Feta, courgette and chickpea salad

Cooked courgette ribbons, soft and succulent mushrooms, firm and filling chickpeas, and crunchy red onion make a tasty and healthy base for this warm salad. Cooked with a touch of cumin and topped with crumbly feta cheese, this dish makes a perfect light lunch. And, you can have it on the table within 15 minutes.

Feta, courgette and chickpea saladThis salad is a bit of a melting pot of cuisines. It came about from bits and bobs I had left in the fridge and cupboard.

Courgettes and mushrooms are two of my favourite vegetables. Their flavours are subtle yet satisfying and they’re incredibly versatile. They can be used in everything from curries to salads, on top of pizzas or in dips. They work well in this salad as they are soft and juicy.

The chickpeas and cumin bring exotic, Middle Eastern flavours and the richness of the feta cheese finishes the dish off delightfully.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 4 mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • ½ red onion, roughly sliced
  • ½ courgette, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 150g chickpeas
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 30g feta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves one

Method

1. Put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and pour in the sunflower oil.

2. Add the mushrooms and courgette and fry for two to three minutes. Mix in the onion and fry for another couple of minutes, until the onion begins to soften (but not too much; it’s better with a bit of bite).

3. Pour in the chickpeas and scatter over the cumin. Cook for another three to five minutes, stirring throughout.

4. Serve the mixture in a pasta bowl or on a plate. Crumble over the feta and season well.

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Sweet potato and goat’s cheese pearl barley risotto

Pearl barley is a great grain. It’s cheap, easy to cook and filling. It has a unique, nutty taste and a light and bouncy texture. I like to think of it as quinoa’s less pretentious sibling.

As the days are getting slightly milder, I’m starting to steer away from hearty, wintry foods, and thinking about lighter, more wholesome ingredients.

To celebrate Meat Free Week, I’ve put together a simple and tasty vegetarian pearl barley risotto with a variety of delicious tastes and textures.

Pearl barley risotto

The flavour of the soft, roasted sweet potato is complimented by the pungent thyme, alongside rich and creamy goat’s cheese, all mixed in with the pearl barley. A topping of crisp, green salad leaves adds a fresh, peppery element and the smoky, toasted pumpkin seeds finish the dish off with a satisfying crunch. Great as a lunchtime or evening meal.

Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • Low fat cooking spray
    • Knob of butter
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 150g pearl barley
    • About 550ml vegetable stock
    • 2 small sweet potatoes, sliced into 3-4cm cubes
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • Small handful of pumpkin seeds
    • Plenty of salt and pepper
    • 75g soft goats’ cheese
    • Rocket, spinach and watercress leaves to garnish (or alternative salad leaves)

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Put the oven on to gas mark 6. Pour 1 tbsp of oil into a medium-sized baking dish and place in the oven to heat up.
  2. Place a large frying pan or wok on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of oil.
  3. Add the onions to the pan and fry for five minutes or until soft, stirring frequently.
  4. After a couple of minutes, take the baking dish out of the oven and add the sweet potato, coating all of the pieces in the oil using a fish slice or large spoon. Scatter the thyme across the dish and turn the sweet potato pieces over in the oil again, to make sure they’re fully coated. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, checking them half way through. Turn the pieces over to make sure they are cooked throughout.
  5. Meanwhile, add the knob of butter to the frying pan and move it around the pan with a wooden spoon until it melts. Pour the pearl barley into the pan and stir in with the onions. Cook for five minutes.
  6. Lower the heat slightly. Gradually add in the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring in with the barley. Wait until the stock has been absorbed by the barley and then add the next batch. Repeat this until all of the stock has been added; this should take between 20 and 25 minutes, by which time the barley should be cooked. Give it a taste after 20 minutes – it should have a little bit of bite.
  7. While the risotto is cooking, put a small saucepan on a medium heat and spray in three squirts of the cooking spray. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook for five minutes, or until they start to brown and make a slight popping sound. Take off the heat and place to one side.
  8. There should still be a little bit of liquid left in the pan from the stock; make sure it doesn’t dry out. If it does, add a little bit of water. Then stir in half of the goat’s cheese until it melts in with the liquid. Season well.
  9. Take the sweet potato out of the oven and add to the pan, stirring well so the pieces are evenly distributed among the barley.
  10. Serve in large pasta bowls, topped with the salad and seeds, and crumble over the remaining goat’s cheese.

If you like this recipe, it would be great to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or a question below.

Bestowed Kitchen’s pop-up café-deli in Walthamstow

Bestowed Kitchen pop-up shop front

If wholesome and colourful salads bursting with flavour tickle your tastebuds, but you also like to indulge in something sweet, then you need to catch Bestowed Kitchen’s pop-up café-deli while you can.

Bestowed Kitchen, founded by local Walthamstow residents Jeremy Wood and Sabrina Floriani, opened their doors to the public at Hoe Street Central on 18th March to serve an array of breakfast and lunchtime treats until Sunday 29th March.

Taking pride in making all of their food from scratch – from homemade chutneys and mustard to decadent and indulgent cakes – Bestowed Kitchen describe their dishes as different and curious and this is evident in their use of a wealth of interesting flavours.

Supreme salads

‘Salad? That’s rabbit food’ is a phrase I’ve all too often heard in the past. But Bestowed Kitchen have proved that the days of bland, iceburg lettuce leaves and boring raw carrot shavings are safely behind us.

Their selection of superb salads take influence from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines using a diverse mix of sweet and savoury flavours and vibrant, colourful ingredients.

Herby and nutty roasted carrots

Growing up, I wasn’t particularly fussy. I’ve always quite happily eaten carrots. Boiled, roasted, raw, I’ll take them as they come. But they aren’t a vegetable that I’ve ever found particularly exciting. Until now.

These cold roasted carrots were delicious. Brought to life by coriander and cumin, the toasted almonds added a bit of crunch and the dates a little extra sweetness. Relatively simple yet very tasty, and well presented.

Roasted carrots

Pearl barley with whipped feta and pumpkin

There is a lot going on in this salad; it’s bursting with wonderful flavours. A base of pearl barley is filling and brings a nutty flavour, mixed with sweet and soft pumpkin cubes, flavoursome balsamic red onion slices, a touch of parsley and topped with zesty, creamy yet light lemon whipped feta. De-licious.

There were also some hazelnuts mixed in, which I don’t think the dish really needed, but otherwise it was top notch.

The idea of whipped feta is really innovative and not something I’ve come across before in all of my vegetarian eating. Definitely something to try.

Pearl barley with pumpkin and feta

Satisfying sweets

When you’ve got a few of your five-a-day from Bestowed Kitchen’s salads, satisfy your sweet tooth with one of their delicious desserts.

Honeycomb with chocolate and sea salt

Wow wee. This is like a Crunchie’s older, mischievous brother. The sprinkling of sea salt juxtaposed with the melt-in-the-mouth honeycomb and sweet milk chocolate leaves you wanting more.

Honeycomb with chocolate and sea salt

Earl grey chocolate brownies

You can’t beat a well-baked chocolate brownie. Rich, moist and with a subtle hint of citrus from the earl grey, these brownies tick all the boxes for chocolate lovers.

Earl grey chocolate brownies

Community feel

As well as all of the interesting, varied food on offer, Bestowed Kitchen have managed to put their own stamp on their temporary space with help from the community in E17.

The walls are decked with prints from local artists and the quirky, upcycled furniture has been handpainted by a local designer, all of which is available to buy. And even the counters, made from wooden palettes, were made nearby at the Forest Recycling Project.

The Bestowed Kitchen pop-up is full of character, tasty food and drinks (locally brewed beers and Caravan coffee) and a real community spirit.

It’s on every day (Monday – Friday, 10am till 6pm. Saturday – Sunday, 9am till 6pm) until Sunday 29th March at Hoe Street Central, Unit 3 Central Parade, Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 4RT. A mere four-minute walk from Walthamstow Central underground station. Don’t miss out!

Asparagus and mature cheddar quiche

As we say goodbye to the frosty winter and welcome the hope of spring with open arms, it’s time to start thinking about what tasty seasonal vegetables we can cook with.

This cheesy springtime quiche is the perfect main event for a light Sunday lunch. Or treat yourself in the week and take a slice to work with a leafy green salad on the side. 

Asparagus is very much a springtime vegetable; the British asparagus season traditionally runs from April until June.

The tangy flavour of the fresh and tender green vegetable stems offset the rich and creamy cheddar cheese in this quiche beautifully. But I think my favourite element has got to be the cheese pastry. It adds an extra dimension to the tart; a subtle richness to the crust. What a treat.

Asparagus and mature cheddar quiche

I served this dish on Mother’s Day with an aubergine and chickpea salad, as well as a mixture of rocket, spinach and watercress. And all three went down a treat – clean plates all round!

Ingredients

  • 140g plain flour
  • 85g butter, cubed
  • 85g mature cheddar, grated

For the filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 175ml milk
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated
  • 300g asparagus, trimmed and cut in half lengthways

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves 6

Method

1. To make the pastry, put the flour in a bowl. Tip in the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles thick breadcrumbs.

2. Add the first batch of grated cheddar and mix in to the flour with a wooden spoon.

3. Add 3-4 tbsp of cold water and mix thoroughly, until the pastry forms a ball. Pick it up with your hands, wrap in cling film and chill for five minutes.

4. Meanwhile, grease a loose-bottom tart tin (I used a cake tin which worked fine).

5. Heat the oven to gas mark 4.

6. Lightly dust a work surface with flour, and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it’s 1-2cm thick.

7. Line the tin with the rolled out pastry and chill in the freezer for 20 mins.

8. While you’re waiting, crack the eggs into a jug, whisk, then add the milk and whisk again.

9. Remove the pastry from the freezer and cover it with baking paper. Fill with baking beans (or rice if you don’t have any baking beans) and cook for 15 minutes.

10. Take the tin out of the oven and tip the rice away. Carefully remove the baking paper, then return the pastry case to the oven for 10 minutes.
11. Sprinkle half of the second batch of grated cheese over the pastry case, then add all of the asparagus spears. Pour over the egg mix and top with the remaining cheese.

12. Bake in the lower half of the oven for 50 or so minutes, or until the egg mix is set and the top is golden brown.

13. Serve with a green, leafy salad and some crusty bread, or a couple of side dishes of your choice.

This recipe was inspired by BBC Good Food.

Aubergine katsu curry

Soft aubergines coated in golden, crispy breadcrumbs covered in a rich, salty homemade curry sauce. Served with brown rice, this vegan katsu curry is not only filling and healthy, it’s really tasty too. 

‘Katsu’ is a Japanese method of frying meat or vegetables in breadcrumbs. You’ll find meaty and veggie versions of this curry in eateries like Wasabi and Wagamama and I’ve always been intrigued as to what’s in the sauce.

Some recipes use coconut milk, which adds a whole lot of calories to the mix, but the version I made uses a base of vegetable stock; which is much more forgiving on the waistline.

IMG_2950

This was my first attempt at katsu curry and I’m not going to lie; it was a bit fiddly. But definitely worth it for the results! As the coating and frying of the aubergines takes quite a while, I would recommend trying this recipe on the weekend or when you have more time.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • 1-2 medium aubergines
  • 80g natural breadcrumbs
  • 1 mug brown rice

For the sauce

  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp curry powder (I used tikka curry powder, which worked surprisingly well)
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 300ml vegetable stock

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 2-3

Method

1. Make the sauce. Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.

2. Meanwhile, slice the aubergines into thin discs.

3. Lower the heat and add the cornflour and curry powder, stirring well. Add the stock gradually, stirring as you do. Add the soy sauce and honey and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and then add the garam masala.

4. Grab a medium-sized bowl and pour the plain flour in along with a tablespoon or two of water to form a runny paste. Dip each of the aubergine slices in the paste until covered on both sides.

5. Pour the breadcrumbs out onto a large plate. Place the aubergine slices on top of the breadcrumbs, one by one, making sure the paste picks up a thin layer of breadcrumbs. And then turn them over and do the same on the other side of each of the slices.

6. Put the oven on to gas mark 4.

7. At this point, put the brown rice on to cook. Brown rice takes considerably longer than standard basmati rice, so allow a good 25-30 minutes for it to cook through.

8. Next, put a large non-stock frying pan on a medium heat. Add some of the olive oil to the pan and fry the aubergine slices for five minutes or so on both sides, or until they turn golden brown and start to soften in the centre.

Aubergine in breadcrumbs

9. Place in the oven on a large baking tray for 15 minutes.

10. Return to your sauce. It should have thickened a bit after simmering. Pour it into a measuring jug or alternative container with high sides. If it’s a bit on the thin side, add the cornflour and use a hand blender to smooth it out.

11. Drain the rice and serve on one side of the plate. Add the aubergine slices to the plate and pour over a generous helping of curry sauce.

This recipe was inspired by Hef’s Kitchen and BBC Good Food.

Marmite and thyme roast potatoes

Everyone should take pride in their roast potato preparation. The enjoyment of eating a well turned-out roast potato is similar to the feeling of waking up early on a Saturday morning and realising you don’t have to get up for work. Pure satisfaction.

Roasting up a bunch of potatoes – how hard can it be, I hear you ask? Well, I’ve eaten too many a soft and soggy spud while eating roast dinners out, and it’s such an avoidable disappointment.

Marmite and thyme roast potatoes

Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside is the pièce de résistance and is achievable with this recipe. A hint of marmite helps to crisp the potatoes up well and adds a lovely depth to their flavour. And a touch of thyme brings a sprinkling of richness to the equation.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 baking potatoes
  • ½ tsp marmite
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to serve

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves 2

Method

1. Half-fill a medium-sized pan with cold water. Add a pinch of salt, place it on the hob and bring to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and rinse under a cold tap. Cut in half, and then cut each half into quarters. When the water begins to bubble, gently lower the potatoes into the water. Boil gently for 10-15 minutes.

3. Put the oven on to gas mark 6. Pour the oil into a medium-sized baking dish and sprinkle over the thyme. Place in the oven to warm through while the potatoes are cooking.

4. Test to see if the potatoes are ready by poking a knife through a couple of slices and making sure they’re fairly soft (but not too soft!) If they’re ready, drain them in a colander and press them gently with the back of a spoon to remove excess moisture. Put them to one side.

5. Take the baking dish out of the oven and carefully tip the potatoes into the dish, evenly distributing them throughout. Add the marmite to the oil so it melts and is easy to distribute over the potatoes. Coat all of the potatoes well in the oil, making sure you get a touch of marmite on all of the slices. Pour over a touch more oil if necessary.

Potatoes covered in marmite, thyme and oil

Potatoes covered in marmite, thyme and oil – ready for the oven.

6. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. Check on them every 15 minutes or so and turn them over to make sure they crisp up on all sides. After 45 minutes, they should be looking golden and crispy, which means they are ready to serve. Season well with salt and pepper and serve as a delicious accompaniment to a roast dinner.

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