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

Bacon, Tomato, Avocado and Mayo Sourdough Sandwich

Finally for this week, I tackled Avocados yet again. No one can ever get bored of avocados. They are just such a delicious, perfect thing. But being so perfect, it is quite difficult to find recipes for them, when they are quite happy just being left alone.

So I thought long and hard about what my real favourite way to eat avocado was. And what came in top, higher even than that fabulous 70’s diner party classic of Avocado Stuffed with Prawns and Marie Rose Sauce, came my all time, absolute favourite of Bacon, Tomato and Avocado Sandwich with Mayo. Super simple, super good. Few top tips. Use good bread. I used Gail’s Sourdough, lightly toasted. Use good bacon. I like smoked streaky. The hint of smoke adds flavour and I like my bacon super crisp and only streaky can crisp up to perfection. Start on a lower heat with a little oil and render down the fat in the bacon, before turning up the heat and crisping it up to perfection. Some people like to dip the toast in the rendered bacon fat. I am quite the opposite, I dry my bacon on kitchen paper, but however you like it, I don’t think I really have to say anymore. The photos say it all.

Avocado and Bacon Sandwich 2

Bacon, Tomato, Avocado and Mayo Sourdough Sandwich
Serves 1
2 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted
½ a perfectly ripe avocado
½ a perfectly ripe large tomato
1 tbsp. Mayonnaise
5 rashers good quality smoked streaky bacon

Heat a frying pan with a little sunflower oil. Lay out your bacon rashes and cook gently to render the fat. Then turn up the heat and crisp up completely on both sides. Drain on kitchen towel. Meanwhile spread mayonnaise on one piece of toast. Top with bacon, then tomato slices. Season with a pinch of salt, top with avocado and finally the top piece of toast. Eat immediately.


Celery Soup, Blue Cheese Crostini

This week I got a Small Veg Box Less Roots which had leeks, green cabbage, mixed salad leaves, avocados, celery and sweetcorn.

I have cooked a Riverford Lunch this week already and I have a SuperClub on Thursday so I thought I would test out a recipe I am serving at both. I think people forget about Celery Soup. I suppose it just sounds a bit dull. Celery is one of those vegetables that everyone throws into their stocks, stews and sauces but never rarely let’s steal the show. But I love its clean, fresh and savoury taste. It is important to sweat the celery down for a long time to intensify the flavour and let it caramelise a little. I always think with soups, that the initial cooking is the most important. All the flavour should be released at this stage and the boiling at the end when the liquid is added should be minimal. I love this soup with its pale green hue. It could almost be a Farrow and Ball Colour. I like It with the salty kick of the blue cheese crostini but some prefer some crispy bacon scattered on top instead or just a drizzle of olive oil. Give it a try!

Celery Soup

Celery Soup, Blue Cheese Crostini
Serves 4
2 heads celery (washed and chopped)

Small bunch of thyme, wrapped up  in string
Generous glug of good quality Olive Oil
2 Pints of Vegetable stock or just water will do
250mls double cream
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Blue Cheese
Crostini – cut thin slices of French bread and drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven until golden brown

Sweat the celery and thyme in the olive oil for about 30-40 minutes over a low heat until just about to brown. The secret of this recipe is really giving the celery time to cook slowly now and intensify its flavour but do not allow to burn. Add the stock or water. The celery should just be covered with liquid. Add a good pinch or two of salt and slowly boil for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cream. Remove the thyme bundle and squeeze out the juices. Liquidize or whiz with a hand blender. Do this thoroughly. You do not want it to be stringy. It should not be necessary to strain but if need be, then do. (If your celery looks very stringy when you start, you could lightly peel it before chopping.) Add a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper and more salt if necessary, to taste. Serve with the blue cheese spread on the Crostini.