1 large or 2 smaller beetroot, washed or 2 pre-cooked
2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil
1 large onion
1 stick celery
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1000ml – 1200ml fresh chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespooons natural yoghurt
Hemp or extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Toasted mixed seeds (optional)
If you are using a fresh beetroot wrap it in oil and bake in the oven (about 180c) for about two hours until soft.
Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic. Gently heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute for a few minutes. Meanwhile, toast the cumin and fennel seeds until fragrant and then grind in a pestle and mortar.
Wash and scrub the sweet potato but leave the skin on. Chop into cubes. Do the same with the beetroot. Add the spices to the pan and cook for a minute or two before adding the vegetables. Stir around for a bit and then cover with stock. Season and leave to simmer, covered for about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the tahini and yoghurt together. Loosen with a little orange juice and cold water. Season. It should be like lightly whipped cream.
Once the vegetables are completely soft, blend in a liquidiser and the add a little more stock if too thick. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Serve the soup with the tahini dressing dolloped on top. A drizzle of hemp oil and some mixed toasted seeds is nice to add as well.
I adore a risotto. For me if is the ultimate in comfort eating and beats a bowl of pasta hands down. And I love pasta….but somehow the tiny swollen grains, infused with all the goodness of stock and aromatics; cooked until just yielding but with a little bite (we don’t want baby food here!) offers just the right amount of solace with a sophistication that is yours to add as you will. Once you have mastered the basic method the risotto world really is your oyster and as long as you always bear in mind flavour pairings you can indulge or not as you please. Vegetarians and vegans need never be left out – a good vegetable stock works just as well as chicken. Cheese can be replaced with a vegan version and no one will ever object to a final flourish of an excellent, grass green olive oil anointing the finished dish. Otherwise I find just a tablespoon of double cream can transform a risotto into something truly special. It is, after all meant to be a creamy dish – achieved by the fat grains of risotto rice bumping slowly into each other whilst being stirred over a gentle heat. Baked risotto will never achieve quite the same as the grains won’t move around if just left in the oven.
This radicchio and Gorgonzola risotto is, for me a sophisticated and thoroughly delicious partnership. I do, often, add in a coarsely grated courgette. It is just a way of keeping the calorie count down but not everyone will want or need this option. I just use a little less rice to make way for the courgette and I think here it goes well. Fennel herb is lovely if you happen to have any in the garden or have bought a particularly frondy fennel bulb but finely chopped parsley will do perfectly.
For Four people
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil and small knob butter
1 large or 2 smaller sticks celery
1 clove garlic (optional)
Fresh thyme, picked off the stalk, about 1 tablespoon
4 handfuls of risotto rice (I use carnaroli)
75ml white vermouth (approx) or white wine
One head of radicchio, shredded
750ml (you may need more) proper chicken or vegetable stock (in desperation you could use a gel cube or combine the two)
1 courgette, optional, grated coarsely
100g creamy Gorgonzola dolce
2 tablespoons double cream
Freshly chopped fennel or parsley
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat a large shallow pan. Add the oil and the butter and then gently sauté the onion and celery over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not let them colour. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir around for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir that so that it is coated in everything.
Have your stock simmering in a separate pan. Pour the vermouth or wine into your rice and stir, simmering until almost all has disappeared. Then add the thyme and a third of the radicchio. Stirring all the time over a gentle heat add ladles of stock. Keep bubbling very gently, it should be just rippling. Stir as much as you have time for, adding stock as soon as the last ladleful is absorbed. After ten minutes add another third of the radicchio. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but still with a tiny bit of bite to it. It will take 20 – 30 minutes. Near the end of the rice cooking time, add the cream and chopped Gorgonzola. Stir through with the rest of the radicchio and the herbs. Also the courgette if using. Cook until the radicchio has wilted. Adjust with a little more stock to loosen. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Take off the heat and stir through a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan. Serve with more parmesan offered separately.
Of all the summer soups, this leek and potato classic has to be one of the best loved. It is a little ironic that leeks are in fact at their best from November through to April, not really months in which a chilled soup is going to be of much appeal. Still, they are readily available all year round and none the worse for that. I’ve added celery to this as well as an onion; purists may well frown on these additions but I think they add great flavour. You could of course just add an extra leek or two and leave them out – entirely up to you.
This makes enough for four
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
small knob of butter
3 large leeks
1 large stick celery, stringy bits removed
About 3 medium new potatoes (you want about half the weight of the leeks)
750ml chicken stock
200ml double or whipping cream
lots of chopped chives
olive oil (if making the chive oil)
Sea salt and black pepper
Chop all the vegetables, (having peeled the potatoes). Heat the oil and butter together in a saucepan. Add the leeks, celery and onion and sweat gently over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not allow them to colour.
Add the potatoes and stir around. Add the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer. Season well and then cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Liquidise or use a stick blender so that the soup is extremely smooth. You could also pass it through a sieve for an ultra smooth finish.
Whisk in the cream and check the seasoning. Pour into a bowl and chill for at least two or three hours, longer if possible.
Serve in chilled bowls with chives, chive oil and a little more cream swirled on top.
To make the chive oil, simple put chopped chives into a pestle and mortar and add extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Pound until the chives break down and the oil starts to turn green.
Make this to go with lamb, chicken or just have with bruschetta and minted yoghurt. It is best made the day before (or longer) so that the flavours can mingle and make friends but that is all to the better as so useful to have ready in advance.
Serves four to six
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 large or two small aubergine (approx 350g in weight)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, finely chopped
300g cherry tomatoes or ripe red tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 dessertspoon capers, chopped
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon light brown sugar
Pinch dried chilli (optional)
A few olives
Fresh basil and parsley
Salt & pepper
First brush the peppers with a little oil and put into a hot oven for about half an hour until well roasted. Put into a plastic bag and leave for ten minutes to loosen the skin.
Cut up the aubergine quite small (about 1cm pieces). Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a pan and fry the aubergine until golden and cooked through. (about 10 mins). Remove from the pan and add another tablespoon of oil. Fry the onion, garlic and celery until very soft and tinged golden and then return the aubergine to the pan. Season well and add the tomatoes, cut in half if they are cherry or skinned and chopped if they are vine tomatoes. Add the chopped capers, the vinegar and the sugar (be a bit sparing at first with these). Also the chilli. Skin and deseed the peppers in a sieve so that you can catch any juice. Chop up the flesh and add to the pan along with the saved juices. Add half the basil, chopped and simmer the whole thing for about forty minutes or until nicely reduced and rich. About half way through add some roughly chopped olives, if you are using them. Check the seasoning and stir through the rest of the basil and finely chopped parsley. Serve hot, warm or cold.
Very good on bruschetta or with a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of mint.
A friend brought round a lovely big bunch of lovage the other day. It is apparently very easy to grow and further investigation taught me that it has a wonderful flavour reminiscent of celery with a hint of parsley and aniseed thrown in for good measure. It does in fact make a good substitute for flat leaf parsley and I particularly like the tender, hollow stems which mean you can chop the whole lot up and use it all, especially if it is going in a casserole or soup. I use a kallo gel stock cube if I don’t have any fresh stock available and find it excellent, as is the marigold bouillon powder. That needs to be added with care though as it can be very salty.
I’m told that lovage makes a wonderful addition to a cheese soufflé but things have been rather more basic in our house this week. Some of the leaves were put to good use over a roast sweet potato and orange salad but the rest made a delicious soup and I have since ordered a plant so that I can make this again. Just right for a spring lunch and made a little be more special with a quenelle of creamed feta garnishing the centre, although that is certainly a very optional extra. Worth doing though, if you happen to have feta or goats cheese available.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 walnut sized knob of butter
3 stalks celery, stripped of any tough strings and finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks (about 250g) chopped
1 medium potato (about 125g), peeled and chopped
125g washed lovage, stalks included
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 – 2 tablespoons double cream (don’t worry if none available)
Sea salt & black pepper
Melt the oil and butter together and add the onion and garlic. Sauté very gently until beginning to soften and add the celery. Continue cooking until soft and then add the leeks and potato. Stir around a bit and then add the chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer for about fifteen minutes or until everything is very soft. Add the lovage and simmer for a couple more minutes before blending everything together until very smooth.
Add the double cream, if using and check the seasoning.
4” piece feta cheese
2 tablespoons double cream
Mash everything together until very smooth and creamy. If you like you could add some chives. Check seasoning and use teaspoons to make quenelles of this to put on top of the soup.
Soup is very quick to make and very forgiving. Cooking can be a precise art but not here – a few hundred grams or millilitres here and there won’t make much difference and it is so easy to adjust the thickness, creaminess, flavour etc. The only absolute cast iron requirement is some sort of onion; at a pinch you could probably get away with using a leek or two but there really is no substitute for a common brown or white onion unless making a bright and fresh summer soup in which case a spring onion or shallot will be an excellent choice.
Otherwise, play with what vegetables you use to your hearts content. There are, of course the tried and tested recipes that have stood the test of time. But you really can’t go wrong with any combination; just stick to common sense – fennel seed and coconut milk for example is never going to work but use a little Thai curry paste in the base of a butternut squash soup and the coconut milk suddenly makes perfect sense.
A tablespoon or two of double cream can add a wonderful silkiness to soup but here I am using a spiced butter and it is just so delicious swirled on top the fragrant combination of root vegetables, fennel and cumin seed. A touch of luxury to an otherwise everyday staple but worth its weight in gold in terms of nutrition, taste and culinary contentment. This soup freezes well.
2 tablespoons rapeseed or light olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1/2 butternut squash, chopped (no need to peel)
2 medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
2/3 good quality chicken or vegetable gel stock cubes
11/2 to 2 litres boiling water
Salt & black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, leek, garlic and celery. Cook until beginning to soften over a low heat. Add the fennel and cumin (chilli if using) and cook for a minute or two, then add the sweet potato, squash, beetroot and red pepper. Stir around for a bit and then add the stock to cover. You may not need it all. Season and then cover with a lid. Simmer for about thirty minutes until the vegetables are completely soft.
Blitz either in a liquidiser or use a hand held blender. Check seasoning and adjust thickness with any remaining stock. Serve with the spiced butter swirled over.
Four pieces of boneless cod (about 150g each)
One red pepper, chopped.
Two tablespoons good quality black olives, pitted and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
A little balsamic vinegar (white if possible, or sherry vinegar)
Two tins cannellini beans
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Clove garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
100ml chicken/veg stock
Salt & pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220C (top aga)
Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the core. Sit on a baking sheet with the peppers, drizzle over olive oil, season and sprinkle with thyme. Roast for about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and roughly chop. Put into a small saucepan with the olives and add enough extra virgin oil to make a sauce. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to taste and stir through some shredded basil. Set aside while you cook the fish.
Rub a baking sheet with some of the butter and sit the cod on it. Season the fish and dot with the remaining butter. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and put into the oven for six to ten minutes. The cod is cooked when the tip of a knife that you have pierced through to the centre feels warm. It will continue cooking after you have removed it from the oven.
Meanwhile, fry the shallot for the mash. Add the garlic if using and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the drained beans and half the stock. Heat through and then season and mash with a hand held blender or potato masher. Add the rest of the stock if you need it.
Remove the fish from the oven and rest for a couple of minutes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over it. Heat the tomato and olive mixture. Serve the cod on the mash with some of the sauce spooned over.
What a relief that the days of mayonnaise laden, traditional coleslaws are largely a thing of the past. A 21st century slaw is far more likely to be made with the merest hint of a dressing, relying instead on herbs, spices, nuts etc to provide interest and contrast to the vegetables. Cabbage and carrot may well still feature but are more likely these days to be partnered with arguably more interesting vegetables such as fennel, mangetouts, broccoli or whatever it is that fires your enthusiasm.
Gorgeous with anything from pulled pork, salmon fillets, chicken or just a bowlful on its own, I love making this fennel and snow pea version and although a few hours in a cool place will improve it enormously it rarely lasts long in our house – guilt free pleasure that those on a strict diet can make even more virtuous by reducing the olive oil content and leaving out the dates and pecans.
This is a recipe to play around with according to whatever you have available in the vegetable drawer. Or add in some finely shredded crisp apple. The dressing can be adjusted – a little buttermilk whisked in will render it a little more creamy or even a couple of teaspoons of double cream. I like this simple lemon and olive oil version but if you prefer, use cider vinegar. I discovered the other day that if you dissolve a little sea salt (never table salt) in the vinegar before adding the rest of the dressing ingredients it takes away a lot of the harshness and mellows it nicely.
Add the herbs to taste the amount doesn’t really matter. Just chop and add until to your liking. Seasoning is very important!
Serves 4 (or 2 greedy people)
1 medium bulb of fennel
1 chunk of Savoy cabbage, freshest and greenest bit about size of the fennel
12 snow peas (sugar snaps)
1/2 to 1 shallot, depending on how big it is
1 or 2 pitted medjool dates
30g pecan nuts
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Very small squeeze honey
2 teaspoons sumac
Fresh mint (Small handful, chopped)
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Remove the tough outer layer of the fennel and remove the core. Save any fronds. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin finely shred and put into a bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon.
Finely shred the shallot, snow peas and cabbage. Add these to the fennel with a good amount of sea salt and black pepper. Toss well.
Finely chop the dates and toast the pecans. Chop these and then toss these into the slaw.
Add the olive oil, a tiny squeeze of honey, all the herbs and the sumac. Add any fennel fronds, chopped. Toss all together well and then adjust with more lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, seasoning. Finish with an extra sprinkling of sumac.
Leave for an hour for all the flavours to make friends although that is not entirely necessary. It will keep well for a day or two.
Serve as a side dish with chicken, salmon or pork. Or just have on its own.
1.2 kg potatoes (maris piper, desiree or saxon)
300ml whole milk
400ml double cream
Good grating fresh nutmeg
Salt & pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
Peel the potatoes and slice very thinly. A mandolin is useful for this. Heat the cream and milk in a pan and add the potatoes, seasoning very well. Add a grating of nutmeg and a clove of garlic made into a paste or very finely chopped. Simmer very gently for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, rub butter around the base and sides of a gratin dish (about 9” square or equivalent).
Put the potatoes into the prepared dish, pouring over any remaining cream. Bake in the oven for about an hour or until cooked and golden.
Either serve immediately or allow to cool. Then stamp out rounds of potato with a pastry cutter or cut into squares. Put onto a baking tray to heat up when required or put into a freezer container and freeze to use at a later date.
Heat at 180C for about 20 minutes or longer from frozen (about half an hour or so).
This is a great way to use up some of that Stilton that lingers in the fridge after all the festivities. Celeriac, with its wonderful, subtlety celery flavour and velvet texture pairs wonderfully well with any blue cheese that you may need to use up. Sourdough croutons provide an indulgent crunch, somewhat reminiscent of cheese on toast and unfortunately with all of the guilt. But these grey days that seem so short and dark need a bit of a comfort blanket and a delicious soup is as good a place to start as any.
This will keep well in the freezer.
1 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
Small knob of butter
2 sticks celery
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 litre chicken or veg stock
Sea salt and black pepper
50g blue cheese (e.g Stilton or similar)
100g sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
40g Stilton, (or similar) grated
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
Start the soup. Cut the opinion finely and chop the celery. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the onion and celery. Sweat gently for a few minutes to soften. Add the potato and celeriac and stir to coat well with the rest of the veg. Cook for a minute or two and then add the hot stock. It should just cover the vegetables, reserve the rest for later. Sinner for about twenty minutes until everything is very soft.
Heat the oven to 200c. Toss the bread cubes with the oil and grate over 30g of the Stilton. Mx well and spread out onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with fresh thyme if using. Bake for about ten minutes until golden and then grate over the remaining cheese. Toss again and return to the oven for another two or three minutes.
Blend the soup with a hand held blender or in a liquidiser and add the crumbled cheese. Blend again until smooth. Adjust the thickness of your soup with the remaining stock and season well.
Heat through and serve with the croutons and a little more fresh thyme leaves. Extra cheese crumbled over the top of the soup is an extra indulgence and rather good.