When there's about 10 minutes left, heat up a griddle pan and a frying pan on the hob. Don't add any oil to either of the pans.

Take the asparagus stalks, toss them in olive oil and lay them on the griddle. Don't move them about.

Put the pine nuts into the hot dry frying pan. You'll want to shuffle these about for the next few minutes, watching them carefully - they need to get a bit toasty but not burn. While you're doing that you can cut the halloumi into bitesize pieces, about 2cm cube size. Turn the asparagus over to cook the other side and add the halloumi to the pan too. (I hope they fit in the pan with the asparagus...) After a couple of minutes you can turn the halloumi over.

Get the tin out of the oven a couple of minutes before you serve it. Find and discard the garlic.

To serve, place the asparagus on each plate, then next to it you put the squash and the halloumi. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the squash and halloumi. Finally sprinkle a squeeze of lemon over.

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Asparagus and chestnut risotto

It's asparagus season, plus I have a half-used packet of ready-cooked chestnuts. Wait a moment - maybe those flavours can come together over a risotto. Yes they can.

Note: I would have started with some leek or onion to help get things going - if I'd had some.

Quantities are to serve 1, but scale it as you like. Took about 30 mins.

  • 1 big cupful of risotto rice
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • Stock (I used veg stock as well as a dash of mushroom ketchup)
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1 handful cooked chestnuts, halved
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • Black pepper
  • 2 knobs butter
  • Parmesan cheese

Rinse the asparagus, snip off the hardest end bits and chop the rest into bite-size pieces (about half an inch).

In a good-sized saucepan heat up 1 knob of butter. When it's melted add the rice and the asparagus and give it a good stir. Let it cook for a minute or so before you add a small cup-worth of stock and/or wine. Stir the rice gently as it absorbs the liquid. Eventually when pretty much all is absorbed add more liquid, and continue stirring. Continue this way for about 20 minutes, until all the liquid is added and the rice is approaching being nicely soft.

In a small frying pan heat up a big knob of butter. When it's melted and ready to sizzle add the halved chestnuts. Stir-fry them around for 3-5 minutes until coloured and smelling nice, then add the chestnuts and the butter to the risotto, stirring them in. Chop the parsley finely and add that too, stirring.

You'll want the chestnuts to spend about 5 minutes in the risotto to meld the flavours together. Then add a good twist of pepper, stir, and serve with plenty of shaved parmesan on top.

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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.

| recipes |

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.

| recipes |

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.

| recipes |

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 ...
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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 ...

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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

| recipes |

Asian-style pork suet dumplings

| recipes |

Dudhi, chicken and basil

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Beetroot and tomato soup

| recipes |

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

| recipes |

Clementine cake

| recipes |

Lime tabbouleh

| recipes |
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