Monthly Archives: February 2014

Recipe: Saag Aloo


Spinach is one of those vegetables you’re supposed to hate as a child and maybe get to like as you grow older. I didn’t hate spinach as a child because I never ate it. I think it was my Dad that hated it even as an adult and it just never appeared on our table. I think the first spinach I ever ate was the baby spinach leaves in a salad. I don’t tend to eat it cooked as a side-dish, but as an ingredient in other things. And one of my favourites is Saag Aloo, the Indian restaurant favourite of spinach and potatoes.

I love it, but it tends to be very oily in restaurants and what I wanted to do was see if I could get the same flavour but without the fat. I based my flavours on this recipe, but instead of frying the potato at the start, I added some water to boil them. If you keep the lid off the pan, most of the water disappears so that you get a dryish dish rather than soup.

This has plenty of punch. I say it serves two, but I can eat a pan of this to myself!

Saag Aloo photo DSCN1084_zpsdbbb7fca.jpg


1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 chilli
1 clove garlic
250g new potatoes, cubed

1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
100ml water
150g frozen spinach
1/2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

Heat some oil in a pan.
When it’s hot add the mustard seeds and watch them spit and sputter for a few seconds.
Then add the chilli and garlic.
Once the garlic is starting to brown, add the potatoes with the cumin and coriander powder.
Stir thoroughly.
Add the water and bring to the simmer.
Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or the potatoes are nearly cooked.
Add the spinach, stir and then cook for 5 more minutes.
Serve with the coriander leaves sprinkled over the top.

Serves 2 as a side dish

Recipe: Braised Leeks with Puy Lentils


Leeks are the most understated member of the onion family in terms of flavour, but somehow they are the only ones that really get to shine on their own. The trick is to cook them until they are tender, but not slimy. Here the braising brings out their sweetness and the lentils give the dish enough body to stand alone as a main course.

This is a grown-up dish of quiet pleasure, as satisfying as finding a convenient parking space or a perfectly ironed shirt.

I’d serve this with some mashed potato or crusty bread.

Braised Leeks photo DSCN1077_zps4e136416.jpg

1 red onion, chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
100g puy lentils
500ml veg stock
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
4 leeks, washed and chopped into 5cm lengths

Sweat the onion, celery and garlic in a little oil until the onion has gone translucent.
Add the lentils, the stock and the thyme.
Simmer gently, with the lid on the pan for 30 minutes.
Push the leek pieces into the liquid and simmer for another 15 minutes or the leeks are tender to the point of a knife.
Serve with mashed potato or crusty bread.

Serves 2

Quick Bite: Kale Crisps


I’m a little late to the party with this quick recipe, because these were rocking the veg*n world about 12 months ago. However, with commercial varieties appearing in some shops, I thought it might be worth putting this recipe up.

Kale Crisps photo DSCN1069_zpsf8727401.jpg

For a snack for two people, you will need about half a packet of curly kale, 1 tsp of oil and some salt or other seasonings.

Pre-heat the oven to 180-190C.
Wash and dry the kale, and get rid of any big bits of stalk.
Toss the kale in the oil until each leaf has a coating.
Arrange the kale into one layer on a roasting pan.
Put in the oven for about 10 minutes.
After that time it should beginning to brown around the edges.
Remove from the oven but leave the oven on.
Sprinkle the kale with salt or seasonings and serve immediately.
The reason you leave the oven on, is after eating one batch, you’re going to want another straight away!

I’ve given temperature and timings, but this is very dependent on how your oven functions. Don’t worry if the first batch isn’t perfect. It’ll still taste good.

And a quick note for those doing Slimming World – use FryLight and this would be syn free!

Recipe: Mushroom and Pea Curry


I wanted to try a creamy curry but without the dairy in this recipe. There are simple ingredients in this dish, but they are packed with flavour. The mushrooms, too, add a satisfying mouthfeel that means this is a vegan curry you’ll want to eat again and again.

Mushroom & Pea Curry photo DSCN1051_zpsebd5b941.jpg

For the spice paste
1 green chilli
15g coriander leaves
1 clove garlic
2cm piece of fresh ginger
1/4tsp turmeric powder
4tbsp water

For the cashew cream
50g cashew nuts
4tbsp water

1/2tsp cumin seeds
200g mushrooms, sliced
150g peas

Put the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender and blend until smooth.
Heat a little oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle and pop add the spice paste.
Stir for a minute and then add the mushrooms.
Cook for a couple of minutes.
While the mushrooms are cooking put the cashew nuts and water into the blender and blend until smooth.
Add the peas to the pan, followed by the cashew cream.
Stir to mix and then cover.
Let simmer for 5 minutes or until the peas are cooked.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with rice or naan bread.

Serves 2

Recipe: Midweek Vegetable Pilau


I’ve called this recipe midweek vegetable pilau because it is a recipe you could easily put together after a hard day’s work. There’s a bit of chopping at the beginning but after that it takes care of itself.

I am making no apologies for using frozen vegetables in this dish. I think they’re ideal for single people or people on a tight budget. There’s no loss of nutrients in the freezing process and no noticeable lack of texture in a dish like this. And no waste. And it uses curry powder. So sue me. There are times when I want to grind my own curry spices, but a Thursday night after a day at work generally isn’t one of them. Of course, if you feel differently, please add your own spice mix.

This has a lot of taste that belies the effort involved. And it’s very comforting on a cold night.

Midweek PIlau photo DSCN1055_zps4e64479d.jpg

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
150g basmati rice
200g frozen mixed vegetables
30g cashew nuts
400g tin chopped tomatoes or passata
200ml veg stock
2 tbsp coriander, chopped

Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic.
Sweat them for a while until the onion goes translucent.
Stir in the curry powder and let it cook for a minute.
Then add the rice, mixed vegetables, nuts, tomatoes and the veg stock.
Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the simmer and put the lid on.
Simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Keep an eye on it and add more liquid if it’s starting to catch on the bottom of the pan.
Serve with the coriander sprinkled over the top.

Serves 2

Recipe: Puttanesca Adagio


A while back I made a quick and fresh version of Pasta Puttanesca. At the time I promised that I would post the recipe for the slow version of the sauce later on. Well, it’s a wet and windy winter’s day here, so I think now is the time for a dish with all the gutsy flavours of the mediterranean on a plate.

Make now mistake, there are BIG flavours in this dish. This has been much helped by the genius idea I found on the Guardian website, to replace the anchovy in this recipe with greek style olives – not greek olives, note, but the salted, slightly wizened kind of black olives a la greque. You can find them at delicatessen counters. Their deep saltiness is a perfect replacement for the salty fish.

I’ve set the cooking time at 40 minutes, but that depends on how low your stove’s simmering point is. This is one to keep an eye on. And I’m afraid, a certain amount of stove-top splatter is inevitable. It’s a small price to pay for a delicious sauce like this.

I’ve said this will serve 4, but it really depends on how much sauce you like with your pasta. This is quite strong though, so you probably won’t need as much as you might think.

Puttanesca Adagio photo DSCN1063_zps3a32ebc0.jpg

4 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
500ml passata or (500ml tinned tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato puree)
8 greek style olives, chopped
2 tbsp capers, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and chilli.
When the garlic starts to brown, add the passata, olives, capers and oregano.
Stir and then let the mixture gently simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
Season with black pepper (you shouldn’t need salt).
Serve over pasta with the fresh basil sprinkled on top.

Serves 4

Recipe: Vegetarian Pea Soup


London is famous for its fogs, but the really famous fog, the London Particular or Pea-Souper never happens now. Oh, it still gets foggy in London occasionally, but the yellow-tinged, lung-searing mix of smoke from coal fires and mist from the London basin, was ended by the clean air acts of the 1950s and 60s. It is just as well. Thick fogs sound romantic and very Sherlockian, but the last Great Smog of 1952, which lasted four days, is estimated to have contributed to the deaths of 12,000 people.

If the fogs have gone, the soup remains. This can be made with green or yellow split peas and I have stuck with yellow. The original recipe would include a ham bone, or a bacon joint. I have included a sprinkle of smoked paprika to add a smoky hit to the soup. If you have some smoked salt, that would be good added in right at the end, too.

Pea Soup photo DSCN1059_zpsd78f00f0.jpg

1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
200g split peas
1l veg stock
1 bay leaf
1/2tsp fresh thyme
Smoked paprika for garnish

Soften the onion, celery and carrot in a little oil in a large saucepan.
Once the onion is translucent add the split peas, stock, bay leaf and thyme.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer for 90 minutes or until the peas will break apart when pushed against the side of the pan.
Stir vigorously to break up the peas a little.
Check the seasoning and serve with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Serves 2 with a little extra for seconds