Veggie tagine with almond and chickpea couscous

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tagine is traditionally a Moroccan dish that is cooked very slowly in a clay pot.  My version is a bit different, and might anger Moroccan grandmothers (!), but it is still full of the interesting flavours and textures of North Africa.  Vegetables are fried until tender and then raisins, fresh mint and coriander, ground cinnamon and honey are added. The couscous is made separately (and very quickly) with canned chickpeas and flaked almonds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The dish is packed with flavour and really satisfying.  It is also quite sweet and gentle so a good way to introduce children to spices, herbs and unusual flavour combinations (although mine were not convinced on this occasion!)

Allow 30 minutes to make everything.

Veggie tagine with almond and chickpea couscous

For the tagine

1 small carrot, chopped small

1 onion, chopped small

1 courgette, chopped small

1 red pepper, chopped small

Large handful of raisins

Vegetable stock cube

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Small handful of fresh mint

Small handful of coriander

Small squirt of honey

For the couscous

150g couscous

1/2 tin chickpeas, drained

Handful flaked, toasted almonds

Optional – heaped tsp harissa – spicy!

Salt and pepper if not using harissa

Gently heat the carrot and pepper in oil in a pan for around 5 minutes, then add the onion and courgette and cook for a further 10 mins, until all cooked through and tender.  Add more oil if you need to.  Add the raisins.  Crumble in the stock cube then add the cinnamon, mint, coriander and honey.  Stir well and heat for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the couscous as per the pack instructions, adding the chickpeas at the same time as the water.  Once ready add the flaked almonds and stir well.  Add the harissa (if using) or if not season with salt and pepper.

Eat the tagine on top of the couscous!

 

Oriental salad – crispy goodness in 20 mins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This 20 minute Oriental-style salad is full of goodness and flavour.  It is crunchy and (sorry, but there is no other word for it!) zingy.  You can judge yourself how much of each ingredient to use and could try out many other veg such as mini sweetcorn, carrot, broccoli and pepper.  We ate the salad on it’s own but think it would also be nice topped with prawns, chicken, tofu or salmon.

The recipe is based on one from a new cookbook I have been asked to review, called ‘Make It Easy’, by Jane Lovett.  I have made several successful recipes from this book and will post more info soon!

Happy New Year!

Oriental salad (serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side)

Any combination of the following veg:

Pak Choi (available from supermarkets), chopped in to strips

Bean sprouts

Mangetout, thinly sliced

Mixed leaves, chopped fine

Spring onions, chopped fine lengthways

Red chilli, halved, seeded and chopped small

Big handful coriander, roughly chopped

Handful salted peanuts or cashews

Sesame seeds

For the dressing

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp soy sauce

Mix your chosen veg together in a large bowl together with the chilli, coriander and nuts.  Mix together the dressing and mix it with the salad just before serving.  Add prawns, chicken, tofu or salmon if you like.

Leftover parsnip rosti

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I love parsnips.  And I hate waste.  So, with 3 uneaten parsnips in the fridge and some online inspiration, I decided to make parsnip rostis.  I simply grated the (unpeeled) parsnips with some potato, added herbs and seasoning and fried the whole lot in butter to make a sort of parsnip pancake.  Instead of attempting to flip it over I finished the top off under the grill.

The rosti was easy to make and turned out to be rather special – it became sweet, crispy and caramelised when fried in the butter, with an almost nutmeggy taste.  We cut the rosti in half and topped each with a poached egg.  Seriously good!

The recipe would make a great Boxing Day brunch and if you wanted to be really organised you could make it in advance then freeze!

Parsnip rosti (serves 2)

3 medium parsnips, grated

2 medium potatoes, grated

Small handful chopped rosemary or dried herbs

Salt and pepper

Butter

Mix the grated parsnips and potatoes together and put in a dry, clean tea towel.  Squeeze the tea towel in to a ball to get rid of any excess water.  Put the mixture in to a bowl and add the herbs and some salt and pepper.  Mix.

Heat a little butter in a frying pan and add the mixture, pressing it down in to a tight roundish shape.  Fry for approx 5 mins then transfer the pan to the grill to fry the top for around another 5 mins, until golden and crispy on top (or you could try flipping the rosti and frying the other side if you have the right tool!)  Cut the rosti in half and use a spatula to carefully take each half out (don’t worry if it falls apart a bit – it will still be delish!)  Eat topped with a fried or poached egg and with mayo on the side.

If freezing, simply store the rosti in a freezer bag/s and cook  straight from frozen in the frying pan until warmed through and crispy.

 

Cheesy polenta bake (20 mins prep/40 mins baking)

cheesy polenta bake

This cheesy polenta bake recipe came about by using up leftovers.  I had nearly a whole block of ready-made polenta, which is Italian maize, that also happens to be gluten-free.  I also had an onion, some mushrooms and a little cheddar and halloumi cheese that needed eating.  So I made a tomato and veg sauce, topped it with sliced polenta, grated cheese and parsley and baked it.  It took about 20 mins to prepare and 40 mins to bake until it was bubbling nicely.  The polenta went crispy in the oven and the whole thing was really tasty!

cheesy polenta bake

I have never grated halloumi cheese and baked it before but it worked great.  Crumbled goats cheese or grated manchego cheese would also work well.  And you could use lots of alternative leftover veg in the tomato sauce.  In general if you have leftover herbs just chop them and freeze them in freezer bags and then you can use them instantly in cooking or salads, as I did here.  Saves on time and waste!  And polenta is cheap and can just be stored in the cupboard so it’s a great staple to have handy.

The kids weren’t feeling very adventurous so didn’t even try the bake, but me and my boyfriend loved it!

Cheesy polenta bake (serves 3-4 people)

1 onion, chopped

5 mushrooms, chopped

Tin chopped tomatoes (I use the value/basics ones)

1 clove garlic, crushed

Shake dried herbs

Optional – 1 tbsp tomato puree

1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled (I like OXO)

400g ready-made polenta, sliced in to 1/2cm slices

150g grated cheddar and/or grated halloumi (grated manchego cheese or crumbled goats cheese would also work)

Optional – small handful chopped fresh herbs e.g. parsley/basil

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 7.

Fry the onion and mushrooms in some oil until tender (about 5 mins), then add the garlic, dried herbs, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree (if using) and crumble in the stock cube.  Simmer for 5 mins then pour in to a casserole dish.

Arrange the polenta slices on top of the tomato sauce , drizzle on some oil, the grated cheese and fresh herbs (if using).  Bake in the oven for at least 40 mins, until golden and a little crispy on top.  Eat!

Chinese-style cauliflower fried ‘rice’

Did you know that you can grate cauliflower and fry it, as a delicious rice substitute?  Cook it alongside some red onion, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and egg, sprinkle it with coriander and chilli and you have a gorgeous, filling, low calorie dinner.  This Chinese-style cauliflower fried ‘rice’ takes 20 minutes to make and is also great with added prawns or tofu!  You could  use spring onions instead of red onions.

cauliflower fried rice

Grating cauliflower is easy and only takes a couple of minutes.  I grate it whole, using what I can of the florets and leaving the stalky bit in the middle.

The recipe is based on one from http://www.domesticsluttery.com and recommended by my very helpful friend Noush!

Chinese-style cauliflower fried ‘rice’ – serves 2

Sesame oil

1/2 red onion or 4 spring onions, chopped

1 large clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 head cauliflower, florets grated

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Good splash soy sauce

1 red chilli, finely chopped

Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Heat a good glug of sesame oil gently in a frying pan and add the onion and garlic.  After a few minutes and once the onion has softened add the grated cauliflower and stir regularly.  Add a little more sesame oil if need be.  After a couple of minutes make a well in the middle of the pan and add the beaten egg, stirring it in the middle of the pan and keeping the rest of the cauliflower mixture to the side.  Keep stirring the egg until is scrambles (don’t worry if some of the cauliflower mixture gets mixed up with it).

Mix everything together for a few more minutes, adding a good splash of soy sauce until it is salty enough.  Spoon in to bowls and scatter over the chilli and coriander.  Eat and feel satisfied!

Hearty lentil ragu – ready in 35 mins

hearty lentil ragu

This lentil ragu is hearty, low fat and packed with goodness!  It is made from veg (carrots, celery and onion), red lentils, tinned tomatoes, stock, dried herbs, and bay leaves for extra tastiness.  It’s ready in 35 mins and is great mixed with pasta or a jacket potato and topped with grated cheese.  I like my lentils with a tiny bit of bite but if you want them softer you might need to cook for longer.  Just be careful not to cook for so long they turn in to mush!  Alternatively, you could use canned lentils and halve the cooking time.

hearty lentil ragu

This ragu a great value meal, serving 4-6 people and costing about £5 in total (including the potatoes and cheese!).  Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to three days or frozen – just take them out of the freezer and pop in the fridge the night before eating.  And to save time you could microwave the jacket potatoes (just prick with a knife and microwave on full power for at least 7 minutes, turning over halfway through).

hearty lentil ragu

Hearty lentil ragu (serves 4-6 depending on appetite)

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 large stick celery, finely chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped

Tin chopped tomatoes (I use value ones)

200g red lentils

1 Vegetable OXO cube

Generous shake dried mixed herbs

Optional – 2 bay leaves

tbsp tomato puree

Fry the carrot, celery and onion in some oil (olive/vegetable/sunflower oil is fine) together with the garlic, for about 8 minutes until tender.  Add the chopped tomatoes, lentils and crumble over the stock cube.  Stir well, and add some hot water so the lentils have enough liquid to cook in, but not too much (the liquid will reduce down as it cooks).

Add the dried herbs, bay leaves (if using) and tomato puree and stir well again.  Simmer on a moderate heat, stirring often, for around 20 minutes, until the lentils are cooked.  It might take a little longer but I find lentils take much less time that the packet states!  Eat with pasta or a jacket potato, with grated cheese on top.

Hidden veg tomato sauce (ready in 15 mins)

hidden veg tomato sauce

Sometimes you just want to get vegetables in to your kids! This tasty hidden veg tomato sauce is a great way to sneak in and to use up leftover veg in a meal, by blitzing the mixture in a food processor until it is red and smooth. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

If you always have some tinned chopped tomatoes, garlic, stock cubes, tomato puree and dried herbs in the cupboard then you can just add whatever veg you have. Some veg such as carrots and broccoli can be grated raw and added, instead of frying them first. You can eat the hidden veg tomato sauce with pasta and grated cheese; with added tinned tuna and olives (after blitzing) and a jacket potato; or with tinned beans (e.g. cannelloni beans/chickpeas – added after blitzing and reheated) for homemade baked beans.

The sauce can also be frozen in freezer bags for up to three months, then defrosted overnight for a super simple meal the next day.  The goodness and flavour will be retained, but bear in the mind the mixture will reduce down a bit in the freezer.

hidden veg tomato sauce

hidden veg tomato sauce

My kids absolutely love the sauce with cheese and pasta (oldest seen below trying to eat it as fast as he can), even though they would normally heartily reject half the veg it contains. But little do they know haha!

hidden veg tomato sauce

hidden veg tomato sauce

For an adult portion, simply put some of the mixture aside before blitzing it.

Hidden veg tomato sauce (enough for 4-6 portions)

1 tin chopped tomatoes (I use the value/basic range)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped small
1 carrot, chopped small
4 mushrooms, chopped
Few heads broccoli, chopped
Any leftover veg you want to use!
1 clove garlic, crushed/chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
Shake dried mixed herbs
1 stock cube, crumbled (I like OXO vegetable as it crumbles easily)

Gently fry the chopped veg with the garlic in some oil for about 7 minutes, until tender but cooked, stirring regularly.  Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, dried herbs and crumbled stock cube, stir well and heat for a further 2 minutes.  Blitz in a food processor until smooth. Eat with pasta and cheese; tuna and a jacket potato; or tinned beans (added at the end).