Italian stewed lentils

This recipe is a classic side dish, to be served with Cotechino or Zampone. I often add a side serving of mashed potato and cabbage as well. I have also made it with tinned brown lentils when I was in a hurry and it was still grand. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Approx. 300g brown lentils, such as Puy lentils
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • A sprig of fresh mint
  • A clove of garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp good olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Rinse the lentils in cold water. 
  • In a medium pan, heat the olive oil and then over a very low heat, cook the chopped onions, around 10 minutes, so they are soft. 
  • Add the lentils and then add a litre of hot water, and bring to a simmer
  • Add the mint and the whole clove of garlic, cover and cook on a low heat for around an hour and a half. Keep checking that the pan to make sure it isn’t burning. You can keep the lentils at a simmer in the oven as well. 
  • Once the lentils are tender, season with salt and pepper, and a drizzle of very good olive oil. 

Sweetcorn fritters

These are a childhood classic – we used to get these about once a week, often served with bacon. I’ve no idea whose idea it is, but I made them this afternoon for Cedar, who is three today. He helped me make them, mixing the egg in and stirring in the milk. He ate three and a half before he was full. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 100g self-raising flour (or 4 mounded tablespoons)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • a pinch of salt
  • around 150ml milk
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn, drained. 

METHOD

  • Sieve the flour into a bowl, with the pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre and put the beaten egg in, mixing together. 
  • Stir the milk in gradually, until the batter is the consistency of cream. 
  • Add the sweetcorn, and mix again. 
  • Fry in an oiled pan over a medium heat. Drop in dessert-spoonfuls of batter, and when the bottom is cooked, you should be able to see bubbles setting on the surface of the batter. Turn them over and cook on the other side. 
  • Serve with bacon, and if you like it, tomato ketchup.

Teeny tiny potatoes

OK, so nobody admits to growing teeny tiny potatoes. I was given a bag of mixed potatoes by a friend, their first go at home-grown spuds. I think the plants had had a hot dry time of it, and were probably harvested too early as well. At the bottom of the bag was a selection of potatoes about the size of a marble. This is what I did with them. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Teeny tiny potatoes.
  • Butter
  • Garlic 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped parsley

METHOD:

  • I boiled the teeny tiny potatoes in salted water for ten minutes, and then drained them. 
  • I melted the butter in the pan, and fried the garlic until it was golden, then added the tiny potatoes along with seasoning and continued to cook until the potato skins were beginning to colour and crisp up a bit. 
  • Then I added the chopped parsley, and served

I added some very fresh cooked carrots the second time I made this. 

 

 

Chickpeas and potatoes

I have no idea where I found this recipe, I think it dates back to student days in the 1980s. There are lots of notes and at least two totally different versions in my old recipe book. It works well with or without the potatoes. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, finely chipped
  • 1 tbsp coriander seed, ground
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, ground
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tins of chickpeas (do not drain)
  • 1 tbsp amchoor or juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1cm cubes, and put into cold water
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 fresh green chillies, very finely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried ginger)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic over a medium heat, until beginning to brown, around 10 minutes
  • Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne and turmeric, stir, and reduce the heat
  • Add the tomato paste, stir to combine and then add the chickpeas with their liquid from the tin, and around 200ml water, and the amchoor, and paprika. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 10 minutes. 
  • At this point, it may be wise to set the pan aside for a day or too, for the flavour to develop. 
  • To serve, drain and pat dry the potato cubes. Fry in oil for 10 minutes over a medium to high heat, stirring. 
  • Stir in the ginger and chillies, and then the fried potatoes, and serve. 

Leeks and carrots cooked in olive oil

This is a lovely lemony dish, good as a side-serving with sausages and mash. It could be served at room temperature with bread for a light lunch. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g leeks, sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthways then thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 240 ml hot water
  • 1 tsp sugar, or date syrup
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • In a wide heavy frying-pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and fry the onions and carrots for 3 minutes or so. Then add the leeks and rice, and stir to combine. 
  • Add the hot water, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper, and stir again. 
  • Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for around 20 minutes. Set aside to cool with the lid on. 

This is good garnished with chopped parsley. 

 

Green bean and potato kuku (Persian frittata)

We have a lot of potatoes at the moment, so I’m digging around in the recipe books for new things to do. This is a recipe from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. This is quite filling, and is good cold the next day as well. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tbsp oil
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced (around 1 cm cubes)
  • 3 packs of green beans (around 600g)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • a large pinch of salt 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten. 

METHOD:

  • Heat about 3-4 tbsp oil in a deep frying pan and cook the potato cubes for around 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oil and put in a bowl lined with kitchen paper.
  • Fry the beans and carrots in the same oil for around 10 minutes, and then add them to the potatoes. 
  • Set the oven to 200C. Mix the salt, flour, baking powder and spices.
  • Beat the eggs, add the vegetables and flour/spice mix and stir to combine. 
  • My frying pan has an oven-safe handle so it is perfect. Otherwise use a shallow casserole dish. Put 2 tbsp oil in the pan and heat it in the oven for four minutes so it is hot. Pour in the mixture, and bake for 30 minutes, so the top is golden. 
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, and cut into wedges. 

 

Baby carrots in cumin and lemon dressing

I was a bit late in thinning my carrots this year, so I have a lot of finger-sized carrots. I used a Moroccan-style dressing for a delicious side-dish. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g finger-sized carrots
  • 1/2 tsp toasted ground cumin
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • juice of around 1/2 small lemon
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • a tiny bit of honey, to taste
  • coriander leaves
  • Salt

METHOD:

  • Clean the carrots and boil them for around 5 minutes, until tender. Set aside to cool a bit
  • In a pestle and mortar, crush the clove of garlic with a pinch of salt and the cumin, then add the lemon juice, honey and olive oil. 
  • Pour the dressing over the warm carrots and coriander leaves, mixing well. 

Red pepper and Aubergines with yoghurt and garlic.

You know how it is: You go to the shops to buy a green pepper, and they are only available as a pack of three mixed peppers. I ended up with a couple of red peppers, and then found this recipe in Moro. I adapted a little to locally available ingredients. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 2 red peppers (I had one red and one yellow pepper, which made for an attractive dish)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g Greek-style yoghurt, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 25g caramelised butter
  • fresh coriander leaves

METHOD:

  • Turn the oven to 220C. Pierce the skins of the aubergine and peppers, and put them in the oven on a tray for 40 to 45 minutes. I turned them a couple of times, and took the peppers out earlier than the aubergine. 
  • When the skins of the peppers and aubergine are cooked, cool the vegetables until you can handle them, and peel off the skin. 
  • Chop the aubergine coarsely, and mix in the crushed garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil, and season to taste. Spread the mixture over the base of a serving plate
  • Remove the seeds from the peppers, and chop them coarsely, season lightly and strew artistically over the aubergines. 
  • Pour the yoghurt in blobs over the dish, and spoon over with caramelised butter. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with pitta bread or other flatbread. 

To make caramelised butter, melt butter in a small pan, and heat gently until the milk solids turn a golden brown. Watch carefully, or it will all go wrong. 

Roast Celeriac, Turkish style.

The last celeriac from the garden, I sewed some more seed for next winter/spring. I roasted it with orange juice and carrots. It was really good. The seeds are tiny, for such a robust vegetable. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks about 1 by 1 by 2 centimetres
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, split lengthways and cut into chunks about 2 centimetres long
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • Grated rind and juice of one large orange
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp grated black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh dill to garnish. 

METHOD:

  • Set the oven to 180C
  • In a large roasting dish, put all the ingredients except the dill, and stir to mix
  • Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes, stirring a couple of times during the cooking.
  • Mix in the chopped dill before serving. 

 

Carrots roasted with pomegranate molasses and harissa

We live on a small island, and although our local shops generally do very well for range and price of stock, some ingredients are hard to come by. I have some rather exotic recipe books, and so I have become better at substituting and messing around with recipes to make them fit. 

Pomegranate molasses adds a fruity sharpness to the dish, and helps the dressing to stick to the carrots. The harissa is hot and fragrant at the same time. 

This time, I had some random carrots, so I turned to Ottolenghi’s book, Simple, and adapted one of his ideas, and I made this. I served it with bread, cheese, and an aubergine dish. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp rose harissa (or ordinary harissa)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or 50/50 melted butter and oil)
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 400g carrot batons
  • salt
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 220C
  • In a small bowl, mix the cumin, honey, harissa, oil and molasses with a good pinch of salt. It should be the consistency of mayonnaise. 
  • Add the carrot batons, and stir to coat in the mixture
  • Line a baking sheet with tin foil, and spread out the carrots. Roast them for 15 minutes or so, until they are beginning to brown but still have some ‘bite’ to them.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves.