Greek Salad

I am over run with herbs at the moment. Ever since setting up my little gardening business, literally making “little gardens”, the bestselling box by far, has been our Summer Herb Garden Box – a little herb box packed with your favourite herbs for cooking, for herbal teas or barbequing. Being a kitchen table business, or in this case a garden table business, my back garden is overflowing with herbs waiting to be planted into our hand-made wooden boxes and delivered.

It is great having herbs on hand growing in your back garden, or even on a window ledge, because you never know when you are going to need them. Like in this fabulous Greek Salad. This is one of my favourite salads because it is so jam-packed with summer. The fresh mint and ripe tomatoes, the oregano and the cool crunchy cucumber, with salty olives and feta, it makes me long to be in Greece, in a little Taverna over-looking the deep blue sea. Still, there are many worse places to be than my back garden surrounded by herbs.

Greek Salad

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, quartered length ways, de-seeded and diced

6 ripe tomatoes cut into bite sizes chunks -8ths or 10ths, depending on size

Large handful of pitted Greek black olives

225g feta, crumbled (I used Wooton White)

1 handful of shelled cooked broad beans

½ bunch of mint, shredded (roll the leaves into a cigar shape and cut through as finely as you can)

For the dressing

Juice of half a lemon

Extra-virgin olive Oil

Fresh chopped oregano or dried

Make the dressing by putting the lemon juice in a large bowl. Add a large pinch or two of salt. Gradually add the olive oil, stirring vigorously all the time. Keep tasting until you have a perfect mix of lemon, salt and oil. Add the sliced onion and marinade whilst you chop the rest of the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, broad beans, mint and feta and carefully stir through. Check for seasoning.


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.

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.

Onion Bhaajis

As I was making my Cauliflower Pakora this week, it got me thinking about Onion Bhaajis. A great recipe when you have a glut of onions. It makes a really nice quick and easy supper with some chutneys or raita and the kids love them.

Onion Bhaajis

3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Sunflower oil, for frying

For the batter

150g gram flour (chickpea flour)

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

A good shake of cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the batter, put the gram flour, baking powder, ground spices and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine and get rid of any lumps. Slowly whisk in 175ml cold water, which should give you a smooth batter with a similar consistency to double cream. Add a little more water if necessary – different brands of gram flour will vary in how much they absorb.

Break up the onion slices into rings. Dip the onion in the batter, making sure they are all thoroughly coated, and scrunch them up slightly, into balls,

Heat about a 3cm depth of oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to turn a cube of white bread light golden brown in 30–40 seconds, start cooking the bhaajis, a few at a time so you don’t crowd the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until crisp and golden brown on the base, then turn over and cook for another minute or two.

Drain on kitchen paper, then serve piping hot with the raita for dipping.

Chilli Con Carne with Roast Sweet Potato Chips

I have got obsessed about sweet potatoes, sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. It is more of a snack though, and not exactly a meal, so I decided to turn it into one.

Chilli Con Carne with Roast Sweet Potato Chips

Olive oil

1 large onion

1 red pepper or a few sweet baby peppers

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp spicy chipotle paste

1 tsp ground cumin

500g lean minced beef

400g can plum tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

410g can red kidney beans

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soured cream, to serve

Roast Sweet Potato Wedges

Prepare your vegetables. Chop 1 large onion into small dice. Cut the red pepper in half lengthways, remove stalk and seeds and then chop. Peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

Put a heavy based saucepan on the hob over a medium heat and add some oil and the beef.. Add the oil and the onions and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft, squidgy and slightly translucent. Tip in the garlic, red pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Add the ground cumin and chipotle sauce. Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Rinse out the tin with half a tin of water and add that too. Drain the beans and add too with the oregano. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan. Turn down the heat until it is gently bubbling and leave it for an hour or two. (At this stage, you can tip the whole lot in a slow-cooker). You should check on the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out. If it is, add a couple of tablespoons of water and make sure that the heat really is low enough. After simmering gently, the saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy.

Taste a bit of the chilli and season. It will probably take a lot more seasoning than you think. Now replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave your chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with soured cream and sweet potato wedges. Or why not try as a filling for a baked sweet potato!

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.

Mushrooms and Chard with Baked Eggs and Parmesan

I love baked eggs. This is a really healthy version with plenty of veg and makes a quick lunch or light supper.

Mushrooms and Chard with Baked Eggs & Parmesan

Serves 2

I head swiss chard, leaves and stems separated

Extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

300g mushrooms, roughly sliced

100ml double cream

Pinch of chilli flakes

4 medium organic free-range eggs

100g grated parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop the chard stems and boil with the leaves in a large pan of salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove the chard with a slotted spoon and spread out to cool in a large colander. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, then add the onion. Cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes until softened. Next add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and they begin to fry. Season well with salt and pepper.  Then add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Squeeze the excess water from the chard and roughly chop. Add to the mushrooms and stir well. Add the cream and the chilli and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat and check the seasoning. Tip into a gratin dish.

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Make 4 indentations in the mixture and crack an egg into each one, gently pushing the yolks down with the back of a spoon so they’re covered by white. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for 15-20 minutes until the eggs are just set. Eat straightaway with sourdough toast.

Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

Finally, for this week, a really simple sauce or dip to liven up your leftover turkey. This is a middle eastern inspired chilli sauce, and can be used like a home-made harissa. Stir it in to chicken gravy, drizzle it over kebabs, spoon it into wraps, dollop it on your burgers. The possibilities are endless.

Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

2 Romero or any red peppers

1 fresh red chilli

2 red onions

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp. ground cumin

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and pepper and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a bowl. Using a hand-blender (or liquidizer) whizz up until a thick puree. Add more olive oil, salt and lemon juice to taste. It should be quite spicy. Add a pinch of chilli flakes if not hot enough


Roast Small Red Onions, Shallots and Garlic

Obviously, being a Riverford customer, I am the kind of person who appreciates that to avoid wastage my vegetables are not necessarily always going to be all the same size. But then again, I am also not necessarily the kind of person who has time to peel and chop tiny onions. After all, it takes twice as long as peeling large onions and I never seem to have enough time as it is. So when cooking a roast for my family last week, I rather lazily just chucked all the abandoned, left over small onions in the oven with the chicken. That was it – no peeling, no chopping, just whole – skins and all.  They came out looking pretty much the same as when they went in, but when you peeled back the skin you could squeeze out the melted onion middle and do you know what? They were everybody’s favourite part of the meal.


Roast Small Red Onions, Shallots and Garlic

There is no recipe, because it is too simple – take small red or brown onions, shallots and whole unpeeled garlic cloves and put them on a lined baking sheet (this will save on the washing up.) Put them in the oven at 180C for about 20-40 minutes depending on size. Garlic cloves will cook quicker and obviously, the smaller onions first. You know they are cooked when you can really squish them. Remove them as they are done and leave in the larger ones for longer. Chuck them in with your roast, alongside some sausages or just serve them up with lots of other roast veg. Peel back the skin and squeeze them out. I like to sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on them as I eat them or dip them in any extra olive oil from roasting the potatoes.


Sweet Baby Pepper, Mushroom, Red Onion, Goat’s Cheese and Olive Pizza

I make up batches of pizza dough and keep it in the freezer for a quick supper. You can top them with all sorts of vegetables. It is fun to think up new combinations. These sweet baby peppers which are in the boxes at the moment are particularly good!  If you can’t be bothered to make your own pizza dough then you can actually buy it ready made in the freezer section of Waitrose. They also do a ready baked pizza crust for those of you who are really pushed for time.


Sweet Baby Pepper, Mushroom, Red Onion, Goat’s Cheese and Olive Pizza

Pizza dough – follow link for my recipe

Tomato Pasata (I like Pizza Expresses)

Sweet baby peppers

A few mushrooms

1 red onion

200g of goat’s cheese, Chevre Blanc

Dried Oregano

A pinch of salt

Stoned black olives

Preheat the oven to 250C. Put a large baking sheet in the oven. Roll out the pizza dough as thin as possible, especially in the middle. Sprinkle some flour onto a completely flat baking sheet and place your dough on top. Shake to make sure it is not sticking. Spread some pasata on top. Go up to the edges but not over them. Slice the onion very finely with a mandolin. Slice the peppers through widthways. Slice the mushrooms very thinly. Scatter the onion, mushrooms and peppers all over the pasata. Be generous especially with the peppers. Top with a sprinkling of marjoram and salt. Top with slices of goat’s cheese and olives. Slide the whole pizza off the baking sheet, straight onto the hot baking sheet in the oven. Cook until golden brown. Serve straight away.