To be honest, I’m a little bit behind with uploading this post, as Asparagus season has been and gone. However, I still want to share it with you and to remember it for myself, as it’s very easy to make (in advance too), budget friendly, vegetarian and suitable for any occasion, such as dinner, picnic, or you can make it as individual portions for dinner parties, basically it’s very versatile. In a way, you can adapt it to suit the season. For example, now, you can use courgettes, or perhaps green /runner beans instead of asparagus.
FREE-FORM TART WITH POTATO AND ASPARAGUS
(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food Collection)
1 pack of all-butter puff pastry or shortcrust pastry
2-3 boiled potatoes, cooled, cut into thick slices
8-10 asparagus spears, blanched for 2-3 minutes in a boiling water in advance, let it dry
2-3 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
140g Gruyere or any other preferred hard cheese (I used Cheddar)
200g soured cream
salt & pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 180C fan with a baking tray inside.
- On a large sheet of baking parchment dusted with a little flour, roll out the pastry into a rough circle about 30cm wide, until the thickness of 2 x £1 coins.
- Trim the asparagus, snapping off woody ends. Cut the potatoes onto thick rounds.
- Brush the mustard over the pastry. Arrange the potatoes, asparagus and most of the cheese in layers in the centre of the base, leaving a border of pastry that’s roughly 5cm all the way around. Season and fold up the pastry edges to enclose the vegetables and cheese, pinching the edges to seal. (If you noticed on the photos, this time I missed this step completely, as I was short of pastry. And unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos first time around).
- Whisk together the soured cream and the egg with a little seasoning, then pour into the centre of the tart. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 30 mins until the pastry is golden and crisp. Eat just warm or at room temperature.
Simple and delicious one-pan of your ‘5 a day’ supper. Easy adaptable to whatever is in season, but this Mediterranean selection works very well with Halloumi. Perfect addition for the BBQ or a picnic. Of course, it is even better with home-made pesto, but on this occasion I used shop-bought, which is also just fine. You also can use Feta cheese instead of Halloumi.
EASY VEGETABLE TRAY BAKE WITH HALLOUMI & PESTO
(Originally seen in ‘Red’ magazine)
500g new potatoes, halved lengthways
3 Mixed Peppers, seeds removed, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons good quality pesto
zest of ½ lemon, plus squeeze of juice
125g cherry tomatoes, halved
250g pack Halloumi cheese, thickly sliced
black olives (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, then tip into a large, shallow roasting tin and scatter over sliced peppers. Drizzle over with the olive oil, salt, mix well, bake for about 20 minute.
- Meanwhile in a little bowl, mix together pesto, zest and lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon of water, if the paste is too thick. Set aside.
- Turn up the heat to 220°C. Add the halved tomatoes, olives, sprinkle half of the pesto mixture and sliced halloumi on top. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven, drizzle over the rest of the pesto and serve straightaway.
I love gnocchi, but only if they are pan-fried. I found boiled ones to be a bit heavy and sloppy. When I discovered pan-fried gnocchi (thanks to Nigella!), it was a game changer and since then I don’t do it any other way.
If I remember it right, I saw this recipe on one of the Sainsbury’s recipe cards, which you can pick up from the store. The recipe is so easy and adaptable, you can easily adjust it to your taste.
PAN-FRIED GNOCCHI WITH WATERCRESS PESTO & ROASTED TOMATOES
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
75ml olive oil, plus extra for frying
3 tbsp walnuts/pine nuts, toasted
1 x 110g bag watercress
1 x 500g pack fresh gnocchi
100g fine green beans, halved
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the halved tomatoes on the oiled roasting tray and roast until they are ready and caramelised on the edges.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, make the pesto by putting the garlic, olive oil, walnuts and the watercress in a food processor, blitz to combine. Check for seasoning.
- Heat a large frying pan with a splash of olive oil, add the gnocchi and toss gently over a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until just tender, drain.
- To assemble, add the pesto to the gnocchi and toss together. Gently stir in the beans and tomatoes. Serve as a side dish or as a main with some salad.
This rice dish is full of flavour and texture and is great side for almost any savoury Mexican dish or just on its own with avocado and tangy salsa.
MEXICAN RED RICE
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-1/2 cups vegetarian/chicken stock (from the cubes is just fine)
400g passata/canned chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 cup frozen petits pois
salt to taste
chopped spring onion/coriander for serving (optional)
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes or until softened and translucent.
- Add the dry rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until rice becomes a golden brown colour. Do not allow the rice to burn. Add the garlic to the rice and cook for one more minute.
- Add the passata/chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, petit pois, chilli powder and salt, mix well, lower heat and cover with a lid.
- Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
I could’ t recommend this veggie version of shepherd’s pie enough. I first tried it when I had to prepare a dinner for a few vegetarians some time ago. Since then it became my choice of preference, even over meaty version. Addition of the red wine is a must!
VEGGIE SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH SWEET POTATO TOPPING
(adapted from BBC Good Food collection)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely cubed
2 celery sticks, finely cubed
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
200ml red wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 vegetable stock cubes
400g cooked green/puy lentils (alternatively 1x410g canned lentil)
About 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
85g mature cheddar, grated
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then fry the onion until golden. Add the carrots, celery and thyme, continue to cook for a few more minutes. Then pour in the wine, 150ml of water and the tomatoes, sprinkle the stock cubes and simmer for 15 minutes. Tip in the lentils and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile boil the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes or until cooked, drain well and mash with the butter, season well to taste.
- Pile the lentil mixture into a pie oven-proof dish, spoon the mash on top, sprinkle over with the grated cheese and some extra thyme if you wish. At this stage, pie can be covered and chilled for 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.
- If you are cooking straight away, heat the oven up to 180C. Cook for 20 minutes if cooking straight away, or for 40 minutes from chilled. In both cases cook until golden on the top and hot and bubbly all the way through. Serve with green veggies of your choice.
I’ve recently made this risotto for a dinner with the girls and it turned out to be a very successful dish. Considering that the ingredients are slightly unusual for a risotto, they work so well together. Rich and smooth without an overpowering beetroot flavour, and a pretty dish to serve.
BEETROOT RISOTTO WITH PRAWNS AND HORSERADISH
(Adapted from ‘Dinner at mine’ by Annie Nochols)
About 800g small raw beetroots
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large tomato or 2 small ones, chopped
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
400g risotto rice
200ml dry white wine
250g cooked peeled prawns
fresh dill to garnish
3-4 teaspoons creamed horseradish
250ml soured cream to serve (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 190C. Clean the beetroots, leaving the skin on, trim any stringy roots. Wrap up each beetroot in foil and bake for about an hour or until tender. When cooked, remove the beets from the oven, let it cool before peeling away the skin. Grate the beetroots and set aside.
- For the risotto, heat the butter and the olive oil together in a large heavy-bottomed pan, add the chopped onion, celery, carrots and cook them on a moderate heat until golden colour and well softened.
- Then add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook for another few minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the stock in another pan and bring to just below boiling point; keep on the heat.
- Add the rice to the vegetable and cook for about 3 minutes or until the grains are slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Now add the grated beetroots.
- Then add a ladleful of the hot stock, stir in well and reduce the heat. Keep adding the stock, one ladleful a time, stirring and making sure that each ladleful has been absorbed before adding the next. You don’t need to stir the risotto all the time, but just make sure that it’s not sticking. Continue to cook until the rice is ready and very slightly al dente.
- Once risotto is cooked, remove the pan from the heat, check for seasoning, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- For the garnish, mix soured cream with the horseradish, chop the dill. (If you prefer, you can add horseradish straight to the risotto and omit soured cream.)
- To serve, spoon the risotto into bowls and top with the prawns, chopped dill and horseradish cream.
I was given a bag of organic Jerusalem artichokes grown in a local allotment. Although it’s still a mystery why they are called artichokes, as they are more likely to come from potato family; and why they are ‘Jerusalem’, if they are originated from North America and has nothing to do with Holy Land.
However, I know that one of the best options to appreciate the delicate, sweet and slightly nutty flavour of this wonderful vegetable is soup.
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP
(Adapted from BBC Food)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5-7 (depends on the size) artichokes, peeled, chopped
100ml white wine
300-400ml chicken or vegetable stock
50ml double cream
salt and pepper to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter (do not allow to burn). Add the onion, cook gently until it has softened.
- Add the garlic, cook for another two minutes.
- Then add the artichokes, white wine and stock, continue to cook for 15 minutes or until the artichoke has softened. Pour the mixture in to the blender, add cream and blend mixture until smooth.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.