It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of yoghurt. Lidl sells thick Greek yoghurt by the 1kg bucket (literally – the pot has a handle), and I’ve been known to devour one in an embarrassingly short amount of time.
Part of yoghurt’s appeal for me is in its versatility – it is equally at home in both sweet and savoury dishes. If I’m going for sweet, my yoghurt toppings often extend to honey (or if I’m feeling extravagant, date syrup) and some sort of nut, usually flaked almonds. Recently, I’ve started experimenting with using yoghurt in more savoury dishes as a topping or sauce, often combined with herbs.
This recipe is a shameless knock-off of a meal my friend Heather cooked for me. The earthy root veg, roasted with honey, cumin and fiery harissa, is topped with a thick sauce of natural yoghurt, tahini and parsley. I use flat leaf parsley here, as I have no patience with the curly stuff. The herby yoghurt elevates this dish beyond humble roast veg, giving it a freshness that compliments the spice really well. It’s so good that you’ll be buying yoghurt by the bucketful in no time….
The wooden board in these photos was made by my friend Rosie Brewer, whose beautiful designs are made out of wood sourced from Devon forests. So, I wanted to make a simple salad to style on the board that wouldn’t take away from its natural beauty.
Due to an excess of figs, a somewhat middle class crisis, I chose to make them the focal point. I also have a certain affection for the combination of figs and cheese, so chose to add some Comté, one of my favourite cheeses. French, and made from unpasturised cow’s milk, Comté has a pleasant nutty taste, that went well with figs.
I tend to randomly throw things together when making salads, and have a fondness for combining fruit, cheese, nuts and a punchy dressing. But my primary consideration when making this salad was that the colours would work well on the board – I added thin slices of pink radishes purely for artistic reasons, as I don’t actually like them that much.
Paris and I are back in the kitchen together. This can only mean two things. Beetroot and kale. So here you have it: handmade pasta tinged pink with beetroot juice, stuffed with kale pesto. Kale pesto – hipster, much? But we’re going to embrace it. This is one of the more time-consuming and intricate of mine and Paris’ culinary meanderings, but we’re more grown up now. We’ve been ‘collaborating’ for over a year now – all the way back to that Quinoa Porridge with, you guessed it, beetroot. Therefore, we thought it was high time we pushed the boat out and did something that could definitely be called a recipe, and not just a random selection of ingredients we cobbled together (which usually involved beetroot and/or kale…).
Having ‘worked’ together pretty often now, we have got better at anticipating what each other is thinking when we create the recipe, and seeing in a similar way when we style the shots. I was pretty sure we had an almost identical picture of what the finished shot would look like before I took a single picture. And having another pair of eyes when setting up the shots always helps, as they invariably see new ways of viewing the subject that you’d not considered.
So anyway, back to the pasta. I am not a handmade pasta virgin, in fact I have made it before in the early days of this blog, have a look at the recipe here (and please excuse the shockingly bad photography…). So this is fresh pasta mark II: a more complicated recipe, with better photography. When embarking on pasta making, I always start with the thought that it is going to be so much more hassle than it’s worth, and why didn’t I just go to Sainsbury’s like any normal person? But when I get lost in the hypnotic rhythm of rolling out the dough to a paper-like thinness, and carefully folding the dough around the filling, time passes effortlessly. The final result is a pretty special thing, and always tastes better than I remember – especially as I’m usually pretty hungry by this point. Fresh pasta is something that is greater than the sum of its parts: I find it hard to believe that flour, oil, a few eggs, and in this case a bit of beetroot and glorified cabbage, can make something so amazing. #foodblogwin
This salad is an unashamed plagiarism from a recently acquired cookbook, ‘Persiana’ by Sabrina Ghayour. Packed full of mouth-watering photos of exotic dishes, it’s a firm favourite. Many recipes feature ingredients that I already (somewhat smugly) own, such as sumac. The book is littered with recipes that I have already made more than once, which is rare – I consider a cookbook a success if I make one recipe from it.
I am normally somewhat underwhelmed by rice salads, and almost flicked straight past this one when browsing through the book. However, given that I have a nearly empty box of red rice lurking at the back of my cupboard, I decided to give it a go. It’s safe to say that I needed to seriously reevaluate my view on the matter after making this salad. The balance of sweet and salty is just right, and the colours and textures compliment each other beautifully. There is also a pleasing balance of warm and cold ingredients – chargrilled vegetables and toasted nuts with cold rice and onions – which works well.
Owning more than one type of rice may sound extravagant (at last count I have 3), but red rice is definitely worth tracking down for this recipe. It has a pleasant nutty taste, and retains its attractive maroon colour, even when cooked. It does take a rather long time to cook though, which I always forget, and am left tapping my fork impatiently against the side of the pan, willing it to cook faster. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it, as Sainsbury’s stocks it, proving once and for all that they’re paying attention to the latest hipster food trends. Red rice is staying firmly on my (somewhat hipster) shopping list from now on.
This recipe was written by my friend Clare, a chef. She’s an amazingly creative cook, and a fan of putting (non-toxic, as she always reminds me) glitter on top of everything from cakes to roast dinners. I remember a particularly surreal occasion involving rice noodles topped with silver glitter. Clare’s got an incredible gift for making a meal look like a work of art, meaning that the dishes she whips up usually look too pretty (not to mention too covered in glitter) to be edible. Clare wrote this recipe as a guest contribution to Ohana magazine, and asked me to take the photos.
We cooked this recipe back on dreary, dark February evening. Ironic, considering Clare’s titled this recipe ‘Sunshine Sweetcorn Patties’. To make this recipe, Clare bought over her entire spice cabinet, and set about decanting pretty much the whole lot into the fritter batter. This is a relatively simple recipe, but one that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Whilst Clare fried the fritters, I fussed about ‘styling’ the shot: arranging pieces of fabric on top of a wooden box and going through numerous plate options. I eventually settled on a neutral, sand-coloured plate to compliment the yellow of the sweetcorn.
I have had a few (unsuccessful) forays into artificial lighting before, but as I had no other option on this occasion I had to give it another go. Sunlight is naturally more flattering to food than any other type of light, in my opinion. High-end food photography for big brands is usually done with carefully controlled artificial light in a studio, but I prefer the more authentic touch that natural light gives. My ‘set up’ for this shot involved dragging a wooden box to the middle of my bedroom floor and angling a desk lamp at it. Most of the problem with artificial light seems to be the high contrast and harsh shadows that using a single directional light source creates, so I counteracted this by placing a diffuser between the lamp and the food. This helped a little, but there was still some white balance adjustment needed in post-production to get the colours to look less washed out. The finished result is ok, but will never compare to the magic quality of natural light.
Paris and I spend most of the week engaged in an intense back and forth about what we’re going to blog about at the weekend. We send each other links to blogs that might have a particularly well-arranged salad, or suggest a novel way of using chickpeas. We bandy around ideas of ingredient and flavour combinations, some of which we instantly dismiss as being too bizarre. In this case, we had gone through so many possible ideas for dishes involving preserved lemons, that by the weekend we had completely forgotten what we decided on. So this was a more spontaneous creation, centred around the notion that there had been a lot of talk throughout the week about red cabbage.
The ingredients in this salad were chosen primarily for their visual appeal, based on how well they would compliment the bright yellow of the preserved lemons. I know, right. Hipster food bloggers. Not to mention the poncey addition of pomegranate seeds. To be frank, I don’t actually enjoy eating pomegranate seeds that much – I find that hard bit in the middle somewhat irritating. But they look so beautiful, that for the sake of the photographs I conceded. We decided to pair the lemons with red cabbage (yellow + purple = good), then added vibrant green parsley leaves and red pomegranate seeds. When our eyes began to hurt, we chucked in some bulgur wheat to calm everything down a bit.
Bulgur wheat is my new favourite grain. It has the easy pour-a- kettle-of-water-over-it cooking method shared by cous-cous (and pot noodles, although I’ll pretend I don’t know that, as it wouldn’t do much for my food blogger image). It retains a pleasant bite and has a slight nutty taste. It balances out the sharp acidity of the lemons rather well. Preserved lemons are usually the preserve (pun entirely intended) of hearty Moroccan lamb tagines and baked fish dishes. Here we’ve given them a new lease of life as the centerpiece of this simple salad.
I attempted Veganuary this year. I lasted three days. But the reason for my downfall was not the aching lack of bacon or creamy yoghurt, but milk. And, more specifically, milk in tea. Say what you will, almond milk just doesn’t taste the same. As I drink on average about five cups of tea a day, this was a bit of a problem. I have been trying to consume less dairy, so have almond milk on cereal, but I realised pretty quickly that completely cutting out dairy was going to be a challenge that I didn’t particularly want to deal with. Especially alongside dry January, which is going much better (apart from an ill-considered encounter with a boozy tiramisu, which I’m not sure counts).
However, I am trying to eat more vegetables, and less meat. This seems to be more problematic for people to grasp than just saying you’re a vegetarian. I do eat meat, I’m just deliberately trying to eat less. I have recently found myself inadvertently cooking vegetarian and vegan food, as I’m focusing on vegetables as the centerpiece of the dish, rather than meat. This beetroot dip is laughably easy, and a great way to shoehorn lots of raw veg into an easily digestible form. It can be eaten as it is, with toasted pittas to scoop it up with, or as part of a salad with some grilled halloumi, maybe. The nigella seeds (not marketed by Ms. Lawson, they’re also known as ‘black onion seeds’) are optional, as they can be hard to get your hands on. We found some and thought they’d act as a brilliant colour contrast to the vibrant purple of the beetroot.
I’ve recently returned to Bristol after a restorative and relaxing break visiting my parents in the countryside of Devon and Cornwall. The silence and peace that being a good twenty minutes from the nearest major road affords was much needed. It was lovely to spend time with family, and in my mind, there is too much talk of Christmas being about stuff, rather than people. That being said, carefully chosen presents are always appreciated. My stocking seemed to mostly contain food and food related items, including, of all things, smoked garlic. It was heavily wrapped in newspaper, so as to stop the pungent aroma permeating everything around it. I’m sure this is the modern, Ottolenghi version of a satsuma.
Another memorable part of my Chirstmas was visiting my uncle and his family on Boxing Day. We turned up at 5pm, at which point there had been a good three hours of alcohol consumption already. My Mum and I proceeded to neck back the Prosecco at quite a rate, in a feeble (and futile) effort to catch up. When the general level of inebriation reached its peak, there was a particularly hilarious incident that stemmed from the suggestion of karaoke. It was then decided that we didn’t have a microphone, and so must find the requisite stand-in. This led to my uncle foraging through the salad drawer of the fridge to find suitable phallic-shaped vegetables to use as microphones. This included a parsnip, a carrot, a courgette, and, in a moment of desperation, a Romaine lettuce leaf. These were laid out on a tray for the unwitting karaoke performers to make their selection from. There was “Rocking around the Christmas tree” sung into a parsnip, and my personal favourite, ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” with the help of a long red pepper.
Lots of food writers talk about how food can evoke memories. Diana Henry, for example, enthuses about how gooey cow’s milk cheeses take her back to snowy seasons in the Swiss Alps, scraping the cheese off slates with spoons whilst sitting by a roaring fire. The connection between the vegetable karaoke and this soup is slightly more tenuous, but I still had to suppress a chuckle as I was peeling the parsnips. The creaminess of the parsnips works well with the pungent hit of smoked garlic. If you can’t get smoked garlic (find your nearest fancy deli and it should have it), just use regular garlic. I think this recipe sums up my Christmas break rather well: wonderfully foodie stocking presents and parsnip microphones.
Cauliflower has never held much of an appeal for me: the boiled, bland florets often taste of nothing much. But Ottolenghi, the God that he is, has revolutionized the vegetable for me via the simple suggestion of roasting it. The gently charred edges give the cauliflower a delicious smokiness that makes them take on a completely different taste than when they’re cooked in any other way. Ottolenghi combines roasted cauliflower with pomegranate seeds, celery and all manner of interesting embellishments in his salads, but I’ve gone for a more simple approach.
Romanesco is the Italian cousin of the common cauliflower, yet much more exciting. It’s vibrant green spikes mean that it barely looks edible, but is in fact delicious. This is a laughably simple recipe. Given the Italian origin of Romanesco, I stuck to a broadly Italian theme, combining it with punchy garlic, lemon and crunchy hazelnuts. The garlic and lemon are added at the end, letting the heat of the roasting tin cook them slightly, but not too much, so they retain a bit of a punch.
1 head of Romanesco cauliflower
60g whole hazelnuts
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Juice and zest of half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C. Divide the Romanesco into florets and put in a roasting dish. Drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil, a splash of water and some salt and pepper. Roast for half an hour. Put the whole hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the top shelf of the oven for 8 minutes, until the skins are starting to crack and peel away. Rub off the skins by rolling the nuts in a clean tea towel. Roughly crush them in a pestle and mortar, then mix into the cauliflower. Whisk together the lemon juice and zest and crushed garlic with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Pour over the cauliflower and stir, allowing the heat of the roasting tin to cook the garlic slightly.
At the moment, I’m loving the chill in the air that signals early Autumn. The leaves are starting to turn, the days are drawing in and there’s already a sense of anticipation about the ‘C’ word. I also want to eat nothing but orange vegetables. Carrots, sweet potato and butternut squash become a staple of my weekly trip to the greengrocers. Most often I roast them with spices such as cumin and cinnamon, but also enjoy them simply boiled and mashed with lots of butter and salt.
Sweet potato is so versatile, being equally at home in sweet and savoury recipes. The unassuming knobbly vegetable lends itself really well to being baked into cakes. Vegetables in cakes is nothing new – if you go beyond the undeniable cliché of carrot cake there’s a whole new world out there. I’ve got a whole cookbook dedicated to cakes which contain all manner of vegetables, from courgette and lemon cakes to aubergine in brownies (yes, really).
My friend Clare and I thought that some gentle Sunday afternoon baking was in order. So we decided to use the sweet potato to make some savoury muffins, utilising the natural sweetness of the vegetable to combine with the sour goats cheese. We used a combination of wholemeal, plain and polenta flour in this recipe, giving the muffins a slightly grainy texture and a more full flavour. But if you don’t want to faff around with this just use plain or wholemeal. The general muffin method is to mix together all the dry and all the wet ingredients and fold one into the other. The highlight for me of making these muffins was mashing the boiled sweet potato together with a frankly obscene amount of butter into a gooey puddle, then eating a sneaky spoonful (or three).