Oriental salad dressing – and Oriental coleslaw

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon “lazy” garlic puree
  • 1 tablespoon “lazy” ginger puree
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake it all about until the honey is dissolved.  We like this so much we normally make double or triple quantities and leave the jar in the fridge as a ready-made salad dressing. It’s great on any kind of robust or peppery salad leaves. Originally it was for coleslaw, from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for Asian coleslaw – our take on it is below.

  • Half a small head of red cabbage
  • 2 large carrots, cleaned
  • 6 radishes
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • half a lime
  • bunch of coriander leaves

Chop the spring onions finely, and grate the cabbage, carrots and radishes on a coarse setting.  You may have more success in cutting the cabbage finely with a really sharp knife as it does need to be a bit crunchy.  Mix all the veg together in a bowl and squeeze over the juice of half a lime. Leave to relax for a bit then pour over the dressing above when you’re ready to serve, and garnish with a good handful of chopped coriander leaves. Or if you can’t stand coriander (there are some people who swear it tastes of soap…), just leave it out.

The salad dressing is vegetarian, and if you use maple or agave syrup instead of honey it is vegan.

chickpea chips

OK these may not be entirely healthy (deep-frying anything is usually a bad idea), but if you’re craving something crispy, hot, salty and satisfying, then these are slightly healthier than deep fried potatoes and require no peeling!

Gram flour is also known as besan, or chickpea flour, and can be found in most big supermarkets in the “World Foods” aisle.  If you’re lucky enough to live near an Asian supermarket you’re sure to find it there.

Mix one mugful of gram flour with two mugs of cold water in a saucepan. Stir it over a low heat until it turns into a kind of thick custardy paste (a bit like polenta).  Pour it into a 7 inch square cake tin lined with greaseproof paper, and level it off. You’re looking to get the paste to a thickness of about 1cm.  Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature and cut it into chip shapes – experiment with different thicknesses.  When we did this, there was a 50/50 split between those who liked the fat chips and those who liked the thinner fries.

Heat some neutral tasting oil (sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut) in a deep pan so that the oil is about 5cm deep and there’s at least double that of empty space in the pan above the surface of the oil.  Deep frying is dangerous so you need to minimise the effects of hot oil splashing around.  Carefully lower a few of the chickpea chips into the hot oil – if it bubbles vigorously then it’s the right temperature.  Fry the chips until they take on a golden brown tinge. Don’t overload the pan as this will lower the oil temperature and the chips will absorb more oil.  It’s better to do this in a few batches.  Use a slotted spoon to fish out the cooked chips and drain them really well on kitchen paper. A sprinkle of salt and pepper is really all you need, but you could gild the lily by offering a spicy dip on the side!

These chips, made as above, are vegan. Gram flour is normally gluten-free, and has a higher proportion of protein than other flours.

The link below has nothing to do with gram flour or chips but will feed your soul.

GNU Terry Pratchett

Bob’s fruity brown sauce

Digital CameraMy brother-in-law asked for some of this sauce for his birthday so I’ve renamed it in his honour.  I’ve made several versions of this in the past few years and have a “bung it in” attitude to the spices and dried fruits, which has led to some interesting variations in colour and heat.  This latest batch is a bit pink, and a tad more heavy on the chili than previously, because you can never guess how hot a chili is until it’s in there… This makes the equivalent of about 4 x1lb jamjars.

  • 500g fresh rhubarb (I’ve also used tinned rhubarb occasionally – in which case drain it well, and cut down a bit on the demerara sugar)
  • 250g red onions
  • 1 long red chili, deseeded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 200g cooking apple, peeled and grated
  • 20g (about 2cm) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 heaped teaspons ground ginger
  • 1 dessertspoon paprika
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g dried cherries or dried cranberries or dried dates
  • 200ml red wine vinegar
  • 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 dessertspoon salt
  • 500g demerara sugar

Trim and chop the rhubarb finely.  Peel and chop the onions into small dice.  Deseed the chili and chop that finely too, making sure you protect your hands with rubber gloves to avoid any chili juice being inadvertently rubbed in your eye (or worse…). Peel and grate the apple, and do the same with the fresh ginger. The ginger needs to be grated very finely so that it’s a mush because it’s very fibrous, and the texture of the finished sauce won’t be smooth if there are clumps of ginger in there.  Put all of the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pan and put on to simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Give it a stir occasionally.

The texture of the sauce when it’s cooked will be like runny chutney.  Take off the heat, leave to cool for a bit then put in a food processor (usually in two or three batches) and process until smooth.  Put into warmed sterilised jars or bottles and make sure you use vinegar-proof lids to seal.

The picture shows the latest batch – I think the cranberries and the particularly dark red onions I used have given it a rather nice pink tinge!  The bottles were from an online store which supplies all kinds of empty jars and bottles for home preservers – Wares of Knutsford.  You can visit their shop too – very nice people!

Not quite minestrone

This made enough for 6 big portions.

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 handful frozen green beans
  • 1 head cavolo nero – a very dark green crinkly cabbage with long thin leaves (you can use spring cabbage but cavolo nero is much tastier)
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tin tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tin canellini beans
  • 500ml stock (veg or mushroom)
  • 100ml small pasta shapes (broken spaghetti, orzo, ditalini or small macaroni)
  • salt and black pepper
  • If you have a dried up old rind of hard cheese in the fridge, now is the time to put it to use!NB if you leave out the hard cheese and use pasta made without eggs, this soup is vegan. Parmesan is not suitable for vegetarians, but there are other hard cheeses which are.

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and add the onion and garlic.  Stir it around and leave it to saute gently until the onion is translucent – high heat will burn the garlic and that never tastes good.

Add the cubed potato, carrot, green beans and peas and the tin of tomatoes. Add the 500ml hot stock and stir all the veg around. Now is the time to add your bit of hard cheese to the mixture. Bring to simmering point then leave it all to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are almost soft. Add the drained canellini beans. Shred the cavolo nero finely.  Put the pasta into a separate pan of salted boiling water and let it boil for 5 minutes, while you put the cavolo nero into the pan with the rest of the soup ingredients.  Small pasta shapes don’t take long – check after 5-8 minutes to see if it’s done.

Season the soup with black pepper and salt if it needs it.   Drain the pasta when it’s done and put a spoonful in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle the minestrone over the top of the pasta.

If you cook the pasta separately, it’s easier to save any leftover minestrone for another day so that you can add more freshly-cooked pasta.  Leaving pasta in the soup mixture makes it go a bit sticky and flabby.

Tomato and mozzarella pasta bake

Pasta with tomatoes and cheese – but a bit different.

I came across the idea of baking pasta from dry in a tomato sauce via a link on the Guardian’s excellent recipe exchange – from http://practicallydaily.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/baked-penne-with-tomato-and-mozzarella.html.  Beware though – the first time I cooked it, I used a pottery casserole dish which promptly cracked when on the hob!  Back to good old cast iron… I treated the cheese differently as I’m a sucker for toasted cheese in all its forms.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • half teaspoon chili flakes (or lazy chili from a jar)
  • 2x400g tins of tomatoes
  • 350g penne pasta
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • generous handful of chopped basil
  • 1 ball of mozzarella
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish (or a pan with metal handles that can go in the oven).  Add the garlic and chili and stir for a minute or so.  Add the tomatoes – if they are whole, break them up a bit with a spoon. Add the pasta, a teaspoon of salt (yes you do need this much or it will taste very bland) and stir.  Add about 500ml of boiling water and stir everything together, and bring it back to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Then stir in the cream and the chopped basil, and season with lots of black pepper.  At this point you could also stir in a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach or cavolo nero to up the veg content of this meal.

Slice the mozzarella very thinly and lay it on the top of the pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the mozzarella, and put the whole dish in a preheated oven (gas mark 4, 200 degrees C) for about 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheeses have melted and gone a bit crispy on top.

NB if you search out vegetarian mozzarella and vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, this dish is suitable for vegetarians. Proper authentic Parmesan is not, however, veggie-friendly.

Savoury pancakes with spinach and mushrooms

Another experiment from Morgan, and a very successful one. We tried it with a spinach/mushroom filling but there are plenty of other possibilities.  Gram flour is higher in protein than wheatflour and is gluten free.  This recipe feeds 4 for a light lunch , served with a side salad.

  • 250g gram flour (flour made from chickpeas – available in most big supermarkets or Asian supermarkets)
  • 500ml cold water
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red chili, finely chopped
  • small handful finely chopped coriander (optional)
  • Pinch of salt
  • veg oil

Sieve the flour into a bowl and slowly pour in the water, whisking all the time.  Make sure the batter is free of lumps before adding all the other ingredients and mixing well.

Heat about 1 tsp veg oil in a medium sized frying pan for about a minute.  Add a small ladleful of the pancake mixture, move it about the bottom of the pan until the base is covered. When the pancake begins to bubble and set slightly on the top, flip it over carefully and cook it until the whole thing is golden. Turn out the pancake onto a warmed plate and repeat with the rest of the mixture until it is all used up.


  • 2 big handfuls of mushrooms ( we used frozen mixed mushrooms but fresh would be even better)
  • 2cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach (again we used frozen, but fresh would also work)
  • Squeeze lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon creme fraiche
  • Grated cheese, preferably a strong flavoured hard cheese like mature cheddar or Old Amsterdam
  • Black pepper

Put the mushrooms and spinach into a pan over a low heat until they are all defrosted and heated through. If necessary drain off the water.  Add in 1 tablespoon of creme fraiche, the crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Keep cooking over a low heat until it’s all bubbling together.  Season with pepper (you may not need salt as you’ll be adding grated cheese).  Spoon the hot filling over the pancake and then sprinkle with a good amount of grated cheese so it melts a bit over the filling.



chicken & sweetcorn chowder

Following the triumph of the remote control roast chicken on Wednesday, there was enough meat left over to make another meal for 4.  Since we also had some rather old sweetcorn cobs (bought in anticipation of a barbecue that never happened) and some leftover new potatoes, chicken and sweetcorn chowder it was.

  • 4 fresh corn-on-the-cob 
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 300 g cooked new potatoes, skin on, diced small
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 500 ml skimmed milk
  • 250 g cooked chicken meat, without skin, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon 
  • pepper and salt
  • To garnish: 2 rashers smoked back bacon

Take all the corn off the cobs (hold each one upright, then use a knife to cut down the cob to take off the corn).  Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion.  Cook the onion until it is translucent and soft, but not browned.  Add the corn and the diced potatoes and then the stock and the milk, and the dried herb (if you don’t have tarragon, mixed herbs or thyme might do). Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, then add about half the chicken meat and heat that through.  Use a stick blender to blend the chowder so that it is coarse textured rather than smooth.  Then add the rest of the cooked chicken meat and heat through for another 5 minutes. Taste and add a sprinkling of  salt and lots of black pepper.  Meanwhile, fry the rashers of bacon until they are crispy, take out and drain on kitchen paper then chop into little bits.

Serve the chowder with a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits, and some nice crusty bread.

NOTE: You could use frozen sweetcorn for this, and it would also work if you use uncooked old floury potatoes in place of cooked new potatoes – it would make it more authentic at any rate!  In which case, peel and dice the potatoes and add them raw to the pan and cook them for 15 minutes until they are soft before blitzing with the blender.

wild garlic pesto

We have a small patch of wild garlic growing in our bombsite of a garden.  At this time of year the leaves are fresh and tender and make an excellent pesto.

  • 150g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 150g hard cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or a mixture)
  • 150g nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts, pine nuts and almonds that all needed using up)
  • 100ml olive oil
  • big pinch of salt
  • black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until it’s all amalgamated, but stop before it reaches a completely smooth paste – it’s nicer if there are still recognisable bits of nuts and cheese.

This will keep in the fridge for about a week with a bit of extra olive oil drizzled over the top in a sealed container, or you can freeze it in an ice cube tray.  Use it as you would any type of pesto – stir it into cooked pasta, or with sauteed mushrooms, or use it as a topping for pizza, or swirl it into vegetable soup.

Moorish thing

2014-03-12 19.36.38
Not sure what to call this – it’s a sort of Spanish/Moroccan fusion thing, using up bits and pieces that were in the fridge and cupboard.

  • half a chorizo ring, skin removed and cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • half a jar of “magic peppers” – marinated red peppers that magically do not cause indigestion
  • one 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • one 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 100g frozen spinach
  • half a teaspoon each cumin, coriander, chili powder and cinnamon
  • 250ml stock (I used mushroom but I imagine vegetable or chicken would work too)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g couscous

Put the chorizo bits and the chopped onion in a large frying pan and heat gently until the onions are soft.  Stir in the spices and let them heat through for a bit.  Then add the chopped magic peppers, the tomatoes and the chickpeas, with the hot stock.  Add in the frozen spinach and let it all bubble together for about 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste (shouldn’t need any salt because of the stock and the chorizo).  Cook the couscous according to the packet (usually adding a double quantity of boiling water and leaving it to stand for 5 minutes) and serve the Moorish thing on top of the couscous.

Erwtensoep – Dutch pea soup

A real ribsticker. It took Chris a while to crack this one, but he’s got the recipe pretty much perfect and it’s so much better than the stuff in the Unox tins we used to bring back from NL!

  • 500g split peas
  • 500g of bacon spare ribs, or two small ham hocks
  • 100g streaky unsmoked bacon
  • 1 horseshoe-shaped smoked sausage (rookworst) – Mattessons brand is the best known in the UK
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celeriac
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 small head celery
  • 2 litres water

Rinse the split peas in a sieve.  They don’t need soaking.  Put the 2 litres of water, the peas, the ribs or hamhocks and the bacon into a big pan and bring gently to the boil. Skim off the floating scum, pour off the water, rinse again and put the peas and meat back onto the heat with 2 litres of clean water. Let them simmer gently while you get on with preparing the vegetables. Peel and dice the celeriac and potatotes and the carrot, and peel and chop the onion finely. Add all the vegetables except the celery to the pan and let it all simmer very gently for about 2 hours.

Take the meat out of the pan, remove the rind and bones, and cut the meat into small pieces. Return it to the pan with the finely chopped celery, and the chopped smoked sausage.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving (it probably won’t need any salt).

This freezes very well, but make sure that you reheat it GENTLY or you’ll get exploding pea soup splashes all over your kitchen.

Eet smakelijk!