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Archive for the ‘Vegetarian (Meat-Fish free)’ Category

I was reminded of this recipe this morning when a friend at church brought in duck eggs for sale.  We had a ready supply throughout last year but the ducks have been taking a break from laying and the resumed supply is something we have eagerly anticipated!  I discovered this very simple recipe last year and although you can use hen’s eggs the larger and richer duck eggs (see picture) make it an extra special light supper.  I have made egg curries in the past and we always enjoy them, but this is one of the simplest recipes I have come across.

Once more this recipe is based on one from one of my favourite books: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner, with just a few very small tweaks.  It’s simple sauce could be used as a base for any grilled meat or fish or diced meat or fish could also be incorporated.  It reminds me a little of other recipes on this site, in particular Pork Sausages Indian Style, a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and Prawn & Tomato Korma, both of which are favourites.  If using hen’s eggs then it is probably better to serve one and a half or even two per person for a light meal: with duck eggs one should be adequate.  If you are serving this at a larger main meal then you will definitely need more eggs and the sauce will serve only two or three people.  If serving as one option at an Indian style multi dish meal then the eggs should be quartered.  This could also be served as a starter with half an egg per portion (in two quarters) and a small piece of naan or poppodums.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Egg Curry
(Serves 4 as a light meal – 2-3 as a main meal – 6-8 as a starter)

4 duck eggs (1 per person – ½ for a starter)
or
4-8 hens eggs (depending on appetite of diners – 1 or less for a starter)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 large or 2 small white onions (be generous)
2.5cm/1inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
6 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1.5cm/½inch piece of root ginger, finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
¼tsp ground turmeric
1tsp garam masala
1tsp chilli powder
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt & black pepper to taste
180ml/6fl ozs vegetable stock or water (or 1tsp stock powder and water)
To garnish
Small handful fresh chopped coriander (parsley if unavailable)
1 small green chilli, a few fine slices (optional – I usually omit this)

1.  Hard boil the eggs in boiling water: 10-12 minutes for duck eggs or 8-10 minutes for hens eggs.  Once cooked plunge immediately into cold water, which will cool them and also help prevent the unsightly grey ring that can form around the yolk.  I usually steam hard boil eggs, having pierced the shells first, which takes about 5 minutes longer.

2.  Finely chop the onion and gently fry it in the oil for 2-3 minutes so it is soft but not browned.

3.  Stir in the finely chopped garlic and ginger along with the cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamoms and cloves.  Fry for 1 minute.

4.  Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder.  Stir well and fry for about 30 seconds more.

5.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes.  Stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the stock or water and bring to the boil.  Season to taste.

6.  Put the hard boiled eggs into the sauce and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

7.  Serve sauce on a bed of plain boiled rice with egg or eggs placed on top.  Garnish with coriander or parsley and, if you wish, a little finely sliced green chilli.

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Chorba is a Moroccan spicy vegetable and pasta soup flavoured with the traditional North African spice mix Ras el-Hanout, which translates as ‘top of the shop’.  There are many versions of this spice mixture and each spice merchant has their own, sometimes containing up to one hundred different ingredients. I have already added details on the combination I use to make Ras el-Hanout.  It can be bought ready made, of course, but if you are like me and have a good selection of individual spices in your cupboard it is not difficult to make.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the rose petals, which I found in a local Turkish supermarket.  As far as I am concerned this warming and filling vegetarian soup is definitely as good as any plated evening meal, especially in the colder months.  A decent sized bowlful is adequate for me, but for larger appetites it could be served before a light main course such as a salad or in a much smaller quantity before a more substantial main course.

The recipe comes from the book on my shelf with the honour of having the longest title: The Complete Illustrated Food & Cooking of Africa & the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich & Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey & Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood, bought after I felt I could no longer hang on to the copy I had found in the library.  So many interesting and different ideas from Africa, which is after all a very big place so I would expect a huge variety.  Even though there are some unusual ingredients most of the recipes do not appear to be completely impossible to attempt.  Certainly with this recipe I had everything I needed to hand.  I have made very few adjustments to the original recipe: slightly less clove, half the quantity of celery (as my husband isn’t all that keen) and a tin of tomatoes in place of fresh ones (though both given here as an either/or).  The finishing touches were a swirl of plain yoghurt (always in the fridge), fresh coriander (currently in a pot by the back door) and some crusty bread.  I did not have the Moroccan loaf recommended but we had a crusty seeded pide loaf from the bakery at our local Turkish foodshop which produces wonderful bread.   If you can find an ethnic style flatbread, or even some warmed pitta bread, they would be perfect.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles
(Serves 4)

3-4tbsp olive oil
2-3 whole cloves
2 onions (or 1 very large)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 butternut squash
2 celery sticks, scrubbed and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
8 large ripe tomatoes
or
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes (if using decrease amount of stock or water – see recipe)
1tsp sugar
1tbsp tomato purée (optional)
1-2tsp Ras el-Hanout
½tsp ground turmeric
large handful chopped fresh coriander (reserve a few leaves to garnish)
2-2½ pints vegetable stock (adjust amount if using tomatoes – see recipe)
or
1tsp-1tsp vegetable stock powder, made up with 2-2½ water/tinned tomatoes
1½oz sheet of egg noodles, broken up a little
Salt & ground black pepper
Yoghurt to serve

1.  Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into chunks. Place in a heavy pan with the olive oil, cloves, onion, crushed garlic, celery and carrots.  Fry gently together until they just start to brown.

2.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes or the chopped up contents of the tin of tomatoes and the sugar.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the tomato purée, Ras el-Hanout, turmeric and chopped fresh coriander.  Pour in the stock or add the stock powder and water.

4.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-40minutes.   The vegetables should be very tender and the liquid reduced a little.

5.  The soup can either be puréed until completely smooth or left chunky with a thinner sauce.  I compromised, liquidising half the soup to thicken the sauce whilst still leaving some chunks.

6.  Return the puréed soup to the pan, add the broken noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is soft.

7.  Season to taste and spoon into soup bowls.  Add a swirl of yoghurt to each portion and garnish with a fresh coriander leaf or two.  Serve with crusty bread.

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Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle.  Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese.  (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.)  The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!)  Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why.  I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly.  The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy.  All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market.  Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make.  Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful.  If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.

The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites.  I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right.  I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure.  Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!

A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground.  This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners.  (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)

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American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)

1kg cucumber
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)

1.  Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.

2.  Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.

3.  Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty.  To dry see note above.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.

6.   Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

7.   Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.

8.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

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This recipe is a regular at my table, especially in the Summer.  I think it deserves a place on this site even though it seems almost too easy to be worth posting, but the simplest recipes are often the best.  I don’t know how many types of tomato you are able to find locally.  Most weeks just the round red type are available on our market, with unusual varieties a rarety.  In the Summer there are often the small sweet ones, useful for skewering, plus vine tomatoes and sometimes the oval Italian plum type.  One week last Autumn, therefore, I was surprised and pleased to see a number of varieties I had not come across before.  I knew, though, that if I bought several types of tomatoes I would also need to have a plan for them.  No problem: our favourite warm tomato dish, flavoured with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil – perfect!  It would be extra pretty, multi-hued rather than the usual plain red.  I decided on some medium sized pale yellow tomatoes and some enormous crinkly orange/red ones, plus the ordinary red type I had already bought at an earlier stall.  Later on I saw dark tomatoes too, a combination of maroon and olive green: my heart said yes … but my head said that I had bought enough already!  A pity as the splash of extra colour would have made the dish particularly attractive.

Although I am sure that there are many similar versions of this Mediterranean style dish in recipe books this recipe is my own.  I have not specified amounts – use as many tomatoes as you would like to serve, but be generous as this is moreish. The other ingredients should be according to taste.  Since I made (and photographed) this recipe I have discovered the existence of white balsamic vinegar, though have not yet bought a bottle.   It would be useful as the tomatoes would not have the usual dark staining associated with ordinary balsamic vinegar.  I usually serve this as a warm side dish as part of a main meal or as a warm or cold salad.  It also makes a good light lunch spooned onto a slice of crusty toast or a delicious starter, either cold or a warm, served on its own, or on crusty bread drizzled with additional olive oil, or topped with a slice of flash grilled melted goats cheese.

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Roasted Mixed Tomatoes

Tomatoes – one variety or mixed varieties and colours if available
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar, dark or white
Fresh basil leaves, torn – plus a few to garnish
Sugar (a small sprinkle for added sweetness)
Sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
Slices of French baguette loaf – optional
Slices of goat’s cheese roll – optional

1.  Cut the tomatoes into ¼inch/½cm slices and layer in an ovenproof dish.

2.  Sprinkle generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add sugar, torn basil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3.  Put the dish uncovered into a preheated oven at around 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for about 15 minutes.  (The temperature and cooking time can be a little higher or lower as this recipe is often cooked at the same time and heat as another dish for the meal.)
OR
Cook uncovered on medium in the microwave so the tomatoes heat through relatively gently.

4.  Whichever method of cooking is used the tomatoes need to be warmed through, retaining their shape, rather than dried up (although they are still delicious if they have shrivelled a little!)

5.  Serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil and some more torn green basil, as the original leaves will have darkened and have lost their attractive colour.

6.  If adding goats cheese then, before finishing with extra olive oil and basil, lay slices of a goat’s cheese log on the top and gently flash grill to melt and colour. Alternatively toast a slice of French baguette loaf on one side, then turn over and lay a slice or two of goats cheese on the other side.  Flash cook cheesy side under the grill.   Serve laid on a bed of warm or cold cooked tomatoes.

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With just a few days to go before our holiday the fresh contents of the fridge were run down to almost zero … but we still had to eat.  Half a dozen tomatoes and some sad looking carrots were all I had left, after which we would be on to frozen and tinned vegetables for the last day or so.  Then I remembered this recipe on a card I had picked up in the supermarket a few weeks before.  It was just the right dish to serve with Marinaded Pork, oven tomato roasted tomatoes and some crusty French bread (flatbread or pittas would have been another option).

The recipe card for Indian Chicken with Carrot & Chickpea Salad came from Tesco supermarkets.  The chicken is pre-marinaded and then simply grilled or fried – something to make on another occasion. The salad was prepared as instructed by the recipe except I halved the quantity of carrot to serve three/four whilst still using a whole can of chick peas.  I would have liked to add more mint but there was not much in my garden – well, I was just about to go away and I do use quite a lot – however the 2-3 sprigs I used was adequate.  I am not sure that this would be enough to serve six unless it was with another vegetable or salad side dish in addition to the rice or bread recommended.  Our verdict on the recipe, however, was a resounding ‘more please’ so I shall be making this again.  At some point I will certainly be trying it with a tikka style chicken recipe as suggested by the original card date.

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Carrot & Chickpea Salad
(Serves 4-6)

1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
3 medium carrots, coarsely grated
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
2-3 sprigs mint, chopped
1.  Put the carrots, chickpeas, honey and olive oil together in a bowl.
2.  Heat the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan and toast until they start to release their aroma.
3.  Add the toasted coriander seeds to the bowl.
4. Stir in the lemon juice to taste – less than the specified quantity may be enough.  Add the mint and season to taste.
5.  Serve with grilled or cold meat.  Original recipe was served with spiced chicken. flatbread, mango chutney and Indian beer.

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A few weeks ago I made sweet scones as part of a special afternoon tea for Mum and Dad on Mothering Sunday and they were a great success.  So last weekend on Father’s Day, with Mum and Dad coming to tea again, I decided to make scones again, but this time Savoury ones: with cheese both in the mix and crusted on the top.  It is a lovely flavourful recipe with the strong cheese flavour enhanced by mustard and cayenne pepper giving a spicy bite, the strength of which of course can be adjusted to taste.  They would also be delicious with a little fried onion added to the mix or on top – or both.  These scones are perfect at tea time or in lunch boxes, at Summer picnics or served with a warming Winter soup in place of bread.

As with the sweet scones the source for this recipe was Delia Smith’s recipe Cheese Crusted Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes. It is a straightforward fairly standard cheese scone recipe and I made it exactly as per the instructions, apart from slightly lessening the spices.  In particular I used less cayenne as the one I have from our local ethnic shop is rather fiery.  I didn’t want to spoil the scones by making them too hot!  The recipe below is a doubled version: somehow the eight smallish scones I made didn’t seem enough.  As with the sweet scones I have added a list of other savoury scones further down this page: recipes from books I own and from cookery sites online that I may well make at some point.  If I do make any and post them on this site I will add a link.

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Cheese Crusted Scones
(Makes 12-16 scones)

12ozs/350g self raising flour
2ozs/60g butter
60zs/170g finely grated strong Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
4-6tbsp milk (and a little more if needed)
½tsp salt
1tsp English mustard powder (or less if you wish)
2-4 large pinches cayenne pepper
A little extra milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 and thoroughly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones).

2.  Sift the flour into a bowl along with the mustard powder, salt and half of the cayenne pepper and mix together.

3.  Rub in the butter with finger tips until well combined.  Mix in most of the grated cheese leaving the remainder (around a generous 2 tbsp) to use later as a topping.

4.  Beat the eggs with 4tbsp milk and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a soft dough that leaves the bowl clean, adding a little more milk as required if the mixture seems dry.  Try to avoid working the mixture too much as this will make the scones hard.

5.  On a well floured surface, to avoid sticking, gently roll the dough as evenly as possible to a thickness of ¾inch/2cm.  I like to cut savoury scones into square shapes (using rounds for sweet scones) and this can be done with a knife.  If the dough is formed into an oblong shape it can be cut into the required number of equally sized pieces which will avoid it having to be reworked.  Depending on size required, bearing in mind they will rise in the oven, aim for 12-16 pieces.

6.  Brush the tops with a little more milk, sprinkle equally with the reserved cheese and, if you wish, very lightly dush with some more cayenne pepper.

7.  Place evenly spaced on the baking sheets, allowing a little room for rising.  Bake for 12-15 minutes (or a little longer if necessary) until the cheese has started to crust and the scones are browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

8.  Serve warm or cold with or without butter but the scones are best eaten the day they are cooked.  Next day reheating a little is recommended.  Fillings such as ham, tuna, chutney or tomato are also suggested, as is topping with a fried, poached or scrambled egg.

Alternative recipes for savoury scones (untried):
Cheese & Fried onion Scones (see my note above)
Cheese & Sweetcorn Scones – The Omniverous Bear/Good Food
Potato Scones – Delia Smith – Book of Cakes (original version)
Tattie (Potato) Scones – London Eats
Cheese & Marmite Scones – For Forks Sake
Buttermilk Scones with Cheshire Cheese & Chives – Delia Smith online
Feta, Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Scones – Delia Smith online
Savoury Herb Scones – Cook it Simply
Peppadew & Chive Scones – The Complete Cookbook
Cheese & Chive Scones – Lavender & Lovage
Cheese Scones with a Chilli kick –  Searching for Spice
Ham & Cheese Muffins (not quite scones but almost) – Slightly Domesticated Dad

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Since I don’t speak Spanish (I learned French and a little German at school) I ran the words Patatas Bravas through the online translator, just out of interest.  I was surprised to find it simply means roast potatoes: but as they are roast potatoes with a Spanish twist they are unlike any roast potato I have eaten before.  Most of the recipes I found were actually for pan fried crispy potatoes rather than roasties but I am sure this could be made with traditionally oven roasted potatoes too so I have included this in the instructions.  The Spanish twist is, of course, the tangy and spicy tomato sauce which is served on top or on the side.

The recipe below is my combination of ideas from several sources.  One starting point was my book of Tapas and Paella recipes: Spanish Bar and Restaurant Cooking by María Solís Ballinger & Natalía Solís Ballinger, but I also consulted the Patatas Bravas recipes of James Martin, Simon Rimmer, BBC Good Food, Guardian online, Jason Atherton in NatWest Customer magazine (New Year 2011) and the website debskitchencreations.  In most cases the sauce is based on a tin of plum tomatoes, but it can also be made using tomato ketchup (a suggestion from the book mentioned above), especially if it is home made Tomato Ketchup, something I do make from time to time.  Smoked Paprika is essential as a spicy flavour of Spain, but the recipes also variously include hot pepper from chopped chilli peppers, chilli powder, Cayenne pepper or Tabasco Sauce.  There were huge variations in the quantities used and thus the amount of heat, but I am sure this should be according to personal taste.  Herbs were added too: most usually thyme but one recipe used a bay leaf and parsley as a garnish.  Lemon added piquancy in one recipe and in another a little sugar, something I often add to tomatoes anyway, gave additional sweetness.  Yet another added tomato purée.  Jason Atherton added a chopped red pepper, always a popular ingredient in our house, after the style of the city of Burgos.  The sauce should be spooned over the Patatas Bravas at the last minute so they reach the table crispy rather than soggy.  Some recipes also serve Mayonnaise, or the wonderfully garlicky mayonnaise based Aïoli sauce on the side.  (This is the mostly used French spelling from Provence: the Catalan spelling is Allioli.)  In the book mentioned above mayonnaise is mixed with the tomato sauce, but I prefer them separately.  The dish is common in Tapas bars throughout Spain, with the pieces of potato often on cocktail sticks.  It would make an excellent dish at a buffet table or as a starter though it is delicious served at a main meal with fish (or simply grilled meat).

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Patatas Bravas
Roast Potatoes Spanish Style
(Serves 4-6)

4-6 large potatoes (one for each diner)
Olive oil for frying
Salt
For the sauce
1 large onion
2/3 cloves garlic
olive oil
1 large red pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper (more if you like it hotter)
1tbsp smoked paprika
1tbsp tomato purée
1tbsp fresh thyme or ½tbsp dried thyme
1 small bay leaf (optional or as an alternative to the thyme)
1tsp lemon juice
1tbsp sherry (or wine) vinegar (optional)
½tsp sugar
Salt & black pepper
Chopped parsley to garnish

1.  Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic cloves.  Gently fry in olive oil, covering the pan, until transparent but not browned.  Finely chop the red pepper, stir in and continue to cook until soft.

2.  Chop or liquidise the tin of tomatoes.  Add the spices, thyme, bay leaf (if using) and tomato purée to the onion mixture and stir.  Mix in the chopped/liquidised tomatoes, along with the lemon juice, vinegar (if using) and sugar.  Bring to boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently without a lid until reduced to a thick slightly chunky sauce.  Remove the bay leaf.

3.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and black pepper as needed.

4.  While the sauce is reducing peel and cut the potatoes into one inch/2.5cm chunks.  Place in a pan, cover with boiling salted water and bring to the boil.  Cook for 5 minutes and no longer.  Drain the potatoes and blot so they dry slightly.

5.  The potatoes can be either pan fried or oven baked.
To pan fry:  Put into a frying pan with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Fry gently until browned, turning from time to time as they will stick a little.
To oven bake: Put into a baking tin with olive oil and salt and place in the oven.

6.   The potatoes should be served when golden and crispy.  Add the sauce just before serving along with mayonnaise or Aïoli and a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley.

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As I have said before, Sunday lunches can become rather predictable, but this is one of those accompaniments that adds some new flavours, giving a new twist to the familiar.  Other ways of bringing a fresh approach to a roast joint are pre-marinading the meat, as in Australian Spiced Roast Pork or by adding an unusual sauce, such as Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce.  The moment I watched Nigel Slater make this ragoût recipe on television just after Christmas I knew I had to try it.  All the ingredients were handy, including some juniper berries which I had bought in France (they were a bit old, but never mind – I just added a few extra!).  I was also already planning to serve roast beef the following Sunday.  In place of the fillet beef used by Nigel Slater in the original recipe I slow roasted a topside beef joint using my usual Sunday lunch method.  It was a definite hit with the family and I will certainly be making it again.  In fact it is an unusual dish to serve when entertaining and especially useful as it can be made in advance and reheated – always a plus on a busy Sunday! 

The original recipe was part of the programme Nigel Slater’s Christmas Suppers and was called New Year Roast Filet of Beef with Pumpkin Ragoût.  In place of pumpkin I substituted a butternut squash, which is readily available through the Autumn and Winter and useful for so many recipes.  I would be interested in trying this without using white wine as this is not always available, but the  juniper berries gave a delicate flavour and the buttery sweetness of the Butternut Squash complemented the beef really well. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Butternut Squash or Pumpkin Ragoût
(Serves 6)
For fillet beef see original recipe: New Year Roast Filet of Beef with Pumpkin Ragoût

For the pumpkin ragoût
2 large onions
2tbsp of olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 juniper berries
A large butternut squash (or a small pumpkin)
2 tbsp of plain flour
500ml/17fl oz hot vegetable or chicken stock
175ml/6fl oz white wine
salt & black pepper
a few sprigs of chopped fresh parsley

1.  Peel and finely slice the onions.   Gently heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions slowly.   Strip the rosemary leaves from the stems, chop them finely and crush the juniper berries.   Add both to the onions.  Continue to cook gently for about 15-20 minutes until the onions are softened.

2.  Remove the peel from the squash or pumpkin, take out the seeds and thinly slice  into small 1cm/½in thick pieces (or larger if you wish.)  Add the pieces of squash or pumpkin to the onion mixture and fry for 4-5 minutes. 

3.  Sprinkle over the flour, stir well and carry on cooking for about five more minutes.

4.  Add the stock and wine, bring to the boil, season and then lower the heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the pieces of squash or pumpkin are tender. 

5.  Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving.

6.   To serve, spoon the ragoût onto plates and place slices of the hot cooked beef on top.

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A bowlful of a good hearty soup sometimes takes the place of a plated main meal in our house, especially during the winter months.  This usually contains meat, but not always a large quantity and sometimes, as is the case with this recipe, there is no meat at all.  It just goes to prove that soups don’t have to to contain meat to be satisfying: this delicious recipe contains generous amounts of a good selection of vegetables, plus small sized soup pasta.

This recipe, originally just called Vegetable Soup, comes from The Creative Vegetarian Cookbook published by Bramley Books (there is no author listed – edited by Jillian Stewart & Kate Cranshaw). I made the recipe as in the book but substuted 1 sweet potato as I did not have any swede.  I also found that it needed a little extra water towards the end of the cooking time so have included this in the instructions.  Soup pasta, is available in supermarkets and is a dainty version of the pasta shapes usually served as part of a main course.  In addition to the original recipe I added a good sprinkling of grated parmesan just prior to serving.  Of course, if you really miss the meat some diced ham or bacon could be added as well, I suggest at the first stage of cooking.  The recipe gives three generous servings but can be stretched to four by increasing the size or amounts of the vegetables or by serving crusty bread or toast on the side.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chunky Vegetable & Pasta Soup
(Serves 3-4)

2tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled & sliced
1 large turnip or fist sized piece of swede or sweet potato, peeled & sliced
2 leeks, washed & thinly sliced
2 potatoes, scrubbed & diced
570ml/1pint vegetable stock
450g/1lb tin of plum tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼tsp dried marjoram or dried savory
60g/2ozs dried small sized soup pasta
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
90g/3ozs fresh or frozen sliced green beans
120g/4ozs okra, trimmed & sliced
60g/2ozs frozen or tinned sweetcorn niblets
60g/2ozs frozen peas
1tbsp chopped parsley – plus a little more to garnish
Fresh parmesan cheese, grated, to garnish (optional)

 1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the carrot, turnip or swede (sweet potato should be added a little later), leeks and potatoes.

2.  Cook gently for about 10 minutes until softened but not browned. 

3.  Add the stock, sweet potato (if using), tomatoes, bay leaf, marjoram/savory, soup pasta, salt & black pepper. 

4.  Gently bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 20minutes.

5.  Add the beans and okra and cook for 10 minutes more.

6.  Finally add the sweetcorn, peas and parsley and cook for 5 minutes more before serving.

7.  Check seasoning.  Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with a little reserved parsley.  Grated fresh parmesan cheese can also be added – optional.  Serve with crusty bread.

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The combination of pulses and root vegetables make delicious soups for the colder months and this thick golden bowlful certainly keeps out the winter chill.  The food writer Nigel Slater, who devised the recipe, writes that though this is a winter soup it is also ideal for a cold spring day: a way to use up the last of the winter pulses and a good use for those parsnips hiding in the vegetable rack.  It is certainly good for using up parsnips that are slightly past their best or the thin pieces that don’t roast too well!

The recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s column in the Observer Sunday newspaper colour supplement in April 2007 which can also be found online.  The other recipe that day was Beetroot Seed Cake, which I also made and have already written about on this site.  This soup is tasty and spicy, though for a less hot version use just half a dried chilli pepper, or even less, rather than whole one.  Nigel Slater prefers cooking the vegetables in butter rather than oil but I use both.  You still get a buttery flavour but the oil helps to prevent the butter from burning.  The recipe did not really need too much alteration, although towards the end of the cooking time I put in some fresh coriander, as well as adding some as a garnish to give its distinctive flavour which we love.  You can, of course, leave this out if you wish.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Parsnip & Split Pea Soup
(Serves 4)

2 medium sized onions
a generous knob of butter
1tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 parsnips
2tsp chilli crushed (I used 1 small crushed dried chilli)
1tsp turmeric
a large pinch of ground mace
2tsp ground coriander
125gyellow split peas
1.5 litres water
black pepper
Fresh coriander to stir through and garnish (optional)

1.  Peel and roughly chop the onions. Gently heat the butter and olive oil together in a deep pan.  (Nigel Slater prefers butter to oil but I use both as you still get the buttery flavour but the oil helps to prevent it from burning.) 

2.  Add the onions to the pan and start to cook gently.  Next peel and crush the garlic and peel and roughly chop the parsnips, adding both to the pan and mixing well. Cook gently on a medium heat. 

3.  When they are starting to show colour add the crushed chilli, turmeric powder, ground mace and ground coriander.

4.  Add the split peas and water.  Season with black pepper.  (The salt needs to be added later when the peas start to soften: any earlier and it will toughen their skins.)  Simmer gently for around 35 minutes until the peas are soft and can be crushed between your fingers.

5.  Add salt to taste.  Liquidise until the soup is smooth and thick, return to the pan and gently reheat.  Rinse the liquidiser with a very small amount of water adding this to the pan as well. 

6.  Chop the fresh coriander, reserve a little to garnish and stir through the soup as it reheats.

7.  Adjust the seasoning and serve with crusty bread.

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