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.

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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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Favourite Five Gluten Free

favorite five

Those of you who follow @spadeforkspoon on Twitter may have noticed an increase in tweets about gluten free cooking over the last few weeks. This is because my son has recently been diagnosed as coeliac and therefore needs to follow a gluten free diet. Adapting meals to fit in with his new dietary requirements has been a bit of a challenge, but we’re getting there. Little Button Diaries asked me to create a Gluten-free Favourite Five for their blog. So, take a look and see what made the final five.

What would be in your favourite five gluten-free dishes?

Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps

Since my son’s diagnosis as coeliac we’ve had to take a look at everything we eat and see how it can fit in with a gluten free diet. With the sun showing a lot more of itself recently, the prospect of a picnic becomes a real one, and one which usually involves a bag of crisps. We don’t eat many crisps, but they kind of have to be involved in a picnic. The trouble is that many crisps seem to not be gluten free, due to different flavourings and being unable to guarantee that no cross-contamination occurs in the factory. As a result, we have a limited source of commercially available crisps (although PomBears are gluten free and were a favourite anyway). This, and the discovery of a rogue beetroot at the allotment when digging last week, led me to the decision to make our own. I can guarantee no cross-contamination; it’s my kitchen.

Vegetable crisps have been around for a while, probably since the mid-19th century when the potato crisp was also popularised, however they have never been a mass market snack. They are however, delicious. They’re also pretty simple to make.

root vegetables

You will need (for the equivalent of a large bag of crisps)
1 beetroot
1 large carrot
1 large parsnip
Oil for frying (I used rape-seed oil, but any mild flavoured oil is good)
Flaked sea salt

First, make sure the vegetables are clean and free of soil on the outside of the skin (they’re best with the skins left on I think). Using a speed peeler, peel thin slices of the vegetables to form the ‘crisps’. You’ll find that the initial peelings are usually a little too small, but as you get further into the vegetable they will become more of a suitable size. Once you’ve got a pile of shaved vegetables; it’s best to remove some of the moisture by placing them on a paper towel and pressing from above with another piece to absorb any liquid. This helps to give you a crisper crisp.

The next stage is to fry the crisps and to do this you need a saucepan of hot oil. I’ve never been a fan of deep frying things, but if you get the oil to a high temperature you don’t tend to get a greasy result; just a crispy one. So, heat some oil to 150ºC and fry the vegetable slices in batches (it’s probably best to leave the beetroot to last as it does give the oil a rosy hue) until lightly golden and crisp, 2 to 5 minutes per batch. When the crisps are crisp, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing excess oil to drain away before placing the chips on a paper towel covered baking tray. Salt the hot crisps immediately and start the next batch of vegetables. Once you’ve fried all the crisps, toss them in a bowl and you’re ready to devour these moreish snacks.

Obviously, this recipe is adaptable. You can use lots of different root vegetables. Celeriac works really well, both as a snack, but also a garnish for soup. Parsnip or Jerusalem artichoke crisps on their own would be an excellent accompaniment to a simply roasted guinea fowl, or a steak. But of course, a bag of these makes a great snack for a picnic.

root vegetable crisps

 

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Ox cheek cottage pie

This recipe came from an idea in the Waitrose Kitchen magazine and the discovery of half a kilo of ox cheeks in the discount section of my local supermarket (£1.78 by the way). I’ve started to look on these shelves on a regular basis. Not necessarily out of necessity, but more out of a desire not to see waste and if I can save money then all the better.

If you have the time (close on four hours), cuts like ox cheek, oxtail and breast of lamb are delicious, frugal and very comforting. The combination of the meat with vegetables from the plot made this dish easily stretch to feed the family with some leftover.

Ox Cheek Cottage Pie

You will need

500g Ox Cheeks
1 finely chopped onion
Stick of celery finely chopped
1 finely chopped leek
1 finely chopped carrot
Small bunch of thyme
1 bay leaf
500g potatoes
Glass of red wine
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Litre of beef stock
Salt and pepper to season
Grated cheese

Start by trimming any large pieces of fat or sinew from the meat and cutting into large chunks, before tossing in seasoned flour. Brown the meat in a little oil and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add the onions, leeks, carrot and celery to the pan and gently cook until soft and the onion is translucent. When the vegetables have softened, add the thyme and the bay leaf, then pour in the wine and allow the alcohol to boil off. Return the browned ox cheeks to the pan and pour in the stock and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Bring the liquid to the boil before placing in a preheated oven (160°C) for three hours. Whilst the meat is cooking peel, boil and mash the potatoes.

After three hours the meat should be super tender and you can pull it apart with a couple of forks. I like to keep a few small pieces, so there is a variety of textures within the meat mix. Construct the cottage pie by putting the meat mix into an ovenproof dish and then topping with mash. Leave some texture on tip, as this helps to get a crispy crust to the mash, and grate a little cheddar or similar cheese over the mash. Place in an oven at (180°C) for 30 minutes, until the top of the mash is browned, then serve with wilted greens (something like the iron rich Cavolo Nero I grow at the plot).

Ox cheek cottage pie