Monthly Archives: March, 2016

Spicy Lentil Soup

This is my go-to lentil soup.  It’s got lots of interesting flavour but it’s not spicy enough to put off those of us who are not such adventurous eaters, or my kids!  Great family food.

  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • 250g red lentils
  • 1.5 litres veg stock (I like Kallo)
  • tin of plum tomatoes, liquidized

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chopped vegetables.  Get them sizzling then turn the heat down low, cover them and leave them to sweat for about 15 mins, stirring every now and then.  You want them to be nice and soft.  I find by the time I’ve prepared all the other bits to go in they are perfect.

Crush the garlic, wash the lentils, liquidize the tomatoes.  When the veg is ready add the garlic, cumin and coriander and cook for a further minute, stirring.  Then stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 mins.  Season.  That’s it!

It’s a very simple soup really.  You can jazz it up a bit by adding some harissa paste OR if you really want to push the boat out toast and grind your own spices.  You will notice the difference in the flavour!  For this quantity I use a level tablespoon each of cumin seeds and coriander seeds, put them in a really hot non stick frying pan and shake them over the heat for 30-40 seconds.  Throw them straight into a pestle and mortar (have it ready!) and grind them up.  I highly recommend.

Everyone’s got their own favourite lentil soup recipe – how do you eat yours?



Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia

This is the bread that Tatti made on Nadiya’s Family Favourites.  It’s a great recipe!  I would say that any time is a good time to make this focaccia…

  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 14g fast acting yeast
  • 300ml lukewarm water
  • 10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt flakes (I like Maldon salt)

Finely chop two sprigs of the rosemary and all of the garlic cloves.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, fine salt and yeast, then add the chopped rosemary and garlic.  Now stir in the water and 2 tbsp of the oil and bring together to form a rough dough.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.  Return to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Liberally oil a large baking tray.  Divide your dough into two and shape into rough ovals on the tray.  Now brush some more oil onto a large piece of cling film and use it to cover the tray.  Leave for another 40 minutes or so.  Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

When your loaves are looking nice and puffy, remove the cling film and gently press little indents all over them the tip of your finger.  Now drizzle 3 tbsp of olive oil over each one and sprinkle with salt flakes and the remaining rosemary.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden.

Remove the loaves from the tray and place on a wire rack to cool.  Drizzle with a final tablespoon of oil each and you are done.  Enjoy!


Tabouleh with Roasted Peppers

Start making this in advance of when you want to eat it – the bulgar wheat and the peppers both need to cool down before you can assemble the salad.

  • 450ml water
  • 225g bulgar wheat
  • 3 peppers (any colour but green)
  • packet flat leaf parsley
  • packet mint
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • juice of one lemon
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 210C/Fan 190C/Gas 7.  Add some salt to the water and bring it to the boil.  Pour in the bulgar wheat, stir, bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.  If the bulgar wheat hasn’t quite absorbed all the water after 5 minutes then give it another minute.  When it is done, empty it into your salad bowl and leave to cool.  Occasionally stirring it with a fork while it’s cooling will speed up the process and stop it from clumping up.

Deseed the peppers and cut them into strips.  Toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a large baking tray.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until the edges of the peppers are blackening.  Leave to cool.

When everything’s cool, strip the leaves from the mint and finely chop it with the flat leaf parsley (a mezzaluna is good for this).  Mix the herbs with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic clove and some more salt and pepper, then stir the mixture into the bulgar wheat.  Now stir through your cooled peppers and you’re done!  This will go well with any platter of salads.




Brown Rice Gratin

This is a great midweek meal, very easy to do if you have leftover rice in the fridge already so it’s worth making extra rice with another meal and putting it to one side with this in mind.  You could vary the vegetables depending on what you’ve got.  I’ve used cheddar cheese here but any cheese you’ve got will do.  This quantity is family sized – simply halve for a smaller dish!

  • 600g cooked brown rice
  • 50g butter
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 courgettes, sliced
  • 140g baby corn, halved
  • 4 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • herbs of your choice, a good handful
  • 200g cheese, grated
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread, whizzed to crumbs
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas 5.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan or wok and add the onion.  Saute for a few minutes until soft, then add the garlic, carrots, courgettes and baby corn.  Stir fry for 5 minutes.

Mix the rice with the sunflower seeds and herbs and add to the pan with half the cheese and some salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish and top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy.


Heather’s Minestrone

This dish is known to my kids as ‘bean soup’ and it is a family favourite that never fails to please.  Sometimes I spice my portion up a bit with a shake of Tabasco.

  • 1 onion, chopped small
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped small
  • 1 large carrot, chopped small
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock (I like Kallo)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins beans in water (cannellini are good, or mixed beans, or one cannellini and one kidney)
  • 1 heaped tsp dried rosemary OR thyme (I vary depending on mood)
  • 1 packet flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 100g small pasta shapes

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan. Put in the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sweat for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. Pour in the stock and tomatoes, drain the tinned beans and add them too, then add your herbs. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 25 minutes. At this stage add the pasta shapes and cook for another 10 minutes. Remember to stir the pasta from time to time or it will stick to the bottom of the pan! Season with salt and pepper.

The soup is best left in the pan, with the lid on, for about half an hour before serving. It keeps well and reheats excellently.


Spicy Lemony Stew

This is a really flavourful dish from quite humble ingredients – and not TOO spicy, my kids can eat it no problem.  It’s great if you get a veg box as you can use up odd bits of veg you might have hanging around!

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 2 red onions, cut into eighths
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp ground coriander
  • 600g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 300g swede, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2 courgettes, thickly sliced
  • 600ml vegetable stock (I like Kallo)
  • juice and rind of 2 lemons
  • tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped coriander, to serve (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish.  Fry the onions, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Now add the cumin and coriander and stir fry for another minute.

Throw in the chopped vegetables and stir them to coat in the spicy oil.  Now add the veg stock, lemon juice and rind, drained butter beans, and some salt and pepper.  The stock won’t cover all the veg but that’s ok.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer.

Now you can choose how you want to cook this – on the hob over a low heat for about 40 minutes will do it, or you can put it in a low oven for a bit longer.  If you have a slow cooking oven try doing it in there the flavours are amazing!  Take the lid off and check on it from time to time, give it a stir, the veg will release their juices and it will all come together nicely.  It would be better to overcook this dish than to under cook it, just remember that and if you’re not sure then give it a bit longer.

Serve topped with the chopped coriander and some couscous, rice or bread.