Honey mustard chicken with roast parsnips

It is funny how we can get into very set ways of thinking. For years one of our favourite dishes we’ve ever tried from “The Spicery” recipe cards has been southern fried chicken: chicken marinated in buttermilk and herbs, coated in spiced flour, dry fried and then baked until crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. We’ve remade it again and again, adapting it to our own tastes and needs (e.g. dairy free) over the years and trying a number of variations: southern fried chicken fillets as burgers, shredded southern fried chicken on pizza or in calzone, southern fried chicken tempura, southern fried salmon etc. However, all of our experiments kept the core elements of the southern fried chicken marinade and coating spice mixture in common. We even have made up little jars of the spices ready to go as we liked them so much. The thing we never thought of doing was using the technique that resulted in such tender, juicy, crispy chicken pieces (marinating, coating in flour and baking) with any other flavours. Recently, I wanted to make honey mustard chicken as I felt in the mood for something warm, sweet, savoury and comforting. When I bought the chicken I started thinking about how delicious southern fried chicken was and felt torn between the two until it struck me: “what’s stopping me making honey mustard chicken in the way I’d normally make southern fried chicken?”. I couldn’t believe I’d never tried it before: the chicken came out beautifully juicy and crispy but with the lovely honey mustard flavors rather than the tried and tested southern fried ones. I will certainly be trying other flavour variations on the southern fried chicken technique theme in the future.

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Honey mustard chicken

Cooking time: overnight marinade, 25-30 minutes on the night

Dietary info: dairy free (see the tasty little twists for gluten free and vegan options)

Serves: 3

  • 6 chicken thighs, skinned and trimmed of excess fat (either on the bone or boneless are fine)

Marinade

  • 100ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Coating

  • 4 tbsp wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Honey mustard gravy

  • ½ tsp honey
  • 1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
  • ½ chicken stock cube (make sure this is dairy free if you are making the dish dairy free)
  • 200ml cold or warm water (not boiling otherwise it will cook the cornflour too quickly)
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  1. Put the chicken in a sealable container, cover in the marinade spices and pour over the almond milk. Seal the container and marinade the chicken in the fridge for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight
  2. Mix together all of the ingredients for the coating and spread out in a layer about 4-8mm thick on a plate or wide flat bottomed bowl
  3. Take each piece of chicken out of the marinade, letting excess marinade drip off, and coat it in the flour mixture. The easiest way to do this is is lay each piece on top of the flour and press it in gently, turn over and repeat on the other side, pressing extra flour in to any bits that have not been coated
  4. Put each coated piece of chicken in a non stick frying pan and dry fry for a few minutes each side until each is browned
  5. Put the browned pieces of chicken onto a non stick baking tray, or a grill pan. A grill pan will keep the chicken crispier on the underside but is also more fiddly to wash up!
  6. Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes, turning half way through, until it is cooked through (no pink meat when you cut into it and the juices run clear)
  7. To make the gravy put the honey, mustard and cornflour in a small saucepan and mix together to a smooth paste, crumble in the stock cube and gradually add the water, stirring to mix as you go along to avoid lumps
  8. Bring the gravy to the boil and simmer until the stock cube is fully dissolved and the mixture has thickened so that it coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the lemon juice
  9. Serve the chicken with the gravy, the honey mustard parsnips (see below) and a salad or some steamed vegetables

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the gravy and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • Put the chicken in its marinade up to 2 days, and at least 1 day before you want to cook it
  • Make the coating mixture (except for the lemon zest) and keep in a sealed container or covered bowl at room temperature for up to a week
  • Steam the parsnips, coat in the honey mustard mixture and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 days before you cook them
  • On the night, add the lemon zest to the coating, coat and cook the chicken, roast the parsnips, heat the gravy back to boiling in a small saucepan or covered in the microwave and serve

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • Experiment with different spices in the marinade or coating to find your personal favourite mixture e.g. parsley, tarragon or lemon thyme (fresh or dried) in the marinade; pepper, chilli, garlic, allspice, cinnamon or allspice in the coating
  • Make the dish pescetarian by replacing the chicken with skinned salmon fillets
  • Make the dish gluten free by using a gluten free flour (e.g. coconut, rice, buckwheat, chickpea, tapioca or almond flour), make sure the cornflour is pure cornflour (therefor gluten free) and that the stock cube is gluten free
  • If you want to make a vegan or vegetarian dish try this honey mustard parsnip bean salad:
    • soak and cook 100g dried cannellini or butter beans, toss them with the coating spices (1 tsp celery salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp mustard powder, zest of 1 lemon) and 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Put the beans in an ovenproof dish and bake at 160C fan for 20-25 minutes until the beans are crispy but not dried out
    • Make the honey mustard parsnips as described below and honey mustard gravy described above, except replacing the chicken stock cube with a vegan vegetable one
    • Mix the beans together with the parsnips and serve with the gravy to drizzle over them and a salad on the side
    • This dish is also gluten free if you make sure that the stock cube in the gravy is gluten free and that the cornflour is pure cornflour and therefore gluten free

Honey mustard parsnips

Cooking time: 30-35 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten free

Serves: 2-3 as a side for the chicken or as part of the honey mustard parsnip bean salad

  • 2 parsnips, scrubbed or peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • ⅓ tsp honey
  • 1 heaped tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. Steam the parsnips until they are soft but not mushy (8-10 minutes)
  2. Mix the honey, mustard and olive oil together into a smooth paste and rub into the parsnips
  3. Put the parsnips onto a non stick baking tray or in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning half way through, until they are golden brown and crispy. If you have an airfryer these parsnips also work really well cooked in that for 15-20 minutes instead of the oven
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Tenderstem broccoli and aubergine with peanut dip

When I go to my local supermarket I am confronted with a bewildering array of nut butters: peanut, cashew, almond, hazelnut, smooth, chunky etc. but I have to admit I still like the most basic peanut varieties best: no extra salt or sugar or emulsifiers, just ground up peanuts. Peanut butter first came on the market at the end of the nineteenth century in America as a health food for the upper classes, but had become a billion dollar business and staple food by the mid twentieth century. Although sales dipped in the nineteen eighties and nineties due to concerns about peanut allergies and its high fat content it has more recently been rebranded as a health food and increased again in popularity, with more artisan versions such as organic and salt or sugar-free on the market. Although it is high in fat, they are good fats, and it is also a good source of protein, fiber and a range of vitamins and minerals. It is also, in my opinion, very tasty and I don’t need an excuse to add it to my cooking. This peanut dip was inspired by the popular peanut sauce served with satay. Satay traditionally refers to dishes of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat served with a sauce in Southeast Asia. Although satay can be served with a variety of sauces, peanut versions are so popular they are often just called satay sauce. My version is on the light end of peanut sauces, using a coconut milk drink rather than full fat coconut milk, but still tastes nice and creamy with a pleasant balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour. I have kept the rest of this dish very plain and simple to let the peanut dip star, which makes it very quick and easy to make and perfect for when you want something fresh and light.

Tenderstem broccoli and aubergine with peanut dip

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves: 2

  • 300g tenderstem broccoli, cut into thirds, stems and florets separated and stems cut in half lengthways
  • 1 aubergine, cut into slices about 3-4mm thick lengthways

Peanut dip

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp fresh grated or finely chopped ginger
  • A pinch of sweetener such as Stevia or sugar
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 150ml coconut milk drink
  • ½ tsp salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  1. Steam the broccoli until just tender. It is easiest to do the stems and florets separately as they take quite a different time to cook – about 4-7 minutes for the stems, 3-4 minutes for the florets
  2. Put the aubergine slices on a non-stick oven proof tray and bake at 160C fan until they are soft and just starting to brown on the outside (about 10-12 minutes per side), turning half way through. Once the aubergine is cooked, slice into strips and mix together with the steamed broccoli
  3. To make the peanut dip, put the garlic, chilli and ginger in a small saucepan and start to cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes
  4. Remove from the heat and add the peanut butter, sweetener or sugar and salt. Start stirring in the coconut milk drink gradually so you get a smooth sauce (if you put all of the coconut milk drink in at once it will be more difficult to break up the lumps of peanut butter)
  5. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring until it is hot all the way through, just starting to simmer and has thickened a little
  6. Stir in the lime juice and serve the vegetables tossed with a few tbsp of the peanut dip and extra drizzled over the top

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A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the peanut dip and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • Cook the aubergine and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days, bringing to room temperature or reheating for a few minute in the oven before serving
  • Wash and cut up the broccoli (keeping the stems and florets separate) the night before and keep in sealed containers or bags in the fridge until you cook them
  • On the night steam the broccoli, bring the aubergine to room temperature or reheat, and heat the dip until it is hot all the way through then serve

Some tasty little twists….

  • This is a very light meal on its own so you can make it more substantial by serving the vegetables on a bed of steamed rice or boiled noodles, tossed or drizzled with peanut dip
  • You can also serve these as hand-roll (click here for instructions of how to put together a hand-roll) with sushi rice topped with the vegetables and sauce
  • Try different vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, steamed asian greens e.g. pak choi or choi sum, stir fried mushrooms, sliced red, yellow or green peppers etc.
  • Add more protein by including cubes of pressed and baked tofu with the vegetables. To press the tofu wrap it in kitchen paper and place between two flat surfaces such as plates or chopping boards with something on the upper surface to weigh it down for about 15 minutes. Then cut it into chunks, toss it with 1-2 tbsp peanut dip and bake in an ovenproof dish at 160C fan for 15-20 minutes
    • You can also thread the cubes of tofu, alternating with pieces of vegetable, on skewers for a dish closer to traditional satay and cook it under a medium grill until it is just starting to brown (about 4-6 minutes per side)
  • For a non-vegan or vegetarian version, add grilled, steamed or baked chicken. Cook chicken breast or thigh fillet until it is no longer pink on the inside and the juices run clear (usually 10-20 minutes depending on the cut and thickness of the chicken and cooking method)
    • You can season the chicken before cooking by rubbing it with 1-2 tbsp of the peanut dip or with ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp ground black pepper and ½ tsp garlic powder
    • As for the tofu, you can thread the chicken onto skewers alternated with pieces of vegetable and grill until cooked through and just starting to brown (8-10 minutes per side)
  • This sauce also goes well with prawns or fish such as salmon, mackerel or monkfish. You can steam the prawns or fish, stir fry with some garlic or grill on skewers as for the chicken or tofu

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Dairy free quiche

Nice weather makes me want to be outside as much as possible so puts me in the mood for picnics. Although quiche has gone in and out of favour over its history, a good quiche makes a wonderful summer picnic or party food, served with a few salad leaves. Although there are a lot of ready-made quiche available in the shops there are very few dairy free ones so I tend to make my own. Luckily they are easy to make and once you are confident making the pastry and the egg mixture you can easily play around with the other fillings to find your favourite combination. The one I’ve done here was made for my husband therefore unsurprisingly features bacon, but I’ve also included plenty of vegetarian filling suggestions in the tasty little twists section. To make this quiche a bit lighter the pastry is lower fat than traditional shortcrust and also wholemeal for added fiber. The filling is also lighter than many quiche recipes which can often include cream or more cheese than I’ve used here.

Dairy free quiche

Cooking time: 50-60 minutes

Dietary info: dairy free (vegetarian options in the tasty little twists section)

Serves: 3-4

Pastry

  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50g vegan spread (I used avocado oil spread)
  • 25ml water

Filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 150ml unsweetened almond milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 30g vegan cheese, grated
  • 4 bacon rashers
  • 200g spinach, washed
  1. To make the pastry mix the salt and flour together then rub the vegan spread into the flour with your fingers until it resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Gently stir the water into the flour mixture until it is just combined and bring the pastry together with your hands into a ball. Keep in the fridge until you need it if you are not making the quiche immediately
  3. Roll out the pastry about 2-3mm thick to the shape of your pie dish use it to line your pie dish, trimming the edges if it is hanging over the sides. Scrunch up some greaseproof paper and put it over the pastry in your pie dish then put some ceramic baking beans (or dried beans) onto the greaseproof paper. Bake the pastry at 160C fan for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and feels sandy to the touch (this is blind baking, which helps the pastry to be crisp rather than soggy), removing the greaseproof paper and baking beans for the last 5 minutes
  4. While the pastry case is cooking, dry fry the bacon until the rashers are cooked through and crispy. Cut off excess fat and chop into bite sized pieces
  5. Cook the spinach until just wilted (either in a large covered pan or in a steamer)
  6. Beat together the eggs, almond milk, salt and pepper then stir the cheese into the egg mixture
  7. Put the bacon and spinach in the pastry case and pour the egg and cheese mixture over them
  8. Bake at 160C fan until the filling is set and golden on top, about 15-20 minutes, then serve hot or cold with a crunchy salad

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the pastry and keep wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge for up to 4 days
  • Cook the bacon and spinach and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • Mix together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and cheese and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • You can even blind bake the pastry case the night before then store in the fridge, covered until you need it
  • On the night roll out and bake the pastry case if you haven’t pre-blind baked it, then simply fill with the spinach, bacon and egg mixture and cook
  • As a picnic food, quiche is of course great hot or cold so you can even make the whole thing ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Either serve cold, at room temperature or reheated

Some tasty little twists…

Quiche is very flexible in terms of fillings so experiment to find your personal favourites. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Vegetarian:

  • 50g sun dried tomatoes with 200g spinach (cooked)
  • 150g sweetcorn kernels with 200g spinach (cooked)
  • 100g olives, 50g sun-dried tomatoes and 100g chopped cherry tomatoes with a tsp mixed herbs
  • 150g strongly flavoured mushrooms, sliced and dry fried until soft e.g. chestnut, shiitake, or 30g dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated, 100 g broccoli cut into bite sized pieces and steamed until just softening (about 5 minutes) with a tsp garlic powder
  • 2 diced onions, sautéed in water with a pinch of salt until soft (about 20 minutes) and 2 sliced peppers, also sauteed until soft with a tsp smoked paprika
  • 200g chunks of sweet potato or squash, steamed for 10 minutes then tossed in olive oil and roasted until soft on the inside but crispy and slightly caramelised on the outside and 2 sliced onions sautéed in a little water with a pinch of salt until soft (about 20 minutes)
  • If you don’t want to make this dairy free (or you can find a good range of dairy free cheeses) you can experiment with different kinds of cheese e.g. parmesan with cherry tomatoes, blue cheese with mushroom, smoked cheese with onions and peppers

Meat or fish:

  • 150g Hot smoked salmon flakes, smoked haddock or smoked salmon trimmings with spinach
  • 4 sausages, cooked and chopped up with 100g chopped cherry tomatoes or 100g broccoli cut into bite sized pieces and steamed until just softening (about 5 minutes)
  • 150g cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite sized pieces with a tsp paprika and 2 sliced peppers, sauteed until soft
  • 150g cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite sized pieces with a tsp mixed herbs and 150g mushrooms, sliced and dry fried until soft
  • 150g cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite sized pieces with a tsp whole grain mustard and 150g sweetcorn kernels

Hot pepper sauce turkey

After a grey and dreary winter the UK goes mad at the first hint of warm weather. A few weeks ago we had snow on the ground and it seemed like winter wouldn’t end then amazingly it clearer up and we had blue skies and hot days. Suddenly everyone was finding excuses to get outside as much as possible, summer clothes on, sun starved skins soaking up the light. It’s incredible what a huge impact it has on mood too: it feels so much easier to be positive and upbeat when the sun is shining than when the sky is grey. In this dish I’ve tried to capture some of that bright, happy, good weather feeling. It is inspired by Caribbean flavours of peppers and coconut with a bright cheerful colour and sweet, spicy, tangy flavour. I’ve also included a recipe for spicy cauliflower rice which you can either have as a side dish or a main course to use up any leftover sauce.

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Hot pepper sauce turkey

Cooking time: 30 minutes preparation (most of which is roasting the peppers), 20 minutes baking

Dietary info: dairy free, gluten free (vegan and vegetarian versions available in the tasty little twists)

Serves: 2

  • 300g turkey steaks
  • 1 aubergine cut into rounds 4-8mm thick

Hot pepper sauce

  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 peppers (red, orange or yellow )
  • 3 cloves garlic, kept in their skins
  • 200ml coconut milk drink
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes  (optional)
  • 1 tsp onion granules
  • ½-1 tsp chilli powder
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  1. Halve the peppers and put them in an ovenproof dish with the garlic. Roast them at 160C fan for 20-25 minutes until the peppers are soft and starting to brown at the edges and the garlic is soft
  2. Steam the slices of aubergine for 5-8 minutes until they are soft
  3. Remove the skins from the garlic cloves and blend them with the peppers and all of the other hot pepper sauce ingredients to a smooth sauce
  4. Rub a few tbsp of hot pepper sauce into the turkey steaks so that they are coated on both sides and place them in an ovenproof dish
  5. Cover the turkey steaks with the aubergine slices and spoon over enough hot pepper sauce to just coat the aubergine
  6. Place the ovenproof dish in the oven and back at 160C fan for about 20 minutes until the turkey steaks are opaque all the way through and their juice runs clear. Heat through the remaining hot pepper sauce and serve the bake with the sauce and a fresh salad or steamed green vegetables

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 6 days
  • On the night prepare the turkey and aubergine for cooking and bake

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Some tasty little twists….

  • Serve with rice or roughly mashed cooked kidney beans for a more substantial meal, or serve the spicy cauliflower rice below for a lighter option
  • Make a vegan version by replacing the turkey with chunks of tofu.  Press the tofu to remove excess water (wrap in kitchen paper and place between two flat surfaces such as plates or chopping boards with something on the upper surface to weigh it down for about 15 minutes) before cutting it into chunks and coating it in the sauce. If you have time, marinate the tofu overnight in the sauce before cooking
  • Another vegan option is replacing the turkey with 400g cooked kidney beans mixed with 2 diced peppers and a handful of peas. Cook the vegetables in a non-stick pan for 5-8 minutes before putting them in the ovenproof dish until they are just softening and mix the beans and vegetable mixture with enough of the sauce to coat before topping with the aubergine. Other than this, follow the recipe as for the turkey version
  • Make a vegetarian version by replacing the turkey with Quorn fillets. You can reduce the baking time to 15 minutes but otherwise follow the recipe as for turkey

Use up leftover sauce as an accompaniment to the spicy cauliflower rice below. You can also miss out the Quorn in the recipe below and use it as a side for the turkey (or vegan / vegetarian versions) recipe above, or replace the Quorn with leftover turkey if you have any for a meat version:

Spicy cauliflower rice

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Dietary info: vegan, gluten free

Serves: 2

  • Half a cauliflower, grated
  • 150g peas (defrosted if frozen)
  • 1 red and yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 200g vegan quorn pieces, or pressed tofu cut into chunks (see above for how to press tofu)
  • 1 tbsp jerk seasoning plus extra to season
  • 50ml coconut milk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • juice of half a lime
  • Water to cook
  • Leftover hot pepper sauce to serve
  1. Put the peppers, peas, Quorn or tofu and tbsp jerk seasoning in a non-stick frying pan with a splash of water to stop it sticking and cook until the peppers are starting to soften (about 5 minute)
  2. Add the grated cauliflower, salt and coconut milk and continue to cook, uncovered until the cauliflower is just soft enough to eat but still has some crunch (about 4-5 minutes) and most of the liquid has evaporated
  3. Season to taste with extra jerk seasoning and the lime juice and serve with the hot pepper sauce

Sweet potato rosti stacks

My husband and I used a bit of our holiday time to take a long weekend this weekend. Not to do anything special, just to rest, relax and have a bit of quiet time together to recharge after a busy time at work. I found a lazy long weekend really puts me in the mood for brunch food. The very nature of brunch exudes calm: a leisurely meal at the time you feel like it, breaking the normal workday rules of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I feel you can’t rush brunch or be stressed about it, it would defy the point. Therefore food I associate with brunch also has a halo of indulgence and relaxation, whatever time of the day you eat it. The base of these stacks are a sweet potato take on the Swiss dish rosti, which traditionally consist of mainly potato cooked into a kind of fritter and which were originally eaten as part of breakfast. Here I have piled them up with a range of toppings to suit a variety of tastes, from vegetarian mushrooms or eggs to my husbands favourites of bacon and black pudding, and served it all with a tangy tomato sauce.

Sweet potato rosti stacks

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Dietary info: dairy free, gluten-free, can be vegetarian depending on toppings

Serves: 2

  • 1 sweet potato, grated
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard (make sure this is gluten free if you are making a gluten free version)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes

Tomato sauce

  • 300ml passata
  • 1 heaped tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ a vegetable stock cube, crumbled (make sure this is dairy free / gluten free if you are making a dairy free or gluten free version)
  1. Put all of the tomato sauce ingredients into a pan and heat, stirring occasionally until bubbling. Simmer gently for 5-8 minutes to let the flavours infuse
  2. Mix together all of the ingredients for the rostis until thoroughly combined
  3. Spoon tablespoons of the potato mixture into a non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 4-6 minutes per side until browned and cooked through, turning with a spatula
  4. Serve the rosti with a selection of toppings (see the tasty little extras) and sauce on the side

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A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • Make the rosti mixture and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days
  • Some of the toppings can be cooked in advance and kept in sealed containers in the fridge:
    • You can make the mushrooms up to 4 days in advance, then reheat until hot all the way through on the night in a saucepan or the microwave
    • You can make the prawns or scallops in sauce up to 2 days in advance, then reheat until hot all the way through on the night in a saucepan or the microwave
    • You can fry the bacon or black pudding up to 2 days in advance then reheat until hot all the way through in a non-stick frying pan on the night
    • The other topping suggestions taste best cooked on the night
  • On the night, cook the rosti, cook or reheat the toppings and heat through the sauce until it is bubbling then serve

 


 

A few tasty little extras…

You can top your rosti with pretty much anything that takes your fancy but here are a few ideas to get you going. You can pick a combination of different toppings to make your rosti stacks more special. Some nice combinations include: mushroom and tomato; mushroom and egg; scallop and black pudding or bacon; prawn and bacon; black pudding and mushroom; bacon and mushroom.

Vegetarian:

  • Mushrooms: slice 300g mushrooms and put in a non-stick saucepan with enough of the tomato sauce to coat them (3-4 tbsp). Cook, uncovered, over a gentle heat until they are soft and juicy but there isn’t a lot of water at the bottom of the pan (mushrooms can release a large amount of juice). Halve the quantities if you are making this as part of a selection of several toppings
  • Grilled tomatoes: cut 3-4 tomatoes into thick slices (~5 mm), put on a grill pan covered in foil under a medium grill and cook until starting to brown on each side (4-6 minutes per side)
  • Fried eggs: heat a tbsp olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and break the eggs (how many depends on how many you want and the size of the pan) into a small bowl, then tip into the frying pan. Cook until the white is opaque all the way through but the yolk is still runny. You can cover the pan with a lid to help the top of the eggs cook or flip them over with a spatula once the bottom is cooked

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Pescatarian:

  • Prawns: take 250g prawns and put them in a non-stick saucepan with enough of the tomato sauce to coat them (3-4 tbsp). Cook, uncovered, until the prawns are cooked through (opaque). If they start to dry out add a splash of water
  • Scallops: either cook as for the prawns or heat a tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick saucepan and sear the scallops on each side

Meat:

  • Bacon: dry fry the rashers of bacon in a non-stick frying pan, turning once, until both sides are starting to get browned and crispy
  • Black pudding: cut the black pudding into thick slices (if it doesn’t come in slices already) and dry fry in a non-stick frying pan until it is cooked all the way through (it goes darker as it cooks so you can tell how far through the slice it has cooked) and crispy on the outside

Porcini mushroom and sundried tomato spaghetti

When I served this up to my husband he looked at it and said “if you’d given a vegetarian meal to my 20-year-old self I would have at least expected lashings of cream”. 10 years with me have certainly altered his tastes as he ate this vegetarian, dairy free pasta with enjoyment, going back for seconds and without complaining once about the lack of bacon.  This recipe is actually based on one of his all time favourite dishes to cook and eat: spaghetti carbonara. Carbonara is a wonderfully quick and easy dish to throw together making it perfect for a midweek meal. It is also lovely and creamy from the lightly cooked eggs without actually containing any milk products, making it a winner for a dairy free diet as well. Although it maybe has a reputation for being rich and heavy it is possible to make it a bit lighter by using a mixture of pasta and spiralized vegetables, as well as reducing the cheese and not including the butter, oil, or sometimes even cream used in other recipes. I have included my lighter carbonara recipe here too for those who want to keep the bacon, but I find a mixture of porcini mushrooms and sundried tomatoes makes a lovely alternative to bacon with their intense sweet, savoury and salty flavours. In fact I probably prefer it.

Porcini mushroom and sundried tomato spaghetti

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

Dietary info: vegetarian, dairy free

Serves: 2

  • 15g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 40g dehydrated sundried tomatoes, or 60g sundried tomatoes from a jar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 30g vegan cheese, finely grated
  • 120g dried spaghetti or linguine (or about 200g fresh pasta)
  • 1 courgette, spiralized (courgetti)
  1. Put the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes in hot water to soak for 20 minutes. If you are using sundried tomatoes from a jar there is no need to soak them
  2. Drain the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, reserving the soaking water, and chop the tomatoes into bite sized pieces
  3. Cook the spaghetti or linguine according to packet instructions, drain and rinse in cold water
  4. Put the garlic in a non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute then add the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes and cook for another minute
  5. Add the courgetti and cook for 3-4 minutes, until it is just beginning to soften, then stir in the spaghetti / linguine and continue to cook until the pasta is hot all the way through (1-2 minutes)
  6. Beat together the eggs, ⅔ of the cheese, salt and pepper.
  7. Take the pan off the heat so that the egg doesn’t scramble and stir the egg mixture into the pasta mixture, mixing to coat the pasta evenly with the egg (I find tongs are the best implement to do this with). Return the pan to a gentle heat and cook, stirring, until the egg sauce is rich and creamy but not forming scrambled lumps. You can loosen the mixture with the soaking water if it starts drying out
  8. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese and with salad or steamed vegetables dressed in lemon juice and ground pepper on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

This is a dish that can very easily be made on the night, so there is no need to prep ahead. However, if you want to feel extra prepared there are a few things you can do:

  • Measure out the dried porcini and sundried tomatoes into bowls ready for soaking. Keep covered at room temperature for up to a week
    Spiralize the courgette the night before and keep in a sealed container or bag in the fridge until you need it
  • If you are doing the carbonara version (below), cook and chop the bacon and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days

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Some tasty little twists…

  • For a gluten-free version, use gluten free spaghetti, or replace the spaghetti with extra spiralised vegetables such as carrots or sweet potato
  • For a lighter version, reduce the spaghetti to 50-80g and add another spiralised courgette, or a mixture of spiralised vegetables such as carrot or celeriac, or replace the spaghetti with spiralized vegetables completely
  • To make a more filling meal replace the courgetti with another 50g pasta or serve with crusty bread or garlic bread on the side
  • Experiment with different vegetable mixtures instead of or as well as the sundried tomatoes and porcini mushrooms e.g. a handful of peas or sweetcorn, chopped fresh chestnut or shiitake mushrooms, roasted peppers, capers, chopped olives, halved and fresh or roast cherry tomatoes (roast sprinkled with some mixed herbs and garlic powder for 20-30 minutes at 160C fan)
  • For a pescatarian version, replace the mushrooms and tomatoes with smoked salmon chopped into bite sized pieces or flaked hot roast salmon. You can stir the salmon in just before adding the egg mixture rather than at the beginning
  • For a meat version, much closer to the traditional carbonara but a little lighter, follow the recipe below
  • If you are doing any of the versions that don’t involve soaking mushrooms or tomatoes, reserve the pasta cooking water instead, as in the dairy free lighter carbonara

Dairy free lighter carbonara

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

Dietary info: dairy free

Serves: 2

  • 4 rashers bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 30g grated vegan cheese
  • 120g dried spaghetti or linguine (or about 200g fresh pasta)
  • 1 courgette, spiralized (courgetti)
  1. Dry fry the bacon in a non-stick frying pan until it is cooked through and a little crispy then cut off the rinds and chop into bite sized pieces
  2. Cook the spaghetti or linguine according to packet instructions, drain reserving the cooking water, and rinse in cold water
  3. Put the garlic in a non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute then add the bacon pieces and cook for another minute
  4. Add the spiralized courgette and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the courgetti is just beginning to soften, then stir in the spaghetti / linguine and continue to cook until the pasta is hot all the way through (1-2 minutes)
  5. Beat together the eggs, ⅔ of the cheese, salt and pepper.
  6. Take the pan off the heat so that the egg doesn’t scramble and stir the egg mixture into the pasta mixture, mixing to coat the pasta evenly with the egg (I find tongs are the best implement to do this with). Return the pan to a gentle heat and cook, stirring, until the egg sauce is rich and creamy but still liquid rather than scrambled lumps. You can loosen the mixture with the reserved pasta cooking water if it starts drying out
  7. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese and with salad or steamed vegetables dressed in lemon juice and ground pepper on the side

Coconut stew with coriander roti

When we were little dad used to give us little slivers of his favourite smelly cheeses to try when we asked for them. We would cautiously taste them, screw up our faces and say “yuk”. He would laugh and say when he was our age he didn’t like strong cheese either and he grew into it as he got older. We were a bit sceptical: how could your tastes change that much? However, as for so many things, dad was right; not about the cheese for me, but my tastes have definitely changed as I have grown up. An example of this is coconut. I used to detest it: Bounty bars would languish unwanted at the bottom of boxes of celebrations, coconut ice would be shunned, and coconut milk curries avoided. As I’ve got older I’ve come to like it’s subtle sweet taste and use it extensively in sweet and savoury dishes, from coconut milk on cereal to a variety of coconut curries and soups. This stew is inspired by the lime, coconut and ginger flavour combination found in South East Asian cooking and I have paired it with coriander flatbreads (roti). Roti (also known as chapati) are unleavened flatbreads native to the Indian subcontinent, but now eaten around the world, made of stoneground wholemeal flour and water. These coriander roti are based on Sri Lankan pol roti (coconut roti) where scraped coconut is added to the flour along with optional other ingredients such as onion or chillies before cooking. Dessicated coconut is still probably my least favourite form of coconut as I often find it dry, chewy and tasteless but crisped up in these roti it gives a lovely crunchy texture and aromatic scent as they are cooking.

Coconut stew

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes (including the roti, 20-25 minutes without the roti)

Dietary info: vegetarian or vegan depending on the type of Quorn you use, dairy free

Serves: 2-3 (you will probably have a few roti left over)

  • 1 aubergine, cut into chunks
  • 150 g Quorn pieces (vegetarian or vegan)
  • 1 pak choi, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 lump ginger finely chopped to make 1 heaped tbsp
  • 1 tsp ground lemongrass and 1 stalk lemongrass, or 2 stalks, one whole and one finely sliced
  • 1 tsp ground galangal (replace with ground ginger if you can’t find galangal)
  • 1 tsp dried lime powder or zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 400ml coconut milk (I use a coconut based alternative to milk rather than a can of coconut milk)
  • A pinch of sugar or sweetener, to taste
  1. Put the aubergine in a non-stick saucepan with the ginger, lemon grass (ground / sliced and whole stick), galangal, dried lime or lime zest and a splash of water to stop it sticking and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the aubergine starts to soften (about 5-8 minutes)
  2. Add the coconut milk and Quorn pieces and cook over a gentle heat so it just comes to a simmer but does not boil vigorously for a further 5 minutes
  3. Add the pak choi, soy sauce and sugar / sweetener if using and continue to cook until the pak choi is just soft (3-6 minutes)
  4. Season with lime juice and serve with the roti and some steamed bean sprouts or other vegetables

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A few tips to prep ahead:

  • The stew can be made ahead and kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days
  • Measure out the dried ingredients for the roti (flour, salt, dried coriander, dessicated coconut), keeping the dried coriander and coconut separate from the flour and salt, and keep in covered containers at room temperature for up to a week
  • On the night, prepare the fresh ingredients for the roti, make and cook the roti, heat up the coconut stew until hot all the way through and serve

 


Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • For an alternative vegan version, replace the Quorn with chunks of tofu. Press the tofu by wrapping it in kitchen town and placing it between two chopping boards or plates with some kind of weight on the top board or plate (I use a cookbook) for about 15 minutes to squeeze out the excess water
  • For a non-vegetarian version, replace the Quorn with diced chicken or mixed seafood. Add the chicken with the aubergine at the beginning of the stew to ensure it is cooked for long enough, or add the seafood when you would add the Quorn.
  • If you want to make a filling meal but don’t have time to make the roti, simply cut a sweet potato into bite-sized chunks and add it to the stew along with the aubergine, or serve the stew with noodles or rice
  • Leftover roti can be used to make sandwiches or wraps – try filling with fresh crunchy vegetables such as grated carrot, steamed bean sprouts or sauteed red onions and chunks of tofu or cooked Quorn pieces dressed in sweet chilli sauce (for my sweet chilli sauce recipe follow this link).

Coriander roti

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Dietary info: vegan

Serves: 3-4

  • 250g wholemeal flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp dried coriander leaf
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk (I use a coconut based alternative to milk rather than a can of coconut milk)
  • 100ml water
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the dried coriander and dessicated coconut, chopped onion and chopped coriander
  2. Mix in the coconut milk and water to form a sticky dough and knead the dough for a few minutes until it is smooth
  3. Dust a non-stick mat or surface and rolling pin with flour and divide the dough into 4-6 pieces
  4. Form each piece into a rough ball in your hands then flatten and roll it out on the mat or surface until it is 2-4mm thick (you can roll the first one or two then start cooking them, rolling the rest as each batch is cooking)
  5. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and cook the rotis for 2-3 minutes each side until they are browning with darker brown patches on each side
  6. Keep cooked rotis warm by wrapping them in foil and keeping them in an oven on the lowest temperature until you are ready to serve

20170219_184029

Scrambled eggs with Chinese twist

It’s the Easter weekend and eggs are everywhere. My sister-in-law has been making beautiful decorative eggs with her daughters (or at least until they got bored and told her just to tell them when they were ready). Family attractions are laying on Easter egg hunts. The shops are heaving with chocolate Easter eggs, so much so that one of my colleagues was nervous about going to his local supermarket in case he was crushed by a confectionary avalanche. Therefore, I thought it was only fitting I did an egg recipe. Scrambled egg is quick and easy, and one of our fall backs for a light dinner in a hurry. This recipe was inspired by egg fried rice, but without the rice. It is a nice twist on the scrambled egg familiar to the cooked English breakfast, with the Chinese element somehow bringing it out of the realms of breakfast and graduating it to lunch or dinner. I have paired it with a tangy dipping sauce for extra flavour, and because my husband always likes more sauce. You don’t really need to do any preparation ahead for this as it can be made quickly and easily on the night so it is a good option after a busy weekend away. It is also light and fresh, making it a nice antidote to heavy Easter roasts, rich cakes and mountains of chocolate.

Photo from Katy Coull

Beautiful decorative eggs made by my sister-in-law

Scrambled eggs with Chinese twist

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Dietary info: vegetarian, dairy free

Serves: 2, easily doubled

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 150g beansprouts
  • 100g sweetcorn kernels, defrosted if you are using frozen
  • 100g peas, defrosted if you are using frozen
  • 1 tsp sesame oil, optional
  1. If you are using the sesame oil, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok, then add the peas, sweet corn and bean sprouts and stir fry over a medium to high heat until the bean sprouts are just starting to soften
  2. If you are not using the oil, put the peas, sweet corn and bean sprouts in a non-stick frying pan or wok with a splash of water to stop them sticking and cook over a medium heat until the bean sprouts are just starting to soften
  3. Beat the eggs with the oyster sauce in a bowl
  4. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan, lower the heat to a gentle heat and add the beaten egg. Stir the egg gently as the egg starts to cook to ‘scramble’ it. Cooking for longer over a lower heat rather than fast over a high heat can help prevent the eggs becoming rubbery
  5. Once most of the egg is opaque and solid, stir it together with the vegetables and serve with the dipping sauce and any other sides you like (see the tasty twists and extras)

A few tips to prepare ahead:

  • This dish can be done very easily with no prior preparation, but if you want to do something ahead of time you can make the dipping sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • You can also prepare the peas and sweetcorn if you are doing them from scratch (e.g. pod the peas and take the sweet corn kernels off the cobs), or defrost them if frozen the night before and keep them in a covered container or bag in the fridge
  • On the night, wash the beansprouts, cook the vegetables, beat and scramble the eggs and serve. If you are using the dipping sauce, heat this through in the microwave or a small pan (about 1.5-3 minutes) before serving

Some tasty little twists and extras….

  • For a more substantial meal, serve this with rice or noodles
  • You can also serve with some steamed Asian greens or a salad for extra vegetables
  • If you don’t want to make a vegetarian version, you can use non-vegetarian oyster sauce
  • You can replace the vegetarian oyster sauce with mushroom soy sauce for a different vegetarian version, or try different Asian sauces (e.g. hoisin, sweet chilli, teriyaki) for different flavours. If you want to make a vegetarian / vegan / dairy-free / gluten-free version always check the ingredients of the sauce you pick to make sure it is suitable
  • For a gluten-free version, replace the oyster sauce with gluten-free soy sauce or gluten-free oyster sauce
  • For a vegan version, make scrambled tofu with vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom soy sauce:
    • Crumble 500g firm tofu into a bowl with your fingers
    • Put 2 tsp arrowroot and 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom soy sauce into a bowl and gradually add 150ml unsweetened almond milk, mixing to a smooth consistency.  Mix this together with the tofu.
    • As for the scrambled eggs, once the beansprouts are starting to soften, push the vegetables to one side of the pan and add the tofu / almond milk mixture to the other side of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the milk mixture starts to thicken slightly then mix everything together

This sauce is easy to make and lovely as a dipping sauce or drizzled over a variety of dishes or salads:

Dipping sauce

Cooking time: <5 minutes

Dietary info: vegetarian, dairy free

Serves: 2 as a side sauce

  • 2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom soy sauce
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar or black rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp water
  1. Gradually mix the garlic powder together with the oyster or soy sauce until you have a smooth mixture with no lumps
  2. Stir in the vinegar and water and heat in the microwave or a small saucepan until the sauce is hot all the way through (about 1.5-3 minutes) to help the flavours meld

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Cheat “stir steam” for busy weeks

I usually do a lot of cooking preparation for the week ahead at the weekend as I have a little more time to relax and enjoy cooking. However, cooking isn’t the only thing I enjoy doing at the weekend and sometimes cooking has to be squeezed into a much smaller time to make way for other activities. This weekend has been an example of that. We were lucky enough to have some lovely friends visiting from Germany with their two young children.  We had lots of fun: finding dinosaurs at the natural history museum; pretending to be crocodiles; playing “scary monster”; dressing up; drawing; decorating biscuits…..and clearing up the inevitable trail of squished and dropped and smeared food that small children leave in their wake. This didn’t leave as much time for cooking as we normally have so it is good to have recipes like this on standby. The sauce can be whipped up in no time at all with store cupboard ingredients, and most of the work can be done, with minimal time and effort, on the night. This dish is not authentically Chinese at all but has borrowed ideas from some of my favourite Chinese stir fries to make a quick, easy and adaptable sauce.

Cheat “stir steam”

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Dietary info: vegetarian, dairy free, the sauce is vegan so stir fry ingredients can be adapted to be vegan – see tasty little twists

Serves: 2

  • Mixed vegetables for 2, I used:
    • 150g tenderstem broccoli, stems and florets separated and stems chopped in half
    • 1 green pepper, sliced
    • 4 leaves savoy cabbage, sliced
    • 1 aubergine, chopped into batons
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • ~1 tsp sesame oil

Sauce

  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 50ml water
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  1. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a pinch of salt and pepper
  2. Rub a non-stick frying pan with the sesame oil to form a thin coat across the bottom of the pan (if you don’t have a non-stick pan then rub the pan with more oil before cooking), then add the eggs, tilt the pan so the eggs cover the bottom in a thin layer, and cook over a medium heat until the eggs start to peel away from the pan at the edge (about 3-4 minutes). Carefully use a spatula to turn the omelette over to cook the other side for 1-2 minutes
  3. Remove the omlette from the pan, cut it into strips and set aside
  4. Wipe the pan clean ready for the stirfry
  5. Mix the garlic and ginger powders with the tomato puree to make a smooth paste
  6. Gradually stir in the remaining sauce ingredients to make a lump free sauce
  7. Put the vegetables in the frying pan with a splash of water and cook until they are just softening, staggering the addition of the vegetables to give them the right cooking time, and adding the sauce with the last lot of vegetables. For this mixture of vegetables I would do:
    • Cook the broccoli stems and aubergine for 2 minutes
    • Then add the green pepper and savoy cabbage and cook until they are all softening, about 5-8 minutes
    • Finally add the broccoli florets and the sauce and cook until they are just soft enough to eat, about 3-4 minutes
  8. Serve the stir steam with the strips of omelette on top. If you like having extra sauce on the side to drizzle over your stir steam either drain off any excess sauce from the stir steam into a bowl and serve on the side. Alternatively if, like my husband, you believe there can never be too much sauce, make double quantities of the sauce and keep half to heat through separately (in the microwave or a small saucepan for 2-3 minutes) and serve on the side

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the sauce a keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week
  • You can chop up all of the vegetables the night before and keep in sealed containers or bags in the fridge until you need them (separate bags for the vegetables that need to be added at different times)
  • On the night, make the omelette and cook the stir steam

Some tasty little twists…

  • For a more filling meal, serve with noodles, cooked as per the packet instructions and mixed with a few tablespoons of sauce, or rice cooked as per the packet instructions

This sauce is very versatile so you can mix and match your favourite stir fry vegetables and proteins here are some suggestions with cooking times / instructions:

  • Vegetables could include: bean sprouts (total cooking time 5 minutes); broccoli, cut into florets (5-8 minutes); babycorn, halved lengthways and chopped into 3-4 cm lengths (6-9 minutes), sugarsnap peas or mangetout, cut in half (3-4 minutes); sweetcorn kernels (3-4 minutes); red, yellow or orange peppers (3-5 minutes); any kind of mushroom mushrooms, sliced (5-8 minutes); carrots, cut into batons (5-7 minutes) or grated (stir in at the end and just heat through); spring onions, sliced (5-7 minutes); red or white onion, sliced (6-8 minutes); water chestnuts (3-5 minutes); bamboo shoots (3-5 minutes); spinach (4-6 minutes); any asian greens such as pak choi, bok choi etc., sliced (4-6 minutes)
  • Vegan proteins could include: tofu (drain and squeeze out some of the water with kitchen towel, either bake with a splash of soy sauce for 10-15 minutes and stir in at the end, or add with the first vegetables and reduce the water you add); tempeh (cook as for tofu); edamame beans; cooked beans such as cannellini or kidney beans; vegan Quorn
  • Vegetarian proteins could include: egg as described above, vegetarian Quorn
  • Meat and fish options could include: mixed seafood, squid or prawns (if cooked, stir in about 2 minutes before the end to heat through, if raw add with the first vegetables and make sure it is opaque all the way through before serving); salmon (cut into strips, cooked in a non-stick frying pan until opaque all the way through and starting to get crispy on the outside, then set aside and stir in the vegetables at the end of cooking); chicken; turkey; pork, beef
    • For the chicken, turkey, pork or beef, you can use strips, diced or mince. Cook the meat in a non-stick frying pan until it is no longer pink in the centre (except for the beef – you can have this rare if you like), set aside then stir into the vegetables just before serving

The sauce can also be used as a marinade or dipping sauce:

  • Use as a marinade for skewers or grilled vegetables or meat. Simply brush the sauce over the vegetables / meat, leave to marinade at room temperature for 15-20 minutes if you have time, and grill under a medium grill, turning once, until cooked through
  • Use as a dipping sauce e.g. for grilled skewers of vegetables or meat, vegetable batons, breaded or fried vegetables or meat. If you are using the sauce as a dip, heat through the sauce in the microwave or a small saucepan for 2-3 minutes until it is hot all the way through (and starting to bubble if you are heating it in a saucepan), or as an alternative to tomato ketchup e.g. with fish and chips

Crispy bean salad

When I was little my mum read “The Hobbit” to me and I remember being completely enthralled by the story, and her infectious enthusiasm for it. She loves the Hobbits, maybe because, like them, she is small, cheerful, kind and generous: the tradition in the Shire is for Hobbits to give everyone else a present on their birthday rather than receiving them. I too love giving presents and seeing that happy and surprised look on the face of a loved one when you manage to give them something they really like that shows that you’ve been thinking of them. I also feel touched when someone gives me something that I wasn’t expecting and that tells me they know me very well: there is a lot of truth in the saying “it’s the thought that counts”. As you might be able to guess, quite a lot of the gifts I receive are to do with cooking. Recently, I was lucky enough to have my wonderful Greek friend Iphigenia and her daughter come and stay for a few days. She very kindly brought a lovely bottle of Greek olive oil with her which I have been enjoying ever since. This recipe was inspired by a fusion of Greek and British cooking. Iphigenia loves scones when she visits the UK so I have combined a Greek inspired salad with savoury dairy-free scones for a light dinner showing off the great taste of the olive oil.

Crispy bean salad

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes (excluding soaking and cooking the beans if you are using dried)

Dietary info: dairy free, vegetarian with the scones, vegan without the scones, gluten-free without the scones or bread

Serves: 2 (easily doubled)

  • 150g rocket, washed
  • 100g dried butterbeans, soaked and cooked as per packet instructions, or 200g cooked beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Dressing

  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 small orange
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Toss the cooked beans with the oregano, salt, pepper and garlic to coat them drizzle over the olive oil and stir to distribute evenly
  2. Put the beans in an ovenproof dish and bake at 160C fan for 20-25 minutes until the beans are crispy but not dried out
  3. Mix the mustard powder with 1 tbsp of the vinegar to get a smooth paste then stir in the other dressing ingredients
  4. Put the rocket in a bowl and mix together with the dressing
  5. Sprinkle the crispy beans over the top and serve, with the dairy free cheese scones (see the tasty little extras) or crusty bread

A few tips to prep ahead

  • Soak and cook the beans according to packet instructions – usually soak the beans over the night, bring to the boil in fresh water, boil for about 10 minutes then simmer for a further 40-60 minutes – then store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days
  • Make the dressing  and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 7 days
  • You can also bake the beans once you have boiled them so that they are crispy then store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days if you are going to be short of time on the night
  • On the night either toss the beans in the seasoning and oil and bake, or if you have already done this, just heat in the oven for about 10 minutes to make sure they are hot through and crispy. Bring the dressing to at least room temperature (I tend to heat it for a minute in the microwave or a small pan on the stove) so that the oil is fully liquid. Whisk the dressing with a fork, dress the rocket, add the beans and serve

Some tasty little twists and extras…

  • Make a gluten-free version by serving with gluten free bread, adding some cooked quinoa to the salad or serving with some cheese e.g. crumbled feta, grilled halloumi or baked goats cheese (this can still be vegetarian depending on the cheese you choose)
  • For a vegan version, serve with the crusty bread or add some cooked quinoa to the salad
  • Increase the protein by adding some shredded chicken or flaked fish e.g. salmon, tuna, haddock
    • Rub the chicken pieces (breast, thighs or drumsticks) or fish with the same seasoning as the spices and bake until cooked all the way through (about 20 minutes for chicken, 10-15 minutes for the fish).
    • The chicken is done if the juices run clear when you cut into the thickest bit, fish is done when it is opaque all the way through and flakes easily (although it you are using tuna, you can serve it when it is still pink in the middle if you like it rare)
    • Shred or flake the chicken or fish and scatter over the salad with the beans
  • For a higher protein vegetarian version, add some sliced hardboiled egg to the salad – scatter on top with the beans
  • Vary the salad ingredients e.g. grated cucumber, grated carrot, sliced peppers, sliced lettuce, mixed leaves, chopped tomatoes
  • Try different types of beans e.g. borlotti, cannellini, fava
  • Leftover scones make a lovely breakfast food, reheated in the oven, or a great accompaniment to soup instead of bread

Dairy free cheese scones

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Dietary info: vegetarian, dairy free

Serves: 3-4

  • 250g wholemeal or spelt flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 20g dairy free spread (I used vegan avocado spread)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 125g grated dairy free (vegan) cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  1. Mix together the flour and baking powder and rub in the vegan spread until the mixture resembles fine crumbs
  2. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano and cheese
  3. Make a well in the centre of the scone mixture, break the egg into the well and add the almond milk
  4. Whisk the egg and almond milk together and gradually incorporate into the flour mixture to make a soft dough. It if is too sticky, add more flour, and if it is too dry and stiff add more almond milk
  5. Knead lightly in the bowl with your hands until the dough comes together into a workable ball
  6. Put the dough on a non-stick baking tray (I use a silicone baking mat on a baking tray) and shape it into a rough oval
  7. Use a knife to score the oval into 8 wedges and cook scones for 20-30 minutes at 160C fan
  8. Serve with the salad, a soup or just enjoy on their own, maybe cut in half and spread with a little vegan spread