Chickpea, spinach and potato curry


I wanted to make a tasty veggie curry that is spicy and without an endless list of ingredients, and here it is!  You can eat the chickpea, spinach and potato curry scattered with coriander and with rice, naan bread or poppadoms (or all three!)  It is perfect with cucumber raita on the side (mix yoghurt with chopped cucumber, crushed garlic and a shake of pepper).

The curry contains garam masala, an Indian spice mix, which is a great spice to introduce to children as it is slightly sweet and not fiery.  My kids were not convinced about this dish, but they love kedgeree, which also uses garam masala and is one of our top family meals:

Also, if you drain a can of chickpeas and shake over a little oil and garam masala and then roast in the oven for 15 minutes on a fairly hot heat, out come crunchy roast chickpeas!   A great snack for on the go.  Yes, garam masala has to be one of my *exciting ingredients*.  Anyway, I’m rambling, so here is the recipe.  Allow about 30 minutes to make it.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry (serves 4)

1 large potato, chopped small (don’t bother peeling it)

1 onion, chopped small

100g spinach, roughly chopped

Can chickpeas, drained

1 large clove garlic, crushed

Little finger of ginger, chopped very small

1/2 can coconut milk

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (or more if you fancy)

Optional – if you want it spicy – fresh chilli or chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Cook the potato in a pan in oil for about 12 mins until tender.  Add the onion and cook for another 5 mins.  Add the spinach and chickpeas, garlic, ginger, garam masala and cumin and cook for 1 minute.  Add coconut milk and seasoning and simmer for a final 5 mins.  Scatter with coriander (and chilli if you wish!) and eat alongside rice, naan bread or poppadoms.


Salmon en croute with a Thai twist


This is a unique and impressive recipe. French classic Salmon en croute is given a Thai twist by topping the salmon with a creamy lime and coriander sauce. It is succulent and fragrant and we ate it for dinner with beans and samphire (how posh!) If you use shop-bought puff-pastry then it is simple to make. You can use a knife to cut out little shapes from any leftover pastry and stick them on top. I think I need to work on my egg glaze technique next time though as it could look better!




The recipe is based on one from a great new cookbook called ‘Make It Easy: Foolproof, Stylish and Delicious Do-Ahead Recipes’ by Jane Lovett.  It does exactly what it says in the title!  Allow 20 minutes preparation time plus 30 minutes cooking.  If you like you can prepare the salmon en croute a day in advance then brush it with the egg when ready for baking.


Salmon en croute with a Thai twist (serves 2-4 people)

70g soft cheese

4 spring onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

Zest of 2 limes

Small handful fresh coriander, chopped

Salt and pepper

320g ready rolled puff-pastry

2 large ish and long salmon fillets, skinned

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.  Mix the soft cheese, spring onions, garlic, lime zest and coriander together and season with salt and pepper.

Place some greaseproof paper on top of a large baking tray.  Cut the puff pastry in half (in to two roughly square shapes – see photo), leaving a little pastry aside for decorations.  Place a salmon fillet on each of the pastry squares, ensuring the pastry has plenty of room to envelope it.

Spread the soft cheese mixture evenly on top of both salmon fillets and fold the pastry over each, ensuring it is sealed (by pinching together) on the top and at both ends.  Make little leaves using a knife to cover the seal on top if you like.  Brush or carefully spoon the beaten egg evenly over the top.  Bake for 20-3o minutes until puffed up and golden brown.  If your oven is a bit rubbish like mine then you may need to turn the pastry over halfway through for even cooking.  Eat with greens!


Veggie tagine with almond and chickpea couscous


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.


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


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.

Swedish salmon and potato bake (10 mins prep/1 hour cooking)

swedish salmon and potato bake

I love this traditional Swedish recipe, which I picked up in ikea of all places!  The smoked salmon baked with sliced potatoes, eggs and cream make it really delicious and comforting.  It’s a great family meal or something for a special occasion.  My kids love it too as it’s salty!

I buy smoked salmon ‘trimmings’ from the supermarket as they are much cheaper than regular smoked salmon (£1.25 for 120g) but equally tasty.  If you have a mandolin or a food processor with a veg cutter it only takes 10 minutes to prepare the mixture (plus 60 mins baking), or if cutting the potatoes by hand allow longer.  If you don’t want to spend ages thinly cutting the potatoes and slowly losing the will to live then cut them thick then parboil on the hob before mixing the ingredients together.  Saves time and effort!  Also I don’t bother peeling the potatoes – I like them with the skin on.

swedish salmon and potato bake

We ate the bake alongside some kale (well, we adults did, the kids won’t give kale the time of day).

swedish salmon and potato bake

Swedish salmon and potato bake (serves 6)

300g smoked salmon trimmings

8 medium size potatoes

1 vegetable stock cube (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

2 eggs

320ml single cream

A little butter

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Cut the potatoes in to thin slices (or, if you can’t be bothered or don’t have a mandolin/veg cutter machine, cut them in to thicker slices then boil them for around 8 mins until nearly cooked).  Butter a casserole dish and add the potatoes and smoked salmon.  Mix well with your hands.  Whisk the cream and eggs briefly and crumble the stock cube in.  Pour over the potato and salmon and make sure it evenly covers them (it will slowly trickle through the layers).

Dollop a few bits of butter on top of the dish.  Cook for around 60 minutes until cooked through, slightly golden and bubbling.  Eat!

10 min brothy tortellini and mushroom soup

tortellini and mushroom soup
I discovered the recipe for this brothy soup (based on one in ‘Veggie Food’ by Murdoch Books) years ago, and have made it dozens of times, especially when I want a one-pot 10 minute dinner!  I love slurping it up, hunched over the bowl, and often getting a bit messy in the process (sorry, that was a bit Nigella wasn’t it).

The soup is full of tortellini, sliced mushrooms, spring onions, vegetable stock and a little garlic, and is a bit special.  We have also made it as a starter for friends, who are always impressed and intrigued by a soup with tortellini in it.  If you like you can grate some cheddar or parmesan over the top.  It really is brill.

tortellini and mushroom soup

You can save some soup for the next day but will probably need to add more stock as the tortellini plumps up overnight.

10 min brothy tortellini and mushroom soup (serves 2 hungry people or 4 people as a light meal)

300g tortellini (any flavour)

4 closed cup or chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 spring onions, chopped

1 large clove garlic, crushed/finely chopped

Approx 700ml Oxo vegetable stock (I dissolve 2 cubes in 700ml boiled water)

Small shake dried mixed herbs


Fry the mushrooms and garlic in oil or butter for about 5 mins, until the mushrooms are cooked but a little tender.  Add the tortellini and spring onions, pour over the hot stock and cook as per the pack instructions (normally around 3 mins).  Add dried herbs and pepper.  Eat happily.

Semolina and herb gnocchi – an exciting vegetarian treat

semolina gnocchi

Who knew that gnocchi didn’t just refer to those small oval-shaped Italian potato dumplings, but also to this version from Rome?!  It uses semolina, frying the mixture in wedges until deliciously golden and crunchy on the outside and soft and springy in the middle, and is an unusual and exciting recipe (a rare thing in the meat-free world sometimes!). It’s also pretty straightforward to make and you can prepare the mixture in advance. At around £3.50 in total (serving 4-6 people) it’s a great value dish.

The recipe is based on one from the brilliant ‘Veggie Feast’ course at Cordon Verve cookery school in Walthamstow, London. The school has a range of one-off courses in a lovely friendly setting overlooking the vegetable garden:

For the gnocchi, you start by heating butter, milk, herbs and ground nutmeg in a saucepan, then add the semolina, egg yolks and parmesan and mix.

semolina gnocchi semolina gnocchi semolina gnocchi

Pour the mixture in to a baking tray, spread out and chill in the fridge before cutting in to wedges and frying in batches.  It takes about 15 mins to prepare the mixture, at least an hour to chill (or overnight if you wish) then around 35 mins to fry.

semolina gnocchi semolina gnocchi semolina gnocchi

The gnocchi are naughty, creamy and very comforting, so you need to offset that with some vegetables!  We had them with salad and roast potatoes the first day.  And the following day topped with with tinned chopped tomatoes heated with garlic and dried herbs.  This worked brilliantly.  My boyfriend reckons the gnocchi would be good with chopped chorizo added to the mixture before frying, but then again he thinks everything is better with chorizo.  Everything. 

semolina gnocchi

I have also found recipes for the gnocchi mixture being cut in to discs (before frying) and overlapped in an ovenproof dish, sprinkled with cheese and baked in the oven.  That sounds easier but probably not as golden and crunchy as being fried all over!  Anyway, I am rattling on a bit now, so here is the recipe:

Semolina and herb gnocchi (serves 4-6)

200g semolina (course ground – available in supermarkets)

750ml whole milk

80g butter

Small handful of fresh or dried herbs, chopped or pulled off their stalk e.g. rosemary/thyme/dried mixed herbs

Salt and pepper

1/3 tsp ground nutmeg (available from supermarkets)

2 egg yolks

50g grated parmesan cheese


Heat the butter, milk, herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper in a saucepan until boiling quickly.  Take off the heat and quickly whisk or stir in the semolina and egg yolks, until rubbery.  Stir in the parmesan.  Add a little milk if it is too thick to stir.  Taste, and season more if necessary.

Pour in to a smallish rectangle/square baking tray lined with clingfilm.  Cool, then chill in the fridge for atleast one hour (or overnight if you wish).   Slice in to wedges.

When ready to fry, heat a large frying pan until moderately hot and add a little butter (you only want a small knob as otherwise the gnocchi won’t brown easily).  Fry in batches, turning the slices over when they are a deep golden brown (not dark brown or black!)  Cook until both sides are this colour, remove carefully from the pan and eat!  Nice with salad.

Flavoursome Fattoush (Middle Eastern salad) in 10 mins


Fattoush is a salad eaten in the Middle East.  The main ingredients are pretty simple (tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and broken toasted pitta bread) but the dressing is packed with flavour and zing (apologies for using the word zing – but no other word explains it better!).   The whole dish is full of crunch, is brilliantly refreshing in summer and takes 10 minutes to make.  The dressing is made from sumac (a tangy, lemony Middle Eastern spice – available in supermarkets and international shops), red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mint and parsley.  I use sumac a lot in salads, with a little olive oil. It’s great to have in the cupboard.

We ate the fattoush with some griddled halloumi cheese on top.  It would also be nice with fish on the side (salmon, trout or smoked mackerel would work well I reckon) or sausages.


Fattoush (serves 2)

For the salad

14 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/3 cucumber, chopped

1 little gem lettuce, chopped

1/8 red onion, chopped fine

2 pitta breads, toasted and chopped

1 tsp sumac

Small handful mint, chopped fine

Small handful parsley, chopped fine

For the dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed

Half tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands.  Combine all the dressing ingredients , stir well, pour over the salad and mix.  Eat with griddled halloumi cheese, fish or sausages.

Prawn and mango curry – light, fragrant and ready in 20 mins

This is a beautifully fragrant prawn and mango curry that is quick to make and perfect for the summer months!  You fry some onion with ginger, korma paste (shop-bought), coconut milk, lime, prawns and chopped mangoes and top with fresh coriander.  Unique, light and satisfying!  We had it on it’s own but agreed it would be nice with a little rice on the side.  And an accompanying cold beer is pretty good!

prawn and mango curry

The recipe is based on one from Tesco magazine.  With the leftover korma paste you could a) try a veggie, fish or meat recipe by Pataks (putting ‘korma’ in the recipe quick search) or b) freeze the sauce in a freezer container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, defrosting overnight in the fridge before you use it.

Prawn and mango curry (serves 2)

1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 tsp grated/finely chopped ginger

3 tbsp korma paste (I used Pataks)

300ml (1/2 pint) coconut milk

175g mango chunks

175g prawns (or a bit more if you love them!)

Juice of 1/2 lime

Handful fresh coriander, chopped fine

Optional – rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan/wok, add the onion and ginger and gently fry for 5 minutes, until softened.  Stir in the korma paste and coconut milk, then simmer for 2 mins.  Stir in the mango chunks, prawns and lime juice, then simmer for another 3 mins, or until the prawns are pink and cooked through.  Scatter over the coriander and serve rice alongside the curry, if you wish.

Recipe by Tesco magazine

Mad dog salad (ready in 25 mins) – using surprisingly delicious roast avocado!

mad dog salad jamie oliver

This is a brilliant, pretty and unique salad from Jamie Oliver’s America cookbook, made using ingredients popular in Arizona.  It combines roast avocado (my favourite discovery of recent years!), cheese and seed topped tortilla crisps, salad leaves, cress, lemon juice, chilli (optional) and cumin seeds.  When you roast avocado it becomes slightly charred on the outside and extra soft in the middle and the olive oil, cumin seeds and seasoning really bring it alive.  It is pretty special.  You only need a baking tray and mixing bowl to prepare everything.

mad dog salad jamie oliver

This is a great meal for guests but it is also handy to try with kids as it contains some naughty and appealing ingredients!  My kids bulk at the word salad but were intrigued at the name (so called ‘mad dog salad’ because a cheeky local dog kept running off with the ingredients when Jamie was making it!)  I gave them just one of each of the salad leaves (so they weren’t too put off) and a few sprigs of cress along with a little of the avocado (they are used to eating avocado raw) and plenty of the cheese and seed topped crisps.

mad dog salad jamie oliver

Although the cheesy crisps were definitely the highlight, they did at least taste each salad leaf, and my youngest liked the avocado, so perhaps the term ‘salad’ has taken on a slightly more positive meaning in their little heads.  We can hope!

The dish works out as about £5 in total.   Allow 25 mins to make it.

Mad dog salad (serves 4)

2 ripe avocados
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 large handfuls of plain tortilla crisps
Large handful of grated cheddar cheese
Small handful of pine nuts (optional as expensive and not essential to the dish)
Handful of pumpkin seeds (cheap and available at supermarkets, normally in the Homebaking section)
1 bundle of cress, snipped
4 good handfuls of salad leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil
1/2 chopped chilli or shake dried chilli flakes (optional)

Preheat your oven to full whack.  Halve, stone and peel your avocados and lay them on a roasting tray (cut smaller if you wish). Drizzle over some olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper and the cumin seeds. Toss until nicely coated, then roast in the oven for 15 mins so they get a bit of colour (you may need to roast for a few mins longer – until slightly golden at the edges). About 10 mins in, take the tray with the avocados out, lay out your tortilla crisps next to them and sprinkle over the cheddar, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds (over the crisps). Return to the oven for approx 5 mins so the cheese has time to melt and the nuts and seeds toast a little.

Mix your cress and salad leaves together. Drizzle over the lemon juice and some olive oil and sprinkle over a good pinch of salt and pepper. Quickly toss together.  Take your avocados and tortillas out of the oven.

Put the salad leaves on individual plates, then the cheesy seedy crisps, avocado and scatter over any remaining seeds/pine nuts from the tray.  Top with the chilli if you fancy.  Serve!