Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan

When you get to my age and you have been cooking as long as I have, it is really hard to find recipes that are fresh, exciting or different but this simple celery salad is really quite stimulating. I’m not even that keen on fruit or nuts in savoury dishes but the celery, lemon and the chilli really balance out the sweetness. It made a very tasty lunch!

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Parmesan

Serves 2

½ cup/large handful raw almonds with skins

8 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal, use leaves too

6 dates, pitted, coarsely chopped

Zest of one lemon plus 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chunk of Parmesan, shaved

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Very small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Toss almonds, celery, celery leaves, lemon zest and dates in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil together well. Add a small pinch of chilli flakes and mix through the salad. Serve with shavings of parmesan.

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

Autumn is in the air and I am already craving for comfort food. The trouble about winter recipes compared to summer ones is they always take so much longer to cook. Gone are the warm evenings and just chucking something on the barbie.

Winter is all peeling, chopping, stewing and slow-cooking. What I like about this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s fabulous recipe book “Cook”, is that although it obviously needs hours to bubble away, the actual prep is really quick. There is no laborious and messy browning of the meat and the result is sensational. I usually make a double batch and put one pie in the freezer for a rainy day.

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie

Serves 4

3 red onions

3 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

4 field mushrooms

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

olive oil

1 kg quality brisket or stewing beef, cut into 2cm cubes

440 ml Guinness (no lager, please!)

2 heaped tablespoons plain flour

150 g Cheddar cheese

170 g all-butter puff pastry (I used ready rolled)

1 large free-range egg

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.

Peel and chop the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, slice the mushrooms, and pick and finely chop the rosemary. Heat a lug of oil in a large ovenproof pan over a low heat, add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms, then mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, and a pinch of sea salt and 1 level teaspoon of black pepper. Fry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover.

Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven for 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick, stirring halfway. A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob and reduce until the sauce thickens.

Coarsely grate the cheese, stir half through the pie filling, then transfer to a pie dish and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (or use ready rolled like I did.)

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pie filling. Place the pastry over the top of the pie dish pinching or folding and tucking in the edges to seal, piecing the pie with a knife once or twice to let out the steam. Beat the egg, then brush over the top of the pie and bake directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked, puffed and beautifully golden. Delicious served simply with peas.

Beetroot Waldorf Salad

I got a juicing box this week but funnily enough it wasn’t a juice which first sprang to mind – it was a salad. A good old fashioned Waldolf Salad. Created at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896 not by a chef but by the maître d’hôtel Oscar Tschirky, the Waldorf salad was an instant success and famously features in Fawlty Towers!

The original version of this salad contained only apples, celery and mayonnaise but beyond that no one seems to be able to agree. Some add lettuce, grapes or raisins, often walnuts and most recently the mayonnaise has sometimes been replaced with more healthy alternatives such as yoghurt. Since there are so many variations, I thought I might add my own rather unusual ingredient of beetroot and I thought it worked very well.

Beetroot Waldorf Salad

2 apples, cored and sliced

6 sticks of celery, chopped

2 beetroot, peeled and grated

A handful of walnuts, lightly toasted in the oven

6 Tbsp mayonnaise

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Method

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in the apple, celery and beetroot. Scatter with walnuts.

Lentil Salad with Celery, Carrots, Chilli and Parsley

This is one of those recipes which really does not sound or look that exciting but always tastes much more than its sum of ingredients.  I think it is the combination of chilli and celery which is such a refreshing mix of hot (spicy) and cold, the nutty lentils and really good olive oil which works so well.

Make sure you choose Lentils which hold their texture when cooked like Le Puy Lentils or Castelluccio.  There should be more vegetables in proportion to the lentils. You can add other vegetables that you have to hand such as peppers of any colour or fennel. Adjust the amounts of all the ingredients according to your taste.

Lentil Salad with Celery, Carrots, Chilli and Parsley

Serves 8 as a side

200g Lentils

200g carrots, chopped very finely

200g celery, peeled and chopped very finely

200g cucumber, seeds removed and chopped very finely

1 Fresh red chilli

1-2 lemons

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large handful of parsley, roughly chopped

Cook the lentils in plenty of salted cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until just cooked.  Do not over cook as they will not retain their texture which is very important for this salad.  When cooked, drain and allow to cool.  When still warm, mix with the dressing of freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Be generous, it should be quite juicy. Allow to cool completely before mixing with all the other ingredients.  Adjust seasoning.  Serve scattered with a little more freshly chopped parsley.  Try using some leaves of baby gem lettuce as a “spoon.”

Swiss Chard and Herb Tart with Fresh Goat’s Cheese

We all get a bit stuck in our comfort zone and when scaning through new recipes, I must admit I have a tendency to stick to the familiar, so I nearly bypassed this Ottolenghi recipe I found when looking for a new way of using up chard. For a start it was called Swiss Chard and Herb Tart with Young Cheese, and I knew for sure that I did not have any “young cheese” lying around in my fridge, nor was I very likely to be able to get hold of any very easily in the culinary void of Wimbledon. Secondly, I wasn’t sure about the mint. I am always a little wary of cooking mint. I little too much and it can end up tasting like toothpaste. I wasn’t sure about the quantities of the ingredients – follow the net weights not the descriptions. 8 large chard leaves turned out to be a whole bag of chard from Riverford. And finally I didn’t have any courgette flowers – too early in the year for my allotment. But I decided to make it anyway and I am really pleased that I did. It is absolutely delicious, even without the courgette flowers. For the young cheese, I used a Abergavenny goat’s cheese that I found in Sainsbury’s.

Swiss chard and herb tart with young cheese

Adapted from Yotem Ottolenghi. Serves four as a main course.

½ small red onion, thinly sliced (85g net)

3 celery stalks and leaves, thinly sliced (220g net)

8 large chard leaves, roughly chopped, white stalks discarded (175g net)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tbsp torn mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tsp chopped sage

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

75g feta, crumbled

50g pecorino, finely grated

15g pine nuts, lightly toasted

Grated zest of 1 lemon

350g all-butter puff pastry, I used ready rolled

100g brocciu cheese (fresh cheese) or ricotta or fresh goat’s cheese

6 Courgette flowers, cut in half length-ways (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and black pepper

Place a large frying pan on medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery, chard, garlic, mint, parsley and sage in the olive oil. Cook, stirring continuously, for 15 minutes or until the greens are wilted and the celery has softened completely. Remove from the heat and stir through the feta, pecorino, pine nuts, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a hearty grind of black pepper. Leave aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Roll the pastry, if necessary to a 3mm thick sheet and cut it into a circle, approximately 30cm in diameter. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Spread the filling out on the pastry leaving a 3 centimetre edge all the way around. Dot the filling with large chunks of brocciu, ricotta or fresh goat’s cheese.  Top with courgette flowers, if using. Bring the pastry up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure, decorative lip over the edge of the tart. Alternatively press with the end of a fork. Brush the pastry with egg and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Bake the tart in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked on the base. Remove from the oven and brush with a little olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Save

Save

Puy lentil and mushroom Bolognaise

As I said, I have been using up lentils this week, and what better way than this fabulous lentil Bolognaise. It is healthier, quicker, cheaper and makes so much less mess as there is no meat to brown off. You can use it just like Bolognaise too – in a lasagne, in a baked potato, on polenta or on pasta as I did. I really cannot rate it enough.

Puy lentil and mushroom Bolognaise

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 onions, finely chopped

300g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

800g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 litre vegetable stock (I make mine with kello stock cubes)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried oregano

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the carrot, celery and onion for about 10 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through, release their liquid and begin to fry. Add the tomato puree and fry for a minute or two. Add the red wine and reduce for a few minutes. Season well and add the puy lentils and the tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and your ragu is nice and thick (you may need to add extra stock/ boil away any excess depending how long it takes the lentils to soften). Check seasoning.

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Cashew Nuts

This is such a great use-up dish at the end of the week, when your fridge is still full of veg and you know your next veg box is coming. You can throw in whatever you like and haven’t even padded it out with noodle, it is just veg, veg and more veg and you can be sure you have got your 10 a day

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Cashew Nuts

Serves 2

Teriyaki sauce varies hugely. My favourite is Waitrose home-brand.

Large knob of fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 fresh red chillies

1 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Handful of purple sprouting broccoli, sliced finely

Head o Bok, Choi shredded

Few sticks of celery and its leaves, shredded

2 carrots, peeled and then peeled into ribbons

Sweet mixed peppers, sliced, seeds removed

Teriyaki (for gluten free a mixture of Mirin, gluten free soy and Chinese cooking rice wine)

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Chopped cashew nuts, toasted

Sea salt

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. Heat a large wok or saucepan and add some sesame oil, the  garlic, chilli 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 teriyaki to taste and a pinch of salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander and chopped cashew nuts and stir well and serve straight away.

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. Heat a large wok or saucepan and add some sesame oil, the  garlic, chilli 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 teriyaki to taste and a pinch of salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander and chopped cashew nuts and stir well and serve straight away.

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

I seem to be writing a “100 easy recipes with butternut squash” blog at the moment.

I also seem to be finding it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas for family meals. My children are finally of the age when we can have a family supper all together in the evening, after years of cooking separate meals for us and the kids. This does however limit what we can eat, as pleasing everyone seems almost unachievable. I am always trying to think up new and enticing ways of presenting vegetables to persuade the kids to eat them. This week I bought some Tacos which always go down well. I offered a little shredded, left over chicken for my daughter, who does not do “spicy” and knocked up some guacamole for my son, who doesn’t like meat. If you offer a selection of different filling, it is almost possible to keep the whole family happy, as least for a while.

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

Tacos with Re-fried Black Beans, Roast Butternut Squash and Feta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, very finely grated

Large knob of ginger, very finely grated

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 Chipotle chilli, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 tins black beans

1 packet corn tacos

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced

Small bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Shredded lettuce

A little feta, crumbled

Guacamole (see link)

Whatever else you might like to add – sour cream, tomato salsa, grated cheese,  shredded cooked chicken or sweetcorn

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. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook about 1 minute more. Add chilli, the salt, the herbs, spices and tomato puree. Stir and cook 1 minute more. Stir in beans with a little of their juice and cook for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile roast your butternut squash. Cut into quite small dice, toss with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.

Make up your tacos as you like, but I like to  first add some re-fried beans, tops with some shredded lettuce and coriander leaves, scatter on some butternut squash, add a big dollop of guacamole and finish with a little crumbled feta.

Roast Butternut Squash 1

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free)

I am particularly pleased with my next recipe. I was planning to make a butternut squash lasagne, as I seem to have acquired a small collection of them in my veg drawer and off course I was going to layer up the usual tomato sauce, béchamel and roast butternut squash with the customary sheets of lasagne when I had a brain wave. Why not cut the butternut squash into thin slices and use them instead of the lasagne sheet, and create a gluten free lasagne?

Everyone these days seems to be making spaghetti with vegetables. In my experience, there is however one major flaw. As soon as your vegetable spaghetti is actually cooked enough to be palatable, it dissolves. Not surprising really, as it has to gluten to keep in together. But this is where my butternut squash lasagne comes into its own. It does not have to stay together and therefore can bake away until totally delicious. The whole family was really very pleasantly surprised.

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free).jpg 5

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free)

Serves 4

You can only use the top of the butternut squash for this recipe as it makes nice “lasagne sheets”, so you will need quite a lot. Use the rest of the squash for another recipe.

1 large butternut squash olive oil

For the tomato sauce

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 garlic clove, finely chopped

400g can plum tomatoes

Finely chopped fresh rosemary

Large head of chard

2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

For the bechamel sauce

50g plain flour (use gluten-free flour for Celiacs)

50g butter

500mls milk

100g cheddar cheese or parmesan

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cut the butternut just where it begins to bulge so that you have a nice even cylinder shape.  Peel the butternut squash and cut with a mandolin into nice thin sheets.

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free) 3

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. In a pan, soften the onion in the oil for 5 mins, then add the celery and garlic and cook for 5 min more. Add the tomatoes, rinse out the tin with a little water and add that too. Add the rosemary. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and leave to simmer, uncovered for 30 mins. Stir from time to time. You should be left with a thick purée. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, if the chard has a large stalk (this is not usually the case early in the season) separate the chard stalks from the leaves and chop both leaves and stalks roughly, keeping them separate. Add the stalks to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2–3 minutes, until tender. Remove the stalks with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the leaves to the boiling water and blanch briefly. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to cool. When cool use the tea towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the wet garlic or garlic into very thin slithers. Heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until just turning light golden brown. Add the Chard and season with salt and mix well. Fry briefly and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile make your béchamel. Begin by melting the butter gently – don’t over-heat it or let it brown, as this will affect the colour and flavour of the sauce. As soon as the butter melts, remove from the heat and add the flour. Stir well and return to medium heat and cook until your mixture resembles sand. Now add the milk and whisk. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and add your grated cheese. Season to taste with salt.

Assemble the lasagne. Put a thin layer of béchamel in your gratin dish and top with a layer of butternut squash sheets, Top with a layer of tomato sauce and some chard. Keep going finishing with a layer of butternut squash topped with béchamel. Bake for 30-40 mins, or until the lasagne is golden and bubbling.

Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagne (Pasta-less and Gluten-free)

Ribollita

Veg boxes are a bit like allotments, in that one always seems to be lacking in something one month only to have a glut of it the next. I was lamenting the lack of greens over January but I am now inundated with Chard, Cime di Rapa, Cavalo Nero and Spinach and Spring Greens. One of my favourite soups sprang to mind, a fantastic peasant soup, cheap and wholesome and packed with nutritious greens.  If you had fresh tomatoes in your box this week, you could use them instead of tinned. Make sure you use proper rustic bread, preferably a bit stale, otherwise it will just dissolve. Also, invest in a good, peppery Tuscan olive oil. Riverford do a good one.

Ribollita literally means re-boiled or re-cooked in Italian and is meant to be re-heated. It tastes even better the next day!

Ribollita

Ribollita
2 red onions, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
3 sticks celery, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Good Tuscan extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch ground fennel seeds
1 pinch dried red chilli
400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes
2 tins cannellini beans
300 g cavolo nero or chard, leaves, striped weight from the stalks
2 large handfuls good-quality sour-dough stale bread, torn into chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop your onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Heat a saucepan with a splash of olive oil and add the vegetables to the pan with the ground fennel seeds and chilli. Sweat very slowly on a low heat with the lid just ajar for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.

Add the beans with a little of the water from the tin and bring back to the boil. Shred your cavalo nero and chard and stir in to the soup (it will look like loads, but don’t worry as it will cook down.) Season well with sea salt and pepper. When the greens have cooked into the soup add the bread. The soup should be thick but not dry, so add a little more water if you need to loosen it. Add plenty of olive oil – you want to achieve a silky, thick soup. Check seasoning.

Chard