Crab and Fennel Linguini

I always think of fennel as a very early glimpse of Spring. Although it can be a winter veg, its fresh, vibrant green colour always makes me think of sunnier days. Which is why I always think this recipe makes such a perfect Christmas treat. Really good crabmeat isn’t cheap but you don’t need a huge amount to make this really delicious and luxurious, simple dish and it is a whole lot cheaper than having it in a restaurant.

Crab and Fennel Linguini

Serves 2

300g dried linguine, or fresh pasta dough equivalent

300g white crabmeat

1 bulb of fennel

1 lemon

1 fresh red chilli

Extra extra virgin olive oil

1 handful of herby fennel tops or fresh baby basil leaves or dill

Place the white crabmeat in a large bowl and add the zest and juice from the lemon. Remove the seeds from the chilli, finely chop and add. Trim the base of the bulb and remove the outside layer if it’s got any blemishes, then, using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the bulb into the bowl with the crab. Add a couple of tablespoons of really good, extra virgin olive oil, mix well and season to taste.

Put a large pan of salted water onto boil for the pasta. Cook according to packet instructions. Finely chop any fennel fronds, basil leaves or dill. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water, then toss the pasta through the sauce, adding half the picked herbs and loosening with a splash of reserved water, if needed. Divide between four warm bowls, sprinkle over the remaining herbs.

Bagna Caulda with Winter Vegetables

This is a really delicious way of using up all sorts of winter vegetables. You can even use lightly blanched vegetables such as bitter greens but I like it most with a huge selection of raw winter veg. Bagna Caulda, literally meaning “hot bath”, is a warm garlic and anchovy mayonnaise which you dip your vegetables into, a bit like a fondue. Originally from Piedmont in Italy, it is traditionally eaten at Christmas and New Year. I real Winter salad!

 

Winter Vegetables

Really the veg is up to you but I used a combination of

a few young carrots , peeled and finely sliced

sweet baby peppers

a few small raw beetroots , peeled and finely sliced

a few sticks celery , trimmed and thinly sliced, yellow leaves reserved

½ small Romanesco or white cauliflower , broken into florets

1 bulb fennel , trimmed and finely sliced, herby tops reserved

1 bunch radishes , trimmed and washed

½ celeriac , peeled and finely sliced

 

Bagna Cauda

6 cloves garlic, peeled

300 ml milk

10 anchovy fillets in oil

180 ml extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling

2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

To make your sauce, put the garlic cloves, milk and anchovies into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and tender, keeping a close eye on the pan to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over. Don’t worry if it spits and looks a little lumpy – simply remove from the heat and whiz the sauce up with a hand blender. Gently blend in the extra virgin olive oil and the vinegar a little at a time – you’re in control of the consistency at this point. If you like it thick, like mayonnaise, keep blending. Now taste it and adjust the seasoning. Make sure there’s enough acidity from the vinegar to act like a dressing. It should be an incredible, pungent warm sauce.

There are two ways you can serve this – with both you need the sauce to be warm. Either pour the sauce into a bowl and place this on a plate, with the veg arranged around the bowl, or serve the veg in a big bowl and drizzle the sauce over the top. Sprinkle over the reserved herby fennel tops and celery leaves and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Spiced Carrot & Cannellini Bean Dip

I have been making this Spiced Carrot & Cannellini Bean Dip for my Master Veg classes and it always is a favourite but I have to say, that my life is a little too busy to find the time to be making dips. In fact it is so busy that I often don’t even have time for lunch. I am determined to get more veg into my diet, but so often at lunchtime, I just grab a sandwich and shove in it whatever comes to hand in the fridge. Then I thought, why not make up a batch of this delicious dip and put it in my sandwiches everyday along with a little lettuce, some cucumber or a tomato. Packed full of carrots and red onions, it means I am getting an extra serving or two of veg a day!

Spiced Carrot & Cannellini Bean Dip

Serves 6-8 For the dip:

2 medium carrots, scrubbed & cut into 8 sticks each

1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 whole garlic cloves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

oil for roasting

1 tin cannellini beans, drained

3 tbsp olive oil (for the beans)

salt & pepper

1 lemon, zested & juiced

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas 6. In a roasting tray, toss the carrots, onion and garlic with the ground spices, salt and pepper and a little oil. Cover with foil and roast for 20-25 mins, until the veg is soft, then remove the foil and roast for a further 10 mins, until starting to caramelise.  Blitz the carrots, onion, beans, lemon zest and juice, loosening with plenty of extra virgin olive oil to make a smooth paste. Season to taste.

 

Indian Spiced Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts are back in the boxes and I am running out of new ideas already with still weeks to go until Christmas. That is until I found this fab recipe.

Indian Spiced Brussel Sprouts

Serves 6

2 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp brown mustard seeds

1 large or 2 small garlic clove(s), grated

1 large knob of ginger, scrape off outer skin and grate

1 fresh red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped

500g brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and halved if very large

¼ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin

Juice of half a lemon

Large handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook until to your liking. I like mine quite well done but I know others like theirs crunchy. Drain. Heat the oil in a pan, but don’t let it smoke. Reduce to a medium heat and add the mustard seeds, garlic, chilli and ginger. Next add the cumin,

the turmeric, garam masala and a little sea salt. Fry for a minute and then add the sprouts and stir to coat with the spiced oil. Add the lemon juice and chopped coriander. Stir well and serve warm.

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

I have never really got used to being a home cook. Too many years in the catering industry have left me unable to only cook for four people. Hence, I always over cater. New potatoes are something I often get a bit carried away with but no one in my family minds as I have found a super simple and delicious way to use them up.

I chucked some of these in the oven and some sausages too, before I went off to tennis the other night, with instructions to my other half to take them out and serve them up for dinner. “Daddy made the best potatoes ever”, exclaimed my kids on my return. And I have to say that he looked pretty pleased with himself!

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

These are best done in the oven as the longer they cook for, the better but you could saute them in a frying pan too.

Boiled New Potatoes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place a baking tray in the oven and pour a generous amount of olive oil onto the tray. Cut the cold new potatoes in half length-ways. When the oven is hot, tip the potatoes onto the hot tray. Arrange so that the cut side is faced down. Cook for about 25-30 minutes checking regularly. When the potatoes are golden brown on the bottom, flip them over and pull them into towards the middle of the pan pushing the less done potatoes nearer the outside edge, which is always hotter. Cook until all the potatoes are golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Goat’s Cheese, Crispy Sage, Pine Nuts and Rocket

I don’t know why I never thought of grilling butternut squash before. It works beautifully and looks fab too. This is a very simple salad that you could serve hot or cold.

Grilled Butternut Squash with Goat’s Cheese, Crispy Sage, Pine Nuts and Rocket

½ a butternut squash

100g Goats cheese

Couple of large handfuls of rocket (or watercress)

Small bunch of sage

25g toasted pine nuts

Extra virgin olive oil

Juice if half a lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the butternut squash into thin slices. Leave the skin on but remove the seeds. Season them with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Grill the slices on a very hot griddle pan or on a BBQ on both sides. Arrange on a large serving plate. Make a dressing from the lemon juice and olive oil, about one part to three. Season well and adjust to taste. Dress the rocket with some of your dressing and crumble over the goat cheese. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the sage leaves. Fry until they just change colour from green to pale brown. Remove the leaves immediately onto some kitchen paper with a slotted spoon. Scatter the sage leaves and pine nuts over the squash and drizzle with a little of the sage oil and serve.

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties

Particularly pleased with these little pasties. I thought they would be great after trick or treating to try and temp the kids away from all those sweets!

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan Pasties

You could use any variety of pumpkin or squash.

Makes 6-8 small pasties

2 packets readymade, ready rolled good quality shortcrust pastry

¼ a butternut squash, about 200g, peeled and cut into ½ cm cubes

1 medium red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Small bunch finely chopped sage

75g grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Season well.

Using a bowl between 12 and 15cms diameter cut rounds of pastry. Spoon mixture into the middle of each, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. It is important to get as much filling in as possible but too much and you will not be able to seal the pasties. If necessary, moisten the edges of the dough with a little water. With cool hands, fold the pastry over and seal the edges well. (Use any crimping technique you like, just make sure it is well sealed. Brush all over with beaten egg.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Gratin

Kids on half-term means endless meals to cook. Quick and easy, packed with veg, hot and filling is key. This ticks all the boxes.

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Gratin

Serves 4

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

200g smoked streaky bacon

2 large onions, sliced

800g potatoes, thickly sliced

1kg cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

150g medium-mature cheddar or Gruyère, coarsely grated

250ml double cream

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon for 5 mins until really crispy. Add the onion and sauté for 12 mins until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, tip the potatoes into a large pan of salted water, making sure they are well covered. Bring to a gentle boil, then add the cauliflower and cook everything for 6-7 mins until both are tender. A knife should easily insert into through the potatoes but don’t overcook or you will have mash! Tip into a colander and drain thoroughly.

Pour the cream in with the onions and add the cheese. Season well with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tip in the potatoes and cauliflower and carefully stir. Tip the whole lot into a gratin dish and bake for 30 mins until bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside for 1 min to rest. Serve straight from the dish with a crisp green salad.

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.