an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Roasted red pepper and tomato soup with quinoa and thyme

I’m not really into the whole “New year, new you” clean eating, guilt free thing. Eating clean just makes no sense, and thinking of food as ‘dirty’ just seems to me like a fast track to a really unhealthy and damaging relationship with food, and being someone who is really boring to talk to at parties.

That being said…

I am trying to think a bit more about what I eat. Like what makes me feel bloated and ill, and why however much pasta I eat I am always hungry about an hour later. So I’m trying to find ways to make quinoa more interesting, because it really is more filling and less bloating. And then I can read articles like this one about the quinoa industry’s affect in Peru, to remind myself that we can’t win, and everything is terrible.
I’m also making an effort to stop throwing so much stuff away, like disposable coffee cups and food. I bought some little plastic tubs so that I could freeze soup and curries and things in relatively small portions. This means that when I cook at the weekends I don’t need to eat the same thing every day for a week, and the freezer is filling up with tasty homemade things that I can surprise myself with when I don’t feel like cooking.

This soup was thick and warming and absolutely delicious, totally worth the effort of the additional roasting stage. It is also really filling. I am so pleased that I have little frozen portions of it for the cold grim days coming up in the next few weeks.

Serves about 6


5 red peppers
6 medium sized tomatoes
3 cloves garlic (skin on)
1 large onion, diced
5 ish sprigs of thyme
150g quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt/ course salt
About 20g butter (or just use a little bit more oil – butter is great though)
1 flat tbsp/1 cube vegetable or chicken stock powder
Ideally sherry vinegar, if you don’t have use white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tbsp crème fraîche (or vegan equivalent)
Freshly ground black pepper

Serve with croutons, toasted almond slivers or toasted pumpkin seeds


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Cut the peppers and tomatoes in half, and arrange the peppers skin down, tomatoes skin up on a roasting tray. Arrange about half of the thyme sprigs among the veggies. Hide the cloves of garlic under the pepper shells to stop them burning. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the tomatoes. Roast for 30-40 minutes.

After the veggies are roasted, pinch their skins off as soon as they are cool enough to handle, and peel the garlic cloves. Roughly tear or shop the peppers into strips. Discard the thyme twigs.

During the veggie roasting/cooling stage, and heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan on a low heat and sauté the onions for 5 – 10 minutes until softened and translucent. Put the kettle on while the onions are cooking so that hot water is ready for the next bit.

Add the quinoa to the pan and pour in enough hot water to cover, plus a bit more so the liquid rises about 3 cm above the quinoa and onions. Be a little hesitant with the water, its easier to add more water later rather than dealing with too much liquid. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Put the lid on and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, tomato, pepper, and any remaining roasting pan juices, more water if it needs it, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Blob the crème fraîche into the soup and blitz with a hand-blender until it is silky and thick. Then add the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs, about 1 tsp of vinegar and a grind of black pepper. Taste, and add more seasoning if it needs it.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

Roasted cauliflower steaks with tahini and dukkah

I’m back. I’ve missed you.

2015 has been an interesting year, and although I took a break from blogging, I didn’t stop cooking, or eating, or buying cookbooks, or obsessing about food basically all the time.

I’ve been trying to think about what my food highlights of 2015 were, and its tricky because it was a very good year, but they definitely included:

1. My first ever proper thanksgiving dinner courtesy of my brilliant family in the US, including a whole smoked turkey which was absolutely the most delicious turkey I have ever eaten. I also experienced my first ever turkey-coma, which is a thing.

2. Growing my very own tomatoes for the first time

3. Coming second in a cookery competition at my workplace, with bona fide proper foodie Oliver Peyton actually eating food that I had made.

So yeah, second place! Pretty great right? For the competition I got to wear whites and cook in a large restaurant kitchen, with all of my ingredients portioned out in little plastic tubs like on the telly. I absolutely loved it – all shiny metal surfaces, massive pots and big knives. I won a copy of the National Gallery Cookbook, which is a really lovely combination of beautiful art and tasty recipes, and a whole load of Peyton and Byrne vouchers, which is very handy. Seeing as asides from food I absolutely love going to art galleries, this was a pretty excellent prize.

For the competition I chose to cook a vegan meal, as I don’t eat non-kosher meat and I thought that the chances of me overcooking fish in the pressure of a competition was too high. Once I was cooking vegetarian, the jump to vegan wasn’t actually that difficult, as most of what I wanted to make was vegan anyway. I also thought it was important to demonstrate that it is possible to create filling and delicious meals that don’t have animal products in it.

For the competition we had to make a savoury main, and my dish was:

Celeriac and artichoke sofrito with roasted cauliflower, dukkah and a pomegranate herb salad.

I’ve made the celeriac dish many times before and you can see the recipe for it here, all I changed was adding frozen artichokes and canned chickpeas instead of potatoes. I chose it because a. it is bright yellow and yellow makes people happy b. it is really delicious c. it cooks surprisingly quickly for something so hearty.

I’ve blogged about cauliflower with tahini before, but this was a bit different – its all competitiony and fancy.  It is more complicated, but definitely worth it if you want to impress a bit more than usual. And it is really, really tasty. Reserve the cauliflower off-cuts to use in something else, like soup, mash or cauliflower ‘rice’ (which sounds gross).

Shana introduced me to the joys of dukkah. It is like a middle-eastern crunchy rubble – the soggy crumbs that I have started seeing on top of some brands of humous does definitely not count. Dukkah is delicious on its own with bread and olive oil (in little bowls for alternate dipping), sprinkled over scrambled eggs, garnishing dhal, or with practically anything else.


Cauliflower, cut into steaks about ½-2/3 inch thick
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Date syrup

For the tahini sauce:
(this will probably make more than you need, but always useful to have some in the fridge)
3 tbsp tahini (don’t use organic tahini as it is like cement).
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

For the dukkah:
2 tbsp Coriander seeds
2 tbsp Cumin seeds
2/3 cup Hazelnuts (or almonds)
1 tbsp Nigella seeds
2/3 cup Sesame seeds
1 tsp Sea salt


To make the dukkah, toast the seeds and nuts separately, either in a dry frying pan or in the oven. Rub off hazelnut skins (or buy blanched). Roughly smash/grind in a mortar and pestle with the salt. End result should be rubble, as opposed to paste.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Fry the cauliflower steaks in olive oil over a medium heat, about 5 minutes each side, seasoning as you turn, until golden. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes to ensure that they are cooked through.

To make tahini sauce, put a few tablespoons of tahini in a bowl and add a little water and most of the lemon juice. When you start stirring, the mixture will seize and become grainy, but don’t worry this is normal. Continue adding water and mixing until the sauce becomes creamy. Add more lemon juice to taste along with a little salt, and some garlic or garlic powder (optional).

To serve, drizzle the cauliflower artfully with the date syrup and tahini, and scatter dukkah over the top.