Curried parsnip and leek soup with spicy chickpea croutons

Curried parsnip soupEven without the addition of yoghurt at the end, this soup has something of a silky korma texture, thanks to the creaminess of the parsnips. Just the kind of winter warmer you need in these dark, short days of the year.

The town where I live, Frome in Somerset, is lucky enough to have a Food Assembly, which is like a farmers market but you order online in advance. They’re a fantastic event for both consumers like me and producers, so take a look at their website and see if there’s one near you. New ones are opening up all the time. For this soup, I used leeks and parsnips from Vallis Veg who sell at Frome’s Food Assembly. The yoghurt is a deliciously creamy ewe’s milk one from Wootton Organic Dairy, also at the Food Assembly.

My chickpea crouton recipe was inspired by the chat salad recipe in Meera Sodha‘s wonderful curry book, Made in India.

Try and use parsnips that are as fresh as possible; I’ve made parsnip soup before with older ones and the soup has turned out bitter.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Soup

2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp butter

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium leeks, sliced

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp tumeric

¼ tsp ground cardamom

500g parsnips, peeled and roughly diced

1300 ml vegetable stock (I used Marigold bouillon)

Natural yoghurt, fresh coriander and naan or chapatis to serve

Croutons

2 tbsp sunflower oil

400g tin of chickpeas

2 tsp garam masala

2 pinches of cayenne pepper or chilli flakes (optional)

½ tsp mustard seeds

salt

Method

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and then fry the onion on a medium heat for 5 minutes, before adding the leek and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Add the chilli, if using, plus the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for a few minutes.

Stir in the parsnips and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down, simmering for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.

While the soup is cooking, make the croutons. Rinse and pat dry the chickpeas with some kitchen roll.

Heat half the oil on a high heat in a frying pan and when hot but not smoking, add half the chickpeas. 

After 2-3 minutes, when they should be starting to crisp up (but not burning!), add half the garam masala and cayenne pepper/chilli flakes, if using.

Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then throw in half the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, remove from the heat and then repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Puree the soup in a food processor or with a stick blender.

Season to taste.

To assemble, add a swirl of yoghurt to each bowl of soup, topped with chickpea croutons and a scattering of coriander leaves. Serve with naan or chapatis.

Curried parsnip soup 2

Spinach filo pie

fresh spinach

My vegetable beds are looking deliciously green at the moment, helped along in their lushness by this abundant rain, interspersed with bright sunshine. I have the most spinach and swiss chard I’ve ever succeeded in growing and this recipe is a incredibly easy and tasty way of using several large bowlfuls of it. I’ve adapted it from a traditional pita recipe created by Nina from Bosnia and Herzegovina at Nina’s Kitchen

We’re avoiding cow’s milk at the moment, so I made this with goat’s yoghurt and ewe’s milk feta, but you can experiment with any combination of yoghurt and cheese, including cottage cheese. 

This pie was so popular in our house that we didn’t have any leftovers but if you’re lucky enough to have some remaining the next day then it’s great cold too, in lunchboxes or for a picnic. 

Ingredients

4 eggs

500ml yoghurt

Large pinch of salt

6 sheets of filo pastry

Olive oil for brushing

500g spinach or swiss chard, washed and dried

150g feta cheese

1 tsp of nigella or sesame seeds

Serves 6

Method

Preheat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan, gas mark 6).

Beat the eggs and mix with the yoghurt and salt.

yogurt and egg

Brush the bottom of an oven dish (I used one 40 cm by 20 cm) with the oil.

Place 1 sheet of filo on the bottom of the dish and brush with oil, before adding another and brushing with oil.

oiling filo in dish

Then spread out half the spinach, dot with half the feta cheese and spoon over half the yoghurt and egg mix.

spinach and feta uncooked

Add another layer of filo, brush with oil, then add another, also brushing with oil.

Repeat the spinach, feta and yoghurt mix layer.

Place another 2 layers of filo, each brushed with oil, then sprinkle with the seeds.

uncooked pita pie

Bake for 40 minutes until golden on top.

spinach filo pie

Mung bean curry

Mung bean dalA change in the weather and the beginnings of an autumnal cold has made me crave warming, nourishing curries this week. I also like to cook a big pot of soup or curry to have for lunch during the week.

This easy mung bean curry recipe is also cheap and very satisfying, either served simply with plain boiled basmati or as part of a thali spread, with lime pickle and yoghurt.

I would like to serve this with chapati too, but since going gluten-free have yet to find a decent recipe. I tried a 100% gram flour one to go with this curry, but the dough was too hard to work with. So please let me know if you’ve got any easy gluten-free chapati recipes!

I made this curry quite dry, but if you’re in a soupy mood, then feel free to add more of the reserved stock to make it more liquid.

Serves 4

Ingredients

200g whole green mung (or moong) beans, soaked overnight

2 tbsp sunflower oil

6 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 green chillis, finely chopped and deseeded depending on heat required

2 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp tumeric

4 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

small handful fresh coriander, stalk finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped

small handful (10-15 leaves) curry leaves

Method

Put the mung beans in boiling water in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until just soft. Drain, and reserve the cooking liquid.

Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan.

Fry the garlic, chillis and spices on a medium-low heat, without letting the garlic colour, for five minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the tomatoes and salt, cooking for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.

Add the coriander stalks, curry leaves and mung beans, putting in about a wine glass of the drained mung bean cooking water, or as much as required.

Simmer the curry for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with basmati rice or chapati.

Middle Eastern courgette dip

Middle Eastern courgettes

Due to a few weeks of neglect and super fertile soil, my courgette plants are now giant triffids and my courgettes in danger of turning into marrows. Today I decided enough was enough and started on what will be an epic week of dealing with a courgette glut, starting with a lovely dip, which is a good side dish for barbecued lamb or chicken or with my pitta triangles in a picnic.

courgette glut

If you don’t have a good, thick Greek yoghurt, strain whichever yoghurt you have for a few hours before adding it to the courgette mix so it doesn’t go too runny. I like my dips garlicky so have added three cloves of garlic but two is probably enough for many people.

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium-sized courgettes

coarse sea salt

1 tbsp cumin seeds, roughly bashed in a pestle and mortar

250g Greek yoghurt

juice of half a lemon

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tsp fresh dill, chopped (optional)

3 tsp fresh mint, chopped

50g soft goat’s cheese or feta cheese

1 tsp za’atar

Serves 6-8

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4.

Slice the courgettes lengthways in fat slices and place on a baking tray in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cumin seeds. 

courgettes ready for roasting

Roast for 20 minutes until just cooked. Place the roasted courgettes in a food processor with the yoghurt, lemon juice and garlic.

courgettes

Pulse briefly so the mixture still has a bit of texture.

processed courgettes

Stir in the fresh herbs, reserving a few chopped mint leaves, and cheese. Season to taste.

Place in a serving dish and sprinkle with za’atar and the reserved mint leaves. Serve with pitta triangles, sourdough or a mixture of raw vegetables, such as carrots, peppers and radishes.

Middle Eastern courgette dip

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

Pisto (Spanish ratatouille)

We are busy preparing for our annual pop-up tapas bar at the Silk Mill in Frome. Unfortunately, I can’t do all the cooking this year due to recent back sugery – which has also meant less blogging in recent weeks, although I’m now on the mend – but I can still experiment with new dishes for our menu.

I thought I’d try making a pisto because after our tapas bar last year people suggested we add more vegetarian dishes. We were trying to be authentically Spanish as possible in our bar – Spain is a particularly keen meat-eating nation – so subconsciously probably didn’t offer a huge range of vegetarian dishes. 

Pisto is a summer classic and a Spanish version of ratatouille. It’s a great recipe to use up a glut of aubergines, courgettes and peppers. Roasting most of the veg in the oven as I’ve done here makes it far easier than frying all the individual vegetables separately. It also uses less oil, making it cheaper and healthier too. I’ve added cumin seeds to this for a Moorish flavour, along with the more conventional dried oregano.

Pisto is good served at room temperature as part of a tapas spread, or hot with an fried egg on top for brunch. Either way, make sure you have some robust sourdough with which to mop up those lovely oily juices. It’s also great with the deliciously salty mojama, dried tuna which is made in Cádiz province, or a few slices of Manchego, washed down with a chilled manzanilla (my current favourite is La Gitana).

Serves 6 as a tapa

Ingredients

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 aubergines, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

2 large red peppers, diced

2 large onions, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, skin on, lightly smashed with the side of a large knife

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp of coarse sea salt

400g ripe tomatoes, scalded in hot water for 1 minute, then skinned and roughly grated

¼ tsp sherry vinegar (optional)

chopped parsley to serve

Spanish pisto

Method

Heat the oven to 200°C fan (220°C, gas mark 7). Place the oil (reserving 1 tsp), aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and garlic in a few large trays, making sure the vegetables are in a single layer otherwise they’ll just go soggy. Sprinkle with the cumin, oregano and salt and mix well. Put in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once, until just starting to caramelise.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and add the grated tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until broken down into a sauce.

Mix the roasted veg with the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning. Leave to cool and serve at room temperature.

If you double the recipe, you can use half the roasted veg for a pisto and goat’s cheese tart. Use a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry, spreading sundried tomato pesto on top, followed by the pisto. Dot with some goat’s cheese (I used about 100g of cheese here) and some halved cherry tomatoes. Bake it for about 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C fan (200°C, gas mark 6) and sprinkle some basil on after you take it out.

Ratatouille and goat's cheese tart

As this dish is made with seasonal veg, I’m entering it for the Simple and in Season June Challenge, hosted by Ren Behan.

Because this pisto recipe is packed with veg, I’m also entering it for June’s Extra Veg hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Extra Veg Badge-003

Easy masala dosa

Masala dosa

I love masala dosa but an authentic recipe takes some preparation, involving soaking urad dal and rice over night, grinding them the next day and then leaving them to ferment. So when I saw a bag of dosa flour at Bristol’s Sweet Mart I realised I could make reasonable dosas without much hassle at all. The flour and water batter does need leaving overnight, but it’s easy to prepare. Our children love pancakes, so this recipe has the added bonus of being a real crowd pleaser for a family meal.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Dosas

Sunflower oil for frying

200g dosa flour (I used Jalpur Dhosa Mix Flour)

Enough warm water to make a thin batter, about 500-600 ml

1 tsp salt

Potato masala

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

12 curry leaves

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 green chilli, thinly sliced (optional)

800g cooked potatoes

2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed

2 tsp crushed coriander seeds, lightly crushed

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chat masala (optional)

Chat masala salad

3 tomatoes, third of a cucumber, diced

half a tin of chickpeas

2 spring onions, finely sliced, or a handful of chives, snipped

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)

Pinch of chat masala (optional) and salt

Raita

250g natural yoghurt

half a garlic clove, crushed

small handful of mint, chopped

pinch of salt

Method

Dosa batter

Mix the dosa ingredients together and leave overnight.

Masala potatoes

Heat the oil on a medium-high heat.

Add the mustard seeds and when they begin to pop, add the curry leaves and stir for 30 seconds.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions. Cook for 5-10 mins until soft.

Add the cumin and coriander seeds, garam masala and chat masala and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the cooked potato. Heat through and keep in a warm oven.

Dosas and potato filling

Dosas

Traditionally dosas are cooked in a flat tawa pan but you can also use a crepe pan, or non-stick frying pan. Heat ½ tsp of oil on a medium-high heat and when it’s hot, add a ladleful of batter (I made a rough spiral to cover the pan as thinly as possible).

Gently flip with a spatula when one side is done, after a few minutes. Keep the dosas warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

To assemble, put a few dessert spoons of potato mix on a dosa and fold over. Serve with the chat masala salad and raita, along with lime pickle and mango chutney.

Chutney and dips

Salpicón de mariscos (Seafood salad)

Spanish seafood saladThis speedy seafood salad recipe is a perfect dish for a sunny day, as part of a tapas spread or a picnic with tortilla (check out my recipe here). It’s one of my favourite tapas on a baking hot summer’s day in Andalucía, with an ice-cold glass (or tubo) of cerveza.

It’s also a popular dish at our annual pop-up tapas bar, Cantina Festival, which will again be open during the Frome Festival in July at Frome’s Silk Mill.

I used to make salpicón de mariscos with freshly cooked squid, mussels and prawns but now for ease I use a pack of either fresh or frozen mixed seafood and it tastes just as good.

Serves 4-6 as a tapa

Ingredients

500g mixed seafood

half a sweet white onion or 3 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, diced

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar

Salt to taste

Method

Simply mix all the ingredients and leave to marinade for a few hours in the fridge. Serve with some chunky slices of sourdough to mop up the delicious juices.

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Minestrone soup with nettle and smoked cheese pesto

Easy minestrone soupI find that not having a fridge and cupboards constantly stocked means that you can set yourself a creative challenge to cook something delicious out of frugal ingredients. Whilst not everyone will have some smoked cheese lurking at the back of the fridge as I was surprised to find in mine today, you may have a small unkempt patch of nettles in the garden to forage and a lump of cheddar in the fridge. If you live near Frome and you like smoked cheese, the Wiltshire Smokehouse produce a really good one, which they sell locally and at Frome Farmers’ Market.

This easy soup recipe has been a family favourite for years now and is versatile with endless permutations, depending on which storecupboard ingredients you have. Add 50g of chopped pancetta or bacon with the onions, substitute the chickpeas for cannellini or flageolet beans, the spaghetti for whichever pasta you have to hand, the onions for leeks, carrots and peppers for French beans, broad beans or potatoes. The same goes for the pesto; you can also check out my recipes for wild garlic pesto or basil pesto. Or omit the pesto altogether and just add some finely grated parmesan or similar cheese at the end.

Serve with sourdough toast rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil and a green salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, diced

1 red pepper, diced

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1½ pints of stock (I used Marigold bouillion)

Tin of chickpeas

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

25g spaghetti, roughly broken, or macaroni

Nettle pesto

100g nettle tops, picked with rubber gloves and rinsed

50g finely grated smoked cheese

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

250 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the oil and fry the onion, carrot and pepper for 10 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, smoked paprika and herbs, cook for 5 minutes before adding the stock, chickpeas, sugar and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the nettle and smoked cheese pesto. Blanch the nettle tops for 1 minute in boiling water and then cool by running cold water over them. Squeeze out the moisture and roughly chop the nettles. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor or in a jug using a stick blender, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend to a paste.

nettle pesto

Add the pasta to the soup and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve the bowls of soup with a dollop of pesto on each.

minestrone and nettle pesto

Children love the novelty factor of eating nettles and because this is a family-friendly meal and inspired by Italy, I’m entering this for the Family Foodies Italian challenge, hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash, along with Louisa at Eat Your Veg.

As this soup is packed full with vegetables, I’m also entering it for this month’s Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen, along with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

Wild garlic and feta quiche

Wild garlic and feta quicheThis is a seasonal allium-rich dish, full of spring onions, leeks and wild garlic, and a great quiche for a picnic. I’ve also made this recipe as 1½ times the ingredients and used the excess for making mini tarts in a jam tart baking tin, which are perfect for kids’ lunchboxes. Sometimes I make individual tarts instead of a whole quiche; use the same quantity as the recipe below but use a baking tin for tarts instead.

This is an easy quiche recipe as it uses a yeasted pastry, which is much simpler to cook with no need to chill beforehand or bake blind – and it never gets a soggy bottom!

I bought some lovely plump spring onions from VP Collins veg at Frome Farmers’ Market; it’s worth looking for these home-grown varieties, which are fuller in flavour than the supermarket kind. If you can’t find wild garlic, then substitute it with 250g spinach, wilted and squeezed of moisture. You can also substitute the feta for goat’s cheese, or any other strong cheese you have.

Ingredients

Pastry

120g plain flour

50g butter or margarine, melted

1 egg

1 tsp dried fast-action yeast

½ tsp salt

Filling

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, finely sliced

Bunch of spring onions, finely sliced

100g wild garlic leaves, shredded

100g feta cheese, roughly cut into small cubes

5 eggs, beaten

100ml milk

Pinch of salt

Method

Mix the pastry ingredients together and set aside for at least an hour, covering it with oiled clingfilm (you can also mix them the night before and put the pastry in the fridge, bringing it out an hour before you want to use it).

Grease a 25 cm quiche dish.

Roll out the pastry when it’s ready, and line the dish.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C or gas mark 6).

Heat the olive oil on a medium heat and fry the leek for 10 minutes, then add the shredded wild garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until just wilted. Add the spring onions and stir for another minute. Remove from the heat.

Beat the eggs and add the milk.

Place the leek mixture in the quiche case, dot the feta cheese on top before adding the egg and milk and salt.

Put in the oven for 30 minutes until firm in the middle and lightly browned on top. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

wild garlic and feta tart

As this quiche has got three lots of veg, I’m entering it for April’s Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen, along with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

Baked wild garlic falafel

wild garlic falafelI recently tried making some baked falafel, using a brilliant recipe by Jessy Ellenburger at Instructables. Continuing my wild garlic fetish, which seems to be my theme of April, I decided to make a similar recipe, replacing the usual falafel herb ingredients of parsley and coriander with yep, you’ve guessed, wild garlic. Baking means that this is a healthy and super-easy falafel recipe.

I love a good sauce with my falafel and so whisked up an easy tahini sauce (see below) to go with them, along with the Israeli zhoug, an easy recipe for green chilli sauce shared with me by my friend Marie. To finish it off, I made a simple tomato salad sprinkled with finely shredded wild garlic. I added more wild garlic to the salad leaves that went in the pitta, for a real wild garlic extravaganza!

easy tomato salad with wild garlic

Ingredients

2 tins of chickpeas, drained

50g wild garlic, roughly chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

½ tsp salt

Pitta breads, extra wild garlic, salad leaves, tomatoes and tahini sauce (see below) to serve

Serves 4

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Whizz the chickpeas and wild garlic in a food processor until mixed but not blended to a paste.

Add the onion, spices and salt.

Form into small walnut-sized balls and flatten slightly.

uncooked wild garlic falafel

Place on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through.

Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce by whisking together 4 tbsp of light tahini, 3 tbsp water and juice of a lemon, plus a crushed garlic clove and a pinch of salt.

You could also make some zhoug at this point – see my recipe for this here.

Serve the falafel stuffed in pitta with salad, drizzled with the tahini sauce and zhoug, alongside a tomato salad (see above.)

wild garlic falafel in pitta breadI’m entering this seasonal dish in Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season, hosted this month by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.