Roast carrot, puy lentil and feta salad

When I left home and started university at Cambridge, I knew I would miss my home kitchen. Filled to the brim with every grain, spice, flour and baking ingredient you could need, it was a stark contrast to my empty cupboards on arrival in college. However, lacking a stocked store cupboard also proved to be refreshing – I was able to start from scratch and build stores of all just my favourites instead of the whole families. Goodbye Marmite and teabags, hello Dairy Milk and three types of pasta. Also hello to precooked pouches of lentils – a new discovery at uni and a rapid must have. I steered clear of cooking lentils much before these; lacking the patience to stir a cooking pan of lentils from scratch only for them to end up disappointingly mushy. With these pouches (Merchant Gourmet are the easiest to get hold of) however, healthy lentil lunches were suddenly only minutes away.

Roast carrot, lentil, feta salad

This is a perfect example of a healthy lunchtime salad that is still really filling and won’t leave you reaching for the Hobnobs by 3pm. The flavours give you a little bit of everything – earthy lentils, salty feta and sweetness from the roast carrots. Butternut squash or sweet potato would also work well in place of carrots, or even alongside them for a gorgeous orange veg medley.

Roast carrot, puy lentil and feta salad

Serves 2

  • 3 large carrots
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 250g pouch ready cooked lentils
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ lemon
  • 100g feta

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Peel the carrots and cut into sticks around 7cm long and 1cm wide. Toss in 2tbsp of the olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking tray with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender and caramelised.

Meanwhile, finely slice the red onion, juice the half lemon and crumble the feta.

Microwave the lentils in the pouch according to packet instructions. Tip into a bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients, remaining olive oil, large pinch of salt and generous grinding of pepper. Serve warm and enjoy.

Creamy lemon courgette risotto

Last night I was woken up three times by crazy thunderstorms. Huge flashes of lightning, followed by counting the seconds until the seemingly endless rumble of thunder breaks, the rain persistently pounding the roof. Not exactly ideal July weather. Good for the garden, maybe, but not for maintaining a holiday tan. It also causes a dilemma for summer cooking – despite it being late July, torrential rain does not call for summer salads.

Courgette and lemon risotto

This summer risotto is the answer. It’s hearty enough to suit the weather, but with fresh flavours and a way to use up some of the courgette glut that regularly occurs at this time of year. The swirl of crème fraiche at the end is entirely optional but I love it for making this extra creamy and luxurious, balanced perfectly by the crunchy pine nut sprinkling. Time to curl up with a big bowl, listen to the rain and cross your fingers for sunshine soon.

Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

  • 1 onion
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 litres warm chicken stock
  • 3tbsps pine nuts
  • knob of butter
  • 2tbsp crème fraiche
  • parmesan, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of oil until softened. Coarsely grate 2 of the courgettes and add to the onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook out.

Pour in the risotto rice and stir to coat in the onion and courgettes. Next, add the lemon zest and juice. Once the rice has absorbed the lemon juice, begin adding the chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Stir the risotto regularly and once it has absorbed each ladle of liquid, add the next one.

Meanwhile, finely dice the remaining courgette. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the courgettes and fry over a high heat until the courgettes are beginning to go brown and crispy. Add the pine nuts and fry for a further 2-3 minutes until golden.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is al dente (about 20-25 minutes), stir through the crème fraiche into the risotto. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the crispy courgette and pine nuts, and a sprinkling of parmesan.

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,

Tortellini minestrone

Tortellini is the easiest last minute meal. I’m known for being so busy doing something I delay and delay cooking dinner, until suddenly it is 9pm and I’m totally ravenous. At that point, the thought of having a filling meal ready in essentially the time it takes to boil the kettle is highly appealing. However, on days when I remember to begin cooking before I reach that stage, this dish is the perfect way to sneak some extra veg into a simple pasta dinner.

tortellini minestrone

I’m not a huge fan of regular vegetable minestrone – something about it feels slightly too virtuous for me to enjoy without spoiling its effect with a heap of parmesan on top. The addition of tortellini therefore bulks it out to be a more filling meal and distract from all that veg. The recipe is highly flexible to whatever you have languishing in the fridge – red peppers, some butternut squash or even diced aubergine would all fit in nicely here.

Tortellini minestrone

  • 1 onion
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • one clove of garlic
  • half tin of tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • handful of green beans
  • large handful of spinach
  • half a packet of spinach and ricotta tortellini

Finely dice the onion, carrot and courgette. Sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Crush the garlic, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes and stock and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly. Add the green beans and simmer for a further five minutes. Add the spinach and tortellini and cook for 2 more minutes. Finally, ladle into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

Couscous-stuffed Red Peppers

Over the course of this term I have realised that cucumber, tomatoes and feta are approaching Holy Trinity ingredients for me. They pop up in my cooking together time and time again: in pastas, in couscous, accompanying salmon or chicken. They are my go to staples to flavour a salad and make a side dish more flavourful than just leaves. Lemon juice and olive oil are never far behind. They make me feel healthy without being too in my face and I always have them in my fridge, just in case. Today I wanted to try something slightly different then a regular salad – so I took my standard couscous and popped it in a pepper. Super simple, only takes five minutes longer than making the couscous itself and adds an extra portion of veg into my lunch (two if you serve it with green beans like I did). I’m not always a fan of red peppers (something about their squeaky texture) but cooking them like this keeps them super juicy and, well, plenty of feta can help just about anything. Enjoy!

Couscous stuffed red peppers

Couscous-stuffed peppers

  • 2 red peppers
  • 100g couscous
  • 3tbsps olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g feta
  • 10cm cucumber
  • ½ red onion
  • small handful of basil

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Half the peppers and deseed, keeping the stalks intact for presentation if you like. Place on a microwaveable plate and microwave for 5 minutes until beginning to soften.

Meanwhile, place the couscous in a large bowl and just cover with boiling water. Place a lid or plate on top and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes until the couscous is fluffy and absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Add the remaining ingredients, mix to combine and season generously.

Lightly oil a baking tray and place the peppers on it. Fill each half of the peppers generously with the couscous. Bake for 5-10 minutes until the peppers are fully soft and the couscous is just beginning to go golden. Serve warm.

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Before university, I used to cook or bake at home on average once a week. This gave me plenty of time all week to decide what I was going to cook and wait for inspiration to strike. It might be a recipe I read, an advert that made me crave something, watching an episode of Everyday Mary Berry. Now that I cook for myself every day, its pretty easy to run out of inspiration. My ideas tend to come from trawling through BBC Good Food or Delicious magazine until I spot something to work from. Or, in the case of this casserole, my friend kept mentioning she was having sausages for her tea. This made me crave sausages, which made me look in my fridge and see what needed using up that I could cook with them. And so a sausage, kale and tomato casserole (with a few peas thrown in for good measure) was born.

Sausage and tomato casserole

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Serves 3

I prefer to roast my sausages and add them to the casserole at the end, rather than fry them in the casserole dish at the beginning. Frying them probably adds extra depth of flavour, but I can’t be faffed with turning a spitting sausage for 15 minutes and hoping it cooks all the way through and doesn’t just char on the outside. If you are a more patient soul than me, try frying them first, removing whilst you cook the onion and then returning to the pan before the tomatoes and chicken stock.

  • 6 sausages
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 100g peas
  • 200g baby kale
  • sprinkling of thyme

Preheat the oven to 220’C. Line a baking tray with foil, add the sausages and roast for 20-25minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion. Cook in a large saucepan in a glug of oil over a gentle heat until soft and beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic clove, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 10-15minutes until thickened and reduced slightly.

Add the peas, baby kale and cooked sausages. Stir to heat everything through. Serve and enjoy!

Tomato, courgette and pesto tarts

I have a thing for puff pastry. Covering a creamy chicken pie, twisted into cheese straws, folded over fruit to make a freeform galette, twisted with cinnamon sugar into tightly swirled palmiers – I’ll take them all please. This recipe therefore marks my continued quest to incorporate pastry into my diet in a way that isn’t completely over indulgent and unhealthy.

tomato, courgette and pesto tarts

These tarts are one of the simplest ways to get some flaky, buttery puff pastry into my diet whilst simultaneously getting some vegetables. It’s also really good for getting vegetables to stretch frugally far – just one courgette and three tomatoes make six tarts. These can either feed a crowd or, if you’re a student like me cooking for one, be stored in Tupperware and reheated for 5-10 minutes in the oven every day for a speedy hot lunch that isn’t a toasted bagel.

Tomato, courgette and pesto tarts

  • 1 package of ready rolled puff pastry
  • ½ tub of pesto
  • 1 courgette
  • 3 large tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 190’C. Unroll the pastry. Cut it in half horizontally, and into thirds vertically, giving you six even squares of pastry. Spread these out on two lined baking trays. Use a sharp knife to score a 1cm border around the edge of each square – do not cut all the way through.

Spread the pesto into the middle of each tart, right up to the border. Thinly slice the courgette and tomatoes. Lay over the pesto in alternating rows, creating whatever patterns you like.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is risen, golden, and crisp on the base.

Roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and pomegranate salad

I struggle with salad inspiration. I could give you cookie recipe ideas for days, but after a few salads I’ll start to struggle. After all, there are only so many things you can do with couscous. That’s why despite admittedly an element of scepticism, I was intrigued when I began seeing cauliflower becoming trendy again and popping up in salads everywhere.

Roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and pomegranate salad

I associate cauliflower with roast dinners at my Granny’s house, where it was certainly not grated and mixed with pomegranate. I never even knew you could eat cauliflower raw until recently and I was intrigued. As was perhaps to be expected it is fairly neutral in flavour, but that is what makes it a great base for this salad, acting in place of where you’d normally use quinoa or couscous. Combined with the caramelised roasted cauliflower and sweet potato, it made an enjoyably different and happily substantial lunch time salad. I’m still not totally on board with cauliflower pizza bases – if you want a pizza, just have a pizza babe – but I am all for embracing it for it’s intended vegetable goodness.

Roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and pomegranate salad

At first, I found this salad tasted a bit worthy, if you know what I mean – but it totally grew on me and I missed it once it was all gone. The trick is in adding plenty of lemon juice and herbs to make it really fresh and balance the earthiness of the roasted cauliflower.

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 cauliflower
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • handful of pine nuts
  • seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • small bunch of mint, finely chopped
  • small handful of chives, finely chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Peel and slice the sweet potato into fries around 1cm thick. Chop half of the cauliflower into medium florets. Tip the potato and cauliflower into a bowl and toss with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous glug of olive oil – this is the best way to get them evenly coated. Tip onto a baking tray, spread evenly and roast for 25 minutes until the potato is soft, stirring once half way through.

Meanwhile, fry the onion over a medium heat until soft and just beginning to caramelise. In the last few minutes, add the pine nuts to the pan and toast until golden. Tip it all into a mixing bowl.

Grate the remaining cauliflower (press the top of the florets into the grater instead of the side of the cauli for the most even grate). Add to the onions along with the pomegranate seeds, mint, chives, lemon juice, pepper and pinch of salt. Stir everything together and taste to check the seasoning.

When the roast veg are cooked, stir them very gently through the salad and serve.

Chicken, ham and sweetcorn chowder

This chowder could just as easily be called ‘A vehicle for all the vegetables you optimistically bought at the start of the week and now need to use up asap because they’re clogging up your fridge’. Not quite as straightforward as chowder but equally accurate. I smuggled a leek, half an onion, peas, a potato, sweetcorn and asparagus into this, and I’m sure if I’d had some carrots or broccoli knocking about they would have gone in as well.

Chicken, ham and sweetcorn chowder

This recipe is a very similar premise to chicken fricassee which I make a lot, but bulking it out with a potato makes it a one pot meal that’s even easier. It’s the perfect hearty and filling dinner for this time of year, and although it requires a little bit more chopping and stirring than a lot of my meals, it also makes enough to last you several nights. I like to make this on a Friday to last me over the weekend, so that at the weekend I can focus guilt free on baking instead!

Chicken, pea and sweetcorn chowder

Serves 4

  • butter, for frying
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 350ml milk
  • 2 slices of ham
  • 175g tin sweetcorn
  • 100g peas
  • 25g chives, finely chopped

Fry the leek in the butter in a medium saucepan or Le Creuset dish until beginning to soften. Add the chicken and continue to cook for 5mins.

Add the potato and plain flour, and stir everything together to coat the mixture in the flour. Pour in the milk and season generously with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook for 10mins, stirring occasionally, until the potato is nearly cooked.

Add the ham, sweet corn, peas and any other rogue veg you need to use up! Cook for a final 5 minutes to heat the veg. Remove from the heat once the potato is cooked through. Stir through the chives and ladle into bowls to serve.