Runner bean fattoush (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fattoush. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A variation on a Middle Eastern classic salad for you this week. Fattoush is served all over the Middle East in various forms, but always with toasted bread added to it. It makes a light and refreshing sharing platter as a starter or lunch, and also serves as a versatile accompaniment to barbecued and grilled food. Most usually Fattoush consists of crisp lettuce, cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion and herbs, with chunks of bread tossed into them. It is usually dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.

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My take on a Middle Eastern classic salad. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The good mix of sunshine and, latterly, rain this summer has produced a flourish of runner beans. Only 3 plants survived the initial “trauma” of being planted outside this year, and they were very skinny and frail for several weeks. But then suddenly they took off, and now just look at them, I have my very own giant beanstalks.

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Come rain, come shine, I have plenty of beans on the vine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My fattoush recipe combines the salad ingredients I have growing in the garden at the moment – cucumber, tomatoes and runner beans. For the herb, I used salad burnet which has a refreshing cucumber taste; coriander, mint and parsley are most usually added.

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Freshly picked runner beans, cucumber and salad burnet. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Instead of onion, I used fresh chives, and for extra crunch, I chopped up some whole almonds and sprinkled them on top. After toasting the bread, I seasoned it with salt, pepper and tangy sumac powder for extra zing.

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Toasted gluten-free pittas with olive oil and sumac. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 175g runner beans
  • 1 Romaine or Little Gem lettuce
  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber
  • A small bunch fresh chives (or use 3 chopped spring onions, or finely chop half a small red onion)
  • A few sprigs salad burnet (or coriander, parsley and/or mint)
  • 2 large gluten-free pitta breads
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sumac powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g whole almonds, roughly chopped
  • Fresh lemon
  1. Trim the beans – I like to peel the sides with a vegetable peeler, and then nip of the tops. Cut into chunks. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the beans for 3-4 minutes until lightly cooked. Drain well and rinse in cold running water to cool. Drain well.

    TRimming_and_chopping_home-grown_runner_beans
    Preparing fresh runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Tear or shred the lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Halve the tomatoes, and thickly slice the cucumber. Toss into the lettuce along with the cooked beans. Snip the chives into pieces with scissors and strip the leaves from the salad burnet or other fresh herbs. Mix into the salad.
  3. Toast the pitta breads. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sumac and season to taste. Tear into chunky pieces and toss into the salad. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve the salad with olive oil and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

    Runner_bean_fattoush_salad_close-up
    Close-up on fattoush. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

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Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Warm tomato, sage and caper bruschetta. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have never been able to pick home-grown tomatoes this early before. Usually, my tomatoes don’t ripen until at least September, and I’m always left wondering whether I will be making pots-loads of green tomato chutney. This year, the tomatoes are ripening at least one month ahead, and I am delighted 🙂

I planted 8 different varieties this year in the greenhouse, and all are doing very well. I’m going to be eating a lot of tomatoes this year!

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Early August tomato harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I enjoy eating tomatoes raw, simply sliced, sprinkled with a little seasoning, and a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness, and topped with a few fresh basil leaves.

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A colourful variety of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I do cook with them occasionally, and my recipe this week is for a lightly cooked tomato dish which I put on top of gluten-free ciabatta-style bread to eat as a light lunch or quick supper snack. The topping also makes a great sauce to serve over pasta or roast veg. The tomatoes are flavoured with fresh sage, garlic and capers, and for a tangy sweetness, I’ve added a little white balsamic vinegar.

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Rosella tomatoes, fresh sage, and Flamingo tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To enjoy all the flavours of the recipe, leave the mix to cool slightly before serving rather than eating it too hot or fresh out of the saucepan.

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Bruschetta ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 225g small tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • A few leaves fresh sage
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices of freshly toasted bread
  1. Put the tomatoes, sage, garlic, capers and vinegar in a small saucepan. Season to taste and heat gently until simmering. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and cook the tomatoes very gently for 10 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

    Tomatoes_capers_fresh_sage_and_gluten-free_ciabatta_bread
    Bruschetta ingredients and preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. To serve, discard the sage leaves. Drizzle freshly toasted bread with olive oil and spoon over the tomato topping. Garnish with fresh sage.

    Close-up_on_warm_tomato_bruschetta
    Bruschetta, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Broad bean byessar & fresh thyme za’atar (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Broad bean byessar served with fresh thyme za’atar on flat breads, with carrots and black olives. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a great time of year for fresh fruit and vegetables. The first of the home-grown beans, broad beans, have arrived in the shops these past couple of weeks, and I have made one of my favourite dips with my first batch. If you like hummus (houmous), you’ll love byessar. Usually made with dried broad beans (fava beans), I prefer to make my version with fresh when the beans are in season, or frozen, at other times of the year.

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Fresh broad beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To accompany the dip, I have made up a batch of za’atar (zaatar or zahtar), a blend of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac powder. This is a traditional blend from the Middle East and it is used as a seasoning for lots of meat dishes; it is sprinkled over salads and vegetable dishes, and used as a topping for breads. Simply make it into a paste with olive oil, spread it on flat breads or pittas and pop under the grill to toast. As I have lots of fresh thyme in the garden, I’m using fresh leaves, but dried thyme is more traditional. Using dried also means that you can keep it for longer as a dry mix,  in a sealed container as you would any other spice blend.

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Za’atar ingredients. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

If you can’t find sumac powder, something tangy and zesty like lemon rind would bring a bit of zing to the mix.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Byessar:

  • Salt
  • 500g fresh broad beans, shelled (or 175g shelled beans)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cumin or hot curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Fresh thyme flowers to garnish

Za’atar

  • 1 tbsp. lightly toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp sumac powder
  • ½ fresh thyme leaves or dried thyme
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Free-from flat breads, carrot sticks and olives to serve

1. To make byessar, bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, and cook the beans with the thyme, garlic and cumin or curry powder for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and cool for 10 minutes. Discard the thyme.

2. Put the beans and garlic in a food processor or blender. Add 75ml of the cooking liquid and the oil. Blitz until smooth. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and leave to cool, then chill until ready to serve. Accompany with bread and carrots to dip; garnish with fresh thyme flowers or leaves, if liked

 

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Making byessar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To make za’atar, mix the dry ingredients together. When ready to serve, mix with sufficient olive oil to make a paste. Lightly toast flat breads, cut into strips, then spread lightly with the za’atar paste. Toast under a hot grill for a few seconds to warm through. Serve as an accompaniment to dips and salads.

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Delicious summery lunch. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Courgette and white bean salad (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Courgette and white bean salad with fried pine nuts, basil, gluten-free flat bread and extra virgin olive oil. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Amazingly, the heat is still on full blast here in the UK. The sky has been gloriously blue, day after day, and the sun is shining down strongly. No rain in the forecast; the water butt has been dry for days!

Plenty of time to enjoy the garden at a more leisurely pace. The thought of preparing and eating hot food is not so appealing at the moment, so salads are featuring heavily on my menu. I picked my first courgettes this week – all the extra watering by hand has been worth it – and made an exception by doing a little bit of cooking. I made them into a tasty cold dish with some canned beans and a rich tomato sauce.

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The first of this year’s home-grown courgettes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can adapt the recipe to use other vegetables and pulses – aubergine and chickpeas make a good combination too, especially seasoned with some cumin and fresh coriander. The salad makes a good sauce for pasta when served freshly made, and I have also served it as a filling for a warmed pastry case.

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Platter of salad and accompaniments. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato purée
  • 2 teasp caster sugar
  • 1 teasp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g cooked cannellini beans
  • 500g courgettes, trimmed and chopped into 2cm dice
  • Fresh basil, fried pine nuts, gluten-free flat bread and extra virgin olive oil to serve
  1. Heat the oil in a large covered frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and herbs, with the lid on, over a low heat, for 15 minutes, to soften without browning.

    Chopping_board_with_fresh_onion_garlic_bay_and_rosemary
    Prepared onion and garlic with fresh bay and rosemary, ready for the pot. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Pour in the wine and stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves.

    Freshly_chopped_courgette_on_a_chopping_board
    Courgette cut into 2cm dice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Stir in the beans and courgette, making sure they are well covered in the sauce. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes until the courgette is just tender. Leave to cool completely.

    3_steps_to_making_courgette_and_white_bean_salad
    Making the sauce and cooking the salad. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Transfer to a bowl and chill until ready to serve. Best served at room temperature for more flavour. Delicious spooned over warm flat breads, sprinkled with fresh basil, fried pine nuts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bon Appétit 🙂

    Small_plate_with_a_portion_of_flat_bread_and_courgette_and_white_bean_salad
    The perfect lunch for a sunny day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My beach-side harvest – Sea Kale (cooking tips and gluten-free/dairy-free/vegan serving suggestions)

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Sea kale growing on chalky cliff face. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A bit of a departure from my usual blog posts this week. I’ve had some time away from my home in Scotland, and spent a few days in Sussex, where I grew up, visiting friends and family, and enjoying some fine late spring weather.

On a walk along the South Downs, I climbed down to a secluded cove, only accessible when the tide is low, to discover sea kale growing on the sand and shingle beach and out of the chalky cliffs. The afternoon was still and warm, and the frilly edged, grey/blue-green leaves of the kale appeared silvery in the bright sunlight; the sweet smell of honey hung in the air from its many flowers which grow in clusters above the leaves.

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Secluded Sussex beach cove. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve never discovered sea kale growing wild before, and have never cooked nor eaten it. The opportunity and temptation was too great and I picked 2 or 3 of the smaller leaves from a few established plants. I knew that sea kale kept well – sailors used to take it on voyages as a source of vitamin C – so I put the leaves in a jug of water, in the fridge for a couple of days, before taking them back to Scotland to experiment in the kitchen.

As with most leafy vegetables, I guessed that the smaller leaves would be the most edible. Apparently, sea kale (Crombe maritima) is not actually kale, it’s a type of chard and belongs to the cabbage family. All parts are edible, raw and cooked. but in the interests of conservation, I picked just a few leaves.

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Small sea kale leaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And so, to the kitchen. I treated the sea kale as if it were a leafy cabbage or curly kale. I gave it a good soak to remove any sand, etc, and then sliced out the stems. I shredded some of the leaves, and decided to roast the rest whole as I do with kale.

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Preparing sea kale. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Stems with balsamic vinegar – trim the ends and then slice the stems down the centre, lengthways. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat a frying pan until hot, drizzled with a little olive oil and stir fry the stems for 2-3 minutes until softened and browned a little. Turn off the heat, season with balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper. Cover with a lid and stand for 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped chive stems and flowers.

Leaves with garlic, chilli and soy – shred the leaves as you would Savoy cabbage and cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain well. Stir fry chopped leek and garlic in a little oil until softened and then add the boiled sea kale and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until tender. Season with dark soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.

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Cooked sea kale stems and leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To bake sea kale, choose the thinnest leaves, remove the stems if coarse, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a bowl and toss in a little olive oil, and massage it through the leaves to coat them lightly. Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and season well with smoked salt, pepper and caster sugar. Bake at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6) for 10 minutes, turn the leaves and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until dark and crispy. Season with chilli flakes and serve with extra sugar and smoked salt for dipping.

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Roast sea kale leaves with smoked salt, chilli and sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The verdict: if you like strong-tasting cabbage and seaweed ( which I do), then you’ll like sea kale. It’s not a flavour for the faint-hearted that’s for sure. It can be also be seasoned with other strong flavoured ingredients. I was surprised that it is not salty at all. Some of the slightly larger leaves had a slight medicinal bitterness to them, which makes me think that the much larger leaves would be inedible.

If you’re lucky enough to find some, it’s definitely worth trying. I feel fortunate to have stumbled across such a fabulous freebie courtesy of Mother Nature 🙂

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Also growing out of the chalky cliffs, a beautiful sea poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

Spiced chickpea, spinach and sorrel roll (dairy-free; vegan)

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Packed full of flavour, spiced chickpea, spinach and sorrel roll. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone 🙂 Hope you’ve had a good week. The sun’s been shining a lot with me and everything in the garden has taken off, especially in the herb garden. Lots of fresh new growth and lush looking bright green leaves. Delicious.

I can find everyday uses for all of the herbs I grow, but the clump of sorrel often remains untouched. I pick off any little leaves to throw into a salad, but the larger leaves I admit, I seldom use. However, this week, as I was cooking up some spinach for my planned bake, I remembered to mix in a few of the larger leaves to add a slightly sharp and acidic tang to the filling.

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Spring greens – fresh garden sorrel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve turned to spelt flour to make the suet-crust pastry for my bake this week, although I have mixed it with some gram flour. I haven’t tried the recipe with all gluten-free flour; I can image it would work ok, but it would be more challenging to roll up. I have fond memories of sweet and savoury roly-poly puddings from my childhood and school cookery classes. Suet-crust is one of the easiest pastries to make, and it takes next to no time to put together. It is light and fluffy in textue, and when baked, has a crispy, crunchy outer shell.

The key to this recipe’s success is to make sure you dry the cooked spinach as much as possible. Cook it in only a minimum amount of water and then squeeze out the excess by pressing it against the side of the strainer as it drains, and then blot with kitchen paper. This will help keep the bake as crisp as possible. If you don’t have fresh sorrel, then just cook up a little bit more spinach. I hope you enjoy it.

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Preparing and cooking fresh spinach. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 teasp ground cumin
  • 1 teasp each of ground coriander and ground cinnamon
  • 25g fresh garden sorrel leaves, well washed and stems removed
  • 250g fresh spinach
  • 100g cooked chickpeas
  • 40g toasted pine nuts
  • 40g sultanas
  • 1 teasp salt
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (optional)

For the pastry:

  • 150g spelt flour
  • 50g gram flour
  • 12g baking powder
  • 100g vegetable suet
  • Approx. 150ml cold chickpea cooking water, canning water or plain water
  1. First make the filling. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and spices over a gentle heat, with a lid on, for 15 minutes until softened but not browned. If you’re using sorrel, rip up the leaves and once the onion is cooked, add to the mixture, cover and leave to wilt in the steam. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach, shake off the excess water and pack into a saucepan whilst still wet. Heat until steaming, cover, and cook over a medium heat, for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Drain well, pressing out the excess water, and leave to cool. Chop and blot away the excess water using kitchen roll.
  3. Put the cold onion mixture in a bowl, mix in the cooked spinach, chickpeas, pine nuts and sultanas. Season with salt. Cover and chill until required.
  4. When ready to assemble, the roll, preheat the oven to 190°C/ 170°C fan oven/ gas 5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the flours in a bowl with the baking powder and suet. Pour in sufficient water to make a soft, scone-like dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to make a rectangle approx. 30 x 25cm.
  5. Spread over the filling, right to the edge, and the roll up from one of the shorter sides. Carefully transfer to the prepared baking tray, seam-side down, and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown.
    Suet_crust_pastry_rolled_out_filled_and_rolled_up
    Roly-poly preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    The pastry will probably crack during baking – I have rarely made one that hasn’t split slightly on one side. For extra richness, brush generously with extra virgin olive oil as soon as it comes out of the oven. Best served hot or warm.

    Freshly_baked_spiced_chickpea_spinach_and_sorrel_roll
    Out of the oven, and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

    A_slice_of_spiced_chickpea_spinach_and_sorrel_roll
    Delicous! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Soba noodles with fresh asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Soba noodles with asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

It is the height of the home-grown British asparagus season right now, and I’m eating as much as I can while these fresh, green, juicy stems are available to buy. I rarely do anything fancy with asparagus,  just enjoy it on its own, steamed, griddled, or baked in the oven, and seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper. Delicious.

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In season. British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very simple, yet very tasty, combination that makes a lovely light lunch or quick supper dish. If you want to make it in advance, it’s just as good eaten cold as a salad, or boxed up for a picnic or packed lunch.

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Three favourite seasonings for soba noodles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To serve 2: prepare 200g fresh asparagus spears by trimming away about 3cm of the stem – this is usually a bit woody and tough to eat. Then cut the rest of the stems into short lengths. Brush a non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil and heat until hot. Stir fry the asparagus for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Turn off the heat and add a good glug of gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Immediately cover with a lid and leave to stand. Leave to one side while you cook the noodles, or leave to cool completely for serving as a salad.

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Trimming fresh asparagus, and stir-frying. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to the boil and add 100g soba (buckwheat) noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes until tender, then drain well and place in a heatproof bowl, or rinse in cold running water, and leave to drain and cool completely.

When ready to serve, toss the asparagus and pan juices into the noodles along with 4 tbsp. freshly chopped chives,  2 teasp sesame oil and 1 tbsp. mirin. Pile into serving bowls and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy 🙂

Soba_noodles_with_asparagus_Image_by_Kathryn_Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet potato, spinach and coconut stew (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Sweet_potato_spinach_and_coconut_stew
Sweet potato, spinach and coconut stew. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A deliciously fragrant and comforting recipe for you this week. An old favourite of mine which works just as well with potatoes if you’re not a fan of the sweet variety. It makes a good side dish, but I usually serve it as a main course, spooned over rice.

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Preparing sweet potatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The stew is very easy to make. You can change the proportions of the individual spices to suit your taste. The overall flavour is reminiscent of a green Thai curry without the lemongrass or lime leaves. I’m not a huge chilli fan, I like a hint of heat rather than a major blast, so you may want to increase the chilli-factor for more of a spicy kick. If you have fresh green chillies, grind them up in the spice paste as an alternative to using the dried flakes.

If you have any leftover, the stew makes a good soup the next day. Just blend it up in a food processor with stock or more coconut milk. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

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Spice paste ingredients. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 teasp each of coriander and mustard seeds
  • 1 small red onion or shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3cm piece root ginger
  • Dried chilli flakes, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 400ml canned coconut milk
  • 650g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm thick chunky pieces
  • 225g prepared spinach
  • 1 teasp salt
  • A small bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  1. Remove the green casing from the cardamom pods and put the seeds in a pestle and mortar along with the coriander and mustard seeds. Lightly crush them, then toast them in a small frying pan, over a medium heat, for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and lightly toasted but not brown. Leave to cool.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic and ginger and place in a food processor or blender. Add 1 tbsp. oil and the toasted spices and chilli flakes to taste. Blend for a few seconds to make a paste.

    Toasting_spice_seeds_in_a_small_frying_pan_and_blending_ingredients_to_make_a_spice_paste
    Toasting spices and making a spice paste. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan or wok and gently fry the paste for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Pour over the coconut milk, bring to the boil, and stir in the sweet potato pieces. Bring back to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about an hour until tender.
  4. Add the spinach in batches, stirring well to make sure it gets completely coated in the coconut liquor. Add the salt, cover and continue to cook gently for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until then spinach is wilted and the sauce is thick.
    3_steps_to_cooking_sweet_potato_and_spinach_stew
    The 3 stages of stew. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  5. To serve, sprinkle the stew with a generous amount of chopped, fresh coriander, and extra chilli if liked. Serve immediately,  spooned over rice.

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    Sweet potato stew, ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Curly kale – recipe ideas and serving suggestions

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Green and red curly kale. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The hardiest of all the Brassica family, and probably the closest to wild cabbage, kale (or kail) is one of the most traditional of Scottish vegetables. The robust leaves withstand harsh frosts and snow, and are said to taste all the better for it. In the past, kale was dismissed as animal fodder, but today it is one of the most trendy vegetables on the menu.

Kale is one of my favourite greens. I love the strong flavour, it is bursting with vitality in every bite, and it is one of the few vegetables tasty enough to stand its own on a plate with other bold flavours.

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Keeping kale fresh in a bowl of water. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As with all leafy vegetables, cook as soon as possible after purchase. Choose firm stalks with fresh, dark or bright green leaves. If you do want to keep them for a couple of days, arrange the stems in a bowl or large jug of water as you would a bunch of flowers, then put in the fridge. I find kale is one of a few vegetables that doesn’t freeze very well – it loses texture and flavour, and becomes a bit slimy when cooked.

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Kale leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Simple to prepare, just rinse kale well in cold, running water to flush out any trapped earth caught in the tight, curling leaves, and then shake off the excess water. Pull off the lower, frilly leaves and keep to one side – these softer leaves are perfect for eating raw in winter salads. Slice out the central stem, and then shred the leaves into the desired size.

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Preparing curly kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you are steaming kale, pack the wet leaves into a steamer and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Alternatively, pack the wet leaves into a saucepan, turn on the heat and when the contents begin to steam, put the lid on, reduce the heat to medium and cook with the lid on, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes – don’t have the heat too high otherwise the leaves will dry and burn. Drain well and chop finely.

For baking and deep-frying, rinse the leaves then make sure you dry them as much as possible in order to cook them to a crisp. Blotting them between layers of absorbent kitchen paper is a good way. If the leaves are too damp, you will end up steaming them in the oven rather than drying them out. In hot oil, the contents will spit and hiss if water still clings to the leaves.

Recipe ideas and serving suggestions

  • Shredded kale makes fantastic “crispy seaweed”: deep-fry in hot vegetable oil for a few seconds, then drain well and toss in a little salt and white sugar. Season with Szechuan pepper or Chinese 5 spice.
  • Toss raw, small, tender kale leaves with finely shredded raw leek and grated apple in a lemon vinaigrette and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve as a crunchy, bold winter salad sprinkled with toasted walnuts.
  • Steamed kale is delicious, finely chopped, tossed in butter or good quality olive oil and seasoned with black pepper and ground nutmeg. An ideal accompaniment to a bold, red wine gravy based game, meat or bean stew.
  • Add finely chopped, steamed kale to a garlic mash. See My favourite mash (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan
  • Mix finely chopped, steamed kale with cooked brown rice or pearl barley, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan (or Vegan cheese) and use as a filling for baked Portobello mushrooms.
  • Tray-baked kale leaves make a healthy sprinkle for salads, soups, rice and pasta dishes. Here’s what to do: preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas mark 2). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Prepare 200g kale leaves as above, then rinse and dry thoroughly. Roughly chop the leaves and place in a large bowl. Toss in no more than 2 tbsp. sunflower oil and arrange over the trays – too much oil will make the leaves go soggy. Mix 1 teasp smoked salt, ½ teasp ground black pepper and 1 teasp ground cumin together and sprinkle over the oily kale.
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Baking kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. Drain well, leave to cool, then pack into air-tight containers or jars to store. The baked kale will keep and stay crisp in this way for up to 2 weeks.

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Cumin-spiced, tray-baked kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Baked root vegetable squares (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly baked root vegetable squares. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like all root vegetables, but sadly I struggle to grow anything other than potatoes. Fortunately, I am able to buy a good variety from local farm shops and this feels like the next best thing to growing them myself. This week’s recipe can be made with any root you have to hand. The cooking method bakes the different vegetable layers to a melting-tenderness and is a perfect choice if you want a vegetable dish suitable for preparing ahead. Once the basic layering and baking is done, the cooked vegetables will sit quite happily in the fridge for a couple of days before baking again to serve. You can scale the recipe up easily if you’re feeding a crowd and mix and match the vegetables you use.

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Turnip, sweet potatoes and King Edward potatoes ready for preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My version makes an 18cm square layer which cuts neatly into 9 portions and uses sweet potatoes, turnip (or swede, depending on where you come from) and potatoes, but carrots, parsnips and celeriac work fine as well, and you can also use just 1kg of your favourite root, if you prefer. The most important things to remember are to slice the vegetables thinly and evenly (preferably use a food processor or mandolin) and make sure you cook the vegetables until completely tender during the first baking – test with a skewer to be completely sure.

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Thinly sliced root vegetables. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 9 portions

Ingredients

  • 300g sweet potatoes
  • 300g turnip (swede)
  • 400g main crop potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper
  • 75ml vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 40g dairy-free margarine (or butter if you eat it)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a straight-sided, deep 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Peel and thinly slice all the vegetables – I use a food processor for this. Either layer in the tin individually or mix all the vegetables together and arrange evenly in the tin.

    Layering_sliced_vegetables Original
    Layering the root vegetables in individual layers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Pour over the stock and drizzle with the oil. Cover the top of the tin with foil and bake for at least an hour until completely tender. Remove the foil and leave to cool completely.
  4. Cut a square of firm cardboard the same size as the inside of the tin and wrap in a layer of foil. Place a sheet of baking parchment over the vegetables and sit the foil-wrapped board on top. Weigh down the vegetables evenly using 3 or 4 same-weight cans or jars and chill overnight or for up to 2 days before serving.

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    Pressing the vegetable layer. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas 6). Remove the weights, foil board and baking parchment and carefully remove the pressed vegetable square from the tin.
  6. Cut into 9 squares and arrange on a lined baking tray. Melt the margarine (or butter) and mix in the garlic and seasoning. Brush the mixture generously over the vegetable squares.

    Preparation_steps_for_baking_the_vegetable_squares
    Ready for baking. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Bake the squares for about 30 minutes until golden and hot. Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped parsley. A great accompaniment to any kind of roast.
    Tray_of_baked_root_vegetable_squares_just_out_of_the_oven
    Just baked root vegetable squares. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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    Root vegetables: meltingly tender and packed full of flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins