Butternut Squash Falafel with Tahini Sauce

The thing I hate most about the school holidays, apart from having two squabbling children under my feet for most to the day, is having to produce endless lunches.  Weather permitting the best option by far is picnics every day. Kids are out of the house, so much more space, less mess and no clearing up. These falafel are great stuffed in a pitta with some salad. They are baked rather than fried, so healthier too. Add some hummus for the kids and chilli sauce for you.  Lunch sorted!

Butternut Squash Falafel with Tahini Sauce

1 small butternut squash

3 tins chickpeas

Small bunch of chopped coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cloves garlic, minced

45g gram flour

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoons tahini

Juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Peel butternut squash, cut in half, lengthwise, remove seeds and chop into bite size pieces. Toss the butternut squash with salt, pepper and olive oil and tip onto a backing sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Roast butternut squash until fork tender, 40-45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place butternut squash in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add the chick peas and pulse until you have a course mixture. Add mixture to a large bowl. Add the coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, flour and cayenne to bowl and use your hands to mix until everything is evenly combined. Form the mixture into patties (however large or small your like) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of each falafel with a small amount of olive oil and bake falafel patties at 180 until browned on both sides, flipping once, 35-40 minutes.

Make the sauce while the falafel is baking. Mix all ingredients together the tahini and lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Add enough water until you get a drizzling consistency. Drizzle desired amount of sauce on top of falafel before enjoying and eat with salad or in a pita if desired.

Peperonata

Peperonata is a Sicilian pepper stew and amazingly, for such a simple recipe, no two versions seem to be the same.  I add not only capers and basil but Balsamic vinegar to mine, just to really nail that sweet and sour kick, but I also leave out the tomato which is often present in other versions.  Use the best Balsamic you can, which not only means one obviously from Moderna, the home of  Balsamic vinegar but also one that has also been aged at least 12 years.  A decent one will set you back at least £12.00 for 250ml but it will be worth it.  You will not need very much and it’s mellow sweetness and integrated acidity will add an amazing depth and complexity to many sauces especially tomato based ones.

I love this pepper stew, not only on its own with a rocket salad but also with meat or fish, especially wild salmon or mackerel.  The acidity works really well to cut the oiliness of the fish.  All you need is a few boiled new potatoes and you have a little taste of much needed sunshine.

 Peperonata

6 peppers (red, yellow and orange are best)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 medium-sized bunch of basil, roughly chopped

A handful of baby capers

A splash of very good balsamic Vinegar (Aged 12 years at least)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by slicing the peppers in half, scooping out the seeds and slicing into one-inch strips lengthwise. Now place a medium-sized heavy- based pan over a gentle heat. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil and allow to warm through. When the oil is warm but not hot, add the onions, a pinch of salt and sweat for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and sweat for a further 10 minutes – the onions should not have browned at all. Add the peppers and stir to combine. Cook until the peppers are soft and almost falling apart; this should take about 45 minutes. Give the capers a good squeeze to get rid of any excess vinegar and add to the peppers. Drizzle with balsamic and season with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Cook until the vinegar has the right sweet and sour balance.   Add the basil and taste for seasoning. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

 

Kohlrabi, Apple and Beetroot Salad

Vinegar seems to be the latest thing. Not only is it fabulous for cleaning your house, but it turns out it is fabulous for you too. Whereas white vinegar is best for your house, apple cider vinegar is the one that is best for you. New research means doctors and scientists are calling it one of the ‘functional’ foods – foods that are not only nutritious but help prevent and protect against disease.

It contains the same important nutrients as apples – including pectin, beta-carotene and potassium – plus enzymes and amino acids formed during the fermentation process.

Its high potassium content encourages cell, tissue and organism growth, and the enzymes help boost chemical reactions in the body.

It also contains calcium, which maintains healthy bones, helps transmit nerve impulses and regulates muscle contraction, and iron, essential for healthy blood. Magnesium is another component, with many beneficial effects on the body, especially the heart.

Low potassium levels can make us feel permanently tired, and potassium-rich foods help prevent age-related illness.

It also enables the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which aids digestion. We lose acid as we age, but apple cider vinegar can help prevent common digestive disorders as we get older.

And if that was not enough, apparently it can help with dementia as well. Is there nothing vinegar cannot do?

Here are two salads this week which feature vinegar. Oh, and lots of healthy vegetables too!

Kohlrabi, Apple and Beetroot Salad

This salad probably serves about 12 people. I halved it and still had loads!

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

2 large kohlrabi

3 apples (cox is best)

2 medium beetroot

Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish

1 garlic clove, crushed

55ml apple cider vinegar

50ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Peel the kohlrabi, cut in half and slice thinly. Core the apples and slice to the same thickness. Peel the beetroot and grate coarsely on a cheese grater or shred on a mandolin.

Mix together all the vegetables in a large bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well, taste and season – you can afford to be generous with the salt. Pile up on a serving plate and garnish with extra chopped coriander.

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.

Tomato Salsa with Coriander, Chilli and Lime

I have served up this salsa at the Wimbledon Guild Fair for many years and it is always a firm favourite. It is such a versatile salsa, it goes with almost anything. Lovely dolloped over a piece of grilled fish, or equally delicious alongside a nice steak. It can be piled into wraps, Tacos, Quesadillas, on sweet corn fritters, with croquetas, excellent with avocado, in a burger or on nachos or on a chilli.

I have used this salsa in countless recipes on this blog but I have never actually featured it on its own. So here it is. Having said that the recipe is vague as it really is up to you to get the balance of sweet tomatoes, heat from the chillies and sour lime that you like. I am not keen on a lot of raw onion, but others are. I like lots of fresh coriander instead.

Anyway, I will be serving up at Holy Trinity Fair tomorrow, so come along to the Riverford stand if you would like to try some!

Tomato Salsa with Coriander, Chilli and Lime

1 fresh red chilli (very finely chopped)

1 spring onion or ½ a small red onion (very finely chopped)

6 large tomatoes (cut in 1/8ths ) or 15 cherry tomatoes tomatoes (quartered)

Juice of a lime

Small bunch of Coriander (finely chopped)

Glug of good extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Mix chilli, lime juice and olive oil together.  Season well.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Allow to sit for a few minutes and check seasoning again.

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.”

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

When I was making pizza dough this week, I made up an extra batch for Focaccia. Focaccia is quite simply an Italian bread, similar to a deep-pan pizza that, no matter the topping, should involve a generous amount of Olive Oil.  This acts to produce a golden brown, crispy crust that is to die for.  It has to be fresh out of the oven.  Don’t ever believe that it is worth buying a Focaccia from a supermarket shelf.  It will inevitably be a complete contradiction of what it is meant to be – slightly stale, dry and dreary.  You have to make it yourself. And it will be anything but!

I love this time of year when all the alliums are out and so I topped my Focaccia with caramelised red onions, which I just cooked slowly with some extra virgin olive oil, a great way of using up a glut of onions.

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

½ batch of pizza dough

6 red onions

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Malden sea salt

Rosemary

Lightly oil a large metal frying pan or a metal dish with olive oil. Press in the pizza dough. Allow to prove for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut your onions really thin. Use a food processor if you have one. Add to a heavy bottomed saucepan with lots of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly groung black pepper. Very finely chop your rosemary and add that too. Cook over a medium heat until almost dissolved. Keep an eye on them so they do not catch. Cook them for as long as you have got. Check for seasoning. Preheat your oven to 200C. Add your onion mixture all over the dough, but not quite at the edges. Sprinkle with Malden sea salt. Bake neat the bottom of the oven to ensure that the top gets cooked in the same time as the bottom. Bake until deep-golden brown. Remove the Focaccia from the tin to allow the bottom to cool. Eat warm.

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

I can’t avoid it any more. The dreaded Kol Rabi has turned up in my box this week. I have to admit, I am not a great fan. It’s the smell that gets to me, of old turnips, not the taste which is really unobtrusive and the texture is crunchy and present. So I set about finding the perfect dressing for a Kol Rabi slaw. I wanted something with a bit of an attitude as Jamie Oliver says, something with a bit of guts to camouflage the smell and transform my slaw into something special. After scouring through hundreds of slaw dressings I found this one, which although I was most dubious of due to the strange mix of ingredients – balsamic vinegar with ginger and coriander! And also lime and honey, which always reminds me of cough sweets! But the reviews were glowing. Apparently it comes from TGI Fridays. Unfortunately, that I have ever been to one, so I can’t testify to it being true or not. I made a few changes, including quartering the amount of honey, but I have to say, it made a pretty good Kol Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing. Just ready for the BBQ season!

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

1 Kohl Rabi, peeled

3-4 carrots, peeled

Dressing

1 fresh chilli, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

Large knob of fresh ginger root, scraped

2 limes, juiced

1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Small bunch of coriander

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Whiz the whole lot of dressing ingredients up with a hand blender. Adjust seasoning. Coarsely grate the Kohl Rabi and carrot. A food processor is good for this, but otherwise use a grater. There should be about an even amount of each. Dress and serve.

Home-made V8

I have been desperate to make my own tomato juice ever since I got a juicer so I was waiting to have a glut of tomatoes. Obviously I had to wait until winter was over to have any decent tomatoes at all, but then this week I seemed to have somehow collected three punnets. So without hesitation I chucked one punnet into my juicer. Absolutely nothing came out and when I peered inside, I seemed to have made little more than some tomato froth. Turns out you really have to cook the tomatoes to get the sort of juice I had in mind. There is a raw version but it is just not the same. So you simmer your tomatoes for about 25 minutes and push them through a sieve. No juicer required. However, if like me you wanted to use your juicer, there are all sorts of favours you can add to make your tomato juice a bit different. Mine ended up tasting a bit more like V8, but I didn’t mind, because I love the stuff. I added a little beetroot, which is great as it gives it a better colour, celery, parsley, spinach, watercress and a couple of carrots. Obviously salt, onion, pepper, sugar, Worcester sauce or tabasco can help add a kick, but that is up to you.

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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.