Spiced Carrot & Cannellini Bean Dip

I have been making this Spiced Carrot & Cannellini Bean Dip for my Master Veg classes and it always is a favourite but I have to say, that my life is a little too busy to find the time to be making dips. In fact it is so busy that I often don’t even have time for lunch. I am determined to get more veg into my diet, but so often at lunchtime, I just grab a sandwich and shove in it whatever comes to hand in the fridge. Then I thought, why not make up a batch of this delicious dip and put it in my sandwiches everyday along with a little lettuce, some cucumber or a tomato. Packed full of carrots and red onions, it means I am getting an extra serving or two of veg a day!

Spiced Carrot & Cannellini Bean Dip

Serves 6-8 For the dip:

2 medium carrots, scrubbed & cut into 8 sticks each

1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 whole garlic cloves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

oil for roasting

1 tin cannellini beans, drained

3 tbsp olive oil (for the beans)

salt & pepper

1 lemon, zested & juiced

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas 6. In a roasting tray, toss the carrots, onion and garlic with the ground spices, salt and pepper and a little oil. Cover with foil and roast for 20-25 mins, until the veg is soft, then remove the foil and roast for a further 10 mins, until starting to caramelise.  Blitz the carrots, onion, beans, lemon zest and juice, loosening with plenty of extra virgin olive oil to make a smooth paste. Season to taste.

 

Asian Seared Steak with Stir-fried Savoy Cabbage

This works with any variety of cabbage but I like Savoy the best.

Asian Seared Steak with Stir-fried Savoy Cabbage

1 large organic sirloin steak

2 tbsp soy sauce

½ tbsp sesame oil, plus extra

1 onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 red chilli, finely chopped

½ star anise

Thumb-size piece fresh ginger, grated

¼ of a medium savoy cabbage (outer leaves discarded), shredded

1 tsp fish sauce

Juice 1 lime, plus extra wedges to serve

Small bunch each fresh coriander and Thai basil (or mint), roughly chopped, plus extra to serve

Put the steak in a shallow dish and pour over the soy sauce. Heat a large frying pan or wok over a high heat. Pour in the oil and swirl the pan to coat. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until softened. Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, ginger and chilli, then stir-fry for 1-2 minutes – keep it moving or it will burn. Add the star anise and the cabbage and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until the cabbage has coloured a little.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Remove the steak from the dish (reserve the soy sauce) and rub with oil. When the pan is smoking hot, add the steak and cook for 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare, pressing down to flatten so it crisps and caramelises. Once cooked to your liking, remove to a plate and set aside to rest.

Add the soy to the cabbage along  with the fish sauce, then squeeze in the lime and cook for 2 minutes. Scatter over the herbs and stir. Taste and season. Add more sesame oil to taste. Divide between 2 plates. Slice the steak and put on top of the stir-fry, pouring any resting juices on top. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

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Indian Spiced Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts are back in the boxes and I am running out of new ideas already with still weeks to go until Christmas. That is until I found this fab recipe.

Indian Spiced Brussel Sprouts

Serves 6

2 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp brown mustard seeds

1 large or 2 small garlic clove(s), grated

1 large knob of ginger, scrape off outer skin and grate

1 fresh red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped

500g brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and halved if very large

¼ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin

Juice of half a lemon

Large handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook until to your liking. I like mine quite well done but I know others like theirs crunchy. Drain. Heat the oil in a pan, but don’t let it smoke. Reduce to a medium heat and add the mustard seeds, garlic, chilli and ginger. Next add the cumin,

the turmeric, garam masala and a little sea salt. Fry for a minute and then add the sprouts and stir to coat with the spiced oil. Add the lemon juice and chopped coriander. Stir well and serve warm.

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

I have never really got used to being a home cook. Too many years in the catering industry have left me unable to only cook for four people. Hence, I always over cater. New potatoes are something I often get a bit carried away with but no one in my family minds as I have found a super simple and delicious way to use them up.

I chucked some of these in the oven and some sausages too, before I went off to tennis the other night, with instructions to my other half to take them out and serve them up for dinner. “Daddy made the best potatoes ever”, exclaimed my kids on my return. And I have to say that he looked pretty pleased with himself!

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

These are best done in the oven as the longer they cook for, the better but you could saute them in a frying pan too.

Boiled New Potatoes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place a baking tray in the oven and pour a generous amount of olive oil onto the tray. Cut the cold new potatoes in half length-ways. When the oven is hot, tip the potatoes onto the hot tray. Arrange so that the cut side is faced down. Cook for about 25-30 minutes checking regularly. When the potatoes are golden brown on the bottom, flip them over and pull them into towards the middle of the pan pushing the less done potatoes nearer the outside edge, which is always hotter. Cook until all the potatoes are golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Goat’s Cheese, Crispy Sage, Pine Nuts and Rocket

I don’t know why I never thought of grilling butternut squash before. It works beautifully and looks fab too. This is a very simple salad that you could serve hot or cold.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Goat’s Cheese, Crispy Sage, Pine Nuts and Rocket

½ a butternut squash

100g Goats cheese

Couple of large handfuls of rocket (or watercress)

Small bunch of sage

25g toasted pine nuts

Extra virgin olive oil

Juice if half a lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the butternut squash into thin slices. Leave the skin on but remove the seeds. Season them with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Grill the slices on a very hot griddle pan or on a BBQ on both sides. Arrange on a large serving plate. Make a dressing from the lemon juice and olive oil, about one part to three. Season well and adjust to taste. Dress the rocket with some of your dressing and crumble over the goat cheese. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the sage leaves. Fry until they just change colour from green to pale brown. Remove the leaves immediately onto some kitchen paper with a slotted spoon. Scatter the sage leaves and pine nuts over the squash and drizzle with a little of the sage oil and serve.

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties

Particularly pleased with these little pasties. I thought they would be great after trick or treating to try and temp the kids away from all those sweets!

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties

You could use any variety of pumpkin or squash.

Makes 6-8 small pasties

2 packets readymade, ready rolled good quality shortcrust pastry

¼ a butternut squash, about 200g, peeled and cut into ½ cm cubes

1 medium red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Small bunch finely chopped sage

75g grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Season well.

Using a bowl between 12 and 15cms diameter cut rounds of pastry. Spoon mixture into the middle of each, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. It is important to get as much filling in as possible but too much and you will not be able to seal the pasties. If necessary, moisten the edges of the dough with a little water. With cool hands, fold the pastry over and seal the edges well. (Use any crimping technique you like, just make sure it is well sealed. Brush all over with beaten egg.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Pear Gingerbread Cake

For some reason I associate Halloween with gingerbread although I am not sure why! And I mean real gingerbread, not a biscuit but a rich, moist, sticky cake. I have been looking for a good recipe for years now and I am thrilled to say that this recipe is outstanding. The addition of pear is fabulous and the edges of the cake, turn to almost toffee.

I adapted it from an American recipe with cups as measures and the mixture is really runny which makes it rather worrying to bake. Make sure your tin Is big enough, keep your oven low and if the cake looks as if it is getting too brown, cover it with foil. Just keep going until it is cooked and it will be worth it.

Pear Gingerbread Cake

250g soft brown sugar

250g butter, melted, cooled

3 pears, peeled, cored, cut into 2cm slices

340g golden syrup

2 eggs

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sifted

325g plain flour

3 teaspoons ground ginger

200g sour cream or crème fraiche

Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 6cm-deep, 23cm (base) square cake pan. Line base and sides with baking paper.

Sprinkle 100g sugar over base of prepared pan. Pour 80g of the melted butter over sugar. Arrange pear slices in a single layer over butter and sugar.

Place remaining butter in a large bowl. Whisk in syrup, eggs, soda, flour, ground ginger and remaining sugar. Stir in sour cream. Pour batter over pears. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Stand for 10 minutes. Turn out on to a platter. Serve.

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Gratin

Kids on half-term means endless meals to cook. Quick and easy, packed with veg, hot and filling is key. This ticks all the boxes.

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Gratin

Serves 4

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

200g smoked streaky bacon

2 large onions, sliced

800g potatoes, thickly sliced

1kg cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

150g medium-mature cheddar or Gruyère, coarsely grated

250ml double cream

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon for 5 mins until really crispy. Add the onion and sauté for 12 mins until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, tip the potatoes into a large pan of salted water, making sure they are well covered. Bring to a gentle boil, then add the cauliflower and cook everything for 6-7 mins until both are tender. A knife should easily insert into through the potatoes but don’t overcook or you will have mash! Tip into a colander and drain thoroughly.

Pour the cream in with the onions and add the cheese. Season well with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tip in the potatoes and cauliflower and carefully stir. Tip the whole lot into a gratin dish and bake for 30 mins until bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside for 1 min to rest. Serve straight from the dish with a crisp green salad.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

It is squash time of year again and you just know you are going to be inundated with them. This is really the simplest way of dealing with them. No need to skin them, it all goes in, even the seeds. Eat it on its own, as a side dish or chuck into salad, pasta or soup.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

1 large squash, whatever you have got

1 pinch dried red chilli

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful fresh sage leaves

1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Halve the butternut squash, remove and reserve the seeds, then cut the squash into slices or chunks with the skin left on and put in a bowl. Add the whole sage leaves, the pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and enough olive oil to rub the whole lot over all the squash pieces so they are well covered. Place the squash in one layer in a roasting tray. Sprinkle over the seeds, cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the skin of the squash is soft, then remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes until the squash is golden and crisp. Remove the cinnamon.

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan

When you get to my age and you have been cooking as long as I have, it is really hard to find recipes that are fresh, exciting or different but this simple celery salad is really quite stimulating. I’m not even that keen on fruit or nuts in savoury dishes but the celery, lemon and the chilli really balance out the sweetness. It made a very tasty lunch!

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan

Serves 2

½ cup/large handful raw almonds with skins

8 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal, use leaves too

6 dates, pitted, coarsely chopped

Zest of one lemon plus 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chunk of Parmesan, shaved

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Very small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Toss almonds, celery, celery leaves, lemon zest and dates in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil together well. Add a small pinch of chilli flakes and mix through the salad. Serve with shavings of parmesan.