Chorizo & Vegetable Paella

Finally moved in to my new house and my new kitchen is twice the size, so I can’t wait to get cooking. Finding the time however, with a long list of jobs to be done, is another thing – boxes to be unpacked, pictures to be hung, curtains put up and internet set up. I wander from room to room and the list grows, no one can find any of their possessions so the house rings out with cries of “Where is my swimming costume, rugby boots or Ballet shoes” and even simple everyday tasks seem to take twice as long.

Still, everybody still needs feeding and hopefully some warm, nourishing food will calm the fraying nerves. I opted for a Small veg box (less roots) with red spring onions, sweet potatoes, french beans, savoy cabbage, red pepper and sweetcorn and set about cooking some quick and easy meals to feed the whole family.

First up a Chorizo and Vegetable Paella which is a really adaptable recipe and can be vegetarian too if you leave out the chorizo but I have to say, I prefer mine with at least some meat or fish. It is lovely to throw in some mussels or prawns or some chicken, whatever takes your fancy but it is a great use up of vegetables too – onions, peppers, any beans, I used French but you could use runner beans, sugar snap peas or course the classic peas.

In my time-saving, quick and easy mentality that I am trying to adopt at present, I chose ready diced Iberico Chorizo which saved me loads of time. And I am not going to even pretend that I made chicken stock – for the time being stock cubes will do!

Paella Cooking

Chorizo & Vegetable Paella
Serves 3
Olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
120g chorizo, ready diced
2 red pepper, cut in half, deseeded and cut into thin slices widthways
2 cube chicken stock
2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 pinch of Saffron
200 g paella rice
100 g French beans, cut into 1” pieces
15 g fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon

Put a glug of oil into a large heavy bottomed shallow casserole or paella pan on a medium heat, add the onion and fry for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly until completely soft. Add the chorizo and fry to release the oil. Next add the garlic and red peppers and fry for a further 5 minutes. Meanwhile dissolve the stock cubes in 1 litre of boiling water and add the saffron. Next add your rice to the peppers with a good pinch of salt and the smoked paprika. Pour in ¾ of the stock (you will probably need all of it, but just in case.) Let it bubble away gently, stirring from time to time to avoid sticking. Top up with more stock if it becomes dry and the rice is still raw. While the paella is cooking, boil the beans for a few minutes until cooked and then refresh. After 30 minutes, check the rice is tender and cook a little longer if needed. Season to perfection, stir in the beans and then chop the parsley leaves, scatter them over the paella, and serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over.

Red Pepper

Beetroot and Horseradish Gratin

This week I got a small veg box with roots especially because I knew it contained beetroot and I had a particular recipe in mind. I adapted this original recipe for Beetroot Gratin which I got from my very well used copy of the Riverford Farm Cook Book, by adding horseradish to it when I was cooking it to serve with a piece of roast beef for Sunday lunch. It is a fantastic combination and really a truly delicious dish. It is always a favourite at my Riverford Lunches or the SuperClubs and in fact at the last SuperClub in Putney’s St Marys that I served it, at a man came up to me afterwards and said “I don’t like beetroot and I do not like horseradish but I love that!”
What I also adore about this dish is the colour that results from the combination of deep purple beetroot and cream creating a splendid, shocking pink. So I was a little dismayed when my beetroot this week turned out to be yellow! Luckily I had a few of the usual variety left in my fridge from last week so I did a mix, purely so I could get some of that pink. And with the mixture of all the colours, I was even more pleased with the results than ever.

Beetroot gratin in a bowl

I do love all the different coloured beetroot that are around now a days but they do tend to be a little drier than the purple variety, so I have added a little extra cream in this recipe. If you are only using purple, then you could possibly cut back a little. Finally, if you can’t get hold of fresh horseradish you can use a very good quality jar of horseradish sauce. I recommend Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference made with fresh cream. You basically want to look for one with a high content of horseradish (at least 28%) and not too much else. Remove one tablespoon of cream for every tablespoon of sauce you add.

Beetroot gratin in a dish

Beetroot and Horseradish Gratin
1kg beetroot, peeled
300ml double cream
1 stick fresh horseradish, peeled and grated (watch your eyes)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3.
Thinly slice the beetroot either by hand, with the slicing attachment of a food processor or with a mandolin; it should be about 2–3mm thick.  Mix a couple of tablespoons of horseradish with the cream in a small pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Taste. It should be really quite potent. It has to flavour all the beetroot so add more horseradish if necessary. Put the sliced beetroot in a bowl and mix thoroughly so the beetroot is coated with cream. Arrange in a 30cm gratin dish, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the beetroot is tender.

Graated Horseradish

A Sort of Tonno e Faggioli

I love this Italian salad which I first came across years ago when I worked as a waitress at Pizza Express in Wimbledon Village. Nobody ever ordered it, or probably noticed it was even on the menu but we were trained to make it along with the other offerings of salads on offer, being the huge choice of either mozzarella and tomato or mixed salad.
The classic version of this salad, literally meaning tuna and beans, is made with Cannellini beans but I thought it would work well with the lovely Borlotti beans which I got this week from Riverford. I also added a little balsamic vinegar which goes particularly well with Borlotti beans and seemed in keeping with the Italian theme. Finally, I added some cherry tomatoes because I had some in my box and I just thought they might be nice. They say that if you change more than two ingredients in a recipe it is no longer original (this is how chefs get around plagiarism on recipes which are quite blatantly copied) so in actual fact it is not exactly a Tonno e Faggioli any more, apart from the fact that it is still quite plainly tuna and beans.

Tonno e Faggioli

Tonno e Faggioli
See how to cook the beans on my last post of Pasta e Faggioli
2 cups cooked and drained Borlotti beans
1 can tuna steak, drained of oil
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
Half a red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of flat leafed parsley, leaves picked from the stems

Make the dressing by mixing the mustard and vinegar in a bowl. Season well and whisk in the olive oil. It should emulsify quite easily. Add the onion and mix through and then the beans. Cut the tomatoes in half and add along with the tuna and parsley. Check seasoning and serve immediately.

Red Onions

Pasta e Faggioli

When I saw the fresh Borlotti beans on Riverford’s website, I just had to have some. I had difficulty with growing mine this year on the allotment. Too cold, too wet, whatever! It was it was a great disappointment, especially after a bumper harvest last year. Never mind, Riverford sent me a huge, lovely bag full. They are so much nicer fresh than dried or tinned. All fat and plump and creamy inside. I decided to use them for two recipes this week. The first is a classic Pasta e Faggioli which literally means Pasta and Beans – it always sounds so much better in another language. This is a real peasant dish with inexpensive, rustic ingredients but a double helping of carbohydrate to keep you fuller, longer.

Borlotti Beans in a pan

How to cook Fresh Borlotti Beans
Keep in their paper bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. They should keep for at least a week.

Split open the pods to get to the beans inside. No need to soak before cooking.

boil simply
Put the shelled beans in a pan with just enough cold water to cover. Add a clove or two of peeled garlic as sprig of rosemary (tightly tied in string or an elastic band so that the flavour escapes but not the leaves) and maybe a fresh red chilli. Boil for 20-30 mins until soft. Add a little more water if needed. Just before the end of the cooking time, add a good glug of olive oil. mush up the garlic cloves and season well.

Pasta e Fagioli in a bowl

Pasta e Faggioli
There is no need to add the bacon if you are vegetarian or the parmesan.
Extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
150g smoked bacon, thinly diced
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato puree
Chicken stock or good quality chicken stock cubes
1 cup of cooked Borlotti beans
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
3/4 cup dried pasta, such as macaroni or ditalini
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Add the tomato puree and cook for a minute more. Add a litre of chicken stock and bring to the boil. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. Add the cooked beans and check seasoning. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. I think the flavour gets better if you leave the soup for a while but it will keep drinking up the stock so you may need to let it down a bit again.

Borlotti beans in shell

Salade Niçoise

Finally for this week, the weather managed to stay bright just long enough for me to make one of my favourite quick lunches, Salade Niçoise. I was inspired by the lovely French beans and tomatoes around at the moment but you could try it with runner beans instead. I am however an avid believer that a Salad Niçoise simply has to contain tuna and anchovies to be permitted to bear the name. I made it with a fresh piece of grilled tuna but you can use tinned if you prefer. The anchovies in my recipe are only used to season the dressing but by all means add some extra if you are inclined. You can get delicious marinated anchovies or Boquerones if you shop around.

This recipe is from Alastair Little who is credited as being the inventor of Modern British cooking, which is what inspired the entire revolution in food that began back in early 90s. His fantastic book “Keep it Simple” is now out of print but you can still pick up second hand copies if you try. Alistair always amazed me by his inclusion of tomato ketchup in this dressing, but it really works!

Salad Nicoise

Salade Niçoise
Serves 2
2 fresh tuna steaks
8 new potatoes
4 tomatoes, cut in eighths
Small handful of French beans, topped
½ small red onion, very finely sliced
4 eggs, cooked for 6 minutes in boiling water, halved
A handful of good pitted black olives
Small handful of capers
For the dressing
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
4-6 anchovy fillets
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Juice ½ lemon
1 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Worcester sauce
1 egg yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Boil the eggs for 6-8 minutes, depending whether you prefer a soft or harder yolk. Drain and refresh.
Boil the potatoes in salted water for 12-15 minutes until tender, then drain. Cut into halves or quarters depending on size
Boil or steam the beans for 5 minutes. Refresh in cold water, then drain.
Make the dressing: Whiz everything together with a hand blender. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.
Peel the eggs, cut into halves.
Heat a ridged griddle pan on the hob or a hot barbecue for 5 minutes. Cook the tuna steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like your fish.

French Beans

Indian Spiced Cabbage

Next up this week – the king of cabbages – The Savoy. A sure sign that winter is coming but before you get depressed remember that cabbage has everything you need to get you through a long, hard winter – vitamins A, C, K and B6, folate, potassium, manganese, thiamin, calcium, iron and magnesium.

I love mine spiced up with a few Indian flavours and lots of chilli. This is one of my favourite recipes and you can make it with any sort of cabbage or greens. It is lovely served alongside a curry or just on its own with poppadums and chutney. I am always amused by the mention of asafoetida powder. This is a rarely heard of herb in England but a popular addition to many Indian curries and not necessarily for its taste rather than for its medicinal properties. Asafoetida is a powerful anti-flatulent, reducing the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut. Amazingly it usually turns up mostly in Indian bean, chickpea and lentil recipes and those containing brassicas. Where more fitting to find such an ingredient as in this spicy cabbage.

I love cooking with coconut oil and it is now readily available and Riverford also stock it. I use it for many Indian dishes but please do not believe the hype. It maybe super tasty but It is not super good for you, so like with all fats, use sparingly.

Spicy Cabbage

Indian Spiced Cabbage
½ Savoy cabbage, shredded
1 -2 green chili, depending on spiciness
1⁄2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seed
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1⁄2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
1 dash asafoetida powder
Sea Salt

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds and the asafoetida powder. Add ginger, garlic, chillies and onions. Cook till the onions are a little soft. Add the cabbage. Add salt to taste and cook for about 5 minutes or so. Adjust the cooking time depending on how you like your cabbage. I like mine quite crunchy. Finally add the chopped coriander.


Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli

This week I started with a medium veg box (less roots) and once again, Mexico was my first thought. Sweetcorn, sweet potatoes peppers and coriander and, I hate to say it but it might have been the hint of Autumn in the air,  which made me think of this “Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli”.

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chilli

I have made it many time before and I love it because it is so versatile. You can have it on its own,  with rice, in a jacket potato, add a tortilla wrap and you have a burrito or serve it up in Taco shells. You can even liquidise it and have it as soup. Or how about in an enchiladas or quesadilla. Add what you like – charred sweetcorn, tomato salsa, guacamole, sour cream or cheese. The possibilities are endless.

Taco Shells

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed Chipotle Chillis
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped
Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Add bell peppers and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so. Stir often to avoid burning. Stir in garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Add chilli, the salt, the herbs and spices. Stir and cook 1 minute. Next add the sweet potato. Give everything a good mix and add tomatoes and enough water to cover the sweet potato. Simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked. Stir in beans, and continue to cook 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and stir in lime juice. Finally add the coriander and adjust the seasoning to taste.



Guacomole can be used to heat up a dish or cool it down so bare this in mind when adding the chilli. The most important factor to perfect guacamole is using good, ripe avocados. Check for ripeness by gently pressing the outside of the avocado. If there is no give, the avocado is not ripe yet and will not taste good. If there is a little give, the avocado is ripe. If there is a lot of give, the avocado may be past ripe and not good.

2 ripe avocados
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
1 fresh red or green Serrano chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
½ bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lime
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly grated black pepper
Drizzle of Olive Oil

Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out and put in a mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, coriander, lime, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chilli peppers vary individually in their hotness. Start with a little, add more to taste. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.

Sweet Potato Chilli