Vegetable Pakoras

One of my favourite Indian foods are pakoras. I love this crispy, spicy, snack. It’s perfect as part of a meal, but equally good as a savoury treat. Eaten all over the Indian subcontinent they are a great way of using up bits of different vegetables, working well with cauliflower, courgettes, onions, potatoes, spinach, chard, aubergine…the list goes on. An added bonus for our family is that they’re inherently gluten free, due to their use of gram flour.

Simple in method, they do however need a few different herbs and spices to achieve the perfect pakora. For some, this would require a trip to the supermarket, or local ethnic shop (or both) to stock up on the necessary ingredients. I love having a range of spices in my cupboard, but sometimes the convenience of a spice mix is a godsend.  When I was recently contacted by Hari Ghotra about her Pakora curry kit, I thought I’d check it out.

The kit comes with all the spices and gram flour combined, and instuctions to make both vegetable and paneer pakora. There’s also a link to a video showing the process involved, but the recipe on the card is clear and easy to follow.  As mentioned before, pakora are very versatile, so I chose to use up a glut of courgettes, as well as some potatoes and onions. I love growing courgettes at the allotment, but if you look away for a moment, they seem  to grow in seconds, so another way to use them up is always handy. The one thing with using courgettes is that they have a lot of liquid in them, so after grating them they need to be squeezed of excess water, before combining them with the rest of the mix. Once your mixture is combined, it needs to be used pretty quickly, dropping spoonfuls into hot oil and frying until golden brown.

For a recipe which includes the spices needed to recreate the mix, see Hari Ghotra’s website, where you’ll also find a rnage of different curry kits and recipes to try. As a handy store cupboard emergency pack, these are pretty good. They certainly make it easy to turn a glut into a tasty, spicy treat.

Roasted Carrot and Cumin Soup with Labneh

With weather a little colder in the last few days, and certainly as a way of warming up after yet another drenching, soup is firmly back on the menu. Our carrots at the allotment have been pretty good this year, but due to the clay soil I only every grow small varieties like Chantenay  and Paris Market. Although this means I have a good amount of carrots, their small size also results in their being eaten up speedily. All this means we don’t have any carrots in storage. However, the other day I was given a load of carrots by a friend, with the mission of turning them into something yummy. My go-to use for a carrot glut is carrot and coriander soup, but we’d had that last week, so an alternative was needed. Roasting the carrots was needed to get the best of their (slightly past their best) flavour, so I added some cumin, onions and garlic when they went in the oven. The resulting spiced carrots made the perfect base for a sweet, spiced warming soup. Topped with cool slightly sharp Labneh it was just what was needed.

You will need

700g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (larger chunks take longer to roast, so vary times accordingly)
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion (chopped into eighths)
Salt & Pepper
2 tsp of cumin seeds (slightly crushed)
drizzle of olive oil
1l good chicken stock
Labneh, freshcoriander and zaatar to serve – I made my own labneh, by straining 450g of yoghurt with a pinch of salt overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Add the chopped carrots, garlic and onions to an oven tray, sprinkle with the cumin, salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss the vegetables to ensure they are all covered in the oil and seasoning. Roast for 30 mins or until partly browned. Once the carrots have started to caramelise, pour them into a saucepan and add 1l stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft and tender. Whizz in the food processor and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serve the hot soup with a spoonful of the labneh (or Greek yoghurt if you want) and a sprinkling of zaatar and fresh chopped coriander.

Autumnal Root Vegetable Salad with Goats Cheese and Lentils

During the spring and summer, there’s not much more I like than to have a fresh salad, using what I can find at the allotment to make a delicious lunch. As the weather cools and the days get shorter (and wetter it seems), my love of the salad is replaced by a desire to eat warm comforting food like jacket potatoes, stews, and soup. However, the root vegetables are often at their best during this period and I’ve become to realise that they are just as good in a salad as a juicy tomato, or crunchy cucumber. When roasted, their inherent sweet earthiness is perfect to team with the slightly bitter leaves of chicory or rocket, providing both a fresh and comforting taste. So today, I’m having an autumnal salad of roasted carrot and beetroot, green lentils and a little goats cheese. Perfect.

roasted veg salad

You will need (for two people)

2 medium sized beetroot chopped into eighths
2 medium carrots, cut into small chunks
1 crisp apple, cored and cut into eighths
1tsp. caraway seed
dash of olive oil
100g Goats cheese

For the lentils
100g green lentils
1 bay leaf
350ml water (or vegetable stock)
A small handful of finely chopped parsley

For the dressing
3tbsp olive oil (I used the drained oil from the roasted vegetables)
1tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 clove of garlic crushed (I used a roasted clove of garlic I put in with the vegetables)
1/4 tbsp honey
pinch of salt and a few twists of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C, then toss the chopped vegetables in a roasting tin with the caraway seeds and olive oil. Roast in the oven until soft and slightly caramelised; depending on the size and variety of your roots they may need different times, I tend to start with the beetroot, add the carrots 10 minutes later, the apples 10 minutes after that. It usually takes 30-40 mins in total.

roasted veg

Meanwhile place the lentils and bay leaf in a saucepan with the stock or water and bring to the boil. Partially covered with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender. Drain away any excess liquid and discard the bay leaf. Season the lentils with a little salt and pepper, before putting to one side.

To make the dressing, just add the dressing ingredients into a jar with a screw-top lid; cap and shake vigorously to emulsify. Pour some dressing into the lentils when they’re still warm, stirring in a small handful of finely chopped parsley as you do.

To serve, combine the dressed lentils with the roasted vegetables and apple. Divide between two plates, top with broken pieces of soft goats cheese. then drizzle with a little more of the dressing.

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How to make Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

GF Pumpkin cup cakesThe pumpkins and squashes we have in the UK almost always end up in delicious savoury dishes, like those mentioned in my Favourite Five recipes, but in the USA and Canada they also have a tradition of using pumpkin in sweets and cakes. Famously this is in the form of pumpkin pie, which interestingly actually originates on this side of the Atlantic, with pumpkin pie recipes being found first in English cookbooks’such as Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1675).  Given our transatlantic cousins’ love of the sweet use of the pumpkin, I thought it was about time I embraced it too. Cupcakes are always a big hit in our family; so, with pumpkins ripened on the allotment, and children (and adults) keen on an after-school snack, I made these Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes.

You will need (makes 24)
Cakes
300g self-raising gluten-free flour
200g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
2tsp mixed spice
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g sultanas
A pinch of salt
4 beaten eggs
180g unsalted butter, melted
zest 1/2 an orange
1 tbsp orange juice
300g pumpkin purée. (I roasted the pumpkin in two halves, then puréed the flesh, and used the leftover purée for soup)

Icing
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
splash of food colouring

Heat your oven to 160°C and prepare the muffin/cupcake tin with paper cupcake wrappers. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add puréed pumpkin.  Beat the eggs and combine with the melted butter, orange zest and juice. Stir the dry ingredients into the dry mix, ensuring that it is thoroughly mixed.  Pour the batter into the muffin tin, leaving a little space for the mixture to rise in the oven. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden and brown, place on a rack, and allow to cool. To make the icing, combine the orange juice and icing sugar to get the desired consistency, then carefully add the colouring, before mixing. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and pipe the cobweb design.

Gluten-free Lemon Ricotta Cake

The other day, I was given a load of ricotta which was going to be thrown out. Its use by date was about to pass and therefore was unable to be sold, but essentially it was fine. Given this ricotta mountain, I set myself the task of turning it into delicious food. Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from the whey left over from the production of other cheeses like mozzarella, hence its name (ricotta literally means “cooked”). It is a versatile cheese, being used in both sweet and savoury dishes, like the traditional Italian Easter pie, Torta Pasqualina. Given the family’s need for a cake this week, and one which could be used as an impromptu pudding too, I decided to start off by making a ricotta cake; not quite a Sicilian Cassata, but a cake of ricotta, eggs, sugar and a little flour.lemon ricotta cake

You will need
150g softened butter
150g granulated sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
1/2 tsp. vanilla paste
3 large eggs, separated
250g ricotta cheese
65g gluten-free plain flour, plus a little for dusting
2 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
Dash of Salt
To Serve:
Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (any berries available and in season)

Preheat oven to 170°C and lightly grease and flour a 20cm spring-form pan.  Beat the butter and sugar, or use the food processer, until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks and ricotta cheese and beat until smooth. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, before beating into the butter mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the tin, then bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool, then top with your selection of seasonal berries.

How to Make Lavender Shortbreads

An English summer afternoon is not a proper summer afternoon without afternoon tea, and afternoon tea is not afternoon tea without shortbread. The sweet biscuit works really well with the addition of a few lavender flowers. The floral notes of the lavender give the classic shortbread a scented twist. Based on the wonderful Mary Berry’s recipe in her timeless Fast Cakes, this is a real teatime treat. lavender

You will need

200g gluten-free plain flour
100g cornflour
200g butter
100g caster sugar
2 tsp. lavender flowers

Heat the oven to 160°C and grease a 20cm round, loose bottom, tin. Cream the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cornflour together and combine with the lavender and the butter and sugar mix.. Knead together and press into the tin, before chilling for half an hour. Place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a pale golden colour. The gluten-free flour results in a paler finish to normal shortbread, so don’t expect a well browned shortbread. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges, leaving the shortbread to cool in the tin. Lift out onto a cooling rack and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Raspberry Friands

We always end up having egg whites left over from cooking. Apart from meringue, which can be used to make a favourite of our family, Eton Mess; I struggle to find uses for these leftover whites. I recently discovered friands; a version of the classic French financier which is popular in the antipodes. These little cakes use almond flour and lightly whipped egg whites to form a delicious sweet morsel, which compliments the acidity of raspberries brilliantly.

raspberry friands and coffee

You will need (makes 24 small friands)
4 egg whites
120ml milk
A dash of Rosewater
60g margarine melted
125g ground almonds
250g cups gluten-free icing sugar
70g gluten-free plain flour
A dash of sunflower oil
150g frozen raspberries
50g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Beat egg whites for 1 minute or so until they are frothy, but not firm. Add the milk to the melted margarine and dash of Rosewater, before combining with egg whites. Fold ground almonds into mix using a wooden spoon, before sifting the icing sugar and flour into the bowl, then gently folding it all together. The less the mixture is moved around at this point, the lighter the friands. Grease a 12-cup mini muffin (or friand )tin with a little oil, then spoon equal amounts into 12 holes. Press 2 raspberries in each friend, so they are covered with mixture and then top with a few flaked almonds.

Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to touch on the centre. Leave in pan for a few minutes before turning friands out onto a wire rack to cool.

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friands and coffee