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Chilli sin carne, using pulled jackfruit

Inspired by this version

This is easy to make. The tricky thing thugh is "pulling" the jackfruit at the end of the cooking - it's a bit labourious but it makes a massive difference to the way the food tastes in the mouth afterwards. Please don't skip it! You could ask your guests to pull their own platefuls if that works.

Serves 3-4. (It keeps fine in the fridge and tastes good next day...)

  • 1 tin young (green) jackfruit (drained)
  • The dry spices:
    • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tbsp paprika
    • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped, or pressed)
  • oil
  • 1/2 or 1 red chilli, according to preference (thinly sliced)
  • 1 box brown button mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you prefer) (chopped into chunks)
  • 1 red pepper (sliced)
  • 1 fairly large carrot (diced)
  • 1 packet chopped tomatoes
  • 1 splash red wine
  • 1 packet kidney beans, drained
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 small handful fresh coriander

Preheat a medium grill. Coat the jackfruit pieces in the three dried spices. Put them on kitchen foil on a baking tray, and put them under the grill for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through. This helps dry the jackfruit out.

Meanwhile, in a large deep pan, start the base of the stew: fry the diced onion (gently, don't let it burn at all) for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and the chili. Stir. Let them fry for a minute or so before adding the mushrooms on top and stirring again. Optionally you can let this cook a bit more to get a touch of colour on the mushrooms, but either way, add the carrots, stir, and then add the shopped tomatoes, the red wine, and a splash of hot water (enough to loosen it to an ordinary stew thickness).

This is going to bubble for a good half hour, on a medium-low heat, with the lid on (take the lid off near the end if it needs to thicken up). You can start the rice cooking perhaps, if that's what'll be accompanying it.

Meanwhile, optionally you can griddle the red pepper to get some colour on it. Or just add it to the stew directly.

When there's about 5 minutes left, take the lid off the stew, and add the chocolate broken into pieces. Let it melt and then stir it through. It should make the stew thicken up and become more of a dark brown colour.

The main final thing you need to do is "pull" the jackfruit. With a pair of forks - ideally strong ones! - grab each piece of jackfruit one by one with a fork, and with the second fork rake at it to make it come apart into stringy pieces. (Don't do this in a non-stick pan, you'll ruin it with the forks.)

Chop the coriander roughly and mix it in to the stew just before you serve it.

Serve with rice, crusty bread, slices of lime... as you like.

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Fake fish and chips - battered aubergine

Aubergine makes a great simple vegetarian/vegan alternative to battered fish and chips. Cook it like this.

Serves 2. Takes 25 to 30 minutes.

  • 2/3 ratio of plain flour (100g? dunno)
  • 1/3 ratio of cornflour (50g? dunno)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 bottle beer (ideally a flavourful pale ale or bitter) - you won't need all of it
  • 1 medium but fattish aubergine, or whatever you need to get two fillet-like pieces out of it

And to serve:

  • Oven chips
  • Mushy peas

Preheat the oven for the oven chips. (The aubergine will be going in too, later.)

Mix the flours and salt in a medium-sized bowl, and then start to pour the beer in, stirring with a fork to get everything combined and beat the lumps out. Try to use as little beer as possible to get the batter smooth - you want it to stay nice and thick so it'll form a thick coating.

Cut your aubergine(s) into big fillets. It'll depend on the size and shape of your aubergines, but for the medium-sized fattish ones I buy you can cut one in half lengthways and that gives two nice pieces, one for each person. But! You need nice big fillet-like pieces with both sides having flat white flesh exposed - so that the batter sticks better, and so that it's easier to fry. So if one side of a fillet is umblemished purple round skin, cut a thin slice off. You can discard that slice or you can keep it to batter+fry as scraps later.

Put the oven chips in the oven.

Heat a frying pan with a decent amount of oil for shallow-frying. Be a bit generous.

Dip the aubergine pieces in the batter, turning them around to coat them properly. Then immediately pop them into the hot oil.

Let them fry about 5 minutes on one side - don't move them around much, just let them fry to get a good coating. Just before you turn them over for the other side, take the leftover batter and pour a little bit on top of the aubergine, to replenish the raw batter on the uncooked side. Then you can turn the aubergine fillet over and fry the other side for 5 minutes.

When the aubergine fillets have fried to a nice golden crust on each side, take them out of the pan and put them on a baking tray, and pop them in the oven alongside the chips, to cook for another ten minutes. This will get the inside of the fillets nice and cooked and yielding.

During the last ten minutes, you can warm up the mushy peas or sort out whatever you want as accompaniment. You can also batter and fry those leftover pieces of aubergine. Or just fry some of the batter to make scraps.

Warning - the aubergine fillets retain heat really really well. Beware of burning your mouth when you tuck in to them!

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Chickpea chana curry with tamarind and baby aubergine

Tamarind is ace. It imparts a deep, rich and sweet flavour to curries. Buy a block and put it in your fridge, it keeps for months, and you can hack a piece off and chuck it in your curry just like that. That's what I did in this lovely chana (chickpea) curry.

Note that the block sort-of dissolves as it cooks, and leaves behind inedible pips. If you prefer not to spit out pips then you could put the tamarind in a paper teabag perhaps, so you can fish it out afterwards.

You can change the veg choices in here - the red pepper is a nice bright contrasting flavour - but in particular the baby aubergines do this great thing of going gooey and helping to create the sauce. Full-sized aubergines don't seem to do that, in my experience. It's the tamarind and the aubergine that go to add body to the sauce, I think - I don't add any tomato or anything like that, and yet the sauce is flavoursome and thickened.

  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 onion, chopped fine-ish
  • 1 red chilli, sliced (reduce amount if you want less heat)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into slices/dices
  • 4 baby aubergines, chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 1 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet of cooked beetroot, drained and quartered (you can add the drained beetroot juices to the pot later)
  • About 2cm cubed of tamarind block
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bunch coriander leaves, rinsed and roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a largeish deep pan which has a lid, on quite a hot frying heat. Add the spice seeds and the cloves - you might like to put the lid half-on at this point because as the seeds fry and pop they'll jump around and may jump out at you.

After 30 secs or so with the seeds, add the onion, then the chilli and the powdered spices. Give it a good stir round. Let the onion fry for a minute or two before adding the red pepper and the aubergines. Fry this all for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas, the beetroot with its juices, the tamarind block, and maybe 1 cup of boiling water (don't add too much water - not enough to cover the mixture). Give this a good stir, then put the lid on, turn the heat down to its lowest, and let it bubble for 30 minutes or so. It can be longer or shorter, I'd say 20 minutes is an absolute minimum. No need to stir now, you can go and do something else, as long as you're sure it's not going to bubble over!

When the curry is nearly ready, take the lid off, turn the heat up to thicken the liquid if needed, and give it all a stir.

Give it a good twist of black pepper, then serve it up in bowls, with coriander leaf sprinkled on top. Serve it with bread (eg naan or roti).

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A pea soup

A nice fresh pea soup can be great sometimes, and also a good thing to do with leftovers. This worked well for me when I had some leftover spring onions, creme fraiche and wasabi. You can of course leave out the wasabi, or swap the creme fraiche for cream or a dab of milk, or you could add watercress perhaps.

  • A small knob of butter
  • 4 spring onions
  • 3-4 handfuls frozen peas (no need to defrost them!)
  • A dab of wasabi paste
  • About 75ml creme fraiche
  • Black pepper

Boil a kettle.

In a smallish pan melt the butter. Chop the spring onions, and fry the white bits gently to soften them, about 4 minutes. Then add the green bits of the spring onions, as well as the peas and the tiny dab of wasabi.

Turn up the heat and also add the boiling water, just enough to cover things. Once you've brought the pan to the boil you can turn it right down low, put a lid on it, and let it bubble gently for approx 10 minutes, no need for more.

Take the pan off the heat, and with a hand blender you can whizz up the pan's contents to blend it to a smooth soup. Add the black pepper and creme fraiche and stir it through.

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Beetroot nisk soup

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Kale and rosemary flatbread

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Poached thai-style sea bass

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Dry-fried paneer

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Blackberry and lemoncurd cheesecake

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Asian-style pork suet dumplings

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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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