Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.


Gratin of Mediterranean Vegetables

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then,
Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing.

And if he has any sense he’ll make himself up a big batch of this winter-warmer. As the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, this is a great dish to throw together when you’ve just arrived home, wet and cold, from work. You can experiment with the filling too, using whatever you might have in the fridge to save yourself going back out to the shops in the cold! The quantities below serve 2-3.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Cut an aubergine into 1cm slices, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 15-20 minutes. Rinse to remove the excess salt and pat dry with kitchen paper. Peel a couple of tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Slice a courgette at an angle in 1cm slices.

Drizzle a baking dish with a few spoons of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle in some chopped spring onion and some chopped herbs (rosemary, thyme or marjoram are all lovely in this dish), arrange the aubergine slices alternately with the tomatoes and courgette. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle over some more herbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

While the vegetables are cooking, make the crumb topping: melt a knob of butter in a pan and stir in about 50g of soft white breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool. When the vegetables are cooked, mixed some grated parmesan in with the buttered crumbs, sprinkle over the top of the vegetables, and brown under the grill before serving.


Beyond the Bottle – Goan Coconut Gobi

This recipe is a really economic way to use up leftovers from three staples of a baby’s diet – cauliflower, broccoli and green beans. Good work Mrs Feast who found the recipe and cooked a delicious dinner! Most of the other ingredients are store-cupboard supplies, so you shouldn’t have to buy too much to make this one-pot wonder. The recipe comes from the BBC website, and is a traditional Indian vegetable dish.

Aubergine, Tomato and Lemongrass Curry

Home-made curries usually require a lot of ingredients, but have the advantage that most of them are spices that will last in the store cupboard for ages. One of the key things when making curry is to have all your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Generally everything gets added together in one go, so the cooking time isn’t that lengthy.

This recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s “Kitchen Diaries”. I made a spice paste with 4 chopped small red chillis (deseeded), the inner leaves from 2 lemongrass stalks roughly chopped, a thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and grated, 2 shallots and 4 cloves of garlic, all chopped, and then I blitzed it all together in a food processor with a half teaspoon of shrimp paste a tablespoon of water.

I then warmed 3 tablespoons of groundnut oil in a pan, and fried the spice paste, moving it round the pan so it didn’t burn. I added 400g chopped mushrooms and let them cook until they softened. I then poured in 325ml of vegetable stock and brought it to the boil. I added an aubergine, chopped into pieces about an inch square, as well as 6 tomatoes, which I had roughly chopped. I let it simmer for about fifteen minutes, then I poured in 200ml coconut milk andlet that simmer for another ten minutes. I added some coriander leaves for the last minute, and served it with basmati rice.

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry

A mild curry recipe from Nigel Slater’s “The Kitchen Diaries”, this makes a great meal for six people, and uses loads of store-cupboard seeds and spices.

Soak 200g for several hours (or overnight if possible). Drain, and cook them in boiling water for about 45 mins, until they are reasonably tender. Peel and chop 2 medium onions, 4 cloves of garlic, 3 fresh red chillies, and 3 carrots, keeping them separate. Grind 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds to a coarse powder, remove the black seeds from 6 green cardamom pods and grind those to a powder.

Pour 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil into a heavy-bottomed casserole dish set over a moderate to low heat – cook the onions and garlic until translucent and golden. Stir in 15 curry leaves, 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds and 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric, as well as the ground coriander, cardamom, turmeric and chopped chillies. Leave to sizzle for 2-3 minutes then add the chopped carrots and continue cooking over a low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Roughly chop 500g tomatoes, a medium squash (or small pumpkin) and 400g sweet potato and add them to the casserole. Stir, then pour in 750ml vegetable stock. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Discard any froth that appears on the top, then turn the heat down so that the contents simmer gently. Stir occassionaly, keeping an eye on the vegetables so that they become tender, but not broken up.

When the vegetables have softened, drain then chickpeas and stir them into the curry. Stir in 250g of Greek yoghurt, making sure that the mixture does not boil (causing it to turn grainy). Stir in a handful of coriander leaves just before serving with rice.

You can also add 150g small mushrooms at the final stage with the chickpeas. For a hotter curry use stronger chillies, and increase the quantities of coriander seeds and turmeric. Curries are all about experimenting until you get the balance right, and using the ingredients that you have.