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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Veg Box Day: 30/04/13

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Hoorah for Veg Box Day! And for the first purple sprouting broccoli of the year! I’m very excited (yes, I know, sad or what!)

As well as my PSB I got courgettes, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, spring carrots with their tops and cherry tomatoes. I’m not sure when I’ll have time to actually cook with any of it as I’m moving house in the next few days, but I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it all!

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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Veg Box Day: 05/03/13

IMG_20130305_204527Another green veg box! And another box with no potatoes, hoorah! I am saved from the Great Potato Mountain (for the time being…)

This week’s box has portobello mushrooms, red kale, courgettes, leeks, broccoli and carrots – all brilliant. And a swede. Not so brilliant, as I still haven’t used the one from my last box! So it’s the Great Swede Mountain instead of the Great Potato Mountain. Riverford do have a nice-looking recipe for Indian spiced swede on their website, though, so I might have to have a go at that!

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!

Veg Box Day: 22/01/13

A little bit late with this one again, I know! But here’s Tuesday’s veg box…

IMG_20130123_182418I was extremely excited not to receive any potatoes – I’d managed to do a good job of using up my previous bag, so we’re safe from the Great Potato Mountain for a while! Instead I got the usual carrots and onions, a butternut squash, broccoli, tomatoes, watercress (anyone have any idea what to do with watercress beyond turning it into a soup or using it as salad leaves?) and a very colourful January King cabbage.

As I still have half of the Giant Swede in the fridge, I’m thinking of doing a Burns Night supper tonight – if I can locate vegetarian haggis in Waitrose – I’m not remotely Scottish but it seems like a fitting way to use the swede!

Veg Box Day: 08/01/13

The first veg box of 2013! I hadn’t had one delivered for ages, because of being away over Christmas, so it’s nice to have fresh veg in the house again. This week I got the usual potatoes, carrots and onions, plus a yellow pepper, some vine tomatoes, a cucumber (I was meant to have lettuce but they replaced it with the cucumber – Hendrick’s o’clock, anyone?) and just about the biggest swede I have ever seen in my life.

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I haven’t made anything with my veg yet, but I have a feeling I might have to evoke the spirit of Christmas once more and make one of the dishes that graced our Finnish Christmas table on Christmas Eve. It’s a spiced swede casserole topped with breadcrumbs, and it’s delicious. On Christmas Eve it’s served with the traditional baked ham and potatoes and various other bits and pieces, but I’m sure it’ll make a comforting veggie meal all by itself.

Finnish swede casserole

1 large swede
1 cup cream (or a mixture of cream and milk)
1/2 cup wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons dark syrup (we used a mixture of golden syrup and treacle)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel the swede and chop into large chunks. Boil in slightly salted water until soft.
2. Strain and mash or blend until smooth. Mix in the cream and breadcrumbs (reserving some for the top), dark syrup, beaten egg and spices to give a soft consistency.
3. Turn into a greased baking dish, press the surface with a fork to make a pattern and sprinkle the surface with a coating of breadcrumbs. Dot the top with butter and bake at 180C for about 60-90 minutes.

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!