Lentil, artichoke, mushroom and asparagus salad…

I am all about the asparagus at the moment. I’m not totally obsessive about where my food comes from, but I do try to avoid buying fruit and veg that has been shipped from far-flung countries – especially when, if you just wait for the right season, the British version is a million times better. That’s not to say I don’t buy foreign raspberries in January, but when it comes to two things – strawberries and asparagus – I really do try to only buy British and only buy in season. Apparently strawberries are a little late this year (but that just means that when they do arrive, in the next week or so, they’ll be super sweet and juicy as they’ve had a longer, slower ripening time) but British asparagus has now appeared in the shops and on the market near where I work. I think there’s something nice about only eating British asparagus – it makes it into a real treat for those few weeks that it’s available.

Anyway, I wanted something healthy involving asparagus, and I also had some portobello mushrooms from last week’s veg box, and so this idea came about. It’s not exactly rocket science, and it’s not really a recipe, but it was delicious (if I do say so myself!)
IMG_20130521_190453Lentil, artichoke, mushroom and asparagus salad

Serves 2

 

3 portobello mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tin green lentils, drained

1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1″ pieces

1 tin artichoke hearts, drained and halved

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

 

1. Heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the mushrooms until they’ve released their juice and soaked it all back up again. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so (be careful not to burn it).

2. Put the mushrooms in a bowl with the lentils. Add the asparagus to the frying pan with a little water and cook until tender.

3. Add the asparagus, artichoke hearts, lemon juice and seasoning to the bowl and stir to mix everything together.

4. Serve warm, topped with a fried or poached egg.

 

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Onion marmalade…

I haven’t posted about Veg Box Day for a while, but I’ve still been getting my Riverford box every two weeks! And I realised the other day that while I’ve been worrying about the Great Potato Mountain and things to do with Jerusalem artichokes, I’ve also been collecting a quite impressive pile of onions. So I had a look through the recipe cards that come with each veg box, and found a simple-looking onion marmalade recipe. It called for 1kg of onions and when I weighed mine they were about 980g, so I thought brilliant, let’s give it a go.

IMG_20130413_163409I can’t actually find the exact recipe on the Riverford website, but here it is with my little tweaks (I added mixed spice and chilli flakes because I didn’t have the suggested thyme)

Onion marmalade

2tbsp olive oil

1kg onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/4 tsp red chilli flakes

125-150g brown sugar

150-175ml balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions and garlic and cook on a medium heat until the onions are starting to soften.

2. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and starting to caramelise (about 45 minutes).

3. Add the mixed spice and chilli.

4. Turn the heat up briefly, add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and bubble for a couple of minutes.

5. Turn the heat back down to low and cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the onions have turned into a sticky marmalade. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Pour into sterilised jars (I got one normal-sized jam jar and one slightly smaller one) while hot and screw the lids on tightly. The safety buttons on the jar lids should pop down as the marmalade cools, and then you should be able to keep it for months like any other jam. Otherwise keep it in the fridge – it probably won’t be very long before it all gets eaten, but it should last a good few days!

Of course I had to try a bit, with some oozy Brie and wholemeal soda bread…

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Hazelnut meringue cake…

I promised I’d be back with the recipe for the amazing hazelnut meringue cake that we had over Easter, and here I am!

IMG_20130331_154133Apparently Mum used to make them all the time when I was little, but then I think they fell out of fashion and everyone thought they were a bit naff. But I think it’s definitely time for a 70s revival!

Apologies for the link to the Daily Mail – my mum didn’t get the recipe from the Mail but it’s identical to the recipe we used and I can’t find it anywhere else on the net! So here it is. We didn’t bother roasting and chopping the hazelnuts, we just bought bags of roasted and chopped nuts instead. And we added our own little tweaks – we put some Frangelico liqueur in with the whipped cream, and we drizzled some gorgeous Dulce de Leche over the top.

It was SERIOUSLY GOOD. Just look at it.

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It’s been a long time…!

Over a month since my last post. Whoops!

Good old marathon training has truly taken over my life in the last few weeks. 20-mile runs, interval sessions, 10 miles every Wednesday…it doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else! Add to that the fact that I’ve had the dreaded IT band issues (a phrase to strike fear into the heart of any runner and something that affects lots of people when they start marathon training) and I really have been eating, sleeping and breathing running. Thankfully my running club is sponsored by an excellent physio clinic, and they’ve certainly been doing well out of us recently – just about all of my training buddies have suffered some sort of injury or niggle! I’ve been having weekly physio appointments since my leg started hurting (and after a truly terrifying experience when what was meant to be a 22-mile run ended up with me stopping after 8 miles with stabbing pains in my knee…) and I’ve noticed a massive difference. My legs are stronger and I’m pretty much pain-free (apart from the obvious post-run aches!)

Before Easter training really ramped up an extra notch as I did 20 miles on the Sunday, 10 on the Wednesday and then 22.5 on Good Friday. Ouch! Last Friday saw me complete my last long run before the big day – a nice 16 miles along the river to Chiswick – and now I’m doing what’s called ‘tapering’, where you reduce your mileage in order to conserve energy for the marathon. I am having the classic ‘But surely I’m not running far enough? What if I suddenly lose all my fitness and forget how to run 20 miles?’ freakout, but I’m assured that’s perfectly normal, as is worrying about every single twinge and ache! But we’re less than two weeks away from the big day, and I’ve followed my training plan and worked my way up to some serious distances, and I’ve got three 20+ runs under my belt, so now I just have to trust that everything will be OK!

I will leave you with a photo of the amazing hazelnut meringue cake that my mum made for Easter Sunday lunch – and I’ll be back with the recipe!

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Veg Box Day: 19/02/13

The veg box is starting to get a little greener…!

IMG_20130220_095525Apologies for the dark photo but in there we have watercress, chard, potatoes, onions, carrots, a swede and some portobello mushrooms. I think watercress pesto (I’m going to try freezing it) and onion soup might feature over the coming days…I’ve got a ton of onions to use up!

I didn’t have time to make anything with my veg last night, because I was out having a sports massage (ow) and then at a talk by the hilarious former 10,000m world record holder Dave Bedford, but on Monday night I made a restorative supper after my weekend away running the Brighton Half Marathon. If I was putting it on a gastropub menu (with all the necessary capitalisation) I’d call it ‘Pan-fried Smoked Cheddar Polenta with a Mushroom and Roasted Pepper Ragu’. It was totally inspired by Hugh F-W – I’d watched River Cottage Veg that afternoon as part of my day off loafing around and the chefs in the Canteen had made polenta with tomato sauce. I realised I had all the ingredients for something similar, so off I went! And it was very nice indeed. To make the polenta I boiled a cup of water with a bit of veg stock and then whisked in half a cup of polenta, and kept whisking until it was all thick and smooth. Then I stirred in some salt and pepper and a little bit of smoked Cheddar (I have some in the freezer from Christmas!) and spread the mixture out in a little dish to cool. While it was in the fridge, I roasted a red pepper (from my last veg box) and then chopped that up and cooked it with onions, mushrooms and a little tin of chopped tomatoes. Then I cut the polenta into strips and cooked them in a dry non-stick pan until they were nicely toasted.

IMG_20130218_211159The half marathon weekend was fab, too – I stayed in a huge house with about 25 other Ealing Eagles, and we all had a great time! We had chips on the beach for lunch and a carb-loading chilli party on the Saturday night, and everyone did amazingly well in the race itself. Almost everyone got a PB! I managed 2:01.03, which is not a PB and not quite what I was aiming for (which was sub-2 hours) but I’m OK with it – it’s not bad for a training run and it’s given me some valuable race lessons (namely do not persist in keeping up with the 2:00 pacer if your watch is telling you he’s doing 8:30/mile…). We all headed out for a brilliant afternoon/evening of well-deserved eating and drinking, followed by a fry-up the next morning to fortify us for the trip back to London. Here’s just a few of the 40 Eagles that took part!

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Veg Box Day: 5/2/13

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A little bit of a soggy veg box this time, thanks to the odd bits of sleety rainy rubbish that we keep having! Luckily it wasn’t out in the rain for too long, so everything survived – the potatoes are back, along with carrots, parsnips, onions, broccoli, two long red peppers and a big bag of curly kale.

The kale gave me a chance to try something I’ve been meaning to try for ages – kale chips. They’re one of those trends that seemed to sweep the entire food blogging world a while back, and my last attempt was a bit of a disaster as I forgot they were in the oven and ended up with charred bits of cabbage. Not ideal. But this time I watched them like a hawk and it worked! All you do is wash and dry the kale, strip the curly bits from the tough stems, put them on a baking tray with some foil or non-stick paper, spray them with a bit of oil, and put them in the oven at about 200C until they go all crisp and slightly brown at the edges. The window between ‘crisp and slightly brown’ and ‘charred and bitter’ seems to be about 30 seconds, so watch them!

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I sprinkled mine with some salt and pepper, and they were delicious. They’re really tasty and despite having practically zero substance (and therefore practically zero calories) they really do satisfy that nibbly snacky feeling. If you like roasted broccoli, you should definitely give these a go. A friend of mine sprinkles hers with a tiny bit of sugar and apparently that gives them a takeaway crispy seaweed vibe!

Happy 2013! (And a New Year mushroom and chestnut stew…)

It’s been such a long time since my last post! The run-up to Christmas was a never-ending stream of pub trips and parties (with a bit of running thrown in for good measure) and then I headed down to Somerset for an extra-long Christmas break with my family. We celebrated Finnish Christmas and English Christmas (with a couple of Aussie bits too), and we did plenty of eating, drinking and being merry. I’m now back at work and attempting to get over the culture shock! What do you mean, I’m not allowed to flump on the sofa with the cat and a handful of Ferrero Rocher for a sneaky afternoon snooze?

We also did plenty of excellent cooking over the festive break, and I rounded things off with this excellent (if I do say so myself) mushroom and chestnut stew, which was our New Year’s Eve veggie option. My sister and I bought my mum a slow cooker for Christmas, so she made a (by all accounts delicious) beef in beer using that, and my mushroom and chestnut offering was perfect – hearty, rich and gorgeously tasty. We had both stews with Mum’s amazing dumplings, new potatoes, bread (just to complete the carb-fest!) and broccoli. And plenty of fizz to see in the new year!

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Mushroom and chestnut stew

Serves 4

1 red onion, sliced

1 white onion, sliced

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms, quartered

1 punnet shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 punnet (usually 3-4 mushrooms) portabello mushrooms, sliced

1 large glass red wine

1 vegetable Knorr Stock Pot

1 pack vacuum-packed chestnuts (or my dad actually found a bag of fresh chestnuts going cheap in the supermarket, so we roasted our own – I probably used 10-12 chestnuts)

A little water

Salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste

1. Fry the onions in a large ovenproof saucepan with a little olive oil (I used garlic olive oil) on a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes, until they become translucent and just start to go brown at the edges.

2. Add all of the mushrooms and fry until they start to release their juices.

3. Turn up the heat, add the red wine and simmer for a couple of minutes to bubble away the alcohol.

4. Add the Stock Pot jelly thing, chestnuts and a little bit of water to loosen the mixture (remember that the mushrooms will carry on releasing liquid as they cook) and season with the salt, pepper and herbs.

5. Bring to a simmer and then transfer to a low oven (around 150C) and cook for 1-2 hours until bubbling and thick and gorgeous.

Veg Box Day: 27/11/12

Excuse me while I talk about the weather again. It’s stopped raining (after soaking me on last night’s run!) but now apparently it’s going to get COLD. Three degrees as a maximum daytime temperature by Friday. Brrr! There’s a wintry chill in the air already.

So it was quite appropriate that this week’s veg box contained lots of wintry veg! I was expecting broccoli, but they had to replace it with chestnut mushrooms, and I also got a massive chard, a bag of brussels sprouts, some parsnips and some shallots as well as the usual carrots and potatoes (the potatoes are gradually getting bigger and less waxy, though, so mash may be on the horizon!)

Parsnips and sprouts just are winter to me, and I decided to use some of them to make a big wintry warm salad. I par-boiled them and then roasted them with some of the mushrooms and a couple of shallots, and a bit of chilli and cumin. Then I mixed the roasted veg with half a tin of green lentils, a splash of balsamic and plenty of black pepper, tipped it all onto a plate, and put some walnuts and a tiny bit of blue cheese on top (I can’t be trusted with cheese in the house, so if I want some I buy those tiny single-portion snack pieces from M&S). It was SO NICE! Very – dare I say it – festive.

Leek and potato soup for a depressing day!

The weather has been AWFUL lately. We’ve escaped any actual flooding here in London, but the rest of the country seems to be largely underwater and there have been all sorts of problems down in the south-west, where my parents live.

Yesterday was actually quite a nice bright day, but today is grey and wet again, so I was very glad that I’d decided to make some leek and potato soup last night. Not only did it use up some of the Great Potato Mountain, but it also used the two leeks that formed the remnants of my last veg box (very excited about tomorrow’s box, by the way – brussels sprouts!)

I based it on the recipe from my good old copy of the Dairy Book of Home Cookery, which coincidentally called for two leeks and 350g of potatoes. It’s actually a recipe for Vichyssoise (with an instruction afterwards saying that you can also serve it hot as leek and potato soup, because obviously Vichyssoise would be one’s first thought…) but it’s as easy as any other soup recipe – I just cooked the leeks with a little bit of oil, added some garlic and nutmeg and black pepper, threw in the diced potatoes with a pint of veg stock, and simmered it for half an hour until the potatoes were really nice and soft. Then I put in half a cup of almond milk and blended it all to a nice smooth soup.

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I got exactly enough for three 300ml portions, and it was the perfect comfort food for a wet Monday lunchtime!

Autumn jam-making adventures…

As I mentioned, some of the rhubarb from my parents’ garden found its way into a crumble, and some was destined for jam. A few months ago my mum was given a jar of homemade rhubarb and ginger jam by a neighbour, and it was so good that she had to find out how to make it. A quick Google came up with this ridiculously easy BBC Good Food recipe – you just chop up the rhubarb and stem ginger and put it in a big bowl with the jam sugar, lemon zest and juice and grated fresh ginger, and then once the rhubarb has released all of its lovely juice and the sugar has dissolved a bit (we left ours overnight) you just boil it all up until it reaches setting point. Easy! And absolutely gorgeous.

 

Then we used more of our home-grown apples to make our favourite autumnal jam – caramel apple. This is the third year we’ve made it and it’s always good (you can see the 2010 and 2011 batches here and here!) and again it’s a really easy one to make. Apples, two types of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and boil boil boil. The original recipe calls for pectin but we never bother with that – we just boil it up until it reaches setting point, as apples have plenty of pectin in them.

Two lovely jam recipes to see us into Autumn…and the weather definitely seems to have turned autumnal as well!