Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

It is squash time of year again and you just know you are going to be inundated with them. This is really the simplest way of dealing with them. No need to skin them, it all goes in, even the seeds. Eat it on its own, as a side dish or chuck into salad, pasta or soup.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

1 large squash, whatever you have got

1 pinch dried red chilli

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful fresh sage leaves

1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Halve the butternut squash, remove and reserve the seeds, then cut the squash into slices or chunks with the skin left on and put in a bowl. Add the whole sage leaves, the pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and enough olive oil to rub the whole lot over all the squash pieces so they are well covered. Place the squash in one layer in a roasting tray. Sprinkle over the seeds, cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the skin of the squash is soft, then remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes until the squash is golden and crisp. Remove the cinnamon.

Mediterranean Vegetables Roasted with Lemon, Yogurt, Tahini & Pomegranate

You may think you have heard and seen this recipe in many guises before but don’t judge a book by its cover. This is a really interesting version in a few ways. First of all, the use of whole lemon just chopped up and roast with the veg. I showed you how to make preserved lemons the other day but this is even more simple. Secondly the tahini dressing which I would have been tempted to drizzle on top of the veg, here is used as a base to the vegetables, more like polenta or mash. It turns a plate of roast veg into a proper lunch.

Finally, the fact that the chickpeas are used twice, once in the dressing but the bulk of them are roast with the veg and the resulting crispy morsels add great texture and interest to this dish.

Mediterranean Vegetables Roasted with Lemon, Yogurt, Tahini & Pomegranate

You can use any combination of veg you like. A combination of root vegetable would work well.

Serves 2

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 aubergine, diced

1 red onion, halved and cut into thin wedges

1 unwaxed lemon, ¼ chopped (skin and all), the rest juiced

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle (optional)

400g can chickpeas in water, drained

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp tahini

3 tbsp natural bio yogurt

seeds from ½ a pomegranate

fresh parsley or coriander, chopped

Heat oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 7. Put the vegetables and chopped lemon in a large flameproof roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil. Massage into the veg so they are all well coated, and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then put the tin on the hob and fry, stirring, for 5 mins until starting to char. Stir in two handfuls of the chickpeas, sprinkle them with salt and roast the whole lot in the oven for 15 mins or so. Stir from time to time to ensure even roasting.

Put the rest of the chickpeas in a bowl with the garlic, tahini, yogurt and lemon juice and blitz with a stick blender until really smooth and thick adding a tablespoon or two of water to get it to the right consistency.

Spoon the yogurt tahini onto two plates and top with the roasted veg, pomegranate seeds and parsley or coriander. Drizzle of extra oil, if you like.

Sweet Potato Crisps

These sweet Potato Crisps make a delicious veggie snack and are great in the kids lunch box instead of boring crisps. It is a little hard to get them crispy but keep your oven low and wait until the edges are tinged with brown, but don’t let them go too far!

Sweet Potato Crisps

1 small sweet potato

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Heat oven to 160C fan. Slice the sweet potato thinly. The slices must be evenly cut so that they cook evenly. A mandolin is great for this. Toss with the olive oil and lay out on a lined baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 mins until crisp. Sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool.

Preserved Lemons

I don’t think we ever think of lemons as having a season but now is the best time in the year for Spanish lemons which is where Riverford’s lemons come. So I decided to make a batch of Preserved Lemons. So you want to use the very best lemons you can find – organic and unwaxed. These lemons will keep for up to a year and are a fabulous addition to all sorts of dishes. You can use the lemons and I love the liquid as well in cous cous, salads and sauces and of course all sorts of Moroccan dishes including the classic Tagine.

Preserved Lemons in Salt  From Claudia Roden

Lemons (Organic, un-waxed if possible)

Kosher salt or Natural Rock Salt

Large Kilner Jar

Scrub the lemons under running water with a stiff brush to remove any dirt and impurities. Starting at one end, cut the lemons in half lengthwise, but stop about 1/2 an inch before you reach the bottom. Repeat the cut perpendicularly so you have cut each lemon lengthwise in a “X” formation, but not all the way through; they should still be attached at the bottom, about 1/2 an inch. Liberally sprinkle salt on the inside of the lemons. Hold them open with your fingers and really get the salt inside them. It is a little bit like those fortune-teller origami toys kids make out of paper. Place each lemon in the jar, pushing down on them and squeezing them to release the juices. Keep adding Lemons until you absolutely cannot get any more in. The lemons should be completely submerged in juice. If they are not, top up with some extra lemon juice. Seal the jar.  Let the jar sit at room temperature. Every few days, turn the jar upside down and shake it to distribute the salt and liquids. The lemons will be ready in three weeks, or so, when the rinds have softened.

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Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

I love leeks. There is something so humble about them and yet this Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad gives them an air of sophistication.

Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

Serves: 4  I think this would be particularly nice with smoked fish.

410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Large leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced

10g Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Cider vinegar

A pinch Caster sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a good pinch of salt. As soon as the leeks begin to soften, turn down the heat fairly low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft (don’t let them take on any colour). Add the beans and toss together until heated through. Take off the heat; stir in the parsley and plenty of black pepper.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, sugar and remaining oil and season well. Stir into the pan of warm leeks and beans.

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Sicily, surrounded by water and having many ports meant that it was a key player in the spice trail. Whereas other regions of Italy tended to rely solely on their own produce, Sicilian cooking has always been a little more adventurous with its ingredients. This amalgamation of chilli, pinenuts, currants, parsley and lemon zest is classic and its sophisticated sweet and sour combination works beautifully with the delectable Romanesco.

The amazing fractal Romanesco is closer related to broccoli than cauliflower and it has a delicate nutty flavour and great crunchy texture. It holds its shape much better than cauliflower which makes it a useful replacement in lots of recipes and it looks fabulous!

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Serves 2

1 small to medium Romanesco cauliflower, cut into small florets (use the stalk too, thinly sliced)

200g pasta

Extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

100g pine nuts, toasted

100g currants or raisins

Zest of 1 & juice of ½ lemon

Large handful fresh parsley, chopped

Handful Parmesan, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pan of boiling salted water, cook the Romanesco for 2-3 minutes, then drain and refresh in a bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again and keep to one side. In another pan of boiling water, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the Romanesco and fry for a couple of minutes until just starting to turn a golden colour. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for couple of minutes more. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, drained, cooked pasta, lemon juice and zest and parsley. Toss together to combine. Check seasoning and transfer to serving bowls and serve drizzled with a olive oil and some grated Parmesan.

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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.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

This is very simple carrot salad and I am surprised that I have never made it before. I served it up with my Saag Paneer and a grilled piece of salmon and very delicious it was too.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

2 tsp cumin seed, toasted

zest and juice 1 lemon

thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

5 tbsp olive oil

6 carrots, grated

small bunch coriander, chopped

½ small bunch mint, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast your cumin seeds and allow to cool a little. Add the lemon juice, ginger and olive oil to the pan with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Use this to dress the grated carrot. Stir thought the freshly chopped herbs and serve straight away.

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.