Seaweed is the new superfood

I know what you’re thinking. Seaweed? That slimy, dull green algae we’re so used to seeing washed up along the British coastline? Yes. Move over kale, seaweed is the new superfood.

Seaweed is in fact a highly nutritious and versatile ingredient. Used widely in Korean and Japanese cooking, it’s packed full of minerals like iodine, which is great for the thyroid function and helps to strengthen the immune system. It contains more vitamin C than an orange, plus it’s high in protein.

Seaweed can be used in a variety of dishes, including stock, soup, salad, and, of course, sushi. Its neutral, earthy taste pairs well with flavourful dressings and sauces, and it will leave you feeling full. You can find the dried stuff in some big supermarkets, as well as oriental supermarkets and online.

Try it for yourself

  
Try making this adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi’s crusted tofu with seaweed and lime.

The seaweed soaks up the chilli dressing, contrasting wonderfully with the punchy coriander seeds and lime in the tofu coating. The seaweed ribbons have a thicker texture than you’d expect, similar to lasagne sheets, though with a fresher taste and more bite.

Ingredients

  • 40g dried seaweed (we used kelp – you could also use wakame or a similar alternative)
  • 20g panko breadcrumbs
  • Grated zest of 1 small lime
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black (or white) sesame seeds
  • 15g coriander leaves
  • 150g tofu, drained and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 20g plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50ml sunflower oil, for frying
  • Salt

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sriracha chilli sauce
  • A couple of drops of rice wine
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 2-3 as a starter

Method

1. Place the seaweed in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring
to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients except the groundnut oil.
Gradually add the groundnut oil, whisking as you go.
3. Next, get your production line ready to coat your tofu. Put the coriander
seeds in a small bowl and crush them with the back of a metal spoon. Add the
breadcrumbs, lime zest and sesame seeds, a pinch of salt and stir in together.
Beat the egg into another small bowl. Pour the flour into a third bowl. Coat the
tofu in the flour, followed by the egg and lastly the breadcrumb mix.
4. Drain the seaweed, and cut into 2-3cm wide ribbons.
5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the sunflower oil. Cook
the tofu for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
6. Mix the seaweed, coriander leaves and dressing together in a bowl. Serve
on a plate with the crispy tofu. Squeeze some extra lime juice on top if you
fancy.

Springtime spiral vegetable tart

This showstopper of a tart is the perfect main player for a vegetarian Sunday lunch. The colourful spiral slithers of courgette, aubergine and carrot arranged on a butternut squash puree and shortcrust pastry base, make for an impressive dinner party centrepiece.

As we start to see more frequent bursts of sunshine and there’s a chance of leaving work while it’s still light, the hopeful season of spring is surely on the horizon. This tart epitomises the season of new beginnings, delightful daffodils and blooming blossom with its colourful flower-like shape.

But what does it taste like? Well, the pastry is light and crisp, the butternut squash and sage puree adds a sweet and earthy base and the vegetable spirals bring a trio of textures with a hint of chilli.

One for the weekend

Be warned, this tart does take some time to prepare. This is definitely a dish to make on the weekend, or when you have a couple of hours spare to get creative in the kitchen. Also, the vegetable spirals can be achieved with a vegetable peeler, but speaking from experience, I would advise investing in a mandoline.

This recipe is adapted from Homemade. Their version is vegan, but I opted for traditional cooking spread over soya spread as I was after a creamier pastry. I found that I had loads of leftover vegetables, so I’ve suggested a smaller quantity below.

I served this with a feta and lentil salad to satisfy my cheese needs, but you could easily add some goats’ cheese, feta or mozzarella to the tart itself if you fancy.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cooking spread, softened
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300g butternut squash
  • 4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 courgettes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves 4

Method

  1. Half-fill a mug with cold water and put it in the freezer.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Cut the cooking spread into cubes and add to the bowl. Rub the spread in with your fingertips, until it reaches a breadcrumb consistency. Remove the water from the freezer and add 3-4 tbsp, until the dough is moist enough to bring together with your hands. Form it into a ball, adding a bit more water if needed, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Put the oven on to gas mark 6, and generously grease a large tart dish.
  4. Meanwhile, make the butternut puree. Finely dice the onion and then chop the butternut squash into small cubes.
  5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Drop in the garlic, cook for a further minute, and then add the butternut squash and sage. Add 2-3 tbsp of cold water and bring to the boil. Stir, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the squash cubes have softened.
  6. While that’s cooking, prep the vegetable spirals. Chop the ends off the veggies and use a peeler or a mandoline to slice them into thin ribbons. Tip: if you’re using a peeler, I’d advise slicing the aubergine thinly with a knife instead, as the flesh is difficult to slice with a peeler. Pop your spirals into a large bowl as you go, and then sprinkle over the chilli flakes and pour in the agave syrup so it’s evenly dispersed. Mix the syrup and chilli in with the vegetables using a metal spoon.
  7. When the squash is cooked, take it off the heat and mash it to a smooth paste.
  8. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll the dough out till it’s roughly 5mm thick. Carefully lift it up and lay it in the tart dish, trimming the edges with a knife. Cover with foil and pour in baking beans or rice to weigh the foil down. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out and remove the beans/rice and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven heat to gas mark 4.
  9. Next, add the filling. Remove the foil from the tart and spread the butternut puree over the bottom with a metal spoon. Now comes the artistic bit. Take a slice of carrot, aubergine and courgette and curl them together into a tight spiral. Place the spiral in the middle of the tart and then gradually grow the spiral by adding alternating vegetable ribbons until you reach the outside of the dish. Drizzle over the remaining tbsp of olive oil and place in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the vegetable ribbons have softened.
  10. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then serve with a salad.

Creamy leek and courgette spaghetti

Sometimes all that will suffice is a big old bowl of comforting creamy pasta. Look no further than to this magnificent meatfree medley of green veggies and spaghetti in a creamy cheese and garlic sauce. 

 

This dish is creamy, cheesy and flavoursome,  yet has plenty of goodness from leek, courgette and wholewheat spaghetti. And you can have it on the table in 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • knob of butter
  • 1 leek
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 2 portions wholewheat spaghetti (roughly 250g)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
  • plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Chop off the woody ends of the leek and slice down the middle, so you can see the middle layers, but not all the way through to the other side. Open up the middle layers of the leek and run under a cold tap to clean off any grit. Slice into thin strips.
  2. Wash the courgette and cut in half lengthways, then cut horizontally into small pieces, around 2-3cm thick.
  3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat.
  4. Meanwhile, half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil.
  5. When the butter has melted, add the leek and courgette and fry until soft, around 5-8 minutes.
  6. When the water is boiling, lower in the spaghetti, making sure it’s all covered by the water. Cook to pack instructions.
  7. When the vegetables are soft, add in the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the creme fraiche, lemon juice and milk and carefully pour a little bit of the water from the pasta pan into the frying pan. Stir in together and then add half of the cheese. You should have a fairly thick creamy sauce. Add more creme fraiche if needed. Season well and lower the heat.
  8. When the pasta has cooked, drain into a colander and tip into the frying pan. Mix the spaghetti in thoroughly with the sauce, and add the rest of the cheese. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Serve in large pasta bowls with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you fancy.