Channa Masala with Spinach

When I served this up for dinner the other night my partner announced that he didn’t much like chickpeas and he didn’t much like spinach but it was the best vegetarian dish he had ever eaten. Praise indeed! Probably why it is one of the most popular curries in India.

Channa Masala with Spinach

You could use fresh tomato instead of tinned and another leafy green such as chard can replace the spinach.

2 large onion, finely diced

3 medium cloves garlic, grated

Large knob ginger, scraped and grated

1 or 2 fresh chilies (depending on size and heat) finely chopped

2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil, vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon ground cumin seed

1 tsp garam masala

1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes

2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Large handful of spinach

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil or ghee in a large heavy based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes until really soft and beginning to brown. Add a little water if necessary. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and spices and cook for a minute or two more. Add the tomatoes and rinse out the can with a little water and add that two with pepper and salt to taste. Cook down gently for 10 – 15 minutes or so adding more water if necessary. When the sauce tastes really nice, it is done. Adjust seasoning. Add more spices if necessary. Puree with a hand bender. You want a spicy, savoury gravy. Add the drained chickpeas and allow to cook a little to allow all the flavours to amalgamate. Remove the stalks from the spinach, wash and drain. Roughly chop the leaves if they are large. Add to your chickpeas mixture and cook the spinach for a few minutes or so until just done. Add the coriander and serve with rice and/or naan.

Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Summer Greens with Lentils, Chilli and Coriander

I know we have has two rather labour-intensive recipes this week and I know that you are probably all in a hurry so here is a really quick and easy and healthy way of using up all your summer greens. I will be serving this up for the vegans tonight,  amongst other things, at the SupperClub in Putney. I hope they like it!

Summer Greens with Lentils, Chilli and Coriander

You can use all manner of greens with this recipe, spring greens, spinach, kale, Cavalo Nero or any type of cabbage. Just remember if the greens are very fibrous they may need blanching first, but If they are tender you can just sweat them down as in this recipe.

This makes a lot. Enough for 4 as a main or 8-10 as a side. Half the quantities if you are not very hungry.

for the lentils:

300g Puy lentils

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp olive oil

for the spring greens:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 chilli, chopped

500g spring greens, shredded

Juice of ½ lemon

1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

First cook the lentils. Put them in a pan with the garlic and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until tender, topping up the water if necessary. Drain, then season well and mix in the olive oil.

For the spring greens heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic and chilli, then cover and sweat for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the shredded spring greens and season well. Cook, stirring, over a high heat until wilted. Stir in the lemon juice, lentils and coriander and adjust the seasoning.

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

I am going to share a little secret with you. If you love lamb chops but are the kind of guy who is not very keen on fat, then you will probably love the very expensive cut of trimmed rack of lamb. You are probably looking at about £30 a kilo, and that is not cheap. However, check out your local Halal butcher. (Often found inside Arabic shops which have lots of fruit and veg outside. There are at least three in Morden.) They more than likely sell these fabulous little lamb chops, completely trimmed of all their fat. They might not look quite as professionally butchered as a French trimmed rack, but they are half the price and chuck them on the BBQ, they taste absolutely delicious, no one is going to care what they look like anyway.

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

Serves 2

10 lamb chops (I allow about 5 chops per person)

For chard

1 bunch Swiss chard (1 lb)

1 large red onion, finely sliced

2 garlic clove, very finely chopped

Small bunch mint

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest from 1 lemon

Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips. Wash and drain well. Cook the onion in olive oil, gently, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and chard stems and ribs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper and cook down until well wilted. Whilst the chard cooks, grill your seasoned chops. Add the mint and lemon to the chard and check for seasoning. Serve with the chops.

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.

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Sausages with Lentils, Crème Fraiche, Mustard & Spinach

Usually I have a glut of vegetables of one sort of another, but at the moment I appear to have a glut of lentils. I must have read some article proclaiming the virtues of lentils and how super good they are for you and then subconsciously I must have picked up a bag every time I went shopping for the next month. Subsequently, this week, I have not one, but two lentil dishes for you. The first is a classic combination of lentils, crème fraiche and mustard served up with spinach and sausages. It is not exactly a stew, but it is nice to keep it a bit soupy. You can use any sort of spinach or some other greens, such as chard, kale or cavalo would work too, but you might like to blanch them first.

Sausages with Lentils, Crème Fraiche, Mustard & Spinach

Serves 4

8 good quality pork sausages

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 large leek, shredded, washed and drained

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

Small bunch of fresh thyme, tied into a bundle

2 cloves garlic, grated

250g lentils

Couple of large handfuls of fresh spinach, striped from stems and washed

250ml crème fraîche

1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cook the sausages for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are evenly browned and cooked through.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Fry the bacon until crispy and then stir in the chopped vegetables and the thyme bundle. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to brown. Add the lentils and the garlic. Stir well and add 1 ½ pints of water. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender. Add water if necessary but by the time the lentils are cooked, you want most of the water to have cooked away. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the thyme bundle, squeezing out the remaining juices. Stir in the crème fraiche and mustard and then the spinach. Return to the heat and cook the spinach until just wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning and add the sausages. Serve hot.

Inzimino di Ceci – Chickpeas with Swiss Chard

When Rose Grey was serving this dish up at the River Café over 25 years ago, most people in England didn’t even know what Chard was. Now a days we are so much more educated and I grow so much of the stuff on my allotment I barely know what to do with it. This simple dish of chard and chickpeas is a great way of using it up.

Inzimino di Ceci – Chickpeas with Swiss Chard

Adapted from The River Cafe

Serves 6-8

175 g (6 oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (or use 2 tins)

1 large garlic clove, peeled

1 tin good quality plum tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

6 tablespoons olive oil

900 g (2 lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 dried chillies, crumbled

250 ml (8 fl oz) white wine

3 handfuls flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Fry the thinly sliced garlic in some good olive oil until light golden brown. Add the tinned tomatoes with some water to rinse out the tin and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and gently reduce. Blanch the chard, cool, squeeze out excess water and chop coarsely.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot, cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chard and chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Chop two thirds of the parsley leaves, and add to the mixture with the lemon juice. Serve sprinkled with the whole parsley leaves and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Spinach Wilted With Raisins, Pinenuts and Balsamic

The spinach looks so pretty at this time of year with its pink tinged stems and lush green leaves, I thought that I would cook a dish just in honour of it.  And I was particularly pleased with this Sicilian influenced dish with chilli, pinenuts and balsamic, lending the spinach a delicious sweet and sour flavour. Works well with others greens, such as chard too. You can use either true spinach or baby spinach but if using baby spinach you also have the option of turning it into a salad and leaving it raw.

Spinach Wilted With Raisins, Pinenuts and Balsamic

1 red onion

2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

extra virgin olive oil

350g spinach

50g pinenuts, toasted

50g raisins

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Pinch chilli flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and finely slice the onion. Sweat it gently in a little olive oil and some salt for about 10 to 15 minutes until beginning to caramelise. Meanwhile, strip the spinach from the stems, wash it and left to drain in a colander for as long as possible.  Soak the raisins in a little boiling water. Add the garlic to the onions and fry for a minute or two more. Add the spinach with another pinch of salt and wilt until cooked. Add the balsamic and reduce until dry. Check seasoning and add the drained raisins, pinenuts and chilli flakes. Serve hot or warm.

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.

Potato, Leek, Chard and Blue Cheese Pie

I am going through a bit of a pie faze at the moment. Everything I make just seems to have to have a layer of puff pastry on top. My latest is this delicious Potato, Leek, Chard and Blue Cheese Pie. It is a bit heavy on the carbs but since it is packed with healthy vegetables, it is a great way of helping you get your 10-a-day too!

Potato, Leek, Chard and Blue Cheese Pie

Depending on the chard, you could use the stems too. Chop them up and blanch them with the leaves. Feel free to play around with the vegetables – a combination of pretty much anything would work, but the addition of mushrooms might be particularly nice!

600g Maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks

75g butter

2 leeks, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 head of chard

1 packet ready rolled all butter puff pastry

200g blue cheese, crumbled

1 egg, yolk only

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain, allow to steam-dry for a few minutes, then mash roughly. Stir in 25g butter and season. Cover and leave to cool. Remove the leaves of the chard from the stems. Cook in a pan of boiling salted water for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the chard with a slotted spoon and spread out on a dry, clean tea towel. When cool, use the tea towel to squeeze out any excess liquid. Roughly chop the chard. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more and finally add the chard leaves. Stir well, season and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Spoon in the mashed potato into a pie dish. Scatter the blue cheese over the top and then the leeks. Lay a piece of puff pastry over the top and trim round the sides. Press down the edges with a fork to seal. Whisk the egg yolk and brush the top of the pie. You can chill the pie at this stage and bake the next day. Cut a few slits in the top of the pie so the steam can escape. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden. Serve hot or warm.