I decided to set myself a challenge for May to cook recipes using ingredients that I don’t normally cook with. I like pretty much all vegetables, but I do know that there are some I gravitate towards, particularly in the kitchen, so I’ve drawn up a list of some fruit and veg that I want to experiment with this month.
The first recipe I’m posting uses Brussels Sprouts and is based on a recipe in Thomasina Mier’s Book ‘Home Cook’. The original recipe uses Rosetta sprouts and anchovies.
Sprout, marscapone and pine nut pasta (serves 2)
50g pine nuts
200g finely shredded Brussels Sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
A generous pinch of chilli flakes
The needles from one Rosemary sprig, finely chopped
75ml white wine
30g finely grated vegetarian Parmesan
Zest of half a lemon
1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water.
2. While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until they develop a golden brown colour and then set to one side.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli flakes and rosemary. After 1 minute, add the finely shredded Brussels Sprouts and stir well to combine. Pour in the wine and cook over a medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the marscapone cheese, vegetarian Parmesan cheese and lemon zest.
4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain well and mix into the sauce, adding half of the toasted pine nuts. Stir well to coat the pasta in the sauce. Serve with the remaining pine nuts sprinkled on top, also no with extra vegetarian Parmesan, if desired.
When it comes to food and eating out, I often like to try something different, but I am prepared to admit that sometimes the classics shouldn’t be messed with. I don’t think there’s much that needs changing when it comes to Rock Buns; they’re one of my favourite easy recipes when you want something comforting to eat alongside a nice cup of tea. However, I’ve recently been tempted to try something a bit different and it did make a nice change, so here’s my suggestion for Chocolate Orange Rock Buns
Chocolate Orange Rock Buns (makes 12)
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of ½ an orange
3 tbsp Orange juice
Demerara sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and lightly oil two baking trays.
2. Soak the sultanas in 2 tbsp of the orange juice.
3. Add the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder to a bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
4. Add the sugar, egg, sultanas and any remaining juice and orange zest and mix well. The mixture needs to be stiff, but not too dry. Add a splash more orange juice if needed, only adding a little at a time.
5. Use two teaspoons to dollop the mixture in 12 rough heaps on the baking sheets, remember they are meant to look rugged! Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the top. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
These are best eaten soon after baking.
It’s easy to make vegan rock cakes too. I just substitute vegan vegetable spread for the butter and 3 tbsp non-dairy milk for the egg.
This Mexican sauce recipe is loosely based on mole poblano, but this is a store cupboard version that’s quick and easy.
1 onion, finely chopped
1 chilli, preferably a dried chipotle chilli that was been reconstituted in hot water and finely chopped, but I’ve also made this with a finely chopped fresh red chilli.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 tbsp for the sauce, 1 tbsp for garnish
1 tbsp chopped almonds (I use flaked almonds and chop them into small pieces using a mezzaluna. I would use ground almonds if that was what I had in the cupboards)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp tomato purée (you could alternatively use 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, but I don’t always have fresh tomatoes in the house)
1 tbsp peanut butter
25g plain chocolate
350ml vegetable stock
(An authentic mole poblano would also have a handful of raisins in, add them if you want, but I prefer this without.)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions, garlic and chillis gently until soft.
2. Add the sesame seeds, almonds, ground cinnamon, cloves and cumin and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
3. Add the tomato purée, stock, peanut butter and chocolate and stir well. Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, I would usually throw in a selection of vegetables and legumes to cook.
If you would prefer to make a more traditional mole poblano sauce, there are recipes on the BBC website that you could adapt.
These red kidney bean balls in sauce are fantastic serve with rice and topped with some grated cheese.
Mexican Bean Balls in Spicy-Sweet sauce (serves 2-3)
400g tin of Red Kidney Beans, drained.
2 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs
5 spring onions
1 tsp dried oregano
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 heaped teaspoon mild chilli powder
1 heaped teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
1 large sweet potato, cut into small chunks, optional
1. Start by making the kidney bean balls. I usually cook them in the oven, but you could fry them if you prefer. If you’re baking them, preheat the oven to 180°C. In a food processor, pulse together all the ingredients for the bean balls. Roll them into walnut sized balls. Bake them in the oven for 10-12 minutes (or fry them).
2. Meanwhile, you can start making the sauce. Fry the onion and garlic in a pan until soft. Add the passata, sugar, chilli powder and paprika and stir well. For a more substantial sauce add some chopped sweet potato chunks. Cover the sauce and allow to simmer away for 20 minutes. Stir through the coriander.
3. To serve, top the cooked balls with the sauce. This is great served with rice and a topping of cheese.
This recipe is somewhere between a soup and a stew – a stoup maybe?!
It’s very easy to make and really healthy.
Spicy Potato and Cabbage Stew (serves 4)
1 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
Splash of olive oil or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 red chilli, deseeded and cut into very small pieces
1 heaped tsp Nigella seeds
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 heaped tsp medium curry powder
1 litre vegetable stock
800g potatoes, peeled and cut into squares
150g shredded cabbage
1. Cook the onion, garlic, chilli, Nigella seeds, turmeric and curry powder in a large saucepan with a splash of oil, until the onion has softened.
2. Stir in the vegetable stock and the potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add the cabbage and cook for another 2 minutes. Add seasoning if required before serving.
Sweet potato gratin (serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish)
1 large sweet potato
1 red onions
1 red chilli
250ml vegetable stock
2 heaped tsp dried thyme
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Peel the sweet potato and the onions and slice them on the thinnest setting on a mandoline. De-seed and chop the chilli as finely as you can.
3. Place a layer of sweet potato on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with a thin layer of onions and sprinkle on a little bit of crumbled feta and chilli. Continue to layer up the ingredients, finishing with a layer of sweet potato on the top, but reserving some feta.
4. Stir the dried thyme into the hot vegetable stock and pour over the gratin. You don’t want to much liquid, just enough to cook and steam the potato, so you might not need all the stock.
5. Bake for 20 minutes before adding the remaining feta and cooking for a further 5-10 minutes.
Spring is definitely on the way here in Yorkshire, but there is still a chill in the air and it’s nice to spend cosy evenings with the heating on enjoying being indoors. Here are a couple of suggestions for hearty treats.
Leek and Potato crumble (serves 2)
1 large onion
2 medium potatoes
125g plain flour
30g cheddar cheese
1 tsp paprika
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Slice the onions and leeks. Peel the potatoes and dice into small cubes.
3. Put in a pan with the milk and 25g butter. Cook over a medium heat, stirring until the butter melts. Cover and allow to cook until the veg is softened.
4. Blend 25g flour with 4tbsp cold water and stir into the veg. Cook for 3 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season as needed.
5. Meanwhile dice 50g butter and rub into 100g flour to make crumbs. Mix in the cheddar and paprika.
6. Tip the vegetable base into an ovenproof dish and top with the crumble. Cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until the crumble is golden brown.
Hot buttered Rum (serves 2)
My Dad and his partner bought me some little bottles of Rum back from their recent Caribbean cruise and I wanted to try doing something different with them.
3tsp soft brown sugar
Orange peel (use a potato peeler to cut a few long strips of peel)
100ml Rum, spiced rum works particularly well.
2 cinnamon sticks
300ml boiling water
1. Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan with a strip of orange peel.
2. Stir in the Rum and boiling water.
3. Serve with the cinnamon stick to garnish.