Crab and Fennel Linguini

I always think of fennel as a very early glimpse of Spring. Although it can be a winter veg, its fresh, vibrant green colour always makes me think of sunnier days. Which is why I always think this recipe makes such a perfect Christmas treat. Really good crabmeat isn’t cheap but you don’t need a huge amount to make this really delicious and luxurious, simple dish and it is a whole lot cheaper than having it in a restaurant.

Crab and Fennel Linguini

Serves 2

300g dried linguine, or fresh pasta dough equivalent

300g white crabmeat

1 bulb of fennel

1 lemon

1 fresh red chilli

Extra extra virgin olive oil

1 handful of herby fennel tops or fresh baby basil leaves or dill

Place the white crabmeat in a large bowl and add the zest and juice from the lemon. Remove the seeds from the chilli, finely chop and add. Trim the base of the bulb and remove the outside layer if it’s got any blemishes, then, using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the bulb into the bowl with the crab. Add a couple of tablespoons of really good, extra virgin olive oil, mix well and season to taste.

Put a large pan of salted water onto boil for the pasta. Cook according to packet instructions. Finely chop any fennel fronds, basil leaves or dill. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water, then toss the pasta through the sauce, adding half the picked herbs and loosening with a splash of reserved water, if needed. Divide between four warm bowls, sprinkle over the remaining herbs.

Bagna Caulda with Winter Vegetables

This is a really delicious way of using up all sorts of winter vegetables. You can even use lightly blanched vegetables such as bitter greens but I like it most with a huge selection of raw winter veg. Bagna Caulda, literally meaning “hot bath”, is a warm garlic and anchovy mayonnaise which you dip your vegetables into, a bit like a fondue. Originally from Piedmont in Italy, it is traditionally eaten at Christmas and New Year. I real Winter salad!

 

Winter Vegetables

Really the veg is up to you but I used a combination of

a few young carrots , peeled and finely sliced

sweet baby peppers

a few small raw beetroots , peeled and finely sliced

a few sticks celery , trimmed and thinly sliced, yellow leaves reserved

½ small Romanesco or white cauliflower , broken into florets

1 bulb fennel , trimmed and finely sliced, herby tops reserved

1 bunch radishes , trimmed and washed

½ celeriac , peeled and finely sliced

 

Bagna Cauda

6 cloves garlic, peeled

300 ml milk

10 anchovy fillets in oil

180 ml extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling

2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

To make your sauce, put the garlic cloves, milk and anchovies into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and tender, keeping a close eye on the pan to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over. Don’t worry if it spits and looks a little lumpy – simply remove from the heat and whiz the sauce up with a hand blender. Gently blend in the extra virgin olive oil and the vinegar a little at a time – you’re in control of the consistency at this point. If you like it thick, like mayonnaise, keep blending. Now taste it and adjust the seasoning. Make sure there’s enough acidity from the vinegar to act like a dressing. It should be an incredible, pungent warm sauce.

There are two ways you can serve this – with both you need the sauce to be warm. Either pour the sauce into a bowl and place this on a plate, with the veg arranged around the bowl, or serve the veg in a big bowl and drizzle the sauce over the top. Sprinkle over the reserved herby fennel tops and celery leaves and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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.

 

Chickpea, Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Curry

I have been making Thai Curry with Butternut Squash for years but for some reason it never occurred to me to make and Indian Curry with it instead. Butternut squash is very dense and very rich so it is important to cut it with another vegetable. Cauliflower works really well and along with the chickpeas adds texture and interest. As always, I prefer to roast the veg and add them to the sauce at the end.

I think this intensifies the individual flavours of the vegetables as well as stopping the vegetable becoming overcooked.

Chickpea,  Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Curry

3 tablespoon coconut oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

1 knob of ginger, scraped and finely grated

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground cardamon seeds (try Spiceways)

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tbsp. tomato puree

½ a butternut squash diced into ½-inch cubes

1 large cauliflower florets cut into small 1-inch sized pieces

1 tin chickpeas drained

1 tin coconut milk

1 small bunch coriander

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté over medium low heat for 10 minutes until soft and lightly coloured. Meanwhile toss the butternut squash cubes with another tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a lined baking tray and roast until golden brown. Toss the cauliflower with another tablespoon of coconut oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a lined baking tray and roast until golden brown. When the onions are tender, add the ginger, garlic and chilli cooking and stirring for one minute. Next add the spices and tomato puree and cook for a minute more to release the flavours. Season with salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk and chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the spices have mellowed and integrated. Taste the sauce and add more salt as desired. Stir in the coriander and then add the butternut squash and cauliflower. Reheat and serve with basmati rice.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce

I cant believe that I never thought of baking a sweet potato. How many sweet potato recipes I must have made over the years and I never thought of just putting them whole in the oven and removing them an hour later. That’s it. Healthier than a normal potato, they bake perfectly, and are a stunning deep orange when you cut them open. But what to serve them with? Well, Chilli con Carne would be lovely, or Spicy Black Bean Chilli, but both involve quite a lot of work. I was thinking more on the super quick and simple baked potato fillings – baked beans, grated cheese, tinned sweetcorn. But none of those sounded at all nice with a sweet potato. So I turned to my absolutely favourite accompaniment of all, the unassuming sounding but totally delicious combination of sour cream with sweet chilli sauce. It was perfect!

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Wash your sweet potatoes and dry well and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cook in a pre-heated oven for about one hour depending on size. They are cooked when you can easily squeeze them. Remove, cut open and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Meatballs with Warm Yoghurt and Swiss Chard

I have to admit that I am not very good at trying new recipes. If I do choose a new recipe, it is usually similar to something that I have tried before. I suppose at my age, I put it down to taste and experience. I know what I like and I know what is likely to turn out well. But we can become a bit safe, a bit boring, never trying something that really sounds a little bit out of your safety zone.

With this recipe, I just heard the words “warm yoghurt” and I panicked.  I mean, it just sounds like it is going to curdle. I was about to opt for a safer option – lamb meatballs with braised chard, pitta and yogurt but I stopped myself. After all this recipe is Yotam Ottelenghi from his massively successful restaurant “Nopi” so who was I to question why. Warm yoghurt – why? So I made it.  To tell you the truth, I would have preferred my original idea, but this is for all the more adventurous of you.

Meatballs with Warm Yoghurt and Swiss Chard

1kg lamb mince

150g fresh breadcrumbs

70g pine nuts, toasted

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp dried mint

4 tsp ground allspice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

60ml olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped (120g)

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced

300g Swiss chard, white stalks removed and green leaves roughly shredded (120g)

300ml chicken stock

40ml lemon juice

500g Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with 2 tsp water

1 egg, lightly beaten

seeds of 1 medium pomegranate (150g) (optional)

20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Put the first six ingredients in a large bowl with half the allspice, half the garlic, two teaspoons of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper. Mix to combine, then shape into 5cm-wide meatballs weighing 50g each. You should make about 24 balls.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions and remaining garlic and fry on a medium heat for eight to 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions have softened but not taken on any colour. Add the chilli and chard, cook for two to three minutes, until the chard has wilted, then stir in the remaining allspice, the stock and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Put the yoghurt, cornflour paste and egg in a large bowl with 150ml of water. Whisk to a smooth paste, then gradually spoon in the hot chard mixture, stirring well after each addition, until well combined. Stir in two teaspoons of salt and a good crack of black pepper, and set aside.

Pour the remaining oil into a large, high-sided saute pan on a medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and fry for four minutes, turning a few times so they brown all over. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding a little more oil if need be.

Wipe down the pan and pour in the yoghurt sauce. Bring to a very gentle simmer on a medium-low heat – it should barely be bubbling – and stir continuously in one direction to prevent it curdling. Return the meatballs to the pan (they should just be submerged in sauce), cover and cook on a low heat for 20–25 minutes, until cooked through. Serve at once, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, if using, and coriander.

Smoked Salmon with Roast Beetroot and Horseradish

Next up, another recipe good enough to serve on Christmas day. A fabulous combination on Smoked Salmon, Roast Beetroot and Horseradish. Super simple and you can plate it up all beforehand. Roasting beetroot is really easy and intensifies its flavour and sweetness. It is also meant to purify your blood and help remove toxins, which is probably a good idea at Christmas time.

Smoked Salmon with Roast Beetroot and Horseradish

200ml tub crème fraiche or 200mls double cream and some lemon juice

3 tbsp hot horseradish sauce or fresh grated horseradish

1 tbsp vodka (optional)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large beetroot

Some Salad leaves, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil

Smoked salmon

Dill or chives

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Scrub the beets, wrap in foil, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserts and removes easily. Set aside to cool. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, you can just slip the skins off with your hands. You may want to wear gloves but it is really quite a satisfying experience. Coarsely grate in a food processor or with a grater. Dress lightly with a little olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little finely chopped dill or chives.

Meanwhile, fold the crème fraîche with the horseradish and vodka, if using, with a little seasoning.

Or stir a little lemon juice slowly into the double cream until it thickens. Stir in the freshly grated horseradish and season.

Before serving, arrange a layer of smoked salmon on plates. Scatter over some dressed salad leaves and top with a pile of grated beetroot. Top with sprigs of dill or chives.

Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

Finally, for this week, a really simple sauce or dip to liven up your leftover turkey. This is a middle eastern inspired chilli sauce, and can be used like a home-made harissa. Stir it in to chicken gravy, drizzle it over kebabs, spoon it into wraps, dollop it on your burgers. The possibilities are endless.

Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

2 Romero or any red peppers

1 fresh red chilli

2 red onions

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp. ground cumin

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and pepper and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a bowl. Using a hand-blender (or liquidizer) whizz up until a thick puree. Add more olive oil, salt and lemon juice to taste. It should be quite spicy. Add a pinch of chilli flakes if not hot enough

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Savoy Cabbage Braised with Chorizo

This week, like everyone else, I am thinking of Christmas and here is a way to jazz up your cabbage for those of you who are not Brussel Sprout lovers. We always think of braising red cabbage but forget that this is a really good way of cooking any sort of different cabbage from spring to pointed to savoy. There is no need to cook it for ages either. Just wilt it down and leave it a little crunchy. Much more delicious. I’ve been using rather a lot of bacon recently so I tried it out with Chorizo. Remember that the result will only be as good as the ingredients. You have chosen the best, organic cabbage you could so make sure that you source some chorizo which is just as good. There are some super ones out there nowadays, the acorn fed Iberico pigs producing some of the best. You can even buy it ready diced if you are short on time which, lets face it, you are bound to be if you are cooking on Christmas day!

Savoy Cabbage Braised with Chorizo

Olive oil

2 medium sized onions, peeled and thinly sliced

150g good quality chorizo, finely diced

½ savoy, or other cabbage, shredded

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and cook really slowly until just turning golden brown. Add the chorizo and fry until it has rendered its fat. Add the cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and add a splash of water. Cover and leave to cook for 10 minutes or so. Remove the lid and check for tenderness. It is nice to keep a little texture. Check seasoning and serve.

Parsnip Puree

Apart from roasting parsnips this Parsnip Puree is really the most delicious way to eat this lovely root vegetable. You will see it on lots of expensive restaurant menus served up alongside sea bass or scallops, fillet steak or venison, often topped with complimenting parsnip crisps of crispy fried pancetta. You will recognise it, as it will be smeared on your plate in a teardrop shape which seems to be obligatory when serving purees in posh restaurants.

If you can’t afford to go to expensive restaurants, give it a try at home. It is super indulgent and somehow tastes expensive, especially with a little drizzle on white truffle oil and is a really good way of spoiling yourself when you feel you deserve a treat.

Parsnip Puree

450g parsnips (about 3) peeled, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

125 mls (½ cup) double cream

125 mls (½ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt

Bring parsnips, garlic, cream, milk, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until parsnips are very soft, 10–15 minutes. You should be able to mash them with a wooden spoon. Uncover and if necessary reduce any liquid, or add a little water depending on how dry it is; season with salt. Purée with a hand blender until  really smooth. Unlike potato, you cannot over puree it. Add pepper if you like – white pepper if you want to be poncy.

Purée can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat over medium-low, stirring often.