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Lunching at Konstam in King’s Cross

Pork Belly Sandwich from Konstam

Regular readers and fellow twitterers will know that I am a big fan of pork belly! An inexpensive but delicious cut of meat, that is transformed into a thing of crispy wonder when given the right amount of care and attention. Spiced with star anise or sweetened with cider and sporting a crispy coat of crackling, it is one of my favourite things to eat in this world.

Konstam at the Price Albert

So, you can imagine my delight when a restaurant local to work started serving pork belly sandwiches at lunch time. Not just any restaurant either, but Oliver Rowe’s Konstam at the Price Albert, a restaurant where most of the produce (where possible) is sourced from within the M25. Many of you will be familiar with it from the TV show, The Urban Chef, that tracked the setup and opening of this fine establishment.

Prior to opening Konstam at the Prince Albert, Oliver ran a cafe of the same name (Konstam). of which I was a big fan and I was disappointed when it closed in favour of the restaurant. Not that I don’t appreciate the fine dining options on offer there, it’s simply not in my price range for a regular lunch. The new lunch menu is of a similar ilk to the old cafe. It changes regularly and features the finest sandwiches including my favourite hot roast pork belly, remoulade and parseley sandwich; chicken and dill mayonnaise; roast winter squash marjoram and lemon; Quicke’s cheddar, marrow chutney and mizuna and many more. The salads are wonderful, fresh, vibrant and dressed beautifully and the soups are packed with flavour and colour e.g Hillingdon beetroot and vodka soup with sour cream and roast butternut soup with Norbury blue & walnuts. There are also more traditional main courses at normal a la carte prices like pan roast Mersea sea bass, jerusalem artichoke pierogi, slow-cooked shoulder of Amersham mutton and braised Amersham pheasant legs.

salad plate at Konstam

Most of the menu is available for take away and I really can’t recommend it enough. It takes a little longer than your average sandwich but that’s because it’s not your average sandwich and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch the chef take the enormous pork belly out of the oven and cut your bit, placing it tenderly between two slices of sourdough, caressed by remoulade and tickled by parsley. The delicate flesh and the crispy crackling, with the fat seeping into the bread. Sounds wrong but it’s oh-so-right. Oh god, I want one now.

I’ve tried a number of dishes and the food, as a rule, is delicious and freshly made while you wait. If you don’t believe me, they were featured in the Time Out lunch feature last week, which reminded me, that I should really blog about the wonder that is the Konstam pork belly sandwich.

So, if you’re in London, try it out! I doubt you’ll be disappointed, I’ve dragged most of my friends there by now and they’re in agreement with me. If you’re not in London, I recommend you try a homemade version for a winter lunch. It’s medicinal and food for the soul and will get you through these next dark days leading to the Winter solstice.

pork belly sandwich at Konstam

butternut squash curry
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Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This has been a great couple of weeks for festivities. Diwali, Halloween, Day of the Dead last week, and Guy Fawkes coming up. It certainly takes the bite out of the impending Winter!

I always like to celebrate anything like this with food if I can, hey, I don’t need an excuse I know, even if it’s just for me, or, better again with friends. Last week was busy but I did sneak in a dish that would in some way cover Diwali and Halloween, well, kind of.

Diwali being a Hindu festival is all about vegetarian food, particularly curry, snacks and sweets. As for Halloween, well, Halloween is about spooks and scary things, but also pumpkins, so I thought, why not make a veggie curry with pumpkin in? Or, in this case, butternut squash.

I had an ulterior motive, I felt I needed a few veggie days, or veggie meals at least. I usually have quite a balanced diet but lately I’ve been buying lunch out alot more than usual, and as I work so near to delicious Brindisa, my diet has been leaning heavily on the meat side. So, beans, veg, tomato and coconut seemed like a good alternative to a chorizo stew!

It’s very easy and very light. I made this on a weekday evening and it was absolutely manageable. The measurements are loose as always, feel free to experiment, it’s more about the spices and the flavours in the sauce. I used a small butternut squash about 6-8 inches high. The spice blend is very basic. I just used what I had in my cupboard. It works, though!

This will serve 4. I served it with steamed basmati rice. It keeps well, indeed like most tomato based dishes, tastes better the next day.[Read more]

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Ditalini with fresh borlotti beans, rosemary & tomato

Today’s recipe is ditalini with fresh borlotti beans, rosemary & tomato – a twist on Pasta e Fagioli that I made for lunch today. I’m a girl with an eye for detail, at least when it comes to food (for you friends reading, shocked that I typed that! ;)). I didn’t want to blog pasta e fagioli yet, because I wanted to make sure that the one I eventually blog is traditional, accurate and painstakingly researched. I am almost there, but not quite. So, instead, I will blog part of the research towards that goal and call it ditalini with fresh borlotti beans, rosemary & tomato. It’s a vegetarian version, intentionally, I wanted something with clean, crisp flavours, light & fruity and healthy.

So, how to go about this? Spend a Sunday morning wandering around the food halls of London, unintentionally picking up the ingredients. Beautiful big red tomatoes of the type you would see in the mediteranean, fresh borlotti beans in their pink stripey pods, bursting to come out, ditalini pasta, shallots, garlic & some fresh rosemary from the garden. The flavours are simple and therefore very important that they are right, so good tomatoes are essential, but you could substitute the beans if you can’t get fresh borlotti – dried or tinned borlotti, or cannelini. The fresh ones are so plump and tender, it’s worth trying to find them. They also cook in the dish, imparting their goodness to the finished dish. I cook the beans first with herbs and garlic to add more flavour, but keep the water the beans were cooked in and use it to add to the stock (keeping it withinn 600ml). For the pasta, ff you can’t get ditalini, any small tubular pasta will do, try macaroni. The finished dish looks bland and drained of colour, but, I promise, it’s bursting with flavour and worth a go.

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Israeli Couscous with onion squash, haricot beans and pumpkin seeds

I am using pumpkin alot lately, I know. They’re in season, so I like to make the most of them. I love everything about them, the way they look and taste, their bright orange colour, I (clearly) just can’t get enough. I love just having them on my kitchen windsill, brightening the place up. Yes, sad, I know.

I try to bring a homemade lunch to work every day but, lately, I’ve been lax. I find the change in seasons breaks my routine, which is no bad thing, but it’s time to get my house in order again. Often, it’s leftovers from dinner the night before but, sometimes, I make something especially for lunch as the repetition can get tedious.

Anna Pickard recently made a suggested dish of mine in her “Out of my box” post on the Word of Mouth blog, and I laughed so hard at her description of it, as it’s so true of how I eat in November:

The rest was dedicated to Niamheen and her
Rice and Chorizo and Squash thing. I’m sure the proper term is not ‘thing’, but it was very yummy. And possibly the most filling thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Seriously, it was like eating insulation. But in a good way.

It’s the perfect description, and really, it’s amazing that I am not shaped like a ball. I think that I eat this way, as, when I was vegetarian (for 11 years), I was extremely conscious of nutrition and ensuring that I had a balanced diet that I often mixed grains, pulses and veg. I still do, only now I stick meat in also.

So, I thought that I might attempt a lighter, lunch friendly version without the chorizo. Israeli couscous is great, larger than normal couscous and more tender, like eating little rubber balls, even though that doesn’t sound remotely appetising, it is! You can get it in the kosher section of supermarkets or middle eastern shops usually. If you can’t get any, you could replace with cracked wheat, bulgar or brown rice. I like to add a contrast, usually seeds or nuts, and lots of flavour as it’s quite bland, so some spices, in this instance spanish paprika. I cooked off a batch of haricot beans at the weekend so have had them every day this week (can’t look at one for at least a month now), so I included these, but other white beans will do well here, cannelini or butter beans, for example. Also, the onion squash is not absolutely necessary, any pumpkin/squash would fit. Eats well hot or cold.

The quantities are a bit vague, as I was using left over bits of squash and handfuls of this and that, use this just as a guide and add more of whatever you prefer, I might add more beans if I was making it again. but then, we are heading into insulation territory…[Read more]

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Moutabal

I love Lebanese food. The flavours are so fresh and lively, and the meze style eating is varied and so sociable. London is awash with great Lebanese restaurants, particularly around the Edgware Rd area.  They’re great places to bring vegetarian friends as there is plenty to satisfy everyone from the vegan to the carnivore.

The Maroush chain of restaurants in London have a deli on the Edgware Rd, where I used to treat myself to moutabal when I lived in nearby Kilburn, a smoky aubergine dip, not unlike baba ghanoush from Egypt. I frequently make dips like guacamole, hummus and pesto but infrequently moutabal as I didn’t have a gas cooker in my last flat, so I decided that now that I have,  I should make it last weekend.

To make moutabal you need to grill some aubergines over a gas flame until the skin is burned and the flesh is hot. The aubergine will be very hot so, take care, and ensure you don’t burn yourself as I did. I have previously made this by roasting the whole aubergine in the oven, so do it this way if you don’t have gas. The results will be good but you won’t get the smoky flavour that you get using the gas flame. Take care not to use too much tahini as it can dominate the dish, I add 2 tbsp usually, but taste as you go, as sometimes it needs a bit more or less. Some recipes use garlic but traditional ones I’ve spied often don’t, so I made it without. I think I would add a clove next time as I love the taste of garlic. Anyone know if it should be in there or not?

Serve with toasted flatbread or pita bread.[Read more]

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Something Halloween-y – Pumpkin, Celeriac & Chilli Soup

Happy Halloween! I love festive occasions, any excuse for a bit of fun and a party. Halloween was one of my favourites as a child. We were always on mid term break and so had ample time to fashion costumes, from, *cough*, the most humble of substances. Witches costume from a refuse sack? No problem! I blame Bosco (all you Irish readers can nod your head).

Pumpkins were never something we could get our hands on in the wilds of Waterford, so we use to raid the local sugar beet fields and fashion jack-o-lanterns out of them. I wish I could communicate using words the foul stench of burning sugar beet, but we persevered and carried them from house to house. There was a big band of siblings, cousins and neighbours that would march for a mile or so, stopping at the sporadic houses, singing in 3 parts everything we knew – stuff from TV (yes, Bosco), school, church, you name it. We didn’t want monkey nuts, we despised them, just money or sweets please, thank you very much. It’s a wonder they answered the door to the refuse sack clad, sugar beet wielding, singing children on a dark and cold Halloween night!

So, what did we eat? Sweets, lots of them. I’ve kept up that tradition here today, I’ve eaten way too many jelly snakes and percy pigs, but it had to be done. There was also apple bobbing, and putting a grape on top of a pile of flour and nudging the flour without knocking the grape… and lots more I can’t remember now. Certainly not pumpkin anyway, but as an adult, I eat alot of it this time of year and today is one of those days.

So, criteria for a halloween dish? Preferably pumpkin-y, should be spicy, and orange would be good (pumpkin helps!). I am not at home tonight so settled on a halloween lunch of pumpkin and celeriac soup with chilli which I made last night for today.

Pumpkin & Celeriac are a great match. Both really good for you too, pumpkins are full of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, calcium and fiber and celeriac is rich in vitamin C, phosphorus & potassium. Their texture in soups is wonderful, so smooth. Chilli is great with pumpkin, it livens the flavour and adds that spice we want. Any pumpkin or squash will work, preferably an orange fleshed one, butternut squash, onion squash or pumpkin are great. I add red split lentils to thicken the soup and to provide some protein, garlic and onions as a base, and some good light stock, vegetable or chicken are great. This is a really quick soup and takes care of itself as most soups do. I am a bit greedy when it comes to soup and am like a pig at the trough swilling bowl after bowl, so, it’s difficult to estimate portion sizes but I would think that this would serve 6 normal people.

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Carrot, Coriander & Lemon Soup

Summer is here! At long last! Sun, sandals, walks along the South Bank, maybe even some picnics. And last night a bright summery soup. This soup is so bright and cheerful, a twist on my usual carrot & orange inspired by an indian dal. I toyed with the idea of adding a tarka (spices tempered in oil added to a dal before serving) but decided the simpler and lighter the better. Lemon and coriander work so well together, as do carrots & coriander so I thought this should work, and it did. I like lemon, but I don’t like it to overpower so I added just a couple of tablespoons, you may want to add more or less – I suggest you do to taste.

Ingredients:

300g carrots, peeled & sliced
100g split red lentils
1 leek, halved and sliced
1l vegetable stock
a handful of coriander
juice of half a lemon

Method:

Sauté the leeks for a good ten minutes or so over a low heat.
Add the carrots, I like to sauté these for as long as possible to intensify the flavour, 10 minutes would do but I left them there for 30, sweating away with an occasional stir.
Add your stock and lentils, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the coriander and púree. Season to taste with S&P and add the lemon juice to taste.

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Samphire Tabbouleh

Following on from yesterdays post -Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes, I have another samphire post. This one is vegetarian and is based on the salad recipe from yesterdays post. I was looking at the 100g of samphire that I had left and wondering what I could do with it that would be tasty and suitable for lunch the next day. A quick fumble in the cupboard revealed a forgotten bag of organic bulgur. Bulgur is very healthy, it’s more nutritious than rice or cous cous so I always have a bag to hand next to the quinoa. There’s lots of forgotten random bits in my cupboards, it’s like a bunker in there! I have promised myself that I will empty them over the coming months and base my recipes on what’s in there so it should be interesting.

For the samphire, I decided on a chunky samphire tabbouleh. I love tabbouleh, it’s so light and fragrant but can take really robust flavours. I decided that I would use the samphire in place of the herbs and rather than finely chopping the tomatoes, leave them in quarters as the tomatoes I have at the moment deserve prominence in this dish. This is very quick (except for double podding the broad beans but you could probably substitute with peas if you’re in a rush). The bulgur that I used was the medium type but you could use fine if you have it. My favourite tabboulehs are ones that have only the smallest amount of bulgur and are mainly green, like a lebanese tabbouleh, so I was aiming to recreate this. This one was new so there was a little bit of trial and error in the proportions.

Here’s the recipe:
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Courgette & Sweetcorn Soup

I haven’t been feeling very well recently so haven’t been cooking. Today I started again with something very gentle, almost medicinal, a really tasty courgette and sweetcorn soup. Both main ingredients are reasonably delicate and result in quite a creamy soup which is a pleasure to eat and perfect for tender tums. It’s also seasonal so the ingredients are at their best having grown naturally. I have a really lovely book which I have had for over 10 years and which has travelled with me from Ireland to London and through my many house moves since – The Kitchen Pharmacy by Rose Eliott & Carlo de Pauli. Both authors have great credentials, Rose Eliot is a renowned vegetarian food writer and Carol de Pauli is the Principal of the Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine & Aromatherapy and the Director of the British and European Osteopathic Association. Their book associates specific foods with ailments and offers recipes for these which if nothing else provide comfort. You are what you eat, a cliché but so true. For a few years, if this were explicitly true, I was in danger of turning into a bag of crisps!

Having already decided to buy a big bag of courgettes at the market I decided I’d take a look at the Kitchen Pharmacy and see how courgettes might benefit me and, sure enough, they have cooling, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties in your intestine which makes perfect sense considering that I am recovering from a nasty intestinal infection. Your body does remember foods and other ingested items and what it likes and it doesn’t like. I think my poor tum remembered how nice courgettes were to it before and requested them. Incidentally, this is why, sometimes when something doesn’t agree with you you find out the second time you eat it not the first. I was once a physiologist (I have a degree in physiology) and know this to be true but to my shame the precise scientific detail escapes me now.[Read more]

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Rice paper rolls

Or, for me, they’re pretend it’s summer rolls. It’s Saturday and I am sitting in my flat looking at the pouring rain. I can’t bring myself to go outside, it’s too grim. I need to make something to lift my spirits that doesn’t require leaving the house. Something vietnamese would be nice, it’s been a while since I’ve made any vietnamese food and it reminds me of a lovely holiday I spent in Sydney last year with two old friends. A quick stocktake reveals rice paper, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, chillis, a green pepper, a very big avocado and some fresh herbs. So, vietnamese rice paper rolls it is. Or a twist on them at least.

These look really tricky, but really they’re very simple. Rolling them is a little fiddly and you may lose the first couple through practice but once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about! I usually make these with prawns. They’re perfect for lunch and great for a light evening snack. I don’t have prawns however, so I’m making a vegetarian version. I want to make a dip using the avocado so I’ve dug out a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks – one of the Moosewood Cookbooks – Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. I bought my first Moosewood Cookbook (The Moosewood Cookbook) over 10 years ago now. I spent the summer in Dingle on the West Coast of Ireland and this was my culinary bible for the summer. It’s a vegetarian cookbook with very creative dishes which are quick, healthy & usually very easy. I have many of their cookbooks but the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics is one of my favourites. In it, the author, Mollie Katzen concentrates on vegetarian and seafood dishes cooked in their restaurant in Ithaca, NY. For this I chose the firey & healthy avocado and wasabi dressing.

This recipe is lactose free and coeliacs can eat this too as there’s no wheat. I didn’t add cucumber or carrot but if they were in my fridge I would have chopped them into matchstick shapes and added them. If you are inexperienced at rolling these use 2 rice paper wraps at a time as they won’t tear as easily. Otherwise use one. With one they look nicer and taste a little better I think. The dip is firey, I am a big wasabi fan.[Read more]

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Roast butternut squash, coconut & chilli soup

This isn’t a quick dish like my normal Monday-Friday dishes. It takes a little time as I like to roast the butternut squash. Roasting intensifies the flavour and leaves a beautiful sweet syrup on the roasting tray which I put in my soup. I also add chilli and herbs when roasting it which on it’s own makes a lovely side dish. Any pumpkin/squash will do, I just happened to have a butternut squash. The smaller the better, the smaller ones have a better flavour, large pumpkins tend to have more water. We cooked a giant pumpkin some years ago and while it was great fun and a challenge to use all of it, it just didn’t have that lovely sweet flavour of the smaller ones. I would love another one though. A friends neighbour grows them on his allotment. It was so big it had to be delivered in an old cement bag, it wouldn’t fit in a normal refuse sack. And we only got a quarter of the pumpkin that time.

This is a very comforting and warming soup. I made it up using what I had to hand so think I’ll tweak it in future iterations. I think some lemongrass would work well for example…

Roasting the butternut squash

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Pasta with potato, red lentil and pumpkin

Pasta with potato, red lentil and pumpkin

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted anything but I’ve got a few things to post from the weekend. I’ll start with a pasta dish that I made yesterday, one of my comfort food favourites. I tend to make this by eye and by tastebud, adjusting it as I go so feel free to be flexible with the recipe. My mood also affects it, sometimes I like it very soup-y with alot of stock, other times I prefer the pasta to be the star of the show. Yesterday was a pasta day!

I got the idea for it many years ago when I visited Italy with some friends, one of whom was a local. I got many ideas that holiday, we had some wonderful food, much of it cooked by my friends boyfriends Dad whom we were staying with. It was my first time having homemade pumpkin gnocchi and proper neapolitan mozarella di bufala. It was out of this world. You just don’t get that mozarella anywhere else and I have tried very hard to find one that matches it. The shopkeeper that sold it used to travel to the farm at 4am every morning and if I remember right used to sell out by lunch time. The slices of mozarella were like big, juicy mozarella steaks. It was also my first time having pasta e patate, which was a revelation! It’s now one of my favourite dishes much to everyones amusement, me being irish and the dish consisting mainly of potatoes, sigh. It’s a favourite for sick days and hangovers especially, it’s like eating a cushion for your stomach :)[Read more]

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Quinoa with soya beans, parsley, sesame seeds & red onion

Quinoa is one of those foodstuffs that is so nutritious that I try to include it in my diet as regularly as possible. I like the nutty texture and as the flavour is quite subtle it mixes with almost everything. You can use it in the place of cous cous for a healthier tabbouleh or as a side dish in place of rice. It’s one of the few non-meat, non-dairy foodstuffs that contains the full complement of essential amino acids. I am not vegetarian but I was for 11 years and still keep to a predominantly vegetarian diet, mainly because I really enjoy vegetarian food and it’s extremely healthy once you take care to mix your proteins. I hadn’t had quinoa for a couple of months so I thought I’d drag it out of the cupboard and make a healthy lunch out of it.

I cook quinoa in a similar way to rice, twice the amount of liquid to grain. The only difference in the way I cook it is I like to fry/toast it briefly first in a little oil so that the texture is a little crispy in the finished dish.

This is a very flexible recipe. You can use different herbs or a mixture, nuts, especially pine nuts or hazelnuts are a lovely addition, I just didn’t have any to hand! You can eat it cold as a salad or warm – whatever works for you.

Ingredients (for one lunch):

100g quinoa
200ml light vegetable stock
Half red onion finely chopped
75g beans (any really, I used tinned soya beans)
25g sesame seeds
A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
Couple tbsp fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

Method:

Sauté the red onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.
Add the quinoa and stir for approx 2 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick or burn.
Add the stock and cook for approx 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa is cooked but still al dente.
Take off the heat and add the sesame seeds, parsley, spring onions and lemon juice.
Season.

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A new take on guacamole


I have been called a food snob in the past (amongst other things!). I am fairly strict with my recipes and like to do things as they should and have always been done, for example, you don’t put chicken tikka on a pizza, you do it the way the Italians have always done it! And I have always had a simliar attitude to guacamole. I like mine with lime juice not lemon juice for example. There’s a recipe I have stuck to for years since I’ve first started making it and anything outside that is an avocado dip – not guacamole.

Yesterday, however, we had a breakthrough :-) I was making an asparagus risotto for dinner and in our hunger it seemed to be taking forever. I thought I’d knock up a quick snack. In the fridge I had an avocado, shallots, orange peppers and feta. First of all, I thought I’d roast some peppers and mix them with some feta and maybe green chilli on ciabatta toast. I started this but again, impatience got the better of me, I wanted something now! So, I took out the avocado and figured I’d do a bastardised guacamole as I hadn’t everything my guacamole recipe required. It worked really well! The avocado was really creamy and the lemon worked really well.

Ingredients:

1 large avocado – I used fuerte
Juice of half a large lemon or 1 small one
Half a shallot finely chopped
Flat leaf parsley to garnish (optional)
Ciabatta, sliced and toasted

Method:

Finely chop the shallot and add the lemon juice. Leave to rest for 10 minutes or so. The lemon juce will take the harsh edge off the onion.
Peel the avocado and chop into dice. Mash approx 2/3 of it.
Add the lemon juice and shallot and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread on your toasts!

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Cloud mushroom with sesame oil, red onion & parsley on ciabatta toast


On my recent trip to Marylebone farmers Market I came across a gourmet mushroom stall. He had some fantastic large brown and white oyster mushrooms, mixed dried mushrooms and fluffy white ones that almost looked like coral or seaweed. I love coming across new things like this and enquired after this one. The new discovery was a cloud mushroom which I was told has a texture similar to crab or lobster and is best eaten raw or lightly cooked. How could I resist?! A few years ago I had bought a big bag of St Georges Mushrooms in a state of excitement only to discover that I didn’t like them atall so I thought I’d play safe and bought one big one to experiment with when I got home. I carried my little treasure home in the palm of my hand like a kitten worried I’d break or damage it.

Some investigations on Google weren’t all that beneficial, at least for my culinary purposes. I discovered it is used in Chinese medicine, primarily an extract of it, for stimulating the immune system and boosting immune function, particularly in the treatment of cancer.

These mushrooms are beautiful, like a little cloud (hence the name), so fluffy. They have a light smell, similar to oyster mushrooms. The moment it was compared to crab I thought back to this beautiful crab dish we had at River Café some years ago where the crab was lightly cooked and served with some toast and salad. I had lovely fresh ciabatta bread from the bakers so I thought I might attempt a similar veggie crab on toast dish.

Ingredients:

Sesame Oil
Quarter red onion finely chopped
A large cloud mushroom
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Ciabatta bread (or any other nice fresh bread)

Method:

Heat a couple of tbsp. of the sesame oil over a medium heat.
Add the chopped red onion and cook until soft.
Toast the bread – a couple of slices.
Chop the cloud mushroom and add to the onion and sesame oil. Cook very briefly, just enough to ensure you have mixed the flavours; a couple of minutes should suffice.
Add the chopped parsley. Stir.
Season.
Serve on top of the toast.

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Pumpkin, Banana & Chickpea curry with brown basmati rice

Another chickpea recipe. I don’t think I can take many more for a while so I promise this will be the last one for a bit.

This is a lovely summery curry. Very sweet and works well with a glass of dry white wine on a bright evening. It’s based on a recipe that I found on the Post-Punk Kitchen. For those of you that don’t know it the Post-Punk Kitchen is a public access vegan cooking show in the US. I have never seen it but I love their website mainly for their recipes. They also published two great cookbooks – Vegan with a Vengeance & Vegan cupcakes take over the world.

Pumpkin, Banana & Chickpea curry

Ingredients

Sunflower oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
500g onion squash (or any other squash/pumpkin), peeled, seeded and cubed
1 tablespoon hot curry paste – I prefer to make my own, but you can use shop bought
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 dried red chillies or 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
300ml vegetable stock
400g chick-peas cooked from dry after soaking* or 1 tin chickpeas drained & rinsed
1 under-ripe banana
Handful chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

Dry fry the coriander and cumin in a frying pan until they pop and grind in a pestle & mortar.
Heat 2 tbls. of the sunflower oil in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic, red pepper, ginger, ground spices and cinnamon stick and fry over a medium heat until the onion is lightly browned.
Place the chopped squash in a bowl, add the curry paste and mix ensuring that the pumpkin is coated evenly.
Add the chopped tomatoes, chillies and stock to the onion mixture, and bring to the boil, simmering gently for 15 minutes or so.
Fry the coated squash for 5 minutes.
Add to the tomato sauce with the chickpeas, cover and cook for 15 minutes
Peel and slice the banana and stir into the curry
Cook for a further 5 minutes or so or until the squash is cooked (you should be able to put a fork through it).
Stir in the chopped parsley, saving a little to garnish once plated.
Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

I like to serve this with brown basmati rice that has been cooked in salted water with a couple of cardamom pods, 2-3 cloves, a cinnamon stick & some black peppercorns.

* I much prefer the taste and texture of chickpeas that are cooked from dry. They have a slightly nutty texture and a better taste. To prepare them soak overnight in cold water and boil for an hour or so until tender. As they come to the boil some white foam will rise to the surface. Scoop this off as it appears as it has a really bitter taste. The age of the chickpeas will determine how long they take to cook so best to check them from half an hour or so in. Needless to say, the younger the chickpeas the better.

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A Spring take on minestrone

The weekend just past was filled with trips to farmers markets in an attempt to buy some sprue asapragus. Unfortunately, all trips were unsuccessful but I did get some great produce in the shape of onion squash, baby carrots, mixed wild mushrooms, garlic chives, shallots and white & green asparagus. Next week, I’ll get down there earlier and get the sprue before it sells out! I am very happy with my haul though and can’t wait to tuck in and start experimenting with all of these goodies.

Having spent the day wandering I wanted something quick, light and tasty last night using some of my farmers market goodies. I decided on a pasta soup using the young carrots and squash as main ingredients. It was delicious and light and is definitely one to reproduce over the summer using seasonal vegetables like broad beans and peas.

The recipe is a rough guide, add more or less of ingredients according to your preference, it’s really flexible.

Ingredients:

170g macaroni
100g red lentils
750ml vegetable stock
200g Squash or Pumpkin
2 carrots
2 large shallots or 3 small ones
1 clove of garlic
a hanful of fresh flat leaf parsley
garlic chives – 2 stalks
Olive Oil

Method:

Sauté the shallots in olive until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
Dice the carrots and squash and add to the garlic and shallots. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes taking care not to burn the garlic.
Add the stock and lentils and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Add the macaroni and cook for 10 minutes or so until al dente.
Stir in 2/3 of the parsley.
Serve in big bowls with the rest of the parsley and some chopped garlic chives as a garnish. Be warned, the garlic chives are extremely garlicky! I love them but if you are not a big fan of garlic use a small amount or use spring onions instead.

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Hummus-ish and chickpeas on crackers

We have a bit of a glut of chickpeas at the moment as I cooked a big batch of dried ones earlier in the week. My intention was to freeze them in batches for further use but there are so many I have kept half to experiment with.

Today, I had planned to make hummus but thought I might try and vary it a bit. The end result really wasn’t all that different from hummus, the only difference being that I substituted sesame seeds for tahini to give it a crunchier texture. It was nice for a change.

This was thrown together in a haphazard fashion so the measurements are approximate.

Ingredients:

400g chickpeas
50g sesame seeds
Juice half lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crackers

Method:

The method is very simple! Reserve a small amount of the chickpeas and sesame seeds to put on the crackers after. Chuck the rest save the oil in a blender and add the oil slowly until you are happy with the consistency. Season to taste.

Serve on crackers with chickpeas and some sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

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Chickpea, tomato, red lentil & basil soup


I used to be very good at bringing in lunches to work. After all, it usually means just putting leftover dinner into a lunchbox to heat in the microwave the next day. These last few months I have been rubbish though and find I am now feeling unhealthy as a result.

So, to make amends and apologise to my poor body I decided to make a healthy tomato and bean soup. Now, I know this blog has been very much tomato based recently but I’ve read that they’ll keep me young, so it’s worth a try, eh?!

This is a very simple soup and I usually don’t measure anything out but just adjust as I go to get the right textures and tastes.

Ingredients:

2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
one tin of tomatoes
approx 50g red lentils (or more if you like a chunky soup)
500ml vegetable stock
one tbsp of sugar
chickpeas ~ 400g – I cooked them from dry as I prefer these but you can use tins – one tin if you do
Fresh basil – about 2/3 tbsp – depends on how much you like basil really.
Chilli flakes, half teaspoon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

Finely chop the garlic and sauté in the olive oil
Add the tin of tomatoes, thevegetable stock, the sugar, the chilli flakes and half the lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Puree.
Add the remaining lentils and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Season to taste
Chop or tear the basil and add to the soup. Stir.
Serve with some nice crusty bread.
Garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh basil.

Note: This is a really flexible recipe – if you want a chunkier more rustic soup you don’t need to blend the tomatoes. In this case add all the lentils together. You could use any white beans, e.g. haricot, cannellini. You can also substitute flat leaf parsley for the basil.

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Now to start: Spaghetti with homemade tomato & basil sauce and garlic toasts

So, I thought it best to start with something really simple and delicious that I can’t misrepresent on my new blog! This is one of my quick fixes, some food for the heart and soul that’s sometimes required after a long day when you know you have only got a short evening ahead.

Ingredients (for two with large appetities):

Half a packet of spaghetti (linguine also works really well)

Sauce:
1 tin of tomatoes (I use La Fiammante, gorgeous fruity Italian tomatoes)
a handful of basil (I used greek basil – I love it’s tiny leaves and potency)
a dessert spoon of sugar
a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
dried or fresh chilli – as much as you like, I like it hot
one white onion
2 cloves of garlic (or one big one)
Extra Virgin Olive oil to drizzle on top

Garlic Toasts:
Baguette or nice ciabatta. I prefer the second but the deli had run out.
1 garlic clove
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

Chop the onion and garlic finely. Saute the onion until soft and translucent. I add the garlic now to ensure it doesn’t burn and retains it’s garlicky yumminess.

Add the tomatoes, the sugar, chilli and balsamic and simmer for at least half an hour, the longer the better for a tomato sauce. Taste and adjust quantities of sugar chilli and balsamic if required. Add 2/3 of the basil.

Add the pasta to a pan of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente, usually about 10 minutes.

While this is cooking prepare the toasts. Slice the bread to about 1cm thick. Rub with the cut garlic glove and drizzle with the olive oil. Toast on both sides until brown and crispy.

Puree the tomato sauce and add the rest of the basil. Mix with the pasta with a little bit of the pasta cooking water. Season.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, the toasts to the side and some basil as a garnish.

Enjoy!