Green vegeree

As I get older, I am definitely becoming a less fussy eater. Things I used to once hate have been tentatively embraced into my kitchen as I discover new ways of cooking that are too good to resist. Courgetti persuaded me to get on board with courgettes (although never as a permanent substitute for spaghetti, I’m not crazy). Shakshuka helped me embrace red peppers, squeaky texture and all. Certain foods remain strongly disliked – any conversion ideas welcome! – so blue cheese, walnuts and mushrooms are yet to make it on to any plate of mine. Smoky flavours are also hit and miss with me, hence why I had never made a traditional kedgeree with smoked haddock before. When I saw this idea in Waitrose magazine, swapping fish for veg, I was hooked!

vegeree

The basic idea of a kedgeree had certainly always appealed. Spicy rice, perfectly cooked oozing eggs – it all sounded like an ideal brunch or easy dinner. Like I say, this vegeree keeps all those vital elements whilst simply subbing in some hearty spinach instead of fish. This could also be adapted further by swapping the spinach for kale, cavolo nero or chard. I also loved the crunch of the salty cashew nuts on top, balancing the rich egg yolk perfectly. I’ll admit I often struggle to cook rice perfectly in this way and always find it hard to get dry, fluffy rice without burning the bottom or crunching on raw grains! For this recipe, I think it is okay to err on the more liquid side to prevent these issues and ensure fully cooked rice as there are enough other ingredients to balance a softer texture.

Green vegeree

Serves 3-4, recipe adapted from here.

  • Oil
  • 1 onion
  • 300g basmati rice
  • 2tsp curry powder
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • handful toasted cashew nuts

Add the onion and oil to a large pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Meanwhile, rinse the rice until the water runs clear.

Stir the curry powder into the onion, cook for 1 minute, then add the drained rice and stock. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stir, then simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, simmer the eggs in a separate pan of boiling water for 6-7 minutes. Cool briefly in cold water, then peel and halve.

After 10 minutes, stir the spinach through the rice. Season generously, re-cover the pan, then turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and top with the halved eggs and cashew nuts.

Spinach and feta filo pie

Travelling always has an influence on what I’m cooking. It’s inevitable really – you go on holiday, have fabulous meals in fabulous sunny places and want to recreate some of those good memories back home. After visiting Tresco, I craved fresh crab – a tricky thing to source in London. When my Mum came home from two weeks in Italy we were treated to lemony pasta dishes and affogato. My biggest influence this summer was going to the Greek island of Symi and eating daily spanakopita (spinach and feta filo pie) on the beach for lunch. Picked up from the harbour bakery before hopping on the boat in the morning, my sister and I carefully guarded it until lunchtime – even fending off goats sniffing around our sun loungers on one beach! It made the perfect lunch in the sunshine once you were ravenous from a morning of swimming. Once home, I knew this was a dish I wanted to continue having.

Spinach and feta filo pie

Spanakopita is a very simple filo pie stuffed with spinach, feta and a sprinkling of nutmeg. The ones I ate in Symi were individually coiled into swirls like a pain au chocolat, giving a delicious contrast between crispy outsides and buttery soft centres. I kept it simple when recreating this at home and made one big pie. Of course, eating it in London in October doesn’t have quite the same charm as on a beach in August. However, even though my tan has faded and my summer clothes are folded away, this can transport me temporarily back to Symi beaches.

Spinach and feta filo pie

  • 150g butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g spinach leaves
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g feta
  • pack of filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Melt 50g of the butter in a medium saucepan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan. Cook over a medium pan for 10 minutes until golden and completely soft. Crush the garlic into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the spinach, stir into the onion and cover with a lid. Cook for five minutes until the spinach is wilted down. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Grate in the nutmeg and crumble in the feta. Add the beaten eggs and stir so everything is fully combined.

Melt the remaining 100g butter in a small saucepan. Take a sheet of the filo and brush liberally with butter. Lay butter side down into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and up the sides. Repeat with 3-4 sheets of filo, buttering each one, until the tin is fully covered and there is an even layer. Scrape in the spinach filling. Butter more filo sheets and lay over the top, encasing the filling. Brush the top with butter.

Bake in the oven for 30minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Florentine Pizza

One of the headlines on the October issue of Cosmo recently read ‘Asos, Uber, Deliveroo – can you afford your lifestyle?’ Never has a headline felt so targeted towards me – I was pretty sure they’d had a sneaky look at my bank account. Deliveroo is dangerously addictive. You do it once as a treat, after a particularly stressful or exhausting day that leaves you craving Byron but with no desire to head back outside into a cold October night. After that first time, you remember how easy it was and how quickly the food came and it takes a lot of resistance to prevent it becoming a habit. The particularly tempting point for me came when a nearby Five Guys was added to the list of my local ordering options. But, as Cosmo was trying to remind me, takeaways are also annoyingly expensive and unhealthy, so it was time to try making my own.

Florentine pizza

My issue with cooking burgers at home is not only the struggle to get them to match up to a Five Guys offering, but also the inherent leftovers that come from inevitably buying a four pack of burger buns or large packet of mince. Pizza at home seemed like the way to go instead. This version is not completely cheat free, but it is so worth it and still feels more virtuous than a Dominos. My sneaky trick for making this extra delicious is using a garlic bread base instead of a plain pizza dough. These are usually nicer quality than plain bases from the supermarket anyway, but also that hidden layer of garlic butter adds so much more flavour. This makes more tomato sauce  than you need, but that just means there is enough for another non Deliveroo evening!

Florentine Pizza

Serves 1, generously!

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2tsp dried thyme
  • 1 round garlic bread base
  • 60g of cheddar, grated
  • large handful of baby spinach
  • 1 egg
  • large handful of rocket

Add a glug of oil and the diced onion to a medium saucepan. Heat over a medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic clove and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and thyme and simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened.

Preheat the oven to 220’C and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat through. Spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce over the garlic bread. Top with the spinach and grated cheese. Bake for 8 minutes to allow the bread to begin to get crispy. Remove from the oven and carefully crack the egg into the centre of the pizza. Return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Remove from the oven and top with rocket. Enjoy!

Giant veggie samosas

Being a Cambridge student leads to a lot of questions when I get home. ‘Is everyone incredibly posh? Do you know anybody related to a Lord or Earl? Did everyone go to Eton?’ My answer to all these is, perhaps disappointingly, no. I found myself getting slightly swept up in the Cambridge bubble though when I exclaimed in Cambridge, ‘Oh, this Sainsbury’s doesn’t have any filo!’ Happily, my very #firstworldproblem must have been heard by the Sainsbury’s gods as a few weeks later there it was alongside the puff and shortcrust.

Giant veggie samosas

My initial plan had been for a spinach and filo pie, but that had long been made at home and gone by the time this filo was found. Samosas were the main result of a brief ‘filo recipe’ Google, but I was sceptical that with my highly limited store cupboard ingredients they would turn out bland. Luckily, I gave them a go anyway and I was so pleasantly surprised! It turns out a generous hand with the curry powder can bypass the myriad range of spices and herbs that would normally provide some complexity of flavour. These proved highly therapeutic to make due to the repetitive buttering and folding of pastry, and highly addictive to eat!

Giant veggie samosas

Makes 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 100g butternut squash, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 handfuls of peas
  • 1 heaped tbsp. of medium curry powder
  • 75g butter
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • nigella seeds, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a drizzle of oil until soft. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and cook until cooked through, adding a splash of water to stop them sticking and stirring regularly, around 10-15min. Add the remaining veg and curry powder and cook until the peas are cooked through and the spinach wilted. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Melt the butter in a mug in the microwave. Unroll the filo, keeping the pastry you are not working with covered to prevent it drying out. Take one sheet of filo, lay it flat and brush with melted butter. Fold in one third of the pastry lengthways towards the middle. Brush again with the butter and fold in the other side to make a long triple-layered strip.

Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip, leaving a 2cm/1in border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Next, fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Finally, brush the samosa with more butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the samosas are golden and crisp,

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

My cooking at university tends to be largely one pot meals – casseroles, salads, pasta bakes. The sort of food you fill a bowl with and you are done. But as much as I enjoy the simplicity and minimal washing up of this style of cooking, every now and then a gal craves something fancier. Sometimes, the week just demands splurging on Parma ham in Waitrose and the posh vine tomatoes in Sainsbury’s and treating yourself (and no one else) to a proper dinner. The sort of food that looks like it came from one of those restaurant menus where all the dishes are just a list of ingredients. It’s still simple, but it is the sort of multi-element food that requires a proper plate and sitting at a table (or desk) instead of sofa (or bed). Who says cooking for one has to be boring?

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

This makes enough for two, but the second chicken breast and half of the lentils work just as well reheated a few days later for when you next need a proper meal. Recipe adapted from here.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • 1 packet of vine tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 250g sachet of ready-cooked lentils
  • handful of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 190’C. Wrap each chicken breast in a slice of Parma ham, placing the join of ham on the base of the chicken. Place on a lined baking tray, alongside two branches of tomatoes. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and cook in a saucepan on a gentle heat in a large glug of oil until soft and just beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic, add to the saucepan and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and a further glug of olive oil to loosen the mixture. Stir for a few minutes to heat the lentils through. Tip in the handful of baby spinach and stir until just wilted.

To serve, spoon the spinach lentils on to a plate. Top with slices of the chicken breast, and add a vine of roasted tomatoes. Eat, enjoy, and bask in your classiness.