Wow. Seriously, check out the beauty of these vegetables. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of two fantastic batches of produce from a finca in Spain. It excites me to cook with such honest fresh veg. I feel privileged to know the person that picked them and slightly embarrassed about some of the other packaged produce sat in my fridge from the supermarket.
So the season brings us green beans, courgettes and peppers. In abundance! I’ve been flicking through some of my old recipes as well as reading about other peoples take on courgette cake, stuffed peppers, roasted vegetables, fritters and stews.
First up this week, a wonderful warming pickle. This lively sharp pickle carries a subtle heat and makes a perfect partner for summer plates. Try with cheese and salads, or put a pot on the table when you serve up your next BBQ.
This recipe makes two 500ml pickle pots as shown here. If you have lots of vegetables, then double or quadruple the recipe to make more. If you use vacuum sealed kilner jars it will keep for around 4 months.
It’s really easy to make. Although I guess its fair to say that the better the vegetables, the better the taste.
To make two pickle pots you need:
Around 500g courgette (ribboned with a peeler or you can slice thinly with a knife)
4 finely chopped shallots
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp english or dijon mustard
500ml cider vinegar
1 cup (about 250ml) maple syrup
Cover the courgettes with water and sprinkle with salt, leaving for an hour.
Heat the maple syrup and cider vinegar on a low heat to melt the syrup in to the vinegar.
Add the remaining ingredients to the liquid, stir well, remove from the heat.
Drain the courgettes and dry gently with kitchen roll.
Mix everything together and divide into 2 jars. Pour the liquid in as equally as you can.
Tighten the jars and leave the pickle to develop its flavours in the fridge for 2-3 days.
This is more of an idea than a recipe. It’s a great idea though. If it becomes routine, it will change the way you clear out all your leftover veggies, as well as help you fill those occasional creative spaces for mid week mealtimes.
The idea is to use up all your vegetables in a simple rustic sauce, which can be used as the basis or accompaniment to lots of weekday meals. There are two tricks to this:
Halve the end product – keep one half as a brilliant ratatouille and pulse the other to make a smooth ragu. Children LOVE this. It is jam packed with vegetables but with no evidence of ‘bits’. I have fooled my children with this one for some time now.
Make more, way more than you need for one sitting. Portion up into freezer bags and label clearly. You can pull out as and when you need.
Here are some of the ways you can use the sauces:
For the kids I use the ragu on its own as a sauce for gluten free pasta. You can finish it with crumbled soft cheese or grated parmesan.
Most commonly for the kids I use the smooth sauce to accompany meatballs or minced beef. Simply brown meatballs or mince and then add the ragu, simmering the sauce until the meat is tender. My children prefer both the texture and taste of this over any other sauce I make.
Liven up leftovers by pouring the sauce over shredded roast chicken. Serve with rice and corn on the cob.
The chunkier ratatouille is superb served really hot with a simple bowl of brown rice, yoghurt and a generous handful of chopped fresh herbs.
The ratatouille is also fantastic with fish. Place two piece of white fish in foil, sprinkle some halved olives and a squeeze of lemon, then cover in a generous helping of the ratatouille. Oven roast for 20 minutes and enjoy a fab meal for two.
Try a few spoonfuls on top of steamed asparagus. Sprinkle the dish with parmesan, grill for 2 minutes and serve with rocket leaves.
To make this batch I used:
A tablespoon of coconut (or olive oil)
4 garlic cloves
A large white onion
3 red peppers
1 large aubergine
1 large courgette
A handful of small tomatoes
3 large carrots
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar
a teaspoon of oregano
400ml of passata or chopped tomatoes
Low salt vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper to season
Chop the vegetables neatly into cubes.
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until soft before adding all the remaining vegetables.
Add the herbs, puree, balsamic, passata and stock cube.
Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, pop on a lid and leave to simmer for a good 45 minutes or so. The dish is ready when the vegetables are soft and tender. Add more water if needed, gauge the liquid based on how thick you want the ratatouille.
Blitz up half, then store what you need in airtight jars and freeze the rest in bags.
This time last week we were returning from a weekend in the sparkling city of Sevilla. Steeped in history, yet youthful in feel, it is a welcoming, warm and charismatic place to visit.
Seville offers some amazing culinary options with bodegas and tapas restaurants of varying degrees of formality lining the cobbled streets of the old town. Whilst there we sampled some amazing food, from modern tapas to a classic fine dining experience in the famous Alfonso 8th hotel. A real old treat.
Famous for its flamenco and its oranges, I managed to return with some dodgy dancing shoes for my daughter, marmalade and some orange infused oil. The latter of these inspired this wonderful fresh salad.
To make two generous salads or a large accompaniment for a meal for four, you need:
Mixed soft salad leaves
Half an orange chopped into small chunks
Half a large mango sliced thinly
Quarter of a small red onion finely chopped
Toasted pumpkin seeds for the top
Optional crumbled feta
For the dressing you need:
50ml orange infused oil. This will work well with olive oil, but add some orange peel into the dressing to bring out more orange flavour
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of greek yoghurt
Juice from half an orange (may need more once you have tasted at the end)
Around a tablespoon of fresh finely chopped mint
Salt and pepper to season
There is no real recipe here, but here’s the basic steps:
Prepare your salad in a bowl or plate. Layer the ingredients with leaves, fruit, then crumbled cheese (optional) and warm toasted nuts on top.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together and taste. You may need to tweak the flavours to your liking.
Pour the dressing generously over the salad and eat straight away.