Exquisite Asian Spiced Lentil Soup

This soup is a stunning bowl of healthy deliciousness. And a sparky change to a classic lentil soup. What’s more, it’s a doddle to make : just roughly chop your veg and fling your ingredients into a pan. No precision chopping required and no need to fry before bubbling away.

This would work beautifully with any root veg, I just happened to have a fat sweet potato and a rather pitiful, past it’s best, parsnip in the fridge. Well let me tell you I did that ancient parsnip proud with this smooth, exquisitely spiced soup.

I should say that the flavours here are merely a nod to Asia and by no means is this an authentic Asian soup. Just my humble hankering for something a little different for lunch.

Asian Spiced Lentil Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • About 4cm of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 parsnip, roughly chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, roughly chopped
  • A couple of sticks of lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 2 handfuls of red lentils (about a cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 litre of chicken stock
  • 400ml can of coconut milk
  • Juice of one lemon

Method

  • Chuck everything, apart from the coconut milk and lemon, into a pan. Pop a lid on, bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Once the veg and lentils are tender pour in the coconut milk and simmer really gently for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
  • Remove your lemongrass sticks. Now just blend your soup and get ready to delight your taste buds.

Veggie Burger Sky Scraper

Veggie Burger Sky Scraper

When presented with tall food, like this sky scraper burger, there are 2 types of people: Those who see all their dreams come true between 2 halves of a bread roll and those who think blimey how on earth am I going to fit that in my dainty mouth without dislocating my jaw. I’m a bit of both, initially delighted and then slightly concerned.

But the bonus about a burger like this, especially if you serve your stack in a brioche bun, is that once you’ve picked it up and taken your first bite it usually squishes down to become a much more manageable girth. And this beauty is rammed with so many healthy and delicious trimmings, it would be to your healthy detriment not to add them. Healthy greed, just the way I like it.

Use any kind of burger whether is be homemade, veggie, or slices of halloumi (and the general idea obviously works for chicken or beef burgers too).

Veggie Burger Skyscaper

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • Veggie burger or halloumi slice
  • Burger bun (brioche or sesame buns are perfect)
  • Houmous, a massive dollop
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Rocket, a big handful
  • Onion, a few rings
  • Cheese, a couple of slices (not too thick or they won’t melt)
  • Ketchup, or any sauce you fancy
  • Coleslaw, if you have it

Method

  • Cook your burger or halloumi according to the packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile slice open your bun and lightly toast the insides.
  • When the burger is almost ready, top with the cheese slices and return to the heat to allow a bit of melting.
  • Then just start construction of your delicious skyscraper stack: I put a large dollop of houmous on the base, followed by onion slices, tomatoes and a bit of rocket. Next comes the burger with its blanket of melting cheese. And finally, ketchup, a little squirt of sriracha and more rocket. Put the lid on the bun and squash it down slightly so that the whole thing doesn’t fall over on the way to the dining table.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Chowders are like the posh cousins of the soup family. A good fish chowder feels a bit grander than, say, a classic tomato soup or a chicken broth. To me, it’s a bit of an indulgence. I dare say a proper restaurant chowder would indeed be somewhat of a treat with lashings of cream and butter. This version, while tasting divine is, brilliantly, rather good for you. A definitively lighter rendition – posh and saintly.

Made mostly with chicken stock, it finds its delicate creaminess from a good glug of milk added near the end of the cooking. I tend to use full fat milk for this but I can’t imagine semi skimmed would taste noticeably inferior. I wouldn’t advise skimmed milk though, unless you want the creaminess in colour only. But then, why bother?

If you want to boost your veg intake, add sweetcorn, peas or chopped spinach. And finally, don’t scrimp on the bread. Big hunks of wholemeal or granary are spot on with a fish chowder.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced quite finely
700ml chicken stock
300ml whole milk

1 pack of smoked salmon, chopped
1 lemon – zest of whole lemon and a squeeze of juice to taste
A handful of parsley, chopped
A few sprigs of dill, chopped (optional)

Method

Pop your potatoes, onion and hot stock in a pan and simmer for about 15 minutes with the lid on.

Once the potatoes are tender add the milk, heat through over a low heat then add the smoked salmon and lemon zest. Gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

Turn off the heat and add a spritz of lemon juice and the herbs. If you can wait, leave the chowder to sit for a few minutes so that all the flavours can merrily mingle.

Serve with an extra scattering of herbs and more lemon juice if you like.

Fabulous Filo Leftover Pie

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe, because you could use any leftovers you want to make this pie. As long as you have a few sheets of filo kicking about the kitchen you’re onto a winner.

I had made way too much curry on Friday night and I was all set to do my usual and turn it into soup. But as I opened the fridge I spotted 3 sheets of filo pastry. I’d used the rest of the pack to make samosas and just couldn’t decide what to do with the rest.

And so this happy collision of leftovers was born. I added a couple of handfuls of couscous to my leftover curry just to make sure this was a hearty enough pie for us hungry lot.

My curry was sweet potato and chicken, but like I say, you could use whatever curry you have leftover, or use up bolognese or bean stew or a creamy fish dish or a fiery chilli. You get the idea, just experiment with what you have. I don’t often have leftovers as we are a hungry household. But this is so good, with a satisfying crunch and a flavour packed filling I’d be tempted to make extra curry just so I know I’ll have enough leftover for this easy pie.

Fabulous Filo Leftover Pie

Ingredients

  • Leftover curry (or chilli or bolognese or stew)
  • A couple of handfuls of couscous (if you want to bulk up your sauce a bit)
  • A few sheets of filo pastry (enough to scrunch up over you dish), I used 3
  • A little oil or melted butter
  • Sesame seeds

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 160 C / gas 3.
  • Reheat your curry and chuck in the couscous, if you’re using it. You could also add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas, chopped spinach or some canned sweetcorn.
  • Pour the sauce into a heat proof dish.
  • Brush your filo sheets with a little oil or melted butter then scrunch up and pop atop the curry.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes. When it’s cooked the pastry will be crisp and lightly golden brown.

Easy Breezy Salsa Verde

I’ve always relished a bit of Salsa Verde on a nice piece of grilled fish, especially fresh tuna or a perfectly cooked chunky white fish. Salsa Verde is outrageously flavoursome and has the added bonus of being a raw sauce / dressing, which means it’s quick and easy to prepare. You can even make this in advance of the meal you’re planning to serve it with to remove a little meal assembly stress.

This can easily become vegetarian by omitting the anchovies, but you’ll probably want to add in a pinch of sea salt to pack in the salty punch the anchovies usually bring to the party.

I have recently discovered that the anchovy-free version is rather delicious with scrambled eggs. I don’t know about you but I can sometimes tire of my usual brekky repertoire so a little va va voom from this saucy accompaniment was a welcome change.

Now you can of course pop all of the ingredients in a mini processor and whizz this up in a mere moment. But there are times when I’m right up for a bit of manual labour and at those times I like to plonk the herbs, capers, garlic and anchovies on a board, grab a sharp knife and chop chop chop until I have a chunky green salsa which can easily be mixed in a bowl with the oil and lemon juice.

My final note on this is that you’d normally see an astonishing volume of oil in a salse verde recipe, anything from 100ml upwards. My recipe, on the other hand, uses as little as I can get away with. For me that’s usually a good glug, or between 1 – 2 tablespoons. I advise starting with a glug or 2 then drizzling more in a little at a time until you have the right consistency for you.

If you have any left you can store it, covered, in the fridge.

Easy Breezy Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint (about a tablespoon)
  • A couple of tablespoons of capers, drained
  • 1 plump clove of garlic
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (leave these out for a veggie version)
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil, depending how oily you like things use anything from 2 tablespoons to 100ml+

Method

  • On a decent sized chopping board, chop the herbs, capers, garlic and anchovies until you have a coarsely textured pile
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil

OR

  • Blitz everything in a food processor

Marvellous Ways With Salsa Verde

  • Spooned over cooked fish
  • Spread generously in a tasty sandwich or wrap
  • Drizzled over scrambled eggs or a nice cheesy omelette
  • Swirled with a flourish through soup
  • Also divine with a simple roasted chicken breast but I’d go for the anchovy free version here

Simple Rosti

I used to think that making potato rosti would be a real faff. Something about muslin cloths and cooking rings? Happily, I was wrong.

I saw Marcus Wareing rustle one up on Master Chef and he made it look a doddle. Well Mr Wareing is a top notch chef so everything he cooks looks effortless. With this in mind, I was still a little reticent as I stood at the kitchen counter armed with a potato and a box grater.

Truly this rosti is so simple. You peel potato, grate potato, squeeze juice out of potato, season potato, cook potato, eat potato. Magic.

There really is no need to invest in a muslin cloth to squeeze out your potato juice, a clean tea towel does the job very nicely (and washes up well after).

There are recipes out there that add flour, eggs, bicarb etc etc and they all look delicious but I am very attracted to the simplicity of this one. Partly because a simple recipe beckons for a bit of tweaking here and there. I do a love a bit ad libbing… One time I added finely chopped onion to the mix, another a sprinkle of cumin and coriander and yet another time I added some tiny thyme leaves.

I’ve made these as small individual rostis and also just chucked masses of grated, seasoned spuds into a large frying pan and cooked a family size version. Either way, it’s important not to cook these over a high heat. Cook these over a medium to low heat and your reward will be rostis which are golden brown and crisp on the outside but cooked through and fluffy inside. If the heat is too high they will, instead, be burned on the outside and raw in the middle. A crime against potatoes.

One thing that remains constant for me is an egg sitting proudly atop this crispy bed of carbs. Although even that wavers between poached and fried.

The moral of this tater tale is to start with the classic rosti then just go as wild as your heart desires (or store cupboard allows) with the flavours and accompaniments.

Simple Rosti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • A knob or 2 of butter and a little olive oil

Method

  • Put your grated potatoes into the centre of a tea towel then twist the rest of the material together. Over the sink, or a large bowl, twist the tea towel until most of the liquid has poured out (there’s a surprising amount).
  • Pop your spuds in a bowl, add seasoning (you could also add finely chopped onion or any other flavours you fancy at this point) and give it a good mix with your hands.
  • Melt a knob of butter and a little drizzle of oil in your pan over a medium to low heat while you shape your rostis into 4 rough rounds (or just keep as a big sharing rosti).
  • Pop the rosti into the pan and cook for 8 – 10 minutes or until golden brown. Then flip over, plop in another knob of butter and cook for a further 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown on that side too.

Lovely Things That Go Very Well With Rosti

  • Onions, either chopped finely and added to the potatoes before cooking. Or golden brown cooked onions to serve on top.
  • Spring onions scattered over with a good dash of sriracha.
  • Eggs. Fried, scrambled, poached, your choice.
  • Brown sauce.
  • Fresh herbs such as chives, sage, thyme or basil.
  • Grated cheddar cheese, especially if you are using chives.