I finally got something other than courgettes out of my garden since I pulled my carrots and beetroot. It’s weird growing root vegetables as you basically have no idea what’s lurking under the ground.
For some reason only one of my beetroot grew to a decent size. I’m not too upset because I’m not that crazy about beetroot anyway. Turns out that I grew a lot of vegetables that I’m not too fond of. The fact is, I used to eat vegetables because they were good for me and not for pleasure. I have to say, though, growing my own has given me a new appreciation for veg.
Anyway, the small yield scuppered my plan of making chutney so I just roasted the beetroot in the oven. This was my first experience with raw beetroot. I followed Jamie Oliver’s recommendation of eating it warm on toast with horseradish. It was okay, but not sure I would make it again.
I was very pleased with my purple carrots because my dad’s girlfriend, who is a gardener, said that carrots are notoriously difficult to grow. I wanted to enjoy them in their raw form so I made some red pepper hummus with which to eat them. I followed this recipe, which produced by far the best hummus I’ve ever made, rivalling store bought. Hummus is one of the few things that I’ve found very difficult to improve by making from scratch.
I increased all of the amounts by 50% due to the ingredients I had on hand, so I now have an enormous quantity of hummus to consume. Fortunately it’s really good with the carrots.
In the past couple of weeks, my garden has started to produce a lot of courgettes. I got the seeds as part of a ‘funky veg’ kit and kind of just planted for the hell of it- I’m not the biggest fan of courgettes. However, I sense that my glut of yellow beauties may make me learn to love this humble vegetable. We’ll see how I do at the challenging task of not embarrassing myself with phallic references in this post. I am a follower of Freud, after all.
I turned my first fistful of small courgettes into a tasty salad. Adapted from this recipe.
I knew that my staff summer picnic would be a good excuse to use up some more courgettes. As you can see, these ones were much larger.
I made another salad for the party- this was actually my first time cooking and eating fennel. I selected a vegan recipe, but when the vegan in the team wasn’t at the picnic, I did add some cheeky feta. Cheese makes everything better.
The cake was lovely- light, moist and tasty. Would probably omit raisins next time. My favourite bit was the frosting, but then I am dangerously addicted to cream cheese frosting. I have a LOT more courgettes coming, so I need to stay ahead of the game with ways to use them.
Sun’s out, buns out… of my lunch box, that is. The magnificent weather had reinvigorated my quest against lunch ennui, resulting in this tasty salad.
I found the recipe that inspired me, via Pinterest, here. Feel free to substitute any of the vegetables for other root vegetables you like. I also chucked a couple of shallots in the roasting tin as I had them on hand.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 800g (about two medium) sweet potatoes
- 400g (one root) celeriac
- 300g (two medium) parsnips
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1tsp fennel seeds
- 200g washed baby spinach
- 160g washed other leaves (I used sprouted peas)
- 200g pomegranate seeds, or one pomegranate if you’re not lazy
- 200g feta, cubed
- 2 avocados
- 50g pumpkin seeds
For the dressing
- 1tbsp French mustard
- 1tbsp honey
- 2tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
- 1tsp balsamic vinegar
- 6tbsp flavourless oil
- Preheat oven to 200C (400F)
- Chop all of the root vegetables into bite-sized dice. Peel if desired. I peeled the celeriac but not the sweet potato and parsnips. Place into a baking tray.
- Coat evenly with the olive oil and sprinkle over the fennel seeds. Place in the garlic cloves (no need to peel or chop)
- Bake for 20-25mins, until golden brown and tender.
- Combine the dressing ingredients, aside from the oil, in a food processor or hand blender and blitz until smooth. Add the oil slowly, through a funnel if you have one.
- Cut open avocado, remove store, scoop out the meat and cut into smaller cubes. Add the avocado to the salad leaves along with crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds
- Heat a small saucepan, add the pumpkin seeds and a little sprinkle of salt and toast until golden.
- Mix the roasted roots with the salad and top the salad with toasted pumpkin seeds. Add dressing to taste.
I make this salad ahead of time for work. I put my roasted roots in a large airtight container in the fridge, with the feta, pomegranate and toasted pumpkin seeds in separate containers.
Each morning, I put the leaves in my lunchbox, topped with the roots and other ingredients. I take my dressing in a separate container and dress the salad just before eating. It’s a little more effort doing it this way, but gives a really enjoyable result.
The salad is also very nice undressed. You could add a tablespoon of honey to the vegetables before you roast them for extra flavour.
The new year found me in Indonesia guiltlessly munching on fried foods and ice cream- I was on holiday after all. However, I couldn’t resist the call of January to lose weight, get fit, save money and generally become a perfect human creature.
I decided that the first step would be to start having green smoothies for breakfast. 2015 was the year I discovered green drinks in all forms. A well made green smoothie not only gives you a sense of smug self-satisfaction, but actually tastes good. I had developed a worrying dependency on the guy who makes smoothies outside Sourced Market at St Pancras station, sometimes travelling there specifically for a hit.
I decided to break the cycle, cut out the middleman, and make the smoothies my damn self.
Green juice purists might disapprove of how I make my smoothies. I add a little dried fruit for sweetness and fibre. I use fruit juice rather than water, and have banana as well as some frozen berries. I sometimes even add a touch of honey if my smoothie tastes a bit too virtuous.
I use my electronic scale to help keep my measurements on track.
- A small handful (about 20g) oats
- A small handful (10-25g) almonds
- A little dried fruit- I use a dried fig or a couple of apricots depending on what I have on hand
- 200ml apple juice or water
- 80g avocado- this is half a small avocado or a quarter of a large avocado
- 80g (1 small) banana
- 80g frozen spinach
- A small handful (about 40g) frozen berries
- 80g (1 stalk) celery
- 80g cucumber
- 1tsp (about 10g) fresh ginger
- 1tsp spirulina (optional)
- Ice or water to bring smoothie to desired texture and temperature
- To save time in the morning, I often soak the nuts, oats and dried fruit in the juice overnight, along with the unfrozen veg. Since my smoothie machine came with two bottles, I prepare two in the same evening
- I sometimes chop up bananas and keep them in the freezer as a further time saver (it means I don’t have to run to the shop for bananas every three days)
- I do the same with the fresh ginger, buying large fresh pieces when I see them and storing them prepared in pots in the freezer
- This recipe is super flexible. You can substitute most ingredients for whatever you have on hand.
- Don’t drop the blade of the blender on your foot. It hurts.
For me this smoothie is really balanced. It’s fresh with a lovely zing from the ginger. The avocado and banana give a nice smooth texture. I don’t know what spirulina is meant to do, but it makes the smoothie a nice colour and helps me feel like I am taking care of my body as I prepare to exit my twenties.
I am a lifelong loather of the courgette (too slimy) but I bloomin’ love this light, moist , nutty chocolate cake. It’s made with olive oil rather than my usual butter as well, so much lower in saturated fat if you care about that sort if thing. Of course you could omit the nuts if you like. I think they help disguise the courgette- with them, you’d never guess this cake’s veggie little secret.
This cake is delicious smothered in ganache as below, or in this chocolate frosting. I had some left over from the cupcakes, so frugal and delicious.
Pointillist Siamese cat optional
- 175ml olive oil (any kind is fine)
- 325g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 500ml grated courgette**
- 350g self-raising flour
- 50g cocoa powder
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 140g hazelnuts, chopped
For the ganache
- 200g dark chocolate, chopped
- 100ml double cream
**Measure by volume. This is 2 small-medium courgettes (about 350g by weight). I give the grated courgette a gentle squeeze, then pack it lightly into the measuring jug. The recipe is quite forgiving +/- about 100 ml but be careful if you use extra courgette- the cake will take much longer to bake.
Makes 1 (very large) 20cm cake or about 20 cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan). Lightly grease a 20cm cake tin (I always use springform)
- Toast hazelnuts in the oven as it heats for around 10 mins, until they start to smell nutty and take on a golden colour. Watch them carefully from 10 mins as they can burn easily.
- In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla essence and grated courgette.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Add the hazelnuts, chopped. You will end up with a thick batter that will dome up well.
- Bake for 60-80mins, until the cake passes the knife test.
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Don’t worry if the top looks a bit funky, it’ll be covered. Meanwhile, make your frosting or ganache.
For the ganache, scald the cream in a small saucepan, remove from the heat, fold in your finely chopped chocolate and stir until smooth, glossy and irresistible.
Here is the cake with frosting, but without cat chasing mice motif.
Yes, I know Christmas was a month ago. Don’t judge me.