Category Archives: Savoury Dishes

Brown Rice Risotto With Mixed Mushrooms

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It wasn’t so long back that I would never have thought brown rice can become irresistible and fit for a fine dinning experience. I always liked it and thought it was OK, but for a dinner party……not really.

Well here that theory is blown out of the water. Continually searching for healthy options around classic meals I went round the block and back with risotto using barley, kamut and spelt. Quinoa will work but is nowhere near the consistency of a good risotto and really, it is not a risotto. A risotto is with rice, in this case round brown Italian rice.

Using the round brown Italian rice is perfect for this dish. Health food shops and sections at the supermarkets will stock it. It might not even say it on the packet in the supermarket, just look for the smallest roundest grain. Cooking the rice a bit longer than directed gives it a similar richness to what butter gives  which is that creaminess. Brown rice is very forgiving as it will retain a bite even when it goes a bit over. The ‘bite’ in risotto is so important. So over cook it a little to add a rich texture. You can lose the parmesan easily, yeast flakes would work as a substitute and therefore becoming a vegan option or it stands alone with the depth of the mushrooms.

Brown rice outweighs the health benefits of any white rice. A dish like this has a certain air of originality about it as well.  Making healthy food taste good is very popular at the moment.  If you are familiar with brown rice then you will know what a chore it can be to cook time wise which is why I pre-cook this for twenty minutes before starting the recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)

200g round brown Italian rice
200g chestnut mushrooms (use any mix of mushrooms, these are just easy to get)
150g portobello mushrooms
75g dried mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
2 litres of veg stock (cubes or powder)
150ml white wine, sherry or vermouth
30g parmesan
1 green chilli (optional)
100g spinach
Maldon salt and black pepper
1 spring onion or chives
1 lemon

Prep list

Soak the dried mushrooms for twenty minutes (the dish is noticeably better with them and I saw them in all supermarkets when I was back in the UK). Cook the rice in boiling water for 20 mins and drain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit sticky.

MixedmushPeel and cut the shallots into small squares. Brush any dirt off the chestnut mushrooms, do not wash though as this gives the mushrooms a sliminess which tends to put people off them. Cut into similar sized squares as the shallots. Cut the portobello mushroom into thick slices. Chop the soaked mushrooms as finely as possible. Press the garlic to a pulp. De-seed and chop the chilli. Grate the parmesan. Make up the stock which needs to be kept hot and add the liquor from the soaked mushrooms to it.

Method

Sautee the portobello slices until browned on each side (if you are using them). Take out of pan and put onto paper to remove excess oil. Fry off the chestnut mushrooms (or mixed mushrooms) and the dried ones in oil. When they start browning add the shallots. When it is all browned and dry add the garlic and green chilli ,combine and cook for a further two mins. Add the precooked rice and stir it in until the excess oil has been absorbed. Add the white wine and let the liquid cook out.

RisottopanWhen the rice starts sticking to the bottom add the stock, a ladleful at a time. Everytime it reduces add more stock. Keep it moving with a spatula which stops it sticking to the bottom.

P1090274After 20mins taste a grain and if its soft but with some bite turn off the heat making sure it is still wet. Add the grated parmesan, ground black pepper, spinach leaves and cooked portobello mushrooms. Put a lid (or cover with foil) on and leave for 5 mins. Take the lid off and gently fold the contents until they are evenly mixed through and the cheese has melted. Be gentle so as not to break or mash up the contents. The risotto needs to be loose so add some more stock if necessary.

To plate up put the risotto put a spoonful in the middle of the plate and smooth it over the surface, to make it nice and flat instead of a pile. Sprinkle to finish with finely cut spring onions.

Roast Butternut Squash Chickpea and Coconut Curry

Pumpkin

This kind of dish is a staple of South Indian cuisine. Straightforward and quick to make, it will also add a vegetarian option to your repertoire. I have worked on the textures by roasting off the squash which gives it a crispy and sweet feel, not mushy like when you cook it in the coconut milk. The cashews also add a big crunch to the curry.

Here we also have a solid introduction to the basis of Asian curries which is the paste. This an example of the most basic of pastes which is onion, garlic and ginger blended. You can see where the consistency of Indian and Thai curries come from when you start cooking this way.

Fenugreek can be harder to find than other spices.  It takes a pestle and mortar to grind it to a powder, but it does add another depth to a dish which is always good, but you can lose it.

Ingredients (serves 4)

600g butternut squash
1 medium onion
6 cloves of garlic
25g ginger
2 to 4 fresh chillies (red or green)
1 lime
1 bunch of fresh coriander
2 tsps ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
750ml coconut milk (2 tins)
1 tin of chick peas (400g)
Sunflower oil (or any oil)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
70g cashews

Prep list

Blend or grate the onion, garlic and ginger. Peel and cut the squash into 3cm chunks. Drain the chick-peas, pick the coriander, and mix together the fenugreek, cumin and coriander. Chop the chillies and roast off the cashews.

Method

Turn the oven to 200 degrees. Toss the cubes of squash in oil, put onto a baking tray and roast off in the oven. Spread the squash out so its not heaped on top of each other. Cook until browned and soft, about twenty mins, being gentle so it doesn’t turn to mush.

Meanwhile, put a pan with the oil onto a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds, as soon as they begin to pop add the onion, garlic and ginger. Fry off without colouring them too much. When really soft after about 5 minutes add the spice and cook some more, constantly stirring so it doesn’t take on the bottom and then take off the heat. Stir in the coconut milk, salt, sugar and chilli then return to a low heat with the chickpeas and cook for thirty minutes. Take off the heat and taste.

PasteSqueeze half of the lime and tweak as you feel necessary for salt. Don’t worry if you think the sauce could be a bit sweeter, the sweetness of the squash will come through when its all combined. Gently fold in the roasted squash, again,  being careful it doesn’t turn into a mush.

To serve put some steamed rice in the bowl, and ladle the curry with some sauce. Roughly crush the cashews (I use the bottom of a pan and lean on it so it breaks them up). Sprinkle a generous amount of  cashews then finish with a fat pinch of picked coriander.

Tahini Dressing

Probably the most asked about, straightforward and delicious recipe we do. It will save meal times when all you fancy is steamed vegetables and brown rice, or a crunchy cos salad.  You could also have with crunchy crudites.

The measurements are just a guide, so that you can learn how to make this. If you need more then just double, or even triple up.

Ingredients 

2 tbsps tahini
2 tsps tamari (or soya sauce)
Half a lemon
Mineral water

Method

Put the tahini, tamari, lemon juice and a splash of water into a bowl and stir well. At this point the dressing will go very thick and look a bit strange. Slowly keep adding water and stirring until you have a nice smooth consistency. If you are using as a salad dressing you will want it thinner than if you were using it as a sauce for vegetables.

Green Winter Warmer

 
Green Winter Warmer

I always crave green food in the winter. I tried to find out if there was a specific reason but haven’t found anything fitting on the internet.  Soups are always a winner and green is the perfect seasonal colour for this time of year. Calling it a green soup gives it versatility. I originally made the soup with the dark green swiss chard which is common in Spain where I live. I am told its harder to find in the UK so I would say use either or both kale and spinach. I have been getting white sweet potatoes in my veg box which add a richness, sweetness and texture to the soup. If you don’t see them where you live an ordinary potato will do. Don’t use an orange sweet potato though, as it sends the colour off.

The garnish is optional, I just like to add layers and textures to food, it will work just as well on its own. Here I have used pumpkin and sesame seeds and salt, but alternatively you could use gomasio. You will need a stick blender, food processor or smoothie maker to blend the soup.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 onion
1 white sweet potato, or ordinary potato (150g)
3 cloves of garlic
1 piece of ginger (approx. 20g)
200g greens e.g kale and spinach 
20g parsley (opt)
1 chilli
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 spring onion
1 small pot of quark ( low fat  fromage frais)
20g pumpkin seeds
10g sesame seeds
Olive oil
1.5 litres of veg stock (cube is fine)

Salt and pepper

Prep list

1. Peel the potatoes, onion, garlic and ginger then roughly chop quite small
2. Finely chop the kale and spinach and wash well
3. Roughly chop the parsley
4. Roughly chop the chilli
5. Cut the spring onion into thin rings
6. Make up the stock

7. Toast off the pumpkin seeds and sesame grind or chop with some sea salt, the finer the better.

Method

Put your soup pan on to the heat, cover the bottom with oil. When hot add the onions, potatoes, garlic and ginger. Stir and turn heat down to medium, try not  brown as it will send the finished colour off. When slightly softened add the cumin, then stir in two thirds of the stock. Add the chilli and cook out for 20 mins, or until the potato is soft.

Add your greens including the parsley and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat. Wait for 5 minutes and blend well. If you have a sieve or a conical strainer, it is worth pushing it through (clearly not essential). If its too thick add some of the stock you have left to get your preferred consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remembering the stock has salt in it. You will also gain salt from the gomasio. Putting the greens in at the last minute gives the soup its colour and vibrancy.

To finish, pour the soup into the bowl. Draw a circle of olive oil from a teaspoon over the soup. Take a tablespoon of quark and slide it off with your finger into the middle of the bowl. Divide the pumpkin seeds and pile on top of the quark then a pinch of the fresh spring onions and some lemon zest. Grind some pepper. None of the garnish is essential, its the soup that is the main player here.

Puy Lentil Red Pepper and Apple Soup

Soup is always good this time of year (Autumn).  I like soups that focus on one or two flavours.  This is a recipe that brings the red peppers to the front with a hint of paprika following.  You don’t have to peel the peppers, I just do because it adds another subtle level.  This is not a blended soup.  It will happily sit on a low heat bubbling away working everyones appetite with its permeating aromas.  This recipe feeds about four people.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and chopped as small and even as you can
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
300g red peppers – thats about two large ones, peeled (optional see side dishes) and chopped in small cubes
150g puy lentils (they are the really small ones, you can use the slightly larger ones, I normally soak them for at least one hour, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t though)
10 grams of paprika
1 litre of stock (from a cube or powder)
1 apple peeled and grated
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method

Cover the bottom of your pan with olive oil and fry off the onions. Add the garlic when the onions start to brown, then the chopped peppers (hold a little bit back for the garnish). Cook this down for five minutes, add the paprika, then the stock.

When this is bubbling happily, slide in the lentils. Keep the soup boiling, add the grated apple then turn down to a simmer. Keep topping up the soup with warm stock or water from the kettle, so it stays a soup like consistency. After 45 minutes, taste the lentils, if they are soft, turn off the soup, leave for half an hour then taste for seasoning. Sometimes the lentils go a little bit hard, not sure why yet, but just cook it a bit more until they soften.

When you are ready re-heat and serve.

To garnish like the bowl in the photo, I took some of the red pepper that I held back and cut as small as possible, chopped one spring onion and half a chilli.

Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Croutons

 

Here’s the thing;  if you put 250ml of double cream into cauliflower soup, like every other recipe I have read,  then for sure you will have a rich and scrumptious soup. That soup will also be intensely  calorific.  This is a lighter soup relying on the cauliflower being cooked properly and not stewed. This alongside the addition of the mustard which adds some depth and a small amount of zero yoghurt finished off with a scratch of parmesan on the croutons (which can be left out if you wish) gives it depth and richness with out the fat content.

Ingredients

1 large white onion
1 small to medium cauliflower (450g)
2 cloves of garlic
1 litre of stock (either homemade or from an organic stock cube)
1 tspoon Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
30g parmesan
Spelt bread (or any old bread you have in the house)
Natural yoghurt

Method

Roughly chop your onion and cauliflower keeping them seperate.  Take a good pan and cover the bottom with the oil,  place onto a mid heat and sweat off the onions. Try not to brown them as this will colour the soup the wrong way, you want it as light as possible. Add the garlic and cauliflower, keep stirring for 5 mins then cover with stock. Let this cook out for about half an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the croutons. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the bread into small squares, toss with some oil. Put on to a baking tray lined with paper. You only need enough for about 8 squares in each bowl. Toast off in the oven when they are ready take out and scratch some parmesan over them. Put back in for another minute. Put to one side until the soup is ready.

Take a stick blender, a magi-mix or a smoothie maker, and blend the soup until really smooth. Add the mustard and blend some more. If it is a little bit too thick, alter the consistency with some more of the stock. Knock down the yoghurt with just a little water so it is more of a pouring consistency.

To serve; Pour into a bowl, place a big pinch of croutons in the middle, then draw a circle of yoghurt around the croutons for a nice cheffy finish. Young thyme leaves or chives work well with with this soup sprinkled onto the croutons.

Pan-fried Trout and Provencal Vegetables

It is rare that I don’t put a sauce with fish, but the Provencal vegetables give the same context to this meal as a sauce, that being moisture and texture. This is one of those recipes where it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have one or two of the ingredients and for example, you can swap basil and parsley for thyme or rosemary.  We are just trying to encapsulate that southern France feeling and that is done by using ingredients that are typically grown and produced in Provence.  You can use any filleted piece of fish with or without skin for this, again I place a certain importance on pin boning, see chef´s tips for details or you can ask your fishmonger to do it, not saying he will as it is quite fiddly. Once you get into the habit it takes the eating of fish to the next level.

Ingredients (four people)

4 175g fillets of trout. (This is based on using the large salmon-trout fillets)
1  large aubergine
1 large red pepper
1 large courgette
3 lemons
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic
10 black olives pitted and halved
1 tablespoon of capers
10g parsley and basil mixed
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method

Cut the aubergine and courgettes into 3cm squares, again take your time to make  straight even cuts.  Toss them separately  in oil and lay the aubergines onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay them out next to the aubergines.Put the red pepper and the garlic bulb on whole and roast in a 200 degree oven for 20 mins.

After 10 minutes take out the tray and gently turn over the aubergines and make some space and put in the courgettes and olives for the final 10 mins, use your instinct if it needs more time then give it, I just worry about the courgettes being overcooked and too soft.

When cooked, put the roast pepper onto a plate and the vegetables into a bowl. This is a warm salad so don’t worry about serving it piping hot. Peel the pepper and cut it into a similar size to the rest. Thinly slice the spring onion into rings. Add the olives, capers, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Cut the roast garlic bulb in half through the middle and squeeze the paste into the bowl. Gently turn over the mix until it is thoroughly mixed being careful not to mash it up.

Put a non-stick pan on a high heat, brush with olive oil and lay the fillet into it skin side down.  Cook until crispy and turn over the fish and turn off the gas.

While your fish is cooking through, lay the plates out and spoon a quarter of the mix onto each plate making sure everyone has a bit of everything.  Cut the lemon and put it next to the vegetables, then lay the fillet skin side up slightly off centre on top of the Provencal mix

A Warm Salad of Broad Bean, Goats Cheese and Watercress

When I first moved to southern Europe the first sign that Spring was upon us was the mountains of broad beans that arrived at the market.  After  four months of root vegetable and  spinach something in a pod had landed.

The goats cheese melts into the warm beans to create a smooth creamy sauce without using cream.  The cheese gives enough salt so there is no need to add more.  If you can’t get watercress then rocket will be fine, you can use baby gems if that is all you can get as they are firm and hold the warm beans well. Watercress is preferable as it adds a depth of flavour from  its pepperiness.  If you haven’t got a zester then I highly recommend that you get one, you can go ahead with this recipe anyway without zesting and buy one next time you see one.

Ingredients  (four people)

1kg broad beans in the pods ( this will yield about 250grams after podding)
50g  watercress or rocket
125g goats cheese
50ml olive oil
1 medium sized lemon ( zested and juiced)
Black pepper

Method

Cook off the beans in boiling water for about five mins.  Whilst they are cooking break up the cheese into small pieces and put into a bowl, zest the lemon into the bowl with the cheese, grind the black pepper and add the olive oil .  Lay out the watercress onto a large plate and taste the beans to make sure they are tender. Drain the water off when they are ready and pour into the bowl.

Gently start folding the ingredients together until the goats cheese has melted and you have a even consistency. Pour the mix onto the leaves and finish with some more black pepper.

You don´t have to eat this straight away, it can sit for a while.

Sprouted Sunflower Seed and Mushroom Pate

If you are trying not to snack on rubbish, this kind of thing will be just what you need in your fridge.  It will last three or four days in a plastic container and is perfect with crackers or crudites.  It would also work well in the context of a ‘mezze’ which I willl develop later in the blog. You can find almond paste in health food shops and is a nice alternative to tahini particularly in dips such as this one.  It is rich in protein and full of flavor.

Ingredients 

100g mushrooms
75g sprouted sunflower seeds (see tipsanything sprouted will do it)
40ml almond paste or tahini
Juice of half a lemon
20ml olive oil

Method 

Clean the mushrooms and peel them.  It is better not to wash mushrooms as they tend to go slimy which often puts a lot of people off.  Slice them and put all of the above ingredients into a blender and pulse until you have a  smooth consistency.

Place in a bowl to serve and drizzle over a little extra olive oil.

Black Olive Tapenade

Clearly the better the olive the nicer your tapenade will be.  Saying that though, even the cheap tinned olives come out nice when you give it the tapenade treatment. I use it as a spread for my crackers, or as a dip dressing with salads. It supports other flavors well given how strong the flavor  is. I see it often used as a sauce for fish or meat, especially on Mediterranean influenced menus.

Ingredients

250g pitted black olives
15g capers
Juice of half a large orange
30ml olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Method 

Place of all the above ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. You might need to add a splash of a little bit of water depending on the olive.  Should be a nice smooth consistency, great served with crackers or as part of a mezze.