Posts Tagged ‘Vegetables’

Grilled Halloumi and roast baby beetroot salad

August 19, 2010

This is the first time I have ever properly grown my own veg. It was a wee bit of a trial actually to see what would grow (if anything) and if I could do it. Much to my surprise I have managed to grow things. It’s funny I never really expected anything to grow. Over the past few months I have been regularly harvesting my own rocket, baby cos lettuce, parsley, radishes and tons and tons of beautiful flat leaf parsley. Oh the joy of being able to step out side to “gather” the ingredients for a meal – sigh!

It is so exciting watching my beetroots grow steadily larger and on the flip side rather disappointing seeing my fennel struggling along – pesky rabbits are munching on it!

The beetroot is plentiful and I decided yesterday it was time for my first harvesting. Roasted baby beetroot – yummy yummy yummy. With a little bit of a whip round the kitchen and the parsley patch I had all the ingredients I needed for a lovely hearty salad.


8 baby beetroot
4 medium tomatoes (the sweeter and tastier the better)
large bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 lemon
1 block of Halloumi
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper


First things first, cut the stems from the beetroot leaving approx 1 cm. Scrub all the dirt from them and leave some of the tail (root).

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Place in a ceramic oven proof dish whole, if some of the beetroots are a bit large you can cut them in half.

Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Add about 3 tablespoons of water and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in oven for 35 – 45 mins or until tender (check with a sharp knife – knife should slide in with only a little bit of resistance).

You may need to add a little more water half way through the cooking as you do not want the juices to burn. A little bit of caramelisation is fine but not charred.

Remove from oven and leave to cool.

Wash and dry parsley, picking the leaves and leaving any tough stems.

Add to a large salad bowl or platter.

Roughly cut tomatoes into chunks and sprinkle over the parsley.

Heat a non stick frying pan and dry fry slices of the Halloumi until golden brown on both sides.

Scatter beetroot and Halloumi over the top of the tomato and parsley and dress with best quality extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Serve immediately. Good on it’s own with pita bread or as a side with chicken, lamb, kebabs etc.


Lebanese green beans in tomato sauce

August 19, 2010

Green beans are generally difficult to get excited about mainly because of the “squeak” factor. When green beans are not quite cooked enough they squeak when you bite into them. It really sends a shiver up my spine and gives me goose pimples. However, (you knew there was going to be a however didn’t you!!) this dish is so delicious and doesn’t have a squeaky bean in sight.

I have eaten this bean dish on many occasions since I was a little kid and always wondered how they can taste so good. The Greeks, Turkish and Lebanese all make a similar dish, I generally call it “collapsed beans” as they are cooked until they collapse. Several years ago I was discussing this dish with my Lebanese fruit and veg grocer who ran off to get his wife so that she could give me the recipe. What a legend. I have been making it ever since. They also gave me a pot of “Lebanese Pepper” which until recently I had no idea what was in it. I now have the recipe for that too…phew!

The beans are a great side to meat, grilled fish, chicken or just served as the main part of a meal with some spicy rice with toasted almonds, pine nuts and cashews.


500 grams of round green beans (french beans)
4 medium brown onions (I had a mixture of red and brown – doesn’t really matter)
1 1/2 tins of best quality tinned tomatoes
Olive oil
Lebanese Pepper (blend of ground Allspice, Black pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Fenugreek, Ginger)

Peel and slice onions by cutting in half and slicing thin half moons. Add to a large heavy based pan with a good glug of oil.

Fry onions on a medium heat until soft, sweet and translucent. Do not brown.

Add washed beans with tops/stalks removed (leave tails). Add to pot. Boil kettle.

Once beans have turned a brilliant green colour add enough boiling water to cover the beans.

Cook on medium heat until water has reduced by half. Add tinned tomatoes.

Continue to cook until tomatoes have broken down and beans are cooked through and collapsed.

Add teaspoon of Lebanese peppers and season to taste.

This dish reheats well and tastes even better the next day.

American bean chili – Soho style

June 23, 2010

American bean chilli

The last time I was in New York it was February and absolutely freezing!!! With Australia weight clothing I was so cold the whole time. One Baltic afternoon Adam and I found ourselves in the back streets of Soho and stumbled across a small cafe which was absolutely packed. Always a good sign we went inside and got a great “feed”. It was anything but posh and very cheap but fantastic.

We both had a bowl of chili which gave us a warm glow and smile on our faces before we headed back out into the snow.

Ingredients: (serves 4 – 6)

2 red onions
6 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 medium size courgettes
1 red pepper (capsicum)
2 tins of peeled tomatoes
2 tins of red kidney beans
Ground cummin
Sweet paprika
Dried oregano
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Tomato puree
Kecap Manis (optional)

Dice onions and finely chop garlic, pop in a heavy based pot and saute until soft and sweet in olive oil with a large pinch of salt.


1 red onion diced
Grated mature cheddar cheese

Onion and garlic sauteed

Finely dice celery and carrots and add to the pot.

Add finely diced carrots and celery

Saute carrots and celery for about 5 mins then add in diced red pepper. Add 3 tablespoons of cummin, 1 tablespoon of oregano and 1 tablespoon of paprika.

Add finely diced red pepper

Add tinned tomatoes and approx 2 tablespoons of tomato puree.

Add tinned tomatoes and tomato puree

Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to low/medium and simmer. Cook until carrots and celery are soft and the tomatoes have broken down into a thick tasty sauce. At this stage add in the kidney beans making sure you have rinsed them well and diced courgettes (in 1 cm cubes).

Add courgettes

Add in about 1 tablespoon of Kecap Manis (optional).

Add Kecap Manis

Cook for a further 10 – 15 mins or until courgettes are tender.

Season to taste and serve with brown rice, topped with diced raw red onion and grated cheese (sounds weird but trust me it tastes GREAT).

You can also add in aubergine which gives the chili a really lovely texture/flavour. Dice the aubergine and add to the pot along with the carrots and celery.

Gemista – Greek slow cooked stuffed vegetables

May 27, 2010


I am on a roll with Greek food. No matter where I go I seek out Greek restaurants hoping that they will have an old Greek granny in the kitchen making traditional Greek food.

Unfortunately more often than not I am disappointed. One of the best Greek restaurants I have ever been to was actually not in Greece. It was in Balmain in Sydney and was called Artemis’s Village.

For many years it was my favourite restaurant. I felt like I was having dinner at my Greek friends house eating proper “home cooking”.

Great Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie), amazing Saganaki prawns (large fresh prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce with chunks of feta dotted through) and Gemista (stuffed veg).

Unfortunately Artemis (the Greek mama in the kitchen) retired and the family sold the restaurant. It was taken over but was never the same….sob sob.

I judge all Greek restaurants on the quality of their Gemista.

Firstly I will not even bother going into the restaurant unless they have Gemista and secondly it must be vegetarian – why do some restaurants put mince in their stuffed veg – yuck!

I have successfully made stuffed tomatoes many times before but have been unsuccessful with my stuffed peppers. So I had a little google search the other day and scanned a few recipes. One thing I picked up from my searches was once the peppers were stuffed and put in the oven a glass of water was added to the roasting dish. This makes the peppers nice and soft and also prevents them burning.

With this new piece of culinary genius I had to tackle stuffed peppers one more time.


8 large ripe tomatoes (6 for stuffing and 2 for the sauce)
2 large courgettes
6 small to medium peppers (I used red and yellow ones)
2 medium brown onions
4 large cloves of garlic
1 large glass of dry white wine
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Approx 1 dessert spoon of fresh thyme leaves
250 grams of Arborio rice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Pre heat oven to 190 degrees celsius.

Onion and garlic into the pot

Finely dice onions and garlic and saute in a heavy based pan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Scooping out the inside of tomatoes

Cut the “bums” off 6 of the tomatoes to make a lid, scrape out the insides of the tomatoes and add to a bowl.

Sprinkle with salt and leave upside down on a plate.

Peppers deseeded and caps cut off

Cut the tops off the peppers and discard the seeds. Sprinkle with salt and place upside down on the plate alongside the tomatoes.

Removing the centres of the courgettes

Cut the courgettes into 3 leaving the stem on, carve out the middle of the courgette, chop and keep to the side. Sprinkle inside with salt and add to plate.

Once onions and garlic are cooked, soft and sweet with no colour add the rice and stir through until coated with oil.

Add wine to rice, onions and garlic

Add wine and reduce.

Chopped tomatoes added to the rice mix

Chop up the insides of the tomatoes and the 2 left over tomatoes and add to the pot with the chopped up courgette insides too.

Turn the heat down and simmer until the rice has cooked for about 10 mins. Try not to add water there should be enough liquid. However if it is really drying out you can add a splash of water (make sure the heat is not on too high).

The rice should be cooked but still have quite a bite too it (more of a bite than you would have with a risotto).

Add chopped herbs

Finely chop the parsley and mint and add to the rice along with the thyme leaves.

Taste rice for seasoning add salt and pepper if you need.

Stuffing peppers with rice

Stuffing courgettes with rice mix

Fill the tomatoes, peppers and courgettes with the rice mix and put the lids on the peppers and tomatoes – make sure you do not over fill the veg as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks in the oven and it may split the skins.

Stuffed veg ready for the oven

Pack stuffed vegetables into a ceramic dish with at least 5 cm sides.

Add a glass of water and a drizzle a good quantity of olive oil over the veg.

Pop it in the oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the peppers are soft/collapsed.

Stuffed peppers, tomatoes and courgettes

I covered mine with foil for the 1st half of the time so that it steamed too but you do not have to do this.


Serve with a green salad and a glass of chilled red wine.

Close your eyes and think of Greece……

Easy tasty Stuffed Aubergines

May 10, 2010

Stuffed Aubergines

The majority of my friends have eaten this meal at my place – it is my “what will I cook?” first choice.

So easy, rather impressive and super tasty.

2 medium aubergines
1 medium red onion
4-6 cloves garlic
6 medium size ripe tomatoes
1 block of feta or ball of fresh mozzarella
Herbs (Parsley and/or Basil)

Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Pre heat oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Cut Aubergines in half, length ways, leaving stalk on. Score the flesh in a criss cross pattern, try to cut as far down as you can without cutting through the skin.

Aubergines scored with olive oil and ready for baking

Drizzle with olive oil and place on a baking tray in the oven until the flesh is golden and cooked through. This should take 25 – 35 mins.

Whilst the Aubergines are cooking dice the onion and finely chop the garlic and add to a heavy based pot with a hearty glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Onion and garlic finely chopped and sauteed

Saute until soft and sweet – do not brown.

Add finely chopped fresh tomatoes ( you do not need to remove the seeds and skins).

Chopped fresh tomatoes added to onions and garlic

Cook on a medium to low heat until tomatoes have broken down into a thick sauce.

Saucy tomatoes

Once Aubergines are cooked through remove from oven and let cool for a little bit, so that you can handle them without burning yourself. Scoop out flesh being careful not to tear skins, you can leave a little bit of flesh in the skins. Add scooped out flesh to the tomatoes. Add a large handful of finely sliced flat leave parsley and/or basil and crumble feta through in large-ish pieces (or 1 cm pieces of mozzarella).

Stir through (off the heat) taste and season if needed with Salt and Pepper – then refill the Aubergine shells. Grate some fresh parmesan over the top and pop back in the oven for 15 – 20 mins until cheese is melted and golden.

Baked aubergines

Aubergines stuffed and ready to go in the oven

Serve with a large fresh salad.

This should serve 4 or 2 very hungry people!!

Health giving vegetable soup

May 10, 2010

Vegetable soup

Sometimes you feel that you just need a wee bit of a boost. When you have been working your ass off, partying your ass off or just feel a little run down, this soup is a great “pick me up”.

I suppose it is my version of a minestrone and you can pretty much add whatever veg is in season – this is my usual selection.

Serves about 6 – 8 people


1 medium brown onion
1 leek
4 large cloves of garlic
2 medium carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 smallish butternut pumpkin (about 500 grams when peeled and diced)
2 super sweet cobs of corn
1 medium courgette
6 medium ripe fresh tomatoes
1 bunch fresh asparagus
150 grams baby spinach
1/2 large bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 bunch of basil
1/4 finely sliced savoy cabbage
2 good quality veg or chicken stock cubes
1 tin borlotti beans
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Take a large heavy based pan add a good glug of olive oil, finely diced onion and garlic, finely sliced leek and a large pinch of salt. Saute on a low – medium heat until soft and sweet.

Sauteed onion, garlic and leek

Dice carrots, celery (1 cm cubes) and pumpkin (2 cm cubes) and add to the pot, saute for 5 mins. Add finely chopped tomatoes, approx 1 1/2 litres of boiling water and stock cubes. If you have a bay tree feel free to add in a couple of fresh bay leaves.

Carrot and celery being added to the pop

Tomatoes added to the pot

Simmer until carrots are soft – while the soup is simmering prepare the rest of the veg.

Cut the kernels off the cobs of corn, dice the courgette into 1 cm cubes, wash the baby spinach and finely slice the savoy cabbage (making sure you remove the tough inner core). Remove woody ends from Asparagus and slice on and angle into 1/2 cm pieces.

Corn kernels, diced courgettes, finely sliced savoy cabbage

****Note: to remove the woody ends of the asparagus hold near the base and bend the until it snaps – it will naturally break at the point that the woody bit ends – how convenient!

Once carrots are soft add in the corn, cabbage, courgettes and drained and rinsed borlotti beans, keep simmering until corn and courgette are tender.

Then finally add in the asparagus, baby spinach and finely chopped herbs.

Asparagus added to soup

Soup with spinach and herbs added

Taste the soup and add seasoning if needed. It should be thick and very tasty!!

I usually serve it with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of top quality peppery extra virgin olive oil.


Now if you want to make this into a more hearty meal you can add about 200 grams of pasta (farfalle or fusilli) at the same time as you add the corn.

One of my friends calls this a Stoup (a stew/soup).

It is quite nice to grate some Parmesan over the top just before you serve too.

Celeriac Remoulade

May 6, 2010

When I was little I went to France every summer for about 4 weeks there are 2 things that I remember from the ferry trip over. Firstly my hay fever disappeared and secondly I got to eat Celeriac Remoulade from the self-service cafe on board.

I am pretty sure at that age I had no idea what Celeriac was apart from the fact it was fantastic and you couldn’t get it in Scotland.

Celeriac is now widely sold however for many years I have made a rather disappointing version of the wonderful salad found everywhere in France. To be honest I actually gave up making it until last night.

I had been watching the Good Food channel and a very old episode of James Martin’s cooking show came on. He was making Celeriac Remoulade which inspired me to give it another go. There were 2 major things that were different from what I had been doing (and doing wrong quite obviously!). Instead of grating the celariac he peeled it then cut it into thin slices then cut those slices into long thin strips (match sticks) and also he added a ton of mustard….I had only been using mayonnaise. It was delicious and I will definitely be making it again and soon!!


1 medium bulb of celeriac peeled and cut into thin strips
1 small red onion
2 large tablespoons seeded mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup of homemade mayonnaise (see recipe)
Salt and pepper
1 lemon

Celariac sliced

Put finely slice red onion, celeriac, mustard, mayonnaise and juice of 1 lemon in a bowl and mix, season to taste.

Celeriac cut into match sticks

Can be eaten straight away or kept in an air tight container for a couple of days.

It is very nice with fish, smoked fish, roasted meat on a sandwich as part of a crudity selection and just with a spoon.

Thanks James for inspiring me.

Mushroom risotto (and other suggestions)

April 30, 2010

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Keep to the side.

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!

Roasted veg, Mexican beans and tahini sauce (a fridge scrape)

April 26, 2010

Can I just say how ridiculously good roasted veg is!!!!

Tonight was a fridge scraper dinner – not much in the fridge. So you end up cooking up a totally random selection of things.

I am a little bit of a saddo as I actually really enjoy the challenge.

My random selection consisted of:

1 bunch of baby beetroot
1 bulb of celeriac
2 small carrots
4 red potatoes
2 courgettes
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes
Red onion

I also had whatever the store cupboard had to offer which was tinned tomatoes and a selection of tinned beans (chick peas, pinto, etc etc).

The most sensible thing to do in a situation like this is bung it all into the oven to roast!!!!

I chopped up the potatoes (skins on), celeriac and carrots into approx 1″ pieces and put them in a large ceramic dish, tossed in some chopped up fresh thyme and rosemary and good pinch of sea salt and a good whack of course ground black pepper. Then good glug of olive oil and tossed it to cover all the veg in the tasty herby oil.

I popped it in the oven at about 200 – 210 degrees centigrade.

In another ceramic dish I put the beetroot which had been scrubbed and cut into wedges. I put a little oil in, some salt and pepper and a splash of water. Then covered with aluminium foil. Into the oven too.

Every 20 mins of so I stirred the veg to stop it burning and so that it would cook evenly, After about 45 mins I added thick rings of courgette and the whole cherry tomatoes (and stirred them through so that they would coat in tasty oil).

The beetroot was also checked, tossed about a wee bit more water here and there then a wee splash of red wine vinegar to balance the sweetness.

In total I baked both veg and beetroot for 1 – 1 1/2 hrs until the beetroot was cooked but still firm and the veg was golden and cooked through The carrots still had a wee bit of a bite to them though.

I also cooked up some spicy Mexican beans.

1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tin of tomatoes
dried wild oregano
sweet paprika
Kecap Manis
Tinned mixed beans (pinto, kidney, black)

Sauteed the chopped onion and garlic in some olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft, added in the cummin and cooked for another minute. Added in the tomatoes, a large teaspoon of oregano and a level teaspoon of paprika. I also added a large dash of Kecap Manis which is a sweet soy. This is EXCELLENT for giving spicy sauces a little bit of depth and sweetness. Sometimes tinned toms can be a little acidic.

Cooked the sauce for about 15 mins then added the beans. Cooked beans on a low simmer for about 1 hour then added seasoning to taste. (Throughout cooking I kept adding little splashes of water to keep the beans moist).

I served the spicy mexican beans on top of a pile of the roasted veg and beetroot – gave it a good squeeze of lemon and topped it off with some freshly picked and chopped Italian parsley and tahini and yogurt sauce (1 table-spoon or tahini mixed into about 2/3 cup of natural yogurt).


*Sorry this is not in proper recipe format but I think it is a “bung it in” affair and not really a follow the recipe kind of thing.