Root vegetable tagine

My niece came to stay this weekend, and we cooked this delicious vegetable tagine together. Aside from onion and carrot the selection of vegetables was far from authentic, as I used winter vegetables – sweet potato, parsnip and swede – but the result was just as tasty as tagines featuring mediterranean vegetables. My niece had seconds, so I think it has the seal of approval!

I used red onion, but regular yellow onion would be just fine. These quantities serve 4 generously and I didn’t use all of the swede pictured. You can easily up the quanties, remembering to increase the amount of spices, to serve more people or make sure you have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunchbox. Having browsed a number of different recipes online and in my cookbooks, I decided that the important things were to soften the onions and cook the spices slowly at the beginning, then turn the chopped vegetables in the spicy onions, and finally add the liquid and chickpeas. You could add crushed chillies or a fresh chopped chilli with the rest of the spices at the beginning instead of using paprika.

Rather than serving the vegetable tagine with couscous, we had brown rice, which made it a really satisfying meal. To thicken the sauce – and up the protein content, particularly useful if you are vegan – you could add 100g red lentils just before adding the stock.

  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil (or similar neutral oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb of root ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 small swede
  • ½ tin chopped tomatoes
  • 600 ml vegetable stock
  • Large pinch saffron
  • 8 soft dried apricots
  • zest and juice of ½ orange
  • 400g can of chickpeas
  • 1 red chilli or 1 tsp harissa
  • a handful of coriander leaves
  • To serve: brown rice or couscous with 50g pine nuts to garnish

Start by peeling and chopping the onion, crushing the garlic and peeling and finely chopping the ginger. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole or pan with a lid, large enough to take all the vegetables comfortably. Peel and chop the carrot, sweet potato, swede and parsnip into even, fork-sized chunks.

When the oil is hot, cook the chopped onion, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes until it is starting to soften. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another couple of minutes before tipping in the cumin, cinnamon, coriander and paprika. Stir for a few minutes until the scent of the spices rises.

Add the rest of the vegetables and stir them about in the spicy onions – this is where you’ll be glad that you chose a nice large pan! Then stir in the tomatoes. Heat the stock, or make up from 1 rounded tsp of Marigold vegan bouillon powder and boiling water. Add the saffron to the stock and pour into the pan. Finally, chop the dried apricots into quarters, and add them to the pan together with the orange zest and juice and drained chickpeas.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Put on the rice or couscous and we toasted some pine nuts to sprinkle over the rice. Once the tagine is cooked, stir in the harissa, if using. Serve with the rice or couscous, and garnish with chopped coriander and sliced red chilli, if wished.

Sweet potato cakes

These sweet potato cakes are dead easy to make, and perfect for brunch or supper. You could also make smaller cakes and serve them as a snack with some salsa or chutney. We had them for brunch with a poached egg on top and a fresh, crunchy salad. To keep it vegan, serve a sliced avocado or a good dollop of coconut yoghurt alongside the potato cakes instead of the egg. This is a very useful recipe when you have left-over roasted or boiled sweet potato – sometimes you can only get enormous ones, which are far too big to get through all at once.

The potato cakes are very soft – you could use more cornflour and chill them for longer if you want firmer, neater patties – but I don’t mind them being a bit wonky, and they held together fine in the pan. Adjust the chilli content to your taste, and chilli flakes would work too if you don’t have any fresh chilli. You could, of course, omit the ginger and chilli and use parsley and lemon zest instead of coriander and lime zest if you wanted a milder, more soothing brunch. Serves 2.

1 large sweet potato (about 300g)
2 spring onions
1cm ginger
1 clove garlic
1 red or green chilli
zest of 1/2 lime
6 sprigs coriander
1 tbsp cornflour
salt and black pepper
2 tbsps quick-cook polenta
1 tbsp olive oil

Salad
2 tomatoes
5cm cucumber
6 radishes
1 stick celery
Coriander leaves
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp olive oil

To serve (optional):
2 eggs or 100g coconut yoghurt
1 avocado

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Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Peel the sweet potato and cut into small chunks. Add to the boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes until tender to a fork, then drain thoroughly in a colander.img_5453.jpg

 

Trim and finely chop the spring onions, peel and grate the ginger and garlic, de-seed and finely chop the chilli and put into a bowl with the zest of lime. Finely chop the coriander, including any soft stalks, and add that too. Tip the drained sweet potatoes into the bowl and mash them into the other ingredients.

 

Add the tablespoon of cornflour and mix well. Then spread the polenta onto a plate. Take a quarter of the mixture, shape into a pattie and dump on top of the polenta. Carefully turn it over (using a spatula helps) so that it is completely coated in the polenta.

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Move the potato cake onto a plate or board and do the same with the rest of the mixture to give four sweet potato cakes. Pop them into the fridge to firm up for a few minutes while you clear the decks, make salad and lay the table.

 

For our salad we just diced the vegetables listed and dressed them with lime juice and olive oil. Diced red pepper or red onion would also be nice, as well as or instead of the ones listed. Or you could just prepare a regular green salad.

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Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. If you’re having poached eggs put a shallow pan of water on to heat.

When the oil is hot use a spatula to transfer the potato cakes into the pan and leave to cook undisturbed – resist the urge to fiddle with them – on a medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the bottom is crisp and golden. Turn them over carefully with the spatula and cook the other side.

Slice the avocado, if having, and squeeze over a few drops of lemon or lime juice to stop it discolouring. If you’re having poached eggs, about 3 minutes before the potato cakes are ready crack each one into a cup and slip into just simmering water. Cook for 3 minutes or until done to your taste. Use a slotted spoon to scoop each one from the water and blot any excess moisture with a kitchen towel.

Serve the potato cakes with their sides and salad for a satisfying, spicy brunch.

Sweet potato cake and egg

Spicy peanut and vegetable stew

Here’s an easy and tasty vegetable stew for supper on a cold weeknight. It started life as Maafe tigidigi, a recipe from Timbuktu, which was adapted by Alicia Weston of Bags of Taste, an inspiring initiative that provides free cookery courses to people who need to learn how to eat well on a low budget. I saw an article about the organisation in Delicious magazine, and thought it was a great idea – and I liked the sound of the recipe too.

The original recipe uses okra rather than courgette, but I am not fond of okra, and using courgettes instead worked fine, though they are less authentic and don’t have quite the same texture. I’m sure you could ring the changes on the other vegetables too. The peanut butter makes it really tasty and satisfying. I guess you could serve it with some roasted peanuts sprinkled on top for crunch, but to be honest it doesn’t really need anything extra.

These quantities serve 2 – or provide two comforting suppers for one person (it will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge) – with rice.

3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp tomato purée
350ml hot water
175g courgette
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground fennel
good grinding of black pepper
½ tsp chilli powder
1 bay leaf
1 stock cube or 2 tsp Marigold bouillon
150g sweet potato
100g carrots
½ red pepper
1 celery stick (about 60g)

Measure the peanut butter and tomato purée into a medium saucepan and gradually mix in the hot water using a wooden spoon until they are well blended. Halve the courgette lengthways (unless it is small), and slice it fairly thinly.

Put the pan over medium heat, add the courgette with the spices, bay leaf and stock cube or Marigold powder, stirring well. I used a mild chilli powder and the stew was spicy enough for me, but you can up the heat if you wish by using hotter chilli or a fresh red chilli if you have one. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

While it is simmering, peel the sweet potato and carrot and cut them into large chunks. De-seed the red pepper and cut it into chunks. Trim the celery and cut it into 2 cm slices on the diagonal. Add the chopped vegetables to the sauce, bring back to a simmer, then cover and cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, cook some rice – I used wholegrain basmati, which I find takes about 20 minutes – and serve with the stew.

 

 

Lentil and sweet potato pie

This vegetarian version of shepherd’s pie, from A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, proved to be perfect for dinner on an autumnal day when neither of us felt like cooking anything too demanding. This was partly because I was having a bake-in, making brownies and a fig and blackberry tart, inspired by one I’d eaten at Allegra McEvedy’s wonderful wine bar Albertine (only thing wrong with it is that it’s not round the corner from my flat!).

So I cooked this comforting pie, fragrant with thyme and spices but requiring only some chopping, stirring and mashing, alongside the baking. It was a substantial dinner: I made a half quantity, and have almost two portions left, so the full recipe below would feed six generously and eight more politely, especially if you were serving a starter and dessert. I have slightly reduced the quantity of sweet potato, but feel free to add an extra sweet potato if you like lots of mash. Next time, I might try adding a bay leaf and some mushrooms to the lentils, as I think they would go well and ring the changes.

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsps olive oil
4 spring onions
grated zest of 1/2 lemon

2 carrots
2 sticks celery
2 red onions
2 clove garlic
slug of olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
half a small pack of thyme
1 400g tin tomatoes
400g puy lentils

Cook the sweet potatoes until tender either by baking in the oven at 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas 6 for 30-45 minutes (depending on size; remember to pierce the skins so they don’t explode), or boiling them in a pan of boiling water for about 15-20 minutes. I baked mine because I wanted some for making brownies too, and I had the oven on for pre-baking a pastry case. Heat the oven to 220ºC/fan 200º/gas 7 for the pie.

Peel and chop the carrots and onions, trim and chop the celery and finely chop the garlic. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat, add a slug of olive oil and, when hot, add the vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until they are softening. Roughly crush the cumin, and add all the spices and the leaves of the thyme to the pan. Stir and cook for a few more minutes. Then add the tin of tomatoes, the lentils and two tins full of water. Crush the tomatoes a bit with your spoon and turn up the heat to bring everything to a brisk simmer. Give it a stir from time to time, and add a little extra water if necessary. After 15-20 minutes the lentils should be just cooked and the sauce thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warm a little olive oil in a medium pan, chop the spring onion and cook it gently in the oil for a few minutes. Add the sweet potato and mash. Check the seasoning and add the lemon zest. Tip the lentil mixture into an oven dish and top with the mashed sweet potato, roughing up the surface with a fork. I added a  few knobs of butter on the top, because that’s what I do with shepherd’s pie to get a nice crispy top, but obviously don’t do this if you’re cooking for vegans.

Bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden and the pie is sizzling hot. I followed the recipe in adding some thyme to the top of the mash, but I don’t recommend this – the thyme just crisps up without adding much flavour and makes it look disconcertingly as if the pie is covered in dead flies!

Serve with steamed green, such as cavolo nero, kale, spring greens or cabbage. And don’t blame me if you feel very full afterwards.

Sweet Potato and Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Chicken

Purple sprouting broccoliThis recipe is from the wonderful Kitchen Memories by Lucy Boyd. The dish has more veg than chicken and, with vivid colours and a zingy taste, it is a real tonic when the weather is still cold.

It is not complicated – the only thing to remember is that you need to marinate the chicken an hour ahead (though I dare so it would still taste pretty good if you didn’t have time to do that). It is the recipe I always think of making when I buy purple sprouting broccoli. Serves 4

Sweet Potato and Purple-sprouting Broccoli with HalloumiUpdate: I have also tried this recipe using halloumi instead of chicken, and it was equally delicious. A 250g pack of halloumi would be enough for three – simply slice it into 6 slices (as you can see my slices split into rather attractive fingers), heat a solid frying pan or griddle until hot and cook for about 2 minutes on each side until brown. No need to marinate the halloumi, and the only change I might make next time is trying it with a spicy tomato sauce instead of the sour cream.

4 boned chicken thighs (or breasts)
juice of 1 lemon
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 dried red chilli, crushed
200g purple sprouting broccoli
100g sour cream
2 fresh red chillies

Chicken thighs marinatingBeat out the boned chicken thighs between two sheets of greaseproof paper until they are 1 cm thick. Put on a plate and squeeze over the juice of half the lemon. Wash the thyme and pick the leaves off (you can use rosemary, in which case you need to chop the needles finely). Scatter about half the thyme over the chicken, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Sweet Potato ready for the ovenHeat the oven to 200 C/Gas 6. Peel the garlic and squash it with the side of a kitchen knife. Peel and wash the sweet potatoes, then slice them lengthwise into quarters. Put them in a bowl with the garlic, the rest of the thyme leaves, a pinch of the dried chilli and enough olive oil to coat them. Season with salt and pepper and mix together. Place in a roasting tin and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning at half time, until tender and golden brown.

Prepare the broccoli by cutting off the thick stem at an angle, and if the stems are thick cut each in half vertically through stem and florets. The pieces should all be roughly the same size, so that they cook evenly. Trim, deseed and finely chop the red chillies.

About ten minutes before you are ready to eat, heat the grill or griddle pan until it is really hot. Put on a pan of water to boil. Season the chicken with salt, place on the griddle or under the grill and leave to cook for 4 minutes. When the water boils put the broccoli into the pan and set the timer for 3 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until the flesh has cooked through. Remove from the heat, place on a board and leave to rest for a few minutes.

Sweet potato and purple sprouting broccoli with chickenDrain the broccoli. Divide the sweet potato and broccoli between the plates. Slice the chicken at an angle into strips and add to the plates. Add a spoonful of sour cream to each plate, scatter over the red chilli and squeeze over the remaining lemon (or cut it into wedges and add these to the plate). Lucy Boyd also adds a few leaves of marjoram at the end, but I haven’t done this, as I rarely have any in the house.