Friday, 3 February 2017


400g can chickpeas, drained 
Clove garlic 
1 spring onion 
1 red chilli, reseeded
Handful of fresh coriander 
1 tsp ground coriander 
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp finely chopped lemon zest
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil 
1 tbsp plain flour 
1 tsp baking powder 

To serve: warmed pitta breads, lettuce, Tzatziki, cucumber, tomato, fresh coriander 

Blitz everything in a food processor to a textured paste. If you don't have one, you could mash the chick peas and chop and stir in the other ingredients.

Shape into 16 small balls.
Fry in olive oil for about 5 minutes, turning often.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Mushroom and Chestnut Pies

These were delicious and surprisingly rich and creamy for a vegan dish. Strictly speaking mine were not vegan, because I used beaten egg to glaze the pastry and turn it golden, but you could leave it off and have slightly less of a golden hue to your pies.

300g pack puff pastry (if making vegan, check the packet)
300g peeled roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
500g mixed mushrooms (cleaned and sliced)
15g dried porcini mushrooms soaked  in hot water for 20 minutes, drained and chopped 
40 ml sloe whiskey (or sherry)
150g shallots finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
1 tsp dried tarragon 
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried 
2 bay leaves 
Olive oil 
1 340g carton silken tofu 
Salt and pepper 

Beaten egg to brush the top of the pies (omit if making this vegan)

1. Gently saute the shallots and garlic in some olive oil until softened. Ad the mushrooms and saute them until softening. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently until the silken tofu melts down into a creamy sauce, about 10 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry and cut out 4 circles, about 14cm diameter.
3. Spoon the filling onto two of the circles, the cover each with the remaining two circles. Crimp the edges to seal.
4. Brush the top with beaten egg if you want, then bake the pies for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Carrot and coriander soup

1 large leek, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
750g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp Pataks madras curry paste
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
olive oil
1.2 l vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

  1. In a pressure cooker, saute the onion and leek in a glug of olive oil until it is softened and just starting to brown.
  2. Stir in the curry paste and coriander. You can also add freshly grated ginger (but I didn't have any).
  3. Throw in the carrots, give it all a good stir, then pour over the stock.
  4. Put in the bayleaf, season with salt and pepper (be careful if you're using salted stock).
  5. Bring up to pressure and cook for about 8 minutes once at full pressure. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook in a large pan for as long as it takes to soften the carrots completely.
  6. Leave to come down from pressure, then puree the soup (use a hand blender).
  7. Check the seasoning and serve with some chopped fresh coriander sprinkled on the top, and maybe a swirl of single cream if you're so inclined.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Perfect basmati rice

For 4 people (moderately hungry; if very hungry use 75g rice per person and increase amount of water proportionally)

200g basmati rice 
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp Salt

Rinse the rice in cold water and drain.
Place in a heavy pan with the water and salt, stir and bring to the boil. 
Reduce the heat and simmer for 12 to 14 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

Aubergine and courgette curry

This is a deliciously rich vegan curry perfect with fluffy basmati rice.

3 aubergines (about 600g)
2 courgettes
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic 
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger 
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Garam masala 
2 tbsp Pataks madras spice paste
1 tsp ground coriander 
1 tin chopped tomatoes 
2 tbsp tomato puree 
1 chopped fresh Chili or to taste
1 tsp sugar
Sunflower oil 
Olive oil
1 bay leaf 

Slice the aubergine and courgette  quite thinly, place in layers in a colander, salting each layer well. The salt will bring out th moisture from the vegetables. Set aside for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile make the curry sauce:
Chop the onion. Heat some sunflower oil I a large casserole, the n add the seeds and let them heat for a minute or two. Add the onion and sugar and let the onion soften and brown slightly. Next add the crushed garlic and ginger and the Pataks paste and heat gently, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Add the rest of the spices and Chili, then about 100ml water and stir well, bringing to the boil. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and bay leaf, along with more water if it looks a bit dry. Simmer gently whilst you fry the aubergine and courgette.

Rinse the aubergine and courgette  and pat dry with kitchen roll.
Heat some Olive oil and fry the vegetables in batches until they are tinged with brown and slightly softened. Add each batch to the curry sauce as you go. When all the aubergine and courgette is in the sauce, give it a good stir, then cover and cook in a preheated oven at 180c for about an hour. Check and stir after about 30 minutes, reducing the oven temperature to 150c.

Serve with basmati rice 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Bibimbap (Korean Rice and Veggies)

This is a Korean classic and one that we consumed in great quantities when we were posted to Seoul eighteen years ago when veggie daughter was but 4 months old. (Eighteen years ago? how can it have been so long?) It's a cheap, healthy and delicious meal. You could phone the restaurant and get them to deliver it to your door; not a difficult task if you had a Korean speaker among you. We could just about make ourselves understood with our few words of broken Korean, even to the extent of ordering it meat-free. A few minutes later a man on a moped would appear, steering one handed with the other hand gripping a massive metal box full of our dishes of bibimbap and various side dishes too. I wish I'd thought to take a photo. My friend didn't realise you were meant to just leave the empty dishes on your front step for them to pick up later - she put them in the dishwasher and a very funny sign language conversation ensued when the delivery driver returned for the dishes and thought she'd pinched them. Fortunately he saw the funny side and came back when the dishwasher had finished.

Anyway, bibimbap translates as mixed rice. It consists of steamed rice and a selection of vegetables, normally topped with a fried egg. The mix of veggies varies according to season, and there are some very unusual roots and stems  in many versions that would be difficult to get hold of outside Korea. I checked out a few recipes online. I ended up combining bits from the Our Korean Kitchen cookbook printed here in the Guardian and another on this great website Korean Bapsang that I shall definitely be exploring again. We used a mixture of courgette, carrot, mushroom, spinach and beansprouts, which was great. You could use other veggies according to the season and your own tastes. Although it was a bit of a faff, the method for cooking the rice detailed in Our Korean Kitchen yielded a perfectly cooked result; I used Morrisons short grain pudding rice, topped up with a few grams of arborio because I didn't have quite enough. It was excellent with a very authentic texture.

You do need to get hold of Korean hot chili paste, or kochujang. This was unknown in the UK when we came back from Korea in 2003, but to my delight I found some today in the local Sainsburys! They also had kimchi, but it was a big disappointment.

The best type of bibimbap is the tolsot bibimbap, which is cooked in a hot stone dish, allowing the rice to catch and brown on the red-hot base, so you get a crispy, crunchy base layer of rice underneath; so delicious! The veggies are all set beautifully on top of the rice, then when you are ready to eat, you stir in some kochujang (Korean chili paste) and give it all a good mix with a spoon. You eat it with a spoon, not chopsticks. You really need some crisp, cool kimchi, or fermented cabbage, with it too.

For two generous portions:

200g short grain rice 
1 medium courgette
2 large carrots
200g fresh spinach
100g mushroom
200g beansprouts
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted for 5 minutes or so in a hot oven or in a dry frying pan - don't let them burn
sesame oil
soy sauce
2 eggs
For the kochujang sauce (you may need more, depending on how much people like):
1 tbsp kochujang
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup

  1. Prepare all the veggies - cut the courgette lengthways in quarters, then into thin slices. Put in a colander and sprinkle with coarse salt, then set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Peel and cut the carrots into matchsticks.
  3. Wash, dry and thinly slice the mushrooms.
  4. Wash the spinach and beansprouts.
  5. Prepare and cook the rice: rinse it several times in cold water, then leave to soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain and put in a heavy based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid  (preferably non-stick to help when cleaning up). Pour in 250ml cold water, then bring to the boil with the lid on. Reduce the heat and cook for 7 minutes, then quickly stir it; it will be starting to stick to the base of the pan - just scrape it off the base as quickly as you can and get the lid back on to keep the heat and steam in. After that, leave it on the lowest heat for another 2 minutes without removing the lid, then take it off  the heat and leave it for another 10 minutes, again without removing the lid. Alternatively use a rice cooker - I wish I had one.
  6. Rinse and drain the courgettes. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then blanch the courgettes for 1 minute. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon, drain them in a colander, then toss them with a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce.
  7. Bring the pan of water back to the boil, drop in the beansprouts and cook them for about 3 minutes. Drain and toss them in a little sesame and soy sauce.
  8. Cook the carrots for about 1 and half minutes in the microwave with a tablespoon of water. Drain them and toss them in the same sesame soy sauce mix.
  9. Fry the mushrooms a little sunflower oil, adding some crushed garlic if you like.
  10. Tip the mushrooms into a dish, then put the spinach in the frying pan and let it wilt over a low heat until it looks cooked - press it in a sieve to get the excess liquid out, then toss in sesame and soy sauce.
  11. It doesn't matter if the veggies are at room temperature - the rice should be hot though.
  12. Fry the eggs.
  13. Assemble the bibimbap - put the rice into warmed bowls, top with the fried egg, then arrange the veggies around the edge. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Veggie daughter's is the one at the top - she took a bit more care than me with the arranging.
  14. Stir together the ingredients for the kochujang sauce - allow each person to put as much of it as they like into their bowl, depending on how spicy they like it. Give it all a good stir and devour.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Refried Beans

2 cans borlotti beans, drained (reserve some of the liquid)
1 onion, finely chopped 
1 small green chilli (or to taste) very finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp ground coriander 
1 bay leaf 
Good glug of olive oil 
Salt and pepper 

1. Fry the onion, garlic, chilli and spices gently in plenty of olive oil until softened and just starting to brown.
2. Add the beans to the pan and heat gently with the onion mixture until combined, smooshing the beans with the wooden spoon so they start to break up. Add the bay leaf and heat gently for 2 or 3 minutes, until the mixture is hot. Add some bean liquid if it looks too dry. (Some people like their Refried beans puréed, but I prefer them only slightly broken up, with some whole beans left in the mixture; if you want them smooth, blast them in a food processor or with a hand blender.)
3. Taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper.
4. Serve with soft tortillas, grated cheese, lettuce, sour cream or whatever other Mexican style accompaniments you like.