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

Smoky vegetable kebabs

barbecued vegetables

Made with my favourite marinade, these vegetable kebabs are quick, easy and perfect for barbecues and campfire cooking. You can add or swap the veg for any others you have handy, like aubergine or mushrooms.

I’ve also used the same marinade for fish (I’ve tried it on mackerel and bream, but others would work too) and chicken (for this, I replaced the dried oregano with fresh rosemary). If you haven’t got a barbecue or a fire on the go, you can also cook these under the grill.

When camping, I always take some store cupboard herbs and spices and these include dried oregano, cumin and smoked paprika, making kebabs like these easy to throw together. 

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 courgettes, cut in thick slices

2 red peppers, cut into large dice

1 large onion, cut in quarters lengthways and then each quarter halved

Marinade

100 ml olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

3 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste with salt

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of dried oregano

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

pinch of salt

4 wooden skewers

Method

Soak the wooden skewers in water.

Mix the marinade ingredients thoroughly. If you have a jar with a lid, then you can shake it up in this, otherwise just mix it in a mug with a fork.

Cut the courgette into thick slices and the pepper into fat squares. For the onion, halve it lengthways then cut in half widthways, so you end up with large rough squares.

In a large bowl, tip the vegetables in and mix thoroughly with the marinade. Leave to infuse while you light the barbecue or heat the grill.

Thread the vegetables onto the skewers.

Cook until the vegetables are just tender and slightly charred. 

Pour over any leftover marinade before serving. 

barbecued vegetable kebabs

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

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

Easy chana masala (chickpea curry) with wild garlic

easy chickpea curry with wild garlic

The season for wild garlic is so unfairly short (from around mid-March to late April, depending on where you live) that I can’t help but shoehorn this pungent plant into as many dishes as possible this time of year. But wild garlic is optional in this recipe, being easily replaced with spinach or chard or left out altogether.

Chana masala is a brilliant budget dish,and even better value when you use a foraged ingredient. It’s also quick, vegan and easily thrown together with store cupboard ingredients, assuming you have a few basic spices to hand. Having said that, chole masala is a spice mix that may be hard to find (where I live anyway) but is worth the effort to track down.

Chana masala is delicious on its own, or served with rice or chapatis and yoghurt with chopped fresh coriander.

I’m entering this for Karen’s April Cooking with Herbs challenge over at Lavender and Lovage. Because this is an ultra-thrifty dish, I’m also adding it to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy Food, along with Camilla at FabFood 4 All  and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Ingredients

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled, grated and finely chopped

1 green or red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2-3 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chole masala

tin of chickpeas

2 handfuls of wild garlic, washed and shredded

Salt to taste

Rice or chapatis to serve

Serves 4

Method

Heat the oil and fry the onion for 10 minutes on a low heat until translucent.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes.

Add the spices and cook for a few more minutes before adding the tomatoes and a mug of water.

Simmer for 15 minutes, add the chickpeas and heat through for 5 minutes.

(If using spinach, throw it in during the last five minutes of cooking time; chard will need shredding and adding a bit earlier, or rinse it and wilt it first in a separate pan for 5 minutes before adding to the chana masala.)

Add the wild garlic and stir through until wilted and season.

chana masala with wild garlic

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