Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

I love leeks. There is something so humble about them and yet this Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad gives them an air of sophistication.

Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

Serves: 4  I think this would be particularly nice with smoked fish.

410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Large leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced

10g Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Cider vinegar

A pinch Caster sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a good pinch of salt. As soon as the leeks begin to soften, turn down the heat fairly low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft (don’t let them take on any colour). Add the beans and toss together until heated through. Take off the heat; stir in the parsley and plenty of black pepper.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, sugar and remaining oil and season well. Stir into the pan of warm leeks and beans.

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Sicily, surrounded by water and having many ports meant that it was a key player in the spice trail. Whereas other regions of Italy tended to rely solely on their own produce, Sicilian cooking has always been a little more adventurous with its ingredients. This amalgamation of chilli, pinenuts, currants, parsley and lemon zest is classic and its sophisticated sweet and sour combination works beautifully with the delectable Romanesco.

The amazing fractal Romanesco is closer related to broccoli than cauliflower and it has a delicate nutty flavour and great crunchy texture. It holds its shape much better than cauliflower which makes it a useful replacement in lots of recipes and it looks fabulous!

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Serves 2

1 small to medium Romanesco cauliflower, cut into small florets (use the stalk too, thinly sliced)

200g pasta

Extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

100g pine nuts, toasted

100g currants or raisins

Zest of 1 & juice of ½ lemon

Large handful fresh parsley, chopped

Handful Parmesan, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pan of boiling salted water, cook the Romanesco for 2-3 minutes, then drain and refresh in a bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again and keep to one side. In another pan of boiling water, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the Romanesco and fry for a couple of minutes until just starting to turn a golden colour. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for couple of minutes more. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, drained, cooked pasta, lemon juice and zest and parsley. Toss together to combine. Check seasoning and transfer to serving bowls and serve drizzled with a olive oil and some grated Parmesan.

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Channa Masala with Spinach

When I served this up for dinner the other night my partner announced that he didn’t much like chickpeas and he didn’t much like spinach but it was the best vegetarian dish he had ever eaten. Praise indeed! Probably why it is one of the most popular curries in India.

Channa Masala with Spinach

You could use fresh tomato instead of tinned and another leafy green such as chard can replace the spinach.

2 large onion, finely diced

3 medium cloves garlic, grated

Large knob ginger, scraped and grated

1 or 2 fresh chilies (depending on size and heat) finely chopped

2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil, vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon ground cumin seed

1 tsp garam masala

1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes

2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Large handful of spinach

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil or ghee in a large heavy based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes until really soft and beginning to brown. Add a little water if necessary. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and spices and cook for a minute or two more. Add the tomatoes and rinse out the can with a little water and add that two with pepper and salt to taste. Cook down gently for 10 – 15 minutes or so adding more water if necessary. When the sauce tastes really nice, it is done. Adjust seasoning. Add more spices if necessary. Puree with a hand bender. You want a spicy, savoury gravy. Add the drained chickpeas and allow to cook a little to allow all the flavours to amalgamate. Remove the stalks from the spinach, wash and drain. Roughly chop the leaves if they are large. Add to your chickpeas mixture and cook the spinach for a few minutes or so until just done. Add the coriander and serve with rice and/or naan.

Roasted Figs with Rosemary, Honey and Ricotta

Figs are back. An early sign of Autumn but a welcome one for me. These Roasted Figs can be put together in minutes and make a delicious, simple, quick and easy pudding.

Roasted Figs with Rosemary, Honey and Ricotta

Serves 3

6 figs

6 tbsp honey

2 tsp. very finely chopped fresh rosemary

150g ricotta

50g thick Greek yoghurt

2 tbsp icing sugar

½ tsp vanilla bean paste or the seeds scraped from half a vanilla pod

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut an X into the top of each fig and squeeze the figs bottoms gently to open up the tops. Trickle a little honey into each fig – reserve about half of it for serving – place in a tin and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Roast for 10-15 minutes, until hot and bubbling.

Beat the ricotta with the yoghurt, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spoon some of the mixture into the top of each fig and trickle on some more honey just before serving.

Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

When I went to work in California back in the 90’s it was a revelation of the importance of ingredients. This concept, of not merely buying but “sourcing” was only just beginning in London at the time, but in California everything was obtained from specialist suppliers.

What a long way we have come with every menu in town listing artisanal this and rare breed that. Anyway, one of the ingredients I was most excited about seeing all those years ago was all the different varieties of beetroots in the farmers market.  Deep golden yellow, creamy white, deep purple and even pink and white striped. So it brought back memories when I saw that Riverford where now growing bunched golden beetroot and this recipe is in honour of them.

Golden Beetroot, Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Baby Spinach and Toasted Walnut Salad

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A couple of handfuls (about 70g) baby spinach leaves

450g beetroot, any colour, roasted, peeled and cut into wedges

150g soft goat’s cheese, crumbled

75g toasted walnuts

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and Dijon mustard together in a small bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the spinach in a bowl. Add half the dressing to the spinach mixture and toss well. Divide among 4 serving plates (or leave in the large bowl if desired), then scatter with beetroot, goat’s cheese and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve immediately.

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Beetroot, Lentil, Halloumi and Parsley Salad

This is a salad my brother made a few weeks ago for lunch and I had been meaning to get round to sharing it with you. It is very good. Halloumi, beetroot lentils and parsley  is a particularly good combination and with the lightly pickled onion and the zestyness of the lemon it becomes something quite special.

Beetroot, Lentil, Halloumi and Parsley Salad

200g Puy lentils

2 lemons

1 red onion, finely sliced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

250g beetroot, roast, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

250g pack halloumi, cut into 8 slices

To roast beetroot, scrub and wrap individually in tinfoil. Roast in the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserts easily. Leave wrapped up until cool. Unwrap and slip off the skins with your hands.

Cook the lentils in a pan of boiling water for 20-25 mins or until just done. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from one lemon into a bowl. Add the onion and scrunch together with a pinch of salt to pickle slightly. Set aside.

Finely zest the remaining lemon and set aside for the halloumi. Squeeze the juice from half of it into a jam jar or jug. Add the oil with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper– shake well and set aside. When the lentils are ready, drain and tip into a large serving bowl with the chickpeas. Toss with the dressing straight away, then toss through the beets, parsley and drained pickled onions.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the halloumi for 1-2 mins each side or until golden brown. Toss with the lemon zest, then place on top of your salad to serve.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

This is very simple carrot salad and I am surprised that I have never made it before. I served it up with my Saag Paneer and a grilled piece of salmon and very delicious it was too.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

2 tsp cumin seed, toasted

zest and juice 1 lemon

thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

5 tbsp olive oil

6 carrots, grated

small bunch coriander, chopped

½ small bunch mint, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast your cumin seeds and allow to cool a little. Add the lemon juice, ginger and olive oil to the pan with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Use this to dress the grated carrot. Stir thought the freshly chopped herbs and serve straight away.

Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

I was just doing my Riverford order and thinking to myself, Riverford really should supply plums as this time of year, when I noticed that they did. So I got some!

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

Serves 6.

650g plums

4 tbsp honey

For the crumble

130g plain flour

80g butter

40g light muscovado sugar

40g porridge oats

40g flaked almonds

Set the oven at 170C. Remove the stones from the plums and toss with the honey. Tip into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for a bout 10 minutes until the plums begin to break down. Tip into a baking dish. Meanwhile make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour till it resembles fresh breadcrumbs. Lightly rub in the sugar and then stir in the almonds and the oats. Tip the oat-and-almond topping on to the fruit and bake for 30-35 minutes till the crust is crisp and golden. The fruit should be bubbling round the sides. Serve hot, with cream or ice-cream.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Once again failed to enter anything in the Cottenham Park Allotment Show last weekend. As always by the time I came back from holiday, all my veg were either overgrown – courgettes the size of marrows and French beans the size of cucumbers, or had been eaten, mostly by snails.  Didn’t even manage to enter the cake, chutney or jam categories as I failed to get the form in, in time.

We went along anyway just to get ideas for next year. This cake won first prize in the cake competition so I thought I would give it a try and very delicious it is too. In my opinion a close call to my Upside Down Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Cake. Must remember to enter next year.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

1 quantity roasted rhubarb (See below)

250g pack butter

150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g golden caster sugar

icing sugar, for dusting

Make the roasted rhubarb first, carefully draining off the juices before you let it cool. Butter and line a 24cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Add the eggs one by one until incorporated. Add the vanilla and custard and then stir through the flour and baking powder until creamy and smooth. Fold through the rhubarb. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Roast Rhubarb

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Leave to cool.