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Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu

Gem made Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu for Sam and I when we visited her place a while back. So, so good. I wanted something similar so tried making it the other day and omg. I now fully appreciate her making it for us, it took a while! Forgot that she said she used slightly less pepper than it called for, when I made it I used the full amount and it was borderline too hot to handle. 🔥 Still delicious though, will definitely make it again. The cornstarch method is super effective too, would be good with all sorts of sauces.

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Mix-and-match grain salad

I’ve been making a mix-and-match grain salad a ton recently. It’s great for using up leftovers, and it keeps really well in the fridge as long as the greens you use are substantial enough.

All you do is combine a cooked grain of some sort, greens, at least one soft-ish vegetable, at least one crunchier vegetable, and dressing. Things that I’ve found work in most versions of this salad include kale, green onions, grated carrot, thinly sliced onion, small tomatoes, olives, capers, and cucumber. I find that bagged, chopped-up kale keeps for a super long time in the fridge both before it is prepared and after it goes in to the salad.

Bonus additions include toasted seeds or nuts, feta or grilled halloumi, chickpeas or puy lentils, hardboiled eggs, croutons fried up from the leftover heel of a loaf of bread, bacon bits, leftover roast chicken, that sort of thing. It’s best if you leave the cooked grain overnight in the fridge so that it can dry out a little bit, and when you use it in the salad it’s worth breaking up any clumps with your hands first.

These are some decent combos and their dressing counterparts. I’m counting cous cous as a grain since it functions a similar way!

  1. Components — Wild rice + shredded red cabbage + thinly sliced green onions + grated carrot + roasted peanuts
    Dressing — Rice wine vinegar + soy sauce + sesame oil + minced garlic + sugar + ground ginger
  2. Components — Bulgar wheat + massaged kale (stalks removed) + thinly sliced red or white onion massaged with sumac + diced cucumber + fresh mint / dill / parsley / thyme if you have it
    Dressing — Olive oil + honey + lemon juice + a tiny bit of tahini + minced garlic + salt + pepper
  3. Components — Cous cous + massaged kale (stalks removed) + roasted red peppers (jarred is fine) + toasted pine nuts or cashews + fresh oregano / basil / parsley if you have it
    Dressing — Olive oil + balsamic vinegar + salt + pepper
  4. Components — Quinoa + arugula + diced tomatoes (or whole small tomatoes) + thinly sliced onion + chopped olives and / or capers + canned tuna, drained
    Dressing — Olive oil + red wine vinegar + Dijon mustard + salt + pepper

This is the recipe I contributed as part of a recent recipe chain mail. I normally really dislike chain mails but am always happy to participate in a food-based one!

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Leek and potato soup with smoked paprika and toasted fennel seed

All measurements are approximate. Taste as you go! Doesn’t call for cream because I can’t have it.

In a big pot, heat about 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Add 3 leeks, rinsed and sliced and two cloves of garlic, crushed. Sautée until softened. Add a big pinch of salt, 2 t fennel seed, toasted and crushed, and 1 t smoked paprika. Stir to combine and allow to continue cooking while you prep the potatoes.

Peel 3–4 medium-sized potatoes, then cut them in to manageable pieces and add them to the pot. Add vegetable bouillon (I use Swiss Marigold powder) and enough oat milk and water to submerge the potatoes. The total amount of liquid should be about ⅔ oat milk, ⅓ water.

Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for 15–20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the liquid has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat, then remove a stick immersion blender to purée the soup thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning, it may need more salt and will probably need the juice of at least ¼ lemon.

To serve, ladle in to bowls and drizzle a little olive oil over the top, then sprinkle over a tiny bit more smoked paprika and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. Goes nicely with crusty bread.

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Everything we had for Thanksgiving

This is everything we had for Thanksgiving last night, a spread of things that worked for our range of dietary requirements. I really loved everything we made and would happily have any of it again. See the menu below with recipes and ingredient lists.

V = Vegetarian
Ve = Vegan
LF = Lactose Free
GF = Gluten Free
LowF = Low-FODMAP

An asterisk means that the dish isn’t 100% appropriate for that particular diet but could be suitable with an easy substitute.


Rosemary pecan pie – V, LF*, GF

Gluten free flour, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, milk / mylk, dark brown sugar, golden syrup, butter, vanilla extract, rosemary, eggs, pecans

Most pecan pie recipes call for corn syrup. That’s a bummer in and of itself, but it also makes it super difficult to make in the UK since it is really hard to find. Enter Ruby Tandoh’s rosemary pecan pie recipe which calls for golden syrup, an easy-to-find ingredient on British grocery store shelves. I really like the rosemary flavour in this, but I wouldn’t recommend steeping it too long and wouldn’t add the fresh rosemary needles on top. The flavour is just too strong.

I’ve noticed this before but always forget: this pie gets very dark on top, verging on burnt-looking. I think this may have to do with both the dark brown sugar and the cooking temperature / time. Next time, I may try BBC Good Food’s New England pecan pie recipe (also without corn syrup) or perhaps a combination of the two.

To make this gluten free, I used my grandma’s press-in pie crust recipe with gluten free flour. It worked well, but something about it could have been a bit better… I think that there could have been a little bit less fat, and maybe melted butter would have a better flavour. It’s also useful to mix this up in a bowl first, doing it in the plate is just a bit messy. I think that the brushed beaten egg actually does a lot to help the crust to stay together.

Spiced roasted carrots – V, Ve, LowF, LF, GF

Carrots, brown sugar, olive oil, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fresh thyme

This is always one of my favourites. See the honey roasted carrots recipe from this Guardian article, adapted from a recipe by Ottolenghi. I always use brown sugar instead of honey, usually add a bit more cumin than it calls for, and sometimes add cayenne. It’s best to put the roasting tray towards the top of the oven and give the carrots a lot of space, otherwise they steam instead of roast.

You can cook this a lot earlier in the day and then just warm it through later on, or serve it room temperature.

Miso-glazed spicy brussels sprouts – V, Ve*, LF, GF

Brussels sprouts, salt, pepper, olive oil, honey, miso paste, rice vinegar, sesame oil

Loosely based on this Bon Appetit recipe. The sprouts were pretty small so I roasted them whole. This worked great, less prep. The “bottom of the oven” technique worked well to get them cooked all the way through, and then I brought them to the top of the oven to get a slightly better roasted texture. It’s also helpful because they can just sit down there under other things that need the more direct upper-oven heat.

I roasted them earlier in the day when I had more oven space for a big sheet tray (they need space so that they don’t steam). After that, I transferred them to a much smaller tray. When we got close to eating, I prepared the glaze by combining the ingredients to taste and heating it in a little pan, then poured it over the sprouts and popped them back in the oven to warm through.

Warm kale and wild rice salad – V, Ve, LowF, LF, GF

Wild rice, vegetable stock, kale, persimmons, squash, seeds, oranges, maple syrup, coriander seed, cumin seed

This was very loosely based on a Roasted Squash and Kale Salad recipe from Serious Eats. Our version had massaged kale, red and wild rice cooked in vegetable stock, sliced persimmons, roasted squash, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and a spiced maple and orange vinaigrette. Next time, I think I would roast the kale with the squash as suggested in the Serious Eats recipe, would possibly add some orange segments, and would probably go heavier with the spices in the dressing.

This is easy to prepare ahead or earlier in the day.

Old fashioned cornbread – V, LowF, LF*, GF

Coarse cornmeal / polenta, baking soda, baking powder, egg, butter, vinegar, milk / mylk, honey

I like a less cake-y cornbread, something that is just barely sweet. This recipe worked perfectly. I used the coarsest polenta I could find and used a faux milk-free “buttermilk” (1.5 T vinegar + Oatly Barista). It was some of the best cornbread I’ve had in a long time with a pleasant, slightly gritty texture. Not at all like the brick I made last year! My cast iron skillet was slightly too big though so the result was a little thin. Next time, it’d be better to increase the quantity or find a smaller skillet. I’d probably preheat the skillet in the oven as well to get a firmer crust on the bottom. The 20 minute cook time was perfect.

Cranberry relish – V, Ve, LowF, LF, GF

Frozen cranberries, orange, sugar

Was able to find frozen cranberries this year so we made my favourite cold cranberry relish, see mom’s notes for recipe.

This can be made way ahead and is very quick.

Roasted potatoes – V, Ve, LowF, LF, GF

Good roasting potatoes, rapeseed oil, salt, chopped rosemary, chopped thyme

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and position a rack towards the top third of your oven. Pour a good amount of rapeseed oil in to one or more roasting tins that are large enough to handle all of your potatoes with a bit of wiggle room, and then put this in the oven to preheat. Cut a bunch of good roasting potatoes in to very large chunks, then parboil in heavily salted water. Keep an eye on them; they’ll go to mush in the next step if they’re too soft! When they’re ready drain the water, then bash them around in the pot a little bit so that they get roughed up. When the oven has come to temperature, pull the tray(s) out of the oven and carefully dump in the potatoes. Coat with the hot oil, and season well with salt. Place in the upper third of your oven and roast for approximately 25-30 minutes. At this point, pull out the potatoes, shuffle them around, top them with chopped rosemary and thyme, and then put them back in the oven to roast for a further 10–15 minutes.

I did these at 180C since that’s the temperature that the nut roast called for. They maybe weren’t quite as all-over crispy as they would have been at a higher heat and they took a little longer, but they were still great.

Onion gravy – V, Ve*, LF*, GF

Onions, vegetable stock, gluten free flour, butter, chopped herbs, wine, salt, pepper

Slice 1-2 onions and cook gently over medium-low heat in a heavy pot until very soft and brown, approximately 30-45 minutes. Add a glug of white or red wine and simmer for a bit until the alcohol has burned off. Scrape any brown bits stuck to the pan in to the mixture. Add some vegetable stock, then bring the whole thing to a simmer. In a small bowl, make a beurre manié by mixing some flour and butter together. Add this to the gravy gradually to thicken it. Add the chopped herbs and cook until they have softened somewhat, then taste and balance out the flavours with salt, pepper, or additional wine.

Normally I make gravy from the chicken / turkey pan drippings but honestly… I might just stick to this in the future. It was *really* good, it’s veggie-friendly, and it means you don’t have to worry about making gravy right when everything is ready to go on the table. The pan drippings can go in to the stock later on instead.

Nut roast – V, GF*

Parsnips, savoy cabbage, hazelnuts, butter, onion, chestnut mushrooms, cooked chestnuts, stilton, brown breadcrumbs, fresh sage, egg, salt, pepper

We used Felicity Cloake’s perfect nut roast recipe. This is a very nutty, mushroom-y mixture wrapped in cabbage leaves, very presentable. It tastes a lot like stuffing, which is excellent in my book.

To make this gluten free, we used GF oat cakes for the “breadcrumbs”. We accidentally forgot the egg. The mixture didn’t slice *quite* as well because of this, but honestly it still held together pretty decently! We also maybe didn’t put quite enough salt and pepper in. This is a substantial mixture, so it’s worth remembering that it can take a lot of seasoning.

You might be able to make this vegan and/or lactose free. You could swap the butter for olive oil and could get away with omitting the egg. I’m not quite sure what you would do to replace the stilton though… It adds a creamy funkiness. Maybe some finely-chopped capers or green olives would be welcome, for the tanginess? Some chunks of tofu for the creaminess, marinated in a bit of Worcester sauce and / or dijon mustard? Not sure!

Spatchcock roasted chicken – LowF, LF*, GF

Whole chicken, butter or olive oil, fresh herbs on their stalks, salt, pepper

To spatchcock the chicken, cut the backbone out and score the breastbone on the inside, then place it skin-up on to a rimmed baking sheet and press to break through the breastbone, making it nice and flat. Reserve the backbone for stock.

If possible, dry brine the chicken 24 hours ahead of time. Rub approximately 2.5 t salt and any other herbs / spices you want (lemon zest, pepper, sage, etc.) all over the chicken and then let sit in your fridge *uncovered*. This will draw the seasoning in to the meat and will allow the outside to dry out thoroughly, meaning crispier skin. The skin will start to look mottled and a little weird, and that’s ok!

About an hour before you’re planning to roast the chicken, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to approximately 180C (350F). Rub a good amount of butter or olive oil over the chicken and season it with just a little bit more flaky sea salt. Place your whole herbs underneath the chicken. Stick the probe of a digital oven thermometer deep in to the breast meat, being careful not to touch the bone. Place in the middle of the oven and roast until the thermometer temperature reaches 75C (170F). In my experience, this usually takes about an hour. Throw the backbone on the tray about halfway through if you’re going to use it for stock. If the skin doesn’t look crispy enough when the meat is done, move it towards the top of the oven and crank up the grill / broiler for a bit. Remove the thermometer before you do this, the direct heat can be a bit too much for it.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting in to it. The resting time is a good time to make a gravy or to finish off part-roasted potatoes in the oven.

Today (the day after), all of the chicken bones went in to a big pot with a whole bunch of peppercorns, bay leaves, onions with their skin, scrubbed and unpeeled carrots, and a lot of water. That has simmered for 4–5 hours and is now cooling. I’ll let it set in the fridge overnight and then will remove the fat from the top, reserving it to fry onions and spices for a curry later this week.

Everything above technique should work well for a turkey too, but it will take longer in the oven and should rest longer as well.


Edit 7 December 2019 — I would definitely consider this squash, winter herb, and butterbean pie recipe (V, Ve*, GF*) by Anna Jones or this Chinese turnip cake recipe (V, Ve, LF, GF*) from Ottolenghi as well.

This year, I celebrated with some close girlfriends. It was my ninth Thanksgiving in the UK. Our kitchen isn’t the biggest, so we had a little candle-lit picnic in the front room on a stripy blanket my mom gave me years ago, the one on the bed in this pic.

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Use-up-all-the-things meal for 16 people

I was away recently for a lovely weekend with a big group of 16 people. Dinner on the last night was a use-up-all-the-things meal that I tag-teamed with BW. This is a rough description of each thing, a bunch of them were new to me but I’d like to make them again. We were super low on olive oil so went heavy on the butter, and we omitted garlic + onions in most things due to some dietary restrictions within the group.

Cheese

Use a peeler to get thin slices off any nearly-finished firm cheese in the fridge. Pile the slices together on a plate, then throw the rind in to the fridge or freezer for use in future stews or pots of lentils / beans.

Arbutus (strawberry tree) jam

Good with cheese. This was sort of based on a variety of recipes online. I didn’t mind the texture but it was probably a bit too seedy for most TBH, so next time I’d probably strain part way through cooking while the mixture is still relatively liquid.

Remove stems and bad bits from about 2 cups of ripe Arbutus (strawberry tree) berries, then rinse and put in a small nonstick pot. Cut an orange in to chunks and squeeze in the juice, then throw in the rind. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of a lemon half, then throw in the rind. Add about ¼ cup sugar and a small pinch of salt, and then simmer over medium-low heat until the berries are completely dissolved. Add water during the cooking process if needed, and taste while cooking to adjust the sweetness. Remove the citrus rinds before serving. The colour of the cooked jam should be a reddish ochre, and the consistency is similar to fig jam, very seedy.

Lamb’s lettuce salad

In an enormous bowl, combine a big pile of Lamb’s lettuce with soft, crumbled fresh cheese, a chopped avocado, a big handful of chopped black olives, the sliced green tops from 3–4 scallions, and a very big handful of toasted pine nuts.

For the dressing, combine olive oil, some red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, a mashed anchovy, salt, and fresh black pepper. Taste the dressing and adjust it to balance it out, then add it to the salad and toss to coat.

Croutons

This was probably the biggest experiment. I’ve done this with cubed bread of all sorts in the past, but never GF bread. Specifically, we used leftover GF focaccia which had been made from leftover pizza dough and topped with capers, olives, rosemary, and tomatoes. It was pretty firm due to the GF flour, sort of the consistency of cornbread crossed with polenta. The resulting croutons were maybe a bit too big / crunchy for a salad but still very tasty, kind of like baked polenta. It actually worked pretty well with this meal since most of the other things lacked crunch.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Cube a bunch of leftover firm bread, then toss it in butter or oil and season to taste with salt and spices or herbs. Roast in the oven until golden and crispy.

Puy lentils with rosemary and thyme

I definitely over-salted these! Still good though. Every other time I’ve made Puy lentils they’ve come out way too bland, so I’ll probably make them like this in the future, probably with a bay leaf and maybe some other herbs. I’d be a great side to make instead of potatoes or rice, for example.

Pour a 500 g box of lentils de Puy in to a medium sized pot with enough water (see the instructions on the box), the rind of a hard cheese, a good pinch of salt, a knob of butter, fresh black pepper, and about 2 tablespoons each of chopped thyme and rosemary. Bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils are tender and the water is mostly gone. Note that you may need to top up the water during cooking. When nearing the end of cooking, taste the lentils and adjust the flavours. Add a little salt, lemon juice, and / or orange juice to adjust the flavour and acidity. Remove and discard the cheese rind before serving.

Caramelised onions

Ours weren’t quite caramelised, but still tasty! Apparently sodium bicarbonate is a useful secret ingredient if you’re light on time, need to remember that for next time.

Thinly slice 4 onions and place in wide, flat-ish pot. Stainless steel or aluminium is best if you have a lot of time, nonstick works well if you don’t. Add a pinch of salt and a knob of butter, then cook over medium-low heat until a deep golden brown.

Roasted aubergines

These are good lukewarm or cold as well. Do not be tempted to season with salt before sticking them in the oven, there will be plenty in the veg still from the initial step.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Slice aubergines in to rounds that are roughly 1 cm thick, then salt on both sides and place in a shallow dish. Allow the salt to draw out the water for at least 15 minutes, pressing on them occasionally to encourage them. Once a lot of the water has been drawn out, put the aubergine slices in a big bowl of cold water and rinse thoroughly, removing all of the remaining salt. Squeeze the water out of the slices, then place in a baking dish. Top each slice with a little butter or olive oil, generously top with fresh black pepper, then sprinkle over about 1–2 tablespoons each of chopped thyme and rosemary. Roast in the oven for 30–40 minutes, turning halfway. Taste when done and add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Pasta with tomato sauce, basil, and anchovies

BW tackled this mostly, so here’s hoping I’ve remembered this correctly! She said it was based on a Rachel Roddy recipe so I had a look online. Her recipe for pasta with tomatoes and anchovy sauce looks really similar and very good, though I don’t think it’s the same one. Worth a try!

Heat some butter or olive oil in a large flat-ish pan, then add halved baby tomatoes and cook until very soft. Add two finely chopped anchovies and cook a little longer, then add one chopped stove-roasted red pepper and a can of chopped tomatoes. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce while you cook the pasta. Cook the pasta of your preference in heavily salted water until al dente and then drain, reserving a small amount of the pasta water in the pot. Tip the sauce in to the pasta and reserved pasta water and then cook a little longer, allowing the water to reduce slightly and the pasta to finish cooking. Stir in a whole bunch of torn basil and serve.

Spiced roasted carrots + broccoli

Kind of based on the honey roasted carrots from this Guardian article. Try to avoid crowding the pan or cooking too much at once in the oven because it will inhibit roasting and will cause the veg to steam. If you have to cook a lot at once, consider cranking up the heat.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Put a bunch of oblique / roll cut carrots in to a big baking dish with the florets and peeled stem of a head of broccoli. Add a very generous sprinkling of brown sugar, a good pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, some lemon zest, a lot of cumin seed, about a thumb’s worth of minced ginger, and about 1–2 teaspoons of ground coriander. Roast until the edges are well browned, tossing occasionally to cook evenly.

Spiced chickpeas and greens

The vibe was espinacas con garbanzos, but with what we had on hand. I would definitely consider adding some cayenne, smoked paprika, garlic, etc. in other circumstances. For the greens we used rocket and spinach, but this would probably be good with kale as well though the cook time would take a little longer.

Heat a knob of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, then pour in a can of chickpeas, drained. Add a very good pinch of salt, at least 2 tablespoons of cumin seed, 1–2 tablespoons of ground coriander, and a solid pinch of ground cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes to allow the flavours to come together, then your greens and the juice from at least a half an orange. Allow the greens to cook to the desired doneness, adding water if needed. Taste and adjust flavours as necessary (salt, lemon, etc.).

Roasted potatoes with a roasted pepper sauce

The idea was sort of patatas bravas, but again, with what we had on hand. Would probably consider smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic for this as well.

Preheat oven very hot, at least 200C. Cut 5–6 thin-skinned potatoes in to chunks and parboil, then toss in to a baking pan with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until brown and crispy. For the sauce, reduce a can of chopped tomatoes over medium heat, then add a knob of butter, some cumin seed, and one finely chopped stove-roasted red pepper.

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chickpeas for days

Made a chickpea salad last night that was a riff on this one by Bon Appétit and loved it, ended up finishing the whole thing. I’ll definitely make it again. My changes (due to dietary stuff and what I had on hand) were:

  • Didn’t have any parsley and not enough basil (scrounged a tiny amount from my not-happy plant), so I bulked it out with big handfuls of chopped spinach
  • Added ½ of a small bulb of fennel, sliced very thinly
  • Added about ⅛ of a cucumber chopped in to quartered rounds
  • Added one very finely chopped scallion
  • Used lactose-free “cheddar”

You could easily make a ton of different tweaks. I’d like to make it with some tahini whisked in to the lemon, sumac, a very thinly sliced red onion, and some mint. Or do a ginger + garlic + soy sauce + rice vinegar dressing, swap basil for coriander, drop the cheese, and maybe swap some of the chickpeas for edamame. That might be lunch today.