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.
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.
This is my adaptation of muhummara dip, which I love to order in our local Lebanese restaurant. Mine is more of a store-cupboard version than a strictly authentic one.
75g walnuts (I’ve substituted hazelnuts before when I ran out of walnuts)
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 roasted red peppers
3 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs
2 heaped tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of honey (if you’re being authentic, you should go in search of pomegranate molasses, but honey isn’t a bad substitute)
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1. Roast the nuts and cumin seeds in the oven for up to 5 minutes at 180°C until the nuts are just starting to brown. (If you are roasting the peppers, you could put them in the oven first, as they’ll take about 30 minutes to roast, alternatively you can grill them.)
2. Blitz the walnuts, cumin seeds and peppers in a food processor.
3. Add the other ingredients to the food processor. Blitz until smooth. I only add a splash of olive oil, but up to 2 tablespoons would work here.
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.
This is a really tasty recipe that’s easy to throw together and full of big flavours.
Veggie Jambalaya (serves 4)
1 finely chopped onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
2 celery sticks, finely diced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
A splash of oil
350g long grain rice
1 tsp chilli powder
3 heaped tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
900ml vegetable stock
Optional but recommended
Some diced sweet potato or butternut squash
One tin of red kidney beans, drained
1. Heat a splash of oil and cook the onion, garlic, pepper, celery and chilli in a frying pan. Cook for around 5 minutes until softened.
2. Add the rice to the frying pan, along with chilli powder and tomato purée and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the dried thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper and the stock. Add the diced Squash/sweet potato and red kidney beans. Bring to the boil.
4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes with the pan lid on. Stir occasionally.
Mug cakes cooked in the microwave were really popular last year, which I found amusing as we’ve made cakes in the microwave at our house from being children. My sister’s favourite was chocolate sponge, mine was golden syrup sponge. I thought I’d update the flavourings with something she likes as an adult; chocolate and chilli.
Chocolate and Chilli Microwave Mug Cake (serves 1)
1 tsp chipotle Chilli powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
5 tbsp self raising flour
1. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave in a large mug, heating slowly and stopping to stir frequently, so the chocolate doesn’t burn.
2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, stirring well.
3. Microwave for 1.5 minutes.