A very simple vegetarian feast

Last night I cooked for friends, two of which are vegetarians. I was pretty tired, as well as being quite low on time and money. None of these factors sound like the premise for a good meal. Anyway we got some wine out and I devised a plan. I decided to cook roasted butternut squash and sweet potato, which were joined by lemon and cumin flavoured spinach and chickpeas, olive ciabatta and feta cheese. I thought I was cooking enough to have left-overs the next day, but the six of us devoured the lot of it, using the bread to tidily scoop up the last of everything. So I decided to write-up what turned out to be a bit of a veggie feast. This is a very easy meal (you will be quite capable of glugging back your chosen poisen while cooking). It could be doubled or halved very easily depending on how many people you are feeding and how greedy they are. Chickpeas are great, they are cheap, low in fat, high in protein and fibre. This is such a lovely meal, it is filling without sitting too heavily on the stomach. It also felt so summery, I think it may have encouraged the glimpse of good weather today!

 

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For the roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout
  • olive oil

You can obviously vary the vegetables you use according to what you have in the house. Try using sweet root vegetables or peppers instead – anything like this would also work really well with the salty feta and spiced chickpeas.

Roast for about 40 -45 mins at 190C / gas mark 5

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For the Chickpeas and Spinach:

  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2  x 400g can of chickpeas
  • 200g spinach
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ras el hanout
  • 300g feta cheese
  • pinch of chilli flakes or powder
  • optional – sprinkling of seeds (I used black sesame seeds)

Gently fry the onions, garlic and leek in olive oil and a pinch of salt until softened and reduced. Then add the chickpeas, lemon juice and zest, spices and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for about 2 minutes on a medium heat. Then add half the feta (leaving some to add at the table) and garnish with seeds.

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Serve with some good bread, olive oil and balsamic. Keep the wine flowing!

 

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Some thoughts on celeriac and soup

I love celeriac and soup, so a combination of these two things makes me very happy. I am going to share my recipe for a chunky vegetable soup with a celeriac base. This is the first of a series of recipes I am going to write – intending to revive and inspire the use of this vegetable. It is such a great ingredient – it has a stronger flavour than celery without the stringy-ness some people hate. It gives a velvety texture which is quite similar to potato (but is much lower in starch) and is in short a perfect soup ingredient. It is a vegetable which is sadly overlooked. I have often found that people don’t know what to do with it, or even what it is. It does look quite strange – the white old man of root vegetables. Its appearance is also slightly reminiscent of the ‘root baby’ in Pan’s Labyrinth  – for those of you I have already lost along the wayside, I have included a picture comparison below.

Leeks, celeriac and carrots - all waiting impatiently to get into my soup.

Leeks, celeriac and carrots – all waiting impatiently to get into my soup.

Celeriac relative in the bowl?

Celeriac relative in the bowl?

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium celeriac
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 leeks
  • 2 onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1800ml stock
  • 1 generous glug of olive oil

Use the celeriac as a base and then vary the other ingredients according to what you have in the house. A soup is the perfect way to use up tired vegetables and prevent them from going to waste.

Method:

Dice the onions and mince the garlic and gently cook on a low heat for about 10-15 minutes,  stirring regularly until they are translucent, but not coloured.  Meanwhile peel and cube the celeriac and chop the other vegetables. Add everything to the pot and allow to sweat on a low – medium heat for a further 5-10 minutes. (A low heat preserves the vitamin content and flavour) Then add the stock and cook for an hour minimum – long slow cook is better. I like to half-blend this soup. By this I mean when it is cooked I take out half the soup put it in a food processor (or a magi-mix and a big bowl works well) and then put the blended half back with the rest and cook for a further 5 minutes. The result of this is a chunky soup with a smooth base, avoiding the reminder of baby food which a completely processed soup sometimes gives.