Food: Cilento ciambotta

Here’s a great recipe for using up the vegetables you have left in your fridge. Plus, it’s one of those that kind of works for all seasons, whether frosty Winter or a breezy Summer evening.

You’ll need:

  • 1 aubergine, cut into cubes
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1tsp tomato pureé
  • 1tsp sundried tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 courgettes / zucchini, cut into coins
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • Handful of new potatoes, cut into pieces (I used purple potatoes)
  • Handful of good black olives
  • Splash of good red wine
  • 1tbs chilli flakes
  • Handful of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1tsp dried rosemary
  • 1tsp dried basil
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt & Pepper

 

Start by chopping the aubergine into pieces and place them in to a colander (over a bowl). Sprinkle salt over them and wait until it starts extracting it’s juices (this stops it becoming bitter). This should take 30 minutes or so.

While this is doing, in a Dutch Oven, fry the onions and garlic on a medium heat until they turn translucent. Then add in the tomato pureé & paste and fry until it’s cooked out. Next add in the tin of chopped tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes. Now is probably time to check on the aubergine.

Once the juice has been extracted from the aubergine, Rinse with some water, and add into the pot, along with the courgette, olives and herbs. Top up with some good red wine and stir. Season with salt & black pepper, not forgetting the aubergines might still be a little salty.

Place into a pre-heated oven at 140°C, for 50 minutes. In this time the wizard that is the Dutch oven/ cast-iron casserole will do it’s magic and meld everything together. After 50 minutes is up, take the lid off and check if the potatoes are done, by pricking them with a fork. They should be, as cutting them into small pieces, shortens their cooking time, however, if not, place back in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes.

Serve, with a good drink and a nice loaf of bread

Enjoy!

 

Food: Umami rice balls

So, recently I felt like absolute death and didn’t fancy cooking anything elaborate. But during a window of not feeling quite as bad I rattled together this little beauty with leftover rice.

You’ll need:

  • 300-500g of leftover cooked rice,
  • 1 medium onion, chopped,
  • A handful of spring greens,
  • 3-4 mushrooms,
  • 1 tsp tomato pureé,
  • 1 tbsp Suma mushroom pâté,
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary,
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs,
  • 2-3 aubergines slices (in oil), chopped,
  • Salt for sprinkling (I used Saltverk Birch smoked salt)

For the Tomato umami drizzle:

  • 1tbs Kecap manis
  • 1tsp tomato pureé
  • 1tbs tomato ketchup
  • Splash of water to thin

For the Rosemary, garlic & smoked paprika mayo:

  • 4tbs vegan mayo
  • 1tbs Pimentón
  • 1tsp dried Rosemary, ground
  • 2tsp garlic infused oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan) and chop all the ingredients that need chopping. Fry the onion lightly in a little oil until soft, add the mushrooms and spring greens and continue to fry gently until they’ve softened down. Add the tomato puree and the pate and stir through.

In a big bowl stir all of the ingredients including the herbs into the rice and bring together with your hands into balls (roughly tennis ball sized). Place the balls onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven until they’re crispy on the outside for 15 to 20 minutes.

Whilst they are in the oven, mix together the ingredients for the umami drizzle & the punchy mayo in bowls. Take the balls out of the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. To serve, place in a bowl/ plate and cover them with the drizzle, sprinkle them with salt and serve the mayo on the side.

Enjoy!

 

Food: Creamy aubergine pesto pasta

I had an extra aubergine in my fridge and I didn’t know what to do with it – well this a perfect for a midweek evening meal!

Feeds 2/3

To make you’ll need:

For the pesto:

  • A big handful of spinach
  • A handful of watercress
  • A handful of basil
  • 20g blanched almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 10g nutritional yest, ground
  • Some Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

For the dish:

  • 1 aubergine
  • 4 tbs of the pesto
  • 180g dried tagliatelle
  • 1tbs dried rosemary
  • Handful of wild rocket
  • Juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Vegan cream cheese- I used Oatly
  • Splash of Non-dairy milk- I used Oatly
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1tbs garlic infused oil

 

To start, all you have to do is blend up the leaves, nuts and garlic with a stick blender until smooth. Pour in the oil bit by bit until it’s a runny paste and then set aside. Next, add the nutritional yeast and season with salt & pepper then blend again. Done!

Prepare the aubergine by cutting it into coins and place them into a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and leave for 30 minutes until the juices have extracted. When this happens, pat them down with a wet cloth, sprinkle them with the rosemary and place on a chopping board. Chop the coins of aubergine into thick strips. Once this is done you can start cooking.

Set a shallow pan on a low heat with a glug of garlic oil. When the pan heats up, add in the aubergine and fry until it starts to soften. When this happens, squeeze the juice of half a lemon in and place the lid on for it to steam in the juices. Leave the lid on for a good 6-7 minutes or so. This is the time you can start the pasta. Cook the pasta in a pot of salted & oiled boiling water until sufficiently ‘al-dente’.

When you’re ready to take the lid off, the aubergine should be soft and the skin should have become a bright fuchsia. Now add in the pesto and allow it to cook down. Splash in some oat milk and a generous nob of cream cheese. Drain the pasta and stir through with a big handful of wild rocket. Make sure the sauce clings to everything – the heat of the dish will wake the rocket up. Heap into bowls and season with freshly ground black pepper.

I served mine with a large, crisp glass of white.

Buon Appetito!

 

Food: Aubergine & mushroom Sweet & Sour

With Chinese New Year coming up, what better way than to celebrate than by making this plant-based version of your takeaway favourite? Here’s a secret- it’s gonna taste as good (if not better) and it’s so much cheaper!

Serves 4

To make, you’ll need:

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 2 large white mushrooms
  • 5-6 chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 pak choi
  • Thumb size piece of ginger, grated
  • A glug of garlic oil
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 tin of pineapple chunks (in juice)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 dashes of light soy sauce
  • 3 tbs ketchup
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1tsp unrefined sugar
  • 1 heaped tbs plum jam (I used my Grandmother’s)
  • 1tbs pickled red pepper brine
  • 100g cornflower
  • salt & pepper
  • Oil, for frying

 

On the hob, start the sauce by adding the pineapple (juice and all) into a pan on low heat. Next, add the zest & lime juice and stir. Add the plum jam and stir until it dissolves. Next, add the ketchup, ginger and the chilli flakes (its aroma will start to become familiar by this point).

Scorch the red pepper on another one of the gas rings until it begins to catch and blacken slightly, then set aside to cool. If you don’t have a gas hob you can roast them on max for about half an hour until the skins start to blacken.

Once cool, chop the pepper into chunks and add to the sauce. Next, sprinkle in some unrefined sugar, a couple of dashes of light soy, pickle brine and a glug of garlic oil. Stir. To thicken add 1tsp cornflour, slaked in some lime juice. Pour in and stir continuously. Turn the heat up slightly until it reduces into a sticky sauce.

Now, to prepare the vegetables!

Whilst you’re cooking the sauce, it’s probably a good idea to chop up the aubergine into coins, place in a colander (over a bowl) and sprinkle them with salt. Then, by the time the sauce is ready, the aubergines should also be ready. Wipe them down with a piece of tissue and set them aside. Next, chop up the mushrooms into thick slices. Place all of the mushroom slices and aubergine on a plate. In a bowl, combine 100g cornflower with some salt & pepper. It’s time to start coating. Coat each slice in plenty of seasoned flour and place on another plate. Once it’s all done – I’d recommend a quick wipe up around the kitchen (cornflour gets everywhere!).

Next, coat a shallow pan with oil (I used my trusty shallow Dutch Oven) and place on the hob on the highest heat setting. Once the oil is hot enough, drop the floury vegetables (in small batches) into the oil and they’ll instantly start to crisp up. Turn a few times, so they don’t burn. Place onto a third plate lined with paper towel. Once the excess oil has been drained off, place in yet another bowl/plate (sorry). When it’s all fried up and crispy, set aside.

With each batch you’ll need to add a glug more oil and open the windows/turn on fans for this one, as it does get smoky!

Next, wash and chop some pak choi, along with a couple of spring onions. Put the sauce back on the heat and add. Once the pak choi begins to wilt, fold in the mushrooms and aubergine. The colour of the sauce at this point should have darkened into a rich red. Keep folding until it’s heated through. To finish, serve with some fluffy boiled rice and garnish with some more spring onion.

I hope you all have a great Chinese New Year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai/ Gong Hey Fat Choy/ 恭禧发财!!!

Food: Ionian vegetable penne

Here’s a recipe for a Mediterranean meal that’s bursting with flavour, vitamins and nutrients that will help you beat the Winter blues and take you to the shores of the Med.

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium aubergine,
  • 3 cloves of garlic,
  • Minced 1/4 head of broccoli,
  • Handful of mushrooms, sliced,
  • 200g penne pasta,
  • Handful of fresh spinach,
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved,
  • 1 tbs of sundried tomato paste,
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes,
  • 1 large brown onion, chopped finely,
  • Small glass of white wine,
  • 1 tbs dried oregano,
  • 1 tbs dried rosemary,
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped,
  • Salt & pepper,
  • Squeeze of lemon juice,
  • Glug of garlic infused oil,

Start by chopping the aubergine into coins and place them in to a colander (over a bowl). Sprinkle salt over them and wait until it starts extracting it’s juices (this stops it becoming bitter). This should take 30 minutes or so.

Once the juice has been extracted wipe with a paper towel and fry off into a shallow Dutch oven on high with a drizzle of garlic oil. Once coloured in both sides, take them out and chop them into bite sized chunks. Squeeze some lemon juice over the aubergine and add another glug of oil to the pan. Next, add the chopped onions and garlic and fry off until translucent. Add in the sundried tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and the dried herbs. Cook until the mushrooms have started to soften. Next, add the white wine and basil. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then place (lid on) into a preheated oven at 140 for 45 minutes- an hour.

While it’s cooking you can prepare the broccoli. To do this, chop the head into florets and parboil the florets in salted water. Once sufficiently ‘al-dente’, remove and pat with a paper towel. Next, place a cast iron skillet on your hob’s highest setting. Once scorching hot, char the broccoli using some tongs (constantly turning them as they can easily burn rather than char). When ready, place them in a bowl, squeeze some lemon juice and place a saucepan lid on top (it will slightly steam them).

Once the hour’s up take out the Dutch oven, add the broccoli and stir. Place on the hob on low, to keep it warm. This is the time to cook the pasta. Boil some penne (dried or fresh) in some salted and oiled water. Cook until sufficiently ‘al-dente’. Strain the pasta, then add it to the sauce. Finally take a handful of fresh spinach and place into the pan. It will begin to wilt as it hits the pan. Stir everything together and serve. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil. We served ours with a couple of glasses of ice cold lemon water and some amazing Rosemary focaccia from Wright’s Food Emporium.

Buon Appetito!

Food: Slow baked lemon & garlic aubergine with a tahini dressing

This is a straight forward recipe for a Levantine inspired aubergine dish with the flavours of Tahini, garlic, lemon, mint and coriander. Serves 2.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • Zest & juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbs garlic infused oil
  • 2 tsp Sumac
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp dried rosemary
  • Salt & pepper

For the Tahini dressing:

  • 2 tbs tahini
  • zest & juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • Handful of fresh coriander & mint, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp agave

Begin by chopping the aubergine in half. Place in a dish and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 30 minutes until juice starts coming out of the vegetable. This draws out all the bitterness. Wipe away the salt with a damp piece of tissue and place the aubergine halves in a baking dish. Drizzle with oil and spread the grated garlic and lemon zest onto the flesh of the aubergine, along with the dried herbs and the sumac. Squeeze the lemon juice all over, cover with foil and pop into a preheated oven at 140°C. This needs to be cooked low and slow, so put it in for 1 hour 40 minutes.

While it’s baking you can chill, read a bit, do what ever you want.

Or you could also use this time to make the tahini dressing! Simply spoon 2tbs of tahini into a bowl and add the zest & juice of the other lemon halve. Add in the garlic, agave for sweetness and the chopped herbs. Next, add in the oil and stir. If still a bit too thick, add 1tbs of water until it has a pouring consistency. A crack of pepper and a sprinkle of salt and it’s done.

After  the 1 hour 40 minutes is up, take the foil off the aubergines and turn up the oven to its hottest setting for a further 8-10 minutes, to crisp them up. Once crisp they are ready to serve. To plate up, place the aubergine on the plate and smother it with the tahini dressing. Garnish with some more fresh coriander. We served ours with some fluffy couscous garnished with jewels of pomegranate and fresh spinach cooked with 1 tsp lemon zest and a drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil and some toasted almonds.

Like myself, you could serve a cocktail or rather mocktail to compliment the meal. This drink has all the classic flavours of the Levant. To make you’ll need:

  • 200ml Pomegranate juice
  • A dash of raspberry syrup
  • 2 Sprigs of mint
  • A Squeeze of lemon juice.
  • some lemon flavoured sparkling water
  • Plenty of Ice

To make, fill a glass with a handful of ice. Add in some raspberry syrup (I like to use the Polish raspberry syrup by Łowicz). Next top up the glass three quarters full with the pomegranate juice and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Top up with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Enjoy!