Nut and seed roast with cheese and tomato layer

This adaptation from an old Cranks recipe is one that I’ve been pleasurably cooking for years. The addition of the layer of cheddar, feta or Vegan cheese and sliced tomato adds a piquancy to the savoury nuttiness of the loaf that’s a lovely surprise to those that haven’t eaten it before.

I chop 250g of nuts by hand. My food processor tends to grind them too finely – a bit of crunch is best. An onion, chopped and sautéed in butter, Vegan spread or oil. Add 100g of breadcrumbs, some chopped parsley if you have it, and a handful of seeds. Enough Vegan bouillon with a teaspoon of marmite or a sloosh of soy sauce to make a fairly loose mix, then dollop half the mix into a baking tin, add a layer of cheese, a layer of sliced tomato, then the rest of the nut mix. Press down and transfer to a hot oven to bake for about 35 minutes.

As delicious cold the next day as it is hot. Gorgeous served with a fresh tomato salsa, fresh tomato sauce or chimichurri sauce on the side.


Chunky root vegetable soup

A morning has been spent happily gathering and chopping carrots, swede, leeks, sweet potatoes, small turnips and butternut squash. 

Add a couple of handfuls of organic lentils and split peas. A tin of tomatoes, a top up of the pan with water, a splash of soy sauce, salt and pepper. Simmered for an hour, and the seasoning to adjusted to taste along with a handful of chopped fresh chives. 

This makes up a hearty, chunky soup, enough for several bowls, and it’s perfect with doorstops of crusty, seeded bread. Or perhaps, cheese scones to dunk. Simple food, and a hug in a bowl. 

Chickpea, leek and red pepper patties

I love a good chickpea burger! 

Heavily laced with garlic, fresh coriander and seasonings, these patties do have a tendency to fall apart a bit with no eggs to bind them, but that’s a small price to pay for the sheer deliciousness of them.

Finely chopped onion, garlic, half a leek, a tin of chickpeas mashed down with a fork, half a red pepper, sumac and paprika. Molded into patties with floury hands and fried in olive oil for ten minutes until crispy. 

So useful to use up “bits” of remaining vegetables in the fridge, and a healthy, filling supper. As well as cheap to boot.

What’s not to love 😊

Bravely unusual breakfast

Husband and I stayed at the Lalit Hotel at Tower Bridge, London a few nights ago.

It’s a glorious riot of Indian loveliness, with sumptuous embroidered fabrics, rich textile art and contemporary Indian style. The staff are simply delightful. 

Breakfast was in the vast Baluchi restaurant in the hotel, originally the grand vaulted hall of a grammar school. 

Feeling brave, I abandoned my usual toast and oatmeal, and ordered the Indian breakfast (although I was a little dubious about spiciness first thing in the morning as the pale, wilting northern flower that I am). 

The resulting giant dosa, filled with gently spiced potatoes and served with masala and Indian scrambled eggs was a revelation.

Crispy and feather light, with a rich and filling potato interior, any concerns I may have had about eating curry for breakfast were soon dispelled. 

I need to wear my big girl pants and be brave with my breakfast choices more often.


Fabulous fougasse

Provence specialises in olive bread called fougasse, and our morning trips to the boulangerie always resulted in our coming home with a freshly baked one in the basket alongside the croissants.

This was a life saver, as our two teenage vegans couldn’t eat the other breakfast pastries, which were all baked with butter. They did devour these beauties, however, pulling them apart warm and fragrant from the oven.

Prepared and baked with olive oil, heavily layered with pungent olive paste and black olives, and scattered with local Camargue salt crystals and fresh thyme, these fougasse were remarkably delicious.

I’ve never tasted anything quite as good out of Provence.

Sweet potato, chickpea and brocolli Buddha Bowl

Spiced toasted chickpeas, roasted sweet potatoes, kale and broccoli, all drizzled with a lemony tahini dressing.

I added a base layer of wholemeal rice as we were hungry this evening, but in fact the sweet potatoes and chickpeas were incredibly filling so it probably wasn’t necessary.

All in all this was a glorious mixture of crunchy and soft, spicy and citrus fresh flavours and textures.

Thankyou, Minimalist Baker! Your recipe was perfect. Supper sorted in thirty minutes.

Spices of Provence

The market in Arles is a riot for the senses, a saturation of vibrant colour and warm smells. 

The spice stalls display their wares in huge open bowls; turmeric, harissa, cumin, ras el hanout and paprika, all jostling together for attention in a glorious mosaic of intense, earthy hues.

Colour and taste are everywhere here. This fougasse, a local artinisal bread made with olives and thyme, is the perfect example of simple local ingredients being used to create an intense taste experience. 

Simply gorgeous. 

Delectable courgette, pea, mint and ricotta lasagne 

The temperature has plummeted to the teens over the last few days in London. Not quite enough to warrant a warming stew for dinner, but certainly cold enough to ditch the salads and demand something a little more substantial.

Enter stage left, lasagne, with a bit of a difference.

What I love about this Rose Elliot recipe is that there is no need to waste thirty minutes of your life making a bechamel sauce. 

Simply loosen ricotta with a little milk and use this as the “sauce” between the layers of fresh pasta and greenly, garlic and mint-scented onions, petit pois and courgettes. Top with parmesan et, voila! Dinner is served. Accompany with a crisp, green salad if you’re able, and maybe a cheeky glass of Sancerre…


Involtini Addiction

Many years ago I tried a Nigella recipe for involtini. It was an immediate taste revelation for me, a totally addictive experience. 

Something about the melting combination of softly charred aubergines, sweet raisins, salty feta and the earthy, oily crunch of nuts and pine nuts hooked me immediately. It got transferred to my ancient, much thumbed personal journal of recipes and every now and then it emerges back onto the menu. 

Today I’m making it once again. After a weekend of festival food and too much meat and BBQ sauce, I’m ready for a vegetarian detox, and this is just what I’m in the mood for.

Serve with fresh green salad, or like me, spoon it straight from the pan with gluttonous glee. 

Cranks – a glorious institution 

Cranks was a small chain of vegetarian wholefood restaurants in the UK back in the eighties and nineties, and an institution in its own right. It did much to dispel the myth that vegetarian food was all lentils and brown rice, with its delicious, innovative, baked-on-the-day fresh produce.

Sadly financial pressures caused it to close its doors for good in 2001. We have never seen it’s like again, despite the rise of healthy eating, vegetarian and vegan eating.

It’s remaining and fitting legacy is its cookbook. Unlike recipe books today it isn’t filled with glorious photographs of each dish. The recipes are in tight, rather dense print with no illustrations to break them up. But if you could only have one vegetarian cookbook, this is the one for you. It has everything. And all the recipes I’ve tried are easy to make, delicious, and have all worked without fail. 

My chestnut bake comes from here, without which family Boxing Days would simply not be the same. As does the worlds best nut roast, stuffed with a delectable layer of cheese and tomato for extra flavour. And their wine and nut pate has converted more stout meat eaters than I care mention.

Thankyou, Cranks. Still relevant and in my eyes still the best after all these years.