Pea and Mint Spread

Pea and mint spread recipe

I had to go into Truro to have my eyes tested this morning.  I went out early and skipped breakfast (tut tut) then arrived in town just in time for my appointment.  I went through the usual rigmarole; puffs of air in the eye, a lecture for leaving it too long between appointments and complete indecision when choosing new frames to go with the new prescription.  By time I left I was just in time for my bus home.

On the up side that meant no time wasted.  On the down side it meant no time for a self indulgent cup of coffee – and I do like my coffee.

All in all, I arrived home at lunch time tired, hungry and a little bit grumpy.  I opened the fridge and couldn’t immediately find anything quick and tasty – so I made this.  And it was delicious.  And quick.  And easy.  And healthy.  In other words a perfect Monday lunch.

I have called it a spread, because I spread it on some crackers, but it could just as easily be a dip with some crudité.    And it is so simple it doesn’t really need a recipe – change the flavours to suit whatever you have in the fridge:  No crème fraiche?  Use natural yoghurt or cream cheese.  No mint?  Try coriander or parsley.  Just make it your own and enjoy it.

I’ve stopped being grumpy now but I might just have a little bit more pea spread – just to make sure…

Pea Dip Recipe

Ingredients

100g frozen peas

A sprig or two of fresh mint

1 Spring Onion

1 tbsp crème fraiche

Method

Put the peas in a pan, just cover with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for a minute until heated through.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain again.

Blitz the peas with a stick blender until you have a course purée.

Finely slice the spring onion and mint leaves.  Add to the peas along with the crème fraiche.  Season well.

You can eat this as a dip with vegetable crudité or spread it onto crackers or a chunk of crusty bread.

 

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Cauliflower Pizza

Pizza!

It’s something of a staple in most British homes whether it’s out of the freezer or from the local takeaway.  I have had some really good pizza over the years including a very memorable slice in New York and, a little closer to home, from The Cornish Pizza Co; an award winning pizza takeaway in the village where I live.  But it is true to say that I have also had some awful pizza; soggy bases, bases the texture of cardboard and mushy, flavourless toppings.

Sadly, proper pizza is a treat denied to those who can’t eat wheat/gluten or who choose to follow a wheat free diet.  Whilst they can, of course, choose proprietory gluten/wheat free options, this cauliflower crust pizza provides a really flavoursome alternative.

I didn’t develop this recipe in search of gluten free food but rather to find creative ways of using up a glut of cauliflowers.  There are lots of recipes around (feel free to try them) but this one gives a great tasting base which you can pick up in your hands and eat, just as you would with real pizza.

Once you have made the base you can just cut that into slices and eat it as a kind of cauliflower bread, perfect with dips etc.  Or you can go on to top it with the usual suspects.  I made a simple cheese and tomato topping but you can add mushrooms, peppers, peperoni, whatever you like (but please don’t add pineapple – it’s just plain wrong!).

The good news is that you don’t have to be gluten intolerant to eat this.  It tastes so good everyone will love it and its a great way to get extra veg into reluctant kids – win win!

Cauliflower Bread Strips

Ingredients

Serves 2

1 medium Cauliflower

25g grated Parmesan Cheese

2 x 150g bags Mozzarella

Basil Leaves (to serve)

100g Tomato Sauce (homemade)

1 Egg (whisked)

Salt & Pepper

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.  Put a heavy baking sheet (or pizza stone) into the oven to heat up.

Cut the florets from the cauliflower and place in a food processor.  (Don’t waste the stem – save it to use in a soup or stew.)  Blitz the florets until they look like snow.  Place in a suitable bowl and microwave on full for 4 minutes.

Once the cauliflower is cool mix in the grated parmesan.  Drain the mozzarella and pat dry.  Grate it into the cauliflower mix (it will mush a bit but that’s ok).  Add the egg and mix everything together well (if your cauliflower was a bit on the big size you may need 2 eggs).

Place a sheet of greasproof paper onto the worksurface and pile on the cauliflower mix.  Pat it out firmly with your hands and shape it into a circle about 10″-12″ in diameter.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and slide the greaseproof paper and pizza base onto it.  Place your pizza base into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until browned and bubbling.

If you want to eat the base on its own set aside to cool and then slice.

If you are making pizza top the base with a layer of tomato sauce.  Drain the second pack of mozzarella and tear into pieces.  Scatter over the pizza and return the tray to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and melted.

Tear over the basil leaves and serve.

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Ottolenghi’s Stuffed Onions

Ottolenghi Stuffed Onion

It’s a funny thing about cookery books, at the last count I had well in excess of 100 but I haven’t cooked from all of them. Some of them are just beautiful to look at but a little impractical.  Some are practical, every day reference books, perfect when you can’t remember what temperature to slow roast pork at or how to make a Victoria sponge.  Some are great for creating inspirational meals. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi manages to be both beautiful and inspirational; I have only had this book for 2 months and I have already made 7 of the recipes in it. I am also aware that this is the second time I have blogged about it but I make no apologies.

If I am a little obsessed with the book then I should let you know that I am seriously obsessed with these stuffed onions.  I have made them four times already and will definitely be making them again (and again…).

I can’t remember the last time I followed a recipe and had absolutely no desire to change anything.  I nearly always want to nudge a dish a little – add a bit more of this or a bit less of that, maybe use coriander instead of parsley, but this is perfect exactly as it is.

If you follow the recipe exactly too you will have quite a lot of left over onion and stock.  Please don’t throw them away, make soup or start a stew, throw the onions in with your roast potatoes and add the stock to your gravy – do anything you like with them just don’t waste them.

I have served the stuffed onions as part of a meze style dinner with some vibrant salads (also from the book), as part of a vegetarian lunch with crusty bread to mop up the juices and as an accompaniment to roast lamb.  You, of course, can serve them however you like but I promise you will fall in love with them.

Ottolenghi's Stuffed Onion Recipe

Ingredients

Serves 4

A knob of butter

500 ml/ 1 Pint Vegetable Stock

350 ml / 12 fl oz White Wine

4 large Onions

3 small Tomatoes

120g / 4 oz fresh white Bread Crumbs

90g / 3 oz Feta (crumbled)

80g / 3 oz Parsey (finely chopped)

3 tbsp Olive Oil (plus extra to finish)

2 Clove Garlic (crushed)

3 Spring Onions (finely sliced)

3/4 tsp Salt

Pepper

Method

Pre-heat the Oven to 180° C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Use the knob of butter to grease a small oven proof dish.

Place the stock and wine in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, trim 5mm off the top and bottom of the onions.  Cut them in half, lengthways and remove the brown skin.  Gently remove most of the insides retaining 2 or 3 of the outer layers.  Carefully seperate the outer layers from each other and place them in the simmering stock a few at a time.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until tender, drain and cool slightly.  Keep the stock.

To make the stuffing, use a course cheese grater to grate the tomatoes (you will be left with most of the skin in your hand; discard it).  Place the grated tomato in a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs, feta, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and some pepper.

Fill each onion layer generously with stuffing.  Pull the sides together so you end up with a fat cigar shape.  Place the stuffed onions, seam side down, in the buttered dish and pour over about 75 ml / 3 fl oz of the reserved stock, just to cover the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or so until the onions are soft and lightly coloured and the stuffing is bubbling; add more stock if they dry completely before the end of the cooking process.  Drizzle with oil and serve warm.

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Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

This simple recipe takes the humble carrot and turns it into something significantly less humble.  It’s as if the carrot has had counselling and found itself a huge dose of self-esteem and no-one is EVER going to put carrot in the corner!

Ok, I may have indulged in a little hyperbole there but this really is a wonderful salad.

Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, most of them are spices and you probably have them in your cupboard already.  If you don’t it is worth buying them because they are staples that crop up time and time again in tasty recipes and they really help to lift even the most mundane meals.  Try cinnamon in your porridge, or ginger in a smoothy.  Cumin and Coriander go well in savoury pancakes or winter stews.  If you keep your spices in sealed containers in a cool, dark place they will last for ages so it is worth the (modest) investment.

Preserved lemon is a little more unusual but you could always make your own!  Recipe here.

The otriginal recipe is from Plenty by Ottolenghi.

Ingredients

Serves 4

1kg Carrots

80ml Olive Oil

1 Onion

1 tsp Caster Sugar

3 Garlic Cloves (crushed)

2 Green Chillies (finely chopped)

1 Spring Onion

1/4 tsp Ground Cloves

1/4 tsp Ground Ginger

3/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Coriander

1 tsp Sweet Paprika

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp chopped Preserved Lemon

40g Chopped Fresh Coriander

120ml Greek Yoghurt

Salt

Method

Peel and slice the carrots.  I cut them lengthways but you could cut them into cylinders or semi-circles depending on the size of the carrots.

Put the carrots in a saucepan and just cover with water, add salt and bring to the boil.  Simmer for around 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how you cut them) until just tender but with some crunch left in them.  Drain in a colander and set aside to dry out.

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions over a medium heat until soft and slightly brown.  Add the cooked carrots to the onions with the rest of the ingredients except the yoghurt and fresh coriander.  Stir well, season with salt and remove from the heat.  Leave to cool.

Before serving stir in most of the coriander, serve with a dollop of yoghurt, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of the reserved fresh coriander

 

 

Poached Egg and Avocado on Toast

Avocado and egg on toast

There’s less than two weeks to go until Christmas and it seems like every minute of every day is focussed on food.  Television is full of celebrity chefs each showing you the perfect way to roast a turkey and demonstrating the 300 essential side dishes you must serve up with it.  Magazines are chock-a-block with Christmas recipes and photographs of the most gloriously set tables.

In my own kitchen I am spending my spare time cooking for Christmas too; the freezer is already full of cranberry sauce, spiced red cabbage and mince pies – all to save time on the big day so I can actually spend time with my family like a normal person.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this – I seek out the Christmas food channels and I buy those magazines – but sometimes it can seem a bit too much.  This weekend alone we will be going to three Christmas parties and two of those involve a three course dinner.

So, in between the excesses of the season, I like to make simple, light and tasty food.  The joy of eating a simple supper whilst curled up by the fire is the best antidote I know to winter.

This particular dish of poached eggs and avocado on toast is a perfect example.  The bright greens combat the wet, wintery grey outside, the rich textures belie the healthiness of the dish and you can be sitting down to eat it ten minutes after you get in from work.

The dish needs a little sharpness to lift it which is why I have included French dressing in the recipe but I actually prefer to give it a bigger flavour boost by adding chimichurri.  You could also try pesto but swap the coriander for basil if you do.

All in all it is the perfect simple but indulgent dish for a December full of excess.  I hope you try it.

 

Toast with egg and avocado

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 large ripe Avocado

2 fresh free-range Eggs

Crusty Bread for toasting (I used Sour dough)

Leftover Green Veg (spinach/cabbage/cavolo nero etc.)

A large handful of Fresh Coriander (or basil)

1 tbsp French Dressing (or pesto or chimichurri)

Method

Toast a thick slice of bread for each person.

Heat a pan of water for the egg.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone.  It should slip easily from the peel if it is ripe enough.  Slice the avocado.

Poach the egg.

Warm the green veg through in a little melted butter.  Pile it onto the toast.  Top with the avocado and drizzle with the dressing (or an alternative – see above).  Place the egg on top, sprinkle with the chopped coriander and enjoy.  It’s as simple as that.