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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Roasted Beetroot Salad with Pea Shoots, Lentils & Blue Cheese…

There are so many glorious pockets of beauty in the UK that are unparalleled the world over; one such place is West Wittering which is home to an astonishingly peaceful stretch of land. Set on the southern coast between Portsmouth & Worthing, this particular spot has a prettiness that as a London dweller I’d almost forgotten existed and which transported me to a time of Famous Five, ginger beer, potted meat, sticky bun, homemade picnic adventures where daring romps could be had and dastardly plots could be foiled among the sailboats, crab ponds & swaying reeds of the shore.

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As well as diving headfirst into my Blyton-esque daydreams, a weekend trip here gave me the opportunity to indulge in something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance – Pick Your Own. Yessiree, my romanticised visions of tumbling tin buckets full of fruit and of lips & fingers berry stained & sweet was about to come true…

…ok, so arriving slightly too late in the season for the mountains of glossy berries I was anticipating was a slight disappointment, however it was more than made up for by the absolute bounty of beetroot that was mine for the picking! Can we just stop for a moment and appreciate these leafy beauties? Honestly, I’m not sure my darling friend and co-picker K had ever been witness to the excitement that could be generated by the chance to pick one’s own dinner.

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Sat on the train hours later speeding back to London I found myself contemplating all the lovely things that could be made from my earth-dusted haul…a thick & creamy dip tinged with mint? A crusty, golden loaf of beetroot dotted bread? A soothing bowl of ruby soup swirled with creme fraiche?

As much as all of these ideas made me rue the fact I hadn’t pulled out a dozen more handfuls of the fibre rich root vegetable whose benefits include boosting stamina, lowering blood pressure & fighting inflammation, I’m an enthusiastic champion of all things roasted so that was going to be the destiny for my harvest. Caramelised rounds of beetroot with sweet pea shoots, pungent blue cheese nuggets, fizzing pomegranate seeds & drizzles of cooling yoghurt, the perfect dish for transitioning between the warm lazy summer and crispy leafed autumn days.

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Roasted Beetroot Salad with Pea Shoots, Lentils & Blue Cheese

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 6-8 fresh raw beetroot (depending on size)
  • 1 large sweet pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 120g dried green lentils (the ones that don’t need pre-soaking)
  • 100g peashoots
  • 60g pumpkin seeds
  • the seeds of 1 large pomegranate
  • 150g blue cheese, crumbled
  • 150g low fat natural yoghurt (thin with a little water if you prefer a looser dressing)

Optional

  • Muhummara – this is a classic roasted red pepper & breadcrumb dip which is equally gorgeous on a light earthy dish like this or simply spread on flatbreads and drizzled with pomegranate molasses; if you have a good Middle Eastern shop nearby (mine came from Honey & Co), you’re sure to find it there, otherwise the always wonderful Ottolenghi has a deliciously uncomplicated recipe.
  • Ottolenghi, http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/muhammara-shop
  • Honey & Co, http://honeyandco.co.uk/cakes-products/

 

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 190
  • Wash your beetroot carefully, pat dry, remove the tops & tails and cut into slices between 0.5 – 1cm thick; try and keep your slices a constant thickness so they cook evenly.
  • Toss the beetroot slices with the olive oil and balsamic vinagar and roast in a baking tray in the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes or until a sharp knife slices through them with ease.
  • Slice your red onion into wedges and gently pull the segments apart then slice your sweet pepper into long strips.
  • Once the beetroot have been roasting for 20 minutes, turn them over and add the onion & pepper to the same baking tray before placing back in the oven for the remaining 20-25 minutes.
  • Place your lentils in a saucepan and cover with water – I tend to boil the kettle and add that water directly to the pan to save time & gas usage on my hob!
  • Bring the water to the boil for 10 minutes uncovered before reducing the heat and simmering for a further 15 minutes until the lentils are tender; drain well and set aside.
  • Arrange your pea shoots on a serving platter then sprinkle your lentils over the top.
  • Place your roasted vegetables on next then scatter your pumpkin & pomegranate seeds over them.
  • Add your blue cheese crumbles and then drizzle the natural yoghurt over everything and finish with dollops of the muhammara if using then serve immediately.

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Stuffed butternut squash with freekeh, goji berries & feta…

Squash and I kinda have a thing going on. I love her flavour, her texture and her voluptuous curves; she loves the fact that I chop her up, splash her with oils & spices and roast her in the oven until she’s scorched and golden.

Ok so the first part of that is true, however if all the edible characters in Seth Rogen’s upcoming film ‘Sausage Party’ are to be believed, then the good lady butternut is probably not gonna be too thrilled with the fate I have planned for her today although you definitely will be. This is a simple vegetarian dish absolutely perfect for days when you want the oven to do the bulk of the work for you and it’s ridiculously easy to pull together, subbing in and out the things you’re maybe not so keen on for the things you really really are. Read More