Creamy pesto courgetti with asparagus and mushrooms


Well, I’m a couple of years late boarding the carb alternatives train, partly because carbs bring me joy on a daily basis and I’ve never felt the need to be deprived of them. Also, I won’t allow myself to buy anymore cooking gadgets for the sake of our tiny, crammed galley kitchen, despite the distinct urge to buy a spiraliser when they were last year’s go-to bit of kit. However, my lovely soon-to-be in-laws got me a mandolin for my birthday so I thought I’d have a go at making courgetti.

Courgetti, as I’m sure many of you will know, is a healthy and green alternative to spaghetti. By slicing a courgette into thin strips using a mandolin and then slicing them again with a knife into finer strips, you can achieve a similar shape to spaghetti. You can of course also use a spiraliser which may be even simpler.

Courgetti is very low in calories. You feel a bit smug and virtuous while eating it. And, surprisingly, it did fill me up. I think it’s a psychological thing, but after finishing this dish, despite it being very tasty, I instantly felt unsatisfied. This is probably because I’ve got a big appetite and am used to shovelling a vat-full of pasta into my mouth. However, after waiting for 20 minutes or so, while the little courgette worms started to make their way through my digestive system I did begin to feel full up. So if you’re a bit reluctant like I was, give it a go. I’ll definitely be making it again.

I was inspired to make pesto while flicking through Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook book. She suggested using pistachios in her version, but I didn’t have any in, so I opted for cashews instead. The combination of the crunchy cashews with the zesty lemon, the rich sour cream and pungent basil works really well and reminds me of summer.

This meal is a great mid-week option as you can have it ready within 20 minutes AND because it’s got so much goodness in it, you can balance it out with a tasty dessert. I just happened to pair the courgetti with vegetables I had in the fridge, but you could swap asparagus for crunchy mangetout or green beans and perhaps some butter beans instead of mushrooms to achieve that lovely earthy texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • Finely grated cheddar cheese, to serve

For the creamy cashew pesto sauce

  • 10 or so jumbo cashew nuts
  • a large handful of fresh basil
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • finely grated cheese, to taste
  • plenty of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp sour cream or creme fraiche

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 1

Method

  1. Finely slice the courgette using a mandolin. Pile up your courgette slices on a chopping board and thinly slice them lengthways. Set them aside in a bowl.
  2. Prepare the pesto. If you have a food processor, put all of the pesto ingredients – except for the sour cream – into the processor and whizz them up until mostly smooth. Don’t worry if it’s not entirely smooth, it’s nice to have a little bit of crunch. If, like me, you don’t have a food processor, do the same but chop the cashew nuts up with a knife as small as you can first, then use a measuring jug to put the ingredients into and whizz them up with a hand whisk. When you’ve got a paste, mix in the sour cream.
  3. Put the grill on a high heat and place the asparagus spears under the grill for 5-1o minutes, or until they have softened.
  4. Put a frying pan on to a medium high heat and pour in the sunflower oil. Fry the mushrooms for five or so minutes, until they begin to soften.
  5. Meanwhile, boil the kettle. Pour boiled water over the courgette slices and leave for 30 seconds to a minute, then drain.
  6. Add the courgetti to the pan and reduce the heat. Stir in the creamy sauce and take off the heat.
  7. When the asparagus has softened, remove it from the grill. Chop the spears in three and add to the pan. Stir all of the ingredients in well together and season well.
  8. Serve in a pasta bowl topped with some finely grated cheese.

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.

Aubergine and green bean jambalaya

This hearty vegan rice dish is as flavourful as it is vibrant. Soft cubes of aubergine soak up the wonderful aromas of garlic, paprika and chilli, while the green beans and pepper add a satisfying crunch.

Turn the heat up on your taste buds with this veggie variation of a Louisiana classic. It’s super healthy, simple to make and it’ll be on the dinner table in half an hour. Perfect for a mid-week meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 aubergine, cut into small cubes
  • 150g long grain rice
  • 75g frozen or fresh green beans
  • Plenty of salt and pepper
  • Green salad to serve

Method

  1. Put a large pan on a medium heat and pour in the oil.
  2. When the oil has heated up, tip in the onion and pepper and fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Take the pan off the heat while you add the chilli, paprika, garlic and thyme. Combine the spices with the onion and pepper using a wooden spoon and return to the heat.
  4. Stir in the aubergine, ensuring the spice mixture covers it all. Then add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and rice. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring to combine everything.
  5. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Pour the green beans in, season the mixture, stir well, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir 2-3 times while it’s simmering to check the rice isn’t sticking to the pan.
  7. After 20 minutes, try a bit of the jambalaya to check the rice is cooked. Season well and leave to stand for a few minutes. Serve in bowls with fresh green salad leaves.

This recipe was inspired by Leon’s Aubergine Jambalaya.

Pumpkin, spinach and feta bake

Got a sad looking carved pumpkin knocking around the house? Don’t waste it; savour the tasty spooky sphere of sweetness by making this delicious and healthy autumnal bake.

 

Sweet roasted pumpkin and iron-rich cooked spinach leaves contrast each other delightfully in this one pot dish. The bake is bound together with healthy low fat sour cream and egg, and feta cheese brings a salty richness. A scattering of pistachios on top adds a crunchy texture.

Ingredients

  • 400g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 350g frozen spinach
  • 75g feta
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp low fat sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • A handful of peeled pistachios

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40-50 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Put the oven on to gas mark 6.
  2. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and pour the olive oil all over. Sprinkle the sage on top and toss gently so the oil and herbs are evenly distributed across the pumpkin cubes. Pop the pumpkin in the oven for 25 minutes, checking on it half way through cooking and turning it over so it cooks evenly.
  3. Meanwhile, put the spinach in a bowl and cover with a plate. Cook in the microwave for about five minutes, stirring half way through. Drain it in a sieve and press a tablespoon on to it to squeeze out the excess water.
  4. Put the sour cream in a mixing bowl and crack in the egg. Use a hand whisk to beat the cream and egg together, and then add in the spinach. Stir everything together well and then crumble in the feta. Season well and give it all good stir.
  5. When the pumpkin is ready, take it out of the oven and transfer it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients, being careful when you do so as it’ll be very hot.
  6. Mix all of the ingredients in together and transfer them to a baking dish. Reduce the oven heat to gas mark 3 and pop in the oven for 30 minutes. The eggy mixture surrounding the spinach should be close to being set.
  7. Take the bake out of the oven and scatter over the shelled pistachios. Serve immediately with a simple side salad.

This recipe was inspired by the Leon Fast Vegetarian’s Baked Spinach, Squash and Blue Cheese.

Pumpkin, pepper and pearl barley stew

This seasonal stew is the perfect meal as Halloween and Bonfire Night approach. Pumpkin, pepper and sweetcorn bring a satisfying sweetness to the dish while the spices contribute a rich depth of flavour.

It’s packed with an array of colourful veggies and nutritious pearl barley grains so it’s really good for you. It’ll be on the table in 40 minutes and will please your vegan friends.

This comforting stew is sure to delight your tastebuds and leave you feeling nicely full.

 

Ingredients

  • 275g pumpkin, chopped into small cubes
  • 60g frozen sweetcorn (or you could use tinned)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 60g pearl barley, rinsed under cold water
  • 100g cabbage (I used sweetheart), finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, cubed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh coriander to serve (optional)

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

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook for five minutes.
  2. Add the spices and pumpkin and mix together well. Cook for a further five minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the tomatoes, cabbage and stock and bring to the boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and pour in the pearl barley and sweetcorn. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the pearl barley has cooked through with a little bit of bite left.
  5. Season well and serve in large pasta bowls with a coriander garnish on top.

This recipe was inspired by Leon Fast Vegetarian’s squash, corn and bean stew.

Feta and ratatouille crumble

Sweet and succulent Mediterranean vegetables layered with salty, crumbly feta cheese are topped with a cheesy, soft crumble to bring you comfort and warmth on a cold and dreary autumnal evening.

I love ratatouille. Originating from Nice in France, it’s a traditional stewed vegetable dish made up of many of my favourite veggies. It’s so colourful, so healthy, and oh so tasty. I think it’s highly underrated.

My first memory of trying ratatouille was as a teenager. In the summer holidays, I often went round my friend Jade’s house and we’d eat whatever we could find in the kitchen cupboards; cold baked beans (still a fond snack to this day), pasta, soup and the like. But by far the most memorable was tinned ratatouille. Never once had I come across this creation. This rich, tomatoey vegetable goodness. We’d warm it up and eat it on its own while watching music channels. I always remember it being absolutely delicious, even out of a tin.

This version I’ve put together is a little on the naughty side; incorporating cheese and butter into the mix. But with four different vegetables, the good outweighs the bad.

Ingredients

  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 courgette, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 aubergine, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 peppers: I used green and orange, chopped into small chunks
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 80g feta
  • 120g plain flour
  • 65g butter, softened
  • 10g cheddar, grated
  • Handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes to an hour
Serves 3 with a side dish (or 2 greedy people)

Method

  1. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the olive oil.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the aubergine and sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of salt to help it cook. Cook for three minutes or so.
  4. Tip in the peppers and cook for another couple of minutes.
  5. Drain the chopped tomatoes in a sieve to get rid of the watery liquid.
  6. Pour the tomatoes into the frying pan along with the courgette and basil and stir well. Lower the heat very slightly and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
  7. Turn the oven on to gas mark 5.
  8. While you’re waiting for the vegetables to cook, make the crumble. Pour the flour into a deep bowl. Chop the butter up until small chunks and tip it into the bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour for a few minutes, until they form a breadcrumb consistency.
  9. Tip the cheese into the bowl, add plenty of seasoning and mix the cheese in with the breadcrumbs.
  10. When the vegetables have softened, pour them into a medium sized baking dish and evenly disperse them along the bottom of the dish. Season well. Crumble over the feta cheese and top with the breadcrumb mix, making sure the cheese and breadcrumbs cover the ratatouille evenly.
  11. Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crumble has browned on top.
  12. Serve with a side of vegetables, like sweetcorn or broccoli.

This recipe was inspired by Plum Kitchen’s ratatouille and goat’s cheese crumble