Roast Celeriac and Fennel Soup

Finally, for this week I was wondering what to do with the left over fennel and celeriac I had from my slaw. I tried out a Roast Fennel and Celeriac Soup, to which I added lots of freshly chopped rosemary and a drizzle of white truffle oil and it made a very nice lunch.

Roast Celeriac and Fennel Soup

Roast Celeriac and Fennel Soup
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
4 clove garlic, peeled
2 medium celeriac, chopped into even sized chunks
1 medium bulb fennel, cleaned and trimmed and cut into wedges lengthways through the root
A few sprigs of rosemary, very finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100mls double cream
White truffle oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Toss the celeriac and fennel together with plenty of olive oil, salt, pepper and the rosemary and spared out on a roasting tray. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or so, checking from time to time, until golden brown. About half way through cooking time, add the whole garlic cloves.

Meanwhile, sweat the onion in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with some olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes until just beginning to caramelise. When the roast vegetables are ready, tip them in with the onions. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer the vegetables for about 10 minutes until very tender. Puree with a hand-blender until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and add the cream. Serve with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Celeriac

Christmas Slaw

I accidentally somehow ended up watching a Nigella Christmas special last night. I think she is an intelligent and beautiful woman but she always comes over as somewhat smug and rather revoltingly, overtly sexy for me to watch for very long. It was long enough however, to catch her version of a Christmas Slaw which I thought might be particularly fitting for all you veg box lovers, to use up some of those winter veg. This is a great dish for boxing day with cold meats and chutney. You can add what you like, but I went for a very pleasant combination of celeriac, fennel, pointed cabbage, red cabbage, carrots and pear, which is very attractively colourful as well. Almost jewelled with its striking combination of purple and orange, so bear this in mind when choosing your veg. The spicy, caramelised pecans add a seasonal note. A mandolin is best for the job of quickly shredding your veg, so if you haven’t got a good one, why not treat yourself to one this Christmas. A food processor will not produce such pretty results although I am sure it will taste just as good.

Christmas slaw 2

Christmas Slaw
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 medium fennel, trimmed and very thinly sliced
¼ pointed or savoy cabbage, shredded very thin
¼ red cabbage, shredded very thin
¼ a celeriac, peeled and coarsely grated
1 pear, very finely sliced
Dressing
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spiced pecans
120g cashew nuts, roughly chopped (or other toasted nuts)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chilli flakes

Heat the oven to 160C/320F.

Mix the nuts with the syrup, the cinnamon, the chilli and a good pinch of salt. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper and tip on the nuts. Spread out and roast for 10-12 minutes, until golden and crunchy. Stir from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove and set aside to cool.

Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, maple syrup, olive oil, orange juice, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and an eighth of a teaspoon of pepper. Pour this over the vegetables and mix well. Add the spiced nuts, stir to combine and serve.

Fennel

Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie

Sometimes I run out of things to do with mushrooms. I always put plenty in my Bolognaise sauce and this reminded me that they are a delicious way of bulking out a meat dish. And as I stared into the fridge at the hoard of mushrooms and leeks, a delicious Chicken Pie, sprang to mind and then there was no stopping me. What is great about this recipe, is that it uses the whole chicken, which is so much more economical than buying separate pieces and that you make your own stock. It is a little more time consuming, but really worth the extra effort. You can make up for lost time with readymade and even ready rolled puff pastry. Everyone who knows me, knows I am a great fan of this super time saving product. This comes from a girl who used to make her own! It is a bit hit and miss and as you can see from the photos, mine didn’t rise particularly brilliantly. As always I was trying to do too many things at once and did not give it my full attention, but it still tasted great. Make sure the oven is really hot to get the puff to rise. You can always turn it down afterwards.

I served up my pie with some of the longest French beans I have ever seen. When they turned up in my box I have to admit I thought they were going to be really stringy and tough. But they were surprising tender and along with the pie, the kids love them.

Chicken Pie

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie
1 free-range organic chicken
2 leeks
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
handful thyme, some for the stock and some finely chopped for the
200g smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
50g butter
400g mushrooms, sliced
50g plain flour
500g ready rolled fresh all butter puff pastry, or frozen & defrosted
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Take the chicken and bend back it’s legs so that they are underneath the breast. Put into a large saucepan, big enough to comfortably hold the chicken. Fill with water up to nearly the top of the chicken. (The idea is that the legs, which take longer to cook are submerged in water and the breast stays above so that it is just steamed and remains moist.) Add the leek tops, the roughly chopped celery and carrot and the thyme. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cover the pan. Allow to gently simmer for 45 minutes. Meanwhile shred and wash the remaining leek. Heat another large saucepan and add the bacon and the butter. Cook until crisp. Add the leeks and sweat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (If you have a lid, cover the pan to begin with. The steam helps the initial sweating process and the salt also helps to add moisture drawn out from the leeks.) Cook until just beginning to caramelise. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they are completely cooked down and no liquid remains. Add the chopped thyme and the flour into the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Remove from the heat when ready.

Meanwhile, when your chicken is cooked, remove it from the stock to cool. The stock can carry on reducing. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take the flakes of meat off the bone. Make sure you only keep nice chicken meat. (If it is for the kids, be particularly vigilant.) Keep to one side. The bones can go back into the reducing stock but discard the skin. Take 500mls of your stock, pass it through a sieve and add it to your leek and mushroom mixture. Gradually stir in the stock and bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. Add the chicken back into the mixture and tip into a large pie or baking dish (approx 20 x 30cm) and leave to cool.

Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Top with the sheet of pastry. Try and tuck it all in so that is cooks evenly (not like I did) and brush with egg. Pick a few times with a fork and then bake for 30 mins or until the pastry is risen and dark golden brown.

Daniel eating french beans

Sweet potato Gratin

Next up to tackle in the box this week was sweet potatoes The kids love sweet potatoes just because, as in the name, they are so sweet. I often make them Sweet Potato Chips but I wanted to find something new. This gratin turned out to be really delicious. If it is a dish for the whole family, I always like to add something to try and counteract the sweetness and would naturally reach for the chilli but I restrained myself here for the kids’ sake and just added some super savoury rosemary and a hint of smokiness with the paprika. I served it up with some sausages for dinner and let’s just say – there was none left!

Sweet Potato GRatin

Sweet Potato Gratin
1 kilo sweet potatoes (about 3-4) peeled and sliced into ¼ cms slices
500mls double cream
5 sprigs of rosemary, stripped from stems and very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Smoked paprika
50g parmesan cheese

Add the cream, rosemary and garlic to a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently simmer for half an hour or so, whilst you prepare the sweet potatoes. A mandolin in good for slicing the sweet potatoes but mind your fingers. Layer the slices into a gratin dish. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C. Remove the cream from the heat and mash in the now soft garlic cloves. Season well with plenty of salt, freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika, to taste. Pour over the sweet potatoes and cove with tin foil. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until a knife easily inserts into the middle. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and return to the oven to brown.

Sweet Potatoes

Caldo Verde

Finally, for this week, my final cabbage recipe. Another hearty soup this time from Portugal, Caldo Verde literally translates as hot green, consisting traditionally of potatoes, a local kale and Portuguese spicy sausage. I have adapted it for cabbage, but you can only use the dark outer leaves so it does not lack its deep, famous green colour. This makes it a great use-up dish when using the paler greener inner leaves for slaw, or even for my Keralan cabbage Thoran recipe this week. But it obviously works very well with any kale or Cavalo Nero too.

When it comes to the sausage, it really is hard to find good quality Portuguese sausage such as Linguica, however good chorizos are easily available now a days – Unearthed do spicy or oak smoked or Waitrose do their own brand Iberico Chorizo which comes with the added bonus of being already diced.

Caldo Verde in Pan

Caldo Verde
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
200g good quality chorizo, diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
ground black pepper to taste
1 large cabbage, the outer leaves only or couple of heads of kale or  Cavalo Nero, shredded and washed
Smoked paprika

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion with plenty of olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chorizo and fry gently to release the fat. And potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more. Pour in water to cover, season well with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft all the way through. When the potatoes are ready, mash them into the broth. Add smoked paprika to taste and more seasoning. Meanwhile blanch your cabbage or kale into boiling, salted water for about three minutes. Remove and drain well, allowing to cool quickly. Add to soup and simmer. Stir in some more olive oil and serve at once.

Cabbage

Zuppa d’Aosta

So on to cabbage recipe two. This is one of the oddest soups ever. It comes from Aosta which is in Northern Italy, right up high in the Alps, so as you would expect it is very hearty soup and typically packed full of carbohydrates, bread and cheese. Like Fondu, Raclette or Tartiflette and other mountain recipes, it is affectionately known as rib-sticking, the dictionary definition being- to last long and fortify one well; [for food] to sustain one even in the coldest weather.

Obviously there is nothing strange about that, if you live in an extremely cold climate, which of course in London, we don’t. But what is a little extraordinary about this soup is that it is baked, and then what tips it over the edge of unusual recipes, is the combination of stale bread, loads and loads of cheese and cabbage along with anchovies! The anchovies act as an amazing sort of seasoning, which brings this whole soup into a world class of its own so don’t be tempted to leave them out.

Fontina

I first made Zuppa d’Aosta at the River Café and it even features in their first book. Jamie Oliver rewrites it by adding loads more ingredients including the quite nice, but I think unnecessary addition of bacon. Good, strong bread is essential – I used Gail’s Sourdough, the cheese – should strictly be Fontina d’Aosta but even I struggled to find this, having to make do with a Fontina from Alpeggio (which describes the region rather than the town), which I got from Ocado.  Another place to try, if you are in Wimbledon on a Saturday morning, is the wonderful Vallebona,  Please do go,  if you have not been, because you will find the most amazing selection of mainly Sardinian delights, in the most unlikely setting of an industrial car-park.

If, however you just can’t find any Fontina, another mountain cheese will do such as Gruyere, Emmental or Gouda. Strange or not, as the weather turns colder,  this soup is guaranteed to warm you up.

Zuppa D'Aosta in Bowl

Zuppa d`Aosta
1 savoy or other hearty cabbage, Cavalo Nero or Kale works too
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf stale sourdough or ciabatta bread
large garlic clove peeled and halved
10 anchovy fillets
250g Fontina cheese
2l chicken stock, can be made up from good quality stock cubes
100g parmesan freshly grated

You will need a casserole or saucepan that can be put in the oven.
Preheat the oven to moderate 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Remove the leaves from the cabbage heads one by one and cut out the thick stems from each leaf keeping the leaves whole. Use a mixture of the dark outer leaves and brighter green inner leaves. (The leaves are traditionally kept whole but you can roll them up and shred them, the advantage being that it makes the soup easier to eat.) Blanch the cabbage in boiling salted water for 1 minute then drain well. Cut the bread into slices on an angle to give them as much surface area as possible. Cut off any very tough exterior crusts. Toast the slices on both sides and rub with the garlic. Cut the anchovy fillets into slithers lengthways. Slice the Fontina into slivers. Bring the stock to the boil and season it.
In your casserole or pan make a first layer of cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Place 4 or 5 anchovy slithers evenly spaced on top, then a layer of Fontina followed by one third of the toasted bread. Sprinkle over some Parmesan and add stock to cover this layer. Make a second layer in the same way and then a third finishing with a top layer of bread, sprinkled with the last of the Parmesan. Make sure the stock just covers the top layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

zuppa d'aosta in bowl 2

Keralan cabbage & Carrot Thoran

I don’t know how it happened but I am overrun with cabbage this week. I had accumulated not one, but three cabbages in the fridge, so I decided this week to give you not one, but three cabbage recipes.

The first Keralan Cabbage and Carrot Thoran, is a recipe that I adapted for Riverford Companion – Autumn and Winter Veg and cooked once again at Simon’s SuperClub last week in St Mary’s Putney. I served it up with my Courgette, Aubergine and Red Pepper Curry and Coconut Cauliflower Rice but you can eat it just on its own, with rice or with some poppadoms.

It is a dry, vegetable and coconut curry from Kerala and you can add all sorts of vegetables. As always I felt the need to change the recipe very slightly, even though it was my own! I cut out the dried red chillis as I felt the birds eye green ones made it hot enough, but if you like it spicy, by all means add some more. If you can’t be bothered with fresh coconut, look for flaked, dry or even toasted coconut (not desiccated) in the baking section of large supermarkets or health food shops.

Cabbage Thoran

Keralan cabbage Thoran
3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 dried curry leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
30g fresh root ginger, finely grated into a paste
30g fresh garlic, finely grated into a paste
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
250g/9oz hispi, savoy or pointed spring cabbage (or spring greens), shredded into 5mm pieces
2 carrots, Julienned
2 fresh green birds-eye chillies, sliced into very thin rounds, with seeds
100g fresh shaved coconut, or dried flaked coconut
Fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or Wok set over a medium heat, and, when hot, add the mustard seeds followed by the curry leaves, cumin seeds and turmeric. Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the ginger and garlic paste, salt and black pepper and fry for 30 seconds.
Stir in the cabbage and carrots and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, adding a splash of water if they start to stick to the pan. Add the coriander and grated coconut and serve.