Celery and bean soup

Delicious, cheap, easy, vegan, quick, filling. Not much more to say. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 small onions
  • 1 head of celery
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Olive oil for serving (best quality that you can get)
  • 1 400g borlotti beans, drained (this can be substituted, but I love borlotti beans)
  • 1 litre stock
  • salt and black pepper, freshly ground

METHOD:

  • Chop the onions and celery, and fry in olive oil in a large pan over a low heat, until soft; don’t brown the vegetables
  • Add the other ingredients, bring to the boil, and then cover to simmer for 20 minutes
  • Season, and roughly blend with a soup wand. Add a little water if the soup is too thick. 

Serve with a swirl of posh olive oil to each bowl, and a slice of brown bread on the side. 

Caribbean roasted vegetable curry

There are lots of delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes on Original Flava, introduced to me by my daughter’s mother-in-law. Some of the ingredients used are not readily available locally, but there are some substitutions and good options still. I have ordered some scotch bonnet paste online, and for the rest, I’ve stuck to recipes that I can adapt to local ingredients. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 200g sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 200g small potatoes, with the skin on
  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions (preferably one red onion, one white onion)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • A 2cm piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp curry powder (you can buy West Indian curry powder online at Seasoned Pioneers
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • A good handful of spinach or homegrown Japanese kale
  • 1/4 tsp scotch bonnet paste
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 180C
  • Cut the vegetables to 3 cm chunks. You don’t need to peel anything, but I’m not a fan of butternut squash rind. Onion squash rind is softer and is a good alternative. Put the vegetables onto a baking tray, and add about 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for at least 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. 
  • Heat another tbsp oil in a pan, and gently fry the onions, garlic, ginger, spring onions and chopped tomatoes until they are soft.
  • Add a pinch of salt, 2 tsp ground black pepper, curry powder and paprika. Mix together and cook for a minute, and then stir in the coconut milk so that you have a thick paste. 
  • Take the roasted vegetables, and add these to the pan, along with the stock, thyme, spinach and scotch bonnet. Bring to a simmer, check for seasoning, and then keep simmering until the spinach is cooked. 

 

Wild goose Jamaican style

The flavour of wild goose goes well with peppers. This spicy stew is adapted from a recipe for beef stew from ‘Original Flava’

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 goose breasts, around 450g meat, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp scotch bonnet pepper paste
  • 150ml stock
  • 150ml Guinness or other stout
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 large carrots, thickly sliced
  • 250g baby potatoes, cleaned. Cut large potatoes into chunks. 

METHOD:

  • Put 1 tbsp olive oil in a plastic container with the diced goose breasts, salt and pepper, the allspice and soy sauce and mix together. Leave in the fridge overnight. 
  • In the morning, stir in 1 tbsp flour, and let that soak up any spare liquid. 
  • Heat olive oil in a casserole pan, and fry the meat until it is browned. Remove from the pot and set aside. 
  • If necessary, add another splash of oil and fry the onion, garlic and peppers until they are really soft. 
  • Add the Guinness and stir, to get anything stuck from the bottom of the pot mixed in. 
  • Add the beef, beef stock, scotch bonnet paste, thyme and simmer for around 1 1/2 hours. I do this in a low oven, around 150C.
  • Add the potatoes and carrots, and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are cooked. 

Serve with white rice. The first time of trying, I added extra potatoes and didn’t add the rice, and it was a full meal in one pot. 

Ital rundown – Hebridean style

I’ve been given a book on Caribbean cookery, full of ideas and new ingredients. The limitation is on which ones I can purchase locally – not a lot of cho-cho or okra or scotch bonnet peppers. I tried this recipe, leaving out the cho-cho, and using some fresh garden kale, and it was really good, tasty and filling. This makes a lot of vegetable stew, to be served with rice, or perhaps alongside a chicken dish, or on its own. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp scotch bonnet pepper sauce or 1 scotch bonnet pepper (available online) (or use red chillies from the co-op – use a lot; this is meant to be very spicy)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped, or half a teaspoonful of dried ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large corn cob, chopped into 5 segments 
  • 200ml marigold stock
  • 3 bell peppers, mixed colours, sliced
  • 100g Japanese kale, or spinach
  • 200ml coconut milk (half a can)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole pan, and fry the onions and garlic, until softening. 
  • Add the scotch bonnet sauce, black pepper, thyme, ginger, all-spice, turmeric, and stir in, before adding the sweet potato, squash, corn and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. 
  • Add the kale, peppers and coconut milk, adjust seasoning. Simmer for another five minutes or so until the kale is cooked. 

This is a very filling, hearty stew, brightening up a winter’s evening. 

Cherries in syrup and Kirsch

I got a lot of cherries from the co-op, and bottled them in syrup and Kirsch. I was a bit nervous about this, but they turned out very well. Next time, I might try with another spirit, to add a different twist, for example, absinthe or brandy. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg cherries
  • 250ml spirit, such as Kirsch
  • 500g sugar
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 star anise or a good pinch of aniseed
  • 1 stick of cinnamon 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

METHOD:

  • Stone the cherries. I pushed the stones out with a long metal straw. It took a while, and is not 100% necessary. You can also buy a cherry stoner from Lakeland or other online shops, they are quite inexpensive, and can be used to stone olives as well. 
  • Put the cherries, sugar and spice in a pan, and heat slowly. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and then simmer for around five minutes, and then leave to stand for a further five minutes. 
  • Add the lemon juice and Kirsch, pour into sterilised jars, and seal. 

A recipe worth experimenting with to switch the flavours round. The lemon juice is very important though. The cherries are delicious served with ice-cream and pancakes. 

 

Courgette and Tomato Gratin

Although the ingredients for this recipe appear simple, it requires careful cooking to get it right. If you do not cook the ingredients down properly, it can be slightly bitter and watery. Done well, it is amazing, more than the sum of its parts.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 70g butter
  • 800-900g courgettes
  • 1 tin organic chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • Wholemeal breadcrumbs

METHOD:

  • Use a peeler to peel the courgettes lengthwise. Do not peel completely, leaving a few strips of the green skin. Then slice them into thin rounds about half a centimetre thick.
  • Put the sliced courgettes in a colander and salt them, and leave them to drain for at least half an hour. Put a plate on top of them to press them down.
  • Put the chopped tomatoes, 10g of butter, chopped parsley and the garlic in a medium pan with salt and pepper and simmer very slowly to make a very thick paste.
  • In the meantime, put the sliced courgettes onto a tea-towel and mop up all the surface water, getting them as dry as possible.
  • Cook about half of the sliced courgettes in 20g of the butter. Start by gently melting the butter; do not let it colour brown. Add the courgettes and cook on a low heat until they are transparent. Repeat for the rest of the courgettes and another third of the butter. Doing them in two separate batches allows you to cook all of the courgettes properly.
  • Amalgamate the tomatoes and the courgettes, and put the mixture into an oven ready dish. Smooth down the top and strew with breadcrumbs, just a light layer. Dab a little more butter over the surface. Put the dish in the top of a hot oven (around 190C) for 25 minutes and serve very hot when the surface is a deep golden brown.

This would be a good accompaniment for pork or lamb, or served as a light meal with a baked potato .

Spicy fried potatoes

I think of these as tiny square spicy chips – they should be crispy and flavoursome. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Around 700g potatoes, diced to around 1cm cubes
  • 5 tbsp veg oil, such as rapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 1/8th tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, such as Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, and add the asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and let them sizzle for a minute, so that the mustard seeds pop. 
  • Add the potatoes, stir and sprinkle in the turmeric. 
  • When the potatoes start to brown, add the coriander, cumin, chilli and salt and turn the heat up to hot. Fry for another couple of minutes so the potatoes are crispy on the outside. 

A great side-dish, or serve with a fried egg on top. 

Carrots with dill and hot green chillies

I must have first tried this recipe in the 1980s, it is hand-written in an old jotter that I used to copy out some recipes clipped from newspapers. I remember collecting recipes from the Sunday Times; they ran a series by Madhur Jaffrey about regional recipes around the Indian subcontinent. 

I have some very large carrots still to harvest this year. I grew a yellow variety that has a very firm flesh ideal for adding to stews, and for this dish. There’ll be more carrot-based dishes to come. Most spices are available in local shops. I bought some of them from Seasoned Pioneers, who retail spices online. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cm ginger root (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 2 hot green chillies
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 20g chopped dill leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Peel and slice the carrots, peel and finely chop the ginger
  • Heat the oil in a karhai or wok over a medium heat. When it is hot, add in sequence the cumin seeds, asafoetida, ginger and whole chillies, stirring between each addition. 
  • As the ginger begins to brown, add the sliced carrots, coriander and turmeric. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes
  • Add the dill and salt, turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for another couple of minutes, until the carrots are cooked. 
  • Remove the carrots from the oil and drain away most of the oil. 

This is delicious as a side dish, with rice and a range of other curries. Last night I was just on my own so I had it with a little bit of nan and yoghurt.

Sika venison loin – ‘Wellington’

I am lucky. I know someone who had some extremely high-quality sika venison available, and I got a couple of cuts. One cut was a lovely 450g  piece of meat, the loin. Sika deer are smaller than our red deer, but in evolutionary terms, are quite similar. They are originally from Japan and neighbouring countries in the far east, and are an introduced species in Europe. 

I made this dish based on a recipe from Gordon Ramsey, adapted to suit. Remember to take your time, as the ingredients need to be chilled and resting in between bouts of cooking. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 450g sika loin
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • around 400g mushrooms
  • 50g butter
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • Salt, pepper, a grate of nutmeg
  • 2 packs of prosciutto, around 10 to 12 slices
  • 320g jus-rol rolled puff pastry (one pack)
  • 1 egg, beaten, or one egg yolk beaten with a little water

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 220C
  • While it is heating, put the meat on a roasting tray, brush with olive oil, and season with pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes
  • Chop the mushrooms to your preferred texture, 
  • Heat 50g butter with 2 tbsp olive oil, add the thyme and the mushrooms and fry gently for around 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft. 
  • Add seasoning, and the white wine, and cook until the wine has been absorbed. Don’t worry if the mixture seems loose, the venison needs a little oil. Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove the thyme and set to cool a little. 
  • On a clean linen cloth or clingfilm, lay out the prosciutto so that it is about double thickness, overlapped and about the length of the venison. Spread the cool fried mushrooms over the prosciutto and then place the venison on top. Use the cloth or cling-film to roll up the venison inside the prosciutto, and to tighten the parcel together. Put this in the fridge to rest. 
  • Take out the pastry, lay it out on the paper it came wrapped in, and use a rolling-pin to neaten it up. Unravel the venison/prosciutto parcel and place it along one side of the pastry, so that there is space to fold the pastry over the top. Think of a giant Cornish pasty. Before you fold over, brush the bare pastry and the top and sides of the venison parcel. Fold the pastry over, press and crimp to seal the edges, and transfer back to the roasting tray. Brush the surface with the egg wash, and use the back of a knife to mark diagonal scores along the pastry.  Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 200C. Cook the Wellington for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to stand for around 10 minutes before slicing into thick portions.

We served this with celeriac and potato mash, and garden carrots simmered in a little white wine, butter and thyme. 

Persian Vegetable Stew (Yatimcheh)

There were some aubergines reduced in price at Neillie’s shop, and I had most of the rest of the ingredients already, so I tried out this recipe from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ – really delicious and also vegan and virtuous. Best served with flat bread and Greek yoghurt. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 8 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 aubergines (or 2 if they are large) – 1cm slices
  • 6 red onions
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried lime powder (optional, I got mine online)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced.
  • 1 large red pepper – cut into 2cm pieces
  • 4 tomatoes – 1 cm slices
  • 2+ potatoes – peeled, 1cm slices

METHOD:

  • Put a couple of spoonfuls of the oil in a frying pan, and fry the aubergine slices in a single layer in batches; cover the pan and fry for 4-5 minutes until one side is brown, then turn to fry the second side. Add small amounts of oil as required for each batch. Set aside the fried aubergine. 
  • Chop two of the onions finely, and fry in a couple of spoonfuls of oil over a medium heat for around 10 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in the turmeric towards the end of the frying time. 
  • Meanwhile, mix salt, pepper, chilli and lime powder in a small bowl or cup. 
  • Use a large wide casserole dish. Put 2 tbsp oil in the bottom. Slice the remaining onions into 1cm slices, and arrange them across the bottom of the dish in a single layer (you may need more or less onions depending on their size). Cover with the fried aubergine, then 1/3 of the spice mix, half of the fried onions, and then half the sliced garlic. Then add the red pepper, the rest of the garlic, the rest of the fried onions. Next, a layer of sliced tomatoes, the rest of the spices, and a layer of sliced potatoes. Put the lid on the pan. 
  • Bring to a simmer on the hob, then turn the heat to very low and cook for at least an hour, until the sauce has reduced. If it looks as if it is drying out, add a little hot water. 
  • Serve with rice or bread, and a bowl of yoghurt.