Lentil and bulgur pilaf

This is based on an Ottolenghi recipe, which he suggests is one of the ultimate comfort foods. My version contains far less oil and butter, but still seems fairly comforting to me. Enough for 2 people as a main meal.

  • 5 tbsp olive oil;Lentil&bulgar_Pilaf
  • 1 aubergine (cut into 2cm dice);
  • 60g bulgur;
  • 70gm green lentils (rinsed);
  • Bay leaf;
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds;
  • 1 medium onion (chopped);
  • 1 clove garlic (finely chopped/crushed);
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric;
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice;
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon;
  • 170ml water;
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds;
  • 1 tbsp raisins;
  • Zest of half a lemon (grated);
  • 15g butter;
  • Black pepper;
  • Lemon juice to taste;
  • Fresh coriander;
  • Greek yogurt (to serve on the side).

Mix 3 tbsp of oil with the diced aubergine. Spread the aubergine on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180C (Gas mark 4), until browned and nearly cooked though.

Meanwhile, cook the lentils with the bay leaf on plenty of water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 12 minutes and drain (they should be al dente).

At the same time, heat the remaining oil in a large oven proof, lidded casserole, and cook the cumin seeds for about 1 minute. Turn down the heat, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, turmeric, allspice and cinnamon, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the bulgur and the water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Stir in the aubergines, lentils, almonds, raisins, lemon zest and butter, and season with black pepper. Place in the oven at 160C (Gas Mark 3), and bake for 10 minutes, or until the lentils are just becoming soft.

Stir in lemon juice to taste, and serve sprinkled with coriander and a portion of Greek yogurt.

 

Watercress pesto

I had most of a bunch of John Hurd’s excellent watercress leftover so I made this pesto. Based on a recipe from watercress.co.uk – it serves four people with pasta, and according to the recipe, freezes well. So half of it is now in the freezer, and I shall discover if really does freeze well when I use it! I used my Cuisinart Mini-processor to make this (or you could just chop the watercress really finely, using a sharp knife and the grind the almonds and garlic with a pestle and mortar, and then mix all the ingredients together):

  • 1 bunch watercress (wash thoroughly)Watercress_Pesto
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 20 almonds (blanched)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 50g finely grated parmesan
  • Black pepper and a fairly generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Method

Puree the watercress, garlic and almonds (blanched by steeping in boiling water for about a minute and the peeling away the skins – they have a better flavour than pre-blanched, flaked or ground almonds) in a processor. Add the oil and the parmesan and process until well blended. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Served here with pasta.

Cardamom rice pudding

This can be easily made in a microwave, which means you won’t have to scrape all the burnt bits off the cooking dish afterwards – enough for 4:Cardamom_Rice_Pudding

  • Seeds from 30 green cardamom pods finely ground
  • 70g pudding rice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pint milk

Mix all the ingredients together in a microwaveable (lidded) dish.

Bring to the boil (this took about 6 minutes at 900W).

Stir, and cook for about an an hour at 150W – stirring at 20 minute intervals.

Pour into a plastic storage container, allow to cool, and keep in the fridge before serving.

I served this with strawberries and orange segments, seasoned with black pepper.

Mushroom strudel

This is based on a recipe in the February 2015 edition of Waitrose Kitchen magazine. For 2 people:

  • 10g dried porcini mushroomsMushroom_Strudel
  • 130ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot (or equivalent amount of onion – finely chopped)
  • 130g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • Leaves picked from 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1.5 tbsp port
  • 1 tbsp ricotta
  • 4 large leaves of filo pastry
  • Extra olive oil for brushing the pastry
  • 15g grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 1 tsp brandy
  • Black pepper to taste

Place the dried porcini in a small bowl, and pour on the boiling water. Cover, and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Then drain and squeeze the porcini, reserving the liquid. Chop the porcini.

Gently heat the oil in a pan, and cook the shallot for 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and the porcini, and cook (covered) over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme, and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat, add the port, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool and stir in the ricotta.

Cut the filo pastry sheets in half widthways, and store under a damp cloth.

Layer the sheets of pastry into two lots of four, brushing each sheet with olive oil. Divide the mushroom mixture in half, and arrange each portion on a pile of pastry. Wrap each portion in the pastry, tucking in the edges, and place on a baking tray, so that the edges are underneath. Brush with oil and sprinkle with parmesan.

Cook in the oven at 200C (Gas Mark 6) for about 20 minutes, until golden.

Meanwhile boil the liquid from the porcini until it has reduced by 2/3rds. Stir in the cream and brandy, and heat to just below boiling point, and season with black pepper.

Serve with the porcini sauce.

Green chilli rarebit

Chilli_rarebite1

I also made chilli rarebit with large green chillies.

Enough for 2 people:

  • 2 large green chillies (deseeded and finely sliced)
  • 100g mature cheddar (finely grated)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 8 very small slices of rye bread (toasted)
  • Black pepper

Mash the chilli, cheese and milk together with a fork. Spread the mixture evenly over the slices of toast.

Grill until the cheese starts to brown. Dust with black pepper and serve.

Mash with kale and cheese

Kale&Brie_Mash_Tile

This is the ultimate in comfort food. The recipe is based on one from Waitrose Kitchen magazine for March 2015. This is a very simple dish, which can be eaten on its own. But it would also go well with poached eggs or sausages. Enough for 2 people:

  • 100ml milk
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 500g potatoes (peeled and cut into 2cm chunks)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 20g butter
  • black pepper
  • 100g shredded kale (with tough stalks removed)
  • 4 spring onions (cut into 2cm lengths, and split in half lengthways)
  • 50g brie (thinly sliced)
  • 20g cheddar (grated)

Heat the milk, to boiling, with the thyme. Cover, and leave to infuse.

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes, bay leaves and garlic with cold water. Bring to the boil, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Drain, remove the bay leaves, and return to the pan. Leave, uncovered, over a very low heat, for about 5 minutes, to dry the potatoes.

Mash together the potatoes, garlic, 10g of butter and the milk (having removed the thyme), and season with black pepper. Keep warm.

Heat the remaining butter in a large pan. Add the kale and spring onions and stir fry for about 3 minutes, until the kale is just about cooked. Stir in the mashed potato and the cheeses.

Serve.