Aubergine and spinach dhal, roasted butternut, crispy garlic

Aubergine & spinach dhal, roasted butternut, crispy garlic.JPG

Perhaps it’s the influence of the recent influx of vegetarian clients but I seem to be going through a bit of a veggie phase.
Whilst I know fully plant-based doesn’t suit me, it’s nice to discover predominantly vegetarian dishes that are easy to adapt to most tastes. If you really can’t do without the extra protein, for example, then just put a grilled chicken breast on top of this dhal, or keep it as it is and embrace the vegan dinner.
Aside from being ridiculously tasty, this aubergine and spinach dhal also keeps well so make a big batch and you’ll have lunch for days.

Ingredients to feed 4 (or 2 plus 2 lunches)
250g red lentils, rinsed
1 medium aubergine, cubed, (350g approximately)
100g spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds scraped out, cut in half lengthways then sliced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of coconut milk
2 + 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
thumb sized piece of ginger (50g), peeled then grated
2 green chillies, pierced
1.5 tablespoons of medium curry powder
2 teaspoons of turmeric
a bunch of coriander, stalks finely chopped, leaves set aside
sea salt and black pepper to season
rapeseed oil to cook

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, put the butternut squash slices on a roasting tray, drizzle with some oil, season with sea salt and black pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes until fully cooked.
Whilst the butternut is roasting, make the dhal.
Place a large saucepan on a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil.
Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic, the grated ginger, the 2 pierced chillies, and cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the curry powder, turmeric, coriander stalks and aubergine and stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes then stir in the lentils, chopped tomato, coconut milk and 200ml (half a tin) of water. Season with a couple of pinches of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Bring to boil, turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Stir every now and then to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom.
The consistency should be similar to porridge and the lentils should be soft.
Stir in the spinach and season again with sea salt and black pepper.
To make the crispy garlic, heat a tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the 4 cloves of garlic and cook until golden in colour (a couple of minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a sheet of kitchen towel to remove the excess oil.
To serve, put a couple of ladles of the dhal in a bowl, top with roasted butternut squash slices, crispy garlic and a handful of fresh coriander leaves.

Lamb keema with turmeric potatoes

In my opinion there is not much use in food being “healthy” if it doesn’t taste good.
I live for food with lots of flavour.
This beautiful keema recipe uses warming spices to add flavour to lamb mince and vegetables. The turmeric and nigella seed potatoes are totally delicious plus turmeric is a pretty decent spice to have more of.

In case you are wondering, this recipe is super easy. Just throw a few things in pans and the job is done.

Keema, turmeric potatoes.JPG

Ingredients (feeds 2 plus there will be a little bit left over for lunch)
For the keema:
400g organic lamb mince
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bunch of coriander, leaves picked off and stalks finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, peeled & grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds for milder flavour)
2 tablespoons of garam masala
100g each of spinach and green beans
sea salt and black pepper to season

For the potatoes
500g baby new potatoes, sliced in half
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each of turmeric and black onion seeds (also known as nigella seeds)
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
sea salt and black pepper

Put the halved potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Whilst the potatoes are cooking, put a frying pan on a high heat. Add the lamb mince and onions straight away and cook until the mince has browned (5-10 minutes). No oil is required for this as the lamb mince contains enough fat.
Take the pan off the heat, tip the pan to one side, push the onion and lamb mixture to the upper part of the pan and spoon off any excess fat that collects at the bottom. This step is optional.
Put the pan back on the hob, turn the heat down to medium and start adding the spices: 2 crushed garlic cloves, the chopped coriander stalks (you can replace this with a teaspoon of ground coriander for a quicker option), the grated ginger, the chilli, the garam masala and season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Cook for a couple of minutes to allow the flavours to intensify.
Add the chopped tomato, season again and cook for another couple of minutes.
Now stir in the beans and spinach and cook for 5 minutes until the green beans are tender. Taste and season again if necessary.
Put another frying pan on a medium heat. Add the tablespoon of rapeseed oil, the crushed clove of garlic and teaspoon of black onion seeds. Cook for a minute then stir in the potatoes and turmeric. Season well with sea salt and black pepper, stir and cook for a couple of minutes more.
To serve, divide the keema and potatoes between two bowls, reserving some for lunch if you’d like.
Top with plenty of fresh coriander leaves.

Green lentil tabouli

Did you know parsley is a great source of both iron and Vitamin C?
Yup, except we never really eat it in sufficient enough quantities. Let's face it, that little bit sprinkled on top of *insert any food* isn't exactly going to make a dent in RDAs of either of those nutrients.
Let me introduce you to tabouli (also known as tabbouleh). This Middle Eastern chopped parsley salad is a total taste sensation. 
Traditionally, it's a combination of parsley, mint, lemon, tomatoes and bulgur wheat but I've added a few extra ingredients for even more nutrients and switched the bulgur wheat to lentils.
It's a really easy and tasty way to get more parsley in.

Lentil & parsley salad.JPG

Ingredients (feeds 2 at dinner or makes 3 lunches)
180g green lentils, dry weight (also known as puy lentils or lentiles vertes dependant on where you are buying them)
50g of parsley, 2 average supermarket bunches
one bunch of mint
250g tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, sliced
1/2 a cucumber, roughly chopped
zest and juice of a lemon
good quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to season
2/3 of a block of feta cheese (optional)

Cook the lentils according to packet instructions. I cooked them for 20 minutes approximately so they still have a bite. Set aside to cool whilst you assemble the salad.
Wash the parsley and pick the leaves into a large bowl, discard the stalk.
Wash the mint, pick the leaves and chop finely. Add to the bowl with the parsley alongside the tomatoes, spring onion, cucumber and zest of a lemon. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a good pinch of sea salt.
Add the lentils to the same bowl, season again with some freshly ground black pepper (lentils are generally bland so it'll need the extra seasoning), squeeze in the juice of a lemon, drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and stir well.
Divide between bowl, topping them with crumbled feta if desired.

Panzanella Salad

There is something absolutely amazing about the flavour of in-season tomatoes. 
Inspired by Panzanella (Tuscan tomato & bread salad) this recipe has got to be my favourite way of using up tasty tomatoes. 
It's the kind of uncomplicated dish that requires little effort and packs a punch in flavour.
The quality of the ingredients is paramount so pick tomatoes that are in season and choose a high-quality olive oil.

Panzanella bright.JPG

Ingredients to feed 2-3:
1 punnet (400g approximately) of in-season coloured cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 large plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, cut in half then finely sliced
Leaves from a bunch of basil
A large handful of rocket
1 ball of mozzarella
Two slices of sourdough bread
1 clove of garlic, peeled
A tablespoon of balsamic or red wine vinegar, I used Aspall's Apple Balsamic Vinegar
Good quality extra virgin olive oil, I used Il Casolare unfiltered extra virgin olive oil

Toast the sourdough and rub the raw garlic over it. Discard any leftover garlic and chop the garlic bread into large cubes.
Put the tomatoes, red onion and basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, pour in the balsamic or red wine vinegar, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and give it a good stir, occasionally squashing some of the tomatoes. The squashing will produce some tomato juice that the garlic bread cubes will soak up.
Add the rocket and garlic bread cubes, stir again.
Divide the salad between two plates, top with mozzarella and finish with an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Balanced Bolognese

One of the biggest misconceptions I come across is that healthy food has to be sad “diet food”. 
Yes, we all benefit from eating a healthier diet but that doesn’t have to be salad. 
The easiest ways to be healthier is just to switch half of a plate of food to veg. The simplicity of everyday meals being transformed with a few humble veg is far less overwhelming than having to devise a complicated new menu.
The net result isn’t just a healthier meal but one that’ll be filling, your entire family is more likely to eat it and you aren’t having to learn to cook anything radically new, you are just upgrading what you already are comfortable with cooking. 
Here is a family classic, the bolognese (or for the purists ragu), but balanced with a few veggies and much better for you. 

Balanced bolognese.JPG

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

For the ragu:
1 large onion , finely chopped
500g good quality beef mince, ideally organic
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
300ml of passata
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

The rest:
60g of pasta of your choice per person, cooked according to packet instructions - this is a lot less than you are likely used to
75g of frozen peas per person
75g of another green veg per person, for example green beans, broccoli or asparagus

To make the ragu, put a large saucepan on a medium-high heat, add the mince and finely chopped onion and cook until the mince is fully browned. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick. Take the pan off the heat, tip it to one side, push the mince to the top and, using a spoon, remove the excess fat that collects at the bottom.
Reduce the heat to medium and put the pan back on the heat . Add the crushed garlic, herbs and bay leaf, stir and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Pour in the chopped tomato and passata, add the mushrooms, reduce the heat a little bit more and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the sauce is thick. Stir every now and then. 
When it’s ready, check the seasoning and season again with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt if needed. 
While the ragu is simmering, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. When it’s nearly done, tip in the greens and peas and bring to the boil. Drain straight away and allow to steam for a few  minutes. 
To serve, divide the pasta and veg between bowls and top with a ladle of the sauce.
Leftovers make a great lunch the next day.