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Bright British pulses -Narberth breeze magazine article April-May 2017

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beetroot-hummus-with-carrot-pumpkin-seed-and-hazelnut-salad-2

In the 1990s, when I was a strict vegetarian, and vegan for a while, meat-free alternatives were pretty limited. The only ‘vegan chocolate’ I could find back then was carob, I would not recommend it. With ‘free from’ sections in most food shops it’s becoming much easier to follow an alternative diet.

However I’m not a big fan of Quorn and similar meat substitutes. Instead I often use pulses to bulk out meals and add protein. In many other cuisines there are classic dishes, like Mexican chilli con carne and French sausage and bean cassoulet, that combine meat and pulses. Or Indian daals and Middle Eastern hummus, recipes which celebrate lentils and chickpeas respectively. We don’t have a strong culinary tradition of using pulses, besides baked beans, of course, and maybe pease pudding or mushy peas. Firm national favourites but not dishes that really appeal beyond our shores.

Considering how well beans and pulses grow in the UK it’s a shame they don’t feature on more menus. Most of the UK fava bean (aka broad bean) crop is exported or used for animal feed. It wasn’t always this way and I think it’s time we embraced them again. East Anglian based, Hodmedod’s produce a host of dried and canned British grown pulses, beans and quinoa – Spar in Narbeth stock some and hodmedods.co.uk have a wide range available for home delivery.

Our appetite for hummus appears to be growing, if the range available in supermarket chiller cabinets is anything to go by. It’s easy to make at home and super cheap if you use dried beans, whilst a can of ready to eat beans is much quicker. You can mix and match flavours, try butterbeans pureed with roast carrots, peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce or haricot beans with roast peppers, chilli and smoked paprika.

I love beetroot and often cook a big batch – to eat sliced in sandwiches, as a side veg, diced into a simple soup with stock… For speed and ease you could buy cooked beetroots (not preserved in vinegar though!), or any other cooked veg. Extra hummus freezes well.

Satsuma, coriander, roast beetroot and fava bean hummus

 

hodmedods-fava-bean-and-beetroot-hummus
Served with a splash of olive oil and grated carrot, pumpkin seed and hazelnut salad for a vibrant, contrasting dish

For the roast beetroot (makes more than you need in the hummus)

Bunch of beetroot

1 satsuma

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp peppercorns

Heat oven to 170-220c (I cook them when the oven is on for something else, temperature isn’t important, hotter = quicker cooking).

Remove the beetroot leaves and stalks (small leaves are good in salad, cook large leaves and stalks like spinach) and scrub the beetroots clean. Don’t peel before cooking, tough skin can easily be removed afterwards. Leave whole if beetroot are the size of a satsuma, if larger I halve so they cook quicker.

Place beetroots in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over coriander seeds and peppercorns, slice satsuma in half and squeeze juice over, add the halves too. Cover with a lid/foil and bake in the oven until tender (30mins – 1hr depending on the size of beetroots and oven temperature).

For the hummus

2-4 roasted beetroots, cut into chunks

400g can of fava beans, drained

1 tblsp tahini

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 satsuma, juiced

salt and pepper

You will need a food processor/hand blender. Put beetroot, fava beans, tahini, garlic, ground coriander and half the lemon and satsuma juice into the blender, season and blitz to a paste. Taste and add more juice/seasoning if needed, if it’s very thick add a dash of juice/water/oil, blitz until smooth.

beetroot-hummus-carrot-and-pomegranate-salad-and-zaatar
Beetroot hummus sprinkled with za’atar and served with carrot, pomegranate, pumpkin seed and lemon salad

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

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Different dishes with the same old same old and have you Olio-ed yet?!- Narberth Breeze magazine article Feb-March 2017

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At last the days are getting longer and we’re seeing signs of greenery emerging, what a welcome change! However, we’re in the ‘hungry gap’ as far as local fruit and vegetables go, and will be for another month or two. Sticking to a seasonal diet is great for the environment, our health and our pocket but does get a bit dull when another meal of root veg and winter greens looms again.

So, whilst the produce may be the same I’m trying different ways of preparing and cooking them. Boiling or steaming carrots, swedes or squash and then mashing them brings out their fresh flavour and vibrant colour. Adding spice also livens them up – try roasting carrots whole (or slice lengthways if they’re whoppers) and roast with caraway or cumin seeds.

Braising vegetables adds depth of flavour from the braising liquor and long slow cooking – try celery submerged in a broth of vegetable stock, white wine, butter and fennel seeds. Cooked until softened, the vegetable absorbs all these tastes and adds its own subtle aroma to the mix.

I’m also trying different ways of reducing how much food we waste at home. We’re getting better at freezing food we won’t eat before the use by date, and cooking SOON meals (Something Out Of Nothing) from the odds and ends at the back of the fridge and kitchen cupboard. But there are times when I just don’t like something I’ve bought – an unusual ingredient bought on a whim – or have totally over-catered.

Now there’s a food sharing app for householders and shops to connect people with surplus food to people who want it. Olio is being used by people all over the UK to share food in their community. Like all networks it’s more effective the more people who join and use it. It would be great if lots of us from our area joined up and used Olio to share our surplus food – feeding bellies not bins!

You can find out more at www.olioex.com and download the Olio app from the App Store and Google Play for free.

Eat Your Greens – three ways with leafy greens, e.g. kale, cavolo nero, large spinach or spring greens (these are recipe ideas, use quantities to suit).

Massaged Greens

Strip any tough stems from the leaves and tear leaves into bite size pieces, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt and squeeze over half a lemon/lime or a tablespoon of vinegar. Massage the leaves for a minute or two, they will wilt and juices will run out. Leave for a few minutes or longer and drain off the bitter juices and season. You can add to a salad, dress with some oil and vinegar or serve as a side vegetable.

Green Crisps

Strip any tough stems from the leaves and drizzle oil on leaves, mix together and bake in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until they are crisp, remove and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can add other flavours, try sprinkling over smoked paprika or masala chat (mixed spice blend).

Green Pasta

Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling water, follow timings on packet. Strip any tough stems from the leaves and tear the leaves into bite size pieces. Add the leaves to the pasta for the last minute of cooking so they soften and wilt. Finely slice a clove or two of garlic and maybe some chilli or chorizo. Gently fry the garlic/chilli/chorizo in oil for a few minutes then add to the drained pasta and green leaves. A strong cheese (blue/parmesan) stirred into the finished dish works well too.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Roast Cauliflower with Blue Cheese or Pistachio Sauce – Narberth Breeze magazine article Dec 2016-Jan 2017

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roast-cauli-carrots-and-cheese-sauceHere we are, ready to celebrate the end of another year with a host of festivities including the shortest day and a welcome return to longer daylight hours. Celebrating and feasting with friends and family will get us through the dark months!

Flavour-wise, warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, fresh oranges and cranberries and rich Stilton and port are a blast of winters past. Smells that warm us, from the first spiced whiff of a mince pie to the rich aromas of a traditional roast dinner. Whilst bright, colourful foods are in the spirit of celebration – this month’s recipe brings greens and reds to light up your table.

I love a roast dinner (except the meat) with all the trimmings. Everybody has their own ‘must-have’ dishes, roast potatoes are surely in everybody’s top three, right?! I suggest this recipe for whole roasted cauliflower as a great replacement for meat when serving a roast dinner to vegetarians and an excellent addition for omnivores too. If cooking for vegan/dairy free diners replace dairy ingredients with the alternatives suggested.

The flavour of roast cauliflower is more complex, richer and caramelised then plain old boiled cauli (and doesn’t leave the kitchen with that distinctive sulphur-y aroma.) Alternatively, to speed up cooking time (and save energy) you can cut the cauliflower into florets, coat in oil and roast, leaves and all, on a baking tray for 20-30 minutes. Same great flavour but not such a wow-factor when serving.

If you can find a Romanesco cauliflower this really is a dish to show off its fabulous conical spirals. Serve with gravy or one of the sauce recipes and colourful garnish suggested here, alongside all your favourite trimmings for a roast.

cauli-roasting-with-carrots

Whole Roast Cauliflower

Romanesco/white cauliflower (small will cook in 30mins, large around an hour)

1-2 tbsp rapeseed / sunflower oil

25-50g butter / 2-4 tbsp olive oil

Method

Oven heated to 220c / fan 200c

Remove really tough outer leaves from the cauliflower then cut the base from the cauli so it stands flat, wash the cauliflower.

You will need an oven-proof pan/dish with a lid/foil to cover, that the whole cauliflower fits into. Heat the pan on a medium heat on the hob, add rapeseed/sunflower oil, stand the whole cauliflower in the pan and cook for 5 minutes until you can smell the base start to caramelise (not burn!)

Take off the hob, smear butter/olive oil over the top and rub in all over, use as much as you need to coat the florets. Cover with lid/foil and roast in the oven. Check after 20 minutes and baste, test with a sharp knife, if it’s softening remove the lid so that it browns. Brown for 10-20 minutes.  However, if still firm leave lid on, checking and basting every 10-20 minutes. Depending on size it can take 30minutes-1 hour.

It’s cooked when it’s soft (or al dente if you prefer) and browned outside, with the leaves crispy.

Blue cheese sauce

25-50g softish blue cheese (I used Boksburg Blue)

2-4 tbsps Greek yogurt/creme fraiche/similar

Mash the cheese with a fork then stir in yogurt/creme fraiche to taste, you want a spoonable consistency and creamy flavour with a spike of blue cheese.

Pistachio sauce

2-4 tbsps pistachio/other nut butter

2-4 tbsps unsweetened soya yogurt/similar

Mash the nut butter with a fork then stir in soya yogurt, you want a spoonable consistency and creamy, nutty flavour.

To serve

Serve with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds/dried cranberries and roughly chopped pistachios/roasted cashews to add brightness and crunch.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

World Food Day & Parcel/Wrap recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article Oct-Nov 2016

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#surplusfood #wastenotwantnot #loveyourleftovers #cookonceeattwicetransition-cafe-menu

For anyone who follows me on social media these hashtags may be familiar. They pop up pretty regularly on my feeds, especially when mentioning my work at Transition Cafe in Fishguard. The USP of the cafe is that we use surplus food to create our daily changing menu.

The main aim of the cafe is to raise local awareness about a global problem – edible food being thrown away. When it opened three years ago Transition Cafe was very unusual, now there are similar initiatives across the UK and lots of media interest. Many of the larger supermarkets have taken action and now give their surplus food away to charities.

At home I’m really aware of how much food we put in the green bin, often it’s bread that’s going mouldy or limp lettuce. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign estimates that the average family could save £700 every year if they threw away less food. There are lots of great tips on their website, such as freezing bread and taking out a slice or two as you need it (we now do this!)

world-food-day-2016Sunday 16th October is World Food Day and the theme this year is, ‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.’ At Transition Cafe we’ll be open over the weekend for an open day and I’ll be running a cookery workshop. Visit the website events or Facebook page to find out more.

This recipe continues the theme of reducing waste. I often dress leftovers up with potatoes (pies and frittatas), pastry (pies, again) or, as in this case, dough. Here’s a simple dough recipe that you can make into wraps or stuff with leftovers and fry or bake into a delicious hot parcel. Check out my previous blog post for a step-by-step photo guide to make them.

Parcels / WrapsShaped Tortilla-wrap-thingys sm

25g/heaped tablespoon plain flour per wrap

approx 12g/level tablespoon water per wrap

a pinch of salt

Leftovers eg leftover veg and meat from a roast; chilli con carne; bolognese sauce; or grated vegetables, cheese &/ ham if there are no leftovers around

Method

Put your flour and salt in a mixing bowl, add the water and mix it together by hand, knead it a little until it’s a smooth ball of dough. Add more water/flour if it’s too dry/wet – too firm and it’s tough to roll out, too wet and it’s too sticky to roll out.

Chop/dice/grate your filling so it’s all in small pieces – so it heats through quickly.

Divide your dough into equal portions, depending on how much flour you used and how many you plan to make. Knead each small portion into a smooth ball, squash flat and roll out into a disc about half a millimetre thick and 20cm diameter (if making wraps – cook in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until opaque white with bubbles of golden brown).

Heap 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the centre of the disc of dough and fold the edges over the filling to make a parcel. Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat. Fry on the folded side first and when it has changed colour and started browning flip over to cook the other side. Adjust heat as necessary, they need to brown but not too quickly as the filling needs to warm up too. Alternatively you can bake them in the oven, 180c for 15-20 minutes.

The parcel is cooked when it’s turned opaque white all over with golden brown patches. You can keep them warm in the oven, serve straight away or cool and have them cold for packed lunches.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Pembrokeshire Potato Salad recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article August-September 2016

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IMG_20160701_123257Shopping is not one of my favourite past-times, especially a weekly trip to the supermarket to do a ‘big’ shop. Whilst it seems quicker and easier to do it all in one hit I find I get lost in the windowless warehouses. Time flies by while I’m sucked into buying more than I intended from the vast range on offer.

I much prefer shopping little and often, topping up when we’re running low. When choosing food I value how and where it is grown, raised and caught. The main priority for me is to buy locally produced food as I want to support people living and working in my community. There’s another benefit – it’s likely to be super fresh; fruit and veg picked within days if not hours; fish landed that day.

When buying meat for my family I want to know the heritage of the animal. Local farmshops, such as Yerbeston Gate and Bethesda, have a strong interest in rearing content and healthy animals to produce the high quality end products they sell direct. Farmers involved in the whole process are connected to their customer, this reassures me in a way buying meat in a black plastic tub from the supermarket cannot.

Organic produce is also important to me. This isn’t due to the possible nutritional benefits but rather out of concern for the environment. I know little about farming but want to support a system that values the health of the soil and wildlife around the farm so natural eco-systems flourish.

And the conversations started when meeting the growers and suppliers of our food are often illuminating. The added bonus is that for every £10 spent in local shops £6.30 stays in our local economy, compared to £4 if we spend that £10 in a large chain store.

This simple recipe celebrates local ingredients and is truly authentic if made using Pembrokeshire produce! It’s a winner at BBQs or great for lunch, maybe with some tomatoes and a leafy salad on the side. This method for boiling eggs comes from Harold McGee’s invaluable book, ‘Keys To Good Cooking’, and gives just set eggs which are gently cooked, rather than tough and rubbery.

IMG_20160701_104405

 

Pembrokeshire Potato Salad

Ingredients (adjust quantities to suit, this makes a big bowlful)

500g new potatoes

3 eggs (if a week or two old they’ll be easier to peel)

50g marsh samphire (tender young tips ideally, or steamed tougher stems)

Salt and pepper

Method

Wash the potatoes. Place them in a large pan, cover with plenty of water, add a big pinch of salt and bring the water to the boil. Simmer for 15-30 minutes (depending on size) until the potatoes are tender (a sharp knife should easily slide into a potato). Drain and allow the potatoes to steam dry, cut them into bite size pieces when cool enough to handle.

Bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil then turn down the heat. Gently lower the eggs into the water with a spoon, cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave the eggs for 12 minutes. Remove them from the water with a spoon and run the eggs under cold water. When they are cold, tap the eggs all over to crack the shell, pull off the shell and white membrane. Grate the eggs coarsely.

Mix the potatoes and eggs together in a large bowl. Chop up the marsh samphire and mix it  into the salad.

Try the salad and add salt and pepper to taste (the marsh samphire is salty so you may not need extra salt).

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Salsa Verde recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article June-July 2016

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As I write it is a beautifully bright but chilly day at the end of April. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been out in the garden clearing up and getting ready for a fresh growing season. A few herbs have survived the wet winter. My parsley and marjoram are flourishing but the rosemary and thyme are looking a little sad. I think they are in need of some warm sunshine, as am I!

In our small garden plants we can eat jostle for space with ornamentals. Over the years I’ve had a go at growing a variety of plants with varying degrees of success. Now I focus on edible plants which are hard to find in the shops or expensive to buy.

Alongside fruit bushes, strawberries and herbs are flowers to be eaten. My favourite are nasturtiums for their bright colourful flowers and peppery tasting leaves. At Span Art’s Big Plant Sale last year I bought a jostaberry (a blackcurrant/gooseberry cross), rhubarb plant and some raspberry bushes. This year we look forward to harvesting the first fruit.

I also grow vegetables I like to eat when they’re small, usually beetroot and courgettes as I love the raw tender young veg sliced into salads. Another bonus of growing them is being able to use other parts of the plant which are often removed before they get to the shops. Beetroot leaves work well in place of spinach. Courgette flowers are edible with a buttery flavour – stuffed and deep fried they’re a real delicacy.

Hopefully as you read this it is a perfect summer’s day. Even if not, this issue’s recipe should bring some sunshine into your kitchen, as it did to mine on a chilly April day.

DSCF1680Salsa Verde will brighten up many recipes. I first ate it with fried halloumi and am now addicted! This green sauce balances well with many fish dishes and livens up potato salad or mash. Drizzled over orange butternut squash soup it looks and tastes so good. Whilst as a dip for raw crunchy vegetables it really zings.

This recipe is, as always, a starting point. Use whichever soft green herb is in abundance/cheaper, add more/less of any ingredient to suit your taste. I usually make a large batch and freeze leftovers in small containers for another day when I need a blast of brightness on my plate.

Salsa Verde recipe

Ingredients

1 large bunch of parsley/coriander/marjoram/a mix – washed, tough stringy stalks removed, the rest roughly chopped

1-2 teaspoons mustard (I use a mellow French/wholegrain)

1 lemon/lime – juiced

1-2 tablespoons capers/green pitted olives – rinsed

1-2 garlic cloves – peeled and roughly chopped (optional)

2-4 tablespoons of oil (one you like the flavour of, I use olive/rapeseed)

salt and pepper

Method

Put the herbs into a food processor/blender/container for a stick blender.

Add half the lemon/lime juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, half the mustard, half the capers/olives, half the garlic (if using) and blitz for a minute or two. You may need to stop and move the leaves around to get them all to the blender blades.

Adding more oil &/ some water may also help it blend to a sauce if it seems dry. The consistency can be between a dip to a pouring sauce, depending how you want to eat it, add more oil/water as necessary.

Taste the sauce, season with salt and pepper and add more lemon/lime juice, mustard, capers/olives and garlic to your taste. Blitz again to combine. The sauce should be herby with a kick from the other ingredients.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article April-May 2016

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September 2012 was the first time I visited Narberth, attracted by the annual food festival. We were staying near Little Haven and looking for things to do on holiday. It was also a reconnaissance trip as we were thinking of moving to Pembrokeshire. On that first visit we were really impressed by the thriving town we found; the bustling food festival; community centre, swimming pool and music venues; lots of independent shops and businesses. Many elements drew us here.

One of my priorities, when we were thinking about where to settle, was having food shops within walking distance. On this front we’re pretty spoilt here in Narberth! The High Street mini-supermarkets, butchers and grocers keep us well supplied. Wisebuys, that foodie treasure trove, has delivered the most obscure ingredients I’ve asked for – liquid smoke was the most unusual and yep, they had it in stock! Popping by the veg stall at the Friday market is always a delight, chatting to the couple who have harvested the veg from their plot. Whilst Fire and Ice and Ultracomida are great for a treat.

Having two butchers, a fish counter and numerous places selling  fresh fruit and veg is a luxury compared to other local towns and villages. Worth valuing when you consider just north of here, in Clunderwen, the only grocery shop closed recently.

Vegetable Bolognese sauce (serves 6)

diced veg frying sauce with toast plate view

This recipe continues the theme of vegetarian dishes fit for a meat eater – it also happens to be vegan and gluten free, great if cooking for a crowd with various dietary requirements. My secret ingredient for the ‘meaty’ flavour is smoked tofu, my preferred brand is ‘Taifun Tofu‘ because it’s very dense and full flavoured (happily Wisebuys stock it!). The tofu isn’t essential but does add an extra depth of flavour.

As last month, this recipe is really a guideline; adapt to suit your tastes. I always use the trio of onions, celery, carrots as the base and then whatever other veg I have. It’s great simply on toast, served with pasta, smothered in mash and baked or layered up in a luscious lasagne, whilst leftovers freeze well.

Ingredients

1tbsp oil

1 large onion, carrot & celery stalk, finely diced (&/grate carrot)

500g mixed veg (eg mushrooms, peppers, courgettes…), finely diced/grated

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

100g red lentils (use 200g if not using the tofu), rinsed

1 pack smoked tofu, grated

1 stock cube/powder equivalent

1tbsp tomato puree + pinch of sugar/1tbsp ketchup

2 tsp dried mixed herbs/2tbsp chopped fresh herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of tomatoes + a can full of water

Method

1 – Heat a large saucepan on med-high, add the oil, then the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until they look softened and are starting to brown a little. Add the other vegetables and cook until they are softened and starting to brown.

2 – Add the garlic, stir in and fry for a minute or so, until you can smell the garlic-y aroma.

3 – Add the lentils, tofu, tomato puree + sugar/ketchup, herbs and pepper (don’t add salt/stock until the end otherwise it hardens the lentils while cooking) and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, so everything heats through.

4 – Add the tomatoes and water. The liquid should just cover the mixture, add more water if needed as the lentils will absorb quite a lot as they cook. Simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are softening. Add with crumbled stock cube/powder and cook for a further 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened, add salt to taste and serve.

lasagne close up

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.