Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta with Lemon and Chilli

Courgettes are another vegetable that are in abundance in the boxes right now and on recommendation, I tried out a recipe from Riverford’s website, for Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta. It really did turn out to be quite delicious. I just made a couple of changes, using lemon zest instead of juice and adding a pinch of chilli. Make sure you really give the courgettes enough time to cook down properly. You can decide how creamy you want the finished dish at the end. Balance the amount of crème fraiche with pasta water to get your desired consistence. Finally, the choice of pasta is up to you but we are particularly enjoying Rummo’s Linguini in our household at the moment but Riverford stock some organic varieties too,

Cougettes slow-cooked raw

Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta with Lemon and Chilli
Serves 2
500g courgettes, very finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon zest
Pinch chilli flakes
1-2 tablespoons crème fraiche
200g pasta of your choosing
Parmesan or pecorino

Heap the slices into a sauce pan with 2 tbsps. of olive. Add a pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for about 20 mins, they should start to cook and reduce. Stir every so often and make sure they aren’t catching on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 15 mins, adding a dash of water now and then if it starts to catch. Meanwhile cook your pasta. Season the courgettes with salt, pepper, a pinch of chilli flakes and the lemon zest. Stir in the crème fraiche, some good olive oil and a dash of the pasta water to loosen. Mix with the drained pasta and top with a generous grating of cheese.

Courgettes slow cooked

Aubergine, Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Curry with Cauliflower and Coconut Rice

I actually managed to get away for half-term but returning to the hell of the school run, now that the clocks have changed and it is darker and gloomier, soon knocked any feelings of recuperation out of me. With winter setting in, I am turning to more warming, comforting suppers and nothing cheers me up more than I good curry. The autumn vegetables at this time of year really lend themselves to Indian food and I like to roast them to cut down on oil and keep more texture. However, because the ingredients are cooked separately it is important to let the finished curry sit for a while to allow the flavours to infuse. It is even better the next day.

Following my theme of the last few weeks, I have carried on experimenting with cauliflower, this time serving my curry with “cauliflower rice.” You can add all sorts to your cauliflower rice. For this Indian version, I particularly like the addition of the coconut oil but as I was serving it with curry, I let it at that. But you can turn it into a dish in its own right by adding amongst other things, onions, cumin seeds, chilli, ginger, garlic or herbs such as coriander.

It might even be nice to try versions from other countries. How about a Spanish version with Chorizo and peppers. Watch this space!

Roast aubergine

Aubergine, Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Curry
Coconut oil
3 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 aubergines, cut into 1” chunks
1 head of cauliflower, large outer leaves removed
3 garlic cloves
Large knob of garlic
1-2 fresh red or green chilli
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp cardamom seeds, (not pods) freshly ground in a pepper-mill (try a good Indian or health food shop)
2 large handfuls of perpetual spinach (or 1 large handful of true spinach)
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin plum tomatoes
Large bunch of fresh coriander, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰C. In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the onions in some coconut oil for about 15-20 minutes until really soft and just light golden brown. Meanwhile toss your aubergine in some oil, season with salt and pepper and lay out on a baking sheet, lined with grease-proof paper, with plenty of room to allow it to cook evenly. Roast in the oven until golden brown, about 35 minute. Redistribute from time to time.

Remove the core of the cauliflower and break or cut into even sized florets. You can use the small inner leaves. Do exactly the same with the cauliflower as the aubergine.

Roast Cauliflower

Meanwhile scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the skin. Apparently the most nutritious layer of the ginger is just under the skin, so do this carefully. Grate finely. Peel the garlic and grate finely as well. Cut the chillies in half and remove the seeds. Finely chop. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli (only add one chilli to start with. You can always add more but you cannot take away once it is in.) Cook for one minute more and add the spices. Fry for one minute before adding the tin of tomatoes. Refill the tin with water and add too. Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Add the drained tin of chickpeas. Allow to gently bubble away for at least half an hour. Check the seasoning.

Meanwhile if using perpetual spinach, remove the leaves from the stems and blanch the leaves in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to dry, spread out on a tea towel. When the cauliflower and aubergine is cooked add to the tomato base. Use the tea towel to squeeze out any excess water in the spinach and roughly chop. Add to the curry with the coriander, stir well and allow to sit for at least half an hour, whilst you cook your rice, before serving.

Cauliflower cous cous

Cauliflower Rice
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Sea salt

Using a food processor, whiz up the cauliflower until evenly all very finely chopped. You can use a grater to do this instead. Heat the coconut oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the cauliflower. Season with sea salt. Cook, stirring regularly until the cauliflower is tender. The releasing moisture from the cauliflower will gently steam it. Do not allow to colour.


Cauliflower ‘Tabbouleh’ with Preserved Lemons

Finally, for this week, I am still experimenting with the cauliflower! I know that we are going to get a lot of cauliflowers in those boxes for the next few weeks and in terms of vegetables replacing carbohydrates, which is quite trendy right now, it is one of the most versatile. Last week I made cauliflower mash and this week I tried out one of my favourite Lebanese salads “Tabbouleh.” The cauliflower replaces the customary Bulgur wheat so it is great for Celiacs too. The main thing to remember though, when making this salad is that it is the herbs which make up bulk of this dish and it is important to get the quantities right so don’t use too much cauliflower. It should be lovely, fresh and herby and I added some preserved lemons for added zing and some pomegranate seeds to mine as well. Preserved lemons are easy to buy now a days, the excellent Belazu brand probably being the most readily available. If, however you have a glut of lemons, and they are just in season and at their best right now, and fancy making your own just follow the link.


Cauliflower ‘Tabbouleh’ with Preserved Lemons

4 small preserved lemons and their juice
2 large bunches flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 small bunch dill, roughly chopped
1 small bunch mint, roughly chopped
½ a small red onion, very finely diced
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cucumber, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and finely dice
4 tomatoes, remove the seeds and finely dice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Hold the cauliflower by its base and roughly grate the florets on the largest holes of a cheese grater resembling cooked bulgur wheat. A food processor is also great for this.

In a large bowl put all the chopped herbs and the onion. Cut the preserved lemons in half and remove the seeds. Chop them up and add the herbs. Add a good amount of the juice from the jar and some extra virgin olive oil. Add the cucumber and tomato, some salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more lemon etc. Finally add the cauliflower, stir well and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds if using and serve at once.

Cauliflower cous cous

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad

One bonus of cooking the same thing three times in one week is that you really get to fine-tune them. Take this salad that I have been making. I started off with a recipe from Ottolenghi for a Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad from his fantastic book Jerusalem. But as I made it again and again, I gradually began to tweak the ingredients. I had already added flat beans to the original as I had some in the box to use up and I thought they would work well. Although I liked the idea of the tamarind in Ottolenghi’s recipe, I felt it was not necessary as it already had so much vinegar it was almost too sour. Then the pomegranate seeds may have looked pretty, but I did not feel that they added much else. I upped the balsamic to counteract the sour and added a little mustard as it compliments both leeks and beetroot so well. Finally, I added some roast carrots as I had some in my box and I hate to turn on the oven for only one thing. So I guess by the end of the week the recipe was no longer really Ottolenghi’s rather than my own, but I think that adapting recipes for personal taste is what good cooking is all about. Come to think of it, a little goat’s cheese scattered on top may be rather nice with the walnuts. Better stop now or I’ll be changing it again.

Poaching Leeks

I think we often run out of ideas for leeks and  forget how well they work in a salad. If you find prepping beetroot tiresome, may I recommend some Veggie Gloves.

Veggie Gloves

They are great for scrubbing and peeling beetroot, protect your hands and they wash clean, back to their original, lovely bright green with no trouble at all. Super useful for carrots and potatoes too.

Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 medium beets, trimmed
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into wedges lenghtways
Olive oil
4 medium leeks, trimmed and cut into 4-inch pieces
1 bunch of flat beans
Mixed Salad Leaves
100g walnuts, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. walnut oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

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. For a little while. At the same time, toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30minutes checking regularly and stirring to ensure even roasting.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into bite-sized wedges. Transfer to a bowl. IOnce the carrots are golden brown and tender remove from the oven.

Top and tail the flat beans and cut into 1” pieces on the diagonal. Cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 miutes. Remove and refresh in cold water. Drain well and leave to dry.

For the leeks, you cannot cut the leeks open otherwise the pieces will fall apart, so it is important to look for dirt in the top, leafier green pieces and wash well. Grit can ruin this dish. To cook the leeks, place in a medium saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the leeks are just tender. Do not cook for too long otherwise they will lose their colour, so keep the heat quite high but you do not want them to fall to pieces and become waterlogged.As soon as they are tender remove from the water and leave to drain really well on kitchen towel.

To make the dressing, combine the walnuts, garlic, chili flakes, vinegar’s, oil, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature to combine the flavours.

Gently toss the beets with half of the dressing and the leeks and carrots with the remaining dressing.

To serve, place some of the salad leaves onto serving plates, top with a few beets, followed by more salad leaves, some beans, some leeks, and then a few more beets and some more leeks, scatter with carrots, until you have layered the whole dish and used everything, Serve straight away.

Beetroot in a bag 2

Mushroom Soup

I have been super busy this week with Riverford Lunches. This is when a customer hosts a lunch in their home, invites up to 10 friends, who they think would be the kind of people who may also be interested in getting a weekly Riverford veg box, and I come along and cook lunch. The idea is to inspire everyone with how good fresh, organic vegetables can be. Then everyone sits down to a three course lunch and I hopefully I sign up a few new Riverford customers.

Anyway, I managed to fit in three lunches this week but it did not leave me a huge amount of time for much else so I thought I would share with you some of the recipes that I have been cooking this week. I ordered a small veg box less roots which came with mushrooms, carrots, flat beans, leeks, a cauliflower and red Russian kale. Straight up I made the soup of this week’s menu, and it couldn’t be much easier or more seasonal than mushroom. You can add more to your base than I do, such as onions or celery if you have them to hand, but just to say, you don’t need to, just lots of mushrooms will do. You will need a couple of punnets.

Mushrooms in a punnet
I always wrap my thyme into a little bundle rather than chopping it or even more time consuming – removing all the tiny leaves. Tie it up well so no twigs escape. All the flavour will infuse whilst cooking and then all you have to do at the end is squeeze out all the remaining juices. Finally, don’t forget plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If your pepper grinder is not up to much, grind some up in a coffee grinder. I am very happy to have a big bowl of Mushroom Soup for dinner with nothing more than a chunk of good sourdough bread.

If you are interested in hosting a Riverford lunch then just let Simon know. We will be taking bookings soon for January 2016 onwards.

Mushrooms Soup

Mushroom Soup
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main
Good glug of olive oil
800g mushrooms, (two large punnets) sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Small bunch fresh thyme, tied tightly into a little bundle
2 pints (1 litre) milk
250 mls cream (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Sweat the mushrooms and thyme bundle in the oil for about 30 minutes. All the liquid should cook away and the mushrooms will begin to fry. Add a little more olive oil is necessary. Cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Pour over the milk and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cream if using. Remove the thyme. Squeeze as much juice from it as possible. Blend in liquidizer of with a hand blender until smooth. Season with plenty of salt and black pepper. Adjust constancy with a little extra milk or water.


Cauliflower Mash

Finally for this week, a low carb mash for those of you trying to avoid the potatoes, which is so delicious that even if you are not on diet you should give it a go. There are a lot of recipes out there at the moment using vegetables in all sorts of cleaver ways to replace carbs – courgette spaghetti, Portobello mushrooms instead of burger buns, cauliflower pizza crust or cauliflower rice to name but a few. But cauliflower mash, or puree as it was then called made it quite big in the top ranking culinary world several years back. Served in Michelin stared restaurants with toasted scallops, vanilla or truffle oil. Any which way, it is super easy to make and very delicious so give it a go.

Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower Mash
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons (36g) unsalted butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Pull the leaves off the cauliflower and cut out the core in a kind of cone-shaped section. Then pull the florets off the head with your fingers, using a knife when you need to. Break or cut the florets into smaller, regular pieces (about 1 1/2 inch) and steam them. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a saucepan and rest the cauliflower florets on a steamer insert, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until you can poke a paring knife into the stems and you can feel that there’s still a little texture there. Remove the cauliflower and the keep the liquid. Add the cauliflower back to the saucepan and add a little of the cooking liquid. Using a hand-blender, purée until smooth. (You can use a liquidiser.) You’ll need to stop and scrape and stir the purée a few times; add more liquid as you need to, but add as little liquid as you can get away with. Next add in the butter, salt, and puree again. Taste for seasoning and serve hot. (You can reheat over low heat in the same pan if you’re not eating immediately.)

Cauliflower hiding

Potato, Leek and Mushroom Gratin

Next up. I managed to get a bit behind with my potato consumption and they were piling up, somewhat out of control in the vegetable basket. Anyone who know my cooking, will know that I make rather a lot of potato gratins. I tend to incorporate all sorts of greens as a hidden middle layer –from Cavalo Nero to Kale to Cabbage. The potato can just as easily be replaced, be it celeriac, parsnip, carrot, beetroot or swede. The possibilities are endless. This is one of my favourites – Potato, Leek and Mushroom. The mushroom adds a meatiness which makes it substantial enough to serve on its own just maybe with a salad. For a real treat add a little white truffle oil with the mushrooms once you have removed them from the heat.

Potato, leek and mushroom gratin on plate

Potato, Leek and Mushroom Gratin
This makes a very large gratin. You can cut the amount easily by 1/3 or 2/3
1 cup milk (250mls)
3 cups Double cream (750mls)
3 whole peeled garlic cloves
Small bunch of thyme, tied tightly with a piece of string
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sliced mushrooms
3 Leeks cut in rings
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 pounds (1.4kg) baking potatoes, sliced thin

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, whole garlic cloves and thyme over low-medium heat being careful not to boil over. Gently boil for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, coat a frying pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until golden brown. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute more. Remove. Heat another frying pan and sauté leeks in butter and olive oil until just beginning to caremelise for about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange 1/2 of the sliced potatoes. Arrange remaining potatoes on top. Press the layers down with a spatula to condense.

Remove the thyme fron the cream, pressing it to remove the juices. Mash up the garlic cloves until they dissolve. Check the seasoning of the cream. It needs to season all those potatoes. Pour the infused milk over the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil and place in a preheated 170 degree oven. Bake for about 1 hour until the potatoes are tender. A knife should easily insert in the middle. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until gratin is golden around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

leeks in pan

Roast Courgette, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew.

I had no idea what I was going to cook this week when I got my veg box from Riverford. To tell you the truth I still had quite a few courgettes left from last week, which were playing on my mind. Courgettes can get a bit tiresome, when thinking up new dishes and that is why I decided that it is always best to stick with the classics. One of my favourite courgette dishes is Ratatouille and I had some peppers and onions but just no aubergine. In fact I had so much courgette and peppers that I decided that rather than bulk it out anymore, I would just leave the aubergine out.

As much as I love it, I never used to make Ratatouille much, first of all because it always seemed very time consuming, both in cooking and cleaning, and secondly because it always used so much olive oil, which was both costly and fattening. Then a few years back I had a revelation. Why not, instead of frying the vegetables, which is messy and also uses a huge amount of oil, try roasting them instead. Nowadays, I simply toss the vegetables in oil and chuck them in the oven. Same result, much less time and half the fat. So not really Ratatouille at all – here it is, my Roast Courgette, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew.

Ratatoiuille close up

Roast Courgette, Red Pepper and Tomato Stew.

4 large courgettes
2 red or yellow peppers
2 Small onions, red or brown, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 Tin plum tomatoes
Olive oil
Small bunch basil or dried oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
Cut off the courgettes ends, then across into 1cm slices. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and any white membrane, then cut each half into 3 pieces and chop into bite-size chunks. Toss the courgette with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay out on a baking tray and put in the oven. Toss the peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper, lay out on a roasting tray and add to the oven. Cook until golden brown. The courgettes will need turning half way through and the peppers stirring regularly to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile add some olive oil to a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook the onion for 5-10 mins until soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a further min. Add the tinned tomatoes and half a tin of water and stir well to break up. Add some salt and pepper and either the basil, finely shredded, or the oregano. Turn the heat right down and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid catching. If too thick, add a little water. Taste the sauce and season. When the vegetables are ready, add to the sauce and check the seasoning. Either serve hot or cold.

Courgettes 2

Rainbow Stir-Fry

Finally for this week, I needed to use up practically everything else in my veg box. I noticed that when my box arrived what a great array of colours the vegetables where at this time of year. I have been reading a bit about how eating all the different coloured vegetables, or eating a rainbow as it is called, is a really good way of making sure that our bodies get all the nutrients and vitamins that we need . It is almost like nature has highlighted the fruit and veg that we need by colour coding them.

With this in mind, I decided to make a Rainbow Stir-fry with what I had in my box. Red onions, carrots, sweetcorn, red peppers and mushrooms. Unfortunately I was missing purple, although I think the red onions might count, but if you like you could put some red cabbage in too. Anyway, most importantly it tasted great and looked pretty colourful too.

Rainbow stir-fry

Rainbow Stir-Fry
Serves 2
100g egg noodles
Sunflower oil
Large knob of fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 fresh red chillies
2 small red onions
2 large carrots
½ a cabbage
1 red pepper
1 ear of sweetcorn
8 mushrooms
Sesame oil
Soy sauce
Chinese cooking rice wine
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Put a pan of water on to boil. Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. (A microplane in really good for this.) Cut the cabbage in half, remove the core and finely shred. Peel the carrots and cut into julienne or coarsely grate. Peel the onions, cut in half and finely slice. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and membrane and cut into thin strips. Cut the mushrooms into slices. Cut the sweetcorn of the cob. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes or as instructed on the packet. Drain and dress with sesame oil to prevent sticking together. Heat a large wok. Add some sunflower oil and add the chopped chilli, garlic and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the sauces to taste. You want a balance of sweet and salty. Taste until you have it right. Add the noodles and maybe a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander, stir well and serve straight away.

Removing corn kernals

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

Finally the aftermath of moving house is calming down, it is too wet for me to start the epic job of putting the allotment to bed for winter and I don’t have any Riverford lunches this week, and as a result I actually had some time to do some cooking this week.  It is often difficult to find the time to experiment with new recipes for my Riverford Lunches and Dinners and I always feel that I need to keep on finding new and exciting ways of using veg, if I am going to keep on inspiring you. I opted for a large veg box (original) and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Large veg box Wk 17

I was very keen to test out a salad recipe that my sister in law served up last weekend for lunch and everyone was bowled over by. It comes for Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem which is one of my favourite cookbooks but I had somehow managed to overlook this recipe. It is a perfect blend of sweet and sour, crunchy and chewy and salads really don’t get much better than that. 1 am sure with its combination of almonds, dates and spinach it has got to be pretty good for you as well.

Spinach Salad with Almonds & Dates

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

1 tablespoon wine vinegar
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 ½ ounces dates (100 grams), preferably Medjool, pitted and quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (30 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small pitas (about 3 1/2 ounces, or 100 grams), roughly torn into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
½ cup whole unsalted almonds (75 grams), coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
½ teaspoon chili flakes
5 to 6 ounces baby spinach leaves (150 grams)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put vinegar, onion and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard. Meanwhile, heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add pita and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until pita is golden. Add almonds and continue cooking until pita is crunchy and browned and almonds are toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and mix in sumac, chili flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool. When ready to serve, toss spinach leaves with pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add dates and red onion, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Red Onions