Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Roasted celeriac with lentils and feta




I feel sorry for the celeriac. He's not the most handsome of veggies is he? A bit bumpy and nobbly and hairy and brown- with an "interesting" flavour. It definitely wasn't love at first sight when I saw him in our veg bag, but, as we all very well know, you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, so I decided to give this guy a chance.

In true Carrie Bradshaw/Sex and the City style, this introduction got me thinking.....I was going to make a bit of a political standpoint on how we are overly obsessed with appearance and that there is currently too much pressure on women to look a certain way. But then I realised this is a food blog, not a feminist/activist/political blog so I stopped myself. It is something that I do feel very strongly about though, and a few recent news stories have made me a bit cross/saddened by the the whole state of play for women at the moment. So to save you all from reading my rantings and soapbox moment all I will say is this-couldn't we all learn a lesson from the celeriac? It's a delicious and unusual and unique and wonderful vegetable, so it doesn't really matter what it looks like does it?! Feminist issues and vegetables-really not too different after all!

If you are in any way interested in what I've been rambling about, you should take a look at this blog:
http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/
Watch this video:
http://youtu.be/eaL2tN-M6s4
Read this article:
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/nov/03/thigh-gap-pressure-point-women-self-esteem
And this book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Be-Woman-Caitlin-Moran/dp/0091940745

And now, back to the matter at hand; the food.

I have to admit I did struggle initially to think of what to do with Mr Celeriac. Soup? Of course, soup would be great (and I did actually turn some of it into soup!) but soup is fairly predictable and I wanted to try something new. So it got roasted and served with some super savoury and hearty puy lentils with spinach and a crumbling of feta. The celeriac has a slight bitterness to it that is lessened by slow roasting until it starts to get those sweet crispy bits on the edges. The feta brings that saltyness that cuts right through it and the lentils provide a yummy kind of earthy flavour to even it all out. My boyfriend said this was one of the best things I'd made so it must be good!

It could definitely be made more substantial by serving with some rice/quinoa/farro, but it actually makes a very satisfying meal just like this, and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day! You might also want to mix it up with different roast veg like carrots, parsnips or potatoes....the more the merrier!

Roasted celeriac with lentils and feta
(Serves 4)






1 whole celeriac, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
1 red onion, cut into large chunks/segments
2 cloves garlic
glug of olive oil
2 x 400g tinned puy lentils (I used pre cooked tinned lentils because I'm lazy, but feel free to buy dried and cook them according to instructions)
large bunch of spinach, washed and roughly chopped
large handful of parsley, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
200g feta

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the celeriac, red onion and whole garlic cloves in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30-40 minutes until soft and starting to crisp at the edges.

In a frying pan or shallow saucepan, wilt the spinach in a little water. Add the lentils and heat through. Mix through the parsley and lemon juice, and season to taste.

To serve, pile the lentil and spinach mixture onto a plate, top with celeriac and onion, and finish with crumbled feta and a sprinkling of extra parsley.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Roast veg and haloumi salad





A salad?! In Autumn?! Yes, you heard right, I made a salad in this horrible weather- but fear not, it's a tasty, wholesome salad that will warm you right up on these chilly eves.

I wasn't sure when we got fennel in our veg bag, as I'm not a huge fan of that licorice/aniseed taste (except for sambuca, strangely, but the less said about that the better!). But I had heard that fennel loses it's strong aniseed taste when cooked, and I'm always willing to try new things so thought I'd give it a go. And I can now say I'm a fennel convert- the aniseed flavour definitely softens once it's roasted and it gets a slight sweetness to it which is delicious. So if you're dubious about fennel I suggest you give it a try and you may be surprised!

The squash and haloumi make great additions to this dish; the adorably named 'dumpling squash' we got that week is sweet and creamy, and the saltyness of the haloumi offsets it perfectly. Add some farro and a lemony, parsley dressing and you've got the perfect Autumn salad.

I realise I'm quite late to the farro party, but I can't get enough of it! An Italian whole grain from the wheat family, it cooks just like pasta but with a bit more of a chewy texture and nutty taste. It's a great addition to salads and stews, and should be available in most large supermarkets or health food shops.

If you can't get hold of a 'dumpling squash', butternut or any other hard winter squash would work just as well.

P.S. I also want to share the good news that my blog has reached over 1,00 views (probably mostly from my mum...!). I didn't really count on anyone reading this when I started it so this is a bit of a landmark really; thank you to all of you who've taken an interest and shown your love. I've big plans for Live Local Greens so this is the first step on the road to world domination!

Roast veg and haloumi salad
(Makes 4 servings)


1/2 large dumpling squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed*
1 carrot, roughly chopped into medium sized chunks
1 bulb fennel, tops removed and cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic, peeled
pinch of chilli flakes
glug of olive oil
200g farro
1 pack (250g) haloumi, cut into medium chunks
juice of 1/2 lemon
large handful of parsley, finely chopped
pumpkin & sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place all the veg into a large roasting tray. Add the garlic cloves, chilli flakes and olive oil and mix to coat all the veg. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes (remove the tray and shake once or twice during this time).

Meanwhile, cook the farro according to instructions in boiling water with a bit of stock powder and drain well.

Add the haloumi to the vegetables and return to the oven for another 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft and both veg and haloumi are starting to brown at the edges.

Remove the tray from the oven, place the veg and haloumi in a large serving dish and add the cooked farro. Dress with the lemon juice, parsley and another glug of olive oil and mix through.

Top with the seeds if using.

*A tip I've learned recently to make peeling your squash easier (and safer!): pierce the squash once or twice with a knife and stick in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Saves hacking away at it!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Butternut squash and kale lasagne










This recipe came about as a bit of an experiment. I had some kale, I had a butternut squash, and I had a sudden urge to eat some lasagne.

I think by now you might have worked out that I’m quite a big fan of pasta (did I mention that before?). And lasagne is one of those pasta dishes that, when done right, can turn simple ingredients into something quite fancy, tasty and unarguably comforting. I’d unfortunately gone out for a bit of a disappointing Italian dinner a few days before at a well known chain (not mentioning any names) – which serves me right for choosing that over local and independent, right? So to set the good vs bad food scales right again, I thought I’d give this guy a go.

I've had numerous variations on the veggie lasagne- spinach and ricotta, lentil, roast veg, but thought this combo might work well. And it did! The sweet, creamy butternut squash mixed with some garlicky, earthy kale and a bit of cheesiness are a match made in heaven, and when baked to get that lovely, slightly burnt crunchy topping made this an absolute joy to eat. Served with a crisp, sharp rocket salad to offset the richness and a glass of white wine, this was much better than any ‘meh’ dinner out at a chain. Lesson learnt!

It definitely isn't a speedy recipe. It does take some time and effort and unfortunately a fair bit of washing up afterwards, but if, like me, you enjoy an afternoon pottering around the kitchen it’s definitely worth it for a bit of a special meal or for feeding a group. It can be made in advance up to the baking stage and frozen/refrigerated before sticking it in the oven when you need it.

In other news, I’m so excited to say that the boyfriend and I have found a flat! House hunting is not at all fun, and we saw some 'interesting' places-but the one we have gone for just feels so homely and cosy- and has a lovely big (relatively for a one bed flat!) brand new kitchen, that I’m so excited to take over with all my Kilner jars, spice collection and everything else, and while away the hours in there working on some new creations. A decent kitchen was so important to me as I love cooking so much, and some of the places we saw literally had room for a sink and an oven and not much else, so I’m very pleased to have got this place and super excited to move in and make it our own!

Butternut squash and kale lasagne
(Serves 4)


1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into small chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
1 onion
1 bay leaf
5 whole peppercorns
500 ml of semi-skimmed millk
50g butter
50g plain flour
pinch of grated nutmeg
glug of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
large bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
4 ready made lasagne sheets
vegetarian parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the squash, garlic and chilli in a large roasting tray and roast for about 30 minutes until soft and starting to turn golden. Once out of the oven, mash roughly with a fork or potato masher until mostly smooth.

Meanwhile, make the bechamel sauce for the lasagne. Add the milk to a pan with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf and heat until slightly boiling. Take off the heat and set to one side. After a couple of minutes, strain the milk.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and heat the paste for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and add a small amount of milk, stirring quickly until smooth. Keep adding the remaining milk and stirring until you have a smooth sauce. Return to the heat for a few minutes until thickened. Grate in some nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion and fry over a medium heat until soft. Add the kale, and a splash of water, and heat until wilted. Stir in about a quarter of the bechamel sauce.

Depending on your lasagne sheets, you may need to precook them. As this dish doesn't have a lot of liquid, I just soaked the sheets in a dish of boiling water for about 5 minutes beforehand to ensure they would be cooked.

Cover the bottom of a medium sized oven proof dish with about half of the bechamel sauce. Place one of the lasagne sheets on top. Spread a third of the butternut squash on the top, and cover with a third of the kale. Repeat for two more layers, finishing with a lasagne sheet on top.

Cover with the remaining bechamel and grated parmesan.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden on top.




Sunday, 20 October 2013

spicy parsnip soup




It's been a bit quiet in the world of Live Local Greens for the last week or so. Hope you haven't missed me too much! But time is just flying by before me and I don't seem to have had a chance to stop and think, let alone cook.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've recently started a great new job but it does mean that I've been focusing all my energy on that, as well as starting to look for a new home for me and my boyfriend, and by the time I get home it's all I can do to make a vague attempt at something half decent for dinner, followed swiftly by bedtime. Combine that with a busy busy weekend last weekend, full of family, birthdays and babies, and here I am one week later finally getting some down time. Phew!

I'm not very good at doing nothing, and always feel like my time should be filled with some kind of productive task. Even if I know that I'll just be chilling at home, I still have to schedule in 'brunch and papers' time, or 'read my book on the sofa with a cup of tea' time. But after the blur that has been the past couple of weeks, I was very glad to arrive at the weekend with very little plans made. The truth is, it's so important to have those free days, and to let yourself relax without the need to do something 'constructive'. How often do we give ourselves the opportunity to just stop, unwind and reboot? I'm definitely going to start making a conscious effort to do so.

And with the heavens opening on Sunday and scuppering all plans of going for a walk, what else to do but make soup? When it's raining and miserable outside I do love pottering about in the kitchen with the radio on and a mug of tea by my side, coming up with tasty food to warm the cockles and the soul.

We got lots of (soil covered!) parsnips in the veg bag last week. I love parsnips but only really know two ways with them; roasted as a tasty party of a Sunday lunch, or in a soup. And soups are great but I did think that the parsnips might need something to jazz them up a bit, so added a bit of spice and the result was a lovely, warming, parsnip-y soup with a bit of a kick!

I hope you've had some time out too this weekend!























Spicy parsnip soup
(Makes 4 servings)

glug of olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
tsp garam masala
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
5 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped into smallish chunks
1 litre of vegetable stock
black pepper
natural yoghurt (optional)

Heat the olive oil and fry the onions on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli flakes and garam masala and fry for another 5 minutes.

Add the parsnips and fry for a couple of minutes, making sure they are coated with the spices.

Add the stock and black pepper to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are very soft.

Blend in a food processor or with a hand held blender. I tend to blend it so there are still a few chunks still in there for a bit of texture, but you could blend it until completely smooth if desired.

Serve with extra black pepper and a dollop of yoghurt mixed through and some tasty bread for dunking!



Thursday, 10 October 2013

Comfort food

So I got ill.

I've just started a new job which is great and very exciting but taking in all that new information means I've been absolutely shattered for the last two weeks. Couple that with the change in weather, the fact that I've not been sleeping well and have been neglecting my (somewhat poor anyway) exercise regime as a result of being so tired, and BAM- here comes a cold.

I always seem to get whatever bug is going around. I still to this day cannot comprehend why as I eat healthily, exercise fairly regularly and get a lot of sleep (a lot. I luuuuuurve sleep.) But I have previously suffered from anemia and figure I must just have a pretty lousy immune system.

There are a few things I turn to when I'm feeling a bit grotty and sorry for myself. Either to wallow in that feeling if I'm going for extra pathetic, or to try to kick myself straight out of it. As the weather was turning chilly and I had a lot of the ingredients in my fridge that needed using up, I went for the old faithful minestrone soup.

There's nothing better than a hot bowl of wholesome, tasty, slurpy soup when you're feeling under the weather or just a little blue. It's like a hug in food form. And minestrone is great as it's so filling, a good way to get some veg in you and you can pretty much just wack anything you happen to have in it!

So I made a huge batch of this and have been eating it all week. And I'm pleased to say I'm feeling much better. Just in time for the weekend! Hope you all have a good one, and stay healthy!


Minestrone
Makes enough for 4 (generous) servings

1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 leek, sliced
200g chard (or you could substitute kale, cavolo nero or cabbage), stalks removed and sliced, leaves roughly chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 tsp of dried parsley (or handful of fresh if preferred)
50g broken spaghetti or mini pasta
1 tin of cannellini beans

Slowly fry the onions, carrots and celery on a medium heat with a glug of olive oil until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and chard stalks and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and parsley. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to keep an eye on and add more stock if necessary.

Add the pasta, chard leaves and 2/3 of the beans and cook for a further 10 minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Blitz the remaining 1/3 of the beans in a blender until smooth, and add to the soup.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of vegetarian Parmesan or cheddar.




Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Breakfast


I'm really not a morning person. Every morning, as my alarm goes off, I mutter some kind of expletive and hit snooze..."just another 10 minutes!". Once I do finally drag myself out of bed, I'm pretty much incapable of any kind of conversation until I actually have to walk out of the door and head to work.

One thing I do love about mornings though, is breakfast. I always make sure I factor in time for it in my morning routine, and as I sit in our kitchen with lovely huge windows looking out over the garden, it's my moment of peace and quiet and reflection before the busy day begins.

I think it's so important to have moments like these in our crazy hectic lives. We get so caught up in to-ing and fro-ing and always having to do something or be constantly stimulated, it's nice to just stop, take some time out, and spend some time with yourself. Morning is the perfect time for this. If you start the day with a calm, clear mind you can aim to keep it with you for the rest of the day.

And of course eating a decent breakfast is important too. I've never understood those people who skip breakfast. How can you function?! If I don't eat breakfast it's like I might as well have not got out of bed at all.

I go through phases with breakfast of eating the same thing every morning for weeks on end. Mainly some kind of oat based something- so good for that slow release energy. I'm trying to avoid any processed food at the moment, which involves making everything from scratch. Shop bought cereals are some of the worst culprits for high amounts of sugar and salt, so I thought I'd have a go at making my own granola. And I'm converted! This is delicious and so easy to make, plus you can sub in whatever type of nuts, seeds or fruit you fancy. I will definitely be making again.




Coconut & fruit granola
Makes enough for 10 servings

300g rolled oats (not instant oats)
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g flaked almonds
4 tbsp of coconut oil (can use olive oil if preferred)
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinammon
50g coconut flakes
50g raisins
50g dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas mark 2.

In a large bowl mix the oats, seeds, almonds, oil, honey and cinammon. Tip the mix onto a large baking sheet   and spread evenly (the mix needs to be spread fairly thinly so you might need to use two baking sheets). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until starting to turn golden in colour. You might need to check on it occasionally and mix it to avoid it burning.

Mix in the coconut and fruits, and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. It will get crunchier as it cools!

Store in an airtight container for up to one month.

I like to have mine topped with plain or Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit. Yummy!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Live Local Greens finds stardom...

I just wanted to write a quick update to let you know some exciting news in the world of Live Local Greens.

I was approached to write an interview for food website Gourmandize UK & Ireland, talking about my cooking, the blog and a few other things.

So here it is!

Head on over to http://www.gourmandize.co.uk/member-kTOMEj-interview.htm to read the whole thing.

Thanks to all the folks at Gourmandize for asking me to be part of your wonderful website!

Live Local Greens's interview


Interview by LaurenceInterview by Laurence

We interviewed Live Local Greens!

Visit the blog: Live Local Greens.

See profile page and recipes
Discover Live Local Greens's favourite recipe: Moroccan roasted squash with spiced chickpeas


"... if you have any ideas or suggestions for how to cook with seasonal veg, I would love to hear them!"


Hello Live Local Greens, so tell us...


When did you begin your blog and what inspired you to start it?

I have only recently started the blog, as I had just signed up to the Local Greens veg bag scheme and I wanted to share how I cooked the various vegetables they provide. I really enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, and lots of my friends told me I should start a blog, so I finally did it!


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Autumnal stirrings...

Autumn is absolutely my favourite season.

I love having to wrap up in big cosy jumpers, scarves and hats, plus I get to wear my favourite boots! I definitely feel more comfortable all wrapped up than in skimpy shorts!

Autumn food is so satisfying; all those pies, soups and stews that warm you up on a crisp, chilly day. I'm looking forward to seeing what veg we get from Local Greens as the weather turns colder. I think it will be more of a challenge than simply relying on salads! But that's why I enjoy cooking so much!

So far we've had a few bits that signal the turning of the leaves; beetroot, turnips (more on those another time) and - the star of the show in this post - red kuri squash. This wonderful little squash is similar to a pumpkin or a butternut squash but smaller and slightly sweeter-delicious! I love anything involving squash, there's something very comforting and satisfying about it.

I cooked this guy with a bit of a Moroccan twist. I cook quite a lot of Moroccan inspired dishes, I just think that the combination of different spices, heat and a bit of sweetness is really delicious. Last Christmas my brother treated me to a wonderful recipe book 'The Middle Eastern Vegetarian' by Sally Butcher (whose deli 'Persepolis' is just round the corner of me in Peckham- I urge any London based foodies to check it out!) which has inspired me to cook some more adventurous Middle Eastern food. Cooking this type of food may seem slightly daunting at first but once you've built up a decent spice collection and know what combinations work, you'll soon be a pro!

This recipe is my creation however, but inspired by a few Moroccan/Middle Eastern recipes and meals I've tried. If you can't get hold of red kuri squash, butternut or any other similar squash will work just as well.



Moroccan roast red kuri squash with spiced chickpeas and herby couscous
Serves 2

1 red kuri squash, seeds removed and cut into wedges
1 teaspoon of harissa paste (I use La Phare du Cap Bon paste, but there are plenty of other brands available, or have go at making yourself!)
2 tablespoons of olive oil

half a red onion, diced
1clove of garlic, minced
glug of olive oil
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
pinch of chill flakes OR half a chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
large bunch of spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoons of half-fat creme fraiche OR Greek yoghurt


150g pearl couscous (this has larger grains than normal couscous, which I prefer, but the normal one will work just as well)
good glug of olive oil
juice of half a lemon
handful of coriander, chopped

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 5. Place the squash in a large roasting tray. Mix the oil and harissa paste and toss the squash wedges with the mixture so they are fully coated. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until soft and starting to caramelise.

Prepare the couscous by adding to a large pan of boiling water (I also added a bit of stock powder) and cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain and drizzle with olive oil. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander.

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook until soft. Add the tomato puree and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas and spinach, and stir, until spinach is completely wilted. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly, then mix in the yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Serve the wedges of squash topped with chickpeas and a side of couscous, with a further sprinkling of coriander if desired.




Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A note on dressings...

Just a quick post as I wait for my latest creation to cook in the oven (a new use for pattypan squash-stay tuned!).

I mentioned previously that I would talk about dressings, as I think they are a brilliant way to add some magic to a simple salad. I have a few in my toolbox that I pull out if I ever have a bowl of leaves that need jazzing up. If you have a few of these guys up your sleeves, you'll never be too far away from a smashing salad.

These are just a few classics, but there are so many variations and combinations out there, it's worth having an explore and experimenting with flavours. My tip is to mix your dressings in an old jam jar, as you can stick the lid on and shake it to mix, and it is easy to store any remaining dressing in the fridge.



Classic balsamic

Simple, but sometimes that's all you need!

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in your jam jar and shake well.

Lemon tahini

I wrote about this dressing previously in my kale and squash quinoa salad, but just in case you missed it, here it is again!

1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
good glug of olive oil
tablespoon of tahini
black pepper

Mix oil, garlic and tahini then add enough lemon juice to thin it out and shake your jam jar up. You may need to add some water to get it a pouring consistency.

Honey Mustard

Another classic!

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons of olive oil

Combine all ingredients in your jam jar and shake well.

Asian style

This dressing is great on salads of crunchy veggies, or with noodles.

2 tablespoons rapeseed/olive oil
juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, grated/minced
pinch of chilli flakes
1 chopped spring onion (optional)
1 tablespoon of chopped coriander (optional)

Mix all ingredients except the spring onion and coriander together in a jam jar. Add onions and coriander and stir.

Yoghurt dressing

This dressing has a kind of Middle-Eastern vibe; great with falafels, halloumi or couscous salads.

2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt
1 clove of garlic, grated/minced
juice of half a lemon
good glug of olive oil
handful of mint

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Add more olive oil to loosen the dressing as desired.

What's your favourite dressing?


Friday, 13 September 2013

Beetroot

No sooner do I write a post about summer, than the skies cloud over and a chill sets in. Hmmm, maybe it's time to admit that it ain't summer anymore...

 But I'm not ready to bring out the thick socks and jumpers just yet. So I just want to squeeze in one final summery recipe before it all becomes soups and stews.

Although saying that, the star player of this recipe is actually beetroot, one of my top ten autumn veggies, so there's plenty of time to make more of this-go for it!

I made this as part of a dinner I held for a friend who was going away to work in the Philippines for a while. I love cooking for friends and getting the whole gang together to eat wonderful food (and drink wonderful wine) is something we do quite a lot as a group. There's something about filling up a table with dishes of deliciousness and letting everyone dig in that is hugely satisfying and makes me very happy. Of course, my friends are very appreciative to have a friend who doesn't mind cooking for them! And the favour is always returned!

I made the beetroot hummus as I knew that people would be arriving in dribs and drabs, and wanted something for people to nibble on while they were waiting for the main event. Served with some tasty crispbreads (shop bought I'm afraid) and a cold beer in the garden, it went down a treat!

It's such a fantastic colour that you may not want to eat it! (But not for long!)

There are tons of variations on the classic hummus (sweet potato, carrot, broad bean) but the base of chickpeas, tahini and olive oil pretty much always remain the same. As long as you have those guys and a blender, the hummus world is your oyster! I will definitely be trying a few different combinations, what's your favourite hummus combo?


beetroot hummus
serves 4 (as an appetiser)

1 large beetroot
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tablespoon of tahini
1 garlic glove, crushed
glug of olive oil
juice of half a lemon
pinch of cumin
pinch of cracked black pepper

To cook the beetroot, boil it whole for about 15 minutes, until you can easily pierce it with a knife. Once cooled, carefully remove the skin and chop into smallish chunks.

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz until a smooth consistency. You may want to add more cumin or lemon juice to taste, and loosen with a dash more olive oil if necessary.





Sunday, 8 September 2013

Summer squash

Even years after leaving school (I'm not that old surely?!), I still get that 'back to school' feeling when September comes around. Part of my job does involve working with schools, so I do get a bit of a summer break and remember how 6 weeks used to seem like a lifetime when you were younger; afternoons of playing 'Blocky1-2-3' and making dens, paddling pools and water fights. Now schools are back but the sun's still shining, so I'm not quite feeling ready to get my jumpers and boots out just yet!

We've had a great summer this year. I can't actually remember having this much great weather for a long time. I've tried to make the most of it (we don't know when we'll get another one like this!)- beer gardens, walks, picnics and meals in the garden. London is great in the sunshine, and it just seems to make everyone so much happier.


So to go with this lovely weather, we've had some great summer veg to enjoy too! Including the yellow summer squash I mentioned in the first post - which someone has since informed me is called a pattypan or sunburst. A new addition to my vegetable knowledge! A relative of the courgette, this squash has a slightly nuttier flavour and a wonderful bright yellow colour. I must admit I was a bit unsure what to do with it at first, but as I'm finding throughout my cooking with the veg box, the trick is to keep it simple and let it's lovely, natural flavours shine! Plus, I don't know about you, but when it's hot, all I want to eat is light, fresh salads.

So with that in mind, I knocked up a quick squash and kale quinoa salad the other day that I thought I'd share with you.

The salad dressing is my current obsession and is pinched from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Veg Everyday' book (which I hugely recommend for tasty, simple veggie food). It is so good with most salads; I've been using it on pretty much everything! Dressings really do turn a simple salad into something exciting - keep your eyes peeled for a future post dedicated just to dressings!

This dish isn't really a recipe, more of just a combination of really good stuff-but aren't the best dishes like that?!


Summer Squash and Kale Quinoa Salad
Serves 2
half pattypan/summer squash cut into chunks
large bunch of kale, stalks removed and roughly chopped
100g quinoa
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
good glug of olive oil
large tablespoon of tahini
black pepper
handful of mixed seeds

Cook the quinoa according to the instructions. Whilst cooking steam the squash and the kale until tender.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix oil, garlic and tahini then add enough lemon juice to thin it out. (I find that using an old jam jar is great as you can screw the cap on and shake it, shake it, shake it.) You may need to add some water to loosen it up. Keep shaking until all ingredients are fully mixed together and it is a pouring consistency.

Once cooked, mix quinoa and the vegetables together and serve with a drizzle (or flood!) of dressing and a sprinkling of seeds.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Cavolo Nero


















I love Italian food. If I had to pick one thing to live on for the rest of my life it would probably be pasta. So versatile, so classic, so soothing, so flipping delicious. I probably have some kind of pasta dish at least once a week but it is hard sometimes to make it more exciting and do something different with it.

I went to Sicily over the summer and it was a vegetarian Italian lover's dream! The local cuisine doesn't really involve much meat so there were plenty of delicious pastas and risottos and pizzas to choose from. And ice cream of course. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you get the chance.


Cavolo nero literally means black cabbage in italian, although it's more similar to kale. I had never seen it let alone eaten before it turned up in my veg bag last week. You can immediately just how tasty and healthy this veg is; a deep, deep green, it is absolutely choc full of vitamins K, A and C, and rich is lutein-which helps to keep eyes healthy. It is traditionally used in an Italian dish called 'ribollita', which literally means 'reboiled' as it was a way of using up leftovers. So I thought I'd give this historically important and famous dish a go myself, but with a bit of a twist of course!



pasta ribollita
Serves 4

a good glug of olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 jar of tinned tomatoes
1 tin of cannellini beans
500ml vegetable stock
spring of rosemary
sprig of thyme
a hearty bunch of cavolo nero, shredded (not the tough stalks)
200g pasta
salt & pepper
vegetarian parmesan (optional)

Fry the onion, carrots and garlic on a medium heat with olive oil for about 10 minutes until soft.

Add the tomatoes, stock, beans, rosemary and thyme. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Add the cavolo nero and the pasta and season to taste. (You may need to add a bit more stock to cover the pasta.) Cook for another 10-12 minutes until the pasta is al dente.

This dish is traditionally a soup, so you will have quite a lot of liquid. However, I have since eaten the leftovers which had dried out a bit and it was just as good! For more of a sauce constintency, don't add as much stock/cook the sauce down for a bit longer.

Serve piping hot in bowls with a sprinkling of veggie parmesan.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

brilliant beans

So I didn't think I liked broad beans. Oh, how wrong I was!

My memories from eating them when I was younger were that they were huge, had an odd, tough texture and didn't really taste of much. Well, thank you Local Greens for making me change my ways.

These gorgeous things were so fresh, succulent, full of flavour - and the most brilliant bright green. You really could taste their freshness and didn't need to do much to get the best out of them.

What I did do with them though, was inspired by that high street classic we all know and love; good old Marks & Spencer. They do a delicious salad with broad beans, feta, quinoa and all sorts of other goodies in it. I have been tempted by it for lunch a few times, but as it weighs in at an outrageous £4 something, I have instead picked myself up off the floor and gone for the boring but economic egg or Ploughmans instead.

I do try though to take my lunch to work most days, so decided to use our broad bean beauties to make my own version of this- in your face M&S!


This salad was perfect for all that glorious hot weather we had-like summer on a plate. It's basically all of my favourite things in one dish, and very quick to make.

I was lucky enough to have to go some training near Borough market that week, so of course I had to stop by to check out what was on offer. I managed to restrain myself and not buy too much, but did leave with some super tasty avocados that were a great addition to this dish.

I also want to tell you about my seed mix (I know, you've been dying to know, right?). You may see these guys pop up quite a bit in my cooking, as I can't get enough of the stuff! Seeds are a great source of healthy fats, protein and all sorts of important vitamins and minerals. Plus, I find they add a wonderful crunch to salads. I buy a pre-mixed pack from Holland & Barratt called 'Salad Sprinkle' which has pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and pine nuts. Yum! I also use a milled seed mix for smoothies and breakfast, but more on that another time. To the recipe!

broad bean, avocado and feta quinoa
Serves 2

50g quinoa
about 6-8 broad bean pods
2 spring onions, finely shopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
handful of mint, finely chopped
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 avocado, cut into chunks
big chunk of feta
mix of seeds 

Cook quinoa in boiling water (I add a pinch of vegetarian stock powder-Boullion is best) for 10-15 mins.

To save on time and washing up, I add the pods to the quinoa pan about 2 mins before it is done. Once cooked, drain the pan and run the whole lot under cold water. Pop the beans out of their pods and throw the quinoa and beans into a large serving bowl.

Add the cucumber, spring onions and mint, drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil, and mix well. Season with black pepper.

Finally, add the avocado, crumbled feta and a sprinkle of seeds. Garnish with extra mint.

(No photo I'm afraid; it got gobbled up too quickly. But I'll remember next time so watch this space...)


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Live Local Greens

It was with great anticipation that I went to collect my first ever Local Greens bag. I couldn't wait to see what amazing veg I would be getting that week, and all organic and locally sourced.

Local Greens is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation that provides a weekly veg bag scheme in Brixton, Camberwell, Herne Hill and Dulwich. All the veg is locally grown, from organic or spray free farms. I was excited to start using them as I have wanted to go organic for a while for health and environmental reasons, and it feels good to be supporting a local organisation.

Well, the first bag was such a treat! It definitely was a great introduction to the world of veg bags!



We got:
Red Kale
Summer Squash (if anyone knows the official name for this I would love to know! Sort of looks like a UFO...)
Broad beans
Little gem lettuce
Cauliflower
Aubergine
Carrots
Onions

Now, I'm a very keen cook and like to think I am quite adventurous when coming up with recipes, but I have to say it was a little bit daunting to be faced with all this wonderful, but somewhat unusual, veg and knowing what to do with it all. With that in mind, I shall endeavour to bring you my trials and tribulations of cooking with a Local Greens veg bag, hopefully with some tasty recipes along the way!