Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Roasted celeriac with lentils and feta

I feel sorry for the celeriac. He's not the most handsome of veggies is he? A bit bumpy and nobbly and hairy and brown- with an "interesting" flavour. It definitely wasn't love at first sight when I saw him in our veg bag, but, as we all very well know, you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, so I decided to give this guy a chance.

In true Carrie Bradshaw/Sex and the City style, this introduction got me thinking.....I was going to make a bit of a political standpoint on how we are overly obsessed with appearance and that there is currently too much pressure on women to look a certain way. But then I realised this is a food blog, not a feminist/activist/political blog so I stopped myself. It is something that I do feel very strongly about though, and a few recent news stories have made me a bit cross/saddened by the the whole state of play for women at the moment. So to save you all from reading my rantings and soapbox moment all I will say is this-couldn't we all learn a lesson from the celeriac? It's a delicious and unusual and unique and wonderful vegetable, so it doesn't really matter what it looks like does it?! Feminist issues and vegetables-really not too different after all!

If you are in any way interested in what I've been rambling about, you should take a look at this blog:
Watch this video:
Read this article:
And this book:

And now, back to the matter at hand; the food.

I have to admit I did struggle initially to think of what to do with Mr Celeriac. Soup? Of course, soup would be great (and I did actually turn some of it into soup!) but soup is fairly predictable and I wanted to try something new. So it got roasted and served with some super savoury and hearty puy lentils with spinach and a crumbling of feta. The celeriac has a slight bitterness to it that is lessened by slow roasting until it starts to get those sweet crispy bits on the edges. The feta brings that saltyness that cuts right through it and the lentils provide a yummy kind of earthy flavour to even it all out. My boyfriend said this was one of the best things I'd made so it must be good!

It could definitely be made more substantial by serving with some rice/quinoa/farro, but it actually makes a very satisfying meal just like this, and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day! You might also want to mix it up with different roast veg like carrots, parsnips or potatoes....the more the merrier!

Roasted celeriac with lentils and feta
(Serves 4)

1 whole celeriac, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
1 red onion, cut into large chunks/segments
2 cloves garlic
glug of olive oil
2 x 400g tinned puy lentils (I used pre cooked tinned lentils because I'm lazy, but feel free to buy dried and cook them according to instructions)
large bunch of spinach, washed and roughly chopped
large handful of parsley, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
200g feta

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the celeriac, red onion and whole garlic cloves in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 30-40 minutes until soft and starting to crisp at the edges.

In a frying pan or shallow saucepan, wilt the spinach in a little water. Add the lentils and heat through. Mix through the parsley and lemon juice, and season to taste.

To serve, pile the lentil and spinach mixture onto a plate, top with celeriac and onion, and finish with crumbled feta and a sprinkling of extra parsley.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Roast veg and haloumi salad

A salad?! In Autumn?! Yes, you heard right, I made a salad in this horrible weather- but fear not, it's a tasty, wholesome salad that will warm you right up on these chilly eves.

I wasn't sure when we got fennel in our veg bag, as I'm not a huge fan of that licorice/aniseed taste (except for sambuca, strangely, but the less said about that the better!). But I had heard that fennel loses it's strong aniseed taste when cooked, and I'm always willing to try new things so thought I'd give it a go. And I can now say I'm a fennel convert- the aniseed flavour definitely softens once it's roasted and it gets a slight sweetness to it which is delicious. So if you're dubious about fennel I suggest you give it a try and you may be surprised!

The squash and haloumi make great additions to this dish; the adorably named 'dumpling squash' we got that week is sweet and creamy, and the saltyness of the haloumi offsets it perfectly. Add some farro and a lemony, parsley dressing and you've got the perfect Autumn salad.

I realise I'm quite late to the farro party, but I can't get enough of it! An Italian whole grain from the wheat family, it cooks just like pasta but with a bit more of a chewy texture and nutty taste. It's a great addition to salads and stews, and should be available in most large supermarkets or health food shops.

If you can't get hold of a 'dumpling squash', butternut or any other hard winter squash would work just as well.

P.S. I also want to share the good news that my blog has reached over 1,00 views (probably mostly from my mum...!). I didn't really count on anyone reading this when I started it so this is a bit of a landmark really; thank you to all of you who've taken an interest and shown your love. I've big plans for Live Local Greens so this is the first step on the road to world domination!

Roast veg and haloumi salad
(Makes 4 servings)

1/2 large dumpling squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed*
1 carrot, roughly chopped into medium sized chunks
1 bulb fennel, tops removed and cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic, peeled
pinch of chilli flakes
glug of olive oil
200g farro
1 pack (250g) haloumi, cut into medium chunks
juice of 1/2 lemon
large handful of parsley, finely chopped
pumpkin & sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place all the veg into a large roasting tray. Add the garlic cloves, chilli flakes and olive oil and mix to coat all the veg. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes (remove the tray and shake once or twice during this time).

Meanwhile, cook the farro according to instructions in boiling water with a bit of stock powder and drain well.

Add the haloumi to the vegetables and return to the oven for another 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft and both veg and haloumi are starting to brown at the edges.

Remove the tray from the oven, place the veg and haloumi in a large serving dish and add the cooked farro. Dress with the lemon juice, parsley and another glug of olive oil and mix through.

Top with the seeds if using.

*A tip I've learned recently to make peeling your squash easier (and safer!): pierce the squash once or twice with a knife and stick in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Saves hacking away at it!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Butternut squash and kale lasagne

This recipe came about as a bit of an experiment. I had some kale, I had a butternut squash, and I had a sudden urge to eat some lasagne.

I think by now you might have worked out that I’m quite a big fan of pasta (did I mention that before?). And lasagne is one of those pasta dishes that, when done right, can turn simple ingredients into something quite fancy, tasty and unarguably comforting. I’d unfortunately gone out for a bit of a disappointing Italian dinner a few days before at a well known chain (not mentioning any names) – which serves me right for choosing that over local and independent, right? So to set the good vs bad food scales right again, I thought I’d give this guy a go.

I've had numerous variations on the veggie lasagne- spinach and ricotta, lentil, roast veg, but thought this combo might work well. And it did! The sweet, creamy butternut squash mixed with some garlicky, earthy kale and a bit of cheesiness are a match made in heaven, and when baked to get that lovely, slightly burnt crunchy topping made this an absolute joy to eat. Served with a crisp, sharp rocket salad to offset the richness and a glass of white wine, this was much better than any ‘meh’ dinner out at a chain. Lesson learnt!

It definitely isn't a speedy recipe. It does take some time and effort and unfortunately a fair bit of washing up afterwards, but if, like me, you enjoy an afternoon pottering around the kitchen it’s definitely worth it for a bit of a special meal or for feeding a group. It can be made in advance up to the baking stage and frozen/refrigerated before sticking it in the oven when you need it.

In other news, I’m so excited to say that the boyfriend and I have found a flat! House hunting is not at all fun, and we saw some 'interesting' places-but the one we have gone for just feels so homely and cosy- and has a lovely big (relatively for a one bed flat!) brand new kitchen, that I’m so excited to take over with all my Kilner jars, spice collection and everything else, and while away the hours in there working on some new creations. A decent kitchen was so important to me as I love cooking so much, and some of the places we saw literally had room for a sink and an oven and not much else, so I’m very pleased to have got this place and super excited to move in and make it our own!

Butternut squash and kale lasagne
(Serves 4)

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into small chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
1 onion
1 bay leaf
5 whole peppercorns
500 ml of semi-skimmed millk
50g butter
50g plain flour
pinch of grated nutmeg
glug of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
large bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
4 ready made lasagne sheets
vegetarian parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the squash, garlic and chilli in a large roasting tray and roast for about 30 minutes until soft and starting to turn golden. Once out of the oven, mash roughly with a fork or potato masher until mostly smooth.

Meanwhile, make the bechamel sauce for the lasagne. Add the milk to a pan with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf and heat until slightly boiling. Take off the heat and set to one side. After a couple of minutes, strain the milk.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and heat the paste for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and add a small amount of milk, stirring quickly until smooth. Keep adding the remaining milk and stirring until you have a smooth sauce. Return to the heat for a few minutes until thickened. Grate in some nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion and fry over a medium heat until soft. Add the kale, and a splash of water, and heat until wilted. Stir in about a quarter of the bechamel sauce.

Depending on your lasagne sheets, you may need to precook them. As this dish doesn't have a lot of liquid, I just soaked the sheets in a dish of boiling water for about 5 minutes beforehand to ensure they would be cooked.

Cover the bottom of a medium sized oven proof dish with about half of the bechamel sauce. Place one of the lasagne sheets on top. Spread a third of the butternut squash on the top, and cover with a third of the kale. Repeat for two more layers, finishing with a lasagne sheet on top.

Cover with the remaining bechamel and grated parmesan.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden on top.