Sumac Roasted Squash & Carrots with Sautéed Cavolo Nero & Shallots, Lemon Yoghurt, Pomegranate & Dukkah…

When the nights draw in and the thought of hibernation becomes ever more alluring, there are times when I know I’ve overindulged. Forking molten Camembert into my mouth at the weekend with friends counts as one of those occasions – wholly delicious, understandable and indeed even necessary at the time as, let’s face it, all melted cheese is at the beginning – but slightly more difficult to deal with the morning after when unrelenting denim is dragged unenthusiastically up my legs inch by inch. These are the times I want to recharge the system, to flush it out with vegetables, olive oil and good fats and feel as though I’m actively feeding it with both dark green & leafy and bright orange & sweet goodness and this simple, cosy vegetarian supper is just the dish to do that.

Bright, citrussy sumac gives most things a lovely, fragrant flavour and its russet coloured sandiness works particularly well here with the natural sweetness of roasted squash & carrots. Black kale – one of my all-time favourite greens and so much more appealing with its dark velvet leaves than its sturdier, spikier sibling – wilts alongside fragments of shallot that infuse it with a caramelised sweetness. Yoghurt based dressings are reached for time and again in our house – there’s something about their creamy appearance that reminds us of the more indulgent mayonnaise but the guilt-free tang cleanses the palate and soothes both conscience & waistband – while warming, spicy dukkah crumbs and nuggets of candy coloured fruit give lovely textural contrast. The dish is minimum effort, maximum reward and I hope it will leave you as enamoured with the autumnal ingredients as it did us.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 medium carrots
  • Sumac
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 2 small banana shallots
  • 100g Cavolo Nero
  • 100g fat-free Greek yoghurt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Seeds of half a pomegranate
  • Dukkah

RECIPE

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190/375/gas mark 5.
  2. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil onto a large baking tray (you may need 2 depending on the size of your vegetables) and place in the oven on a middle-top shelf to warm.
  3. Wash & dry the squash then slice into rounds approximately 1-1/5cm thick then wash & dry the carrots before slicing into batons (I don’t remove the skins as I like both the flavour and the goodness that comes from them but if you would prefer to, then by all means peel both vegetables before cutting).
  4. Add both vegetables to a large bowl, drizzle over 2 tbsps. of olive oil and generously dust everything with sumac, flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Remove baking tray(s) from the oven and evenly place the sliced vegetables on them in a single layer before roasting until they are golden brown and soft enough to be pierced all the way through with a knife; this will take approximately 40 minutes, turning and flipping your vegetables half way through.
  6. When your squash & carrots are approximately 15 minutes from being done, remove the tops, bottoms & outer skin of your shallots, slice in half lengthways and then chop across into slender half-moons, roughly 0.5cm thick.
  7. In a small, non-stick frying pan, add 1 tsp. of olive oil and place on a medium heat.
  8. Add your half-moon shallots (breaking them into individual pieces as you do) and sauté gently until slightly crispy with a nice golden colour.
  9. While your shallots are cooking, remove the central vein from your cavolo nero leaves, slice in half, gather together in a pile and slice finely into thin ribbons.
  10. Once your shallots are nearly done, add the cavolo nero to your frying pan and gently toss for five minutes to ensure everything is warmed through and lightly coated in oil.
  11. Lightly beat together the Greek yoghurt & lemon juice in a small bowl.
  12. Once your vegetables are all done, remove from the oven and the hob; place some of the shallot speckled cavolo nero on a plate and add slices of the squash & pieces of the carrot.
  13. Dollop teaspoonfuls of the lemon-yoghurt on top then scatter with pomegranate seeds and dukkah and serve immediately.

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Think you know porridge? Take another – delicious – look at 26 Grains…

I really love porridge.

I know.

There are times when it’s hard to believe just how cool I can be but there you have it. I have a huge soft spot for the humble oat in all its glory and thankfully, so does Alex Hely-Hutchinson, the brains behind Neal’s Yard newcomer, 26 Grains. If you’re unfamiliar with this darling dinky pit stop in one of London’s most deliciously colourful spaces, and if the notion of porridge conjures up bowls of greying wallpaper paste from your childhood, it’s time to open your mind and reconsider your stance on this champion of dining. I’m not even gonna call it a staple of the breakfast table alone because the truth is, done right, it’s the perfect meal any hour of the day.

Started as a pop up in Old St tube a couple of years ago, this place is named after the number of grains cooked with by Hely-Hutchinson in both her restaurant and her book. This concept is not just a Scandinavian inspired homage to the oat but a way of introducing people to several other grains that can be used as the base for both sweet & savoury dishes.

Freekeh, buckwheat, quinoa & split peas all feature on a menu that heavily blends the flavours you know with the ingredients you might not. Dollops of Nutella, sprinklings of brown sugar and lashings of honey might give you a hit of sweetness at home – here it’s piles of crunchy, dark cacao nibs, dustings of cinnamon coconut sugar and pools of date syrup that will add flavour and texture. Almost too pretty to eat, heaping portions are served in swoon-worthy earthenware bowls that’ll make you curse the fact you weren’t born with effortless Danish cool.

Unless you were.

In which, I’m like 60% happy for you, 40% jealous.

Ok, maybe more like 90/10.

A Banana Cacao bowl was made with almond milk oats and topped with coconut yogurt, cacao nibs, sliced banana and date syrup. Like a glowing hearth on a winters’ day, it warmed me perfectly from the inside out and made me forget Storm Doris as she attempted to batter the capital into submission outside. Deeply delicious with wholesome, nutty flavours from the nibs, this was as far removed from your standard bowl of over-processed, fakely saccharine porridge as it’s possible to get and I loved it, crushing particularly hard on the coconut yoghurt which added a lovely cool creaminess as it melted into submission atop the oats.

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Muesli, granola and a seasonal smoothie bowl complete the cold offering while savoury palates can choose from the sriracha drizzled egg & kale oats or the hygge bowl, complete with chicory, artichoke and beetroot and if avocado toast is as far along the food trends tightrope as your breakfasting companions will comfortably tiptoe towards, they won’t go hungry here either with rolling hills of creamy green avo spread over rye bread. My need for a return visit just to try the black tahini yoghurt is like my occasional need to listen to Michael Bolton whilst cleaning the kitchen. It’s inexplicable to some but oh-so understandable to others.

Never one to shy away from trying the latest superfood ingredient I flagged down and jumped on board the turmeric band wagon with a spiced hot chocolate that was dark and savoury, gentle on the taste-buds and lingering in the nose. I love a twist on an old favourite as much as the next food obsessive – and you feel free to call me a philistine here – but there’s a place for superfoods and a place for marshmallows, squirty cream & a flake and I know which belongs on my cocoa.

At less than £10 for substantial portions of food & drink, 26 Grains is great value for money. I realise this is the point where some of you holler ‘Woman! They better be 24 carat gold plated oats for that price!’ and yeah, I get it. This is a breakfast that’s absolutely gonna cost you more than the sachet of Readybrek sitting squashed & forlorn in the bottom of your larder but the quality of ingredients used here are beautiful, the presentation is chocolate-box pretty, the vibe is relaxed and the staff are lovely…can you say the same of your breakfast al desko?

Try a bunny with a difference this Easter…

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Hollowed out bread filled with gorgeous stuff.

That, in a deliciously carb-laden nutshell, is the essence of Bunnychow, an awesome place that fully delivers when your dietary requirements are food that’s fast but great, cheap but quality and served with the sort of laid back vibe that provides a welcomely chilled respite from the frantic Soho streets outside.  Read More