Category Archives: vegetarian dishes

Glamorgan sausages, a Welsh vegetarian favourite

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January and February are traditionally lean months so I often avoid (or at least restrict) the amount of meat I eat. Stuffed from Christmas and recovering from financial overindulgence its nice to pare things down a bit and appease the vegetarian in me.

As a teenager and into my early twenties I was vegetarian. No fish and no meat. In fact I even made a foray into vegan living, but as a fussy teenager with a mother who had no idea what to feed a girl of such persuasion, it meant eating very little. Not a healthy option for an adolescent girl and after a six months I saw sense and returned to a less restrictive veggie diet.

My mother gave vegetarian cooking a good go. Being quite creative in those days and an avid collector of Sainsbury’s recipe cards (circa 1980 something) she tried out all kinds of strange and wonderful recipes on us kids.  One of her favourite and regular creations was something called “Glamorgan supper”  a breadcrumb, cheese, egg and spring onion mixture, rolled into balls and fried. We couldn’t get enough of them back then, but it was only as I got older I discovered they were in fact a variation on the Welsh classic, Glamorgan sausages.

Now I have my own kids, one of whom is an avid meat hater, Glamorgan sausages have once again become the perfect lunch or supper dish of the day, avidly devoured with a rich home-made tomato sauce..or indeed good old ‘sos coch’ (which translated is red sauce. In other words plain old tomato ketchup). I prefer mine with a nice tomato chutney, or even red onion marmalade and a lightly dressed salad.

Glamorgan sausages: recipe makes approx 8

175g breadcrumbs

110g Gorwydd Caerphilly

1 small leek finely chopped and cooked gently in butter until soft but not browned (or a bunch of spring onions if you prefer)

1 teaspoon of Welsh honey grain mustard

1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped

a small handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 large eggs beaten

a drop of milk (if needed)

Halen Mon sea salt

black pepper

To coat:

1 egg beaten

panko crumbs

3 to 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

To serve:

A lightly dressed salad, some nice tomato relish (or sos coch…tomato sauce…as the kids prefer)

Mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, spring onions (or cooked leek) and grated cheese in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and mustard, with a little salt and pepper, to the bowl and mix until you have a stiff doughy mixture.

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Mix breadcrumbs, thyme, parsley and a lovely chunk of Gorwydd Caerphilly in a large bowl

Divide into eight sausage shapes.

Beat the remaining egg in a shallow dish and spread the panko crumbs on a plate. Dip each sausage in the egg, then roll in the crumbs. Heat sunflower oil in a shallow frying pan until quite hot and just sizzling but not smoking, then lay the sausages in the pan in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides.

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nine fat sausages sizzling in the pan…turning a lovely golden brown

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White onion soup with cider and thyme, seared scallops and parsley-garlic puree

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So far this year has proved itself to be tediously wet, scarily windy and showing little respite as we head towards March. The week leading up to my first supper club since spring last year, saw gale force winds, power cuts (Aidan and I played the yes-no game by candle light until my eye sight failed and we gave up and went to bed) and roads looking more like rivers.
Much as I wanted to bring a little light romance to my guests for Valentines day, I also wanted to comfort and soothe with a warm decadent meal. Leaving it til the very last minute (as in the day before!) I settled on a sort of ‘warm and fluffy’ menu, the tropical romance came with dessert, a mango and passion fruit ‘mess’, but this thick, creamy soup (adapted from a Tom Aikens recipe) with its intense flavours, tender scallops and the hit of garlic in the puree got the evening going a treat.

Recipe: White Onion Soup with cider, thyme, seared scallops and parsley-garlic puree

Serves 6 to 8

50g unsalted butter
300g onions, thinly sliced
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp flaked salt
1tsp sugar
300ml vegetable stock
One bottle of organic medium or dry cider
150g floury potato, thinly sliced
75ml double cream
Sea salt and ground black pepper

To finish:
Two scallops per person (so 12 to 16) corals removed and trimmed to remove any dark coloured membrane
half a bunch of parsley
couple of cloves of garlic
sea salt flakes
good olive oil

Add butter to a large saucepan and when its melted add the onions, thyme, sugar and salt. Cook gently until softened and beginning to turn a light golden colour…caramelised but not browned.

Add the stock, cider and potato and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the potato is tender. Blend until smooth adding the cream at the end. Check the seasoning.

For the scallops: heat a little butter in a small non-stick pan until piping hot and almost smoking. Add scallops and sear on one side waiting until they turn nice and brown. Turn and cook briefly on the other side, but don’t over cook otherwise they will turn a bit rubbery.

For the puree: add parsley, garlic cloves some olive oil and salt to a food processor and blitz thoroughly until you get a fairly loose puree. You should be able to drizzle it over the scallops rather than it being thick blobs!

Pour the soup into shallowish bowls, top with two scallops and puree, serve and enjoy!

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Leek and wild mushroom risotto…a quick midweek, singleton’s supper

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There are definitely some positives to being single and one of them is being able to cook exactly what I want when the kids are with their Dad. Mushrooms were always a no-no in our house, especially anything that resembled a wild mushroom, so I sadly forsook my beloved fungi to cook family friendly dinners.

One of my favourite dishes is mushroom risotto ( well, I love all risotto really…its one of my top ten comfort foods). Imagine, lovely oozy, buttery rice with the deep earthiness of wild mushrooms. I also love leeks, another pet hate of the children, especially the teen..although the littler kid will tolerate them blitzed to a pulp in soup, if he has to.

So now when I’m on my own I revel in the opportunity to savour my new favourite mid-week supper which combines leek, thyme and mushroom (dried wild and organic chestnut).

A lot of people seem afraid of making risotto. Its one of those dishes, like panacotta or meringue, that seem far more complicated than they actually are. It only requires one pot (so minimal washing up) and if you stick a couple of simple principles you can’t go far wrong.

1/ Don’t over cook the rice (it should be al dente)

2/ Let it rest for 5 minutes before you serve it. The residual heat of the pan will keep the rice cooking, so even if you think the rice is a little underdone, it will be utter perfection by the time you serve it.

3/ A good risotto is nice and wet. Theres nothing worse than hard, dry rice or rice that isn’t thickly coated in a rich, buttery, deeply savoury sauce. Having said this you don’t want it to resemble rice pudding. The trick is to keep adding hot stock, stirring almost continually until its absorbed by the rice, then add a little bit more. I find that recipes are often wrong and inevitably you need more than stated.  Even if you think you’ve added too much it will mostly absorb as you leave it to rest.

Another trick with this risotto, and any dish that includes mushrooms, is to slice and dry fry them before adding. I learnt this recently from friend, colleague and former Jamie Oliver Fifteen cadet, Tom. He cooked me an amazing risotto explaining that dry frying the mushrooms helps seal in the flavour, and by only adding them to the risotto when cooked it also prevents them turning mushy and formless. He’s right of course, he knows his stuff and this is a tip I have followed ever since.

Leek and wild mushroom risotto: recipe to feed one person

A small knob of butter (plus another 25g)

a dessertspoonful of olive oil

One small leek finely chopped

a sprig of thyme, leaves removed from the stem

half a dozen wild mushrooms, fresh or dried. I used dried shiitake, rehydrated for 20 mins in hot water them roughly chopped. If you are using fresh mushrooms slice and cook them in the same way as the chestnut mushrooms below.

100 g or so of chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced

2 – 3 handfuls of arborio rice (I used around 75 g because I have little hands)

a good glug of vermouth

500 ml vegetable stock

salt and pepper

parmesan to serve (if required)

a handful of wild rocket

Method:

Heat the knob of butter and olive oil in a saucepan. Add leek and cook gently until it begins to soften but not brown. Add the fresh thyme and rice and stir for a couple of minutes until the rice begins to turn translucent (i.e. it no longer looks so chalky white). Turn the heat up a fraction and add a glug of vermouth. Within a minute it the rice will absorb it and there will be little alcohol left. Begin to add the hot stock stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed most of it, then add more. Keep doing this until the rice has absorbed most of the stock (you may not need it all, or you may need a little more depending on how much rice you have used) and has reached the desired al dente point.

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While the rice is cooking heat a non-stick frying pan and when hot add the sliced mushrooms in one layer. Cook until beginning to brown then flip over. Remove from the heat and keep to one side.

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To serve:

Once the rice has reached the al dente point add the dried and rehydrated wild mushrooms, the remaining 25 g butter, the mushrooms and check seasoning adding plenty of black pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to rest. If you wish to top with a few slivers of parmesan that’s ok, but it doesn’t need it. Finish with a handful of fresh peppery rocket; it will help make you feel virtuous that you are at least attempting some greenery with your bowl of rich buttery comfort food.

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More of the green stuff; a recipe for classic asparagus mimosa

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I’ve tried to find out the history of Asparagus Mimosa but can’t seem to discover exactly when it was first mentioned, or when it became a classic; It’s just one of those recipes I know, but without knowing how I came to know about it.

What I do know is that it originated in France and I’m sure I also read somewhere that it was first mentioned as early as the twelfth century. I turned to my Larousse Gastronomique (my food bible) but even here there is no clue to its origins only a brief description of how it resembles mimosa blossom. One thing I know for sure (because it’s mentioned in Royal Menu’s by Rene Roussin the kings chef between 1936 and 1952) is that Mimosa salad was a dish made for King George VI.

Characterised by its grated hard-boiled egg dressing a mimosa salad does evoke images of the delicate blossom and is really a very pretty dish. It’s simple, visually impressive and makes a great starter or accompaniment to other dishes as part of a buffet. It’s also very quick to make so if you’re a posh mum like me, you could just serve it for tea!!…er, yes that was my attempt at a joke, but joking aside my kids absolutely loved it, so I would recommend it as a family favourite too.

NB: I blanched my asparagus in a pan of hot water with a third of a sachet of smoked water from Halen Mon added to give a very mildly smoky taste.

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Asparagus Mimosa:

1 bunch of fresh asparagus ( I also used some white sprouting broccoli that I’d also bought that day)

2 large hard-boiled eggs (grated)

drizzle of olive oil

a knob of butter

slat and pepper

A small handful of chopped fresh herbs such as chives, wild garlic or chervil (I used wild garlic and chives)

a dessertspoonful of non pareil capers

a selection of edible flowers to finish

Blanch asparagus for a couple of minutes in a pan half filled with boiling water. The stalks should be tender when pierced with a sharp knife but still nice and green. Drain and return to the hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and a knob of butter.

Arrange the asparagus while still warm on a serving dish. Sprinkle over the egg, capers, herbs and finish with some edible flowers (I used wild garlic flowers).

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Recipe: asparagus and parmesan souffle gratin

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Better late than never, the asparagus season is finally upon us. That late cold snap left me hanging around, waiting with bated breath for the first few stalks to arrive. I love it when asparagus season arrives. To me its a sign that summer is just round the corner; the weather has warmed up nicely and an increase in daylight hours brings everything to life again. I’ve never had much luck or patience when it comes to growing my own asparagus so I look forward to the time when Hooton’s crops are ready. But then to my horror I heard a dreadful rumour. The whole crop had failed because of the cold wind last week.

Nooohhh!! I rushed to the farm shop (it wasn’t just to check out the authenticity of this claim, I did have to do some other shopping as well….really, I’m not THAT obsessed) and asked in a hushed and slightly worried voice..‘is it true? the asparagus has failed’

The woman in the shop looked at me reassuringly. No, she said. Don’t worry, it’s just running a bit late. Huh! Like everything in my life!

But now it has appeared. The sunny weekend weather sped up the process and so they cut first stalks this week. And typically I missed them, although I did send manage to get some put by for me via a desperate twitter plea.

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When asparagus stems are young and tender they need little accompaniment and no peeling. Naturally sweet, they need only brief cooking (a quick blanch in boiling water is more than enough) and are perfect in a salad, with hollandaise sauce or in the classic dish asparagus mimosa.

Mind you, the day I collected my swag the rain lashed down, the wind blew and I even turned the heat on in the house for an hour! I wanted something warm and comforting and so returned to my old favourite, asparagus and parmesan souffle gratin. It’s a recipe I came up with a couple of years ago. Combining the lightness of a souffle, with the simplicity of a gratin this recipe stops the worry of whether it will rise or not. Topped with briefly blanched stalks of asparagus it is simple, yet sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party. I’ve made it for supper club guests a couple of times and it’s always been a hit.

Asparagus and parmesan souffle-gratin:

500ml milk

50g flour

50g butter

4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites

1 sprig of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 small onion studded with 6 cloves and a pinch og nutmeg

75g parmesan finely grated

24 thickish spears of asparagus, peeled

half a lemon

Butter a large gratin dish and sprinkle in about a third of the parmesan cheese. Place milk in a pan with the onion, herbs, nutmeg and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Bring gently to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for about half an hour (or as long as possible).

Make a roux with the butter and flour then gradually stir in the strained milk. Return to a low heat and cook for about 10 minutes stirring constantly until you have a smooth white sauce. Add two-thirds of the parmesan and remove from the heat. Allow to cool whisking occasionally to prevent a crust from forming. When it is lukewarm whisk in the egg yolks then cover with buttered paper until it has cooled completely.

Blanch the asparagus in plenty of boiling water for a minute or two (they should be tender, but still green), drain,  then refresh in plenty of cold water to halt the cooking process.

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Beat the egg whites with the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Put the souffle mixture into a large bowl and whisk in one tablespoon of the egg white to lighten the mixture, then gently fold in the rest of the egg white with a spatula. Pour the mixture into the greased dish then lay the asparagus in a row on the top (as in the picture above). Bake in a hot oven (230 degrees C, gas mark 8, 450 degrees F) for about 18 to 20 minutes. The gratin should puff up and not wobble when shaken.

 

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Recipe…i’ve finally cracked it! Perfect falafel

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I love Middle Eastern food and one of my most frequently made staple snacks (mostly because the kids love it to) is falafel.

Falafel originated in Egypt and is another one of those recipes that varies wildly, although like many does have some basic principles.

Many seem to use broad beans although I prefer to make them with just chick peas.  In Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s book Jerusalem (Ebury) they recommend using only one clove of garlic..while other recipes use up to six! During wild garlic season I use a handful of this instead, but otherwise I would use about 3-4. I like a good hit, but not so I OD on it.

Cumin is the standard spice in most recipes and I don’t differ in that respect. A good teaspoon or two is enough for me along with a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and a handful of coriander.

Some recipes use onion or spring onion but I like to use a small red onion…its sweeter and varies the flavour.

The mixture should be roughly blitzed in a food processor. A good sturdy model is essential. In the past my attempts to make perfect falafel with a small domestic food processor proved futile.  My all singing all dancing Magimix 5200XL is the best machine I have ever used for the job…no amount of chickpeas can daunt it!

Once ingredients have been blitzed I, like Ottolenghi and Tamimi, add a teaspoon baking powder and a spoon full of flour and leave it to rest in the fridge (I have to say I don’t always leave the mix for an hour though).I roll the balls in sesame seeds which give a nice finish and lovely crunchy texture when deep-fried.

The Perfect Falafel Recipe

Ingredients
500g chickpeas, soaked overnight with half a teaspoon bicarb of soda

3-4  garlic cloves, crushed or a handful of wild garlic leaves

a small red onion, chopped finely

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

a sprinkle of paprika

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tbsp plain flour

sesame seeds for rolling the balls in

vegetable oil for deep-frying

Combine the drained chickpeas with the garlic, onion, parsley and coriander leaves. Blitz in a food processor until roughly chopped.The mixture should not be a puree, but should retain texture.  Add your spices, baking powder, flour, salt and about four tablespoons of water. Leave to rest in the fridge for up to an hour.

Either heat up a deep fat fryer (which is safest) or half fill a large heavy-based saucepan with vegetable or sunflower oil.

Form the falafel mixture into small golf ball sized portions and roll in sesame seeds. When the oil is hot drop in falafel carefully.

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Don’t overload the pan/fryer…cook about 5 or 6 at a time then when golden remove and drain on paper towels.

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A vegetarian Ken Hom classic…teen friendly, home-made super noodles (Singapore noodles)!

I seem to find it more and more of a struggle to find meals that will tick all the boxes for my carb addicted, vegetable dodging daughter. I swear she gets worse with every year. I often wonder why I even bothered with all those pureed organic vegetables, fresh fruit compotes and sugar-free yoghurts. My endeavours do not seem to have created a discerning gourmet and any influence I might have as a chef falls on deaf ears.

Anyway, her latest addiction is supernoodles. Cheap, yucky packet ones, the worst kind of junk.

‘Please Mum, they only cost 36p in Lidl’ she cries, as I sigh with resigned horror.

Since I can’t keep her from them I have set out to create my own healthier version of her beloved dish, ones with proper added protein (a bit of chicken; I think I’ve mentioned more than once she won’t eat any other flesh…she is now known as a chickenarian), real vegetables and more recognisable spices and flavourings.

My latest attempt to transform a junk food dinner into something resembling real food was a Ken Hom vegetarian classic; a version of Hong Kong or Singapore Noodles. Quick to prepare, made from store cupboard basics and with a few added vegetables is even vaguely healthy, very tasty and teen friendly.

Vegetarian Singapore noodles:

300g rice noodles (I used some super quick straight to wok ones by Amoy but you may have to pre-cook them if you are using dried noodles)

50g Welsh shiitake mushrooms, soaked for 20 mins and then drained and finely diced…(so the teen doesn’t realise they are there!!)

250g fresh or frozen peas/petit pois (if using frozen cover with water in a bowl and allow to thaw, then drain before use)

250g finely shredded chinese leaf cabbage

couple of tables spoons of groundnut oil

3 cloves of garlic crushed and finely chopped

1 dessertspoonful grated fresh ginger

a couple of fresh or dried chillies finely chopped

1 teaspoon of salt

a small tin of drained water chestnuts, sliced

4 spring onions finely chopped

For the curry sauce:

2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

1 tablespoon of Pataks curry paste, I used madras

2 tablespoons of rice wine or dry sherry

2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

400ml tin coconut milk

Fresh coriander to serve

extra salt and pepper if necessary…season to taste

To make: Heat the oil in a large wok over a high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add garlic, ginger and chilli and stir fry for about 30 seconds.

Then add cabbage, mushrooms, water chestnuts and salt and stir fry for another minute. Next add peas and rice noodles and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add all the sauce ingredients and allow to bubble for about 5 minutes until the sauce cooks down and starts to evaporate. Serve sprinkled with chopped spring onion and coriander. Eat immediately.

NB: This is real cold weather comfort food that according to the teen is ACTUALLY better than supernoodles!

NNB: If you want to make a meaty version chop 250g chicken or lean pork into thin strips and stir fry with the garlic and ginger at the very beginning.

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Coconutty corn cobs with peanut and chilli (and sort of Jollof rice)

On a recent visit to one of my suppliers (Hootons Homegrown on Anglesey) I was pleasantly surprised to discover sweet corn on the shelves. Not just that, but locally grown sweet corn fresh from their farm. Of course I couldn’t resist; we all love fresh sweet corn, so I picked up four.

My only concern at this time of year was that they might lack sweetness and tenderness. It’s not been the hottest or sunniest summer so rather than risk disappointment I chose to cook them in a African (ish) inspired sauce of creamy coconut milk, roasted spices, fresh ginger, peanut to give a bit of texture and crunch, a little chilli for heat and some fresh coriander. I’m sure it would make a great side dish for grilled meat but we had a vegetarian supper so I paired it with some stir fried spiced eggplant and a sort of Jollof rice (no chicken in this version).

For the coconutty corn cobs you will need:

4 fresh corn cobs cut in half, or thirds if they are large, 1 large tablespoon of groundnut oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1 finely chopped red chilli (or a good pinch of chilli flakes), 500g fresh tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped or 1 tin of tomatoes, half a 400g can of coconut milk, 100g of coarsely ground peanuts, a knob of peeled and grated ginger, seasoning

Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the cumin and mustard seeds. Roast lightly until their aroma fills the kitchen, but do not burn them as they will taste bitter. Add the corn cobs coating well with oil and spices. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, chilli and ginger.

Put a lid on the pan and allow to simmer gently for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring now and then. Add a little salt and a bit more coconut milk if the sauce seems dry.

Serve sprinkled with a finely chopped handful of fresh coriander.

Sort of Jollof rice:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper de-seeded and thinly sliced, 1 sliced onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, a pinch or two of chilli flakes, 3 fresh tomatoes skinned and chopped, 2 tablespoons tomato puree, sprig of fresh thyme, 400g basmati rice, 600ml of chicken or vegetable stock

In a large saucepan sweat the sliced onions and peppers gently in the sunflower oil for about 10 minutes or beginning to soften but not turn brown.

Add garlic, chilli flakes, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir for a minute or so, then add the hot stock. Allow to simmer gently for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime wash the rice a couple of times to remove some of the starch, but there’s no need to soak it really.

After the sauce has simmered for its 15 minutes add the rice. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pan (or cover with foil then a lid so no steam escapes), turn the heat down low and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and cooked.

**NB: There are several methods for cooking rice. I usually favour the Caribbean way (learnt from my Trinidadian step-father). He brings a large pan of plenty of water to the boil, tips in the rice and simmer until cooked, as you would if you were cooking pasta. No pre washing or rinsing is necessary and it always works for me. Some would argue that only brown rice warrants cooking in this way but I use all kinds; You just have to stay on the ball because if you over boil it you end up with mush.

In the African method used in this recipe I have added basmati rice to the sauce, placed a lid  on top and left it to cook slowly until the liquid has been absorbed. The result is a stickier dish, but perfect when combining sauce and rice.

There is one other approach. The oven method often favoured in Indian cooking, where rice is to all intents and purposes baked. This produces a dryer textured dish, such as pilau rice.

 

 

 

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What to do with a glut of courgettes

I’ve had so many courgettes in veg box lately that it’s been impossible to eat them all, especially when my kids pull the kind of face you’d see in a horror movie if they come within 100 yards of their plate. I’ve watched them shrivel in the fridge with guilt and sadness wondering what the hell to do with them. I hate food waste food so I went on a hunt for a really good chutney recipe. I found a few, but the one below, with a few additions and tweaks is perfect and goes well with cheese and cold meats.

Spiced Courgette chutney:

2 onions

550g of tomatoes, chopped

500g of courgettes, diced

300ml of white wine vinegar

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

250g brown sugar

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tbsp mustard seeds

a thumb sized piece of root ginger, grated

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

Put all the ingredients in a large pan. Bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to stop the mixture sticking. Continue to simmer uncovered for 2 hours until thick and dark (and chutney like). Pour into sterilised jars and leave for 2 to 3 weeks before eating.

As an aside, my friend tells me it’s even better after a year, that is if you can wait that long before eating it all!!!

If you are short of jam jars you can always join freecycle and put out a wanted request. For all of you who don’t know about freecycle go to www.uk.freecycle.org

enjoy!

Denise

Jam from fruit colleted in the hedgerow and courgette chutney from veg box leftovers

Jam from fruit colleted in the hedgerow and courgette chutney from veg box leftovers

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