vegetarian

Ribollita

This substantial Tuscan soup packed with veg, beans, cabbage, bread and olive oil is one of my all-time favourite recipes both to make and eat. Somewhere between a soup and a stew, in Tuscany they typically make it so thick with bread and oil that you can eat it with a fork. It's also one of those dishes that improves with age, so every time you reheat it, you notice that its deliciousness has doubled. It's not supposed to be a fussy soup, however, so whatever vegetables you have at hand are fine to throw in, just make sure you always start with the onion, carrot, celery base and build it from there.

 Ribollita

Ribollita

Serves 4-6

 Ribollita

Ribollita

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 big handfuls of parsley leaves, finely chopped
500g cavolo nero or savoy cabbage, stems removed
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed
600g freshly cooked borlotti and/or cannellini beans or 2 x 400g tins, drained and rinsed
2 big handfuls of stale sourdough or ciabatta bread, crusts removed
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

In a deep, heavy pan over a medium-low heat, warm the oil and add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and half the parsley and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until the veg is completely soft and sweet.

Meanwhile, bring a deep pan filled with plenty of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage until tender, then take off the heat (don't drain).

Stir the tomatoes into the veg, breaking them up with your spoon as they go in, and a big splash of cabbage cooking water and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Add the beans (and any cooking water if cooked from fresh) and cook for a further few minutes. Using a stick blender, puree approximately a third of the mix while still in the pan to thicken it up.

Scoop in the cabbage and rip in the bread, then pour over enough cabbage water to just cover the veg. Season, then bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer for 20-30 minutes until you have a rich, thick soup. Stir in the parsley and drizzle each portion with plenty of nice olive oil. Keeps for a week and will just get better and better.
 

Imam bayildi

Roughly translated as the imam swooned, this Turkish aubergine dish is said to have been so rich and swimming in oil, that the imam couldn't quite stay on his feet upon tasting it. I'm yet to have this reaction, but it's a great dish particularly if you seek something meaty and substantial that is actually meat-free (and gluten and dairy-free for that matter). Aubergines are wonderful carriers of flavour, in this instance, a warmly-spiced tomato sauce that sinks into the aubergine to create a dish with the silkiest texture an imam could ever ask for. There are many, many ways to make the dish, but this is mine. 

 Imam bayildi

Imam bayildi

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

Olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish chilli flakes (or a pinch of regular chilli flakes)
3 x 400g tins plums tomatoes, drained and rinsed of their gunk
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
4 large aubergines
Olive oil
A small handful each of mint, parsley and dill leaves, roughly chopped

Make the tomato sauce first. Warm up a generous splash of oil in a deep pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and a pinch of salt and fry gently for 15 minutes until completely soft. Stir in the allspice, paprika and chilli, and fry for a further minute. 

Add rinsed tomatoes, crushing them with the back of your spoon. Throw in the bay leaves, cinnamon and a splash of water and leave the sauce to simmer gently for 45 minutes until reduced and deliciously sweet.

Meanwhile, slice the aubergines into eighths lengthways. This bit involves quite a lot of olive oil, so brace yourself....

In your largest frying pan, pour in enough oil to generously coat the bottom. Add as many pieces of aubergine as you can without crowding them and fry on all sides until golden brown, adding more oil when you can see that the pan is drying up. The aubergine will absorb the oil like a sponge, but rest assured this only makes the dish taste more luxurious. Keep going  with the aubergine until all pieces are golden and softened, but still holding their shape. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Taste the tomato sauce and add salt and pepper to taste, and add a little more chilli or paprika if you feel it needs in, then stir in the molasses and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon.

Layer up the sauce and aubergines in a deep oven dish. Finish with a layer of tomato, then cover with foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes, removing the foil for the final 10 minutes. Check that it's done by inserting a table knife - it should slip right through the layers. You want the aubergine to be completely soft and falling apart. Serve immediately sprinkled with the herbs, or leave to cool to room temperature if you prefer. If you don't have to be dairy free, try serving it with garlic yoghurt or with feta crumbled over while still warm. Is even better the day after,

 

Cider turnips

At this time of year we often find ourselves with an abundance of some things, and a deficiency of others. Unfortunately, the abundant things are not always the most appealing: in my case, thanks to my weekly vegetable box delivery, I have an excess of root vegetables - specifically celeriac and turnips - and a deficit of money.

For occasions like this, it's incredibly important to have a stash of handy recipes that can turn the unenviable abundance of root vegetables into a show-stopping meal. In this recipe, by effectively making a confit of turnips with cider and maple syrup, we are turning a vegetable often seen as no better than animal feed into a vegetable dish worthy of a starring role. It is, in fact, one of the most addictive ways with vegetables I have ever come across. 

 Turnips and their tops, cooked in cider

Turnips and their tops, cooked in cider

Serves 4
1kg turnips (8-10 golf ball sized), halved
All the turnip leaves from the bunch
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
200ml cider
2 sage leaves, torn

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.

Place an ovenproof saucepan over a medium-high heat and when hot, add your olive oil. Add the turnips, cut-side down, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, without moving, for 4- 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Add the butter, maple syrup, cider and sage to the pan and cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes. Place the pan in the oven and leave to cook for 45-50 minutes until the cider and maple syrup have disappeared and you're left with a unctuous glaze around the turnips. 

Remove the pan from the oven and, off the heat, add your turnip tops to the hot pan. Gently fold the turnip tops though the turnips and the cooking liquor until the tops are wilted and everything is a tangle in the pan. Check the seasoning, perhaps adding a crunch more black pepper, and serve. 

This is delicious served on top of buttered toasted bread, or equally as a side with a pork chop or a piece of white fish.

Marinated Artichokes

Artichokes can be pretty hard to come by, so whenever we're lucky enough to encounter them, we buy as many as we can afford and take them home to preserve them. Marinating them in oil, herbs and chilli infuses them with flavour, preparing them to throw into salads, to eat with mozzarella or prosciutto as antipasti or to mix through pasta. They work with many different flavours, so throw in whatever you wish - thyme, rosemary, bay and sage are all brilliant. Marinating works best with the small purple or spikey artichokes from Italy as their outer leaves aren't as delicious as those of the globe artichoke.

They're notoriously laborious to prepare so you'll need to give yourself a little time, but once you get the technique mastered, you'll find yourself whizzing through them. 

Marinated Artichokes

 

Fills an approx. 500ml jar

 Violetta artichokes

Violetta artichokes

6 small violetta or spikey artichokes
1 lemon
1 red chilli
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 small bunch parsley
1 bay leaf
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 x 500ml sterilised jar

Prepare a bowl of cold water with a lemon squeezed into it to prepare the artichokes from browning. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichoke, stopping when you come to the tender, yellow leaves. Slice away the top third and lightly peel the artichoke base and stem. Slice in half or quarters lengthways before scooping out the hairy core with a teaspoon. Place them in the acidulated water until ready to use.

Drain the artichokes, then place in a a deep pan and cover with fresh water and throw in the chilli, garlic, parsley, bay, fennel seeds, peppercorns, 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to the boil, then cover with cartouche (a circle of baking paper) to keep the artichokes submerged, and turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes until tender. They're ready when you can easily pierce with a the tip of a sharp knife. Leave to cool in the water.

Drain, then eat immediately or transfer to a sterilised jar along with the garlic, chilli and bay and cover with olive oil. Will keep in fridge for up to 4 weeks.
 

 Marinated artichokes

Marinated artichokes

Baked sweet potato and carrot samosas

These delightful little triangles of joy were inspired by our good friend Meera Sodha. We had to make trays of her perfect little samosas for the photoshoot for her new book, and it served to remind us how easy and how delicious a freshly baked samosa can be. Once you've made a tray of these, you will never want to touch a soggy, greasy supermarket samosa again. The clever thing about the samosa is that, once perfected, by tweaking the vegetables you put in your filling, you can keep these cheap and seasonal all year round. If the idea of folding samosas terrifies you, watch a couple of samosa-related YouTube videos and you will see just how easy it is. 

Makes 9 samosas

2 tsp vegetable oil
10 curry leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2cm ginger, grated
2 small green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 bunch spring onions, chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
150ml water
100g butter, melted
500g filo pastry
Chopped coriander, to serve

Preheat the oven 180C/350F/gas 4 and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat and warm up the oil. When hot, add the curry leaves to the pan, and, once they have crackled and turned translucent, add the garlic, ginger and green chilli and spring onion and cook until the garlic starts to colour. Add the chilli powder, garam masala and allow the spices to cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add the sweet potato and carrots and a pinch of salt, then allow them to cook in the mixture for a couple of minutes, then add the water and put a lid on the pan and leave to cook for 10-12 minutes, checking occasionally that the mixture isn’t catching on the bottom of the pan. Add a little more water if the mixture appears too dry. 

Once the the carrots and sweet potato are just soft, remove from the pan and allow to cool. 

When the filling is cool, lay a sheet of filo pastry, (keep the other sheets covered under a damp tea towel as they will dry out quickly) on a clean flat surface. Brush with melted butter and lay another sheet on top. Cut the filo into three equal strips, roughly 10cm x 25cm. 

Place a spoonful of the filling in the corner of each strip. Fold the pastry over the filling to make a triangle-shaped parcel. Keep folding the parcel into triangles until all the sides are sealed and the strip is all used up. Brush the final edge with melted butter to seal it. Brush the finished samosa with melted butter and place on the baking tray ready to be cooked. Repeat the process until all the filling has been made into samosas. 

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning over once to cook both sides. Serve the samosas hot or cold accompanied by a chutney of your choice.

Chilled beetroot soup

We have arrived at yet another exciting juncture in the seasonal eating calendar. Whilst we still have long evenings and the warmth of air associated with a beautiful British summer, the ground is starting to give up some early autumnal treats. 

When we get the first small beets of the season, there's nothing better at capturing the natural sweetness of beetroots than this chilled soup. It's the perfect start to an evening meal, or can be a wonderful midweek lunch with some toasted sourdough, a swipe of garlic and oil and a crunch of sea salt. Don't forget to keep the leaves and treat them as you would spinach.

Serves 4-6

8-10 young red beetroots, scrubbed
1 medium cucumber, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
200g creme fraiche, plus extra, to serve

Place the beets in a saucepan, with enough water to just cover, and add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.

Remove the beets from the cooking liquor, allow to cool slightly, and squeeze off the skins. 

Strain the beetroot cooking liquid to remove any dirt. 

Place the peeled beets in a blender and add the cucumber, the grated horseradish, spring onions and a few crunches of black pepper. Start to blend whilst slowly adding the beetroot cooking liquid. Keep adding until you have a smooth soup with the consistency of double cream. 

At this point, add the creme fraiche to the blender and pulse a few times to loosely incorporate it. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt and pepper if necessary. 

Decant into a container and chill in the fridge until you're ready to eat.

Serve with a little more creme fraiche and a final crunch of black pepper.

Aubergine Curry

A really easy vegetarian dish that works perfectly alongside a few other curries.

 Aubergine Curry

Aubergine Curry

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
A large pinch cumin seeds, lightly toasted
A small pinch fennel seeds
A small pinch coriander seeds
1 large pinch dried chilli flakes/chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 red onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1kg small round aubergines (or 2 large purple aubergines cut into large chunks)
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked

Start by placing a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat and warming the oil. When it is warm, start to crackle your spices in the oil. Be careful not to get the oil too hot, and as soon you start to get wafts of the fragrance of the spices throw in your onions, a large pinch of salt and finally your sliced garlic. Once you have some heat in the onions turn the heat right down and sweat slowly for 20 minutes. This will give you  depth of flavour and sweetness in your sauce. 

Once the onions are on the verge of collapse, add the tin of tomatoes and leave to simmer away and slightly reduce until it has become thick and rich, about 20 minutes. Add a splash of water if it looks like it may be drying out.

At this point, add your aubergines and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to low, pop on a lid and leave to steam for 10-20 minutes until the aubergines are just soft and cooked through. At this point check your seasoning and adjust if need be (you may like to add a squeeze of lemon at this point, just to cut through the richness) and stir through coriander. Serve with rice or  a wholemeal flatbread.