Aubergine sauce for pasta

This sauce is good mixed with small pasta, or layered with lasagne and a bechamel sauce and baked. In fact, I bet you could mix it with small pasta and bake it. I have tried it two ways, once using some mystery chilli and herb seasoning that a relative bought back from Italy for me. I made a small quantity suitable for two or three people, so double this would be a really good lot of sauce sufficient to serve around six people.

Top tip discovered whilst doing this: One handful of small pasta weighs a good ounce. Three handfuls is one good-size portion of pasta. There are other versions of this classic sauce around: I found one in The Pasta Bible, and another on Allrecipes website

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tsbs olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A handful of fresh parsley (I used fresh flat-leaf parsley from the garden)
  • 1 medium aubergine, diced
  • 1/2 handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp ground chilli (or use a small fresh chilli and add it with the garlic)
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp marigold stock powder
  • 1 tin chopped organic tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (If you are using the mystery Italian seasoning from the holiday pack of pasta, use this in place of the parsley, chilli, basil and paprika, and add with the aubergines: I would suggests a heaped teaspoonful)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and add the garlic and parsley.
  • Turn the heat to very low, squish the garlic with a wooden spoon, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes while you chop the aubergine. I got nervous about this, it seemed a long time, so I checked every so often, and took it off the heat once the garlic looked cooked.
  • If you used a small whole fresh chilli, remove this now. Add the aubergines, chilli powder, basil, half the water, and cover to simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • I put the marigold stock powder into the remaining hot water, along with the saffron and sugar and allowed this to infuse.
  • After the 10 minutes is up, add the water, saffron, sugar, stock powder, wine and tomatoes, along with the paprika. Season to taste, cover and settle it to simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Once the sauce is cooked, put it somewhere safe, boil up the pasta of your choice, drain and then stir in the sauce.
  • If you are using this for a baked pasta dish, stir in the cooked pasta, put it into an ovenproof dish, top with mozzarella, and bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven.

Persian herb omelette

A Kookoo is a large omelette dish from Iran. It has a little flour and raising agent added, and it is baked in the oven, a bit like a Spanish frittata. It tastes wonderful, spiced and flavoured with herbs. It often has vegetables in it as well. This version is full of herbs from the garden, with spices and barberries, which I sourced from Seasoned Pioneers.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 50g butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup of chopped herbs, to include chives, parsley, fennel
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp dried barberries

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Melt the butter in an 8 inch frying pan or skillet that will go into the oven
  • Break the eggs into a bowl, and lightly beat in all the other ingredients
  • Pour the egg mixture into the pan and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes

Serve with salad and bread, possibly a little Greek yoghurt. A herb Kookoo is a traditional New Year dish, a taste of the start of spring.

Spanish scrambled egg with mushrooms

I love the Moro cookbook. The recipes are simple and the flavours are bright and fresh. We had mushrooms and we had eggs so I followed their recipe. Just like you’d think, but better.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g mushrooms, a mixture of wild and fresh if available, including porcini, chanterelles, etc. We used horse mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp organic olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 25g butter
  • 6 organic free-range eggs, preferably local
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 40g slice serrano ham, optional
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • salt and black pepper

METHOD:

  • Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms.
  • Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil, and when the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic. Fry it until it begins to colour.
  • Immediately, add the chopped mushrooms and stir well. Fry for around 4 minutes
  • Add the sliced ham at this point, if you are using it.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and put the fried mushrooms aside in a bowl.
  • In the same pan, melt the butter
  • Meanwhile, break the eggs with the milk, and stir until the yolks are broken; the mixture should not be well mixed.
  • Add the eggs to the melted butter and stir until the eggs begin to set
  • Add the mushroom mixture and the chopped parsley, and continue to stir until the eggs are as cooked as you wish them to be. The white of the egg should be set.

Serve with toast.

La Piperade (eggs, peppers and tomatoes)

This is an Elizabeth David recipe, and it is a classic. I made it because one lot of neighbours had grown some splendid green peppers in their polytunnel, and another lot have the most fantastic free-range eggs. This serves 2, but it is easy to scale up the recipe according to the availability of ingredients, or number of people to feed.

INGREDIENTS:

  • olive oil
  • One small onion, finely sliced
  • 3 green peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 can organic chopped tomatoes (or, even better, use 500g fresh locally grown tomatoes, skinned and chopped)
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten

METHOD:

  • Heat a generous amount of oil or dripping in a large frying pan, and then cook the sliced onion until it begins to turn yellow.
  • Add the strips of green pepper, and cook on medium for up to 15 minutes.
  • Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, garlic, and salt and pepper. Some people add a little basil at this stage as well.
  • Cook until the tomatoes are in a pulp, and the mixture is good and thick.
  • Add the beaten eggs and stir until the mixture begins to thicken, like scrambled eggs.

Serve on a heated dish. This is good with toast and bacon or ham.

Beetroot and Coconut Curry

 

Malcolm got this recipe from somewhere, no idea where. We had it tonight, cooked with beetroot from Maria’s vegetable box scheme.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400g raw beetroot
  • 2 tbsp organic sunflower oil
  • 1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 hot green chillies
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 can organic chopped tomatoes
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime

METHOD:

  • Peel the beetroot, and cut into matchsticks (a mandolin is useful for this. Or just cut it up as small as you can)
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start jumping, add the onion, garlic and chillies. Fry on medium heat until the onion is tender.
  • Add the spices and the beetroot, fry for a further two minutes and then add the tomatoes, 250ml water and a pinch of salt.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beetroot is tender.
  • Add the coconut milk and let it simmer for another couple of minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  • Stir in the lime juice, adjust the seasoning, and serve with rice.

Shredded cabbage with mustard seeds and coconut

For this Indian recipe, you should really use fresh coconut, but if I’ve ever bought a coconut here, it has not been that good. I’ve substituted coconut milk.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tbs mustard oil or other vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
  • A large green cabbage, around 1.5kg, cored and finely shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 fresh hot green chilli, in fine long strips
  • 50g grated coconut or 100ml coconut milk

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium to high heat
  • Add the mustard seeds and bayleaf, and as soon as the bayleaf starts to darken and the mustard seeds start to pop, add the cabbage
  • Turn the heat to medium, then stir and cook for around five minutes.
  • Add the sugar, salt and chilli, and continue to stir and cook for a further three to five minutes
  • Turn off the heat, add the coconut, mix and serve.

Spinach, potato and goat’s cheese tart

I make this to serve with flaky smoked salmon. I got it from Rachel Allen’s website, but it isn’t there any more.

INGREDIENTS:

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 100 g  chilled butter, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

  • 250 g baby or destalked large spinach leaves
  • 7 baby new potatoes (unpeeled)
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 ml double cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 25g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 150g soft goat’s cheese (sliced from a goat’s cheese log)
  • 25cm diameter tart tin
METHOD:

  • Make the pastry:  place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz briefly, or rub together to bread-crumb consistency.
  • Add half the beaten egg and continue to mix. You might add a little more egg, but not too much as the mixture should be moist enough to come together.
  • With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is 2cm thick then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4). Line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’.
  • Wash and spin the spinach, removing any tough stalks and stems if using large spinach leaves. In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the spinach in just the water that’s clinging to it over a low heat until it wilts. Drain in a colander or sieve and allow to cool a little, then squeeze most of the moisture out with your hands and chop roughly.
  • Meanwhile, steam or boil the potatoes until just cooked, and cool on a tray or board. When cool enough to handle, cut into 5mm (1/4 in) slices.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs and add the cream, salt and pepper, lemon zest, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and Parmesan. Whisk these ingredients together then add the spinach and mix through.
  • Season well; potatoes are very mild and need a good contrast.
  • Spread the potato slices over the base of the prepared tart, and dot with the goat’s cheese
  • Gently spoon over the spinach cream mixture as high as you can go. If you are concerned about spillage, carry the tart minus the last few spoons of filling over to the oven.
  • Place in the oven, spoon over the remaining filling and any remaining potato and cheese slices. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the tart is golden brown and just set in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Sweet tomato sauce

The Moro cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark is one of my all-time favourite recipe books. This particular recipe is from their first book, and was a revelation. Until now, if I wanted to make a tomato sauce, for example to pour on meatballs, I would have added all kinds of things, and certainly started with an onion. This recipe is easier and better.
INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tin organic tomatoes from the co-op (or 500g fresh tomatoes with the skins removed)
  • 2 tbsp organic olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • If you are using fresh tomatoes, chop them finely. If you are using tinned tomatoes, put them in a bowl and squish them up with your hands.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat up the olive oil. When hot but not smoking, add the finely sliced garlic and fry until the garlic is beginning to turn brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a low to medium heat until a lot of the liquid has evaporated

If you wish, add cinnamon or chilli with the garlic at the start.

Polenta Rustica

This is a fantastic quick recipe, and I just made the best yet. I got the recipe called ‘The Quick After-Work Vegetarian Cookbook’ – last recipe in the book. I have adapted it to make it easier.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 225g polenta (fine, quick-cook)
  • 1.2 L water
  • 150g soft blue cheese (the original recipe says 50g Gorgonzola and 75g Taleggio, or Fontina, or brie)
  • 50g butter
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Bring the water to a boil, and then pour in the polenta in a thin stream, to avoid it clumping when it hits the water. Keep stirring the water around so the polenta mixes in with the water evenly. Keep stirring and cooking, and in a few minutes the mixture turns into a thick porridge.
  • Add the diced cheese, and as soon as it has melted, add the butter, salt and pepper. Stir it all together.

This is good with a savoury lentil stew, or with a fennel salad. If you let it get cold, it can be sliced, and then grilled the next day.