Vegetable soup with kale crisps

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After spending some time last weekend rotating my wardrobe (wow, that sounds far more glamorous than it actually is. What I mean is my summer clothes have been squeezed onto the top shelf and down have come the winter boots and cozy jumpers) I feel like I am now in full autumn mode.

I love the soft light and rustic colour seen at this time of year - crisp mornings, footpaths covered in orange leaves and the abundance of seasonal vegetables that are perfect for roasting, filling pies and making soup.

My Mum would make this recipe when I was a kid and the smell of it prompts a happy sense of nostalgia. Today, as the soup bubbles away on the cooker, I welcome the grey cloud and patter of rain on the window - it all adds to the affection I have for homemade comfort food.

Vegetable soup, as the name suggests, can be made with any vegetables you fancy. I tend to stick to hearty roots and the last of the herbs from my garden. But you really can play around with flavours - adding heat with ginger and chilli or depth with ground cumin and coriander.

Now even though I'd love to serve this soup with a huge chunk of crusty bread (and sometimes I do) my stomach will undoubtedly make me pay for it. So instead I opt for kale crisps and toasted seeds - they taste great and won't make you feel like you're missing out on bread, I promise.

Ingredients, serves 4-5:
2 leeks
1 large swede
4 large carrots
2 large parsnips
Sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp tomato purée
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
3-4 large kale leaves
Handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
2 heaped tsp coconut oil
Salt + pepper

Method:
Melt one heaped teaspoons of coconut oil in a deep saucepan on a medium heat. Wash and roughly chop the leeks adding them to the pan with the fennel and mustard seeds. Allow to cook for a few minutes whilst you peel the swede, carrots and parsnips, then cut them into chunks. Add the root veg to the pan.

Roughly chop the fresh rosemary and thyme and add these to the pan along with the dried basil and tomato purée. Pour over the stock and mix well.

Bring the pan to a boil then cover with a lid and reduce to a light simmer for 30-35 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

I usually leave the soup to cool for around 30 minutes before blitzing with a hand blender (or you can use a regular blender, blitzing the soup in stages). Blitz until you are happy with the consistency then pop the soup back on the heat to warm through. Add a good sized pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

During this time preheat the oven to 180C and melt the remaining heaped tsp of coconut oil on a backing tray. Wash some large kale leaves and tear the greens off the stalk and into bitesize pieces. Place the kale on the baking tray and toss in the coconut oil. Cook in the oven for 5-8 minutes - keeping an eye on them as they crisp up pretty quickly.

Serve the soup topped with the kale chips and some sunflower and pumpkin seeds that have been toasted in a frying pan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Walnuts or pine nuts also work well here. Enjoy.

 

Fully loaded broccoli & mackerel salad

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Got enough in those bowl!? Err, yeah, just about. Sometimes (actually most of the time) all I want is a heaping big bowl of salad bursting with colour and texture and hitting all the food spots that I know will fill me up for hours. This salad nails it with a mix of sweet, salty and fresh ingredients that give a healthy dose of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

I’ve been making this salad an awful lot lately, mainly because it’s so easy to adapt. The mackerel can easily be replaced with salmon or chicken and the almonds for cashews toasted with fennel seeds rather than chilli - it’s defiantly a go with the flow, or rather what’s in your fridge kinda bowl.

Piled high with whatever fruit and vegetables are in season and smothered in a rich creamy dressing, this salad does feel rather indulgent, and I simply love it.

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Ingredients
For the salad

10-12 pieces of tenderstem broccoli
Two smoked mackerel fillets
1/4 cup almonds
Half or a whole red chili, depending on how hot you like it, finally chopped
A few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed and finally chopped
1 tbsp avocado oil
Half a red onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced
A few tomatoes, halved
2 hard boiled eggs
Salad leaves
Salt and pepper

For the dressing
1 heaped tsp mustard
1 heaped tsp tahini
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt

Method
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and place in the eggs. Runny, soft or hard boiled eggs all work well, so go for your preference. I’ve boiled the eggs for 4 minutes, then removed them from the water and allowed them to cool whilst I make the rest of the salad.

Heat the avocado oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Pan fry the broccoli for a few minutes on each side until it begins to colour. Season lightly with salt and pepper. You can do this in two batches if your frying pan isn't very big.

Place the broccoli to one side and add the almonds to the pan allowing them to toast for a few minutes. Throw in the finely chopped chili and oregano, cook for a further minute then take the pan off the heat.

For the dressing simply mix together the mustard, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Feel free to add a splash of water or more olive oil if the dressing is too thick.

To assemble put a handful of salad leaves in two bowls then lay the broccoli on top, Add the smoked mackerel fillets and top with the chili almonds, red onion, avocado, tomatoes and apple. Spoon the dressing over the salad or serve in a small separate bowl. Enjoy.

Celeriac and courgette tortilla

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We go through a lot of eggs in our house. It’s only the two of us, but we go through a lot of eggs. I love their versatility, their ease of use and the way they effortlessly take on other flavours.

In the past I've been guilty of mostly basing my weekday breakfasts around fruit, out of habit and convenience. But recently I’ve been using eggs as a perfectly portable breakfast in the style of veggie packed muffins or smoked salmon and avocado wraps.

Warm or cold (errr, more like room temperature), this Spanish style tortilla is ideal for breakfasts and lunches throughout the week - simply slice it into portions and serve it with a salad or vegetables. I’ve used celeriac rather than potato as it’s lower in carbohydrates, but mainly because I absolutely love the taste.

Ingredients
350g celeriac (about half a large celeriac)
1 white onion
1 courgette
6 eggs
6-8 sprigs of lemon thyme, leaves removed
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method
Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a 24cm frying pan on a medium heat. Peel and slice the celeriac into thin wedges and add to the pan. Fry the celeriac for 8-10 minutes, then season with a pinch of salt and add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan. Cover the frying pan with a large saucepan lid and allow the celeriac to cook for another 5 minutes or until it is tender and slightly coloured.

Remove the celeriac from the pan and into a large bowl. Melt another tablespoon of coconut oil in the pan, keeping it on a medium heat. Dice the onion and courgette and add these to the pan, cooking for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and golden. Add the onion and courgette to the bowl with the celeriac.

Turn on the grill.

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and season with a pinch of salt. Pour the eggs into the bowl with the celeriac, onion and courgette, and mix well to combine. Pour the eggs and vegetables into the frying pan (oil the pan again if needed) and cook for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat.

Scatter the lemon thyme leaves over the top of the eggs along with a good grinding of black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place the pan under the grill for 3-4 minutes until it’s golden and sizzling. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Autumn salad

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This week I've been rustling up a seasonal salad for lunch. It's warm, comforting and makes the most of fruit and vegetables that are at their best this time of year. Adaptable and simple to make - I couldn't resist taking a quick photo and sharing the recipe.

Ingredients, serves two
1 small squash
1/2 large cauliflower
1 large red onion
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
30g feta
1tsp fennel seeds
Fresh mint leaves
Pomegranate seeds
Coconut oil, melted
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the squash into wedges and separate the cauliflower into small florets. Place both the squash and cauliflower on a baking tray, drizzle with coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Heat 1tsp of coconut oil in a frying pan on a low-medium heat. Cut the red onion in half then thinly slice and separate the layers. Add the onion to the pan and gently fry until soft and caramelised. Once the onions are caramelised add the chickpeas, fennel seeds, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper - mix with the onions and allow to fry for a few more minutes to warm the chickpeas.

Place the roasted squash and cauliflower in a salad bowl with the chickpeas and onions - gently combine. Crumble over the feta and scatter with some fresh mint leaves and pomegranate seeds.

Harissa roasted carrots

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Autumn has abruptly arrived in London with a thick cloudy grey sky proudly announcing the first day of October. Rain coats on and hoods pulled up, Neil headed to his favourite meat seller at the market and I dashed over to the veg stall. I'm always enticed by the colour, but also on this occasion, the large tarpaulin providing shelter from the rain. Rummaging among the squashes, beetroot and carrots, I talked with the stall owner about how we were both looking forward to the new seasons vegetables filling our roasting trays.

These sweet orange and purple carrots are given a kick from being roasted in Harissa, a hot chilli pepper paste and topped with a creamy tahini dressing and a scattering of dukkah and pomegranate seeds.

This recipe can be a wonderful side or turned into a main meal when served with puy lentils or roasted chickpeas.

Ingredients
6-8 carrots
1 tbsp Harissa
A few lemon slices
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey
2 tbsp water (more if needed)
Dukkah
Pomegranate seeds
Pinch of salt and pepper
A few mint leaves

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the coconut oil in a roasting tin and melt in the oven. Scrub and wash the carrots and cut in half length ways. Place the carrots in the roasting tin and coat in the oil. Add the Harissa and rub over the carrots. Throw in a few slices of lemon and a couple of garlic cloves and cook for 25-30 minutes.

To make the dressing put the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, water, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix well. Squeeze out the soft garlic from the roasted cloves and add to the dressing. Mix well and add a little more water if the dressing is too thick.

Serve the dressing with the carrots and top with dukkah, pomegranate seeds and chopped mint leaves.

Coconut, cranberry & orange cookies

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I'm bursting with Team GB pride, but sadly what has been a wonderful and all consuming Olympic Games is now over. So with the time I would have spent glued to the TV, I instead set out to create a short video for one of my favourite cookie recipes - I hope you like it.

These coconut cookies are super simple to make and very adaptable. In the past I have made them with chocolate chips or sultanas - but this cranberry and orange combo always comes out on top.

Ingredients, makes nine cookies
2/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut + a little extra to sprinkle (optional)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup of dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 large (or 4 small) eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
Zest of one orange

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the coconut flour, desiccated coconut and dried fruit in a bowl and roughly combine. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, salt, maple syrup, coconut oil and orange zest and mix well. The mixture will appear quite wet at first but quickly thickens into a dough.

Roll the mixture into balls then press slightly to flatten into cookies. Place the cookies on a lined baking sheet and scatter a little extra desiccated coconut on top if desired.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are golden at the edges. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container.

Note: The cookies also freeze well. I often pop half the batch in the freezer - mainly to stop myself eating them all within a couple of days. Recipe easily doubles for a bigger batch.