Posh mushrooms on toast

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I absolutely love wild mushrooms and this time of year is great for chanterelles, or if you’re French or just a bit fancy – girolles.  It goes without saying never to pick and eat your own unless you REALLY know what you’re doing but they’re plentiful (although not cheap) in shops and farmers markets at this time of year.  This is such an easy supper but so tasty. Ideally eaten in front a roaring fire with a good book and a glass of red….

(Serves 2)

  • Couple of generous handfuls of chanterelle mushrooms – washed thoroughly to remove any soil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Generous splash of olive oil
  • Half a glass of white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted sourdough to serve
  1. Heat the oil up in a pan and then add the mushrooms, wine and garlic
  2. Allow to simmer for around 10-15 minutes (chanterelles respond well to cooking so don’t worry about over-cooking them although you do want a little of the juice left at the end as this will absorb all the delicious flavours of the mushrooms and will soak into the sourdough nicely at the end)
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve

So simple but so good!

Whole-roast munchkin pumpkins with pumpkin and sage risotto

Pumpkin risotto

I made this for the family this weekend as part of a Halloween lunch and it went down really well, especially with the littlest Munchkin!  We ate this as a main course but if you reduced the amounts it would also work well as a starter at a dinner party.

 

Good old autumn comfort food…

(Serves 4)

  • 4 Munchkin pumpkins
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 6 shallots – peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves – peeled and finely chopped
  • Drizzle of maple syrup
  • 1.5 mugs of Arborio rice
  • 1 cup of dry white wine or dry Vermouth
  • Couple of pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo stock cubes)
  • 1 mug of pureed roast pumpkin or, if you’re feeling lazy a jar or tin of pureed pumpkin (I bought mine from Ocado)
  • Chopped fresh sage (dried will be fine if you don’t have any fresh herbs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the whole, munchkin pumpkins on a a baking tray and in an oven at 180° for about 45 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and then add shallots and garlic for a few moments until they soften and then add the maple syrup, allow them to caramelise for a few minutes.
  3. Add the rice on a high heat for a few moments until the edges of the rice start to go translucent then add the wine/Vermouth.  Reduce the heat and then gently massage/stir the rice with a wooden spoon to help release the starch.
  4. Have a pan of simmering vegetable stock at the side and slowly keep adding stock to the risotto, stirring as you go for around 30 minutes minutes.
  5. Remove the pumpkins from the oven and carefully remove the tops and scoop out the insides, removing the seeds as you go.
  6. Mash the pumpkin flesh with the back of a fork and stir into the risotto.
  7. Add the pumpkin puree and sage and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring and adding more stock as you go.
  8. The risotto is ready when you have a nice, creamy texture but the rice grains still have a bit of a ‘bite’ to them.
  9. Season the risotto to taste.
  10. Spoon the risotto into the scooped-out pumpkins  before replacing the tops and then arrange the rest of the risotto on the plate, alongside the pumpkin.
  11. Happy Halloween!

Roasted tomato, red pepper and red lentil soup

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As the weather gets colder I crave big, wholesome bowls of homemade soup more and more.  This one is simple to make and delicious.

(Serves 4)

  • Punnet of organic tomatoes (stalks removed)
  • 1 large organic red pepper (De-seeded and chopped)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Mug of red lentils (rinsed)
  • 1-2 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo stock cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of dill
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pop the tomatoes and pepper in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil for about 20 minutes at 180°
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and add the spices and then the lentils, fry for a couple of minutes
  3. Add the tomatoes, pepper, dill and veg stock
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes
  5. Blend (I use a hand-held blender as it’s much easier to wash-up!)
  6. Season to taste and serve with crusty bread

Zucchini and dill soup

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We’ve been inundated with tonnes of fresh, local squash lately and we’ve almost had more than we know what to do with.  I’ve been making soups a lot as the weather has been getting cooler and this is currently one of my favourites…  It literally takes minutes to prepare so it’s a great lunchtime option.

(Serves 4)

  • 4-6 zucchini (washed and roughly chopped)
  • Generous drizzle of olive oil
  • Couple of pints of veg stock (I generally use Kallo organic stock cubes)
  • Generous sprinkle of dill (fresh or dried is fine)
  • Salty and pepper to season
  • Half a lemon
  1. Heat the olive oil up in a pan
  2. Add the zucchini and gently sauté for a few minutes to soften them
  3. Add the vegetable stock
  4. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes
  5. Remove from the heat and blend (I just used a hand-held blender for this, which worked really well and cuts down on washing up!)
  6. Add the dill, salt and pepper to taste
  7. Squeeze in the fresh lemon juice and stir
  8. Serve with warm, crusty bread

Creamy hazelnut pâté

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This is so easy to make that I’m a little embarrassed to call it a recipe but it’s so delicious that I thought it was well worth including!  It makes a great starter for a dinner-party (plus the super-quick preparation time means that you can spend more time with your guests and less time in the kitchen) or a nice tasty lunch or snack.

(Serves 4)

  • One tub of Tofutti vegan cream cheese
  • 3-4 large spoonfuls of hazelnut butter
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • Slices of fig to garnish
  1. Blend the cream cheese, hazelnut butter and sea salt together (you can do this really easily with a spoon)
  2. Serve with slices of fig and crusty bread

Crab-friendly ‘crab’ cakes

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I heard about a vegan restaurant in California using hearts of palm to make ‘crab’ cakes a few weeks ago and have been keen to experiment ever since.  These were my first attempt and they were really tasty but I personally think I may add a bit of potato to the mix next time as the texture was quite crunchy and I think a combination of soft/crunchy may work better.  I also found that although they looked quite ‘crabby’ the taste and texture was quite different to the crab-unfriendly version (from what I can remember!) Having said that, these are still well worth a try for something a little different plus they taste good in their own right and they’re healthy!

If anyone else has experimented with crabless ‘crab’ cakes then please do post a comment to let me know how you got on and to share any tips or ideas you might have.

(Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)

  • Tin of hearts of palm – roughly chopped into small pieces and make sure you buy it with salt, not sugar!
  • 1 small bunch of radishes – topped, tailed and grated
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of organic sunflower oil
  • 5 teaspoons of paprika
  • 6 teaspoons of dill – fresh or dried
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Panko breadcrumbs to coat
  1. Once prepared place the hearts of palm, radishes and garlic into a sieve and using the back of a spoon force out as much of the liquid as possible (for the mixture to hold together in the pan later you don’t want too much moisture)
  2. Add the oil, hearts of palm, radishes, onion and garlic to a pan and gently fry for a few minutes to soften
  3. Add the paprika, dill, lemon juice and salt and pepper
  4. Leave the mixture on the side to cool down to room temperature and then place in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill further
  5. Using either your hands or chef rings mould the mixture into patties and coat in panko breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil for a few minutes each side until nicely browned
  7. Serve with a green salad, dill sauce (mix soya yoghurt, dill and lemon juice) and a wedge of fresh lemon

 

Carrot and orange soup

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I love making soups – they’re so simple to do and there are unlimited numbers of combinations of flavours and ingredients.  Also, most soups keep well in the fridge for a few days and make great healthy snacks and lunches or as a starter for a dinner party – simply warm them up when needed.

We’ve been getting huge bunches of carrots (carrot-tops included) over recent weeks in our veg box so I’ve been basing a lot of our meals around them (sorry G!)  Today’s lunch was a very simple carrot and orange soup, which literally took me about twelve minutes from walking through the door to sitting down to eat.  

(Serves 4)

  • Bunch of organic carrots – approximately eight, scrubbed, topped and tailed and roughly chopped
  • 2 organic oranges
  • 2 gloves of garlic – peeled and crushed
  • Drizzle of organic sunflower oil
  • 5 teaspoons or ground coriander
  • 2 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo organic stock cubes)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the ground coriander and garlic together with the carrots
  3. Sauté for about 3 minutes
  4. Grate the zest and the juice of the oranges to the pan (I also often add the remaining peel and flesh for additional flavour and then just remove before blending)
  5. Add the veg stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes to soften the carrots
  6. Blend and return to the heat (I use a hand-held blender most of the time as it’s much quicker and makes far less washing up!)
  7. Season to taste and serve

Vietnamese summer rolls with tofu

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First of all I feel I need to apologise to anyone reading this from Vietnam – I realise that in comparison to the little works of art that appear on the table in Vietnam and Vietnamese restaurants around the world these are a little slap-dash to say the least!  BUT they do taste amazing plus they’re really healthy and quick to prepare.  

They make a great starter at a dinner party  – you can just stick all the ingredients on the table and let everyone assemble their own – nothing like getting your guests to do the hard work!  Personally, I think these make a great TV dinner.

(Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a light meal)

  • 8 vietnamese rice paper wrappers/spring roll wrappers – You can buy these from Asian supermarkets, health food shops and some regular supermarkets
  • 2 organic carrots – sliced into thin batons
  • Half an organic cucumber  – sliced into thin batons
  • 3 organic spring onions – sliced lengthways 
  • Small pack of organic marinated firm tofu – thinly sliced
  • Handful of fresh mint
  • 1 portion of vermicelli rice noodles
  • Drizzle of toasted sesame oil
  • Splash of soy sauce – I use a low-sodium one
  • Hoisin sauce for dipping
  1. First of all pop the vermicelli rice noodles in a bowl with boiling water to soften
  2. Heat the toasted sesame oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the tofu
  3. Splash a few drops of soy sauce over the tofu and fry for a few moments each side until it turns a golden brown
  4. Pour some boiling water into a large, flat-bottomed plate – this is to soften the rice paper wrappers – they just need a couple of seconds immersed in the water
  5. Place the water-softened wrapper on a plate and fill with ingredients
  6. Fold opposite ends in and then roll up, lengthways, as tightly as you can – this does require some practise!
  7. Serve with a small bowl of hoisin dipping sauce

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Carrot and cashew nut pâté

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This recipe was inspired by an amazing meal I had recently at Acorn Vegetarian Restaurant in Bath.  They did actually give me the recipe for it at the time which I’ve since misplaced so this is my own version.  It makes a great starter for a dinner party or a healthy and tasty snack or light-lunch on its own.

(Serves 4)

  • 6 carrots – roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Handful of cashew nuts (unsalted)
  • Sea salt and pepper to season
  1. Heat the oil in the pan and add the spices until they are dissolved
  2. Add the carrots and pan-fry for about ten minutes to soften
  3. Add the cashew nuts and fry for a few more minutes
  4. Season to taste
  5. Blend all the ingredients but not too much – you still want to retain some texture from the carrots and cashew nuts
  6. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.  Alternatively it keeps well for a day or two in the fridge if you want to get the prep done for a dinner party nice and early
  7. Serve with fresh bread

Chestnut mushroom, thyme and toasted pine nut risotto

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Mushroom risotto is one of my favourite comfort-foods.  Apart from the time spent stirring (which I actually find strangely therapeutic) it’s really simple to make and it’s just really delicious and always manages to make a bad day a bit better.  I served this one with a rocket salad plus ciabatta and some dipping oils plus a creamed asparagus dip.  (I bought the asparagus dip from an Italian deli but will definitely be making it in the future as it was really delicious and simple to make.)

(Serves 4)

For the risotto:

  • 1 large mug of Arborio rice
  • 2 punnets chestnut mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 1 glass of dry white wine
  • 2-3 pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes)
  • Handful of fresh thyme
  • Handful of toasted pine nuts
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to season
  1. Drizzle the olive oil into a large pan
  2. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes to soften
  3. In a second pan add the vegetable stock and keep this simmering on a low heat 
  4. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes on a fairly high heat until the edge of the grains of rice begin to go translucent
  5. Turn the heat to low
  6. Add the glass of wine to the rice and stir
  7. Continue to stir the rice until the wine is absorbed, all the while “massaging” it in order to release the starch, which adds to the creamy texture of the risotto at the end
  8. Add stock from the other pan as you go and continue to stir the risotto for a few more minutes
  9. Add the mushrooms and half of the thyme
  10. Continue with the process of stirring and gradually adding the stock for approximately 40 minutes.  You want the rice to be cooked but still to retain a slightly nutty texture
  11. Before serving add the salt and pepper to taste, the toasted pine nuts and the remainder of the fresh thyme

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For the lemon dipping oil:

  • Small cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of one lemon
  1. Combine the ingredients and and allow to stand at least one hour before serving

For the rosemary dipping oil:

  • Small cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Handful of fresh rosemary
  1. Combine the ingredients and leave to stand for at least one hour before serving

Serve with freshly baked ciabatta – You can make your own but I cheated and bought mine from Waitrose!

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