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An Autumnal Salad

I had a wonderful gig this summer, touring the country promoting Campingaz  BBQ’s. I toured pretty much every weekend showcasing my recipes and feeding the general public. The only downside from such a great job is that now I cannot even look at a steak, let alone eat it. I am cowed out!

Hence the last few weeks I have been trying to come up with no meat options for myself and the kids. The kids are not quite as enthusiastic about this phase as I am but I shall persevere.

After many a pasta, potato and couscous dish, even I was looking for something a bit different. Squashes and Beets are in season and on my last visit to Lidl (I bloody love that place) I grabbed some beetroots and made up this salad. It is soo good I have eaten it pretty much everyday for a week.  I hope you like it too.

Beetroot and Halloumi Salad

As long as you have the two main elements, beets and halloumi, the rest is up to you. There is something really addictive about the sweetness of the beetroot and the saltiness of the cheese.

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 small or 2 large fresh beetroots
  • pack of Halloumi
  • Rocket
  • Half a red chilli (finely diced)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Splash of olive oil

Method

Turn on the oven to about 180C, prick the beets and put them on a roasting dish, roast for about 40mins until they have a bit of give in them. Set them aside to cool enough for you to peel them.

Heat up a frying pan and slice up the Halloumi. Splash a little olive oil on the cheese pieces then fry them in a pan until each side has a golden tinge. Set aside and then peel and slice the beets.

Place the beet slices on a plate and lightly season with salt and pepper. Scatter the rocket leaves over the top then the Halloumi slices and chilli. Dress with the lime juice and olive oil.


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Greece Is The Word

I took a week off this summer to regroup with a couple of girlfriends.  We decided to fly to Greece and do as little as humanely possible. Four days into our peaceful break the UK imploded with the outcome of Brexit. We ran to a cashpoint to take out Euros before the pound dropped to unrecognisable levels. So needless to say the relaxing holiday wasn’t quite as chilled as we wished for.

It was my first visit to Greece. What a beautiful place with such lovely, kind and helpful people. Kefalonia  is a stunning island about 20km long and half that width. The sea was warm and the sun was hot. I ate tons of fish, mostly grilled sardines served with tomatoes and cucumber and a lovely creamy tsatziki. I also discovered the greek dish Horta. Its simple blanched spinach like greens, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. Its so fresh and delicious that you can almost feel the vitamin boost

My one regret is that I did not eat an authentic moussaka. I did my research though and decided I would make on as soon as I came home. The secret is to fry off your vegetables in olive oil before you assemble the dish. This is time consuming but a process that must happen for the best tasting pie.

I leave you with the recipe and a few photos.

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Mousakka

My daily diet in Greece pretty much consisted of grilled sardines and greek salad. I wanted to try a mousakka but it just seemed too hot to contemplate such a warm filling meal.

However on my return it was one of the first things I made for my family and hungry neighbours eager to cash in on my enthusiasm for all things Greek.

After a little bit of research, I took the best bits of many recipes and created the recipe below. This recipe is time consuming as frying all the veg in batches takes a while. Believe me it is worth the effort.

Ingredients

  • 150-175ml  olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 900g lean minced lamb
  • 50ml white wine or water
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 cinammon stick
  • handful fresh oragano leaves, chopped. Or a big dash of dried oragano
  • 3 large aubergines
  • 3 courgettes
  • 4 or 5 maris piper potatoes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the cheese sauce

  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 50g kefalotiri cheese, finely grated. If you can’t find this cheese use pecorino or parmasen cheese.
  • 2 medium free-range eggs beaten

 Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6.

  2. For the lamb sauce, heat two teaspoons of the oil in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced lamb and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and oregano and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes while you make everything else.

  3. Now begin your mini marathon of frying. Take your courgette, aubergine and potatoes and without peeling them, slice them lengthwise into 3/4mm slices. Season them both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan until it is jumping hot, add a large dash of the oil and fry the veg in batches, making sure they are well cooked and brown on each side. Place the cooked layers on a plate covered in kitchen roll to soak up the extra oil.

  4. Take a large deep oven proof dish and begin by adding a layer of aubergine, then courgette, then potato and repeat until all of the veg are happy in the dish, make sure you give a little dust of salt a pepper to each layer.

  5. For the topping, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, add the flour and cinnamon stick and cook over a medium heat for one minute to cook out the flour. Gradually beat in the milk, bring to the boil, stirring, and leave to simmer very gently for 10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly and then beat in the eggs.

  6. Now to assemble the final elements. Pour the cooked lamb sauce over the layered veg and then add the cheese sauce on top bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and bubbling.

    Serve with a greek salad of fresh tomatoes and cucumber with the best feta you can find.


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I Still Dream of Organon

I’m not sure why but in the last couple of weeks I have been on a bit of a vegan tip. I guess it was a perfect storm of friends over for dinner who are thus inclined and me rising to a challenge. The challenge for me isn’t the non meat bit. If I really think about it, I am mostly veggie inclined. Almost everyday I consume a bag of rocket and snack on raw tomatoes or seeds. Although I do love to throw a bit of goats cheese in with my rocket much to my children’s disgust.

Of all of the things I have prepared over the 9 years my kids have been with me, for some reason goats cheese seems to send them into utter panic.  The smallest hint of something that might look like said cheese either in, on or near a plate of their food, they all look suspiciously at me. “Is that goats cheese?” “Did you see that? It looks like goats cheese!” “Its goats cheese, it is I swear it is..No I’m not eating that!”. It has its upside though. I tell them we are moving to France to raise goats and make cheese when the most severe of threats is needed. Works every time.

Anyway I digress…I was saying that not eating meat is not a problem for me. But dairy, cheese and butter! Thats where I start to trip. How do you bake with no eggs or butter? Ok so you can substitute butter with oils but eggs? I would love to know what to use instead?

Also I just couldn’t live without cheese. Its one of the few food stuffs that literally makes me happy. I could walk away from cakes and biscuits and chocolate and all things sweet but a piece of Manchego or Brie or Cheddar or Roquefort……

Right so I think we are all clear. I am a rubbish vegan. I did however manage to create a vegan pie this week. I was pretty pleased with myself because the pastry was an inspiration that just came to me. It worked really well. The proper vegan approved and thats all that counts really.

Have a great week and I leave you with some pics of said pie and also some photos of very non vegan scones that the kids from Somerfield Playground in Tottenham made with me. More to come from those fab kids next week!

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Mushroom and Aubergine Pie (v)

(Serves 4)

This is delicious and filling and creamy and the pastry is something that I will use now even if I am making a non vegan pie.

Ingredients

For the Pastry

  • 100g white flour
  • 100g spelt flour
  • Handful of mixed seeds
  • Generous pinch of maldon sea salt
  • 50g coconut oil
  • Cold water to mix

For the Filling

  • 1 large aubergine (cut into chunks)
  • 450g mushrooms (chopped roughly)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • Juice of half lemon
  • Handful of crushed walnuts
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 250mil soy cream
  • 2-4 tbsp Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Few sprigs of thyme

Method

Turn the oven to 180c. Make the pastry first. Mix your flours seeds and salt and then add the coconut oil. Rub with your fingertips until the coconut oil is mixed thoroughly and you get the usual breadcrumb texture. Then add a little cold water (about 3 tblsp) and mix with a knife,  You want the pastry to come together add a little cold water at a time to make this happen. Pat into a ball cover with cling film and place in the fridge.

In a large frying pan add the olive oil. Fry off the aubergine in batches if need be until soft and browning. It will take take about 10mins. Decant onto kitchen paper and then add a little more oil and add the mushrooms. The trick with mushrooms is to leave them alone, let them cook gently and release their water. Add a little salt and pepper halfway through the cooking time (about 5 mins) and then turn and cook for a further 5 minutes until they are soft. Then add the aubergine and the garlic and thyme. Stir gently and add the soy cream and the chili flakes then squeeze on the lemon juice. One last stir and take off the heat.

I used a ceramic pie dish (one I think traditionally used for crumbles). It needs to be deep and around 6 inches wide. Really it doesn’t matter. You could use a large pudding bowl if you wanted. Decant the pie mixture into the dish of your choice.

Roll out the pastry to around 3mil thick and wide enough to cover the dish. Place on top of the filling and either cut or roll the edges to seal the pie filling in.

I used a little of the soy cream which was in the pot mixed with a bit of water to wash the top of the pastry.

Place in the oven for 25 to 30mins until the pie mixture is bubbling and the pastry is turning a golden brown. Serve with greens or a lovely autumn salad.


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