Take One Veg

Life feels full at the moment. It’s a blur of slow, precious moments and far faster, caffeine fuelled days.  

Yesterday after a morning of chaos, my boys were both sleeping and an unexpected delivery made me smile; ten copies of my new book. They were there, looking professional and finished, the punctuation mark at the end of an 18 month chapter.

Take One Veg is a collection of vegetarian recipes. The book has six chapters, each divided into clusters of different varieties, loosely based on scientific families. Like all plants, every vegetable we eat is part of a specific plant family, there are nine major groups ranging from the strident Brassicaceae (think all things cabbage-like) to the Cucurbitaceae (an umbrella term for the marrow clan). Each of the recipes has a ‘star of the show’, a lead vegetable that the other ingredients will follow. Some will feel very familiar; the cosy recognisable carrot while others may not, the lime green, Romanesco cauliflower.
I included a variety of recipes, big beefy winter warmers, summer salads and a few sweets to suit occasions throughout your year.
Writing the book was a journey. There were many moments when I metaphorically sped along the costal roads, not another car in sight and loved the experience. There were other times that I needed guidance and support. But here we are, publication day on the 5th March and it feels amazing to have a copy in my hand. Spring dawns and I have a renewed bounce in my step.

The book is now available to buy in Waterstones and Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Take-One-Veg-tempting-recipes/dp/0857832336)


Proper Gluten Free Chocolate & Coffee Cake

My friend dave has been a little inspiration to us. A qualified doctor who was both frustrated and tired of the NHS has taken a major sabbatical. He moved out of his home (into our top floor), sold his furniture and decided to take stock on life. He indulged his coffee obsession by painstakingly learning how to perfect a flat white at a local coffee house. He watched movies about coffee. He started to make friends with serious barrista's. He read books on coffee and created recipes with coffee. 

This is his cake. 

For now, he's left us and gone to explore another culture. I admire his bravery and the space he gives his mind to wonder, I should like to do the same. 

Flourless Chocolate & Coffee Cake

200g Almonds
200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
175g butter 
70g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated 
25ml very strong espresso 

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees and grease and line a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Blitz the almonds in a food processor until just finely ground – don’t over-pulse as they will start to become sticky.
Melt the dark chocolate and butter together with the espresso in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until thick and pale – about 5 minutes with a handheld electric whisk.
Fold the chocolate mixture in to the egg and sugar mixture and then fold in the ground nuts.
In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites in to stiff peaks and then fold this in to the cake mixture.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If you prefer a gooey chocolate pudding then remove 5 minutes beforehand for a slightly undercooked feel.


Rooftop Cafe, London Bridge

There is something satisfying about simply finding the Rooftop Cafe. You enter through a rather unlikely forecourt, make your way up winding stairs and follow skinny corridors until the entrance arrives.  The former caretaker's office now houses an open kitchen, two separate dining area's and a phenomenal view. The interior is all plywood, citrus colours and benches with a terrace that houses herbs and vegetables in warmer months; it's fun. 

The menu changes daily with just four starters, five mains and four puddings. Like the interior, it's similarly stripped back. The breakfasts are generous and unfussy, the coffee is good and the bill isn't terrifying. 

For me, it's ideal. It's practically on the forecourt of London Bridge Station and so an easy one for a Brighton/London meet up, just over an hour from door to forecourt so there's no excuse not to. Even with a baby in tow. 



Sticky Date & Banana Cake (Sugar Free & Dairy Free)

I’ve been set a challenge, a challenging challenge, but I will tell you about that in one moment. Before I do, did you know that now one in four of us are actively trying to avoid gluten and/or dairy? A few years ago the ‘dairy free’ aisle was the domain only of those diagnosed medically as lactose intolerant, but now many are indulging in the perceived health benefits. 

A friend who is lactose intolerant asked me to develop a cake that was dairy-free and sugar-free but wasn’t dry, wasn’t tasteless and didn’t ‘lack luster’. The task has been completed and I think the result is totally yummy. The loaf cake uses date syrup for the sugar hit (though you can replace with agave syrup), almond milk instead of eggs and all bran for a low gluten count. The method couldn’t be easier, the texture is squidgy and the taste, almost treacle like. Try it and let me know what you think.

(Sugar free, gluten free and dairy free)

Makes 1 loaf cake

150g All Bran
2 ripe banana’s (200g), mashed
300ml almond milk
200ml date syrup (or agave)
200g dried dates, roughly chopped
100g gluten free flour

1/ Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin and set aside.
2/ This is the easy bit. Empty all the ingredients, except the flour, into a medium sized mixing bowl. Gently combine and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
3/ Stir through the flour and empty the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Cook for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve in slices.


Cavolo nero, Mackerel & Olive with Brown Rice Pasta

Often I can't decide what to eat. I head to the shops and let the produce dictate my lunch, pointing me towards what's seasonal and what's plentiful. 

Greeting me yesterday were bunches of Cavolo nero, the glamorous sounding cabbage that is robust in flavour as well as texture. I bought a bag of brown rice pasta, so much lighter than its wheat counterpart, and a tin of mackerel. This was going to be a health tonic of a lunch.  

I roasted the tomatoes with good quality olive oil, garlic and plenty of black pepper before slightly mashing them. The pasta and cavolo nero were cooked together for no longer than six minutes before being tossed with roasted tomatoes, salty olives and mackerel. Healthy comfort food at its highest level. 


Chicken pilaf with wholegrain rice, pommogranate, mint and lemon

Over the last three weeks we've experienced beautiful kindness and generosity. Friends have been quick to drop off food parcels, scoop up tired boys or donate a caffeine hit to sleep deprived parents. We've sat by the fireside, eaten like kings and felt so grateful.

As we begin to see the light dawn on our second month, we are learning to embrace life on our own without quite so much assistance.  My first supermarket shop and my first recipe happened on the same day and it felt good to cook again, so good.

I made a simple, all in one pilaf with roasted chicken, spices, herbs and brown rice. It's an easy recipe, it had to be, and one that was fragrant yet filling. Just what was needed. 


Serves 4 

4 large, bone in, chicken thighs
2 tsp. Chinese five spice
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 red onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
5 cardamom pods, bashed
2 star anise
250g/9oz brown rice
750ml/1 ¼ pints  hot vegetable stock
4 tbsp. almonds, toasted
25g/1oz mint, roughly chopped
25g/1oz parsley, roughly chopped
Grated zest and juice of a lemon

Seeds of 1 small pomegranate

1 Preheat the oven to 200C, fan 180, gas mark 6. Place the chicken thighs on a baking tray and sprinkle over the five spices. Drizzle over 1 tbsp. olive oil and roast for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
2 Meanwhile heat the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and gently sauté for 10-12 minutes until soft and starting to caramelise. Stir though the garlic, cardamom pods and star anise and cook for a further minute. Add the rice and stir well.
3 Pour over the hot stock and bring the pot to the boil them simmer gently, covered, for 25-30 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
4 Once the chicken is cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and finely slice. Add to the rice, with any remaining juices, and season with salt and pepper.

5 Stir through half of the mint and parsley. Serve, topped with the remaining herbs, pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds, lemon juice and zest.