Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip

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This is an unusual and grown up sharing platter of roast autumn vegetables, prawns and tortillas with Aji Green Dip – a Peruvian sauce which is full of flavour and kick.  The dip is super easy and can be made in minutes in a food processor.  If you use ‘lighter than light’ mayonnaise then the dip is also officially low fat!

The whole platter is lovely to share with someone else for dinner, or with several others as a starter.  As an alternative you could use the dip as a sauce by spooning it over roast veg or meat or swirling it in to soups.

Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip (serves 2 as a main or 4/5 as a starter)

For the things to dip

1 tortilla, cut in to triangles (or a small bag of plain tortilla crisps)

Small pack of king prawns, dry fried for a few minutes (you can use cooked prawns straight from the packet but they are nicer warm)

3 parsnips/2 potatoes/2 carrots – chopped in to thin wedges

Tbsp oil e.g. olive or vegetable oil

For the dip

Small pack fresh coriander
1 green chilli, chopped in to 3
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp mayonnaise (if you use ‘lighter than light’ mayo the dip will be officially low fat!)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

First put the vegetables in an oven tray and drizzle over the oil, until everything is lightly coated.  Roast the vegetables for half an hour or so, turning a few times, until browned and cooked through (the exact time will depend a bit on the oven).  Ten minutes before the veg are done, arrange the cut tortilla in an oven tray and cook each side for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crunchy.

For the dip, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for about 20 seconds, until smooth.  Serve in a bowl with the vegetables, tortillas and prawns placed around it for dipping!

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Radiant Ratatouille (20 mins prep/50 mins baking)

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I have always had a soft spot for ratatouille, a wonderfully flavoursome and colourful vegetable stew from the south of France.  My mum used to make a really tasty one and I have been known to eat canned ratatouille with a spoon when no one is looking.  Also, if you have ever seen the Pixar film Ratatouille, there is a beautiful scene where a mean and cynical food critic eats a forkful of ratatouille and the experience takes him back to his childhood and turns him in to a nice person..!

This recipe, from ASDA magazine, is simpler than many ratatouille recipes as you simply cover a dish with a can of tomatoes, garlic, dried herbs, basil and vinegar then chop the vegetables and layer them on top (allow about 20 minutes for this).  Bake for around an hour until all the flavours have mingled with each other and then eat it sprinkled with feta cheese alongside some rice.  Just gorgeous.

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Radiant Ratatouille (serves 4 with rice)

Tin chopped tomatoes

Large clove of garlic, crushed

Small handful of basil, torn or roughly chopped

Shake of dried mixed herbs

Dessert spoon of balsamic, white or red wine vinegar

Tbsp oil

1 aubergine, sliced

1 courgette, sliced

Approx 4 medium tomatoes, sliced

2 red onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Pour the tin of chopped tomatoes straight in to your casserole dish, add the garlic, basil, mixed herbs, vinegar and oil and mix well.

Arrange the vegetable slices in neat rows with alternating colours e.g. slice of aubergine/courgette/tomato/onion, and keep repeating this until you have filled the dish (as per the picture above).  Press the vegetables down in to the tomato mixture.  Brush or spray the top of the vegetables with a little oil, to encourage them to turn golden as they bake (this is not essential).

Bake the dish for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is bubbling hot and the vegetables are tender.  Serve sprinkled with a little feta or goats cheese alongside some rice or bread.

 

 

 

Katie’s Caponata

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Caponata is an incredibly flavoursome Sicilian aubergine stew and really, really worth a try!  Sicilian food is a mixture of traditional Italian and North African influences, and in this dish the aubergine, tomatoes, capers, raisins and white wine vinegar create a dish that is rich, sweet and sour all at the same time.   My boyfriend (a man who is not over the top with compliments) loved it too.  It’s delicious on it’s own, on some crunchy toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  It also works well hot or cold and will last a couple of days in the fridge!

I did quite a bit of research to keep the Caponata recipe authentic but without a long list of ingredients, and am confident this is a winner.   Hope you like it : )

Katie’s Caponata (serves approx 2)

Olive oil

1 medium to large aubergine, cut in to small cubes

1 onion, chopped small (white or red onion is fine)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Small shake of dried mixed herbs or small handful of chopped fresh basil or parsley (depending on what you have at home or what you fancy)

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 heaped tsp capers

1 heaped tbsp raisins

Optional – large handful of pine nuts

1-2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar, depending on your taste

Optional – grated parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

To avoid having to cook the aubergine in lots of oil, firstly place it in a colander or sieve, lightly salt it (ensuring the salt is mixed in) and leave it for at least 30 minutes over the sink.  This will draw out the aubergine’s natural juices, which will drip a little in to the sink.

Heat some oil in a pan and add the aubergine.  Fry it for 10-15 minutes, until softening, then add the onion, garlic and whatever herbs you have chosen.  Fry for another 5 minutes, until the onion is softened, then add the tin of tomatoes, capers, raisins, pine nuts (if using) and vinegar.  Leave it to simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have reduced down and you are left with a sticky, rich, tasty sauce.  Add salt, pepper and a wee bit more vinegar if you think it needs it (the other flavours might be plenty!)

Serve the caponata with a little olive oil drizzled on top.  Enjoy it on it’s own, on toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  Grate over some parmesan if you fancy!

 

 

Pea and Mint Soup with Parmesan Crisps

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My favourite springtime recipe has to be pea and mint soup.  It is so fresh and flavoursome that I ate an unacceptably impolite amount of it at my friend’s house once.  You can make parmesan crisps to dip in to the soup for an extra impressive, yet surprisingly simple, dish.

My other seasonal springtime favourites are: charred lettuce and spring onions with goats cheese; potato, onion and fennel tortilla; asparagus with tomato salsa and crumbled cheese; and watercress pesto (all recipes are on this blog and can be made in 30 mins or less!)

Allow about 25 minutes to make the soup and crisps.  You will need a food processor or hand blender and baking/greaseproof paper.
Pea and Mint Soup with Parmesan Crisps (serves 4 as a starter or light main)

1 tbsp oil
Large knob of butter
1 medium potato, diced small
700g frozen peas
2 vegetable stock cubes (ideally OXO as they crumble well)
Large handful mint, roughly chopped
65g parmesan, very finely grated (or use double this if you want two crisps per bowl of soup)

Heat the oil and butter in a pan and when bubbling add the diced potato. Fry for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden and cooked through. Add the peas then add water so they are only just covered. Simmer for a few minutes, until the peas are tender, then crumble in the stock cubes and stir well. Add the mint then then use a food processor or hand blender to whizz everything together until smooth. If the soup is too thick then gradually add water until you are happy with the consistency.

To make the parmesan crisps, heat the oven at 220 degrees/gas mark 7. Line a baking tray with baking/greaseproof paper and on to this divide the grated parmesan into 4 long strips, in a thin layer. Bake for around 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Leave to cool a little, for about 5 minutes, then while still a little warm carefully peel the crisps off the baking paper. Cool until firm.

Serve the soup in bowls with a parmesan crisp on the side to dip in!

My Easy Veggie Ramen

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I LOVE RAMEN.  A big slurpy bowl of goodness which is particularly enjoyable when it is cold outside.  You can eat lots, safe in the knowledge it’s pretty good for you.  Feel free to experiment with what veg you use, or add cooked prawns, meat or tofu to the vegetables for extra substance.  In fact, this is a great soup for using up leftovers so almost anything goes.  Also you could cheat a bit and get a pack of instant miso soup and use that as the water/stock base.

Allow 15-20 minutes to prepare the ramen, and remember the garlic, ginger and chilli amounts are only a guide – you may wish to use less or more, according to taste.

My Veggie Ramen (serves 2)

2 eggs

2 tbsp oil (any is fine)

3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed

Small thumb of ginger, chopped very small, or minced

1 red chilli, chopped very small

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 large cabbage leaves, sliced thin

1/2 red pepper, sliced thin

4 spring onions, chopped small

1 litre hot water (or 1.5 litres if you want the soup more watery)

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tbsp soy sauce

200g noodles (any is fine – I use fine noodles which cook in 3 mins)

4 radishes, sliced thin

1 avocado, sliced in to small chunks

Small handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Chilli garlic sauce (or whatever sauce you fancy)

Boil the eggs in water for around 6 minutes, then drain, put them in cold water and set aside.

Fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for 1 minute in the oil in a saucepan.  Add the mushrooms, cabbage, red pepper, spring onions and fry for another few minutes, until softened.  Add the water, crumble the vegetable stock cube in, add the soy sauce and noodles and simmer for a few more minutes until the noodles are cooked.  Ladle in to bowls then top each bowl with the radishes, 1 egg chopped in half (hopefully it will be a little soft in the middle!), avocado slices, coriander and chilli garlic sauce.  Slurp then go back for more!

Chickpea, herb and halloumi salad

This chickpea, herb and halloumi salad is an old favourite of mine from the excellent Cranks Vegetarian Cookbook.  It manages to be both refreshing and filling at the same time.  The flavours of the lemon and herbs really compliment the rocket, chickpeas, roast tomatoes and olives, and the fried halloumi on top is a salty treat.  It’s lovely whatever the season and only takes 20 minutes to make (or 10 minutes if you don’t roast the tomatoes) – whoop!

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Chickpea, herb and halloumi salad (serves 2-4 depending on appetite)

2 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp lemon juice

100g pitted black olives, cut in half

Small handful chopped parsley

Small handful chopped coriander

Oil (ideally olive oil but any is fine)

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g halloumi cheese, sliced fairly thick

100g rocket (spinach would also work)

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

If you want to roast the tomatoes (to make them extra sweet), put them in a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and roast on gas mark 6/200 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until soft and slightly charred, stirring them a couple of times to prevent sticking.  Alternatively you can just use them raw.

In a bowl mix the chickpeas with the lemon juice, olives, parsley and coriander, a good dash of oil and the garlic.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Dry fry or griddle the halloumi on both sides in a fairly hot frying pan until golden – this should only take 1-2 minutes each side.

Once the cherry tomatoes are cooked, place some rocket on each plate.  Add the chickpea mixture, the tomatoes and finally top with 2 or 3 slices of the halloumi and a drizzle of oil.  Eat and enjoy!

Wild West Rice (ready in 45 mins)

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Wild West Rice is based on Jamie Oliver’s version of a Native American recipe.  It’s a unique, sweet and nutty dish full of interesting flavours and textures.   Rice is mixed with dried cranberries, onion, chopped almonds, cinnamon, garlic, dill and lemon juice and eaten with lovely thick wedges of roast butternut squash.  We had the dish with baked trout but it would be nice with chicken or a salad too.  My kids rejected the butternut squash but liked the rice!  I had a feeling that would happen, but it was worth a try… They were intrigued by the name of the dish, which sparked off a discussion about cowboys.

I used a packet of pre-cooked microwave rice to speed things up, and stir-fried it with the other ingredients instead of microwaving it.  Pre-cooked rice is absolutely brilliant for making cooking times quicker and can be kept in the cupboard for a good while until needed!

Wild West Rice (serves 4)

2 tbsp any oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped

1 red/white onion, chopped small

1 packet microwave rice (I used brown rice)

Shake cinnamon (I probably used about 1/4 tsp but use what you like – avoid lots though as it will overpower the dish!)

Large handful dried cranberries

Small handful roughly chopped dill

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

1 butternut squash, skin on and deseeded, cut in to thick finger sized chunks

Heat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees.  Put the butternut squash chunks in to a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.  Roast, shaking the tray every 10 mins and turning the chunks if necessary, for around  30-40 minutes, until soft and golden brown on the outside (time will depend on your oven).

Meanwhile, put 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan/saucepan on a medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and fry for a few minutes until soft.  Add the rice and cinnamon, cranberries, dill and lemon juice and fry for a few more mins until all mixed and cooked through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put the rice on a plate with the butternut squash chunks.  Eat with fish, chicken or a salad.