Posts Tagged: vegetables

Mar 11

Vegetables and chocolate


Funny old cooking time of late. I’ve been surrendering to my sweet tooth. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a sucker for a pudding and for anything chocolate-based, from a Cadbury’s fudge to an Akesson’s single plantation Madagscan chocolate bar.

At the same time though, I’ve been rather virtuous, subsisting on a diet at home that is mainly vegetable based, with the odd Friday night feast of something naughty like Buffalo wings. It’s been dhal, salads (on the sunnier days), curries, soup. I’m not quite sure what’s been going on.

Oh yes, and the brownies. Yes the brownies. I keep them hidden in the freezer, ready cut, and eat them straight from there, slightly chewier and with a delicious, cool, snap.

Perhaps it’s the changing seasons – my body is gearing up for the warmer months. Mind you, I’d eat chocolate on the hottest and coldest days of the year, no problem.

I even woke up in the middle of the night the other day and snapped a few pieces of the bar(s!) I keep stashed away for a rainy day. Still, I ate my salad on the balcony in the sun the next day – getting my Vitamin D fix while I chomp through my other vitamins.

Jan 11

Spicing it up


After all the Christmas excesses, the cooked breakfasts and the roast dinners, the leftover sarnies and the cheese boards, I end up wanting something completely different.

Curry flicks all my switches at this time of year – sorry for those of you who have a gallon of turkey curry still in the freezer but I didn’t see a single one over the Christmas period!

That is, of course, until I returned to London and was taken to the rather nice Ravi Shankar for a spot of chaat (the delicious cold Indian dishes often featuring yogurt, tamarind sauce, chickpeas or potatoes and all based around fried dough).

Fresh, tangy, zingy flavours with a good dose of fiery chilli and a crunch from raw onion add up to make these an incredibly more-ish snack – hence their popularity all over India.

Taken a tentative bit of inspiration from these dishes, I whipped up a quick dip that is the perfect counterpoint to roast sweet potato wedges – a lovely marriage of spicy chillies, cooling yogurt, crunchy spring onions and a hint of sharp lime. A brilliant snack to tuck into in front of a good movie with an ice cold beer.

Click here for my recipe for sweet potato wedges with garam masala, yogurt and chillies

Jun 10

Cooking secrets



Everyone’s got them. A closely guarded family recipe, a grandmother’s explicit instruction or secret ingredients whispered to you by professional chefs.

Sometimes they are used daily in cooking; others, like my addition to guacamole, are stored away only to ping up at an opportune moment. A lack of oomph in the green sauce I made last week led to the memory trickling back of a chef telling me to use Tabasco to add punch, spice and depth to a guacamole – and it works a treat. It’s vinegary heat is an ideal counterpart to
the creamy avocado.

A little tip from Jeffrey Steingarten, the famous American food critic, tv personality and author – once you’ve got avocados ripe at room temperature, store them in a paper bag in the fridge. They’ll stay ripe for around a week to 10 days.

Spicy guacamole

Jul 09

Beans are the business


Runner beans are such a great addition to the summer kitchen. Along with their fellow green, broad and the short-seasoned bobby beans they suit all manner of dishes.

Sometimes I forget how delicious they are – we were served them as a side at dinner in a restaurant last week, just boiled with butter, salt and pepper. What a sweet, succulent treat – hardly a vegetable at all. We ordered seconds and fought over them to the last.

They are also delicious tossed with finely sliced shallots, cherry tomatoes and a splash of French dressing, or given the classic a la Grecque treatment. Their sweetness works perfectly with a Sunday roast – sliced finely and devoured with a generous splash of gravy. This food writing business is hungry work.

I love the following recipe – a simple summer dish. We had it initially with a pan-fried pork fillet, although it is delicious on some sourdough toast the next day. Feel free to add a pinch of chilli flakes if you like it spicy.

Runner bean stew with chorizo

Ingredients (Serves 2-4 as a side)

  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 cooking chorizo (about 4 inches long)
  • 250g runner beans
  • 1/2pt water or stock


Finely chop the onion and sauté in a splash of olive oil with the diced chorizo until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a matter of a couple of minutes or so. Add the halved tomatoes and cook until they break down and release their juice.

Add the stock or water.

Finely slice the runner beans on the diagonal so you get nice long pieces.  Add these to the pan, season and simmer until the beans are cooked.

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